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Comics A.M. | Steinberger on comiXology’s growth, what’s next

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | ComiXology CEO David Steinberger dicusses the growth of the digital-comics platform, which was the top-grossing non-game iPad app for the third year in a row. “We’re finding that a larger and larger percentage of our user base — our new user base — is people who are buying comics for the very first time with us,” he tells Wired. Steinberger also hints at a next step for comiXology: curation. [Wired.com]

Comics | Torsten Adair looks back at some comics trends in from 2013 and looks ahead to what we can expect in 2014. [The Beat]

Comics | Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie discusses the relaunch of the publisher’s Alien, Predator and Alien vs. Predator series and the debut of Prometheus. [io9]

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Comics A.M. | Case of Sherlock Holmes rights isn’t over just yet

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).

However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]

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Dark Horse editor finds bright spot in loss of ‘Star Wars’ license

star wars omnibusWhile it was certainly inevitable, Friday’s announcement that Dark Horse will lose the Star Wars license after more than two decades to Disney-owned Marvel nonetheless left many longtime readers dismayed, to say the least. To those fans, Dark Horse Vice President of Publishing Randy Stradley points out a silver lining: “[If] Dark Horse must lose the license, this is probably a good time for it.”

“From my perspective, the upcoming films will mean less freedom to do what we at Dark Horse have always done best: expanding the universe,” Stradley, who has served as senior editor of the Star Wars line since 2002, wrote Sunday on his Facebook page. “With a new film scheduled every year, and a new television series, it is likely that there will be a lot of comics pages devoted to adaptations and direct spin-off stories in support of the films and TV shows. That’s not where my interests lie, and it has never been Dark Horse’s strong suit. That would be too much like real work to me. Probably, the coming years will be a great time to be a Star Wars fan (especially a *new* Star Wars fan), and I hope you all enjoy the ride, but I think I’m going to be glad to not be in the mix.”

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Comics A.M. | Looking back at the year in comics business news

Sales

Sales

Comics | Retail news and analysis site ICv2 lists the top 10 comics business events of 2013, from strong sales growth in all three channels (book market, direct market and digital) to issues with sexual content, both Apple’s restrictions on in-app purchases and the sentencing of a Missouri man to three years in prison for possession of obscene comics. [ICv2]

Comics | Here’s a local-news take on Dark Horse’s loss of the Star Wars comics license, in which Publisher Mike Richardson reveals the franchise makes up 4 to 6 percent of the company’s bottom line. [KGW]

Comics | Tom Spurgeon talks to writer-about-comics Zainab Akhtar about her own writing and a good handful of other people’s graphic novels. [The Comics Reporter]

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Swierczynski on cliffhangers, violence & ‘Two Past Midnight’

TWOPM CVR SOL 4x6As part of its 2014 original graphic novel plans, Dark Horse will publish Two Past Midnight, by Duane Swierczynski and Eduardo Francisco, which pits Captain Midnight, Ghost and X against a psychopath named Tempus. In a brief interview with ROBOT 6, Swierczynski details how a change in publishing plans actually allowed him to work in more narrative cliffhangers than he might have otherwise developed.

Tim O’Shea: What can you tell readers about the cast and plot of Two Past Midnight OGN?

Duane Swierczynski: Two Past Midnight  – or as the kids call it, 2PM — is a team-up of some very unlikely heroes squaring off against a freakish mind-controlling psycho who calls himself Tempus, as in “tempus fugit,” or “time flies.” Those heroes are Captain Midnight, Ghost and X, and they’re not exactly hanging out, swapping wisecracks and eating shawarma or whatever. The story is basically a nonstop carnival of violence; there is no time for shawarma.

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Bryan J. L. Glass and Victor Santos get ‘Furious’

FURIO #1 CVR

Furious #1

This morning we posted the Bryan J. L. Glass and Victor Santosprequel to their new Dark Horse series Furious, which debuts Jan. 29. In preparation for the issue’s release, ROBOT 6 spoke briefly with the creators, in the process discovering the character had been percolating in Glass’ mind (on some level) for more than 20 years.

Tim O’Shea: Once you learned you could run a short prequel Furious story in Dark Horse Presents, how did you two settle on what story you wanted to tell?

Bryan J.L. Glass: It was the perfect opportunity for the series as a whole! The moment chronicled in those eight pages has always been part of the character’s back story. It’s how she gets her name. She’s seeking personal redemption through super powers, so there was no way she was ever going to call herself “Furious.” She intended to be “The Beacon,” as a name representative of her desire to inspire others. Yet despite her best intentions, her actions scream louder than her words, and the world — or in this case a television reporter — dubs her accordingly. It’s an important moment. So as soon as we received the green light to introduce her via a DHP short story, I knew I could then remove it from Issue 1. Let it be referenced. It’s the terrible thing that happened on the day this superheroine tried to go public, and now she’s trying to move forward with baggage she never intended; a microcosm of everything that drives her to be a heroine in the first place.

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Exclusive | Dark Horse to release ‘Big Damn Sin City’ omnibus

big-damn-cropped

Ahead of the August premiere of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s movie sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Dark Horse has announced it will debut a massive omnibus hardcover collecting the artist’s entire landmark crime saga.

In addition, the publisher will bring Frank Miller: The Art of Sin City back into print in trade paperback format, and re-release the hardcover edition 1993′s A Dame to Kill For. All three are scheduled to arrive on June 25.

Frank Miller’s Big Damn Sin City brings together Miller and Lynn Varley’s seven hardboiled tales — The Hard Goodbye, A Dame to Kill For, The Big Fat Kill, The Yellow Bastard, Family Values, Booze, Broads & Bullets and Hell and Back — in one 1,344-page volume that Dark Horse contends is “suitable for home defense.”

The omnibus will be accompanied by the softcover edition of the long-out-of-print Frank Miller: The Art of Sin City, featuring an introduction by critic R.C. Harvey, and the 212-page A Dame to Kill For, in hardcover for the first time in years. See the covers and solicitation text for all three books below.

UPDATE (Jan. 3): Dark Horse has notified us that Frank Miller’s Big Damn Sin City will retail for $100. The price originally listed was incorrect.

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Dressed to kill: Frank Barbiere weaves tale of ‘The White Suits’

whitesuits-tease

From high seas adventure to the mean streets of crime-ridden New York, writer Frank Barbiere is getting around. I already spoke to him about the future of Five Ghosts, his supernatural adventure series with artist Chris Mooneyham, and now he shares details on The White Suits, featuring the dazzling artwork of Toby Cypress. The four-issue miniseries kicks off in February from Dark Horse.

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Read Glass & Santos’ ‘Furious’ prequel from ‘Dark Horse Presents’

Furious

Furious

Later this month Dark Horse will debut Furious, a new comic by Bryan J. L. Glass and Victor Santos that’s “where celebrity, fame, and superheroes meet,” according to the publisher’s website.

“Staring into a fractured mirror of her life, the world’s first superhero, Furious, seeks to atone for her past sins by doling out rage-fueled justice!” the description states. “But the spotlight of our celebrity-obsessed media threatens to undo her noblest efforts and expose her true identity before she can achieve redemption.”

But that first issue won’t be her first appearance: She actually debuted in December in Dark Horse Presents #31. Courtesy of Dark Horse, we’re proud to present that eight-page story. Check it out below, then watch for Tim O’Shea’s interview with the creators later today.

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P. Craig Russell on the new edition of ‘Murder Mysteries’

MURMYST HC 2ED CVR SOLNeil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell’s Murder Mysteries returns in May in a new edition from Dark Horse that will feature new extras as well as a new cover.

The story, originally published as a short story in Gaiman’s 1998 collection Smoke and Mirrors, is set on the streets of Los Angeles, where a lost angel tells a stranded traveler about being sent by God to solve the mystery of another angel’s murder — and to exact vengeance for the crime.

The graphic novel version, initially published in 2002, was described by Publishers Weekly this way: “Using sharp, crystalline drawings of the eternal city and ribbons of color that suggest creation’s simultaneous plasticity and solidity, Russell conveys a bright, illuminated world of purity and divine experimentation. His crisp and vividly rendered drawings capture the haunting sense of loss and isolation Gaiman expresses in this mythic tale of love and jealousy.”

Russell and Gaiman famously collaborated on The Sandman #50, “Ramadan,” and on The Sandman: Endless Nights story “Death and Venice”; the artist also adapted Gaiman’s prose works The Sandman: The Dream HuntersOne Life Furnished in Early Moorcock, Coraline and The Graveyard Book for comics. Russell’s adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales are currently being published by NBM.

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Exclusive | Chris Samnee’s ‘Angel & Faith’ #1-2 variant covers

angel-faith1-cropped

Between his celebrated collaboration with Mark Waid on Daredevil, which relaunches in March as part of All-New Marvel NOW!, and his distinctive variant covers for Dynamite Entertainment and Marvel, Chris Samnee is an artist in high demand. But beginning in April, he returns to Dark Horse’s Angel & Faith — he drew a standalone issue of the previous series — to provide variant covers for the first arc of Victor Gischler and Will Conrad’s Season 10 run.

Dark Horse provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at his covers for Angel & Faith #1-2, while in the brief Q&A below, Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie explained why Samnee is the perfect artist for the job, and what readers can glean about the new season from what he drew.

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Comics A.M. | Bitstrips’ big year, and even bigger plans

Bitstrips

Bitstrips

Business | Bitstrips co-founder and CEO Jacob “Ba” Blackstock, whose DIY avatar and comic strip app exploded in 2013, reflects on the lessons of the year, and sketches out the Toronto company’s goals for 2014. Unsurprisingly, those include finding more uses for its comics and, y’know, making money (earlier this month, Bitstrips confirmed a $3 million injection of venture capital, which will go toward more engineers, artists and designers). [Entrepreneur]

Creators | Tom Spurgeon interviews Nate Powell about his work on March, the graphic novel memoir of Rep. John Lewis’ experiences in the civil rights movement, and one of the most acclaimed books of the year. [The Comics Reporter]

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Christmas is over, but the comics deals continue

mm25-official-complete-works-2Although the United States has never really embraced the Boxing Day tradition, Americans do like a good sale. So it’s lucky for comics fans the world over that a handful of publishers are offering some post-Christmas deals.

• Dark Horse Digital continues its “2013 #1s Sale” through Dec. 29, with the debut issues of such titles as The Black Beetle: No Way Out, B.P.R.D.: Vampire, Itty Bitty Hellboy and Star Wars available for download for 99 cents.

• DC Entertainment is offering digital versions of its 25 essential graphic novelsAll-Star Superman, Batman: Year One and the first volumes of The Sandman, American Vampire and Y: The Last Man, among them — for $5.99 each through Jan. 2.

• At comiXology, you can find the digital collection of the entire Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez for $44.99 (or half price on nearly all of the individual issues and volumes) through Dec. 29. Also: Marvel NOW! titles are available for 99 cents each through Jan. 2.

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Art Baltazar and Franco team for Dark Horse’s holiday card

dark horse christmas1

Dark Horse took a rather novel approach with its holiday card this year, turning to Art Baltazar and Franco of Tiny Titans and Itty Bitty Hellboy fame to create not just a card but an unfolding comic, with cameos ranging from Darth Vader and Battlepug to the Mask and Publisher Mike Richardson.

See the rest of the card/comic below.

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Gerard Way posts update, concept art for new ‘Umbrella Academy’

gas-panic-tease

Has it really been five years since the publication of the second Umbrella Academy miniseries? That’s … too long. On Twitter this week, writer Gerard Way gave an update on the project, saying that he and artist Gabriel Ba have started to talk about the third and fourth volumes.

“So I got a really nice email from Gabriel Ba the other day, he’s an amazing comic artist who was the artist on Umbrella Academy,” Way tweeted. “He was checking in to see how I was and that he was going to be finished with a project sometime next year, and we both agreed to Do part 3 and 4 of Umbrella Academy, starting next year..I am almost finished with my music project and so it’s time to get back into comics.”

Way also posted a couple of his concept sketches, “Gas Panic” and an unlabeled team shot, seen below.

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