Publishing | Comics sales were up 22 percent in the direct market over January 2012, and graphic novels increased by nearly 38 percent. This good news is tempered a bit by the fact there were five Wednesdays in this January (or 25 percent more Wednesdays, if you want to look at it that way), but that fifth week is usually a quiet one for new releases, so I think we can call this a win. The retail news and analysis site ICv2 credits Marvel NOW! and a strong backlist for the boost. [ICv2]
Publishing | Dark Horse’s video-game art book The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia last week was the No. 1 book in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan — not merely in the graphic novel category, but in any category. The initial print run was 400,000 copies. (Comic Book Resources interviewed the book’s editor Patrick Thorpe last month.) [ICv2]
Digital comics | Today, Viz Media marks the first anniversary of the launch of its digital magazine by changing its name from Shonen Jump Alpha to Weekly Shonen Jump (the same as its Japanese counterpart) and going to simultaneous release of most series with Japan as well. Editor-in-Chief Andy Nakatani talks about the changes as well and looks back at how the magazine has done in the year since it changed from a print monthly to a digital weekly. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The U.K. children’s comic The Phoenix just became available internationally with its release as an iOS app, and I interviewed Russell Willis of Panel Nine, which created the app, about the challenges involved. Panel Nine has also published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John comics, David Lloyd’s Kickback, and the works of underground cartoonist Hunt Emerson as standalone apps, and Willis has big plans for more digital indy comics in the future. [Good E-Reader]
Today is Guy Fawkes Day, and what used to be an occasion for bonfires and begging pennies from the neighbors has become a day of protest thanks to Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel V for Vendetta; the Guy Fawkes mask worn by their anonymous revolutionary V has become a symbol of protest worldwide. The protest group Anonymous plans a march on the British Parliament this evening to re-enact the final scene from the graphic novel. The event, dubbed “Operation Vendetta,” will be live-streamed here.
Meanwhile, Moore will be marking the occasion with the release date of his first single “The Decline of English Murder.” The song can be downloaded from Occupation Records, the record label that came out of the Occupy movement; it’ll set you back a quid, but he also released a video, which features clips of Occupy protests. (Ironically, it starts with an ad.) The Guardian calls the song “a gloomy and at times opaque ballad that likens the stark economic inequities challenged by Occupy to the work of a killer … The song, with Moore half-speaking, half-singing his words to a musical backing by Joe Brown, is as mournful as you might expect from something that namechecks a motorway service station near Preston in its first line.”
More corroboration emerges for my theory that the United Kingdom is quietly undergoing a Golden Ages of comics publishing: The return of that foundation stone of the mid-’80s U.K. indie scene, Escape Books, came last month with the publication of The Great Unwashed, a compilation of work from assorted ’80s and ’90s anthologies by the Pleece Brothers. Now current U.K. indie staple Paul Rainey has announced that Escape will be collecting his previously self-published kitchen sink sci-fi epic No Time Like the Present.
That work luxuriated in the minutia of just how time travel would realistically alter the lives of its cast of pop-culture obsessives. Rainey’s currently running webcomic Thunder Brother: Soap Division will give you a hint of the earlier work’s tone: As before, things start realistically enough before escalating quickly into the surreal as genre elements get introduced in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Plus, a working knowledge of U.K. television is fairly essential in both cases.
And the first installment of David Lloyd’s start-studded new digital anthology Aces Weekly has gone live. Designed to work just as well on the screen of a home PC as on a tablet, it’s a fine-looking interface. The digital edition of Lloyd’s graphic novel Kickback also showed how canny the man is when it comes to producing comic work for new media, and the man should know a thing or two about launching an anthology — his work appeared in the first issues of Hulk Weekly, Warrior, plus the second issue of A1 — and they all turned out to be important milestones in the development of the format.
Creators | Following last week’s news that Stan Lee has canceled his sold-out Thursday engagement at a Toledo library event due to “a very serious circumstance,” Wizard World has announced the 89-year-old writer won’t be appearing as scheduled at this weekend’s Ohio Comic Con in Columbus. Responding to a blog post titled, “Is Stan Lee OK?” the administrator of the Stan Lee’s Comikaze Facebook page wrote, “It sucks Stan had to cancel [the Toledo event], but you know the man doesn’t just do conventions. he puts in a hard days work creating. Its really sad that the Toledo Blade had to go spread nonsense. If you want to be up to date on stan then follow us, cuz he kinda owns our company. Its sad that a some blogs are scaring fans. not really nice.” [The Beat]
Creators | Artist Molly Crabapple, who was arrested Sept. 17 in New York City during a protests marking the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, writes about the experience and her involvement with the movement. [CNN.com]
Wired has the exclusive on David Lloyd’s cover for the second issue of Occupy Comics, which shows a figure in the Guy Fawkes mask that Lloyd and Alan Moore brought to the world in V for Vendetta taunting a bull.
The second issue of the Occupy Comics anthology was released Monday, the first anniversary of the movement; besides Lloyd, the contributors include cartoonist Matt Bors, activist Bill Ayer, and artist Molly Crabapple, who lives near the Occupy site and was arrested at the first-anniversary event. (And check out the Occupy illustrations that Crabapple did for The Nation — before becoming part of the story herself.)
Editor Matt Pizzolo says the emphasis of the anthology has shifted in this second issue:
With Labor Day weekend upon us, now is a good time to stock the virtual longbox with some digital comics. We reported the other day that Image has made 20 of its #1 issues free on comiXology; here’s a roundup of some other free’ n’ cheap digital comics to check out over the holiday.
Centsless Books is a website that rounds up all the free Kindle books on Amazon, and it has a dedicated section for comics and graphic novels. There’s a preview of Batman: Earth One up there, and a lot of first issues of different indy series. Some of the graphic novels aren’t really — at least one book I checked was prose not a graphic novel, and Little Nemo’s Wild Sleigh Ride is a picture book that uses Winsor McCay’s illustrations (which are in the public domain). Well worth checking out, especially if you’re a First Second fan, are the two Between the Panels books, which are promotional pieces put out by Macmillan, with creator essays, character sketches and side stories, all related to different First Second graphic novels. Aside from that, it’s a pretty mixed bag, but one that looks like it will be fun to rummage around in. These Kindle comics will also work on the Kindle iPad and Android apps.
Infinity is a free iPad fanzine from Panel Nine, which has published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John and David Lloyd’s Kickback as standalone iPad apps. The inaugural issue includes an interview with Lloyd, a preview of Dapper John, a roundup of digital-comics news, a couple of app reviews, art by Simon Russell, and an interview with PJ Holden, the creator of Murderdrome, a short comic that was booted from the iTunes store for being too violent (it’s actually a spoof). It’s a nice collection and well worth the effort of clicking that iTunes button.
David Lloyd and U.K. comics mainstay Bambos Georgiou are launching a digital anthology comic called Aces Weekly, and have released a large and impressive list of future contributors to the U.K. comics blog Down The Tubes. The press release continues:
Although slow to react to the nearly two-month-old announcement that V for Vendetta creators Alan Moore and David Lloyd are contributing to Occupy Comics, one conservative writer has finally had enough with the “leftist” comics industry, suggests those on the right should “fight back.”
Dusting off a list of grievances that includes the controversial Tea Party reference in Captain America #602, pro-Obama sympathies and an unnamed series “blaspheming God and Christianity,” Paul Hair writes on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood that it’s time for conservatives to counter with their own version of Occupy Comics.
“Leftists have made no secret about who they are, and I see no reason why we shouldn’t simply wipe the dust of their town from our feet and stop throwing pearls to them in worthless attempts to change them,” he writes, loading both barrels with biblical allusions. “Instead, I propose we fight back.”
Arguing that, “I no longer see a point in engaging leftists in argument or debate,” Hair suggests the right’s Occupy Comics initiative should “simply move forward and promote who we are” and real-world solutions to economic problems.
He puts out the call for other contributors to Breitbart’s online network to become involved, drawing responses in the comments from Mike Baron and James Hudnall, among others. “The OWS comic is an example of comics people boarding the train after it derailed,” Hudnall writes. “I’ve been quietly working on projects I plan to do which will explore different arguments about society and government than what many comics pros tend to do but we aren’t all left wing. I find there are a lot of conservative and libertarians in the community. They just aren’t as vocal as lefties.”
With so much being reported about Alan Moore’s connections to the Occupy movement — through his endorsement of its ideals, his contribution to Occupy Comics, and protesters’ co-opting of the David Lloyd-designed Guy Fawkes masks — U.K.’s Channel 4 News coaxed the V for Vendetta writer from his home in Northampton to London to meet some of the demonstrators for the first time.
“It’s a bit surprising when some of the characters you thought you made up suddenly seem to escape into ordinary reality,” Moore told some disguised protesters. “I mean, what is it about the mask — is it just useful, or what?”
The report also delves into Frank Miller’s criticism of the Occupy movement, Moore’s displeasure with film adaptations of his works and, yes, the irony that each Guy Fawkes mask that protesters buy puts more money into the coffers of Time Warner, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates.
Alan Moore, who characterized the Occupy movement as “a completely justified howl of moral outrage,” has joined his V for Vendetta collaborator David Lloyd and more than 50 other creators for Occupy Comics, an anthology project inspired by the protests.
“It’s fair to say that Alan Moore and David Lloyd are unofficial godfathers of the current protest movement,” Occupy Comics organizer Matt Pizzolo told Wired.com. “It’s really amazing to see two creatives whose work was inspiring to street protesters join a creative project that is inspired by the street protesters. It’s a pretty virtuous cycle.”
Moore will contribute a long-form prose piece, possibly with illustrations, exploring the movement’s principles, “corporate control of the comics industry and the superhero paradigm itself.”
The project, being funded through Kickstarter, is described as “a time capsule of the passions and emotions driving the movement.” It will begin as single-issue comics, followed by a hardcover collection; a making-of documentary is also being produced by Patrick Meaney, director of Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts. With three days left in its fundraising campaign, Occupy Comics has raised $15,892, surpassing its $10,000 goal.
Infamous for its protests against the Church of Scientology and website attacks on Sony, Visa and, most recently, Bay Area Rapid Transit, the loose-knit hacker group Anonymous is perhaps best known for a single image that’s become a symbol of its anarchic movement: The V for Vendetta-inspired Guy Fawkes mask worn by its members in public protests.
However, as The New York Times notes this morning, each of those masks purchased by the largely anti-government, anti-corporation activists puts money in the coffers of Time Warner, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates. The parent company of DC Comics, which published the Alan Moore-David Lloyd miniseries in the United States, and Warner Bros., which released the film adaptation in 2006, owns the rights to the image, and receives a licensing fee for each mask sold.
And there are a lot sold, thanks largely to the Anonymous movement. Rubie’s Costumes, the New York company that produces the masks, sells more than 100,000 a year; by comparison, it sells only about 5,000 of each of its other masks.
But it wasn’t until recently that Rubie’s knew why Guy Fawkes was a bestseller. “We just thought people liked the V for Vendetta movie,” Rubie’s executive Howard Beige tells the newspaper. “Then one morning I saw a picture of these protesters wearing the mask in an online news article. I quickly showed my sales manager.”
Publishing | The drop in year-over-year sales in the direct market slowed in April, with periodicals slipping 1.75 percent and graphic novels just .84 percent. Overall sales were down 1.46 percent for April and 6.5 percent for the first four months of the year. Marvel topped Diamond’s comics chart with Fear Itself #1, while DC led the graphic novel category with the 15th volume of Fables. [ICv2.com]
Crime | Police evacuated the bus terminal in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, Friday afternoon after a suspicious package was discovered across the street. The Michigan State Police bomb squad was called in, and it was determined the mysterious package was merely a briefcase-shaped media kit promoting Acura’s involvement with Marvel’s Thor. A writer for Automobile, whose offices are next to the terminal, had discarded the “S.H.I.E.L.D. Assessment Test” kit in the recycling bin, but it wasn’t picked up — apparently because it isn’t recyclable. [WXYZ, Jalopnik]