Examining "Rebirth's" Treatment of Legacy & Promise of a Less "Grimdark" DC Universe
Publishing | Continuing its domination of the graphic novel sales in bookstores, The Walking Dead laid claim to seven of the Top 10 spots on BookScan’s April chart. The series, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, took the first four positions. What’s more, 12 of the Top 20 graphic novels were volumes of The Walking Dead. [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson talks to Right Stuf director of marketing and communications Alison Roberts about that company’s announcement earlier this week that it will be publishing the first three volumes Hetalia: Axis Powers as a print-on-demand books. The series was originally licensed by Tokyopop, which is co-branding the books with Right Stuf. [MTV Geek]
Free Comic Book Day | In anticipation of Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, the San Francisco Chronicle interviews Joe Field of Flying Colors Comics, who came up with the idea in the first place, inspired by “free scoop” days at ice cream shops. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Free Comic Book Day | John Jackson Miller traces the 10-year history of Free Comic Book Day. [The Comics Chronicles]
Conventions | ReedPop Group Vice President Lance Fensterman takes stock of this year’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo and sees plenty of growth, both in attendees (42,000 this year) and exhibitors. It looks like the show will continue: “We feel like we got the answer we needed. We made maybe a little bit of money, which is fine. Year 3 is when we expect to start to see some positive cash flow, but even more so we felt that the community embraced the event and the turnout and the ticket sales reflect that—and that is just what we needed to see.” [ICv2]
When Apple opened its iTunes bookstore last year, comics and graphic novels were just mixed in with everything else. That changed today, as Apple introduced its Comics and Graphic Novels Section.
The selection is rather eclectic, with everything from Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland to The Walking Dead to How to Draw Manga. There are separate sections for Marvel, children’s comics, and collections of newspaper strips, which is a great idea, but everything else is a bit of a mishmash. (Most of these books were already in the iTunes bookstore; this page just collects them in one place for easy browsing.) In addition to Marvel and Image, the publishers represented include IDW (with their Locke and Key books), Archie, Seven Seas, and Manga University—but I didn’t see any DC titles. It’s definitely a bookish selection, but there are some bargains—and even some freebies—to be had.
There are two reasons to check out this 5-page preview of Wonder Woman #6 at io9: One is to look at Tony Akins’s drawings of Wonder Woman fighting the tentacled god Posiedon—no, no subtext there—and the other is to read the debate about the current direction of the series in the comments section. If you like a good ol’ Internet slapfest, it’s right there for you. But honestly, the art is reason enough. I’m not currently reading Wonder Woman, but these pages might just make me start.
Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]
Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]
Legal | Antarctic Press has agreed to stop selling Diary of a Zombie Kid and Diary of a Zombie Kid: Rotten Rules under the terms of a temporary restraining order issued Wednesday by a federal court. Wimpy Kid Inc. is suing Antarctic for trademark infringement, among other things, claiming that its Diary of a Wimpy Kid parodies are too close to the real thing. Antarctic CEO Joe Dunn signed the temporary restraining order, signifying that Antarctic agreed to it; the two companies are negotiating a settlement, according to court papers. One interesting tidbit: Diary of a Zombie Kid sold all of 850 copies in comics shops in August, while the first printing on the latest Wimpy Kid book was 6 million. [ICv2]
Comics | Bayou Arcana is a new anthology of Southern Gothic horror comics with a gender twist: All the comics are written by men and illustrated by women. There are some pretty broad generalizations in this article — “There is a certain sensitivity that you find in women’s art that just does not appear in a lot of guys’ work,” says the project editor, James Pearson — but the project itself sounds interesting. [The Guardian]
One of the reasons that the digital comics distributor comiXology has done so well is that it syncs well across a number of platforms, including iOS, Android and the web. Their web store is convenient for those who prefer browsing and buying on their computer, but the Flash-based interface is a bit buggy—it never scrolled properly in my Safari browser, for instance—so I was happy to hear that they have relaunched the web store using HTML5 for the browsing and buying interface.
They also redesigned it, which is a relief; if I have one complaint about comiXology, it’s their tendency to throw a bewildering array of comics onto the screen all at once. The original webstore put a ton of comics on the front page (a page that didn’t scroll properly, remember), while this new one mirrors the design of their iPad app, with a smaller selection and tabs to allow the reader to go deeper. Navigation is pretty straightforward—the site is a little slow, but it is still in beta. The comics reader is still in Flash for now.
ComiXology CEO David Steinberger has more details at the comiXology blog, and I spoke to him about the new storefront yesterday. While the iOS app remains the most popular channel, he said, “More and more people actually use our website, once they discover it, to shop and buy, and I hope with the HTML5 release, more will do that.” One of the new features of the web store is that users can gift a cart, rather than just a single comic. “Right now we are going to finish releasing all of Bone, so you will be able to add the whole Bone series to your card and gift it to somebody,” Steinberger said. “We have Sandman at a very competitive price to the paperback. Comics people create more comics people by getting in tune with their friends and gifting them comics.”
Amy Reeder, who takes over the art duties on Batwoman with issue #6 with Richard Friend, shows off process artwork for the cover of Batwoman #7 on her Facebook page.
You probably saw the finished version in the recently released DC solicitations for March, but she has the pencils and inks up there too for those of you who like to see all stages of the process. Also, remember those variant covers that weren’t going to be used? Well, as you may know by now, the first one is being used for Batwoman #6, so hopefully the others will see print as well.
Remember that unpublished cover Geof Darrow drew for J. Michael Straczynski’s “Grounded” arc on Superman that we posted the other day? Remember Darrow saying to Inkstuds’ Robin McConnell that it never ran as a cover and that “it’ll never see the light of day” despite his “really nice guy” editor’s assurances to the contrary? Good news, Darrow fans: Both Darrow and DC confirm that the finished cover will appear in Superman: Grounded Vol. 2, on sale this Wednesday, Dec. 7. The crazy cat lady will get her time in the sun at last!
“We had a record amount of entries from publishers this year with more than forty-five different titles” said FCBD spokesperson Leslie Jackson. “Retailers on the committee had a tough time deciding on which titles to choose for Gold sponsorship, but we’re sure fans will be pleased with the line-up for next year.”
While the choices may have been difficult, it’s hard to imagine that someone couldn’t come up with something more enticing than what Image has to offer: “An anthology featuring all-new stories with a mix of Image’s old and new best loved characters!” Could you possibly get any vaguer than that? They don’t even have a cover design. If my comic got bumped for that, I’d be steaming. On the other hand, Archaia’s 48-page hardcover, featuring new material (not reprints or bits of something to come) looks mighty sweet, all the more so because they name names: A Mouse Guard story from David Petersen, a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story by Ted Naifeh and Cory Godbey, a side story from Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust, a Cursed Pirate Girl story from Jeremy Bastian, a Cow Boy story by Chris Eliopoulos and Nate Crosby, and a Dapper Men tale from Jim McCann and Janet Lee. There’s this year’s wow factor.
The line-up actually seemed pretty obvious to me, so I went back and looked at the Gold Sponsors for the past five years. Sure enough, six of the publishers are there every year: Archie, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel. Since five of these are also Diamond’s premier publishers, and Archie is a newsstand juggernaut, there’s no surprise there. BOOM! Studios has been a Gold Sponsor for the past four years and Archaia for the past three. The other slots vary: Ape Entertainment was a Gold Sponsor in 2011 and 2010 but is missing this year, and Bongo and Oni are back after a two-year absence. Others who have popped up once or twice in the past five years: NBM/Papercutz (2011), Drawn & Quarterly (2010), Viz (2008 and 2009), Dynamite (2008), Virgin (2008), Gemstone (2007), and Tokyopop (2007).
There’s more to come: The Silver Sponsors will be announced next week.
DC Comics Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development John Rood and Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne try not to gloat too much as they discuss DC’s October sales numbers over at ICv2. (Actually, ICv2 did the gloating for them with the headline “DC Crushes Marvel.”) Thanks to strong sales of the New 52 line, DC took over 42% of the dollar share and 51% of the unit share in the direct market, pushing Marvel down to about 30% in both measures. And the pie got bigger: Single-issue sales were up 24% compared to October 2010. “We’re excited to see the reports from Diamond that we’ve won the month in dollar share and in unit share,” Rood told ICv2. “I consider that ironic as hell, since we don’t price our comics to win any dollar share battles, and we don’t pump out a lot of inventory to win any unit share battles. So the fact that this is happening accidentally just speaks to the readership of the New 52, and the support from our retailers, which we’re so appreciative of.”
In Part 2 of the interview, Rood says that he sees the sales increase coming from new and returning readers, who are in it for the long haul, as opposed to speculators buying issue #1s in the hope that they will become valuable collectors’ items.
He was a bit less forthcoming on the details of DC’s deal to put their graphic novels on Amazon’s Kindle Fire e-reader, refusing to discuss how long the exclusive agreement would last and whether DC was aware that Amazon would price Alan Moore’s Watchmen at $9.99, half the price of the print version.
As for the trade collections of the New 52, the chief difference that readers will see, Wayne said, is a more unified trade dress; the graphic novels are definitely being presented as a jumping-on point for new readers. As to quantity and schedule, he said that the graphic novel releases will be spread out a bit, compared to the fairly concentrated launch of the monthly comics. While DC is publishing fewer comics titles than last year, the number of graphic novels will remain the same because they will be reaching into the vaults to publish older material, and movie tie-ins, in graphic novel form.
I’m biased: 12 percent of the titles that they’ve physically removed were written by me. From my perspective, it’s a ridiculous overreaction [by Barnes & Noble]. The idea that these people [Amazon] have a digital exclusive, therefore [B&N] will give them a physical exclusive, too — I’m not sure it’s a sane business practice.
If you force publishers to decide between the Amazon tablet and the Barnes & Noble Nook, some of them may come down on the Amazon side.
Creator Neil Gaiman on Barnes & Noble’s removal of DC’s graphic novels from its shelves after Amazon announced DC’s graphic novels would be exclusive on the Kindle Fire e-reader for a limited time. Gaiman’s comment is a reminder that this action affects real people—and carries a certain amount of risk for both creators and publishers.
Noted in passing: I was in my local Barnes & Noble over the weekend, and while the graphic novel section has shrunk way down (to a single six-bay bookcase), there were plenty of DC graphic novels on the shelf.
“regardless of the publisher, we will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format…To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms, and not have the eBook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.”
—Jaime Carey, chief merchant at Barnes & Noble
Well, those DC graphic novels that are going to be exclusive on the Amazon Kindle Fire color e-reader are really going to be exclusive now that Barnes & Noble is pulling them from the shelves in their brick-and-mortar stores.
We heard some unofficial mentions of this earlier this week, and today Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid got some Barnes & Noble reps to talk on the record and admit that they are pulling the bookstore equivalent of taking their bat and their ball and going home.
Color is so important to comics that most teams have a separate colorist, yet how much do we think about the significance of a particular palette? Darius A. Monsef IV, chief blogger at COLOURlovers, has spent quite a bit of time thinking about it, and he has produced a large infographic that compares the color schemes of good versus evil, both in costumes and in overall coloring. Some of the factoids are obvious (white for good characters, darker colors for evil, green for radioactivity), some are surprising (apparently orange and purple, paired with white and gray, signify neutral characters in the comics world). Also, the good guys are usually clad in primary colors and villains in secondary colors. And the analysis of the colors used by DC and Marvel is fascinating (in a color-nerd sort of way)—DC uses way more black, while Marvel skews red. The infographic also has a handy chart of costume color changes over the years.
Passings | Tom Wilson Sr., creator of the long-running comic strip Ziggy, passed away Sept. 16. According to a press release from Universal Uclick, Wilson, 80, had suffered from a long illness and died in his sleep. For more than 35 years, Wilson served as a creative director at American Greetings. Wilson first published Ziggy in the 1969 cartoon collection When You’re Not Around. The Ziggy comic panel, syndicated by Universal Uclick (formerly Universal Press Syndicate), launched in 15 newspapers in June 1971. It now appears in more than 500 daily and Sunday newspapers and has been featured in best-selling books, calendars and greeting cards. Wilson’s son, Tom Wilson Jr., took over the strip in 1987. [Universal Uclick]
Awards | The Chill by Jason Star and Mick Bertilorenzi won an Anthony Award this weekend at Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention. The Vertigo Crime selection won in the Best Graphic Novel category, while Birds of Prey writer Duane Swierczynski took the Best Original Paperback category with his novel Expiration Date. [Examiner]