Diamond Comic Distributors
Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]
Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]
Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]
Just in case there were any lingering doubt, Diamond Comic Distributors has made it official: The landmark 100th issue of The Walking Dead was the top-selling comic in the direct market in 2012.
As we noted in August, the issue by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn set a new record for highest orders for a comic in a single month with an estimated 366,000 copies copies, beating The Amazing Spider-Man #583 (the Barack Obama issue, with 352,800 copies), the previous top seller for the 21st century, and The Darkness #11 (357,000), Image’s previous all-time top seller.
According to the distributor, comics book sales finished the year up nearly 15 percent over 2011, and graphic novels up more than 14 percent. Marvel was the top publisher, with a 34.06 percent dollar market share and a 37.59 percent unit market share. DC Comics followed at No. 2 with a 31.94 percent dollar market share and a 36.75 unit market share. Marvel also published nine of the Top 10 comics of 2012: Uncanny Avengers #1, Avengers vs. X-Men #1-6, The Amazing Spider-Man #700 and Avengers #1.
The Walking Dead, meanwhile, dominated the graphic novels chart, claiming seven of the Top 10 spots.
“2012 was a terrific year for comic books and graphic novels,” Diamond CEO Steve Geppi said in a statement. “Our publishers did a tremendous job of creating compelling storylines that comic book fans wanted to see – from Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men followed by its Marvel NOW! titles later in the year to DC’s powerful New 52 ongoing titles. Add in Dark Horse Comics’ horror line-up, IDW’s My Little Pony and Image Comics’ creator-driven hits and it was quite a year. In addition, I would like to mention what a wonderful job comic shop retailers did in 2012, by continuing to establish a great environment that readers and fans want to come and visit.”
Digital comics | Comics by comiXology was the third-highest grossing app on the iPad in 2012. Last year Comics made No. 10 on the charts, and two other comiXology apps, their Marvel and DC apps, also made the Top 20. [Inside Mobile Apps]
Manga | Black Lagoon creator Rei Hiroe has announced that after a nearly two-year hiatus, he’ll resume his hit manga in January or February. The violent action/black comedy series, which centers on a team of pirates/mercenaries, is published in North America by Viz Media. [Crunchyroll]
Moulsinart S.A., the company established to promote and protect the works of Hergé, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to exclusively distribute The Adventures of Tintin merchandise in specialty stores in North America and the Philippines.
The announcement is characterized as “a key step in Moulinsart’s first ongoing and comprehensive program of Tintin collectibles, comics, and limited availability products in North America.” A primary goal of the initiative is to expand the sales and brand awareness of Tintin in North America.
Hergé’s beloved series, which chronicles the adventures of a globe-trotting young Belgian reporter and his faithful dog Snowy, has been been translated into more than 50 languages and sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. Although the books have experienced limited popularity in the United States, Steven Spielberg’s 2011 motion-capture film adaptation raised awareness of the character.
Tintin merchandise has been listed in Diamond’s Previews catalog since June, and will be spotlighted in dedicated pages.
“Although many U.S. fans became aware of Tintin with the Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson film released in 2011, the international Adventures of Tintin have been known worldwide for many years,” John Parker, Diamond’s vice president of business development, said in a statement. “We at Diamond are ecstatic to be involved in the expanded introduction of Tintin’s stories and awesome collectible and novelty products to the thousands of stores in our network.”
News of the Moulsinart deal comes just a week after Diamond announced it had inked a deal with Tezuka Productions to distribute Osamu Tezuka comics, toys and other products outside of Japan.
Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]
Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]
The question of just how well The Walking Dead #103 performed in the direct market has been answered with Comic Book Resources’ sales estimates for October: 74,372 copies, a more than 39-percent increase from the previous issue and the biggest circulation gain of any title for the month. Mind you, that’s based only on copies sold by Diamond Comic Distributors to the North American direct market.
That jump thrust The Walking Dead from the No. 24 spot on Diamond’s Top 300 in September to No. 9 in October, marking only the second time the acclaimed Image Comics series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard has cracked the Top 10. The previous instance occurred in July, when the milestone 100th issue seized the top spot with a record-breaking 366,000 copies (383,612 when you add other channels). However, aside from the auspiciousness of the occasion, that issue also benefited from 13 variant covers; Issue 103 had just one — Chris Giarrusso‘s adorable homage to the first issue (at right).
As we did last week, ICv2 gives part of the credit for the sales boost to the October premiere of the third season of the AMC television series. Now add that Issue 103 begins a new storyline — “a new beginning,” in the words of the solicitation text — which won’t be released in collected form until May.
Speaking of collections, a category in which the series thrives, the $60 Compendium Two was third in unit sales (an estimated 10,333 copies) but first in dollars; it was among the five Walking Dead collections in the Top 25 for October. The first volume, collecting issues originally released in 2003 and 2004, came in at No. 4 (with, again, 10,333 copies).
The Walking Dead #103 was No. 9 on Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of comics sold to the direct market in October, marking the rare breakthrough into the Top 10 by an independent title. The question, though, is why.
Sure, the landmark 100th issue of the acclaimed horror series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard landed atop the sales chart in July with a record-breaking 335,000 copies, propelled by a whopping 13 variant covers, but Issue 103 had just one variant (Chris Giarrusso‘s adorable homage to the first issue).
While there are no sales estimates yet for The Walking Dead #103, we can look to the two previous issues for some comparison: August’s Issue 101 landed at No. 31 with an estimated 51,732 copies, followed in September by Issue 102 at No. 24 with 53,337 copies. Considering that ICv2 is reporting periodical sales increased 7.4 percent in October over the same month in 2011, we can safely say The Walking Dead #103 sold … significantly more than those two previous issues. Again, though, why?
It was billed as “a new beginning for The Walking Dead,” and “a perfect jumping-on point,” so perhaps we’re seeing the television effect that’s kept the collections at the top of the bookstore charts spilling into the single issues (the first volume, originally released in 2006, is a perennial bestseller). It’s certainly possible that, with AMC’s hit adaptation returning for its third season in October, viewers who had already consumed the trade paperbacks (and the retailers who sell them) took Image Comics at its word and jumped on the monthly series with Issue 103, pushing sales to somewhere well north of 53,000.
Next week, we should have a solid sales estimate, and with it a better idea of the title’s trajectory.
So anything interesting happen yesterday? Oh, yes, that’s right. Even the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy wasn’t enough to delay the big announcement any longer: Star Wars is now the newest crown jewel of the House of Mouse. The announcement was made a day after plans were revealed to merge two of the world’s biggest book publishers, Random House and Penguin. The two events, while occurring independent of each other, have all sorts of implications both specific and more broad.
Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm started a lot of people talking, and considering the legacy of Star Wars, it’s only natural. With George Lucas out as director and Star Wars transitioning into something akin to the James Bond franchise, don’t get your hopes up for a return to the sensibilities of the original Star Wars movie. The word “family” was used six times to describe the space opera in the press release and subsequent statements, sending a strong signal that what we’ve gotten most recently is what we’ll get for the foreseeable future. Kathleen Kennedy was hand-picked by Lucas to succeed him as head of Lucasfilm and brand manager of Star Wars. Between her and Lucas’ role as creative consultant, they’ll ensure Star Wars retains something for the kids, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, except for when it manifests itself in the form of Jar Jar Binks and other cartoon aliens with vaguely racist accents. In addition to the two- to three-year cycle of Star Wars films, there are plans for a TV presence and an expanded presence at Disney theme parks.
Creators | Former 2000AD artist Brett Ewins has been freed on bail after a judge reduced his charge to assult. Ewins, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was accused of stabbing a police officer in a January altercation that left the 56-year-old artist hospitalized in serious condition. Because Ewins has already served nine months, part of it in a hospital (where he was in a coma), it’s unlikely he’ll have to go back behind bars. [Sex, Drugs, & Comic Books]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat, who escaped to Kuwait after the Syrian security police beat him and broke his hands, is now living in Egypt and continuing to draw cartoons supporting the Syrian revolution. “Fear has been defeated in Syria when the people marched 19 months ago against tyranny,” he said. “I began to directly draw people in power including Assad and his government officials, to break the barrier of fear, that chronic fear that Syrians suffered from for 50 years.” [Reuters]
Legal | The lawyer for Jack Kirby’s heirs asked the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to overturn a 2011 ruling that Marvel owns the copyrights to the characters the late artist co-created for the publisher, arguing that a federal judge misinterpreted the law. Attorney Marc Toberoff, who also represents the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their fight against DC Comics, told a three-judge panel that a freelancer who gets paid only when a publisher likes his work is not, under copyright law, performing work for hire. Marvel countered that Stan Lee’s testimony established Kirby drew the contested works at the publisher’s behest; the Kirby family insists the lower court gave too much credence to Lee’s testimony. Kirby’s children filed 45 notices in 2009 in a bid to terminate their father’s assignment of copyright to characters ranging from the Fantastic Four and the Avengers to Thor and Iron Man under a provision of the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act. However, in July 2011, a judge determined those comics created between 1958 and 1963 were work made for hire and therefore ineligible for copyright termination. [Law360.com]
Diamond Digital has released a video for retailers that explains how to use its program. Retailers have two ways of selling digitally through Diamond: They can print out digital codes that they sell and the user then redeems for a digital comic, and they can also set up a digital comics storefront and keep a cut of the sales. The video does a nice job of explaining how to do that. And for the rest of us, it’s a peek behind the digital curtain.
One revealing detail is that retailers keep 33 percent of the cover price of any comic sold digitally. It’s safe to say that’s less than they would make from the sale of a printed comic, but they don’t have to worry about ordering inventory or ending up with unsold comics on their hands. On the other hand, it’s more than they would get from comiXology, which has a similar program; comiXology gives retailers 15 percent of the sale price if they use a standard comiXology storefront and 30 percent if they use the DC storefront. (On the other hand, comiXology offers a wider range of comics for sale, so there you go. Nothing’s perfect.) Retailers take in the full amount for each sale, then Diamond bills them for 67 percent on their weekly invoice.
Customers can redeem the codes at the website digitalcomicsreader.com or on a special Digital Comics Reader app, which is available for Android and iPhone.
Publishing| Comics sales in the direct market were down in September relative to last year, but that may be because the launch of DC’s New 52 pushed sales unusually high in September 2011. Graphic novels were up by 14.4 percent, making for a slight uptick in the overall market. Year-to-date and third-quarter sales were also up by a goodly amount from last year. [ICv2]
Editorial cartooning | The position of editorial cartoonist as a staff job on a newspaper is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, but attendees at the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists meeting in Washington, D.C., don’t seem too downhearted; new opportunities are opening up, and this year’s presidential campaign is presenting them with plenty of material. “Times are tough for the old idea of cartoonists, but all kinds of other things have opened up,” said cartoonist Chip Bok, “And editorial cartoons, all cartoons, are more popular than ever. You see them all over the Internet. The problem now is figuring out how to get paid.” [Voice of America]
Image Comics has announced a Chris Giarrusso variant cover for October’s Chew #29, by John Layman and Rob Guillory. For every 10 copies of the issue retailers order, one of those will feature a Giarrusso variant.
Best known for G-Man, Giarrusso previously created Image 20th-anniversary variants for Youngblood, Spawn, The Savage Dragon, The Walking Dead, ShadowHawk and Morning Glories.
Check out Giarrusso’s variant and Guillory’s regular cover below. Chew #29, which originally was scheduled for September release, goes on sale Oct. 17.
A day after Diamond Comic Distributors informed direct market stores that it won’t ship products the week of Dec. 24 because of the holiday, DC Comics has announced it will deliver three issues early, allowing retailers to offer new merchandise during the “skip week.”
Other publishers and manufacturers are expected to follow suit.
In an email sent this morning to store owners, Diamond said Aquaman #15, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4 and Justice League #15, described as “three key titles,” will be included in the Dec. 19 delivery to go on sale Wednesday, Dec. 26. DC similarly provided Blackest Night #6 to retailers a week early in 2009, the last time the distributor experienced a holiday-triggered skip week. On that occasion, some stores broke the Dec. 30 embargo date, with scans appearing online within hours of delivery.
While the three titles being offered this year may not be the hot commodity that Blackest Night was in 2009, Justice League #15 and Aquaman #15 are the first two parts of the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover (and the former marks the debut of new art team Ivan Reis and Joe Prado), while Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #4 is the conclusion of that miniseries.