Diamond Comic Distributors
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.
Diamond Comic Distributors informed retailers this morning that it won’t ship products the week of Dec. 24 because of the UPS delivery schedule. However, selected items will be included with the previous week’s shipment to go on sale Wednesday, Dec. 26.
The distributor last experienced a holiday-triggered “skip week” in December 2009, leaving the direct market without Diamond deliveries for two Wednesdays. That year, DC Comics stepped in to ship Blackest Night #6 early, ensuring retailers had a major new title on Dec. 30 (of course, some put them on shelves early), while some saw the delay as an opportunity to promote independent comics.
This year, however, the wait will be significantly shorter: Retailers will receive another shipment on Friday, Dec. 28, for sale on Wednesday, Jan. 2. Retailers will be notified later which companies will make products available for early delivery.
In a separate email, Diamond also announced the addition of a “die-cut, cardstock overcovers” by Greg Capullo spotlighting the Joker for the following “Death of the Family” crossover issues: Batman #13, Batgirl #13, Catwoman #13, Suicide Squad #14, Batman and Robin #15, Detective Comics #15, Nightwing #15, Red Hood and the Outlaws #15 and Teen Titans #15.
Retailing | ICv2 analyzes the August direct market numbers and comes up with some interesting patterns: While the market as a whole is up, the number of comics with sales of more than 1,000 has been declining; sales dropped a bit for most ongoing comics series in the Top 25, but strong sales of Before Watchmen and two annuals more than compensated for that; and graphic novels sell in far lower numbers than comics, but because many of them are backlist titles, the numbers still increase from year to year. ICv2 also posted lists of last month’s Top 300 comics and graphic novels. [ICv2]
Publishing | Yet another big publisher spawns a graphic novel imprint: This time it’s Penguin, whose Berkley/NAL division will launch a graphic novel imprint, InkLit, next month. Helmed by former DC vice president and Yen Press co-founder Rich Johnson, InkLit will publish both original graphic novels and adaptations of prose works. The line will begin with Vol. 1 of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega, which collects the trades published by Dynamite; the second volume will be all new material. Also in the works are books by Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Sage Stossel. [Publishers Weekly]
Bluewater Productions, the publisher largely known for its biographical comics about political and showbiz personalities, has announced a complete break with Diamond Comic Distributors. Bluewater comics will now be distributed, and printed, by Comic Flea Market.
Bluewater had already announced a distribution partnership with CFM for some of its titles, so the news piece here is that the publisher is making a complete break with Diamond. Bluewater comics are also available digitally through the usual channels.
Give Bluewater President Darren G. Davis credit for putting a bold front on it and saying in the press release that Diamond “abruptly” canceled several Bluewater comics because they didn’t make their sales benchmarks. In an interview with MTV Geek in March, Davis presented Bluewater’s problems with Diamond as a clash of business models.
“It’s really difficult, because according to these benchmarks your comics have to make a certain amount of money, or they won’t issue you a purchase order,” he said. “I get it – they’re a bigger company. And if we have a book that only sold 500 copies, there’s no reason why they should distribute it. But it just doesn’t help me as a publisher. But I don’t condemn them for it.”
Davis emphasized today that this move does not mean Bluewater is abandoning the direct market; on the contrary, he pledged to continue to offer Bluewater comics to retailers at about the same discount they were receiving from Diamond.
“My experience has shown me that if your name is not DC or Marvel, it is very difficult to get support from Diamond,” Davis said in the press release. “As an independent producer, I felt it was time to take our titles to the next level.”
Comic Book Resources reached out to Diamond and Davis for comment but has yet to receive a response.
Less than three weeks after British customs agents temporarily held the first issue of Howard Chaykin’s sexually explicit Black Kiss II, Diamond U.K. has decided to stop importing the series due to concerns about its graphic content.
Bleeding Cool reports the distributor notified British retailers that, after reviewing the second issue, it has canceled all orders the title, including the second printing of Issue 1. The first issue will be made returnable (although it seems likely that it just became a very hot commodity).
“Retailers will be aware that the first issue of Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss II was rather explicit compared to other comics distributed by Diamond UK,” the distributor wrote in a notice to retailers. “We at Diamond have now had the opportunity to review the second issue and the explicitness has not diminished at all! In fact there are scenes depicted which may fall foul of UK Customs’ regulations on the importing of indecent and obscene material. Consequently Diamond has taken the decision not to distribute any further issues of Black Kiss II in the UK. Had Diamond UK continued to import this title and encountered problems with Customs, it could have had a knock-on effect on the timely distribution of all titles in the UK. A situation wanted by no one.”
John Jackson Miller takes a hard look at the July sales charts, starting by parsing the numbers for the month’s top seller, The Walking Dead #100. Diamond Comic Distributors estimates place sales of the regular comic at 335,000 copies, plus almost 31,000 of the $9.99 Chromium Edition. That’s a bit less than the 383,612 copies Image Comics announced, but as Miller notes, the Diamond numbers don’t include reorders, overseas sales, newsstand sales and other channels.
Anyway, just adding those first two numbers, U.S. direct-market sales of the regular issue and the variant cover, this comic sold 366,000 copies, setting a new record for the highest orders for a comic in a single month, handily beating The Amazing Spider-Man #583 (the Barack Obama issue), the previous top seller for the 21st century, and The Darkness #11, Image’s previous all-time top seller.
Miller spends a bit of time contemplating whether variant covers should be included in the one-month total. I paused to wonder how many of the variants are being bought by collectors who are picking up the standard cover as well, but in the end, a sale is a sale, regardless of why it occurs.
While all this is great news for Image, Miller makes an observation further down in the post that should give readers pause: “As reported last Friday, the market overall continued to percolate, up nearly 20% over the previous year. A gap is developing between the sales of the Top 300 graphic novels and graphic novel sales overall; the Top 300s for the last seven months are up 25% over last year, whereas everything in the category is only up 14%. That suggests a list that’s been top-heavy with unit volume and/or dollars.”
It would be interesting to take a closer look and see where the drop-off occurs; it may not be at 300, and if it’s further up the list, that would suggest a winners-and-losers scenario that could be bad news in the long run.
The Walking Dead #100 has already been trumpeted as the bestselling comic, in initial orders, since 1997, so it comes as absolutely no surprise that those 383,612 copies were more than enough to lead Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 10 list for July. It’s the first time in its nearly nine-year run that the horror series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard has topped the chart.
However, it also marks another milestone: It’s the first time in almost a decade that a comic published by a company other than Marvel or DC has claimed the top spot in the direct market. That honor, in November 2002, went to another Image title, Masters of the Universe #1, by Val Staples and Emiliano Santalucia. Of course, that comic sold about 270,000 fewer copies than the 100th issue of The Walking Dead, according to the invaluable Comichron archives.
Before that, though, the now-defunct Dreamwave Productions had a pretty good run, with its Transformers series leading the monthly sales charts for a full half of 2002.
Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on the retailer lunch at Comic-Con International, where spirits were running high after an exceptionally good year, with sales up 13 percent over 2011. Retailers shared success stories, Diamond Comic Distributors offered incentives for new businesses, and MacDonald pulled out an interestingly eclectic list of titles that are spurring sales, including The Walking Dead, Saga, and Jeffrey Brown’s cat cartoons and Vader and Son. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | ICv2 talks to the Viz Media executives about a range of topics, including the stabilization of the manga market, new interest from comics retailers, the shift to digital, and an uptick in the popularity of shoujo (girls’) manga. [ICv2]
In the wake of Friday’s shootings in Aurora, Colorado, DC Comics has delayed the release of Batman Incorporated #3, originally set to go on sale Wednesday, because the issue “contains content that may be perceived as insensitive in light of recent events.” It will instead be released Aug. 22.
In an email sent Monday to retailers, the publisher explained that, “Out of respect for the victims and families in Aurora, Colorado DC Entertainment has made the decision to postpone the release of BATMAN INCORPORATED #3 for one month because the comic contains content that may be perceived as insensitive in light of recent events. We request that retailers do not make this issue available as previously solicited.”
Artist Chris Burnham addressed the delay on Twitter, writing, “Batman Inc #3 is going to be delayed a month due to some grim imagery that would seem wholly inappropriate given the Aurora killings. The book printed on time. I’m looking at a copy on my desk right now. This isn’t a scheduling excuse, we’re trying to do the right thing. It’s not just a Batman comic with guns in it. There’s a specific scene that made DC & the whole Bat-team say ‘Yikes.’ Too close for comfort.”
Comic Book Resources has an exclusive preview of Batman Incorporated #3, which features the New 52 debut of Matches Malone, and finds Batman on the trail of who’s trying to kill Damian.
Legal | In a motion for summary judgment filed Monday in the long-running legal battle for the rights to Superman, attorneys for Warner Bros. are revisiting their 2009 argument that the estate of Joe Shuster has no grounds to reclaim the artist’s share of the copyright to the Man of Steel. They point to a 1992 agreement in which the estate relinquished all claims in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included DC Comics paying Shuster’s remaining debts follow his death earlier that year, and providing his sister Jean Seavy with a $25,000 annual pension. Daniel Best has the documents, while Jeff Trexler provides context, noting that the new filing “filing wasn’t a Perry Mason-esque unveiling of surprising new facts. Rather, it was a routine motion for summary judgment.” A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20. [20th Century Danny Boy, The Beat]