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Having already conquered book charts with his bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Jeff Kinney is now turning his attention to retailing.
According to The Associated Press, the author announced Friday at Book Expo America that he and his wife plan to convert an abandoned general store in Plainville, Massachusetts, where they live, into a bookstore. The town has a population of 8,264.
A blend of comics and prose, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has sold more than 115 million copies worldwide since its debut in April 2007.
Book Expo America is the annual trade show where publishers promote their upcoming books to retailers and librarians. BEA is all about books, but comics and graphic novels are a growing presence. Diamond had a dedicated area, as it has in previous years, several comics publishers had their own booths, and several of the big publishers featured graphic novels alongside their other titles, most notably Hachette, which gave quite a bit of space to Yen Press.
I spent Friday at the show looking at which books the publishers were drawing the most attention to. Here’s a very subjective account of what I saw.
Kid stuff! Children’s and YA graphic novels have been hot for a couple of years, and the news that Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters is getting a 200,000 copy initial print run got a lot of buzz. Of course, the BEA crowd has been on board with her work for a while, and they lined up in droves for her book signing. The same was true of Jeff Kinney, who was signing copies of The Wimpy Kid School Planner at the Abrams booth; the crowd just kept on coming. And the staff at the BOOM! Studios table were hustling as attendees grabbed copies of their Adventure Time and Bravest Warrior collections as well as their third original Peanuts graphic novel, Peanuts: The Beagle Has Landed, which takes Snoopy to the moon.
Creators | Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was traveling the day a tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, and he saw the damage on a news broadcast while waiting for a flight. The images stuck with him, so he rounded up fellow creators Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine, Timmy Failure) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), all of whom he describes as “novelists whose DNA is in comics,” to hold a benefit to rebuild the town’s school libraries. The quartet will meet in Norman, Oklahoma, for a panel discussion and will raffle off original art and sell autographed copies of their books this weekend, with all proceeds going to the Moore Public Schools Foundation, earmarked for the school libraries. [Oklahoma Gazette]
Creators | Joe Sacco, author of Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza and, most recently, The Great War, talks about his work day, his process and the places he’s been. [The Telegraph]
BookExpo America takes place the Javits Center, just like New York Comic Con, but it’s a completely different kind of show. It’s a trade show, not a consumer show, so the folks in the aisles aren’t fans looking for a fix, they are potential customers to be wooed. And what you see there is a pretty reliable guide to what everyone will be talking about in a couple of months.
So if you happened into the little graphic novel enclave at the right time, you might see Gene Luen Yang sitting there, pen in hand, ready to autograph a free Avatar graphic novel for you, or maybe Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer, sitting next to Andrew Aydin, with ashcans of their graphic novel about Lewis’ life, March, and while you might have to wait a few minutes for your turn, you wouldn’t have to stand on the sort of long lines they might draw at San Diego. The pace is more leisurely than a comic convention — the creators chat as they sign your comics — and the blasting noise of video game and movie displays is blissfully absent.
It’s true there aren’t a lot of comics publishers at BEA, although there are a fair number of book publishers who include comics in their lines. Abrams didn’t send their ComicArts people, but if you consider Diary of a Wimpy Kid to be a comic (I’m always happy to claim that one for our side), then they were well represented, and many attendees had Wimpy Kid stickers on their badges.
Neil Gaiman and Robert Kirkman are among The Hollywood Reporter’s 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood, appearing alongside the likes of J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and George R.R. Martin.
At No. 6, Kirkman is recognized not only for the success of AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead but for a “banner year for the veteran comic-book writer and Image Comics partner” that includes overseeing his Skybound imprint and publishing Thief of Thieves, which is also being developed by the cable network.
Gaiman, co-creator of The Sandman, clocked in at No. 23 on the strength of his prose work — The Graveyard Book and American Gods are being developed for film and television, respectively — and the adaptations of Coraline and Stardust.
Last week saw the digital launch of Jeff Kinney’s comics/prose hybrid Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which can now be purchased from comiXology, either through its regular service or through its dedicated Wimpy Kid app, Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The seventh volume, The Third Wheel, which is due out on Nov. 13, will be available digitally the same day as print. Abrams has created a special brand, Wimp-E-books, with its own logo, for the wildly popular series.
(Interestingly enough, the initial press release from Abrams, dated Oct. 15, didn’t mention any platforms, which seems like a grievous omission.)
You can still get the original edition of the book for free on the site where it first appeared, FunBrain.com. That’s where Kinney first published it, and it’s interesting to compare this first edition to the published versions — I took a look at the first few pages and the edits were obvious, and generally improvements over the original. It’s still pretty good though, and years ago, when I showed it to my daughter, who was maybe ten at the time and a bit of a reluctant reader, she took my computer away and read the whole thing in one sitting.
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]
Jeff Kinney, the author behind the $500 million Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, has sued Antarctic Press, accusing the comic publisher of violating trademark laws with its Diary of a Zombie Kid series.
TheWrap reports the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boston by Wimpy Kid Inc., accuses the San Antonio-based publisher of using a title and cover design “confusingly similar” to those of the Wimpy Kid books in an obvious attempt “to confuse the public into believing that defendant’s books are additions to such series.” Read the lawsuit here.
Created by Fred Perry and David Hutchison, the August-debuting Diary of a Zombie Kid follows Bill Dookes, a fifth-grader whose mother volunteers for medical research only to bring home a mysterious zombie virus that leaves her son with “skin problems and body chemistry changes that make puberty look like a walk in the park” — not to mention a growing appetite for brains. A sequel, Diary of a Zombie Kid: Rotten Rules — an apparent nod to Kinney’s second book Rodrick Rules — is set for release in January.
Kinney’s six-book Wimpy Kid series, presented as the journal of middle-school student Greg Heffley, has sold more than 52 million copies in North America alone since its 2007 debut and spawned two movies and numerous merchandising tie-ins, including clothes, toys and games.
The complaint accuses Antarctic of trademark infringement, copyright infringement, false designation of origin, trade dress infringement, trademark dilution and deceptive trade practices, and asks the court to permanently enjoin the publisher from further infringement. Wimpy Kid Inc. also seeks triple damages, in addition to attorney’s fees and Antarctic’s profits from Diary of a Zombie Kid.
Antarctic Press Publisher Joe Dunn declined comment to the Boston Herald, saying, “Obviously, I would love to talk about it and give my side of it. However I’ve been advised not to say anything.” His attorney said the publisher will be answering the complaint “promptly.”
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
I have to say, this is an amazingly slow week for me in terms of new releases. If I had $15, I’d pick up the fourth issue of Dark Horse’s Angel & Faith series ($3.50), which has surprised me by turning out to be my favorite by far of the new Buffy series (due, in large part, to Rebekah Isaacs’ artwork, which is superb). I’d also grab the third issue of IDW’s Star Trek monthly ($3.99), in the hope that it’ll be as good as the first two issues; hardcore Trek fans, you should really be looking at this book, if you’re not already. Also on the list to grab: Thunderbolts #166 (Marvel, $2.99), continuing a great storyline from what might be one of the most underrated books from either of the big two publishers. One of the few nice things about Marvel’s recent Cancelpocalypse was seeing so many people speak up about how much they love Thunderbolts, and I’m right there with them; Jeff Parker’s done great things with this book.
Crime | A man in Lincoln, Nebraska, told police that a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, valued at $15,000, disappeared from his home sometime between Oct. 27 and Monday morning. The 1962 issue was kept with other comics, but the man claims several people had been in and out of his home since he last saw it. A near-mint copy of the comic, which features the first appearance of Spider-Man, sold at auction in March for $1.1 million. [Lincoln Journal Star]
Creators | Writer Greg Pak has set up a page to take donations for former comics writer Bill Mantlo, whose tragic situation was detailed in an article last week. “Bill Mantlo has had a huge influence on me as a writer and reader,” Pak said. “His Micronauts stories blew my mind as a kid and his Incredible Hulk run laid the groundwork for the themes I explored my five-and-a-half year run with the character.” Money donated through the site goes directly to Mike Mantlo, Bill’s brother, for Bill’s ongoing care. [Greg Pak]
Publishing | Dark Horse is expected to announce today at New York Comic Con that it will price its digital comics at $1.49 per issue, 50 cents below the industry average. [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Although Marvel’s pricing announcement received the most attention, it certainly wasn’t the only news to come out of ICv2’s Conference on Comics and Digital, held Thursday at New York Comic Con. ICv2 Publisher Milton Griepp delivered a white paper indicating that sales were down 12 percent overall, with graphic novels down 20 percent and comics up just 1 percent; manga saw a 20-percent drop. Sales of digital comics, meanwhile, have increased to $6 million to $8 million in the U.S., more than 10 times ICv2’s estimate for 2009. [ICv2.com, The Beat, Comics Alliance]
There’s a new giant helium balloon in town: Greg Heffley, the main character from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, will be one of two new characters represented in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Greg’s Fifth Avenue debut celebrates the publication of the latest addition to Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, which hits the streets on Nov. 9 with an initial printing of 5 million copies. Greg’s effigy will be one of 13 giant balloons in the parade. (Oddly, the press release announcing this touts the series and its popularity but never mentions Greg by name.)
To promote the event, Abrams, which publishes the Wimpy Kid books under its Amulet imprint, is giving away four trips to the parade as grand prizes in a sweepstakes that starts today.
The parade will take place on Thursday, Nov. 25, from 9 a.m. to noon EST.