As the trend accelerates toward publishing manga simultaneously in Japan and North America, Yen Press has scored a coup: This week, the company released the long-awaited 30th chapter of Highschool of the Dead digitally on the same day it came out in Japan.
That’s big news for fans of the series, which follows a group of high-school students and their nurse through a zombie apocalypse. It’s serialized in Dragon Age magazine but has been on hiatus for two years, which has given Yen Press time to catch up with the Japanese releases; the seventh volume was released in the United States in July.
Chapter 30 was published Tuesday in Japan, and Yen quickly made it available on a number of e-book platforms: iTunes Bookstore, Kindle, Nook and Google Play. Interestingly, they didn’t put it in their app, although the first seven volumes are available there. UPDATE: Yen Press publishing director Kurt Hassler says that the chapter will be available in the app shortly.
Highschool of the Dead is one of Yen’s more popular manga, so the decision to make the new chapter widely available at a reasonable price on release day makes an enormous amount of sense — especially with the long break since the last chapter. Thanks to Shonen Jump, there seems to be a mini-trend toward chapter-by-chapter, rather than volume-by-volume, releases. This makes a lot of sense, as that’s how most series come out first in Japan.
Awards | The 2013 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year, presented by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, has been awarded to Chris Ware’s Building Stories. The jury’s comment: “Ware’s astute and precise renderings, composed with a tender yet unblinking clinical eye and fleshed out with pristine and evocative coloring, trace the mundane routines and moments of small crisis that his characters inhabit. In so doing, he produces not a document but a monument, a work whose narrative logic is architectural rather than chronological: a set of lives to be encountered, traversed, and returned to as the rooms and floors of a building might be over the years, still sequentially but not in a limited or decided-upon sequence. Stories, here, are meant not to be told but to be built, explored, inhabited—not merely visited but lived in.” [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
Is the goal for comics to become a mainstream form of entertainment an unattainable goal? That seemed to be the angle Tom Spurgeon took on Monday’s Deconstructing Comics podcast and in his additional commentary at The Comics Reporter. He feels the industry is better served by regaining a few hundred thousand more devoted readers to restore unit sales to mid-six-figure levels. While comics have shown there is longevity in niche markets, that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of also attaining a larger readership.
With March’s estimated direct market sales figures showing yet another double-digit month of growth, manga publishers giving anecdotal reports of the manga market stabilizing, and something of a convention boom going on, there’s no better time than now to re-examine how comics can secure a healthy and vibrant future. Taking advantage of this growth is tricky because, as Spurgeon mentions, no one is exactly sure why the turnaround happened. Although people complain about DC Comics’ New 52 being a mess and Marvel crossovers not having the punch of the Civil War days, overall sales are rebounding. Was it digital comics? Was it the mainstream press for the New 52 or Marvel NOW, or some other stunt? Is it the Hollywood movies?
Passings | The New Yorker cartoonist Ed Fisher has died at the age of 86. Mike Lynch has a nice appreciation, with a sampling of cartoons and links to other obituaries. Fisher was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000, Lynch says, but even so, he often came to the New Yorker offices on “look day”: “He would be sitting on the couch, in the cartoonists’ waiting room, with his portfolio, ready to chat. I introduced myself and was really glad to meet him. More than once he pulled out his roughs and showed them to me. Ed treated me like an equal.” [Mike Lynch Cartoons]
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Muhammad Saba’aneh, who was detained by Israeli authorities in early March, has been sentenced to five months in jail and must pay a fine of 10,000 shekels. Saba’aneh was charged with contacting “enemy entities,” according to his lawyer. He was originally arrested and held without specific charges, raising fears that he would be detained indefinitely. [FARS News Agency]
Comics sales | The direct market continued its rise last month, with comics and graphic novel sales up 22.59 percent compared to March 2012, according to Diamond Comic Distributors. Marvel routed DC Comic in this month’s sales, claiming 40 percent of the market to DC’s 27 percent. [ICv2]
Conventions | The fire marshal had to turn away hundreds of people Sunday from the DoubleTree Hotel in Tampa, Florida, where the two-day Tampa Bay Comic Con was being held. An estimated crowd of 4,000 were crammed into the lobby and the ballroom (which is designed to hold a maximum of 1,200 people), with many hoping to see The Walking Dead star Lauren Cohan. Organizers conceded they need a larger venue for the twice-yearly event. [Tampa Bay Times]
Conventions | The Tokyo Big Sight convention center in May will lift the ban on events associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. Creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki and numerous venues that were hosting manga and doujinshi (fan comics) shows have received threatening letters, some containing liquid or powder, and as a result, Kuroko’s Basketball fan events have been canceled and doujinshi tables have been banned from several comics events. (More background here.) [Kotaku]
From the quarter bin to the slabbed copy sold at auction, sales of used comics are an important factor in the collectors’ market. Many a childhood comics habit started out with with secondhand copies picked up at thrift shops or garage sales for a dime, and a hefty area of the floor at every comics convention I have been to has been set aside for dealers with tables and tables of longboxes filled with old issues.
That’s one comics tradition unlikely to translate to the digital era: A federal judge has ruled the doctrine of first sale does not apply to digital files. In this case, they’re music files, but the case is being closely watched by book publishers.
The doctrine of first sale basically says that once you’ve bought a copyrighted product, you can re-sell it, rent it out, lend it, or do whatever you like with it — except reproduce it — without any obligation to the copyright owner. This allows comics shops to sell used comics and libraries to lend out graphic novels without having to pay royalties, but for obvious reasons, its application to digital products is problematic.
That means creators will be able to make their own motion comics using Madefire’s tools, and then distribute them through deviantART and the Madefire’s app. DeviantART also has a new Motion Books section in which visitors can preview a dozen Madefire titles previously only available on the company’s iOS app, and purchase chapters for 10 cents each (they remain free through the app for a limited time).
Comics sales | The bookstore chain Books-A-Million had an up year, and CEO Terrance G. Finley credited that in part to strong graphic novel sales, including The Walking Dead and kids’ graphic novels. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Wired runs down a handful of digital comics apps, noting both the pluses and the minuses of each one. [Wired]
Creators | Yehudi Mercado talks about his kid-friendly comic Pantalones, TX, which is filled with Saturday morning cartoon-style action, authority-questioning, and risky business: “I did purposefully envision Pantalones, TX as the anti-safety pad cartoon. I see my nieces and nephews growing up in a sheltered and sanitized environment, they don’t play outdoors at all. When I was a kid we shot fireworks at each other while playing in a bayou. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, but there should be a balance.” [Wired]
Cartoonists | A campaign to raise money to erect a 9-feet-tall bronze statute of Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane in his hometown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, is trailing about $23,000 short its goal ahead of an April 30 deadline. Alan Gardner points out that amount is reachable on Kickstarter. [The Arizona Republic]
Publishing | Kevin Roose has a brief chat with Bluewater CEO Darren G. Davis, who says that the company’s bestseller, the Michelle Obama bio-comic, sold about 150,000 copies; the CEO biographies do about half that number. [New York Magazine]
“I’m delighted to say that many more people paid us than didn’t. Those who opted to pay something paid at least 99 cents, and I don’t think too many people paid more than $5. Three bucks, the cost of most new paper comics, seemed to be a common payment.”
– writer Brian K. Vaughan, revealing to The New York Times the lowest and highest amounts paid for the first issue of The Private Eye, his digital collaboration with Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente. Readers were encouraged to name their own price, with 99 cents as the recommended amount.
Conventions | The organizers of Asbury Park Comic Con emphasize they are getting back to basics, with a comics event that eschews movies and other media to focus solely on comics. The headline guests for the Saturday event are Michael Uslan, Al Jaffee and Herb Trimpe. [The New York Times]
Conventions | In Pennsylvania, the first-ever Nittany-Con drew about 400 people to enjoy the three c’s of comics conventions: Creators, cheap comics, and cosplay. [Centre Daily Times]
Conventions | And in New Jersey, the Hasbrouck Heights Comics Expo drew an equally enthusiastic, if somewhat smaller, crowd. [NorthJersey.com]
No muss, no fuss and very little hype — this week Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin re-teamed on a new digital-only comic titled The Private Eye. Featuring fantastic colors by Muntsa Vicente, the comic is available on the Panel Syndicate website “for any price you think is fair.”
With that kind of model, there’s not a lot of risk for the consumer, but there is the question of “How much should I pay?” The site’s FAQ suggest 99 cents as a fair price; I opted to pay $3 because that’s what I would pay for a copy of Saga. But if you’re unsure if it’s worth your time and money, here are a few reviews to help you along …
Digital comics | Vertical Inc. becomes the latest manga publisher to take the plunge into digital, beginning with the release of three series: Twin Spica, Drops of God and 7 Billion Needles for Kindle, Nook and iBooks. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Fables creator Bill Willingham is the host of this weekend’s Fabletown and Beyond convention in Rochester, Minnesota, focusing on “mythic fiction.” He and organizer Stacy Sinner give a preview of what is to come. “I’m the host of the event, which means I get a lot of people to do the actual hard work, while I sit back imperiously on my throne and say ‘Yes,’ to this, and, ‘No,’ to that,” Willingham said. “The downside is, of course, I also have to write the checks.” [Rochester Post-Bulletin]
Conventions | Small Press Expo organizers apologized to exhibitors for the problems they experienced trying to register for the show. Despite several server upgrades ahead of time, the site went down when the “tsunami” of applications hit on Sunday morning. They then opened up PayPal to take the table orders, but they were unable to shut it down when all the tables were sold. They are sorting it out now, and if the tables were oversold, refunds will be issued. Roger Langridge depicted his registration experience on his blog. [SPX Tumblr]
Publishing | After 13 years of publishing and promoting yuri manga, Erica Friedman is stepping down as Yuricon events chair and giving up on publishing: “I can’t afford print, you don’t want digital, the JP companies won’t talk to me and all the many differences between JP publishers and US fans are so huge and insurmountable. I don’t have the energy or clout or money to bridge the gap.” [Okazu]