EXCL. PREVIEW: Hitch's "Justice League: Rebirth" #1 Fears the Reaper
Digital Manga Publishing, which is certainly living up to its name nowadays, is now selling manga for the Kobo e-reader. This is a logical extension, as they already sell manga via the Kindle, the Nook, and their own eManga site, and Digital vp Fred Lui told me a few weeks ago that their revenues from the Nook are fast approaching their Kindle sales. And with Amazon removing some of their manga from the Kindle Store for reasons that remain unclear, it makes sense for them to diversify into as many channels as possible.
Since I haven’t heard about any graphic novels for the Kobo, I went to their store and poked around a bit. A search on “graphic novel” turned up Ted Dekker’s graphic novels, which seem to be on every medium, an adaptation of the children’s novel Artemis Fowl, and… Pokemon Graphic Novel, Volume 2: Pikachu Shocks Back, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I was a little surprised to see that the guy who coined the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” had written a Pokemon book, especially as he died in 1873, so I downloade it; alas, it turned out to be just another badly written 19th-centry novel. This suggests that the Kobo bookstore is not quite ready for prime time, but given that Digital is about to greatly expand its digital offerings, it makes sense to maximize the number of channels as well.
Ever since the news broke last week that Amazon had removed some yaoi manga from the Kindle store, people, myself included, have been bombarding them with questions. No answers have been forthcoming, however. Amazon is like a huge black box with a screen in the side that sells books. What goes on inside it is anybody’s guess; their PR people don’t return emails or calls, and their customer service department spits out bland, automated responses like
“Occasionally books are removed from the Kindle Store for various reasons. We do not have any specific details about why this particular book may have been removed. The book’s publishers decide if a book is to be made available for the Kindle, and they can change this status at any time.”
In the Case of the Missing Manga, Amazon fails the Turing Test. It is obviously a robot.
Broadway | The $70-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will emerge Thursday from its three-week hiatus a vastly changed production, featuring five additional flying sequences, expanded roles for Aunt May, Uncle Ben and Mary Jane, a scaled back (and transformed) Arachne, new songs and a lighter tone. “There is still a ton of emotional complexity in the musical, and some of that original darkness,” says playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was hired to help rework the script. “But we all also wanted a show that would honor the rich legacy and history of the Spider-Man story: the high school love story, the pretty girl next door, the science geek who is coping with new powers.” The new opening night is set for June 14. [The New York Times]
Publishing | Gregory Noveck, former senior vice president-creative affairs at DC Entertainment, has been hired as senior vice president of production for Syfy Films, a joint venture of Syfy and Universal. Noveck, who oversaw DC’s film and television ventures, left the company in August amid a massive restructuring. [Heat Vision]
Last week we reported that Amazon had removed several yaoi manga from the Kindle Store on the grounds that it did not meet their content guidelines. I spoke to Fred Lui of Digital Manga Publishing, the publisher of the deleted manga, and he said that Amazon didn’t give any more specific reason than that, although he did note that there seemed to be a new guy who was being “overzealous.”
The Kindle Store still offers plenty of yaoi manga, including some fairly steamy titles, so Amazon doesn’t seem to be deleting all the yaoi by any means. However, Animate U.S.A., a Japanese publisher that publishes yaoi manga exclusively on the Kindle, reports that Amazon has removed some of their books as well. I e-mailed them last week to ask about this, and this is the reply I got:
As you may know, some titles are already removed by Amazon without any specific reasons.
We just know that the titles contain content that is in violation of their content guidelines.
The e-mail did not include specifics, but I looked through their press releases and came up with three titles that Animate announced but that are not currently available in the Kindle Store: vol. 1 of Mister Mistress (vol. 2 is still available, and both can be bought used in print through Amazon), Delivery Cupid, and Pet in Love, a Pet on Duty side story (Pet on Duty is still available). I have e-mailed Animate to confirm that these titles were removed by Amazon and not by the publisher.
While the deleted Digital titles are still available via the Nook and Digital’s own eManga website, Animate U.S.A. publishes only to the Kindle, so these titles are no longer available digitally.
A side note: In the earlier post, we mentioned several non-yaoi graphic novels that seemed to be at about the same level of explicitness as the ones deleted; one of these, Christmas Creampie, is no longer available in the Kindle Store.
Yaoi manga is a niche genre, but like all niche genres, it has a devoted following. Yaoi readers gobble up the books like romance fans read Harlequin novels, which is not surprising as they are basically the same thing, except that yaoi 1) is manga, 2) is a love story between two men, and 3) often includes lots of sex.
It’s hard to know whether number 2 or 3 above is responsible, but Amazon has instructed at least one publisher to remove its yaoi books from the Kindle store, while allowing considerably more explicit male-female titles to remain. Digital Manga Publishing, which puts out several lines of yaoi, ranging from the fairly tame June imprint to the pretty steamy 801, posted this notice on its blog yesterday:
Recently Amazon has become more strict in enforcing their content requirements for ebooks. Several DMP books that have been available online since 2009 are getting the axe, beginning with our 801 Media titles like Weekend Lovers and King of Debt. However, in the last few days the issue has spread to the June imprint by Amazon’s refusal of The Selfish Demon King, and the removal of The Color of Love from the Kindle store. We fear that Amazon may target more of our books for removal so we’re warning all Amazon Kindle store users that providing you with our content may become more difficult in the future. However, if you purchase our ebooks before Amazon decides to remove it from their store you will still be able to access the book from your account.
All the books mentioned are already gone from the Kindle store, and several are missing from Amazon’s print book selection as well.
(Warning: NSFW image below.)
Starbucks announced today that, in partnership, with Yahoo! it’s expanding its Starbucks Digital Network, which offers customers access to free online content its nearly 6,800 locations in the United States. Soon you’ll be able sip a mochachino while browsing material from the likes of The Economist, Mediabistro and … Marvel Digital Comics.
Yes, as of April 23, the Starbucks faithful will have “unlimited, free access” to the full library of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited via the Starbucks Digital Network’s entertainment channel. That’s, presumably, for browsing and not downloading.
Tom Spurgeon has some commentary on the announcement, noting that he’s “not sure this deal all by itself has a drastic impact, mostly because we’re talking about subsets of subsets.” Still, it’s an interesting strategy on Marvel’s part for trying to expand its audience.
You can read the press release after the break.
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Dark Horse has announced it will offer a first look at its somewhat-delayed digital comics app this weekend during the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
Announced in October at New York Comic Con, the planned January launch of the publisher’s digital comics program was put on hold because because of Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store (something Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson confirmed earlier this month).
But now the beta version of the app is ready to be shown off at booth #601, with Dark Horse staff on hand for demonstrations, to answer questions and allow fans to take it for a test run.
Check out the official press release after the break.
Comics | A near-mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the 1962 comic featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man, was purchased in a private sale on Monday for $1.1 million — short of the record $1.5 million paid in March 2010 for Action Comics #1. “The fact that a 1962 comic has sold for $1.1 million is a bit of a record-shattering event,” says Stephen Fishler, chief executive of ComicConnect.com. “That something that recent can sell for that much and be that valuable is awe-inspiring.” [The Associated Press]
Comic-Con | Hotel reservations for Comic-Con International open this morning at 9 PT. A preliminary list of hotels included in the Comic-Con block is available on the convention website. [Comic-Con International]
Comic-Con | ICv2 has announced it will host the its Comics, Media and Digital Conference on July 20, in conjunction with Comic-Con International. [ICv2]
Last week, Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy took some criticism from a number of comics sites, including this one, after the manga publisher laid off two senior editors, Lillian Diaz-Pryzybl and Troy Lewter, and one brilliant new hire, former CMX editor Asako Suzuki. This week, Levy told Publishers Weekly‘s Calvin Reid that the Borders bankruptcy left Tokyopop cash poor:
“They owe us a significant amount of money. We’re not a big company and with less cash than we planned, we had to regroup to survive.” The layoffs, he added, were “the hardest part, because these were my friends and collaborators.”
In addition to the Borders bankruptcy, Tokyopop took another hit this year: Its agreement with Warcraft developer Blizzard Entertainment came to an end in January. Apparently, Blizzard was happy with the sales and the quality of the manga, but didn’t want to put in the time required to work on them.
But it’s not all grim: Tokyopop ended its distribution deal with HarperCollins earlier this year, but a Tokyopop representative told me they will continue to co-publish the Warriors manga (based on the middle-grade prose novels by Erin Hunter), which are among their bestsellers. According to the BookScan charts that Brian Hibbs posts every year for his “Tilting at Windmills” column, Tokyopop sold about 120,000 Warriors manga, divided over four volumes, in 2008, and 60,000 in 2009. In 2010, Tokyopop’s bestselling book was Warriors: Ravenpaw’s Path #2, which sold 22,715 copies, according to BookScan. The Warcraft manga didn’t come close in any of these years. This is just in the bookstore channel — that’s what BookScan measures — but for Tokyopop, that’s a significant chunk of its business, probably the lion’s share, so keeping Warriors is huge.
Publishing | February brought a noteworthy, if unwanted, record for the direct market: The lowest-ever top title on record. Green Lantern #62 led Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 300 with an estimated 71,500 copies, 18,400 less than the previous record holder. Chart watcher John Jackson Miller writes, “For the first time, we probably cannot say that when all reorders and newsstand sales are added, the total will be above 100,000 — although we certainly would expect its eventual readership to go above that mark given reprint editions (to say nothing of digital).”
DC’s $29.99 Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne deluxe hardcover helped to push year-over-year dollars sales up 6.92 percent, offsetting a slight decline in periodicals to and nudging combined sales up .94 percent. “Sales of those ‘long tail’ titles below the Top 300 masked a weakness at the top of the list,” ICv2 notes. “Unit numbers at the top of both the periodical and graphic novel lists were some of the lowest since ICv2 has been tracking comic sales.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview with retail news and analysis site ICv2, Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson discusses the state of the market, the potential impact of Borders’ bankruptcy, digital comics, the decline in manga sales, the success of Troublemaker and more. Of particular note is Richardson’s confirmation that Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store was behind the delay of the planned January launch of Dark Horse’s digital comics program. He also says that Frank Miller is working on the third issue of his 300 prequel Xerxes, which is expected to be “roughly six issues, but he hasn’t exactly decided yet.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson provides an overview of recent changes to BOOM! Studios’ kids’ line, from the loss of the Pixar licenses to a new imprint name — changed from BOOM! Kids to kaboom! — to the announcement this week of a Peanuts original graphic novel. “BOOM Kids! was designed to publish children’s comics — kaboom! is designed to be a true all-ages imprint, and for that reason Peanuts is the perfect launch title, the sort of material that adults and kids read alike,” CEO Ross Ritchie said. “Roger Langridge’s Snarked! is along these lines, as is Space Warped and Word Girl. I put the Word Girl announcement on my wall on Facebook and immediately there were a zillion adults commenting, ‘My child loves this show but I’m buying this comic book for myself!’ The title mix will be broader for kaboom! than it was for BOOM Kids!” [Publishers Weekly]
Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman is working on something completely different: Super Dinosaur, a children’s comic that will have a simultaneous print and digital release on April 1. But why wait that long? There’s a free preview up at comiXology right now. (That link takes you to the web version, but of course you can also read it on your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android device.)
Kirkman talked to CBR about Super Dinosaur and his desire to publish an all-ages comic last December. The preview comes on pretty strong, with 10-year-old hero Derek Dynamo and his pal Super Dinosaur, a 9-foot tall, genetically altered Tyrannosaurus Rex, beating up a bunch of other genetically altered dinosaurs who are trying to steal Dynore, a useful but unstable mineral discovered by Derek’s scientist dad. The first few pages, naturally, are heavy on exposition, but it’s mixed with a lot of action and a bit of a twist at the end.
Kirkman plans to publish Super Dinosaur, which he wrote and Jason Howard illustrated, under his own Image Comics imprint, Skybound. While the first issue goes live, as mentioned above, on April 1, the second issue will be his Free Comic Book Day choice.
A blog called Welcome Datacomp has translated a discussion of manga piracy between manga creators Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima), Minako Uchida, and Kazumi Tojo that took place on the Japanese social media site Togetter about the prevalence of scanned and fan-translated manga on the internet. Akamatsu is experimenting with his own free manga site, but even so, he sounds pessimistic: “Am I too late? I get the feeling that [my project to release free manga PDFs] won’t be enough at this point.” He goes on to say
Hasn’t illegally scanned manga, propagated so casually like this, fallen into the category of “property of the Internet”? You won’t be able to eliminate it. The only thing we can do at this point is [launch our own free websites with the] “advertising model”. (Because charging people would be difficult.)
The most recent illegal scans are very high quality, and the translations are exceedingly accurate. (^^;) If there’s no respect for original authors on the net, then obviously the official versions will lose out.
The creators express dismay that people who would not shoplift from a physical store have no compunction about reading pirated manga; as Tojo says, “It seems like people will pay for things they can touch like vegetables, but they think it’s a waste to pay for intangible data.”
It seems like the creators are talking about both scans in Japanese, which are read locally, and fan-translated manga for other markets; they cite one example of a publisher being told by fans to change a name to the one selected by a scanlator. And there’s an interesting side discussion on the decline of the cell phone, which was once a popular platform for yaoi and erotic manga. As people switch to smart phones, the options dwindle: Apple doesn’t allow adult manga in the iTunes store, and Akamatsu says Kindle doesn’t either (I’m not so sure about that), but the fans reassure him that Android allows it, making that the platform of choice for ero manga fans.
Awards | Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword has been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as part of the prestigious Nebula Awards. “When the nice lady from the Nebula committee called me, she said this is ‘essentially the Nebula Award for young adult books’,” Deutsch writes. Although graphic novels are specifically mentioned in the Andre Norton Award guidelines, this appears to be the first time one has been nominated. The award was established in 2005 in honor of prolific science fiction and fantasy author Andre Norton, who passed away that year. The winners will be announced May 21 in Washington, D.C., during the Nebula Awards banquet. [SFFWA]
Passings | We’ll collect reactions later today to the sudden death of respected comics and animation writer Dwayne McDuffie — Comic Book Resources has remembrances from more than a dozen industry figures — but I wanted to go ahead and point to a handful of links: The Associated press obituary; a few words from Christopher Irving, accompanied by a beautiful portrait of McDuffie photographed by Seth Kushner on Feb. 13; the origin of Static; and a look at Spider-Man anti-drug PSA comics written by McDuffie. There’s also McDuffie’s message board, where he interacted candidly with fans on a regular basis. Two threads are devoted to the news of his death and memories of the creator they often referred to as “the Maestro.” The site’s administrator has posted a message last night on the main page: “Dwayne’s family and friends would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of condolences. They are much appreciated in this difficult time.” [Dwayne McDuffie]
Last week’s announcement that Diamond and iVerse would team up to form Diamond Digital, and sell digital comics in comics stores, left a lot of questions unanswered. So I went straight to the source: Michael Murphey, CEO of iVerse, which is Diamond’s digital partner in this deal.
iVerse is the company behind the Comics Plus app, as well as a number of branded apps, including IDW and Archie. Unlike comiXology and Graphicly, their apps run only on the iPad and the iPhone/iPod Touch, but that is about to change: As Michael explains below, they are expanding onto other platforms, which should make the program more attractive.
Brigid: I’m still trying to get a handle on how this works. I understand that customers who buy the digital copies will be handed a printed code, which they then redeem. How? Through iVerse’s digital storefront?
Michael: That is one way a retailer can sell a digital comic to a customer, yes. The retailer can also sell digital comics on their website. Codes can be redeemed on the retailer’s website or inside the Comics Plus application from iVerse.
Brigid: Will the sale go through the iTunes store?