Ever heard of digital publisher Dog Boy Productions? Neither had I until I saw these earlier: Mike Mignola’s cover designs for a new edition of Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, and Scott Mignola’s Pinocchio’s Forgotten Land.
Digging about, it seems that Dog Boy was set up by Scott Mignola as “a small boutique publisher of new, rare, and out-of-print material in digital form.” Sounds promising, and having one of the greatest illustrators of a generation in the family can’t hurt, either. The pencils for the cover of the Collodi book can also be seen below.
Webcomics | Cartoonist Krishna M. Sadasivam has announced he’s ending his popular webcomic The PC Weenies after 13 years. Thursday’s strip will be the last, “at least for some time.” In a post on his website, Sadasivam cites, among other reasons, a desire to focus on illustration, a plateauing audience and, “the biggie,” bills. “We’ve had a few emergency setbacks recently (two huge car repairs, a crazy water bill from hell, etc.) that are putting the squeeze on us financially. Big time,” he writes. “The time I spend on making the comic could be better spent on other income-generating areas, and right now I have to do what’s best for my family.” [PCWeenies.com]
Publishing | Ahead of the official closing of Tokyopop’s publishing division in Los Angeles on Tuesday, two of the company’s lighted metal signs have popped up for sale on Craigslist. [Anime News Network]
Comic-Con | Spurred by a recent newspaper profile that revealed the offices of Comic-Con International aren’t located in San Diego but rather nearby La Mesa, the city’s business license officer did a little research and discovered that convention organizers have been operating in the suburb for five years without a business license. Comic-Con has until June 2 to comply with La mesa city laws by submitting a business license application and the required fees. [Poway Patch]
Retailing | Borders Group, the second-largest book chain in the United States, reported a loss of $132.3 million in April, its second full month in bankruptcy. That figure follows on the $52.6 million loss reported in February and March as the bookseller sought Chapter 11 protection and began liquidating 226 locations. [Detroit Free Press]
Publishing | Ira Rubenstein, executive vice president of Marvel’s Global Digital Media Group, has left the company to become executive vice president of digital marketing for 20th Century Fox. He begins the new job in Los Angeles on Monday. Rubenstein joined Marvel in 2008 after 12 years at Sony, and oversaw the launch of the publisher’s digital subscription service. His departure comes less than two weeks after news surfaced that Ron Perazza is resigning as DC Entertainment’s vice president of online. [Variety]
Publishing | Ada Price surveys the graphic novel exhibitors at this year’s BookExpo America, which opens today in New York City. [Publishers Weekly]
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]
Retailing | Borders Group says it’s determined that fewer than 150 customer names and emails were “obtained” by outsiders when a website published a searchable database of information associated with the retailer’s Borders Rewards loyalty program. The site, apparently set up by the marketing firm that helped the bookseller design and implement the program, was shut down over the weekend after Borders learned of its existence. A spokeswoman said the company is continuing its investigation. Borders Rewards has more than 41 million members. [AnnArbor.com]
Retailing | Amazon’s first-quarter profits tumbled 33 percent, even as revenue rose 38 percent, due largely to the costs of expanding its warehouse and data centers. [The New York Times]
Conventions | For the first time, organizers of the American Library Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition will make space available for an artists alley — for free. This year’s conference, which will draw about 19,000 librarians, is held June 23-28 in New Orleans. [American Library Association, via The Beat]
E-books | Amazon announced it will allow Kindle users to read e-books from more than 11,000 libraries, marking a reversal of the company’s policy. Previously library users who borrowed e-books could read them on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader and other devices, but not the Kindle. “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” Jay Marine, Amazon’s director of Kindle, said in a statement. The Kindle Library Lending will debut later this year. [The New York Times, press release]
Publishing | Several DC Comics staff members laid off as part of the sweeping corporate restructuring — among them, editors Mike Carlin and Pornsak Pichetshote — have been hired by DC Entertainment’s newly formed Burbank-based Creative Affairs division, which operates alongside Creative Services. [Bleeding Cool]
Legal | Japanese police have arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of using Share file-sharing software to upload about 28,000 manga and anime files without the copyright holders’ permission. [Anime News Network]
Legal | The Lithuanian publisher of The Simpsons comic has been fined for breaching laws banning the advertising of alcohol with its depiction of Duff Beer, the fictional brand consumed by Homer and other residents of Springfield.
Although Simpsons creator Matt Groening has never licensed the Duff trademark out of concern that it might encourage children to drink, companies in several countries have released beer using the Duff name (Fox and Groening sued an Australian brewery for doing so in 1995, forcing the product to be pulled from shelves and destroyed). The existence of unlicensed Duff beers apparently was enough for a government watchdog, who handed down the more than $4,000 fine. The publisher said it has stopped publication of The Simpsons while it tries to address the Duff matter — a major issue, considering that Bongo Comics reportedly doesn’t permit content changes to licensed titles. [The Australian]
Retailing | Publishers characterize a restructuring plan presented Wednesday by Borders Group as unrealistic, with some saying they’re more convinced than ever that the struggling bookstore chain — the second-largest in the United States — will be forced to sell itself or liquidate. The bookseller, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, reportedly contends it could turn a profit by the end of this year. By 2015, it hopes to draw almost 40 percent of its revenue from online sales. The company, which is in the process of closing 226 superstores and is set to shutter 20 more, is also considering moving its headquarters from Ann Arbor, Mich., to less-expensive space in metropolitan Detroit. [The New York Times, The Detroit News]
Digital comics | Seth Rosenblatt surveys the digital landscape, and wonders what’s next: “Though no publisher interviewed for the story would confirm plans to do so, it’s not unreasonable to expect premium pricing for digital comics that come with extra features like audio tracks, or the ability to look at the black-and-white version of the artwork.” He also gets a tease from Oni Press’ Cory Casoni, who says, “”We have digital plans, and we’ll unveil them later this year and in early 2012. We are nefariously, giddily crafting things.” [Download.com]
When Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus decided to cancel his long-running magazines Wizard and ToyFare, and relaunch them in an amalgamated electronic form as a digital magazine called Wizard World, he did not do so quietly. Well, alright, the initial press release didn’t so much as mention the cancellations themselves, or the employees laid off in the process. But Shamus has been quite vocal about his new project’s prospects for success, as well as what he perceives to be the dire state of the industries surrounding it. In an interview with iFanboy’s Ron Richards, Shamus spoke of the new digital magazine sharing the things its staff likes with “the millions of people that we reach all the time,” in contrast with more traditional digital-news outlets like websites, which he said “are pretty worthless in their ability to have an impact on an audience.” And in the editor’s letter (see above) for Wizard World‘s third issue, “Version 1.3,” by way of explaining why he made the leap to digital publishing, he writes:
Awards | Art Spiegelman on Sunday won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor (the other two were Will Eisner and Robert Crumb). “Considering my poor skills, I’m looking a little like the president Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” he told the festival by telephone from the United States. Spiegelman will serve as the grand marshal for next year’s event.
Other winners at the four-day festival, which drew an estimated 200,000 visitors, include David Mazzuchelli for Asterios Polyp (Grand Jury Prize), and Naoki Urasawa and the late Osamu Tezuka for Pluto (Intergenerational Award). The full list of winners can be found here. [Agence France-Presse]
Retailing | The beleaguered Borders Group announced on Sunday that it’s delaying January payments to vendors and landlords in an effort to save cash while it tries to complete a debt restructuring. This marks the second round of delays for the bookseller, which has been pressuring large publishers and distributors to agree by Feb. 1 to convert late payments into $125 million in loans. The bookstore chain announced just last week that it secured a $550 million credit line from G.E. Capital, but only if several tough conditions were met — including an unlikely agreement from publishers. [The Wall Street Journal]
Publishing | Following its grim snapshot of year-to-date dollar sales in the direct market, ICv2.com has released a dreary analysis of the November charts: For the third time in 2010, the top-selling title failed to crack the 100,000-copy mark. Batman: The Return, priced at $4.99, sold about 99,500 copies, compared to the 144,000 sold by November 2009′s top title, Blackest Night #5. According to the retail news and analysis site, 20 of the Top 25 titles experienced a drop last month. As ICv2 noted last week in its initial report, dollar sales of comics were down 10.2 percent when compared with November 2009, while graphic novels jumped 14.84 percent, tied to the release of the 13th volume of The Walking Dead (it sold more than 19,000 copies). [ICv2.com]
Digital publishing | Google on Monday unveiled Google eBooks, a web-based e-book platform/digital storefront that boasts “the world’s largest selection of ebooks.” Dan Vado offers brief commentary. [TechCrunch]
Digital publishing | As expected, Barnes & Noble on Tuesday unveiled its Nook Color e-book reader, priced at $249. The 7-inch LCD touch tablet runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, and offers web browsing, audio and video playback, and basic games (CNET notes that Barnes & Noble is pushing the device as a “reader’s tablet”). The device ships on Nov. 19. [CNET, Salon, paidContent]
Internet | PayPal has announced its much-anticipated micropayments system, with Facebook and a number of other websites lining up behind it. PayPal describes the new product, available later this year, as an “in-context, frictionless payment solution that lets consumers pay for digital goods and content in as little as two clicks, without ever having to leave a publisher’s game, news, music, video or media site.” Scott McCloud is quick out of the gate with reaction: “This is so close, in almost every respect, to what we were asking for over a decade ago, it’s almost eerie. They’re even using the same language to describe it.” [TechCrunch]
Mark Andrew Smith and Matthew Weldon are putting the first volume of The New Brighton Archeological Society, The Castle of Galomar, online. A fantasy story that neatly spans the territory between straightforward (and clean!) enough for tweens and elegant (and clever!) enough for adults, The Castle of Galomar came out in 2009 and was nominated for two Harvey awards.
This is just the start—Smith, who is also known for his work on The Amazing Joy Buzzards, plans to put some of his other work on the site, including a new graphic novel, Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, which will launch in a few weeks. I grabbed the opportunity to ask him a couple of quick questions, the foremost being why anyone in their right mind would put a Harvey-nominated book online for free. Read on for all the answers, plus a second sample of art from book two.
At his blog Yaoi 911, Alex Woolfson notes the disappearance of Baralover, a scanlation site for bara manga, which is gay-male romances written for a male audience (as opposed to yaoi, which is mostly written by women, for women). Upon contacting the site, Woolfson learned that its hosting provider changed the terms of service and is no longer allowing adult content. So it wasn’t shut down by publishers’ threats, just a change in terms of service and a webmaster who decided to move on to other things.
Unlike yaoi, which has a small but insanely dedicated following, bara hasn’t made much of an impact in the U.S., and I don’t think anyone is publishing it commercially here. However, Christopher Butcher just blogged about one of the more popular creators, Gengoroh Tagame, who not only has an English-language blog but has expressed a willingness to have his work published in English. Apparently a rumor has been going around that he was approached by the Tom of Finland Foundation but turned them down; Tagame wants the world to know that the rumor is not true, and he is willing to entertain offers, and his work is already being published in several other languages. Could this be the next publishing niche?
Last week, the manga publisher Tokyopop announced they would release the first volume of Hetalia: Axis Powers digitally, via Zinio, before the print edition comes out—and at a lower price to boot, $5.99 as opposed to $10.99 for the print edition. Curious about their motives, I e-mailed a few questions to Tokyopop and Hetalia editor Cindy Suzuki was kind enough to answer them.
One more thing: In my last post on the subject I found an odd listing for Hetalia on Amazon and wondered whether it was a bootleg edition. Thanks to alert commenter Brack, who figured out that it is a printout of the Wikipedia article on the Hetalia franchise. I’m not sure why anyone would pay 12 bucks for that, but hey, it’s a free country.
Brigid: Why did you decide to release the digital edition both earlier and at a lower price than print?
Cindy: We thought Hetalia was the right brand to launch a digital-first program—there’s been such a demand to read it, we decided digital was the best way to satisfy the Hetalia cravings. Also, the ongoing battle against illegal scans weighed into our decision to release it early.