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Comics A.M. | ‘Silver Spoon,’ and the rise of … farming manga?

Silver Spoon

Silver Spoon

Manga | In Japan, as elsewhere, people would rather read about farming than actually do it; agriculture has become a popular topic for manga, and the Agriculture Ministry recently announced an award for manga that raise interest in farming. The article mainly focuses on Hiromu Arakawa’s Silver Spoon, which has recently been made into a movie; Arakawa is also the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, a fact the article omits. [The Wall Street Journal]

Awards | Silver Spoon was on of the 10 nominees for this year’s Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize; two manga that are published in English, Attack on Titan and Animal Land, also made the list. [Anime News Network]

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When it comes to comics, what is ‘real’?

Real? Donald Duck by Carl Barks

Real? Donald Duck by Carl Barks

Eric Stephenson means well. As publisher of Image Comics, and even before he held that position, he’s often called out for change in the comics industry. I love these calls to action, even if they’re not always graceful; change usually isn’t. Most of us agree that changing the comics industry for the better is in everyone’s best interest, but how to change it and how we define better is when things get messy. I’m usually in agreement with what Stephenson is saying, but his speech last week at the ComicsPRO annual meeting was jumbled and tripped over itself when it came to licensed comics.

Stephenson got hung up on a significant sector of comics publishing, and I think it muddied his larger message. In his speech, as I’m sure you’ve seen re-quoted multiple times by now, he claimed that licensed comics like IDW’s Transformers and GI Joe, and Dark Horse’s Star Wars “will never be the real thing.” In the lead-up, he also explained there are “only two kinds of comics that matter: good comics and bad comics.” Now, he never outright said licensed comics are in the “bad” category, but some certainly viewed that as the implication.

His argument is that comics should rely on original ideas to produce original content, a point he underscored by pointing to the perennial bestseller The Walking Dead and the fast-growing Saga, both coincidentally published by Image. I agree original comics are where the magic can happen, and where the creators can most benefit. But that doesn’t mean everything else is by default a waste of time.

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With Marvel’s ‘Original Sin’ promo, the eyes have it

Tom Brevoort (courtesy of Marvel)

Tom Brevoort (courtesy of Marvel)

Considering that Marvel’s Original Sin begins with the discovery on the moon of the Watcher’s body, minus his eyes, it’s perhaps unsurprising the publisher opted for a somewhat ghoulish way to promote the upcoming event series in comic stores: Marvel-branded bouncy balls that resemble Uatu’s missing eyeballs.

And given that writer Jason Aaron teased last month, “Whoever holds one of the eyes is able to explode a bomb full of secrets and unleash all the various secrets of the Marvel Universe into the wild through that eye,” it seems only fitting that Marvel Senior Vice President Tom Brevoort, keeper of many of those secrets, has been spotted with one of the missing organs. There’s no telling what may come of this …

The eight-issue Original Sin debuts in May.

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Comics A.M. | Manga see sales boost from streaming anime

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 11

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 11

Publishing | Viz Media’s Kevin Hamric discusses how the availability of streaming anime has been boosting sales of the related manga. Series that have gotten a boost lately include Blue Exorcist and Kamisama Kiss: “Overall streaming has had a positive effect on our book sales. In recent years, Blue Exorcist is probably the biggest example I can give — one of newest hits under our Shonen Jump Advanced imprint. We launched our series [in 2010] and had very good sales (they matched our expectations), but once the anime was available through streaming, sales jumped through the roof, and that was in 2011. So streaming was fairly young at that time. Once the anime was streaming, sales of the manga were way above expectations.” [ICv2]

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Ontario store gives free comics to A students

big b comicsBig B Comics in Hamilton, Ontario, has a terrific-sounding initiative to help foster literacy, and comics reading, among students.

As the CBC reports, between now and spring break in March, students in grades kindergarten to 12 can bring their report cards to the flagship store and get a free comic from the Big B back-issue bins for each A. It’s an annual program called, fittingly enough, “Free Comics For A’s,” which also rewards those students at the end of the school year June who have shown an improvement in their grades.

“We’ll find some reason to give them a free comic book,” Nicole Cartwright, the store’s assistant manager, told the CBC.

The Big B website also emphasizes the dedication of the Ontario retail chain — there are also locations in Barrie and Niagara Falls — to education: There’s a “Library Resources” section that highlights reasons for using comics as educational tools, provides a glossary of terms and recommends age-appropriate titles.

Comics A.M. | Omaha store pledges to reopen after fire

Dragon's Lair Comics

The Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games

Retailing | The manager of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games in Omaha, Nebraska, estimates 50 to 60 percent of their inventory was ruined by smoke and water after a fire broke out Sunday in the building that’s housed the store’s main location since 1976. Employees have been sorting through tens of thousands of comics to determine what can be salvaged while directing customers to the Dragon’s Lair store in the city’s Millard neighborhood. The hope is to use a store room next to the damaged building to begin offering limited services to customers — pull lists and special orders — as the retailer plans for what comes next. “We have every intention of reopening, here or elsewhere,” manager Craig Patterson said. “More than likely it will be elsewhere. And hopefully bigger and better than before.” [World-Herald]

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Omaha comics store suffers water, smoke damage in building fire

dragons lairA fire on Sunday caused about $300,000 in damage to a building in Omaha, Nebraska, that houses one of the two locations of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games. According to the retailer, the store suffered “lots of water and smoke damage.”

The Omaha World-Herald reports the blaze at 8316 Blondo St. began about 10 a.m. in Treasure Mart Collectibles, operated by the building’s owner, and followed a pipe into the attic. No one in either of the stores or in the five apartments on the second floor was injured. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined.

The Dragon’s Lair Facebook page directs customers to the store’s location in the nearby Millard neighborhood while the Blondo Street shop is closed.

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The fatal flaw in Diamond Digital

Diamond DigitalDiamond Comic Distributors’ digital comics program, Diamond Digital, will shut down on Friday, although titles purchased through the service will continue to be available via iVerse’s Comics Plus app.

The news broke Friday at The Hollywood Reporter, where Graeme McMillan picked up on an email sent to retailers two weeks ago. The stated reason: “18 months after its launch, results indicate that Diamond Digital has not gained enough traction in the marketplace to continue.”

There are a lot of reasons why Diamond Digital didn’t work, but I think chief among them is the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.

Of course, the biggest problem operationally was that Diamond Digital catered to a market dominated by Marvel and DC but didn’t carry single-issue comics from either publisher. And granted, that is a huge flaw.

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Comics A.M. | Creator couples discuss sexism in industry

"Bandette," by Tobin and Coover

“Bandette,” by Tobin and Coover

Creators | Frannie Jackson talks with a handful of prominent creator couples — Mike Allred and Laura Allred, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin — about sexism within the comics industry. “I’m occasionally invited to participate in panel discussions about ‘women in comics,’” Coover says. “I’m usually emotionally torn by those invitations, because, yeah, I want women in comics to thrive and be seen as thriving, but I’d much rather be part of a discussion about ‘awesome creators in comics’ that’s stacked with awesome women and men.” [Paste]

Retailing | Andrew Wyrich visits several comics shops in the North Jersey area and finds they rely on a friendly atmosphere and incentive programs to keep customers coming back. “People who buy comics tend to have a $40 weekly budget,” said Len Katz, co-owner of The Joker’s Child in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. “We hear of people who love comics, but eventually just hit a wall with expenses. The key for us is to get customers coming back. The reality is we are not a necessary item; we aren’t milk, bread or cheese.” [The Record]

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Comics A.M. | French manga market shows signs of weakening

Naruto, Vol. 60

Naruto, Vol. 60

Manga | While at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, I had a chance to study the French manga market and talk to some of the publishers. Manga represents more than one-third of the French comics market (last year, there were more new manga releases than BDs), and sales and production dipped for the first time last year. [Publishers Weekly]

Comics | Gary Cox rounds up reactions from refugees to the Australian government’s online comic that warns them not to try to enter the country without a visa. “The people who are coming here are not economic migrants, they’re coming to have a safer, peaceful life here,” says Ibrar Hassani. And an advocate for refugees pointed out that the images of refugees suffering in detention centers were evidence that the government is deliberately mistreating them. [SBS]

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The perfect comic book store

On top of everything else, a giant lizard might crush your store

On top of everything else, a giant lizard might crush your store

For years I’ve imagined running my own comic book store. I’ve dreamed of it, even planned; sometimes I scope out locations while driving around town. I’m sure lots of fans have similar fantasies, but unlike everyone else, I would run the best comic shop ever. Not only would it be the best, it would be the most unique shopping experience. It would be perfect.

Of course, reality would be significantly different, and probably far less impressive. I mean, I’m fairly confident  I could make a better store than the guy from The Simpsons. But how would I really make it stand out? When I sit down and think about it, I don’t understand how anyone would think it’s a good idea to open up a store.

Here in Los Angeles, like in a lot of major cities, we’re pretty spoiled. There’s no shortage of truly exceptional stores, whether you’re in the Valley, in Hollywood or on the Westside. And if you want that old, crummy comic dungeon of yore, there are a few of those as well. The Westside might not be quite as saturated, but L.A. is generally well-covered, which means there might not be room for a new store. Invariably, I would be stepping on someone’s territory. A store here would either create bad blood with the nearest specialty shops and their patrons, or it would really have to go in a different direction and appeal to a neglected or untapped demographic. That’s certainly possible. On the other hand, L.A .rent is notoriously high.

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With addition of ‘Doctor Who,’ Titan could gain significant ground

DrWhoPOT12658

This time last year, longtime U.K. book and magazine publisher Titan announced it was delving into comics with a new imprint titled, aptly enough, Titan Comics. And in the 12 months since, the company has published a number of creator-owned titles as well as new editions of formerly out-of-print stories such as Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom. But 2014 looks to see the company grow by leaps and bounds, as it recently announced the acquisition of the comics license for Doctor Who, previously held by IDW Publishing.

During IDW’s seven-year run publishing Doctor Who comics, it produced an ongoing series and a number of miniseries and one-shots to some success, so it’s conceivable that Titan Comics could do much the same. If so, it could help expand Titan from a boutique publisher to a sizable presence in the marketplace.

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Comics A.M. | Just one comic broke 100,000 copies in January

Batman #27

Batman #27

Comics sales | ICv2 crunches the January numbers and calculates that just one comic, Batman #27, sold more than 100,000 copies in January, something that hasn’t happened since August 2011; this follows a weak December in which only three comics broke the 100,000 mark. The retail news and analysis site also lists the top 300 comics and graphic novels for the month. [ICv2]

Creators | Batman writer Scott Snyder talks about his plans for Batman #28, writing the Riddler, working with artist Greg Capullo on the action sequences, and getting ready for Batman’s 75th anniversary. [Hero Complex]

Creators | Eugenia Williamson profiles Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, whose work as artists on the Adventure Time comics has brought them an unexpected measure of fame. [The Boston Globe]

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Bergen Street Comics to stop racking most Marvel and DC titles

bergen_logo_color_smallWell-regarded Brooklyn retailer Bergen Street Comics has announced it will stop shelving most monthly titles from DC and Marvel. However, customers will still be able to subscribe to or preorder those books through the Park Slope store.

Writing on Twitter, co-owner Tom Adams explained the decision “Will enable us to better serve our customers. Strength of self contained, creator controlled comics will let us move away from double shipping, editorially driven, artist-swapping, inconsistent, tied into events/gimmicks comics. Trying to keep this a going concern/think long term.”

Since its opening in March 2009, Bergen Street has developed a reputation as a supporter of independent and self-published comics, and has played host to numerous creator signings and art shows.

Elaborating on the announcement, Adams said the continued shelving of DC and Marvel’s output “just doesn’t make financial sense” to the store. “Specific to our shop and my personal interests/passions,” he tweeted. “Nothing to do with other shops/state of comics in general. [We] represent such an insignificant amount of Big 2 sales this should mean nothing to anyone other than our regulars.”

Meltdown becomes first comic store to take Bitcoin

meltdown logoMeltdown Comics & Collectibles on Thursday became the first brick-and-mortar comic store to accept Bitcoin, the much-discussed digital currency transferred from person to person over the Internet.

The news arrives courtesy of the cryptocurrency website Spelunk.in, which participated in the Los Angeles store’s first transaction (for the record, it was for The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes).

“We at Meltdown like technology and like to move with it when possible,” general manager Francisco Dominguez told the site. “The thought of some magical money that’s not being spent and that I can accept to sell product was mindblowing. So it was a no-brainer that i had to jump on this new currency. [...] Brick-and-mortar/mom-and-pop shops are closing as digital takes over paper print. Hopefully this new way of bringing revenue in to a business will help keep them/us alive.”

He said he hopes to offer Bitcoin users incentives, including discounts, swag and special events.

Commercial use of Bitcoin is still small — as of late November, only about 1,000 physical locations worldwide accepted  it — but there’s a sizable speculator market, leading to a volatile exchange rate.


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