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Passings | Rick Obadiah, one of the founders of First Comics, died Sunday after suffering a massive heart attack while on the treadmill. In its original incarnation, which ran from 1983 to 1991, First was a pioneer in the direct market, publishing works such as American Flagg, Badger and Nexus and selling them outside the confines of the Comics Code. It was also one of the first American publishers to publish manga, bringing out a translated edition of Lone Wolf and Cub in 1987 as a monthly comic with covers by Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz and others. “Last year, Rick reread a lot of the old First titles and was pleased to see how well they held up,” writes his friend and former First Comics colleague Mike Gold. “He took a lot of pride in that, for which I am very grateful.” [ComicMix]
The Story of the Year award went to Shaft, written by David F. Walker and illustrated by Bilquis Evely. In an interview with CBR last year, Walker discussed the comic and how it was strongly influenced by the original novels that the 1970s movie was based on. Keef Cross took the Best Writer Award for Day Black, the story of a vampire who moonlights (literally) as a tattoo artist. And Nelson Blake II won the Best Artist award for his Image Comics series Artifacts.
For most of its existence, peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol BitTorrent has been associated with mass piracy, a reputation the company of the same name (co-founded by Bram Cohen, inventor of the protocol) has fought against in recent years. To that end, BitTorrent started offering commercial bundles of music and TV shows in 2013, and today unveiled its first foray into comic books: “The Dynamite Mega Bundle,” featuring more than 200 digital comics released by Dynamite Entertainment.
The bundle has both a pay-what-you-want option, with more than 170 comics available for a minimum of $6, along with 30 comics free to download. Comics offered include “Kirby: Genesis,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Project Superpowers,” “Red Sonja,” “Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet” and the full run of Dynamite’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time.”
Libraries | A parent plans to appeal a decision by a New Mexico school district to keep Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar on the shelves of the Rio Rancho High School Library. Catrenna Lopez complained in February after her 14-year-old son brought home the acclaimed hardcover, insisting it contained “pornographic” images and promoted prostitution. A review committee appointed by the superintendent of Rio Rancho Public Schools voted 5-3 last week to retain the book. In response to the decision, Lopez said, “To me, this book is kind of like having a Hustler magazine in the schools.” If she follows through with her plan, the appeal would go to the school board, which would take a public vote on its decision. [KRQE]
Popular digital subscription service Scribd, often referred to as “Netflix for books,” this morning launched a comics section, giving users access to more than 10,000 titles from such publishers as Marvel, IDW Publishing, Archie Comics, Top Shelf, Top Cow, Valiant and Dynamite. The expansion brings the Scribd library to more than 1 million titles.
As part of the $8.99 flat monthly fee, users now can move beyond Scribd’s prose and audiobook offerings to read comics ranging from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and March: Book One to Afterlife With Archie and Ultimate Spider-Man.
Just in time for Christmas, Dynamite Entertainment has teamed with Humble for the (deep breath) “Humble Dynamite Mega Holiday Bundle.”
Although by now most people know how Humble works — you can purchase DRM-free downloads for as little as a penny, with a portion going to charity — this one is a little different: Each day of the sale, you can get a free issue from the Dynamite Bundle.
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is being investigated once more under the country’s Sedition Act, his lawyer revealed Tuesday. Three of Zunar’s assistants were arrested last week for selling two of his books, neither of which has been officially banned, and his webmaster has been summoned to talk to police on Thursday. Zunar has also been called in for questioning at a future date. What’s more, the Malaysian Home Ministry has appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision to remove the ban on two of Zunar’s other books. [Malaysia Chronicle]
Publishing | Red Giant Entertainment has announced that retailers ordered about 900,000 copies each of its four anthology comics, which are ad-supported and will be given away for free. The company, which also releases digital comics and paid print comics, kicked off this program with a package of four zero issues on Free Comic Book Day. [ICv2]
Created in 2009, Bitcoin is an online payment system that allows one person to send online payments (in units of digital cash called bitcoin) directly to another without the involvement of a financial institution. Commercial use of Bitcoin is relatively low but growing rapidly, with companies ranging from Dell to Overstock.com to the Sacramento Kings accepting the digital currency. There’s also a sizable speculator market, which leads to a volatile exchange rate.
Bitcoin joins Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal as accepted forms of payment on Dynamite Digital. Users need only to log in with a Bitcoin client.
With the announcement comes word of the publisher’s latest digital comics bundle — 25 comics for $10, as part of Dynamite’s 10th-anniversary celebration: Project Superpowers #0-3, Jungle Girl #0-1, Mocking Dead #1, Sherlock Holmes: Trial #1-2, Red Sonja #-12, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time #1-3, Legenderry #1, Chaos! #1, Jim Butcher’s Dresden War Cry #1, Pathfinder: Dark Waters #1, Miss Fury #1-2, American Flagg #1-2 and Vampirella #1-2.
Legal | A South Korea court has ruled an exhibition devoted to One Piece can be held as planned after it was abruptly canceled earlier this month following allegations that Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga contains images that resemble the Rising Sun flag, considered a symbol of Japanese imperialism in South Korea. The company staging the One Piece show, which includes life-sized statues, rare figures and Oda’s sketches, asked the court to step in after the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul pulled the plug on the event just days before its scheduled July 12 opening. The court found that One Piece can’t be considered to “[hail] Japanese imperialism” simply because it depicts a flag reminiscent of the Rising Sun; and even if those images are of the Rising Sun flag, it’s mainly shown in a negative light. [The Asahi Shimbun]
Retailing | A federal judge has lifted a temporary restraining order blocking the $21.4 million sale of retail chain Hastings Entertainment to Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association. Two Hastings shareholders had sued to stop the sale, insisting the price paid for the retailer is too low; however, U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson found, in part, that they failed to prove they would be irreparably harmed if the sale were completed before they could have their day in court (Texas law permits dissenting stockholders to seek monetary damages after a merger). Hastings, which operates 149 stores that sell books, comics, video games and more, has called a special shareholder meeting for July 15, during which the sale is expected to be approved. [Amarillo Globe-News, ICv2.com]
Comics | Liam Burke, editor of the essay collection Fan Phenomena: Batman, discusses the enduring appeal of the Dark Knight, who of course turns 75 this year: “This isn’t a guy who’s from an alien planet, this isn’t someone who was bitten by a radioactive spider. This is an average guy, albeit incredibly wealthy and incredibly intelligent, at the peak of human fitness, but an average guy nonetheless. That sort of aspirational quality has been identified as the reason Batman sort of stands above Spider-Man, Superman or any number of heroes.” [RN Drive]
Publishing | David Harper looks at the economics of monthly creator-owned comics, as well as how trades fit into the picture; for creators, the monthlies provide a regular stream of income so they can always be working on the next issue. Brandon Montclare, Jim Zubkavich and others provide some first-hand commentary on how things work in the real world. [Multiversity Comics]
Retailing | Image Comics took seven of the Top 20 spots on Nielsen BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in May, with multiple volumes of Saga and The Walking Dead once again appearing, joined by the first collection of Sex Criminals. Kodansha Comics took six spots, with the most recent volume of Attack on Titan at the top of the chart, followed by the first volume. Four more volumes were scattered around the list. Legendary’s Godzilla movie tie-in, Godzilla: Awakening, placed at No. 3. [ICv2]
Legal | The Japanese legislature has moved forward with a bill that would criminalize possession of child pornography, which is expected to pass the Diet before it recesses on June 22. The new law would ban photos and videos made using real children but excludes manga and anime. [The Japan Times]
Conventions | Vulture examines efforts by ReedPOP, producer of New York Comic Con and C2E2, to take a comic con-style approach to Book Expo America with BookCon, billed as “the event where storytelling and pop culture collide.” On Saturday, the final day of the country’s largest publishing trade show, the public is invited (for a $30 admission fee) to interact with authors and publishers, get autographs, attend film panels and even catch a sneak peek at an upcoming release. “You can see the Comic Con logic: Draw in rabid fans across genres and media any way you can,” Vulture’s Boris Kachka writes. “What publishers would like to know is whether they will come for the books — and eventually buy them.” [Vulture]
In a surprising conclusion to their rights dispute, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. and Dynamite Entertainment this morning announced an agreement for the worldwide release of John Carter comics, archival material and the publisher’s Lord of the Jungle line.
ERB Inc., the family-owned company that controls the existing rights to the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels, sued Dynamite in February 2012, accusing the publisher of trademark and copyright infringement and unfair competition through the release of its Lord of the Jungle and Warlord of Mars comics. Dynamite responded, insisting that its series were based on material that’s lapsed into the public domain, and noting that other publishers have released Burroughs-inspired comics, using similar titles, without a license from ERB Inc.
Now that the two parties have settled their differences, and ERB Inc. has reacquired the John Carter comics rights from Disney and Marvel, Dynamite will be able to relaunch Warrior of Mars later this year as John Carter: Warlord of Mars, and introduce characters and plot elements “that were, until now, absent from recent comic book interpretations” (presumably because they remain protected by copyright). Dynamite will also republish John Carter archival material, dating back to the early 1940s comic strips written by Burroughs’ son Coleman Burroughs.
Cosplay | The Christian Science Monitor looks at how cosplay is spilling out of comics and sci-fi/fantasy conventions and into “daily life,” such as movie theaters, pubs and public squares: “The spread of cosplay owes a lot to the Internet. Social media sites build buzz around the next big cosplay event. Tumblr and Instagram allow strangers to pass around photos of past work and offer words of encouragement from afar. YouTube videos reveal how to craft foam core into realistic-looking armor and braid hair like an elf.” [The Christian Science Monitor]