Digital comics | ICv2 has a fascinating interview with Gagan Singh, Viz Media’s chief technology officer, in which he discusses not only the nuts and bolts of the publisher’s digital manga program — it now encompasses a number of e-reader platforms as well as a dedicated app — but also the larger questions of piracy, trends and, most importantly, growing the manga audience: “My favorite example is when you’re in the digital domain, your biggest competition is not the next manga or the next book, your biggest competition is Angry Birds because it’s only one click away. When you get into debate over mind share, I’m not just trying to get them to read the next book, I’m trying to get them to not listen to that song or play that video game. That is a bigger challenge where marketing and mind share is concerned.” [ICv2]
2012 marked the end of one of the more notable and at times controversial superhero series in recent memory, The Boys. The monthly series, in which writer Garth Ennis and company cast a cold, satirical eye on the superhero genre and American culture, came to its natural conclusion a few months ago, though there didn’t seem to be much talk about it on the Interwebs.
That being the case, I thought it might be fun (and hopefully enlightening) to start up some sort of discussion about the series, so I ensnared JK Parkin, one of the few people I know who has read the entire thing, to do a little Q&A with me. I think it turned out pretty well. Click on the link below to see if you agree with my assessment.
In any entertainment field, the only thing more difficult than breaking through and scoring that first hit is doing it again and again. And in comics, one of the people I’ve marveled at for his ability to top his previous hit and reinvent himself, all while staying true to himself and his style, is writer Andy Diggle.
He’s done a lot during his 15 years in comics: He helped to turn around then-flagging 2000AD with a back-to-basics approach. He dusted off a forgotten set of DC Comics characters and re-made them into a popular Vertigo series with The Losers. He gave readers a modern vantage point for DC’s archer Green Arrow. He took Marvel’s Daredevil to the darkest point. And at this year’s New York Comic Con, he was the belle of the ball in terms of announcements with four new titles, and several more already in the works.
Conventions | Jason Knize makes a case for New York Comic Con potentially becoming “the Comic Con” next year, surpassing Comic-Con International as the completion of renovations on the Jacob Javits Center frees up an additional 90,000 square feet of space. However, he notes that space and attendance — NYCC’s 116,000 this year versus CCI’s 130,000 or so — certainly aren’t the only determining factors. [Panels on Pages]
Comics | Don MacPherson, who’s a newspaper reporter as well as a comics blogger, ponders Clark Kent’s departure from The Daily Planet in this week’s Superman #13: “In the scene in which Clark issues his ideological proclamation, Perry White retorts, ‘Go easy on us mortals, Clark. Times are changing and print is a dying medium.’ The challenges the Planet faces in the story reflect not only real-world ones in the newspaper industry, but also those faced by DC Comics itself as it struggles to stave off ebbing readership and find a way to foster an audience for online comics. Digital-publishing initiatives in the world of comics aside, I feel it important to argue Perry is wrong. Print isn’t a dying medium. What’s dying are past business models.” [Eye on Comics]
Publishing | Don MacPherson rails against the current numbering and renumbering practices by Marvel and DC Comics: “I realize other publishers have adopted irregular numbering schemes as well, but DC and Marvel are the ones driving things in that direction. Constant relaunches with new first issues, renumbering those relaunches to exploit a big-number milestone such as a 500th issue, half issues, zero issues, issues with decimal points, Greek letters … it’s exhausting and irritating, and I’m certain it’s frustrating for people preparing price guides and collection databases. Next I’m guessing there will be a series numbered in an alien math rooted in a fictional Kryptonian base-14 numerical system.” [Eye on Comics]
Digital comics | David Brothers articulates what the problem is with DRM: “What I realized is that DRM has a lot of benefits for the publisher, but next to none for the consumer. Blizzard can track exactly who plays Diablo III and when, which is valuable for gathering demographic data, off the top of my head. ComiXology can tell publishers exactly what contexts their comics will appear in and on what devices. DRM is about control, basically, rather than being a value-add. It’s a limiting service, rather than one focused on expansion, and the people most affected by it are consumers who actually want to consume this stuff.” And it does nothing to stop piracy, either. [4thletter!]
Comic strips | Cartoonist Tom Batiuk, whose Funky Winkerbean has addressed such topics as teen pregnancy, land mines and capital punishment, will next turn his attention to gay rights in a storyline about a gay couple that wants to attend the prom at the comic strip’s fictional fictional Westview High School. “It struck me that whenever I sit in classes at Midview High, which I still do, my overall impression is that the younger generation’s attitudes toward gays is more open and accepting than their predecessors,” Batiuk said. “It’s not perfect, but it shows promise for an emerging generation that will bring this issue (intolerance) to an end. I wanted to take those two opposing viewpoints to reach across that divide of intolerance.” The month-long storyline begins April 30. Funky Winkerbean appears in more than 400 newspapers nationwide. [The Chronicle-Telegram]
Here’s the thing: Considering how much that I love 2000AD and Judge Dredd, you’d think I’d be much more excited than I am about IDW Publishing’s announcement at WonderCon that they have the American rights for Dredd material. Sadly, I have enough of a memory to know that this might just lead to more fan heartbreak.
Legal | A judge denied a motion for acquittal and a new trial in the case of Michael George, the former comic book store owner and convention organizer convicted of killing his wife in 1990, dismissing the defense’s argument that there was insufficient evidence for conviction. George is serving a life sentence. [Detroit Free Press]
Publishing | DC Comics announced last night it will shut down its message board in early March as part of an overhaul of the publisher’s website that will include Facebook-hosted commenting and integrated Twitter feeds. [The Source]
Creators | About 15 people threw eggs at Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks as he spoke on freedom of speech at the University of Karlstad. Vilks has raised the ire of some Muslims with his cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. Vilks told the audience, “Insults are part of democratic society. If we begin censoring ourselves, it will mean undermining freedom of speech in the long run. I don’t think that the problem is that artists are too provocative but that we are not provocative enough.” None of the eggs hit the cartoonist, and the protestors were removed from the room. [UPI.com]
Publishing | Three million-dollar Kickstarter drives, including Rich Burlew’s $1.2 million campaign for The Order of the Stick, make the fund-raising site look like a pot of gold to some folks, but it’s not that easy: Suw Charman-Anderson, who;s contemplating a Kickstarter drive herself, looks at the factors that make the big money-makers so successful. [Forbes]
Editorial cartoons | The New York Times has responded to Daryl Cagle’s criticism of its hiring policy and fees for editorial cartoonists, saying the newspaper will delay bringing political cartoons back to its Sunday review section until editors have had time to revisit their policies. [The Cagle Post]
Editorial cartoons | For those who want a look at the bigger picture, Columbia Journalism Review surveys the landscape of editorial cartooning and in particular, the economics of syndication. [Columbia Journalism Review]
One of the reasons that the digital comics distributor comiXology has done so well is that it syncs well across a number of platforms, including iOS, Android and the web. Their web store is convenient for those who prefer browsing and buying on their computer, but the Flash-based interface is a bit buggy—it never scrolled properly in my Safari browser, for instance—so I was happy to hear that they have relaunched the web store using HTML5 for the browsing and buying interface.
They also redesigned it, which is a relief; if I have one complaint about comiXology, it’s their tendency to throw a bewildering array of comics onto the screen all at once. The original webstore put a ton of comics on the front page (a page that didn’t scroll properly, remember), while this new one mirrors the design of their iPad app, with a smaller selection and tabs to allow the reader to go deeper. Navigation is pretty straightforward—the site is a little slow, but it is still in beta. The comics reader is still in Flash for now.
ComiXology CEO David Steinberger has more details at the comiXology blog, and I spoke to him about the new storefront yesterday. While the iOS app remains the most popular channel, he said, “More and more people actually use our website, once they discover it, to shop and buy, and I hope with the HTML5 release, more will do that.” One of the new features of the web store is that users can gift a cart, rather than just a single comic. “Right now we are going to finish releasing all of Bone, so you will be able to add the whole Bone series to your card and gift it to somebody,” Steinberger said. “We have Sandman at a very competitive price to the paperback. Comics people create more comics people by getting in tune with their friends and gifting them comics.”
“We had a record amount of entries from publishers this year with more than forty-five different titles” said FCBD spokesperson Leslie Jackson. “Retailers on the committee had a tough time deciding on which titles to choose for Gold sponsorship, but we’re sure fans will be pleased with the line-up for next year.”
While the choices may have been difficult, it’s hard to imagine that someone couldn’t come up with something more enticing than what Image has to offer: “An anthology featuring all-new stories with a mix of Image’s old and new best loved characters!” Could you possibly get any vaguer than that? They don’t even have a cover design. If my comic got bumped for that, I’d be steaming. On the other hand, Archaia’s 48-page hardcover, featuring new material (not reprints or bits of something to come) looks mighty sweet, all the more so because they name names: A Mouse Guard story from David Petersen, a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story by Ted Naifeh and Cory Godbey, a side story from Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust, a Cursed Pirate Girl story from Jeremy Bastian, a Cow Boy story by Chris Eliopoulos and Nate Crosby, and a Dapper Men tale from Jim McCann and Janet Lee. There’s this year’s wow factor.
The line-up actually seemed pretty obvious to me, so I went back and looked at the Gold Sponsors for the past five years. Sure enough, six of the publishers are there every year: Archie, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel. Since five of these are also Diamond’s premier publishers, and Archie is a newsstand juggernaut, there’s no surprise there. BOOM! Studios has been a Gold Sponsor for the past four years and Archaia for the past three. The other slots vary: Ape Entertainment was a Gold Sponsor in 2011 and 2010 but is missing this year, and Bongo and Oni are back after a two-year absence. Others who have popped up once or twice in the past five years: NBM/Papercutz (2011), Drawn & Quarterly (2010), Viz (2008 and 2009), Dynamite (2008), Virgin (2008), Gemstone (2007), and Tokyopop (2007).
There’s more to come: The Silver Sponsors will be announced next week.
Quick, pop quiz: Who is the only publisher to be releasing monthly material from both Garth Ennis and Kurt Busiek right now? Clue: It’s also the only publisher to be putting out regular work from Alex Ross, Scott Beatty and Phil Hester. So why aren’t more people paying attention to Dynamite?
I’m kind of fascinated by Ardden Co-President Brendan Deneen’s comments at Comic Book Resources about sharing the Flash Gordon license with Dynamite Entertainment, if only because I’ve been wondering about “shared” licenses for a while.
For those who haven’t seen Deneen’s comments, he told CBR’s Kiel Phegley, “[T]o have someone else come along and start publishing the same character while we’re in the middle of our run … yeah, it stings. It kind of feels like someone stabbing you in the back. Sure, they’re technically ‘allowed’ to do this but that doesn’t make it any less lame on their part.” And … well, I can kind of see his point, on one hand; to have a recognizable brand as your central book is kind of a big deal for any publisher, nevermind a smaller one, and to see that enticement to readers go from being an exclusive thing to something being shared with a larger publisher … Well, that’s really got to suck.
I’ve been thinking lately about the whole “The Big Guy versus The Little Guy” thing, when it comes to comic publishers. Specifically, when it comes to Marvel and other people’s comics, and the way that the former really doesn’t seem to be looking too good in that area recently.
Digital comics distributor comiXology announced this week that DC Comics, Image, BOOM!, Dynamite and a number of other publishers have signed on with their Digital Storefront Affiliate program.
The program allows retailers to add a comiXology-run store and comics reader to their websites. Without seeing the numbers, it’s hard to see how good a deal this is for retailers in terms of how much they make on each book. However, it is a more elegant solution to the digital dilemma than Diamond’s digital distribution plan, in which shoppers who are already in the store can buy a download code for a digital comic, and it points to one way that brick-and-mortar retailers can prosper in a changing market: By using their skills and knowledge to sell comics digitally to customers who would never darken the door of a physical comics store.
David Brothers neatly outlines the current digital dilemma in his latest think-piece on digital comics: Publishers (especially DC and Marvel) are deliberately doing a bad job with digital comics so as not to undercut retailers, regarding digital comics as both a threat to the traditional comics infrastructure and too insignificant to bother doing well.