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Thoughts on the FCBD Gold comics

Free Comic Book Day is only six months away, and the FCBD folks started the drumbeat on Friday with the announcement of the Gold Sponsor comics. I didn’t realize this was a competition:

“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.

The Middle Ground #77 | Boom goes the …

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?

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The Middle Ground #67 | Double Duty

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.

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The Middle Ground #58 | Blow, big man, blow!

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.

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ComiXology lets retailers do what retailers do best

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.

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Comics A.M. | Kirby/Marvel copyright fight continues, John D’Agostino dies

Jack Kirby

Legal | New York federal judge Colleen McMahon made several decisions last week in the case of Jack Kirby’s heirs attempting to terminate Marvel’s copyright of his works. The judge agreed with Marvel that it would be premature to make an accounting of how much money is at stake, but rejected a bid by Marvel to throw out the Kirby estate’s main counterclaim. She also ruled that the Kirby estate’s attempt to reclaim original art is barred by the statute of limitations, counterclaims of breach-of-contract and violation of the Lanham Act were tossed, and Disney will be part of the case, even though Marvel said it shouldn’t be.

“In sum, the judge has narrowed the case to its most crucial issue. Both sides disagree about Kirby’s working environment in the 1950s and 1960s when he, along with Stan Lee, conceived many of Marvel’s most popular characters. The judge will soon be tasked with looking at Kirby’s work history and some of the loose contracts and oral agreements that guided his efforts in those years,” wrote Eriq Gardner. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Creators | Artist, letterer and colorist John D’Agostino died Nov. 29. D’Agostino started his career as a colorist for Timely Comics and was head of their coloring department for several years. He also worked for Archie Comics, Charlton Comics and Marvel Comics, and lettered the first few issues of Amazing Spider-Man in the 1960s. Tom Spurgeon offers an obituary. [Mark Evanier]

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Batman & Robin #15

Batman & Robin #15

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for Food or Comics?, where every week some of the Robot 6 crew talk about what comics we’d buy if we were subject to certain spending limits — $15 and $30, as well as if we had extra money to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list to see what arrives in comic shops this week,then play along in our comments section.

Chris Mautner

If I had $15:

I’d get Batman & Robin #15 ($2.99), the final chapter in the “Batman Must Die” arc, which, I think we can all agree, as been one of the best runs in the series so far, thanks largely to the stellar work of artist Frazer Irving. I’d also get Highland Laddie #3 ($3.99), the latest issue in the Boys spin-off mini-series. I haven’t been as impressed with this one as I was with the current storyline in Boys, but I remain ever hopeful that it will come together in some fashion by the end.

If I had $30:

I’d chuck those comics aside like so many election mail flyers and nab Picture This ($29.95), the latest book by Lynda Barry and a sequel to her stellar What It Is. As with that book, this uses collage, comics, autobiography and more to provide an inspirational, thoughtful examination of drawing and the artistic process. I can’t wait to sit down with a copy. If it’s half as good as its predecessor, it will be fantastic.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

House of Mystery Halloween Annual #2

House of Mystery Halloween Annual #2

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for Food or Comics?, where every week some of the Robot 6 crew talk about what comics we’d buy if we were subject to certain spending limits — $15 and $30, as well as if we had extra money to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list to see what arrives in comic shops this week,then play along in our comments section.

JK Parkin

If I had $15 to spend:

Strange Tales 2 #1 ($4.99)
House of Mystery Halloween Annual #2 ($4.99)

Two $5 anthologies that should be well worth the asking price. Strange Tales II, the sequel to Marvel’s indie cartoonist anthology from last year, features new stories by Rafael Grampa, Kate Beaton, Frank Santoro, Dash Shaw, Jeff Lemire, Kevin Huizenga, Jhonen Vasquez and many more. House of Mystery Halloween Annual #2, meanwhile, features stories by folks like Mike Kaluta, Jill Thompson, Chris Roberson, Mike Allred, Matthew Sturges and Peter Milligan. Most notably, it has a new “Lucifer” story by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, which is the big draw for me personally.

Update: I received an advanced copy of this in the mail tonight, and saw that the Madame Xanadu story isn’t actually by Mike Kaluta and Jill Thompson, as was noted in the above-linked CBR story. No, the Madame Xanadu story is actually by Matt Wagner and Brandon Graham. And it is pretty awesome.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Parker: The Outfit

Parker: The Outfit

Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join Brigid Alverson, Michael May and Chris Mautner as they run down what comics they’d buy if they only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what they’d get if they had some “mad” money to splurge with.

Check out Diamond’s full release list if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Chris Mautner

If I had $15:

The latest issue of The Boys is on my pull-list for this week ($3.99) and I’m anxious to see how Hughie reacts after discovering Annie’s big, horrible secret last ish. (sounds like I’m talking about a daytime soap, doesn’t it? If daytime soaps had more vomiting, cuss words and dismemberment.)

I’ll also likely pick up the fifth issue of James Stokoe’s Orc Stain ($2.99). I’m coming into the series a little bit late, but based on raves it’s been garnering across the Interwebs, I tried a random issue and dang if I wasn’t tickled with it’s wit and dense world-building sensibilities. Now I’m trying to track down the other issues I’ve missed.

If I had $30:

There’s a lot of good stuff this week, but (assuming I put aside my two previous purchases for a later date) what would easily top my list (and that of my fellow Robot Sixers I’m sure) is Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit, the second book in Darwyn Cooke’s ongoing adaptation of Donald Westlake’s (writing under the Stark nom de plume) series of hard boiled crime novels. I hadn’t been a Cooke fan previously, but the first book, The Hunter, made me a believer and the recent mini/prologue that IDW released earlier this year, The Man With the Getaway Face, sealed the deal. I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

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The Middle Ground #16: Play That William Tell Overture One More Time

greenhornetI’ve talked before about the oddness of Dynamite’s Green Hornet line, I think; the sheer deluge of books so quickly after launch, and the way it makes little sense to me in any way other than ensuring a lot of bookstore product in time for January’s movie release. But I’ve been reading a lot of the books recently, and now I have to admit: It makes even less sense. Continue Reading »

Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Baltimore: The Plague Ships

Baltimore: The Plague Ships

If it’s Tuesday, it’s time for Food or Comics? Every week we talk about what comics we’d buy if we only had $15 to spend, if we only had $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we’re calling a “Splurge” item.

So join Brigid Alverson, Chris Mautner and me as we run down what we’d buy this week, and check out Diamond’s release list to play along in our comments section.

Brigid Alverson

If I had $15…

I’d start with the first issue of Baltimore: The Plague Ships ($3.50), because it’s written by Mike Mignola and it has Europe flooded with vampires. Looks like fun. And then, because I can’t get enough Mignola, I’ll take issue 2 of Hellboy: The Storm ($2.99).

Dark Horse is launching its updated Magnus: Robot Fighter series, written by Jim Shooter, this week. Issue #1 looks pretty sweet, and it’s 56 pages for $3.50 (including the original Magnus story from 1963), so I’ll give that a try.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Batman & Robin #13

Batman & Robin #13

With the cost of comics seemingly always on the rise, we’ve revamped our old Can’t Wait for Wednesday columns around cover price. Hence, welcome to our second Food or Comics? column, as we look at comics that’ll be in shops tomorrow.

Every week we’ll tell you what comics we’d buy if we had $15 to spend, if we had $30 to spend and if we had some “mad money” (like a gift card) to blow on what we’re calling a “Splurge” item. This week Chris Mautner and Brigid Alverson join Kevin Melrose and myself in our trip to the hypothetical comic shop, following our trip to the imaginary ATM machine.

You can play along as well in our comments section; check out Diamond’s shipping list for tomorrow to see what will be in shops.

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, I’d buy …

Batman & Robin #13 ($2.99)
Starstruck #11 ($3.99)
Godland #32 ($3.99)
Boys #44 ($3.99)

These are just about all the comics I’m currently reading in floppy form, minus a title or two. In fact, I’m relatively certain my LCS will be holding copies of these for me when I stop by this weekend. Three involve superheroes. One is a knotty sci-fi saga. One will almost certainly involve someone’s blood being sprayed across a room. That, or a bathroom joke.

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The Middle Ground #5: Sitting Up Straight On The Back Of The Bus

middletrueI’m pretty sure that the first licensed comic I actually bought would’ve been a Star Wars comic. I don’t really remember ever buying any of them, but I remember always having them around (For some reason, I specifically remember them always being around when I was sick, although I do remember eagerly running home from the newsagent with the first issue of Return Of The Jedi, hoping to find out what happened in the new movie before it came out, and being somewhere between excited and upset to realize that the movie adaptation only filled the first third of the issue, with a random SW story and The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones filling up the rest). The first one I remember actively collecting was the Marvel UK version of Transformers, although I didn’t think of that as a licensed comic; my head didn’t work that way, yet, so it was just a comic that was connected to those toys that I thought were awesome in some mysterious way.

So why is there some kind of stigma against licensed comics these days?

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves | A roundup of publishing news

TACC-book-stacked

  • A hardcover collection of the first chapter of Karl Kerschl’s Eisner-nominated webcomic The Abominable Charles Christopher is now available for pre-order. “Wrapped in an embossed, faux suede cover, this 144-page tome collects all of the comics from the first two years of the series, along with many additional illustrations and a gorgeous 40″ gatefold at the end of the book, featuring a dramatic pencil rendering of the key players, all in one scene,” the description reads.
  • Artist Mike Hawthorne shows off some nice pages from an as-yet-unrevealed Vertigo title.
  • Avatar Comics is launching a new imprint called Boundless Comics. The first comic they’ll publish is Lady Death, penned by her creator Brian Pulido and co-writer Mike Wolfer. They also plan to publish a series of trades that’ll collect older Lady Death material.
  • Image Comics will publish a new miniseries by Ben McCool (Choker) and Nikki Cook (DMZ) called Memoir.
  • Pat Lee will return to comics with Widow Warriors, a new book that’ll be published by Dynamite.

DC Comics takes seven spots in November’s Top 10

Blackest Night #5

Blackest Night #5

It turns out that DC Comics’ domination of the Diamond Top 10 in October may have been more than simply an anomaly made possible by a competitor’s schedule drift: The just-released list for November shows the publisher taking seven of the 10 slots, one better than the previous month.

As chart-watcher John Jackson Miller points out, only the appearance at No. 3 of Marvel’s Captain America Reborn #4 prevented DC from repeating its once-in-four-decades claim to the six best-selling comics.

Marvel continued to lead in unit share and dollar share.

DC’s November achievement was again aided by Blackest Night, whose fifth issue was the top-selling comic to the direct market. Four of the company’s six other Top 10 titles were tied to the crossover; only Batman and Robin #6 (at No. 4) and The Flash: Rebirth #5 (at No. 9) were unrelated to the miniseries.

The 10 best-selling comics were evenly split between $3.99 and $2.99.

Perhaps almost as interesting is the list of Top 10 graphic novels, which is led by the first collection of Image Comics’ surprise hit Chew, followed by the fifth volume of Dynamite’s The Boys.


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