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The Middle Ground #95 | Grud on a Greenie!

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.

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Comics A.M. | Michael George denied retrial; DC to close forums

Michael George

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]

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Comics A.M. | Order of the Stick and the $1 million Kickstarter model

The Order of the Stick

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]

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ComiXology launches new webstore with big holiday sales

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.”

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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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