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Digital comics | Jeff Gomez examines the implications of Amazon’s planned acquisition of comiXology, opining that it will give comics a wider reach but also force publishers of superhero fare to broaden their appeal beyond the core demographic: “The books will now be exposed to millions of newcomers, so it will behoove major publishers to make their stories more female-friendly, streamlined, and accessible. With comiXology’s new aim to make ‘every person on the planet a comics fan,’ publishers will need to consider new genres, greater variety, and more varied age groups.” [Business Insider]
Digital comics | ComiXology will continue to offer its Digital Storefronts for retailers, and it will not allow Amazon to target users of its Pull List service with its own offers, according to spokesman Chip Mosher. Also, no changes are planned to comiXology’s other retailer tools. [ICv2]
Big 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.
The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation has announced the dates and schedule for the sixth Will Eisner Week, a series of events in more than a dozen cities designed to promote graphic novels, literacy, free speech and the legacy of the late cartoonist. The celebration is scheduled in the week surrounding Eisner’s birthday on March 6.
“This year, Will Eisner Week’s sixth, we are celebrating events in more places than ever,” organizing committee chair Danny Fingeroth said in a statement. “Some amazing people are planning some incredible events to spread the word about how significant graphic novels have become, and to celebrate Will Eisner’s astonishing body of work created over a career that spanned seven decades.”
Check out the schedule below.
Events | The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University steps into the spotlight for the Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art, which celebrates the library’s move to a new 30,000-square-foot home on campus. The library’s extensive collection includes more than 300,000 original comic strips, 29,000 comic books, 45,000 books and 2,400 boxes of manuscripts, personal papers and the like. The festival, held today through Sunday, includes such guests as Eddie Campbell, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Herandez, Jeff Smith, Paul Pope, Hilary Price, Kazu Kibuishi and Dylan Meconis. [The Associated Press, The Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Alive]
Creators | Art Spiegelman talks about history, Maus, and being the creator of Maus: “I have to keep moving as best I can through the shadow of something that I’m glad I had pass through me.” [Tablet]
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
This doesn’t come as a surprise to a lot of us, but a recent study confirms what’s been theorized for years: Comics are a stronger learning tool than text books. It’s gratifying to see for the already-converted, but it should also be a strong signal to publishers and educators that the recent exploration of comics in schools is the right way to go. After all, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it processes text.
Image-based storytelling is a powerful educational tool. Comics are probably more able to combine story and information simultaneously, more effectively and seamlessly, than almost any other medium. Just look at how easily we superhero fans memorize our favorite character’s power levels, sound effects, costumes and history. I could chronologically sort Cyclops’ outfits over the past 50 years faster than I could list the first 10 presidents of the United States. Why? Because there is a colorful narrative in comics form tied to Cyclops that captured my imagination when I was young. Meanwhile, there was a dry narrative tied to the U.S. presidents, probably more like a litany of facts occasionally brought to life by a good teacher. That doesn’t mean a history comic needs to give George Washington a ruby-quartz visor and Spandex, of course (although that would be pretty awesome!). U.S. history is actually pretty crazy and interesting on its own, but the engagement level will increase exponentially if we actually experience the story of Washington crossing the Delaware. And not just the one moment (already captured by Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting) but the sequential moments before, during and after, which builds understanding and context, not just temporarily memorized facts.
Creators | Colorist Jordie Bellaire launches a protest against a convention that refuses to include colorists as guests. “Your one sentence, ‘this is not a colorists thing,’ was surely the most pigheaded and dismissive thing I’ve been told since I began professional coloring,” she writes, and then goes on to point out all the things colorists do to make comics great and make a forceful argument for including them (as many major cons already do). In a later post she explains why she won’t name the convention. [Jordie Colors Things]
Graphic novels | A study soon to be released by a University of Oklahoma researcher shows that students who read a textbook in graphic novel form retained more than those who read a straight prose textbook. [The Oklahoman]
Publishing | David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, says that Marvel is putting “the biggest marketing investment that we’ve ever put into a series or an event” behind its upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. The campaign will include online, social media, radio and television promotion. “They’re actually treating every issue as an event, because there’s a different fight going on in every issue, and I’m told that they are pushing every single issue through all 12 issues,” Gabriel said. “The story itself has three acts, and each of those acts has a natural marketing hook to it, so they’re pushing those as well.” [ICv2]
Publishing | While DC’s New 52 has been good for comics sales overall, there is a dark side: Sales of pre-reboot collected editions are down. ICv2 also lists the Top 10 comics and graphic novel franchises in a number of different genres. [ICv2]
Legal | The Justice Department brought more charges of fraud and copyright infringement against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues on Friday, but also revealed that Megaupload isn’t all that mega: The file-sharing site had only 66.6 million users, not the 180 million previously claimed, and fewer than 6 million had ever actually uploaded a file. The indictment mentions one user who uploaded almost 17,000 items, including copyrighted movies, which were viewed 34 million times. [The Washington Post]
Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]
Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]
Retailing | The inventory Arizona retail chain Atomic Comics, which abruptly closed its four locations in late August amid the bankruptcy of owner Michael Malve, will be sold at auction
Jan. 3 Jan. 10 in Phoenix, both live and online. Known nationally for its in-store signings, innovative marketing and sheer size, the 23-year-old chain gained international exposure last year when its name and logo were featured prominently in Kick-Ass, the film adaptation of the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. Photos of the inventory to be liquidated can be found on the website of the auction company. Update: The date of the auction has changed to Jan. 10. [Sierra Auction Management]
Publishing | Tim Stroup, co-founder of the Grand Comics Database, recently dug up some old comics sales figures from the 1940s; John Jackson Miller analyzes them and reaches an interesting conclusion: “comics may be reaching far fewer eyeballs, but it’s a more profitable business to be in today.” [The Comichron]
Creators | Out magazine has included writer Charles “Zan” Christensen and artist Mark Brill in its 17th annual “Out 100″ list highlighting the 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of the year. Christensen and Brill are the creators of The Power Within, an anti-bullying comic book published by Northwest Press. “Inspired, or rather upset, by Tyler Clementi’s tragic death last year, the pair set out to create an empowering story of an eighth-grader picked on for being gay,” the magazine writes. Northwest Press has distributed over 700 free copies of the book to more than 50 gay-straight alliances, schools, churches, community centers and other youth organizations. [Out]
Creators | Uncanny X-Men writer Kieron Gillen considers the accessibility of the relaunched comic in light of reviews he’s read around the web, particularly the fact that some people were thrown by the X-Men living in San Francisco: “Of course, I can see the reason why it’s thrown the people … they know the X-Men live in a mansion in Westchester. That they’re not living in Westchester is the problem. It’s not about giving the information to read the story that’s there. It’s about correcting pre-existing assumptions. In other words, it’s not a problem about being accessible to new readers – because a genuinely new reader would accept the fact the X-Men live on Utopia in the same way that they except that Bilbo lives in the Shire – but rather a problem with the readers being old readers. They feel lost not because of the story on the page, but the gap between the old story in their heads and the story on the page, and wanting to know what connects the two.” [Kieron Gillen]
Cartoonist Frank Santoro (Cold Heat, Storeyville, Kramers Ergot) has long taken his knowledge about comics and cartooning straight to the masses. From his curated longboxes, whose hand-selected ’80s genre-comic treasures bring a touch of the back-issue bin to the alternative comics conventions he attends, to his popular columns on page and layout for The Comics Journal, he’s brought idiosyncratic intensity to the study of making comics. Now, from his Tattooinesque wind-and-solar-powered redoubt in New Mexico, Santoro’s offering an eight-week correspondence course for more in-depth study.
Conducted over email, snail mail, and phone, the class will begin on Oct. 28 and cost $500 per student. Each student’s instruction will vary, designed with Santoro to be tailored to their specific needs and the kinds of comics they want to make. In the announcement, Santoro sets up his course as an alternative to schools like CCS, SVA, and SCAD: “You don’t have to move to a different city to attend one of the few schools that exist for making comic books. Put your money directly towards training – not living expenses.” But act fast: The course is only open to ten students.
Find more details, including the application requirements, at The Comics Journal.
Retailing | Tacoma, Washington, store Comic Book Ink, a seven-time nominee for the Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award, could close as early as August because of mounting debt. In a plea to customers, owner John Munn attributes the store’s dire financial situation to a combination of the economy, relocation costs, an unresolved dispute with the previous landlord, the move by Diamond Comic Distributors to “call in short-term notes” in the wake of the Borders bankruptcy, and “personal trials.” In the extremely frank letter, he lays out what steps he’s taken (payment plans, using his salary from an outside job to cover payroll), and what he hesitates to do (fire staff, close the nearly nine-year-old store and declare bankruptcy): “I have juggled as far as I can juggle. I have kept a constant vigil on our shop, but currently it is resting on a house of cards and not a strong foundation (yet) that could go at any minute. […] I need your help. This week is bad … Very bad.”
Munn asks that customers pick up any special orders or pull-list titles, purchase gift certificates, make a short-term loan or buy shares in the store. “I think we can make it,” he writes. “I wouldn’t have sent this message if I didn’t. I did not want to write this letter. I did not want to ask for help. All I ever wanted to do was to create a place where people could come and escape for awhile. A place that would invest in the community, and its organizations, that surrounded it.” [Comic Book Ink]
Retailing | The struggling Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, has reversed its January decision to close the distribution center in LaVergne, Tenn. The bookseller will instead shut down its warehouse in Carlisle, Penn., leaving the facility in Tennessee and another in California. [Nashville Business Journal, via ICv2.com]
Legal | A handful of publishers address what effect Tokyo’s revised ordinance further restricting the sale of sexually explicit manga to minors might have on the industry. “This ordinance could attack the creativity of genuine authors, not just attacking perverted comics,” says Pascal Lafine of Tonkam, a French publisher of manga. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Publishing | David Itzkoff profiles Marvel, tracing the company’s route from mid-1990s bankruptcy to its current place at the top of a struggling industry. [The New York Times]
Legal | Two Los Angeles men accused of selling counterfeit passes to this year’s Comic-Con International have pleaded guilty to theft and were placed on probation for three years. Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, both 24, were each ordered to pay a $750 fine, complete 10 days of community service and pay restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors say the two photocopied Comic-Con badges and sold them on Craigslist to people looking for last-minute memberships. They were arrested in July after two of their victims attempted to enter the convention using the counterfeit badges, which the women bought for $120 each. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Technology | Tech blog Chip Chick names DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as one of its “Top 13 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010.” [Chip Chick]