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Comics A.M. | Digital sales grew to $90 million in 2013

Digital comics on comiXology

Digital comics on comiXology

Digital comics | ICv2 estimates the size of the digital comics market at $90 million in 2013, not counting subscription services such as Marvel Unlimited or Crunchyroll — so presumably the tally is limited to single-issue sales. It’s also not clear whether the number includes comics sold on eBook platforms such as Kindle or just those sold through specialty channels such as comiXology or as direct downloads. The $90 million number represents a 29 percent increase over 2012 numbers. [ICv2]

Creators | As the first issue of his new series The Life After is released, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov talks about why he prefers creator-owned work: “I want to treat every book I do as though it’s 100% owned by me, because, at the end of the day, nobody is blaming an editor if that book sucks. They’re blaming me. Even if the art is sub-par, I take the blame for that. So, for my money, being thorny and vocal to get work I’m proud of is worth it, no matter what doors it shuts, because, as the saying goes, nothing shuts doors and costs you audience faster than producing junk.” And, he says, he is making as much money doing creator-owned comics as the corporate ones. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Bill Watterson’s return to the public eye

From the final "Calvin and Hobbes" strip

From the final “Calvin and Hobbes” strip

Creators | Shaenon Garrity chronicles Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s recent return to the public eye. While Watterson stopped drawing the strip in 1995, he recently provided a painting for the Team Cul De Sac charity, did an interview and created a poster for the documentary Stripped, and contributed as a guest artist to Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine comic strip. [Paste Magazine]

Comics | Some bonus Calvin and Hobbes content: Adam Weinstein looks at the history of those “peeing Calvin” decals, with a short road trip into the “praying Calvin” variant. [Gawker]

Creators | Marc Sobel interviews Ganges creator Kevin Huizenga. [The Comics Journal]

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Comics A.M. | The secret of Batman’s enduring appeal

Detective Comics #27

Detective Comics #27

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]

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Comics A.M. | Phoenix Comicon disrupted by malfunctioning fire alarm

Phoenix Comicon

Phoenix Comicon

Conventions | The Phoenix Convention Center was evacuated Thursday, the first day of Phoenix Comicon, after a fire alarm was triggered by a damaged heat sensor (something similar occurred during last year’s event). Attendees were allowed back in to the venue after about 30 minutes. The convention, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people (leading organizers to cap attendance), continues through Sunday. [The Arizona Republic]

Retailing | Kirby Tardy, owner of Collectors Comics in Grand Rapids, Michigan, looks back at 35 years in the business. The store opened downtown in 1979 as Opalia’s Amorphium, and started out carrying a wide range of merchandise; since then it has gone in the opposite direction from many comics shops and focuses mainly on comics themselves, not peripheral items like figures or games. At one time there were several branch locations, and Tardy and his wife Debbie spent a lot of time going to comics conventions in the 1990s. The couple is planning to retire next year, but hopes the business will continue with new owners. [MLive.com]

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Comics A.M. | Amazon backs off Marvel in Hachette dispute

Marvel

Marvel

Retailing | Amazon’s war with Hachette has taken an odd turn: The retail giant has restored discounts and preorders for Marvel (which uses Hachette as its distributor), and the shipping delays are gone, but it seems to have doubled down on Hachette imprint Yen Press. [ICv2]

Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on Diamond Comic Distributors’ year-to-date sales figures, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with sales of monthly comics down but graphic novels and merchandise up, for a slight uptick in overall sales. Another interesting statistic: The number of individual Diamond accounts (which is generally regarded as a measure of the number of comics shops) is up 1.3 percent for 2014 so far; last year’s increase was 3 percent over the entire year. She also reports on the numbers for this year’s Free Comic Book Day; retailers ordered 4.65 million comics, and most were happy with the way the day went. [Publishers Weekly]

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Comics A.M. | Phoenix Comicon to cap attendance for first time

Phoenix Comicon

Phoenix Comicon

Conventions | Phoenix Comicon, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people, has placed a limit on attendance for the June 5-8 show, raising the possibility that the convention could sell out for the first time. However, convention director Matt Solberg said organizers have been working with the fire marshal to increase capacity at the Phoenix Convention Center. This year’s guests include Andy Kubert, Andy Runton, Camilla d’Errico, Chris Claremont, Christopher Golden, Dennis Calero, Don Rosa, Francis Manapul, John Layman, Katie Cook, Kevin Maguire, Marc Andreyko and Mark Bagley. [Facebook, via Modern Times]

Manga | Lillian Diaz Przybyl, who was the senior editor at Tokyopop until shortly before its demise, talks about her early days in fandom, her experiences at the company when it was a market leader, and the issue of piracy and creators’ rights. She also sheds some light on why the manga publishers were so slow to go to digital: The Japanese licensors were reluctant to put content from different publishers together and worried that their books would be re-imported back to Japan. [Organization Anti-Social Geniuses]

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Comics A.M. | A demand for rollback on same-day digital release?

"The Amazing Spider-Man" #1 variant by John Romita Sr.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” #1 variant by John Romita Sr.

Retailing | Dennis Barger, co-owner of Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, Michigan, and the driving force behind the new retailer association CBRA (Comic Book Retailers Alliance), says direct-market stores want publishers to pull back on same-day digital release, and debut the print comics first. He says ComicsPRO, the established, much larger, trade organization, is taking the wrong approach in trying to adapt to digital. Barger also feels that hand-selling by employees, not social media, is what propels sales of comics, especially non-Big Two titles: “The employees at local comic shops pushing these books is the difference in being in the top 200 and the bottom 300 in sales for those books.” A shift to digital, which removes the local comics shop from the equation, would thus harm second-tier publishers such as Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios and IDW. The association was able to purchase an exclusive variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #1, drawn by John Romita Sr., for its members. [The News-Herald]

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Comics A.M. | Political cartoon removed from Revolution News Facebook page

from the Revolution News cartoon

from the Revolution News cartoon

Political Cartoons | Facebook has removed an article from the Revolution News Facebook page, issued a warning to the owners of the page, and banned one admin for 12 hours, apparently because the article included a cartoon by Carlos Latuff that “violated community standards.” The cartoon shows Death pulling a skeleton from the grave; the skeleton has a swastika on its skull and is wrapped in a Greek flag, a reference to recent neo-Nazi activities in Greece. [CBLDF]

Comics | The Edmonton, Alberta police department has created a digital graphic novel about Alex Decoteau, the first Aboriginal officer in the department. Decoteau was also an Olympic runner and was killed during World War I at the age of 29. [CBC]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Attack on Titan’ Vol. 13 gets 2.75M-copy print run

Attack on Titan, Vol. 13

Attack on Titan, Vol. 13

Manga | Attack on Titan is as much of a manga juggernaut in its native Japan as it is the United States, and the 13th volume had a print run of 2.75 million copies, a new record not only for the series but for publisher Kodansha. [Crunchyroll]

Comics | Tom Risen has a thoughtful piece, which includes an interview with Axel Alonso, on how superhero comics have changed since the War on Terror began: “Superheroes since the 2000s have increasingly held up a mirror to controversies like mass surveillance, remote killings using drones and the ‘with us or against us’ mentality espoused by former President George W. Bush. Misuse of military technology also played a key role in recent movie adaptations featuring Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man, showing how fighting dirty to defeat evil can make America its own worst enemy.” [U.S. News & World Report]

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Comics A.M. | Image, manga dominate March bookstore sales

The Walking Dead, Vol. 20

The Walking Dead, Vol. 20

Graphic novels | BookScan’s list of the bestselling graphic novels in bookstores in March divides neatly into eight Image Comics titles (six volumes of The Walking Dead and two of Saga), eight volumes of manga (four Attack on Titan, four Viz Media titles) and four volumes of media tie-ins. For the second month in a row, not a single DC Comics or Marvel title cracked the Top 20, although an older DK Publishing character guide to the Avengers (not actually a graphic novel) came in at No. 11. The top-selling title was the 20th volume of The Walking Dead, and the No. 2 was the third volume of Saga. It’s also interesting to note that the first three volumes of Attack on Titan charted higher than the most recent release, which suggests new readers are still coming into the franchise in substantial numbers — and sticking with it. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Emerald City, and the future of ‘geek culture’

Emerald City Comicon

Emerald City Comicon

Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, who wrote a book about Comic-Con International, looks forward to this weekend’s sold-out Emerald City Comicon, and explains why it represents the convention of the future: “One reason ECCC is such an ideal place to talk about the future of comics is because the show itself looks like the future of comics–at least the one that I call ‘The Expanding Multiverse.’ Supportive of creators and celebrities alike, embracing the broadest conception of styles and subjects from indie work to mainstream superheroes, self-consciously diverse and inclusive in its conception of fandom, ECCC and shows like it represent a sustainable path forward for geek culture in an age of super-saturation and sensory overload.” Salkowitz will be a participant, not just a fan: He has developed a programming track on comics and digital culture that will feature a number of people (IDW’s Ted Adams, Monkeybrain’s Alison Baker) giving short presentations, similar to the format and spirit of TED Talks. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Author, ‘Vermillion’ writer Lucius Shepard dies

Lucius Shepard

Lucius Shepard

Passings | Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Lucius Shepard, whose work included Life During Wartime and The Jaguar Hunter, passed away March 18. He was 66. Shepard ventured into comics writing on a few occasions, with the series Vermillion, part of DC Comics’ short-lived Helix imprint, and with contributions to Vertigo anthologies Gangland and Flinch. [Tor.com, BoingBoing]

Creators | American Vampire artist Rafael Albuquerque talks about the upcoming “Second Cycle” of the Vertigo series, which returns after a hiatus of more than a year. [Hero Complex]

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Comics A.M. | NECA to acquire Hastings in $21.4 million deal

Hastings

Hastings

Retailing | Hastings Entertainment, which operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more, has announced a $21.4 million agreement to merge with two companies owned by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association; Weinshanker already holds 12 percent of Hastings’ outstanding shares.

“NECA is a significant supplier of movie, book and video game merchandise and collectibles to the Hastings superstores, and we’ve had a close and growing business relationship with Mr. Weinshanker over the last decade,” John H. Marmaduke, Hastings’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Mr. Weinshanker, through his affiliation with the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, and his company’s management of Graceland, is one of the leading drivers of the lifestyle industry, and we believe Hastings’ business will continue to benefit from our relationship with him and NECA.” Marmaduke will retire with a $1.5 million cash payout once the merger is approved. The announcement was followed by press releases from two New York City law firms that say they’re investigating the plan on behalf of Hastings shareholders. [press release]

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Comics A.M. | Manga market showing signs of ‘modest’ recovery

New Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1

New Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1

Manga | In a two-part interview, ICv2 talks at length to veteran Dark Horse manga editor Carl Horn about how the manga market has evolved since 1987, which manga do and do not do well, and what the future may hold. The good news is the market seems to be recovering after several years of declining sales; the hard evidence is that Dark Horse is sending more royalties back to the Japanese licensors. And the new reality is that while the market may be smaller, almost everyone knows what manga is now: “You can’t simply put a manga on the market and expect it to sell because it is manga (that was one of the nice things about the boom because you could take a chance on more marginal titles), but on the other hand you don’t have to do as much explaining about what manga is anymore.” In addition, ICv2 lists the top 25 manga and the top 10 shoujo and shonen properties from the last quarter of 2013. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Batmobile copyright fight heading back to court

A Batmobile replica from Gotham Garage

A Batmobile replica from Gotham Garage

Legal | Eriq Gardner delves into the issues underlying the continuing legal battle over unauthorized replicas of the Batmobile from the 1966 Batman television series and the 1989 film: This summer the Ninth Circuit will consider the appeal of Gotham Garage owner Mark Towle, whose Batmobile replicas were found in February 2013 to violate DC Comics’ copyrights and trademarks. While Towle argues that Batman’s ride is a “useful article,” meaning a utilitarian object not protected by U.S. copyright law, a federal judge ruled the Batmobile is “a copyrightable character.” Gardner notes that if the appeals court sides with DC/Warner Bros., “Hollywood studios would win a powerful weapon to stop products that are similar to props like light sabers and ruby slippers.” [The Hollywood Reporter]

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