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Earlier this year Playdom, a social gaming company that’s owned by Disney, launched Marvel: Avengers Alliance on Facebook. The game casts you in the role of a SHIELD agent who can recruit various Marvel heroes to help fight bad guys in missions assigned to you by Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Tony Stark. It’s a fun game; probably the best review I can give it is that here we are six months after it launched, and I’m still not tired of it. It’s not something I can say about many of the Facebook games I’ve tried out (Walking Dead, I hardly knew ye).
In addition to the regular missions that pit you against Loki, the Wrecking Crew, the U-Foes and others, the game will sometimes throw “special operations” at you. So far there’s been three of them–they’re available for a limited time, require the use of a fifth in-game currency (“Unstable ISO-8′) and offer unique rewards and new heroes as you complete them. The first two introduced Mockingbird and Emma Frost to the game. This past Thursday, they launched a third one, and what makes this one a lot of fun is that it actually ties into a current comic book storyline–Avengers vs. X-Men.
Manga creator Shuho Sato has been experimenting with different ways to actually make money with manga, which is a harder puzzle than you might think. The problem is that manga creators usually break even or lose money on the serials that appear in Japan’s weekly or monthly anthology magazines; they make their money when the collected editions (tankoubon) are released, but that doesn’t always happen, so it’s a gamble. Sato has written some sharp commentary about the economics of being a manga creator, and he pulled his series Give My Regards to Black Jack (also known as Say Hello to Black Jack) from his print publisher, Kodansha, and he had previously put it up online, which was at least initially a financial success.
Now the Finnish digital comics publisher Amimaru is publishing Give My Regards to Black Jack in English on its Facebook app, which is in open beta. The price is 12 Facebook credits, but starting Sept. 15, it will be free, per Sato’s request. Sato is also making the series available without restriction for “second uses” such as novelizations, and has said he will stop enforcing his copyright for an indefinite period.
How does he make money this way? It’s possible that Sato just doesn’t care, as he made it clear when he parted company with Kodansha that he was not satisfied with them. It’s worth noting that his newer series, New Say Hello to Black Jack, was published by Shogakukan, and he’s not giving that away for free, so presumably he figures he has made all he can from the first series and it’s a better use of his time to use it as a promotion than to try to eke a trickle of royalties from it.
Creators | In the wake of the FunnyJunk/The Oatmeal legal dispute, Ian Pike talks to San Diego-based webcomics creators David King and Phil McAndrew about the problem of having their work re-posted without credit. “If I were to sit there and try to hunt down all the websites that re-post my comics without my name on them,” McAndrew says, “I wouldn’t have any time to draw new stuff. So most of the time I just shrug my shoulders and keep on drawing.” One interesting sidelight is that Matthew Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, has set up a site called BearFood where users can share their favorite webcomics with the appropriate links. [San Diego Reader]
Digital comics | Matt White surveys the digital-first landscape with a look at the strategies (or the lack thereof) from publishers ranging from DC Comics to Viz Media: “While the majority of digital comics are just digitized versions of print comics, available simultaneously (known as ‘day-and-date’) or after the physical version hits shelves, current digital-first offerings seem to represent an alternative, more specific market as publishers begin to treat digital more as a complement to print rather than a replacement.” [Publishers Weekly]
Following the temporary retreat from Facebook by the anti-gay One Million Moms, a pro-gay group has sprung up on the social-media site hoping to capitalize on its absence.
Called, yes, One Million Moms, the group describes itself as “One Million Moms and friends of moms who support LGBT rights. Let’s put a positive spin to the group name One Million Moms by supporting equal rights to people of all orientations, creeds, genders and colors.” To further tweak the other One Million Moms, the new Facebook page flies the banner of the Human Rights Campaign and uses an image from the current JC Penney Father’s Day ad that has so enraged the other organization.
The new OMM explains that, “Using a ‘Risk’ metric, any time a territory like this is contested, it weakens the prior occupier’s footing and destabilizes their hold on that particular region of Cyberspace. Fundamentalist mothers looking for the original page will be confused, join the wrong thing, or not join at all; it muddies the message and strengthens the position of the new occupiers. This new page might not garner all that many followers initially, but its presence WILL deny the previous owners their beachhead and create a blockade to one of their most persuasive channels.”
In another setback to One Million Moms, the conservative Christian campaign has retreated from Facebook after a post about DC Comics’ reintroduction of Green Lantern Alan Scott as gay was inundated by comments largely supportive of the publisher’s decision.
The New Civil Rights Movement reports that moments after issuing a “warning” Friday about DC’s official announcement (see below), the page’s administrator began deleting positive comments before apparently giving up and removing the post entirely. Shortly afterward, the One Million Moms page disappeared from Facebook, certainly the initiative’s most valuable social media platform. The abrupt exodus was followed by a tweet announcing, unconvincingly, to Facebook users that, “OMM will be offline most of next week for Vacation Bible School!”
The new Marvel: Avengers Alliance Facebook game launched … well, I’m not quite sure, to be honest, when the game officially launched, but I started playing it late last week, much to the detriment of every other Facebook game I used to play (which, admittedly, was down to one … Dragon Age, I hardly knew ye…). Designed by Playdom, one of Marvel’s sister companies within the great Disney media empire, the game allows players to assemble a team of Avengers from all corners of the Marvel U. to fight through various missions involving a host of villains.
Digital | Archie Comics will begin selling its comics through its Facebook page, which connects readers with Graphicly. With almost 120,000 fans, the page does seem like fertile ground. “It’s really a major move toward connecting the potential reader to the product,” said Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “We make it easy and hopefully create a new, lasting part of our fan base.” [The Huffington Post]
Retailing | Matthew Price takes the temperature in the room at ComicsPRO and says that retailers want stability — they credit the consistent shipping schedule for the New 52 for part of that line’s success — and creativity. The overall mood seemed to be optimism, with Diamond Comic Distributors reporting that comics sales were up slightly in 2011. [NewsOK.com]
Sometimes when you interview a creator, you get the distinct impression that person would rather be promoting a new film or a new novel, anything but a comic book. Other times you are fortunate enough to talk to a creator like artist Jamal Igle who relishes his craft, loves comic books and is almost as much a booster of his fellow creators as the typical comic book fan. This Wednesday (December 14) marks the release of The Ray 1, the first installment of the four-issue DC miniseries by Igle with the writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. My thanks to Igle for the email interview. Once you’ve enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out CBR’s late November interview with Palmiotti and Gray, as well as the preview that CBR offered of issue 1.
Tim O’Shea: When the initial 52 DC Books were announced there was a great deal of displeasure voiced about the fact you were not on the list of creators. Two-fold question: How gratifying was it to see your fans support you so vocally on this front. Secondly, without going into details, were you offered a New 52 assignment and passed on it (please feel free to skip the first part and only answer the first part, if you prefer not to delve into it)
Jamal Igle: It was very flattering and humbling at the same time. It was a little difficult for me to respond to all of the inquiries, because I didn’t know, frankly, how to respond. I was still working on Superman at the time, so I hadn’t been assigned anything. It was a really weird, with all of the assignments being announced, not being able to say anything. The offer for The Ray came just as I was finishing up Superman # 713, prepping #714 and getting ready for San Diego.
“[Stan] Lee will receive a special Vanguard award from the Producers Guild in January, and the press release announcing the award claims that he ‘has exerted more influence over the comic book industry than anyone in history,’ which is probably true, but it also claims that he ‘created or co-created 90 percent of Marvel’s most recognized comic characters.’ We’ll never actually know the truth of those collaborations — like great modern American success stories, the truth has been lost in a neverending quagmire of lawsuits. (If this were The Social Network, you could argue that he was the Sean Parker of Marvel. Which isn’t a bad thing: Without Sean Parker, Facebook wouldn’t be Facebook.) […] Lee will probably give a great speech when he wins the award. He’s always been good at talking, especially when he’s talking about his favorite subject, his greatest invention, the one character that we absolutely know for certain he’s 100 percent responsible for creating: Himself.”
– Entertainment Weekly writer Darren Franich, on the announcement that the Producers Guild of America will honor Stan Lee with its 2012 Vanguard Award, recognizing achievement in new media and technology
Some manga publishers do social media very well. Others don’t. Kodansha Comics took forever to even put up a website (and the one they have is pretty bare-bones—I think they just added a “News” section this week), and they told fans at San Diego Comic-Con that they expected to have Facebook and Twitter accounts by the end of the year—hardly an ambitious schedule. So an impatient fan has done it for them, creating a Kodansha USA fan page on Facebook, complete with logo and the note “I’m hoping if we can make a good fan page it will inspire the real Kodansha Comics USA will make one for them self.”
Jim Zubkavich is a busy guy these days. The Skullkickers writer has just relaunched his webcomic Makeshift Miracle with a new storyline and a new artist, and last week he announced a project with a very different tone: A comic based on the soon-to-be-released Mafia Wars 2 game, illustrated by Omar Dogan.
Mafia Wars 2 is a Facebook game, and here’s the rub: To read the comic you have to not only “Like” Mafia Wars 2 on Facebook but also allow MW2 to have access to your profile. Which, if you’re already involved with the game, shouldn’t be a problem, but it still skeeves me out a bit. So I didn’t take that last step.
Game comics are not usually my thing, but I enjoyed Zubkavich and Dogan’s previous collaboration, Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki, and I’d like to check this one out. I get the logic that the way to promote a Facebook game is on Facebook, but making the game accessible only from the app greatly reduces its effectiveness as a way to bring new people in. Still, if you’re already there, it’s probably worth checking out. As for me, I’m just going to check out the newest page of Makeshift Miracle, because even without Facebook apps, there’s plenty of Zub to go around.
Working with Graphicly, the publisher will expand to the company’s new Facebook app as well as to Amazon’s newly announced Kindle Fire. Image’s Facebook page will serve as a browseable store where potential readers can preview and purchase comics.
As of Wednesday such titles as Chew, The Infinite, Pilot Season, Severed and Skullkickers will join The Walking Dead and Invincible is being available digitally the same day as print.
“Publishing our top titles the same day digitally as print will allow our loyal reader to buy their favorite comics on almost any smartphone and tablet, while also getting them into the hands of new readers and grow the market,” said Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson.
Graphicly has launched an application that enables publishers to embed a comic on their Facebook pages. Called, appropriately enough, Graphicly on Facebook, the app is geared toward exposing new and casual readers to comics through the social networking site.
“Most of our users are actually new comic book readers who have never been exposed to comics before,” Graphicly CEO Micah Baldwin tells Venture Beat.
The free app, which features panel-by-panel viewing, full-screen zoom, commenting and network sharing, is now only available to publishers using the Graphicly platform. However, that’s likely to change. “I think we’re gravitating to a model that lets anyone use the Facebook app to showcase their work,” Baldwin says.
Graphicly’s stable of publishers includes Marvel, Archie Comics, BOOM! Studios, IDW Publishing, Top Cow and Archaia.
Pretty much since the Womanthology initiative began, Robot 6 has done its best to cover it. A few weeks back, some questions came about how the money raised for the Womanthology project was to be spent and further questions resulted based on the response to the concerns. Rather than stand on the sidelines as the discussion played out, I contacted Womanthology organizers to see if an email interview was possible. Laura Morley, Womanthology’s project administrator, was willing to take my questions. Thanks to Morley for her time, as well as to Michael May, Sean T. Collins and Graeme McMillan for interview prep support.
Tim O’Shea: Laura, how did you come to be involved with Womanthology?
Laura Morley: I’m an aspiring comics writer, and saw the original tweet Renae De Liz sent out in May, seeking women to contribute comics to an anthology for charity. I hadn’t actually crossed paths with Renae back then, and saw the message via someone else’s retweet – I wish I could remember whose, so I could thank them! It’s been an amazing experience for me. Then, since I’m one of those perverse people who gets a kick out of wrangling spreadsheets, I sent an email offering to help out with admin for the project – from that I wound up coordinating the admin effort, which has meant acting as a first point of contact for our contributors and our Kickstarter backers. You can also hear me sounding British on the Womanthology Kickstarter video.
O’Shea: Can you explain how it came to be that there is a hardback anthology and a sketchbook associated with Womanthology?
Morley: Publishing a hardcover volume was the plan from the beginning. The book is going to be pretty hefty – it’s over 300 pages long, on a 9×12 inch format, and we wanted to make something truly elegant that would serve as a good vehicle for the beautiful work inside. The sketchbook came about, I believe, as an opportunity to showcase some more of the work by our creators. Some contributors preferred to draw pinups than full stories, and some wanted to do both; some writers wanted to share samples from their scripts – we thought this would be a good way to get more of it out to the audience it deserves.
It’s not usually a big deal when a comics creator gets a Facebook page, but Art Spiegelman is not your run-of-the-mill comics creator. He’s the guy who did Maus, the graphic novel that changed the world. So yeah, this is a big deal, especially as he is on Facebook to promote MetaMaus, his new book (due out from Pantheon in October) about the making of Maus. The book will include not only Spiegelman’s ruminations on the genesis of his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel but also a DVD of the entire book, with hyperlinks to sources and annotations. Naturally, Art and the Pantheon folks are promoting it at San Diego Comic-Con this week, with special MetaMaus buttons.
For a bit more on MetaMaus, check out this article in The Art Newspaper, and for a bit more on Spiegelman, stay tuned to his Facebook page.
But will he tell us what he had for breakfast?