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By the Numbers | Millions and millions of comics

one piece-v69

In “By the Numbers,” ROBOT 6 takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers. Our starting point this week is Wednesday’s announcement that retailers ordered a record-breaking number of comics for Free Comic Book Day, an international event that will draw millions of customers into specialty shops on May 4.

However, there was another figure that’s almost as impressive: the print run for the latest volume of the hit manga One Piece.

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Retailers order record 4.6M comics for Free Comic Book Day

fcbd 2013Retailers ordered more than 4.6 million comic books for the May 4 Free Comic Book Day, a 34-percent increase from last year — and a staggering 70-percent jump from 2011. Needless to say, that’s a record high for the 11-year-old event.

According to Diamond Comic Distributors, this year also will see nearly 2,000 retail accounts participating, still another record. The event coincides with the North America premiere of Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3.

Gold-level comics include Marvel’s Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman and Jim Cheung, described as “the opening shots of the war that will be heard around the galaxy” — likely to appeal to those Iron Man 3 audiences — and DC’s Superman Special Edition, which boasts a preview of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained.

Other offerings range from The Walking Dead (a new Tyreese story, paired with reprints of Michonne, The Governor and Morgan stories) and Ape Entertainment’s Sesame Street & Strawberry Shortcake to Archaia’s Mouse Guard/Rust flip book and Dark Horse’s Star Wars/Captain Midnight/Avatar sampler.See the complete list on the Free Comic Book Day website.

Get an advance look at this year’s Free Comic Book Day selections

Molly Danger/Princeless

Molly Danger/Princeless

The snow is piled high where I am, and May seems like a long time away, but the Free Comic Book Day folks are getting into the spirit by posting some free previews (or “prevues,” as they spell it, since these are Previews prevues). The selection includes Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season, a Molly Danger comic by Jamal Igle that will be bundled with a Princeless story by Jeremy Whitley, Atomic Robo, 2000AD, Brian Wood’s Star Wars, and more.

As in previous years, the FCBD website is also running a series of creator interviews. These aren’t particularly deep; all the creators get the same set of softball questions (actual question, I kid you not: “Tell us why everyone should read comic books?”) but some of them, like Fred Van Lente, go beyond “Comics are AWESOME!!!!!” and have a bit of fun with it. Recent interviews worth a glance include Cory Godbey, who is working on an adaptation of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth; Emmanuel Guibert and Mark Boutvant on Ariol; and Robert Venditti on X-O Manowar. It’s all nakedly promotional, but it’s promoting comics after all, and there is some good stuff in there, both in the responses and the art samples.

Comics A.M. | Manga sales slip in Japan for first time since 2009

One Piece, Vol. 67

Manga | The Japanese market research firm Oricon reports sales of manga volumes (tankobon) slipped 1.5 percent last year, to about $2.886 billion, the first decline since the company began reporting the figures in 2009. [Anime News Network]

Graphic novels | The Scottish Archaeological Research Project has put together a rather lively looking graphic novel about the history of Scotland, including such little-known events as the Storegga Tsunami. [BBC News]

Manga | Someone with a sharp eye spotted a manga license that hasn’t been officially announced: Kodansha Comics will publish Sherlock Bones, a series about a crime-solving boy and a talking dog, by Shin Kobayishi (Drops of God, Kindaichi Case Files) and Yuki Sato (Yokai Doctor). [allfiction]

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Snyder and Lee’s Man of Steel gets Free Comic Book Day preview

Readers will get their first taste of the much-anticipated new Superman series by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee in DC Comics’ gold-edition offering for Free Comic Book Day.

The special issue also will reprint the first part of “Last Son,” the 2006-2008 Action Comics story arc by Geoff Johns, Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner, and Adam Kubert, described as “a great jumping-on point for fans who can’t wait to see Warner Bros. Pictures’ Man of Steel major motion picture.” The story may seem like an odd choice, given that the issue is more than six years old and was released before DC’s linewide relaunch, but it does reintroduce General Zod, the primary antagonist of Man of Steel, even if that continuity no longer exists.

The preview of the Snyder/Lee series, on the other hand, makes perfect sense, as its launch is timed to coincide with the June 14 opening of Warner Bros.’ franchise reboot. While DC has kept details of the new comic close to its vest — has Man of Steel even been confirmed as the title? — Snyder provided ROBOT 6 with a tease early this month.

“We’re going to be introducing a new villain, and we’re going to be trying to do the biggest and most epic Superman story we can!” he said. “So you’ll see the supporting cast — you’ll see Lana, and Lois, and Lex, and Jimmy and Perry. The story itself is really going to put Superman against a threat that will kind of shake him to his core psychologically and emotionally. We’re really really proud of it, and Jim is doing incredible work on it. So we can’t wait for you guys to see it!”

Free Comic Book Day 2013 is May 4.

New art surfaces from The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

Art from "The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys" by Becky Cloonan

Artist Becky Cloonan points out that this Huffington Post interview with her collaborator Gerard Way includes new art (above) from The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, the writer’s long-awaited followup to 2007’s The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite.

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Gerard Way’s Fabulous Killjoys gets Free Comic Book Day debut

Following Thursday’s announcement of the gold titles for Free Comic Book Day 2013, Dark Horse has revealed the rest of its lineup, which includes the long-awaited debut of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, by Gerard Way, co-writer Shaun Simon, artist Becky Cloonan and colorist Dave Stewart.

Announced in 2009, the follow-up to the acclaimed Umbrella Academy originally was described by the frontman of My Chemical Romance as “almost like a strange kind of love letter to the really great comics of the ’90s that kind of pushed things.” However, in the three years since the announcement, a lot changed.

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Comics A.M. | Court rules Zunar’s arrest is lawful, books seizure is not

Zunar

Legal | Human Rights Watch reports on the lawsuit filed by Malaysian cartoonist Zunar after he was arrested and his books seized by authorities. The court ruled that while the arrest, on grounds of sedition and publishing without a license, was lawful, the government’s continued possession of his materials was not. Zunar was never formally charged — a judge threw the arrest out after authorities could not point to any actual seditious material in his book, Cartoon-O-Rama — and therefore, the court ruled, the government had no right to continue to hold the books and must return them and pay him damages to boot. [Human Rights Watch, via The Daily Cartoonist]

Legal | Rich Johnston reports that copies of Howard Chaykin’s super-erotic Black Kiss 2 have been held at the border by U.K. customs. Diamond Comic Distributors is in talks with customs officials and hopes to get the books into the country next week. [Bleeding Cool]

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‘The only thing cooler than ice cream is comics, right?’

If you’ve ever wondered where Free Comic Book Day came from, Cindy Custodio of Dusty Caravan Productions has put together a short-but-slick little documentary on its origins, featuring the event’s founder Joe Field. Set at his comic shop, Flying Colors Comics in Concord, Calif., the video also features Georges Jeanty and Zack Whedon, who contributed to Dark Horse’s FCBD offerings this year and visited Field’s shop for this year’s event.

Check it out below.

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See Elvis at the Pearly Gates — at rest or in motion

As I mentioned in my roundup of Free Comic Book Day comics, the Graphic Elvis preview from Liquid Comics was one of the more striking selections of the day, in particular because of Stan Lee’s Elvis tribute comic, illustrated by Jeevan J. Kang, which shows The King reaching the Pearly Gates. It’s a slimmed-down, pre-Vegas version of Elvis, who humbly falls into line with everyone else, amazing them with his lack of pushiness. “I wouldn’t expect him to be treated just like us,” says one man, who obviously hasn’t read his Gospels. And Elvis is almost turned away, but — no, I won’t spoil it, because now you can read the whole Graphic Elvis FCBD comic on Issu.

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Dark Horse offers FCBD titles as free digital downloads

If you missed out on Dark Horse’s Free Comic Book Day releases, the publisher is making all four stories available digitally through the end of the month — for free, naturally — via its Dark Horse Digital store and app for Android and iOS devices.

That’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The Guild, by Andrew Chambliss and Georges Jeanty, and Felicia Day and Jonathan Case, and Star Wars, by Zack Whedon and Davidé Fabbri, and Serenity, by Whedon and Fabio Moon. Dark Horse’s 2011 FCBD title, Baltimore/Criminal Macabre, is also still available.

Comics A.M. | Iranian cartoonist sentenced to 25 lashes

The cartoon in question

Legal | Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh has been sentenced to 25 lashes for a cartoon he drew that depicted Arak Member of Parliament Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani in a soccer jersey. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview, Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci talks about the comics market, the demise of Borders, digital comics and the slump in book sales: “[T]here are more and more trade paperbacks and hard covers coming out, so there’s less chance of getting as much attention as you’re used to, and reorders are down because of it. As the number of trade paperbacks and graphic novels increases, the number of SKUs increases, the number of units sold per SKU is decreasing. There are very few exceptions to this. I remember looking at the Diamond chart from a month or two ago and the bestselling trade paperback that month was 7,000 units. It might even have been a Walking Dead trade paperback, and as much as two years ago the bestselling trade paperback sold 12-15,000 units.” [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | The Avengers, comics and the evolution of storytelling

The Avengers #1

Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]

Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]

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Read the FULL issue of 12-Gauge Comics’ Anti / The Ride FCBD flipbook

If you missed out on Free Comic Book Day or didn’t get a chance to grab a copy of every release, we can help you out with at least one of this year’s offerings. Courtesy of our friends at 12-Gauge Comics, we’re pleased to present their entire FCBD comic right here.

Their flipbook contained two stories, the first being Anti, by Walking Dead and Aliens producer Gale Anne Hurd, Gotham City Sirens writer Peter Calloway and artist Daniel Hillyard. Here’s a description:

Legendary producer Gale Anne Hurd (AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, TERMINATOR, ALIENS) teams with 12-Gauge Comics to present the tale of Zachary, a faithless man forced to confront the reality that he’s the savior of the world. Chased by demons that have infiltrated earth disguised as humans, while grudgingly protected by demon-hunter Jordan, the journey for knowledge, survival and more begins here! Written by Peter Calloway (GOTHAM CITY SIRENS, BATMAN: JOKER’S ASYLUM) with a cover by industry legend Brian Stelfreeze (BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT), this special intro to ANTI #1 will not disappoint!

The first issue of Anti arrives in July and will cost a buck.

The second story is a continuation of 12-Gauge’s The Ride, this time by Nathan Edmondson of Grifter and Who Is Jake Ellis? fame, along with artist Paul Azaceta, who has worked on Amazing Spider-Man and Graveyard of Empires, among other titles. Here’s a description:

As an added bonus, the time is now for the highly anticipated return of THE RIDE in this special co-feature story! Writer Nathan Edmondson (Grifter, Who Is Jake Ellis?) and artist Paul Azaceta (The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil) put the pedal to the metal when the acclaimed crime-anthology roars back into comic stores– leading directly into an all-new The Ride series!

Check out both stories after the jump.

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Comics A.M. | Tunisian broadcaster fined for airing Persepolis

Persepolis

Legal | A Tunisian court last week convicted Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” by broadcasting the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which features a scene that briefly shows an image of God. The Oct. 7 airing resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Karoui was fined $1,600 by the five-judge panel; two members of his staff were fined $800 each. Prosecutors and attorneys representing Islamist groups pushed for Karoui to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Others argued for the death penalty. [The Washington Post]

Business | Target will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores over a dispute regarding “showrooming,” where consumers check out a product at Target stores and then go home to buy it on Amazon for a cheaper price. Around Christmas, Amazon’s Price Check app gave shoppers a 5 percent discount on any item scanned at a retail store. “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices,” Target executives wrote in a letter to vendors. Target will continue to carry Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Aluratek Libre. [The New York Times]

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