For a comic series that owes its inspiration to throwback grindhouse films, A.K.A. sure uses cutting-edge technology to get it done. The retro revenge story by Steven Walters and Rob Reilly is set to hit shelves this summer, but it’s already made its premiere digitally — and it wouldn’t have been finished at all if it weren’t for online fundraising. The story follows a mob bodyguard tasked to take down his boss’ rival after the target is found carousing with the boss’ daughter.
“A.K.A. is a 4 part,70′s grindhouse inspired, crime/action mini-series about what happens when you cross the wrong people,and those people who put a million dollar bounty on your head afterwards,” Walters explains.
A.K.A.‘s creators took full advantage of the modern tools of digital comics publishing to see their idea to fruition. In May 2011, Reilly and Walters used Kickstarter to fund the lettering and coloring of the four-part series, and now in February of this year they debuted the full series exclusive to digital on Graphic.ly. And now they’re taking the book to the next stage of its journey with a print edition available for pre-order in this month’s Previews.
Here’s a four-page preview of the first issue:
In the wide world of comics there’s always a need for talented people — and not just for creating the comics. The books you read every day are supported by an immense infrastructure of editors, publishers, designers, distributors and retailers that make American comics what it is today. And despite the frail economy, the comics industry is looking for employees.
We’ve compiled a list of all the openings in the comics industry for non-creative office positions and put it all into one place. It’s a good resource if you’re looking to work in comics, and also for armchair speculators seeing what companies are looking to do by seeing what positions they’re hiring for. We accumulated these by looking on publisher websites and job boards — if you know of a job not listed here, let us know!
Image Comics has released a digital version of the Extreme Preview book that was available at the New York Comic Con last weekend, and thanks to the embed feature offered by Graphicly, you can read it right here. It can also be downloaded via ComiXology, Graphicly, iVerse and Diamond Digital.
The preview book offers a look at Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s Prophet, Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s Glory; Alan Moore, Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher’s Supreme; Tim Seeley and Francheco Gaston’s Bloodstrike; and John McLaughlin, Jon Malin and Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood. The first comic from the revived Extreme, Prophet #21, arrives Jan. 18.
Broadway | Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the retooled $75 million Broadway musical, took in $1.7 million for the week ending this past Sunday, which is above the $1.2 million the producers have indicated they need to reach to stay viable. The amount made it the No. 3 musical for the week, after Wicked and The Lion King. [Associated Press]
Legal | Robert Corn-Revere, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s general counsel, discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. EMA, which sought to ban the sale of violent video games to minors. He notes that the court drew upon the history of comic book censorship in reaching its conclusion to reject the ban: “Citing the amicus brief filed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, it noted the crusade against comics led by Dr. Frederic Wertham and observed that it was inconsistent with our constitutional traditions. The Court traced the history of censorship that targeted various media directed toward the young and held that restricting depictions of violence could not be justified under established principles of First Amendment law.” [CBLDF]
Awards | Jeff Lemire’s acclaimed Essex County was the first finalist eliminated Monday in the Canada Reads literary debates to select the essential Canadian novel of the decade. Despite a defense by musician Sara Quin, the graphic novel was voted down by the five-person celebrity panel after the first hour, not because of content but because of format: Four of the judges just couldn’t get past Essex County‘s “lack of words.” This year marked the first time that a graphic novel had been a finalist for the prestigious Canada Reads program.
“Well, I was the first book voted off of the Canada Reads competition today, and I’ll admit that it stings a bit more than I thought it would,” Lemire wrote on his blog. “But, in the end I am really proud of the accomplishment of making it to the final 5. It’s a great sign for the future of graphic novels in this country, and their continued acceptance mainstream literary circles on a whole.” [Afterword, CBC News]
Publishing | More details have begun to emerge about the abrupt closings of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, and the announcement of a new public company headed by Gareb Shamus. ICv2.com reports that Wizard World Inc. was taken public through a reverse merger with a shell company, a failed oil and gas venture known as GoEnergy Inc., which acquired the assets of Kick the Can, a corporate repository for the assets of Shamus’ Wizard World Comic Con Tour. Following the acquisition, GoEnergy’s chairman and chief financial officer resigned and was replaced by Shamus. In the process, the new company raised capital through the issuance of $1.5 million in preferred stock. Meanwhile, an anonymous Wizard staff member reveals to iFanboy he was informed that the magazine had folded during a phone call Sunday evening, and was not permitted to collect personal belongings. A freelance contributors writes at Bleeding Cool that he learned about the closing through a Facebook message on Monday morning.
The comics Internet is swarming with reaction pieces: Andy Khouri points out the huge number of comics editors, bloggers and journalists who got their starts at Wizard; Heidi MacDonald does the same, noting that it was “a total boys club”; Albert Ching surveys numerous creators and editors; and Robot 6 contributor, and former Wizard staffer, Sean T. Collins comments on the magazine’s demise and rounds up links.
The Grave Doug Freshley is a comic with a lot of promise. It’s the story of a former farmhand and tutor who rises from the grave to seek revenge on the gang of outlaws that killed him and the family he worked for. The comic was first solicited in 2008, and some advance copies must have gone out, because it received a positive review from Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading. ComicMix interviewed writer Josh Hechinger a few months later. Hechinger (who was only 20 at the time) described the story as “[Sergio] Leone meets Looney Toons.”
And then … crickets. As Hechinger explains on his blog, pre-orders were too low to justify the print run, so the comic was solicited then canceled. I gather from this post that this happened not one, but three times, which must be incredibly frustrating, and Hechinger says that this last time, when the book was solicited for an October 2010 release, he didn’t do much publicity for it because he didn’t want to talk up a book and then have it not come out — again.
This is one of those situations where digital can make all the difference, though: Yesterday, iFanboy posted the news that the comic is available on Graphic.ly and showed off the first few pages with a demo of Graphic.ly’s web app. (iFanboy is owned by Graphic.ly.)
Graphic.ly is a late entry to the iPad digital comics race, but they are doing their best to catch up. This week, they are offering the first issue of Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 for free, which is pretty sweet. It’s not a new comic — it came out in 2007 — but the single issues are hard to find now, and it’s a very nice read.
While it works a bit differently than comiXology and Comics+, Graphic.ly is an interesting choice if you’re interested in alternative comics. They carry Marvel and Archie, sure, but their publisher list also includes a lot of little-known indy and self-published comics. This makes for a lot of variation in quality, frankly, but there are also some gems: If you want to read Caryn A. Tate‘s Red Plains: Range War (illustrated by Noel Tuazon, the artist for Tumor and The Broadcast), it’s there for free. And Graphic.ly seems to be the only iPad app that carries comics by Archaia, the publisher of Mouse Guard and the Fraggle Rock comics. If you’re interested in the long tail of comics, Graphic.ly is not a bad place to start.
Like most comics apps, Graphic.ly is not restricted to the iPhone and iPad; they have versions available for Adobe Air and Windows 7. (I talked to CEO Micah Baldwin about the app last September.)
What a difference a year makes! A year ago today, the iPad not only didn’t exist, it hadn’t been officially announced yet. People read comics on their iPhones and iPod Touches, but the screens were too small for a good experience (and therefore, no one wanted to spend much money on them). The iPad changed all that, with a big, full-color screen that is just a tad smaller than a standard comics page (and a tad larger than a standard manga page), and publishers started taking digital comics seriously. The distribution was already in place, thanks to the iPhone—comiXology, iVerse, Panelfly—and now the publishers not only jumped on board with those platforms but also started developing their own apps.
The digital comics scene is still developing, but the iPad was the game changer. For many people, it was the first time that they could comfortably read comics on a handheld screen. Now, it’s just a question of marketing—this year, publishers will grapple with bringing comics to a wider audience, outside the existing readership, and balancing the digital marketplace with the established brick-and-mortar retail structure.
Here, then, is a look back at our digital year.
The Register is a UK newspaper that that makes tech and business news a lot less boring by cloaking it in cheeky slang. An item that popped up today, iPad media apps: Stealthed hobbits thwart Google’s flaming Eye, caught my attention because it relates to the changing landscape of comics.
The point of the article is that iPad and iPhone apps are not accessible to Google and other internet search engines. This may not seem like a big deal, but in January, Apple will unveil the Mac Apps Store, and more and more content will be walled off in separate applications. I already use comiXology’s web app and the Mac version of the Kindle reader, so a Mac app is only a small step away from what I’m doing now.
It’s time for comics publishers and app developers to devote some serious thought to the question of how readers are going to find comics on their mobile devices. Already I have a hard time finding things in the app store, and the lack of a dedicated comics section makes it even worse. Unlike Google’s robust search engine (if I search for “Joseph Smith,” it knows to give me hits for “Joe Smith” as well, and it will ask me if I’m really looking for “Jo Smyth” if there are more hits for that), the iTunes store only responds to a handful of exact keywords.
Apple has released a list of the top apps for iPhone and iPad in its iTunes store, and three of the top five grossing book apps for the iPad are not just comics readers, they are all from comiXology: Marvel Comics, Comics (their multi-publisher reader), and DC Comics. This reflects not just the quality of the iPad as a comics medium for comics but also the large numbers of comics that must be selling through those apps (the apps themselves are free). The top grosser in the book category is The Elements, a visual exploration of the periodic table, which probably doesn’t have a lot of mass appeal but sells for $13.99, and the number five app is The Cat in the Hat, which does have a lot of appeal and sells for $3.99. That three comics apps can match that tells me that people are buying a lot of comics through them.
The pattern is the same for the rest of the top ten book apps—all but the comics apps are single-book apps (as opposed to an e-reader like Stanza), and none are free: Alice in Wonderland, the Bible, a Toy Story read-along, and two more Dr. Seuss books.
The Marvel and DC apps are number three and six, respectively, on the list of most downloaded free apps.
Does the world need another digital comics platform? Micah Baldwin, CEO of Graphic.ly, thinks it does. ComiXology was there first, with its own Comics reader and branded apps for Marvel and Archie comics, and Longbox claims to be forging the “iTunes for comics,” but Graphic.ly offers something more: The ability for readers to comment and chat with one another right on the comics page. Last week, Marvel Comics became the latest publisher to sign on to Graphic.ly, and since I had just talked to Ira Rubenstein of Marvel about the deal, it seemed an opportune time to check in with Baldwin and see how the rollout of Graphic.ly (currently available on Windows PD, Adobe Air, and iPad) is going.
Both Longbox and ComiXology offer the ability to read a comic across multiple platforms. How would you differentiate Graphic.ly from them?
There are plenty of platforms out there that are trying to be the largest comic book store online, the Diamond of digital. We are really focused on community building and creating what we believe is currently missing online, which is the replication of the old school comic book experience, where you go and hang out and talk about comics. It wasn’t just reading the book but also about sharing and discussing the story. That’s what our platform is built for.
Another week, another digital platform: Marvel announced last week that it will make its comics available on Graphic.ly. It has been almost three years since Marvel launched its first digital initiative, the subscription-based Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Since then it has also made its content available through a few different iPhone/iPad applications, including a Marvel-branded one created by comiXology. Like the Marvel app (and unlike Marvel DCU), Graphic.ly allows readers to download comics and keep them; what makes it unique is its social networking aspect, which lets readers post comments about the comic directly on the pages.
I checked in with Marvel’s Ira Rubenstein, executive vice president of the global digital media group, to see how all Marvel’s digital initiatives are going and how Graphic.ly fits into the mix.
Do you anticipate releasing comics on the same day and date on Graphic.ly and in print, either regularly or occasionally?
We have done it with a few of our books, and I can’t speak for future plans but I think we will continue to experiment. Graphic.ly is just another outlet, and we believe in as wide distribution of our content as possible. The big news for Graphic.ly is this is the first time we are on a PC in a sell-through model.
Digital comics provider Graphic.ly, one of several digital comics companies that sells Marvel titles via an iPad application, announced via press release today that they will now offer single issues of Marvel titles on multiple platforms — including their desktop application, Android phones and more.
“This means that the vast collection of Marvel Comics, previously only available on the desktop via the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Platform on Marvel.com can now be downloaded and enjoyed by you on the Graphic.ly desktop application, also meaning that you no longer need to be connected to the Internet in order to read your Marvel Comics in full resolution on your desktop monitor,” noted iFanboy’s Ron Richards, the comics podcast/community owned by Graphic.ly. “Additionally, if you’re one of the millions who don’t actually have an iPad or iPhone (like me), you can now purchase, download and enjoy reading Marvel Comics on your desktop computer.”
The full press release can be found after the jump.
Digital comics | Following more than two years of complaints, Apple has given developers the guidelines it uses to determine which programs can be sold through its App Store, and relaxed some restrictions on content and tools. The company recently was criticized for forcing the creators of a comic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses to remove nonsexual nudity from some panels — Apple later changed its stance — and for initially rejecting an app from Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore because his animated political satire contained “content that ridicules public figures.” Alan Gardner notes that the revised guidelines specifically exempt “professional political satirists and humorists” from a clause prohibiting defamatory or offensive material. [The Associated Press]
Comic strips | After 60 years with United Feature Syndicate, Peanuts will move in February to Universal Uclick. The news isn’t totally unexpected, as Iconix Brand Group partnered with the heirs of Charles M. Schulz in April to buy the rights to the comic strip from United’s parent company E.W. Scripps. The $175 million deal was for the entire United Media Licensing division, which includes Dilbert. [Comic Riffs]