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The announcement late last month that digital distributor Graphicly would close and its key employees join self-publishing platform Blurb was met immediately by questions, many of which centered on whether the company’s clients will be paid what they’re owed.
Originally envisioned as “iTunes for comics,” Boulder, Colorado-based Graphicly was soon overshadowed by competitor comiXology, and in 2012 shuttered its comics app to focus instead on providing visually based books and comics to eBook platforms. In its most recent incarnation, Graphicly was a digital conversion and distribution service: For a fee of $150, the company would convert a comic to ePub and other formats and distribute it to digital platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iBooks. Graphicly would then act as middleman, collecting money from sales on those platforms and passing it along to the creators. Unlike other digital comics distributors, Graphicly didn’t take a cut of sales on eBook platforms, just the upfront fee.
Since Graphicly announced its closing on May 27, a number of creators have asserted publicly that the company wasn’t tracking sales correctly and hasn’t paid them what they’re owed from sales. Bleeding Cool spoke to Dave Dellecese and representatives of Th3rd World Studios, as well as a former Graphicly employee. At The Beat, Marc Ellerby and Mike Garley told similar stories, and Eric Grissom and Dara Naraghi added their names in the comments. Ellerby tweeted:
Comics | The Lussier family of Barrhaven, Ontario, will be offering more than 25,000 comics for sale June 7 in their garage to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The Lussiers not only collect comics, they use them as part of their homeschooling curriculum, and when a comics shop in New Hampshire closed last year, they bought 20,000 comics from the owner; they also buy comics online. “We use comic books to really teach kids about life, and about finances and about debt,” said father Rob Lussier. Their collection includes The Incredible Hulk #271, which has appreciated quite a bit in value because it contains
the first an early appearance by Rocket Raccoon, who’s featured in Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Still, 12-year-old Alexandre is philosophical: “If the movie is good, [the value] will go up, but if it’s really bad, it might just plummet.” [Metro]
In what VentureBeat dubs an acqui-hire, digital comics distributor turned eBook distributor Graphicly will shut down as its key employees, including co-founder Micah Baldwin, join self-publishing platform Blurb.
“None of the assets per se are coming over, but we are talking to publishers who were on Graphicly,” Baldwin told TechCrunch. “We are hopeful that Graphicly users will take their content and manage it with Blurb, and maybe print their books there, too.”
A digital-comics pioneer, Graphicly was initially envisioned as “iTunes for comics,” a phrase commonly associated with competitor comiXology, which, aided by early deals with Marvel and DC Comics, came to dominate the market. Graphicly, which for nearly three years owned comics news/podcast site iFanboy, announced in April 2012 that it would move away from distributing comics on its own app and instead focus on providing visually based books and comics to eBook platforms like Apple’s iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
“After spending four years working on digital publishing, it became clear that we were telling half the story,” Baldwin said in a statement. “Print is not dead, it’s wildly important in the natural growth of creators, but it too is only half the story for self-publishers now. Combining the best in class print platform from Blurb, with all the ebook learning the Graphicly team has accrued over the past four years, was just too compelling an opportunity to pass up.”
According to Blurb, the addition of the six Graphicly employees will double the size of its eBook team.
The comics news site/podcast iFanboy, which was acquired in February 2010 by Graphicly, announced this afternoon it has “amicably split” with the digital comics distributor turned e-book distributor. At the same time, iFanboy co-founder Ron Richards and Image Comics revealed he has been hired as the publisher’s director of business development.
“Now before any speculation happens about nefarious business dealings or behind the scenes decisions let me be absolutely clear,” Richards wrote of the split with Graphicly. “This was a joint decision by all of us and there’s nothing to read into beyond that. Simply put, Graphicly is focusing their resources beyond comic books, and no one involved wanted to see iFanboy shut down as a result. So Graphicly generously worked with us to enable this transition back to independence.”
Graphicly announced in April that it would move away from distributing comics on its own app and instead focus on providing visually based books and comics to eBook platforms like Apple’s iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
Crime | Police in Jackson, Mississippi, have recovered a comic-book collection valued at $19,000, and arrested two suspects in the burglary. [WJTV]
Legal | Gerry Giovinco questions why Marvel and DC Comics zealously defend their intellectual property rights, going so far as to sue a birthday party company that rented out lookalike costumes, but don’t even touch the many porn parodies of their comics that have sprung up in recent years. [CO2 Comics]
Comics | A Florida mother was upset to discover Chick tracts among her children’s trick-or-treat haul, saying the comics are racist and offensive. It’s the second time in as many weeks that the long-controversial evangelical comics have been publicly called out by a displeased parent. [KTNV]
Japanese Internet provider NEC Biglobe has announced it is ending service to its Sugoi Books Android app as of Aug. 7. This isn’t really a loss for the world of digital manga, because the app wasn’t very good. When I reviewed it last year, I found that the books were overpriced and slow to load, navigation was almost nonexistent, and purchases could only be made using one of those stupid points system in which the point increments never match the price of the book — and those points expire after 180 days.
Not satisfied with a terrible user interface, however, the Sugoi folks are going to give digital naysayers more fodder on their way out the door:
This is exactly the scenario that makes skeptics say “I’ll never buy digital comics.” Sugoi’s prices were high to begin with — as I noted in the review, two chapters of one manga cost almost as much as a full volume. The prices are even higher when it turns out to be just a rental. Allowing readers to keep the books they have already downloaded on their devices isn’t tossing them much of a bone; most devices can’t hold that much, and anyway, when I tested the app, downloaded books disappeared almost immediately. And even if you succeed in downloading books for keeps, and you have an Android device with lots of space to store them, what happens when your device breaks?
Legal | A proposed Arizona law that would make it a crime to annoy or offend anyone through electronic means has been held back for revision after a number of concerned parties, including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, protested that it was too broad. The bill, which was passed by both houses of the Arizona legislature, basically took the language from the statute criminalizing harassing phone calls and applied it to all electronic devices, without limiting it to one-to-one communications. As a result, the language appears to make it a crime to post anything annoying or potentially offensive on the internet. [CBLDF]
Retailing | Brian Hibbs questions Mark Waid’s math, both with regard to comic shops and the cost of self-publishing, and brings up a number of arguments in favor of the Direct Market. He argues that having gatekeepers in the market is a good thing and that rather than refusing to take a risk on a new or different comic, retailers will go out of their way to stock comics they think their readers will like. [Savage Critics]
Creators | Novelist and X-Club writer Simon Spurrier recounts how he gave up his seat on a panel at last weekend’s London Super ComicCon to creator Tammy Taylor, in the spirit of “Panel Parity”: “Paul’s idea is that you can’t expect true gender parity in comics unless you create the conditions to facilitate it. Even if one has to dabble in positive discrimination, even if one must expect outraged cries of ‘tokenism!,’ ‘political correctness gone mad!,’ ‘patronising cockcentric condescension!,’ it’s worth it. So Paul created a movement he called ‘Panel Parity’ in which he planned to exercise the only real power he has – like any of us in the weird world of industry conventions – to make a difference. Paul pledged that whenever he’s invited onto a panel which doesn’t feature at least 50% women, he’ll surrender his own seat to a female speaker. Even if that means tracking down someone less ‘well-suited’ to discussing the topic at hand than himself. Even if it means disappointing people in the crowd who travelled to the show specifically to see him talk. As long as Said SheGuest is able to contribute in some way to the conversation, Paul feels her presence on stage is more valuable than his own. Which is a brave and important and splendid thing to say.” [Simon Spurrier]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]
Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]
Caryn A. Tate has been writing Red Plains for a couple of years now, and the world of her story, which is set in the Old West but is not bound by the traditions of the Western genre, is getting more and more complex. With the publication of The Ballad of Double Ott this week, she launches a new story arc and an intriguing new character. I talked to Tate two years ago, and this seemed like an opportune time to revisit Red Plains.
Robot 6: Is Double Ott a new character, or has he appeared in other issues of Red Plains? Who is he, and what is his backstory?
Caryn A. Tate: Double Ott is a brand new character to the series. It’s been a long time coming—he first came to me a couple of years ago, and I fleshed out the plot of The Ballad of Double Ott around the same time. But I wanted to wait for the timing to be right in the series, not just to introduce Ott, but to bring back Velasquez, who played a huge role in the Red Plains story Nice Place to Raise Your Kids Up. There had to be a good amount of time between Nice Place and The Ballad of Double Ott because I wanted there to be some anticipation for folks as to what happened to Velasquez, what was going to happen to Lupe and the other Escovidos, and there has been a whole lot of other stuff going on in town too!
Ott is a bounty hunter and an ex Buffalo Soldier who comes through the town of Red Plains hot on the trail of a white slavery ring. He’s a classic action hero badass—ready for any situation, armed to the teeth, and lives a life of adventure! Double Ott embodies my favorite action heroes that I grew up on…and in that light, he’s the one character in the Red Plains series that I take some liberties with!
Digital | Comics by ComiXology has topped Apple’s charts as the top-grossing iPad application for the last six Wednesdays. ComiXology cited the launch of DC’s New 52 initiative, as well as many other comic companies moving to a same-day digital release schedule, as reasons for its success. “When have comic books, not comic book movies, not comic book merchandise, but the actual comic books been #1 in anything, much less high tech?” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “Being the number one grossing iPad application six Wednesdays in a row isn’t just a huge milestone for comiXology, but a huge milestone for comics as a medium … and we could not be prouder.” [press release]
Creators | An auction for the naming rights to a character in Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ The Secret Service raised $5,100 for St. Bartholomew’s Primary School, where Millar attended. The money will be used to pay for field trips for the school’s students. “I’m a former pupil at St. Bartholomew’s and have so many great memories of the place,” Millar said. “I know there’s not a lot of money in local government at the moment and I was sad to hear that the annual school trip for the children had been cancelled. By establishing this fund, I hope to have a pot the head-teacher can dip into every Christmas and take the entire school to a pantomime every year.” [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser]
Anyone who has had the displeasure of editing or reading poorly executed copycat literature is likely entertained by the core premise of writer Andrew Foley & artist Fiona Staples’ Done to Death trade collection: an editor who sets out to kill the writers of bad literature. This trade collection, which was released by IDW on September 21, had quite a six-year journey to get on the shelves, as Foley explained to me in this email interview. My thanks to Foley for his time. Once you’ve read this interview, be sure to read the late September interview that Foley did with CBR’s Shaun Manning.
Tim O’Shea: How long have you been developing Done to Death and how did it come to be at IDW?
Andrew Foley: It’s taken a little over six years to finally get this collection on the shelves. The original five issues took a little more than a year from to get from the initial pitch to publication. After parting ways with Markosia Fiona and I spent quite a while looking for the right publisher for the collection. In the early portion of my career, I had publishers I was working with: abruptly go out of business; unilaterally break contracts they’d agreed to; elect not to publish several graphic novels (at least one fully illustrated) I wrote for them while being constantly reassured they would see the light of day; stiff dozens of creators when the publisher decided the moment for their wildly ambitious anthology series had passed; and just generally try to advance themselves on the backs of passionate (if naïve) creators.
There are some great indy publishers out there. Red 5 springs to mind. But there are also a distressingly high number of predatory companies around whose sole purpose is to acquire or control as much intellectual property for as little as possible in the hopes that one will become 30 Days of Night or Cowboys & Aliens and get optioned for millions of dollars. It’s a bit like playing the lottery, only each ticket represents hundreds of hours of labour on the creators’ parts.
The New York Comic Con officially opened its doors this afternoon, but comics publishers and distributors have been releasing announcements leading up to it all this week. Here’s a round-up of news from today, as well as some that hit earlier this week.
• DC Comics, who were having a pretty good week already, announced two creative team changes for the New 52. Ann Nocenti of Daredevil and Longshot fame will write Green Arrow starting with issue #7. She spoke to Comic Book Resources about her approach to the series: “I have a particular way of writing a comic. Comics are short. They are only twenty pages, so you can take a year of comics and that can be your opera, and the opera can have a lot of different passages in it. I kind of believe every issue should be a single story, just a complete story. But there is a momentum that forms like triptychs over it, and then it forms your big overtures, and then the whole thing ends up kind of operatic. I also want a beginning, middle and end, a classic short story approach to every single comic. What I do is I try to figure out, what is the kick in this comic, what is the main feeling I want to get, and everything in the comic has to serve that.”
• And Marc Bernardin (Monster Attack Network, The Highwaymen, The Authority) will take over the writing duties on Static Shock beginning with issue #7. “As a fan and as a writer, one of the great things about Static isn’t just that he’s a new hero, it’s also that he’s a young hero,” Bernardin told CBR. “He will make the mistakes of youth and, even though the New 52 is resetting a lot of heroes to their early days as do-gooders, there’s nothing quite like the fumblings of a teenager.”
In the wide world of comics there’s always a need for talented people — and not just for creating the comics. The comics 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!
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.