Awards | Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, written by Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton and illustrated by Greg Chapman, won the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a graphic novel, presented over the weekend by the Horror Writers Association. Winners with a comic-book connection in other categories include Caitlin R. Kiernan (novel, The Drowning Girl), Jonathan Maberry (young-adult novel, Flesh & Bone), and Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (screenplay, The Cabin in the Woods). [Horror Writers Association]
Graphic novels | Heidi MacDonald looks at Dark Horse’s plans to expand its Originals line of creator-owned graphic novels this year; upcoming releases include print editions of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Bandette and Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo, as well as a new graphic novel, Bad Houses, by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Image Comics provided the retail news and analysis website ICv2 with worldwide pre-order figures for 15 of its March titles, allowing for comparison with estimates of Diamond Comic Distributors sales to U.S. direct market stores. [ICv2.com]
Creators | Mark Waid pens a tribute to the late Carmine Infantino. [Hero Complex]
Creators | Gilbert Hernandez distinguishes between autobiography and art in his new graphic novel, Marble Season, which takes on a 1960s suburban childhood not unlike his own. [Chicago Reader]
The animated cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is already a hit in Japan (where the title is My Little Pony ~Tomodachi wa Mahō~), and now it’s coming to the pages of the children’s manga magazine Pucchigumi as well. The news was revealed at the Tokyo International Anime Fair, where, according to Anime News Network, a flyer was passed out with the news. A representative from the Japanese company Bushiroad told ANN that the artist for the manga will be named sometime this spring.
Pucchigumi sounds like the sort of magazine that kids love and parents loathe; it runs a lot of licensed series based on properties such as Barbie, Tamagotchi, and Jewelpet. A glance at the cover of the current issue reveals a crowded layout, an excess of pink, and lots of big-eyed, super-cute characters, so Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle should fit right in.
Pucchigumi is published by Shogakukan, one of the parent companies of Viz, so if the manga were ever to be licensed in the U.S., that’s who would probably publish it—and indeed, it would be a logical addition to their VizKids line. Of course, IDW already has a serialized My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic, so the relationship could be complicated.
Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]
Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]
This week Fantagraphics shipped Popeye Vol. 6: Me Little Swee’Pea, the final book in the publisher’s thorough collection and handsome representation of the entirety of E.C. Segar’s comic strip starring the immortal, iconic sailor character.
So once that book has been read and enjoyed, what is an insatiable Popeye fan to do then?
Well, I’m glad I asked myself that, because it provides a perfect segue into IDW’s Popeye #1, which also shipped this week.
Like BOOM!’s recent Peanuts comics, there’s an aura of superfluity about the endeavor: Does the world need more, Segar-less Popeye comics when there are so many hundreds of pages of Popeye comics by Segar so easily available?
I honestly don’t know, and I suspect the answer to that question varies from potential reader to potential reader.
Certainly plenty of Segar-less Popeye narratives in various other media already exist, and certainly the character is familiar to folks around the world who may have never read a single one of the great cartoonist’s strips, thanks to decades worth of animated cartoons, a few video games and that Robin Williams movie.
Here’s something I do know, though: If there are going to be new Popeye comics, then I hope they are all as good as Popeye #1.
Here’s the thing: Considering how much that I love 2000AD and Judge Dredd, you’d think I’d be much more excited than I am about IDW Publishing’s announcement at WonderCon that they have the American rights for Dredd material. Sadly, I have enough of a memory to know that this might just lead to more fan heartbreak.
Passings | Classic comics artist Sheldon Moldoff, who co-created Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat Hound, passed away Wednesday. He was 91. Moldoff broke into comics at the age of 17 with a sports filler that appeared on the inside back cover of Action Comics #1. He went on to become a prolific cover artist, drawing the first cover image of the Golden Age Flash for Flash Comics #1 and the Golden Age Green Lantern for All-American Comics #16. He also worked on comics featuring Hawkman, Kid Eternityand Black Pirate. He also was one of the pioneers of horror comics in the late 1940s and worked as a “ghost artist” for Bob Kane on Batman from 1953 to 1967. After being let go by DC Comics in 1967, he went on to work in animation. [News from ME]
Conventions | Badges for Comic-Con International sold out Saturday morning within an hour and a half, a record for the annual pop-culture extravaganza. Last year it took about seven hours for badges to disappear. [U-T San Diego]
When Apple opened its iTunes bookstore last year, comics and graphic novels were just mixed in with everything else. That changed today, as Apple introduced its Comics and Graphic Novels Section.
The selection is rather eclectic, with everything from Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland to The Walking Dead to How to Draw Manga. There are separate sections for Marvel, children’s comics, and collections of newspaper strips, which is a great idea, but everything else is a bit of a mishmash. (Most of these books were already in the iTunes bookstore; this page just collects them in one place for easy browsing.) In addition to Marvel and Image, the publishers represented include IDW (with their Locke and Key books), Archie, Seven Seas, and Manga University—but I didn’t see any DC titles. It’s definitely a bookish selection, but there are some bargains—and even some freebies—to be had.
While Marvel publisher Dan Buckley has been denying that Marvel does crossover events, IDW has been celebrating them. Its zombie series Infestation crossed over with four well known properties: Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Transformers, and G.I. Joe, and they paired two unlikely bedfellows with their Star Trek/Legion of Super Heroes crossover as well. Now they are playing matchmaker again, and this time the two properties sound like like they might be natural partners: Doctor Who and Star Trek: The Next Generation. And it’s not just the good guys who are teaming up: The Borgs and the Cybermen will be forming a partnership (excuse me, “unholy alliance”) that will force The Doctor and The Captain to work together against the common enemy. The writing chores will be shared by Star Trek: Infestation writers Scott and David Tipton and Doctor Who writer Tony Lee, and the artist will be J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel).
Here’s good news for fans of the television show Smallville who were left without their fix in May when the series went off the air for good: DC announced today that Smallville is coming back as a comic, which will be released first in digital and then in print form. The series will be written by Bryan Q. Miller, who was a scriptwriter for the show, and will pick up where the television story left off. Pere Perez, who worked with Miller on Batgirl: The Flood, will handle the art, and the digital cover above is by Cat Staggs.
DC has an interesting strategy for this comic: It will launch as a digital comic on April 13, with a new digital chapter coming out each week. (No word on pricing or length.) About a month later, it will come out as a print comic, collecting the chapters and adding an episode guide; the first print comic is due out on May 16, and Gary Frank (Superman Secret Origin) will be doing the covers for the print issues.
The weekly chapters are an interesting twist. Not only do they mimic the timing of the original show, they make the comic more of an immediate experience, something people come back to frequently and discuss in real time, as opposed to a monthly event. IDW is doing something similar with its Transformers series Autocracy, publishing an eight-page digital chapter every two weeks, priced at 99 cents. And of course there’s Shonen Jump Alpha, the digital reincarnation of Viz’s Shonen Jump, which publishes a chapter a week of six different manga within two weeks of their Japanese release, with a teen-friendly price of 99 cents per issue (less if you get the yearly subscription).
Libraries | The Center for Cartoon Studies has found a new home for the Schulz Library, whose previous location was damaged in a flood in August: the old post office in downtown White River Junction, Vermont. The school was able to purchase the building with the help of Bayle Drubel, a real estate developer and founding CCS board member who bought the post office in 2004. Renovations are set to begin this winter to create room for instruction space, faculty offices and the Schulz Library cartoon collection. [The Center for Cartoon Studies, via The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | The Atlantic profiles Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith. [The Atlantic]
Creators | Artist Fabio Moon talks about teaming with Zack Whedon on the new Serenity comic that makes up one-half of one of their Free Comic Book Day offerings. [ComicsAlliance]
One of the reasons that the digital comics distributor comiXology has done so well is that it syncs well across a number of platforms, including iOS, Android and the web. Their web store is convenient for those who prefer browsing and buying on their computer, but the Flash-based interface is a bit buggy—it never scrolled properly in my Safari browser, for instance—so I was happy to hear that they have relaunched the web store using HTML5 for the browsing and buying interface.
They also redesigned it, which is a relief; if I have one complaint about comiXology, it’s their tendency to throw a bewildering array of comics onto the screen all at once. The original webstore put a ton of comics on the front page (a page that didn’t scroll properly, remember), while this new one mirrors the design of their iPad app, with a smaller selection and tabs to allow the reader to go deeper. Navigation is pretty straightforward—the site is a little slow, but it is still in beta. The comics reader is still in Flash for now.
ComiXology CEO David Steinberger has more details at the comiXology blog, and I spoke to him about the new storefront yesterday. While the iOS app remains the most popular channel, he said, “More and more people actually use our website, once they discover it, to shop and buy, and I hope with the HTML5 release, more will do that.” One of the new features of the web store is that users can gift a cart, rather than just a single comic. “Right now we are going to finish releasing all of Bone, so you will be able to add the whole Bone series to your card and gift it to somebody,” Steinberger said. “We have Sandman at a very competitive price to the paperback. Comics people create more comics people by getting in tune with their friends and gifting them comics.”
Comics | CNN covers the upcoming wedding of Archie Comics’ Kevin Keller, who will get married to another man in Life with Archie #16. Keller was injured while serving in the military in Iraq and Clay Walker, his groom-to-be, was his physical therapist. “Riverdale is this picturesque vision of American life, and when you see yourself reflected in that, you have a role in even the most idealized version of the reality you live in,” said Matt Kane, associate director of entertainment media for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “That’s the difference between feeling like a rejected outsider and feeling like you’re a part of something.” [CNN]
Comics | Jim Caple worries that viewers of the Tintin movie won’t appreciate it the way he does, comparing old-school Tintin fans to old-school Boston Red Sox or Seattle Mariners fans: “That’s what I worry about. I worry there will be all these Tintin wannabes who only know the character from the movie, who don’t appreciate Herge’s genius, who don’t know what it was like to wait a month for the next 10-page installment or when you had to special order the few books made available in America. Fans who didn’t earn this movie.” [ESPN]
As much as I love comics, as much as I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as much as I love writing and as much as I love drawing, I do not envy the folks at IDW, who secured the license to produce new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics from the new owner of the ninja turtle characters, Viacom. Sure, from a business perspective, it sounds like a great opportunity for a comics publisher, particularly a smaller one without, say Time Warner or Disney breathing down their necks to turn huge profits constantly.
But from a creative standpoint? What do you do with the characters in 2011, after their mega-successful first life as black-and-white comics stars from the mid-eighties, their even more successful second life as late-eighties cartoon, toy, movie and marketing juggernauts, and the many, many less successful attempts to rejigger them in various media, with varying levels of success, over the course of the last ten to fifteen years? After all, even if approached as a nostalgia-driven project, there are two very different most-prevalent takes on the characters to try and tap into.
I think IDW probably has the right idea.
They somehow managed to lure back one of the two creators, Kevin Eastman, after he had been largely absent from the comics for years (His fellow co-creator, Peter Laird, had been heavily involved in the last Mirage series, just previous to the Viacom sale). Eastman is co-writing the new series with Tom Waltz, and co-penciling with artist Dan Duncan, essentially providing layouts for Duncan to finish.
They also chose to start fresh with the narrative instead of picking up where one of the past volumes of the comics left off, or simply rebooting and telling the same old story all over again. There are, so far, some pretty key differences, including a new villain and the fact that the four title characters didn’t all grow up together.
I don’t know how well IDW is serving the many potential TMNT audiences, but I was pretty excited to see a “micro-series” starring Raphael on the stands this week.
“We had a record amount of entries from publishers this year with more than forty-five different titles” said FCBD spokesperson Leslie Jackson. “Retailers on the committee had a tough time deciding on which titles to choose for Gold sponsorship, but we’re sure fans will be pleased with the line-up for next year.”
While the choices may have been difficult, it’s hard to imagine that someone couldn’t come up with something more enticing than what Image has to offer: “An anthology featuring all-new stories with a mix of Image’s old and new best loved characters!” Could you possibly get any vaguer than that? They don’t even have a cover design. If my comic got bumped for that, I’d be steaming. On the other hand, Archaia’s 48-page hardcover, featuring new material (not reprints or bits of something to come) looks mighty sweet, all the more so because they name names: A Mouse Guard story from David Petersen, a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story by Ted Naifeh and Cory Godbey, a side story from Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust, a Cursed Pirate Girl story from Jeremy Bastian, a Cow Boy story by Chris Eliopoulos and Nate Crosby, and a Dapper Men tale from Jim McCann and Janet Lee. There’s this year’s wow factor.
The line-up actually seemed pretty obvious to me, so I went back and looked at the Gold Sponsors for the past five years. Sure enough, six of the publishers are there every year: Archie, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel. Since five of these are also Diamond’s premier publishers, and Archie is a newsstand juggernaut, there’s no surprise there. BOOM! Studios has been a Gold Sponsor for the past four years and Archaia for the past three. The other slots vary: Ape Entertainment was a Gold Sponsor in 2011 and 2010 but is missing this year, and Bongo and Oni are back after a two-year absence. Others who have popped up once or twice in the past five years: NBM/Papercutz (2011), Drawn & Quarterly (2010), Viz (2008 and 2009), Dynamite (2008), Virgin (2008), Gemstone (2007), and Tokyopop (2007).
There’s more to come: The Silver Sponsors will be announced next week.