There’s a brave new world of digital comics out there, but some publishers, it appears, aren’t taking it very seriously.
One of the advantages of ebook formats like Kindle and iBooks is that you can offer the reader a free sample of the book so they can see if they will like it. The problem is that these “free samples” often consist entirely of what editors call “front matter”—title page, half-title, copyright page, and blank pages in between them. No comics.
This probably comes from automatically grabbing the first few pages of the file for the preview without checking what they are. At the downthetubes Mobile Comics blog, John Maybury offers some suggestions for publishers to get their comic into the preview and their front matter out of the way. More publishers should heed his advice, because these content-free previews are distressingly common. When I was writing about IDW’s graphic novels on iBooks the other day, I got curious and checked out some of the other offerings; of the ones I looked at, only the IDW books and Bluewater’s Violet Rose had actual previews. That’s a shame, because the preview can be a powerful selling tool—but only if it has actual content. Setting up a preview and putting nothing but almost-blank pages into it wastes everyone’s time, especially the reader’s.
Click for an example of a preview done right.
IDW Publishing launched 19 graphic novels in the iBook Store this week, hoping to bring new readers to the medium by placing their graphic novels in the same space as related prose books. Jeff Webber, director of ePublishing for IDW, told Macworld that the comics apps were successful in bringing the comics to established comics readers, but that people who don’t regularly read comics are less likely to encounter them; putting the books in the iBooks Store will ensure that Anne Rice, readers, for instance, will find IDW’s graphic adaptations of her work in the same search as her prose novels. Incidentally, the launch included Code Word: Geronimo, IDW’s graphic novel about the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, which was released simultaneously in digital and print.
I fired off an e-mail to Webber with some questions, and here’s what he had to say:
Robot 6: IDW has been pretty aggressive in the digital field—you were among the first to market comics as single apps, back in the day. Why did you wait so long to go the iBooks route—and why does it make sense to do so now?
Jeff Webber: The epub format is entirely different from app development. It’s much more rigid and allows for little specialized navigation. IDW has released epub-formatted books before, we have over 200 single-issue books in the Amazon Kindle store. Those are panel-by-panel books, because the same file has to work on a Kindle or inside Kindle apps on other devices. It works fine but isn’t as perfect as using an app. The reason for the big push now is that Apple recently introduced new epub formatting tricks specific to iBooks. That has led to the great looking full-page approach we’ve developed.
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.
Comics | David Brothers argues that the problem with Miles Morales is that he is being defined as “the black Spider-Man” rather than simply “Spider-Man”: “Miles Morales is notable for being the first black Spider-Man, particularly in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, but it isn’t his blackness that makes him special. It’s the fact that he’s not Peter Parker. The fact that he’s half-black, half-Puerto Rican, (and how cool would it be if his dad was a dark skinned Puerto Rican and his mom was light skinned black?!), that it looks like he’s taking part in a lottery to get into a good school in the preview images, and that he’s thirteen years old is just sauce. It’s not the meal. It’s part of the meal, sure, but you do yourself and the character (or rather, the concept, what the character represents, or something, because we do not respect characters ’round these parts) a disservice by boiling him down to “black Spider-Man.” He’s so much more than that, judging by the press run Marvel just went on, that breaking him down to being the black Spider-Man is… it’s garbage, it’s lazy, it’s stupid.” [4thletter!]
The serious business of Comic-Con got underway Thursday in San Diego with a wave of panels and announcements. Here are the highlights:
• Announcements at the Marvel panel included Jeff Parker and Patrick Zircher’s Hulk of Arabia arc, a new Deadpool arc, an Avengers Academy recruitment drive and Villains for Hire, a new spin on the Heroes for Hire concept. Also in the works: A series of Avengers Origins one-shots.
• T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is coming back in November; the new comics will be written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Wes Craig.
• At the Marvel Digital panel, Marvel senior vice president of publishing David Gabriel announced that Marvel will begin simultaneous print and digital release of its Spider-Man and X-Men comics, starting next week with Amazing Spider-Man #666 and Spider Island line.
• At the Vertigo panel, Executive Editor Karen Berger announced a new graphic novel called Marzi that would ba marketed to both young and old readers. She also said that Vertigo will launch a new Halloween anthology in October and a totally new series later this year.
Comic-Con International in San Diego hasn’t officially started yet—tonight was Preview Night—but the news has been rolling in. So let’s take a look at today’s announcements
• Dark Horse announced three new projects earlier this evening. They will publish a comics adaptation of The Strain, the sci-fi/vampire trilogy by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The comic will be written by David Lapham with art by Mike Huddleston.
• They also announced a series written by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello with art by Scott Hepburn. Orchid is about a 16-year-old prostitute in a dystopian future “becoming the Spartacus of whores.” Each issue will come with a music track by Morello.
• And finally on the Dark Horse front, they will publish comics set in the young vampire world of P.C. Cast’s House of Night novel series. It will be co-written by Kent Dallan with art by Joëlle Jones. You can see a trailer promoting all three new books on YouTube.
Digital Manga has been aggressive about expanding its business in several different directions, but I didn’t see this one coming: This week, their eManga website is carrying a number of IDW titles, including Doctor Who, Locke & Key, and Silent Hill. Oh, and Astro Boy, of course—the movie adaptation, not Osamu Tezuka’s original.
IDW and Digital Manga couldn’t be more different, except for one thing: They were both early adopters of digital media. Both put their wares on the iPhone back in the days when every issue of a comic was a single app, and both have experimented with different formats and platforms. IDW isn’t the first outside publisher that Digital has invited over to the eManga site: They also host manga from two potential rivals, Yaoi Press and BLU.
eManga is a Flash-based site, so it won’t work on the iPad, although it should be OK with Android devices. I use it to read manga on my computer, and it works quite well, although the default image size is a bit too small for me (there’s a zoom button). It’s streaming, so you have to have an internet connection to read your comics; there is no way to download from the site.
Ever since his U.S. debut as an animated cartoon in the 1960s, Speed Racer has been zooming in and out of our consciousness. Like so many cool things, the cartoon started out in Japan as a manga, Mach GoGoGo, and was transformed into the anime that transfixed a generation of American kids. NOW Comics and Wildstorm both published American versions of the Speed Racer story, and the original manga was released in various formats. In 2008, Digital Manga released a deluxe boxed set of the entire original manga and IDW re-released the NOW and Wildstorm comics along with a new mini-series; all this was timed to coincide with the release of the Speed Racer movie.
After that, things got quiet, but last week a teaser image appeared indicating that Speed Racer is coming round the track once more. The image doesn’t give us too much to go on—no publisher or release date is listed—except for the creative team, but that is worthy of note. Topping the list is Tommy Yune, whose blend of manga and American styles were a big hit with Wildstorm’s version of Speed Racer. Also on board is veteran DC and Marvel writer Len Wein, co-creator of Swamp Thing and Wolverine. Robby Musso does work for IDW, the most recent publisher of Speed Racer comics, which makes me suspect they are behind this one as well. Lee Kohse and James Rochelle round out the creative team. With a pit crew like this, Speed Racer is off to a roaring start.
Victor Santos is showing off his Godzilla samples that got him the gig following Phil Hester on IDW’s Kingdom of Monsters series. Santos takes over in issue #5.
That’s only part of the drawing above; click through to see the whole thing, with and without inks.
iVerse, which provides the platform for the Comics+, IDW, and Archie iPad apps, has added another platform with the announcement that it has made Nook Color apps for six graphic novels: Dead Space: Salvage, Star Trek: The Official Movie Adaptation, and Parker: The Hunter from IDW, and Archie Marries…, The Archies and Josie and the Pussycats, and Archie All-Stars: Vol. 1 – Veronica’s Passport from Archie Comics.
Just like Graphicly, which announced its own set of Nook Color apps earlier this week, iVerse is releasing each graphic novel as a single app. Nook Color apps don’t seem to allow for in-app buying (I can’t check this as I don’t have an actual Nook), but this also fits the basic idea of the Nook, which is designed to be an e-reader first and foremost. Single-book apps, rather than generic comics apps, make more sense in the Nook ecosystem, as does the notion of buying a complete graphic novel rather than a series of single-issue comics.
What’s next? With two of the three major digital comics publishers making Nook Color apps, can comiXology be far behind? We checked in with comiXology CEO David Steinberger, who gave us something that sounded like a definite “maybe”:
We don’t pre-announce our plans, but we’ve stated that we’ll be on every platform that comics look great on and has a good market size. The nook may fit that requirement.
It’s not clear how the apps differ from the graphic novels already available through the Nook Store, except perhaps to expand the offerings. iOS apps started as single-issue apps as well, so maybe in-app buying is in the future.
MoCCA Fest 2011 is this coming Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, and as always, the show is bulging with new artists and established creators showing off their latest, most experimental, projects. I’m going to round up of some of the announcements that have come our way, starting with those from publishers.
Fantagraphics plans to have creators signing at their booth pretty much the whole time, with a roster that includes Kim Dietch, Peter Bagge, Dash Shaw, Michael Kupperman, Gahan Wilson, and others too numerous to mention—check out the full list at their blog. Their people are also going to be involved in a ton of panels, and with a four-table block (J1, J2, K1, K2), they should be hard to miss.
Abrams will have their usual crowd of A-list creators at their booth: Jerry Robinson, Michael Uslan, Chip Kidd, Al Jaffee, and Craig Yoe. Jaffee will receive the 2011 Klein Award for volunteer of the year, and Uslan and Robinson will be on the panel Batman, the Joker and Beyond on Sunday.
Top Shelf will be debuting two new books, Liar’s Kiss by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano, and Night Animals, by Brecht Evens. Both Skillman and Evens will be there to show off their new books. Jess Fink will also be in attendance, although her Chester 5000 isn’t due out until May.
Chris Ryall has a preview up at his blog of That Hellbound Train, a three-part miniseries based on Robert Bloch’s Hugo-winning short story “That Hell Bound Train.” (Bloch is best known as the author of Psycho, the novel on which the Alfred Hitchcock movie was based.) The story is a classic deal-with-the-devil tale with a nice twist at the end, and it should make a great coimc.
Writers Joe and John Lansdale are doing the adaptation; you may remember that Joe is also the writer for IDW’s latest iteration of 30 Days of Night. David Wachter, who was nominated for an Eisner for his work on The Guns of Shadow Valley, is the artist for the project. On his blog, David shows how he developed the first cover.
IDW is launching Godzilla: King of Monsters at the end of March, and it will be their biggest single-issue launch ever, according to editor-in-chief Chris Ryall, because of a promotion that got a lot bigger than they expected: They offered every retailer who ordered 500 or more copies of the comic a custom cover showing Godzilla crushing their comic store. They expected about a dozen retailers to take part, but they ended up with over 70, which makes for a pretty impressive print run.
Ryall credits IDW employee Chris Mowry, who works in the production department, with coming up with the idea, which must have brought a few headaches, as the art team had only two weeks to do all the custom covers. Still, the result is an instant collectible as well as a great talking point. IDW will also have special variant covers for Comic-Con featuring IDW employees fleeing the giant monster. With a well known property and the creative team of Eric Powell, Tracy March, and Phil Hester, the comic already had a lot going for it, but the custom covers put it over the top. For those who are curious, Rich Johnston has posted all the variant covers at Bleeding Cool.
Horror writer Joe Lansdale and artist Sam Kieth (The Maxx) are taking over the series, which was created by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith and was the bases for two feature films and countless spinoffs. In the original, published in 2002, vampires came to Alaska to take advantage of the 30-day-long night of the Arctic winter, using it for a prolonged feeding frenzy. In 30 Days of Night: Night Again, a group of survivors comes to an Alaskan research facility, where scientists are puzzling over a strange object found in the ice. It’s probably safe to say that bloody carnage results.
The press release is deliberately vague, but IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall shows off some of Davide Furno’s variant covers at his blog that hint at the nature of the story.
ICv2 starts off the week with a marathon interview with Ted Adams of IDW Publishing. Part 1 focuses on the current comics and graphic novel market and IDW’s place in it, which is pretty solid — sales held steady in 2009 and 2010, and last year IDW became a Diamond Premier Publisher, meaning they get featured in the front of Previews each month. Part 2 covers their digital strategy, which has been quite aggressive, and in Part 3, Adams talks about IDW’s plans for new comics and collections in 2011.
It’s all interesting reading, but of course the part that’s most interesting to me is Adams’s reflection on the digital comics market in part 2. Digital sales doubled last year, he says, but the number is still small—”an insignificant part of our net revenue.” And it seems to be new revenue: