"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Passings | Michael C. Gross, the artist, designer and film producer best remembered for creating the iconic Ghostbusters logo, passed away Monday following a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 70 years old. Hired in 1970 as the art director of The National Lampoon, Gross is credited with pioneering the magazine’s approach to comics and illustration; he’s also famed for his notorious cover bearing the headline, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.” Gross was encouraged by his friends John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd to move in the early 1980s from New York to Los Angeles, where he produced such films as Heavy Metal, Twins and both Ghostbusters films, and worked on the animated series The Real Ghostbusters. [The Associated Press]
Frank Santoro has been teaching up-and-coming cartoonists about the ins and outs of the creative process online for a while now — on his blog, his Tumblr, his articles at The Comic Journal and his online correspondence course. Now he’d like to start doing it in person, but opening a school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency — and he’s turned to crowdfunding to make it a reality.
“Our plan for the school is to create a dojo for students much like a martial arts academy,” he says on his IndieGoGo campaign page. “The beginner student will learn from more experienced students. We run the school like a sports clinic. What’s wrong with your swing? We can fix it. The dojo sparring sessions (so to speak) will be recorded and broadcast. We want to have a ‘broadcast booth’ and a radio show. We can interview veterans and rookies and make room for friendly competition in order to push the boundaries of what is possible in the artform. This is not your regular comic book academy. This is a ninja academy, a samurai school, a Jedi academy. I do a really good Yoda impression.”
Santoro’s offering several great rewards for contributing to the campaign, including gift certificates to comic shops, comics by Simon Hanselmann and Gary Panter, Connor Willumsen commissions and residencies at the school. The $29,000 he’s looking for will be used to help buy the house next door to Frank and make improvements to it.
For more information, check out the IndieGoGo page or watch the video below.
Creators | Scott Chantler, creator of Two Generals and the Three Thieves series of children’s graphic novels, will be the first-ever cartoonist in residence at the University of Windsor, in Ontario. [Our Windsor]
Cosplay | Alyssa Salazar, who runs the Tumblr The Hijabi Lolita, talks about combining frilly dresses and headscarves: “There’s really no difference, because Lolita is fairly modest to begin with. I could wear this without a scarf.” And don’t get creepy with her, because she carries pepper spray. [Vice]
Manga | The first printing of One Piece, Vol. 77, may have dropped below 4 million, but its sales aren’t slacking. According to Japanese market research firm, the latest volume of Eiichiro Oda’s hit manga has sold nearly 1.67 million copies since its release on Friday, more than seven times that of the No. 2 title on the weekly sales chart, the 67th volume of Tite Kubo’s Bleach. That’s marks a new weekly sales record for the year, surpassing the 67th volume of One Piece, which sold 1.6 million copies upon its release in January. [Crunchyroll]
The Cartoonists Rights Network International has set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000 to extend its efforts, which include advocating for freedom of speech, getting the word out when a cartoonist is in peril, and working behind the scenes to aid cartoonists in trouble.
The organization offers a downloadable manual for cartoonists, and also presents the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award each year to “a cartoonist who is in great danger or has demonstrated exceptional courage in the exercise of free speech rights, or both.”
Cartoonist Jose Garcia has been hard at work on a 120-page wordless graphic novel that explores four romance stories set in the four seasons. He’s looking to self-publish the book, fittingly titled Seasons, next year.
“Each one has its own mood and peace,” Garcia writes on the project’s Indiegogo page. “[Seasons is] based solely on feelings so I intend that each reader interpretation depends on his or her mood, and that by reading it in different occasions, the story’s meaning change!”
Following largely positive response to his teaser for a darker take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Benjamin Eck has launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund his short film TMNT: Banished.
In the live-action fan film, Raphael banished by Splinter after his “uncontrollable violence” begins to pose a threat to his family. Accompanied by Casey Jones, he takes refuge in Los Angeles, where “he will quickly discover that he’s not New York City’s only secret hiding on the West Coast.”
A little more than a year after it opened its doors, Mobile, Alabama, retailer 99 Issues Comics & Gaming has run into a problem: It’s outgrown its space.
When it opened in March 2013, the store carried just 99 titles to complement its name — yes, it’s a reference to the Jay-Z song — but within months that number had grown to more than 200 new releases, plus a selection of back issues. Add to that an area for playing video games, display cases and a desire to hold more in-store artist signings and, well, you can imagine things get a bit crowded — so much so that owner Chris Barnett says he loses money on every event.
In hopes of alleviating that problem, Barnett has turned to Indiegogo to raise $5,000, half of what he needs to expand the store. The rest will come out of his own pocket.
Retailing | The manager of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games in Omaha, Nebraska, estimates 50 to 60 percent of their inventory was ruined by smoke and water after a fire broke out Sunday in the building that’s housed the store’s main location since 1976. Employees have been sorting through tens of thousands of comics to determine what can be salvaged while directing customers to the Dragon’s Lair store in the city’s Millard neighborhood. The hope is to use a store room next to the damaged building to begin offering limited services to customers — pull lists and special orders — as the retailer plans for what comes next. “We have every intention of reopening, here or elsewhere,” manager Craig Patterson said. “More than likely it will be elsewhere. And hopefully bigger and better than before.” [World-Herald]
After growing to 2 percent the size of the direct market in the last quarter of 2013, the crowdfunding sector of comics stumbled in January, even while the younger Patreon expanded.
Following up on my number-crunching and analysis from last month, I’ve continued tracking the progress of a market within comics that’s only beginning to mature. While there are more than two dozen crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been the established leaders from the get-go, especially in terms of comics-related campaigns. There is a smattering of comics projects on sites like GoFundMe, but by comparison those could be considered the long tail of this market. A crowdfunding hit has yet to occur on a platform other than Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
That could change with Patreon, however. As our ROBOT 6 contributor Chris Arrant noted last week, Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal was already bringing in $7,500 a month after launching his campaign on Dec. 10. At the time of this writing, that amount is now $7,822.86 each month of comics he produces (minus Patreon’s fees). That;s coming from 2,839 patrons, or supporters. Meredith Gran’s campaign for Octopus Pie, which launched at the beginning of this month, already has more than $750 per month from 235 patrons. Last month, I would’ve included Patreon in the previously mentioned long tail with GoFundMe; however, those two high-profile campaigns are drawing attention to Patreon, so I wanted to see if I could better measure its footprint, and see how it stands up against Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Surprisingly, it turns out that Patreon could eclipse Indiegogo as the No. 2 comics crowdfunding platform.
After about five years of slowly building momentum, the crowd-funding sector of comics may be nearly 2 percent the size of the direct market. Based on analysis of the past three months of campaigns, funds generated through Kickstarter and Indiegogo would be roughly the equivalent of the sixth- or seventh-largest publisher distributing to specialty shops in North America.
While crowd-funded comics haven’t seen as brisk of an increase as digital comics, it’s a sector of the industry that’s undeniably growing. As more established creators and publishers experiment with running campaigns, they have pulled in their readers, increasing the awareness, and even the legitimacy, of the platforms. I’ve found this area to be under-studied, and I was curious to see just how economically significant crowd-funding is becoming to the comics industry. So I have collected data on every campaign that successfully raised funds through Kickstarter and Indiegogo from October 2013 to December 2013. I’m actually going further back than that, but that data isn’t ready yet; I’m still digging through the numbers, as data collecting, sorting and number-crunching can be challenging due to the different platforms and currencies. But I wanted to make public what I have so far because as we head into 2014, following Fantagraphics’ amazing Kickstarter campaign (as just one example), I believe we’re going to be seeing the industry embrace crowd-funding more and more, and there’s a lot we can still learn about how it works and how it affects comics.
Artist Pere Perez has worked on comics for the likes of Dark Horse DC, Marvel and Valiant, but now he’s poised to strike out on his own with his first creator-owned graphic novel Shaolin Mutants.
Described by Perez as an “epic kung-fu adventure,” Shaolin Mutants follows a kung fu-trained Shaolin monk named Leroy as he fights mutant armies in a near-future apocalyptic world. Kung fu is often used in comics, but Perez has a leg up on many of his colleagues: He’s a black-belt Wing Chun instructor who’s been practicing martial arts for nearly two decades.
“My love for martial arts has triggered the creation of this book, and my knowledge of them has helped me to create fighting choreographies and page layouts unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a comic book,” Perez writes on the Indiegogo page for Shaolin Mutants. “Also, I’ve tried to explain the philosophical and moral aspects of martial arts, so hopefully this book is not just an anthology of cool action scenes.”
Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been a boon for independent comic creators, providing much-needed start-up cash to get their projects off the ground. Similar in scope to the rise of underground comix in the 1960s or the black-and-white boom of the 1980s, it’s changed the game for a number of creators. That’s why recent news that the massive video game publisher Square Enix is partnering with Indiegogo is so interesting.
To briefly summarize: Square Enix is one of the big players in the video-game market, especially in Japan, with titles such as Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider. In the partnership with Indiegogo, the two companies have essentially formed a think tank for independent developers outside of Square Enix to post video game proposals as Indiegogo campaigns. If they’re successful in the crowdfunding stage, they’ll receive marketing and development help from Square Enix to make the projects a reality. Going further, Square Enix even says there’s a possibility that video game developers could pitch projects based on the company’s immense back catalog.
The Northlake Public Library in suburban Chicago unveiled its Hulk statue earlier this month to a crowd of more than 300. ^Trustee Tom Mukite, who joined the board specifically to spearhead the statue campaign, called the event the “largest turnout at the library ever.”
Mukite and the other trustees launched an Indiegogo campaign in April to make improvements to the library that included the addition of a Hulk statue to help attract visitors. According to the campaign’s page, “Today’s libraries are celebrating creativity, entertainment and life long learning, and they are doing it with technology and popular materials including graphic novels.” It continued, “We want to smash [libraries’] stuffy reputation with a 9 foot tall Incredible Hulk Statue.” In explaining why the Hulk is an appropriate decoration for the library, the campaign said, “Just as Dr. Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk, we want our library community members to make their own personal transformations through books, programs, and awesome new equipment. […] The project will show off the fun side of the library and get the community talking. The Hulk will force patrons to look at the library in a whole new way.”
Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew apologized today for four comic strips that were formerly posted on his Facebook page Demon-Cratic Singapore. In a statement released by his lawyers, Chew said, “I accept that (the) comic strips had misrepresented to the public that the Singapore Judiciary administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation, and that there have been specific criminal cases in which decisions were made by the Singapore judiciary on the basis of the above factors rather than on the merits.” In light of the apology, and the fact that the strips have been taken down, the Attorney-Generals Chambers has dropped contempt of court charges against Chew. The cartoonist was also charged with sedition in April, but those charges have been dropped as well. [Straits Times]