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As we finish off Year Five of digital comics (depending on how you count things), the distribution method is positioned to bring in a continually growing sector of new readers.
comiXology, the market leader, is ending 2012 as the third highest-grossing app of the year for the iPad. That’s up from the 10th spot last year, which is even more remarkable when you consider virtually no other app made an appearance on both lists. I can’t imagine that could be accomplished strictly with purchases from direct-market customers crossing over to digital. And when you take into account that direct-market sales have also been improving, that couldn’t happen even if every reader in comics got a big raise this year and was buying both digital and print copies. Worst-case scenario, we’re winning back lapsed readers. But mixed within those two groups (current and lapsed/returning readers) has to be a third, even if only a small percentage at this time. It seems too good to be true but it’s becoming more and more likely that the elusive new reader is being reached.
As digital sales continue to grow (“getting close to 25 to 30% of print sales,” for Robert Kirkman), several elements are in place, or just about in place, that could be creating a perfect storm to increase that new readers section of the pie.
Digital comics | Comics by comiXology was the third-highest grossing app on the iPad in 2012. Last year Comics made No. 10 on the charts, and two other comiXology apps, their Marvel and DC apps, also made the Top 20. [Inside Mobile Apps]
Manga | Black Lagoon creator Rei Hiroe has announced that after a nearly two-year hiatus, he’ll resume his hit manga in January or February. The violent action/black comedy series, which centers on a team of pirates/mercenaries, is published in North America by Viz Media. [Crunchyroll]
Comics | The Dundee, Scotland, city council has approved a proposal by publisher DC Thomson to name a street in the city’s west end to honor the Bash Street Kids, stars of the long-running comic strip in The Beano. Dundee already has statues honoring comic characters Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx. [BBC News]
Comics | Laura Sneddon continues the New Statesmen’s week-long series on comics with a look at children’s comics in the U.K., including the digital relaunch of The Dandy, the continuing popularity of The Beano (which sells a respectable 30,000 copies per week) and the new kid on the block, The Phoenix. [New Statesman]
Legal | Disney has filed a motion to dismiss a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in October by failed dot-com Stan Lee Media Inc. in its sixth attempt to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney calls the lawsuit “completely frivolous,” and argues, in part, that the claims have already been litigated and rejected. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Publishing | As final print edition of The Dandy promptly sells out and the venerable U.K. children’s comic migrates online, David Fickling briefly discusses why he launched The Phoenix — a weekly geared for readers ages 6 to 12 — nearly a year ago, and why comics aren’t dead: “Reading comics was always a delight. Reading them under the bedclothes or the desk, even better. Now at last the experts are understanding the importance of reading comics. The loss of reading for pleasure has been identified as one of the principle reasons for falling standards of literacy. Perhaps part of the reason for our disgraceful literacy rates is that we don’t have comics. Comics are a link to books not competition; in short they are a great leveller.” [The Telegraph]
Digital comics | Technology journalist Andy Ihnatko discusses the significance of DC Comics’ expansion of its digital-comics availability from comiXology and its branded app to the iBooks, Kindle and Nook stores: “Now, all of the company’s titles have a presence in the same bookstore where hundreds of millions of people worldwide buy the rest of their content.” [Chicago Sun-Times]
Conventions | Steve Morris reports in on this past weekend’s Thought Bubble convention, in Leeds, England, which sounds like it was amazing. [The Beat]
Conventions | Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Young Lee has an account of Durham’s NC Comicon. [Technicianonline.com]
With Labor Day weekend upon us, now is a good time to stock the virtual longbox with some digital comics. We reported the other day that Image has made 20 of its #1 issues free on comiXology; here’s a roundup of some other free’ n’ cheap digital comics to check out over the holiday.
Centsless Books is a website that rounds up all the free Kindle books on Amazon, and it has a dedicated section for comics and graphic novels. There’s a preview of Batman: Earth One up there, and a lot of first issues of different indy series. Some of the graphic novels aren’t really — at least one book I checked was prose not a graphic novel, and Little Nemo’s Wild Sleigh Ride is a picture book that uses Winsor McCay’s illustrations (which are in the public domain). Well worth checking out, especially if you’re a First Second fan, are the two Between the Panels books, which are promotional pieces put out by Macmillan, with creator essays, character sketches and side stories, all related to different First Second graphic novels. Aside from that, it’s a pretty mixed bag, but one that looks like it will be fun to rummage around in. These Kindle comics will also work on the Kindle iPad and Android apps.
Infinity is a free iPad fanzine from Panel Nine, which has published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John and David Lloyd’s Kickback as standalone iPad apps. The inaugural issue includes an interview with Lloyd, a preview of Dapper John, a roundup of digital-comics news, a couple of app reviews, art by Simon Russell, and an interview with PJ Holden, the creator of Murderdrome, a short comic that was booted from the iTunes store for being too violent (it’s actually a spoof). It’s a nice collection and well worth the effort of clicking that iTunes button.
DC Comics announced a new digital storefront in Apple’s iBookstore this week, and for now, it’s filled with Batman graphic novels. The graphic novels were already available in iBooks, but the storefront pulls them all together in one place. Of course, you can also buy DC’s digital graphic novels via comiXology or DC’s comiXology storefront, or from DC’s Amazon storefront.
You might want to shop around a bit, though, because several of those books are cheaper on Amazon than in the iBookstore: Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, Vol. 1, is $9.68 on the Kindle, $11.99 on iBooks. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight Strikes Again are $9.99 on Kindle versus $12.99 in the iBookstore. There are a couple of more, and in each case that I saw, Kindle beat Apple, at least on price, and all were readable using the Kindle apps on the iPad and Android devices, so these digital versions are in direct competition with each other.
What’s going on here? My understanding was that Apple’s agreement with publishers who use iBooks is that they won’t sell them at a lower price elsewhere. Of course, they may be easing back on that since the U.S. Department of Justice sued them, alleging price-fixing. Or maybe it’s just a glitch.
Ben Abernathy, who left DC Comics last week after more than a decade with the company — most recently as digital editor — has joined Madefire, the innovative motion-comics company launched last year by Ben Wolstenholme, Liam Sharp and Eugene Walden.
“About two years ago Ben [Wolstenholme] and I realized there would be a point very early on where Madefire needed a full-time editor – if all went to plan!” Sharp tells ComicBooked.com. “We started to draft a wish-list – and it barely got past one! Ben Abernathy!”
Abernathy, who worked briefly for Dark Horse and Marvel, was senior editor of WildStorm until the imprint was closed in 2010 amid a corporate restructuring and he was moved with other staff to DC’s West Coast digital division. “… Ultimately, the industry is heading to a predominantly digital delivery and that’s not a reflection whatsoever on the direct market or the print publishers–it’s just a reality based on technology and the evolving audience,” Abernathy says in a Q&A on the Madefire website. “From the position I held at DC, I had the opportunity to see some of the reading tools being developed for the industry, and from the moment I saw Madefire’s work, I could tell they were ahead of the curve. Way ahead. And you’re right: I wouldn’t be answering these questions if I didn’t believe that 100 percent and wasn’t committed to doing everything possible to help facilitate this next step.”
Creators | In the wake of the FunnyJunk/The Oatmeal legal dispute, Ian Pike talks to San Diego-based webcomics creators David King and Phil McAndrew about the problem of having their work re-posted without credit. “If I were to sit there and try to hunt down all the websites that re-post my comics without my name on them,” McAndrew says, “I wouldn’t have any time to draw new stuff. So most of the time I just shrug my shoulders and keep on drawing.” One interesting sidelight is that Matthew Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, has set up a site called BearFood where users can share their favorite webcomics with the appropriate links. [San Diego Reader]
Digital comics | Matt White surveys the digital-first landscape with a look at the strategies (or the lack thereof) from publishers ranging from DC Comics to Viz Media: “While the majority of digital comics are just digitized versions of print comics, available simultaneously (known as ‘day-and-date’) or after the physical version hits shelves, current digital-first offerings seem to represent an alternative, more specific market as publishers begin to treat digital more as a complement to print rather than a replacement.” [Publishers Weekly]
The venerable British anthology 2000 AD will now available digitally worldwide, through the Apple Newsstand, the same day copies go on sale in the United Kingdom. That’s good news, certainly, for U.S. fans.
“Making 2000 AD as accessible as possible is something we’ve been working towards for some time,” Editor Matt Smith said in an announcement on the magazine’s website. “For the first time we can offer easy, quick digital subscriptions so that readers can download the latest issue with a single push of a button. If you’ve ever had trouble getting hold of the latest 2000 AD, don’t like waiting for the physical Prog to reach your shores, or you just want the ease of having digital copies then our new app is ideal.”
As an introduction for new readers, Rebellion is offering a free 69-page sampler issue featuring such recent 2000 AD stories as “Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos,” “Zombo” and “Ichabod Azrael.”
Subscribers can save up to 24 percent, and gain free access to a range of back issues. Single issues can be purchased for download for $2.99; a one-month subscription is $10.99, while three months is $2.99. An entire year goes for $109.99.
Following quickly on its Squids news, Ape Entertainment announced this morning that it’s signed a deal with developer Imangi Studios to release a series of graphic novels and digital comics based on the popular video game Temple Run.
Debuting in 2011, the endless action game revolves around explorers who attempt to steal an idol from a temple while being chased by demonic monkeys. According to the publisher, the comics will delve into the backstory of the explorers as well as the mysteries of the ancient temples. No word on the monkeys, though.
“Temple Run is by far one of my favorite adventure games on the App Store,” Ape CEO David Hedgecock said in a statement. “The thrilling gameplay plays into our plans very nicely for an extraordinary storyline that we know fans will enjoy.”
As with the previously announced Squids, the Temple Run comics will be released in print and through a standalone app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Ape has already met with great success with its adaptations of the games Pocket God — the first issue alone has sold 200,000 copies – and Cut the Rope.
Ape Entertainment, which has already released a massively successful comic based on the successful Pocket God video game, is now setting its sights on Squids, the role-playing game from French developer The Game Bakers. The licensing agreement calls for digital comics and graphic novels.
Debuting in October 2011 for iOS devices, the turn-based combat game features anthropomorphic squids attempting to defeat aquatic enemies encroaching upon their underwater kingdom. A sequel, Squids: Wild West, was released this summer.
“In terms of graphics and storytelling, the SQUIDS games already have a lot in common with comics, so continuing and expanding the adventure in comic books is a natural step,” The Game Bakers COO Audrey Leprince said in a statement.. “Ape Entertainment has a proven track record within the comics industry and we’re excited to partner with them to bring our hungry fans more of the SQUIDS stories they love.”
Ape plans to release the Squid comics in print and through a standalone app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Madefire, the company Dave Gibbons mentioned in his recent interview with us, this morning launched a free iPad app with new motion comics by the Watchmen co-creator, Mike Carey, Liam Sharp, Robbie Morrison and others.
The Madefire App debuts with the first episodes of the “Motion Books” Treatment: Tokyo and Treatment: Mexico City, by Gibbons, Kinman Chan and Robbie Morrison, and Mono, by Ben Wolstenholme and Sharp. Subsequent episodes will be available twice a month. There are also previews of future comics by Carey and David Kendall, Haden Blackman and Gary Erskine, and others.
“Madefire is igniting a new era by creating a modern, dynamic reading experience and bringing that to the millions of iPad users around the world,” Gibbons said in a statement. “It is exciting to be able to bring this robust storytelling into the 21st century while also democratizing the ability to publish comic books.”
Watch a video demonstrating the “immersive experience” of the Motion Books below. The Madefire App is available for free from iTunes.
After bringing Classics Illustrated into the digital age, and onto Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet, in March, Trajectory Inc. announced this morning it has teamed with Apple to deliver the enduring comics series on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Debuting in 1941 as Classic Comics, Classic Illustrated adapted such literary works as Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans and Jane Eyre, publishing 169 issues during its 30-year run. More than 120 titles are available from Apple’s iBookstore.
“Making the Classics available in digital form brings these brilliant works to where people live now, on their mobiles,” Trajectory CEO Jim Bryant said in a statement. “The iPad and iPhone are great for interacting with one of the most beloved comics and graphic novel series of all time.”
The Vampire Chronicles novelist Anne Rice also endorses the series, saying, “I remember reading Jane Eyre in the Classics comics and how much I loved the details and seeing the madwoman in the attic in those little panels and seeing the whole novel play out. What always drew me were very detailed, representational drawings, rather than something abstract. I wanted to see a lot of richness and a lot of depth.”
Watch the trailer and read the press release below.
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MAD Magazine will release an iPad app featuring exclusive content, interactive stories, MAD videos and access to MAD library on April 1, the birthday of their legendary mascot Alfred E. Neuman. The app will be free to download through the App Store and will include a mixture of free and paid content, including a free preview of the magazine.
“We’re delighted to bring MAD to the iPad,” said MAD editor John Ficarra in a press release. “We think the MAD app may be just the thing to turn the struggling iPad around and make it successful -though most experts think it may be just the thing that kills it altogether.”
The MAD app will include interactive versions of all current issues, access to a library of back issues and books, animated covers and “fold-in” pages and promo videos from the MAD Cartoon Network show. In addition to the regular issue interactive “fold-in,” digital issues will also include a second, classic interactive “fold-in” from a past issue. Fans of Sergio Aragones’ MAD Marginals will enjoy a feature that allows readers to “pop-up” the margin artwork for a larger, more detailed view.