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Comics A.M. | Disney working to bring Marvel heroes to theme parks

Disney and Marvel

Theme parks | Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company has begun preliminary design work that will pave the way for Marvel superheroes to one day appear alongside familiar characters in Disney theme parks. Iger told shareholders attending the annual meeting Tuesday that the company has been working on some concepts, but hasn’t announced anything yet. Disney is currently developing attractions based on James Cameron’s Avatar film for its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, which are expected to be ready in 2015. [Los Angeles Times]

Comic strips | Alan Gardner counts 57 newspapers that aren’t carrying this week’s Doonesbury comics, which address a Texas law requiring women requesting an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound. But according to Universal UClick, no papers have dropped Garry Trudeau’s strip. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller discusses the Rule of Eight, which holds that independent publishers start to falter once they put out more than eight titles per month, and goes into the nuances of the theory with its originator of the idea, Marc Patten. [The Comichron]

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Archie and the gang to star in ‘story-driven game’ for iPhone, Android

Archie Comics and Canadian casual game developer Gogii Games have announced they’re working on a multi-platform, free-to-play video game featuring the Riverdale gang.

Launching on iPad, iPhone, Android and Flash — presumably, the latter means Facebook and Google+ — the story-driven game will feature “all the classic and iconic elements of Archie’s world, from Riverdale High to his two love interests, Betty and Veronica — not to mention friends and foes like Reggie, Jughead and more.”

“We’re excited and honored to be partnering with Gogii Games,” Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater said in a statement. “They came up with a way to really bring the comics to life and to engage an entirely new and fervent fan base. We can’t wait for this game to go live across all platforms and countries.”

Although the announcement notes that development is already under way, no release date has been made public.

Based in New Brunswick, Canada, Gogii boasts a catalog of more than 30 games, including Princess Isabella, White Haven Mysteries and Escape the Museum.

Comics A.M. | Berenstain Bears co-creator Jan Berenstain dies

Jan Berenstain

Passings | Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan created the popular children’s book characters the Berenstain Bears, passed away Friday at a hospital near her home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Berenstain, 88, had suffered a stroke earlier in the week. Since the release of The Big Honey Hunt in 1962, the Berenstain Bears series has grown to more than 300 books and sold about 260 million copies worldwide, inspiring animated television specials and series, museum exhibits and a stage show. Stan Berenstain passed away in 2005 at age 82. [The Washington Post]

Events | This year’s 24-Hour Comics Day will be held Oct. 20. [ComicsPro]

Comics | Here’s a variation on the comics-aren’t-for-kids-anymore theme, with reasonable parents who know they need to check what their kids are reading, and a retailer who gets it. [WNYT.com]

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Comics A.M. | Batmobile covered by copyright; more on Archie feud

A Batmobile replica from Gotham Garage

Legal | A judge refused to dismiss DC Comics’ lawsuit against Gotham Garage, a manufacturer of custom-made Batmobiles, ruling that the design of Batman’s vehicle is indeed copyrightable. DC sued the California company in May for copyright and trademark infringement, claiming Gotham Garage is confusing the public into thinking the cars are authorized products. The manufacturer asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles.” The judge disagreed, ruling that Gotham Garage “ignores the exception to the ‘useful article’ rule, which grants copyright protection to nonfunctional, artistic elements of an automobile design that can be physically or conceptually separated from the automobile.” [The Hollywood Reporter]

Legal | Nancy Hass provides a broad overview of the legal battle at Archie Comics that pits Co-CEOs Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit against each other for control of the 73-year-old company. Silberkleit, who spoke briefly to Hass before a New York judge issued a temporary restraining order last month, called claims that she’s threatened and harassed the publisher’s employees and vendors “completely untrue.” [The Daily Beast]

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Comics A.M. | How digital changed Geoff Johns’ approach to writing

Aquaman #1

Digital comics | Geoff Johns explains how digital presentation made him re-evaluate his approach to writing Aquaman #1, as digital readers focus on stories panel by panel rather than page by page. He notes that they also spend more time on individual panels, taking in all the details before moving on: “It’s weird to go back and look at some of the old comics now. If you read something in this fashion you will notice stuff that you skipped over so quickly because your eye takes in the whole page instead of the panel individually. I think that’s probably one of the biggest advantages of digital.” Johns also reveals digital considerations have also led him to scale back on internal dialogue to “let the art and characters expressions speak for themselves.” [Variety]

Digital comics | On a related note, Shaun Huston ponders the challenges of making “comics as we know them” work on digital devices: “While there’s some latitude to read full pages on the iPad, and the Fire at 4.7” x 7.5” (or the Nooks) affords that option more realistically than the iPhone or similarly-sized devices, in all of these cases there will be situations where most readers will shift to Guided View in order to effectively see some particular detail on a page. For many, Guided View will be the primary choice, which is a qualitatively different experience than reading page-by-page. In fact, while in that mode, ‘the page’ arguably becomes irrelevant as panels are strung together into one linear sequence, rather than into a series of page-specific sequences.” [PopMatters]

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Manga readers prefer print over digital

Tokyopop may be defunct as a manga publisher, but someone is still posting on its Facebook page, and it makes for some pretty entertaining reading. Because it’s Facebook, a lot of the readers are teenagers, and I think it is more representative of that segment of the manga audience than any other site.

So when whoever posts as Tokyopop asked, “How do you read manga — digitally or as a physical copy? Which do you prefer and why?” I was interested enough to tally up the answers. The responses were almost comically lopsided, with only 18 out of more than 250 commenters preferring digital; some said both, but the vast majority, almost 200, said they liked to read their manga on paper, not pixels.

Of course, what they mean by “digital” is online manga sites, almost all of which are bootleg. People read manga online because it is free and because it’s the only way to read series that haven’t been licensed in English. But they don’t like it very much. Complaints about digital included eyestrain, slow load times, and that you can’t keep the manga or take it with you. Many commenters simply said they liked the feeling of a book in their hands.

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ComiXology’s David Steinberger pulls back the digital curtain

David Steinberger at NYCC 2010

Digital comics were the big story of 2011, and there is no question that comiXology dominated the field. CEO David Steinberger and his crew realized the potential of digital media to transform comics back in 2007, but they didn’t start on the iPhone. What comiXology did first was put comics solicitations online (as opposed to trapping them in a paper catalog, as Previews does) and set up a system for digital pull lists that users could tie in to participating retailers or simply print out and bring to the store.

Now the comiXology brand means much, much more. They were among the first digital comics distributors on the iPhone and then on the iPad, and their digital comics app, simply titled Comics, is one of the top grossing apps in the iTunes store. They also have their own web store as well as an Android app. ComiXology is also behind almost every comics publisher app, including Marvel, DC, Image, IDW (a recent addition), Dynamite and BOOM! Studios, as well as single-property apps such as Scott Pilgrim, The Walking Dead, and Star Trek.

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Strawberry Shortcake gets its own app

Oh, the cuteness! Ape Entertainment has just released a Strawberry Shortcake app, based on the iVerse platform and featuring three of their new Strawberry Shortcake comics priced at $1.99 each (plus a free preview). The comics are a few months old, but that’s hardly going to matter to the core Strawberry Shortcake demographic; what will matter is that these comics are colorful, competently drawn, and full of lively characters and silly situations.

The big digital-comics news this week was that the publisher IDW, an early iVerse partner, migrated to comiXology for support of its apps. Where iVerse seems to be hanging tough is in the kids’ market—they also run the Pocket God app, and when I spoke to iVerse CEO Michael Murphey a few weeks ago, he said that their biggest selling properties were not adult comics on the iPad but children’s comics on the iPhone/iPod Touch: “Our largest selling products are kids’ products,” he told me. “Kids get the hand-me-down phones and iPod Touches. As they start getting the hand-me-down iPads after Christmas this year, that will evolve.”

In that context, a stand-alone app makes a lot of sense; Strawberry Shortcake is easy to discover in the iTunes store, and you don’t have to download a separate comics reader or create an account to use it. I do think some extras would really send this app over the top, though. A separate Strawberry Shortcake game app already exists, but it would be nice to see some puzzles, coloring pages, even music or videos, to bump up the fun content even more.

Comics A.M. | Stuck in the Middle to remain in school library

Stuck in the Middle

Libraries | A committee recommended Monday that Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age, an anthology of comics about middle school edited by Ariel Schrag, should remain in the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School library in Dixfield, Maine, after the mother of a student challenged its appropriateness because of “objectionable sexual and language references.” The local school board will make a final ruling in January. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sent a letter of support for the book prior to the hearing. A school board in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, pulled the graphic novel from middle-school libraries in November 2009, but allowed teachers to continue to use it in class. [Sun Journal]

Digital | Charlie Sorrel looks at the iPad comic reader called, appropriately enough, Comic Reader. [Wired]

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales climb 19 percent; IDW promotes Goldstein

Justice League #3

Sales | The comic book market was up more than 19 percent in November when compared with the same period last year, with comics up 23 percent and graphic novels up 12 percent. So far this year the comics and graphics novel market is up 1.87 percent versus the first 11 months of 2010. If December cooperates, this could be the first up year for the market since 2008.

DC Comics was once again the top company in terms of market share. The company took six of the top 10 spots on Diamond’s Top 100 Comics list, with Justice League #3, Batman #3, Action Comics #3, Green Lantern #3 and Marvel’s Point One #1 making up the top five comics of the month. Batman: Noel took the No. 1 spot on the Top 100 Graphic Novels list. [The Comichron]

Publishing | IDW Publishing has promoted Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein to president, with a focus on new markets and acquisitions. He joined the company in 2008 from Upper Deck. [ICv2.com]

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The Robot 6 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide, Part 3

Flex Mentallo Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Edition

Flex Mentallo Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe Edition

Four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves … welcome to day three of our holiday gift-giving guide, where we ask comic pros:

1. What comic-related gift or gifts would you recommend giving this year, and why?
2. What gift (comic or otherwise) is at the top of your personal wish list, and why?

A great big thank you to everyone who helped us out this year, including the ones who’ll be showcased tomorrow. Be sure to come back then for our big wrap-up!

Mike Carey

1. The Simpsons/Futurama Crossover Crisis. Leela helps Maggie deal with school bullies. Homer and Bender go drinking. England invades the USA. Come on, you need this.

Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery. The most ludicrous and wonderful supporting character from Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol got his own miniseries, and it’s just now being reprinted for the first time. I loved this miniseries when it first came out, and I’m gearing up to love it all over again.

Starstruck. The great Lee/Kaluta sci-fi epic, now between two robust hard covers. I should declare an interest: I wrote the intro. But I did that because it’s awesome beyond the feasible limits of possible awesomeness.

2. A Very Peculiar Practice, season 2. Wow. Just how much of my life right now is ’80s nostalgia? I think I need to get some professional help. Probably from Duran Duran.

Mike Carey has written numerous comics (and a few novels) over his career, including Lucifer, My Faith In Frankie, Ultimate Fantastic Four and Hellblazer. He currently writes X-Men: Legacy and The Unwritten.

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The Robot 6 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide, Part 2

Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 1

Yesterday we kicked off our holiday gift-giving guide, where we asked creators like Jim McCann, Matt Kindt and more for gift suggestion and what they’d want to receive this year. Today we’re back with six more creators, and we asked them the same questions:

1. What comic-related gift or gifts would you recommend giving this year, and why?
2. What gift (comic or otherwise) is at the top of your personal wish list, and why?

So without further ado, let the joy continue …

Jeff Parker

1. If you have young children, you can give them hours of quality time with any of Dark Horse’s Harvey Comics collections. My kids have been poring through them repeatedly. I’ll be following up with old back issues of Casper, Dot, Richie Rich and Hot Stuff from the local comics shops; they’re always very cheap.

2. I would not sneeze at getting that Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes volume from Fantagraphics.

Jeff Parker is the writer of Hulk, Thunderbolts and the webcomic Bucko.

Tim Seeley

All-Star Superman

1. I’m a firm believer in buying comics for everyone on your list, even if they aren’t an avid fan. Make ‘em a fan! All-Star Superman for the superhero fan, Dungeons & Dragons from IDW for the gamer, Habibi for the sophisticated reader, and, of course, my Hack/Slash Omnibi for the horror fan. Or, if you’re planning on dropping a bit more, might I suggest an iPad, loaded with comics apps?

2. I want the collected version of the web strip OGLAF, which I thoroughly enjoy. I wouldn’t mind a CS Moore Witchblade statue to inspire me while I write.

Tim Seeley seems to be all over the place lately, whether it’s writing the new Bloodstrike series from Extreme or Witchblade for Top Cow, drawing issues of Marvel’s Generation Hope, or working on his own creations like Hack/Slash and Jack Kraken. There’s a good chance I forgot something, but you can follow him on Twitter to learn more.

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The Robot 6 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide, Part 1

‘Tis the season for decking those halls, trimming those trees, lighting the menorah and, of course, figuring out what to buy for your friends and family. To help give you some ideas, we reached out to a few comic creators, asking them:

1. What comic-related gift or gifts would you recommend giving this year, and why?
2. What gift (comic or otherwise) is at the top of your personal wish list, and why?

We’ve gotten back a bunch of suggestions, which we’ll run between now and the end of the week. So let the merriment commence …

Jim McCann

1. Exclusive 2011 Janet Lee Holiday Ornaments
Every year, Janet does about 12 ornaments, three sets of four. This year, she has done Hipster Animals, Scary Toys and Art Nouveau Angels. They are signed and dated, and at the end of the season, that’s it! She stops making them. I’ve been collecting them since 2007, and now our tree is almost completely filled with Janet’s art. You can buy them exclusively through her Etsy shop.

Oh, and if you’re REALLY nice, she MAY have a very limited Dapper Men ornament or two. Just ask!

2. This year, for myself, I’m going with a mix of Blu-Rays (portable Blu-Ray player, please, Santa!) and books. But the thing I’m REALLY excited for is the hardcover edition of the Complete Ripley novels, by Patricia Highsmith. Most people only know of Ms. Highsmith through The Talented Mr. Ripley (and classic film lovers through Strangers On a Train). There were actually five Tom Ripley novels, and the collection looks amazing. Why these books? My spouse recently Tweeted a quote from John Lithgow that struck me as a writer: “Duality, duplicity, truth and deception, good becoming bad and vice-versa are crucial elements of great storytelling.” Highsmith was and remains an unsung hero of mastering that, so I hope I learn something in the process!

Happy Holidays from the Dapper Lariosa-McCann household!

Jim McCann is the writer of Return of the Dapper Men and its upcoming sequel, Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol, Hawkeye:Blindspot and the upcoming Mind The Gap.

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British comics bring mischief to the iPad

I grew up reading British comics, but because I lived in the United States most of the time, I couldn’t just trot down to my local newsagent to get the latest Beano or Dandy. My aunts used to send me bundles of them every now and then from Ireland, and the arrival of these big rolls of comics, wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, was always a special event in our household.

The Beano and The Dandy featured one- or two-page stories, mostly about mischievous kids punking their parents, their teachers, or the local bully, and they had a goofy sensibility that was missing from the smoother, blander American titles we got at home — Archie, Richie Rich, Little Dot.

While they are less exotic than a package from a foreign land, the brand-new Beano and Dandy iPad apps still deliver the goods. Both apps offer the full weekly comic at a reasonable price ($1.99 for most issues, 99 cents for one of the Dandys), plus a handful of back issues for free. The Beano is almost unchanged from the days of my youth, with old favorites like Roger the Dodger and the Bash Street Kids still causing rather mild trouble for all around them, while The Dandy is a bit edgier, with more short strips, fart jokes, and a comic called The Bogies that’s about boogers. (It’s funny and not particularly mucus-oriented but … eew.) However, it also features the very talented Jamie Smart breathing new life into the classic Desperate Dan (about an enormous cowboy who doesn’t know his own strength) and contributing a delightfully goofy newer strip “Pre-Skool Prime Minister.”

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Get CIA: Operation Ajax app for free—for now

CIA: Operation Ajax is a standalone graphic novel iPad app about the CIA-led coup d’etat that overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and pushed the Shah, who had previously been more of a figurehead, into a position of power. The story is fictional, but it’s based on a factual account of the 1953 coup, Steven Kinzer’s book All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, and Kinzer acted as the story editor.

This is the first graphic novel from publisher Cognito Comics, and it has been in the works for a while—the first press release came out over a year ago. The app exploits a lot of the added features that the iPad makes possible: The story is told with limited animation that includes both the flow of the panels and the action within them, and the reader can click away to view historical documentation, including newsreels and CIA files. I read the prologue and part of the first chapter, and so far it seemed like a story that is told mostly in single panels, with a lot of variation and interesting effects—you’re not just zooming from one rectangle to another. It crashed a few times while I was test-driving it this morning, but when I restarted it resumed at the point where the crash occurred. Hopefully that will get fixed in the near future.

The regular price of the app is $7.99, but it is free “for a limited time,” which doesn’t seem to be specified anywhere. I would grab it today, just to be sure.

(Via GeekDad.)


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