"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
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.
Warning: Pretty much every image in the linked article is flagrantly, joyously NSFW. If your eyeballs disintegrate and hair grows on the palms of your hands when you click the link, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Underground comics are by their nature transgressive, so it comes as no surprise that the Comix Classics: Underground Comics app produced by Toura, an app platform often used by museums, and Comic Art Productions and Exhibits, ran afoul of Apple’s content guidelines. As Kim Munson, who designed the app, explained to Michael Dooley of Imprint Magazine, the app is not a digital comic but “more of an interactive art exhibit.” It’s based on James Danky and Denis Kitchen’s book Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix, and it contains all the comics from the book and the exhibit plus some new graphics.
Oddly, when the app was submitted to Apple, the iPad version was accepted as is (with a string of warnings to potential consumers about sex, nudity, etc.) but the iPhone version was rejected for “excessively objectionable or crude content.” Munson removed 16 images, which apparently shifted the ratio enough to make the Apple folks happy. (For those who like to skip straight to the good stuff, the deleted images are at the link.) Munson noted that “The deletions were plainly based purely on the visual representation, not the context of the pieces.”
Barcelona-based developer Klicrainbow has launched SuperGay & the Attack of His Ex-Girlfriends, an app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch billed as “the first video game about a gay superhero.” I didn’t look into the assertion, but I can’t think of any other gay-superhero video games.
The comic book-inspired storyline follows Tom Palmer, an idealistic young scientist who works at Genetic Corp. with his beautiful fiancée Ilsa Himmler and her father Dr. Arnold Himmler to develop a cloning project for humanitarian purposes. But when he discovers that Ilsa and Arnold have been secretly negotiating with foreign leaders to sell their work for military purposes, Tom searches for an escape. When a failed experiment transforms the young scientist into SuperGay, “the greatest superhero of all modern times,” he uses his newfound abilities — including Gay Power and Rainbow Ray — to try to stop his evil ex-girlfriend and her clone army.
In the game, SuperGay races, fights and … dances … his way through 32 levels to stop an imminent nuclear war. Check out the trailer and additional game art after the break.
Disney Publishing Worldwide this morning launched its free Disney Comics App for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, with more than 50 titles ranging from the classic adventures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to newer properties like Cars 2 and Tron: Legacy. Two new comics will be added each week.
Individual stories are 99 cents, with themed bundles available for $3.99 through In-App Purchase. The app debuts in the United States and will be available in more than 80 countries. It will be available in additional markets later this year.
Disney boasts that the app offers “a new, director-style reading experience,” with readers allowed to choose portrait or landscape mode, automatic or manual smart paneling, and double-page spreads. Readers also may preview titles before purchase, share their stories on Facebook and save content for offline reading. There’s also a feature that automatically updates readers when stories relating to their favorite characters become available. Also: sound effects!
“Comics are a tremendous part of our heritage and we see great potential and interest in bringing our extensive catalog of Disney Comics to mobile devices,” Russell Hampton, president of Disney Publishing Worldwide, said in a statement. “We create over 25,000 original comic pages each year and it’s critical that we deliver this content to our readers around the world. We have over 1 billion Disney comic readers today, and our Disney Comics App will further broaden that audience.”
Read the official announcement after the break.
The app includes comics from the Archie line, Secret of Kells, Atomic Robo and more. I haven’t had a chance to download it yet, but according to the release it includes comics from Image, NBM, Antarctic Press, Arcana Comics, Bluewater Comics and Dynamite, among others. Several of comiXology’s partners are missing from the list, including DC, Marvel and BOOM! — all of whom have content that would feel right at home on an app like this.
Upon seeing the name, I was reminded of something BOOM!’s Chip Mosher said at the BOOM! panel this weekend at WonderCon: “We did some marketing research, and we found out that kids don’t really like to pick up something that says ‘kids’ on it.” Still, if this makes it easier for parents to find kid-friendly comic material and keep it in an app that’s separate from their non-kid-friendly material, it will have done its job.
You can find the complete press release after the jump.
Yes it can.
In an article in the April 2011 edition of Wired UK, reporter Tom Cheshire goes in depth with the founders and principal people behind Rovio, the company that created Angry Birds. The article describes how co-founder Mikael Hed wrote a webcomic series called August Jessor prior to Angry Birds’ success — and surprisingly, the archived webcomic is still online, although not updated since 2007. The company he founded with his cousin Rovio developed art for several game companies before they struck gold in 2010 Angry Birds.
And although the success of Angry Birds has taken away from any comics work as of late, the entrepreneurial company has plans for the concept to reach out to TV series, movies, cartoons … and even comics.
“Look at how Disney got started,” Hed says in the Wired UK article. “Steamboat Willie created Mickey Mouse, then they added more characters. You can see the same pattern today, but everything is happening much, much faster. Other brands used to build recognition over the course of decades. We’ve done it in one year.”
A blog called Welcome Datacomp has translated a discussion of manga piracy between manga creators Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima), Minako Uchida, and Kazumi Tojo that took place on the Japanese social media site Togetter about the prevalence of scanned and fan-translated manga on the internet. Akamatsu is experimenting with his own free manga site, but even so, he sounds pessimistic: “Am I too late? I get the feeling that [my project to release free manga PDFs] won’t be enough at this point.” He goes on to say
Hasn’t illegally scanned manga, propagated so casually like this, fallen into the category of “property of the Internet”? You won’t be able to eliminate it. The only thing we can do at this point is [launch our own free websites with the] “advertising model”. (Because charging people would be difficult.)
The most recent illegal scans are very high quality, and the translations are exceedingly accurate. (^^;) If there’s no respect for original authors on the net, then obviously the official versions will lose out.
The creators express dismay that people who would not shoplift from a physical store have no compunction about reading pirated manga; as Tojo says, “It seems like people will pay for things they can touch like vegetables, but they think it’s a waste to pay for intangible data.”
It seems like the creators are talking about both scans in Japanese, which are read locally, and fan-translated manga for other markets; they cite one example of a publisher being told by fans to change a name to the one selected by a scanlator. And there’s an interesting side discussion on the decline of the cell phone, which was once a popular platform for yaoi and erotic manga. As people switch to smart phones, the options dwindle: Apple doesn’t allow adult manga in the iTunes store, and Akamatsu says Kindle doesn’t either (I’m not so sure about that), but the fans reassure him that Android allows it, making that the platform of choice for ero manga fans.
Verizon users will get their long-awaited iPhones beginning on Feb. 10, and the Archie folks want to make sure they get a piece of the action from the get-go, so they will be marking down all their digital comics to 99 cents as a way to say hello. The sale applies only to comics bought through Archie’s iVerse app, and prices go back up again at midnight on Feb. 14.
This chiefly affects newer titles, as 99 cents seems to be the default price for older comics on the Archie app anyway. They also have a dozen free comics, including the first issues of the Archie: Freshman Year series and Chuck Clayton’s Cartoon Life. But the sale would be a good time to snap up Veronica #202, which marks the first appearance of Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s first openly gay character, and the Life with Archie magazines, which follow the dual Archie-marries-Veronica and Archie-marries-Betty storylines, for short money.
Also, for those who truly cannot have enough Archie in their lives, the Archie News blog is now updating daily with vintage panels and covers from days of Riverdale past, as well as their usual barrage of information about new releases (including generous previews).
The big news in the e-book world this week was the Digital Book World convention in New York, and the big news for Robot 6 is that Robot 13 (no relation) won the Publishing Innovation Award in the comics category.
If there was every any doubt that comics have arrived, brush it away: There were only five awards categories, and comics made the cut alongside fiction, non-fiction, children’s, and reference. And the list of nominees was quite diverse:
The nominating judges clearly favorited individual comics over publishers: comiXology, iVerse, and Graphicly are all absent from this list, despite the fact that they have been doing quite a bit of genuine innovation. And it’s worth noting that for the judges, iTunes isn’t king. The finalists for the awards were Robot 13, Operation Ajax and Tumor, and two out of these three are not iPad comics: Robot 13 is available for iPhone but was originally developed for Android, while Tumor is distributed via Kindle. In the eyes of these judges, at least, there’s still quite a bit of diversity in the digital world.
Kill Shakespeare, Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery’s mashup of all Shakespeare’s characters into one huge bad-guys-versus-good-guys story, has done very well, so well that the first two issues have sold out. What’s that? You didn’t get to see them? Well, if you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, you’re in luck: Publisher IDW is offering the first two issues for free through the iTunes store. (This actually started a while ago, but some of the downloads didn’t work—now they do.)
You can pick them up through the Comics+ or IDW apps, both of which are free and really should be on your iThing anyway. And if you like what you see, check out the subsequent issues for 99 cents each—Issue #7 just went up this week.
Here’s a bit of background on Del Col and McCreery from their college newspaper.
Apple has released a list of the top apps for iPhone and iPad in its iTunes store, and three of the top five grossing book apps for the iPad are not just comics readers, they are all from comiXology: Marvel Comics, Comics (their multi-publisher reader), and DC Comics. This reflects not just the quality of the iPad as a comics medium for comics but also the large numbers of comics that must be selling through those apps (the apps themselves are free). The top grosser in the book category is The Elements, a visual exploration of the periodic table, which probably doesn’t have a lot of mass appeal but sells for $13.99, and the number five app is The Cat in the Hat, which does have a lot of appeal and sells for $3.99. That three comics apps can match that tells me that people are buying a lot of comics through them.
The pattern is the same for the rest of the top ten book apps—all but the comics apps are single-book apps (as opposed to an e-reader like Stanza), and none are free: Alice in Wonderland, the Bible, a Toy Story read-along, and two more Dr. Seuss books.
The Marvel and DC apps are number three and six, respectively, on the list of most downloaded free apps.
Back in October Dark Horse Comics announced that they would release their own homegrown proprietary bookshelf application for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, as well as on the Web in January 2011. With the release date approaching, Dark Horse has posted on their blog a list of all the comics that will be available at launch.
The list includes many of their top titles, including Hellboy, BPRD, Umbrella Academy and Conan; the only thing I noticed that was missing that kind of surprised me was the current Buffy series (Fray, which starred a future Slayer in the Buffyverse, will be available) but maybe they have bigger plans for it at some point.
Individual issues will be available for $1.49 each, and they’ll also bundle series together (ComicsAlliance has the price list). Dark Horse also noted that in February you can “expect to see select issues of your favorite comics appearing online the same time they’re released in stores.”
It’s also worth noting that comics bought via one client can be viewed on all of them. “Once you buy a DH digital comic, whether on the web or on any mobile device, you may access that title from any client,” Dark Horse Chief Information Officer Dale LaFountain told us back in October. “In other words, the purchase is associated with your account, not the device.”
Check out the list of launch titles after the jump.
As Kevin noted earlier today, Dark Horse Comics is supposed to have some news today at the New York Comic Con about their digital comics initiatives — in fact, the panel is going on right now, so we should know soon what they have planned.
Unlike Marvel, DC and the other major publishers, they haven’t aligned themselves with one (or more) of the third-party companies like comiXology or iVerse (Although I should note they released three titles on comiXology’s app earlier this year). Instead, they’ve continued to release individual applications for their titles. So will today bring news of their titles going to one of the existing apps, or will they continue to offer titles individually, but for the lower cost that Kevin noted? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, they’re handing out flyers (see above) at the New York Comic Con advertising that Serenity: Better Days #1 is free in the iTunes application store, both for the iPad and the iPhone, this weekend. And a quick search on my iPad reveals that there are several other free comics out there as well — Beasts of Burden, Troublemaker and several of the other titles shown on the flyer. So head over to iTunes to start downloading now.
Digital comics | Following more than two years of complaints, Apple has given developers the guidelines it uses to determine which programs can be sold through its App Store, and relaxed some restrictions on content and tools. The company recently was criticized for forcing the creators of a comic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses to remove nonsexual nudity from some panels — Apple later changed its stance — and for initially rejecting an app from Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore because his animated political satire contained “content that ridicules public figures.” Alan Gardner notes that the revised guidelines specifically exempt “professional political satirists and humorists” from a clause prohibiting defamatory or offensive material. [The Associated Press]
Comic strips | After 60 years with United Feature Syndicate, Peanuts will move in February to Universal Uclick. The news isn’t totally unexpected, as Iconix Brand Group partnered with the heirs of Charles M. Schulz in April to buy the rights to the comic strip from United’s parent company E.W. Scripps. The $175 million deal was for the entire United Media Licensing division, which includes Dilbert. [Comic Riffs]
The application includes comics from Top Cow, Shadowline and Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, as well as titles like Chew, Haunt, Savage Dragon, Youngblood, Wanted, Fell, Elephantman and Jack Staff, among others. Overall it looks like it contains 60 different series that have been published by Image. And while most of the titles, I believe, are already available on the comiXology application, it looks like they’re offering more than 30 free comics for download on the app right now.
With the launch of the app, comiXology now has created dedicated applications for four of the top seven comic publishers, as Image joins DC Comics, BOOM! and Marvel. They also created the dedicated Scott Pilgrim application.
The press release emphasizes “unparalleled access to digital distribution” for independent creators:
“With the launch of the Image Comics app, we have an opportunity to provide our creators with the digital support that, for many of them, was unattainable before,” says Image Publisher Eric Stephenson. “comiXology has established a very impressive track record of bringing independent content into the digital world. Today represents a milestone in our growth as a company and enables us to increase the availability of the fantastic titles we publish.”
“Our partnership with Image is indicative of our shared vision to help independent creators thrive in the traditional print community as well as the explosive digital marketplace,” adds David Steinberger, CEO of comiXology. “The demand for creator-owned content is at an all time high, and we are thrilled to be able to provide fans with what they want. We’re lucky now to work directly with Image and to offer the creators a clear path to the digital market.”
Check out the full press release after the jump.