X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
The iTunes’ Terms and Conditions agreement has got to be the least-read-yet-most-signed contract in human history. For pages and pages (and a nearly limitless downward digital scroll), it enumerates Apple’s latest subtle shifts in policy regarding the ways we purchase, license and “own” music and media acquired through the most influential online marketplace to date. Who reads those things? Who could even pretend to? Can one even imagine a more arduous task than going through that document, line by line, and trying to parse what exactly it is we are all signing on for?
But ah, the magic of comics. Cartoonist R. Sikoryak, whose work has appeared in Drawn and Quarterly and The New Yorker, is publishing his painstakingly thorough, unabridged graphic adaptation of the iTunes Terms and Conditions agreement on Tumblr. This version of the contract is no mere dry rendering of legalese — instead, Sikoryak has transformed the document into a showcase of styles from talent all across the history of comics, making each page an experiment in the diverse visual language of the medium’s most beloved luminaries.
Nobrow Press co-founder Sam Arthur once described the company’s mission as “to publish books that deserved to be printed — and by that I mean they needed to exist as tactile objects that people [can] collect and cherish.” This has been borne out over the years as Nobrow established itself as a publisher that paid painstaking attention to the production process.
Given that, it’s not surprising that it took Nobrow seven years to go digital, and when it did, it came up with a digital solution that addresses the physical aspects of its comics.
Image Comics co-founder Rob Liefeld already keeps his fans up to date through his website and active Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. But now the artist has gone a step further, launching an iOS app.
Introduced Thursday on the iTunes store, the free Liefeld App allows fans to browse and share some of his art from the past two decades, add his convention appearances to their calendars, access his biography, watch videos, see the latest comic book releases, and even ask him questions.
ComiXology was the top-grossing non-game iPad app in the iTunes App Store in 2013, coming in at No. 11, just ahead of The New York Times. They were the only non-game apps to crack the Top 20.
In addition, the digital-comics platform announced it has served more than 6 billion pages — that figure includes both paid and free — since its launch four years ago. ComiXology trumpeted 2 billion pages just slightly more than a year ago.
“In a billion-dollar marketplace with competition between over a million apps, it’s gratifying to rank as the Top Grossing non-game iPad App in the entire iTunes App Store,” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “This past year has been a great year for comics and comiXology!”
Last year saw the company further expand its industry domination with distribution deals with the likes of UDON Entertainment, Viz Media Europe, Avatar Press, and 15 French publishers, partnered with eBay, and introduced gift cards. In October, comiXology also released findings from a survey that found its female readership has grown from 5 percent to 20 percent.
DC Comics is expanding its digital reach by making its full line of periodicals available for download from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store.
With the move, which begins today, DC becomes the only comics publisher to offer its line of titles across all major e-bookstore platforms. The company previously had sold digital editions of its monthly comics exclusively through comiXology.
“We were the first to offer our entire comic book line same-day digital and now we are the first to offer fans the convenience of multiple download options,” Co-Publisher Jim Lee said in a statement.
This 150-page comic is set in Victorian Manchester and “demonstrates the extraordinary parallels between the Internet Age and the Telegraph Age,” according to Reppion and Moore’s blog. The story follows the lives of the young women and men working at The Electrical and International Telegraph Company, touching on issues related to cyber bullying, gangs and sexual identity, among others. Check out the trailer after the jump.
When Apple opened its iTunes bookstore last year, comics and graphic novels were just mixed in with everything else. That changed today, as Apple introduced its Comics and Graphic Novels Section.
The selection is rather eclectic, with everything from Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland to The Walking Dead to How to Draw Manga. There are separate sections for Marvel, children’s comics, and collections of newspaper strips, which is a great idea, but everything else is a bit of a mishmash. (Most of these books were already in the iTunes bookstore; this page just collects them in one place for easy browsing.) In addition to Marvel and Image, the publishers represented include IDW (with their Locke and Key books), Archie, Seven Seas, and Manga University—but I didn’t see any DC titles. It’s definitely a bookish selection, but there are some bargains—and even some freebies—to be had.
ICv2 has news that the iTunes search engine now reaches all the way in to in-app purchases. That should make life a lot easier comics readers, especially those new to the system who haven’t yet internalized which comics are on comiXology and which are on Comics+ or Graphicly — or only in a single-publisher app.
This solves the problem I pointed out in December, that with no universal search engine, digital comics were becoming a walled kingdom. However, the search function has a ways to go. Searching on Stan Lee’s Starborn, which seemed like a good test case, returned six different apps that include the comic. However, the search results only lead to the app, not to the comic itself. The user still has to exit the iTunes store, go to the app, and search within the app to find the comic. Extra steps? That is not the sort of elegant user interface we iPad users are accustomed to. In a case like Starborn, where the comic is in multiple apps, readers who are new to comics may be confused by the multiplicity of choices. And it did occur to me to wonder what the logic is behind the order of the search results — why is comiXology first and Stan Lee’s own app in the last row?
Beyond that, the double search means that bad results are a bigger headache. Checking to see if scanlations linked to by bootleg manga apps were included in the search results (they aren’t), I searched for “Fairy Tail,” the name of a Kodansha manga, knowing that it is not available digitally. ComiXology turned up as the first search result, but of course (I double-checked), Fairy Tail isn’t included in comiXology. I’m sure there are comics with the words “fairy” and “tail” in their titles in the comiXology roster, and the result is that the user is led on a frustrating wild goose chase. One obvious way to reduce the incidence of bad results would be for the iTunes search engine to allow users to search on an exact phrase by enclosing it in quotes, as Google does, but that doesn’t seem to be the case (at least, I got the same funny results when I put “Fairy Tail” in quotes).
The new capability has the obvious benefit of drawing in readers who are new to comics. This wasn’t really possible before, but now if someone searches on, say, “Green Lantern,” they get the comics apps. The dedicated Scott Pilgrim and The Walking Dead apps were created precisely to address this problem, and while apps like that will still have some value, the new capability means they will no longer be necessary.
My friendship and association with Alex Segura dates back to late 2004 when he invited me to join Robot 6‘s ancestor blog (or however you want to call its relation) The Great Curve. I wear my bias on my sleeve for this interview–I’ve always been a supporter of Segura’s work–be it years at DC Comics, or more recently, his current role as Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing at Archie Comics. In addition to discussing what he’s accomplished to date at Archie (and hopes to achieve in the near to long term), we delve into his own writing and musical pursuits (in the band, The Faulkner Detectives).
Tim O’Shea: Before your first stint with Archie a few years back, you worked at Wizard. So I gotta ask, what’s your reaction to the end of the print magazine?
Alex Segura: On a gut level, it’s sad. Wizard was a big part of my getting into comics – or at least, sticking with them – in middle school and into college. There were times when I wasn’t actively buying any regular comic books but would still pick up Wizard to keep tabs on the industry. Working there was also huge. It was my first full-time job in the industry and gave me a crash course in comics and how they work. I also met some of my best friends there – many of whom I still talk to on a regular basis. Hell, I live with Ryan Penagos, who I first met at Wizard. So, yeah. I have a lot of fond memories of both my time at the company and my relationship with the magazine leading up to that.
Professionally, I’m not all that surprised. There was a time when Wizard was a major tastemaker – they had a big part in the rise of Image and for a long while broke major news from the Big Two. But with the rise of comic news on the web, it just seemed like they got left behind. Hopefully this new incarnation can revive the company. We’ll see.
Dark Horse has announced it will offer a first look at its somewhat-delayed digital comics app this weekend during the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
Announced in October at New York Comic Con, the planned January launch of the publisher’s digital comics program was put on hold because because of Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store (something Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson confirmed earlier this month).
But now the beta version of the app is ready to be shown off at booth #601, with Dark Horse staff on hand for demonstrations, to answer questions and allow fans to take it for a test run.
Check out the official press release after the break.
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview with retail news and analysis site ICv2, Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson discusses the state of the market, the potential impact of Borders’ bankruptcy, digital comics, the decline in manga sales, the success of Troublemaker and more. Of particular note is Richardson’s confirmation that Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store was behind the delay of the planned January launch of Dark Horse’s digital comics program. He also says that Frank Miller is working on the third issue of his 300 prequel Xerxes, which is expected to be “roughly six issues, but he hasn’t exactly decided yet.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson provides an overview of recent changes to BOOM! Studios’ kids’ line, from the loss of the Pixar licenses to a new imprint name — changed from BOOM! Kids to kaboom! — to the announcement this week of a Peanuts original graphic novel. “BOOM Kids! was designed to publish children’s comics — kaboom! is designed to be a true all-ages imprint, and for that reason Peanuts is the perfect launch title, the sort of material that adults and kids read alike,” CEO Ross Ritchie said. “Roger Langridge’s Snarked! is along these lines, as is Space Warped and Word Girl. I put the Word Girl announcement on my wall on Facebook and immediately there were a zillion adults commenting, ‘My child loves this show but I’m buying this comic book for myself!’ The title mix will be broader for kaboom! than it was for BOOM Kids!” [Publishers Weekly]
At Publishers Weekly Comics Week, Todd Allen does the math on digital comics to see if it is possible for publishers or creators to actually make $1 per issue. Most publishers are going with a distributor such as comiXology and sales through the iTunes store, who between them take 65% of the cover price, leaving the creator/publisher 35 cents on a 99-cent download. The other extreme—publishing comics as downloadable PDFs and accepting micropayments through PayPal, the “not .99 method”—nets the publisher up to 89 cents for the same comic, and there are several alternatives in between.
Allen acknowledges that digital sales are only a fraction of print, and these numbers matter more if readers start migrating away from print to digital—in that case, you want to make the same amount of money from your comic in either channel. On the other hand, if your print sales stay the same, digital is added revenue, and maybe it’s less important to make a dollar a comic.
However, Allen looks strictly at the yield per comic sold, without considering the question of whether cover price affects the overall number of comics sold. A high-selling comic with a low per-issue yield could bring in as much as a lower-selling comic with a higher yield if that is taken into consideration.
As it happens, there’s a new site out there selling comics downloads as PDFs: The Illustrated Section, which seems to focus on webcomics (Nathan Sorry, Ellie Connelly) and includes some former Zuda titles (In Maps and Legends, Marooned). The site has a nice, calm interface and an interesting collection of comics, so if you’re interested in trying an alternative digital comics store, give it a whirl.
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.
Mike Jasper and Niki Smith hit the big time when their comic In Maps and Legends won the Zuda competition in November 2009, but shortly after the comic started its run, DC took down the whole site, leaving many of the creators without a platform. Jasper and Smith took the plunge into self-publishing, relaunching the comic on multiple platforms, including Kindle, Wowio, LongBox, Drive Thru Comics, and iTunes. You can get the comic on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or Droid. With the third issue due out on December 1, I checked in with them to see how things were going.
Brigid: First of all, the most important question in an interview like this is: What is the comic about?
Mike: In Maps & Legends is about a young woman caught between this world and another, and her attempts to save them both. It starts off as a contemporary fantasy, as our hero Kaitlin Grayson and her friends get caught in the web of a mysterious man named Bartamus who shows up at Kait’s place one night. Bartamus tells Kait she’s the only one who can save his dying world. As you can guess from the title, cartography, history, and stories play a key role in the unfolding mystery of our comic.
Brigid: How long do you plan it to be?
Mike: This first story arc is ten issues. I can see a lot more stories in this series, but we’re starting with this arc to see if it sparks interest in readers who’d like to read more.
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It has been quite an odyssey, so to speak, for Rob Berry, Mike Barsanti, Josh Levitas and Chad Rutkowski, the partners in Throwaway Horse and the creators, in one sense or another, of the webcomic Ulysses “Seen.” Berry and Levitas started out doing a fairly straightfoward adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses, with extensive notes and translations by Mike Barsanti just a click away from each page. Then the iTunes store picked up their comic for the iPad, but Apple asked them to censor some of the content (ironic, in light of the novel’s history) and then reversed itself after the issue drew public attention. And now the creators are closing the circle by bringing the comic into print: They have signed a deal with independent publisher Atlas & Co. to bring out a print edition of Ulysses “Seen,” which will hopefully be on bookstores shelves by BloomsDay (June 16) 2011.
I talked to Berry, Atlas and Rutkowski about the new project and the challenges involved in bringing an interactive webcomic into print.