Conventions | The New York Post previews what’s now called the Wizard World Comic Con NYC Experience, which kicks off in about three hours at Basketball City (Pier 36) in New York City: “Wizard cons, which are kind of a traveling road show hitting cities across the country, tend to focus more on celebrity appearances and (paid) meet-and-greets than other shows. But they still have plenty of programming that will scratch a given itch. And there will be plenty of comics/memorabilia/ephemera dealers to help empty your wallet. [Parallel Worlds]
Editorial cartoons | The Cartoonists Rights Network International will honor Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan, who has been imprisoned on charges of sedition for the past seven months because of his cartoons critical of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Digital comics | The manga publisher Viz Media has signed on to iVerse’s digital comics app for libraries; this is big news, because manga, especially Viz’s teen-friendly line, is still very popular in libraries. [press release]
Publishing | In his address last weekend to the ComicsPRO annual meeting in Atlanta, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson urged the audience to continue asking “What’s next?” [Comics Alliance]
Retailing | Journalist and retailer Matthew Price wraps up the ComicsPRO meeting, noting Diamond’s report of a healthy year for comics retailers, with comics sales up 16 percent, graphic novels up 13 percent, and merchandise up 9 percent from last year. [The Oklahoman]
Graphic novels | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written to the Enfield, Connecticut, school district to ask that Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers be reinstated to its summer reading list and to point out that the district did not follow its own procedures when it removed the book last month after the mother of a ninth-grader complained about the graphic novel’s profanity and sexual references. [CBLDF]
Digital comics | Digital distributor iVerse has unveiled a new deal to sell foreign-language translations of Marvel and Archie comics worldwide. iVerse will have exclusive global rights to Marvel’s foreign-language comics, both floppies and trades, while for Archie they will create apps in different languages for different countries, starting with Japan, China, and India. iVerse CEO Michael Murphy says that 50 percent to 65 percent of the company’s digital sales are to international customers (including Canada). Nonetheless, the comics will be “platform-independent”: iVerse will provide translation (through a combination of machine translation and human editors) and distribution, so the comics will be available through their Comics + app but also through other channels, such as Amazon or iBooks. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | The prosecution has laid out its case in the trial of former 2000AD artist Brett Ewins, who was charged with “grievous bodily harm with intent” following a January incident in which he allegedly stabbed a police officer responding to complaints about a man shouting throughout the night. Ewins, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia years ago and is on medication for it, suffered cardiac arrest during the confrontation and was hospitalized for three weeks. He reportedly has no memory of the incident. The defense will contend that the blow to the head rendered him unconscious (like a sleepwalker) so he was not aware of what he was doing. [The Evening Standard]
I’m not sure how to interpret this, but ICv2 confirmed that Dave Bowen, the director of Diamond Digital, has left the company (the way this is worded suggests it was voluntary) and two other staffers, web development manager Jeff Dillon and programmer Lev Schneider, have been let go due to a “restructuring” of Diamond Comic Distributors’ web team. “We are currently hiring Web programmers with different skill sets,” a Diamond spokesperson told the retailer news and analysis site.
At The Beat, Todd Allen beat me to it and dialed up Michael Murphey, CEO of iVerse, which puts the digital in Diamond Digital. Murphey sounds pretty sanguine: “Everything is fine on our end, and things are moving forward positively with Diamond. I expect no delay in the project because of any layoffs.”
It’s worth pointing out that “no delay” is a relative term, given that Diamond Digital was initially supposed to launch in September 2011, and it’s only in beta now. It’s already delayed. The question is whether the layoffs mean it is doomed — or something else is going on.
UPDATE: Michael Murphey comments (below) that Diamond Digital is “NOT doomed,” and the delay is a result of adding features that retailers had requested. Noted!
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a barrage of press releases from comiXology about exclusive deals it’s made with publishers, including, most recently, an agreement with Marvel to digitally distribute single-issue comics. That made me think about the digital comics market as a whole, and how these exclusives would affect the other big digital distributor, iVerse. So I called and asked.
What I was surprised to hear was that iVerse CEO Michael Murphey isn’t particularly bothered by these exclusives. That’s because he doesn’t see iVerse as going head to head with comiXology; he sees them as serving different markets in different ways, and the exclusives don’t affect them as much as you might think. Read on to get his very different take on the digital comics market.
Robot 6: I’m going to just ask you point-blank: comiXology has announced a number of exclusives lately, which shuts you out of part of the comics market. What does that mean for iVerse and for Diamond Digital, and what will you do about it?
Michael Murphey: There’s a couple of things that are going on right now. ComiXology, it seems to me, is trying to recreate the direct market in digital form. That’s not where iVerse has ever been. We have always thought of ourselves as a newsstand rather than the direct market. We do better than most people think because most of our customers are not direct market customers. We sell a ton of children’s product through Comics Plus Kids, we have Archie Comics and we have Pocket God comics—one thing you are going to see is we are launching that New Crusaders product with Archie. We are also rebranding our app and launching web and Android versions before the end of the month.
Digital comics | Archie Comics becomes the latest comics publisher to get a web-based store, allowing readers to purchase digital comics on basically any device that runs HTML5. While Marvel and DC have web stores built on the comiXology platform, this is the first time their competitor iVerse has gone outside the iOS. [Comics Alliance]
Awards | Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza is the winner of this year’s Oregon Book Award in the Graphic Literature category. [OregonLive.com]
Digital comics | Scott Kurtz, who knows a thing or two about digital comics, ponders the implications of Mark Waid’s aggressive move toward the digital realm: “This is something I’ve been warning my friends in webcomics about for a while now. That eventually, someone famous from the comic book industry would figure out that they should try what we’ve been doing for the last fifteen years or so, and would follow suit. All it would take is one or two high-profile creators succeeding at being ‘webcomicers’ and suddenly everyone would jump over. And the term ‘webcomic’ will finally die and just become ‘comic.’” [PvP]
Auctions | Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles drawing, the sketch initially thrown together in November 1983 as a joke but ended up launching a multimedia phenomenon, is being sold by Heritage Auctions. The high bid, as of this morning, is $4,250. The auction ends May 3. [Heritage Auctions]
Digital comics | Viz Media has formed a new division, Viz Labs, to focus on the digital side of the business, and they have put Gagan Singh, who helped develop the digital platform for Viz manga and anime, in charge of it. What does this mean? It’s anyone’s guess, but one possibility is that Viz, which has one of the best digital comics platforms out there, might be thinking about offering its digital service as a separate product, perhaps as a platform for other publishers. [Viz Media]
Digital comics | Digital comics distributor iVerse will launch a digital comics lending service for libraries later this year. [Publishers Weekly]
ComicsPRO, the trade organization for direct market comic book retailers, held its annual meeting last week, welcoming retailers from all over for presentations and discussions with various comic companies and other industry reps.
“Advocacy is a vital and important cog in the ComicsPRO machine. Too often, the retail segment is absent when industry plans are formulated and partnerships are forged,” says Joe Field ComicsPRO president, on the group’s website. “As ComicsPRO grows, our goal is to give retailers an equal voice with our other industry partners, so we can take an active role in the decisions that affect all of us.”
Although the meetings are typically closed to the press, some information from the three days in Dallas has come out:
- Retailer Matt Price, who blogs at Nerdage, shared several tidbits this weekend from the show. Of note is the list of projects that publishers discussed at the show, which include Avengers vs. X-Men, Before Watchmen, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and an announcement from IDW that they’re planning an Artists Edition of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again storyline.
- Mike Richardson, Dark Horse president and publisher, gave a keynote at the event on digital comics, on how “changes have been a constant and necessary partner” for the comics industry.
- Speaking of which, iVerse Media and Diamond Comic Distributors announced a new Digital Comic Reader App at the meeting. “By adding the Digital Reader App into the Diamond Digital program, we’re completely removing our own digital store. This is a much cleaner solution for retailers and will give them the same kind of tools companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are using to sell digital on these devices,” said iVerse CEO Michael Murphey.
- Image Comics sponsored a lunch where Publisher Eric Stephenson spoke on independence and creativity. You can read his entire speech over at iFanboy.
- Thomas Gaul of Corner Store Comics and Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, Calif. was elected to the ComicsPRO board, replacing founding member Brian Hibbs.
- And speaking of Brian, he posted some of his notes on DC Comics from the meeting, including some digital information and the fact that they plan to release the full results from the Nielsen survey to retailers.
- Bob Wayne, DC Entertainment’s senior vice president of sales, was honored with the ComicsPRO Industry Appreciation Award.
A while back, I recommended a stylish new webcomic called The Sisters Grimm, noting that creators Dave Pauwels and Nicolas R. Giacondino seemed to be starting off on solid ground. Indeed, the webcomic, now retitled Free Mars, has been proceeding at the stately pace of one page a week for the past year and a half, and Pawels and Giacondino have done a nice job of building up their vision of a rebel girl band in 2339 (although they use some odd slang—the meanings are usually self-evident, but a glossary would be helpful).
Yesterday, Ape Entertainment announced that they have become “ownership partners” in Free Mars and will be publishing the graphic novel edition in July. The graphic novel will also be available via iVerse’s Comics + iOS app, which raises the question of whether Free Mars will continue to be available as a free webcomic. I checked in with Pauwels, and he cleared that up, saying, “The free webcomic will definitely continue with weekly updates and that content will be the lion’s share of the print graphic novel. But for the loyal webcomic readers, we’ll have additional material in the print version, including a mini-prequel story and some other original material.” That’s a great idea, adding some value to the print comic, and it will be interesting to see if the audience they built up with the webcomic will flock to the print version as well.
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.
This seems quaint now, but it was big news in March 2009 when IDW Publishing made its Star Trek prequel comics available digitally on the iPhone/iPod Touch (the iPad hadn’t been invented yet, kids), and released the fourth issue the same day in print and digital. IDW’s partner in that endeavor was iVerse, and while the publisher’s digital strategy evolved over the next few years, iVerse remained as the provider for its branded iPad app… until this week, when IDW announced it has switched the provider of the branded IDW app to comiXology.
It’s big news, but in an insider-baseball sort of way. Readers who are already riding on the digital comics bandwagon won’t notice a difference. IDW started putting its comics on the comiXology digital comics service a few months ago, and when I checked iVerse’s Comics + app this morning, the IDW comics hadn’t disappeared. That isn’t surprising: IDW has spread its nets wide, putting comics on everything from the Kindle to the manga site eManga. So the headline on the press release is really just a change in the back end. What is really significant is that comiXology now has nearly a complete collection, providing digital distribution and branded apps for almost every major publisher except Dark Horse (which has its own app) and Archie (which puts their comics on comiXology’s Comics app but has iVerse run their branded app).
Fans wondering about the fates of the Red Circle characters DC Comics once licensed from Archie Comics can wonder no more — in advance of this week’s New York Comic Con, Archie has announced plans to bring them back next spring.
The New Crusaders by writer Ian Flynn and artist Ben Bates, will be part of a Netflix-like online subscription service offered by Archie and iVerse Media, according to an article in the New York Times. The service will offer an original six-page story and access to an archive of past adventures. “It will be a nominal monthly charge with access to new comics and thousands and thousands of pages from the archive,” Jon Goldwater, the co-chief executive of Archie Comics Publications, told the Times.
The new stories will feature old enemies tracking down the now-retired heroes (who live in the aptly named suburb of Red Circle), leading The Shield to head up “the next generation” of the team. Archie last published adventures of the Red Circle characters in the mid-1980s; DC Comics licensed them from Archie for its short-lived Impact line in the 1990s, then tried to integrate them into the DC Universe a couple of years ago. And again, the titles were short-lived. DC co-publisher Dan Didio confirmed this summer that DC no longer had the license to publish stories about the characters.
In a press release that reads like a parody of corporate press releases, Peanuts Worldwide announced a series of digital initiatives that they hope will develop Peanuts into “a leading global entertainment and multi-media property.” Because it wasn’t before, apparently—just a meaningless jumble of books, television shows, movies, Broadway musical, syndicated newspaper strip, lunchboxes, etc. Verbiage aside, their new initiatives sound pretty cool.
First, there’s a new the Peanuts website, which is very nicely designed and gives you a daily Peanuts strip (the same one that’s in the paper, I’m guessing, but my paper doesn’t get Peanuts) as well as links to Peanuts merchandise, character profiles and video clips, and a page for the Charles M. Schultz museum. It’s a good start, and I hope they continue to add content.
The second part of the push is digital comics and e-books. The first product to launch was Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown, an original graphic novel published by kaboom!, the kids’ imprint of BOOM! Studios, which is available both in print and digitally via comiXology and a special Peanuts app (not in the iTunes store yet, as far as I could see). There are more original graphic novels on the way.
Top Shelf announced yesterday that it is going digital, starting out by making over 70 of its graphic novels available via the Comics+ app, which is powered by iVerse. Prices range from 99 cents to $9.99 for an assortment of graphic novels, including Andy Runton’s Owly, James Kochalka’s Johnny Boo, Jeff Lemire’s Essex County, and Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole.
This announcement raised all sorts of questions in our minds, and fortunately, Chris Ross, Top Shelf’s director of digital publishing, was here to explain it all to us. Read on for lots more info, including the answer to the burning question “Will we ever see Lost Girls on digital?” as well as whether they will do same-day print and digital releases.
Robot 6: Why did you choose to go with iVerse over the other distributors?
Chris Ross: Actually, our initial offering is with iVerse, but we’re planning on using many distributors over the next few months. They were the first to approach us, so they’re the first one out the gate.
Robot 6: Did you consider doing your own Top Shelf app? If so, why did you decide against it?
Chris: We have and we will. We’ll be creating two apps in 2011—a company branded app and a kid’s club app.
Robot 6: Have you considered other modes of digital such as Kindle, Nook, or direct download?