Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Publishing | DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee talk about the state of the comics market, DC’s upcoming move from New York City to Burbank, the growing female audience and more. “There’s also a diversification within the audience itself the past couple of years,” Lee observed. “You’ve seen more women, more female readers, in general. When we launched Batgirl and Gotham Academy, those books struck a different note, different tonality, and that was in large part due to editor Mark Doyle bringing these projects together with different kinds of creators. It was our way of broadening the base of the Batman family of books but doing it in a different way to attract a different audience. I think it speaks well to the future that we’re not just going to strike the same note looking for the same customer. […] You can’t necessarily rely on the same continuity, the same core hardcore comics-driven material; you have to diversify, broaden your net and bring in different voices to the company.” [ICv2]
Archie Comics has launched what it calls its new app — it’s really an update of the publisher’s existing iOS and Android apps — with an offer of 100 free comics for those who download it. And there may be more: I asked Archie’s Alex Segura how long the promotion would be in effect and he said, “We’re looking to have this up for about a month, and if downloads reach a certain threshold, we’ll be unlocking more free books on a tiered basis to celebrate the new app launches on Android and iOS.”
There’s quite a range of free comics available on the app, including classics, recent releases and comics that feature the side characters Jinx, Sabrina (original and manga versions) and Cosmo the Merry Martian. Not present: Afterlife With Archie, which carries a teen rating as opposed to Archie’s standard all-ages rating. There are also no Sonic, Mega Man or New Crusaders freebies, although they are available for in-app purchase. Say what? Yes, this app is built on iVerse’s Comics Plus platform, so you can buy new comics in-app. The app also includes Archie Unlimited, an all-you-can eat subscription service that allows subscribers to read a ton of comics, both new and back issues; because it’s integrated into the app, you can then buy the ones you want to keep.
Here are my picks for six free Archie comics that make entertaining reading, especially on a lazy summer weekend.
Comic strips | The art from cartoonist Bill Watterson’s surprise return to the comics page earlier this month for a three-day stint on Pearls Before Swine will be auctioned Aug. 8 on behalf of Team Cul de Sac, the charity founded by Chris Sparks to honor Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, who has Parkinson’s disease. The proceeds benefiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. A painting by Watterson of one of Thompson’s characters sold in 2012 for $13,000 as part of a benefit auction for Team Cul de Sac. [Team Cul de Sac]
Creators | The tech news site Pando has fired cartoonist Ted Rall, just a month after hiring him, along with journalist David Sirota. While Rall wouldn’t comment on the reason for his dismissal, he did say the news came “really truly out of a clear blue sky. I literally never got anything but A++ reviews,” and he added that editor Paul Carr gave him complete editorial freedom. While Valleywag writer Nitasha Tiku speculates that the two had rubbed investors the wrong way, Carr disputes that, as well as other assertions in the article. Nonetheless, both Rall and Sirota confirmed they were let go. [Valleywag]
Digital comics | In today’s Amazon-acquires-comiXology article, Rachel Edidin deflates much of the hype, and the panic, surrounding the deal, pointing out that comics distribution is already a monopoly, large corporations already run the comics market, and comics have been available on Kindle all along: “Is the concern […] a distribution monopoly? If so, the direct market is in no position to criticize: over the last 15 years, Diamond Comics Distributors has consumed almost all independent print distribution in comics, and dictates practices and policy to retailers and publishers alike. The idea that print comics are somehow more independent than their digital cousins — or a scrappy underdog fighting the good fight against evil corporate profiteers — is frankly ridiculous.” [Wired]
Awards | Michael Cavna talks with Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer about winning the Pulitzer Prize in cartooning. [Comic Riffs]
Diamond Comic Distributors’ digital comics program, Diamond Digital, will shut down on Friday, although titles purchased through the service will continue to be available via iVerse’s Comics Plus app.
The news broke Friday at The Hollywood Reporter, where Graeme McMillan picked up on an email sent to retailers two weeks ago. The stated reason: “18 months after its launch, results indicate that Diamond Digital has not gained enough traction in the marketplace to continue.”
There are a lot of reasons why Diamond Digital didn’t work, but I think chief among them is the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.
Of course, the biggest problem operationally was that Diamond Digital catered to a market dominated by Marvel and DC but didn’t carry single-issue comics from either publisher. And granted, that is a huge flaw.
Whether you’re looking to read Amazing Spider-Man in Korean or Avengers in Hindi, it just got a whole lot easier to purchase translated versions of Marvel Comics: The publisher released the “Marvel Global Comics” app on Thursday, a partnership (described as a “multi-year agreement”) with iVerse offering digital versions of some of their most popular stories in 12 different languages: Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Given the popularity of Marvel’s characters worldwide — last year’s Iron Man 3 made $806.4 million in foreign box office, The Avengers even more — it’s not surprising to see the company try to increase their international appeal on the publishing front.
“Marvel has incredible fans all around the world, and we’re excited to bring digital comics to their mobile devices in their native languages,” Marvel’s Kristin Vincent, vice president of digital products, said in a statement. “This partnership with iVerse allows us to introduce Marvel’s rich history of action-packed stories to new audiences worldwide who want to know more about the Avengers, Spider-Man, Wolverine and the rest of the vast Marvel Universe.”
The deal further raises iVerse’s profile in the digital comics arena; the digital distributor has previously partnered with publishers including Top Cow, Viz, Archie Comics and Lion Forge. “We are lifelong fans of Marvel — their characters and their content,” iVerse CEO Michael Murphey said in Marvel’s press release. “It’s truly an honor to be able to partner with them to bring this spectacular content to the world on as many platforms as possible.”
Among the initial series available on the app are major events like Civil War, House of M, Infinity Gauntlet and Fear Itself; plus issues of ongoing series like New Avengers and Invincible Iron Man. The app is currently only available on Apple iOS devices, but Marvel’s says additional platforms are “tentatively scheduled” for later this year. The app is free and available now.
Digital comics | ComiXology has released an update for its Comics iOS app with a few fixes and a new feature: a Wish List. The app also now supports Manga Fixed Format. [App Advice]
Digital comics | Rob Salkowitz takes a look at the issues surrounding digital comics platforms for libraries and discusses one possible solution, iVerse’s Comics Plus Library Edition. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Tyler James offers some solid advice for creators planning to use comiXology Submit. [Comix Tribe]
Conventions | Steve Duin has a largely tepid assessment of last weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con, declaring, “Thank God for Emerald City.” [The Oregonian]
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]