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Having already conquered book charts with his bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Jeff Kinney is now turning his attention to retailing.
According to The Associated Press, the author announced Friday at Book Expo America that he and his wife plan to convert an abandoned general store in Plainville, Massachusetts, where they live, into a bookstore. The town has a population of 8,264.
A blend of comics and prose, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has sold more than 115 million copies worldwide since its debut in April 2007.
Book Expo America is the annual trade show where publishers promote their upcoming books to retailers and librarians. BEA is all about books, but comics and graphic novels are a growing presence. Diamond had a dedicated area, as it has in previous years, several comics publishers had their own booths, and several of the big publishers featured graphic novels alongside their other titles, most notably Hachette, which gave quite a bit of space to Yen Press.
I spent Friday at the show looking at which books the publishers were drawing the most attention to. Here’s a very subjective account of what I saw.
Kid stuff! Children’s and YA graphic novels have been hot for a couple of years, and the news that Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters is getting a 200,000 copy initial print run got a lot of buzz. Of course, the BEA crowd has been on board with her work for a while, and they lined up in droves for her book signing. The same was true of Jeff Kinney, who was signing copies of The Wimpy Kid School Planner at the Abrams booth; the crowd just kept on coming. And the staff at the BOOM! Studios table were hustling as attendees grabbed copies of their Adventure Time and Bravest Warrior collections as well as their third original Peanuts graphic novel, Peanuts: The Beagle Has Landed, which takes Snoopy to the moon.
Creators | Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was traveling the day a tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, and he saw the damage on a news broadcast while waiting for a flight. The images stuck with him, so he rounded up fellow creators Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine, Timmy Failure) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), all of whom he describes as “novelists whose DNA is in comics,” to hold a benefit to rebuild the town’s school libraries. The quartet will meet in Norman, Oklahoma, for a panel discussion and will raffle off original art and sell autographed copies of their books this weekend, with all proceeds going to the Moore Public Schools Foundation, earmarked for the school libraries. [Oklahoma Gazette]
Creators | Joe Sacco, author of Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza and, most recently, The Great War, talks about his work day, his process and the places he’s been. [The Telegraph]
Neil Gaiman and Robert Kirkman are among The Hollywood Reporter’s 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood, appearing alongside the likes of J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and George R.R. Martin.
At No. 6, Kirkman is recognized not only for the success of AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead but for a “banner year for the veteran comic-book writer and Image Comics partner” that includes overseeing his Skybound imprint and publishing Thief of Thieves, which is also being developed by the cable network.
Gaiman, co-creator of The Sandman, clocked in at No. 23 on the strength of his prose work — The Graveyard Book and American Gods are being developed for film and television, respectively — and the adaptations of Coraline and Stardust.
Last week saw the digital launch of Jeff Kinney’s comics/prose hybrid Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which can now be purchased from comiXology, either through its regular service or through its dedicated Wimpy Kid app, Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The seventh volume, The Third Wheel, which is due out on Nov. 13, will be available digitally the same day as print. Abrams has created a special brand, Wimp-E-books, with its own logo, for the wildly popular series.
(Interestingly enough, the initial press release from Abrams, dated Oct. 15, didn’t mention any platforms, which seems like a grievous omission.)
You can still get the original edition of the book for free on the site where it first appeared, FunBrain.com. That’s where Kinney first published it, and it’s interesting to compare this first edition to the published versions — I took a look at the first few pages and the edits were obvious, and generally improvements over the original. It’s still pretty good though, and years ago, when I showed it to my daughter, who was maybe ten at the time and a bit of a reluctant reader, she took my computer away and read the whole thing in one sitting.
Jim Zubkavich wasn’t the first creator to put some of his older work online as a webcomic, but he did it in such a deliberate way, and the work was so fresh, and he has blogged about it so much, that it feels like he was breaking new ground. Zubkavich is the writer of Skullkickers, a series that had a pretty decent following in print to begin with, and recently he started serializing the early chapters online. What he found is what most people seem to find: The online version brought him new readers without hurting sales of his print comics; in fact, quite the contrary—he is now selling tons of comics at conventions to folks who are pleasantly surprised to hear that there is a print version at all.
Now two more creators are going that route, both with graphic novels designed to appeal to younger readers: Scott Chantler announced at TCAF that he is serializing The Three Thieves, the first book in his Tower of Treasure trilogy, online, and Chris Schweizer has set up a dedicated website for his Crogan Adventures series and is offering all of Crogan’s March, the second volume, online for free through June 6, when his next book, Crogan’s Loyalty, is released. Schweizer’s site also offers a teacher’s guide to the Crogan books, printable character cutouts, and more. The move makes sense: With Borders gone, reaching younger readers is a challenge, but a popular website can go viral in a hurry—just ask Jeff Kinney, who first published Diary of a Wimpy Kid online.
Auctions | Bids for the $412 check from Detective Comics to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster that includes a $130 line item for the rights to Superman have already surpassed $31,000 in less than three days at auction on ComicConnect.com. The auction ends April 16. [ABC News, The New York Times]
Creators | Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo is working on a new series that will run in a Japanese shonen (boys’) magazine. [Anime News Network]
Comic strips | Richard Thompson is back on the job at Cul de Sac, with some help from Stacy Curtis, who will be inking the strip. [Cul de Sac]
Legal | Antarctic Press has agreed to stop selling Diary of a Zombie Kid and Diary of a Zombie Kid: Rotten Rules under the terms of a temporary restraining order issued Wednesday by a federal court. Wimpy Kid Inc. is suing Antarctic for trademark infringement, among other things, claiming that its Diary of a Wimpy Kid parodies are too close to the real thing. Antarctic CEO Joe Dunn signed the temporary restraining order, signifying that Antarctic agreed to it; the two companies are negotiating a settlement, according to court papers. One interesting tidbit: Diary of a Zombie Kid sold all of 850 copies in comics shops in August, while the first printing on the latest Wimpy Kid book was 6 million. [ICv2]
Comics | Bayou Arcana is a new anthology of Southern Gothic horror comics with a gender twist: All the comics are written by men and illustrated by women. There are some pretty broad generalizations in this article — “There is a certain sensitivity that you find in women’s art that just does not appear in a lot of guys’ work,” says the project editor, James Pearson — but the project itself sounds interesting. [The Guardian]
Jeff Kinney, the author behind the $500 million Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise, has sued Antarctic Press, accusing the comic publisher of violating trademark laws with its Diary of a Zombie Kid series.
TheWrap reports the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boston by Wimpy Kid Inc., accuses the San Antonio-based publisher of using a title and cover design “confusingly similar” to those of the Wimpy Kid books in an obvious attempt “to confuse the public into believing that defendant’s books are additions to such series.” Read the lawsuit here.
Created by Fred Perry and David Hutchison, the August-debuting Diary of a Zombie Kid follows Bill Dookes, a fifth-grader whose mother volunteers for medical research only to bring home a mysterious zombie virus that leaves her son with “skin problems and body chemistry changes that make puberty look like a walk in the park” — not to mention a growing appetite for brains. A sequel, Diary of a Zombie Kid: Rotten Rules — an apparent nod to Kinney’s second book Rodrick Rules — is set for release in January.
Kinney’s six-book Wimpy Kid series, presented as the journal of middle-school student Greg Heffley, has sold more than 52 million copies in North America alone since its 2007 debut and spawned two movies and numerous merchandising tie-ins, including clothes, toys and games.
The complaint accuses Antarctic of trademark infringement, copyright infringement, false designation of origin, trade dress infringement, trademark dilution and deceptive trade practices, and asks the court to permanently enjoin the publisher from further infringement. Wimpy Kid Inc. also seeks triple damages, in addition to attorney’s fees and Antarctic’s profits from Diary of a Zombie Kid.
Antarctic Press Publisher Joe Dunn declined comment to the Boston Herald, saying, “Obviously, I would love to talk about it and give my side of it. However I’ve been advised not to say anything.” His attorney said the publisher will be answering the complaint “promptly.”
Crime | A man in Lincoln, Nebraska, told police that a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, valued at $15,000, disappeared from his home sometime between Oct. 27 and Monday morning. The 1962 issue was kept with other comics, but the man claims several people had been in and out of his home since he last saw it. A near-mint copy of the comic, which features the first appearance of Spider-Man, sold at auction in March for $1.1 million. [Lincoln Journal Star]
Creators | Writer Greg Pak has set up a page to take donations for former comics writer Bill Mantlo, whose tragic situation was detailed in an article last week. “Bill Mantlo has had a huge influence on me as a writer and reader,” Pak said. “His Micronauts stories blew my mind as a kid and his Incredible Hulk run laid the groundwork for the themes I explored my five-and-a-half year run with the character.” Money donated through the site goes directly to Mike Mantlo, Bill’s brother, for Bill’s ongoing care. [Greg Pak]
Heidi MacDonald points to an article in the Hollywood Reporter about the runaway success of Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid novels (which are often classed with graphic novels, although they are really more of a hybrid format). There’s a lot to chew on in the article, and Heidi’s post gets some interesting comments about the fact that kids are reading—and buying—lots of comics lately; the only writer whose work is outselling Kinney right now is Stieg Larsson.
One of the really interesting angles of this story, though, is that from day one, the first three volumes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid have been available online, for free. It started out as a web-only book on the kids’ site Funbrain.com, and author Jeff Kinney has insisted on keeping it there. How does that work? I suspect there are two kinds of readers: Those who know about Wimpy Kid but not Funbrain (I’m guessing the target audience doesn’t spend a lot of time using BitTorrent) and those who go to Funbrain for math help, as my daughter did, and stumble on Wimpy Kid along the way. So he’s tapping into two separate audiences, much as comics publishers hope to do with digital and direct market sales. In addition, Kinney upgraded both the writing and the art for the print edition and threw in some extra twists that aren’t online. Although this seems to be pretty ad hoc, it sounds like a pretty good business plan to me.
Kinney had better watch his back, though: James Patterson, the author of Maximum Ride and Daniel X, both of which have done well both as prose novels and as graphic novel adaptations, has just published Middle School, a prose-graphic novel hybrid with a bit of a Wimpy Kid vibe—and he has put the first 20 chapters online for free.