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The Whole Story tries a new model for digital comics

Creator Ryan Estrada has created a new digital comics site, The Whole Story, that—if it succeeds—could change the whole way digital comics are sold.

The site basically delivers what people have been clamoring for: Downloadable, DRM-free comics at a reasonable price. In fact, until July 23, the starter bundle is pay-what-you-want (with a $1 minimum, which sounds reasonable). The rest of the comics are sold in bundles with various extras thrown in—it’s sort of like Kickstarter, only with instantaneous delivery. Even more Kickstarter-y: On the FAQ page, Estrada promises to make more rewards, such as being drawn into his comics, available via Twitter.

Who’s on board? A host of indy creators, that’s who: The free bundle gets you comics by Estrada and Box Brown as well as Fusion Elementary, illustrated by Nam Dong Yoon and written by Meredith Gran, Jeffrey Brown, C. Spike Trotman, and other luminaries, most of whom have made their names in the webcomics world. At the higher levels, you get more new books by Brown and Yoon, and for $200 you can get download links to share with ten friends.

By cutting out the middleman, Estrada also cuts out a lot of the nonsense involved with digital comics purchases, such as licenses, geographical restrictions, and DRM. The sales mechanism is a bit clumsy at the moment—he e-mails out the higher-priced bundles by hand—but this site might have the right combination of talent and user-friendliness to really be a game changer.

A Month of Wednesdays | May 2012

The Best of the Three Stooges Comicbooks, Vol. 1 (Papercutz) Well, here’s at least one good thing to come out of the Farrelly Brothers’ new feature film: Its production company C3 Entertainment teamed with Papercutz/NBM to produce this handsome hardcover, which collects chunks of Stooges comics from two different eras.

The best of these are from defunct publisher St. John’s  early-1950s Three Stooges comic (issues 1, 4 and 5, to be precise), and were drawn by Norman Mauer, a gifted comics artist who married the real Moe’s daughter, Joan (who provides the introduction to the volume).

Mauer edited the original  book (along with partner Joe Kubert), and delivered action- and gag-packed pages featuring Moe, Larry and Shemp. His designs of the central characters are incredibly strong, with Shemp and Moe much more distinctly defined than they often were in their black-and-white short films.

The pair of them are short, roundish figures who favor clown-like garb, including baggy pants and ill-fitting coats and ties. Mauer’s Larry is more elongated in appearance, and, unlike the others, has a more placid, emotionless look in his eyes.

There’s a fourth character, swindler and conman Benedict Bogus, who constantly tries to put one over on our heroes, but his schemes always end up hurting him more than them. These stories can prove rather wild and formless, as if Mauer were plotting them while drawing them, and resolving them only when he was running out of pages left to fill, but the cartooning is super-sharp, and many of the panels are a joy simply to look at.

The back half of the collection includes the first three issues of the Dell comics, by Pete Alvarado, whose artwork has a coloring-book simplicity to it, as he was aping the style of the Three Stooges cartoons of the time. For these stories, Shemp is out and Curly’s in.

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Kickstart My Art | Food and eating anthology Digestate

Earlier this month we showcased comics-as-cookbooks, and now we find on Kickstarter a veritable buffet of comics for the foodies among us. Organized by cartoonist/small press publisher J.T.  Yost, Digestate is a taster’s choice of stories by 50-plus cartoonists chronicling their own food tastes.

“Each artist has approached the theme in a manner exclusive to their own personality,” Yost says on the project’s Kickstarter page. “There are some autobiographical comics (both funny and heart-wrenching), some fictional comics, some akin to an essay and others that defy categorization altogether.”

The line-up is a “Who’s Who” of cartoonists, with everyone from Renee French and Marc Bell to James Kochalka and Alex Robinson to Keith Knight and Berkeley Breathed. On the Kickstarter page there are several of the stories to be included in the print publication, including the excellent “Bacon Vs. Asparagus with Oscar” by Jeffrey Brown, which is at the bottom of this post.

Digestate is nearly half-way to its$4,500 goal with 30 days remaining in the fundraising campaign. Compared with recent Kickstarter comics drives, $4,500 seems like a relatively small amount but Yost doesn’t say what the money specifically will be going for. Regardless, remember to tip your server!

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Comics A.M. | A call for Disney to remember its roots

Oswald the Rabbit, by Walt Disney

Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]

Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]

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Sam Hiti’s Darth Vader and Son

I love Jeffrey Brown’s cute Darth Vader and Son comics. I also love Sam Hiti’s very different version of that theme. And so will you.

Latest Threadless ‘Comics-On Tees’ available for purchase

The latest round of “Comics-on Tees” that debuted this past weekend at C2E2 in Chicago are now available for purchase on their website. This round is “written” by Jeffrey Brown, who also contributes the design of one of the shirts, along with Jeff Lemire, Anders Nilsen, and Paul Hornschemeier. The shirts can be bought individually, or you can get all four as a set.

Watch the trailer for Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son

This is pretty wonderful … Jeffrey Brown’s latest is a Star Wars “What if?’ type book where Darth Vader was actually a decent father to Luke, despite being a Dark Lord of the Sith. Y’know, the kind of father who teaches you to raid the cookie jar using the force or takes you to Bring Your Kids to Work Day on the Death Star. Darth Vader and Son comes out April 18, and the above trailer has a brief but fun scene between the two, involving ice cream. Enjoy.

Threadless prepares another round of Comics-On Tees

The crowdsourcing T-shirt site Threadless has produced four rounds of Comics-On Tees, and it looks like round five will debut at this year’s C2E2 show.

Previously they’ve recruited creators like Becky Cloonan, Mike Allred, Eduardo Risso, Jill Thompson, Colleen Coover and Tony Moore, just to name a few, to create shirts. This round will be “written” by Jeffrey Brown, who also contributes the design of one of the shirts, along with Jeff Lemire, Anders Nilsen, and Paul Hornschemeier. The shirts will debut at their booth C2E2 weekend and will be available for purchase from the Threadless site on April 16.

Kids comics these days!: Adventure Time, Batman: The Brave and the Bold #16 and SpongeBob Comics #7

You’ve heard it said that children are the future, and if that’s true—and it must be, since they’ll be around for more of the future than we adults will be—it’s as true for comics as it is for whatever else people mean when they say children are the future.

So what sorts of comic books are we providing for our children, our future these days? As it turns out, some pretty good ones—hell, some pretty great ones.

This week saw the release of three particular comic books–not graphic novels or tankobon, but good-old-fashioned 20-some pages and some staples comic books—that featured superior writing and art, some of that art coming from world-class cartoonists.

And all three of those comics, oddly enough, are based on cartoon series.

When I was a child, there were comic books based on cartoons (cartoons that were often based on toy lines), and while they were readily available in drug and grocery stores, and you could buy one with a dollar bill and get change back, they weren’t exactly the highest quality product.

But some of today’s based-on-cartoons comics can put to shame much of what the “Big Six” direct market publishers release for their grown-up audiences.

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Brown, Kupperman, more contribute to CBLDF minicomic

The Comic Book Fan’s Worst NIGHTMARE!

Jeffrey Brown, Ming Doyle, Michael Kupperman and several other creators have contributed to The Comic Book Fan’s Worst NIGHTMARE!, a mini-comic that highlights the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s current casework. In particular, the comic highlights the case of “Brandon X,” who is facing a minimum sentence of one year in prison for possessing horror and fantasy manga on his laptop computer. His case is expected to go to trial in 2012, and legal expenses are estimated to run around $150,000.

You can read the whole comic on the CBLDF site or download it via comiXology.

Get great comics at cheap prices from the Top Shelf Massive $3 Sale

It’s an annual tradition to look forward to: The alternative comics publisher Top Shelf has unveiled its “Massive $3 Sale,” in which they’re pricing down their catalog to near-ridiculous levels — in many cases $3, and in many more cases just one lousy American dollar. For very little money, you can rack up a big chunk of one of the best comics publishers’ best comics.

What would I get? At the $3 level, Kolbeinn Karlsson’s The Troll King — a surreal collection of intertwined short stories that for once lives up to the overused, rarely true label “fairy tales for grown-ups” — is basically a must-buy. I’d also be sure to pick up Andy Hartzell’s Fox Bunny Funny, an unpredictable and impeccably cartooned funny-animal allegory about conformity and self-discovery. Lilli Carré’s remarkably assured debut collection of satirical short stories, Tales of Woodsman Pete, is another no-brainer. If you’re interested in rounding out your Alan Moore collection with some of his more off-the-beaten-path efforts, you can get all eight issues of his underground-culture zine Dodgem Logic, his prose novel Voice of the Fire, and his poetry/photography collaboration with José Villarubia The Mirror of Love for three bucks a pop. And you can pick up all three issues of Jeffrey Brown’s one-man action anthology series SulkBighead & Friends, a return to his genuinely funny superhero parody characters; Deadly Awesome, an 84-page mixed martial arts fight comic; and The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness, a grab bag of sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure spoofs — for a buck apiece, which is a steal.

Beyond the deepest discounts, you’ll rarely find the publisher’s heavy (literally–these books are big) hitters priced as low as they are now: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, Campbell’s Alec: The Year’s Have Pants omnibus, and Jeff Lemire’s complete Essex County are all $20, while Craig Thompson’s Blankets is just $22.50.

And hey, if you’re totally new to all of these books, so much the better. Maybe DC’s New 52 initiative has you in an “I’ll try anything for $3 a book” mood? If so, put a few bucks aside and get some full-fledged graphic novels for that price or lower. You’ll be glad you did.

Sneak preview of Jeffrey Brown’s cat cartoon from Devastator

The third issue of The Devastator, the humor anthology edited by Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows, comes out at the end of the month, and the theme this time around is cats. Cats! Who doesn’t love cats?

I know someone who definitely loves cats — cartoonist Jeffrey Brown, creator of Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations. Brown has a two-page strip in the upcoming volume; Devastator sent us the first page, which you can view after the jump, but you’ll have to buy the anthology to see the second page (see what they did there?) Each issues is a mix of comics, prose pieces and a whole bunch of humor, and can be bought through their website.

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Six by 6 | Six noteworthy debut comics

Good-Bye Chunky Rice

Cartoonists rarely produce great work right out of the starting gate. It usually it takes lots of time and lots of effort for an artist to hone their style and storytelling abilities. Debut comics — even those made by the greats — rarely offer any indication of what type of treasures lie ahead. Even Chris Ware had to make Floyd Farland before he could produce Jimmy Corrigan.

Still, sometimes a cartoonist seems to spring out of the sea foam fully formed, producing a work that not only draws attention and great buzz, but also indicates exactly where they’re headed — what direction they plan to take as an artist and what you as a reader can expect from them.

Here then, are six debut comics that made people go “Who the heck is this guy? And why haven’t I heard of him before?” I’m sure I missed someone. I always do. Be a dear and let me know who I forgot in the comments section, won’t you?

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical returns Thursday; Noveck lands at Syfy Films

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | The $70-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will emerge Thursday from its three-week hiatus a vastly changed production, featuring five additional flying sequences, expanded roles for Aunt May, Uncle Ben and Mary Jane, a scaled back (and transformed) Arachne, new songs and a lighter tone. “There is still a ton of emotional complexity in the musical, and some of that original darkness,” says playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was hired to help rework the script. “But we all also wanted a show that would honor the rich legacy and history of the Spider-Man story: the high school love story, the pretty girl next door, the science geek who is coping with new powers.” The new opening night is set for June 14. [The New York Times]

Publishing | Gregory Noveck, former senior vice president-creative affairs at DC Entertainment, has been hired as senior vice president of production for Syfy Films, a joint venture of Syfy and Universal. Noveck, who oversaw DC’s film and television ventures, left the company in August amid a massive restructuring. [Heat Vision]

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Comics A.M. | Borders seeks bonus approval; Marvel’s ‘Point One’ sales

Borders

Retailing | A bankruptcy judge is expected to hear arguments today from the bankrupt Borders Group, which is seeking to pay $8.3 million in bonuses in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. The struggling bookseller says that 47 executives and director-level employees have quit since the company declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16 — two dozen just this month — leaving only 15 people in senior management positions. In a court filing last week, U.S. bankruptcy trustee Tracy Hope Davis objected to the bonus proposal, characterizing it as “a disguised retention plan for insiders, which also provides for discriminatory bonuses for non-insiders.” [The Detroit News]

Publishing | Todd Allen looks at sales estimates for the first issues in Marvel’s “Point One” initiative, which featured self-contained stories designed to serve as a jumping-on point for new or lapsed readers: “With the sole exception of Hulk, retailers ordered less copies of the ‘jump on’ issue, than the regular series.  If you figure people picking up the title would also pick up the ‘.1′ introductory issue, this is a flaming disaster and there aren’t going to be a lot of these comics finding their way into the hands of new readers.  It smack of very low buy-in from the retail community.” [Indignant Online]

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