For some reason, I keep reading and re-reading Jim Zubkavich’s breakdown of indie comic economics, as if at some point it’s actually going to make sense to me. It’s not that I don’t understand the math as he presents it, but more than my brain refuses to comprehend the scale of the unfairness of distribution of wealth when it comes to comic books.
In case you haven’t seen it, Zub’s breakdown for a $2.99 comic goes like this:
Ryan North’s (Dinosaur Comics, Adventure Time) Kickstarter for his illustrated prose book, To Be or Not To Be is way past being fully funded with 24 days still to go, so this isn’t a plea for action so much as it is a public service announcement. Because, dude …
North is putting together something that he can’t call Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for legal reasons, but totally is, only it’s for grown-ups, based on Hamlet, allows you to play as various characters including the ghost, and is illustrated by an insane line-up of artists like Kate Beaton, Chip Zdarsky, Chris Hastings, David Malki, Dustin Harbin, Jim Zubkavich, Kazu Kibuishi, Ray Fawkes, Vera Brosgol. … Seriously, I’m going to embarrass myself by leaving someone awesome out and the list is loooong. Check out the Kickstarter page for the full scoop.
$15 gets you a PDF copy, but $20 gets U.S. residents the PDF and a paperback copy too. Backers outside the U.S. are asked for a $30 pledge to cover shipping costs. And of course there are other goodies for pledging more.
Riding the “Uncanny” wave of new Marvel titles — Uncanny Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, Uncanny X-Force — Skullkickers creators Jim Zubkavich and Edward Huang have wryly announced the February arrival of … The Uncanny Skullkickers #1.
“A bold new direction!” the Image Comics solicitation promises. “A perfect jumping-on point! A newly added adjective! Our nineteeth issue, but also a new issue #1! It’s all here, people! Don’t make us use more exclamation marks!! P.S. Retailers: Rack this comic beside other ‘Uncanny’ comics you may have hanging around and sell a ton of copies. Do it.” The subsequently released teaser (above), parodies Marvel’s ubiquitous ads for its relaunched titles, with the “Join the Revolution” logo replaced by a box reading “YUP we went there.”
Image NOW! maybe? Hey, why not. “That’s how we roll … bandwagon-jumping bastards,” Zubkavich wrote this morning on Twitter, adding, “Wait until you see the variant cover.”
Speaking of covers: Note, too, that Chris Stevens’ cover (below) bears a striking similarity to those recently released by DC Comics for its Zero Month. The Uncanny Skullkickers #1 goes on sale Feb. 27.
Conventions | Creators like Neal Adams, Tim Bradstreet, Howard Chaykin, Amanda Conner and Scott Lobdell will headline the Long Beach Comic & Horror Con, held Saturday and Sunday at the Long Beach Convention Center. “I think most of our artists are thrilled to come back each year,” said Phil Lawrence, principal sales director for the event. “This is the earliest we sold out our Artists Alley and we have almost 190 tables. By focusing on the artists and giving them their due, they seem to keep coming back and signing up earlier — and they promote the show, which helps us out, too.” [Gazettes.com]
Legal | The lawyer for Jack Kirby’s heirs asked the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to overturn a 2011 ruling that Marvel owns the copyrights to the characters the late artist co-created for the publisher, arguing that a federal judge misinterpreted the law. Attorney Marc Toberoff, who also represents the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their fight against DC Comics, told a three-judge panel that a freelancer who gets paid only when a publisher likes his work is not, under copyright law, performing work for hire. Marvel countered that Stan Lee’s testimony established Kirby drew the contested works at the publisher’s behest; the Kirby family insists the lower court gave too much credence to Lee’s testimony. Kirby’s children filed 45 notices in 2009 in a bid to terminate their father’s assignment of copyright to characters ranging from the Fantastic Four and the Avengers to Thor and Iron Man under a provision of the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act. However, in July 2011, a judge determined those comics created between 1958 and 1963 were work made for hire and therefore ineligible for copyright termination. [Law360.com]
Graphic novels | The seventh volume of Sailor Moon was the top-selling graphic novel in bookstores in September, according to BookScan, followed by Naruto,Vol. 58, an Avengers character guide, the third volume of Batman: Knightfall, and vol. 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise. ICv2 notes that, the Avengers book aside (and it is published by DK Publishing), Marvel is completely absent from the top ten, although DC makes a strong showing. [ICv2]
Creators | Hope Larson, who adapted Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time into graphic novel form, chats with Margaret Ferguson, her editor on the project. [Publishers Weekly]
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]
Retailing | DC Comics dominated bookstore graphic novel sales in August, probably because of the release of The Dark Knight Rises and a “buy two, get one free” sale on DC graphic novels at Barnes & Noble. Six of the Top 10 titles are Batman comics, with The Walking Dead, Watchmen, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Naruto each taking a slot as well. [ICv2]
Creators | Judge Dredd writer John Wagner talks about the origins of his character, the importance of U.K. publisher DC Thomson, and his dislike of digital comics. [The Daily Record]
Creators | Nick Spencer guests on Kieron Gillen’s podcast to discuss Morning Glories. [Kieron Gillen's Workblog]
Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!’” [MTV Geek]
Webcomics | Philip Hofer, the creator of the ComicPress WordPress theme used by many webcomics artists, discusses that and his new WordPress product, Comic Easel. [The Webcomic Beacon]
Creators | Peter Bagge talks about his comics and his relationship with Robert Crumb as both a contributor to and editor of Crumb’s anthology Weirdo: “With the style of work that I do, I like it to look on the surface like it’s shallow and stupid, but when you read it, the context is really sweet; [Crumb] saw that right away. I remember telling him ‘I have some story ideas, using fictional characters that are stand-ins for me, and I’m remembering things that are embarrassing and hard to write about. Even though I’m hiding behind a fictional character, I’m nervous talking about embarrassing events from my past. I’m a little bit afraid. He said ‘Those are exactly the stories you need to tell, especially if it won’t go away, and are always in the back of your head.’” [Graphic NYC]
Publishing | Don MacPherson rails against the current numbering and renumbering practices by Marvel and DC Comics: “I realize other publishers have adopted irregular numbering schemes as well, but DC and Marvel are the ones driving things in that direction. Constant relaunches with new first issues, renumbering those relaunches to exploit a big-number milestone such as a 500th issue, half issues, zero issues, issues with decimal points, Greek letters … it’s exhausting and irritating, and I’m certain it’s frustrating for people preparing price guides and collection databases. Next I’m guessing there will be a series numbered in an alien math rooted in a fictional Kryptonian base-14 numerical system.” [Eye on Comics]
Digital comics | David Brothers articulates what the problem is with DRM: “What I realized is that DRM has a lot of benefits for the publisher, but next to none for the consumer. Blizzard can track exactly who plays Diablo III and when, which is valuable for gathering demographic data, off the top of my head. ComiXology can tell publishers exactly what contexts their comics will appear in and on what devices. DRM is about control, basically, rather than being a value-add. It’s a limiting service, rather than one focused on expansion, and the people most affected by it are consumers who actually want to consume this stuff.” And it does nothing to stop piracy, either. [4thletter!]
I spent Wednesday in New York City at BookExpo America, which bills itself as “the largest book industry event in North America.” It took up a good portion of the Javits Center but was weirdly unlike a comic convention: There were panels and celebrity appearances and autographs, and all the publishers had booths, but they weren’t selling books. They had big stacks of one or two that were being given away for free, and everything else was display copies. It’s a very different vibe from a comic con, because the attendees aren’t so much fans as potential customers — retailers and librarians. Also, there were no costumes, although you could get your picture taken with a life-size inflatable Captain Underpants.
Comics were there, of course. Diamond Book Distributors had a booth, and IDW Publishing, Image, and BOOM! Studios were in the same alley, while NBM/Papercutz, Disney/Marvel and Fantagraphics were on other parts of the floor. Most of the big publishers have a graphic novel line as well, so there were some display copies sitting in the booths. And I was there to take part in the Hottest Graphic Novels of 2012 panel, which was well attended and well received.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, this ever-lovin’ comics fan would first pick out Dark Horse Presents #12 (Dark Horse, $7.99). First off: John Layman and Sam Kieth doing an Aliens story, can you believe that? That debut, coupled with the return of Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus, makes this another DHP worth buying. After that, I’d jump into Prophet #25 (Image, $2.99) to see Brandon Graham’s rollicking story with special guest artist Farel Dalrymple. The creators lined up on this Extreme Comics revival continue to impress me, and I’m excited to see new work by Dalrymple here. Third up would be Secret Avengers #27 (Marvel, $3.99), and I’m all hyped up to see how Rick Remender handles the touchy subject of Marvel’s original Captain Marvel. As for the artist, I’m still waiting for Renato Guedes to wow me the way he did before he jumped from DC to Marvel; the previews for this show some promise, so I’m excited to see the entire package.
If I had $30, I’d double back to get the return of Batman Incorporated #1 (DC, $2.99). Grant Morrison’s schedule, along with the New 52, seemed to harpoon this title last year, but I’m hoping this is some attempt to right that ship. Next up would be Fantastic Four #606 (Marvel, $2.99), seeing Jonathan Hickman come full circle as his run nears conclusion by going back to where the FF started: with four people in space suits. Ron Garney is an interesting choice to draw this one, and his take on the Thing is right up there with Stuart Immonen’s. Last up would be Irredeemable #37 (BOOM! Studios, $3.99). I admit I switched to trades a couple issues ago, but I’m jumping back in — spoilers be damned — to find out the end to this story. I’m a little bit morose that artist Peter Krause isn’t the one drawing the finale given all he put into this, but Diego Barretto is an able artist to draw what Waid has set out for this final issue. Oh, hey, I’ve got $5.06 left so I’ll live up to the the title of this Robot 6 feature and get some food: a hot dog from Voodoo Dogs in Tallahassee. Have you seen their new commercial?
If I could splurge, I’d finish eating my hot dog and pick up Comic Book History of Comics (IDW Publishing, $21.99). I’ve failed at life when I couldn’t track down all six of these issues on my own, but IDW offering it all up in one package saves me from that level of hell. Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey have put on a master class here in doing bio comics, especially bio comics about comics, and as a journalist, comics fan and would be comics writer myself this hits all the right spots for an engrossing read.
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.
Legal | A proposed Arizona law that would make it a crime to annoy or offend anyone through electronic means has been held back for revision after a number of concerned parties, including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, protested that it was too broad. The bill, which was passed by both houses of the Arizona legislature, basically took the language from the statute criminalizing harassing phone calls and applied it to all electronic devices, without limiting it to one-to-one communications. As a result, the language appears to make it a crime to post anything annoying or potentially offensive on the internet. [CBLDF]
Retailing | Brian Hibbs questions Mark Waid’s math, both with regard to comic shops and the cost of self-publishing, and brings up a number of arguments in favor of the Direct Market. He argues that having gatekeepers in the market is a good thing and that rather than refusing to take a risk on a new or different comic, retailers will go out of their way to stock comics they think their readers will like. [Savage Critics]