Conventions | The Tokyo Big Sight convention center in May will lift the ban on events associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. Creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki and numerous venues that were hosting manga and doujinshi (fan comics) shows have received threatening letters, some containing liquid or powder, and as a result, Kuroko’s Basketball fan events have been canceled and doujinshi tables have been banned from several comics events. (More background here.) [Kotaku]
Digital comics | Although the Marvel Unlimited and DC Comics apps work very differently, Noel Murray has similar complaints about both: Specific titles are difficult to find, and the damn things keep crashing: “Frankly, while some of the other major comics apps have better search functions — Dark Horse’s, for example — none of the big companies have created the digital comics retailing equivalent of an Amazon or iTunes.” [Hero Complex]
Publishing | Drawn & Quarterly has announced its fall lineup, which includes Peter Bagge’s biography Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. [Drawn & Quarterly]
JManga, the online manga portal launched in August 2011 by Japan’s Digital Comic Association, will shut down May 30. The website has already stopped selling points, required to purchase and view titles, with the ability to buy manga ending March 26. After May 30, members no longer will be able to view the titles they’ve purchased.
The abrupt announcement arrived last night in an “urgent message” to JManga members. A statement on the company’s site reads, “We deeply regret having to terminate our manga retail service in this manner and offer our sincerest apologies to the users, partners and friends who supported us. As a small token of our appreciation we will be refunding each user’s unused points …” Those refunds will come in the form of Amazon gift cards.
The shutdown, and where it leaves customers, will undoubtedly add voices to the growing chorus of criticism surrounding the digital comics distribution model: As an FAQ on the JManga site spells out, members won’t be able to view the titles they purchased after 11:59 p.m. May 30; they can’t be downloaded, either.
That’s of course a far cry from the 2011 launch announcement, which said, “The digital manga you purchase is automatically placed in your very own virtual bookshelf for you to read whenever want, wherever you are!”
Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52′s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]
Let’s start with comiXology, which is about to reach a significant milestone — 100 million comics downloaded. The company was at just about 50 million at the beginning of the year, which means the number of downloads (both free and paid) will have doubled in just about 10 months. And to reach that milestone just a bit faster, comiXology is offering a free comic every day. Yesterday’s selection was Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft #1, and today’s is Reilly Brown and Kurt Christenson’s Power Play #1. Check the top of the company’s blog every day for the spotlight title.
Meanwhile, the digital manga site JManga has added Kodansha manga to its lineup. This is a pretty big deal for that company, insofar as Kodansha is the largest publisher in Japan. In typical JManga fashion, they load it up right away with a lot of books; their first set is all older titles that were released in English under the Del Rey imprint before Kodansha set up its own North American arm, Kodansha Comics, and took over the Del Rey titles. None of these books is being published by Kodansha Comics, so they are only available via digital (or secondhand copies). And they are giving away a free volume: If you sign up with JManga and Tweet the Kodansha news (instructions are at the link above), they will give you 500 points, which is what a typical volume of manga costs on JManga.
What makes this interesting is that Kodansha Comics has its own app, although it hasn’t been updated in quite a while. Their app carries newer series such as Fairy Tail and Arisa (which launched as Del Rey titles) and Cage of Eden (which launched as a Kodansha Comics title). Will the two digital services merge, or will JManga keep the old-but-good stuff and Kodansha update its app? We’ll be watching to find out.
Digital comics | The Japanese web portal JManga today launched an unlimited-access site JManga7, although it won’t be putting any actual content on it until October. Unlike JManga, which sells digital manga one volume at a time, JManga7 operates on an “all-you-can-eat” model, with single chapters of a variety of titles available for free, and a wider selection with a paid subscription. The site will be updated daily and will include a mix of genres, with some new content that is being published close to its Japanese release date as well as some older series. The idea is for readers to check out the manga at JManga7 and ultimately buy them for keeps at JManga. To encourage readers to pre-register, JManga is raffling off seven Nexus 7 tablets and seven free subscriptions. Plans for the site were unveiled last month at Comic-Con International in an exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources. [JManga]
Graphic novels | The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation and the American Library Association will launch the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Prize for Libraries at the ALA summer conference, held June 21-26 in Anaheim, California. Three libraries each year will be selected to receive all the books nominated for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, as well as a $2,000 voucher to buy additional graphic novels and a $1,000 stipend to hold comics-related or author events. Libraries to register to win at the ALA conference; winners will be announced June 24. [Publishers Weekly]
Graphic novels | Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald look at the graphic novel presence at last week’s BookExpo America. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Novelist and X-Club writer Simon Spurrier recounts how he gave up his seat on a panel at last weekend’s London Super ComicCon to creator Tammy Taylor, in the spirit of “Panel Parity”: “Paul’s idea is that you can’t expect true gender parity in comics unless you create the conditions to facilitate it. Even if one has to dabble in positive discrimination, even if one must expect outraged cries of ‘tokenism!,’ ‘political correctness gone mad!,’ ‘patronising cockcentric condescension!,’ it’s worth it. So Paul created a movement he called ‘Panel Parity’ in which he planned to exercise the only real power he has – like any of us in the weird world of industry conventions – to make a difference. Paul pledged that whenever he’s invited onto a panel which doesn’t feature at least 50% women, he’ll surrender his own seat to a female speaker. Even if that means tracking down someone less ‘well-suited’ to discussing the topic at hand than himself. Even if it means disappointing people in the crowd who travelled to the show specifically to see him talk. As long as Said SheGuest is able to contribute in some way to the conversation, Paul feels her presence on stage is more valuable than his own. Which is a brave and important and splendid thing to say.” [Simon Spurrier]
Publishing| Joe Keatinge and Frank Cho have signed a three-book deal with Delcourt, a comics publisher in France. The first book of theirs Delcourt will publish will be the first volume of Brutal, which will debut at the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angouleme 2013. Delcourt publishes many American comics in France, including Walking Dead, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Invincible, Rocketeer, Hellboy, The Goon, Haunt and many more, as well as many manga titles.
“On a personal level, French comics have had a huge influence on me. Working within that industry is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I wanted a career in comics at all. Being an author with a book debuting at Angouleme is a goal I thought was many a year away, so this has taken things to a whole new level much sooner than anticipated. While I do plan on going back in 2012, this still gives me a year to work on my awful command of the language before I have to do a signing. Being in the good hands of Delcourt makes me think it’s a good start,” Keatinge said. [Joe Keatinge]
JManga, the manga portal created by a group of 39 Japanese publishers to sell digital manga directly to consumers, officially launched yesterday. The site uses a points system to sell books — a buck gets you 100 points, with each volume costing 899 points or more. You can also buy individual chapters if you prefer, which is probably a nice way to preview something you aren’t sure about, and along those same lines, they’ve got a whole lot of free chapters available as well.
Several folks who know a lot more about manga than I do have taken a look at the site and posted their thoughts. Johanna Draper Carlson, for instance, points out that you can only buy points in $5, $10 and $25 increments, which probably isn’t a big deal for eventual heavy users of the site, but if you’re looking to just pop in and buy one or two volumes, you’ll end up spending more than needed. And since the site already has “print-level pricing,” that means casual users could end up paying more than they would off Amazon or at a local store. Points also expire after a year, which kinda sucks.
JManga is the online manga service that readers have been waiting for: Fresh manga in a variety of genres (including lesser-selling ones like sports manga), straight from Japan, on your computer, iPad, Android, or Kindle. They launched at San Diego Comic-Con with a panel, and Deb Aoki has provided us with the most comprehensive reporting on it yet by posting a transcript of the SDCC panel and an interview with six representatives of JManga and participating publishers Kodansha, Shogakukan, Futabasha, and Kadokawa Shoten.
JManga is a great idea, and there was a lot of talent in the room, but there’s only one thing that manga readers care about: The manga. And it was very troubling that in their big SDCC panel the publishers could not identify a single title that it would carry (although the Futabasha rep hinted pretty strongly that Crayon Shin-chan would be on there). When Aoki asked if the manga in the enormous banner over their heads would be included in the JManga portal, JManga rep Robert Newman answered:
My apologies, but this information cannot be disclosed at this time. We will provide you with more information regarding titles around the timing of the launch.
A panel of Japanese manga editors revealed the first details about the JManga website in Friday’s JManga panel at Comic-Con. The JManga site, which was created by a group of 39 Japanese publishers to serve as a manga portal, will launch for U.S. users on August 17 and will be rolled out for other countries after that. While the panel doesn’t seem to have spelled out the exact titles that will be carried on the site, Deb Aoki Tweeted that the images on the screen behind them (apparently the same as the image above, which was taken from Crunchyroll) included Dragon Girl, One Piece, Crayon Shin-Chan, Cigarette Kisses, and Larceny Log of Zampei the Cloud Snatcher In addition to manga, the site will include original content, social networking features, wallpapers, author interviews, and even a way for readers to text questions to the manga creators. In some cases, the reader will be able to toggle between Japanese and English text.
The idea behind the site is to increase the number of releases to foreign readers and speed them up. Manga fandom is up, moderator Saki Miyata said, as measured by attendance at cons such as Anime Expo, but sales are down. While piracy was cited as one reason, panelists also noted the lack of licensees and the loss of the Borders bookstore chain, which was known for carrying a wide range of manga. The site will include some series that were licensed for the U.S. and then dropped, the panelists said, and it will include a mix of well-known and lesser-known titles, in order to bring the latter to a wider audience. Prices have not been determined yet, but the panelists said that the site will include a lot of free content.