Graphic novels | France 24 examines the Thursday release of Asterix and the Picts — the first album by new creative team Jean Yves-Ferri and Didier Conrad — from a political perspective, noting that the story, in which Asterix and Obelix journey from ancient Gaul to Iron Age Scotland, has already become part of the current debate about Scottish independence. [France 24]
Creators | Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, who spent a night in police custody last week on charges of “suspicion of causing a disturbance,” spoke to the press this week. Liming, who has more than 300,000 followers on his microblog account, first ran into trouble two years ago for one of his cartoons, but police told him that China has freedom of speech and he could continue drawing. Nonetheless, another of his cartoons, depicting Winnie the Pooh (a frequent cartoon stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping) kicking a football was deleted and suppressed by censors. “For them, drawing leaders in cartoon form is a big taboo,” the cartoonist said. “I think the controls on the Internet are too harsh. They have no sense of humor. They can’t accept any ridicule.” [Reuters]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller dissects the latest sales numbers and finds July 2013 to be the second-best month for comics sales in the direct market so far this century—actually, since 1997. Combined comics and graphic novel sales were up almost 17 percent compared to July 2012, and year-to-date sales are up almost 13 percent compared to last year. [The Comichron]
Retailing | Brian Hibbs, one of the founding members of the direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO, has left the group “because of the reactions of the Board to recent DC moves.” He revealed his decision in the comments on his blog post about DC’s allocation of 3D covers for Villains Month: “The org that I formed was intended to look out for the little guy; the current Board seems much more interested in keeping the big guys big. Democracy in action, I suppose, so I vote with my dollars.” [ICv2]
Creators | Ahead of the premiere of Kick-Ass 2, Abraham Reisman profiles Mark Millar, with an emphasis on his subversion of the genre — and the new prominence he’s about to achieve with the films based on his comics: “By decade’s end, he’ll have had more of his creations translated into movie form than any comics writer other than Stan Lee.” The piece also includes criticism of his work, with Colin Smith observing, ““Millar does indeed have a history of producing work which represents less powerful groups in an insensitive, and often deeply insensitive, manner. There are massive contradictions between his words and actions as a private citizen and the apparent politics of some of his books.”[The New Republic]
Conventions | Matt Arado looks forward to this coming weekend’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (it’s actually in Rosemont) with some creator interviews and a look at the way the con has evolved over the years. [Daily Herald]
While many of us were enjoying our holiday, Comic-Con International organizers were busy releasing the programming schedule for Thursday, July 18, the first full day of the San Diego convention. The rundown for Friday, July 19 should come along early this afternoon.
As we’ve come to expect, Thursday’s lineup is a healthy mix of comics, television, toys, fantasy and film (although light on the latter, which take center stage on Friday and Saturday). The comics programming includes panels from Avatar Press, Bongo Comics (it’s the publisher’s 20th anniversary), BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, DC Entertainment, Kodansha Comics, Marvel, Monkeybrain Comics (it’s that publisher’s first anniversary), TwoMorrows, Vertigo, Viz Media and Warp Comics.
However, that’s only for starters, as there are spotlights on Chris Samnee, Jeff Smith, J.H. Williams III, Dan Parent and Gary Frank, The Walking Dead‘s 10th-anniversary panel, and discussions about digital comics, gender in comics, LGBT webcomics and much, much more.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:
There was once a time where the idea of a comic in the U.S. market about Vikings seemed like wishful thinking, but then Brian Wood broke the ice with Northlanders at Vertigo. And now Kodanasha Comics is pushing even further October with the North American release of Vinland Saga, the celebrated Viking epic from Planetes creator Makato Yukimura.
Set in the 1000s, the series follows a group of Danish Vikings in England, with Yukimura blending history and fiction for a rollicking adventure.
Debuting in 2005 in Weekly Shōnen Magazine, Vinland Saga has released more than 80 chapters, and has been collected in Japan in nearly a dozen graphic novels.
For years American readers and pundits have been pining for an English translation, with The Comics Journal‘s Dirk Deppey openly endorsing reading scanlations in the absence of an official English-language release.
But come Oct. 8 that will all change with the arrival of the 460-page Book One, which not only collects the first two volumes of Vinland Saga but also marks the first hardcover from Kodansha Comics. The $19.99 U.S. edition, which boasts a larger trim size, also includes a new Q&A with Yukimura, Viking cosplay photos (because, why not?), and the first installment of “For Our Farewell Is Near,” an unreleased Yukimura story that will be serialized throughout the books.
Manga | The Japanese market research firm Oricon reports sales of manga volumes (tankobon) slipped 1.5 percent last year, to about $2.886 billion, the first decline since the company began reporting the figures in 2009. [Anime News Network]
Graphic novels | The Scottish Archaeological Research Project has put together a rather lively looking graphic novel about the history of Scotland, including such little-known events as the Storegga Tsunami. [BBC News]
Manga | Someone with a sharp eye spotted a manga license that hasn’t been officially announced: Kodansha Comics will publish Sherlock Bones, a series about a crime-solving boy and a talking dog, by Shin Kobayishi (Drops of God, Kindaichi Case Files) and Yuki Sato (Yokai Doctor). [allfiction]
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.
Publishing | Vertical Inc. announced Sunday at Otakon in Baltimore that it has licensed Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s 23-volume Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin and Mitsuhisa Kuji’s Wolfsmund. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | A year after the launch of Kodansha Comics, general manager Kimi Shimizu and Dallas Middaugh of Random House Publisher Services discuss their re-release of Sailor Moon, Kodansha’s fall line and the state of the manga market in the post-Borders landscape. “Manga numbers have been in decline for the past couple years, but what we’ve discovered in the past year or so is that decline is dramatically slowing,” Middaugh said .”So the simple fact of the matter is that most manga readers —usually when they’re committed, they’re committed—are reading a series. I actually believe that it takes more than the loss of a retail outlet to keep them from pursuing the manga that they want to read.” [ICv2]
Some manga publishers do social media very well. Others don’t. Kodansha Comics took forever to even put up a website (and the one they have is pretty bare-bones—I think they just added a “News” section this week), and they told fans at San Diego Comic-Con that they expected to have Facebook and Twitter accounts by the end of the year—hardly an ambitious schedule. So an impatient fan has done it for them, creating a Kodansha USA fan page on Facebook, complete with logo and the note “I’m hoping if we can make a good fan page it will inspire the real Kodansha Comics USA will make one for them self.”
Kodansha Comics unveiled their fall lineup today, and in addition to the already announced return of Sailor Moon, they will be bringing two more classics from the early days of licensed manga: Tokyo Mew Mew and Love Hina, both with new translations and a pocketbook-friendly omnibus format.
Both series were originally published by Tokyopop. Tokyo Mew Mew is a classic shoujo battle manga, featuring super-cute girls whose DNA has mysteriously mingled with that of various animals; they fight to save Planet Earth using ribbons and marshmallows and other sweet, girly things. Love Hina is a classic harem manga about a hapless slacker who gets kicked out of his parents’ house and ends up living in a girls’ dorm. Hilarious complications ensue! Readers who can’t get enough of boys accidentally barging into the shower may also enjoy Kodansha’s other series, Negima, by the same creator, Ken Akamatsu.
But wait! There’s more! The fall list will also include followups to two other older series. Shugo Chara-Chan! is a four-panel comic strip based on Peach-Pit’s 12-volume series Shugo Chara, which will end in September. And for the boys-love crowd, @Full Moon is the sequel to Until the Full Moon, which was originally licensed by Broccoli and is being brought back by Kodansha this summer. With its supernatural overtones (one character is half werewolf, half vampire), this seems tailor-made for the supernatural-romance crowd.
For those who can’t get enough, the full press release is after the jump.
The long-awaited launch of Kodansha Comics will take place this Sunday, Dec. 12, in the Bryant Park branch of the Kinokuniya Bookstore in New York City, and will include the announcement of their summer schedule. Kodansha has a Facebook page up for the event. The official launch is at 2 p.m., but the action starts at 1 with a One Piece podcast panel and continues afterward with a talk by Mari Marimoto, the translator of Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako as well as the super-popular Naruto, and various other events. Tony Yao of Manga Therapy will host the event.
Kodansha, the largest publisher in Japan, announced two years ago that they were going to publish their manga in the U.S. under their own name, but only a handful of books have appeared so far. In recent years, Del Rey, a branch of Random House, had licensed most Kodansha manga. In October, Kodansha announced that it would take over the Del Rey series and publish them directly, rather than licensing them to Random House. Random House will supply editing, production and distribution for the new books.