Publishing | Sales of IDW Publishing’s My Little Pony comics, in single-issue and graphic novel format but not counting digital, have topped 1 million copies. (It does really well in the iBookstore — there are multiple issues in the Top 10 every week — although it seldom registers on the other digital comics platforms.) IDW’s Ted Adams says this is because it’s such a great comic, but shrewd marketing such as offering a special Scholastic Book Fair edition with a bonus pony figure probably helped a lot. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The motion-comics platform Madefire has secured $5.2 million in funding. In July it announced agreements with four comics publishers — IDW, BOOM! Studios, Top Cow and iTV — and the first IDW comics came out in August. Madefire also has a partnership with DeviantArt. [Publishers Weekly]
Digital comics | IDW Publishing released its first batch of digital comics on the motion-comics platform Madefire this week. The selection includes partially animated My Little Pony, Star Trek and Transformers comics, which sell for $1.99 each. Jeff Webber, IDW’s vice president of digital publishing, noted that because Madefire has a partnership with DeviantArt, the books are being exposed to “an incredibly broad network of illustration fans.” To commemorate My Little Pony’s Madefire debut, Dave Gibbons drew the image at right “to show that Friendship IS Magic!” `[Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka, who chronicled life in the Poston, Arizona, internment camp in his book Camp II, Block 211, has died at the age of 87. , Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Matsuoka was a teenager when his family was sent to internment camps in Salinas, California, and then Poston. After leaving the camp he was drafted and served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in occupied Japan. He went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for many years. Camp II, Block 211 was based on sketches he did while living in the camps and set aside for many years; his mother found them and encouraged him to share them with the public. They were put on exhibit in San Francisco and then collected into the book, which was first published in 1974. A revised edition was released in 2003. [The Rafu Shimpo]
Publishing | ICv2 has one of its periodic Big Interviews with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, this time covering how new readers are finding digital comics, how variant covers are working and graphic novel sales in bookstores, among other topics. Here’s Lee’s rather elliptical take on the flurry of recent changes in creative teams: “Without getting into the specifics, from the outside looking in, it might look like there’s a string of changes that point to one common theme, as you suggest. But from the inside looking out, you’ll see that each one has a different set of circumstances and conditions that ultimately led to the conflicts or the resignations or changes in creative personnel.” [ICv2]
Retailing | ICv2 also reports that Amazon and Overstock.com are having a price war on graphic novels, and readers are the beneficiaries. The website did a little shopping around and found a handful of graphic novels priced at up to 70 percent off full retail. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Jason Snell uses Comic-Con International as an opportunity to take a snapshot of digital comics in “an era of experimentation,” and hones in on Madefire, the convention’s embrace of technology, comiXology and the growing popularity of the digital-first model. “Digital has made us rethink how we fulfill books into the [print] retail market,” Chris Ross, Top Shelf’s director of digital publishing, said during a panel. [TechHive]
Legal | The Attorney-Generals Chambers of Singapore has charged cartoonist Leslie Chew (the pen name of Chew Peng Ee) with contempt of court because of four cartoons posted on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. A hearing on the charges, which could result in jail time and fines, will be held on Aug. 12. Chew’s attorney M. Ravi said in a phone interview, “Our judiciary is not like fragile flowers to be offended easily by such criticism. We have full faith in the impartiality and independence of our judiciary.” [Bloomberg News]
Preview Night doesn’t begin for another 11 hours, but judging from the flurry of announcements, Comic-Con International has been well under way since, oh, about Monday. So, if it feels like you’re already falling behind, that’s because you probably are.
To help you catch up, we’ve rounded up early news from DC Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Madefire and Marvel, along with a few other convention-related items.
• Dynamite Entertainment came out of the gate running this week with news that Steve Niles and Dennis Calero will reboot Army of Darkness, James Robinson will launch his crime romance Grand Passion, the Legends of Red Sonja miniseries will team Gail Simone with an all-female creative team that includes Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mercedes Lackey, Nicola Scott and Devin Grayson, Peter Milligan will debut his sci-fi action series Terminal Hero, Duane Swiercyznski will expand the publisher’s crime line with Ex-Con, Howard Chaykin will return to The Shadow with the miniseries Midnight in Moscow, NBC’s Heroes will get a “fifth season” in a series written by Cullen Bunn, the acquisition of the Robotech license spawns a Robotech/Voltron crossover, and The Heart of the Beast, the graphic novel by Dean Motter, Judith Dupré and Sean Phillips, will receive a 20th-anniversary prestige-format edition.
That means creators will be able to make their own motion comics using Madefire’s tools, and then distribute them through deviantART and the Madefire’s app. DeviantART also has a new Motion Books section in which visitors can preview a dozen Madefire titles previously only available on the company’s iOS app, and purchase chapters for 10 cents each (they remain free through the app for a limited time).
Writer Gail Simone calls Ben Abernathy “one of the best editors/idea men in the business,” and over the past 15 years — through his time at Dark Horse, Marvel, WildStorm, DC Comics and now digital publisher Madefire — he’s pushed the boundaries of what can be done in the medium. He was part of Marvel’s move into trade paperbacks and graphic novels, and shepherded WildStorm’s hard sci-fi and superhero work. WildStorm gave way to DC Digital, where Abernathy helped to break the mold of how comics are read, and that continues at Madefire, which publishes serialized creator-owned comics online and via mobile devices.
In addition to discussing Abernathy’s work at Madefire, I asked the longtime editor about his time at WildStorm, where he took over for Scott Dunbier, and his thoughts on the imprint’s collapse in 2010.
Comics | Johan Palme talks to Nathan Hamelberg of The Betweenship Group about the continuing controversy over a Swedish library’s decision to re-shelve some Tintin comics because of racist caricatures and colonialist attitudes. The books were put back following an uproar, but the move has sparked a larger conversation, and it even has its own hashtag, #tintingate. [The Guardian]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and the Publishers Weekly team (including Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson) post a comprehensive report on New York Comic Con, including debuts, new-title announcements, and a quick look at logistics. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Conventions | Dave Smith looks at one of the most vexing problems of New York Comic Con: the lack of decent wireless access, a situation troubling exhibitors and media alike. [International Business Times]
Publishing | IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams discusses the company’s new IDW Limited program, which will produce small print runs of deluxe editions that will be marketed direct to the consumer. How small? The print run for the Blue Label edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 Deluxe Limited Edition will be 10 copies. “The only fair thing to do is to give the fans direct access on a first come first served basis,” he said. “We’re putting an incredible emphasis on quality, and that directly affects the quantity of books IDW Limited can produce. We’re designing new covers, building custom cases and paying the artists to do hand drawn sketch work to go with these books. The reality is that that’s all very expensive and unfortunately it makes it difficult for us to offer this line at the deep discount needed for traditional retail distribution.” [ICv2]
Libraries | Following the firestorm sparked last month when a youth library in Stockholm briefly removed Tintin comics because of their racial caricatures of Africans and Arabs, a survey finds that 10 percent of Swedish libraries have removed or restricted Herge’s books due to “racist content.” [The Local]
Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]
Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]
Conventions | MorrisonCon and the Las Vegas Comic Expo aren’t the only comic conventions this weekend (more on them shortly): There’s also Wizard World Ohio Comic Con in Columbus, and Asbury Park Comic Con in New Jersey. Last year, Wizard took over Mid-Ohio Con and turned it into Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, and on the eve of this year’s event, the local alternative weekly looks at how the event has changed and what to expect. Meanwhile, Saturday’s Asbury Park Comic Con gets back to basics: “The problem that I have with the big comic conventions is that they’ve turned into pop culture conventions and it’s anything goes —anything from video games to wrestlers and bands, stuff that has nothing or very little to do with comics. What we want to do is bring it back to what brought us all together — our passion for comics,” says co-founder Cliff Galbraith. The event, which is being held in a rock club/bowling alley, features such comics guests as Larry Hama, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Dean Haspiel, Seth Kushner and Reilly Brown. [The Other Paper, Asbury Park Press]
Digital comics | Watchmen co-creator David Gibbons discusses the comics he’s making for the Madefire digital app: “The term that we bandied around was that reading comics on the Madefire platform is a bit like reading comics on “intelligent” paper in that it’s got all the virtues of regular paper but it can do a whole lot of other things that a printed version can’t. There are wonderful things it can do with movement of the tablet, with animated transitions, and with ambient and event sound. We’ve also talked about creating the new grammar of graphic storytelling.” [ICv2]
Creators | A sold-out appearance by Stan Lee scheduled for Sept. 27 at Ohio’s Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has been canceled because of what the legendary writer’s agent reportedly described as “a very serious circumstance.” The library had sold 2,300 tickets for the “Authors! Authors!” series event, which had already been moved from April 18 because of a scheduling conflict. Lee, who turns 90 in December, cut short some public appearances in May, with a spokesman citing promotional fatigue and the death of Lee’s longtime business associate Arthur Lieberman. [Toledo Blade]
OK, here’s a chance to get a paid gig alongside some of the greatest names in the imaginative arts industry: Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brian Bolland, Mike Carey, and more.
Madefire is looking for a horror illustrator for a story that will go live on our 5-star rated app at Halloween. The creature in the story is a Metawhal Alpha (drawn by me, above).
…Please DON’T send me direct messages, including via DeviantArt. Simply submit your work to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Then go and check out the rest of our website and/or iPad app to get a feel for what we’re creating. The portfolio submission period won’t last for more than a few weeks, as we want to select an illustrator in time for a finished title to go live end of October.
Anyone applying for this gig will be seeing his work published alongside a dizzying array of comics superstars, so I’m guessing big brass cojones (or big brass huevos) are also required, if not actually stipulated by Sharp.
In other Sharp-related news, the DTV horror movie he recently worked on in an art department laced with comic book talent (including Gary Erskine, Lee Carter and Alex Ronald), Outpost II: Black Sun, has released a mood-book full of concept art (link via Everything Comes Back To 2000AD).
Ben Abernathy, who left DC Comics last week after more than a decade with the company — most recently as digital editor — has joined Madefire, the innovative motion-comics company launched last year by Ben Wolstenholme, Liam Sharp and Eugene Walden.
“About two years ago Ben [Wolstenholme] and I realized there would be a point very early on where Madefire needed a full-time editor – if all went to plan!” Sharp tells ComicBooked.com. “We started to draft a wish-list – and it barely got past one! Ben Abernathy!”
Abernathy, who worked briefly for Dark Horse and Marvel, was senior editor of WildStorm until the imprint was closed in 2010 amid a corporate restructuring and he was moved with other staff to DC’s West Coast digital division. “… Ultimately, the industry is heading to a predominantly digital delivery and that’s not a reflection whatsoever on the direct market or the print publishers–it’s just a reality based on technology and the evolving audience,” Abernathy says in a Q&A on the Madefire website. “From the position I held at DC, I had the opportunity to see some of the reading tools being developed for the industry, and from the moment I saw Madefire’s work, I could tell they were ahead of the curve. Way ahead. And you’re right: I wouldn’t be answering these questions if I didn’t believe that 100 percent and wasn’t committed to doing everything possible to help facilitate this next step.”
Madefire, the company Dave Gibbons mentioned in his recent interview with us, this morning launched a free iPad app with new motion comics by the Watchmen co-creator, Mike Carey, Liam Sharp, Robbie Morrison and others.
The Madefire App debuts with the first episodes of the “Motion Books” Treatment: Tokyo and Treatment: Mexico City, by Gibbons, Kinman Chan and Robbie Morrison, and Mono, by Ben Wolstenholme and Sharp. Subsequent episodes will be available twice a month. There are also previews of future comics by Carey and David Kendall, Haden Blackman and Gary Erskine, and others.
“Madefire is igniting a new era by creating a modern, dynamic reading experience and bringing that to the millions of iPad users around the world,” Gibbons said in a statement. “It is exciting to be able to bring this robust storytelling into the 21st century while also democratizing the ability to publish comic books.”
Watch a video demonstrating the “immersive experience” of the Motion Books below. The Madefire App is available for free from iTunes.