Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
A romantic comedy by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens, the Oni Press graphic novel is being serialized digitally in six weekly chapters, concluding on Feb. 10, before being collected in print form in April. Each installment costs $1.99.
Business | Marvel parent company Disney has reportedly laid off as many as 17 of the 60 full-time employees at DisneyToon Studio, the Glendale, California-based division that produces animated direct-to-video sequels and prequels, such as The Lion King 1 1/2 and Mulan II, the Disney Fairies releases and the occasional feature film, most recently Planes: Fire & Rescue. While Disney has been cutting positions throughout the company for the past few years — dating back to 2011 with the elimination of 200 jobs in its interactive division and about a dozen at Marvel — Variety chalks up these layoffs to the declining home-video market. [Variety, Deadline]
Passings | Dan Lynch, former editorial cartoonist for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, died Sunday at age 67. Lynch also worked for the Kansas City Times, and his cartoons were syndicated nationally and appeared in Time and Newsweek. However, his career was cut short by a debilitating stroke in 2001. “Dan had (what I thought was) a fabulous drawing style,” said Julie Inskeep, publisher and president of The Journal Gazette. “And, in the 20-plus years he worked at the JG, he provided a vast array of cartoon topics – always welcome, though not always in agreement with our editorial board. But he got people to think and react in his special and powerful way.” [Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]
Legal | A South Korea court has ruled an exhibition devoted to One Piece can be held as planned after it was abruptly canceled earlier this month following allegations that Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga contains images that resemble the Rising Sun flag, considered a symbol of Japanese imperialism in South Korea. The company staging the One Piece show, which includes life-sized statues, rare figures and Oda’s sketches, asked the court to step in after the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul pulled the plug on the event just days before its scheduled July 12 opening. The court found that One Piece can’t be considered to “[hail] Japanese imperialism” simply because it depicts a flag reminiscent of the Rising Sun; and even if those images are of the Rising Sun flag, it’s mainly shown in a negative light. [The Asahi Shimbun]
Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who entered a plea deal in December to avoid more jail time on child molestation charges that date back to 2000, could find himself back behind bars for his use of social media. Kramer, who’s no longer associated with DragonCon, ended years of legal wrangling with an Alford plea that, among other stipulations, barred him from having any direct or indirect contact with anyone under the age of 16. A registered sex offender, Kramer set up a Twitter account under his real name in 2011, but didn’t do much with it until a couple of weeks ago, when he suddenly became active and began following people — including a 14-year-old girl. His Google+ page also shows a connection with the then-14-year-old boy he was charged with molesting. Kramer lists his address as Brooklyn on his social media accounts, but he apparently is still in Georgia. The Gwinnett County district attorney is investigating; a violation of the plea agreement could result in a 60-year prison sentence, 20 years for each of the three counts of child molestation. Heidi MacDonald has more at The Beat. [Gwinnett Daily Post]
Publishing | Comics archivist and publisher Rachel Richey will launch a Kickstarter campaign in September to fund a collection of Johnny Canuck comics. Created by Leo Bachie and published from 1941 to 1946 by Dime Comics, the character was a super-patriotic hero who once fought Hitler mano-a-mano. Richey was behind last year’s successful Kickstarter to revive another uniquely Canadian character, Nelvana of the North. [Global News]
Digital comics | Todd Allen chats with the Madefire folks about branching out to Windows 8; they launched a free five-issue Transformers motion comics on Windows 8 just last week. Madefire is also available on iOS and via DeviantArt. [Publishers Weekly]
The motion-comics platform Madefire announced this morning that four more comics publishers have signed on: Arcana, Archie Comics, Lion Forge and Seraphim.
There’s a definite skew toward horror in this announcement: The first Archie title to go on the platform is the zombie comic Afterlife With Archie, the Arcana title mentioned is The Intrinsic, and Seraphim is the publisher of horror writer Clive Barker’s work. The outlier is Lion Forge, which is best known as the creator of digital-first adaptations of 1980s TV shows; its first Madefire comic will apparently be Knight Rider.
That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Madefire seems determined to make motion comics for adult readers. The current lineup includes Tom Taylor’s dark Batman/Superman story Injustice: Gods Among Us, as well as Batman: Arkham Origins, Hellboy in Hell and Infinite Crisis.
Madefire is available as an iOS app and on DeviantART. It’s not unlike Thrillbent, although the Madefire comics I’ve read have more aggressive animation. On Thrillbent, each swipe makes one thing happen — a panel is revealed, a word balloon appears, the background shifts somehow. Madefire also works on swipes (or page turns on DeviantART), but several things may happen with each page turn, so the reader is a little less in control of the timing. That may be a plus in horror comics, because it allows the creator to surprise the reader in a way that can’t really happen on the printed page.
Auctions | The Leicestershire (England) Police are auctioning about 1,200 comics — most of them are post-2000 DC Comics titles, described as in mint condition — seized as criminal assets in Dorset (the police force doesn’t have its own eBay account). “Some are signed by the artists and they are mainly Superman and Spider Man, that sort of thing,” said Dave Hargrave, proceeds of crime asset realization manager. “[…] The person who had the comics was obviously a collector.” About 400 comics have been sold, bringing in £600 (about $985 U.S.). [Leicester Mercury]
Publishing | Avatar Press has returned to Diamond Book Distributors as its distributor to bookstores, the mass market, library services, and other markets. Avatar left DBD in 2011 to sign on with BOOM! Studios to distribute its books through Simon & Schuster in the United States and HarperCollins in Canada. [ICv2]
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]