"Agents of SHIELD's" Edward James Olmos Talks Instigating Mutiny and the Real SHIELD
You may know Christy Blanch from her recent investment, along with her partner Mark Waid, in Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Indiana, her comics education work, or her collaboration with Chris Carr, Chee and Troy Peteri on the Thrillbent series The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood.
While the comic about a college professor in a dangerous partnership for the sake of his family is on hiatus, that’s about to end. Blanch and I discussed all three aspects of her busy career in this interview.
Tim O’Shea: Judging from the store’s Facebook page, it’s pursuing a great deal of community outreach. Are you seeing new faces shopping in the store as a result?
Christy Blanch: Mark, Jason [Pierce, the initial owner] and I are all about creating community. We want to give people a reason to come here to shop. We want them to feel like this is their clubhouse to come in and hang out, talk comics, and just be themselves. We are seeing lots of new faces. The old location was a nice store, but we really were hidden. Downtown we are very visible and we see new people every day which is a great feeling. I love it when I sell someone their first comic book especially if it is a series that I love. I always tell them I envy them because I would love to ‘forget’ the book and be able to read it for the first time again.
Comics | You can’t buy this kind of publicity: Before the comic has even debuted, the U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail eagerly reports Royal Descent is being “slammed” by critics for its depiction of a thinly disguised Royal Family forced to fight to the death in a Battle Royale- or Hunger Games-style tournament. Not content to let the book be “slammed” by anonymous “enthusiasts,” writer John Farman joins in, saying, “I personally believe this is possibly the most controversial comic book to ever come out of the United Kingdom.” How’s that for hype? Royal Descent #1 arrives Nov. 6 from Edinburgh publisher Black Hearted Press. [Daily Mail]
Digital comics | Deb Aoki fleshes out some of the details of Crunchyroll’s new streaming manga service, which will feature chapters of Kodansha manga the same day they are released in Japan, for free. The subscription service allows readers access to all chapters of the manga for a monthly fee, not unlike Marvel Unlimited. [Publishers Weekly]
Political cartoonists | Michael Cavna looks into a report by the Cartoonists Rights Network International that Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan was executed in July. Raslan was arrested last year by Syrian security forces and, together with a group of journalists, artists and other “intellectuals,” sentenced to life imprisonment. “Somehow, along the way to prison young 28-year-old Akram Raslan (and possibly others) was peeled off, taken out and executed,” the post said. “He is reported to be in a mass grave somewhere near Damascus.” However, CRNI’s Robert Russell told Cavna they have been unable to confirm the report, which came from a “reliable source” close to Raslan’s family. [Comic Riffs]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid file a comprehensive con report on New York Comic Con, including a conversation with ReedPOP Global Vice President Lance Fensterman and a look at the panels and booths. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
“I’m a big believer that if you buy a comic, you ought to own it. With Insufferable you pay what you will. The market will determine what it’s worth. My instincts are bearing it out. For every person who wants to take it for free, there are those who are willing to show support.
Going DRM-free moves the needle for us. I appreciate the fact that people are nervous about file sharing and piracy. I don’t share that feeling, but I appreciate that some people do. Share my stuff. I think of it this way: When you hear that people have downloaded your comic, appreciate that thousands are eager to hear what you have to say. The poetry club down the hall may not have the same problem. That’s a good problem to have. It’s the new economy. You must adapt.”
At comic conventions, a company like comiXology has to get creative in order to draw traffic to its booth; after all the digital distributor doesn’t have anything physical to sell, and it’s not like you can line up a bunch of creators to sign iPads. (I mean, you could, but why?) At New York Comic Con, however, comiXology is getting physical — by offering limited edition art cards during artist signings.
These limited-edition art cards will be signed and handed out during creator appearances at the comiXology booth, where you can meet Nick Dragotta (East of West), Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Lazarus), Katie Cook (My Little Pony), Sara Richard (My Little Pony) and Doug Braithwaite (Unity #1). You can also meet Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari, creators of the wonderful The Bunker. They’ll be signing sketch cards that’ll have a code to get the first issue of The Bunker for free.
“There are some really good reasons to do work-for-hire. It’s a valuable way to build a reputation. It’s probably not wise to devote 100% of your time to it, but only you know what your priorities and appetites are, and no one else has a right to judge them. And, yes, every job has its drawbacks and moments where it’s better to be flexible than absolute. I truly, truly understand having to take work you don’t love, or work with folks you don’t love, in order to make the rent. And early on, there are things I put up with that I now regret, and there are opportunities I lost because I pushed back, and there are still things I do sometimes to be a get-along guy that aren’t always in my best interests. Everyone’s threshold is unique, and sometimes you let someone take undue advantage because the cupboards are bare or because you’re dealing with a friend who’ll get yelled at if you don’t toe the line. I get that. Circumstances are circumstances. But if you never listen to another word I say, and I talk a lot, please know this: the only one watching out for your future is you.”
— industry veteran Mark Waid, from a lengthy “Open Letter to Young Freelancers” that’s a must-read not only for comics creators — of any age, and at any stage in their careers — but also for freelancers in other fields, to say nothing of editors, publishers and consumers.
Digital comics | It took three years for comiXology to reach 100 million downloads, but just one year for it to reach 200 million. Matthew Flamm profiles the company and its CEO, David Steinberger, who first saw a business opportunity in comics when he was trying to sell his collection and couldn’t find software to catalog it. The next big moment for comiXology is likely to come in October, when the fourth season of The Walking Dead premieres on television the same week the 10th-anniversary issue of the comic is released. Image Comics projects it will sell 300,000 print copies and another 45,000, or about 15 percent, as digital. [Crains New York]
Creators | Writer Mark Waid admits he didn’t think he’d be a good fit for Daredevil, because he doesn’t write in the darker style favored by his predecessors. “I’m better at swashbuckling adventure,” he says. “When I was asked to take that tack, I was in.” [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Viz Media, the largest U.S. publisher of English-language manga, is poised to jump in to a new market: India. Kevin Hamric, the company’s director of publishing and marketing, was there this week, and he says the demand is there. “With India’s growing book and reading sector we have identified it as key to our growth,” Hamric says. “We receive many, many requests each and every month from fans in India to bring our product here.” [The Hindu Business Line]
Comics | As the Avengers turn 50, Noel Murray recounts their history and explains why they work so well as a super-team. [Hero Complex]
Conventions | The founder of this month’s incredibly successful Salt Lake Comic Con — it drew about 70,000 attendees in its first year — is planning a spinoff event for Jan. 9-11, the weekend before the Sundance Film Festival. [Salt Lake Tribune]
Premiering Oct. 30, The Fox follows photojournalist Paul Patton Jr. as he dons to a costume to make news to take pictures of, only to be drawn into something far stranger than he’d initially thought when he investigates a social-media mogul.
The series, part of a Red Circle revival that includes the digital-first New Crusaders, will feature “The Shield” back-up stories by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Cavallaro.
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So find out what we thought about Waluk, Superior Spider-Man and more.
You may recall that in January, Metalocalypse and Venture Bros. director Jon Schepp launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about Superman Lives, the abandoned Tim Burton film that would’ve starred Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel, Chris Rock as Jimmy Olsen, Tim Allen as Brainiac. Well, that drive surpassed its $98,000 goal, and now The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? has a teaser trailer.
And it’s very teaser-ish, with a lot of quick shots of websites that covered the campaign (including ROBOT 6), production art from the abandoned film, and glimpses of new interviews with the likes of Mark Waid and Grant Morrison — and all tied together by somewhat-haunting audio and video from a March Q&A in which Cage talks about the Kickstarter.
Better still, the trailer promises The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened? will arrive in summer 2014, which means by this time next year, we could know the full story behind what could have been “the weirdest Superman movie ever made.”
If you happen to be in Muncie, Indiana, some weekend, stop off at Alter Ego Comics — the person who rings up your issue of Daredevil might just be the guy who wrote it.
Writer Mark Waid, who sold his print comics collection to fund his digital-comics site Thrillbent, is now a comics retailer: He and his partner Christy Blanch, who taught the MOOC on “Gender Through Comic Books” earlier this year, have each bought shares in Alter Ego Comics from original owner Jason Pierce. Waid, who lives in the Muncie area, refers to Alter Ego as “my store of choice for some time.”
“This isn’t a vanity purchase, a symbolic gesture, or a silent partnership,” Waid explains at Thrillbent. “Christy, Jason and I are each equal shareholders in Alter Ego Comics. I have skin in the game, and I’m eager to see what there is to learn about the only side of the industry I’ve never involved myself with.”
As a champion of digital comics for the past few years, Waid has often joked about incurring the wrath of retailers, so this is quite a twist. But it makes sense: He believes digital and print should work together, and some of that has to happen at the retail level. As he does with his digital comics, he plans to write about his experiences, and since Waid doesn’t mind discussing his mistakes as well as his successes, that should make for interesting reading.
And if nothing else, Waid’s comic shop just has to be cool. As he himself says, “Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s probably worth stopping by just to see all the props and memorabilia I’ve brought from home. Who else do you know who has both a full-size Phantom Zone projector and a scale-model replica of the Batcave?”
Look for an interview with Waid this afternoon at Comic Book Resources.
Remember when Batman was a jerk?
Remember when Batman was such a jerk that no less than Mark Waid called him “broken”?
Starting in 2006, writer Grant Morrison aimed to help fix him; and this week, with Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #13, Morrison concluded his Bat-saga. The issue is a neat encapsulation of the themes Morrison has played with for the past seven-plus years — including the portability (and immortality) of “Batman,” the uniqueness of Bruce Wayne, and the importance of not going alone — all drawn with verve and giddy energy by Chris Burnham. (There’s even a dialogue sequence where the punchline is “Cancelled!”) Like the infinite-Batman cover or the eternal-circle image that dominates an early spread, Batman will go on, but it is the end of a unique era.
As usual, though, some history first …
Mark Waid’s Thrillbent, which hosts a variety of digital comics that can be read in a variety of different ways, is adding a new way to purchase titles: download-to-own. Starting today, readers can buy downloadable PDFs of Waid’s Insufferable, Art Balthazar and Franco Aureliani’s Aw Yeah Comics!, and other comics. Insufferable will be offered on a pay-what-you-like basis.
All the comics on Thrillbent are available to read for free in a web browser, and the site also offers free downloads, in CBZ format, of many comics, including Insufferable. The titles are also offered, at prices between 99 cents and $1.99 per issue, on comiXology.
So why charge for PDFs if the CBZs are free? Waid recently addressed that in a post on the Thrillbent blog. While the free CBZs are simple files containing the weekly installments, the PDFs will include “bigger chunks of story” as well as links to bonus web content, such as footnote and behind-the-scenes features, that will be created specifically for each comic. So basically, while both CBZs and PDFs are downloadable comics that live on your device, not in the cloud, the PDFs will have added features.
“I think it is not only unaffected by piracy, it benefits from pirating. You cannot stop pirating of comics. It’s like trying to push the tide back with a broom. You can either be angry about it, and resistant, and fight and clamp down harder, or you can find ways to make that tool work for you. With Thrillbent, we offered all our files free to download on a weekly basis, so you can read them free on the site and you can also download them for free, and that way, sure enough, we got to control the quality of the image, we got to make sure it was not out of focus or crappy or corrupted files or whatever, we got to make sure there was a placard at the end that says, hey, if you like this come to Thrillbent for more stuff, and that worked wonders for us. And I know that pumped up our traffic. That is not the answer for every publisher, but I will go to my grave not buying the baloney that every pirated comic was a lost sale.”
– Mark Waid, during the “Digital and Print” panel at Comic-Con International, when asked whether piracy poses a threat to the comics industry