On general principle, I love any project with an alliterative name like Brain Boy. And even though JK Parkin just interviewed Dark Horse Assistant Editor Jim Gibbons, when I found out he had the scoop on the Brain Boy Archives that Dark Horse is set to release this Wednesday, November 16, I pestered Gibbons for a brief email interview. The 1962/1963 six-issue series serves as the only comic written by prose novelist Herb Castle. And while Castle developed the origin with legendary artist Gil Kane, after that first appearance, the actual series was drawn by then-newcomer Frank Springer. Inspired by the Cold War landscape of the early 1960s , the short-lived series proved a great springboard for discussion with Gibbons.
Tim O’Shea: How did the idea first come about to develop a Brain Boy archive?
Jim Gibbons: This was all Dark Horse Comics’ head honcho Mike Richardson’s idea. That guy knows his old comics like nobody’s business and we—as a company—wouldn’t have as extensive or as impressive an archival collection series without the passion Big Mike brings to the table for a lot of these projects. As a relatively young guy, I’d never heard for Brain Boy—and may not have had I not been assigned to work on this project with editor extraordinaire Philip Simon—but man, I enjoyed every wacky turn of this short-lived comic series.
Earlier this year Jim Gibbons, publicity coordinator for Dark Horse Comics, made the jump from the publicity side of the business to the creative, as he became an assistant editor for the publisher. Old habits are hard to break, though, so when he emailed me recently to suggest a few possible interview subjects he’s been working with in his new role, I thought I’d see if he’d be interested in answering a few questions about his new job.
We spoke with Gibbons, who is also a Wizard Magazine alum, about his move to Dark Horse back in 2009, so catching up with him again about his new role seems to bring everything full circle. My thanks to Jim for agreeing to answer my questions.
JK: When did you start working for Dark Horse, and what were you hired to do?
Jim: I was hired on as a publicity coordinator in 2009. In fact, Sean T. Collins interviewed me about being hired by Dark Horse for Robot 6 way back when! As a publicity coordinator, I was responsible for arranging stories (interviews, previews, artists process pieces, etc) with a number of different online outlets and just generally doing everything in my power to get coverage for Dark Horse projects both big and small. I was (Still am!) a massive comics fan, so making it my business to learn the ins and outs of numerous different comics and graphic novels in order to promote them properly was a pretty fun way to make a living. At a certain point, putting in a lot of effort to increase the amounts of online publicity Dark Horse was getting on top of my passion for these projects and comics in general gained me some recognition by folks like Dark Horse president/publisher/head honcho Mike Richardson, VP of marketing Micha Herschman, senior managing editor Scott Allie, editor Sierra Hahn and my old boss, the director of publicity, Jeremy Atkins and the prospect of moving over to editorial was put on the table. (A big, big thank you to those fine folks, by the way! Especially Scott Allie and Sierra Hahn—many, many thanks!) I excitedly confirmed I’d love to move to the editorial department and when the stars aligned, I was transitioned from one dream job to the next!
Retailing | A judge on Friday approved a proposal to pay Borders Group executives up to $6.6 million in bonuses as the bookseller reorganizes under federal bankruptcy protection. The company had originally requested $8.3 million — that figure met with objections from the U.S. bankruptcy trustee — in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. Since Borders filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 16, 47 executives and director-level employees have left, leaving only 15 people in senior management positions.
The approved plan comes with conditions, tying some bonuses to the company’s ability to pay creditors and save $10 million over the next two years in leases on the remaining stores or in non-personnel cost reductions. [Businessweek, AnnArbor.com]
Publishing | Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson talks more about the publisher’s recent layoffs, saying that some reports of the cutbacks were overblown: “We have 150 employees. We let seven people go across three different divisions. What is that 4%, 5%? Our staff was just getting too large. The real reason for the layoffs is that we get worried about the cost of doing business. We’re sitting there looking at the rising health insurance costs, the changes in the cost of doing business. We thought we were going to get some relief in the form of cover prices moving to $3.99, but I guess the market’s made a really strong statement on that price. Meanwhile we’re getting squeezed on paper and printing costs at the same time — and creators certainly don’t want to take any less money.” [ICv2.com]
Legal | The Lithuanian publisher of The Simpsons comic has been fined for breaching laws banning the advertising of alcohol with its depiction of Duff Beer, the fictional brand consumed by Homer and other residents of Springfield.
Although Simpsons creator Matt Groening has never licensed the Duff trademark out of concern that it might encourage children to drink, companies in several countries have released beer using the Duff name (Fox and Groening sued an Australian brewery for doing so in 1995, forcing the product to be pulled from shelves and destroyed). The existence of unlicensed Duff beers apparently was enough for a government watchdog, who handed down the more than $4,000 fine. The publisher said it has stopped publication of The Simpsons while it tries to address the Duff matter — a major issue, considering that Bongo Comics reportedly doesn’t permit content changes to licensed titles. [The Australian]
Dark Horse has announced it will offer a first look at its somewhat-delayed digital comics app this weekend during the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
Announced in October at New York Comic Con, the planned January launch of the publisher’s digital comics program was put on hold because because of Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store (something Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson confirmed earlier this month).
But now the beta version of the app is ready to be shown off at booth #601, with Dark Horse staff on hand for demonstrations, to answer questions and allow fans to take it for a test run.
Check out the official press release after the break.
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview with retail news and analysis site ICv2, Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson discusses the state of the market, the potential impact of Borders’ bankruptcy, digital comics, the decline in manga sales, the success of Troublemaker and more. Of particular note is Richardson’s confirmation that Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store was behind the delay of the planned January launch of Dark Horse’s digital comics program. He also says that Frank Miller is working on the third issue of his 300 prequel Xerxes, which is expected to be “roughly six issues, but he hasn’t exactly decided yet.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson provides an overview of recent changes to BOOM! Studios’ kids’ line, from the loss of the Pixar licenses to a new imprint name — changed from BOOM! Kids to kaboom! — to the announcement this week of a Peanuts original graphic novel. “BOOM Kids! was designed to publish children’s comics — kaboom! is designed to be a true all-ages imprint, and for that reason Peanuts is the perfect launch title, the sort of material that adults and kids read alike,” CEO Ross Ritchie said. “Roger Langridge’s Snarked! is along these lines, as is Space Warped and Word Girl. I put the Word Girl announcement on my wall on Facebook and immediately there were a zillion adults commenting, ‘My child loves this show but I’m buying this comic book for myself!’ The title mix will be broader for kaboom! than it was for BOOM Kids!” [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Direct-market sales plummeted last month, down nearly 23 percent in units and more than 20 percent in dollars from January 2010. Marvel’s heavily promoted Fantastic Four #587 was, unsurprisingly, the top-selling comic, while Vertigo’s Jack of Fables, Vol. 8, led the graphic novel list. Retailer news and analysis site ICv2.com puts part of the blame for the year-over-year decline on the weather. However, John Jackson Miller notes that Diamond Comic Distributors shipped 23 percent fewer comics last month — 555 different comics and trades (including variants), compared to 683 in January 2010. “This is more than can be explained by the holiday difference; this would appear to simply be the old pattern of publishers holding fire at this time of year and releasing fewer items,” Miller writes. “Some years, that effect is more in evidence than others; this could potentially be one of the bigger years for this kind of positioning.” [ICv2.com, The Comichron]
Digital piracy | A Japanese government think tank has released a study that concludes online piracy of anime series actually increases sales of DVDs. “One point of critique based on the main conclusions of the study, is that the observed relation only appears to be correlational,” TorrentFreak cautions. “This may mean that the results could in part be influenced by significant third variables such as promotion and overall popularity. Since the report is only available in Japanese we were unable to confirm whether this was taken into account.” [TorrentFreak]
The internet is rightfully rich with tributes to Al Williamson in recent days. When news of his passing got around, I decided to contact a variety of folks to find out their favorite Al Williamson work. Some were willing to single out certain works, others preferred to speak to his work as a whole. I loved the variety I was able to elicit from respondents, be it with replies to my request or directing me to previous statements they had made about Williamson since his passing. My thanks to the many folks who replied, as well as Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons for gathering a couple of these perspectives for me (speaking of Dark Horse, be sure to read Dave Land’s Al Williamson recollection at the publisher’s new blog). In addition to these Williamson recollection/recommendations, it would be spectacular if you share your own favorite Williamson works in the comments section. Finally, please note that the Williamson family has suggested donations (in lieu of flowers) be made to:
Yesteryears Day Program (a program for frail, isolated, or impaired seniors)
2801 Wayne Street
Endwell, NY 13760
The Al Williamson Scholarship Fund
The Kubert School
37 Myrtle Avenue
Dover, NJ 07801