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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So hop in your time bubble and join us as we look back at the last seven days …
After more than 10 years in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art announced today it’s immediately closing its current location.
The news arrived this morning on the museum’s Facebook page; a banner on the MoCCA website states the museum “is currently closed to the public.” Details about MoCCA’s new venue are expected to be revealed at the end of the month.
Founded in 2001 by Lawrence Klein, the museum is dedicated to “the collection, preservation, study, education and display of comic and cartoon art,” and regularly hosts exhibitions. However, it’s probably best known for MoCCA Fest, the independent comics convention that serves as a fundraiser for the organization.
Read the full announcement below:
Brigid Alverson will have her own MoCCA report up soon, no doubt, but I thought I’d share my own reminiscences of last weekend’s show, via some pics I took while wandering around the aisles.
At the MoCCA Festival panel on running a comics shop, the topic of Before Watchmen came up as part of a discussion of pull lists. Tucker Stone, manager of Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn, volunteered that his store wouldn’t be ordering the miniseries except for those customers who’ve already requested it.
ComiXology’s David Steinberger was in the audience and asked Stone to clarify why that was. “We’re gonna lose money,” Stone said. “We’ll probably lose customers. It was a decision that was made.”
I wasn’t there, and it’s difficult for me to interpret Stone’s additional comments without hearing his tone of voice or reading his body language, but based on the panel report, it sounds like this was a decision that wasn’t without controversy even among Bergen Street’s staff. Stone continued, “When I heard that decision, I said that’s a bad idea. That’s an explanation that I’ll have to give over and over again.” But, “as time has gone on, as I’ve seen online response to that project … This is just gross, and we don’t want to be part of this one. We’ll participate with the grossness they did to Kirby on the Avengers books, but this one …”
Heidi MacDonald attended the panel and reports that her tweets about it “got a vociferous response from pros and retailers alike who felt that Bergen Street was being irresponsible and leaving money on the table.” That raises some interesting questions about the role of retailers in creators’ rights issues. Should shop owners serve their own sense of right and wrong (not that all retailers agree about what that looks like in this situation) or does that not matter compared to the mandate to serve the customer? I don’t feel qualified to cast judgment either way until I have a comics shop and a family and employees that depend on how I run it, but it’s fascinating to think about.
Comics shops uniquely personify the struggle many comics fans are experiencing as they think about these things. Which matters more: creators’ rights or my right to read what I want?
(John Douglas’ Watchmen Too: The Squid cover from Relaunched!.)
Legal | Todd McFarlane Productions has emerged from bankruptcy after more than seven years, having paid more than $2.2 million to creditors, according to court documents dug up by Daniel Best. Of that, $1.1 million was part of McFarlane’s settlement with Neil Gaiman, which brought to a close the decade-long legal battle over the rights to Medieval Spawn, the heavenly warrior Angela and other characters (it’s unknown how much of that disbursement was eaten up by legal fees and how much actually went to Gaiman; the writer has publicly stated he gives money won in the proceedings to charity). Todd McFarlane Productions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2004 following the $15 million court award to former NHL player Tony Twist, who sued over the use of his name in Spawn for the mob enforcer Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli. McFarlane and Twist settled in 2007 for $5 million. [20th Century Danny Boy]
Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]
Dust off your shoes and pull your tote bag out of the closet kids, it’s MoCCA time once again. The annual indie/small press comics show hosted by the Museum will take place at the Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City this weekend. It promises to be a grand affair, with tons of publishers, minicomics, books and panels to choose from. Underneath the link we’ve put together a quick rundown of some of the more notable and interesting (well interesting to us any way) goings-on at the show this weekend.
Sparkplug Books announced last week that they plan to release a collection of Katie Skelly’s Nurse Nurse minicomics, which she has been creating since 2003. The collection will come out in April, in time for a debut at the Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, Ore. and the MoCCA Festival in New York.
The eight Nurse Nurse minicomics are set in a future where mankind is attempting to colonize other planets, and star the nurses sent to treat the colonies as they become poisoned by the new atmospheres. In particular, the story is about Gemma, a nurse who travels to her new assignment on Venus where a mysterious substance is having an amorous effect on the Venusians … but is it a conspiracy, or just … science?
The 180 page, black and white paperback will retail for $15.
As noted here on Monday, and amplified by Heidi MacDonald, two big indy comics shows, Stumptown Comics Fest (in Portland, Oregon) and the MoCCA Festival (in New York City) are now scheduled for the same weekend, April 28-29, 2012. MoCCA was originally scheduled for April 14-15, and in the letter to exhibitors that MacDonald reproduces at her site, no explanation is given for the change, although it is clear organizers realize that some exhibitors will be inconvenienced by the shift.
I went to MoCCA for the first time this year, and several creators told me they were doing both shows, which were a week apart. I was impressed that they made the effort, but it was clearly worth it to them, so it’s not surprising that there has been some grumbling, and it was nice to see Stumptown organizer Indigo Kelleigh’s gracious response to the conflict:
I just wanted to state for the record, that I know the difficulties in arranging for a venue for an event of this size, and more often than not our own final dates are dictated by the venue’s availability moreso than our desired schedule. I can’t assign any malice to this announcement on the part of the MoCCA organizers, and I hope nobody else does, either.
I do believe that there’s plenty of talent on both coasts, and further that this move will not harm either of the shows in the short term. For a show like Stumptown, which has only seen increased demand year after year, even last year in our move to a much larger exhibit space, I don’t believe this unfortunate scheduling will impact the quality of our Comics Fest in the slightest.
Some of the commenters at The Beat had said more or less the same thing, but it’s good to hear it from a show organizer. (Torsten Adair pointed out that Wizard World Anaheim is also scheduled for that weekend, but no one was complaining about that.) It sounds like the organizers of indy-comics shows already do try to avoid conflicts, but they don’t always succeed. I hope they do next year, because one inevitable result is that the East Coast artists stay on the East Coast and the West Coast artists stay on the West Coast, and everything gets a little bit more boring.
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Emily Stackhouse, creator of the award-winning minicomic Brazilianoir and her latest, Miner’s Mutiny.
To see what Emily and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Retailing | A bankruptcy judge is expected to hear arguments today from the bankrupt Borders Group, which is seeking to pay $8.3 million in bonuses in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. The struggling bookseller says that 47 executives and director-level employees have quit since the company declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16 — two dozen just this month — leaving only 15 people in senior management positions. In a court filing last week, U.S. bankruptcy trustee Tracy Hope Davis objected to the bonus proposal, characterizing it as “a disguised retention plan for insiders, which also provides for discriminatory bonuses for non-insiders.” [The Detroit News]
Publishing | Todd Allen looks at sales estimates for the first issues in Marvel’s “Point One” initiative, which featured self-contained stories designed to serve as a jumping-on point for new or lapsed readers: “With the sole exception of Hulk, retailers ordered less copies of the ‘jump on’ issue, than the regular series. If you figure people picking up the title would also pick up the ‘.1′ introductory issue, this is a flaming disaster and there aren’t going to be a lot of these comics finding their way into the hands of new readers. It smack of very low buy-in from the retail community.” [Indignant Online]
Retailing | Publishers characterize a restructuring plan presented Wednesday by Borders Group as unrealistic, with some saying they’re more convinced than ever that the struggling bookstore chain — the second-largest in the United States — will be forced to sell itself or liquidate. The bookseller, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, reportedly contends it could turn a profit by the end of this year. By 2015, it hopes to draw almost 40 percent of its revenue from online sales. The company, which is in the process of closing 226 superstores and is set to shutter 20 more, is also considering moving its headquarters from Ann Arbor, Mich., to less-expensive space in metropolitan Detroit. [The New York Times, The Detroit News]
Digital comics | Seth Rosenblatt surveys the digital landscape, and wonders what’s next: “Though no publisher interviewed for the story would confirm plans to do so, it’s not unreasonable to expect premium pricing for digital comics that come with extra features like audio tracks, or the ability to look at the black-and-white version of the artwork.” He also gets a tease from Oni Press’ Cory Casoni, who says, “”We have digital plans, and we’ll unveil them later this year and in early 2012. We are nefariously, giddily crafting things.” [Download.com]
Legal | The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The statute, which was struck down in February 2009 by a federal appeals court, is opposed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, among other organizations. [CNET]
Awards | The Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards will move next year from Toronto Comicon to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. The seventh annual awards will be presented on June 18, 2011. [Joe Shuster Awards]
Conventions | Exhibitor tables have gone on sale for MoCCA Festival 2011, set for April 9-10 at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City. [MoCCA Festival]
Conventions | The student newspaper at California State University Long Beach reports on last weekend’s Long Beach Comic Con. [Daily 49er]
Retailing | Peter Hartlaub profiles James Sime, owner of Isotope comic book lounge in San Francisco: “Nobody made a comic store for women. They just didn’t exist. I think women love comics just as much as men do, maybe even more. And there’s so many great comics out there for everybody that I had to try. Isn’t San Francisco the city that’s all about just trying new things?” [San Francisco Chronicle]