Digital comics | Apple rejected 59 comics this year for in-app buying, although many of them were allowed into the iBookstore. I looked at the phenomenon, and talked to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson about the effect that had on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which is available via the comiXology website and Android app, iBooks, and Image’s own website, but can’t be bought in-app from comiXology’s iPad app. “”It absolutely hurt digital sales on Sex Criminals #2,” Stepheneson said. “This is a series that is getting fantastic word of mouth, it’s amazing work by Matt and Chip that is receiving rave reviews and selling out instantly. Not being able to offer the book to curious readers through our app or the comiXology app is a significant deterrent to reaching the widest possible audience.” [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Tierney Sneed went to the Women in Comics panel at New York Comic Con and then hit the floor to talk to creators (and also yours truly) about the mismatch between the number of women comics readers and the industries that cater to them, including the publishers and cons like NYCC (where women made up 35% of attendees but only 6% of guests). [U.S. News & World Report]
Digital Comics | I interviewed Darya Trushkina, vice president for business development of NARR8, a digital comics app that features motion comics with some gamelike features. Here’s what caught my attention: When I asked her why they went with motion comics, she said “It boosts our retention rate and boosts usage significantly.” Their retention rate—readers who return to the app—is 50%, and the average session is 15 minutes. [Good E-Reader]
Creators | Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s turn on in the reality show Bigg Boss seems to have ended badly: Trivedi was tossed off the show, perhaps due to political pressure, and his political commentary did not make the final cut. In true reality-show fashion, he left in a cloud of acrimony, saying that his fellow contestant Salman Khan “overstepped the bounds of decency” with another cast member, Sapna Bhavanani. And apparently the producers did not deliver on their promise to allow him to use the show as a platform for his views: “I and Sapna were constantly talking about corruption and women`s empowerment inside the house, but after coming out, I was zapped to learn that none of those things were telecast. … These guys lied to us. We were told – `you will not have to do any naach gana [melodrama] and you will just have to put forth your views on revolution, society and corruption.` But it was all humbug!” [India TV News]
Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!’” [MTV Geek]
Passings | Dave Thorne, sometimes called the father of Hawaiian cartooning, has died at the age of 82. His most recent strip was Thorney’s Zoo, which ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mark Evanier has a personal appreciation of Thorne and his love of Hawaii. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Creators | Carl Barks once wrote, “Ninety-nine readers out of 100 think Walt Disney writes and draws all those movies and comic books between stints with his hammer and saw building Disneyland,” but for much of his career he was happy to remain anonymous and avoid the hassles that come with fame. Jim Korkis writes the fascinating story of how two fans got through the Disney wall of anonymity — and Barks’ own reticence — to figure out who Barks was and bring him into contact with his admirers. [USA Today]
Passings | Dr. Scott Henson, who retired from a career as a neurosurgeon and became a cartoonist, has died at the age of 52. Henson, who treated Superman actor Christopher Reeve after his fall, took up the pen after his health problems forced him to leave the medical field and created the panel cartoon Natural Selection under the pen name Russ Wallace. The cartoon was picked up by Creators Syndicate and syndicated nationwide. [The Charleston Gazette]
Publishing | Deb Aoki provides a thorough analysis of Tokyopop’s Anime Expo panel, in which the once-shuttered manga publisher announced a new title and hinted at more. [About.com]
Creators | Paul Levitz discusses Worlds’ Finest, his buddy comic featuring Power Girl and Huntress: “There’s always been a certain level of humor and cool confidence in a light way associated with Power Girl that’s been fun, and the Huntress has always been the more determined of the women in the DC Universe — a woman with a sense of mission and a crossbow ready to take your eye out. [USA Today]
Legal | The Swedish Supreme Court has overturned the 2010 conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on charges of possessing 39 drawings that violated the country’s child-pornography laws. The court found that while the images are pornographic and do depict minors, they are obviously drawings and cannot be mistake for real children. “The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information,” the court ruled. [The Local]
Passings | The Comics Journal collects tributes to Maurice Sendak, the legendary children’s book author and illustrator who passed away Tuesday at age 83. Philip Nel, director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature, also writes an obituary for the influential creator of Where the Wild Things Are. [TCJ.com]
Publishing | In an interview with the retail news and analysis site ICv2, IDW Publishing President and CEO Ted Adams says that while digital sales are at 10 percent of print sales, both are going up: “There’s just no question at this point that selling comics digitally is definitively not impacting [print] comic book sales. If anything you could make the argument that the success of digital is driving more print comic book sales. The correlation at this point is that increased digital has resulted in increased print. Whether or not that is a direct correlation, I don’t know how you would figure that out. I can say with no uncertainty that our increased digital revenue has come at a time when we’ve had increased comic book sales.” [ICv2]
Comic strip historian Allan Holtz has posted a 1926 interview with Frank King, creator of the long-running strip Gasoline Alley, and parts of it sound quite modern. King hands out some general good advice (“The habit of observation is the important thing, both as regards ideas and drawing”) and discusses the genesis of several of his characters, which is pretty interesting, but this is what caught my eye:
In speaking of stories, one which seemed to become almost simultaneously current in all parts of the country, arose from somewhere last summer. This explains the mystery of Skeezix’s birth by asserting that Walt was shell shocked in the war and had married Mrs. Blossom, who was a war nurse. Skeezix, being the child of that union. Walt, however, losing his memory, forgot the whole affair and is still in ignorance of Skeezix’s parentage. This I heard on both coasts and from many places between.
King obviously didn’t originate this story; it seems to be one of those Paul-is-dead pieces of fan folklore that might have even started with someone’s fan fiction and somehow went viral. It’s a reminder that in their heyday, newspaper strips had the same kind of interactivity as webcomics do now, with readers sending in comments and suggestions via the old-fashioned mail and the creators commenting in articles like this one. It all just moved slower.
(via The Comics Reporter)
Publishing | The 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece has sold more than 3 million copies in Japan in less than two months, beating the two previous volumes to that goal. No other manga has sold that many copies so quickly since the market research firm Oricon began releasing sales figures in April 2008. [Anime News Network]
Comic strips | After 33 years on the comics page, Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia is hanging up her cigarette and typewriter and calling it a day. Hollander is upfront about the reason: “After the Chicago Tribune dropped Sylvia, my income was cut by half and Sylvia disappeared from my hometown. I felt the loss.” She will continue to post vintage Sylvia strips on her blog. [Bad Girl Chats]
Creators | Dean Haspiel discusses his frustration with creating stories for franchise characters, even working with regular artists and writers for the series, and never hearing back from the editors: “I have a deluge of sad short stories and a bunch of outstanding pitches sitting atop [or buried underneath] comic book editorial desks that will continue to prove that it is nearly impossible to pitch solicited, much less, unsolicited stories. The hurtful part? Editors woo me into thinking I have a chance. I don’t have a chance. Maybe I shot my wad at Vertigo where I pitched and delivered three, critically acclaimed graphic novels? Maybe I’m considered the odd memoir artist who dabbles in digital genre. And, so I’m stuck between too mainstream for the indie crowd and too indie for the mainstream crowd. That used to bother me but now I’m okay with it because, frankly, that’s a cool place to be if you can make ends meet.” [Welcome to Trip City]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat talks about his decision to shift from portraying generic characters in his cartoons to zeroing in on a real person, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the consequences of that choice. Farzat’s drawings started showing up on protest signs, and then he was attacked and savagely beaten by three men: “”I could hear them saying ‘break his hands so they never dare challenge his masters again.’” Farzat is now living in Kuwait but hopes to return to Syria some day. [Reuters]
Comics sales | Torsten Adair takes a snapshot of what graphic novels were selling best on the Barnes & Noble website last week, and the results look very good if you’re Robert Kirkman: Thirteen out of 20 graphic novels to make the Top 1000 books were volumes of The Walking Dead, and overall, hardcovers outsold paperbacks. So maybe the zombie thing isn’t totally over? The top-selling graphic novel isn’t even out yet: It’s the graphic novel adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Both that and The Walking Dead Compendium cracked the Top 100, which includes all books, not just graphic novels. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times says the new iPad improves the comic reading experience: “But the iPad’s new Retina Display throws the door to digital comic books wide open. The experience of reading a comic book on either of the first two generations of iPads was, at best, adequate. If your vision is good and you’re willing to squint a little, you can possibly read comics in fullpage mode. Halfway through the first issue of a story arc, though, you’ll stop being a hero. If you’re using an open comic book editor, you’ll start zooming and scrolling. If you bought your comics from the Comixology mode, you’ll switch to their guided panel view mode.” [Chicago Sun Times]
Comics | Bryan Young talks to Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater about the attempted boycott of Life With Archie #16, which featured the marriage of Kevin Keller, as well as the changes that have taken place within the company to make that marriage possible. “When I got to Archie my first mandate was to talk to the staff and creators and say ‘Change things up. Try new things. Be bold. Be daring. Be creative.’ If there was an idea I felt was out of line or too crazy, I’d nix it. But for the most part, people like Dan Parent came to me with excellent ideas and suggestions. Kevin Keller is a perfect example of that. I don’t think you would have seen the previous regime publish Kevin.” [The Huffington Post]
Awards | Cartoonist Alison Bechdel has won the 24th annual Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbians and gay men in publishing. [GalleyCat]
Auctions | An original watercolor by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, showing his creations lounging under a tree, fetched $107,000 at auction. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | David Barnett writes an appreciation for 2000AD, the U.K. comics anthology that turns 35 years old this year: “For a seven-year-old, 2000AD was anarchic and fascistic and funny and frightening and gory and exciting and thought-provoking, all rolled up together. They called it 2000AD, presumably, because no one expected the comic to live that long. But 35 years after the first issue, which had a 26 February cover date, and in the year that Queen Elizabeth II marks her diamond jubilee, 2000AD is still going, delivering (in the magazine’s own words) ‘thrill power’ every single week since then.” [The Guardian]
Richard Thompson is taking a couple of weeks off from his daily strip Cul de Sac to do some physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and he has not one but six guest artists filling in while he’s way. Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!) Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Michael Jantze (The Norm), Corey Pandolph (The Elderberries) and Ken Fisher (Tom the Dancing Bug) will all be taking their turns on the daily and Sunday strips over the next five weeks. What’s that going to be like?
“I let them have free rein to re-create ‘Cul de Sac’ as they saw fit,” Thompson tells ‘Riffs, “hoping only that no one introduced anything too bizarre, like an angry talking Rat, or a Pigeon with some kind of bus-mania.”
Yeah, right. Good luck with that. Willems, Pastis, Peirce, Jantze, and Fisher were all contributors to the Team Cul de Sac art book, which is being sold to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The invasion of guest cartoonists begins on Feb. 20.