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Awards | Stan Lee will receive the Producers Guild of America’s 2012 Vanguard Award recognizing achievement in new media and technology. “Stan Lee’s creative vision and imagination has produced some of the most beloved and visually stunning characters and adventures in history,” Producers Guild Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim said in a joint statement. “He not only has created content that will forever be in our culture but continues to make strides in the digital and new media realms, keeping the comic book industry fresh and exciting. Stan’s accomplishments truly encompass the spirit of the Vanguard Award and we are proud to honor him.” George Lucas and John Lasseter are among the award’s previous recipients. [press release]
I used to wonder why Digital Manga only published print books, but over the past few years the company has made all sorts of inroads into the digital realm. The latest: bringing Harlequin manga to the Nook, Barnes & Noble’s e-reader. These Harlequin manga are quite a phenomenon: They are actual American Harlequin romance novels that were adapted into manga for the Japanese market. A company called Softbank has been localizing them for American readers and publishing them on Digital’s eManga site, and plans are also in the works for French, Chinese and Korean editions. There will be two versions, one optimized for black and white, the other for the color Nook; the price is $5.99. If you’re not tied to an e-reader (I have both the Nook and the Kindle apps on my iPad), you might check out the Kindle store, where the Harlequin manga are two bucks cheaper per volume. Most comics look like crap on the Kindle app because of its small size and poor resolution, but the digital files for these manga are somehow better and they look fine.
Harlequin manga are a niche within a niche. I have never compared a Harlequin romance and its manga equivalent side by side, but having read some of each, I can say that the manga versions are pretty compressed—after all, a typical Harlequin romance is about 200 pages of prose, while the manga are about 160 pages with very little text. Even given the economies that sequential art bring to the storytelling, that’s tight.
In a press release that reads like a parody of corporate press releases, Peanuts Worldwide announced a series of digital initiatives that they hope will develop Peanuts into “a leading global entertainment and multi-media property.” Because it wasn’t before, apparently—just a meaningless jumble of books, television shows, movies, Broadway musical, syndicated newspaper strip, lunchboxes, etc. Verbiage aside, their new initiatives sound pretty cool.
First, there’s a new the Peanuts website, which is very nicely designed and gives you a daily Peanuts strip (the same one that’s in the paper, I’m guessing, but my paper doesn’t get Peanuts) as well as links to Peanuts merchandise, character profiles and video clips, and a page for the Charles M. Schultz museum. It’s a good start, and I hope they continue to add content.
The second part of the push is digital comics and e-books. The first product to launch was Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown, an original graphic novel published by kaboom!, the kids’ imprint of BOOM! Studios, which is available both in print and digitally via comiXology and a special Peanuts app (not in the iTunes store yet, as far as I could see). There are more original graphic novels on the way.
Digital Manga Publishing, which is certainly living up to its name nowadays, is now selling manga for the Kobo e-reader. This is a logical extension, as they already sell manga via the Kindle, the Nook, and their own eManga site, and Digital vp Fred Lui told me a few weeks ago that their revenues from the Nook are fast approaching their Kindle sales. And with Amazon removing some of their manga from the Kindle Store for reasons that remain unclear, it makes sense for them to diversify into as many channels as possible.
Since I haven’t heard about any graphic novels for the Kobo, I went to their store and poked around a bit. A search on “graphic novel” turned up Ted Dekker’s graphic novels, which seem to be on every medium, an adaptation of the children’s novel Artemis Fowl, and… Pokemon Graphic Novel, Volume 2: Pikachu Shocks Back, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I was a little surprised to see that the guy who coined the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” had written a Pokemon book, especially as he died in 1873, so I downloade it; alas, it turned out to be just another badly written 19th-centry novel. This suggests that the Kobo bookstore is not quite ready for prime time, but given that Digital is about to greatly expand its digital offerings, it makes sense to maximize the number of channels as well.
Crime | Police in Petoskey, Michigan, arrested a 31-year-old man early Wednesday morning after he allegedly climbed to the roof of a downtown hardware store dressed as Batman. Mark Wayne Williams of Harbor Springs — yes, his middle name is Wayne — has been charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and possession of dangerous weapons, as he reportedly carried a folding steel baton, weighted (sand-filled) gloves, and a can of chemical irritant spray.
Williams said at his arraignment that he didn’t realize the items were illegal, but didn’t offer an explanation as to why he was hanging off the roof of Meyer Ace Hardware dressed as the Dark Knight. The incident apparently isn’t Williams’ first encounter with police: The city’s public safety director said he had previously dressed as the Crow, but didn’t give any further details. [Petoskey News]
Crime | The expired website domain of defunct manga publisher Go! Comi is being used in a scam by an unknown party to solicit donations under the guise of resurrecting the company. “It is not real,” Audry Taylor, Go! Comi’s former creative director, warned last night on Twitter. “Do not donate. Gonna my lawyers on them.” [Anime News Network]
What a difference a year makes! A year ago today, the iPad not only didn’t exist, it hadn’t been officially announced yet. People read comics on their iPhones and iPod Touches, but the screens were too small for a good experience (and therefore, no one wanted to spend much money on them). The iPad changed all that, with a big, full-color screen that is just a tad smaller than a standard comics page (and a tad larger than a standard manga page), and publishers started taking digital comics seriously. The distribution was already in place, thanks to the iPhone—comiXology, iVerse, Panelfly—and now the publishers not only jumped on board with those platforms but also started developing their own apps.
The digital comics scene is still developing, but the iPad was the game changer. For many people, it was the first time that they could comfortably read comics on a handheld screen. Now, it’s just a question of marketing—this year, publishers will grapple with bringing comics to a wider audience, outside the existing readership, and balancing the digital marketplace with the established brick-and-mortar retail structure.
Here, then, is a look back at our digital year.
I’m not sure, but I think this is a first: Digital Manga Publishing is publishing manga on the Nook, Barnes & Noble’s proprietary e-reader. (Like all smart e-readers, the Nook is available not just on the device itself but also as an iPad, iPhone and web application.) There are only a handful of graphic novels available for the Nook, mostly indie material; the best known is probably Mike Jasper and Niki Smith’s In Maps and Legends, which started out as a Zuda comic.
Digital, which has been in the vanguard of, well, digital manga publishing, with their eManga website and Digital Manga Guild, will launch with Vampire Hunter D, in both color and black-and white-versions, divided into two parts for $3.99 each. It’s also available on Kindle for $7.95, and the cheapest way to read it is on the iPhone/iPod Touch, where each of the six chapters in volume 1 is priced at 99 cents. You get what you pay for, though—I read the first volume on the small screen, and it doesn’t adapt well. This is a book that needs a little breathing room.
Digital comics | Kiel Phegley talks to Ira Rubenstein, Marvel’s executive vice president of digital media, about their partnerships with comiXology, iVerse, ScrollMotion and Panelfly. comiXology, meanwhile, has added another Marvel title to their catalog this week — Civil War.
Digital comics | Don Reisinger over at CNET reviews several comics applications for the iPhone, including comiXology, Clickwheel, iVerse Comics and Comic Envi.
Tablets | Kindle, meet the Nook … or nook, as it looks like Barnes & Noble are spelling it with the lowercase “n,” which is really annoying. But yes, the bookseller has launched their own e-book tablet, which retails for $259 (the same as the Amazon Kindle 2), has a color touchscreen and comes out in November. Check out the product comparison chart (it’s a PDF) from B & N for more information on how it compares to Amazon’s device.
Google, meanwhile, isn’t working on a device, but they do plan to launch an e-book store in order to deliver electronic books to “any device with a web browser.” Time will tell what any of this means for the comic industry, but with a color tablet coming out soon, you can see the possibilities.