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Conventions | The annual scramble for discounted Comic-Con International rooms in 54 participating hotels kicks off Tuesday at 9 a.m. PT. Comic-Con badger holders should’ve already received an email containing a link to the Travel Planners hotel reservation website. [Toucan]
Passings | Michael Cavna remembers cartoonist Jim Berry, who died Friday at age 83: “Berry’s World, the syndicated single-panel feature that he drew for 40 years, beginning in 1963, was a remarkably steady stream of thoughtful observational humor that — like the unfussy art itself — rarely seemed to strain for the laugh. Each gag, as steady as a top golfer’s approach shots, just ‘landed.’ Precision meets concision.” [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Seconds, by Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, had an impressive debut, landing at No. 2 and No. 5 on the BookScan chart of graphic novels sold in the book channel in July. The book had a standard edition and a Barnes & Nobles exclusive. ICv2 reckons if there had been a single edition, Seconds would have topped the list; instead, the No. 1 spot went to the latest volume of Naruto. It was also a good month for DC Comics, which charted seven titles, six of which involve Batman.[ICv2]
Publishing | In an overview of the comics and graphic novel market, ICv2 reports direct market retailers are optimistic despite flat sales in the first half of the year. [ICv2]
Legal | A former Marvel intern has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging he was incorrectly classified and unfairly denied “minimum wages.” Kenneth Jackson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, claims he’s owed back pay for the work he performed for Marvel from August 2008 to December 2008, and seeks to include in his motion “all similarly situated persons who are presently or formerly employed by Marvel Entertainment, LLC.” [TheWrap]
Passings | Pran Sharma, the creator of the Indian comics character Chacha Chaudhary, died late Tuesday of complications from cancer. He was 75. The first comic featuring Chacha, “a wise old man who solves problems with his sharp intellect,” was published in 1971, and the character went on to star in his own comics and animated series. Sharma also created the teenage character Billoo. “If I could put a smile on the face of the poor, I would consider my life successful,” he once said. [The Wall Street Journal]
Piracy | The Japanese government is joining with 15 anime production companies and manga publishers to launch a major initiative that will target foreign pirate sites. The push will start Aug. 1 and will have two components: The government will send takedown requests to 580 pirate sites and also launch a website that directs people to legitimate sources of online manga. The Japanese Cultural Affairs Agency estimates that Chinese pirate sites cost the industry 560 billion yen (about $5.5 million) last year. [Crunchyroll]
Comics | Lidia Jean Kott talks with writer Jason Aaron about his female Thor and pays a visit to Fantom Comics in Washington, D.C., where a quarter of the customers are women and the bestselling title is Saga (the bestselling superhero comic is Ms. Marvel). [NPR]
Conventions | Phoenix Comicon, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people, has placed a limit on attendance for the June 5-8 show, raising the possibility that the convention could sell out for the first time. However, convention director Matt Solberg said organizers have been working with the fire marshal to increase capacity at the Phoenix Convention Center. This year’s guests include Andy Kubert, Andy Runton, Camilla d’Errico, Chris Claremont, Christopher Golden, Dennis Calero, Don Rosa, Francis Manapul, John Layman, Katie Cook, Kevin Maguire, Marc Andreyko and Mark Bagley. [Facebook, via Modern Times]
Manga | Lillian Diaz Przybyl, who was the senior editor at Tokyopop until shortly before its demise, talks about her early days in fandom, her experiences at the company when it was a market leader, and the issue of piracy and creators’ rights. She also sheds some light on why the manga publishers were so slow to go to digital: The Japanese licensors were reluctant to put content from different publishers together and worried that their books would be re-imported back to Japan. [Organization Anti-Social Geniuses]
Fandom | Rachel Edidin attends a gathering of the Carol Corps, the group of mostly female Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel fans that has built a community around a shared interest. “It is not a formal organization,” says Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. “There are no rules. People write and ask me all the time, ‘How do I join the Carol Corps?’ You join Carol Corps by saying you are Carol Corps. There is no test. You don’t have to buy anything. You don’t need to sign up anywhere. If you decide you are a part of this community, bam, you are. The other part of that is that if you decide you are a part of this community, you will be embraced and welcome.” [Wired]
Piracy | The Japanese government will consider several measures to fight online piracy of anime and manga in the next few months, while publishers are taking a if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em approach by launching two free digital manga services, ComicWalker and Manga Box, to lure readers away from bootleg scanlation sites. [The Japan News]
The New York Times this week ran an article (accompanied by a video) titled “Comic Books Zap to Life” that recommends three digital comics apps: comiXology’s Comics, the Dark Horse app, and Manga Rock. That last one is problematic, although writer Kit Eaton gives it a rave review:
Manga Rock, free on iOS and Android, beats the competition. It has a list of more than 50,000 comics available, and though its reading system isn’t as sophisticated as the one in Comics, it is still smooth to use. It’s free, but to get access to all the comics you have to pay $4 for the full edition through an in-app upgrade.
Here’s why Manga Rock is such a good deal: It’s a reader that uses files from pirate manga sites. When you open the app, it allows you to choose three sources for your manga; all three are bootleg sites that host scanlations (fan translations) and sometimes scans of licensed books. I checked a couple of series that are licensed in the United States on both the app and one of the websites it’s pulling from. The manga isn’t actually available on the website (there’s a note saying that’s because it’s licensed), but many of these series are available via the app, so the files are still sitting on the server somewhere.
Eaton recommends two other manga apps, apparently without trying them; both are also bootleg apps that work in exactly the same way.
Legal | The Hiroshima, Japan, police arrested a 36-year-old man on Monday for illegally uploading the manga series Gin Tama to the Internet; he was charged with copyright infringement. This comes just a few days after the arrest of another unemployed man for uploading a volume of Berserk. In both cases, the publisher and the creator of the manga involved have sued the suspects. [Crunchyroll]
Creators | Batman writer Scott Snyder talks about the women of Gotham City. [Comicosity]
Creators | In the first part of a two-part interview conducted at WonderCon, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick discusses how she grew up reading comics in the 1970s, her work for Tokyopop and Marvel, and what Carol Danvers means to her fans. [Toucan]
Graphic novels | Graphic novel sales are up 6.59 percent in comics shops, and they are also up in bookstores, according to the latest issue of ICv2’s Internal Correspondence. Sales have been increasing in the direct market for a while, but this is the first uptick in bookstore sales since the economy crashed in 2008. There seem to be several factors, including the popularity of television and movie tie-ins — the success of DC’s graphic novel program linked to Man of Steel is singled out — and a turnaround in manga sales. The article winds up with lists of the top properties in a number of different categories. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Here’s today’s news article on Crunchyroll’s new digital manga service, which offers same-day releases of 12 Kodansha manga titles for free and an all-you-can-eat service for $4.99 a month. Tomohiro Osaki interviews Japanese publishing insiders, who are upfront about the fact that this is an attempt to compete with pirate sites, and translator Matt Thorn, who says that better translations on the official site may lure readers away from scanlations. [The Japan Times]
Crime | Three armed men invaded the home of comics collector Antonio Jose da Silva in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and held him and two employees at gunpoint while they stole more than 7,000 comics from his collection of about 200,000. The robbers seemed to know exactly what they were looking for, as they went straight for the most valuable books. Their haul included more than 200 first editions of O Lobinho and O Gibi, which reprinted translations of American comics in the 1930s and 1940s. The value of the thieves haul is estimated at $150,000, and the loss will be borne by da Silva, who was unable to get insurance for his collection. [The Comics Reporter]
Comics | Dana Jennings looks at the renewed interest in EC Comics, once reviled in the popular press as mind-destroying trash that would lead youths astray, now revered by the comics cognoscenti as subversive graphic literature. Locke & Key writer Joe Hill and EC Archives editor Russ Cochran weigh in, as does Fantagraphics President Gary Groth, editor of that company’s EC Library, who says, “They were arguably the best commercial comics company in the history of the medium, and their list of artists and writers between 1950 and 1955 represents a Who’s Who of the most accomplished craftsmen working in comics at that time.” [The New York Times]
An employee of the Ohio Department of Health has reportedly confessed to illegally downloading, television series and more than 30,000 comic books from torrent sites to state computers.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Edward Jones Jr., who has worked in information technology for the agency since 1992, admitted to the activity during an investigation by the inspector general’s office initiated last year after an allegation by media giant Viacom that copyrighted material had been downloaded using a state IP address.
According to the inspector general’s report, Jones initially suggested that Viacom might have simply detected him downloading “suspicious programs” or viruses to an unauthorized third computer for analysis as part of his job. Shortly after that first interview, in April 2012, Jones reportedly attempted to delete more than 5,000 files from the computer and an external hard drive; investigators were later able to recover those video and comic book files. They also determined that Jones was a member of several torrenting websites, where he both downloaded and uploading files.
“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
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Saba’aneh was released from an Israeli prison on Monday, as scheduled. Saba’aneh, who was originally held without charges and eventually sentenced to five months for “contacts with a hostile organization,” drew several cartoons while he was in prison and plans to do a show of his prison drawings, focusing on Palestinian prisoners who, he says, are in prison “just because they are Palestinians.” [PRI’s The World]
Manga | In a major coup for a manga publisher, Digital Manga (which, contrary to its name, also published print manga) announced at Anime Expo that it has signed a deal with Tezuka Productions to publish all of Osamu Tezuka’s works in North America. While the details aren’t entirely clear, it sounds like Digital is working on some new licenses and will have digital rights to books released here in print by other publishers. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | ICv2 posts a three-part interview with IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams that covers a multitude of subjects, including the company’s digital strategy, the Artists Editions, news that Scholastic has picked up its My Little Pony comics, and that the publisher’s book sales are up, even though Borders is gone: “The book market used to make me crazy on this returnable basis basically forever. That was never a sustainable business model. Where we are today is we are able to sell product in a reasonable way so that the bookstores get a chance to sell the product and we don’t get these giant returns. ” [ICv2]
Piracy | Earlier this year, the Chinese Internet company Tencent inked a deal with Shueisha, the publisher of Shonen Jump and thus the licensor of some of the most popular manga in the world. One consequence of this deal has just hit home with the Chinese reading public: Scanlations are disappearing from the web, and fans are not happy. [Kotaku]
Conventions | Last week’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo drew 53,000 attendees, the largest crowd yet for the Chicago-based show, which is in its fourth year. Reed Exhibitions Group Vice President Lance Fensterman talks about the high points of the show and plans for the next couple of years. [ICv2]
Graphic novels | Heidi MacDonald tracks the rise in popularity of graphic novels among librarians, whose support has been integral to the growth of the industry. Her well-researched article includes interviews with public librarians, school librarians, and academic librarians, as well as publishers and others in the field. It’s a comprehensive overview of one of the most important, and least reported-on, areas of our world. [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Alex Hern looks at three comics that have long been out of print but are now back, or possibly on their way back: Flex Mentallo, Marvelman and Zenith. [The New Statesman]