Publishing | Citing “distribution concerns,” Marvel has canceled plans to allow members of the ComicsPRO retail trade organization to sell the first issue of author Orson Scott Card’s Formic Wars: Burning Earth on Feb. 15 rather than Feb. 16. Announced last Friday, the move was designed to take advantage of Diamond Comic Distributors’ new day-early delivery program, which allows direct-market stores to receive comics on Tuesday for sale on Wednesday. It’s what just this week enabled the early release of the heavily publicized Fantastic Four #587. According to Rich Johnston, complaints from DC Comics and other publishers over that promotion are what led to cancellation of the ComicsPRO incentive.
But publishers weren’t alone in protesting Tuesday releases: On the retail-oriented news and analysis site ICv2.com, store owners complained about “special treatment” for ComicsPRO members, and criticized Marvel for already authorizing day-early sales. “At this rate, by the end of the year, Tuesday will be new comics day,” wrote Ed Sherman of Rising Sun Creations. [Marvel]
Red 5 was one of the first comics publishers to jump into digital distribution, and Atomic Robo is one of the first digital success stories, so when Red 5 founder Paul Ens talks about his company’s digital comics strategy at TFAW.com, it’s worthwhile to listen in.
Red 5 led with the best-sellers, making their top titles, Atomic Robo and Neozoic, available for the iPhone back when each issue was a separate app. And Ens says the comics are selling, with both revenues and the number of comics downloaded increasing every month. “In terms of total sales revenue, it’s still small but growing,” he says.
Earlier today, Mark Millar expressed some concern that creators would not make as much money from digital comics. Ens has a different take, and I’m going to quote his answer at length, because I think he nails it:
Politics | Warren Ellis joins the list of creators who want nothing to do with Heavy Ink after Travis Corcoran’s inflammatory remarks. At The Daily Cartoonist, Ted Rall pushes back on the outrage, saying, “If I only bought from companies and individuals whose political beliefs I agreed with, I wouldn’t be buying much.” [Warren Ellis, The Daily Cartoonist]
Conventions | Now there’s even more of Fan Expo Canada to love: The self-proclaimed “largest combined gaming, horror, comic, science fiction and anime event in the country” is expanding from three to four days, Aug. 25-28, 2011. [Convention Scene]
Manga | A Chinese artist named Xiao Bai is this year’s winner of the Japanese government’s International Manga Award. The prizewinning entry, Si loin et si proche (So near and so far), was published in Belgium last year. [Monsters and Critics]
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.
There has been plenty of talk on this blog and elsewhere about the economics and ethics of scanlation, but let’s face it, we’re all grownups here. The vast majority of the audience for manga in the U.S. has been teenagers, and teenagers don’t necessarily operate under the same logic that the rest of the world uses.
The anime blogger who goes by the handle One Great Turtle encountered that logic recently during a chat with a college freshman at the University of Kentucky’s Asia Arts Festival. OGT and a friend were discussing the recent trend toward alternative manga:
After hearing this, the freshman subsequently asked “So, like, are they trying to make it cool to read print manga?” at which both I and the graduating senior goggled for a moment before going “what the hell are you on about?”
Apparently, in his high school, it was seen as uncool to read print manga. I didn’t find out then why it was particularly considered uncool, although the perpetual-behindness of licensed releases may have been a factor, as well as a certain sense borrowed from underground aesthetics that licensed titles may have “sold out” or were otherwise “too mainstream”. It’s also interesting to note that the act of “reading manga” itself apparently wasn’t considered uncool. Just reading print manga.
Which, of course, totally makes sense. Teenagers have always hated anything that smells of a sellout, and scanlations are to their readers what bootleg Grateful Dead tapes were to my generation, much more desirable than the commercial product (except the Dead didn’t get all uptight about it and lawyer up). Copyright is utterly meaningless to a 15-year-old. However, this is a phenomenon the publishers ignore at their own peril, because those 15-year-olds are their core audience. The guys in the suits can splutter about contracts and rights and logistical difficulties, but the kids don’t care. And if a bunch of high school students can translate, edit, clean, and post a chapter of manga in a day, a big corporation like Shueisha should be able to do it too.
(Via Ogiue Maniax, which has additional commentary.)
Libre told ANN that, as a publisher, it was entrusted with the rights to these works by their authors, so it is important for the company protect those rights. Libre wants readers — not just in Japan, but worldwide — to understand that “protecting the authors’ rights goes hand-in-hand with producing their works.” Libre pointed towards a page on its website which details its stance on copyrights.
Libre’s move is unusual in that the groups in question are mostly scanlating unlicensed manga — unlike more blatant groups such as Manga Fox or Onemanga.com who scanlated or simply posted scans of already licensed English-language manga on their sites.
Since last April, Libre’s parent company Animate has been publishing yaoi manga in both English and Japanese on the Kindle.
Another week, another digital platform: Marvel announced last week that it will make its comics available on Graphic.ly. It has been almost three years since Marvel launched its first digital initiative, the subscription-based Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Since then it has also made its content available through a few different iPhone/iPad applications, including a Marvel-branded one created by comiXology. Like the Marvel app (and unlike Marvel DCU), Graphic.ly allows readers to download comics and keep them; what makes it unique is its social networking aspect, which lets readers post comments about the comic directly on the pages.
I checked in with Marvel’s Ira Rubenstein, executive vice president of the global digital media group, to see how all Marvel’s digital initiatives are going and how Graphic.ly fits into the mix.
Do you anticipate releasing comics on the same day and date on Graphic.ly and in print, either regularly or occasionally?
We have done it with a few of our books, and I can’t speak for future plans but I think we will continue to experiment. Graphic.ly is just another outlet, and we believe in as wide distribution of our content as possible. The big news for Graphic.ly is this is the first time we are on a PC in a sell-through model.
Several scanlation groups are reporting that they have received cease and desist notices from the Japanese publisher Libre, which specializes in yaoi manga. Baka-Updates reports that the scanlation groups Attractive Fascinante, Bliss, and Liquid Passion & Biblo Eros all received C&D notices, and the latter two have taken down or removed links to content owned by Libre. It looks like Blissful Sin has received a notice and complied as well.
On the one hand, it’s a little surprising that Libre is targeting these groups, as they seem to only scan manga that hasn’t been licensed in the US, and the audience for yaoi is relatively small anyway. On the other hand, Libre has been pretty aggressive in asserting its rights. The company was formed following the 2006 bankruptcy of another yaoi publisher, Biblos and picked up the rights to the magazine Be x Boy and the work of several creators. The American publisher Central Park Media was publishing series by these creators, but Libre accused them publicly of violating their IP rights. At the time, Ed Chavez (now the marketing director for Vertical, Inc., but at the time simply a blogger with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Japanese manga scene) commented on how unusual it was for a Japanese publisher to call out an American licensee, in English, no less. CPM disagreed but ultimately filed for bankruptcy, making the whole thing moot.
And now we get to the heart of the matter: Libre is publishing yaoi for the Kindle, under the aegis of parent company Animate, so they are obviously protecting their market. Animate publishes four titles a month in English, but they also occasionally put up a book in Japanese as well. Although most serious scanlators take down their scanlations of books as soon as they are licensed, there may be less lag time in this case. Or maybe they are just being aggressive; Libre is a member of the anti-scanlation coalition formed earlier this year.
The general reaction seem to have been pretty mature—the readers realize that scanlations are illegal, and they are resigned to it. Unlike Onemanga.com fans, they aren’t demanding that someone set up a new free manga site for them or that manga publishers just “learn to deal with it” and let the scanlators continue, although one reader did pen an embittered open letter to Libre on her LJ, in which she forcefully makes the point that she buys lots of yaoi, some of it directly from Libre—and details the order she just canceled. It’s an interesting twist on the voting-with-your-dollars argument, but one that most of us can’t pull off as we don’t buy Japanese manga to begin with.
(First spotted via Cait Branford on Twitter.)
Anime News Network has picked up on a fascinating trend over on YouTube: Anime and manga fans who show off their swag to support the industry.
The manga industry’s push against scan sites, which resulted in the shutdown of OneManga, seems to have raised awareness across otakudom that watching pirated anime and reading bootleg manga online is illegal. The anime industry has been faltering for years—long before manga began to wobble in 2007—but the general tendency among fans is to blame the publishers (for high prices and bad translations), so this is an interesting shift. It also mirrors the trend of “haul videos,” in which shoppers show off the results of their latest shopping spree.
Audry Taylor was the creative director of Go! Comi back when it was one of the hottest small manga publishers around. Now Go! Comi has disappeared from view, and Taylor is devoting her time to writing YA prose fiction, but when it comes to topics like digital piracy and digital publishing, hers is a voice worth listening to. “Dear Publishing, manga is 3 yrs ahead of you on pirated material,” she tweeted yesterday. Right now, manga publishers are going out of business. They didn’t ADAPT.”
She points out that publishers’ biggest competitor is free comics, adding, “Consumers need powerful emotional & psychological reasons to buy your books rather than just grab the nearest free e-book.” Low prices alone won’t do the job.
A lot of manga readers justify reading scanlations by saying they are helping build an audience, but Taylor noted that Go! Comi’s books continued to be scanlated long after they were available in English. She did point out that readers who couldn’t find their books in stores had no qualms about reading them online. And she offered a five-point prescription for publishers:
A Missouri man was sentenced Friday to two years in federal prison for illegally recording The Dark Knight in a theater and selling the movie on DVD.
U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan also ordered the defendant, Robert Henderson of Grandview, Missouri, to pay $24,738. The prison sentence will be followed by three years probation.
Henderson pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement for using a digital camera to record The Dark Knight on July 18, 2008 — opening day for the Warner Bros. blockbuster. He was caught as part of an investigation by the Motion Picture Association of America.
“This is an appropriate sentence for a very serious crime, and we hope it will serve as a warning to would-be movie thieves that they will face severe consequences for engaging in these activities,” Mike Robinson, the MPAA’s senior vice president of content protection, said in a press release.
In December, the FBI arrested a New York man suspected of uploading an unfinished edit of X-Men Origins: Wolverine to a file-sharing website for the film’s release. Earlier this month 20th Century Fox filed six lawsuits against several dozen people the studio claims sold DVDs containing unfinished versions of the movie.
(via The Wrap)