Publishing | This may seem a little inside-baseball, but it’s actually pretty significant: Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores. This also makes for an interesting consolidation of manga distribution, as Random House also distributes Kodansha Comics (with which it has a strong business relationship) and Vertical books. [ICv2]
Comics | Superheroes may rule on television and in film, but comics continue to be a niche medium. The Associated Press reporter Melissa Rayworth talks to a comic-shop owner whose customers skulk in on the down low, an opera singer whose friends are surprised she reads comics, and Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims, who does a good job of putting things in perspective. [ABC]
Passings | Roy Peterson, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun, died Sunday at the age of 77. During his 40-year career, Peterson won more National Newspaper Awards than any other Canadian creator, but he was remembered by his peers chiefly for his sense of humor and his mentoring of younger artists. [Vancouver Sun]
Publishing | CNN contributor Bob Greene profiles Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief and co-president of Archie Comics who began working for the publisher at age 17, in 1958. [CNN.com]
Creators | Craig Thompson talks about the short story he wrote and drew for First Second’s Fairy Tale Comics anthology, and he reveals an interesting fact: “For six years or so, my entire income was based on drawing kids’ comics for [Nickelodeon] magazine. Later on my career shifted to drawing ‘serious’ graphic novels aimed at adult readers, but I’ve always wanted to revisit my more fun and cartoony style.” Former Nickelodeon editor Chris Duffy is the editor of Fairy Tale Comics. [Hero Complex]
Conventions | Small Press Expo organizers apologized to exhibitors for the problems they experienced trying to register for the show. Despite several server upgrades ahead of time, the site went down when the “tsunami” of applications hit on Sunday morning. They then opened up PayPal to take the table orders, but they were unable to shut it down when all the tables were sold. They are sorting it out now, and if the tables were oversold, refunds will be issued. Roger Langridge depicted his registration experience on his blog. [SPX Tumblr]
Publishing | After 13 years of publishing and promoting yuri manga, Erica Friedman is stepping down as Yuricon events chair and giving up on publishing: “I can’t afford print, you don’t want digital, the JP companies won’t talk to me and all the many differences between JP publishers and US fans are so huge and insurmountable. I don’t have the energy or clout or money to bridge the gap.” [Okazu]
Publishing | DC’s 52-variant-cover gimmick with Justice League of America #1 seems to have paid off, as ICv2 estimates Diamond Comic Distributors sold more than 300,000 copies to comics shops last month. That adds up to more than $1 million in retail sales, a rare height last passed by in January by The Amazing Spider-Man #700. ICv2 also posts the Top 300 comics and graphic novels for February. [ICv2]
Kickstarter | Gary Tyrrell talks to Holly Rowland, who with husband Jeffrey has launched a business called Make That Thing to help comics creators fulfill their Kickstarter pledges. The Rowlands are also the team behind the webcomics merchandise retailer TopatoCo. [Fleen]
Awards | The National Press Foundation has named political cartoonist Robert Ariail, who draws for Universal UClick and the Spartanburg, South Carolina, Herald-Journal, as the winner of this year’s Berryman Award. [The Washington Post]
Creators | Brothers Wesley and Bradley Sun discuss their upcoming graphic novel, Chinatown; Wesley is a hospital chaplain in Chicago, and Bradley quit his job in Florida to join his brother and work on the book. [Hyde Park Herald]
As the final hours tick down on the Kickstarter campaign for To Be Or Not To Be, cartoonist Ryan North’s Choose Your Own Adventure-style take on Hamlet has raised more than $481,000 — that’s 2,405 percent of its $20,000 goal — easily breaking the crowdfunding platform’s record for most successful book project.
As we reported last month, To Be Or Not To Be will allow (adult!) readers to be one of numerous characters from William Shakespeare’s play, including the ghost of Hamlet’s father. “Also,” the Kickstarter page offers, “unlike Shakespeare I didn’t skip over the pirate scene in Hamlet. You get to fight PIRATES. With SWORDS. And yes OF COURSE you can choose which body part you cut off. Why would you write a book where you can’t do that is my question.” What’s more, North enlisted an all-star roster of artists — ranging from Kate Beaton and Kazu Kibuishi to Vera Brosgol and Dustin Harbin — to illustrate the prose book.
In an article this morning on Wired.com examining the blockbuster success of the campaign, North notes, “No [publisher] would drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on getting this book made because you don’t know if the audience will show up for it, and you have to front all these costs. The better you want to make the book, the riskier it gets. But with Kickstarter, we know the audience is there when we make these decisions.”
Talking with Laura Hudson, Tom Helleberg of New York University Press predicts, “It probably won’t be long until Kickstarter (or something similar) completely replaces the slush pile and agents when it comes to filtering submissions. Then presses are going to have to figure out how on Earth they are going to attract successful authors who are effectively earning 100 percent royalties on self-produced projects.”
Update (11 a.m. PT): Since this post was published, an additional $20,595 was pledged to the project, bringing the tally to more than a half-million dollars. Eighteen hours remain in the campaign.
Comics | The Dundee, Scotland, city council has approved a proposal by publisher DC Thomson to name a street in the city’s west end to honor the Bash Street Kids, stars of the long-running comic strip in The Beano. Dundee already has statues honoring comic characters Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx. [BBC News]
Comics | Laura Sneddon continues the New Statesmen’s week-long series on comics with a look at children’s comics in the U.K., including the digital relaunch of The Dandy, the continuing popularity of The Beano (which sells a respectable 30,000 copies per week) and the new kid on the block, The Phoenix. [New Statesman]
“Good editors are your partners in making good comics. They are on your side. They are the trained second pair of eyes who look at your stories without the baggage you bring to them (sometimes, sadly, artists can get too close to the comic they’ve been working on for years, and not see the occasional story snarl or character breakdown), and challenge you to make your comic the best it can be. They point out when a comic panel doesn’t read properly, when a character looks off-model, and sometimes they’ll even give you notes like ‘this looks awesome!!!’ with little hearts drawn in the margins. Good editors are worth their weight in gold.”
— Faith Erin Hicks, on why she prefers to work with an editor
Of course, I’m biased because I was an editor before I was a writer, but I think Faith hits the nail on the head here. Everything is improved by a second set of eyes. The whole piece is worth reading, because Faith talks about the sort of discussions she has with her editor and what she is and isn’t willing to change.
Comics | Ahead of Joe Quesada’s appearance tonight on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the debut Wednesday of Uncanny Avengers, Marvel unpacks its Marvel NOW! initiative for the national press. “This ain’t a reboot, we’re simply hitting the refresh button. ‘Marvel NOW!’ simply offers a line-wide entry-point into the Marvel Universe that you’re already reading about,” Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says. Tom Brevoort, senior vice president of publishing, calls it “a game of musical chairs” for creators, who will be switched around to make things interesting. [The Associated Press]
Creators | Writer Gail Simone discusses the coming battle between Batgirl and Knightfall in Batgirl #13, as well as the impending return of The Joker: “The Joker is really the Elvis of comic-book villains. There’s no one with his primal star power, there’s no one else anywhere who has sent more chills up the spines of readers, because there genuinely is something terrifying about him.” [USA Today]
Conventions | MorrisonCon and the Las Vegas Comic Expo aren’t the only comic conventions this weekend (more on them shortly): There’s also Wizard World Ohio Comic Con in Columbus, and Asbury Park Comic Con in New Jersey. Last year, Wizard took over Mid-Ohio Con and turned it into Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, and on the eve of this year’s event, the local alternative weekly looks at how the event has changed and what to expect. Meanwhile, Saturday’s Asbury Park Comic Con gets back to basics: “The problem that I have with the big comic conventions is that they’ve turned into pop culture conventions and it’s anything goes —anything from video games to wrestlers and bands, stuff that has nothing or very little to do with comics. What we want to do is bring it back to what brought us all together — our passion for comics,” says co-founder Cliff Galbraith. The event, which is being held in a rock club/bowling alley, features such comics guests as Larry Hama, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Dean Haspiel, Seth Kushner and Reilly Brown. [The Other Paper, Asbury Park Press]
Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son has been acclaimed by critics all over the blogosphere (myself included), but any publisher is taking a risk on a 200-page hardcover book that sells for $20, and when it’s part of a 12-volume series … well, there is a lot to be said for giving loyal readers a break.
It’s hard to know whether Fantagraphics is feeling nervous or generous, but the publisher is offering a discount to readers who pay up front: A subscription to the next three volumes, vols. 4-6, for $50.38, a 20 percent discount from the list price of $62.97 — plus free domestic shipping and discounted overseas shipping.
This seems like a mutually beneficial deal: Fanta gets its money up front for volumes that will be published in December 2012, June 2013 and December 2013, respectively, and readers get a good price. This sort of pay-now-read-later arrangement is unusual for manga, and for graphic novels in general. If this works, it could set a precedent for high-end graphic novels — I don’t see anyone paying up front for the next 20 volumes of Naruto, but when you think about it, it’s not that different from traditional publishers like Digital getting pre-orders through Kickstarter.
Retailing | ICv2 analyzes the August direct market numbers and comes up with some interesting patterns: While the market as a whole is up, the number of comics with sales of more than 1,000 has been declining; sales dropped a bit for most ongoing comics series in the Top 25, but strong sales of Before Watchmen and two annuals more than compensated for that; and graphic novels sell in far lower numbers than comics, but because many of them are backlist titles, the numbers still increase from year to year. ICv2 also posted lists of last month’s Top 300 comics and graphic novels. [ICv2]
Publishing | Yet another big publisher spawns a graphic novel imprint: This time it’s Penguin, whose Berkley/NAL division will launch a graphic novel imprint, InkLit, next month. Helmed by former DC vice president and Yen Press co-founder Rich Johnson, InkLit will publish both original graphic novels and adaptations of prose works. The line will begin with Vol. 1 of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega, which collects the trades published by Dynamite; the second volume will be all new material. Also in the works are books by Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Sage Stossel. [Publishers Weekly]
If you’ve been following the publishing industry (not just comics, but the whole industry), you know it’s been in turmoil for the past few years. Ebooks have made self-publishing a lucrative option not only for unpublished authors, but also for mid-list writers like JA Konrath who are reaching a dramatically wider audience than they ever did with their traditional publishers.
Though the prose arm of publishing has been having this conversation for a while, it’s been pretty quiet in comics except for the tangential conversation about creator-owned vs. corporate-owned. That’s actually a separate conversation, though. BPRD and Saga are just two examples of creator-owned comics that aren’t self-published. Who publishes your book often has nothing to do with who owns the characters and story in it. I’m glad to see First Second’s Senior Editor Calista Brill start the comics arm of the discussion, especially in the as-objectively-as-possible way that she does.
Publishing | Longtime industry hand Jason Thompson has written a thoughtful essay on why the manga industry is in trouble, going beyond the American scene to point out structural problems in the Japanese market: An aging readership, the decline of print and the reluctance of Japanese publishers to embrace digital publishing in any coherent way. “Perhaps wary of creating an iTunes-like behemoth which could drive prices down,” Thompson writes, “publishers haven’t united in any reasonable way to create a consistent digital newsstand/bookstore format for their titles.” This, of course, has just made life easier for the scanlators. He also points to a shift toward the individual creator — it’s the big publishers who are hurting, while self-published and indy manga are on the rise. All this may sound familiar to American comics fans, but Thompson’s prescriptions for the future — more gag manga, simpler art, more color, and motion comics — don’t seem like convincing ways to rescue the industry. An iTunes-like behemoth is probably the way to go. [io9]
Awards | The Horror Writers Association has released the preliminary ballot for the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards, which includes a graphic novel category. [Horror Writers Association]
Passings | British cartoonist Ronald Searle, best known as the creator of the fictional St. Trinian’s School, passed away Friday at a hospital near his home in southeastern France. He was 91. His spiky drawings of the wicked pupils of the girls school debuted in 1941 in Lilliput magazine, leading to five books and seven films. Searle, a Cambridge native, also co-authored (with Geoffrey Willans) the Molesworth book series. [Reuters]
Conventions | Four-day passes for New York Comic Con go on sale for $85 today at noon ET/9 a.m. PT. The event will be held Oct. 11-14 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. [press release]
Conventions | Comiket, the world’s largest self-published comic book fair, drew a total of 500,000 people for its winter convention, held Thursday through Saturday at the Tokyo Big Sight in Japan. Held twice a year, in August and December, the event doesn’t use turnstiles or unique passes, so a visitor who attends all three days would be counted each time. [Anime News Network]