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Comics A.M. | Looking back at the year in comics business news

Sales

Sales

Comics | Retail news and analysis site ICv2 lists the top 10 comics business events of 2013, from strong sales growth in all three channels (book market, direct market and digital) to issues with sexual content, both Apple’s restrictions on in-app purchases and the sentencing of a Missouri man to three years in prison for possession of obscene comics. [ICv2]

Comics | Here’s a local-news take on Dark Horse’s loss of the Star Wars comics license, in which Publisher Mike Richardson reveals the franchise makes up 4 to 6 percent of the company’s bottom line. [KGW]

Comics | Tom Spurgeon talks to writer-about-comics Zainab Akhtar about her own writing and a good handful of other people’s graphic novels. [The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Judge rules Sherlock Holmes is in public domain

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Legal | In a decision that will undoubtedly usher in more Holmes and Watson novels, comic books, movies and television, a federal judge has issued a declarative judgment that the elements included in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published by Arthur Conan Doyle before Jan. 1, 1923 are in the public domain in the United States. That means creators are free to use the characters and elements from those stories (but not from the 10 published after 1923) without paying a licensing fee to the protective Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed early this year by Leslie Klinger, who served as an adviser on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films and with Laurie R. King edited In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. Although Klinger and King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection, their publisher received a letter from the Conan Doyle estate demanding another fee; in response, Klinger sued. [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Former Archie Comics artist Janice Valleau dies

Toni Gayle

Toni Gayle

Passings | Artist Janice Valleau Winkelman, creator of the detective Toni Gayle, passed away on Dec. 8 at age 90. Winkleman, who drew under her maiden name Janice Valleau, had polio as a child and wore a brace through school. Her first work was published in Smash Comics in 1939, when she was 16. She studied at the Phoenix Art Institute and moved to New York, where she found steady work as a penciler and inker for Archie Comics and Quality Comics. She left the industry during the anti-comic crusades of the 1950; author David Hajdu profiled her in the prologue to his chronicle of those times, The Ten Cent Plague. According to the Grand Comics Database, one of her stories was reprinted as recently as last April, in Archie Double Digest #238. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

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Comics A.M. | Why ‘One Piece’ is world’s most popular manga

"One Piece" newspaper ad

“One Piece” newspaper ad

Manga | Roland Kelts looks at the international popularity of One Piece, whose sales number 300 million volumes in Japan and 45 million in the rest of the world. The piece includes an interview with creator Eiichiro Oda — he says he writes what he imagines his 15-year-old self would like to read — as well as editors from Viz Media, the American publisher of One Piece, who discuss the reasons for its popularity overseas as well as the global impact of manga piracy on these manga pirates. [The Japan Times]

Conventions | Which shows are money-makers for creators, and how much do they make? The answers, broken out into a handy infographic, may surprise you. [The Devastator]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Attack on Titan’ closes in on ‘One Piece’ in Japan

Attack on Titan, Vol. 10

Attack on Titan, Vol. 10

Manga | While Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has been burning up the bookstore sales charts in the United States, the dystopian manga is also giving the smash-hit One Piece a run for its money in Japan. According to market research firm Oricon, Attack on Titan sold more than 15.9 million copies in the past year, just behind One Piece‘s 18.1 million (Kuroko’s Basketball is a distance third with about 8.8 million). Of course,  Eiichiro Oda insanely popular pirate manga has little to fear: The 72-volume (and counting) series has 300 million copies in print in Japan, and 345 million worldwide. Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, meanwhile, is on its 11th volume. [ICv2]

Auctions | Select titles from Don and Maggie Thompson’s collection of rare comics — among them, The Avengers #1, Journey Into Mystery #83 and The Incredible Hulk #1 — sold at auction last week for a combined $835,384. A 9.6 copy of Tales of Suspense #39 alone fetched $262,900. [Heritage Auctions]

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Comics A.M. | Online effort raises $5,000 for struggling store

StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games

StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games

Retailing | Fans of the Fall River, Massachusetts, retailer StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games kicked in $5,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to keep the store in business. The shop, which opened in 1997, had to close for 10 days last month after its power was shut off. [The Herald News]

Publishing | Following confirmation last month of a Space Mountain graphic novel series, Heidi MacDonald talks with executives from Disney Publishing Worldwide about the expansion of the new Disney Comics imprint. [Publishers Weekly]

Events | Sean Kleefeld reports on Day 1 of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, Ohio. [Kleefeld on Comics]

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Comics A.M. | North Carolina convention war brewing?

NC Comicon

NC Comicon

Conventions | Brian Howe looks at the rivalry between Comic Book City Con, which debuted two weekends ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, and NC Comicon, which returns Saturday in Durham. The latter, which is now co-owned by artist Tommy Lee Edwards, drew 4,000 attendees last year (its first at the Durham Convention Center), and this year doubled its exhibit space and ramped up its programming. The conflict, which manifested in a flier for Comic Book City Con that one party considers playful but the other calls “bullying,” seems to be rooted in the proximity of the dates and a perceived lack of communication. However, it’s not simply a rivalry between nearby conventions; it’s one between retailers: Durham’s Ultimate Comics organizes NC Comicon, while Greensboro’s Acme Comics operates Comic Book City Con. [Indy Week]

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Comics A.M. | Investor group buys majority stake in Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll

Digital comics | The Chernin Group, headed by former News Corp Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, has acquired a controlling stake in Crunchyroll, the streaming anime site that just launched a digital comics service. [All Things D]

Digital comics | Rob McMonigal takes a look at Believed Behavior, a website where subscribers can read comics by five different creators for $8 (there’s a free component as well) and then get them in print form. [Panel Patter]

Manga | Dark Horse announced Tuesday that there are 750,000 copies of the various volumes of Berserk in print; that number is about to increase, as the publisher is about to release new printings of the volumes that are low in stock, which is pretty much all of them. Volume 37 is due out later this month. [Anime News Network]

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Comics A.M. | Rare Brazilian comics stolen in armed robbery

O Lobinho

O Lobinho

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]

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Comics A.M. | Digital’s “biggest competition is ‘Angry Birds'”

Viz Media

Viz Media

Digital comics | ICv2 has a fascinating interview with Gagan Singh, Viz Media’s chief technology officer, in which he discusses not only the nuts and bolts of the publisher’s digital manga program — it now encompasses a number of e-reader platforms as well as a dedicated app — but also the larger questions of piracy, trends and, most importantly, growing the manga audience: “My favorite example is when you’re in the digital domain, your biggest competition is not the next manga or the next book, your biggest competition is Angry Birds because it’s only one click away. When you get into debate over mind share, I’m not just trying to get them to read the next book, I’m trying to get them to not listen to that song or play that video game. That is a bigger challenge where marketing and mind share is concerned.” [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Edmonton Comic Expo attracts 25,000 fans

 Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo

Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo

Conventions | The second annual Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo attracted 25,000 people over the weekend, up from about 14,000 for the inaugural event. [Edmonton Journal]

Conventions | Tom Spurgeon reports in on MIX, the comics expo hosted by the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio, this past weekend. [The Comics Reporter]

Conventions | And Lyndsey Hewitt was on the scene at Wildcat Comic Con at Pennsylvania College. [Williamsport Sun-Gazette]

Conventions | Jim Steranko and Kim Deitch will be among the guests at the Locust Moon Comics Festival in Philadelphia this weekend. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

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Comics A.M. | Injured ‘Spider-Man’ actor blames stage equipment

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Legal | A dancer seriously injured last month during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark insists the accident was caused by malfunctioning equipment and not, as the show’s producers contend, by human error. Daniel Curry made the claim in documents filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court that seek to prevent the production from altering or destroying the computerized stage lift before his experts can inspect the equipment in preparation for a potential civil lawsuit. He’s also requesting maintenance records and any internal reports about the accident. The 23-year-old Curry was injured during the Aug. 15 performance of Spider-Man when his leg was pinned in an automated trap door. According to court papers, he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and has had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. [New York Daily News, The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Ignatz ceremony celebrates women cartoonists

Ignatz Awards

Ignatz Awards

Awards | All the presenters for last weekend’s Ignatz Awards ceremony were women, and that was no accident: This year’s host, New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly, explains, “More and more of us are now in the business, unlike previous years, and I wanted to celebrate that fact by bringing attention to it.” [Comic Riffs]

Creators | Tom Spurgeon has an in-depth interview with experimental cartoonist Warren Craghead. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | Stan Lee, in town for Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, chats with reporter Michael Grossberg about superheroes as modern fairy tales. [The Columbus Dispatch]

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Comics A.M. | In fight for shelf space, DC edges out Marvel

Hawkeye, Vol. 2

Hawkeye, Vol. 2

Publishing | Along with the usual statistics — dollar and unit share, sales rankings, etc. — Diamond Comics Distributors this month began reporting the number of new titles shipped by the top publishers: DC Comics, which edged out Marvel in terms of market share in July, had only a handful more, with 121 comics and graphic novels versus Marvel’s 118. [ICv2]

Conventions | Sean Kleefeld gives a brief account of a number of panels he attended at Wizard World Chicago, including the “Batman & Psychology” panel and two by webcomics maven Brad Guigar. [Kleefeld on Comics]

Creators | Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman talks about the upcoming six-issue event series Infinity. [USA Today]

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Comics A.M. | Singapore cartoonist apologizes, charges dropped

Leslie Chew cartoon

Leslie Chew cartoon

Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew apologized today for four comic strips that were formerly posted on his Facebook page Demon-Cratic Singapore. In a statement released by his lawyers, Chew said, “I accept that (the) comic strips had misrepresented to the public that the Singapore Judiciary administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation, and that there have been specific criminal cases in which decisions were made by the Singapore judiciary on the basis of the above factors rather than on the merits.” In light of the apology, and the fact that the strips have been taken down, the Attorney-Generals Chambers has dropped contempt of court charges against Chew. The cartoonist was also charged with sedition in April, but those charges have been dropped as well. [Straits Times]

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