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Vertigo: There’s still more to come

With the departure of Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger, speculation has been rife that DC Comics may be closing the door on its nearly 20-year-old mature-readers imprint. Not so, say the publisher’s Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham.

They’re the two who make the rounds of comics news sites each month to frame DC’s direct-market sales performance, and in their conversation with Comic Book Resources they even managed to sound cheerful about the November chart, in which Marvel had eight of the Top 10 titles.

So take this any way you like, but when asked by ICv2.com about the future of Vertigo, they were pretty upbeat. Here’s what Cunningham had to say:

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Comics A.M. | Tintin in the Congo isn’t racist, Belgian court rules

From "Tintin in the Congo"

Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]

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Comics A.M. | The year of The Walking Dead; comics down in November

The Walking Dead Compendium Volume Two

Publishing | Declaring this “the year of The Walking Dead,” the retail news and analysis site ICv2 notes the $60 Compendium volumes One and Two could “easily” be the top-selling graphic novels of 2012. Those two books also topped the Nielsen BookScan chart of graphic novels sold in bookstores in November, joined by six other collections from the acclaimed horror series in the Top 20. Chris Ware’s $50 Building Stories, which has emerged on best-of lists as one of the books — and the graphic novel — of 2012, was No. 3 in November, followed by DC Comics’ Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, and, in a surprise Top 20 appearance by Marvel, the $75 Avengers Vs. X-Men hardcover at No. 5. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | First Second’s success; more on Moore-Kirkman suits

Feynman

Publishing | First Second editorial director Mark Siegel sits down with Milton Greipp to talk about his company’s success, which comes in part by marketing books in a number of different channels — independent bookstores, libraries, even textbook adoptions. He also talks numbers, and it’s interesting to see that Feynman spent 11 weeks at the top of The New York Times graphic books best-seller list with a print run of 10,000; that’s an indication of the order of magnitude of book sales for the titles on that list. Siegel also gives a preview of the fall list. Updated (Aug. 13): Siegel notes to Robot 6 that Feynman has had multiple printings, exceeding 35,000 copies. It will soon be released in paperback. [ICv2]

Legal | The attorney for Tony Moore explains why the artist’s legal dispute with his former Walking Dead collaborator Robert Kirkman has moved into federal court. “Once Moore establishes fraud and rescinds the agreement [as laid out in the first filing], the issue is going to be whether he was a co-author of these works,” Devin McRae tells Newsarama. “And it’s the federal court that has the power to decide that. So we still have to first go in the state court and prove the fraud, which we think we’ll do. This is just something that is part and parcel of the whole thing. Nothing’s really changed.” [Newsarama]

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Comics A.M. | Alan Moore to make rare convention appearance

Alan Moore

Creators | Alan Moore will make a rare convention appearance in September — his first in 25 years, according to this article — at the inaugural Northants International Comics Expo in Northamptonshire, England. To attend Moore’s hour-long talk on writing comics or the hour-long question-and-answer session, convention-goers are required to donate graphic novels to the Northamptonshire Libraries, which will have a table at the event. [Stumptown Trade Review]

Creators | Mark Waid gets the NPR treatment, as Noah J. Nelson interviews him about his digital comics initiatives. “I got news for you: I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and this is the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do,” Waid says of creating digital comics. [NPR]

Publishing | Abrams ComicArts editorial director Charles Kochman discusses the publisher’s spring lineup, which will include William Stout’s Legends of the Blues, Darryl Cunningham’s What the Frack, a history of Bazooka Joe comics, and a Will Eisner artbook written by Paul Levitz. [ICv2]

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When’s the last time a non-Big Two comic topped the sales charts?

The Walking Dead #100 has already been trumpeted as the bestselling comic, in initial orders, since 1997, so it comes as absolutely no surprise that those 383,612 copies were more than enough to lead Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 10 list for July. It’s the first time in its nearly nine-year run that the horror series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard has topped the chart.

However, it also marks another milestone: It’s the first time in almost a decade that a comic published by a company other than Marvel or DC has claimed the top spot in the direct market. That honor, in November 2002, went to another Image title, Masters of the Universe #1, by Val Staples and Emiliano Santalucia. Of course, that comic sold about 270,000 fewer copies than the 100th issue of The Walking Dead, according to the invaluable Comichron archives.

Before that, though, the now-defunct Dreamwave Productions had a pretty good run, with its Transformers series leading the monthly sales charts for a full half of 2002.

Comics A.M. | Batman: Earth One leads July bookstore sales

Batman: Earth One

Publishing | DC Comics’ Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, topped the Nielsen BookScan list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in July, one of five Batman books to populate the Top 20.  The remainder of the chart was dominated by manga — five spots, with the newest volumes of Sailor Moon and Naruto claiming Nos. 2 and 3 — The Walking Dead — three volumes, with the latest slipping from No. 1 to No. 4 — and Dark Horse’s two Avatar: The Last Airbender books, by Gene Luen Yang, both of which remain in the Top 10. [ICv2]

Publishing | Archaia CEO PJ Bickett talks about some new planned digital products and the current Archaia strategy for its books: “As of right now for 2012 we’ve really focused on some key titles and in building those out as real brands. In the past we’ve taken more of a throwing it out there and hoping for the best [approach] and now we’re taking a more strategic, targeted and strategic approach. We’re seeing a lot of great efforts as a result of it.” [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | The Walking Dead climbs atop bookstores sales chart

The Walking Dead, Vol. 16

Retailing | Although the 16th volume of The Walking Dead wasn’t released until June 19, 11 days’ worth of sales was enough to propel the latest collection of the horror series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard to the top of BookScan’s chart of graphic novels sold in bookstores June. Four volumes of the popular series, including the first one, appear in the Top 20. [ICv2.com]

Publishing | Hermes Press, which has been publishing the vintage Buck Rogers collections, has announced a new Buck Rogers project: An original comic series written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, one that Publisher Dan Herman promises will be strongly reminiscent of the original. [ICv2]

Publishing| The animation studio Klasky Csupo, which gave us The Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats, is branching out in a number of different directions, including print and digital comics. Its first comic is Ollie Mongo, which stars a blue zombie skateboarder. [USA Today]

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Comics A.M. | Are You My Mother?, The Walking Dead top indie bookstore chart

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1

Sales charts | The American Booksellers Association has released its list of the top-selling graphic novels in indie bookstores for the eight weeks ending May 27. At first glance, it looks like it’s mostly literary graphic novels (Habibi, Are You My Mother?) with a healthy sprinkling of The Walking Dead. [Bookselling This Week, via The Beat]

Creators | Grant Morrison discusses the second issue of Batman Incorporated, which features Batman’s lover and Robin’s mom, Talia al Ghul. [USA Today]

Comics history | Could comics history have been radically different if Jerry Siegel had a different last name? Larry Tye, the author of the new Superman a biography, talks to Fresh Air about the origins of the Man of Steel and how he changed over the years: “The editors in New York over time started to exercise their editorial control. They saw this as both a character and a business. They would go down to the level of dictating just what his forelocks looked like. They could be too curly. His arms should be shorter and less ‘ape-like.’ And Joe should get rid of his hero’s ‘nice fat bottom.’ His editor told him that he worried that that made Superman look too ‘la-dee-dah.’ And they were really concerned about the image of the character.” [NPR]

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Comics A.M. | May sales shatter records; Spiegelman joins Occupy Comics

Avengers vs. X-Men #4

Publishing | May was a huge month for comics sales in the direct market, and John Jackson Miller quantifies just how huge: It was the biggest month for dollar sales in the “Diamond Exclusive Era” (i.e. since 2003): “Diamond’s Top 300 comics had orders totaling $25.72 million, an increase of 44% over last May and the highest total since Diamond became the sole distributor in 1997. It beats the total of $25.37 million set in December 2008.” [The Comics Chronicles]

Comics | Art Spiegelman is contributing a prescient New Yorker cover from 2001 to the Occupy Comics anthology; other creators who are contributing work include Alan Moore, Jimmy Palmiotti and Dean Haspiel. [Underwire]

History | Joe Sergi takes a look at the comics burnings of 1948, a series of disturbing events in which children, no doubt goaded on by well-meaning adults, collected comics door to door and then burned them in a public bonfire. [CBLDF]

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Publishers Weekly adds real numbers to its best-seller lists

Best-seller lists are tricky things, because no one except the people who put them together knows what the numbers really are. Now Publishers Weekly is ripping off the veil and will publish the top 25 listings in the weekly BookScan sales charts with actual numbers attached. Heidi MacDonald explains what’s going on at The Beat; this week’s chart is free, but after that PW will put it behind a paywall.

This information is fascinating but comes with a couple of caveats. BookScan, which is a service provided by A.C. Nielsen, tracks books sold in bookstores, including Amazon but not including the direct market, mass-market stores such as Wal-Mart, book fairs, or sales to libraries. So when you look at the list, it’s useful to keep in mind that some books will do better in comics shops than bookstores, while for others, such as manga and graphic-novel memoirs, the opposite will be true. What’s more, BookScan doesn’t cover the whole market— Heidi says it captures 80 percent, but her commenters dispute that. In other words, the charts only give a piece of the picture, and it’s more accurate for some books than for others.

To me, the most interesting column is the last one, which shows the number of copies sold this year to date. My rough rule of thumb is that a book has to sell about 3,000 copies to break even, and by that measure, most of the non-superhero books are doing well (and the superhero ones are probably selling gangbusters in the direct market).

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Comics A.M. | The Walking Dead continues bookstore domination

The Walking Dead, Compendium One

Publishing | Continuing its domination of the graphic novel sales in bookstores, The Walking Dead laid claim to seven of the Top 10 spots on BookScan’s April chart. The series, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, took the first four positions. What’s more, 12 of the Top 20 graphic novels were volumes of The Walking Dead. [ICv2.com]

Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson talks to Right Stuf director of marketing and communications Alison Roberts about that company’s announcement earlier this week that it will be publishing the first three volumes Hetalia: Axis Powers as a print-on-demand books. The series was originally licensed by Tokyopop, which is co-branding the books with Right Stuf. [MTV Geek]

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Comics A.M. | Comics rebound in 2011 while graphic novels slump

Justice League #4

Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]

Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]

Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Antarctic Press to stop selling Wimpy Kid parody

Diary of a Zombie Kid

Legal | Antarctic Press has agreed to stop selling Diary of a Zombie Kid and Diary of a Zombie Kid: Rotten Rules under the terms of a temporary restraining order issued Wednesday by a federal court. Wimpy Kid Inc. is suing Antarctic for trademark infringement, among other things, claiming that its Diary of a Wimpy Kid parodies are too close to the real thing. Antarctic CEO Joe Dunn signed the temporary restraining order, signifying that Antarctic agreed to it; the two companies are negotiating a settlement, according to court papers. One interesting tidbit: Diary of a Zombie Kid sold all of 850 copies in comics shops in August, while the first printing on the latest Wimpy Kid book was 6 million. [ICv2]

Retailing | The auction for the inventory of Arizona retail chain Atomic Comics announced last week has been moved to Jan. 10. [Sierra Auction Management]

Comics | Bayou Arcana is a new anthology of Southern Gothic horror comics with a gender twist: All the comics are written by men and illustrated by women. There are some pretty broad generalizations in this article — “There is a certain sensitivity that you find in women’s art that just does not appear in a lot of guys’ work,” says the project editor, James Pearson — but the project itself sounds interesting. [The Guardian]

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Quote of the day | Tom Brevoort on DC’s ‘returnability Ponzi scheme’

Tom Brevoort

“DC extended the terms of their returnability Ponzi scheme for two more months. Until we get to a month in which retailers are ordering straight up, without needing to hit unrealistic numbers in order to qualify for returnability, you guys looking at the limited and skewed charts that you get to see aren’t going to be able to see what is clear to those of us who get to see the actual numbers and track the day-to-day week-to-week sales flow of the business.”

Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, responding to a question on his always-interesting Formspring account about when, in his view, the Diamond charts will accurately reflect sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles


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