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2010: The year in digital comics

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.

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Kanye West vs. the World?

Well, I’m sure that’s how he felt after the Taylor Swift incident. But I’m not talking about Yeezy’s mental state, I’m talking about this illustration for the Chicago paper Redeye‘s “Pop Person of the Year” feature, which gives rapper/producer/outrage magnet Kanye West the Scott Pilgrim treatment. “This is both an honor and an outrage,” writesScott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, who is not the illustration’s artist, “but as you know i love kanye AND chitown so ima let this one slide.” “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags” indeed!

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Uncanny X-Force #1

Publishing | No comic cracked the 100,000-copy mark in the direct market in October, with the top title, Marvel’s Uncanny X-Force #1, selling an estimated 96,500 copies. Diamond’s graphic novel chart was led by DC Comics’ Superman: Earth One hardcover, which sold more than 16,000 copies. Retail news and analysis site ICv2.com notes that was the best number for a graphic novel since new volumes of Scott Pilgrim and The Walking Dead shipped in July. The website also pursues John Jackson Miller’s recent analysis of comics that don’t make it into Diamond’s Top 300, concluding: “Sales below the Top 300 may be growing in importance, but when we look at a fairly long period (10 months) either they aren’t big enough in the aggregate to make much difference, or their sales are changing at about the same rate as the Top 300’s. If anything, looking at year to date numbers, sales on titles below the Top 300 are shrinking faster than sales in the Top 300, at least in periodical comics.”

Meanwhile, Miller sifts through data made available by Diamond to determine that comics sales are 69.6 percent of the total market. [ICv2.com, The Comichron]

Conventions | Wizard Entertainment has announced its acquisition of Central Canada Comic Con in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Johanna Draper Carlson also picks up on rumors that the company is adding Mid-Ohio-Con to its growing stable. [press release, Comics Worth Reading]

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Comics A.M. | One Piece hits milestone, Scott Pilgrim dethroned

One Piece, Vol. 6

Publishing | With the release today in Japan of the 60th volume of One Piece, 200 million copies of Eiichiro Oda’s hit comedy-adventure will have been published. What’s more, this volume’s 3.4 million copies will break the record set by the previous volume. As of late August, One Piece had sold 20 million copies in 2010 alone — four times that of Naruto, the second-highest selling manga. On a related note, a 35-year-old Japanese man was arrested for copyright violation for allegedly distributing four manga, including the 59th volume of One Piece, online. [Japanator, The Mainichi Daily News]

Crime | Six people accused in the July robbery of a 77-year-old New York comics collector who died of a heart attack hours later could be charged with murder if police can link the crime to his death. [Democrat and Chronicle]

Conventions | Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus announced he has acquired the two-year-old NOLA Comic-Con, which will become part of the Jan. 29-30 Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con. [press release]

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Friends of Lulu announces awards, new site

This year has been a difficult one for Friends of Lulu, but with their 2010 Lulu awards, a new website, and some plans for the future, they seem to be winding it up on a hopeful note.

The awards were announced last night at the Long Beach Comic Con, and despite some controversy over the nominations, it’s a satisfying slate:

  • Leah Adezio Award for Best Kid-Friendly Work: Diana Nock, The Intrepid Girlbot
  • Best Female Character: Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Kim Yale Award for Most Talented Newcomer: Kathryn Immonen: “The Runaways”
  • Lulu of the Year: Kate Beaton
  • Woman of Distinction Award: Lauren Sankovitch: editor, Marvel Comics
  • Female Cartoonists Hall of Fame: Alison Bechdel

Acting board member Kynn Bartlett also responded to Johanna Draper Carlson’s questions about the group’s IRS status and its plans for the future, saying that the interim board will be working on getting the house in order but keeping the organization’s options open for the elected board, and asking people not to make donations until the group straightens out its status with the IRS.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Dark Horse

Publishing | Dark Horse is expected to announce today at New York Comic Con that it will price its digital comics at $1.49 per issue, 50 cents below the industry average. [ICv2.com]

Publishing | Although Marvel’s pricing announcement received the most attention, it certainly wasn’t the only news to come out of ICv2’s Conference on Comics and Digital, held Thursday at New York Comic Con. ICv2 Publisher Milton Griepp delivered a white paper indicating that sales were down 12 percent overall, with graphic novels down 20 percent and comics up just 1 percent; manga saw a 20-percent drop. Sales of digital comics, meanwhile, have increased to $6 million to $8 million in the U.S., more than 10 times ICv2′s estimate for 2009. [ICv2.com, The Beat, Comics Alliance]

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the X-Men [UPDATED]

I’d imagine that for many Robot 6 readers, there are no sweeter five words in the English language than the title of this post. Then allow me to introduce you to this variant version of a new Scott Pilgrim poster from the upcoming SP box set. Drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley and colored by Rico Renzi (who came up with the idea of this particular version), it popped up on the Tumblr of Oni’s Douglas E. Sherwood the other day and which features Scott and the gang sporting color schemes and power sets that bear a striking resemblance to a certain set of mighty mutants. Envy Adams as Rogue to Scott’s Gambit is an inspired choice, as are Ramona Flowers as Mystique, Knives Chau as Psylocke Jubilee, Gideon Graves as Mister Sinister…aw, who am I kidding, this mashup is a thing of geeky beauty from top to bottom. K.O.!

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Nexus, by Steve Rude

Creators | Renowned artist Steve Rude and his family are in danger of losing their home, so the co-creator of Nexus is auctioning art in hopes of raising the money to meet a Nov. 15 deadline. [Steve Rude's Facebook, The Comics Reporter]

Publishing | Retailer news and analysis site ICv2.com suggests Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series could close out 2010 as the No. 1 graphic-novel property of the year, surpassing the top-selling adaptation of Stephen Meyer’s Twilight. [ICv2.com]

Digital comics | David Brothers wonders how the rise of digital comics might change comics “culture,” and the Wednesday ritual. [4thletter!]

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Buy Scott Pilgrim on Amazon for $3.99-$4.49 apiece

Amazon is currently discounting copies of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six-volume Scott Pilgrim series to an absolutely absurdly low price: Vols. 1 & 5 are available for $3.99, and Vols. 2, 3, 4, and 6 are available for $4.49. This means you can buy six acclaimed graphic novels — about a thousand pages of comics — for the cost of six and a half big-name superhero comics. Just sayin’.

(Via Bryan Lee O’Malley)

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes [Updated]

TouchSmart 310

Digital comics | Hewlett Packard’s newly announced TouchSmart 310 — it’s an all-in-one touchscreen desktop PC with a starting price of $699.99 — will give users access to more than 8,000 Marvel comics, thanks to a deal between HP and Disney: “TouchSmart users will now be able to buy and download special versions of classic comics, and then literally thumb through them with on-screen controls. More than 8,000 Marvel titles are available, which HP says is the most extensive digital collection ever offered from any content partner.” [PCMag.com, TG Daily]

UPDATE: Marvel has issued a clarification, as well as an official press release: “HP TouchSmart Apps Center will offer streaming access to over 8,000 digital comics from Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. None of these digital comics will be downloadable.”

Legal | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court’s ruling that a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minor is unconstitutional. [press release, Game Rant]

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Augustmageddon? Comics sales drop sharply

Brightest Day #7, the top seller for August

Maybe it was the heat (and the humidity). Maybe people decided to go out of town instead of going to the comics store. Maybe there just wasn’t anything good to buy. Whatever the reason, both comics and graphic novels sales “plummeted,” in the words of usually staid retailer site ICv2, last month. Comics sales were down 17% from August 2009, graphic novel sales were down 21%, and no individual monthly comic sold more than 100,000 copies. Even Scott Pilgrim couldn’t rescue this dog of a month.

The top-selling comic for August was Brightest Day #7, at 93,459 copies, followed by Brightest Day #8, at 91,546. The numbers drop off steadily but sharply after that, so by the time you get to the 25th comic, Batman: Odyssey #2, sales are 47,675, or about half that of the top seller. That looks frighteningly like exponential decay, but the graph flattens out after that, with every comic in the top 150 selling more than 10,000 copies. The bottom of the list is occupied by Lady Robotika #2, which sold a measly 2,646 copies.

As for graphic novels, the sixth volume of Scott Pilgrim topped the list, with 8,092 copies sold, and the fourth clocked in at number four, with 4,818 copies. On this chart, the number five book, Dark Tower: Battle of Jericho Hill, sold half as many copies as the top seller, although again, the graph flattens out after that. The bottom seller was Eden, with 329 copies. And it was clobberin’ time for manga: The top manga on the chart was vol. 51 of InuYasha, checking in at number 67 with 1,214 copies sold.

ICv2′s numbers reflect the direct market only. That is the market for monthly comics, but graphic novels could do better in retail bookstores—we’ll know when the BookScan numbers come out.

Scott Pilgrim in Space!

Scott Pilgrim vs. Space by John Kantz

Scott Pilgrim vs. Space by John Kantz

Alas, it’s not an announcement of a seventh volume for Bryan Lee O’Malley’s seminal series, nor a sequel to Edgar Wright’s genuinely excellent movie adaptation. But it is a pretty sweet pin-up of Scott Pilgrim, Gideon Graves, and an intimidating (even more than usual!) Ramona Flowers by John Kantz, art assistant on the series’ sixth and final volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour. Let’s just hope Wallace Wells remembers to put on pants when gallivanting around the vacuum of deep space.

(via Bryan Lee O’Malley)

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1

Sales charts | Although Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World performed poorly at the box office, it continues to boost sales of the Bryan Lee O’Malley series on which it’s based. The six volumes claimed the top six spots on BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in August, followed at No. 7 by the latest volume of The Walking Dead, whose television adaptation debuts on Halloween on AMC. [ICv2.com]

Legal | The owners of BATS BBQ in Rock Hill, South Carolina, are digging in for a legal battle after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from DC Comics, which objects to their attempts to trademark the restaurant’s logo. [The Herald]

Publishing | Mark Millar discusses CLiNT Magazine, his new monthly venture with Titan Magazines that debuts today in the United Kingdom. [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser]

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Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Boxset coming in November

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Boxset

If you missed the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series the first time around and would like to experience it in its original, non-movie form, Oni is giving you the chance to jump into the deep end. This November they’ll publish a box set — Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Boxset — of all six volumes, along with a poster.

Here’s the solicitation text: “Looking for the perfect entry point into the world of Scott Pilgrim? Well, this is it, buddy! All six volumes of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s epic tale of a slacker’s quest to win the heart of the girl of his dreams by defeating her seven evil ex-boyfriends! All together in a beautiful new slipcase! Also includes an exclusive poster!”

Watch Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation

In case you missed the midnight premiere, Adult Swim is streaming Scott Pilgrim vs. The Animation, a four-minute short based on the flashback sequence from the second volume of Scott Pilgrim, by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Actors from Edgar Wright’s film adaptation — Michael Cera, Allison Pill, Mae Whitman and Jason Schwartzman — provide the voices of Scott, Kim, Lisa and Simon Lee.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World opens today nationwide.


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