Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Jonathan Baylis recently published the seventh issue of his annual minicomic So Buttons, a collection of short, autobiographical stories, written by Baylis and illustrated by a variety of artists. They range from lighthearted anecdotes about his years in the comics and entertainment business (he started an internship at Marvel the day Jack Kirby died, and later worked for Valiant and Topps) to heartfelt stories about discovering beauty, confronting death and fighting his inner demons.
I first met Baylis (as he correctly remembers in this interview) last year a the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, although I was reading So Buttons before that. We have kept in touch since then, and it’s always a pleasure to run into him at a show. When he told me that So Buttons #7 was about to go live on comiXology, it seemed like an opportune moment for an interview about his work and his experiences as a minicomics creator. He not only answered my questions with gusto, he sent along a ton of art and a full-length So Buttons story about an encounter with John Romita Sr. (below).
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe has withdrawn the appeal of his conviction last month on charges of sending more than 400 threatening letters to venues in Japana connected with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The 37-year-old former temporary worker admitted to all charges during his first day in court, but mpoved to have his conviction overturned after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Watanabe, who said he doesn’t feel guilty for what he did and won’t apologize, acknowledged that he sent the letters out of jealousy of the success of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. [Anime News Network]
Manga | The most promising new market for manga right now? India, where the comics market in general is exploding. Kevin Hamric of Viz Media says manga is already well known there and fans can’t get enough, while Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, the company behind New York Comic Con, talks about the planned collaboration with Comic Con India. The one obstacle: the same one that afflicted the American manga market, Japanese publishers’ reluctance to license their properties. [The Japan Times]
Retailing | Hastings Entertainment, which operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more, has announced a $21.4 million agreement to merge with two companies owned by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association; Weinshanker already holds 12 percent of Hastings’ outstanding shares.
“NECA is a significant supplier of movie, book and video game merchandise and collectibles to the Hastings superstores, and we’ve had a close and growing business relationship with Mr. Weinshanker over the last decade,” John H. Marmaduke, Hastings’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Mr. Weinshanker, through his affiliation with the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, and his company’s management of Graceland, is one of the leading drivers of the lifestyle industry, and we believe Hastings’ business will continue to benefit from our relationship with him and NECA.” Marmaduke will retire with a $1.5 million cash payout once the merger is approved. The announcement was followed by press releases from two New York City law firms that say they’re investigating the plan on behalf of Hastings shareholders. [press release]
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]
Zak Sally’s announcement that his latest Sammy the Mouse book is ready for purchase also includes some commentary about his experience with publishing the first book himself:
printing it was a nightmare. at the end of that process, i had to face the fact that the 5 months of frustration and banging my head against the wall of the “steep learning curve of being an offset printer” was all time taken away from the primary goal, which is MAKING the COMICS. and it was too much; both the time and the frustration.
This volume will be published by Uncivilized Books, which spares Sally the hassle of getting it printed while allowing him to sell it directly to consumers, which is the part he likes about self-publishing.
It’s a point that anyone considering funding their next book through Kickstarter would do well to consider. It has always seemed illogical to me to have every creator handling their own print run of 5,000 books individually — for one thing, not everyone is good at it, as Sally can attest. Beyond that, though, one of the most valuable functions a publisher can serve is streamlining the less creative parts of the process. Book production is a tricky business, and publishers have experienced people who know how to navigate the fairly technical process; a creator taking a book to the printer for the first time is likely to make mistakes and waste a lot of time. What’s more, an individual creator is never going to be able to negotiate a better price than a publisher who sends a continuous stream of business to the printer.
“Copyright is fundamental to creative industries, those who believe it’s not relevant are mistaken”
I find that interesting on a few levels. And by “interesting” I mean “bullshit.”
Konrath is an author who escaped the midlist wilderness of traditional publishing to do extremely well for himself (to the tune of about $3,000 a day) by self-publishing on Amazon. As you may expect, he’s become an advocate for self-publishing and a strong critic of the traditional model and those who defend it. His quote above is in response to a tweet by the U.K’.s Publishers Association from the London Book Fair.
The digital comics juggernaut comiXology is having quite a week: Mark Waid put his Insufferable, which is also hosted on his own Thrillbent site, onto the service, and the company signed a deal with Andrews McMeel for digital versions of Doonesbury, Dilbert and Big Nate. And today comiXology debuted something that was initially announced in October: ComiXology Submit, which allows creators to submit their own creator-owned comics to the platform. Here’s the deal, fresh from the press release:
Sacrifice, the self-published fantasy/adventure comic by Sam Humphries and Dalton Rose will return Jan. 16 with Issue 4 after a nearly year-long delay. The final two issues of the acclaimed series are scheduled to arrive in February and March (or, in the words of the teaser, “Now Monthly Until the End of the World!”).
“The whole Sacrifice team has been working hard this year to allow us to return to Sacrifice without additional delays,” Humphries, whose first issue of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Force goes on sale the same day, said in a press release. “Issue 4 is ready to go to the printer, issue 5 is completely drawn, and Dalton is hard at work on issue 6. We’re well within schedule to ship the final issue in March. The book is looking better than ever — we thank our awesome retailers and devoted readers for their patience!”
“I thinks it’s a truly different world now in that getting out and publishing your own work is paramount rather than just another strategy. A lot of these companies have so many options that digging through the horrors of a submissions pile is never going to match getting an impression from what people are seeing out there and then pursuing the best of it”
I’m still catching up from being offline all last week, so I apologize for leaning heavily on Mr. Spurgeon today. He makes a great observation, though, about the choices that comics publishers have and how that should affect creators hoping to be published by those companies. If I were looking for stuff to publish, I’d be scouring festivals and the Internet for awesome self-published stuff too instead of digging through my slush pile. Better to see what creators are already actually doing than what they claim they can do in a pitch.
(Cover detail from Dave Ryan’s War of the Independents)
Ryan Sands recently revived his alt-comics blog Same Hat, and he has a nice post up at the moment of self-published zines that use the two-color Risograph process.
Risograph is a digital printing technology that allows artists to get similar results to offset printing at a much lower price, and by using interchangeable drums, they can print more than one color. This is a very different look from standard four-color printing, though, as the colors stand on their own rather than combining to form a number of other colors; in work like this, the initial color choices really define the look. Sands, who also publishes the Electric Ant zine, has his own Risograph printing business.
If you like these, the Same Hat page has a list of links to the artists’ sites as well as to the website of Dosei magazine (all in Japanese), where these pages were published.
And for an American example, check out Hannah K. Lee’s Shoes Over Bills, which is printed by Sands.
Passings | Italian comics artist Sergio Toppi has died at the age of 79. Most of his work seems to have been in Italian and French, but Archaia has plans to publish an English-language edition of his version of the Arabian Nights, Sharaz-De. [The Beat, Archaia]
Comics | Brian Truitt marks Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary by talking to creators from Stan Lee to Brian Michael Bendis about the 10 traits that make the web-slinger special. On a related note, Complex runs down the 50 most iconic Spider-Man images. [USA Today]
Publishing | If you’re interested in self-publishing, Todd Allen’s latest article about Ingram’s new, lower-cost color print-on-demand service is a must-read. Allen does the math for several different scenarios, in terms of format and distribution method, and boils it down into several handy charts. [Publishers Weekly]
“Radar” is an occasional spotlight on interesting and entertaining comics and creators that are fairly new to the business or may have escaped your notice.
Today brings the release of Dracula World Order, the self-published comic by Ian Brill, Tonci Zonjic, Rahsan Ekedal, Declan Shalvey and Gabriel Hardman. It’s broken into four chapters, each drawn by a different artist, with a cover by Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The story revolves around Dracula’s son Alexandru leading a rebellion against his father and the one-percent “vampire elite.”
It’s available on a limited basis from a handful of retailers, as well as online from Things From Another World if you want a physical copy, and comiXology if you want a digital one. I caught up with Brill to talk about the comic, his publishing plan and more.
Following up the teaser we received earlier this week, former BOOM! Studios editor and Darkwing Duck writer Ian Brill has revealed the details behind Dracula World Order, a self-published one-shot that will be available next Wednesday at select retailers and digitally through comiXology.
Joining Brill in creating the comic are four different artists — Tonci Zonjic, Rahsan Ekedal, Declan Shalvey and Gabriel Hardman. The comic is broken into four chapters, each drawn by a different artist, with a cover by Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The story revolves around Dracula’s son Alexandru leading a rebellion against his father and the one-percent “vampire elite.”
From a publishing/distribution standpoint, Brill seems to be following the model that worked very well for Sam Humphries last year with his self-published comics Our Love is Real and Sacrifice (Brill even mentioned Humphries in his press release). The one-shot has a print run of 300 copies, creating a collectible item, but it’s also available digitally so anyone with a mobile device or web connection can read it through comiXology. (If you’re interested in more about Humphries’ approach, he spoke extensively about it at Comic-Con last year at a panel we were both on, which is available for your listening pleasure here).
You can find some preview artwork and a list of shops selling the comic below. I have some questions out to Brill about it, so watch for an interview soon.
Retailing | The retail news and analysis site ICv2 contends sales of graphic novels in the direct market may be better than recent numbers indicate because of the way Diamond Comic Distributors reports those figures. While the distributor’s calculations are based on the wholesale value of shipments, ICv2 based its estimates on the retail value, and found graphic novel sales rose 24.4 percent in March, rather than declined 5.7 percent (versus a year ago), and climbed 27.7 percent in April, rather than just 12.6 percent: “The big differences between the wholesale and retail rates of change in recent months appear to be caused by big increases in the number of graphic novels liquidated through Diamond in March and April. So retail dollars were up, while wholesale dollars lagged. ” [ICv2]
Conventions | Audrey Gillan previews this weekend’s Kapow! in London by casting a spotlight on organizers Lucy and Sarah Unwin — they’re partnered with Mark Millar — and their efforts to create a female-inclusive comic convention. “We ourselves as women organising the show have been accused of misogyny because of the obviously male guest list, but there is just this lack of female creators and it’s the nature of the industry,” Lucy Unwin said. “There’s no point in taking it to heart because I don’t employ the creators. I would love there to be more women at the show in terms of guests.” [The Guardian]
I was first introduced to Zak Sally’s work via Recidivist, his collection of short stories, which knocked my proverbial socks off. I remember in particular being struck by his gravitas and willingness to poke at uncomfortable and dark places, not to mention his pitch-black sense of humor.
Sally has only gotten better since then, a fact most easily verified by his work on Sammy the Mouse, an ongoing, ostensibly funny-animal story that was initially serialized as part of Fantagraphics’ Ignatz series.
Now Sally has collected those three Ignatz issues and collected them into a smaller trade paperback, published via his own imprint, La Mano 21. In the true D.I.Y. spirit, Sally didn’t just stop there, but went on to even print the comic himself, using a 2-color press he bought.
I recently talked to Sally over email about the new Sammy collection, his decision to become a printer as well as a publisher and how his experience as a musician (he was a member of the band Low and recently released a solo album) informs his work as a cartoonist. I was touched and gratified by his candor and thoughtfulness, not to mention his willingness to answer my prickly, annoyingly personal questions with honesty and aplomb.
I wanted to start by asking you about your decision to not only publish the book yourself but print it as well. How did you get ahold of a printing press?
Well, in 2004 someone told me about one that’s been sitting in a basement here in Minneapolis, and it was going for $250. at that point in my life, it seemed like an idea worth trying, and a natural extension of doing zines/ self publishing etc. and the price was certainly right. Six years later i found a newer model, with 2-color capabilities, for $500. I sold my old press and quickly found out why the new one had gone for so cheap.