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Comics A.M. | Rob Liefeld is a ‘Doer'; critic Les Coleman passes away

Prophet #21

Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. [...] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” [Slate.com]

Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]

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Barefoot Gen creator Keiji Nakazawa passes away

Keiji Nakazawa, who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima as a child and wrote the internationally acclaimed Barefoot Gen about his experiences, died Dec. 19 of lung cancer. He was 73.

Nakazawa was 7 years old on Aug. 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped. As he recounted in his autobiography, he was walking to school and stopped to answer a question from an adult, when suddenly, in an instant, the whole world changed: “a pale light like the flash of a flashbulb camera, white at the center, engulfed me, a great ball of light with yellow and red mixed at its out edge.”

He was standing next to a concrete wall, so he was partially shielded from the blast, although he was covered in rubble, and a nail went through his cheek. The adult he had been speaking to was burned to death on the spot. There was more horror to come: His father, brother and sister were killed when their burning house collapsed on them. Nakazawa recounted these events, which his mother told him about later, in a 2007 interview:

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Comics A.M. | Ohio’s Superman license plate moves closer to reality

Superman specialty plate

Comics | Ohio drivers moved a little closer to getting their Superman specialty license plate Wednesday as the proposal was outlined for a state Senate committee. The bill, which already passed the state House, is on track to go to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the year. The Siegel & Shuster Society launched the campaign for the plates in July 2011 to honor the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel in 2013; the character, which debuted in 1938, was created six years earlier in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The original plan for the plates to include the slogan “Birthplace of Superman,” that met with objections from Warner Bros., which insisted he was born on Krypton. The legend will now read, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” [Plain Dealer]

Manga | Tony Yao summarizes a recent article from The Nikkei Shimbun that analyzes the readership of Shonen Jump, which is 50 percent female despite the magazine being targeted to boys (“shonen” means “boy” in Japanese). They break down the popularity of series by gender and discuss how the female audience affects editorial decisions. [Manga Therapy]

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Comics A.M. | Usagi Yojimbo video game on the way

Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin

Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]

Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]

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Comics A.M. | Ailing artist Oliver Nome’s call for help

Wonder Woman, by Oliver Nome

Creators | Freelance artist Oliver Nome, who has worked for Wildstorm and Aspen but has no health insurance, is suffering from a brain tumor, and his dealer is selling off his art to help pay for the surgery. [Blog@Newsarama]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller looks at the shape of the comics market in 1995, before Diamond Comic Distributors had a virtual monopoly on distribution. [The Comichron]

Awards | The voting deadline for this year’s Eisner Awards is Monday. [Comic-Con International]

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Comics A.M. | Batman #1 fetches record $850,000 in private sale

Batman #1

Comics | A near-mint copy of 1940’s Batman #1, which marks the first appearances of the Joker and Catwoman, sold this week for $850,000 — a record for that issue — in a private transaction arranged by Heritage Auctions. The seller purchased the comic just two years ago for $315,000. [CNN]

Publishing | Cory Casoni is leaving his position as director of marketing for Oni Press for a position with NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. as the head of marketing for ShiftyLook comics. Thomas Shimmin and Amber LaPraim, who joined Oni earlier this year, are taking joint positions as marketing coordinators. [press release]

Creators | Alison Bechdel discusses her family, her psyche, and the challenges of drawing a memoir that’s set in therapy sessions: “I watched all the episodes of “In Treatment” at one point, to see how they managed to make two people sitting in a room so very dramatic. And it was basically just good writing and good acting. So that gave me the hope that I could pull this story off without adding a car chase or an explosion. Though there is a kind of a car chase, now that I think of it, when a Sunbeam bread truck almost runs me off the road. My story also goes in and out of other texts — movies, psychoanalytic papers, children’s books — which creates some more overt visual excitement. And I use a dream to begin each chapter. I know you’re not supposed to write about your dreams, but the dreams have a dramatic sweep that everyday life doesn’t.” [The New York Times]

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Viz lowers the boom on scanlators

Just two weeks after Viz debuted Shonen Jump Alpha, its digital replacement for Shonen Jump, the publisher has forced a group of fan translators to stop posting chapters of a number of Viz series.

The scanlation group Mangastream posted the news on Saturday that Viz had forced it to stop releasing chapters of seven series, including the ultra-popular Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, which are included in Shonen Jump Alpha. They couldn’t resist a snort of derision:

They’ve succeeded in little more than invoking inconvenience to the community as their digital magazine missed the mark; it runs several issues behind and only features 3 of the above series. So long as their product continues to be slow, awkward and inferior to something a ragtag group of nobodies can churn out in a few hours – fans will continue to look to scanlation groups and aggregators for their weekly fix.

This is the first time that I can recall (someone will probably correct me on this if I’m wrong) that a publisher has gone after the scanlators themselves, rather than the sites that carry their work. Onemanga.com, once one of the top 1,000 sites on the whole internet, and most of the other “free manga” sites are aggregators who depend on a handful of speed scanlators to bring them the latest chapters of the most popular titles. While shutting down those sites has proved problematic, cutting off their source of material may be more effective than a cease-and-desist letter. On the other hand, it may not: one aggregator site lists 363 translators for Naruto alone.

One fan took their complaint right to the source, the Shonen Jump forum:

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Smallville to continue as a weekly digital-first comic

Here’s good news for fans of the television show Smallville who were left without their fix in May when the series went off the air for good: DC announced today that Smallville is coming back as a comic, which will be released first in digital and then in print form. The series will be written by Bryan Q. Miller, who was a scriptwriter for the show, and will pick up where the television story left off. Pere Perez, who worked with Miller on Batgirl: The Flood, will handle the art, and the digital cover above is by Cat Staggs.

DC has an interesting strategy for this comic: It will launch as a digital comic on April 13, with a new digital chapter coming out each week. (No word on pricing or length.) About a month later, it will come out as a print comic, collecting the chapters and adding an episode guide; the first print comic is due out on May 16, and Gary Frank (Superman Secret Origin) will be doing the covers for the print issues.

The weekly chapters are an interesting twist. Not only do they mimic the timing of the original show, they make the comic more of an immediate experience, something people come back to frequently and discuss in real time, as opposed to a monthly event. IDW is doing something similar with its Transformers series Autocracy, publishing an eight-page digital chapter every two weeks, priced at 99 cents. And of course there’s Shonen Jump Alpha, the digital reincarnation of Viz’s Shonen Jump, which publishes a chapter a week of six different manga within two weeks of their Japanese release, with a teen-friendly price of 99 cents per issue (less if you get the yearly subscription).

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Comics A.M. | Artist Brett Ewins injured in struggle with police

The Art of Brett Ewins

Creators | Former Judge Dredd artist Brett Ewins suffered serious head injuries Saturday after he allegedly stabbed a police officer who responded to complaints about a man shouting throughout the night. Police say when they arrived the 56-year-old Ewins attacked them with a knife. One of the officers received minor wounds during the struggle, but Ewins was hospitalized, where he remains in serious condition. The newspaper report asserts the artist, best known for his work on Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper for 2000AD, has a history of mental-health problems. [Ealing Gazette]

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Comics A.M. | Chris Claremont donates archives to Columbia

Chris Claremont

Creators | Longtime Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont is donating his archives to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The collection includes materials for all of his major writing projects over the past 40 years, notebooks with story ideas, drafts of short stories, plays, novels and comic books, and materials from his early training in the theater and his career as an actor. “We hope this is the first of more comics papers to come to the University,” said Karen Green, Columbia University’s ancient/medieval studies librarian and graphic novel librarian. “We want it to be a magnet for these kinds of archives in New York City, where the comics medium was born.” [Publishers Weekly]

Awards | USA Network and DC Comics’ Burn Notice webcomic has won a Media Vanguard Award from Advertising Age. [Advertising Age]

Creators | Michael Cavna talks to two comics creators with very different takes on Occupy Wall Street, sequential journalist Susie Cagle, who was arrested as part of the Occupy Oakland protests, and conservative editorial cartoonist Nate Beeler, who walks past the Occupy D.C. site every day and regards it as “quaint,” smelly, and out of step with the rest of the country.” [Comic Riffs]

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Comics A.M. | Jerry Robinson Detective Comics #67 cover up for sale

Detective Comics #67

Art | Jerry Robinson’s cover artwork from Detective Comics #67 is expected to bring in more than $300,000 when it goes up for auction Nov. 15. “Robinson penciled and inked this cover and the detail of his art is amazing close-up,” said Todd Hignite, consignment director for Comic Art at Heritage Auctions, “particularly his shading lines on Batman and Robin, and on the feathery details of the ostrich being straddled by that bird-of-prey, the Penguin.” [Art Daily]

Business | Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. and Vuguru, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s independent studio, are partnering to produce “original digital content.” [press release]

Comics | Darryl Ayo has a small manifesto about comics that makes a lot of sense: “Things that don’t make sense in North American comics: 1) comics that exist after their creators have ceased to. 2) these comics’ existence continues despite minimal effort to applicable to contemporary culture. Things that make perfect sense in North American comics: people’s general lack of interest in comics.” He points out a number of reasons why the comics audience is small and challenges creators and publishers to “Do better.” One point he makes that is rarely mentioned: The critical importance of editors. [Comix Cube]

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Viz honchos talk digital

Manga blogger extraordinaire Deb Aoki sat down with the Viz folks at NYCC and asked some hard questions about their relaunch of Shonen Jump as a digital magazine (to be renamed Shonen Jump Alpha). The magazine will be available via the Viz iOS app and the Vizmanga.com website, but only in the U.S. and Canada.

Aoki asked Viz VP of digital publishing Brian Piech when Shonen Jump Alpha would be available in other regions, and he responded that it depends on Viz parent company Shueisha, which controls the rights. Simply put, Viz has the print rights in the U.S. and Canada, and other companies have those rights in other countries:

This is something that the entire publishing industry is dealing with, not just manga. Digital rights (to a given book or manga) wasn’t always included in the original contracts.

Now, with everything that’s happening, everyone wants the digital rights. But it’s not clear if the print publisher (of a given book in a given territory) has first dibs, or if the rights holder can just shop (the digital rights) around to whomever wants it.

So it’s possible that someone will be publishing Naruto digitally in other countries, but it won’t necessarily be Viz.

There are pretty much three reasons for piracy—price, speed, and regional availability. Viz has the speed thing licked—with the launch of Shonen Jump Alpha, they will be publishing chapters of six of the most popular manga in the U.S. within two weeks of their Japanese release, and there’s a good chance that they may eventually go to simultaneous release in the two countries. On price, the ability to buy a chapter for the magic price of 99 cents (through Viz’s website as well as iOS apps) is a pretty good deal for the casual reader (although the yearly subscription price of $25.99 is a better deal in the long term). But region restrictions, whatever the reason, are bad news; they seem to be driving a lot of the traffic on pirate sites, judging from the comments. Two out of three ain’t bad—but if Shonen Jump Alpha does well, and the Shueisha honchos loosen the restrictions, that hat trick could prove very lucrative for Viz.

NYCC | Viz Media goes digital with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha

Viz Media announced at the New York Comic Con this weekend that they plan to phase out the print edition of Shonen Jump magazine and replace it with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital publication offered through their website and their various iOS Viz Manga applications.

Accoridng to the press release, Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will feature serializations of Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece and other manga “only two weeks after it debuts in Japan’s massively popular Weekly Shonen Jump Magazine. Currently, Japanese releases are often several months to years ahead of North American print titles; Weekly SJ Alpha eliminates the delay in unprecedented fashion.” To help North American readers catch up, they plan to release “a limited collection of digital graphic novel speed-ups” that will bring readers up-to-date with Japanese releases.

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will kick off Jan. 30, and fans can either purchase an annual membership that provides access to 48 weekly issues for 52 weeks for just $25.99, or can “rent” issues for 99 cents for four weeks of access. The last print issue of the North American Shonen Jump magazine will come out in March.

“Simultaneously publishing an official translation of the most popular comics magazine in the world has been a dream since manga publishing began in North America in the 1980s,” said Alvin Lu, senior vice president and general manager. “This is how manga is meant to be read in English–weekly, current, authorized and on the go. Now with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, it’s about to happen for real.”

Check out the full press release after the jump.

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Comics A.M. | Another One Piece sales record, another cartoonist layoff

One Piece, Vol. 6

Publishing | The 60th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first four days of release. It’s the first book to move more than 2 million copies in its first week of sales since the Japanese market survey company Oricon began reporting its charts in 2008. As we reported last week, this volume’s 3.4 million-copy first printing set a record, and propelled the series past the 200 million-copy mark. [Anime News Network]

Editorial cartoons | Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies has been laid off by the Gannett-owned Journal News in White Plains, N.Y. [Comic Riffs]

Publishing | Abrams has made three comics-related promotions: Susan Van Metre to senior vice president and publisher, overseeing all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books; Charles Kochman to editorial director of Abrams ComicArts; and Chad W. Beckerman to creative director, overseeing design for all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books. [Abrams]

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Viz news #2: Shonen Jump adds online manga

The manga publisher Viz Media has done well with Shonen Jump: The magazine, established in 2002, has a monthly circulation of just over 200,000, which is pretty respectable, and then Viz sells the same stories all over again as graphic novels.

Now they are adding online manga to the mix: The December issue of Shonen Jump carries a full-page announcement of a new online manga service available only to subscribers to the magazine. One series, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, will run exclusively online until it is collected in graphic novel form. The site will also include “massive online previews” of two more series, Toriko and Bakuman: Subscribers can read the first four chapters just before the graphic novel comes out. The rest of the Shonen Jump series will continue in print only.

I e-mailed some questions to Viz spokesperson Jane Lui, and she forwarded them to Joel Enos, the senior editor of Shonen Jump, who provided some more details of the new package.

Brigid Alverson: How will readers subscribe to the service—do you have to be a Shonen Jump subscriber or can you get an online-only subscription?

Joel Enos: A subscription (for now) is to the magazine as a whole. When you subscribe to the magazine, you also get the access to the exclusive online content of the magazine.

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