Small Press Expo
Conventions | Executive director Warren Bernard said attendance at this year’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, was up 10 to 15 percent, with exhibitors reporting strong sales and many sell-outs. “A great line-up of new material was partially responsible, but the region itself is also a factor — the economy around metro DC has remained relatively stable even in the recession, and a lot of people with good jobs seem to save up their money for the whole year just to spend at SPX,” reported Publishers Weekly’s Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid. Because of the growth, next year the show will move to a bigger room with about 50 percent more space. Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware scheduled to attend. [Publishers Weekly]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, meanwhile, reports that it raised $12,500 at SPX, thanks to efforts like the Jeff Alexander Memorial Benefit auction and fundraising activities involving Craig Thompson, Roz Chast and Sara Varon. [press release]
Sales charts | Dollar sales of comics sold through Diamond Comic Distributors were up more than 15 percent in August, while graphic novel dollar sales rose by more than 31 percent when compared to the year-ago period. ICv2 puts the gains in perspective, noting that comic sales were down 17 percent in August 2010 and graphic novel sales were down 21 percent. August 2010 also had four ship weeks compared to August 2011′s five. DC Comics topped the August charts with Justice League #1, followed by Flashpoint #5, Fear Itself #5, Flashpoint #4 and Ultimate Comics Fallout #4. Serenity Better Days and Other Stories from Dark Horse was the no. 1 graphic novel for August. John Jackson Miller offers commentary as well as a look at the best-selling comics of this century, a list that will include Justice League #1. [ICv2, Comichron]
Comics | The Centers for Disease Control has awarded a roughly $145,000 contract to Terminus Media to create motion comics to educate young people about HIV. The comics will be offered on “internet-capable platforms” including desktop computers, laptop computers, video gaming systems, wireless phones and tablet computers. [Politico, Via]
The winners of the 2011 Ignatz Awards were announced this weekend at SPX, the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Md. Nominees for the awards were chosen by a jury of five creators and voted on by attendees at the show.
Congratulations to this year’s winners:
Outstanding Mini Comic: Ben Died of a Train, Box Brown
Outstanding Anthology or Collection: I Will Bite You, Joseph Lambert
Outstanding Online Comic: Hark! A Vagrant, Kate Beaton
Promising New Talent: Darryl Ayo Brathwaite
Outstanding Story: Browntown, Jaime Hernandez
Outstanding Series: Everything Dies, Box Brown
Outstanding Comic: Lose #3, Michael DeForge
Outstanding Graphic Novel: Gaylord Phoenix, Edie Fake
Outstanding Artist: Joseph Lambert, I Will Bite You
SPX, or the Small Press Expo, returns to the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Md. this weekend.
The show’s special guests include Roz Chast, Jim Woodring, Diane Noomin, Jim Rugg, Ann Telnaes, Chester Brown, Johnny Ryan, Craig Thompson and Matthew Thurber, and fans who attend will also have the opportunity to meet and/or hear from Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Jessica Abel, Sarah Glidden, Alex Robinson, Brian Ralph, Mike Dawson, Meredith Gran, Roger Langridge and Julia Wertz, just to name a few. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that our own Chris Mautner will be attending and conducting a Q&A with Johnny Ryan on Saturday, so be sure to tell him hi for us.
Education | The Center For Cartoon Studies’ Schulz Library in White River Junction, Vermont, was damaged over the weekend in flooding caused by torrential rains from Hurricane Irene. According to CCS Director James Sturm, volunteers called in Sunday night were able to remove about 70 percent of the library’s collection and move the remaining materials to higher shelves. However, he indicated to Tom Spurgeon that the building itself may be a loss. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Jim Shooter, former editor-in-chief for Marvel Comics, shares the story of how DC Comics almost licensed the publishing rights to their characters to Marvel in the mid-1980s. Obviously the deal never happened, which Shooter said was due to a lawsuit by First Comics alleging anti-trust violations. [Jim Shooter]
Creators | Gail Simone discusses her upcoming work on Batgirl and Fury of Firestorm. [TFAW]
Organizers have released the programming schedule for the Sept. 10-11 Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, which includes panels featuring Jessica Abel, Kate Beaton, Roz Chast, Sarah Glidden, Tom Neely, Alex Robinson, Johnny Ryan, Craig Thompson, Jim Woodring and more.
Among the moderators will be Robot 6 contributors Sean T. Collins, talking with Thompson and leading a discussion about drawing the grotesque, and Chris Mautner, interviewing Ryan.
Held at the Bethesda North Marriott Convention Center, SPX includes the presentation of the annual Ignatz Awards, a festival prize that recognizes outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning. See the full programming schedule after the break.
Awards | Art Spiegelman on Sunday won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor (the other two were Will Eisner and Robert Crumb). “Considering my poor skills, I’m looking a little like the president Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” he told the festival by telephone from the United States. Spiegelman will serve as the grand marshal for next year’s event.
Other winners at the four-day festival, which drew an estimated 200,000 visitors, include David Mazzuchelli for Asterios Polyp (Grand Jury Prize), and Naoki Urasawa and the late Osamu Tezuka for Pluto (Intergenerational Award). The full list of winners can be found here. [Agence France-Presse]
Retailing | The beleaguered Borders Group announced on Sunday that it’s delaying January payments to vendors and landlords in an effort to save cash while it tries to complete a debt restructuring. This marks the second round of delays for the bookseller, which has been pressuring large publishers and distributors to agree by Feb. 1 to convert late payments into $125 million in loans. The bookstore chain announced just last week that it secured a $550 million credit line from G.E. Capital, but only if several tough conditions were met — including an unlikely agreement from publishers. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | The Borders death watch continues, with the struggling bookstore chain giving publishers until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a proposal to convert delayed payments into loans. Publishers reportedly are skeptical of the plan, which would see them take up one-third to one-quarter of the bookseller’s reorganized debt. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based retailer also has hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers to advise in its restructuring efforts, which center on negotiations to secure a $500 million credit line from GE Capital.
Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, announced in late December that it would delay payments to key publishers and distributors, leading some — such as Diamond Book Distributors — to stop shipping books. Jacket Copy reminds us that Borders Group is closing nearly 200 Waldebooks and Borders Express outlets before the end of the month. Additionally, it’s shuttering 17 Borders superstore locations nationwide. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]
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]
Publishing | Chart-watcher John Jackson Miller wades into the grim direct-market sales figures for August, and notes that they mirror the state of the market in 2000: “Like 2010, 2000 was a year with a successful super-hero movie release — the first X-Men film. In that year, however, it had little impact on the market partially due to the cash-poor position of retailers at the time — and we might expect retailers were in the same position this year. [...] In 2000, by contrast, the reason wasn’t the general economy, but rather the seven-year industry recession that preceded it. Another similar element: price increases. From 1999 to 2000, Marvel went from benchmarks of $1.99 and $2.50 to $2.50 and $2.99. Other titles increased as well; $2.95 first became the industry’s median price in late 1999. The 2000 jumps are one of the more drastic previous increases by percentage — eclipsed, of course, by the current $2.99-to-$3.99 move.” [The Comichron]
Legal | India’s Delhi High Court has refused to hear a complaint by Archie Comics challenging the use of the name “Archies” by Mumbai-based Purple Creations. The court said it had no jurisdiction in the matter because Archie doesn’t have an office in India. [Deccan Herald]
Named for the character in George Herriman’s classic comic strip Krazy Kat, the Ignatz Awards are a festival prize recognizing outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning. SPX attendees vote on nominees selected by a panel of five cartoonists (this year the jury members were Anders Nilsen, David Kelly, Rob G, Joshua Cotter and Trevor Alixopulos).
The winners of the 2010 Ignatz Awards are:
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]
The Small Press Expo, or SPX, has announced programming for their show on Saturday, Sept. 11-12 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Bethesda, Md.
You can find the complete schedule after the jump, but I wanted to point out two panels that feature our own Chris Mautner:
Spotlight: James Sturm
1:30 | White Flint Amphitheater
James Sturm is the author of several comics and graphic novels including The Golem’s Mighty Swing, Unstable Molecules, James Sturm’s America, and Market Day. He is also the founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies, a unique two-year degree granting institution dedicated to cartooning. In this spotlight presentation, Sturm will discuss his work and answer questions from moderator Chris Mautner.
Critics’ Panel: How We Judge
3:00 | Brookside Conference Room
The accessibility of online publishing alongside traditional media has enabled a diversity of critical voices who are addressing the broad spectrum of comics being published today. A diverse group of critics will discuss the disparate bases for their own critical opinions, and the extent to which they regard different kinds of work in different ways. Join moderator Bill Kartalopoulos for a discussion with Johanna Draper Carlson (Comics Worth Reading), Gary Groth (The Comics Journal), Tim Hodler (Comics Comics), Chris Mautner (Robot 6), Joe McCulloch (Jog the Blog/Comics Comics), Ken Parille (Blog Flume), and Caroline Small (The Hooded Utilitarian).
I love the Small Press Expo. My five-plus-hour drive down to its Bethesda location from Long Island guarantees me an annual 36-hour immersion in the lifeblood of alternative comics, and there’s nothing about it I like better than getting back to the hotel room or my library at home and spreading out all the new comics I dredged up from the depths. Here’s a look at what I picked up this year.
Retailing | Could Disney’s planned $4-billion purchase of Marvel signal the return comic books to the mass market? “I see the Marvel acquisition by Disney helping to expand the genre of comic books and remove it from the dusty basement of the world,” says direct-market retailer Creswell. “I do see Disney stepping in and offering retailers outside of the direct comic book market incentives for selling Marvel products,” Creswell said. [Reuters]
Publishing | Long-struggling e-book site Wowio reportedly has informed publishers that payments for the second quarter of 2008 will be made by Nov. 15. Wowio, which was purchased last year by Platinum Studios, was sold in July to a holding company formed by Platinum President and COO Brian Altounian. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | The inaugural Long Beach Comic Con kicks off today at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. Guests include Berkeley Breathed, Stan Lee, Tim Bradstreet, J. Scott Campbell, Amanda Conner, Geoff Johns, Dave Johnson, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Scott Lobdell, Dustin Nguyen, Darick Robertson and Mark Waid. The Long Beach Post and Gazettes Town-News have previews. [Long Beach Comic Con]
Events | 24-Hour Comics Day will be held Saturday at locations around the world. [24-Hour Comics Day]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald posts her Small Press Expo round-up/wrap-up/photo parade. [The Beat]