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Comics A.M. | Superheroes’ big-screen struggle for diversity; Z-Cult FM returns

Green Lantern

Movies | National Public Radio commentator John Ridley critiques Hollywood for being even less diverse than the Big Two when it comes to diversity in lead characters, and demolishes their blame-the-audience theory that white people won’t go to see a movie with a black lead by pointing to a study by Indiana University professor Andrew Weaver: “Weaver found that white audiences tended to be racially selective with regard to romantic movies, but not necessarily when it came to other genres. So, sorry, Hollywood. You can’t blame it on the ticket buyers.” [NPR]

Piracy | Comic-book torrent tracker Z-Cult FM, which was threatened with legal action by Marvel in 2007 and eventually shut down in 2009, has re-opened its virtual doors. [Facebook]

Creators | Becky Cloonan talks about the joys and the hardships of being a full-time comics creator: “Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it loves you. And you will look into its eyes and know it’s true, that you love comics back.” [Becky Cloonan: Comics or STFU]

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Talking Comics with Tim | Lance Sells

Thwipster

Social media and e-commerce is ever-evolving as all of us can easily attest. In the past month or so, I became aware of Thwipster, an online enterprise with the slogan “Daily Deals for your Inner Geek.” The enterprise describes itself as follows: “At the core of Thwipster is a daily deal website that offers a little bit of everything for the person who loves their geek culture. Simply put, it is the daily deal site for your inner geek. We are striving to make Thwipster a destination that will make your quest to score the world’s finest graphic novels, toys, games and assorted geek culture items a more rewarding experience in a multitude of ways. We are also taking a very hands on approach to the selection of the materials we sell, so you can trust us to provide only the highest quality geek culture related items.” To better grasp the game plan for Thwipster, I recently caught up with Lance Sells, co-founder and director of Thwipster. In addition to discussing Thwipster, we also delve into his work in motion graphic novels (via Motherland).

Tim O’Shea: How did you initially conceive of Thwipster and how long was it in development before it launched?

Lance Sells: My brother Chad and I would talk on the phone and he would consistently bring up his thoughts about opening a comic store down in his area. He’s someone that goes to his local comic shop to hang out and talk where I’m someone who orders mainly online and have a pretty big interest in startups and technology. So from there we merged our interests, buying habits and tastes and came up with this idea to do a Daily Deal for geek stuff with a strong focus on graphic novels. As far as development time it was pretty fast from concept to launch. We talked mid-February and launched late April so it was about 10 weeks from idea to fruition.

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Kickin’ the Gun #2: Bunn, Zubkavich on Marvel and DC, creator-owned comics and more

As I noted yesterday, I’m a fan of both Image’s Skullkickers and Oni’s The Sixth Gun. So when I saw that the two creator-owned books were having a mini-crossover of sorts — or, to be more specific, an ad swap — I thought it might be fun to see if Skullkickers writer Jim “Zub” Zubkavich and The Sixth Gun writer Cullen Bunn might be up for interviewing each other.

And they were. If you missed part one, no worries; you can find it here. In part two, they discuss Marvel and DC, the recent focus on creator-owned comics, Dungeons & Dragons, their ad swap and more.

Zub: So, speaking of collaborators, how did your DC and Marvel work come about?

Cullen: I did a little thing for Marvel a year and a half ago, which was one of the Immortal Weapons books. That one came after I sent the editor a copy of The Damned. He finally got around to reading it and said, “Hey, you want to do this one-shot?” The new stuff all came about primarily through The Sixth Gun. A number of writers, artists and editors have picked it up, read it and either pushed me to their editors or thought I would work for other projects they had. It was definitely weird because I’m not used to anyone contacting me. I’m used to begging for work. For years I’ve gone to San Diego, and it’s the most humbling experience.

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What Are You Reading?

Batgirl #17

Welcome to a long holiday weekend (at least here in the United States) edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Doug Zawisza, who writes reviews and the occasional article for Comic Book Resources.

To see what Doug and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.

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Hey, look who is on Facebook

Friend up the Robot

Friend up the Robot

The good folks over at CBR proper, who set up their own Facebook page not too long ago, have set one up for us as well. If you’re on Facebook, head over there and click on the “Like” link to befriend the robot and follow our feed. And don’t forget you can follow us on Twitter, if you prefer … we’re easy.

Public service announcement: Tom Brevoort has a Formspring

Tom Brevoort

Tom Brevoort

This is old news if you, like me, follow Tom Brevoort’s blog and Twitter account with near-religious zeal. But Marvel’s Senior VP – Executive Editor and candidate for Comics’ Most Outspoken Editor has set up an account with Formspring, the service dedicated solely to allowing readers to ask any question they like of its users. Needless to say, it’s a match made in Web 2.0 heaven.

Recent topics include potential copyright infringement by artists and strippers, how novelists or journalists or would-be interns could get work at Marvel, how powerful the Sentry is, the relative merits of back-up stories and the $3.99 price point, why DC doesn’t use recap pages, Jean Grey, Jean Grey, and more Jean Grey, and the list goes on and on — and that’s just over the past day or so.

Sure, it’s rendering my job here partially obsolete, but journalistic ethics dictate that I had to let y’all know. Go ask him somethin’, why don’t you?

Slash Print | Following the digital evolution

Longbox

Longbox

Digital Comics | Rantz Hoseley posted some additional information and answered questions on the Longbox digital comics in the comments section of the iFanboy article Kevin linked to yesterday.

Those updates include:

  • Although only BOOM! and Top Cow have been announced so far, Hoseley said seven publishers have signed on for the launch, and the other five will be announced in the next few weeks leading up to the San Diego Comic Con.
  • The software will include a “Manga Mode” that flips the left-to-right reading order. That’s pretty damn clever.
  • The software will also allow for “age-restricted sub-accounts,” so your kids can read the Muppets but can’t get to your Black Kiss comics.
  • Hoseley says that “while we certainly welcome DC and Marvel’s participation, the entire system was designed to have a business model that would be successful and profitable for all involved if they chose not to participate.”

There’s more at the link, so click over and read. This gets more interesting by the day …

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MySpace Comic Books to close up shop

MySpace.com

MySpace.com

Yesterday the social media megasite MySpace announced that it was laying off almost 30 percent of its staff, about 400 employees — a move their CEO called “necessary for the long-term health and culture of MySpace.” Per the L.A. Times, MySpace’s user numbers are down from last year, and ad revenue is projected to fall 15 percent in 2009.

As reported on Comics Alliance yesterday and confirmed by our sources, MySpace Comic Books is shutting down. An attempt to e-mail the current contact for MySpace Comic Books resulted in a response that he was no longer with the company.

No doubt with the 30 percent cut in employees, you can expect other initiatives on MySpace to be cut or at least scaled down as well.

The MySpace Comic Books community launched in 2007 and has played host to numerous comic previews, full issues of comics like Hexed, interviews, a news feed from Comic Book Resources and MyCup O’ Joe, which ended its run on May 1. MySpace is owned by News Corporation, which also owns 20th Century Fox, FOX Broadcasting Company, The New York Post, HarperCollins and IGN Entertainment, among many, many other media outlets.

Slash Print | Following the digital evolution

DMZ on Google Maps

DMZ on Google Maps

Internet | Brian Wood uses Google Maps to highlight key locations from his Vertigo series DMZ.

Social media | Twitter, apparently, has taken the place of message boards as the preferred arena for fights between comic pros and gossip columnists.

Last Friday, an online dust-up occurred between comics writer Mark Waid and former All the Rage columnist Rich Johnston. You can read their respective takes on it here and here.

It was certainly a lot easier to follow the back-and-forth flames in the old days of message boards. Kids and their crazy newfangled internet tools …

Digital comics | And now a look at the gentler side of Twitter … also on Friday, Johnston interviewed Ryan Penagos, aka Agent_M, about Marvel.com and Marvel’s Digital Comics Initiative. The interview took place on Twitter.

Internet | The New York Times talks to artists who were recently invited by Google to contribute artwork that would be used on their web browser, Google Chrome. Google asked them to do it for exposure rather than pay. (via)

Slash Print | Following the digital evolution

Sword of My Mouth #1

Sword of My Mouth #1

Digital comics | Jim Munroe follows in the footsteps of PictureBox with an interesting sales offer for his post-Rapture comic Sword of My Mouth. He’s published the first issue as a comic, and issues #2-6 will be available online only. Next year it’ll all be collected into a trade paperback.

So for $12 + shipping, you can get the digital versions of each issue, as well as a signed and personalized copy of the printed graphic novel when it’s published in early 2010. The first 40 orders will also receive a screenprint. And for $6 you can get the six digital issues.

“In a time when the economy and other forces are making the print pamphlet model unsustainable for many indies, we’re excited to see how this will work,” he wrote. “The digital format isn’t going to replace the print book, but it’s an interesting format that allows for cheaper prices and more direct interaction between creators and readers — one we hope to foster by adding commentary.”

e-Devices | Here’s an often-linked to post by Scott McCloud about the new version of the Kindle and its size.

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Slash Print | Following the digital evolution

Kindle DX

Kindle DX

e-Devices | Amazon.com this week announced a larger version of their Kindle device, called the Kindle DX. The e-book reader is two-and-a-half times the size of the current Kindle and will retail for almost $500. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe, however, will offer “subsidized on-contract Kindles to customers who can’t get at-home delivery when the DX ships this summer.”

So, the natural question for comic fans — is it big enough to show a comics page? Kelson at the Speed Force blog has the same question: “Unless I’ve got my numbers wrong, that makes it larger than the standard manga page, though not quite as big as the standard American comic book page,” he said about the 9.7 inch screen. “And it’s only 1/3 of an inch thick, comparable to a typical trade paperback.” The BBC has more on the specs.

Social media | Ypulse, a teen marketing blog, wonders if teens would follow Twitter feeds for characters from young adult novels. Apparently teens haven’t embraced Twitter (which surprises me … I figured they’d been using it and dropped it when all the old people showed up, kind of like Facebook), and the post wonders if they’d start using it if, say, the sparkling vampires from Twilight had their own feeds.

“Protagonists, antagonists and supporting characters (the latter might be especially intriguing) would continue to gain depth and dimension in the intermittent period between books and meanwhile, readers would feel more connected to the world that the author created,” writes Meredith, who blogs for the site. “Or, as connected to them as they choose to be depending on whether they simply read the tweets or actually respond to them and engage in dialogue.” She also notes that characters from Mad Men showed up on Twitter last year, which everyone assumed was a marketing ploy for the show, but turned out to be more along the lines of fan fiction.

BOOM! Studios recently launched a Twitter feed for one of their fictional characters, the talking teddy bear who thinks he’s James Bond, Mister Stuffins. Is it a marketing ploy, an extension of the story, or maybe both? And would comic fans follow the Twitter feed for, say, Batman, Luke Cage or Scott Pilgrim, if their tweets were written by Grant Morrison, Brian Michael Bendis or Bryan Lee O’Malley, respectively?

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Twitter your questions for SxSW’s Comics on Handhelds panel

Comics on Handhelds

Comics on Handhelds

South by Southwest is currently underway down in Austin, Texas. The giant music, film and multimedia festival runs through March 22. On today’s agenda is a panel called Comics on Handhelds, hosted by Dan Goldman and featuring Diesel Sweeties creator Rich Stevens, Uclick.com CEO Douglas Edwards, Dr. Sketchy’s creator Molly Crabapple, Google Android engineer Dave Bort and The Longbox Group’s Rantz Hoseley.

No doubt this will be a great discussion, and if you’d like to participate, you don’t need a plane ticket to the Lone Star State … all you need is a Twitter account. Goldman explains:

And those of you not attending… you’ll still be able to interact with us over Twitter during the panel using #comicsonhandhelds. The panel will be available in audio+video online soon as well; watch this space for details.

That means if you Twitter a question, just be sure to include #comicsonhandhelds in the body of your tweet. The panel begins at 5 p.m. Central, so be sure to get your questions out there before then.

Slash Print | Following the digital evolution

Civil War #1, on a bed of Mylar

Civil War #1, on a bed of Mylar

Publishing | Louis Holt argues that “collectibility” will save the printed comic from being replaced by the digital version.

“The fallacy of thinking that digital comic books will kill print comic books is that it ignores the collectible value of comic books,” Holt writes. “There is no telling how many comic books sold today aren’t even read but are immediately slid into protective sleeves with backing boards. People can’t trade or wrap digital comic books in plastic.”

I suspect Holt creates a flaw of his own by overstating the hold collectibility has on readers. Handling monthly comics like 1,000-year-old parchments before sealing them away in Mylar bags may be common practice among a segment of the audience (particularly those of a certain age). However, I don’t believe “collectibility” is a driving force — the driving force? — for the readership at large. The increasing popularity of trade paperbacks, the whole wait-for-the-trade “movement,” and, yes, webcomics would seem enough to cast Holt’s notion into doubt.

That said, the band shouldn’t start the funeral dirge for the printed comic anytime soon (whatever “soon” means). Any sort of seismic shift by the industry toward digital comics still faces numerous obstacles — e-device quality and affordability, and the necessity of new business models, among them. I just don’t think “collectibility” is one of the more worrisome ones.

Matt Maxwell also weighs in: “Well, pulp novels are collectable, so are wax cylinders. So are vinyl records. Anything can be made collectible. Collectibility doesn’t mean that a format survives or is necessarily a standard currency any longer. It just means that someone wants the artifact and is willing to pay for it.”

Copyright | Although manga publishers have yet to clamp down on scanlators — fans who translate Japanese comics and post them online — a University of London professor thinks conflicts could arise as the global market becomes more lucrative. She estimates there are more than 1,000 scanlation groups worldwide.

E-devices | Matt Springer sees Apple’s rumored touch-screen Netbook as a contender for “ultimate eComics reader.”

Social media | Advertising Age reports that Facebook is driving more traffic than Google to some large websites.

Slash Print | Following the digital evolution

"Watchmen" on the Kindle

"Watchmen" on the Kindle

Conventions | Registration is closed for New England Webcomics Weekend, the March 20-22 event in Easthampton, Mass., that some already are calling “Webcomicstock.”

What’s Webcomics Weekend? It’s not really a convention, organizers say; it’s more a gathering — a free one, at that. It will feature panels, livedraw events, book signings, and guests such as Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes (Unshelved), Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots), Rene Engstrom (Anders Loves Maria), Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie), Scott Kurtz (PvP), Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics) and R. Stevens (Diesel Sweeties).

E-devices | At Gearlog, Brian Heater tries out Bone, Jimmy Corrigan, New X-Men and Watchmen on Amazon’s new Kindle: “In my humble opinion, the best device for reading comics at the moment (besides, you know, old-timey comics themselves) is the iPhone.”

Webcomics | The Floating Lightbulb and The Comic Chronicles’ John Jackson Miller try to figure out what to make of GoogleTrends data showing a steady decline of unique visitors for many of the most-popular webcomics.

E-devices | Jason Ankeny lays out why mobile devices are the future of comic strips: “Few forms of creative expression are better suited to that kind of brief consumer engagement than comic strips. Life in Hell — a crudely illustrated but consistently sharp and insightful black-and-white strip  — would seem like a natural on a Kindle or on an iPhone, as would any number of classic daily efforts including Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Krazy Kat or Doonesbury.”

Blogging | To mark the second anniversary of Super Punch, John Struan offers some good tips about blogging, with special attention to increasing traffic.

Social media | Gay & Lesbian Times looks out how artists are using DList, a social-networking site for gay men, to promote their work.

Podcasting | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profiles local comics podcasters.

E-publishing | Fictionwise, the e-book retailer recently purchased by Barnes & Noble, has sold an estimated 5 million digital titles since its launch in June 2000. (via GalleyCat)

Slash Print | Following the digital evolution

There’s a rapidly increasing amount of coverage devoted to digital issues, from piracy to webcomics to alternate distribution to social media, that it only makes sense to place them under one umbrella. If anyone has a better name for the feature than “Slash Print” — which has at least three conotations — I’m all ears.

LiveJournal

LiveJournal

Scans Daily | While there aren’t any hard numbers to demonstrate whether Scans Daily harmed or helped the sales of comics that were excerpted on the site, Glenn Hauman offers some anecdotal evidence: He posted seven pages on Jan. 19 from the ComicMix webcomic The Original Johnson, but received just 50 click-throughs from Scans Daily. Hauman concludes that the community wasn’t a good promotional platform.

However, Johanna Draper Carlson points out some problems with Hauman’s experiment, and with his conclusion. I think she’s right on both points, namely that a community like Scans Daily isn’t likely to react as positively to publisher self-promotion — Warren Ellis points out it’s actually frowned upon there — and that a biographical boxing comic probably wasn’t the best match for the audience.

The discussion continues in the comments sections of Hauman and Carlson’s posts.

Digital comics | Robot Comics (no relation), “the first publisher of comics for Android-powered mobiles,” is seeking submissions. Android is Google’s software platform for mobile devices. Comics, games and other applications can be downloaded at Android Market. Last month BOOM! Studios announced it had partnered with iVerse Media to offer Hexed #1 on Android. (via Johanna Draper Carlson)

Webcomics | At Mashable, Sean P. Aune runs down his list of the 20 best webcomics.  It’s the usual suspects, mostly.

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