South by Southwest
I’m sure that a lot of you reading these words have very strong feelings about Comic-Con International, and not all of them are joyous and pleasant. Writing this, I get that sort of “ugh” knot in my stomach thinking about all the hard work and money it takes to go on a five-day “vacation.” Getting in the doors has become this epic-level event worthy of its own video game; finding a place to stay so you can use those badges you masterfully acquired can mean camping in your car. Being inside the convention center can be overwhelming and, even worse, you may not even get inside the panel you worked so hard to get these tickets for anyway.
There’s so much that can go wrong at Comic-Con that there’s a palpable sadness when you realize you don’t have it in you to fight to do it all again next year. I’m not going this year, and when I tell people at the shop that, sometimes I feel like I’ve said there’s no Santa Claus.
The crash of comiXology’s servers over the weekend brings home a nagging detail to digital comics that deserves renewed attention: the lack of a file for consumers to keep.
The current model for most digital comics providers is to offer access to files through a proprietary reader available through their apps or websites. It’s essentially a leasing arrangement, granting temporary access with an open-ended term limit. You can “download” a local copy, but this isn’t a true download. The file is returned to the provider’s cloud storage after a short period of inactivity, although access remains through your library on the reader.
All things being fine in the universe, that hasn’t caused many problems. There have been a few incidents of comics being yanked back into the archives either because of an inadvertent early release or because a publisher no longer wishes to sell a certain title, but by and large there haven’t been any issues with the current model. Some previously voiced reservations about that arrangement, yet theoretical concerns are often ignored or quickly forgotten until they become a reality. And they became a reality over the weekend.
Publishing | Dark Horse President Mike Richardson discusses how he became one of the first publishers of manga in the United States, explains how the company selects its titles, and suggests some manga for first-time readers. [Previews]
Digital comics | Retailer Ron Catapano points to the comiXology server crash triggered by the response to the free Marvel comics promotion as “the problem with digital content that fans keep complaining about”: “I can’t read the books I paid for because I can’t save them on my own computer and I’m limited in what I can save to my tablet by the small storage on tablets. Instead, the books I pay for are kept by comiXology and as long as I have a high speed internet connection available… I can log on and read my books on their web site or I can download a few to my tablet. BUT NOT TODAY … because someone decided it was a good idea to put 700 Marvel issue #1′s up for free at the same time.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | DC’s 52-variant-cover gimmick with Justice League of America #1 seems to have paid off, as ICv2 estimates Diamond Comic Distributors sold more than 300,000 copies to comics shops last month. That adds up to more than $1 million in retail sales, a rare height last passed by in January by The Amazing Spider-Man #700. ICv2 also posts the Top 300 comics and graphic novels for February. [ICv2]
Kickstarter | Gary Tyrrell talks to Holly Rowland, who with husband Jeffrey has launched a business called Make That Thing to help comics creators fulfill their Kickstarter pledges. The Rowlands are also the team behind the webcomics merchandise retailer TopatoCo. [Fleen]
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Below you’ll find a roundup for Marvel’s announcements from South by Southwest, our contributors’ picks of the comics of the week, and the top events to watch for in the next seven days.
Earlier today Marvel announced at their South by Southwest panel that they would offer more than 700 first issues for free via their comiXology-powered apps on various mobile devices and via their web store. It’s a limited time offer, as the free comics popped up on the comiXology app shortly after the panel ended with plans to only be available through 11 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, March 12.
In related news, earlier today the comiXology servers crashed. In between messages about the closing party they’re hosting at SXSW, comiXology has taken to Twitter to keep people aware that they’re working on the issue and, it appears, try to lighten the mood somewhat:
In what’s undoubtedly one of the strangest pairings in recent memory, South by Southwest is bringing together acclaimed author Neil Gaiman and Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre for a featured session at the 2013 SWSW Interactive Festival. Weird, right?
To be fair, Lorre is a veteran television-comedy writer and producer who’s other creations include Grace Under Fire, Cybill, Dharma & Greg and The Big Bang Theory. So he’s now slouch, even you don’t care for his shows — or if you know him better for his bizarre public feud with actor Charlie Sheen. Still, he’s probably not the first person you’d think of the subject of a Gaiman interview.
Held March 9 in Dell Hall of the Long Center in Austin, Texas, “Chuck Lorre: In Conversation with Neil Gaiman” will focus on the challenges of running three of the most successful series on TV and the story Lorre’s legendary, and occasionally controversial, end-show-vanity cards. A curated selection of those cards was published last fall in a hardcover coffee-table book called What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Bitter (the proceeds of which go to Lorre’s Dharma-Grace Foundation, which supports the Venice Family Clinic).
Creators | Dean Haspiel discusses his frustration with creating stories for franchise characters, even working with regular artists and writers for the series, and never hearing back from the editors: “I have a deluge of sad short stories and a bunch of outstanding pitches sitting atop [or buried underneath] comic book editorial desks that will continue to prove that it is nearly impossible to pitch solicited, much less, unsolicited stories. The hurtful part? Editors woo me into thinking I have a chance. I don’t have a chance. Maybe I shot my wad at Vertigo where I pitched and delivered three, critically acclaimed graphic novels? Maybe I’m considered the odd memoir artist who dabbles in digital genre. And, so I’m stuck between too mainstream for the indie crowd and too indie for the mainstream crowd. That used to bother me but now I’m okay with it because, frankly, that’s a cool place to be if you can make ends meet.” [Welcome to Trip City]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat talks about his decision to shift from portraying generic characters in his cartoons to zeroing in on a real person, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the consequences of that choice. Farzat’s drawings started showing up on protest signs, and then he was attacked and savagely beaten by three men: “”I could hear them saying ‘break his hands so they never dare challenge his masters again.’” Farzat is now living in Kuwait but hopes to return to Syria some day. [Reuters]
CBGB has confirmed something I posted about back in January — that they are indeed working with BOOM! Studios on a CBGB comic book. In fact, this week at South by Southwest, they’re handing out copies of a single page CBGB comic by Jesse Blaze Snider and Chuck BB.
The four issue mini-series will kick off this July with a cover by Jaime Hernandez. The anthology will include contributions from Ana Matronic of the band Scissor Sisters, Kieron Gillen, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Kim Krizan, Chuck BB, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Rob G, Sam Humphries (go Sam!), Marc Ellerby and more.
“BOOM! is all about delivering fantastic work that’s not found anywhere else,” says editor Ian Brill. “The comic industry needs an outlet for the type stories found in CBGB, and we’re happy to be the ones working hard to bring these stories to smart, discriminating readers.”
“BOOM! got what we were about” says Louise Staley of CBGB. “Our attitude jumps off every page.”
“The club was as much about those in the mosh pit as it was the bands that played there,” adds Robert Williams of CBGB. “The narrative in this series celebrates both.”
The comic will come out under BOOM!’s new BOOM! Town label and will be collected into a hardcover in November. Check out a PDF of the one-pager from SXSW after the jump.
This past weekend South by Southwest in Austin hosted the premiere of Kick-Ass, the movie adaptation of the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. The film was accompanied by a panel featuring both creators and members of the cast … and a trio of really cool retro posters that attendees received. Above is one featuring the Red Mist, and you can also check out the ones featuring the title character and Hit Girl.