While talking about the financial difficulty of hitting a lot of big conventions during the year, a group of comics writers came up with a potential new way to make creator appearances more frequent and cost-effective.
Jimmy Palmiotti started the conversation by noting that when most creators attend a convention, they do so on their own dime. And for writers it’s especially tough, as they’re unable to sell artwork to recoup costs. Ron Marz noted that even when the table is free, he still loses money unless the convention at least pays for travel and hotel expenses, while Steve Niles added that recovery time after conventions is also a factor. Time spent at a show (or being sick after a show) is time not spent on creating comics.
None of these creators prefers to stay home and miss meeting readers and other industry people, so Niles shared how, because he wasn’t able to attend Comic-Con International this year, he Skyped into a panel and had a good experience. “I wish we could do this at stores to meet fans,” he wrote. And then the conversation took off.
This awesome-looking comics-themed Macbook keyboard skin has been doing the rounds on design blogs, but I saw it on HiConsumption. For an atrocious, eyes-on-the-keyboard, six-fingers-in-a-claw, typist such as myself, it’d be a nightmare. But it does look fantastic. It’s from Killer Duck Decals, and is available from its Etsy store.
The accompanying blurb shows them to be very witty people, indeed: “Zorro instead of Zatanna because I didn’t want to deal with the top hat, sorry”; “Our skins are meant to make your stuff look cooler, not make them bomb proof. So don’t go flashing them around in the bad part of town and skipping them across lakes because they do not grant your electronics super-powers.”
There’s a few inspired choices on this thing (check out the “Y” key), and a couple I’ll admit I’m baffled by. (What are the icons on the “O” and “D” keys referring to? I presume I’ll kick myself when someone points them out.)
If you’ve ever found yourself wanting to reread all the Calvin and Hobbes strips where he made horrifying, life-sized dioramas out of snowmen, or you itched to revisit the adventures of Spaceman Spiff, software engineer Michael “Bing” Yingling has you hooked up. He’s created Calvin and Hobbes: The Search Engine.
After discovering a complete script (with both dialogue and panel descriptions) online, Yingling realized he could make it interact with GoComics’ archive of Bill Watterson’s beloved comic strip. So he did. The search tool currently only recognizes exact phrases, but users can also search by date.
To try it out, I searched for a few things and have included an example of each after the break below, but I can easily see spending hours on this. Continue Reading »
Making comics is hard, pesky work. It takes hours and hours to draw a comics page (and forget about all that plotting and writing dialogue), cutting down on the precious time you could spend on the PlayStation or catching up with your Netflix queue. Or it used to.
Now – if your comic is an adaptation of a movie, anyway – Meng Wang, professor at the Hefei University of Technology, and his colleagues have created a new software called Movie2Comics. Using clips from movies and a file of the film’s script, the software automatically creates – without any artistic, er…”manual” intervention, Wang stresses – comic panels of varying sizes in a cheapass Photoshop filter…I mean, “cartoon style”. Though Wang acknowledges that the software could be used by curious hobbyists who just want to dink around with it, he also points out its benefits for professionals as well, since it way cuts down the time and expense of – you know – actually creating comics.
When it first came out, Tron was a groundbreaking movie because of its use of computer animation, which up till then had only been seen in limited doses. Thirty years later, an online graphic novel based on the movie, Tron: Legacy, is breaking new ground again by using HTML5 to create a webcomic that is much more dynamic than your standard still-pictures-in-a-browser format.
This is not some cheesy “motion comic” where Hulk’s arm moves up and down while the rest of the picture stays static. Check out the demo video: The motion is not figures on a background but the backgrounds themselves, which rotate to give the reader the feeling of moving through deep space. (If you’re the type of person who gets seasick at iMAX movies, this may not be the comic for you.) Oddly, the fight scenes are more static than the setup, because those scenes don’t have the same three-dimensional motion effect. The plot itself seems to be rather elemental, and you don’t have to have seen the movie to follow the comic—everything is laid out for the reader.
The demo video is a bit of an ad for Internet Explorer 9, which is the browser this graphic novel was developed for. I was able to view it fine in Safari on my Mac, although it was a bit jerky. You scroll through the comic by dragging, so it’s not quite as smooth an experience as in the demo, and it’s a bit disorienting because there are no indicators to tell you how long the comic is or how far along you are. Still, it’s nicely done and worth looking at for the novelty value, if nothing else. Sort of like Tron itself was, back in the day.
Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”
In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Two Los Angeles men accused of selling counterfeit passes to this year’s Comic-Con International have pleaded guilty to theft and were placed on probation for three years. Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, both 24, were each ordered to pay a $750 fine, complete 10 days of community service and pay restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors say the two photocopied Comic-Con badges and sold them on Craigslist to people looking for last-minute memberships. They were arrested in July after two of their victims attempted to enter the convention using the counterfeit badges, which the women bought for $120 each. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Technology | Tech blog Chip Chick names DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as one of its “Top 13 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010.” [Chip Chick]
Digital publishing | As expected, Barnes & Noble on Tuesday unveiled its Nook Color e-book reader, priced at $249. The 7-inch LCD touch tablet runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, and offers web browsing, audio and video playback, and basic games (CNET notes that Barnes & Noble is pushing the device as a “reader’s tablet”). The device ships on Nov. 19. [CNET, Salon, paidContent]
Internet | PayPal has announced its much-anticipated micropayments system, with Facebook and a number of other websites lining up behind it. PayPal describes the new product, available later this year, as an “in-context, frictionless payment solution that lets consumers pay for digital goods and content in as little as two clicks, without ever having to leave a publisher’s game, news, music, video or media site.” Scott McCloud is quick out of the gate with reaction: “This is so close, in almost every respect, to what we were asking for over a decade ago, it’s almost eerie. They’re even using the same language to describe it.” [TechCrunch]
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]
Comics artist Nikki Cook is going to be the guest artist this month at Gizmodo, which does for technology and cool gadgets what Gawker does for gossip and io9 does for science fiction (they’re all part of the same blog family). Cook is a member of the Act-I-Vate webcomics collective and has worked on a number of different comics; she is currently collaborating with Ben McCool on the graphic novel Memoir, and it looks like her work will be a departure from the usual photos of sleek but mostly rectangular objects on Gizmodo.
And because she’s an attractive comics artist living in Brooklyn, Seth Kushner has photographed her on a fire escape against a luminescent gray sky. Click to see:
Continue Reading »
Technology | Apple said it is adding new security measures to its iTunes store after a developer reportedly hacked into numerous customer accounts to boost the ranking of his comic apps, which briefly dominated the book category. The company claims the weekend incident was an isolated — about 400 of its 150 million iTunes users were affected — but customers tell The Wall Street Journal that hackers have hijacked accounts before, with Apple doing little to stop them. [The Wall Street Journal]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald looks at the tug of war between San Diego, Los Angeles and Anaheim for Comic-Con International, and the tough decision facing event organizers. “This has been by far the most challenging thing we’ve ever done,” said David Glanzer, the convention’s director of marketing and public relations. “Nobody thought we wouldn’t have a decision by June.” The board hopes to make a decision before this year’s event kicks off in two weeks. “If we don’t [make an announcement],” Glanzer said, “a lot of the focus is going to be on that.” [Publishers Weekly]
A 13-year-old boy in Cambridge, England, has transformed two vacuum cleaners into a device that enables him to climb walls like Spider-Man — okay, almost like Spider-Man — earning him the admiration of classmates and the scorn of J. Jonah Jameson.
Hibiki Kono, a Spider-Man fan, spent five months designing and assembling the gadget, made from two dirt-cheap vacuum cleaners (about $22.40 each) and square wooden pads.
“My mum thinks it’s brilliant,” he said, “but she won’t let me us it in my bedroom as she is worried I may pull down the ceiling.”
A roundup of commentary on what Apple’s newly released iPad may mean for comics:
• PvP creator Scott Kurtz: “… Everything I read online points to an entire industry either adamatly denying that the iPad will change things for comics or actively praying it doesn’t. Then there’s the truly astounding group of idiots just sitting there waiting to see if it does anything. Retailers want it to fail because they want to keep selling physical floppy comics. Diamond wants it to fail because they want to keep being a monopoly for physical floppy comics. Fans want it to fail because for them, comics is about collecting, bagging and boarding, not reading. Creators want it to fail because they’re artists, and they don’t understand new business models or how to make money, nor do they want to worry about it.”
• Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada: “… The iPad could be the new feeder system for brick and mortar stores. Ever since the newsstand really died for comics, that element has been missing in many ways. Trades in bookstores picked up some of the slack, but the newsstand used to be huge. I think the iPad will be that and more and will improve the sales of comics in all areas, especially at comic shops. That’s why we have the comic shop locator built into the app.”
It may not be able to help him construct an armor suit — not yet, anyway — but Chad Barraford’s Project Jarvis greets him and his dog by name, controls his apartment lights and temperature, and can even cook a hot dog.
Inspired by, and named after, JARVIS, Tony Stark’s personal artificial intelligence computer system from 2008′s Iron Man, Barraford’s “digital life assistant” (DLA) runs on a four-year-old Mac Mini with built-in speech recognition.
The 27-year-old tech-support worker, who communicates with Jarvis via RFID tags, microphones, webcams, tweets and instant messages, has spent a grand total of $691.98 on his DLA. The Boston Globe has the full story (with video).
• Apple reports that it sold more than 300,000 iPads on Saturday, when the media slate was released nationwide. That same day, iPad owners downloaded more than 1 million applications from the App Store, and more than 250,000 digital books.
• The Marvel Comics App is one of only 11 for the iPad showcased on Apple.com — that’s out of more than 1,000 available on the App Store. The spotlight comes complete with a video of someone browsing The Invincible Iron Man #1, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca.
• At CNET, Seth Rosenblatt reviews the Marvel app.
• Jeffery Simpson considers the differences in the digital paths taken by the music and comic-book industries: “The major applicable lesson from the music industry is not to wait too long before moving toward digital. Record labels grossly misjudged where music sales were going to be going, and spent more time fighting illegal downloads from Napster than they did in finding a way to sell music on-line. It took Apple and iTunes to finally drag the major labels into the digital age, and the record labels continue to manage to cripple new music services and potential revenue streams by forcing draconian digital-rights management software into services that don’t have the clout of an Apple or Amazon.com behind them. Eventually though, the comic industry needs to decide whether or not it’s in the business of selling paper, or selling illustrated sequential stories.”
• And on Twitter, writer Andy Diggle cuts to the chase: “The elephant in the room: will creators get royalties on iPad comic purchases?”