Spurred by Marvel’s official announcement of its iPad app, and early reviews of its performance on Apple’s new media slate, “Marvel Comics Arrive” briefly rocketed to the top of Twitter’s trending-topics list this morning.
But as some comics fans read the raves from the likes of the Chicago Sun-Times’ Andy Ihnatko, The New York Times’ David Pogue and BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin, or grumbled over the $1.99-per-title price tag, author-blogger Cory Doctorow was busy taking a stand against the iPad — and the Marvel Comics App.
“I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them,” Doctorow wrote this morning at BoingBoing. “If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. [...] So what does Marvel do to ‘enhance’ its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.”
In response, author and comics annotator Jess Nevins tweeted: “That whooshing sound you just heard was Cory Doctorow missing the point on digital comics.”
Meanwhile, on The New York Times’ ArtsBeat blog, David Itzkoff asks, “Can the iPad Do Whatever a Comics Store Can?” He doesn’t offer an answer, but Marvel’s Ira Rubenstein does. Unsurprisingly, given the number of egg shells scattered throughout any discussion of digital distribution and the direct market, the response is a firm no.
“I don’t think anything can replace the comic-book store experience,” Rubenstein, executive vice president of Marvel’s global digital media group, tells Itzkoff. “That Wednesday, when people go to the stores, I call it a mini Comic-Con. It’s where fans gather and talk about the books and they argue about the books and speculate about the books. That experience isn’t going to change.”
In other comics-related Twitter news, Dark Horse’s series of “April Fool’s Comics” tweets also broke onto the U.S. trending-topics list on Thursday.
The Marvel Comics App, developed with ComiXology, will launch on Saturday with more than 500 classic and modern stories priced at $1.99 each. New content will arrive each week.
According to the Marvel press release, launch titles will include such “modern classics” as Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham’s Fantastic Four, and Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men. At launch, a handful of newer titles will be available for free — among them, the first issues of Captain America, The Invincible Iron Man, New Avengers, Super Hero Squad and Thor.
It’s unclear from the press release just how recent the titles offered via the Marvel Comics App will be. The Hickman-Eaglesham run on Fantastic Four is obviously fairly recent; their tenure began in October 2009. Likewise, Super Hero Squad #1 was released in September 2009. But there’s no word yet on how much of a lag we should expect between the release of a print comic and its availability on the iPad, or how the publisher will decide what titles will be sold through the app.
The Marvel Comics App is available for free from the iPad and iTunes app stores. It comes equipped with a comic-store locator.
BoingBoing‘s Xeni Jardin posts a video walk-through of The Invincible Iron Man #1, by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, and provides a “hands-on review.”
While noting that the Marvel application doesn’t yet appear in the iPad’s App Store, Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times says he’s “very impressed and excited” by what he sees: “This underscores a sentiment that everybody in comics has felt ever since rumors of an Apple tablet became tangible: that the device would finally make the experience of reading comics digitally into something that’s practical, enjoyable, and most importantly deliver the story in a way that feels like a comic book.”
David Pogue of The New York Times describes the Marvel app as “brilliant in its vividness and panel-by-panel navigation,” while BoingBoing‘s Xeni Jardin starts with “spectacular” and “game-changing” before getting a little more specific: “crisp, lucid art, the ability to navigate frame-by-frame, rendering spoilers down the page obsolete.”
But back to Ihnatko, who devotes the most amount of space to the app, and provides the most details.
“If you’re a purist who needs to see the whole page at once, you can hold the iPad in portrait mode and flip through the story as you would with a paper comic,” he writes. “You can zoom in and out as you wish, but though the iPad screen is smaller than a standard comic page (I measure it as 7.5”, compared to a comic’s 10”) it’s still crisp and readable when scaled down. Turn the iPad on its side, and a new viewing mode becomes available. In iBooks, tapping the left and right sides of the screen turns pages. In the Marvel app, it ‘moves the camera position’ forward and backwards through the story, snappily zooming in and out through the ‘units’ of the page, highlighting moments of dialogue or action.”
When Apple’s much-anticipated iPad launches in the United States on April 3, the media slate’s highly organized e-book application will feature “Comics & Graphic Novels” among its top-tier categories, Forbes.com reports.
Citing findings by the Busted Loop mobile media research firm, the website states that Apple’s iBookstore will designate about 20 main categories, including “Fiction & Literature,” “Reference” and “Cookbooks.” Below those will be more than 150 sub-categories; “Manga” will fall under the comics section.
The iBookstore content sales and delivery system is viewed as a major selling point of the iPad, but until today it had been unclear how much an emphasis might be placed on comic books.
When the iPad was unveiled in January, Apple announced it had partnered with five publishers to produce content for the iBookstore: HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. All of those houses have imprints that publish graphic novels or manga (for instance, Hachette’s Yen Press imprint publishes Twilight: The Graphic Novel and Yotsuba&!, while Penguin’s Puffin division produces a line of literary adaptations). Macmillan and Simon & Schuster are also major book-market distributors of graphic novels by other publishers but there’s been no mention of whether those agreements could extend to the iBookstore.
More publishing partners are expected to be added after next month’s launch.
Publishing | The filmmakers behind Spellbound, the Oscar-nominated documentary that followed competitors in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee, plan to premiere an authorized documentary on the history of DC Comics at Comic-Con International. Mac Carter (The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft) is directing the project, with Spellbound‘s Sean Welch producing and Jeffrey Blitz executive producing.
“DC Comics contacted us and asked if we would do this,” Welch told Collider. “Jeff and the director are comic book enthusiasts since they were kids and remain comic book enthusiasts. So yes, we have access to their archives, their material, their covers, their panels, the creatives and the executives in the DC world. [Collider]
Publishing | The weeklong standoff between Amazon and Macmillan over the price of digital books ended Friday evening, with the publisher’s electronic and paper books quietly returning to the website of the retail giant. Details of the dispute’s resolution have not been made public. [Bits]
Business | During a quarterly-earnings call on Tuesday, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes revealed the company likely will announce plans “in a matter of weeks” regarding DC Entertainment. Bewkes appeared to be speaking specifically to the film slate, but perhaps we’ll also learn who will replace Paul Levitz as publisher. [ComingSoon.net]
Webcomics | In the wake of a malware-distributing hack that briefly affected Karl Kerschl’s The Abominable Charles Christopher website comes word of a possible a WordPress/ComicPress-targeting hack that could wreak havoc on the webcomics community. “It’s not clear yet how serious this is, but since ComicPress is pretty much the dominant ecosystem for self-hosted webcomics, it would have the potential to really abuse our community,” writes Gary Tyrrell. [Fleen]
Business | Disney’s $4-billion purchase of Marvel could create legal problems for the Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando theme parks. Antitrust experts say that the 15-year-old licensing agreement between Marvel and Universal will give Disney access to proprietary information about the competing resort, making both companies vulnerable to charges of price-fixing and other anti-competitive behavior.
Disney and Universal have signed an agreement in which corporate Disney promises not to share any information with its theme-park division gained through the Marvel-Universal license. [The Daily Disney]
Business | Former Marvel Vice Chairman Peter Cuneo, who made as much as $4.8 million in the Disney merger, discusses the publisher’s rise out of bankruptcy and its legendary frugality: “People joke about Marvel counting paper clips every month, and really that’s only a small exaggeration. We wanted all of our employees thinking about spending every day. Marvel’s offices are spartan, because the leadership doesn’t want to waste money on accoutrements, on non-productive spending.” [Forbes.com]
After months of speculation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs this morning unveiled the iPad, a gesture-based media slate for e-books, Web browsing, video playback, applications and more. Pricing begins at $499.
At a press conference, going on now in San Francisco, Jobs described the device as “way better than a laptop, way better than a phone.”
The iPad is a thin, large-screen tablet based on the iPod Touch, and appears to function like an iPhone, allowing users to simply tap the screen to access functions, or move images with a swipe of a finger.
The iPad is a half-inch-thick, weighs just 1-1/2 pounds and boasts a 9.7-inch IPS (in-plane switching) display screen. It will be available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.
The basic 14GB version will retail for $499, much lower than many predicted. On the upper end of the scale, the 64GB iPad with WiFi and 3G will sell for $829.
In a fast-paced presentation, Jobs demonstrated the device’s use as a Web browser and movie screen, accessed iTunes, used calendar and maps applications, created email, and flipped through photo slideshows.
Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iPhone software, gave an overview of the iPad’s gaming potential before moving on to a customized app developed by The New York Times.
Programmer Steve Sprang briefly demonstrated the Brushes app, which allows users to paint on screen with brushes, swatches, eyedroppers and other tools. It will be available at launch. (Engadget describes Brushes as “very slick — probably the most impressive demo yet. A very sophisticated use of the screen real estate.”) As a commenter below points out, Brushes is the iPhone app artist Jorge Colombo used last year to paint covers for The New Yorker.
Moving on to Apple’s e-book app — called iBooks, naturally — Jobs acknowledged Amazon’s pioneering efforts. “We’re going to stand on their shoulders for this,” he said.
For its iBooks store, Apple is partnering (at least initially) with five major publishers: HarperCollins, Hatchette Book Group, MacMillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. The reader allows users to skip directly to chapters from a book’s table of contents, change fonts, view images and control the speed of animated page turns.
Apple will begin shipping iPads in the next 60 days; it’ll be an additional 30 days for the 3G models.
The conference/presentation has ended. We’ll be sure to post updates if more details emerge.
More importantly, how will Wayne’s late-Paleolithic invention of the technology — presumably in a Roy Hinkley-meets-Angust McGyver construction involving vines, iron ore and the bladder of a woolly mammoth — will alter history and the development of social networking.
My guess? It’ll result in the evolution of a species of psychically linked, multitasking beings who communicate in bursts of 140 characters or less. Also: the end of life as we know it.
Just a day after operators of The Pirate Bay announced they had shut down the site’s controversial BitTorrent tracker, a movie-industry lobbying group is accusing them of trying to pull a fast one.
On Tuesday the beleaguered website, which for the past six years had indexed torrents to facilitate often-illegal file-sharing, pulled the plug on its tracker — something operators say is no longer needed because of advances in peer-to-peer technology.
However, Wired.com’s Threat Level blog reports the Motion Picture Association, which lobbies for Hollywood overseas, claims The Pirate Bay tracker is simply operating under a new name: OpenBitTorrent, a site originally registered to Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij. (A commenter on Robot 6 pointed out the connection last month.)
For its part, OpenBitTorrent denies that it’s The Pirate Bay tracker, with a message on the website chalking up the confusion, in part, to the two using the same hosting company at one point.
The MPA isn’t buying that explanation, and has gone to court to force OpenBitTorrent’s current Internet host to stop servicing the site.
Operators of The Pirate Bay have shut down the site’s controversial BitTorrent tracker, saying that advances in technology have made it unnecessary.
Established in November 2003 in Sweden, The Pirate Bay tracked and indexed torrents, allowing users to search for and download comics, music, video games and movies uploaded (often illegally) by others. Within five years the site announced it had reached more than 25 million users.
But with new peer-to-peer technology like Distributed Hash Table (DHT) and Peer Exchange (PEX), users to longer need to access a central server to find the files they’re looking for.
“Now that the decentralized system for finding peers is so well developed, TPB has decided that there is no need to run a tracker anymore, so it will remain down!” operators wrote Tuesday on The Pirate Bay’s blog. “It’s the end of an era.”
However, it’s hardly the end of The Pirate Bay story.
While the tracker is gone, the site will continue to index torrents. Then there’s the matter of the four Pirate Bay founders, who still face a year in prison and a combined $4.4 million in damages to movie studios and record labels for facilitating copyright infringement.
And in a delightfully absurd aside, Wired.com’s Threat Level blog reports that Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde has objected to a plan by a Swedish retailer to register the site’s iconic sailing-ship logo — it’s been adrift in the public domain since its creation — and use it to sell USB drives.
Yes, he intended to pirate the pirates. And the pirate didn’t like it one bit.
After Sunde complained to Sweden’s Patent and Registration Office, the retailer withdrew his registration.
The 2009 San Diego Comic-Con is less than a month away, with preview night kicking things off on Wednesday, July 22. If you are a publisher, creator, retailer or any other kind of exhibitor who would like to let folks know about any special plans you have for the show (panels, signing schedules, exclusives, debuts, etc.) drop me an email and I’ll run it here.
“Limited to an edition of 150 pieces, this print depicts the heroes and villains of this steampunk comic,” Davis said over email. “Available only at the Steam Crow booth #4207, it measures 12 x 18 inches, and is printed on satin matte paper. A similar exclusive print sold out in about an hour at the 2009 Emerald City Comicon.”
Signed and numbered by the artist, the print will sell for $20.
In the video below, Dave Gibbons shows you how he made a digital image of Rorschach using his computer, Manga Studio and a Wacom Cintiq tablet. Now let’s see you try this at home. (via)
“You still represent the dominant sales force of graphic fiction,” Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley told members of the direct-market trade organization.
Webcomics | Chickenhare creator Chris Grine has decided that since Dark Horse isn’t interested in publishing a third graphic novel, he’ll take the series online beginning this fall.
Digital publishing | Marvel has announced it will launch The Spectacular Spider-Girl as a digital comic beginning April 15. The initial story will debut at the Marvel Digital Comics website, and then appear in print two weeks later in Amazing Spider-Man Family #5.
The video game site Kotaku is reporting on a new survey on the PlayStation Network is asking gamers what they think of digital comics and downloading graphic novels to Sony’s handheld PlayStation Portable console.
The survey asked about price points, subscriptions, sharing comics and Memory Stick sizes.
The comic prices ranged from .99 cents to $2.99 per issue with up to 30 percent price breaks if you buy a dozen. Graphic novels ranged from $4.99 to $19.99 and mange was $4.99 to $14.99. The monthly access plans ranged from about $7 to $15.
Kotaku seems to think this might have something to do with a rumored PSP revamp. Regardless, it seems as though Sony is trying to offer the console as a serious comics alternative to the iPhone, Kindle and other hoity-toity gadgets. Anyone want to bet on its chances?