SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
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:
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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?”
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.