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Comics A.M. | Publisher Filip Sablik leaves Top Cow Productions

Filip Sablik

Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]

Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]

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ECCC | A round-up of announcements from the convention

Revival

The Emerald City Comicon wrapped up yesterday in Seattle, with plenty of announcements from attending publishers. Here’s a round-up of news from the show:

• Image Comics officially announced Revival by Tim Seeley ad Mike Norton, the title we teased all last week. Seeley described the book as “rural noir,” and it is set in his home state of Wisconsin: “Both Mike and I grew up in small towns, he in Tennessee, me in Wisconsin. We both hated the towns we were from as teenagers and young adults and got the hell out,” Seeley told CBR. “But, now that we’re both older, we can look on those towns with more understanding and affection. Central Wisconsin is a really interesting place. It’s like concentrated America. It has all of the strengths and all of the weaknesses. All of the good stuff, and all of the conflicts on a more intimate scale. We thought it’d be the perfect setting for our story of a cop charged with policing the dead.”

• James Stokoe will write and draw Godzilla: Half Century War, which arrives from IDW in August. The miniseries is set in a different continuity than the Godzilla ongoing series by Duane Swierczyski and Simon Gane.

• Writer Christos Gage will team with artist Jorge Lucas for Sunset, an original graphic novel from Top Cow’s Minotaur Press. The story revolves around a retired Vegas mob enforcer.

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Comics A.M. | Frustrated Dean Haspiel declares ‘Make Mine Me!’

Dean Haspiel's "Make Mine Me"

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]

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Comics A.M. | Ryan Matheson speaks on Canadian manga case

From a CBLDF campaign

Legal | Ryan Matheson, who was stopped at the Canadian border in 2010 and charged with criminal possession of child pornography because of a manga image on his computer (which even the officials who arrested him couldn’t agree was child pornography), talks about his ordeal in a personal statement on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund site. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced Thursday that the Canadian government has dropped all criminal charges against Matheson. [CBLDF]

Comics | Leah Moore sees two things: a huge number of women who like comics, and a comics industry that is in serious trouble, and thinks it’s time to connect the dots and start making comics that appeal to the other 50% of the audience. “Okay, well, let’s say, instead of jumping in and writing comics designed to attract women readers (Minx comics discovered this is harder than it looks), how’s about writing comics which don’t actually put women off? How’s about a bit less objectifying, a bit less sexualisation, a bit less pervy gusset shots and tit windows? Just a bit? Make some of the regular mainstream big name books everyone enjoys reading a bit less eyewatering and weird about women. That would be a great start.” [Warren Ellis]

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Comics A.M. | Disney working to bring Marvel heroes to theme parks

Disney and Marvel

Theme parks | Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company has begun preliminary design work that will pave the way for Marvel superheroes to one day appear alongside familiar characters in Disney theme parks. Iger told shareholders attending the annual meeting Tuesday that the company has been working on some concepts, but hasn’t announced anything yet. Disney is currently developing attractions based on James Cameron’s Avatar film for its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, which are expected to be ready in 2015. [Los Angeles Times]

Comic strips | Alan Gardner counts 57 newspapers that aren’t carrying this week’s Doonesbury comics, which address a Texas law requiring women requesting an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound. But according to Universal UClick, no papers have dropped Garry Trudeau’s strip. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller discusses the Rule of Eight, which holds that independent publishers start to falter once they put out more than eight titles per month, and goes into the nuances of the theory with its originator of the idea, Marc Patten. [The Comichron]

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Top Cow offers line-wide subscription service for $15 a month

For a time, comic book subscriptions were a big part of any comic fans’ repertoire. Back when comics were available primarily on newsstands and the rare comic specialty shop, subscriptions provided by publishers promised a surefire way for fans to get every issue of their favorite comics in a timely manner, and, in most cases, at a discount. But in recent years, direct subscriptions from publishers have taken a back seat, with only Marvel and DC offering them, and only for a portion of their comics line. But now Top Cow is bringing it to their pasture in an inventive subscription plan for their entire line.

Announced on its own website TopCow.com, the California-based publisher is offering a subscription to its three core ongoing series — Witchblade, The Darkness and Artifacts – along with a surprise comic with a variant cover each month. This service is available for $15/month ($10 a month plus postage) for either 6- or 12-month increments, and would be shipped USPS First Class each month in one bundle to ensure no damage to the books.

When asked about the availability to add in mini-series and special one shots like Pilot Season to the package, Top Cow’s Filip Sablik said it’s in the works.

“We haven’t worked out the details,” the publisher explained,” but if the customer wants to order other items in a month and have them ship with their subscription, assuming they fit in the envelope, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

It’s an interesting prospect, and who knows — maybe we could see other publishers pick up on the idea.

Top Cow extends voting for Pilot Season due to website crash

Last weekend I posted about Top Cow’s website crashing in the final days of voting for this year’s Pilot Season prospects, and today we have the good news that the publisher is back online and extending voting through the end of the year. In a press release, Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik explained that the site was simply overwhelmed with more votes than the publisher anticipated.

“The number and velocity of votes completely exceeded our expectations, and this is the sort of high class problem you don’t mind solving,” Sablik explained. “All of us at Top Cow are eager to see which Pilot Season competitor emerges victorious.”

According to the press release, TopCow.com has been restored and moved over to a more substantial server with increased capacity for traffic. The first round of voting has been extended through Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific, with the top four vote-getters going on to a second round, and the top two from that to go to a final round. Stay tuned for more news on the contest as it develops.


Top Cow launches Pilot Season voting — and site crashes! (UPDATED)

Voting for Top Cow’s annual Pilot Season line of books is coming down the finish line, and from what happened earlier today we could be in for a photo finish. Checking TopCow.com this morning reveals that the site is down due to exceeding their bandwidth. The virtual voting booth is set to close on Sunday, Dec. 18, but with this delay in voting we might be seeing an extension of polling hours.

Assuming the window for voting re-opens, people will have a chance to vote for one of seven books released this year in Top Cow’s unique event.This year’s line-up was its most diverse yet in terms of story and creators, spanning sci-fi to dramatic with even some comedic moments. The seven titles are The Test, The Beauty, City of Refuge, Fleshdigger, Theory of Everything, Misdirection, Anonymous and Seraph.

Robot 6 reached out to Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik for comment, but have not heard back at the time of publication.

UPDATE: On Monday, Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik contacted Robot 6 to explain TopCow.com’s website crashing.

“Topcow.com did go down to due to our bandwidth being exceeded several times in the last week,” Sablik explains. “We’ve increased our bandwidth several times with our current host, but the intensity of voting activity exceeded even our increased bandwidth capabilities. We are currently in the process of migrating topcow.com to a new server which should provide a more stable solution to the problem. We should have an update on when the site will be back up shortly and once the site is live, we will be extending the first round of voting to compensate for the time the lost.”

Although Top Cow hasn’t revealed just how many votes it’s received yet, during the inaugural 2007 Pilot Season, they received 4.1 million votes.

“It’s just another example of how Pilot Season really engages comic fans and we’re thrilled at the passion fans are demonstrating trying to get their favorite Pilot Season title into the top 4 spots for the second round of voting. Even if it has caused some technical difficulties!”

Robot 6 will update you when TopCow.com comes back online and voting resumes.

By Blackest (Friday) Night, no bargain shall escape my sight …

If you’re like me, instead of heading out to the mall to face the hectic Black Friday crowds (some of whom are apparently armed with pepper spray), you’re sitting at home nursing a turkey hangover and looking for good deals on the internet. Here are a few places you may want to check out for your gift-giving or personal shopping needs, and if you’re up for adventuring outdoors, Bleeding Cool has a great roundup of shops holding sales today.

Blackest Friday

ComiXology has a bunch of digital comics for 99 cents today. DC Comics is holding a Blackest Friday sale, allowing you to buy each issue of the Blackest Night crossover for 99 cents each. Marvel has Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four issues on sale for 99 cents, while IDW has their Star Trek comics on sale.

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Comics A.M. | The Power Within creators land on Out’s ‘Out 100′ list

Charles Christensen and Mark Brill

Creators | Out magazine has included writer Charles “Zan” Christensen and artist Mark Brill in its 17th annual “Out 100″ list highlighting the 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of the year. Christensen and Brill are the creators of The Power Within, an anti-bullying comic book published by Northwest Press. “Inspired, or rather upset, by Tyler Clementi’s tragic death last year, the pair set out to create an empowering story of an eighth-grader picked on for being gay,” the magazine writes. Northwest Press has distributed over 700 free copies of the book to more than 50 gay-straight alliances, schools, churches, community centers and other youth organizations. [Out]

Creators | Uncanny X-Men writer Kieron Gillen considers the accessibility of the relaunched comic in light of reviews he’s read around the web, particularly the fact that some people were thrown by the X-Men living in San Francisco: “Of course, I can see the reason why it’s thrown the people … they know the X-Men live in a mansion in Westchester. That they’re not living in Westchester is the problem. It’s not about giving the information to read the story that’s there. It’s about correcting pre-existing assumptions. In other words, it’s not a problem about being accessible to new readers – because a genuinely new reader would accept the fact the X-Men live on Utopia in the same way that they except that Bilbo lives in the Shire – but rather a problem with the readers being old readers. They feel lost not because of the story on the page, but the gap between the old story in their heads and the story on the page, and wanting to know what connects the two.” [Kieron Gillen]

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Looking back at Top Cow’s previous Pilot Season contenders

One of the most innovative concepts coming out of American comic companies in recent memory has been Top Cow’s Pilot Season. Every year for five years, Top Cow has released a slate of one-shots that are voted on by fans for the possibility of getting a longer limited series down the road. Originally centered around company-owned concepts, after the first year the company expanded to include creator-owned concepts from names like Robert Kirkman, Marc Silvestri, Jonathan Hickman, Joshua Hale Fialkov and others. And with the full announcement of 2011′s titles, I thought we should look back on the previous herds of titles and where they’re at today.

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The Middle Ground #50 | The results are in!

The surprise about reading all of the comics Top Cow sent over as a result of my admission of blind prejudice wasn’t that they weren’t as bad as I’d lazily expected — I was actually expecting that, to be honest — but that I ended with realizing that I was going to have to go out and catch up on the collections of one series in particular… and it was the one I’d been expecting to like the least.

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Graphicly expands to the Nook, but apps are hard to find

Nice book... but where is it?

Barnes & Noble’s unveiled its app store for the Nook Color e-reader, yesterday, edging the $249 device even closer to being an alternative to the iPad. And Graphicly was right there at the launch with three graphic novel apps Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, Wanted, and Irredeemable.

This is not Graphicly’s fault, but the Nook Color app store is not very well organized; they have cute headings like “Explore” and “Organize” but not “Comics” or even “Read.” Plugging the titles in to the search engine gave mixed results: The Mouse Guard app turned up alongside listings for the physical books. Clicking on the title brought me straight back to the generic Nook Apps page. I couldn’t find Wanted or Irredeemable at all. Maybe if I had a Nook it would be easier, but the website should be as well organized as the built-in app store.

The bottom line is this: It’s great that Nook is getting into apps, and it’s great that Graphicly was there on Day One. But if no one can find your books, no one can buy them, and unless Barnes & Noble comes up with a better way to feature content than this—vague categories and no complete listing of all the apps—they aren’t going to move many comics.

Wowio relaunches Spacedog as digital graphic novel imprint

Wowio was a pioneer in digital comics back in the olden days, when they offered free, ad-supported digital comics. The company has been through a lot of changes since then, and the comics aren’t free any more, although they do offer a free download every month (usually a pretty good one) to readers who “like” them on Facebook. And unlike other digital distributors, they offer books in PDF and ePub format, so they are portable and can be moved from one device to another. (In other words, you can actually own these digital comics.)

Spacedog Entertainment developed comics and graphic novels that were then published by other publishers and shopped around for film development. Their properties include The Covenant and Proximity Effect (published by Top Cow), The Gift (Image), and Helen Killer (Arcana).

Now Wowio has acquired Spacedog and is relaunching it as a graphic novel imprint, starting with four previously published titles: Helen Killer, Fiction Clemens, Death Comes to Dillinger, and M.I.T.H. The comics are priced at 99 cents each, and the plan is to publish an issue a week, starting in April, and to expand the line to include other Spacedog properties, including those mentioned above.

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The Middle Ground #45 | Wherein common sense goes out the window

So, I’m a complete snob when it comes to comics. I shouldn’t be, I know this; comics are comics, and there’s no such thing as a bad idea, only ideas badly executed (Case in point: DC’s Animal Man shouldn’t have been the wonder it was under Grant Morrison’s pen, if judged purely on the “man with the animal powers discovers animal rights” high concept behind it). And yet, there are comics that I just can’t quite bring myself to read.

It’s the front page of CBR that brought this to mind, I should admit: I was looking this afternoon at what stories were on the site today, saw the link to Ron Marz talking about his plans for Top Cow’s books and had a response that was pretty much the definition of turning my metaphorical nose up in something approaching disgust. It’s an entirely unfair response, of course. For one thing, I’ve liked some of Marz’ work in the past, and for the much more important and pertinent other thing, I can’t think of a Top Cow book that I’ve even read since the first issue of Paul Dini’s Madame Mirage back in… what, 2007? So that’s four years of uninformed prejudice guiding my nose turning, instead of just reading the article.

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