Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52′s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]
Viz Media has been busy snapping up licenses for its VizKids imprint, and now has announced a new one: a series of Ben 10 Omniverse graphic novels that will tie in with the Cartoon Network show.
Ben 10 Omniverse is the fourth iteration of the Ben 10 cartoon created by four comics writers (Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle), beginning as the story of 10-year-old Ben Tennyson, who changes into different types of aliens with the help of a device called the Omnnitrix. In Ben 10 Omniverse, Ben is now 15 and has a new Omnitrix that transforms him into different creatures. His Grandpa Max pairs him up with a rookie plumber named Rook (who’s “highly skilled with his Proto-Tool, but lacks any field experience,” according to the press release) to explore an alien city and stay one step ahead of the bad guys who are in hot pursuit. If this is making you feel a little lost, here’s some good news: Cartoon Network is having a “Ben 10 Bootcamp” this weekend, with 17 hours of Ben 10 programming so everyone can catch up.
Continuing the expansion of its Viz Kids imprint, manga publisher Viz Media this morning launched sticky DOT comics, a free kids’ digital comics app for the Apple iPad and iPad mini.
Developed by Viz Media, the app allows readers to securely browse and download a range of manga and graphic novels, from Pokémon and Mameshiba to Redakai and Voltron Force.
Launch titles include Pokémon Adventures, Pokémon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl/Platinum, Pokémon Black and White, Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure!, Mameshiba: On the Loose!, Little Miss Sunshine: Here Comics the Sun!, Mr. Strong: Good Thing I Came Along!, Redakai and Voltron Force. Available for download in the United States and Canada, volumes are priced between $2.99 and $3.99. New titles and volumes, along with free previews, will be added frequently.
Digital comics | The manga publisher Viz Media has signed on to iVerse’s digital comics app for libraries; this is big news, because manga, especially Viz’s teen-friendly line, is still very popular in libraries. [press release]
Publishing | In his address last weekend to the ComicsPRO annual meeting in Atlanta, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson urged the audience to continue asking “What’s next?” [Comics Alliance]
Retailing | Journalist and retailer Matthew Price wraps up the ComicsPRO meeting, noting Diamond’s report of a healthy year for comics retailers, with comics sales up 16 percent, graphic novels up 13 percent, and merchandise up 9 percent from last year. [The Oklahoman]
Viz Media will release three new Pokémon manga titles as part of its Viz Kids imprint, beginning next week with the debut of the tie-in to Pokémon the Movie: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice. That will be followed in July by Pokémon Adventures: Black & White and in August by Pokémon Adventures: HeartGold and SoulSilver.
“From the exciting release of the tie-in manga to the latest feature film, Pokémon the Movie: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice, to the debut of the new Pokémon Adventures: HeartGold and SoulSilver manga series and the publication of a new edition of the critically acclaimed Pokémon Adventures: Black & Whiteseries, there will be plenty of imaginative adventures to look forward to throughout the spring and summer,” Beth Kawasaki, Viz Media’s senior editorial director, said in a statement.
Publishing | This wrap-up of the third annual India Comic Con, which drew an estimated 50,000 attendees (up from 15,000 last year), doubles as a snapshot of that country’s $22 million comics industry. The growth of the market is attributed in large part to the rise of graphic novels, which are luring young-adult readers. [The Times of India]
Comics | Writing for The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky weighs in on the backlash over DC Comics hiring Orson Scott Card in an article titled “The Real Reason to Fear a Homophobe Writing a Superman Comic”: “It’s disturbing to have Orson Scott Card writing Superman, then, in part because Superman is supergood, and the supergood shouldn’t hate gay people. But it’s also disturbing, perhaps, because Superman is a violent vigilante — and because violent vigilantism in the name of good is often directed not against injustice, but against the powerless.” [The Atlantic]
Viz Media has inked a deal with “global lifestyle brand” Sanrio to publish a series of original Hello Kitty graphic novels, as well as a special-edition comic that will debut in July at Comic-Con International.
The single-volume comic will feature a cover by Eisner-nominated artist Jacob Chabot, with interior art by Victoria Maderna, Ian McGinty and Chabot. That will be followed in the fall by the release of Here We Go!, a collection of stories about Hello Kitty’s world travels and the first volume in the main graphic novel series.
Festivals | The Angoulême International Comics Festival has opened in Angoulême, France, and that’s where all the cool kids are. Bart Beaty surveys the scene for the rest of us; the president of this year’s show is Jean-C Denis (last year it was Art Spiegelman), and there will be an exhibit of his work, but Beaty says the big draw will be the exhibit of work by Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix. [The Comics Reporter]
Editorial cartoons | Rupert Murdoch has apologized, on Twitter, for an editorial cartoon by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times that depicted Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu bricking Palestinians into a wall with blood-red mortar. Many commentators were concerned that the cartoon, which Scarfe intended as a commentary on the recent elections in Israel, came too close to old anti-Semitic blood libel. Making things worse, the cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day. [The Guardian]
Publishing | The X-Files is in the headline, but this interview with IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall covers a lot of ground, including the logistics of continuing a defunct TV franchise as a comic, the standouts among IDW’s young creators, and the challenges of being a comics writer. [Hero Complex]
Publishing | Alvin Lu has left his position as executive vice president of the manga publisher Viz Media. Lu had been at Viz for 13 years and was one of the top executives in the company, reporting directly to CEO Hidemi Fukuhara. [ICv2]
Comics | The graphic novel Metro, once banned in Egypt, is available in Cairo once more. [The Comics Reporter]
Digital comics | Today, Viz Media marks the first anniversary of the launch of its digital magazine by changing its name from Shonen Jump Alpha to Weekly Shonen Jump (the same as its Japanese counterpart) and going to simultaneous release of most series with Japan as well. Editor-in-Chief Andy Nakatani talks about the changes as well and looks back at how the magazine has done in the year since it changed from a print monthly to a digital weekly. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The U.K. children’s comic The Phoenix just became available internationally with its release as an iOS app, and I interviewed Russell Willis of Panel Nine, which created the app, about the challenges involved. Panel Nine has also published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John comics, David Lloyd’s Kickback, and the works of underground cartoonist Hunt Emerson as standalone apps, and Willis has big plans for more digital indy comics in the future. [Good E-Reader]
Having reflected back on the best (and most cruelly ignored) comics of the past year, it’s time to look forward. Here are six comics I’m really excited about reading this year. As usual, my list reflects my own alt-comix/alt-manga interests/biases. So let me know in the comments what titles I’ve been such a clod as to overlook.
Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]
Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]
As we finish off Year Five of digital comics (depending on how you count things), the distribution method is positioned to bring in a continually growing sector of new readers.
comiXology, the market leader, is ending 2012 as the third highest-grossing app of the year for the iPad. That’s up from the 10th spot last year, which is even more remarkable when you consider virtually no other app made an appearance on both lists. I can’t imagine that could be accomplished strictly with purchases from direct-market customers crossing over to digital. And when you take into account that direct-market sales have also been improving, that couldn’t happen even if every reader in comics got a big raise this year and was buying both digital and print copies. Worst-case scenario, we’re winning back lapsed readers. But mixed within those two groups (current and lapsed/returning readers) has to be a third, even if only a small percentage at this time. It seems too good to be true but it’s becoming more and more likely that the elusive new reader is being reached.
As digital sales continue to grow (“getting close to 25 to 30% of print sales,” for Robert Kirkman), several elements are in place, or just about in place, that could be creating a perfect storm to increase that new readers section of the pie.
Digital comics | Comics by comiXology was the third-highest grossing app on the iPad in 2012. Last year Comics made No. 10 on the charts, and two other comiXology apps, their Marvel and DC apps, also made the Top 20. [Inside Mobile Apps]
Manga | Black Lagoon creator Rei Hiroe has announced that after a nearly two-year hiatus, he’ll resume his hit manga in January or February. The violent action/black comedy series, which centers on a team of pirates/mercenaries, is published in North America by Viz Media. [Crunchyroll]
As if the Uglydoll characters weren’t already ubiquitous, spreading from plush toys to clothing to coffee mugs, they’ll soon be appearing in graphic novels as part of Viz Media’s children’s line.
Launching this summer from the Viz Kids imprint, the Uglydoll graphic novel series “will transport readers to a diverse universe where ‘ugly’ just means unique and different, and celebrating who you are inside and out is the new beautiful. Join Wage, Babo, OX, Ice-Bat and their Uglydoll pals as they express themselves through laughs, tears, love and adventure!” Needless to say, these are all-ages books.
“Uglydoll is an iconic pop culture brand that has helped to question and redefine the very definitions of ugly and cute,” Beth Kawasaki, Viz’s senior editorial director. “Each Uglydoll is unique, and possesses its own distinctive characteristics and personalities that everyone can relate to. These adorable and highly original characters will come to life in a series of fun, and funny, adventures and are sure to find their way into the hearts of readers everywhere.”
Beginning as a character David Horvath drew on a love letter to Sun-Min Kim, the Uglydolls debuted in 2001 as hand-sewn plush toys. Since then they’ve spread virtually everywhere: There’s even an animated movie in the works from the production company behind Despicable Me.