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.
Digital comics | I talked to Viz Media Executive Vice President Alvin Lu and the head of Viz Labs, Gagan Singh, about the company’s digital strategy, which includes the recent announcement that their digital magazine Shonen Jump Alpha will publish manga chapters simultaneously with Japan; the idea, Lu explains is to create the same sort of weekly ritual that superhero comics readers have, and to use the digital releases to build a community both online and in the real world. [Good E-Reader]
Creators | Fantastic Four was the first Marvel Universe comic, so it has been around for a while, but writer Matt Fraction is doing his best to keep it fresh: “Anything you can do to run contrary-wise to expectation to keep people guessing and wondering and entertained and surprised, you should do because otherwise people are going to dismiss the book as ‘Been there, read that.’” [USA Today]
Viz Media will at last synchronize the content on its digital anthology Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha with Japanese releases, beginning with the Jan. 21 issue. Fans had long been frustrated that the North American edition lagged behind its Japanese counterpart by as much as two weeks, and featured fewer series.
“North American fans have been waiting for a long time for real-time publishing to synchronize with Japan, and it’s about to happen in Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha,” Alvin Lu, Viz Media’s executive vice president of publishing, said in a statement. “A robust Viz Manga digital infrastructure, combined with our close relationship with Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan allows us to close the gap in release schedules.”
Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will feature new installments of Bleach, Cross Manage, Naruto, Nisekoi, One Piece and Toriko on the same day as their general release in Japan. Monthly titles like Blue Exorcist, Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal will debut the Monday following their Japanese release.
Viz also will add more titles to the lineup, beginning today with Nisekoi, Naoshi Komi’s romantic comedy described as a “laugh-out-loud feel-good manga series.”
Legal | The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments today on whether a negotiated 2001 deal DC Comics should prevent the daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel from reclaiming his portion of the rights to the Man of Steel under a provision of U.S. copyright law. A federal judge determined in 2008 and 2009 that the writer’s heirs had successfully recaptured the copyright, asserting that because the 2001 agreement hadn’t been formalized, there was no deal. The appeals court is also set to review a ruling allowing DC to sue Marc Toberoff, who represents both the Siegel family and the estate of his collaborator Joe Shuster, for interfering with its agreements with the heirs. [Business Week]
Creators | Collaborators Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher talk about the latest Valiant relaunch, Shadowman. [USA Today]
Creators | John Ostrander, who writes several Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, gives his take on Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. [ComicMix]
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I only had $15, I’d walk out a happy camper despite only having one book, because that book is 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22 (Viz, $12.99). While your typical American comics fan may have no idea who Naoki Urasawa is, he is in my mind undoubtedly the best cartoonist working today. Twenty-two books in and he hasn’t let up, delivering comics’ example of long-run storytelling perfection a la Sopranos. Friend is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve seen in comics in some time, and the mad assemblage of childhood pals out to stop him are some of my most treasured fictional friends.
If I had $30, I’d come back to comic stores on an American tip, starting off with Godzilla: Half Century War #2 (IDW Publishing, $3.99) by James Stokoe. I missed this when the first issue came out, but since then I’ve found it and relished its pure cartooning chaos. The first issue was an ideal debut, and I’m interested to see Stokoe take Lt. Murakami to Vietman in the ’60s for the ongoing war on Godzilla. After that I’d get the satisfying chunk, Dark Horse Presents #16 (Dark Horse, $7.99). I’ve been repeating the same praises every month, so let me try to spin it differently. This new issue, I have little idea what’s in it besides the return of Crime Doesn’t Pay; there’s a new series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray in it I have heard nothing about, but DHP has re-built its track record of excellence and I’m fine spending $7.99 sight unseen. My final pick would be Daredevil #18 (Marvel, 2.99). Chris Samnee is quite different than the original artists on the book, but is excelling with Mark Waid in a new way — and that’s good. Instead of aping what had gone before, Samnee assuredly gives us his own style that would make any true fan of art in comics smile.
Oh ,wait, I found some money. I know, I’ll buy Memorial, Vol. 1 (IDW, $24.99). I missed this in singles, and this hardcover looks like the perfect chance to me to make up for past mistakes. These covers by Michael WM Kaluta really get my heart beating, and I’ve been wanting to read more of Chris Roberson on his own. The preview on IDW’s website gives me the impression it’s got down-to-earth personality amidst a fantasy world, and reminds me of classic supernatural fiction like A Wrinkle in Time or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. Michael, Graeme, and Chris Arrant have each picked the five new comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a Top 15 of the best new comics coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Golden Age of DC Comics: 1935-1956 HC (Taschen, $59.95): If you were as jealous of everyone who could afford the mammoth 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Myth-Making from a couple of years ago as I was, here’s some great news; Taschen is reissuing the material in a series of different (cheaper) volumes, reworked and expanded with new art and commentary by Paul Levitz. The next in the series, covering the Silver Age, is the one I’ll really covet, but you know that this will be awesome.
Julio’s Day HC (Fantagraphics Books, $19.99): Continuing my education in all things Love and Rockets, this never-collected Gilbert Hernandez strip from the second series of L&R is one of those things that goes on my “Want” list almost as soon as I discovered it existed.
Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1 (of 4) (Image Comics, $3.99): I’ve been waiting for more Multiple Warheads since Oni Press put out the first issue a few years back. Now that I know it’s 48 pages for just $3.99 and in color, it seems worth the wait. Brandon Graham is an amazing talent.
Sailor Twain HC (First Second, $24.99): I dropped off Mark Siegel’s amazing webcomic online fairly early, promising myself that I’d get the inevitable collected edition when it was all done and read it in one sitting. I’m glad it’s finally here.
The Zaucer of Zilk #1 (of 2) (IDW Publishing, $3.99): Without doubt, my favorite superhero comic in years – I read it in its 2000AD incarnation – I am overjoyed to see this get a US release like this. Hopefully, everyone will read it and realize just how great Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing are, leading to all manner of zequels (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on the retailer lunch at Comic-Con International, where spirits were running high after an exceptionally good year, with sales up 13 percent over 2011. Retailers shared success stories, Diamond Comic Distributors offered incentives for new businesses, and MacDonald pulled out an interestingly eclectic list of titles that are spurring sales, including The Walking Dead, Saga, and Jeffrey Brown’s cat cartoons and Vader and Son. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | ICv2 talks to the Viz Media executives about a range of topics, including the stabilization of the manga market, new interest from comics retailers, the shift to digital, and an uptick in the popularity of shoujo (girls’) manga. [ICv2]
Comic-Con International organizers have released the programming schedule for Thursday, July 12, the first full day of the San Diego convention. It’s a day that includes the final Twilight presentation — it’s the first event in Hall H, so no squatters! — and plenty of comics panels.
The programming include panels from IDW Publishing, Image, Bongo Comics, Marvel, DC Comics and Viz Media, a Malibu Comics retrospective, a conversation with The Walking Dead creators Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, spotlights on Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, Geof Darrow and Bill Amend, and a look at the depictions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters in comics.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule.
Comics | A near-mint copy of 1940′s Batman #1, which marks the first appearances of the Joker and Catwoman, sold this week for $850,000 — a record for that issue — in a private transaction arranged by Heritage Auctions. The seller purchased the comic just two years ago for $315,000. [CNN]
Publishing | Cory Casoni is leaving his position as director of marketing for Oni Press for a position with NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. as the head of marketing for ShiftyLook comics. Thomas Shimmin and Amber LaPraim, who joined Oni earlier this year, are taking joint positions as marketing coordinators. [press release]
Creators | Alison Bechdel discusses her family, her psyche, and the challenges of drawing a memoir that’s set in therapy sessions: “I watched all the episodes of “In Treatment” at one point, to see how they managed to make two people sitting in a room so very dramatic. And it was basically just good writing and good acting. So that gave me the hope that I could pull this story off without adding a car chase or an explosion. Though there is a kind of a car chase, now that I think of it, when a Sunbeam bread truck almost runs me off the road. My story also goes in and out of other texts — movies, psychoanalytic papers, children’s books — which creates some more overt visual excitement. And I use a dream to begin each chapter. I know you’re not supposed to write about your dreams, but the dreams have a dramatic sweep that everyday life doesn’t.” [The New York Times]