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Comics A.M. | Vatican newspaper decries limits on Tintin in the Congo

Tintin in the Congo

Comics | Calling Tintin a “Catholic hero,” the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano took strong exception to the decision by U.K. publisher Egmont to sell the controversial Tintin in the Congo with a protective band around it — or, as the paper says, “wrapped up like a pornographic magazine and consigned to the adults-only section” of bookstores because of its portrayal of racial stereotypes. If you’re going to do that, the editorial argues, why not ban Boy Scouts, which were founded by notorious eugenicist Anthony Baden-Powell? “But then, he was English,” the paper snidely concludes. [Agence France-Presse]

Digital | ComiXology confirmed Tuesday that the Comics by Comixology app will be available for Amazon’s Kindle Fire when it goes on sale next week. ComiXology CEO David Steinberger said the company is prepared for the smaller screen size the Fire has, compared to the iPad: “Ah, well we’re lucky there, because our Guided View reading technology was designed first for a very small device — the iPhone — long before tablets became the norm. A great comics reading experience is one of the core reasons we’re so successful, and it translates great to all devices, from small to large. The Comics by comiXology reading experience is the same on all platforms, so it’s going to be very familiar to our fans. You can toggle in and out of Guided View with a simple double-tap. The Fire has a great screen, and for those pages that have lettering a little too hard to read, Guided View is a fun way to get in there and see the details.” [Chicago Sun Times]

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NYCC hangover | A round-up of additional news from the show

Age of Apocalypse

News and reports from the New York Comic Con rolled out even after the lights were turned off on Sunday; here are a few of them, as well as some tidbits we missed the first time around:

• Marvel announced an ongoing Age of Apocalypse series by David Lapham and Roberto De La Torre, spinning out of the current “Dark Angel Saga” storyline in Uncanny X-Force. [CBR]

• Designer Chip Kidd is writing a Batman book called Batman: Death by Design with art by Dave Taylor. It’s due out next summer. [ComicsAlliance]

• USA Today spotlighted Captain Brooklyn, due next May from Jimmy Palmiotti, Frank Tieri and Amanda Conner. The three-issue miniseries will be published by Image Comics. [USA Today]

• Following the convention, Marvel has released pages from the Prep & Landing story that will appear in a few of their upcoming November comics. [CBR]

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NYCC | Viz Media goes digital with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha

Viz Media announced at the New York Comic Con this weekend that they plan to phase out the print edition of Shonen Jump magazine and replace it with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital publication offered through their website and their various iOS Viz Manga applications.

Accoridng to the press release, Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will feature serializations of Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece and other manga “only two weeks after it debuts in Japan’s massively popular Weekly Shonen Jump Magazine. Currently, Japanese releases are often several months to years ahead of North American print titles; Weekly SJ Alpha eliminates the delay in unprecedented fashion.” To help North American readers catch up, they plan to release “a limited collection of digital graphic novel speed-ups” that will bring readers up-to-date with Japanese releases.

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will kick off Jan. 30, and fans can either purchase an annual membership that provides access to 48 weekly issues for 52 weeks for just $25.99, or can “rent” issues for 99 cents for four weeks of access. The last print issue of the North American Shonen Jump magazine will come out in March.

“Simultaneously publishing an official translation of the most popular comics magazine in the world has been a dream since manga publishing began in North America in the 1980s,” said Alvin Lu, senior vice president and general manager. “This is how manga is meant to be read in English–weekly, current, authorized and on the go. Now with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, it’s about to happen for real.”

Check out the full press release after the jump.

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SDCC ’11 | Viz Media announces online manga site

Viz Media announced the launch of their online manga site, VIZManga.com, at their 25th anniversary party in San Diego last night. The site syncs with their iPad and iPhone apps, so users can buy the manga on one platform and read it on all three, and it is also compatible with Android devices. As with the iOS apps, the manga is priced at $4.99 per volume, but Viz is offering 40% off all volume 1’s through July 31 to get people started. In addition, the first chapter of every manga is available as a free preview. Viz has been aggressive with their digital strategy, so the new site launches with over 300 volumes comprising more than 40 series, and some, such as Bakuman, are up to date with the print releases.

SDCC ’11 | Square Enix: First volume is on us

Square Enix is a Japanese publisher of manga and video games. It licenses print manga (including such high-profile titles as Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler) to Viz Media and Yen Press, and last year launched an online manga site that carries both those titles and 13 others. However, several reviewers (myself included) found the price of $5.99 per volume (in a streaming-only, no download format) to be a bit on the high side.

From now through Aug. 10, however, Square Enix is offering the first volume of any of its 15 series for free to readers who “Like” the company’s Facebook page or get a special URL at SDCC.

There are a lot of caveats to this: The offer is open to residents of North America only (“Regional eligibility will be determined by MindMax® geolocation services,” says the press release, which sounds a little ominous). You’re also going to have sign up for a Square Enix account and download its proprietary reader. The press release seems to say you have to have a Windows computer to use the reader, but I managed to make it work on my Mac.

Obviously, the Square Enix folks are trying to get people to sign on with their sites. Their registration process is pretty cumbersome; I signed up a few weeks ago and I counted five separate registration processes, including creating two passwords, before I could buy a book in their store and read it on my computer. Offering a free volume may make readers a bit more patient with the process, though. I’m curious to hear what other people think, so if you take them up on the offer, feel free to drop back here and comment on how you liked it.

Castle graphic novel by Bendis, DeConnick, Medina on the way

Publishers try to keep new projects under wraps, but there’s a whole cottage industry out there of folks who look through the Amazon listings for new books. The latest one, spotted by Albert Ching of Blog@Newsarama: A listing for Castle: Deadly Storm, by Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Lan Medina. Albert goes out on a fairly short limb and guesses that this is a graphic novel (Medina is listed as the illustrator) based on the ABC series Castle, and indeed, the Hachette Book Group International catalog confirms this—check out page 65. Quick plot summary: This “adaptation” of Derrick Storm’s first novel adventure takes our hero from the gritty world of the private eye all the way to the globe-hopping intrigue of the CIA.” The book is hardcover, 112 pages, full color priced at $19.99 (already discounted to $13.59 on Amazon) and published by Marvel.

Manga blogger Lissa Pattillo has spotted a few more finds on Amazon.ca (Lissa is Canadian, so all prices are in Canadian dollars, but it looks like the U.S. prices are almost the same): a Fullmetal Alchemist box set that includes all 27 volumes of the manga, a novel, and other extras, all for $219 (discounted to $137.93) and due out in November, and an omnibus edition of Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo, 880 pages of Tezuka goodness for $29.95 $23.32.

Viz announces kids’ titles—and goes global

Viz, the largest publisher of manga in the U.S., announced five new additions to its Viz Kids line yesterday, and they quietly added a twist: Several of the new series are not coming from Japan.

This is news because Viz is really a Japanese company operating in the U.S.; its parent companies are the Japanese publishers Shueisha and Shogakukan and their joint licensing company, Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions. Naturally, Viz has always focused on Japanese manga, and when every other manga publisher in the U.S. started publishing global (non-Japanese) titles, Viz announced its willingness but hung back.

The new Viz lineup changes all that. The press release lists four graphic novels, and three are created specifically for Viz:

Mameshiba on the Loose!, a graphic novel featuring Mameshiba, creatures that are a cross between a bean and a dog. While Mameshiba are popular in Japan (and, like Domo-kun, not necessarily a children’s product), Viz’s graphic novel is a homegrown effort; the Amazon page lists James Turner as the writer and Jorge Monlongo and Gemma Correll as the artists.

Mr. Men and Little Miss: The Japanese do love their adorable, rounded, anthropomorphic creatures, but Mr. Men and Little Miss were created by British author Roger Hargreaves and have a huge fandom in the U.S. and Europe. Why did Viz choose these? Maybe because there’s an animated film in the works, maybe because they are just so awesome. Expect to see Little Miss Sunshine, Mr. Bump, Mr. Strong and Little Miss Daredevil books pop up next spring.

Voltron Force: This is a straight-up tie-in with the Nickelodeon animated series of the same name, which in turn is an updated version of the 1980s cartoon Voltron. I know someone out there is going to be made very happy by this. I couldn’t possibly describe it any better than whoever wrote the press release:

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Viz offers March markdowns on digital manga

Viz Media has put itself in the vanguard of manga publishers by being the first to offer its own iPad app. And Viz didn’t just launch it and forget it, either — the company has been aggressive about putting new series and volumes onto it. Throughout March, the publisher is offering the first volume of each series for free. That’s a great deal for readers — about 200 pages of story for the same price you would pay for a 32-page American comic — and it’s also smart on Viz’s part, because the thing about manga is that you can’t read just one. The publisher is gambling that those cheap first volumes will be the gateway drug for readers.

All the manga in the app are from the Shonen Jump, Shonen Jump Advanced, and Shojo Beat lines, teen-friendly titles that fall into familiar genres: Naruto, Vampire Knight, Bleach, as well as some newer and lesser-known titles such as Natsume’s Book of Friends and Captive Hearts.

When you think about it, this isn’t that different from what Viz does with its Shonen Sunday and SigIKKI imprints: It puts up chapters for free on the web, then takes them down when the print volume comes up — but leaves the first chapter of each volume up as a free sample.

Comic Industry Job Board

In the wide world of comics there’s always a needed for talented people — and not just for creating the comics. The comics you read everyday are supported by an immense infrastructure of editors, publishers, designers, distributors and retailers that make American comics what it is today. And despite the frail economy, the comics industry is always looking for employees.

We’ve compiled a list of all the openings in the comics industry for non-creative office positions and put it all into one place. It’s a good resource if you’re looking to work in comics, and also for armchair speculators seeing what companies are looking to do by seeing what positions they’re hiring for. We accumulated these by looking on publisher websites and job boards — if you know of a job not listed here, let us know!

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Happy birthday, Pokémon!

Anime News Network notes that yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the release of the first Pokémon game, Pokémon Red and Green. That game gave rise to a whole series of other games, as well as four anime series, numerous manga series, feature films, and even chapter books. (The chapter books presented a unique challenge for the authors, who had to somehow allow the Pokémon to express complex thoughts and emotions with a one-word vocabulary: their names.)

It also helped shape the manga industry as we know it today. A few years ago I talked to manga translator and scholar Matt Thorn, who was a freelance translator for Viz in their early days. Thorn described the atmosphere as “laid-back” and the company itself as having only three employees, including the president, Seiji Horibuchi. “For [parent company] Shogakukan, it was almost a vanity project,” he said. “They didn’t expect it to make money.”

And then Pokémon came along. Recalls Matt,

One day, I got a call from Shogakukan Productions. They said, “We’re going to try to promote Pokemon in the U.S., and we’d like you to help.” I said, “I’d love to, but I’m really busy these days, so I’m afraid I can’t. And to be honest, I don’t think Pokemon will fly in America.”

Despite Matt’s misgivings, of course, Pokémon went on to become a media phenomenon in the States, and Viz is now the largest manga publisher in the business, thanks at least in part to that initial burst of energy from Pikachu and his pals.

Viz adds two more shoujo series to its iPad app

When Viz Media first rolled out their iPad app, I was rather critical because they launched with their most popular properties, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, and early volumes of both are as common as dirt—why would anyone pay $4.99 for something they can get for free from their local library, Paperback Swap, or their best friend’s older brother?

I should have held my fire, because since then, Viz has been aggressive in rolling out new series and volumes on the app. They are launching two more series on the iPad this month, Merupuri and Natsume’s Book of Friends, which brings the total number of series to 15, and they have posted the first seven volumes of those launch series, which is great—volume 7 of Naruto is a lot harder to find than volume 1.

The app still focuses on series with a lot of teen appeal, mostly if not entirely from their Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat lines. That part still seems questionable—how many teenagers have iPads? On the other hand, plenty of parents have iPads, and mine gets passed around quite a bit in my house, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

Given their propensity for branding, it’s possible that Viz will release manga for older readers as a separate app—they are currently publishing manga online at their Shonen Sunday and SigIKKI sites, so apps tied to those imprints would be logical extensions of the brand. What I would really like to see, though, is a Viz Signature app gathering works by Naoki Urasawa (Pluto, 20th Century Boys), Fumi Yoshinaga (Ooku: The Inner Chamber, All My Darling Daughters), Natsume Ono (Gente, Ristorante Paradiso), and other more literary manga for grownups. It seems to me that the overlap between iPad owners and potential readers of those comics would be pretty large, so it could help them find a new audience—if the grownups can get the iPads away from the teenagers.

2010: The year in piracy

If this was the year that publishers started taking legitimate digital comics seriously, it was also the year they started taking bootleg digital comics seriously. A group of American publishers banded together to take down HTMLComics.com, while American and Japanese publishers banded together to target bootleg manga scan sites. Six months later, HTMLComics.com is still down (and likely to stay that way, as the authorities have confiscated their servers), while the manga sites are back in business—in part, perhaps, because many are hosted overseas and thus out of the reach of American and Japanese authorities.

January

Kicking off a year in which piracy and creators’ rights took center stage, Colleen Doran reveals that former clients have released some of work to the Kindle and Google Books without her consent, and despite the fact that they have no right to do so.

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2010: The year in digital comics

What a difference a year makes! A year ago today, the iPad not only didn’t exist, it hadn’t been officially announced yet. People read comics on their iPhones and iPod Touches, but the screens were too small for a good experience (and therefore, no one wanted to spend much money on them). The iPad changed all that, with a big, full-color screen that is just a tad smaller than a standard comics page (and a tad larger than a standard manga page), and publishers started taking digital comics seriously. The distribution was already in place, thanks to the iPhone—comiXology, iVerse, Panelfly—and now the publishers not only jumped on board with those platforms but also started developing their own apps.

The digital comics scene is still developing, but the iPad was the game changer. For many people, it was the first time that they could comfortably read comics on a handheld screen. Now, it’s just a question of marketing—this year, publishers will grapple with bringing comics to a wider audience, outside the existing readership, and balancing the digital marketplace with the established brick-and-mortar retail structure.

Here, then, is a look back at our digital year.

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First date: Me and my iPad

So, I broke down yesterday and bought an iPad. (I got the 32 G, Wi-Fi only version, for those who care about such things.) It’s a toy, but it’s a very nice toy. The question is, will it be a good workhorse?

So far so good. I’m a good tester for products like this, as I am not particularly good with technology, and I find that moving things to multiple platforms is often more trouble than it’s worth. The guy set the iPad up for me right in the store—got the battery charged, showed me how to use it, and made sure I installed iBooks right away. I doubt I’ll ever use iBooks, because I couldn’t find any free books, but whatever, it doesn’t take up much space. With a quick sync, I had the iPad versions of several comics readers that I already had on my iPod Touch: Comics by comiXology, Comics + from iVerse, some Dark Horse stand-alone books. Somehow the Viz Manga reader appeared as well, although I don’t remember signing up. Downloads were swift and easy. When I went home, I added the iPad to my Kindle account and moved some books over there.

Interestingly, the iPod comics I already own are readable on the iPad but in the smaller iPod format, so while I haven’t gained anything, I haven’t lost anything either.

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Viz news #2: Shonen Jump adds online manga

The manga publisher Viz Media has done well with Shonen Jump: The magazine, established in 2002, has a monthly circulation of just over 200,000, which is pretty respectable, and then Viz sells the same stories all over again as graphic novels.

Now they are adding online manga to the mix: The December issue of Shonen Jump carries a full-page announcement of a new online manga service available only to subscribers to the magazine. One series, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, will run exclusively online until it is collected in graphic novel form. The site will also include “massive online previews” of two more series, Toriko and Bakuman: Subscribers can read the first four chapters just before the graphic novel comes out. The rest of the Shonen Jump series will continue in print only.

I e-mailed some questions to Viz spokesperson Jane Lui, and she forwarded them to Joel Enos, the senior editor of Shonen Jump, who provided some more details of the new package.

Brigid Alverson: How will readers subscribe to the service—do you have to be a Shonen Jump subscriber or can you get an online-only subscription?

Joel Enos: A subscription (for now) is to the magazine as a whole. When you subscribe to the magazine, you also get the access to the exclusive online content of the magazine.

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