"Gotham's" Cory Michael Smith Savors the Arrival of the Riddler
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Manga publishers have been late to the digital media party, but that’s changing fast: Today Viz Media announced its own iPad app, making it the second publisher, after Yen Press, to go digital.
Viz is basically the American arm of a Japanese company — it is co-owned by the Japanese publishers Shueisha and Shogakukan and their licensing unit Shogakukan Productions — and publishes some of the best-selling manga in the U.S., including the monster seller Naruto, so this is a significant move.
The Viz app is proprietary, as opposed to the Marvel and DC apps, which are adaptations of Comics by comiXology, and it’s iPad-only — there is no iPhone version. The app is free, and Viz is offering a free download of the first volume of Death Note for a limited time.
After that, you’ll pay. The initial lineup for the app is the first two volumes of Bleach, Death Note, Dragon Ball, Naruto and One Piece, priced at $4.99 each. That’s a good deal compared to single-issue comics, but not so far off the original prices of the manga; list price at the Viz store is $7.95 for the first 45 volumes of Naruto (and $9.99 after that), so for early volumes you’re only getting a $3 discount for buying digital. And let’s face it, Viz has already covered its costs on volumes 1 and 2 of Naruto. However, the iPad app solves a significant problem for a series that runs over 45 volumes: shelf space. It’s not so easy to find a random volume of One Piece in the bookstore, but it’s always retrievable electronically.
In his latest House of 1,000 Manga post at Anime News Network, Jason Thompson takes a long, fond look at a classic of days gone by, the 1989 manga Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga! Couched in vicious satire, the book actually has quite a few real insights, and the article will both make you laugh and teach you things. And you will never look at manga quite the same way again.
With all of next week’s Comic-Con International’s panels fully revealed, those of you who are attending are probably putting together your schedule as we speak … but don’t forget to factor in some of the cool stuff that’ll be going on on the floor. Here’s a list of stuff you can do and people you can meet at various booths, with no doubt more on the way:
• Dark Horse Comics will have Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Morgan Spurlock, Stan Sakai, Mike Mignola, Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Eric Powell, Joss Whedon, Janet & Alex Evanovich, Felicia Day and more at their booth.
• BOOM! Studios also released their booth schedule, which features appearances by Mark Waid, Claudio Sanchez, Peter David and Tad Stones, who created Darkwing Duck.
• Fantagraphics has released their booth schedule, along with a list of new books that will debut at the show. These include new volumes of their Peanuts collections, a new Prison Pit book, several Ignatz titles and Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories.
For manga and anime fans, Anime Expo is the first of the big summer cons. This year only a handful of manga publishers showed up, but all had plenty of energy and some new announcements to make. That’s probably a good snapshot of the manga industry as a whole—there are only a few players left, but the survivors are pretty robust. Anime News Network has pretty exhaustive coverage of the con, and Animanga Nation does a nice job with a more casual feel.
Out of curiousity, I looked over con coverage from previous years to see who is missing this year. Bandai, Digital Manga, Tokyopop and Viz are clearly the survivors of the manga wars, although it was touch-and-go for Tokyopop for a while. Missing from the roster are Dark Horse, Del Rey, Seven Seas, Udon, Yaoi Press, and Yen Press, all of which have appeared at AX in previous years (although not recently), and ADV Manga, Aurora, Broccoli, CMX, DrMaster, and Go! Comi, which have all shut down or at least gone dark.
I thought it would be interesting to see how AX has evolved over the years, so let’s climb into the time machine and take a look at past cons.
It looks like the first round in the scanlation wars has gone to the publishers, but appearances can be deceiving.
Shortly after several publishers announced that they had formed a coalition to fight manga piracy, a number of the most popular scan sites removed scans of series that had been licensed in the U.S. Or did they? As a blogger named Kimi-chan explained a few days ago, the site admins at two sites, Mangafox and Animea, merely disabled the links from the home page. If a user had bookmarked the series, however, the bookmark would still work, and Google searches still turn up valid links for these series.
Kimi-chan’s post has been up for about a week, and when manga blogger Deb Aoki tried the tactic with a number of Viz titles on MangaFox, she found that they truly were gone. But that made me curious about something else.
A few months ago, I downloaded an iPod app that pulls manga scans from the Onemanga database—it’s one of several free or cheap apps that do that. I opened it up for the first time since April, apparently, and it immediately updated the list of available titles. Sure enough, all the Viz manga were gone from the list. There were a scattering of Del Rey, Tokyopop, and Vertical series, though, and a number from Yen Press.
Here at What Are You Reading, we don’t let a little thing like a holiday weekend keep us from our comics, no sir. Nor do we stop blogging about them.
• The great and all-powerful Ng Suat Tong provides one of the most comprehensive and detailed critiques of Asterios Polyp I’ve seen online yet. Seriously, Tong’s one of the finest critics comics have ever had. The fact that he’s writing again, even if it’s just a one-time thing, is cause for joy.
• Frank Santoro reviews issues #1-4 of Richard Sala’s Ignatz series, Delphine: “The story surrounded me and carried me away to a very real world. It’s a cartooned, exaggerated world, but a real world nonetheless.”
• Johanna Draper Carlson reads a whole lotta vampire manga.
• Similar to our Collect This Now feature is David Welsh’s License Request Day, where he picks manga that haven’t been translated yet, but should. This week he recommends something called Paros No Ken.
• It’s been up for a few days now, but I have to point an arrow towards Katherine Dac’s review of Children of the Sea, which is one of the best takes on the book yet.
Creators | Re-Evolution creator Gus Higuera dropped us a note and some artwork about being at the con and the warp-up of season one of Re-Evolution at Zuda:
“It’s hard to believe a year has already passed since we competed in last year’s Zuda Invitational. We would like to thank Zuda and all our supporters for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a part of DC Comics and letting us tell our story. For those of you visiting San Diego Comic Con, stop by and say hello to me and Re-Evolution’s artist Juan Felipe Salcedo at the Zuda section of the DC Comics booth Thurs. – Sat. from 11:00AM-11:30AM and all weekend in booth #5335 in the Indy Press section. We have tons of free stuff for our fans in celebration of the end of our first Season. We would also like to invite all our supporters to send Zuda feedback to bring us back for a Season 2. http://www.zudacomics.com/feedback. Don’t forgot to also follow us via Twitter during Zuda’s virtual con under the #zudacon tag. Thanks once again and see you in San Diego. Viva La Re-Evolution!” –Gus Higuera
Fandom | If you can’t go to the con this year, you can live vicariously through Mighty Mugg Spidey. (Via)
Creators | Steve Epting, Michael Ryan and Christina Strain will be at The Palm Restaurant at 615 J Street in San Diego tomorrow at noon to add some artwork to an ongoing Marvel character mural at the restaurant.
Manga | What’s Tokyopop up to at the show? Glad you asked.
Manga | Viz is there, too.
Creators | Stan Sakai has “under construction” pictures from the showroom floor on Tuesday.
Welcome to another edition of Send Us Your Shelf Porn, Our special Guest this week is Rickey Purdin, who works as a Representative — Marketing Publications at DC. You may also know him from his previous stint as Entertainment Editor at Wizard Magazine, or via one of his two blogs.
Remember, we here at Shelf Porn can’t do it alone. We need your help. If you love feasting your eyes on the bookshelves of others, then take the time to consider a donation of your own. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about donating your pictures to Shelf Porn, but have just been too busy. Or tired. Well, there’s never been a better time than today! Just email your photos to cmautnerATcomcastDOTnet and we’ll send you absolutely nothing except for our thanks. Oh, and we’ll post your pictures here for everyone to see.
Speaking of which, let’s take a look at Rickey’s collection. What have you got to say about this stuff sir?
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading, where we glance over at our bedtables, pick up a comic or two and wave them about in the air in front of your face.
To find out what Tucker and everyone else is currently reading, click on the link below. Go man, go!
On Sunday Kevin revealed Viz’s plans for the fall, which included the release of Taiyo Matsumoto’s highly regarded GoGoMonster. Viz, of course, has a number of other titles in the pipeline, including one other book I felt warranted a bit more attention: What A Wonderful World by Inio Asano.
Asano is best known over here for the manga Solanin, a done-in-one collection about aimless twentysomethings that came out from Viz last year. That book won a number of accolades, though I found it to be a decent if rather flawed and at times awkwardly sentimental manga.
I’m excited for World, however, because from what I hear it’s more representative of Adano’s later, mature work, incorporating magical realism with a more . The manga has been available via scantillation for a few years now. it’s won a number of fans, including TCJ’s Dirk Deppey, who included it in his Best of 2007 round-up. I’m going to be a jerk and post Dirk’s entire comments on the series here: