We Can Be Heroes
Publishing | This may seem a little inside-baseball, but it’s actually pretty significant: Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores. This also makes for an interesting consolidation of manga distribution, as Random House also distributes Kodansha Comics (with which it has a strong business relationship) and Vertical books. [ICv2]
Comics | Superheroes may rule on television and in film, but comics continue to be a niche medium. The Associated Press reporter Melissa Rayworth talks to a comic-shop owner whose customers skulk in on the down low, an opera singer whose friends are surprised she reads comics, and Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims, who does a good job of putting things in perspective. [ABC]
DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
With Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel opening Friday, DC Entertainment has moved Superman front and center in the next phase of its “We Can Be Heroes” campaign to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa.
The “Superman Edition” on Indiegogo features an array of perks for contributors, ranging from an exclusive Superman Unchained #1 variant cover ($25) and a Jim Lee Superman lithograph ($75) to a Man of Steel poster signed by director Zack Snyder ($100) and a portfolio review with Jim Lee ($1,250).
The press release teases “once-in-a lifetime opportunities for $25,000″ and “a hometown visit by legendary DC Entertainment artist Jim Lee, who will paint larger than life, custom artwork on a 10×10 wall” — maybe they’re one and the same? — so expect many more perks to be added before the campaign’s end on July 8.
“The generosity from the fans of DC Comics during the Batman wave was outstanding and challenged us to create another wave of unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson said in a statement. “The first wave of the campaign eclipsed its initial goal of $50,000 in just three days and ultimately raised more than $150,000 in less than six weeks. We continue to be overwhelmed and appreciative of our fans who are helping to make a difference in millions of lives.”
As part of its “We Can Be Heroes” campaign to fight hunger in the Horn of Africa, DC Entertainment has kicked off an effort on Indiegogo to raise $50,000 in donations in exchange for “epic Batman stuff.”
Perks range from five Batman comic digital downloads (for a $10 contribution) to an exclusive Batman: Earth One lithograph by Gary Frank ($50) to a copy of the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game signed by creator Ed Boon ($250) to a cameo in the second volume of Batman: Earth One ($5,000). The copies of Batman and Robin #18 signed by Peter J. Tomasi have already signed out. There are even more rewards on the Indiegogo page.
The Batman-themed fundraising effort ends May 17.
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]
July’s a great time to anticipate October: football; temperatures on the brisk side; the crisp smell of falling leaves; the cold rains that somehow aren’t depressing. I also like that DC Comics seems to be settling into its own seasonal patterns, using the fall to set up a slew of new creative teams and launch big new storylines. Having all those #13 issues in the run-up to Halloween doesn’t hurt either.
Of course, now we get to judge them all harshly, based on a few sentences and a photo for each….
COMINGS AND GOINGS
John Layman and Jay Fabok come aboard Detective Comics, replacing Tony Daniel. Daniel leaves regular Bat-work after several years writing and penciling in various combinations. I was never really enthralled with his writing, which seemed content mostly to approximate what a Batman story should be; but if Detective’s sales are any indication, I am in the minority. Daniel moves over to Justice League for two issues, so that likely eases the pain.
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Today, DC Comics announced its new “We Can Be Heroes” campaign to benefit Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps for famine relief in the Horn of Africa. According to the press release, the initiative is a two-year, multimillion-dollar humanitarian campaign featuring the Justice League’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.
While the initiative was unveiled just this morning, this is not the first time comics publishers have used superheroes to help benefit charities seeking to end hunger and famine in Africa. Although organizations have been collecting donations for famine and disease relief in Africa for decades, one of the worst famines in recent memory occurred in Ethiopia in 1983-1985, which inspired the charity singles “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” from the music supergroups Band Aid and USA for Africa, respectively.
Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson picked up on the “jam piece” idea for comics: a book featuring numerous creators to raise money for East African famine relief. In 1985, Starlin pitched Marvel’s then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, who recruited Uncanny X-Men editor Ann Nocenti and writer Chris Claremont, and from there, the project continued to expand. Titled Heroes for Hope, the comic featured the X-Men in an adventure that eventually brought them to Africa, where they faced a god-like entity who feeds on human despair. In fact, Starlin details the entire process in a September 2011 blog post that includes a full list of the creative team, which included Stan Lee, John Romita Jr., Harlan Ellison, Frank Miller, Stephen King and Alan Moore.