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Comics A.M. | Another One Piece sales record, another cartoonist layoff

One Piece, Vol. 6

Publishing | The 60th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first four days of release. It’s the first book to move more than 2 million copies in its first week of sales since the Japanese market survey company Oricon began reporting its charts in 2008. As we reported last week, this volume’s 3.4 million-copy first printing set a record, and propelled the series past the 200 million-copy mark. [Anime News Network]

Editorial cartoons | Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies has been laid off by the Gannett-owned Journal News in White Plains, N.Y. [Comic Riffs]

Publishing | Abrams has made three comics-related promotions: Susan Van Metre to senior vice president and publisher, overseeing all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books; Charles Kochman to editorial director of Abrams ComicArts; and Chad W. Beckerman to creative director, overseeing design for all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books. [Abrams]

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Busiek offers a glimpse at The Witchlands

The Witchlands

Here’s one I’ve personally been waiting for … writer Kurt Busiek previews his The Witchlands project over on his blog, offering a look at the cover by Zachary Baldus and some of the interior art by Conner Willumsen.

The project was first announced in San Diego in 2009 at the WildStorm panel and was originally titled Kurt Busiek’s American Gothic. With WildStorm going away, he told Heidi at The Beat that it will likely be coming from somewhere else within DC.

Be sure to click on over to his blog to see Willumsen’s interior art.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Nook Color

Digital publishing | As expected, Barnes & Noble on Tuesday unveiled its Nook Color e-book reader, priced at $249. The 7-inch LCD touch tablet runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, and offers web browsing, audio and video playback, and basic games (CNET notes that Barnes & Noble is pushing the device as a “reader’s tablet”). The device ships on Nov. 19. [CNET, Salon, paidContent]

Internet | PayPal has announced its much-anticipated micropayments system, with Facebook and a number of other websites lining up behind it. PayPal describes the new product, available later this year, as an “in-context, frictionless payment solution that lets consumers pay for digital goods and content in as little as two clicks, without ever having to leave a publisher’s game, news, music, video or media site.” Scott McCloud is quick out of the gate with reaction: “This is so close, in almost every respect, to what we were asking for over a decade ago, it’s almost eerie. They’re even using the same language to describe it.” [TechCrunch]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Jonny Rench

Passings | Colorist Jonny Rench, who worked on such DC Comics and WildStorm titles as The Authority, Gen13, Human Target and Ratchet & Clank, has passed away from a heart attack. He was 28. “He was an incredibly talented artist,” the WildStorm Twitter account states, “and also an amazing, kind, joyful man.” [Twitter]

Publishing | Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Kim Thompson reveals what was believed to be a sketchbook of early versions of several years’ worth of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat strips “is almost certainly the work of a very intense (perhaps contemporary with Herriman?) fan who diligently, even maniacally, copied each new strip into his sketchbook over a period of three years.” The publisher had planned to release the sketchbook but now, of course, won’t. Refunds will be issued on pre-orders. [FLOG!]

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NYCC ’10 | DC promotes Hank Kanalz to senior VP-digital [Updated]

Hank Kanalz

Hank Kanalz, former vice president and general manager of WildStorm Productions, has been promoted to senior vice president-digital of DC Comics. He’ll oversee the new DC Digital Comics division, based in Burbank, Calif.

The news was announced this morning by DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee during the DC Nation Town Hall Panel at New York Comic Con.

The WildStorm imprint was closed last month as part of a restructuring of DC Entertainment that leaves the comics-publishing division in New York City while moving the company’s administrative and digital and multimedia functions to Burbank. Lee confirmed this morning that most of the WildStorm operations will be moved from La Jolla, Calif., to DC Digital Comics.

Kanalz joined WildStorm in 2004 from Warner Bros. Consumer Products, where he served as director of worldwide theme parks. Before that he was a line editor at Malibu Comics, and the writer of such titles as Ex-Mutants and Ultraforce.

Update: Comics Alliance reports that Kanalz also will oversee DC’s kids comics.

Update 2: DC has issued an official press release, which you can read after the break.

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Jamie McKelvie’s Gen13

With news last week that DC Entertainment is shuttering the WildStorm imprint and mothballing its characters for a while, fans came out of the woodwork to extol their favorite issues, series and characters. Artists joined in, too, with renditions of popular WS characters, but I think this is my favorite so far:

Gen13 by Jamie McKelvie

Jamie McKelvie posted it on his Flickr page. No word if this is his final pass, or he’ll ink and color it.

Talking Comics with Tim | Jeff Parker

Atlas 5

Any interview in which I can ask a question that prompts Jeff Parker to damn me is a good interview in my estimation (read on to find the “damn” moment, it’s a fun-loving damn). We initially conducted this interview before last week’s announced demise of Wildstorm, but I gave him a chance to adjust his response when discussing the likelihood of a second Mysterius miniseries. I’m sad to see Parker’s series Atlas come to an end this week with the release of Atlas 5. It’s not often that a writer gets to end a series on his own terms, and yet that’s what happened for Parker with Atlas. While the Atlas series takes its final lap, last week marked the start of Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman on the Hulk monthly (and I loved their first issue [25]).  While this interview does not cover all of Parker’s Marvel work, we definitely work in a discussion of his Thunderbolts work.

Tim O’Shea: You ended the ATLAS series on your own terms. When you wrote the final scene of the last issue was it upsetting, or was it fine, as you realize you can always find ways to work aspects of these characters into future Marvel books?

Jeff Parker: No, I was actually pretty happy as I wrote it, because I felt this was one of the most “Atlasy” of all the stories. It did its own thing and was exciting and defied expectations, which is what that book should do. I can probably have them pop up in other things, but I really prefer them in their own corner of the Marvel Universe.

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Six by 6 | Six awesome WildStorm titles

Sleeper #1

Sleeper #1

After 18 years, former Image studio and current DC Comics imprint WildStorm is shutting down this December. And as many have noted already, the house that Jim built has produced many awesome, memorable and even game-changing (to steal a phrase from Rob Liefeld) works in the last two decades.

Here are six of them that we found to be particularly awesome; let us know what we missed in the comments section.

1. Sleeper: There have been many comics that mash up superheroes with down-and-dirty genres like crime and espionage over the past decade; this may just be the best. The high concept is a gripping one: Super-spy Holden Carver is so deep undercover in an international super-criminal organization that when his one contact is placed in a coma, literally no one knows he’s secretly on the side of the angels. Carver’s predicament, the way he plays and gets played by both sides, his growing unwillingness or inability to draw the ethical lines needed to save his soul, if not his life–such is the stuff of a great crime drama. Superstar in the making Ed Brubaker brings all his talents and obsessions to the table here: his knack for crafting morally compromised characters while neither romanticizing their misdeeds nor softening them up, his recurring theme of how the secrets and sins of our pasts never truly leave us, his belief that damaged people seek out other damaged people to repair that damage, his eye for and ability to work with strong visual stylists. In this case that meant Sean Phillips, never better in his ability to believably root spectacular action and super-powers in a naturalist-noir milieu. All of this in a WildC.A.T.s spinoff, proving just how wild WildStorm was once willing to go.

Even its relatively short run redounds to its benefit: The complete story of Holden Carver is yours to own inexpensively, read easily, and ponder at your leisure. (Sean T. Collins)

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DC Entertainment plans to move or fire 80 employees amid restructuring

DC Entertainment

As many as 80 employees will be fired or relocated in the restructuring of DC Entertainment that will see part of the company’s operations move from New York City to Burbank, Calif., according to a notice filed Wednesday with the New York State Department of Labor and reported by Bloomberg.

That amounts to nearly a third of DC’s estimated 250 employees. The filing doesn’t specify how many of those positions will be firings, and how many will be moved cross-country. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that about 20 percent of the company’s staff “will lose their jobs as part of the shift,” a statement challenged by DC.

A Warner Bros. spokesman wouldn’t comment to Bloomberg on the specifics of the layoffs.

Announced on Tuesday, the reorganization leaves DC’s comics-publishing division in New York City while relocating the company’s administrative and digital and multimedia operations — including, presumably, the WildStorm offices now based in La Jolla, Calif. — to a Warner Bros.-managed property in Burbank. It was subsequently revealed that the WildStorm and Zuda imprints will close as part of the shakeup.

The labor department filing states that layoffs will begin on Dec. 27, and continue through Aug. 27, 2011, presumably the date when the move is expected to be complete.

DC executives are in the process of meeting individually with staff members to discuss their positions. “… There’s a spectrum of things that are happening for various employees – there are promotions, there are offers of relocation and unfortunately there are some layoffs to come,” DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson told Comic Book Resources on Tuesday. “Until that’s all sorted and people have had time to consider their individual opportunities and we confirm all that, which will take us a few weeks, we aren’t going to be able to discuss specifics.”

Around the web: The end of WildStorm

Planetary #21

This week brings the end of an era, as DC Entertainment announced that the WildStorm imprint is shutting down in December. That, of course, has brought a lot of commentary and remembrances around the web.

  • Both Newsarama and The Beat have round-ups of reactions from creators and former WildStorm employees. As Heidi notes in her intro, “…it isn’t just another in a long list of comics imprints that have ended over the years. It’s the end of a comics company that made history for 18 years as a vital part of several revolutions in commercial comics.” She received a comment from Rob Liefeld that really drives home how game-changing WildStorm was, noting how several prominent creators got their start under WildStorm, and how WildStorm published some of the biggest comics works of the past two decades.
  • My favorite piece on WildStorm is probably Andy Khouri’s essay on ComicsAlliance, where he talks about the generation of comic fans who have grown up with WildStorm (and Fairchild’s breasts). “… the history of WildStorm tracks well with that of many turn-of-the-century babies like myself, whose unconditional affection for the comics medium (and, in some cases, employment in the comics industry) can be traced back to WildStorm founder Jim Lee’s pied piper act, where the most influential comic book artist of the 1990s lured a generation away from the safe, altruistic heroes of our childhoods and into much darker, much sexier and much more violent comic book worlds where we roamed free before he finally led us back to water,” he wrote.
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Grumpy Old Fan | A different look at DC Comics’ solicitations for December 2010

Elijah Snow and Batman

Elijah Snow and Batman

Most months, this is that special week where I take a look at DC’s latest batch of solicitations. This month, though, the solicitations themselves take a back seat to the larger DC Entertainment news — and, specifically, to the end of the WildStorm imprint.

I know I am not the first to point out WildStorm’s slow death. For a while now it has been a disparate mix of superheroes, videogame tie-ins, and other licensed adaptations. As such, it’s been hard for WildStorm to establish (or re-establish) its own identity, even in terms of that diversity. Ironically, the imprint built much of its reputation on creator-driven titles, like The Authority and Gen13, which have now been incorporated into the greater DC Multiverse. They may have new life down the road, but if DC’s treatment of the Milestone and Red Circle characters is any indication, the quality of that life may well leave something to be desired.

Of course, many of WildStorm’s books will continue under the DC bullet, presumably to build up the DC brand in general. On one level I’m happy to see this kind of assimilation, because it instantly — albeit superficially — makes the DC line more diverse. I’ve argued for a while that it needs to be more than superheroes; but even The Authority and Astro City are sufficiently different from the DCU titles.

I have my doubts about that diversity creating new superhero readers, though. Longtime readers may remember that I got back into comic books through DC’s Star Trek. I started reading the Trek comic in the fall of 1984, just before Crisis On Infinite Earths came out, so the timing was good, to say the least. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t count on today’s readers making a similar transition from, say, Gears Of War to Freedom Fighters. If it’s not happening now, it probably won’t happen under a new masthead.

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Artists pay homage to Wildstorm characters

Becky Cloonan draws The Grifter

The members of the Deep6 and Hypothetical Island studios have taken to doing a warm-up sketch on a given topic every morning and posting their sketches here. Yesterday, the group decided to pay homage to Wildstorm after the announcement of its demise by sketching a favorite character. Above is Becky Cloonan’s drawing of The Grifter; other contributions include Joe Infurnari’s Tom Strong, Simon Fraser’s Jenny Sparks, George O’Connor’s Planetary trio, Reilly Brown’s Fairchild, and Tim Hamilton’s Ex Machina drawing.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Piracy

Legal | A bill introduced this week in the U.S. Senate would allow the Justice Department to seek court orders against piracy websites located anywhere in the world. The bipartisan legislation, called the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, would permit the government to seek an injunction ordering a U.S. domain registrar or registry to stop resolving an infringing site’s domain names. That means a visitor attempting to access a targeted piracy site would instead get an error message. Domains outside of U.S. control could be blocked by Internet service providers upon a court order. [Threat Level, ICv2.com]

Business | Time Warner has extended the contract of Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer through December 2013 as part of a management restructuring that sees WB President and COO Alan Horn shifting from his current position into a consultancy role in six months. And in a move that may look vaguely familiar to watchers of DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. executives Jeff Robinov, Bruce Rosenblum and Kevin Tsujihara will share as part of a new Office of the President that will report directly to Meyer beginning in April. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson reports to Robinov, currently president of Warner Bros. Picture Group; it’s unknown whether that will change in the new structure. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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The latest DC Entertainment shakeups: What we know

DC Comics

DC Entertainment’s twin announcements on Tuesday — the division of operations between Burbank and New York, and the end of the WildStorm and Zuda imprints — was followed by a round of interviews that provides us with a fairly good picture of what the moves mean. Here’s what we know:

DC Entertainment’s “bi-coastal realignment strategy”: Despite the silly corporate-speak, this aspect of the DC announcements is, at least on the surface, the simplest to break down. The company’s operations related to business/administration, as well as multimedia and digital content, will relocate to “a Warner Bros.-managed property” in Burbank, Calif., while the publishing division will remain in New York City. The move is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

From there, however, the details get a little murky. Although the initial press release specifically mentions “consumer products” will be part of the move, neither DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson nor DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee would say whether that was a reference to DC Direct, DC Comics’ collectibles division.

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Quote of the day II | A WildStorm hits Kurt Busiek

Astro City: The Silver Agent #1 by Alex Ross“Hoping for the best for friends at Wildstorm, and the business side of DC…All I know about this, I’ve learned from Twitter. I assume I’ll find out more when the guys at Wildstorm have dealt with whatever eruptions this is causing for them.

“To all who’ve been asking: They haven’t said anything yet about creator-owned Wildstorm books. Presumably they want to talk to us first. And right now, they’re busy absorbing what this means for them. So I doubt I’ll know anything for a day or two.”

Astro City writer Kurt Busiek, whose guess as to how the move of much of DC’s business end to Burbank and the closure of WildStorm will impact his colleagues — not to mention on his long-running creator-owned title, heretofore published through that imprint — is apparently as good as ours.


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