INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So read on to find out what we thought about Daredevil, Buzzkill and more.
Creators | Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, has revealed his latest project Boxers and Saints, a set of two graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion in China; one story is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. First Second will publish them as a slipcased set. There’s a 10-page preview as well as an interview at the link. [Wired]
Comics | Jim Rugg notices that his print copy of Hellboy in Hell doesn’t look as good as his friend’s digital copy, and where most of us would have just shrugged and moved on, he takes the time to think about why that is and how careful publishers can ensure that print comics look their best. [Jim Rugg]
Conventions | MorrisonCon and the Las Vegas Comic Expo aren’t the only comic conventions this weekend (more on them shortly): There’s also Wizard World Ohio Comic Con in Columbus, and Asbury Park Comic Con in New Jersey. Last year, Wizard took over Mid-Ohio Con and turned it into Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, and on the eve of this year’s event, the local alternative weekly looks at how the event has changed and what to expect. Meanwhile, Saturday’s Asbury Park Comic Con gets back to basics: “The problem that I have with the big comic conventions is that they’ve turned into pop culture conventions and it’s anything goes —anything from video games to wrestlers and bands, stuff that has nothing or very little to do with comics. What we want to do is bring it back to what brought us all together — our passion for comics,” says co-founder Cliff Galbraith. The event, which is being held in a rock club/bowling alley, features such comics guests as Larry Hama, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Dean Haspiel, Seth Kushner and Reilly Brown. [The Other Paper, Asbury Park Press]
Nearly four months after Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus resigned as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc., the company has announced the appointment of John Macaluso as his replacement.
Shamus shuttered his publishing empire in January 2011 and took his nearly 20-year-old company public as Wizard World, which at the time boasted pop-culture conventions in a dozen cities. That number has since been whittled down to six: Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Columbus, Austin and (in 2013) New Orleans.
Macaluso, who joined Wizard World’s board of directors in May, is a California businessman who sold his garment-manufacturing company California Concepts in 2007.
“I am excited to continue the momentum that the Wizard World Comic Con shows have built, and to help develop new strategies to take us to new levels of success,” he said in a statement. “We have an outstanding lineup of events on the schedule with highly talented celebrities and artists and an outstanding team of professionals in place to maximize the Wizard World experience.”
Libraries | An editorial in the Lewiston, Maine, newspaper praises a local school board’s decision last week to leave the 2007 comics anthology Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age in the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School library following a parent’s complaints about “objectionable sexual and language references”: “American culture can be graphically sexual and explicitly foul and it’s important that young people learn how to navigate that world in a responsible way. The best possible way, of course, is for parents to steer their children through that process, but not every parent does and many children are left adrift. So, the next-better place to learn is the school library, where a responsible adult can help educate children about their hormone-charged emerging feelings in a confusingly sensual culture.” [Sun Journal]
Business | Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus, who resigned earlier this month as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc., will sell most of his shares in the company to his successor, who’s expected to be named next month. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | Wizard’s executive chairman Mike Mathews tells Heidi MacDonald that after the resignation of former CEO Gareb Shamus, the company wants to be “a Switzerland of entertainment” and mend fences with members of the industry: “Gareb is one of these types of personalities who has taken strong positions over the years with various people in the industry and brands. And that kind of hurt us because of where we are trying to go — we’re trying to be a Switzerland of entertainment and we want to try to try to reach out to brands.” MacDonald notes the company is offering a $100 credit toward Wizard conventions to former Wizard subscribers whose subscriptions abruptly ended when the magazine was shut down. A new CEO is expected to be named early next month. [The Beat]
Conventions | Image Comics announced several more guests for the Image Expo, scheduled for Feb. 24-26 in Oakland, California. The lineup now includes Blair Butler, John Layman, Rob Guillory, Nick Spencer, Joshua Fialkov, Joe Keatinge, Jim McCann and Jim Zubkavich, among many others. [press release]
Organizations | The Associação da Luta Contra o Cancer is running an awareness campaign in Mozambique featuring images drawn by artist Maisa Chaves of Wonder Woman, Catwoman, She-Hulk and Storm checking their breasts for lumps. [Daily Mail]
Gareb Shamus, divisive founder of the once-influential Wizard magazine, has resigned as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc.
The publicly traded company announced the move in documents filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “The resignation is not the result of any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices,” Shamus wrote in his two-sentence letter of resignation.
Michael Mathews, the former CEO of interclick inc. who joined Wizard World in March as chairman, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the company until Shamus’ replacement can be found.
Shamus founded Wizard: The Guide to Comics in 1991, overseeing the rise of a magazine whose prosperity was inextricably tied to the speculator boom it helped fuel with its price guides, creator hot lists and enthusiastic coverage of new publishers like Image Comics and Valiant. By 1997, Wizard Entertainment had added Inquest Gamer and ToyFare magazines and extended its reach with the purchase of Chicago Comicon, later rebranded Wizard World Chicago, setting the company on its long, and occasionally rough, path to becoming a major organizer of regional conventions (earlier this year Wizard World briefly trumpeted 12 cities before slashing that number to eight).
However, the following decade wasn’t as kind to Wizard or the comics industry, with the magazine seeing its circulation dwindle to about 17,000 copies by December 2010. A month later, Shamus abruptly announced the closing of Wizard and ToyFare, the company’s last remaining magazines, and the subsequent launch of an online magazine, a move he later characterized as “the smartest business decision I’ve made in years.”
But about two weeks ago, the digital magazine that Shamus had boasted reached “millions of people” apparently disappeared from the Internet, just about the time that its founder launched a blog on the Wizard World site. Now that, too, is gone. His new Twitter account remains — although he hasn’t written an update since Nov. 28.
Wizard World hopes to have Shamus’ successor in place by Jan. 15.
Creators | The Hero Initiative offers an update from colorist Tom Ziuko, who was hospitalized earlier this year for acute kidney failure and other health conditions, and then returned to the hospital for emergency surgery about a month ago. “I can’t impress upon you enough how frightening it is to actually come up against a life-threatening medical situation (not to mention two times in less than a year), and not have the financial means to survive if you’re suddenly not able to earn a living. Like so many other freelancers out there, I live paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford health insurance. Without an organization like the Hero Initiative to lend me support in this time of dire need, I truly don’t know where I would be today,” Ziuko said. [The Hero Initiative]
Publishing | CNN asks the question “Are women and comics risky business?” as Christian Sager talks to former DC editor Janelle Asselin, blogger Jill Pantozzi, Womanthology organizer Renae De Liz and others about the number of women who work in comics, the portrayal of female characters and why comic companies don’t actively market books to women. “Think about it from the publisher’s point of view,” Asselin said. “Say you sell 90 percent of your comics to men between 18 and 35, and 10 percent of your comics to women in the same age group. Are you going to a) try to grow that 90 percent of your audience because you feel you already have the hook they want and you just need to get word out about it, or b) are you going to try to figure out what women want in their comics and do that to grow your line?” [CNN]
This week’s interview with Rus Wooton in one sense is long overdue, given that the last time I interviewed a comics letterer at Robot 6 (Todd Klein) was more than two years ago. But in another sense, the timing is perfect, considering that Wooton recently (and amicably) left Chris Eliopoulos’ Virtual Calligraphy (VC) lettering company in order to be free for his own creative projects–writing and drawing. One example of his new projects is his new webcomic project, Siblings, set to launch in July. My thanks to Nate Cosby for helping make this interview happen–and thanks to Wooton some insightful perspective on his craft. In addition to learning how he came to be a letterer in the first place, Wooton also was happy to discuss his ongoing lettering assignments for Robert Kirkman (among many other creators) as well as upcoming Cosby projects.
Tim O’Shea: You became a quadriplegic at the age of 20, were you already training to become a letterer prior to then, or did your pursuit of that career occur after then?
Rus Wooton: That’s a great question that might need a long-winded answer, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief. I’d never planned on being a letterer, but I’d always planned on working in comics in some way, at least since I was a kid in the late ’70s. I had been drawing for as long as I could remember, and I was also into graphic design from a young age, influenced by my Dad who was an Art Director and Creative Director at an advertising agency. He actually designed the CNN logo while working at Sheehey-Dudgeon in Louisville in 1980, and he’d occasionally take me or my brothers to the office evenings and weekends when he was working overtime on a project.
Publishing | May marked the worst month of the year for the direct market since January as sales of comic books and graphic novels fell 11.21 percent versus May 2010. Chart watcher John Jackson Miller chalks up the decline to a combination of retailers ordering more Free Comic Book Day titles than “for-profit” books and publishers’ summer events heating up a little later this year. Marvel led Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of top comics for the month with Fear Itself #2, followed by the first issue of DC’s Flashpoint. Avatar topped the graphic novel chart with Crossed 3D, Vol. 1. [The Comichron]
Legal | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has joined a coalition that includes booksellers, media companies and the ACLU of Utah in seeking to permanently stop enforcement of a 2005 Utah statute that would regulate Internet speech that some consider “harmful to minors,” including works of art, graphic novels, information about sexual health and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. The law has not gone into effect because Utah consented to a temporary injunction until the case can be decided. [press release]
The folks at ICv2 pulled out their calculators this week and took a hard look at the “geek culture” (their term) segment of the magazine business. What they saw wasn’t pretty. In April 2000, the top selling magazine was Wizard, with a total of 71,310 copies sold in comics shops (all the numbers are from Diamond). In April 2010, they sold 9,316 copies; now they sell none, because the magazine has shifted online (where, Sean T. Collins observed, it’s not exactly tearing up the internet). The top-selling magazine in April 2011 was Doctor Who Insider #1, which moved a grand total of 3,537 copies—a drop of 95% from Wizard’s April 2000 number.
Of course, this isn’t surprising. Geek culture and a love of gadgets go hand in hand, and it’s natural that these magazines would lose readership to the internet. Print magazines have a significant turnaround time that keeps them from breaking news, but beyond that, the web has become the gathering spot for fans of individual properties. When you can connect with other fans of Torchwood, Sailor Moon, or RPGs via the internet, paper becomes superfluous. The irony is that the “geek” fan community is probably larger than ever; it’s magazines that have dwindled away to almost nothing.
A few different news items related to comic news outlets have come across my desk recently:
And then there were two — it looks like Wizard’s editorial staff has been cut in half, as two of the four people listed on the masthead for the now-digital magazine were either fired or are leaving on their own this week.
Current “Co-Chief of Pop Culture” Justin Aclin confirmed on Twitter that he gave notice and is leaving Wizard at the end of this week. Before its cancellation, Aclin was the longtime editor of ToyFare magazine and was the head writer for the popular “Twisted ToyFare Theater” feature. Aclin, who is also the writer of such comics as Hero House and S.H.O.O.T. First, is moving on to an as-yet-unannounced new gig.
Second is Creative Director James Walker, who, according to sources, was fired earlier this week. Walker seems to confirm this on his own Twitter account with several messages, including one that seems to confirm he was fired over the phone: “this apprentice show is strange. people are actually fired FACE TO FACE! what a strange concept.”
According to the masthead, that leaves Wizard World Digital with an in-house editorial staff of two: the second Co-Chief of Pop Culture Mike Cotton and Senior Associate Producer Carlos Mejia.
When Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus decided to cancel his long-running magazines Wizard and ToyFare, and relaunch them in an amalgamated electronic form as a digital magazine called Wizard World, he did not do so quietly. Well, alright, the initial press release didn’t so much as mention the cancellations themselves, or the employees laid off in the process. But Shamus has been quite vocal about his new project’s prospects for success, as well as what he perceives to be the dire state of the industries surrounding it. In an interview with iFanboy’s Ron Richards, Shamus spoke of the new digital magazine sharing the things its staff likes with “the millions of people that we reach all the time,” in contrast with more traditional digital-news outlets like websites, which he said “are pretty worthless in their ability to have an impact on an audience.” And in the editor’s letter (see above) for Wizard World‘s third issue, “Version 1.3,” by way of explaining why he made the leap to digital publishing, he writes:
My friendship and association with Alex Segura dates back to late 2004 when he invited me to join Robot 6‘s ancestor blog (or however you want to call its relation) The Great Curve. I wear my bias on my sleeve for this interview–I’ve always been a supporter of Segura’s work–be it years at DC Comics, or more recently, his current role as Executive Director of Publicity and Marketing at Archie Comics. In addition to discussing what he’s accomplished to date at Archie (and hopes to achieve in the near to long term), we delve into his own writing and musical pursuits (in the band, The Faulkner Detectives).
Tim O’Shea: Before your first stint with Archie a few years back, you worked at Wizard. So I gotta ask, what’s your reaction to the end of the print magazine?
Alex Segura: On a gut level, it’s sad. Wizard was a big part of my getting into comics – or at least, sticking with them – in middle school and into college. There were times when I wasn’t actively buying any regular comic books but would still pick up Wizard to keep tabs on the industry. Working there was also huge. It was my first full-time job in the industry and gave me a crash course in comics and how they work. I also met some of my best friends there – many of whom I still talk to on a regular basis. Hell, I live with Ryan Penagos, who I first met at Wizard. So, yeah. I have a lot of fond memories of both my time at the company and my relationship with the magazine leading up to that.
Professionally, I’m not all that surprised. There was a time when Wizard was a major tastemaker – they had a big part in the rise of Image and for a long while broke major news from the Big Two. But with the rise of comic news on the web, it just seemed like they got left behind. Hopefully this new incarnation can revive the company. We’ll see.