SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
The Cowboys & Aliens movie premiered last week at Comic-Con International, and it opens nationwide on Friday, so it’s a good time to revisit the graphic novel on which it’s based. Remember the graphic novel? Despite the controversy around the initial marketing — the claim is that publisher Platinum Studios boosted the book onto the bestseller list by giving it away for free — I thought it was a pretty good read. Which is not surprising, considering it has a pretty solid team of writers and artists behind it: Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley are the writers, and Dennis Calero and Luciano Lima handled the art.
Graphicly announced Wednesday that it’s releasing an enhanced digital edition priced at $9.99, and publishing a special Nook edition at the same price. Or you could get it for free: Years ago, Cowboys & Aliens was published digitally at Wowio, which was owned by Platinum at one time but is now a separate company. It is still up at Wowio with a list price of $1.99, but at the moment it’s free as a sponsored download— without the enhancements, of course.
So what makes Graphicly’s version worth $10? I put the question directly to Ron Richards, the company’s vice president of external relations, and here is his response: “The C&A book on Graphicly is the latest release (the Wowio one is dated 2006), and the extras contain all the movie trailers, character sketches and bios. The characters are hot-spotted throughout the book, so you can click on someone and load up their bio and see development sketches. And when it’s purchased at B&N, you can unlock even more extras including video and audio.”
The extras are pretty impressive, but so is the price differential. So I leave it to you, readers: Which would you buy?
Wowio was a pioneer in digital comics back in the olden days, when they offered free, ad-supported digital comics. The company has been through a lot of changes since then, and the comics aren’t free any more, although they do offer a free download every month (usually a pretty good one) to readers who “like” them on Facebook. And unlike other digital distributors, they offer books in PDF and ePub format, so they are portable and can be moved from one device to another. (In other words, you can actually own these digital comics.)
Spacedog Entertainment developed comics and graphic novels that were then published by other publishers and shopped around for film development. Their properties include The Covenant and Proximity Effect (published by Top Cow), The Gift (Image), and Helen Killer (Arcana).
Now Wowio has acquired Spacedog and is relaunching it as a graphic novel imprint, starting with four previously published titles: Helen Killer, Fiction Clemens, Death Comes to Dillinger, and M.I.T.H. The comics are priced at 99 cents each, and the plan is to publish an issue a week, starting in April, and to expand the line to include other Spacedog properties, including those mentioned above.
Wowio has a nice little promotion going on: Once a month, they offer a free graphic novel e-book. This month’s choice is Gary the Pirate, by Scott Christian Sava, and to get it, you just have to go to Wowio’s Facebook page and “like” them—you can download the PDF straight from the page with no muss, no fuss, no DRM.
Gary the Pirate is a cute story about a klutzy pirate (he knocks over a whole row of pirate ships early in the book) and a girl who isn’t quite ready to grow up yet. There are some tender moments and a battle between pirate ships in the sky. The art has a Disneyesque feel to it, and it’s definitely a kid comic—there are no sophisticated asides for the grownups. But it’s great to have on your computer or iThing if there are going to be young folks in danger of getting bored over the holiday season.
Mike Jasper and Niki Smith hit the big time when their comic In Maps and Legends won the Zuda competition in November 2009, but shortly after the comic started its run, DC took down the whole site, leaving many of the creators without a platform. Jasper and Smith took the plunge into self-publishing, relaunching the comic on multiple platforms, including Kindle, Wowio, LongBox, Drive Thru Comics, and iTunes. You can get the comic on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or Droid. With the third issue due out on December 1, I checked in with them to see how things were going.
Brigid: First of all, the most important question in an interview like this is: What is the comic about?
Mike: In Maps & Legends is about a young woman caught between this world and another, and her attempts to save them both. It starts off as a contemporary fantasy, as our hero Kaitlin Grayson and her friends get caught in the web of a mysterious man named Bartamus who shows up at Kait’s place one night. Bartamus tells Kait she’s the only one who can save his dying world. As you can guess from the title, cartography, history, and stories play a key role in the unfolding mystery of our comic.
Brigid: How long do you plan it to be?
Mike: This first story arc is ten issues. I can see a lot more stories in this series, but we’re starting with this arc to see if it sparks interest in readers who’d like to read more.
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Passings | Veteran inker Mike Esposito, who teamed with childhood friend and frequent collaborator Ross Andru on such DC Comics titles as Action Comics, Wonder Woman and Metal Men, passed away Sunday at age 83. To conceal his Marvel work from DC, Esposito used the pseudonym Mickey Demeo, inking John Romita Sr. on The Amazing Spider-Man and Jack Kirby on The Hulk. Andru later joined him at Marvel on Spider-Man. [Mark Evanier]
Publishing | Kuwaiti entrepreneur Naif al-Mutawa, whose Muslim-superhero comic The 99 recently met with absurd, manufactured controversy, is profiled just as DC Comics prepares to debut a crossover with the Justice League: “It seems likely that a media firestorm is brewing. On forums last week, DC comics faced accusations of ‘Muslim pandering’ and ‘treachery,’ but that’s the salient feature of The 99, not just that they’re superheroes from four continents fighting crime wherever they find it, but that they – and Mutawa – have to fight enemies and overcome resistance from both the east and the west. ‘One of the tough things is that people always think I’m working for someone else. In America, it’s like, “Sure, they’re private investors.” Back home, they think I’m working for the Americans and here they think I’m working for some sort of Islamic agenda’.” [The Observer]
Wowio is being kind of coy about the title of the book, but I’ll spoil it for you: Go to their Facebook page, click the “Offer” tab, click “like,” and you can get a free e-book of Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna’s The Clockwork Girl. Instructions are on their site for the Facebook-impaired. Enjoy!
Business | Platinum Studios has sold webcomics community DrunkDuck to e-book publisher WOWIO for an undisclosed sum. WOWIO was purchased in 2008 by Platinum and then sold in July 2009 to a holding company formed by Platinum President and COO Brian Altounian.
The DrunkDuck acquisition follows the announcement last week that WOWIO has raised $1.7 million in private financing and purchased WEvolt.com, an online community for creators to share and promote their work. Established in 2002 by Dylan Squires, DrunkDuck provides free hosting for webcomics, as well as forums and a feedback/review system. The site was purchased in December 2006 by Platinum. [press release]
Digital comics | Michael Cavna reports that Apple CEO Steve Jobs essentially accused cartoonist Mark Fiore of lying about the rejection of his iPhone app, telling attendees at a tech conference the Pulitzer Prize winner “never resubmitted” NewsToons after the company’s initial brush-off. “We’re doing the best we can, we’re fixing mistakes,” Jobs is quoted as saying. “But what happens is — people lie. And then they run to the press and tell people about this oppression, and they get their 15 minutes of fame. We don’t run to the press and say ‘this guy is a son of a bitch liar!’ — we don’t do that.”
Fiore seems baffled, telling Cavna: “My NewsToons app was, in fact, rejected. … The reason I never resubmitted the app was because I wasn’t about to make the changes Apple sought and remove any ‘content that ridicules public figures.’ Ridiculing public figures is what I do and is an essential part of journalism.” Tom Spurgeon offers some commentary, pointing out how strange Jobs’ accusations are. [Comic Riffs]
Legal | The Democratic Party of Japan, which holds 54 of the 127 seats in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, and several smaller groups are threatening on June 14 to vote down a bill to tighten restrictions on the sexual depictions of minors in comics, animation and video games. Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Tokyo could come up with a new bill if the current one is defeated. [The Japan Times]
Comics | A “very fine”-rated copy of Action Comics #1 sold at auction Monday for $1 million, breaking the previous record price for a comic book. The names of the buyer and seller weren’t released.
The previous record for the most expensive comic was held by another copy of Action #1, which sold last year for $317,000. About 100 copies of the issue are known to exist, and only two are graded “very fine” or higher. John Jackson Miller provides analysis. [Times Online, Hero Complex]
Business | Sean Kleefeld gets details from Wowio CEO Brian Altounian about his efforts to secure financing for the e-book publisher. Altounian, who purchased the struggling company in July from Platinum Studios, will retain a majority interest. [Kleefeld on Comics]
Awards | The manga nominees have been announced for Japan Expo, the Japanese pop-culture convention held each year in Paris. The winners will be announced at the event in July. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Gary Tyrrell reports that publishers have begun receiving payments for the second quarter of 2008 from long-struggling e-book site Wowio. All publishers are expected to be paid by Nov. 15. [Fleen]
Awards | When the National Book Award nominations were announced Wednesday, some wondered why David Small’s graphic novel Stitches: A Memoir was included in the young people’s literature category. It turns out the publisher nominated it as a young-adult title. [GalleyCat]
Business | Former DC Comics President Jenette Kahn and ICv2.com President Milton Griepp have joined the board of advisers and directors of comiXology, which produces the Comics by comiXology digital comics application. [press release]
Conventions | Remember that ad incorrectly announcing Warren Ellis as a guest at Toronto Comic Con? It turns out they totally meant Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku. Not Warren Ellis. Eliza Dushku. [Bleeding Cool]
Retailing | Could Disney’s planned $4-billion purchase of Marvel signal the return comic books to the mass market? “I see the Marvel acquisition by Disney helping to expand the genre of comic books and remove it from the dusty basement of the world,” says direct-market retailer Creswell. “I do see Disney stepping in and offering retailers outside of the direct comic book market incentives for selling Marvel products,” Creswell said. [Reuters]
Publishing | Long-struggling e-book site Wowio reportedly has informed publishers that payments for the second quarter of 2008 will be made by Nov. 15. Wowio, which was purchased last year by Platinum Studios, was sold in July to a holding company formed by Platinum President and COO Brian Altounian. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | The inaugural Long Beach Comic Con kicks off today at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. Guests include Berkeley Breathed, Stan Lee, Tim Bradstreet, J. Scott Campbell, Amanda Conner, Geoff Johns, Dave Johnson, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Scott Lobdell, Dustin Nguyen, Darick Robertson and Mark Waid. The Long Beach Post and Gazettes Town-News have previews. [Long Beach Comic Con]
Events | 24-Hour Comics Day will be held Saturday at locations around the world. [24-Hour Comics Day]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald posts her Small Press Expo round-up/wrap-up/photo parade. [The Beat]