Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

July 24, 2014

ComiXology Announces DRM-Free Backup Feature At Their Thursday Comic-Con International Panel

During their panel today at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the digital comics platform comiXology announced a DRM-free backup feature that in their words "allows customers to download and store copies of their books." They have also announced their first run of participating publishers, which as soon I can get my fat ass over to the panel from my one-thirty meeting will safely slide into the place this sentence goes.

imageThis isn't an area about which I know a ton, but my reading of this issue in the past was that the use of DRM by comiXology was key to their getting certain publishers to climb on board, but came at the price of open criticism and some customer loss from those that believe that having a copy of the work they wanted to view was infinitely preferable -- or at least preferable to the point of their deciding to participate -- than DRM protected media, which is often compared to buying a right to see something rather than the actual something. This leads to difficulties when a newer service shuts down, perhaps, and also can interfere with certain kind of transfer of material between devices.

I would also imagine that there might have been a slight hiccup in that for some people in the company, some folks using it and/or a few professionals assessing it, the Guided View reading technology could be characterized as the company's unique contribution. That will still be available, of course, but different formats might encourage different viewing options and at least strategically it's understandable you might check the direction of all oars, particularly early on.

Backups for existing copies are available through the "My Books" section starting today. The backups will be high-definition PDF and CBZ. I will be downloading a bunch for my comiXology books myself. I will also be consider some bigger purchases there -- I think I had been basically buying, if only subconsciously, books I wouldn't mind losing.

I think this is significant news for one of comics' major players.
posted 1:30 pm PST | Permalink

AdHouse Books Announces UR By Eric Haven As Its Sole Fall 2014 Season Offering


The publisher AdHouse Books announced through its owner Chris Pitzer early today that it would be publishing a single book for the Fall 2014 season: UR by Eric Haven.

Pitzer told CR that he and the cartoonist started talking about doing a project together when the Richmond, Virginia-based publisher won the piece of art that Haven had donated to Rina Ayuyang's art auctions for Typhone Haiyan relief.

The book will run 48 pages in full color, will by a 6 X 9 inche softcover book, and will cost $14.95 USD.

UR is planned for a December release.

posted 3:00 am PST | Permalink

Retrofit Comics Announces 2015 Creator Line-Up; Will Have James Kochalka's Fungus Ready For SPX 2014

Box Brown of Retrofit Comics announced this morning a slew of creators with whom the publisher -- specializing mostly but not entirely in old-fashioned alt-comics of a serial nature -- will work in 2015. That list is:

* Matt Madden
* Yumi Sakugawa
* Sophie Franz
* Laura Lannes
* Kate Leth
* Andrew Lorenzi
* Laura Knetzger
* Maré Odomo

Brown also announced three projects with a bit more detail:

* an art book by the cartoonist and illustrator Steven Weissman
* a special edition of Future Shock, edited by Josh Berggraff
* two books by Brown

This is in addition to other projects as the schedule allows.

At SPX 2014, the publisher plans to have James Kochalka's Fungus: The Unbearable Rot Of Being on hand. Brown promises the work is a "surreal and funny outsider look at the elements of our own reality. That one will be 108 pages, perfect bound, and cost $12.
posted 2:45 am PST | Permalink

Image Comics Makes A Dozen Publishing Announcements At Pre-SDCC Image Expo Event

imageImage Comics held one of their Image Expo events on the Wednesday preceding Comic-Con International, at the Hilton Bayfront. While there have been some small hints of controversy in so many events being held in proximity to the convention without being at the actual convention, having an Expo is certainly a way for the comics publisher to capitalize on a captive audience of press and fans waiting for the big show to start. They'll also win the initial 24 hours of press barring some sort of PR bomb being dropped.

They made 12 announcements:

* Descender, Jeff Lemire And Dustin Nguyen
* Drifter, Ivan Brandon And Nic Klein
* From Under Mountains, Marian Churchland And Claire Gibson And Sloane Leong
* Injection, Warren Ellis And Declan Shalvey
* Intersect, Ray Fawkes
* Invisible Republic, Gabriel Hardman And Corinna Bechko
* Kinski, Gabriel Hardman
* Rumble, John Arcudi And James Harren
* Southern Cross, Becky Cloonan And Andy Belanger
* The Humans, Tom Neely And Keenan Marshall Keller
* Tokyo Ghost, Rick Remender And Sean Gordon Murphy
* Tooth And Claw, Kurt Busiek And Ben Dewey
* Valhalla Mad, Joe Casey And Paul Maybury

A slightly cynical way to look at an Image announcement -- probably not the best way -- is to see them as positives project to project but also less time -- for the artists in particular -- to do work for mainstream comics companies. Gabriel Hardman, as an example, is a highly-skilled and highly-prolific artist of the kind on which mainstream companies have come to depend in recent years; if he finds the Image work more appealing in a way that limits his work for such companies, that's a big blow to them. Exponentially so if others that fit his general profile join him.

I've seen word of some of these projects before -- at least a couple of them here and there -- and I believe Kinski had a previous, digital life.

That looks like a solid line-up: a mix of versatile pros and people that cause their peers to freak out on tumblr. Image is at a place right now where even if none of these break out as a group they could be very vital to them as solid players throughout the line.

More information on individual projects can be found here.
posted 2:30 am PST | Permalink

Bundled Extra: Publishing News Newsbriefs, Stories, Commentary & Links From Comic-Con International


By Tom Spurgeon

What follows is a list in brief of comics publishing news stories that have come to light during and just preceding Comic-Con International weekend. If you've seen one that we haven't,


Andrews McMeel
* Geoff Grogan's Plastic Babyheads series launches as digital-download books.

* the writer Justin Jordan will be doing three projects with the publisher, starting in November. (July 3)
* Roger Langridge will be doing an original all-ages project starting in December. (July 18)
* the writer Grant Morrison will be doing a project with the publisher. (July 22)
* Filip Sablik was named the President Of Publishing And Marketing. (July 16)

Koyama Press
* A. Degen's Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater announced for Spring 2015

* leading up to Comic-Con, Marvel announces several storyline changes to top characters related to Avengers brand: Thor will be a woman, Captain American will be Sam Wilson and therefore African-American, Tony Stark will have a "superior" storyline that explores negative elements of his character, and so on. (through July 22)

Monkey Brain Comics
* Neil Kleid and Dan Gasl announce Kings And Canvas. Partial Image Below. (July 22)

* 64-page free digital magazine National Cartoonist launches at NCS site and at ISSUU.

* Katie Skelly launches My Pretty Vampire on Tumblr in full-color with limited animation effects. Mini-comic version planned for SPX. Partial image above. (July 21)



posted 2:00 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: This Time

posted 1:30 am PST | Permalink

The Never-Ending, Four-Color Festival: Shows And Events


By Tom Spurgeon

* the Seattle True Independent Film Festival is now accepting digital comics submissions. I have no idea how that works, but visiting Seattle is fun.

image* Zainab Akhtar notes the creation of a new small-press show, this one hosted by Breakdown Press.

* Johanna Draper Carlson notes that Wizard is trying out a social media convention in conjunction with its sort-of comics I guess Chicago show. It's not the weirdest idea ever -- I know people that really admire the way certain people use social media tools -- but as it's one with absolutely no interest for me on any level it's hard for me to figure out if it will work.

* Brian Fies on the Baltimore Comics & Medicine conference. I miss self-directed posts like this one, it seems like most of that energy goes into social media.

* Chris Pitzer provided this set of photos from his trip to Chapel Hill in support of the visiting cartoonists Tom Scioli, Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor.

* Roman Muradov made a very nice-looking advertisement for the Small Press Expo.

* finally, I'm not sure I'd seen the Latino Comics Expo poster for this year. That's an October event in San Jose.

posted 1:25 am PST | Permalink

If I Were In San Diego, I'd Go To This

posted 1:20 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: This Is Legend #1

posted 1:10 am PST | Permalink

Random Comics News Story Round-Up

image* Bob Temuka expresses his love for GI Joe. Rob Clough on Dragons: Riders Of Berk. Todd Klein on Dark Horse Presents #31. Don MacPherson on Spider-Man: Spirits Of The Earth. Justin Giampaoli on a bunch of different comics. Johanna Draper Carlson on Lighter Than My Shadow.

* Rob Bricken seems slightly baffled by the big team superhero line-ups at both mainstream companies.

* go, look: a lovely illustration from Jean-Claude Forest.

* this was the first review of Seconds I'd read that wasn't a tweet. They are likely everywhere by the time this rolls out.

* finally, just in case you thought that harassment issues were solely a concern for the comics community, that's just not true.
posted 1:05 am PST | Permalink

Happy 56th Birthday, Robert Greenberger!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 44th Birthday, Steven Stwalley!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

Happy 35th Birthday, Mark Andrew Smith!

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Happy 79th Birthday, Pat Oliphant!

posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink

July 23, 2014

Koyama Press Announces A. Degen's Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater For Spring 2015


imageKoyama Press this morning through Ed Kanerva and Anne Koyama announced that they will collect Mighty Star And The Castle Of The Cancatervater by the Brooklyn-based A. Degen in Spring of 2015. Described by the publisher as a "surreal superhero epic," the book presents a silent narrative reminiscent of early film and world animation.

The book was originally serialized on-line at Study Group. The printed version will be expanded, with a brand new prologue, epilogue and series of spot illustrations.

Degen's previous books were Area CC (Snakebomb) and Soft X-Ray Mindhunters (Birdcage Bottom Books), both released in 2013. He has contributed to Future Shock, Sonatina and Chromazoid.

Koyama's Mighty Star And The Castle Of Cancatervater will run 172 pages, in softcover for black and white interior pages. Koyama plans a $15 price tag, and a release in May of next year.

Below please find a selection of prologue pages provided to CR by the publisher.

posted 3:00 am PST | Permalink

On Gluyas Williams' Birthday, It's Always Fun To Visit And Stare At The Art

posted 2:40 am PST | Permalink

Plastic Babyheads From Outer Space Receives Quiet E-Book Double Launch: Andrews McMeel, comiXology

imageAndrews McMeel Universal continues the drumbeat that is its acquisition of comics work to be made available in all the formats available to them: their on-line serial strip repository, e-books, printed books, and through the comiXology service. The one that caught my attention this time out -- well, after the creator gave me a heads-up that it had gone down -- is Geoff Grogan's Plastic Babyheads From Outer Space, now available as e-books through AM's site and via comiXology.

There is so much material out there right now that the sheer volume dictates a lot of the subsequent publishing decisions. For one thing, I think there is much more material out there than the audience and infrastructure built around it. I have no idea how this sorts out or, really, if it sorts out. In the meanwhile, maybe look at Grogan's work a bit. I enjoyed that when I saw it as a hand-sold comic at an old Brooklyn show.
posted 2:35 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: An Honest Performance

posted 2:30 am PST | Permalink

All Eyes On San Diego: Comic-Con International Preview Night Launches San Diego Con Weekend

imageIt begins tonight in San Diego with Comic-Con's official Preview Night opening, followed by an official opening for business tomorrow. By "it" I mean Comic-Con International, both the event itself and the overlapping set of experiences that will also bear its name. It really does begin tonight. Because of the lack of dedicated programming running concurrent to what's happening on the floor, and because of valuable incentives in the form of con "exclusives" being made available by some of the vendors, Wednesday night has grown from a bonus event to a crucial part of the exhibition weekend.

There is also an Image Expo being held today -- that's one of the Image Comics events that involves a presentation of publishing news combined with a signing/interactive element. Image putting an Expo here throws the spotlight on the increased looseness of Comic-Con as a home for mid-year comics publishing news. More and more companies are pushing their news as far back as a couple of weeks before the show so as to maximize the attention that comes with Comic-Con. I think the idea is that by announcing beforehand, you get your own piece of spotlight and you go into the weekend with a storyline that people will remember as you make use of the on-the-ground elements of exhibiting and dealing with media. In other words, as a journalist I know there's a Thor story going into Comic-Con; if there's a Metamorpho story, I haven't been told that yet, and will have to notice when it happens and then make room for coverage based on my other plans.

So that's one change at Comic-Con on which I'll be keeping an eye. Not just the publishing news announcements themselves -- we'll have a good half-dozen of those here, and will track all the others -- but the way in which each publishing company and similar entity uses the convention. The convention has changed in massive fashion over the last ten years, and most comics publishers and creators are no more resource-stuffed in order to affect change than they were in 2004. Comics people are clever, though, and the work continues to be of a high quality and worth announcing to the world. More people than ever are interested in covering it. It's about time that a lot of comics really begins using the unique opportunities of this weekend rather than only continuing to claim about them. I think that will be in play this year. I expect comics to have a good con.

There are some fine stand-alone books to pick up, and I'd like to see that lock in more explicitly as a big part of this show. Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds is a book of the show just by being here, so effective a publishing phenomenon was Scott Pilgrim. I hear good things about the work, too. The art comics publishers are going to have a bunch of stuff out on tables -- I think if I had to suggest a single volume from that world it would be Eleanor Davis' How To Be Happy (Fantagraphics), but there are going to be a bunch. I think we get to see several copies of the next John Porcellino, and I'm very excited about that. IDW has new Artist's Editions, including I believe the Mignola. It's not just books. The NCS will have paper copies of a new magazine launch, and Jeff Smith will have an honest-to-god color comic book. It would be nice if San Diego Con continued to offer a rich slate of debut books moving forward; any late-summer or early Fall launch but also previews of any work ahead that a publisher is willing to have previewed. I'd like to see this more thoughtfully pursued rather than simply kind of tossed out there. Almost no one wants to carry around a grocery cart's worth of books, not anymore, but a few signed books in a variety of formats? Sign me up. It may even provide some marketing focus. Thinking more broadly, a focus on a few potential hit books is also a way that comics can continue to distinguish itself -- comics isn't just showing people commercials; we also have the real experience available, in a variety of ways, right there.

imageI'm interested in the sprawl of the show business side of things, the way that events have seeped out into the parking lots and hotel rooms and theaters of the San Diego that touches up against the convention center. There is a significant slate of events and things being done away from the comics show, starting but certainly not ending with that Image Expo. On the one hand, this makes total sense to me. I've been saying for 10 years and will say so again that there's an opportunity for someone to park a small press show somewhere in the vicinity. Also, with marketing budgets to be justified, bigger events make sense as a supplement if not a more fully-controlled replacement for a presence at the show. I feel bad for Comic-Con, in a way; it has to be sort of like people parking winnebagos outside a big house party you're throwing and promising people more party. If someone is dissatisfied by an out-of-convention-center event with that nice young man from Chuck, they're likely to blame Comic-Con as much as that individual event.

I'm interested in how harassment issues currently of significant and welcome interest within comics-culture circles might play out at an event this size. By adhering to their existing policy, Comic-Con leaves themselves open to criticism if the perceived results fail to fall in line with what people would prefer. Because of the nature of the debate, and the enormous, culture-wide disinterest in doing serious work making it stop, I'm sure there will be some opportunities for criticism. Keep an eye on more public flourishes of piggish culture on display at the event, particularly in terms of cosplay: video chronicles, photosets, on-line commentary about same. Also look at the more public meeting places -- the hotel bars -- and see if there's a shift in tone and mood there. As always I urge everyone right now to pay attention to this stuff to the point of dismantling or backing away from behavior that dances up against the line of unwelcome attention. What's going on isn't just correction, it's correction and resetting our baseline expectations. And it's about time.

I'm basically interested in the whole damn thing. I think we're at a moment where a lot of elements about comics culture and comics publishing have saturated to the point where they constitute a new normal, a status quo we've felt for a few years now even as we haven't explicitly acknowledged its existence. That's structural and well as about personnel; it's about the kind of art as well as the demographics buying it. It's about the future and how we perceive the past.

There's a good feeling in the air for a lot of comics people this year, which may make for a potentially strong Comic-Con weekend. I'll be there: doing a few panels, buying a few comics, seeing a few great artists talk, having the obligatory meetings. I hope you'll make this site a part of your convention weekend. We'll have about a half-dozen project announcements and will cover the whole lot of them. Eisner winners with linked-to nominees as soon as we can post. Observations and notes on Tuesday.

Everyone be safe and have a rewarding time, whether you're in San Diego or whether you're not.
posted 2:25 am PST | Permalink

Missed It: Furor Over Appropriated Xaime Imagery

imageAsher J. Klassen has the best only-time-to-read-one-SDCC-is-right-now piece up on the band Everclear making use of an artist's appropriation of Jaime Hernandez's amazing red and black Love and Rockets band image. It opens up that whole thing about homage versus appropriation, which is something that I think a) you have to feel your way through, b) it's not that hard to do that.

I'd say in this most reasonable standards would say the artist and those supporting the artist's action through pay and use are in the wrong. As Klassen points out, making an homage to fulfill a paid assignment is dicey territory. The fact you could reasonably look at this and not knowing which image came first not be able to tell kind of makes a lie that one image is a tribute paid the other. Eric Reynolds points out that the image was never part of a work for hire deal by which the artist would have ever not had the rights, which isn't an angle I've ever considered.

It would be nice if a proper poster were commissioned from Los Bros instead, although the problem with that is that Jaime Hernandez prefers working on his comics and may not want to take on that job, or work for those folks. I wouldn't. Maybe another solution would be to pay him for this one as if he had worked on it. Because he did.
posted 2:21 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: The Room Of Madness

posted 2:20 am PST | Permalink

DHC Announces 12 Creator-Owned Series Ahead Of SDCC

imageDark Horse Comics sent out a press release yesterday -- you can read it in full here -- confirming their intention to publish 12 forthcoming creator-owned titles in the months ahead, from a wide variety of working creators. Dark Horse has always spent some significant portion of their resources in this area, and as recently as a few years ago re-invested in facilitating this kind of work from people like Peter Bagge and Steve Parkhouse.

The 12 titles includes a comics sequel to the film and prose work Fight Club, which makes me believe word on some of these was already out there.

The books, their basic creative teams and their announced release dates are:

* Colder: The Bad Seed, Paul Tobin And Juan Ferreyra (October)
* Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., Mike Mignola And John Arcudi And Alexander Maleev (December)'
* Lady Killer, Jöelle Jones And Jamie S. Rich (January)
* Dead Vengeance, Bill Morrison And Stéphane Roux (January)
* EI8HT, Rafael Albuquerque And Mike Johnson (February)
* Neverboy, Shaun Simon And Tyler Jenkins And Kelly Fitzpatrick (March)
* The Black Hammer, Jeff Lemire And Dean Ormston (March)
* PastAways, Matt Kindt And Scott Kolins (March)
* Rebels, Brian Wood And Andrea Mutti And Jordie Bellaire And Tula Lotay (April)
* Harrow County, Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook (April)
* Alabaster: The Good, The Bad, And The Bird, Caitlin R. Kiernan And Jöelle Jones (May)
* Fight Club 2, Chuck Palahniuk And Cameron Stewart And David Mack (May)

There's a lot there that's potentially interesting, and I'm happy that so much of it is brand-new material. I think that makes for a healthier marketplace.
posted 2:19 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Alien Worlds Gallery

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Not Comics: Two Sizable Articles On The Perils Of The Internet-Era Economy

Jason Schreier looks at a gaming kickstarter that went a half-million in the hole and then basically disappeared from view -- or at least significant parts of it did. This rambling, personal essay at Deadspin on one writer's experiences with a popular on-line publishing venue offers up several dropped-jaw moments.

The vast majority of the projects made possible by the rise of the Internet are not like this. Still, I hope everyone is careful out there, and, when it's applicable, choose to see the arrangement involved as a service being provided by those paying for something rather than a service to the person being paid.
posted 2:15 am PST | Permalink

Go, Look: Comic Art In America Cartoon Selections

posted 2:10 am PST | Permalink

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