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Viewing: Blog Posts from All 1562 Blogs, since 1/28/2008 [Help]
Results 42,176 - 42,200 of 554,325
42176. Ramona the Pest (1968)

Ramona the Pest. Beverly Cleary. 1968. HarperCollins. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

  Ramona the Pest is the first book in the series from Ramona's own point of view. At last readers get the chance to be inside Ramona's head after witnessing all her pesty ways in previous books. Ramona is in kindergarten. And Ramona's teacher isn't the only one who will find her unforgettable. In my review of Beezus and Ramona, I mentioned how Cleary greatest strength was her ability to capture what it was like to be a kid. That is very true in Ramona the Pest. The writing is PERFECT.
Ramona could not understand why grown-ups always talked about how quickly children grew up. Ramona thought growing up was the slowest thing there was, slower even than waiting for Christmas to come. She had been waiting years just to get to kindergarten, and the last half-hour was the slowest part of all.(7)
"Ramona's Great Day" Ramona's first day of morning kindergarten. Her teacher is Miss Binney. The days has its ups and downs. But Ramona by the end of the day feels good about this thing called school. But will it last?! This is the chapter where Ramona asks Miss Binney HOW DID MIKE MULLIGAN GO TO THE BATHROOM?!
"Boys and girls," she began, and spoke in her clear, distinct way. "The reason the book does not tell us how Mike Mulligan went to the bathroom is that it is not an important part of the story. The story is about digging the basement of the town hall, and that is what the book tells us." Miss Binney spoke as if this explanation ended the matter, but the kindergarten was not convinced. Ramona knew and the rest of the class knew that knowing how to go to the bathroom was important. They were surprised that Miss Binney did not understand, because she had shown them the bathroom the very first thing. Ramona could see there were some things she was not going to learn in school, and along with the rest of the class she stared reproachfully at Miss Binney. (20)
"Show and Tell" Howie and Ramona get into a fight over a ribbon. That's the short version. It's a ribbon that Miss Binney gave Howie for "Howie's bunny" that was really Ramona's bunny. You see, Howie's mom thought Howie was upset that he wasn't bringing anything for show and tell. And Ramona's mother made her go in the house to get something--anything--for Howie to take. She picked a rabbit that was mainly loved by their cat. Ramona thinks it should be HER ribbon because it was tied to her bunny. Howie likes it only because it came from the teacher. That and I think he likes to fight with Ramona. So if she didn't want it, would he?!

"Seatwork" Adventures and misadventures in the classroom. We get lovely descriptions of some of Ramona's classmates. There is Howie, of course, Davy, the boy she chases and tries to kiss, and Susan, her nemesis. This chapter, Ramona decides to go by Ramona Q and decorate the Q like a cat. I love this chapter because we get to overhear Miss Binney interacting with ALL the children.

"Substitute" Ramona is scared of the substitute teacher and doesn't want to be in kindergarten if Miss Binney is absent. She can't go home, or, her mother will know. So where will she go?!

"Ramona's Engagement Ring" This chapter is probably one of my FAVORITE chapters from the whole series. In this chapter, Ramona has issues with her boots. She doesn't want hand-me-down brown "boy" boots. She wants pretty RED boots that are obvious girl boots. She does get them eventually. But can she use them responsibly?! This is the chapter where Henry Huggins becomes Ramona's hero...much to Davy's relief. It has Ramona joyfully shouting that she WILL MARRY HENRY HUGGINS. She has a worm engagement ring and everything.

"The Baddest Witch in the World" The Halloween chapter. Ramona *wants* to be the baddest witch, but, she also wants to be herself. She doesn't want to be unknown. So what will she do when it's costume time?!

"The Day Things Went Wrong" Will Ramona be kicked out of kindergarten because she lacks self-control when it comes to touching or pulling Susan's curly hair?! This one has plenty of drama, including a lost tooth which she leaves at school accidentally.

"Kindergarten Dropout" Ramona still persists that she won't go back to school. Is there anything to be done?!
Ramona despaired. Nobody understood. She wanted to behave herself. Except when banging her heels on the bedroom wall, she had always wanted to behave herself. Why couldn't people understood how she felt? She had only touched Susan's hair in the first place because it was so beautiful, and the last time--well, Susan had been so bossy she deserved to have her hair pulled. (202)
It was a joy to read Ramona the Pest again. 

Do you have a favorite cover?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42177. Face-Lift 1254

Guess the Plot


1. A complete history of the most recent .002% of planet Earth's existence up until the invention of the Internet.

2. Chancellor Hister plots to dominate the European Empire, by preventing the 12-year-old heir to the throne from aging, thus allowing Hister to remain regent forever. Question for discussion: is it the kid who never ages or the evil chancellor who has lost his . . . humanity?

3. When Tech Barons succeed in getting everything but cheerleading and STEM banned from Stanford, Dr Franzil Shcott decides to wage Internet war to take back her school, one gender studies program at a time.

4. A time traveler visits the great disasters of history to record them on film, adding to each his own voice-over saying "Oh, the humanity!"

5. Inside the building, where thousands had engaged in all acts of sexual depravity, hung the meaty odor of bodily secretions. It wasn’t offensive, but it wasn’t sweet. Is this where Wally, the 43-year-old virgin, finally loses his innocence? 

Original Version

Dear agent,

Edgar Lewis is an heir to the [throne of the] European Empire, a successor state to the European Union. It is 2169 and the Empire’s chancellor, named Hister, has plans to eliminate the people in between Edgar and the throne and dominate the boy’s regency. [The guy who wants to rule Europe is named Hister? Are you aware that with one minor change the name Hister becomes . . . Hipster?] Edgar’s stepfather murders his mother and then makes plans to destroy Edgar’s self-esteem in anticipation of a sale to Hister. [A sale of what?] [Also, any good salesman ought to be able to close a deal without destroying a child's self-esteem.] [Also, if you murder your wife, you are always suspect #1, so you should be fleeing the empire, not hanging around trying to destroy your stepson's self-esteem.] The Chancellor has a scientist in his pocket that [who] has created nanites to halt aging and plans to use them to keep Edgar from achieving adulthood. By the laws of the Empire, the head[-]of[-]government position will remain open until such time as the heir is physically able to withstand the stress of governing. [Hey, kids handle stress a lot better than most adults. It's more the complexities of governing kids don't get, especially how to use corruption and bribery and blackmail to your advantage.]

After the treatment, Edgar manages to escape to the Empire’s space colonies and is pursued by Marshal Grummer. Unbeknownst to both of them, the Marshal is the boy’s biological father. [Science fiction in which the villain turns out to be the hero's father? Do you reveal this in a sequel called The Empire Strikes Back?] Pursued by the Marshal’s fleet command, Edgar struggles to deal with his new situation and the deep depression the thought that he may never age brings upon him. The chancellor let’s slip information that turns Edgar’s pursuer into an ally, prompting the two to fight their way across the solar system to prevent the chancellor’s assassination attempt. Can they depend on the military to support the rightful heir? Can they, in spite of the law, convince Parliament to accept an [a] juvenile-looking Emperor? Finally, how does a 12 year old who will never age come to terms with the fact he may never marry, never have children?

HUMANITY is a 90,000 word scifi novel that explores issues such as what humanity is and do you lose yours if you can never die of old age. I see series potential with this novel, but I have other universes to explore as well.

I thank you for your time and consideration


I feel that the intriguing issue of immortality may get pushed aside when the main characters start fighting their way across the solar system. Feels like two different kinds of science fiction competing for attention. Possibly that's just me.

It seems to me that if Hister simply offered Edgar a treatment that would prevent him from getting old and dying, Edgar would go along instead of escaping into space. Or tell him the treatment prevents disease. Why tell him whatever he tells him that makes Edgar feel he must escape? Is Edgar a prisoner when he escapes? If so, how is the chancellor getting away with holding the heir prisoner?

If Edgar's biological father is not who they thought was his biological father, is Edgar still the rightful heir? I mean, would Henry VIII have succeeded Henry VII if Henry VIII's biological father were actually Marshal Grummer? Who knows that Grummer is the father? Where does this Grummer dude get off hitting the sheets with the queen?

Who is Hister trying to assassinate? I don't see what he gains by assassinating Edgar or Grummer. Besides, a trip across the solar system and back would take so long, the political situation on Earth would probably have changed drastically when you got back. Like, you chase Edgar to Neptune, assassinate him, and return to Earth to find that the European Empire is now part of the 3rd Ming Dynasty. 

If I've got a scientist in my pocket who has cured aging, the first thing he's doing is treating me. Then we're marketing the treatment to billionaires until I've cornered the world market on money. Then I'll buy Europe, evict the French, and make the whole empire my summer home.

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42178. Daredevil’s television costume is officially revealed


From the Netflix-Daredevil twitter account, here’s the “motion poster” that finally reveals what the final red Daredevil suit looks like.

Thoughts? For my part, it’s a bit armory looking, but perhaps in motion it’ll look not as stiff as I fear.

We’ll have more in-depth thoughts about the show after it debuts over the weekend.


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42179. Back from the Brink: Seth Kushner’s Secret Sauce

kushner001I’m not the kind of critic that likes to wax poetic about the production of a piece of art.  I believe that, although an artist’s life always influences their creations, a work should be judged on its own merits.  However, occasionally, as is the case with Seth Kushner’s comic anthology Secret Sauce, exceptions must be made.

As he elucidates at the start of the work, Kushner spent much of 2014 in and out of the hospital being treated for Leukemia.  He was told that he only had weeks to live.  Then weeks went by.  A few more.  Yet again, a few more.  Time passed, and Kushner still lived.  By the end of the year, Kushner had done what doctors had said would be impossible— he defeated his leukemia.  And then he made Secret Sauce.

Secret Sauce is structured as a set of five short stories, two of which are illustrated and three of which are produced as photocomics.  All feature Kushner’s writing, but each story has its own set of artistic collaborators who lend a different flavor to Kushner’s words. Going in, I was worried that Secret Sauce would be a set of ruminations on mortality— the frailty of life and the relentless passage of time.  Happily, I was proven wrong.  Secret Sauce is not an exploration of death, but is instead a celebration of life.

In Secret Sauce‘s first short story, “The Brooklynite in ‘A Man of His Word,'” Kushner immediately establishes an upbeat and energetic tone that persists through the stories that follow it.  Shamus Beyale provides great art for this short.  The backgrounds are rendered with care, and his characters are expressive and drawn with clearly defined lines.  Colorist Frank Reynoso uses a palette of upbeat pastels with some bright primary colors for accents, which further book’s energetic feel.kushner002

Kusher’s script never takes itself too seriously, and there are some great laughs as comic-artist-by-day-superhero-by-night Jeffries aka The Brooklynite takes on a disgruntled hipster-meets-MMA-fighter named Billy Burg.  It’s a testament to the team’s collective effort that they manage to successfully create a comic that feels full and fun in only four pages.  It’s fast and leaves the reader breathless and waiting for more.


Sci-Fi short “”Youtopia” does something similar, with a heavy dose of well-directed action composed by artist Charles Stewart and a beautiful color scheme and world design inspired by Tron.  These two works have nothing in common in terms of plot, and instead find connection through the energy that Kushner imbues into his script and that his collaborators put into their art.

However, where Secret Sauce really shines is in its photocomics, particularly “Heyday.” In it, Kushner tells the story of a young girl whose grandfather used to be a superhero known as The Insomniac.  Kushner and co-director Dean Haspiel do some great work in this short, bringing a fun and heartwarming story to life with an artistic technique that is not commonly explored in comics, and is occasionally even maligned.  I myself often think about what would make a photocomic resonate with readers, and there’s a lot that can be learned from “Heyday.”  Its greatest success comes from the use of color in each photographic panel.  kushner004Characters are highlighted by wearing outfits with bright shades of blue, and the scenery of the living room that the story takes place in is pushed into the background through a unified use of oranges and browns.  It’s a simple, but incredibly effective technique, and really helps the story feel less like a vaguely connected series of images and more like a well-composed comic.  That’s not to say that “Heyday” is completely successful— the digitally produced sound effects and speech bubbles clash with the photographs, and Kushner and Haspiel’s use of stroke in one panel feels too synthetic when placed up against a photograph of a person rather than an illustration of one. Ultimately, however, the risks the two creators take in this photocomic are worth the slight missteps, as they demonstrate that comics still have plenty of room to grow and that Kushner has unique ideas on how to direct that growth (the ending to the story is also pretty ingenious and got a well earned laugh out of me).

It feels disingenuous to rate or score Secret Sauce on a scale.  Kushner doesn’t try to shove a message down anyone’s throat.  He’s not in it to prove something.  He’s in it because he loves comics, and it shows.  Secret Sauce is a revelry that is playfully self-indulgent with its references to Brooklyn culture and superhero tropes.  It’s a deeply personal work that is simultaneously universal in its themes.   It’s a book that plays with form and theme in ways that are not commonly explored.  In short, Secret Sauce is not a treatise— it’s a party.

Secret Sauce debuts at NYC’s MoCCA Fest 2015, which takes place this weekend, April 11th-12th.

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42180. Interview: Retailer Brian HIbbs on the Minimum Wage and Surviving in San Francisco


Brian Hibbs, far right, and some of his Comics Experience staff. Photo from the CE website


The other day we presented a story on long running SF comics shop Comix Experience and their plans to increase revenue in the face of the local rise in the minimum wage: a graphic novel book club that’s already had a positive response. It’s a serious issue for small business owners, and led to a lively comments section. I reached out to Hibbs to see if he had any comments on the comments and ever loquatious, he suggested an interview. The results can be read below.

Comis Experience has two locations, the iconic Divisidero St. shop just off Haight St. site of many famed signings by creators from Neil Gaiman to Warren Ellis and an early adapter of the grahpic novel movement; and a newer more superhero focused store on Ocean Ave. that Hibbs took over from a previous business last year. Hibbs has long been one of the most vocal comics retailers. His Tilting at Windmills column at CBR is must reading and the comics review blog he started Savage Critics is, unbelievably, still running after 10 years or so. I’m grateful for him to take the time to talk about issues that are sure to become more and more pressing around the country.

THE BEAT: In the Beat comments and a few other places you’ve gotten a lot of free advice on running a store in the Bay Area. Did you expect that when you announced this plan?

HIBBS: After seeing what happened to Alan Beatts of Borderlands Books after he told his story earlier this year, in the public comments sections of Facebook or mainstream news stories — people accusing him of being a monster or much worse — I was expecting a lot more advice from people without all of the facts! Welcome to the internet!

The thing is that these are flashpoint issues for a lot of people, with political under-currents that can’t really be ignored, and I totally get that, but I’m most interested in keeping my store moving into the future, and doing the best I possibly can by my wonderful staff.

THE BEAT: Just to make it as clear as possible when talking about something as personal as what people make for a living, the current minimum wage in California is $9 an hour. I believe you mentioned this in your own comment, but can you confirm that you currently pay your employees more than that?  As I understand your comment, you would still have to raise wages in compliance with the new SF minimum wage hike?

HIBBS: Federal MW is $7.25, California is $9, San Francisco is (today this second) $11.05, and moves it to $12.25 in May (not July like I stupidly wrote in the original pitch), then to $13 on 7/1/16, $14 on 7/1/17 and $15 on 7/1/18.

I think it is also important for people to understand that San Francisco’s MW does not STOP at $15/hour after that — San Francisco has an older law that sets annual increases to the amount that the Consumer Price Index (tracked by the Federal government) in the Greater Bay Area rises.  Historically, this is 2-3% a year.  Therefore in 2019 it might be $15.45, $15.91 in 2020, $16.39 in 2021, and so on

But, anyway, at this second in time we’re obligated to pay $11.05/hour MW in San Francisco.  However, we don’t pay MW, except for an initial three month training period.  I have no employee currently that is making less than $11.25.

The thing is, as MW rises, so do we need to raise our pay — I’ve spent twenty-six years being a not-MW job (well, twenty-five, because I worked seven days a week in year one), and I don’t want to begin now.  When MW is raised by $1.20/hour in May, I believe that means that the people I pay $11.25 today will need to make no less than $12.45 at that point, because, otherwise, are we not effectively CUTTING their pay?  In the same way, I have to pay my managers more so that there’s, y’know, a financial benefit for being a manager, and they’re not making the same as “just” staff — and I can’t raise it less than the amount MW is raising by, otherwise, again, they’re effectively getting a cut.


Comix Experience Outpost on Ocean Ave.

THE BEAT: Doing back of the envelope math, $80K comes to $220 a day, which is a pretty hefty added expense for any small business. That would equal selling 55 periodical comics a day more, to put it in perspective. Were there any other methods besides a book club that you considered to make up the shortfall?

HIBBS: Fifty-five $3.99 comics, but more like seventy-four that cost $2.99.  And I can’t change those cover prices — we’d lose more customers than we would gain in revenue!

For people asking about the math, it works like this: I have roughly 190 employee hours each week between the two stores.  We’re open 10 hours a day at each of the two stores, seven days a week, so you can see that’s really not a tremendous overlap of hours to get all of the labor done that simply can’t be done with only one person in the store who is expected to be, y’know, helping customers find the things they want (or discover things they don’t know they want yet!)

The difference between today’s MW and 2018 is $3.95 /hour.  $3.95 times 190 hours times fifty-two weeks a year equals just over $39,000 then we have to add about another $3,000 for the matching taxes that all employers pay for Social Security and Medicare, so that’s $42,000 more that staff will cost. (not counting the new-this-year California mandated minimum Sick Days, either!)

However, in order to make forty-two thousand dollars, this means I have to sell roughly eighty-four thousand dollars worth of merchandise because the Cost of Goods Sold is (very roughly) half of the income — no one is keeping $3.99 from a $3.99 comic book!

I rounded down for ease of communication, but I probably just as easily could have rounded up to $90k because of the various overhead costs that have to be dealt with (shipping, primarily, but there are always other marginal costs that begin to add up quick)

But, yeah, $80k+ is a big hill to climb for a small business.

I do have a few other ways I can help close the gap — I can certainly reduce the number of hours the stores operates for one, though it would help less than you might think because, often, the stores are slowest in the MIDDLE of the day.  Further, the great Jim Hanley told me something that always stuck in my mind: you should be open for the customers who are there, not the ones who are not. There are absolutely days that your biggest sale of the day comes at 10:05 AM or 7:55 PM, and you can’t be certain if that sale would still be there if your hours weren’t convenient for the customer.


Comics Experience on Divisidero St.

So, yeah, I could reduce hours of operation, or I could cut staff overlap to be even tighter (though, it’s hard to see how the physical work of the store doesn’t start to slip some in that case), to work that much harder for the pay. I have that choice.  There’s not a lot of other places that expenses can be cut, though — we run extremely lean on inventory, and we’ve got robust mechanisms for getting rid of excess stock that work pretty well; and we always do as much cost-pruning as we can for ongoing expenses — just as a dumb example: we’ve used high efficiency light bulbs for years.  Hell, I have DSL in the store, rather than cable so that I can save the ~$60/month that entails. No, staffing the stores is, in fact, the single biggest expense each month, higher than rent and every utility and service combined.

And, while I would fire people if that’s what it absolutely positively took to keep the doors open, it is my fervent belief that bookstores that try to cheap their way out of cash-flow problems almost always enter the death-spiral at that point because customers can smell the stench of failure.

What I’d really much rather do, any day of the week, is grow the business enough to pay for this new mandate.

THE BEAT: People in the comments seem to think that owning a smallish comics shop, let alone two smallish comics shops, in the Bay Area with its insane cost of living rise in recent years is a doomed enterprise. How worried are you about the general prognosis for a small business in Google/Apple City, USA?

HIBBS: Don’t forget Twitter and Airbnb and Uber and Yelp too!  Plus, The City gives tech firms millions of dollars of tax breaks, and basically pays nothing but lip service to small businesses.

Look: the comic shop that sold (I’ve been told) the largest number of periodical comics in San Francisco, Jeffrey’s Toys on Market street, just a few blocks from all of those tech offices downtown, was just forced out by their landlord who demanded that their rent raised from eight thousand dollars a month to forty thousand! A five-fold increase!

Who on earth can pay forty grand a month each and every month for retail space? A super-high-end restaurant like a Gary Danko or something…. maybe? San Francisco is littered with empty retail store fronts right now because commercial rents have gone nuts, and everyone is trying to get their piece. Just this month two different businesses (Michael’s Pit Stop, a bodega and keymaker, and the KK Cafe, which was a great little cafe where this wonderful couple, Jack and Margret, also made their own peanut milk) within a block of us have been kicked out of their space due to unbearable rent increases.

It is something I worry about each and every day.  The main store has been month-to-month for twenty-one years now, my landlord has always refused my offers of a new lease, but they’ve also always been extremely generous about how they handle rent increases.  I might have had a crisis long before now except for that. But I could be kicked out at any time with essentially no warning, or have my rent tripled, or whatever, and there’s no recourse.

Look: when I opened in 1989, we had twenty-four comic stores in town, and now we are down to just eight. Two of which are mine. I don’t like that.

Hell, we are probably the only major United States city that doesn’t have a single national-chain bookstore because the economics of bookselling are really hard in a city this expensive.

More generally, though, I do think that the climate for small business in San Francisco, especially small business based around art or creativity, is rough and getting rougher.  I certainly expect that between rising rents and this new minimum wage mandate, business like mine which are currently profitable, but only by so much, are going to continue to be pressured over the next few years as the costs associated rise.  All we can do is try to plan ahead for the things we can know about, which is really why I am trying to do the Graphic Novel Club.

I really think there’s a value and a need in a curated graphic novel program, because I really and truly think that there are a lot of people who would adore the output of the market…. if only they were aware of all of the choices they have.  Comics rule pop culture, but there’s no one really saying “Here, civilian, here is a thing you should read each month”.

I have to think that almost everyone reading this could think of at least one friend or relative who might enjoy the program, and I super encourage folks to spread the word.

Are we “doomed” though?  Well, hell no — I could always go back to just having one store and firing most of the staff and running it myself five days a week again; and given that fallback, it’s difficult for me to see almost any outside force making the store close.  But, Heidi, that would be such a step backwards, and I’m trying with bold optimism, to move things forward.


The interior of the Divisidero St. store


THE BEAT: Are there any other steps you are taking to deal with the rising cost of living in the Bay Area?

HIBBS: Well, all you can do is try to diversify your store and your customer base and try to appeal to as many people as broadly as possible to help spread the words that comics are awesome.  We’re now holding regular ladies nights to try to attract new women to the store (We had one on Ocean last night, and our next one on Divisadero is May 6th), and we’ve started a regular series of weekly videos for the new store to communicate their energy.  We want for the original store to do a slightly more cerebral video series at some point — but, whew, only so many hours in the day to shoot and edit such things.

We’re about to start experimenting with doing children’s weekend mornings, with drawing classes and such, too — but ideas are easy; it’s execution and manpower and pulling off community and events without spending too much to implement the ideas that is the trick.  Give me an infinite budget, and I bet I could do some amazing things — but the problem isthat budget (and the amount of hours available to DO promotion) and that it is always a limited thing that has to be worked in and around the normal day-to-day servicing of customers and keeping the store running, physically.

THE BEAT: As also mentioned in the comments, the theory behind the wage hike is a form of “trickle down” economics. Do you think it could eventually raise your customer base in some way?

HIBBS: Yeah, well, I have to say, living in a city where we’ve had raising minimum wage every year for the last eleven (well, wait, it didn’t raise in 2010, it looks like), I can not say that I can detect any kind of a correlation between a rising MW and rising revenue.  Now, whether that is a result of cost-of-living rising faster than wages, or a result of something particular and specific about the relationship that comics fans and their buying habits share, or whether it is something that I am doing right or wrong, or whether it just has to do with the fact that human beings are messy, illogical beings that operate differently than “well, that sounds like a reasonable theory” would otherwise suggest, I just can’t say. But I am just not seeing any correlation in my sales.

Let me say, kind of as forthrightly as I possibly can, I am not an economist. I don’t actually understand a lot of the theorycraft behind it (though I try), but I do have 26 years as a business owner in a “realpolitik” way of watching my individual micro-economy, and I really think that any kind of “trickle down” is pretty much hooey for a business like mine.  People, by and large, determine their budget for comics pretty independently of their specific income. I know plenty of plenty of people who are already spending above their means, and plenty who could pay five times more, but are super-picky, and every case study in-between.

Further, if I understand the various studies that I’ve read correctly, and I absolutely may not be, most studies are reporting on the macro, not the micro — they don’t give a shit about an individual person or entity as long as the overall picture shows a particular result.  That’s reasonable of course, but my major concern is for for my staff and my store. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of that ledger. I don’t want to have to fire people, therefore making their new minimum wage zero dollars per hour!

If I understand the studies I’ve read, and, again, I really may not have understood them well at all, they generally show a “neutral” or “slightly improved” impact of small (25 to 50 cent per hour) MW changes. But within any survey there of course will be winners and losers from any kind of economic shift — it’s great that the economy as a whole is “neutral”, but that doesn’t help you if your own personal economy is “laid off” or “have to shut your business”.

Further, it is my understanding (again again again maybe totally wrong) that no credible economist can accurately predict what a raise in MW of this scale will do, because there’s absolutely no evidence since there’s never been a raise on this scale.  It is going up 43% over three years, by $3.95 — that is literally unprecedented.

What I think is going to happen is either that more workers will become MW workers, or will get closer to being MW workers, because I have a hard time seeing every San Francisco based business giving each and every employee a $3.95 raise over the next three years,  and / or common everyday transactions are going to have to go up as a result.  You’ll pay fifty cents more for your coffee and a buck more for your burrito, and you’ll wonder why you seem to have no more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

One of my main frustrations with the law is that it is so arbitrarily, geographically.  My minimum wage is going to be $15, but travel just a few minutes south to Daly City and it is only $11; even Marin to our north, which is historically filled with “rich people”, only maxes at $13.  Within an half-hour drive, it is only $9.

But the real disconnect, for me, is that what is a “living wage”, and just how much individuals should be able to participate in decisions about their own compensation, and what that entails.

hibbs_calloutI think it is important to understand that raw dollars-per-hour is not necessarily the only calculation that people make for employment — sometimes people are looking more for respect and agency, while other times people have income needs wholly outside the notion of having to support themselves or their families.

I have staff who live at home and are full-time students; I have staff who are fully supported by their significant other, and who work because they want to generate some pocket money while they work on their art careers. I have staff who purposefully quit better paying corporate jobs to work for me because they have more agency here. And I have staff (Pretty much each and every one of them, really!) who are awesome enough to probably make two or three or five times what I am paying them, but who would rather be here than the many other choices that they have.

Ultimately, I try to be about empowerment — one of my staff specifically told me during the job interview that her goal is to open her own comic book shop someday. Hell yeahs! I am so down with that notion — because certainly one of my proudest days ever was when Michael Drivas learned just enough from me to help him open Big Brain Comics in Minneapolis – but isn’t, I dunno, “learning at the feet of the master” (ew, bad metaphor!!!) worth some sort of credit against hourly wage? Man, I charge my consultancy clients $100/hour for what I say.  I mean, I clearly believe that I owe her for her time, duh, but shouldn’t we calculate “value” past only dollars-per-hour?

My bottom line is that I absolutely want to pay people every penny that they are worth, but the hard realities of profit-and-loss sometimes make that harder for others — whether that you’re in a high-expense city, or a low-expense town, I’ve met exceedingly few comic store owners that don’t struggle every day to take care of business.

The more important thing to me is how you deal with that struggle, and I’m trying to find a path that allows my staff to get paid more while making sure that I don’t contract the business so that five of them lose their jobs as a result.


Hibbs in his native habitat (photo from the SF Chronicle by Lacy Atkins)


THE BEAT: Do you foresee the wage hike affecting other shops in the area?

HIBBS: So, my two physically closest competitors are “family operated”, and I don’t believe employ anyone who is getting paid any kind of “hourly wages”. Which is 100% fine, but that means they have a smaller “nut” than I do to breaking even. Three of the other four stores in town have at least one employee, and so will be impacted to at least that degree.  No one else in San Francisco, at least as far as I know, has six employees and the payroll that I face, but I do know at least one other store who has a plan to deal with their own shortfall that I assume they will be announcing soon.

Other geek-friendly shops in the area, book stores, game stores, to the extent that they have employees, will have to come up with extra funds to take care of those costs.

I don’t know exactly how clearly other stores are looking at their own liabilities.  Until I wrote Alan Beatts I hadn’t actually bothered to take out the pen and actually figure out what the bottom line impact was.  Then I crapped my pants when I realized the scope of it.

Thankfully necessity is the mother of invention, because I think I have solid, entrepreneurial plan.

THE BEAT: Finally, how is the book club doing so far? Any surprises or new wrinkles in the huge amount of time (two days) it’s been live?

HIBBS: We’re closing on 72 hours since I first put it live (but I don’t think anyone noticed for most of the first day) and we’re allllmost at the 25%-funded mark, which I think is an absolutely fantastic response, even though that still gives us miles yet to go.  I’m also strongly hoping that we can beat the goal by really large percentage so that all of my staff can get paid well above the $15 hour MW as they properly deserve.

My hope of your readership is, even if they don’t think this is for them, is that they’ll think of someone they know who it might be a good fit for, and they’ll make a point of turning their friends on to the idea — from my point of view right now where we’re at, a share is as good as a subscription.  We’re fully set up to handle nationwide subs, and the social media connections we have planned, as well as the streaming and recorded book club meetings will be, we hope, the icing on an already fantastic cake of content. If you know anyone who could use a sherpa to guide them through the mountains of comics being published today, I think the Graphic Novel Club is for them.

4 Comments on Interview: Retailer Brian HIbbs on the Minimum Wage and Surviving in San Francisco, last added: 4/10/2015
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42181. Guest post by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Jon Gibbs hosts a weekly roundup of links to online resources for writers. What I especially like about the roundup is that the posts cover all aspects of the writing life: business, legal, craft, inspirational, emotional. We need different pieces of information at different times in our careers. It’s not just about tools; it’s also about timing. Sometimes a piece of advice won’t click until the fifth, or twenty-fifth, time I hear it—when I’m finally ready.

In Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion, I focused on all stages of the writing life: from getting up the nerve to face the blank page to dealing with the consequences of publishing. I didn’t want to write a how-to book; there are plenty of good ones already on the market. I wanted to address the mind games that writers often find themselves playing: the mental blocks, the do-I-suck-or-am-I-wonderful roller coaster. I wanted to provide a source of support, the kind of support that my fellow writers and I have given one another as we navigate the tricky line between art and commerce, between the writer’s studio and the marketplace.
And so I took a break from fiction, and came up with this book. It contains all that I continue to remind myself, as I keep writing.


Sometimes the most difficult part of writing is not coming up with a plot or the perfect turn of phrase. It’s getting motivated to sit down and start, or having the confidence to go forward, or finding the courage to move past the sting of rejection. Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion provides inspiration and encouragement for that mental and emotional journey. Covering topics as varied as procrastination, the inner critic, fear, distractions, envy, rejection, joy, and playfulness, it charts the ups and downs of the writing life with honesty, gentle suggestions, and a dash of humor.

For more: http://jenniferrhubbard.blogspot.com/p/publications.html


Jennifer R. Hubbard (www.jenniferhubbard.com) is the author of three novels for young adults, several short stories, and a nonfiction book about writing. She lives near Philadelphia with a very understanding husband, a pile of books and chocolate, and a tyrannical cat.

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42182. Boston-area kidlit events for April: seeing stars

There are a ton of star-studded children’s lit events coming up later this month in the Boston area. Here are some highlights:

yolen_you nest here with meMother-and-daughter team Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple will read and sign their new picture book You Nest Here with Me at The Blue Bunny in Dedham on Saturday, April 11th, at 11:00 am.

bartoletti_hitler youthSusan Campbell Bartoletti will lead two multigenerational book discussions based around her books at middle schools in reading. The first session (at Parker Middle School on Wednesday, April 15th, at 12:00 pm) will focus on the theme of youth in Nazi Germany. The second session (at Coolidge Middle School on Thursday the 16th at 8:15 am) will focus on the Irish Potato Famine.

Hinds_romeoGraphic novelist Gareth Hinds (who has an article coming up in the May/June magazine) will be signing at The Blue Bunny at 6:30 pm on Friday, April 17th.

lambert_crow of his ownFrequent HB contributor Megan Dowd Lambert will give a presentation called “Looking at the Whole Book: Exploring A Crow of His Own” with the book’s illustrator, David Hyde Costello. The event will take place at The Carle Museum at 1:00 pm on Saturday, April 18th, and is free with museum admission.

scbwi 2015 conferenceThe New England SCBWI Conference 2015: “Think Outside the Crayon Box!” will be held Friday, April 24th, through Sunday, April 26th, at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel.

jerry_pinkney smCaldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney will give the fifth annual Barbara Elleman Research Library (BERL) Lecture on the theme of “Art as a Manuscript” at The Carle Museum on Saturday, April 25th, at 2:00pm.

david diazPinkney’s fellow Medalist David Díaz will be giving a series of children’s art workshops on Wednesday, April 29th, to celebrate Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros. He’ll be at the BPL’s Connolly Branch at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm and at the East Boston Branch at 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm.

williams-gracia_gone crazy in alabamaCSK winner Rita Williams-Garcia will discuss and sign Gone Crazy in Alabama, the final book in her trilogy about the Gaither sisters, at Wellesley Books at 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 30th.

Also on Thursday the 30th at 7:00 pm, Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry wraps up a month of The Giver–centric programming for West Roxbury Reads with a lecture and Q&A at the West Roxbury Branch library.

Dazzling, right? And that’s just a sampling! Head over to our monthly events calendar for all the details and for even more great upcoming events.


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42183. Edinburgh Comic Con 2015

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42184. Artist of the Day: Assaf Benharroch

Discover the work of Assaf Benharroch, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!

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42185. Mile High Comics holding benefit auction for family teen who crashed into building

Our Mile High Comics benefit auction for the family of Karen Lopez will be held at our Jason St Mega-Store, 4600 Jason…

Posted by Charles Rozanski on Thursday, April 9, 2015

A few weeks ago a 17-year-old driver was killed after her car crashed into Mile High Comics’ Denver-area warehouse. They are holding a benefit auction at their facility to benefit her surviving family, which is a pretty decent thing to do. WE need a few more decent things in the world these days.

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42186. Brendan McCarthy, Al Ewing, Len O'Grady and a Zaucer Of Zilk

Was it really in 2012 that IDW published the two issues The Zaucer Of Zilk?  Having given up on comic shops by that time I missed the event -and it was an event with both issues selling out.  So, in 2013 I stumbled across the IDW special which published both issues in one ad-free book!

I say that I stumbled upon it but here is the very strange thing.  Normally, I will say "I picked this up at --no comic shop name cuz thats free publicity for them!"  But for the life of me I cannot remember where I got it.  Seriously. It is a bulky edition -76 pages- so I would normally remember. 

But what is this story about? Well here is one blurb for it:

"Get Zaucy! After instantaneous sell-outs of the single issues, IDW is proud to announce this special reprint of the collaboration with 2000 AD and Rebellion Publishing, The Zaucer of Zilk! Brendan McCarthy & Al Ewing’s phantasmagorical psychedelic extravaganza from beyond the fringes of imagination features an inter-dimensional magician who travels across the realms to save his number-one fan from the dank clutches of arch-nemesis Errol Raine, as visualized by the brilliantly surreal artist McCarthy!"

That covers it -very briefly!

This even out-shone the excellent 2010 McCarthy led Spider-Man: Fever 3 issue series.  Now if anyone -anyone- should have been handed Dr Strange as a series it was McCarthy and Co.  I mean -look!



Anyway, back to The Zaucer Of Zilk which is, after all, what I am supposed to be posting about!

I read it straight away. Looked at the art.  Looked at the art again...then again....then read it again.  Then I realised that the second time I read it I had a slightly different take on the story.  A month later I read it again and I found lots more subtleties than before.

This book just kept on giving!

And the art.....I must stop drooling.  The art, well, let's give a credit check here: the story was a joint effort between Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing and Al Ewing wrote the script.  Brendan McCarthy did the art and the colours....oooh, the colours....were by Len O'Grady.  And I need to say that O'Grady did a feckin incredible job.  Ellie De Ville did the lettering which is just as important and if you've read this you'll know why.

Put this all together into one book with no ads, add a strong cup of coffee and your daily meds and you'll be tripping.  I just cannot rave enough about this and if Marvel ain't going to hand Dr Strange over to McCarthy (and I don't mean in a hostage style way) then McCarthy better bloody create his own version and find a publisher.  

Was that a little too angry?  Sorry.

Spider-Man: Fever and The Zaucer Of Zilk are two books I read if I get too down.  

Things just brighten up and get very entertaining.  And it is fun.  In all seriousness that is what comics are supposed to be -entertaining and fun.

For me this is a class of the comic book genre and we need MORE!!


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42187. Interview: Freelance Editor Francoise Bui

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

How would you describe yourself? A writing coach? Freelance editor? Independent study instructor?

Definitely a freelance editor. I'm not a writing teacher. I love to work on manuscripts that I feel have the potential to be published--ones where my feedback can help a writer shape his/her characters and story.

You're a former Delacorte (Random House) editor, with a history of publishing children's-YA books across age markets and genres. 

Could you tell us more about the insights you gained through this experience?

I love editing books for all ages--picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA novels. The variety keeps things interesting. I find it especially liberating that middle-grade stories do not include romance, something that's largely a must in YA novels. In terms of insights, I guess it's that marvelous storytelling exists in every age group and in all genres.

Of the titles you edited, which stand out in your memory and/or might serve as models of study for writers interested in working with you?

In middle grade:

--Paperboy by Vince Vawter (Delacorte, 2013) received a 2014 Newbery Honor. I'd never encountered a protagonist with a speech impediment. It's told in a memorable first-person voice that makes you feel what it's like to be a stutterer. Plus, there are so many rich plot threads to the boy's coming-of-age story.

--Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (Delacorte, 2010) features seven very different kids in the same third-grade class. Pure fun, very kid-friendly, with a lot of heart. Each character is so well defined. In young adult:

--Orchards by Holly Thompson (Delacorte, 2011) is a gorgeous novel in verse. Beautiful, spare language. It's also a multicultural and multi-generational story.

--The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab is a rich family drama, with a mystery at its core. Very textured narrative that is both absorbing and thought-provoking.

All the books I've mentioned stand out for their memorable voice(s), compelling characters, layered storytelling, and emotional pull.

All the books also happen to be examples of realistic fiction, which I have an affinity for. But I love a new twist on a fairy tale (Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (Knopf, 2007)), not edited by me), thrillers (All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab (Delacorte, 2010), which I edited), and all-around page turners (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf, 2006) and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2010), both very different and edited by others).

What kind of writer would be best suited to your working together on a freelance basis?

I prefer to work on a complete manuscript. It's easier for me to assess and give constructive feedback on.

What can you tell us about how you approach a manuscript?

I read with an eye toward sufficient character development (protagonist and secondary cast), plot structure, setting, and overall pacing.

How would you describe your feedback style?

I am honest--what's working, what's not--and I do my best to suggest ways to rethink the weaknesses so that the revision gets the story to the next level. I try to be constructive.

What would be the logistics? How should writers get in touch with you? What would happen from there?

I can be reached at fbui.editor@gmail.com. I'd like a short note, saying whether the manuscript is middle grade or YA and a brief synopsis. Please attach the first chapter so that I get a sense of the story and voice. Then I'll decide whether I can be of help.

My fee depends on page count and what is required: general feedback only; revision letter and possible mark-up of manuscript; a line edit, etc.

I'm happy to answer questions.

Do you have any interest in joining writer conferences or workshops as a critique (or other) faculty member?

Francoise (center) with authors Mari Mancusi (left) and April Lurie (right)
I'd be happy to offer critiques as a guest editor at writers' conferences.

More globally, what should writers consider in choosing a freelance editor?

It's helpful to see what types of books a freelance editor published when employed at a publishing house. A shared sensibility goes a long way.

FYI: I'm about to create a website, so a more comprehensive list of the books I've edited will appear there.

More and more writers are seeking the assistance of a freelance editor before submission or publishing independently. For the latter, the reason is fairly obvious (they want to ensure a professional-level book). But why do you think agented and trade published writers seem more predisposed of late to take this route?

It's something I've encountered in recent years only, but it's becoming more common. Editorial staffs have shrunk and editors are overburdened. Because publishing schedules have to be met, there isn't necessarily the flexibility to work on every manuscript until each one is truly at its best.

A freelance editor can devote the time to multiple rounds of revision. So I guess agented and trade published writers now seek out freelancers to ensure that their manuscripts are strong enough for acquisition, as well as thoroughly polished for reviewers.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you for this interview, Cynthia. I look forward to editing some wonderful stories.

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42188. Poetry in motion: Celebrating moving, grooving and jumping outside (ages 3-11)

I love sharing poems with kids that create a sense of motion and play through the way they twist words, create movement and bounce to their own rhythm. Newbery winning author Kwame Alexander called basketball "poetry in motion", and today I'd like to flip that metaphor around to celebrate two collections that celebrate sports with poetry in motion.

Good Sports
by Jack Prelutsky
illustrated by Chris Raschka
Knopf / Random House, 2007
Your local library
Google Preview
ages 6-11
Prelutsky celebrates sports from baseball to soccer to gymnastics, gleefully swinging and catapulting through motion and emotions that will resonate with kids. They'll love his playful rhymes, and they will connect with the way these short untitled poems can get to the heart of how they feel.
"I'm at the foul line, and I bet
The ball will go right through the net.
I'm certain I will sink this shot,
For I've been practicing a lot.

I concentrate, then let it go...
I know it's good--I know, I know.
It makes an arc, I make a wish,
Then hear the soft, sweet sound of SWISH!"
Share these short poems with kids and ask what they notice -- do they like the rhythm and rhyming of the first two lines, or maybe the use of the "s" sounds (alliteration) in the last line, emphasizing the sound of SWISH of the basketball. Rashka's illustrations are loose and impressionistic, especially appealing to 3rd through 5th graders because they don't feel too young. I love how he incorporates diverse kids throughout--the player making the shot above has long wavy red hair, maybe a girl or maybe a boy.

For poems that celebrate all sorts of outdoor playing, definitely look for A Stick Is an Excellent Thing, with Marilyn Singer's playful poetry and LeUyen Pham's joyful illustrations.
A Stick is an Excellent Thing
Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play
by Marilyn Singer
illustrations by LeUyen Pham
Clarion / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
Your local library
ages 3-8
Kids will love the way these short poems celebrate all types of playing outside, whether it's balancing on the curb, running through a sprinkler, making stone soup with friends. Use these poems to make kids smile and also use them to show how poetry can create a freeze frame, its own small moment. Here's one that my students will definitely relate to:

I like to walk the edges--
   the curbs, the rims, the little ledges.
I am careful not to tilt,
  to stumble, lump or wilt.

I pay attention to my feet
  so that every step is neat.
I am dancing in the air
  but I never leave the street.
Pham's illustrations are full of bouncing, running, smiling kids, in both city and suburban scenes. Kids are playing in large and small groups--I love how she shows how much kids like to play together. Her kids are modern and multicultural, and full of smiles on every page. My older students will relate to Singer's poems, but the illustrations make this collection best suited for younger kids.

Both review copies were borrowed as ebooks from the San Francisco Public Library while I was on vacation. Hooray! I especially appreciate the way SFPL has ebook tutorials for first time users. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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42189. What ELSE do you do?: five questions for T. A. Barron

Author T. A. Barron instituted the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes in 2000. Named for the author’s mother, the Prize is given annually to fifteen young people “who have made a significant positive difference to people and/or our environment.” Each winner receives $5,000 toward his or her work or higher education.

Barron’s latest fantasy novel, Atlantis in Peril, will be published in May by Philomel Books, and look for his thoughts about his main man Merlin in the forthcoming May Horn Book Magazine, a special issue on the theme of Transformation. Nominations for the 2015 Barron Prize can be made through the website linked above, but the deadline is April 15th so burn rubber, jk.

This is the first in a series of interviews with children’s book people about what else they do with their time.

Author photo 2014 for Horn Book 1.  RS: Over the fifteen years the prize has been awarded, have you seen any shift in the kind or focus of activism from the nominees? 

TAB: The quality and diversity of these kids has always been extraordinary – they blow my mind every single year. But there have been dramatic shifts in what kinds of activism motivate them. For example, there’s been a big increase in young people helping other people and the environment at the same time – such as one recent winner who invented solar lanterns to replace dangerous and polluting kerosene or dung ones in developing countries. Another change is that nearly all our nominees these days have created their own activism websites and have a real social media presence, which definitely wasn’t the case when we started!

2.  RS: Where do you see the intersection between your work as a novelist and as a conservationist?

TAB: Both are about young people – their struggles, ideals, and surprising power to change the world. Every day, I’m worried about the terrible planetary mess we are handing to our children. Yet every day, I’m amazed by the honesty, freshness, energy, dreams, humor, and courage of young people. So in my writing, I try to authentically earn the idea that every kid, of any description, has a special magic down inside – magic that could change the world. Add to that “hero’s journey” core how much I like to weave ecological ideas into my books…and you have the two themes that flow through all my stories.

Similarly, in my conservation work, I try to share stories of real people who have made a difference to creating a more healthy environment – people like Jane Goodall (visionary), John Muir (activist), Rachel Carson (writer), and Johnny Appleseed (tree planter). We actually do have the power to give Mother Nature the space and flexibility she needs to survive – but we have to believe that before we can do it. The stories we tell young people – the seeds we plant metaphorically as well as physically – can help us get there.

3. RS: Could you describe one of the most surprising or inventive projects you’ve seen submitted for this prize?

TAB: I’m still waiting and hoping for the bright young kid out there who will invent a way for me to write books faster (as a community service, of course)! Alas, that isn’t going to happen. Some of my most favorite recent projects are: (1) Waste No Food, linking food donors with charities that feed the hungry, thus helping people and keeping food waste out of landfills. (2) Literacy for Little Ones, providing new books and early literacy information to nearly 10,000 families with newborn babies. (3) Project TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel), collecting waste cooking oil from residents and restaurants and refining it into biodiesel to help New England families with emergency heating needs.

4. RS: What do you think is the key to growing a lifelong idealist?

TAB: Here’s what I hope to convey to any kid from any background: See your life as a story – a story of which YOU are the author. So make it the very best story you can! Tell it with courage; tell it with passion. And also find a way to have a chapter or two where your dreams for how to make the world a better place are made real by the small, everyday things you do in your life – as well as the broader causes you support.

5. RS: If I told you I wanted to save the world, what would you give me to read first?

TAB: I’d give you three books: (1) Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman (on the power of every person to make a difference). (2) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (on the power of love). And (3) The Hero’s Trail (the new 2015 edition) by T. A. Barron. (I know it’s shameless of me to include that last title…but this new edition is so packed with inspiring stories of real young people who have shown amazing courage and compassion that I just can’t resist.)



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42190. Marvel is developing an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off


Despite hitting a series low ratings point in its desired demo just a week ago, ABC is apparently looking to spin-off their freshman Marvel television series according to Entertainment Weekly.

As for the subject matter, that remains a mystery, but here are the relevant details that EW was able to obtain:

We’re told a spinoff is being developed by SHIELD executive producer Jeffrey Bell (Angel, The X-Files) and SHIELD writer Paul Zbyszewski (Lost, Hawaii Five-0).

We don’t know is which characters from the current series will be moving over to the proposed spinoff – so let the speculation being on that. There won’t be an implanted pilot episode this season directly setting up the spinoff, either (like how CW launched The Flash out of Arrow). However, story elements that are still to come on SHIELD this year will be used to lay the groundwork for the potential new series. So by the end of the season – assuming the details for this project haven’t already leaked, which is rather unlikely – the spinoff concept should be clear.

According to TVLine, this also will not interfere with any potential plans for a second season of Agent Carter, so breathe a sigh of relief those of you (like me) that were worried this might spell doom for our favorite Marvel spy.

While, it’s hard to tell what this series will be about, the best guess I’ve seen is that it will be a Deathlok spin-off, given that the character *spoiler alert* made a surprise appearance in this week’s episode.

I can’t say I’m the biggest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan in the world, but much like I found The Flash to be a huge improvement on Arrow, perhaps whatever this series turns out to be will perform in much the same way. We’re sure to find out more in the next few weeks as whatever above-mentioned groundwork takes shape.

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42191. In Tandem: PINNED, by Sharon G. Flake

Happy Thursday and welcome back to In Tandem, the read-and-review blog series where both Tanita and I give our opinions, back and forth, conversation-like. Come join our book talk! Today we're discussing Pinned, by Sharon G. Flake. Pinned is a... Read the rest of this post

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42192. Young Justice’s Weisman on Rain of the Ghosts: A tale of an Audioplay, Kickstarter, and 693 Index Cards


Television producer, comic book writer and prose novelist Greg Weisman has just added a new job description – audioplay mastermind. That’s not a euphemism, Weisman is taking his nine-book novel series known as Rain of the Ghosts and bringing it over to Kickstarter in the form of an audioplay. The author has just finished the second title in the series: Spirits of Ash and Foam. The novels and audioplay focus on Rain Cacique, a heroine with some mysteries to solve and new (ghostly) friends to hang out with. This work is also produced with the young adult market in mind – a smart decision on behalf of the creators to make the work much more accessible. With a Kickstarter campaign in the works, and a new Marvel book featuring a popular Star Wars: Rebels character known as Kanaan, Weisman is a busy creator.

Did you first build Rain of the Ghosts around the female hero Rain Cacique, or did you start with the world building first?

It was so long ago – I first developed Rain of the Ghosts in 1997. I definitely wanted to do a show around a female lead. We really did the origins of it developing a show set in New Orleans. The more I researched about the Caribbean, the more I wanted to do a show set there. Part of it, is the setting itself, and then the cast just seemed to come together with the mythology of the Taino people. It just worked for it to be a female lead in that it was something I wanted to do. So it kind of felt like more of a holistic approach in that I started more with this,

Aside from your setting and environment, how did you weave the mythological aspects into the story?

My method involves a lot of index cards and a very large bulletin board. I just started putting the index cards up moving them around and changing the order that began to coalesce for me. That’s how I began to work on the television shows, and it’s how I do the novels. On the second book: Spirits of Ash and Foam, I used 693 index cards to outline the book. I covered an eight foot tall bulletin board, a big table and a pool table before I was done – I completely covered all three. Even then, I took the index cards and wrote them up into a document. There were these two characters that in the outline were very minor. They were each in one short scene or something like that and very functionary characters. They had no drive of their own per see. As I was writing the book the characters came up and said nuh-uh. We’re way more important than that. So I had to sort of figure out what there arcs were in the second book. They turned out to be very important characters.

How did you first start to get the idea of taking the book and getting in the audioplay format?

Initially it was pretty straightforward, thought it would be really cool to make an audioplay of this. I found myself with the dilemma which would be: I have first-person narrator who is an adult male. If it’s a first-person narrator you get an adult male to read it. Then I thought, but my lead character is a thirteen year-old girl and she has most of the dialogue. Listen to this adult male trying to do the little girl voice for the whole book, it would be really awful. I decided that I would add a musical score because most audiobooks are just one guy reading with no music and no sound effects. Let me do this like a radioplay, let me do it like an episode of an animated tv series only without the animation and that’s something that I do know how to do. We cast the whole book – that’s done. What we’re doing, is raising the money on the Kickstarter for the post-production of all the Dynamic Music Partners; the group that did the music for Spectacular Spider-Man. For the editing and sound effects and all the post-production work; because this is a studio quality production without the studio interference. We get to decide whether or not it gets made and that’s what the Kickstarter is for.

Did you construct a budget for the audio play different than how you would an animated series?

I sat down and talked to a bunch of people and figured out the budget: a SAG Union production. We got a discount because we are an audioplay, and not many people have done that before. It doesn’t cost as much as it would if it was a full episode, but we have four hours worth of material. It’s a lot of bang for the buck, I called in a lot of favors and a lot of people were working for free. Most people are being paid if the Kickstarter goes through at least a little bit. Just turning it around and giving us the best work that they can give us. We broke the budget into two halves, the first half is for the voice cast, paid for by me, and the second half is the post-production which was paid for by the Kickstarter.

Did you look at the foreign market in the UK where audio plays are a known quantity?

I didn’t do any detailed research into that but I was very aware of Big Finish, and that kind of thing and I thought we could demonstrate that it’s good stuff that might be a place where we could take it. To some extent I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. The Kickstarter is at the halfway point and it hasn’t even been up a week yet. I don’t wanna count my chickens before the hatch in that essence.

Do you have a plan for how you will be able to market the audiodrama to more people?

I’ve got people working on the marketing side of things, obviously the social media aspects are a big part of that. The Kickstarter itself is good advertising – we were hoping to bring some more attention to not just the audioplay itself – but to everyone. I just keep trying to reach out to people, I have a comic book series called Star Wars: Kanaan that came out on Wednesday, and if that can help me reach more people for Rain…great. I have a new television show that I am not allowed to talk about yet. Eventually that will come out – hopefully that will generate more interest with me and interest in Rain. If we can make it happen we’re gonna try do it.

Are their any last words on your upcoming projects?

I got the book ready to go with Spirits of Ash and Foam which is available on Amazon or in any bookstore. If they aren’t literally on the shelf, you can go to the front desk and they will order them for you. That’s the big thing that I am pushing right now, other than that, there’s Star Wars: Kanaan which is a lot of fun. It has the first issue out now with a great second issue out in a month. I am pushing this Kickstarter, we so had a great time recording the voices. We really want a chance to finish this thing off so people remember what we did.

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42193. So let it be Written by Robert Venditti: Valiant Reveals the Book of Death


Valiant has just announced the first plot details to the upcoming crossover known as Book of Death. Earlier this week, the publisher ran some teasers from the event, but Valiant finally has the big reveals. Of course, with the nature of comic books being as they currently are, we can’t really talk about this crossover without spoiling the one previous.


The (last) Geomancer was The Valiant, and she has the book of the future of the Valiant Universe. While the Eternal Warrior sought to protect her, the Book of Death is going to be hard to shelter for very long. There are a lot of teases for this crossover included in the short press email delivered from Valiant. Ninjak dead? A new person within the X-O Armor? The redemption of Toyo Harada? A fate beyond death for Bloodshot? These are the questions that are asked in the one-shot issues riffing on the ending for the upcoming series in the Summer months.

Whew! This is set to be a big four issue crossover written by Robert Venditti containing art from Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite. The first issue ships in July. Take a look at the tie-in series for the event that are all one-shots teasing upcoming events.

BOOK OF DEATH #1 (of 4)




Cover B by CARY NORD



Character Design Variant by PAOLO RIVERA

Valiant Icons Variant by PERE PEREZ

Artist Variant by PAOLO RIVERA

Blank Cover also available

$3.99 | 40 pgs. | T+ | COMING IN JULY!



Written by JEFF LEMIRE




Variant Cover by DAVID YARDIN

Variant Cover by TOM FOWLER

$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | COMING IN JULY!



Written by MATT KINDT


Cover by KANO

$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | COMING IN AUGUST!




Art by KANO


$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | COMING IN SEPTEMBER!





Cover by CARY NORD

$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | COMING IN OCTOBER!

1 Comments on So let it be Written by Robert Venditti: Valiant Reveals the Book of Death, last added: 4/10/2015
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42194. Staying Inside

Even though spring is finally here, staying inside can be oh so relaxing. I like being home, and even though we've lived in this apartment for over 5 years now, there's still plenty of things around that I want to draw over and over again.

Wanna stay inside and draw too?
It's not too late to sign up for my online workshop 'Awesome Art Journaling' - you get to the classroom by staying at home. Cozy slippers and yoga pants are allowed in the online classroom! Find out more about the online workshop and enroll by clicking here

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42195. It's live!! Cover Reveal: Starflight by Melissa Landers + Giveaway (International)

Hi, YABCers, and welcome to the second cover reveal of the week!

Today we're super excited to celebrate the cover reveal for STARFLIGHT by Melissa Landers, releasing February 2, 2016 from Disney Hyperion. Before we get to the cover, here's a note from Melissa:


Hey, YABC! Thanks for joining me for the cover reveal of STARFLIGHT, my upcoming standalone novel from Disney-Hyperion! Like everything I write, STARFLIGHT combines my two favorite things—sci-fi and romance—but there are no aliens this time, only humans. (Sorry, Aelyx.) This cover is very different from the Alienated books but striking in its own way. And the final jacket will be enhanced with gold foiling, which should be gorgeous! I can’t wait to hear what you think!
~ Melissa Landers (STARFLIGHT, Disney Hyperion)



Ready to see?

Scroll, YABCers! Scroll!


































Here it is!



*** If you choose to share this image elsewhere, please include a courtesy link back to this page so others can enter Melissa's giveaway. Thank you! ***



by Melissa Landers
Release date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 978-1484723241
About the Book


Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she's willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.
When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world--and each other--the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe...

b2ap3_thumbnail_Landers-Watermark-6392-006.JPGAbout the Author

Author of the Alienated series, Melissa Landers, (melissa-landers.com), is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her husband and three kids. She lives outside Cincinnati and in the small town of Loveland, "Sweetheart of Ohio."

Twitter | Web | Instagram | Goodreads | Tumblr


Giveaway Details

One winner will received a signed ARC of STARFLIGHT. 

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries:

What do you think about the cover and synopsis?

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42196. On Failure

My next guest blogger is Jennifer R. Hubbard, author of three novels for young adults and a book on writing. I’m intrigued by Jennifer’s discussion of “failure narratives.” We’re conditioned by books and public speakers and various superstars and heroes to believe in ourselves, and to know we can do anything, which might inspire us but also prepares us poorly for other outcomes: ordinary, boring lives. I recall that the eponymous hero of Jude the Obscure was fixated for a time on the folktale of Dick Whittington; a favorite of mine, too, when I was a boy. Of course Jude is bound for a less fairy-tale existence. The minor classic, Stoner, by John “not-the-composer” Williams has a similar theme. Recommend your own in the comments, particularly those that perhaps celebrate the heroic struggles of those ragamuffin wanderers who never find a magic bottle.

jennifer hubbardYou would think writers would talk more about failure, since it’s such an integral part of the job description. We fail a lot. We abandon manuscripts, collect rejections, have projects canceled. Most traditional books don’t earn out their advances, which means they don’t hit their sales goals. We hear “no” a lot more than we hear “yes.”

Failure especially comes as a shock if we’ve had some success first. We expect to fail at the beginning of our careers, when we’re inexperienced. And we love the narrative of failure as a precursor to success; we love an earned happy ending. We love when the earlier pain proves to have purpose and meaning. But we don’t think of success as temporary. Once we’ve arrived, we don’t expect to get kicked out of the party. Why we expect this, I don’t know. We’ve read the cautionary biographies; we’ve seen the biopics. We’ve all seen famous names fade from view. Few people stay on top forever.

While failure sometimes comes from not working hard enough or not knowing enough—the problems we can control and overcome—it also comes from dozens of other little factors we can’t control or even foresee, such as fashion and timing, illness and disaster, culture shifts and technological changes. For every person who follows a formula to success, thousands of others follow the same formula and fail.

The simple fact is that failure is more common and more likely.

I have searched for failure narratives where failure is not just a precursor to success. They are rare and powerful. There’s Susan Allen Toth’s “Summa,” a chapter in her memoir Ivy Days: Making My Way Out East, about ambition and perfectionism and loss, about what happens when you don’t live up to your potential, about how a couple of bad days can wipe out years’ worth of work. There is Joan Ryan’s Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters, in which the “breaking” overwhelms the “making.”

Loner in the GarretIn I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron wrote one of the most honest essays about failure that I’ve ever read (“Flops”). She was referring to movies, but her main conclusions apply more widely. In short, failure is painful and unpredictable. We don’t necessarily learn from it, and we don’t necessarily forget it. Failure can scar. In short, all the things we fear about failure are true.

Even as I write this, I feel the pressure to steer toward a positive message. Which may be why we don’t discuss the bitterness of failure much: What a downer! But for me, there is comfort in a few of these truths. First, since failure is a lot more common than success, we have plenty of company when we fail. Second, most failures are not fatal. And third: You never know. If failure is unpredictable, so is success. Some people say that neither failure nor success is as important as trying. (A variation of that sentiment even appears in the Olympic ideal, as voiced by Pierre de Coubertin.) I don’t know that I’d go that far—yet here I am, trying still.

Jennifer R. Hubbard (www.jenniferhubbard.com) is the author of three novels for young adults and several short stories. Her most recent book, Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion, discusses failure and success and everything in between. She lives near Philadelphia with an understanding husband, a pile of books and chocolate, and a melodramatic cat.

Filed under: How to Fail Tagged: failure, jennifer hubbard, success narratives

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42197. Mikros Image Acquired by Technicolor

The makers of last year's CG Astérix and the upcoming "Little Prince" has been snapped up.

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42198. H is for Higgy-Bottom

Higgy Blasts Class 4 Into Space (provisional title)

A story for younger children - never completed

I chased Ollie round the side of the school building, leaping over broken paving slabs. Pushing open the door I followed him into the cloakrooms and the smell of mice and sweaty football kits hit me in the face. We threw our anoraks on top of a mountain of clothes that were sliding off the top of the trolley and charged into our classroom. 

We clambered over feet and rucksacks and threw ourselves into our places at one of the tables nearest the window. Jack Bragg, the class bully, bigger than any kid in our year, was at our table, worse luck. He tried to pull Ollie’s chair from under him, but I bent Bragg’s fingers back and stopped him.
There was a weary shout from Mr. Higginbotham, our teacher. He’s known to us as old Higgy-Bottom, or sometimes just Higgy. He was trying to call the register above the din the class was making but no one was listening. He waved his stick arms at us and shook his scarecrow head. We ignored him.   
‘Get you later,’ bully Bragg growled. He leaned across the table and tried to stab my hand with his compass.
Quick as a flash I brought my fist down on top of his and the compass point went into the table and snapped off.  
‘Not if I get you first,’ I threatened through clenched teeth. ‘Last night I fought the Albononi. After that, Bragg, you’re nothing!’ 
Bragg frowned. He wasn’t that good at understanding things. You have to spell it out to him.
‘You’re nuts,’ he said. ‘I’ll beat you to a pulp!’
One or two kids were making paper planes, lighting them, and one whizzed over Bragg’s head.
Soon we won’t need old Higgy to set us on fire, I thought, we’re doing it ourselves. I was watching bully Bragg’s every move, but he’d lost interest in me. He lumbered to his feet and followed the burning smell to the back of the class.  
The noise in the room was deafening. Ollie stuck his fingers in his ears and read his book about space travel. Then someone noticed the equipment Higgy-Bottom was piling on top of his desk and we quietened down.
This stuff looked even more dangerous than the time he’d tried making indoor fireworks. Higgy’s hopeless, his experiments never work. A ripple of excitement ran round the room. Higgy was always good for a laugh and at least we’d get out of doing maths.
Higgy was fiddling with loads of big batteries, coils of copper wire, metal clips, beakers full of cloudy liquid, and a light bulb in a holder. 
‘Wonder if he knows what he’s doing?’ said Ollie, closing his book. ‘He seems to be trying to make electrical circuits.’
Higgy peered anxiously at the equipment he’d arranged on his desk, scratched his mop of white hair, and then wiped his sweaty palms on the seat of his corduroy trousers.  ‘Now watch carefully, everyone,’ he said.
Silly thing to say. Glued to his every movement were thirty pairs of eyes. Even bully Bragg was watching. We craned our necks forward, trying to get a better view. We hardly breathed. What was he up to? Was it going to be safe? We sat on the edge of our chairs, ready to make a run for it if we had to.  
He fastened copper wire to the terminals on the batteries he’d lined up on his desk. ‘Now let me see, this should work…..’
He was struggling to push the ends of the wires into the holes at the bottom of a light bulb holder. Concentrating hard, with his head on one side, his mop of white hair flopped over his eyes.
‘Nearly ready,’ he said, still struggling with the wires. ‘The bulb….the bulb will….it….’
We waited and waited, but nothing happened. One or two kids started to titter but we hissed at them to shut up. We didn’t want to break Higgy’s concentration. He might be discouraged and we’d be back to giving out the maths books.
Now the whole class was willing the bulb to work, but the stupid thing refused to do anything.
Ollie was fidgeting about. ‘We’ve got to stop him,’ he said.
‘Stop what?’ I said.
‘Don’t you see? He’s tangling the wires.’
Ollie jumped to his feet. ‘Look out, Sir,’ he shouted. ‘Don’t let those wires touch!’
‘Why….oh, I see, yes, you’re right….that might have been nasty,’ Higgy said.
He beamed at Ollie and picked up one of the trailing wires and found his staple gun.
‘I’ll just pin it to the wall beside the blackboard, keep it out of the-’
‘No!’ Ollie cried.
Too late, Higgy fired the gun, embedded the staple deep into the thin plasterboard and into the school’s main electricity supply cable. There was a deafening bang, sparks, and the classroom filled with smoke.
We coughed loudly, trying to see who could cough the loudest, but there was no angry shout from Higgy, telling us to shut up. When the smoke cleared we were shocked to find he’d disappeared.
We were silent at first, wondering what had happened. Then one kid began to laugh nervously. We felt a bit uncomfortable. Was Higgy really hurt? Where was he? We peered up at the ceiling, half expecting to see bits of him splattered on the tiles above our heads, but all we could find were his charred sandals on the floor behind his desk. 

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42199. Hat Monkey app review

hat monkey menuLet me say straight out that I don’t like monkeys. But I set my personal primate feelings aside to look at app Hat Monkey (2014), trusting in both creator Chris Haughton and developer Fox & Sheep — whose Nighty Night I liked a lot — to provide an enjoyable experience. Happily, the breakdancing, “meep-meep!”-ing Monkey soon won me over.

The app opens with Monkey dancing to surf jazz music, then offers a simple menu (scene selection, language options, a link to info about Haughton’s books, and a link to download more Fox & Sheep apps). From there the app begins a prompt-and-activity structure (“Monkey is coming! Can you open the door?”) that continues throughout the app as Monkey makes himself at home.

hat monkey hiding

“Monkey is hiding. Can you find him?”

The illustrations feature stylized shapes and a limited palette of hot pinks, purples, and oranges in high contrast with Monkey’s royal blue.

What could easily be familiar Pat the Bunny territory instead takes a meta, super-modern direction. After the prompt “Can you send Monkey a text?” choose one of four emoji to send to Monkey — who’s busy reading Haughton’s picture book A Bit Lost, by the way — and watch his cute and funny responses.

hat monkey text   hat monkey reading
(Send the banana, and Monkey surreptitiously licks his phone.) Other prompts include giving Monkey a high-five, learning Monkey’s sweet dance moves, talking to him on the phone using your device’s microphone, and playing saxophones together. The app ends with reading Monkey a bedtime story (Haughton’s Oh No, George!, of course) and turning off the light, sending him off to contented, lightly snoring sleep.

Preschool- and early-primary-perfect humor — including a more-endearing-than-gross fart joke — is communicated through all the app’s elements: the deadpan text; the illustrations; the animations, especially in the movements of Monkey’s huge, expressive eyes; and sound effects. Read a making-of blog post by Haughton here.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $0.99. Recommended for preschool and early primary users.


The post Hat Monkey app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

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42200. Comic-Con International and Lionsgate team for new nerd-focused VOD service

Fwd  Lionsgate Comic Con SVOD Service   Press Release   Final   heidi.macdonald gmail.com   Gmail.jpeg

WonderCon isn’t the only part of the CCI empire that’s going “Hollywood.” CCI has just signed a deal with Lionsgate for a new subscription video-on-demand service that will launch later this year.

Lionsgate—the studio known for The Hunger Games and the Divergent series among many others—and CCI—that’s Comic-Con International) the non-profit organization that runs the San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon—will team to present material deemed to be of interest to the Comic-Con fanbase. And yes, the channel will have original content, as well as studio fare from Lionsgate and other studios—and historical footage from past Comic-Cons.

While a VOD service may seem a little out of character for CCI, it’s not really for those who’ve been watching closely. The new service will serve as an outgrowth of SDCC’s
Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival (CCI-IFF), which is held at Comic-Con every year with various films of fan related-interest. The new VOD service will make this a “365-day-a-year online event.”

As a studio, Lionsgate was an early adapter, exhibiting at Comic-Con to promote the low budget films that made its name long before every studio in town decided SDCC was the biggest marketing event of the year. This new CCI VOD will be the third streaming service they’ve announced: Lionsgate Entertainment World, a joint venture with the Chinese company Alibaba, recently launched; and this summer will see the debut of Tribeca Shortlist, a partnership with Tribeca Enterprises that presents firms for discerning film fans. In addition to blockbusters like The Hunger Games movies, Lionsgate has also beome a player in TV, producing and distributing shows like Mad Men and Orange is the New Black.

VOD has become the hot place to cater to niche audiences and experiment with content; exploiting the “nerdcore” audience has been on a lot of radars. “The fan base for the kind of films and television series showcased at Comic-Con has grown exponentially, and a subscription video-on-demand service is the ideal platform to capture the magic and excitement of the Comic-Con experience year-round as well as the perfect vehicle for Comic-Con fans to discover new content,” said Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television & Digital Distribution Jim Packer.

It’s also a way for CCI to branch out. The Comic-Con brand is now somewhere between the Super Bowl and the Puppy Bowl in terms of mega-awareness, and launching new ventures like this seem like a smart channel to expand it even further. According to CCI’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer, CCI and Lionsgate have been working on the deal for two years; it was Lionsgate’s knowledge of fan culture that sealed the deal to “deliver the unique magic of Comic-Con and the celebration of comics and popular art to our fans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and around the world.”

Frequent dealmaker Peter Levin (Nerdist, Deadline) was also involved. He’s now President of Interactive Ventures & Games at Lionsgate and expects to “expand and enrich the world of Comic-Con for existing fans and extend it to a whole new global audience with a channel distinguished by its imaginative curation, depth and diversity of content and fierce loyalty to the Comic-Con brand.”

Sign up at the above link to find out more about the launch of this new service. Maybe it will show those two dueling nerdlebrity convention shows we told you about the other week.WonderCon isn’t the only part of the CCI empire that’s going “Hollywood.” CCI has just signed a deal with Lionsgate for a new subscription video-on-demand service that will launch later this year.

Lionsgate—the studio known for The Hunger Games and the Divergent series among many others—and CCI—that’s Comic-Con International) the non-profit organization that runs the San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon—will team to present material deemed to be of interest to the Comic-Con fanbase. And yes, the channel will have original content, as well as studio fare from Lionsgate and other studios—and historical footage from past Comic-Cons.

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