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On Friday, the long running—22 years!—Brian Bendis message board shut down with the above message, and al of its archives went with it.
The Bendis Board was especially busy in the golden age of the message board (1998-2004) and hosted forums for many comics pros, including Gail Simone, David Mack, Kelly Sue DeConnick. I guess some of that will be available on the Way Back Machine, but with the CBR boards being scrubbed, the Bendis Board going away, and rumors of several other foundational message boards being shut down, a lot of comics history is vanished in a way that print just doesn’t offer. As I’m always reminding people, THE INTERNET IS NOT FOREVER.
Former forum member Albert Ching has a good look back including the reminder that it was an incubator for a whole generation of comics pros who posted and became friendly there, including Nick Spencer, Charles Soule, Joe Eisma, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain. A refugee message board has been set up here, according to comments.
I was active on the boards for a little while before time ran out, but there were some good people there…and some jerks, as always, but mostly good times.
Anyway, the Powers TV, er, filmed entertainment show, is in the works with Sharlto Copley as Christian Walker and Susan Heyward as Deena Pilgrim. I know Copley won;t be using that super South African accent he had in Elysium, but I can dream on. “My WAFF.”
We here at The Beat have long been a fan of Tim Beyer’s analysis of comics and comics-based entertainment trends at The Motley Fool and he’s just launched his own site to expand on that called The Full Bleed:
Why have a blog covering the business when I’m already writing about comics and pop culture elsewhere? Simple. There are times when I want to offer more than an analyst’s perspective. Sometimes, I just want to be a fan. The Full Bleed lets me do that.
Here, I’ll be going between the panels to offer insights on news and rumors about TV shows, films, and most of all, comics. (I’ve been reading and collecting comics since the late ’70s.)
Given Beyer’s data-driven take on the business of pop culture this should be bookmarked! (Disclosure, he calls out this site as well, so consider this full on logrolling. BUt if you like The Beat you’ll probably like The Full Bleed.)
Via many media yesterday came news of USA Today laying off a bunch of folks, including Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson, following a 15 year run. A few may remember in the VERY VERY early says of this site, Whitney was a blogging nemesis, bearing in mind that when we both started there were only four blogs. The pretend “feud” lasted about five minutes, and ended as soon as I met Whit and found out what an awesomely kind, smart and talented person she was.
Seriously there is not a person on earth who is nicer than Whitney.
Just to prove it, she spent the day after being laid off not sulking or crying but answering tweets to her on Twitter with the same friendly open approach that she uses with everything.
This isn’t an obit, as Whitney’s talented will be snatched up I’m sure. But I will say that she pioneered the “nerd pop culture” blog at USA Today and covered comics along with movies, TV, film and music, and with the exact same degree of passion. I have no idea how Whitney processed all the information she did—if you think I work hard, it would take five Heidis to do what one Whitney did.
I’d also like to mention her meetups at San Diego, which the above poster is from. These ended when Gannett got to cheap to send her out there. They were great events where all kinds of people, from Hope Larson to Joss Whedon showed up. Nothing like them any more…
Anyway, good luck to a friend and colleague.
Here’s some more tributes to Pop Candy and Whitney:
I still remember handling PR for Yahoo!’s entertainment brands (which were totes ahead of its time, BTW!) and any time we’d get a mention on Pop Candy, my colleagues and I would squeal with a fervor typically seen only at One Direction concerts. Pop Candy was always our holy grail simply because we read and loved it.
The best part about PR is getting to see clients that you love covered by media that you deeply respect and often read yourself. A day didn’t go by when I didn’t read Pop Candy, and when I did skip a day, I felt like pop culture was passing me by and I was still wearing stonewashed jeans (“What do you mean Counting Crows aren’t cool anymore??”). Pop Candy was like my Facebook feed before it became Upworthy clickbait and annoying memes. I discovered things on it.
Here is one from the archives: A CNN iReport put together by Jennifer Daydreamer and yours truly, this is an impromptu interview with James Sime, owner of Isotope, The Comic Book Lounge, that segued into an impromptu interview with Whitney Matheson. The discussion here involves the state of comics, which is always evolving, and how they coexist with Hollywood. This is from 2010, the year that “Scott Pilgrim” and “The Walking Dead” were big winners at the Eisner Awards at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Whitney hosted some awesome Pop Candy meetups through the years. Well, perhaps there will be something similar in the future.
Here’s a good idea: Small Press Previews, a new site that I was informed of by Jared Smith. They have 46 publishers signed up to create a single spot to see previews of small press comics coming out each month.
For instance I didn’t know there was a new Derf coming from Alternative Press! On sale at SPX! — whoopie!
While the idea is a sounds one, if you are of the demographic that watches a lot of CBS tv shows you may, as I did, have a bit oof trouble figuring out how to access the previews. They are loaded in a fancy schmancy “virtual riffle” where you must lift up each page and go to the next. It’s fun but I might tire of it in a busy month.
I’ve had a lot of talk here about previews, and whether readers like them in an embedded format, streaming or on an iPad. Or now “virtual riffling.”
Is the Beat obsessed with The View liking comics? Why, yes, because it represents the farthest encroachment of comics culture into the fortress of coffee klatch culture. Of course with Whoopi Goldberg on board, it’s not that hard as she’s the ultimate undercover nerd mole. A longtime comics fan, if she’s not awkwardly plugging Lady Thor, she’s showing off Vamplets, including plush toys and Action Labs comics, as the above photo, supplied by Action Labs, reveals. The incident took place on August 6th during the “Whoopi’s favorite things” segment, as she called Vamplets “A little creepy, but so fun and sweet”. Artwork from the Vamplets’ graphic album, “The Nightmare Nursery: Volume one”, was also featured.
Now if we can just get Jenny McCarthy to speculate on who should play Aquaman.
Vamplets was created by Gayle Middleton, who was also behind Hasbro’s redesigns of My little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop. The series centers around teenager Destiny Harper who is transported to Gloomvania where she must fight the cute invasion of the l’il Vamplets.
The Nightmare Nursery: Volume One is adapted by writer Dave Dwonch and artists Amanda Coronado and Bill Blankenship.
UPDATE: and Brett Schenker has traced the whole thing to a reader with a vendetta against Remender.
In last week’s issue of Captain America, #22, two characters were shown having a few glasses of wine and tumbling into bed only to wake up the next morning wondering what happened. The characters in question were Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, one of the few prominent African-American characters in both the Marvel comics and film universes. The woman was Jet Black, aka Jet Zola, the daughter of Arnim Zola. Although she runs around in a skimpy costume reminiscent of Leeloo from The Fifth Element, this is perhaps explained by her having been raised in an alien dimension. Although she was born only a few years ago in real world time, she has aged more in comics time.
However, one blogger on Examiner saw it as the Falcon banging a 14 year old and over the weekend—even though a panel in the comic explicitly states that she is 23 years old— a #firerickrememnder hashtag spread across the viralnets saying that he had a beloved minority character commit statutory rape. Remender has been in hot water a few times before, so this found some purchase.
Now, I’m not am expert on current Marvel continuity, but apparently a reader named Khat is in a detailed tumblr post, it was explained about parallel dimensions and time and aging and other stuff. Anyway, maybe Falcon made a mistake, but at least she was of age.
The outrage itself spawned more outrage, especially among comics pros who are sick of being held up to political level scrutiny, and for calls for the man to lose his job over a storyline they objected to for erroneous reasons.
Former Marvel editor Tom Brennan even blogged about this:
I understand there are complications to this scene that some offended comic book fans would use to argue that the scene was somehow an instance of statutory rape or that it degraded the Falcon, a major character in comics who finally got his due in this year’s Captain America movie. I appreciate how these people feel. I also think they’re wrong in their understanding of the book. The scene definitely made me uncomfortable – but that’s because it’s drama and sometimes drama makes you uncomfortable.
But arguing the story is not what I’m interested in doing right now. What bothers me – and should bother *everyone* — is that people are calling on a company to fire someone because of something that company asked him to do.
There seems to be a grave misunderstanding in today’s protest-hungry world of entertainment fans into how far their opinion should really matter. You don’t like a story? That’s fine – don’t read a story. But unless that massive dislike leads to a nosedive in a book’s sales (which has not occurred, despite how much comics journalists like to spin the numbers), then you not liking someone is not equal to a moral judgment. And to call for someone to be fired for doing a story that was approved by a group of very good, very talented and very smart editors, editors who represent the interests and opinions of a broader corporation, is offensive. Imagine saying a police officer should be fired because you don’t like that he gave out parking tickets, or if a teacher was fired for teaching a sex ed curriculum approved by a school – that’s what these people are demanding. Rick’s not writing in a vacuum here, not with a character as important as Captain America. Like the stories or hate the stories, they’re not just Rick’s stories, they’re Marvel’s stories. A fan who demands one person lose their job because they don’t like a story is a fan who has demonstrated a severe lack of understanding of how any of this really works.
It’s no secret that internet outrage is a constant these days, over matters great and small. And sometimes, as with real issues of harassment and discrimination, it’s a powerful tool. (The Skyler Page incident
is an example of a real problem being played out in real time on social media.) But a lot of people just troll around looking for something to be outraged about. And there are powerful psychological reasons
A 2013 study, from Beihang University in Beijing, of Weibo, a Twitter-like site, found that anger is the emotion that spreads the most easily over social media. Joy came in a distant second. The main difference, said Ryan Martin, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, who studies anger, is that although we tend to share the happiness only of people we are close to, we are willing to join in the rage of strangers. As the study suggests, outrage is lavishly rewarded on social media, whether through supportive comments, retweets or Facebook likes. People prone to Internet outrage are looking for validation, Professor Martin said. “They want to hear that others share it,” he said, “because they feel they’re vindicated and a little less lonely and isolated in their belief.”
I’m all for social justice, and when someone says something stupid these days they get called on it in about seven seconds
. But as the above study suggests, internet outrage can also be part of a mob mentality. And mobs aren’t particularly informed or sensitive to nuance.
This wasn’t the first misplaced outrage comics mob, and it won’t be the last. And #notallmobs. But still, come on, people. It’s better to use your energy trying to make a difference that matters than running around looking for something to be mad about.
Via Robot 6
As long as we’re harkening back to the internet of 10 years ago, as we are in this AMAZING THRILLING BEAT 10TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL, one of the great hallowed traditions of the internet came under fire yesterday, with TCJ.com co-editor Tim Hodler wonderedif TCJ.com should turn off comments and encourage a “letter’s page” instead. Oddly, this inspired a flurry of comments. The “letters page” idea goes back to Blood & Thunder the letters page on the old print Comics Journal where industry titans would throw rocks at each other. Seriously these are a goldmine of Bronze Age defensiveness and invective. Would the same spirit be upheld in a world with instantaneous communication in every medium known to humankind? Not sure.
The tcj.com comment crewe is also a throwback to the original TCJ.com message board, a brutal, often trollish place. No quarter was asked, none was given on the TCJ boards. You had to live by your wits, and the same old arguments would break out on a weekly basis. Despite all this, it still qualified as social media for its day and fostered an indie comics community that survived and migrated, Elfquest-fashion, to a greener more temperate clime.
The jury still seems to be out, but while the TCJ comments maintain occasional flashes of brilliance and information—less since the death of Kim Thompson—they are also home to a nest of internet trolls, some of them ported over from the old system.
This whole argument seemed to kick off some STRONG feelings on the webz! I see a whole bunch of folks were mixing it up on Twitter but to be honest, I was watching the Belgium-USA game and missed whatever started it. I do know the vastly male make-up of the comment crewe was dissed by some, some upheld the smattering of good info, others thought killing it all would be a mercy killing. And some people suggest moderation — I’m pretty sure the current boards are moderated, but it only takes a few rampaging wackadoos to throw everything off kilter. People used the phrase “pap pap” and that’s always funny.
There was also this suggestion first voiced by
Don’t ditch comments. Moderate, limit and up/down-vote them.
Sub-reddit then! And Hodler replied:
We actually had upvoting in comments when we first relaunched the site, and it was wildly unpopular with readers. I wonder if things would be different now.
I’m a big Tim Hodler fan but doing things that are unpopular with your readers is often what’s best for them. Trolls hate moderation, controls and scrutiny by the authorities. And of course, up or down voting doesn’t assure that extreme positions won’t be supported. Yet TCJ’s audience is small enough that you don’t get general “look at me I’m being an asshole!” type posts.
I’m partial to comments, as you can see from this site, but only MODERATED comments. I check the comments here four or five times as day and have banned several people for being asshats. I’ve toyed with putting in the Facebook comment system but it hardly seems necessary right now. My vote for TCJ? Better modding. But if there isn’t time for that, try letters to the editor. It worked for Ben Franklin.
UPDATED: And Dan Nadel has announced the new policy and it’s EXACTLY WHAT I SUGGESTED!
Well, we certainly got a lot of comments about our comments. Here’s what we’re going to do until Monday, which will satisfy no one but ourselves: We will now moderate all comments and filter out anything we don’t find in some way productive or entertaining. We will be stringent about this, and thus will delete many of the types of things (Lee/Kirby nonsense, obvious bad-faith arguments, blatant trolling) argued against on the thread. Take into account that we are both devoted Howard Stern listeners (for you non-Americans, Howard Stern is a figure of wisdom and devotion who functions for many of us as a kind of benevolent spirit guide), so our standards are pretty enlightened. After Monday we’ll either decide to continue this policy or shut down the comments all together. How’s that for an anti-climax?
A group blog devoted to memories of the much missed publisher. Above, Jason T. Miles and Williams talk comics late into an SPX night while Tom Neely tries to sleep.
Print isn’t dead, it’s just resting. As you may know CLiNT magazine is relaunching with a Volume 2.1 and a bunch of new strips, including the long-awaited “The Secret Service” by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.
A joint venture between media magnate Millar and Titan Books, CLiNT is based on the old-fashioned concept of a slick magazine that includes text AND comics. It’s sort of a brash mash-up of a lads mad and Judge Dredd, and it’s definitely had some ups and downs on English newsstands, but has found an audience in comics shops, both in the UK and the US.
While it’s long been a showcase for comics by Millar, the relaunch will also sport some comics by new talent, including “Death Sentence” by newcomers Monty Nero (writer) and Mike Dowling (art).
The concept is high: three people get an STD that gives them superpowers… and six months to live. The story focuses on graphic designer Verity, failing indie guitarist ‘Weasel’ and roguish media personality Monty as they decide what to do with the time they have left and the powers they’ve been given. It’s described as “a vibrant and heartfelt tale with plenty of British flavour,” taking on such tempting targets as celebrity culture and government shenanigans. According to Millar, it’s “the best idea I’ve seen in years. Genuinely original.”
The story launches in CLiNT #2.1, which also includes Mark Millar and Leinil Yu’s Supercrooks, Millar and Dave Gibbons’ The Secret Service, Frankie Boyle’s Rex Royd, and articles on movies and comics.
CLiNT is going on a media rampage this week, and for Beat readers they’re offering a look at a pin-up of the very eccentric Monty. The magazine is now available in the US at the same time as in the UK, and issue 2.1 goes on sale in May. There is something uniquely satisfying about holding a magazine full of comics in your hand, and CLiNT is trying to carry the standard for now.
As many have noted, DC rolled out its brand spanking new website yesterday, with a whole new look, new logo and new commenting system. Among the many improvements, new sections for major characters, and subsections for videos, live social media updating and the like. (What no Pinterest?) The site seems to be the work of the West Coast branding/web team, and although useful and streamlined, it does match the corporate vibe of a lot of DC rollouts of late.
Although the old message board—hope of a lifetimes worth of conspiracy theories and threats never to read DC comics again—is dunzo, comments are back, via the medium of Facebook. And rather amusingly, DC has also rolled out a huge comics web wide advertising campaign with images such as this:
And here, perhaps the branding team betrays a tiny lack of familiarity with the DC audience. For they surely need no advertising campaign to urge them to “interact, react and respond.” They seem to do that fine all on their own. In fact the old blog comments were pulled after fans reacted and interacted a little too zealously.
At any rate, it will be interesting to see how the historically “candid” DC fans react to using the “real name” Facebook commenting system.
In other words, this will be fun!
We really don’t link to our comics coverage over at PW Comics World as much as we should, so we are here to remedy that, especially when an issue as jammed as this month’s comes out. Some highlights:
• Matt White on the origin of CLEVELAND, the new book by the late Harvey Pekar and Joseph Remnant:
Take a critically acclaimed nonfiction comics writer, a veteran comics figure acting as a combination producer, editor and publicist, a young publisher eager to make a name for himself and an illustrator looking to do the same and what do you have? The winning recipe for publishing Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland, an original graphic novel to be released in May, written by the late Harvey Pekar, illustrated by Joe Remnant and published by Zip Comics in collaboration with Top Shelf Comix. The book, which will have a 10,000 copy first printing, is noteworthy as the first posthumous work to be released by the late Harvey Pekar, as well as for the book’s unusual path to publication.
§ If you thought that the Eisner judges didn’t read enough comics, well Brigid Alverson’s account of her happy times as a judge
will show that’s just not true:
This year, though, I was on the other side of the firing line—I was an Eisner judge. I spent an amazing weekend in San Diego with five other judges, with nothing to do the whole time but read comics and argue about them. If that's your idea of heaven, well, pull up a cloud and let me tell you about it.
• Casey Burchby
interviews Daniel Clowes
about his new art exhibit and so on. Darn it all, Dan Clowes is a nice guy.
PWCW: Did you have any hesitation about the very idea of taking your work out of its original context and putting it up on a wall? DC: For years, that really didn’t make sense to me, because the work wasn’t created to be seen on a wall. The final artwork is the book. But I collect original artwork. It has a meaning to me that goes beyond the printed page. It’s the only [kind of] artwork you can see on a wall that you may already have a personal relationship with. If you read the story that that artwork comes from, you have a connection to it in a way you don’t have with a painting or something that’s only intended to be seen in that context. That made it interesting to me. There’s something about that final piece as an artifact of the printed work that gives it a certain value and magic. My goal with both [the exhibition and the book] is to get people interested in the work and then to read the books. If that is achieved, then both of these will have been a success.
§ Burchby AGAIN with a preview of that Flannery O’Connor cartoon book
The forgotten visual output of the master of Southern Gothic fiction—and one of the country’s grea
A digital magazine about…digital comics?
Why didn’t anyone think of that before?
Now, granted the magazine producer Panel Nine does produce and sell digital GNs, like Eddie Campbell’s DAPPER JOHN and David Lloyd’s KICKBACK. But editor Russell Willis once edited the actual English zine Infinity, so it has some heritage. This digital update has a lot of decent content like a roundup of pages and pages of digital comics news, interviews with PJ Holden and Lloyd. Well worth the 10 seconds it takes for the free download.
Panel Nine promises new editions bi-monthly.
As an addendum to the previous post, and for further reading, there’s currently a Women Write About Comics roundtable going on, with interviews with lots of smart people. The most recent is with Alexa Dickman of the Ladies Making Comics tumblr and her indispensable Women in Comics wiki which is doing an amazing job of bringing to light tons of forgotten women in the comics industry. Lots of smart talk, including this gem:
I joked on my blog a few weeks ago how Warner Brothers passed on Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman because it was too mythological and took place in WWII, while Marvel made Thor, Captain America, and hired Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers– the total worldwide gross of all of those movies is $2.3 billion.
And also this:
It seems like every time I start thinking about that in depth, I end up writing a business plan for a hypothetical multimedia conglomerate! But I have been working on getting a Zazzle store up and running, starting with public domain Golden Age art by the likes of Lily Renée, Valerie Barclay, Alberta Tewks, and Janice Valleau, and any classic underground cartoonists that I can get a hold of who will give me permission (so far, I’ve got Trina Robbins’s OK!) There’s a lot of Photoshop clean-up involved there, so it’s moving much slower than I’d like, but them’s the breaks.
Yow what a great idea! Let’s make this happen, people.
Other interviews include Janelle Asselin who brings up a depressing fact:
I recall, and I hope I’m stating this accurately, that one of the comments you made regarding women writing in comics is that you would love to see more women, but you just don’t receive the sheer number of pitches from women as men. As an editor, do you have tips that would help aspiring women creators to get their pitches to the editor’s desk? Yep, that’s definitely something I said! In my time at DC, exactly one woman reached out to me via email, and I hired her. I didn’t hire her BECAUSE she was a woman, I hired her because she was good, of course. But in that same amount of time, probably at least two or three men a week contacted me looking for work, some of them intensely pushy and many of them decidedly not good. I think more female creators should put themselves out there. The numbers are growing, we all can see that, especially in indie comics and comics published by traditional publishers, but if there are women who want to work on super hero books, they need to speak up. The question I usually get after saying that, though, is “but how am I supposed to speak up when those companies don’t accept submissions?” And that’s an important thing!
This is true of everyone I talk to — women just don’t submit to most places. That has to change.
Other interviews: Laura Sneddon,
When I first began writing this column, my intent was to help creators and comics publishers understand the methods to the madness of landing a book on the bestseller lists. After the November 8th Beat posting of the NYT list showing several GN titles on the list, it’s really not a question of whether a GN can make the list, but more like how a book gets there. For a quick refresher the first post dealt with the market opportunities. Posting number two talks about obstacles and distribution. The third one is about outliers like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and why ALL AGES is a very bad business decision.
Going back to The Beat posting on November 8th, folks will notice that an overwhelming majority of the titles that do make the lists for NYT or traditional publishing awards are creator-owned properties being published by one of the major traditional publishing houses or one of their smaller imprints. One of the many differences between traditional houses and comics pubs is the publicity and marketing efforts. These folks have a basic punch list of marketing elements and publicity in place to make sure that the word gets out about the ‘next big book’.
Promotion Starts Way Before Pub Date: More often than not, the marketing for the book begins officially about 6 months prior to the publication date of the book. Advance reader copies or uncorrected proofs are sent out to a wide range of reviewers with the various trade publications and major newspapers. A sell sheet is also created for the wholesale and distribution market. Publicity teams review the calendar for trade shows and consumer book festivals, bookstore events, etc., where they can get the author placed.
Advance Reader Copies are Critical: More and more now the trade publications are accepting PDF/electronic copies of graphic novels because there is a better understanding of the costs associated with producing full-color hard copy books. For the creator who may be sensitive to sending out unfinished art, there are ways to protect your work but the truth of the matter is that the major trade publications are also sensitive to this and don’t want to risk their relationships with you or your publisher. You can trust them to keep your work secure. These start going out as soon as you can make them available. Don’t worry that the artwork isn’t complete; this is why they are called Advance Reader Copies/Uncorrected Proofs.
The Role of Sell Sheets: Also known as Tip Sheets, these are single pages of information describing the book. It has your basic info: Title, Story Summary, Author Info, Target Demographic, Pricing, Marketing(selling points) and Advertising Elements. Keep the story summary to the basic elements. Below is a story summary of a fictional book title I created for this post.
Ex: When The Bad Cats Ruled Portland
Story Summary “This is a dystopian fantasy about a boy with a magical stick who discovers he’s the most powerful cat wrangler in Portland. Josh Chipman is an orphan and he’s got two loyal cats who help him defeat the evil dark lord while also coping with the drama of middle school romance and homework.”
Series: If your book is part of an ongoing series, don’t assume the reader of the tip sheet knows anything about the series. Add the series info to the end of the story summary and keep it simple.
“This is book three of a 5-book series and in this book Josh discovers that his mom may once been married to the principal aka: Dark Lord, of his school. How will Josh manage his emotions and deal with the evil dark lord’s nefarious intentions?”
Selling points are things like previous awards and/or support quotes blurbs from other known or well-known authors and/or trade publications and blog sites. Keep a blurb to a single sentence if possible and try to keep one as clean as possible. While a quote from one of your heroes may be a thrill to get, you will need to keep the language professional. Remember that the person reading the sell sheet is a professional and may get a bit turned off by a blurb that says “This story makes me want to f*%#ing shred all my own stuff and start over!” I’d suggest going back to your author friend and ask them if they don’t mind an edited version for the sell sheet. Now for the promotion of the book to the general public? I’d probably leave the quote as is with the use of punctuation marks. We will deal with the public aspect of the marketing in a future post.
The thing that the sell sheet ultimately creates is the sales pitch for your book. IF you do it right, then everyone in your food chain, from the publisher to the buyer (at retail and institutional) to the bookseller and librarian will be able to repeat verbatim your story summary. It’s the basic ‘elevator pitch’ you need to create in order to clearly define what your book is about and what will compel someone to sell it.
Variant Covers are not a Selling Point in the Regular Book Trade: We all know that book covers play a major role in how a book is promoted on the shelves of bookstores (or online) and as far as variants go, the professional buyers in the retail, library and education markets really couldn’t care less about them. The reality is a variant can also do more harm than good because, if the artwork inside the book is not consistent with the exterior, it’s basically false advertising-especially if the cover is better than the interiors. (We will also deal with cover design in another posting) The thing about variant covers is that, in my humble opinion, they have become abused and overused. Ideally, variant covers are something created as a special prize for the loyal retailers to have and keep. They should be used as a reward for the love and support-that’s it.
Publicity and Marketing are Two Different Skill Sets: And they are critical to the success of your book. The stuff about sell sheets, promotions and creating of advance reader copies, along with advertising, are elements of marketing. Publicity is the art of getting the word out about your book. One of the best first examples I can recall for a graphic novel was in a Publishers Weekly interview with David Petersen (MOUSE GUARD) who said that things really started happening for the book after he hired a publicist. As it so happens, I know the folks whom he contacted at Media Masters and the reason why I include their name here is because they have a keen understanding of the book trade and they also understand graphic novels. A strong publicist will get your book placed into the right hands versus dumping copies everywhere and anywhere possible. They will tell you which are the right trade shows or book festivals to speak or sign at. They will connect you with the booksellers who have the most influential voices in the industry.
Publicity is not something you simply ask a boyfriend or girlfriend to ‘manage’. Would you let them perform surgery on you or repair your car? Unless they are actually a professional publicist, don’t dump this responsibility on someone who is not a pro.
You Get Back What You Put In: If you read Jim Zub’s recent post it’s a really good inside look at the effort required for selling a book. Raina Telgemeier (SMILE), Jimmy Gownley (AMELIA RULES), Jenni Holm (Babymouse) and Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) have all put in endless hours and miles to promote their books. They shake every hand; they sign every book as if each person was a new friend. Each of these folks have also taken the initiative to get out and promote, not waiting for the publisher to do it for them and it pays off. The publisher will and should help with some of the heavy lifting but the author who is a shameless self- promoter is the one who sells a lot more books.
As I will constantly point out, the effort to sell a book is equal to the effort involved in the creation. It’s a long haul but if you as a creator or a publisher have a basic road map then at least you have a decent head start. If your publisher says they can’t afford to do this stuff, or if you don’t think you need to do what a successful author does, then maybe you need to rethink your goals. Otherwise you have a very nice box of books that only your friend and your mom will know exists.
AUGHTS NOSTALGIA. Arthur Magazine was a FREE culture magazine that defined a lot of the early internet/alternative culture of the early century, before the internet drove it out of business by supplanting the advertising model that made free newspaper a thing. However, Arthur magazine is back after four years with issue #33, now with a cheap $5 cover price. And what a cover! It’s by Roarin’ Rick Veitch who is interviewed within. A launch party will be held 1/3 at Floating World in Portland.
WHO: Arthur #33
WHAT: Magazine release party and art exhibit
WHEN: Thursday, January 3, 6-10pm
WHERE: Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch St.
And here’s the inside deets:
GIANT-SIZED Broadsheet newspaper
Sixteen gigantic 15″ x 22.75″ pages (8 color, 8 b/w)
This issue’s contents include…
Dream a Deeper Dream: A how-to conversation with cartoonist ROARIN’ RICK VEITCH by Jay Babcock. Plus “Cartographer of the American Dreamtime,” an appreciation of Rick Veitch and his work by Alan Moore.
JACK ROSE: the definitive, career-spanning interview with this late great America guitarist, conducted by Brian Rademaekers just months before his death three years ago. Plus: Jack Rose discography compiled by Byron Coley, and an illustration of a classic Jack pose by Plastic Crimewave.
Stewart Voegtlin on WAYLON JENNINGS’ dark dream, with an illustration by Beaver
Columnist DAVE REEVES on bath salts and border guards, with an illustration by Arik Roper
Massive reviewage of underground culture by Bull Tongue columnists BYRON COLEY & THURSTON MOORE
Columnist NANCE KLEHM on new modes of exchange—and homemade smokes, with an illustration by Kira Mardikes
Cartoonist GABBY SCHULZ explores our interstate nightmare
The Center for Applied Magick on “The Magic(k) of Money” — and how YOU can win $1000 for planning a BANK ROBBERY!
and the proverbial much much more
Mike Molcher is the PR Co-ordinator for Rebellion, meaning he is the man directly responsible for promoting their comics, 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine. If you’ve noticed over the last few months that more people are talking about 2000AD, be it the recent ‘Trifecta’ storyline, or the ‘gay Judge Dredd’ teaser which got picked up everywhere – that’s Mike Molcher’s work. He’s also an interviewer and writer himself, who has interviewed many of the key figures who have worked at 2000AD over the years, including Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Dave Gibbons and Carlos Ezquerra.
But how do you go about promoting a company like 2000AD, which releases a new anthology EVERY WEEK? I spoke to Mike about his work with the company, to see how exactly he goes about promoting the series. And what is comic book marketing, anyway? How does it work? Is this interview secretly all part of his marketing plan?
By reading this, have we become trapped in Mike Molcher’s sinister plans for 2000AD to take over the world? Oh dear…
Steve: I’ll start with a self-sabotaging question: since 2005 you’ve been involved with interviewing some of the most influential 2000 AD creators – from Alan Moore to Carlos Ezquerra. What makes for a good interview?
Mike: Oof, tough start! I can’t say mine are particular exemplars of good practice so I can only speak about the interviews I enjoy reading – they tend to be the ones that actually stray away from what’s on the comic book page to what’s going on in the mind of the creator, what motivates them, what inspires them, what grinds their gears. By uncovering these things the interviewer can begin to form a picture of the roots of that person’s creativity. Talent and ability never exist in isolation, they have always come from somewhere (usually thanks to a lot of hard work) and it’s the people of comics that I find most fascinating. I like to think my interviews try and achieve that (he said, nervously).
Steve: Before you took on your current role, you worked as a features writer for 2000 AD. How did you first come to get involved with the company in this respect?
Mike: I think it was Matt Badham who first mentioned to me that 2000 AD was looking for creator interviews and features. At the time I was a local newspaper reporter in the north of England but had started up my own self-published magazine, The End is Nigh, which took a Fortean Times-style look at end-of-the-world theories. I’d interviewed Alan Moore about the apocalyptic aspects of his work and his ideas on the approaching human singularity, so I did a retrospective on him for the Judge Dredd Megazine. That opened the door to interviews and I’ve been doing them ever since. Fortunately it meant that when I applied for the job they already knew me and knew that I was a big 2000 AD fan.
Steve: Obviously, your goal as a features writer is to promote and flesh out the company you’re writing for at the time. Do you think there’s a natural step between journalism and PR? How do you alternate between the two?
Mike: I don’t know what it’s like in the States, but you’ll find many of the big names in PR in Britain started out as journalists in some respect. Personally, I’d say that firsthand experience of what goes on inside the head of a journalist and what makes a good story is invaluable when you’re trying to reach out to reporters and reviewers. I continue to write creator interviews in my spare time for the Judge Dredd Megazine and Comic Heroes, so personally I think one compliments the other, because it keeps me abreast of what’s going on in the industry and how we can use that to our advantage at work.
Steve: Only a short while ago you moved to become Rebellion’s PR Co-ordinator. What sort of work does this involve on a day-to-day basis?
Mike: Answering a LOT of emails, mostly. 2000 AD represents just part of my work so I spend a lot of time writing press releases for new titles and announcements, keeping the social media side of things flowing, running blog tours for our three novel imprints, keeping track of the development of the various games Rebellion are working on, plus trying to work out new opportunities to promote our products. Fortunately we’ve recently taken on a marketing coordinator, Robbie Cooke, whose focus is more on the games side of things so he’s been a massive help with that.
Steve: Rebellion don’t just publish 2000 AD/Judge Dredd, but also handle novels and computer games. How do you structure your time between the three?
Mike: With a rather heavily annotated diary, a lot of scheduling, and an increasingly wrinkled brow. Working across three different industries can be pretty mad at times and making sure I give equal time to every new title and product can be damn hard work. Ultimately I have to judge whether something needs a slight PR nudge to sell or a heavy marketing shove out the door…
Steve: The Dredd movie came out last year, giving you a unique opportunity for promotion on a wider field. How did the movie affect the way you promoted the comics?
Mike: I very quickly learned that ANY mention of movies gets people really excited – our most shared image on Facebook was one I did publicizing the fact that DREDD was number one in the DVD and Blu-Ray charts over here and even the slightest mention of the movie would get a huge response. We’re constantly asked whether there are movies coming for our other characters, so it seems the magic of film hasn’t exactly diminished in the digital age!
We obviously went heavy on the promotion of Judge Dredd to tie in to the movie and that’s really paid off – the collected ‘Case Files’ have been flying off the shelves on both sides of the Atlantic – but I have tried to make sure that when someone discovers 2000 AD for the first time they quickly see that it’s not all about Dredd, as loveable as he is. We have a huge and constantly growing back catalogue of some of the greatest characters in comics, from Halo Jones to Nemesis the Warlock and more recent things like Shakara, Low Life and Brass Sun.
Steve: Were there any promotional campaigns you were surprised to see get less attention than others? Do you find, when promoting a comic to a film audience, there was a difference in reaction than when you promote more directly to comic fans?
Mike: Nikolai Dante ended last year after 14 years. And when I say ended, writer Robbie Morrison and artist Simon Fraser brought the Russian rogue’s story to a close. In effect, we killed off one of our most popular characters. And he ain’t coming back. For a comic book to do something as bold as that, I thought, deserved more attention – alas, no-one really picked up on the announcement. It may be that he never had the right profile outside of 2000 AD, but by the time I came on board it was a bit late to change the situation.
I don’t think there’s a big difference in the way you talk to the two audiences other than reminding yourself that the film audience won’t be as conversant in the language and culture of comics as someone who’s been reading them for years. The biggest question we got was “I loved the movie, where do I start reading?”. We were very fortunate that someone can see DREDD then walk into their local comic book and walk out with a comic featuring the same character they saw on screen; Karl Urban and Alex Garland nailed the character of Judge Dredd so perfectly that it was like he’d leapt off the page. So marketing to fans of the film was a case of giving them a good starting point (The Complete Case Files #4, if you’re interested, then #5 and then pick up a copy of ‘Origins’ and ‘America’) and then letting them discover it for themselves.
Steve: You’ve spearheaded several successful campaigns for 2000 AD over the last year – the ‘gay Judge Dredd’ promo picked up a lot of attention, in particular. How do you decide which comics might be suitable for a push, and which stories are going to pick up the most attention?
Mike: I talk to 2000 AD’s editor Matt Smith about what we have coming up and he’s very good at highlighting things that are noteworthy. For example, we recently had BPRD’s James Harren do his first Judge Dredd story and we’ve got a couple of big artist announcements coming in the next few months which are quite exciting. I always do a baseline social media push for each edition of 2000 AD – teasing new stories or returning series, promoting striking covers – but quite often there’s something specific to push like new or returning talent.
The ‘gay Dredd’ campaign was a particular highlight. Not every fan was pleased with my tactics there, but the wall by my desk covered in national and international media clippings and the 30% hike in sales for that particular issue (with high retention and new subscriber rates) makes me feel somewhat justified. It was the same for the return of the Dark Judges as part of the Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos storyline – we ran a great teaser campaign with CBR and the sales graphs all blipped upwards and stayed there.
Alongside the digital explosion our print edition is benefiting from the higher profile – over the past six months, the 2000 AD iPad app has not only grown our number of subscribers overall but has also bolstered the number of print subscribers. We’ve got clear data showing that promotion has played a major part in that, so I’ve been very pleased with our work over the past year.
Steve: Similarly, the Trifecta story from Al Ewing, Si Spurrier and Rob Williams got a lot of critical acclaim. Can you plan for that sort of buzz ahead of a story being released? Ahead of the issue being released, do you try to arrange for more people to get hold of review copies? How do you manage a story which you think is going to be critically acclaimed, by fans and by reviewers?
Mike: We decided very early on with Trifecta that we wouldn’t spoil the surprise, but that once it was out in the open it was all hands to the pumps – Al, Si, and Rob played along brilliantly and once it was out there we really pushed hard on the reaction from readers and from those reviewers who picked up on what was happening. The issues of Trifecta have been some of our biggest digital sellers as people hear the hype then go back and pick up the relevant issues.
Building word of mouth isn’t much use when it’s for a single weekly issue because by the time people have heard about it it’s already time for the next issue, but when you have an exciting ongoing storyline then you can really help spread the word. We do weekly press previews to bloggers and journalists; getting those all-important reviews means getting copies in the right people’s hands, something that I think we’re much better at doing now than we ever have been.
Steve: Are there any techniques which always help drive attention to a comic? Valiant’s successful relaunch, for example, seemed to have a lot to do with the way they publicised themselves ahead of the first comic release.
Mike: On a very basic level you can’t go wrong with new artwork, the return of popular characters, and intriguing teasers. Nothing’s better for getting social media buzz going than a juicy piece of art or a surprise announcement that your favourite character is coming back. The biggest attention-grabbers are when you change the game a little bit or find a niche no-one knew was there.
Steve: What do you think about the current state of American comics, in terms of marketing? Marvel and DC seem to have become a lot more ‘stunt’ orientated over the last few months. Every other day sees about fifty teaser images get released.
Mike: In an insanely competitive marketplace, it’s small wonder that the big two have to shout louder and louder about their books. I like what DC is doing with its ‘DC family’ blog and the campaigns on titles such as Journey into Mystery, Young Avengers and Spider-Man that Marvel has been running have been spot on (and I was blown away by the skill of their digital announcements at SXSW recently), while Image has completely reinvented itself over the last two years into something a lot closer to the feel and ethos of 2000 AD than I think any of us realise!
I often get asked why we promote 2000 AD the way that we do and why we don’t just let “word of mouth” do our work for us. 2000 AD has been on a hell of a run for the past decade and the word of mouth was very positive, yet we weren’t significantly building our readership. Two years of strong marketing and new distribution and we’re adding readers. It’s not rocket science.
Steve: 2000AD must be an interesting magazine to work on, because it’s a weekly anthology series. How do you focus your PR for each issue? Do you focus on creators, or characters – or the magazine as a whole, single product?
Mike: All of the above! And yes, it’s a constantly fascinating, evolving comic to work on. We have a brilliant stable of artists and writers who’ve really knocked it out of the park over the last 18 months, plus a tiny editorial team who are just as enthusiastic and passionate about 2000 AD as any reader. It can be challenging at times because many non-readers have an idea of it that’s 20 years out of date; all those great strips and creators are fantastic and amazing, but the past ten years of 2000 AD have been universally praised amongst fans as a second golden age and that’s pretty bloody exciting.
Steve: We’ve seen 2000AD building up a reputation overseas (which in this case means America) over the last year or so. How do you approach publicising the magazine abroad? Again, do you find you have to tailor the material you offer overseas readers?
Mike: It’s been a particular aim of mine to make us as much of a part of the comics mainstream in America as any other publisher and I believe we’re starting to get some traction there. I’d like to offer more previews of material to news sites, though it can be a struggle to make people understand that carrying 2000 AD news can bring in readers. We have a great relationship with sites like CBR and Comics Alliance, and some real advocates of our comics in people like Doug Wolk, Karl Keily, and Tucker Stone. We bring out one or two collections specifically for North America every month so it’s a case of publicising them as normal while bearing in mind that American and Canadian audiences may not be as au fait with the language and culture of British comics.
Steve: Do you think digital has evened the playing field a little, now everybody has access to comics from home?
Mike: Completely. For reasons unfortunately beyond our control many comic book readers in North America can’t get hold of 2000 AD as easily as we would like, so being able to beam each ‘Prog’ directly into their hands is a massive bonus. We have a reputation as a British comics powerhouse, so we just have to make sure people are intrigued enough to give 2000 AD a go.
Steve: What would you say is the key to working PR in the comics industry, in the current climate?
Mike: Good material to work with, constant attention to social media and a thick skin (I admit mine could be somewhat thicker).
Steve: What would you like to see more of from comic companies in 2013, in terms of PR, co-ordination, and marketing?
Mike: A bit more innovation, but then that’s easy for me to say and very hard to suggest ways in which you could do it. While marketing is important, it should never drive creative choices but I would like to see marketing that pointedly pushes out into other demographics and stresses aspects of comics beyond the obvious – the industry has a lot of work to do to convince people it’s not all spandex and T&A for teenage and not-so-teenage boys. But it must always be about working with the creative teams, who are the ones delivering the material in the first place.
Many thanks to Mike for his time. Big interview! Repay him by following him on Twitter. If you’d rather see a Tharg-approved twitter feed, however, then you can follow 2000AD too. And if that still isn’t enough Tharg endorsement, head over to 2000AD online.
Tumblr users who have been reveling in its ability to share content—and block trolls via the plug-in Disqus—got a rude shock today when due to code problems, users found their custom themes disabled and their comment boards wiped out. Among the missing—DC Women Kicking Ass’s lively comments section. DCWKA’s Sue took to Twitter to mourn the loss, and just as I write this it looks like she may have found the missing posts, but others were still searching.
Tumblr is great for sharing but, amazingly, lacks a built in commenting section. Disqus enabled not only comments, but a sophisticated blocking system which enabled many diverse communities to flourish without the chilling effect of trolling endemic to most of the internet.
However, Tumblr has also never been that friendly to plug-ins. While Tumblr hadn’t responded to an inquiry as I write this, it’s mostly likely the changes had to do with Heartbleed, the terrifying vulnerability that affects 2 out of 3 websites via the ubiquitous OpenSSL interface. This weakness, discoevred just yesterday, allows hackers to access passwords, sources, cookies, emails, passwords, you name it. (Is Heartbleed another name for I Killed The Watcher?)
My ISP already closed down open SSL and fixed one of my servers…but the vulnerability was there for two years—meaning its time to change those passwords YET AGAIN. The internet is NOT a safe place.
Tumblr has long been seen as a fairyland free for all of content and anonymity…even though last May it was purchased by Yahoo, which is notorious for bungling acquisitions under its previous ownership. While the current problems showcase the weakness of specific HTTPS vulnerabilities, it’s also a reminder that unless you have access to backing up your content, it can be removed in a heartbeat.
by Matt Demers
[Recently, a new comics magazine for iPad was announced, Champion!, created by a crew that includes many ex-Wizard magazine staffers. Since it's iPad only and we don't have an iPad, reader Matt Demers volunteered to write a review.]
The other day, The Beat covered the launch of Champion!, a new iPad-only magazine thatís being staffed by a number of former Wizard personnel. As a huge fan of the latter, I decided to load up the free preview issue and give it a look.
Inside, I was treated to a number of different features, including interviews with Jim Lee and Will Friedle, spotlights on toys and t-shirts and a number of off-beat features (such as comic creatorsí first books) that Wizard was famous for. However, capturing the spirit of the old magazine isnít the only good thing that Champion! is managing to pull off.
Champion! is doing something that a lot of other magazines arenít, in that theyíre realizing that the digital medium isnít just a place to copy-and-paste they would post on a blog or publish in print. They seem to have nailed the balance of interactive elements to text and images, so as to not overwhelm the reader with glitz.
A typical page will have a number of interactive elements that supplement the text, including audio and video which donít require you to leave the app (big pluses!). Having two Twitter feeds that you can follow and reply to (again, without leaving the app) were also welcome additions. Even though they looked exactly like Twitter.comís web layout, they fit it with the rest of the issue, which can be a bit challenging to pull off. Other widgets, like a spin-able 360-degree view of a Rocketeer statue, add some great value to the consumer: I mean, what toy collector wouldnít want to see all of a product before he/she buys it?
Sadly, not all of these features work as well as they could – sometimes itís quite difficult to get rid of pop-up word balloons in order to read the article underneath. While the magazine offers a helpful “how to read” page, there could be some way of indicating some of the more hard-to-find interactive elements, like scroll bars or different coloring.
Ultimately, these problems are indicative of the youth of the medium and not the ineptitude of the creators, as they’ve been prevalent in other publications, as well. It’s kind of a difficult balance to strike: do you sacrifice form for intuitiveness, or the other way around?
Hopefully that balance is something that Champion! will be able to fix, as they’ve been able to capture the spirit of Wizard otherwise, if not with a little bit of maturity thrown in. I really felt like I was opening up an old friend who had taken steps to fix the problems he had gone through in the past, and was looking to make a fresh start towards the future. I felt like I was fifteen again, reading about the first rumblings of Batman Begins.
There is no word on how much the magazine will cost when it eventually starts offering paid issues, which needs to be done right in order to secure the reader base they need to succeed. Though the magazine is fancy, the content takes time and effort to produce; hitting a (presumably) monthly quota with limited capital will be difficult.
GeekChicDaily, the daily nerd news email, is launching an edition for New York, and also teaming with the Tokyopop brand for a special edition spotlighting Japanese culture trends and news.
The New York edition will cover the Big Apple’s lively offerings in geek culture, following localized versions for LA and a national edition. GeekChicDaily also added Microsoft’s Mich Mathews to its board of directors.
Teasings of the Tokyopop edition had excited fans to think they were returning to publishing, but the Tokyopop Facebook page quelled the rumors:
Loyal Fans, we’re very thrilled by your excitement but need to clarify: unfortunately we are not re-launching the manga – those properties have reverted to their owners and are amazingly difficult to get back. We’re launching an all new editorial TOKYOPOP newsletter about all things otaku and Asian pop-culture, powered by our friends at GeekChicDaily. We think you’ll really enjoy the news we’ll be bringing and apologize for the initial misunderstanding.
Following the explosive growth of the National and Los Angeles regional editions, GeekChicDaily, the leading pop culture, opt-in email newsletter and cross-platform content publisher, today announced its expansion into the New York market and the upcoming launch of special edition “TOKYOPOP Powered by GeekChicDaily.”
With a focus on events and pop culture influencers in the NY Metro area, GeekChicDaily’s New York Edition will continue to deliver a daily dose of popular culture, from comics to video games, film, television, toys, collectibles and applications, alongside multi-platform media partner and nerdcore site, Nerdist. In addition to editorial coverage, the company will also co-host local events that help New Yorkers feed their inner geeks whether on the web or on the town. To sign up, visit http://bit.ly/rqP3hs. Official launch partners include Street Fighter® X Tekken®, AMC’s The Walking Dead, Toyota, and OtterPops.
“Servicing the biggest media market in the world has always been a top priority and following the overwhelming enthusiasm from our National edition and GeekChicLA audience, New York was an obvious next step,” said GeekChicDaily Co-Founder and CEO Peter Y. Levin.
GeekChicDaily has also partnered with TOKYOPOP, the major publisher that popularized manga in the West to produce a special edition powered by GeekChicDaily that will cover the hottest Asian pop culture news and trends. “TOKYOPOP Powered by GeekChicDaily” is an evolution of the original TOKYOPOP magazine a decade ago, which featured Asian Pop Culture lifestyle, including manga, anime, gaming, music, cos-play, gadgets, celebrities and more. The magazine and online companion reached over 100K + subscribers. While TOKYOPOP was forced to discontinue its North American manga publishing operations in Spring 2011 due to the declining book retail environment, “TOKYOPOP powered by GeekChicDaily” revives the TOKYOPOP brand in an exciting way, leveraging its substantial social media footprint to tie the Asian-infused content across multiple platforms.
“GeekChicDaily and its daily, opt-in format provide the perfect opportunity to revive the original TOKYOPOP magazine Asian P