Category Archives: Pixel Pages
Your latest webcomics and digital comics news.
Creators: Keep those press releases and other notices coming! I want to know what you’re up to so I can tell others.
# Jmanga is shutting down, according to an urgent notice posted on its website last week. Users can no longer purchase JManga Points to purchase comics. Unredeemed points can still be used until next week. After that, Amazon gift cards will be issued to refund unused points. By the end of May, all content and accounts will be deleted. There is no way for users to retain the digital comics they have purchased.
Jmanga was created from a conglomeration of multiple Japanese manga publishers. It only launched a couple of years ago and while it didn’t release any digital-first manga or comics, it was a noble attempt to bring Japanese comics to English-language readers and combat digital piracy. Brigid Alverson at MTV Geek has a good write-up with more background and info.
Excerpts from the notice summarizing the details:
“As of March 13th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time) users are no longer be able to purchase and/or acquire JManga Points through the Monthly Point Plan and Pay-as-you-go Plan on JManga.com. Due to this termination all Monthly Point Plan members’ accounts have been automatically switched to Free Memberships. As such Monthly Point Plan members will not be charged after March 13th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time).
“As of March 26th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time) users will no longer be able to purchase digital manga content on JManga.com.
“As of May 30th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time) users will no longer be able to view digital manga content on JManga.com. At this time all purchased and free digital manga content will be erased from all JManga Member’s accounts.
“All JManga Members will be issued Amazon Gift Cards for use on Amazon.com as a substitute for the amount of unused JManga Paid Points possessed at March 13th 2013 at 11:59pm. Refund Distribution: Amazon Gift Cards will be emailed to applicable users at the email address registered with their JManga account. Amazon Gift Card Distribution Schedule: March 21st 2013 to March 25th 2013 (US Pacific Time).”
# ComiXology servers failed for about two days following the announcement of a mega-sale of 700 free Marvel comic books at the South By Southwest festival last weekend. “We expected a high degree of excitement for the Marvel initiative – and had believed ourselves prepared – but unfortunately we became overwhelmed by the immense response,” reads a blog post by CEO David Steinberger. They will be resuming the sale at a later date and have since resumed their normal service.
I wrote about it more at Robot 6, and within the context of the Jmanga story above, I think it’s even more crucial that digital comics providers give the option of true downloads, while keeping the option of cloud storage, so that their systems aren’t so taxed in the future.
# ComiXology and Marvel Comics made a number of other announcements at SXSW expanding their digital comics programs. Calvin Reid at Publisher’s Weekly has a great wrap-up.
- ComiXology officially launched ComiXology Submit, which allows independent creators to turn their comics and graphic novels into digital comics sold through ComiXology. Revenue is split 50/50 and creators can also sell their comics on other digital distributors. A previous beta testing allowed the service to also launch with a 35 new digital comics, most notably Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man. For more information, check out this interview with CEO David Steinberger from TIME.com’s Techland blog.
- Marvel Comics has expanded and re-branded their subscription-based digital comics service Marvel Unlimited (formerly Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited). Previously only web-based, there are now iPad and iPhone apps with an Andoid app to follow. The $10/month rate gives readers access to over 13,000 comics with more being added each week. I joined the Robot 6 crew in a roundtable on what we thought of Marvel Unlimited.
- Marvel Comics will be launching a weekly series of digital-first comics in their Infinite Comic format this summer. Each serial will run for 13 weeks and feature Marvel’s marquee characters like Wolverine.
- Marvel Comics will be introducing music to some of their digital comics as part of Project: Gamma. The music will be responsive to the reader’s pace, similar to how music shifts to player dynamics in video games. Rolling Stone has a write-up on the announcement.
- Symbolia, the journalism comics magazine for the iPad, is nearing its initial goal of 3,000 subscribers. An Android version is several weeks away. The third issue is coming soon and will be called The Mating Ritual, featuring articles and stories on “sex, relationships and interpersonal encounters.”
# American BOOOM! is a unique super-hero webcomic by writer Patrick Yurick and artist Alonso Nuñez that chronicles the story of Sarah Hannigen, a girl with exploding fists on a mission to avenge her DEA father. He’s believed to be murdered by Mexican cartels, so with the help of her grandfather she takes up the inherited guise of American BOOOM! and moves to San Diego, where she ends up exploring the bi-national world of that city and Tijuana to track down her father’s murderer.
“The use of story as a metaphor/reality is very important to us,” said Yurick. “Everything in this story takes place in real landmarks in San Diego, where we live, and our neighboring city of Tijuana. The characters are based on real interactions and stories. The references to cartels and teenagers are as close to fact as possible. The stuff that isn’t ‘true’ (super powers, plot, character specifics) is at the very least aimed at being palpably meaningful metaphors.”
Here’s your latest webcomics and digital comics news. I was hoping to get this out last week but things got away from me. There were also a lot of big stories I felt deserved coverage but unfortunately that meant I had less time to dig up stories on less high profile comics. Remember, if you’re a creator of such comics, send me your news, press releases, announcements, etc. The internet is a big place so I can’t see everything. I’d be happy to cover your comic.
# Digital comics publisher MonkeyBrain Comics announces their Summer of Print, where they will release print versions of their digital-first comics for the first time. MonkeyBrain and their creators will team up with traditional print publishers Image Comics and IDW Publishing. The super-villain series Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver will be released by IDW in June. The Depression-era superhero anthology Masks & Mobsters by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson will be released by the Shadowline imprint of Image in July. And then fantasy series Amelia Cole and the Unknown World by Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire will come out in August from IDW. “Print collections have been a main goal from the beginning and it’s really exciting to see such a major piece of the plan fall into place,” Allison Baker says, “especially since it means even more people get to discover the amazing work of our creators!” More collections will be announced in the near future. Wired has a story covering the news and more about MonkeyBrain’s business model and goals.
# Mark Waid spoke at the Tools of Change for Publishing conference recently. His presentation “Reinventing Comics and Graphic Novels for Digital” walked people through the challenges of bringing comics to the digital space, and how his digital-first model on Thrillbent is succeeding. One thing I found interesting is that the sales from collections of 4 weeks of content through ComiXology recoups their production costs. And that’s just one revenue stream they only recently started.
# ComiXology released the first ever digital convention exclusive at the just-concluded Emerald City Comicon this past weekend. According to the press release, con goers were given a special code for a free download of the all-new short story Atomic Robo: Along Came a Tyrantula by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener which will be released this Wednesday. The fancy gif above reveals that the story was made exclusively as a digital experience, using similar techniques used by Thrillbent and Marvel’s Infinite Comics.
Spotlight on… Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will. One of the final recipients of the Xeric Award grant, Will has been serializing her beautiful graphic novel online since last summer before the eventual print release. Look Straight Ahead, which was nominated for a 2011 Joe Shuster Award in it’s original form as a self-published comic book, is a story about a teen boy’s struggle with depression and mental illness. Will herself had suffered from a mental breakdown in 2002. This led her to research mental illness and when she found a lack of coverage in comics, she decided to change that. In addition to the rock solid line work and layout skills, there’s some fantastic imagery that wonderfully visualizes some of the abstract and intangible sensations of mental illness. Check out page 4 from Chapter 1:
In other news
# Kelly Yates launched last week MonstHer, a new all-ages adventure series released as a digital comic at Artist Alley Comics. A 0 issue is free (and is an adorable and awesome tribute to the classic children’s book The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone and Mike Smollin), and issue #1 is only $0.99. The series is about Eva Monst who helps her father run a halfway house for monsters who were once humans. Yates is probably best known for his other creator-owned sci-fi adventure series, Amber Atoms, which started life in print at Image Comics and now also lives at Artist Alley Comics.
Artist Alley Comics is unique from other digital comics distributors in that they let you download a PDF file that you can keep, instead of leasing you a digital file stored by them. They’re still formatted like print comics, so they read best on tablets like iPads, even though they don’t have an app yet (and their website’s navigation isn’t the best despite a nice and clean look). But the low price ($0.99 instead of $2.99-$3.99) and a true purchase are where digital comics should be. They also put the focus on the creators, which always wins points with us (one of their taglines is “creator-driven digital comics”). They have digital comics by Craig Rousseau, Todd Dezago, Jason Copland, and other quality creators.
# Warren Ellis and Jason Howard launched a unique web-comic last week. Borrowing from daily newspaper comic strips, Scatterlands is being released Mondays through Fridays but only one panel at a time. The comic is fully improvised, so while it sounds like some rough mapping out might’ve been done (it’s probably going to be a sci-fi tale), there’s no telling where it will go. Every four or five weeks, they’ll take a brief break and release a digest collection but haven’t quite worked out the details on that yet. Watch WarrenEllis.com for future installments.
# Friday saw the release of the first episode of Strip Search, the reality game show by the Penny Arcade gang looking for America’s next top webcomic maker. The full episode is above. We meet the contestants as they arrive at the house where they’ll be competing against each other. I’m still kind of torn about this whole thing. I’m not a fan of reality shows like this and was hoping for a bit more Penny Arcade-style humor. They also apparently had some technical problems. Their host’s mic must’ve died because his audio was clearly re-recorded at a later date and awkwardly dubbed in. But it’s cool to see comics get this kind of mass appeal attention. I know that Hollywood has been trying to get a show like this made for years and I’m glad it came from comics people. I’m also already rooting for a few contestants, so they must be doing something right. Future episodes will go up every Tuesday and Friday.
# Chris Onstad wants to bring his award-winning webcomic Achewood to animation. A teaser trailer is above and once again Wired covers the story. Unlike the Cyanide & Happiness crew, Onstad is not yet burnt out from trying to deal with Hollywood and keep his creative freedom. In fact, according to this blog post, he’s just started trying to work out a deal with a studio or network, although he has a promising partner in producer Josh Lieb, formerly of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Simpsons. While it’s a shame he seems to be done making comics, best of luck to him.
# iVerse Media, which runs the Comics+ app and web store for digital comics, last Wednesday announced a partnership with Archaia Entertaiment, publishers of comics and graphic novels such as Mouse Guard, Return of the Dapper Men and Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand. Archaia has been releasing a number of their comics digitally first in their partnership with ComiXology and I would imagine (and hope) they’ll do the same through Comics+. Perhaps most notable is that the partnership will benefit iVerse’s ComicsPlus: Library Edition, which provides digital comics to libraries.
# Webcomic Creators Google+ community is a great way for creators to talk shop with others.
Pixel Pages covers webcomics news. The Monday holiday helped me catch up. Still not exactly sure on what kind of frequency I’ll be able to manage, ideally weekly or more, maybe bi-weekly, but we’ll keep this thing going as often as possible, and running out-of-cycle if a particularly big story calls for it. As ever, feedback is welcome (email, Facebook, Twitter).
# Michael Poe of Errant Story and Does Not Play Well with Others was admitted to the hospital for acute renal failure earlier this month. He’s home now, but the medical costs will surely continue. If you’d like to help them out, donations could actually do more harm then good due to financial assistance terms, so instead please consider buying original art pages from his Etsy store and/or online store. Errant Story concluded on March 19, 2012, but the entire story has been re-running on the site with new author commentary from Poe. A sequel series of short stories called Errant Tales will follow. Poe was one of the early innovators of webcomics, his cult hit Exploitation Now was one of the first to have a print release.
- Abby Howard, age 20, from Montreal, Quebec
- Alex Hobbs, age 22, from Tempe, Arizona
- Amy Falcone, age 24, from Noank, Connecticut
- Erika Moen, age 29, from Portland, Oregon
- Katie Rice, age 31, from Burbank, California
- Lexxy Douglass, 27, from Carmel, Indiana
- MacKenzie Schubert, age 26, from Portland, Oregon
- Maki Naro, age 31, from Brooklyn, New York
- Monica Ray, age 22, Northbrook, Illinois
- Nick Trujillo, age 30, from Walnut Creek, California
- Tavis Maiden, age 31, from Mesa, Arizona
- Ty Halley, age 25, from Portsmouth, Ohio
Each artist has a short video of them introducing themselves, apparently recorded soon after they arrived for the show’s recording. I’m wondering how accurate of a snapshot this group is of the webcomics artists demographics. Portland’s cartooning vitality is certainly represented by being the only city with two contestants. With no one over 31 years old, is webcomics really a twenty-something field? A 50/50 gender split is pretty common for these types of shows, which could also explain the age thing as well (although they claim in this interview with Michael Cavna that they weren’t looking at that kind of stuff and were surprised when they ended up with six males and six females). Either way, should be interesting, and hopefully not too reality TV-ish. The winner will get $15,000 and a year of job security being “integrated into the Penny Arcade machine”. Winners will not be voted on by viewers, but instead by the judges and Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. Episodes will air online Tuesdays and Fridays starting later this month.
# The creators of Cyanide & Happiness launched a Kickstarter campaign on Thursday, February 14th, to finance an animated series of the webcomic. Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, Matt Melvin and Dave McElfatrick set an ambitious goal of $250,000 for The Cyanide & Happiness Show but it doesn’t look like they need to worry because within 24 hours they received over 3,000 pledges. As of this writing, they’re well over halfway to their goal. The creators had several opportunities to sign with Hollywood networks, but each deal required they release control and ownership over the finished product. They announced last month that they would instead go it alone using Kickstarter so they could provide an online show that could reach a global audience.
# Spotlight on… Our Adventure Continues by Steevan Orr and Harold C. Jennett III can be about anything. Whether it’s a superhero story, a western adventure, or a farcical strip about making comics, Our Adventure Continues is about whatever the creators feel like creating. First up is an 8-page story called “Priorities” starring Captain Might. It’s the tale of a super hero just trying to make everything in his life work and just what is really important. Following that is “Variety Smack,” a strip about a couple of fellas going through the trials and tribulations of making a webcomic. The two struggle to create something new and fresh but usually wind up just getting in each other’s way. Our Adventure Continues is also running a contest to appear in a strip this July, so check it out and see if you can win!
In Other News
# Nokia has been using webcomics to promote their phones. The anonymously-created #Switch Comics (they were made by people at the marketing firm Wunderman and an unnamed illustrator at the graphic design agency Jelly London) recently finished a weekly run on Nokia UK’s social media sites. Nokia UK’s Digital Marketing Manager Selena Harrington spoke with the blog NokNok about how successful they were for the company.
# Digital comics and webcomics are on the rise in India based on a look at their presence at Comic-Con India, according to this overview from Times of India. The Beast Legion by Jazyl Homavazir and Sufi Comics are featured.
# Solstoria by Angelica Maria also has a new schedule, now updating Mondays and Wednesdays. Great coloring on this fantasy series.
# Little Fish Comic Book Studio presents How’d You Do That?: A Step by Step Demonstration of Different Digital Comic Creation Processes on Monday, March 18 at 6:00 PM PST. As part of their monthly Google+ Hangout, this live video conference hosted by Patrick Yurick (American BOOOM!) will present five different digital comic creators walking through their comic creating process. Announced guest panelists include the following experienced artists:
- Mark Luetke, 2816 Monument
- Crystal M. Rollins, Aspect
- Scott King, Holiday Wars
- Adam Black, Silk & Honey
# Webcomic Creators Google+ community is a great way for creators to talk shop with others.
Send your press releases, announcements, news tips, comments, etc.
Welcome to our first installment of Pixel Pages covering webcomics news. We’ll be learning as we go (read more here) so feedback is welcome (email, Facebook, Twitter). No doubt this will be an evolving beast. First, playing some catch-up from earlier in the month of February:
# “Stick with print, folks” says the fictional Zonker in a February 2nd installment of Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau, in a quick break from the then current storyline. Naturally, it quickly prompting irreverent Photoshopped responses from webcomics creators and fans, some collected here by Adam Manley. An editor’s note was added to Doonesbury’s Blowback site at Slate to address some of the blow back:
Editor’s Note: Sometimes things really are what they seem. I checked with the home office, and the strip is nothing more than a simple gag about the state of newspapers. It was intended for the readers of the 1,100 daily and Sunday print editions that publish the strip. While understandably sentimental about his roots in print media, GBT was an enthusiastic, early adapter to digital platforms, creating three different CD-ROMS (1995), a web-based motion-capture video project (Duke2000), a milblog (2006), e-book editions of his anthologies, and of course, this website, launched in 1995, long before most webcomics were created. He first wrote about the social impact of computers, a favorite topic, in 1972.
# Hackers took down the main servers of Blind Ferret Entertainment, which provides hosting for a number of popular webcomics, reports Fleen. Local archives were also lost which meant that years upon years of work were potentially gone unless the strips had their own backups. Some webcomics were down for a week. Blind Ferret worked hard to restore most files but each strip seemed to have certain holes to fill in. It looks like most have been able to recover almost everything. R.K. Milholland was going page-by-page to restore broken links and other oddities on Something Positive. Danielle Corsetto of Girls with Slingshots received some help in recovering her hover text thanks to Bernie Hou of Comic Chameleon, which will be carrying her strip when the app launches. Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza’s Least I Could Do, which is celebrating its 10th year anniversary this month, lost their forum and had to postpone the annual Valentine’s Day contest but otherwise seems to have made out OK. Goblins by Tarol Hunt and Danielle Stephens also lost their forum, although their fans created a temporary substitute.
# The Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies announced the nominees for the first Cartoonist Studio Prize. Winners will be announced on March 1st, with the winner in each category, one for webcomics and one for graphic novels, getting $1,000. Nominees were chosen by guest judge Françoise Mouly (art editor of The New Yorker and publisher/editorial director of TOON Books), Slate Book Review editor Dan Kois, and the faculty and students of the Center for Cartoon Studies. The nominees in the webcomics category:
- Ryan Andrews, Sarah and the Seed
- Gabrielle Bell, Lucky
- Boulet, Bouletcorp
- Vince Dorse, Untold Tales of Bigfoot
- Patrick Farley, The First Word
- Dakota McFadzean, The Dailies
- Randall Munroe, xkcd
- Winston Rowntree, Subnormality
- Noelle Stevenson, Nimona
- Jillian Tamaki, SuperMutant Magic Academy
# Chromatic Press is launching this summer with Sparkler Monthly, an online multimedia magazine that will include serialized comics, prose and audio dramas targeted for girls and women aged 15-30. The format is based on digital manga magazines in Japan. MTV Geek has an interview with editors Lianne Sentar, Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, Rebecca Scoble, and Jill Astley, all of whom have impressive experience with manga. One of the launch titles is Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, which was originally published by the pre-bankrupt TOKYOPOP.
Spotlight on… Little Guardians by Ed Cho and Lee Cherolis is an all ages-friendly fantasy adventure epic about two kids trying to follow in their families’ footsteps. One family has been protecting the village from demons and spirits for generations and the other runs the local item shop. It’s about family, obligation, and kicking demons where it hurts. Mix in switched at birth, demonic cults, and battle-Ukulele. There are currently three chapters complete and the fourth one is being released now. Check it out!
In Other News
# Are webcomic artists subway musicians? Steve Ogden and Tom Dell’Aringa at Webcomic Alliance make the argument.
# Gwen Singley reveals the history, development, and design sketches of Saralactra, a significant character (and possibly villain) in the next 100 pages of The Wayward Queen.
# Les McClaine previews 32 Exposures with some lovely and effective animation (without devolving into a motion comic).
# Ashley Davis just finished Chapter 3 of Jailbird, which will go on hiatus for a month; good opportunity to dig into the archives if you haven’t read it.
# Lukas Sapach has relaunched Joules on Tumblr: “An incredibly important story told by an incredibly quirky man, starring himself and his two incredibly odd friends during two incredibly horrid wars.”
# Comic Rocket February Meet-Up will be this Thursday, February 21, 6-9 PM, at McMenamins on Broadway in Portland, Oregon. Step away from the drafting table/monitor and join fellow creators for a few hours of conversation. Bring business cards, sketchbooks, whatever and chat with other local webcomickers and Comic Rocket’s creators.
# Webcomic Creators Google+ community is a great way for creators to talk shop with others.
Send your press releases, announcements, news tips, comments, etc.
A few weeks back, Sean Kleefield wondered why his fellow comics news writers don’t cover webcomics better. And all I could think was… guilty as charged. So, challenge accepted.
I don’t really consider myself a journalist (despite the flack comics journalism sometimes gets [not all unjustified], there are some honest-to-gosh certified journalists working at the big sites like CBR) but sometimes I can pull off something passably acceptable for entertainment journalism from an independent blog. So that’s what I will endeavor to do here in our new column, Pixel Pages. Or I’ll just link to stuff that seems important. Your miles may vary.
There are several goals of the column:
- Provide news and information on non-print comics, which includes webcomics and digital comics
- Provide a promotional and informational platform for webcomics and digital comics creators as a means for them to reach new readers
- Expand readers’ and my own knowledge and awareness of webcomics and digital comics
- Not embarrass myself
(Probably already too late for that last one.)
The format of this column will almost certainly shift over time, both in frequency and layout, to meet the needs of whatever story or comic being covered. You can subscribe to this blog at the top right, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you get future installments.
I figure, everyone wants to reach more people, and I so rarely see webcomics creators do promotional outreach to the big comics news sites. Maybe there’s an impression they’re not interested? Well, I’m here to say, I’m interested. I love comics and I want good comics to find new eyeballs. The Comics Observer has a diverse line-up of columnists each attracting their own unique demographics of regular visitors, some of which are new to comics, returning to comics or interested in expanding their comics reading. So we’re in a unique position to spread around some comics love.
If you are affiliated with a webcomic or digital-first comic, or a fan of one, please be in touch. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me your press releases, your announcements, your art previews, just say ‘hi’ and let me know about your comic or your favorite comic. Send me news tips and let me know if there’s a story, topic or question you think deserves to be covered for creators and fans of webcomics and digital comics, as well as those that could potentially become fans.
Initially I’m most interested in hearing from and covering comics with a regular readership of a few thousand or more, but I’m hardly going to ask for anyone to prove themselves. If I have the space and availability, and think it’s newsworthy, I’ll do my best to cover it and do it justice.