Month: July 2011

Big growth for Digital Comics in July (and Comic-Con hasn’t even happened yet!)

While publishers are quick to remind us that digital comics sales are only a fraction of print sales, growth continues as more outlets emerge. Digital comics were initially restricted to the iPhone but now they can be enjoyed on the iPad, Android, Windows 7, PSP, and perhaps most importantly, on the web using any ol’ browser you like. This month in particular has seen a flurry of activity. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened just since July 1st. And there’s bound to be a bunch of big announcements during Comic-Con, which starts tonight for a special preview night and then officially gets underway tomorrow.

  • DC Comics now has an app on the Android courtesy of comiXology. (ICv2)
  • Upscale comics publisher Top Shelf has over 70 comics now available on iVerse‘s Comics+ app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Top Shelf publishes award winning and critically acclaimed graphic novels like the young reader series Owly by Andy Runton, the great Essex County by Jeff Lemire, the Transformers parody Incredible Change-Bots by Jeffrey Brown, a bunch from the brilliant James Kochalka and much more. (Top Shelf)
  • The Father of Manga goes digital: 62 volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy and Black Jack (plus Ode to Kirihito, Apollo’s Song, Dororo, Phoenix, Buddha, MW, and Adolf) and 39 episodes of “motion manga” (audio manga with English subtitles) from Tezuka Productions and SOBA Project on the iPad. App is free. Monthly subscription fee: $9.99 (Mainishi Daily News)
  • Graphicly partners with G4’s Fresh Ink with Blair Butler for a weekly free digital comic selected from the review show’s picks. (Graphicly)
  • comiXology launches Bone and RASL apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and online. Apps and first issues are free, subsequent issues are 99 cents until 11 PM tonight. Creator Jeff Smith did a Q&A on Reddit to promote the launch. (comiXology)
  • Planetary Omnibus sale on comiXology experiments with selling a massive collection of issues. All 27 issues plus an 8-page introductory story were sold in one bundle for $24.99. (comiXology)
  • Even small publishers like Arcana Comics are releasing their own comics apps. (Robot 6)
  • A number of media crossover comics and promotions have been or are about to launch to promote Smurfs, Transformers, Planet of the Apes, Burn Notice, Mass Effect, Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and more.
  • Even when it looks like bad news, it seems it’s only temporarily bad news. Sony discontinued adding new comics to their PSP-based PlayStation Digital Comics store, but it appears they intend to expand the program to new devices, at least for the upcoming Playstation Vita, which is replacing the PSP, and possibly to the larger Sony tablet device. (PlayStation)
  • Marvel Comics hired Peter Phillips to fill the new position of Senior Vice President and General Manager, Digital Media Group, no doubt with the hopes that he will continue to expand their digital initiative. (Comic Book Resources)
  • Dark Horse Comics began a 3-month test run of exclusive digital comics for brick-and-mortar retailers, releasing special download codes to be given out to customers. (Dark Horse)
  • Archie Comics expanded the digital comics territory by launching an app on the Windows 7. (Comics Alliance)
  • A big showing from digital and web comics at this year’s Harvey Award nominees. (CoreyBlake.com) (Hey that’s me!)
  • Diamond Comics Distributors is launching their digital comics affiliate program for brick-and-mortar retailers with iVerse in September. Retailers can sign up at DiamondDigital.com. (The Beat)

Popeye host Tom Hatten taught LA kids the magic of drawing comics

Tom Hatten, circa 1956

After living here for just over ten years, I’m still learning about Los Angeles and its surprisingly rich history. From the 1950s and into the mid-’60s, local station KTLA, then owned by Paramount, ran The Pier Point 5 Club, later renamed The Popeye Show. Both shows aired live segments between episodes of the Popeye cartoon, which had been licensed to Paramount in 1941. To compete with other children’s programming, KTLA needed a host for the live segments, and so they hired Tom Hatten.

Dressed as a skipper to resemble Popeye, what made Tom Hatten unique from the other kids show hosts was his abilities as an artist, in addition to being a classically trained actor. Tom Hatten would draw Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto live on the show. For many LA area kids, this was probably the first time they’d ever seen someone draw seemingly random lines on a page and bring them together to create something familiar. The show was so popular that it was brought back in the ’70s and ’80s.

That magical experience was expanded when Tom Hatten started holding contests on the show where random “squiggle” as he would call them, would be made by a local kid, and then he would turn it into a whale or funny looking character. If he couldn’t turn the squiggle into something, the kid would win a free bike.

This kind of local programming is unheard of these days, so naturally this kind of improvised drawing is almost impossible to find. Fortunately I know of one live performance happening this week that is an absolute joy to watch. At Comic-Con International: San Diego, one my favorite panels is Quick Draw, where master cartoonists Sergio Aragonés (Groo the Wanderer, Mad Magazine) and Scott Shaw! (Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew, Simpsons Comics) improvise their way through a flurry of cartoon drawings. This year they’ll be joined by cartoonist Mike Kazaleh (The Adventures of Captain Jack, Futurama). The show is hosted by comics historian/animation director Mark Evanier and there are usually some guest appearances by popular comics creators. It’s a hilarious hour and change, and really shows just how brilliant these people are to be able to create identifiable objects with personality and style using free association and random audience suggestions.

But back to Tom Hatten. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any videos on YouTube of Tom drawing from the original show itself, but I found a bunch of gift ideas for 8 year old boys and this two-part interview from 2004 where he was a guest on the local talk show Marty’s Corner. He demonstrated the squiggles game and his drawing Olive Oyl to get the job, along with other great anecdotes.

Woman wants Camera Eye for Graphic Novel Project

Multi-media artist Tanya Vlach of San Francisco wants to replace her eye, lost in a nearly fatal car accident, with a web-cam able to take video and still photos which will be used to create an “augmented reality” of her sci-fi alter ego depicted in a graphic novel and other media. She has set up a Kickstarter page to raise $15,000 for the creation of the new eye. So far she’s nearly 50% of the way there with 16 days to go. A $25 donation includes production sketches for the graphic novel.

Below is her Kickstarter video. Viewer discretion: There’s a shot of her putting in her prosthetic eye, so watch with caution.

I love that she chose the graphic novel as one of her crucial pieces of this project. It’s certainly a compelling concept, as the New York Daily News, Engadget, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, and one of AOL’s Buzzmedia blog network have already picked up the story.

This brings up a ton of interesting questions about privacy (her own and anyone she looks at), the boundaries of reality and art, and others I’m sure that haven’t occurred to me yet. It sure is a fascinating idea. It reminds me of Warren Ellis’ Doktor Sleepless, a sci-fi comic set in the future where people wear Clatter contact lenses that allow access to instant messaging and social media with the ability to upload pictures taken by the user based on what they see. And of course there’s the obvious Six Million Dollar Man connection as Bill Hemmer makes in that Fox spot seen in the opening of the video above. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a news anchor so giddy over getting to spotlight an old TV show for a news story. Someone please get Bill Hemmer the new Bionic Man comic book coming this August.)

Based on engineer proposals she’s received, she believes she’ll be able to get the high-tech eye engineered for $15,000, but that doesn’t include the cost to get it safely working and installed. As seen in her updates, there’s still a lot of things to figure out, like how to keep the camera’s battery charged and whether to use silicone or acrilic for the casing.

Friday is Brought to You By Carrot-Loving Kitteh

Things to do this weekend in LA:

DISASTER – For the entire weekend, the mighty 405 is getting shut down for a 10-mile stretch between the 10 in West LA and the 101 in Sherman Oaks to add a carpool lane, destroy and rebuild some bridges and overpasses, and generally try to improve LA’s worst freeway. Panic ensues. City shuts down. Yes, it’s Carmageddon.

NOTHING. ELSE. IS. HAPPENING.

Improv Comedy Streaming Right to Your Computer Today at 11 AM Pacific / 2 PM Eastern

The Magic Meathands (with me!) will be performing on the hour-long live web show Tool at FWAwebTV.

The production company Tool of North America is putting the show on, streaming live so that we’ll be able to take your suggestions over the intertubes as if we were performing in person right in front of you. Truly, we are in the future!

The show starts at 11:00 AM Pacific. See you then!

Womanthology Encourages New Generation of Female Comic Creators

A new graphic novel anthology aims to pair comics industry veterans with up-and-coming creators for an opportunity to foster new female creators.

Womanthology intends to showcase the works of women in comics. It is created entirely by over 140 women of all experience levels. All proceeds will go to charity. IDW Publishing has agreed to publish the graphic novel but printing and distributing costs are still prohibitive. On July 7, project manager Renae De Liz set up a Kickstarter page. And amazingly just over 18 hours later, the project met its goal of $25,000. Not yet a week later and the project is over double that.

Turning to crowd-funding for this project ended up being a smart move because it has sent a very loud signal that there are people willing to put significant money forward for female comic book creators. Meanwhile, DC Comics was unable (or unwilling) to find more than 2 or 3 female creators to work on their highly publicized New 52 relaunch this September. Marvel Comics released their own Girl Comics anthology last year but it didn’t change the fact that they and in fact most comics publishers have a lack of female creators as well. When you’re cutting off the perspective of 50% of the population, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. There isn’t a lack of quality female comic book creators. 140 in this project alone and there are plenty that weren’t able to be included.

The volume will also include plenty of extra material to encourage young girls to take up comics.

The purpose of the book is to show support for female creators in comics and media. There will be multiple short stories, “how to”s & interviews with professionals, and features showcasing iconic female comic creators that have passed, such as Nell Brinkley and Tarpe Mills. A Kids & Teens section will also be included, showcasing their work, and offering tips & tricks to help them prepare themselves for their future careers in comics. Overall, this is pretty much a huge book showcasing what women in comics have accomplished, and what we are capable of 🙂 We are also hoping that by doing this book, it will encourage a new generation of women to pick up the pencil and create!

Corey plays 3 people in Kathie Bostian’s video for The X-Ecution

Fellow Magic Meathand Kathie Bostian has been on a long journey competing with other comedic improvisers in an elimination-style show called The X-Ecution, a joint production by The Improv Space and iO West. It all started on March 31st with 24 improvisers. Each week, a contestant has been voted off based on their performance, feedback from a panel of judges, and votes from a live audience. After last Friday’s show, we’re down to the Final 3 and one more show. And the great news is that Kathie is still in the running! The big winner gets $500 and meetings with heads of casting from Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS.

For last week’s show, the Top 4 were each asked to write and produce a 4-minute video starring themselves in a hero’s journey. Kathie not only asked me to be in her video, she asked me to play every male role in the whole dang thing. That ended up being 3 different characters. Other Meathands helped out too. Mary Benedict played the other women characters that weren’t Kathie, and the whole thing was edited by Shane Boroomand. The video played during last week’s show, and I’m told it was a big hit.

Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think:

The final show is this Thursday night, 8 PM, at The Improv Space.