Have you picked up your Free Comic Book Day loot yet? If you haven’t, go and visit your local comics retailer, then make sure to come back here and get caught up on the past week’s comics news stories, including the dustup over comiXology’s iOS app update.
ComiXology updates its iOS and Android apps in the wake of its acquisition by Amazon.com
Amazon.com wasted little time in stamping its mark on the recently acquired comiXology as the digital comics distributor’s apps have become the latest front on the Amazon.com vs. Apple vs. Google Cold War. ComiXology replaced its iOS and Android apps with new versions that are apparently designed to bypass the fees that are the cost of doing business through Apple’s app system and Google Play. The new version of the comiXology iOS app does not include the ability to make in-app purchases, making it similar in this sense to Amazon.com’s Kindle app for iOS devices. ComiXology users on iOS devices must now make their purchases on the comiXology website. Previously, the ability to make in-app purchases meant that Apple would receive its usual 30% cut off of all in-app transaction made on iOS devices.
The changes in the Android app are less drastic—in-app purchases are now conducted through a new custom in-app system rather than through Google Play—but they are similarly intended to cut out Google Play from the transaction. As part of its rollout of the new apps, comiXology also gave a $5 eGift card to all active user accounts that have purchased comics on comiXology in the past.
As readers can well imagine, the changes have been met with more than a little complaint from users. There has been a wave of online reactions to the news and among the most interesting ones include a lengthy piece written by veteran comics scribe (and Punisher and Firestorm co-creator) Gerry Conway. An excerpt:
By forcing readers to leave the app and go searching the Comixology website, add books to a cart, process the cart, return to the app, activate download, and wait for their purchases to appear, Comixology has replaced what was a quick, simple, intuitive impulse purchase experience with a cumbersome multi-step process that will provide multiple opportunities along the path for the casual reader to think twice and decide, ah, never mind, I don’t really want to try that new book after all. I’ll stick with what I know. Or worse, when a new casual reader opens the Comixology app for the first time and sees that THERE ARE NO COMICS THERE, and that he or she will have to exit the app and go somewhere else and sign up for a new account, maybe he or she won’t bother buying a comic in the first place.
This is a disaster.
So why did Comixology do this? Why did they take a successful platform with a proven track record for introducing new casual readers to comics, and turn it upside down?
The answer, of course, is simple. Comixology didn’t do it, because Comixology as a company no longer exists. It’s a software product and a website; it isn’t an independent entity anymore.
Amazon did this. It did it for one reason, and one reason only: to advance their proprietary hardware platform, the Kindle, at the expense of Apple’s platform, the iPad and iPhone. They have deliberately degraded the iPad and iPhone Comixology app so that users of the Kindle will have a better reading and purchasing experience. That’s all this is about. They’ve destroyed the future of digital comics to give an advantage to their hardware platform — and, in passing, to leverage their control of digital comics distribution to do to comic book stores what they’ve already done to brick-and-mortar book stores.
Meanwhile, Chip Mosher, comiXology vice-president for communications and marketing, addressed concerns and issues in an interview with CBR’s J.K. Parkin. Excerpt follows:
There are many advantages to shopping at comiXology.com. Because of the content restrictions our mobile partners have, shopping on the web provides even greater selection of comic books and graphic novels. iOS customers will now be able to save money with comiXology’s exclusive web-only bundles, take advantage of subscription features and enjoy eGift cards. We also made our website more tablet/mobile friendly on all devices to make the purchasing process that much easier. And in Safari on iOS, customers can easily save a shortcut to our webstore with the “Add to Home Screen” feature.
Mosher does raise a very valid point about how Apple’s content restrictions have limited the selection of titles available for purchase and reading in the old iOS app. We’ve previously reported on how overzealous and misguided interpretations of Apple’s content guidelines have resulted in the blanket banning of hundreds, if not thousands, of comics in the comiXology library from the iOS app-space. Still, the current social media sentiment among many comiXology users on iOS devices seems to be that the changes detract from the convenience of the service.
Mad magazine’s Al Feldstein passes away
Mad magazine editor, writer, and artist Al Feldstein passed away earlier this week at the age of 88. In an obituary written for 13th Dimension, comics creator, publisher, and historian Craig Yoe expounded on the impact the late Mad magazine and EC Comics editor, writer, and artist Al Feldstein had and continues to have on the comics industry and pop culture in general. An excerpt:
Harvey Kurtzman may have been the genius who created MAD and morphed it from a color comic into a black and white magazine, but it was his successor, Al Feldstein, who pulled together and shepherded the proverbial Usual Gang of Idiots through the uniquely phenomenal and profitable years that made MAD a cultural touchstone for Baby Boomers and beyond. Under Feldstein, MAD creatively marched on to become one of only 4 major magazines started in the 1950s that are still being published into the new century! (The others were TV GUIDE, PLAYBOY and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, by the way.)
We all grew up with Feldstein’s MAD, even if we didn’t read it. My mom forbid it. So my drug of choice was ARCHIE’S MADHOUSE (not a bad substitute with its well-endowed teenage girls and lots of monsters in addition to the MAD-type humor). There were literally hundreds of MAD imitations over the years from CRACKED to NATIONAL LAMPOON. TV comedy took on MAD sensibilities via shows like ROWAN AND MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN and later MAD-TV. Without ever setting such a lofty goal, there’s little doubt that over time, Feldstein and crew, along with those that THEY inspired, changed what made America laugh.
Comics fans, creators, media respond to online attacks against former DC editor Janelle Asselin
You’ve probably read or heard of the story by now: Former DC Comics associate editor and current Sideshow Collectibles project editor Janelle Asselin wrote a CBR article criticizing certain aspects of artist Kenneth Rocafort’s cover to Teen Titans #1 for its depiction of the female cast, as well as DC Comics’ marketing strategy for the series. Said article inspired a round of arguments and counter-arguments in the CBR forums and in the social media sphere involving both comics fans and comics industry professionals, but it wasn’t too long before the commentary took a decidedly ugly and misogynistic turn, with Asselin being threatened on the forums and on blogs and Twitter with rape and sexual assault. Eventually, her home address and other personal information were anonymously posted online and an attempt to hack into her bank account was reported. It’s a simultaneously disappointing and infuriating new low for a particular segment of the online “fanboy” community, representative of some of its absolutely worst aspects.
Partially in response to this incident, former Dark Horse Comics editor Rachel Edidin along with Arturo Garcia, Elle Collins, and Sigrid Ellis have launched a tumblr for the “We Are Comics” campaign, intended “to show—and celebrate—the faces of our community, our industry, and our culture; to promote the visibility of marginalized members of our population; and to stand in solidarity against harassment and abuse.”
The tumblr’s purpose is simple: It is an open outlet for anyone to post a photo of themselves and a brief description of who they are, why they love comics, and why comics should be for everyone.
CBR has also announced that it will “reboot” its public forums in the wake of growing incidents of trolling and online abuse and specifically in response to the attacks on Asselin. From CBR publisher/executive producer Jonah Weiland’s post:
There has been a negativity and nastiness that has existed on the CBR forums for too long. Two weeks ago, that long-growing ugliness became more pronounced than ever. CBR published an article by guest contributor Janelle Asselin, critiquing the cover to DC Comics’ upcoming “Teen Titans” #1. Some of you liked the article, some of you didn’t. We encouraged readers to share their feedback in the CBR Forums.
Unfortunately, what happened next was unacceptable — so-called “fans” around the Internet, on various message boards and social media, including the CBR Forums, attacked Janelle personally, threatening her with rape and assault. These same “fans” found her e-mail, home address and other personal information, and used it to harass and terrorize her, including an attempted hacking of her bank account.
All over a comic book cover critique. Just think about that for a second.
If you’re one of the people who participated in any of these reprehensible acts, my message is simple: You are not welcome anywhere on CBR, and in our opinion, you have no place in the comics industry.
But you know what? I’m responsible, too.
I failed to do all I can to make the CBR Forums a safer and better place by adequately dealing with this behavior. And while we employ an army of volunteer moderators, the thread was not properly moderated.
To be clear: this is about more than just this one thread. While there are many examples of good conversation among great members on our old forums, hateful and ugly comments were allowed to be posted in the interest of “free speech,” which made the forums a place that wasn’t accepting or inviting. I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t take enough notice of what was happening.
That failure falls on me. And I apologize.
Starting today, we’re rebooting the CBR Forums. For the next 14 days, the messages from the old forum will be located here. All threads are locked, no new posts or replies are possible and no ads will be served on those pages. The messages are there for two purposes only — to let old users access posts they’d like to archive, and for our moderators to reference accounts and posts.
Ultimate Spider-Man and All-New X-Men writer Brian Michael Bendis also weighed in on the affair during an interview with Abraham Wiesman:
Just yesterday, a woman wrote an article analyzing what she thought was a poor comic book cover, and she was met with just a bunch of shitty anonymous people being awful to her online. I think that a huge problem is people who read comics and don’t understand the point of superheroes, which is to be the best version of yourself. You love Captain America? Well, you know what Captain America would never do? Go online anonymously and shit on a girl for having an opinion.
R.I.P., Golden Age comics artist Isabelle “Barbara” Fiske Calhoun
Born Isabelle Daniel Hall, Isabelle “Barbara” Fiske Calhoun began her comics illustration career on Harvey Comics’ Black Cat before moving on to the Girl Commandos serial in Harvey Comics’ Speed Comics anthology, where she stayed on as artist from 1941 to 1943. She also contributed art for serials and shorts in other Harvey publications like Green Hornet Comics. According to her family, she had to draw under the name “B. Hall” as cartooning was “a man’s profession” at the time. She married playwright Irving Fiske and took the name Isabelle Hall Fiske in 1946.
After leaving the comics industry, she continued her art career as a painter and later co-founded with her husband the Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester, NY. During the 1960s, Fiske became friends with many members of the burgeoning “underground comix” movement, including Robert Crumb, Trina Robbins, Kim Deitch, and Spain Rodriguez. She divorced Fiske in the 1970s but remarried in the 1990s, taking the name Isabelle Fiske Calhoun. Fiske Calhoun remained an active illustrator and painter well into her nineties. She passed away at a Vermont nursing home on April 28, 2014 at the age of 94.
Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo a big hit
“Post-con depression” sets in for fans at the end of another successful Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. This year saw an Expo-record 85,000 people attend the event.
The Calgary Herald has a gallery of images from the first day of the Expo and organizers also produced a slick video of the downtown “Parade of Wonders” that kicked off the celebration, featuring Calgary Expo mascot Emily Expo, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, Anthony Daniels (C-3PO from Star Wars), Sons of Anarchy‘s Kim Coates and Mark Boone, Jr., The Guild‘s Felicia Day, Star Trek: Voyager‘s Garrett Wang, Heroes of Cosplay‘s Monika Lee, professional cosplay model Jessica Nigri, and thousands of fans in costume (stick around for the end of the video to see a fan—dressed as a prince, naturally—propose to his partner).
Also worth watching is the YouTube PSA video entitled “Cosplay is Not Consent” featuring Emily Expo discussing the topic of sexual harassment of cosplayers at conventions with members of the Calgary Police Service, Calgary Sexual Health, and Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse. [Related reading: Leaving Proof 220 | Fan Expo Vancouver 2014: The Cosplay Question]
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 review round-up
Film critic Wesley Morris ruminates on what the blockbuster film-mentality fails to translate from the comics source material and compares 2004’s Spider-Man 2 to this week’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in his review of the Marc Webb-directed sequel to the 2012 sequel to Amazing Spider-Man. Some excerpts:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is for people who don’t have great fealty toward their protagonists and villains or toward the films made about them. They have loose loyalties to no particular franchise. It’s for people who’ll just go. To anything.
It doesn’t matter that only 10 years ago, nearly to the day, there was a Spider-Man 2 and it tripled the B-movie fun of its 2002 predecessor by heightening [director Sam Raimi’s] loopy cinematic personality and building toward real stakes that an audience—almost any audience—could care about. Each of Raimi’s three Spider-Man movies achieved that with a carefully measured mix of the zany and the scary.
It’s a shame that comic-book movies are now where a lot of the Hollywood action genre resides. That emphasis on action misses the point of what else is great about comic books—the narrative trapdoors, the allegories, the shadings of these characters that take place over 30 illustrated pages. Raimi’s films are just as guilty of marching to the beat of a blockbuster. But he and his crew were able to make those inevitabilities memorable—they’ve got the humor, the surprise, the illustration.
Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is a great comic-book film. Its makers seemed to understand that what endeared comic books to their readers was their voice, their point of view. I’m not talking about subtext, per se, just story and its advancement. A comic book could take you anywhere, and the good ones always did—sometimes until, with the change in creative personnel, they leapt off a cliff. However, if they had you, then over the cliff you went, too. That’s the story with Spider-Man 3, one of the strangest and cleverest of the Marvel movies. The whole thing is built on doubling and brings Maguire as close to classic Nicolas Cage lunacy as any actor playing super has come. Spider-Man 3 is just like what certain issues of comic books were: stuffed with randomness and quirks that were the product of either inspiration or inertia. I like that movie. It’s not serious but takes the enterprise of making a $250 million movie seriously enough.
Morris’ views are shared by a number of other critics who had early access to the film, and having to live up to the superhero movie sequel standard set by Raimi’s universally-acclaimed Spider-Man 2 and last month’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier probably had a lot to do with the negative perception. As the A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd wrote in his review:
With the power of a nine-digit budget comes the responsibility of keeping a franchise chugging along, of introducing new characters while paying off old conflicts, of planting seeds for future installments. Call that the standard burden of crafting a modern comic-book movie; the good ones, like last month’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, make the multitasking look easy. Here, it looks about as difficult as trying to balance a stack of graphic novels on a thin strand of gossamer.
Critic Scott Tobias, writing for The Dissolve, also references the recent Captain America sequel in his assessment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2:
A month ago, Captain America: The Winter Soldier proved it was possible to link up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe while still packing a film with wit, verve, and smart allusions to 1970s paranoid thrillers and the drone politics of the times. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has no such obligation to the MCU, yet it’s more inclined to stick to the straight and narrow, like it’s angling for a spot on Sony’s Employee Of The Month plaque. The silver lining: Like its predecessor, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offers its successor another fresh start, since no one will remember what happened in this movie, either.
As of this writing, The Amazing Spider-Man has a 53 out of 100 Metascore (“mixed or average”) on the review aggregator site Metacritic, based on 48 published reviews.
Odds and Sods
More news links from around the world of comics and related media:
• Max Brooks (World War Z, G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds, Extinction Parade) talks about his new graphic novel on the Harlem Hellfighters, the “all-black” regiment that was among the most decorated US Army units in World War One, and the combination of cheers and racism that greeted them upon returning home to the United States after their successful campaigns in Europe. The Harlem Hellfighters is set to be adapted into a Sony Pictures Entertainment feature film to be produced by Caleeb Pinkett and James Lassiter for Overbrook Entertainment.
• Oliver Sava cuts out the hype and the BS and boils down the announcements from C2E2 to their bare essentials in a concise C2E2 comics news summary for the A.V. Club.
• Alan Moore is in a public tiff with county library services over what he calls “underhand machinations.”
• Calgary-based Filipino-Canadian comics artist Dario Carrasco, Jr. (Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi, Northstar) talks to The Filipino Times about his plans to introduce readers to Filipino culture through comics.
• Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece heads the list of the top 20 most popular manga of all time, with an astounding 300 million volumes published. Takao Saito’s Golgo 13 (200 million volumes) and Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack (176 million) round out the top three. Not on the list? Hajime Isayama’’s Attack on Titan, which “only” has 30 million volumes published since its tankōbon volumes began publication in 2010, although if it continues to grow in popularity at its current rate, it could very well make the top 20 list within a year or two.
• Speaking of Attack on Titan, don’t forget that the overwhelmingly popular anime adaptation of the manga will have its English-dub debut tonight (May 3, 2014) on Adult Swim’s Toonami programming block, at 11:30 PM ET. The English-subtitled Japanese language version of the show has been available on the Crunchyroll and Funimation.com video-streaming platforms for over a year now and it is one of the most-viewed animated shows on Netlix on demand these past several months. Tonight’s airing will in all likelihood garner even more fans for the property from the population of viewers unaccustomed to watching subtitled television. The English voice cast features Bryce Papenbrook (Blue Exorcist, Durara!) in the role of Eren Yeager, Trina Nishimura (My Bride is a Mermaid, School Rumble) as Mikasa Ackerman, and Joshe Grelle (Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple, Princess Jellyfish) playing Armin Arlert.
• Jamie Chung (Samurai Girl, Sucker Punch), T.J. Miller (Gravity Falls, Dragons: Riders of Berk), and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids) added to the voice cast of the upcoming Big Hero 6 animated feature film, based on the Marvel Comics property.
• Writer Joe Keatinge (Shutter, Glory, Marvel Knights: Hulk) writes about his disappointment in DC/Vertigo’s decision to alter, without prior notice or his assent, the dialogue and the ending of the story he contributed to the Vertigo Quarterly: CMYK #1 anthology comic.
• Oliver Sava talks to Jason Aaron and Jason Latour about Southern Bastards, their new series from publisher Image Comics, in an interview for the LA Times‘ Hero Complex site. [Click here to read our review of Southern Bastards #1—ed.]
• Brian Michael Bendis (All-New X-Men, Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man) to contribute the story to the 2.0 version of the Disney Infinity video game, which will feature the addition of Marvel characters.
• Syfy adapting Miller’s Ronin, Schulner and Ryp’s Clone, Soule and Albuquerque’s Letter 44, and Hickman’s Pax Romana for television.
In case you missed them…
• Don’t forget that we regularly post new previews of trade paperbacks and hardcovers.
• Joe takes a look at Hasbro’s Transformers: Generations Deluxe class Waspinator, which comes with a pack-in special edition of IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #19.
• Read our reviews and multi-page previews of Elektra #1, Southern Bastards #1, Princess Ugg #1—Herzerker Edition, Conan the Avenger #1, and Justice League United #0 in the latest First Impressions feature.
• Image Comics creators Kurtis J. Wiebe, Ed Brisson, and Brandon Seifert gave attendees a candid look at life as a freelance comics writer during their Fan Expo Vancouver 2014 panel. Zedric has select transcriptions from the discussion in the latest installment of Leaving Proof.