[UPDATED] Catch up on the week’s biggest news with the News Round-up: This week, we’ve got April sales rankings, the latest on the legal fight between publishers and the heirs of Jack Kirby and Bill Finger, convention updates. and more.
April’s bookstore and direct market sales rankings
The April 2014 BookScan Top 20 rankings are out and VIZ Media’s Naruto tops the list (again) while volumes of Kodansha’s Attack on Titan and Image Comics’ The Walking Dead and Saga continue to occupy multiple spots on the monthly list of bestselling trades and hardcovers in bookstores. With its Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection trade paperback, Marvel did finally break through to place in the top 20 after missing out in consecutive months. The sales of said volume were no doubt bolstered by the premiere of the critically-acclaimed spring-release blockbuster film Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Of course, it remains to be seen if Marvel’s return to the top 20 is sustainable, or if this is just a temporary blip on what continues to be an uphill struggle for North America’s number one comics publisher to make inroads in the bookstore market.
Marvel and DC continue to dominate the direct market (i.e., specialty comics retailers) with their monthly titles, however, although even in the direct market, Image Comics still lords it over the trades department.
International convention news and updates
• It’s never too early to make plans for the summer convention season and to that end, here’s some information about the Northwest Fan Fest, which will be held June 27–29, 2014 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC: The three-day event places the Anime Evolution, Vancouver Gaming Expo, and Cos & Effect conventions under one umbrella and the special guest list features personalities from animation, live-action television, gaming, and popular music such as Linda Ballantyne (Sailor Moon, Avengers: United They Stand), Toby Proctor (Police Academy: The Series, Sailor Moon), John Stocker (Super Mario Bros., C.O.P.S, Medabots Infinity), Faye Mata (League of Legends, WCG Ultimate Gamer Season 2), alterna-pop singer Kieran Strange (Adamantine Hearts), and Vancouver “geek jazz” outfit missingNo. Events will include LAN parties, CCG and cosplay contests, as well as the return of The Gauntlet, a weeklong multi-genre, multi-game competition. For ticket information, click here.
• If you’re on the other side of Canada, there’s the one-day East Coast Comic Expo (May 17, 2014; Crossman Community Centre, Moncton, NB), in its second year. Guests include Steve McNiven (Civil War, Captain America, Wolverine: Old Man Logan), Ty Templeton (Batman ’66, Simpsons Comics, Teen Titans Go!), Marco Rudy (Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, The Shield, After the Cape), Gisele Lagace (Archie, Ménage à 3, Penny and Aggie), Kate Leth (kateordiecomics.com, Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake), Sandy Carruthers (Men in Black, Alien Nation: The Public Enemy), among many others. Looking for tix? Click here.
• The Toronto Comic Arts Festival will likely be well underway by the time today’s News Round-up goes live, but it’s still worth heading on over to the Japan Times site to read Roland Kelts’ article on how the event reflects manga’s continued influence on the international comics scene.
• Carol Pinchefsky, writing for Blastr.com, asks Wizard World public relations manager Jerry Milani to clarify the popular multi-city convention’s vaguely worded and inconsistently enforced ban on “cameras with detachable lenses” and “professional photography equipment.” Milani says that photographers who use cameras with detachable lenses are not actually prevented from attending Wizard World or using their cameras—they’re just not allowed to use their cameras in specific areas, such as the convention autograph areas where professional photo ops are part of the show. [This is actually standard practice for many conventions based on our experience, but if such is the case for Wizard World's policy, why not amend the wording of the rule to specifically state this instead of leaving its wording and enforcement open to interpretation?—ed.]
• C2E2 was a huge success by certain measures, but David Fairbanks worries that we could be seeing its transition from a “unique con experience into yet another routine celebration of consumerism.” Don’t forget to check out the linked piece’s comments section, where Bomb Queen and Five Weapons creator Jimmie Robinson shares his own thoughts in response to Fairbanks’ article.
• Registration for the Nexus Game Fair (June 19–22, 2014; Clarion Hotel & Conference Center, Milwaukee, WI) opens on Monday, May 12, 8:00 PM CST. The Nexus Game Fair has over 400 individual events involving role-playing games, miniatures and collectible card games, board games, and more, including Magic the Gathering and Netrunner tournaments that offer prizes. Nexus Game Fair has an impressive list of industry special guests who will be hosting panels and special events throughout the show, including Jolly Blackburn (Knights of the Dinner Table), Mike Carr (Dawn Patrol), Dave “Zeb” Cook (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition), Jeff Easley (Staff Artist, TSR, Inc.), Todd Fisher (Revolution & Empire), Matt Forbeck (Deadlands), Kenneth Hite (Trail of Cthulhu), Tim Kask (Dragon Magazine), Frank Mentzer (Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set), Merle Rasmussen (Top Secret), Monica Valentinelli (Firefly RPG), Rob Wieland (Line Developer, Firefly RPG), Skip Williams (Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition), and more. In association with the Milwaukee Company of Gamers (MilCoG), the Fair will also be hosting a board games library consisting of over 1,000 unique titles. For ticket and accommodation information, visit the Nexus Game Fair site.
R.I.P., Dick Ayers
Richard “Dick” Ayers, perhaps best known as Jack Kirby’s long-time inker on such titles as Fantastic Four, Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense, Amazing Adventures, and Tales to Astonish as well as for his decades-spanning run as the regular illustrator and cover artist on the Alley Award-winning Sgt. Fury and its successor series, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, passed away earlier this week at the age of 90.
Ayers was honored in 1985 with the National Cartoonist Society’s Comic Books Award and in 2007, he was finally inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.
Ayers remained active as a comics illustrator well into his eighties, contributing to the Marvel Mystery Handbook 70th Anniversary Special in 2009. Besides his comics illustration work, Ayers also taught at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and occasionally gave art lectures at Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum.
In comics creator heirs vs. comics publisher news…
• The US Supreme Court will decide later this month if it will involve itself in the case filed by Jack Kirby’s estate against Marvel and Disney over the rights to the numerous characters Kirby created and co-created for Marvel and its corporate predecessors Timely Comics and Atlas Comics. Said characters include the original X-Men, the original Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Silver Surfer, Galactus, Black Panther, Dr. Doom, the Inhumans, the Eternals, Nick Fury, among many, many others.
It’s probably also worth noting that both Marvel and DC’s major 2014 “comics events”—Original Sin and Future’s End, respectively—revolve around Kirby creations: the Watcher in the former, Brother Eye in the latter. We’re just sayin’.
• Bill Finger’s granddaughter Athena Finger disputes that she’s “all good” with DC’s treatment of her late grandfather’s legacy as Batman’s co-creator, contrary to DC Comics Talent Relations Director Larry Ganem’s statements at last month’s Wondercon. While just about every comic book historian is unanimous in agreeing that Finger co-created Batman alongside Bob Kane, a contract based on Kane’s (now debunked) claim that he is the sole creator of Batman prevents DC from officially recognizing Finger’s significant contributions to the character’s design.
Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo returns with new series, trade and hardcover omnibus editions
From the press release:
With more than two hundred issues and counting, Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo is among comics’ most monumental achievements. In celebration of thirty years of the marvelous samurai rabbit saga, Usagi Yojimbo is set to return in an all-new six-issue miniseries, Usagi Yojimbo: Senso, followed by the debut of the Usagi Yojimbo Saga collection!
Twenty years in his future, Miyamoto Usagi fights as a general for Lord Noriyuki, against the treacherous Lord Hikiji. In the fury of the final battle, a metal rocket crashes to earth—and inside is an enemy that neither side could have ever imagined! Witness the final fates of your favorite Usagi characters, in this all-new samurai epic with a startling science fiction twist!
Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #1 is on sale in comic shops everywhere August 6!
To celebrate the rabbit ronin’s thirtieth anniversary, Dark Horse proudly presents Miyamoto Usagi’s epic trek along the warrior’s path in a new series of deluxe compilations: The Usagi Yojimbo Saga.
In the first volume, Usagi protects a village from a band of assassins, reluctantly engages in a duel for blood money, hunts a gangster who has stolen his swords, and more.
Collecting Usagi Yojimbo Vol. 2 #1–#16 and Vol. 3 #1–#6, and featuring over six hundred pages of samurai action and adventure, The Usagi Yojimbo Saga is the ultimate introduction to Sakai’s enduring samurai masterpiece!
The Usagi Yojimbo Saga Volume 1 will be available in both limited hardcover and softcover omnibus editions in comic shops on October 15!
Magnetic Press debuts digital comics line on comiXology
Earlier this week, Magnetic Press—the company founded by ex-Archaia Entertainment executive Mike Kennedy and former BOOM! Studios veep Wes Harris—debuted on comiXology the digital comics component of its internationally-sourced graphic novel line-up with the English language editions of the first chapters of J.D. Morvan and Bengal’s Naja and Caio Oliveira’s Super Ego. Follow-up titles will include Zaya, by Morvan and Huang-Jia Wei, as well as Meka, also by Morvan and Bengal. Additional titles are scheduled to debut in the fall.
Odds and sods
• DeNA’s free Manga Box smartphone and tablet app has added 15 new English manga series to its library, including Genji the Death’s Friend, Shinjuku DxD, Oh God! Dear God!, Kindaichi Case Files: The Mini-Vacation, and Student Council ~ Total Takeover.
• Despite middling reviews (see last week’s News Round-up), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 topped both the North American and the international box-office with its opening weekend take of $92 million for the former and $116 million for the latter.
• Saladin Ahmed looks at how the Comics Code Authority was subverted by certain individuals to prevent the portrayal of people of color and independent women in comics. Fascinating, if disturbing, stuff.
• We’re sure you had a lot of fun at your local comics retailer during last Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day celebrations, but we’re betting it had nothing like the Mark Waid vs. Scott Snyder vs. Chris Samnee vs. James Tynion IV “sharpened batarang” throwing competition that happened in Muncie, Indiana’s Alter Ego Comics.
• This news is coming a bit late from us, but here’s a link anyway to the list of the newly-acquired “light novel” and manga licenses revealed by Yen Press at last month’s Sakura Con.
• There are three days remaining in the Humble Bundle Image Comics promotion. The promo offers a DRM-free digital comics collection consisting of East of West, Vol. 1, Fatale, Vol. 1, Lazarus, Vol. 1, and Morning Glories, Vol. 1 for the awesome price of “pay what you want.” Customers who spend more than the average price paid by previous bundle buyers (currently at $10.16) will also receive Saga, Vol. 1, Saga, Vol. 2, The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1, Chew, Vol. 1, Revival, Vol. 1, and Invincible, Vol. 1. Customers who spend more than $15 on the bundle will also receive The Walking Dead, Vol. 1 and The Walking Dead, Vol. 20.
• Used bookstore chain Half Price Books joins the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) as its newest corporate member.
• ABC renews Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., picks up Agent Carter (featuring the character played by Hayley Atwell in Captain America: The First Avenger).
• Christian Blauvelt, in a video segment for the BBC’s Talking Movies, looks at the political aspects of Marvel’s superhero comics and investigates if those themes are now finding expression in film adaptations like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
• Today is the 20th anniversary of the release of Weezer’s Blue Album, which featured the anthemic ”In the Garage,” a song that brought “geek music” to the pop culture mainstream with its casual references to Dungeons & Dragons and the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler (yeah, Weezer is categorized as “alternative,” but you guys know what we mean).
In case you missed them…
• Don’t forget that we regularly post new previews of trade paperbacks and hardcovers.
• Get in the proper mindset for Mother’s Day by reading our 2012 retrospective on the life and times of Marvel’s Invisible Woman.
• Check out Joe’s review of Mattel’s action figure take on popular pro wrestler, Ghost Rider fan, comics writer, and former comic book shop owner Rob Van Dam.