The GeeksverseNEWS Round-up | Week of May 17, 2014

NEWS Round-up | Week of May 17, 2014
Published on Saturday, May 17, 2014 by
Read up on the brewing legal battle over the rights to 1980s comic Strikeforce: Morituri, the dispute between Amazon.com and the Hachette Book Group and how it’s affecting Yen Press and Marvel Comics, the latest direct market sales news, and more.
Yen Press and Marvel suffer collateral damage in Amazon.com’s fight with Hachette

Amazon.com and the Hachette Book Group have been embroiled in a battle over the former’s pricing and distribution practices ever since talks between the two companies broke down about how much of a discount Hachette should offer the giant e-tailer.

Hachette-affiliated authors such as N.K. Jemisin and Charlie Stross have taken to Twitter to express their opinions on Amazon.com’s tactics of charging more for books published by Hachette, including delaying the delivery of customers’ orders of Hachette books, steering users to works by non-Hachette affiliated authors in the site’s recommendations section, and listing many Hachette titles as unavailable for no apparent reason.

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Bestselling author James Patterson had this to say on his Facebook page regarding the whole affair:

Right now, bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the cross fire of an economic war. If this is the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed—by law, if necessary—immediately, if not sooner.

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Yen Press-published titles like Alice in the Country of Hearts are no longer discounted on Amazon.com and take significantly longer to ship than non-Yen Press titles.

One of Hachette’s many imprints is Yen Press, which publishes popular manga titles such as Alice in the Country of HeartsSoul EaterBlack Butler, and Yotsuba&! for the North American market, although it isn’t the only comics entity whose publications and affiliated comics creators are feeling the effects of Amazon.com’s “scorched earth” tactics as it punishes Hachette for failed renegotiation talks. As an ICv2 investigative report shows, Marvel Comics trades and hardcovers—which are distributed by the Hachette Book Group on Amazon.com—apparently have lower discounts and they have additional delivery delays. Yen Press titles are not discounted at all—something that almost never happens on the site.

This latest disagreement has pundits, commentators, and authors association representatives alike talking about whether or not Amazon.com is in breach of federal antitrust laws, but as the Washington Post‘s Steve Mufton writes, there are several issues that complicate the matter, chief among them being the fact that the US Justice Department has historically sided with Amazon.com in its pricing disputes with publishers, often citing the e-tailer’s low prices as being beneficial to consumers. On the other hand, by delaying deliveries and raising prices of Hachette-affiliated publications, this could be interpreted as a case where Amazon.com’s practices are not to the benefit of the consumer.

H.R. Giger passes away at the age of 74

H.R. Giger, who designed the iconic Xenomorph in Alien and whose surrealist work has inspired a generation of artists and designers in film, animation, comics, video games, and beyond, has passed away at the age of 74 from injuries sustained in a fall. VICE‘s Nick Gazin has compiled a number of artist tributes to Giger, including one from Jim Mahfood (Grrl Scouts40 Oz. Comics).

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The latest direct market sales trends

amzingspidey01_2014ICv2 has the latest on April’s direct market dollar trends: Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man #1 has generated $3.19 million behind the sales of 532,586 copies, although some of this sales success can no doubt be traced to the various cover variants—almost 50 in total and slightly less than the 52 variant covers that shipped for DC’s Justice League of America #1 last year—for the issue. The gross sales numbers generated by the comic is the most for any title since the 1990s. Two other issues, Superior Spider-Man #31 and Batman #30 broke the 100,000 sales barrier, with 135,484 and 108,998 copies sold, respectively, marking a rebound from a sluggish first quarter for the direct market.

On the trade/hardcover side of things, Image Comics’ Sex Criminals, Vol. 1 topped the direct market sales chart for April, selling 10,116 copies. [Click here to read our feature article on Sex Criminals #1—ed.] The trade/hardcover top three for April was rounded out by two other Image Comics publications: Saga, Vol. 3 (9,997 copies) and East of West, Vol. 2 (8,196 copies). Former Comics Buyer’s Guide editor John Jackson Miller, writing on his Comichron blog, has a quick analysis of the numbers.

Chris Rice (a.k.a. Paul Mellerick), writing for The Beat, looks at how non-Marvel/DC titles fared in the direct market last March. Image led the indie charge with an 11% overall market share, with Dark Horse a somewhat distant second (5.72% market share). IDW rounded out the top three with 4.5% of the market share.

Peter Gillis to contest Marvel’s claims of sole ownership of Strikeforce: Morituri

Strikeforce_Morituri_Vol_1_1Strikeforce: Morituri co-creator Peter B. Gillis will contest Marvel’s claim to the property and he alleges that the publisher tried to defraud him of his shared ownership rights by producing a counterfeit contract with his forged signature supposedly showing that he had signed over his rights to the creation as part of a standard work-for-hire arrangement.

Strikeforce: Morituri was created by Gillis and artist Brent Anderson in 1986 and it featured the unique premise of a cast of artificially empowered heroes with a high turnover rate. In the comic, volunteers agree to submit to a process that gives them a variety of superhuman abilities in order to fight off alien invaders and save the remaining human population. The side-effects of the empowering process, however, ensures that they will die within a year of developing their powers. All in all, the original comic went through eight “casts” through its 31 issues of publication.

The comic proved to be something of a cult hit for Marvel despite being outside of the publisher’s main superhero canon, and ran until 1989. There was an aborted attempt to adapt the comic for television in 2003, and in 2011, Waterman Entertainment optioned the comic for  a film adaptation. The sci-fi property has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with the setting of original comic appearing in this month’s issue of X-Force.

Gillis’ claims of shared ownership of the property stems from his contention that his contributions to the comic were not created under work-for-hire terms and that Marvel has yet to produce any reliable evidence that he signed a work-for-hire contract to write the comic. (By contrast, artist Brent Anderson does not have a claim to the property because he presumably signed a work-for-hire contract to work on the book.)

Image Comics Humble Bundle a resounding success, IDW follows suit

LAZARUS_TPBThe first Image Comics Humble Bundle promo is likely to have grossed around or in excess of $400,000, if we’re to project an estimate based on how much it made with one day left in its campaign.

Besides allowing buyers to pay what they want for a basic package that includes DRM-free digital copies of East of West, Vol. 1Fatale, Vol. 1Lazarus, Vol. 1, and Morning Glories, Vol. 1, buyers of the bundle were also able to choose whether their money went to the comic creators, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), or both. Up to eight additional volumes—including volumes of bestselling Image Comics titles like Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, and John Layman’s Chew—could be “unlocked” and added to the package depending on how much the customer opts to pay.

Given the success of the campaign, future Humble Bundle comics offerings are sure to follow, and IDW has already launched a Doctor Who bundle promo.

Odds and Sods

More news links from around the world of comics and more:

schmuck_1-cover• Brooklyn-based photographer and writer of the graphic novel Schmuck Seth Kushner needs a bone marrow transplant from a compatible donor as he combats acute leukemia. The way the National Marrow Donor Program works prevents donors from donating to specific individuals in need, but by joining the marrow registry, supporters can increase the odds that a compatible donor for Kushner can be found. Registration is easy and free: it can be done online, and a kit will be sent out by e-mail for potential donors to do a cheek swab, which can then be mailed back to the registry (at their cost). Delete Blood Cancer DKMS also offers a similar method for potential donors, and they apparently process registration faster.

• Heidi McDonald, writing for The Beat, lays down some quick thoughts on the recently concluded Toronto Comic Arts Festival, calling it an “amazing show” featuring comics creators from 21 countries and high attendance. Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno was actually something of a “surprise unofficial guest” at TCAF, as he accompanied his wife, mangaka Moyoko Anno (Sugar Sugar RuneInsufficient Direction) at the weekend event.

• Steven McKenzie, writing for the BBC, offers a retrospective on Charley’s War, the World War I comics serial that originally ran in Battle Pictures Weekly from 1979 to 1985. Written by influential 2000AD scribe Pat Mills and illustrated by Joe Colquhoun, the heavily-researched Charley’s War depicted young Charley Bourne’s fight to survive in the trenches of the Western Front, but in a way that did not glorify armed conflict.

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• Oliver Sava, writing for the A.V. Club, gets briefly philosophical in his recap of the 2005 Justice League Unlimited episode “Clash,” which featured a fight between Captain Marvel (the hero now known as Shazam in DC’s comics) and Superman. An excerpt:

Why is it that the superhero fan community loves to see hero pitted against hero?

We live in a society that uses violence as a way of creating a hierarchy of power, so a superhero fight gives the audience the opportunity to see how heroes compare in terms of strength, speed, endurance, etc. But more importantly, when superheroes fight other superheroes of their own free will, there’s usually some kind of personal slight that sparked the conflict, which muddies the morality of the characters involved. There’s no clear villain when hero fights hero, and ultimately these battles reveal some of the negative qualities of the combatants.

• Joshua Yehl talks to IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams for IGN on the company’s 15th anniversary in a video game adaptation and licensed comics-themed interview.

voice-in-the-dark-03•  Disabled comics artist/writer Larime Taylor’s GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his and his wife’s move to Las Vegas to be nearer to family members and better employment opportunities has successfully met its basic funding goal of $6,000, but that doesn’t mean fans of the A Voice in the Dark creator have to stop pitching in: The couple’s GoFundMe “wish list” includes a new wheelchair for his wife Sylv.

• Lauren Davis, writing for io9, lists ten webcomics that provide uncommon insight into mental illness.

• Rich Johnston, writing for Bleeding Cool, reports on the rumor that former DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz has left his assignment as the writer on World’s End, DC’s third weekly series, over disagreements with editors. If confirmed, Levitz’s departure marks the third time a writer has left one of DC’s flagship weekly titles this year, with Greg Rucka and John Layman leaving Future’s End and Batman Eternal, respectively, even before the first issues shipped.

• Have a lot of time on your hands? The Comics Beat has embedded audio and download links to the recordings made by Jamie Coville of the creator and industry panels from last week’s Toronto Comics Arts Festival.

• Brian Marron, writing for PublicAsian, spotlights the unusual election campaign tactics of Mumbai, India’s Gaurav Sharma, who ran for a seat in the lower parliament during the recently concluded elections dominated by the opposition BJP. Sharma had taken to dressing up in Spider-Man costume and going “window to window” asking households for their votes. Cosplay gimmick aside, Sharma’s campaign platform actually focused on increased public access to clean drinking water and electricity in his district.

• David Boroff and Nancy Dillon, writing for the New York Daily News, report that radio legend Casey Kasem—who now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and is unable to speak—is missing and may have been taken outside of the United States. Besides his work on radio, Kasem is also beloved by generations of Saturday morning cartoon viewers for providing the voice for Shaggy in Scooby-Doo, Robin in Super Friends, Mark on Battle of the Planets, and Bluestreak, Cliffjumper, and Teletraan I on Transformers. Grantland’s Tess Lynch has written a piece summarizing the events that have led to this bizarre case.

• The first episode of the TV series adaptation of Guillermo del Toroand Chuck Hogan’s The Strain [click here to read our review of the first trade paperback—ed.] gets an FX airdate: July 13, 2014.

In case you missed them…

• Don’t forget that we regularly post new previews of trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

• In this week’s Leaving Proof: Zedric shares more concept art from The Last Devil and discusses crowdfunding, comics, and Lowell Dean’s WolfCop.

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• We’ve got reviews and multi-page previews of The Woods #1, Dream Police #1, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #0, The Eltingville Club #1, and Bee and PuppyCat #1 in the latest First Impressions review feature.

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