Graphic Novels/Comics

Graphic Novels Get New Respect

6 August 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Sabrina,” the first graphic novel to make the longlist for Britain’s prestigious Man Booker prize, is everywhere in book conversations this summer—and almost nowhere on shelves.

“Everything in our warehouse is now gone,” said Peggy Burns, publisher of Drawn & Quarterly, which released the graphic novel by Nick Drnaso in the U.S. and Canada in May. Following the July announcement that “Sabrina” was one of 13 titles in contention for the 2018 Man Booker, it sold out at many bookstores. It won’t be back in stock until mid-August.

The recognition for “Sabrina,” a chilling story of a murdered woman and a media campaign that denies her death—a work treated with reverence by members of the comics community—is one of several milestones graphic novels have reached in recent months.

The Adventure Zone,” a graphic novel based on a podcast that features a father and his grown sons playing Dungeons & Dragons, just debuted at the top of the New York Times paperback trade fiction bestseller list, a category driven by less expensive versions of hardcover books. Tillie Walden’s “Spinning,” a figure skating coming-out story from a Macmillan imprint, recently won the comics industry’s Eisner award for reality-based work—what some industry veterans consider an accomplishment for a nonfiction work with a strong literary bent.

“There’s more awareness for graphic novels than there ever has been before,” said Gina Gagliano, publishing director of Random House Graphic, a new graphic-novel imprint for children and teens founded this spring. She added that recent successes “really have the power to change the landscape for the adult literary graphic novel.”

. . . .

Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics, said the graphic-novel market is rearranging itself. “There was a point not too long ago when the market for graphic novels was split between superheroes and more-literary work, but there’s a great deal of space in between and we’re seeing more and more material that occupies that middle ground,” he said.

The demographics of the readers and writers are changing, said Karen Green, curator of comics and cartoons at Columbia University. “You’ve got more cartoonists coming up who are looking for things that are more challenging, I would say more literary,” she said, adding that the audience for superhero comics now often skews much older.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

‘Drawing Is Always a Struggle’: An Interview with Art Spiegelman

14 April 2018
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From The New York Review of Books:

When this interview was first proposed to the cartoonist, writer, and graphic novelist Art Spiegelman, he seemed puzzled by the pitch. “Why do you want to do that?” he asked. “There are a lot of other cartoonists who are on fire trying to find a place for themselves. I’m not there.”

It’s true that he doesn’t need the publicity. At seventy, he enjoys a success that few in the cartooning world can match. This once “underground” cartoonist is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, has been a Guggenheim fellow, has two honorary doctorates and a Pulitzer Prize, to mention just a few of his awards and honors. There have been one-man exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Jewish Museum and, perhaps even more important to him, a guest appearance on The Simpsons.

The glory began in a left-handed way in the late 1970s when Spiegelman started experimenting with a project that combined his drawings, psychotherapy, family history, and the thing he loved most in the world—comics. After many tries, what developed was Maus, a two-volume 296-page comic, eventually published by the late André Schiffrin at Pantheon Books. Maus examined Art Spiegelman’s pained connection to his parents, who were Auschwitz survivors, and the terrible legacy their story had bequeathed to him. How do you grow up a “normal” American kid when your parents wake up in the night screaming? How do you get the nerve to make a comic book about it?

. . . .

Has your agent been after you to make another graphic novel?

My agent has been wonderful. Anything I want to do, his office will find a publisher for. But then, every year, Maus sells as if it were a new book. It’s in twenty-plus languages. In January, it was number thirty-six on Amazon! That means it’s not economically important for me to find my next graphic novel. It means I can afford to live in Soho.

Actually, I don’t think I’ll ever make another graphic novel. Maus came out of the impulse of wanting to make a long comic that needed a bookmark and that begged to be reread. After I finished it, I did not think, “Aha. Now I’ve found my perfect form.” Drawing it was a struggle. Drawing is always a struggle.

Link to the rest at The New York Review of Books

Marvel Create Your Own: Which Characters Are Free and Which Cost to Make Comics Marvel Will Own?

5 February 2018

From Bleeding Cool:

Last year, Marvel announced a new initiative, TapTapComics, to create comics using Marvel characters. But the devil was in the details. Any comics created grant Marvel “the perpetual, irrevocable, exclusive, royalty-free and fully transferable and sub-licensable right, for the full term of copyright protection available (including renewal terms), to use, reproduce, transmit, communicate to the public, print, publish, publicly display, publicly perform, exhibit, distribute, redistribute, license, sub-license, copy, index, comment upon, modify, adapt, translate, create derivative works based upon, make available, and otherwise exploit, in whole or in part, in all languages, anywhere in the world, by all means, methods, processes, and media formats and channels now known or hereafter devised, in any number of copies and without limit as to time, manner or frequency of use, without further notice to you, with or without attribution, and without the requirement of permission from or payment to you or any other person or entity.”

Link to the rest at Bleeding Cool and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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And here’s a link to a copy of Marvel’s 23-page-long Terms of Use.

Needless to say, PG doesn’t recommend giving Marvel a license to your creations without receiving payment for the digital comics you create unless you really don’t care about them and won’t feel sad if Marvel makes a lot of money from them and you don’t get anything.

That said, PG wonders if Marvel will have any problems demonstrating to the United States and other copyright offices that it has actually been granted the rights it claims by the creator of the comic under its click-to-accept contract, particularly if there is a pre-existing copyright filing that conflicts with the one Marvel is claiming. He suspects a sufficiently-motivated creator could, with the assistance of some others, work around Marvel’s TOU. Without going into detail, PG will observe that, on occasion, creating a very long and complex TOU opens gates and paths that can be used to defeat the intention of the organization for which the TOU was drafted.

DC Comics Leaves Barnes & Noble Newsstands

30 January 2018

From Bleeding Cool:

DC Comics and Barnes & Noble have had a fractious relationship on occasion. When DC Comics released 100 graphic novels as a digital exclusive on the Amazon Fire, Barnes & Noble, owner of the Nook, pulled all those books in print from the shelves. It was quite a thing. Eventually, B&N blinked.

And of late they have been happy to run DC Days across all their stores and Marvel was able to use B&N stores to promote their floppy series Mosaic.

But Barnes & Noble also sells floppy comics as part of their magazine newsstand offerings. However, in 2013, they stopped selling Marvel Comics titles, while still selling plenty of DC, Dark Horse and Archie.

But as of late last year, it seems that offering now no longer included DC Comics.

Link to the rest at Bleeding Cool

Comics Shops Fight Bookstores In the Race to Sell Graphic Novels

15 October 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

American comics and graphic novels (and media based on them) are more popular than ever, but the way these works are purchased is being transformed by a new wave of consumers looking for new material and new places to buy it. Pop culture trade news site ICv2’s Insider Sessions, an annual trade conference organized at New York City’s Javits Center to kickoff New York Comic Con, brought together industry constituents looking to understand a growing and quickly changing comics marketplace.

. . . .

American comics, especially superhero periodical comics, have been sold primarily through the comics shop market (also known as the direct market) since the 1970s. This distribution system is dominated by Diamond Comics Distributors, and the market consists of about 2,000 stores that buy their inventory wholesale on a nonreturnable basis from Diamond.

However, Griepp pointed out, the growth in popularity of book-format graphic novels and the rapid influx of a new generation of female comics fans over the past decade are beginning to produce a U.S. comics marketplace that looks a lot more like the book trade. “2017 has been a year of rapid change,” he said in his presentation. “The direct market is struggling with flat sales, while other channels are gaining new consumers.”

Sales of graphic novels via the book channel—which includes chains and independent bookstores, online retailers such as Amazon, mass market retailers like Target and even Scholastic book fairs—continue to grow. The direct market, on the other hand, is struggling. Rebounding from the recession years, graphic novels sales via the book trade grew from $250 million in 2011 to $405 million in 2016, according to Griepp. In the direct market (which sells periodicals as well as books) the growth was also significant, with graphic novel sales rising from $140 million in 2011 to $185 million in 2016.

The comics marketplace has become a contest between bookstores and the direct market, Griepp said, as well as “a battle of the formats” between traditional periodical comics and the growing popularity of graphic novels. He noted that comics shops are “struggling to accommodate their legacy consumers while appealing to new readers,” many of whom are either unfamiliar with comics shops, uninterested in traditional comics, or looking for new retail options.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

North American Comics Market Hits $1.085 Billion in 2016

16 July 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Combined graphic novel and comics sales in North America grew 5% to $1.085 billion in 2016, a $55 million increase over the $1.03 billion reported last year.

. . . .

Led by the continuing sales growth of book-format graphic novels (which rose to $590 million, from $350 million in 2015), the $1.085 billion figure represents the combined sales of book-format graphic novels, traditional comics periodicals ($405 million), and digital download-to-own comics ($90 million).

. . . .

Milton Griepp, CEO of pop culture new site ICv2.com, cited the ongoing growth of graphic novels as key to the increase: “This represents growth in the broadest part of the market, where increased variety of content is being found by new audiences for comics, including kids and women.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Comics, the King of Libraries

14 May 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Graphic novel collections have become a staple of libraries across North America. But with greater popularity comes greater scrutiny and new issues. As demand for graphic novels and comics grows—especially among younger patrons—attempts to censor and remove certain titles from library shelves are also increasing.

In addition, self-published graphic novels (which are often crowdfunded) and digitally published comics are becoming more popular. But libraries, bound by acquisitions guidelines that require validation of books’ quality (generally a review in a reputable trade or consumer publication) that is not often available for self-published works, are struggling to include them. And comics in digital formats—such as e-books, streamed comics, and webcomics—are also difficult for librarians to justify purchasing: despite the growing demand for these works, there are only a few library vendors—OverDrive and Hoopla Digital among them—that offer them to libraries.

. . . .

Book challenges—the term for a formal effort to remove a title—filed by parents who find certain works objectionable are a constant in libraries. The visual nature of graphic novels and their prevalence in library collections makes them a big target. “You might be willing to read something, but adding the pictures is still really scary for a lot of folks,” says Carol Tilley, associate professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Thus it should come as no surprise that two graphic novels topped the American Library Association’s annual list of the most challenged books: This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki and Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Both are acclaimed works by respected authors; however, that acclaim may have helped cause the problems. This One Summer, published by First Second, is marketed as a YA book for older teens. It deals with two girls on the cusp of adolescence who are learning about life and sexuality in an honest and nonexplicit manner. However, when it was named a Caldecott Honor book in 2015, some librarians and parents may have assumed it was for younger readers, despite the fact that it also won the Printz Prize for best YA novel.

“Most librarians buy all the Caldecott winners and they may not have been aware of the content,” says Robin Brenner, teen librarian at the Brookline (Mass.) Public Library. The confusion reflects the belief, still widely held in the U.S., that all comics are for children. “Everyone needs to be reminded that the Caldecott doesn’t always go to picture books for younger children,” she says.

James Larue, director of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, confirms the rise in challenges to graphic novels. He notes that both This One Summer and Drama—which includes a subplot about two gay middle schoolers—deal with LGBTQ themes, and “that continues to be a concern for many who challenge books.”

Even acquiring and shelving conventionally published graphic novels for adults can pose problems. Big Hard Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky collects a popular crime comedy series about a couple who can stop time when they have sex and use their powers to rob banks. The book is rated mature for explicit content. According to Larue, in the library where it was challenged, it was appropriately shelved in the adult section and clearly labeled as such. Larue suspects that, once again, parents assumed that “a book in the comics format is aimed at kids, even when it clearly isn’t.”

. . . .

Making it easier for libraries to offer digital comics is Hoopla, a digital streaming service providing a wide variety of content to public libraries. Hoopla Digital is the digital lending service of Midwest Tape; the service offered e-books, music, and movies when it launched in 2014 and added comics in 2015. Hoopla is currently available in 1,400 library systems and 5,600 branches across the U.S. and Canada.

When its comics service began, Hoopla offered only a small selection of DC comics and titles from independent comics publishers. Since then, “it’s grown by leaps and bounds,” according to Michael Manon, public relations and communications manager at Hoopla Digital. The service works with more than 70 publishers (including every major comics publishers except Marvel) and offers nearly 10,000 titles, including single-issue periodical comics, which are often a problem for libraries to carry because they are essentially magazines and not durable enough for circulation. Patrons of library systems using Hoopla can access the comics for free using their library cards.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Marvel VP of Sales Blames Women and Diversity for Sales Slump

1 April 2017

From i09:

Marvel Comics aren’t doing well. Sales have declined, even as Marvel has pushed out every major event and crossover it can over the past two years. In a recent interview during the Marvel Retailer Summit, Marvel VP of Sales David Gabriel decided to ignore all the problems and criticism in order to place the blame on diversity.

What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

Gabriel later reached out to ICv2 and “clarified” his statement, adding that many of the individual characters like Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and Moon Girl are popular, and won’t be going away anytime soon. It’s also important to note that this was in response to retailer concerns presented at the first day of the summit, so some other issues may not have have been discussed yet. And it looks like those sales slumps had been increasing for awhile, but were especially noticed as of fall 2016.

. . . .

During the discussion, retailers pointed out during the summit that the number of Marvel events, and the fact that they overlap, make it hard for fans to focus. Right now, for instance, there’s Secret Empire, which will bleed over with Generations, which starts this summer. In the past two years alone, there have been at least 12 events and crossovers. Events, in particular, have become more of a chore than a reward.

. . . .

Then you’ve got issue cost and audience retention. Nowadays, individual issues typically cost anywhere from $3.99 to $5.99 or more, making it harder for fans to want to buy— especially if you’re swapping out an established character for a version they aren’t familiar with. While chatting with retailers, Gabriel actually boasted that their sales almost tripled when they upped the Spider-Man book from $3.99 to $9.99, even though it didn’t bring in any new readers. It just made the current ones pay more money.

Finally, and this is a major one, there’s the problem of talent management. There’s been a steady decline in Marvel’s talent pool, because of better offers and independent retailers. One retailer mentioned at the summit that it’s especially hard to keep talented writers and artists when they can make creator-owned books at publishers like Image. Not only does it give them more flexibility to tell the stories they want, but they also keep way more of the revenue.

Link to the rest at i09

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