Thrillbent launches a new store, Dark Horse and Image own the NY Times best seller list, Samurai Jack makes a comeback, and more in this week’s News Round-up!
Get (some of) your Thrills for free
Earlier this week, the Mark Waid-led comic collective known as Thrillbent launched its digital comics storefront, offering eight titles at launch. The storefront will operate based on a hybrid business model: Some titles will be sold based on a “name your price” system similar to the one currently in use by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s Panel Syndicate site, while other titles will be sold at a fixed price. For example, Thrillbent’s flagship series, the Mark Waid-penned Insufferable, will be sold using the former system while issues of Aw Yeah Comics! by the Eisner Award-winning team of Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani are priced at $1.99 each.
The weekly CBZ format versions of Thrillbent’s comics will still be available for free reading and downloading via the main Thrillbent comics portal, but fans of the comics should note that the DRM-free PDF format editions of those comics available at the storefront will have exclusive content not found in the CBZ versions such as variant covers and behind-the-scenes essays and art.
Image, Dark Horse, dominate NY Times Best Seller list
Dark Horse Books’ recently-released Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Search, Part 2 maintained its position at the the top of the NY Times Best Seller list (week of August 4, 2013) for paperback graphic novels after shooting to the top of the chart in its debut last week. The book is the second installment of The Search trilogy, a follow-up to last year’s Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise trilogy, which was a direct continuation of the popular Nickelodeon animated series and one of the top selling graphic novels of 2012.
Half of the top ten list consisted of Image Comics titles. The second trade paperback collection of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ multiple Eisner Award-winning Saga held steady at the number two spot while Saga, Vol. 1 rose one spot from last week’s number five, displacing Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s Prophet, Vol. 2, which tumbled out of the charts after peaking at number four. Between the two Saga trades sits The Walking Dead, Vol. 18, the latest collection of the long-running zombie apocalypse/survival horror comic by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. The Walking Dead Compendium. Vol. 1 (marking its 100th consecutive week on the NY Times graphic novel best seller list) and The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 2, which together collect the first 96 issues of the series and clock in at over 1000 pages each, are numbers eight and nine on the list, respectively.
The latest word on Sullivan’s Sluggers
We’ve been feeling a bit bullish lately about Kickstarter’s potential as a transformative force in comics publishing but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t spotlight the occasional cautionary tales about Kickstarter comics campaigns gone wrong, and we’re not just talking about projects that fail to meet their funding goal.
One particularly notable case is that of Sullivan’s Sluggers, a graphic novel project that raised $97,626 during its campaign, over 1,600% of its modest target funding goal of $6,000, making it the 19th most funded print comic, digital comic, or webcomic project on Kickstarter to date, ahead of notable campaigns like that for Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos’ Fairy Quest and Reading with Pictures’ The Graphic Textbook.
That’s where the good news about Sullivan’s Sluggers ends, though.
In November of last year, Comics Alliance’s David Brothers wrote a feature on Sullivan’s Sluggers noting some lengthy delays with regards to the delivery of the book to backers (Brothers himself was a backer of the book’s Kickstarter campaign) and raising some earnest and reasonable concerns about campaign originator and Sullivan’s Sluggers writer/creator Mark Andrew Smith’s business practices. The books were supposed to be delivered to backers by late September, but at the time of the article’s writing, many backers, including most international backers, had yet to receive the books they paid for.
In early March, with complaints about undelivered books continuing, Sullivan’s Sluggers artist James Stokoe took to his blog to publicly distance himself from the graphic novel, and to announce that he has since requested that his name be taken off the book since he was uncomfortable being associated with the project, noting that he only worked on it on a work-for-hire contract basis, and had nothing to do with the management of its Kickstarter campaign. In a follow-up Comics Alliance article posted a day after Stokoe’s statement, David Brothers shed more light on the situation: It turns out that Smith had severely underestimated the cost of international shipping, and started a duplicate Kickstarter campaign to raise more funds (this Kickstarter campaign was suspended, presumably because of the public outcry regarding the business ethics of it). Not only that, Brothers also had (circumstantial) evidence that Smith had actually ordered more than twice as many print copies of Sullivan’s Sluggers than the number of orders on Kickstarter, which could explain at least in part why he was unable to afford shipping despite the almost $100,000 his campaign had raised. This also pointed to the possibility that Smith intended from the outset to sell copies of Sullivan’s Sluggers beyond the original Kickstarter campaign for the project, despite his promise that “the book is exclusive only to Kickstarter backers and available here for a limited time.” Later that month, Smith went to crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to raise more money to pay for shipping to international backers. Not surprisingly, this campaign failed to raise much in the way of funds, but earned Smith even more ire from interested parties and commenters.
Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston has the latest on this story that just keeps dragging on and on, including a statement from Smith himself. Messy, messy stuff where nobody wins: International backers still don’t have the books they paid for (or the refunds they’ve been asking for in their books’ stead) and Smith, who shares Eisner and Harvey Awards for Best Anthology for his work on Image Comics’ PopGun, has done significant, self-inflicted (but hopefully not irreparable) damage to his reputation with how he has conducted himself throughout this whole brouhaha. What really gets to us is that this whole thing could have easily been avoided had Smith taken the time to sit down and actually figure out how much international shipping costs would impact the campaign. Instead, Smith describes in his statement the haphazard method he applied to projecting costs:
I built the Kickstarter by seeing what others were doing and most of what I did wasn’t based on calculations it was done intuitively and from looking at what others had done and what had worked for them and modeling those.
Beyond the damage done to Smith’s reputation, non-delivery and public relations disasters like this ultimately do significant harm to Kickstarter’s business model, which is built almost entirely on trust between backers and campaigners. It’s entirely possible that many of those who backed Sullivan’s Sluggers will never back another Kickstarter project again based on their negative experience with Smith’s campaign.
If there’s one thing we should take away from this whole sordid affair however, it’s the overwhelming importance of doing one’s due diligence in calculating costs for a crowdfunded endeavor. Math is important, kids.
Samurai Jack is back!
Almost a decade after the last episode aired, many fans of Genndy Tartakovsky’s landmark cartoon Samurai Jack have resigned themselves to the reality that an official conclusion to the story that ran for four seasons will probably never see the light of day. Well, never say “never,” goes the cliché because Samurai Jack is back, albeit in comic book form.
IDW Publishing recently announced that it has acquired the rights to publish Samurai Jack comics, with their first Samurai Jack title, a five-issue miniseries simply entitled Samurai Jack, to be written by Jim Zubkavich (Skullkickers, Makeshift Miracle) and featuring art by Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars character designer Andy Suriano and variant covers illustrated by Tartakovsky himself. Zubkavich talks about the unique challenges of writing the taciturn protagonist in an interview with The Beat here.
The series is scheduled to launch sometime in October.
Odds and sods
More comics news from around the world of comics:
- The villainous Chief Judge Cal from 2000AD‘s Judge Dredd serial gets a shout-out in a recent BBC feature examining the cultural and historical impact of the infamous Roman emperor Caligula. (BBC)
- If you, like us, have been tearing your hair out waiting for the next issue of Nate Edmondson’s excellent The Activity (issue #14 drops next week after what feels like a three month wait), this may help explain why he’s been spending time away from one of the best military fiction comics on the market. (UbiBlog)
- Jonathan H. Liu explains why he’s put his nine year-old daughter on “comics probation.” Insightful stuff for parents, teachers, and librarians (GeekDad)
- MTV Geek’s Patrick Reed has an interesting piece comparing and contrasting the advice given by Marvel and DC executives and creators on how to break into the comics industry. (MTV Geek)
- In Part 3 of a series of features on Dark Horse’s upcoming The Star Wars series (based on the original screenplay that would eventually become Star Wars: A New Hope), Dan Wickline talks to artist Mike Mayhew about the prop, costume, and character design influences and inspirations that went into his work on the title. (Bleeding Cool)
- We’ll cop to becoming just a little fixated on reading Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe critic Wesley Morris’ reviews of comic book movies. It’s refreshing to see a “real” critic hold comic book movies to the same standards as “serious films.” Yes, major studio comic book movies, by and large, are all about the special effects and action and fanservice, but that doesn’t mean that they should get an automatic pass for shoddy direction, bad performances, or poor screenplays. This week, he weighed in on the major studio feature film adaptation of Steven Grant and Rafael Albuguerque’s 2 Guns (we previously reviewed the 2 Guns trade paperback here). The review in a nutshell: “Washington and Wahlberg have a good time robbing banks and blowing up buildings and barreling through military security checkpoints and double-crossing people and shooting each other because none of it really means anything.” (Grantland)
In case you missed them…
- Don’t forget that we regularly post new previews of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. This week, we’ve got previews of 13 books, including an updated preview of KOMACON (with a new release date), a 25-page preview of Todd, the Ugliest Kid on Earth, Vol. 1 and a look at the third and final volume of Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s Orchid.
- On the Leaving Proof front, we have an article examining the features shared by many of the most successfully funded Kickstarter comics projects and a brief digression on Season One of The Legend of Korra.
- On this week’s Roundtable, we share our favorite cartoon theme songs. Sing along!
- We leave you now with a video of Tom Morello (as The Nightwatchman) with the Freedom Fighter Orchestra performing “It Begins Tonight,” which happens to be the first song on the official soundtrack to the Dark Horse comic Orchid: