Digital Comic News

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When Comixology was purchased by Amazon, many digital comic fans thought that the service would drastically change. The acquisition has been a bit of a mixed blessing, as Apple users lost the ability to purchase content directly within the app, leading to a decrease in impulse purchases. One of the big upsides was the decision to offer publishers the ability to submit new issues with no encryption. Today, Comixology has announced a slew of new partners that will be offering their comics DRM-Free.

Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Zenescope Entertainment, MonkeyBrain Comics, Thrillbent and Top Shelf Productions are now joined in the program by IDW Publishing, Valiant Entertainment, Oni Press, Fantagraphics Books, Aspen Comics, Action Lab Entertainment, Th3rd World Studios, A Wave Blue World, Blind Ferret Entertainment, Caliber Comics, Creative Impulse Entertainment, Devil’s Due Entertainment, GT Labs Comics and Kingstone Media.

All of these publishers now offer their comics to be downloaded in PDF or CBZ formats and users can store them locally. Instead of being locked into the Comixology app, users can download their favorite 3rd reading app for Android, iOS or Windows.

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Image Comics was the first mainstream comic book publisher to embrace going DRM-Free and this has prompted Valiant and Action Lab to follow suit.

Comixology is the top digital distributor of comics and their app is available on every major operating system. In July 2014 the Amazon owned company announced that it would allow publishers the ability to distribute DRM-Free comics, allowing users to backup their purchases.

Valiant intends on making their digital comics available on Comixology the same day the print issues hit the market. Meanwhile, Action Lab will go digital-first, DRM-free and prices for the first two weeks of release will be just $0.99 on every title on ComiXology before rising to $1.99 after that. In addition, books will be timed to release digitally the same month they are offered in Diamond Distribution’s retailer catalog, making digital a sales instrument for physical copies.

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Udon Entertainment has finally been able to reach out to readers outside of North American with a distribution deal with Comixology. They signed it back in early 2013 and the Canadian manga company has garnered tremendous success with their  Street Fighter, Makeshift Miracle and Dark Stalkers comics.  At the San Diego Comic con Harmony Gold and Udon have both announced a new licensing deal for a series of Art Books.

Robotech is one of the most successful mecha franchises of all time. The 85 episode series first launched in 1985 and seamlessly crossed over into North America from Japan. The premise of the series involves a fallen battlecruiser landing on earth and sparks major scientific advances. With this technology, Earth developed robotic technologies, such as transformable mecha, to fight three successive extraterrestrial invasions against the likes of the Zentradi and Invid.

The franchise has been going strong with different movies, OVA, manga, comics and television series. The more notable ones are Macross Frontier, Macross 7, Macross Plus, Macross Zero, The Shadow Chronicles. Overarching themes normally involve love, music and mecha based combat.

The new licensing deal will see a number of new art books developed. They will have concept art, model sheets, early developmental designs and sketches covering Robotech and the original Japanese Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada series. Udon will also be the publisher for the Kickstarter-exclusive Art of Robotech Academy book. Although an exact page count is not finalized, the target is for 96 pages and will feature the character and mecha designs for Robotech Academy.

Udon does have past experience working on the Robotech franchise which likely helped them secure the exclusive contract for the art books. They helped  produce the five issue comic series Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles. Most people in art book circles hold Udon in very high regard, so likely they will do very good work with the IP.

Right now details are sparse on whether or not these will be books exclusively in print and sold via Amazon or will include digital editions sold on Comixology. Most of their prior art books were in paperback format exclusively, so it is unlikely that they will digitize it. Harmony Gold and Udon both would not comment for this story, but did say more news would surface towards the end of the year.

Tommy Yune, Creative Director, Harmony Gold told Good e-Reader ” We’ve uncovered in our archives the original production model sheets for the Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospaeda, television series’. We have a ton of model sheets, and even early developmental designs that have never been seen or published anywhere. We’re going to be working with UDON to collect this all, to have one of the most unique artwork collections ever made from Robotech. I’m extremely grateful for the energy that UDON has put into Robotech.”

Meanwhile Erik Ko, Chief of Operations, UDON Entertainment told us ” I grew up watching Robotech, it was a big part of my childhood. We’re thrilled to be involved in this project. In fact, since the founding of UDON we’ve been involved with Robotech through various comics and design projects. We’re honoured and very thankful to have been chosen to work on this new art book project.”

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Marvel is attending the San Diego Comic Con in a big way and is spearheading many discussion groups, where the top brass is announcing the future. A few months ago Disney announced that all Expanded Universe books are not considered canon and decades worth of content is null and void. This opens up a new world, of new stories to tell and some of its coming in the form of three new digital comics.

The three series announced were Star Wars by Aaron and Cassaday, Star Wars: Darth Vader by Gillen and Salvador Larocca, and Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson. All three series will take place in a timeframe immediately following the end of the original Star Wars movie – A New Hope.

The one story arc I am excited about is the new Darth Vader one. “With the Empire suffering a crushing defeat that resulted in the loss of the Death Star, Vader has a lot to make up for. He needs to restore his reputation as the most feared man in the galaxy, as well as prove to the Emperor that he’s still got what it takes. The title is billed as the story of the epic battle for the galaxy, only this time told from the dark side.”

Marvel intends on making Star Wars and Darth Vader both an ongoing series and Princess Leia is going to be a limited five-issue miniseries. The first issue of all of these new comics will be released in January and February of 2015. Likely they will hit Marvels own official app for iOS and Android first and then be available on Marvel Unlimited six months later.

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When it comes to digital comic books, often publishers and distributors rely on dedicated apps. Marvel, IDW, DC, Dark Horse all run their own ecosystems that allow readers to purchase and view comics on their tablet or smartphone. This often relegates your Kindle, Kobo, Nook or Sony unviable. Though, this might all change due to Comixology finally going DRM-Free and allowing users to backup their purchases.

Comixology has announced that they are teaming up with publishers Top Shelf, Image, Dynamite, Thrillbent, and Zenescope for a DRM-Free initiative. They are also allowing aspiring creators who publish their comics through the Comixology Submit program the option to offer their digital editions DRM-free. The downloaded files will be available in PDF and CBZ formats, which are ideal for most e-readers on the market.

Your average e-reader is capable of reading PDF files, and most have newfound support for the format. Your Kindle, Cybook, Sony or Kobo has really grown up in the last few years with robust pinching and zooming and new e-paper technology to cut down on screen refreshing.

Most e-readers do not have native support for CBZ files, but new models that have come out in 2014 do. Onyx and Icarus have both released Vanilla e-ink readers that run Android, and allows users to install their favorite comic reading app. Sadly, your Kindle or Nook does not have native support for CBZ.

In order to read CBZ files on your favorite e-reader you need to rename the CBZ file to ZIP and you can extract a folder full of ordinary images. This allows any reader in the world to view them.

Comixology going DRM-Free is one of the best things to happen to the e-reader industry this year. It finally gives owners a viable alternative to having to use a small screen phone or a bulky tablet. Instead, you can store hundreds of issues on your Kindle and read them at your leisure.

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Motion comic pioneer Madefire has just released their digital comic book reader and store on Android. The company offers a slew of free content from DC, IDW, Dark Horse, Valiant, Oni Press, Top Cow, Liquid Comics and popular properties such as The Transformers and Angry Birds are all available.

The main selling point behind Madefire is the ability to showcase animations, transitions, video and sound. It is similar to the Comixology Guided View technology, the way each frame is animated.

Although Madefire doesn’t have the publishing deals that Comixology does, it still allows in-app purchases, a feature that Amazon removed from Comixology on iOS and in part from Android. Madefire has been dealing with the DeviantArt community as an avenue to hook up artists with writers and designers. Earlier this month they unveiled their brand new Motion Tool for indie writers to design their comic and publish it fairly quickly.

The Android App gives users a brand new comic book experience that is really worth checking out. You can download it from the Good e-Reader App Store for free.

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Marvel has discounted their Unlimited subscription program to 99 cents for your first month. Readers will have access to over 13,000 digital comics to read on their smartphone, tablet or PC.

Unlimited is a Marvel exclusive and was designed to give the comic company more flexibility in their content distribution. Originally, it was a simple Netflix for comics proposition, pay a monthly rate and read all the comics you want. In the last few months they have adopted AR, motion comics and even comics with their own soundtracks.

Marvel Unlimited boasts a fairly large catalog of content and new issues are added weekly. It is important to note that most comics have a six month hold, before they can be brought over to Unlimited. So, its not a service to read the newest stuff, but catch up on the stuff you might have missed over the years. The .99 deal is going live when the Comic Con in San Diego starts. It is a limited time offer, PROMO CODE SDCC14

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When you pay for comics via Comixology there actually is no ownership. In effect, you are merely paying a licensing agreement to read the comics on your computer, tablet or ereader. The comics are not stored locally, but instead need internet access to download from the server and read them on their official apps. This might change, as Comixology is rumored to be talking with publishers to incorporate DRM-Free comics into their ecosystem.

The clear path of ownership is a big deal with digital comic book fans. Image Comics was one company that went completely DRM-Free and has been a big hit. Ownership of the comic you purchased is very real and tangible, giving readers the ability to back them up locally or use another app to read them on.

When Amazon purchased Comixology earlier in the year, the mandate was to make it the most dominant distribution platform in the world. This has been somewhat hampered with in-app purchases being removed from their iOS app and Android app changed from using Google, to Comixologies own e-commerce solution. Madefire is quickly gaining traction with their free motion comics and even Image Comics have created their own distribution system.

In order to get more publishers into the fold, Comixology is said to be shopping around the DRM-Free solution to companies wanting to opt into it. Image would obviously be on board, although DC and Marvel would be likely holdouts. The intention is to appeal to publishers who either don’t deal with DRM, or want to abandon it altogether.

The San Diego Comic Con is transpiring really soon, and likely more news will service as Comixology has meetings with the whose who of the comics industry.

Update:  Comixology has officially announced their DRM-Free program via Email.

You are receiving this email because we now offer DRM-free backups of one or more of the books you’ve purchased on comiXology. You can now download and store PDF or CBZ copies of those books.

You can find the list of books you own that support DRM-free backup on in the My Backups tab of the My Books area.

Publisher participating at launch of this feature are Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Zenescope Entertainment, MonkeyBrain Comics, Thrillbent, and Top Shelf Productions.

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The digital comic industry saw $90 million dollars in revenue over the course of 2013. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the trade industry that raked in $870 million during the same period.

The rise of the digital comic industry has consistently been growing since 2009. We saw $1 million in revenue in 2009, $8 million in 2010, $25 million in 2011, $70 million in 2012 and now $90 million in 2013. This is explosive growth, but many industry experts have acknowledged that the industry might be tapering off.

Amazon is hoping to capitalize on digital comic industry by purchasing the biggest distribution company, Comixology. It is currently unknown how Amazon intends on keeping the momentum going with the acquisition, but it already has turned off a number of customers.

The flagship Comixology app for iOS has disabled the ability to purchase digital comics within the app. Instead, users have to access the main website through their web-browser and sync the purchases to the app. Comixology also powers Marvel, DC, Archie, GI.JOE and a number of other standalone apps. Marvel is one of the only ones that still allow you to purchase comics within the app, due to the contract they signed a few years ago.

The new comic book industry sales data is primarily due to the combined work of pop culture trade news website, headed by Milton Griepp, whose annual White Paper on the comics and graphic novels sales, is a standard on sales reporting in the comics industry; and Comichron, a longtime repository of comics sales data. The core data comes from Diamond, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and a myriad of other resellers.

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A Russian state company that distributes comic and graphic novels of Marvel has asked a federal media watchdog to investigate Marvel for denigrating Soviet symbols and amounting to “propaganda of a cult of violence.”

Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor has agreed to investigate the books and is considering giving the publisher an official warning, two of which within a year is grounds for revocation of its license, the Ekho Moskvy news outlet reported.

The specific comic in question is The Avengers, issue #1 poised to be released in August 2014. It was designed for middle school age children and Russian officials are concerned over the use of Soviet symbols, the presentation of the characters as Russian service personnel, and the incitement of violence and cruelty,” the press and mass media agency wrote in its letter.

According to Izvestia, the request was likely filed because one of the characters, Vanguard (Krasnogvardeets in the Russian version), has the Soviet symbol – the hammer and sickle – on his breastplate. Vanguard is affiliated with the Winter Guard: three human mutants and a bear, a group of superheroes based in Russia. When the Avengers ask who they are, Vanguard answers: “We are servicemen for the Russian Federation.”

Marvel’s own site makes it clear that his real name is Nikolai Krylenko and his alias is Great Beast.  He apparently joined the “KGB-sponsored Soviet Super-Soldiers and a “staunch communist.”

Is it possible that a Marvel Ban could be employed in Russia? Comic books could be considered art in many circles and acquiescing to demands could compromise the artist process and could open the floodgates for more vanilla stories.

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Motion comic pioneer Madefire has just signed a deal with Hasbro and will be giving away a new five issue Transformer series away for free. Madefire is hoping to capitalize on the new film coming out at the end of the month and drawing attention to their Windows 8 app, launched last week.

Transformers: Punishment is all-new original content developed within the current IDW Transformers universe. The creative team behind the five-part series are Transformers comic fan-favorites, writer John Barber and artist Livio Ramondelli.

“It’s a thrill to see Optimus Prime spring into action,” said Barber. “This is a hard-hitting action story, and Madefire’s Motion Books — including music and sound effects — deliver a powerful reading experience that makes you feel like you’re in the center of it all!”

The Madefire app for Windows 8 is really solid with the first issue of Transformers Punishment. There is sound effects and an audio score that sets the mood and pace. It features the Decepticons, Autobots and Dinobots duking it out on the wasteland of Cybertron. You hear the quintessential transforming effect and even the roar of Grimlock. The app itself is really interesting and basically blends Guided View from Comixology and the new Motion comic tech found in the Marvel Unlimited App.

The entire six issue series is available for free by installing the new Madefire for Windows 8 App HERE.

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Marvel and Samsung has signed a multi year agreement that will bundle the Marvel Unlimited subscription based comic book system to all future Phones and tablets. Readers will enjoy three free months of access to Unlimited, which will allow for reading as many comics as you want on a monthly basis.

Samsung has been reaching out to companies to help distinguish themselves in the marketplace. The ironed out a similar agreement with Amazon a few months ago that will give one free eBook a month to anyone who has the Kindle for Samsung app installed on their device. The Marvel Unlimited deal goes far beyond just digital comics though.

Beginning with the launch of the Galaxy Tab S, Samsung will debut a wealth of exclusive content. Over the next year, customers will have access to early sneak peeks for Marvel movies debuting in 2015 including Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Classic Marvel One-Shots, and a host of other great content.

The partnership between Samsung and Marvel will activate across a wide range of touch-points with exclusive content, custom Marvel-branded Samsung products, event activations and feature film integrations.

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Blurb,  a company that begin by producing limited print runs of graphics-heavy paper books before expanding into a digital publishing platform for self-published authors with a suite of user friendly tools, has been on a mission lately to acquire key products and support personnel to make their platform even more engaging, easy to use, and far-reaching. A release from the company today fell in line with their current mission when Blurb announced that it had acquired several key members of the Graphicly team, including co-founder Micah Baldwin.

“This acquisition of incredibly relevant talent will help us advance our vision of 21st century authoring,” said Eileen Gittins, Blurb founder and CEO. ”What self publishers need now is the ability to focus on the creative aspect of authoring, with output automatically generated for all relevant ebook formats, as well as print output.”

Graphicly was one of the pioneers of illustrated ebooks, which included children’s, graphic novels, comics, and more. For its part, Blurb has made its platform easier to use, no longer requiring InDesign files by creating a drag-and-drop suite for file creation. Blurb has also added expanded distribution to major print and ebook retailers and the Ingram catalog, with new announcements for other distribution opportunities slated for this summer.

“Authoring isn’t just for authors anymore,” continued Gittins. “For the past 18 months we have been working behind the scenes to build out support for people who want to publish any kind of book – both print and ebooks – whether highly illustrated, or text-driven or a combination of the two. But ‘publish’ doesn’t stop at the point of creation; authors need and want to get the widest possible audience and that means broader distribution and marketing support.”