Digital Comic News

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Last week Amazon acquired the largest purveyor in digital comics, Comixology. The company has been going strong since 2007 and functions as the primary distribution method for Archie, DC, GI JOE, Marvel and over 70 different publishers. These publishers are now very worried that Amazon will employ the same strong-arm tactics they did with publishers to get eBooks at rock bottom prices.

During the last few years Amazon categorically informed a large number of small and medium sized publishers that Amazon would not negotiate agency selling terms with any other publishers outside of the five initial Apple partners. The publishers were told that if they switched to an agency model for ebooks, Amazon would stop selling their entire list, in print and digital form. Amazon also played hardball with companies like S&S, HarperCollins, Hachette and Random-Penguin when the agency model was disbanded to get the best deals possible.

Amazon is a company that functions on margins and firmly embraces the wholesale methodology to their entire ecosystem. The big problem is comic publishers have no experience with outside companies mandating lower prices. A number of comic book publishers have told me off the record that they are really worried that they are going to receive a call from Amazon and inform them they have to reduce their prices. The vast majority will have no choice but to aquis to whatever new terms Amazon mandates, because they have no other resource to sell their comics.

Comixology is not the only player in town that sells digital comics, but is the definitive force when it comes to single issue comics. Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google and Kobo all sell graphic novels. Comic book lovers often are enamoured with single issues because they can stay current with the major storylines, instead of waiting a number of months for them to be packaged into a graphic novel. A few times a year Marvel and DC have big events that crossover into popular franchises. Fear Itself, AVX, Age of Ultron tend to have four or five comics coming out every single week. People want the single issues in order to really get into the story. Sadly, Comixology is really the only company to actively market them.

DC Comics is one company that has been branching out on their own lately, instead of exclusively relying on Comixology. The company made their first single comic distribution agreement with Google Books. Starting last week, readers will be able to buy all new issues every Wednesday. The company also pulled out all of their comics out of the Comixology app for the Kindle Fire, citing better sales on other platforms.

Marvel has been actively developing their own end-to-end solution where they want to get into the business of selling their own comics and not relying on 3rd parties. The first step to this was incorporating Marvel AR into the main Marvel app. This gives users the ability to use their tablets camera on a physical book to get commentary from the writers/artists or to check out animations. A few weeks ago Marvel unveiled the ability to have comics read aloud to you at South by Southwest. The big rumor is that Marvel plans on incorporating their Netflix for Comics Marvel Unlimited into their main app and also start selling comics themselves.

It is currently unknown what Amazon will do with Comixology. They might pull a Zappos or GoodReads and let them run autonomously, while incorporating some key technology into their own ecosystem. Alternatively they might elect to shutter it completely and if you want comics, Amazon will be the only game in town. I don’t know how DC or Marvel will enjoy the talks with Amazon to lower their prices or if they will physically resist it.

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Comixology is the largest digital comics distribution platform on iOS, Android and Windows 8. The company has been going strong since 2007 and their technology powers the reading apps from Marvel, DC, Archie, and has every single comic and graphic novel of the Walking Dead. Last week, Amazon announced they acquired Comixology. This did not really surprise anyone who keeps tabs on the digital comic industry, but did Apple, B&N and Kobo miss the boat?

When it comes to selling comic books online, Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Google and many other players all sell them. Surprisingly most only sell graphic novels, instead of single issue comics. Graphic novels usually comprise of 6 issues of a series and make it easier than purchasing each one separately. This appeals to more casual readers, but hardcore readers often choose Comixology to stay on top of all of the new releases every Wednesday. The only notable exception is DC making a new agreement with Google to carry new single issue comics on the Google Books Store.

Why did Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Kobo not pursue this deal? This could have been game changers for those companies and it could have appealed to the people who have downloaded over 215 million comics from Comixology. Industry experts have speculated that the B&N executive team is not forward thinking enough to actually go through with it and they have their own turmoil in the executive ranks to think about. Kobo is exclusively focused on international expansion and Apple is only concerned with making the 30% royalty on in-app purchases and selling stuff on iTunes.

If there was a single company to benefit the most from Comixology, it was Amazon.  The Seattle based company had developed comic technology called Panel View option for fixed layout illustrated ebooks. This attempt was clearly trying to clone the far superior Guided View from Comixology.  Amazon also does not allow high resolution images in KF8 FXL files, which is their file format to emulate EPUB3, but also appealing to more visual and interactive titles. Considering Amazon is putting a priority on high resolution displays on the Kindle Fire HDX line of tablets, the deal  with Comixology deal solves all of these issues.

I really feel like Barnes and Noble and Kobo really missed a golden oportonity to purchase Comixology.  Both of them would have been better caretakers of the comic company and could have benefited from something no one else had. The deep pockets of Kobo owned Rakuten could have financed the deal and could  have added the last piece of the puzzle to their trifecta of eBooks, Kids titles and magazines. Barnes and Noble could have really had a great content distribution system that is a proven revenue earner to offset the losses on Nook hardware and eBooks.

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Game development studio Naughty Dog is teaming up with Dark Horse comics for a digital graphic novel called the Art of Naughty Dog. This novel will showcase art from their many different properties.

Naughty Dog announced “The Art of Naughty Dog will be available later this year. It will span the history of Naughty Dog and feature hand-picked and never before released artwork depicting our past, present, and future. Being around for thirty years has bestowed upon us all kinds of incredible art from our amazing fans. Select fan art will be a chapter of the book as well. To mark the occasion properly we’re having a book launch event later in the year. We’ll have more details once the pages and the plans are ready.”

Naughty Dog was originally founded in 1984 by Andrew Gavin and Jason Rubin. Its first iteration was Jam Software until its name change in 1989. The development studio is best known for its work on seminal titles like Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter; The Precursor Legacy, the Uncharted series, and most recently The Last of Us.

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Comixology is the largest digital comic reseller in the world. They account for the vast majority of sales for DC, Marvel, Archie, GI JOE and many other top publishers. Not only do they sell the comics in their own app, but they have developed custom apps for these publishers as well. Amazon has announced today that it has reached an agreement to acquire comiXology.

The writing was on the wall for the last year that Amazon was in negotiations to purchase Comixology. This prompted Marvel to make sweeping changes to their Marvel AR and Marvel Unlimited subscription program and lay the groundwork to sell their own comics.

The purchase of Comixology will finally allow Amazon to make a series bid to control the entire digital comics market. The comics giant has had over 200 million downloads since its launch in 2007. Comixology recently expanded their European offerings—the digital vendor opened a French office last year—announcing a manga digital distribution agreement with VIZ Media Europe and its French subsidiary, Kazé.

Amazon has always sold digital graphic novels in their Kindle store. One of the pitfalls of their strategy is the series are rather dated and series comic lovers often buy the single issues as soon as they are released. Amazon will now be selling single issues from over 70 publishers in their store in the near future. Amazon also expressed great interest in the self-publishing platform Comixology Submit and it is currently unknown if this program will play a part in Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle Lending Library and Create Space.

“ComiXology’s mission is to spread the love of comics and graphic novels in all forms,” said David Steinberger, co-founder and CEO of comiXology. “There is no better home for comiXology than Amazon to see this vision through. Working together, we look to accelerate a new age for comic books and graphic novels.”

“Amazon and comiXology share a passion for reinventing reading in a digital world,” said David Naggar, Amazon Vice President, Content Acquisition and Independent Publishing. “We’ve long admired the passion comiXology brings to changing the way we buy and read comics and graphic novels. We look forward to investing in the business, growing the team, and together, bringing comics and graphic novels to even more readers.”

Amazon controls digital books by a wide margin compared to the competition. With the acquisition of Comixology the company will now dominate the digital comic market too.

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Comixology has just signed a digital distribution deal with Eco Comics. The move sees Eco Comics bringing all its past, present and future titles – including flagship books Green Man, and Dracula vs. Robin Hood vs. Jekyll & Hyde directly to comiXology’s global-reaching digital comics platform.  Individual issues are priced between 99 cents (60p) and $1.99 (£1.20). Graphic novels are priced $2.99 (£1.80). Preview issues will be distributed for free.

We’re excited to be offering Eco Comics’ great line of environmentally conscious comics that we’re sure that fans everywhere will love,” said comiXology VP of Communications & Marketing, Chip Mosher. “We believe in the green message of Eco Comics and are happy to push their comics farther than ever before through comiXology’s global reach.”

“Eco Comics is proud to have been digital, green and paperless since we began, but joining forces with comiXology – which recently passed two hundred million downloads of comics and graphic novels – is the next big step in our evolution,” said Eco Comics Editor, Stuart Buckley. “It’s an exciting development and the perfect opportunity to provide our bold claim to represent the future of comic books.”

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Google is making a bid to increase the profile of the digital comic section of their store by solidifying a partnership with DC. Starting today, DC will start distributing single issue titles every Wednesday.

DC has a massive digital distribution network and has been very active in appealing to tablet and smartphone users. They started first on Comixology and also sell comics on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks. Google was the latest company DC signed a distribution agreement with and started selling graphic novels last September.

“Our Google customers were happy, but kept asking for our single issues,” said Hank Kanalz, senior vice president of Vertigo and Integrated Publishing at DC Entertainment. “As you can imagine, this takes some work, so we wanted to build the infrastructure internally first, before rolling out.”

DC will be selling their single issue comics from 99 cents on a special promotion and range upwards to $3.99 for the latest stuff. The whole distribution program basically makes good sense. Google has a better international footprint for comic sales than Amazin, B&N or iBooks does.

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Humanoids Comics, one of the world’s most successful graphic novel publishers, has entered the digital age by offering its ebook catalog on iTunes, Google Play and it’s own store. It has also released an app for the iPad where users can sync their Humanoid account and browse catalogs but cannot purchase new material.

The company is currently providing $25 to those who download the new new app in the first month. The funds can be used to purchase the first volumes of a graphic novel series in the Humanoid store. The store also provides free digital copies with the purchase of a physical one and other promotions like one free digital novel a month.

According to Humanoids’ Director, Alex Donoghue, “This offer, will be a great opportunity for our readers to discover new titles, as well explore the Humanoids App as not just a graphic novel and comics reader, but also a useful and easy platform to browse the Humanoids catalog on the iPad, full of many exciting features and exclusive deals.”

Although the app is a good first step, in our view, we are still looking forward to the ability to purchase titles within the app if a cheaper ebook option in not available on the Humanoid store. Hopefully, the 30% Google and Apple toll on all in-app purchases is not going to be a significant barrier for the company in the future.

The only incentive to download the app, we believe, is to access the free content that Humanoid is providing. Otherwise, if you are only interested in digital copies, your best bet could be to look to Google Play or iTunes.

We noticed that the Google Play bookstore provides the best price for some graphic novels. For example, Human Women of the Sacred Heart #3 could be purchased from Google Play for $4.75 or from the Humanoid store for $5.95 or iTunes for $5.99.

The company recently relocated to California, from France last year and is expanding its offerings into new mediums. It is currently adapting many of its Humanoid titles into feature films. Humanoids is considered revolutionary, having influenced generations of writers and artist worldwide.

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Marvel AR is an augmented e-reading app that gives you a multimedia experience based on the comic you are reading. The premise of the app is to be a second screen to the traditional comic book. You get interviews with the artists and writers and even fight scenes. The new Marvel AR update is going to be jam packed with new enhancements.

The last time Marvel AR was updated was July 11 2013, which makes it fairly outdated. At the South by Southwest event in Texas, Marvel has confirmed that a big update will be released in April. “It was just time,” John Cerilli, VP of Content & Programming, said. “After concentrating on the actual content going into the app and pumping it full for nearly two years, we realized the app itself may not be giving users the best experience it can.”

Marvel has promised that the app will load up faster and give you all of the AR features faster then before. “We promise more 3D!” Cerilli said. “One of the finest executions we’ve done to date was seeing Cap fight Wolverine in our AVENGERS VS X-MEN Hardcover. Fans really loved it. We really loved it. So we’ve figured out a way to budget for them and when fans see what we have in store with some of the new 3D executions, they’re going to love it. We’re also really fond of our Marvel Science series and have a great relationship with some world class thinkers, so you’ll see a lot more of that, too

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The SXSW Trade Show this year will see the launch of two new web comics platform, TappyToon and Amootoon. Those behind the new medium stated they wish to innovate the segment by ‘breathing new life into the medium’. The way this is achieved is by integrating aspects of film making, comics, and web development into a single medium which they claim will make things simple for the content creators. What this means for the comic readers is that they will get to experience sound, special effects and animation in what otherwise has only been a static medium so far. Readers will also be able to interact with the characters ‘for a more immersive experience’.

The Korean start-up also stated the new TappyToon and Amootoon format has been optimized for viewing on smartphone and tablet devices and are designed to make the most of the digital rendering capabilities of these new age mobile devices. TappyToon will be available for free on iOS devices from May 2014 while making its Android debut in June. Those eager to know more will be able to experience TappyToon first hand at the SXSW Trade Show at booth no. 1206.

Amootoon, on the other hand will launch in beta form on April 2014 and can be previewed at booth no. 1111 at the SXSW Trade Show that runs from 9 – 12 March.

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Comixology is the largest digital distributor in the world for digital comics. This often puts them in the media limelight and paints a big target on their back. The company has acknowledged that they have suffered a major data breach today with usernames, passwords and email accounts were accessed by a rogue denizen of the internet.

In a letter sent out to anyone who has ever registered an account with Comixology, the company is encouraging people to change their passwords.  Although no credit card or financial data was stolen,  it is only a matter of time before all of your data is sold to companies that buy customer information in bulk.

The Comixology servers are currently overwhelmed  with password changing requests and it is currently impossible to actually change your user information. This may change in the next few days, but it is unlikely.

Breaching databases and stealing customer data is nothing new. Its been happening more often with companies such as Adobe, that handle the bulk of eBook encryption technology. It looks like hackers are now targeting companies that readers cluster to.

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Marvel is endeavoring to focus almost exclusively on digital distribution to maximize revenue. In the past few months the company has pulled their comics from bookstores all over the world. You would be hard-pressed to find anything but the odd graphic novel in your favorite bookstore, such as Barnes and Noble.

Marvel is finding that they are selling more comics online, than they are in the retail environment. Comixology is their main partner in the digital sphere and they have dedicated reading apps on every major platform. They have sold over 125,000,000 comics since 2009, most of them from Marvel.

Selling digitally obviously has its merits. Marvel does not have to worry about printing as many comics anymore and having them shipped back to the supplier if they don’t sell. This is more or less how bookstores handle books, magazines, newspapers and comics. If they don’t sell before they become irrelevant they get cash back from the supplier from the inventory that is unsold. Comic shops on the other hand, are normally stuck with whatever inventory they purchase. If single issues go unsold, they go right into the bargain bins.

Marvel has trained their audience to buy digitally. Whether you have an iPad, Android, Windows or a myriad of others, you can buy comics in the comfort of your own home and get them the second the clock hits midnight on comic book Wednesdays. The process is simplified and digital comics don’t take up as much room as the physical thing.

Bookstores in the US and Canada are still carrying graphic novels by Marvel. This is primarily due to the fact they are being sourced by Hachette, instead of Diamond Comic Distributors. Diamond is still the ones who are selling individual comics and graphic novels to comic shops, but for how long?

What are Marvels plans for the future? The company is trying to be less reliant on Comixology and develop their own digital infrastructure. They have been hiring developers, designers and coders to make their own comic selling app. They hope to incorporate Marvel Unlimited, Marvel AR, Marvel Events and their new comic store into a singular experience. They basically realize that digital is their future and they don’t want to have all of their eggs in one basket with Comixology.

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Marvel Unlimited is a subscription service, in which customers can get access to over 15,000 digital comics for $9.99 a month. The company has announced today a new promotion, where you can buy into the ecosystem for only .99 and download as many comics as you would like.

When you buy into Marvel Unlimited you are mainly getting classic comic books. Marvel basically can’t publish new content until six months after it first hits the comic shops or first party release services, such as Comixology. Still, readers will be able to check out the entire Age of Ultron and Marvel NOW!

Last year around this time Marvel and Comixology teamed up to give 700 first issues away for free and it destroyed Comixology’s servers. This time around Marvel is going to handle the web and app traffic themselves

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ComiXology has had close to 220 million downloads since the New York based company burst onto the scene in 2009. Every year at the South by Southwest festival in Texas they tend to announce massive promotions. Last year, they gave 700 first issues away for free, which promptly killed their servers and no one could connect for days. Now, they have another promotion which will give $150,000 in free comics away.

This March, ComiXology dominates SXSW Interactive with a whole host of activities including: sponsoring the SXSW Geek Stage; a special panel; happy hour; free comics offered throughout the event; and handing out $150,000 worth of $5 Amazon Appstore credits toward comiXology content at comiXology’s SXSW Gaming Expo booth #125 & 127.

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