Dr. Master teams with IGN

Manga publisher Dr. Master has joined the ranks of publishers offering digital downloads via IGN’s Direct2Drive site. D2D already offers games and movies and has been slowly moving into the comics distribution business.

DrMaster Publications Inc., the publishing arm of DGN Production Inc., today announced an agreement with Fox Interactive Media’s digital retail store, Direct2Drive (http://www.direct2drive.com), to distribute its popular comic content to readers via digital download. The agreement will make Direct2Drive the exclusive home for downloadable DrMaster content, including upcoming new releases.

“Television, movies, comics and anime…Direct2Drive pulls no punches,” said DrMaster marketing director, Shawn Sanders. “Their download service has pioneered digital distribution for video games and exclusive content — including comics — and DrMaster is proud to add its content to Direct2Drive’s considerable content offerings.”

Initial titles from DrMaster available on Direct2Drive will include Volume 1: issues 1 and 2, of the new action adventure, Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword, which is available now and debuted on the site one week after its printed launch in retail stores. Direct2Drive will also be the official launch partner for, Purgatory Kabuki, an original manga tale that will be released in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Downloadable content from DrMaster on Direct2Drive will be delivered in high-resolution, full-color documents via Adobe Systems Incorporated’s Portable Document Format (PDF), enabling users to download, view and print the e-books on any standard Windows PC.

Onstad talks artisanal bacon and Achewood

Books Cookbook DetailSalon has a lengthy chat with Chris Onstad of Achewood. The popular webcomic has spawned a cookbook of all things

Cooking and eating have become pervasive themes in the strip. Do you worry that some percentage of your readership just has no interest in what you’re talking about when you get into vegan substitutions or molecular gastronomy?

I do not and cannot care. I have to write about what interests me the most. If I don’t write about what interests me, it’s not going to interest anyone else. And you know, it’s the same thing — oftentimes I’ll sit here, and I’ll be writing a strip, and I’ll make a reference to a uniquely American thing and I’ll go, Oh, well, I’ve got a lot of readers in the United Kingdom and Australia, and they’re not going to get it. But then I think: But you know what? I watch and adore British comedies and oftentimes I don’t get the references, but I can appreciate the completeness and the honesty of it. So I try not to dumb it down, and I try not to think for other people.

Link: The Charlton Comics Story

000Timidtimid 2Nowadays when people think of Charlton Comics, if they do at all, it’s only because WATCHMEN started as a reinvention of Charlton’s superhero line, or or perhaps in fond remembrance of E-MAN. But they were a full service comics line that published everything from THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY to TIMMY THE TIMID GHOST to FIGHTIN’ MARINES. And as WFMU’s Beware of the Blog recalls, they were all pretty much dreadful.

Although there were plenty of comic book labels churning out poorly rendered crap while labels like Dell, EC, and National Periodical/DC received all the attention, no other peripheral comic group lasted as long as Charlton. The company was a cringe inducing comic book presence on newsstands for an incredible forty years, from nineteen forty-six to eighty-six. An impressive run for a company who’s output was often unreadable.

Much more nostalgic badness in the link.

[Thanks to DW for the link.]

More about Yen Press

200704110239Hachette’s Yen Press imprint, headed up by Kurt Hassler and Rich Johnson is certainly one of the most noteworthy of all the mainstream publishing houses ventures into the world of graphic novels, not least because of the impeccable track record of the two principles. We’ve watched with some interest people like Anjali Singh become important players in comics because of their general editorial chops but also an instinctive understanding of what kind of material will reach a general audience. There are an equal number of publishing types who have clearly jumped in to get in on the “trend” without knowing diddly. Hassler and Johnson obviously know diddly and much, much more. (Hassler was the buyer who led the category to impressive growth at Borders and Johnson was VP of Book Trade Sales at DC for many years.)
Chris Arrant at Newsarama has a chat with Hassler which is quite informative despite calling him “Ken” at one point. Hassler explains why Yen is focusing on manga early on:

There are a few reasons. One of them is strictly practical when you’re dealing with licensing manga from Japan, you’re largely dealing with material that has already been available. So you can launch with something like that more quickly than if you were doing an original American project. Also if you look at just the relative sales, which drive a lot of growth in the industry in the North American market, it’s manga. It’s clearly the largest growth consumer base and we want to make sure we’re tapping into that market.

And on a more personal level, I’m very well acquainted with manga; it’s sort of my personal area of expertise, so that was just going to a comfort zone for me. [snip]

But in terms of the list as a whole, I think you’re going to see much more diverse things coming down the road. We’re not adverse to kids comic, American comics, different types of manga… really we want to explore all of the opportunities out there. We’re really not limiting ourselves to a particular genre or type of book.

Yen also plans a monthly manga magazine starting next year. If you remember Tokyopop’s origins with the MIXXzine, which had the same idea before it was fashionable, you’ll see we’re coming full circle here. The “how can we?” era is still barreling down the highway.

Cartoon Brew FIlms launches

Speaking of cartoons and websites and what not, we are remiss in not mentioning earlier the launch of CartoonBrewFilms.com, which is run by the fine fellows behind must-read animation clog Cartoon Brew Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi. The site will offer downloads of quality animation from everyone from Jib Jab to Bill Plympton, for modest fees up to $2. Yes, it’s a FOR PROFIT venture. The Beat thinks this “paying for your entertainment” trend is going to get big in the coming months. We’ll let the PR explain more of the plan:

The widely read and respected animation industry blog, CartoonBrew.com, is launching a new video-on-demand website, CartoonBrewFilms.com, offering exclusive animated shorts for download. The service is dedicated to making available world-class animated shorts, including cutting-edge CGI productions, long-lost archival treasures and award-winning student films.

Films are designed for viewing on portable media players like iPods and PSPs, as well as personal computers. Cartoon Brew Films will debut new offerings every week, fifty-two weeks a year. Film selections are curated by company founders Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi, both of whom are noted animation historians and authors with considerable experience in the animation industry.

“We want to turn people on to the best that the animation world has to offer,” says Jerry Beck. “Hundreds of excellent animated shorts are produced every year, and the vast majority of them never enjoy distribution on the Internet. Cartoon Brew Films is the solution that filmmakers have been waiting for: a smart place to exhibit work online backed up with a real revenue model that earns filmmakers money.”

[Read more…]

When the Ramones Met Spidey

Comics Allianceis yet another general interest comics blog that launched recently. We meant to link to it a while ago, but what with one thing and another, it got driven clear out of our mind. Anyway Comics Alliance is notable for being an AOL-affiliated blog, and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t jealous of the groovy sidebar with a calendar of events, covers, polls and other snappy doodads. Anyway it’s a solid effort by proprietors John Anderson and Chris Dooley.

Anyhoo, we mention this because we’re stealing our very first link from Comics Alliance, Gabba Gabba Hey! which WAS linking to a swell animated video of the Ramones singing the Spider-Man theme song, directed by LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE’S Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Alas the video has removed by Viacom. Oh well. Of course, it took us about five minutes to find ANOTHER YouTube upload, so hey ho! Let’s go anyway! This will be down in no time, we’re sure.

The song was from the Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits album of 1995, when many more Ramones were alive than now. The album, which we own, contains such things as Wax covering “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” and Helmet covering “Gigantor” which is fun but not as good as the Dickies version, which is one of the greatest things ever recorded.

We know that artistic rights clearances and so on make this video stuff subject to all the laws of intellectual property and what not, but it would be nice if such things were readily available, for real and legally, right? *sigh*

Cat fight!

Everyone loves Felix the Cat, right? And everyone loves those Kit-Cat clocks with the black cat with the big eyes, right? Well, did you ever think they were maybe TOO similar? Well, the Felix folks think they are and have sued the Kit-Cat Clock Co., saying it’s a “blatant rip-off” guilty of violating over 100 copyrights.

The scrap is a bit unexpected. After all, the two fur balls have been sharing the spotlight quite nicely for more than 60 years.

Felix came first, and claims to be the world’s first “true movie cartoon character” because of his 1920s appearance in a short titled “Feline Follies.”

Kit-Cat emerged a decade later during the Depression. Promotional materials boast that it brought “mystery and excitement” to a nation in need of “a smile and friend.”

In recent years, Kit-Cat has made a comeback on the Internet and at upscale retailers such as Restoration Hardware, even putting the image on T-shirts, mugs and watches.

Say that reminds us, we just got the BESTEST t-shirt EVAH!
04-11-07 0323
[Link via Boing Boing, of course.]

News ‘n’ Notes

§ Local paper profiles cartooner:

Brian Ralph sits at a table in the sun outside Donna’s in Baltimore’s Charles Village and fidgets with his paper coffee cup.

The 33-year-old has messy hair, and wears a short sleeve shirt and blue jeans. His hand with the solid silver wedding ring rests on a yellow comic book with a frightened monkey on the cover.

“The thing I was really into was comics,” he says of his years in college.

§ Mobile phone manga downloads gaining popularity for shy fans, others:

For Japanese aficionados of this sort of stuff, there is a more convenient and discreet way to stock up on the latest stories without running to the bookstore: downloading them to a cell phone. That’s helped this type of manga reach beyond the female otome–or “maidens,” as they’re known–who are the genre’s die-hard fan base. “Women and girls in their teens, 20s, and 30s like BL for their portrayals of innocent love,” says Toshiki Fujii, a manager in the cell-phone content division at Nagoya-based Media Do. “But now those who might have been coy about walking into a shop can find what they’re looking for online.”

§ The Disney-Pixar stock scandal continues to have fall-out:

The Pixar stock options mess was more widespread than anyone knew … though the Mouse House now is doing its best to apply some significant Band-Aids. Company has acknowledged that many mid- and lower-level employees received backdated options at the toon company, not just execs. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Disney said it would issue newly priced options to those employees and pay as much as $34 million to those with backdated options in an effort to compensate those Pixar employees both for the discrepancy in the options price and for possible tax liabilities.

§ We didn’t listen to it ourselves, but we’re told by reliable source Ian Brill that The Sound of Young America: Podcast: Jordan, Jesse GO! Ep. 18: Misspent Youth contains a cue of interest to our readers at 28:49 when Bucky Sinister reads a poem about Batman.

What’s up at Wizard?

Ever since we found a way to add Wizarduniverse.com to our RSS feed, we’ve found all sorts of interesting stories there. Like this round up of 52’s greatest moments that actually made us want to read the thing:

Wizard staffers pored over the entire series to find the top moments that knocked us off our feet and showcased the fun and excitement the book stood for.

So sit back, 52—this is your life…

The chalkboard in Rip Hunter’s laboratory had all kinds of psycho ramblings written down on it, which ended up having ties to the rest of 52. From Aquaman’s heir to World War III, it set up clues that played out throughout the entire series. (52 #6)

200704110340We detected a strong note of nostalgia, however, in this piece, which looked at the latest “hot comics,” a throwback to days of yore when comics were perceived as “collectibles” and not “literature”. Even Wizard can’t keep up the pretense, however, when the #1 book is from…ONI????

COMIC BOOK WASTELAND Oni Press’ breakout hit Wasteland, by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten, has taken the back market by storm, and demand for early issues has driven prices up to the $10-$15 range. The long-awaited trade paperback ships this week, so you can expect prices to take a dip in the near future.

Hustlings and bustlings

It’s a busy time in Comicsland, it seems. The success of 300 has ratcheted up Hollywood’s interest in comics to even greater heights, the bookstore/manga revolution is moving along, and big doin’s are brewing everywhere we look. News is scarce for the moment, but there is a lot of activity behind the scenes. We can’t even keep UP with it all any more. We find The Beat‘s focus drifting away from comics a great deal, and we know we need to bring it back, even as ripples from other fields continue to make waves in our world and vice versa. We feel ourselves gearing up for a few essays before we hit the road to Barcelona next week — that is, if we can get off the treadmill of the news cycle for a few minutes.