Digital Update: When Amazon(s) Attack!


By Bruce Lidl

While Heidi and Torsten were off having fun at NYCC, the rest of us had to sadly experience all the comics-related mayhem vicariously. Nevertheless, on the digital comics front matters continue to develop in interesting ways, particularly in relation to online retailing behemoth, Amazon. The explosive Amazon-DC graphic novel exclusive agreement for the upcoming Kindle Fire tablet device remains a hot topic and shows no signs of fading from view, with even the New York Times jumping on the controversy. As many have already commented, while comics from a numerical standpoint may not be hugely important to the looming tablet wars (Amazon vs. B&N, Kindle Fire vs. iPad, etc.) they clearly have symbolic value to the combatants. Amazon has been very aggressive in using comic and graphic novel imagery in their marketing for the multimedia focused Kindle Fire, as comics are, after all, a prime use case for an e-Reading device that comes with a larger color screen (and children’s books as well).

However, Amazon is making waves in many aspects of the publishing world, far beyond digital comics, as their recent moves towards becoming a publisher in their own right are beginning to unsettle the traditional publishing houses very publicly. Amazon has announced recently the launch of their own e-imprint devoted to science fiction, to complement already named imprints for romance and mystery. So far there has not been any mention of Amazon doing the same for independent comic book creators with an interest in reaching out to tablet owners, but with the release of the Kindle Fire in mid-November (and with on-going rumors of an even larger 10 inch Kindle Fire in early 2012), the possibility becomes more believable, even if there was no Amazon presence at NYCC. The ongoing move to day-and-date releases by the major comics companies, along with Amazon’s ongoing relationships with comiXology and Graphicly may make an Amazon comics imprint unnecessary, but, as mentioned in the New York Times piece, Neil Gaiman was one of the exclusive guests at the recent Amazon-elite pow-wow.
While the Kindle Fire is almost assuredly going to be a hit (pre-orders are pushing sales estimates to over 5 million by the end of 2011), Barnes & Noble are not the only Amazon competitor willing to take up the fight. eReader underdog Kobo announced today their new $199 7 inch Android tablet the Vox, which they hope to get into consumer hands even before the Kindle arrives in mid-November. The Vox appears to be very similar to current BN Nook Color, a device that has demonstrated decent sales power, although with a heavily (up to 75%) female demographic. Regardless of gender dynamics, Barnes & Noble are themselves rumored to be releasing a new tablet or two of their own in the near future, and they are aggressively lowering prices on their remaining stocks of the Nook Color. While much has been made of the value proposition of the Kindle Fire’s deep integration into Amazon’s broader service offerings (music, video, etc.), with today’s release of Google Android’s new updated Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, we are likely to see quite a few more competing Android powered tablets, in a variety of sizes and configurations in the coming months.
Amazon clearly has huge ambitions and is open to pushing very creative products (check out) and services, including their new locker service, allowing Kindles to “check-out” library ebooks, and providing the ability to upload eBooks and documents to your Kindle seamlessly. Amazon is alerting everybody, they are clearly not afraid to take on powerful opponents, from Apple to Barnes & Noble to the Big 6 publishing houses. Amazons attack, indeed.

"I can see the whole bank account and there's no money in it!" — Lichtenstein piece expected to fetch $35 mil

An iconic — and, they say, ironic — Roy Lichtenstein painting based on a drawing by William Overgard is expected to sell for $35-45 million at a Christie’s auction. In 1988 the painting sold for $2.1 million, but a recent Lichtenstein sale for $42.6 million suggest the market for his work has expanded a bit more. The painting has been shown at the Guggenheim Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Lichtenstein based the image on a Steve Roper panel by Overgard, which is reproduced at the Deconstructing Lichtenstein Flickr set. Experts think the copy is quite something, however.

“There’s no romance, there’s no woman and it’s quite dark, but it’s a marvelous painting,” said Lucy Mitchell-Innes, co- owner of Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery in New York, which has mounted four solo Lichtenstein exhibitions in the past 10 years. “It epitomizes Roy’s use of irony, which is the most important theme throughout his work.”

Yes, irony. Hahahaha.

What were we just saying about cartoonists not getting paid a living wage?

DC to digital fans: "Be patient."

The NY Times digs in to the DC/Amazon/B&N/Books-a-Millions spat and doesn’t get too much further than the vague statements that everyone has made so far, but you can read between the lines a bit.

DC Comics, a division of Warner Brothers, says it is being misunderstood. But on its own Web site, it said the books would be available “exclusively to Amazon’s newly announced Kindle Fire,” with no qualification. Even the possibility that fans could have access to the books on their iPads through the Kindle app seemed disallowed.

DC now says the books will be available on other e-readers through the Kindle app. “Just because we’re starting with Amazon, this is not the be-all and end-all of our digital strategy and distribution,” said Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Entertainment, the parent company of DC Comics. He added, however, “We are not at liberty to discuss exactly when” the comics would be available on other e-readers, citing the company’s nondisclosure agreement with Amazon.

According to the piece, Neil Gaiman — who represents 12% of the B&N banned books — is among those who attended the recent “super secret” Campfire summit thrown by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Hopefully, he gave ‘em a piece of his mind.

Reviews are in: Does Spielberg make Tintin "squeal like a pig"?

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN, the 3D mocap extravaganza directed by Steven Spielberg opens THIS FRIDAY in Europe, where—due to the widespread love for the characters—it’s got a chance to do boffo box office, even if the movie is problematic, a la TRANSFORMERS. The reviews are rolling in.

Variety’s Leslie Felperin liked it!

Steven Spielberg was apparently turned on to the Belgian comicstrip hero Tintin while making his first Indiana Jones films, so it seems entirely fitting that his motion-capture animation “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” should rep such a rollicking return to action-adventure form, especially after the disappointment of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Clearly rejuvenated by his collaboration with producer Peter Jackson, and blessed with a smart script and the best craftsmanship money can buy, Spielberg has fashioned a whiz-bang thrill ride that’s largely faithful to the wholesome spirit of his source but still appealing to younger, Tintin-challenged auds. Pic should do thundering typhoon biz globally, but will whirl especially fast in Europe.

At one point Felperin spells Hergé as Herve, however, so consider this review as “objective.”

Meanwhile over at the Guardian, Tintin admirer Nicholas Lezardfeels…well, the review is titled How could they do this to Tintin?.

He did not care for the film:

Coming out of the new Tintin film directed by Steven Spielberg, I found myself, for a few seconds, too stunned and sickened to speak; for I had been obliged to watch two hours of literally senseless violence being perpetrated on something I loved dearly. In fact, the sense of violation was so strong that it felt as though I had witnessed a rape. I use this comparison not as a provocation or to cause unnecessary offence: I am using it in honour of a very good joke made by an episode of South Park, in which the cartoon’s children watch the final Indiana Jones film and are so traumatised by what they have seen that they go round to the police station and try to get Spielberg and his colleagues charged with the crime. “What they did to poor Indy. They made him squeal like a pig.” The tragic irony of this is that it was Hergé himself, Tintin’s creator, who, a few weeks before his death in 1983, anointed Spielberg as his preferred director to make a Tintin film; and this after he had seen, and loved, as we all do and did, the first Indiana Jones film.

So yeah aside from becoming physically ill and feeling violated, Lezard also feels it is “cretinous” and “made for morons.” And mind you this is despite seeing in the script by Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish echoes of the Tom McCarthy biography of Hergé which theorized that the entire Tintin oeuvre was Hergé’s response to possibly being related to the king of Belgium.


TINTIN opens here at Christmas. Can’t wait.

Tonight to do: Seth and Clowes in Montreal






If you can’t make it out for these seminal events, you can still listen to these modern masters talk with WYNC’s Leonard Lopate right here.

NYCC news rewind: Oni to reissue Courtney Crumrin


This story by Brigid Alverson on kids comics news at NYCC 11 is chock-a-block full of newsy bits, but we’ll just spotlight the Oni news here:

Oni Press announced that it will be republishing Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin graphic novels in a new, full-color edition to celebrate the publisher’s 15th anniversary. The series will start with Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things in April. Their panel also featured two new children’s graphic novels that are due out in the next two weeks: Power Lunch, by J. Torres and Dean Trippe, and Sketch Monsters, by Vinny Navarette and Josh Williamson. Power Lunch is about a boy who gains superpowers from the foods he eats—carrots enable him to see through walls, for instance—while Sketch Monsters is about a girl whose doodles about her moods come to life and run amok.

Much more from Archie, 1821, Marvel, and so on in the link.

Nice art: Sam Bosma videogames print

IMG_1704.JPGAlas — already sold out! Larger version and close-ups in link.

Millar and Gibbons team on "The Secret Service"

Although it’s been known for years that Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons were teaming on a comic for Image, the name and art were still unannounced — until just now. It’s called THE SECRET SERVICE and will presumably revolve around doctors who quietly perform hair transplants…or something like that.

It is only one of several books that denote a renewed energy on Millar’s part for his Millarworld books, CBR reports:

Of course, “The Secret Service” isn’t the only book on tap from Millar’s Millarworld brand of creator-owned comics. “Our 2012 line-up includes ‘Kick-Ass 2′ with John Romita, ‘Supercrooks’ with Leinil Yu, ‘The Secret Service’ with Dave Gibbons, ‘Nemesis 2′ with Steve McNiven and a massive brand new superhero epic by Frank Quitely,” Millar reminded. “We’ll be previewing all these books in a massive CBR piece in January as I go full-time in Millarworld. But I don’t think there’s a company out there with as high a concentration of A-list artists as our plans for next year. It’s very exciting.”

31 Days of Halloween: Watch the Walking Dead Webisodes

Now that the second season of THE WALKING DEAD is a smash hit, just in case you missed ‘em here are six AMC-produced, Greg Nicotero-directed webisodes showing how various zombies got to be cut in half and so on. WARNING: high squeam factor.