“She Has to Adapt Right Now” Mairghread Scott and Sarah Stone on Transformers: Windblade [Interview]

Next month sees a launch which The Beat has been following on and off for the last few weeks. A new Transformers miniseries will be launching at IDW in April, chronicling the introduction of Windblade. A female Transformer – causing raised eyebrows from fans who think Transformers are genderless despite being obvious blatant big male robots – Windblade will be entering the IDW Universe in the immediate aftermath of the crossover event storyline Dark Cybertron.

Written by Mairghread Scott and illustrated by Sarah Stone, the miniseries has already garnered a lot of attention, as Windblade was chosen to be created as part of a fan vote, and this miniseries will be the first Transformers comic with a female writer and artist onboard. But, y’know, beyond that – there’s a story here, and a character. So! In order to find out more about who Windblade actually is, I spoke to both Mairghread and Sarah about their plans for the characters, and the miniseries as a whole. Read on!

[Read more…]

Inaki Miranda’s TRIBES to be re-released in deluxe edition this June

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TRIBES the Dog Years is a SF graphic novel about a world where no one lives past the age of 21, that originally came out a few years ago. Written by Mike Geszel and Peter Spinetta, it featured gobsmacking art by Spanish artist Inaki Miranda, as seen on the book’s FB page. Paul Pope called it “Mad Max by way of Disney. Inaki draws with a widescreen vision that jumps off the page.”

Since Miranda has gotten better known since then do to all his work for Vertigo— including Coffin Hill—a new hardcover edition of the book is being released this May, Tribe: The Dog Years Deluxe Edition, for those who might have missed it the first time. The new edition will includes more concept designs, 20+ pages of original pencils, a newly designed cover and backing – all the unusual but effective horizontal format of the original. The edition includes an intro by screenwriter Alex Tse (Watchmen.)

In the near future, a nano-virus accidentally shortens the human lifespan to 21 years. Two hundred years later, tribes of kids survive amidst the junkyard ruins of the techno-industrial age. One day everything changes for Sundog of the Sky Shadows tribe.  Is there new hope for longer life?  Can the virus be cured with the help of a mysterious “Ancient” from a city under the sea?

 

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Miranda is really one of the most underrated artists around — his world building is second to none, and Tribes is a fine example of that. The book is in Previews now.

Interview: Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery on ‘Kill Shakespeare’ and Kickstarter

An idea is only as valuable as its execution, and Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery have spent the last four years executing their concept, a battle between Shakespeare’s most famous heroes and most evil villains, to great success. Kill Shakespeare first appeared as a comic book series from IDW in 2010, but in four short years has already expanded into new arenas. A New York stage show debuted on March 1st, and a Kickstarter is underway for a Kill Shakespeare board game. With a couple of days to go, it’s funded but nearing some stretch goals. I spoke to Anthony (A) and Conor (C) about where the brand has been, where it is now, and where it’s going next.

 

You said in the Kickstarter video that you came up with the idea for Kill Shakespeare 10 years ago. What has made you pursue this concept so fiercely?

A: I’m so extremely passionate about Kill Shakespeare because to me it’s more than just a concept/comic/game that’s entertaining. There’s something more to it – the ability to make people appreciate more about Shakespeare and his plays, as well as giving people the opportunity to learn something about themselves and humanity through the actions of the characters.

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Photo from the Kill Shakespeare stage show in New York.

What was your initial vision for the series?

C: The initial vision ended up being pretty similar to what we have now. We toyed with a couple of other mediums first and we wrote a VERY long first draft of a film that we then analyzed and looked at how we could adapt it in order to tell our story in a 12 part series. Most of our early ideas for Kill Shakespeare ended up in the comics in some form or another – which I think is a testament to how much we thought out the original concept to begin with.

Why did you decide to publish Kill Shakespeare as a comic first?

A: We conceived it originally as a MMO and then a feature film, but we realized that we didn’t have the knowledge or resources to produce our story in those mediums. We then thought about comics and realized that it provided us the best opportunity to tell the story that we wanted to tell. With comics the only thing that limits us is our imagination. If we can imagine a huge pirate battle, we can bring it to life (with the amazing art by Andy Belanger). Also, it’s really cool to bring something normally perceived as high-brow (Shakespeare) to a medium (incorrectly) perceived as low-brow (comics). Is it irony, or destiny…?

Has the visual elements of the comic book series been advantageous towards translating it to other types of media?

C: Oh for sure. Andy Belanger, are artist, has been key to everything we’ve done. One example is that we actually use the existing comic panels as part of the Kill Shakespeare stage show. They are presented on screen and the actors use them to act off of. Hopefully if K.S. becomes a film or television show then we’ll see Andy’s work reflected there too.

Shakespeare material is probably more inclined for the bookstore market than the comics crowd. How are you making Kill Shakespeare visible to them, including the readers who don’t ordinarily peruse the “Comics” section of Barnes & Noble?

A: You’re absolutely right – our biggest market is the bookstore market. The number of collected trade paperbacks we sell far outnumber those of the individual comics. However, we put just as much time in marketing to – and prioritizing – the comics market than the bookstore one. We always make a point to fill each issue with the action elements that the comics market really enjoys – the swashbuckling adventure, the magical elements, the battles. We emphasize that. We attend as many comic-cons as possible (over 20 in 2013) and we heavily ingrain ourselves with retail comic book shops. The comic shops are the lifeblood of this industry and we try to work with them to sell our issues to their fans.

Picture of the prototype of the KILL SHAKESPEARE board game.

Photo of the prototype of the KILL SHAKESPEARE board game.

How much work has it been overseeing the Kickstarter for the board game? 

C: We’re lucky that IDW is doing the heavy lifting on that one (and doing it well) but we’re still seeing a fair amount of our days consumed with sending emails and reaching out on social media to help spread the word.

What’s surprised you about the crowdfunding experience?

A: How much people look for humour and passion in the projects that they fund. It’s all about the personality. What Kickstarter really does is eliminate the corporate element to projects and give fans/reader/consumers a one-on-one experience with the creators. Most of the time people are funding the people, not the projects, and that’s an amazing revolution in the distribution chain of commerce.

What are some stores we should expect to see the Kill Shakespeare board game in?

C: The board game is going to be distributed far and wide so if you have a local comic shop or indie game store they can get it for you. Of course, you could also support the Kickstarter and get some sweet extras!

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Another photo from the game prototype.

Since the start Kill Shakespeare has been with IDW. What makes them a good partner for the franchise?

A: IDW has been great from Day #1. What makes them a great partner are the talented people that work there. Everyone from the business brains that have allowed the company to flourish, to the talented design people there (like Chris Mowry, who oversees the design of all of our issues), it’s a hotbed of talent. They’ve also given us a lot of freedom to discover our story and voice, which has been amazing for us.

How much has the growth of the brand been calculated planning vs. going with the flow?

C: I’d say about 50-50. Anthony and I definitely charted out our strategy and identified where we wanted to take this idea, but as far as when and how things happen – there is always some serendipity there. For example, we didn’t think the stage show would be our second “thing”, but we happened to be in the right place at the right time when the amazing Soulpepper Theatre Company was looking for something funky and Shakespearean for one of their festivals.

Where do you see Kill Shakespeare going next? Where do you hope for it to go next?

A: We’ve got a lot of great things coming up for the brand, from the new comic mini-series The Mask of Night, to a new theatrical concept we’re exploring, to a teacher’s guide, to a television series. Our goal in the comics world is to become the new Fables – a series that’s been going on for over a dozen years and inspired so many creators and readers.

IDW announced a new volume of Kill Shakespeare the comic.

IDW announced a new volume of Kill Shakespeare the comic.

You can play as a number of Shakespearean players in the board game. Who are your players of choice?

C: I’m going to weakly opt out of this question as I haven’t had the chance to play-test the new version to see how each character’s unique attributes will affect my strategy. BUT if I was FORCED to choose I’d say Falstaff. Because then if I get tipsy during game-play I can say I was just trying to stay “in character.”

A: I’m still quite partial to Hamlet. Such a fascinating enigma of a man – it’ll be great to play the game as him for a couple hours and see if it allows me to get deeper into his head.

 

You can learn more about the series on its official website and visit the board game’s Kickstarter page to support the next phase of Kill Shakespeare.

IDWs Ted Adams Interview Part 2: What’s up for Little Nemo, WinterWorld, Ragnarok and V Wars.

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[Concluding our conversation with IDW publisher Ted Adams, we get into digital, new books for 2014 and IDW’s plans for getting into the TV business. Read part one here. ]

THE BEAT: Ted, you were something of a pioneer among comics publishers for going into digital and I quote what you told me when I first asked you about it. You said “I’m just going to do a deal with everybody and see what works,” as opposed to everyone else who was like “Oh I don’t know if we should try this, we don’t know, we don’t know, don’t know.” Your attitude was, let’s give this a shot. I think the first time you gave a figure, you said, oh digital’s 1% of our revenue and our sales. Now I believe it’s 15%?

ADAMS: Yeah, and it’s growing even from there. And obviously I think it’s kind of our strategy in general. We were sort of out front [in digital] before everyone else was there. But my goal as a comic book publisher is to try and get my content in front of as many readers as possible. The best place ultimately for me to have long term readers is the direct market. But I want to try and get the content in front of as many readers as I possibly can, so I felt like digital seemed like a pretty obvious place to get our content in front of people who didn’t know comic books existed. But that’s really our strategy. That’s what drives the Fun Packs, that’s why there’s the toys and Transformers comics, that’s why we’re still agnostic when it comes to E-readers. Every legitimate opportunity that comes by, we’re going to put our content there, with the hope being that we’re going to introduce new readers to comic books and then drive those readers to comic book stores. That’s our path to success.

THE BEAT: Let’s talk a little about the comic shop market because, again, in 15 years, it’s really evolved a lot, even just the makeup of the retailers. I can tell you from personal experience that in the ’90’s when I was working with Friends of Lulu, we went to retailers and said “Why don’t you promote The Simpsons comics? People like The Simpsons.” And this was a very controversial message at that time! But now it’s “Oh My Little Pony! That’s awesome!” Everyone’s feeling pretty good about where it’s at now, but what is the next level for comic shops?

ADAMS: I think that the diversity that we have today is as good as it’s ever been and I think that we want to have content that can appeal to a wide variety of readers and not just one specific reader. The industry for a long time was really good about producing content that was just for one particular kind of reader, but today we have comics for kids. We have people who like super hero books. We have great, smart comic books like Locke and Key if you’re really into that. If you’re interested in the archival side of the business the Library of American Comics and Craig Yoe for us, we’ve got that nailed. The Artist Editions bring in a completely different kind of reader and I think that diversity that you can see in a micro way with IDW—where we have everything from licensed books to creating our own books, archival books, artist editions—that diversity is what we should all aspire to for that success. We don’t want to limit ourselves to just a small percentage of readers. We want to try to appeal to as big a percentage of readers as we possibly can.

THE BEAT: Talking about expanding the market place, you also have launched a TV division? [Read more…]

Interview: IDW’s Ted Adams “No 10-year-old is hanging out in the bookstore section at Target”

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[IDW publisher Ted Adams is one of the most personable executives in the industry, and one of the most forward looking when it comes to expanding to new markets. As IDW celebrates its 15th anniversary, we chatted with Adams about the structure of the company, his background and how IDW has explored new outlets and products including digital, mass market and merchandising. One of IDW’s biggest recent success stories in their “Micro Fun Packs”—little goodie bags sold at mass market checkout areas which include a mini comics, stickers, foldout posters, and POG-like collectibles—an unusual move into merchandising for a comics publisher but one he thinks will drive readers back to comics shops. IDW’s successes also includes creator owned books like 30 Days of Night and Locke and Key and one of the industry’s best archival programs with the Library of American Comics and Yoe Books. Given his background in the maw of the “indie comics era” working at Eclispe, Dark Horse and Image, Adams has been able to put what he calls his entrepreneurial spirit to work on taking advantage of the expanding audience for comics. And he’s not done yet. Many thank to IDW’s Rosalind Morehead for setting up this interview.]

THE BEAT: Since we’re doing a 15-anniversary look back, I wanted to ask you if you if you could lay out kind of the structure of IDW. I know that you started it with some partners and then IDT came in as investor — can you just talk about who’s still involved and what their roles are?

ADAMS: Yeah absolutely. I started IDW with three other guys in 1999 and when we organized the business we each owned essentially 25% of the business. So there were four of us who owned 25% and that continued on for quite some time. In the early days of the business actually we weren’t a comic book publisher, we were just a creative service company that was doing art and design for a variety of entertainment companies. And so for the first probably 3 or 4 years of IDW it was just the four of us and a handful of employees. We really started with an art book by Ash Wood and that led us to doing 30 Days of Night and CSI comic books. That was around 2001-02 was when we were first starting to publish comic books. But it wasn’t really until probably 2004, 2005 when our publishing business started taking off, around the time we picked up the Transformers license, and really started to expand our publishing business. (Editor-in-chief) Chris Ryall came in and really helped us build that business. IDW was transitioning from a creative service company to a publishing company probably around 2004 -06 Two of the partners, Alex Garner and Kris Oprisko I think frankly weren’t all that interested in being involved in the publishing business; the business was growing quite a bit and they had other things that they wanted to do. So we decided to figure out a way for them to sell what they owned in the business so they could move on to other things. We met the folks at IDT [a telecommunications company that owns such hings as tghe ringtones portal Zedge] and at that time we sold them half of the business. Over time they brought out Kris Oprisko completely. So IDT owned 75%, and Robbie Roberts and I owned 25%.

THE BEAT: Right, but IDT seems to be very much a silent partner at this point?

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ADAMS:
Very much silent, yes. They’re very happy with the success that we’ve had and certainly we’ve had tremendous growth, sort of unbelievable growth since they bought out the other partners. Certainly they’re there if we need advice or we’re looking for their opinion on something, they’re certainly there to give us a hand. But they don’t know the comic book business or the publishing business and they allow us to be the experts that we are.

THE BEAT: Well, that’s a pretty good deal.

ADAMS: Yeah, it’s been really nice.

THE BEAT: I was going to ask you, in 1999, I know you started as a packaging company, but that was really the darkest days of the comics industry, in the post newsstand era.

ADAMS: Well yeah. To be perfectly honest, I was really burnt out on comics. I started at Eclipse and I worked for Dark Horse, I worked for WildStorm and then when we were starting IDW I was working for Todd McFarlane running his comics line and I was unbelievably burnt out on comics. So when I put together the business plan for IDW it actually, specifically called out that we wouldn’t publish comics. [Laugher] The industry was kind of in a low spot, I was really burnt out on doing it and so it’s funny that here we are today. But the reason that we didn’t want to become one wasn’t necessarily because the market was in a lull, it was more just my personal passion was at a low peak at that point.

THE BEAT: But, I think you were feeling what a lot of people were feeling at that point. I think sales had fallen it was either ’98 or ’99 when the best selling comic was 75,000 copies. I think a lot of people were just like, wow, we built this direct market and this is the best it can do?

ADAMS: You’re right, I mean it was just such a—from the peak to the valley was such an extreme. You know, when I was working at WildStorm—and I wasn’t at WildStorm in the earliest days—but even when I was there comics were still selling 400,000, 500,000 copies and certainly anything under 100,000 was seen just as an abject failure. And to go from that to having the best comic be 75,000 was you know, the extreme was unbelievable.

THE BEAT: Working for Eclipse, Dark Horse, WildStorm, among all comic publishers you have this background where you must have seen a lot of things that worked and a lot of things that didn’t work in those times.

ADAMS: Yeah, and I think I’ve always been entrepreneurially focused and I always knew I was going to own my own business. And so my education, both my undergraduate degree and my graduate degree, are both in business and so I knew I was going to eventually own my own business. I didn’t necessarily know I was going to own a comic book business. But, when I was working for all those various publishers they were all really entrepreneurially driven as well. If you look at Eclipse and what Cat [Yronwode] and Dean [Mullaney] were doing, those were really revolutionary publishers and their entrepreneurial approach to comics I really learned a lot from them. Mike Richardson, in the same way. I’ve never met anybody who has a bigger vision than Richardson. I mean he’s always is shooting for the stars and often accomplishes it. And Jim Lee and John Nee at WildStorm, those guys were a duo that I don’t know I’ll ever see again. Jim, you still see it with DC, his ability to recognize what the market wants and the way to get the market excited. I don’t think there’s anybody else who has that clear sense of what works in the direct market the way that Jim Lee does. And John was able to execute his ideas perfectly. And certainly Todd knows exactly what he’s going to do and nobody’s going to get in his way and, God bless him, he’s had great success. I tried to learn from those guys and figure out what I thought worked and didn’t work and sort of apply that to IDW. Particularly as we’ve grown, I’ve tried to recognize the things that I thought had worked at the various companies where I’ve been and apply those, and the things that didn’t work, I’ve tried not to do.

THE BEAT: That must have been a great education.

ADAMS: It is yeah. I had my sort of traditional college education but then my work education and I am created to be a comic book publisher, there’s no question.

THE BEAT: Well, that said, with your own personal interest in the comics business at a lower ebb one day you turned around and suddenly you’re like, you know what? I think publishing comics was actually a good idea. [laughter] What was that moment?

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ADAMS: Honestly, publishing is exciting. I’ve loved books my entire life. Not just comics, but all books. And so I’m just a reader. I read all the time, that’s what I do for entertainment and again not just comics, but I read everything, lots of fiction, lots of nonfiction, I read comics. The thing I like most in life is reading. Being a publisher and being able to hold the book that you brought into the world, that feeling is hard to describe to somebody who is not that passionate about reading. And so for me when we did our very first book, which was Uno Fanta with Ashley Wood, I was crazy proud to have published that book! I can’t even tell you. I’d had my name on, at that point, thousands of comics and books through my various jobs, but having brought a book to the world that didn’t exist before was the sort of high that I hadn’t experienced before. There was almost no money to be made with that book, certainly in the early days of IDW, but that ability to bring a book to market was just something that—it was truly like a drug to me. And I still feel that way! Our printer brings us advanced copies every Thursday and no matter what I’m doing I drop it and go and get the pack that we just published and I sit there and I go through them all. I see things that I like and things that I don’t like about them. But, that high from being able to look at those books and say if I didn’t exist these books likely would not be here, that’s a really good feeling.

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THE BEAT: When you got back into the game with IDW, as I said it was at a low ebb but now I think we’re at what nearly everybody agrees is a golden age. Whether it’s the new material or the archival material. You guys are doing some absolutely ground breaking dream projects, between the archive editions and Library of American Comics. What do you think got us from the dark period to the golden age? Are there any key factors that you can identify?

ADAMS: I think the key factor is that the quality of the material got better. I think when we were at our lull the industry was also at a creative lull and I think that the industry has really raised its game from a creative standpoint. We’ve done that as well. When we were first starting to publish comics books, they frankly weren’t as good as the books that we’re doing today.

If you look at the licensed books that we did when we first got into the game versus the licensed books that we do today, they just weren’t as good. And there’s that stigma that’s associated with a licensed book that I’ve never really understood. I think it’s starting to go away. Our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book is regularly on weekly Best Of lists. It was on a bunch of end of the year Best Of lists. The Godzilla book that we did with James Stokoe was critically acclaimed; the Transformers book that James Roberts writes for us is well received not just by people who like Transformers, but people who like well written comic books. And certainly if you look to our creator owned things like Locke and Key and the books that we’ve done with Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith and Ash Wood—those are all really good comics. We got past that stage where the one thing that was driving the sales was gimmicks and it got to a stage where people were buying books because they were actually reading these books and enjoying the books.

THE BEAT: I guess in a way it’s kind of like everybody had to go through that crucible. People who stuck with comics, certainly it wasn’t easy money at all, it was a struggle. I think it was just the love of it that people stuck with and I think that kind of reignited the passion and the quality that you’re talking about.

ADAMS: Yeah, I think also the expansion of the direct market—I’ve been out there saying this for a long time but I really believe it to be true—what happened with the Ebook versions of comic books was unique in that it actually expanded the audience for those books in a way where people were seeking out the physical books. That certainly wasn’t the case for your local newspaper or for magazines or even for traditional print books, but comic books I think what happened there is that they’ve introduced comic books to people who didn’t know they existed and so some of them people then searched out the physical books in the direct market. I think it also reengaged people who had lapsed from the hobby. So you know if you look at, as you’re saying, ’99 where we were kind of in a lull, lots of people three years before in ’95, ’96 when there were lots of people reading comics, they all went away. Ebooks reengaged a lot of those people and brought them back into the market.

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One of the things that I’ve been talking about, that I’m really passionate about is trying to figure out ways to introduce comic books to new readers and then redirect those readers into the direct market. Most of us figured out comic books, we got it at our 7/11 or our newsstand and eventually fell in love with the medium and we became direct market customers. And I think at IDW we’re very unique sin being able to expand the market in that way. We’ve been doing things like the Micro Fun Packs which are miniature comic books. We had really broad distribution of the Fun Packs so they were at every mass retailer—WalMart, Target, Toys R Us—and our sell-through was crazy. On the first Fun Packs our sell-through averaged about 60% at mass which is unheard of for any product. It’s an extraordinary sell-through. And that Fun Pack has marketing collateral to back, it drives people to the direct market. So if you’re a mom and you picked up these Fun Packs to put in your kids stocking for Christmas and the kid likes it, they’re not going to go back and get more fun packs, the only place really to get that content is through the direct market and our marketing collateral in there is very clear about that.

microfunpack.jpgWe also have comic books in the Transformers toys and it’s the same thing there. If you like that comic book, you got the Transformers toy as a gift for Christmas, you didn’t expect to get the comic book, it’s just a freebie in there. You read it, you liked it, the back of that comic book completely drives you to the direct market. If we’ve done our job right it very clearly explains to you, should you like this comic book, here’s the next thing to buy and here’s the place to buy it. We’re really focused on trying to expand the direct market in that way. I read the thing that Eric Stephenson said at ComicsPRO today and obviously, for whatever reason, he decided to take pot shots at us, but Eric seems to think that you can only expand the market by publishing books that Image publishes and that’s a really narrow minded way to look at it.

THE BEAT: Well that’s his method, to be fair.

ADAMS: Right, and what he did has expanded the market, no question, but Image Comics is not the only way to expand the market, clearly we’re out there doing our part as well. I’ve spoken to I can’t even tell you how many comic shops at this point and been in lots of comic shops all over the country and My Little Pony has brought lots of new readers into comic stores. And the stores that have embraced My Little Pony have found a nice new audience for themselves in the same way that I grew up when I was reading comic books. I started with Spider-Man and very traditional Marvel comics and then moved on to Eclipse and Dark Horse.That should be our goal. We want to get people reading comic books first of all and then of course they’re going to expand as they grow and age and their interests change, they’re going to try different things and sample different things. But it’s really narrow minded to say that the only way to expand the market is with Image Comics.

THE BEAT: Let me ask you about going into mass market, Target, WalMart, Kmart—some of them are barely even mass anymore actually—but you must have heard, as I have things like the key to saving comics might be this, like getting in to record stores or bookstores and getting into Target and WalMart. “Oh if we can only get in to mass!” But it isn’t that simple, is it? What have your experiences been?

ADAMS: What we’re doing with the Fun Packs is so unique because we’re not trying to sell that product where books are being sold. Because the truth is, the kids aren’t going into the bookstore section at Target. No 10-year-old is going and hanging out in the bookstore section at Target! But they are hanging out in the trading card and tchotchke section at the front of the store. It’s clearly aimed at kids. And so that’s why our contact product is so clearly defined to be able to reside in that space and be something that looks like it fits in that space, so that a kid who’s going to go and get a My Little Pony trading card pack might decide oh I’m going to try the comic fun pack instead. That’s our whole goal there. I agree with you completely that the dream of finding new readers by selling graphic novels in the book section at Target is a false hope—it just doesn’t work. But what we’re seeing with Fun Packs is working.

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The other place that I think is a great feeder system for comics but doesn’t get talked about much is the Scholastic book fairs and book clubs. We’ve had tremendous success with them over the years, most recently in the current Scholastic catalogue there are three IDW products, My Little Pony, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One each of those books in the current catalogue. I just got the sell through on those and it’s also extraordinary, it’s through the roof. And it’s the same thing, if a kid gets a Transformers graphic novel through this Scholastic book club and likes it he’s not getting anymore through the book club. The only place for him to go is either to his Ebook device or the direct market. And I think that there’s no question that that has to be a good feeder system for comic shops.

THE BEAT: Can you give us any numbers on the sell through of these? Because I totally agree with you. Scholastic book fairs are kind of another holy grail actually, but they’re a holy grail that seems to work.

ADAMS: Oh it actually worked. We’ve been selling to them for years.

THE BEAT: That’s what I like about you Ted, you’ll give us an actual number!

ADAMS: They’re actually looking to be completely sold out by summer. So you’re talking about virtually 100% sell through in significant six figure quantities for all three of those books.

THE BEAT: There’s my headlines for this interview! I was just looking at the BookScan end of year came out and Brian Hibbs had his analysis of it. It’s amazing that even with all the difficulties of book publishing, that this market is still growing is incredible.

ADAMS: BookScan is weird because I’ve never been able to wrap my head around BookScan to be honest with you. Anytime we’ve done a BookScan on one of our books it just doesn’t reflect reality, not even close to reality. It’s so off that I’m just not sure, I don’t know where they’re sourcing information. So I stopped giving any credence to BookScan years and years and years ago. I know what our sell through is and then I can look at the BookScan and they just don’t match up at all.

THE BEAT: Interesting. I always say in places that report to BookScan this is what sold, but this is not what sold everywhere. But talking about the Scholastic numbers, I think it’s important for people to know that you could sell six figures of a graphic novel if it’s the right material and it’s in front of the audience that it’s aimed at, especially kids.

ADAMS: Even the Fun Packs are in the hundreds of thousands [of units.]

THE BEAT: Whoa.

ADAMS: Those are real big numbers. I would guess the month that we released the Fun Packs that we outsold whatever the best selling direct market comic books significantly—I wouldn’t be surprised if it was probably 2 to 1.

[In part two, more on digital and what’s coming up for IDW in 2014.]

Nice Art: first look at a page of Walt Simonsons’s Ragnarök

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Walt Simonson’s new book from IDW is coming out this summer and the pitch is as simple as it is irresistible. It’s called Ragnarök, and it is Simonson’s take on the original Norse Mythology. Considering what he did with this raw material in his beloved run on Thor, this should be a treat.

And here’s a preview of a pencilled page from FB.

Like.

Five days of Valentines: Weird Love

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This is a teaser for an upcoming book called Weird Love, edited by Craig Yoe about which you will learn more today, I believe,

Stephen Mooney Wraps Up Half Past Danger’s First Volume [Interview]

Stephen Mooney’s miniseries Half Past Danger comes out in a big hardcover edition today, published by IDW. It’s a story of heroes versus dinosaurs, with Nazis, femme fatales and even the odd ninja thrown in, all written and drawn in incredible fashion by Mooney as his first creator-owned and made project. I spoke to Mooney last year just before the very first issue came out, and he told The Beat how he prepared, designed, made and funded the project by himself.

So with the trade out today, it seemed like a great time to catch up with him on the series! He kindly agreed to a wrap-up interview of sorts for the first volume of his series, and we spoke about the past year, and where he’ll be going next.

[Read more…]

Mimi Yoon defends her Powerpuff Girls cover

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And down the rabbit hole we go…artist Mimi Yoon has defended her “grown up Powerpuff Girls” cover for the comic that was withdrawn after some complaints online. The cover—showing adult versions of the girls drawn in a very tame version of a more fetishy, girlie style that Yoon often uses—was criticized for being an inappropriate for the cover of a kids comic—Yoon posted a public piece on Facebook about the matter:

i am quite overwhelmed but will try to reply all of the supportive messages as soon as i can. and i will continue to create art embracing the beauty of women and femininity. i find all of the accusations for my Powerpuff Girls image sexualizing minors not only ridiculous but also embarrassing (for the accusers) and disturbing especially since it’s started by a person of such value as seen in the pictures below. a person argued that i’ve gained popularity from the situation, but I’VE NEVER ASKED FOR ANY OF THIS, ESPECIALLY IN THIS MANNER. and i’m curious to know why are all the arguments about trying to keep the image away from the girls? what about the boys?

The “person of such value” is retailer Dennis Barger, who is seen in some pretty well known photos hanging out with strippers after a day at the Detroit Fanfare.

While I can understand Yoon’s dismay—and as she points out the image has been seen in more places than it ever would have had the controversy not arisen—it doesn’t really change anything I said in my last post. And Yoon herself doesn’t seem to be to clear on marketing: PPG is “for girls,” not “for boys.” I mean I guess if you slapped a sexy cover on it it would be more for boys, since that is the unievrsla signal for “Boys welcome here”, but that would be…unfortunate.

I think there’s a happy ending to this—in a tweet IDW eic Chris Ryall indicated that they’ve hired Yoon for another cover, and I’m sure there are a ton of books at IDW that would be appropriate for her attractive, but more pin-up focused art.

Then there’s the matter of Dennis Barger and the strippers. I’m not a big fan of going to strip clubs after a hard day at the convention, but to be fair, just because he goes to strip clubs, doesn’t mean he can’t be concerned about off-target art on the cover of a children’s comic. The two things are actually not related. Oh these kerfuffles, they are getting more and more complicated with every passing day.
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In The Dark Heads to IDW for Hardcover Collection

Current and future comic book hero Rachel Deering’s anthology In The Dark – which had a very successful Kickstarter campaign last year – will be coming to IDW in April.

[Read more…]

Former DC PR vet David Hyde launches Superfan

customLogoFormer DC VP of publicity David Hyde is back and he’s got his own PR firm, Superfan. Initial clients include D&Q, cartoonist Dan Goldman and novelist Samuel Sattin, according to PW.

Hyde’s initial clients include acclaimed Montreal-based graphic novel house Drawn & Quarterly where he is working on campaigns for cartoonist Art Speigelman (Co-Mix) and writer and magazine editor Tavi Gevinson (Rookie Yearbook Two). Hyde will also work on the publicity and marketing for comics artist Dan Goldman, whose webcomic Red Light Properties will be released in print in early 2014 by IDW Publishing. In addition Superfan Promotions is working with novelist Samuel Sattin’s League of Somebodies, a paperback original released earlier in 2013 by Dark Coast Press and has just released as an audiobook by Audible.


Hyde told PW he is the process of “finalizing additional clients.”

Hyde oversaw the rollout of DC’s New 52, one of the most mega successful comics marketing events ever, as well as a ton of other impressive comics events while at DC. So I guess now when people ask me (as they do constantly) “do you know anyone who does comic book PR?” I know where to send them. PR below:

David Hyde, former DC Entertainment Vice President of Publicity and Random House veteran, announced today the launch of his new company, Superfan Promotions LLC. The Los Angeles based company will create publicity and marketing campaigns, events, and social media engagement for authors, artists, conventions, festivals, stores, entertainment companies and publishers.

“Superfan Promotions’ mission is to collaborate on creative promotional campaigns that resonate with a mainstream audience but also engage passionate superfans.” said Hyde. “The company’s first clients, including an esteemed graphic novel publisher, a literary debut novelist and an acclaimed writer/artist, reflect the diversity of the kinds of projects that I’m looking to champion.”

Superfan Promotions provides scalable promotional models to fit the different needs of clients and their projects. Services are customizable and campaigns range in length and scope from weekly, monthly to ongoing engagements. Superfan Promotions provides results-driven strategy and buzzworthy coverage with traditional news outlets, lifestyle and entertainment press, Hollywood trades, tastemaker blogs, and popular comic book, gaming and tech sites.

David Hyde is a respected public relations professional with over 15 years of experience, specializing in executing creative multimedia campaigns for graphic novels, comic books and literary genre fiction. He began his publicity career at Vintage and Anchor books, where he worked with novelists like Alexander McCall Smith (The # 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY), Jonathan Lethem (MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN), Richard Russo (The Pulitzer Prize-winning EMPIRE FALLS) and James Ellroy (THE COLD SIX THOUSAND); as well as bestselling nonfiction books including Erik Larson’s ISAAC’S STORM and Gary Kinder’s SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

At DC Entertainment, David helped bring unprecedented sustained mainstream attention to the comic book art form with regular exposure in the ASSOCIATED PRESS, BUZZFEED, CNN, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, HUFFINGTON POST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, THE NEW YORK TIMES, PLAYBOY, TV GUIDE and USA TODAY, while also working with corporate communications, feature film productions and toy launches tied into the comic book line. He worked on graphic novels like PRIDE OF BAGHDAD by Brian K Vaughan and Niko Henrichon and THE QUITTER by Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel and comic books including IDENTITY CRISIS by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales and the launch of DC COMICS: THE NEW 52, a historic renumbering and rebooting of the company’s entire line of superhero comics.

For more information, follow the company on Facebook and Twitter or visit www.superfanpromotions.com.

Nice Art: CP WIlson III’s Wraith Covers


In this case I must totally agree with IDW e-i-c- Chris Ryall here.
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Wilson is perhaps best known for Th3rd World Studios The Stuff of Legend, but his Wraith covers are a delight.

In case you’re wondering, Wraith is written by Joe Hill and set in the Christmasland universe of his novel NOS4A2.

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Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 11/21/13: We must all go to Columbus now

11 galleries robinson 650x485§ Bill Kartalopoulos went to the The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum opening and he thought it was pretty awesome.

Another major holding is the International Museum of Comic Art Collection, a large and diverse body of comics artwork and related materials in multiple formats and genres originally collected by Mort Walker for his former museum. Other holdings include the Jay Kennedy Collection (comprising more than 9,500 underground comix), the Bill Watterson Deposit Collection (including the entirety of Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes artwork), the Jeff Smith Deposit Collection (including the complete artwork for his Bone series) and the Dylan Williams Collection, named after the late cartoonist/publisher and dedicated to mini-comics and small press material (enhanced greatly by a large donation of material by comics critic and journalist Tom Spurgeon). In all, the Museum’s collection includes more than 300,000 pieces of artwork, 45,000 books, 67,000 serials, and 2.5 million newspaper clippings and pages, among other materials. This includes the largest collection of manga outside Japan, numbering more than 20,000 volumes.


In a later part of the review, there’s ths newsy nugget:

In a panel devoted to pedagogy, Center for Cartoon Studies founder James Sturm announced that his school had instituted a new track devoted to what he called “applied cartooning,” which he described as a concentration designed to serve applicants who wished to produce comics intended to inform, persuade and heal, or to facilitate work in other fields rather than stand alone on the basis of their artistic worth. Sturm revealed that a collaboration between the school and a nearby veterans’ hospital had already begun, introducing comics-based concepts and practice into therapies designed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.


“Applied Comics” are a very important trend I expect to see a lot more of in coming months and years.

§ The New Republic’s Jed Perl went to the Art Spiegelman show at the Jewish Museum and did not think it was awesome. I saw the show at a preview and I might have more thoughts after a more leisurely viewing, but Spiegelman is clearly a conceptual artist in most cases. Anyway, I didn’t agree with this beatdown.

§ Rob Salkowitz examines the Fantagraphics Kickstarter and wonder if it presages Kickstarter 2.0.

§ GQ Magazine interviews Adrian Tomine, who reveals his party strategies among other things.

Adrian Tomine: If I had a good answer, then I don’t think these kinds of events would be so awkward for me! If I’m just at a regular party where I don’t know anyone, then I don’t really care and I can just lurk in the corner and enjoy my drink. But New Yorker parties are especially awkward for me because I recognize all kinds of great artists and writers whom I’d love to talk to, but I just don’t feel comfortable bothering them. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend my schtick of  repeatedly asking where the coat check is. It’s usually quite obvious where it is (near the door, generally), and people are made uncomfortable by such a stupid question.

§ Former Marvel PR maven James Viscardi has launched a podcast; first up, an indepth chat with Rick Remender.

3 905§ Zainab Akhtar has discovered cartoonist Jamie Coe.

§ HEADLINE OF THE DAY: Graphic Novels: Not just for kids

“At first I was surprised about ten years ago when they started getting really popular,” says Kotarski. “Now it makes sense to me. This generation has been using computers since they were babies; they often learned to read using video games like Reader Rabbit so they’re use to busy formats. Graphic novels aren’t as appealing tome because I like organization. But I read Maus and was moved to tears.”

§ Moving on to showbiz, remember when IDW opened a TV/entertainment division a few weeks back? Well now they are putting it to use by developing a TV show based on a comic by actor Michael Chiklis (the Thing, The Shield) which they published a few years back.

The actor/producer has teamed with IDW Entertainment, the recently launched TV division of IDW Publishing, to develop and produce Pantheon as a scripted live-action television series. IDW Entertainment will fund the development of the project, co-produced by Circle of Confusion, which is attached to oversee packaging and creative development for the new company. Created by Chiklis, Anny Simon Beck and Marc Andreyko, the 5-issue Pantheon comic book series is a dark and stylized story of ancient Greek gods returning to a ravaged, chaotic near-future Earth, where they battle for the fate of mankind.


That’s a pretty ambitious idea for a TV actor guy. Anyhoo, synergy in action, folks.

§ But then sometimes things don’t go so well, as with the languishing pilot for IDW’s Locke and Key. Writer Joe Hill is now the new hotness, developing a reboot of the horror anthology Tales From the Darkside. In a story about that he reveals some Hollywood shenanigans. Universal is now looking at a Locke and Key movie, but they fear that Fox will undercut them by releasing the pilot:

Explaining further, Hill added, “FOX wants to see some coin on all the money they sank into the pilot in the first place. The lawyers all have to validate their salaries. That said, Alex and Bob are the two most tenacious people I’ve ever met, and if anyone can see ‘Locke & Key’ through the contractual maze, and on into production, it’s them. Of course all this could’ve been avoided if FOX had just made the series. I know I’m biased, but I kinda think they bet on the wrong ponies that season.”

§ And in the department of Not Letting Things Go, director Frank Darabont termed the people who run the Walking Dead
‘Sociopaths’ for firing him after the first season.

“Oh god no, why would I,” he says. “If the woman you loved with all your heart left you for the Pilates instructor and just sent you an invitation to the wedding, would you go?”

He continues, “There’s a deep commitment and emotional investment that happens when you create something that is very near and dear to you, and when that is torn asunder by sociopaths who don’t give a shit about your feelings or the feelings of your cast and crew because they have their own reasons to screw everybody, that doesn’t feel good.”


Darabont must be comforted by having his own new series coming out, Mob City, starring Walking Dead alum/dead cast member, Jon Bernthal. Plus, the fourth season is going more in the direction Darabont originally planned, wth a wider view of the zombie holocaust and more personal stories. Finally, Darabont, lest we forget, can just bask in the glory of being Frank Darabont becuase, Shawshank Redemption.

NYCC ’13 Panel Recap: Editors on Editing with Scott Allie, Chris Ryall and Warren Simons

Under the watchful eye of Buddy Scalera, the editors-in-chief for Dark Horse, IDW and Valiant gathered to advise writers and artists on how to break into the industry – offering an invaluable look at the comics industry from the editorial perspective. Scott Allie, Chris Ryall and Warren Simons are some of the sharpest people in comics: this was a great panel.

[Read more…]

David Hedgecock joins IDW as Managing Editor

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Sounds like IDW is ramping up their publishing, if the addition of David Hedgecock—formerly CEO at APE Entertainment—is any indication. Hedgecock has joined IDW as Managing Editor, where he will help oversee and coordinate editorial activities as well as work to develop new talent and special projects.

“IDW is a powerhouse of creative energy and I’m thrilled to be joining the team at such an important moment in the company’s history,” said Hedgecock, in a statement.

“David’s considerable publishing experience and acumen, as well as his eye for talent and his solid reputation with the many creators he’s worked all make for a very welcome addition to IDW’s editorial staff,” said Chris Ryall, IDW’s Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief in his own statement.

Hedgecock served as CEO at Ape for six years, where he helped oversee that company’s moves in childrens and video game based comics. Whether or not his departure means anything for the health of Ape, it’s definitely a good move for IDW.

IDW opens a TV division as sales grow by 35%

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While IDW’s flag was planted by the film adaptation of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, since then they’ve been more in the licensed comics business, with a few hits like LOCKE AND KEY, which bounced around the development wheels of Hollywood. Well, looking to be more proactive, they’re opening a TV division, the LA Times reports. David Ozer, formerly of Starz Media and an executive producer on The Walking Dead, will run the division, called IDW Entertainment. Circle of Confusion, IDW’s longtime management company, will oversee development as well as house the effort in their offices.

Following a path similar to Marvel Studios’, IDW plans to develop and finance its own projects and retain the rights, thereby maintaining more creative and financial control.

‘IDW is a powerhouse of creativity, and the studios recognize that potential,’ said Rick Jacobs, a Circle of Confusion producer and chief creative officer of the new TV division. ‘By financing its own television projects, the company is now poised to become a major player across all media platforms. Our hope is that we will be able to … move faster to get these projects from the comic books to being on the air, as opposed to getting mired down in the long development process.’

IDW already has a a bunch of projects in development, including:

  • Life Undead, a New Orleans supernatual detective story, co-executive-produced by Chris Pollack with Paul Zbyszewski (S.H.I.E.L.D and Lost)
  • Brooklyn Animal Control, a New York based werewolf story, with writer-director J.T. Petty and artist Stephen Thompson attached.
  • V Wars, based on the Vampire Wars books by Jonathan Maberry
  • Lore, based on Ashley Wood’s comic, is in development as a film at Disney.
  • World War Robot, another Wood project currently being developed by Jerry Bruckheimer.
  • Zombies vs. Robots, another project by Wood and IDW’S e-i-c Chriss Ryall, is at Sony Pictures.

Some tidbits from the piece:

  • IDW has 42 employees and uses 275 freelance artists around the world.
  • Sales this year are expected to be about 5 million comic books and 1 million graphic novels, for about $20 million.
  • Sales are up 35% this year over last.
  • IDW hopes to have one project on TV by the end of 2014

In a statement, IDW added some info on Ozer:

 

An accomplished global television executive, David Ozer brings his extensive experience in sales and financing to IDW Entertainment. In his new role, Ozer will work with Adams to identify, develop and oversee brand extensions across IDW Publishing’s portfolio of comics and graphic novels for the global television market. A key focus for the division is the financing, development and production of television series with the goal of securing straight-to-series commitments from networks. Ozer’s background includes executive level roles at Sonar Entertainment, Starz Media/IDT Entertainment and DIC Entertainment.