Scribd aims to become to become THE streaming app for comics with Marvel, IDW, Valiant and more


WHO will be the Netflix/Spotify of comics? Several companies have been trying to offer all you can eat comcis buffets, but a lack of top content has been holding them back. But Scribd just made a major play announcing a $8.99 a month plan that allows you access to 10,000 comics, including top titles from Marvel, IDW/Top Shelf, Archie, Dynamite and Valiant. Scribd has been around for a while as en embeddable pdf reader, and already offers over a million ebooks and audiobooks on a subscription basis, so this makes a lot of sense.

Titles in the 10,000 book library include Spider-Man, My Little Pony, X-O Manowar, Lcoke & Key and graphic novels by Alan Moore, Matt Fraction, Gail Simone, George R.R. Martin and more—so a lot of good content but not everything available on Marvel Unlimited, for instance.
“We are very excited to take this step in expanding our subscription service beyond books,” said Trip Adler, co-founder and CEO of Scribd in a statement. “This addition gives comics readers the freedom of unlimited reading, while also giving our ebook and audiobook lovers the opportunity to discover comics and graphic novels.”

“IDW and Top Shelf have been considering subscription models for comics for some time,” said Jeff Webber, IDW’s Vice President of Digital Publishing & Business Development in his own statement. “Scribd came to us with the perfect opportunity to offer the entire catalog to fans and new readers. Time for some binge-reading!”

“For decades, a driving force at Marvel has been the desire to put comics in the hands of new readers,” sschimed in Daniele Campbell, Marvel’s VP CRM. “Our partnership with Scribd allows some of Marvel’s greatest stories to sit alongside Scribd’s already vast and eclectic catalogue of content in an effort to reach readers who might not have access to a comic shop.”

Ever unafraid to take a digital plunge, IDW is offering a two month free trial running until 2/17, where as regular Scribd offers a one month trial.

I’ve never been a fan of how Scribd embeds work in blog posts, but I never tried their sub service, which is optimized for tablets, so I’m sure it will be a better reading experience.

$8.99 — the cost of a mere two or three comics a month— is a pretty reasonable deal—well this be the next killer app? What do you all think? Will you sign up?

Some more deets on the content:

●        Classic Comics – Classic runs of the Avengers, the X-Men, Daredevil, Archie, Judge Dredd, the Rocketeer and more
●        Top Characters – Spider-Man, the Avengers, Betty and Veronica, Kevin Keller, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, G.I. Joe, Bloodshot, Adventure Time
●        Major Creators – Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Fiona Staples, Darwyn Cooke, Mark Waid, Ed Brubaker, Renee French, Jeffrey Brown, Joe Hill, and many more
●        Acclaimed Graphic Novels – March, From Hell, Swallow Me Whole, Underwater Welder, Spiral-Bound, The Ticking, Too Cool to Be Forgotten
●        Award Winners – League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 30 Days of Night, Locke & Key, Alec, Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed?
●      Hit YA Titles – Ultimate Spider-Man, Runaways, Afterlife With Archie, Harbinger, Lumberjanes
●        Manga – Partnership with MediaDo brings titles from Cork and Harlequin Manga, including work by acclaimed artist Moyoco Anno
●        Leading Publishers – Marvel, Arcana, Archie, Boom! Studios, Dynamite, IDW/Top Shelf, Kingstone, Space Goat, Top Cow, Valiant, Zenescope

Marvel Announces A-Force by Bennett, Wilson and Molina

I guess the View ladies boofed this but the news is out– and PSYCHE IT WASN’T STAR WARS! Marvel is gathering its heroines for A-Force, an all female Avengers, with the creative team of Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson and Jorge Molina.

A raft of PR went out at 11:30 after the View was supposed to announce this, but they didn’t because…. Martha Stewart came on and talked about fringe, and Kim Catrall talked about life after the city of sex or something. YOU CANNOT CONTROL THE LADIES OF THE VIEW, people.

HuffPo supplies more of what we need to know:
Marvel Comics has gathered an all-female team of Avengers, who will begin saving the world this May. Fan favorite characters like She-Hulk, Dazzler, Medusa and Nico Minoru star in “A-Force,” a new monthly series that will follow these women as they fight evil. It’s written by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite K. Bennett, with artwork from Jorge Molina.

“We’ve purposefully assembled a team composed of very different characters — from disparate parts of the Marvel U, with very different power sets, identities and ideologies,” Wilson said in a statement. “They’ll all have to come together to answer some big questions: what would you sacrifice to succeed? What is being a hero worth?” The A-Force will also introduce, Singularity, a cosmically charged brand new super hero to the universe.
“Our heroines embody the ideals of what we can each strive to be,” Bennett said in the same statement. “A-Force” is Marvel’s 15th female-led comic series and represents a dramatic shift in comic culture. Last September, Marvel made waves when it announced that the new Thor would be a woman.

“Marvel has always celebrated the diversity of its family of characters and creators,” series editor Daniel Ketch said. “This new series will unite Marvel’s mightiest heroines with the exceptionally creative minds of writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett to craft a story full of epic battles, personal triumphs, and heart-stopping peril … and an all-new character who will push the boundaries of diversity in comic books even further.”


Oh and here’s a variant cover by Stephanie Hans.


Nate Powell and Chris Ross on How They Designed ‘March’

by Nate Powell and Chris Ross

[Editor’s note: The release this week of March Book Two by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell has already made headlines with its story of the fight for civil rights in the 60s, and the covers to both volumes have become iconic in their own right. The message of the courage to fight for equality for all in the face of violent opposition is as relevant and needed today as it was 50 years ago. But powerful images to cover powerful times don’t always spring up fully formed. Here Powell and Top Shelf designer Chris Ross with an in-depth breakdown of how they created these covers and combined imagery to capture both history and ideals.]



NATE: March was originally a single, massive volume, so the initial front and back covers were intended to house the entire narrative: the front introduced the basic visual theme of opposition, with two elements facing off against each other, though a contingent of riot-ready white supremacist police were prominently featured across the bottom. After some discussion with Chris Ross, Andrew Aydin, and Congressman Lewis, we all agreed that we should shift some of that focus to the folks on the front lines, and away from Jim Crow police forces. Around that time, we decided to release the saga as a trilogy, so Chris and I jumped in to further develop the oppositional themes, but playing with different angles and approaches to the cover’s division.


NATE: The marching feet motif, like the book’s title, are rooted in one of Congressman Lewis’ favorite Martin Luther King quotes, “There is no sound more powerful than the marching feet of a determined people.” We experimented with a lot of other design elements, but in the end kept coming back to that unshakable image.

CHRIS: I think we also had to be very conscious of being white males metaphorically designing the “skin” of a graphic novel about the civil rights movement. For example, there’s a common trope in graphic design, especially featuring marginalized people, of representing characters as body parts, “cut off” by the edges and removed from any context. Women are reduced to legs, breasts, or butts. Black men are reduced to chests and backs. Lots of folks believe that that’s not coincidental, and doing that carries a unique meaning when we represent the race and the body. So in the context of marching feet, it’s important to add depth and see whole bodies in the background, while also showing faces where we can, conveying an accurate and diverse range of these folks’ unique experiences and emotional states. It gives context to the movement and The Movement.

Beat-March-DNATE: Once we settled on the lunch counter setting and I’d rendered it, a few more essential steps unfolded; importantly, there were a few re-draws of young John Lewis’ face to more perfectly capture his likeness, but several compositional changes occurred (eliminating the crowd of white heckers in the background, making the “Counter Closed” sign more legible, and adding condiment bottles to the counter, which really tied the whole room together, as The Dude might put it).

CHRIS: The type treatment began as Nate’s hand-rendered type, but the book “read” as a Nate Powell Book (alongside the fantastic Any Empire and Swallow Me Whole). This isn’t a problem because a Nate Powell Book is important and beautiful (as is Nate Powell), but March is in a different category and should have its own identity. So, we made a type treatment that was drawn from the interstate highway system, alongside some key fonts that I completely ripped off serve as homage to Eric Skillman [designer of Alec: The Years Have Pants and the Criterion Collection], whose spirit I tried to summon. Skillman is such a talented designer. So then I played with the type until it looked like the logotype March has always existed.

NATE: Chris had an incredible vision of the books as objects, as documents of that era whose contents had also survived the struggle. He brilliantly envisioned Book One as a second-hand textbook one might find in a segregated rural African-American school, like the one young John Lewis attended; the volume would bear the marks of excessive taping and binding, spine and corner wear… and the signed-and-numbered hardcover itself would include mid-century library card inserts and stamps.

CHRIS: Thanks Tualatin Elementary School librarians! But that is sort of an emerging trope—books as objects from other time periods and existing as living objects. I think it works when the designer and artist and author consider that the cover is not only going to communicate something to the reader, but that it will live a life exclusively with the reader. That’s a nice way of saying patina works in interesting ways and meanings on a cover, but it really does detract, in my opinion, when it’s an interior design choice. It makes me wonder how these books with interior patinas will affect readability in ten–twenty years. I’m guilty of thinking and designing like that myself. I think it seems like an easy tool in the toolchest, and I have to remember these books will last (and should be built to last) a long time. They live, as any teacher or librarian will tell you.

NATE: Likewise, Book Two’s cover is a survivor of that fateful bus burning along the Freedom Ride in Alabama, bearing the scorch marks and reconstructive tape necessary to keep it together as the Movement itself was threatened to be derailed.

CHRIS: The tape was originally the tape I was going to use on The Underwater Welder cover, but decided to go with a fabric texture with Welder and remembered the tape when we were noodling on March.

Beat-March-E NATE: We knew almost immediately what I wanted to be represented on the cover of Book Two, so it came together with very minimal sketching, but also opened up a series of conversations among the creative team. Congressman Lewis wanted to make sure that, even as a young man amidst the center of the Freedom Ride, he wasn’t exploiting the power of that burning bus’s image for the cover. Rep. Lewis had actually left the Freedom Ride for a couple of days to interview for activist work abroad, and as he was about to rejoin the Riders he discovered his bus had been attacked.

CHRIS: It’s such a dramatic rendering.

NATE: It was a powerful moment for reflection: that these experiences and their suffering were, part of a collective journey for liberation, but that can never undermine the fact that they were specific, real acts of terrorism inflicting deep trauma, injury, and death. To young John Lewis’ friends, neighbors, heroes, and to himself. It was a call to be mindful of ownership over these experiences. At the same time, he (and we) measured his own mandate to “tell the whole story,” to “make it plain.” At our consensus, I drew an alternate top for the Book Two cover depicting demonstrators at the March On Washington moving across the National Mall. After careful consideration, Congressman Lewis concluded that the original cover spoke more powerfully to the whole truth of the Movement and its struggle.


CHRIS: That alternative cover is really interesting, and it plays against the angles that we had set up, the angles of action. If we were going that way, we’d have to reconsider the dutch angle and the directions of movement above and below the title.


Beat-March-FNATE: Color and angles have played an important role in reflecting both the books’ individual contents and their placement in the narrative arc: Book One is largely the yellow of caution and instruction, urging slow, careful movements before the saga intensifies. Book Two is mostly the blue-and-grey of the previous century’s American Civil War, but carrying the gold/green/red palette of the first book forward as well. I will only briefly mention that the cover of Book Three may use the color scheme of the Alabama state flag, and the previously separated opposing elements have now been pushed into the same picture plane. The volumes begin with flat, ninety-degree compositions, but shift in design and camera placement as the Movement intensifies, echoing a literal escalation of angles across the covers.


CHRIS: I remember one of the color guides we were thinking about was really blue and yellow (the second from the left above), like Boy Scout blue and yellow, and it made the cover vibrate, but not really in a way that was communicating what we wanted to communicate. Beat-March-G


NATE: Just as we aimed for consistency and progression of theme on the front covers and total package, Chris Ross presented the idea of creating a triptych out of the saga’s back covers. One of us brought up the idea of Theodore Parker’s quote, adapted and immortalized by Dr. King, that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”, and we didn’t have to look long to find a perfect physical arc in the Edmund Pettus Bridge itself.


CHRIS: I wanted that as an art piece—a consistent narrative arc through time and this project. Standalone. Thematically linked through history that these conflicts get played out over longer time periods than humans live, and that through hard work and sacrifice, it gets incrementally better…we hope.


NATE: As I remember, I drew the Book One back cover waaaaay back in late 2011, when March was a single volume. I could see it very clearly in my mind’s eye, and just did one quick watercolor sketch before turning in the finished piece. Once we decided to make it a trilogy the next summer, we started looking ahead in content to pull out physical arcs and arches that might apply to our concept. I knew that Book Two would end with the bombing of 16th Street Baptist in Birmingham and wanted the blown-out window to be on the back cover as an eternal echo of the book itself, but it wasn’t until I started gathering more reference, much closer to the book’s end, that I realized the arch already continued in the blown-out window’s design.


Beat-March-HCHRIS: We also chose to crop the image on the back so that it displayed four missing panels—representing the four girls killed in the bombing. Then those missing panels become rays of sunshine.


Beat-March-ICHRIS: We find these coincidental things in our “discovery” of a cover, and it’s like they’re always already there. It’s also why I like designing covers FAR in advance of their release: not just for marketing reasons, but so that the creators can live with it for a long time, to become intimate with the cover, to feel like that cover has always existed. In fact, the book cover for March: Book Two was finished a few days after we finished the cover for Book One. Right now, we’re narrowing down the cover for Book Three.


NATE: On that note, I remembered the Birmingham window from my initial reading of Walking with the Wind, its Christ’s face blown out by the explosion—but I had to check in with Andrew and the Congressman halfway through drawing Book Two, in which the face of Christ is also blown out by a brick at First Baptist in Montgomery in 1961. It was eerie and disturbing to confirm both of these events, and from a writing perspective, the kind of thing you just can’t make up. So there it was. There they both were.


CHRIS: I didn’t know that—and that both these representations become something a bit more profound, a bit more representative of the movement. Kindness in the face (literally) of violent oppression.


NATE: We have elements in place to continue the overarching composition for Book Three—that’s being worked on right now (it’s sitting next to me at the desk!), but nothing to show yet. Back to the drawing table… gotta get these color sketches for the next cover done pronto!


CHRIS: That’s really the fun, terrifying, crazy, beautiful part: finding the engine of meaning and narrative in this story and doing some very Deep Thinking about what this engine looks like, how the elements that aesthetically speak to you play with Rep. Lewis’, Andrew’s, and Nate’s story. And represent them in meaningful ways. And hope that they always appear to have always existed.


March: Book One and March: Book Two are in stores now from Top Shelf Productions, an imprint of IDW Publishing.

Andy Runton’s Owly Books is going self published

When IDW acquired Top Shelf a few weeks ago, there was much talk about creators like Alan Moore staying around, but Top Shelf’s Chris Staros made it clear that he had discussed the move in advance with his top creators.

One much liked book that Top Shelf published for about a decade is Andy Runton’s Owly series, a steady seller that helped establish kids content in the indy world long before it was fashionable. However, as noted by Johanna Draper Carlson, Runton tweeted that he would be self-publishing Owly going forward.

I reached out to Runton for more information and he explained that this had aboslutely nothing to do with the IDW deal. His contract with Top Shelf actually ran out last year, and he had made plans to self publisher starting then. “I’ve been thinking about self publishing for a long time and have gotten some great advice from Terry and Robyn Moore,” he told The Beat. However, a series of personal setbacks put this on hold for all of 2014, and he has no firm publishing lans yet. Hopefully, we’ll see Owly coming back in 2015, and Runton back on top form.

UPDATED: IDW acquires Top Shelf, from Alan Moore to Zander Cannon


Updated: Chris Staros responded to my enquiries about Alan Moore with the following:

“I had extensive talks with Alan — as well as our other creators — about the deal, and knowing that I would be his single point of contact for all current and future works to be published under the Top Shelf imprint, he’s okay with everything moving forward as is. For me, being that Alan was the reason I got into comics in the first place — as it was V for Vendetta that gave me the epiphany, and showed me the potential of the medium of comics — to go from one of his greatest fans, to his publisher on From Hell, League, etc., has been the greatest honor of my life. So to continue this relationship, as well as our co-publishing partnership with our great friends at Knockabout in the UK, is something I cherish, and am extremely proud of.”

Well, bam, 2015 is off to a rousing start, with news breaking this morning that San Diego’s IDW has acquired Atlanta/PDX’s Top Shelf, with Top Shelf’s Chris Staros to remain as Editor in Chief, while partner Brett Warnock retires from comics to run a food and nature blog. Top Shelf will remain as a separate line at IDW, while Leigh Walton, Chris Ross and Zac Boone will all stay on at the new imprint.

Top Shelf has a backlist that includes everything from Jeff Lemire’s beloved in Canada Essex Trilogy to some of Jeffrey Brown’s best books to the civil rights juggernaut March to James Kochalka to Jess Fink to….well just about everything. The film The Surrogates was based on the Robert Venditti-written Top Shelf book. Perhaps most famously, they are the main US publisher for new Alan Moore. But more about that below.

Most aspects of the deal—just about everything except the terms—are covered in a very thorough FAQ included in the PR, from the fact that Bill Schanes brokered the deal to Top Shelf’s books being warehoused by Diamond right alongside IDWs.

But here’s The Beat’s own four hours of sleep FAQ:

downloadIs this a good thing?
Hard to see how it isn’t. Top Shelf gets some capital and IDW gets market share that will almost certainly boost it permanently into fourth place on the Diamond charts. It was obvious to observers that Top Shelf had settled down a bit in recent years; their output remains top notch but running a small indie press leads to a lot of wear and tear. Hopefully I’d expect the Top Shelf booth to remain its own thing—if the fez and lights set goes down, I’m protesting.

As long as Staros remains editor in chief, the line should stay the same. Staros and Warnock forged very strong relationships with a lot of indie cartoonists when they were up and coming—and those relationships are part of what IDW bought. That said, some creators were moving their backlist to other publishers—Matt Kindt took all his books to Dark Horse, for example. I’m guessing that were he still at IDW/Top Shelf, the new entity would have been a more attractive offering.

What about Alan Moore?
That said, Top Shelf is the only company besides Avatar that’s been able to work with Alan Moore in the US, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books not to mention the backlist titan From Hell are like printing money. Moore had a reversion clause in his contract—if Top Shelf was sold, he could take his books elsewhere. While Top Shelf would still be an attractive take over without Moore, with Moore it’s still a license to print money, and it’s a certainty that the acquisition had to be vetted with Moore before it went through. Top Shelf, along with Knockabout, Moore’s UK publisher, has been a strong publishing partner for Moore for more than a decade—the handling of Lost Girls being a sterling example.

Interestingly, LoeG’s acquiring editor, Scott Dunbier actually works at IDW now, although my understanding is that the two are no longer close. However, that Ted Adams is able to work with the one person possibly more cranky than Alan Moore, Dave Sim, shows that he has some serious negotiating skills.

All that said, as I’ve pointed out many times, just treating Moore with respect as an author would have stopped all his problems with DC dead in their tracks. Ted Adams is nothing if not a student of history, and as long as Staros stays the Moore whisperer all should be well.

As I post this, neither IDW nor Top Shelf had responded to inquiries about the Moore mater.

What can IDW do for Top Shelf?
IDW already has a bunch of imprints, Yoe Books, Library of American Comics and so on, but despite some strong books, they have never been in the forefront of creator owned series. A lot of Top Shelf books are not giant money makers, but in today’s comics market, selling books by Jeffrey Brown, Alan Moore and John Lewis shouldn’t require decathlon-like exertion. Alan Moore’s DC books are backlist perennials, which shouldn’t From Hell be one too?

Top Shelf is one of the longest running “boutique” indie publishers, and one of the largest, bu in a world of razor thin margins, that still doesn’t men anyone, publisher or creator was rolling in the dough. I predicted we’d see some consolidation in 2015—this isn’t the lineup I was expecting, but it makes 100% sense.

“The acquisition of Top Shelf is a milestone for IDW,” said Ted Adams, IDW CEO and publisher. “We looked a very long time for a company that would complement our own publishing line-up, and in Top Shelf we found the ideal match. The addition of Top Shelf’s library further positions IDW’s leadership role among the top powerhouses in comics.”

Top Shelf will remain a distinct imprint within IDW and co-founder Chris Staros will join the company as Editor-in-Chief, Top Shelf Productions. Top Shelf’s fans can expect the same independent editorial approach that has garnered industry-wide awards and made it an envy among its peers.

“IDW is committed to preserving and growing the Top Shelf brand, which we’ve long admired” said IDW president and COO Greg Goldstein. “Chris and his team have built a great working relationship with creators, fans, and retailers alike, and IDW will work diligently to expand Top Shelf’s publishing capabilities and market reach while further developing those relationships.”

Founded in 1997, Top Shelf Productions offers a broad library of comic books and graphic novels from dozens of the industry’s top independent creators. Following the acquisition, Top Shelf’s headquarters will remain in Marietta, GA.

“Top Shelf and IDW complement each other perfectly,” said Top Shelf Productions co-founder and publisher Chris Staros. “We both started around the same time, and when I would watch IDW over the years, as a fellow publisher, I’d see them making smart move after smart move. Now I’m extremely excited to combine their talents and resources with Top Shelf’s award-winning literary approach to comics. And believe it or not, the idea to join forces hit us both at exactly the same time. Last year, as I was about to pitch Ted and Greg this ‘crazy’ idea, they approached me to suggest the same thing! How’s that for a good omen? Together, we’re going to be able to publish some incredible work. I’m really looking forward to this.”

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.


Will Top Shelf retain its own brand identity?
Absolutely. It will remain a distinct imprint within the IDW family of books.

How will IDW Publishing’s new ownership role directly impact Top Shelf?
IDW’s main role will be the support and management of Top Shelf’s infrastructure — production, sales, marketing and promotional initiatives. IDW will also provide additional funding to secure new breakout projects so that Top Shelf can direct their full attention to producing fan-favorite award-winning books.

IDW will use its 15 years of publishing experience to further enhance Top Shelf’s incredible line-up and ensure that the backlist is always available to an expanded retailer and consumer base.

What role will Chris Staros have going forward at Top Shelf?
Chris Staros will join the company as Editor-in-Chief of Top Shelf Productions and will expand his role as one of the most innovative editors, marketers and new talent scouts in the industry. Therefore, Top Shelf’s fans can expect the same independent editorial approach that has yielded first-rate books and garnered industry-wide awards.

What about the rest of The Top Shelf staff?
While Chris’ long-time friend and business partner, Brett Warnock, has decided to retire from the world of comics and explore business opportunities through his newly launched food and nature blog, the rest of the Top Shelf staff will remain in place to continue Top Shelf’s indy-focused operations: Leigh Waltonas Top Shelf’s Publicist & Marketing Director; Chris Ross as Lead Designer & Digital Director; and Zac Boone as Warehouse Manager.

How does this acquisition affect Top Shelf’s independent creators?
Top Shelf publishing agreements will be honored in full, with all creator rights and deal points continuing as they are currently written. IDW will also be able to ensure that Top Shelf’s extensive catalog stays in print, and all creators receive royalties on the solid schedule IDW is known for.

How will this transition affect retailers?
We anticipate a very smooth transition, as both IDW and Top Shelf use Diamond Comic Distributors and Diamond Book Distributors as their exclusive distribution partners for both the comic book specialty market and book market. The entire Top Shelf inventory is already being warehoused by Diamond in the same location as the IDW inventory.

How did the transaction come about?
IDW has been interested in pursuing an acquisition(s) for some time and earlier in 2014 retained industry veteran Bill Schanes (former VP of purchasing for Diamond) as a consultant to thoroughly investigate acquisition opportunities. Top Shelf, as it turned out, was by far the best of these and Bill facilitated the “matchmaking” early on. Once the companies got to know each other better, the rest was, as they say, history.


Alan Moore’s Jack the Ripper Saga From Hell in development for TV


Now what was that I was just saying about non Marvel and DC properties getting a second look—or in the case of From Hell, a third look. The masterpiece by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell that followed the saga of Jack the Ripper in fascinating detail was already made into a movie starring Johnny Depp. But now it’s back in development as a TV show:

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Don Murphy, who producer not only the From Hell film but the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, is producing, with Children of Men’s David Arata (Children Of Men) writing a script. And then:

When the current resurgence of event series started, Murphy thought that would be a great way to handle the material properly, giving the story time to play out and doing it justice. He reached out to Fox Group chairman Peter Rice who was an executive on the movie. Rice loved the idea and the project was set up at Fox TV Studios whose then-topper David Madden had worked with Murphy in the past. Arata was brought in as writer and the drama was sold to FX, with FX Prods. coming on board to co-produce with FtvS. Murphy is executive producing with Susan Montford, via their company Angry Films, along with Arata.

What’s the interesting part? It is the LOEG adaptation above all that set “the Original Writer” Alan Moore’s heart against any film or TV adaptations—Moore was forced to testify in a copyright infringement lawsuit, an event he found deeply repugnant. It is also safe to say that the amount of love lost between Murphy and Moore is such a negative quantity that it could form a gigantic black hole that could suck the entire universe right into it.

All of which is to say that expect Moore not to have anything to say about this and to get exceedingly cranky when asked.

BUT, you may recall that League of Extraordinary Gentleman was announced last year as a “put pilot”—meaning it would have to be made and shown or Fox would have to pay a sizable fee—and where is that? Not another peep heard.

All of that said, in case you need to be reminded, From Hell is a true masterpiece of comics, Moore’s phantasmagoric view of true life historical detail and artist Eddie Campbell’s deeply felt expressionist art combining with one of the greatest mysteries of all time to make an unforgettable story. If you haven’t read it, remedy that right now!

NYCC ’14: God is Disappointed in You, but Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell have hope

by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

Who else but the hipster indie publisher Top Shelf could possibly put out a book entitled God is Disappointed in You. Written by Mark Russell with illustrations by Shannon Wheeler of “Too Much Coffee Man” fame God is Disappointed in You is the Bible boiled down to its essential elements.

NYCC ’14: God is Disappointed in You, but Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell have hope was originally published on The Beat

NYCC ’14: God is Disappointed in You, but Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell have hope

by Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

Who else but the hipster indie publisher Top Shelf could possibly put out a book entitled God is Disappointed in You. Written by Mark Russell with illustrations by Shannon Wheeler of “Too Much Coffee Man” fame God is Disappointed in You is the Bible boiled down to its essential elements.

You know with Shannon Wheeler as part of the project a book like this is bound to be smart and witty and you won’t be disappointed. Leigh Walton of Top Shelf did the moderating for a panel with Mark and Shannon at NYCC on Friday afternoon. Leigh’s questions kept the action moving right along and the audience was attentive and engaged.

Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell

Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell

The room was filled to capacity and there was a palpable energy. What a contrast to some of the larger publishing houses, who unfortunately treat these panels as if they’re at a board meeting with stock holders. In all fairness the bigger houses have much more to lose and we’re grateful that they employ some of the best talent around. However we can all learn from one another and aren’t comics supposed to be fun?

Although it might seem from the title that God is Disappointed in You is anti religion, it is a deliberate attempt to understand the complex and controversial foundation of most of western civilization. And in its irreverent way it reveals the essence of what is good and true. This is not a typical graphic novel but each chapter of the Bible is condensed to a few pages with Shannon’s illustrations.

From God is Disappointed in You

From God is Disappointed in You

Mark Russell gave an example from the Book of Samuel, which tells of the prophet Elisha’s confrontation with a group of boys who make fun of his baldness. Elijah then conjures up a team of she-bears who maul the boys to death for this act of childish offense. Shrugging, Russell tells the audience “Nobody knows why Elijah didn’t just summon up a whole head of hair.”

Russell explained about his own path from growing up as a fundamentalist Pentacostal to writer of this book and there were nods in the audience who were obviously in sympathy. In the Q&A afterwards several young divinity students in the audience expressed their affection for the book.

Shannon told us how they came up with the idea—apparently in a bar in Portland, Oregon, which might be a mythic retelling but seems right for the premise. Shannon’s cartoon and illustration style is perfect for this book and it was clear that the collaboration between the two worked well. They obviously had fun doing the project and that sense of glee translated to the audience.

From God is Disappointed in You

From God is Disappointed in You

As evidenced by the examples given by Mark and Shannon, God is Disappointed in You is hilarious but filled with a true affection for the essence of our human struggles. The audience responded in kind with much laughter and a sense of being personally connected to the material. Apparently it’s best not to judge a book by it’s cover.

[Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson is writing a biography of her grandfather, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, military intelligence officer, prolific pulp writer, inventor and founder of DC Comics, with Gerard Jones (Men of Tomorrow) entitled Lost Hero. Her most recent publication is co-editing and writing an Introduction to a reprint of some of the Major’s adventure tales from the pulps entitled The Texas-Siberia Trail published by Off-Trail Publications. Nicky is a writer, editor and audio publisher and holds a Master’s in Classical Greek Mythology. She was featured in Women’s Enews with an article on Wonder Woman and San Diego Comic Con and appears frequently at Comics Conventions throughout the US speaking about early comic book history.]

Joe Quesada’s Star Wars #1 cover variant revealed

has unveiled Joe Quesada’s variant cover to Star Wars
#1. The first Marvel issue of the 21st century will debut in
January with story by Jason Aaron, and art by John Cassaday and
Laura Martin. Marrtin colored Quesada’s cover. Marvel’s CCO

I was asked to give a quote
about this cover and to tell fans about the first time I saw Star
Wars or how it completely changed my life, but it’s a story I’m
sure isn’t all that interesting when compared to the countless
others that have been told, much more eloquently, by so many before
me,” said Quesada. “While each of us has had our unique moments of
discovery and love affair with the property there’s nothing that I
think I could say or add that hasn’t been said before and
truthfully it really isn’t all that important because It’s that
love for Star Wars that binds all of us who share those unique
moments like the Force itself. That’s why when I was offered the
opportunity to do this cover I was both thrilled beyond belief and
as nervous as I was when I did my very first professional work over
twenty years ago. To have the opportunity to illustrate the classic
cast members in one piece has been by far one of the highlights of
my career as an artist. I can only hope that it turned out okay and
that maybe, just maybe, I get the chance to do it again

I like it, but no

Strong Female Protagonist collection coming from Top Shelf

DiamondAdTemplateStrong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag has gained a nice following online, for its strong storyline and attractive art, and they ran a kickstarter to fund a graphic nvel edition which raised $60K just like that. The actual print edition will be coming out this December from Top Shelf, and it’s a nice addition to their line as well. The book will include first four chapters plus bonus material.

With superstrength and invulnerability, Alison Green used to be one of the most powerful superheroes around. Fighting crime with other teenagers under the alter ego Mega Girl was fun until an encounter with Menace, her mind-reading arch-enemy. He showed her evidence of a sinister conspiracy, and suddenly battling giant robots didn’t seem so important.

Now Alison is going to college and trying to find ways to help the world while still getting to class on time. It’s impossible to escape the past, however, and everyone has their own idea of what it means to be a hero…

— 220 pages, 6″x 9″
–Softcover graphic novel with french flaps
–Black & white interiors (plus some full-color interior pages!)
–ISBN 978-0-692-24618-4
–$19.95 (US)

The book is listed as being self published but presented by Top Shelf…while not a brand new business model, it’s an emerging one, as they say.

Top Shelf’s $3 sale is on—and this time it’s digital

Top Shelf 2014 three dollar sale PICTURETop Shelf has an annual sale whereby you can acquire some of the greatest comics of alllll tiiiiimes for just $3. The list of sale items is right here. Some 125 titles are marked down, some to just $1! And perennials like League of Extraordinary Gentleman volumes are marked down. It’s time to jump in if you haven’t!

In addition for the first time, Top Shelf is doing digital add-ons—for a buck or two more you can get a digital copy of the books. And Top Shelf takes Paypal as well as major credit cards.

This sale is an incredibly important part of Top Shelf’s fiscal year as proceeds from the sale are used to “kickstart” next year’s books. So dig in — the sale runs until September 26th.. and here are some sample titles:

Slashed prices on brand-new releases and beloved perennials!
— Slashed Prices: League
Century HC, Nemo: Roses of Berlin / Heart of Ice, and more!
— Slashed Prices: March, MLK & the Montgomery Story, A Matter of Life, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Pinocchio Vampire Slayer, Alone Forever, We Can Fix It, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Blankets, From Hell, Lost Girls, God is Disappointed in You, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Essex County, Infinite Kung Fu, Swallow Me Whole, Super Spy, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Lost Dogs, Crater XV, Heck, Alec, Night Animals, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Maddy Kettle, Monster on the Hill, Korgi, Johnny Boo, and more!

Acclaimed graphic novels from world-class talents for $3!
— $3 Titles: The Underwater Welder, League Century 1910/1969/2009, and more!
— $3 Titles: Will You Still Love Me?, The Ticking, Gingerbread Girl, and more!
— $3 Titles: Ax, Voice of the Fire, Unearthing, Hey Mister, The Surrogates, and more!
— $3 Titles: Liar’s Kiss, Lucille, The Lovely
Horrible Stuff, Undeleted Scenes, and more!
— $3 Titles: BB Wolf & The 3 LP’s, Three Fingers, The Troll King, and more!
— $3 Titles: Owly, Upside Down, Pirate Penguin, Incredible Change-Bots, and more!

Discover a new favorite with these great $1 books!
— $1 Titles: From Hell Companion, Stuff about Sex, Pistolwhip, Mephisto, and more!
— $1 Titles: Tales of Woodsman Pete, The Playwright, Sulk (Vols 1/2/3), and more!
— $1 Titles: Van Helsing’s Night Off, Lone Racer, Regards from Serbia, and more!
— $1 Titles: SuperF*ckers #1-#4, The Surrogates #1-#5, Dang!, and more!
— $1 Titles: Comic Book Artist, Hutch Owen, Okie Dokie Donuts, Yam, and more!
— $1 Titles: The Octopi & the Ocean, Tales of the Great Unspoken, and more!
— $1 Titles: Black Ghost Apple Factory, The Man Who Loved Breasts, and more!


Dragon-Con: Congressman Lewis Hopes Graphic Novel Makes Noise



By Hannah Lodge

A little more than 51 years ago, Rep. John Lewis was one of ten people to speak at the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Of those ten, Lewis is the only one still alive today.

1 of 10.

Lewis’s life is filled with meaningful numbers: 74 – his age; 5 – his congressional district; 37 – the number of days he spent in jail for using a “white-only” restroom; 45 – the number of times he’s been arrested.

Lewis and Legislative Aide Andrew Aydin appeared on a panel at Dragon Con in Lewis’s home district of Atlanta for their co-authored graphic novel, March: Book One, where they dropped another meaningful number: 47 – the number of states failing to adequately teach the Civil Rights Movement.

At the intersection of historical and modern is March: Book One, a timeless message delivered in a progressive medium. Aydin, who has attended Dragon Con for years and has always loved comics, said he saw an opportunity to use a graphic novel to educate on the Civil Rights Movement when Persepolis, a graphic novel published in 2000 detailing the war between Iran and Iraq, began to appear on school curricula.

“There is an opening we have now, where graphic novels are being accepted as literature, and I think someone like Congressman Lewis embarking on this journey into the medium only bolsters that credibility,” Aydin said. “In fact, he’s the first member of Congress to write a graphic novel.”

Aydin said March was designed with an inexpensive price point so that it would be feasible for school budgets. The graphic novel has been selected as a common reading book – a book read by the incoming freshman class over the summer for interactive discussions in their first year – at Michigan State University, Marquette University and Georgia State University. MSU and the City of East Lansing also sponsor a “One Book, One Community Program” in which members of the community and the freshman class participate in the reading and discussion together.

Amid national outcry over recent events in Ferguson, the book’s messages are as timely now as ever. Lewis spoke at the panel about the day that would eventually be known as “Bloody Sunday,” when 600 nonviolent protesters marched in a demonstration for the right to vote.

“I was the first to be attacked,” he said. “I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a night stick. I had a concussion on the bridge. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die.”

Photo by Michelle Asci

Photo by Harper Harris

The brutality made it to the news, which caused a ripple effect of demonstrations in more than 82 cities across America. Only eight days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson would make a speech now known as the “We Shall Overcome” speech, which Lewis called “one of the most meaningful speeches that any American president had made in modern times on the oppression of civil rights and voting rights.”

Lewis said that the series of events sparked by the demonstration eventually led to change.

“I was sitting next to Dr. King in the home of a local family, as we watched and listened to President Johnson, and tears came down his face. He started crying, and we all cried,” he said. “Dr. King said: ‘We’ll make it from Selma to Montgomery, and the voting right will be passed.’ Congress debated it, passed it, and it was signed into law. Some people gave their lives, and the only thing I gave was a little blood.”

Aydin said March goes into great detail about the communication methods used to set up demonstrations, which are the most effective tool for creating change. Aydin said he thinks social networking tools like Twitter can be used to motivate and organize demonstrations, but shouldn’t take the place of them.

“An incident happens in one city, and having the infrastructure to have those protests follow up in a nationwide way is what helps put national pressure on the elected leaders,” he said. “You’ve got to show up. That’s the biggest battle. All these people, if they’re mad, if they’re angry, if there’s something they believe in, they need to be there. They need to make their voice heard through their own presence. You’ve got to use your bodies. Put your bodies on the line to make your voice heard.”

Lewis echoed that sentiment, adding that he thinks we’ve reached a time in our history where our voices are not being used enough.

“The day will come I think, in the not so distant future, when people will look back and say ‘Why were we so quiet?’” he said. “There comes a time when people should make a little noise and push.”

Aydin said he is hopeful that through the book and their discussions at schools, they will help encourage a new generation of activists.

“We’re going to these schools all across the country, as many as we can possibly go to, so that we find that one kid. That one young person who starts the ball rolling, who has that first moment of courage,” he said.

And just as progress was made for civil rights, Lewis said he believes it’s important that people continue to organize to battle other issues; particularly the fight for economic equality.

“The last effort of Martin Luther King, Jr. was something called The Poor People’s campaign,” he said. “He wanted to take people to Washington, representatives of people who’d been left out and left behind. They were white, black, Latino, Asian America, Native American – and he never made it there because of the assassination in Memphis. I think in a real sense we have to pick up where Dr. King left off… It doesn’t make sense that a few people can earn so much and then hundreds of thousands of people in our country don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal or where they’re going to sleep. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it’s not just.”


March Book One is first graphic novel to win the RFK Book Award


MARCH Book One, the comics version of the life story of Civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis. has been breaking boundaries since it was published last year and it just smashed another one; it’s the first ever graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

The awards recognize books which reflect Kennedy’s ideals of justice, human rights, and equality of opportunity, and was a champion of civil rights prior to his assassination in 1968. March will received a “Special Recognition” award at the ceremony tomorrow in Washington, D.C.

Lewis previously won a RFK Award in 1999 for his prose autobiography Walking with the Wind in 1999. And The only other time a Special Recognition Award was given was to cartoonist Herblock in 1994.

March, written by Lewis and Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell, has been getting massive exposure unprecedented for a graphic novel since it was published last year, including appearances on Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert.

In India they are celebrating Free Comic Book Weekend with free downloads

I thought this announcement of global comic book love was worth it’s very own post. This is the second time this event has been held, sponsored by the Comic Con India. And instead of going to stores, you download free comics from various Indian publishers. Sounds like a great way to experience some new stuff from publishers Amar Chitra Katha, Campfire Graphic Novels, Pop Culture Publishing, Vimanika Comics, Diamond Comics, Chariot Comics, Orange Radius and Astute Media Vision. Last year, 15,000 free comics were downloaded. Organizers expect more this year.

The comics are available from or via the Readwhere App. Comics will be available from Saturday 3rd May at 12AM and End on 4th May at 11:59PM. I hope it’s worldwide, because I want to read some Indian comics!

Last year, with an aim to expand the scope and access of comics across India, Online digital content marketplace partnered with Comic Con India to launch a new initiative called Free Comic Book Weekend, to allow comics enthusiasts download Indian comics for free. This year also, will be providing the platform to serve free digital comics to fans across India.

Jatin Varma, Founder, Comic Con India shared, “FCBW was started last year with the simple aim  of generating interest in Indian comics beyond our conventions. We are taking steps ahead and making Indian comics available for fans  right at their fingertips via digital editions powered by Readwhere. We had a great response last year, there were over 15,000 unique fans who claimed free comics during the 1st Free Comic Book Weekend in 2013. We expect to take that further and keep building upon this concept in the coming years.”

Manish Dhingra, Director & Co-Founder, shared, “It’s the second year of the Free Comic Book Weekend in India. The debut year was very successful where we delivered copies of comics digitally to more than 15000 comic book aficionados, all over a weekend. In the second year a lot of focus will be on to get comic book lovers to read more, especially on their mobile and tablet devices. So the center focus this year is Mobile and tablet comic reading.”

Manish further added, “Just like in the US we will be offering a set of titles for free and a larger set at a special weekend discount.” will be offering a total of (approx) 15 titles from various publishers. Users will have the option of choosing any 5 for free. The rest will be available at a very nominal price as a bundle.

Manas Mohan, COO, ACK Media said, “ACK is very excited to be a part of the World Free Comic day, and are glad that Comic Con India is bringing such fun events to the forefront in India.”

The leading publisher, Campfire is entering the digital field in a big way with its own app. So fans can Download the Campfire App for their titles. “The FREE Comic Book Weekend gives all fans of the medium the perfect chance to read and enjoy one of Campfire’s best loved and most enduring graphic novels. It is the perfect introduction to Campfire’s library of great books, including World War One: 1914-1918, and many more” shared Girija Jhunjhunwala, Director, Campfire Graphic Novels.

The titles featured this year will be a mix of iconic and latest. Some of the most interesting titles that will be available to fans for free includes Draupadi: The Fire-Born Princess by Campfire,  Satya Police by Pop Culture Publishing, Tinkle by ACK, Godslayer by Chariot Comics, Some of the favourite titles by Diamond Comics and more.

Second Free Comic Book Weekend.jpg

Eventbrite uses social media to examine PAXEast


PAX East, the hugely successful Boston version of the gaming show created by Penny Arcade, wrapped up last weekend. PAX Prime is held in Seattle, and they just announced PAX South, to be held Jan. 23-25 in San Antonio, Texas. There’s also a PAX Australia—all the shows are run by ReedPOP, which also throws a bunch of comic-cons worldwide, as you may be aware.

Eventbrite is a ticketing agency that helps sell tickets for gaming events and they teamed with social media analysts Mashworks to analyze all posts from Twitter, Facebook, forums, and blogs about PAX East during the three-day convention. Eventbrite sent us the above infographic after using social media analysis to see what people were socialing about the show. Eventbrite provided the following bullet points:   

• PAX East created a bit of a social media frenzy: the event drove a whopping 193,000+ social media posts, driving 500+ more posts than PAX Prime 2013 and 25% more social volume than PAX East 2013!

• There were more women in the mix than ever: 28% of people talking about PAX East were women, up from 25% at PAX East 2013 and 26% at PAX Prime 2013, indicating that female attendance and social sharing at gaming events is steadily growing.

• Move over, Nintendo! Indie games drove big buzz: Over a third of all discussion around game announcements and demos centered on indie games — great to see new names breaking through. Conversations studied ran the gamut, and general excitement about PAX East dominated social discussion (48%), followed by chatter about gaming tournaments, like the Towerfall tournament and the 25K Infinite Crisis Event (15%). Other discussion topics included cosplay (12%), game announcements and demos (10%), Panels (9%), and parties and concerts (6%). The biggest social spike of the convention was the announcement of PAX South, driving over 5,500 posts from excited gamers.

Now why are we highlighting this press release? It seemed to have several interesting aspects, not least of which the integration of more women into the PAX culture. In the past, there were some ugly incidents, but hopefully more mixed participation will help change that.

It also seems that Eventbrite is getting more involved in the pop culture event arena — well, heck everyone is. This kind of data mining could turn out to be quite revealing.

And also, it’s a little scary how much people can figure out from social media, eh?

It grows.

Top Shelf to donate MARCH BOOK ONE to every member of Congress.

Well, a digital copy anyway. MARCH BOOK ONE, the comics autobiography of civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, has had a heck of a run since its August release and is now making another charge at the Year’s end Best Of lists. And to put a cherry on it, publisher Top Shelf has teamed with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and ComiXology to give every member of the House and Senate a complimentary digital copy of both MARCH: BOOK ONE and its bundle-mate MARTIN LUTHER KING AND THE MONTGOMERY STORY. (The Fellowship of Reconciliation is the original publisher of THE MONTGOMERY STORY.)

The gift was accompanied by a note from Rep. Lewis, in the nice pack you see above, saying in part, “Just like the comic book I read more than 50 years ago, it is my hope that this graphic novel can inspire new generations to speak up and speak out, to make their voice heard, and, hopefully, to make our nation a more just and peaceful place for all.”

And now, just to make your day complete with a smile, you can insert the image of your (least) favorite member of Congress attempting to read a comic in guided view on an iPad, Android, Galaxy, Nook or Kobo. I like to think of Sen. Rand Paul, but I’m sure you have your own choice.