Home Columns Kibbles 'n' Bits Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 4/27/21: Books sales surge, led by manga

Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 4/27/21: Books sales surge, led by manga

ALSO: A in-depth investigation of who is the richest writer in comics

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§ Nice Art: Rumiko Takahasi, one of the world’s most famed cartoonists, creator of Urusei Yatsura , Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha and more. Art from the It’s a Rumic World Exhibit, celebrating 30 yrs of making manga in Tokyo, 2008 — image via Ian MacEwan.

§ Adult fiction book sales surged in Q1 2021, according to figures released by The NPD Group, aka BookScan, posting its highest first-quarter sales since 2013.

Adult fiction book sales in January through March 2021 reached 39 million units, growing 35% compared to the first quarter last year. according to The NPD Group (http://www.npd.com). This growth in adult fiction does not appear to be related to the pandemic, however, as adult fiction sales also increased by one-third (33%) in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same quarter two years prior.

And one of the main drivers? MANGA. 

Growth in Japanese comics and graphic novels, known as “manga,” was supported by the growing popularity of Japanese animated content, or “anime,” on Netflix and other subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services, as well as through active sharing in specialty fan communities online. Manga print book sales in the U.S. increased by 3.6 million units, year over year, in the first quarter of 2021. The first volume of “Chainsaw Man,” by Tatsuki Fujimoto (Viz Media), was the biggest seller in the category. “The highly anticipated anime based on the books is expected to release this in the U.S. this fall, which should make this one of the blockbusters of the year,” McLean said.

§ Speaking of streaming, it also affects non-manga graphic novels. I summed up three years of hits (expected and unexpected) for PW:

As the number and popularity of such streaming services as Netflix, and Disney+ continue to grow, many of these services have turned to adapting comics and graphic novels which have gone on to become some of their biggest hit shows. Comics properties that have been adapted range from eccentric indie comics titles–for example, Charles Forsman’s The End of the F****** World on Netflix–to highly promoted superhero franchise series, among them WandaVision on Disney+ and The Boys on Amazon Prime. All of these shows have led to increased graphic novel sales, but along the way publishers have had to adapt and find new strategies to capitalize on their popularity on streaming media.

§ This is one of the weirdest “stories” I have ever kibbled: 10 Richest Comic Book Writers.

It’s from a site called The Richest, so I guess it’s mostly lists of rich people. Very handy when you are looking for someone to buy you a drink, when that becomes a thing again, I suppose. Looking at the list, it seems that they did some research but…it’s very odd research. Coming in at #10, we have…Raina Telgemeier!

Raina has a net worth of approximately $1.5 million.

I….don’t think so. Telgemeier has more than 18 million copies of her books in print, and if she gets 10% of the net (a typical royalty) that is…a lot more than $1.5 million.

Coming in at #9 we have a surprise. A big surprise!

Jim Zubkavich or Jim Zub is a Canadian comic book writer known for his Samurai Jack comics. He is also an art instructor. The most notable works by Jim would include Skull-kickers, Wayward, Glitterbomb, Samurai Jack, and the Thunderbolts. Apart from these, Zub has also mastered comics like Dungeons & Dragons, Uncanny Avengers, and Avengers: No Road Home. These masterpieces have procured him a net worth of about $2.10 million.

We all love Jim Zub but how on earth do you figure that? Esp. since he’s always writing about the slim margins of profits for comics? Granted, that story was from 2012, but sadly, the economics of comics haven’t changed much since then. I hope this is true but seems wild!

With their next entry — Joe Quesada — The Richest reveals the source for a lot of this:ANOTHER 10 richest comics writers list from something called The Zuu. This list makes a bit more sense, with some of the usual suspects, including Kirkman, Gaiman, Akira Toriyama and Naoko Takeuchi. I’m pretty sure all these numbers are just wild, wild guesses. Also, Rumiko Takahasi was supposedly the richest author in Japan for a long time, but I’m sure Toriyama could give her a run for her money..literally.

Both lists do end with the guy who probably is the richest comics type human of all: artist David Choe, who famously swapped a mural at Facebook HQ (or a co-founder’s home — stories differ) for FB stock long before it went public and one day he woke up a gazillionaire. The Zuu estimates his worth at $300-500 million, and The Richest as a mere $200 million. What the real number is, I can only guess, but if he ever reaches for the check, don’t try to stop him.

The Richest lists its sources for all this as Wealthy GeniusYahoo! FinanceZUU OnlineQuora, and while they all just copied one another (which came first!), each list is hilarious in its own way. Yahoo Finance (who you’d think would have some credibility) lists the second richest comics person as some fellow named Tom McFarlane. Isn’t he the guy who created Spurn? His net worth is estimated at $300 million which….maybe? I dunno. A bit further on we learn about Robert Kirkman, 

Creator of the zombie-apocalypse comic series The Walking Dead, Kirkman also has some movie and television credits to his name.

A few little credits, I hear. The guy is going places.

At least the Quora article has an answer from Erica Friedman, who knows what the hell she’s talking about.

All of these pieces list Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as being worth about $20 million each thanks to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and while I’m not privy to their bank accounts, maybe Laird still is, but Eastman has gone through fortunes at quite a brisk clip.

Anyway, I’m just guessing about all of this, but then so did most of the writers of these lists!

§ Speaking of Raina Telgemeier, Rob Salkowitz wonders why there isn’t a Smile movie yet, but suspects we may be getting more media based on all those popular kids comics. (And I forgot Peacock had three seasons of Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space!)

What’s the holdup?  Considering how quickly prose books in the middle grade and young adult categories can get picked up and brought to the screen, Hollywood seems like it has its feet stuck in cement when it comes to kids graphic novels.  Raina was a sensation in 2011.  Here we are 10 years later: where’s the Smile movie? A couple of factors conspire to jam the conveyor belt.  First, obviously, is money.  Hollywood has been slow to see the same franchise value in independent literary kids graphic novels as they see in other kinds of prose or conventional comics properties, and creators are hesitant to take deals that aren’t as rewarding.

§ When Steve Ditko died in 2018, he left behind stack and stacks of letters, and with his family’s blessing these are now being analyzed and published. (Apparently Ditko may have been an enigma to the comics industry but he was just Uncle Steve to his family.) Robert Elder looks at some of them for TCJ:

In another exchange, Ditko takes aim at his editor and Spider-Man co-creator, Stan Lee. “Stan promoting Marvel titles worked more [as Stan] promoting himself. He took advantage of an opportunity and it keeps paying off,” writes Ditko, who cast himself as the opposite of Lee. “Wanting, needing some public recognition status, being a public celebrity, a false ego-building, pandering to others, fans, crowds with interviews, etc., is self-defeating.” 

Currie told me that the dozens of letters he exchanged with Ditko offered “plentiful insights” and most ran “contrary to some perceptions of him.” “He didn’t retreat Salinger-like from the world but had a preferred method of communication that was becoming increasingly outdated in modern times but nonetheless important to him, and he saw no need to change,” Currie wrote. “I would imagine, and hope, that within the reams of correspondence he wrote over his lifetime, there are many more insights yet to be revealed.” Such a collection would be difficult to make encyclopedic, since Ditko wrote so much and didn’t keep copies of his letters. “You have to understand that he probably wrote many hundreds of letters every year, amounting to many thousands over the decades. Where would he store them all?” said Ditko’s nephew, Mark S. Ditko. “I know one person that exchanged around 1,500 letters back and forth with him. That’s only one person.”

§ NeoText continues its rollcall of artists needing further examination, with Duncan Fegredo:

Kid Eternity art by Duncan Fegredo

This incredible body of work — impressive even when made into a comprehensive list — is regularly delightfully overwhelming to behold, often rendered through dip pens, bold inks, and emotive brushstrokes that give his art a feeling of movement that is often lost in the creation of comics. Fegredo’s natural deftness with a brush, whether it be traditional paintbrush or more inventive tools to create his signature texture, does all but pull the image out of the page itself, transforming it into a living thing — an idea that may seem disturbing in some instances, but makes the effect of the work as a long-form story all the more of a sensory experience. The inherent, unavoidable, flatness of a printed page doesn’t seem to stop Fegredo’s work from inviting you to touch it and feel the various textures at play.

§ Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) the indie comic festival, is hiring!

Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC), is seeking an organized and proactive Administrator. This is hourly contract work expected to be roughly five hours per week with more in the time immediately before and after the festival.  Hours are generally not set unless you are expected to attend a meeting.  You will support the CXC board and executive director with communications between various committees, maintain the calendar for our various committee meetings, and ensure minutes are captured and distributed.  CXC is the annual comics and animation festival held across various venues in Columbus, Ohio in partnership with a variety of academic and public institutions. Organizing the festival requires year-round effort, particularly in the month before and after the festival, and as we expand our programming to occur throughout the year, we will need additional support.

§ Eve L Ewing and Evan Narcisse wrote for the New York Times on Inventing (and Reinventing) Black Superheroes. Ewing details the horrific racist harassment she received when she was writing Ironheart:

As a Black woman with an established public internet presence, I was used to harassment. I had some tried-and-true strategies: block, mute, ignore and go do something else with your day. But there was something fundamental that I didn’t understand, and it bugged me. Of all the things I had said and done in public, of all my commentary about policing and politics and education and media, nothing had attracted a firestorm like the one prompted by the mere rumor that I might be writing Ironheart.

But there is also joy:

Narcisse reveals something even closer to home: he is the first person of Haitian heritage to write Doctor Voodoo, the Haitian Marvel character:

The main character in my one-page story was Jericho Drumm, a Black, Haitian-born sorcerer who fights evil under the super-sobriquet Doctor Voodoo. The character’s first appearance was written and drawn by Len Wein and Gene Colan, who were white. To my knowledge, none of the writers or artists who had ever worked on Doctor Voodoo shared his heritage. But I do. And I made it a point to thematically connect the character back to Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Adbaraya Toya, real historical figures who birthed the movement to wrest Haiti’s freedom from French oppressors. My parents told me that our revolutionary forebears were heroes; I wanted to use Jericho Drumm to introduce them to Marvel readers.

§ Back at TCJ, a chat between Walter “Wendy Scott” and Michael “Too many comics to list” DeForge:

Michael DeForge: I still hope it never just reads as a mouthpiece for what I’m thinking. Like, I have one or two comics that are explicitly that, and I think I make it very easy for anyone reading my comics to suss out my worldview, but I try to make room for ambivalence and ambiguity in my stories. I still do feel very close to it, and very exposed. It feels very embarrassing to write this way. I don’t know, is that a feeling you ever have?

Scott: I feel like what we do is so embarrassing all the time. I struggle with that too. I think a major question readers have about my series, Wendy, is if it’s “based on my life” and more pointedly “Is this character based on this person? Did this really happen? Who is who? Is that me?”, which I think is besides the point. Zadie Smith has said that fiction is the realm of the hypothetical, a place to play out all of the neurotic fantasies and anxieties that reality gives you. Even so, I struggle on one hand with creating a story that cuts to the bone of an emotional truth, and on the other, protecting the people around me that I care about, who might see some version of themselves in the story and feel either exposed or implicated. In that case I guess “Write it first and ask for forgiveness later” makes for a good story but perhaps a miserable life. LOL. In some way I have envied the surreal worlds you create, because I presumed it served as a buffer of some kind, from embarrassment. But I guess I’m wrong!

§ Matthew Rosenberg has started a newsletter and it’s pretty funny! 

Let’s start by talking about me…. If I’m being honest here, which I hope to be at least 10% of the time, there is not a lot going on with me. I haven’t gone anywhere or done anything in a really long time. But I got vaccinated and so now, if my understanding of science is correct, I am biologically immortal. Like a lobster. First thing I did after getting vaccinated was go to the Bronx and get some really dry cookies from a bakery I like on Arthur Avenue. That was also pretty much the only thing I’ve done since getting vaccinated too. But someday I’ll leave my house again. Probably to get more cookies. Imagine what this newsletter will be like then…

Rosenberg also weaves in the requisite plugs for his work, so successful newsletter achieved!

§ Hollywood corner: Paper Girls has been cast! The Brian K. Vaughan/Cliff Chiang comic is coming to Amazon, so expect these four adorable moppets to soon be compared endlessly to the Stranger Things kids.

Sofia Rosinsky (Fast Layne), Camryn Jones (Cherish the Day), Riley Lai Nelet (Altered Carbon) and Fina Strazza (A Christmas Melody) are set as the four leads in Amazon’s Paper Girls series, based on Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s graphic novel, from Amazon Studios, Legendary TV and Plan B. Paper Girls is set to film in Chicago this year. Paper Girls follows four young girls (Rosinsky, Jones, Nelet, Strazza) who, while out delivering papers on the morning after Halloween in 1988, become unwittingly caught in a conflict between warring factions of time-travelers, sending them on an adventure through time that will save the world. As they travel between our present, the past, and the future — they encounter future versions of themselves and now must choose to embrace or reject their fate.

§ According to Twitter,  a 4K UHD edition of Howard the Duck is coming in July, just in time for this beloved film’s 35th anniversary!

***NEW TITLE ANNOUNCEMENT*** Coming to 4K UHD in July from @UniversalPics ! Howard The Duck (1986) MORE INFO TBA!

§ But according to Stuart Moore, there’s also a deluxe hardcover edition of the comics out now:

This lovely hardcover, w/introduction by me, just arrived in the mail. Worth it for the extras alone, including rare interviews, features from FOOM & Crazy Mags, original art repros, etc. Great work from Marvel & editor Cory Sedlmeier.

The forecast calls for Howard the Duck in 2021! Get down, America.

 

 

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