Tagged: Internet

MIKE GOLD: The Paperless Chase

According to Pew Research, one out of every five adult Americans now owns a tablet or an e-book reader. That was before Apple announced its new e-textbook initiative.

Imagine buying all your college textbooks for about a hundred bucks and then carrying them around in a 1.33 pound device. You’ll never need your locker again. Students won’t pop their spines carrying a backpack that is so heavy PeTA wouldn’t let you strap one onto a mule.

And if you’re a comics fan, you’ll never need to schlep around a couple hundred long boxes. Well, not unless you want to.

So people should just stop bitching about electronic comic books. It’s not controversial any more. It doesn’t begat bootlegging; certainly not now that the government is shutting down bootleg sites. Just as soon as publishers start releasing their books at a fair price point – there are no printing costs, no paper costs, no shipping, no returns, and no alternate covers, so $2.99 (let alone $3.99) is a rip-off.

“But I like the feel of the paper,” you might whine. Yes, and I enjoy hearing the crack of the buggy-whip. Deal with it. Stop cutting down trees and milking our ever-dwindling oil supply to print and distribute all those books and magazines you read once – if at all. Publishing is an ecological nightmare; e-publishing doesn’t cure the problem but, like the hybrid and electronic engines, it helps. A lot.

The other by-product is even more interesting: we are breeding a new generation of readers. People are buying e-books and magazines and newspapers and we’re reading them on our iPads and Kindles and such. For a full year now, adult hardcovers and paperbacks, adult mass market books, and children’s/young adult hardcover and paperback have exceeded hard copy sales. In the past year, Borders finally bit the dust, Barnes and Nobles continues to cough up blood, and tablet/e-reader sales skyrocketed.

Tell me where our future lies.

If sales slow down considerably – forgetting how Apple’s sold zillions of iPads to schools and to businesses, forgetting how the iPad 3 is coming within the next 10 weeks, forgetting textbook sales – then it’ll take as long as, oh, maybe three years before over half of the population of American families have one.

Yes, you don’t have to use the device for reading. You can do a lot of other things with your tablet: play games, surf the Internet, write stuff, listen to music, watch teevee, even make phone calls via Skype. All I need is a comfy chair, a toilet, a shower stall, a refrigerator, a microwave and a great pair of headphones and I’m set for life.

Comics store owners – the smart ones – are beginning to adjust. They’re filling in the vacuum created by Borders’ vaporization by expanding their trade paperback and hardcover racks. They’re getting involved in more comics-related tchotchkes, more heroic fantasy movie stuff, and more innovative and distinctive product in general. They no longer have to endure as much terror as they go through the monthly Diamond catalog to guess which non-returnable pamphlets are going to put them out of business.

So, again I ask you – as comics readers, as book readers.

Where does our future lie?

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” pirate gets a year in prison

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” pirate gets a year in prison

Cover of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Singl...

One wonders if somebody at Marvel is thinking about doing the same thing to comic pirates…

A New York man has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for illegally uploading and distributing a copy of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” before the movies premiere.

Forty-nine-year-old Gilberto Sanchez was sentenced Monday in Los Angeles federal court. The judge also imposed a year of supervised release and numerous computer restrictions.Sanchez pleaded guilty in March to one count of uploading a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution.

Prosecutors say he admitted uploading a “workprint” copy of the 2009 film about one month before it was released in theaters, then publicizing the upload on two websites.Prosecutors said in court documents that the film proliferated like wildfire throughout the Internet, resulting in up to millions of infringements. Sanchez has a prior conviction for a similar offense.

via NY man gets 1 year in prison for X-Men piracy – Yahoo! News.

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Voldeshamus – The Dark Wizard

Once upon a time there was a powerful Wizard who had evil in his heart. He saw the comic world as a place he could bend to his will. And for a time, publishing companies flocked to him as loyal lap-dogs. Their best artists and writers were doled out to him to make appearances at his traveling circus. He was gloriously powerful, but feared his mortality. Soon, his spells… terrible fluff charms with no bite or news illusions presented way past their prime… weakened his power. The Wizard flailed madly to stay relevant. The people of the comic world simply stopped paying attention. His power dwindled. His traveling circus became a geek show of tired acts. He was left with no choice. He took the few followers he’d kept a grasp on, and sucked their life force… and ran into the forest. And there he stayed, seething, and cursing the public for abandoning him. When a court jester dared make fun of him, he shot from the darkness! But the shot was less than even a first year spellcaster’s magic missile. It fizzled, and died before it could even hit. He-who-everyone-knows has quit magic altogether.

There was a time when the word “Wizard” was synonymous amongst comic book fans as a glorious thing. Wizard Magazine was the zeitgeist of the comic community. Wizard also put on amazing shows featuring top talent, insightful panels, and legitimately helpful workshops. And then the Internet became a thing.

Slowly Wizard became more and more out of touch. As comic book news was published more frequently, its articles became old hat by the time they reached print. The helpful price guide that anchored the last third of the magazine ceased to be of any value. And their shows? I think anyone who has long frequented my writings here know all to well that a Wizard Convention fell from grace harder than Lucifer. Most recently, Wizard shut down its publication arm. It took subscribers’ cash, refused to refund it, and started publishing an e-magazine. No one read it. It shut down too. And should the Internet be believed… the now resigned CEO, Gareb Shamus, perhaps attempted to get an artist fired from his day job for making a scathing webcomic about him.

Shamus reportedly attempted to get an artist fired from his day job for a webcomic published on The Gutters. No other details aside from the strip’s writer (and Gutter EIC Ryan Sohmer) are available, aside from his post on the subject. As he said:

“Should you find yourself the subject matter of a Gutters page, and take offense to it, don’t go after my artists. Should you be so offended that you attempt to get someone fired from their day job, don’t be a coward.

“Come after me.”

Let’s pontificate on this, shall we? If this is to be true, Gareb needs his head checked. Last time I looked, the Internet is a place built on the idea that anyone can say anything they want about anyone else short of legal slander or accusation of murder or rape. I don’t actually know if that’s true, but it sounds right, doesn’t it?

Perhaps Shamus forgot he once ran a magazine that sent quite a few barbs towards Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, and anyone else in the pop culture arena. Half the fun of Wizard, in its hey-day, were its jokes crammed in the margins and in word balloons to article’s pictures. And not once did I read of them getting reamed by Rob Liefeld for drawing pretty man boobs… let alone have an artist potentially fired for drawing a commissioned strip. It’s mind-numbing if this indeed happened.

It’s a sad tailspin the Wizard corporation seems to be in these days. I’ll be honest. I subscribed to their e-mailed magazine when it came out. I gave it three issues. And then it was junked, I unsubscribed, and moved on with my life. For all the good they used to represent, they simply never figured out a way to make their content current. Suffice to say with the utter glut of talent around the edge of this industry just waiting for a chance to write a nice op-ed piece, or jam on a funny strip… Shamus and company truly can’t see the forest for the trees. Well, I’m a nice guy.

And Steven Shamus was immensely helpful in getting Unshaven Comics into two very excellent conventions this year. So, here’s my good deed of the season; Wizard (are you paying attention?), here’s how you can fix your tattered reputation:

1. Have Gareb Shamus post an honest-to-Rao apology to the comic fans around the world. We need to know, in detail, why money was taken for subscriptions not filled, and nothing was done to even things up. We need an apology for promising content, and never delivering. If there’s a pool of people’s money sitting somewhere, you need to make it right. Take it, commission some jam pieces from the artists who still may like you. Better yet, get young, up and coming talent and commission them to do some great pieces. Then send that artwork to the former subscribers, with a big fat I’m sorry written on them.

2. Take the conventions you own and put them back in the hands of those who make the industry work. Ditch the aging wrestlers, and D-List sci-fi extras, and find a way to get back the creators who make these shows what they are meant to be… comic book shows. Not pop culture festivals. Mend fences with those you lost over the years. Comp them. Get them back into the buildings by any means necessary (like groveling)… so they can see their fans. Get them to interact in sketch-offs, trivia contests, and wicked debates. Make the conventions a place to be, and be seen; Not just an overgrown flea market, and autograph zone.

3. Take what resources you do have, and create timely content for other people’s more successful sites. The industry doesn’t need another Newsarama, Comic Alliance, Comic Book Resources, Bleeding Cool, or ComicMix. But all of those sites sure like a good article, a snappy comic, or relevant video. Create the content, release it for free, and excite the fans again. Earn back the goodwill you once had by doing what you should have done a while ago; Apologize. Work hard to earn back the trust and respect from the industry you took for granted, and produce something that stimulates the fan base… instead of pandering to your stock holders in an attempt to appear profitable.

We see through the spells, Wizard… and we know all your tricks already.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

JOHN OSTRANDER: Telling Stories

JOHN OSTRANDER: Telling Stories

There is no such thing as nonfiction. There’s only story.

I ‘spect I have some ‘splainin’ to do on that one, Lucy.

Story is a narrative comprising selected series of events arranged towards a desired effect. That’s the same whether you’re telling a Batman story, a newstory, a history, a biography, a novel, a short story, a screenplay or what have you. What determines what events the storyteller chooses to emphasize, de-emphasize, omit, invent, re-interpret, or fudge is whatever ends or point that said storyteller wants to make.

“Newstories?” you ask. “You’re describing the news as all fiction?” You can prove it yourself. Something happens and it’s on the news. How The New York Times covers that event is going to be different than how Fox News covers it. Witness Occupy Wall Street.

The difference between fiction and “non-fiction” is that in fiction we make up the events (although in historical fiction, we often use real events) while the reporter, the biographer, the historian usually use actual events. I have read histories or biographies where there are so few known historical facts that the biographer/historian spends time speculating on what “must” have happened.

In no case, however, are the events they describe exactly what happened. They would have to describe every little thing that occurred without giving one item more emphasis than another. It is not reality; it is the writer’s story of what happened. All the events in a newstory or a history or a biography happen through the lens and the filter of the storyteller, which is formed by that storyteller’s own experiences and point of view. It may be further informed by the editor or producer or director or the PR guy.

It’s all story.

When I’m writing, two of the key questions I have to ask is 1) whose story is it and 2) what story am I trying to tell? The answers to those two questions make or break the story. I maintain it’s no different elsewhere.

Science books? No different. The events are the data and the writer emphasizes or de-emphasizes which data according to what he or she thinks is relevant.

Text books? Oh lordy, are they ever becoming fiction. I know people who work in the text book industry and what goes in, what gets left out, what gets emphasized or de-emphasized depends on the largest school districts and what their school boards want in them or left out. Those districts are in California and Texas, by the way, and they determine what story gets told. If you’re kid is getting creationism taught as a theory equal with evolution, it’s because some powerful school districts have decided that’s part of the story to be taught.

But numbers don’t lie, right? Math books are non-fiction.

Numbers are made to lie all the time. We got into this economic mess because of the fiction some people sold using a selected set of numbers. If someone is spinning the numbers, then they’re telling you a story using those numbers. In other words, a fiction.

Events happen all around us all the time. Thanks to the wonders of the cel phone, the tablet, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and on and on, we are constantly bombarded with more events.

Story is how we make sense of the world, of existence, of our lives. We emphasize some things, de-emphasize other, omit a ton of stuff in order to create our own story, one we can live with, cope with, make some sort of demented sense of.

Story, and fiction are not lies per se; they are interpreted reality. What we experience, how we interpret it, is all-true but none of it is completely true. It’s all fiction to some degree. None of it is the complete truth. The part we play in each story varies according to which story is being told and who is telling it. I am, hopefully, the hero of my own story but I may be the villain or antagonist of another, a supporting character in yet another, a cameo or background character in many others. Same for you.

It’s not a bad thing. Story is how we make sense of reality. The more stories we hear, the wider our understanding of that reality. Just keep in mind – everyone has a story to tell. Just ask yourself – why are they telling you a given story? Why am I telling you this one? What story do you make of it?

Make it a good one.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


iPulpfiction.com, the internet’s leading provider of pulp fiction, new and old, has just released the third DEATH ANGEL story, authored by Mike Bullock.

In My Dominion II is the second part of serialized short prose tales starring the New Pulp heroine Death Angel as she unravels a mystery of violence and ancient gods. The story logline is as follows:

Ellen Fromme hopes to come to grips with the macabre events that led to her hus­band’s death and put her past be­hind her. But, she soon finds that her safe pent­house apart­ment and in­su­lat­ed lifestyle are no pro­tec­tion from… Do­min­ion.

Future Death Angel stories are scheduled to appear monthly on iPulp, a cloud-based reading service that publishes classic and contemporary short stories accessible from any device with an up-to-date browser and Internet connection.

The first two Death Angel tales to appear on iPulp can be found here:

Death Angel: Hung Jury
Death Angel: In My Dominion

MARTHA THOMASES: The DC (And NY And LA) Implosion

There used to be ten comic book stores within a mile of my apartment. Now, there are two.

To be fair, this is two more than most people have. And when I expand the radius to two miles, there are more than a dozen. Which, again, is more than most people have. There used to be a lot more bookstores, too, even before the Borders bankruptcy. Some of this is the ebb and flow of commerce, and some of it is specific to publishing.

Most of the comic book stores near me closed in the early 1990s, when the direct market imploded. Speculators stopped buying, and there simply weren’t enough reading fans to support so many stores. With bookstores, the same kind of competition had an effect. Instead of speculators, bookstores suffered from Internet offering lower prices and free delivery. More recently, the success of Kindles and other e-readers means that fewer readers are buying physical books.

Comic fans have been reading comics online for years. You, yourself, can read comics – for free – on this very site. It’s possible to illegally download comics you’d otherwise have to pay for, through a process I’ve always thought was too complicated to bother with. Also, I don’t mind artists and writers getting paid.

Starting next month, DC Comics will offer readers the chance to buy comics digitally at the same time (and at the same price) they are available in stores. Naturally, comic book stores are less than thrilled about this.

This is a long and winding way to get to my rant.


MIKE GOLD: Whips and Comics

In this very space a few days ago, John Ostrander said, By this time next year, we may know if we’re still viable or making buggy whips.” He was referring to comics creators, to comics fans, and to the entire comics art medium.

The first person I heard refer to comics with this term was master cartoonist Stan Lynde. In case you’re challenged in matters relating to newspaper comic strips, Stan was the creator and writer/artist of the strips Rick O’Shay and Latigo. He’s a master storyteller, a brilliant humorist and an artist of fantastic prowess. The time was close to 20 years ago, and Mike Grell and I were at a very enjoyable comic book convention at Billings Montana. One of the promoters promised to introduce me to Stan. This was a real fanboy moment for me.

As it turned out Stan and Lynda Lynde were two of the nicest people on the planet, and probably the universe. After dinner (where I consumed the best prime rib ever), they invited Mike and me to their place in the bluffs overlooking Billings. There Mike and I gazed upon acres of Stan’s paintings, original strip art, awards, historical memorabilia, and simply awesome sundry stuff. We talked for several hours and the subject got around to his career. Stan shared all kinds of great stuff – how one of his assistants was Robert Crumb, who, in many respects, was the anti-Stan Lynde. How Little Orphan Annie creator Harold Gray was an egotistical, arrogant bastard – those are my words, not Stan’s. And how, when he was coming to the end of his tenure his signature creation Rick O’Shay, his first wife asked him how long he was going to be making buggy whips.

That phrase impressed me. Were newspaper strips buggy whips? Maybe. Continuity strips certainly were – today, we have Dick Tracy, Gasoline Alley, Alley Oop, The Phantom, Mandrake, Judge Parker and barely a handful of others. Tracy’s picked up a few papers since our pal Joe Staton took over the art; on the other hand I know Mandrake is still alive solely because it’s online at King Features Syndicate. But the argument itself stayed with me, and during the past two decades I’ve endured the effluvium of the buggy whip factory as it surrounded the comic book medium.

The fact that the newspaper comic strip form remains alive is due to the Internet: a lot of newspapers run lots and lots of strips on their websites and the major syndicates have very low-cost services which email comics directly to their subscribers.

Not to put words in Brother John’s mouth, but the Internet is the only thing staving comic books off from the buggy whip wing of the American cultural museum. I think John’s right: we should know in about a year if that works. If not, ComicMix will become, oh, I don’t know, either a B&D site with all those whips, or a B&B site where you can score a nice home cooked meal.

As we passed midnight Stan drove us back to our hotel. As we were walking to the door and I said something to the effect of “hot damn.” Brother Grell responded, “You better believe it.” Even then Mike and I were two hardened veterans of the comics racket but we effortlessly allowed ourselves to bathe in the most crystal clear waters of fanboy heaven. We shared a truly inspirational time and we actually leapt up in the air out of our shared enthusiasm.

And that’s why I think comics might just have a future after all.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

BOOM! Studios Makes Their Elric Available Digitally Day & Date

Taking another step toward offering comics in stores and digitally on the same day, publisher BOOM! Studios says its new series, Elric: The Balance Lost will do just that.

The series, written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Francesco Biagini, is based on author Michael Moorcock’s fan-favorite fantasy hero Elric of Melnibone.

The book will be on sale in comic book shops Wednesday, but will also be available for download through BOOM! Studios own comics app and comiXology’s app, too. Unlike other publishers, however, the issue’s 10-page prelude will also be accessible on its own website at no cost.

“With Elric we’re not only focusing on print and mobile devices exclusively but getting out onto Internet browsers that billions of people use every day,” BOOM!’s marketing and sales director Chip Mosher said of the comic, which will retail for $3.99 in print and digital form.

“While there are only 25 million iPads out in the marketplace, there are billions of potential readers that have the ability to find comic books through the Internet,” he said.

Offering comics digitally and in stores on the same day is growing among publishers, with more and more of them embracing it as readers opt to read issues on tablets, smart phones and personal computers.

BOOM! first did so in January 2008 with the debut of its “North Wind” title and again a year later with “Hexed.”

At the end of May, DC Comics said it would start selling digital copies of its printed ongoing superhero titles through apps and a website the same day they’re released in comic shops, a move dubbed by the industry as day-and-date sales. That will affect the company’s superhero titles.

Similarly, Archie Comics began same-day digital and print sales in April, along with other smaller publishers.



Lance Star: Sky Ranger joins the iPulp Fiction Library

Flying high in the pages of the Airship 27 Productions anthologies and eBooks, Lance Star: Sky Ranger’s writers and creators have partnered with iPulp Fiction to bring exciting pulp stories directly to your mobile device. The fiull story and artwork can be read at http://www.lance-star.com/.

iPulp Fiction is releasing a story a day throughout June and July including tales featuring Lance Star: Sky Ranger. Bobby Nash’s story, “Where The Sea Meets The Sky” will be released July 18th for the low price of $1.00. Visit iPulp at www.ipulpfiction.com for more information.

iPulpFiction is a cloud-based reading service that publishes classic and contemporary short stories that are accessible from any device with an up-to-date browser and an Internet connection. iPulp is on the cutting edge of a new generation of web apps.

Beginning this week, look for new Lance Star: Sky Ranger based interviews with the writers, editors, and the crew at iPulp Fiction and airship 27 Productions at the official Lance Star website, www.lance-star.com.
Make sure you check out Bobby Nash’s Lance Star: Sky Ranger story, “Where The Sea Meets The Sky” on July 18, 2011 when it is released for the low price of $1.00 at www.ipulpfiction.com. Print and digital editions from Airship 27 are also available.
For more information on iPulp Fiction, please visit www.ipulpfiction.com
For more information on Airship 27 Productions, please visit www.gopulp.info
For more information on Lance Star: Sky Ranger, please visit www.lance-star.com and www.bobbynash.com