Comics A.M. | Comic sales surpass $1 billion, 'Smurfs' colorist passes away at 86

Passings | Nine Culliford, the woman who made the Smurfs blue, died on July 5 at the age of 86. Nine met Pierre Culliford, the artist who would later take the pen name Peyo, in 1946, the same year his first cartoon was published. Nine was the colorist for the Smurfs from their first appearance in "Johan et Pirlouit" (English title: "Johan and Peewit") in 1958 until her husband's death in 1992, and she continued to be active on Smurf projects after her son Thierry and her daughter Véronique took over. It was Nine who came up with the idea of coloring the Smurfs blue, as she felt the color would stand out agains the green, wooded backgrounds of the comic. [The Blue Print]

Comics | Sales of comics and graphic novels have crashed through the $1 billion threshold, according to calculations by Milton Griepp of ICv2 and John Jackson Miller of Comichron. That includes $350 million in sales through retail book channels, $90 million in digital, and $20 million in newsstand sales, with the rest coming through the direct market. Griepp and Miller estimate that graphic novels account for $535 million in sales and serial comics for $405 million. Griepp attributed the growth in sales to increased attention to comics properties from the media and an expanding audience, as more women and children come to the medium. [ICv2]

Passings | New Yorker cartoonist Michael Crawford has died at the age of 75. Crawford sold his first cartoon to the magazine in 1984, but editor William Shawn wasn't a big fan; once Robert Gottlieb took over, Crawford said in a 2013 interview, "the buy rate increased." Crawford's colleague Michael Maslin shares some personal reminiscences at the Inkspill blog. [Inkspill]

Digital Comics | Korea's Lezhin Entertainment is making its digital comics service available to U.S. users as an app for iOS and Android devices. The company started offering a web version in December, in response to a perceived demand due to illegal sharing. They offer work by 450 creators, with a premium service that allows artists to share in the revenue from their work, and they are currently running a contest for U.S. creators. [Animation]

Publishing | In a series of editorial shifts announced yesterday, IDW has promoted Denton Tipton from editor to senior editor and Sarah Gaydos from editor to group editor. Tipton, a former retailer and journalist, has edited "X-Files," "Judge Dredd," "Orphan Black," and "Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me," among others. Gaydos came to IDW in 2013 after six years at DC/Wildstorm, and she was responsible for IDW's Disney and Star Trek comics as well as "Powerpuff Girls." She will now oversee IDW's Hasbro licensed comics, including "Jem and the Holograms." Former group editor John Barber has moved on but retains his ties with the company; IDW's press release stated "John will remain creatively involved with IDW, writing a secret project yet-to-be-unveiled that spins out Revolution." [IDW]

Publishing | Meanwhile, Lion Forge is also making some major changes. David Steward is stepping down as president, although he will remain as founder/publisher. Geoff Gerber will move from general counsel and director of intellectual property to take over as president. And five new hires, all comics veterans, have come on board: Rich Johnson, former vice president of book trade sales for DC Comics and co-founder of Yen Press, will be vice president of sales, marketing, and business development; former DC marketing director and director of product management for DC Direct Syndee Barwick is coming on board as director of marketing and product development; Archaia founder Mark Smylie is the new executive editor; writer, editor, and CBR contributor Joseph Illidge, who was the Batman editor for DC, will be the senior editor; and the new sales and marketing manager is Devin Funches, who worked in sales and marketing for BOOM! Studios for six years. [ICv2]

Graphic Novels | Michael Cavna recommends some summer reading. [Comic Riffs]

Retailing | Kyle Kuchinsky and Jimmy Rabb used their collection of over 100,000 comics as the basis for starting their own comic shop, Bull Island Secret Lair, in Poquoson, Virginia. That collection makes up about 99% of the store's stock, with just a few new comics on offer each week. "We don't order like some of those other stores where they get 50 issues of one book," said Kuchinsky. In fact, the store seems more like a club than a profit-seeking business, and neither Kuchinsky nor Rabb has quit their day job. [Daily Press]

Exhibits | The National Museum of China has an exhibit of Chinese comics from the 1920s to the present on display right now; this report is mostly pictures, but they are interesting pictures. [China Daily]

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