Digital Comic Resources: comiXology, Hickman and More

The big news this week came from comiXology and Barnes & Noble: comiXology announced that over 50 million comics have been downloaded from its service, and it also got a lot of attention for the simultaneous launch of Jonathan Hickman's "The Manhattan Projects" and the anthology of his earlier works, "Test Pattern." This is a good example of how digital publishers can leverage the backlist and tie it in to newer works. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble continues to expand the catalog of books available on its Nook Tablet with both Dark Horse and Classics Illustrated offering comics through the Nook Store.

Digital Comics: This is a big week for writer Jonathan Hickman, as the first issue of his alt-science-history comic "The Manhattan Projects" (with art by Nick Pitarra) hit shelves and screens, the latter via the comiXology app. In addition to the new series, comiXology launched a collection of Hickman's creator-owned back catalog from Image, five miniseries that can be bought separately or bundled in the digital collection "Test Pattern" for a cool $34.99. And just to make the work complete, Hickman was the guest on the comiXology podcast, where he discussed both "The Manhattan Projects" and "Test Pattern," as well as how people read digital comics and the fine points of digital design.

Digital Comics: The digital comics distributor comiXology passed a big milestone this week with the announcement that over 50 million comics had been downloaded from their service since they set up shop in July 2009 -- back when the iPad was just a rumor. The fact that ICv2 estimated the entire digital comics market in 2011 at $25 million suggests that a lot of those downloaded comics were free, however. In terms of momentum, 5 million, or 10%, of those downloads occurred in December 2011, and a "significant percentage" of those were free. On the other hand, comiXology is often one of the top grossing apps in the iTunes store on Wednesdays, when new comics out, so people must be paying for at least some of their comics.

Apps: DC's non-superhero-comics line Vertigo now has its own branded iOS app (built on the comiXology platform). This neatly solves a problem for DC: Its main branded app is rated 12+, but most Vertigo books are rated for older readers. Consequently, they were removed from the DC app and sold only via comiXology's Comics app. Of course, the Vertigo and Comics apps sync with one another, so if you bought "Fables" on one, you can read it on the other as well.

Platforms: Dark Horse announced this week that it is extending its digital comics service onto two e-reader tablet, the Nook, Barnes & Noble's e-reader, and the Kobo Vox. The publisher is offering over 100 graphic novels on each tablet at launch, including Sin City, Hellboy, Mass Effect and Buffy the Vampire Slayer graphic novels. Based on a quick sample, prices seem to be somewhat higher on both e-readers than through its web store and iOS app.

Digital Comics: IDW announced this week that it will make the entire Angel and Spike series available digitally, starting this week with the 17-issue series "Angel: After the Fall," which was co-plotted by Joss Whedon as a followup to the final season of the television show. New comics will be added weekly, and the full line includes over 150 comics and graphic novels.

Platforms: Something old, something new: Another venerable comics franchise became available on the Nook this week: Classics Illustrated. These are the classic Classics Illustrated comics from the 1950s and 1960s, not the newfangled modern ones published by Papercutz. I noticed one review saying that the text was too small to be easily readable, which isn't surprising as the Nook is considerably smaller than the originals. And all that nostalgia doesn't come cheap: Most of the comics are priced at $4.99 for 48 to 64 pages, although for some reason the "Treasure Island" issue is only 99 cents, and the Junior Classics Illustrated comics are just $1.99.

Publishing: ComiXology has hired Marc Goldberg as its chief technology officer. Previously, Goldberg was CTO for EPIX, which the press release describes as "the multiplatform premium entertainment channel, video-on-demand and online service owned by Viacom and its Paramount Pictures unit, MGM." Anyone who can be CTO for something that complicated must be good, right?

Digital Comics: Todd Allen looks at some analytics from Graphicly that show that digital comics readers read an average of eight pages in one sitting. That suggests that one format for digital comics going forward might be short chapters published weekly rather than longer comics published monthly. Of course, as some commenters point out, this is an average, so it may be that people are either reading one or two pages and dumping the comic or reading all 22 pages at once, and the two are simply averaging out to eight pages. The next step, which Allen thinks would be very useful, would be to produce data on what percentage of readers stop reading on each page, how many forward links to a page to others, and how many of those forwarded links result in actual sales.

Memes: The Bangkok Post offers a handy guide to internet comics memes, with ID photos of a number of odd characters (Rage Guy, Handsome Face, Chubby Bubbles Girl) who apparently get remixed into comics a lot on Facebook and Twitter, as well as links to websites where more can be found. Just don't expect them to make any sense.

Publishing: Last week we reported that the digital manga publisher JManga had become globally available, but that some of its manga were still region-restricted. While that is still the case, at least one publisher has seen the light: Takeshobo, which publishes yuri manga (love stories between two women) has made all its manga available worldwide.

Publishing: Japanese publisher Kadokawa Shoten, whose properties include The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya novels and manga and the Evangelion manga, has inked a deal with Amazon Japan for digital release of its properties on the Kindle (including Kindle apps on all platforms).

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