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Indie comics news: TMNT turns 30, "Special Edition: NYC" and "Diamond Digital"

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Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird reunite for TMNT's 30th Anniversary!

In 1984, two plucky creators named Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird pooled their talents to create a quirky science fiction satire series called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and self published their adventures via their own company, Mirage Studios. An instant "indie" hit, the characters attracted the attention of a toy company (Playmates) which funded an animated mini series to sell the toys in 1987, and the rest is history. Since then the Ninja Turtles have seen long success in a variety of mediums from TV, film, video games and of course, comic books. Yet both Eastman and Laird usually disagreed with the best choices to take the property over the years; in 2001-2002, Laird even bought out Eastman's share of the property to take a firmer hand to revive it in comics and a then new cartoon on Fox's Saturday morning block "FoxBox" in 2003. By 2009-2010, however, Laird sold his license rights to Viacom for a reported $40 million and dissolved Mirage Studios into retirement. Eastman, for his part, once again became involved in a new generation of TMNT comics, this time published by IDW.

To celebrate this 30th anniversary of TMNT, IDW will be releasing a 48 page special in May, priced at $7.99 and featuring an anthology of tales crafted by past creators who have worked on the TMNT. These include not only newer contributors like co-writer Tom Waltz or artist Dan Duncan, but classic Turtle artist Jim Lawson and Simon Bisley. The shining jewel, however, is the cover; the first direct collaboration between Eastman and Laird since approximately 1994. Eastman, as well as editor/co-writer Bobby Curnow, had a lengthy interview about this as well as their time crafting a new legacy at IDW over at Comics Alliance. There, Eastman likened his long relationship with Laird as akin to a married couple who both want to raise their "kids" right but sometimes disagree on how, but that they have mutual respect for each other.

2014 will be a big year for the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Not only will there be more comics from IDW, but a new movie produced by Michael Bay will hit theaters August 8th.

"ReedPOP"'s new con, "Special Edition NYC", goes live!

As reported last week, "ReedPOP", the company that runs the annual "New York Comic Con" as well as the Chicago "C2E2" con (among others) have announced plans for another con at the Jacob Javits center this June 14th and 15th. Called "Special Edition NYC", the con's official website is now online and ticket prices have been set at $30 a day, with a two day VIP package being $100. These are lower prices than for the "NYCC", which is appropriate as this will be a smaller show. As the website explains, the focus of this con is strictly on comic books (both mainstream and indie) and the creative talent on them. In comparison, October's "NYCC" has grown to include heaps of other media which don't always have anything to do with comics, such as unrelated TV shows, video games, and other additions (as well as being merged with what was once the "Big Apple Anime Fest").

To date, at least twenty creators are confirmed to be attending this con. They include Greg Pak, Brian Wood, Alex Maleev, Frank Cho, Dustin Nguyen, Jenny Frison, Marguerite Bennett, Tim Seeley, Ryan Stegman, Charles Soule, and Kyle Higgins. This is essentially an larger version of "Artists' Alley" expanded into its' own con. There will also be "[comic] dealers and a limited number of panel discussions". Tickets go on sale online tomorrow (Feb. 26th).

Why expand to another convention? Rob Salkowitz at ICv2 gives an informative run down about how lucrative that comic book conventions have become now that the medium has become more "mainstream" due to film successes. In 2013, all of the conventions held in the United States generated at least $600 million in ticket sales alone, including some $70 million in economic activity for New York City. Salkowitz even theorizes that this figure is on par with what the entire North American comic book industry earns in annual comic sales on average (which was about $750 million in 2012). In short, organizers like "ReedPOP" make a profit as well as provide an ample platform for companies to reach those elusive "new" or "mainstream" readers outside the weekly grind.

ComiXology outlasts Diamond in digital distribution!

After less than two years, Diamond Distribution's digital comic storefront, hosted by iVerse, will officially end at the end of February. The primary distributor of physical comic books in the direct market of "brick and mortar" retailers initially announced their foray into the sale of digital comics in 2011, but it took "Diamond Digital" roughly a year to go live. In that time, ComiXology, which began in 2007-2008, continued to gain stronger footing with digital comic sales via exclusives with companies and an easier application to use.

As explained by Robot 6, "Diamond Digital" was both an attempt to capitalize on a soon to grow digital market as well as to "protect" retailers who don't see any sales from online purchases. Their storefront allowed customers to buy comics digitally either via a printed bar code that their shop printed for them, or from online stores their shops would create online. The dilemma was that few shops had the required online presence, and that having to physically show up for a code to buy comics online defeats the purpose. Brian Hibbs, a very successful and prolific retailer, claimed that within 18 months of using the program, it netted him barely over $37 in sales. The inability for big publishers like Marvel or DC Comics to contribute to "Diamond Digital" due to their own ComiXology exclusives didn't bode well. Dark Horse Comics seeking to avoid the middle man completely by selling digital comics directly from their website also didn't help.

At first afraid of digital sales and ComiXology's growing reach, in the end it hasn't been as terrible for the direct market as some feared. Sales of physical comic books in the direct market were up collectively for 2012-2013 despite digital sales rising as well. While Diamond may have a monopoly on physical comic sales, it seems ComiXology (and other digital comics apps) have carved out their own niche online.

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