Monday, March 31, 2008

Free Comics Monday: Fox Feature Syndicate

Welcome to Free Comics Monday number 12. Normally I post two issues of the same comic series but today I'm going to shun tradition and offer two comics that are very different from each other. Both comics were published originally by Fox-Feature Syndicate.

This first comic is called Romeo Tubbs, and that is simplt the greatest name for a character I've ever heard! He's sort of an Archie rip off, but I think you'll find the stories very enjoyable.

[ Download RomeoTubbs26 ]

Our next comics features Rulah, The Jungle Goddess as well as Blue Beetle and Phantom Lady.

[ Download All Top 08 ]

That's an interesting cover on that *All Top* Comics isn't it?

But I think we can all agree that comics have progressed much beyond the need to use such gimmicky cheesecake covers to sell themselves right?

Or Not...

All Top Indeed.


ps: please don't take this as any type of endorsement for Countdown

Saturday, March 29, 2008

League of Monsters Sequel?

Because Godaddy is no longer going to eternally keep all my log files on their servers for easy access (Bastards!) I have been downloading them to my pc for future reference.

This has caused me to reflect on several trends in the traffic of the FB site, one of which I'll talk about today.

For some reason, the League of Monsters comic is far and away the most popular Flashback title we have. It always leads the pack in downloads.

And while this month was different, the same is true for the Butterfly BackStory. Of the three BackStories, it's the random visitor's favorite.

See the stats here for March.

March 2008 Downloads

And check out these stats from August 2007

August 2007 Downloads

Now, the first question that should come to mind is why did the LOM comic have almost 3000 downloads in August and only 1000 for March? Is traffic on the site going down?

No, quite the opposite actually. This month is just abnormally slow for some reason and in August I got linked from the (the premiere Apple news site) and (the premiere Tech Geek news site)

When I first started I used to pour over the weekly download numbers with great intensity, trying to decipher the ebbs and flos in my bandwidth.

I gave up on that about 6 months ago.

The fact is, you are just as likely to get a ton of visitors from some arbitrary post on some South American Vampire Message Board as you are from a real news site like the Apple Gazette. (For example, last month, I got a HUGE spike from the One Child One Laptop site because someone asked about reading digital comics on their XO Laptop.

Still, the one trend that never changes is that excluding downloads from my email newsletter recipients (who bust the trend when we launch a new comic) the League Of Monsters is always the top download.

And while I have been pretty adamant about only working on comics with characters not seen so far, looking at this trend makes me wonder if I shouldn't consider a sequel to our League of Monsters comic.

Feel free to chime in.

Would you rather see a new LOM comic or one with a character we haven't featured yet?

NOTE: I want to apologize for this late Blog Post. I would also like to blame Chris Sims. If he had only liked the name SnakeRoot, then this column would have been right on time. :D

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kindle: 5 Months Later and UMPCs

Please indulge me if you will - I'm going to get to the really good Tech Goodies at the end of this post, but first I want you to do a little experiment...

Phil Looney pointed me to this well written article that describes How Kindle Saves You Time and Money.

And while I don't see Kindle much of an advancement over a laptop (yet) the article is interesting, and well worth checking out.

What I found even better than the article was the comments after the article. One link particular really struck a chord with me:

Why Traditional Books Will Die
by Michael S Hyatt
President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers

Yeah, that title just screams *Click This! Paper Comic DeathWatcher* doesn't it?

In that article, Mr. Hyatt does a very simple point by point breakdown of why paper books are doomed. Read this and substitute the word PAPER COMIC for BOOK. How many of these statements still ring true when you do that?

The book manufacturing process is inefficient. As Newsweek noted
in their article on the Amazon Kindle, “We chop down trees, transport them to plants, mash them into pulp, move the pulp to another factory to press into sheets, ship the sheets to a plant to put dirty marks on them, then cut the sheets and bind
them and ship the thing around the world.” How much longer will an increasingly
environmentally-conscious public tolerate this kind of waste? There must be a
better way.

The book distribution process is inefficient. For starters, retail bookstores have limited shelf space. Almost 200,000 new books are published each year. This doesn’t include the millions that are already in print (what the publishing industry terms “backlist”).

Publishers have to persuade booksellers to stock their books. Then, once the bookseller places his order, the publisher ships them to the store, where someone has to unpack them and put them on already over-crowded shelves. If the bookseller doesn’t sell the books, he ships them back to the publisher, where they are processed and placed back into inventory. Sometimes, they are even shipped back to the same account!

If demand for the book disappears, the books are sold to “remainder” houses
who often re-sell them to the same bookstores for pennies on the dollar.
(Sometimes, I think that the only ones making money in the publishing business
are the trucking companies.)

The book buying experience is inefficient. If I want a book today, I have to get in my car and drive to a local bookseller. The first challenge I have is to see if the store even stocks the book I want. If it’s a bestseller, I can usually find it at the first store.

If not, I will more often than not waste a trip. Then, If I can find the book, I have to go through the checkout process. Sometimes this is not a big deal; other times, I have to wait in line for five to ten minutes. This doesn’t sound like much but it creates additional friction in the buying experience. While I’m reading the book, I have to transport it with me. On a recent trip, I took three books in addition to my laptop.

When my kids go to school, they take an entire bag full of books. It’s a
hassle. Then, when I finish the book, I have to store it. Don’t get me wrong, I
love books—I love surrounding myself with books. (You should see my house.) But
I, too, have limited shelf space. Currently, I have a separate storage facility
housing books I don’t have room for in my home or office.

Retrieving information is also a hassle. I have to remember where I stored
the book and then I have to remember where in the book I actually read it. This
process can take any where from a few minutes to hours.

A lot of that sounds like the comics industry to me...

Anyway, even though the Kindle completely sold out (2000 PDCW points btw) what I think is more dooming for the paper comics industry is a new phrase that is popping up more and more:

UMPC or Ultra Mobile PC - These consist of various different models, but the basic idea is the same. People want a tablet pc (or in some cases a super cell phone) that they can use at moments notice without the hassles associated with a laptop (long boot time, having to sit down to use it, etc...)

Here are some of the latest UMPC designs:

GigaBytes M700 UMPC

(see picture at the top of this post)

Samsung Q 1 - $749 on Amazon

The Amtek iTablet 221 PC

For more example check out this entire site devoted to UMPCs

These feel more like the real Book Industry Killers to me, but I guess we'll have to wait and see what Kindle 2.0 really does.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Free Comics Monday: The Blue Beetle

The Blue Beetle is one of those characters from the Golden Age who has been reinvented many times over the years. Most recently is Jason Wright's Fave, the Jaime Reyes version at DC. And while I don't know what fate has in store for the newest incarnation now that writer John Rogers is leaving the book, I think he'll stay around in some form. It's really hard to kill a good character like that.

Unless your Dan Didio, then it's apparently very easy. :P

Here's what Wikipedia says about the original version of the character...

The original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett, first appeared in Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1 (Aug. 1939), with art by Charles Nicholas Wojtkowski (as Charles Nicholas) (though the Grand Comics Database tentatively credits Will Eisner as the scripter.[1]) A rookie police officer, he used special equipment, a bulletproof costume (sometimes) and a superstrength-inducing "vitamin", and the assistance of a neighborhood pharmacist to fight crime.

He starred in a comic book series, comic strip and radio serial but, like
most Golden Age superheroes, he fell into obscurity in the 1950s. The comic book series saw a number of anomalies in publication: 19 issues, #12 through #30, were published through Holyoke Publishing; no issue #43 was published; publication frequency varied through the run; and there were gaps where issues were not published, with large ones occurring in early 1947 and between mid-1948 and early 1950.

[ Download Blue Beetle 04 ]

[ Download Blue Beetle 09 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Limbo Domain Comics

Rom, SpaceKnight!

If there were ever two words that were meant to be put together then separated by a comma, more than those two words, well, I've never heard them.

And while my love for the Rom is never going to rival Chris Sims (to whom I swiped the Free Rom Banner), I do have a lot of love for the character. And yet, we'll probably never see an Essential Rom collection from Marvel, and that's a durn shame.

Now I'm not going to retread the sorry state of Rom's mucked up licensing rights, but I do want to use him as a poster child for today's topic.

Comics In Limbo:
Lost Gems Of The Comics World Saved by the Scanners!

Look, I know it's real easy to point you fingers of shame at all the Comic Book Scanners who week after week scan copies of CountDown or Iron Fist and then upload them to the internet, but let's not forget that those guys also are helping to preserve many other comics that don't have a snowball's chance of getting an Essential or Showcase.

I mean, do you really think you'll ever see a Morlock 2001 Omnibus? Highly unlikely considering the series only ran 3 issues and probably only has 2 fans on the entire internet, but does that mean it should just be lost and forgotten? Nay, says I!

I mean who wouldn't want to read this:

The year is 2001 A.D. A time when life as we know it has become hideously transformed. A rigid totalitarian regime holds the people in an iron grip, and mankind's greatest truths have been declared "inoperative".

Professor Kroschell, the "mad botanical professor" has been conducting illegal botanical experimentations when he is gunned down by the jack-booted police. They confiscate a gigantic pod that holds a male human within its leaves. Outwardly appearing human yet structurally a plant, we are introduced to Morlock !

When transformed into his plant-like form his mind is clouded with the bestial preoccupation for finding food.

Only to later find out that the mad scientist was planning to develop an army of Plant Men to overthrow the dictatorship, Morlock continues his fight against oppression in 2001. Beware the touch of Morlock ! He'll turn everyone into fungus creatures.

I know what you're thinking

- "Jim, a half man/half plant who fights a totalitarian regime and turns into a rampaging tree creature? I've seen that a million times! There's no way you could get more than 2 issues of good comics out of that premise!"

Well, fear not, because with issue 3 they completely change the whole tone of the series, so there you go. An awesome trilogy to rival Star Wars and Lord of the Rings!

Currently, the rights to Morlock 2001 (and all the other Atlas/Seaboard characters) probably reside with Chip Goodman's heirs. I don't know that they are ever going to do anything with those characters (which just might be a good thing actually - I mean do we really want to see an Iron Jaw movie?) so it's really good that the original comics can still be found somewhere.

And the same thing is true for Rom. I sincerely doubt Marvel is ever going to be able to reprint those old Rom comics. Or their old Micronauts for that matter. Which is a durn shame because those were some great stories.

I also don't imagine that DC is going to rush out a Jerry Lewis Showcase anytime soon. Or Amethyst Princess of Gemworld for that matter (not sure what the hold up is on that one but doesn't that seem like a natural?)

So, were it not for those diligent (and slightly OCD) young men awash in the glow of their HP Scanner then such gems of comics history would be eternally lost. Or at least really, really hard to find in the the backissue bins on the floor at your local comics shop. You know which bins I'm talking about - the ones that say 4 for a $1.00 and smell sort of like dead gerbils. You spend more than an hour thumbing through those bins looking for a complete set of Justice League Task Force and your hands will stink like you cleaned a cat box with a block of moldy cheese.

In conclusion, the next time you see some goofball talking on a messageboard about how illegal comic book downloading is destroying American values, getting girls pregnant out of wedlock and turning kids to the devil weed, remind that guy about Morlock 2001, Rom, SpaceKnight and this guy...


Right On with the NOW Super-Hero, Indeed! :D

Thank you Scanners! Comic Fandom owes you a beer!

Extra PCDW Bonus Round:

Elfquest is going to be distributed Online Now

Thanks goes to Tech Savy Phil Looney for passing that bit of information to me!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Paper Comic DeathWatch: YouTorrent

I have two things to talk about in today's PCDW post. This first one is the lastest sensation on the web that the kids all talking about -

I discovered YouTorrent in the latest issue of BusinessWeek, (not where I typically go to get the my bleeding edge digital info fix, but there it was...) BusinessWeek gave YouTorrent and its creator a nice 2 page article. By comparison, Pirate Bay merely got a little sidebar.

What YouTorrent does that sets itself apart from other torrent tracker sites is that it acts as a searchable index for all the other Torrent sites (or at least the big 10) - becoming a sort of Google for Torrents. Now while this idea isn't entirely new (isohunt does something similar) the YouTorrent implementation of this idea is pretty damn slick.

For instance, a search for DareDevil brings back 232 results. Most are the movie, but many of them are the DCP comic packs. Because it doesn't differentiate between its results, it is easy to see how YouTorrent is going to be many downloaders first exposure to digital comics (which may seem strange if you are a reader of this blog, but by and large, most people have no clue you can download comics. I see this all the time with fans who have walked away from the hobby years ago and discover Flashback Universe via a google search. I get quite a few emails like this one from M. Bartlett:

Hello to all you wonderful Flashback Universe comics folks! I just wanted to tell you that this is an awesome idea. I have been interested in the digital media of this sort of thing since I saw the illegal X-Men comics out there a few years ago (but I was too chicken to dare download such a large file).

The idea of being able to read, and keep an archive of my favorite titles without taking up tons of physical space with delicate booklets made of thin and frail paper, is a wonderfully neglected idea. I am glad to see that you guys are out there trying to get the idea out to the world - and in the most wonderful way possible, by providing something that not only demonstrates the concept (in the "proof of concept" fashion that is so popular) but in practice.

I have chosen two or three comics from your site to download and have them in the BG coming to my computer now, and I'll see what I think of the comics you're putting out, but on principle and for the sheer "cool factor" of what you're doing I will be adding your site to my links on my list and [when I revamp it] my website as well. I hope that the extra links will bring you some more traffic and attention to your work and efforts to get this form of comic book media from the "professional" distributors.

Thanks for sharing your talent(s) and dedication towards this idea with everyone. It is appreciated and I am sure I'll enjoy your comics too (I really used to be a HUGE comic book fan until they got to be too expensive).

Of late, Pirate Bay has definitely been the place for the old Zcult leechers to get their weekly fix, and I don't really expect that to change. (Pirate Bay has the advantage of being located in a country that doesn't seem to give a damn about copyright issues.)

Still you know how the kids are with their text messages and their IMs. It wouldn't surprise me if when that Iron Man movie hits, that YouTorrent sees a big surge in people downloading Iron Man comics.

It will be interesting to watch Hollywood's reaction to YouTorrent as well.

PCDW Points: 2000

Monday, March 17, 2008

Free Comics Monday: Fantastic Worlds

Todays batch of Free of Comics comes from the Standard line of comics (which was sort of a spin off from Nedor Publishing). They are also printed in the 50's so you'll notice they have more of a Silver Age look and feel about them.

From Fantastic Worlds 06:

The 25th century dawns peaceful and calm with interplanetary trade among the nine planets! War is unknown and crime is kept low by the vigilant Space Guard, watchdogs of the solar system! But like a thunderclap, out of nowhere, comes catastrophe! And only one spaceman and a girl stand between Earth and the Cosmic Terror!

[ Download Fantastic World 06 ]

[ Download Fantastic World 07 ]

Hope you enjoy them!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Flashback Art Tutorial from Jerry Hinds

Jumping Jerry Hinds, the fantabulous artist of the upcoming Creature and WildCard comic, ...So Falls The World! written by Chris Sims, has created an outstanding step by step art tutorial explaining how he get great results in Photoshop.

Digital layouts can be very flexible to work with – you can move characters around, change props, vary perspectives slightly, and be in a fundamentally more flexible position to better please your creative ambitions … and editor. =)

[ Check out his tutorial here ]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Paper Comic DeathWatch: Kindle 2.0

While it's no secret that the current version of Kindle [ Amazon's eBook Reader ] is about as sexy as a Soviet issue army boot, there are quite a number of people speculating on the designs for the NEXT version of the device.

kindle-v20 Designs on

Some of those designs are real paper comic killers. At this point its becoming less and less about IF and more about WHEN such devices will be showing up.

PCDW Points: 200

Monday, March 10, 2008

Free Comics Monday: Bound By Law?

I know I typically have a couple of Golden Age comics for everyone on Mondays, but I stumbled across Tales From The Public Domain: Bound By Law while researching Public Domain characters, and it's really something everyone should check out.

It was produced by Duke University, so I'm inclined to think it's been fact checked pretty well, and is AT LEAST as reliable as asking people at Newsarama about Public Domain...

From the Duke University site...
“Bound by Law translates law into plain English and abstract ideas into ‘visual metaphors.’ So the comic's heroine, Akiko, brandishes a laser gun as she fends off a cyclopean 'Rights Monster' - all the while learning copyright law basics, including the line between fair use and copyright infringement.” -Brandt Goldstein, The Wall Street Journal online

A documentary is being filmed. A cell phone rings, playing the “Rocky” theme song. The filmmaker is told she must pay $10,000 to clear the rights to the song. Can this be true? “Eyes on the Prize,” the great civil rights documentary, was pulled from circulation because the filmmakers’ rights to music and footage had expired. What’s going on here? It’s the collision of documentary filmmaking and intellectual property law, and it’s the inspiration for this new comic book.

Follow its heroine Akiko as she films her documentary, and navigates the twists and turns of intellectual property. Why do we have copyrights? What’s “fair use”? Bound By Law reaches beyond documentary film to provide a commentary on the most pressing issues facing law, art, property and an increasingly digital world of remixed culture. This book is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Paper Comic DeathWatch: Marvel on FaceBook

From Heidi MacDonald's wonderful The Beat...Marvel Goes to FaceBook (items have been bolded by me)

On the heels of Marvel Entertainment opening its comic book vault to the masses in November with the launch of its online subscription service Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, today Marvel announced the launch of its first digital comics application on Facebook Platform, Facebook is the sixth most trafficked website in the United States.

Marvel’s first official Facebook application immerses fans in the world of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, the home of the greatest collection of Marvel Comics ever assembled online. This new application page will serve as a hub to the Marvel Universe on Facebook.

With the new Digital Comics application, fans can peruse the entire Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited collection—currently numbering more than 3000 comics, read synopses of many of the titles, pick favorites and share thoughts about the books with all of their Facebook friends.

The full post is here:

Now while I've had my say about Marvel's DCU site, I gotta tip my hat to the initiative they are showing here! Aligning themselves with FaceBook is a really smart idea, especially given the amount of traffic that site gets.

It's very possible that just an appearance on a FaceBook page might be enough to prompt a user to click over to Amazon and order some Marvel TPBs. So, this could end up helping their printed comics as well.

Meanwhile at DC...well...

...maybe I should start a DC Comics DeathWatch. Lord knows something's gotta give over there.

btw - the image above is not to imply that the New Frontier Special or DVD failed. Quite the opposite. I am actually on the same page as Phil Looney on the New Frontier DVD.

I just sort of think that DC via Time Warner is concentrating on Direct to Video DVDs which from many accounts are really just another form of media that will be eventually be supplanted by online alternatives, so to me, Marvel is making the smarter business decisions in regards to using the internet.

PCDW Points: 1000 (for Marvel) 10,000 (for DC)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Questions about Zuda

Diego Tripodi, the artist on the Trex Backstory, recently had a web comic (Pieces of Eden) that was part of the January Zuda entries. I had several questions about Zuda that Diego was kind enough to answer, so I thought I'd share his answers here...

Did you enjoy your Zuda experience?

Yes, very much. I really liked the chance of getting feedback from the readers and finding out what things they liked and did not like about the comic. As a writer or artist, I think that's one of the finest things about Zuda.

You mentioned not being able to have samples of your comic anywhere but on Zuda? What was the deal with that?

That was something from their Rights Agreement, which can be read here:

"(…) the Material has not been published, posted, distributed or displayed
online, in print or in any other manner, and neither the Material nor any
elements thereof have been used in any manner or media".

Looking back, I guess it wouldn't have mattered to post some actual pages from the comic in forums, blogs, etc. (In fact, it could have been a good way to helping promote the series, and I don't think it would have been a big deal regarding the agreement that they have in their site…)

Were you allowed to canvase/solicit votes on messageboards or from friends? What restrictions are their on *pimping* your comic on Zuda?

As far as I know, there are no restrictions at all.

I e-mailed lots of people to ask them to vote for Pieces of Eden. Also, I left messages and links to the comic in many forums (and Yahoo groups), comic news sites, blogs… I left links to the comic all over deviantArt. So I pretty much felt like a politian, really.

I don't think they have restrictions to this kind of promotion because it might also lead to people to check other contents in their site, though in many cases, especially when it comes to friends who don't read comics, it's very likely that they'll register, vote for your comic, and not check the site again. Still, I think that having the competitors self-promoting their comics it's a good thing for Zuda as it helps expanding their audience.

Are you allowed to explain how the voting process worked? Did you feel like it was reflective of the ratio of views/favorites you got on your comic.

At the beginning, I thought it was only the votes that mattered in order to win the contest, but then (from the comments that I'd read in the Zuda Blog, from the editors) I realized everything counts: not just votes, but also the amount of pageviews, "favorites", and ratings (1 to 5 stars).

About the rankings, regarding if they were reflective of the amounts of views and favorites that the comics had, yes, I think so.

Would you do it again?
Absolutely. In fact, I'm already working in new pages for another Zuda submission.

Will you take your Comic elsewhere, perhaps as a webcomic or to submit it to another publisher?

I don't think so. Basically, Pieces of Eden was something that was created with the Zuda format in mind, so I don't know if it would work in a more traditional format.

Continuing this series (or any of the other series that didn't win) as a webcomic is a great idea, I think, because you already have people who know your work from Zuda and you can start building an audience from there.

At the same time, working on new pages on a regular basis without financial support it's hard to do. It takes too much time, and in our case that's what stopped us from continuing this comic on our own as a webcomic. We felt it was better to start work in a new project, and try our luck again at the publishing world (!).

Finally a non Zuda did an awesome job on Trex, and Cyclotron as well - are there any other Flashback Universe characters that you think you might enjoy drawing?

I always liked to draw skulls, so doing a Flashback Universe comic with the Dead Skull in it would be nice (though I got to draw AstroNaught in the Trex story, which was a skull character as well).

The Artifact is a character that would allow to create interesting graphics using textures, I think. Plus, while I've never been a big fan of robots or more "technological" characters (for the lack of a better term), this is a character that (at least visually) reminded me of Cliff Steele, from the Doom Patrol, who's a character I love, so maybe it's because of that connection, but the Artifact would be high on my list.

Runewraith is another character that seems interesting to me, and I always liked Prometheus, he's got a great costume (and I love the helmet).

Thank you Diego!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Free Comics Monday: Judy of the Jungle

Today's Free Comics are from Nedor Publishing: Judy of the Jungle.

Wikipedia says:

Judy of the Jungle is a fictional character from the Golden Age of Comics that appeared in comic books published by Nedor Comics. She debuted in Exciting Comics #55(May 1947).

Judy appeared as a regular backup feature in Exciting Comics, displacing Miss Masque. She soon began appearing on the covers, with art provided by Alex Schomburg. Some of Judy's stories featured early work by Frank Frazetta.[1] Judy's last Golden Age appearance was in Exciting Comics #69 (September 1949).

AC Comics reprinted several of Judy's adventures in 1993 and 1999.

[ Download Exciting Comics 60 ]

[ Download Exciting Comics 62 ]

Hope you enjoy them!


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