comiXology expands their ‘Originals’ line with creator-owned titles, print-on-demand

comiXology moves into print comics with an ‘experiment’ using Amazon’s print-on-demand capabilities.

comiXology Originals debuted in 2016 and have since published comics in conjunction with Marvel, BOOM! Studios, Valiant Entertainment and the estate of Harvey Kurtzman — and even earned an Eisner nomination. Now the Amazon-owned company is branching out to include creator-owned comics as part of the program.

The company announced four new titles that can be found on comiXology’s storefront, with the promise of more to come. Interestingly, comiXology is expanding beyond digital and will offer three of the four books through Amazon’s print-on-demand service — giving consumers the opportunity to buy comiXology material directly, rather than through a traditional comic book publisher.

The new comiXology Originals releases include: Savage Game created by NFL player Ryan Kalil, written by Shawn Kittelsen, and art by Chris B. Murray; Superfreaks from writers Elsa Charretier and Pierrick Colinet, with artist Margaux Saltel; Elephantmen 2261: The Death of Shorty from writer Richard Starkings, and artists Axel Medellin and Boo Cook; Ask For Mercy from writer Starkings and artist Abigail Jill Harding.

About the books

Below are descriptions from the press release of each of the four titles comiXology is offering:

Savage Game
Created by Ryan Kalil, written by Shawn Kittelsen, with art by Chris B. Murray

From NFL player Ryan Kalil and his company Strange Turn comes an original 60-page sci-fi graphic novel that is high tech version of The Island of Dr. Moreau. What happens when a rogue titan of Silicon Valley creates his own island nation with no laws to hold him back? You get the Savage Game, where audiences watch genetically modified hybrid creatures fight to the death in a fantastic gladiator-style battle. But Conner Bowen isn’t having it. He’s on a quest to stop his mad father and the Savage Game. But is it too late?

–Original 60pg Graphic Novel – $4.99 on Kindle and comiXology
–Free to read for members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited and comiXology Unlimited
–Available in print for $6.99 as a Print-on-Demand graphic novel exclusively on Amazon.com

“Working on Savage Game has been a labor of love for everyone and I am really thrilled that it’s finally coming out with comiXology Originals and via Amazon’s Print-on-Demand,” said Savage Game creator Ryan Kalil. “I am very excited for the reader response and for the future of Savage Game.”

Superfreaks
Written by Elsa Charretier and Pierrick Colinet with art by Margaux Saltel

An all-new five-issue superhero mystery debuting digitally in its entirety — a thrilling story perfect for binge reading – with art by rising star Margaux Saltel. All the world’s superheroes have disappeared overnight, and it’s up to their untrained, largely overlooked teenage sidekicks to find out what happened — while dealing with the biggest crisis Earth has ever known — much to the public’s displeasure. Can they save the day?

–Five-issue series – all issues available to binge read now
–Issue are $2.99 each on Kindle and comiXology
–Free to read for members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited and comiXology Unlimited

“Not only am I ecstatic about Superfreaks being released today, but doubly so having the entire series being available all at once,” said Superfreaks writer Elsa Charretier. “Readers will experience all the cliffhangers we intended as storytellers, while binge reading the entire series the same day it’s released. And when the world’s superheroes have disappeared overnight, you don’t want to wait to see what’s happened.”

Elephantmen 2261: The Death of Shorty
Written by Richard Starkings with art by Axel Medellin and Boo Cook

The iconic Elephantmen debuts as ac omiXology Originals title with issue 1 of Elephantmen 2261: The Death of Shorty, a five-issue monthly mini-series. Described by J.J. Abrams as “An Awesome and Unexpected Story. You Must Check it out!” and lauded by Andy Serkis as “Bold, mythic and heartbreakingly cool, Starkings’ universe is a breed apart!”, Elephantmen 2261: The Death of Shorty, is the next adventure of the pulp science fiction series Elephantmen, which debuted nearly 15 years and 80 issues ago from Image Comics. This all-new story is a whodunit that draws our heroes, Hip Flask and Jack Farrell, into the curious death of an Elephantman known to his friends as “Shorty.”

–Five-issue miniseries – issues will be available monthly – $2.99 per issue on Kindle and comiXology
–Free to read for members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited and comiXology Unlimited
–Print edition will be available via Print-on-Demand exclusively on Amazon.com

“Once I realized Elephantmen sold more digitally than in print, I suggested to my friends at comiXology that we create a brand new Elephantmen series exclusively for digital readers,” says Elephantmen creator Richard Starkings. “And yet – for those who’d rather hold a print version – you’ll still be able to order a Print-on-Demand paperback collection as soon as it’s complete! I’ve seen what Amazon can do with Print-on-Demand and it’s absolutely unbelievable!”

Ask For Mercy
Written by Richard Starkings with art by Abigail Jill Harding

An action-packed and artistically stunning dark fantasy story from Elephantmen creator, Richard Starkings and breakout talent, Abigail Jill Harding. Ask For Mercy is a World War II fantasy horror story in the tradition of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Sandman. Mercy is snatched from her own place and time to join a team of Monster Hunters who are actually Monsters themselves, and together they have to take on a Pantheon of Hideous Creatures summoned to our world by Nazi evil!

–Six-issue series – issues will be available every 6 weeks – $2.99 per issue on Kindle and comiXology
–Free to read for members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited and comiXology Unlimited
–Print collected edition will be available via Print-on-Demand on Amazon.com

In addition, the company teased more books by Tyler Crook, Kristian Donaldson, Alti Firmansyah, Sam Humphries, Megan Kearney, Kel McDonald, Hope Nicholson, Mike Norton, MK Reed, Mark Sable, Tim Seeley, C. Spike Trotman, Jen Vaughn, and Magdalene Visaggio.

“We’re proud to offer these creator-owned titles where creators keep their IP rights and are motivated to bring their A-game to the benefit of readers everywhere,” said Chip Mosher, comiXology’s Head of Content, in the press release. “Helping bring these incredible titles to fans lets us experiment with different release strategies like a binge-style drop of a whole series, high quality print-on-demand, and day-and-date inclusion in Prime Reading, Kindle Unlimited and comiXology Unlimited.”

Print on demand

Some have questioned the “high quality” nature of the print-on-demand aspect. There’s not much about it in the press release, but Newsarama’s Vaneta Rogers spoke with Mosher and comiXology’s CEO David Steinberger about the program and POD in particular, which Steinberger called an experiment:

Let’s say print-on-demand really works. The quality of it is great, otherwise we wouldn’t do it at all. But there are many, many, many books that direct-market retailers will not stock, because they will sell one once in a great moon or they just don’t have enough shelf space. That could be a really good opportunity if the quality is there and the price point is right, all those things, for publishers to keep things “in stock.” Because it prints on demand, you obviously don’t have to print a bunch of those, warehouse them, and incur all those expenses in order to keep something in stock.

For me, I think it was about a year-and-a-half ago, I was in a retail shop that’s actually now gone, unfortunately, in Seattle, where somebody said, “There’s just way too many good books out there. I can’t possibly stock them all.”

The steps that we’ve all taken as an entire industry, and the steps that have been taken toward being able to meet readers with who they are and creators that look like them and all that, the question is, is that where it’s going to suffer in terms of diversity? Is there a particular genre that just won’t get stocked in the direct market?

We have a real opportunity to experiment, try things out, and try to find audiences that the direct market may not be able to reach or want to reach.
Credit: comiXology

To me, that just creates more fans, which will support the direct market in turn, and will increase the audience for comic books, graphic novels and manga.

So it’s all win-win for the entire system for us to be able to experiment.

Steinberger and Mosher also spoke with CBR and Forbes about the program and POD in particular.

In a series of tweets this weekend, Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds listed his concerns with the program, including the POD aspect

“If you value high-quality printing and diverse books, today’s amazon/comixology announcement is concerning. Amazon’s print-on-demand offers exactly one paper stock option, two finishes (matte/gloss), limited trim options, and paperback only,” he said. “The business model is interesting: Create digital content that boosts comixology’s lagging performance and also provides a cost-effective print component that completely eschews comic book distribution and book trade.

“But the print component is inherently constrained by Amazon’s print-on-demand tech, which isn’t terrible w/in its constraints but is something that wouldn’t work for 90% or more of what we publish.”

In another series of tweets, My Friend Dahmer creator Derf Backderf had a different take on the news.

“Comics publishers have been freaking out about Comixology since the beginning. It hasn’t cut into their print sales, for the Big Three corporate comics or comics like mine. It’s been a compliment. Another way to read and buy comics,” he said. “Yeah, Amazon bought it a few years ago and, yeah, I have my issues with Amazon for sure, but I know the Comixology guys. Have for years. They flat out love comics. They are NOT looking to destroy the biz to make themselves rich, or anything like that.

“I like the idea of another creator owned publisher with deep pockets. Image is great, but the more the merrier. Anything that counters the Marvel/DC work-for-hire bullshit is good, in my view.”

The launch titles are all available now on comiXology and via Amazon.

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