Comics Lowdown: New player in town: Graphite digital comic subscription service

Plus: Steve Morrow passes away, New York Times stops editorial cartoons, and more!

The New York Times reports on a new digital comics service, Graphite, that operates on a subscription basis, like ComiXology Unlimited. Graphite will offer a free version with ads, and their premium ad-free version is priced at $4.99 a month, a buck cheaper than ComiXology Unlimited, but their real selling point is automated recommendations:

On other platforms, recommendations are typically offered by editors, said Tom Akel, Graphite’s chief content officer. “Ours takes into account your user behavior, what you’ve watched before, what the pool of people around you liked and cross references that the same way a Netflix algorithm will,” he said.

The real test of a digital comics service, of course, is content. Graphite’s lineup will include BOOM! Studios, Tokyopop, Dynamite, IDW and the children’s publisher Papercutz, but not Marvel or DC (both of whom have their own subscription services). This is a choice that seems to make sense for the smaller publishers; as BOOM!’s Filip Sablik commented, “We’ve had free content available for multiple years, and it hasn’t cut into our Comixology business. In fact, it has continued to grow.

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Comics Lowdown: Police reopen 30-year-old case of murdered cartoonist

Also: Dave Gibbons talks about writing, Dyer and Dorkin discuss ‘Calla Cthulhu,’ and ‘Criminy’ finds a publisher.

Sketch of what the gunman who shot al-Ali might look like now
Cold Case Files: Thirty years after the murder of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, London police have appealed to the public for any information they may have on the case. Ali was shot in the back of the neck on July 22, 1989, near the London office of the Kuwaiti publication Al-Qabas, and he died on August 29 of the same year. Police released descriptions of the two suspects and a sketch of what the shooter might look like today.

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Comics Lowdown: ECCC volunteer suit settled

Plus: the ALA, Jillian Tamaki and more.

The former owners of Emerald City Comic Con will pay $493,227.84 to former volunteers and the attorneys who represented them under a settlement that will keep the matter from going to court. Jerry Michael Brooks, a former volunteer at the con, filed a class action suit on behalf of all volunteers who worked at ECCC in 2014 and 2015, claiming that they were treated like employees and therefore should have been paid for their work. (Seattlish posted the details of the suit when it was first filed.) Under the settlement, Eitane Emerald Corp. and the Demonakos family will pay almost $500,000 to the volunteers, with the lawyers scooping up $123,300 for their troubles, Brooks getting $5,000, and the 250 or so other “volunteers” will divvy up the rest according to how many hours they worked. Although the defendants admit to no wrongdoing, the payments to the volunteers are to be regarded as part wages, part settlement for nonpayment of wages. ReedPOP, which purchased the con in 2015 and ran the 2016 and 2017 events, does not use unpaid volunteers.

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