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

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

Graphite Comics

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.

One thing going in the platform’s favor is the presence of Akel, who was Head of Content for the webcomics platform Line Webtoon for three years. During that time he made Line a major presence at conventions and commissioned comics from well known creators such as Warren Ellis and Dean Haspiel, so he is coming into Graphite with plenty of contacts and experience.

Passings: Cartoonist Steve Morrow, whose career was launched with The Official I Hate Cats book in 1980, has died at the age of 67. Years after the book came out, Morrow confessed that he doesn’t have a problem with cats:

“I have two cats. I get along with them OK. The book could have easily been a ‘I Hate French Poodles’ book,” Morrow said in a PBS interview that aired in 2007. “My book was really a retort to a lot of things that were happening in the publishing business. It was mostly about people’s behaviors, not cats.”

In addition to cartooning, Morrow was a musician and inventor, and he and his wife operated a gallery to sell his work.

Creators + Interviews

Chronicles of Snagglepuss: Mark Russell’s writing is smart, funny, intensely human and often surprising, and he has elevated several legacy properties into fresh, new comics (his Prez, which is only a few years old, now seems eerily prescient). At Salon, he talks about the Hanna Barbera/DC mashup The Snagglepuss Chronicles, and touches on his previous HB/DC comic, The Flintstones, as well.

Summer Reading: At School Library Journal, I wrote a column on LGBTQIA+ graphic novels and included interviews with Cathy G. Johnson (The Breakaways) and Melanie Gillman (Stage Dreams) as well as a list of suggested middle-grade and YA graphic novels.

Awards: Dr. Sheena Howard, whose book Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation won an Eisner Award, has just been honored with one of KYW Radio’s Women’s Achievement Awards, and in an interview she talks about her work and her ambitions for the future.

Reviews + Commentary

Editorial Cartoons: The New York Times has stopped running editorial cartoons in its international edition because one cartoon in their international edition attracted some (perhaps well deserved) criticism. Cartoonist Mike Lynch explains the background, shows the offending cartoon and the cartoonist’s explanation of it, and includes the reaction of the Times’s newly laid off editorial cartoonist Patrick Chappette.

The Biz

Hitting the Charts: At ICv2 I analyzed BookScan’s top 20 Adult, Kids, and Manga/Superhero/Author graphic novel charts for May.

Anime Explosion: Anime insider Dallas Middaugh explains recent events that are pushing the anime business toward a massive expansion in the near future.

Library Update: Heidi MacDonald looks at the work of the American Library Association’s new Graphic Novels and Comics Roundtable and the ways that librarians are already shaping comics readership.

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