Archive for the ‘Books – Graphic’ category

Print: Dying. And The Net: No Future?

August 27, 2008

Mariotti Abruptly Quits Sun-Times
Star Sports Columnist Says He Wanted Out Before Newspapers Die Out

CHICAGO (CBS) ― In a bombshell announcement in the world of sports journalism, star columnist Jay Mariotti has abruptly resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mariotti told the Chicago Tribune he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

“I’m a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn’t compete,” he said in the Tribune story. “Everyone is hanging on for dear life at both papers.

“To see what has happened in this business. … I don’t want to go down with it.”

Ordinarily, I would have been pleased to see someone in that field acknowledge the truth.

However, given Apple’s banning of a comic book yesterday, I have to ask: Where does he expect the future to be?

If ISPs such as Time-Warner and Comcast have their way, everyone will be subjected to bandwidth caps: 50Gb or less per month. How willing are people going to be to “surf” the Net to look for material they don’t already know? How many links will go unclicked because people won’t know if they’ll open up a slim all-text page or a ginormous multi-megabyte page filled with Flash banners and autoplay video ads?

If companies such as Apple have their way, they will stand between everyone and those who provide what is generally given the lawyerly term “content.” Who are the gatekeepers to the iPhone and the Android OS phone and whatever other devices come tethered to a ready-made “app store?” Will those gatekeepers have political and corporate prejudices that will suppress the distribution of eBooks and articles and videos they deem unworthy? Will they set themselves up as Nannies or Critics, thinking their vision represents what’s “good” for other people?

Too many of the Comments I’ve seen over Apple’s banning of Murderdrome clearly indicate a lack of thought. The issue is dismissed as if it was a property rights case with, “Well, it’s Apple’s store and they can do what they want.”

The issue is the strangulation of distribution and the shredding of free expression.

Unlike the music at the iTunes Store, there is no other way to transmit applications to an iPhone except through Apple as Judge and Jury. (To those who cite jailbreaking, good luck with risking your device. The general public is not so brave.) We’ve already seen what Apple has done with that power when the matter is a comic book. What will it do with regular all-text eBooks? What will it do with compilations of articles from political journals it disagrees with? With albums of photographs it doesn’t like? Go into any bookstore and there will be something someone will find objectionable. That’s the price of free expression.

I’ve stated long ago that Apple should be thinking long-term and planning for the day when the iTunes Store is a widespread platform that any vendor can tap into. Apple can sell the system software, the necessary support, maybe even the server hardware. But Apple can otherwise stay out of the way of judging material that is offered for sale. I think Apple has to learn the lesson that Microsoft is bitterly learning right now: You can’t have all the money.

That goes for every major company in the tech and publishing fields.

Which still leaves us with the question: Where does he expect the future to be?

David Rothman over at Teleread has been arguing for years for a standard eBook file format that is device independent.

Looking beyond Apple, such situations are a perfect reason why the e-book world shouldn’t build itself around one particular company—not Amazon, not Google, not anyone. And it’s also a reason for e-book standards. Please. The closer you link content to particular companies, the more potential choke holds for governments and pressure groups to use.

That argument takes on a new gravity today. The entire book publishing world is reading about Apple’s actions.

Rothman’s plea is especially important as the eBook world waits to see what Amazon’s new models of Kindle will be like. Remember: Those eBooks purchased from the Kindle Store can be used only on a Kindle. (The same is true for the Sony Reader — although its eBooks can also be read on the desktop — but I have to admit that with new Kindles coming, a tipping point is approaching that could leave Sony a tech casualty. So the Kindle could wind up equaling the term “eBook.”) And Amazon, like any company sitting on a corner of a market, can change the rules at any time. The future could see the end of easy self-publishing for the Kindle, locking out writers not tied to corporate publishing contracts, further eroding free expression.

No publisher, no writer, no filmmaker should be denied access to a marketplace that has traditionally been free and open. The rules of the game should not change because electrons are being distributed instead of atoms. Free expression should not be limited to a few tech company gatekeepers who have managed to — and here’s a key word — temporarily corner a market.

We have the Internet as the standard of a free marketplace, perhaps the purest exemplification of free expression in all of human history. Everything can get on and people are free to avoid what they don’t want to see (which oftentimes includes this blog!).

Why should we have to settle for anything less because telephones have become portable computers and books are becoming electronic?

The battle for the future is being fought. And like the first shot fired at Lexington and Concord, it just might have actually begun for real yesterday: with a comic book!

Apple Forfeits eBooks By Banning A Comic Book!

August 26, 2008

Apple, please do not do eBooks.

Because you’ve just shown that you can’t handle comic books!

Recently I raved about a revolutionary new program called Comic Reader. This program was to be used to premiere a comic book called Murderdrome.

From the title alone, you expect it not to be all bunnies and unicorns and rainbows.

But this is a comic book. A work of drawing and word balloons. It is imaginary. It is fiction.

It was submitted to the Apple App Store and the publishers received notice that it was being rejected for violating terms of the Software Developer Kit which states:

Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.

Well now wait a minute here.

Murderdrome is not an “application,” Comic Reader is. Murderdrome is content that can be read via the Comic Reader application.

Murderdrome is a book.

Apple has just banned a book.

I’ve been one of the earliest and loudest advocates for Apple to enter eBooks (see For The Record: Apple and eBooks). I believed that Apple would legitimize them in a way the Sony Reader hasn’t and go beyond the minor ripple Amazon’s Kindle has managed to create. With a base of millions and millions of potential reading devices out there — iPhone and iPod Touch — Apple would have an advantage no other company has yet enjoyed.

But now Apple has acted in a manner that is absolutely toxic to the process of publishing.

Infurious Comics, to plead its case, has eschewed the income they would have derived from selling the first issue of Murderdrome by placing the entire collection of panels on their site for everyone to read for free. Go look at it. Right now. Then come back.

Several issues and questions here.

1) mj just this week pointed out an entire list of movies that Apple currently offers without any ratings attached to them. One of these movies I think most people will be familiar with: Reservoir Dogs. Remember that shocking scene with the cop tied to a chair being worked over by one of the criminals with a straight razor? Apple offers that with no rating advisory.

Here, look. This is the American iTunes Store listing for Reservoir Dogs:


Click = big

There is no rating.

And oh yes, I’m going to stick it right in your face, that scene. Because you need it for comparison purposes later on. So watch it right now.

2) Here is the listing for one of the other movies people who bought Reservoir Dogs also got, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels:


Click = big

Notice the rating?

Someone could argue, “Well, it’s an oversight.” But how long has this alleged “oversight” been going on? I don’t know if the iTunes Store can restrict purchases based on age, but if they can, hey, this — and the entire list mj has posted — has somehow slipped through. That’s a pretty big slip-through!

3) Back to Reservoir Dogs again. I’m certain 99.9% of the people reading this blog are familiar with The Simpsons. And with the cartoon-within-the-cartoon Itchy & Scratchy. But how many will recall that Itchy & Scratchy did Reservoir Dogs? Yep, here it is:

That went out as general-audience entertainment here in America. I don’t think it got anything other than a TV-G (General Audiences) rating. Yet it illustrates a dismembering and a beheading!

Oh, you argue, it’s just a cartoon!

So is Murderdrome! These are two of the worst panels in it:

The difference between Murderdrome and The Simpsons: Murderdrome is not presenting anything as comedy. Its explicitness is to drive home a point: the brutality of the system in which the prisoners have been placed to compete. It is a futuristic gladiator competition. (I’m not privy to the entire story; all I’ve seen is what everyone has seen, but I’d bet real money that ensuing chapters will be making points about punishment, justice, and character that you won’t find in Itchy & Scratchy!)

4) If Apple’s move is designed to “protect the children,” then Apple doesn’t know what “the children” are up to these days. Look at this:

Hello. The kid has a gun. And how is it he’s imitating a scene from a movie he is prohibited from seeing by its rating? Apple, could he have seen it via the iTunes Store?

5) How cognizant is Apple of the general-audience pop culture out there? Here is a compilation of Itchy & Scratchy:

Just how much brutality has been shown on The Simpsons? I go to the authority: South Park.


Click = big

Here’s a description of an episode carried on the iTunes Store:

Apple banning the Murderdrome comic book does not bode well for Apple possibly handling eBooks in the future.

6) What would it do when presented with crime fiction? What would it do when presented with the four books of Derek Raymond’s Factory series? Apple doesn’t know what it’s in for. Here’s writer James Sallis to give them a peek in a Boston Globe column he wrote: Derek Raymond: A writer who went down into darkness.

7) Who at Apple has been set up to vet material? Specifically, why was Murderdrome vetted as an application and not as a publication? Apple has a Books category in the App Store. That’s where Murderdrome should have been placed.

8) Does this Appointed Guardian at Apple have any idea how comic books have progressed? They’re no longer this:

Even that Appointed Guardian at Apple must have heard there’s a big movie coming out next year called Watchmen. It’s based on a comic book. What would Apple have done if Watchmen had been submitted to it today, with it being a brand-new thing without the history and status it now enjoys? Would the Appointed Guardian have objected to the violence? Like this scene:

Oh, but wait. Apple actually offers a version of the comic book Watchmen!


Click = big

It’s under TV Shows! How does that happen?

It’s evident that Apple has yet to sort out what its stance is on several issues. Properly rating movies, for one thing. How to handle publications that are wrapped in applications. The left hand of one part of the iTunes Store knowing what the right hand is being asked to approve for the App Store.

These are issues that have to be sorted out right now. Aside from Murderdrome, there is another publisher about to offer comic books on the App Store: iVerse. They have to be wondering what Apple’s standards precisely are. I have to wonder now if Apple’s banning of Murderdrome has a sent chilling shot across their bow.

Every single writer in the world is watching you right now, Apple.

Your problems with MobileMe and iPhone 3G reception issues are minor compared to this.

eBooks are the future. You are at the nexus of downloadable content and millions of consumers. Are you telling all of us that you intend to stand between us and every possible publication, permitting only your vision of the future to be offered for sale?

If that’s going to be the case, you’ve just handed the eBook ball to Google and Android.

And Jeff Bezos over at Amazon must be breathing a great sigh of relief right now too — when he isn’t busy laughing at you.

As for me and every other writer who’s been waiting for you to jump into eBooks and free us from an industry frozen in the 19th-century, let’s just say we are not pleased.

And you absolutely do not want to displease writers, Apple. No, you do not.

Update: There’s a new twist to this tale. Murderdrome: Eleven Years Old!

Related coverage elsewhere:

Murderdrome BANNED by Apple
They Ban Comics, Don’t They?
Lying in the Gutters Volume 2 Column 172 (scroll down)

More Comic Books For iPhone

August 25, 2008

iVerse Comic Reader App Demo

Now there are two apps called Comic Reader. That’s not good.

As you can see from the video for this one, it seems to be landscape-only as well as basically a slide show program. No Table of Contents, no pop-up options, no nothing.

My advice?

Dump it. License the first Comic Reader and use that.

iVerse Comics site

Previously here:

iPhone Comic Book Reading Site!
eBook Breakthrough For iPhone Comics!
Japanese Manga Comes To The iPhone
Comic Books (Almost) Come To iPhone

iPhone Comic Book Reading Site!

August 24, 2008

Whoa! I never expected something like this! iPhone Comic Book Reader

– via ispy1964′s LiveJournal

Watchmen: The Feeding Frenzy Is Apace!

August 23, 2008

Better Late Than Never: Watchmen

Much of this shift can be attributed to a single masterpiece: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen. Of course, Moore didn’t invent the dark, troubled superhero. He was working with archetypes based on specific pre-existing characters, in this case derived mainly from the roster of Charlton Comics, a long-suffering publisher that had recently been absorbed by Moore’s then-employer DC Comics. But Moore took the bleakness, neuroses, brooding philosophy, and nihilism that had been coursing through comic books for decades, and elevated the form to high art, something for the smart set and the post-grads as well as comic-book nerds and pimply teens. With Watchmen, he set out to write a comic-book series with the depth and heft of a Moby Dick. Audacious? Sure. Pretentious? Probably. Did he succeed? Indubitably. At the risk of being slightly hyperbolic, Watchmen is such a monumental achievement that it makes Moby Dick look like a flaming pile of horseshit by comparison.

He has the advantage on me. I’ve not yet read Moby Dick (shut up).

But Watchmen is a monumental achievement.

I’d stopped reading comics, but kept popping into comic stores. I saw the covers for the individual issues of Watchmen, but didn’t know what was up. I was out of the loop by then, having GAFIAted for good.

Then a (now-former) friend twisted my arm and had me read Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One in collected form.

Wow!

Somehow I also got to read the collected Watchmen.

Absolutely frikkin nuclear.

I’ve read it again within the past 2-3 years, and it still staggered me.

It’s one of those rare things that revolutionizes, redefines, and reshapes everything that happens after it. It is a turning point, a high point.

In the 1970s, artists and writers for DC and Marvel would again and again state that comics were able to do much more than what was being published. Many of them would go off to other companies or raise money and self-publish. But not one of them achieved Watchmen status. How sad is that?

And now the buzzbuzzbuzz is already building over the upcoming movie. A movie that is in some jeopardy of ever being released other than as a highly-pirated unauthorized leak! See Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily post: SAVE US! Warner’s ‘Watchmen’ In Legal Peril After Judge Won’t Dismiss Fox Suit.

I hope for a resolution. But sometimes these rights issues drag on and on.

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet, get the collected Watchmen and read it. Put aside whatever notions you have about comic books. This transcends all of them. It’s literature.

WATCHMEN Trailer – AMAZING!

Previously here:

Watchmen Movie: Video Contest (which is over, by the way)
Watchmen: The Movie

– via Medialoper

eBook Breakthrough For iPhone Comics!

August 22, 2008

I first saw this over at mj’s blog.

Then I went to the source post.

Take a look at this video. It is staggering. It is Apple Insanely-Great staggering. It is an absolute breakthrough in the field of electronic comic books. I can’t say enough about how radical and breakthrough this is. Look!!!

Murderdrome iPhone Comic

Absolutely staggering. I’d been after Warren Ellis to jump in and pioneer eComics (here and here). They’ve gone beyond anything I could have imagined. I salute you! You have taken my breath away! You will change the world!

Update: I was so excited by this, I didn’t do much research. The underlying app is called Comic Reader from Blue Pilot Software. My skin is all tingly. This is something that Changes Everything!

Reference: Manga Scans

August 19, 2008

One Manga: the home of manga …

These scans are apparently from Japan. I have no problem with that since it’s been established in my mind that when it comes to protecting American Copyright, we can go fuck ourselves in Japan.


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