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Friday, 7 December 2007

Journeyman Cancelled?

(Updated 12 December 2007, 11 August 2008): NBC will air the twelfth, final produced episode of Journeyman on Wednesday 19 December at 10.00 pm ET/PT in the US. It's currently screening on Sky One in the UK.

Broadcast reported 12 December that the US network had until 11 December to give a full-season pickup to time-travel drama but has allowed the option to lapse, which means it has all but cancelled the 20th Century Fox-produced series.

This terrific show, which centres on a man who unexpectedly finds he can time travel but has no control over when or where he goes (but it is generally to help people, drawing comparions with Quantum Leap and, perhaps, Early Edition). If you aren't watching, give it a try -- it's really good!

Produced by Kevin Falls (also producer and writer on legal drama Shark and the The West Wing, interview here on Premium Hollywood), the show stars Kevin McKidd as the time travelling reporter Dan Wasser and Gretchen Egolf as beleagured wife Katie, coping not only with Dan's disappearances but an eight year old son who thinks his father can do magic and the knowledge that one of Dan's fellow timespirits is his believed-dead fiance.

Sadly, ratings have not been strong in the States and NBC has opted not to pick up the series for any additional episodes, although a fan campaign is underway to try to convince NBC otherwise. (It looks as though NBC may also have cancelled Bionic Woman starring former Eastenders' actress Michelle Ryan). Over 1500 people have signed a campaign petition and one campaign group also tried to boost the show's chances by organising a mass buy of the episode Blowback via iTunes in the US.

"All indications are that NBC doesn’t want to cancel this show," say campaign organiser. "They love it. They just can’t justify keeping it on the schedule."

They're urging people to send letters in support of the show to NBC's president and chief executive officer Jeff Zucker c/o NBC, Re: Journeyman, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112 USA - and even send him Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat, which you can buy by the case from Amazon and attach a short message using their sending options. (The length will limit your creativity, however).

"Orders trickling in over several days or weeks at 30 Rock might be even more effective - it’ll keep reminding Jeff Zucker that Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, has an order to place.

• Details on the fan campaign can be found at http://savejourneyman.net

Postscript, August 2008 (with thanks to Ian Cullen): Journeyman was not saved as we all now know, but in August 2008 AintItCool News published an interview with the series creator Kevin Falls about what would have happened on the show if it had continued: read the interview here

New ways to order comics?

With 2000AD going digital (see information on our new comics page), here's another interesting use of new technology.

MocoNews reports UK tabloid Sun has rolled out a quick response (QR) mobile barcode service that it hopes will enrich print ads by giving readers a quick way to access mobile web sites and their content.

Readers must first download the QR reader from software firm i-nigma on to their phones (some 150 handsets are supported), though some of the latest Nokia handsets have it pre-installed. (That's a plus, as I know from experience that the vast majority of web users don't like to download additional software to make a web site work, and I expect this will be even more the case for mobile, with their still limited memory capacity).

Once they have the reader on their phone, the service enables readers to send a photo of the QR code found in its paper in a print ad to launch them directly into its mobile sites where readers can download content such as videos, film trailers, and music.

There are of course other applications beyond providing connections to the mobile web: imagine taking this one stage further than downloading electronic content and being able to take a photo of an image, send it off and voila, you've just ordered a comic or magazine, the cost charged to your phone bill (the price of an item may admittedly might be higher than buying it in the shop, but I suspect publishers will set the prices to encourage usage at first). Fulfillment is a doddle: no filling in addresses as the seller simply uses the billing address for the mobile.

NMA.co.uk reports that News International, the Sun’s owner, is watching the take-up of the service closely, and may roll it out across all of its titles (which include The Times) if it proves successful. For its launch yesterday, the tabloid splashed the service across an eight-page pull-out supplement.

QR codes have proven highly popular in Japan since their introduction in 2002, where they have allowed people to download content as dense as mobile novels (and, I expect, mobile comics). Almost every Japanese phone ships with a built-in barcode reader that can decode both QR Codes and standard barcodes you find on retail items.

i-nigma codeThe potential cost savings in terms of advertising are enormous: publishers could run ads with a number of simple images for subscription deals for their entire stable of titles, enabling them to promote many more titles or products in a smaller space - a poster? a beermat? - than they could through traditional advertising.

This system could surely combine an electronic download with a real world item very easily. It will be interesting to see how this develops...

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Londo in 2008?

It seems there aren't a lot of candidates Americans can agree upon in the US presidential elections. Fortunately, Babylon 5 creator and Amazing Sider-Man and Thor writer J. Michael Stracyznski (pictured right) has kindly solved the problem as a public service to all Americans, "providing a slate of candidates that will bring the country together in common cause and preserve many of this nations' finest electoral traditions."

With election posters now on sale via thejoestore, the first slate is Londo/G'Kar (or, for those who wish to be contrary, G'Kar/Londo is also available.) "They bring a combination of military training, a love of freedom, and sartorial excellences," the store advises as it offers election posters for sale. "They are also excellent public speakers and true patriots who put their people ahead of their own interests. Should the electorate find themselves not happy with the slate as elected, whoever is in second position will gladly assassinate the other in order to bring about a referendum."

Similarly, we're told the ticket of Zathras and Zathras "promises the best in crisis management at a difficult time for our nation. Their wisdom is inscrutable (also incomprehensible), their dedication to detail is almost frightening, and in times of economic belt-tightening by electing one Zathras you elect all Zathras, nine for the price of the One."

So, American readers, the future is here. You're so lucky. We just have Mr. Bean...

Tin Man breaks viewing records in the US

Three nights of The Wizard of Oz-inspired SciFi Channel US' Tin Man, produced by RHI Entertainment, has earned the miniseries "most watched miniseries in Sci Fi history" status with 5.3 million viewers over the three nights, 2.7 million A18-49 and 2.9 million A25-54, according to Nielsen's live and same day data.

The SFTV blog points out that considering SciFi's regular shows have been struggling to get much above a 1.0 rating, drawing a 4.2 Household rating is pretty significant. "It looks like if SciFi puts together something that catches peoples interest, they can still find the channel."

The series is an epic re-imagining of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that gives the story a heavy science fiction fantasy emphasis and gives only allusionary references to most of the original story.

In total viewers, Tin Man surpassed both Dune (4.6 million viewers) and Taken (5.0 million viewers).

There's no word yet on whether SciFi UK or any other UK channel has accquired the rights to the mini series, but I'm sure it won't be long before there's an announcement. Both Hallmark and Sky One have screened RHI series in the past.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

And yet more werid piracy tales...

-- this time from the Netherlands, where of all things, the latest issue Donald Duck magazine features Donald and his nephews as music pirates and (who else) Uncle Scrooge as the big boss of a record label threatening mis users with fines, prompting Torrent Spy to wonder if an anti-piracy lobby had infiltrated the Donald Duck magazine.

In the issue, Huey, Dewey and Lewey have just downloaded a new album for personal use (saying they will buy the CD when they have the money), and are shocked when Donald tries to sell pirate CDs of the download, and tell him it’s not fair because the CD is copyrighted. “If nobody buys CDs anymore, the record labels and artists will become beggars,” they tell him.

Strange that Disney should appear to be supporting personal use downloading... but such titles are licensed and will have gone through a rigorous aprovals process.

Comics Piracy - Strange New Turn?

Shortly after Marvel and DC's legal foray against the comic download site Z-Cult FM, another download site, ComicSearch, has been sent a cease and desist letter by Marvel demanding it remove trackers for illegal electronic copies of their titles.

Torrent Freak reports that Deicist, the administrator of Comicsearch, wrote a letter to Marvel arguing that a good part of the reason for the recent surge in sales of comics and the growth in the comic market was the laissez faire attitude that the publishers took toward Internet downloads of their comics (in 2002, publisher CrossGen felt its online promotions boosted sales back in 2002, though sadly not enough to prevent its demise), but Marvel countered swiftly with a cease and desist arguing instead that "People download comics not because they don't want to buy them, but because they want an electronic version they can read, and organize more easily without damaging their precious print versions."

The site is now removing trackers for Marvel comics.

This may seem a victory for comics publishers who understandably want to protect their copyright - we've seen much harsher action from other publishers over the years (The Simpsons, anyone?) to keep their carefully built brands the way they want them. But as the comic retailers website ICV2 points out, there is the possibility that it could become a Pyrrhic triumph.

In his open letter to Marvel Deicist argued that the publisher may not want to emulate the Recording Industry Association of America, which has won numerous legal battles with music downloaders and totally lost the war, and prompted a huge amount of resentment and anger toward the organisation.


IVC2 suggests Marvel and other publishers could eventually be involved in a "whack-a-mole" conflict as new file sharing sites, with servers in various countries, pop up all over the place. (Indeed, many file sharing sites are already outside the US).


A strange twist in the US publishers' attempts to protect their investments comes news that DC Comics recently demanded that an ebay auction for a Batman convention sketch (see right) be pulled on the grounds that it infringed DC copyright (although it might also have been pulled because it was homo-erotic), which may result in having a considerable impact on the income of some comics artists.


Rich Johnston first reported the story on his Lying in the Gutters column on Comic Book Resources, revealing that "one artist, let’s call him Christian (because that's his name) found out when his auctions were suspended by eBay after Warners requested it.

"The Director of Warner Bros Entertainment's Worldwide Anti-Piracy Corporate Communications told Christian 'no one is authorized to manufacture, reproduce, copy, sell and/or offer for sale any products/services which utilize the Batman Property without the express written permission of Warner Bros. The drawing which you have offered for sale has not been authorized by Warner Bros., therefore we suspended your auction. I apologize for the inconvenience of your suspended auction; however, I hope that you understand our position. Further, please be assured that we never attempt to single-out any one, or group of, sellers. In that regard, please feel free to forward any other questionable auctions to our attention and we will be sure to investigate and take appropriate action.'"

As Rich points out, it's entirely understandable that the comic publishers wish to protect their characters, but could this mean an end to the well known practice of comics artists drawing sketches of even more well known comic characters and charging for them at conventions to supplement their income?

Also, how might this action also affect people trying to sell original comics art either at conventions or online?

This latest action strikes me as rather heavy-handed (although of course it might be more related to the actual image iteself in this case, rather than the actual practice of selling character sketches). As Rich says in his column, charging for character sketches is technically in breach of copyright and Warner Brothers or other publishers/studios are entitled to issue such notices and cancel such auctions, "but," he cautions, "if they were to take the same attitude to comic book creators industry-wise, it would have disastrous consequences for many.

"Especially, say, if this was extended to selling original art returned to the creator by the publisher."

"Every comic book convention I have ever attended has had a plethora of comic book artists doing sketches of comic book characters for money," points out blogger Rick Rottman, who picked up on the story. "Some artists charge hundreds of dollars for an inked sketch of a comic book character. I can’t even begin to guess how much revenue comic book artists are able to earn doing sketches at conventions. If the official position of Warner Bros is that no one is authorized to reproduce and offer for sale any product which utilizes a DC Comics intellectual property, I have to believe this will have a monumental impact to the whole comic book convention sketch business.

"What would happen if comic book artists couldn’t do commissions at conventions?"

Rottman feels fans would certainly have more money to spend at a convention on comics and other licensed material rather than sketches, but I'd argue that if artists found themselves being threatened with copyright infringement, would they then stop attending them? It's a strong possibility, certainly in the US where charging for sketches is more commonplace and charging for sketches has long been a way for an artist to earn extra money.

On the other hand, if convention organisers then have to start paying fees and expenses to creators to get them to attend an event because they can no longer make money drawing sketches, would this actually be a bad thing?

It might 'professionalise' comics conventions in the same way that British literature festivals pay author fees and expenses for their attendance, although it would also probably mean less artists would be in attendance.

Virgin's Dan Dare - First impressions

There's been huge debate about the new Virgin Comics Dan Dare on various online comics groups, especially comment based on the six or seven pages pre-released as a Virgin teaser.

I for one was more than happy to wait to see what the actual comic looked like and now it's available in comic shops worldwide, I'm delighted to say I wasn't disappointed. Those previews actually had an interesting twist, and the re-introduction of all the characters was, I felt, well handled, speaking as someone not completely steeped in the minutiae of the Eagle original or later versions of the character that appeared in 2000AD, for example

The writing from Garth Ennis and art from Gary Erskine on this first issue is top notch: there are a couple of "wow' factor moments including the cliffhanger and, aside from perhaps too many 'close ups' when it comes to battle fleets (I felt Gary could perhaps have pulled out more on establishing shots here, but this is a very minor niggle), there's little to fault this latest interpretation of Dare at this point, in my eyes.

It's great to see the book finally out and getting wide press exposure, including a BBC One Show feature piece fronted by cricketer Phil Tufnell from the bowels of Forbidden Planet London that was followed by Fast Show co-creator Charlie Higson waxing lyrical about The Trigan Empire from Look and Learn.

With this and the 70th birthday of The Dandy this week, it's been a great few days for British comic fans!

Read an interview with Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine on the main downthetubes web site

WIN DAN DARE GOODIES!
Courtesy of those fab folk at
Virgin Comics, downthetubes has some nifty Dan Dare competition prizes to give away to some of our loyal readers and DD fans!

We have a signed promotional poster by Garth Ennis, a Dare t-shirt and some special Dan Dare MMs on offer to the reader whose name is pulled from the hat after correctly answering the following question:

What was the name of Digby's pet alien in the original Dan Dare series in the original
Eagle?

Send your answers by email to downthetubes no later than 12 noon GMT on Friday 7 December 2007 to be in with a chance of winning. Good luck!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Dandy Celebrations begin

Britain's The Independent newspaper features a five page tribute to The Dandy on its 70th anniversary today (info via Lew Stringer, cheers!).

Haining Tribute

(via the FPI blog and Dave Langford’s Ansible) The family of the writer Peter Haining, who died recently will be celebrating his on Thursday 6 December at noon at Colney Wood Burial Park, Watton Road, Colney, Norwich.

“Family flowers only but donations can made if you like to www.treehouse.org.uk." This is Arsenal’s charity of the year supporting autistic children, Peter having an autistic son and grandson. Please wear dark suits but loud shirts!”

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