Continuing to add new publishers, Sequential, the digital comics storefront app focused on literary graphic novels, is adding a selection of Top Shelf graphic novels for purchase. Beginning today the app will offer Rep. John Lewis’s acclaimed graphic memoir, March Book One as well as works by Eddie Campbell, Ed Piskor and Jeff Lemire.
In addition to March Book One, the bestselling graphic memoir of John Lewis that also maps the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Sequential will now offer 12 Top Shelf graphic novels including Wizzywig by Ed Piskor, The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire and Alec by Eddie Campbell. Sequential overs about 100 graphic novels and its list is growing.
Sequential founder Russell Willis said the app will offer the new Top Shelf titles immediately, continue to add new digital Top Shelf titles “day and date” or simultaneously with the release of print editions and “fill in the backlist over time.”
Willis was in New York to attend the MoCCA Arts Festival, the annual small press comics show, and stopped by the PW offices. Willis is the founder of iEnglish, a software development firm based in Japan that produces apps and digital texts for the Japanese and global market for a wide variety of educational publishers among them Oxford University Press and Pearson. Willis is a longtime fan and fanzine publisher who worked with such authors as Alan Moore an Eddie Campbell in the U.K. in the 1980s before moving to Japan to launch his firm.
Willis launched Sequential in August 2013 with works from mostly U.K. comics publishers—Knockabout, Jonathan Cape, Myriad and Blank Slate among others. He’s gone on to add works from NBM, Fantagraphics, Self Made Hero and now Top Shelf, with plans to add more publishers as well as more titles from indie comics houses. Sequential, the retail app, is a unit of Panel Nine, Willis’ digital comics publishing platform, and both are divisions of iEnglish.
Sequential offers a storefront specializing in non-superhero indie comics, “a more focused list,” Willis said. A software designer with 20 years experience, Willis has designed a state of the art app with a well designed interface, smooth and easy navigation and its own “guided-view” feature, a feature designed to enlarge each panel for easy reading.
Launched in the wake of the growing popularity of Comixology, the now dominant digital comics marketplace, Sequential has also worked to secure a number of exclusive digital offerings in an effort to lure comics fans to its list. Sequential offers a selection of titles that can be purchased only through the Sequential app, among them works by such comics luminaries as Gilbert Shelton, Neil Gaiman, Hunt Emerson, Alan Moore and others.
Panel Nine, Willis’s digital publishing unit, publishes Infinity, a comics fanzine released about six times a year, and also publishes its own digital comics anthologies, some free publications and graphic novels including Dapper John by Eddie Campbell, Verity Fair by Terry Wiley and Kickback by David Lloyd. In addition, Willis said, he’s worked with the U.S. house Self Made Hero to release “expanded” editions of graphic novels like Kiki de Montparnasse by Catel Muller and Jose-Louis Bacquet and Sand Castle by Frederik Peeters and Pierre Levy, with additional artwork and embedded multimedia with sound and video.
There’s more to come from Panel Nine and Sequential. Willis said he’s working with his old friend, British comics journalist and historian Paul Gravatt, who is the curator of “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” a massive survey of mainstream and underground British comics scheduled to open May 2 at the British Library in London and expected to attract more than a 100,000 visitors over the course of the show. The two will work on presenting a digital display tied to the exhibition as well as "another related project,' that will be released at alater time. And look for Android version of Sequential, probably by the end of 2014.
“It’s a good time for more diverse fare in comics,” Willis said. “We want to continue to add titles and create digital anthologies exclusive to our platform. U.S. sales are growing and it’s our biggest market right now.”