Grassroots creators support campaign begins

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DIVERSITY Grassroots creators support campaign beginsIt’s a tough time for creative people right now. The economy is still sputtering along. The internet is a great way to promote yourself, but it has also embedded the idea of “free entertainment” as a right, not a privilege, and it’s devalued skills we used to respect to the point where the content farm Demand Media can make $1.5 billion on its IPO while paying its writers $7.50 per article. Thanks, Google.

On the comics side, periodical sales are still falling, bookstores are in jeopardy and the web model has still paid off for only a comparative handful of people. If you’re a cartoonist, forget about getting a book deal unless you already have a bestseller out there — signing up new and promising graphic novelists to book deals was an Aughts thing.

Marvel and DC aren’t even comic book companies any more. They are IP companies. Creating new IP isn’t high on the list of things they are very good at these days. Publishing anything new is risky — that’s understood — but the publishing deals being offered now are taking a bigger and bigger piece of the pie. Surviving in every creative field is a matter of cobbling together jobs here and there, staying flexible.

No wonder, then, that creators are getting a little more vocal about the importance of creator-owned material. Eric Powell’s controversial video got things going, but itself was a response to a week-long tweet storm by writer Steve Niles, who blogged recently What’s all this Creator-Owned Talk?

All I’m doing lately is attempting to call attention to creator-owned books.  I think plain and simple, things are going to get even tougher out there and we have to find our place. Personally I believe there is severe lack of cooperation among creators. There’s a very dog-eat-dog mentality in comics sometimes and I think all we harm in the end is ourselves. 

My simplistic solution right now is to support as many of my fellow creators as possible. We just don’t have access to publicity budgets, so simple grassroots networking can help us all a great deal. 


A lot of folks have already jumped on the bandwagon to promote more creator-owned comics, with The Creator-Owned Blogspot to highlight books, and a Facebook page for The Creators Front for Diversity in Comics. Stephanie Buscema created this adorable artwork for a new column by Niles.

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Some other creators chimed in on their desire to have a choice between company and creator-driven work, as well, including Tony Harris, whose ROUNDEYE project has achieved its goal on Kickstarter, BTW :

But I am not saying that I dont wanna do anymore company owned work. That kind of work has been good to me, and my Family. But I guess I am saying It’s never been enough. Im saying that It’s not enough to be the 435th guy to draw Batman. I know cause I have been that guy. I am always chasing that next new idea. The thing that rattles so loud in my head, that if I dont do everything within me to make it a reality, then I will go insane. I also think that there is a big difference between the term Creator, and Artist. I know this isnt a popular notion but I don’t care, you think about those 2 words and you figure out what you think they mean, and who does, and who does not deserve either title.


Skottie Young also chimed in:

Stop telling me what’s WRONG and point to me to what’s RIGHT and you’ll start to get somewhere. Don’t make fun of what I do read, tell me what you read and why I should be reading it. I’m not talking about telling me to read creator owned books. I mean act like a real marketer and act as if I don’t know the difference between creator owned and corporate and sell me on a book. Tell me why I would love the main character, or how the plot will blow my mind, or or or. You get the point. Sell me. It’s that easy. Blog about it, tweet about it. Spread the word of the actual books we love not just the general “problem” that you may see.


In a later column, Niles also updated the reactions:

There were a couple hilarious comments. The most telling was and I’m paraphrasing here was, “Why would you want to help your competitors?!” Yes, why would we? Well, for one, I don’t view Eric Powell as a competitor or Mike Mignola or Terry Moore. I don’t have to take from someone else to gain something. That’s a very twisted way of thinking in my book. We’re all fighting the same fight. Sure, we’re all going for a slice of the same pie, but believe me, there’s plenty for everybody, and if we work together we can actually make the pie bigger again, like it used to be.


What’s all this about? As we said up top, a lot of it is general, unfocused anxiety. And we’re not quite sure who the cry for diversity is aimed at — is it the retailer who orders 100 copies of every FEARPOINT tie-in? Or the reader who buys all the FEARPOINT tie-ins? Or a system that has been pumping up an increasingly anemic front man with so much crank that it has no effect any more?

Is it just aimed at someone who will listen?

Don’t get us wrong; we’re highly sympathetic…and many medium is only as good as its ability to find new ideas. There are tons of new ideas for comics — the medium has never been better. But the business has never been so shaky.

To be continued…

Comments

  1. I don’t think the cry is really about diversity. I do think the message is being lost. We obviously are moving toward a new age of digital distribution and creators are in danger of being smothered by a distribution system that will be glutted by the majors.

    The message is a warning for creators to tread lightly before indefinitely tieing up distribution rights to their properties, abandoning other means of presenting their works for a new untested panacea and giving up hope that their work is worthy of value.

    Creators may be heading toward a cliff in their panic to survive a rough economy. They need to come together and make sound decisions that will benefit everyone industry-wide.

    Comic creators have achieved diversity. Now they must gain the market.

  2. Skottie Young’s absolutely right that there’s a need to stress the positive. In an ideal world, people would be buying creator-owned comics because they actually wanted to, not merely because of an appeal to their sense of civic duty.

  3. HA! “Diversity Through Original Material” and they use the Obama for America logo! (I hope they read the fine print… “You cannot market, promote, sell, or exchange anything that bears this logo.”)

    I’m with Mr. Young. Seduce me. People ask me what type of comics I like to read, and I tell them “good comics”! I appreciate creator-owned titles, especially self-published titles, but entertain me first.

  4. David Balan says:

    “Skottie Young’s absolutely right that there’s a need to stress the positive. In an ideal world, people would be buying creator-owned comics because they actually wanted to, not merely because of an appeal to their sense of civic duty.”

    “I’m with Mr. Young. Seduce me. People ask me what type of comics I like to read, and I tell them “good comics”! I appreciate creator-owned titles, especially self-published titles, but entertain me first.”

    This. While company-owned books can become really boring really quickly, creator-owned books can become really pretentious and vacuous really quickly, because their status as self-published somehow makes them better.

    Good is good.

    Make good stuff, market it good, you will succeed.

  5. R.J. Ryan says:

    How exactly is all this different from
    the Bendis-Kirkman debate of three years ago?

  6. RJ — it’s the same. It was never resolved and it never will be.

  7. I’m not sure that the recent conversation over the state of the industry and the need to support creator-owned comics is a reflection of anxiety or panic. In fact, the comments coming from Powell, Young, and Niles are all well thought out, cogent, and have been brewing for some time.

    A lot of this is creators who don’t want to be beholden, creatively and financially, to the Marvel and DC system calling it like it is.

    Even if the industry weren’t hurting, it would still have a lot of explaining to do in order to reconcile David Finch’s Batman (which was what, the third new Batman title launched in a month?) selling 90,000 copies, and your average release from Image selling around 5,000-6,000. That’s a remarkable disparity, and speaks volumes about the habits of readers, the practices of retailers, and the marketing juggernaut behind the big two. It also shows why the industry, as is, is incapable of growth and that the current financial problems run much, much deeper than the slumping economy.

  8. Actually, with sales down across the board, I wouldn’t put it out of bounds for somebody to be asking themselves “are sales down because that’s just how many readers are left and they’re over extended or are people just not seeing what they want to buy.”

    If you think the former, then it’s a zero-sum game and cooperation _could_ take away from your sales.

    On the other hand, if you think people just aren’t finding what they want (and there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence for this), then creators banding together to show an alternative to the latest event/crossover slate is a good idea.

  9. I don’t even know where to begin with this.

  10. Talk about your never ending battles, huh?

    I think this is all about the pursuit of happiness. Everyone should do the work that makes them the most eager to wake up each day and start a-crackin’.

    What makes me happy isn’t going to be the same thing that makes anyone else happy. Why should it?

    If you really feel that you were born to be the best Batman writer or artist that ever lived–why shouldn’t you go for it?

    Once you are the best Batman writer or artist that ever lived–who says its a bad thing to keep on the job.

    Or a stupid thing to go off on one’s own and create something he or she owns.

    I’ve seen this argument close-up from so many different points-of-view over the last 25+ years and nothing has ever been resolved or ever will be.

    Or should be.

    Artists should create the stuff they want to create and be happy.

    (And one good way to remain happy is to pay close attention to the fine print before you sign things!)

    Larry

  11. As you say, Heidi, this is far from our first go-round with this plea, as I note in my blog (http://elayneriggs.blogspot.com/2011/01/silly-site-o-day_29.html). I too am a little confused as to the target of this campaign; unless it’s, say, deep-pocketed publishers dying to put out non-superhero graphic material and willing to pay the same page rates as the Big Two, I’m having trouble seeing the financial incentive to creators. My husband receives the same page rate at DC whether he works on a book that sells 2000 copies or 20,000 copies; that’s what we need to see at other places. If professional creators can make as much doing non-superhero work for a start-up enterprise as they can now for Marvel or DC, they’ll do it; CrossGen proved that (they just went about it badly… http://elayneriggs.blogspot.com/2003_08_01_elayneriggs_archive.html).

  12. Charles Knight says:

    “On the other hand, if you think people just aren’t finding what they want (and there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence for this), then creators banding together to show an alternative to the latest event/crossover slate is a good idea.”

    How many comic shop readers give a shit? Not many I’d wager. The people who might be interested in indie comics aren’t going in comic shops, not in large numbers at least.

  13. “Free entertainment” is an AWESOME thing for comic creators! The internet display ad market is booming and shows no signs of slowing down in growth. Just because a reader’s not plunking down their hard-earned $*.99 doesn’t mean they’re not generating significant revenue for the creator by simply reading their comic.

    I think the webcomics model is paying off for a lot more creators than you’d think.

  14. Derrick A. Richardson says:

    @ Charles Knight: Your last statement is the key. Most people don’t even know that comics are still being printed. When I’ve told people I create comics, those that are old enough usually reply “those are still being printed?”, or ” like Batman in the movies?”. The younger ones say “like Naruto?”.

    There are over 300 million people in this country. None of us should be hurting for readers. So where’s the disconnect? Content? Distribution? Marketing? All of the above?

    We figure this puzzle out, and the last thing we’ll have to worry about is readers.

  15. Right, Derrick, exactly. While I appreciate some creators response of “just read what makes you happy and everything will be fine,” that’s really no solution; people aren’t reading what they like, they’re reading what they know. (And that’s just the small sliver of people actually reading comics). That’s the heart of the issue, and it’s a systemic problem that has myriad causes.

    Survey a local shop–I’d wager 6 of 10 people couldn’t even tell you what Orc Stain or The Sixth Gun even are. We need to figure out why.

  16. Matthew Southworth says:

    God, people depress me. In response to the “average comic shop buyer doesn’t give a shit about indie comics”–I was the average comic shop buyer, and when I couldn’t find anything good to read by Marvel or DC, I looked for something else–indie books. I lived in Louisville for a while, and the store I shopped in didn’t carry a lot of indie material (this was early-90s). So I stopped buying comics.

    Your point is essentially “if Bruce Willis isn’t in it, nobody cares and it’s probably pretentious crap”, so why make movies that can’t support a Bruce Willis salary and marketing plan? Surely you don’t actually think that just because someone hasn’t heard about something that they wouldn’t like it.

    It’s not as simple as “make something good, market it well”. Marvel and DC are the dominant companies (I’ve worked for both, and I like working for them, and I like some of the books they put out), and retailers are more comfortable taking a chance on them.

    Try opening a hamburger joint. If it’s good, you’ll do great, right? What if McDonald’s moves in next door?

    The point of all this–the positive take-away–is to support the books you like. Not out of philanthropy but out of self-preservation–if you like something, tell your retailer, tell other customers, get that book into more people’s hands. It will reward the creator, sure, but its success will reward you, as you find good work encouraged.

  17. Matthew Southworth says:

    Oh, and just to clarify–I would still go to the comics store a couple times a month in the early 90s and walk out empty-handed. When a friend brought me an early copy of Acme Novelty Library, I was saved! My enthusiasm was reawakened, and I eventually found more to like in mainstream comics, too.

    And I leave the house about once a week now–deadlines are brutal–and that is every Wednesday. But I also buy a lot of indie material that I can’t find in stores, usually through websites.

    Look at Dustin Harbin’s wonderful, funny, completely unpretentious stuff: http://www.dharbin.com .

  18. Nathan Schreiber says:

    If there are twenty webcartoonists eking out an existence on ads / merch I’d be surprised, and if there’s fifty I’d be shocked.

    The most noteworthy aberration in the comics industry is that one company (Diamond) has a monopoly on distribution. Does Diamond do anything unreplicable? I think they just ship books. I fear the reason they don’t have a competitor is because there’s not enough money in the industry.

    I LOVE comics, but I just don’t think enough people want to pay for them. Something drastic needs to happen to turn the industry around.

  19. So where’s the disconnect? Content? Distribution? Marketing? All of the above?

    The last option is the correct one.

    The only way out of this situation will require a lot of the people currently working to lose their jobs. Either because the publishers have gone under or because the publishers have taken drastic measures to refocus on saving their business.

    Sadly, what Chris Crosby fails to mention above is that the tastes of the webcomic audience are as myopic as the tastes of the direct market. And if you think you do a lot of patting fans on the their heads now, that’s only a tiny amount compared to what you’ll need to do to gain and keep a web audience.

    It’s not hopeless though. I figure that any comics creator who is able to adapt their methods and ideas to suit the direct market audience, can do the same for the web. Seems to work for Warren Ellis.

  20. Matthew Southworth says:

    I don’t want to monopolize this conversation or come off as a loudmouth, so please excuse me for this additional thought:

    In response to Derrick’s comment about 300 million people/we shouldn’t have to worry about readers: I agree, except I fear that the real problem comes with looking for “readers” per se.

    I think certainly people still like to read, but comics offer a book/movie hybrid that falls in the cracks sometimes (I particularly like it in that crack, but a lot of people don’t know what to make of it and would rather just watch a movie or read a book). So my assertion is this:

    I think motion comics have gotten a bad rap. I think that there’s a real opportunity there that has yet to be tapped effectively. . .in which a creator or small team can basically make a movie on his own.

    It’s not Comics with a capital C and its not Animation with a capital A–it’s different, and it represents real opportunities for storytelling (none of which have been fully exploited in current motion comics, which are basically just cartoons). I hope that I can get it together for a project I’m doing.

  21. When Crossgen was putting motion comics on the AOL kids (or was it teens) channel, they were some of the most popular pieces on the channel. There’s an audience for motion comics, but it’s probably not the “traditional” comic book audience.

    On the other hand the last few motion comics I’ve seen have been AWFUL, so maybe someone just needs to do it properly.

    (And I still maintain the Marvel Superheroes cartoon from the 60s was motion comics.)

  22. Nathan:

    “If there are twenty webcartoonists eking out an existence on ads / merch I’d be surprised, and if there’s fifty I’d be shocked.”

    If only that sort of thing could be legitimately proven, as I’d love to watch the hat fly off your head in shock. :)

    William:

    “Sadly, what Chris Crosby fails to mention above is that the tastes of the webcomic audience are as myopic as the tastes of the direct market.”

    I disagree with that statement, partially because it’s impossible, seeing as the tastes of the direct market are driven entirely by one type of comic (superheroes). Take a look at any twenty random popular webcomics, and you’ll see that they’re very diverse. You’ve everything from gaming humor to serialized fantasy adventure to to serialized slice-of-life drama to stick figures telling math jokes to stick figures telling raunchy jokes. (I suppose “stick figures” may be the closest thing webcomics have to superheroes.) Humor in general is a popular element, but I don’t see how that’s anything like the narrow-minded focus of the direct market.

  23. Matthew Southworth says:

    I say the Marvel Superheroes cartoons were motion comics, too.

    Motion comics COULD be the best-drawn “cartoons” out there, far superior to these straight-to-video things like the Hellboy cartoons or the DC DTV things. Imagine how much cooler a motion comic of THE NEW FRONTIER would have looked than the movie they made–one person’s hand making all the art.

    But yeah–it seems the medium requires forethought into the making of the comics that are then imported into that venue. Simple issues of layering are easy when so much comics work is done in Photoshop anyway. . .I hope the bad examples of motion comics don’t kill the interest before they have a chance to flower.

  24. CBrown says:

    What I want to know is, why is a post about Salma Hayek a ‘related story?’

  25. Randy @ WCG Comics says:

    As someone who has been a small/independent publisher since the start of the ’90s, I have to say that I have had nothing but great experiences with the generosity of fellow creators/publishers — there always has been cameraderie and people have always been quick to praise and recommend the work of others. This has never been an issue or a problem in my experience.

    I think the issue is being in such a diffuse environment where people can find comics in a variety of venues, and there being so many comics and a relatively small pool of readers/buyers. There’s clearly a limit to what can be achieved by word of mouth, appearances at conventions, and on the web without a unified message, a central “meeting place,” and more resources. But the very nature of independent publishing makes such a coordinated, concerted effort difficult without some real organization and leadership; which is difficult with everyone simply trying to stay afloat.

    But I’m always open to ideas!

  26. @Nathan Schreiber (plus others)

    Here’s a list of webcomics people making a living off their webcomics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_self-sufficient_webcomics

    It’s incomplete, lists people like James Kochalka (who puts out a lot of print comics), and can never be complete, but there’re over forty people there.

  27. Curtley says:

    If there’s a web-comic you like and they have a ‘Donation’ button on the page, donate some cash! It is direct input into keeping them producing the comic you genuinely like.

    I did this the other day, after I was made aware there was a Donation button present. It’s fair, I think, rather than enjoying all of this content (which I like) for free all the time.

  28. “Surely you don’t actually think that just because someone hasn’t heard about something that they wouldn’t like it.”

    I’m not sure if you were addressing my above point about 6 of 10 not knowing Orc Stain, but just to clarify, that’s not at all what I meant. I hope people didn’t take that away from my comments.

    It’s troubling that such a number of people don’t know these books. Orc Stain, Sixth Gun, you name it–these are titles from well-established publishers and somehow they go by unnoticed. That’s what stings: people aren’t choosing not to buy them, they don’t even know they’re around.

    In a perfect world, sure, people would seek out smaller titles. But judging by the numbers, that isn’t happening. It’s a curious thing, and begs the question: why not?

  29. Take a look at any twenty random popular webcomics, and you’ll see that they’re very diverse.

    All of them are geek culture humor strips. Yes, you could claim that D&D humor is different from video game humor, but it remains sgeek humor.

    There is very little traction for story based comics on the web. Most of the people you’re trying to lure into making webcomics make story comics. And not all of them have the same sort of name recognition as the Foglios or Ellis that can bring in an audience that normally doesn’t have the time to read a graphic novel online.

    I believe many of them can adapt to the low-attention-span web audience, but it’s likely many more simply can’t.

    If there’s a web-comic you like and they have a ‘Donation’ button on the page, donate some cash! It is direct input into keeping them producing the comic you genuinely like.

    You know what’s funny about that? A number of webcomic “important people” say you shouldn’t have a donate on your site because it makes it look amateurish.

    Given the egos involved in webcomics (Egos that make Hollywood look monk-like humble.) I tend to assume they do that to keep the challengers to their thrones at bay.

  30. Matthew Southworth says:

    Michael–no, I was addressing Charles’ assertion a few posts back saying that people who buy indie comics don’t shop in comic stores.

    I agree with you–presumably people who love a medium would like to know there’s good stuff that they haven’t already found. I feel like there’s a responsibility from comics retailers, fans, and creators to tell people about those things.

    I think the reasons people don’t seek out smaller titles are manifold, but here are a couple:

    1) comics fans are often extremely defensive, as this thread and others like it demonstrate. For someone to say “buy some indie comics” doesn’t mean “you’re an idiot and live in your mother’s basement since you buy Green Lantern comics”. I draw indie comics and mainstream comics, I buy all kinds of stuff, and I feel my reading is richer as a result.

    2) comics are expensive, and the market is increasingly dominated by crossover events that require more and more investment. So there’s not a lot of money for trying out untested properties.

    3) a lot of indie projects can’t be sustained on a monthly level (they don’t pay the bills), so they don’t satisfy that fix that we all love so much. They come out in small doses–four issues, six issues–often not on schedule (I plead guilty here). Or they come out in book form.

    And I think this is at the heart of it–we all love serialization (when we can rely on it coming out regularly).

    But these are side issues. . .I’d rather WAIT for something good than just consistently receive something so-so. I have plenty of ways to spend my money and my time, so I’m willing to search out the good in both indie comics and in mainstream comics.

    Practicing what I preach: if you’re not reading WHO IS JAKE ELLIS from Image, you should. The first issue is fucking GOOD.

    And I really liked THOR THE MIGHTY AVENGER and wish it was ongoing. And DEADPOOL MAX is a hoot! I love reading that.

  31. Okay, phew. I’m an indie creator myself (my first Image work, running backup in Hack/Slash, releases next week), so the last thing I’d want is to come off as anti- indie publishing.

    But I agree with your reasoning. The economics are tough–tough for creators, retailers, and fans. And you’re right, it doesn’t help that the playing field isn’t level because of Marvel’s and DC’s practices. Granted, I by no means lay all the economic woes an the shoulders of the big two–far from it. I also buy books from both. But events, unneccessary titles, etc. only add to that strain.

    Ultimately, the decisions and change can only be made with the power of the pocketbook. If something isn’t good, don’t buy it; if it is, support it by spreading the word.

    I’ll also practice what I preach: Kill Shakespeare is terrific, as is Sixth Gun and Cyclops. And Samnee’s Thor is amazing–shame it won’t be around much longer.

    And hey, Matthew, just to note: I love Stumptown, have every issue. You and Greg make a terrific team; can’t wait for more.

  32. William:

    “All of them are geek culture humor strips.”

    No, they’re not. Just off the top of my head: GUNNERKRIGG COURT, MISFILE, DOMINIC DEEGAN, ERRANT STORY, PENNY & AGGIE, WAYWARD SONS… none of these are “geek humor” strips. They’re story-based serialized comics focusing on diverse, original characters and worlds.

    “Yes, you could claim that D&D humor is different from video game humor, but it remains sgeek humor.”

    And you could also stretch the term “geek humor” to include any comic that appeals to young adults. Is GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS or QUESTIONABLE CONTENT or SOMETHING POSITIVE considered “geek humor” strips? I don’t see a whole lot of video game references in those comics. More like a whole lot of character-based serialized storytelling.

    “There is very little traction for story based comics on the web.”

    That’s not my experience at all. One of the fastest-growing webcomics I publish is a story-based comic that’s much closer to X-MEN than it is PENNY ARCADE.

    “Most of the people you’re trying to lure into making webcomics make story comics.”

    I’m not trying to lure anybody into anything, just stating my viewpoint. When I read “the web model has still paid off for only a comparative handful of people,” that’s just not my experience at all.

    “And not all of them have the same sort of name recognition as the Foglios or Ellis that can bring in an audience that normally doesn’t have the time to read a graphic novel online.”

    Most people who read webcomics don’t choose what comics they read based on the name-recognition of the creator. They check out a webcomic after hearing about it via word-of-mouth or promotion, and they keep reading because the writing and artwork and characters convince them they should. The webcomics audience is the general audience, the “mainstream” audience of Facebook users who click the “Like” button, not the limited comic book-reading audience.

    “I believe many of them can adapt to the low-attention-span web audience, but it’s likely many more simply can’t.”

    For people with low attention spans, there sure are a ton of them who read dozens or even hundreds of pages of comic archive in one sitting.

  33. Matthew Southworth says:

    Thanks for the kind STUMPTOWN words, Michael; there’s more coming soon (I am working on issue 6 right now). And congratulations on your new thing in HACK/SLASH, I’ll look for it!

    Chris’s comments on webcomics are intriguing to me. . .I suspect that before too much longer, “webcomics” will be a redundant phrase, as everything moves to the web and to a computer/tablet. I don’t have cable TV but I watch the Daily Show all the time–thanks, internet! Same with the New York Times. I’m guessing that comics will follow a similar route, publishing digitally before being collected in a more expensive “specialty” book. . .maybe with original sketches thrown in or something.

  34. Matthew Murray — thanks for posting that link. I happen to know of the lifestyles of a few of the people on that list and I’m not sure they compare favorably to the lifestyles of Silver Age artists who had kids and mortgages. Which is not to put down the skill and business sense involved in the current model. And of course it’s not just comics where kids and a mortgage are no longer the goal to be attained.

    However, I am a big believer in DIY. even if it takes a bit of sacrifice.

  35. “Chris’s comments on webcomics are intriguing to me. . .I suspect that before too much longer, ‘webcomics’ will be a redundant phrase, as everything moves to the web and to a computer/tablet.”

    I agree, Matthew, though right now it’s good shorthand for the general “give comics away free” business model.

    It’s really not a crazy business model when you think about it. I mean, that’s been radio and TV’s business model for a nearly a century, give the content out for free to everyone and cover it in advertising to profit from it. Fox isn’t angry when you watch an episode of GLEE for free on your TV rather than buy it from iTunes for $0.99. They make money from you either way.

    One bit of news I heard recently that reminded me of the webcomics model: Rovio, the makers of the phenomenally popular ANGRY BIRDS game app (the basic version of which costs $0.99), released the same game on the Android platform for FREE, supported entirely by ads.

    The amazing part is, they’re making MORE MONEY from the FREE version of ANGRY BIRDS than they are from the PAID version! They’re making about $1 million per MONTH in ad revenue from that free Android version. Rovio actually stated publicly that they’d rather people play the FREE version than give them $0.99 upfront for the paid version, because in the long run they generate far more revenue per user from ads than they do from a flat $0.99. More info: http://www.intomobile.com/2010/12/03/angry-birds-android-1-million-ad-revenue/

    That’s SO much like the webcomics model. If a reader really digs a comic, not only will they come back every day to see if there’s a new one, they’ll read through the archive MULTIPLE times. If they return enough times, they’re ultimately gonna make more for you in ad revenue than they would’ve buying a $3.99 comic book or even a $12.99 trade paperback. And all without spending a dime in their wallet.

  36. By the way, don’t take my ramblings to mean that the webcomics business model is a magic formula to instant success. It’s NOT. I’m just saying that the average creator has about as much chance of making a meager living from their creator-owned webcomic than they do from their creator-owned print comic book. And that chance is TINY, either way.

    However, webcomics’ chances are slowly growing, while the print comic book side is slowly shrinking.

    (If you want a sure thing, go sell your body to a popular superhero! :>)

  37. This is yet another round of the ever raging battle. As a creator I can attest to the insane sacrifices some of us make to do what we do. I for one am not a guy who has the means to really hit the conventions as I should. Hell I’m trying to gather funding for some projects I want to do. So for me I think the issue is that there isn’t enough of a resource for those that need the extra help, The blogs that plug creators and their books is a good start. Though I don’t think it’s a be all end all. There needs to be more of an effort to encourage and help out getting new and struggling creators to actually get new work together and out for people to see.

    Instead of the shit I’ve gotten over the years. I have some ‘friends’ who do work in the industry in varying degrees who’ve actively shit on what I do. Granted I’m no Gaiman or even a tired Bendis, but the shit one has to take just to get someone to not dismiss you based on bullshit criteria. A lot of guys have had similar situations where they present solid work and still dismissed because they don’t have the name recognition or they don’t have a buddy working with Marvel folks.

    One thing I’ve always encouraged. In my books, which I haven’t produced in a while due to aforementioned issues and the unrelated death of my father suddenly a little while back, I always made a section for new artists that I’d find on deviantart. I’d help promote them anywhere I could and quite a few work at Marvel and DC and the like. It’s negligible to say it was all me, stupid even, but I’d like to think I helped. I figured that I’d show the kindness that so many refused me. Sounds kind of bitter but I really don’t see it like that. It’s just stating the harshness of my chosen profession.

    I chalk it up to ‘people are dicks’.

    I hope something good comes of this. DIY is awesome and I’ll do it till I die, it’d just be nice not to be so shut out of everything. The past year for me has been a lot of slamming doors and gigs drying up. So maybe I’m not the best representative to speak up. I’m just coming from that weird outsider place that baffles me.

    We need less shady opportunist IP farmers and more cool people that won’t burn you for a shit gig, who actually give a damn about what it means to be a creative person. I learned the hard way, maybe this call to arms will help someone. I hope so, or this medium is just going to stagnate ever further.

    I’m done babbling like an idiot. I’m just tired from a long day of failed negotiations. Anyone have a use for a dead on his feet Writer/Artist who will work for Ramen and bus fare? I do commissions *winknudge*

    The whole point is that the cutthroat shit needs to stop. To fix the situation people need to actually work together and actually welcome new people who want to enter the fold in however they can. It’s got to stop being a who you know, under the stairs thing. I’ve seen the worst of this industry and I want to survive long enough to see it’s best. I’m all in if we can work together and do something beneficial. The point is getting asses in seats to see the work. The more people come in the more new material comes about. Some might be shit yes, but some could be the new classics that could blow the doors off things again. Thus growing the medium.

    Babble babble. Sorry, Shutting up. Again, Sleepy and mad. Sorry sorry.

  38. will barnes says:

    I wonder if poets and play writes have these same arguments?

  39. I expect the growth in the digital download market will spur growth for drama comics, simply because drama is more satisfying in larger chunks: there’s a reason sitcoms are thirty minutes and television dramas are an hour, after all. Comedy has the edge in webcomics, just like it does on the newspaper comics page. Drama comics can get by on the web (Family Man, YU+ME: dream, Sailor Twain, World of Hurt, Zahra’s Paradise), but the daily joke rules that side of the business.

    Digital downloads have enough format differences from floppies, trades, and webcomics to make them the preferred format for an under-exploited audience. Since that audience will expect them to come out on a floppy or trade time-period, expect drama to dominate the format just like it does in the direct market. Since there’s no shelf space limit like there is in the direct market, expect the independent stuff to dwarf the Big 2, Archie, and Disney in the digital download market. The tech to create and deliver the work just doesn’t require a big corporate middle man to hold the bag. The only advantage a big corporate middle man might have is in building a big enough digital storefront for costumers to randomly browse through. Even then, any creator that doesn’t also sell his digital downloads off his own website to cut the middleman out of selling to the creator’s hardcore fanbase is an idiot.

    Will digital downloads be enough by themselves? Probably not, but comics by themselves never were. Newspaper comics, webcomics, and comic books have ads. All three have trades that repackage the content in books that doesn’t have ads. All three merchandise (suction cup Garfield for your window, Fat Pony T-shirts, and Wolverine action figures). All three license to the other, bigger, riskier, more profitable mass mediums (Peanut holiday specials, Batman movies, Penny Arcade video games) which is where you actually hit the lottery with your work. Sure, Harry Potter level success in books will you a millionaire, but Harry Potter movies and merchandising is what it takes to make you the second richest woman in England.

    The marketing for most direct market comics, even from the Big 2, is bad. The profits margins aren’t there for something much better than what a one person creator can manage in the internet age. A determined and patient creator can create more marketing for himself now than ever before. It won’t be overnight. In fact, usually takes years, but we are talking about creators who intend to do this for their entire life, right?

    While you’re struggling, keep your day job. If you’re already in the direct market, there’s no reason why shouldn’t stay in it while you build up your own creator owned works that you can sell again and again and again, year after year, as floppies and trades and webcomics and digital downloads.

    I keep running into these unrealistic expectations that finding more audience in a new format should happen instantaneously, instead of being the backbreaking work making your living off your art always is. Is it the fact that artists have an actually, marketable skill out of college that is useful in the business world that skews these conversations on these direct market specialization sites? The awards for best new novelists usually go to people in their THIRTIES. Actors are disgustingly hit and miss in the cash flow, no matter how successful they might have been in the past. Sniveling in public that you might have to lower yourself to get a paycheck to keep pursuing your preferred projects is really annoying to some of us coming from those backgrounds. Making money from doing something creative is tough, and building a new business from scratch takes time and effort. Just be glad that it’s easier now than when Jeff Smith and Dave Sim started theirs – or when Scott Kurtz and Fred Gallagher started theirs. (Fun fact – Fred Gallagher? His webcomic Megotokyo is the only one whose trades are published by DC or Marvel, and his last volume came out under the DC Comics imprint itself. And it’s a drama webcomic. It was the only title to survive DC killing the CMX line. Know why it survived? Because the trades were too profitable for DC to just drop it. The collections of a comic you can read on the internet for free were too profitable for one of the Big 2 to let go. The future is now, kids.)

    Oh, and only 300 million people? If you’re only aiming for America when talking about delivering content on the internet, you’re aiming too small.

  40. Derrick A. Richardson says:

    @ Chris Crosby: Your comments on new media advertising are where indie creators need to go.

    Mobile is officially exploding. And businesses big & small are setting up shop and advertising on it in ever increasing numbers.

    Smartphone penetration will be almost half of the US population by the end of 2011. As I’ve said before, the models are there (as Chris pointed out with “Angry Birds”), they’re just not in the direct sales market.

    Indie creators actually have a fantastic opportunity to establish themselves in a rapidly growing new market that the big two have no grasp of, and won’t for a couple of years at least.

    Tablet sales will be 54.7 million globally in 2011 alone. 103.4 million in 2012, according to research firm Gartner.

    We have access now to not only the domestic market, but to a global market.

    Time to hitch those wagons up, and make the dash folks. There’s gold in them new media hills.

  41. Derrick A. Richardson says:

    @Patrick Rennie: Well said. The time to build is now.

  42. Nabster says:

    Something better than comixology is needed to get the digital comic scene going. Creators get less revenue from comixology, percentage wise, than print. Doesn’t make much sense, just more predatory anti comics practices. They’ll keep creators suppressed.

  43. Matthew Southworth says:

    To Will Barnes–

    I can address the playwright question; I studied playwriting in grad school, and I can tell you that no, playwrights don’t discuss indie versus big market because there basically is no big market. Actual dramatic (or comedic) plays on Broadway are very rare now, unless they’re revivals.

    So basically all playwriting is on an “indie” level, which means NO money. There is really no model for financial success as a playwright unless you’re in the very, very rarefied air of the Neil Simons and David Mamets.

    I pray that comics won’t go down the road that theatre has–for decades people have claimed theatre was a dead art, and the fact that people view going to the theatre as either a punishment or a very rare treat attests to the fact that it simply doesn’t work as mass entertainment (it’s too expensive to produce and requires a level of commitment by the audience that is out of step with modern values, in my opinion).

    Which is a shame, because enjoyable theatre can be uniquely thrilling; by the same token, I’ve had few experiences as soul-crushing as seeing a truly terrible play.

  44. Excuse the rant: I find it pretty funny that some people think that digital distribution/digital comics are the ultimate solution to indie creator problems. There is absolutely no difference in essence between a printed comic and a digital comic you read on an iPad. It’s the same comic, it’s just distributed differently.

    That means you have about the same chances to sell your comic in a shop than on a digital platform. Why? Because if people know about it they’ll buy it. If they don’t know about it they won’t. Paper or bits don’t make a difference. People buy exactly the same books on paper or on iPads.It’s as simple as that.

    Buffy or Naruto or Transformers sell well because people KNOW about them, either through a license, movie/TV tie-ins, a big name creator, or just massive advertisement.
    If nobody buys your book in a LCS they won’t suddenly magically find it among millions of apps and hundred of thousands of other comic books on their iPad. Especially if they are not used to read comic books.

    What we need is a way to let people know about those books, and like Skottie Young said we need to fucking SELL them. And not by saying ‘please support an indie creator who needs to feed his family’ but by saying ‘buy that book because there are tons of cool stuff in there that you are going to LOVE. Buy it because it’s better than that shit superhero comicbook you don’t care about!’

    That’s the solution. Let’s create an indie creator front that advertises, markets, sells comics like there is no tomorrow! Let’s make everybody aware of that COOL stuff we’re doing here and they’ll buy it. We’re not making indie comics, we’re not even making comics, we’re making ENTERTAINMENT and it’s 10 times better than that shit at the multiplex, than all those men-in-tights stories, or that Harry Potter/Twilight/Dark Tower B.S.
    (Doesn’t mean that’s true but that the right attitude to sell something).
    If we can communicate that I think we’ll get somewhere.

  45. As much as I’ve lost hope in the past year after releasing my first indie book (see http://www.facebook.com/armyofhaven) through an indie publisher I can’t just give up and resign myself to thinking that it can never be resolved.

    I marketed the crap out of my book where no one else did and yet sales were still minuscule. Of course, I can’t expect to sell a gazillion copies coming out of the gate either.

    The fact of the matter is that retailers won’t take the chance of stocking it because it’s not a sure sale and Diamond won’t stock it because they’re only about the big two.

    Yes, there is a myopic audience that will only read Batman but there is also an audience that will read indie so the problem lies in reaching that audience and how to accomplish that effectively while granting the reader a centrally located point at which to buy be it digital or print that is indie friendly. Playstation Comics does a good job of evening the playing field, I should add. They did well with mine.

    All that rant to say that it boils down to one thing and that is communication and ease of access.

  46. Sorry the correct address is http://www.facebook.com/armyofhaven

    That’s without the )

  47. “It’s the same comic, it’s just distributed differently. That means you have about the same chances to sell your comic in a shop than on a digital platform. Why? Because if people know about it they’ll buy it.”

    Um… no. What you’re essentially saying here is that the content is the only thing that matters, and that distribution is irrelevant. But that’s only true if you assume that any interested customer will still seek out the product no matter how difficult it is to do so.

    In the specific case of shops versus digital, digital has at least two obvious advantages in reaching a broader audience. First, the potential audience is larger because you don’t have to physically travel to the shop. It’s much more convenient, especially for people who don’t live near a comic book store. And second, it cuts out the obstacle of persuading individual retailers to stock the book.

    True, you can go to any competent direct market retailer and order any indie book as long as you’re willing to do so three months in advance. Some people do. I do. But I’m weird. It’s a chore, and one that I’m willing to put up with, but a huge deterrent to most potential readers.

  48. @Paul: I think distribution, as long as it’s not very very limited is not relevant. A large part of the population in the US or the UK is in driving distance of a comicshop, of a big bookstore (for trades), and anybody can buy a trade out of Amazon in a few clicks.

    Saying that digital reaches a broader audience is, at the moment, ludicrous: you need to have a specific DEVICE (and expensive too) to read the product, while anybody can take a bus to the LCS or order a trade from Amazon. So it’s more convenient if you have that device (and I do have one), but let’s face it’s not a majority of people who now owns one (it will get there but we don’t know how or when).

    So yeah I don’t think distribution is a big deal at the moment. I think the big deal is in making people aware that this book exists and that they can actually buy it. That’s the problem indie creators are grappling with. And I don’t even think it’s about quality, it’s just about awareness.

    And by the way I love your show. It’s the best podcast about comics by a long stretch :)

  49. Derrick A. Richardson says:

    According to most estimates, there are only 3,000 direct sales comic shops in the us. Are they well run? Do they have a website? Do they have a marketing plan? Do they have a marketing budget? Are they”publisher agnostic”, are are they polarized to buying predominantly from the big two?

    Then there’s Diamond. If you can’t consistently meet their minimum order requirements, you don’t have direct market distribution. period.

    I’d love to get new people coming into comic shops, but people have been talking about how to do this for literally decades. The system as it stands isn’t set up for getting new customers, either content wise, or marketing wise. And with one dominant distributor, unless your product has the numbers (about 20,000 copies and above consistently), your product just becomes extra paperwork that they could do without. Nothing personal, just business.

    Nearly everyone in this country has access to the internet. That is a fact. Build your audience there. Then, if you still want to do direct sales, do a trade paperback. Higher profit margin for the distributor and you. And your reader gets a” nice satisfying chunk of entertainment value” (Heidi, you need to trademark that : )

    As to internet comics being the same as print comics. If they are, they just aren’t being imaginative enough.

    Look outside the comic book longbox.

  50. Derrick A. Richardson says:

    @ Paul O’ Brien: What you said : )

    @ JM Ringuet (your quote):

    “I think distribution, as long as it’s not very very limited is not relevant. A large part of the population in the US or the UK is in driving distance of a comicshop, of a big bookstore (for trades), and anybody can buy a trade out of Amazon in a few clicks.”

    I don’t know about the UK, but you’re incorrect about the US. Online comics shops like Midtown do as well as they do because there is a large segment of the population (mostly in the midwest) without accesss to a comic shop. And with gas prices being what they are, then it becomes decision time. Go get groceries, or travel 50 miles to get comic books?

    As far as bookstores, you may want to look at what’s going on with mass market chain bookstores. It’s not pretty. Media disruption is affecting all media.

    Of course you can buy a trade out of Amazon. If you know it’s there.

    Digital is bigger. You don’t need a specific device. You can put your comic on iOs, Android, Desktop, Laptop, Facebook, Twitter, & your phone (1.9 Billion cell phones sold globally. Last year.)

    So yeah, distribution is a big deal, as is marketing.

    I love going to my local shop. My friends own it. It’s well stocked, well lit, & strongly promoted to people both direct and online. But they are the exception, not the rule.

    As creators we need to explore all distribution, marketing, and revenue streams available to us. At the rate it’s going, and factoring in the age of it’s market, the local comic shop won’t be around in 10 to 20 years unless steps are taken now to change the status quo, and ensure it’s survival.

    And like it or not, new media and digital distribution is a major part of that rescue plan.

  51. will barnes says:

    To Matthew Southworth

    Here, read your statement again. With some minor alterations it sounds like playwriting and comics are pretty similar…
    “I can address the comic book question; I studied cartooning in grad school, and I can tell you that no, cartoonist’s don’t discuss indie versus big market because there basically is no big market for new, non superhero work. Most genres (romance or western or war) of comics from Marvel or DC are very rare now, unless they’re superheroes.

    So basically all cartooning is on an “indie” level, which means NO money. There is really no model for financial success as a cartoonist unless you’re in the very, very rarefied air of the Dave Sims and Jeff Smiths.

    I pray that theater won’t go down the road that comics has–for decades people have claimed cartooning was a dead art, and the fact that people view a comic as either a juvenile or a very rare treat attests to the fact that it simply doesn’t work as mass entertainment (it takes too long to produce and requires a level of commitment by the audience that is out of step with modern values, in my opinion).

    Which is a shame, because enjoyable comics can be uniquely thrilling; by the same token, I’ve had few experiences as soul-crushing as reading a truly terrible comic.”

  52. “There are tons of new ideas for comics”

    The problem (especially for indies) is that many of those new ideas aren’t as good as the 30, 50, 70 year old ideas. Part of the problem seems to be the constant battle to not be anything like those that have decades long staying power. You know…the stuff that sells? And set aside readers comfort zones and nostalgia factor, bad taste and plain old “habbit”, the fact is, the crappiest Spider-Man, Batman, Superman is often more attractive than many indies out there. If it doesnt jump out to the reader (who can barely afford comics in this economy as it is) in the “new comics” section of their lcbs, well…then you’re probably better off sticking to giving it away for free to the internet crowd and making a killing on that awesome “advertising” revenue that all the creators are raving about.

    The battle of the “creator with a family to feed” to make money doing his/her indie comic their way, even if it means not making money writing Batman because it’s just so creatively “limiting” reminds me of the Jean Renoir film “The Southerner”. It didn’t work out so well for that guy either. But it’s a very glamorous notion on paper.

  53. Matthew Southworth says:

    John–

    It’s easy to look at the worst of each thing and say “no one wants to read that”. This discussion is more clearly about the best of these worlds. . .great indie comics are fantastic examples of what creators can do, as are many mainstream comics.

    But the point is there are dozens or hundreds of mainstream comics out there that aren’t good but that are nonetheless produced and financially supported by corporations. Remember NFL SUPERPRO?

    So the question is how to get the good material in people’s hands so that they can set aside the Superpros or the other bad ideas and buy the good ones, regardless of who is publishing it.

    I personally don’t see any reason to disregard either side of the industry. I am drawing comics for Marvel, which pays well and is lots of fun; I’m drawing a book for Oni, an independent publisher who affords me a great deal of creative space; and I’m working on my own personal project as well. If I can get someone to pay me well for it, that would be fantastic, I’d love to be able to focus on that. If not, I’ll still make the book anyway–it just may take much longer.

    But I’d say it’s a very prejudicial view–or perhaps you’re just playing devil’s advocate?–to imply that modern cartoonists don’t have any ideas that are as good as those from 70 years ago. That’s crazy talk.

  54. @matthew

    “to imply that modern cartoonists don’t have any ideas that are as good as those from 70 years ago. That’s crazy talk.”

    Um, no. I wasn’t saying that. Even though many are saying the reverse with gleeful impunity which seems the trendy and accepted thing to do nowadays.

    I’m saying that the big company stuff is more “attractive” than a lot of indies (good and bad) and packaged to sell. You can have the best idea in the world, but if it doesn’t leap off the page at “first glance” to the customer perusing the new stuff each week, then that idea is not long for this world.

    I was also making the point that many indie creators (and it is “many”, not a few, so lets be honest here) seem to think that making something that’s “like the more mainstream stuff that sells” is anathema or that it’s “contributing to the problem”. That just maybe, an idea that is 70 years old and is constantly emulated, is emulated for a reason. That just maybe that old idea that seems quaint to some, is still a good idea.

    I’m not saying there aren’t good indies out there. I’m wondering why the discussion regarding the struggle of the indie creator to be “seen” must be inexorably linked to comments like “if people didn’t have shitty taste and if they didn’t keep reading those half century old characters, and if those old fanboys would just die off and if the new breed of reader would hurry up already, then i’d sell more of MY stuff”. Those if’s aren’t reaasons, they’re excuses. And bad ones at that.

    I’m not saying you’re that guy. I’m saying there’s far too many of those guys out there that need to stop for a second and realize that maybe their stuff isn’t selling because of different reasons all together. Reasons that don’t include Marvel, DC, Disney, Warners, or half century old characters.

    Maybe some of those super original ideas just don’t have an audience and never will. Maybe some of those super original ideas just suck. And maybe a certain few will champion them simply because they’re “indies” or becaue they’re not DC or Marvel.

    But I’m sure that’s just crazy talk.

  55. Matthew Southworth says:

    John–

    I think some of your points are well-founded–not every original idea is a good idea, of course. Though some are making the argument that superhero books are crap and that superhero readers have bad taste, I’m not making that argument (I love good superhero books), and I don’t think most people arguing for indie comics are, either.

    But I also think you display some bias toward a certain aesthetic. Your argument that something must “jump off the page” (and the implication that most indie books do not) suggests you believe comics must be eye-catching to compete. That’s sensible–but only if the books are ordered by the retailer in the first place.

    Many times I’ve become aware of a book through reading sites like the Beat or others, then not been able to find the book at my comic store because it was an independent book the retailer didn’t order. The hypothetical customer didn’t even SEE that book (or fail to see it, as in your example) since it didn’t make it to the shelf.

    Many great comics would not “leap off the page at first glance” because they are written to be much subtler than that–Chester Brown’s LOUIS RIEL is deceptively simple in execution, for example. If anything, I’d argue that the comic racks are crammed to the gills with histrionic covers that make it very difficult to peruse individual books.

    And in my opinion, at the moment the most eye-catching comic on the rack is WHO IS JAKE ELLIS. An indie book–if you go to the comic store tomorrow, look at that and see if you don’t agree.

  56. @ john

    There’s a few things at work here that I’d like to comment on.

    “You can have the best idea in the world, but if it doesn’t leap off the page at “first glance” to the customer perusing the new stuff each week, then that idea is not long for this world.”

    This is a cynical attitude to have, and a bit inaccurate when it comes to a lot of indie books. For starters, if we lived in a world where the 25-word logline is the only thing that determines value, then we’d have no V for Vendetta; no 2001; no Slaughterhouse Five.

    Not to mention that many indie books have incredibly succinct hooks–Locke & Key, Who Is Jake Ellis, Hack/Slash. All these books can have their essence boiled down to two sentences. So the problem isn’t one of indie = obtuse. The only reason Marvel and DC books are more “attractive” and “packaged to sell” is because they have oodles of marketing clout behind them and have exploited a direct market system that is completely beholden to their properties.

    I don’t think this conversation is one of “f**k those superhero-buying fanboys who have no taste.” It’s more of a conversation of “how do we re-energize the comics industry before it runs itself into the ground.” Let’s face facts: the industry, as is, is suffering, and not just because of the economy. New fans are not being converted (in fact, I’d venture to say that the 300,000 reported comics readers is even less than that).

    I think most would agree that a great way to bring new readers into the fold is to diversify the market through an array of titles. Superhero books, as much as we love them–and I do, believe me–are not bringing in new readership. They simply aren’t.

    And this call to support indies isn’t because indie comics are superior–the argument isn’t about that. But something else is needed to get people to comic shops, and if anyone thinks Marvel’s “Fear Itself” is going to do that, they are severely wrong. In fact, it’ll likely sell less than Marvel’s previous event/crossover.

    So even if “superhero fanboy” readers got converted to Image readers, it really wouldn’t matter; you’re just shuffling chairs on the Titanic. New readership is needed, because industries don’t stay stagnant for long.

  57. Matthew Southworth says:

    By the way, the fact that this discussion is being conducted so politely and intelligently is restoring my faith in the internet.

    Nice to feel like we’re all sharing a beer and arguing over a table instead of setting fire to our neighbors’ homes.

  58. @matthew

    “That’s sensible–but only if the books are ordered by the retailer in the first place.”

    That’s a fair point and one that I don’t disagree with.

    But you don’t have to be “histrionic” to leap off the page and subtle can be eyecatching. Certainly it’s subjective to a large degree. When I open a book that looks interesting on the surface and read a few word balloons and the dialogue pops, then it gets my dollar, simple as that.

    But in this economy, it can’t just be okay, it has to be great. If someone tells me “the first couple issues are slow, but issue 4 is awesome” then I won’t be buying that comic. Superhero comics have the occasional luxury of being “okay” because “continuity” often works in their favor.

    The simple truth is that indies have to work harder to compete. In a better economy, that might not always be the case, but in this economy, that is definitely the case. And having lived through the indie glut, for me it’s always the case.

    I’ll check out Jake Ellis, that is if I have any money left after purchasing all of those DC’s and Marvels.

  59. You’re right John, indies do have to work harder–a lot harder. The playing field isn’t level, and if I have one bone to pick against the big two, it’s their practices that squeeze smaller titles out. It’s well understood that they both release titles as shelf fillers, knowing that, 9 times out of 10, a retailer is going to stock Spider-Man Shadowland over an unknown commodity. Sure, it’s all business, but that doesn’t make it okay. Not only that, but it’s working to the determent of the overall health of the industry. Again, less diversity = closed market = fewer overall readers.

    And Matthew is right–it’s nice to have a well-considered conversation about this. I rarely take place in internet conversations since they usually devolve into apes scream at each other from one cage to the next. Cordiality is a lost art form.

  60. @michael

    Yes. It’s a cynical attitude. We live in a cynical world. And if every indie comic was as good as issue 1 of V For Vendetta, then I’d buy that comic. But they’re not.

    “I don’t think this conversation is one of “f**k those superhero-buying fanboys who have no taste.”

    I’d like to believe that. But given that there are at least a half dozen posts in this thread alone that say pretty much that exact thing, and given that every single time this debate comes up people say those exact words, and given that I’ve seen indie creators say things like that almost verbatim, one can’t help coming to the conclusion that that is indeed an integral part of the conversation.

    It sounds like you want affirmative action for indie comics and that misses the point entirely. People are reading big two comics because of name recogniton, because of continuity, because they have something invested in characters that have been around forever. An indie comic has to be good enough to overcome that advantage.

    “I think most would agree that a great way to bring new readers into the fold is to diversify the market through an array of titles.”

    Well, that’s the sort of thing that sounds good on paper, but how do you want to go about it? Force comic shops to buy a bunch of indies? An equal amount of indies as DC’s and Marvels? Raise taxes to support expensive marketing for indies? Give incentives to retailers? Fine..whose going to pay for those incentives again? See what I’m getting at here? Two words…practical application.

    If an indie creator can’t afford to market their comic, then who’s fault is that? DC’s? Marvels? Diamond? The comic shop guy? Is diamond refusing to show these comics in Previews? What about the time that mr. average comic shop guy went out on a limb and bought a big batch of that indie title that got great reviews that everyone was talking about and only sold two. Should he continue to “diversify the market”? Should DC and Marvel not make as many superhero books because saturation isn’t fair?

  61. @michael

    I agree. It isn’t fair. And if people want to support indies and boycott Marvel and DC, then more power to them. But in this economy, I cant afford to be idealistic. I want to be entertained. A comic has to be good for me to buy it. If I see more things like Echo or Chew or Morning Glories, then I’ll buy those comics.

  62. Matthew Southworth says:

    John–

    To answer your question: yes, often Diamond is refusing to show these comics in Previews or even to carry them. If they fall under a certain number of copies–I believe the cutoff is 3000?–Diamond won’t carry it. Which is their right, of course; but given that comic shops are almost exclusively associated with Diamond, that means those books go unseen.

    The incentives you mention are already in place–creators are generally working for no money up-front, and if the book doesn’t sell (for whatever reason), their labor was free.

    Perhaps you are only staking out ground in the argument, or perhaps you don’t find much outside the mainstream to your taste–which I respect, it’s just a feeling I don’t share. But you can’t realistically argue that Marvel and DC don’t have a total stranglehold on the direct market. They do. They are owned by gigantic corporations that fund the publication of their books, even when they operate at a loss, and an independent creator working out of his bedroom in Pittsburgh can’t compete in that market with his book, no matter the quality.

    The direct market as it currently exists is collapsing, and it will no doubt flower into something new. My hope–and I’d assume your hope, too, as a fan of comics in general–is that the playing field is more level when it takes its newer form.

    Again, there are plenty of good mainstream superhero comics out there. But there are many, many other flavors of comic book that are superb and are difficult for the reader to obtain or even be aware of.

    That’s the problem, the problem I’d like to do what I can to help correct, and I’d hope that you’d want to do so, too.

    So here’s what I propose (to you, John, and to everyone reading this thread): tomorrow at the comic store, buy one comic not published by Marvel or DC, and not one you already buy. Just one. Try to find one good independent comic that you don’t already buy and see if you like it.

    If you like it, tell one person about it and see if you can get someone else to buy it.

    It’s that simple.

    If you’re not already familiar with it, you might be interested in Paul Grist’s JACK STAFF, which is an excellent offbeat superhero comic (it’s written in an odd, oblique way that may take a little getting used to, but I always enjoy it). Another excellent superhero-ish indie book is GODLAND, which is nearing the end of its run.

    And again, I LOVE WHO IS JAKE ELLIS.

  63. “I’d like to believe that. But given that there are at least a half dozen posts in this thread alone that say pretty much that exact thing, and given that every single time this debate comes up people say those exact words, and given that I’ve seen indie creators say things like that almost verbatim, one can’t help coming to the conclusion that that is indeed an integral part of the conversation.”

    But John, this works both ways–there has plenty of vitriol aimed at indie comics saying the exact same thing. And those indie creators who have been most vocal about supporting indies–Niles, for instance–has gone out of their way to say “this isn’t an attack on the big two.” But Niles gotten hate mail nonetheless.

    The point is to ignore the cacophony and see what this is all about.

    Saying that I want affirmative action for indie comics is a little out of context here; I never alluded to mandating anyone–retailers, publishers, or distributors–to do anything. This is my view of ‘here’s why comic numbers are failing, why shops are going out of business, and why the native are getting restless.’ And in your rebuttals, you’ve yet to address these truths: readership has been declining, comic shops are under attack by digital publishing and a bad economy. All you’ve managed to illustrate is that people have an affinity for 70 year old properties, and that they don’t have to be even very good–just “okay”–to sell.

    Look, John, change doesn’t come easy, and practical application isn’t a panacea that can simply be administered. The problem is holistic: if the comics industry is going to be healthy again, risks are going to have be taken on the part of retailers, publishers, fans, and distributors. I’m an indie creator, and I think I’m walking the walk–I invested a lot of time and money into what I do and am always trying to think of new ways to reach new readers.

    So, sure, we can sit around and let the status quo play out, but a lot of us have a bad feeling in our gut that we’re existing on borrowed time. We either get bold and at least start talking about ways to make this better, or continue the slide to the ranks of theater and poetry.

    Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results–this is comics, and has been for far, far too long.

  64. Godland is amazing! If you like Kirby-inspired storytelling (with its own odd flavor), you’ll be right at home with that tile.

  65. And, John, I absolutely understand where you’re coming from. No one can step in and start calling the shots on what Diamond distributes, how many books Marvel and DC publish, what retailers carry, etc. I wouldn’t want that. What I want is for the industry to rebound, and for more people to read good comics; I don’t think the big two are capable of making that happen. (In fact, that probably isn’t even a concern for them; they have, as Matthew says, their stranglehold on the DM, their movies, products, etc.)

  66. @matthew

    ” But you can’t realistically argue that Marvel and DC don’t have a total stranglehold on the direct market.”

    Again…I’m not making that argument. As I’ve already said, I agree the big two have a strangle hold and that it isn’t fair. I’m saying that for an indie to sell, it has to overcome that obstacle. I think more people would be sympathetic if we heard less “it isn’t fair” and more “practical application”. How about a joint venture by indie creators to make their own indie version of Previews? Something that could be posted on popular blogs or sent to comic shops as mailers or advertised in things like Comic Buyers Guide or various TwoMorrows publications? Also, if indie creators don’t unite, then they’re never going to be able to deal with the problem. So far, I don’t see signs of that happening. But if there is a secret cabal of indie creators out there, they better come up with something better than “it’s not fair”.

    ” Try to find one good independent comic that you don’t already buy and see if you like it.

    If you like it, tell one person about it and see if you can get someone else to buy it.

    It’s that simple.”

    That’s something I’m already doing and will continue to do whenever I see a good independent.

  67. Matthew Southworth says:

    John–

    I think that “Indie Previews” thing is a great idea. A GREAT idea.

    There’s bound to be a good way to do that. . .I need to think that over.

    Heidi–would you be willing to link to/repost something like that?

    I understand you already buy some indie comics, by the way. I’m just saying buy one more tomorrow, just as an exercise since we’re all putting so much energy into this discussion.

    And I just realized that it might be interesting to note that today I’ve been reading the Wolverine “Enemy of the State” book by Millar and Romita Jr. Pretty darn mainstream, and really good, I think!

  68. @michael

    “change doesn’t come easy, and practical application isn’t a panacea that can simply be administered. The problem is holistic: if the comics industry is going to be healthy again, risks are going to have be taken on the part of retailers, publishers, fans, and distributors.”

    I believe you’re sincere, and I’m seriously not trying to be snarky here, but good intentions aside, that kind of thinking won’t accomplish anything. It’s like saying “I hope it rains one of these days because we have a serious drought here”.

    Putting the onus on distributors and publishers and fans and retailers during the worst economy in history will not help the indie creators. Telling mainstream readers “change is difficult, you must take risks on our product with your money” actually sounds condescending because why should they change? They’re happy as pigs in slop reading Batman. The change is going to have to come from the creators. If that means making mainstream comics while you work on that labor of love, then that’s what you have to do. If you have to make a “Tarot” to get Diamond to notice you and to finance an “Infinite Vacation”, then that’s what you have to do. Ultimately, only the indie creators can help the indie creators.

    “This is my view of ‘here’s why comic numbers are failing, why shops are going out of business, and why the native are getting restless.’ And in your rebuttals, you’ve yet to address these truths: readership has been declining, comic shops are under attack by digital publishing and a bad economy. All you’ve managed to illustrate is that people have an affinity for 70 year old properties, and that they don’t have to be even very good–just “okay”–to sell.”

    There’s no rubuttal needed because I agree with you. But wishing for some utopian world where DC and Marvel and Diamond are fair doesn’t really solve anything and unfortunatley, that seems to be the main game plan for indie creators.

    And I think I’ve illustrated the hurdles that indie creators must overcome yet more often than not fail to even acknowledge. DC and Marvel could eradicate all their shelf filler, Diamond could do this and the retailers could do the other thing and you’d still have to deal with the main problem of what the majority of readers choose to purchase with their ever shrinking disposable income.

    I agree with you completely on the problems. But I think my comments are getting redundant and we basically agree, so, there it is. Enjoyed the discussion.

  69. @matthew

    fair enough. I’ll search out a new indie tomorrow. It won’t be easy, especially since I’m saving up for that new Marvel Team Up Masterworks, but that’s the type of guy I am…I make sacrifices. I also enjoyed the discussion.

  70. I think everybody here is right. Everything you all say is true. If the situation wasn’t so dire and confusing, there’d be no need for this diverse focus to be a contentious matter at all.

    But things are bad and it’s got us talking circles around ourselves and when things get like this no one wants to hear they may be wrong. So, simmer down for a moment, please. Nobody’s wrong. You’re all right.

    There’s just one little thing not making sense that Heidi hinted at and bears a little more thought:

    “Marvel and DC aren’t even comic book companies any more.”

    Oh man, that’s really wild. DC and Marvel aren’t even comic book companies any more? You mean, they’re just pretending? That’s a really good story. I’d go to the NY times with that. But wait! If they’re not even comic book companies anymore, why all this talk about the merit or non-merit of the comic books they publish?

    “They are IP companies.”

    Oooooooohhhh! Geez. That’s really killer. I mean it’s killing me! And a lot of other comics artists and writers too. Now I understand why we’re all dying like this. Goshdangit! But wait wait wait… If that’s the case, why would an IP company that’s carrying the extra baggage of comic book publishing allow for that extra load to bog it down like this and make it look like DC and Marvel are investing so much effort in making a profit from the extra baggage because they just don’t know how, or maybe don’t even want to really publish comics?

    Why would DC and Marvel make it look like that when it makes no sense whatsoever? Boy I’m really on a roll with these questions. Great. Let’s see what ‘s next…. oh, yeah, right! Maybe it’s because they don’t need to make a profit from the extra baggage because they make much much much much more from IP licensing and merchandising and that covers everything else they do like publishing comic books and company cellphones for all their employees (I’m just guessing here but it doesn’t really matter, does it?).

    Well, if that’s the case, then maybe I can answer my own genius question with a genius answer. How about if we say that the reason DC and Marvel don’t stop publishing comic books and concentrate solely on IP trade may be that they need to carry the extra baggage in order for the properties to stay alive for IP appeal, which they’d lose if they stopped publishing comics books for all the properties they want to trade in. OH GOD I’m so clever I kill myself sometimes, and that would take away all the fun from DC and Marvel who are already killing me and everybody else, wouldn’t it? Can’t do that can I? Alright, I’ll try to simmer down too. Ppphhheeeewwwww!!! Good. That’s better. Let’s move on a little more now.

    Here’s just a normal question with no special genius behind it. Why don’t DC and Marvel, being owned by some of the biggest money in the entertainment world, not invest a minute fraction of their enormous assets to make comics profitable? They obviously can if they wanted to because they’re the most savvy business people on the scene with the greatest assets around to do it? Right? And that’s just an average question isn’t it? OK. I’ll try to tackle that one without any special IQ level, like we said earlier, so as not to get too excited and kill myself and take away all the fun from DC and Marvel doing it.

    Let me tell you a short personal story that everybody in the comics knew about, once upon a time. Well, not all the details, really. I’m the only one who discovered them and you guys are about to get the biggest scoop of comics history… so hang tight, alright? And please, stay calm. Don’t forget who’s supposed to have all the fun in the end.

    You all remember, well some of you at least, how when I started drawing comic books at Continuity that Neal Adams was strategizing how to help the poor and destitute creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, get some money from DC so they could die with a little more respect than a couple of starving paupers. Right? Some of you remember that. Well some of you also remember that he devised a great strategy that worked. He started calling newspapers like the NY Times (That rings a bell… oh yeah, I’ll keep a note of that if I ever have a comics history scoop for them.), radio and TV stations and everybody who was willing to publicize the BIG story. And EVERYBODY wanted the BIG story. It finally got so big that it was invited to the Tomorrow show with tom Snyder (it’s alright, most of you don’t remember but he was like the Ophra of his time, almost, but he didn’t have so much ambition) and it blew Warner communications flat on their big fat hiney! The very next day, they called Neal and invited him and the creators of Superman and gave them a relatively very generous package of $$$, at least compared to anything else they’d ever seen from creating the property that makes Billions of $$s for Warners. That was really fun, seeing this grungy comics artist bring Warners to their knees like that. Never underestimate the power of a good PR campaign even if you’re not really a good PR person. Anyway, remember this incident and how Warners came down on their knees because we’ll get back to it in a minute.

    Well the wackiest things started happening in comics after that. I mean sometimes I blamed myself for it all because it all started just after I started drawing comics. Wouldn’t you think the same thing in my place? I know most everybody would and I’m not really so different. It’s a guilt trip thing but we live with it. Anyway, everything started going wacky. Suddenly there was an implosion beginning. That when something explodes in on itself like the opposite of an explosion. Clever language isn’t it? Well DC was publishing too many books and suddenly things started going downhill really fast. Warners retired publisher Carmine Infantino and brought in a publisher with no experience whatsoever in comics to take over. That was Jeanette Kahn. Great and wonderful lady who knew absolutely nothing about the comics business. That’s just what you would all do if you were Warners, right? Right! Whatever. Well, Jeneatte really needed to learn the ropes fast and all she could do was talk to as many people as possible at DC about it Warners told her they had no idea what to do either. They made her swim alone and drown if she couldn’t make it. Almost like they did everything to make her fail. As fate would have it when the questions got tough and people at DC didn’t know what to answer Jeneatte, Neal Adams’ name would come up as someone who had a lot of ideas for the good of the comics and was a big mover and shaker at DC. So, after a few days, Jeneatte calls Neal and asks him a few questions.

    And Neal, bless his soul, never missed a beat. He suggested they have dinner and discuss the business. Now Jeneatte was a young and pretty girl going out to dinner with a young and pretty boy, and what do you think happened? Right on! They started dating.. Yeah!!! Not only that, but Neal even moved in to live at Jeneatte’s apartment a couple of weeks after that and the two became the hottest love birds in the industry. I told you you’d like this story, but we’re not at the historic scoop yet. So, Neal and Jeanette start turning DC upside down to save the comics industry and raise it to something that it only aspired to before. Right at the worst time for comics, they were also doing the best thing for comics. They’re the ones who made Dollar Comics so newsstands would make more money from them and display more of them to sell. It was genius. They even devised a plan for creator owned projects. You gotta believe me on this and I’ll tell you why. Neal and I were doing the very first ever creator owned comic book for DC that Jeanette agreed to do. That was really friggin’ revolutionary, man, for back then, at least. I know you think I’m fibbin’ but I’ll prove it to you. Open the inside cover to Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali that Neal wrote and drew during this time. The new reprint has it too. The nincampoops never changed it to cover their tracks. Look at the schematic listing all the names of the people and characters on the front and back covers. Find that yet? Alright. Now I don’t have the exact number of Ms. Mystic but turn to the back cover itself and look at the top of the ring pole. Now at a 45 degree angle to the top left, third person from the top of the pole. See the blonde there. That’s Ms. Mystic. Now look inside at the schematic, you’ll see her name. Number 51 or 53, or something like that as I remember. What’s it say? Right! Ms. Mystic. See this proves I’m not fibbing and everything I say here is true. Well, not proven scientifically, but it’s strong supporting evidence. But that’s still not the historic scoop and we’ve wasted enough time on my credibility, so let’s move on.

    Well, as all this great stuff is happening I decide to act crazy because I could see what was coming. So, I took off and went into the mountains and came back to role-play the Son of God. I thought that would help a little seeing what was going on. Anyway, I come back to Continuity and then leave again a month later for California. Then I come back to Continuity a few months after that and what’s the first thing Neal tells me? Ah, you’re starting to catch on. Right! He said Jeanette broke up with him and it’s over. I knew it was all too good to be true anyway. But I’m busy being the Son of God and Neal’s in a big rut, you know. I think he really loved her and I couldn’t bear seeing him like this so I came down from my thrown and tried to be human enough to have a heart to heart talk with him. All he could tell me was that something wasn’t right or normal about it. Now you all know I really like the guy, well I did most of the time. Sometimes he just pisses me off but he’s like that. But back then I was acting a little crazy and thought I’d try to talk to Jeanette because I thought I could do anything I wanted. It comes with the throne, you know. So, I go to DC and I walk into Jeanette’s office while the secretary tries to stop me. But nobody could stop me, I mean Jeanette and I were also pretty close and I really love Jeneatte a lot anyway… I mean not like Neal but really a lot, I mean I don’t want to say like a mother because she was too young. More like a daughter, actually. I was also like their son or something like that before I became the Son of God so you could imagine this close relationship that lets me barge into her office. Long story and not important really. So I’m in Jeanette’s office and some Warner’s big shots are sitting there with her. They were pretty intimidating actually. But you know me, I just stared them down. That’s when I started realizing that Jeanette was in a pickle with these guys and I figured it had something to do with Neal. So, what could I do? I mean I haven’t had my powers for that long yet and wasn’t sure they’d work but I tried to read their minds to figure out what was going on. I gotta tell ya, I’d never done anything like that before and what I got was an overload of the biggest scheme that anyone could imagine churning around in the Warners big shots heads. It was the scariest thing I’d ever confronted, believe you me! And you know I don’t scare easy, right? Right! This is the big historical scoop you’ve all been waiting for so fasten your seat belts guys and gals cause here it comes.

    Remember how Neal brought Warners down on their knees for the creators of Superman? I told you we’d get back to this. Well, you know those guys don’t like a grungy comics artist doing that to them. Nobody like them would, I mean, they think they run the world, don’t they? Sure. So, that’s when they realized they had a big problem on their hands and it could happen with any of their characters and creators. They decided that they had to put an end to it right there and then. So they started giving orders to over-publish comic book titles to make the big implosion that would destroy the business of comic books. They didn’t need them so much after all and made their money on IP marketeering anyway. Just like today but a little less. Then they discover that their new publisher who knew nothing about comics and was supposed to fail, well, she was madly in love with the guy that brought them to their knees and they were ruining all their plans. So they put all the screws on her to break it up or else no more comic books for her or anybody. They threatened they’d shut down DC Comics if she kept it up. So that’s why it didn’t make sense to Neal how she broke up with him. And she did it because she was also in love with comics by then because of Neal. She did it to save the comics and that’s why I love her so much. If you don’t believe Superman and Muhammad Ali then go ahead and ask Jeanette. She’d tell the truth today.

    And these Warner big shots had the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie loaded and ready to fire already. Who needed all these headaches with creators ruining the biggest gold mine in the world for them? You tell me! Well they began to scheme to destroy comics sales without telling anyone at DC they were doing it. Everybody actually thought they were trying to sell more comics. Just like today. They figured this way, they can keep having creators make comics for them and never have to give anything back in return. They need the comics for the gold mine but they can lose money on them and still have it pay off. They were the biggest connivers you could ever run into, just like today. Only then it was just the beginning of the scheme but it was such a big sensory overload that it almost drove me crazy. And you know you don’t wanna drive me crazy. You wouldn’t like me when I’m crazy. But they didn’t know I was reading their minds with my new powers, so I was still safe back then. What a scoop huh? I told you this would be BIG! Glad I got that off my chest, you know. I’ve been carrying it for more than 30 years now and never mentioned it to anybody. Didn’t wanna break it this way to Neal but boy that feels good.

    And you know, I’m listening to everything that’s going on in the business today and I can’t take it anymore because you’re all arguing about nothing really important when you realize that DC and Marvel joined forces way back then to push comics into a corner with the direct market and systematically destroy the business so creators will keep on getting screwed and say thank you… Just like Eric Powell said. I think some of my powers must have rubbed off on him, actually.

    So there you have it. You got your scoop. And that answers that normal not so genius question about why DC and Marvel, being owned by some of the biggest money in the entertainment world, don’t invest a minute fraction of their enormous assets to make comics profitable. Now you have your normal not so genius answer. Now you know the score behind everything you’re talking about.

    So, whatcha gonna do about it, I wonder? If you keep on talking this nonsense now that you know all this then I’ll know I might as well crawl into a mylar sack and just die because that would be the most hopeless situation I could imagine. But I don’t think so. Not all of you anyway. Some of you know I’m telling the truth and saw the supporting evidence in Superman Muhammad Ali. This is where we separate the men from the boys if we really love the comics. If we really want to save the industry we love from the clutches of DC and Marvel. This is where we start to turn things back because we know the score now. We finally have our Big historic scoop. So what are we gonna do with it? Huh?!! Whadja say? Rorschach? Whadday mean by that? Oh, right! Almost forgot.

    What was that about the NY Times again?

  71. @ John

    Sorry I dozed off last night! I agree with you as well, and have enjoyed our talk. I should have included creators in the risk-taking part (that’s what I meant when I mentioned my own work). We also have to do extra legwork to make sure good books are getting into people’s hands.

    One last thing I want to say, as to why should readers take risk. Like retailers, distributors, and publishers, if they don’t, the industry may suffer some pretty negative results–more than we’ve already seen.

    Okay, that’s all. Again, good talking John. Hope to bump into you again.

  72. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Michael–

    I haven’t had a chance to read your reply yet but am looking forward to it. I always liked your work!

    @John–

    Just wanted to mention this: http://www.tcj.com/thepanelists/2011/01/wednesday-shop-talk-a-death-in-the-family/#comment-515

    This thread features a comment by John Porcellino, who makes the fantastic and long-running KING CAT COMICS, in which he reveals a comic store won’t carry his work anymore (for LANGUAGE?). Porcellino’s work is beautiful, poetic, peaceful, unlike anyone else’s comics.

    But while it may look amateurish because of his simple drawing style, this is extremely sophisticated work. And Diamond would never carry it–not enough copies printed.

  73. Now we know the truth: The blizzards of 1977 and (especially) 1978 that caused the DC Implosion were caused by Warner executives out to make sure comics creators would never dare to ask for more than page rates. They followed up this insidious plan by instituting royalty payments in 1981.

    Good thing Mike has telepathy, or we’d never know about Warners weather-control capabilities.

    Someone should ask them to do something about the current blizzards. Surely their plan to make sure DC never offers creator participation, ownership or royalties to comics creators has come to full fruition by now, and they can lay off.

  74. Bottom line, Kurt. DC and Marvel support a system that’s destroyed the comics market for most everyone else. They are at the head and control the marketing, distribution, public perception and buying habits. All of which have nearly obliterated the publishing industry except for the symbolic pretentious gestures that are also beginning to look insidious in the eyes of the comics community.

    If anyone thinks that the Warners just laid back comfortably after the Siegel and Shuster affair and didn’t see potential repercussions down the line, well I don’t know what world we’re living in anymore. Corportate business is ruthless to the bone when it comes to this type of threat. That DC and Marvel protect their properties by keeping creators on a short leach is no secret.

    None of the symbolic gestures have made the business better in the long run for most of the creators who gave their best years to DC and Marvel and were thrown out like dogs in the name of younger blood being more marketable. Where is all this success that they claim their policies are geared for?

    I’m happy for your ability to make your way independently Kurt. Sorry that this is the lot of a few in the industry. The comics could have been in outstanding form today. We could have had an industry that enjoys relative success and has a heart to treat all of its contributors fairly. Not just a select few within a disintegrating environment.

    The problems of comics publishing have nothing to do with the current economic blizzard. Unless you say we’ve been having a blizzard for 30 years. Sorry, but that sounds like a bad joke.

  75. @matthew

    I’ve read “Map Of My Heart” and didn’t care for it. In fact, I found it kind of pretentious. And from the sample pages I’ve seen for King Cat, it’s more of the same. Mildly amusing, like something out of the New Yorker. I’m sure I’m just not sophisticated enough to appreciate it’s nuance. Now if George Perez drew it….

  76. >> Bottom line, Kurt. DC and Marvel support a system that’s destroyed the comics market for most everyone else.>>

    Now that’s a better argument than “I read their minds and knew they set out to cause the DC Implosion, even though that was largely caused by weather.”

    It kind of ignores all the benefit there’s been to creators who’ve been materially benefiting from what you call “symbolic gestures” for decades by focusing only on those creators who did most of their work prior to the royalty system. Which means I could turn around your “happy for your ability to make your way” to “sorry you largely worked in the pre-royalty era,” but I agree with you there: I think the various royalty and character-equity provisions that have been instituted over the bulk of my career should be uniformly extended backward to include everyone who ever created anything for them.

    And they could do better still.

    But that doesn’t mean that Siegel and Shuster’s pensions (which were increased over the years) were the trigger for a concerted and deliberate effort to destroy comics and make sure all future creators would get screwed and like it. Nor does it mean that they set out to cause the DC Implosion, your psychic abilities notwithstanding.

    For that matter, comics were in serious economic straits even back then, and changes like Dollar Comics (which were cool but, as you’ll recall, failed) and the DC Explosion were efforts to fix that, though you describe the latter as an intentional attempt to destroy the industry.

    The dive into the Direct Market wasn’t a top-down plan to destroy comics, it was a bottom-up process that provided a generation of economic salvation for the companies, and helped usher in a time of greater power and options for comics creators. Do comics publishers keep creators on a short leash? Compared to book publishers, yes. Compared to Mort Weisinger, Bob Kanigher and Julie Schwartz? Not a chance.

    The economic woes we’re facing now are not the intentional creation of evil Warner Brothers executives, but the slow and inexorable fallout from foolish decisions made in the late 1940s coupled with the failure to realize that the Direct Market was a lifeboat, not a new continent.

    >> The problems of comics publishing have nothing to do with the current economic blizzard.>>

    I didn’t say anything about an economic blizzard. I said that if they caused the Blizzard of ’78 (as they’d have had to to deliberately cause the implosion), maybe they could do something about the current ones. That’s snow, in both in both instances.

    Nonetheless, the idea that the problems of comics publishing have nothing to do with the current economy is ludicrous on the face of it. We have plenty of problems that predate the current economic mess, but it’s part of things too.

    And to get out of it, we’re going to be best served by logical business analysis that’s aware of actual history, not assertions of shadow conspiracy backed up by claims of mindreading and clearly contradicted by subsequent events.

  77. >>Now that’s a better argument than “I read their minds and knew they set out to cause the DC Implosion…”

    I know I have a strange way of getting to the point, or trying to capture readers’ imagination, but I’ve been making that better argument as the main thrust of my point elsewhere of late.

    I don’t ignore the good that a relative few have benefited from, considering how many creators have made DC and Marvel what they are. But even for the generation that saw royalty policies instilled, only a few of its creators enjoyed any considerable benefits. I was there for part of it. The majority of the books never sold well enough to make that much of a difference. The policy was there and DC & Marvel waved it proudly but it seemed rather shallow for most contributors to a medium that’s seen sales dropping almost continuously since the late 70’s.

    We can discuss a lot of details that support either or both sides of what seems like divide between our positions. I think there’s too much of that going on and it sort of distracts from what I see as a more primary issue: Has upper corporate management or has it not sought out to keep comics sales teetering on the edge of a razor, for whatever reason… and could that reason be to maintain unchallenged control of IP rights? I think that’s the question that we need to consider most and I don’t think the answers come easy.

    If we say the answer is no, then how could such vital corporate entities who succeed phenomenally in other areas of their enterprise, fail so miserably with publishing comics? It doesn’t make sense. If it’s innocent, then it seems even worse because it shows a dire incompetence sitting at the helm of an industry that has a collective responsibility for a medium that involves more than its own IP profits alone.

    I don’t believe the intention of a free economy was ever to allow the few strong to nearly enslave the rest of humanity, but that’s the effective course we’re all traveling. I believe the founding fathers of America counted on a prevailing sense of collective goodwill that had the best interest of everyone’s success in mind. Things seem to have changed so much that no such goodwill has any part in the business world anymore.

    I don’t think we can divorce human nature from logical business analysis. I think that’s a trap that western culture has fallen into and it’s not serving us well at all. But even so, I wouldn’t think logical analysis to be enough to motivate a change.

    But it is a prevailing force and popular perception, and it works well enough without my support. I’d rather stay on this side and look at the human factor. I’ll continue to shoot off my big mouth about greed, corruption and ruthless methods in business because I feel we need to keep an eye on it in order to get out of this jam.

    I believe we need a stronger voice of fandom and the people rejecting the present situation in order to have a minimal deterring effect on the powers that are able to help fix things but seem to be entirely indifferent to the need to do so.

    In the process, I allow myself to cover as many bases as possible to try to turn over every stone that’s still preventing us from thinking creatively and freely about our state. That includes a little telepathy entertainment and calling the conspiracy’s bluff. But it all has a good purpose meant to bring us down to earth and to the difficult reality we all face.

    Thanks for helping.

  78. >> I know I have a strange way of getting to the point, or trying to capture readers’ imagination, but I’ve been making that better argument as the main thrust of my point elsewhere of late.>>

    I can’t respond to what’s stated elsewhere. If what you’re going to claim here is that you psychically divined that the management at Warners deliberately set out to destroy comics here, then that’s what gets responded to.

    >>But even for the generation that saw royalty policies instilled, only a few of its creators enjoyed any considerable benefits. I was there for part of it. The majority of the books never sold well enough to make that much of a difference.>>

    I think you’re mistaken, or at the very least were gone for the boom. Alas, my career broke out just in time for the bust, but it was not “only a few” creators benefiting.

    And I can attest that I was earning royalties in 1983, when I was writing one of Marvel’s lowest-selling titles. So every writer, penciler or inker on a book selling that well or better was, too — and they saw their royalties go up for years.

    >> The policy was there and DC & Marvel waved it proudly but it seemed rather shallow for most contributors to a medium that’s seen sales dropping almost continuously since the late 70’s.>>

    Try “since the late 40s,” and you’ll be more accurate. Comics sales were terrible in the late 70s, and went up sharply over the 1980s. They continued to drop on newsstands, but experienced great growth in the direct market until the early 90s.

    If some decision was made in the late 1970s to force sales to go down, it failed spectacularly, since sales _were_already_ going down prior to that time and had been for decades — and they started going _up_ shortly after that brilliant conspiracy of geniuses set out to suppress them. That doesn’t speak much for their brilliance.

    >> Has upper corporate management or has it not sought out to keep comics sales teetering on the edge of a razor, for whatever reason… and could that reason be to maintain unchallenged control of IP rights?>>

    No to both.

    They haven’t done it, and they’ve been sharing IP rights (and even publishing creator-owned work) on a fitfully-increasing basis since shortly after the time you say they conspired to destroy the industry.

    >> If we say the answer is no, then how could such vital corporate entities who succeed phenomenally in other areas of their enterprise, fail so miserably with publishing comics?>>

    I think you overestimate their brilliance, their success and the attention they’ve given to comics until fairly recently.

    All you really need to do is compare their “phenomenal success” in the rest of the periodical magazine business to see that things is been tough all over, even for supposed geniuses. Those TV networks aren’t turning everything they touch into gold, either, and the movie studios don’t know how to sell anything but sequels and remakes.

    >> It doesn’t make sense. If it’s innocent, then it seems even worse because it shows a dire incompetence sitting at the helm of an industry that has a collective responsibility for a medium that involves more than its own IP profits alone.>>

    The idea that it must be deliberate because if not, the people in charge are messing things up is not evidence for conspiracy. Or you have much, much more faith in the ability of the management of American corporations than most of the world seems to, and than the evidence seems to support.

    >> I’d rather stay on this side and look at the human factor. I’ll continue to shoot off my big mouth about greed, corruption and ruthless methods in business because I feel we need to keep an eye on it in order to get out of this jam.>>

    Sure. When you declare that these greedy people are conspiring to intentionally destroy their own business rather than make more money, because they’d rather have _all_ of less than _most_ of more, and your evidence for this is mental telepathy and the conviction that no other explanation makes sense, I don’t think many will go along with you, or at least I hope they won’t.

    Especially since both companies have instituted policies to do exactly what you say they’ve set out not to do — share in the success of new IP.

    >> I believe we need a stronger voice of fandom and the people rejecting the present situation in order to have a minimal deterring effect on the powers that are able to help fix things but seem to be entirely indifferent to the need to do so.>>

    I think that trying to aim moral protest at a nonexistent conspiracy is a non-starter. Not that moral protest can’t work, but it should be aimed at something real, not something imaginary.

    There are many ways the comics industry could do better. But assuming that it’s not because the company’s owners (three different sets over this span for Marvel) are engaged in a conspiracy to hold sales down is not going to get us at any answers, because it’s just not true.

    kdb

  79. >>I can’t respond to what’s stated elsewhere. If what you’re going to claim here is that you psychically divined that the management at Warners deliberately set out to destroy comics here, then that’s what gets responded to.

    I can always count on you to misread intentions and fail to understand the thrust of an argument. And you are a master at ridicule and distraction that allows you to stay safe in a virtual world.

    Basic human perception and an ability to understand people can go a long way to gaining insight. So try to stay safe because it doesn’t take a genius to understand what a blow the Siegel and Shuster affair was to Warners. You brush it off as if it had no ramifications on what followed in the industry. You say the implosion was part of a previous decline.

    I say it was a cornerstone and big red light to everything that followed. The fact it began a year or two after the public embarrassment of Warners shows you wrong. Everything that followed strongly suggests sinister motives. The state of things today and the nearly unstoppable fall tells volumes about true intentions. I’m not naive enough to accept your idea of clean hands when so much is at stake for a corporation that bought DC for the IP value and not for the comics themselves.

    I say they absolutely don’t care about comics sales. That everything you cite is a distraction and a bluff meant to maintain a posture of appearing to be concerned while paying the lowest possible cost in doing so, and crying about why things keep getting worse for the publishing end as it skyrockets on the IP side. You call it incompetence. I don’t buy it.

    >>And I can attest that I was earning royalties in 1983, when I was writing one of Marvel’s lowest-selling titles. So every writer, penciler or inker on a book selling that well or better was, too — and they saw their royalties go up for years.

    Sorry, I’ve heard it told differently from a lot of creators who barely made ends meet in the 80’s. But it’s futile to argue it in the same way it was futile to argue the pros and cons of Reaganomics. Hillary Clintom made a fortune from those polices yet she lambasted them a decade later. The lower middle-class tells another story of decline from the same scenario. Your assertion seems extremely one sided in the same way your entire view towards corporate business is.

    The result is what counts, not your opinion. The end result of corporate management bringing comics publishing to the brink of destruction while laughing at the creators who make it all possible and abusing them to no end for the shiny stones of IP profits paints a truer picture than the one you state.

    >>No to both.
    They haven’t done it, and they’ve been sharing IP rights (and even publishing creator-owned work) on a fitfully-increasing basis since shortly after the time you say they conspired to destroy the industry.

    Oh really? What world are you living in? Look around you and what shape do you see the industry in? There were ups and downs along the way but you can’t take every upswing and try to make a case with it that changes the bigger picture of a pulverized comics industry.

    >>>Sure. When you declare that these greedy people are conspiring to intentionally destroy their own business rather than make more money, because they’d rather have _all_ of less than _most_ of more…

    I have a hard time believing you’re so dense, really. Their own business isn’t comic book publishing, Kurt. I’m not the only one saying it by the way. Read what Heidi wrote in the article to see that a lot of people understand that. Listen to what the people are saying instead of trying to knock them down. The publishers have nothing to destroy. They keep the comics at the edge of demise but they need them visible for IP value. And they can afford to keep losing money on publishing because they make a lot more elsewhere from the properties. God are you really so naive? Or are you intentionally confusing yourself and the issue?

  80. Jesse Post says:

    I’m with Matt:

    “I personally don’t see any reason to disregard either side of the industry. I am drawing comics for Marvel, which pays well and is lots of fun; I’m drawing a book for Oni, an independent publisher who affords me a great deal of creative space; and I’m working on my own personal project as well.”

    Does anyone have these same debates about their regular day jobs? Making comics is a way to make a living, and more often than not, your primary way to make a living involves working for someone else who reaps the most benefit from your work. Who among us has never felt uncreative or unappreciated at work? And who among us has forever sworn off working for a boss in response?

    If we go back to the video and substitute “barista job at Starbucks” for every mention of big media publishing and substitute “own your own cafe” for every mention of independent or small publishing, the point being made there starts to become very insulting. Few Americans have the means to risk their livelihoods on an independent, self-employed career. If you can do so then that’s called privilege — you may have worked your butt off for that privilege but it’s still a privilege, rare and unique. It’s smug and demeaning to look down on people for trying to find the most secure way they can to make a living in comics. That Starbucks barista may be giving all his best creative energy to a corporation who doesn’t respect him, but he still has to pay the rent. At least that’s the way it works in America.

    It’s appalling that anyone of prominence in this small industry would morally judge anyone trying to contribute to it in this country where most people struggle to barely clear the poverty line.

  81. I’m with Matt:

    “I personally don’t see any reason to disregard either side of the industry. I am drawing comics for Marvel, which pays well and is lots of fun; I’m drawing a book for Oni, an independent publisher who affords me a great deal of creative space; and I’m working on my own personal project as well.”

    Does anyone have these same debates about their regular day jobs? Making comics is a way to make a living, and more often than not, your primary way to make a living involves working for someone else who reaps the most benefit from your work. Who among us has never felt uncreative or unappreciated at work? And who among us has forever sworn off working for a boss in response?

    If we go back to the video and substitute “barista job at Starbucks” for every mention of big media publishing and substitute “own your own cafe” for every mention of independent or small publishing, the point being made there starts to become very insulting. Few Americans have the means to risk their livelihoods on an independent, self-employed career. If you can do so then that’s called privilege — you may have worked your butt off for that privilege but it’s still a privilege, rare and unique. It’s smug and demeaning to look down on people for trying to find the most secure way they can to make a living in comics. That Starbucks barista may be giving all his best creative energy to a corporation who doesn’t respect him, but he still has to pay the rent. At least that’s the way it works in America.

    It’s appalling that anyone of prominence in this small industry would morally judge anyxone trying to contribute to it in this country where most people struggle to barely clear the poverty line.

  82. Sorry for the double-post — didn’t mean to be THAT emphatic!

  83. Speaking of enduring, decades-old ideas…

    The only progress made in a capitalist society in terms of workers rights is (can you guess where I’m going?) unionization. Which comes with huge pitfalls of its own.

    Every industry can argue it’s unique, & comics is no different, but look around at other industries for examples/inspiration – you’re not talking about art, after all, but business. There isn’t any pressure any paid labourer can put on a corporation that will convince said corporation to concede other than a collective agreement.

    Not that that’s what I recommend – there are pros & cons – but there really isn’t any other way. If you refuse to write or draw for a paycheque, there’ll always be someone else who will.

  84. I agree on both counts, William. We need a collective agreement but it doesn’t seem within reach anymore. At least not on the level of a union or guild. It would be easier to get a few creators to shake things up with an idea like The Comic Book Creators Party than it would be to get most or all of them to agree to form a guild.

  85. Matthew Southworth says:

    @John–

    Your comments about Map of My Heart are well-taken; I originally didn’t find much I like about Porcellino’s work, either. But it grew on me. Different strokes, etc.

    However, over and over, the only person I see demeaning your taste is YOU. You keep making these snarky little comments, like “I only like something George Perez draws” or “I’m going to go spend all my money on superhero crossovers”, and that’s the whole point here. I know you’re being sarcastic–but DO, go buy whatever you want! George Perez is really good!

    No one begrudges you the right to buy whatever you like. The argument is that there are other comics out there, too, and that customers can’t find them in stores and as a result creators can’t afford to keep making them.

    It’s not about you or your taste. Buy whatever you like! And if you want to make sure your store doesn’t carry anything else, go ahead and convince them of that. That would be just great, that is something that ought to be really good for comics, and it’s something you could really be proud of.

  86. Matthew Southworth says:

    Ahh shit. There I was, talking about how people were being polite, then I wrote that last paragraph and acted a little like a dick.

    I apologize for putting it that way, John. I don’t think that’s what you’re espousing, and I just sound like a jerk. So I’m sorry for that.

  87. >> I can always count on you to misread intentions and fail to understand the thrust of an argument.>>

    When that argument depends of “facts” that aren’t true and assertions backed up by nothing more than fervent assertion, I hope most people are smart enough not to buy it.

    The rest of your post is mostly just calling me naive for believing what I’ve personally seen and know to be true instead of your conspiracy theories.

    The comics industry can be improved in many ways. But if we start from the conviction that there’s a secret conspiracy to suppress sales by super genius marketers who are, apparently, also depressing sales across the entire periodicals industry, shedding network TV watchers and more, we won’t get anywhere, because we’ll be focused on fantasy, not reality.

    The best-selling American comics of all time came out during the period you say these business geniuses were conspiring to suppress sales. They’re so opposed to sharing IP rights that they publish creator-owned comics.

    They either don’t have the goals you insist they have, or they’re spectacularly bad at them.

  88. Oh, for Christ’s sake, it’s just a glut. There’s a ton of nice work out there and only so many purchasers. Of course price support levels are gonna fall. Let’s stop pointing fingers and laying all this angst and intellectual psycho babble on it, and figure out how to increase the readership.

  89. And just to throw in one more note on absurd arguments:

    The idea that a company has to keep publishing comics because they need them visible for IP value — but they’re doing their best to suppress the sales so that they’re not very visible — is ludicrous. IP value is higher the more visible something is. Selling a million of something makes the IP more valuable than selling 20,000. Suppressing the sales makes no sense at all. It doesn’t make the IP more valuable. It doesn’t give you greater control. It doesn’t accomplish anything except to make less money and make the IP less attractive as a license.

    Never mind that the companies aren’t doing this. Marvel Comics isn’t getting the death of Captain America (and later the FF death) splashed all over the mainstream media because they’re trying to keep the sales low.

    The idea that this stuff must be true because the industry’s in trouble doesn’t follow. The industry can be in plenty of trouble without it meaning that there’s a conspiracy by Marvel and DC’s owners to suppress sales.

    Just ask the newspaper industry.

  90. The Beat says:

    Argondezzi wins!

  91. Increase of readership, Vince, is in the hands of industry leaders who are clogging the bottleneck distribution and direct sales system. It’s been going on so long and it’s so detrimental to the state of the industry that it boggles the mind to suggest mere incompetence alone being behind it. The only thing that’s ever proven effective against such indifference has been public pressure. Siegel, Shuster Cockrum and Colan were not helped by anyone just thinking about how to help them. Only public pressure worked to budge their situations. There are enough people who prefer to be nice and quiet but there will be increasingly more who’ll raise a voice against it. It’s a very dire necessity for the industry right now to speak out and put public pressure on DC and Marvel.

    Kurt: The newspaper industry is in much better shape than comics. To make a real comparison, try imagining what would happen to them if newspaper sales were choked by a distribution system like ours. They have no life support IP market yet they survive on their own merit and sales. Without the IP life-jacket, comics couldn’t keep on publishing today. They would have had to shut done decades ago or open for access. You can’t hardly compare the two just because print media sales are down.

    But let’s say there is no conspiracy. Let’s go by your assessment that there’s only simple innocent incompetence and stupidity at the helm. What is the comics industry to do? Just hang around on a death bed until the patient dies because we don’t want to be mean to someone incompetent and stupid who’s killing us? I don’t understand that.

    Add to this that these incompetent and stupid people have something else to fall on and seem to care less about the patient.

    We have no choice but to raise a strong voice. It will take an extreme public outcry to make only a little difference. That won’t happen by being nice to the wolves while admonishing the sheep speaking out.

  92. >> The idea that a company has to keep publishing comics because they need them visible for IP value — but they’re doing their best to suppress the sales so that they’re not very visible — is ludicrous. IP value is higher the more visible something is. Selling a million of something makes the IP more valuable than selling 20,000.

    Except that selling a million of something means publishers are obligated to share more with creators and it raises a challenge from creators to publishers IP rights. The relative prosperity you noted earlier in the late 80’s and early 90’s gave birth to image comics, spawned by Marvel itself. That was an early experimental time for the direct market and it cannot happen again under the present situation because Marvel and DC have made sure of it due to seeing the potential threat.

    >> Suppressing the sales makes no sense at all. It doesn’t make the IP more valuable. It doesn’t give you greater control. It doesn’t accomplish anything except to make less money and make the IP less attractive as a license.

    Sigh. Why not include all the factors in your argument, Kurt? This is a big distortion of reality and what I’m saying. There is a balance struck in the industry of poor comics sales and falling back on IP profits.

    To increase comics sales means greater profit sharing with creators and a louder call for sharing IP rights. That is a tangible business threat far greater than profits from better comics sales, that keeps things as they are.

    So yes, increasing sales would help IP profits. Except that it compounds another threat that’s far bigger than the profits made on comics sales. So DC and Marvel settle for sensationalist gimmicks like killing characters to make up for it with wide media coverage that help IP appeal.

    Maintaining the present marketing and distribution of comics that suppresses sales is a bottleneck that limits the market no matter what anyone does to try to improve it. Why don’t DC and Marvel let that go? Why do they continue choking comics sales this way? I don’t by that they’re just dumb and incompetent. Sorry. They seem to be happy pappy with the way things are. Why do you think that is?

  93. >> The best-selling American comics of all time came out during the period you say these business geniuses were conspiring to suppress sales. They’re so opposed to sharing IP rights that they publish creator-owned comics.

    Yes. In the early experimental days when the direct market was still finding its way. Interesting that nothing like that has happened since. If all they’re looking for is million seller one shots like those great successes, then where are these today? Where are the new young incarnation of Image pioneers today? There aren’t any like that anymore because DC and Marvel learned from those experiments and won’t let it happen again.

    >> They either don’t have the goals you insist they have, or they’re spectacularly bad at them.

    Well, even by your assumption of clean hands, they’re spectacularly bad at achieving the goals you say they want.

    I’m willing to agree that DC and Marvel are spectacularly bad at managing good comics sales. Even if I think they do it intentionally.

  94. Michael —

    I typed out a response to you, but on looking it over I see that it’s largely pointing out that you have your facts wrong again. About the health of the newspaper industry, about the royalty cost of high sales, about the effect of high sales on IP ownership, about the timeline of the direct market and more. You’re simply imagining a scenario and then imagining facts to support it, even when they’re at extreme odds with actual history.

    The best sales in comics history didn’t happen in the early stages of the direct market. Marvel and DC have no pragmatic reason to suppress sales. The reasons another Image hasn’t happened have far more to do with the market crash (which was caused by incompetence, not malice) than any suppression on Marvel and DC’s part. Your constant assertions that Marvel and DC are working to make sure they never have to share IP aren’t borne out by the facts.

    If they had a better mechanism than the direct market, they’d go for it. That’s why they pursued bookstore distribution so hard (and that move to backlist is what pulled the industry out of the crash), and why everyone’s trying to figure out digital now. Far from working to suppress comics, they’re looking for ways to reach more people. But the newsstand’s been dying for decades, bookstores are facing trouble (but they’re still in there working) and no one’s figured out how to make digital pay well yet, but they’re working on that, too.

    Now you’re trying to pivot from that to the general question. “What should the industry do?” It’s a question that everyone’s asking, and even the people you think are suppressing the industry are working on. I don’t see a great deal of point in discussing it with you, because it’s hard to have a sensible discussion with someone who believes in a conspiracy theory and makes up his own facts. And it’s not necessary to rebutting your counterproductive conspiracy theory, which is what I’ve been doing.

    And since nobody seems to be engaging you on this but me, I conclude that no one’s being convinced about the conspiracy, so I’m done with what I set out to do.

    The comics industry has plenty of problems to fix. I don’t think they’ll be fixed by someone who’s convinced that low sales are the result of a conspiracy. So to the extent that this is something I work on, I’ll work with other people, who look for opportunity rather than villains.

  95. Matthew Southworth says:

    To address Kurt and Michael’s ongoing discussion and “conspiracy theories”–

    I’m much, much less experienced in the comics industry than either of you guys, so my opinion on this is based more on my experience in daily life than in the industry itself, but–

    I don’t buy the idea that the companies actively sought to impede circulation, etc. If they did, for one thing, they’d pay less and employ substandard talent. Marvel and DC pay pretty good page rates, especially in comparison to their competitors.

    I have several years experience working in film and television, and I saw executives make all kinds of stupid decisions. But the focus was on making a successful product–not art, product. If it happened to be art at the same time, great, as long as it didn’t affect its saleability.

    I think the comics industry has had trouble due to the fact that superhero comics appeal to a (traditionally) adolescent mentality–this is NOT a criticism, that adolescent lives in all of us–and there are many, many entertainment options that appeal to that mentality that weren’t there up until the late 70s. All of a sudden all that compulsive reading time could be spent playing video games, watching cable TV, or watching (the big one here) videotape.

    The world of entertainment EXPLODED when movies were available at home, all the time, as many as you could afford, and now with Netflix, that’s even more significant. There’s much less reason to read, particularly if you want to get your superhero thrills–ever seen the SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS videogame? Really exciting.

    So many kids don’t even develop the addiction that comics satisfy. I hate that because I love comics. But I can’t call it a conspiracy.

    The question is–where do we go from here? As writers/artists, what do we do to bring our work in front of more people? Do we adapt to the iPad and its competitors (I think we do)? Do we commit to motion-inflected comics, like limited animation and motion comics (yes, why not, if we can afford the time to make it happen)?

    In other words, the conspiracy doesn’t make much sense to me. But I wasn’t there.

  96. Richard Evans says:

    Kurt, I just have one question for you. I like Michael but I can see the flaws you have pointed out. But answer me this:

    If the people in charge of Marvel and DC over the last 40 years had any interest in seeing the comics successful, why have they consistently put people in charge of those companies who had absolutely no experience in the comic, publishing, or any related field?

  97. I agree with both gentlemen.

    Mr Busiek: While I agree in general that there is no outright conspiracy from the big two, I’d have to say that there has always been a “spirited” attempt to encourage bottlenecks and concentration of distribution of books in the direct market; that’s a fact. I can confirm it by my roles on both sides of the issue, as an independent publisher and contributor, and also as a regular artist for the majors thru the years. Way back “in the day” (God, I hate that saying…what happened to back in the “Good Old Days”) it wasn’t uncommon to have “Black Septembers”, when TONS of reprints, annuals, promo books, etc., would swamp the newborn direct market, basically forcing retailers to order a sure bet with “Avengers:Contenental Shelf Base Alpha”, and forget the extra six copies of Next Man and Mage, Rocketeer, etc. That may be a simplification, but there was an animus against the independents. But that is natural; it is the law of the jungle in our capitalist system. Winner take all. Your points are valid, but you surely must agree that Marvel and DC have much greater leverage…?

    Mr. Netzer: Your points are valid, too. I think that, as I said above, that when there is an effort to glut things, it’s going to hurt the indie market. But I think it’s more of a “default conspiracy”… I know that sounds sort of illogical, but lets put it this way…I agree with both of you, in the sense that there is the marketplace, and no major attempt to hurt the indies and new media; but certainly no attempt to help it by the majors, either. What we have in comics today is our greater economy in general. A mess.

    The Beat: You mean I won something? I’m feeling lucky now!! I have a friend that wants to bet me that Peter O’Toole is not the lead in “Lawrence of Arabia”. I’m taking that bet!!

  98. Kurt,

    Happy to hear that you’ve realized there’s no point in discussing this with me. I’m a little surprised it took this long for you to see this, and to do what you set out to. I was able to do what I set out to with the first long comment, actually. The rest has been pudding.

    I’m always impressed with your assertive opinions that sound like facts because of your subtle way. One of the interesting ones is “..that Marvel and DC are working to make sure they never have to share IP aren’t borne out by the facts.” and yet even our host here just reported a sad fact of DC removing Black Lightning from a TV show and replacing him by another character because of the well known IP issue with its creator. This must not be a fact for you. It’s not an indication of DC not wanting to share IP for you. I understand you, really. I abhor what you do but I understand it. I’m sure you can come up with many other reasons that DC did this. You’re very good at that. Just as you’ve been so good at distorting this discussion to no end by trying to whitewash greed and irresponsibility and simply calling it incompetence. I’m glad to see that makes things easier for you.

    Everything about your position reeks of the same confident assertions that have countless contradicting facts. So discussion with someone like me who’s looking at all the facts for what they indicate is truly pointless for someone like you. It’s relatively pointless for me to engage in it with you also but I don’t like ending a discussion this way. Glad to see you’re much better at it.

    Perhaps you flatter yourself a little too much if you think I wanted you to work with me on fixing the industry, as you say you’re doing. I’m not so ambitious that I think I can do that, really, but all the power to you if that’s what you think you’re doing. A little over-presumptuous, maybe, but I can understand how it’s part of your self flattery and infatuation. Good to see you loyal to some one thing, at least. Even if it’s only yourself.

    You misunderstand my intentions here as you seem to misunderstand much of what I do. And we have a history of your not understanding me in the past, so it’s alright. Some things don’t need to change. But I’ve shown you to be wrong in the past as you seem to be here.

    Back a few years ago when you turned to one of the industry’s forum administrators to remove a post I wrote that offended you, thinking you’d have their support. I showed them you were wrong and had it re-instated, as you remember. Now you hurry, in your condescending way to assert no one’s engaging me in discussion here only to have the next 3 posts prove you wrong. You’re so very often wrong with me and about me but you never seem to question yourself about it. That’s interesting, but par for the course.

    What you misunderstand is that I’m not trying to fix anything because I know I can’t. It’s not what I set out to do here. Others are far more able to do that. Maybe my small role is simply to open up a few avenues of thought about things that some might find helpful in doing what they do best. That’s why all this is just pudding. That’s why I accomplished what I set out to in the first post. Sorry you had to work so hard to accomplish your goals because of your not understanding me. And sorry that in the end you didn’t really accomplish anything because of your reluctance to understand me.

    Before I bid you farewell, I’d just like to say that it’s not easy maintaining a semblance of patience with you. I truly despise your way. I abhor the condescending way you address people you disagree with. I despise to the bottom of my soul the way you go about trying to destroy people you find yourself at odds with instead of engaging in respectful discourse, even in disagreement. I’m letting you off easy this time but I’m not so sure you’ll find me so gracious the next time our paths cross and you do more of the same.

    Best wishes to you Kurt.

  99. Richard:
    >> If the people in charge of Marvel and DC over the last 40 years had any interest in seeing the comics successful, why have they consistently put people in charge of those companies who had absolutely no experience in the comic, publishing, or any related field? >>

    I’m not sure I’d agree that they have — for most of the past 40 years DC was run either by Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz, for instance, and Jenette came from magazine publishing while Paul was homegrown talent. Mike Hobson at Marvel had tons of publishing experience, as did Shirrel Rhoades. Dan Buckley’s previous experience was in brand management, but prior to that he had length experience at Marvel, so he knew their operations well. Even Bill Jemas’s trading-card industry experience would have to be considered a related field; it’s a form of publishing.

    I don’t think Marvel’s always had the best guys in charge (I think DC, though, was in very solid hands with Paul), but that said, I don’t think the charge that they’ve consistently put people with no experience in comics, publishing or anything related in charge is really all that supportable.

    Vince:
    >> Your points are valid, but you surely must agree that Marvel and DC have much greater leverage…? >>

    Of course. They’re the bulk of the DM, it was built around them, and they want to stay on top. But that’s not a conspiracy to depress sales, it’s — as you note — the law of the jungle. Coke and Pepsi want to keep dominating the soft drink market, too, but that’s a long way from them suppressing sales. It’s two different things.

    It’s also probably why the biggest successes in non-Big Two comics come via the companies that can reach beyond the DM. The DM is very efficient (well, fairly efficient) at serving existing customers who know what they want, which is no surprise because that’s what it was formed to do. It’s not so great at reaching out to others (though it’s been getting better). And retailers like Joe Field keep looking for ways, and far from trying to minimize sales, the Big Two and Diamond have supported those efforts.

    Matthew:
    >> The question is–where do we go from here? As writers/artists, what do we do to bring our work in front of more people? >>

    As noted, that’s a fine question, and I don’t think there’s one magic-bullet answer. My oft-rattled-off formula for how to reach out to new target audiences is:

    1. Make comics they’ll enjoy (don’t expect them to suddenly develop a love for Spider-Man).

    2. Package it in a format they’ll pick up and look at. (don’t make it look like an issue of Spider-Man).

    3. Sell it in places they shop (don’t limit yourself only to places that sell Spider-Man).

    4. Tell them it’s there (otherwise you’re limiting yourself to that fraction of the Spider-Man audience that also likes the new stuff).

    That’s content, format, distribution and promotion. They’re all important. Sadly, writers and artists often only affect #1, and don’t have the clout (or the resources) to do much about the other three. But we have to do what we can, wherever we can — and the people who’ve made a success of things are the ones who’ve broken through on enough of those four points, or found enough of an audience among the DM habitues to thrive.

    For whatever it’s worth, I think STUMPTOWN is one of those books that has the capacity to break through, but it’s likely to do the best at it once it’s in book form. That takes care of 1 and 2, Oni’s got some strength at 3, and Greg’s work outside comics may help with 4.

    It’s a Sisyphean task, but many things are. As I saw some say just recently, we in comics must be optimists, because we’re still in there swinging, year after year.

    kdb

  100. Michael, you’re still talking nonsense, but to address only one of your weird convictions:

    You cite something that happened in the 1970s as support for your claim that Marvel and DC are determined never to let anyone own or share IP — but since both companies currently publish creator-owned books, your claim is flatly and obviously wrong. That there are instances when they’ve behaved poorly does not make those current or blanket policy. You are, after all, responding to someone who owns or co-owns (with the artists) three projects published by DC with a fourth coming, one of which they’re so determined not to let me own the IP to that they were pleasant and helpful when I took it to another publisher. And I’m hardly the only one. Times have changed since BLACK LIGHTNING.

    Beyond that, charging that it’s ego and vanity that don’t allow me to understand that the stuff you say is true, when historical fact easily proves you wrong — sales have not been declining steadily since the late 1970s, the best-selling comics of all time came out long after the DM was out of its early phase, publishers have become more, not less, willing to share IP or outright publish creator-owned work — I’ll stick with actual history over bizarre assertions of conspiracy and claims that are patently false.

  101. Matthew Southworth says:

    Kurt–

    That 4-bullet formula is very useful to me. Thanks for putting that out there.

    Michael–and everyone else, too–

    Why do we have to make these disagreements personal? Jesus God already. I don’t know you and I don’t have even the slightest personal animus toward you, and I still don’t think your theories make a lot of sense.

    That could mean I’m just missing the point, could mean I’m stupid, whatever–it could also mean your theory is wrong. But let’s all stick to the facts and to the ideas–wrongheaded or brilliant or somewhere in between–and not throw little personal shitfests.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets tired of this adolescent (yep, that word again) track that so many of these discussions wind up taking. I’m not above it, I’m just sick of it.

    Fox News and MSNBC are both exhausting. Just tell me the facts and let me think about it instead of calling the other guy an asshole all the time.

  102. >> That 4-bullet formula is very useful to me. Thanks for putting that out there. >>

    Alas, easier to list than to do, but if it turns out to be useful I’m glad of it.

  103. @Kurt

    It’s obvious that you and Black Vulcan are the main conspirators here. First you take down Black Lightning then IP and now Michael Netzer! You blaggard! Does your evil know no bounds?!

    And don’t think for a minute that I don’t see your goons Apache Chief and Samurai waiting around the corner to get me. I’m on to you. Michael Netzer has shown us what you REALLY are!

    PS. Avengers Forever is the greatest story ever written in the universe. Tolstoy on his best day couldn’t touch Avengers Forever (too much?).

  104. Samurai doesn’t work for me any more, alas. He got a job offer from John Woo and quit, the ungrateful cuss.

    Black Vulcan and Apache Chief just sit around the lair watching wrestling and eating Cheetos all day. If I ever need someone smeared with greasy orange dust, I’m all set.

    And it is entirely true that Tolstoy on his best day couldn’t touch AVENGERS FOREVER. Unfortunately for me, this is only because Tolstory’s best day was in the 1860s, while he was closing in on finishing WAR AND PEACE, and AVENGERS FOREVER didn’t exist yet. But I’ll take what I can get.

    At least he wouldn’t have been touching it with Cheeto-fingers. Inuk-chuk, indeed!

  105. Vince: I didn’t use the word conspiracy in describing what industry leaders are doing. “Default conspiracy” is a way of softening the term somewhat but it doesn’t matter much to me in the end. Whether by default or new design, it doesn’t change the reality.

    Distorting the perception of what DC and Marvel have done and continue to do, by saturating the discussion with the word “conspiracy” and slapping it with half truths in order to whitewash injustice born of greed is a legitimate strategy if we want to keep our heads buried in the sand. It works in a world where a similar perception about the economy and government is also defended in the face of what many people already understand to be a deteriorating existence for the masses while the top movers only become stronger.

    What you say about the industry being a reflection of the messy economy is true. But I’d hesitate accept that it’s all happening innocently or that the major players want to, and try to make things better. It’s their policies that have made the mess and they can undo them if they really wanted to. Sucking up to them won’t help anyone one little bit when the chips are down.

    The suggestions put forth time after time by a lot of well intentioned people on what we can do have been battered around for a couple of decades. As the world changes and grows, new factors come into play as do new ideas on how to deal with them. But when one’s heard the same talk in various guises for 30-40 years… and seen how all these suggestions are not really able to change the basic premise the world operates under, then it all become a little shallow and pointless.

    It’s like the myth perpetuated about a free economy as if everyone can succeed. Well that’s a big lie. Everyone can try but the nature of the beast is that only a few will succeed. It maybe a default lie but it’s a lie nonetheless.

    So if we say it’s a default conspiracy, then it’s still a conspiracy. I don’t like using that word so much, really. I’d rather just describe it the way it seems to me without labels.

    Given all this, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from making any effort to succeed in any direction they choose. I’ve never said that and never would. But given the option of suggesting what we can do, I’d say that speaking out on the injustice without fear of repercussion is something we need to do more of.

    I’m past the age where I can be wooed by promises of a cushy job or a high profile project in comics. Most people have spent an entire lifetime doing it and we can see where it’s gotten all of us. I’d rather spend the little time left by speaking up on it from the outside and let the chips fall where they may.

    From my vantage point, I can afford to say things most people are reluctant to. There’ll always be detractors. I doesn’t bother me.

    Michael

  106. Really Kurt, I thought you were done with me and I’d get a little rest by now.

    >> You cite something that happened in the 1970s as support for your claim that Marvel and DC are determined never to let anyone own or share IP.

    Wrong on both counts. I cited something that other industry news sites reported, including this one, about something that happened recently with Black Lightning not in the 70’s.

    I didn’t say DC is determined never to let anyone own or share IP. That’s your distortion of what I said. Whether intentional or oversight, it’s still a distortion.

    What I’ve said repeatedly is that DC and Marvel have driven comics sales to the ground because it discourages creators from asking for fair conditions and allows them to maintain a stranglehold on IP rights. They can allow a few crumbs to fall off the table in such a scenario but it’s still a stranglehold. A stranglehold chokes but doesn’t absolutely kill. Your distortion of what I said is noted. The picture you paint of a company open for creator owned projects is another distortion. Also noted.

    >> Beyond that, charging that it’s ego and vanity that don’t allow me to understand that the stuff you say is true…

    Wrong again, Kurt. I didn’t say your ego or vanity don’t allow you to understand the stuff I say is true. I said your ego and vanity don’t allow you to understand ME. There’s a big difference.

    It doesn’t matter if either you or I claim what we say is true. Truth bears out outside of either your claims or mine about each other. Talk is cheap, Kurt. Speaking in the name of facts when many facts can be distorted to paint a picture not supported by the difficult reality that the comics industry is in, Well, that’s very cheap talk.

    >> I’ll stick with actual history over bizarre assertions of conspiracy and claims that are patently false.

    Good for you. You’re one of those breaths that DC allows to exhale as it tightens its stranglehold on the rest of the creators who gave a lot of good years of their lives to them only to find themselves cast out like dogs. I wouldn’t expect any less from you.

  107. Matthew: What appears as a fact to one person will seem like a lie to another. That’s human nature and it works both ways.

    The problem between Kurt and I cannot be divorced from the personal relationship we have, in the same way that presenting the same fact as evidence for two opposing viewpoints cannot be divorced from human nature.

    People remain people. We are not robots or computers processing data. We all have interests, motives and emotions that drive how we view the world.

    To turn the discussion into a data processing operation would be the biggest distortion of what drives us to say what we do.

    Try not to be bothered by the personal nature of the exchange between Kurt and I. We both know how to deal with it and you should learn to do so also.

  108. Matthew Southworth says:

    Michael–

    I can appreciate that, but bullshit.

    Your personal relationship is your personal business, not mine or that of the others here who are interested in a discussion of the topics at hand. This is not a “can’t we all just get along” question, it’s a request to keep that personal crap elsewhere so that I and others don’t have to waste our time on it.

    I’m interested in your viewpoints on the issue, not on whether you guys like each other.

    I think that’s entirely reasonable.

  109. Michael – you’re mistaken again. The recent stories about Black Lightning have been historical ones, and the Black Vulcan swap-out you refer to (“removing Black Lightning from a TV show and replacing him by another character”) happened in 1977. Take another look.

    If DC’s preventing Black Lightning from appearing on TV these days, they’re not doing a good job; he made his TV debut on BATMAN: BRAVE AND BOLD last year.

  110. Matthew:

    We are storytellers. That’s what we do, tell stories. We tell stories about heroes and villains, good people and not so good people. Strong people and weak people. People. People. People.

    We don’t tell stories about topics or facts. Everyone knows these don’t make for stories of much value. But even if we did, then there would be little there of interest in a topic that doesn’t include the personal nature of people.

    The industry is owned by people. It’s run by people. All the workers who make it what it is are people.

    The creators who tell the stories of the comics are people. The readers are people.
    Everything about it is about people.

    So I find it difficult to accept that the people involved in this industry, where everything about it is driven by people – that when it comes to discussing an issue as vital as the state of the industry driven by people who make it, that it’s here we draw the line and say we should leave the personal nature of people out of it and just discuss “facts” or “topics”.

    If you read over the posts from the beginning, you’ll notice some personal remarks were directed at me and I avoided reacting to them. Instead of comments directed at me just staying on topic, they took a somewhat personal nature beyond facts or topics.

    Most of what’s said here revolves around views of the industry. A very small amount addresses the personal nature driving the views. I don’t understand why that stops anyone from engaging in the discussions. If anything, I think it helps us understand the issues a little better. And it doesn’t matter what side one takes.

    Even saying that what I said is bullshit, becomes somewhat personal.

    Next you could say I’m hallucinating or I’m an idiot. It comes from the same spirit or nature of a statement like ‘you’re bullshitting’.

    I’d not think it reasonable that you can’t say such things if you feel them to be true. I wouldn’t want you to not say I’m bullshitting if that’s what you thought.

    So I respectfully disagree that it’s a reasonable request to discuss something like this without having an element of personality.

    But if you insist on it. Then that seriously limits how we can understand each other and the issues. I’d then respectfully think there’s little value in such discussions.

  111. Good Kurt. That was the least significant of the several other points I made. Happy to hear that.

  112. Matthew Southworth says:

    Michael–

    I don’t plan to call you an idiot, suggest you’re hallucinating, anything of the sort, and if anyone is calling names, they’re being childish.

    But it looks like you’re determined to hijack the thread and make it about something it’s not, so I’m done talking with you about it.

    No offense intended, hopefully none taken, but I have better things to do than argue with you about whether you like Kurt Busiek and whether that’s germane to how to sell independent comics.

    I’m going to put the effort into A) making comics, and B) addressing salient points made about the topic at hand.

    Matt

  113. Wow, a hundered and thirteen posts. Isn’t that some kind of record?

  114. I like Kurt a great deal, Matt. What I don’t like about some of what he does makes me like him even more.

    I thought about 98% of what I’ve said had been on topic, whether one agrees or not. The other 2% is likely on topic in an indirect way. Kurt and I are two creators who’s range of opinions are part of the topic.

    Best wishes to you. No offense taken.

  115. Kurt:

    The instances where they behave well occasionally doesn’t make that blanket policy either….

    Michael surmises the direction where you’re coming from. Frankly, that is a direction I’ve been taking a closer look at lately, and to be honest, I find it more in line with what we need to be, as creators, and most importantly, as human beings. But a distain for the tenents of a market economy are not the answer. This whole entire volly of ideas is boiling down to a philosophical question of our obligations to each other,(or lack of acknowledgement of these obligations) and that may be impossible to change.

  116. Sorry, one more time, with qoutes:

    Kurt says:

    “That there are instances when they’ve behaved poorly does not make those current or blanket policy.”

    The instances where they behave well occasionally doesn’t make that blanket policy either….

    Michael says:

    “injustice born of greed”

    surmises the direction where you’re coming from. Frankly, that is a direction I’ve been taking a closer look at lately, and to be honest, I find it more in line with what we need to be, as creators, and most importantly, as human beings. But a distain for the tenents of a market economy are not the answer. This whole entire volly of ideas is boiling down to a philosophical question of our obligations to each other,(or lack of acknowledgement of these obligations) and that may be impossible to change.

    Now we can all laugh that nervous laughter like at the end of “within you, without you”…

  117. >> The instances where they behave well occasionally doesn’t make that blanket policy either…>>

    This is true. However, since the example at hand was from 1977, and counterexamples in recent decades are plentiful, I think the weight of the evidence is that DC is far less resistant to sharing IP rights than they used to be, erroneous claims that stuff from 1977 actually happened recently to the contrary.

  118. That is really a great conversation! Save this one for the archives.

    Kurt: you totally right about your 4 bullets rules. I completely agree. And I think the easiest one is #1 and the most difficult is #4.

    Also Michael said something about the big 2 controlling the ‘public perception of comics’ and I wholly agree with this. I think they managed over the years to completely reorient people perception of comics as ‘silly superhero stories made for kids’ (I think this is the common public perception of comics in America) something that contrasts completely with the perception of comics in Japan, Italy, Belgium or France. While manga is officially part of the culture and a valuable cultural export (isn’t Doraemon an official ambassador?), comics in the US are synonymous with trashy pop culture. It’s a uphill battle for acceptance mostly because of this stigma of ‘silly stories’ (and you will notice that every movie or TV show with a silly melodramatic plot is always referred in the US as ‘comicbook’).

  119. Personally I think Mike’s account would make a great movie.

    Kurt, while I’m in no way backing Mike’s assertions here, there are a few aspects of recent history that might be given a new look under this light, even experimentally.

    Black Lightning is an old example. Milestone is a much more recent example, especially the two issue prestige format finale. The Black Dossier is another. As was The Authority.

    Now of course there are other, far more likely, explanations. But it’s a thought.

  120. Richard Evans says:

    Thanks Kurt for answering that.

    I don’t believe as Michael does that there is a malicious intent to keep comics down, but I do believe that the people in charge of DC and Marvel have absolutely no interest in making comics profitable.

    I worked in retail before becoming a writer. What the comic industry is is a loss leader.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_leader

    And no one will change that. The problem with that is it undermines the creativity and profitability of the entire industry, which is why I’d rather see Marvel and DC leave the comic business altogether.

  121. Matthew Southworth says:

    If Marvel and DC left the comic business, there’d be a DRASTIC reduction in cartoonists able to make a living. So I certainly hope that doesn’t happen.

    I love independent comics and comics that could never work on a mainstream level, but I also really enjoy working for the big companies and like some of their product.

    Despite some of the corporate decision-making–which can be totally confusing in any arena, be it entertainment, oil, or FOR GOD’S SAKE the food industry, which is INSANE–I’ve only worked with people at the two big companies who love comics and want to make good comics.

    I think if the big companies shut down their comics biz and focused only on animated movies and action figures and video games, the comics business would completely die.

  122. >> I think if the big companies shut down their comics biz and focused only on animated movies and action figures and video games, the comics business would completely die.>>

    The artform wouldn’t, but the business would. Comic book retailers would go out of business in a matter of weeks, as would Diamond. If indie creators think it’s tough getting space on the shelves now, imagine how bad it would be when there’s no shelves.

    Marvel and DC’s publishing divisions are both profitable. The idea that they’re not interested in being profitable doesn’t hold water; their main fault along those lines is that they’re expected to chase short-term profits more than long-term profits — and there’s more short-term profit in chasing the dedicated reader with big crossover events than reaching out to birds in the bush — but they look for ways to reach out, too. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but it’s not because they’re not interested in making and increasing profits.

  123. Vince:
    <>

    Maybe I’ve been misunderstood. The tenets of a market economy have always been just fine. The disdain I express is for the abuse of these tenets. Democracy is the best form of government society has conceived, yet it can also be abused, and has been often.

    The reason Stan Lee’s great statement, responsibility coming with power, has captured the heart of generations is that it is a true sentiment. Without its application, democracy and a free economy become abused by irresponsibility and power inebriation . We should rightfully expect the great powers at the helm of society to be responsible towards the well being of the people and markets that their policies affect. When that sense of collective responsibility diminishes, then the strongest few become stronger as the majority peoples and markets become weaker and more abused at their hands.

    Our responsibility to each other under such conditions is to strengthen each other in order to snap out of the indifference to what’s keeping down the human spirit from demanding this sense of responsibility from society’s leaders. Distracting from this core issue by asserting this failing of responsibility is a questionable claim… well, that doesn’t seem like a very responsible thing we do with each other.

    JM:
    <>

    I agree this is one of the important public perception issues that helps limit sales. Another one born of this is a public perception that comics do not and cannot sell well enough for the publishing industry to effectively grow. Some could say this perception is a result of a particular reality but DC and Marvel possess the ability to change this reality. If there was no IP market to support their publishing, they’d have to find a way to change the situation. It’s the only sound business thing to do and a freshman economist could look at this picture and explain why it’s not working. DC and Marvel’s business savvy is far greater than that. The fact that they choke the market for everyone else with DM is a very irresponsible thing to do for companies who have other avenues to fall back on.

    Rich:
    <>

    Great. But maybe we can start with a graphic novel, for the sake of the comics industry. So, I relinquish any IP rights to the idea and place it under public domain. Whoever wants to run with it is welcome.

    <>

    I think the idea of sounding an alarm at this stage is exactly so that DC and Marvel might be pressured to have a change of heart. To take steps needed to ease their stranglehold on the industry. History, however would not be kind to them considering how such great powers rarely have a true change of heart. What history shows is at some point the people realize they’ve been misled and muster the courage to bring down the presiding powers. I believe we would all like to prevent such a situation if possible.

    Kurt:
    <>

    That’s not so clear at all. These comics shop and distribution system are in place. They want to survive as a basic instinct. There are enough other publishers and indies to fill those shelves immediately. If there was no more DC and Marvel, buying habits would shift for the majority of readers and we might also finally see a breath of fresh air in the public perception of what comics are.

    Maybe both our positions on this are speculative. But to assert that if DC and Marvel disappeared the business would fold, well, I’m not sure that’s how it would come down at all. I believe in the comics industry/community’s ability to adjust and keep the business alive.

    <>

    That might be true for an enterprise that didn’t have an IP division to fall back on. When one division is so profitable and the other teetering, but needed to continue hanging by a thread for the first one to be profitable, then why bother worrying about it? The profits from comics publishing are actually made in IP sales. When there’s no real incentive to make comics popular and profitable, then why would a businessman bother with it?

    Unless they had a sense of responsibility towards the medium that overcomes the lack of incentive.

    I’m not sure the evidence bears out the presence of such a sense of responsibility at DC and Marvel anymore.

    But I’m just looking at the situation as it seems to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard anything here that convinces me otherwise.

  124. The quote marks ate the quotes in the last post. Here it is again.

    Vince:
    >> But a distain for the tenents of a market economy are not the answer. >>

    Maybe I’ve been misunderstood. The tenets of a market economy have always been just fine. The disdain I express is for the abuse of these tenets. Democracy is the best form of government society has conceived, yet it can also be abused, and has been often.

    The reason Stan Lee’s great statement, responsibility coming with power, has captured the heart of generations is that it is a true sentiment. Without its application, democracy and a free economy become abused by irresponsibility and power inebriation . We should rightfully expect the great powers at the helm of society to be responsible towards the well being of the people and markets that their policies affect. When that sense of collective responsibility diminishes, then the strongest few become stronger as the majority peoples and markets become weaker and more abused at their hands.

    Our responsibility to each other under such conditions is to strengthen each other in order to snap out of the indifference to what’s keeping down the human spirit from demanding this sense of responsibility from society’s leaders. Distracting from this core issue by asserting this failing of responsibility is a questionable claim… well, that doesn’t seem like a very responsible thing we do with each other.

    JM:
    >> Also Michael said something about the big 2 controlling the ‘public perception of comics’ and I wholly agree with this. I think they managed over the years to completely reorient people perception of comics as ’silly superhero stories made for kids’ >>

    I agree this is one of the important public perception issues that helps limit sales. Another one born of this is a public perception that comics do not and cannot sell well enough for the publishing industry to effectively grow. Some could say this perception is a result of a particular reality but DC and Marvel possess the ability to change this reality. If there was no IP market to support their publishing, they’d have to find a way to change the situation. It’s the only sound business thing to do and a freshman economist could look at this picture and explain why it’s not working. DC and Marvel’s business savvy is far greater than that. The fact that they choke the market for everyone else with DM is a very irresponsible thing to do for companies who have other avenues to fall back on.

    Rich:
    >> Personally I think Mike’s account would make a great movie. >>

    Great. But maybe we can start with a graphic novel, for the sake of the comics industry. So, I relinquish any IP rights to the idea and place it under public domain. Whoever wants to run with it is welcome.

    Richard:
    >> The problem with that is it undermines the creativity and profitability of the entire industry, which is why I’d rather see Marvel and DC leave the comic business altogether. >>

    I think the idea of sounding an alarm at this stage is exactly so that DC and Marvel might be pressured to have a change of heart. To take steps needed to ease their stranglehold on the industry. History, however would not be kind to them considering how such great powers rarely have a true change of heart. What history shows is at some point the people realize they’ve been misled and muster the courage to bring down the presiding powers. I believe we would all like to prevent such a situation if possible.

    Kurt:
    >> The artform wouldn’t, but the business would. Comic book retailers would go out of business in a matter of weeks, as would Diamond. >>

    That’s not so clear at all. These comics shop and distribution system are in place. They want to survive as a basic instinct. There are enough other publishers and indies to fill those shelves immediately. If there was no more DC and Marvel, buying habits would shift for the majority of readers and we might also finally see a breath of fresh air in the public perception of what comics are.

    Maybe both our positions on this are speculative. But to assert that if DC and Marvel disappeared the business would fold, well, I’m not sure that’s how it would come down at all. I believe in the comics industry/community’s ability to adjust and keep the business alive.

    >> Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but it’s not because they’re not interested in making and increasing profits. >>

    That might be true for an enterprise that didn’t have an IP division to fall back on. When one division is so profitable and the other teetering, but needed to continue hanging by a thread for the first one to be profitable, then why bother worrying about it? The profits from comics publishing are actually made in IP sales. When there’s no real incentive to make comics popular and profitable, then why would a businessman bother with it?

    Unless they had a sense of responsibility towards the medium that overcomes the lack of incentive.

    I’m not sure the evidence bears out the presence of such a sense of responsibility at DC and Marvel anymore.

    But I’m just looking at the situation as it seems to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard anything here that convinces me otherwise.

  125. Loved the four bullet points, Kurt. Although I need to argue with JM Ringuet’s thought that step 4 is harder that step 1. As a creator, step 1 is the one you studied first. Creating anything entertaining and good is hard – that’s why so few people make their living as creators.

    Lots of people make their living doing 4. Almost every business over ten people has at least one person who does nothing but figure out how to let customers know their service exists. They are the marketing department, and they usually have a say in how things are packaged and distributed, too. There are far more resources in libraries, in books stores, and on the internet dedicated to marketing than there are about making comics.

    Yes, having to learn yet another thing is a pain, but… no, actually, that’s all. Having to learn something else is a pain. But to make a living from your creations, suffering for your business follows suffering for your art.

    If you want to try to stay in the comics world, check out “How to Make Webcomics,” which is published through Image and available in libraries. Follow it up with the podcast Webcomics Weekly by the same guys. There are two different hosts, so you may have to dig around to find the entire run. I wasn’t taking notes as I waded through their 70 some podcasts recently, so I unfortunately can’t direct you to a particular one that’s just about marketing. Luckily, all four of them are comedy strip writers, so their conversations are at least entertaining. They’re also occasionally wrong, but that too is the nature of business.

  126. Stay in the comics world while discussing marketing that is, not stay in the comics world (period).

  127. Patrick: I agree with you on certain things but frankly I don’t see where most comic creators can find the time to learn marketing, and then apply what they know to sell their creations. Like you said that’s why there are people doing marketing fulltime. #1 is still the easiest thing to do for a creator, because creators want and love to create.

    Also webcomic comedy strips (ala Pvp) are extremely different from long form dramatic comics, so you can’t just take what they do as an example. It’s like comparing a TV cartoon to Lost. You don’t sell and make money out of these properties in the same way.

  128. Michael: I think it’s extremely interesting to understand what shape the perception and evolution of a medium (or art form) in a given market. I think you are pointing in interesting directions and although my historical knowledge of US comics is limited I found some food for thought in your posts. Very challenging and very interesting. Thanks for that.

  129. If nothing else, a little food for thought in return for the inspiration I gain from this debate, is of the best I can hope for here. Thanks for the kind words, JM.

  130. I have read this thread, and I have but one question: why isn’t it that when I watch any of the superhero movies, be it Iron Man, Batman, Superman, or any of the upcoming movies, that there’s not a mention of the fact that these are comic book properties, that they are still being published, and that they can be bought at these-and-these locations?

    If Marvel is producing the damn thing, what would it cost them to add a commercial before the movie about comics and where to buy them? Nada. That’s how much it would cost them.

    I doubt conspiracies, I think it’s just plain old contempt for the comics medium at play here.

  131. Well, JM, most small business people start their business without a fulltime marketing person and yet somehow find them time to start marketing before they get around to hiring a special employee. Business is like art in that to get better at it, you have to be willing to make the time for it, with all the sacrifices that entails.

    If you want to be a payroll comics creator, that’s fine, although you have the potential to lose a lot a money if the secondary merchandising and licensing markets for your original work hits. The golden age of science fiction happened at the same time as the golden age in comics. One had creators that took risks keeping the rights on their works and the other had work for hire guys that gave everything to their publishers. Guess which one had more guys complaining about being screwed by their twilight years? It’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be in mainstream comics, but compared to novels and non-fiction books, the contracts are still horrible.

    If you want to be a hobbyist who makes comics just for fun, that’s also fine. I can’t tell you much about them in the print comic world, although I know they use words like “ashcan” to describe their printings and still show up at the Small Press Expo. They rarely manage to produce and distribute something that would catch my eye. Webcomics, on the other hand, are thick with these people. Some will even go pro. Most won’t though. They won’t put in the time to improve the quality of their comics or to learn the business side of things. As long as they’re having fun, that’s fine.

    If you want to be an independent comic creator, you have to face the reality that you are, in fact, running a small business which provides a service to a consumer. Such an endeavor will turn out to be more profitable for someone who learns as much about their business as they can. And by more profitable, I mean make it pay for itself instead of being a giant sinkhole of time and money. It also helps them hire a competent specialist when the business becomes profitable enough to hire a one, since it helps the boss weed out applicants that aren’t actually competent.

    As for webcomics business lessons not being relevant for drama, go look at the list of full time webcomic people on Wikipedia again. It’s mostly comedy, not all comedy. Study Megatokyo as a business case for a successful dramatic webcomic. It’s one of PVP’s peers, so its profitability can be tracked over the same time period if anyone wanted to do a compare and contrast.

    Heck, the most of the marketing lessons from webcomics can apply to any independent creation. In the next thread the Beat put up on the video, I wrote a long post for Ed and it includes examples of independent creators of novels, web videos, non-fiction books, acting, and music.

    Finally, I’m curious what mechanisms you’ve observed that are different between making money off a television comedy cartoon, like the Simpsons, and a television drama like Lost. The only thing I can come up with is that audience demographics end up being different, so broadcaster has to turn around and find different advertisers to fill the ad space. I’ll take any insights you offer. In case you can’t tell, I really like studying this junk.

    aBy the same token, Michael Netzer’s models for the history and current standing of the comic business are incomplete and occasionally just wrong. There’s a reason while his peer in the business, Kurt Busiek, keeps arguing with him about the details. Still with 70 years of just comic book business history, it’s not a bad place to start.

  132. I think, Patrick, that we are all quite subjective about our position, myself being the first. To me, this renders the selective use of details which doesn’t consider the thrust of an argument, and sometimes without an overall look at the long term trends, as being secondary to the essence of the reasons why our industry is in the state that it is.

    Even science which is meant to be a discipline of analyzing factual data, falls into the whirlpool of human subjectivity, rendering many of its assessments of the data questionable and debatable. In this context I understand Kurt’s position but would not think we can rely only on isolated details to deflect an argument.

    A good example was a sticking point between us regarding my statement that we saw a surge in the early experimental days of the Direct Market which seems to have been suppressed. Kurt argued that this peak did not come at the beginning but well into the DM days. My position is unchanged and did not intend “early experimental days” to mean only the beginning. Much in the same way that when speaking about classes, then the lower class reaches into and overlaps the lower middle class. The term early days was relative to a long term look and not necessarily the beginning. This is why I would reconsider arguments made in this way that don’t necessarily change the thrust of what’s being said.

    There are very basic factors of human nature at play here which must not be ignored. I understand the desire to not rock the boat too much, but when the boat is teetering so hazardously as this one is for so many of its former, present and aspiring proponents, then I don’t see a reason to refrain from it if it has a chance of compelling a change in policies that are injurious to the collective welfare.

    I appreciate your more thoughtful wording about my models being incomplete and occasionally wrong. Though I continue looking for good evidence to support such a claim. I believe I’m not the only one taking a more critical position towards DC and Marvel policies that are detrimental to the welfare of the medium. It’s also clear that the debate in the comics community tends to want to discourage it.

    I find this to be an unfortunate trend. I don’t see a reason to discourage the debate. We cannot afford to suppress these voices and lose the momentum that’s offering a chance to help budge the policies that have brought the comic book business to a state of abnormality relative to other sister industries. We need to allow this critical voice to grow. It seems to me our best hope for overall change.

    But I’m subjective in this way, I know. I only hope others will understand this to be true of everyone.

  133. Patrick I’m glad you found the solution and you make a good living doing comics. More power to you, not everybody is like you.
    But if you think that the Simpsons can be marketed in the same way than Lost from the point of view of their respective creators (not the broadcasters, we’re taking about creators here) I think you have a rather simple idea of how to market a property.

  134. JM, who said I was professional? Best you can say for me is that I have a decade and a half of failures to my credit. It’s giving plenty of time to study the people who are succeeding. There’s a pattern, it’s repeatable, it takes work, and a creator whining that the world doesn’t fall at their feet doesn’t count as work. (Not that I see people whining on this thread. Just honest inquiries and hard debate. However, you don’t have to look hard among the wannabees on the internet to find examples.)

    Um, if we’re talking creators for television show, you pitch your show to a production company, who has the money to pay to risk to make a pilot. In turn, the production companies screens the pilots for the networks and cable channels. Without specific examples of what steps are different, I’m still assuming comedy and drama are sold the same way, just to different audiences. Again, I’ll happily consider specifics you offer.

    Michael, the fact that you argue that science, of all things, which uses study and debate to find what aspects of the universe can be reliability repeated is subjective enough to be considered subjective, is part of the pattern of argument of why I consider your business analysis incomplete.

    The peak of the direct market did happen in the nineties. The best selling comic of all time happened during that period. This is not a coincidence and its not subjective. Of course, it’s only the best selling if you’re only looking at floppies, too.

    There are such things as facts, and when you get enough of them wrong, it undermines your argument. For me, your arguments are undermined enough that you’re going to have to start pointing to facts from elsewhere rather than just speaking off the cuff. It’s fine if you don’t want take the time to do that here and now. As I noted, I enjoy seeking these details out on my own, so if my future research uncovers facts that proves you right, I will have to concede at that time. Luckily, I’m not your only audience on these thread, and we already have proof that you’ve given others plenty to think about, so it was certainly worth posting them.

  135. Patrick, my business analysis is taking into consideration the human nature of people who conduct business. Human nature such as competitive one-upmanship, greed, irresponsibility and a lust for personal gain that ignores the collective economic welfare.

    What I’m hearing in this debate, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that this human nature is not a factor in the decision making process and policies that have brought the comics industry to the absurd state under which the business of comics is being operated.

    So, which view do you think is more complete? One that includes the human element or the one that excludes it?

    Are you saying that ignoring such a prime human factor which can be part of the personal makeup of anyone conducting business, that ignoring this is the new definition of the word “complete”?

    If so, then I must rest my case and go back to study English all over again from the start.

    Please remember my exact and careful wording about science. I said that the “assessments of the data [are rendered] questionable and debatable” This is a factual statement that you agree with. But then you propose there may be nothing subjective about it.

    Well, if you hold to the first view that human nature doesn’t play into the conduct of business in comics, then I understand your position that when scientists debate the interpretation and implications of data, that human nature doesn’t come into play there either.

    I respectfully disagree on both counts.

    I was working in comics at the peak sales you cite in the early 1990s. I still consider it a relatively early stage of the evolution of the Direct Market. We do not seem to be connecting as to the thrust of what I’m saying, but rather jumping at glee about a technicality of what is considered early. I explained this in the previous post and the actual point was overlooked for making the same counterclaim as before.

    But to put things into perspective, and to remind us what this point was all about, my contention is that once DC and Marvel saw the birth of Image comics come as a result of this peak, policies were enacted that made sure it couldn’t happen again. It’s been nearly 20 years since then and we can see a trend.

    I support this position with the fact that the conditions which allowed this peak no longer exist due to publisher policy. Additional support is the followup actions of DC and Marvel to attempt to buy the creators who established Image and thus help render it ineffective as a contender in their arena. Even to the point of eventually liquidating Wildstorm.

    I know many will argue there is no malice in this scenario. Just sound business decisions of two companies that want to make profits by dominating the market. Fine. Can’t argue with anyone who sees business as a data processing function lacking any qualities of human nature that drive the people who make business policy.

    But I believe this is a grave distortion of reality and that it renders us incapable of addressing the malaise of our industry so long as we operate under such an incomplete model that lacks the motives of greed, irresponsibility and inhumanity, which have all brought us to this state.

  136. The direct market just plain didn’t have a ‘surge’ in it’s early, ‘experimental’ days, and anything one could credibly call experimental days for the DM were long in the past by the peak sales period. There was a long, slow, accelerating build, and then a crash, not a suppression.

    Michael seems to think that it doesn’t matter if he gets the facts wrong, because he’s illuminating the essence of things. But when one has to ignore or dismiss the facts in order to present that ‘essence,’ odds are good they’ve got that essence wrong.

    Suppressing sales, also, is not something that makes IP more valuable or makes it easier to maintain rights. Not in comics, not in other industries. It’s just an assertion that provides a false answer. Strategies built on false answers aren’t likely to be useful.

    Strategies aimed at publicly shaming companies into stopping their nonexistent suppression of sales are definitely unhelpful. Better to get the answers right and work with real information rather than imaginary essences and incorrect assertions that don’t make sense.

  137. Kurt, I’ve decided to bow out of this thread and the newer one in order to make room for discussion of things other than DC and Marvel, as some seem to be asking for.

    One last thought before I go. Even assuming nothing I say is true and your position bears out completely, then publicly shaming companies who hold the keys to change can at least compel them into paying consideration for the welfare of the industry, regardless of what claims are made against them. I don’t believe your position bears out, but either way, we have a right to hold industry leaders responsible for the state of the industry they monopolize and choke with their irresponsible policies.

  138. The thing is that it doesn’t matter if everyone has the best intentions if they still fail to do the job.
    I repeat: if Marvel/DC is producing the damn movies and tv-shows, what would it cost them to add a short commercial before the movie or tv-show about the comic that spawned it, and where to buy it? I know a bunch of people that thinks Batman is cancelled as a comic since long back. How’s that even possible? Because they don’t go to comic shops, because they don’t even know they exist – outside of ‘Simpsons’, where they exist simply for the joke, like the clown being a big deal in entertainment.
    – Which he ain’t, for those deluded souls that didn’t get that.
    Agressivly selling comics would mean that one day, a comic would get it’s own superbowl spot. Why not?

  139. >> I repeat: if Marvel/DC is producing the damn movies and tv-shows, what would it cost them to add a short commercial before the movie or tv-show about the comic that spawned it, and where to buy it? >>

    (a) They’re not produced by Marvel and DC. They’re produced by Warner Bros. and other companies — presumably eventually Disney. Marvel and DC have some input, but they don’t have full control.

    (b) Adding a commercial at the front of a movie may not be as simple as you think, given that I don’t see a lot of movies where that happens. If they wanted to add a commercial that runs before the trailers, in one of those “before the show” promo thingummies, they’d have to pay money for it to run, probably more than they could expect to make back. If they wanted to just stick it into the movie, after the trailers and before the feature starts, they’d probably get a lot of pushback from the theaters and the companies that run paid advertising before movies, because that sort of thing is a source of income for them and they don’t want movie companies simply abrogating those rights.

    (c) what they can do, without incurring huge expenses or starting fights is make sure that all those movies, up front, have a big Marvel or DC logo, and a credit that says the movie’s based on the comic. Marvel’s particularly good at that, with their logo sequence showing lots of comics art. It’s hard to see those and conclude that comics don’t exist any more.

    But really, if movie companies could just grant themselves free advertising time and stick commercials at the beginnings of movies, after the trailers and before the main feature, do you think that’d be an improvement on the movie-going experience? Bad enough having all those ads _before_ the trailers. And if movie companies could do that, they’d start making money off doing it by selling that free-to-them time to other advertisers. And then Marvel and DC wouldn’t be able to afford it any more, because Saab and Pepsi would be willing to pay too much.

    >>Agressivly selling comics would mean that one day, a comic would get it’s own superbowl spot. Why not? >>

    Because Superbowl spots cost $3 million this year. That’s why they’re for products that make so much money that their advertising budgets can handle expenses like that. But even if comics sold millions of copies, they wouldn’t be making the kind of profit it takes to afford Superbowl ads. And it doesn’t make financial sense to spend more in ad costs than you can make back in profits.

    This is why you don’t see Stephen King novels advertised during the Superbowl. Even really profitable stuff doesn’t necessarily merit that kind of outlay.

    Disney and Warners can buy $3 million TV ads, yes. But they do it for things that’ll make hundreds of millions in profits, or thereabouts. And then they spend a lot more following up, because one ad isn’t enough. Comics have never been so successful that they can do that.

    It’d be nice to get there someday, but it’s unlikely in the extreme. If we’re ever selling $65 million worth of an issue of X-MEN in its first three days on the stands, maybe.

  140. Oh, and the reason they don’t do ads during the TV shows is that the networks make money by selling that time to people who will pay more for it than magazine publishers can afford. Neither Disney nor Warners can simply stick ads into their shows for free.

  141. We have heard all those arguments in sweden, until a publisher stepped up and did a commercial that ran in movie theaters before the movie, and what do you know, it boosted the sales of that comic up and above what that spot had cost them with a wide margin.
    Instant payback – instant profit.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH8DLVFnoCw

    I’m not going to respond to each and every part of your argumentation, only stating that none of it is as solid as it sounds.

    The studio could easily work the info into the titel of the movie, or whatever, it’s creativity, baby. All those arguments are just made-up and the logo means nothing.
    It doesn’t say anything about what you can buy or where you can buy it.

  142. >>Neither Disney nor Warners can simply stick ads into their shows for free.

    So Disney isn’t marketing their movies or toys in their shows – for free?
    Are we getting a different set of shows in scandinavia and northern europe?

    In regard to comics, they have the same relationship with comics as all the rest – which is non-existing.

  143. >> We have heard all those arguments in sweden, until a publisher stepped up and did a commercial that ran in movie theaters before the movie, and what do you know, it boosted the sales of that comic up and above what that spot had cost them with a wide margin.>>

    That’s pretty cool, though I’d hazard a guess that they they didn’t just stick it on for free, and the answer to “what would it cost them?” is “A lot more in the US than in Sweden.”

    >> So Disney isn’t marketing their movies or toys in their shows – for free? Are we getting a different set of shows in scandinavia and northern europe? >>

    You might be. Depends what you’re talking about

    If there are ads for Disney movies in the Disney TV shows you see, they’re probably not free (or at least, they wouldn’t be over here); someone would have to be paying for that ad time.

    Add to that the fact that toy manufacturers and movie companies make much larger profits than comics companies — they make bigger ad buys because they have the budgets to afford them.

    And also add to that — we have some pretty strong restrictions (or used to) about what could be advertised during shows aimed at children. It was specifically banned to run, say, a Transformers ad during a TRANSFORMERS cartoon, because it was thought that turned the whole cartoon into an ad, which was a violation of FCC standards.

    But I don’t know what you mean when you say “marketing.” If you mean the very existence of the shows markets the properties, well, that’s true here, too. If you mean some actual specific advertising sequence that runs with the show or movies, over here that would be an unworkably expensive proposition.

    Certainly, though, if these are “made-up” arguments to you, there’s no reason you’ll find it convincing. But markets with different scales are able to handle different things — this is one reason US comics shops have done well at times with local-market cable ad buys, while Marvel can’t afford $3 million Superbowl spots. for comics that don’t gross $3 million, much less make that kind of profit. Much much less support that kind of advertising budget.

    kdb

  144. It’s possible that the american market is more alert than the scandinavian market has been up until recently. I don’t know. God, I hope so. But fact remains that I’m not talking specifically about ads for a specific comic, I’m speaking of making the public aware of the fact that these characters still live and exist, and that there are comic shops in existence that sell their latest adventures in the form of regular comic book publications.
    It has to be a sign of something gone wrong when I talk to friends of friends in the us that are completely unaware of the fact that Batman is still an ongoing comic being published. And who are completely at loss to where that comic would be found, if so. But the go on and on about how cool the movie was.

  145. I would have liked a scene in Spiderman, where Peter Parker enters a comic shop, to kinda point out that this is where stuff like this normally lives. To indicate or make clear that these places still exist.
    Peter could have meet Mary Jane there, when Doc Ock decided to grab her. Product placement, kinda, but more to the point, updating peoples perception about comics current status and where they are to be found.
    I doubt that would have disturbed the dramatic flow of the movie, Peter being a nerdly kind of guy, or at least knowing people who are. It might even have added a layer to that scene.

    No, it seems to me that DC, Marvel, and others took a long hard look at Image instead, and decided that comics is good for building brands, primarily.

    Granted, from that perspective, the creators are highly valued. They are in the ad world too. Creator-owned stuff fits like a glove here. Only, the medium in itself is taking a hit.

    Not the comic Spawn, it’s just Spawn.
    You market and sell characters and concepts, and they do it better than before in regard to the original creators.
    That’s cool. It’s also logical. It’s all about the ideas here.

    But there’s no one marketing and selling **comics**.

  146. Making the public aware of comics is a worthwhile goal, absolutely, and various initiatives have been put into place to the end, including Free Comic Book Day and the Comic Shop Locator Service, plus publisher plugging the CSLC and their own websites wherever they can.

    I just don’t think the solution is likely to include Superbowl ads, which are the most expensive TV advertising there is. Even normal national TV advertising is out of the publishers’ budgets. It can work — when Hasbro did TV ads for G.I. Joe toys in the early 1980s, and included a mention of the Marvel Comic at the end, it drove sales. But I think that was before they banned such ads from appearing on the GI Joe cartoon, and it was effectively free besides; Marvel didn’t have to pay for them.

    But awareness campaigns are a good thing; they simply need to be affordable and sustainable, or they won’t get a second shot.

  147. >> I would have liked a scene in Spiderman, where Peter Parker enters a comic shop, to kinda point out that this is where stuff like this normally lives. >>

    I wouldn’t, really. It’s one thing when characters drink a Coke, and it’s product placement, but hey, people drink sodas. A comic book store showing up in a SPIDER-MAN movie feels like too much, to me. Also, you don’t want to remind people during the movie that the character’s a comic book character; you want them buying into the reality of the story. Or at least I would.

    I was happy to give permission for some of my comics to appear on a TV show, though — that reminds people that they exist without reminding them that the story they’re watching is a fiction. DC was able to get their stuff on-air in ROSANNE a lot, and it happens in movies. too. I gave permission once for Jim Carrey’s character to wear an ASTRO CITY T-shit in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, but I never saw the movie so I don’t know if he wore it.

    Certainly, Disney and Warners could do product placement in other TV shows, though I can’t say I’m a big fan of product placement anyway. But I don’t think I’d want a SPIDER-MAN movie to, in-story, make a point of showing you that comics exist and here’s a store where you can buy them. Among other things, surely they’d show Marvel comics, and viewers would wonder why the villains don’t just buy an issue of SPIDER-MAN and look up his secret identity…

  148. Point taken about Spiderman. Even though I’m unsure if that’s how it *has* to come across. As an artist, you can play around with perceptions, so it might not work out the way you describe it, just because it could.

    My point is, that even if comics produced a new ‘Harry Potter’ or somesuch, it would only sell so much in comics. It might then be picked up and turned into a movie, making a gazillion dollars. Still, it wont impact the sales of that comic much, or comics in general, at all.

    I bet we could have a situation where every single comic being produced, would make a hit movie, and a successful toyline, and yet not increase the total amount of comics by one single issue.
    Like, say, a bunch of ‘Avengers’ themed movies.

    In discussions, I see these two issues – comics as a whole, and properties – confused all the time.
    I don’t see Marvel or DC really working their brains much to change that.

    To increase the overall awareness of comics among people in general.

  149. >> I bet we could have a situation where every single comic being produced, would make a hit movie, and a successful toyline, and yet not increase the total amount of comics by one single issue.>>

    I doubt that.

    Movies don’t sell as many comics as they used to, but they do sell some — particularly in TPB form.

    >> In discussions, I see these two issues – comics as a whole, and properties – confused all the time.
    I don’t see Marvel or DC really working their brains much to change that.>>

    They’re happy if you’re talking about either one. But that doesn’t mean they’re not looking for ways to sell more comics. Too many examples to the contrary, both stuff that’s worked and stuff that hasn’t. They also tend to support awareness campaigns, too.

    It’s just a slow and difficult process, starting from where they found themselves after the DM crash. There aren’t a lot of instant fixes available.

  150. I think I’m bowing out now, since I don’t think this will progress further. It’s my distinct impression that the leading companies aren’t feeling the heat on this one the way they should. This house is burning. But I’m an outsider, and there might be some distortion of vision from where I sit.

    Since I have your attention though, I would like to say that I’m a huge fan of your writing.

    One of many reasons I want to see comics much more appreciated as an artform..

  151. Thanks very much, sir!

  152. My God!! The never ending thread!!!But that’s good. Everyone’s discussing and learning a lot..(also, that if you use the wrong parentheses it will eat your quotes)….

  153. We’re Talking A Monopoly, Right?

    I have some thoughts; as an allegory, to clarify the situation that has been discussed here.
    I decide to begin a business.
    My first priority would be to produce a product that is superior to my competition in most aspects. This would require finding the most qualified people to produce and distribute my product in the most cost-effective and largest degree possible.
    Ideally, I would want to have the ability to undercut all my competition even if at first I took a loss on the sales…
    Eventually, any reasonable consumer would begin to take advantage of this because I’m simply the best deal.
    My competitors, unable to handle reducing their prices or to increase the quality of the product they offer; would have to take losses as well, or go out of the market.
    Once I have achieved a majority of the market share, I would simply approach the distributors of all my and my competitors’ product with an offer to supply them at a locked in profit as long as they do not ever carry any competitors’ products.
    Unless peculiar loyalty exists, all the distributors would take the deal; creating a key ingredient to my business success, no one would be able to place their product alongside mine in any major store or place of supply.
    The consumer, then will only see my goods. They will only buy my goods.
    They have no choice.
    I can now produce a product that is inferior.
    I can pay rates that are less and less to my employees. If they complain, I can replace them.
    By this time, I am able to repeat the process with any other product that I feel I want to produce. Once I have a large enough company in fact, I can begin to reduce the availability of my products making them more scarce and thus command a higher price for them even though they are inferior to the product I once offered.

    Does any of this sound familiar?

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