Reactions to last week’s doom stories: Diamond, MAD

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§ Cartoonist MK Reed shakes her fist at doom with a resource-filled post that includes alternative distributors and other places where you can sell comics besides Diamond. Recommended.

§ Speaking of other channels, Rik Offenberger talks to Haven’s Lance Stahlberg about the other game in town:

NRAMA: If a publisher finds they can’t meet the new benchmarks, can you help?

LS: That’s exactly why we’re here. Part of our mission is to help bring independent comics to the market. We give deserving titles a chance when Diamond won’t. We still have a submission and approval process, and you may get taken on consignment, but we boast a wide range of titles that cater to many tastes. Every new book we offer is treated the same.

We’ve been in business for a year now since we acquired and re-branded Cold Cut. In that year we’ve more than tripled our warehouse space, our inventory, and our active orders. Haven is definitely a viable alternative distribution channel, especially for newer stores just getting into the market who haven’t been conditioned to think of Previews as their only source for product.


Haven is going to try to step into the breach for comics that can’t make Diamond’s numbers, and will even start taking advance orders, which is a huge step.

§ Richard Bruton has a big overview and commentary.

§ Even The New York Times covered Diamond’s move.

§ Red 5′s Brian Clevinger also looks at the picture, but shows fighting spirit:

Let me put it plainly.

The basic model of getting new independent comics into shops is dead. Oh, it’ll do fine for Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, and maybe one or two others. But everyone else? Everyone out there working on a new project for publication right now? The old model no longer applies.

The good news is that this isn’t bad news.


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• And then there’s MAD going quarterly. As the above shows, we still need MAD Magazine.

Mark Evanier points out that MAD is one of the most recognized brand names in comics and is unlikely to disappear:

Being a lover of its heritage, I’d be the first to trash Ficarra if the current MAD was unworthy of its name. It absolutely is not. But this kind of decline is very common in the periodical business. Playboy, this year, will only publish eleven issues and it isn’t because the public is losing its interest in gorgeous nude women. Even before we all began living on the Internet and doing 90% of our reading there, magazines were on the way out. And since everyone got a computer, it’s only become worse and worse. MAD has evolved to survive, adding color and advertising when that was necessary…but it can’t escape the fact that people just don’t read things on paper these days.

MAD will not go away. It’s too valuable a brand name to ever disappear. (National Lampoon is still around. It just hasn’t been a magazine since around 1988.) Today’s announcement probably translates as follows: “We need to keep the name alive and to keep key staffers and contributors in the family. But it’s losing money and we’re going to scale it back and minimize those losses while we figure out what to do with it.” Its new configuration is not a long-range plan…and maybe that long-range plan, whenever they arrive at it, will restore MAD to its former glory in some venue.


§ Contributor Tom Richmond comments:

MAD’s real problem is one they cannot avoid… they are a magazine. Name me a single magazine, outside tabloid trash peddlers, that isn’t struggling badly right now. I suppose that’s all about content also, right? TV Guide used to sell over 20 million copies a WEEK, and now they sell about 3 million copies… I suppose the quality of their TV schedules has badly declined. Playboy used to sell over 7 million copies an issue and today they are at 3 million copies…. of course we all know the quality of naked women has decreased dramatically since the 70’s.


§ As does Evan Dorkin:

This wasn’t just bad news because of our possibly losing a client or work, I feel really bad about the troubles the magazine, as well as the publishing world, is going through, and this just brought it home. I know that Diamond’s recently released policy changes will affect us more, SLG relies heavily on re-lists, and the small press will be crippled, further, by the new minimums, but the comic industry has always been, as Dan Vado put it, “built on jelly”, and I’ve been here for almost 20 years making minimal to moderate comic book money, so this comes as little surprise. But I wasn’t aware of how bad magazine distribution has become, and a venerable magazine like Mad, a comic but in some ways never thought of as a comic, well, seeing it take a gutshot like this shakes one up. Or at least me. There are people who live off their Mad income, we’re not one of those, and I can see this affecting a lot of freelancers who relied on 12 issues of material for their income. There’s going to be less room for folks like us, who came to the party late, and have less of a track record, but hopefully we’ll still pick up a gig here and there. I hope the new plan works out alright and Mad can stay on the shelves for a good while longer, there’s still a large fan base there, but publishing is just so squeezed. Jeez.


§ BTW, if you want to play along at home, you can see MAD’s yearly circ at this chart. It’s a pretty typical picture of erosion, with the huge problems at newsstands in the late ’70s that led to the creation of the direct market clearly shown, but also some odd RISES in circ, including one from ’06 to ’07. But then an even bigger decline for ’08.

Comments

  1. MAD’s peak was fueled by the counter-culture. The more recent circulation increases? Probably due to the frequency change of 8-times-a-year to 12-times-a-year, with maybe a cultural need to laugh along with the zeitgeist.

    Great cover!

  2. i can only assume the huge jump in numbers from 2006-2007 is due to my becoming a regular contributor to the magazine.*

    the subsequent drop… same reason.

    *(my mum’s garage is full to the rafters…)

  3. Tom Galloway says:

    Actually, TV Guide’s tv listings had declined. Their format didn’t work too well for a 500 channel universe, and for those who got many channels on cable or satdish, the onscreen listings were as good or better (and easier to use) than TV Guide’s.

    As for the quality of Playboy’s naked women, it’s been said for a while that you can find pretty much any sexual fetish somewhere on the Internet. When people could find exactly their particular kink of pictures out there, no longer that much of a need for buying Playboy for more generic pics.

  4. The only thing that got me interested enough to pick up a copy of MAD in recent years was hearing that Evan Dorkin sometimes contributed.

  5. SpyBoy says:

    In all likelihood, Mad’s true numbers have been relatively flat and stagnant over the past 5 years. What the numbers don’t (and won’t) show are periodic distribution boosters commonly employed by magazine publishers of all stripes to expand “paid” circulation — tactics like having the magazine distributed in doctors’ offices or given away free at promotional events in connection with an advertising buy.

  6. John Tebbel says:

    i blame Bill Gaines for not living forever. After his death MAD was folded into the DC economic universe where it slowly expired, trapped in a world it never made.

    I would, further, suggest the existence of a market gap. History has favored bottom-up humor magazines in the hands of crazed, innovative entrepreneurs with a stake in the business.

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