When will the axe fall on comics?

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8b29516v 1 When will the axe fall on comics?So, just how shitty are things? Really, quite shitty.

Wednesday was a black letter day for the book publishing industry, as it seemed to be Armageddon all over the place. Jay Franco rounds up most of the news:

It’s all over the blogosphere. Publishers are making major changes. One publishing news site already referring to today as Black Wednesday. That’s awfully disheartening. But reality, it might be.


Random House, Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Thomas A. Nelson — major players every one, and all publishers of graphic novels — all announced layoffs, restructuring, executive shuffles, or all three. Sam Theilman at Variety laid it all out:

In the past few days, publishers including Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Random House have all seen layoffs, painful reorganizations or both. The contraction culminated Wednesday in layoffs eliminating positions at Simon & Schuster and Thomas Nelson and in a massive consolidation at Random House that left, among others, “The Da Vinci Code” publisher Steve Rubin without a job.


Of course, book publishing is just one aspect of the decimation now taking place. ICv2 has been reporting on the layoffs at Wizards of the Coast:

The fallout from Wizards of the Coast’s consolidation of its digital initiatives (see “WotC Pulls the Plug on Gleemax”) has become apparent in a new round of layoffs that reportedly includes VP of Digital Gaming Randy Buehler, Director of Digital Games Andrew Finch, Creative Manager of Digital Design William Meyers, and Online Community Manager Jennifer Paige.


And then Hollywood, lavish, entourage-emulating Hollywood, fell yesterday:

The Hollywood Reporter was gutted and Variety closed its DC bureau.

NBC/Universal: 70 from Universal, 500 overall.

Viacom: 850 people, 7 percent of its workforce.

16918 logo When will the axe fall on comics?More to come, of course, yet somehow, Miles O’Brien , we’ll miss you most of all.

O’Brien, who has been CNN’s chief technology and environment correspondent since ending his stint as anchor of “American Morning” in April 2007, is departing as the network dismantles its science and technology unit. Six producers also will be leaving.


Enthusiastic, forward looking Miles. You were always there for us through the falling shrapnel, sonic booms and vengeful astronauts wearing diapers. “Dismantles” science and technology is not a sunny face upon the future.

Thus far — THUS FAR — comics have been weathering the storm relatively well, with the biggest cuts coming, sadly, in the newsaper biz, where editorial cartoonists are dropping like flies, as at the Des Moines Register:

Among the positions cut was the newsroom’s editorial cartoonist, Brian Duffy, who has been in that position since 1983. The Register had claimed to be the only newspaper in the United States with an editorial cartoon on the front page. The tradition extended back to at least the early 20th century, according to Register archives. Ted Rall, the president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, estimated that about 20 editorial cartoonists have been laid off or retired in the last three years.


In comics, immediate news of layoffs has been limited to Devil’s Due and Tokyopop, with some publishing contraction, as with Broccoli Books.

All in all, as we surely don’t need to tell anyone reading this, it’s hard times around the world. As more than one pundit has noted, we’re in the grip of a course-altering economic crisis that will leave little unchanged.

So how bad will it hit comics?

train When will the axe fall on comics?

As we’re fond of pointing out, we’re not an economist, and lack basic abilities to balance checkbooks or invest properly. So consider all this the vague ramblings of a person who spent the last two years wondering, “Who the hell is going to live in all those expensive apartments?” and “How can those people actually AFFORD a mortgage?” But you know, only timid losers question giving people with bad credit lots of mortgages they can’t afford; it takes real vision to find a way to get banks and municipalities the world over to INVEST in giving people with bad credit mortgages they can’t afford.

We have, however, lived through a few minor recessions, none of them as bad as the one we’re in now, and things always came out okay at the other side. Previous experience gives a little guidance, although as noted, this Great Global Recession is likely to have severe and lasting effects. How soon will the comics industry start having the kind of layoffs and cutbacks the rest of the media world is having?

If you’d asked us at the beginning of the week, we would have guessed longer than you probably thought. Comics have never quite recovered, emotionally speaking, from the Great Comics Implosion of 1996-2001, which saw hundreds of people laid off, and general contraction and hiring freezes everywhere. That was our Armageddon. Folks in comics have very long memories — with the memory of the Bad Old Days fresh in everyone’s mind (relatively speaking), comics companies have tended to keep rampant hiring and expansion under control. Even a failure like the Minx line was cheap in the broader scope of things.

Plus, as we were pointing out in an earlier post, the margins in comics are already so small. It’s not like web cartoonists are suddenly losing millions and will have to get rid of their armies of assistants. Comics have always been running lean.

Which leaves the industry in the hands of the grim consumer market. And it is very grim right now. Comics, the recession-proof industry, have lasted the past year — which we just learned was a recession, hello! — pretty well. Anecdotal evidence we’ve heard is that comics shops have been holding their own. In other words, the tidal wave hasn’t hit the comics atoll just yet.

That was the beginning of the week. Now, things around the world are looking even gloomier. And there’s a price increase on the horizon, with Marvel having made a jump to $3.99 all but official, and DC not far behind. In a world where thrift is the new religion — even Super Bowl ad sales have slowed, although Monster.com, the job search website, just made a big purchase — consumers will look once, twice, three times at those extra purchases, and comics are an extra. Publishers damn well better have a reason and a target audience for what they publish or they won’t last at all.

Deep inside, I suspect that comics will weather the storm just fine. The fat will be trimmed, and a periodic purge is usually beneficial. Graphic novels that offer satisfying, memorable stories, webcomics that make you chuckle, and periodicals that can hold monthly attention will always tough it out. Sincere publishers who want to put out the best books that they can will keep going.

In a world where people can only afford necessities, you must make comics that your audience NEEDS.

If the comics industry could withstand losing over half of their retail outlets, as they did back in 1996, they can — it is to be hoped — stand losing a lot of customers. Of course there will be pain and suffering. And a lot of bit players are going to exit, stage right. I’m hearing quite a few names being tossed about of companies who are circling the drain. I won’t add to their woes by speculating, but it’s probably the ones you can guess.

This week had been so draining — and the clamor of expert voices is so cacophonous — that I can’t tell if what I’ve just written is too gloomy or too optimistic. Or whether I’ve said anything at all. Time to retrench and ask questions, I think. To be continued.

gold diggers of 1933 joan blondell When will the axe fall on comics?

[Above: Joan Blondell in the Busby Berkeley number "We're in the Money" from GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933.]

Comments

  1. The mess we’re in right now wasn’t caused by just people with bad credit getting mortgages they can’t afford. The people that got subprime loans make up only a small percentage of existing mortgages. The problem is that everyone was getting mortgages they couldn’t afford, not just people with poor credit. Too many people went into these loans thinking they would only live in the home for a couple of years and then they would turn around and sell the home for more money.

    Too many people got interest -only loans or loans with an adjustable rate. By the time the rate was scheduled to increase to something much larger – and something totally unaffordable – the plan would be to sell the home and get something new. The problem is, when many of these adjustable rate loans morphed into something that was much higher, the real estate market plummeted. Not only was the home not worth more than what the buyer bought it at, it was worth far, far less. This meant they couldn’t sell the house. It also meant they couldn’t get a new loan with a fixed rate for more than what the home was currently valued at. This is called “being under water”. People realized that it would be much cheaper to just walk away and let the home go into foreclosure.

    It was only a matter of time before the real estate market tanked. For far too long the price of homes has risen while wages have remained stagnant. Historically, any time median home prices do not match the increase in median income, there will be a housing bubble. If people were living in homes they planned on living in for the next 30 years with fixed mortgages, it wouldn’t really matter.

  2. My consumption of comics and comic journals is inelastic to a large extent. If I want one, I will forgo purchasing a few coffees, or a magazine. Or I’ll skip seeing a movie.
    It is not related to the perception that the global economy is going through a cyclical retraction, or that the Canadian government is experiencing upheaval this week.

  3. It never hurts to be optimistic, Heidi. Being gloomy means we’re not even going to try to make things better, and yes, it truly is in all of our hands, how things will all turn out. To be optimistic means that we have made a resolve to get through this. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired of spending my very limited time and energy, worrying about when I’m going to be crushed under the wheel of hard times. I feel like everywhere I turn, that’s what people, the press, friends, family, and politicians want me to focus on. Gloom, means we’re not even going to try. How about finding ways of making things better? It’s not beyond us. I’m not saying any one of us has the solution, but I’m a firm believer that if you can find the good in any situation, you can nurture that situation’s positive aspects into being dominant. I know. I know. “Tell me where the good is in all of this.” someone will say. Well, if that someone is going to come at it with retorts like that, then they’re part of the problem, and should just hold their lips shut, and smile warmly at their friends. Happiness is catching, you know, as much as fear. My friends, turn off the news for a day and get out there. You will find that sunlight and fresh are will show you that the days ahead can still be bright. Easy? No. Nothing ever comes easy, but cower under the shadow of gloom, and you might as well be putting your head on the chopping block. Wasn’t it in Dune that they said, “Fear is the mind killer.”? Well, I will fear no evil. This chicken still has his head on, and he will stand with both feet planted firmly on the ground, and face the foxes down, no matter how mean they flash their dark and merciless eyes at me. Am I crazy for thinking this way? I’m I even crazier for posting it here. Maybe, but I’m going to see brighter days. That is my promise to myself, and if you promise yourself that as well, you will be taking the first steps to making it true. So, chin up people. Things are going to be okay. My love and blessings to all of you.

  4. Charles Knight says:

    I see a boom time for DC++ and the pirates – that’s about it.

    Xmas is going to absolutely terrible and that’s where the crunch is going to come for comicbooks in the mainstream, where before it was *really* hard to get shelf space for your venture, now it’s going to be *really really really hard*.

  5. Damn… The Des Moines Register is a statewide newspaper, and I remember reading Brian Duffy’s and Frank Andrea Miller’s cartoons during the summers I spent in Iowa. That paper has run cartoons on the front page since 1906, and of the three cartoonists (Duffy, Miller, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling), two won Pulitzer Prizes (1924, 1943, 1963). The Register is a great newspaper, but less so with this news.

    Now, regarding the Doom and Gloom (ooh… good names for villains!) you mentioned. Much of the incredible economic stimulus of the 1990s was generated by the Internet and increased productivity from companies implementing IT departments. (This created a lot of RIFs early in the decade.) I think something similar will happen when comicbook publishers successfully figure out how to make money off of digital comics. What is happening now is very similar to the initial experiments Marvel and DC initiated with Direct Market-only titles in the mid-1980s. The Direct Market saved the industry, and allowed for greater diversity by placing all the risk on the retailer and not the publisher. Of course, the DM started to implode as the system was exploited, but thankfully, the perfect storm of Pokemon and bookstore distribution saved the industry while also creating an influx of new readers. (Manga is to comics as Star Trek is to science fiction. Both inspired an influx of female fans into a previously male subculture.)

    The Internet has a low cost of production. Profitability is currently a huge question mark. However, the potential is amazingly huge. (I predict that webcomics will follow the example of syndicated comicstrips currently online. Websites will not have an exclusive on presentation, although one might pay to present the strip a week before other venues. Subscribers to the artist’s/publisher’s website might subscribe to get the strip delivered before it is posted to websites. Comics could be indexed on search engines, showing a small thumbnail or a few panels, with high-resolution images available for download, or viewing online with a subscription, much like a social or membership library.

    It all started with drawing pictures on cave walls (and probably lines in the dirt before that). Even if comics go the way of penny dreadfuls and anthology magazines, there will still be people creating comics. So cheer up, bucko! Big companies have gone bust in the past (Charlton, Harvey) and they’ll go bust in the future. The medium endures.

    (And jumping jiminy, remember when there were no comicbook stores? Remember visiting every spinner rack to find the latest issue? Remember walking into a bookstore, and seeing a paltry few titles in the Humor or Science Fiction sections? Remember when the only hardcover editions were costly signed-and-numbered limited editions? Remember the few newspaper articles, almost all of which started with “Pow! Bam!”? We’re living in an ever-loving-RENAISSANCE! Old stuff is getting rediscovered and influencing the new breed! Technology is encouraging cross-pollenization with other media! And it’s now “cool” to be a comicbook fan! *sniff* (sorry… allergies are acting up again…)

  6. jimmy palmiotti says:

    I hope people will start to focus on what they have, how to stretch their income and stay positive. I personally think companies are in a panic on some levels…and honestly, corporations have been making so much money for so long, they should have planned better for times like this. I have friends in a panic and am trying to help them best i can by pushing forward and staying positive and lending a hand when needed.

    comics will keep their audience, but people will only buy what they really want to read and all that spending on random titles will become more fine tuned. the days of buying only one company are long gone. I go by the writer and artist, then the character. I know i am not like most.

    personally, i am spending all my gift money only in comic shops this year and in the supermarket. thats it, they are getting it all.

    and now christmas cards are going to be phone calls.

  7. Oh, by the way, Publishers Weekly reports that Bookscan reports that this Thanksgiving week was better than last year’s by 6%.

    Kinda ironic how the housing market is repeating the same economic lesson that comics fans learned during the speculation bubble. (Irony… that’s when the joke’s on you, and you laugh and cry at the same time.)

  8. I read somewhere that during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when folks couldn’t afford jack, people relied on entertainment. I think Hallmark Cards were the biggest selling items because people wanted to engender hope and a smile.

    While modern folks figure out how to pay off car and house loans and put a damper on bigger investments, I believe entertainment will thrive. The internet will provide great escape and publishing will cut the fat [maybe we won't have a predicted "graphic novel glut" -- which is a good thing].

    People still need movies, music, theater, books, and comix. It’s how we cope and thrive. It’s how we survive turmoil and it’s in our our culture and our blood to entertain and consume no matter the cost.

    Let’s just keep our costs managable and we’ll be okay.

  9. I think Jimmy has the right idea to try to stay optimistic in light of hard times and live lean. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. But I also agree that publishers are panicking due to the current economic crisis. [I didn't mean to use the word 'crisis' sorry]. Let’s hope things turn around and the new year starts off right.

  10. “…a massive consolidation at Random House that left, among others, “The Da Vinci Code” publisher Steve Rubin without a job”

    See. There’s a silver-lining in everything, if you look hard enough.

    Comics will survive this. However, like everything else, they’re going to take a beating. Raising the cover price another $1 is not going to help & it couldn’t come at a worse time. *Lowering* the price another buck with the announcement that mainstream books are going back to a cheaper paper stock & perhaps two pages less story might have gone over far better. Expect a move in that general direction should sales take another sharp plummet.

    “…the days of buying only one company are long gone. I go by the writer and artist, then the character. I know i am not like most.”

    How much better off the industry & its audience would be if more readers had the same basic philosophy.

  11. R. Maheras says:

    Personally, I don’t see how the current business model in comics can be sustained as circulations keep dipping.

    There are more titles being published than ever before, and more people working in the industry than ever before, but the ratio of copies sold per title published is probably the lowest it’s ever been. In short, despite all the new technology that the industry has taken advantage of in the past 15-20 years, overall productivity might be lower than ever.

    Think about it, using Marvel as an example. In 1968, Marvel was publishing about 20-odd titles, and their monthly sales were averaging about nine million comics per month. They had a permanent staff of under 10 people, and had a stable of about 20 free-lancers.

    Today, Marvel publishes 35-odd titles a month, sells only about a third as many comics per month as they did in 1968, and employs probably 100 or more permanent employees and free-lancers.

    Like any business, it’s tough to make money when costs are high and sales are low.

  12. Alan Coil says:

    I think Rick Rottman has perfectly described what happens when a pyramid scheme collapses.
    =====
    I can’t predict what the comic book market will do in the next few months, but I worry that Marvel is putting out too much of the same thing every month. In most recent months, they put out over 100 new titles in addition to all the other things they make, like posters, busts, Masterworks editions, trade paperback reprints, hardcover reprints, etc.

    DC, on the other hand, may have already seen its customers backing off from purchases in recent months. I think DC readers tend to be more conservative financially. DC publishes maybe a few too many superhero books every month, but they also publish 10 different children’s books and several Vertigo titles.

  13. Non-comics (or vaguely-comics) publishers cutting back means less competition and more shelf space for comics in bookstores.

    Also, during times like these, people tend to like faux investments — things they can dabble in cheaply with the thought that they’re trying to make money. We’re certainly not going to see the madness of 1993 again, with people buying a part of a multi-million-copy print run in the hope that they’ll be scarce.

    Will there be comics companies failing? Yes. When hasn’t there been companies failing? So many companies, there will always be ones taking wrong steps, and having to cut back, or entering the field with the assumption that if Marvel and DC can make it, then a company that really understands pop culture should find it easy to take over…

    So are comics immune? Not necessarily. But the surest way to court disaster is to assume disaster.

  14. john layman says:

    Great blog post, Heidi

  15. Brian says:

    The publishing issue is reaching pretty wide. I’m the Art Director at a studio who the big textbook publishers contract to illustrate and compose college textbooks, and we’re getting less work than we were a few years back when I started. Less manuscripts are being commissioned and I’m seeing a lot more ‘retirements’ at the publishing end. Couple that with the increasing trend toward outsourcing to cheaper studios overseas and more frugal designs, and that’s another segment of the market being hit.

    Of course, much like with comics, the prices for textbooks aren’t budging (not that anyone at my level sees that money) — as a student at night, I can’t help but laugh at paying big money for the same sort of books I have to work so hard to get the pay us for during the day. :)

  16. The Beat says:

    Rick: well, I never said I understood economics. Thanks for your explanations!

  17. I think this economic bust has excelerated what was inevitable for a lot of the industries that are in jeapordy. A lot of these companies, especially print and auto, would probably have faced the same problems they face now over the next ten years. The lack of available credit has forced them to face future realities today. The American auto industry has been in a tailspin long before this financial crisis. And print media was declared dead over 15 years ago.

    While I, like just about every other person would have prefer not to have to deal with the economic massacre we are facing, I think in the end it will force a lot of people to do things in a smarter fashion.

    While price might be the largest factor for most consumers going forward, I think quality of product, whether it be the content of a comic or the manufacturing of a car, will be a major purchasing factor. There is no such thing as disposable income anymore.

  18. Brian says:

    Heidi, great article. It’s not the end of the world, and a wise person once told me, “when a door closes, a window opens.”

    To Jimmy, sing it brother!

    Cheers,

    B

  19. The signs were there, we were too busy enjoying the party. Quebecor World and their publishing woes was the first big sign and still going on. Gasoline prices were the second. Just before the great depression, there was plenty for all. Most were living like kings at the expense of the middle class, till the bottom fell out. People will have to ration and cut from the fat. Comics have to reinvent themselves. Hollywood saved them for now but for how much longer. Time to weed out the abundance and collect the better stuff. Too many people got on the gravy train. Time to unload the caboose and admit that we are in a depression created by government greed all around the world.

  20. ChaosMcKenzie says:

    Thanks for this Heidi, it was my favorite report on the economic crisis that I’ve read! Err… maybe that sounds weird.

    Anyhow… some comic shops are feeling it, I was laid off from my position at one of Canada’s big ones. But I don’t expect comic to feel it too bad, I mean if anything since being unemployed, but desire to read something every wednesday is doubled. The more bleak things may become, the more I’m gonna want Evil Villains controlling the multi-vortex of realities while awaiting the return of so and so… to take my mind off things.

  21. ChaosMcKenzie says:

    Thanks for this Heidi, it was my favorite report on the economic crisis that I’ve read! Err… maybe that sounds weird.

    Anyhow… some comic shops are feeling it, I was laid off from my position at one of Canada’s big ones. But I don’t expect comic to feel it too bad, I mean if anything since being unemployed, but desire to read something every wednesday is doubled. The more bleak things may become, the more I’m gonna want Evil Villains controlling the multi-vortex of realities while awaiting the return of so and so… to take my mind off things.

    Jimmy… when am I gonna get some Power Girl?

  22. Katie Moody says:

    I do wonder if we’ll be seeing tariffs on imports in the coming years. That would reduce the profitability of printing in China or Hong Kong (or even Canada), and would definitely affect the bottom line.

  23. mark coale says:

    Since Jimmy neglected to say it:

    What better Xmas gift to give loved ones than a Jonah Hex TPB?

  24. “People still need movies, music, theater, books, and comix. It’s how we cope and thrive. It’s how we survive turmoil and it’s in our our culture and our blood to entertain and consume no matter the cost.”

    That’s why they cost so bloody much in the first place.

    It’s amazing how many people are not smart with their money. It’s even more amazing how many companies are not smart with the money that smart people gave them to do things with to make more money.

    The rich people in this country are bordering on aristocracy, and it’s about time that they come down and face the guillotine (figuratively speaking, of course).

  25. Uh… Nat… hate to sound pessimistic…

    Bookstores are cutting back on everything. In Barnes & Noble’s recent Third Quarter report, they announced that they had reduced inventories by $107 million compared to last year. Stores are ordering fewer titles, fewer copies, and tightening criteria used to determine if the books IN the stores are selling or should be returned. (Stores are taxed on inventory.) This means that initial orders on titles might not justify a printing. (Unproven manga titles usually start with a print run of 10,000 copies.)

    Remember, bookstores use a RETURNABLE sales model. The Direct Market is NON-RETURNABLE. A publisher is less likely to print a title if half of the copies get returned. This means new talent is less likely to be published, since the returns will be greater than a proven title AND the initial orders will be fewer, making the economics unfeasible.

    But… librarians love us, and the cool ones paraphrase the Furry Freak Brothers. (Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.) Educators realize that comics are a gateway drug for the reluctant reader. Almost every trade publisher has book trade distribution, making it easier for people to buy comics. Movies based on comicbooks and graphic novels promote the medium and encourage more sales. There are Pulitzers and Hugos and World Fantasy Awards, and at least one Nobel Laureate has written a graphic novel. Academics are teaching courses based on comics, thesis are being written and published, university libraries are creating special collections, and university presses are publishing critical overviews. Kids today don’t have to deal with comics stigma, because everybody reads comics now.

    Maybe I’ve read too many Uncle Scrooge comics. Maybe I’m deluding myself. Maybe… but I’m gonna dance and laugh and enjoy everything I can, while I can.

  26. The only hope I’ve got left to overcome this stupid recession is to win the goddamn California Lottery – and maybe then will I be able to afford a lousy $2.95 comic book.

    ~

    Coat

  27. “Remember, bookstores use a RETURNABLE sales model. The Direct Market is NON-RETURNABLE. A publisher is less likely to print a title if half of the copies get returned.”

    Which is exactly why the comics publishers are in a stronger position than non-comics publishers (at least those that aim primarily at the bookstore) at this point. Because we can create materials that depend less on the returnable market and take advantage of the non-returnable market, it continues to be worthwhile to produce materials. The bookstores may be stocking their shelves a mite lighter these days, but the non-comics publishers are gearing up (well, down) to making it easier to do so by offering less product. By being folks that continue to produce new product during these trying times, we are better situated to get what slots are still available.

    This plays better for the DM-heavy companies than for the manga companies, which find their sales ratios leaning much more heavily to the returnable market, of course.

  28. Any post that includes a pre-Code Joan Blondell can’t be entirely depressing.

  29. Well, comics have been lucky so far. I think at the heart of it, Jimmy has the key: if we love this medium enough to fight for its existence, we have to find a way to make it work. What does that mean in toughening economic times? Adapting. I’m talking w/ my Diamond rep about what sorts of things are selling; I’m online doin’ overtime, hypin’, bloggin’, putting things on our online store on sale. I have the great good fortune to have one of the most talented artists in the biz, to work with, so that helps a lot.

    We have to figure out both how to deliver quality art, in some comics form, to the readers who we know are still out there, & still love it. For some of us, that’s gonna mean both working with Diamond (returnable market), because they are what we have, in terms of distrbution. But it’s not enough. There’s also building up your own direct order online store..doing smaller, store signings to places you can drive to..we’re going to have to learn to be more fluid in how we market things too, us indie/medium-sized outfits especially.

    I’m very concerned about there being fewer publishers, especially when it seemed to me graphic novels finally seemed to be getting decent shelving in my local bookstores.

    Lastly, everyone’s getting homemade jam & comic books for Christmas, that’s right. Traditionally I give away a few copies of “Stuck Rubber Baby” & “Fun Home” to folks I think will appreciate them. Or a sexy Dawn mousepad, or Dark Ivory magnet..but like I said, I’m a lucky girl.

  30. Scott H. says:

    My quick 2 cents. When comics hit 3.99, I’m done. They wont be gone completely, there’s still half price books and dollar bins, but my days of heading to the shop on Wednesday to pick up my stack will be over, after 25 years of enjoying new books.

    I’m not going whine and complain, I’m just going to go quietly into the night. Comics have priced me out. To those who can still afford and justify them, enjoy, I however, will be on the sidelines.

  31. Well, comics grew out of the Great Depression, but 10 cents an issue made it easier to have a Golden Age. While a single comic is still cheaper than a book, a movie, or most other magazines, we clearly need to figure out how to make them cheaper again. Paper quality is the first thing that springs to mind.

    Frankly, I’m in the same boat as Al. I’ve already pretty much stopped going to movies and eating out so I can maintain my comics reading. All I ask is that the companies give me the best possible product they can.

    Meanwhile, we need to be creative about expanding the market– comics already in bookstores, where they have to compete with all the other books. Why not get, say, Sandman and Fables into Hot Topic? Y the Last Man and Watchmen at Starbucks? Marvel Adventures and Johnny DC in toy stores? Minx might have been more successful if they’d been stocked at Claire’s. You’ve got to surround potential consumers with your product; as far as I’m concerned, every other store in the mall should have some comics in it. There’s interest. Nowadays, more people are genuinely curious about comics than ever, but they don’t know where to start. So why not help them out and get comics they’d probably like into their favorite stores?

    OK, kinda went on a tangent there, but basically agree with everyone else. Comics are probably safer than most industries because we’re so dedicated to them, but we should still be on our guard.

  32. jacob lyon goddard says:

    i’m hoping this will be a chance to clear out some of the dead wood at a time when comics are finally starting to regain their visablity (allbeit under a different light).
    i think people will keep buying good comics. the ones that will suffer the most are the bad, or worse disposable, comics out there.

    Drawn & Quarterly will be fine. BOOM! studios….maybe not

    i’m sure there’ll be some control fires on the publishing end at the grindhouses like Marvel and DC; but, if the current status of my still on pre-order of Kramers Ergot 7 at Amazon is any indicator, the members of the creative boom the medium has experienced over the last 10 years or so will continue to do okay.

    not that any of them ever expected to make a living off of this silliness we call comics anyway.

  33. Alan Coil says:

    Has Kramer’s Ergot 7 sold out? I heard it was out, but your post seems to say it is on back order at Amazon.

  34. “i think people will keep buying good comics. the ones that will suffer the most are the bad, or worse disposable, comics out there. ”

    That’s highly optimistic. Besides, who gets to decide what’s “good”? Sometimes utter crap is obvious, but just because one person or one million people don’t like a book doesn’t make it automatically bad. It’s like television shows in a way. It’s not always the bad shows which get canned. It’s not always the good shows that last the longest. There’s a mix, and sadly some of the best shows get cancelled for one reason or another while Dancing with the Stars and American Idol reap the rewards of mindless entertainment.

    Testament, American Virgin, and Exterminators were all good books, and they were all cancelled way before the recent financial implosion. I think I’m down to 5 books a month. None of which are Marvel/DC product, and one of which is from Boom! (I only mention because they were named in the thread) I wish they were all limited series so I could go down to 0 books per month, honestly. However, I will never stop reading comics.

    Now is the time to launch the digital distribution initiatives you’ve all been working on. If people have to start cutting back but still want to read those comics, they’re going to heavily seek out free and immediate ways to do so. Unofficial downloading sites are going to look more and more appealing, and your revenue is going decrease as torrent traffic increases. If you offer this stuff for download NOW, then they can take preemptive measures before being forced to drop titles. Measures such as dropping two print titles to pick up 3 digital titles for the price of 1 of the titles they just dropped. Publishers still get money and keep customers, and the readers have options where they would have normally had tough decisions and the hassle of trying to find an alternative free method to get what they want anyway. Everybody wins. Except retailers, and that’s where the roadblocks lie. So clear them by creating a single online shop for ALL publishers (like itunes), and make the retailers the only place where you can buy and/or refill the credits or money the the download account and give the retailers bonuses or kickbacks for every new sale or refill.

    Crazy talk, I know, and I only buy 5 comics a month. Sometimes I feel like my comics purchases are indirectly proportional to how much I give a shit about comics in general.

  35. jacob lyon goddard says:

    the copy of KE7 that i ordered in May from Amazon has been delayed, without a reason given.
    i know other retailers have it in stock (last i checked).

    and i thought volumes 3 & 4 were hard to get….

  36. jacob lyon goddard says:

    ““i think people will keep buying good comics. the ones that will suffer the most are the bad, or worse disposable, comics out there. ”

    That’s highly optimistic. Besides, who gets to decide what’s “good”? Sometimes utter crap is obvious, but just because one person or one million people don’t like a book doesn’t make it automatically bad. It’s like television shows in a way. It’s not always the bad shows which get canned. It’s not always the good shows that last the longest. There’s a mix, and sadly some of the best shows get cancelled for one reason or another while Dancing with the Stars and American Idol reap the rewards of mindless entertainment.

    Testament, American Virgin, and Exterminators were all good books, and they were all cancelled way before the recent financial implosion. I think I’m down to 5 books a month. None of which are Marvel/DC product, and one of which is from Boom! (I only mention because they were named in the thread) I wish they were all limited series so I could go down to 0 books per month, honestly. However, I will never stop reading comics. ”

    my qualifier for “good” vs “bad/disposable” was based on mainstream critical response from the outside world as opposed to comic fan loyality or speculation.

    also bare in mind that Adhouse and DC/Vertigo have very different ideas of what makes a comic book successful or even profitable
    i don’t have any hard numbers, but i’m willing to bet that American Virgin moved significantly more copies than Skyscrapers of the Midwest; both in individual issues and in collected formats.

  37. “mainstream critical response from the outside world as opposed to comic fan loyality or speculation.”

    It doesn’t really matter how you define it or how anyone feels–including critics in the outside world–about any particular comic. It’ll get cancelled based on a single solitary reason–profitability. From your reply, this isn’t a foreign concept to you.

    I was just commenting on the optimism of your statement…at first, anyway. How one defines the terms “good” and “bad” is irrelevant. One person’s Casablanca is another person’s cheesy black and white chick flick. The comments of two little blog responders don’t amount to a hill of beans in the world of comics. Good comics WILL get cancelled. Bad comics WILL continue ad infinitum. It’s just the way of things. Whether it’s a comic that the guy with 100 long boxes and a serious habit thinks is the greatest ever or the comic that the most respected comic book reviewer on the planet–comics’ Roger Ebert, whoever that may be–thinks is the greatest comic ever, it’ll get cancelled. Hence the all-too-frequently used phrase “Brilliant, but cancelled.”

    So, blah blah blah, all I’m saying after way too many words is “thanks for defining your parameters, but it wasn’t necessary because it doesn’t matter.” Sorry.

    I rant, therefore I am.

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