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Monday, 1 August 2016

This Is Either The Worst News For Comics Or I Am 100% Wrong. I HOPE I Am Wrong.

I  know this is a long post but I think it needs reading.  Personally, I would be happy if I was 100% wrong.  Sadly, all the evidence is there.

I'll start with a follow-up of sorts on the whole comic shop issue.

First of all a member of the You Tube Comic Book Community, Lahrasa, and the important part is at the beginning where she notes, like many others, the increase in comic costs and the need to really thin out her pull list.


The next is from long time comic fan and also a member of the You Tube CBC, Howlermouse. If you want to just cut along to 26m 40secs in and you will hear him confirm what I have been saying and writing about -even newer issues being dumped in $ bins or selling for 75c.


I noted previously, that a good few bloggers were noting how stores were literally giving customers new comics they could not sell -"If you enjoy and wanna give a few cents towards it...." and it seems that Marvel Comics are the ones very noticably being dumped, given away or simply gathering dust in old boxes.  Yes, Marvel Comics.  DC is not doing great  but they are trying the Marvel trick of taking a character and using it to death -right now that is Harley Quin (apparently she's in some new movie?). But DC sales are not great.

This tells you how the slump WAS affecting me:

Here is today's sales page:

 


But remember I posted about the fact that people were buying 160-200 comics in a box for a very low price?


I even wrote a piece about how those in UK comics helped in their own demise -something US companies are doing right now:

And then there was this epic posting.  Stephenson was as false as everyone else running comic companies from owners through to editorial staff.  He pointed all of this out and those at DC, Marvel and that other company all know this.  So why haven't they taken steps?

I'll get into that after this:

Stephenson and Image Comics, Comic Stores and Diversification.
On the 21st February I posted this:

Image Comics Publisher Speaks. Tears Roll Down My Cheeks.

 Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson, ,  gave a little speech to  retailers at last Friday's ComicsPRO's annual membership meeting.  I had seen this but paid it no attention as I assumed it was a joke item.  However, I'd like to thank Tim for sending me the piece on Newsarama http://www.newsarama.com/28069-image-publishr-talks-at-comics-pro.html

It is serious, apparently and Stephenson was calling out recent trends by publishers -which included Image itself (I almost swooned) and retailers as damaging to the industry.

The publisher shared a transcript of that speech:
 
"I'd like to talk about the future, but first, we're going to do some time travel, back to a time when there was no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. A time when there were no comic book stores.

No one here was in this business in the 1950s, but by all accounts, it was a bleak time for comics. Our industry was barely two decades old, yet it was on the brink of collapse.

Political posturing had rendered one of comics' most vital creative forces – EC Comics – all but mute.

Crime and horror comics had been neutered by the Comics Code and for all intents and purposes were dead – shot by their own gun. Comics bowed to outside pressure and erected a self-regulating ratings system that all but outlawed any type of content that might appeal to older readers. Comics were for kids, after all, but even superheroes, so popular during the Second World War, were a faltering concern.

Martin Goodman's comic book imprint, then known as Atlas, was making due selling monster comics, but by the early '60s, things were looking grim. You have to look into the darkness to see the light, though, and it was in those dark times that comics found renewed hope.

Maybe something was in the air back then, because the same time that gave us The Beatles and Bob Dylan gave us what we now know as the Marvel Universe.

The Fantastic Four. Spider-Man. The Incredible Hulk. The Avengers.

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and all the amazing artists that worked alongside them inspired a generation of readers with their work and in doing so, turned Marvel Comics into a towering monolith amid a teetering industry. DC Comics, already well-known for Superman, Batman, and the Justice League was reinvigorated as well, and without much exaggeration, it can be said that superheroes saved comics.
But fast forward to the 1970s.

Comics boomed for a decade, but as the ‘60s receded into memory, so too did the excitement that had grown around comics. Jack Kirby left Marvel for DC. Superheroes began to struggle against the constraints of the Comics Code. Underground comics and black and white magazines like National Lampoon and Warren’s Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella highlighted the restlessness of a medium eager to grow.

But the newsstands that had long served as comics’ primary sales outlet began their long goodbye, with inexpensively priced comic books first to go as every and all attempt was made to increase profits whilst consolidating space.

Writers and artists entering the industry then were routinely assured the business was on its last legs. Comics were doomed.

All comics were returnable then, and returned they were, in droves. Often, comics didn’t even make it out of the warehouse, resulting in regional scarcity that heightened the value of comics on the growing collector’s market.

In the interest of time, I’m going to gloss over some facts here, but it was at that point Phil Seuling began laying the foundation for the Direct Market.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took years for small used bookstores and head shops to gradually evolve into bonafide comic book stores, but by the end of the ‘70s, there was a system in place and the market as we know it today was in its infancy.

Comics prospered as a result, and it wasn't just the usual suspects like Marvel and DC.

The undergrounds matured into independent comics, and we got Cerebus and Elfquest.

We got Love & Rockets, American Flagg, and Nexus. First Comics. Pacific Comics. Eclipse. Kitchen Sink. That old master, Will Eisner, unleashed a steady stream of graphic novels that challenged the perception of what comics could and should be, and from the late ‘70s through the 1980s and beyond, comics exploded with creativity.

But fast forward again, this time to the mid-‘90s.

Comics had gained a bit of respect at this point.

Thanks to the talents of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, Garth Ennis, the Hernandez Brothers, and Neil Gaiman, the world was starting to pay attention. Comics weren't just kids stuff.

But there were problems, too. Black and white indie comics boomed – then crashed – and in doing so, underscored a penchant for short-sighted greed that has ebbed and flowed in our marketplace for decades.
And it definitely flowed in the 1990s.

Just as it seemed that comics were bound for the kind of cultural legitimacy that eluded the art form when mature content was foolishly abandoned with the sudden death of EC Comics in the ‘50s, the market gave in to its most craven impulses. The unprecedented level of creativity that ushered in one of comics' most prosperous periods gave way to gimmicks.

There were more comic book stores than ever, and there were more comics, too.

Too many comics, with too many covers.

Variant covers. Foil covers. Hologram covers. Embossed covers. Die-cut covers. Gatefold covers. Glow in the dark covers.

Comics were polybagged, comics were commoditized, and comics were hoarded as speculation ran rampant.

Comics were shipped late, and sometimes not at all, as publishers of all breeds galloped ever onward, with little regard for their readers and next to no respect for retailers.

Heroes died, and heroes were reborn. Titles were canceled, and titles were relaunched and renumbered.

The market expanded.

And then it collapsed.

Stores went out of business.

A textbook example of both short-term thinking and extreme hubris resulted in an almost lethal blow to the Direct Market’s distribution system, effectively leaving only Diamond Comics Distributors standing.

More stores went under, with the number of Direct Market retail accounts plummeting to a small fraction of a total that once topped 10,000 – losses that, to date, are far from being recovered.

Marvel filed for bankruptcy.

That was less than 20 years ago, but let’s fast forward again, to the earliest part of this century.

Thanks to Joe Quesada, and Bill Jemas, Marvel Comics was on its feet again. Thanks to the careful oversight of Paul Levitz and Bob Wayne, DC tied together past and present successes alike to build an impressive and sustainable backlist program that in many ways remains the industry standard.

And thanks to the creative vision of as varied a bunch as Craig Thompson, Marjane Satrapi, Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis, Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, and once again, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Frank Miller, as well as a growing influx of Manga titles too numerous to list, the comics industry found its spine.

For the first time since the days of the newsstands, it embraced a broad, general audience in a true sense, and comics flourished again.

Things didn’t get better immediately, but the market stabilized, and then the market began to grow. Better still, it began to grow in new and different ways.

New voices sounded the call for new audiences:
Jeff Smith. Brian K. Vaughan. Gail Simone. Jill Thompson. Bryan Lee O’Malley. Alison Bechdel. Robert Kirkman. Jeff Kinney.

As the types of content comics offered expanded, the entire appearance of the market changed.
And here we are today.

Where once comics were summarily dismissed as light entertainment for adolescent boys, there are now comics for everyone by everyone.

In many ways, there has never been a better time to read comics, but as the story goes, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

A colleague of mine recently said, "I've literally never liked working in comics less."

He is not alone.

Over the past few months, and increasingly since the beginning of this year, I have heard similar comments from all corners of this industry. Writers. Artists. Retailers. People are worried about the future.
Again.

Not because we're floundering creatively.

You can’t lament the creative health of a marketplace filled with talent like Jillian & Mariko Tamaki, Raina Telgemeier, Jeff Lemire, Nate Powell, Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Jason Aaron, Marjorie Liu, Julia Wertz, Ron Wimberly, Matt Fraction, Ed Piskor, Fiona Staples, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Snyder, Rick Remender, Erika Moen, Ming Doyle, and the many, many, many other creators who have made modern comics the vibrant experience it is today.

No, people are worried because we are once again falling victim to our worst instincts. We are letting short-term thinking dictate our future plans. We are letting greed guide our way.

Here's another dog-eared quote:
"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

We've outlived the Comics Code, we've outlived the newsstands, we've grown up – but for all the lessons we've learned along the way, we somehow still can't bring ourselves to think responsibly about the future.
We worry too much about what we don't have instead of focusing on what we've got, and we keep marketing the fear of missing out as excitement.

So we've gone back to gimmicks, to variant covers and relaunches and reboots and more of the same old stunts disguised as events, when really all our readers want are good stories.

 We're giving them great jumping on points over and over again, but it's becoming so commonplace our audience instead sees them as opportunities to cut and run. We are misinterpreting sales spikes for long-term success, and worst of all, we are spending so much time looking at how to keep going that we've lost sight of where we were heading in the first place.

And when I say "we," I speak not just of publishers, or of retailers, but creators as well.

We are, sadly, all at fault.

But happily, we are all in this together.

So here's the good news:
It doesn't have to be this way.

We come to ComicsPRO each year, and to Diamond’s Retailer Summits, to exchange ideas about how to make the market better. Publishers come here for feedback from their retailer partners, and retailers attend to learn from one another. More recently, creators have been welcomed to engage in the discussion, as well they should – they’re as much a part of our industry’s infrastructure as anyone else, arguably the most vital part.

We all want advice on how to make the comics industry the best it can possibly be, so I hope what I have to say next is taken in that spirit.

We need to stop.

If you – if any of us – are putting short-term needs ahead of long-term thinking: Stop.

Stop stunting your own growth by doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Stop being so beholden to the past – to past victories, past mistakes.

Stop revelling in nostalgia for a time long gone by. Creatively, the golden age of comics is now – let’s save our nostalgia for today.

If you are a retailer ordering more copies of a comic than you can sell simply to qualify for a variant incentive: Stop.

Variants don’t build a lasting readership on the books you’re trying to sell. At best, they pay short-term dividends; at worst, they deprive fans of something that is limited in nature. All comics should be for everyone. Not just collectors. Not just whoever has the most cash on hand.

By the same token, if you are a publisher trying to force your comics into the marketplace with exclusive variants retailers can only order by irresponsibly increasing their orders: Stop.

You’re getting a short-term sales boost at best, and you don’t benefit from stacks of unsold books cluttering up the stands or being shoved into dollar boxes.

And really, what do any of us gain by spamming LootCrate customers with copies of a book that will be selling a fraction of its first issue total when #2 ships, other than market share? We’ve all played that game, and without a clear marketing plan for how to convert those blind box copies to real sales, to real readers, it gets us nowhere. Stop.

Likewise, if you are a publisher putting out too many comics: Stop.

It’s a crowded marketplace.

It’s getting more crowded by the week. We’ve all put out books we felt deserved a better response than they received, good books — great books, even — and they are getting lost. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. None of us are immune to this, so just stop.

And start giving more consideration to what the market really needs. Look at what’s out there, what niche is already being filled.

I’ve been turning down zombie pitches for years, but now, I’m turning down sci-fi pitches. I’m turning down horror pitches. Crime pitches. Anything we already have in abundance. Unless there’s something truly remarkable about those kinds of comics, the market is filled with them already. There are other seams to work. Now is the time to start digging deeper.

If you are a creator – a writer, an artist, both – the legends of yesteryear have done their work. For decades now, we’ve all been standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s time to stop. Let them have their rest. Now is the time to create new characters, to explore new worlds, to tell new stories. Our industry – our medium – has a long and magnificent history, but the past isn’t going anywhere. The future is an open road.

Look at the success of Jessica Jones and The Walking Dead. Look at Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’s Kingsmen. Or Phoebe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl. All ideas from this century that inspire genuine excitement.

The whole reason the entertainment industry is currently so besotted with comics is because we have traditionally been a wellspring of new creativity. Stop acting like interchangeable brand managers and create.

And if you are a publisher trying to shore up your numbers by releasing more than one issue of a single title a month: Stop.

It’s makes it next to impossible for retailers to accurately track sales, it puts undue pressure on even your most loyal fans, and it deprives writers and artists of the ability to do their best work. In fact, it all but robs artists of the ability to establish the kind of multi-issue runs that define long and illustrious careers.

 It’s up to you – the retailers – to be more vocal about how these practices affect them. Idle grumbling will change nothing – and there is no actual benefit to suffering in silence. Start saying when enough is enough.

It’s also time for retailers, no matter how new you are to running a store or how long you’ve been at this, to start taking a closer look at the wide variety of comics on the market today. It is unconscionable for any store owner to say they are too busy to read comics. We are all busy. Every day, all day. It’s part of the job.

When creators ask me what kind of comics we’re looking for, I tell them to do whatever they are burning to do, because if they’re passionate about their work, it will show. We are all part of the same eco-system, and the same applies to you. It’s sales 101. If you know your product, you’re going to have more success selling it.

Want proof? The Valkyries.

There’s a not a publisher in this room that hasn’t benefited from the hard-working support of The Valkyries, of women all over the country enthusiastically handselling comics and graphic novels they read and love.

Start reading comics. You’ll sell more of them.

The same goes for publishers. Read your own comics.

I read as many of our books as I can. Sometimes I don’t like what I read. Sometimes the pitch is better than the finished product. You can’t win ‘em all, but you learn something by reading what you publish, even if it’s what mistakes to avoid in the future.

We all make mistakes, but the biggest problem we have right now, something too many of us suffer from right now in 2016, is unbridled self-interest.For better or worse, though, we are all inexorably linked in a market that is almost completely unique – creators, publishers, retailers, distributors.

The Direct Market was a brilliant idea that saved comics from near extinction, but today it is virtually the last bastion of independent, owner-operated entertainment retailing. Over the years, the Direct Market has provided a birthing place for unprecedented creativity, creativity that today is making comics such a powerful force in the broader culture. We absolutely want to find new ways to reach readers – through bookstores, through digital distribution – but for all its quirks, the Direct Market should always be a safe haven that we can all depend on, not a strip mine. And if we want it to carry on into the future, then we should all stop taking it for granted.

A few parting thoughts for everyone here.

Firstly: You can have no greater ally than someone willing to tell you you're doing something wrong, someone willing to say, "No," when everyone else is saying "yes," wisdom be damned. Honesty is the only true currency, and right now, it’s something this industry needs more than ever, because if we can’t be honest with each other — with ourselves — about where we are and where we’re going, the mistakes of the past will bear down on us with a tonnage so staggering we may never rise again.

Secondly: If what you're getting from all this is a condemnation of what you are doing, if you somehow think that by offering advice on how to build a better, more sustainable industry means I want your company or your book or your store to fail, I promise you that is not the case.

It’s not easy to get up in front of people time and again to call attention to longstanding problems, but I do it because I care deeply. This is my 24th year in this business, and there’s one reason and one reason alone that I’ve stuck around this long: I love comics.

I would hope everyone here feels the same, and that whatever differences we may have, we share a mutual love for the work we create and a fervent desire for our industry to succeed. Regardless what you may think of me, in my heart of hearts, I am only saying what I truly believe needs to be said, and I guarantee you, it’s nothing I don’t say to my own reflection in the mirror.

We all have our successes – we all make mistakes – but we can all do better.

There is a whole wide world outside these doors, and everything we create or sell can appeal to just as many people as we can reach. I want all of us to thrive and to succeed, not just today, but far into the future.

And finally, somebody sent me a wonderful David Bowie quote that I have personally found incredibly inspirational over the past few weeks:

"If you feel safe in the area that you're working in, you're not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you're capable of being in; go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don't feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting."

We can all learn from that, not just because they’re wise words, but because exciting is in our DNA.

We’ve overcome hardship before, and we’ve been through numerous changes and come out stronger on the other side. My greatest hope is that instead of gritting our teeth and looking at the year ahead as a painful period of transition, we greet the challenges before us, not as obstacles, but as a new opportunity."
                                                                                   ~~~~~


Wow.  Let's see....

1.  Comic companies at fault.  Check.

2.   Make sure we do not heavily criticise distributor for actually putting other distributors out of business and being the mouthpiece pushing the greed of the comic companies and strengthening the restricted and limited promotion (if any -"We put all the books in Previews because it makes us look great -we don't try to sell it" -direct quote from Diamond to me, phone conversation 2004) of any small or independent publisher.  In fact....let's not criticise distributor greed at all.  Check.

3.  Highlight that EVERYONE is guilty of self interest and greed.  Make sure to place hand over heart to make it clear this is a sort of mia culpa thing. Check.

4.  Make sure to mention as many comic book "personality" names as possible (even if they are the same-old same-old) because that way they'll think "What a great guy".  Check.

5.  Mention women pushing comics.  That'll show how much of a "feminist" you are.  Check.

6.  Go over comic book industry/company histories -same stuff as everyone else does and this will show you know your comic book history but you've just ignored it for your own greeds sake. Even though this history SHOULD be known by your audience.  Check.

7.  How WE all need to get stop being so greedy and trying to make money because, like.....pause and slowly wipe away an imaginary tear....pause..."We have forgotten the little guy. The fans. The ones we do this for" (I am near to tears here).  Check.

8.  Oh shit! David Bowie is popular at the moment.  Everyone is quoting him.  Include statement that Bowie's words "are like, okay, a sacred mantra to me".....humbly quote. Bow head. Check.

9.  Be very humble.  Accept the applause modestly and remember both hands over the heart then lift one hand and point and whisper with a trembling lip "This is for them.  The fans"  Check.

10. Go check latest sales figures and see what more you can squeeze out of The Walking Dead. Check.

Now, this is the type of industry stroke-off speeches you hear all the time.

I remember well the late Dennis Potter's last speech (he was dying at the time) before an august audience of UK TVs top people including Michael Grade (the man who has been to British TV -both ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC- what the Black Death was to Europe).  He spoke passionately and then the big wigs spoke on how de-regulisation of TV would never -NEVER I tell you!!!- mean they would lower the standards that Potter had helped to set.  http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/television-without-pity-dennis-potters-tv-criticism

Now we have a few hundred channels all repeating the same old programmes over and over ad infinitumand every time the TV bosses are criticised we hear the defence: "We make Dr Who" or "We made Downton Abbey" and as programmes that reach big audiences are cancelled so the really awful trash TV -the pretend documentaries and docu-soaps are commissioned over and over.

You see, I even once attended a heating and ventilation systems one day conference where the same things were said.  Customers and quality before cost-cutting and profit! The man next to me giggled and whispered: "Old Reg has given the same speech five years running and he's one of the biggest crooks in the business!"

It all means nothing.  It is what they call a "good sound-bite" just how many of the people in attendance do you think, after all the nodding and the "Yes. Yes -he is absolutely right!", re-thought their attitudes? What change will this "I Had A Dream" of comics speech make?

None.  You see, Image was one of my favourite companies but then they seemed to have this idea that over the top graphic violence was fun and entertaining. 

Wolf Man was violent and gory but then Invincible suddenly went OTT gore and violence.  Scheduling did not help -though that may be down to the whole creator owned thing.  Paul Grist noted at a Bristol Comic Expo that he never made much from the deal but the main difference was that Image now did the technical stuff. Jack Staff vanished after a while (good luck in finding out what happened to that and is going on) then Mud Man had a short spurt of life and vanished.

I highlight Grist's comics for a specific reason. They were fun. Kids and adults could read them and there was no insulting "talk down to" or anything that could be deemed grossly offensive. Fun, action and adventure with some great twists and turns in plot. That is the type of book needed and that ought to be promoted.

Rape, over the top violence and gore as well as "regular" sex is not entertaining.  The mindset that can only think of comics in that way really ought to look towards movies.

Practically everything Stephenson said I have put into postings, I have published about and even spoken about going back to the early 1990s when anyone who bothered looking could see the developing trend.

And it is all here on CBO if you check and a lot more of my musings from the past all over the internet.

And I stuck by my principles.  Let me tell you, that doesn't make you money because the closed circles run by the UKs comic bully boys just plain do not like people who do not knuckle under and do what they say -and there are other comic creators out there who HAVE spoken out about this.

I published this on my Black Tower Face Book page this morning:

"It had to happen...inevitably.

Yes, my comic 'friends' who never read any of my FB posts nor any on CBO have started sending me the "publicise our comic event" emails. I just place them in spam now. But to make it clear to them (they won't see this as they never read my posts).

You know, you UK comic people had my support in bad times and I never ever asked for even a thank you.
You ignore all my Face Book posts, my posts on CBO, you will not even mention when I have a new book out let alone share a link -the things I have ALWAYS done for you.

I edit your event press releases so they do not look like they come from illiterates and do all the internet trawling looking for the things you SHOULD have sent at the same time. You even forget to say how much a book is or how to order. I've sorted all that out for you to make you look professional.

You all then make damn sure that I cannot get a table to sell my books at comic events but then, thinking I am stupid and do not know what YOU have been up to behind my back, you ask me to publicise your event?

To all of you I say a sincere F**K OFF.

I censored that last line -why lower the tone here.

Reactions....I doubt any."

This is the problem. In a way Stephenson was right. People from comic publishers, distributors, comic shop owners, fans and those little comic cliques which you cannot belong to because "you aren't in our circle" -all to blame.  But not me.  Self righteous Terry time (which ought to get a few sets of teeth in bald heads grinding). I have been outspoken about all  of this for a VERY long time. I have put out the hand of friendship, helped and supported events, companies and creators since 1983 and never asked for anything in return (which is kind of lucky really) and there are a couple people in comics I call acquaintances (I never call anyone "friend"!) and respect their work.  But the majority are in it for themselves and they will blindly argue that everything is "going swimmingly" when it ain't -and they are the people who have helped screw things up.

So, are we all sitting back and waiting for Stephenson's big press release on Image Comics' "New Direction"?  Well, you may be but I am not.

We do not need fancy little speeches to keep the sheep inline.

We need to see actions and actions that back up what Stephenson says.

As my old gran used to say: "You can talk the talk but can youy walk the walk?"

Can you, Eric?
 __________________________________________________________
On the 28th I posted this not just to CBO but on Image Comics Face Book page (it was removed within a couple hours) and a copy was sent via email:


An Open Post To Mr. Eric Stephenson Publisher of Image Comics

Mr Stephenson, we all read your speech  to  retailers at ComicsPRO's annual membership meeting on Friday, 19th February, 2016.

Can you tell us just what you and Image Comics has planned to implement the changes you said need to be made because no one at Image is answering emails on this subject?

Thank You

Terry Hooper-Scharf

Absolutely no reaction or response. As I pointed out this was nothing more than an industry "stroke off" speech. We have heard no more.  In fact, I don't think Stephenson even expected anyone to question the speech or ask what plans he and Image had to bring common decency back and push greed out. I mean, no one's ever bothered before!

So, how did store owners in the US react to this speech? I had people ask if the owners of stores they went into had read the speech?

New York store #1: "Yeah. Eric Stephenson can go **** himself.  He gonna pay my **** bills? Screw the a** hole!" 

New York store #2: "**** him.  **** Image Comics. They don't sell enough to ******* tell me to stop making money!"

I apologised to the person who asked because I had him take the brunt of the reactions. I was told he lived in New York and the responses were "typical" of small businessmen." Apparently, they were not being rude to him. "A couple weeks back I was browsing through a comic in the store and the owner yells at me: 'You gonna buy that ****** comic or have you had a ***** stroke?' -I told him '**** you!' and he said '**** you, too!' and we laughed"

O-kay.

Colorado (I thought the man lived in California!). Two stores and the same reaction "Oh? Image cutting its cover price to $1.99?  DC and Marvel cutting back prices?  Is my distributor cutting back on what I have to pay him?  Eric Stephenson offers to balance out my takings each month then-" apparently a pause and "No. No way."

Laid-back California.  But not in response it seems. Same thing.  One store owner did respond with a "So, he's giving away Image Comics for two months and is going to negotiate with the distributors? No?"

In fact, I have to say I would LOVE (and pay) to see Eric Stephenson walk into those comic stores and give his speech to the owners.  I think most people would pay top dollar to see that -more entertainment that four series of The Walking Dead.

I'm sorry but unless Stephenson has the clout to try to make changes or set an example his speech was no more than hot air.  And he does not have any clout.  Di$ney(Marvel) and DC and that other company have all the clout and if you think they are going to lose even a single cent you must have had a blow to the head at some point.

I've about 20+ boxes crammed full of 30 years of comics, DC , Marvel -Independents and I sent my list to some dealers and did what I expected: they cherry-picked certain titles and  told me how little comics were worth and offered £2 ($5) for each of the books they wanted -I pay to send the books "safely and securely".  I told them to stop taking the drugs.

Blogs and video blogs reveal just how huge numbers of comics are being bought for nothing -50 comics for $15. One paid $10 for 30 comics and the dealer told him he could have another ten at a quarter cover price.  He said he'd decline as he was out of cash -the dealer GAVE him 15 comics for nothing and said "I can't get rid of this crap -have these!"

That story is being repeated everywhere.  Some US stores are talking about "going under" and there is similar talk in the UK.  Well, "diversify or die" -it's a basic rule of nature.  DC and Marvels do not sell?  Don't keep hoping "the next reboot" will save you.

On 7th February I posted this, it angered some store owners in the UK.  Oh boo-hoo. See the tears streaming from my eyes?

More Comic Shops Need To Close Down -And I Am NOT Joking


Remember the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption?  I think 2010 was my last year going into a comic shop, too.

Anyway, comic shops began to panic because their Marvels and DCs (their Image and that other company) comics were not getting to the UK.  But did the shops try to push back issues or graphic novels that they had so many of because they ordered out of stupidity and greed?

No.

They panicked.  As far as they were concerned they HAD to have new comics on the shelves because what else could they put on their comic shelves (let's not be too hard on them because a lot of these people are just stupid through greed)?

In the UK Diamond has a monopoly on comic distribution. If you were around in the 1980s and knew a lot of the shop holders back then you will know how they got that monopoly thanks to Titan Distributors.

 From 4-5 distributors we went to one.  A monopoly.  But business monopolies in the UK are far from legal.  Here, read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_competition_law

But do shop owners complain when, if they did, a new distributor might set up competition and offer them lower prices?  No, because they are scared of Diamond and they don't know much about business other than that they can inflate comic prices to get their money back.

But in 2010 Diamond had a panic. No comics to distribute and there was talk that another distributor (I know who) had access to the latest US comics and was starting to offer them to shops. The shops all acted like scarede kids because "What if Diamond finds out?" -that was said to my face three times by shop owners.

So, Diamond thought "Independent comics -they saved us all before!" Which is what the "Black and White Explosion" of the 1980s did along with US companies recruiting UK creators. "Now's your chance to get on comic shop shelves!" they declared -and comic shops had to bite the bullet.

I asked Diamond how many copies per month of titles they would need?  What the special deal was" and so on.

"We only want the books until we can get our usual stock in" I was told.  As were several other Indie publishers. The deal?  Over 75% of the book cover price -and the publisher paid to get the books to Diamond so....publishers had to give their books for free...now you know why those shelves remained empty until the US imports started arriving.

But Indie publishers who did supply comic shops turned up to find their books no longer on the shelf. Most were dumped into boxes waiting for them to collect and some were turn, badly creased or even had coffee stains (?!) on them.  "We did say we took no responsibility for damages" was a phrase used a lot. Three years later one publisher who was owed £20 (just £20 -$40) gave up trying to get his money.

Back in the 1980s with Preview Comic I lost £50 from the sales of issues 1-5 because Forbidden Planet in London "can't read the signature on the invoice?" and other insulting con-man remarks.  £50 back then was a lot of money and would have meant continued publication.

But comic shop owners are "okay" and "their mates" -what I used to think. Remember I supported one shop and was banned (I still have all the emails) because I purchased an Independent comic they told me for months they could not get so I told the owner I'd track it down online. Two weeks later the owner (I saw him) hid at the top of the shop stairs as one of his staff verbally abused me because I bought the comic they now had (after months of saying it was impossible to get so go online). The temptation was to floor the little fecker being rude but I just said loudly "You hide up there while one of your staff rudely insults someone who has promoted and supported your business since day one?" then I walked out (the boss was very brave later in his email).

Like the guy in the last video posted says, most of the people are shit.  Morons.  Rather than build a strong comic shop industry embracing all genres and publishers like they used to up to the late 1980s, they prefer decline with Marvel, DC, Image or that other company.

Decent, honest shop owners are very rare today and how long have they been trading -most are almost dealing with their comic shops as an extension of their hobby not a real business.

Personally, I think we need less and less comic shops.  More need to go out of business, and they will be, because if they are SCARED of their distributor who cannot survive without them, and will not diversify, they deserve to go. "Where are people going to get their comics then?" If you are really asking that question then YOU need to go, too!

DIVERSIFY OR DIE!

Asses.

But then we have this -I apologise if this is a long posting but we are now looking at the potential collapse of the comics market that will affect everyone and I really -really- am wishing I am wrong about this.

How Many Warnings Before The Collapse Of The Comic Industry?
 
Well, some very interesting stats indeed. Apart from my Avengers posting in Chinese, no single post has beaten the views record set for David "The British Manara" Gordon's interview. That posting has had 14,611 views.

But my posting about Image Publisher Eric Stephenson was one of the most viewed and what exceeded views of that posting?  The post on the creators who deserve recognition and promotion -that set a new daily view record (excluding the Chinese Avengers item 306.97 though I keep failing to include the most popular posting on The Green Skies with views (JUST on CBO) of 42,606.

And it seems people are talking about yesterdays postings. But I am not going to start a pillory Eric Stephenson and Image Comics campaign to get more views.  That is not what CBO or I am about. Yes, I have read comics since I was 4 or 5 years old.  I've worked in publishing and the comics industry since the 1970s. I'm passionate about all types of comics but unlike 99% of fans I know that it is a business. A business but not an insulting rip off.

Publishers need comic readers.  Comic shops need customers and the distributor (a monopoly, as I keep saying, is supposedly illegal in Europe let alone the UK) needs shops and the comic fans.  A distributor is not there to dictate what a shop or comic fans should read. The sooner the shop owners shape up or go out of business the better.  That might wake the monopoly distributor (if there are any brains there) realise what they have been doing wrong.

"If Marvel and DC collapse and the industry implodes we can pull in the Independents and black and white comics to save our arses!"

No. It isn't the 1980s. Print on Demand and self publishing is something the distributor (Diamond) seems to ignore because it isn't the Marvel or DC cash cow. Most Indie comics are not sold in shops now. Does Diamond think that a small publisher is going to say "Sure.  I do all the work and put in all the effort but I'll pay for postage to get "X" number of books to you so you can then take a huge cover price cut on sales so that I make nothing  but it will help save YOUR business!"

Feck off.

Come the inevitable collapse of the "comics industry" then shops will go.  Good. And the distributor is not going to bluff it out in 2016, 2017 or 2018.  Most Indie comic producers have never been comic fans or collectors so good luck with "You get nothing back but it saves us!"

Image wants to do something then it needs to sit down and make decisions because I doubt it would survive a comics collapse and that collapse is well overdue.

I remember my German grandfather explaining how in the 1930s people took Deutsch Marks in huge bags or even in hand carts just to buy a loaf of bread.  Money was that worthless.

We've had a few years of old comics being sold by weight -THAT was warning number 1 that was being ignored.  Warning number 2 was when shop owners tried throwing free copies at comics in peoples faces or offering "Six for $1.50" !

Now we have many people who cannot sell or do anything but hand in boxes of HUNDREDS of comics (from 2000-2016) to charity shops which then have to sell them in bundles or dirt cheap. Jez tells me his charity shop has had to bring in a policy of "no more comic donations" because they have "quite a few" boxes stored away that do not sell. That is warning number 3.

The future looks bleak.  Lowering prices won't help.
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I have written, repeatedly, that the big culprit in all of this are those running comic companies and the retailers.  Greed.  I have no problem in people running businesses for profit because that is what it is about.  But when you constantly treat what was the fan base that has kept you going for decades like mindless little piggy-banks and throw every bit of trash at them you can to suck out those last few dollars then you have lost your purpose and support....and business.

Would Di$ney really cancel Marvel Comics, which is NOT a big money spinner, for the movies and merchandising that ARE bull-dozing money in? Yes.

When I wrote that the Fantastic Four comic was being cancelled, basically because Di$ney did not have the movie exploitation rights and wanted no one else to profit from it, I was called "delusional" -remember that, Tony?  But then Bleeding cool and others reported this much later the fact that I predicted it based on what was going on and not on a later company PR....nothing.  In fact, to date I have been 98% accurate in predicting the developments in the comics industry based solely on the facts and digging away.  Also, remember how the Inhumans became the new 'mutants' because of the same movie situation?

Di$ney is interested in one thing and only one thing. Money. Everything but comics makes big bucks -print runs of only 25-50,000 with lords know how many selling (but it's not great) is leeching money. The $ lovers see that as a Negative.  Printing, preparation, paying artists, writers, colourists and printers as well as shipping. That is all in the Minus Column.  It is not tallying up with the  Profit Column.

Special tie-in comics.  Those are all Di$ney needs because they can exploit comic characters for movies or TV as can DC.

What I've written and pointed out here is all verifiable.  All you have to do is check for yourself.  Calling it "delusional" is basically looking in the mirror, Tony.

For DC Comics....I doubt it could turn around because it wants to rival Marvel and short term successes are all that count.  All the editors and management are pals.  They don't care.  They don't really care or ask "what is going to happen?"  People have been purged from Marvel and DC over the last few years. Take the kick up the ass and go.  And keep quiet.  You upset your Editor at DC then his pals at Marvel gang up for some pure internet bullying and worse.

Remember in 2012 when Rob Liefeld spoke out about the crazy stuff going on at DC?  No? Here is what I posted:

Rob Liefeld -The Charlie Sheen Of Comics…?

Mother forgive me but I am finding myself rooting for Rob Liefeld.

Artist Terry Pavlet (Haus of Design) asked the following on Face Book:

“Would somebody please make a list of who who’s of leaving Marvel and DC since December, so I can get it straight and who is left?”

Well, I guess my hints about all the crap going on at the, uh, “Big Two” (I’m sure there IS a juvenile joke there) have nopt sunk through.

Marvel has managed to keep a tight little grasp on some of the creators that are disgruntled.  Let’s just say one thing: those cheerful, laughing lovable guys who represent the Big Two to the public and fandom at large -they’ll stab you in the back and keep twisting the blade until you can’t hurt any more.
 
Now, I am NOT going to attack Liefeld for his art.  I’ve said before that he does what he does and seems to generally enjoy himself and get paid for it -it’s the comicker’s dream!

No, what Liefeld has done is the unforgivable. He has dared to speak out about editorial and management incompetence (Hey, we’ve all been there and done that, right?) and why it is screwing up, in this case, DC.  Editors who have one failure after another and get rewarded?

Nothing new there.  Editorial policy and editors changing their minds at every tick of the clock so that it makes writers (and, oh yes, artists busy drawing the stuff) question whether someone is tripping.

But this is where Liefeld and, uh, “others”, have made a mistake.  He has publicly spoken out on the matter.  Comic editors are an incestuous bunch and they know that if you let one creator speak out against “one of their own” -even if at another company- they will no longer be the great gods you must bow down to and lick the arse of. I think everyone knows my opinion of gods, right?

And today they can do what they could not do years ago (up until the 1980s editors knew what they were doing so there was never a reason back then) -they can gang up and use twitter and the full resources of the internet to attack someone knowing the idiot geek fraction will lap it up and that blogs with a vested interest in staying on the Big Two’s side will follow through on.

But when it comes down to name calling there is no sense just chaos. Talkcomix posted this:

There is a problem in that the reporting makes it seem Liefeld is some loony out of control creator -the Charlie Sheen of comics.  After all, don’t they present all the positive and unified postings of the various bosses and editors at Marvel AND DC to show that it’s Liefeld having a problem?

Now, that’s how it seems to the reader.  Whether this is accidental or deliberate I have no idea of knowing but it is very one-sided.

A fairer approach would have been to approach Liefeld and ask for an interview to outline the problem(s) as he sees it. But not just Liefeld, also the others leaving well paid work at DC and Marvel and see just what is going on -then get a response from the editor/whatever involved.

Some creators leaving the companies are going overboard on the “hey- its nothing to do with the company…” line.  You do a search on the internet you see who is leaving who and the lines are the same. Why? Well, companies change and editors come and go.  So, keep quiet and you may be asked back by a new editor and the company will not mind because you spoke out against an editor NOT the company.

If these disgruntled creators -and there are a good few despite what is being said- spoke out then Liefeld would not be alone and companies might be forced to “bend with the wind”.  But, as with the UK comics industry, no one will really speak out. It’s a kind of cowardice based on wanting to keep working and paying bills!

Look how that turned out for the late UK comics industry.

Marvel seems to be going in an endless cycle of the same old same old while sales suffer.  DC just seems to have gone from a ten pound steak to a quarter pound mince.

It’s nice for the editors to have a “stable” of writers/artists and they can be controlled or they get pushed aside.  You need to get in fresh blood both art and writing wise and keep the teams flexible and keep open the possibility of bringing in newer and fresher writers.

“Fan favourite” I once had explained to me as meaning that a few people like him/her so “we keep saying fan favourite the schmucks will believe it and buy!”  Though it does not always work like that!

Liefeld has dared to do the unthinkable in the US industry-speaking out against things that will eventually make the Big Two hit the fan. It will happen -its just a question of when.

It would be nice seeing other disgruntled creators speak out but not to the point where attention is diverted from the issue in question and to personal insults. Breevort and co. use an old business trick in swinging things to make it all seem personal -Liefeld fell into that one.

US creators need to decide on whether they want a strong industry in future or a dead one.  Leaving Liefeld out to dry is shameful.
                                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And did creators turn to companies and say "This is enough: you cannot treat creators like this any more!" ?  No, they rolled over. 

Again.  Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont and many others writers never got their way at Marvel so stamped their feet and left for DC "I am NEVER working for Marvel again!"  They do all the anti-Marvel talk (you can still find a lot of it on You Tube).  They don't get their way at DC -they stamp their feet and leave for Marvel "I am NEVER working for DC Comics again!" and it goes on and on.

Why? Because they are all pals. They know the editors and the editors know them and it's all one big game to them. 

Artists are still considered the inferior of the species.  "They just sit and draw" while the writers "Dig deep into the creative flow to create masterpieces of graphic literature"!  They write comics.  I have been a comic writer and an artist and a freelance editor.  I've seen how it works. My problem is that I am honest.  Honest don't make you rich. 

One thing I heard over and over again in UK comics and when talking to people from US companies -and even creators I've interviewed have reported hearing this- is this: "Artists you can buy ten to the £/$ -they take the low page rates and work because they have no choice.  They need the work. They don't do it -we'll get someone else!"

I was once in an editor's office -we'll keep his name and company out of this because it will be a chapter in my autobiography!  We are talking and an artist phones in.  Editor puts speaker phone on. 

Artist (paraphrase): "Hello. I put my invoices in for the ---- pages but I've been paid 15% less per page -?"

Editor:"Yeah.  We've had to cut back page rates."

Artist: "But I thought we agreed on the page rate -will I be getting less for the pages I'm working on now as well?"

Editor (smirked): "Yeah. If you don't want the work I can give it to ---- because he's happy to take that cut?"

Artist: "Okay"

The phone was then put down. "Bonus drinky coming!" said the editor tapping his pocket.  "He can't refuse because he's got a kid and has to pay bills!"  This is why you never got a page rate in advance or one agreed on and signed by the editor and if you had an agent forget thinking he/she would help. Was the editor shocked when I called him a certain name and said I'd never work for him? Actually, yes.

This is what is killing comics. It is why I say to people they need to publish their own books -better to be poor based on your own poor sales than via company rip-offs (in which they ignore any signed contract anyway).

Really, comics have been building to this point for a long time.  Di$ney took over Marvel and those with brains knew what would happen.  That was the day Marvel comics died.  Creators working for Marvel UK ignored all warnings. And I did, again, point out that Di$ney were replacing people at Marvel Comics with their own. That news was out there in the wide old open but why was no one reporting it?

Incidentally, Marvel could be saved and taken back to better days but Di$ney is not interested in that.

Blogs and comics press see themselves as part of "the business".  They think they get a lot of kudos from publishing publicity news -"See - predicted this would be a hit!" (actually, the PR said it was a hit but the title sold badly).  Comics press is a mouthpiece for the companies and they jump right in and write or cut and paste from all the News PR they get.  "Comics are doing better than ever!" Again, fat head is going by a PR and not checking sales.

I really cannot see Marvel comics coming back to what it used to be.  Its a Di$ney toy now.  DC...no. I hope that, somewhere, someone is thinking positive because we really need a new comic publishing company with someone who knows what they are doing.

The rot is set into every aspect of comics and it is why we have seen a mass of Small Pressers who do not know each other, have contact with one another but are all in little cliques and 98% of them have no knowledge of comics. In the past we would have built on talent from the Small Press but the Small Press is not even considered by Marvel or DC as a source of new talent to keep things vibrant and fresh -we just have the same old writers being glorified yet churning out the same old thing.

I can live in hope but I think I have lived through the best years of the comics industry before it became the Flying Dutchman.


2 comments:

  1. To be honest a lot of this went over my head as I am not really into the politics of comics, I just like (some) comics (although less and less with every week that passes) but from what I understood and have witnessed (i.e. 5 comics in £1 grab bags one month after being on sale, boxes of comics in charity shops, 100s at car boot sales etc all mostly still unsold) your spot on.

    It’s strange though as comics ( superheroes in particular) have a higher acceptance value now than in years gone past through films, tv, t-shirts toys, models , cartoons etc etc but the source material (comics) are just floundering. For me comics are now just a fashion accessory for most kids / young adults and they have little or no interest in the comics themselves just the “image” on a t shirt etc (and that’s fair enough). I think the difference re the problems comics faced in the 50s is so different to what the face now. In the 50s/ 60s the creative talent was there (Eisner, Woods, Kirby ,Lee etc etc) and they could turn their hand to anything and make it good without wanting to be seen as superstars, plus to be fair the advent and effect of the internet, PC technology , cable tv, films, games etc on society is beyond massive as there are so many other things to do that compete with what now looks like boring old paper comics – would a “new” modern 60s “Marvel Bullpen” team of today manage to save the day , Mmmmmm I’m not sure now , I think like the UK comic scene its over (but we had fun in our day).

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  2. Hi. Sadly, based on the private emails from people who don't want their comments to be public (?) is that they don't really care because there are the movies and that will revitalise the comics -I ignored the "Marvel needs to get a great writer like Alan Moore in to save them!" I think Moore would love to see Marvel die out! Yeah, we had fun in our day when we didn't need The Big Bang Theory to tell us there were these things called "comics"! :-)

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