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Sunday, 2 October 2016

It Is A VERY Important Point To Make. But I Doubt It Will Make 1% Difference

A point I wanted to make and I seriously do not give a fuck if you think it's boring. Because it is not. It is VERY important.

However, before getting to that point I would like to note that the guy I've known since the mid 1990s and who blanked me at the last Bristol Comic Expo with no explanation did so at the event yesterday. He looked at me from 10 feet (3m) away and I smiled and waved.  His face dropped and he span around on the spot and walked away. He reads this blog so now he knows that in future if he ever attempts to speak to me I shall turn away.

Now, two conversations I had yesterday, one at the zine event and one later, hit home a point and it is quite obvious that a great many people are aware of this but do not care.  Firstly, in the United States, Last Gasp is possibly the last Independent comic distributor going.  They have gone one-by-one because of Diamond and its monopolising of comics and the part comic stores play in turning a blind eye.  

The from retailers that  "I can't complain or my order might 'accidentally' be delayed or be short of books I need" excuse is a real one to them.  There is example after example of this. Diamond has a monopoly in the UK.  Under UK law monopolies are illegal.  I believe it's frowned upon in the US as well.  However, what all retailers say is the same thing "Who cares -as far as anyone is concerned it's 'just comics!' and that's it"   Well, you can make an official complaint about a monopoly business and once that business has official eyes on them there is a benefit because one distributor will lower prices to beat another distributor and shops get comics cheaper so...the customer ought to win out. But no one can be bothered.

But here is what I heard from the two people I spoke to and it seems others are aware of.  Marvel and DC, Image and Dark Horse are not "Independent" comics.  People keep saying "I bought a batch of Independents -five Image titles and two Dark Horse" no. They make money.  They left the title "Independent" behind them years back.  Right at the very bottom of Image Comics frequently asked questions page it states it only publishes creator owned books.  You have to go to submissions to find the basic question that should be at the top of the FAQ page:

"Image Comics publishes creator-owned/creator-generated properties and WE DON’T PAY PAGE RATES. Image takes a small flat fee off the books published and it will be the responsibility of the creators to determine the division of the remaining pay between their creative team members."

'Poor' Image Comics.

You see, from once having had a good few Independent Comic companies we have seen one after another struggle, try to fight back but ultimately find that the inevitable fate is....going out of business. A couple that are still going are rather shady in what they do but it keeps them chugging along.  Not good for people working for them (on the same basis as Image Comics) though.

These were black and white and colour comic publishers with all sorts of genres and some now blame Print On Demand for their failure.  In fact, they were failing well before POD but it gives them an excuse they can handle and dish out to the unwashed. 

I have never made any secret of the fact that Black Tower does not pay anyone. It is why there is a very restricted number of people I collaborate with. I know these people do not hold it against me because they know what I do to try to sell books.  However, I, personally, feel extremely bad about the fact that despite all the books and genres I put out these people have made no money. I certainly don't, in fact I actually lose a lot of money that I don't declare. To me that is a personal failure and one that I have live with.

Now, yes, self publishing means you are responsible for failure or success (though success really goes to any creator who gets a book that sells so I wouldn't take credit there).  And at the moment it seems that some of the older Indie publishers in the US are on their way out.  I know that I have to personally address creators working with Black Tower over this in the coming months.  Nine pages and 90 books and though the blocking of my getting a table at any UK event has not helped, it cannot be solely blamed on that.

The real culprit? About 100% of people who read CBO.  Who look at Previews (though Diamond makes it near impossible for real Indies to be ordered).  Who visit comic events.  Go to comic shops. People who think "This isn't Marvel or DC -they are the hot comics!" or "Ugh! This comic is in black and white!" and even "Well, never seen this title or character before....but I know Batman and the Avengers!"  Indie comics tend to be cheaper.  

Indie comic publishers/creators will talk to you.  Most will even be interested in what you think about their character(s).  I see it on blogs and video blogs:fans who note that DC and Marvel just don't give a damn "But the writer and artist at Such Comics showed me pencilled pages and even did a sketch for me!"  A couple have mentioned that the Indie publisher talked to them "and they were comic fans like me!" -really? What that really an "Unknown"?

You see, ever penny/cent that an Indie comic publisher gets really is vital to keeping them going. 

I started reading comics when I was 6 or 7 years old (that is, scarily, 52 years ago) and from the time I got a rare weekly pocket allowance I went into the newsagents -Jarman's on Mina Road or another in Sussex Place- I looked for comics that other kids tended to ignore.  I got the Purple Hood and Adventures Of Mark Tyme, I got a very rare British Picollo format comic (it was probably an Italian reprint because it came out same time as World Distributors published Tex Willer books).  Later I got into German comics -Bastei, Condor, Ehapa and then I found Russian, Chinese, French and later Finnish comics and when I found Small Press...wow.

It seems that my generation was the last to really be interested in picking up a comic that was not full colour or from Marvel and DC and who were willing to try a comic to see if it was worth tracking down other issues. Today, it seems no one is really that interested in comics. "If it ain't been made into a movie or TV series what **** good is it?" appears to be the standard viewpoint.

One day the only thing out there are going to be DC, maybe Marvel, and a few people thinking they might make money publishing comics.  Originality and freedom to pick up "something different" will be gone.  It was noted yesterday that I predicted the current state of comics some ten years back.  I checked and, yes, I did. So as I see it now the future is very grim and full of Small Pressers publishing the same old lack of substance comics.

Other people see this. They know this.  They just don't blog or write about it. And it is not just the UK or USA.

You see, the apathy of people out there who say they "support Indie comics" (but never buy) has achieved what Wertham, the Comics Code Authority and many others could not over the years despite being heavy hitters and having money behind them.  Apathy is what will kill Independent Comics.

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