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Monday, 2 April 2018

Comic Companies and book delays...and Cinebook the 9th Art

I believe that it is Marvel's rightly maligned SHIELD series that looked at the now re-booted (awful) origins of the organisation centuries ago which, after 6 years is to finally be completed.  It was just another monthly comic that vanished.  Reaction now -who really cares?  There is the other series from Marvel -Frankenstein- that is now being concluded after years.

But other companies have long delays in series from months to a year.  The attitude of "The schmucks will still buy" does not always work.  I have read and read and seen people following a series just dump it. If a series hooks a reader that reader does not want to have read issue 3 and then hear no more. A few rumours then (1 year later) "issue #4 will be out in two months"...but when will issue #5 be out? And when companies are vague about how many issues there are in a series do you really want to have to wait 5 years for a 12 issue series to end?

If you buy comics regularly then you know all of this. The established comics media mouthpieces will not criticise or highlight this problem because their tongues are just too firmly wedged up corporate butt-holes.

I do recall that Brian Bolland produced Camelot 3000 in the 1980s with huge delays. The fan press at the time complained but there was little DC could do.

Company attitudes when complaints are made vary from "This creative team wants to bring you the top quality book you expect from them -please bear with them" which is "feck off" said polite like.  Or you get "Believe us -the wait will be worth it!" Which is another way to say "feck off". Or if you are Marvel the response will be: "You white, right wing, sexist bag of crap -the delays are your fault!"  Marvel what the hell happened to you?

As an Independent publisher and in dealings with companies I've packaged books for, there has always been one golden rule despite all the pressure someone puts on me: until I have every issue of a series or run in my hand and know it is completed I never ever said "go". Setting to issue 3 of a book and saying "Well, the artist had a rough night at the pub and is a bit hung over" (I am not joking) and promising issue 4 "as soon as he gets around to it" would be a disgrace.  To me that would be the biggest shame I could suffer.

Luckily, being an Independent publisher, I do not have to publish anything until it is ready and complete. And publishing books that are self contained means the reader gets the book in their hands and that's it -no tie-ins, no "next issue" -with Adventure volume 2 issues 1-10 were completed first and Black Tower Super Heroes 1-8 are completed. No delays. No "Hoy, ya lazy bearded old sod when's issue 4 out?!"

The thing is that long delays affect companies.  Ignore the BS "Oh, it's unfortunate we get these delays but it's no real problem" from companies.  Readers cancel standing orders, particularly in these days when comic prices are high (we don't get $2.99 comics in the UK) -cancel a SO and get another book that you know appears regularly and not necessarily from the same publisher.  Someone loses money.

It hasn't really bothered me for a long time but while doing the current reviews for Cinebook the 9th Art it has.  Just over a year (1 year 3 months) between Wayne Shelton 4 and 5.  And 9 months between other titles.  I found myself totally lost in what was going on.  You invest yourself emotionally in books and characters then regular books are great. Long delays and that investment diminishes.

My Yahoo groups are usually informed when I get new Cinebooks and which titles and the messages back are not good. Some have decided to drop buying books because they see Cinebook as "unreliable" and honestly do not want to wait a year for the next volume in a series.  One told me that he thought Wayne Shelton had concluded with volume 4 -"Is this a new series?"

I have no idea why there are the delays.  I am not privy to the inner workings of the company.  Olivier Cadic, Cinebook publisher, told me that he never took on a series unless a) he liked it, and, b) it was completed. Why these long delays when Valerian and Laureline as well as XIII were completed so quickly?

I really have no idea.  But it is making people move away from series.  Cinebook is not a company that I would call unreliable and I supported them from Day One and still do. The problem may stem from the fact that there is no "Updates for readers" on delayed books, etc.. This feeds into the British comic fans biggest fear -a series stopping part way through.

I purchased various English editions of Franco-Belgian series when they appeared -the Blueberry series (I think ran to 3 books?) and Valerian -again 3 books. These were supposed to be runs of the complete series that a lot of us purchased and then...well, the publishers were not helpful. We had all been left in the lurch expecting a long run of books and ending up with not much.  There is example after example of this in the UK.

The point is that, despite my running features and making it very clear in the past, people still think Cinebook is a French company importing to the UK (actually, I can tell you a lot of people in France buy the English Cinebooks) and with all the Brexit chaos they are just going to stop the books. The Cinebook people at events are very friendly but they can only answer so many questions because they are out of the loop. There are the rumours that Cadic has been trying to sell off the company because of Brexit -rumours still doing the rounds. Never addressed by Cadic himself means the rumour becomes 'fact'

Despite what critics (who "don't get these comics from Europe") say or want you to believe, Cinebook has altered the face of comics in the UK and that is for the better.  A generation is now growing up with easy access to European comics -this has never happened before.  I have seen art pages where the artist is so obviously influenced by Franco-Belgian comics in both layouts and art style.  Although it may published English translations of Franco-Belgian comic albums look at its online store -it is the largest comics publisher in the UK.  It should almost be a household name but we keep hearing the dragged up corpse references to "The Beano" or "The Dandy" -the characters from those have little relevance today.

Cinebook may not publish original material but that does not matter -do those people (and there are many) who buy their albums or the kids reading them care? No.

But what I think we need to see is Cinebook promote itself more and explain to readers why books are delayed.  It needs to interact even more with its readers and certainly settle the whole "selling up" rumour -which only Cadic can do.

I hope that long after I am gone Cinebook the 9th Art will still be publishing!

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