Tuesday, 22 May 2018

"I support Indie comics by buying Image and Dark Horse!"

There is something that is very galling.  People say it all the time.  It shows their very basic ignorance of facts but seems to make them feel rather proud.  Proud as in the hunter who holds up a Carrier Pigeon he just shot and announces: "I got it! This is the last one!"

"I support Indie comics by buying Image and Dark Horse!"

No. No, you are not supporting 'Indie Comics' because neither of those two is considered Independent publishers.  You might as well say you support Indie comics by buying Marvel or DC.

These are the big 5 in the comics Industry.

Marvel Comics (Disney).   Value "Many, many millions of $/£"

DC Comics                       Value "Many, many millions of $/£"

Dark Horse Comics           Millions

Image Comics                    Millions

IDW                                  Millions

Now DC and Marvel you can easily check on -just one movie brings in enough money to keep a small country going for a while.  Disney owning Lucasfilm and Marvel comics and a whole lot more means the owners can eat banquets for lunch.  DC similar.

Dark Horse has a lot of franchises not to mention TV series and movies originating from its properties so, despite what its boss wants to claim about being "Independent in the truest way" it is a mega bucks company. It is the third largest publisher.

Image Comics is not exactly a struggling little company -Todd McFarlane is said to be worth around $300 million and the way the company was set up you need to look at individual owners net worth. Listen, the creators may not earn big time but the bosses are not exactly counting change to see if they can eat today.

IDW made a loss last year but, again, worth millions.

None of the company bosses will be putting tomato ketchup into a cup of boiling water to dip stale crackers in.  It makes you think you have eaten but....bweurgh!

Oh, and Archie Comics ain't doing that badly!  It should be "The Big 6" but people keep forgetting Archie Comics!  Also, ONI Press is quite mainstream -all you need do is check Wikipedia.

These companies are not Independents and form what is known in the industry as "The Big 5"

Broadsword Comics is an Independent.  Some people like to characterise smaller companies as "Alternative Comics" which really does not make sense as they publish super heroes, fantasy, science fiction, horror -basically what the big companies do but the comics media being in the pocket of bigger publishers tends to use "Alternative Comics" as a dirty word and hope that it puts people off buying because, let's face it, they want their masters in the big companies to make money.

How big is this "comics media" con on the comic buyers? A few years back at a Bristol International Comic Expo I sat in to see what the Marvel panel had to offer.  Nothing.  "Contracturally we cannot answer that question" -in fact Alan Davis was there and asked one question after another and he looked miserable and to keep responding "Non disclosure agreement with Marvel"  Then someone in the front row of the audience gave all the details. Long ginger hair was all I saw. This kept happening and the Marvel man chairing the panel said "Rich has all the answers let's invite him up here" and so Rich Johnson of a blog I will not mention (I am going to have to disinfect CBO after using his name) got up and answer the questions with ALL the details.

I thought it was very odd and my first thought was that he was planted there so those in the room thought they were getting "behind the scenes" details first.  Me being paranoid.

Then the DC panel were the same thing happened and DC boss Bob Wayne called Johnson up on the stage to answer all the questions. Of course, most Marvel fans did not go to the DEC panel and vice versa.  Two sat close to me had, though.  One looked at me and asked "Am I in Ground hog day -didn't this happen earlier?"

Oh yeah.

You see, the Marvel and particularly DC people showed complete disdain for UK fans.  In fact, at one point Bob Wayne responded to one question by asking WHY they would answer that question since the UK wasn't that important and they were only here to go visit the set of Cat woman with Halle Berry.  Any news was left for "important venues like San Diego".  After the second insult I pointed out that if they had adopted this insulting and rude attitude in a European country they would be lucky not to get lynched "Why would we go to Europe?" was the response. Move on.

The point was that Johnson knew every aspect of the projects from writers, artists -in fact so much info that could only come from Marvel or DC but no one on the panels batted an eye. It was a set up. Attendees were being fed an act agreed upon between DC, Marvel and Johnson. It doesn't take much digging to find out what is going on either.

Image and Dark Horse using the term "Independent Comics Publisher" to describe themselves is like claiming Trump is the most popular President in US history.

Independent publishers and creators working with them -I write "working with them" because page rates or rates for a single book do not exist. A book makes money then everyone makes a small amount (and I do mean small).  Yes, Independent publishers would all like to have that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Spawn or any of the other comics that caught on suddenly, unexpectedly and made  millions.  That character that a movie company or even TV company is desperate to develop. The likelihood of that happening are many, many thousands to one.

There is a definitive guide -it says so- online and when you look at it you will see why breaking into comics is far from easy: https://jasonthibault.com/definitive-list-comic-publisher-submission-guidelines/

Independent Comics publishing is about wanting to entertain people while earning a living with the added realisation that you are going to go hungry!  I work with a very limited number of creators who are fully aware of what goes on.  None has illusions of getting rich -earning anything is a bonus. It is quite depressing having to tell them that they produce great art and stories but no one wants to buy.  I've even told them they can find another publisher with my blessing if they think it will get them sales or money.

So many REAL Independent publishers are vanishing because today comic buyers are told what to buy by the comics media: Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, ONI etc.. They are told that they are "supporting independent comics and creators" by buying Image and Dark Horse. No.  You are supporting BIG companies.

I write that a lot of real Independent publishers are vanishing.  Costs of tables at events adds to financial strain and when I note that they only have one or two titles they publish I can almost guarantee someone is going to ask why they do not expand the line to draw in more customers. There are colour and black and white comics companies and they try everything they can.  My own situation is an example of the current state of comic buyers and comics.

The online store has ten pages and 91+ books. Science fiction, horror, illustrated prose, action, crime, adventure, super heroes and that's before we get the the Wild Nature and Strange Phenomena books. Black and white comics, yes, but that really has nothing to do with lack of sales.

CBO has a truly world-wide audience -in countries with strong histories of comics. Each and every post looking at a Black Tower book is seen by thousands -some of the highest views. Now I hear from larger publishers that they do see rises in sales after a review is published and those reviews are continually referred to by visitors to the blog. Yet no sales after reviews or posts about books I publish.

It is not as though buying Black Tower Books and Comics is difficult. The Print on Demand company I use has printers in Europe, Asia and the United States.  You order online choosing the type of  shipping you want. In your own currency. There are book previews on the store. There have been book previews here. Okay, on every US sale I get hit with taxes even if I am UK based but that is me getting hit not the customer.

And, again, many thousands of views, cut-prices and all the social media outlets yet nothing is selling. If I have all those views and resources and sell nothing then imagine the Independent publishers who do not have CBO as a resource and 40 years of publishing behind them.  They get slaughtered.

So, please, do not keep claiming that you are supporting Independent Comics and creators if you buy from the Big 5 (or 6).  It is insulting and your ignorance is astounding.

Mike and Lee would have LOVED your support.  Steve and Craig would have LOVED your support.  Phil and Dave would have LOVED your support.

Who are Mike, Lee, Steve, Craig, Phil and Dave?  They were Independent comics publishing who were producing great comics.  No one looked or bought.  The buyers were too busy supporting 'Independent comic publishers' that are not.

So think about it.  Do not keep calling your Dark Horse, ONI and Image comics purchases "supporting the Independent comics community" because you are not.  You are supporting big business.

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