A Creator-Owned Call to Arms!

Jun.

09, 2011

14

Pushed Far Enough Yet?

I’m hearing all sorts of reactions to DC’s multiple announcements this month. For those of you not familiar DC comics recently announced that they will be rebooting most of their titles, from Batman to Swamp Thing and starting with new first issues and new creative teams. They also announced day-and-date digital delivery of their comic’s titles.

I think I’m the least worried about the digital news. While I see why retailers would be worried- they have enough problems getting people into stores already- I’m not convinced yet that digital day-and-date releases will have any effect on existing sales. I think DC via WB is making the jump that they see as inevitable.

I’m wary and curious and hopeful all at once about this. It could mean more readers…or it could mean nothing changes and now people will get everything digital; comics, movies, books and music. That’s where we’re headed anyway. I just hope what happened to record and bookstores doesn’t happen to comic retailers. I think the most we can hope from this is a more increased awareness of comics online. We shall see.

I’m personally bummed about the reboots and renumbering as a fan. One of the greatest things about DC comics and characters was the long and rich history. My gut reaction to the renumbering is the same I have to any so-called event comics. Generally these things have a one, two-month life and then we’re right back where we started. That’s the thing about this reboot/renumbering…it’s been done, several times and it never worked before, so what makes this any different?

From a financial perspective, I understand 100% why other publishers and retailers are upset. There will be a flood of new books in September. It’s going to put a strain on the entire industry.

As for the actual line-ups of the new books, some of them sound intriguing. I’d never come out against any creator working, so for me the new teams are all a wait and see thing. I wish them all the best of luck and look forward to seeing what they do.

 One thing nobody is really talking about, at least not in public, is the fact that the announcements of all the new books and teams also served as a massive pink slip to hundreds of writers and artists. Like many I’ve spoken to their reaction to the news was, “Guess I don’t have any work at DC.”

Now that said, what can we do? Should we get mad and fume all over the Internet? Sure, but what would it achieve? Nothing. Screaming about the decisions of a giant entertainment corporation will do about as much good as yelling at a brick wall. Besides, like I’ve said before, if I’m going to protest the acts of a corporation, Warner and or Disney are about dead last on the list.

I’m not saying don’t be mad. What I’m saying is maybe we can use that anger and disappointment and use it as fuel. This can also be seen as a great wake-up call to creators, publishers, retailers and fans alike.

Creators- Right now independent comics are surging and I don’t think it’s a fluke. As the big 2 become more and more corporate, ignoring the wants and needs of the market for a few bucks and sack of headlines, the market is also primed for new, original material. I know it’s tough out there and sacrifices must be made to do creator-owned books, but the time is now for us to position ourselves. I can’t make any solid announcements yet, but I am working with IDW, Image, Dark Horse and under Bloody Pulp Books to come up with ways to get books out without breaking the bank.

Publishers – There’s going to be a lot of top-notch talent out there looking for work. I know creator-owned is a tough sell right now, but I implore you to find ways to get new, original, books on the stands. If we can find a way to reduce risks on all sides, I think the long-term payoffs are huge.

Retailers- Order with your hearts AND minds. This is your industry too. I won’t and will never say ‘order this and don’t order that’. You know your business better than any of us and you know what’s helping and hurting comics retailing best. If something feels wrong, it probably is. We’re all in this together and I hope we can find new ways to help you sell creator-owned books.

Fans- You’re the biggest piece of the puzzle here, and you’re taking the most punishment too so my message to fans is a simple one… thank you for sticking with us through some pretty rough times. Like retailers, your purchases make or break most comics. My one request to any fans out there is to try something new whenever you get the chance. Don’t underestimate the power you have in comics. What you buy says a lot.

So, yeah. That’s that. Sure, I could be pissed and hurt, but what good would it do really? I’m happy for the people who have work and wouldn’t want to do anything to damage that. BUT we now have the news and we need to figure out what we’re going to do. DC will be fine, but I can’t say the same for the writers and artists who have found themselves out of work.

Let’s all work together to make sure comics have a future above and beyond what we have right now.

Rant done.

Thanks for reading.

Creator-owned/DIY!

 -Steve

 

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a0105352227a9970c01538f0d2734970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Creator-Owned Call to Arms!:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mr Niles, I believe it is our right as fans to complain but our solutions are what hold our greatest assets. I have written several articles along these lines. In fact here http://www.worldofsuperheroes.com/comics/et7e7r7nal-dammnation-issue-4-2/ I list all the titles I am replacing with what I am replacing them with. I feel that for the first time in comics history we are on the precipice of a fan revolution and fear total abandonment of both the big 2 to the movies/TV aspects. I have laid out reason after logical reason why the reboot is bad and I have purchased a ton of indy stuff like Criminal 30 daysagain and my new favorite this week Shinku. I am calling on the journalists like myself to report more on indies and creator owned, encourage kickstart projects and hold the Big 2 to the fire. Thanks for putting your voice behind this. I think it is as bold as Cal MacDonald in a strip club to do so. Look forward to more from you..DAMM

Steve,

If we're talking about making sacrifices for the sake of comics, and the industry, would you ever consider working with a smaller publisher that isn't as well established yet, using your respective place in the industry to help them get off the ground. Working with the third and fourth largest publishers in the industry doesn't really offer much change to the comic landscape, does it. It's just another title under their banner.

But for a company just starting out, having a book written by Steve Niles could be the defining moment for them. It could help them become a force in the industry and in turn help introduce an entirely new cabal of creators and titles to audiences that may never be exposed to them otherwise.

Like you said, there are a ton of amazing creators out there trying to make it work with creator owned titles. Some incredibly talented ones need more support than others. For lesser known creators, sharing a publishing label with someone of your caliber could be huge for them.

Just a thought.

Adam - Yes, I would write for a smaller publisher. No problem there. -Steve

Sounds like a plan. In fact it's been our plan from the beginning. Our first TPB is coming out next month from APE and we have more titles coming.

creator owned! im working on it! so many scripts and stories... things are coming along steve. hopefully one day youll read some of my work without knowing i ever read this blog, and youll enjoy it :)

One thing that's sort of changed for me is that in talking to people, seeing Captain America onscreen is enough for them instead of seeing him in a comic. I don't think the whole "movies making people buy comics" thing is working, so maybe bigger companies should work on pushing some characters that can only be seen in the comics?

For those freelancers out of work at DC and who lost jobs at Wildstorm before that, how about uniting to put out an anthology app of your own characters with an equal profit split, and the advantage of offering a lot more pages for people's $.99/1.99? What are we doing for focused marketing as smaller creators?

I really don't think courting the potential digital audience will do much to gain new readers, because digital comics, just like analog comics, are still a specialty item that you have to go out of your way to find. You now have to LOOK for comics, going to a specialty retailer or some specific place online. This is why, though fcbd and the movies and TV shows and newsworthy stunts help some, the industry is still in a slump. To really increase readership, you need to get comics in peoples' faces where they are everyday. As low-tech a solution as it is, as unsexy and backward thinking as it sounds, we need comic racks in drugstores, best buys, delis, convenience stores, gas stations, etc...

I don't think there're too many of us fans that actually BEGAN reading comics through specialty retailers. We gravitated to the comic shops after getting hooked from somewhere else. I don't care if it's Marvel or DC or indies or if Diamond has anything to do with it, but we need comics in places where kids and dads and moms and older brothers and former fans can see them daily. Those incidental sales are what will create the new hardcore fans and drive them, eventually to the direct market.

"We covet what we see everyday." - Hannibal Lector

Speaking of creator owned... or more specifically, self-published... it seems distribution is the biggest bottleneck in getting works out there. After doing the convention circuit for a few years now, I've seen fantastic creator owned self-published work get no attention until it's picked up and published with an Image "i" on the cover, or an "IDW", or a Dark Horse, etc. Only then does it hit the direct market radar.

If there was an answer to "how can fix the distribution bottleneck", what could it be?

If there was an answer to "how can WE fix the distribution bottleneck", what could it be?

@M Kitchen - www.liberdistro.com

Coming soon.

I'll keep an eye on that.
Thanks Andrew!

I always support what I like and when I can. I had no idea that Mr Niles had written "30 Days of Night" or Robert Venditti had written "Surrogates." However, after finding out about it and watching the films I have bought both their books. I hope that, even if I'm only one person, I have helped this industry and these creators that I so adore. Their work is incredible and should be recognized for it. I was undeniably sad when Mystery Society ended. I thought it was original and Fiona Staples art is fresh andall these works rejuvenate my belief that there is a great future for this industry. Best of luck, Mr. Niles!

I am very new to the business, i have owned a comic shop for only 4 years now. I was never a big comic guy but I do own several other businesses and i create new ones every month. I was also a musician and I can tell you from experience this is gonna happen.

I was at a retailers summit 2 years ago. I think it was DC, could have been Marvel, gave a short lecture about digital comics, now they were talking to retailers from around the country so they wanted to pander to us. They showed us charts and quoted statistics showing that digital comic sales only make up about 10-15% of their total sales, etc.
Of course I was a spoiler and asked them what was the difference in net revenue from digital and print, I was told they did not have that information available. Obviously digital generates more net profit per unit, there is no printing cost or distribution costs but the big one is no middle men, no Diamond Comics or retailers all getting a cut, after creation expenses and little staff to upload and maintain servers it is all profit! where as in print they may net 25% max profit, in Digital I imagine it is closer to 90% or more net profit.

Digital is inevitable, but it is also a double edged sword for comic publishers, creators, writers, artists, retailers, etc.

If it goes digital it gets pirated and quickly. They will actually see a slow and steady shrink in overall revenue. The plus side is digital also means ANYBODY can get a comic out there and have it become a hit! So in reality going digital will eventually let indy comics rake in big bucks too if they are good.

It wont be from sales it will be from advertising embedded into the comics.

Ok that is my quick look into the crystal ball.

As a long time DC fan, i am also annoyed with the changes. I enjoy continuity, and I liked the idea that there was a rich history behind every story that lent a tangible feel to the fictional universe. I agree completely with the idea that fans who are upset should withhold their money in protest. I think the flood coming in DC will hurt retailers most as they try to find their pockets for buying 20+ more books that month. Also there is no way 52 books will all survive and many readers will be stuck with a rushed or unfinished story. DC is using a see what sticks approach to their launch.

As someone who is completing a creator owned work, I agree, obviously, that creator owned books need support. Their costs are obviously hire, because profits are smaller. Fans will really have to unify around this concept for it to work. unfortunately 2,000-3,000 copies sold a month won't pay the bills, or costs, for most creators.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Briefly About Steve

I'm a writer. I write comics, novels and films. I like reading, writing and watching Horror.

Colophon

Typekit

Headlines and subheads are set in League Gothic design by The League of Moveable Type. Body copy is set in Georgia Roman, Bold, and Bold Italic designed by Matthew Carter.

Undercard Productions

Website designed and coded by Undercard Productions, a full service creative corner team.

Featured Books at My Store

30 Days of Night Omnibus

A Glimpse of Crime and Terror Steve Niles & Scott Morse

Criminal Macabre Omnibus, Volume 1

Remains - Special Movie Issue Trade Paperback.