Robot 6

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Batman and Robin #1

Batman and Robin #1

Publishing | Bolstered by Batman and Robin #1, Captain America #600 and the Dark Reign titles, direct-market sales rose 6 percent in June over the previous year. However, sales of the Top 100 graphic novels plummeted 35 percent.

According to the retailer-oriented website ICv2.com, comic sales were down 3 percent from the second quarter of 2008, and 4 percent for the first half. The reason? Higher cover prices, possibly: “It’s worth noting that the declines in comic sales come in the face of significant price hikes on the bestselling titles. Eleven titles out of the top 25 comics in June 2009 were over $2.99; only three were over $2.99 in June 2008.”

Still, the debut of Batman and Robin sold an estimated 168,604 copies, making it the best-selling comic since January’s Amazing Spider-Man #583, which featured President Obama. The Final Crisis hardcover was the top-selling graphic novel, with an estimated 8,219 copies. [ICv2.com]

Action Comics #1

Action Comics #1

Legal | Following last week’s ruling in the prolonged legal battle over Superman, Michael Moran speaks with Siegel family attorney Marc Toberoff, who says it’s “absolutely” possible his clients and the Joe Shuster estate could take Superman to another company in 2013.  That’s when, under U.S. law, Shuster’s executors will recover his share of the copyright.

“I was looking for an analogy to World War II: We won the war but they still want to fight the battle,” Toberoff says. “The more we fight, the closer we get to 2013. Plus all the fighting just antagonises my clients. So it’s almost like they are driving my clients into the arms of a competing studio.”

Graeme McMillan, meanwhile, zeroes in on recent claims made by Warner Bros. that Superman is “damaged goods” and “uncool.”

And Tom McLean expresses his frustration with many fans over their reaction to the feud between the Siegels and Warner Bros.: “What amazes me is that so many people buy the line that Warner Bros. and DC are entitled to make as much as they can off of Superman without any kind of legal or moral obligation to the Siegels of the world. It’s some strange kind of American corporatist thinking that gives all the power and rewards to the corporate executives who exploit a work and cuts out completely the creative people elements that give a character and a story life in the first place.” [CBR's analysis]

Conventions | Christina Jeng chats briefly with Jeff Yang, co-chair of last weekend’s first Asian American Comicon in New York City. [The Wall Street Journal]

Publishing | Deb Aoki summarizes the industry-only panel at Anime Expo that focused on the problems of “OEL manga” in the United States. [About.com]

Zuda

Zuda

Webcomics | Johanna Draper Carlson checks in on this month’s Zuda Comics competitors, and questions a lack of genre diversity. Discussion continues in the comments section. [Comics Worth Reading]

Creators | Douglas Belkin looks at the $70,000 renovation of the Cleveland home where teen-agers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman. [The Wall Street Journal]

Creators | Terry Gilliam recalls the genius of his mentor, cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman. [Telegraph]

Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me

Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me

Creators | Tom Spurgeon talks at length with cartoonist Peter Bagge. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | Seth discusses George Sprott: 1894-1975, book design and lettering: “Certainly hand-done display lettering is a dying art in the modern world–however cartoonists still continue to produce a lot of it. It’s one of the basic skills in a cartoonist’s bag. Personally I cannot imagine doing comics and not being concerned with the lettering–a computer will never replace the hand there. Nothing looks so good with a cartoonist’s drawing as a nice piece of hand-done display lettering.” [Omnivoracious]

Creators | Lynn Johnston chats briefly about her children’s book Farley Follows His Nose, and For Better or For Worse. [Canoe]

Power Out

Power Out

Creators | The Framingham, Mass., newspaper profiles Nathan Schreiber, whose webcomic Power Out is set in a fictionalized version of his hometown, Ashland, Mass. [MetroWest Daily News]

Creators | Mark Sable talks about his new BOOM! Studios series Unthinkable. [Lehigh Valley Live]

Creators | Mark Waid’s long-lost “An Ode to Bat-Hound.” [The Captain's JLA Blog, via The Cool Kids Table]

Process | Todd Klein walks through his design process with Kevin O’Neill on some interior pages of The Black Dossier. [Todd's Blog]

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Comments

20 Comments

No shock that price increases are affecting sales. Since most of the books that had increases get put in trades anyway I’m thinking about switching to trades since they can be had for a lot cheaper than buying each issue if you go through Amazon.

Derek B. Haas

July 13, 2009 at 8:51 am

The key thing is “go through Amazon”. I believe that Amazon sales don’t count on those charts, which could explain why graphic novel sales appear to have dropped so precipitously: as the economy worsens, people are deciding that low cost is more important than shop-loyalty.

@ Derek

Which further compounds problems that some LCSs face. Of course, it’s not all Amazon’s fault – too many LCSs refuse to innovate.

I also have been buying more TPB and other stuff on Amazon. I don’t always go for the free shipping either on my orders. Sometimes buying the ‘used’ copies of TPBs is still cheaper with shipping added. You just have to be real discerning on the seller and their description of the product.

While price increases contribute to lower sales, this is only part of a cycle.

Customers are watching their spending so they cut a few titles that aren’t living up to expectations.
Publishers respond to lower sales by increasing prices to try to maintain their profit levels.
Higher weekly purchases drive more customers to buy their books from discount internet retailers.

The point needs to be made that customers that go to a local comic shop tend to buy more because they are exposed to more. When you buy online, you’re looking at a list of books and except for high profile books, much less likely to try new titles … when you go to a shop, you get to actually look at all the books as well as getting recomendations from the retailer and other customers.

Due to the isolated experience of buying online and the delay in online buyers getting the books they do order, they are more likely to go from regular weekly customers to being casual buyers that make fewer purchases which also makes them more likely to leave the hobby entirely.

Publishers should look at what the gaming industry has gone through the last few years and take heed.
Game companies saw they could increase sales by selling to online and mass market retailers. This worked in the short term, but as sales moved away from local shops, local shops stopped supporting many of these games. Lack of local support meant a lack of new players to buy their product until sales eventually flatline and most of the games introduced in the last several years died unspectacular deaths.

Publishers need to take a more long term look at the industry. Electronic distribution of comics in any financially viable way is at least a decade away so they need to look at a method of keeping people exposed to their product. Unfortunately for publishers, that means supporting local comic shops in a way that contributes to their financial health and allows for more small retailers to compete in this business.

Ron

Rons Comic World
Armory Plaza – Rt 38
Mount Holly, NJ

While the health of comic shops should be maintained, I think the real answer is getting comics out to people who don’t know they’re still being published. Comics should be just as normal and common for everyday people as movies and books and music. It doesn’t need to be a strange secret hobby.

all i ask is that before people go to Amazon, they go to eBay and look at seller feature_comics. i got a Final Crisis TPB Set for $55, which included the Hardcover. also, InStockTrades is another seller where i get a huge discount. i doubt these sellers make much of a profit but it helps them stay in the sales. And, it’d be nice if DC/Warner and Siegel & Shuster’s family could find a happy medium. Superman belongs to the world now, not to either of them- but the family should still be taken care of.

two things: “It IS the price increase that will contribute to significantly declining sales, reduced selections, and a reduction of interest in our common interest of comics”

Secondly, nearly all of us who work for companies know that we relinquish all rights to our work as part of the situation. The Siegels have no moral interest in this money-grab, and the creator is long gone. I’m sick of their attempts to blackmail DC for what DC legitimately owns. They are only self-interested, and their continual pursuit of money from DC is disturbing and immoral. They should stop paying lawyers and go on with their lives (but the almighty dollar is telling them otherwise).

Yeah,Idon’t get the lawyers comments either. It’s the Siegels that keep suing DC, not the other way round. If I was DC I’d fight any law suit brought against me for property I legally bought (whether or not Siegel and Schuster got screwed is beside the point, at the end of the day they sold Superman to DC).

DC genuinely keep seeming to accept the court’s decision every time, and who wants to pay out money they don’t or shouldn’t have to?

If any of the rest of us created an entire industry off the launching of one character, we’d get whatever we could after the better part of a century of receiving far less than a fraction of a percent of all the revenue that Superman alone directly generates.

I want the Siegel & Shuster estates to get something but I can’t imagine the character going to another company. DC has built so much besides what started off strictly from the Siegel & Shuster template that the original version would be a novelty at best and, weird as it sounds, a feeble husk of what DC and it’s infinite line of creators have contributed to it over the years that the estates aren’t entitled to.

Superman and DC are inseparably bonded in my mind.

It’s not just higher prices that have made me cut back. it’s that combined with a stiff economy. Other expenses are bigger priorities.

Superman is called a property. There is a reason that metaphor is used to describe ideas, characters, concepts and the like. If I sell you my literal property (real estate/land) can I still claim rights to all the wealth you make off of the land after I’ve sold it? Let’s say I cleared the land and built a roadway on it, but after I sell it you build an apartment complex. Do I own that apartment complex? Do I have a claim to the rent you charge to tenants? No. Siegel and Shuster created a character. Others developed it for a corporate entity. That’s how America works. Unless you want to change 200 years of corporate law. DC has a right to the Superman franchise which they paid for initially and developed over half a century. Many successful characters of the past are simply not popular in the 21st Century. Who can claim credit for Superman’s ongoing success?

I’ve worked for several companies who have made more money off of my work than they’ve paid me for. But when I accepted the check, I accepted that the results of my work was no longer mine. It doesn’t matter if I birthed a new Industry and generated billions with that work. I agreed to be paid amount X to produce it for the people who wanted to pay me. If the sales sucked, I still got my check. If the sales were through the roof, i still got my check. That is the way it works. If you don’t agree with that, market,oversee and manufacture everything yourself and risk your own money to lose or gain more money.

An while I myself, would feel that I SHOULD give tons of money and look out for the welfare of someone who made me rich, there should be no law FORCING me to.

Superman is a product not a deity he does not “belong to the world.”

Once the copyright expires a “product” like Superman does belong to the world. That’s how Alan Moore was able to use all those great characters in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In fact you can use them too and write your own story.

Shamus is right.

Even more so, I personally care as much about the “legal” ownership of Superman by DC as I do about the legal ownership of a black slave by a plantation owner.
Its MORALLY wrong.

What the hell kind of superhero fan are YOU, if you support the law over morality, and the corporation over the invdividual?

-Mike-EL

Wait, did you just compare ownership of a fiction character to the one of the worst crimes in human history?

WTF

Let us just jump back a minute.

The reason that Seigel and Schuster were able to reclaim their property is because copyright laws at the time were so ONEROUS against creators that it proved necessary to alter them later.

So, yes, the lawsuits are coming from the creator side but it is also important to remember that the majority of the ultimate decisions have — based on current LAW — gone for the creators and not against. They are, largely, claiming what is theirs by right — not taking away what was NOT theirs.

And, you, whatever it is you create are MORE protected now than they EVER were.

While DC is Superman in my opinion — it is also important to note that had Superman been created even a few years later, Seigel and Schuster would have likely received far more money than they will ever get in legal “recovery” now.

I’m a huge Superman fan and I think the “nice” thing to do would have been to take care of Seigal and Schuster especialy in their latter years. I don’t see what their families should have to do with this though.

Keep in mind that the character they created is not the same character most of us are familiar with. The names are the same (except for the Kents) but the character has changed. If Superman hadn’t been recreated over the years, it’s unlikely the book would still be in print. Would the families still be fighting with DC over the rights to a character that hadn’t been in print since the 50′s?

When he began, Superman was little more than an alien tough guy. While I do believe DC could have handled their relationship with Seigal and Schuster better over the years, how do you determine how much of the characters value is due to the investment of time, talent, and money by DC.

A previous example was made about property, but lets try this … I have a business that I started but I’m having a hard time making a go of it so I sell it you, someone who has more experience and already owns several other sucessful businesses.

Because times are tough and I need the money I’m not in a great negotiating position so I do OK, but I settle for less than top dollar. Now, 10 years later, times are better and you’ve remodelled the store and advertised it through your other businesses and made it into a huge sucess, much larger than I would have imagined possible. Do I have the right to sue for a share of the profits? I WAS the one who started the business after all.

We’ve all seen or heard stories about the little guy getting screwed by the big company but sometimes it’s just that the little guy settled for the best deal he could at the time. They didn’t have to sell the idea to DC, they could have gone to another publisher or even tried to raise the money to start their own company if they realy had faith in their creation.
.
You ALWAYS have a choice, even if all of those choices suck.

Ron

Rons Comic World
Armory Plaza – Rt 38
Mount Holly, NJ

Kevin Melrose

July 14, 2009 at 9:14 am

Ron, your sell-a-business scenario isn’t parallel.

The Siegels are using the avenues made available by Congress when it extended the duration of copyrights. Lawmakers recognized that there was an unfairness inherent in those extensions, so they included provisions for creators (or their heirs or estates) to reclaim their copyrights at certain points.

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