Robot 6

Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | The Creator-Owned “Revolution”

Steve Niles

There’s some disagreement about where it started, but it couldn’t have been much earlier than Steve Niles’ blog post, which is where I first heard about it. Some credit Eric Powell and it’s true that this is a drum that he’s been beating for a while now. As has Robert Kirkman and others. But Niles’ post last week called for specific action (that doesn’t necessarily require walking away from well-paying corporate gigs) and inspired a flurry of opinions and commentary about supporting creator-owned comics and what that really means. Readers and creators alike have been talking so excitedly about it that some have called it a revolution. But is that really what it is? And if so, a revolution of what? Since most of the books this column covers are creator-owned, these are good questions to try to answer here.

When Kevin quoted Niles’ post for Robot 6, he pulled this piece of it: “Can I say something I’ve wanted to say for a long time? If you like something, tell your friends. If you love it, tell the world. But if you hate something, just throw it away, don’t buy it again and move on. We spend way too much time tearing shit down. I just want to try the other direction for a while.”

The commentary on that quote was split between defensive and supportive. “I don’t get that logic,” wrote one person. “That’s like going to see a movie and finding out it’s really, really horrible. Then you hear that a dozen of your friends are going to see that same movie. Wouldn’t you want to warn them about what they are about to endure, the time they will waste, the money they will lose, etc, etc?”

Micah S. Harris and Loston Wallace's Lorna: Relic Wrangler

It’s a good point. Should comics commentary be 100% positive or is there room for serious criticism? I think that writer B Clay Moore’s comment on that same post speaks to this. “I’d love to see sniggering snark eliminated from comic book blogging and reviewing. A renewed focus on promoting the positive is something anyone should be able to get behind.” Without putting words into Moore’s mouth, I don’t hear him saying that there’s no place for serious criticism. For him, it seems to be more about the tone. I would agree.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about manga-blogger David Welsh’s distinction between criticism and reviewing. “Reviewers are offering advice to consumers,” he wrote, “while critics are engaging in a more canonical discussion.” Both of those are valid reasons to write about comics and neither is inherently nobler than the other. But they do have different relationships to less-than-positive commentary.

Criticism, by Welsh’s definition, requires some objective distance between the comic and the person writing about it. The critic has to be able to talk about what works and what doesn’t in a way that doesn’t take into consideration how much money was spent on it.

Kody Chamberlain's Sweets

Reviewing, on the other hand, which is what the vast majority of online comics commentary is, is intimately tied to personal investment, whether financial or just the amount of time spent consuming the story. As the commentator said above, “Wouldn’t you want to warn your friends about what they were about to endure?”

Well, sure. But there are different ways to do that. You can calmly share your opinions and talk about what didn’t work for you without what Moore calls the “sniggering snark.” Too many readers and reviewers seem to take malicious glee in tearing apart comics that they aren’t enjoying without seriously engaging the work. Granted, not all work deserves serious engagement, but it’s not hard to tell which books those are and to avoid them. After a point, it becomes a case of “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” If you know you don’t like a particular storyteller or type of story or tone of comic, but you read it anyway, you sort of lose the right to be taken seriously when you complain about it, don’t you? As another commentator to Kevin’s post said, “Maybe there’d be a lot less whining and curmudgeonry in Internet comic fan circles if people just read and talked about the comics they liked, and stopped buying the comics they didn’t.”

Not everyone agrees of course. That last commenter I quoted prefaced his remark by saying that he’s been told his opinion is naïve. And there’s certainly a reason that there’s so much snark on the Internet: people love to read it. I tend to be a positive-thinking hippie like Niles, but I’ve also caught myself chuckling at Abhay Khosla and Tucker Stone from time to time. I don’t regularly read those guys, because it gets to be a bit much after a review or two, but they’re excellent writers and I do get the attraction.

Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal's Echoes

I kind of feel about them like I do hot peppers though. A little in the dish adds some zing that I appreciate and even like, but too much is overwhelming and ruins the meal. There are too many folks trying to be Khosla and Stone and it’s destroyed the online comics discussion for a lot of people.

Unfortunately, the traditional response to that hasn’t been very helpful either. Complaining about snark is just as useless as the snark itself. Less so, because it doesn’t even have entertainment value. So the Internet discussion has largely degenerated into a bunch of people complaining about everything. That’s not news to anyone, I know, but this is what I see Niles and others trying to change.

When I hear words like “creator-owned comics revolution,” my first thought is that creator-owned comics are going to take down Marvel and DC as the top-selling comics in the US. I would love to see creator-owned books sharing the Direct Market best-seller lists with the Big Two, but I don’t know how realistic that is. At best, it’s a long term goal. (It’s already happened with self-contained graphic novels and bookstores, but the focus of the current discussion seems to be mostly on serialized periodicals and the DM.) So it’s not particularly valuable to see the current mood as the start of some kind of Big Two takedown, but then again, Niles’ comments don’t even remotely suggest that. What he’s recommending is revolutionary in another way.

Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's The Sixth Gun

Skottie Young clearly identified the real problem on his Twitter feed. In response to Eric Powell’s continued (as Powell calls it) “farting and bitching,” Young wrote, “I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Will you be providing actual solutions or just old fashion bitching?” Later, to Scott Wegener, Young wrote, “If you were to write detailed blogs about said books and why you like them, I and probably others would retweet. This would help direct me. Telling me what’s wrong doesn’t actually give me a direction. Tell me what’s right leads me to it.”

Later, on his blog, he said, “As comic creators, we’re lucky to have our fans, and in the day of instant social networking we have their ears on stand-by. So I’ll put out the call for everyone who has a blog or Twitter account. Spread the word on the books you read and enjoy that may not get the attention you think they deserve. It’s not about dissing the books that get attention, it’s about propping up the ones that need more. Give links to Amazon, or your local shop that has it in stock.” This is also what Niles is recommending.

In that initial post that Kevin quoted, Niles also wrote, “All I’m doing lately is attempting to call attention to creator-owned books. I think plain and simple, things are going to get even tougher out there and we have to find our place. Personally I believe there is severe lack of cooperation among creators. There’s a very dog-eat-dog mentality in comics sometimes and I think all we harm in the end is ourselves. My simplistic solution right now is to support as many of my fellow creators as possible. We just don’t have access to publicity budgets, so simple grassroots networking can help us all a great deal.”

Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener's Atomic Robo

To that end, Niles has announced that he’s going to start a column devoted to spotlighting creator-owned work and has requested that creators contact him about potential coverage. Young has already begun putting action to his thoughts on his own blog by recommending I Kill Giants and promising every Monday to continue showcasing a different book that he’s enjoying. And he’s rubbed off on at least Scott Wegener who also resolves to write occasional recommendations for books he’s enjoying.

That’s a revolution. Wegener in particular admits that this isn’t his default setting. For creators to take an active role in promoting the work of other, worthy creator-owned projects is huge and I’m looking forward to it. I hope it catches on in a big way. I’ll be closely following the recommendations of Niles, Young, and Wegener and any other creators who are willing to jump on board.

It’s one thing to read the opinions of reviewers and critics. Regardless of their respective abilities to put thoughts into words, their opinions only hold so much weight. But when a creator whose work I admire takes the time to recommend something that he or she is enjoying, I notice that more. “If you like my stuff,” it says, “you may enjoy this too.” After all, it was Steve Niles who introduced me to Charles Burns and Sam Hiti who turned me on to Richard Sala.

The creators can only do so much though. A revolution in their way of thinking and approaching their community is important, but it only truly affects the industry with the participation of readers. For my part, I promise to buy one new comic a week based on the recommendations of Niles, Young, Wegener, and anyone else who chooses to join them. This week, I’ll go to my shop looking for I Kill Giants. Chris Smits and Patrick Brower offer an additional resource in their Creator-Owned Comics blog, but however you get your recommendations and whichever creator-owned book you choose to try, I hope that that some of you will join me.

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Comments

69 Comments

Being a creator owned guy must be really cool.

I think more publishers should put more blurbs on their books. I had heard good things about The Sixth Gun on this blog, but it was the blurb from Matt Fraction on the cover of volume one that convinced me to buy it.

I try to not say anything negative online about books I don’t like, because it’s a small industry – the chances that I’ll end up sitting next to someone at a show or at a bar after a show are too high, and there are some people who I really like whose work I really don’t.

That said, I would love for the atmosphere of comics to be more critical… but constructively critical. Demanding of excellence. The favorite reviews I’ve gotten have been ones that discussed legitimate shortcomings in my books, and they give me very specific ideas as to what I should pay attention to in future books. I strive to get better with every page, and I know few artists that don’t feel the same way (they DO exist, though, and hopefully a more critical atmosphere would force them to either reconsider their stance or drive them out of our beloved medium). Criticism, and harsh criticism if justified, should be encouraged, even if I’m not going to engage in it myself.

The problem, as Clay pointed out, is that there is little genuine criticism. A handful of folks actually critique constructively, but most simply talk about what’s wrong with an overwhelming concern to be wittily biting and none whatsoever to explain an alternative course of action that the author, artist, or cartoonist might have taken to make the project better.

That “the art sucks,” or that “the dialogue is weak,” is not criticism. It’s complaining. And comics complaining is what the vast majority of folk engage in.

Chris Schweizer:
Good points. I think one thing that is being overlooked though is a lot of people hide behind their snark with the “it’s my opinion” defense. As if having a less than positive opinion about something gives you an excuse to be a jerk about it. “It sucks ass” isn’t stating your opinion, it’s being a jerk. “I’m not a fan of this artists portrayal of the human anatomy” is an opinion. One leaves room for discussion about the work and the other just encourages a bunch of bitching from both sides.

That’s exactly what I meant, although I’m not all that fond of negative criticism in online comics reviewing, period. Perhaps if I saw it handled more intelligently I’d be more inclined to be open-minded on the subject. But I don’t think criticism from most online reviewers is “constructive” in tone.

If you have the space to carefully examine a book and offer legitimate criticism, from a perspective that indicates to me that you have the knowledge and frames of reference from which to justify my time with your review, then, yes. Give me “serious criticism.” The problem is there aren’t many who are qualified or skilled enough to properly handle serious criticism.

Ironic that Steve sparked so much of this discussion. A couple of years back I was invited to discuss my thoughts on comics criticism by ifanboy. Josh Flanagan had written a rebuttal of sorts to a blog post of mine where I questioned the value of online comics criticism in its current form, and we “debated” the topic on the show.

The spark that ignited my initial blog post was a snarky, dismissive, and insulting review of a creator-owned book of Steve’s. The smug, holier than thou attitude of the reviewer (whomever it was) just pissed me off, knowing how hard Steve and his collaborators had no doubt worked on the book in question. I thought the efforts of the creators deserved more than smart-assed shredding by some faceless internet “personality.”

Anyway, if something isn’t your cup of tea, explain why you didn’t enjoy it, but please spare me your qualitative judgments, and, as Michael alludes to in this piece, spare me your snide or dismissive tone.

And, yes. Recommendations are always encouraged, assuming you make it clear why it appealed to you.

What Steve Niles has asked for is really important, to the point I’m surprised that it is being debated.

Coming from a different industry with a similar product (architecture), we have some similar issues. We need to promote what we make to people who do not know what our product is, as in ‘this is great’, this is interesting, ‘you’d enjoy this’. Its as simple as that. Criticism has limited meaning to the layman. What the layman can do is have an emotional reaction, a recognition of when they have something that is good put their way, that it is. Take the Cartier Foundation where the Moebius exhibition is on currently. That’s great isn’t it? Yes.. why? And somebody’s interest is gained. Me complaining about a building is going to attract nob interest, it will bore people and put them off. Creativity cannot be based on the negative. That just doesn’t work.

This is to say, the public isn’t interested in snark. I do wonder if in our industry we have turned away from the public and inward with our criticism. We have forgotten what we are here for: to serve (for comics, you might say ‘to entertain’). With this, the world may well decide ti doesn’t need architects. Please don’t let that happen with comics. Stop promoting the good, though, and you won’t help yourselves. I won’t differentiate here between creator owned and work for hire: in architecture, there is a strong moral bias toward the former. Work for hire is seen as less worthy, even when it brings in better results. All work needs the positive filter when it is presented to the outside world. When people see what is good, they will seek more of it.

Since my industry wasn’t putting useful material in front of me to help with the design decisions I have to make every day, and to entertain and enthuse me, I started my own website, and that has brought me here. Where will your positive coverage of creator owned work, or indeed any work, take you?

Bendis took a lot of heat for saying that there wasn’t much out there in the way of legitimate comics criticism, and the uproar demonstrated (to me, at least) that the geek-o-sphere doesn’t even really know the difference between “reviews” and a critical reading of media. Kind of shocking in an era where I’d guess most college graduates have a Media Studies 101 class under their belt. But I sort of think that unless you apply that same “I am writing a term paper” mentality to your “criticism”, you’re just another fanboy giving your review (I’m one too, you know. Glass houses. Its how we read comics these days).

In the article you describe the person who says “what if I hear of 12 of my friends who are going to waste their money on something I know is terrible?” Get over yourself. Your opinion is just that, and getting up in the grill of friends who saw a trailer for a movie and wanted to check it out indicates they might just like that movie for reasons that you would not. Or, you know, your friends may like you but secretly know that you have terrible taste.

A critical analysis can actually make people WANT to see a movie based upon the fact that you were interested enough to spend the time analyzing some aspect of the film that you put fingers to keyboard.

But mostly of late, I’m surprised by the mix of reviews and criticism that seem to indicate the reviewer rushed to the keyboard to get online before Friday, and didn’t seem to (a) understand the comic they were reading, and/ or (b) had no ability to think about the comic as part of a series or serial and can neither consider what came before or what might come after the issue in the review. I find both of these items equally surprising, as these are folks with a lot of comics miles under their belts.

So, how many producers of comics would pay money for a ‘serious criticism that they want’ publication just like people pay money for their comics?

Very few would be my guess.

Very few producers of such are ‘qualified’ in the sense that they aren’t Alan Moore or Warren Ellis, etc., and just come out with run of the mill Spider-Man or whatever mediocrities all the time. And likely will never be more than that, and may well be worse.

There’s a really simple way to not have anyone say you suck, or tell people not to buy such junk. Keep it to yourself and don’t ask for people to pay for it.

And I’d hope the ‘only be positive’ pollyannas have never said how terrible a movie or song or football player was on twitter…….

“My first thought is that creator-owned comics are going to take down Marvel and DC as the top-selling comics in the US. I would love to see creator-owned books sharing the Direct Market best-seller lists with the Big Two, but I don’t know how realistic that is. At best, it’s a long term goal. ”

I love creator owned projects, I would love to do one myself one day, but we are forgetting what the big two also offer? Such cherished characters as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Robin. The x-men, spider man and Marvel’s ilk. These are some amazing characters that’d be missing today if it weren’t for them.

I think you’ll love “I Kill Giants.” I found it by asking the manager at my local comic book shop. Which leads me to this small point, I actually get really good recommends that way, these people live comics and if you tell them what you like, they take that into account (in my experience). I’ve also noticed that certain shops with a good web presence post their reviews online, and they are respectful and maturely written. I think the problem is, there ARE good comic reviewers out there, they are just dispersed so widely over the internet that there is no AUTHORITY, no widely-recognized and respected guide. Yet.

I am editor-in-chief of a review site, and we have a policy on our reviews that while it’s OK to have a negative opinion of a book, you have to be able to back it up, and you must treat each book with respect. That’s what I see missing from a lot of reviews. I don’t care if a reviewer disliked a book if they can’t say why, even if the reason is as simple as the book not being their taste. I always favor substance over snark, especially when I’m looking to a reviewer to help me make a decision on how to spend my money.

ACMC, I’d miss them too. That’s why I said “share” the best-seller lists. There’s room for all of it.

“It’s a good point. Should comics commentary be 100% positive or is there room for serious criticism?”

The tone should be the same as it is in criticisms of other media. When a movie reviewer hates a movie he talks about it that way and that’s his prerogative. If you don’t like negative comments I think what you’re looking for is a fan page, not a review/discussion site.

Thanks Steve Broome! No need to rain on the positivity parade.
I myself have been sick of the toxic postings for years now! We as Comic Creators and Fans need to come together and take this industry to the next level. When random people ask me about what cool comics are out I ask them what they are into then recommend something along those lines. Comics are great but if I were not a 20 year plus fan of them and I went to any of the popular comic sites I don’t think I could stomach reading all the sick, hateful comments that proceed about every article. Let’s get it together folks! I know we can do it!

When a comic book has juvenile or cliched story or crappy art, it is the reviewer’s job to tell the truth.
The concept of honesty trumps the concept of negativity.

The critic’s job is to criticize. (You can do this without being nasty.)

Honest, Just people out there talking about the creator owned work is good…its all good press. I love the idea , as well, of other creators supporting other creators books. A recommendation goes a long way with me. And yes, I pick up all of Steve’s books when they come out…I do this by pre-ordering them at my lcs…otherwise, they wouldnt have them…something important to do.

Lots of stuff covered here already and it dabbles in many different topics. I do think there’s a distinction that needs to be drawn between the battle cry for “creator-owned comics” and “genre diversity in comics” because many people get those confused. They’re connected, but they’re not the same thing.

There have been all sorts of individual efforts made through the years to bring about both, I even wrote an open letter about this back in 2005. I called for a genre “renaissance” instead of a revolution because historically, genre diversity was the norm.

“…as fans, retailers, media, creators and publishers, isn’t it time that we welcome Horror, Crime, War, Romance, Comedy, Western, Humor, and other so called ‘indy’ books back into the mainstream of the industry? It’s time for a Comic Book Renaissance!” — http://www.comicbookbin.com/kodychamberlain.html

However, from what I can tell, the 2011 push for creator-owned comics and genre diversity is far more of a collective effort and that’s exciting.

As for Marvel and DC, I think some readers are taking the creator-owned movement as an attack on the things they love (superheroes), but in fact it’s the complete opposite. If/when creator-owned comics begin to thrive, we’ll have a stronger pool of creators working in this industry and we’ll have more readers supporting all kinds of books. Even some superhero books get canceled because of poor sales. More readers means more sales for every book on the shelf. Superheroes will benefit as much as creator-owned work.

Lets face it, the bulk of horror comic fans started reading superhero comics first, then started sampling other things. Rarely does a horror fan enter a comic shop looking for horror stories. But what if they did? What if The Walking Dead on AMC starts bringing in lots of new horror fans on the hunt for horror comics? What if fans of EVERY genre considered comics on equal terms with other forms of entertainment like video games, novels, and movies? Those horror fans might also pick up a superhero book and enjoy the shit out of it. More readers means more quality comics. It’s a win/win.

First off, all these creators like Mr Niles and Mr Powell are not indy creators. Both work for Image or Dark Horse. These are not indy companies. So, they truly have no idea what a indy creator is really having issues with in the industry.

Secondly, the biggest problem that faces indy creators is not marketing or blogs telling people to buy this book or that book. It isn’t Marvel or DC doing super hero books, in fact, that is a bonus for indy guys because it gives us a piece of the market to appeal too. No, the real problem is Daimond Distribution. Diamond has a strangle hold on the indy guys. Diamond takes up to 70% of indy comics money off of orders. Let me say this again 70%. For those who can’t do math, let me break it down for you. If you sell the minimum order of 2000 copies and make $2 off of each book, then Diamond gets $1.20 and the creator gets .80. This adds up to Diamond getting $2400.00 and the creator getting $1600.00. This is a huge problem because now the creator doesn’t have the ability to substain his creation. This amount doesn’t even cover the cost of print. This is highway robbery and if folks really want to get upset then get upset with Diamond. Tell them to give the little guy a level playing field.

You see, I don’t need Mr Niles, Mr Powell or anyone else to market my book for me. That I can handle myself. What I do need is the ability to get my product into the hands of the reader. Let my product speak for itself.

What I do not need is Diamond and their “committee” deciding and dictating what will go into shops. Most folks do not even relaize that if a creator wants his or her book carried in Diamond it has to be chosen by the Diamond Committee and allowed in. Diamond is a distribution center, not a publisher. They have a horrible strangle hold on this industry and until someone stands up to them then nothing will change.

Also, by Diamond placing a minimum order of 2000 copies on indy books they have destroyed the strongest tool of marketing that comics had, and that was “word of mouth”. Most indy books started out with low numbers, 500 to 600 copies but the comic community is small and word would get out on books like Bone, Cerebus, Madman, Poision Elves and other great titles. This is what made the indy guys succeed and until someone comes up with a way to fix it then all the blogs and belly aching in the world will not help.

My last thoughts: Diamond, quit using unfair business practicing and quit trying to screw the little guy. Give the products the chance to prove themselves and build an auidence. I have all the confidence in the world with books and my products but if you can’t get them in the hands of the readers they will fail.

Thanks.

Will, I think you need to check your math. Diamond does not get 70%. You’ve completely excluded retailers from your equation, which is the bulk of the percentage Diamond collects on the distribution of each title.

And how is a 100% fully creator owned book at Image NOT an independent title?

@Kody-The numbers I am using is based on a book that sales for $2.99 cover price. Diamond sales the book to the retailer for $2.00 out of the $2.00 is where the math comes into play. And yes they do take 70%. You need to check your numbers or better yet go to their website and check out how to get a book into Previews. Here is a link for ya: http://vendor.diamondcomics.com/public/default.asp?t=1&m=1&c=2&s=247&ai=36241 It will explain their discount for ya.

Image is not an indy company. They do some indy books, yes, but the majority of their books are from the “partners”. Image central is the only part of that company that deals in creator owned book. So no they are not an “indy” company. Not to mention the money they take from the creators themselves. $2500.00 off the top and you have a minimum sales with them too. You also have to give them a percentage of the over all sales on top of the $2500.00.

By definition Independent comics is those that are not associated with a company. They are Independent. Bone, Cerebus, and I could name a ton of other titles to show you want a true indy book is and it isn’t Image.

Also, at Image they will dictate to you what they do not like and you will fix it wether you like it or not. That is not 100% creator owned. You have your facts wrong. They don’t like your logo, guess what, you have to change it. Which means you are not independent you are working under an editor.

Will, I write/pencil/ink/color/letter/design a book at Image called SWEETS, I actually DO know what I’m talking about. And no, Image does not dictate to me what to fix. My book goes out exactly as I turn it in.

What was the name of the book you did at Image?

And I wanted to also point out that the vast majority of books at Image are NOT done by the partners. Books done by Image partners are probably less than 5 or 10% of what’s published by the company. The rest they’re fully creator owned, like mine. But a books Spawn, Savage Dragon, or Walking Dead are also owned by the creators that created them. They are not owned by Image Comics.

Just my two cents…. I think Marvel and DC are sucking the oxygen out of the room with the plethora of superhero titles they publish. A lot of us 30-45 fanboys get ALL the Avengers titles or ALL of the Batman titles because we don’t want to miss the one that “matters” or “changes everything” (even though that rarely happens).

My wish would be that Marvel/DC would reduce their publishing lines by about 50% and that the creators displaced by those changes (which are kinda the same as job cuts) would be able to make a decent living writng a more diverse set of creator-owned comics that would appeal to me, but also to people outside of the 30-45 white guys who are the basic demographic.

I’ll always want my Avengers and X-Men stories, but I don’t expect them to provide me with excellent stories….just the monthly fix of these grown men soap operas.

Will, I think you’re on a mighty high horse with your definition of “independent comics.” I have to agree with Kody, Image is the best deal for creators like you and me trying to get our books into people’s hands. Image does not have an in-house editorial staff as the creators, THEMSELVES, edit their books. Sure, Image editors will make suggestions but the key I think to being truly independent is the discussion of IP percentage, which Image gives 100% to the creative team involved.

You can go self-publish to maintain your indie-comic dignity, but let’s be honest here, we have all been to cons where the artist alleys are filled with independent (i.e. self published) comics and 95% of them just aren’t good. More than simply getting my comic book out there as an “independent” creator, I want to be respected and more importantly RECOGNIZED by the comic book community that I have respected for years.

Don’t you?

If Steve Niles wants to plug my comic book, I say hell yes and thank you! Feel free to run your numbers on sales and such, but some of us “indie” creators aren’t in it for the money.

Not an indie comics creator, OR someone who would know what *exactly* Diamond takes personally – but I *am* a retailer – and we take anywhere from 45-55% of a comic book’s sales, depending on what company they are coming from, and if that order is placed before Final Order Cut-Off or not. Presumably, this would come out of Diamond’s “cut”.

By my math, depending on the discount, if Diamond is taking home maybe 15% on a Marvel/DC/Image/Dark Horse book, and 25% of a back-half book (pretty much anything in the back half of the catalog) after retailers take their bite.

As for the Image deals, as I understand it (and let’s be up front here, I’m just some jerk on the internets), Top Cow is contracted work, and everything else, is creator owned. I’m a little fuzzy on how Kirkman’s Skybound works (I believe he gets to taste some other media rights) or how Guggenhiem does his things through Collider (again, I think it’s a taste of other media rights), but everything there is creator owned. Now, the person who OWNS the creation may hire other people out to do work – like say, someone writing for Jim Valentino’s Shadowhawk or Todd MacFarline’s Spawn. As such, they would probably have different contracts.

But again, I’m just a retailer. I know what I pay for a book, and what’s left over after that, nothing more.

Will, the “indie” label is a weird thing to latch onto about this whole thing. I’m not saying it hasn’t ever been applied to the current discussion (and even if it has, I agree with Kody that it’s been applied correctly), but the term that’s been used most is “creator-owned.”

By trying to decide who gets to be an “indie creator” and who doesn’t, you’re missing the point of the conversation. Apparently you have a brilliant marketing strategy and don’t need extra word of mouth from people with built-in, comics-loving audiences, but even so, extra publicity couldn’t hurt when it comes to promoting your book to potential retailers. Especially if you’re trying to figure out how to work around Diamond.

I understand that I didn’t write the anti-Diamond article you obviously want, but I fail to see how the article I did write harms you in any way or why you’re so pissed off about it.

Will – You get 40-45% of the cover price from Diamond. That means 2K copies of your $2.99 book makes you about $2392 on a book.

Image takes their cut, about $1500, off the back end of sales. i.e. – they get a check from Diamond, then give you the rest.

The reason Image has minimum sales is that they’re a for profit company, not a charity. know they’ve worked with people and books that started off making less than the minimum orders in order to give them a chance to make it. Some haven’t, many have.

Yes, $1500 sounds like a lot, but considering the branding Image has, along with being in the front of Previews magazine where retailers will see your book and order it(vs being buried on page 387) means you get more exposure to retailers – the very people that buy your books to sell to their customers.

The heavy handed editorial and dictating what you ‘have to fix’ is a load of BS. Image offers advice based on decades of experience in the industry. It’s up to you whether you want to take it or not.

@Kody-You actually, DO KNOW what you are talking about, huh? First off, I have done work for Image and I actually have some working coming out through them in the next couple of months. The book is not mine and I am not going to bring them into an argument to validate who the freak I am. It isn’t that hard to find out who I am and who I have worked for. This is a very small industry. Ask around. But before you condensend someone and try to make yourself look more important then you are, maybe you should check on who that person is and what they have done.

And here is how a 100% creator owned book is not independent. You depend on Image to handle your business, you depend on Image to handle your marketing, you depend on Image to handle your money, and you depend on Image to handle diamond. You are not independent. You depend on a company. Image.

So, my question, by your standards, when is the last time you did an indy book where you handled your own business? When is the last time you sent a project into Diamond to be approved or when did you handle your solicitation or maybe even the printer portion of “your creator owned project”.

Make no mistake, you do “own” your book but you do not control your book. That is the biggest difference between indy books and books that are published through Image, Dark Horse, Oni, IDW and any other established company.

@Jeremy-Not really sure what high horse you are refering to that I am on. I do not expect Mr Niles or Mr Powell or any other creator to sell my book for me. That is my business. Do I appreciate them offering. Yes, but does it solve the problem of getting my book into the hands of the readers, no. It does me know good to have someone push a book that you can not substain due to someone taking 70% of the money. If anything you are helping Diamond more then you are the creator. And understand me staying “independent” has nothing to do with dignity and everything to do with business sense. Business 101 you cut out the middle man. This isn’t some thing where I care if I am considered an indy artist or not. This is me not wanting Image or any other company taking a piece of my creation. So don’t confuse the two.

@Micheal-If you read the first part of this reply you can see where I show the difference between indy comics and Image. I do not believe your article hurts me but it does give a misdirection to where the problem truly is with the industry. It is all good and I am glad that these guys are upset but they are upset at the wrong things. Marvel and DC are not the villians that keep indy or creator books from hitting the shelves. The only thing stopping my product and other indy books from hitting the shelves is Diamond.

@Mark-You are wrong with your numbers. You do not get 40 to 45% of the money. I posted a link that tells you specifical what you get. Now, i am basing my editorial problems with Image before Stephenson took over and he may be driving the ship differently. I can’t comment on that but I can comment of how I know things were handled. Even in the submissions policy it states that Image may want you to change the logo, if they don’t like it or even change things to make the product more saleable. If you don’t do said changes they just decide your book can’t be carried through Image. That is heavy handed.

Look, my post was not geared to start some flame war. I have nothing against Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Marvel or Dc. I could careless what these companies are doing but to label these guys as indy press guys is wrong becuase the creators working for those companies are not in the trenches fighting the battle. Dealing with the business side of the coin. You can’t claim someone is independent when they are depending on a company to handle their products.

Will, I’m not attacking you, and you’re entitled to your opinion.

Since I do a book at Image and I see the monthly statements, my credit as an Image creator is valid. I know what the numbers are, I know my printing cost, I know what Diamond takes, and I know that Image does not apply editorial control over my book. But you posted some info that was inaccurate, and that’s got nothing to with opinion.

And sure, you’re entitled to define “independent” any way you want to, but you’re using a narrow definition that the rest of the industry doesn’t use. Just be aware of that.

Feels like I’m in a music messageboard 10 years ago. Indie and not indie. Funny stuff.

I have a project at a publisher and I’m currently considering self-publishing another project. I take pride in my creation, not the means by which it reaches people. Further, I would love to be out of the trench I’m currently fighting from. Anyone who gives me a means to see my creation in print is a friend.

All the Diamond is evil talk is right in tone but misdirected. They’re a business and owe you nothing. If you blame them, blame the retailers, publishers and creators complicit in taking comics from popular medium to isolating hobby. Of course, all these people owe you nothing as well, but at least at that point we’ve begun to fairly spread the blame.

Regarding Image editorial demands: The fact that your project remains creator-owned means you don’t have to accept those editorial decisions and can leave and pursue being published elsewhere.

“All the Diamond is evil talk is right in tone but misdirected. They’re a business and owe you nothing.”

Patrick, that’s a good point.

Besides, ANY artist that’s truly independent would NEVER rely on a distributor or retailer to sell their book, so the percentages taken shouldn’t matter. Am I right?

Interesting conversation with a music industry guy the other day. When I explained the current business model for the direct market he was appalled. He couldn’t believe there was a system more broken than music. For the life of him, he couldn’t understand why ANYONE would go with a publisher considering they (typically) don’t provide money up front for art production costs. To him, that advance is the only reason people still come to him as a music label. Everything else, in 2011, they could do themselves. So why, he asked, would anyone want to split their money to a publisher? I tried explaining that for many, the answer is that publisher’s relationship with Diamond.

The music industry guy refused to believe Diamond was A. That powerful B. Allowed to exist if it was in fact that powerful.

Now this is a dude coming from the most gutted industry shy of LaserDisc production, so it really does say something that he views our model to be broken.

Something I think is lost in a lot of the current creator-owned talk is where the NEXT market is. Everyone is keen on proving something in the Direct Market and winning over the super hero fan. I think it’s worth considering the idea that the DM fan will eventually the smallest part of the creator-owned readership. Right ow if you want to really pierce that Barnes & Noble readership you do well to adapt something like Anne Frank or Moby Dick. But as we all know some creator-owned material has a life there as well. Creator-owned material often has the same appeal as a prose novel: self-contained and in genres people understand. If comics and more specifically creator-owned comics hope to grow, finding the non-comic reader and making them open to the medium is the best bet.

People seem hesitant to take that challenge because at that point you are judged not from a hobbyist’s or completist’s or fetishist’s perspective, but from a normal adult’s view. Meaning, you can’t just be within a medium that person identifies with for tribal reasons. You have to be good. Or at least interesting.

The first half of that last post was meant to bridge the gap between Kody and Will. Both have good points. System is broken. Diamond is part of that, but not all of that.

Hello Everyone,

I love comic books. I know the people creating them are underpaid, especially if they are independent or creator-owned. I don’t know who takes how much. However, this much I know to be accurate; Will, you need to learn how to spell and use grammar, correctly. It is infuriating to have to read your comments when you can’t even spell correctly. This is not a negative opinion, it’s fact. Check your own posts. Now for my opinion; I believe that people who cannot spell correctly should never post anything on the internet. Frankly, I hope you are not a writer for it would be appalling to have to read your work while it being written in so incompetent a fashion.

I also hope to read more independent and creator-owned comics at my local stores. I always ask for the good ones and take the time to be creative and do intelligent reviews of the work that I review on my blog. I’m not trying to sound snarky or mean. However, it is inconsiderate of someone trying to sound like a know it all and not at least take 2 seconds to spell correctly.

Will,

I’m not quite sure how you managed to deviate so far from the original discussion, but you’ve clearly missed the point Mr. Niles is trying to make. Like you said, “this is a small industry,” and what Mr. Niles is trying to promote is a sense of community. We have to help each other out. I don’t understand why you’re so hell bent on establishing a “me against the world” mentality. If you want to back yourself into corner, to only find that no one is looking out for you, good luck. Thats no fun for anyone.

It’s this self centered thinking that this industry needs less of. Sure, to change what selfishness Diamond or whoever out there currently maintains is another battle entirely, but if you’re so focused on making mountains of money off comic books, you need to re-evaluate why you’re going through all this trouble.

I am currently in discussions with an assistant editor who is interested in publishing my comic, but I know right now that I will probably lose the media rights and not make much money off of it. Does this bother me? No. Why? Because I didn’t write the damn thing to then sit back and live off the interest from a large sum of cash in my bank account. Jason Aaron lost the media rights to Vertigo when they published ‘SCALPED,’ but he didn’t mind because getting published by them met his goal in the long run – which was to have a lasting career in comics.

I may be in the small percentage of creators that actually has a day job that can adequately pay my bills, and if you don’t, then I empathize with your focus on the buck. But know this: Jim Zubkavich of Image’s ‘Skullkickers’ also has a day job and made sure his artists got paid FIRST before he saw a dime. Smart? I’ll say so, he now has an on-going series with enough clout to have a long and healthy career. It’s that passion for the work that translates to the readers. To be so dismissive to a community that is only trying to help you, can only have negative effects in the long run.

I wish you the best, Will. I truly do.

Thanks for the mention! I’m trying to make the blog site one that’s positive, doesn’t slam anyone or any of the books, and just serves as a resource to see what’s hitting the shelves every week.

Just wanted to chime in as another Image guy. The whole “indie” label things in terms of comics is really tricky. I consider Image to be an indie company, since Image creators aren’t bankrolled by Disney or Warner Bros. But Will makes a good point in that, as an Image creator, I’m NOT dealing directly with Diamond or the printer or any of that other stuff. I feel very fortunate to have Image’s staff handle that stuff for me. So maybe the “indie” label doesn’t quite apply. That’s the problem with labels, I guess.

I will say that Image has never exercised any creative or editorial control over any of my books. They’ve made suggestions, sure. Sometimes I’ve taken their suggestions, sometimes not. But the suggestions are rarely unsolicited. They usually only give me their opinion if I specifically ask for it. Usually I turn my book in and it gets published. Period.

While all this talk about “creator owned Revolution” and Diamond percentages is fascinating reading, the truth is – you are all talking to people who already buy comics and are hooked in. You also happen to be addressing a market in free fall. To use an over familiar metaphor – you are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The people who are truly going to bring health and growth to this market don’t know the difference between creator owned or Big Two. And they don’t care. Comic books in their current form don’t provide a compelling reason to buy for the average consumer. (And in this case I am only addressing consumers who would be open to buying comics, but have many other choices for their entertainment dollars). It’s all well and good to rally around creator owned books, but it won’t really matter if the entire industry continues its current downward spiral. There are larger forces at work that need immediate attention, and they have nothing to do with the tone of internet critics on message boards.

As a image creator, I feel the creators at image walk a fine line between the creator owned and independent label, Image facilitate creators with a platform from which they can launch there work. With out devoting a ton of time to production concerns, every one at Shadowline and image central have some support but we’re still primarily responsible for the success of the books we create we still have to keep a schedule, stay organized manage inkers,colorist, and letters. As well as promote the books with Image. In my opinion the few people who have successfully truly been independent are creators like Jeff Smith, Dave Sim, and David Lapham(just off the top of my head) but making a book with out any support would be daunting for most people. I would like to see more non super hero books on the market and I think we will, the medium is still finding its place in north America I hope with continued effort form creators and support from readers we will see more and more diversity in comics as a whole.

Creators cannot demand a particular tone of response from the audience.

If I read a comic, wheter it is creater owned or not, I will respond it in a way I deem appropriate. If I liked it, I will recommend it to others and support it. At the same time, if I think it was poorly written, I also tell others how poorly written it is. I wil not hesitate to stop others from buying it if I think it is not a good product.

Whether my form of response is a 5 page critical essay or a snarky one line comment is a different matter. (I think there are values to both forms of responses)

But you cannot tell me to shut up and just stop buying if I think your work was poor.

Apply that logic to other industry and you will understand how ridiculous that statement is. So a consumer should never complain if he/she didn’t like certain products? One should never complain about certain political issue? Just shut up and wait till election?

I love comics. I don’t have any particular bias toward creater owned work or DC/Marvel work. I love “Batman Inc.” and “Scalped” at the same time.

I know it is a small industry, but do not expect any special treatment. I am not goning to treat comics any differently from movies, books, or TV just because it is a small industry.

I always try to call out the work of other creators whose work I enjoy on my website, http://rickworley.com , where I post my own comics, or mention what I’m enjoying on my twitter, http://twitter.com/bloodoftheland , or on my Facebook, whatever. I hate the attitude that we shouldn’t support one another. The comics world is small enough that people can support a whole lot of what they like, and if you’re doing indy type stuff it doesn’t have to be a choice between you and another artist working in a similar genre. If people would divert their purchasing away from junk purchased out of habit or completionist compulsions, they might be surprised how many great comics they could see and how many less famous artists they could support with the same amount of money that it takes to buy 20 overpriced major publisher comics every week to keep up on Flashpoint or who’s a Skrull or what Superboy punched or whatever it is that’s being shoved out there.

I actually do enjoy some Superhero comics and buy things published by DC and Marvel, but I buy things that have art or writing I enjoy and I think the real trap is when they consume entire budgets and become the only sources of entertainment that people are interested in.

“Thanks Steve Broome! No need to rain on the positivity parade”

Lol my comment was pretty innocuous. I love the idea (since I create a comic book called ‘Future Kings’ which I do everything for – including making the iPad app) of supporting creator owned comic books more. My point was simply that as artists and writers we should have accepted a long time ago the concept of having work we pour our souls into criticized. That’s just reality. As much as people do get frustrated with it (and I understand), the nature of discussion is that some of it is going to be unduly harsh.

BTW I want to point out that a lot of comic creators(including me) are incredibly harsh when it comes to talking about creators they don’t like in other industries. Michael Bay for example is an especially popular target among a lot of the same comic creators looking for more kindness on ze internets. And yes, Michael Bay sucks, but how often do these comic creators simply decide they don’t like Michael Bay movies and thus stop talking about them entirely – versus you know, constantly saying how terrible he is? I know I don’t, I just made a comment on twitter the other day about the fact that after Michael Bay ruined Pearl Harbor he realized for the new Transformers movie that he hadn’t ruined the Moon landing yet.

Steve Broome@

That is exactly what I was saying. It is niave, hypocritical, and arrogant to expect consumers to “support it if they love it” and “shut up and just stop buying if they don’t like it.”

Your point about Michael Bay is spot on.

How many comics creators write “serious ciritical analysis” of the movies they have seen in their Twitter? I do wish they are more critical analysis on comics. However, I also think there are values to one line comments as well.

I find it especially ridiculous when online reviewers read kid comics and judge them on the same scale as non-kid comics. It’s downright silly. It’s just an excuse for them to run their mouths for their own entertainment. I totally agree, if you like something, help lift it up. If you don’t like something, get over it.

Will wrote: “First off, all these creators like Mr Niles and Mr Powell are not indy creators. Both work for Image or Dark Horse. These are not indy companies. So, they truly have no idea what a indy creator is really having issues with in the industry.”

Can’t specifically speak about Steve Niles, but I do know that Powell had worked with smaller publishers and even self-published The Goon years before it was picked up by Dark Horse. He has his own publisher, Albatross Exploding Funnybook Studio, which he still uses for smaller projects like the 3 issue Chimichanga miniseries.

So yeah, he actually does have an idea what it’s like.

No offense guys, but most creator-owned comics are complete crap & as someone else pointed out they do “suck ass.” Unfortunately in the world of self publishing, there are few stand out successes. The few that do stand out really do shine a light on how poor quality most of the others are.

Yes marketings an important part of the sale of any product, but the main thing in the quality of the work. If you are putting out something that is muddled and disinteresting people are going to say so. Your fans are your greatest marketing tool, but your detractors are your greatest enemy & so it should be. If you are producing crap, you should be told… After all the greatest problem with self published comics is exactly the same problem as self published novels… A lack of editorial oversight. You think your writings are deep, maeningful & down right brillaint… Where as the readers make think you are a complete hack, with the writing and artistic talent of a comatose lemming.

-M

I don’t really have a lot to add, but would like to point out the irony of Will stating that his decision to remain under his definition of “independent” is a business decision, but then to proceed by complaining about all the money he is losing as an independent creator.

Also, while there’s a lot of creator-owned work that is good and that I do read, the fact is is that the industry is largely defined by the super hero. Super heroes aren’t really prevalent in other media, and before the last decade or so were virtually non-existent in other media. Most concepts the form the basis of creator-owned work isn’t unique to comics, so it’s a lot harder to drive a book that plays with plots and concepts explored in other media for much longer. It’s sort of akin to why so many movie and tv attempts to corner the super hero market either aren’t very good, or struggle to obtain long term traction, or why adaptations of existing material are done poorly by comic readers’ standards. By and large, people who watch tv and movies as their primary entertainment aren’t inclinded toward super hero material, and that concept works the other way, too. Creator-owned books really have to bring the heat to get read, as to where super heroes just have to be there, and nostalgia and complacency typically will do the rest.

If anyone wants to know why the comics industry is in trouble, reading the above comments might be some help. Because well respected creators and contributors are quibbling about whether or not Image counts as independent or not.

Its simple. Being with Image you are not independent because, as was pointed out, they take care of business, publishing and distribution aspects while letting you do your comics. You can own your creation but still not be independent. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Clear?

Does this definition help anyone in comics? No.

fireboy has hit the nail on the head. the entire industry is in freefall.

why? because i can’t remember the last time I saw a kid in a comic book shop, that wasn’t shopping for Christmas. Kids aren’t buying comics, they’re playing computer games and watching movies. Comic buyers are mostly old white guys who mostly buy immature superhero shit where the world’s strongest man wears his underwear outside his pants etc.

Ground breaking stuff like The Winter Men dies on the vine.

The problem is getting comic books in front of ANY buyers. Most comic books are sold in comic book shops run by superhero fanboys [as the majority of stores in my area are] with no wider appeal or effort being made to cater to all demographics [aside from the odd tokenism], therefore customers are declining rapidly.

Even if I started my own comic book shop, I would struggle to fill it with current material that wasn’t derivative superhero shit.

If only Kevin Eastman had made Tundra work, he had the money, the eye and the drive, but no common sense, or they would be in the big three.

It’s time people drop those god awful superheroes from DC and Marvel that those two been milking for decades and try creator-owned comics. But a lot of comic readers are ignorant and buys DC and/or Marvel comics because they want something familar. So that’s why there’s so many Avengers, Batman and X-Men titles on the stands each week.

Last week at a comic store, one man who seems to be interested in an issue or Irredeemable but then he changed his mind when he notice the comic wasn’t published by Marvel/DC. He said he didn’t want to buy it because it wasn’t made by the big two and felt it wasn’t “safe” comic to be invested in.

It’s amazing to me people dont understand the saying, “If you’re not going to say anything nice then don’t say it at all.” Honestly guys wasting your time on spreading negativity about something you dislike seems like a complete waste of time. I know people like this in real life and they aren’t fun to be around. Hell I used to be that person years ago and know it wasn’t fun being around me. I can admit that. Your effort is better spent being positive about things you do like such as movies, comics and games. If you don’t like something that’s cool but shut your mouth so you don’t ruin the experience for someone else as everyone has different tastes.

Anyhow it’s refreshing for me to read creators stressing things like working together ibstead of saying stupid archaic garbage like ” they are your competition yo forget them”. Its great hearing such famous creators stressing and being vocal and spreading the word about creator owned comics. Image Comics, depending on whatever you see them as, was created to my understanding by it’s founders to prop up creator owned books and so they could make a healthy living drawing what they wanted to draw and not surrendering their rights over to larger companies. How is this bad? All the Image founders despite ones opinion of them helped create a revolution for creators and we need to respect and do the same. By we I mean struggling writers or artists like me trying to break into comics, artists and writers already in the business or fans who love comics. The last thing we all need to be doing is bickering like the odd couple and concentrate all that energy into working together not worrying about petty differences but rather making the shrinking comic industry great and thriving again. Guys, it’s better to realize now that the comic industry is in trouble. It IS in trouble and large companies are right now deciding how you will be consuming comics and what shape they will come in. I know of and have heard of amazing talent being fired and we all need to support creator owned books now more than ever. We also need to work together for the sake of the comic industries survival rather than foolishly worrying about things like “but he’s the competition”. Do any of you honestly believe Image Comucs could have been formed or created with that selfish and simplistic mentality!” I bet it’s founders wouldn’t of accomplished half of what they’ve done by themselves. We need to help and show creators that we want more. Buy your favorite company characters but more importantly set some of that budget aside to support at least one creator owned book from any publisher despite what your own opinion of a true creator owned book is. Make change. Off the top of my head I would recommend Warren Ellis and Steve Pughs Hotwire from Radical Publishing or Invincible and Guardians of the Globe from Image Comics. In the spirit of being positive I think every post should be followed by one book you would recommend to someone. Image Comics is full of them but I am positive there are more out there. I’m not sure if Bayou or High Moon are still being made but I’d recommend buying those books if you can find them. Anyhow that’s my two cents. Oh and I’m available for commissions so hit me up at my website.

The internet is always going to be filled with people who spew bile for the hell of it, trying to fight against it just seems silly to me.

If anything I would prefer to see less comments talking about above average comics they would use to describe amazing stuff like Asterios Polyp, but thats just me.

Im actually kind of amazed to hear about an individual creator trying to sell a comic directly through diamond, I thought all those kind of guys were just doing webcomics at this point.

@bob No offense dude, but you are talking rubbish. People don’t read indi comics because they don’t appeal to them. I love western movies, but i have no interest in reading a western based comic… why? because the medium isn’t well suited to it.

I don’t read super hero comics because i’m some how some functional retard who needs DC & Marvel to tell me what to read, i read super hero comics because i enjoy them. Which is exactly the reason i read indi comics as well. I read the books i enjoy & i don’t read the ones i don’t enjoy.

However if right now DC & Marvel ceased to exist, that wouldn’t mean everyone would start picking up creator owned & funded indepent comics. Most independent comics have a very limited readership, mainly due to disinterest (you cannot make your own market if one does not exist). To somehow pretend that its because everyone is some how comatose brain dead morons is not only juvenile, its incredibly short sighted.

There are heaps of people who pick up comics, of all ages, in all social and economics demographics. An they do it not because they are somehow mind wiped by DC & Marvel, but because the stories & the characters appeal to them.

Things will change, albeit slowly, now that comics are increasingly finding acceptance in the academy. Not to imply that the academy treating something seriously is the key to success, but it will expand the audience. How many undergraduate English programs now have graphic novels on their course syllabi? Many–with corresponding academic journals to publish criticism and not opinions. The best way to change anything in late Capitalism is to vote with your money–don’t like a creator being dumped—stop buying the book. Not like your favourite series being cancelled—write a letter and drop the other books from that line. Buy said books at a later date from the $1-2 bins or during a sale at the LCS.

This talk of creator owned work is all very good, BUT these people haring on about the importance of independent books are all people already IN THE INDUSTRY, which is fine for them, but does make them sound rather ungrateful and frankly more than a little selfish.

It also seems to me that there is another division of forces that not many have mentioned in these comments.
It seems to me most of the people talking about creator owned works and books are people that have a name draw already.
Sure artists and writers can bring more people to their work, if they have already done a book, a story, a cover, or something for the major publishers. It tends to make it easier if your name has some credits behind it. It makes it a lot easier to sell more product if you have a track record or a fan base. It is therefore easier to ‘make it’ with creator owned works.
Let’s face it for example: if you wrote a four issue arc of Superman, saved all you money (providing you had other means of support), then went and did your own thing…..it would sell a lot better than something you created, and printed yourself, didn’t get into Diamond’s Previews, and can only afford to go to two local comic cons a year.
Hope that makes a bit of sense.
But no matter if you are a seasoned pro that goes on to do his own thing, or a person trying to make if from the bottom up….we can only hope to find more readers and a better business model for selling over the internet.
Of course even with a new business model, you still need to make a name for yourself to build your fanbase. It isn’t just good enough to do the ‘field of dreams’ thing. Because if you create it….they probably won’t come….unless you market the hell out of it, and that takes money and time. Money to publish, go to cons, buy ad space, and time off of our daily jobs to create, write, draw our creations.

Coming to this discussion a bit late, but… I would never argue that negative reviews are a bad thing. I’ve written my fair share of them over the years, certainly, and I think that poorly-conceived or -executed work deserves to be called on the carpet for it. But the norm for comics criticism on the web seems to be knee-jerk snark from readers who apparently think they’re smarter than the work they’re reading. Part of the problem, I suppose, is that they often are. Many comics really aren’t very good, to the point that some readers become accustomed to being smarter than their entertainment. Why they don’t stop reading that stuff and concentrate on things they don’t feel contempt for, I don’t know. But funnybook fans can be some smug bastards when they wanna be. Or I should say “we,” because I like being right as much as anybody.

Still, the older I get, the less time I find I have for snark. If it’s well-done, and the criticisms are well-thought-out, I’m okay with it. Tucker Stone and Abhay Kosla (even when I disagree with them, which is actually pretty often) are great at it. Most aren’t, and that’s the sort of criticism I’d like to see diminish. As for myself, I tend to accentuate the positive on my blog (plug, plug, plug). Partially, that’s because I’m not getting paid to write reviews, and frankly don’t have enough money to spend on stuff I know I’m not going to like. I also prefer to share my enthusiasm for the stuff I do like. I just feel better at the end of the day, you know? If I stumble across something really execrable, I’ll blast it. But I even found something nice to say about Rise of Arsenal, for God’s sake, so…

I agree that negative reviews are bad for the industry…which needs as much help as it can get at this point in time. I’m espceically not a fan of those snarky f*%ks on that other comic news site who do video reviews. Those guys love to piss on indie books. I’mmore of a fan of how Ambush Bug handles it, which for themost part,he talks about the stuff he really likes.

I agree with Clay. There’s a distinct difference between offering constructive criticism and simply trying to impress people with how adept one might be at turning a comic into zinger fodder. Good reviewers offer opinions, both good and bad, that help those of us who create comics, the rest are just cluttering the comicsphere with worthless background noise…

P.s. Image rocks!

I am also coming to the discussion late as writer/creator like some who does not have the benefit of working for Marvel-Disney or DC-Warner Brothers that will bring a fan base with me.

I think that whether it is “snarky” comments or criticism. The question for me is what is the purpose of your comment? Is it to inform the reader about making a a purchase and or the creators about how well the concept was executed or not? If it is to inform the reader that this is a good or bad buy fine base on specific reason or the creators about why it worked or did not I’m good with. I personally seek out this type of criticism and I think any creator would to be sure or not if they are meeting the mark. Then some who just want to be first in stating the obvious on the board. These people occur in movies, comics, video games, books, T.V., etc…

But I do think since the recent Diamond numbers show that the growth in the comic industry is NOT occurring with “big two” but with the independent smaller comic presses, no matter how you define, it behooves creators to support each other in a way will continue the growth which is only beneficial to us all. If you want to have any longevity at all. I hope to get a thumbs up from someone in the industry like Warren Ellis did for Genius creators Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman. This not only helps the specific creators but all who are in and want to be in the comic industry. To how people can support in a positive way and not appear to be so “dog-eat-dog” toward on another.

The other issue of developing comic audience in a way to create new readers (which Robert Kirkman and others have discussed) is important to and cannot be diminished. No industry as whole has not done a good job at this not to say there isn’t anyone trying to reach younger readers as the current audience approached an age of fifty-five and beyond and may not be as interested at this age in comics as they were at 18 – 35.

So here’s to the indy folks not matter how you are doing your thing….just make it happen and help someone else along the way if you are so inclined.

@Matthew Lane: I wasn’t exactly talking, I was typing. No offense, every time you type rubbish falls out your computer. There are a number of great creator owned Western comics out there like Sixth Gun, Spaghetti Western, Desperadoes, Loveless, while it’s not creator owned, I hear Jonah Hex has been pretty good. If fact, they are a number of other genres that creator owned comics have available from horror, slice-of-life, comedy, action (non-spandex kind), as well as superheroes. But the ignorant people don’t bother to look for them or don’t want to try other genres. In case of comic stores don’t bother to have them available for the people who want to try something other than DC/Marvel superheroes comics.

This column totally SUCKED!

Ahhhh … I’m joking. ;) While it would be great if there was a pervasive positive attitude in comics, I’m not naive enough to think that people will stop bitching and moaning online. Is it childish? Sometimes, for sure and other times it’s entertaining reading everyone bitch about OMD, Land, Loeb or Liefeld. But it’s not just the fans bitching, creators bitch just as much about the fans or other professionals. Slott telling a fan to STFU! and Aaron telling Moore to GFY! are recent, perfect examples. But the discussion those comments sparked were entertaining and I was logging in almost every hour to see what people had wrote.

The a couple of other points I’d like to make about online bitches;

1. It’s sometimes a facade.

2. The comments do not require anyone to read them. If it pisses you off, respond or don’t. Simple as that.

3. Sometimes people say stuff just to piss people off. Instigators will always exist.

And so will the whiners.

To that end I don’t see the indy world promoting indy books as a revolution but I do agree that highlighting hidden gems is always good.

@Wes I would agree. The greatest facade, is this whole “Comics are dying” and the “superheroes are killing comics” facade thats going on at the moment. Comics are as strong as they have been for the last few years.

Part of the problem for me is finding info ABOUT creator owned books. My LCS is two hours away so I can’t really flip through Previews and the on-line catalogue doesn’t give much info in the way of creator owned books. Sure, you can get a little bit of info from sites such as this, but not on heaps of titles. If info about the books were more readily available so readers could make informed choices about if they should spend their money on them or not that would surely help.

Bob, so if a cartoonist has his wife or friends help him with the business side of things, that person is no longer independent?

I thought being independent was doing the comics you wanted to do. Being Independent doesn’t have anything to with who handles the business side things. Or the genre of the cartooning being done.

I would say Robot6 does a good job at spotlighting indie books, moreso than the main site. Heck, even when the main site takes a chance, no one cares. There were only two comments for Lynda Barry! None for Joyce Farmer or Françoise Mouly!?! People just need to retrain themselves, and start reading the posts you probably just glaze over. Comics College and What are You Reading are great weekly feature. The bloggers here are constantly linking to great sites like The Comics Reporter, the Comics Journal, or Comics Alliance, and to publishers like Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, PictureBox and Secret Acres.

I think Palmiotti said it best here.Putting some of these books on a pull list is the best way to promote indies. Especially when you have the advantage of a great comic shop owner like I do who is a fan of indies himself.At least one or more extra copies are on the rack depending on how many fans have asked for a particular title.I’m constantly surprised at the number of fans at this shop who I thought were stricly DC or Marvel fans who also pull indies.It seems Marvel fans in particular are concentrating on a particular Avenger title or X men title and not buying into the whole pantheon which leaves more room for Atomic Robo or Time Bomb or Turf.If only Palmiotti and Gray could come up with a real ending for Prototype.What the heck happened to the Prototype guy ?LOL

If anybody’s interested in another venue to check out exciting independent books, there’s a facebook group dedicated to indi comics. We try to post new reviews every month!!

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/group.php?gid=2207970991

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