Robot 6

Comics A.M. | San Diego Convention Center plan advances

San Diego Convention Center

Conventions | San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved the basic funding plan for the proposed $500 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, home to Comic-Con International. At the center of the financing scheme is an assessment district that adds between between 1 cents and 3 cents per dollar to room taxes of 224 hotels with more than 30 rooms. Those hotels closest to the convention center would be assessed an extra 3 cents per dollar, and those farthest away could be charged an extra penny per dollar.

The expansion plan has a ticking clock, as Comic-Con has signed a deal to remain in San Diego through 2015, but larger venues in Las Vegas and Anaheim have been lobbying organizers to look elsewhere. [NBC San Diego]

The Last of the Greats #1

Piracy | I Vampire and The Last of the Greats writer Joshua Hale Fialkov wades into the ongoing digital piracy discussion, declaring, “You can’t be an asshole anymore”: “Up until a few years ago, there was still enough of an audience to make up for the percentage of you who are stealing. But, not anymore. Now, everybody steals, or, at least a higher percentage of the total audience than those that pay. The comic market consists of about 200,000 people, on the high end. Now, certainly, you’ll have your Justice Leagues and Batmans and Flash’s that do amazing sales and are generating profits. But almost every other book that isn’t up there in the top 25 or so titles is almost certainly losing money. So, if I’m Warner Bros or Disney, or, in the case of Last of the Greats, ME, and I see that we’re busting our asses monthly on something that’s not only not profitable but is actually losing money, what other choice do I have but to shut it down?”

David Brothers takes issue with virtually all of Fialkov’s comments, particularly his assertion that pirates are “singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry”: “To put forth the idea that piracy on the part of consumers is ‘singly responsible’ for anything, especially when piracy by its very nature is impossible to nail down in terms of concrete numbers and cause & effect is dishonest. Bootlegs have always existed, whether in barbershops or art galleries. They’ve been here, and they aren’t going away. Do they cause harm? Any idiot knows the answer to that question is ‘yes.’ But for my money, the thing that killed comic books is ‘everything else.’ We’re living in an all-new status quo, and I keep seeing people, especially comics people, acting like piracy is the sole cause of all their ills. When no, that isn’t true, and a half glance at the world will tell you so.” [Joshua Hale Fialkov, 4thLetter!]

Stan Lee

Creators | Stan Lee reflects on his 70-year career and discusses the way comics have changed in his lifetime, breaking with the Comics Code, and how to create strong characters: “One of the keys is, and it may sound funny, talking about characters with super powers, but one of the keys is to make your characters as realistic and believable as possible. Even if they have super powers, you say to yourself, ‘Well, if somebody had a super power like this, what would his life be like? Wouldn’t he still maybe have to go to the dentist or wouldn’t he have to worry about making a living? What about his love life?’ You’ve got to make characters that your reader can believe exists or might exist.” [IGN]

Creators | Brian Wood continues to make the rounds about his newest projects, The Massive and Conan, as well as the two ending at Vertigo, Northlanders and DMZ. [The Weekly Crisis]

Comics | Stumptown Trade Review lists seven things “independent comics did first,” including the graphic novel, the omnibus and Web-direct distribution to consumers. [Stumptown Trade Review]

Comics | Cyriaque Lamar looks back at the half-man, half-woman villain He-She, “the most cunning, the most vicious, the most fiendish killer of all time.” [io9]

Digital comics | Johanna Draper Carlson looks at Marvel’s digital offerings (via its app and comiXology) and isn’t impressed with the price or the presentation. [Comics Worth Reading]

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Comments

13 Comments

Maybe Fialkov would find his books selling better if he were a good writer. Crazy, I know. Blaming piracy for your own inadequacies. For shame, Fialkov, for shame.

I downloaded and read Last of the Greats #1. It was pretty crappy. If it was good, I would have bought the issues.

Better writing and better art will get people to buy comics. Having characters that people want to read about will too.

I can walk by an open door and see a stack of cash and not take it. Why? Because I am not a thief. If I want to steal, not pay, I will and nothing is likely to change that. In my life I have “stolen” about a handful of songs (of which I bought the cd at a later date and own about 1500 cds) about as many movies (but I own thousands of dollars in dvds/blu rays). I have never downloaded a digital comic that wasn’t a free offer from the publisher and spend about $40/week on printed comics. I pay because I want to, feel it is the ethical thing to do. If you don’t have any sense of morality or an ethical code–laws and fines probably won’t change a thing.

yep, Piracy is to blame for comics tanking, sales-wise.

It has nothing to do with all the other cooler/better alternatives for people to spend their entertainment dollars on these days. Assuming they have the disposable income to do so…

Or maybe most people don’t want to spend on average of $3 for a comic, that can be read in 10 minutes and only getting part of a story.

Nah, that can’t be it!!!

The comics industry should learn from the music industry on the piracy issue.

The music industry screamed bloody murder about *cassettes*, then innovated cds and kept the price inflated well beyond the economic need. Killed digital tape with lobbying. Ignored digital downloads until it was too late( the market emerged and replaced physical sales). Now cosponsors SOPA and PIPA because “piracy” is killing their profits. Let’s also not forget the literal decades of neglect in developing new musical artists and the utter homogeneity of their product.

Blaming piracy is convenient but the fact is incompetent and greedy management decisions are the root cause. Also a completely annihilated economy doesn’t help.

What’s killing comics?

Not piracy – not yet anyway, although it will beome more of an issue as comics companies try to force customers down digital routes.

What’s killing comics is insane pricing, lack of newstand distribution, lack of promotion and advertising, the difficulty new readers have with ‘jumping on’, lack of interest in attracting younger customers
to build a future reader base, a lack of ‘excitement’ about the product, poor peer image and huge competition for an increasingly dwindling supply of dollars.

There are probably more problems I haven’t thought of, but it’s time for dinner…

Digital piracy? If any publisher seriously thinks that’s all they have to worry about, they’re crazy.

If piracy wasn’t killing anything then how is it that douche who ran Megupload’s net worth is near 175 million dollars? Yes, there are plenty of problems but how about tackling them one at time instead of simply attacking people who want to solve a problem like the useless Mr. Brothers does.

Nothing against Fialkov, but I don’t know if it’s piracy that hurts his book(The Last Of The Greats) or the fact that’s it is just another run of the mill superhero story that Image pumps out numerous times a year. I wish him the best of luck but maybe instead of slamming piracy, work a bit harder and put a better product out that actually stands out amongst the many superhero books. I gave it 3 issues and didn’t feel like buying anymore.

alekesam@hotmail.com

January 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm

“Piracy is the sole reason that comics sales are crap.” –Joshua Hale Fialkov

“If you book them, they will come.”–spirit of Jim Morrison, Wayne’s World.

Piracy is hurting most forms of entertainment(TV,MUSIC,MOVIES,PORN, and etc.).Why would comics be the exception. Its sad that so many in the online community dont want to accept it and rather rip the creators of the material.

Blaming the quality of the product is a nice bit of self-deception on the part of online pirates. Because the average comic (the average comic, not WATCHMEN) was so much better in 80s. And for the jack@$$ who downloaded Last of the Greats, and didn’t purchase it when it failed to meet his standards? Unfortunately that still makes you a thief. That’s not commerce. You don’t get to illegally try the car first, only to buy it if it meets your standards. That’s called grand theft auto. There is an element of risk on the part of the consumer. Welcome to the real world, out from behind your computer screen. But whatever helps you sleep at night.

I think it was Robert Anton Wilson who said, laws do nothing to change behavior, they just create criminals.

The laws making piracy illegal have been there, it has been enforcement that has been marginal. The powers that be are seeking to change that with new legislation, which will simply brand more existing behaviors as being criminal and/or try to put teeth in enforcement. However, such “deterrent” measures are usually ineffective. Those caught suffer consequences but it rarely modifies behavior of the masses significantly.

Instead of the stick, creative industries need to figure out some carrot measures-find ways of making purchase more appealing than piracy .

I do not engage in illegal downloads of materials, I used to write for rpgs (which also suffers from the piracy effect) so I understand where the creators are coming from, but I am also a consumer with limited entertainment dollars that can only stretch so far. The bulk of my comic reading is from trades that the local public library buys for circulation and I only buy a handful of titles now, ones that I feel are worth spending part of my entertainment budget on. So the idea that creators need to do more is understandable, but I think more has to be done by publishers/distributors with formats, accessibility, access to browsing, pricing, etc. to make the product as a whole more appealing. Look for ways to make customers want your product and be willing to pay to get it.

Thing s like…
-Digital subscription services like netfilx for comics or trades, pay a set fee and be able to download material during the term of service, instead of pay on a per unit basis. Perhaps with a lag time. Day and date sales remain per unit, products older than say three months, are part of subscription service.
-Lower per unit costs on individual issues but add “DVD extras” to trades that can only be gotten there at a slightly higher per unit price, not just sketchbooks and creator forwards and afterwords, but substantial features worth the extra money (maybe reprints of older stories featuring key characters, origins for the super-heroes or villains involved, new back up features, behind the scenes features, extended creator commentary, annotations, etc. .
-Alternately add something to individual issues that is not available in trades to give consumers reason to by floppies

-Give retailers a bigger discount to allow them to offer discounts from msrp & maintain their margins or to be able to stock a wider variety of products. Customers can’t buy what they can’t see and if a retailer can’t afford to carry everything, lower tier stuff is what will get the axe. Comics stores used to be the Borders/B&N of the industry where customers could browse and could find any and everything in stock to look through and decide whether they wanted to buy it. A few may still be like that, but most are now the Walden Books of comics stocking only best sellers and buying only enough to sell through the first week’s wave of demand except in rare cases. Even if a new reader walks through the door, there is not much for him or her to find.

-Make books returnable to allow retailers some flexibility.

-Develop loss leaders that get customers into stores and possibly buying other more profitable material.

-Look at the cost/payoff factor $3-$4 per issue for 20-30 pages of story is ridiculously expensive. Comics are no longer priced to be impulse purchases and are not placed in places where they can be impulse purchases even if they were. Comics are now a destination purchase. You have to know where to go to buy them and what you want in advance to ensure you get what you want (Previews orders are due 3 months in advance of release, if you want to be sure you get something you have to be proactive, how many consumers are that diligent and proactive realistically? Is this the best model for a healthy customer base? I have to work hard to over pay you for a few slim pages of entertainment? Really people aren’t flocking to his medium in droves…I can’t imagine why (puddles of sarcasm in case you aren’t drowning in it yet).

-the list could go on and on and on….

Piracy is an issue, for sure, but it is a symptom of the greater problems facing the industry. Focusing on piracy is like trying to staunch the bleeding while the knife is still in the wound. Fix the problems that exist; make comics more appealing, affordable, and available and some of the problems with piracy will lessen, but even then will never fully go away. The comics industry (and entertainment industry as a whole) needs to take a long look at itself and evaluate what is working and not working, honestly and with an open mind, and then take measures to change the infrastructure as a whole from the ground up. This isn’t happening. Instead they dance from one-quick fix solution hot button topic to another like moths to a flame but never make any headway because they never actually acknowledge and deal with what the problems actually are. The fix will be expensive and will take a lot of capital investment, but not as expensive as continually bleeding money in losses and shrinking markets until they are bled dry and dead, leaving only dessicated corpses of perished dreams and fancies of our imagination.

Joe C wrote: Blaming the quality of the product is a nice bit of self-deception on the part of online pirates. Because the average comic (the average comic, not WATCHMEN) was so much better in 80s. And for the jack@$$ who downloaded Last of the Greats, and didn’t purchase it when it failed to meet his standards? Unfortunately that still makes you a thief. That’s not commerce. You don’t get to illegally try the car first, only to buy it if it meets your standards. That’s called grand theft auto. There is an element of risk on the part of the consumer. Welcome to the real world, out from behind your computer screen. But whatever helps you sleep at night.

Joe I agree theft is theft no matter what the intention or rationale, but I can take that car out for a test drive or three before buying it to see if I like it. There used to be places I could browse through comics before buying them too, now granted there are online previews for some books but part of the problem here is that comics are not accessible for browsing without a lot of effort from the consumer or expense to the middle man (the retailer) . This lack of a basic tenet of customer service in the retail arena hurts comics and makes piracy more appealing. This is not a justification for piracy nor a defense for it, but if the industry really wants to make inroads into stopping piracy they need to look at why people are turning to piracy rather than purchase. It is not just price. When it is easier to acquire a copy of a product illegally than it is to do so legally, there are serious problems with your distribution model and customer service. These are things the industry needs to take into consideration. Laws and enforcement are not going to work if incentive causes for piracy are greater than incentive causes for purchase or legal acquisition.

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