Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
With the minimum wage in San Francisco increasing over the next three years to $15 an hour, Comix Experience owner Brian Hibbs anticipates his 24-year-old store will have to generate an additional $80,000 a year in sales to cover the expense.
Therefore, he’s turning to the community for help — not through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but rather with a curated graphic novel club.
Conventions | Vendors who paid the $60 deposit to exhibit at Cherry City Comic Con are clamoring for a refund after word circulated that the Salem, Oregon, convention won’t happen this spring as planned. (There appears to have been some discussion about the con being canceled on Facebook, but the convention’s Facebook page now states, “A marketing solutions company is helping us start the new year right and get us back on track to make this a successful show everyone can love.” No other posts appear on the page.) This isn’t the first round of controversy for the con: Last May, organizer Mike Martin called an exhibitor “batshit insane” on Facebook when she asked for a refund and expressed concern that the con would not be a “safe place for female cosplayers.” Martin is also the organizer of a craft fair that was canceled; some exhibitors for that event were denied refunds because of “a locked PayPal account.” [KOIN]
Comics | Almost half the attendees at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego were women, writes Yael Kohen in an article about the growing importance of women to the comics industry. He cites statistics showing that young women are the fastest-growing segment of the comics audience, talks to Image Comics President Eric Stephenson and a woman who works in a comic shop, and mentions the enduring popularity of manga and Marvel’s recent introduction of more interesting female characters. With all that material to work with, it’s too bad he started with a lead right out of the 1950s, something about a fashion show at Comic-Con, as if that’s what all those women were there for. [BloombergBusinessweek]
Creators | Writer Jen Van Meter discusses her newest project, Valiant’s first female-led series, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage. [Hero Complex]
Publishing | Spurred by the GoFundMe campaign launched last week by Dan Vado to get SLG Publishing “back on its feet,” Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz wonders whether a nonprofit model might make sense for some indie/niche publishers: “Contrary to popular perception, however, being a non-profit doesn’t mean you can’t make money. Lots of successful non-profits generate revenues in the millions and pay their staff, executives and contributors salaries comparable with those in the private sector. They can also pay contractors and contributors like performers or creators full market rates. They just don’t pay shareholders, and they plow any excess revenues back into their operations.” [ICv2.com]
Diamond Comic Distributors’ digital comics program, Diamond Digital, will shut down on Friday, although titles purchased through the service will continue to be available via iVerse’s Comics Plus app.
The news broke Friday at The Hollywood Reporter, where Graeme McMillan picked up on an email sent to retailers two weeks ago. The stated reason: “18 months after its launch, results indicate that Diamond Digital has not gained enough traction in the marketplace to continue.”
There are a lot of reasons why Diamond Digital didn’t work, but I think chief among them is the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.
Of course, the biggest problem operationally was that Diamond Digital catered to a market dominated by Marvel and DC but didn’t carry single-issue comics from either publisher. And granted, that is a huge flaw.
Digital comics | Google was granted a patent this week for “Self-creation of comic strips in social networks and other communications,” which means the Internet giant apparently has patented a mechanism for creating comics about your status updates and chats and sharing them via social media. This sounds a lot like the wildly popular, but widely reviled, Bistrips. [Geekwire]
Best of the year | Brian Truitt takes a look back at the year in comics, picking out some significant events and offering his nominations for best creator, best comic book movie, and best comic in a variety of genres and formats. [USA Today]
Best of the year | Writing for The Advocate, cartoonist Brian Andersen reflects on the year’s 10 greatest LGBT moments in mainstream comics. [Advocate.com]
Webcomics | Shaenon Garrity looks at the problem of webcomics going viral without any attribution to the artist or link back to the original site, often because that attribution has been stripped from the image itself. She cites the case of Rachel Dukes, whose “Life With/Out a Cat” comic racked up half a million views for the uncredited version, while the one with her signature received just 81,000. [The Comics Journal]
Retailing | Brian Hibbs, owner of Comix Experience in San Francisco, has announced he’ll assumed ownership of Comic Outpost from Gary Buechler as of Monday. “It only took me 24 years to do it, but finally Comix Experience will have a second store!” Hibbs writes on Savage Critic. He goes into more detail on the Comic Outpost website, telling customer, “Comix Experience runs pretty differently from Comic Outpost, but I want to assure you that we have no intention of changing the essential nature of the Outpost. Customers dictate the kind of store that exists, and we’ll be dedicated to bringing you the same passionate and engaged love-of-comics service you’ve received from Gary over the years!” [Savage Critic]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller dissects the latest sales numbers and finds July 2013 to be the second-best month for comics sales in the direct market so far this century—actually, since 1997. Combined comics and graphic novel sales were up almost 17 percent compared to July 2012, and year-to-date sales are up almost 13 percent compared to last year. [The Comichron]
Retailing | Brian Hibbs, one of the founding members of the direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO, has left the group “because of the reactions of the Board to recent DC moves.” He revealed his decision in the comments on his blog post about DC’s allocation of 3D covers for Villains Month: “The org that I formed was intended to look out for the little guy; the current Board seems much more interested in keeping the big guys big. Democracy in action, I suppose, so I vote with my dollars.” [ICv2]
Conventions | Wizard World Chicago Comic Con kicks into full gear today in Rosemont, Illinois. Special guests for the four-day event range from creators like Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo to such television and movie personalities as Zachary Quinto, Norman Reedus, Summer Glau and the cast of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. [Daily Herald]
Retailing | Retailer Brian Hibbs breaks down what’s problematic about DC Comics’ announcement that it will allocate its “Villains Month” 3D covers, which essentially means to publisher won’t completely fill all the orders. Instead, the company has added a 2D variant to make up the difference: “You have to understand, as well, that a lot of folks weren’t at all happy about the idea of a line of $3.99 covers, and there was a certain amount of ‘talking people into’ signing up for them. So, to find out just three weeks before shipping that there’s suddenly going to be a version of these comics without the stunts, for $1 less, well this is migraine inducing, at best.” [Savage Critics]
The arrival today of the second collection of Saga, the hit space opera by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, will be met with glee not only by readers following the Image Comics series in trade paperback but also by a good number of retailers — and Brian Hibbs in particular.
The owner of Comix Experience in San Francisco (and Comic Book Resources columnist) commented last week on our post about the first volume’s strong performance in the direct market eight months after its debut, saying, that “Saga is, by far, our best-selling title.” Hibbs expanded upon that last night on his own blog, revealing that Saga, Vol. 1, “is now my second-best selling title in the store’s history of point-of-sale. Nearly seven years.”
“It just passed into that spot a few days ago, where it passed the previous #2, The Walking Dead v1,” he continued. “Understand, that is for sales of TWD v1 OVER THE LAST SEVEN YEARS. Uh, yeah. What’s the most remarkable about Saga is that it steadily sells even at this point. When it crossed into #2 position, it was something like 243 copies sold in 248 days — even at this point, months and months after it first came out, we’re still selling 5+ copies a week.”
– retailer Brian Hibbs, describing a troubling relationship between Kickstarter success and retail success.
He sees two reasons for this. I’m sort of putting words into his mouth, but I think I’m close to his first point by saying that once the book comes out in stores, everyone’s tired of hearing about it. He notes that it’s not impossible to get a second wave of attention going, but it’s tough to do.
His second reason is that once Kickstarter serves the needs of a comic’s most passionate readers, the only people left to buy it are –by definition — the less-passionate ones. Again, that doesn’t spell instant doom, especially for someone who’s able to overcome Hibbs’ first observation and successfully launch a second round of publicity, but it’s still a stark warning. There’s more to long-term success than just having a great Kickstarter.
Crime | Comix Experience in San Francisco was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon, with two young men demanding that owner Brian Hibbs empty the cash register containing about $75 and turn over an iPhone used for credit card transactions. A Lower Haight neighborhood blog interviewed Hibbs about the incident: “Divis [Divisadero Street] is generally pretty safe these days, so I was a LITTLE shocked at, y’know, a ‘brazen daylight armed robbery’ of it — but I am kind of more shocked that anyone thought that a comic book store was a high value target about an hour after they opened. Hell, life is like 85% credit cards these days, so even at our fattest there’s seldom enough to risk that kind of jail time, in my opinion …” [Haighteration]
History | Scholar Carol Tilley gives a first-person account of her research on Fredric Wertham, the super-villain of comics history, and how looking through his papers led her to an unexpected conclusion: His published works misrepresented what his research subjects had told him: “For many hard-to-articulate reasons, I didn’t want to write the scholarly paper on Wertham and the problems I found in his evidence, but not to write it seemed a disservice to the young people whose words and experiences Wertham distorted to help make his case against comics.” [Boing Boing]
Publishing | Pulp heroes The Spirit, Doc Savage and The Avenger disappeared from the DC Comics lineup more than a year ago, with Co-Publisher Dan DiDio now confirming on his Facebook page that the company’s rights to the characters have lapsed. Brian Azzarello paired the vintage characters with Batman, Black Canary, the Blackhawks and other current DC heroes in his First Wave miniseries, which launched in 2010. Heidi MacDonald adds, “we’ve heard that at WB it was pointed out that DC paying good money to license old characters didn’t make much sense when they had their own catalog of little-used characters to exploit.” [Blog@Newsarama]
Digital comics | As noted here Monday, comiXology was No. 3 on the list of top-grossing iPad apps of 2012, and in the press release announcing this, the comiXology folks dropped another number on us: They have served more than 2 billion pages since their launch three years ago. [comiXology]
Legal | Todd McFarlane Productions has emerged from bankruptcy after more than seven years, having paid more than $2.2 million to creditors, according to court documents dug up by Daniel Best. Of that, $1.1 million was part of McFarlane’s settlement with Neil Gaiman, which brought to a close the decade-long legal battle over the rights to Medieval Spawn, the heavenly warrior Angela and other characters (it’s unknown how much of that disbursement was eaten up by legal fees and how much actually went to Gaiman; the writer has publicly stated he gives money won in the proceedings to charity). Todd McFarlane Productions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2004 following the $15 million court award to former NHL player Tony Twist, who sued over the use of his name in Spawn for the mob enforcer Antonio “Tony Twist” Twistelli. McFarlane and Twist settled in 2007 for $5 million. [20th Century Danny Boy]
Creators | iZombie writer Chris Roberson discusses his recent public announcement that he would no longer accept work from DC Comics and his subsequent dismissal from his last writing job for the publisher. “Well, this has been building over the last few months, and mostly had to do with what I saw DC and Time Warner doing in regards to creator relations. I think the first thing — you have to understand that when I first started working for DC in 2008, the Siegels had just recaptured half of the copyright for Action Comics #1 and I felt very good about that. That seemed like a very positive step. And then over the course of the last few months there has been the counter-suit against the Siegels’ lawyer, Marc Toberoff, and I was less sanguine about that, and starting to get a little itchy about it, and then there were just a few general things about the way that it seemed that DC regards creators now that are working for them — and I can talk about that more in detail — but the real kind of proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the announcement at the beginning of February of Before Watchmen, which I just thought was unconscionable. And so I had already signed a contract by that point to do six more issues of iZombie, of which three of them had been turned in, and so I just made the decision to go ahead and turn in the remaining three, not wanting to jeopardize the livelihood of my collaborators Mike and Laura Allred. But once I turned in the last one, even though I had other work lined up, I would have to at least — if only for my own peace of mind — let people know that I wasn’t happy with it.” [The Comics Journal]