Publishing | Comics sales were up 22 percent in the direct market over January 2012, and graphic novels increased by nearly 38 percent. This good news is tempered a bit by the fact there were five Wednesdays in this January (or 25 percent more Wednesdays, if you want to look at it that way), but that fifth week is usually a quiet one for new releases, so I think we can call this a win. The retail news and analysis site ICv2 credits Marvel NOW! and a strong backlist for the boost. [ICv2]
Publishing | Dark Horse’s video-game art book The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia last week was the No. 1 book in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan — not merely in the graphic novel category, but in any category. The initial print run was 400,000 copies. (Comic Book Resources interviewed the book’s editor Patrick Thorpe last month.) [ICv2]
Last Friday, Sean Murphy and a host of comic artists and animators joined forces on Twitter for a live chat about exhibiting at conventions, copyright law and the issues of being a working illustrator. Partnered with deviantART, the group included artists Murphy, Eric Canete, Jeff Wamester and Chris Copeland and copyright lawyer Josh Wattles.
The chat came together following Murphy’s blog post “5 Reasons To Write,“ which created quite the fervor in the artist community. DeviantART, who hosts his blog, reached out to Murphy and used that post as a launching pad for the discussion. Although the chat is finished, readers can view it by searching Twiter for “#daChat” and looking at the Sept. 28 tweets.
“I’ve reached the end of my work for hire rope. I’m enjoying The Punisher, but that’s not mine, it’s Marvel’s, and l knew that going in. I have spent a lot of my comics career in service of other masters, – and I’ve had enough of that for now. I’m sick to death of the way the Big Two treat people. I gave seven very good years to DC and they took gross advantage of me. That’s partially my fault, but not entirely. At this point, I see no reason why I should have to put up with that, I can sink or swim on my own. [...] My run on Punisher ends on #16, and we are then doing a five-issue mini called War Zone and then I’m done. That’s it! The Powers-That-Be at Marvel, without talking to me, decreed that he’s going to join a team on another book. That’s their choice, they own him, but I don’t have to be happy about it. I am glad I had the opportunity to work on the character and I’m proud of the work I’ve done. Despite what the publishers say, their interest in the talent is minimal now, the interest is only in promoting the financial worth of their properties. That was not the case as of two or three years ago, when there was an ‘exclusives war,’ but that’s all gone by the wayside now. Ultimately, they are saying, “We don’t need you,’ because they can get a million more just like you.”
Our informal poll last week about whether it’s a familiar creator or a familiar character that draws readers to a new title received more than 100 responses. That makes it about as accurate as some of the regular polls tracking the U.S. presidential race these days.
In case you missed it, in extrapolating from Kurt Busiek’s similar poll, I asked for people to chime in on what primarily gets them to throw down their money for a comic: creators or characters. Of course, I laid out my bias right away, and not everyone’s answers were completely clear cut, so we’ve probably got a pretty significant margin of error. But I was pleased to see that the majority of commenters either put creators first, or considered both when making a decision.
Of the 112 responses at the time of this writing, 85 said they either put creators first or relied on some kind of mix of creators and characters. Of that group, it was evenly split on creators (43) and a mix (42). Just 25 said characters held more weight than creators. While a third option wasn’t given in my original post, it was good to read about other factors that influence comics purchasing. A handful mentioned concept, theme, genre and, I guess, marketing. And two said story, which I guess means they read comics in the store before paying for them.
I loved working for my friends at Marvel and DC, and I was always compensated with a very generous upfront page rate, but by betting on myself (and Fiona!) and waiting for money on the back end with Saga, I’m already making way, way, WAY more than what I made on comparably selling books that I wrote for other companies. And that’s after splitting everything 50/50 with my richly deserving co-creator.
— Brian K. Vaughan, discussing his collaboration with Fiona Staples on Saga
Vaughan also expresses surprise at how much money there is to be made in creator-owned books, although Saga is probably a phenomenon in that regard; the first issue sold 70,000 copies, and from March through June, Saga has been either Image’s No. 1 or No. 2 seller for the month, according to Diamond Comic Distributors, with only The Walking Dead charting higher.
As independent creators working on their own property, Vaughan and Staples have chosen to go the route of selling more at a lower cost, pricing their monthly comic at $2.99 and the upcoming trade at $9.99. Digital is an even better deal, with
the first issue free* and issues 1-5 priced at $1.99 on comiXology right now. And yet they are selling enough comics — and keeping enough of the proceeds, as opposed to splitting with middlemen — to pay themselves a page rate and take a profit on the back end, which is a nice place to be.
*All five copies are $1.99; I saw the first one as free because I own the digital copy. Duh.
In a wide-ranging interview with Comic Book Resources, Grant Morrison revealed he will finish his tenure on Action Comics with January’s Issue 16, followed later next year by his departure from Batman Incorporated with Issue 12.
“The idea was always that I’d keep doing it as long as it gave me a lot of pleasure and allowed me to express myself ,” the writer said, expressing a desire to move beyond superhero stories. “And it still does, but I can see the end coming closer. I’m coming to the end of long runs and stories I’ve had planned in my notebooks for years and the stuff I’m developing now is quite different. The Action Comics run concludes with issue #16, Batman Incorporated wraps up my take with issue #12, and after that I don’t have any plans for monthly superhero books for a while. Multiversity is eight issues, and I’m 30-odd pages into a Wonder Woman project but those are finite stories.”
Multiversity is the long-promised miniseries — it originally was set for release in 2010 — that spans seven different Earths, featuring characters from the DC Comics catalog as diverse as Shazam, the Charlton heroes, a pulp Justice Society and Captain Carrot. And the Wonder Woman project is his frequently discussed take on the heroine that seeks to reintroduce the “weird, libidinous kind of element” prevalent in the early stories by her creator William Moulton Marston.
If I’m doing the math right, Ed Brubaker’s time on Captain America will end with issue #19 of the title. And while he’ll continue to write Winter Soldier “as long as I can,” the writer told Tom Spurgeon in an interview at The Comics Reporter that he plans to focus on creator-owned work versus picking up another work-for-hire project after his Cap run ends.
“I hit a point with the work-for-hire stuff where I was starting to feel burned out on it,” Brubaker told Spurgeon. “Like my tank is nearing empty on superhero comics, basically. It’s been a great job, and I think I found ways to bring my voice to it, but I have a lot of other things I want to do as a writer, too, so I’m going to try that for a while instead.”
Brubaker’s run on the character started in 2005 when he brought the long-dead Bucky Barnes back as the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed Soviet operative who clashed with Cap and eventually remembered who he really was. When Steve Rogers was killed in the well-lauded “Death of Captain America” storyline, Barnes took up the shield and became Captain America–at least until Rogers was brought back to life and eventually put the uniform back on. Those fantastical superhero plots seem secondary, though, to the overall tone of Brubaker’s noir-ish run on the title, which included everything a good Captain America run should have–intrigue, spy vs. spy plots and some real-world political references that piss off real-world political folks.
Ever since Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson launched his blog in 2010, it’s been home to some well thought-out essays on comics as the longtime pro sees it, and this week is no different. In a post titled “A Good Idea,” Stephenson addresses the perception some fans have that many comics created today are merely back-door pitches for movies or television series. And while he admits that’s sometimes the case, even at Image, he argues it’s not a bad thing.
“Let’s pretend for a moment that virtually everyone writing and drawing creator-owned comics is only doing so because they want to shop their ideas around to Hollywood, so they can be turned into television shows and movies. Or both,” Stephenson writes. “Let’s say these creative people are so driven by ambition that selling comic books simply isn’t enough. They don’t just want their stories to reach comic book readers – they want them to reach the world. They want as many people as possible to read their stories, to look at their artwork, to experience their creativity.”
It’s been a while since anyone last issued an honest-to-goodness comics declaration, something Gladstone’s School For World Conquerors writer Mark Andrew Smith remedied this morning with the delivery of “The A to B Manifesto,” which challenges the current distribution system for (creator-owned) comics, which a characterizes as an upside-down pyramid “with the creators at the very bottom”:
In this upside down pyramid the creators are the last ones allowed to recoup from their work and they get the leftovers or scraps after everyone else is finished. (If there is anything left for them.)
The creators are the people who put in all of the time and energy into the very product that’s being sold. Even if you heavily promote your book, you’re doing it to make other people money.
It’s something Smith touched upon in his interview with Robot 6 about turning to Kickstarter to fund Sullivan’s Sluggers, the baseball-horror graphic novel he created with James Stokoe: “The Kickstarter model has room for publishers and also room for retailers. Comics are small right now and this is growth, and it helps the creators ,who should be at the top of the pyramid but are actually almost under it, to actually benefit and be rewarded for their labors.”
The Creator-Owned Comics panel at Boston Comic-Con drew together five creators with a range of experiences to discuss the fine points of making and marketing their own comics. The panelists were Ben Templesmith (Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse), Becky Cloonan (Wolves), Joe Benitez (Lady Mechanika), Geof Darrow (Shaolin Cowboy), and Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl). The moderator was Brian LeTendre of the Secret Identity podcast.
The panel began with a discussion of how the comics landscape has changed over the years. “It’s changed completely,” said Ben Templesmith. “Every small publisher in the comics media, they have all now pretty much been swallowed up by bigger fish. Everyone in the main media is getting involved in comics and buying up small publishers.”
Cloonan, on the other hand, doesn’t see much difference in the way she sells her self-published comics. ” When I first started doing mini-comics, it was almost exactly the way I do them now,” she said. “I go to conventions and I bring my suitcase filled with comics; I just sell more. It’s funny how much social media and the industry has changed, but I still handle it and approach it much the same way I did in college.”
If you’ve been following the publishing industry (not just comics, but the whole industry), you know it’s been in turmoil for the past few years. Ebooks have made self-publishing a lucrative option not only for unpublished authors, but also for mid-list writers like JA Konrath who are reaching a dramatically wider audience than they ever did with their traditional publishers.
Though the prose arm of publishing has been having this conversation for a while, it’s been pretty quiet in comics except for the tangential conversation about creator-owned vs. corporate-owned. That’s actually a separate conversation, though. BPRD and Saga are just two examples of creator-owned comics that aren’t self-published. Who publishes your book often has nothing to do with who owns the characters and story in it. I’m glad to see First Second’s Senior Editor Calista Brill start the comics arm of the discussion, especially in the as-objectively-as-possible way that she does.
Passings | Classic comics artist Sheldon Moldoff, who co-created Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat Hound, passed away Wednesday. He was 91. Moldoff broke into comics at the age of 17 with a sports filler that appeared on the inside back cover of Action Comics #1. He went on to become a prolific cover artist, drawing the first cover image of the Golden Age Flash for Flash Comics #1 and the Golden Age Green Lantern for All-American Comics #16. He also worked on comics featuring Hawkman, Kid Eternityand Black Pirate. He also was one of the pioneers of horror comics in the late 1940s and worked as a “ghost artist” for Bob Kane on Batman from 1953 to 1967. After being let go by DC Comics in 1967, he went on to work in animation. [News from ME]
Conventions | Badges for Comic-Con International sold out Saturday morning within an hour and a half, a record for the annual pop-culture extravaganza. Last year it took about seven hours for badges to disappear. [U-T San Diego]