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It’s hard out here for a cartoonist: Michael Kupperman edition

What kind of sociopathic monster would not want to pay the man who made this?

What kind of sociopathic monster would not want to pay the man who made this?

“Considering a career in illustration? The money now is LESS than in 1980s, + you spend half your time chasing it cuz NOONE WANTS TO PAY YOU.”

— The great cartoonist and illustrator Michael Kupperman, whose Tales Designed to Thrizzle is legitimately one of the funniest comics ever made, serves up some real talk on Twitter. Congress failing to extend unemployment benefits is still the most depressing thing I read about the economy this week, but Michael Kupperman — Michael Kupperman! — having a hard time getting paid to draw things is a close second.

It’s hard out here for a cartoonist

Mr. Porcellino's neighborhood

Mr. Porcellino's neighborhood

John Porcellino, creator of the long-running self-published minicomics series King-Cat Comics and Stories, is arguably one of the most influential comics creators of the past quarter century. That and $2.25 will get you on the subway, apparently. Today Porcellino blogged a series of photos of the seemingly economically depressed Illinois town to which he recently moved “in desperation” after losing his previous place of residence. “It’s times like these that make a man wonder ‘How?’, ‘Why?’,” Porcellino writes. And that is your soul-crushing quote of the day. Oh well, I suppose you could cheer yourself up by reading several complete King-Cat issues on What Things Do while waiting to hear how many Social Security cuts will be required to offset additional tax cuts for our billionaire overlords.

DC Comics to lower cover prices for ongoing titles, drop co-features

DC Comics

DC Comics will lower the price of all of its standard-length ongoing titles from $3.99 to $2.99 beginning in January, the publisher announced this afternoon.

The move to the lower price will mean a decrease in story pages — from 22 pages to 20 in a standard 32-page comic — as well as the loss of co-features in eight titles, including Action Comics, Adventure Comics and Detective Comics.

“As co-publishers, we listened to our fans and to our partners in the retail community who told us that a $3.99 price point for 32 pages was too expensive,” Co-Publisher Dan DiDio said in the press release. “Fans were becoming increasingly reluctant to sample new titles and long term fans were beginning to abandon titles and characters that they’d collected for years. We needed a progressive pricing strategy that supports our existing business model and, more importantly, allows this creative industry to thrive for years to come. With the exceptions of oversized comic books, like annuals and specials, we are committed to a $2.99 price point.”

The following standard-length ongoing series and licensed titled, previously price at $3.99, will move to $2.99 for 32 pages (20 pages of story): American Vampire; Batman: The Dark Knight; Batman Incorporated; Gears of War; God of War; Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors; JSA All-Stars; Kane & Lynch; and Ratchet & Clank.

These comics, previously priced at $3.99 for 30 pages of story, will lose their co-features and shift their price to $2.99 for 20 pages of story: Action Comics; Adventure Comics; Batman: Streets of Gotham; Detective Comics;
Doc Savage; Justice League of America; Legion of Super-Heroes; and The Spirit.

Batman: Europa #1, First Wave #6, DCU: Legacies #9, Weird Worlds #1 and World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen will remain at $3.99 for 40 pages/30 pages of story. Hellblazer #275, an oversized anniversary issue, will be priced at $4.99 for 48 pages/38 pages of story.

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

Nexus, by Steve Rude

Creators | Renowned artist Steve Rude and his family are in danger of losing their home, so the co-creator of Nexus is auctioning art in hopes of raising the money to meet a Nov. 15 deadline. [Steve Rude's Facebook, The Comics Reporter]

Publishing | Retailer news and analysis site ICv2.com suggests Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series could close out 2010 as the No. 1 graphic-novel property of the year, surpassing the top-selling adaptation of Stephen Meyer’s Twilight. [ICv2.com]

Digital comics | David Brothers wonders how the rise of digital comics might change comics “culture,” and the Wednesday ritual. [4thletter!]

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

Brightest Day #7

Publishing | Chart-watcher John Jackson Miller wades into the grim direct-market sales figures for August, and notes that they mirror the state of the market in 2000: “Like 2010, 2000 was a year with a successful super-hero movie release — the first X-Men film. In that year, however, it had little impact on the market partially due to the cash-poor position of retailers at the time — and we might expect retailers were in the same position this year. [...]  In 2000, by contrast, the reason wasn’t the general economy, but rather the seven-year industry recession that preceded it. Another similar element: price increases. From 1999 to 2000, Marvel went from benchmarks of $1.99 and $2.50 to $2.50 and $2.99. Other titles increased as well; $2.95 first became the industry’s median price in late 1999.  The 2000 jumps are one of the more drastic previous increases by percentage — eclipsed, of course, by the current $2.99-to-$3.99 move.” [The Comichron]

Legal | India’s Delhi High Court has refused to hear a complaint by Archie Comics challenging the use of the name “Archies” by Mumbai-based Purple Creations. The court said it had no jurisdiction in the matter because Archie doesn’t have an office in India. [Deccan Herald]

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Comic stores vs. the economy: a grim tale of two retailers

Comic Evolution

Economic forces continue to take a toll on comic retailers — online stores and brick-and-mortar shops alike — a gloomy reality illustrated by two recent developments.

The first comes from Khepri Comics, the 12-year-old Internet bookseller specializing in independent comics and the works of creators like Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Ross Campell and Cliff Chiang. According to owner Brian Johnson, it’s been a brutal past few months, with “gross ‘summer’ revenue” down 43 percent versus 2009, and 58 percent versus 2008. “Sorry — one more summer of decline, and Khepri is done,” he writes on the store’s blog.

“Sure, the economy is crap,” Johnson says in a follow-up with The Beat. “Undoubtedly, downloading (legal or otherwise) must takes its toll. But excuses won’t pay the bills. So I’ll redouble my efforts and see what the next twelve months bring.”

As Johnson suggests in his nod to downloading, he doesn’t think the recession is solely to blame for Khepri’s declining revenues.

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‘Our goal is to hold the prices as low as possible,’ DiDio says

Dan DiDio

In an interview with ICv2.com, DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee touch upon a wide range of topics, from the end of the CMX manga imprint to their digital plans to the company’s management transition. However, it’s the discussion of cover pricing, and retailer concern about the creep toward $3.99, that may be of most interest to budget-minded readers.

“Only 25% of our line is over $2.99,” DiDio tells the retail news and analysis site. “For the amount of books that we put out, the amount of product we have out there, to be over $2.99 for just 25% I think is a good, strong indication of how we’re dedicated to try to keep the prices down. [...] We’re trying to hold the price as much as possible.”

He notes, however, that readers are “willing to pay the higher price for books that they want.”

“They seem to be a little more cautious about the books that are higher priced that they’re on the fence about,” DiDio continued. “We’re well aware of that. Our goal is to hold the prices as low as possible. We don’t see our line getting to the point where our competition is at where so much of their line right now is higher than a $2.99 price point.”

You can read the full three-part interview beginning here.

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

Chris Ryall

Chris Ryall

Publishing | IDW Publishing has promoted Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall to the new position of chief creative officer, expanding his duties to encompass the company’s efforts across all platforms. Ryall, who joined IDW in 2004 from Kevin Smith’s Movie Poop Shoot website, will remain as editor-in-chief. [press release]

Publishing | In not-exactly-unexpected news, Dark Horse will move its online anthology Dark Horse Presents from MySpace to the publisher’s website. DHP originally appeared in print from 1986 to 2000, and was relaunched in digital form at MySpace in August 2007. [Newsarama]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller analyzes direct-market sales figures for May, which saw graphic novel sales slip 15 percent from the previous year: “My suspicion continues to be that orders for bigger-ticket items have been more likely to be impacted by the general recession; retailers are letting trade paperback inventories fall a bit, even in months in which they’re ordering more comic books (even given the price increases).” [The Comichron]

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1, by Dave Johnson

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1, by Dave Johnson

Welcome to the first of hopefully many editions of “Food or Comics?”, the spiritual successor to our “Can’t Wait for Wednesday” feature. As we did in CWFW, we plan to share what new and notable comic books we’re excited to see in shops every Wednesday, but with one twist — a price limit.

Every week we’ll tell you what comics we’d buy if we had $15 to spend, if we had $30 and if we had some “mad money” (like a gift card) to blow on what we’re calling a “Splurge” item. Admittedly, this was a tough exercise, much tougher than I thought it would be, and a reminder as to why I buy my books from a place that offers a discount.

To see what Kevin Melrose and I would spend our hard-earned money on, keep reading …

Kevin Melrose

If I had $15, I’d buy …

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain #1 ($3.50)

I admit that I’m picking this up as much for Dave Johnson’s cover as I am for the story, which recounts one of Abe Sapien’s first B.P.R.D. assignments: searching for an ancient relic in a sunken Soviet U-boat. It’s by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg, so it’s well worth the $3.50. (Dark Horse)

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

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International

Conventions | A survey commissioned by the San Diego Convention Center Corp. reveals that Comic-Con International’s 130,000 or so attendees pour a whopping $163 million into the local economy — quadruple what was previously thought. Surprisingly, this is the first official estimate of the event’s financial impact. But as impressive as that figure is, convention center officials point out it doesn’t take into account the money spent by the roughly 50 percent of con-goers who don’t stay in hotels.

The survey’s results were disclosed just as Comic-Con organizers are set to decide whether to remain in San Diego, or move to Anaheim or Los Angeles, after their contract expires in 2012 with the convention center. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]

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

Avengers #1

Avengers #1

Publishing | Direct-market comics sales rebounded in May, increasing 15 percent from the same month last year. Sales of graphic novels, however, fell 13 percent. Diamond’s list of Top 300 periodicals was led by Avengers #1 with an estimated 163,867 copies — 50,000 more than second-place Siege #4 (the final issue of the Marvel miniseries). The lackluster graphic-novel chart was topped by the ninth volume of Ex Machina, with fewer than 5,000 copies. Once again The Walking Dead was a standout, with 12 volumes charting — including a reprint of the six-year-old Days Gone Bye collection, which came in at No. 19 with about 2,300 copies. [ICv2.com]

Internet | Kimberly Saunders looks at how scanlation aggregators hide titles on their websites, removing yaoi titles from the prying eyes of Google — Google’s AdSense application doesn’t permit sites with sexually explicit content — and seemingly satisfying take-down notices from publishers: “MangaFox is not alone in trying the shell game, either. AnimeA have game on as well. Visit their site, click on a manga title they have supposedly removed, (all Viz so far, just like MangaFox) and up comes a message that it is licensed and you have to buy it. But if you have a page bookmarked, or come via a search engine, and click on a listed  numbered chapter of (name of removed manga), guess what? Yes, it is there, just hidden and inaccessible from the main page in an attempt to appear compliant …” [The Kimi-chan Experience, via Deb Aoki]

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

The Beano Annual 2009

The Beano Annual 2009

Publishing | D.C. Thomson & Co., publisher of long-running comics like The Beano and The Dandy, is closing a printing plant in Dundee, Scotland, eliminating up to 350 jobs. The facility is used to print magazines and books. The company, which also owns The Evening Telegraph and Sunday Post newspapers, employs more than 2,000 people. [BBC News]

Publishing | Lori Henderson returns to the question of what led to the failure of the CMX manga imprint: “Its parent company, DC didn’t do anything to market that line. Putting a solicitation in Previews is not marketing. DC claimed they would bridge the manga and comic store gap, yet did nothing to help retailers or promote the books to bloggers, bookstores or librarians, their three strongest advocates. You can’t buy or recommend books you don’t know about. While there were other factors that contributed to its ultimate end, the mishandling of the imprint in its first year, and then being completely ignored for the rest was the main factor in its lack of sales.” [Manga Xanadu]

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

One Piece, Vol. 27

One Piece, Vol. 27

Publishing | Viz Media has confirmed that its public relations and design departments were among those affected by Tuesday’s layoffs. In a brief statement released yesterday, the company assured fans that, “We have no plans at this time for drastic measures such as product cancellations or business line closures. Your favorite series are not going away.”

Melinda Beasi, Simon Jones, Kai-Ming Cha and Lissa Pattillo provide more commentary. [Viz Media]

Legal | As a Belgian court decides whether to ban Tintin in the Congo because of racist content, Roger Bongos and Sebastian Rodriguez argue that Hergé’s book shouldn’t be censored but rather read and analyzed within the context of the era in which it was created. “You cannot deny however that the book is very discriminatory of black people,” Bongos writes. “Hergé wasn’t a racist person himself: he simply reflected the image the Western world had of the Congo and of Africa during those years, as well as the colonial aspirations of Belgians. In this sense, the book is kind of Proust’s ‘madeleine episode’ for us: it helps us remember our colonial history.” The court is expected to issue its ruling on May 31. [France 24]

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

Naruto, Vol. 46

Naruto, Vol. 46

Publishing | Brigid Alverson, Simon Jones, Gia Manry and Daniella Orihuela-Gruber provide commentary on Tuesday’s announcement that Viz Media is restructuring, laying off up to 60 employees and closing its New York City branch. Manry cautions that there’s little need for panic, while Jones points out that it’s unclear whether the company’s cuts are in its manga or anime divisions.

Alverson notes that the news came as such a surprise because Viz publishes the most popular manga properties (Naruto, One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist) as well as some of the most acclaimed (Children of the Sea, Pluto, 20th Century Boys): “However, as publishing veterans know, acclaim does not necessarily equal sales.” [Viz Media]

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Breaking: Viz Media lays off 60 employees [Updated]

Viz Media

Viz Media

Top-selling manga publisher Viz Media today announced the layoffs of as many as 60 employees and the closing of its New York City branch, Publishers Weekly reports.

The staff cuts — 55 from its San Francisco headquarters and five from the New York office — represent about 40 percent of the company’s workforce.

In a statement today to PW, the publisher acknowledged it is “restructuring to adjust to changing industry and financial market realities.”

Viz, which publishes such hits as Naruto, One Piece and Fullmetal Alchemist, had appeared to weather the worst of the economic and market declines that led to a major restructuring of rival Tokyopop in 2008 and the closing of several smaller manga publishers.Viz previously laid off a reported 12 to 15 people in February 2009.

Update (May 12): Evelyn Dubocq, Viz’s senior director of public relations, revealed this morning on Twitter that she has been laid off after seven years with the company. “It’s so odd waking up on a work day having no place to go,” she wrote.

Update 2 (May 12): Viz Media has released a statement about the restructuring:

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