Recession Watch: MAD goes quarterly

If you’ve been following along at home today with our news stream, the announcement that MAD Magazine is going quarterly will not be such a shocker. Matt Brady has the news.

The venerable humor magazine today announced that starting with issue #500 in April, it will move to a quarterly publication schedule from its current monthly. The magazine’s version for younger readers, MAD Kids will cease publication with the issue on sale February 17th, while the final issue of MAD Classics will go on sale March 17th. Both of the spinoff magazines launched in 2005. Circulation numbers for the magazines were not readily available.

Handling the news with style typical of MAD, Editor John Ficarra said, “The feedback we’ve gotten from readers is that only every third issue of MAD is funny, so we’ve decided to just publish those.”

The move will come as no surprise, given the downturn in magazine publishing and problems with distribution, but is still a saddening reminder of the changing media landscape. In years when superhero comics were squeaking along, MAD was DC’s highest selling periodical, and has become an American institution with its satirical images becoming iconic reminders of the power of humor.

At any rate, the cut does explain why several MAD staffers were let go yesterday. 

Recession Watch: Magazine distribution woes continue

Only the New York Post seems to have picked up on this story, but it’s a biggie. Another major magazine distributor has joined Anderson News in raising its rates to distribute magazine copies to newsstands by seven cents — regardless of whether the magazines sell or not, according to the Post. Publishers have resisted, but now Source Interlink has also increased its fees. Together, the two distributors control half of the US magazine wholesale distribution network:

The remaining big distributors – Jimmy Pattison‘s News Group, based in Atlanta and Vancouver, British Columbia, and New York-based Hudson News – have not sought a fee hike.

But if all magazine distributors follow suit, publishers worry it could sock them with an additional $1 billion a year in expenses at a time when they are contending with plunging advertising revenue and sagging newsstand sales.

Already, publishers predicted Anderson News’ price hike would cost them an additional $200 million a year.

“We’re in for it now,” said one worried publisher after he got the Source Interlink news. “It’s great to say, ‘Screw Anderson,’ but who are we going to get to replace them?”

Like Anderson News, Source Interlink claims it needs the fee hike to survive.

Ya gotta love the Post’s old skool reportage on this. Considering that magazine distribution is an old skool business with lots of ties to people who might appear in Martin Scorsese movies, it’s appropriate. We’re not too hep to the background ourselves, but our guess is that if this is remotely true, and these rate hikes go into effect, the magazine publishing world is going to look a little like central Florida after a Category 4 hurricane.

DC layoffs include Schreck

The Beat has confirmed that DC Senior Editor Bob Schreck was laid off yesterday. Other layoffs, expected in the wake of Warner Brothers’ companywide 10 percent reduction, include Subcriptions Manager Christine Sawicki and several MAD Magazine personnel. The magazine-related layoffs certainly reflect the general crumbling of the entire magazine business.

As for Schreck, the layoff is more of a surprise since he is generally considered one of the top editors in the business. Starting at Comico, he also worked at Dark Horse, where he edited SIN CITY and MADMAN, then co-founded Oni Press (with Joe Nozemack) and then moved to DC where he worked on THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, and ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER. He moved to Vertigo two years ago, where his office was developing several new graphic novel projects, including THE NOBODY by Jeff Lemire.

Schreck’s departure won’t take effect for several months. Given his track record and long list of friends in the business, it’s unlikely he’ll be gone for long.

Recession Watch: 13 laid off at Diamond

The Beat has confirmed that Diamond laid off 13 employees yesterday, including the managing editor and designer for the recently canceled Diamond Dialog magazine. In addition to the layoffs, wages for management and other staff were reduced. According to a letter sent to staff by COO Chuck Parker, the cost cuts were a result of the generally poor economy and a four percent decline in sales in 2008.

While these layoffs are confirmed, rumblings of layoffs at DC are rampant this morning. We’ll have details as they emerge.

If only all superhero comics were this great

Sulk (Vol 1): Bighead and Friends

Sulk1 02

Grant Morrison, eat your heart out!

TCAF announcements

This official press release brings together all known facts about this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and if the names “Guibert” and “Tatsumi” mean anything to you, you will probably want to be there. A summary:

Drawing a diverse array of cartoonists from around the world, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) is a phenomenal exhibition of international comics talent, and a chance to celebrate Canadian comics authors here at home. TCAF will showcase the talents of its guests through an ambitious programme of exhibitor presentations, gallery showings, lectures, workshops, discussion panels, interactive readings, and the 2009 Doug Wright Awards for Canadian Cartooning.

At the center of the Festival proceedings are the international premieres of numerous long-anticipated works, both by and celebrating Canadian cartoonists, and by graphic novel creators from around the world! Canadian programming highlights will include the debuts of The Collected Doug Wright – both a collection of work and tribute to the beloved Canadian newspaper cartoonist – and George Sprott, a new graphic novel by Seth collecting his acclaimed comics from The New York Times Magazine. Toronto’s own Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of the popular Scott Pilgrim series will attend TCAF to present the fifth volume of the series, and to discuss the Hollywood adaptation of his work filming in Toronto this spring!

Among the international cartoonists appearing at TCAF for the first time will be: Emmanuel Guibert (France), with his new graphic novel The Photographer, a gripping account of the work of Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan; Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Japan), debuting his massive 840-page biography A Drifting Life; Anke Feuchetenberger (Germany) will present new work at the Festival (TBA); American Adrian Tomine will premiere the softcover edition of his bestseller Shortcomings; and American Ivan Brunetti will offer the collection of his dark humour comics, entitled Ho!.

What’s up with Nick Gurewich?

It’s been nearly a year since Nicholas Gurewich gave up drawingTHE PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP, so what’s he been doing? Well, for one thing, he has a new shirt. Also, according to a recent site update:

The PBF Almanack will be coming out in February. It features a good interview with David Malki!

Still waiting to hear back from Channel 4 about the pilot.

Nick Abadzis got my package.

Channel 4? Ah, you’ll recall that PBF is very popular in the UK:

PWCW: Speaking of which, you’re also working on a television pilot for the BBC that’s based on PBF. How’s that coming along? NG: I’ll be adapting a couple of the strips for the pilot, and I just got the news the other day that they wanted to make it longer because they liked the 12-minute treatment I sent. They want to make it a 30-minute pilot. I’m actually working with a British television company, Endemol Entertainment. A number of people there had ordered some prints from me, and apparently someone brought them into the office. It became known amongst them that they really liked the comic, and [making the pilot] was just a decision that came about organically because of that. They all realized they liked the strip, and said, “Why don’t we do a show?”


Everyone has commented on how clever and cool is this viral video for WATCHMEN — a fake news broadcast from 1970 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Dr. Manhattan’s “birth.” We agree, except that in 1970, as now, most anchormen had a little more hair.

(Which reminds us, every time we see a promo for the US version of Life on Mars, we wonder, what is the point of setting a show in the ’70s and making it look just like a show from the ’00s?)

A few links take you to THE NEW FRONTIERSMAN, where further Easter eggs are being released regularly. Thank goodness that awful lawsuit is over!

In other WATCHMEN news, the complete 12-part “motion comic” adaptation — currently available on iTunes — will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 3rd. The whole thing runs more than five hours and was supervised by Dave Gibbons.

Random universe, random links


§ Michael C. Lorah conducts a bilingual interview with David B. about his recently released compendium of menacing dreams, NOCTURNAL CONSPIRACIES.

§ Esther Keller has discovered something that she was not meant to find out: WIMPY KID books are NOT graphic novels…so why are they always topping the GN bestseller lists?

When my students are crazed for books, it’s hard not to be overjoyed. Anything that keeps the kids reading! But I’ve been bothered lately that Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid is being called a comic or a graphic novel. It’s not. I even sat at work today, reading the third installment to prove myself wrong, but instead, I became even more convinced that this is a regular old book which is illustration with (hilarious) cartoons.

Now that Esther Keller has uncovered this age-old conspiracy, she must seek the truth, and seek the code. Can she do it in time?

§ Diana Schutz talks about editing with CBR:

“Generally, I’ve always felt that my job is to help the creator realize his or her vision to the utmost degree: that means working with both the creator and the other departments at Dark Horse–in terms of design, production, printing, marketing–to create the most favorable publishing environment possible for the work. That means not only managing the project but also overseeing quality at each and every stage of production, at the creator’s end and at the publishing end. So, no matter whether it’s script or pages of art coming from the cartoonist, or whether it’s a design for a title page coming from our production department, my job is to make sure it’s as good as it can possibly be. **And** on deadline!”

§ Comics have made it into the Louvre! What’s next? Comics on the moon????

§ Teen who has already created five comic books and 20 comic strips now menacing airline passengers:

“One of my favorite places to sell my comics is on airplanes, because you have some time to talk and get to know people,” Jake says. “I think it also helps that I have so many freckles. People like that.”

§ LA Times reviewer has comics’ number all right:

Oh, I know Iron Man and Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk are all actually culturally significant metaphors for the eternal battle of the ego and the id, or the natural world and the industrial, or the spiritual and the physical. And I know we don’t call them comic books anymore, we call them graphic novels. Comic-Con is bigger than Cannes. Whatever.

The point is that “Wolverine and the X-Men” premieres on Nickelodeon tonight at 8 and it’s good to see a cartoon that remembers what cartoons are supposed to do. Zap, slime and blow things up. It’s almost heartwarming to see feature characters who speak in short declarative sentences that you can usually predict two beats beforehand, and who generally save the world.

Soooooo tired

Okay, you people have me plum tuckered out. If we haven’t been “debating” men vs. women, we’ve been “debating” liberals vs conservatives, and now racial stereotyping? Except that the debate quickly devolves into the same 10 people arguing the same tired stuff over and over.

What is to be done? Turn off the comments? I really don’t have time to moderate them more, and I have found over the years that some of the best information comes in the comments section, so I’m loathe to close it up.

However, I think it’s time for a rest. Or new voices. Or an iced tea. Or something. I am not allowing comments on this post, but I will read PRIVATE emails on the subject. That way, I know you are not just blabbing to hear yourself blabbing on the Internet, like I am doing right now.