Dash Shaw’s The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.

Dash Shaw’s IFC series is now online in four episodes, with extras. Enjoy!

Earth One: the retail perspective

Today’s big DC news story is WAR OF THE SUPERMEN, the big Superman event for 2010 everyone has been speculating over. James Robinson and Eddy Barrow kick things off with a Free Comic Book Day issue.

While surely notable, the announcement of a new crossover storyline has failed to ignite the website-crashing uproar that yesterday’s Earth One, aka “Ultimate DC” announcement did. And now the retailer perspective — via Brian Hibbs and Chris Butcher is coming in. If this were just another reboot, people might be a little interested, but the fact that it’s a GRAPHIC NOVEL LINE reboot is what has people sitting up.

Hibbs — a pamphlet man to the end — runs numbers and concludes that the revenue stream for an OGN series is less than the revenue stream for a periodical-to-collection model. Actually, it’s a little hard to argue with this — it’s the TV-series-to-DVD argument. Both delivery systems work, and make for two separate revenue streams. Yet no one releases long, complicated stories as a series of direct-to-DVDs. They do however release the occasional standalone story.

But on some matters, it seems to us, Hibbs misses the mark:

The bottom line is that customers are much less likely to plunk down for a Big Ticket item than they are for a periodical, which is one of the reasons that the OGN doesn’t, to my mind, make a ton of sense. And while it is possible that the “bookstore reader” will flock to superhero-OGN work… well, I kind of don’t think that will happen… and, even if it does, I have a hardish time picturing them wanting it again and again — because this theoretical 2x a year strategy IS a periodical, just much slower than usual.

Go into a bookstore and you see that book series are an extremely lucrative staple of the publishing world, albeit mostly, these days, for women and YA.

Now, we DON’T KNOW any of the business details of the Earth One books. Are they YA? Are they $9.99? Are they tankoubon? Or are they $30 deluxe packages? If the former, it’s a very, very different publishing model from the latter, and one that is a proven success — just not yet with superheroes.

Butcher comes at it from a slightly different angle, while also pointing out the lack of format information that would make this line’s target much clearer. Butcher offers informed speculation:

It’s pretty clear to me that DC is attempting to develop a continuity-light series of graphic novels featuring their core characters, to introduce new readers to their IP, and re-capture the attention of lapsed readers. They’re phrasing the move in terms that their existing, painfully hardcore readership can understand, like “new continuities”, in the hopes that the Direct Market-shopping fans of their IP will still support this new format, to give them a large non-returnable sales-base with which to expand their mass market sales. (As a refresher, book sales through comic stores are “non-returnable”, and 10,000 non returnable sales (my prediction) is a great base from which to set your print-run and distribute the work to the larger market, which can return unsold books for a full refund (and which sticks publishers with lots of unsold books).)

Hibbs’ post has a long and lively comment section which interested parties should read.

Bonus: J. Caleb Mozzocco speaks from a reader’s perspective.

Non-payment updates: Devil’s Due, Dabels

It’s been no secret that even as comics have been enjoying better-than-those-around-them economic results in the Great Recession, a few companies have been late with creator payments. Bleeding Cool has been doing the best job of covering these stories, and interviews Devil’s Due head Josh Blaylock on what is a huge debt, blamed on the elephant in the room: bookstore returns.

We’re still dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars in book store returns that rocked us in late 2008 and into 2009, right in the middle of an already aggressive restructuring. This lasted for almost the entire year, and subsided only a few months ago. Now we’re dealing with debts incurred by the distributor from those returns that are still being passed down to us. To stabilize the business all of these debts had to be set aside, to be paid off over time, while we focus on expenses related to current titles. This will continue for approximately another year by my estimation. Were it not for the returns I believe we would have had a very solid year, but as it is for much of the rest of the world. We showed a loss for 2008 and will as well for 2009, which is the case for many companies right now. Payments will be made to termed-out debts either as publishing profits come in or when there is a cash influx of any other sort that would allow it.

Blaylock is pretty upfront abut the problems, to his credit.

Today, Rich digs into the Dabel Brothers’ ongoing problems paying creators and finds that Dynamite, which has just acquired the Dabel business, will go about trying to make things right:

. Dynamite has instigated a deal to all those owed money by the Dabels that either they will find a compromise payment that will settle all matters in full, or Dynamite will make a downpayment on the debt and commit to paying the full debt off over time. Considering that Dynamite had no legal necessity to pay a bean, and that the debt was solely down to the Dabels’ operations, this is one hell of a step up for the company.

We agree: That’s a very upfront move by Dynamite.

More Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival reactions

Dan Nadel, co-organizer of the recent BCGF, wraps things up at Comics Comics — it was a very successful day, and in response to my musings over how much money changed hands, indications are that it was a very successful show for exhibitors, as this picture graphic shows.

Nadel also comments directly on my own Kirby-to-Panter analogy:

That is true, but it’s also true that Kirby exerts a huge influence over many of the cartoonists in that room, as does Chaykin, Simonson, and many other “mainstream” (increasingly non-mainstream, really) artists. I guess what I’m saying is that Jack Kirby is our Jack Kirby. After all, one of the busiest tables was Frank Santoro’s back issue bins, in which he highlights such gems as Larry Hama’s brilliant G.I. Joe # 21 (my own “book of the show”) and selections by Michael Golden, Trevor Von Eeden, Carl Barks, Steranko, Kevin Nowlan, et al. Frank’s careful selection is a kind of mini history of comics unto itself. And to me, that’s the crux of it: This generation is looking far and wide for inspiration and finding it in unlikely places. That may be partly why the crowd seemed so jolly and generous: It was a limited selection, but anyone curious enough to come could find something to their liking without having to wade through too much “other stuff”.

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Marvel’s Maisel to step down

Marvel Studios Chairman David Maisel plans to step down after the Disney deal goes through, the trades report. President Kevin Feige will remain and report directly to Disney Studios boss Rich Ross.

Maisel will retain an exec producer credit on movies developed while he was on board — IRON MAN 2, THOR, and THE FIRST AVENGER: CAPTAIN AMERICA.

According to Variety, Maisel , who once worked for Disney in Business Development, was instrumental in getting Marvel their $525 million revolving credit line which enabled them to start their own studio, and supposedly it was he who initiated the entire Disney-Marvel deal.

Although it may look like Maisel is getting the short end of the stick, don’t shed a tear — he’s walking away with $20.4 million after the Disney acquisition.

CON! 2010: The NY Comic Book Marketplace unites all possible storylines

With the successful completion of the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival this past weekend, the New York con scene has finally rolled up its carpet and winterized the boats. But for those of you who just can’t get enough wandering around a room filled with longboxes and husky men named Paulie, you are in luck! YOU only have two months to wait until the next show! February 27th will see an all-new comics show take place:Mike Carbo’s New York Comic Book Marketplace.

Given the generous hints — quotes about the the Big Apple Con and, oh okay, the name Mike Carbo itself — it’s easy to see this is a continuation of the old Big Apple cons, a dealer-friendly show in the old timey comics collector tradition. It’s MIke Carbonaro, of course, who sold the Big Apple name to Gareb Shamus, but he’s free to run a non competitive show and this is it.

But just to wrap up everything about the past year in New York cons in one bright, shiny, sweaty package, wait until you see the venue for the new NYCBM?
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CON! 2010: San Diego Hotels, guests

SThe 2010 San Diego Comic-Con has updated its website with the first list of guests:

Sergio Aragonés
Brian Michael Bendis
Berkeley Breathed
Kurt Busiek
Chris Claremont
Mark Evanier
Matt Fraction
Nicholas Gurewitch
Keith Knight
Jim Lee
Stan Lee
Paul Levitz
Larry Marder
Carla Speed McNeil
China Miéville
Robert M. Overstreet
Douglas E. Richards
James Sturm
C. Tyler

— several webcomickers there, so maybe a special focus?

Also, although it pains us to remind you, Hoteloween is coming! Contrary to what some people said, The Hyatt is on the hotel list, but the HQ hotels this year are the Marriott and the new Hilton. In fact, according to the website:

There are more hotels available than ever before. This year’s block includes 38 hotels, with 24 of them on the Comic-Con Shuttle route (mainly downtown) and an additional 14 in Mission Valley and the Mission Bay/SeaWorld areas. The Mission Valley hotels, while not serviced by the Comic-Con Shuttle, have the advantage of proximity to the San Diego MTS Trolley line, which will deliver you directly to the Convention Center, with two stops across the street from the building. These hotels also offer the advantage of leaving your car behind and avoiding the added cost and hassle of finding parking downtown.

Also new this year — YOU WILL GET CHARGED A DEPOSIT FOR THE FIRST NIGHT. So no booking five rooms and holding on to them to give out to your friends. Deposits are fully refundable up until May 15th, and after that, there is a $75 charge. After June 18th, NO REFUNDS ON THE DEPOSIT.

So, looks like the convention organizers are doing something about the horror that is Hoteloween. Will it help? Or has it all spiraled out of control? We’ll report back on March 19th.

Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, 12/8/09 — various views of comics in 2009

§ Tucker Stone looks back at the decade in comics:

Although it would be hard to look at the last ten years of comics and see much of the decade’s woes frankly expressed, it’s not hard to see the seams of conflict that float beneath them. Marvel spent its time messing around with the same sort of surface-y relevance that used to be the purview of the 70’s clunky DC Comics about race relations and drug abuse comics, with stories like Civil War that could be seen as an exaggerated version of Red Staters versus Blue Staters. (Or Secret Invasion’s religious nuts are a-coming. Or Dark Reign, which was probably planned by a group who assumed America wasn’t gonna Choose Hopefully.)

DC went in a different direction, embracing the public’s love for nostalgia mixed with Will Ferrell’s adult man-child films, and started telling various kids’ Crisis stories with hard R plot twists. Manga publishers underestimated their audience, then overestimated it, and are now currently in the throes of figuring out how big, exactly, it is. Companies like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly kept their toes in the new, but found that the market for high-priced reprints of classic comics was strong enough to make a Comics Criterion Collection viable.

§ IGN also looks back at comics in 2009, although they mention precisely 6 companies.

§ Speaking of looking back, Xavier Xerexes looks back at Past Predictions for Webcomics. How’d we do?

§ 30-year-old man Geoff Klock begins to move on

Tim says “I was easily reading 25-30 comics a week in 2008, I’m down to 8-10 a week right now.” Well I used to read 4-6 comics a week and now I am down to one — Morrison’s Batman — that I am getting, not be cause I like it, but because Morrison-Stewart and Morrison-Quitely have enough capital built up with me that I sort of owe them at this point. But just barely. Oh, and I get Detective Comics because the JH Williams art is awesome, but I also have this bad habit of just forgetting to buy it, which I supposed speaks to my involvement being minimal. It is the kind of thing I would like to admire in a nice hardcover. Because I am not invested in the story, only the art, I was never really “hooked,” though I will eventually get every issue.

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Google honors Segar

Google is doing one of its birthday tributes to E. C. Segar, creator of Popeye. It’s the 115th anniversary of Segar’s birth. The Guardian has a nice profile:

Popeye the Sailor – who famously attributed his strength “to the finish” to his consumption “of spinach” – first entered the public consciousness in January 1929, in Segar’s newspaper comic strip Thimble Theatre.

The cartoonist was born in Illinois, US, on 8 December 1894, and showed a talent for drawing at a young age. Segar worked as a film projectionist while studying a correspondence course in cartooning, eventually moving to Chicago to pursue his career.

Segar died at the very young age of 43 after a long illness, but not without leaving his mark on the culture. In addition to Popeye and his spinach eating powers, the Army’s workhorse, the Jeep is named after a character in the Popeye strip — Eugene the Jeep — perhaps because soldiers found the new vehicle exhibited the character’s ability to get around in tight spaces. Sounds kind of far-fetched but it’s the preferred etymology. Wimpy and Bluto had similar branding successes.

BTW, Fantagraphics released Volume 4 of their oversized Thimble Theater reprint series not too long ago, “Plunder Island”, which just happens to be perhaps the greatest storyline from the strip, so if you’re curious for more, that’s the place to go.