Responding to last week’s Dark Horse vs the retailers controversy over the price of Dark Horse’s simultaneous digital release, writer Brian Wood has summed up the very hard rock and very rocky hard place that we all find ourselves in. While acknowledging that no one wants to see their local comics shop go under, he says for creators, it is a rough time with big question marks everywhere:
I’ve had series cancelled recently. I’ve had pitches rejected for financial reasons. I’ve seen my editors laid off. I’ve taken page rate cuts (a LOT of us have). My income from royalties have dropped. Most comic shops don’t carry my books. I have very good reasons to suspect my career in comics may be drastically reduced in the near future. Things just plain suck, but I’ve taken these hits, figuring that everyone else is having hard times too. I don’t mind bleeding a little, and one ray of hope has been digital, the potential it has to maybe, just maybe, keep some of us going through these lean times. But like I said, we can never explore that potential to even just see if its there, as long as current pricing stay locked in.
So I’ll have to bleed a little more so that others can bleed a little less. The problem with that, to really keep abusing this metaphor, is that eventually I’ll just keel over and die from it.
No sane creator, or publisher, wants to see comic shops hurt. We all have emotional connections to them, to the idea of them, and we count owners and employees as personal friends. We aren’t looking for digital to steal customers away from shops, but rather to be an additive thing, to be an additional source of income. To simply switch a current print consumer to a digital consumer does not solve any problems! It benefits no one at all. It will not save us.
There’s more in the entire post, including how Wood hoped to make his print comics more premium for retailers. However, the key word that Wood uses is “additive” — the same word DC has been pushing since they started their digital advance. As we remarked yesterday — so far the digital audience does seem to be additive — the day and date New 52 was the hottest selling project of the last five years.
The pushback from retailers was strong and immediate when it looked like DH would be releasing digital comics at a LOWER price point than the print editions. One of them put it this way: “We have been Dark Horses loving boyfriend all these years and digital is the dude in the Camaro they are now putting out for. Soon enough they will find out he can afford the cool car because he lives in his moms basement, oh, and he has genital warts and a tiny ****.”
Problem is…we do all love our retailer friends but they haven’t been able to grow the market for comics. That’s a fact. I love each and everyone of them but if things had been going well DC and Marvel wouldn’t have broken the glass on their last ditch emergency axes. Is a tiny, warty **** really the only thing we have to look forward to?
The truth is that 14% of shoppers for this record Black Friday had a tablet on their wish list. The other items included a high def TV, a smart phone or a laptop.
Do you sense a trend there?
Each one of these devices is a potential platform for reading and paying for comics.
We have a feeling that when that **** gets unveiled on December 26th it may be a little bigger than expected.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.