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Maybe.

As you may have heard by now, Tim Leong’s COMIC FOUNDRY magazine has been rejected at Diamond for being in B&W and having a high price point, although other B&W magazines about comics have the same price point.

Now we’re not trying to pick on Diamond; they do a fabulous job and part of that job is keeping the entry point high. Of course, they’ve made a few mistakes along the way, but these have been quietly corrected — or sometimes not so quietly, in the case of Dan Nadel and House of Sugar, the last two products to go public after rejection. This isn’t the cry for a lynch mob; it’s a look at the point we find ourselves at.

Tim showed us the mock up for the magazine the other day and it was smart, sophisticated and modern. Instead of being a dense package of interviews with comics historical figures — a format which we very much like and value — it was a clever, topical look at the medium, kind of like…a real magazine, with features, FOB and BOB sections and all that other stuff. There was one photo layout in there which could have been in Men’s Health or Complex or any of the actual print magazines that Tim works for in his day job — it was clever and a LOT of work.

Now, we’re friends with Tim, and we’ve often tried to dissuade him from sticking with the dying world of print, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do — it’s the medium he loves and works in. And you know, we don’t think that print should go away. If there is room for magazines that focus on cars, and rifles, and black women’s butts (actually there seem to be a lot of those these days) there could be a magazine that focuses on comics as a facet of the entertainment business, not as a hobby.

But it is tough out there — the recent reshuffling and rebranding at Wizard Magazine, the category leader, shows that. The men’s magazine field has been considerably winnowed in recent months, and launching a new magazine these days is perilous. But surely there is room for Comic Foundry. The emerging medium needs a new magazine of record. If there isn’t room for something this sharp, we’re all in trouble.

PS: WE’re not the only ones who feel this way, as Top Shelf’s Brett Warnock throws down:

Tim’s content and design feel more to me like a “real-world” magazine, with sharp, staccato content mixed with a handful of lengthier articles and interviews, ala Wired magazine. And his editorial tastes are superb. This is the ONLY magazine on comics that i feel would appeal to the nascent populist comics readers, new to the medium. They might buy the magazine at a Border’s and then pick up a graphic novel there as well. But if and when said reader evolves into a passionate fan, they will eventually find their way to a full-service comics shop (one supplied by Diamond), where the product selection is far-superior than a chain bookseller.

In fact, i’m such a fan of this magazine, that Top Shelf actually gave serious consideration to publishing it. In the end, the main thing holding us back, was our commitment to Jon Cooke’s Comic Book Artist, and we felt we couldn’t give to the proper support to two mags at once.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ve personally always enjoyed the online articles, but would love to have this magazine in print. I sent an email to Diamond eexpressing that, but we’ll see what happens.

  2. Good call. I also sent an e-mail to Diamond, and posted about it on my blog. Tim Leong has a superb sense of design, and I’ve always enjoyed Comic Foundry’s content.

    Hell, that is one stylish guy. I’m all in favor of a better dressed comic book industry. Hmmmm… I’m going to start my own non-profit to support this move…

  3. Who could pass on this guy? He’s hot! LOL and so is his book, I’m sure! I have yet to understand how the comic book industry continues to allow a monopoly on distribution via Diamond, without a fight? I just don’t get it. But perhaps I don’t have all the information I need to make an informed decision. It just boils my blood when Diamond thinks they can decide who’s book gets distributed, and who’s does not.

  4. To be fair to Diamond, they are a business and must make money. However, if the product is professional, has a following, and is similar to other products already out there, then Diamond should solicit the title and see what the orders are. THEN they can drop it if the sales are weak.
    1. what does it matter what color it is?
    2. Diamond carries many obscure magazines, some in foreign languages. Would the sales for this title be equal to those?
    3. How many current succesful magazines, like the Jack Kirby Collector, could these criteria be subjected to? Which middling titles are currently being carried by Diamond?

  5. DIAMOND…please listen to this and the people interested in the medium. sometimes it cant only be about numbers and business. I have heard this is a great looking magazine from friends. get it out there and help create a buzz for it so maybe down the road you can share in their profits like you do with wizard and other magazines each and every month.

  6. Could a certain full-color superspandex mag with a grudge be leaning on Diamond not to carry Tim’s magazine? ;) As a firm believer in the Marvel/DC/Image /Diamond conspiracy, I wouldn’t be surprised.

    Hey, I’d buy this magazine in a bookstore or wherever, if I can’t get it through a comic book shop. Good luck, Tim! I hope that you can still publish the mag either way.

  7. Brett Warnock is my new hero. He said it perfectly — comics as an entertainment medium has long been waiting for a drawbridge into the fanboy fortress. The market is primed for a magazine like this, and if it can deliver with the cool, fresh and interesting angles that The Beat says it has, what is Diamond so afraid of?

  8. Brett Warnock is my new hero. He said it perfectly — comics as an entertainment medium has long been waiting for a drawbridge into the fanboy fortress. The market is primed for a magazine like this, and if it can deliver with the cool, fresh and interesting angles that The Beat says it has, what is Diamond so afraid of?

  9. Brett Warnock is my new hero. He said it perfectly — comics as an entertainment medium has long been waiting for a drawbridge into the fanboy fortress. The market is primed for a magazine like this, and if it can deliver with the cool, fresh and interesting angle that The Beat says it has, what is Diamond so afraid of?

  10. Excerpts from my letter to Diamond:
    Hi Tim,

    As a reader of the online version since its inception, I’d like to take this time to let you know how UNIQUE and NECESSARY this magazine is for the good of the entire comics community and business.

    Considering the reasonable price point, $6.25 and the wealth of intelligent articles from a unique comics lifestyle point of view, it puzzles me that you wouldn’t be carrying this magazine.

    The fact that it is B/W is not at all a negative to the hip comics and comics-culture (not fandom, two different things) loving audience who would pick up this magazine to read for its unique viewpoint, and creative features that are not found ANYWHERE in any other comics publication. Many of the folks who would pick up this magazine, are other culture vultures who are into electronic music, fashion, art, etc who all have now been FINALLY converted to the comics medium due in part, to an enormous amount of positive publicity and of course successful comics related films.

    Since the magazine started, not only do ALL of the thousands of colleagues of mine, IRL, virtual and otherwise, check out and cherish the online version, BUT it is also, particularly due to the sophisticated and different cover designs, a great magazine for those who are not part of “fandom” per se, who don’t identify with “nerdcore” or whatever, but the thousands of folks nationwide who are now wandering into comics stores because of the enormous increase in mainstream coverage of the medium. These people are very used to b/w music magazines, fashion magazines, zines, hip culture art magazines, etc and Comic Foundry speaks to the long time comics fans and these newer additions to our fold.

    Comic Foundry magazine is very clearly the first Post-Comics-are-Cool publication- it just IS cool, without trying. It is perhaps the ONLY one friendly to the NEW wave of comics COLLECTORS who are cropping up. This is not to disparage the other fantastic comics pubs, but to say this one is new, distinct, and deserves to be given a chance.

  11. Could a certain full-color superspandex mag with a grudge be leaning on Diamond not to carry Tim’s magazine?

    No, it couldn’t.

  12. I hate the way some people try and defend Diamond, when it is clearly trying to be just one more tyrannical monopoly in the business world.

    Does Diamond help the comic book industry?!? Definitely, definitely NOT!

  13. Well, I can’t help but wonder if maybe some smart publisher sees an opening that Top Shelf couldn’t take advantage of and invites Tim to publish the magazine through them. I’d think this is a good fit for Boom Studios, Oni, IDW, etc. or maybe even Image. More than 900 registered users on the Comics Foundry site is a nice start for any comics publication and I’m sure many successful products started with less of a head start and positive buzz than Leong’s dead tree edition of Comics Foundry. Also, I agree completely that this magazine is almost like the missing link of comic book culture and is sorely needed it the marketplace.

    And anyone who dismisses the notion that Diamond doesn’t feel pressure to “protect” it’s exclusive publishers doesn’t have a firm grasp on reality or just hasn’t been paying attention for the last decade.

  14. I don’t want to hear ANY more secret conspiracy “DIAMOND/WIZARD” theories here! That is NOT what this is about and you can take this to the bank.

    Many books are rejected by Diamond — they cannot carry — and are not obligated to carry — everything offered to them.

    The market is difficult for print.

  15. My husband Kyle Baker was recently interviewed for the Comics Foundry. They asked extremely insightful questions regarding Kyle’s career, as well as THE BAKERS and NAT TURNER. Very savvy stuff.

  16. The Diamond monopoly is the worst thing to ever happen to the comics medium. Who are the knuckleheads making decisions like this?
    When I look at the mountains of steaming dung offered each month in Previews, this news is both infuriating and heartbreaking.
    Kudos to Palmiotti and Brett Warnock for weighing in. We need more Established Names to let Diamond know what a bad decision they’re making.

  17. Why is it that Diamond has a monopoly? Could it be that it’s the only distributor willing to pick up comics and related pubs en masse, and have a system in place that makes self-sustained, small-to-medium comic publishing fiscally possible; while the rest of the magazine industry is heavily dependent on super-high circulation and ad revenue? Despite the inroads a select few have made in bookstores and on newsstands, most distributors are still reticent to carry comics and comics magazines. They wouldn’t give any serious consideration to half of the books offered in Previews… and by that, I mean the half in the back of the catalogue. Diamond has a monopoly because *no one else wants us.* And Diamond could probably drop the less than 15% of sales generated by the non-top 4 publishers just like that. So if Diamond actually wanted to be evil, then it isn’t trying hard enough.

    If you really want to see CF in print, just follow Leong’s advice and politely write a letter to Diamond. It’s worked twice before, and it’ll probably work this time. Profferring conspiracy theories or Diamond-bashing isn’t going to help at all.

  18. Simon, if you want to know “why” Diamond is a monopoly, then Google the Marvel “Heroes World” debacle orchestarted by then-CEO Ron Perelman back in 1995 -The resulting “exclusivity” arrangements that Diamond made with DC, Dark Horse and Image KILLED everyone else virtually overnight. Until then there were a dozen or more comics distributors to choose from and we had a much healthier market.
    Diamond’s monopoly has been bad for comics, period.

  19. I’m well aware that sordid history (and not convinced that the market consolidation wouldn’t have happened anyway), but what I want you to consider is this… is there anything *preventing* comic publishers from selling their wares to magazine and book distributors other than Diamond, that isn’t borne out of natural market conditions?

  20. Diamond DOES have a monopoly on the comics market. But, like many things, this too shall pass. Diamond rose to the top of the heap in a time when comics were on rocky footing, anyway. With the interest in comics, thanks to the movies, eventually another distributor will come along and start carrying comics. The Diamond will remain at the top, or it will slip into second place. Just like most business.

  21. Gotta defend Diamond a little bit. Marvel Comics wanted to be its own distributor, ala Heroes World. Yes, Diamond got exclusive arrangements with publishers. But I recall a statement by DC guru Paul Levitz … He said that after examing the details, DC needed to make an exclusive arrangement with Diamond, to remain competitive. Next thing you know, Iamge made an exclusive agreement with (I think) Capital City.

    It was a case of monkey-see monkey-do. DC and the other publishers could have sat back and conducted business as usual. Well, business as usual after Marvel got dethroned. But, like lemmings, they followed a terrible business model — and Diamond wound up the winner.

    Diamond DOES have a monopoly on the comics market. But, like many things, this too shall pass. Diamond rose to the top of the heap in a time when comics were on rocky footing, anyway. With the interest in comics, thanks to the movies, eventually another distributor will come along and start carrying comics. The Diamond will remain at the top, or it will slip into second place. Just like most business.

  22. Simon, I like your blog a lot but I think you’re wrong. At the time of the distributor war there were somewhere in the ball park of what, a dozen, comics distributors for the direct market. Sure, given natural market forces we likely would have seen consolidation as has every other business. But the idea that nobody wanted comics isn’t close to true- they were fighting a bloody winner-take-all battle for the chance! Big time book distributors are enjoying the graphic novel boom and are glad to carry comics. And if Diamond wasn’t worried about other distributors then why not kill their exclusive deals and gain a lot of good press?

    Yes, Diamond’s monopoly was the accidental result of Marvel’s disastrous blunder to destroy the rest of the comics industry. We can’t blame Diamond or the publishers who went exclusive with Diamond solely as a means to try to save their asses from Marvel’s use of the “nuclear option.” But, a decade later and those publishers remain exclusive with Diamond in the direct market, gaining a special seat at the table with front page catalog exposure and surely many other perks that newer companies can’t compete against. It is in Diamond’s best interest to protect those partners.

    It’s no grand conspiracy it’s just what business types call synergy. The problem though is that this decade old collusion to save their asses from Marvel is now a means for those companies to crowd out the “back of the catalog” wannabees from become major players much as Marvel tried to do to them (though in a slightly less hostile manner). Viper, IDW, Oni, etc. probably don’t stand a chance of being “the next Dark Horse” because there already is one and they’re up at the front because of decisions made 10 years ago in a period of crisis.

    Sure, the bookstore market has cracked Diamond’s monopoly but if anyone thinks small publishers have any better chance in bookstores when the big- time book publishers are signing up comics talent to multiple book deals then that’s just as silly as saying Diamond then I’ve got a gold foil embossed variant cover, poly-bagged early 90s Valiant/Malibu crossover comic to sell them.

    Now, I thought Leong was crazy for moving from web to print. But obviously ad revenue wasn’t supporting the web endeavor and so he tried print. I even agree with the Diamond rep that a color section would greatly increase the sales but if Diamond can’t see the quality and possibility of future sales enough to give it one chance then you do kind of have to wonder about other motives. If Diamond thinks it’s such a burden to solicit a title that might not sell then why not charge a fee (perhaps even refundable upon meeting the sales minimum) for doing so which would be understandable and provide a defensible barrier for entry instead of acting as a censorous gate-keeper intent of killing art comix or whatever the most recent accusation might be?

  23. Image signed an exclusive with Diamond. If Image had signed an exclusive with Capital City, I think Image would be bigger today and the market wouldn’t have bottomed out as hard as it did five, seven years ago.

  24. Also, one can CERTAINLY blame the companies for signing exclusives after Marvel decided to distribute themselves through Heroes World. You can blame DC for pressing an advantage rather than acting responsibly in a way that didn’t immediately gain them an advantage. You can blame Image for thinking in the short-term rather than the long-term.

    Marvel going with Heroes World was the nuclear option only in the way that Slim Pickens riding the Atom Bomb down at the end of Dr. Strangelove was.

    I don’t see how any figures that were around at the time could have suggested those companies were in danger because Marvel decided to shoot itself in the foot, and seeing as DC kept the nature of their deal a secret, I don’t think they have the right to be believed when they assert that this was so.

  25. Joe–>

    I don’t disagree that Diamond is in a monopolistic position as far as the direct market is concerned (actually, I don’t think I disagree much at all with anything you point out), nor am I saying that the approval procedure isn’t flawed. And I am absolutely not suggesting that commercial standards be the only standard for bringing books to the market. I totally support grassroots efforts such as this… it gives Diamond moral motivation, in lieu of financial incentive, to carry quality, but possibly commercially dubious, titles.

    What I don’t understand is 1. why Diamond is getting much of the blame when publishers are equally culpable for the current situation (for example, the Diamond exclusives you mention. Sure, they can release publishers… or the publishers can choose not to be exclusive in the first place. We ourselves are not exclusive *on principle*, and despite knowing the advantages of doing so, we’re quite comfortable living without the perks) and 2. why Diamond is apparently laidened with sole responsibility of supporting all of comics, when all other print distributors of books and periodicals which do not carry comics at all receive a free pass.

    When I said “no one else wants us” (which I admit is a generalization for rhetorical purposes), I am not referring to any single point in the past, or any infinite possible futures, but the situation as it is *now.* And the answer is simply that few comics can sustain the sales, and few publishers have the financial wherewithal, that would interest such “mainstream” distributors. In other words, they’re making financial decisions, the very same ones Diamond makes. Except Diamond’s barrier of entry is much, much lower. If Diamond suddenly dissappeared tomorrow, a good majority of us indie publishers would dissappear with it… even if some mainstream distributor were to stand up, the kind of sales and payment terms that’s regularly employed in the book and newsstand world gives small comics publishers little chance of survival.