The above post by Rich Tommaso on FB has been lighting up creator chatrooms and my  inbox since it went up yesterday. Tommaso is a long time indie comics veteran, with such books as the well reviewer Dark Corridor and She-Wolf for Image, and prior to that a steady body of work for Fantagraphics Books, Dark Horse Comics, Top Shelf Productions, Chronicle Books, Hyperion Books For Children, Boom!town and Alternative Comics.

In other words the guy is no slouch.

But now he finds himself with lowered sales for his new book Spy Seal, which as you can see from the preview below, looks great, as does all of Tommaso ‘s work. It’s a Jason-like anthropomorphic romp through an MI-6 caper, all in a ligne clair style. Hardly a bizarre premise although maybe a little oddball for the average Image reader.

In case you can’t read the above link, here’s part of Tommaso’s discontent:

Well, if you’re going to bring up that old, “you’re not supposed to make money making comics” argument, don’t bother. I’ve heard that bullshit for years and I’m tired of it, so you can stop reading this now and go back to reading your R. Crumb comics, you little curmudgeons. Reminder: R. Crumb is the underground artist who bought a villa in France for a suitcase of sketchbooks–and whose first ZAP comic book sold a million copies. So, anyway, what the hell happened? Did comic shops pass on the series because it’s not a blood and guts, gore-fest? Is it because it’s not based on a movie or television show? Is it because I have never written or drawn a high selling MARVEL or DC comic? Or maybe I just don’t understand the comics business at all. And just what is the point of using ALL of these social media tools to promote your work when they only lead to such abysmal, diminishing returns?

Tommaso makes it clear that Image is not to blame for the low sales, as they’ve been trying to set up interviews and other promos and Eric Stephenson has stayed with him. But it’s not enough, it seems.

If you read the hundreds of comments on Tommaso’s post or follow the dozens of share links and read those comments…you’ll see a lot of sadness and worry about a career in comics at the moment.



That brings us to today. I’m generally a glass half full-er, but it’s pretty clear that we’re hitting one of comics’ periodic rough patches. The last one was two years ago – led by DC’s moribund output after their over from NYC to LA – and comics rebounded just fine, partly because Rebirth led the way.

We’re in a slightly different time now. Let’s look at the record. And start with Tommaso himself. None of this is meant as a criticism, merely observation. Despite his long career, for whatever reason, Tommaso has yet to have a “signature” hit.  Dark Corridor got generally good notices, but readers of She Wolf seemed to be confused by the story. All that makes a follow-up harder. Is this anyone’s fault? No. But having an outsize personality on social media helps sell comics, and if you’re just a regular creator who doesn’t do that, you can suffer in comparison. As you can see from Tommaso’s work it has nothing to do with the quality, just what readers and fans expect these days.

But Tommaso has a long career as a professional. Maybe an agent would help here? Hard work and talent are fairly easy sells even in a crowded market.

But, in the larger picture, there is a glut of hard work and even talent in the comics world right now. Seriously great cartoonists are just growing on trees and we’d need about 10 more Scholastics and First Seconds to absorb all the people who can do good YA work, which is where all the money and growth is now.

DC was able to rebound fairly quickly from DC You because once the horrors of a move were over, they had a fresh new work situation, new ideas from new people and (let’s be honest) some support internally because WB wants to challenge Disney in the superhero movie arena.

Now Marvel is having troubles, but as observers keep pointing out they don’t seem to have absorbed just why they need a real rebrand not deck chair reshuffling.  Just why this is has many reasons, some of them due to Marvel’s long term corporate culture, but mostly due to the extreme cost cutting practives and mercurial edicts of Chairman Ike Perlmutter, whose insistence on downplaying the X-men and elevating the Inhumans keeps going on and on and on, despite a total lack of enthusiasm from anyone. When you’re subjected to rando bizarre stuff like this year in and year out, it takes a toll.

More importantly, DC has read the tea leaves and Marvel hasn’t. DC is launching a kids line, graphic novel lines and other stuff to take advantage of changing reader demographics. Marvel seems set on a course of riding Marvel Zombies all the way to the gravel pit, while outsourcing kids books to IDW and Archie It doesn’t help that ever since Diversity-gate they’ve doubled down on never showing any public weakness or contrition, never a good sign. I have the utmost respect for all the professionals working at Marvel (yes really) but you can see the bad morale there from a mile away.

Marvel’s slowdown means comics sales can’t grow this year and there’s that nagging double digit drop in graphic novel sales, as well. Comics and graphic novel sales have been growing for a while, but the bookstore market is moribund, newsstand is deadder than a doornail, digital is flat and comcis shops are handcuffed by the Marvel Problem.

Is this a fatal four way? Well, as MacDonald’s Theorem states:


Comics will evolve and bounce back. There could very well be collateral damage along the way however. I suspect we’ll see people moving into parallel fields for a while, and moving between paying gigs in the ongoing gig economy. With Obamacare seeming to have survived, staying freelance is literally a lot more livable for many people.

Which leaves Rich Tommaso and his low orders. Here’s a preview of Spy Seal, judge for yourself and if you like it – preorder.

SPY SEAL 001.CoverSPY SEAL 001.1SPY SEAL 001.2SPY SEAL 001.3SPY SEAL 001.4



  1. I hate to hear about any comic creator having a tough time but it’s hard not to get more than a whiff of arrogant entitlement from Tommaso. No one has a right to make a living at what they love. And frankly, the public isn’t really missing out on anything if those pages are an example of his work. The art is technically competent but nothing that says “LOOK AT ME” and the storytelling ranges from clunky to self-indulgently tedious. Could you come up with a more boring beginning to a tale of an anthropomorphic secret agent?


  2. I thought She-Wolf was fantastic. Surreal, horror imagery in a dream story, but I like that kind of thing. Dark Corridor and the other crime comics have been good, and I quite liked 8 1/2 Ghosts early in his career. Spy Seal doesn’t look bad, but it does look more like a European comic in terms of pacing and even text to image ratio. if it shows up at my shop I’d likely get the first issue based on past works, but if there were more She Wolf forthcoming I’d likely put it on my pull list. Another contributing factor to consider: there aren’t that many anthropomorphic animal comics coming out & doing well in the US market, and Spy Seal seems more esoteric than the few other examples I can think of… that might be a major factor regardless of quality.

  3. I liked the preview in Image+ and was keeping an eye out for it, and I didn’t even know it was out. I’m not inclined to blame my LCS (Ash Ave Comics in Tempe, AZ), which has always done a good job of keeping a diverse lineup on the shelves; I might have just missed it.

    Sorry to hear about the low sales. I’ll try and remember to ask about it when I go in tomorrow.

  4. What level of sales was he expecting? When have wordy, paced, European-style comics ever sold well in America?

    And it is definitely not “Jason-like” in any way, shape or form.

  5. Single issues by and large don’t seem to do very well in the direct market for Marvel; & DC, less so for Image, less so for material that appears to be aimed at a demographic that doesn’t buy superheroes or genre material.

    I suspect at a book publisher, published as a GN Spy Seal would do better. As Heidi said, it’s too bad there aren’t more of them who could absorb the talent that’s out there.

  6. Nothing about that comic is in any way interesting to me. Good luck to do the dude, but maybe there’s just not an audience for what he wants to do, but I know I personally would give this book a hard pass in the comic book store, and it sounds like I’m not alone. *shrug*

  7. I get that he worked very hard on it but that doesn’t mean he’s owed anything. I’ve actually seen those previews around a lot so I thought there was a hard marketing push. I’m not surprised by the numbers if only because I thought it looked lame. I don’t think it’s as clever and engaging as he thinks it is. Which I understand is probably the worst thing for a creator. The cynic in me suspects the whining about poor sales is a last attempt at pity purchases.

  8. I’m a fan of Rich Tommaso’s work and, like many others, I empathize with his feelings of frustration and helplessness.

    Though I’m not too sure why this commentary goes so deep into Marvel and DC’s woes by way of accounting for the hurdles facing Mr Tommaso and other industry talents, I think Ms MacDonald gets at part of the “problem” when she writes that “Seriously great cartoonists are just growing on trees” right now.

    As someone who only very rarely cracks open anything from Marvel or DC but is a regular reader of about two dozen ongoing (non-superhero) titles from competing publishers with far more diverse line-ups and an eager consumer of an average of about 3-5 “indie”-type titles per month from the likes of Fantagraphics and D&Q, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.

    Sagging sales figures aside, I for one see the challenges facing Mr Tommaso and others as an unfortunate symptom of the fact there is just such an embarrassment of riches available to readers at the moment in terms of high-quality, non-mainstream (read: non-superhero) titles. In short, even those of us with an interest in buying and reading the offerings of Mr Tommaso and others like him have so much good work to choose from these days that we can’t possibly try every new title that comes down the pike.

    So while I acknowledge that comics shops could be doing more to encourage their customers to experiment a little and reach beyond the latest installments of Superman, Spider-Man or the X-Men, the flip side is that there are just so many terrific genre comics out there these days (from Stumptown to Stray Bullets to Motor Girl to Southern Cross to Harrow County to Redneck to Ringside to I Hate Fairyland to Hellboy to Lazarus to Patience to My Favorite Thing is Monsters to … well, you get the idea) that no creator should probably expect that every work he or she produces is going to sell like gangbusters (or even necessarily make much of a blip on the radar).

    So, yes, sales industry-wide may be flat and the Big Two may be bungling things even worse than usual but, on the other hand, at no time in my comics-buying history can I recall having so many terrific titles to choose from. While that might be of little consolation to Mr Tommaso, from a big-picture standpoint, you’ve got to admit that this isn’t such a terrible problem to have, is it?

  9. There’s just so much work out there, too many creators. If you spend $100 a week you’re still passing up tons of awesome things and that’s before you’ve even touched marvel or dc.

    Its to the point that only a select few…a dozen or so will be able to have full time careers at comics, while everyone else will work a 9-5 career and do comics as a side-gig hobby. You’re already seeing it with the next batch of up and coming creators esp on the writing side.

    I do think that indie creators who are trying to play in the direct market are effed before they even start. Someone needs to figure out a new way. I think some smaller publishers and indie creators need to just start selling direct to consumer and get rid of the middle men.

    That thread on FB was sobering, seeing how many creators esp on the indie side are confessing to barely able to make rent despite having all these hits and awards.

  10. If I recall, some of Tomasso’s sketches of Spy Seal went viral on Twitter a while back. The premise of those sketches was that he was revisiting a comic he had created as a kid, but kind of “rebooting” it to be more modern. It was a fun idea,that worked on multiple levels — you had an adult re-imagining his childhood, as well as the tension between the Herge linge clare style and some darker spy tropes, plus Tomasso’s cartooning chops.

    Translating those gag sketches into a monthly comic book series is obviously a harder sell — there’s a disconnect between the European album art style and the floppy American comic, as well as between the pastel coloured funny animals and the subtle “T for Teen” rating. For some readers these are probably appealing features! Those readers might be outside the Direct Market, or they might need to have the comic pitched at them a bit differently. Anyway, I’m sad to see that it hasn’t been going well at this stage.

    Perhaps the thing to do after the Twitter attention would have been to launch a Kickstarter while there was a lot of heat on the idea, and to have scaled the project to the level of interest it generated. On the other hand, Tomasso seems to want to work in monthly comics, and this is a dream project for him. It’s frustrating that the level of work and care he’s put into this comic hasn’t translated yet into attention from readers. I wouldn’t have known the book was coming out if it wasn’t for this post, and I’ll try to track down a copy now.

  11. Interesting concept and I’m going to check it out in trade, but I only have so much money. The problem seems to be how the industry itself funds its creators.

  12. I will certainly order this as a trade if it makes it to trade. But these days I pretty much do not even order floppies from any indie publisher. I will order them for pulls, but with the exception of just a few titles from Image or Black mask and maybe Dark Horse, they just do not sell at all.
    Pretty much my orders for Marvel are pull only these days. I do order some DCs for the shelf, but only a few at most, and many DC titles are already at or below N52 levels on the Diamond sales charts with the others headed that way soon enough. Then, what is DC going to do? What is the industry going to do?

    I sure wish creators and publishers would pull their heads out of the sand and address the fact that floppies are coming to an end, and fast. Super hero books in general have lost their appeal.

    We are selling trades just fine. As a matter of fact, trades and Manga are increasing for us month after month with the exception of Marvel and DC trades. Marvel trades have never sold well and DC Rebirth trades are selling at a fraction of what they sold for New 52.

    Boom needs to get off their ass and get their trades out faster and quit pursuing floppies for God’s sake.

    Over the past three years we have positioned ourselves as a graphic novel bookstore by devoting way more display space to trades and manga and shrinking our space for floppies and it is paying off. Floppies could all go away tomorrow and we would be just fine. I suspect our sales would increase because the dwindling fans that still buy floppies would be forced to buy trades.

    The writing is on the wall people. Get over the floppy. Sheesh……

    As for Rich Tommaso, I wish him the best of luck and I look forward to selling his trade in the future, and it will sell if he hangs in there and gets it out But creators and publishers cannot expect retailers to subsidize their work by continuing to support the obsolete business model known as the monthly comic. That model is burning down around us and for some reason most of the people in this industry for whatever stupid reason, refuse to even talk about it.

  13. Hi all,

    I am very impressed with the level of maturity and level headedness of these comments and I have to say I agree with just about all of them. There is an embarrassment of plenty in the comics market right now and that means B-, B or B+ titles will be ignored regardless of style IMHO. Once upon a time B or B+ titles were still a very good catch but today a new book has really got to have something special or be among the high production value titles (with an army of creators behind it). The comic book market is what is called mature nowadays, very much like the TV market. These are mediums that have passed their prime and are in a battle with newer forms that are far more appealing to the masses. (Not to mention radio!!)

    Comic creation was also a dream of mine as a kid and I have pursued it vigorously with varying levels of success. It has never turned into a money spinner for me and so I have had to adjust. I do many other things besides comics and that helps me stay sane. My output may suffer in quantity but I don’t compromise on quality. If I can continue to make comics in whatever form as a true creative outlet instead of being shackled to money making demands, I can be happy with that. Then comics can remain close to my heart without running away with my head. Who knows, I still may come up with a winner someday!

    Good luck to all creative artists out there struggling in a brave new world :)

  14. Unfortunately many comic fans want new, young creators. Similar to music. What bands from 10 years ago or later that are still able to put out new albums do you purchase? When I go to cons I see young fans gathering by artists and writers that are their age. The older artists unless they are super established don’t get that kind of attention. Its frustrating and sad to see.

  15. Not being sarcastic, but has Mr. Tommaso considered targeting this comic at furries? A lot of people say — well, OK, my furry friends and I say — that ‘furry fandom’ will be the next subcultural boom.

  16. This concept seemed interesting when I first heard about it, but then I saw the preview pages and decided it was not worth adding yet another series to my pull list. I too get a very European vibe that just doesn’t appeal to me right now. Perhaps this could be a graphic novel at Fantagraphics?

  17. My weekly budget is in the 50 to 60 dollar range. This looks like something I would read as a trade, at the library, for free. I think that still counts as a sale for them, right?

  18. Debating quality, marketing, branding, demographics etc. is a waste of time. Comic sales should be garbage because the business model is garbage. The necessity to pre-order from a stupid Diamond catalog has to be the stupidest business model that multiple people have ever bought into. I can’t believe Disney and Warner even make comics anymore if it means dealing with that nonsense. Any business that forces its customers to make their purchasing decisions months in advance of the product even existing should fail.

  19. On the “two wordy” front, I’m guessing most of the people who said that don’t have any problem with Alan Moore.

    Then “it’s too European looking.” The basic gist here is that: it doesn’t look like the stuff I’m used to. I’m not interested in anything that isn’t familiar. It doesn’t grab me right away, so I’m off the bus.

    Marvel and DC are what hold the direct sales market together, so it’s no surprise that what the average direct sales reader expects and wants–as much as they complain about Marvel and DC–is something that looks and feels like Marvel and DC. They might venture out in other territory, but the basic illustrative style and bright colors and genre content that can be easily converted into a popular movie or TV show.

    And before you say, #notallcomicshops it’s true, there are some great retailers who try to stock more diverse material, but the majority stick to the status quo. I’m sure you have a great store. But that’s not the point.

    Meanwhile stuff like The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil ends up on the New York Times Bestseller List. Compared to Spy Seal, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is beyond esoteric. So the idea that something like Spy Sea isn’t mainstream enough doesn’t bare out when it comes to the larger market. But that larger market doesn’t happen to accommodate periodicals. The problem is: you need a large mainstream publisher with clout to get a trade out there. But I would love to see direct sales comic shops become that market. The direct sales market doesn’t need to be this insular.

    The YA and middle grade market is often mentioned as an area that is neglected by Comic Shop retailers. And I think yes, they need to pursue that market to survive. More comic book retailers need to make friends with schools. They need to make friends with libraries. They need to get the word out that they’re a friendly place for that audience.

    Yes I know, #notallcomicshops. But I would love to see comics shops thrive. I would love to see them not depend on Diamond as their exclusive distributor. And I would love to see them not rely on the Marvel and DC periodical market as their main source of income. (no I don’t think they should give up on superheroes. This isn’t a condemnation of superheroes or any other popular genre) But for that to happen they have change, and the current direct sales model hasn’t changed in decades.

  20. And before anyone balks about needing “a big publisher to get a trade out there” i mean: in the larger bookstore market where casual readers can be found.

    And that’s another thing: Comic Book Stores need casual readers, not just collectors, to patronize and feel welcome in their shops. And yeah, yeah, #notallcomicshops

  21. Wonder if many of the people would consider what it would feel like for everyone who didn’t like their dating profile to leave a comment saying “I’m not interested; you look like you have small junk and smell bad.” Is your need to express your lack of interest important enough to rub in the face of a guy barely staying afloat financially who put a lot of work into this comic? Personally, I would say no. This is not about your right to speak your mind, but whether or not doing so is following the golden rule.

  22. This isn’t dating. It’s not personal. I think these comments reflect very conservative tastes, but they’re entitled to their boring opinions. Tommaso wouldn’t have lasted this long if he couldn’t take softball hits like these.

  23. It might be that there’s a time and place for everything. When someone comes on social media saying they feel crushed, depressed and suicidal, that may not be the best time for people with a “fan’s” perspective on an industry to armchair quarterback a 20-year career.
    People who feel like this is a good time to hold forth about their own particular tastes, and how the posted samples don’t fit with that, and how therefore it’s no wonder that preorders were low, ought to pause before pressing “Post Comment” and ask themselves if a comic they’ve enjoyed was ever canceled due to low sales, or if a comic they hated/couldn’t see the appeal of, ever sold well or won an award. If you can answer “Yes” to either of those, then perhaps your own personal tastes don’t account for anything in any real, scientific way.
    As someone who started as and remains a fan of comics, and who’s worked in comics and animation for 25+ years, let me assure you that reading comics, comics news blogs, websites that post press releases disguised as articles, etc., etc., doesn’t give you any idea what happens when you make this your living. For everything you read, there are a hundred anecdotes we keep to ourselves, or only discuss with other professionals. You have no idea. I’m not saying this to be obnoxious. My point is that all these expert comments from the sidelines don’t begin to address what Rich is experiencing. Rest assured that no matter what your tastes are, many of your favorite creators are going through some degree of the same thing.
    For anyone reading my comments here who believes I don’t know what I’m talking about, or that they have the answers to Rich’s dilemma, please, I beg you, become a comics creator, publisher or editor and for God’s sake show us all the way.

  24. Art is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. How do people decide what they’re willing to pay for if not by their personal tastes?

  25. I tabled with Rich during his short time when we were both doing work for Alternative Comics and had the pleasure of spending the weekend hanging out (I accidentally stole his pants in the hotel room, but that’s another story). I loved his work then, and it’s been a pleasure to watch his comics evolve since. I agree that many of these comments are thoughtless, and that it’s really really daunting putting so much work into something you really believe in and getting these kinds of responses.

    But Rich doesn’t take any shit. And while Rich has his self doubts, he’s also been incredibly resilient, and from recent posts, it sounds like he’s back at it, and continuing to work hard on the project.

    And for every person who says something thoughtless, there are a hundred others who love his work. Most of all, his peers. I don’t know a single cartoonist who doesn’t think his current work represents some of the best being done in the medium right now.

  26. Interesting. Reminds me of the heyday of Fantagraphics. The political commentary is appropriate to the characters, and while I could see myself arguing with them about their positions (were I living in their universe), I know real-world people with just such positions and personalities.

    Not forced, flows very well, presents differing views realistically – and does so through the venue of anthropomorphic animals.

    All in all, I’d give this an unwavering recommend.

    #GamerGate #ComicGate #GoodComicsDeserveSales

  27. I haven’t had time to police the flood of comments on this and a few others topics of late, however, since we’re discussing The State of the Industry I think people to talk about Tommaso’s work in REASONABLE terms is fair. It’s possible the work itself is part of the issue with why it isn’t more popular. We see mixed opinions here so it’s valid.

    Personal attacks, no.

    And I know Rich has made it this far and will go the distance.

  28. “My point is that all these expert comments from the sidelines don’t begin to address what Rich is experiencing.”

    NEWSFLASH: Things are tough all over.

    Are comics creators the only ones who have financial difficulties?

    I also have to say, having just read a piece over at on this, that I should apologize to Tommaso. He comes off as the most humble guy in the world compared to that whinefest.


  29. Well, as far as why it’s not selling:

    I can confirm that I never read or hear about independent comics. Definitely not in the general media, and often not even when I go into comic stores, which is rare since the industry as a whole alienated me long ago. I’ve just NEVER been huge on superheroes in general.

    Which meant I was a second-class customer to most stores, of which there were fewer and fewer as the years went on and those which survived became “superstores” of a sort, easily selling much more merch than comics. Again, almost entirely superhero-based. So I was never part of the big-income crowd because I was never catered to.

    And I don’t just mean not being treated specially in any particular way – I mean stores repeatedly failing to get my pre-orders at all. My last store, I had a list of a half-dozen monthlies and a couple of quarterlies, almost all independent titles. I might actually GET them half the time, and there would always be “oopsie” excuses for why the rest were missing. When I flat-out got (and I am paraphrasing here) “look, you’re just not worth our effort, go buy it online or something”, I stopped going to comic stores except to occasionally browse and reminisce.

    “Not Marvel? Not DC? Not big anime titles? Not buying merch? GO AWAY, WE’RE A BUSINESS.”

    I’m going to support Rich’s “Spy Seal”, at least on digital when it’s available as such, because I think it looks interesting and I want more of this work in the industry. But damned if I’m going to bother asking any of my local stores to carry it because I already know the answer.

  30. “Art is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. How do people decide what they’re willing to pay for if not by their personal tastes?”

    First the retailer has to pre-order it so you can pick it up and look at it and decide whether you like it or not. If you haven’t asked your retailer to specifically pull it. It needs to occupy a shelf. Comics shops aren’t subscription services. People browse. People pick up new stuff they’ve never seen before. But first they have to see it. Comic shops tend to order conservatively when it comes to titles that aren’t Marvel, DC, or some other predictable franchise.

  31. This is the problem with the publish-it-and-they-will-come mentality that plagues much of this industry. There’s very little rigorous market analysis behind these publishing decisions. I’m sure Rich is talented and pored his heart into this project, but there’s little in his career to suggest this effort was going to be a breakout title in a marketplace with an unprecedented glut of titles. He’s a journeyman not a star, with pre-orders that seem to reflect that. I look at the cover of that comic, and as a marketing tool, which is what all covers are, this one does not in any way inspire me to buy it (let alone take it off the shelf and flip through it). This is why the big publishers have art directors who have market data and years of experience understanding how to create a cover. I just sat through a three hour-presentation from the staff at Penguin Random House today on the integrated marketing activity and data gathering and analysis that goes into the promotion, marketing, and publicity efforts for a typical title, and it makes a lot of the comic industry look like amateur hour. I feel bad for Rich, but I’m not sure how broad an understanding he or his publisher has regarding how to create and sell books in the kind of numbers needed to have even a modest return. It sucks, because obviously a sustaining career in comics is his dream.

  32. “This is why the big publishers have art directors who have market data and years of experience understanding how to create a cover.”

    And it STILL doesn’t work. Sometimes it helps. But every book is not a breakout hit just because the art director and marketing department checked all the right boxes. The traditional book publishing industry has its own problems.

    Every book has to aspire to be a breakout hit in the industry now, but inevitably, there will be midlisters and failures. But a midlist book is not a failure. Unfortunately, that’s not how publishers see it. But midlist books are still books that sell.

    So all that marketing and maneuvering only gets you so far. And with this blockbuster mentality in the book industry now, they tend to take a lot fewer risks on books that may just happen to sell, but not sell out.

    I’m talking about the book industry now, because that’s the pond I’m swimming in, too, as a kid’s book author.

    The comics industry is dysfunctional in an entirely different way, but don’t imagine that somehow they’ve got marketing down to a science anywhere else in the publishing industry. And authors are still required to do a lot of their own self-promotion, out of their own pockets, paying for their own book tours and book trailers and providing their own social media marketing.

  33. “I look at the cover of that comic, and as a marketing tool, which is what all covers are, this one does not in any way inspire me to buy it (let alone take it off the shelf and flip through it). This is why the big publishers have art directors who have market data and years of experience understanding how to create a cover.”

    The results of entirely too many years of this in the movie business.

  34. @Joe P, I hear what you’re saying, but all one needs to do is peruse a book store to see that Penguin Random House doesn’t know what they’re doing either. Everything on the shelves looks the same. They seem to be able to sell only one thing. The same thing. Over and over.

    There’s nothing about Tommaso’s work that looks like an especially hard sell, except that it’s not EXACTLY like everything else in the market. He seems to have made the mistake of being different. It’s easy to sell Spider-Man or Batman. Anyone could write/draw those books and they would be guaranteed a sale. But Tommaso was trying something different. No one can predict what will work and what won’t—which might be why Random House PASSED on Maus.

    I don’t know the guy, but as far as I’m concerned, Tommaso IS a star, and his beautiful and accomplished work (even his mini-comics) has ALWAYS compelled me to pick it up.

  35. I hardly felt that Tomasso (sp?) was in any way whining or coming across as ‘privileged’ in the slightest. I, too, even just as a fan, can wish for a wider acceptance and readiness for more varied genres such as Tomasso attempts. I have enjoyed his previous work and may enjoy more in the future. I wish him great luck.

  36. First I hope Rich seeks out some help. I take anyone that even mentions suicidal thoughts casually very seriously. I love his work but I’m also privy to how Image pays which isn’t a page rate. It’s all royalty based with no advance. The whole concept is a huge gamble that could either pay out like the Walking Dead or unfortunately in Rich’s case not.

    Most of the indie publishers don’t pay a page rate either. It’s royalty based with a ridiculously small advance (usually $2000 regardless of page count) that isn’t received until all the art is turned in.

    This concerns me not just in Rich’s situation but a lot of art schools are rolling out comic/graphic novel curriculum’s in an industry that doesn’t really pay so well. Savannah, Center for Cartoon Studies, CCAD, etc. Flooding an already crowded marketplace with new talent. The talent’s definitely there but the paying work definitely isn’t and they’ve all got student loans to recoup somehow.

  37. I’m not seeing any entitlement in Tommaso’s post. A lot of frustration, sure, and that’s understandable.

    I the comic looks dope. He’s super talented. But without a big Marvel or D.C. book, it’s really hard to move the needle.

  38. I feel bad for this creator, but his early work is derivative of Clowes, and this current book is derivative of Jason. He’s very talented, but not original in any way. SO yes, it’s hard to build an audience over 20 years if you have no authentic artistic voice.

  39. Looks like a fun book but admittedly makes me a little nervous about the upcoming launch of my book from Cosmic Times, called Sugar Boogarz.
    I don’t have half the experience in comic book creating that Rich has, and now I have about as much hope that my small time sweet adventure will reach any kind of masses!

  40. Ifeel for Tomasso. Anyone seeing the looming possibility of loosing their job/business is entitled to freak out in their own way. It’s how they pull themselves together and persevere that matters most.

    I have to say, I’m not a fan. I tried to read She-Wolf and found the art garish with the story near nonsensical. I dropped it at issue 3. I tried but was extemely put-off by She-Wolf. I liked the idea of his bold experimentation and approach overall, but ultimately it didn’t work for me. This would not surprise me if this contributed to the low numbers on Spy Seal. Maybe finding a collaboratior is in order to have someone to mix ideas with? Sometimes some people work better through a filter or in a different equation than they were previously. Either way I hope the best for him and that he is able to connect with an ever expanding audience that can help expand the love of his characters/storytelling.

  41. I feel for the guy, but there are some hard facts to look at when it comes to successfully launching a new comic book (this is coming from a retailer):
    1.) Just like movies, TV shows and music, there are more comics competing for buyers attention than possibly ever before. No store can stock every new #1 and not every new #1 is for everybody.
    2.) I read an advance copy of his comic and it just wasn’t for my shop. Talking animal books don’t do well in the rural mid-west.
    3.) I can’t stress enough that there is too much product out there. All of the publishers need to look at individual title sales and not “what are all of our comics selling.” Marvel & DC need to cut their output by 50%. Image is pumping out more new series than the market can support. We, as an industry, need to focus on quality over quantity or we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the early 1990’s (we’re charing towards them, full steam ahead).

  42. Anyone who wants to say “we need quality over quantity” should put “Spy Seal” side-by-side with the current run of “Squirrel Girl”. Pick any equal number of pages from the latter, compare to those available from the former.

    Marvel’s been engaged, for a long time, in severely predatory publishing practices, acting much like a monopolist corporation with every comic shop as their “company store” – you buy tons of mulch comics because it’s the only way to get to the GOOD stuff being used as bait.

    If I were running a shop, I’d stop ordering a few of the rotten Marvel titles which AREN’T selling jack and dedicate the shelf space to a variety of better-quality indies. Worst comes to worst, it’s a minor risk, cuts down on mulch losses, and send Marvel a message in the only language they apparently know how to speak anymore.

    Seems it’s either gonna be that, or riding the tiger directly into the jungle for a lot of shops.

  43. I feel for the guy, and wish him the best, but lets face it not everything has a mass appeal. And besides, I feel there are way too many Image titles being released and the customers that are into the Image titles have to be choosy with their purchasing decisions.

  44. I read about this title in the Image magazine, and love the concept! And the art! BUT I have a fixed budget for comics, and can’t take on another title without dropping one of the ones I am buying now. Sorry, and I do realize we are talking about just $4 here, but this is the reality.

  45. I don’t know about the comics market now. It’s not the place for “auteurs”. You can get anything from Barnes and Noble or Amazon or a library, which are more suited for that kind of thing. Unless you live in a big city or college town, most comic stores are really toy stores and superhero comics by committee are basically ads for movies. The days of discovering something new are over. Crumb probably wouldn’t break a circulation of 1000 if he started today. I’ve known Rich for a long time and follow his work, we’re about the same age, have had almost the same amount of experience and the same doubts. There are always ups and downs with freelancing. New people come along with a better business sense and the marketplace changes and it’s necessary to adapt. I myself have had a hard time doing that, having gone from having a development deal and working on the most popular cartoon of all time to having comics just be a hobby. It doesn’t matter what you think of him or his comics. The arts is the only occupation where people say “nobody owes you a living”, and think a creator is entitled for wanting to make a living, but nobody says that if you’re a waiter or file clerk. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though, Jack Kirby was 51 when he created the Fourth World and in other media Marc Maron is only now getting attention.

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