200905011339Two more stories on the continuing effects of Diamond’s tougher benchmarks:

§ Robot 6 quotes a letter from SLG :

SLG Publishing was planning on following up the recent Warlord of IO and Other Stories one-shot with a mini-series — definitely good news for fans of James Turner. Or at least it would have been, if Warlords of IO and Other Stories had sold better, but Diamond Comics Distributor won’t be carrying it. According to an email from SLG, the mini-series won’t be published*, but they do plan to release it on the web.

“While that comic has been released to great reviews from both readers and online critics, the sales to comic shops were, well, less than spectacular,” the email said, in regards to the one-shot. “As a result our comics distributor has declined to carry the follow-up mini-series Warlords of IO, which continues the story from last month’s one-shot.”

Turner is known for REX LIBRIS and the famed MAP OF HUMANITY, so it’s not like he’s a schmoe. We just got a copy of the WARLORD OF IO one-shot and it’s a quirky, good looking book. Serializing IO on the Web for eventual collection sounds like a sound way to go, even if it leaves SLG without a crucial second stream of monetization. Developing.

Another story that got a lot of play this week was the news that Diamond would not be carrying Classics Illustrated any more, which sounds pretty dire. The news was sent out via a press release on PR Newswire.

The Classics Illustrated logo and material is currently controlled by Jack Lake Productions, which is licensing out the classic (sorry) logo to company such as Papercutz, which has been putting out nice-looking library-ready editions of the CI material First/Berkeley produced in the early ’90s, and new material as well. Those books are not affected by the current change.

Here’s a quote from the press release:

President of Jack Lake Productions Inc., Jaak Jarve, commented, “That this is another example of a knee-jerk reaction to the tough economic environment everybody is struggling with to get through.” He also added, “Ironically, here we have an American intellectual property (consisting of 325 classical literature titles) which are being dumped in favor of spandex-super-hero titles. Oddly enough the American-owned and -produced Classics Illustrated series is being welcomed more by foreign publishers than our own North American publishing community. Maybe those foreigners are investing in the knowledge that classical literature will help teach our children to cope with the realities of the real world much better than these caped-crusaders who like jumping off high buildings. Splat! That’s all I have to say.”

We were curious about all this and dug a bit further.

The company website is located here, and pitches the books as explicitly “wholesome” and “retro” material, and presents a clearly defined mission statement:

Jack Lake Productions Inc. through their own market research have identified a niche market which includes fairytales and historical/classical tales in a comic book format. Even though the comics are retro, in respect to publishing, they still hold an allure to the first time reader. What makes this line of comics so unique is that, they do not imitate any of the current formats or themes of today’s comics (such as super hero, Japanese manga and animé, Disney or Archie comics). Like legends which endure over time, these fairytales also are classics in children’s literature. Children’s authors like the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault are just a few of the well known authors represented by this line. They have already been accepted by the many generations of fairy tale readers. With the regular Classics Illustrated series, great authors like Dumas, Cooper, Hugo, Stevenson, Dickens, Hawthorne, Twain,Verne, Shakespeare and Wells are represented in beautifully rendered graphic re-adaptations of their works. Especially in a current world filled with terror, war, disease and corruption- what a great time to launch a wholesome, nurturing escape from the harsh realities of the world as we know it.

There are lots of pictures of wholesome looking folks of all ages, genders and races reading Classics Illustrated on the site to prove the point.

On first glance, this would seem to be another case of “retro” material presented for nostalgia heads that is not working in Diamond’s revised business plan. Other failures include Diamond’s own attempts, via Gemstone, with Disney and EC properties. (On the other hand, we can’t even keep track of all the different formats DC is repackaging its classic superhero material in, so there must be a strong market for that.)

But there is also a flaw in the business plan as presented. One thing we learned in the decade we were engaged in producing children’s entertainment — kids don’t know retro. They don’t know what it is, and it doesn’t mean jack shit when explained to them. Attempting to market old material to kids on the grounds that it’s old and cool is a hopeless task that no one will ever succeed at. To today’s child of 10, the 1980s look just as goofy as the 1880s. But kids have no trouble with timeless entertainment — after all, they still get a kick out of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz — or even Little Lulu and Calvin and Hobbes.

What is the point of all this? Not to disparage anyone’s efforts, but it seems to me that moving forward with the work of a talented new creator like James Turner is much more important than exhuming more than half a century old material yet again.

Be that as it may, the new line of Classics Illustrated is still available via independent distributors, book stores, BudsArtBooks.com and Amazon.com. Or interested parties can call 1-800-269-9206.


  1. Yeah, we’ve carried like 4 or 6 of their releases, and haven’t sold a single copy at that price point, so I dropped the line. I imagine other stores are having similar experiences…


  2. RE: Classics Illustrated. The First/Berkeley versions did it right. Match classic tales with talented artists who could adapt the text and make it interesting to look at.

    Classics Illustrated reprints? Blah. The art is sloppy, and actually makes it harder to enjoy the story. MAYBE it would work better as black-and-white newsprint copies, maybe a big “Essentials” volume by genre or subject.

    Unfortunately, CI does not control the classic adaptation market anymore. Marvel, Sterling, Image, IDW, Rosebud, Papercutz are all producing handsome and engaging editions. Add to this the growing number of educational publishers which are publishing crude or clumsy adaptations, and Classics Illustrated doesn’t have much chance of success in the U.S.

  3. Looking at some of the offerings on the Papercutz site, I believe at least the Jeckyl and Mr Hyde, and Through the Looking Glass are reprints of the First/CI material. If memory serves they were 4 or 5 bucks a piece back then. There is some merit to these titles, but the price point for in some cases reprinted material is completely unjustified. Not that Marvel and DC aren’t currently guilty of the same transgressions.

  4. There are actually two lines of Classics Illustrated books from Papercutz, one is reprinting the First/Berkeley CI; these are library bound, sturdy hardcovers that can stand up to a lot of check-outs and being stuffed into backpack after backpack that happens in libraries. The other line is Classics Illustrated Deluxe, which are 144-page adaptations that seem to have been originally published in countries such as France; these come in both library bound hardcovers (which are much sturdier than trade hardcovers) and trade paperbacks.

    An individual buyer such as Josh might think the price point is out of line, but libraries appreciate reasonably-priced library bound copies that will stand up to years of abuse by people who check out books and don’t take very good care of them. The price point is VERY reasonable for a library bound book.