176 155 LargeThe NY Times Magazine had another big section on movies, this time looking at modern Westerns, and the proposed Cowboys and Aliens film gets a lengthy write-up with Platinum Studio’s clever business plan once more rolled out, under the headline “Comics Genius?”:

This may seem odd for someone so passionate about comics that he had been selling them since he was 13. But not long before he sold Malibu Comics, his small publishing house, to Marvel, Rosenberg shepherded a little-known, underselling series to Hollywood. “Men in Black” went on to gross more than half a billion dollars and spawn a sequel that would earn nearly as much. So within a week of founding Platinum Studios in 1997, Rosenberg was pitching an idea to producers. It would be based on a comic called “Cowboys & Aliens,” and it didn’t matter that the comic hadn’t been written yet. From the start, he says, he “had no intention of just doing a stand-alone comic novel.” He came up with a few characters and a basic plot line that was as straightforward as the title. The idea was inspired by the children’s game of cowboys and Indians, but without the stain of political incorrectness (or genocide). “You’re not going to shoot Indians now — but cowboys and aliens, that would be fun to play,” Rosenberg explained to me.


This prompts Eric Reynolds to say what everyone has been thinking for some time now: Platinum is a non-starter among comics publishers.

Lazy journalists are the only reason that Platinum even exists; despite working in the comics business for nearly two decades, I’ve never heard Platinum’s comics discussed by anyone in the industry, or even in fan circles. Rosenberg’s reputation in the industry, however, precedes him, going back to his days as a comic book distributor in the 1980s. Yet Platinum keeps popping up in newspapers without really doing anything, despite a rather ignominious past for Rosenberg. And yes, sometimes the reporters solicit opposing views from folks like Gary Groth, but that’s still just paying far too much attention to a creative and commercial sham. Platinum is market manipulation via huge capital, obatained through dishonesty and/or sheer luck over a decade ago.


Plus, if you actually read their stock offering, you might not think “genius” was actually the word for the business plan, either, since it lost over a million dollars in each of the last two years, and appears to have relied heavily on borrowing money from mom.

On second thought, that last one is pretty damned clever.

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PS: In a surprise twist, DJ Coffman disagrees with Reynolds.

UPDATE: Tom is with Eric:

As for the classic, foundational reason for some folks’ disdain, Rosenberg’s crucial role when it came to crippling the rise of independent comics publishing in the 1980s — or at the very least having sex with the wound — for the sake of a few bucks unethically earned: Gary Groth wrote about it at the time. Just run a search on the phrase “cupidity and stupidity” if you want to get to the meat of it. I think it was probably worse than Gary puts it, as the crippling of the independent comics market at that point in its history may have changed the face of the comics market more than all the Deathmates and panicky Diamond exclusives combined, but I’m not yet ready to write that article.

1 COMMENT

  1. [quote]He came up with a few characters and a basic plot line that was as straightforward as the title. The idea was inspired by the children’s game of cowboys and Indians, but without the stain of political incorrectness (or genocide). “You’re not going to shoot Indians now — but cowboys and aliens, that would be fun to play,” Rosenberg explained to me.[/quote]

    Personally, I think the aliens might be a bit offended.

  2. Rosenberg still owes me over three thousand dollars for comics shipped to his “Sunrise Distributors” in 1986 & 1987. Of course he stiffed many other publishers for far more -hundreds of thousands of dollars at the very least.

    Coffman can defend him all he wants. Those of us who were around at that time know the truth about his character.

  3. Coffman: “I’ve pretty much noticed the kinds of people who get up and arms about Platinum, and who have had beef with Rosenberg going back over 20 years and have never let past things go….it makes them look like petty nothings.”

    Never let things go? Like people who lost houses or cars; who had to declare bankruptcy or go out of business?
    Yeah, why can’t we just let that petty stuff go?

  4. I think ALL of you guys (and gal) read to me as pretty petty. So he had a failed business 20 years ago. Look at the stuff he’s done since as success?

    And if it were ME, and I felt Rosenberg owed me personally an amount I could prove that was owed, hell, I’d just go and ask him to pay me and talk it over with him. So something tells me there’s more to this story than meets the eye too– 20 years ago?? Jeez.

  5. Well that’s fair. I believe I still have copies of those unpaid invoices, so I’ll just send them to Mr. Rosenberg c/o Platinum. And if he makes good after 20 years and pays them (out of his own pocket is fine) then I’ll gladly proclaim him a stand-up guy.
    For the record, I always found him to be a very likable guy to deal with over the phone and we had quite a few pleasant conversations. It was the vanishing bit and then the emergence of Malibu Comics a short time later that left a bad taste in my mouth. Now even if Sunrise’s assets, cash or property went into the formation of Malibu, I’m sure it was all legal, all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed and whatnot, but a whole bunch of us smaller publishers couldn’t help but feel a bit betrayed.

    A lot of small distributors went under in the wake of the mid-80’s market bust. Some made installment payments to us publishers as best they could, but a few (and Sunrise was one) sent out form letters *promising* to begin payments, but then nothing ever materialized. I can understand that it was the smallest distributorships who got hit the hardest by retailers going belly-up, but to have people we trusted with our product, who we’d extended 30 and 60 day nets to just vanish, leaving us holding the bag (i.e. monstrous printing bills for those same books) was very frustrating.

    Capital Distribution’s dissolution a decade later was quite different. They offered us immediate partial payment or full payment – provided we’d give them 8 months or so to collect from their accounts. And though it took over a year in the end, Capital Distributors made good on that promise, and we received every penny owed us.
    It was the closest thing to a silver lining that we had during the market’s transition to a Diamond monopoly and the herding of small publishers to the “green ghetto” in the back of the Previews bus. But I digress.

  6. Still, it’s not like Rosenberg has been hiding for 20 years. You’d think if you had legal beef with unpaid invoices that HE owed you, you might have looked him up during all that success with Men in Black—- but it sounds like you’re talking about a COMPANY owing you money– 20 years later!!!!? C’mon now!

  7. DJ,

    20, 40, or 100 years later, people still got screwed and it’s not like those publishers waited ’til now to bitch and moan. Most were probably trying their best to get a hold of Mr. Rosenberg but his vanishing act made that impossible.

  8. “it’s not like Rosenberg has been hiding for 20 years. You’d think if you had legal beef with unpaid invoices that HE owed you, you might have looked him up during all that success with Men in Black—-”

    So I have some measure of proof of the debt, but now I’ve waited too long…? Dang. Guess I can forget about that 1989 Honda Civic I had my eye on.

    I continued trying to collect from any distributors still answering their phones for well over a year. And I continued to send invoices until they started coming back marked as bad addresses.
    You’re completely correct, though. Basically Rosenberg’s defunct company owes my defunct company a 20-year old debt. It does sound silly. I mean hell, these days companies dissolve and reform under new incorporation all the time. I remember the day in 1988 when Crown Distributors in Brooklyn finally started answering their phones with “Crown Distributors/Diamond.” And I was politely told that Diamond had aquired Crown’s warehouse, accounts and staff – but were NOT assuming their debts. Same person answering the phone, even.

    Now here I’ll blow my own horn. I could have stiffed the printers that I owed the moment my company “didn’t exist anymore.” Instead I slowly paid them over four long years. Every cent. Not because I didn’t want a bankruptcy on my record, but because (cue violins) my Dad taught me that’s what you do.
    70,000 books (representing 3 different titles’ print runs) was a huge job to that company, and the loss of that revenue (about $28,000) would have hit them really hard.

    I’m sure Sunrise owed a lot of guys a LOT more money than it owed to me. And it wouldn’t be right for Rosenberg to reach into his own pocket to pay me and not pay, say, Fantagraphics. Bottom line is nobody’s ever gonna get paid anything. And legally, there’s no company or person who’s liable for that.

    The point here is that guys such as Eric Reynolds and myself have valid personal reasons for pointing a finger and giving that “Body Snatchers” screech every time Scott Rosenberg’s name pops up.

    But uh, we’ll try to stop the pointing and just screech quietly to ourselves.

  9. Back in 1986 I was a young, naive artist who answered Malibu Graphic’s ads seeking talent to start a new company. It was not until months later, when I had established working relationships with Malibu Publisher David Olbrich, Editor Chris Ulm and Creative Director Tom Mason, that I started hearing the stories about Malibu Owner Scott Rosenberg.

    Most of those stories were emanating from The Comics Journal, and Olbrich explained that Rosenberg had lured himself and Tom and Chris away from Fantagraphics, and Gary Groth was just being a sorehead. So I discounted the stories as intramural back-biting.

    I began to reconsider, however, as I began attending comics conventions and talking with other creators and professionals. There seemed to be a very widespread animus against Rosenberg and Malibu and anyone associated with it. While creators working with Fantagraphics, or Dark Horse, or First Comics seemed to be well-regarded, my Malibu/Rosenberg connection sometimes left me marked as “not really in the club.” I began feeling very conflicted that the friendly folks who had given me my first paid comics gigs seemed to be such industry pariahs.

    In 1988 some controversy involving Eclipse Comics inspired me to send in an editorial cartoon to The Comics Journal, and I was soon contacted by Gary Groth. I was invited to a house party (we were both in SoCal at the time) and had several phone conversations. It soon became clear that Groth wanted to lure me away from Malibu, as a sort of revenge against what had happened to him earlier. But I waffled, as Dave, Tom and Chris had always been good to me, and Groth’s maniacal giggling on the phone did not inspire confidence. I decided I didn’t want to be some prize in a pissing contest between two publishers so I demurred, and continued working with Malibu until I left comics altogether in 1992.

    Ever since then I’ve thought about these events, and now I think I made the wrong choices. The comics industry is based on contacts and reputation as much as is the movie business, and my choices caused considerable damage to my credibility and closed some important doors. I’ve often wished I could go back and do things differently, but what’s done is done.

    Since I’ve returned to comics in this decade I’ve had to work very hard to undo the damage I did to myself back then. I still sometimes get scorn from industry veterans who remember me from my Malibu days. It does sting — these are people whose work I’ve enjoyed for years.

    Platinum creators, I hope you’ve been reading this. Many of you seem quite talented, but without realizing it, you’re digging your own graves. Please try to learn from my mistakes. Or at least, think very carefully about where you expect to be in 5 or 10 years, and consider whether you’re really going to get there via the path you’re traveling.

  10. Scott Besier— that is what I’ve been looking for. I always knew there was some beef between Groth, Fantagraphics and Rosenberg, and well, you pretty much just made it clear. I wonder how anyone could take anything THEY write about Rosenberg seriously or with a grain of salt given those past back-biting stories. That really paints a much clearer picture of what was really going on with an axe that has been ground since. UGH

  11. Uh, no.
    Beiser’s story only provides a small part of the picture. I strongly suggest reading the link Heidi posted: http://www.tcj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=366&Itemid=48

    Groth’s 1987 essay “Black and White and Dead All Over” is a lengthy read, but it sheds some light on some aspects of the whole Sunrise debacle that I was unaware of. Facts are facts and given what I’ve learned from his essay I couldn’t blame Gary Groth if he went full-gonzo postal, never mind a little maniacal giggling.

    An excerpt:

    “Apparently, sometime in 1986, Sunrise Comics and Games, a comics distribution company owned by Scott Rosenberg and specializing in hoarding hot or potentially hot books that will go up in value, decided to try to create some hot books of its own by secretly financing four comics publishers: Eternity, Wonder, Amazing and Imperial. (Secretly, one presumes, because it’s on the gauche side for a distributor to enhance his speculating possibilities by starting not one, but four different publishing companies.) These companies turned out reams of comics in ’86 (not a one of them any good, mind you). Rosenberg-Gate broke in January of ’87 when Sunrise issued a press release announcing that he was behind these companies. Simultaneously, Sunrise Distributors sent a letter to their creditors (most if not all of whom are comics publishers), informing them that Sunrise was unable to pay certain bills owed and that such bills would have to be put in abeyance until the summer of ’87 at which time Sunrise would do its best to start paying off the old invoices. Simultaneously, Sunrise Distributors — or Scott Rosenberg, if you care to make the distinction — financed yet another publishing company called Malibu Graphics. Rosenberg has claimed in recent accounts that Malibu, which has been financed continually after Rosenberg announced Sunrise’s inability to pay publishers to whom he owed money, was not financed by Sunrise but by personal funds, thus attempting to disarm potential criticism from irate publishers who weren’t keen on the idea of Sunrise/Rosenberg financing a competing publisher at the same time Sunrise couldn’t pay them the money they owed.

    Morally, one would think that Rosenberg would be obligated to use whatever private funds he has at his disposal to pay publishers whose books he bought and sold rather than to put such money into a fifth publishing company that will compete with the very publishers he cannot or will not pay; you may also question the morality of creators and whatever support staff Rosenberg is shoveling money to in order to keep Malibu afloat, who would knowingly take money that should rightfully be paid to other publishers to whom it is owed.”

  12. A big YECH all around to Platinum Studios. You’re doing nothing for comics. To get press for your company is one thing, but to do nothing of interest with whatever buzz you get is idiotic.

    I think I’ve only heard one review of this on a podcast, and I did not read it on any other comic book site or book site.

  13. As Platinum has no product, all they are is a PR company. They are doing PR for a product that doesn’t exist.
    —–
    DJ, I have an extra flashlight. I’ll send it to you if you’d like to see the light.

  14. Is it one of those heavy mag lights? Because that would be good for knocking a little sense into you, Alan. You say Platinum has no product? They actually have books out now– check your Previews monthly. You guys are caught up in 20 year old grudgefests– and you’re not willing to even consider that Platinum Studios is A LOT more than just Scott Rosenberg. A lot of other good, reputable people work there on all levels of the company.

  15. Holy crap, DJ Coffman really needs to get those nuts out of his mouth. Dude: your publisher is a documented amoral scumbag who flaked out on many thousands of dollars of debt. His comics line is a grotesque incubator for fetal Hollywood pitches with no concern for the actual quality of the books produced. You have hitched your wagon to a moronic shit-train and you’re drooling to yourself as it pulls you into the toilet.

  16. K. Thor Jensen: “Holy crap, DJ Coffman really needs to get those nuts out of his mouth. Dude: your publisher is a documented amoral scumbag who flaked out on many thousands of dollars of debt. His comics line is a grotesque incubator for fetal Hollywood pitches with no concern for the actual quality of the books produced. You have hitched your wagon to a moronic shit-train and you’re drooling to yourself as it pulls you into the toilet.”

    Ouch! Pretty brutal there, K.Thor. But the truth often is. If Coffman actually read Gary Groth’s “Black & White & Dead All Over” and Scott Beiser’s personal story of regrets and yet isn’t questioning his own choices…Jeez, what’s left? An intervention on Montel Williams? ;)

    Hell yes, Groth has an axe to grind. Rosenberg’s actions almost destroyed Fantagraphics *and* was quite possibly the tipping point in an already unstable market that led to the drek-dominated market we have today.

    Rosenberg started FOUR publishing entities to churn out junk-bond black & white #1 issues for a waning speculator market at the SAME TIME his own distributing company was renegging on paying OTHER publishers. Sunrise then vanishes without ever paying us a dime, then a few months later Malibu rears its ugly head.
    It’s all in the link: http://www.tcj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=366&Itemid=48

    That must be some Kool-Aid they’re serving at Platinum.

    But hey, dude’s drawing a paycheck and seeing his work in print. I do sort of sympathize, given how many talented creators can’t find work these days.

  17. “But hey, dude’s drawing a paycheck and seeing his work in print. I do sort of sympathize, given how many talented creators can’t find work these days.”

    This is exactly what I was thinking back in the late ’80s. Malibu had never failed to pay what they owed me. I had no idea what to expect doing business with Groth. So I took the path of least resistance. And it got me exactly nowhere.

    I can’t even get the people who quote me to spell my name right.

  18. Alan Coil, you are hilarious. Started my day off with a laugh; thanks.

    To Scott Bieser: Sorry I misspelled your name, man.
    Hey, at least folks don’t misspell your name “Lust” like they do mine. ;)

    I’ve heard from two very well-regarded, longtime comics pros this week regarding Rosenberg’s rep. Both had contemplated taking assignments for Platinum and BOTH were told by publishers they currently work for “You’ll be burning your bridges with us and a lot of other folks.”

    Thgey wisely reconsidered, and are glad they did.
    But there’s just no telling some people anything, even when you’re looking out for their best interests.

    Voice of Reason #1: “She cheated on her first husband.”

    Voice of Reason #2: “She cheated on her second and third husband.”

    Enamored Fiance: “But she would never do that to me. That was in the past. You all just don’t really know her.”

    Nuff said.