Since we’ve been looking at various aspect of the how the Pandemic Shift* is affecting comics this week, let’s round things out with some publishing news, as various publishers are announcing changes to business models, increased returnability and long term plans. Lots of press releases below but it’s the fastest way to explain it all.
• First up, the UK’s literary comics house Soaring Penguin Press is moving to a crowdfunding business model, starting with any currently scheduled titles. They write:
Following the publication of the UK Comics Creator Survey Co-Publishers Tim Pilcher and John Anderson examined their business model to see if there was a way to redress the imbalance in the earnings of comics creators.
“We realised that the traditional royalty-based pay scheme meant there was almost no chance of creators getting a living wage,” said John Anderson. “We needed a way to ensure that money was provided up-front to the creators, in exchange for allowing us to publish their stories. That meant crowdfunding.”
Tim Pilcher added, “We’re still committed to publishing alternative voices – another aspect of comics that the Survey flagged as unbalanced. Crowdfunding titles that are less populist envivatibly requires a deeper commitment from us, but it’s a challenge worth taking in order to bring new and exciting creators and work to the world.”
Their first title under the new business model will be the debut graphic novel The Glass Wall by William Robertson and Yulia Lapko, which is scheduled to come out in November.
Of The Glass Wall the blurb states:
Lucian’s life is fucked. In a self-obsessed East End London where everyone is snorting, shooting, or smoking, where nights pass in a fog of half-remembered physical and emotional wounds, Lucian’s been advised— no, instructed—that the only defense is to wear an armour of indifference. Then his best friend is accused of raping his ex-fiancee. Should he pick a side? Or is he best to stay out of it?.
The UK Creators Survey is interesting stuff, btw…hopefully I can do a full post about it. But the bottom line is the advances against royalties for indie books can be very very small indeed and crowdfunding is a chance to make higher page rates. Interesting to see how this plays out.
• Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dynamite announced all comic titles through August 31 Final Order Cutoff and September 23 on-sale are fully returnable by retailers. Dynamite began making comics returnable (as did many publishers) In March when The Great Shutdown** began.
The current climate that impacts many retailers and businesses at this time has persisted, and Dynamite is recommitting to their efforts in assisting partners through it. This extends a policy that has been active since March and is the second such extension. Dynamite has been overwhelmed by the positive support from retailers even in this difficult period, with double-digit order increases at FOC and higher sell-through rates at Diamond.
“Retailers are incredibly important to us. Neither of us can do our jobs and survive without the other,” said Nick Barrucci, Dynamite CEO and Publisher. “We instituted this returnable program and others, then we extended it, and now we’re extending it again. Though some may laugh at that, we’re always trying to be optimistic that everyone will be fully pulled out of this pandemic sooner than later. But we are always ready to adjust accordingly and continue our support for our partners so we can continue thriving under these conditions.”
• Boom! Studios has announced a similar program via its Retailer Support Services Program, with full returnability all the way through December to qualifying accounts:
* Full Returnability Through December: BOOM! Studios will extend the industry’s best returnability program, the BOOM! Guarantee, in an unprecedented manner by making all items that ship between September 2, 2020 through December 30, 2020 fully returnable via affidavit in order to allow retailers to order with confidence. Any retailer not already enrolled in the BOOM! Guarantee can sign up for free right here.
* More Monthly “Thank You” Variant Covers: BOOM! Studios will now provide at least two new, previously unannounced “Thank You” variants every month through December 30, 2020 free to qualifying Diamond accounts. These variants will appear on two different series each month and will ship one-per-store. Diamond accounts must be eligible to receive free promotional material in order to receive these variants. This move now doubles the commitment BOOM! Studios previously announced.
• BOOM! First Look PDFs: BOOM! Studios will provide downloadable PDF previews of all major launches before FOC that retailers can share with customers via e-mail, social media and more to ensure fans are informed and excited to place their pre-orders for the best new series of 2020.
“Comic shops are the lifeblood of the industry and this artform, so this is the next step in offering even more support to our retail partners during this time,” said Filip Sablik, President of Publishing & Marketing, BOOM! Studios. “These new benefits in the BOOM! RETAILER SUPPORT SERVICES PROGRAM allow retailers to grow sales on their best-selling series – like Something is Killing The Children, Once & Future, and Seven Secrets – while also ordering without risk on their next guaranteed hits, including We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, BRZRKR, Mighty Morphin, Power Rangers and Dune: House Atreides, with even more tools to engage their customers.”
• IDW has announced an extensive program for Locke & Key in between seasons of the Netflix original series, including the Sandman crossover. Chart included!
The show debuted last February with a successful 10 episode season, and a second season was confirmed soon after but is not expected to stream until Spring 2021.
August through October will see the release of the three-part miniseries, Locke & Key: …In Pale Battalions Go…, serving as a lead-in to Hell & Gone, Locke & Key’s hotly anticipated crossover with DC’s The Sandman Universe slated for late fall. Set in the spring of 1915, the story follows John Locke, a patriot too young to enlist in the greatest war of all. He intends to use the impossible, reality-bending keys to turn the tide on the grimmest battlefield of the 20th century… a hellscape whose darkness might even strike fear into an army of shadows.
In October, the Locke & Key – The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone #0 comic book officially kicks off the crossover fans have been waiting for with a special reintroduction of storylines and characters who populate the fall’s landmark event series. In the reprinted tale “Open the Moon” (originally presented in 2011’s Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys), Chamberlin Locke, patriarch of the Locke family, wields the Moon Key to reveal new secrets lurking in Keyhouse… and unlocks a strange new world leading directly into the events of the Hell & Gone series. Also, the #0 issue peels back the curtain on Dream of The Endless with a classic tale reprinted from The Sandman.
Locke & Key: Keyhouse Compendium (isbn 978-1-68405-776-4), scheduled for release in October, collects the original, sprawling tale of magic and family, in one massive 900-page hardcover edition complete with a dust jacket featuring all-new front- and back-cover artwork by series co-creator Gabriel Rodríguez. Marking the first time that the core Locke & Key six-volume series has all been collected into a single tome, the Keyhouse Compendium — much like the doors of Keyhouse itself — transforms all who open its pages. Witness the triumphs and tragedies of Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke from their very first steps on the ancestral grounds of Massachusetts to the climactic final battle with the supernatural entity Dodge.
In November and January, the most talked-about crossover of 2020 will hit stores: Locke & Key – The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone, a monumental two-part story that sees the destiny of the Locke family intertwine with the mythos of DC’s The Sandman Universe. In November, IDW will publish Locke & Key – The Sandman Universe: Hell & Gone #1, followed by DC’s The Sandman Universe – Locke & Key: Hell & Gone #1 in January. “If you think you can unlock the gates of Hell and just invite yourself in, you must be dreaming,” the tagline promises, for a tale crafted by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez, and overseen by Sandman writer and co-creator Neil Gaiman.
Finally, IDW welcomes the Locke & Key series into the company’s comprehensive in-house Spanish Language publishing initiative with the release of Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Bienvenidos a Lovecraft (isbn 978-1-68405-782-5) in February 2021. Collecting the six-issue “Welcome to Lovecraft” storyline that introduced the Locke kids and their nemesis Dodge, Bienvenidos a Lovecraft expands the accessibility of Hill and Rodríguez’s storytelling to Spanish-speaking communities throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Much I need to get to so I can't share ALL the details but there was a HUGE announcement in today's livestream, as the screencaps show. For more details, ask @AnyoneComics, @bookswpictures, @OKComics, @VariantEDmonton or read Distant Planets FB post: https://t.co/C5Qr1LIlhr pic.twitter.com/8RSfCvFzQr
— Menachem Luchins (@EscapePodComics) August 17, 2020
I’m not big on watching videos but from what I can gather, six shops – Escape Pod, Anyone Comics, Books with Pictures, Variant Editions, OK Comics and Distant Planet are teaming up for a series of dust jackets/bookplates for various titles, under the name “Bastard Title Editions.” The first projects will be a Yuku Shimizu dust jacket for Alex de Campi and Erica Henderson’s Dracula Motherf*cker, coming out from Image this fall.
There have been many shops that teamed up for variant covers in the past – remember “Phantom Variants” and “Ghost Variants” spin offs? – but the dust jacket/bookplate idea is a new one as far as I can tell.
Takeaways from the above are pretty simple. Page rates can be very very low for indie literary comics, sadly, and I think its laudable to find a way to give creators more money. Retailers LOVE returnability, and expanding it, especially with so many still under COVID-19 limitations, is a no brainer. IDW has had some upheavals of late, and Locke & Key is their premiere franchise, so expanding that seems a safe bet. And finally, retailers must continue to innovate given all the above.
- BTW, the Pandemic Shift is what I’m calling the blanket changes to how we do things in the wake of COVID-19. ** And we’re trying to decide what to call the six week break in comics distribution back in March-May – oh remember when the pandemic was so new and fresh – and The Great Shutdown is winning so far but what do YOU think it should be called?