While James and I are both disappointed with the turn of events, I for one was not surprised. I had hoped that perhaps 23 years in business and the previous success of Rex Libris might buy us a little grace on this project, but I am not stunned, as the marketplace has been telling me for years that the only thing they want from us are comics by Jhonen Vasquez. The funny thing about that is that the first issue of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac would not have made the current Diamond purchase order benchmark, so the subsequent issues would never have seen the light of day. The same can be said for Milk and Cheese, whose first issue barely sold 2,000 copies. We have always depended on being able to build circulation and readership on our books; the current climate seems to indicate that that is not going to work anymore.
Only James can tell you whether he plans on completing Warlord of Io. My guess is he will at some point, but that he will focus his current energies on something else and will continue to work on the Warlord project in his spare time. We will continue to offer Warlord as a download and we will be printing a small quantity of the declined book for sale on our website and at conventions.
Lastly I want to say that, again, this is to me is not solely a Diamond issue and that attempts to vilify them are off base. I have enjoyed a long and productive relationship with that company and I would expect to work with them as my distributor to the book market in the event that we publish a Warlord graphic novel and I do not wish them ill. I have said before that the issues and problems facing comics as an industry today had their seeds planted a long time ago and are just now coming to the surface. I have to take my share of the blame for some bad decision making in the past five or six years as well which no doubt have contributed to the fact that it is harder for us to bring work by someone like James Turner to market.
More commentary from pundits: Sean T. Collins, Dirk Deppey, Charles Yoakum, Jennifer de Guzman. Greg Burgas over at Comics Should Be Good has a very long and detailed post recounting most of the history of the internet debate on this topic which you may want to refer to.
I think I’ve had just about enough say on this for now, BUT….I can’t help but bring up two points…because…the Hand of Zor commands it!
#1: I disagree with the Hibbsian view that trade collecting is somehow harmful to the overall audience for comics. It’s the broadcast vs DVD argument over and over again. Movie/TV studios, for all their faults, repackage their material into as many formats as possible in order to squeeze the very last nickel out of it. There is no definitive format any more. 52 turned the weekly comic format into an exciting soap opera. People line up to buy the new SCOTT PILGRIM book no matter how many years go by. This is a function of the “Satisfying Chunk” theorem, and it is up to creators and publishers to find this golden mean.
#2: in a comment right here, Tom Spurgeon wrote something much quoted, so I’ll quote it too:
“[S]ome things have value even if they only sell 4000 units, both in terms of one day potentially selling many more than that but also in and of themselves and, perhaps most importantly of all, by adding to a varied and rich and unique experience that involves stringing together multiple titles.”
Which I agree with wholeheartedly, but just so everyone knows, 4000 is not a bottom of the barrel number but a middle of the pack number. Several Marvel and DC titles sell below that, including some critics’ darling creator-driven books. (And Marvel and DC will not have to deal with any questions of benchmarks or the like.) It is, sadly, a typical number for a periodical in the comics marketplace. According to John Jackson Miller’s numbers, the rough order level to be in the danger zone for a $2.99 book is 2100 copies, still WAY into the actual circ of lots of books people like.
Aside from pointing out that we really are working with very small numbers here, it’s even more accurate to say that some things are valuable even if they sell 400 copies. That’s the scale we’re working with.
#3: What we need is a new method of distribution. Let Diamond be Diamond. 4 or 5 more Tony Shentons could change the industry.