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What’s up at Platinum

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Rich Johnston is the recipient of a letter sent by Platinum to its creators from President and Chief Operating Officer, Brian Altounian:

Hey folks. I wanted to personally send out a note to all of you addressing some of the most recent communications flying around about Platinum Studios. First and foremost, I want to thank each and every one of you for continuing to honor your confidentiality commitments under your contracts with us throughout this process. It is no secret that Platinum, like many companies dealing with this tough economy, has had its share of financial challenges. I promise you that we are doing everything we can to get on top of the situation and we hope to have some good news for you in the next couple of weeks. Please know that we are NOT “going under” – ours is definitely a long-term perspective and you are all part of our long-term plans. We acknowledge that we owe you past due amounts and we intend to honor all of our obligations to you.


Read the rest of the letter in the link. Developing.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Hey! That’s almost the exact same pep talk I got from the president of the graphics house I once worked for… three before I was “let go” due to the company’s “tight financial situation”.

    Not that the the situations are in any way similar, or anything. McNope! No paralells here, nosirree!

    *whistles*

  2. “It has been a little tougher than we anticipated because of the “perfect storm” of events that started to take place in our economy beginning in Fall of 2007 and have continued through today: a lagging overall stock market, a bottoming housing market, rising oil prices, etc.”

    Okay, wait, can someone explain to me how oil prices affect a company that doesn’t ship product?
    And the housing market? Huh?

    Now the stock market…as a public company, that WOULD affect their cash flow, wouldn’t it?

    Just like the ’80’s again. Big companies with big talk collapsing under their own awful weight.

  3. That’s one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard in my life, Lea. People pay $4.50 at the pump and they may not have a few extra bucks in their pocket to try out a book from a small, unknown publisher. It doesn’t take an economics whiz to put 2 and 2 together. I’m not supporting Platinum, but I have seen their books on my shelf and seen how my own dwindling comics budget can’t fit them in, even if I wanted to. Heck, I’ve even had to cut out some of the things that I know I want to buy, much less things I’ve never heard of. I’m surprised any new company can make it these days.

  4. Well I would have been ok with the letter except for the thinly disguised threat about honoring contracts.

    When they honor their contract to pay once a month we can honor our contracts to keep our mouths shut.

  5. As a freelance graphic designer for the last couple of years, I am so overly familiar with clients citing “The Economy” as the culprit for not paying for work delivered, it is sickening. One would think that The Economy is a Godzilla-like creature that walks around stepping on banks.

    Please.

  6. Look, I’m sorry if I came off a little strong. I don’t work in comics, I’m in real estate agent in Detroit and I can see how rough things are for people right now. If it’s that bad in necessity industries, like housing, how bad must it be in luxury industries like comics? I don’t know jack about these guys. Maybe they all do drive Hummers and not care about their creators, but I can certainly see how the state of the economy today can be impacting any small company. Again, Lea, I’m sorry if I came off strong and I apologize if I was rude (I actually have a tremendous amount of respect for you and your work, so I feel particularly embarassed that I shot off my mouth like that), but discounting any connection between what’s going on on a global economic front and the survival of any new company seems to be unfair.

  7. Brad, apology accepted.
    I was flip, and took it as read that anyone who reads The Beat knows the history of Platinum. It is not a new company. It’s big enough to be publicly held. It is an IP farm. It doesn’t publish, as a practice, print books.

    Therefore, the price of gas doesn’t affect a company that doesn’t ship product. Neither does housing. It’s not about whether people can buy luxury items like Platinum publications and support a small company.

    What Platinum does sell is bullsh*t, and you can get that anywhere for free.

  8. The price of has and housing does affect Platinum shareholders…I doubt anything is being untouched in the entire economy now that energy and food costs are soaring.

    Anyway kids, let’s all live in peace.

  9. Brad said:

    “I’m in real estate agent in Detroit and I can see how rough things are for people right now.”

    Man, does your life suck right now. Detroit’s new motto:

    “Detroit: Leading the country into the depths of the next Great Depression!”

    As to Platinum’s product, As I remember it, they have published 2 comics or comics series in about 4 years of existence. That’s not a very important company.

  10. Alan–

    In fact, Platinum has published more than a dozen comics miniseries and graphic novels, including several books written by Fred Van Lente (The Weapon, Ghosting, Watchdogs), Chuck Dixon (Big Badz, Kiss), and Dean Motter (Unique).

    And they’ve technically been in existence acquiring “comic properties” for more than ten years–though they only started actually publishing material about a year and a half ago.

    Whether Platinum’s important to the industry or not, I imagine the company remaining solvent is quite important to some of the creators doing work for them–at least till they’re paid what they’re due (or past due.)

    Andrew Foley

  11. Yeah, Alan. Hence why I’m probably a little…touchy about the economy. Thanks for that info, Andrew. I knew I had seen their stuff but had no idea that they had published that much.

  12. I won’t participate in the Platinum back and forth, but if you’re going to, make sure the facts are right.

    Platinum’s been publishing books. Minis, trades, even tried an ongoing. The latter of which was or is called Hero By Night. I’m sure people have heard of it by now.

    Almost everyone is in the business of IP right now. Whether it’s buying, borrowing, leasing, renting, begging, or stealing. Even some companies that you might not think would be. I see it, I’m neck deep in it.

  13. @Lisa Jonté – “Hey! That’s almost the exact same pep talk I got from the president of the graphics house I once worked for… three before I was “let go” due to the company’s “tight financial situation”.”

    Yeah, that looks like the standard letter used in the video games industry too… classic points are the ‘we’re not going under’ message. this almost always translantes as ‘we’re going under, but not before you get the can’.

    Tough times. Fun times.

  14. Andrew Foley,

    You seem to know quite a bit about Platinum. Do you work for them? If so, what’s your opinion on Platinum not paying its people? In light of their recent IPO, one would think Platinum would be awash in cash and therefore not behind in payments and allegedly trying to play their creators for suckers.

    And I’ve never heard of any of those titles you listed. Perhaps Platinum needs lessons in PR along with lessons in ethics.

  15. Platinum’s IPO wasn’t a huge one. The stock is selling for 14 cents a share. The fallout of the housing crisis is likely making it harder for them to borrow money (as it is for everyone.)

    And yes, almost everyone is in the business of IP these days. Why, the other day at a party, someone asked how I make my money. I shouted “IP!”

    and everyone backed quickly away.

  16. Publicly traded companies — especially companies that are relatively young, or at least young to the public markets — are more likely to be impacted by a bad economy than privately held ones.

    In the most basic analysis, and ignoring speculation bubbles, a company goes public because it needs to spend more money than it brings in for some period of time, in order to accomplish some larger goal (presumably to make even more money in the future). That money comes from the investors who buy the stock.

    Investors, like all of us, tend to hang onto their money more stubbornly in rough economic times, so, during those times, it becomes harder and harder to convince the public market to provide you with the difference between what you’re spending and what you’re making, the tougher the economy becomes. I think I remember reading in Todd Allen’s analysis of Platinum’s SEC filings that they were spending something like $500,000/month. If that’s the case, then that’s a pretty serious “burn rate,” and one that presumably requires a great deal of confidence in order to sustain for any length of time.

    If you need a large number of fairly random people (that is, the public) to be willing to risk its money on you, in order for your company to reach its goals, then you need for the economy to be solid, so that people are more willing to take the risk. The more you’re spending, the more solid you need the economy to be.

    Risk is one way to build a great business — but it is, by definition, um, risky.

    Some companies prefer to stay lean and mean for this reason, and either spend less than they make (which is called, you know, being profitable), or only take investment from private sources, who are fewer in number and tend to work very closely with the management team of the companies they invest in — so they’re sometimes more reliable investors to have during difficult times. The danger of this approach is that, during boom times, you may not be able to grow as quickly as you need to grow to stay on top of the pack. But during bust times, you’re relatively insulated from the worst of the damage caused by the larger economy.

    I’m not an expert, just an entrepreneur, so I’m sure a professor of economics could tear the above apart pretty handily. But it’s my own sort of understanding of how this all works. Hope it helps.

  17. Thanks, Joey. That’s really interesting stuff and a way of thinking of things that I hadn’t considered. Wow, quite a discussion that’s begun here.

  18. Alan–

    “You seem to know quite a bit about Platinum. Do you work for them?”

    I have worked for them in the past–I’ve got a co-writer credit on their first graphic novel, along with Fred Van Lente–and while I suppose there’s technically a chance they might decide to follow through on one of the books I was contracted to develop which seem to have been abandoned by the company (at least as comics), it doesn’t seem likely. I haven’t personally heard anything from anyone at Platinum’s office for months, and if memory serves, they haven’t responded to my last two or three e-mails.

    But I do have friends that are or were still doing work for them (when last I checked), and I was involved with them for a long enough time that I do pay fairly close attention to what they’re up to–at least as much as someone who isn’t privy to inside info can be.

    “If so, what’s your opinion on Platinum not paying its people?”

    I’m frankly surprised, and more than a little worried for my friends and others working for the company. Working for them in various capacities for more than five years, I only once had a cheque show up late, and that turned out to be due to an e-mail glitch.

    To be honest, this time last year I’d have bet five Canadian dollars they’d never miss a payment to their people–and I’d have thought they’d bend over backwards to ensure DJ got what he was due promptly, as he’s been, and continues to be, one of their biggest boosters.

    As I’m cynical and pessimistic by nature, this obviously doesn’t inspire confidence. I only hope that, if things go as far south as some seem to think they’re about to, the people working for the company who’re owed money receive it, and the creators (including myself) who’ve created and sold “comic properties” that were never published as comics get the opportunity to regain their creations.

    In fairness to the company, that last is not a completely unreasonable thing to hope for. I’ve had two properties I developed for the company returned fully to me and my co-creators. Four others I created remain in limbo, and half a dozen others created inhouse, including the GN AGE OF KINGS, which has been fully drawn and lettered for almost four years now, and JEREMIAH: THE LAST EMPIRE, which represented months of my life, I’ve pretty much given up on ever seeing printed.

    “In light of their recent IPO, one would think Platinum would be awash in cash and therefore not behind in payments and allegedly trying to play their creators for suckers.”

    Others here have spoken more knowledgeably than I can about the IPO thing. As for the creators being played for suckers–up till now, I’ve never heard of Platinum failing to live up to the letter of the contracts they signed. Many creators, myself included, were reassured verbally on numerous occasions that the company absolutely would publish, or get published, the work we did for them–but at the end of the day, the contract doesn’t say they have to publish and we all signed the contract, took the cheque (which showed up on time), and our chances.

    “And I’ve never heard of any of those titles you listed. Perhaps Platinum needs lessons in PR…”

    I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of the titles. While sales are up for the bigger publishers, the DM is brutal for small ones right now. Platinum has tried some interesting experiments in promoting their comics (putting them up in their entirety for free online at drunkduck.com, for one), but awareness of the company in the comic-buying public seems to remain limited.

    Andrew

  19. Andrew,

    Thanks for the frank answers. I used to work for a corporation, so I feel for the employees, but the people at the top many times deserve every ulcer they get. There are companies that have unfortunate times, but some companies seemed doomed to failure all along. Don’t know for sure if Platinum is among the latter, but there were rumblings well over a year ago that things weren’t going too well there.

  20. @Lisa Jonté – “Hey! That’s almost the exact same pep talk I got from the president of the graphics house I once worked for… three before I was “let go” due to the company’s “tight financial situation”.”

    Yeah, that looks like the standard letter used in the video games industry too… classic points are the ‘we’re not going under’ message. this almost always translantes as ‘we’re going under, but not before you get the can’.

    NO we are not going under YOU ARE!!!
    Typical CORP double speak

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