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New Tilting is up

Find it on CBR.


It must suck, since no one is commenting over there…. orrrrrrr I’m so insanely reasonable that everyone has been struck dumb! U decide!



75 Responses to “ New Tilting is up ”

  1. In the attempt to post one final thought, and then be done with this thread, allow me to say this: I think that anyone who claims things like digital MUST be (significantly) inherently cheaper probably doesn’t know all that much about how DC and Marvel comics actually work.

    I know a *tiny* bit more, and I don’t think it’s nearly as cut and dried as you imagine.

    DC & Marvel (and to a lesser extent Dark Horse and Image), have pretty much crazy-good deals through Diamond, where their costs of distribution are really about as low as they can be. It is my understanding that on the smallest accounts, the figure involved is probably less than half of cover price.

    Apple takes 30% (with fees, too? I get mixed information), comiXology takes about the same, and in the cases where retail branded storefronts are making the sale, there’s another cut there, too — it is ENTIRELY possible, for the four brokered publishers, that they’re making more money, from a distribution POV, from print sales than from digital, and conversations that I have had with people who Would Actually Know, would seem to back that up.

    “But they don’t have to print them!” you cry. And the physical cost of creating the physical objects is NOT as much as you think it is for Marvel and DC. They’re not pricing out their print runs one book at a time — they’re buying massive runs of time in bulk, at bulk pricing. It’s like all of the people who cry and moan for newsprint comics, and how invariably the price would drop. Yeah…. not that much. We’d go from a $2.99 cover price to a $2.75 one, and the comics would look incredibly shitty.

    As near as I can tell, in no way will “digital-only” comics (from Marvel and DC) priced at 1/3 less or 2/3 less of today’s prices generate the same profit as a 1:1 print sale of the same material, from a cost-of-Printing POV.

    You probably don’t know this (because I didn’t until last week), but Apple has FORBIDDEN any price on books that does not end in a “99”. That is to say, that while it might be feasible for Marvel and DC to offer you a print comics that sells for $2.99 for, say, $2.50… they can’t, because Apple will not let them do that.

    At the end of the day, content needs to have its creation paid for (and generate a profit, since that’s, y’know, Marvel and DC’s business and all) — the current size of the digital market can in no way pay for the production costs of ongoing titles by themselves.

    I’m all for cheaper comics, but as far as I am able to tell Marvel and DC’s business model will not allow the pricing you would seem to want, on an economic basis.

    Feel free to argue that they should do it out of the goodness of their hearts, but $1.99 digital pricing (let alone $0.99 pricing!) on brand new material does not appear to be something that is doable to maintain the same profit margins.

    With all of that in mind, it makes no sense to undercut your primary sales source, especially when it is growing in a down economy. Until digital is able to, by itself, cover the production costs of new material, husbanding the existing print market (and investing in it to grow it more for that matter) would very much seem like the rational course to take for the publishers who represent something like 75% of the dollars in the DM.


  2. Brian,

    That might be where my example breaks. I’ve only spoken to both informally about “comic stores” in the abstract and I think it’s safe to say the underlying subtext was Diamond. Huizenga was saying he doesn’t have many fans or dedicated sales and was pretty sure he’d starve if he had to live on sales from “comic stores,” but I think he was having some fun and was trying to make the point he makes a living elsewhere. I’ve only spoken to him once, though, and it was more a casual conversation. I wasn’t putting the screws to him to scrutinize his sales.

    Shaw I’ve spoken to several times and he seemed to think his career was going to have to grow outside of comics both as a necessity and because he wants to artistically spread his wings.

    Both are very much the comic book equivalent of art house movies and I don’t think it’s fair to say either is representative of non-mainstream comic publishing, it’s just those are literally the only two “recognizable” names I’ve spoken to about it.

    So, I concede to you on that point. It’s fair to say neither knows or cares too much about which distributor or which stores the sales come from.

    I don’t expect to find Ganges or Bottomless Belly Button to be on the shelves of every comic shop in the country. But I have had a very hard time buying Madman over the years. Luckily, a few stores came to my rescue and did order it for me, but there’s still the issue of rolling the dice before going into a store and wondering, “Will this be a helpful store or a Marvel/DC only store?”

    I used to buy a ton of vinyl and I don’t really miss record stores. Their time was up. It became easier and more rewarding to buy music directly from the artists I like. I hope there is always a place for good comic stores, but trying to strangle competition in the crib won’t help. That just keeps the bad stores alive and I won’t miss then any more than I miss bad record stores.

  3. Chris Hero – Your stories don’t reflect any comic store I’ve ever been to.
    Even the worst run one in Sydney, which feels like Androids Dungeon, orders Image books and can handle customer orders.

  4. About Dash and Kevin…I don’t know either and only used them as examples because they’re artists I’ve spoken to about how they, as artists, perceive their sales. I asked in the context of a fan who was worried if they didn’t sell enough, they’d have to quit. I’m absolutely not speaking for either man in any way, shape, or form and I would hate to see my words come to represent either.

  5. Hmm. Well, if I can’t talk to people and characterize what I learn, I’m shit out of a job, so I will extend that courtesy to others. Sorry, Brian.

  6. And Chris, I wouldn’t worry about it. I think anyone rational without an Internet argument to win understands what someone means when they say, “I talked to these dudes and they said this, which I took to mean this.” Casting someone as presumptuous for merely conversing like a normal person is Internet Strategy #148, and has been around since Usenet.

    Folks, it’s hard to get some comics in a lot of stores. It really is. Nobody’s lying to you. I could not get certain Marvel superhero comic books in my state in Fall 2009.

  7. Ben,

    Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you. The store that told me they wouldn’t order Madman because it was “weird, indie shit” was Rainbow Comics in Boardman, Ohio. The store that repeatedly screwed up my Jack Staff request was Queen City Comics on Montgomery Ave in Cincinnati, Ohio. The store that tried talking me into a Green Lantern subscription to supplement a Tales Designed to Thrizzle sub was Midtown Comics in Manhattan. The store that scratched their heads on Strange Tales was some store in New Jersey I went to once.

    My experience is Marvel/DC readers don’t believe these stories. They seem to believe I’m either making them up or I’m some fire breathing monster of a customer. And therein lies the problem. If every time someone like Steely Dan or me says, “hey, there are bad shops out there,” everyone else doesn’t believe us, it makes us feel more ostracized and less concerned about the health of the DM.

  8. Wait, do people really doubt that $.99 or even $1.99 comics are largely undoable at the mainstream houses based on how those companies are set up and how much money they need to keep the wheels turning? Mainstream comics industry people have said as much in public.

    If all you’re arguing is that, Brian, I think everyone in the world except dudes whinging on the Internet agree with you.

    I think they’re going to play with price points a lot, though, and already do; you’re not going to get a unilateral policy there, either.

  9. “If every time someone like Steely Dan or me says, “hey, there are bad shops out there,” everyone else doesn’t believe us”

    I don’t think there’s a single person who doesn’t know there are some bad comic shops out there. But as someone who’s bought comics in quite a few shops in quite a few different states and never had a problem with any of them, it gets a little old to hear people going on and on about how this or that comic shop sucked, as though their experience is somehow more representative of comic retailers than mine.


  10. Clearly Chris Hero was arguing that his experiences are the only ones that matter, and that anyone who has had good experiences in a comic shop has bad breath and a small dick.

  11. …and what Hibbs has repeatedly said is that stores that survive are serving their customers’ needs.

    Above, I cited a new local store where the owners have subtly shifted focus to mainstream super-stuff while continuing to carry & promote offbeat / indie stuff.

    Their equal and opposite was the OLD store in our neighborhood that closed down a few years ago. It was a glaring white hellhole, stocked with Marvel, DC and Image’s crappiest. IIRC, they stopped carrying Dark Horse and Vertigo, supposedly for lack of interest. Probably because they forced out anyone else who would have bothered with that “weird stuff,” anyone who didn’t fit in with the place’s vibe as an extended gaming club for the owner’s friends. They forced me out, even though it was the most convenient shop for me to stop at — a place in the same plex as a grocery store and laundromat, perfect for a weekend multitasking shopping stop. When this joint closed, I was most un-sorry to see it go.

    But maybe they would have stayed open if they’d appealed to more customers with broader tastes like me.

    Just like the other, newer store has seemed to recognize that they have to chase that superdollar because the cool, indie stuff alone ain’t gonna pay the bills.

    Yes, there are crappy man-cavish stores. They are still open because they are appealing to enough of a base of customers that they aren’t bleeding debt. Maybe if they hear from enough POTENTIAL customers about the money they’re missing out on, they might broaden their wares.

    I had a friend whose dad ran a comic shop back in the early / mid-90s and I was ASTOUNDED that he didn’t even carry Vertigo titles. The only comic store in a COLLEGE TOWN wasn’t carrying SANDMAN??? WTF? I did everything I could to encourage his kid to pass on the word that he missing out on potential $$$, and they eventually DID start broadening their offerings.

    As Hero cites above, some clerks & retailers will always be too lazy to become aware of or educate themselves about things beyond their base of knowledge.

    But this goes both ways. I’m sure we’ve all encountered some variant of the record store or bookstore with the sneering, snotty clerk who can’t believe a customer would ask about something that lowbrow. There was an archly cool indie record store where I got that attitude because I asked about titles that weren’t currently hip. After the 2nd time, I didn’t go back. They are just as closed as the man-cave store above, and I was just as un-sorry to see them go.

  12. Wow, Steve D *really* captured what I was going to say.

    But I do want to say I know operating a comic store is hard…there’s not much money in it, dealing with the public is not without its challenges, and I’m sure there have been stores that have ordered whatever weird indie comic for someone who didn’t pick it up and unfortunately had to eat that purchase. And really, it’s not like my examples are unforgivable sins and those stores should be burned down. We all have bad days, make mistakes, etc….

    My only horse in the race is I want to be heard because I want a better retail experience for all of us. That’s really all it comes down to. Phantom Comics in Pittsburgh is a wonderful example of a store that stocks both Marvel/DC and everything else and they’re *extremely* helpful. There are a lot of good stores out there….

    I just don’t think arguing digital should cost $x.99 *just* because brick & mortar stores are afraid of the potential damage is right. Esp if you’re going to tell me every DM is wonderful…because no, I don’t agree with that assumption.

  13. “And the physical cost of creating the physical objects is NOT as much as you think it is for Marvel and DC.”

    Maybe not on its own, but the cost of shipping and distributing those physical copies isn’t inconsiderable. And that’s where the real savings lie, or at least where they should.

    What does comiXology do with each individual comic, after all? As far as I can tell, they just take the image files supplied by the publishers, upload them, and program in the Guided View panel-to-panel flow based on said images. There is no conceivable way – none – that the cost of doing that is equivalent to the combined costs inherent to physical media, namely printing and distribution. If comiXology actually is getting a 30% cut from each comic sold (which may or may not be the case – I’ve seen a couple conflicting sources), that’s far too much and would indeed be a barrier to pricing new digital comics more reasonably, but it’s a consequence of the specific arrangements that DC and Marvel currently have, and not an insurmountable obstacle stemming from fundamental characteristics of the digital medium, as you seem to be suggesting.

    (And Dark Horse seemed to think that they could make enough revenue on new $1.99 comics, despite the subsequent retailer outcry and backtracking.)

    “What ‘digital needs’ is a ‘DAZZLER #1’ — DAZZLER, a DM-only book, bypassed the newstand, and sold 500k copies (…I think? Busiek, you out there?), showing that the DM could absolutely cover the cost of production of work all by itself, and really ushering in the DM era because of it. If the digital boosters can show the same thing — that the ongoing production of a regular monthly series can be entirely underwritten at the same level of profitability as the print-driven model, well, boom, there you’ve got something.”

    Now this is completely reasonable logic on the face of it, but it overlooks the straightforward reality: both DC and Marvel have made quite clear through their words and actions that they don’t WANT to see the digital market grow to the point where it can singlehandedly support a steady flow of original content. I presume that this is because they (correctly, I suspect) believe that most of the developments* that might allow the digital market to expand significantly would also run considerable risk of cannibalizing the DM.

    *Of which abandoning print/digital price parity is just one, I hasten to add.

  14. Tom,

    Thanks for understanding what I was trying to say. I’m not much of a writer, so I know I mangle my thoughts.

    I feel bad now using a half-hour conversation with Kevin Huizenga as an example because someone later told me he’s not usually as chatty as he was that day. I’d feel awful if he was misrepresented by my interpretation of a light chat and would feel like he couldn’t give an opinion to anyone anymore. Huizenga was in no way trying to bad mouth the DM.

  15. “As near as I can tell, in no way will “digital-only” comics (from Marvel and DC) priced at 1/3 less or 2/3 less of today’s prices generate the same profit as a 1:1 print sale of the same material, from a cost-of-Printing POV.”

    It amazes me that you keep coming back to this point like anyone was arguing against it.

  16. Back in the days of multi-distributors, Marvel & DC sold their comics to Diamond, Capitol and the others at roughly 60% off. Might have been 65% but it’s been awhile and my memory of things isn’t great, but it was at least 60%. That means, out of a $3.00 comic, Marvel received $1.20. My guess is this hasn’t changed much even though distribution has. Out of that $1.20 they pay for printing costs and cost of moving the books to the distributor’s warehouse. This is where the guessing game comes in. How much does a comic cost to print and ship to a distributor? 20 cents or more and we are already below the 99 cent price point but at any rate, it’s got to be more than 10 cents per comic. So in the current system Marvel and DC are getting around 99 cents to $1.10 per book after printing and shipping. They are currently able to pay creators and turn a profit.

    Looking at going digital, you eliminate much of these costs. No printing fee. No shipping fee. Personnel needs drop. No people needed to deal with the printer, distributor or retailers. You would save a ton. The only added cost would be development of your own app (a moderate outlay of cash at first but then, just maintenance and upgrades) and server storage for your files which gets cheaper by the day.

    Why any of these companies are giving some delivery device (Comixology, iTunes or the countless others) 30% of their sales is a complete mystery to me. It’s stupid. Do it yourself. Just the money you save from eliminating current logistics costs would probably cover it and the programming isn’t that complicated. Heck, do cbr, cbz or pdf downloads from your current website for 99 cents and sell them for $1.99 through the worthless apps to the masses unable to figure out how to download from a website.

    Do you think 15-20% of current comic readers would switch to digital if the price were 99 cents per comic? I think it would be much more but all it’s going to take is about 15-20% of comic buyers to switch to digital and the direct market will collapse. No store will be around after 15-20% of its clientele vanish and it will probably be a bigger percentage than that. It will be a slow bleed but over the next few years it’s going to happen as pads and slates become more common and much cheaper. A year ago a friend told me there would never be a sub $200 color reader. Friend, meet the Kindle Fire. Only 7 inches but 10.1 inch pads are dropping in price quickly.

    DC and Marvel won’t sell same day digital release comics at 99 cents yet. They still need the direct market for now.

  17. “It amazes me that you keep coming back to this point like anyone was arguing against it.”

    The fact that no one argues against it is sort of the point.


  18. Marc-Oliver, you might wish to talk to George there directly below you…


  19. Why, congratulations on winning all the arguments, Brian.

    Comics are saved.

  20. “As near as I can tell, in no way will “digital-only” comics (from Marvel and DC) priced at 1/3 less or 2/3 less of today’s prices generate the same profit as a 1:1 print sale of the same material, from a cost-of-Printing POV.”

    Why do you ignore people’s explanations of how it is possible?

  21. I’ve always said that if anyone named George is arguing a possibility in a Savage Critics comments thread — and clearly by firing scores of people and going full in on radical policy changed based on super-broad guestimates, George isn’t playing around — then surely this is a wave of passionate punditry and high-level decision-making that needs to be resisted before it takes over the entire industry.

  22. Not really too super-broad. I did work for a distributor doing some of the ordering and I knew what the DC/Marvel discounts to a distributor were at the time. I doubt too much has changed over the years as the largest retailer’s maximum discount is still about the same (around 56-58% for the biggest accounts on Marvel & DC). My guess is Geppi actually makes a little more percentage per book now than he did then. I know it’s much easier to dismiss me as a quack but after my years in distribution then transitioning to the retail side before getting out of comics altogether to get into computer programming, I do know a little about what I’m talking about.

  23. So here’s this thread, translated into the metaphor of the video-rental industry. Yes, this is an utterly unfair depiction and hopelessly skewed — much like this fairly absurd argument so far.


    A HIBBS-LIKE VIDEOSTORE OWNER: Hey, I know a lot of you out there are super-excited about the ways streaming video could change your viewing experiences, but you know what? Maybe we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and figure out transitions to digital that don’t knee-cap local mom-and-pop videostores, which have historically been the foundation of the home-entertainment market, and which do a lot to support smaller indie / boutique labels.

    THE INTERNET: What evs, Hibbs-like commentator! Maybe YOUR store is great, but too many of those stores are lowest-common-denominator slums run by tasteless mouthbreathing hacks. Why, I went in one to rent (to toss in an utterly random indie cult film) David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART. The clerk hadn’t even HEARD of it and tried to get me to rent the DIE HARD QUADROLOGY instead.

    HIBBS-LIKE VIDEO STORE OWNER: Um, well, I’m sure many of those stores, if they’re still in business, are serving their local customer bases quite well. (And, um, I’m not going to say it out loud — but maybe WILD AT HEART isn’t something EVERY store needs to carry. If it’s even still in print. At a lot of stores, the clientele wouldn’t know or care about it, and the cost of researching, buying the title, etc. might not pay off in the long run.)

    INTERNET: FUCK THAT NOISE. These crummy stores DESERVE to be run out of business. Netflix was streaming WILD AT HEART. I’m glad to give them my money instead of that shithole. With Netflix, I have access to ALL these amazing indie movies, as well as mainstream hits.

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Well, they don’t exactly have ALL the titles… what they carry is actually kind of spotty, and they don’t have the best history of maintaining stock of lesser known titles. And as far as streaming goes —

    THE INTERNET: STREAMING IS THE FUTURE. Pretty soon everything will be streamed. And with Netflix’s pricing, it’s BASICALLY FREE. Which makes sense. Because we all know, without DVD packaging, shipping, etc. to worry about, streaming is practically TOO CHEAP TO METER.

    HIBBS-LIKE VIDEO STORE OWNER: Um, well, that pricing may not stay that way forever. And if it ever looked like the old DVD model was going down the tubes, the studios, etc. are gonna rethink their deals on all this stuff and the pricing’s gonna go up.

    THE INTERNET: There’s NO REASON for the price to go up. Think about all the money spent manufacturing that stupid plastic. And the mark-up for the storefront — the lights, the rent, the personnel, etc. OBVIOUSLY it’s gonna be cheaper. And EVERYTHING will be available ALL THE TIME. And the indie stuff will finally reach the market it deserves!

    HIBBS-LIKE VIDEO STORE OWNER: Um. Yeah. It’s nice to think about it that way, but — y’know, the market we have with all its flaws is doing an okay job over all. Not just servicing the mainstream tastes, but creating niche markets for smaller labels and offbeat films. I’m just saying, before everybody abandons ship, assuming streaming’s going to be perfect and wonderful — let’s just assess the situation more fully and make this transition slowly.

    THE INTERNET: Oh, go suck an egg… all of your arguments are just protecting your extant little fiefdom. You’re just trying to put the brakes on change. I’m cancelling my local video store card TOMORROW.

    **** INSERT MONTAGE ****


    THE INTERNET: Ugh, Reed Hastings is an ass-hat.


    THE INTERNET: I mean, after they jack around the prices and make all these idiotic announcements? Their streaming content is for crap. Why, I tried to watch WILD AT HEART the other night…

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Yeah. They don’t carry it anymore.

    THE INTERNET: And I can’t even get the DVD sent —

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Yep. Out of print.

    THE INTERNET: Maybe I can rent it from a local store —

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Nope. Everything’s out of business except your local Blockbuster. They don’t carry it.

    THE INTERNET: Oh. There’s a Red Box by the grocery store…

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Is this movie less than three months old?

    THE INTERNET: …no….

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Then good luck with that.

    THE INTERNET: …you don’t happen to carry it?

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Well we DID. In our David Lynch section. Because we were one of the GOOD stores that made an effort to appeal to cineastes as well as the mainstream public. So I tracked down an out of print copy because I thought it was important to have that movie on the shelf, being the kind of store we are. Buuuut…. we had to shut down.


    Maybe if there’s enough pressure for them to re-release the film…

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: Well, that used to work sometime. In the old days. But, frankly, with all the power in the hands of the content-providers and one or two gateways with which the studios have contentious relationships — it’s probably not worth the hassle of sorting out the legal complications some of these Indie movies tend to have.

    THE INTERNET: Maybe I can just go check the bit-torrents and pirate it instead.

    HIBBS-LIKE COMMENTATOR: (sighs) Everybody else is.


  24. Wow, Steve D…you totally missed the point there while railing against your strawman there named “The Internet.” No one argued for free comics, no one argued every store should carry every indie title. I believe the two arguments were

    1: The DM doesn’t serve the indie market and the indie market doesn’t look to the DM anymore. Ironically enough, you know who does serve the indie market well? The bigger box Barnes & Noble. Whether they have your Wild At Heart analog on the shelves or not is irrelevant…they’ll order it for you without giving you a hard time.

    2: No one is arguing digital comics should be sold at a loss or that a Netflix intermediary is going to always supply a great service at a great price. The argument seems to be there’s no reason for digital comics to cost the same as physical comics especially if the reason is the intermediary is taking a 30% cut. The companies can just sell the product directly and there’s no rational reason to assume doing so would cost as much as delivery physical comics through the current supply chain.

    But hey, strawmen are fun to tear down when you’re not interested in change.

  25. I love this thread.

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