Friday, June 23, 2017 • Afternoon Edition • "The trash of the multiverse has gotta end up somewhere."

Doubling Down: Comics Is Burning, and I'm Playing the Fiddle

Written by Jude Terror on Thursday, September 01 2016 and posted in Features

Doubling Down: Comics Is Burning, and I'm Playing the Fiddle

In which I address my detractors, and provide a more "accurate" history of how we got to where we are today.



A lot has been said about my rant earlier this week about Marvel Comics, their role in the current state of the Direct Market, and their insistence that the responsibility for keeping series afloat lies with readers. If you haven't read it, feel free to take a moment and catch up here.

Lots of people identified with the main point of my article: that it's Marvel's job, not readers, to sell comics, and that readers shouldn't be made to feel guilty because a multi-billion dollar conglomerate canceled a comic it should have promoted better and given a longer chance to find an audience. However, a subset of the comics intelligentsia took great offense to my stream-of-consciousness rant, complaining that it failed to provide a complete and accurate history of the formation of the direct market (though I maintain that it neither tried to, nor needed to). Over at The Beat, Heidi MacDonald, a person who I like and respect despite our disagreement, a paragon of comics journalism and friend toward whom the following rebuttal should not be read as animosity, wrote:

This call to arms was preceded by a history of the direct sales market that was alarming in its complete lack of accuracy. (Terror went back in and fixed the worst errors, but just in case you think Marvel or Diamond invented the direct sales system, they didn't – it was a bunch of retailers led by Phil Seuling.) The analysis of how we got to 2016 was so wobbly that it pretty much would have made me disregard everything else that Terror wrote, but I can't ignore the angry mob of readers and creators who have taken up its call. I took off my headphones and I listened.

 

Let's ignore that it's complete fiction that I "fixed the worst errors" in the article - I didn't change a single thing about what I said of the direct market - and look at Heidi's main gripe - that I implied that Marvel and/or Diamond invented the direct market. Of my very long rant, I must assume Heidi is cherry-picking a few sentences, which I'll reprint below:

The direct market was created to solve a "problem" for publishers, and is beneficial to literally no one else in the comics food chain, other than perhaps Diamond itself.

[...]

But as fucking great as it was to have comics in places like grocery stores, and to have millions of people reading them, major comics publishers (read: Marvel) had a problem. They had to make good comics that people wanted to buy, or else they would be returned to them and Marvel wouldn't make much of a profit. And you can't pay for the cocaine budget of a young Rob Liefeld if you're constantly paying for returned comics.

So the industry came upon a brilliant idea: get all the stores that specialized in selling comics, lock them into a single closed distribution system, and refuse to accept returns for unsold comics anymore. Now, Marvel didn't need to make comics that people want to read in order to get paid. All they have to do is convince retailers to buy the comics, and that can be accomplished with all that hype and gimmickry we talked about before. And that's exactly what happened, so that by the turn of the century, specialty shops (or occasionally a single, isolated shelf in Barnes and Noble) were the only places where anyone could purchase comics.

 

Yes, that's it. The actual substance of my rant was focused on the audacity of Marvel's top writer blaming fans for the cancellation of a book and insisting that pre-ordering comics - that is, agreeing to purchase them sight unseen - was the only way to keep them alive. A description of the direct market only served to describe the landscape in which comics currently flounder, or at least, greatly underperform their potential, and the "rant" format isn't one well suited to detailed historical accounts in any case. But Heidi was far from my only critic. Several others used my lack of a detailed account of the decades-long history that led to the current state of the comics industry as an excuse to dismiss or downplay the actual points I made.

Take ComicBook.com writer Russ Burlingame:

Screen_Shot_2016-09-01_at_8.32.04_AM.png

 

Or another friend, local comics creator James Moore:

Screen_Shot_2016-09-01_at_10.19.11_AM.png

 

There were even misguided posts from Eisner Award winning indie comics creators who must not have read the article, since they didn't even realize that I'm not talking about them - just Marvel and DC - when I tell readers not to preorder comics and instead buy the comics they want, when they want, in the format they prefer, as is their right as consumers. I happily preorder comics from publishers who aren't backed by gigantic corporations on a regular basis and encourage others to do the same. Nevertheless, Gene Ha wrote:Screen_Shot_2016-09-01_at_10.21.07_AM.png

 

To be fair, there were also tweets of support from people I deeply respect and admire, which are more appreciated than they probably know:

Screen_Shot_2016-09-01_at_10.24.37_AM.png

Screen_Shot_2016-09-01_at_10.25.11_AM.png

Screen_Shot_2016-09-01_at_10.26.19_AM.png

 

There were also plenty of subtweets from Mark Waid and others in the comics establishment, who clearly have a vested interest in protecting the comics status quo. But the sentiment was the same across these detractors: my history of the direct market was "inaccurate," and therefore, my rant was wrong. However, while I'll admit my history wasn't anywhere near complete, the fact is that it was never meant to be, and it didn't need to be either. To take offhand, cynical remarks about the creation of the direct market and assume that I believe, or want others to believe, that Marvel and Diamond decided one day to cease the lucrative operation of selling comics on news stands and give birth to the direct market, fully formed, is disingenuous at best. I'm aware that it took decades to get to where we are, and that the news stand business was drying up for comics, and that a lot of people and organizations were involved in the evolution of the direct market.

I propose that this doesn't matter; that my statements, whose scope was Marvel's own involvement as it relates to their unwillingness to do the work required to bring new readers into comics in favor of selling more comics at higher prices to the existing, dwindling fanbase, is accurate enough for the topic I was actually discussing, and that the pedantic focus on my flippant summary was little more than an attempt to deflect from the real issue at hand. Or, as sometimes Outhouse contributor Richard Caldwell put it:

Grown pedants on social media who think the history of the direct market mentioned here is not lining up perfectly with their rose-tinted lenses.

Same people would sell their kids for a chance to write full-time for Marvel or DC.

 

So let's look at some of that direct market history in greater depth and see exactly how inaccurate I am. To avoid any question of spin on my part, we'll go straight to Wikipedia. Here's the long, boring history that preceded the situation I referenced in my rant, where Marvel, at a crossroads, chose higher short term profit margins over the long term sustainability of the comic book industry:

The direct market was created in the early 1970s in response to the declining market for comic books on newsstands. Fan convention organizer and comic dealer Phil Seuling approached publishers in 1972 to purchase comics directly from them, rather than going through traditional periodical distribution companies. Unlike the newsstand, or ID (for independent distributor) market, which included drugstores, groceries, toy stores, convenience stores, and other magazine vendors, in which unsold units could be returned for credit, these purchases were non-returnable. In return, comics specialty retailers received larger discounts on the books they ordered, since the publisher did not carry the risk of giving credit for unsold units. Instead, distributors and retailers shouldered the risk, in exchange for greater profits.

Additionally, retailers ordering comics through Seuling's Sea Gate Distributors (and within two years, through other companies) were able to set their own orders for each issue of each title, something which many local IDs did not allow. This ability to fine-tune an order was crucial to the establishment of a non-returnable system.[2]

Direct distributors typically were much faster at getting the product into the hands of their customers than were IDs: a direct distribution warehouse generally had re-shipped a weekly batch of comics or delivered it to local customers within a day or two (sometimes within hours) of receiving the books from the printer. By contrast, most IDs would usually take two or even three weeks to do so, though some moved more quickly. This factor was a strong drawing card for retailers whose customer base consisted principally of fans eager to see the new issues each week.

Finally, another factor in creating demand for direct sales distribution was that many IDs refused to deal with comics specialty shops or with any retailer who dealt in back issues on any terms at all, fearing that used comics could be purchased by these shops from readers for pennies, and then cycled back through the system as returns for full credit at a profit.

By the mid-1970s, other direct sales distribution concerns had sprung up, mostly regionally based (Donahoe Brothers in the Great Lakes region, Pacific Comics Distributors in Southern California, and New Media Distribution/Irjax in the Southeast were all operating by early 1974), essentially replacing the order-taking and fulfillment functions of newsstand distributors for the infant comic shop specialty market. For several years,Seagate retained an edge over its competitors in that it was able to provide "drop shipping" (the shipment of an order directly from the printer to the retailer) to its customers for quantities of 25 or multiples thereof per issue, while the newer distributors had to use more conventional methods, putting together customer orders and re-shipping or delivering them from their own warehouses. Threats of legal action[3] and the need for retailers to order very precise (and sometimes very small) quantities of items ended this practice for all but the largest customers by the end of the 1970s, and extended the ability to provide drop shipping to those large customers to all the direct distributors — by which time several of the newer distributors had multiple warehouses.

Newsstand distribution through the IDs continued at the same time (and indeed remained dominant for years afterward, on its conventional returnable, low-discount terms).

In the early 1980s, a trade organization, the International Association of Direct Distributors (IADD) was formed, consisting of all the distributors who purchased product directly from either DC, Marvel, or both. The IADD had annual conferences, issuing obscenity guidelines in 1987,[4] and electing Diamond Comic Distributors' Steve Geppi as IADD Vice President in 1988.[5]

As early as 1980, Marvel Comics saw the growth potential of the Direct Market,[6] and by 1981 was putting out a number of titles geared specifically to that market (including Dazzler). By the early 1980s, all the major publishers were producing material specifically for the new market, series that would probably not sell well enough on the newsstand, but sold well enough on a non-returnable basis to the more dedicated readers of the Direct Market to be profitable.[7]

Several of the new distributors lasted a relatively short time, and were succeeded by more competitive organizations; with no continuity of ownership and only limited continuity of personnel, it would nonetheless be fair to say that Diamond Comic Distributors replaced New Media/Irjax and Capital City Distribution largely replaced Big Rapids Distribution in the marketplace.

By 1985, the number of direct distributors in North America peaked with approximately twenty companies, many of them multi-warehouse operations, purchasing product for resale to retailers directly from either DC Comics, Marvel Comics, or both. There were also an unknown number, probably in the dozens, of sub-distributors who bought DCs and Marvels from these larger companies (and often the products of other, smaller publishers direct from those publishers), and re-sold to retailers. Most of these sub-distributors were in cities in which the direct distributors themselves did not (at least as yet) have warehouses, including Philadelphia,Boston, Columbus (Ohio), Madison (Wisconsin), Lansing (Michigan), Indianapolis, and Berkeley (California). Many of them were eventually absorbed by the companies which had been their principal suppliers.

From the mid-80s to the mid-90s, nearly every major urban area in the United States had at least one (and sometimes two or three) local direct distribution warehouses that functioned not only as distribution points for pre-ordered weekly shipments, but also as what could be described as "supermarkets for retailers", where store owners could shop for reorders and examine and purchase product that they might not have ordered in advance.

 

The news stand business was declining, and there were advantages for everyone involved in the business of making and selling comics (well, except maybe the creators, for whom getting the shaft is the one constant of the mainstream comics industry for its entire history). And as the industry entered the infamous 90s, the appeal of speculators proved too enticing for Marvel to resist. Understand that, around that time, the general public was becoming aware of the fact that, due to the scarcity of older comics from the 60s and earlier, which most people viewed as disposable, those comics could be sold to collectors for huge amounts of money. This attracted speculators looking for the comics being printed today that could be stored away and sold in twenty years time for a huge profit. Marvel was happy to oblige these speculators by printing millions of copies of "new" #1 issues of comics like X-Men, Spider-Man, X-Force, and the like, which would never become as valuable as Fantastic Four #1 or Amazing Fantasy #15 because everyone was meticulously preserving them in hopes of paying their children's college tuition. 90s excess included chrome variant covers, holographic covers, covers inside polybags with special trading cards packed inside, and all manner of other gimmickry that we've seen make a comeback in the past few years in an attempt to spike sales.

This represented a huge opportunity for profit through the direct market, one which was irresistible to publishers. But this opportunity existed only because of the decades prior, where the availability of comics on news stands, in grocery stores, in pharmacies, and other places outside specialty shops provided an entry point for new readers. Through that entry point, people were able to discover comic books, and those people would eventually end up as customers of the direct market. But without that entry point, common sense dictates that the whole thing would eventually collapse (and indeed, it did, following the massive expansion of the direct market on the back of a speculator bubble that was bound to burst, and Marvel's Heroes World debacle, which inadvertently led to the Diamond monopoly, Marvel's own near bankruptcy, and ultimately the comics landscape we have today).

By late 1994, Heroes World was North America's third largest comics distributor[2] (behind Diamond Comics Distributors and Capital City Distribution). On December 28, 1994,[3] Heroes World was bought by Marvel Comics to act as the company's exclusive distributor,[2][4] thus reducing other distributors' market share by more than a third.[5] The change took effect with books shipped July 1995.[6] As industry veteran Chuck Rozanski notes:

" Without Marvel comics to distribute, all of the surviving direct market comics distributors suddenly found their overall sales volume reduced by 35%-40% ... while their operating costs remained constant. In a business where even a single point of discount or volume could translate into huge differences in earnings, these massive losses in sales volume were simply not sustainable. Steve Geppi, owner of Diamond Comic Distributors, responded to this threat to the survival of his business by entering into negotiations to become the exclusive distributor for all the other comics publishers. ... While Steve was begging all the comics publishers to switch all of their distribution business exclusively over to his company, John Davis and Milton Griepp of Capital City were making the same pleas on the part of their organization.[5] "

The ripple effect resulted in the survival of only one other major North American distributor, Diamond.[4][7]

Heroes World's new role as Marvel's exclusive distributor was a failure from the beginning. Lacking the infrastructure to handle Marvel's huge weekly orders resulted in extensive shipment and billing mistakes, errors which caused great consternation among the thousands of comics specialty shops affected.[8] Writes Rozanski:

" ... the Heroes World management team failed miserably in the PR war to win the hearts and minds of comics retailers. In fact, rather than win over any converts to Marvel, the hassle of having to place two new comics orders each month (sometimes at a lower overall discount), plus paying freight costs on Heroes World shipments, pushed many comics retailers to the brink of closing their stores.[5] "

These factors, combined with the collapse of the comics speculation market, did indeed result in many comics stores closing their doors for good.

Throughout 1995 and 1996, Heroes World continued to flounder, facing lost business[9] and lawsuits.[10][11] Finally, in 1997 the company went out of business, and Marvel returned to Diamond Distributors,[12] which by that point was the only major distributor left standing.

It was at this crossroads in the late eighties, early nineties, that Marvel had a choice: fix the problems with the news stand market (or find a replacement entry point), or commit fully to direct-market-only comics distribution and seal the fate of superhero comics as a niche industry that would cater to the same aging fanbase that would eventually dwindle to the less than 100,000 regular readers of comics today. But you don't have to take my word for it. Just listen to Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, who was directly involved in the formation of the direct market, and whose long account of its history on his blog details meetings with Jim Shooter and other top Marvel execs around this time (bolding is mine):

In last week's column, I wrote that the percentage of comics sold in comics specialty shops grew from 6% in 1979, to approximately 70% by 1987. While this was a remarkable achievement in terms of an industry switching from one form of marketing (newsstand distribution) almost entirely to another (Direct Market comics shops), it also set the stage for the greatest collapse in sales in the entire history of the medium. The reality of the situation is that the overwhelming success of comics shops during the 1980's is one of the main reasons why we're seeing such poor new comics sales today.

For those of you who are long-time readers of this column, you probably are already aware that I believe that the main reason why comics shops were able to rapidly supersede newsstands during the 1980's is because Direct Market comics distributors delivered comics to specialty stores approximately one week earlier than local newsstand distributors (ID's) supplied their accounts. Given that most hardcore comics fans are quite impatient to read the next issue of their favorite titles, this one-week shipping advantage quickly caused most avid comics fans to shift their business into the rapidly growing comics specialty stores network around the world.

While that sounds like a great development for the Direct Market, it actually ended up destroying the entry point of most new readers. While most comics specialty shops do a great job of servicing their existing clients, the distressing truth is that many shops inadvertently (or sometimes blatantly...) give the appearance of being private clubs, where only the already initiated need apply. Newsstands, on the other hand, are quite egalitarian, offering everyone the same access to new comics and magazines, in a usually very family friendly environment. As a result, the vast majority of the base of comics readers existing in 1980 began their purchasing of comics through a local mass market outlet of some kind, and only later shifted their loyalty to a comics specialty store.

Once the exodus of readers into comics shops began, however, the economics of carrying comics were destroyed within the newsstand market. Like most consumer goods, comics have to generate a certain level of sales per square foot in order to justify the space a store allocates to them. With comics this implied required rate of return is even higher than most goods, as younger comics fans are notorious for leaving stacks of comics laying next to the spinner rack in mass market stores, thus costing the store additional labor to keep the comics area tidy. With sales of comics melting away into the much more efficient Direct Market specialty stores, only the most dedicated newsstands chose to keep comics available after 1987.

Where this really becomes a problem is that it created a completely false sense of profitability for the publishers. While it was seldom that a newsstand sold more than 30% of the new comics they displayed (they were able to return unsold copies for full credit at the end of the month...), comics specialty stores were a guaranteed 100% sell-through, as they purchased on non-returnable basis. Freed from the enormous printing costs of publishing three comics for every one that sold, and also being able to eliminate the administration costs of issuing credits for returns, the publishers suddenly found themselves awash in profits. That was the good news. The bad news is that all those unsold copies sent out to the newsstands were the #1 method by which the publishers reached out for new readers. Eliminate newsstand sales, and profits boom in the short term, but new readers become quite scarce. Without new readers the only way to keep profits growing is to steadily raise cover prices. Thus begins the vicious cycle of having to raise cover prices because unit sales are declining, and then having sales decline even further because cover prices are rising. This self-reinforcing negative trend is why we presently have comics with a cover price of $3.00, that the publisher is lucky if they sell 20,000 - 30,000 copies (compared with 100,000+ copies on every book published in 1979). Simply put, were it not for the potential additional future revenue from trade paperback sales, new comics as we know them would already be long gone.

Having been one of the people who started the decimation of the newsstand business, I often feel more than a bit guilty when I see how few young people are reading comics today. In many regards, those of us who built the Direct Market during the early 1980's at the specific expense of the newsstands should be held in some measure culpable for the destruction of the comics industry. That having been said, however, the flip side of the argument is that the newsstand market for comics was already disintegrating in 1979, so we helped stave off for twenty years the inevitable replacement of printed forms of entertainment by the newly created electronic forms. I can argue the issue both ways. The fact remains, however, that because of the dearth of new readers in the comics world, that we now are now in a crisis from which it is going to be very difficult to extricate ourselves. Difficult, but most certainly not impossible.

 

And so, when I said that Marvel chose the direct market over news stands for the lure of short term profits, I was absolutely correct. Sure, I didn't include a comprehensive account of everything that led us there, but I didn't need to. That history is well known, or easily located with a simple Google search. But the point of my rant was never that comics needed to return to news stands, of which I concluded, "that ship has sailed." My point was that Marvel (and other publishers, and retailers) chose to completely ignore the need to bring in new readers in favor of bilking money from the readers that already existed. As a result, we get price hikes, gimmick-based sales tactics, and an environment where successful comics professionals browbeat fans into pre-ordering brand new series under threat of cancellation in less than six issues.

I stand by my statements, cynical and snarky for the sake of tone, by no means comprehensive, but also, I believe, not at all inaccurate.

Comics industry apologies would have you believe that recent, minor spikes in growth of comics sales mean everything is just fine, that DC's Rebirth titles (which are returnable, by the way, like the news stand comics of old) are selling 200,000 copies (to retailers, not readers), and that direct market comic sales are up from where they were at six years ago. They'll argue that movies and TV shows based on comics serve as the new entry point for readers. But these things represent a minor improvement on an entirely broken system, not a great hope for the future of the industry, and any real growth in the readership is coming from creator-owned comics that explore new genres and concepts instead of retreading the same storylines from decades past over and over.

They'll point to comics outside the Diamond ecosystem, like "Smile" by Raina Telgemeier, which are far more successful than anything Marvel or DC put out, as examples of the industry thriving, ignoring the fact that Smile and similar comics, just like creator owned comics, are not a part of the superhero industrial complex I'm railing against.

Books like Smile may well be the future of comics. Millions of kids read Telgemeier's comics, but those kids aren't following up by buying Captain America. And why would they? Smile offers a complete, satisfying story for roughly the same price as the first issue of Marvel's Civil War 2 #1. A kid who enjoyed Smile for six bucks isn't going to pay $67 to read the first month of tie-ins for a super-mega-crossover event, just to get 1/5 of a complete story that isn't anywhere near as good as Smile in the first place. And so, while the comics medium may be doing fantastic, and while I personally believe there are an unprecedented amount of great comics being published outside Big Two capes books, it has fuck all to do with what we're talking about here, which is the superhero industry dominated by Marvel and DC.

Back in capeland, many comics struggle to sell 20,000 copies (compared to Smile's 1.5 million), and for a Marvel comic, that's cancellation territory. But when the ceiling on superhero comics is 100,000, and the average book sells around 40,000, a comic needs to be an instant hit to survive its first six months. That's what prompts someone like Brian Bendis or Peter David to tell fans that they must pre-order and buy $4-$5 monthly comics to keep them from cancellation. And under the current, broken, system, they aren't necessarily wrong. And that's a fucking shame. But that's what happens when an industry becomes so insular, so incestuous, that it's forced to squeeze more and more profit from a never-changing audience, and in some cases, from within itself, like a snake eating its own tail.

As retailer Dennis Barger Jr., who disagreed with my rant (surprise), told me:

Screen_Shot_2016-09-01_at_9.42.40_AM.png

The bottom line is that the situation Marvel is in is a situation they played a major role in creating, and its one that has industry professionals attempting to place the onus on us, the readers, to save it, by spending more of our money on the same old products marketed and sold through the same old channels. But it isn't our responsibility. Marvel and DC are owned by multinational conglomerates who, if they wanted to put in the effort, could find a new entry point for readers. Not the news stand or grocery store, which as I noted in my previous rant, are no longer an option. But something like it, some place where new readers can, on a whim, purchase a single comic, read the comic, and become interested in reading more.

I don't know what that is. Maybe it's affordable and easily available digital comics, but I'm not sure we really have those yet, at least from Marvel and DC, which hamstring their digital offerings out of fear of undercutting the fragile direct market. Maybe it's cheaply printed collections available in places like Walmart and Target. Maybe it's a flyer inside the DVD and Blu Ray releases of superhero movies showing people where to find a comic shop. Maybe it's creator owned comics finding a viable alternative to Diamond and exploding with their massive potential for widespread appeal. Maybe it's making direct market books fully returnable so that comic shops can stock comics on shelves in greater numbers the way new stands once could. Maybe it's something no one has even thought of yet.

But if we're looking for new ideas, we're not going to get them from the same people who have been on top of the industry for the past decade or longer. I'll return once more to the words of Richard Caldwell, again from the comments of my previous piece:

The parent companies for both Marvel and DC have always maintained a HUGE retail presence, so the fact of the subsidiaries being confined to direct markets, I think, is suggestive that Disney and Warners both were only ever interested in the decades of IP and not expanding the medium.

So solutions for saving the industry won't come from upstairs.

Marvel and DC are both plagued with inner circles of "good old boys", so the chances of anyone slipping in anything remotely dynamic are slim.

Solutions will not come from the publishers themselves, especially when the upper editors and headliner acts can leave the smoldering ruins for co-Executive Producer credits on syndicated cartoon series and the like.

I feel the answer is really in Geppi's court. The Diamond monopoly must be challenged, very seriously. I understand he's had money issues in the last decade, but maybe if he struggled a bit more he might be willing to help get floppies back onto newsstands. And if print media is supposedly dying there must be room for them now. But it would be nice if mid-range publishers made a valorous attempt at bringing back mail order subscriptions. This wouldn't bring in new readers, but it would take some pennies out of Steve Geppi's purse.

Personally, I think the industry should keel over already. Anybody who genuinely wants to make and/or read comix will find a way. Earning a living and being creative can be simpatico, for the ever-diminishing minority, but they are not now nor have they ever been synonymous. The medium is in no danger at all. But if the industry is going to survive even just a few more years it really needs to reconsider plastering everything with dollar signs. People need to stop seeing it as a business (and people need to take Geppi down a few notches), because the only businesses with longevity involve sex and drugs and guns, and not portrayals of them. Lower prices might mean lower profits temporarily, but affordability could well be an investment towards increased readerships in the long run.

Marketing is another thing. The TV shows and theatrical movies need to have comic adverts, then maybe some of the viewers actually would be curious about the source material (because it is not happening in reality). Bring back TV commercials. Probably a full fifth of the articles on this site are all joking on the marketing attempts of DC and Marvel. Pink slip those departments entirely and bring in actual marketing/promotions firms. Advertising is even more cut throat than comics, so they could probably honestly find better qualified people for even cheaper rates than the bloggers promoted to staffers doing it now.

 

And Belle-Tain Summer, who wrote in those same comments:

Maybe if comic book stores were not flat out sleazy places to be most of the time, with Frank Cho-esque ass and tittie posters and statuettes leering at you on full display, with cramped aisles where the gropers lurk, and various other shit that would get your average porno store shut down if they tried it, then they'd get a little more custom through them. As a woman who loves comics and SF, I gotta say the stores you have to go to to get the product are the biggest deterrent to new customers. And it is not just women they are off-putting to. At least with Sci-Fi books you can get them from Amazon, and most merch too, but comic book issue numbering and title schemes are deliberately confusing and bamboozling so you can never be 100% certain about what you are ordering if you order them online. The entire industry is exclusionary.

And mega-crossover events. I'm not buying a dozen different titles just to understand how a single story goes.

 

There are a lot of problems with the comics industry we have today, and my rant yesterday addressed just one of them. But lack of completion doesn't make what I said inaccurate or irrelevant. Here at The Outhouse, we address all of those problems, all of the time, and a single article could never hope to address everything that's wrong with comics. For instance, this article and the previous one, as lengthy as they are, don't even touch on the industry's problems with institutionalized racism, sexism, exclusion, and rampant, unpunished sexual harassment.

As a final note to my detractors, I'll point out that I'm not a professional journalist, this is not my full time job, and aside from the same meager profit share we offer all our writers (thanks Double Take), I don't make any money off of doing it (and if you want to really feel depressed, check out how much people make for writing top five listicles at major outlets and compare it to what the people writing things that actually matter earn). Believe it or not, I do this because I love comics. So if you, as an established, paid journalist or industry professional, feel that my abrasive, dramatic style doesn't do the problems with this industry justice, then I would encourage you to start addressing some of these problems yourself, with the full extent of your superior journalistic skillset, on your outlets with far greater reach than this one.

Wouldn't it be great if Comic Book Resources or ComicBook.com took a serious, researched look at why so many comics can't survive for twelve issues instead of blindly promoting Marvel's next big relaunch package? Wouldn't it be nice if, instead of yelling at fans to pre-order comics, someone like Brian Bendis used his influence in the industry to change the system so that new books have a chance to build an audience instead of relying on being an instant hit in an already oversaturated market?

I may be unprofessional. I may shoot from the hip instead of spending my (unpaid) hours researching the history of the direct market to write a nuanced, intellectual thunkpiece. I may even be a hypocritical jerk who calls Bendis an "Uncle Fester looking motherfucker deeply embedded in the comics establishment," which, yes, I realize wasn't very nice - I'm no Chris Hemsworth myself.

But at least I'm not like the majority of comics industry and media personalities you'll find on our little corner of the interwebs, because I have no vested interest in propping up the abysmal status quo. So to my detractors, you can say my rant was inaccurate. You can say that I'm a heartless prick who wants the industry to fail and put people out of work (though I think people who make comics would find a new system, one out from under the boot heel of Marvel, DC, and Diamond, to be more beneficial for them in the long run, and I actually want very badly for non-Big Two comics to succeed).

But I'm not so sure you have any grounds to criticize, because while this may be me...

nero-burniing-rome.jpg

This... this is you:

dogfire.png

 

(image from Gunshow by KC Green)





Loading...

Help spread the word, loyal readers! Share this story on social media:



Comment without an Outhouse Account using Facebook

We get it. You don't feel like signing up for an Outhouse account, even though it's FREE and EASY! That's okay. You can comment with your Facebook account below and we'll take care of adding it to the stream above. But you really should consider getting a full Outhouse account, which will allow you to quote posts, choose an avatar and sig, and comment on our forums too. If that sounds good to you, sign up for an Outhouse account by clicking here.

Note: while you are welcome to speak your mind freely on any topic, we do ask that you keep discussion civil between each other. Nasty personal attacks against other commenters is strongly discouraged. Thanks!
Help spread the word, loyal readers! Share this story on social media:

About the Author - Jude Terror


Jude Terror is the Webmaster Supreme of The Outhouse and a sarcastic ace reporter dedicated to delivering irreverent comics and entertainment news to The Outhouse's dozens of loyal readers. Driven by a quest for vengeance, Jude Terror taught himself to program and joined The Outhouse. He instantly began working toward his goal of forcing the internet comics community to take itself less seriously and failing miserably. A certified trash eater ruining the pristine field of comics journalism with his sarcasm and goofiness, Jude Terror is secretly friendly and congenial, so if you've got a complaint, why not just bring it up to him instead of subtweeting like a jackass, jackass? You can find him on Twitter or try your luck with an email, but keep in mind that he is notoriously unreliable and may not get back to you right away. Unless you want to send him free stuff, in which case he'll get back to you immediately.


More articles from Jude Terror
The Outhouse is not responsible for any butthurt incurred by reading this website. All original content copyright the author. Banner by Ali Jaffery - he's available for commission!