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#206454 - 09/30/99 01:13 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
Alias Offline
Member

Registered: 01/14/99
Posts: 1115
Loc: Las Vegas Nevada USA
iangould said:

"One Blade movie pays for an awful lot of comics"

Because that statement is so true, the idea that "Comics are dead/dying" is a Chicken Little position. The profits of my shop have increased every quarter since I opened the doors in April '96, and this is a trend that I expect to continue for the forseeable future. Although I certainly wish the publishers with the power to do so would invest in the long term future of comics, as I do with my profits, I have no doubts that they will continue to publish comics, and that they will require/want/allow retail outlets such as mine to sell them.

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#206455 - 09/30/99 11:00 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
David Groenewegen Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 353
Ian:

You make some good points, but... [img]http://207.69.158.95/ubb/smile.gif[/img]

"The scenario you describe - Dc cancelling all its books and going reprint is a credible one. So credible that I suspect it has already been examined seriously by both Marvel and DC and rejected."

True. But Time Warner have new management, which means new thinking, and a new look at everything.

"If they were that desperate to save money and they rejected the obvious option of sacking 90% of editorial and going reprint there had to be a valid reason."

Marvel were more of an indepedant entity that was far more reliant on new comics for revenue. But they are hanging on for the killing they expect to make from the X-Men and Spiderman movies.

"1. The domestic publication of the new material may not make money but it underwrites the international sale of the rights. A mid-level Marvel or DC title may (I'm guessing here) make or lose a few hundred dollars doemsticly - then the company sells the material again in 5 or 10 different foreign markets (everywhere from South Africa to Poland to the Phillipines to Israel to Brazil)."

Yes, but they don't neeed new material to do that - in most countries comics are far more disposable, and turnover their audiences every generation. You could keep reselling the same 60 years worth of back catalogue for generations. In Europe this is what Disney do - they package up old material and keep it in print, because they know that new readers will keep coming in who have never seen it before.

"As I understand it, the companies work similarly to the movie studios - if you want Superman or X-men you buy a package which might include several less popular series as well."

True, but you don't need to keep coming up with new series to do this - sell the rights to Hawkman or Silver Surfer again instead.

"I also think it's misleading to say that DC hasn't produced a successful media property since the'40's. It depends on your definition of success. For example, Warlord was optioned for a movie (several times I believe) and was the basis of a toy line."

I think a Warner suit would define success as a property that brings in large, regualr amounts of money because it has lots of merchandising potential. When was the Warlord toy line? Late 70s? How many non comics fans (or even current fans) know who Warlord is, could recognise him, and would buy merchandise (which is where the real money is, as I'm sure you're aware) today. Not many. Warlord hasn't slipped into the zeitgeist, hence he is not terribly successful from a suit point of view.

""Steel" may have bombed as a movie but Dc probably earned a six or seven figure sum from it anyway. Ditto for the Human Target tele-movie."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Warner's still paid for them. DC may have made some money, but at the cost of another division (film, TV). Why prop up one division at the expense of another?

"Remember that "success" to corporate suits doesn't mean critical or artistic success or even a completed product - it means a positive dollar return to the bottom line."

I agree completely - but DC is a small fish in a very big sea at T-W, and the overall bottom line is far more important than that of one division.

"Half the comics on the stands today are there as prospectuses for movie and tv properties. Whether they actually turn a proift from the comic is largely irrelevant provided the company's overall hit rate is acceptable."

But DC's hit rate is negligible (in the 90s: the Batman movies, Lois & Clark, that's about it). Even when they sell their rights, they mostly get sold to Warner Bros or one of their subsiduaries - so T-W loses. Like I said - why bother publishing comics, if you're only making money out of old stuff anyway?

"One "Blade" movie pays for an awful lot of comics."

Yet Marvel are still massively in debt.

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#206456 - 10/01/99 10:30 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Ian: Interesting that you bring up the digests. At the Friends of LuLu meeting last year, it was convincingly argued that Archie doesn't make money on digests because of the huge racking fees they have to pay the supermarket chains for the front-end display. The only logical reasons that they do this (if true) is that they are a)making enough on the regular comics to cover the losses on the digests or b)publishing at loss to keep the appearance of public visibility that drives the licensing business.

I'd tend to believe the latter, though it could be a combination of the two.

As to Disney, their huge circulation may cover the racking costs or they may view it as a low cost advertising expense. Heidi, can you discuss this without violating any terms of your former employment agreement.

I wouldn't put too much faith in the 80-pagers. So far they seem focused on the direct market. I just checked the JLA 80-Page and there is no color stripe, so it is probably direct only.

As to the licensing question at Marvel & DC, they probably make more from children's pajamas than from foreign rights. I wonder what the profit picture was for the US Post Office deal, though.
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#206457 - 10/01/99 12:19 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
eric hess Offline
Member

Registered: 12/19/98
Posts: 488
Quote:
In Europe... they package up old material and keep it in print, because they know that new readers will keep coming in who have never seen it before.


yeah, but i doubt that would work in america, where there's such a strong and widely-entrenched cultural bias against visibly dated entertainment. (e.g., why remake psycho? why not just rerelease the original? 'cause the original looks old-fashioned and therefore will be perceived as dull.)

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#206458 - 10/04/99 03:28 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
David Groenewegen Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 353
"The only logical reasons that they do this (if true) is that they are a)making enough on the regular comics to cover the losses on the digests or b)publishing at loss to keep the appearance of public visibility that drives the licensing business.

I'd tend to believe the latter, though it could be a combination of the two."

Perhaps they see it as a way of getting new readers in as well - which is really a mutation of both the reasons you gave there Jim, but I'm picky [img]http://207.69.158.95/ubb/smile.gif[/img].

"yeah, but i doubt that would work in america, where there's such a strong and widely-entrenched cultural bias against visibly dated entertainment. (e.g., why remake psycho? why not just rerelease the original? 'cause the original looks old-fashioned and therefore will be perceived as dull.)"

I wouldn't disagree with you hugely there, but I wonder just how in touch with the "modern" look of comics most people are? The "Psycho" remake is in the realms of the totally incomprehensible, let's face it.

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Venting My Spleen almost every week at:
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"It's difficult to take seriously ... people whose social life consists of talking to a typewriter."
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#206459 - 10/04/99 01:38 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
eric hess Offline
Member

Registered: 12/19/98
Posts: 488
well, i'm not so much talking about modern art styles (am i understanding you correctly, david?) as i am the "datedness" of the clothing, hairstyles, architecture, cars, etc. -- even attitudes -- in the average american golden or silver age comic.

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#206460 - 10/04/99 09:17 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
David Groenewegen Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 353
Oh, well then I agree with you I guess. I thought you were talking art style rather than detail. I don't think most people can deal with Clark wearing his hat and that blue suit anymore. Although it didn't really bother me as a kid.

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Venting My Spleen almost every week at:
www.digitalwebbing.com/cbem/
_________________________
"It's difficult to take seriously ... people whose social life consists of talking to a typewriter."
Dave Sim in The Comics Journal

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#206461 - 10/08/99 09:14 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
Stephen R Bissette Offline
Member

Registered: 11/27/98
Posts: 939
Loc: wilmington, VT USA
Joe's right -- this is precisely the sort of thread I ache for. Thanks for kicking it off, Jim.

Curious about something: some historians link the underground comics dist. network with the subsequent birth of the comic shops and direct sales market. Jim?

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#206462 - 10/10/99 05:48 AM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
Jim Hanley Offline
Member

Registered: 06/19/99
Posts: 1313
Loc: NYC
Steve: I'm not sure about the underground distributors. I know that Mitch Berger was one of the New York distributors, driving around to book stores and head shops tending the racks, etc.

Big Rapids in Madison was (as I understand it) a mainstream magazine distributor that was an early direct sales convert. I don't know if UG's were part of their line. They went bankrupt at some point (1980?) and two of their employees (John Davis & Milton Greipp) got into comics distribution with some form of assistance from Bruce of Capital City Comics (a retail store in Madison.) Capital City Distribution bought out Denis Kitchen's UG distribution business in 1983 or so. According to Charles Brown of Locus, the former Big Rapids was either absorbed into (or the beginning of) Ingram Periodical Dist. which may or may not still be associated with Ingram Distribution (the book distributor.)

Now, Phil Seuling sold lots of undergrounds, mostly retail, and continued to sell them to his wholesale accounts until his death in 1984.

Bud Plant's original business was mail order and convention sales of undergrounds. He began distributing Marvel, DC, et.al. largely to serve the Comix & Comics chain in which he was a partner.

Gary Groth wrote, at the time of Phil's death, that Phil & Bud essentially kept Fantagraphics in business in the early days by buying out the print runs for the early issues of the Comics Journal.

So, underground sales and distribution had a lot to do with the Direct Market beginnings, though I'm less sanguine about of what happened to the rest of the head shop distribution network. Other than Mitch Berger, I don't know much about who they were. Of course Ron Turner's Last Gasp was a major part of it, though it may have been late to the distribution party. (Rory, what do you know?) I remember reading that the Print Mint was mainly a poster printer and distributor ("War is not unprofitable...") And I'm pretty sure that Rip Off is still around.

I think that Ron Turner is a primary source who needs to be extensively interviewed. (Gary? Kim?) I haven't heard from Mitch Berger in years, though he is probably still in contact with Batton (not his real name) and Jackie. He must be made to spill his guts. (He knows what Batton's real name is!)

Ron Forman & Walter Wang were in the middle of the whole Direct Market beginnings and continued to distribute comics until Marvel decided to put them out of business in 1995. Two more interviews that need doing.

And let's not forget Mike Freidrich. Mike Catron. Gary Groth. Kim Thompson. Alan Light. Robert Bell (did anyone ever find him?). Bud Plant. John Barrett. Russ Ernst. Bill & Steve Schanes. Dave Scroggy. Buddy Saunders. G.B. Love. Jerry Bails. Bernie Bubnis. Len Wein. Marv Wolfman. Jim Warren.

The list goes on.

Jim "I've got a million of 'em." Hanley
_________________________
"I love him like a brother. David Greenglass." -- Woody Allen - Crimes & Misdemeanors

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#206463 - 10/10/99 12:07 PM Re: Comics Distribution: An Historical View and Predictive Query
Rick Veitch Administrator Offline
Member

Registered: 11/23/98
Posts: 3531
Loc: Vermont, USA
Couple things: Wasn't there a 'History of the Direct Sales Market' being written a few years back? Seema as if i remember an ad in the CBG asking for info from anyone who was involved,

Also, Joe asked about archiving some of the threads. As I understand it, everything on all the various versions of the Comicon.com Message Boards is archived and available for viewing now and will continue to be in the future. The really old stuff has to be accessed through the Main Panels page where you can find a link to 'Ye Olde message Board', which was the proto-amoeba that evolved into the many headed hydra of today's Message Board.

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