BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
In December we talked with Bluewater Productions
Publisher Darren G. Davis
, and he gave us a bleak outlook for the comics industry as it currently stands. Recently when Diamond announced its order cut off changes, we contacted Davis again for his take on how this affects his company and others. He said that Bluewater
is working with an alternative distributor. They've found a new distribution "Haven
In December, Davis told THE PULSE how the current economy was hurting the comic book industry. "Bluewater
has seen its numbers dwindle, I wish I could blame it on the economy, but in early '90s comics sold millions," he said. "Now people are struggling to get 150,000. So something is going wrong across the board. Is it video game sales, or even multiple covers? Who knows. Diamond
blames it on the economy, but then raises the bar for sales. The indie market is going to be gone soon. We try not to depend on sales of the Diamond Comics
. We look at other avenues to generate income - from ad sales to digital comic sales. If people don't start thinking about this, than this medium will be gone. You look at the top films this year THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN and comic sales have not gone up because of those. When I started publishing at Image Comics
in 2001, we launched 10th Muse
as the sixth highest selling comics. We had to sell at least 9,000 copies to break-even back then. It is insane that Indies are scrapping to sell 1,000 copies. I want this industry to start growing again. It is going to take work from all of us."
"We do so much press (at least one a week) call retailers, get reviews, get national coverage for some of our properties like Hillary Clinton
being on CNN, William Shatner
on Entertainment Tonight
," Davis continued. "I am dumbfounded at the numbers of the book. I really wish I could attribute it to bad art or horrible story telling. But we really try to put out a polished piece of work on time. Bluewater
does not flood the market. Each book we do is a different demographic. I look at some of our titles and laugh when I get the numbers, Blackbeard Legacy
did 800 copies. Ray Harryhausen: The Elementals
did 1,200 copies. Even when I published at Alias we were selling 4,000 copies (which I thought was bad). It is insane."
Davis continued, "In the indie movie world, huge celebrities will do indie films. Why won't the big comic names help out and do covers for people for under $4,000. Something has to happen - and most of the comic celebrities started in Indies. I have one artist (Jason Metcalf
) who told me that he will always do covers for Indies, it is his way of giving back. It was the nicest gesture, and this guy is going to be a big star in comics. We are bringing back the T&A into our comics. It was said to me to do that because that would help sales. So that is why you will see Isis, 10th Muse, Judo Girl
coming back. We will always do it tasteful. I look at an amazing book called Bartholomew of the Scissors
-- we did and it sold 325 copies. It got amazing review from huge sites. The art was like nothing you have ever seen - it was done on wood and, instead of pencils, he used a wood burning kit."
"We really do not take on other people's properties at this point," he noted. "There is a lot of amazing books that come across my desk that I have to say no too. It is too much of a risk to do these at this point. The only way we do creator owned books is if you are currently working with us. It is sort of an added value for the people I work with. But those titles are an uphill battle for them - Rat Romanne
was cancelled by Diamond
and that was a creator owned book. I also look at all the marketing that the Pistolfist
guys did which the book sold under 1,000 copies. I have never seen anyone do as much marketing in comics. The book was reviewed well, which makes me bummed it did not do well. We also try not to release more than five titles a month which do not compete with each other. I really do not want to flood the market. I saw what Speakeasy
did to flood the market with books, we really want to make sure to pick books that fit into the Bluewater Universe
Now, the publisher is going to have to do even more to continue to have new releases on the shelf. He told THE PULSE, "Before there wasn't really a benchmark that I knew of at Diamond
. We sell our books for US$3.99 and had to sell 1000 copies of an issue at that price for Diamond
to cut a purchase order to distribute our books. We had books that went under 1000 copies before like Bartholomew of the Scissors
, but they ran the whole miniseries."
"I really am kinda shocked at how many people are surprised over Diamond's
changes," Davis continued. "We have been talking to our Brand Manager for months about this. I even joked with my Brand manager on raising the price on a one shot to $2,500 a copy. I was sort of serious, because I know there is one fan that might by it. I even sort of talked about the state of the industry in my interview with you about a month ago [read the entire interview here
]. The writing has been on the wall for a while. Bluewater
has had to make some adjustments to the changes. Just because Diamond
does not cut you a purchase order for your books, does not mean they are canceled. We are putting a couple exclusive titles through Haven
was not going to do one past Missile to the Moon #1
- so we gave Haven
the exclusive to run with it. I do feel for the really small press people but I do think that they might get better service with a place like Haven
use to be called Cold Cut Distributors
a couple years ago and their website is: www.havendistro.com
"They cater to the indie market," Davis continued. "Some of the bigger Inides are listed there already. We have put some of our back stock through them for the last couple months and they seem to have been selling it through to retailers. Now, we all have to be creative in getting our books in the hands of readers."
Some sources have noted that they thought Diamond's new numbers were not "set in stone." Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter wrote
, "Note that the number of copies involved depends on the discount and the price point of the book. Also, as in the past with other minimums, this doesn't mean Diamond will purge its catalog of every single thing that fails to meet that threshold, but will use that price point as a tool to decide what will and what won't be carried, a pressing standard rather than an absolute measure."
However Davis said he heard just the opposite. "I heard that this is set in stone," He told THE PULSE. "They are being very strict about it now. If they start letting other books go to print that do not meet the standards then it will open a huge 'But you let so and so do it! Why not me?' can of worms."
Davis said he's enjoying the same benefits distributing their books through Haven as they experienced through Diamond. "Also I think they will focus on the retailers that carry the indies rather than the ones that only pick up Marvel and DC comic books," he said. "I think working with Haven is a good thing. There are no order minimums. We will start seeing the positives in about three months after everything calms down. Some of our titles that I know that do not have an established fanbase will go exclusively thru Haven. We will try to get them through both avenues. Diamond is a distributor and if they don't pick up some of the titles, we will find alternate ways of getting them out there."
"Everyone at Haven has been great to deal with," Davis continued. "I started with them a couple months ago. After the Diamond announcement, I gave them a call and they were surprised that I was the first person calling them. I am sure they are busy now."PULSE
readers can learn more about Bluewater
readers can read Tom Spurgeon's
entire article here:at the Comics Reporter
Independent publishers can learn about Haven here: www.havendistro.com