Pipeline

Tue, June 3rd, 2008 at 9:58pm PDT | Updated: June 3rd, 2008 at 10:00pm

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

PARENT OF THE YEAR AWARD

When registering for your forthcoming child's birth, there's only one thing you need to do as the man -- point and zap the bar codes with the nifty bar code scanner they give you. Just nod your head at every pink thing your wife points to, assuming you're having a girl. Don't ever offer an opinion in advance. No matter how bizarre that pink and brown pattern may look, just nod you head, point the red scanning light over the bar code, and move on. It's not worth the fight.

When you get home, you'll have the chance to fine tune the list. Always take into account the reviews left by complete strangers of the products you've chosen in the store. That's where you'll find the comment from the Parent of the Year in response to that pink car seat your wife picked out:

By On the Go Mom from Charlotte, NC on 5/15/2008
Pros: Easy to Adjust, Comfortable, Easy to Clean, Sturdy, Easy to install, Lightweight, Great Features
Best Uses:Rocking, As a Carriage, Back Seat, Movies, Infants, Shopping, Newborn
Describe Yourself: On the go, First Time Parent, Very Active Mom
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

This car seat is a must have. I got it as a baby shower gift. I love the pattern design. I love the fact that it is snug and comfortable. So comfortable that as soon as I put my baby in the carseat she goes right to sleep. It is light weight and easy to carry. I take my baby wherever I go in it. I am a busy mom and it is hard for me to stay still. I used the carriage carseat for outings, movies, shopping ect... It keeps her cool and calm she slept right through the entire movie of iron man and she is only 4 weeks. I definitely feel like it is worth the money plus some. I plan on getting the matching stroller next week. I am very pleased and I would recommend it to anyone.

Emphasis added by me. Typos are all hers.

At first, you'll be shocked and outraged that someone would bring their one month old child to the movies. Then, you'll think -- "Hmm, this seat will keep my baby asleep long enough for Daddy to catch the next superhero movie? Maybe pink ain't such a bad thing after all. . . "

THE TRUTH ABOUT COMICS PUBLISHERS

There are no comic publishers anymore, only Intellectual Property (IP) Farms that happen to print comics to get to the big money in Hollywood and licensing. You can add up the reasons for this, but it amounts to scale. There's no money in comics publishing anymore. If you're really good, you're self-sustaining. You're never going to get rich with the headache of comics publishing. You can only print the comics in the hopes that they get made into a movie or TV show of some sort. That's where you make the heavy profits. In order to do that in the most efficient way possible, you cut the costs of the comics publishing portion of your business as low as possible to feed the lawyers and marketers trying to get you the best deal in Hollywood.

You saw that TokyoPop contract going around last week, right? What do you think that was all about? IP, baby. That's what the manga system is all about -- comics feeding the anime feeding the live action movie. (If you're lucky, there will eventually be a maquette of your half-naked female character, and the ad in "Previews" will emphasize her assets. There's one every month. . . )

We've seen other companies seemingly grow big and strong, only to be undone very quickly by an IP plan that doesn't quite come together as quickly and as richly as had been planned. You remember CrossGen, don't you?

Look at the Marvel quarterly results. Publishing goes up and down, but it's such a small fraction of the overall Marvel Enterprises business that it's negligible to the bigger picture. You don't see Marvel's stock go up when "Civil War" sells like gangbusters, do you? No, it only happens on movie news. Movies bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. A top selling comic -- even with the money-gouging $3.99 price point -- will bring in $600,000, assuming a 150,000 sell-through. The "Iron Man" movie grossed that in less than a half hour on its opening Friday. (I did the math. Trust me.)

I'm not busting on Marvel here. All comics publishers do it these days. They can't afford to print comics for the sake of printing comics. There's not enough money in it. You'd lose artists and writers to ad agencies, video game companies, and local newspapers if you paid them based solely on what the comics sold. The audience isn't big enough to make comics publishing a big money business that makes publishers at all generous.

There are two notable exceptions to this. The first is self-publishing. Do it yourself. Retain your rights. Get popular. And when the publishers come to you, you get to set your terms. You'll be their loss-leader, instead of vice versa.

The other is Image Comics. They take a flat fee, publish your comic, and that's it. It's like self-publishing on steroids, because you get a nice position in the "Previews" catalog and don't have to handle some of the publishing/business end of things. You have to tackle putting the whole book together yourself, but the printing and distribution is taken care of. You are your own marketing force, but you were going to do that as a self-publisher, anyway.

The only trick is, they're not a charity. You have to be good enough to convince Image you're worth publishing. Then, you get to negotiate the stormy seas of licensing and Hollywood on your own, if you wish to. You might want help on that, but there are people who'd help you for another fee. Most importantly, you're the one still in control.

Life is a gamble. Life is give and take. You'll have to work it out on your own whether contracts are fair or not, whether the financial risk is acceptable in the face of a raised profile, or if the loss of control of your creation is worth whatever the least possible amount the publisher can get away with giving you will give you.

It's not easy, but please do accept the realities of modern day comics publishing. Don't blindly believe the best.

After I wrote all of that, I listened to last week's Webcomics Weekly. Dave Kellett explains what an IP farm is. We're all on the same page. The rest of the show is an hour spent talking about using contests and open calls by publishers, and whether they're just ripping you off or ultimately worth it. (Here's a hint: the show is hosted by four successful webcomic producers who didn't go through TokyoPop to get there.)

SPEAKING OF TOKYOPOP. . .

The "French" jokes come from the fact that the "Morals Clause" part of the contract is usually referred to by its French term, not because of some random bad joke, and definitely not "racism."

(Here's your fun for the day: While the French word "droit" is "right" in English, the word for "left" is "gauche." Man, if I were a lefty, I'd be ticked that some people think I'm "gauche.")

In the process of buying and selling a house in the last month, I've been reading a lot of contracts in a lot of detail. Trust me. It's not fun. What might seem like plain English to you, isn't. It's the lawyer's way of leaving holes just big enough for their client to be able to break the contract at will at any time. You can't trust lawyers. I mean, you should trust yours, but always know that the other guy's lawyer is looking out for their client first, not your ability to parse a contract.

I have to give TokyoPop credit for trying to break a tedious contract out into "readable" language. I'm not saying they succeeded, but at least they tried something different. As everyone said years back during the first go-around with TokyoPop contracts (and last year with Zuda's): consult a lawyer first. It ain't cheap. They may speak a language you still won't understand. And you'll probably still have to do some research of your own. But don't take anything in a contract at face value. Assume the worst. It's for your own sanity's sake.

THAT CRISIS BOOK THING

I thought of "Final Crisis" #1 what most people thought of "Final Crisis" #1. Nice J.G. Jones art. Confusing story in which very little happens. I don't know much about the DC Universe or all the stories Grant Morrison has written in it over the last few years. I'm not exactly the target audience for this.

He had a couple great one-liners in the issue, though, like "You ask me, fire was our first big mistake." And Alex Sinclair deserves an enormous amount of credit for a great coloring job.

I'll be reading the next couple of issues to see where this is going, though. I'm curious. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a "slowing down to see a car wreck at the side of the road" type of curiosity, though.

JUDENHASS

"Judenhass" is the new graphic novel from Dave Sim about the Holocaust. The translation of the title is "Jew hatred" and that's exactly what this book is about. It's a meditation on the history of anti-semitism, followed by a recitation of quotes showing Judenhass from ancient times to present day. Two exceptions are made near the end of the text, from Harry S. Truman (in recognizing Israel) and Pope John Paul II (a speech in Jerusalem in 2000). All of this is set over drawings done from pictures taken during the holocaust, or with portraits from the people being quoted.

There's no story here. The book is an illustrated essay. It's a collection of quotes strung together to back Sim's assertion that the Holocaust was really just the most public and most brutal demonstration of a certain state of mind that's lived on for a long time. In fact, he calls it "inevitable" in his opening.

It's not an easy book to get through, by any measure. The imagery is tough. The ideas are often repugnant. But it's an honest effort by a creator who, as he says in the beginning of the book, wants to show that the holocaust was almost "inevitable," given the long string of Judenhass seen through time.

It also shows that Sim can still draw. We've seen in "Glamourpuss" that his current muse is the photorealistic art of the classic comic creators. It's heavily on display here, along with his ability to draw intricate backgrounds and buildings. Gerhard did a superlative job in "Cerebus" during his time on the book, but Sim didn't lose those muscles in that time. He can still pull it off, as he does in the opening pages through a long zoom in on the gates of Auschwitz.

"Judenhass" is available now, in a very nice squarebound package with heavy glossy white pages for just $4. If you think your stomach can handle it, it's an interesting dissertation. Just don't expect sequential narrative here, because that's not what this is.

ONE LAST THOUGHT ON COLLECTED EDITIONS

It used to be that you bought all the trades or hardcovers you could get. You were at the mercy of the publisher. There weren't all that many.

Now, there's so many good books being released in great formats, that you can sit back and pick and choose. STARMAN OMNIBUS? ALAN MOORE'S SWAMP THING HC? GOTHAM CENTRAL HC? ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN HC? ABSOLUTE Any Book DC Cares To Do In That Format? Why settle for a random trade paperback of a just-concluded storyline of a soon-to-be-dead series? Why settle for a trade paperback when an oversized hardcover is coming?

We live in wonderful times, don't we?

We live in a time where you can live off collected editions. Why bother buying single issues anymore? There's still a thrill to buying short sprints of reading material on a weekly basis, but I wonder if that's satisfying enough.

At least I've learned to stop buying most things twice.

PIPELINE SHOW NOTES FOR 29 MAY 2008

Last week was an epic release date. I couldn't narrow it down to just ten titles. I could have gone up to 20, easily, but I whittled it down to these 15:

15. All Star Superman #11
14. Excalibur Classic TP Vol 5
13. Essential Rampaging Hulk TP Vol 01
12. Savage Sword Of Conan TP Vol 3
11. Starman Omnibus HC Vol 01
10. Firebreather Series #1
9. Ultimate Spider-Man #122
8. Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1
7. Judenhass GN
6. Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus
5. Sorrow TP
4. True Story Swear To God Archives TP Vol 01
3. Studio Space SC
2. Final Crisis #1 (of 7)
1. Compleat Next Men TP Vol 01

You can listen to the whole thing right here. It ran 24 minutes, though, so it's a bit longer than the usual podcast from me. We should be headed back to the normal 10 - 15 minutes tonight, but there are also an awful lot of interesting single issues out this week. Isn't this fun?

Next week: Some reviews are likely. Maybe I'll even make it through the week without any baby references.

The Various and Sundry blog carries on, with lots of photography, the return of the link dumps, new DVDs, and a whole lot more.

If you're really interested in what daily news bits grab my attention in the worlds of tech and comics and more, the best way to track is it at the Google Reader Shared Items. Several items are added to that page every day. I'm an RSS feed junkie.

The only social network I regularly appear on is Twitter. It's a very fun place with low overhead and the least number of annoyances of any Web 2.0 site, aside from an unstable infrastructure.

Everything else: The Pipeline Podcast, ComicSpace, and a Tumblr Blog.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 800 columns -- nearly eleven years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

TAGS:  comics publishing, tokyopop, judenhass, final crisis

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