Lying In The Gutters

Mon, December 8th, 2008 at 1:14pm PST | Updated: December 8th, 2008 at 2:51pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 187

Welcome to the most popular and longest running comics column on the internet. In its various forms, Lying In The Gutters has covered rumours and gossip in the comics industry for fourteen long glorious and quite scary years.

All stories are sourced from well-connected individuals. But I urge you to use your judgment and remember, context is everything.

The traffic lights are an indication (and only that) of how reliable I believe the story to be, based on source, context and gut feel. Red lets you know I think this rumour is bunkum, but it is still one being spread about. Amber indicates I think there is a heavy bias involved here, or it just seems a little dodgy. And Green as far as I can tell (as far as I can ever tell) is the real deal, junior.

Nevertheless, do remember, Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced. Please don't shoot the messenger.

THE FOUR BUCKS STOPS HERE

[Green Light]So. To $3.99 or not to $3.99? That is the question that Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image are facing. A number already have certain monthly comics at that price level... but will their whole line join them soon?

Marvel are to set the price of a small handful of top-selling regular monthly books, including "New Avengers" and "Dark Avengers" (but not "Mighty Avengers") at $3.99. The intent is that the price rise here will keep other ongoing titles in the Marvel Universe at $2.99, which should come as a welcome relief to many.

The $3.99 books will be defined as "event titles" to keep interest in them as high as possible. There will be considerable marketing push behind them, presumably on the basis that there were few price complaints and lots of sales for the likes of "Secret Invasion," "World War Hulk" and "Final Crisis."

There has been some commentary that Marvel's publishing is already in a good way, with a 40% profit margin on their titles already. However, as a publically traded body, their responsibility is to their shareholders. Which means maximising revenue - not without an eye on the long term, but certainly finding a balance. If enough people are willing to pay $3.99 for specific kinds of comics, then it's Marvel's duty as a company to charge that price.

And Top Cow's statement guaranteeing their books would stay at $2.99 in 2009 did read to a cynical comics commentator as myself as "Top Cow To Raise Price Of All Comics To $3.99 In 2010"...

"Watchmensch" will be $3.99. And it's black and white. It's disgusting, it really is.

Now comics are an in-elastic commodity - doubling the price doesn't mean you halve the sales. So many comic shops may find they bring in more money overall. This may however reduce the amount of customers shopping to some extent and further marginalise the comics consumer base. Some may jump to waiting for the trade. Others may drop buying comics completely.

At some point, we’re going to find out.

This, by the way, is how they used to do it back in 1971.

LITTLE BRITAIN

[Green Light]Last Tuesday, British retailers received a letter from Diamond Comics Distributors regarding imminent price increases.

Previous LITG columns have mentioned that the crashing pound against the dollar was going to have dire consequences. And, combined with increases in air and surface shipping costs, it's not good news.

UK shops set their own prices on American goods depending on their market. If a shop sells a $2.99 comic for £2.25, to make the same profit margin, it must now sell for £2.60.

If monthly books rise to $3.99, that comic shop will be selling that title for £3.50. That’s the price of a pint of beer in a swanky London West End bar.

Shops in central metropolitan areas with lots of trade do sell their comics for less. Some offer discounts for regular customers. But it's still a major jump in prices across the board.

Trade paperbacks are also affected to a lesser extent, a $14.99 trade going from £9.99 to £10.99. And a $24.99 hardcover jumping from £16.99 to £18.99.

There is opportunity here of course. British publishers who publish in the UK will be largely unaffected in the UK market, pricewise. Suddenly their titles will be more competitive. And what sales they have in the US will be more valuable in terms of dollars. And of course British creators working on US titles will see their income rise significantly.

But if certain books do hit that £3.50 mark, it's possible we may hit a tipping point that changes the economic model considerably. On this side of the pond at least. Is this the moment that illegal torrenting suddenly becomes more acceptable to people?

The change takes place on comics shipping this Thursday. Some comic shops may hold the price rise for a few weeks to see what competitors do. Others won’t be able to.

Time for everyone to start buying “2000AD” again?

THUMBS NAILED

[Green Light]From Twitter:

Andy Diggle's thumbnail for “Thunderbolts” #128

And full art by Roberto De La Torre:

The Yelena Belova Black Widow there... will Marvel ever release a

limited thumbnail version? Of course I'd also like to see his thumbnails for the following Diggletwitter...

T-BOLTS #129: "Ant-Man crouches on the collar of the unconscious President Obama, INJECTING his carotid artery with a tiny gas-gun syringe."

JOE QUESADA NOW ON TWITTER WTF?? OMFG!!!

[Green Light]On the fifth day of December, my e-mail said to me...

JoeQuesada (JoeQuesada) is now following your updates on Twitter.

A few highlights since then:

Pub is just UK slang for, "loneliness in the company of men."

Matt (Fraction) is only made tolerable by the fact that his wife is a sweetheart gal and has given him a much cuter child than he deserves.

Tom Brevoort has a hairy rump.

Warren Ellis is bigger than me. Take that however you wish. Warren can use it as a pull quote for his next book.

I'm a publicity whore! And a cheap one.

We are an unstoppable force in bad T-shirts.

It feels like my first time with my first girlfriend, I could just go on forever.

Despite his gruff online persona, Warren is too cute and cuddly to fire. He would make a lovely plush toy this holiday

you don't see Paul Levitz on here do you?

Would Bendis be insulted if I stopped following him?

And to a query from HotPinkSheets: "Does Marvel have some sort of Monopoly on Twitter that I'm unaware of?"

You mean outside of the fact that DC is allergic to anything that is modern, fun and could possibly promote comics? Beats me?

I have bigger balls than George Lucas

He's only going to get scarier.

HE'S FRIT!

[Green Light]LITG recently reported that David Cameron, Leader Of Her Majesty's Opposition in the UK, would appear in “Captain Britain & MI13,” just as Prime Minister Gordon Brown had a few months previously.

Sadly it appears that lawyers have intervened, and Cameron will no longer be negotiating for peace with Dracula on the Moon.

Not often you get to write that sentence.

HE KILLED ME ONCE, YOU KNOW

[Yellow Light]Regarding previous LITG rumours about Grant Morrison's rewriting of "Final Crisis" causing creators, including Greg Rucka, to repeatedly rewrite their work, Greg Rucka says, “Oh, and the LITG ‘amber’ that was posted last week regarding mercuryeric's and my ‘difficulties’ doing FC: Resist? Total and utter bullshit.”

Which is pretty unequivocally clear.

It is however opposed to what other people involved with “Final Crisis” have been telling their friends. The original report may have been exaggerated in tone, possibly from frustration (the 14 changes in one week, for example) but in substance it matches what other DCU writers have been saying regarding their own books over the last few months.

In conversation Greg told me, “I don't know who the ‘other people’ are, Rich. I only know the work Eric and I did. Was their wrangling to make elements sync with what Grant wanted? Absolutely, that's part of the ‘event’ process. But the difference between that and ‘14 rewrites’ is pretty substantial. Once we hit the scripting stage, there was only one draft, and it wrote pretty damn fast.”

Which is, at least, a lot more consistent with what I’ve been hearing elsewhere.

And an informed insight into the modern commercial comics creative process from one Greg Rucka, there… he’ll go far!

AVATAR BABIES

[Green Light]LITG had an inkling during San Diego. But I can now confirm it. Games journalist Kieron Gillen, author of “Phonogram,” “newuniversal 1964” and more, will be writing two new series for Avatar next year, one of which will be an ongoing monthly.

Also from Avatar in March comes "Rawbone," written by Jamie Delano

And a very nasty pirating comic it appears to be as well. I've seen some script and, well...

My timbers are fully shivered.

SPOILER SPACE

[Green Light]So comic books shipped in the USA and the UK on Thursday last week.

But they shipped in Canada on Wednesday.

Leading to all sorts of spoilerage activity.

SWIPE FILE

[Yellow Light]Panel from a 1940s copy of Dynamic Comics provides the inspiration for a Wizard exclusive “Project Superpowers” #1/2.

And is a 1930s Merita Bread ad behind John Cassaday's cover for “Lone Ranger” #6?

FROM GOSSIP TO REALITY

[Green Light]Last Monday's LITG ran a series of reviews of comics bought at the recent Dublin Con, including "11 Commandments." Apparently the column was read by one Brendan Deneen of New York's Objective Entertainment talent agency. Who contacted the "11 Commandments" creators and set up a deal.

Goodness. Do I get a finder's fee?

Hey Brendan, I've got this thing called "Flying Friar" you might be interested in.

BITS AND BOBS

[Green Light]Watch as Shocker Toys and Geoff Beckett go into public meltdown.

Take a quick peek at The Mice graphic novel.

John Byrne to fix Marvel Comics.

Forget Felicia, Valerie, Marvel_Boy or DC Insider, the real scoop on the dirty side of the comics industry is The Horror Of Comics, where a comic store worker blogs about how awful his customers and co-workers are.

Watchmen - The Conspiracy Theory.

London Underground Comics ends its run at the Camden Lock Market in London at the end of the year. They're having a celebratory bash in Soho's Alphabet Bar on Beak Street, this Saturday from noon until late, with DJs, an exhibition of original art from the regulars to run for a week, and a lot of exhibitors and small press comics on sale.

The Film Ick Christmas DVD List.

A few big Marvel comics for the New Year - an Ed Brubaker "Daredevil" Omnibus, the "Kick Ass" hardcover and "Alias" get trade paperbacked... although "boo" to the "Punisher MAX" Hardcover Volume 5 being collected without the "Barracuda" mini-series that's rather essential to the whole story...

BLATANT SELF PROMOTIONAL PIECE - APOLOGIES TO ALL

[Green Light]Talking of which, I've got a few comic book scripts/pitches/scribbles on envelopes that will probably be looking for homes in 2099.

Publishers (especially anyone at the front of Previews), if you’d be interested at looking at comic books or graphic novels, let me know.

Artists, if you’re willing to do back end and pitch work, talk to me.

SMALL PRINT

Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum and add your request to what you want from future columns.

I'm still eBaying odds and sods here. My social networking is pretty much all Facebook and Twitter these days, but I'm around at Bebo, MySpace, ComicSpace too.

You can see my Guido Fawkes cartoon most Mondays here. Here's the latest...

Contact me on richjohnston@gmail.com or on AOL Instant Messenger as TwistRich.

You can also write to me at 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU ENGLAND

Or call me/text me on 0780 1350982 from the UK or 01144780 1350982 from the US.

TAGS:  comics retailing, comic prices, jamie delano, avatar press

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