Lying In The Gutters

Mon, January 26th, 2009 at 1:58pm PST | Updated: January 27th, 2009 at 1:53pm

Comic Books
Rich Johnston, Columnist

LYING IN THE GUTTERS 194

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 and could do with stamping on. Amber indicates I think there is a bias involved in the telling 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. But it's still quite possibly wrong.

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

DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

-- Updatd 5:00 PM Pacific

[Yellow Light]So, the impact from the announced new benchmark figures from Diamond Comics Distribution regarding which titles they will distribute to comic shops has caused ripples across the industry.

But there are a few aspects that had been missed and I was given the opportunity to discuss them with Diamond VP For Purchasing, Bill Schanes earlier today. One of the early comics distributors, starting up Pacific Comics Distribution in the seventies, he's seen the entire direct market rise from its early beginnings to its current dominance in the West.

I began with asking Bill about news I'd heard. I was told by several publishers that Diamond would be given the “opportunity” to put up a thousand dollars as a guarantee that a listing will bring in the numbers necessary, if Diamond disagreed with the publisher's expectations. Basically asking publishers to put their money where their mouth is - and pay for the privilege if they received less than expected sales.

Bill told me that this "buy in" option, or "protected gross profit margin" was worth $300 in profit to Diamond after distribution costs and was specifically there to deal with bodies and publishers that Diamond didn't believe were serious in their publishing endeavors.

Bill told me he saw three types of publishers; genuine businesses, those sincere in trying to make it and those that were using Diamond's Previews as a cheap form of marketing an idea, to TV or movie studios. The comics may be published, they may not, but even if they were, there would be no actual attempt to sell the book. And the "buy in" option allowed Diamond to protect themselves from publishers they were suspicious of.

But I couldn't help feeling, though, that this could be a real barrier to market for publishers in the wrong hands. Over the whole conversation, Bill emphasized his and Diamond's commitment to distributing high quality comics that may not meet their new guidelines and that they have various checks and balances. Certainly while Bill expected one or two worthy contenders to fall between the cracks, he didn't see Diamond not distributing the next “Scott Pilgrim,” ven if as retailer Christopher Butcher pointed out, initial sales of the first volume would not have met the new figures.

He pointed out that Diamond get thirty-five to fifty publishers a month approaching Diamond for distribution.

I raised the issue of most concern for medium-sized publishers, that of the O/A (Offer Again), listings that have multiplied through Previews, and now also subject to the same demands from Diamond as initial listings, though bringing in a small fraction of initial orders. However, as a group, publishers I spoke with believed they contributed to their bottom line and kept them in business.

Bill pointed out that the cost of distribution for O/A titles was minimal for publishers, but the same as a standard listing for Diamond. And that the sheer amount of O/A titles diluted their impact, made worse by the amount of titles with variant covers. What was once a valuable promotional device has become dulled by repetition and the costs to Diamond are outweighing any benefit. And certainly in the next couple of months we will be seeing a slimmer Previews as a result.

I'd also been talking to people dealing with distributor Haven Distribution, given a massive boost this week. And a number of smaller publishers are approaching Haven about their line, O/A and variant covers included.

And larger companies such as Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse, all "brokered" publishers, will benefit from reduced competition, while not having to comply with Diamond's new listing policies.

But many medium sized publishers are "exclusive" to Diamond. They find themselves suddenly unable to list what they have expected to list, but they can't move those rejected listings elsewhere. They are stuck between a diamond and a hard place.

Bill indicated, quite remarkably in my opinion, that he would look to the publishers' contracts and find a way that such exclusive publishers might be able to list those items away from Diamond.

There's more, but that will wait for next week. The column extends its thanks to Bill Schanes for taking time out for such a surly little gossip rag.

These seem to be very interesting times indeed.

TOP GEAR

[Green Light]Simon Bisley will be drawing "Gears Of War" #7, a one-shot story featuring the game character Tai Kaliso.

Have to say, that is rather cool.

EX-EXCLUSIVE

[Green Light]Every now and then a comic company announces an “exclusive" creator signing. Some companies save them up for a convention and then use them as ammunition against another company exhibiting across the way. Rather than announcing “Creator X is working on The Flying Friar II: Back In The Habit" they’d rather say “Creator X will NOT be working on anything for the other guys, ha ha ha ha ha!"

But you rarely hear about the contracts coming to an end, unless it’s to announce that the exclusive period has been renewed.

Hence why it was a surprise to see that DC-exclusive Adam Kubert is drawing a “Wolverine: Weapon X" variant cover. Doesn’t he have a DC exclusive contract for about three years? That started in… oh.. September 2005.

IS that it then?

SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY

[Green Light]The first page of the most recent “Doctor Who" comic from IDW had the dialogue missing from the first page. Here is your cut-out-and-replace special!

PAY WHAT’S DUE

[Yellow Light]So who are the biggest non-payers/delayed-payers in the industry right now? Despite assurances, I hear Dabel Brothers are still having trouble. And the reason that the second issue of “Mercy Thompson" hasn’t been published months after the first, is that the creators are holding onto the art until they are paid for the first issue.

But again and again I hear that Devil’s Due is not paying a number of creators, with some debts owed for many months. One company, Cadence Comic Art, is owed many thousands of dollars for its artists’ work. One, Jeff Zornow of "Halloween: First Death of Laurie Strode" has not been paid for any of his work.

And then there’s Wowio.

Expect to see many more of these kind of stories in the months to come.

SPIDER-TOE

[Green Light]Ah, Marvel Marvel Marvel... while on one hand, according to Matt Fraction, you're having to go back to the original artwork to add a bikini to Emma Frost's naked form in the “Uncanny X-Men Annual," in another comic a few months ago you had the skrull Spider-Woman, clearly in need of... forming underwear in all sorts of places.

"Avengers: The Initiative" #17 there, ladies and gentlemen.

SWIPE FILE

[Green Light]Never been this literal before.

From Twitter, artist Brian Dehham writes on his time working for Extreme Studios, "I drew a layout at Extreme and left it for next day. Note on my desk said ‘Liefeld is using your layout, draw something else for this page.’"

OBAMAMANIA

[Green Light]Now Wizard want to get in on the act... a cover to Wizard #210.

THE INVISIBLE DAN

[Yellow Light]Firings from DC noted in various places... but look whose name is currently missing from the online masthead.

An error, an action from a vengeful webeditor on their way out of the door, or the sign of something yet to be confirmed?

Probably one of the first two.

SIX DEGREES OF TWITTERNESS

[Green Light]Can we do Darth Maul to Chris Martin? Of course we can!

Peter Serafinowicz follows Bryan O’Malley who follows Graeme McMillan who follows Joe Quesada who follows Jen Grunwald who follows Coldplay.

SPECULATOR CORNER

[Green Light]Last week’s advice to buy copies of “Thunderbolts" #128 seemed to prove fruitful.

eBay sales of the standard issue have ranged from £5 to £15

Second print on the way, flip your copies now! And the next issue features this anonymous President as well, you know…

ODDS AND SODS

[Green Light]Hitman" trades coming back into print… with new volumes to follow?

Watchmensch.com updates with more retailers... is your local shop there?

Lee Barnett, long time friend of the column, gets reviewed to the max for his Fast Fictions collection.

Tim Pilcher, occasional friend of the column, gets Alan Moore to write the forward his second volume of “Erotic Comics: A Graphic History". I do hope he paid Alan with porn.

I’m thinking of starting an “Adventures of Barack Obama: President By Day, Superhero By Night" webcomic this week. Seriously.

The winners of the "No Heroics" DVD are Liam Davey, N.P.Duck, Jesse Sproule, Raghu Menon, Dylan Cook, Roger Mills, Alex Sarll, Darren Turner, Antonios Finitsis and Dayan Ballweg. Your DVDs will be posted later this week.

Alan Moore Draws HP Lovecraft.

Who Dresses The Cosplayers?

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:  diamond comics distributors, doctor who, adam kubert

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