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mygif

” Put all issues of the current run of Legion online. For free.” How do you purport to pay the writers and artists?

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mygif

One thing I thought might help was to put out a cheaper version of the comic. I *like* the glossy pages and the thick stock and everything, but a version on newsprint could be cheap enough to offset a lot of costs and give the kiddies something to trash, clip the coupons out of, lend to friends, etc etc…

I don’t know if there’s a downside to that, but videos seem to use something like this strategy, selling the fullscreen, widescreen, and then various ‘special’ editions, and making money on all of them. Including the later-on 6-dollar DVD with the compulsory ads on it. Your hardcore fans are going to buy every edition you put out, and having price points for other demographics is just smart business, I’d think.

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mygif

Elayne: Haven’t all the writers and artists BEEN paid by the time the book is in stores? (I honestly don’t know the answer). I seems to me the article refers to previously printed books, not books not yet printed.

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mygif

There’s a problem with the “put the comics up for free” argument, one that I used to make all the time.

Free comics won’t help push the sales of the Legion, because every Legion comic ever published- pre-boot, post-boot, new-boot- is already available on the net for free.

I won’t tell you where; chances are, anyone who wants pirated bootleg comics know where to get them. It isn’t that hard to learn how to use BitTorrent, and it’s easier to find the sites that are hosting the torrent files that will let you download all of these comics.

The Legion comics have been available for over a year now.

How have sales gone on the Legion since then? Not that well, actually.

Why? Well, here’s the dirty little secret about the Legion’s current version- it just doesn’t thrill the fans. I’m not saying that it’s bad or substandard or anything like that; I’ll never say that about a comic by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. But for whatever reason, the Legion community, the ones who loved Jim Shooter and Paul Levitz and early Keith Giffen and who suffered through later Keith Giffen and Zero Hour and read all of the adventures again in a quasi-told-again style, isn’t around anymore. The community that was a tremendously lively pre-Internet community has disappeared. Faced with a second reboot, the fans gave up the ghost and found something else to read.

At first, LSH sold well under Waid/Kitson. But the sales faded over time, and now that Waid and Kitson are gone, we’re left with a reader base of those who are willing to read the book without Mark Waid and without the characters they probably preferred from pre-2nd boot. That’s a hard sell, honestly. Heck, they have a better chance of seeing their “real” Legion in Justice League or Countdown than they do in LSH.

There’s talk that Shooter is coming back. I don’t think that’ll “save” the book. I’m sure that there will still be a Legion book of some form for a long time, at least while Paul Levitz is still with the company and there’s money to be made on the TV show. But the energy that made LSH so unique and special is gone. You can’t recapture it; you can only make it anew with a new group of fans.

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mygif

I think they should switch to just trade paperbacks and hardcovers. I don’t much care about value per page or whatever, but at any price point, I don’t like to sit down for a good read and be done in ten minutes or less. Heck, even the trades seem a bit weak when I finish them in an hour sometimes. And I really, really hate getting partial stories. That’s the main reason I stick to trades these days: I can get an entire story arc in one sitting.

Anyway, the stories and art of most comics these days strive very hard to be taken seriously, and I think the trade and hardcover formats suit that idea better anyway. Trying to do an epic tale with photo realistic art that mimics the shots and angles of action movies in a format that was originally created for throwaway kids entertainment is just plain stupid.

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mygif

C and a half) Make free CDs containing some of this content as ubiquitous as AOL startup discs. Stick a half-dozen good starter comics onto tie-in DVDs, or as extras in video games. Hand them out at conventions. Hand them out on street corners if you have to.

It’s easy for people like us to forget that the Internet is not yet all-encompassing, and you still need to get people’s attention when they’re out in the world.

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mygif

The strange thing about webcomics is that there are so few about superheroes. T Campbell writes in his History of Webcomics: “Superhero comics work best with multiple pages to build up the excitement. Pete Abrams [of Sluggy Freelance] just managed to pull of superhero-style battles in his giant Sunday installments, but most artists don’t work that fast.”

Perhaps they should release 5 pages at one day of the week instead of 1 page a day.

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mygif

Elayne:

How do you purport to pay the writers and artists?

The same way any creator of work-for-hire content is paid: generating sales of published product and associated merchandise by creating interest in the product. I don’t think it can be stressed enough at this point that the insular and fanboy-focused “marketing” that Marvel and DC do is gradually failing.

Ray:

Free comics won’t help push the sales of the Legion, because every Legion comic ever published- pre-boot, post-boot, new-boot- is already available on the net for free.

You can say the same thing about mp3s. Why would anybody buy mp3s when Limewire exists? And yet, people do, and in large numbers – both because it’s simpler, and because people do in fact tend to respect intellectual ownership when the cost to them is not too great.

Why? Well, here’s the dirty little secret about the Legion’s current version- it just doesn’t thrill the fans. I’m not saying that it’s bad or substandard or anything like that; I’ll never say that about a comic by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson.

Hell, I will – well, not “bad”, their run wasn’t outright bad… but it was certainly poorly conceived from starting principles (the young versus old thing was just a mistake, plain and simple), and Kitson, who is an artist I love, unfortunately has a major flaw in that he’s just not very good at drawing teenagers as, you know, teenagers rather than generic-looking 20something adults.

As for the Legion not thrilling the fans, all it takes is a good run. Look at what Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja are doing with Iron Fist right now. A year ago, do you think anybody would have predicted that Iron Fist, Mr. Kung Fu In Slippers, would be one of the most critically acclaimed books Marvel puts out? My local store has reordered the first hardcover multiple times due to demand. And now Iron Fist is hot again – because of a good run.

Ulf:

Perhaps they should release 5 pages at one day of the week instead of 1 page a day.

That’s an excellent idea, actually.

Tom:

C and a half) Make free CDs containing some of this content as ubiquitous as AOL startup discs. Stick a half-dozen good starter comics onto tie-in DVDs, or as extras in video games. Hand them out at conventions. Hand them out on street corners if you have to.

A point well made. I just got a Legion of Super Heroes In The 31st Century Happy Meal yesterday and it had an awesome little plastic Validus in there – why not toss a mini-CD in as well with comics on it?

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mygif

Comic retailers and the lone distibutor, which account for a serious percentage of the profit for the big two would like to have a word with you. I’m sure they’ll love the kids being able to download all the comics DRM free. The web simply isn’t the place you want to go with this stuff, and I don’t think more comic stores (as smelly as their patrons and owners may be) helps the industry in the least.

Digital distribution is a very dangerous and disruptive technology. As far as creators go, How do you handle royalties? They get a cut of trades, AFAIK, and I’m sure they’d loooove to see those go down. At this point I think that comics piracy is probably the least dangerous form of piracy, as there’s a lot of comics out there next to no marketing dollars available, so piracy may, in this case help sales not just harm them, and I think that some free comics online would help, in theory, but I don’t think that’s the answer, simply because you’ve got an industry that’s fragile.

All the distributors and shop owners remember the comics boom and crash of the 90′s and I’m sure that a lot of them are likely to be far more conservative than anything at this point.

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mygif

Absolutely agreed on point 1. However, I think there is more to it than just quality vs quantity. Most people realize that title-characters aren’t going to die off or suffer any serious trauma in the “big” events so there’s really no point to collecting the 30-40 issue crossovers. You brushed on the point yourself in your Civil War spoof at the funeral scene “Its only Black Goliath”. There’s no way Tony Stark would have been wrapped up in that tarp and that’s what makes the big storylines so underwhelming.

I’m working on a politically-metaphoric/superhero webcomic. My starting formula, until the main t-shirt business and readership picks up, will be 1 page per week for normal storyline, and 3-5 pages for fight sequences (none of that ‘DBZ-style-wait-forever-to-see-anything-happen’ crap). If everything goes well, I’ll sink a well, pump out more pages and retire.

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mygif

Well… I can’t solve this problem. But I can say one thing:

WE OLD STYLE LEGION FANS ARE STILL OUT THERE!!

We are just waiting for an incarnation that is actually above run of the mill…

Unfortunately I don’t think the cultural climate in the big comics industry is capable of putting out a book like that at the moment, just as Hollywood in general is unable to produce a decent horror movie for example. The creative climate is just not right.

Hopefully there will be a backlash eventually, just like there was one in the seventies. And when it comes, I will buy the book.

Ahem… who am i kidding, I am still buying the current book just for the snarky Braniac 5/dead dream Girl romance…

… Another thing… I have money right now (yay job). I don’t worry too much about the cost (I used to when Iw as a student). But for me, it is all a question of format.

Yeah I can get a lot online if I want to. I would get more than I do if it was easier to access, because I am lazy and like I said, money is not the biggest object. However I HATE reading comics on the computer. I really and truly hate it.

It’s the same with single issues. While I am willing to spend silly amounts of money to get used old ugly Moore Swamp thing issues to complete the ones I got when i could get nice and crispy reprints instead, that is a exception to the rule. Why? One, modern comics take so little time to read. I mean when I read some old Giffen 9 panel LSH I actually get a lot of worth in a single issue. But when I read a modern one, I can devour it in ten minutes tops. Just not that much that happens, and not much dialog or things you need to think about. They also REALLY such to store. Preferably bags and backing boards are needed, and… *sighs*. No.

TPB’s are the best thing ever. They have made me go out and buy comics I never would have bothered with before, just because they look good, are handy to read and look damn good in the bookshelf. I am even buying some things I already have in single issues (Like Morrison’s Doom Patrol) just because it is so much easier than digging out the boxes whenever I feel like rereading them.

I know most my friends feel the same way. I just wish DC could hurry up with their archive volumes and get to the good stuff…

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mygif

Comic retailers and the lone distibutor, which account for a serious percentage of the profit for the big two would like to have a word with you. I’m sure they’ll love the kids being able to download all the comics DRM free.

There isn’t a “pure” comic shop anywhere in town any more. They’re all comic/game shops, comic/anime shops, et cetera. You know why? Because comics aren’t providing a large enough profit margin to operate solely as a business here, and haven’t for years, and that trend isn’t getting any better.

If you’re really worried? Start it as a pilot program on one or two mid-range titles.

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mygif

As someone who read manga first, the ads in single issues really bother me. I’m used to turning a page to reveal a surprise, not an ad. They constantly disrupt the flow of the comic (which is a bigger deal in manga than American comics, granted.) I wait for the trades, assuming I even remember the comic exists at that point.

What do you think of subscription webcomics? I think people don’t want to pay for access to a website. They might take the content more seriously if it were presented in a sort of comic library program, like iTunes for comics. Or they might pay for added convenience or features, but I’m not sure how you would do that with a comic.

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mygif

Affordable comics would be nice. I don’t understand why they don’t print black and white comics on cheaper newsprint paper as opposed to colored comics on glossy pages. Do any readers out there really need glossy pages?

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mygif

What can domestic comics learn from manga without succumbing to imitation?

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David Looney said on August 28th, 2007 at 3:35 am

Holy crap man. I was just thinking about the same thing recently, except what you came up with is much smarter and more workable

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mygif

Roel, glossy pages hit the market big when Image popped onto the scene and became a noticeable contender to Marvel and DC. So the big two followed suit and never took into account that Image caters to an older audience.

Do we need the glossy paper? I don’t need it, but I wont lie and say it doesn’t make the artwork pop out. I think Marvel and DC should hold back on that stuff though and use it only on the milestone issues.

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mygif

Regarding backissue orders:

As someone in the printing industry, I can tell you that it is expensive to reprint jobs. The biggest issue has to do with the medium that is used to make impressions on the sheets. Back when we used film etching instead of plate etching, keeping the film in inventory for backorders was not ideal, since each sheet of film could be as wide as 60″ x 40″ and about 12 mm thick. Storing them is cumbersome and with the kind of variety that comic books offer a warehouse dedicated to storage would fill up in a couple of months. So when those films get thrown out, you’re pretty much out of luck for reprints.

These days we use computer-to-plate systems, which forego film completely. That makes storing much easier, since we can backup the impressions on cds or dvds. But there is still the cost for the plates, and that usually runs about $1,000.00 per set, plus labor, ink, paper, and all the other good stuff. Plates are the same size as film, but they are thicker and heavier, plus they’re easy to scratch and sensitive to light. So it’s actually more difficult to store them than film.

These high minimum costs are usually offset with large orders because the actual printing is not that expensive. But when we talk about large orders, we’re talking about 10,000 ~ 30,000 copies. I’d think it’d be difficult to get those kinds of numbers on a reprint. So unless you know you will get enough backorders to make up for the costs, it’s more cost effective simply not to offer it. Essentially when backorders for an issue is made available, somebody is betting that the issue would be popular enough to make up for the exorbitant costs involved to reprint it.

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mygif

The “you can already get pirated versions for free, so why would anyone pay for legal versions?” argument is already out there for plenty of other media, including music and movies, but I don’t think it holds water. Look at the success of Itunes. Sure, if you want to go through a lot of trouble, you can find stuff, but you have to wade through sketchy sites full of pop-up ads for porn and the potential for viruses and spyware, and then probably spend a lot of time downloading files that might or might not actually have the comics you want. And while the software is easy to use if you know what you’re doing, it’s still kind of complicated for the layperson. How much nicer is it to go straight to the DC website and legally download exactly what you want? Don’t underestimate the appeal for people that aren’t especially tech-savvy.

Actually, DC already has the first issues of most of their Vertigo titles on their website for free download. Sure, that’s only one issue, but have there been any testimonials as to how effective that has been for getting people interested?

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Aardy R. DeVarque said on August 28th, 2007 at 8:45 pm

Re: Point #3 and Girl Genius.

Everything Phil Foglio sells is incredibly overpriced, even compared to other low-print-run self-published material. His black & white Girl Genius “omnibus” collections, rather than being an inexpensive entry point for someone trying to catch up on the story (like the Essentials or Showcase collections, or any manga), typically sell for more than everyone else’s color collections. $20 for a collection of 4 22-page issues is unfortunately fairly typical for him, whereas anywhere else, it’d be priced at $9.95-$12.95. When he’s done 8-issue stories (such as Buck Godot: Gallimaufry), he often collects them in two 4-issue collections with more total markup than a single 8-issue collection would likely have. Overall, a 50% markup over whatever the typical market rates are seems typical.

I love his work, thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Kaja at cons, and used to obsessively collect everything he put out. Then he went and priced me out of the market. (And got a bad case of the perfectionist slows, but that’s a separate rant.) If everyone else were to start exactly following his business model, there would be very few people able to afford buying anything comics-related.

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mygif

Uh, Aardy, I don’t know if you’ve got your prices right on the Girl Genius Omnibus collection. He’s got the full-color collections, which I agree are pricey, but the first (and so far only) GG Omnibus is 312 pages for fifteen bucks, which is better page-value-for-money than most manga, let alone Western comics.

But, yeah, most other Foglio stuff tends to be stupidly expensive and too small to really put on a shelf.

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mygif

I know the comic series “Hero By Night” by D.J. Kaufman did what you proposed as far as issues coming out in line timed with new ones in stores, plus a bunch of exclusive web continuity stories online. I don’t know how successful it’s actually been, but it was just posted on the latest LITG that it will now be an ongoing series. (fun read, herobynight.com)

The major problem for comics is the direct market the way it’s setup currently. I wish comic books could be found in more places. Anyone remember the corner store rack?

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Aardy R. DeVarque said on August 28th, 2007 at 11:51 pm

Enh, must’ve gotten the prices mixed up with that of the regular collections ($19.95 to $21.95 for 112 to 128 p., whereas v. 1-2 of the Waid/Kitson LoSH run are $14.95 for 200 pages each).

(Re: the omnibus, I have actually flipped through it, and because of the way they did the color (and non-inking) on the originals that were in color and they way they did the transfer to b&w and shrinking the oversize comics down to the omnibus size, the results are… less than stunning, IMHO. So I can pay through the nose for color versions that are readable, or pay less for muddy pictures and very little of the little details that make Foglio’s artwork so wunnerful. Of course, it doesn’t help that GG started to bore me around issue 8 or so, so that I’ve had absolutely zero desire to bother with the webcomics or picking up the collections.)

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Aardy R. DeVarque said on August 29th, 2007 at 12:04 am

Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, something that drives me up the wall about some comics and webcomics (and books and DVDs) is the idea that collectors will happily shell out $$ for another copy of what they already have just to get a few additional all-new, all-different stories/features–especially when those stories are then referenced in future storylines. I’d like to be able to pick a delivery format and read the entire story. Particularly if I’m purchasing individual issues, I don’t want to hear that there’s an all-new backup story in the second edition of the TPB that isn’t (and won’t be) available anywhere else.

Eureka’s Graphic Classics is one example of this; their “2nd editions” of each title in the series replace anywhere up to around 2/3 of the content with new stories–why not just make it all new content and call each “volume 2″?

Knights of the Dinner Table is another example. I really wish they’d put out an “annual” for those of us collecting the individual comics that contains all of the additional story strips they add to their compiled versions, so that I can be caught up without having to pay again for three issues I’ve already paid for, and without having to switch back and forth between the printed editions and the webcomics.

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mygif

[...] have been put forth, but most of them are simply trying to fix a broken distribution system. see here and here for a good start on the current [...]

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