Monday, March 12, 2012

The Doctorow Doctrine and Other Techno-Tectonic Upheavals – Part 3

Creative Commons

Cory Doctorow opposes technology that limits what one can do with digital content and laws that criminalize people for alleged copyright infringements that he believes are harmless, or even beneficial.  I think that’s an accurate assessment. If not, I hope Cory will correct me.

In any case, don’t take my word for it. Check out his position statements for yourself. They’re entertaining reads. The guy writes like the Silver Surfer surfs. Here are the links again:



And this:

Cory’s book, CONTENT - Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future, which includes some of the material available at the links above and much more, can be found here:

CONTENT - PDF Download

CONTENT on Amazon

Though Cory is a “copyfighter,” that doesn’t mean he’s against copyright.

According to the international Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, to which the U.S. became a signatory in 1989, anything anyone creates in “fixed” form, that is, written down, recorded, whatever, is copyrighted to them from the moment of creation.

(ASIDE: In the U.S., if you choose to register your copyright with the Library of Congress, your copyright protection is enhanced. In case of litigation against an infringer, it comes in handy to have the Feds as, essentially, a witness on your side. Also, if you prevail, you are entitled to statutory damages as opposed to actual damages. Statutory damages are usually a multiple of the price you’d ordinarily get for allowing the use of your copyrighted material. Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine actual damages. Statutory damages are easily calculated and generally greater.)

So, all of Cory’s books and other works are copyrighted automatically, like everyone else’s, when “fixed.” However, all of Cory’s books have been released under Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons licenses legitimize what Cory says most people do anyway—copy and share creative works. All Creative Commons licenses allow non-commercial sharing of the work covered, and all require “attribution.” You have to say whose work you’re sharing.

Hundreds of millions of CC licenses have been provided free since Creative Commons released their first licenses in late 2002. Over 200 million photos on Flickr bear CC licenses.

Creative Commons, headquartered in Mountain View, California, has over 100 affiliates worldwide and countless advocates, none, IMHO, more outspoken or well-spoken than Cory.

Creative Commons receives enthusiastic support from its hordes of individual users….

Users…Creative Commoners? That doesn’t sound quite right. Creative Commies? Nah. Too Cold War. CC supporters? Yeah, let’s go with that….  : )

Anyway, besides individual CC supporters, the non-profit organization has some big business supporters as well. Here’s a list of such contributors from Wikipedia: 

Sustainer Level (Committed for 5 years):
The Beal Fund of Triangle Community Foundation, on behalf of Lulu.com:

Investor Level ($25,000 and up):
Best Buy
Digital Garage
Duke University
eBay
Microsoft Corporation
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Nike

There are six different types of Creative Commons licenses, plus a “No Rights Reserved” license, “CC0” as they call it, which effectively makes your work public domain. The licenses between copy-and-share-with-attribution only and CC0 allow various degrees of modification and commercial exploitation.

Wikipedia, which operates under a Creative Commons license, has a very good article about CC:


Here’s a short article Cory wrote about it:


And here’s the Creative Commons site:


As far as I know, Cory’s CC licenses have allowed copying and sharing, and on some, even the right to make modifications and use his works as the basis for derivative works—fanfic, essentially—but he doesn’t allow commercial uses of his work by others. Only he is allowed to make money from his creative works, or works derived from them.

Presumably, Cory would defend his copyrights against illegal commercial use. Therefore, I suspect that he has no problem with Disney, Sony, Apple, Microsoft, AOL Marvel, DC and other big companies defending their copyrighted intellectual properties just as he would his. Remember, due to the wonders of the Work Made for Hire provisions of the copyright law, those big companies are the “authors” of much of what they are defending, just as Cory is the author of his books. If I understand him correctly, he objects to the way some of them go about it, with Draconian DRM technologies and by pushing for harsh measures like SOPA—plus the fact that they attempt to defend against the kind of copying Cory believes to be benign and inevitable.

I wonder what Cory thinks about Work Made for Hire.

I have some ideas on the subject, outlined below.

But I digress.

Cory says that the purpose of copyright is: “…to decentralize who gets to make art. Before copyright, we had patronage: you could make art if the Pope or the king liked the sound of it. That produced some damned pretty ceilings and frescos, but it wasn't until control of art was given over to the market — by giving publishers a monopoly over the works they printed, starting with the Statute of Anne in 1710 — that we saw the explosion of creativity that investment-based art could create. Industrialists weren't great arbiters of who could and couldn't make art, but they were better than the Pope.

(…)

“The Internet is enabling a further decentralization in who gets to make art, and like each of the technological shifts in cultural production, it's good for some artists and bad for others. The important question is: will it let more people participate in cultural production? Will it further decentralize decision-making for artists?”

Well, the Internet sure has decentralized the living Hell out of comic book and comics creation. It seems like there are more comic books and comic strips, more indies, home-mades and web comics than ever. Everybody and anybody with the least bit of inclination can make comics and get them published, at least online.

Cory speaks of the same sort of decentralization in the music industry:

“Technology giveth and technology taketh away. As bands on MySpace — who can fill houses and sell hundreds of thousands of discs without a record deal, by connecting individually with fans — have shown, there's a new market aborning on the Internet for music, one with fewer gatekeepers to creativity than ever before.”

But the results have been less beneficial in the comic book business. Very few comic book publishers endeavors, from the smallest, one person ink-and-pixel operation in a garret somewhere to the Big Two, ever sell hundreds of thousands of physical copies of a given issue. Very few make money. Garret-haunters usually do it for love of comics. The Big Two seem to be in it for the movies and other media and merchandise licensing. They each have some publications above the Mendoza Line, but the profits from their relatively few winners don’t make up for total expenses—legal, accounting, all SG&A and other operating expenses—if properly allocated. Do you have any idea how much DC’s very large, fancy Midtown Manhattan office space costs? Or how many comic books have to be sold to pay Diane Nelson’s salary, plus her top-heavy staff’s salaries?

The publishing operations, on a stand-alone basis, couldn’t support themselves from their publishing revenues only.

What if the recording industry seldom made money selling the actual music, and the only profitable business they had was licensing songs for use in TV commercials? That would be sort of like where we are in the comic book biz.

“But, Jim, the publishing operations are not stand-alone,” I hear someone thinking. “You have to take everything as a whole.” No, I don’t, and besides, the point is that the publishing operations are the stubby tails and the Important Other Things comprise the very big dogs. And the publishing operations aren’t really necessary. Lots of properties that don’t have comic books are licensed.

How about the mini-majors and indies? If they’re making any money, it’s probably because the creators aren’t. Some just don’t pay very well. Some indies require that creators deliver print-production-ready files, produced at the creators’ own expense. The publishers handle the business of soliciting and publishing the comics. They take their costs and their cut off the top, then, if there is any money left, they split that with the creators. There often isn’t any left. Often, the creators lose money on the deal. But, hey, it’s a living for the publishers. And, I suppose, a shot at glory for the creators. Fair? Maybe. I don’t know. Sigh.

So…now what?


The Fate That Awaits

I want to underscore the fact that it’s me, not Cory, spewing all this doom and gloom. Cory’s take on the prospects of the comic book and comics business is quite optimistic.

Regarding the techno-tectonic upheavals changing everything, Cory says: “And for SF writers and fans, the further question is, ‘Will it be any good to our chosen medium?’ Like I said, science fiction is the only literature people care enough about to steal on the Internet. It's the only literature that regularly shows up, scanned and run through optical character recognition software and lovingly hand-edited on darknet newsgroups, Russian websites, IRC channels and elsewhere (yes, there's also a brisk trade in comics and technical books, but I'm talking about prose fiction here — though this is clearly a sign of hope for our friends in tech publishing and funnybooks).”

Cory thinks that the fact that comic books are heavily pirated is a good sign! A lot of people find our form and our content interesting enough to steal it!

Well…that makes sense, actually. If nobody is bothering to pirate westerns, romance novels, political thrillers and historical whodunits, then, in a way, it is an honor full of promise to be so…appealing.

Cory goes on: “Some writers are using the Internet's affinity for SF to great effect. I've released every one of my novels under Creative Commons licenses that encourage fans to share them freely and widely — even, in some cases, to remix them and to make new editions of them for use in the developing world.

(…)

“I've discovered what many authors have also discovered: releasing electronic texts of books drives sales of the print editions. An SF writer's biggest problem is obscurity, not piracy. Of all the people who chose not to spend their discretionary time and cash on our works today, the great bulk of them did so because they didn't know they existed, not because someone handed them a free e-book version.”

There it is again, Cory’s “dandelion’ marketing theory—spread your seeds around randomly in abundance and maybe some will take root and grow into physical copy sales. As I pointed out last post, that theory hasn’t worked well for comic book publishers, whose output has been “dandelioned” by pirates whether the pubs liked it or not.

But, then, something else Cory said in his remarks about DRM took root and grew in my mind. He was discussing the fight between Hollywood and Sony, which had introduced the first VCR in 1976. Cory’s paraphrasing of the Court’s decision in Sony’s favor handed down to the Hollywood plantiffs, hit home with me: 

“…if your business model can't survive…it's time to get another business-model or go broke.”

Well, there you have it.

Thank you, Cory. Sincerely.

We, the comic book industry, need a new business model.

I have thought about this obvious fact, perfectly clear since Cory whacked me in the face with it. And now I think I know what to do.

I have suggestions. Some of them may seem harsh. Or impossible. Or unlikely to happen. Those of you that think the following is pie in the sky, I’m with you. It’d take a miracle…but here’s what I think we have to do:

FIRST, UNDERSTAND that we, those who gather here regularly, are geeks. Put that aside. Get over yourself for a moment and think about the big picture, not you. You and I forgive many failings of the comic books we read because we are steeped in the lore and we love the characters no matter what. Read the comments following my critiques. Many people enthusiastically defend nonsensical offerings unintelligible to the average person because they can fill in the blanks, they can come up with explanations for any absurdity or contradiction—as can I—and we all worship at the altars of Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Catwoman, et al. Please, now, put that aside, as I do in my critiques, screw your objectivity to the sticking-place and think along with me.

SECOND, UNDERSTAND that this will take a sincere commitment and a great deal of money, if it is to happen soon. It could happen on its own, glacially, but it might not, and we all might wind up bereft. Some major player has to step up and realize the opportunity. Could be one of the Big Two, could be another media giant, or Paul Allen, maybe.

So…the new business model I propose:

1.  A company, existing or newly formed, must spend the money and take the time to produce absolutely superb comics entertainment. Comic books and other comics packages as good and enjoyable as the best movies, the best TV shows, the best novels. Comics that can be understood effortlessly by anyone. Clear at a glance, created by excellent, expert storytellers. Comics that welcome everyone in so skillfully that those already in don’t even notice that the “geeks only” signs are down.

That means the Capitalist Enablers, whoever they might be, must believe in the vision and commit to go the distance.

That also means that the Capitalist Enablers must hire brilliant, progressive, insightful business people as well as creative leaders who are visionary. Who are the greatest creative visionaries of our time? Spielberg? Cameron? Creative leaders who belongs in that company. Oh, by the way, no current Big Two creative honchos need apply.

The visionary creative leaders must see to it that world-class entertainment is created.

That means bringing in a lot of new, truly great talent, re-training some of the current crop and saying good-bye to many—including a lot of those who are “stars” currently. Stay objective now—they’re stars only to us geeks. They get away with self-indulgent crap because some of us tolerate it, and yes, some of us like it. They are emboldened to do so because they’re playing to people predisposed to love the stuff no matter what, just like local, amateur theater actors hamming it up in front of a house full of friends and family. Yes, a few of them have some good things to offer.

Back in my amateur theater days in Pittsburgh, there was Robert, an amazing baritone and Susan, a dance teacher who could tap dance like crazy. Good Lord, the legs on that woman! Maybe Robert had good legs, too, but he always wore pants, so who knows. Anyway, the locals loved them. So? That’s not enough for prime time on the world stage.

The big-ego, self-indulgent, prima donna “stars” in our little corner of the world are insignificant in the wide world, and many who will not cooperate, learn, develop and grow will have to go away.

If the comic book industry is going to move from our small pond to the ocean of entertainment and compete, we need world class, killer whale creators, not the minnows we’ve been feeding.

2.  Here’s a big key: COMPANY OWNED,W4H AND THEREFORE “UNIVERSE” TITLES MUST ALL BE CREATED BY EMPLOYEES ON STAFF. SHARED UNIVERSE WORK INHERENTLY MUST BE CREATED BY AN “ORCHESTRA” OF CREATORS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A “CONDUCTOR,” OR EDITOR (WHO IS A WORLD-CLASS VISIONARY).

MAKE ANYONE WHO WORKS ON YOUR UNIVERSE TITLES A WELL-PAID, SALARIED EMPLOYEE WITH BENEFITS AND PERKS WHO WORKS ON YOUR PREMISES.

And, by the way, these employees MUST BE GIVEN COMPELLING INCENTIVES TO CREATE, AND REAL PARTICIPATIONS IN THE SUCCESS OF THEIR WORKS.

Ahem. That solves the Gerber, Kirby, Friedrich-type lawsuit problem.

In my fantasy, the law would be changed to make it so for everyone.

Now, then….

Publish all non-Universe work under normal publishing industry terms. Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors. If there is more than one creator involved, i.e., a writer and an artist, let them make their deal between themselves first. Help them. Provide legal support.

Moving right along…. 

3.  The comics products—comic books, graphic novels, whatever—must be available online and physically simultaneously. Online, the products should be offered at very low price points. And, Cory, you’ve convinced me. Dandelioning should be policy, or at least tolerated. Offer a license to every “pirate” for a dollar or something.

The price points of the physical products almost don’t matter (within reason) as long as the physical products are well worth the price and competitive with other great entertainment in terms of value for money.

The physical comics products should be enhanced, if possible, with features not easily pirated online. I’m out of my depth here…maybe one of you smarter guys out there could throw me a rope. All I can think of are 3-D spiffs, cards, coupons and event passes/invitations. With holograms or whatever can’t be stolen online.

Similarly, the experience of obtaining the very low price-point digital versions from the company site should be enhanced. Make it so much easier and more rewarding to buy the digital version than to settle for a dandelioned copy that most people will spring for it.

4.  Fight hard against physical copy piracy.

5.  No more Direct Market as we know it. No more Diamond Comic Distributors. At least in its current incarnation. Distribution without Diamond is easily doable these days. Publish terms and catalogues online. Ship to whoever meets the trade terms. The Diamond/Direct Market 62.5% discount is a cost-plus anachronism. It has to go. Sorry, Steve Geppi, my friend. To quote a lyric from Bells Are Ringing, “…no matter how you pretend, you knew it would end this way.” Told you I was in amateur theater. 

6.  Stop supporting the brick and mortar comic book shops (but support them in a new way more and better than ever).

I have been to many, many comic book shops in the last few years. Not one, to my knowledge relied on sales of new comics as their main source of revenue. Every one sold toys, games, collectibles…you know. The neighborhood comic book shop I frequent, FUNNY BUSINESS in Nyack—a great store—doesn’t carry new comics at all!  They sell old comics, LEGOS, toys, vintage toys, collectibles of various sorts—I bought a Lost in Space lunchbox and a CD set of Superman radio shows there recently.

I say open the business up. Make comics so good and so easily available on terms attractive to any retailer that they’re everywhere, as they used to be. Perhaps give specialists, like comic book shops a small extra discount for limited returns and a slightly larger one for firm sale. Sorry, comics shops. But not really. All our business models must change.

7.  Last major point, and perhaps most important: Relationship Marketing. I have always said that the comic book business had more in common with the single malt scotch business than the magazine business. Scotch drinkers tend to become loyal to their favorites, unlike wine drinkers who tend to play the field. Single malt scotches win devotees. It’s like being in a club. Like it was in the 1960’s with Marvel Comics.

Heed the wise words of Cory Doctorow:

“But what kind of artist thrives on the Internet? Those who can establish a personal relationship with their readers — something science fiction has been doing for as long as pros have been hanging out in the con suite instead of the green room. These conversational artists come from all fields, and they combine the best aspects of charisma and virtuosity with charm — the ability to conduct their online selves as part of a friendly salon that establishes a non-substitutable relationship with their audiences. You might find a film, a game, and a book to be equally useful diversions on a slow afternoon, but if the novel's author is a pal of yours, that's the one you'll pick. It's a competitive advantage that can't be beat.

“See Neil Gaiman's blog, where he manages the trick of carrying on a conversation with millions. Or Charlie Stross's Usenet posts. Scalzi's blogs. J. Michael Straczynski's presence on Usenet — while in production on Babylon 5, no less — breeding an army of rabid fans ready to fax-bomb recalcitrant TV execs into submission and syndication. See also the MySpace bands selling a million units of their CDs by adding each buyer to their "friends lists." Watch Eric Flint manage the Baen Bar, and Warren Ellis's good-natured growling on his sites, lists, and so forth.
“Not all artists have in them to conduct an online salon with their audiences. Not all Vaudevillians had it in them to transition to radio. Technology giveth and technology taketh away. SF writers are supposed to be soaked in the future, ready to come to grips with it. The future is conversational: when there's more good stuff that you know about that's one click away or closer than you will ever click on, it's not enough to know that some book is good. The least substitutable good in the Internet era is the personal relationship.
“Conversation, not content, is king. If you were stranded on a desert island and you opted to bring your records instead of your friends, we'd call you a sociopath. Science fiction writers who can insert themselves into their readers' conversations will be set for life.”

Amen.

We must rebuild and deepen our relationship with the audience. Not so hard. We have met the audience and they is us.

That’s one area, by the way, where we can support comic shops in a new way. Comic shops are the front line soldiers in our Relationship Marketing campaign. We can work with them, encourage people to come to them, include them in our promotions.  Comic shop owners and employees are our ambassadors by default. Let’s help them be great ones.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

We need a revolution in distribution, whether you agree with my ideas above or not.

Technology may come to our rescue or at least assistance in terms of distribution and especially in the labor-intensive, time consuming art creation process. Hurry the %$#@ up, technology!

Technology may offer us appealing collaborative features. Comic books have always been the most collaborative mass medium. See Spielberg in a restaurant, walk over to his table to offer a few comments about his latest and his bodyguards will escort you upside down to the curb.

Pretty much every comic book creator is accessible, reachable. Even the ones who “hate” fans, are fans. Howard Chaykin, who has, in my presence, disdained fans and wouldn’t talk to them would talk all day with Walt Simonson, a fan, about comics, because Howard is a fan no matter what he claims. And, from Walt, me and others, Howard got the fan skinny.

What if there were Elseworlds and What If…? type publications that we all made together?

All right, all right. Enough. It’s late.You get the drift.

Thank you, Cory. If by some miracle the comic book publishing world gains enlightenment any time soon, they owe a debt to you (in spite of my meanderings).

Here are the usual Cory links:

Cory Doctorow's Web Site - Craphound

BoingBoing - A Blog Cory Doctorow co-edits



Good night.



NEXT:  Evolution: John Byrne Then, Then and Now

109 comments:

r. j. paré said...

Brilliant! An insightful look at the problems with the current state-of-affairs in our art-form. This metamorphosis has been struggling to come to fruition for a few years now... "glacial" is an apt description.

Here's the thing, while many believe such changes are necessary, very few of us have the knowledge and experience, on the business side of things, to spear-head such a movement.

Now if only we, comic fans and creators alike, knew someone with the requisite business/publishing credentials [like having been EIC of say a major publisher like Marvel and a popular indie like Valiant] who was also a veteran creator in their own right...

... That's the sort of person who could lead a new media/new model publishing venture.

Shawn James said...

I've been saying the comic book industry needs a new business model for years.

Only to be shouted down by die-hard comic fans who don't understand that the current business model does not enable comic books to compete against other cheaper forms of media such as MP3s, TV shows and eBooks.

I really believe the industry can turn itself around. But there are no silver bullets. It's going to take time commitment and teamwork to get comics back in the hands of new younger readers and make content fun and accessible.

Personally I believe the industry really needs to focus on younger tween and teen readers.There's been a baby boom going on since 2000 and the comic book industry hasn't focused on capitalizing on it. Close to twenty million potential new readers and most don't know what a comic book is due to the comic book industry becoming a closed society.

It also needs to do away with Diamond. Diamond's distribution is obsolete and doesn't make comics visible in venues younger readers go to. Comics

I wrote a proposal on my blog with my own plan to rebuild the comic book industry: http://shawnsjames.blogspot.com/2011/06/shawns-plan-for-rebuilding-comic-book.html A lot of it is similar to what you propose.

If there's anyone who could lead a turnaround of the industry I believe Jim Shooter could do it. I wish you were EIC at one of the big two because they need a new approach to business.

cesare said...

if only......

Jim, can't you go over the big 2 heads and talk to the parent companies?

Perhaps selfishly, but I want there to be a comics industry in North America, because that's how I'd like to make a living.

Will Collier said...

Great post, Jim. Hopefully it'll be read by an ambitious venture capital-type with a few dusty long boxes in his closet.

I'm guessing you'll have something to say about Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) sometime soon. I was just wishing today that I could read Archie Goodwin reminiscing about working with him on the Moebius Epic reprint series in the '80s. I'd like to think that Archie and Giraud had a great reunion in the past day or so.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing, Mr. Shooter, is that what you say seems so obvious. How is it that the industry is not run along the lines you suggest?
I find it very sad, now my daughter is the same age I was when I started collecting comics, that all we find in out local grocery store or Mac's Milk (a Canadian chain similar to 7-11) is Archie. She loves Archie comics, but wil never feel the same way I did going into the store every day after school looking for new issues so that I could see how last month's story would be resolved. Comic shops just do not promote the thrill of the chase.
Of course, the dreck that is available she would probably not want to read even if it were there in the stores.

Jim Baird said...

I think you are mostly right, Jim, with one exception. I don't think what you propose can be led by a large investor. Crossgen tried something very similar to what you propose. I don't understand all of the issues that caused Crossgen's collapse, but maybe it was just too soon. I just don't think there is enough money available to buy enough interest to ever make something like that profitable.

I think that what you are saying can work with a small enthusiastic group working together at first. It has to build readership, then add creators. The audience needs to grow organically, based on actual story interest. Expansion needs to match demand to avoid the financial pressures of expanding too slowly or too quickly and I think that will only happen if there is a very non-human low capital investment. The creators have to have direct, but group ownership. It has to be a labor of love. The principals have to believe in eventual success and devoted enough to give success a reasonable chance, but it cannot realistically be their only source of income. Web publishing is probably the way to go. I don't believe there are currently any web-based shared universes. A group can publish far more regularly than a single creator or creator team and that makes a print version of a shared universe anthology possible very quickly. After you have a product ready to sell, pre-order may be able to finance the initial print run.

For more ideas, see my forthcoming book, "Genius!: All the ways I single-handedly saved the comic book industry" (2025).

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

I haven't commented lately about Doctorow because I've been reading Content so I have a better understanding of where he's coming from. Thanks for linking to it.

When I learned that the manga I had translated for Dark Horse was being pirated, I had mixed feelings because, as you put it, "it is an honor full of promise to be so…appealing." Needless to say, I felt much better about seeing my work on shelves in stores like Borders outside the narrow confines of fanland.

Last Friday, a Hong Kong comics company launched a comic about street racing. Despite the success of The Fast and the Furious (five movies so far), such a comic would never succeed in the superhero temples that the Direct Market has become. But it might have a chance with civilians.

Civilians are the last hope of us geeks. We can either keep talking -- and complaining -- to each other or we can reach out -- and maybe flourish. Maybe. There are always risks. Stan Lee didn't know for certain in 1962 that Marvel would become what it is today, fifty years later. He was the man, but he didn't even have a plan.

You have a plan. And you presented it here! When I read, "And now I think I know what to do," I thought, "Ah, he's saving it for part four!" I'm glad I was wrong.

Points 1 and 2 sound like VALIANT/DEFIANT/Broadway. So far, so good.

The other points bring the V/D/B model into the 90s.

I've heard point 3 so often that I take it as a given.

Point 4 makes me wonder: is there much of a market for pirated American comics anymore? The manga industry has suffered from a lot of hard copy piracy elsewhere in Asia, though legitimate licensed translations might have reduced the problem.

Points 5 and 6 are shocking. I've never seen these suggestions anywhere. That doesn't mean they're wrong; I think they're right, but I'm not a dealer (though I briefly considered becoming one). So I'd like to see dealers' thoughts. What would Chuck Rozanski say?

The Internet is all about point 7. Building relationships online. I never developed any relationship with comic dealers over the last thirty-odd years. But I've been talking directly to creators for over a decade now. I want to see the conversation expand. When I link to you, I want my non-fan friends to see your writing and realize, hey, this comics guy is OK. Geeks aren't as out as they used to be. The Big Bang Theory is in. The time is right. You have the vision. I await the product.

What if there were Elseworlds and What If…? type publications that we all made together?

You just named my two favorite DC and Marvel series! I am sold!

PS: The biggest revelation in this piece was that you were in amateur theater. Was this during the Pittsburgh period between your first two runs on the Legion?

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim Baird,

Are you accepting preorders for your book thirteen years in advance? :) If only I hadn't misplaced my Legion time sphere ...

r. j. paré said...

Should you pursue the creation of a new publishing venture, exploring the new business models this medium requires, I would like to state, for the record, it would be an honour to have the opportunity to work for/with you.

Thank you very much for your time,

r. j. paré
writer, editor, lifelong fanboy

Anonymous said...

The cheap digital copy method should be easy and useful like Valve's Steam. That didn't kill business either.

KiD

JT Kirk said...

What is "superb comics entertainment" defined as in this case? Is it high-brow comics, is it comics that sell to the kiddies in record numbers, is it full of dark action and brooding drama? What market will define "superb comics entertainment"? I get that they can be understood by anyone, but who will judge what makes them great? My grandfather grew up idolizing Captain Marvel because Billy Batson was his own age, it didn't make those Shazaming comics superb, just excellent at pandering to an easy target audience. But that audience is a constantly rotating group so what entertains them at 8 years old won't entertain them at 12, and what entertains 12-year-olds won't entertain 15-year-olds the same way. The best thing about the adult comic readers is that their tastes change less often, they become set in the thing they like until they simply give up their passion and ablate themselves from the market; the worst thing about adult comic readers is that their tastes become overly rigid and they violently abhor change.

My mom got me into comics reading when I was very young, she was reading New Teen Titans and Archie and Batman and indie comics and thus so was I. Then the comics market bust of the '80s somehow ended up creating even worse speculation, higher cover prices, shinier paper stock, more ads-to-less content books, and the only books I ended up reading continuously after that were Archie digests -- those little ones with a million stories from all different eras printed on pulp and sell for a couple bucks. I stuck with Archies until the late '90s because they were cheap, they were consistent, they were funny, and THEY WERE CHEAP. If content is king, and it should be, then delivering a lot of content for a low price is emperor. So my thinking is that the industry needs to offer kid-priced comics at the same time as collector-quality comics, a book that a kid COULD get into should be priced so that they CAN get into it, but pulp isn't terribly collectible so a lower run on shiny, heavy-stock could be offered at the same time (or even a month in advance of the pulp book).

Also, when I was a kid my mom would buy Superman and Batman archives, you'd get a full-sized book or even TPB with stories from all over the runs of the character, they weren't the best of the best, but they were good stories resold together usually due to common theme or contrast. I think kids and casual consumers alike would get into comics more if those sorts of digests were more common again, if they could pick up a book with 3 or 4 stories that were good without being an epic wallet-busting event. Collectors want to go to the comic store every week, casual consumers do not.

My local comic shop, Comics Ink in Culver City, CA, sells no collectibles or doodads of any kind, no cards, no nuthin', just comics. They've been around a while too because the next nearest comic shop I know of is 5 miles away in Santa Monica and is the polar opposite (not that Hi De Ho is bad, they were my dad's go-to comic shop when I was a kid and are great for indies), they definitely are an oddity though.

Hey, wow, I was one of JMS's B5 faithful! You're right, having a personal connection always helps. I've never found comics-creators to be impersonal though, whether at cons or at shops or even down the street -- my mom (yeah, sorry, I know it's a bit much) met Marv Wolfman at the post office a few years ago while in line, he was mailing off some work and showed her the art he was sending. Maybe it's because I'm in LA, so far from NY, but comics types have never seemed like prima donnas here. Getting to know them a little BETTER couldn't hurt though.

Anyway, great post. At first I was like "yet another on Doctrow???" but it got to the point and made a really good one. I think the ultimate take-away from today's blog post is that JIM SHOOTER WAS IN AMATEUR THEATER! :-D

DJ said...

Dear Jim,

Walt Simonson is the King of accessibilty. I've never been to America.

David J.

DJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ole M. Olsen said...

Jim,

I think I agree with every single point of your suggested business model (or, as I'm sure some would call it, "unlikely miracle"). I'm just a lowly comic book reader (and lover of the art of comics), but I've had thoughts along some of those lines myself - probably simply because a lot of them seem so obvious to anyone with half a brain cell.

I must admit that the thought of those "Capitalist Enablers" does make me a bit nervous, though, remembering the past. But here's to hope!

By the way, it has been very interesting to learn more about Doctorow's opinions and ideas. I agree with most of his opinions and principles. I'm a little less sure that all of his predictions have or will come true. Of course, predicting the future is the most difficult of any type of predictions. :-)

Defiant1 said...

Not much to say in response. I've agreed with things Cory said since first seeing him in the video posted months ago on your blog. It's important to realize that the internet opens the door for everyone to publish and dispense their thoughts. This takes away the power and control that major content providers (publishers, record labels etc...) had. It devalues those works that were protected by a controlled distribution system. The major TV networks ABC, CBS, and NBC once shaped our culture. Now they can be ignored by viewers and the consumer can find entertainment elsewhere. The dandelion marketing scheme is simply a way to reach and affect your audience. The more people you affect, the more relevant your product.

Mark Luebker said...

Glad to see Eric Flint mentioned in there. The 1632-verse is a great example of something originated by "the company" that has expanded FAR beyond the company store.

Jim, you've got the chops to put this together--who do we need to be pestering to step up and give you room to work?

Jerry Bonner said...

I second, third (and fourth) what R.J. Pare' wrote/said in regard to creating a new publishing venture.


Now...who's got several million dollars lying about?

Jerry Bonner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaylat said...

I love your posts, Jim, and appreciate your thoughtfulness and experience. You have some great ideas and others that I think are off the mark. (FYI I publish digital comics and deal with pirates on a regular basis, so I have some skin in the game here.)

I actually think you haven’t gone far enough. Just get rid of print comics entirely – go full digital, all the time. Digital comics look great on tablets, better than print ever looked. Make them DRM free, let people own the files directly (no relying on the cloud), and stop adding those stupid bells and whistles, like disappearing captions or hopping from panel to panel. I don't want somebody turning the pages for me as I read.

Go after the digital pirates with guns blazing. Who, in this day and age, pirates “physical copies”? It’s idiotic that I have to send several takedown notices each week to the same sites for the same guys pirating my work.

And why do the creators have to be in the same building? I made my latest comic with a guy in Hawaii, a letterer in Pennsylvania and a colorist in China. It's silly to have them under the same roof – they don't even speak the same language.

Totally agree with the overriding point – comics have to be good.

Anonymous said...

r.j. pare',

Your shameless assessing is embarassing. Wipe the shit off your nose. Damn.

blacjack said...

I don't know, I had Howard Chaykin for a signing in the 90's (when Power & Glory came out) and he seemed to enjoy talking to the fans and employees. He did plug up our toilet which cost us a few hundred dollars to fix. :P But other then that everything was good.

Anonymous said...

I buy my comics at a small comic store, Comic Factory, in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. The owner, Jarett, is a family man. He notifies those of us on his email list with any changes to his store hours and delivery times so our time isn't wasted. I think he does his best to find books and other items I want. He's knowledgeable, no pressure and he asks me if I'm interested in buying new product that is related to books and items I'm buying or have bought in the past. I go to him before I go to bigger stores and the internet. I take my family there to hopefully give them a feeling of what I felt like as a kid when my Dad drove me downtown for comics.

I buy my books et al there because of Jarett. He is, imo, the perfect example of excellent Relationship Marketing.

cesare said...

And, I go to my shop (1,000,000 Miliion Comics in Montreal) because I like to talk about the books, good, bad, or ugly, with other aficionados. All digital would mean, for me anyway, that I would have no one to talk to about the stuff. I would miss that. We undervalue face to face interactions, and its not ALL about whether the Thing could take out the Hulk or whatever.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

RE: "The biggest revelation in this piece was that you were in amateur theater. Was this during the Pittsburgh period between your first two runs on the Legion?"

I participated in four or five amateur theater productions in the early 1970's, between LSH stints.

jimshooter said...

Dear JT,

RE: "What is "superb comics entertainment" defined as in this case? Is it high-brow comics, is it comics that sell to the kiddies in record numbers, is it full of dark action and brooding drama?"

Yes. All of the above and everything else you can name.

Ole M. Olsen said...

Jaylat said:

"I actually think you haven’t gone far enough. Just get rid of print comics entirely – go full digital, all the time."

I disagree.

I'm pretty sure that most of the "general public" (i.e. the remaining comics reading general public) will mainly be consuming comics digitally, particularly as tablets become even more common. They're already buying (or renting (aka streaming)) music digitally rather than buying CDs, and even the movie and book market is increasingly going digital. There's really no reason why comics won't be going in the same direction.

However, just like "real" music lovers are increasingly moving back to vinyl and the vinyl market is growing again, I'm absolutely sure that there will be considerable market for printed comics among the "real" comics lovers who prefers reading on paper.

Maybe the monthly pamphlets will disappear, that people will be reading "episodes" digitally and that what will be left on paper is collected editions - trades and/or hardcovers? That's possible - just like physical music singles are all but gone (except a few 7" vinyl singles) but the LP is not. I could live with that. But I know that I for one would be sad if I couldn't read my comics on paper.

"Make them DRM free, let people own the files directly (no relying on the cloud) (...)"

I agree.

"(...) and stop adding those stupid bells and whistles, like disappearing captions or hopping from panel to panel. I don't want somebody turning the pages for me as I read."

I personally agree, but I'm sure some people like it. Those features are optional now, and I guess it could continue to be.

"Go after the digital pirates with guns blazing."

I disagree vehemently!

Not only is it like fighting the wind, but I also strongly believe it's counter-productive. Rather, I agree with Jim (and Doctorow) - get the "pirates" on your side instead!

diogensclub said...

Jim, I have to disagree with you on at least one point : Universe titles.

Universe titles are not the way to go.

You can’t enter the markter trying to create a new universe. It’s been tried, again and again … with poor results.

Marvel and DC universes were not created as universes but as independent series …

The future lies with independant series and, eventually, for the most successfulls, one spin-off … Imaginary Universes are an exception, proceeding only from the trop of the crop..

The way to go, IMHO, is to create independent series.

One thing you don’t adress here is the format and periodicity.

Should we keep floppies or should we do OGNs (one-shots, limited series, ongoing), published one or twice a year, beautiful books to bestow on people as birthday of Christmas gifts.

You may want to have a look at the french market when thinking about the future.

In that market, we had it all : independent series with top notch talent.

Now, overproduction begins to become a problem, with spin-offs, low quality books, series with different artists to keep an accelarated schedule, …

Mycroft said...

Jim, I have to disagree with you on at least one point : Universe titles.

Universe titles are not the way to go.

You can’t enter the markter trying to create a new universe. It’s been tried, again and again … with poor results.

Marvel and DC universes were not created as universes but as independent series …

The future lies with independant series and, eventually, for the most successfulls, one spin-off … Imaginary Universes are an exception, proceeding only from the trop of the crop..

The way to go, IMHO, is to create independent series.

One thing you don’t adress here is the format and periodicity.

Should we keep floppies or should we do OGNs (one-shots, limited series, ongoing), published one or twice a year …

You may want to have a look at the french market when thinking about the future.

In that market, we had it all : independent series with top notch talent.

Now, overproduction begins to become a problem, with spin-offs, low quality books, series with different artists to keep an accelarated schedule, …

Jaylat said...

@Ole M. Olsen: My business model is to go after pirates - I'm not saying everyone has to do it. Different strategies work for different markets.

Pirates aren't "on my side" - ever. I already know my market and reach it very well. I don't need these guys to "market" my work by giving it away. I get that some people DO want to distribute their work in any way possible and welcome pirates. That's fine for them but not for me.

Again, you may have a different take and welcome pirates. But that doesn't mean everyone has to. There is no single strategy that works for everyone.

Craig Hansen said...

Jim,

Some interesting propositions.

The one that I think is least tenable, however, is the centralized office where all "common universe titles" are created.

To succeed in the coming digital era of comics, cutting unweildy overhead will be a primary concern. If a company had to house offices not only for administrative and editorial staff, but creative types as well, the offices such as Marvel and DC currently own or rent would need to be... much larger.

Also, such a requirement would almost necessitate that some of the "best, world-class" creators you talk about would be unavailable to those "common universe" titles.

Like it or not, the trend in business in general, and in creative fields especially, has been a shift toward home offices, and work-from-home environments.

Can you imagine telling Stephen King, for example, "Hey, we'd love you to do a 12-issue run on MAN-THING or GHOST RIDER, but it's an in-house title. Do you mind moving from Bangor to New York? Otherwise, pitch us something else."

I could cite some other examples, but I think you get my drift, even if you disagree. :)

I understand the thrust of the idea; writers and artists are more accountable for their productivity in-person. Problems that can take days to resolve via email can take minutes to resolve by talking over to a desk where Writer A and Artist B are stationed.

And if one is happy employing only those artists and writers willing to move to and work in New York, then terrific. But how successful one would be calling that a "world-class" collection of talent is... something I wonder about.

There was an era where that would have been true. The Marvel Bullpen of the 1960s through the 1980s was close to that.

But then think about it, considering what you've written yourself about those days.

How many people outside of comics would agree that Roger S! Stern was a "world-class" writer who deserved attention comparable to J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, James Patterson and William Goldman?

How many people outside of comics would acknowledge that the art of Sal Buscema should be displayed next to that of, oh, I don't know... anyone listed here: http://www.illustrationweb.com/artists

Sal's a comic book name, no doubt. But his work was not comparable even to someone from the Bullpen of his era, like Bill Sienkiewicz or Frank Miller, talents you had a hand in coaching to their success.

(And even Frank has struggled for years to gain a level of respect in Hollywood remotely close to what he enjoyed in the Bullpen.)

I don't know, I don't mean to diminish the careers of Stern and Sal B. in particular. But it just seems that your vision of huge offices (and thus huge overhead) might not gel with current trends in business and work environments.

Or the preferred working style of the truly "world-class" content creators.

Can anyone imagine telling J.J. Abrams, "Hey, we'd love to have you write an X-Men arc... but you need to be in the Marvel Bullpen in New York 9-5, five days a week, and forget about FRINGE, PERSON OF INTEREST, ALCATRAZ and all that Hollywood stuff, if you're gonna work on X-MEN."

And without folks like that, working on the "common universe" titles, the "world class" banner might not take hold.

Because if those folks have to do FRINGE: THE COMIC BOOK to stay on top of their Hollywood career or novel-writing work, and therefore never work on X-Men or Spider-Man, those titles will lose a lot of sheen.

And then the question would be: would FRINGE: THE COMIC BOOK sell well enough to make up for the fact that SPIDER-MAN features B-List creators willing to work in Marvel offices five days a week?

Tough questions.

Michael said...

Science fiction is the only literature people care about enough to steal on the Internet? Sorry, Cory, but I suspect the truth is more that that science fiction is the only literature people who steal things on the Internet care about.

Shawn James said...

Always wanted to write comics. I Wouldn't mind doing 9-5 in a bullpen, but I work best creatively independently. Inspiration comes from everything from a TV commercial to a YouTube video for me.

My Ideal comic writing job would be to come in once a week, meet up with the editor, artist talk over the outline, then write up the script submit the first draft and work from there. I'd always be in contact via e-mail and would submit revisions that way.

Most freelancers like to keep their schedules open these days.

DJ said...

Jim,

Here's a good example of active participation with your fanbase.
http://www.ineffableaether.com/2012/01/27/tell-me-who-are-you/

It's a nice strip too.

David J.

Bobby P. said...

@ Defiant1
"This takes away the power and control that major content providers... The major TV networks ABC, CBS, and NBC once shaped our culture. Now they can be ignored by viewers and the consumer can find entertainment elsewhere."

You just summed up why I HATED the old communication systems. Back then it was much easier to brainwash the audience with propaganda. They also had the power to make or break who would become popular.

The old dinosaur media hates the fact that they no longer have the control they once had. And that the general populace doesn't even trust them anymore.

Alternative media has grown exponentially thanks to the Internet.

And everyday people with a PC can now have their own online radio show, video channel, produce online comic strips and more.

No longer is a middleman needed for someone to gain an audience.

I welcome the changes in communication the Internet has brought, and it's just a shame it didn't happen sooner.

Chris Hlady said...

"We, the comic book industry, need a new business model," wrote Jim.

A friend of mine, or Groucho Marx, might reply: "we need more models."

And here, I am reminded that I received an "F" in my Art Theory and Criticism class, for not taking it more seriously. Is it any wonder I'm so easily dismissed?

Jim also mentioned, new distribution and new technology. We definitely needed more distribution models, when the internet got popularized. Now the internet is ubiquitous, except where it's not. The internet definitely works on one level, although it's erroneous to speak about it as a single entity. Within the internet, it's useful to discern effective distribution models from ineffective, and we find it's not so easy to be effective.

Is new technology the answer? Well, the prize will go to those who can exploit the new technology. Will new technology be developed for outmoded ideas? Not sure. I'm betting on John Carter's marketing success, this summer, but someone else has bet against it. We'll see.

As a 48-year old fanboy-of-sorts, I have yet to see technology make a movie better. Always, it is human-cleverness, allowed to flourish.

Final point: Jim said, "We must rebuild and deepen our relationship with the audience." Took an on-line test recently, and found my interpersonal skills lacking. Is that unusual for comic book fans? Somehow, I don't think so. Comic fans are an introverted lot. Despite the success of the Big Bang Theory, though their journey is richer, their numbers are fewer. Relationship? MIght be barking up the wrong tree.

Hagop said...

Agree 1000%, Jim. Best post ever.

It's what I (and others) have been saying for a long time, but you're the first person (or at least the most notable) *in* the industry that I've seen 'get' it.

The status quo is simply unsustainable. Even Marvel and DC's licensing revenue will dry up eventually--they can only make so many profitable Batman movies, after all.

No if we can just get Paul Allen to pony-up...

bchat said...

In my opinion, dealing with the pirates is pretty simple: Beat 'em to the punch.

I've seen at least one professional comic creator go on at length at how pirates were killing sales of their books ... BEFORE the creator even had a solid presence on the web. The creator then created a site where they allowed readers to read their story, one page at a time, all for free & with easy access (no signing-in to read anything). The creator then used their site to promote the heck out of their various trades, and soon they were talking about how their sales were increasing.

Bottom line is that people like getting stuff for free, and pirates are going to take advantage of that mindset to continue giving people what they want if the comic book readers can't get it elsewhere. Take "free comics" away from the pirates and they're dead in the water. Give people what they want and they'll come to you, and then while you have their attention (along with the tiny amount of advertising money you get from the readers just showing-up to your site), show them all the print editions, coffee mugs, t-shirts & all the other merchandise you have for sale that they can buy from you.

ironkodiak said...

Want to get kids back into reading comics? I've been thinking about this for quite while now. I think the Code (Comics Code Authority) needs to be reinstated. The big 2 need to get back to making books for kids.

I have a 9 year old boy. He loves comics. Problem is: there is almost nothing for him to read out there. He likes funny books like Simpsons and Archie, but he craves action.

Seemingly every book aimed at kids is aimed at 6 year-olds or younger. I love Art Balthazar (I have a con sketch from him from 1995), but Tiny Titans doesn't hold up for kids ages 9-13. My son wants to read the main titles, not some kiddie spin-off.

"T for teen" from Marvel or DC means the book falls somewhere between an mildly appropriate and a containing numerous references to sex and nudity. I shouldn't have to preread every comic for my son. If some parent picks up a random book for their kid and saw much of the stuff I see weekly in the "New 52" books alone, they would agree with Fredric Wertham (Seduction of the Innocent in case you didn't know) about comics being the beginning of the fall of man.

I don't want to hear arguments from creators about feeling restricted. Clone Wars, Young Justice, Ben 10, and most of Cartoon Networks Friday night lineup would all fit within the Code and are really fun for both of us to watch together. Sure you man not be able to cut off the Heroes limbs or organs every issue for shock and awe, but what you will get is a lot more readers.

Understand that I'm not religious nut, or an ultra conservative, I just have precocious 9 year old (started reading Harry Potter series in 1st grade) that if he took the issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws that Mr. Shooter reviewed to his 3rd grade class, I would get a call from the Principal.

Luckily for my son, I have recently decided to buy up Marvel Masterworks so he has something to read. He couldn't put down the first FF Masterworks book.

My plan would be for the Big 2 to have a stable of 20 or so their core books (new titles like Spider-man Action Adventures or X-Men Jr won't work) that have the new code symbol on it letting parents know these books are acceptable for all ages. If not place a big symbol onthem of their rating. The little "T" or "A" near the barcode is a copout, parent's won't see that.

And of course, making them good reads never hurts too...:-)

Craig Hansen said...

Jim,

I've also had some time to think about this statement of yours:

"Publish all non-Universe work under normal publishing industry terms. Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors."

Hmmm.

Let's see.

I think modern Marvel (and even DC) kind of do this already.

e.g., "Superstar" creators like Brian Michael Bendis can do whatever they want, get the majority of the promotional efforts of the company, etc.

And newbies, if they are even let in the door at all anymore, as shuffled off to titles on the verge of dying, backup features, etc.

So... how would your proposal be different than the current "Marvel only hires Axel Alonso's Hollywood friends and insiders" dynamic... at all?

jimshooter said...

Dear diogensclub,

RE: "Jim, I have to disagree with you on at least one point : Universe titles.

Universe titles are not the way to go.

You can’t enter the market trying to create a new universe. It’s been tried, again and again … with poor results."

You misunderstand me, though I see why. Poor wording. I have since clarified the point a little. What I was referring to by "universe titles" were work-made-for-hire/company owned titles. It doesn't matter whether they're in a universe or not, and I don't necessarily recommend launching a universe as part of a new business model company. But, what if Marvel or DC took my advice? They already have universes, and I assume they'd want to keep at least part of them. The real issue I was talking about, again, is W4H.

jimshooter said...

Dear Craig,

RE: "The one that I think is least tenable, however, is the centralized office where all "common universe titles" are created.

To succeed in the coming digital era of comics, cutting unwieldy overhead will be a primary concern. If a company had to house offices not only for administrative and editorial staff, but creative types as well, the offices such as Marvel and DC currently own or rent would need to be... much larger."

The creative people need not be in New York office space. Cheap space is available not far away. Also, there might be several "bullpen" locations -- in the L.A., Chicago, Seattle areas, wherever. Part of my point, albeit laid between the lines, is that it should be expensive for the companies to have W4H done. The companies, in my view, have it both ways now. They use freelance talent, to whom they give few benefits, but they own everything just as if they were providing the benefits of full employment. Make them provide all materials, all necessities including footing the electric bill and other housekeeping expenses, make them provide benefits consistent with management types and then, fine, it's W4H, no problem. Incentives for successful work would be good, too.


RE: "Also, such a requirement would almost necessitate that some of the "best, world-class" creators you talk about would be unavailable to those "common universe" titles.

Like it or not, the trend in business in general, and in creative fields especially, has been a shift toward home offices, and work-from-home environments.

Can you imagine telling Stephen King, for example, "Hey, we'd love you to do a 12-issue run on MAN-THING or GHOST RIDER, but it's an in-house title. Do you mind moving from Bangor to New York?Otherwise, pitch us something else."

The best, world-class creators are already unavailable for W4H work. I don't care what the trend is, making W4H on staff, on premises only draws a distinct line. Stephen King or anyone of that stature and position would refuse to move, yes. Exactly. That's the point. He'd also refuse to do W4H for a Ghost Rider series. However, he could write such a series in the comfort of his own office under non-W4H terms, if Marvel would be inclined to give him an independent contractor deal worth his while.


RE: " How many people outside of comics would agree that Roger S! Stern was a "world-class" writer who deserved attention comparable to J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, James Patterson and William Goldman?

Who said anything about Roger Stern? He might not make the cut. I might not either. Sal Buscema wouldn't make it for sure, not even when he was in his prime. Most comic book "names" wouldn't make the cut. Some, because they couldn't do what was required, some because their egos wouldn't let them.



RE: "...it just seems that your vision of huge offices (and thus huge overhead) might not gel with current trends in business and work environments.

Or the preferred working style of the truly "world-class" content creators."

You said huge offices and huge overhead, I didn't. The cost of W4H should be high, and the benefits and security would have to be good enough so that it was a legitimate alternative to doing your own thing. All I'm saying is that if a company wants to be the "author" of your work, that is, treat you like an employee for purposes of ownership, they ought to treat you like an employee period. Being on company premises deals with the issues of the artist having to provide any resources and working independently, both of which muddy W4H. Ideally, the requirement I propose would lead to LESS W4H. and what there is of it being created by people who have reallyreally good jobs -- good enough to choose the security of such over the risks and struggles of independent creative work.

Continued...

jimshooter said...

RE: "Can anyone imagine telling J.J. Abrams, "Hey, we'd love to have you write an X-Men arc... but you need to be in the Marvel Bullpen in New York 9-5, five days a week, and forget about FRINGE, PERSON OF INTEREST, ALCATRAZ and all that Hollywood stuff, if you're gonna work on X-MEN."

And without folks like that, working on the "common universe" titles, the "world class" banner might not take hold."

J.J Abrams may have better things to do. However, if the companies pay enough, some amazingly talented people can be attracted. Disney never seemed to have trouble finding good people to work on their premises. Other creative organizations have done so too. Can be done. So many creators would give their non-drawing arm for an opportunity like that, and perhaps the chance to become known and become a J.J. Abrams someday. Miller did it.

There are many, many people now doing W4H in their own homes or offices, on crummy terms. There are zillions more who would love to step into their shoes! The streets of L.A. and New York are awash with wannabes. Some of them are oughta-be's and some of them are will-be's. No reason we couldn't put together a brilliant staff.

RE: " Tough questions."

Nah. Not at all.

Anonymous said...

The question I've always wondered about with regards to publishing and office space: Why New York?

Nothing wrong with New York but there are tons of small to medium sized cities with depressed economies (thus easy to find and cheap office space) and it just seems like an industry that can be done from anywhere.

Office space cheaper, often you can also find tax breaks, subsidies and the like, plus as an editor you would have lower living expenses and could afford to make less. A nicer home, an easier commute, cheaper expenses, but there has to be a downside that I'm not seeing judging by how few of the bigger publishing houses have done it.

Steve

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest factor is price. I stopped reading comics regularly several years ago, not because I stopped enjoying them, but because I couldn't justify the cost. When I was a kid, my parents could hand me a five dollar bill, and that would buy me a stack of comics that would keep me entertained for hours. A ten dollar bill, we're talking entertainment for two or three days. These days, you can't even get two comics with a five dollar bill. If comics had been this high when I was a kid, my parents would have told me to take up stamp collecting. I know it's a different time, but with a ten dollar bill, I can still buy a paperback novel that will keep me entertained for at least a week. Maybe they need to go back to cheaper paper and ads, but price is the problem.

jimshooter said...

Dear Shawn,

RE: "Always wanted to write comics. I Wouldn't mind doing 9-5 in a bullpen, but I work best creatively independently. (...) My Ideal comic writing job would be to come in once a week, meet up with the editor, artist talk over the outline, then write up the script submit the first draft and work from there. I'd always be in contact via e-mail and would submit revisions that way.

Most freelancers like to keep their schedules open these days."

But the idea is NO FREELANCERS. W4H=employee. On staff, on premises. Sounds like you are the independent contractor type, not up for what I propose.

jimshooter said...

Dear Craig,

RE: ""Publish all non-Universe work under normal publishing industry terms. Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors."

Hmmm.

Let's see.

I think modern Marvel (and even DC) kind of do this already.

e.g., "Superstar" creators like Brian Michael Bendis can do whatever they want, get the majority of the promotional efforts of the company, etc.

And newbies, if they are even let in the door at all anymore, as shuffled off to titles on the verge of dying, backup features, etc.

So... how would your proposal be different than the current "Marvel only hires Axel Alonso's Hollywood friends and insiders" dynamic... at all?"


You missed the point entirely, though I didn't explain it well enough. My proposal suggests that company-owned properties be created by employees, on staff, on premises. As I said, no prima donnas need apply. Bendis wouldn't make the cut. Only the best of the best would qualify. I would think that it would be rare that a newbie would be good enough. Just as Disney and Pixar artists and writers work (on staff, on premises) under the direction of creative supervisors, the comics W4H/staff people would. When Disney's creative supervisor was Walt, and he had tremendous talents like Ub Iwerks on staff, amazing things were created, and that would be what one would hope for. Since lesser lights have become creative honchos at Disney, well, few truly great things have been done. If the company wants to own outright some creative work, then it would behoove them to hire a reallyreally good, visionary supervisor and reallyreally good artists and writers who, like great creators in other commercial fields (advertising, TV, animation, etc.) do the job required with rare excellence.

For non-W4H works, "Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors." That is, if the company was to publish something by someone of the stature of the late Jean Giraud (which he would own, as Grisham owns his works) that creator would be at the top of the royalties scale and receive star-type promo, perks and support. If the company was to publish a new creator's work, they'd be at the bottom of the scale. "Mid-list" creators, as Cory says he is, would be in the middle. Clear?

Anonymous said...

Jim, you seem very passionate about this. With your wisdom,determination and skill, I know you can accomplish your goals.

Neil

Misael said...

Point #1: Completely agree!

Point #2: Seems to be some confusion on what this means. I’m reading it as “The Company” is both a publisher and a studio. “The Studio Arm” is made up of “Company” employees that create the main product. This product is then published by “The Company’s Publishing Arm." Additionally, others (the so-called “superstars”) may contract with “The Company” to have their creator-owned product published by “The Company’s Publishing Arm.”

Point #3: Perhaps a “spiff” of the physical product would be a code to either redeem an online version of the physical product that wouldn’t have all the bells and whistles of the enhanced online version, or as a discount code to get the enhanced online version.

Point #4: Agreed

Point #5: Wholeheartedly agree! Comics HAVE to be easily accessible for this (or any “revolution”) to work. It amazes me that with all the money comic inspired movies are making, that there is no real push to have product (actual comics) in retail chains. What got me hooked on comics? The fact that they were easily accessible to me as a kid; while my parents were shopping, I’d go to the comic spinner at the front of the store and read through comics. Every once in a while, I’d convince them to buy me an issue or two. When I read through the ones I had, I would go back and get more. As I got older and had more disposable income, I graduated from the pharmacy’s comic spinner to a specialty shop.

Point #6: Agree to a point. I believe that once someone falls in love with the medium, they’ll eventually evolve into a “comic book shop patron”. Perhaps comic book shops can partner with local businesses to attract clientele and spread the good word about comics. One thing that came to mind was partner with a local theater to give out issues of movie-related comics on opening night. Result? The theater has a value-add that would bring them more business and the comic shop gets to advertise and be a “good-will” ambassador for the medium to an audience that perhaps only know these characters through the movies.

Point #7: Ties in to my thoughts on Point #6. Again, I agree.

One thing that I believe would work well with this “revolution" is licensed comics. My first Marvel comic was not a Marvel Universe title, but a licensed one, “Transformers”. When I realized that comics were published monthly, impatience for the next issue led me back to the spinner rack for something else. That’s when I grabbed an issue of Captain America (Vol.1) #342. The editorial boxes [see issue #331 for the full story] got me to start finding previous issues to catch up on the story. Crossovers introduced me to other characters, etc, etc. My point is that a well-done comic with talented creators that features licensed properties, such as (I hate to say this) “Twilight" would do well to attract new readers and introduce lots of people to a medium they may have otherwise ignored. Who knows, maybe they will fall in love so much with this medium that they also make the jump from licensed to “universe” titles.

Great post. While the fanboy in me says “Let’s start a Kickstarter funding project to get this company off the ground”, I understand that there is a LOT more than just money needed to get something like this going. But hey, I can have faith... :-)

jimshooter said...

RE: " I think the biggest factor is price."

Price, or value for money? People cheerfully pay considerable sums for entertainment. Can you imagine a comic book that cost as much as, say, a movie, and was more than worth the price? I can.

Craig Hansen said...

Jim,

I appreciate your more-detailed responses to my posts. Your intended meaning is clearer to me now, and makes more sense.

Thanks for taking the time. :)

Craig

dpd said...

I am going to enjoy reading through your business model and the comments responding to it, but I barely skimmed through paragraph 1 when I thought to myself, "Jim seems to be taking an awful long time to say Tell a Good Story and Do a Good Job Telling It."

spider said...

I think price plays a large role.

(1) I think comics is something many people have a "something like this should not cost more than..." mentality regardless of the 'value.' My dad reads my comics that i send him but $4 a comic? He is shocked anyone would pay it. Even the good ones. An entertaining little picture book for 12 yr olds (his opinion) should not cost $4 in his mind.

It's a mental block/association that they are meant to be priced at a pricepoint that a kid or poerson can pick up a handful on a whim for a few bucks.

2. A regular comic, no matter how dense, is not that long a read. that goes to value but even if the quality is high, you're still paying $4 for 10-15 minutes even the densely written ones.

Considering video games provide more time for the dollar, not to mention tv, that's a problem.

Combined that with a generation used to 'stealing' on the computer stuff that they don't feel like paying for, and sales are abysmal.

Kevie Metal said...

Wonderful essay.

I hugely agree with your assessment that the industry needs to somewhat de-geekify its outlook. I can't tell you how many times I've showed my favorite comics to people outside the business--often designers and other graphics professionals--only to be met with, "I don't even understand what I'm looking at." This stuff largely doesn't make the slightest bit of sense to anyone who's not a lifelong devotee of the form.

I also agree with your suggestion to bring production on-staff, in-house. When I transitioned from being an artist and editor for Marvel to working in TV animation, I immediately felt that comics should be produced on the model of animation studios, with the hands of strong art directors and story editors at the tiller. The level of quality control imposed on animation artists was shocking by comparison to what I'd experienced in comics, but I learned exponentially more about the fundamentals of drawing by working in a studio environment of seasoned pros, where everyone had to pull together in the service of a singular creative vision. Put another way , there's a reason that the DC animated content--and comic books based on the same-- so often generates more excitement than core DC universe comics.

Your post awakened an additional thought: it is demonstrably true that there are artists who've been able to hang out their own shingle and thrive based largely on relationship marketing, as you rightly say. But I think there is another element to it than the fact that they keep the channels of communication open with their readers: none of it would be possible if their readers didn't passionately love their work. The kind of wholehearted love that people *used* to lavish on the Marvel and DC brands. People know without a doubt that these creators are approaching their work from a place of sincerity, of devotion to the work, and the readers return the favor. They want to support a talent who is striving to give them something of value. They'd rather not cheat people who give so much of themselves. Meanwhile, mainstream comics are apparently pirated in droves, because who feels that way about Marvel and DC anymore? It seems to me that the fans tolerate Marvel and DC out of tradition and because they are the corporate masters of their beloved icons. But the majors' bald-faced intention of bloodlessly exploiting the fans' devotion has been made all to clear over the course of decades for readers to feel terribly guilty about getting over on them where they can.

Thanks for the enlightening read.

Andy E. Nystrom said...

Jim, interestingly given this discussion and the need to find new ways to get new readers, it's been announced that a Walking Dead story featuring one character's origin (Michonne's)will appear in Playboy. How do you feel about using that specific magazine to try to get new readers?

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] I wonder what would happen if monthly comics went 100% digital and the only things that came out on paper were the trades (collecting the digital monthlies)? [--MikeAnon]

David Miller said...

Interesting thoughts, Jim. I thought some of your ideas were reminiscent of what Mark Alessi tried to do with CrossGen. Any thoughts on that?

Also, the comics industry is suffering from "be careful what you wish for" syndrome. For the longest time comics wanted to be regarded as a serious art form. Not throw-away commercial illustration material. And they've succeeded. But what they didn't count on is that fine art doesn't have customers. It has patrons. And moneyed patrons are in short supply.

Anonymous said...

If publishers want teenage readers, then MAKE CONTENT THEY WANT.

STOP trying to repackage grandpa's content and pass it off as new (lookin' at you, New 52).

Create TOTALLY SEPARATE lines, with clearly different graphics.

Time to start thinking like real publishers.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy more new comics because of the dearth (death) of inking.

Where are the Tom Palmers? The classic renderer who brings punch to the pencils?

Today, the computer coloring is supposed to do the work. But they come off as pale and washed out--very pastel compared to previous (more successful) eras.

Anonymous said...

Shooter said: "Price, or value for money? People cheerfully pay considerable sums for entertainment. Can you imagine a comic book that cost as much as, say, a movie, and was more than worth the price? I can."

I'm all for a return to 100 page comics.

But they can't be anthologies. They have to be themed, like Batman Family, etc.

I agree that "value" is the key. Marvel and DC have been notorious for using subpar talent for multi-story volumes. It's so bad that customers just expect low quality, which kills sales right out the gate.

Andy E. Nystrom said...

I think a mix of theme and non-themed 100 page comics would be good. Themed for diehard fans of a particular character, non-themed with major character headliner for those strips (like Suicide Squad) that don't easily fit with a particular character and which could build an audience by piggy-backing for a time on a better known character.

cesare said...

Fresh material is being generated all the time by the smaller publishers, if DC and Marvel's time has passed so be it. But the quality of the fresh material is also suspect. I think it's hard to produce quality comics, and expensive. A family man has to earn $300/page, is that the going rate these days? What do inkers and colorists get paid, the letterers?

We are going to have to endure a contraction in comics business, which will ultimately lead to a different paradigm, followed by a new an flourishing industry.

AND

The format of books has to change too. The floppy format is a holdover from a bygone era. Look at how European books are produced, large, hardcovers, keepers.

jimshooter said...

RE: "...it's been announced that a Walking Dead story featuring one character's origin (Michonne's)will appear in Playboy. How do you feel about using that specific magazine to try to get new readers?"

I'm not up to date on the current circulation and demographics of Playboy. I suppose any exposure is good. I suspect that it's poorly targeted exposure.

David said...

What a nice dream. Coupled with Cory, this could be a catalyst for better content, and better business.

By I would agree with commenters who wish you could have let go of one more geek millstone, the shared universe.

Thanks, Jim... Looking forward to saying hello in person if you are at mocca, CCI or nycc

David
Inwalkedquinn.com

David said...

What a nice dream. Coupled with Cory, this could be a catalyst for better content, and better business.

By I would agree with commenters who wish you could have let go of one more geek millstone, the shared universe.

Thanks, Jim... Looking forward to saying hello in person if you are at mocca, CCI or nycc

David
Inwalkedquinn.com

David said...

What a nice dream. Coupled with Cory, this could be a catalyst for better content, and better business.

By I would agree with commenters who wish you could have let go of one more geek millstone, the shared universe.

Thanks, Jim... Looking forward to saying hello in person if you are at mocca, CCI or nycc

David
Inwalkedquinn.com

David said...

What a nice dream. Coupled with Cory, this could be a catalyst for better content, and better business.

By I would agree with commenters who wish you could have let go of one more geek millstone, the shared universe.

Thanks, Jim... Looking forward to saying hello in person if you are at mocca, CCI or nycc

David
Inwalkedquinn.com

Defiant1 said...

It sounds like Playboy has more opportunity to get new readers instead of the reverse.

Shawn James said...

I'm going to have to agree with Jim that Playboy is poorly targeted exposure.

Playboy's sales have been going downhill since about 2001. The magazine has teetered on bankruptcy for the past few years. with the internet offering more options for adult entertainment, airbrushed Playmates aren't the go-to for eighteen to twenty-four year olds anymore. On top of it, that demographic still skewers on the older side, not the kinds of new readers a comic publication would needs to expand its audience anymore.

Worse, Playboy costs $6 a copy. That's a little rich for most readers' blood, especially when many complain about $4 comic books.That price tag alone is going to limit the exposure to new readers who can expand an audience.

Demographically, exposure in Playboy is going to skew older, like in the 30-45 year old and even over 50 age range. Readers the same age as comic book fans right now.

Shawn James said...
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Shawn James said...
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Defiant1 said...

A link today led me to boingboing.net where Cory is an editor. I block scripts, so I have to unblock scripts one by one just to view a video. It's unbelievable how much cross site advertising has to be allowed in order to view a video. While that is surely pulling in revenue, it's a huge turn off to me frequenting his site. It's somewhat of a security risk for the user and to me the content is simply not worth it. While I do agree with most of what Cory says, that's more of a reason to ignore it now. I don't need my beliefs validated by him. I'm more interested in reading the opinions of intelligent people that offer me new food for thought. Since he was involved with eff.org, I was probably exposed to his influence/philosophy (whatever you want ton call it) a decade ago when I was periodically visiting the site. I rarely go there now for the same reason I don't have much interest in reading Cory's work now. The ideas aren't new to me anymore and it all starts sounding the same. I'm more interested in the next level of thought that's out there.

jimshooter said...

Dear David,

RE: "...I would agree with commenters who wish you could have let go of one more geek millstone, the shared universe."

You misunderstand, though I didn't explain my point well. My point was about WORK MADE FOR HIRE. That is, if there is going to be a company universe, or for that matter, company owned characters, then they ought to be made under true staff employee conditions, not the current, nebulous, totally unfair deal under which freelancers sign a paper agreeing that for the purpose of copyright they will be treated as employees, but in no other way have the rights and benefits employees have (unemployment insurance, workman's comp, etc. plus whatever the company offers). A shared universe might or might not be part of the new business model. It isn't necessary at all, though I suspect Marvel and DC would want to keep theirs in some form.

Blade X said...

Jim's on staff WFH idea sounds very similar (if not exactly like) the way Crossgen operated. IMO, it's a great idea and makes lots of sense.

As for the on staff WFH set up being unappealing to big name celebrity Hollywood writers or prima donna superstar comic book creators, I say "good riddance". Let's be honest for a minute. Most non comic book readers (which is the general public) either don't know or don't care who JMS,Joss Wheedon (although that might change after the AVENGERS movie),Alan Heinberg,Moore,Bendis, Ellis,or the writers of LOST are. Outside of diehard comic book fans and speculators, most people don't care that these guys are writing comics. And considering the fact that many of the Hollywood writers like Kevin Smith,Alan Heinberg,JMS, and Damon Lindelof apparently don't take their work in comics seriously enough to meet their deadlines, I say screw them and don't waste time trying to get them to write company owned comics. It's apparent that their work in comics tales a backseat to their work in Hollywood. It amazes me that so many of the editors working at the Big 2 are so "star struck" with these Hollywood writers that they will publicly excuse and justify their constant lateness (which is something that Tom Brevoort has done for both JMS and Heinberg).

Defiant1 said...

Critics of an interconnected universe of characters discard the additional depth that can bring to stories and the opportunities for cross marketing titles within a company. Just because DC and Marvel suck at it currently, there's no need to criticize something that can improve the net worth of a company and build a more loyal readership.

Anonymous said...

As for the on staff WFH set up being unappealing to big name celebrity Hollywood writers or prima donna superstar comic book creators, I say "good riddance".
.....................
I have to agree. I think that cross pollenation has not been good for the industry. I think we need comic book creators that want to be comic creators. Trying to make comics "cinimatic" has dumbed the industry down,imo. The "edgy", "bad ass", "modernized" BS is unbelievably tired and worn out at this point. There is too much self loathing in the comic industry. It's trying, and I sense that it's a reflection of those who are creating it, to be something it's not. Like Alex said on TAXI "Elaine is an artist, Tony is a boxer, Bobby is an actor, me...I'm a cab driver."

Neil

Shawn James said...

A shared universe works. it just requires a good editor to supervise the creative staff and manage the catalog of characters. Maintaining that integrity is paramount to the brand.

Someone who sees their job as part of running a business, not some fanboy or fangirl living out their childhood fantasies. A lot of people working in comics today have passion, but they don't have any professionalism or craft.

The comic book industry doesn't need superstar creators who think they are bigger than the characters they work on.

It doesn't need people trying to turn comics into TV. Comics are their own distinct medium with its own style of storytelling.

The comic book industry It needs professional craftsmen who understand that their jobs are to put the characters first and make sure they tell the best stories possible.

JayJayJackson said...

Well put, Shawn. Sounds like comics I would want to read.

JW Carroll said...

Jim I was fortunate enough to have been born in 1980 and to have come up towards the end of your tenure at Marvel (indeed the first Marvel book I remember reading was Secret Wars 2, issue 1). As someone who is an aspiring writer I agree with just about everything you've said but I think there is one important element that you've neglected.

When I was a kid mini comics were everywhere. You could get them with action figures, video cassettes, even Twinkies. It was a great way to reach anyone who wasn't lucky enough to live near a store that stocked comics since toys (and Twinkies) were available everywhere. They were at once both an advertisement, and a primer in the form and unlike the licensed titles they didn't cost me anything extra.

Today there are more licensed products then ever and the internet is opening up delivery channels. With both of the majors now owned by large corporate parents, why can't every Avengers doo dad or Dark Knight goo gah couldn't contain at least some comic content, if not a traditional mini comic at least a digital (perhaps interactive?) version.

Dan said...

Work-for-hire is already a creatively bankrupt business model in comics. How many quality characters have been introduced at Marvel or DC in the past 25 years? Talent has caught on--it's not worth the energy to develop a property so someone else can get rich. Better to just keep dusting off the same old '40s and '60s ideas.

Even the Indies have bailed on new ideas. Better to license an old property--ANY old property that once had a hope of sales--than invest in something new.

Until companies start producing content that new readers will buy, this whole conversation doesn't seem to go anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm way late to this thread and what I'm about to say will make me sound pompous, but here goes:

1. Claiming that I'm stealing your product when I download it makes me not want to give you my money. Spin it anyway you want, but calling it theft just shows that you don't understand the file-sharing mentality. I'm not trying to start a 'theft vs. copying' debate. All I'm trying to say is that if you continue to think of people who want to try your products as thieves, you're going to have a real hard time converting them to paying customers.

2. I 100% agree that physical and digital books need to be available simultaneously. I also give you credit for recognizing the failures of the big two at adapting to the marketplace.

3. Even if your dream scenario came true, there would still be digital comics piracy. Don't fight it, concern yourself with maximizing sales instead of fighting a losing battle. http://tinyurl.com/c4f4jme

4. I honestly can't see a digital comics initiative being successful that doesn't include a subscription service. Nickel-and-diming the customer for every issue is a turn off. Music, movies, video games and television all have successful subscription models where I can pay one monthly fee and consume all the content I want. Each of those industries also sells physical and digital products outside of the subscription model. For some reason, books and comics have been slow to recognize this. Sure, I'll buy physical and digital versions of comics from my favorite creators/characters, but I'm not going to gamble my money on (to me) unknown properties. This will lead me to piracy. If instead you've offered a subscription model, you've given me one less reason to pirate.

5. Don't DRM me. Whether I buy a single issue or a subscription, don't limit me in how I can read the books. You might think this is counter-intuitive because no DRM means the products are easier to pirate. Pirating is already insanely easy, and the free pirated products don't put limits on when or where I can read the books. When selling digital comics you should be focusing on how to please the paying customer instead of trying to stop the inevitable piracy.

[continued in next comment]

Anonymous said...

6. I'm not sure I understand your line here: "Offer a license to every “pirate” for a dollar or something." I remember you bringing this up when Dave Sim parodied Wolverine and you quelled things by offering a cheap retroactive license. Do you think people who pirate comics are trying to resell digital copies for profit? That's not how it works. The file-sharing community is strongly opposed to that.

7. I don't think you need to worry yourself with trying to add features to physical comics that can't be pirated. Fans of your products will find a way to buy. Whether it's to make it easy to read in the car, or to give to a friend to read or to simply put it in their collection. Once you've brought me into your world, I'm going to want to give you my money.

8. If I buy a physical copy, I should get a free digital copy.

9. A good portion of your blog talks about how crappy the comics are in today's market but then you dismiss Cory's dandelion theory because 'that theory hasn’t worked well for comic book publishers, whose output has been “dandelioned” by pirates whether the pubs liked it or not.' You need to pick a side. Either the comics suck and that's why sales are down or the comics are great and piracy is killing sales. Comics are not nearly as heavily pirated as you think they are so I doubt piracy is killing comics.

I know this isn't a perfect methodology, but try this. Go to The Pirate Bay and click 'Browse Torrents' and then click on 'Comics.' Now click on the column heading 'SE' to sort it. At the time I wrote this the top downloads are:

Comic: The Walking Dead, issues 1-90, 747 concurrent downloaders.
Video game: Skyrim, 6283 downloaders.
Software: Photoshop, 4841 downloaders.
TV Show: How I Met Your Mother, 28802 downloaders.
Movie: Contraband, 17772 downloaders.
Music: 21 by Adele, 5838 downloaders.

Piracy is not your problem. A crappy product is.

jimshooter said...

Often I answer detailed comments point by point, but yours is so far off that doing so makes no sense. Did you actually read what I wrote? I think, perhaps, the best answer is read it again, more carefully.

Here are some Cliff Notes:

1. I have consistently said that poor quality/"crappy product" is the main problem. My new business model is all about excellence.

2. I advocated action against PHYSICAL piracy. I agree with Cory (and you) that online free access is best.

3. I thought I made it clear that the reason dandelioning hasn't worked for comics is because of "crappy product." Hence the need for a new business model.

Mr. Preece said...

Wow... Shooter's MIA, blogs are closed, and posting identities appear more restricted now. Looks like the ShooterBlog is on lockdown.

Maybe it got too big. Maybe he got tired of some folks' incessant insults. Maybe he's REAL busy...

I just hope he's not gone. This blog was incredible. But if you are gone for good, Shooter, I'll still be a fan.

Good luck.

Defiant1 said...

I've gone ahead canceled my email program from checking for updates on this blog. I've quit following all the comic creators on Twitter while I was at it. I'm ready for the current establishment to grind to a halt. That's what it'll take for the industry to wake up and listen to their critics. I've been told you can follow one modern comic creator and all the content is the same with everyone stroking everyone else's ego. This blog was appreciated because it wasn't cut from the same mold. If Jim can't keep it going, that's obviously his choice. His proposed new model is going to have a hard time reaching consumers if everyone quits looking for it's dawn.

Mr. Preece said...

The least they could do is just tell us the blog is canceled.

John Hensley said...

Oh Mr. Preece, I don't think they owe us much of anything. They gave us lots and lots of entertaining stories, cogent analysis and fascinating glimpses behind the scenes of the comic industry at no charge. They seem to have gotten a lot of grief and trouble in return. I'm sad to see the blog on lockdown, but not surprised.

kgaard said...

I hope Jim does decide to resume blogging in some fashion, perhaps without comments a la Letters of Note or Andrew Sullivan. If not, it was fun while it lasted. Having grown up on Shooter-era Marvel, this was a real treat.

Best to all,
kgaard

Chris Hlady said...

Not getting new comments from Jim "Mr Marvel" Shooter is killing me, especially with the launches of The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man. I realize it may have nothing to do with Jim, currently, but it would be so good to know his take on things.

I console myself, imagining some incredible launch for San Diego ComicCon, but aggh, this blog was the best for comic geeks, made real by the voice of experience.

Thinking about what would have made this blog economically viable, I wonder how many people would spend $10/month to be part of the experience. Not sure if I'd do it, but definitely a possibility.

Cheers, and Happy Fourth of July.

Nats said...

Well, this was a very strange ending to this wonderful blog. Was I the only one, who didn't get what happened here and why? Too bad... loved Jim's stories.

botolo86 said...

It is very unfortunate that this blog has not been updated anymore. I agree with a lot of users here, I really enjoyed this blog and I hope Jim will tell us what happened and if the blog will ever come back.

botolo86 said...

Btw, I totally support the idea of a non-comment blog or maybe a blog with a link where readers can post letters and every once in a while Jim will post a "letters' page".

Rodney Jean-Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rodney Jean-Etienne said...

I by the time I started reading this blog Jim had already stopped posting. There is so much amazing information on this blog, like the storytelling lectures. I hope Jim is in good health and is doing well. Even if he never posts another item, this blog is a treasure and a great resource for future creators.

Chris Hlady said...

Just heard about the passing of Joe Kubert. Another great loss to comics. My encounter with Joe was very brief, during Comic Con 1990 or 91. I tried to show him some of my stuff, but I think he had worries of a book launch, or something. I seem to remember getting his autograph, on the book, but it's fuzzy.

Cons are awful places to meet the comic greats, unless fortune can make the experience memorable. Joe's stuff was an inspiration, from Sgt Rock to Tarzan, to even his take on Superman. He'll be sorely missed, and I can't even start talking about the Joe Kubert School.

Ole M. Olsen said...

My first thought when I heard the sad news about the passing of Joe Kubert, was in fact to come here.

Rest in peace, Joe - and thank you!

ace said...

Like Ole, I felt drawn here also, on learning the sad news.

I couldn't help thinking also - like Berryman after Robert Frost's death - "Now who's number one?" The last time we had to ponder this question was in 2006, when Alex Toth died. The answer of course was Joe Kubert; the late masterpieces Jew Gangster, Yossel and Dong Xoai left little room for doubt.

Love to Jim Shooter.

Love to JayJay Jackson.

I hope you are both happy and healthy and prosperous. I am sorry that things turned sour in the comments section of your wonderful blog and that we, your loyal and appreciative readers, couldn't keep things sweet.

P.S. The answer to John Berryman's question was Robert Lowell, so Berryman jumped off the bridge. The Hold Steady wrote a song about it.

Barry Allen said...

Since the latest post is closed, I just wanted to say that Jim Shooter deserves MUCH more than losers such as Ja, Defiant1, Anonymous,and Dave James posting here all the time.

Defiant1 said...

Look at yourself in the mirror before you call someone else a loser. Seriously.

ace said...

Come back to the five and dime, Jimmy Shooter, Jimmy Shooter.

Jerry Bonner said...

I echo ace's sentiments...especially now that I'm reading Sean Howe's "Marvel Comics - the Untold Story" and would love to get Jim and JayJay's take on the book.

I've actually sent a couple friendly emails to both Jim and JayJay just to see what was what but never received a response. So it goes.

Either way, I hope they are both happy and healthy and doing their thing...whatever that may be. But, I do hold out hope that they return to us someday...

...soon!

Petrus Magnus said...
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Petrus Magnus said...

I'm very interested in reading that book, especially after reading in reviews that the book apparently casts a not so very positive light on Marvel's Shooter-led years. I hope the writer has been thorough on his research and not have fallen for the anti-Shooter rethoric.

Jerry Bonner said...

He doesn't go that far but his take on it seemed balanced to me. Jim's way of doing things obviously rubbed some people the wrong way at Marvel. But is he a "monster" who deserves to be vilified? Clearly not...

Jerry Bonner said...
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Mark Boyd said...

Howdy. Long time lurker who never thought to post. Really, really enjoyed this blog. I was one of those annoying kids @ the Houston con in the 80s. I pestered Jim about killing off Kang the Conquerer in the Secret Wars & he took time to try to explain time-space theory to me (went over my head. I quit comics in the early 90s(hated all the future Image guys that were taking over Marvel) & read other things. Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly etc. Discovered David Lapham's Stray Bullets & years later heard him talk at a con. He had some cool anecdotes about Ditko, but, cooler still was his Jim Shooter story. The one about the 10 page Marvel comic(Kirby Human Torch/Captain America) that explained clear storytelling. And then, last year, on this blog, I get to experience that "lecture" & many other wonderful & insightful things. Like many, I had a low opinion of Shooter (because I'd read about the Kirby stuff etc) but I know there are always 2 sides(or more) to a story & this blog shed lots of light. I also know why I dislike modern mainstream comics so much (I thought it was just me) because he's able to clearly articulate what the big guys are doing wrong. Sorry to ramble, but I just wanted to let those guys (Jim & Jay Jay) know how great this place is (was). I'm sure I'm one of many who'd visit & never comment(I don't enjoy posting because I can't stand dealing with the "experts" that frequent these blogs who like to argue & scrutinize every word one writes.)but anyway, thanks guys,it's been fun. & Jim, when you resurface, I have a few more questions about Kang....

Jason said...

I'm in the Shooter years section of Sean Howe's "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" right now.

Thus far, he seems to be working hard to present all sides, and as solid a set of facts as he can. However, he's also clearly slanting things against Jim (in my reading, unconsciously --- he seems to have been swayed by the sheer number of negative views he got in interviews).

For instance, he presents both sides of Doug Moench's departure from Marvel, and says "clearly, somebody was lying". But the way he presents it more or less takes the reader's hand and leads him to "Jim Shooter was probably lying".

What's interesting is just how many examples he gives that pretty much contradict the "Evil Shooter" narrative, even as he soft sells them.

Frank Miller has nothing but praise for Jim (but his departure to DC to do Ronin is presented as an implicit indictment of Shooter's policies, without any direct justification).

And there are a number of quotes defending Jim from John Byrne(!!!). They're undercut by presenting Byrne as a "company man" loyal to Marvel (I laughed out loud at this).

But on the whole, I'd say Howe was trying pretty hard to be fair and present all sides, even if he has a clear bias toward the "beleaguered creatives struggling against the Evil Corporate Suits" narrative.

(I'm actually working on a blog post analyzing all this in greater detail.)

botolo86 said...

Interesting message. I saw this book on the shelf and I did not know if it was good and interesting, but after your message I will definitely add it to my Christmas wish list!