Monday, January 26, 2009

Uh-Ohs, and Other Monday Happiness

Last week was a tough week for comics, and for monthly publications in general. Amid layoffs at DC Comics and Diamond Distributors, and the news that the long-running and much-beloved Mad Magazine will be changing its distribution schedule from a monthly product to a quarterly one, I guess it's safe to say that the recession has officially hit the comics industry.

Now, by all accounts, Marvel seems to be doing pretty well, but the news out of DC and Mad (both owned by Warner Bros.) is troubling. Among the people let go at DC was long-time Batman editor Bob Schreck, who has overseen some of the company's biggest-selling (and best) books, including, most recently, All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman and Robin.

For those not as dorkily tuned into such things as I am, Schreck, a Senior Editor at the company, is a big name in the business, so his departure is a pretty huge deal. And the decision to make Mad a quarterly book, while upsetting, I'm sure, to its fans, is probably a really smart move.

Now, we've all heard it before: Print media has been dying a slow death over the past five or six years, so news like this shouldn't come as such a shock. But that does nothing to diminish the sadness I feel whenever I hear about something like this.

I'm an editor by trade, so print media means a lot to me personally. I think, like anything else, publishers need to adapt or die. Unfortunately, many are just too stubborn to acknowledge this fact. What's worse, these publishers should have acknowledged the fact five years ago.

I think a big step in the right direction, for comics at least, would be to start testing the direct-to-trade approach within the direct market (comics shops). This means that, instead of having the comics publishers bombard shops with enormous numbers of single issue comics (or floppies) every Wednesday (and take up an incredible amount of room when they don't sell), I think the publishers should start printing completed stories, in trade paperback form.

As I've said in the past, I think there's a large enough (and willing enough) fan base for such material that DC and Marvel should start doing this sooner rather than later.

Let me be clear, though--I'm not saying I think the floppies should just cease to be, but I think the number of single issues released each week should be cut in half. Now, that in no way means that I think the titles and stories should stop. I'm just saying that, instead of releasing a four-issue mini-series over the course of four or five months, just release the complete story, collected in trade.

I dunno. That's just the way I see it. Anyway, this stuff's depressing.

All that good news, and this weekend I managed to get a flat tire. Well, "flat" isn't the right word, since it was more like an explosion. I got an exploded tire, is what actually happened. And let's just say that the price for the new tire (because the old one had exploded, mind you) was equivalent to...well, at least a few copies of the Barack Obama/Spider-Man crossover comic from Marvel.

Oh, but hey, at least it's Monday, right?


Anonymous said...

At least you can say you got Nathaniel and I hooked on buying comics weekly. We have become major supporters of our LCS.

Honestly I'd be much happier if it was Marvel struggling and not DC. Green Arrow and Batman are so much more impressive than Spiderman and Hulk. Although the X-men will always be a cash-cow for Marvel.

I have noticed, though, that the price of floppies has dropped over the past few weeks. I think they are trying to retain customers during the recession by making the individual copies cheaper.

- shannon

Scott said...

". . . some of the company's biggest-selling (and best) books, including . . . All-Star Batman and Robin."

That's an... interesting choice. It may sell well, but I wouldn't say that it's one of DC's best by any measure. There are tons of titles I'd pick over that one... Maybe I'd even go so far as to say that I'd take ANY other title over that one.

It's much-maligned, but for good reason.

AJG said...

I should have been more clear with that sentence. I meant that, over the course of his many years with the company, Schreck has overseen some of DC's best books.

As much as I love Frank Miller, even I have to admit that ASBR is

As for Shannon's point, I am very happy you two have become full-fledged comics crazies! And i hope that there will be more 2.99 books out there, but Marvel has raised their prices on many of the "big" titles (Avengers books) to 3.99.