Thursday, June 12, 2014

Comic Book Economics

There was this:

Which I’ll quote a bit of:

“If Rocket Girl dips into the 8000s, we’ll start thinking about when to wrap it up. If it stays above 12,000 we can do it forever. At 12,000 copies I can make as much writing Rocket Girl as Hulk; Amy Reeder can make as much penciling/inking/coloring as she would on Batwoman. 8000 vs 12,000 is a significant difference in percentage, but it’s not a huge amount of readers.”


One thing you should understand about Image books is that, for the most part, there’s no advance money. Which is why single issue sales matter.

Kyle, Felipe and I have Spread coming out on July 9th. Spread is an ongoing book. The earliest we’ll see non single issue money from that is March 2015, when we’ll start getting digital money. We won’t start getting trade money until September 2015.

Which means that for a minimum of nine months from launch, the only money that is coming in is those single issues.

I can and do work on multiple books, so I have flexibility there. For Kyle, and for almost all artists, if he’s the artist on an ongoing book, then that book is all he’s doing. If it’s a monthly ongoing, there’s not much day job going to be happening either.

So single issues matter, because that’s effectively the only way for many books to pay the artist to, you know, live.

You’re under no obligation to buy books you like in a format you like. And you might think that floppies are a drag on the industry. But the reality is that single issue sales will determine the futures of a lot of books.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Fuzzy Edges

A little while ago, a fan asked me what Luther Strode was actually capable of, which I answered.

Which lead to this:

Now, I'm glad that people are invested in the character, but it does make me aware that I should have given a caveat, one that is implicit to a writer but should probably be made explicit when you answer questions like that.

Which is this: Character abilities are fuzzy around the edges.

For instance, you know what, say, Jack Bauer, Rambo, and Jason Bourne all have in common?

They're superhuman.

No, they are. No one alive can do what they do the way that they do it.

But you probably don't think of them as superhuman. They're just....heroic. Action movie stuff. And if they started going beyond the fuzzy limits of that, it's going to seem wrong to you. You'd accept, probably, them getting shot in the shoulder and then heroically winning a fistfight against the bad guy. You would not accept them having a greande explode in their pants and then tear the bad guy's head off with their barehands.

Now, Luther is explicitly superhuman. So tearing a bad guy's head off is fair game. But you probably would look askance at him surviving the grenade thing.

When I answered those questions about Strode, the answers I gave are indeed the rules of thumb I use when I write the books. Luther is about twice as strong and twice as fast as the peak human ability*, his senses are about twice as sharp, and then there's the healing, the ability to see weak points, and the ability to read body language.

The key phrase you should be focusing on there is 'rule of thumb' because, as I said, these abilities are fuzzy. I have a sense of what is an action Luther is capable of  and what he isn't.  And the point of knowing those things is to tell a story with the kind of mood and world we want.

What I don't do is say, Marvel Handbook style, that Luther is capable of lifting x weight, and then calculate the physics involved. Getting back to my Jack Bauer et al thing, the writers there did the same thing - they have a set of things that those characters are capable of that feel right and real for the world that they exist in.

Which gives us limits that, hopefully, don't strain suspension of disbelief so far. But at the end of the day, that's there to service a story and not create a mathematically precise fight simulator. Sorry.

If you're wondering, Luther is not the strongest, fastest or quickest person in the Luther Strode world, but you're still not going to see people throwing cars at each other.

*Which, incidentally, is pretty fucking strong and pretty fucking fast - that's being able to run at 70 mph and lift a thousand plus pounds over his head or squat a ton is way more powerful than most people think it is. we just don't have a real context for how fast say Usain Bolt really is.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Growing The Base

So, Eric Stephenson’s speech.

(Note that headline is misleading as fuck – really, Rich? But we’ll get to that in a bit)

Some context: This was a speech to retailers that went to the ComicsPro meeting dealie. So when he’s saying we, he means the retailers and Image. He’s not speaking for or to other publishers, and he doesn’t mean fans. This is actually important to remember.

Now what he mostly talks about is growing the comics industry. Not making more money, as such, but actually increasing the number of people who buy and read comics. This too, is important context.

So when he talks about 4.99 and 7.99 issues, for instance, or shipping more than one issue, what he’s saying is that those tactics are designed to bring in more money from existing fans. Likewise, variant covers and new number ones are designs to get people who are reading comics to spend more money.

Now I don’t think (and I could be wrong) that this is meant to be a blanket condemnation of those things in and of themselves. Indeed, Image does some of them. What he’s condemning is doing those without doing anything to grow the comics reading base.

Because they don’t.

Don’t get me wrong – comics is a business. Even in my creator owned work I keep an eye to maximizing the amount of money I squeeze out. I am actually kind of amazed that ways Marvel (and  Marvel seems to better at this than DC) has found to maximize their revenue. They understand who is reading their books and how they purchase them, and designed their business to get them to buy the most product.

But all of the above – expensive comics, variant covers, double shipping, reboots, hell, events – are things that only service people who are already reading comics. They are not things that are bringing new people to comics, and focusing only on getting most milk with the minimum of moo without breeding new cows is not good for the long term.

(I will push a metaphor until it breaks, yes)

So I agree with him there.

(I may also be wrong – the music industry analogy sort of sounds like he’s down on the whole practice. Hey, I’m not a mind reader. Not until I reach level 99 in Jordanology)

I got into comics because when I was a kid, comics where everywhere. I grew up in a rural county in Pennsylvania with a current population of around 40,000 people. As you might guess, there weren’t any comic shops around.

But every grocery store and every convenience store and what not had comics. I could go three miles down the road and but Ninja Warrior and Thrash at the AP. I got into comics because when I was a toddler my mom grabbed Popeye comics for me to…well, look at, I couldn’t yet read…when she was shopping.

I understand why comics aren’t, for the most part, in any of those places now. I do. But the truth is that thirty odd years ago, comics were infinitely more discoverable than they are now. And that’s a problem.

Where Stephenson and I part ways, to a certain extent, is on licensed comics.

A tangent: I said that Star Wars headline was misleading as fuck. And it is. A lot of people are reading it to say that Star Wars comics, and licensed comics, aren’t “real” comics

He isn’t.

He’s saying that people reading those comics are reading them because they can’t get the source material. They read Star Wars comics, but what they want is more Star Wars movies.

I don’t necessarily agree with that, but it’s a different notion than implying he was saying they weren’t real comics. He wasn’t. He said that The Walking Dead TV show isn’t the real thing either, but what he meant isn’t that it’s the original source material.

Now I’m going to thread that tangent back into my main point. Stephenson is of the mind that people that read licensed comics want that thing, and aren’t interested in comics per se, so licensed comics don’t do anything to grow the comic market.

I don’t think that’s precisely true. For one thing, I think that people that read licensed comics are, by and large, comics readers who happen to like that property. Again, this doesn’t really grow the market, so no disagreement there, I just think he’s mischaracterizing them.

Now some of the people who are reading those licensed comics surely are people who just want that property. And again, selling comics to those people doesn’t really grow the market as a whole.

But I do think that some of those people must start buying other comics. I mean, that has to be a thing that happens. But I also don’t know that it amounts to much, growthwise. So I don’t entirely disagree with him.

I do agree with overall thrust, which is that the comic industry needs to devote more time and energy to expanding their base.

If I were a retailer, I would give free comics to kids. Not just kids that came into my store, but I’d give out free issues to kids in schools. I would make sure every school and high school and library in my area was stocked with trades (and if I could, I’d make sure they all had plates that said who donated them).

If I were a publisher, I would do the same thing. I would make digital comics that kids could read on their game platforms or computers. I would make sure they had an interest in comics, not just toys or characters.

Yes, all of this would cost money. But it’s a relatively small investment against future gains.

But that’s me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Conventions

MGA Con - March 15-16 in Macon, GA

Awesomecon – April 18 – 20 in Washington DC

C2E2 – April 25 – 27 in Chicago

Wizard World Atlanta (maybe) – May 20 – June 1 in Atlanta

Heroes – June 20 – 22 in Charlotte NC

Baltimore - Sept. 5-7 in….yeah, I think you got this.

NYCC – October 9 – 12 in the Big Apple

Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Infinite Joy

He killed Edwards again this morning.

It wasn’t fancy, this time. He just put the gun up against the back of the man’s head and pulled the trigger. He’d gotten a little bored, again, with coming up with ever more elaborate deaths for Edwards, so he was spending some time back with the basics.

He watched the reactions of the people on the street, interested. The man who had the bullet that passed through Edwards’s head lodged in his neck. The woman walking by who was splattered with Edwards last thoughts. He wondered what their lives would be like, after. Seeing that.

He wondered, briefly, if this Edwards had killed Rebecca. They didn’t always. He’d been at this a long time, if time were the right word, and he moved to branches where sometimes it wasn’t Edwards. She was still dead, though. She was still always dead.

He heard a siren and he put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

He woke up in his bed. More or less. Depending on how you defined him. It was morning and the sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue. It always was. He wondered how many times he would have to do this before that changed. Maybe it never would.

He turned on the television, which was the same, and watched the news, which was also the same. If he killed Edwards a thousand more times, the news might be different. It might not be.

The gun was on the nightstand. He’d planned on using it on himself, last night. Not last night, not really, but because today was always today he still thought of it as last night, even if last night was a very, very long time ago. Just as today was always six days after the funeral.

It took him a long time to realize that every day was not the same. Not exactly. Things changed, every time. So small you couldn’t see them, but the added up. His theory now was that he was moving through these days, all the ways this day could have been, not just repeating it.

That was the theory, anyway. In practice, it didn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter who or what had done this to him. He thought this was supposed to be a punishment. He imagined this was the rock he was pushing up the hill, ever and always, for ever.

He imagined this was meant to be Hell.

Maybe it should have been. Maybe he should learn. Maybe he should suffer. But he thought of Rebecca and he thought about Edwards. And knew this wasn’t hell. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. He still felt, for a split second, when Edwards died, an endless and infinite joy. He put the gun in his pocket and smiled. It didn’t feel like a gun day, today.

He thought today it would be fire.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New York Comic Con 2013 Schedule

Thursday Oct 10

At the table!

Friday October 11

11:00 – 12:00 Image Booth Signing – with Tradd and Felipe!

 Saturday October 12
12:30 - 1:30  Avatar Uncut - -  RM  1A23
3:004:00  Image Booth Signing – with Tradd and Felipe!
4:15 – 5:15 Skybound Panel RM 1A08

Sunday October 13th
12:30-1:30pm SIGNING (DCE SIGNING AREA Table EE1)
2:30-3:30pm Green Lantern – Lights Out! – Room 1A22

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


This was Heidi MacDonald's question about the Crossed torture covers. You can see the article linked below. But this reaction interests me, because it’s pretty much the same reaction that many people have to two dudes kissing. Or buying a book about someone who likes to dominate other people, or be dominated by other people.

(You can start humming Sweet Dreams now)

But I suspect if someone were to publically say “WHAT KIND OF SICK FUCK BUYS THIS SHIT????” about, say, S and M, then you’d get a much different kind of response. But understand that whether you think enjoying S and M or gay porn is equivalent to enjoying gore, you are essentially judging someone by their taste in fiction in a way that demonizes and marginalizes them. It says that if you like this, you are a fucked up human being. Torture covers are apparently an acceptable target.

Now, I write an extremely violent and gore filled comic and I am writing Crossed which, as you might guess, is ALSO extremely violent and gore filled. So the full disclosure bit is out of the way.

What might surprise you is that I don’t actually like gore. I’ve never been a gorehound, and most of the time I don’t find it all that entertaining. Shit, some of the scariest and most disturbing movies are some of the least gore filled. Note that despite their reputation, the first Halloween and the orginal Texas Chainsaw Massacre are relatively tame affairs from a strictly blood and guts perspective.

But I am a fan of horror, and as mentioned, I do write a lot of extremely violent things, so I’ve had occasion to meet a lot of gorehounds. So I am at least in some position to offer an opinion on what kind of sick fucks they are.

Not sick fucks at all, usually. They are, as most people are, by and large nice and normal people with no particular urge to violently torture and murder people. People that know the difference between real and not real, which seems to be lacking in some people’s ability to imagine stuff.

I do not understand S&M. I don’t. I can’t understand why people would get off on domination or being dominated. I also know that Fifty Shades of Grey made the author just shy of 100 million dollars, which indicates that quite a lot of people enjoying reading about it or, at the very least, aren’t bothered by it.

I could ask “WHAT KIND OF SICK FUCK BUYS THIS SHIT????” because the ideas it supposes are unfathomable to me. But the fact that it is hugely popular leads to the apparent notion that, perhaps, they aren’t sick fucks and I should examine the inside of my own head a little better.

Or, if you want to get a little higher on the transgressive scale, I’ve known at least two woman who have rape fantasies. I say at least, because I suspect I know others who just kept that particular information to themselves.

Again, I do not understand this. I do not understand how something as horrifying as being the victim rape can be turned into a sexual fantasy. But I also know that these women do not want to be raped, and would just as hurt and damaged by the act as anyone else. Because, again, there is a line between fantasy and reality, and because you enjoy something in fantasy or fiction doesn’t mean you want to carry out the act in real life.

It doesn’t make you a sick fuck.

There was an article, which I am not going to link to, I saw last week, where the summary I wish I hadn’t read was this: a newlywed couple was in a car accident, and both of them died. The wife was killed on impact, but the husband survived long enough to receive aid. He begged them to save his wife, because she was pregnant. Their family only learned the couple was expecting when they found the sonogram pictures in the wife’s purse.

This is horror.

And what is worse, this is something has entertained thousands if not millions of people. They don’t think of themselves as being entertained, but these kinds of stories, presented as news? They aren’t news. They contain no information that you need to know, unless, perhaps, you knew the subject. This is real people’s tragedy, packaged as entertainment and used to make a profit.

And while you may have not read this particular story, it’s a near certainty that you have read or watched with rapt attention while someone else’s horror is presented to you as entertainment. I have. I try not to, and I mostly succeed.

So how, exactly, are we not all sick fucks?