Ilan Strasser of Fat Moose Comics and Games in Whippany, New Jersey read the recent article regarding DC and Marvel lowering their cover prices (see "DC Lowering Comic Prices in 2011") and shares his reaction to the news.
This is so sick. I have been saying exactly what the recent commentators have been saying about comic book prices for 15 years or more. I have talked about the necessity of providing readers with real value for their comics--meaning quality of content and page count relative to price point--for just as long. There is only one paradigm for success as a comic publisher in 2010 and it is the same paradigm that made sense in the 1960's. For those who remember, that was the time when comics climbed out of the economic gutter that the publishing of Seduction of the Innocent and the implementation of the Comics Code put them in. How did this happen? What was the paradigm? Every comic book, whether based on an individual character or on a team concept, appeared once a month. And there were no secondary titles of that character or team except for the annuals that appeared each summer. Simple, huh? That paradigm would work whether a company publishes 12 comics a month or 120 comics a month. What are the pivotal characteristics within that paradigm that would ensure success regardless of the number of titles published? I've said it many times before, but here's a partial, cumulative recap for those who previously missed, ignored, or derided it:
(1) Publish a comic line wherein the characters are interesting and the quality of the writing and art are consistent from month to month and year after year.
(2) Make sure that even multi-part stories make coherent sense within the individual issues comprising a story run--every story, continued or one-shot, has to have its' own beginning, middle, and end.
(3) On a related note, make the annual a special issue that ends one year of storylines and segues into another.
(4) Higher reliable writers and artists who can deliver their work complete and on time.
(5) Keep prices low, both on a comparative and a percentage basis, in comparison to other entertainment media.
(6) If you publish 12 titles, you must publish 12 different titles. The same holds true if you publish 120.
(7) You can publish different titles within a family. For example, mutants--Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, X-Factor, Wolverine--no problem if they are all different teams with different non-interacting storylines.
A) You CANNOT publish Uncanny X-Men, Uncanny X-Men Forever, Uncanny X-Men Chicago, Uncanny X-Men Academy, etc.
B) You should group comics into distinctive categories that can be enjoyed independently of each other. These could include an ICONS line, a secondary characters line, a sci-fi line, a horror line, a villain line, a licensed line, a super-heroine line, etc.
(8) Schedule and release your line in balance over the month--120 books? 25-35 a week. Don't have a week with 54 titles and 3 other weeks with 22, 34, and 10 titles respectively. Respect the need for budgeting that both the retailers and their customers need, especially if you publish a large number of books each month.
(9) No multi-part crossover events, whether in titles within a family or company wide.
(10) Make the reader feel like an important and integral part of the books he reads. Letter pages within the comics do matter--real fans would be more thrilled to see their comments in a book than on a website.
(11) Provide the reader with incentives to subscribe with his local retailer, along with further incentives to maintain as large a subscription count as possible.
(12) Subsidize the cost of books with relevant, well-placed advertising that is designed to capture the attention of the reader without interfering prohibitively with editorial content.
I could go on for pages and pages. The point is, as I've said so many times before, is that ever since Marvel went public, there has been NO LONG-TERM view surrounding publishing. With LONG-TERM commitment, it is still possible, even in this digital age, to keep readers, recapture old readers, and even strategize to create new readers. But the short-term thinking of the past decade and a half has had the opposite effect and the industry is now completely entrenched in what has become a slow and miserable death. I wish I knew someone with a deep love for comics who also had really deep pockets that cared about saving the industry. If you know someone like that, have him give me a call. Now that would be one hell of an alternate universe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
'This Is So Sick'
Posted by ICv2 on October 11, 2010 @ 5:00 pm CT
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