Tony Caputo of Now Comics saw columnist Steve Bennett's suggestion that comic publishers stop publishing in the traditional comic periodical format (see 'Confessions of of a Comic Book Guy -- Resolved, that Comics Should Be More Expensive'), and disagrees:


I disagree with Steve Bennett's suggestion of eliminating the 'comic book pamphlet;' although, as a previous publisher of this format, the official term is 'periodical.'  A pamphlet, by Webster Dictionary's definition is 'an unbound printed publication with no cover or with a paper cover.'  Comic book periodicals are bound (saddle-stitched) and do have a cover, on different 'glossy cover stock.'


The problem with deleting the comic book periodical from the publishing schedule is the monthly cash flow generated by the publisher, creator, distributor, and the retailer to pay the bills.  It also provides a means for the publisher to generate continued gross profits in order to pay for the continued content development, unlike a graphic novel or trade paperback publisher, which follows a different formula.


The book publishing formula doesn't fit very well into comic art production, where you're traditionally paying people per page and not by completed manuscript.  It's more accessible to pay a creator a $10,000 advance on royalties for the sales of a 250-page trade paperback ('a book'), if it's a reprint, rather than $250 a page to produce the content, equaling $62,500, plus royalties (a simple example).  The formulas are very different; a square peg in a round hole.  This is why I'm wary about the graphic novel, manga and trade paperbacks being the savior of comic books.  Eventually, you'll have to start producing new content, with the new formula.


Back in 1989, I requested a quote for a Roger Rabbit Comic Magazine, as I was working with Randy Achee and the soon-to-be Disney Comics.  The cost of printing was just a couple cents more than a comic book periodical, but instead of 6-5/8' x 10-?', it was 8-1/2' x 11' and was also going to be distributed as 'a magazine' on the magazine racks through Warner Publisher Services.  I could not do that with Slimer & the Real Ghostbusters at the time (which I wanted to, to attract more kids), because Welsh Publishing had the worldwide rights to the magazine license for The Real GhostbustersSlimer & the Real Ghostbusters won a Parent's Choice Award, shipping out about 12,000 copies to the direct market (that was poor in 1989, but the direct market never had the kids), and about 130,000 on the newsstand, with a sell-through of about 35%.  It would've been the same content -- two comics' stories written at a second grade reading level, games, puzzles, poster in the center, and the Draw Slimer Contest Winners, of which we received about 20,000 entries.  The reason for the format change was that I would've been able to double the circulation if it were a 'magazine,' and not a 'comic book.'


This would've opened up the doors for subscriptions, substantial advertising revenues (a major part of a magazine's survival, but abandoned in the comic book world), and I could've shipped out 250,000 copies through WPS and still sold 30-40%+ (actually, at that time magazines sold around 50% sell-through).


Your examples of Shonen Jump and Disney Adventures confirm that there is a need for a different format, and content (not just superheroes).  A wider, more acceptable mainstream format for comic periodicals would also require a different mindset from publishers, distributors and retailers.  This is very important to the survival of the direct market, as not only will these new periodicals generate new young readers (as I've explained in my white paper), but will also continue to generate the much needed cash flow from regular serial readership for a typically undercapitalized industry (from the independent publisher, to the comic shops themselves).  However, there are not very many companies in the position to finance this type of venture.  True, Disney Adventures sells over one million copies, but that's also because, from my old research, the checkout POS rack costs them $2 million a year. Time-Warner is in a grand position, having the history of Mad magazine and DC Comics.


In addition, I'd be leary about the hype of technology providing a means of delivering electronic versions of periodicals, comic books, cartoons and games on your cell phone.  I can't see how the interpersonal experience of comics will survive a 2' square LCD screen, nor the constant reliability on battery-powered electricity.  A comic book periodical, graphic novel or book provides the reader with freedom from technology, and I believe once the fads wear off (and the batteries die) the periodical and books will survive.  Did home video kill the movie theatre?  Did cable TV kill home video?  Did Napster kill the music industry?  No.  It changed them, and so will the comic book periodical.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of