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Begging Hat in Hand
Excerpt from ¡Journalista! for August 28, 2008
(Note: Red text indicates a dead link.)

 

"D&Q, Fantagraphics, Slave Labor, Top Shelf... all produce a staggering amount of creator owned work. Warren Ellis touted both financial and critical success of Fell. And yet the aforementioned publishers have had to go begging hat in hand and must fight retailers for sales at conventions because the work isn't selling as well as needed and who knows if or when Ellis will reward us with more Fell, which now seems to be on an annual schedule."

Ye gods, where does one begin?

I can't speak for SLG Publishing — it's what they've called themselves for quite some time now, Robert — but of the other three publishers you mentioned, Top Shelf and Drawn & Quarterly sent out an appeal for fans to buy their books because bookstore distributors went under while owing them money, while Fantagraphics did the same due to loans taken out because their bookstore distributor went under while owing them money. (All have since found better representation.) "Strong editors" and "publication schedules" had nothing to do with their predicaments, and I feel pretty confident in stating that if they'd waited for comics-shop retailers "beating down their doors for their work," all three publishers would undoubtedly be out of business by now. The fact that these publishers are relatively healthy right now owes more to the fact that they got sick of waiting for sympathetic readers to show up in the Direct Market, and instead went off seeking out alternative markets where such readers might actually be found. And what do you know? It seems to have worked!

Fancy that.

 

Nerd, you know it's true. Detail from "Comics Industry Trading Cards!!!" in Dork #1 ©1995 Evan Dorkin.

 

Scott's general point seems to be "Whether or not you own the work doesn't matter nearly as much as does getting it onto my shelves so that I can sell it to people," which is about as clueless an argument as one can make. He's reacting to Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman's argument in favor of creator ownership here. Kirkman's point boils down to "We need fresh blood in the marketplace if comics are to survive, and milking Baby-Boomer/Gen-X nostalgia for characters young readers have interest in reading doesn't seem to be cutting it. Since few people are stupid enough to remake Siegel and Shuster's horrible mistakes in this day and age, I guess that means that we're going to have to learn to sell new creator-owned work in comics shops, doesn't it?" Which is a fine and sensible notion, all things considered. It's a creator-centric argument, to be sure, but then Kirkman is a creator speaking to other creators — it's sort of the perspective you'd expect from him, after all.

Silly Kirkman. Doesn't he realize that his job in life is to make sure that the widgets he produces show up in Robert Scott's store on time? Screw this creator ownership crap. So long as it looks like something his customers might buy and it shows up when Diamond Previews says it will, maybe with a Wizard article hyping it for a few extra sales, you don't really need anything else, do you? Stop thinking of yourself, Kirkman! Quit your daydreaming! You're starting to sound like those uppity art-comics shitheels, and look at what happened to them, all begging in the street an' shit. Do you want that to happen to you? No sir, no you do not.

Yesterday I noted that denizens of the Direct Market had a nagging tendency to believe that their tastes somehow reflected greater American consumer habits more than they actually did. Perhaps I should have made that "deluded themselves into thinking that the entire goddamned universe revolved around their sorry asses," shouldn't I?

 

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