May 18th, 2010

RatReading

Priced To Move, One Way Or Another

The last comic show I was at, I was informed in no uncertain terms by an expert that I was undercharging for my comic books, I could easily step up the price and it wouldn't seem the least bit out of place.  According to him, it was one part "indies are expected to cost more" and one part "your stuff is worth it".  I've pointed out here that people will gladly pay more for something that delivers the goods (I would gladly pay double the cover price for a Liberty Meadows book, but I only got a run of one comic series because I found the issues in the dollar box.  The fact that I don't even remember the title anymore shows I was still overcharged), and he felt my stuff did.  So I've been thinking about my price point, and what I should choose relative to The Bigs.

One of the most amazing things for me is that comics from The Bigs were still going for $3 a shot.  That price has held steady a LOT longer than expected as everything from paperback books to magazines went up.  It's the economy.  Shipping prices, paper, ink, everything has gone up, but The Bigs refused to raise their prices for fear of chasing off the fans.  There are only a few exceptions that haven't even toyed with upping their prices.  Spawn, for example, is still $3.  But with the sheer amount of money spent on talent and such, I wasn't sure how long things would last.

Any time a comic company says they are experimenting, they are actually shifting the market.  I remember the indie boom.  Printing comics on newsprint was a huge, time consuming operation.  You can't really print on it, you need printing plates.  This also meant you needed someplace with a printing press that sat idle for long periods of time.  Lots looked to small town newspapers that only came out weekly and assembled the books themselves.  For most people, it just wasn't worth the hassle and had their books printed on Baxter paper.  This also had the advantage of making the books look really nice and some titles, like Ben Edlund's fantastic black and white art for The Tick, making the images really pop.  Marvel decided to "experiment" with whether the fans wanted Baxter paper for their books and were willing to pay the higher price.  So they launched same The X-Men issues twice.  One version was on Baxter paper and cost a dollar more.  The other was regular newsprint at regular price.  Oh, and shipping two weeks later.  It was obvious what would happen -- fans weren't going to wait two weeks to find out what happened, they would pay the higher price to stay on top of things, and newsprint for comics died.

The last few years, comic companies have been afraid of raising the price of comics.  Fans are already griping how expensive they are.  So, some titles got a price increase, but also got back up stories, eight pagers to help make it worthwhile.  This was with the assurance that standard 22 pagers would not see an increase as long as possible.

Well, apparently, the books are selling well enough and no one gives a hoot about the back ups.

DC is making it official.  In August, four standard size titles will jump to $4.  Emerald Warriors  #1, Time Masters  #2, Mighty Crusaders  #2, and American Vampire  #6.  Not that I'm complaining, like I said, I've been expecting prices to go up for a while now, and am shocked it took so long.  I just know fans are going to complain.  They are already saying they aren't getting, as the Clash liked to say, Value For The Money.  Also notice that the lead-off hitters for the new price point are trendy titles but not anything with a movie in development, so if the fans rebel and the series tanks, it doesn't hurt their clout in Hollywood.

Prices are going up, folks.  It's how it goes.
Epic Fail

I'm Sort Of A Big Deal, Although Maybe Not As Big As I Used To Be

Whoa!  It's like deja vu all over again!

Wizard World has occasionally tried to put itself up against bigger names in an effort to crowd them out.  PhillyCon was scheduled the same weekend as the great granddaddy of comic conventions, NC's Heroes Con.  The result was an industry boycott that effectively turned Wizard into a joke.  Before that, they scheduled the ChicagoCon for the same weekend as San Diego.  Turnout?  What turnout?  Wizard's comic cons are big as long as there is no competition.  Put them up against an actual comic con run by people who love comics, and they lose badly.  This is why they buy up cons instead of starting their own in the same market.

The problem is simple -- the industry doesn't like Wizard.  So they will go out of their way to stick it to them.  Why?  Could be any number of reasons.  Maybe Wizard ramping up the number of non-comics guests and going for more of a pop culture thing instead of comics (whether this is to bring in a bigger audience, make it seem like they don't need the pros, or just an acknowledgment that comic fans are no longer a big enough audience to financially support such a big con, I leave for readers to decide).  I know some dealers and industry pros who love Wizard and have found them far more approachable and cooperative than monolithic structures like Reed.  Whatever the problem, Wizard sure doesn't do itself any favors, pulling numbers that would have PR folks making Maalox smoothies for the rest of the week.

Case in point:  Wizard bought up cons around the NYC area and tried to stick it to Reed's New York Comic Con.  Wizard's New England Con would be the week before NYCC in October, Wizard's Big Apple Con would be the same weekend as NYCC (just a few blocks away, I might note), and Wizard's Noo Joisey Con would be the week after.  I should point out Reed's guest list is continually growing, while Wizard's list grows in fits and starts, usually seeing its biggest growth after a convention ends.  I mean, really.  The ChicagoCon list is usually bigger than this by now.  Unless this is as big as it's going to get (Linda Hamilton is going to be there.  Still no Helen Slater.  Shit).

I mentioned in my con report for C2E2 that the pros love Reed and, if they can only make one convention, given the choice between Reed and Wizard, they'll go Reed.  Apparently, somebody finally delivered the message to Wizard in five foot tall flaming letters.  Wizard just announced that their Big Apple Comic Con has been moved up the first weekend in October, and the venue has changed to the Penn Plaza Pavilion,the old building the BACC was held in before Wizard bought them (newly remodeled).  New England has shifted to the middle of October.  Joisey is currently on hiatus, they are working on it, but no firm date has been announced yet.

ETA:  Penn Plaza is right across the street from a major public transportation hub.  However, it is also a MUCH smaller venue than the Javits Center.  Does this mean that exhibitors will be getting a discount since this could be an admission that they weren't getting anywhere near the number of attendees they thought they would?

Gee, this reminds me of a few years ago.  Wizard went on a massive spending spree, buying up cons, rebranding them, and trying to put the squeeze on others, only to find out their brand doesn't have the cache they thought it did.  One con was cancelled, another had a date change.  And that was when there were about half of what there are now.  There are now 14 Wizard cons.

Rapid expansion, crushing reality.  It nailed Krispy Kreme, it's nailing Wizard.
Putin

Sound Waves? Chibi Manga? Nah! It's...Uh...Cartoony...Yeah....

"I was here before they came, I'll be here long after.
"Don't want to swear, but it seems clear, that I'm gonna hafta.
"Aw, FUCK!"
--The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
"They Came To Boston"

When the black and white comic bubble burst, manga was the only b&w that was still selling.  People like me loved the stuff and enjoyed the titles we followed.

With the manga boom that happened about the time of Toonami and Adult Swim, suddenly those were the comics selling like crazy.  Everybody wanted in on the act, with many people imitating what was cool about manga and anime, not what made it work (yes, Wachoski brothers, I'm looking at you specifically).  The desire to keep the money machine rolling resulted in a lot of manga being snapped up for US distribution, a lot of it with a squick factor to it.  The overload meant that everyone was becoming familiar with the cliches.  Instead of finding interesting series with good stories, cheap vicarious series came in.  Fans bought up series made for fan service, not to tell stories.  I was there when the anime fandom mutated into a bunch of deviants and weirdos ("It's not pedophilia, it's a different culture."  BULLSHIT!).  But there were a lot of people anxious to join in and associate themselves with the fandom.  People like me longed for the days when ecchi and hentai was just one part of the fandom, not the focus.

I've always had a suspicion that, one day, the more rabid parts of the fandom would go neutron star and collapse in on itself.  It happens in every fandom.  Most people eventually have other things to do with their time like earn a living, take care of family, or even discover something new to explore.  It's no coincidence that the boom in the fandom hit with a bunch of Gen Y high schoolers and college kids suddenly invading and redefining everything.  I've anxiously awaited it, so that the idiots can clear out and the people who genuinely enjoy the art form can get back to our hobby.

Looks like the day is coming, chugging like a freight train.

Viz Comics sacked 40% of their work force.  Looks like Shoujo Beat, a mag I loved, was the first branch to be pruned.  TokyoPop, which tried a talent search contest with bullshit terms in the contract, is history.  DC Comics started it's own manga imprint, called CMX.  They had regular manga and the American web comic MegaTokyo.  On Free Comic Book Day, they had a couple of different samplers of the CMX line-up.  Just seeing Fred Gallagher's series was featured there was enough to chase me off.  Now, with the exception of MegaTokyo, EVERY CMX TITLE, INCLUDING THOSE ALREADY SOLICITED, HAS BEEN CANCELED.

Looks like anime and manga is having itself a system purge.  Care Bears Stars, a web video series made with MS Paint and depicting Sailor Scouts with Care Bear powers (Christ, how much crack were they smoking when they thought THAT would be a good idea?!?), has already been C&D'ed into oblivion.  Hopefully, this means the kids are finally moving out and the grown-ups have the house back.
HowardTheDuckForPres

No One Is Safe!

A big salute to Kentucky.  Rand Paul has never done anything political before, and decided to run for the Republican Senate primary.  He's a tea partier.

Paul got 59% of the vote.  His nearest challenger, establishment guy Trey Grayson (Secretary Of State and recruited by US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to run), got 35%.

Any GOP'ers hoping to take advantage of voter discontent just got a rude wake-up call from us tea partiers -- you will NOT use us to further your ends.  We are not your personal army.  Between D's scrambling to keep their seats and the GOP realizing people are sick of their "with us or against us policies...."

...this midterm could be more fun than I anticipated!
DontBlameMe

Food For Thought....

This post is sponsored by British Petroleum, who reminds you there's more where that came from!

The totally awesome mongrelheart made a short Twitter post, saying to urge the Senate that Big Oil needs more oversight, not less.

Just wanted to mention something...the federal Minerals Management Service has given dozens of oil companies permission to start drilling without the necessary permissions, licenses, impact studies, and so on.

Just saying that, besides holding the Senate's feet to the fire, some oversight of federal agencies may be in order, too.

This post was sponsored by British Petroleum, who says, "Oh, cheer up!"

And a tip of the hat to Not Necessarily The News, where I stole those jokes from.