The Relatively Big Two; or, This Kool-Aid is Delicious

My name is Jim, and I just want to read stories. I don’t want to make comics myself.

I know. Take a moment to collect yourselves.

I realize that I’m the rare albino hummingbird of hobbyists. I realize that fourteen out of every ten comic book readers is himself (or herself, but, come on, himself) cultivating a portfolio full of sketches and/or writing samples to take to the next nearby convention. I realize that Conventional Wisdom holds that all comic readers dream of being comic creators.

I have opted out of that particular dream. Nothing personal, medium; I just want to feed my kids without bloodying a wall with my head. I don’t want to write a TV show, either. I just like to watch TV.

Comics were (in the Golden Age) made by illustrators and would-be novelists who cranked out content by the page in the name of feeding their families however they could. They were comic book creators who didn’t need to create comic books. Since those days, comics have been taken over by the guys who used to write the fanzines for those books, and the fans of those fanzines, and the message board admins for the fans of those fanzines. The result is the kind of incest that makes the royal family exclaim, “Egad! I say. Get a room.” In 2012, every producer of comics was once a consumer of comics.

People who work in comics now cannot even conceive that the people they’re talking to don’t want to make comics. Witness, for example, a “conversation” I had Sunday night, full of equal parts insider wisdom and condescension:

 

“Call a printer,” he says to me. Gee, mister!

Like any teacher who’s a week older than I am, he wants me to study. Before my test. My test on what? I’d ask, but they’d only tell me to call a textbook manufacturer.

Thanks so much for the helpful input. I will get right on that, as soon as every other thing in my actual life stops happening, Sensei.

(Am I the dick? If I am, please tell me in the comments. Don’t be as reserved as usual, you shrinking violets.)

The thing is, this will not impact my shopping behavior in the slightest.

Brian Bendis (who is responsible for bringing the inciting tweet above to my attention) is hands-down my favorite writer in the history of comics. I’ve loved his work on AvX/The New Avengers/Avengers Assemble/Takio/Alias/Ultimate Comics Ultimate Spider-Man Comics/Whatever Huge Thing He Did That You Didn’t Like. Nothing he’s said outside the bounds of his issues has done anything to change that.

No offense, friend.

Strangely, I’m less annoyed by the disconnect between what writers are writing in comics and what they’re writing on Twitter, than I am by the pro-Kirby protests against Marvel’s The Avengers.  Marvel made half a billion dollars on Kirby’s back without sharing their bounty, but I don’t have the energy to get my dander up about that.

This is not like me. I’m normally right in front of Don Quixote, charging towards The Man with my Stick of Futility. In this case, though, I am for some reason resigned to The Way Of Things.

“Marvel didn’t pay Kirby for The Avengers idea?” I find myself saying. “The idea that a bunch of pre-existing work-for-hire characters could continue existing together? What jerks, not predicting in 1963 that kids’ disposable pulp heroes would be worth billions of dollars half a century later and cutting their employee in for money they could have kept for themselves. The bums.”

I have a friend who worked for AT&T ten years ago. Her name is on a patent for something she developed while she worked there. Guess how much money she sees from that. I’ll get you started: count from zero until you get to nothing.

Maybe it’s just that I’m a grumpy old man who has lived long enough to receive an e-mail forward urging me to boycott every single thing I eat, drink, watch, listen to, or shop at, but between hearing about the conditions at the iPhone factory and hearing about what exactly they mean by “blood diamonds,” I find myself thinking, “Oh, so every waking moment of modern life is a horrific nightmare, but in the sixties they only paid Jack Kirby a living wage instead of making him a millionaire? Well, where’s my hankie?”

A company acted in its own best interest rather than handing bags and bags of money over to the little guy?… Yeah. That sounds about right. That’s pretty much the world working the way it’s described in the manual. If that strikes you as appalling, you children might want to buckle up for the rest of adulthood.

By taking this passive stance against Kirby’s heirs, you understand, I am putting myself in the corner of a multinational corporation that has undoubtedly done unspeakable things in the name of grabbing my dollar. If only someone had warned me.

And yet, nothing Disney or Time-Warner does has dissuaded me from purchasing their products. They’re so diversified, I’m not sure I could cut them off if I tried.

At the same time, the guys who went indie have done so in a fashion I find so obnoxious that it makes me never want to touch another book again as long as I live. Why is that? Sure, most of them went directly from becoming “famous” and successful at the (relatively, using the term very loosely) Big Two to striking out on their own, badmouthing the very people who made them what they are, but how is that really different from me and any company I’ve worked for? When you get right down to it? Where does my antipathy for the Robert Kirkmans of the world come from, as someone who thinks of himself as a Damn-the-Man quasi-Commie?

Maybe I’ve just lived long enough to see every man become the thing he claims to despise. Maybe I’m just projecting. Whatever the reason, I’ll leave the shop with an armful of DC and Marvel books on Wednesday and sleep like a baby. May God have mercy on my soul.

 


Jim Mroczkowski knows that Jim Jones didn’t actually use Kool-Aid when poisoning his followers, but rather went with a cheaper off-brand, as if he wasn’t already a bad enough guy.

Comments

  1. was CB talking about Sullivan’s Sluggers?

    • I have no idea. I’m sure no one would have told me if I asked, unless I completed a Double Dare physical challenge.

    • You ALWAYS go for the Physical Challenge.

    • it is weird that he would call creators on Kickstarter’s greedy, I assume he is referring to how much they set the goal at for their comic to get funded initially.

      But you’re getting something back for whatever you put in, so why would someone who is putting money in care if the creator is being “greedy”?

    • I think he is referring to the pledge level required to get a copy of the book. I guess he is saying that some creators are taking advantage of the fact that backers expect to pay more for a book on kickstarter so they set the pledge levels higher than they need to. But if they do that then there is a greater chance that their campaign is not successful. I think the “greedy” ones will be weeded out without having to call a printer.

  2. This article was really interesting and really got me thinking. Great job, Jim!

  3. Great article. One that I agree with you on. As far as you being a dick the answer is most certainly no. It seemed they were claiming victory in a dick measuring contest you didn’t know you had entered with their knowledge beyond yours of how “the biz works.” Also, if they did tell you the cost it would still be you learning it on your own. You ask a question, someone who knows the answer answers. That’s learning in my book.

    • that’s not learning, that’s having someone give you the answer, its passive. “learning” is active. learning requires effort on the part of the learner.

    • The only way receiving an answer isn’t learning is if you immediately forget the answer. The quickest, easiest way to learn ANYTHING, whether it’s trivia or an actual skill, is having someone who knows show/tell you.

    • @JokersNuts Asking for information from people who are informed and deal with that kind of business routinely isn’t cheating. If someone came up to me and asked, “Can you suggest a good comic?” and I said, “Go pick something up and read it,” I’m PRETTY sure I’d be told to go sodomize myself as that is a crap answer and all they learned is that I shouldn’t be asked questions.

    • @jokernuts: So does that mean every elementary, middle, high school, and college lecture I sat in taught me nothing because it was somebody telling me information? Sure felt like I learned a lot in those sixteen years. I guess that means I don’t learn anything from watching the news or documentaries either since that is just somebody telling me stuff too.

    • @everyone who thinks they learn by being listening instead of doing. — In school, those lectures were important to reinforce and discuss the homework you DID, and the text book you READ, to prepare for the test you will TAKE.

    • You’re all right! You can learn by watching, doing, listening, eating, sleeping, and showering. The answer is all of the above.

      Jeeebus. Like little kids up in this place.

    • @diebenny is absolutely right. You can learn by listening AND reading AND doing. It’s not one or the other. Different people learn in different ways.

    • Bendis and Cebulski were the dicks here. They had a chance to TEACH and instead chose to be smart asses. You know, that thing where where people who know something tell you what they know, and you try to absorb it? All they needed to do was a quick list, or a URL to an article about the costs of self publishing, or whatever. But no, they kept the inside information inside, making an inside joke and not answering the question. Very juvenile.

  4. I would avoid trying to interact with creators and just enjoy the books.

  5. “Call a printer”? What a ridiculous answer. “Excuse me, I’d like to know how much to print an indeterminate amount of copies of a comic book of unknown number of pages, maybe color, maybe black and white, and like to know how much I’d have had to pay either an artist or a writer, depending on what I need, plus maybe somebody to color or design a logo and maybe an ISBN…hello? hello?”

  6. Agreed on all fronts. The amount of pretentious holier-than-thou soapboxing that takes place on twitter borders on the ludicrous. The pointless arguing that goes on about Big Two creator rights leads me to believe that these indie guys either A) are mind-numbingly stupid/naive, or B) love the sound of their own voices. Maybe both.

  7. The article started off well enough for me, but then turned into “Jack Kirby got screwed but who gives a damn because that’s how the world works – also don’t blame Marvel”

    • Same. I started out all gung ho for the author, and disgusted with bendis/cb. Then it turned into me being disgusted with the actually author, and then the article as a whole. lol

  8. Nice article. First sentance of the last paragraph. Ask George Lucus and he would agree.

  9. There was some other KS that was talked about on a few other sites, where the creator was asking for like $50k because they wanted living expenses paid for to work on the book as well as printing costs, and the creators were getting pissy over the lack of support. I suspect they were talking about that.

    I think that CB and Bendis are presuming A LOT with those statements though. 1. The average indie creator could NEVER get the discounts that Marvel guys can get. You pump millions of dollars a year through a printer, they’ll cut you and everyone involved with them deals because they need to keep that big account happy. If its a new printer, they see an opportunity to get the big account, so having that Marvel/Disney connection gets you treatment some indie kickstarter person will never have a chance at. Print Reps are smart sales people who know how to look you and your company up on google…plus, they work on commission.

    2. Getting a bid on a complex print job like a book is incredibly complex. I can call up my top 3 commercial printers today and get quotes that have $10k price range difference off the exact same specs….i know what i’m asking for and how to spec a print job, because its part of what i do for a living. There are SO many ways to drive the price up and down depending on small details. There is a certain language and shorthand you need to use with printers, or else they smell n00b and give you default and expensive quotes.

    • Bendis and Cebulski get living expenses to produce comics, I don’t see what’s wrong with indie creators wishing to do the same, especially giving the incredibly tiny size and relatively low budgets of the established comics publishers (relative to say, the major prose publishers).

      This isn’t like some teenage fanfic writer being unable to find an agent who’ll represent some cheesy Twilight rip-off (though those are apparently big money these days) and deciding they should get paid to write a book they’re going to sell through Lulu.com. We’re talking about established (and in many cases, award-winning) creators with a livelihood to make in an industry that can barely move 200k of the “top” book of the month in an increasingly restrictive genre field, that could never dream of paying some bored housewife a million dollars for some book she threw together in her spare time (which is basically what happened with Stephenie Meyer and Twilight). Hell, DC can’t even afford Neil Gaiman anymore.

      If you’re referring to Lea Hernandez who was trying to earn $40,000 on KS (which would have been $30k after taxes) for a year’s work when she’s a single mother of a special needs child– frankly, she has every right to get upset that she couldn’t raise that money. Because that’s not about greed, it’s about survival. Jack Kirby made a living at comics. Most established, award-winning professionals can hardly say that these days, even if they own every copyright and trademark to their own work.

    • As always, I find your posts measured, well-reasoned and informative.

      Maybe your KS project should be writing a manual for indie creators on how to talk to printers. 🙂

      I’m dead serious. The world needs what you have. Imagine the service to mankind you could be doing.

      #illneverusekinkosagain

    • @alexa–that may have been it. not sure really. People can ask for whatever they want, whether or not it gets supported is something else. Its Ultimate Free Market! I’m sure there are as many dumb ideas on KS as there are amazing ones.

      @player1–heh thanks. I dunno, i feel like there has to be a lot of resources out there about print prepress and printing…its all relative. There’s so much stuff!

    • @alexa – there’s a big difference between funding a Kickstarter project and a company paying a creator or executive for their work. If, God forbid, something happens to Bendis or Cebulski that they could not do their jobs, there would be a contingency plan put in place and the work they paid to get done would get done, albeit for more than they expected (having to pay someone to take over the work). If you fund a Kickstarter project and something happens to the creator, you have no book. And by “something”, it could be anything from real life getting in the way all the way up. And currently, Kickstarter provides no recourse for projects that get funded but not completed, nor any guarantee that the project will actually come to fruition, so you have to deal with the project initiator for all your issues. That’s why many people who get involved with Kickstarter comic projects prefer to fund projects where you’re basically pre-ordering a completed book (“print-to-demand” type projects) rather than paying someone to spend time making the book from scratch.

      (Thanks to 11 O’Clock Comics and, specifically, Jason Wood, who does a lot of Kickstarter and I would think would be a good resource for anyone with questions about project funding. Most of what I said is summarized from a recent podcast of theirs).

  10. You point to an interesting problem, and I’m going to veer to the more general sentiment behind your comments. Frankly, there is *so much* wrong with the corporate climate we live in, that it’s inevitable that any one who buys *anything* is 100% guaranteed to be supporting something awful, whether it be the mistreatment of animals in the factory farms, the abuse and exploitation of child soldiers in the “blood diamond” industry, or the bloating of the 1%’s wallets on the back of the rest of us (the list goes on). And I really appreciate the sentiment you express here, and it’s one that I’ve felt many times in the past. You sound like you’re suffering from what I refer to as “activism fatigue” – too many causes, too many reasons to hate the world, nothing one person does really changes anything.

    I went through this last summer when I felt like the world sucks and nothing we do can make it better. But that’s not necessarily true; it’s just a matter of picking your battles (for me, at the time, it led to the decision to become a vegetarian). For us who love comics, I don’t think we really can get away from supporting the “big two,” because they tell the stories of some of our favorite characters. But that doesn’t mean we don’t support the creators themselves! Sure, we all love Snyder’s Batman, but many of us also bought Sever. And Hickman’s FF run was amazing, and Manhattan Projects is developing to be just as epic a tale. My point is that every time any of us buy a creator-owned book, we’re helping. Everytime we decide “nope, not going to buy that particular book, even though it has my favorite character in it, because frankly, the story/art sucks,” we’re helping. Kirby, Finger, and practically all the rest of those guys are never going to get the (financial) credit they deserve, but that doesn’t mean that every comic creator is destined to the same.

    • Everybody: koryrosh gets me.

    • That’s why this thing we have works. Don’t tell my wife. 😛

    • Jim I totally understand your sentiment about the twitter exchange and your feelings about corporate vs independent comics. I’ve listened to CB’s prior interviews on iFanboy and Word Balloon and I thought he was very thoughtful and did a good job about how Marvel selects artists and writers. I’m guessing that his and Bendis’ reluctance to give a solid answer might be that they are unable to talk specifics for business reasons which I don’t think is a good reason to respond to your question in the way that they did.

      On the other part of your article I think that people have a distant understanding about part of the publishing business and history. I can’t imagine that anyone thought at the time that comics like Avengers or Superman were created by the creators and the management that these ideas were going to make anyone millions or even billions of dollars over the ideas lifetimes. At the time of creation these books were selling at 15 cents a issue or something like that and even with a readership that is ten times what is now. You can’t imagine anyone smoking fat cigars especially since for every iconic book there were many comics that had failed. So I can see at that point the contracts and defined ownership would not be taken very seriously by either creators or publishers. The one lesson that can be taken from this is that new ideas can be worth something and that creators should take the business side seriously and learn how to balance these issues whether doing independent publishing or working with the big 2.

  11. Jimski, that response to your question really burned me up, especially since I am also a consumer first and last (and everywhere in between). But then I really wanted to know, so I did some Google searching.

    Since finding out about comic book printing looks to be nearly impossible, I just searched “printing cost of magazine” on Google out of curiosity. This link was illuminating: http://www.selfpublishingcommunity.com/Magazine-Publishing/2007/3/Magazine-Printing-Costs

    I can poke my own holes in drawing comparisons to comics in that link: mainly that it’s for a large # of pages, a very small # of colors, and probably a different size and style of paper. But hey, ballpark. Also, it’s a nice example of how economies of scale actually work. That also makes it harder to know who is being greedy, unless everyone says how many copies they are going to churn out.

    • i see a lot of kickstarters that seem to have incredibly high printing costs. I don’t see greed as much as they don’t know what they are doing and got a bad quote from an expensive printer.

      You’ll never find the answer through google because its a complicated question with multiple layers. A print quote can change daily and depends on every single variable in the equation. Adding 4 pages to you your book and changing the brand of paper can change the quote by thousands either way…and there are like 100 other factors.

    • Oh, I definitely get that I barely poked my toe in the water there. But I was really just curious about order of magnitude, which I have now satisfied. It all sounds insanely complex, which makes the initial reply to Jim bug me all the more.

  12. ps Cebulski and Bendis’ answers to Jim’s incredible legitimate question were obnoxious to say the least.

  13. Yes. Agreed to all of this. With the rise of social media, the comics industry is somehow using it to become MORE insular. Creators make themselves available on these networks, but react poorly when people ask them questions. I’ve seen it happen many times on Twitter. The idea that you can ask someone a question and be told “Ask someone else, because I won’t talk to you until you’re educated about it” is backwards and rude.

    I don’t know. I’m grumpy today anyway.

    • Twitter is a strange place. So many private conversations taken public, and so much pontification and “opinion=fact” happening. Often times it feels and sounds like a King talking down to peasants. A bit of power and a bit of an audience does things to people…

    • CB Cebulski’s Twitter-tweets directly lead to me buying less Marvel books.

    • @wallythegreenmonster
      totally agree.
      that’s why i don’t follow celebrities on twitter. why subject yourself to the submissive role of hanging on their every word while they couldn’t give a fuck less who we are or what we think. this pop culture obession puzzles me to say the least.

  14. It’s a Different World, on Twitter.

    As creators strike out on this new wave of here-I-go, and blog about it, the tweetsphere becomes greatly engorged with projecting. Also, BMB will often (always?) advise folks to find out about various aspects of the biz through their own research. When I took his class, he was on the road during the production phase, and his mantra to the class was: Figure It Out. I believe CB probably gets so many people who want to get in showing him their wares, that he has a built-in filter for “spoon feed me”. That might be convention-shell, twitter-shield or road-wearyness, too. Hard to take too much offense if somebody doesn’t fully sate my immediate need for knowledge in 140-character bursts.

    But the information is perilously close to anyone who wants to find it.

    [SPOILER]Usually Googling “comic book printing cost calculator” will bring up something like lulu or ka-blam! and a couple of minutes of playing around with it will give you some ballpark ideas. Then read Diamond’s Terms & Conditions and cry yourself to sleep. Then wake up tomorrow and bless Providence that you don’t actually want to make comics, let alone self-publish (or run the pitch/proposal/convention/kickstarter/twitterverse circuit, Desperately Seeking Funding).[/SPOILER]

    I find myself in much the same quandary, vis a vis, buying corporate comics. It comes and goes, in Metonically Cyclical waves.

    Cheers.

  15. You asked him to arm you with enough information to make a similarly informed decision. In 140 characters or less that is the perfect answer. Also did you call me a shrinking violet. You sir are a D#$K.

  16. Are you the dick? Absolutely not. I don’t know why you couldn’t get a straight answer. Would a printer telling you a number somehow have more meaning than a comic creator telling you the same number? It just came off as the creators trying to sound superior but succeeding only in sounding like pretentious jerks. You asked a legitimate question and received a snarky answer for no discernible reason. Great article, as always.

  17. The cynic in me says “maybe THEY don’t want the next generation of comic makers well-informed before they go out, make a mistake they’d lose their shirt on, and fail horribly to never enter the market as competitors.” It lets the business people fly through, but the people who might be better at other areas to remain more…subjugated in this industry.

    But I’d rather that not be true.

  18. Ka-Blam and Comicpress both have printing calculators:

    http://ka-blam.com/printing/index.php?page=Calculator&op=36
    http://www.comixpress.com/tools/creator/calculator/

    I did a Kickstarter for a single issue, and printing (with Ka-Blam) and shipping together cost roughly $1000. I think, if it were 130-page trades, it’s 2 grand just to print like 250 of those.

    But yeah, Kickstarter numbers are all relative to how many you’re printing, what you’re printing, and whether or not anybody is actually getting paid. I’m not sure how you could tell who’s being greedy besides gut instinct. Like that supreme court quote about pornography: “I know it when I see it”

  19. I second not wanting to make comics. I love comics, obviously enough to frequent websites like this, but they’re a hobby and I already have a career in a totally unrelated field.

  20. I just like reading comics.

  21. Wait, wait, talking about the indie guys that have left the Big Two, you mention “badmouthing the very people who made them what they are”…. so the Big Two made these very talented writers and artists that left? It wasn’t the actual quality of their work that defined who they are? Couldn’t one argue it’s the work of these creators that made the Big Two what they are?
    Brubaker is leaving Cap to go focus on more creator-owned stuff. So Marvel letting him write Cap made Brubaker successful enough to leave? And not more so that Brubaker made Captain America a relevant, high-quality comic again?

    Sheesh.

    • I’m pretty sure Robert Kirkman would be as successful as he is now even if he never wrote any Marvel comics.

    • I think the point he was making, to use your example, is that Brubaker isn’t the only person to have made Cap interesting and revalant. What he has done on Cap has been great and he is largely responsible for making him one of Marvel’s top characters again, but he didn’t create Cap. Did he revive him? Absolutely, but that wouldn’t have happened if Marvel hadn’t given him a chance with one of their most famous characters. Hell, they even let Burbaker kill him and replace him with a character that was thought to be dead for decades! Also, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess Brubaker isn’t one of the people Jim is talking about.

    • ScorpionMasada: Yeah, Marvel Team-Up and Ultimate X-Men didn’t make Kirkman the powerhouse he is, that was his own blood, sweat and tears, as well as those of his co-creators.

      USPUNX: Probably not, but it’s a pretty bold statement to make that is rather broad and could be seen to include a lot of people.

    • well working for the big 2 gives you access to a very large, very passionate fan base, you may never get working solely on indies. It puts your name into the big leagues. Yes its the work, but building an audience is just as difficult. How many great books get cancelled because they don’t have the audience?

    • True, but I’m also glad he didn’t call out individuals by name. Given how many “twitter bombs” there have been from comics creators this year I think we can all guess some of the people Jim is referring to.

  22. This makes me want to follow CB for the wrong reasons.

    • Haha I know what you mean. A couple weeks ago I went through my list and unfollowed all the people that I I followed just because I hated what they said. It was a cathartic experience and my twitter feed has been much more positive since then.

  23. Arrrggghhh Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    I’m not doing a comic, but I am doing a kid’s book thanks to my KickStarter project.
    Those interested in self publishing and/or Kickstarter, Here’s the breakdown for making 1,000 high quality kids’ books:

    Book: 11″ by 8.5′, full color, 40pg, embossed Hardcover (casebound w/dust jacket), 135lb stock, UV Varnish

    Costs:
    $4,106.95 for printing
    $276.92 for delivery
    $120 for hi-rez hard cover proof
    $250 for registering for block of 10 ISBNs (+$25 for UPC coding)
    Also printing bookmarks, buttons and prints for about $300
    Then there will be cost for envelopes and shipping out the books to the KickStarter pledgers.

    Goal was $5,500, made $5,675 of which Kickstarter/Amazon get around $500 (about 10% of the funding.)
    So I have about $5,125 to use, I’m just about breaking even with my project.
    I’m dealing with a China printer, so costs are much lower than US printing.
    Turn around will be about 6 weeks for delivery.

    • Congrats on a successful campaign! Just curious, once you send copies to all the pledgers, about how many will you have left to sell? Also, since you have already created the original product, tests, proofs, etc.; how much would it cost to run an additional say 1,000?

    • Arrrggghhh Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

      I will have about 750 books left after sending out to everyone I owe books and donations.
      This is because I offered an extra book to all who pledged over $25 when the project succeeded. I will be sending many books to local libraries and schools. The intention is to simply get the books out there into kids’ hands.

      The 750 books left I will try to sell via Amazon, NYC Comic con and eventually my own website.
      Retail price: $15. If I make any profit, I plan to create an animated e-book version and then spend the rest on my next book.

      Re-Ordering will be based on demand and how quick the 1st printing goes.
      Since everything is digital, re-orders will be about 15% cheaper.

      But as mentioned above . . . there does seem to be many profit taking KickStarter Projects in Comics that are so over inflated. But, if they can gather up that money from having such great work or a fan based . . . more power to them.

      I’m starting to see are more and more established professionals looking to use KickStarter for personal profit; you know the guys asking for $40,000 aren’t spending all of that on product.
      I’m not opposed to this happening, but the small guys trying to make it into the business will eventually get overshadowed. I think there’s only a year or 2 before KickStarter goes the way of eBay . . . (which is really not a bad thing.)

      But something there are these real great gems, like Jake Palmer’s Antler Boy: he only asked for $6,000 for his 9 stories hard cover anthology – he made over $85,000! His talent and art deserve it . . .

    • Congratulations. Great work!

    • It’s nice to see Kickstarter work the way it is supposed to. Great job and much success!

    • Congrats!

      Just as a side note (so you are not surprised) I do not see any math for taxes that Uncle Sam will want from you. Make sure you plan for that financial hit.

      The Tiki

    • Arrrggghhh Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

      That’s a whole new can of worms, thefreakytiki.
      There is no true defined tax law for something like Kickstarter projects, since each project is different.

      I’m not an expert, and believe me I looked into this, especially since I already do my company taxes each year . . .

      KickStarter projects are not considered “Funds”, because creators hold all rights – yet, its still very much like fund raising. Donations are made for products from pledges.
      In ye olden days; cash for a project, get a loan – you wouldn’t be taxed on the money you got from a loan . . . but KickStarter isn’t a loan either.

      There are often exchanges, cash for future product (pre-orders) – but this is not true for every level of a particular project.
      Some pledges are simply a small thanks or there are pledges made separately from any reward.
      For example, for my project, over 35% of the money was simply given without asking for anything in return, making it a “Gift” in a way. Then many people increased their pledges in the final days, not asking for more rewards – but simply giving so that the project succeeds.

      It really is a mess, and I will be looking for some professional insight come Tax Day.
      Just to note: I believe under $10,000, KickStarter does not files the project to the IRS. Amazon Payments may be a different story. So I’m guessing many under $10,000 will be calling it a gift.

      Personally, I need to be more careful to protect my biz.
      For the time being, I’ll just consider the moneys gathered as revenue.

  24. filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

    Re: are you the dick?

    No, but writing an article because Cebulsky and Bendis gave you a half assed reply on twitter seems inane to me.

    Re: Kickstarter.

    My only two parameters are:
    – I am interested in the product (Ça va sans dire)
    – the standard edition of the product is reasonably priced
    If creators are making good money on top of that with vanity pledge tiers or super duper collector editions good for them, not a problem for me.

    Re: people who work in comics assuming everybody who follows them wants to make comics.

    Dunno about that, but I really can’t think of any good reason for following Cebulsky if you don’t.

    • I think you might have missed the point. The Cebulsky/Bendis thing wasn’t what the article was actually about, it was just a jumping off point to discuss larger issues within the comics industry as a whole.

    • i think the point(at least one of them) is why should we give a shit about creator’s rights when so many of those creators obviously care so little about us that they won’t even be bothered to answer a simple question. they’d just assume move on with their lives, just like we should.

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      No I didn’t miss the “discussing larger issues within the comics industry” aspect, but I am under the impression that the Cebulsky/Bendis thing stang more than it should’ve and I think it took too a prominent part of the article itself.

      Also, he asked if he’s the dick, I replied.

      Finally, I gave my opinion on kickstarting. A big deal is being made of it lately, but for me it is a simple as I wrote.

      I’ll elaborate further by saying that I am happy it exists because it lead to the existence of project that probably wouldn’t exist otherwise, but I never gave more than what I estimated the actual product to be worth. Paying in advance seems a big enough token of esteem, faith and affection to me.

    • Also, he’s a staff writer here at ifanboy, he’s gotta draw inspiration from somewhere, why not Tweets from industry professionals?

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      @CAM I addressed this article and its motivation (as I perceive them), I was not talking in general. But your observation is a good answer to my last point: writing about comics is a reason to follow Cebulsky on twitter, I genuinely didn’t think of that.

  25. The “call a printer” comment is a bit duplicitous. On one hand, it looks like Cebulski is trying to shed light on the “large” difference between printing costs and Kickstarter goals. On the other, he’s making sure not to highlight the difference between the cost to print a single issue and the $2.99 (or $3.99 if it’s a Bendis book) that a customer pays for a comic. You don’t get to call one person greedy for trying to make some money on a comic when you’re in the business of making money from comics.

    That said, Kickstarter as a whole is very clear that it is not a charity (you specifically can’t use it to for charity purposes). When you back a Kickstarter campaign, comics or otherwise, you’re financially supporting all kinds of costs to make that project happen. Period. It doesn’t mean you get to specify exactly how your donation is spent–it’s not exactly hidden information. The people doing Kickstarters for comics are clearly not Bendises or Cebulskis. They (most likely) don’t have a regular paying comics gigs and as such will build “labor expenses” (for lack of a better term) to cover the costs of not being able to work on other paying jobs while they’re working on the Kickstarter project. Calling these creators greedy is like making a general donation to the Red Cross and being upset that the money goes towards operating expenses.

    • Arrrggghhh Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

      Well said.

      You are absolutely right pointing out that KickStarter is not about charity at all. They refuse anything related to charity because their site’s focus is on creativity only.
      It’s important to point out that if a project does not meet the goal – no money is exchanged. So many of those over inflated projects fail. That is . . . unless you are already established in comics and have a big fan base. Have a feeling we are going to see many, many more pros making KickStarter projects in the upcoming months.

  26. are you a dick? probably.

    because of this article or any of the other good ones you’ve wrote? no

    lol

  27. All your points dissipate with the amount of smug you cram into every sentence. Ughhhhh.

  28. I think part of what this article misses (regarding specifically the Cebulski/Bendis thing) is that it is a two way street. Creators might often come off as snarky and dickish on twitter but part of that might be due to the volume of questions posed to them by fans due to the level of access twitter allows. Prior to twitter the only way to reach creators was letters, maybe e-mail, or to talk to them at cons. Now you can pose an unending stream of questions to creators anytime night or day that they pop into your head. I’m sure that can occasionally cause a response that comes off as douchey. I’m not trying to excuse this incident or numerous others like it, just saying it goes both ways. Creators could make an effort to be nicer in their responses, or simply ignore questions that bother them, and we as fans/followers could be more understanding.

    Sure they could just delete their accounts but twitter is fun to use and can be used to legitimately promote ones work so deleting an account isn’t a totally viable option.

  29. I have unfollowed many creators when they start making fun of their fans who are asking perfectly reasonable questions. Thankfully I can still believe in Jeff Parker.

  30. Jimski, I so appreciate your point of view–it’s refreshingly pragmatic.

  31. When you print in the volume and at the crap quality that Marvel does, I’m sure the unit cost is pretty low.

    If you print in a small qty and with a paper & print quality that doesn’t make you want to barf, printing costs can be very expensive.

    I’ve called plenty of printers in my almost 20 years as a designer and Art Director. CB’s response was snarky, uninformed and lazy.

  32. Ah, yet another example of the big wigs at Marvel being mighty assholes to their readers. Seriously, why has Twitter (or any social media sites) not been banned for these guys? There has to be someone who has to realize how embarrassing this is to their company. That a major writer and VP of their company act like children to other people. Again, I’ve seen/read stories where people got fired over Facebook for less then this.

    But I notice it’s mostly ‘The Architects’ and big wigs at Marvel that act like this. Others; such as Gillen, Stegman, Parker, Pak, Van Lente, Shalvey, and ‘lesser’ names (sorry just saying guys) treat everyone with respect on Twitter. That and I don’t see most from DC acting this way on Twitter either. Well then again a good amount of them DON’T have a Twitter account….that should be a sign for Marvel.

  33. I’m mystified by CB and Bendis’ approach here.

    There are a MILLION reasons why one might opt not to fund something on Kickstarter. I’m a relatively active patron on the site and yet I have my own criteria that will preclude me from funding a project. And I know others who have their own set of rules. So I’m not faulting Bendis and CB from expressing a desire to be selective.

    But what I don’t get is the cries of greed. The GREAT thing about Kickstarter is the complete democratization of the process. The creators get to choose what they offer. They get to figure out what to ask for, what the breakpoints are, and what the incentives will be. The potential supporters also have total choice. If the creators don’t craft a campaign that established value in enough patrons, the project doesn’t happen.

    Compare that to the broken system of the direct market. We as end consumers have next to no say in what gets made — our ONLY choice is whether to pay for the product as its solicited. That’s it. And when we do voice our displeasure, we’re characterized as “haters” or reminded that we don’t “understand the system”…yet the people criticizing us rarely offer ANSWERS with SPECIFICITY but instead do what CB and Bendis did to Jim and chastise him for not doing his homework.

    It’s so comically sad and broken that some of the more influential people in the industry (and Twitter regulars) would besmirch THE MOST EXCITING THING to happen to creator-owned comics in a generation.

  34. On Twitter, CB followed up that tweet with his disgust at a creator who was boasting how much more money he was getting beyond what was needed for the project. I guess the honorable thing to do is to put that money toward a second issue or a hardcover or something more of what his supporters gave money for.

    Bendis was giving a quick answer perhaps a little flip but that’s how he started his career. He wrote, drew and called a printer.

    After that things could be said to get a little douchey. I’m sure CB isn’t allowed to share anything that could be called a “trade secret” of Marvel’s. Admitting that would be an understandable answer, especially to someone who is just trying to make an informed decision.

  35. I read this article and I have been thinking about it. Maybe a 8-hour work day, thinking about how this has stirred up my feelings on comics at this moment in time.

    Bendis and CB were kind of dickish but mildly so, in that way we all, sooner or later, end up being on the internet by accident. They could have easily misread Jim’s first email and reacted to that. Still as professionals it is a bit disappointing of them. CB opened himself up to that question and could never have given a straight answer to it considering his job. He should have backed out of the situation a bit more gracefully.

    Yet, despite being able to understand that this was a fairly innocuous internet exchange, it still bugs me. The hypocrisy of CB’s statement is certainly irksome. As Ali points out in a comment above, people who live in glass houses that charge $3.99 for a comic because they can get away with it should not throw stones. The too frequent examples of pros being condescending to fans online is also a little depressing. But neither the hypocrisy nor the condescension are quite what is bugging me.

    I think I am generally fatigued by my comic stack at the moment. It is my disappointment with what the big 2 are doing that is provoked by Jim’s experience. Too many books are feeling pandering or cynical to me at the moment. Event story lines that exist only to provide an event and not for their own merit. Creators kept on a title far past the point when they still had a real story to tell. All of it because people will buy it anyway. In short, my problem is that I am reading too many books I don’t like.

    I have been reading them for the wrong reasons; for the wrong reasons that the big 2 depend on. I have known for a while that I needed to cut back on my pull list but have been struggling to cut the cord on many titles. I have hung on because they used to be good or because I want them to be good and I am hoping they are going to get better. My own fault, really. Thanks Jim, this article gave me the push I needed.

    PS – Sorry for the rambling, self-indulgent tangent everyone.

  36. I love Bendis.

    I only need one thing from him.

    I need him to continue to write books I love.

    It is a very liberating to not need anything from these creators beyond books I enjoy.

    I recommend everyone tries it.

  37. Access to a creator does not entitle you to an answer to your every question. The age of Social Media has created a sense of entitlement amongst fans who feel if a creator does not answer their every question to their liking then the creator has broken some unwritten bond. Get over it. You were being a dick. They did not have to say anything to you let alone what they did. Could it have been put in a nicer tone? Sure. But were they entitled to give you a response to your liking? No they weren’t. Should I demand Lebron James answer my questions in a tone of my liking? Should I go track down Martin Scorsese and have him just spoon feed me answers to all my queries regarding film? No.

    When the answer was not delivered in a nice tasty morsel of your liking, you took exception and became indignant. The article demonstrates that. To me, you were in the wrong and yes, you were being a dick. Very dickish.

    I won’t even get into the wrongness of rationalizing how Marvel was right to not give creator rights to Kirby because they paid him a living wage. That thinking has justified some of the worst injustices in this country over the past century and shows a glaring disconnect with right and wrong, and the notion that just because example A is wrong then we should do nothing about examples B-Z. If we were a country predicated on lazy indifference there would still be slavery, women would not be allowed to vote let alone be working outside of the home, and we wouldn’t even be a country seeing as we’d never have rebelled against the English. Thankfully others have the ability to stand up for things they believe in and attempt to right the wrongs they see in the world around them as opposed to taking smug swipes at those who attempt to broaden the comics industry and utilize their name recognition to pave the way for creators to be paid properly for their creations rather than be used up and spat out by a corporate system more concerned with its own pockets.

  38. Spider-men #2 looks good.

  39. See, the amount of time you wrote that article, you could’ve probably called a printer.

  40. But seriously, great article. You really stuck to those guys!

    I really can’t wait for the Don’t Miss: Powers: Bureau #1 next month!

    • You know it’s ok to like something, but criticize the unsavory points of it, right? That’s something that you’re allowed to do.

      Heave ho.

  41. So projects on kickstarter aren’t supposed to make a profit?

    • It depends on your interpretation of the purpose of Kickstarter, but generally I think not. As I understand it, the fundraising itself is meant to pay for the creation of something creative; film, book, comic, album, etc. Once created the work itself can then be sold to make the creator a profit. As far as I know there are no hard and fast rules regarding this, but that’s always seemed to be the spirit of Kickstarter.

  42. I like how anyone who ever takes the opposite side of the Kirby supporters likes to talk down to them, while being an ignorant twit.

    • I like how Kirby supporters always take the high road and never talk down to people they disagree with by calling them ignorant twits. Oh wait…

    • There is a boatload of misinformation in the article, which can categorized as ignorance, and the writer refers to the opposing side as children, which is twit-like behavior.

    • Haha, okay believe it or not you just convinced me with that post.

  43. i hate comic book elitist dicks.

  44. In the end, the people opposing the Avengers movie in Kirby’s name left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t know how to feel about it when people first started to point out that Marvel wasn’t even acknowledging that Kirby helped create the concept of the Avengers, but when Hero Initiative urged people who felt bad to make a donation to match a ticket price, I was all for it. It was a positive way to show support for the creators people felt were slighted, and it was a possible solution to a sort-of ugly problem that didn’t involve further ugliness. However, when the totals for the donations came back, it only added up to around $5,000. Being generous at $15 per ticket (accounting for 3D), that meant that only a little over 300 people of the nearly 60,000,000 donated. Perhaps it’s because outrage on the internet can sometimes seem bigger than it truly is, but it seemed like most of the people who were outraged for Kirby being omitted from the Avengers accolades did so without any care of contributing anything positive for it.

    That’s why I’m liking the criticism of Before Watchmen unfold. The biggest critics of the endeavor said their pieces quite succinctly, in order not to appear negative for negativity’s sake. After that, you’re not really hearing much from these guys on the creator’s rights issue of the thing, as they are confident that their readers got the point. And I know that the pulls aren’t the best way to judge the sales of the book, but it’s seeming that each book is getting less and less pulls and discussion (with the exception of Silk Spectre, which was great). Great stores like Bergen Street Comics are simply not buying the books, and other stores that did (and I’ve been to many lately) have many copies still on the shelves. The word has gotten out about the scuminess, and people are simply not buying instead of heaping more garbage onto the fire. It’s a much better situation of respectful protest. Yeah, there will still be a person or two who says some ridiculously absurd negative thing, but c’mon.

  45. What I don’t understand is why the writer of this post got so angry when he received a legitimate answer. Why did he think he was entitled to some sort of answer when asking Cebulski? When you need to know how much it costs to rent an office space do you tweet at a lawyer? Or a small business owner? No you call a relator. Same principle applies in this situation. You want to know how much it costs to print something? Call a printer.

    I can understand how the writer could get annoyed at such an answer, but you have to realize that you aren’t entitled to such an answer. In the age of internet and instant gratification you probably could have found the answer to your question quicker than you typed that tweet.

    • For the sake of clarity, I should mention that I never felt entitled to any answer at all. If I’d asked my question only to see no response of any kind, I’d have said, “Yep! That’s Twitter, all right!” and never given it another thought. It was the fact that people bothered to reply, and the reply was “Go ask a grownup, pat pat,” that set me off. Nobody owes me anything, but go out of your way to be… like that?

      And, again: have I mentioned that Brian Bendis is still my favorite writer in the history of comics? I did? And those positiv mentions merited no response from anyone? I see.

  46. I’ve seen Cebulski act like a dick plenty times before. I am not impressed with his attitude, nor his comics work.

    I had to cut myself free of the Twitter handle I created for the comics review site I briefly had running. Between creators acting like assholes, and Matt Fraction acting like a coked up five year old, it was really starting to ruin my opinions on a lot of them.

    That said, there were plenty of awesome ones too. Dan Slott, Kurtis Weibe, Dan Abnett, and a few others always seemed like genuinely awesome people.