Comics and Sense: Potpourri From Fellow Pontificators

Excelsior!  Your Uncle Woodrow has to apologize to the iFanboy faithful for skipping my regular turn at the pulpit last week. As my old granddad  used to say, “Sometimes you grab the bull by the horns, and sometimes the bull gores you.”  Thanks to the discovery of a long-forgotten Mayan medicinal herb, and several hours in a cryogenic chamber, my bull-induced wounds have healed and I’m back and the keyboard typing feverishly.

This week I’m offering up a potpourri of topics, because I came across a number of items by other writers that I felt really deserved your attention.

The Lamentations of Cartoonists
Roy Edroso wrote a fascinating article in The Village Voice about the financial struggles of being a cartoonist.  Generally the personal finances of the comic book world are as taboo as talking about Fight Club with Tyler Durden, but in this article Edroso gets people to speak openly about how downright difficult it can be to make a living as an illustrator.  Edroso’s observations aren’t limited to comic books, but extend to strips, editorial cartoons and for-hire illustrations, as well.  What I really applaud is the candor within the article.  For example:
"We get dozens of submission packages every day," Eric Stephenson, publisher at Image Comics (SpawnThe Walking DeadWitchblade). "And I'm not exaggerating at all when I say the vast majority of them are so bad it's almost unimaginable. . . . There are things I've looked at and thought, 'Surely, this is from a young child,' but then I read the cover letter and it's from someone in his thirties or forties, and it's actually kind of heartbreaking."

Suppose you don't suck, though, and get picked? "The unfortunate truth of the matter," says Stephenson, "is some books never make very much at all. The market can be very fickle, and sometimes even great material goes unnoticed."

Nick Barrucci gives a “Dynamite” Interview
Dynamite Entertainment CEO Nick Barrucci gave a lengthy interview to the folks at ICV2 this week and it’s a must read.  From a selfish perspective, I nodded my head a lot in agreement with things Nick said, which is probably why I found the article so fascinating.  Here's a small sample of what you can expect, as Nick discusses the state of the market and what's to blame for sales lagging:
Q: So you really think it’s just the size of the market wasn’t sufficient to support the total volume of books at the prices they were being offered at? 

A: I don’t know if that’s the only thing.  I do think that every year consumers have more and more choices for entertainment.  And illegal entertainment gets cheaper and cheaper every year on the bit torrent sites–you see what happens with movies, TV and music.

Q: Price and volume are certainly part of what the market can absorb but it’s also content. Do you feel like the last year or two has been strong in terms of content? 

A: I don’t think we put out the best comics that we could have as an industry.  I look at myself when I say that as well.  Because everyone was releasing more and more comics, I think it’s hard to manage the content as strongly and keep it as focused as you’d like.

I can honestly say, I think with everyone’s lines shrinking it will allow us to focus on content better.  I think the content is getting better again.In all seriousness, you would be surprised how often the same message can be received in different ways depending on who’s doing the speaking.  I know a lot of what Nick says about the current state of the industry is familiar territory to those who read this column, but coming from a seasoned executive at a top publisher carries more weight, oddly enough.

South Florida as a Microcosm of Comics Consumerism
Sarah Cohen of the Miami Herald breaks down the state of comic book retailing in South Florida, noting that the number of stores has fallen from 24 to 18, and that many long-time stores are having to tighten their purse strings to make ends meet.  Even though this article focuses on a small number of retailers, I think it serves to illustrate the plight many small retailers face in today’s market.
The economy is a formidable foe, said Glenn Lightfoot, 52, owner of old-school Villains Comics and Games, 1788 NE 163{+r}{+d} St. in North Miami Beach. “A person used to come in, see something they would like and say, ‘Oh, look, this is cool,’ and buy it. But now people go, ‘Hmm, I have to buy gas.’ I have had people stand here and say ‘comics, gas, comics, gas,’ ” said Lightfoot, whose store has seen a 70 percent to 80 percent drop in sales since 2008. He opened the store 27 years ago.
David Brothers Dares to Bring Logic and Balance to the Discussion of Digital Comics
David Brothers, who does outstanding work over at Comics Alliance, penned a fantastic missive a few weeks ago about digital comics, and how the industry seems to want to portray digital as both the whore and the Madonna simultaneously (my analogy, David’s is far more eloquent).  What I really appreciate about David’s work is his ability to strike a balance between his views and those in the contrary.
…Here's the truth: Digital comics are neither shark nor goldfish. "Print versus digital" is a false dichotomy, one that makes for great alarmist headlines and hype but doesn't actually reflect anything that will happen in reality. Digital music forced the music industry to wake up and embrace a new paradigm, and provided a new opportunity for revenue in the midst of free-falling sales. Piracy decimated the music industry, and the music industry responded by doubling down on CDs, sabotaging efforts to get digital music off the ground, and generally acting like the way things were going was perfectly normal. They couldn't see the forest for the trees, and the Big Two seem to be making the exact same mistake...(Continued)

Do Yourself a Favor and Read More:


The Question cover DC Comics
A Call for Questions
I get a lot of great feedback in the comments section of the column, and on Twitter and via email, and I'm greatly appreciative of it all.  There are lots of times when someone might ask me a question and I think, "I should write about that when I have the chance" but inevitably my mind wanders into another nook or cranny of my inner monologue and loses track of the idea.  So today I'm officially calling for questions you want to see answered.  Please email me (wood AT (@) ifanboy DOT com) or hit me up on Twitter (@JayBWood) and I will take a handful of the best or most thought provoking questions and turn them into a column in the coming weeks.

Jason is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.


  1. great article once again. I think on the Cartoonists thing..its the arts in general. We live in an age where every dream is encouraged to be followed regardless of talent. Chasing the American Dream has spun a bit out of control. 

    I think we have too many comics out there. Having worked in publishing i understand the business side of creating stuff the market buys aka 10 Avengers/batman books but the industry won’t move forward if its pushing out lots of crap. Its too hard to find the good stuff, and as someone who cares about the environment, we’re printing lots of stuff that doesn’t deserve to be.

    I’ll sound like a broken record but i firmly believe that the Direct Market system is slowly strangling comics dead. It might have a place for big 2 stuff, but for indie books…i just don’t understand how any fresh voice can be found through that swamp. If they had DM only back in the 60s none of us would have ever heard of Spiderman or the Xmen…would have been gone after 10 issues. 

    Indie books have a great opportunity to reach audiences with digital distribution that they are not taking advantage of right now. Its not the messiah, but i think the more choices a consumer has, the more ways to purchase something, the more successful that something will be. I really believe that. 

    Less comic shops doesn’t bother me…i actually prefer it. So many shops are poorly run, trim the fat and let the great shops remain.

    sorry for writing a comment thesis…stop bringing up so many talking points. =) 

  2. I read that David Brothers articla and really loved what he had to say. It’s fascinating how nobody wants anything to change . . . ever. Everything was always better “then”. Or, “____ is the answer to all this, don’t you see?” Mr. Brothers article was a welcome piece of objective analysis. Thank you, Mr. Wood, for exploring data and reason. Always a treat.

  3. I read through the article by David Brothers and I didn’t see anything here that seemed new to me.

    I think we all have similar complaints about digital comics (day and date, price, permanent/transferable copy) and yes the publishers could easily fix them if they just wanted to enough. But how does that help the industry? I am already buying comics, getting me to buy them digitally doesn’t help anyone but me and Comixology (or, etc).

    The industry needs new readers, not the same readers but with fewer retailers.  The first real year of digital comics has been a failure because the industry has done a shitty, lazy job marketing their product to new and casual readers.

    You can read my own ramble on the subject here: Just in case you need one more rant in your day.

  4. I love this. I really really love this. More articles like this.