Shipping Late, by Martha Thomases

Martha Thomases

Martha Thomases brought more comics to the attention of more people than anyone else in the industry. Her work promoting The Death of Superman made an entire nation share in the tragedy of one of our most iconic American heroes. As a freelance journalist, she has been published in the Village Voice, High Times, Spy, the National Lampoon, Metropolitan Home, and more. For Marvel comics she created the series Dakota North. Martha worked as a researcher and assistant for the author Norman Mailer on several of his books, including the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Executioner's Song, On Women and Their Elegance, Ancient Evenings, and Harlot's Ghost.

You may also like...

17 Responses

  1. Alan Coil says:

    Watchmen really wasn’t very late. Camelot 3000 #12—now THERE was a late book.

    The emphasis today on books being late has been caused by the availability of the on-sale date information on the internet, amplified by the incessant need of some to constantly point out everybody else’s failures. Add in that so many of the line-wide crossovers have plot points in several different titles, meaning that one delay means several other delays are likely to happen, and the delays become all too obvious.

    I don’t really notice if a book is a week late. I figure things happen. And I don’t really care if All Star Superman comes out the second week of the month or the fourth week. But it really does bother me that it is going to take 10 years for Planetary to complete its run of 28 issues or so.

    I am also one of those who shows up early for appointments.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Late ships screw up the retailers who, every month, literally bet the rent on their Diamond orders which are, after all, unreturnable. They anticipate a certain amount of revenue each week and, while they can assume a given percentage of books will be late, they can't divine in advance which books might be late. It's possible they were counting on the week's big seller to cover the rent or utilities… or their Diamond bill. Given the fact that they have to eat unsold books, their profit margin is so thin that the delay of too many books or a couple of big books could, literally, put them out of business.

  2. Gregg Primm says:

    I’m one of those "on time" people as well. I think that a lot of what makes people late — and what makes me on time — is the ability (or lack thereof) to adequately estimate the actual amount of time it takes to get "stuff" done. Any stuff. I think people who ar late only accoutn for the time it takes to do the "big stuff" — the time it takes to ride the subway/driving the car from point A to point B, for example — but completely forget to include the compounded time it takes to do all the "little stuff" around the major activity — putting out the dogs, checking to make sure the back door is locked, hitting the restroom at the last second, realizing that you forgot your wallet or purse and running back into the house, dropping a bag of trash in the garbage can, stopping for gas, and so forth. I think people that are always on time tend to just sort of automatically factor all that stuff in.

  3. John Tebbel says:

    "Punctuality is the thief of time." –Oscar Wilde

  4. Tom Fitzpatrick says:

    I hate late books. My opinion is if a publisher solicits a book for a specific month, then its their responsibility to make sure that book(s) ships on time! Otherwise, a book shouldn't be solicited if it's not finished in time.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Unfortunately, Tom, the publisher must give Diamond the solicitation information long before the books are actually due.It would be nice to say "well, then, don't send Diamond the information until the book is done." Sadly, freelancers like to get paid. They've got their own bills to pay. And I've noticed printers like to get paid as well. If each publisher had to move their production schedules up two months, it would cost them a large, large fortune in cash flow losses — the amount of time between they pay for the product and they receive payment from the distributor. This would kill, literally KILL, every comic book publisher out there. Maybe DC and Marvel might have deep enough pockets overall to cover these losses, but it would cost them millions of dollars. Their publishing revenues could not cover it, and their parent companies aren't in business to absorb such losses. Warners doesn't need their Batman comic books to make Batman movies; nor Marvel their Iron Man titles. Publishing has to pay for itself… or at least not act as a financial sump pump.As the bumper sticker says, shit happens. If your artist gets sick, your artist gets sick. If his dad dies, well, that's going to knock him out of the box for a bit and you really don't want to punish him by taking his livelihood away. If it's a creator-owned property and the creator is late, what do you do? Get somebody else to finish the creator's work? Well, sometimes that CAN happen, but only in the most extreme of cases. And it isn't usually failure to deliver that, alone, provokes such a drastic step.

      • Rick Taylor says:

        One of the things during my tenure at DC that told me how much value the small staff placed on production was when we brought the company back to 100% on time shipping. First for a occasional week or two. The fore about 8 weeks.My then-boss, Bob Rozakis pointed it out to his boss.I don't recall getting a 'thank you' or 'good job' from anyone other than Bob. The 'small staff' tended to dismiss it.Eventually I think the company 'shipping apathy' took hold again and thing backslid into their late ship average.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I'm another compulsive early person (almost said comer, then realized I'd be making a very bad joke). And it makes me crazy when that little stuff gets so big it makes me run late.As for late comics, I'm getting so old that unless a story is really grabbing me (like the Runaways in the past), I don't necessarily notice the lateness, but I tend to forget I'm reading that particular title. I'm more crazy about stuff that sells out before I can get to the store (because sometimes the shipment as a whole is a day or two late, I wait until a few days after the comics usually arrive). Then I go nuts trying to figure out where else I can get what I'm missing.The other Frank Miller

  6. John Ostrander says:

    I'm usually a little late or running close to late, usually because I'm trying to squeeze in one more thing and I'm always using the best instead of the most realistic estimate of how long it will take to do something. Kim, OTOH, was the Queen of Late. She figured if we were in the car and the car was moving, we weren't "late", we were "on our way". No matter that it was a half hour trip and she had given us five minutes travel time. Maybe she thought the car was secretly a TARDIS. I kept pointing out it wasn't a teleportational device.Of course, I lived virtually across the street from my RC elementary school and was was late or almost late just about every day so I have nothing to brag about.

  7. Jim Chadwick says:

    Martha, I'm sure there are probably many reasons you are happy you don't live in L.A., but here's one more. Standard operating procedure is to sometimes excuse lateness up to an hour because of traffic. Beyond that, you start imagining horrible things. I honestly don't remember how I (or anyone) functioned in L.A. before cell phones became ubiquitous.

    • Martha Thomases says:

      It's true I could never live in Los Angeles. However, their (your) subway is a thing of beauty, and much faster than sitting in traffic.

  8. Dave says:

    Barry Allen was the fastest man alive and he was usually late.

  9. Joe in Philly says:

    If books are a week or two late, that's fine. When they're postponed indefinitely (Kevin Smith's Spider-Man/Black Cat miniseries) or when storylines are interrupted and the conclusions come much later ("Last Son" in Action Comics) — that is NOT acceptable in my view.

  10. Uncle Robbie says:

    I, too, am chronically early (Mom said it was because I was born 3 days late), and it has given me a complete absence of patience for anyone who is late. I figure if I can drag my fat ass out of the house on time, anyone can. Hearing "Sorry I'm late" day after day from coworkers who cannot manage to catch the earlier bus because they "needed" 15 more minutes of sleep is nearly as aggravating as the constant request to leave 5 minutes early so they don't have to wait 15 minutes for the next bus. I tell them to think of it as quality time they can spend with their iPod.I also detest being kept waiting. In my office, a patient is a no show when they're 20 minutes late; in my personal life, you should thank me for giving you 15. And bring a note from your doctor.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi–I recently ordered and read the Dakota North series (I was re-reading some other old comics, and the house ad that Marvel ran for the book at the time was so striking I had to check it out). Anyway, I thought it was really cool, and did a quick Google of Martha Thomases and came across this site. Martha, you're great! And I definitely think you should pitch a new DN mini-series!