Tagged: Diamond Comic Distributors

Mike Gold: Before Watchmen, Because…

It seems everybody has his or her tits in a wringer over this upcoming Before Watchmen thing. I’ve made a few comments here and there, but now that these books are about to come out, I’m going to weigh in officially.

I’ve been reading the solicitations in the Diamond Catalog and to be sure there’s a lot of great talent involved on these efforts. Really top-notch people, some of whom we haven’t seen much from lately. Most of these folks are basically if not emphatically pro-creators’ rights. Aside from the latent listings, I’ve read the thumbnail descriptions as well as DC’s press releases. There’s a lot of comic books involved here, and I approach Before Watchmen with the same question I approach any new effort: “Does this seem like it’s worth my time?”

Obviously, sometimes I make the wrong call – particularly when it comes to television. I’ll decide to pass on something and within short order all my friends, most of the reviews, and complete strangers at conventions will excoriate my witlessness. That’s fine; endorsements from people whose opinions I respect carry a lot of weight. Of course, if I try something and I don’t like it, I take a hike. I haven’t tried a second bottle of Moxie in three decades.

So as I gaze upon all these Before Watchmen comics, I ask myself “Does this seem like it’s worth my time?” And I hear myself say to myself “Well, no, it doesn’t.” Oh, I’ll probably check out a few produced by friends. But, by and large, unless I’m persuaded otherwise I’ll be giving the overall effort a pass.

Here’s the beauty of Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: it was a true graphic novel, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. They created it, it came out the way they intended it to (or very close to that), we all read it and it went on to become one of the best selling graphic novels of all time. I suspect that latter part was for a reason, that reason being I was not alone in my assessment.

They left no room for sequels, and they really didn’t leave any room for prequels. Those prequels were already done. They were published by Charlton Comics during the Dick Giordano reign, just as Watchmen was published by DC during the Dick Giordano reign. The characters were called Peacemaker, Blue Beetle, Peter Canon Thunderbolt, The Question, Captain Atom, and Nightshade. Without these characters Watchmen either would not have happened or would have been based upon other characters DC owned but didn’t care all that much about – most likely the Fawcett or the Quality heroes.

So in my mind, Before Watchmen is unnecessary. Been there, read that. Your opinion may vary, and that’s totally okay by me. In fact, these friends of mine would like the opportunity to earn themselves some Watchmen royalties.

Then there are the moral issues.

Legally, nobody knows where it stands unless they’ve read the contract(s). I haven’t, but I was an executive at DC Comics at that time – actually, about a month later – and I can tell you that, in my professional opinion – DC didn’t commit in writing to anything but money, and maybe a few artistic oversight issues. Maybe. It just wasn’t done then; it’s barely being done now, and it was only sort of done from time to time in between. Somebody might have given his or her word about how merchandising, licensing, promotion, prequels, and sequels would or would not be done and Alan and/or Dave might have trusted those people… but those people are no longer around. Well, they’re not at DC Comics; they’re still around.

What it comes down to, for me, is respect. It makes absolutely no damn sense to alienate anybody in the creative arts, and it’s really, really stupid to go to such lengths to alienate people of the highest caliber. It’s bad business, it’s worse human relations.

I’ve read much if not all of what Alan has said, and I while I disagree with some of his sentiments there is one thing that is unimpeachable: as a creator, as a writer, as a source of wealth for the publisher, Before Watchmen shits all over him.

Some of my friends disagree, and I respect their positions. This isn’t clear-cut in the least: morality is a personal thing, and what is immoral to one person is just ducky with the next. You can react emotionally and that’s fine. Sometimes that’s all you will get.

Thus far, nobody has picked up a gun and started shooting up the place. I’m not being sarcastic. It’s happened in other media. Google “Marvin Glass” and “shooting” and find out how it came down in the toy design business.

So, yeah, I think Alan was treated badly here. But that’s really not the reason I’m planning to avoid Before Watchmen. I’m avoiding it because, when everything is added up, it just doesn’t seem to be worth my time.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil Passes The Test


MIKE GOLD: Satan’s Retro-Review

One of the charms of being into comics is the joy of stumbling across an unexpected find. It could be a new comic that came in under the radar (in other words, I missed that page in the Diamond Catalog) or an oldie I hadn’t heard of. That used to be one of the real pleasures in attending comic book conventions, before they became the Cattle Calls of the Damned.

Yesterday I stumbled across a real interesting find. An emailed gift from a friend in need, and by “in need” I’m referring to me. I was staring at my blank computer screen, reciting the mantra “need… column… idea… need… column… idea…” The gift was a wonderful albeit sickening one-shot published by Dark Horse about five years ago, produced by Eric Powell of Goon fame.

For me, Powell’s work is irresistible. So is The Goon. But that doesn’t matter. It’s impossible for me to pass up a comic called Satan’s Sodomy Baby. That’s just how I roll. This one truly has it all: The Goon, bestiality, Satanic anal rape, multi-faith humor, dumb Tennesseans, pissing fire long before Ghost Rider did it, and truly gratuitous titties. Well, just two gratuitous titties, but you see ‘em a lot.

Did I mention this book isn’t for kiddies? Of course if you’re a parent that’s your decision; I ain’t trying to tell you how to raise your children up. But even Powell is on the same page: the false-cover consists of a blurb that says, and I quote,

WARNING: This comic contains material unsuitable for children. It’s filled with vile, morally reprehensible subject matter that is quite possibly illegal in some states, and if it’s not, it should be. Do not open this comic if you are under the age of 18. Do not open this comic if you have strong religious convictions or even the smallest hint of human decency. Do not open this comic if you love Satan. Do not open this comic if you have strong political beliefs. Do not open this comic if you are homophobic. Do not open this comic if you are racist. Do not open this comic if you love farm animals. In fact, unless you have no strong feelings about anything, THIS PROBABLY ISN’T THE COMIC FOR YOU. Unless you have a sense of humor.

Yow! Talk about your variant covers!

This book is hilarious. Pull the stick outta your ass – Satan probably put it there anyhow – and give it a read. I suggest doing so after an episode of Justified.

THURSDAY: Bring it on, Dennis O’Neil!

MIKE GOLD: The Paperless Chase

According to Pew Research, one out of every five adult Americans now owns a tablet or an e-book reader. That was before Apple announced its new e-textbook initiative.

Imagine buying all your college textbooks for about a hundred bucks and then carrying them around in a 1.33 pound device. You’ll never need your locker again. Students won’t pop their spines carrying a backpack that is so heavy PeTA wouldn’t let you strap one onto a mule.

And if you’re a comics fan, you’ll never need to schlep around a couple hundred long boxes. Well, not unless you want to.

So people should just stop bitching about electronic comic books. It’s not controversial any more. It doesn’t begat bootlegging; certainly not now that the government is shutting down bootleg sites. Just as soon as publishers start releasing their books at a fair price point – there are no printing costs, no paper costs, no shipping, no returns, and no alternate covers, so $2.99 (let alone $3.99) is a rip-off.

“But I like the feel of the paper,” you might whine. Yes, and I enjoy hearing the crack of the buggy-whip. Deal with it. Stop cutting down trees and milking our ever-dwindling oil supply to print and distribute all those books and magazines you read once – if at all. Publishing is an ecological nightmare; e-publishing doesn’t cure the problem but, like the hybrid and electronic engines, it helps. A lot.

The other by-product is even more interesting: we are breeding a new generation of readers. People are buying e-books and magazines and newspapers and we’re reading them on our iPads and Kindles and such. For a full year now, adult hardcovers and paperbacks, adult mass market books, and children’s/young adult hardcover and paperback have exceeded hard copy sales. In the past year, Borders finally bit the dust, Barnes and Nobles continues to cough up blood, and tablet/e-reader sales skyrocketed.

Tell me where our future lies.

If sales slow down considerably – forgetting how Apple’s sold zillions of iPads to schools and to businesses, forgetting how the iPad 3 is coming within the next 10 weeks, forgetting textbook sales – then it’ll take as long as, oh, maybe three years before over half of the population of American families have one.

Yes, you don’t have to use the device for reading. You can do a lot of other things with your tablet: play games, surf the Internet, write stuff, listen to music, watch teevee, even make phone calls via Skype. All I need is a comfy chair, a toilet, a shower stall, a refrigerator, a microwave and a great pair of headphones and I’m set for life.

Comics store owners – the smart ones – are beginning to adjust. They’re filling in the vacuum created by Borders’ vaporization by expanding their trade paperback and hardcover racks. They’re getting involved in more comics-related tchotchkes, more heroic fantasy movie stuff, and more innovative and distinctive product in general. They no longer have to endure as much terror as they go through the monthly Diamond catalog to guess which non-returnable pamphlets are going to put them out of business.

So, again I ask you – as comics readers, as book readers.

Where does our future lie?

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


MARTHA THOMASES: Death Cab For Batman?

Over the last two weeks I’ve taken more taxis than I did in all of 2010. I hate taking cabs. They’re expensive, and it frustrates me to sit in traffic watching the meter click. It makes me feel like Geraldine Chaplin in Welcome to L.A. I much prefer the subway, smells and all, because it’s cheap and fast.

I took the expensive cabs because I needed them. If we didn’t need the cabs, we would have been quite content to walk or take mass transit. The person with whom I was traveling couldn’t walk to a bus stop much less climb the stairs to the subway, and it was imperative that we get where we were going. Luckily, I can afford to do this when necessary.

What does this have to do with comic books?

DC Comics recently announced a price hike on some of their books. Naturally, customers aren’t happy about this. No one wants to spend more money if they don’t have to.

You know what? You don’t have to.

It’s possible to lead a productive and satisfying life without reading Batman comics the week they hit the stands. Or so I’ve been told. Billions of people do it. Some of these people will read the stories later, paying for them in a back-issue bin, or a trade paperback collection, or online when the price goes down. Most of the people on this planet will never read them.

It’s a choice.

I don’t know what financial pressures are behind DC’s decision to raise those prices. It could be motivated by editorial considerations. Maybe retailers told the publisher they needed a higher cover price to make a profit. Maybe Diamond needs the profit. Maybe DC does.

I’ve read on some bulletin boards that some customers feel this is stupid, that DC is taking that extra dollar from customers who will therefore have a dollar less to spend on other titles. This presumes that there are only so many dollars available, because there are only so many customers. Maybe that’s true in some markets, but, nationally, there are all those millions of people who haven’t yet bought a Batman comic. I would guess that those people would prefer to pay $2.99 instead of $3.99, but that as long as it’s under $5, it’s not that noticeable.

If you can’t afford to buy a comic the day it comes out, don’t buy it that day. Take a deep breath. Wait a week.

It’s okay. Stories keep.

Save your money for when you need that taxi.

SATURDAY: Will Marc Alan Fishman Take Up The Michael Davis Challenge?


MIKE GOLD’s Holiday Trauma

Holiday-themed comics have long been a tradition, along with holiday-themed… everything else. That’s cool; if you can’t make a buck pushing Santy Claus, when can you?

As far as our four-color medium is concerned, we inherited the tradition from the newspaper strips. These guys went all-out, and back when there were still a lot of continuity strips stories would be interrupted for Christmas and New Years (Hanukkah rarely, Kwanza, Ramadan and Saturnalia never) or, better still, holiday themes would be incorporated into the ongoing story. This was carried over into proto-comic book form when Will Eisner and his largely Jewish crew produced their annual “Christmas Spirit” story.

Outside of Santy-themed covers, it took a while for the comic book publishers to reliably produce annual holiday fare. The two that lasted the longest where Archie’s Christmas Stocking (with variations on that title, including the all-embracing evil “holiday” word) which started in 1954, and DC’s Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, licensed from Robert L. May, who owned the glowing streetkill. That title commenced in 1950. Dell had special Christmas editions of the various Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters, and before long most other publishers jumped on the sleigh.

As a child, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer confused me. That’s a statement you don’t often read, but it’s true. The original series ran for twelve years, which meant twelve issues. All were unnumbered. At some point I understood DC didn’t number their first issues (I later discovered why), but I knew Rudolph to be an annual event. A collector even as a child, I wanted to know how many issues I had missed. The title continued in various formats – giants, tabloids – until it was no longer worth the licensing fee. Yet holiday-dedicated superhero comics continued; DC was way ahead of the curve with its Holiday Special (sic) going back at least to 1980.

This year, we continue to have holiday output from Archie – including a trade reprint of Stocking stories – and a pretty nifty tome from Marvel that first appeared as individual digital stories. This latter book is one of my favorite Marvels of 2011. But unless I overlooked a page in the Diamond catalog, nothing from DC Comics. No Christmas title, no Holiday title, nothing from the company that pretty much started it all.

At first I thought Mark Waid just didn’t need the money this year and is probably overbooked writing every seventh title published. But then it dawned on me.

Maybe Bill O’Reilly is right. Maybe there is a War On Christmas. After all, those bleeding hearts at Warner Bros. studios now have full control of the company, and Bill and his friends at the New York Post keep telling us they’re heartless bastards. I guess this is proof.

O.K. Fine. I’ve got my Marvel holiday comic, and my Archie reprints, and besides, I firmly believe there ain’t no sanity clause. But I’m sentimental enough to wish you-all a wonderful holiday season.

Quite frankly, we deserve it.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Diamond Resumes Selling Graphic Novels To Borders

Diamond Resumes Selling Graphic Novels To Borders

Bleeding Cool reports that comic book publishers have been told that Diamond Book Distributors will resume sending books to Borders this week. Before the bankruptcy announcements, Diamond had suspended all shipments to Borders.

However, Diamond has told publishers that Borders are still not sending back returns, so this is still a delicate situation. Borders still owes Diamond millions from before the bankruptcy, and it’s unclear how the bankruptcy judge will account for the existing merchandise.

Having just this week gone through a bunch of royalty statements from various publishers, all I can say is that if Borders numbers aren’t included in those returns, then we’ve somehow invented negative printing. Say what you will about direct sales contracting the market, but when books went out, they stayed out. There are a lot of publishers who if asked to take the last two years of returnable book sales and delete them entirely, might forgo that market entirely.

Playing with Toy Fair 2011: Recap, Part II

I wanted to show off some of the other cool Minimates that Diamond Comics Distributors had at their booth, but as is often the case with trade shows, photos were not permitted yet.

Something of note at JAKKS Pacific was a considerable line of goodies from the Dreamworks movie, “Real Steel.”

A 5″ line of figures will have interchangeable limbs and light up heads & bodies for customization. A larger 7.5″ line will have signature moves from the movie, but there’s gonna be something even more dear to the hearts of a lot of geeks – a variation (and a necessary one at that) on the childhood favorite, “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” (note to younger readers: ask your folks about this. It’s really cool. trust me).

DC Direct had some very well made busts & figures from the upcoming “Green Lantern” movie:

But the thing I was most looking forward to was goodies to “Batman: Arkham City,” the video game sequel to the 2009 hit game “Batman: Arkham Asylum.” So far, only one figure had been shown off, and it’s a doozy.

Harley Quinn keeps getting nuttier and nuttier. And that’s a good thing.

Mezco Toyz showed off a 6″ Scott Pilgrim figure from the movie and fan fave graphic novel series. Hopefully more figures will be coming.

I love that “Little Big Planet” brings a lot of user-creativity into video games, and to celebrate that, Mezco showed off their second wave of “Little Big Planet” action figures.

McFarlane Toys never fails to impress, and they had a couple of great highlights including this guy

Now Bungie may have left Microsoft, but that does not mean that “Halo” is dead. Far from it. More video games are being planned, and one can only hope that a movie might actually happen.

McFarlane Toys also had shown off figures from “The Walking Dead.” Take a look at these two guys.

Now note that “Officer Rick Grimes” doesn’t look like Andrew Lincoln, the actor who portrays him in the AMC TV series. There’s a reason for that. McFarlane Toys’ goodies for “The Walking Dead” is both for the Robert Kirkman graphic novel series as well as for the AMC TV series. This can create some issues as one of the figures in the first wave “may” actually appear in the 2nd season of the TV series (“Daryl Dixon,” everybody’s favorite crossbow-wielding hillbilly, will be in the second wave of action figures).

That’s it for now. In the third part, I’ll talk about some of the stuff I was unable to see as well as what I consider to be the coolest toy at Toy Fair 2011.

Borders Files For Bankruptcy, Owes Diamond Nearly $4 Million

The axe has finally swung. From PW:

After a drawn out process that began at the end of last year when it missed payments to top publishers, Borders Group has given in to the inevitable and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The company has received $505 million in debtor-in possession financing led by GE Capital, Restructuring Finance. And as part of its turnaround plan, Borders said it will close approximately 30% of its current store base, about 200 locations, within the next several weeks.

According to Borders, the financing should enable the company to operate the stores that will remain open in a “normal course”  including honoring its Borders Rewards program, gift cards, and other customer programs. Additionally, the company said it expects to make payroll and continue its benefits programs for its employees.

The announcement made this morning was foreshadowed last night when Borders implemented an ordering freeze and Ingram, its lifeline to the publishers, stopped shipping books. Publishers are now on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, led by Penguin Group (USA) which is owed $41.1 million, followed by Hachette at $36.9 million, Simon & Schuster at $33.8 million, Random House at $33.5 million, and HarperCollins at $25.8 million. Neither major book distributor, Ingram or Baker & Taylor, were among the leading creditors, and only one book distributor, National Book Network, is owed money with $2 million outstanding. The top 30 unsecured creditors are owed $314 million. The filing listed $1.27 billion in assets and $1.29 billion in liabilities. Borders said it expects to be able to pay vendors for merchandise shipped to it after today’s filing; those owed money prior to the filing will only be paid with the approval of the bankruptcy court.

As of Tuesday, the company had instituted an ordering freeze and book distributor Ingram, the company’s major lifeline to publishers, had stopped supplying the retailer. Diamond had already stopped orders to Borders weeks ago, and according to Heidi at ComicsBeat, court filings reveal Borders owes Diamond Comic Distributors $3,906,549.94.

To say this portends major disaster is an understatement. Diamond is already in precarious financial straits, and they can no longer hide the fact that they have an account that’s millions behind which they may never collect. And their losses will ripple through to publishers, many of whom have no slack to survive the sudden hit to the bottom line.

Stay tuned. This is not going to be pretty.

It’s No New Comics Week

It’s No New Comics Week

Back in the days before direct sales and specialty shops overwhelmed comic book sales, you couldn’t find a new comic book on the newsstands to save your soul. The theory was, nobody buys magazines between Christmas and New Years Day, and even now “weekly” magazines like Time and Newsweek skip that week. The fact was, the newsstand distributors and shippers thought that would be a swell week to take off, so they did.

Well, those sing-along days are back. Diamond will not be shipping anything the week of December 30, 2009. Nada. Zippo. Nothing.

There’s a bit of a difference between modern times and those thrilling days of yesteryear. Maybe the old mom and pop stores could survive selling Brylcream and Ipana, or maybe they’d take the week off as well. But today’s comics shop owners can’t afford to close down that week – yes, comic book selling is that marginal a business – and they’ve still got to pay the rent.

Expect a lot of in-store post-Christmas sales, which might be lucrative for those retailers whose customers get cash as holiday presents.

‘Liberty Comics’ 2nd Printing Coming December 3

‘Liberty Comics’ 2nd Printing Coming December 3

ICv2 reports that Image Comics’ Liberty Comics, an anthology benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, has raised nearly $27,000 for the charity.  The comic, which shipped in July and sold nearly 17,000 copies its first month, was a joint effort of Image, the creators involved, and Diamond Comic Distributors, all of whom donated their revenues.

Liberty Comics, edited and conceived by current IDW editor Scott Dunbier, included top properties and creators:  Hellboy by Mike Mignola, Danger Girl by J. Scott Campbell, The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, plus shorts by Mark Millar, Darwyn Cooke, John Paul Leon, Art Adams, Rick Veitch, Sergio Aragones, and Mark Evanier. 

A second printing, featuring a Thor cover by Walt Simonson, will be in store December 3. 

Image Publisher Eric Stephenson explained the company’s involvement.  “We couldn’t be more proud to support the CBLDF and their never-ending battle to defend our medium’s first amendment rights,” he said.  “Considering Image’s place in the industry as a bastion of independent, creator-owned comics, we feel they’re one of the most important institutions in the industry and look to support them at every chance we get.”