Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #374 (September 20th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.


I don't know if Phil Boyle is another member of ComicsPRO, but he certainly should be if they can talk him into it. He runs a chain of seven comic stores in the greater Orlando area. This month he vents on the subject of, among other things, mini-series:

"I'm about done with a litany of mediocre to what-were-they-thinking mini-series. In the Diamond June order form there were approximately 650 comics offered – of those, more than 60 were first issues and more than 300 were #4 or under. Why is this a problem? Data. When we order any first issue we have little to no hard data to go on…Now #2 is solicited. We're still blind on data unless #1 is on the stands (which means #2 is probably late). With FOC for Marvel and DC titles, we may have one week's sales data if the first issue was on time. But one week's worth of sales data on a first issue doesn't tell us a whole lot as many fans will pick up a first issue and never look at the series again. But #3 is the magic number; we have complete date for #1 (unless #1 still hasn't shipped) and a week's data for #2. We can now get #3 "right". Then #4 is the big finale and it's all over until the next arc comes out six months or six years or never. At least with an eight-issue series, we have five or six issues of real data."

I think it's pretty obvious why there are that many mini-series. If the retailers are ordering blind, they order more books. Likewise on the #1 shipping late. That's probably intentional to make sure that you DON'T have any hard data until you order #4 – if then. If you order more when you don't have sales data, the companies will make sure that you don't have sales data. They only sound as if they're interested in cooperating with you. What they are doing is figuring out what your pattern is and how to work around that to get you to order more books and mini-series is the obvious solution. An on-going series, you have to deliver the goods. With a mini-series all you need are a good first issue cover, a plausible sounding creative team and a story hook that sounds as if it might sell. Think of it from Marvel's side: How difficult is it to get those three elements together? Believe me, that's all that they really have when they're selling you on a new mini-series. What you see in PREVIEWS is all that's been done two months ahead of the ostensible shipping date. The story hasn't been pencilled yet, the scripting hasn't been done, the lettering hasn't been done, the editor hasn't looked at anything besides the synopsis he got pitched. The only thing that exists is the first issue cover you're looking at. It's an assignment. The editor gets paid for doing what he is assigned to do. The artist gets paid for doing what he's assigned to do. They do it because that's what they get paid for. They don't do it to thrill your every customer down to their tippy-toes. Sorry to break that to you, but I thought you should know.

It's not really any different from Hollywood. All they need is a trailer that looks interesting, plausible actors and actresses and a director and an elevator pitch ("HIGH NOON in outer space") and boom, instant movie. By the time it tanks, the millions of dollars have already been spread around to everyone and there are no refunds. There aren't millions of dollars involved here, but there is tens of thousands and pretty much every nickel comes from comic-book stores. The executives get paid, the editors get paid, the writers and artists get paid and there are no refunds when it tanks. These people are not your friends. They are not in business WITH you. They are in business AT you. They are interested in getting your money out of your pockets and into their pockets. If they can do that more easily and effectively with mini-series they will do it with mini-series. If your stores go out of business as a result, they'll just switch to other pockets.

Mr. Boyle's next point is "What do you bring to the table?"

"What are you doing to bring new customers into my stores? Are you creating fans of your work outside the comic store? Are you creating an excitement about your work so that fans will be looking for your new book when it launches? Are you pushing those customers to ask retailers to buy copies of your book so that we can sell them to those new rabid fans? If you're taking out an ad in PREVIEWS and hoping that retailers will be standing in line waiting to hand sell your books then you've brought your appetite and nothing more. Retailers will happily and eagerly work with publishers but it has to be a 50/50 split to make it work."

Well, I quite agree. I think what we have never been able to figure out is what is involved in the respective 50% split on both sides of the fence. One of the problems is the idiosyncratic nature of each environment. What I could do to bring new customers into a store in Orlando is not necessarily what would work in Toronto, or Des Moines or Austin. What I could do in 1992 is not necessarily what would work in 2007. This is one of the tough nuts I have to crack in looking at my two secret projects and, frankly, I'm coming to the conclusion that it is better to leave that up to the retailers. What works in your stores? I'm the one with the new funnybook to sell but you're the one who sells funnybooks for a living. You know what works. You tell me. But you have to think in terms of what I can do for ALL stores, not just yours. That eats up a promotional budget pretty quickly.

Personally, I don't think that any of us "create" fans inside or outside the store. I think the gravitational pull of comic book stores and comic books in general is severely limited. You don't get a steady stream of new customers that suddenly becomes a tidal flood of customers. You get a trickle. Tomorrow a guy walks in you never saw before and two months from now he's one of your best customers. That, as far as I know, is how this environment works, always has worked and always will work.

And I think one of those guys who finds you on his own is worth a hundred people who came in because of the DEATH OF SUPERMAN that you will never see again. And the same is true for creators and publishers. We have our audience and that's the audience we have. I'm not going to suddenly sell ten times as many trade paperbacks because I came up with this genius promotion idea. As you say, Phil, I sell to you and you sell to your customers. The customer base everywhere is roughly the same, I think. Who would I direct my genius promotion campaign AT? People in comic book stores are as aware of the trades as they are ever going to be. Each individual will make up his or her mind when or if they are going to start reading CEREBUS. I can't affect that and you can't affect that (except, maybe, by letting them take a HIGH SOCIETY home over the weekend and bring it back if they're not interested). At the same time, work that I did twenty years ago, thirty years ago, is still producing revenue for me and for the stores who carry the trades. More trickle than flood, but steady.

I also don't think there is real excitement in the comic-book field. Excitement to me is the iPhone – all of those people lined up the night before to get one of the first iPhones when the store opens in the morning. That's consumer excitement, to be sure, but it's also pretty stupid. A week later you'll be able to get it at a much better price and you can just walk in and buy one. I don't know what I would have to do to have people camping out overnight to buy the first issue of my (possibly) new comics series, but I'll take steady sales over thirty years over an overnight flash-in-the-pan frenzy any day. Compare the back issue price on a CEREBUS #1 with any Image #1 and I think that makes the point of the one approach over the other.

I understand the plea for outside customers, for new people, and that is a big part of my thinking. I really have no interest in doing a new title that the stores will only sell to their formerly regular CEREBUS customers. That doesn't seem to be accomplishing anything. I do have some ideas but they are definitely in the 50/50 category. One of the "givens" that is inescapable is that the legwork has to be done locally and that there is legwork involved. To bring new customers into your stores, you have to go outside of your store and I don't see a lot of store owners who are doing that or who are willing to do that. I can't fly to every North American city and go out and get customers for you in your immediate geographic area. Even if I could afford it, I'm nobody. It's only in your stores that there's a remote chance of someone knowing who I am. That part – actually going out to promote to outside people -- has to be done on your side. What I'm hoping I CAN do is give you promotional material and give you an idea of where to deliver it and what pitch to use to bring new people into your store. But, let's be quite frank here. Whatever I come up with is not going to bring hundreds of new people into your store even if it works like a charm. Marvel can't suddenly bring hundreds of new people into your store. DC can't. Comic book stores are not that kind of environment. If I can bring ten new people into your store out of, say, a hundred handouts that you have to take where they need to go and one of those people becomes a regular customer, that's going to be an awe-inspiring success if it happens everywhere around North America. If all of the books you were selling were selling 200 copies a month, that's what I would have to compete with to get a fair hearing. But you have no shortage of comics that are selling three and four copies. The vast majority don't sell much more than that even from Marvel and DC. If I can come up with a comic book that sells twenty copies in each store, that's a runaway success in our market. That's not 52 or Civil War numbers, but if you look at the Diamond Top 300 those top-selling books drop off into the seven-to-ten per store range pretty quickly and then to two-to-three per store range even more quickly and then the balance of the Top 300 is selling less than one copy per store. And a lot of the sales figures on the top-selling books are "jacked" by multiple covers and other scams.

Tomorrow: I've only got two hands, y'know





If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.