I'm new here so please be gentle with me. :) I've been a comic book reader for most of my 44 years and a TV sitcom writer for almost half my life. Later this year, I'm launching a publishing company that mixes my experience in comedy with my love of comics. It's called Sitcomics and the build-up to launch continues to be both exhilarating and terrifying!
Though I don't hate modern comics, I'm definitely in the camp that fondly remembers the way comics were made before the direct market took over the business. I want my books to reflect that Silver/Bronze Age sense of fun while remaining firmly in the 21st Century. Among my eight initial titles are four super-hero comics that take place within a shared universe.
Artists on board include industry vets like Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema (who drew the above pin-up), Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine), Jeff Shultz (Archie), Joe Rubinstein, Craig Rousseau and many other.
From reading other discussions here, it's clear that most of you are extremely knowledgeable about the comics industry and I'd love to get any feedback on certain things I'm planning to do to help my comics stand out in a very crowded marketplace. Please understand I'm not selling anything - my books won't even be on sale for another six months. This is just a request for honest opinions, specifically about the super-hero line of titles and the way I'm producing them.
Here's an example:
I personally feel decompressed storytelling is a big reason why the many fans of Marvel's movies haven't migrated en masse to the comics that inspired them. I mean, imagine being asked to pay four dollars to see the first twenty minutes of the Avengers movie and then being told you must do the same thing every month for six months in order to see the whole movie. Nobody in their right mind would go for this and yet comic publishers have no problem asking their readers to do exactly that month after month. As a result, anyone with a casual interest in Marvel's characters who throws down four bucks for a random issue, soon realizes this is not a satisfying experience and wisely spends their next four dollars on some other form of entertainment.
In light of this, all the books I'm publishing will be 64 page quarterlies, costing $5.99 each.
Each will contain a single, self-contained story broken into three, 17-20 page chapters. Yes, there will be cliffhangers at the end of each chapter but you won't have to wait 30 days to find out what happens next. The idea is that Sitcomics will look and feel like a comic book, but read like a trade.
Alright that's just one of many things I'm planning to do differently from the industry's conventional wisdom. So what do you think? Is the page count too high? Does that price seem too high? If anyone has strong opinions positive or negative, I'd love to hear them.
Thanks and have a great day!
--Darin Henry --
Your vision sounds pretty cool to me. The approach reminds me a little bit of Valiant Comics which I really loved back in the 90s before Jim Shooter was ousted. Based on your description I would probably give the books a look. I normally wouldn't spend $5.99 on an unknown quantity but maybe if I saw some samplers or something first and it really hooked me, I might be more apt to take the financial plunge.
Welcome! Launching a new company with eight titles is a bold move. Maybe too bold: too many titles at once is a lot of what got Crossgen into trouble.
I think the quarterly idea works out to good bang for the buck. I like the structure you've described. The main issue would be $5.99 for an unknown quantity, as Detective 445 said. I agree with him that offering some sort of sampler first would be a good idea.
What is your digital strategy? It's not clear from your description.
It's an honor that you would come to us for our observations. I certainly wish you every success in this endeavor. Certainly having some old hands like Sal Buscema, Ron Frenz (I can remember when he was a hot new talent) and Joe Rubinstein on your roster is a feather in your cap and is a sign to your readers that Sitcomics means to be a quality operation.
As for the approach of offering 64-page quarterly books at $5.99, that sounds good to me. For people who might be scared away by that price point, look at what Dark Horse does with Empowered -- every now and again, it runs a standard-sized comic for a couple of bucks to drum up interest in the regular $14 trade paperbacks, and those are in black-and-white.
Which brings up a question -- are your titles going to be in color?
Good luck with your new series, Darin! And welcome!
It looks like you've got some great talent on board, so that's an excellent start. And that piece of promotional art looks great!
Everyone else is wondering whether $5.99 is too high for a fan to pay for an untried product, and that's certainly an issue. But I also worry that it's too low of a price for you to pay everyone -- talent, vendors, and yourself -- and still have money left over to keep the company viable. I'd advise you to take a very close look at the numbers you've calculated for the project, and consider realistic worst-case scenarios.
Also, quarterly is a difficult frequency, simply because it prevents the reader from getting a monthly reminder of their involvement in your stories, and that they want to buy the next one. A quarterly comic will have a hard time getting readers into a buying habit.
As for decompression, that varies comic by comic, and I don't think readers are put off by a "to be continued" message at the end as you are...as long as they get something in each issue that feels like a story, not a chapter. A book like Harley Quinn does this well -- even when things are continued, the issue package satisfies. A book like Justice League (in my estimation) isn't as successful in this regard: The latest issue had a few action scenes, but very little story movement, and wound up unsatisfying (to me). Both books are selling gangbusters, though, so I'm not sure what difference it makes, ultimately. (To me, only Justice League feels decompressed -- HQ feels like the right amount of story for the page count and the money.)
Anyway, those are my two cents -- basically, that you might want to examine your premise on the decompression/no to-be-continued thing, before you put all your eggs in that basket.
Thanks very much for the feedback, everyone. I knew this group was savvy enough about the business to get what I'm going for without having to see the actual books!
@Detective445, thanks very much for the vote of confidence. There will definitely be some samplers online once the book is ready to go to print. And you can always check out the facebook page to see unlettered sample pages from the books.
@Mark & @Rob, The 64 page issues each consist of 3 20 page chapters, so the digital plan is to sell each chapter separately online for a different price before the full 3 chapter print version goes on sale (still working out that digital price but it will be lower than a single issue from Marvel and DC). Then the full 3 chapter print version may actually go on sale a week or two before the 3rd chapter is available digitally. My reason for splitting the book digitally is I figure the digital audience had to jump through a lot of hoops just to get there so they're probably already comic book fans who are well aware of the serialized storytelling technique. The print versions will be sold in places that aren't comic stores (though comic stores will hopefully sell them too) and that means there's a chance people who aren't comic fans will buy them. I want that customer to feel satisfied that they got a complete story for their money and hopefully enjoy that story enough to buy again.
@ClarkKent_DC, thanks for welcoming me and I'm happy to get your feedback. The books will be full color. Glenn Whitmore is coloring most of the books.
@Jason, Diamond hasn't seen them yet because they have to totally finished before I can submit but with the art line-up I've gathered, I'm confident that they will be distributed nationally and orderable via Previews. Because I know retailers carry so much risk when ordering, I'm hoping to work out a deal with Diamond to make the first ten copies returnable. At least for the issue #1s. The quarterly releases also mean that retailers will see have seen how the first issue is selling and hear the customer response to the content before ordering issue #2. Hopefully, if I've done my job right orders for issue 2 could actually be higher than issue 1. (Yes, I know that is extremely unlikely but I know that won't happen if I just do things the way everyone else is doing them.)
@Rob (again), Yes, this could be a huge money-losing proposition but I won't know until I try! I'm selling my entire comic book collection to fund this company (near-complete runs of Avengers, Ant-Man, Daredevil and Fantastic Four hit e-bay in 2015!) I'm also fortunate to have a day job writing TV so my two young kids won't eventually curse me for spending all their inheritance on my crazy comic books!
My next question to you all is regarding continuity. The four super-hero books feature characters who appear in each other's books (mainly because they all belong to the same super-hero team). I'll be referencing events that happen in the other books and even putting in the little editor's captions a la the old Marvel books. Does that kind of continuity hold extra appeal for those of you who read super-hero comics or is it a thing of the past that should stay in the past?
Also, my covers will reflect the actual story content as opposed to just being beauty shots of the characters (a la most Marvel and DC covers now). I feel as though a compelling cover that shows some drama is more likely to draw people into a book than iconic poses featuring characters that most people have never seen before. Again, does the story-specific cover idea appeal to you or does it seem like a thing of the past?
And while I have your attention, here's a page of art from Blue Baron #1 by Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema and Glenn Whitmore.
Darin Henry said:
The 64 page issues each consist of 3 20 page chapters, so the digital plan is to sell each chapter separately online for a different price before the full 3 chapter print version goes on sale (still working out that digital price but it will be lower than a single issue from Marvel and DC). Then the full 3 chapter print version may actually go on sale a week or two before the 3rd chapter is available digitally.
I add my welcome to the others and wish you good luck with your comic book company.
I have occasionally commented that I think the future of comics is to produce periodicals digitally followed at a later date by trade paperback collections. I think the market for periodical comic books is slowly dying because they just aren't available in places most people go. Also, the entry level seems to be teens rather than pre-teens. People, at least in the U.S., aren't going out of their way to look for comic books. This is proven by the ever-diminishing number of comic book stores. Your idea of getting your comics into other stores is great but I'm afraid it may be an uphill fight.
Because I know retailers carry so much risk when ordering, I'm hoping to work out a deal with Diamond to make the first ten copies returnable. At least for the issue #1s.
I continue to think that publishers need to make at least the first couple of issues of a new title returnable to entice comic shop owners to order them. My friend who owns a comic shop tends to order mainly based upon preorders unless a title has a long track record. If five people order a book in many cases he only orders that quantity, which leaves nothing on the shelf to entice the potential readers who visit his shop. When he has deviated from this he gets stuck with comics which can't be returned. I think it's fair to say that most stores can't afford to invest a lot of money in comics which will sit in their bins for years or be sold at a loss. Of course, returnable comics will adversely affect your bottom line as a publisher.
I feel as though a compelling cover that shows some drama is more likely to draw people into a book than iconic poses featuring characters that most people have never seen before. Again, does the story-specific cover idea appeal to you or does it seem like a thing of the past?
I have always favored the old-style covers which depicted something from the story within. Hard to say whether this is the way the average customer looks at it.
Welcome, Darin. Good luck with your company.
And wow, are those Glenn Whitmore's inks? Whoever it was, the guy is skilled.
Thanks, Darrin, and good luck! Your plan to digitally release before selling the print copies seems sound, and good luck especially with your intention to get your book into more places than just comic shops!
For continuity, I love those editor's notes & explanations, so long as I'm also getting a full story in the issue I'm reading -- and, ideally, that the caption also doesn't spoil the other story I haven't read yet. Which is a fine line to walk. I wonder how younger readers feel about them, though -- they really seem like a relic of a bygone time. Maybe there's another way to present that information that feels more Now?
As for story-specific covers, I'm all for 'em! Although again, story-specific doesn't necessarily mean aping how Marvel & DC did those things in the 60s. Weekly books like Futures End tend to have story-specific covers more often than monthly books -- and I always liked the CNN-like "crawl" of information on the covers of 52. But definitely, I think giving the readers some sort of up-front narrative hook is a must with otherwise untried characters.
That's a great Blue Baron page!
I know that when I was a teenager I could remember all the covers and would very seldom pick up a comic I already had (or pass up one I needed). Now I carry a small piece of paper with my regular titles and issue numbers so I can avoid buying a comic I already have. This isn't a function of age but of the non-distinctive covers. In many cases today all you get is posed covers and they are not memorable.
For me it's a problem of age AND non-distinct covers.
The variant covers are sometimes nice but unless you just HAVE to have all variations they add to the problem of deciding whether or not you already have a book.
Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:
For me it's a problem of age AND non-distinct covers.