Saturday, February 02, 2008

Comic Book Reporting – Does it Exist?

Like many of the readers of this blog I enjoy checking out Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and other sites that “report” comic book news. My question about all of this “Is it news?”

It is a double edged sword as these websites depend on good relationships with the major publishers and creators. If they actually start to report on news events which reflect negatively on a publisher they may end up not having access to creators or being given preview copies of major titles and other extras that publishers throw at their friends.

The reason I bring this up is due to my rant regarding the high cover price of Iron Man #25. It is my belief the cover price was so high (25% higher!!!) was due to additional advertising for their product. I feel that raising the price to add what is essentially advertising for their product is actually a news worthy subject. My belief is that if the major “news” sites or anyone tried to ask any questions they would have been given a corporate line and would accept it and go away. The story would then be so boring as not to be given a reasonable chance to be posted.

Lying in the Gutters tries to give us some news items, but is forced to report them as rumors since no one in the industry will ever verify or give Rich Johnston any hard evidence. My guess is that if they are revealed as a source they possibly could be fired.

On top of that what we as fans accept as news are normally soft ball interviews or conversations about current story lines or hints of things to come. Reporting is a glorification of the next issue box.

Where are stories that talk about what happened to the Kubert brothers at DC? They produced monthly books before and now they can’t draw three issues in a row anymore? Why? What happened? Scheduling conflicts, family crisis, fall out with writers? We do not need the dirt, but it is a fair question to ask an artist.

I can think of several newsworthy questions off the top of my head:
1) How are the books are being produced? What was an editorial mandate and what was some writer’s idea?
2) Are companies giving partial ownership rights when a character is created for their universes?
3)Why did Batman and the Outsiders go from Peter Tomasi, to Tony Bedard to Chuck Dixon?
4) How are royalties being structured? This subject is especially of interest with the growing hard cover and trade market.

I personally believe that it is interesting to see the growth in the trade and hard cover market, but what is the cut that the creators get? A page rate if it is deemed trade worthy or a percent of sales? Are Marvel and DC producing mini-series for the book market and using the publishing of a mini-series to offset the cost of that production? Online and downloads, do the creators make a dime on these? Suicide Squad Showcase edition was pulled, why? Was that a royalty thing? What are the families of the dead creators getting for all the material being reprinted?

Outside of the big two, I think it is interesting to know how and why some things get published and others do not.

Where is the story on the printing process, one printing company maybe bankrupt and much is sent over to China. Is this really a positive for the industry and what role does the weakening dollar play in the whole product mix?

Sales numbers are interesting, but what are the true sales numbers on most of the major books? The direct market does not allow returns, but are Waldenbooks selling non-returnable magazines? Is Diamond’s exclusive distributor-ship hurting the industry?

In such a small industry it appears only executives and insiders are allowed certain information about a company, yet they are public companies, if I want to invest I want to understand how money is made to see if it is worth my time.

I know most of us (myself included) enjoy reading about what is coming out and “hearing” some background on how a creator decided to do a story and whatever. That is being done and usually being done well. I just think that we really do not have any “reporters” actually doing hard hitting and detailed stories about the industry. Maybe it is because it would have a limited audience, but maybe because many websites are scared to lose access to what little information they're given.

If I’m wrong and there are some good sites or magazines that I need to buy to get true reporting on comics someone let me know. I for one would like to see more of these issues raised and reported on by people who have more contacts to the inside then I do. The comic book press is too dependent on whatever they are given. It reminds me of how all news is being softly homogenized by the major media and then spoon feed to us.

Bottom line: give me a little more “news” and less reiteration of press releases.


  1. I have never backed away from asking a question I think needs answered because of "good relationships." That's just not true.

    Sure, I'm not going to brow beat a source on every question, but most of my questions don't require it. It's not a war in Iraq - it's comic books - it's much more about information and insight than it is about hard news.

    However, when hard news reporting is necessary, then I do it. And I've never had a source upset that I did so - they know when something requires the tough questions.

    As for your "four questions," I've personally asked all of them, except the one about the specific comic, which had already been answered on Newsarama. And I got answers. You obviously need to read closer.

    I know - it's a lot of information every day. We run from seven to 12 main articles a day, plus Blog@ items plus previews and other news information on our sidebar. It's amazing the amount of information we gather about this one little hobby every single day. But we do report on this stuff. Keep reading.

  2. I will confess that I have not read every article posted on Newsarama or other websites and if the news is in there and I missed it, then I guess it is on me.

    What I think I'm asking for is some articles that focus on more non-promo items or harder news. I know from at least the front page that what is being highlighted is more informational pieces.

    I'll try to read closer in the future.

    So how are the royalties being structured?

  3. It's different for every company - vastly different - and even within one company, it sometimes changes even between contracts. There is no standard, unfortunately. It's one of the reasons I recently asked creators about the possibility of forming a union.