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Flavio Sapha
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 9:27am | IP Logged | 1  

You've got a time machine and want to go back to the past, to prevent the
decline and fall of Marvel. Which event must you avert?
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Chuck Dixon
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 9:33am | IP Logged | 2  

The publication of Wizard magazine.
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Juan Jose Colin Arciniega
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 9:39am | IP Logged | 3  

The Birth of McFarlane, JoeQ and Liefeld!

Edited by Juan Jose Colin Arciniega on 10 July 2006 at 9:40am
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Simon Matthew Park
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 9:44am | IP Logged | 4  

The beginnings of the direct market. You'd need a hell of an itinerary, even with a time machine, in order to accomplish this aim, however.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 9:49am | IP Logged | 5  

The creation of the DSM, or, barring that, the decision to put all the eggs in that one basket.

As originally conceived, the Direct Sales Market was a great idea -- a way for dealers to create a stock of back issues, and for fans to be able to purchase those back issues at reasonable prices. But even back at the very beginning, my spider-sense tingled. I saw in the DSM a great potential for disaster, more and more as the Companies began shifting product to "Direct Only" status. Yes, the DSM saved (or at least prolonged) books like MICRONAUTS, which had reached cancelation point on the newsstand. But, ultimately, was that such a good idea?

About a decade ago, a poor old Collie turned up on my front porch one day. She was in terrible shape, and obviously abused. Of course I took her in, and also took her to the Vet. He found all sorts of things wrong with her, and judged that she had probably spent her life in a puppy farm, constantly pregnant. Having passed beyond the stage where she was a useful breeder, she had been taken to a nice neighborhood and dumped. A "kindness". Think of the DSM as the "nice neighborhood" for comics.

I had the poor old dog for about a year and a half, making constant trips to the Vet, in the end spending about $5000 on her, before the final trip, when the Vet informed me that, yes, he could do one more medical "patch", but that was all it would be. She was in such bad shape that all I was doing was postponing the inevitable. So we decided to end her sad life. It was quick and it was painless -- at least for her. Think of that euthanasia as perhaps what would have been a better idea for many of those comics "saved" by the DSM.

In the end, you see, saving comics from cancelation, shifting more and more product to the DSM only weakened Marvel (and the industry as a whole). By the time the decision was made to "pull out of the newsstand" it was kamikazee time. There was no way the industry could survive as a nitch market. There simply were not enough readers, and the move to Direct Only severely reduced what few of them there were. Then came the madness of the Speculator Boom, also fostered and nurtured by the DSM.

Give me a time machine, and let me go back and prevent the creation of the Direct Sales Market. The comicbook industry today would almost certainly be a different beast from what we have, or even what it used to be -- but at least it would have got there, wherever that is, by "organic" means.

(If it's a time machine that will allow two trips, then let me go back and tell the publishers, in the 1940s, not to cling to the 10˘ price tag. Raise prices along with all the other magazines.)

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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 9:57am | IP Logged | 6  

I suspect the second trip might help obviate the first. If comics had "grown up" as publications alongside other, glossy magazines, they might never have lost standing on the newsstand market. Of course, there's also the Wertham/Kefauver debacle-- I might have encouraged Gaines' enemies to rally round, rather than make him the sacrificial lamb-- but the ghettoization of comics started with keeping the prices low from early on, IMHO>
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Chuck Dixon
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 10:28am | IP Logged | 7  

I don’t think there was anything wrong with the DSM in theory. I had no problem with a kind of boutique side to the comics industry. The trouble began when the publishers began to listen to the retailers and respond to their complaints that newsstand and bookstore sales were “unfair competition” for them. Never mind that those venues were the entry level for new readers while comic shops were dedicated to already hardcore fans.

Another problem was that a lot of careers of high level folks in comics were tied to the early success of the DSM and they weren’t about to turn their back on the “miracle” that their reps were based on. And hiring former retailers to actually work at the comic companies simply cemented the policy in place.

It saddens me to look at old royalty statements and see how many copies I used to sell on the newsstand vs. the comic shops. So many times it was a 10-1 ratio. I could laugh all the way to the bank on books like Savage Sword of Conan which sold like crap at the comic shops but often cracked the 200K mark on the newsstand.

The DSM debacle may have gotten us to where we are. But the advent of Wizard and the star system mentality of publishers made sure we're parked in a handicapped space with four flat tires.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 10:33am | IP Logged | 8  

Much as I loathe WIZARD and the "star system", they are just gangrene. The wound that started it all was the DSM, and the steady shift into that as our sole venue. As if Hallmark had opened their stores -- and pulled their product out of every other shop, and made most cities only had on Hallmark Store.

The insanity is palpable. But, hey, I've been singing this song for more than 25 years now.

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Chuck Dixon
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 10:44am | IP Logged | 9  

We'll just have to agree to agree then.

I like your Hallmark analogy. It perfectly illustrates the situation. But it also illustrates what direct marketing could have been had it been kept as the boutique system it should have remained.

We COULD have had our cake and eaten it too.

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Francesco Vanagolli
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 11:19am | IP Logged | 10  

When you talk about the direct market, you remember me that you Americans and we Italians lives in two different comics worlds.

I go at the newsstands and I find Spider-Man. His comic book contains 3 stories and it costs 2.50 € (around 3 $).
And you, if you want to read Spider-Man, must spend 3 $ for 22 pages and you can find the comics almost only in comics shops.

When an Italian comic book is sold only in comics shops, it's odd. I see more nearer to us the "American way to sell comics", and sometimes I think I'll never be used to it. Even if it will be inevitable, sooner or later. Superheroes aren't as popular as in the past, here.

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Rob Spalding
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 11:37am | IP Logged | 11  

A similar thing can be found over here in the UK, DC and Marvel have been putting out comics for the newsagents.  They contain 2 or 3 stories, reprinted from the original comics.

I would be interested to see what kind of numbers these reprints sell, as they are what I have spotted more kids reading, when compared to the original printing.

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John Webb
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 11:46am | IP Logged | 12  

I think if I could change anything it would be how comics are distributed. The DSM was a great idea but the newstand market should not have been sacrificed for it. I wish I could go back in time and force someone to put as much energy into the newstand market as they did the direct market.

As an experiment I wish I could also have persuaded the guy who owned and ran Atlas comics back in 1975 to stop messing with his own products and give his own books a chance. If he had operated more wisely back then we may have had a different style of comic book industry today.

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Sam Karns
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 11:48am | IP Logged | 13  

Couldn't M****L and DC do something about this and If so where do they start from?  Does the DSM have contract with these Comic book companies?
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Robert Oren
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 12:00pm | IP Logged | 14  

The i think were as much to blame as anyone. We all  fell for all those die-cut,metallic covers or limited edition covers back in the day. i saw so many people worry about what cover to buy instead of caring about what's inside that book. it wasn't a matter of what touched your heart it was more of a matter of value and greed!!!!!!!
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Roger A Ott II
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 12:31pm | IP Logged | 15  

Robert Oren: i saw so many people worry about what cover to buy instead of caring about what's inside that book. it wasn't a matter of what touched your heart it was more of a matter of value and greed!!!!!!!

I managed to avoid this problem entirely, mostly due to the fact that I was only making $5.50 an hour in 1992 and making a $400 a month rent payment on my apartment.  I couldn't afford to be a speculator, even if I had wanted to.  Luckily, I also had the foresight to realize that if everyone was buying that foil-stamped embossed die-cut glow-in-the-dark cover, who was going to want one two years down the road?

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Lars Johansson
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 12:57pm | IP Logged | 16  

I know little about the subject, so I should not say much, but to me my "instinct" tells me that the collectibles such as cards was part of the decline. Also, the fact hat they thought that they had a gold mine when they had the rights to the Marvel characters, and then didn't care too much about the artists/writers.
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Robert White
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 1:01pm | IP Logged | 17  

I think we all agree that the root of the industries problem is the beast that is the modern DSM. However, if we are to narrow our scope to Marvel alone, I would go back and talk Jim Shooter out of doing Secret Wars I and certainly II. Allowing top creators like JB to continue work on FF and Hulk, while he did Superman for DC, would have been a close second. Creatively, Marvel has never recovered from that exodus of talent.
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Robert White
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 1:04pm | IP Logged | 18  

The collector mentality is right there with the DSM. The nature of a collector's hobby naturally causes older people to linger around and hogging all the toys, while younger fans get turned off by the presence of all the "grumpy old farts."
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John Byrne
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 1:05pm | IP Logged | 19  

Allowing top creators like JB to continue work on FF and Hulk, while he did Superman for DC, would have been a close second.

***

Sad thing there is that while Shooter was busy calling me a quisling, his immediate superior, Mike Hobson, wished me luck on SUPERMAN, saying (wisely) that anything that was good for DC could not help but be good for the industry as a whole.

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Robert Oren
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 1:55pm | IP Logged | 20  

Let's go one further if i may .....and maybe i'm wrong but this only my opinion.

it seems every time someone writes an alright story ...he becomes the comic god for that week and is automatically put on a top book.then when they are not hot anymore the next redhot guy pops in. it seems to me that people never stay long? never create a history with a book ! Now i know kirby or J.B. runs are long dead.but please at least give someone a chance to get a good feel for the book!!

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John Byrne
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 2:09pm | IP Logged | 21  

There are two forces working in lethal parallel there, Robert. One is an audience which is not only fickle, but which delights in being fickle. Many seem to enjoy a riches-to-rags story even more than rags-to-riches -- especially if they were not part of the rags-to-riches. They did not help create, but they are eager to destroy.

Then there are the so-called "professionals" themselves, far too many of which are anything but. People who, as Frank Miller once put it, "do three issues and want a parade." And, alas, these worthless prima donnas are able to find far, far to many brain dead "collectors" who are eager to support them while they are "growing roses." To the point, even, of making lateness a badge of honor, and producing books on time an indication of shoddy workmanship.

This is one of the things I feared, back when my spider-sense tingled at the dawn of the DSM -- to much power in the hands of the wrong people (ie, not the Companies).

Remember when Marvel and DC were the pathfinders, not the panderers?

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Brandon Pennison
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 2:18pm | IP Logged | 22  

Like it or not, the only book lately with that kind of staying power has been Ultimate Spider-man.  About to be 100 issues of the same writer and artist....at least it has that going for it.... 

As far as talking about the hot flavor of the week, Wizard seems to attempt to dictate this every month, which would be a good reason why Mr. Dixon's reason for putting Wizard on there would be logical.  But the sad thing to me is people like Chuck Dixon, for which I own and have read every issue of Nightwing because of him and him alone, which got me reading DC are no longer getting the work they deserve in the comics industry.  The fact that the truly great writers and artists (Roger Stern included) are not mainstays anymore is one of the problems.  For every person reading and writing Wizard that sings Bendis' praise every month, new comic readers reading the magazine as gospel will never know who Chuck Dixon and Roger Stern are.  And of course they will know JB is a jerk, because that is what is preached.

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Brian Tait
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 2:20pm | IP Logged | 23  

While I agree totally about the DSM and it's negative effect on the marketplace, I also wonder about Marvels decision to go public.
When that happens you now have to answer to a board of directors and your stockholders. The only thing they are interested in is their dividends. A constant and increasing return on their investment.
If Marvel had not gone public, would the marketplace be any different today, or was it (going public) simply inevitable.
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Chuck Dixon
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 2:29pm | IP Logged | 24  

Words of iron.

But what baffles me is that these "hot" talents are given assignments based on hype rather than performance. Creators whose books are selling steady if not spectacularly are removed so that sexy new talent can take over. More often than not the sales fall below that of the former less-sexy team and never again rise to their former numbers no matter how many rounds of musical creative chairs are played. But those replacement guys maintain their gloss and keep getting books until Gareb Shamus no longer wants to party with them.

And if all of this star-chasing (to clean up the term) resulted in higher sales I'd just admit I'm clueless and go away. But each month's figures prove me right. It's a slow downward spiral but its ever downward.

In the end, it shows a lack of any kind of leadership and chases off good talent.

I was told recently that to get more work at a major company I would have to "party with" and "buddy up" to certain people.

That ain't me, babe.

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Robert Oren
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Posted: 10 July 2006 at 2:33pm | IP Logged | 25  

J.B WROTE:

Then there are the so-called "professionals" themselves, far too many of which are anything but. People who, as Frank Miller once put it, "do three issues and want a parade." And, alas, these worthless prima donnas are able to find far, far to many brain dead "collectors" who are eager to support them while they are "growing roses." To the point, even, of making lateness a badge of honor, and producing books on time an indication of shoddy workmanship.

*************************

I could not have put it any better... they want there ego's stroked. they are  like little children. if daddy will  not pay attention to them they throw a fit until he does. and who is daddy?  you got it .......wizard the big hype machine because if they say it guess it must be true......i am missing something here?  



Edited by Robert Oren on 10 July 2006 at 5:17pm
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