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Old 04-10-2018, 02:11 PM   #1
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comics as "R & D labs" for other media

I've heard this for probably years now, people saying "oh, comics don't really make any money... they're just R & D labs for the giant multi-million dollar movie franchises, videogames and whatnot..."

Most recently, I was reading Blake Bell's "Secret History of Marvel Comics" and he says this too, in his "Last Laugh" chapter.

But it makes no sense to me. You don't need to keep comics on life support for the sake of doing "R & D" for other media. That's ridiculous. And yet Blake Bell and I guess others(?) must be saying it, because I hear regular joes repeating it from time to time.

But think about it: have you ever heard of, say, a movie production going "We better start a comic book company before we can take this one on, guys. I mean, we COULD just try to do story development ourselves, with concept artists and writers; but no, this is too big. We need to produce a line of comic books first. That will really spark our creative juices."

Just kind of annoying me lately... I'd love to know the actual profitability of comics these days (or any days) but I doubt anyone will hand me any numbers I can actually trust 100% on that. Marvel and DC probably keep that close to the spandex.
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Old 04-10-2018, 07:27 PM   #2
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Comicbooks as we know them need to go away. I'm sure Warner Bros has felt this way for a long time. Now that Disney has Marvel. I'm positive Disney feels the same way.

I can't imagine they are profitable at all and probably haven't been since the late 90's.
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Old 04-11-2018, 07:34 AM   #3
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Certainly, for the 99.9 % of the artists, comics books are not really profitable.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:57 AM   #4
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It's time for comics to die and go away. Burn it all down and let something new grow and take its place. Time for comics to go underground. Get rid of the direct market. The big publishers can create standalone graphic novels for bookstores, put them on more of a novel publishing schedule, and a ton of books using their popular characters for kids. Then figure out a way to bring it all back a smart way where people will want to read them again, if that's even possible. Figure out what magazines and websites get a lot of attention, get some comic strips in there. Motion comic strips might work. Make comics magazine-sized and put them in stores. A good anthology of comics, a Spider-Man magazine, a Batman family magazine, etc. No more comic stores, unless they're around to sell back issues and games and toys. Recreate a fun collector's market, destroy the speculator's market. Comics have to be come a job again, to make a product everyone wants to read and buy and enjoy for the sake of enjoyment. People who go see movies go to see movies. People who read comics seem to do it because they either are doing it for an investment or because they are either creating comics or want to create comics.
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Old 04-11-2018, 06:01 PM   #5
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WOW, everyone is so down on comics. Why the fuck are you all here?
Seriously?

If they made no money, they would have stopped already. So, someone in the process does make a profit. Yes, they need to change, but you'll never compete with GAMING anymore (most movies don't either). But people can still make a profit with cheap films too.
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Old 04-11-2018, 06:32 PM   #6
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WOW, everyone is so down on comics. Why the fuck are you all here?
Seriously?

.
THANK you.
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Old 04-11-2018, 06:33 PM   #7
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But this whole "they're R & D labs" seems like a way to misdirect from their (I guess?) unprofitability... Just seems like a Cover Story somebody came up with, to explain away how they don't need to be profitable. I don't know if Blake Bell started it --- his book is c. 2013 I think --- or if he just heard it from somebody else and repeated it.

It's kind of an interesting nonsensical assertion for a comics scholar to make in a hardcover book from Fantagraphics.

But anyway. My personal view on "whether comics should exist as the direct market"... well, I've been down on it for awhile (sorry sevans!) although just recently I've been reading some runs by John Romita Jr. (on Hulk and Black Panther, with writers Bruce Jones and Reginald Hudlin) that I thought were pretty respectable efforts.

I still think the colorists are overpowering the art or messing it up a lot of times... With all their "painting" and lighting effects. And I still wish they'd print on some kind of normal paper... Pulp or non-coated paper or something.. I've been saying this for years but I'm just a voice in the wilderness. I know the new comics are flashier, but it's like eating rich desserts constantly, it's too much. And the primitive comics were unique because of their limitations.

There is a sense of overload with the flood of new product on the stands... It's almost like they want people to be sickened by it all, I know I get nauseous just looking at all that effort, that somehow all averages out to a gray goo that one just turns away from in horror. (No disrespect to the hard work of those artists and all, just my honest reaction a lot of times.)
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Old 04-12-2018, 12:49 AM   #8
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Comics and Movies and Music are all the same.
85% of it (that you experience and are shown) is generic, average, safe stuff.

But there are still gems hidden away.
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Old 04-12-2018, 08:05 AM   #9
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Im not down on comicbooks. Im down on the business of comicbooks. I do comicbooks because im very good at them. To make a broad statement like yours is like asking a pornstar why they like to fuck. They hate the buisness and think it's broken, they also like to fuck.
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Old 04-12-2018, 11:54 AM   #10
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Im not down on comicbooks. Im down on the business of comicbooks. I do comicbooks because im very good at them. To make a broad statement like yours is like asking a pornstar why they like to fuck. They hate the buisness and think it's broken, they also like to fuck.
Quite right. I always thought drawing was an addiction.
If somebody want to pay on top, why not?
And yes the, business of comics books is a real disaster for the artists. Even for the big names.
It always was. It always would be. But, if you like to draw and make a life of it, comics is one of the closest possibilities.
All we need is a cheap piece of paper, pencil, eraser, a ruler y some ink.
And you are ready to create a world of it.
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Old 04-12-2018, 03:27 PM   #11
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But this whole "they're R & D labs" seems like a way to misdirect from their (I guess?) unprofitability... Just seems like a Cover Story somebody came up with, to explain away how they don't need to be profitable. I don't know if Blake Bell started it --- his book is c. 2013 I think --- or if he just heard it from somebody else and repeated it...
It does seem nonsensical, but there have been some companies where that was their primary goal. Platinum Studios tried this for years. They managed it with Cowboys and Aliens, but nothing else that I'm aware of. I remember talking with someone there at one point about getting a property published and they were pretty direct about focusing properties that they thought they could push into other media.
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Old 04-13-2018, 06:29 PM   #12
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If they made no money, they would have stopped already. So, someone in the process does make a profit. Yes, they need to change, but you'll never compete with GAMING anymore (most movies don't either). But people can still make a profit with cheap films too.
Well maybe they make a profit somewhere, that's what we're told anyway is that these companies have to make profits. However the "big boys" always seem to coast on a cushion of air...

I'm pretty sure small independent comic shops have to make a profit though, yes. So those "pull lists" must be enough to keep them going.

But possibly the publishers themselves have some other remit. Possibly. Maybe they're "flooding the zone," with their deep pockets (bottomless corporate-industrial-military complex pockets?) for some reason...
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Old 04-13-2018, 06:36 PM   #13
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It does seem nonsensical, but there have been some companies where that was their primary goal. Platinum Studios tried this for years. They managed it with Cowboys and Aliens, but nothing else that I'm aware of. I remember talking with someone there at one point about getting a property published and they were pretty direct about focusing properties that they thought they could push into other media.
That's interesting. I guess I can understand, if you're trying to get a movie producer to take you seriously, it might help to have some finished product to show, something in the marketplace, rather than just an "elevator pitch."

But in the case of Marvel/DC, not sure it would work that way.. IF their comics are unprofitable (or just breaking even) as Blake Bell claims (he says they're a "loss-leader" and essentially R & D labs), then it seems the logical thing to do would be at least to trim the lines way back to a few of the more profitable titles. Maybe if you did that, those titles would then gain in readership (readers having fewer choices) and be quite profitable. idk, just spitballing...
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Old 04-14-2018, 12:30 PM   #14
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Comics are relatively cheap and easy to make. You can get an idea of what a concept is like and produce content for it without investing huge amounts of money, manpower, and time into it. And if characters and concepts prove popular in that arena, like Harley Quinn, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Spawn, One Piece, and whatever else, then you have good reason to believe that could translate to larger success with a television show, movie, or video game, which are projects that typically require much more money, manpower, and time to produce. And for whoever owns the rights, I think the REALLY big money is in the adaptations and licensing deals. In that sense, comics are something like R&D. That's not to discount the medium or what can be done in it, though. It's just the reality of the situation. Comics are cheap, easy to make, low risk, not that many people want to read them, but the concepts within them sometimes have the potential to make billions of dollars when translated to other media.

I really think the direct market needs to go away. Or it at least needs to not be the main avenue for comics sales. As long as that is the primary way comics are distributed and sold, the industry will not make a lot of money or get many new fans. I mean, think about it. Action Comics might sell 42,000 copies to stores through Diamond these days. But how many of those things actually get sold to customers? 30,000? 22,000? Those are abysmal numbers for Superman's primary comic book. Superman, who is known the world over and is the most famous superhero of all, and who at one time easily sold comics well into the hundreds of thousands on any random issue. Something is clearly wrong here, and it won't get better until someone stands up to really address it... or the whole thing just collapses.

For my own project, I plan to make indie video games based on the comics. That was always the plan. But webcomics are a totally different thing, nearly. Extremely low overhead, easy distribution, I don't think those will ever go away. If anything, I think mainstream comics will become more like webcomics in the future. Either that, or they'll just become graphic novels to be released once or twice a year for a given title. That would probably even help them from a creative standpoint. Or a mixture of both. I don't think the floppy will survive, however.
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Old 04-17-2018, 05:39 PM   #15
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Hm, your first point sounds like a pipe-dream to me, for the most part, it doesn't seem like Hollywood really cares about any brilliant concepts from creators out in the hinterlands. Most of that stuff they adapt is owned by Marvel/DC, old concepts from yesteryear. From Jack Kirby basically, ha.

On your second point, my personal speculation would be that "they" aren't really interested in common sense solutions for the medium... In a lot of ways comics made more sense the way they used to be marketed and distributed. But the current agenda (not just in comics, but in media across the board) has children being moved away from print, and into screen-based media. Comics are just catering to their aging readership, and probably have that as a mandate from on high.

Part of a larger cultural move away from print.. partly by design (I'm guessing), partly by the nature of the system.
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