Apologies for yet again not getting a hyperpost up today – I’ve got to fix some stuff with my wife’s computer. I’m going to make it up by doing five posts in three days over the weekend. These posts are all planned so clearly in my head all I have to do is find the time to type them up…
In the meantime, some links:
Bob talks about Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.
For those who’ve not heard, Paul Levitz has resigned/been fired from the post of publisher at DC Comics. Kurt Busiek has the best take on this. I think Levitz leaving might well be the beginning of the end for the US comics industry, to be frank…
Brad Hicks on why he doesn’t support Obama-care
A couple of interesting posts on posterior probability.
And some good news – transsexual prisoner wins right to transfer to woman’s prison. Though the particular case may be worrying – the prisoner in question is in prison for rape – the principle is an eminently sound one.
And Fred Clark on vampires and crosses.
Posterior probability sounds like a bunch of arse to me…
I think I prefer this version, which seems to reduce a lot of the conceptual/metaphysical overhead in the original formulation:
Oh, and thanks for the link to the Swamp Thing appreciation. I’m only a knuckle-dragging picture-book reading ignoramus (most of the time) but I appreciate the effort you put into your own discussions of comics as medium and as culture, even if most of it goes *way* over my head…
Women convicted of violence against women go to a women’s prison. Men convicted of violence against men go to a men’s prison. *shrugs.*
The prison one goes to is determined by the convict’s gender, not their crime.
Absolutely. Which is why I think it so great that the correct decision was made in this case.
My understanding is that Levitz played a big role in propping up Diamond Distributors. If Levitz’ loss means that Diamond would go away…that would be huge. But I’m not sure it would be bad. As a number of people have pointed out, the 80s-early 90s boom of self-publishers dried up and blew away right about the time Diamond achieved a monopoly on comics distribution. They’re gatekeepers, and not necessarily benevolent ones. Chris Butcher, who manages a comics store here in Toronto, has a post from a few days ago in which he seems to imply that the Direct Market is becoming an irrelevance, and that he thinks he personally can survive without it: http://comics212.net/2009/09/07/i-am-cynical-orange-the-dm-wont-end-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper/ .
Anyway, big changes on the way, and it’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen. I will say, though, that people have been predicting the imminent demise of the American comics industry since the 70s. It seems to be rather cockroach-like. The floppy market is surely on the verge of a radical change, but the graphic novel/trade market seems to be getting stronger by the day, and that’s somewhat detached from all these corporate shenanigans. So that may be the form the American comics market takes in the coming years.
I have literally no idea what Levitz does, or did, and I’d be interested to see you expand on your doomsaying there a bit, Andrew; tbh, Marvel alone would prop up I’d imagine 70% of DM stores or so – Dirk Deppey certainly feels otherwise, and absolutely skewers the former LoSH writer.
Basically, while Levitz has done some bad stuff simply as part of working for a huge mega-corporation, he’s someone who has consistently fought for comics as an artform. Things like DC starting to have a decent trade paperback program, or Karen Berger’s talent search of the UK that brought Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant, Brian Bolland, Dave McKean etc to DC, were Levitz’ ideas.
Much of what Deppey says is true – in so far as it goes – but he’s very, very biased. Many things like the alienation of Moore came from above Levitz, as far as I’ve been able to find out, while the things he did for the *good* can be seen by all the creators’ tributes.
Fundamentally, Levitz is someone who tried (and to a large extent succeeded) to improve the quality of the comics being published and to expand the comics medium, and who cares about the medium. He’s had missteps, but while he’s responsible for Minx he’s also responsible for Vertigo, you know?
Levitz is well known for having fought hard to keep DC at arm’s length from Warner corporate, in order to continue producing good comics (and dreck – but when you look at the true *classic* comics of the last 30 years, a very high proportion of them come from DC), while Warners simply aren’t interested in comics per se.
Both this and the Marvel buyout suggest to me that the comics are becoming even less important compared to the ‘properties’ or ‘franchises’, and given the abysmal state of sales, if we don’t have people at the tip of both companies who actually care about the medium, the monthly comic book will disappear within a very short amount of time – they simply don’t sell enough to be a business that any multinational would care to be involved in if they’re actually paying attention…
Certainly Rich Johnston seems to share my view, for what it’s worth. His headline on Levitz leaving is “Is this the beginning of the end of the direct market?”
But probably best to read Evanier – http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2009_09_09.html#017690 for what Levitz did over the years, and the post below that for what it means for the industry.
God I am soooooo ignorant when it comes to the world of the comics biz. To call my opinions (if they even qualify as opinions) malleable would be the mother of all understatements. I have to wonder, though, whether we’re really on the cusp of the death of the direct market, and what the death of the direct market, if it were to come about would actually mean. If there’s money to made out of selling Batman pamphlets, why would Time Warner not wish to do so? I appreciate that pamphlets are small beer, but even if they are small beer, and if brand conflict issues can be avoided, they are still beer. Why kill a profitable business, why not simply make it work harder and better? Or, I dunno, do something like lease licenses so that other companies can publish comics containing their characters? I’m not saying that they should do that – I wouldn’t presume to know what I’m talking about – but I can’t help feeling that there are options other than bowing out of the direct market (or not).
But if they do bow out, is it completely inconceivable that that void could be filled? Will Marvel definitely follow suit? There’s a lot of ifs, isn’t there?
And, you know, so what if the DM does go belly up. Okay, yes, I feel for the little guys, I really feel for them, but some of them will survive in one form or other in some way or other, and from the point of view of a consumer I’ll still get to read comics, just bigger fatter ones. Some will be good and some will be bad but it was ever thus, that is for sure.
The problem is these megacorps have a legal duty in the US to ‘maximise shareholder value’ – and in the immediate, not long, term. You or I see a dollar invested in a company that brings a dollar and five cents as being profit, and therefore worth having. However, if Warners’ other businesses bring in a dollar and ten cents, then they’re not maximising shareholder value with the dollar-five stuff, and are opening themselves up to lawsuits. Once you understand that, pretty much every evil or wrong decision multinationals make makes a lot more sense. The ‘fiduciary duty[ lawsuits of the 70s were quite possibly the worst thing to happen in the last fifty years…
As for the direct market – it going would have a lot of good consequences, and a lot of bad ones. I think it would make the print comics medium immensely more conservative (yes, even more than now…) but might see an explosion of creativity in webcomics.
Yes, I’ve only recently (last four or five months) become aware of the duty to maximise shareholder value, but I’m still left wondering if it necessarily spells the death of the DM. Is the profit margin on pamphlets really so small relative to the profit margin elsewhere? Could pamphlets be made to make more money? Are there other advantages to Time Warner re keeping a finger in the DM pie? As to whether books in a post DM landscape will be more conservative, maybe, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a given. One of the most powerful features of DC’s branded properties is their flexibility, surely, and exploiting that flexibility is where the money is at, which means that there’s a lot of room for creativity. Besides, big corporate money has been behind many of my favourite things, so I’m not too worried about the fate of Batman.