Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Future Of Comic Book Magazines

Got this Facebook message regarding the magazine "TRIPWIRE" –

"TRIPWIRE Annual 2009 will not be carried by Diamond US because it didn't make their benchmark. So the only ways that people in the US will be able to buy TRIPWIRE Annual 2009 is 1) buy it at their local Barnes & Noble; 2) Buy it off us at Comic Con in San Diego from our table or 3) Pester your local comic shop to order it from us directly. We are happy to supply US comic shops directly at 50% off cover with a minimum order of 5 copies."

I'm not a big follower of the whole Diamond "benchmark" thing, though I know it has led to a bunch of books being dropped by the distributor. I guess not carrying "TRIPWIRE" just sort of raised my eyebrows because I always thought that it was a pretty basic comic/pop-culture publication, even in the United States (it should be noted that Diamond UK has picked up the annual).

I just remember going to the larger comic shops and being able to buy all the British pop-culture magazines (many of which are WAY superior to their American counterparts). Under this benchmark system, would I still be able to do that? Or are the stores going to order these mags from alternate distributors?

With "Comic Foundry" and "Comics Now!" gone, and "Wizard" seemingly in a not-so-awesome state...I dunno, what is the fate of the comic book magazine nowadays, anyway? Or the pop-culture periodical in general?

I'm just musing on it, I'm not offering any amazing insight or answers.

And I just know I'm going to get pilloried for this, but maybe the big companies like DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse should just put out pop-culture/comic magazines for the mass-market with an article/comic mix. Something to just introduce the mass-market reader to their comic book properties and storylines. Something like Wizard, but in-house from the publishers themselves. And something that leverages the notoriety of their movie, TV, and video-game licensing.

I realize that sounds as materialist as hell, but that's all I got.

Anyway, as a quick plug for TRIPWIRE, the 2009 annual features:
•Stan Lee on Marvel's 70th anniversary plus a look at the future of Marvel movies
• Solomon Kane history feature including a look at Dark Horse's Robert E Howard line
•Guillermo Del Toro on his novel The Strain
•A look at the sleeper hit of the year, British low budget sci fi movie Moon with director Duncan Jones
•Joe Kubert on returning to Tor after years away
•30th anniversary of Alien feature
•Profile of Flesk Publications plus interviews with Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni
•A look at Tintin in the year of his 80th birthday
•Celebrate Batman's 70th anniversary with a look back at the character's history plus Frank Quitely interview
•Ian Rankin on Dark Entries, his graphic novel for the new Vertigo Crime line plus Vertigo's chief Karen Berger on the new line
•DC's Wednesday Comics series
•Bill Morrison talking about Bongo in the runup to The Simpsons' 20th anniversary
•Interview with fine artist and illustrator Phil Hale, the man who painted Tony Blair's leaving portrait for the House of Commons
•Being Human feature looking at the hit UK genre series
•Strips from Roger Langridge, Punx, Kevin Mullins and David Hitchcock
•The Power List 2009


  1. That is actually an astoundingly good idea. Sort of like combing Wednesday comics with Wizard. However, I am not sure what the economics would be. My sense is that new comic pages are relatively expensive to produce.

  2. The future is online. Wizard, et al are having trouble, but CBR, Newsarama, Comicbloc, and more are doing just fine -- growing, even.

    The Comic newsmag is on the same road as the regular newsmag -- online. Global distribution, instantaneous updates, user content/participation, 24/7 availability -- online is where we are going.

  3. Anonymous4:18 PM

    Marvel does have a magazine for its comics, called MARVEL SPOTLIGHT. It's been going strong for some time now -- sells poor in the DM, but does really well in bookstores. ANd I write for it!

  4. The whole Diamond minimum order thing is harming so much... I know people who run small presses who used to rely on Diamond for distributing their books and they can't get anywhere with them since the rule change, which has hurt them. You would think that the world of the Internet would make things easier but brick and mortar placement in shops, even comic shops, still matter.

  5. I actually think the in-house magazine is a good idea. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks five or six bucks for a magazine feels like a better buy than three to four dollars for a regular floppy.

  6. Nice to see a B&N plug... call ahead and the staff will be happy to hold it for a day.

    As for Marvel Magazines... well during the Perlman buying binge, they bought Walsh (sp?) Magazines, which included The Simpsons and DC animated licenses. (That DC mag was the only pub to feature Timm-verse heroes and villlains in animated style, months before the Batman Adventures comic.)

    I have seen movie tie-ins (Wolverine) as well as a regular Spider-Man magazine. HOWEVER, if Disney can't succeed with A-List celebs on the cover of Disney Adventures, how will a comics company without?

    Of note: This month, the Dutch Disney licensee will publish the first issue of "Donald", a men's lifestyle magazine (think Esquire) featuring the Disney ducks.

    Magazines are a way for comics to circumvent newsstand bias. It worked for MAD Magazine, it helped Marvel in the 70s and 80s. Now, in this market... unlikely. Better to migrate to the web and develop a presence there.

  7. Here's the link for "Donald" magazine:

    And Marvel:

  8. Thanks for the plug!

    A couple of things:

    1) An in-house magazine will always carry the taint of bias, even if not the case. I doubt you'd read about how an issue of a comic they published was sub-par for example. Although Diamond did suggest that we get Image or someone to distribute us in the States which could have a similar effect.

    2) There are things you can do with print you can't do online, re: page layout etc. Print will always be here. Also, our site is incomplete at this time because all of our efforts are focused on the magazine. It requires a different sort of staff and a different style of writing to be online-only.

    We're an annual meant to be picked up and read at leisure but not in the two-sentence-paragraph, one-screen-page article structure that the web requires. Print can offer depth whereas the web offers instantaneousness so to speak.

    LASTLY, Diamond COMICS chose not to carry us for financial reasons and their internal accounting practices. Diamond BOOKS and Diamond UK are carrying us. Joel and I are still grappling to wrap our heads around this.

  9. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Like Tiny Titans a year ago, I never knew about this literature until today.

    Like Tiny Titans a year ago, I stand up and proclaim that I will buy every goddamn issue.

    Wait, no, this was in 2007, not 2008. It was before NYCC (back when it was in Fall), and all of the First Years were still on Zuda.

  10. The Husband says:

    "The future is online. Wizard, et al are having trouble, but CBR, Newsarama, Comicbloc, and more are doing just fine -- growing, even."

    Only because it's free. The moment people have to pay for this stuff, they'll drop that setting like it's a vial of bubonic plague.

    When Steve Jackson Games did a nice comics news site that was "pay per view" so to speak (Comic Book Life), it lasted maybe two months because there was absolutely no support because oh gee, you had to buy a monthly or annual subscription to the site. Granted this was at the beginning of this decade, and now supposedly in five years everything will be pay per view? That's supposed to be the trend?

    I highly doubt it. People can't afford it, and after years of "free content", most people will walk if they can't have it for "free". And that's the only reason these print mags are failing - why should people pay for a magazine of outdated news when online "news" is immediate and free?

  11. "Only because it's free. The moment people have to pay for this stuff, they'll drop that setting like it's a vial of bubonic plague."

    I agree. I was looking up some recent Annie comic strips on Go Comics and when I saw that I had to pay 99 cents to access any strip older than a week, my first reaction was "no."

    We as a society have largely developed a kneee-jerk reaction to being asked to pay for content on the Internet. There is a strong association between "Internet" and "free."