Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Comic Book Distribution – Part 2

More on Newsstand Distribution

Mob involvement? Well….

Anytime you have businesses holding monopolies in certain territories, like the linen business south of Canal, or the poster “sniping” business (putting up advertising posters on walls and fences) in Manhattan, garbage hauling in the New York metro area, or the parking racket—did I say racket?—I meant industry, around New York…

…or the periodicals distribution business…

…the notion of mob involvement has to cross your mind.

The founder and patriarch of Hudson News, Robert “Bobby” Cohen, was famously “connected” and “involved” with organized crime. Once he copped a plea on twenty counts of bribery in exchange for being sentenced to probation instead of prison time.

Fun Fact: Bobby Cohen’s daughter Claudia was Ronald O. Perelman’s second wife. Perelman had control of Marvel for a while, of course. After I was gone, by the way.

Claudia Cohen and Ronald Perelman

During the early days of the Direct Market, Marvel’s V.P. of Circulation, Ed Shukin, a long-term veteran of the magazine distribution trade, made it very clear to me that among those we dealt with on the newsstand distribution side there were some pretty nasty characters, and he was openly concerned about the possibility of violent reprisals.

At one point, I wanted to stop shipping to an ID that was blatantly screwing us. Ed dug his heels in. He said the owner there wasn’t someone you wanted to piss off. It wasn’t worth two broken legs.

Fun Fact: Warner Communications executives Jay Emmet and Solomon Weiss were implicated in a racketeering scam. Weiss was convicted, but managed to avoid prison time. Warner, of course, owned DC Comics. Vince Colletta, who worked at DC Comics and seemed to know a lot about the matter told me that Weiss was “taking the fall” to protect someone higher up. There weren’t many higher ups.

Fun Fact: Warner higher-up, CEO Steve Ross cut his teeth in the parking racket—I mean industry.

Fun Fact: Bobby Cohen was a long time business partner of Time Inc., which Warner, under Ross, purchased.

Steve Ross

Such a small world….

Additional reading:


A couple of interesting clips starring Manny Gerard, former executive of Warner Communications:




Someone asked if the newsstand distribution process I spoke of yesterday applied to non-comics periodicals as well as comics. Yes, with a few notes:

Big Circulation Magazines

Big circulation magazines have a lot of clout. They get much better treatment by the National Distributor, which reallyreallyreally wants their account and loveslovesloves having a Forbes, Marie Claire or People among their offerings.

Local Independent Distributor Wholesalers (ID’s) need the big-circ titles. The retailers they serve would scream if they couldn’t get Elle or Parenting, and remember, ID’s are usually monopolies in their areas, so it’s not as if a news dealer would have an alternative source. ID’s have to play more fairly with big-circ titles because the threat of being cut off by a GQ means something.

Besides, ID’s can make money honestly with big-circ titles!

The thing is, big-circ magazines make most of their money selling ad space. Expensive ad space. Often hundreds of pages per issue. They could give the magazines away, or charge very low cover prices, but they don’t, because then, what would be in it for the National Distributor, the ID’s and the news dealers? The cover price is primarily for their benefit.

Smaller Magazines

No news dealer is going to go ballistic if he or she can’t get Cricket or Watercolor Artist. National Distributors and ID’s treat the small circulation magazines with the same disrespect as they do comics, and just as cheerfully rip them off under the affidavit return system.

However, small magazines, which tend to be special interest publications like Pick Up Truck or Wizard also make most of their money selling ad space. So what if the ID’s cheat a bit on their affidavits? Any money coming in from newsstand sales is almost a bonus. Or at least, they don’t need total support from newsstand revenues.

The people who run ID’s aren’t stupid. They have a pretty good idea of the minimum sell-through percentage they can lying-ly report that will give them the greatest possible rip-off margin without killing the periodicals they’re screwing. They tend to report sales that are around break-even levels for the small magazines unless sales really are worse than that. Got to keep the victims alive so you can keep stealing the money from unreported sales and such, as described yesterday.

Naïve people and beginners in publishing tend to think of “their” National Distributor as being on their side—as a force for good that will help protect them from those unscrupulous ID’s. That’s what the National Distributors hope they’ll think. That’s what they try to convey.

But, nah, not so.

Think about it, who are the people sending the National Distributor checks every month? ID’s. The National Distributors are on their side.

The National Distributor is like the guy who bumps you in the subway, so another guy, the ID can pick your pocket.

All right, time for a disclaimer: Not all ID’s are unscrupulous. Maybe. I guess. Probably some are honest. Or fairly honest. Probably.

Comic Books

I don’t have a current advertising rate card for Marvel or DC, but a few clues tell me that they probably don’t make a whole ton of money on ads. First of all, comics have a very small amount of ad space to sell relative to most magazines. Second, ad rates are governed by circulation. It’s too long a lecture for today, but…you know anyway. Few readers, few “impressions,” means low ad space revenues. Comic book circulation figures are low and the cover prices are painfully high. To me, that means the companies are living off of copies sold, not ads.

Here’s another thing. While I was Editor in Chief at Marvel, 1978-87, the ad sales people, at President Jim Galton’s behest, waged a campaign to upgrade the ads. “National ads only” was the mantra. They got rid of mail order ads like the ones for X-Ray Specs and Broken Finger Key Chains. They made a concerted effort to go after movie ads, bicycles, sneakers and other national products. We creative types did our part by building the total number of copies sold substantially.

You know what? It was a Catch-22. We were selling so many comics, and therefore paying to print so many comics that if you factored out the cost of printing a page with an ad on it, it cost more money than we could get for the ad!

I’m doing this From memory, now, but the following is close if not exact: I believe it cost in the low $20,000’s to print an ad that ran in all 12 million-plus Marvel Comics one month, but the most we could ever get for a page was $18,000. The reasons we couldn’t get higher rates were many—advertisers realized that the comic book buyers tended to buy multiple titles, they didn’t like our demographics, etc. Still, it was better to have the eighteen grand than not. We had to print 32 pages per issue anyway.

Then, Marvel Comics lived off of copies sold, and I’m pretty sure it does now. Same with the other comics publishers.

So, the cheating by the ID’s had a greater impact on the comic book biz than it did on other periodicals publishers.

The advent of the Direct Market changed everything.

JayJay here. I dug out some old Marvel ad rate cards that I designed in 1987. Here they are for your perusal. Perhaps if anyone has a current Marvel ad rate card, they could post a link for comparison.

Marvel Rate Card 1987
Click to enlarge
Marvel Mail Order Rate Card 1987

NEXT:  Fish in a Barrel, for Sure, I promise


Comic Book Distribution


VALIANT Logo Design Sketches


  1. I realized comics were no longer for kids when small press publishers were sneaking nudity into their comics with no warning label on the cover. Comic shop owners were being arrested on obscenity charges.

  2. I wholly agree with the previous post. Profanity is just grating and tasteless and unfit for a medium that ought to be all-ages in its focus. Bendis and Millar are the two main reasons I am no longer reading new comics.

  3. Anonymous

    "In the 90's a friend gave me his comic collection. He was about to start a family and wanted to separate himself and his kids from what he saw in the comics."

    [MikeAnon:] I think the day I finally realized that comics weren't for kids anymore was when I read Janet Van Dyne's thought balloon, "No, Hank, I am not having 'ex sex' with you," in MIGHTY AVENGERS #2.

    What aggravates me most today is how writers flagrantly pepper their characters' speech with those "punctuation curse-words" like "$%&@" and such (or use scribbled-over words). I don't care if it's Wolverine talking, cursing doesn't add anything more to the dialogue that would overcome the repulsion it causes. (Plus there's the forced effort of having to mentally fill in the word — and sometimes there actually aren't any words that would go in that spot and make any sense at all, which shows how bad some of today's writers are.)

    Anybody ever watch Denis Leary's "No Cure for Cancer"? Hilarious material, but vulgar throughout. You're recoiling about as much as you're laughing. One day I saw him perform some of the exact same material on a show that didn't allow swearing. Even more hilarious, because there was no recoil — you could just relax and enjoy the humor.

    I think that many people today think that if a comic book or movie doesn't have sex, swearing, gore, etc., then it's not a "serious" movie and doesn't deserve critical acclaim. But the fact is that G- and PG-rated movies do consistently better than PG-13 and R-rated movies year after year. Why? Because a broader audience will go see G- and PG-rated movies. But instead we have royally stupid decisions like, "Put 2 cuss words in the 1986 Transformers Movie so we can get the PG rating!" Yeah, great idea. Make parents worry about what their kids are going to go see. Good job. [–MikeAnon]

  4. DJ

    Pastor Dave,
    Thanks for answering.
    Sounds like you have a few stories worth the telling yourself.
    I pretty much agree with you.
    The violence has been getting bloodier and gorier, and this sudden fixation with the sex lives (or what the writers seem to regard as normal sexual activity) is really quite tedious. Okay sex happens, I'm sure most of us assume that Reed Richards & Sue Storm must have a riot in the sack, but do we really need to hear about it, or worse see it?
    Just about every one of DC's 52 seemed designed around some sort of shock element, but it was all just very, very boring.
    You're right, a hero is something to aspire too, but these days, I feel dirty reading the adventures of just about all of them, and that's wrong.
    Thanks for the dialogue Dave.

  5. Anonymous

    @Pastor Dave:

    I agree. I miss the days of heroes being better then regular people and influencing them to become better as people. Not that every character has to be that way but I miss that general sentiment.


  6. Heroes are no longer heroes. That's just a fact in comics. In the 90's a friend gave me his comic collection. He was about to start a family and wanted to separate himself and his kids from what he saw in the comics. If I'd use curse word he'd get upset with me. One day it dawned upon me that he was essentially cursing, only he used substitute words like "Oh shoot" or "bull hockey". I asked him what the difference was in his mind. If we are both conveying the same emotion and he is capable of discerning that I'm not talking about literal feces, then what difference does it make what word I use? People give power to words. The essential part is that we are able to communicate. As a general rule, I train people to read my mind. People will just look at my reaction and laugh because they already know what I'm going to say. I prefer to choose colorful words so that the learning process goes a little faster.

  7. I agree with Pastor Dave on this. My pet peeve is Wolverine and its characterization in the last few years. I liked Wolverine because, through every issue of “X-Men”, you could see his inner growth, trying not to be the killer and head case he had been in the past, hoping to achieve true “superheroness”. Then, regression set in, and now he’s only a foul mouthed, serial killer, his only resource violence and mayhem. That really turned him into a one-dimensional character, not at all to my liking.

  8. Dj-
    The more adult slant of most modern comics does not only upset me as a Pastor, it turns me off as a reader. I used to write comedy for a morning radio program. One of the things I learned quickly was that cheap laughs had to get cheaper and cheaper to keep the audience it attracted. There is a level of jadedness that creeps in, and what was risqué last year, or even last week, is now passé and you have to up the ante.
    But solidly written material builds on itself. It propagates more material that can, if the writer is careful, grow in intelligence and impact.

    The same holds true in comics. I don’t read most of what is printed today simply because I cannot stomach it. Not just morally. I believe firmly that if a person is not improving, they are degrading. You have to fight against the natural tendency to lower standards. I encourage my congregation to read the classics, not just what’s on the bestsellers list.

    When I pick up a Batman published in the last few years, and see him cursing, I am heartbroken. To me, heroes are supposed to be above the fray. Set an example. They should not act or talk like the criminals they fight.
    And we should not see Batman graphically “in the act” with Catwoman….

    The new Conan books from Dark Horse seem well made, and I am sure Roy Thomas and Tim Truman are doing fine jobs with the stories. But I can’t stand the blood. Sorry, I’m old school. I like my violence well-choreographed and clean. I know people bleed when they are hit. As a former Deputy Sheriff I’ve been hit and hit more than my share. But what we see in the books out today is not realistic, its sadistic.

    I know, this all sounds like an old religious prude (I’m old, and a prude, but not religious:))

    I just think we need to aspire to greater heights, not wallow in the lowest common denominator of current society and culture. Literature (and though its pulp in nature, I consider comics to be literature) has the power to take us to greater heights, to make us better people.

    Unfortunately, many creators seem to think in order for comics to be taken seriously as an art form, they need to be “mature”. But maturity has nothing to do with sex, coarse language, or extreme violence. It has everything to do with seeing the world as it is, and trying to improve it.

    When a hero has higher standards than the rest of us, we aspire to that, and become better people.

  9. People naturally hold onto those things which they feel have value. When comic collectors sell off their collections, they usually cherry pick out the key books like Hulk #181 and X-Men #94 and keep just those. If more books were significant, they be reluctant to sell their comics at all. If comics were actually appreciating in value, collectors would have a fear of selling their comics too cheaply or they'd hold out for more money. Just as with sports cards, the value of a card depends upon how well a star is playing on the field. Back issue comics depend upon how popular a title is. If comic companies reboot every year or kill off characters, it devalues the back issues and makes their significance irrelevant. X-Files comics were hot when the TV show was being aired. Who cares about them now? The key is to build significance of what has come before, not sabotage the value with every opportunity. Collectors need to be inspired to hold onto their comics, not manipulated into buying "manufactured collectibles" like variants or #1's that will have no relevance 5 years from now. Collectors don't trust publishers anymore. I've been compiling lists of dead universes such as Broadway, Defiant, Topps, Charlton etc. One company that has almost no interests to collectors is Harris. Harris released mini-series after miniseries. Some of their #1's have up to 13 different variants. While a rare comic like "Miracle on Broadway" was able to fetch $1200 or $1300 (on sale) according to Chuck Rozanski, nobody even asks for Harris comics. I think that snapshot would be entirely different if Harris had not tried to milk extra sales out of a new #1 every few months.

    I really had high hopes for the revived Atlas characters. Jason Goodman sent me some free comics and I was greatly appreciative. I felt J.M. Dematteis had written some very well "old school" type stories that made me was to buy the comics. Unfortunately, I lost confidence when DeMatteis left the company and they went the route of more and more extremely limited variants. I think they have some variant that only have print runs in the hundred. That isn't too bright in my opinion. Now only 500 people at most can take pride in owning one of everything.

    Readers are basically unreliable consumers. It used to be that readers only stayed in the hobby a cycle of about 5 years. True collectors stay consumers for a lifetime and take pride in their purchases.

    As far as what makes this hobby work, you pretty much have to ignore the mistakes of the 90's. Greed and lies blew up in everyone's faces. It's time to get back to basics and do what made the industry healthy.

  10. Anonymous


    "The problem is people's willingness to let them go after they buy them." Can you elaborate? I don't follow this line of reasoning. You mean collectors don't let them go? Okay, but why would they? And if they did, where would they let them go to? I don't mean so much the glut of the '90s, I mean going back just the last 10 years. Anyway, I may just be misunderstanding your point here.

    I agree on TPBs, though I get the impression (possibly wrong) that a lot of stores rely on them to survive. It seems like not the best business model, to be sure. I'd be curious to know how much overlap there is between buyers of the comics and the TPBs. If the industry is relying on double sales, then the problem is even more critical than it appears.

    Rob, I was referring more to the diagnosis of the illness. I'm not at all sanguine that Pastor Dave's proposal would work–it's the kind of cure that could kill the patient. But then, the patient is dying anyway, so radical measures seem called for, no?


  11. Anonymous

    That's Pastor Dave's point, though, right?
    Not really. He seems to think taking his steps will increase readerhip.

    I don't think it will. Rather, I think the current readers will just abandone the books, and that death spiral will become like falling off a cliff. It will be pretty instant.


  12. I agree, Defiant1.

  13. The problem with back comics becoming devalued is not that collectors keep them. The problem is people's willingness to let them go after they buy them. The excessive print runs from the 90's were based upon false hype. The stores were honestly just trying to meet demand until they realized the overall demand outside their scope of responsibility was never as large as what they thought it was.

    I think it's very short-sighted for publishers to print TPB's three months after a story arc ends. It's quick money, but it allows customers to wait. Any salesman will tell you that to achieve a sale, you need to convince the customer to "Act now!" If a customer is willing to wait, in many instances they are willing to not buy at all. TPB's give the customer not only a reason to wait, but a justification later to not buy at all since it's always available and someone will be selling it half price if they wait just a little longer.

  14. Anonymous

    Rob wrote: "But i think your average reader today is one who keeps their comics, does not throw into the recycle bin, and likes the comics as they are.

    It's a risk to jettison them when you don't know if you get anyone else."

    That's Pastor Dave's point, though, right? Your average reader today is a collector, and the influx of new readership has dwindled to a trickle. This has the effect of depressing the back issue market, because everyone keeps what they buy, therefore supply of back issues is high (because everyone already has and has kept what they want) and demand is low (for the same reasons). Imagine if the tens of millions of comic book readers in the 1930s and 1940s had also been collectors. How much would Action Comics #1 be worth if even 50% of the people who bought kept it bagged and pristine? And how many dealers today could stay in business relying on sales of back issues from the past 10-15 years (as opposed to TPBs, the iron lung of modern comics)? If everyone is a collector, then there is nothing of value to collect (apart from the one-off low print first run of a surprise hit–does that even happen anymore?).

    Yeah, there's a risk to jettisoning the collector. But the status quo is built around sating the needs of the collector (and the marketers) and that's a death spiral.

    To be perfectly honest, I expect comics to survive as a niche medium, like opera or jazz. Marvel and DC may continue to operate as hollow, lumbering licensing operations, with the remains of their fanbase clinging to their decaying hides like barnacles, but the interesting stories will be found elsewhere, probably through direct sales online or in web comics or apps. Kind of like now, only even more obvious.


  15. DJ

    At their peak Marvel Comics (and all the other companies that tried to copy them, including DC) were All Age reading. They appealed to the kids on the Action level, and they appealed to the College crowd, and adults still reading, by way of the more in-depth characterization, and character growth. This was pretty much true all the way through Jim's tenure at Marvel too. Now, an All Age comic appears to appeal to children and looks Mangaesque/cartoony. I can't comment on the writing/stories, as I've never read one. I enjoyed the Batman Adventures/Superman Adventures comics back in the day, but aside for the more cartoony look (which was obvious, coming from the cartoon), they were intelligently written, engaging, action packed adventures. Is it really that hard to accomplish that level of quality nowadays, is there a dearth of talent that can write that well, or do the big two have no inclination to move in that direction, even though it's probably there only hope?

    David J.

  16. Dear Ray,

    Novelty item ads were cheap and easy to sell, and there weren't many "quality" ads to be had back then.

  17. Dear Fran,

    The Marvel International Licensing people, with a few exceptions, did bizarre and inexplicable things out of ignorance of the product they were licensing and publishing in general. I cannot begin to explain their absurdities. By the way, I had tremendous respect for Forum's Editor, Antonio Martin. Brilliant. A gentleman. A true professional.

  18. I also think comic companies need to dial back the gore, sex and graphic violence. That stuff is turning off retailers who fear a backlash if they stock that type of violent content. Many of the big-box retailers, and mid-sized chains like Rite Aid and CVS are hesitant to sell comics featuring mutilations, decapitations, rapes and gory murders. Even Most Mom & Pop groceries aren't comfortable Content has to get back to all ages reading if the medium is going to survive.

    It also turns off parents who grew up with comics and want to share them with their kids. I've heard too many Moms & Dads who grew up with comics say they wouldn't give their kids a comic featuring a character they grew up with because the content was just too graphic.

  19. Anonymous

    Pastor wrote:" Anonymous- catering to the collector is what got the industry in its current predicament. Its time to quit seeing comics as investments (they no longer are) and realize they are, to most consumers, a disposable product that can be chucked in the recycle bin just like Time, Forbes and Cosmopolitan when they are finished reading them.


    But i think your average reader today is one who keeps their comics, does not throw into the recycle bin, and likes the comics as they are.

    It's a risk to jettison them when you don't know if you get anyone else.

    You know the thing about 10 Batmans in one boom is-I don't read 10 Batman books. I read 2. I dont want to be forced to buy all the other ones I don't read to get the ones I want.

    That is why it is hard to change the format.

    Even Life with Archie-i feel like a dope buying it to get the two stories and then haveit surrounded by pin ups, girl crush articles on celebrities and what not lol


  20. Back in the 90's there were so many unsold comics on the racks of non-comic shop retailers, stores were practically drowning in them. Even today I can still pick up some 90's comics at a grocery store or two. As those unsolds sat there for YEARS, retailers got burnt holding the bag on thousands of dollars of merchandise they couldn't return, and couldn't sell because it was soiled, damaged or just not interesting. This made many of the Mom & Pop groceries here in NYC drop comics in favor of other sundries that would sell out in a week or so.

    Long-term collectibility is paramount to comics. What makes people collect comics are the ability to go back and go forward looking for back issues to previous storylines that are referenced in current issues, as well as anticipating the action in next month's issue.

    I feel the constant cyle of reboots and retcons since 1996 took away the value on back issues. customer's no longer have an incetive to buy old issues because they now know that the series will eventually be cancelled and restarted in 24-36 months. This really gives a new reader no reason to go back an buy those old issues, because they won't matter in the overall scheme of a character's history.

    Sure there are bad stories, but the continuity was always intact. A collector always had the option of skipping a run or a bad storyline and picking the book back up. Reboots took the wind out of those sales and took away from the collectible value of those back issues.

    In addition to the constant rebooting was the slow pacing of today's comics. The comic book right now has the lowest value per entertainment dollar compared to other forms of media. It's paramount Comics finish a story in 2-3 issues or even focus on more 1-issue stories. This is the only way to get new readers on board.

  21. Anonymous

    As far as Archie, their overall sales aren't that high. There digests sold fairly well-but were like 3 months things. and now, frankly, I never see them by the checkout as they had been for years and years. Candy, soap opera digest, little knick knack things, other type of magazines but no Archies.

    I did hear that their Archie Comic issues where he got 'married" were their best selling items in 30 yrs or something.

    They continued that in the Life With Archie Magazine.


  22. Anonymous

    Back issue collecting from a store are dead. I would never buy back issues in a store anymore-at least in person.

    Either in a trade of some type, or on ebay or amazon. But with everyone available on ebay to buy from, there's no need to pay inflated prices for virtually anything modern.

    and with trades, the collectibility of back issues is gutted. it seems like virtually everything is now collected.

    Why spend $20 on a comic when i can get that whole comic in a trade?


  23. Mr Shooter, if you reviewed the first nine IRON MAN 2.0 issues I will…. Okay I have nothing to offer.

  24. What Grant Morrison was doing w Batman could easily push sales for Silver Age reprints. All-Star Superman and NEW X-MEN not as much.

    If you terminate a continuity you can't use new stories to market OLD ONES.

  25. I think the older stuff is easier to market and cheaper to produce.

    The big reason Pro Wrestling corporations devour each other is, aside from eliminating competition on tv there are millions to be made inside the backlog of old matches and shows to be sold on dvds.

  26. Re: Uncle Twitchy's comment.

    What he said. And other factors too technical to get into briefly, as well.

  27. Dear Xavier,

    Limitations on the line-up, or order of pages in a book are many. Small press guys have more flexibility. When you're dealing with a large line of comics that have commitments to advertisers line-wide regarding placement, page number,verso or recto, it's hard to muck around with the standard line-up from which the ad reps sold the ads.

  28. PC


    I have a pet theory regarding the recycling of old material, although it's kind of extensive to try to explain in full.

    Basically, I believe there's so much new stuff in pop culture that it all translates as noise to the audience and nothing has the time to gain familiarity. So everybody clings to the old stuff, up until the 80s and early 90s, because that's the last time we could keep up.

    Nowadays, a movie is successful when it stays in theaters for two months. Back in the day, it was six months or more.

  29. Anonymous

    There were a few posts about the music industry and how it had some similarities to the comic book biz. I read an article a few weeks back about how one of the main record companies got something like %90 of their revenue from catalog sales. In the music biz catalog is "older music" which would be like TPB sales in the comic biz. Record companies are really pushing re-releases and remastered albums/cds. Kind of reminds you of the omnibus, Masterworks etc. in comics. Are the companies becoming reliant on the re-release of old stuff or is the old stuff just that much better?


  30. DJ,

    The collector mentality is not hurting comics. Publishers trying to manipulate and exploit collectors is hurting the hobby. If publishers focus on stories and not how to print the comic 5 times with different covers, you wouldn't know collectors were even participating in the hobby. When sales are down, comic need any sale they can get. They need readers, collectors, anybody.

  31. DJ

    Pastor Dave,
    Being a man of the cloth, what's your take on the more adult slant of current superhero comics: Sex, OTT Violence, Blood, Gore? Do you read these titles, and how do you react? Is it acceptable to your mind? Shouls this type of content be pedalled to a young audience? Just to clarify, I have no religious persuasion, and no axe to grind. You seem quite passionate about comics, and I was just wondering if there was a conflict of interest? 🙂
    Over here in the UK, the traditional format for most comics has always been an anthology type. Even recently when Marvel Comics are collected (I think Panini are still producing Mighty World Of Marvel?), it will be the Hulk, Daredevil, and Wolverine (just as an example), all collected in one comic. That's been pretty much the Format all the way back to the sixties. All the original weekly comics published were anthologies too; The Beano, The Dandy, 2000AD (does that still come out weekly?)still are.
    I agree that the collector's market is dead for new material. The pulp disposable route has to be the way to go. Collectors need to unclench, and let go. They can still collect if need be, but, it's the collector mentality that's killing the industry I'm afraid.


  32. A pet peeve of mine is that a lot of the quality problems (in addition to the callous corporate interference) with current comics actually stem from the particular interests of some key creative people at the editorial top of the Big Two. Instead of being interested in genre stuff like sci-fi and superheroes, it seems to me that their true interest is in more modern mainstream types of material. And they trying, more or less subtly, to turn superhero comics in that direction. That's why we get talking heads and realistic rather than flashy art styles. The whole decompressed storytelling thing, with three vertical panels, no establishing shots, no backgrounds, etc.; this is all a way of appealing to a mainstream audience – and considering how many fans are singing the praises of this stuff, it is apparently working; i.e. succeeding in drawing in a different kind of audience, who are less concerned with what I consider the intelligent aspects of the superhero genre; the sci-fi, the detail, the tight storytelling… I dunno if I'm making myself clear, or even making sense, but I just have the feeling that it's something like this that is going on. Most of the whole Quesada administration never had the right kind of reverence and nostalgia for the good old stuff (although it actually seems to have grown on them a bit over time, which is good, and shines through in the Marvel movies) – but maybe I'm just caught up in my "old school" delusions… 🙂

  33. Great and interesting reading as usual, Jim. All this talk of the mob makes me wonder how things are today. Is there still a mob with significant influence on many aspects of show business (under which I include comics) or did all that fade away a few decades back?

    Anonymous said…
    "The fact that pretty much every comic ever published from 1938 up to yesterday can be downloaded for free right now has got to be having some kind of impact on the industry. I'm surprised anyone is still denying this."

    But is this a good thing or a bad thing? With easy availability, a lot of new young people are bound to discover a lot comics that they otherwise never would have seen (both old and new), and some of them will surely hang around as fans and collectors and be drawn to the print versions.

    Pastor Dave:
    I agree with your desire to see magazine-size comics with higher page-counts. Here in Europe we've always had most comics in magazine size (and without ads) – I've always thought the U.S. comics industry ought to follow suit. One advantage of abandoning standard format monthly comics would also be that artists had more time to do a proper job of it, which I am certain would increase the quality immeasurably. But of course the main point of importance, as Jim and others insist, is to quite simply make better stories. The story quality from the Big Two is mainly pathetic at the moment and the publishers themselves seem to have the attitude that it's all just disposable entertainment. I also agree that it would be a good thing to return to the medium's pulp roots, which to my mind would also entail giving writers and artists freer reigns. We need originality, not just a stream of committee-designed and commercially calculated fluff.

    Bob Layton (if I may be forgiven the poor taste of even mentioning him on this blog) has just finished his last job for Marvel and is getting out of their corporate environment. On Facebook he stated some of his reasons:

    "The pervasive corporate atmosphere felt like the #1 goal was to crank out grist for the stockholder mill. In other words, it seemed to me that pumping out endless, poorly conceived mini-series to make sales figures has become that driving force at Marvel/Mouse. To confess, in no way, shape or form does this last Iron Man mini-series resemble what David Michelinie and I had intended it to be. Christ, we went through two editorial teams and it took over a year just to get the four measly issues to be the mess that it currently is. The story was edited and approved by a faceless committee, then run past the sales department for its approval. The sales department? Really?"

  34. Nice! they didn't have that when I put the transcripts online nearly 10 years ago.

  35. The original format of the 1954 transcripts are here…

  36. Dear Fran,

    Hard to explain briefly, but given letterpress or flexograph printing on the World Color presses we used at the volume we needed, a 24 page format was actually more expensive to produce.

  37. Jay C

    Is there ANY industry in NYC that isn't mobbed up?

  38. I've got the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Transcripts online here: http://www.thecomicbooks.com/1954senatetranscripts.html

    But yes, much of the talk was about "tie in" sales. Where if you wanted the popular mags you would be forced to sell the unpopular ones. Not doing so got you cut off. There are retailers on there that swear it happens and distributors that swear it doesn't.

    Other historians have suggested to me that the 54 hearings on comic books were just an extension of going after organized crime. I think it was well known that organized crime was involved in the newsstand distribution and they were looking to go after their "legitimate" source of money. I'm no mob expert but I could see the industry being an easy way to report money made through illegal means.

  39. Just to add to the comic advert discussion, come see a blog I started as a repository for comic book ads from the 60's to the early 90's.



  40. Pastor Dave Mason,

    Times have changed all around. It's harder for radio to sell ads. Many stations are suffering and relying upon syndicated programming. Many AM stations in particular are barely getting by each month. If the FCC actually had manpower to their audits, I think they'd find a lot of stations not up to standards.

    Your idea of an anthology style magazine would be the equivalent of a radio station playing Jazz, rock, country, rap, and easy listening formats all on the same station. While it seems like that would reach the widest audience, it actually forces people to consume content they don't want. It drives discriminating customers away.

    Content has to be improved to get readers back. It has to be like a roller coaster ride, not a stroll through a dog park. People have to walk away thinking about what they read and thinking about what's going to happen next. The product can't be shoved to end store in a dead strip mall. It needs to be where consumers will actually pass it and see it. Simply getting shelf space on a magazine rack is one hurdle. Once there, it has to stand out. People have to be willing to look for it. It has to be "all ages" material. Grocery stores won't carry comics if they aren't suitable for kids. I've seen adult magazine pulled for showing too much skin. Archie used to meet all the necessary requirements… but I suspect even they are hurting now considering their recent ad campaigns.

    Currently, the publisher relies on the distributor for orders. The distributor tries relies on the store for orders. Everyone advertises to the store owner. He's the one that gives them biggest bang for the buck. The store owner is expected to drum up customers even he's usually working 8 hours a day just running the day to day operations. The store owner is manipulated every way possible to overorder comics. Nobody has a plan to actually connect those overordered comics to new customers. That leaves the store with dead inventory that devalues to being near worthless in less than 5 weeks. Collectors see stores blowing out comics below cost 3 months down the road and it creates the illusion that comics are all overpriced and that the system is ripping them off.

    At some point, the publishers and distributors need to collectively work on a plan to reach NEW customers. The best marketing tool that comics can present is collectibility and back issue demand. Publishers are too stupid to realize that cash flow in this industry depends upon back issues retaining value. If back issues retain value, it lets a comic shop sell their back issues at escalated prices. That money gives them a healthy cash flow to order aggressively on new product without worry that it will be tied up money on dead inventory.

  41. Yeah, Google deleted my account! I've finally got it back up though, had to, with email, contacts, calendar and my blog, they control so much of my life!

    No problem, its all part of the digital age, I guess.

    Really appreciate your an Jim's work on the blog, I've even linked it and did a post mentioning your blog on my blog.

    Take care, and you can call me Dave…

  42. Pastor, I'm sorry, but your comment got caught in the blog spam filter. I have no idea why. That spam filter is so random in what it filters and it doesn't let me set the prefs. So, I try to keep an eye on it as much as I can.

  43. Ja- The Archie magazine sized publications are 70 pages with 20 pages of ads (all in-house) at a $3.99 price point. They are also printed on cheaper paper, not as low grade as newsprint, but not as good as Baxter or others.

    Its really not that much more expensive to publish in the larger sizes – check out the on-demand print houses, comic sized and magazine sized are nearly identical in price.

    On the newsstand the cost increase (if any) could be absorbed by aggressive advertising. If the product sells, it will get respect. Launch it and let sales prove it to be a new revenue stream, distributors only care about sales. Comics have a low reputation today because their sales figures are terrible. One of the reasons is that comics are a terrible value for the price point!

    There are plenty of Magazines on the stands that sell for $5 or below. Fill it with ads for products that appeal to fanboys, kids and the media savvy, give the magazine some weight. "Thud" factor is a huge influence. Even if the content is the same, a consumer tends to buy the thicker magazine. It "feels" like a better bargain.

    Anonymous- catering to the collector is what got the industry in its current predicament. Its time to quit seeing comics as investments (they no longer are) and realize they are, to most consumers, a disposable product that can be chucked in the recycle bin just like Time, Forbes and Cosmopolitan when they are finished reading them.

    The only way comics will ever return to collectors status, is when they are scarce again.

    Lets be honest. This is a pulp medium. its supposed to be cheap, easily consumed entertainment. Lets market it as such, see the general public return to buying (and throwing away) comics. We fans can keep ours and watch the collectible market return in a few years (or decades)

    And you don't have to collect different titles into one magazine. Why publish 10 different Batman magazines when you could put all that material each month into one or two magazines. Fan response could allow publishers to determine which stories/creators are working and which are not. It would also afford some "titles" in the magazine extra time to build a following.

    Regardless, without new readers (Kids who will stick with the medium as they grow up) the industry is dead, if its not already.

  44. So, were Marvel comics distributed by Bela Okmyx or Jojo Krako?

  45. Ja- The Archie magazine sized publications are 70 pages with 20 pages of ads (all in-house) at a $3.99 price point. They are also printed on cheaper paper, not as low grade as newsprint, but not as good as Baxter or others.

    Its really not that much more expensive to publish in the larger sizes – check out the on-demand print houses, comic sized and magazine sized are nearly identical in price.

    On the newsstand the cost increase (if any) could be absorbed by aggressive advertising. If the product sells, it will get respect. Launch it and let sales prove it to be a new revenue stream, distributors only care about sales. Comics have a low reputation today because their sales figures are terrible. One of the reasons is that comics are a terrible value for the price point!

    There are plenty of Magazines on the stands that sell for $5 or below. Fill it with ads for products that appeal to fanboys, kids and the media savvy, give the magazine some weight. "Thud" factor is a huge influence. Even if the content is the same, a consumer tends to buy the thicker magazine. It "feels" like a better bargain.

    Anonymous- catering to the collector is what got the industry in its current predicament. Its time to quit seeing comics as investments (they no longer are) and realize they are, to most consumers, a disposable product that can be chucked in the recycle bin just like Time, Forbes and Cosmopolitan when they are finished reading them.

    The only way comics will ever return to collectors status, is when they are scarce again.

    Lets be honest. This is a pulp medium. its supposed to be cheap, easily consumed entertainment. Lets market it as such, see the general public return to buying (and throwing away) comics. We fans can keep ours and watch the collectible market return in a few years (or decades)

    And you don't have to collect different characters into one magazine. Why publish 10 different Batman magazines when you could put all that material each month into one or two magazines. Fan response could allow publishers to determine which stories/creators are working and which are not. It would also afford some "titles" extra time to build a following.

    Regardless, without new readers (Kids who will stick with the medium as they grow up) the industry is dead, if its not already.

  46. Anonymous

    The problem with that kind of magazine like packaging is it does not fit the comic collector of today. You'd be sacrificing him potentially without knowing that you would pick up anyone else. (example-you package Hulk, Iron Man, avengers, thor together. But i just want Thor).


  47. PC

    Pastor, I don't know if you're aware, but Dark Horse is publishing a comic magazine titled "Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword", featuring characters crated by ERH.

    The magazine has an erratic schedule (presumably they're more interested in artistic integrity), so only 3 issues came out in one year.

    More important, it's comic sized, but it has 80 pages and a cardstock cover, but it costs $7,99.

    Might now be exactly as you'd want, but it's the next best thing, and as you can see, it isn't cheap.


  48. Question I always had- why were so many ads pre-1987 for novelties? Was there a business connection somewhere?

  49. ja


    Ohh, if only it were that simple.

    You'd still have the problem with the perception that comic books are throw-away trash. You'd still have to deal with how to reinvent the distribution system. Just because comics would now be magazine size, doesn't mean that they would be treated (by the distributors) with the same respect as Forbes, Marie Claire or People.

    Magazine-sized publications have (I'm sure JayJay will correct me, as I'm just guessing here) 120 pages or more, so the content would have to be significantly increased. That, or comic book titles would have to be bundled up into one book, much like Japanese manga. With all the existing distribution and other problems, I don't think this would work.

    What would be the price point? For a magazine-sized anything, it would make a $4.00 comic book now into maybe close to a $10.00 comic magazine. I'm very dubious about that being a successful sell-through.

    As an experiment? Sure. Good luck with that, I'm all for it. But in this current, very toxic retail environment? Ouch.

    I don't think it would work.

  50. I remember in the 80's the Spanish Marvel publisher had 32-page books with no ads. Usually Spanish comic-books almost never had any ad space. So we had in every Spanish issue 22 pages of an US issue and 11 pages of the next one. Next month we had the remaining 11 pages of the trimmed issue and the full next issue, so we read 3 US issues evary two months. Yeah, if you the math you'll see that you had to print in the covers. Nice. XD

    When Spanish translation reached the most modern issues (they had a 12-issue safety cushion) they put a back-up. Mostly mid or low-profile books (New Defenders, She-Hulk, Doctor Strange…) cut in halves or even thirds.

    Readers complained, sure. We asked why don't you make 24-page issues as the DC translator does? the editors said it's not our fault, it is Marvel who makes us publish 32-page issues.

    Is that true? Did Marvel force to foreign publishers to print 32-page issues even if they had to cut the stories in pieces ?

    By the way, eventually, the Spanish Marvel publisher hired the guy who edited DC Comics and first thing he did was to print everything in 24 or 48-page issues. No more cutting the issues. 🙂

  51. I've been thinking for a while now that if print comics are going to have a future, there needs to be a radical shift. I think Archie Comics is near the mark with their new "Life of Archie" magazine sized publication. I find it on nearly every newsstand and even in some grocery stores. In the few stores where comics are sold (outside of specialty shops) it obvious that the store/distributor is struggling with how to display them. Gone are the days of the spinner rack. We are now trying to fit comics onto magazine sized shelves. They quickly get shuffled and mixed. Even Barnes and Noble with their recent attempt to sell more comics is presenting a messy display with the comics on the top shelf (out of reach of children).

    My thought is, as an industry, move up to magazine size. Decrease the number of titles, but put all the stories in each issue. Give us 60, 90, 120 pages of content in each magazine. Same amount of content each month, fewer titles. Now you’re giving the consumer more material for his four dollars (the price of the Archie mags) and you can aggressively sell advertising. Fill the issues with ads for movies, television shows, toys, tech, all the mass media-related product you can think of. I'm sure the studios would love to have a full magazine sized opportunity to present their latest franchises to collectors, fan-boys, and kids. The cost difference between comic sized and magazine size is negligible.

    The benefits are multiple: you shake up the industry, and it needs more than a “New 52” to save it. The consumer gets more for his or her dollar. You offset that initially by selling advertising aggressively.

    With a better display, a larger footprint in the market, actually being on the magazine racks that parents see, we might just gain new readers and see sales increase. Now you have a double stream of income. New sales and greater advertising revenue.

    I used to be in radio. We sold nothing and charged a ton for it. There was no tangible product or content you could hold in your hands. And yet radio salesmen are still today convincing advertisers to pay for 30 seconds that the consumer misses if he is not listening at that exact moment. Comics publishers need to grow up and look at their product like any successful business does. See the value, and sell the value. I think perhaps though, even the publishers don’t think there is much value in their product today.

    Give the public something that is in a familiar size, on the same racks as the other magazines they read, and it might just save this dying industry.

  52. Hey Jim, you'd better be careful. If you keep singing like a canary and ratting out the "mob", you may end up getting 'whacked'. 🙂

  53. PC

    Xavier, regarding ad placement, if the advertisers are external, yes, Marvel and DC would lose money. They pay for visible ad space, and if you shove all the ads in the back, as soon as the contents are over, you close the magazine. Nobody sees the ads.

  54. I picked up and skimmed IRON MAN 2.0 #9 and it felt like most of the comic were ads. That wasn't true. What is true that all they action that occurs in the issue occurs in the ads. The rest of the comic is talking about bs characters that mean nothing to a lifelong Marvelite and less than nothing to someone who didn't read the first two issues, which I did.

    The last page had Jim Rhodes putting on the armor. Full pages, three horizontal panels. We never see a full shot of him in the armor or using the armor.

  55. To expand on what Jay Jay said, it is possible to do print an 8-page section as a half-web, or "dinky", allowing for a 24-page book, but it's a pain in the ass the set up when you're already set for two 16-page sections or a full 32 page section. If that's what everything you're printing is set up for, fine, but if the printer has to keep going back and forth between a full web and a half-web, they're going to jack the price of the printing up to cover the time lost in set-up.

  56. Very ineresting.
    i remeber something like 5-6 years ago, during 2-3 months Marvel comics were suddently filled up with ads: you had something like 3 page out of 5 for adds (page counted jumped also, without any more for stories). It was almost unreadeable: you had to search for the art pages! People complained and Marvel, as usual when they deal with communication, took their readers for idiots and told that, taking in account the bad economics, they couldn't refuse their Christmas announcers, that it had always been like that around Christmas…?!? Of cours,e that was bullsh.t and it had never reappeared since. I guess they did the same thing they did 2 years ago with their cover price: testing the "limit" of their readers, to see how far they would get to have their montly Marvel comics…

    There is something I never understood concerning space ads, especially in todays market: why Dc and Marvel don't put them at the end of the mag. 80% of them are Marvel/ DC ads! So when they answer: we can't, we would lose money, it doesn't make sense, especially when you see that lots of independants publisher manage to do it. what are your thoughts on this matter,Jim?

  57. I was looking for a clip of web offset printing on Youtube and all I could find were larger magazines being printed, but these machines are what comics are mostly printed on in large print runs.


    A few are printed sheetfed or digital.

  58. Comic books back then, and many now, are printed in 16 page signatures on web presses. A 32 page comic book consists of 2 16 page sigs and a 4 page cover. If you don't use all 32 pages, you still pay for them.

  59. Jim, great post, as always, very enlightning.

    What I can't understand is, if keeping 8 pages full of ad space were costing money to Marvel, why didn't you cut to 24 pages, only comic space, lettercols and house ads? This way you could reduce the cover price and improve sales.

  60. Anonymous

    The fact that pretty much every comic ever published from 1938 up to yesterday can be downloaded for free right now has got to be having some kind of impact on the industry. I'm surprised anyone is still denying this.

  61. ja


    The comics specialty store retailers are freaking out about the digital comics. They're worried that the digital comics (especially coming out a day after, if not the day of the paper comics being on the stands) will further impact their sales negatively. The prices being so high for the digital comics may or may not be to assuage comics retailers' fears of being woefully undercut.

    Retailers even have the choice to sell the digital comics through their stores, so they can get some money from the transaction, much like this blog gets a commission whenever you go through it to buy anything from Amazon.com.

    Digital comics certainly isn't any kind of a solution for the comics industry's problems.

  62. Anonymous

    Sorry guys. well, are, for "werll" and "ate"
    Seek out the Jones book. It's an exception to the rule.

  63. Anonymous

    There is so much information, which is so werll documented in the book "Men Of Tomorrow" by Gerard Jones, I wouldn't know where to start. What is clear ate the connections between Harry Donenfeld, Jack Leiobowitz (ie. DC comics, and Independent News) and Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello that the connections could NOT be more obvious.
    Long story short is the existing distribution network for magazines became a conduit for bootleg liquor.

  64. I think digital comics will be a fad with the demand tapering off just like it has with online music sales. I think the novelty of reading comics has almost zero potential to attract collectors which are the lifeblood of the hobby. Readers are fickle. Collectors have goals. They actually immerse themselves into collecting and owning a tangible comic. It's a matter of pride to actually own a physical comic whereas there is no pride in owning a digital copy. Piracy is also a big issue. I don't read comics online. I simply have no interest in it. That didn't stop collectors from sending me digital copies of comics the day they were released. The future of comics isn't with my generation. It's with the next generation. The first thing kids learn to do is get things free online. Free doesn't pay the bills for a publisher.

  65. The shift towards in-house ads or ads for other comic titles really assists in isolating comics from the general public. An ad (especially on a back cover) has the potential to attract a guy in a room that is sitting and watching another person read a comic. A relevant ad can be a marketing tool. An ad for a pop culture icon on a comic could inspire a kid to pick up a comic and treat it more seriously, but opportunities like that are being disregarded. I noticed that Acclaim ran a lot of the back cover ads in the 90's. I still notice the ads today even if it wasn't a product I intended to buy. It just seems that publishers have tunnel vision. I know that when I was a kid, I was always excited to see the ads for the Saturday morning cartoon line-up. The ads for X-ray goggles and sea monkeys are still fondly remember by collectors today. Seeing them was so much a part of the comic reading experience that it's not uncommon to see parodies of them in comics today. I just hope someone wakes up and breaks out of the mindset that the industry has settled into. Anything thing that connects the general public to a comic has the potential to validate it. Restaurants used to have free crappy giveaway comics by the front door. Captain D's or Big Boy restaurants kept comics in the public's eye. I don't see that happening very much today. The whole mindset that comics are not to be touched and rushed to a plastic vault and never opened is killing the hobby entirely. That is one reason I was highly impressed by the Harbinger and Magnus coupon exchange program. It forced a collector to deface a comic and actually buy two if they wanted to get the zero issue and maintain a perfect set. How many people would buy trading cards for their kids if it still had a stick of gum in the pack? Hell, I might even buy a pack and I've always hated trading cards.

  66. Hey Jim, your post makes me think about the advent of digital comics?

    I'm not Jim, but I just bought a Kindle Fire, and one of the reasons why I bought it was to access digital comics. However, when I downloaded the Comixology app, and looked at the prices…I'm not ready to stop buying dead tree trades or floppies quite just yet.

  67. Good articles, Jim. Back when DC started to kick up dust with their "New 52" announcement in June, I couldn't help but research the Direct Market and comics distribution in general. I did find your involvement with Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics very intriguing. I've run into Chuck a few times on the floor at various conventions, and he's always a well-reasoned gentleman. My mind boggles at what could have happened had Marvel's finances not been in such disastrous shape during the Perelman years…(we'll probably get there soon enough, won't we?)

    I've written quite a few articles about digital distribution becoming a threat for the Direct Market, just as the Direct Market dealt a blow to newsstand distribution of comics in the 70s and 80s. (Highlight reel: A History of Comics Distribution and DC Biting the Hand That Distributes Them) I'm incredibly anxious about the current market given the recent market explosion. Will this be another thing that seemed like a good idea at the time?

    GePop, I too think that the Big Two are putting out too many crossovers, and as result it repels instead of attracts casual fans. When books are $4 a pop, who can afford every part of a 16-part crossover event? And as sales slump, prices keep going up. Madness.



  68. Anonymous

    Perelman’s newest 'gig' is being involved and behind the recent Anthrax vaccination hype.

    Thanks for an interesting read, Jim.

  69. GePop

    PC, I've long had the feeling that Time Warner looks upon DC (and always with a sneer of disdain) almost exclusively as a fountain for merchandizing and a source for film franchises, and that the comic books themselves are almost inconsequential. I've never had the sense that executives high up in the company have ever said, "Hey, let's make DC the number one brand in comics again!"

    And because of this mentality, it seems there's an overwhelming culture of the tail wagging the dog at DC; the merchandizing department insists that Robin is too valuable a toy product to not exist as a character any longer, so now there will always be a kid in a Robin costume. And Hollywood decides Batman is less of a martial arts-trained detective than he is an MMA fighter and walking arsenal, so now the comic book version is decked out in a veritable suit of armor loaded with all manner of technological tricks to back up his bone-breaking fists.

    And too much of DC's creative output (same goes for Marvel, also) is geared toward company-wide crossovers, which of course are convenient to collect in TPB's, which is where the good money most often is. That these mega-events more often as not are much ado about nothing does not seem to bother anyone at the Big 2.

    Wow, I got a little ranty there, didn't I? 🙂

  70. PC

    The ammount of disrespects distributors have for niche titles is variable. A niche magazine by a big publisher will get a more visible placement than a similar niche magazine from a small publisher, because that big publisher usually has a high circulation magazine and/or a high circulation newspaper.

    "If you want to carry 6-million-copies-an-issue newspaper A, you have to carry magazine X about cats."

    But that placement is only slightly better. Of course cat magazines are only read by cat owners or cat lovers. This means if Hearst publishes a magazine about cats, it's put in front of the cats magazine made by two guys in a small town in Idaho. It doesn't go next to the 6-million-copies-an-issue newspaper.

    Still, it's better than nothing. The problem is that most comics publishers are closer to two guys in Idaho than to Hearst.

    Which is why DC Comics baffles me. Ever since they were bought by Warner Communications (present day Time Warner), they made sure they successfully hid in the cracks, away from the light. They never raised their heads and nobody paid attention to them.

    The purpose of DC Comics inside the Time Warner is… what? R&D unit? Niche magazines? Do they just keep them for Superman and Batman? Couldn't they have just kept Superman and Batman and shut down everything else at any time?

  71. Dear Jay C,

    At VALIANT and DEFIANT we sold as many ads as we could without making a major investment in the effort, i.e., to the usual suspects. We had to fill the remaining pages, and we did so with additional comics pages and house ads.

  72. Dear Jason,

    The magazine industry, and with it, magazine distribution developed slowly and late in this country. There was more and more struggle for territory and position as better transport made national distribution more doable. There was still a lot of fighting, literally and figuratively, for position in the first half of the 20th century, less so since. Things have settled out. The economic barriers standing in the way of competing with an established ID in a given territory are formidable. It's, as they say, a tough racket.

  73. Dear Jim,

    I asked you about mainstream periodical distribution last night. Thanks for providing the big picture.

    I didn't even know Cricket was on newsstands. I somehow subscribed to it in the 80s. Can't remember how. A teacher's recommendation, I guess.

    What a small and ugly world distribution is. Imagine the subplots about it for Funny Business. I haven't turned on my TV in weeks, but I'd watch that show.

    Dear JayJay,

    Thanks for your contributions from the archives. We historians love raw data. The header font looks familiar. Was it the (un?)official Marvel font at the time? How did you design these cards back at the dawn of the digital age when Shatter was cutting-edge? Were these cards still typeset?

    The Comics Code Authority seal is on one card but not the other. Was that on purpose?

  74. Jay C


    Thanks for covering Ads in comics, it was something I asked about in the comments and here you are discussing it. Thank you, sir!

    I didn't realize that there wasn't any money in them. Better than nothing sure, but I'm still a little surprised.

    Was this why at Valiant and Defiant there were more house ads or ads for other comic related companies (like Wizard or Previews I suppose)? Was it more just valuable to just promote your own products?

    thanks again

  75. Jim,

    You may or may not know the answer to this, but I'm curious: How do ID's maintain their monopolies?

    In a free market, true monopolies do not last very long. A genuine monopoly requires coercion, almost always by government (directly or at some remove).

    Reading between the lines, it seems like there might be an agreement among distributors to only sell to one ID per territory, and that this system is sanctioned by one government agency or another for purposes of regulation or "fairness". I'm just guessing though. 🙂

  76. One of the things that's often overlooked when people talk about the 1954 Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings on comics is that a lot of the time was spent not on content, but on magazine distribution. Committee member and later chair Senator Estes Kefauver was between presidential runs and had made his political name as a mob-hunter.

    People focus on the Gaines day of the hearings, and they loom large in the history of comics and censorship. But the full transcripts show the hearings were just as much about Kefauver wanting to look tough on organized crime.

  77. Hey Jim, your post makes me think about the advent of digital comics? DC is now doing same-day digital comics. I wonder how illegal downloading will effect their bottom line? For example, a quick Google search and you can locate torrents on the majority of THE NEW 52 issues. A person could never step foot in a comicbook shop and read every issue…

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