my public stand

Mark, what's your public stand on the demise of Runaway? I consider it a great tragedy -- and representative of the dire state of the comics industry today. Old timers like you and I just don't have the stomach for this industry's crap any longer...

I'm reluctant to go public with my opinion of the current comics scene on the heels of Runaway Comic folding because it could sound like sour grapes if I am honest. But since you asked -

The problems with the distributors and the buying patterns of stores and fans are common knowledge, so let's skip all that.

The tastes of alternative comics fans today are baffling to me. There, I said it. Now I am officially an out-of-touch old fossil.

I don't really have any ax to grind here. The comics industry is pathetic, but the cold hard fact is there is just barely a market for variety out there. Jim Woodring should sell many thousands of comics. Or, more to the point, many thousands of people should buy Jim Woodring comics.

But they don't. Even the mega-stars of indy comics barely make a profit on comics. Even Peter Bagge went to DC (and what's up with that now? Has he left printed comics completely? I just don't know...)

As for me specifically, I'm clearly too esoteric for either the mainstream or the indy community to really grasp. That sounds like I'm saying "I'm too good for those cretins" but I'm not. It's not a badge of honor, it's just a fact. My stuff is too all over the map.

Eh - I knew it was an experiment. It was fun. Now it's time to move on.

Fantagraphics was fair and square with me. You know what to expect from them and that's what you get. I think they treated me as fairly as any cartoonist who creates a marginal book that they don't know what to do with. I don't expect them to keep publishing it just because it's good. Hell, I won't publish it myself and lose money, so why should they?

Seriously, I don't think it has anything to do with our age, Steve. This industry's crap is just a reflection of the fact that most people don't crave comic "pamphlets" as entertainment any more.

So this means you're abandoning the Montgomery Wart storyline in Runaway? Hey, if you have something cooler in the pipeline you'd rather spend your energy on I'm all for it, but I'm going to miss not being able to find out what happens.

Not abandoned. Put on hold. You'll see when you get the comic.

Here's one of 4 pages of comics I found by an unknown cartoonist. The other 3 are better, andf there's a great little story that goes with them, so TUNE IN TOMORROW!


Jed said...

I got the comic. It's a pretty straight up To be continued situation, as far as I can see. More on this later...

Anonymous said...

Wow! You really are just too nice. It's no secret that Fantagraphics sucks at marketing and gives almost no attention to the books it invests in other than a few of their higher profile ones.

Marky Mark said...

Yeah that's no secret, but who does a better job? If you know of a publisher who'll publish Runaway and market it better than FG did, please share. Otherwise what's the point of trashing FG?

The whole culture of "stars" and "high profile" makes me want to puke, not only the way FG plays the game but throughout the industry, at cons, whatever. But that's the nature of Marketing. You can't blame FG for doing what it takes to stay alive.

Jed said...

My old publisher, Jeff Mason at Alternative Comics was pretty good at giving all his books lots of attention before he busted his back in a car accident and had to cut down on his work load. But he sent out press releases, my book got to be one of the Previews picks of the week, and a radio station even called me up, though decided to pass on doing a story. But for small press, Mason was pretty on top of it, and still would be if he was in better health.

Marky Mark said...

I contacted Mason before I went with FG.

He never returned my call.

Marky Mark said...

e-mail, actually. Just to be accurate.

SRBissette said...

Thanks, Mark, for posting your official response. You know I won't press for more in the public arena, but this is a discussion we have to have in some form where other cartoonists can see it. It's tough out there, and that's a fact -- but some break through the thin and din, and some of us have enjoyed some measure of 'success' now and again.

20 NUDE 20 DANCERS forever!

Jed said...

Jeff Mason has a lot of health problems, aside from his bad back, and in the last couple of years things got pretty bad for him. Plus Alternative is a one man operation that loses money, and he's a full-time criminal defense laywer. His publishing business is pure love and charity.

He made an official announcement about a year or two ago stating he wasn't accepting any new submissions, so what I gather is that he didn't recognize your name and your e-mail looked like one more unsolicited submissions query. If you had mentioned this to me I would have been able to clue him in so he'd at least have looked at it.

He's a very decent, friendly guy, and has given a lot of people a lot of breaks. My book totally lost money and he's got boxes of them in his garage. Right out of the gate he gave me a two-color, square-shaped solo anthology albatross--this was not a good business decision. I'm really surprised he's even still publishing.

Jed said...

I'd say those Top Shelf guys know how to hustle--they really make an effort to get their stuff into libraries! Damn near every library in the country has a copy of Blankets or Owly. But they don't do too many of the periodical type comics.

Marky Mark said...

Yeah I'm sure everything I've heard about Jeff is true. And I've always heard he's a cool guy. I'm sure there was a reason he never answered me. Actually he did answer me once a few years ago. He answered a "would you be interested if - " query. But the Runaway thing was not answered.

Top Shelf said my stuff is "too silly" and I will never forgive them. I may be wrong about that. Who's that other Top-shelf-like publisher? ONE of them said my stuff is too silly for them! The dirty bastards!

Jed said...

I know how that that stuff goes. I've had a publisher tell me they couldn't publish my comic because of the size, and showed me some lame comic they published in an odd size declaring that it didn't sell--because of the size, and not because it sucked.

I think all of these publishers get an assload of submissions, and just for the fact that they can only publish so many books a year, they have to turn most of those submissions down, and the nicer ones have the good grace to actually give you a personal response. Which means sometimes they'll say something completely inane like it's "too silly", in which case a form letter would have suficed.

Having the "yay" or "nay" say in what their company publishes and what it doesn't, when these companies are very very small, often puts them in the position of saying "no" to a lot of talented people. I'm always hearing about some lame dismissive comment one of these guys has made, or may or may not have made. I'm not saying they always have the best taste, or make the best choices, but they all work like dogs and take a lot of personal risk. Top Shelf risked bankruptcy last year to publish Alan Moore's $75 porno comic. Dennis Kitchen went belly up after publishing some of the best comics of the 80s. Highwater recently had to pack it in--and I know you liked at least one of the guys they published--Ron Rege. Who would've published Rege if Highwater hadn't existed?

The worst thing that can happen to me when I send these people my stuff is that it doesn't get published, or it gets published and I don't make a cent. The worst thing that can happen to them is that they can loose a few thousand bucks. And none of them are independantly wealthy--that kind of loss hurts. So I don't blame them for being a little cautious. Or saying "no", and asking questions later.

SRBissette said...

Like Joe Citro says, "No is always a good answer." It is, at least, an answer.