Discussion in 'Transformers Comics Discussion' started by AzT, Jan 25, 2021.
IDW Media Holdings: Fourth Quarter Fiscal Year 2020 Results Released - Transformers News - TFW2005
Forgive my ignorance, but $7.7 million doesn't seem like a lot. Is this about average for the comic book industry, or is it something to be worried about?
I've never read or even heard of March or They called us Enemy but I find it really interesting that a non-tie in graphic novels/books is providing growth for IDW publishing. I'd be interested to see the actual figures per issue, per month to see how that stacked against their tie-in comics.
But all in all as some one who doesn't know much if anything about the details here it seems like they had a lot of expenses in 2019 I'm guessing related to the Entertainment side (equipment costs etc) and those costs wont repeat year on year. However over all income is much lower meaning whatever they saved wasn't enough to off set the lost earnings.
In some ways this is actually the inverse of what I thought it was going to be with the entertainment (tv/netflix) steadily growing while the publication side slows.
The sales of "March" had a lot going for it in 2020. It's a graphic novel about the civil rights movement and its' author, Representative John Lewis, who marched with MLK, passed away in the past year. We also had protests and such related to police brutality over the past couple years - peaking this past summer. As a result, schools are talking about social justice/civil rights issues more than ever. I'm sure most of the people buying "March" were schools looking for a more accessible way of teaching about that era.
I havent taught history in a little over two years, but my old High School had a 30-40 person classroom set of "March: Book One" to use for lessons.
Somewhat off topic, but I have to wonder how healthy is Hasbro's working relationship with IDW now that they've given the Magic: the Gathering license over to Boom. A large corporation splitting their franchises among comic studios isn't too out of the ordinary, Cartoon Network gave Boom the rights to their new shows (Adventure Time, Regular Show, Gumball, etc.) while IDW had the rights to their classic shows (Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Ben 10, etc.). I still wonder, though.
Hasbro already has a relationship with boom due to inheriting their licensing deal with power rangers. That’s where this comes from. They’re just licensing some more of their IP to someone and see how it goes. It’s not a big deal and it’s not being “given” they pay for that licensing. Hasbro doesn’t see profit from comic sales, only their licensing fees. As long as they pay it doesn’t really matter.
Boom already had the Power Rangers license before Hasbro acquired Power Rangers, but IDW has been publishing Magic comics for almost a decade. If Hasbro is willing to move one brand to Boom you can't help but wonder if they'll move another.
It'd be funny for people to rejoice Transformers moving to Boom, only to realize that all the reasons they hate IDW will continue to be true there.
It's not a lot. This is a company holding on by its fingernails. But that said, the entire industry is undergoing massive upheaval. In the past year, DC cut its number of monthly books from around 53 to 35, while Marvel cut its books from over 100 to 50-something. DC, more than Marvel, is having a hard time. They've tried basically everything over the last decade. A series of major revamps. A back to basics approach. Moving their headquarters from New York to Burbank. Nothing's worked to turn the ship around. So they made the only decision they could: pivot hard to digital, and focus on Batman, and secondarily on Superman and Wonder Woman. Everything else is a distant second.
But the biggest change is that DC is making a strategic move away from the Direct Market (comic book stores). This is something that should have happened a long time ago.
Comic books have become, for lack of a better term, an incestous business. Until March of last year, there was pretty much one major comics distrubitor that all the major companies worked with - Diamond. Marvel and DC's creators produced content, that Diamond distributed exclusively to comic book stores. The kept comic book stores open, since they are the single purveyor of that product. Over the last 20 years, mainstream comic books have taken on a more mature bent. The themes in them, and the storylines themselves, have moved from being an all-ages affair towards more mature themes. A large part of this is comic writers and editors producing content for themselves, and putting all ages content at a timeless kids table. Needless to say, what's happened shouldn't be surprising: the Comic Book Store customer got older. The teens of 20 years ago are 35-40 today.
The central problem with the comic book industry for over 20 years is to expand the market to bring new customers in (and not just into comic book stores), while keeping those stores relevant and alive. But even the hint of selling comics at the supermarket again - something unlikely to ever happen once more - caused the direct market to lose its shit. Dollars spent in a supermarket is not dollars that the direct market gets, even though it may get people into the hobby.
Perhaps the most telling example of this is digital. iPads have been around about 10 years, but it's only in the last 3 or so that DC and Marvel really got their act together with digital comics (especially digital comics released on the same day). THey should have been early adopters of that platform, but it would have completely screwed the direct market. This is particularly hilarious because nearly every comic made nowdays is made on a computer (either the line work is done on a computer or scanned in, while the ink and coloring jobs are exclusively computer done now unless its painted). Which means when a comic book is printed on paper (increasinly cheap paper), you're viewing it in a medium other than it was created and intended for. Screens - ipads, give comics their intended color vibrancy and allow details to jump out. Comics are, and have long been, the killer app for a tablet, but because a surge in popularity there was feared to collapse the Direct Market, companies dragged their feet. And now? They may have missed the boat. Larger phones have made it so that tablet sales, fully matured, have been flat for years.
Perhaps nothing crytalizes the failure of thinking of the comic book industry more than the failure of Marvel Comics to increase their sales. Despite having 20-something movies in the biggest, most successful movie franchise in history, that has made tens of billions of dollars in revenues by adapting comic book stories and characters, Marvel Comics in 2020 are more or less selling the same they did in 2010. Marvel Publishing's visionless, inept leadership that has been totally beholden to the dead-tree-and-brick-and-mortar industry has failed to put a comic in everyone's hands who walked into Avengers Endgame, or get new readers into the hobby.
DC is making the right moves though. Focusing on digital. Ending their relationship with Diamond. Ending the focus on the direct market. Ending exclusive deals with high profile and indy creators (who always wanna do weird shit with icons). Mandating a timeless new-reader and kid friendly "house style". Putting out far fewer books. Comic Book store owners are outraged of course that DC dare look into selling comics on Newstands again, or through apps, or through Walmart, and most of all, dare put out so few books per month (it's gone from about $260 to $180 for a full month of all DC comics). And of course, comic book critiques, seeking to legitimize the industry as some kind of high-quality art form for it's biggest names, rather than what it really is, which is another avenue for exploitation of an IP (along with video games, apps, movies, action figures, general merchandising), chafe at the idea that what DC needs to do is basically make Batman books 50% of it's books per month, and those Batman books not involve Batman fucking Catwoman on a rooftop (which actually happened in the past year).
I mean, just to point out that note, when I was like 13, Batman was fighting through the destruction of No Mans Land (which was one of the thematic influence of the Dark Knight Rises). But now? A weird writer gets his jollies out for a book no parent would feel comfortable buying for their kid. Oh and it's not about sexuality.... how about the Saw level gore.
I wrote a lot about DC and Marvel here, because the industry without them doesn't really exist as a thing. But they're riding the same waves. Are new buyers buying the Transformers comic? No. It's the people who have always been buying Transformers comics by in large. A comic that years ago sold three times as many copies.
The thing is, it doesn't have to be this way. Star Wars was at Dark Horse for twenty five years and sold terrible, but Lucasfilm never really cared. And boy did it do weird shit. Sometimes it was good. But it was often really bad. So it goes to Marvel, gets a clean slate and a back to basics approach. No weird shit (or less of it anyway). They throw it right between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. And what happens? It sells 100,000+ a month. It becomes one of Marvel's biggest books. Of course, it's also sold outside the Direct Market too.
So yeah. Long answer to your question, but $7.7 million is not a lot for a company employing a couple hundred people (and that's revenues, not profits). It's a pittance. It's a company that is two bad consecutive quarters from going belly up. But it's part and parcel of the broader comic book industry, which, if I had to choose an animal analogue, would be the Giant Panda. Pretty to look at, but it's doing everything it can to court extinction.
If we want Transformers comics the best thing that could happen is that it steers clear of IDW, and Boom, and Marvel or DC, and Hasbro starts producing their franchise's multimedia content in house. And the comic would be digital only, and through a "Hasbro Pulse" app, and available to Pulse subscribers (along with the Hasbro cartoon library, games, back issues, new cartoons etc). Marvel Comics isn't going anywhere. DC will be around in some form in 10 years but probably considerably different. Image will keep transforming itself as its always done. But the rest? It's a countdown to extinction.
This is a really interesting read, thanks for this.
You've pretty much confirmed one of my thoughts on comics that I've been ruminating on the past couple of days, after getting a comic through the post by chance with an eBay item.
The untapped market for the medium seems to be younger ages. I used to love comics when I was a kid - I could never get my hands on proper superhero books, but the Beano and Simpsons pretty much etched an appreciation for the medium as a storytelling form in my brain. And yet however hard I try as an adult, I can't get into comics. I've bought the odd books over the years, including a few issues of MTMTE, and they all seem victim to the same problem - the constraints of the medium show through too much. Part of me's hopeful that IDW's Beast Wars comic will finally be one I get into, but the preview and my history with the medium has me sceptical.
Had DC and Marvel put their comics on supermarket shelves when I was a kid, they would have at least had one more reader back then, and at most had someone who could be still following along today.
so, the same inept leadership is the same team who turned Star Wars comics into 100,000 copies a month? there are some good comments in your essay but you need to review it.
Do tell? I've always looked at them and the art is always top notch with a fair bit of action etc.
Thank you! This was a really interesting read! I do have a few questions, though.
1. Do you really think comics will go full digital? I’ve only just started really collecting comics two years ago (though I have been buying them since I was in elementary school), and I really like having a physical copy. That, and it’s allowed me to build a relationship with my local comic book shop owner, and to support local business.
2. So, $7.7 million is low for the industry, but what about IDW itself? What is their normal amount to bring in?
If comics go full digital, they'll lose me as a reader. Actual physical books are what I'm interested in.
They said in the same breath that Star Wars sold well because of an accessible direction (which Marvel isn't currently doing) and sales beyond the direct market (which Marvel isn't currently doing). A company's direction can change over the course of its history, not to mention some titles get very different treatment than others.
Regardless of how you feel about the direct market or the comics publishing industry, the basic fact is that Hasbro is not in the business of making comics. They are in the business of making media -- see their purchase of Entertainment One -- but that helps with film media content, not comics, and it doesn't include a distribution platform. The major media companies that have a comics footprint either have it as a legacy IP farm, as WB does with DC, or they acquired them, as Disney did with Marvel.
Put another way, who at Hasbro has experience with writing, editing, or drawing comics? Or with publishing and distributing them? Hasbro Pulse doesn't do media distribution, they rely on existing platforms like YouTube and Instagram to reach the public. Outside of Boulder Media for animation, Hasbro doesn't create content, they license it and allow other companies to develop it. There is a creative partnership, but overseeing and consulting is different than producing, managing, and owning.
In order for Hasbro to do the work, they would probably first have to either build out an entire vertical organization to manage the work, or acquire a publisher with the existing infrastructure. As Ryan Reynolds would say, "but why?"
Yes, DC has made major changes to the ecosystem by changing distributors, and they are reportedly prioritizing digital at the expense of the direct market, but this is from a position of weakness, not strength. DC is financially and culturally a small part of AT&T post-merger, and all of their choices are built around the principle of "doing more with less." DC isn't trying to expand their sales and become a bigger player in the comics industry, they're trying to improve the bottom line by shrinking their costs and footprint. If the comics industry is dying, DC is leading that trend, not bucking it.
Generally speaking, major companies don't buy up others to try to be competitive in shrinking non-core industries, so there's no reason to think this kind of move is a strategic priority to change content for a small subset of media consumers.
I'd rejoice if BOOM reprints the Marvel stuff.
They at least reprinted the Dark Horse Serenity stuff into a nice hardcover.
In the realm of reprints, I honestly doubt any company would give that old material the treatment it deserves unless the license went back to Marvel.
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