Writing this column right as New York Comic Con is revving up feels like a self-own of the highest order, as it’s certain that by the time this runs – heck, by the time I finish this sentence! – something of interest might arrive that could have been in this column. Heck, I know of something that arrives on Friday that would make it! But them’s the breaks, and as they say, the show must go on. Let’s get to this ever so lightly NYCC infused edition of Comics Disassembled, led by some musical chairs at a couple publishers.
1. Publishers, Having Comings and Goings
The comic publisher space’s merry go round was turning and turning this week, with some individuals getting on before getting off again at different places altogether. It all started with Mike Marts — former Marvel and DC editor turned Aftershock Editor-in-Chief for I believe the majority if not all of Aftershock’s existence – revealing that he was departing his long-time home at Aftershock. The next domino that fell was where Marts was headed, as it was clear his move was made with intent. It turns out Marts is taking over the Executive Vice President and Editor-in-Chief role over at Mad Cave Studios, yet another step in Mad Cave’s recent moves, particularly on the heels of acquiring middle-grade publisher Papercutz.
But with great departures come great hiring opportunities, so naturally, someone had to take over Marts’ role at Aftershock. How about two somebodies! Sort of! Brian Cunningham, formerly a big up at DC and — even more crucially — one of the main crew at Wizard Magazine, will be filling the Editor-in-Chief void over at Aftershock, with veteran publishing boss Chris Ryall joining as a publishing consultant. That’s on top of Ryall’s role as one of the co-leads of Syzygy Publishing, an imprint over at Image, although he’s hardly unfamiliar with wearing multiple hats.
What does all of that mean? I’m not sure! Based off my conversations with retailers, neither publisher is really cooking right now with their comic lines. That said, if that suggests anything, it’s that both is in need of fresh blood. Making moves to light a little fire under your efforts seems like a wise move. Mad Cave’s interesting to me at the very least, if only because that acquisition of Papercutz and their general vibe of late suggests to me that they have grander plans than being a low-to-mid-tier direct market publisher. We’ll see what kind of difference all this change makes, but at the very least, some people who are good at their jobs got new ones. That’s always interesting to see.
2. Print-on-Demand, Maybe Not Reinventing Comics
File this one under “I’ll believe it when I see it.” GlobalComix, a digital comics platform with a generally strange site and curious publisher lineup, and Ox Eye Media (the parent company of Source Point Press) are creating “a complete ecosystem for publishers to sell and distribute comics online, complete with integrated e-commerce and print check systems.” Or, in short, they’re creating a print-on-demand comic book service that operates off an online comics experience. That in of itself is an interesting thing, at least on the surface. There’s potential there, but with many, many unknowns. But it’s worth noting that the subheadline of the piece revealing it described this endeavor as something that “could change the production of indie comics altogether.”
Now hold on a second.
While we’ll likely learn more about this when GC Press (which is the formal name of this team-up, it seems) launches in early 2023 — Source Point Press titles will be the test products before it expands later in 2023 — this whole thing reads like me running a press release on SKTCHD saying, “David Harper has Created the Perfect Sandwich.” Sure, it is possible that I did in fact create the perfect sandwich. After all, I am very good at making sandwiches. But until there’s some level of proof, that’s just talk and little more than that. Without commentary on scalability or how much, say, printing and shipping a single comic in an on-demand setting would cost, there’s little proof that this is anywhere near as viable as they’re suggesting they are. I’m not saying that it’s not. It might be! But I tend to imagine that if you got the goods, you’ll talk about the goods rather than the game.
I genuinely hope that this proves to be a remarkable endeavor, one that delivers a quality product in a timely fashion at a reasonable price, which is what you would need to be live up to their own claims. I do like the idea of being able to read a comic online and then order a print copy right then and there. But given the nature of the supply chain and the cost of shipping today, doing so in a way that’s palatable to consumers and profitable to GC Press itself without scale (or a nightmarish catch) feels like a pipe dream. We’ll see, though.