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Are Independent Comics Worth Making If Marvel Stops Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

by Gamal Hennessy

An aspiring creator sent me this direct message on LinkedIn in the wake of the Marvel SXSW panel:

Q: I just read that DC and Marvel might be shutting down their comic book lines and cease all publications. In your opinion, what does that mean for the indie folks? Is it worth doing comics?

The rumor wasn't surprising. Variations on the same story pop up on the internet from time to time as part of the persistent “comics are doomed” rumor.

The denial from Joe Quesada isn't surprising. Neither is the refusal of some websites to accept that denial. Websites need traffic, after all.

The creator's first question also made sense to me. When Waldenbooks disappeared, authors wonder how the book market would change. The same thing happened to people in the music industry when major record stores like Tower and Virgin shut down.

The analogy between Marvel and independent creators isn’t the same as the relationship of authors and musicians to their former distribution outlets, but the broad idea is similar. Seismic changes in any entertainment industry will have a ripple effect on everyone from the biggest players to the struggling artist.

But it was the second question that threw me off. It’s grounded in the idea that The Big Two are synonymous with the comic book industry. So if one of them (or both of them) stop publishing comics, then independent comics aren’t worth publishing. As if the creativity, inspiration and passion of thousands of creators might become irrelevant if new issues of Spider-Man and X-Men stopped coming out.

Yes, the Big Two account for the vast majority of monthly sales in America. Outside of the comic book business, their characters and stories define what a comic book is. If they stopped publishing, distributors like Diamond and retailers in the direct market would have to rapidly adjust if they were going to survive.

But that has nothing to do with independent comics as a worthwhile endeavor.

This was my response to the young man. Please let me know if you agree:

A: I highly doubt Marvel is shutting down it's publishing business, but if you want to publish your own comics, then it doesn't matter if Marvel shuts down or not.


You'll still have stories to tell. There will still be people who want to read the type of story you're telling. There will still be ways to get your story to your readers and get paid for it.

If Marvel stops publishing, the industry will go through a major change, but you should keep publishing your comics either way.

Have fun

Gamal

If you have questions about the business or legal aspects of your comic book publishing and you'd like a free consultation, please contact me and we can set something up that fits in with your schedule.


PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR ATTORNEY OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

What is Comic Book Law?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

     By Gamal Hennessy

Lawyers are similar to doctors in terms of specialization. While some of us have a general practice, most of us focus on a particular area. These areas of expertise allow for greater focus and better results for our clients. That’s why you wouldn’t let your podiatrist perform brain surgery on you and you wouldn’t trust your criminal case to your real estate lawyer. Unique industries require unique professionals.

            I refer myself as a comic book lawyer, but this isn’t an official area of law. Unlike corporate or constitutional law, you can’t study comic book law in any law school that I know of. It is debatable if there is such a field. This post is my explanation of what comic book law is and why it is important for both creators and the industry. I’ll also offer up the names of three other comic book attorneys who are helping to protect the business and financial elements of this art form.

A Hybrid Legal Specialty

What I refer to as comic book law is a focused form of publishing law that also deals with broader aspects of entertainment law. Comic book law shares similar issues as other types of publishing, including copyright law, contracts, and first amendment issues. Where it differs is in aspects of production before the book is made and associated products after the books are released.

A Cooperative Legal Specialty

Most novels and poems are written by a single individual. Most comics are created by a team of at least two and as many as seven people. Some independent comics are published as the joint effort of a dozen or more professionals (See You Need Two Teams to Publish a Successful Comic). The collaborative nature of comics means that like other cooperative forms of art, contractual relationships between the artists are as important as the agreements between the artists and the distributors. (See All For One: Artist Collaboration Agreements). Whether you’re talking about work for hire contracts, joint ownership agreements or something in between, the ownership of every comic requires a unique type of contract (See What Kind of Contracts Do You Need for Your Comic?). Children’s book publishing also has aspects of collaboration between the illustrator and the author, but the variation of relationships between comic book creators is more varied and complex.

A Commercial Legal Specialty

            Comics are also a unique form of publishing based on the life that the characters and stories enjoy off the page. Crossover media, merchandise and derivative products have been part of the comic book business since their infancy (See Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle). Very few novels or prose works generate substantial collectibles or merchandise, unless it’s a children’s book or the book is licensed to become a film. Comic characters generate merchandise as a natural by-product of publication (See Making Comics Isn’t Really About Making Comics Anymore).

From a business and legal standpoint, this means that comic book law needs to consider the intellectual property implications of both copyright and trademark law (See Image and Story: The Role of Copyright and Trademark in Comics), film, television, and video game licensing (See Comics are Thriving in TV and Movies) as well as business formation for new publishers in the market (See The Benefits of Forming an LLC for Your Independent Comic). In many cases, the business and financial impact of the secondary market is more complex and more lucrative than the book itself.

An Established Legal Specialty

            Comics have been a staple in international entertainment for decades (See In France, Comic Books Are Serious Business), but like comics in America, comic book law isn’t given the same deference as other areas of law.  But this viewpoint ignores the importance of comics as an industry and the ongoing work of a host of legal professionals.

In 2017, comics were a two billion dollar industry not counting movies, merchandise or related products (See Comic Book Sales by Year). There are more than three hundred active comic book publishers in America (See List of Comic Book Publishers) and many of them have comic book lawyers on staff or as outside counsel. Specifically, these three gentlemen have been practicing and/or writing about comic book law for several years.

Comic book law is not as respected or well known as corporate law or criminal law. It is an adaptive and complex field that requires specific expertise and understanding about the industry. Every comic creator and publisher needs to find the right lawyer to protect the rights and revenue for their work. A unique industry requires unique professionals.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

How Do You Register a Copyright for Your Comic?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

If you don’t see your comic as a viable commercial concept or if you think it is viable but for whatever reason you prefer to you are comfortable with the characters and story being used freely by anyone and everyone, then registration might not make sense for you. But if you plan to invest time, money and energy into your idea and you want a better chance to benefit from your investment, the benefits of registration will be helpful to you

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What is the Structure of Independent Comic Book Publishing?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The structure I came up with is largely borrowed from the production and distribution of the most complex and expensive narrative art forms, namely film, television and video games. The overall structure has three stages, each stage has several elements within it, and several of the elements can happen at the same time. The structure has several moving parts, but each one is set up to maximize the commercial potential of your comic.

Read More

Positioning Your Book for the Coming Content War

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Comic creators need to make comics because they love comics, not because they're searching for a Netflix deal. The vast majority of books will never cross over into mass media, even in this golden age of comic book entertainment. 

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep your eyes open for opportunities and create the business and legal structure to maximize your potential. As Rob Salkowitz of ICV2 writes, the streaming digital content wars will need the type of content comics have perfected. 

 "No one can afford to go into this battle like that half-committed.  Anyone who wants to play needs to go all in to sign up any content, any creators, and any licenses that might help them win – even if it’s only to keep certain projects and properties out of the hands of competitors."

Could your book benefit from the streaming content feeding frenzy? Maybe, but only if you finish your book, get it out into the world, and take the right steps to protect it . 

Have fun. 

G

 PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Cinedigm, ComicBlitz and Your Independent Comic

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

The world of comics distribution is in a constant state of flux. The tides of change recently shifted again when over the top (OTT) content provider Cinedigm signed a deal to acquire ComicBlitz.

“ComicBlitz gives readers access to 10,000 digital comic books from publishers including IDW, Valiant, Dynamite, Zenescope and Lion Forge. The service is priced at $7.99 per month for unlimited access and is available in 133 countries.” While it’s not on par with Comixology at this point, an influx of cash from an OTT network can expand the potential reach of every book in the service to new readers in new markets.

As you develop and publish your own comics, deals like this should remind you to keep your options open when it comes to marketing, distribution, and sales. What worked in the past might not work today. What works now might not work tomorrow. Take advantage of the shifting sands and technologies. Use them to get your books to your market.

Have fun.

G

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

Independent Comic Publishers Need Independent Bookstores

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Experts thought the rise of Amazon meant the death of bookstores. We saw Kindle as the book killer and Comixology dealing a similar fate to print comics. But experts are often wrong.

Amazon has been instrumental in the demise of Waldenbooks and the crippling of Barnes and Noble, but recent economic reports show growth in the independent book market over the past few years (See  Small Bookstores Are Booming). The sense of community and the serendipity of wandering the shelves is something Amazon can't replicate...yet.

But what does this mean for independent comic publishers? It won't eliminate Amazon from most long term distribution models, but it can be another avenue for you to expand your audience beyond the comic book shop and build a stronger fan base. You'll have to do some research on the bookstores in your area to find the shop that works with your stories and your business model, but there are worse ways to do research than wandering the shelves of a bookstore. 

If you want to read more about the business and legal aspects of independent comic book publishing,sign up for my free monthly newsletter today.

Have fun.

G

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.

 

Silence May Not Be Golden for Freelance Comic Creators

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

Companies are trying to prevent freelancers who work for them from disclosing what they get paid. This creates an advantage for the publishers , but it is dangerous for freelancers who lack the information to negotiate their deals in a thoughtful manner

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Why Are Comics Better Than Movies (and books, and plays, and video games) for Telling Stories?

Added on by Gamal Hennessy.

In spite of the newfound popular acceptance, the masses still fail to see comics as a superior storytelling method, with both an artistic and popular appeal that elevates it above all other narrative art.

Read More