Wherein I follow up on things that have already happened.
- 1106 days ago, regarding the previous day’s (somewhat abrupt) conversion of Webcomics Dot Com to a paysite, I wrote:
I can see the argument that WDC takes [Brad] Guigar as long to produce on a daily basis as any of his strips, but with no recompense other than perhaps driving a few people to his strips (although I doubt many who frequented WDC didn’t already read his comics). That effort deserves remuneration, and Guigar has set what he thinks is a fair price.
I just don’t think that many people are going to pay it.
Guigar’s betting that the distinction between entertainment and information is sufficient that people will pony up a couple bucks a month for access (side note to those attempting such things in the future: “ten cents a day” sounds much less than “thirty bucks a year”).
Unfortunately, with the exception of very few prominent brands, with high-quality content, pitching to niche audiences (we’re talking Wall Street Journal grade, here), this hasn’t proved to be the case on the internet so far — people pretty much equate “content” and “free”.
Guigar’s got a brand, quality content, and a niche audience, but I don’t think this is going to work any more than when Murdoch attempts to monetize his entire media portfolio (and/or get fees from Google) this year.
It’s looking back on pronouncements like that one that I wish this blog had a memory hole into which I could stuff particularly wrong things. Even by the next day it was becoming apparent that Guigar was onto something and his gamble was more likely than not to pay off. He’s kept actual numbers pretty close to his chest for the past three years, but it’s safe to say that the WDC paywall implementation was more successful than even he anticipated, and has remained so to the present day. After seeing him make another unexpected play in the spring with his monthly downloads, and having spoken to him extensively for years now (both on the record and off), I have come to the inescapable conclusion that One Should Not Doubt Brad.
- That didn’t take long. A mere five weeks after DC Comics announced that Jim Zub would be taking over as writer on Birds of Prey, it appears that said announcement lacked the crucial “no take backs” clause:
I just wanted to give everyone a heads up on things happening here so there was no confusion when the DC April 2013 solicitations went public.
DC has decided to go in a different direction with Birds of Prey and it’s been decided that I won’t be the writer on board the series after all.
Two thoughts: One, Zub remains the consummate professional; while disappointed, he knows that it’s just how things go sometimes¹; he even took the time to thank the people at DC that had been working with him on BoP. Two, sudden, public reversals do not give me confidence in any company; Zub was one of two creators replaced on DC books before any issues hit the stands, and there was the situation where Gail Simone was unexpectedly taken off Batgirl and reinstated two weeks later. I’ve worked for corporations where the decision-making process is marked by public careening back-and-forth, and it’s never a sign of a thought-out strategy or capable management².
I can’t say if Zub is better off or not as a result of this change (surely, being away from an institutionally chaotic environment is good, but the loss of the pay/prestige is bad). Fortunately, this writing gig was not the only thing he had going for 2013 and this will free up time to work on his own projects, where he is the only person that can fire him³.
- Let’s end on a happy note. Calling back to her work on Marceline and the Scream Queens #3, Meredith Gran shared something awesome with you today. In the hallowed tradition of Adventure Time, Gran wrote songs in the MatSQ series (especially appropriate for the story of a band), and found herself needing to write a diss track for Marceline to sing.
Who does disses better than professional rappers? Nobody! And who is housemates with the the world’s 579th greatest rapper, MC Frontalot? Gran! Front brought the braggadocio, Gran altered the rap to the structure of a Scream Queens song for print, but there was still the demo track of Frontalot channeling Marceline sitting on a computer, hidden from the world.
Until today. Ladies and gentlemen, I can only hope that this means more comics will have accompanying soundtracks from Mr Alot or other geek-inflected acts.
² Another danger sign: an unwillingness to speak plainly or admit to mistakes. In the same piece that announced Zub was out, the EiC (Bob Harras) and ED (Bobbie Chase) were asked directly if Gail Simone’s reinstatement was a result of fan uproar. The verbatim response:
Harras: What we had was Ray [Fawkes] coming on for two months to help out, schedule-wise. We’re very happy Gail is back; she’s on the book moving forward, so to me, that was a moment in time where we were just looking for Gail’s next plot to come in and we’re moving forward.
Which is a pretty impressive non-answer to the question that was actually asked.
³ I hope Zub has taken the time to negotiate a good kill fee in his agreement to work for himself.