Issue seven is out today. Issue nine is solicited for February. But issue eight, out in January, will be the last. Creator Owned Heroes, the Image anthology headed up by Jimmy Palmiottil, Steve Niles and more will be gone.
Jimmy, I've just picked up Creator Owned Heroes #7 and I love it, my favourite I think being Darwyn Cooke's story about a deadly book, somewhere between The Ring and Monty Python. It's a great book, with great names and it feels far heftier in the hand than, say, anything else priced at $3.99. What went wrong?
Well, I have been told so many things by pros, fans and retailers that contradict each other, I don?t think there is a clean answer, but a few answers to that question. First, I think the idea that people thought they were getting fewer comics in the book since there were so many articles and interviews when in fact there was the same amount of comic pages, if not more, each month. I was told that new characters cannot work in an anthology format, I was told the names involved were not big enough, how the logo didn?t work and how there were to many articles and so on. We took all these comments to heart and as you look at each and every issue, you see that we moved the logo, shrunk the logo, added comic pages, moved the placement , added new talent, and so on. Some very generous pros gave me advice and others told me the book would never find an audience because the big two companies are putting out too much product, ect. ?*The reasons go on and on and I am sure the posts after this piece will show what each person thought killed the book. It will be a variety for sure. Creator-Owned heroes is something Steve, Justin and I thought would be a fun change from a quick 22 page read and we felt since so many people enjoyed and wanted to make comics, that we would offer advice and insight into the process as well in the book. In the end, it was a failed experiment that we are really proud of. If people wanted it, it would have sold more?and if it only sold a few thousand more per issue?we would have had this going for years, but even adding bigger names didn?t help?so in the end we figured we would do better just putting our energy into other projects. I am very loyal to all the retailers and fans who did support the book though and these are people that are near and dear to me. We speak via twitter and Facebook and this bunch, I am sorry to disappoint by this news. You all have been so awesome and vocal with your support.
Anthologies seem to work elsewhere, what is it about Americans that seems to make them allergic to the format?
Anthologies are a risk for some reason and retailers these days would rather put their money into a sure bet?and who can blame them. I understand this on so many levels. Look, I see big name creators stepping out of their safety zone with the big two and put out books that mostly don?t break even, so I understood on all levels that this was a risky thing to do?especially an anthology, but at the time we figured we could bring our separate audiences together and have enough sales to pay everyone. It just wasn?t so. We were not looking for big numbers?consistent numbers over 6 thousand would have been perfect. We also didn?t have money for publicity, and working for Image comics, other than a few interviews and cons, you have to go out there and sell it yourself, day in and day out?which we did our best. The characters and book just did not find an audience past the 4 thousand people and the harsh fact of it all is that when you see its not catching on and you are trying your best to give the people what you think they want, if it isn?t working, move on to other things. The reality on another level is some people didn?t want to read these characters?and that happens.
What future for any of the concepts. characters and stories launched by the comic?
Well, we have solicited the collection of Triggergirl 6 by Phil Noto as a single book and have Killswitch doing the same, as far as the other books we had in the works?Weapon of god will become a Kickstarter project that we can now build on. Steve has plans for his material and Darwyn was about to start a series?that will find a home in a N.Y. minute. Eventually we will collect all 8 issues into a book, but not for a while. Nothing will go away forever. As you already know, outside of my mainstream work, I always have creator owned projects in the works. Our latest Sex and Violence is on its last week on Kickstarter as we speak. The simple fact is I love comics and will continue to push the envelope with formats and content till I drop. This was a case of live and learn. I sure learned a lot on this one.
Is the answer, as the CBLDF Liberty Annual discovered, that you just need more Walking Dead?
Yes, because if its familiar, they want it. We have an interview with Robert Kirkman in issue 8?watch that thing sell out in a second, lol. Looking back, if we have a name character in it each month, it might have lasted longer, but it is easy to look back and guess. What we plan to do moving forward is to understand that the audience for this type of material might be smaller than we thought and plan our future projects at this audience and bring in the books for a cost that makes sense with the audience. To wrap up though, I would like to thank everyone that worked hard on the books, we really appreciate it beyond words and I have told all of you this already. The fans?well, we are down for now, but never out. Tomorrow is another day.
Can you see a Creator Owned Heroes Vol 2 with lessons learned?
Honestly, its swimming around my brain at all times how to make another go at it and what we would do differently, but for now, we are going to let these 8 issues do what they have to and see how the business is changing and maybe approach it one day when we are in a better position financially to continue or if there is a deal where we can work the book into someone else?s publishing plan that is working. That or quarterly, or...
Are there any homes for the new projects that would have started in issue 9 that you are aware of?
Yes, with WEAPON OF GOD we plan to now expand the story and pitch it as a Kickstarter project that we can finance and publish in 2013. Beyond that, I do not know what the others have planned for their work. These are all great books, so they will easily find a home.
Given the credos of Creator Owned Heroes, and your own committment to pursuing that, were there any awkward conversations between yourself and your good lady wife over her decision to work on Before Watchmen - given that Watchmen was intended to be creator owned?
None whatsoever. Amanda is her own person and I respect and back every single choice she makes. We have two creator owned projects we are working on right now together, one being Captain Brooklyn and the other something that was going to be featured for Creator ?Owned heroes, but now we can open it up a bit more and see what our alternatives are.
Here's a look at what Creator Owned Heroes #9 would have looked like...
CREATOR OWNED HEROES 9story / art ?*STEVE NILES, JIMMY PALMIOTTI & JUSTIN GRAY, SCOTT MORSE , GIANCARLO CARACUZZO & DARWYN COOKEcover?*?*AMANDA CONNER / PAUL MOUNTS?* & SCOTT MORSEFEBRUARY 648 PAGES STORY/ARTICLES / FC / M$3.99"WEAPON OF GOD," Part OneGenerations have gone by and now evil has shown its face and only one man can put a stop to it. Training his entire life, the man living in seclusion known only as "the weapon of God" is sent on a mission to track down and destroy his mortal enemy, but not before making sure his legacy will live on with a gift from the holy ones."THEY COME BACK," Part OneBeing a cop you get used to things being a certain way, a thief is a thief and dead is dead. When those certainties start to fade, Lou Vector's world and career start to crumble. It's tough enough being a cop. It's even tougher when THEY COME BACK.Interviews, contests, art galleries, con photos, and original articles, all celebrating the creator-owned spirit.
Shit, I knew this was gonna happen, but hoped it wouldn't be so soon.
It was a great book and I enjoyed it every month, even though I was tempted here and there to drop it (f.e. when Triggergirl 6 ended).
I kind of see why some people would have shirked away from buying it.
F.E. If you like Palmiotti/ Gray, doesn't necessarily mean you like Steve Niles or vice versa.
In this format, every few issues you risk that the new feature won't be to your liking.
If you read it only for the comics, you might feel like you are paying too much for editorial pages you don't want, even though at this price, with those production values, I saw the articles more as an added bonus.
In the end it was a great, diverse and fun read and I ended up enjoying stuff I never would have expected to enjoy. There were one or two pages too much of editorials for my taste in one or two of the issues, but lots of very informative and interesting stuff as well.
I wish there were a place for a great book like this in today's market, but there probably isn't.
Well damnit. I always said this comic was Clint done right. I loved the first 4 issues, wasn't so excited by the second set of stories, but was happily hangin' around for the next set and was thrilled when Darwyn Cooke came on board, thought that would give it legs.
If I was to take a stab as to what I'd do different (well knowing nowt and not being even remotely in a position to really do so, but hey when did that ever stop anyone on the internet). I'd of had more stories and had some overlap on story length, with a jump on issue, all new stories, ever year or so. That way if you had say 4 stories, even if you only liked 2 at a time you were more likely to hang around and see what the next lot looked like.
That said if America can't get to grips with 2000ad, the single best comic out there, does any anthology stand a chance in the US?
Big round of applause though to all involved for trying something different, which you'd like to think the market was crying out for... alas not apparently, but absolute fantastic effort all round and I for one am sorry it didn't get the audience it deserved.
I'm a sucker for anthologies (seconding the 2000AD shout-out), so I may not be the best critical eye on this, But I really liked what I read in those few issues and will enjoy what's left when it arrives.
I hope there's another at-bat for this sort of thing in the not-too-distant.
Just to be one of those adding in my two cents as to why I thought it died -
Anthologies are great, fun, and a easy way to get introduced to new stories on a low risk basis. However IMHO to do well they have to have a good value. The reader has to feel like they are getting more then the average book, not an equal amount but more. Not that the value of the articles were bad at all, but I think a lot of people see that as filler content that is ignored and consider it wasted. Lots of people seem to be against a "wall of text".
The other thing that hurts anthologies now is, if you want to try new content why do 3.99 for two stories where you may only like one when you can do 0.99 or 1.99 for a digital short comic where you are buying just the content you like? This did not used to be the case so much, but anymore some anthologies can feel very similar to a cable TV bundle where you pay a higher amount for one or two channels you will use and you get a lot of this other stuff as well. A la carte pricing by digital comics removes a lot of the purpose that anthologies used to fill in exposing you to new content this way. Monkey Brain I think is a good example of this.
I think that 2000AD is an example of an anthology that works simply because they are doing things that can only be done as an anthology lately and they have a big legacy they are riding off of.
What could be an interesting approach is a "demand driven" anthology where the content is made up by digital first releases. Which titles get put into the print book then be driven by what actually sold well in digital. Plus you likely would be able to get a higher page count as the digital releases would subsidize the print book development in much the same way that monthly comics help fund collected editions/trades.
As for Jimmy, he is a funny guy. I don't know many people that are active in this industry that hustles as much as him. He seems to always be trying something new, and sadly a lot of it does not work, but the guy keeps at it. Good for him, and I respect what he is doing. I look forward to whatever he comes up with next as even if its not for me I know it will at least be original.