Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

July 16, 2008

Is Platinum Too Screwed Up For Us To Fully Comprehend Just How Much?

From 1990 to 1993, Kevin Eastman's Tundra Publishing bought dozens of high-profile works for dollar amounts temporarily inflated by a Jim Shooter-primed and then early Image-lubed comics market, opened offices with people and family members collecting comfortable salaries, paid five-figure sums for comics that never got turned in, initially offered contracts that gave creators 80 percent of the net profits, made pledges to buy original art in order to better support the creative people involved, published around 60 or so high-end color comics and a bunch of high-end graphic novels including some with all the market momentum of a Jon Jost movie at the Des Moines Cinemark14, opened up an office in the United Kingdom, bought a music studio, invested in a pre-press company, paid for its employees to travel (I also hear stories about a limo), and I think purchased Heavy Metal (although that may have been a separate acquisition).

Tundra apparently lost $14 million, and is considered in many circles the biggest disaster in comics history, the publishing equivalent of Vinko Bogataj's famous ski run or astronaut Steve Austin's return to earth or Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White on the Oscars. The biggest disaster in comics publishing history!

imageSomehow, somehow, Scott Rosenberg's Platinum Studios is on pace to lose the same amount of money in the same amount of time. This while managing to produce about half the number of comics -- all of them together not worth a single page of Tundra's Tantalizing Stories in terms of overall quality let alone the nobility of the publishing impulse involved -- in much cheaper fashion, with contracts I can't believe to be as generous, with what I'm told is a smaller support mechanism, and to my knowledge with none of the wider purchases or investments in sideline businesses involved.

This offensive enterprise is able to exist at all because of twin promises: the allure of potentially developing movies from these properties allowing for the hope of an eventual revenue stream to far outstrip these deficits, and the dream of a career in comics and perhaps sharing in some of those film and licensing profits convincing grown men and women to sign contracts that all reports suggest do not live up to current industry standard, no matter what signing those contracts might mean for anybody else and no matter what it likely means for them. This despite any number of options with better track records and a commitment to also publishing comics for comics sake, options that don't yoke you into the service of paying someone's seven figure office rent bill, options that allow you to keep what you created.

I know that comics is an industry dominated for now and forever by shrugged shoulders and resigned capitulation disguised as real politik, but can't we all agree -- just agree, not act in opposition to or speak out against or do anything -- that this kind of business is on balance, a balance that would swing towards unnecessary exploitation were it ragingly successful but on the single standard it's selected for itself could soon outstrip in red ink the Perfect Storm of Dysfunction that was Tundra with 1/100th to show for it, can't we all agree that this kind of business is a very, very bad thing?
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink

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