Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

May 10, 2007

Ripped From the Cerebus Yahoo! Boards

Filed under: Essays,Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 10:18 am

The following conversation has been ripped from the Cerebus Yahoo! Message Board.

Re: Dave Sim’s blogandmail #225 (April 24th, 2007)

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Stanley Lieber” wrote:

I think the advent of higher and higher quality print-on-demand is
going to alleviate a lot of the pressures on small publishers. The
profit margin is slashed (print-on-demand is expensive [especially in
large quantities, for which there is seldom a significant discount]
than traditional printing), but it is possible to publish even a
full-color book with essentially no financial risk. If you only get
orders for five copies, then you only print five copies. Publishers
will be able to set thresholds for when orders for a book warrant
going to a traditional printer.

-sl

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “mcettei” wrote:

>So it seems to me a nice long comic book (not TOO
> long, but longer than the average Marvel comic) at a reasonable price
> (the same as the average Marvel comic or only fractionally more
> expensive) strikes the right competitive note: more reading value for
> the money, a self-contained package so there’s no chance of future
> disappointment and (hopefully) those two offsetting a lack of colour.
>

This is the most interesting series of blogs yet, looking at the indy
publishers fate in today’s comic world. Why aren’t more doing this
analysis? (I guess that AiT and Fantagraphics have done it) Most of
the indy books I order are very late and overpriced, similar to a
Marvel product, but a buck more. The books that I get excited about
still are the one that are infrequent, but a good value, and fairly
self-contained (Age of Bronze, Eightball, Optic Nerve, Angry youth
comix). And I really don’t understand why an indy publisher, or even
Image would do super-heroes anymore (Invincible being the exception).
Marvel and DC are going to do it better!

Oh, and you all should be reading “The Boys”.

–Matt

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Mike Kitchen”wrote:

The problem is that you really can’t make a living doing these
comics… not to start with anyway. I’d love to be doing SPY GUY full
time but… well… read CRIC#2 for more details : )

And while print on demand is great for getting a comic OUT there, I
can’t imagine a print on demand book ever making it BIG! Because half
the trick to self-publishing is (once you’ve actually completed a
book) is to get enough copies out there in circulation to make people
aware of it, and get enough readers interested and hooked to buy
enough comics to replace the pay of a “real” job.

And while you’ve got to work a “real” job, there is no way to get a
comic out frequently.

And if you resort to print on demand, you are never going to generate
a large enough audience to fuel a full-time career making comics.

I guess for your first crappy comics, print on demand is alright. But
the idea has to be to graduate to a full print run before expecting
any real success I think.

As for Superheroes… if you’ve got a great story to tell, why NOT
self-publish your own superhero comic? Sure, you’re up against a lot,
but that’s true of all media in all genres. Gotta just go for it.

That’s my take on it, as someone currently in the trenches.

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Stanley Lieber” wrote:

I think this is where the historical model of the direct market has
come crashing into the modern reality of the Internet as the primary
mass medium that has swallowed everything else. People don’t find out
about new books at their comic shop anymore; they read blogs and
complain on message boards and sometimes even know creators online
before even seeing their books.

The economics of publishing is changing. It has already become a fine
line between digital content and print content (many printers require
you to send your work as a .pdf file). As viewing technology continues
to advance (Fujitsu announced flexible, color, digital paper in 2005),
the line will get thinner.

If we want to believe that the Internet is going away, and that
digital content/digital distribution is faddish, I’m sure we can
continue complaining about same on our blogs until the cows come home. 🙂

Meanwhile, show me the successful book that doesn’t have an online
component of some sort. Even canceled books have message boards, these
days.

-sl

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Mike Kitchen”wrote:

I’ve got so much to say on the subject that for now (since it’s late)
I’ll keep it short and say that this is exactly the reason why I think
that if you ARE to be successful in this biz (which at the moment I’m
not – but am working on it) that you have to deal with hard real world
items. I mean, these days EVERYONE can publish an online comic, but
how far will THAT get you? Even if your primary presence is online
(PvP comes to mind) you still have to focus your money making profit
on real world goods, since electronic media can be duplicated
infinitely and effortlessly. Despite what Scott McCloud says,
pay-per-click is never going to work. So what our job then becomes,
as aspiring comic creators, is to manufacture an artifact that is
WORTH something. So we can try to make a living off our craft. That
artifact is our paper comics (or related merchandise). The stuff that
is physical. That is limited. That can be destroyed. That takes
some effort to hunt down. That can become COLLECTORS ITEMS!

Otherwise, why not just download everything via BitTorrent?

Well, that’s a portion of my thoughts.
Maybe I can type some more tomorrow at the “Clark Kent” day job.

There’s lots more to say…

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Jeff Tundis” wrote:

I haven’t seen anything on that digital paper, but I remember you
mentioning it before and sure sounds cool:)

I think you’re right — the internet is here to stay (despite the dot
com crash years ago) at least as a promotional tool. It seems to me
to be an interesting catch 22. There is a push to create work that
will not appeal to collectors, and yet the collectors may be the ones
to keep the medium alive. The desire to own a physical book, a
tangible “investment” if you will (even though, I know, the word
makes people wretch).

That being said, I would probably be inclined to buy a trade on CD or
DVD because there’s no real collector incentive — it’s just
the “reading copy” if you will. Well, once I get a laptop, anyway;)

-Jeff

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Mike Kitchen”wrote:

See, this is the thing I just can’t relate to. I mean, I’ve
downloaded comics and read them on the computer, but I’ve hated every
moment of it, compared to listening to music and watching movies on a
computer, which I think is brilliant.

I am curious what the general concensous is on this. Do people enjoy
reading comics on the computer? I don’t mind reading daily comics on
the computer screen, but once they get past a couple pages in length
my eyes start bleeding, and my head starts pounding something fierce.
It is NOT an enjoyable experience for me. For this sort of thing, I
can only go on my own personal preference, and then make the
assumption that if I think this way, then a good number of others out
there must be thinking the same way as well. It’s hardly science, but
it’s the best barometer that I’ve got at the moment.

Maybe I should make a Yahoo! poll.

As for collectors; after years of thinking about this stuff, I think
that people who enjoy the work enough to want to own legitimate hard
copy “first print” “collectors item!” editions of the work and keep
them as artifacts are the ones who we (as creators) should be looking
to for our primary revenue stream. They are ultimately the ones that
will fund our work. Casual readers may be good for a one time cash
infusion, but for any sort of longevity, I think is is the collector
that has to be catered to, who needs to have an interest in your work.
Think of it this way: The people that see a value in what you are
doing are the ones that you should primarily be interested in as a
creator, as opposed to those who see NO value in what you are doing.

Those that see value in you and your work, are the ones that will buy
a copy of the work, or buy a limited edition print, or t-shirt, or
start a Yahoo! Group to discuss your work in their leisure time. They
will keep the work going.

And when I say collectors, I don’t mean the “collectors” that buy 75
polybagged Death of Superman because the TV told them they were going
to go up in value. No, I consider these people an entirely different
beast… (investors may be a better descriptive word). In this sense
I view collectors as people who like the work enough that they want to
own the work. The complete work. Or at the very least, the few
issues of the work that they actually enjoyed.

Digital copies and web comics may be good as a promotional marketing
tool (get 1 million people reading your comics on the internet, and
I’ll be you can get 10,000 of them to buy a hard copy, or a t-shirt).
But you really need to be aware that it is the selling of something,
ANYTHING, that is the only way to make a career out of this crazy trade.

Otherwise you’re just creating your art for free.
Which is fine and all, but good luck keeping a monthly schedule and
paying your mortgage in the process.

Some more of my thoughts.
— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Larry” wrote:

What you seem to be saying is that you (and by
extension, “collectors”) buy comics because you think they *are*
worth something (intrinsically). Whereas speculators buy them
because they hope the comics are “worth something” to someone *else*.

First of all, as a collector, I totally agree with both of you.

Secondly, without collectors, speculators might as well be trading
swamp land in Florida. Speculation is a ponzi scheme unless there
are real collectors supporting the whole structure.

– Larry Hart

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Mike Kitchen” wrote:

That’s a really good point. And I think (say in the case of Death of
Superman) that speculators (that’s the word I was thinking of – though
investor seems to fit the bill as well) ARE trading swamp land in
Florida. I think you’ll find in comics (as well as just about any
other field of investment) there are A LOT of ponzi schemes going around.

Time will tell what artifacts hold any real value. Which kind of ties
this all back to Dave’s original Blog and Mail points. If you have
3000 people chasing 300 comics, of course the value of those 300
comics will go up due to supply and demand. Comics like Cerebus #1
ARE going to become valuable artifacts because people see value in the
work of Cerebus.

If the entire world decided that there was no value in Cerebus, you
would see those CGC graded Cerebus comics drop in value quicker than
the worst junk bond. But at the moment, that isn’t the case.

If the audience thinks that a work is worth something, then, as an
artist, you’ve won half the battle. And no amount of pdfs or
downloading or counterfeits or rip-offs is going to change that.

Or at least, that’s my take on all of this.
— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Matt Dow” wrote:

Ah, but therein lies the rub.

CGC is for the speculators. What collector wants a mint comic that’s
worthless the second you try to read the damn thing?

Matt

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Mike Kitchen” wrote:

That’s another really good point.
I really don’t know much about CGC comics. CAN you crack the thing
open and read it? Sure it may no longer be sealed (and hence – lose
“value”)… but is it even possible to do that? If you can crack it
open, wouldn’t it then be worth what a regular 9.4 (or whatever)
graded comic would be worth (minus the CGC slabbing)? I’m ignorant
about the whole CGC thing. That said, I can understand a collector,
say, wanting to have a reading copy of their favorite comic, and
wanting to have a MINT copy to complement it as a trophy.

But yeah. I do think comics, for both readers and collectors, are
first and foremost meant to be read.

And yeah. A service like CGC grading is only of use to both
collectors and speculators/investors, and of little to NO use to
readers (unless the things CAN be cracked open and read).

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Larry” wrote:

> > Speculation is a ponzi scheme unless there
> > are real collectors supporting the whole structure.
> >
> > – Larry Hart
> >
>
> That’s a really good point.
> And I think (say in the case of Death of
> Superman) that speculators
> (that’s the word I was thinking of – though
> investor seems to fit the bill as well) ARE trading swamp land in
> Florida.

I once proposed that sealed bags of Superman #75 should be treated
as currency. And that there didn’t have to acutally be real comics
inside the bag–just authentic-looking covers over the correct
weight of pages.

> I think you’ll find in comics (as well as just about any
> other field of investment)
> there are A LOT of ponzi schemes going around.
>

That seems espeically true now that stocks don’t tend to pay
dividends. Their entire value is (apparently) that someone else
might pay you *more* money for them in the future. That seems like
a house of cards waiting to tumble.

> Time will tell what artifacts hold any real value.
> Which kind of ties
> this all back to Dave’s original Blog and Mail points. If you have
> 3000 people chasing 300 comics, of course the value of those 300
> comics will go up due to supply and demand.

But if you had 3000 comics for those 3000 people, wouldn’t you be
able to command *more* money altogether from them. Not more per
issue (duh!) but more total money getting 3000 sales than 300 sales?

If the answer is “no” only because the 300 people are going to bid
the price up beyond what they reasonably would pay for the book,
then you’re still describing a flawed system of value (though one it
is possible to play for personal gain at others’ expense).

> Comics like Cerebus #1
> ARE going to become valuable artifacts because
> people see value in the
> work of Cerebus.
>
> If the entire world decided that there was no value in Cerebus, you
> would see those CGC graded Cerebus comics drop in value quicker
> than the worst junk bond.
> But at the moment, that isn’t the case.
>
> If the audience thinks that a work is worth something, then, as an
> artist, you’ve won half the battle. And no amount of pdfs or
> downloading or counterfeits or rip-offs is going to change that.
>
> Or at least, that’s my take on all of this.
>

In this degraded feminist age, I feel the need to point out that
you’ve made an unintentional double-entendre. “If an audience
thinks that a work is worth something” can be taken two ways. The
most common meaning these days is going to be “If an audience thinks
they can turn the book around for a profit”, which is the speculator
ponzi scheme. I’m sure you meant “If an audience thinks that the
work is worth paying for in order to own it”, which is the only
thing that makes others’ speculation possible in the first place.

In that latter sense of “think it’s worth something”, perception
becomes reality, because the thing really is worth what you think it
is worth–to you, anyway. When you, as a creator, make something
that causes others to value it–something people will willingly work
for or trade value for, then you have created real wealth.

– Larry Hart

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Mike Kitchen” wrote:

That actually comes from the research I did for my latest comic

SPUD & HARRY #1
Now Available At The ULTRAIST STUDIOS STORE !
Sure to become a collectors item!
Get them now while supplies last!

Ahem… what was I saying? Right…
When researching banks and currency, I realized that our whole economic system at the moment is based on fiat currency, which is paper (or electronic) currency backed by nothing! It used to be backed by gold. But it isn’t anymore, and hasn’t been for a while. Money only takes on value because we assume that it can be traded for something of value whenever we want to. But when it comes down to it, it’s intrinsic value is actually worthless. What IS of value is our labor (which we trade FOR money).

In the case of comics, when you really get down to it, they are just newsprint with ink on it. As worthless as the money we use to purchase them. HOWEVER, since we perceive them as being valuable as a work of art, or as a piece of entertainment, as a rare artifact, or even as an investment – that is what gives them their value. At that point it becomes a matter of supply and demand. If A LOT of people believe that these newsprint pamphlets with ink on them are worth something, and the ratio of people who hold this belief is greater than the number of newsprint pamphlets in existence, then of course the monetary value that these comics are perceived to have is going to go up.

So “If an audience thinks they can turn the book around for a profit” or “If an audience thinks that the work is worth paying for in order to own it” are (at least in my opinion) equally valid statements. The only real difference is the motivation for purchasing the work in the first place, but does not (I think) change the concept of “thinking a work is worth something”. In both cases the idea is “I think this work has value”.

Same can be said for money (or any other material possessions).

The BIG PICTURE to all of this is that once we’re dead none of this material stuff really matters anyway… which becomes a whole other discussion.

— In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Larry” wrote:
> So “If an audience thinks they can turn the book
> around for a profit” or
> “If an audience thinks that the work
> is worth paying for in order to own
> it” are (at least in my opinion) equally valid statements.
> The only
> real difference is the motivation for purchasing the
> work in the first
> place, but does not (I think) change the concept of
> “thinking a work is
> worth something”. In both cases the idea is
> “I think this work has value”.
>
> Same can be said for money (or any other material possessions).
>

You’re right as far as that goes, of course.

The distinction I was making was that “I think I can turn this
around for a profit” is more ephermeral. Stocks, properties,
currencies, etc can suddenly *lose* their value (in that sense) and
it’s kind of like a game of hot potato where the holder of the
commodity in question who didn’t unload it quickly enough loses.

Whereas “I think this thing is worth owning”, however subjective, is
going to last. It’s like Howard Roark explains to Gail Wynand
in “The Fountainhead”–once you give to a creation your “Yes!”, you
don’t take it back.

True, you can have an experience like Steve’s with “X-Men” where you
decide something you felt had value no longer has that value to
you. I’m not saying you can’t change your mind, and hence your
evaluation. But that evaluation isn’t going to get changed *for*
you–out from under you–by someone else’s whims.

That’s what I see as the difference between value as defined by
collectors vs value as defined by speculators.

>
> The BIG PICTURE to all of this is that once we’re dead none of this
> material stuff really matters anyway… which becomes a whole other
> discussion.
>

Kurt Vonnegut and Ayn Rand are doubtless holding many such
discussions about that sort of thing. 😉

– Larry Hart—

In cerebus@yahoogroups.com, “Mike Kitchen”wrote:

Interesting that THAT distinction is what I use to decide WHERE I am
going to purchase my comic books. There are a lot of shops around
that do come across as being ephemeral “like a game of hot potato
where the holder of the commodity in question who didn’t unload it
quickly enough loses.” Those are the shops where the new comics are
already bagged and boarded, are for sale above cover price, and the
sketch and foil covers are prominently featured all over their walls
(at insanely inflated prices).

Then there are the other comic shops where you can tell “I think this
thing is worth owning” is going through the shop owners minds. They
are the shops that allow reading, and have a shelf of “favorites” and
stock indy books, and (here in Canada) have the comics for sale at US
prices (when the value of the dollar allows for it).

So yeah. I see that distinction.

It really does all come down to what you, as an individual, believe
has worth. Readers, Collectors, and Speculator/Investors are all
going believe different things.

May 4, 2007

One Million Dollar Coin

Filed under: Educational,Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 4:48 pm

Interesting… a One Million Dollar Coin from the Royal Canadian Mint!

The worlds first 100 kg. 99999 pure gold bullion coin with a $1 million face value, and at 53 centimetres (21 inches) in diameter and over 3 cm (1.2 inches) thick, the massive coin is the size of an extra-large pizza, was introduced on May 2, 2007 to the international market.

Coins minted from precious metals have intrigued me ever since I did the research for Spud & Harry #1.

April 2, 2007

Paper Comics – A Thing of the Past!?!

Filed under: Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 2:54 pm

In the last comment section, Ultraist Reader Matt Campbell wrote:

i feel that paper comics are antiquated. It’s like trying to start a mail-order business in the time of the inter-tubes.

A popular opinion I can understand, albeit one that I vehemently disagree with.

In an attempt to fuel the debate (and avoid boredom at the day job) this post has been created to log the discussion. Click open the comments to read KITCHEN vs. CAMPBELL! (and feel free to join in).

March 4, 2007

Thought Of The Day…

Filed under: Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 7:17 am

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

February 24, 2007

Boston Legal: Episode 60

Filed under: Ramblings,Video — M Kitchen @ 5:59 pm

For as long as I can remember, going back to the 1970’s, things have steadily been going out of whack. Corporate profiteering and feminism seem, to me, to be the primary culprits to the sordid state of today’s society. Priorities are out of place. The breakdown of the family unit has given way to a generation of delinquents and worker drones. We are bombarded with propaganda. Gender rolls are blurred. Socialist daycare becomes the primary caregiver. The way we are expected to live is just… wrong.

The truth is; an “independent woman” working mother is an oxymoron. In an age where 2 income families are the norm, its effect on society is to simply raise the cost of living to the point where 2 incomes become required. Corporations win by getting more labourers. Mom and Dad win by getting more spending money. The ones who pay for all this are children who end up without proper parental supervision and guidance.

Which is why I find it interesting when these ideas appear in the mass media.
Click below to watch video clips of this week’s episode of Boston Legal:

CLIP 1

CLIP 2

February 7, 2007

Law & Order: Episode 384

Filed under: Ramblings,Video,Weblinks — M Kitchen @ 11:38 am

First let me state that I do not like Ann Coulter.

Last Friday’s Law & Order was an interesting one.
Interesting in that the target of the homicide was loosely based on the aforementioned political commentator, and even more interesting in that I happened to agree with just about everything she said.

And let me repeat: I do not like Ann Coulter.

Now I’m not sure if the writers were just too liberal, and thought that the opinions they were writing were honestly vile and evil, or if the writers were simply trying to accurately express a conservative point of view. Prehaps actress Charlotte Ross was just too charming in her role as political commentator Judith Barlow. Perhaps her dialog was just too intelligent. However the net result was; I found myself nodding in agreement with the Judith Barlow character while every other character in the show would respond with shock and outrage to her comments.

Some memorable quotes:

Female Student: Bitch!
Judith Barlow: Which brings us to the feminist problem.

Judith Barlow: I’ve got a ten-year-old niece who can’t even tell you who the vice president is, but she can sure as hell put a condom on a banana in two seconds flat.

Judith Barlow: I mean, Give a liberal a gun, he’ll shoot himself.
Lt. Anita Van Buren: There’s a reason for gun control.
Judith Barlow: I thought we’d at least get a Cheney joke.

Judith Barlow: The left’s been castrated by the church of Phil Donahue, they don’t carry weapons, hell, they won’t even play dodgeball for God’s sake.

Watch some clips:

CLIP 1

CLIP 2

CLIP 3

CLIP 4

January 19, 2007

Friday Lunch

Filed under: Photos,Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 3:05 pm

This is how I spent lunch today; working on pt. 17 of the Spy Guy Webcomic.

For the record; the cup contains a Tim Horton’s hot chocolate… I buy my coffee these days at Moonbean.

January 11, 2007

Thought Of The Day…

Filed under: Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 3:18 pm

It occured to me recently that in another 15 years there will be an entire generation of males with an uncanny infatuation for Hispanic women.

December 31, 2006

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Filed under: Announcements,Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 10:59 pm

So this brings us to the end of the 2006 edition of the Ultraist Studios Blog Journal.
There is more to come in 2007, including more webcomics, new features (such as “Before and After”), and with any luck, the next official comic from the SPY GUY Universe: SPUD & HARRY.

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by to visit, and especially to those who have taken the time to satisfy my junkie fix by leaving a comment.

The TOP 3 Blog Journal Commentors of 2006 were:

3. THAI NGUYEN clocking in with 9 comments. When he’s not trying to get me to work at ILM, Thai has been hard at work spreading the Ultraist virus on the west coast, AND he is the original founding member of the Spy Guy Street Team.

2. MATT CAMPBELL with 23 comments. Matt has been a firm supporter of the Ultraist effort before the Ultraist effort even existed. Matt continues to be the primary source of Ultraist goodness in the greater Boston Legal area.

1. BLAIR KITCHEN with a whopping 39 comments. Blair has been my biggest fan since 1976, and has easily sold more Spy Guy comics than any brick-and-mortar comic shop combined. For that; we at Ultraist Studios salute you!

I’ll send you guys a t-shirt prize.

ALL THE BEST IN THE NEW YEAR!!!

December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein Executed

Filed under: Ramblings — M Kitchen @ 1:51 pm

You can read the full news story on any number of news sites.
Here is a link to the BBC complete with video.
And here is a link to Reuters also with video.

My thoughts on all of this can most easily be summarized with the following image:

EDIT – The execution is available for viewing here on GOOGLE VIDEO.

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