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Author Topic: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?  (Read 19829 times)

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #90 on: 20 December, 2015, 11:59:51 AM »
Look Mr so called Campbell could you keep your pesky facts away from my gut reaction based on my limited knowledge of events. It doesn't half get in the way of my long held prejudices.

TBH, I made the exact same assumption, but had the opportunity to discuss the matter with Andy relatively recently and he mentioned the proposed book deal as the reason for inflexible maximum page counts.

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Leigh S

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #91 on: 20 December, 2015, 12:21:56 PM »
Is this not also indicative that the early 90s editorial didnt have quite the same pressures on them from Management edicts?  Early 90s goes awry through a proliferation of titles at the same time as a major talent leak has left you scrabbling for anyone competent to fill those pages.  On top of that, the rudder goes a bit lax and directionless while "It's only a fucking comic" attitude prevails.  But editorially, Pat isnt going to detect any problems personally.  When the impact of said early 90s actions is panic management, Bishop and Diggle have to try and juggle a hostile management imposing their whims (Loaded ads etc) along with just getting along and editing the thing.  Pat's hostility to things like the Fleetway film and TVdeal for example,wouldnt have led to a very conducive atmosphere....

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #92 on: 20 December, 2015, 01:40:02 PM »
I stuck with 2000ad and the Megazine through the 90's. My teenage years and 2000ad's line up pretty much exactly. I seem to remember at the time it felt like the comic had lost it's way, it lost focus, but there was still a tremendous amount that I enjoyed and admired. The problem for me was that remarkably bad (and to the best of my knowledge unpopular) creators like Fleisher, Millar, and arguably over time Mills, were given so many pages to fill over such a protracted period of time. I didn't know, understand or care about the editorial or management reasoning for commissioning or printing a whole pile of sub standard thrills I just knew I was paying for them. which cheesed me off, but not enough to stop.


DarkDaysBish-OP

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #93 on: 20 December, 2015, 02:03:48 PM »
although a lot of long-term reader's may have left during the Nineties (because of allegedly Bad stories) quite a few new readers joined at that time also.

I take your point, but 2000ad has lost readers regardless of what kind of stories it was printing*.

Most people don't read comics as adults, and turning up at college in a Rogue Trooper t-shirt doesn't make you a hit with the ladies. That was always the case, but in the late eighties the supply of new kid readers dried up.

Not just for 2000ad, but for any comic - the kids who started reading comics opted for licensed properties like Transformers or TMNT, a trend which continues to this day. What happened to 2000ad happened to every original UK title (and US comics too).



*1987-1994: Burton/McKenzie (100k readers, down to 50k readers)
  1994-2001: Tomlinson/Bishop/Diggle  (50k readers, down to 25k readers)
  2001-2013: Matt Smith (25k readers, down to 15k readers)

IIRC correctly - and I can't claim a perfect memory of such things, unlike some individuals - the Burton/McKenzie era ended in November 1994, by which point the final prog of the year was already at repro. [The reason I remember this is Alan McKenzie was one of 6 or 7 people made redundant on the day Jonathan Ross came to interview me on camera for Virgin Atlantic's inflight news magazine show about the forthcoming Stallone Dredd movie. Ross was questioning me and I was being all positive about the as-yet-unseen film while over Ross's shoulder I could see Alan filling his cardboard box.]

Anyway, Steve MacManus joined John Tomlinson on 2K that day [Burt had already left to run Sonic], so their time spell was basically 1995. New management swapped John and I round on December 18, 1995 so he took over the Meg and JD:LOTF while I joined Steve on 2K as Prog 978 was going to repro. [979 was the first cover I commissioned, from memory.]

I did some calculations when I arrived at 2K and realised the comic had lost an average of 7-8000 sales per year in the preceding 8 years, dropping from about 100,000 to under 50,000 per week. From 1996 to the end of 1999 we dropped an average of 3000 sales per year. It was still gutting to know that about 60 readers a week were abandoning the Galaxy's greatest comic, but that period definitely felt like the 'whoop! whoop! pull up, pull up!' bit of a James Bond film, as we wrestled with the controls, trying to stop the prog crashing.

Across that period from 87-99 there were far more factors in play than editorial choices. A distribution company change in the Burt & Alan period cost the comic thousands of sales almost overnight - totally beyond their control, nothing to do with editorial quality.

The cover price was aggressively drive up to increase/maintain profitability. Prog 520 in 1987 was only 28p. When Egmont took over at end of 1991 the price was 50p. By Prog 979 [my first cover commission] it was £1.

The comics around 2000AD aimed at much the same audience pretty much all vanished, making it much harder to maintain a dedicated shelf space for the title in shops.

Major retail chains started demanding payment for shelving titles in preferred spots in shops, which was affordable for 2K. I remember being told a favourable shelf position in a popular retail chain [it's name rhymes with Biffs] cost £3000 by the second half of the 90s. The same chain would also charge you for one of their compliance officers to go round and check shops had actually fulfilled the deal. Amazingly, they told us only 25% of shops actually racked titles according to directives from head office. Would you spend £3000 to have only a quarter of shops in one chain favourable shelf your title for one week?

The reasons readers give up on a title are many. Editorial quality is hugely significant, of course it is. But also their own financial situation, their living situation, their family situation can all have an impact.

Could the comic have been better in the Burt&McK era, or when I was editor? Yes, of course. The comic can always be better. You can get all the best creators you can afford, they can all do stellar work, you can assemble an amazing run of 12 issues with every story a gem and every page of art a classic.

And then you have to fill the comic on week 13. And all your best artists are burnt out or late or busy or have gone to work for the US [the 80s] or computer games [the 90s] or movies [the 00s] or someone else. And your writers are having an off week or a family crisis or whatever.

And you still have to fill the comic on week 13.

When any comic is great, the creators get the praise and rightly so.
When any comic is sucky, the editors get the blame and rightly so.

Hmm, I've been typing this reply so long I forgot the point I started with...

Anyway, the numbers quoted above for dropping sales by Butch are not totally accurate by my memory.
But I could be wrong. I've been wrong in the past [Sex Prog, anyone? Space Girls? I could go on...].

As someone once said, "It's a measure of how confident and successful they both are that they don't have a problem admitting mistakes and stepping up to the mark."

Funnily enough, there are certain people who never seem to admit mistakes. Maybe they never make any...

Paul Moore

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #94 on: 20 December, 2015, 02:48:25 PM »
Slightly different point, it was mentioned that one of the reasons for the decline was that newer American publishers were offering better creator rights and royalties, im not sure what the policy is at 2000ad even now...there was a recent podcast that the current owner said the owners of 2000ad were only keeping it going to keep associated licenses, have the rights/royalties changed? if so when and did it have an effect on a revival?
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Jim_Campbell

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #95 on: 20 December, 2015, 03:43:44 PM »
there was a recent podcast that the current owner said the owners of 2000ad were only keeping it going to keep associated licenses

Really? Who said that?

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IndigoPrime

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #96 on: 20 December, 2015, 04:09:30 PM »
Sounds like bollocks to me. It's pretty clear the Kingsleys are totally into 2000 AD and are keeping it around so there's more 2000 AD. I can't imagine licensing is especially lucrative and it's not like there's a new 2000 AD videogame every other month. Perhaps that's not the case, but the impression I always got was that Rebellion found itself in the enviable position of being able to afford to buy something they really wanted to own, and then making the very best possible go of what they ended up with. (And let's face it, who could have imagined back then — hell, even during the days of the DC trades deal — that we'd have such a wide selection of great stuff to tempt your wallet with?)

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #97 on: 20 December, 2015, 04:28:57 PM »
The success with which Rebellion have managed 2000AD has been extraordinary. Two quality comics, an extensive and diverse stable of reprints, digital availability, plus a couple of decent games and a damn fine movie - surely none of us expected a fraction of that as we approached the first Prog 2000...

Paul Moore

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #98 on: 20 December, 2015, 04:30:38 PM »
there was a recent podcast that the current owner said the owners of 2000ad were only keeping it going to keep associated licenses

Really? Who said that?

Cheers

Jim

Sorry i meant the previous owners who Rebellion bought it from a Danish company?
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Jim_Campbell

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #99 on: 20 December, 2015, 06:12:54 PM »
Sorry i meant the previous owners who Rebellion bought it from a Danish company?

No apologies necessary! Yes… Egmont only got 2000AD as part of a group acquisition and had NO idea what to do with it. There was always a strong suspicion that they would have been quite happy to let the weekly slide into cancellation territory and then turn it into a reprint title, monetising the back catalogue they'd already paid for.

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Frank

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #100 on: 20 December, 2015, 07:11:04 PM »
2000ad has lost readers regardless of what kind of stories it was printing*.

*1987-1994: Burton/McKenzie (100k readers, down to 50k readers)
  1994-2001: Tomlinson/Bishop/Diggle  (50k readers, down to 25k readers)
  2001-2013: Matt Smith (25k readers, down to 15k readers)

... the Burton/McKenzie era ended in November 1994 ...

I did some calculations when I arrived at 2K and realised the comic had lost an average of 7-8000 sales per year in the preceding 8 years, dropping from about 100,000 to under 50,000 per week. From 1996 to the end of 1999 we dropped an average of 3000 sales per year ...

... A distribution company change in the Burt & Alan period cost the comic thousands of sales almost overnight - totally beyond their control, nothing to do with editorial quality ...

... the numbers quoted above for dropping sales by Butch are not totally accurate by my memory. But I could be wrong. I've been wrong in the past [Sex Prog, anyone? Space Girls? I could go on...]


ARF! Thank you, David, for giving such an informed and exhaustive account of the woes that befell 2000ad in the nineties.

I started this thread with the intention of putting on record my scepticism regarding the narrative Pat Mills promotes in Future Shock - of a comic in perfect working order, which is vandalised, then restored by putting everything back as it was.

As such, I quoted sales figures for different editorial eras only to refute the thesis that editorial decisions were the sole reason for 2000ad's difficulties. However, the 25,000 sales p/a figure I quoted is taken from a post on the old 2000ad newsgroup by Andy Diggle in June of 2000:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.comics.2000ad/gY4Dfc6d3i8%5B1-25%5D[/quote]


... and Alan McKenzie points out that the change of distribution from IPC to Comag, which you mention, resulted in an overnight (and permanent) drop in sales of 20,000 per week (85k-65k).

That means the average annual loss of readers (for which editorial could conceivably be blamed) actually increased from 3.7k under 8 years of Burton/McKenzie/Tomlinson (your preferred measure) to 5k p/a over the 5 years of Bishop:

Quote
When I left, it was selling about 55,000.

Now ... according to Andy, 25K.

It's a real tragedy, but I don't think there's anything that could have been
done, at least editorially, to stop the decline.

I think some bad business decisions were made along the way. Going litho was
good. Letterpress printing at 98,000 was probably uneconomical. Putting a
glossy cover on was probably necessary. But on the minus side were the price
rises that incurred. Upping the colour to colour throughout, with its
attendent price hike was probably bad. That was a management decision that
Richard (Burton) and I both thought unnecessary. All through my tenure I was
always opposed to price rises. Price rises mean lost readers. And you never
get them back. Period.

In 1987 2000 was, what, 28p? Conventional wisdom says that the price of
stuff doubles every ten years with inflation. So to maintain its price due
to inflation only (which all most customers care about) 2000AD would need to
be about 65p today.

Then in my latter days, Prog 900-ish, maybe earlier, a management decision
was taken to move from IPC distribution to Comag. This was announced, fait
accompli, at a management meeting. Richard and I were flabberghasted. We'd
both worked at Marvel UK. Who were distributed by Comag. Comag had been a
disaster for Marvel. Yet no one at Fleetway thought to ask opinions of any
of the staff. It never occurred to them, in their arrogance, that any of
their editors might have had some knowledge of their new business partners.

Richard and I both smelt disaster in the wind. Three months later, were were
reviewing the sales figures. In the 3 or 4 weeks around the Comag takeover,
the sales of 2000 AD "plummeted" (the Marketed Managers actual word) from
about 85K to 65K. 20,000 wiped off the sales almost overnight.

I won't bore you with the mechanical difference between IPC and Comag which
led to this nosedive. But whichever way you cut it, it's clear that Comag
was a disaster for 2000AD just as they had been for Marvel UK.

But you need to factor in the sad truth that other things compete for the
attention of the 14-15 year old male core audience for 2000. Notably
Playstations and the Internet.

An aside: One of the great IPC/Fleetway editors Sid Bicknell explained to me
one day - You have to take up space on the newsagents shelves. If you
publish 40 comics, like Fleetway did in the old days, these support each
other. You have cross-over advertising, with your house ads, not just in the
other comics but in the mags as well. But the main thing is you take up
shelf space. This means that for every mag you get in a newsagent, it means
that Marvel UK or DC Thompson, or Titan or whoever, doesn't get one. Take up
enough space and you shut out other mags. Sid reckoned that accountants
never realised that. They'd cancel a mag when it hit breakeven, but never
factored in the other benefits of running a break-even paper

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.comics.2000ad/gY4Dfc6d3i8%5B1-25%5D

Ancient Otter

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #101 on: 20 December, 2015, 10:50:52 PM »
Really good thread and leaves me hungry for one about the noughties,

Steven Denton

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #102 on: 21 December, 2015, 09:39:17 AM »
Given that the 'dark days' were more of an industry wide phenomenon and largely seemed to coincidence with comics 'growing up' and the games industry really taking off I think it's fair to say the editorial disruption and perceived drop in quality are more of a correlation than causal.

90's 2000ad wasn't actually that bad, sure it had duff strips and minority interest strips but 2000ad always had that. The Megazine suffered more when it had it's lowest new strip page count because it could be entire runs of issues (meaning entire months at a time) between stories you were interested in.

The real issue seems to have been the change in demographic (comics for adults was and remains a minority medium) and the old demographic moving on to new things. 2000ad may have grown up with it's audience but it was only ever going to be a small section of it's readers who would take their childhood pursuits into adulthood as either casual readers or completist collectors. 2000ad wasn't wrong to go after the fan market, if it had stayed a news agent kids comic it would have folded years ago, but assuming it could have kept up historical sales is ridiculous.

Frank

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #103 on: 21 December, 2015, 11:10:41 AM »
Slightly different point, it was mentioned that one of the reasons for the decline was that newer American publishers were offering better creator rights and royalties, im not sure what the policy is at 2000ad even now...  have the rights/royalties changed? if so when and did it have an effect on a revival?

John Wagner forced a change in royalty payments in the early nineties, but Tharg still owns every strip.

In the Future Shock documentary, Ian Edginton remarks that the knowledge he will have to surrender all rights is a factor in whether he offers a strip to 2000ad or another publisher, and David Bishop says established writers won't create new strips (50 min 20s).



ZenArcade

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Re: Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« Reply #104 on: 21 December, 2015, 12:38:47 PM »
But surely the number of publications (certainly in GB) where any writer can be published and thus reach a wide audience has diminished hugely since the 1990's. Is the power not now massively in the hands of the publisher? Z
Ed is dead, baby Ed is...Ed is dead