On Business: Marts & AfterShock

By | Monday, April 13, 2015 Leave a Comment
Mike Marts
Today's news is that editor Mike Marts is leaving Marvel to help launch AfterShock Comics. Since AfterShock is in "build mode" so there's not much to speak to about their content yet. In fact, pretty much all we know at this point are a handful of people that are involved...
  • Joe Pruett: writer, founder of Desperado Publishing
  • Michael Richter: senior executive at eBay and chief privacy officer at Facebook
  • Jon Kramer: TV production
  • Lee Kramer: head story analyst at Endeavor
  • Jawad Qureshi: investor relations
This obviously isn't the first time people have gotten together to start a new comics company. And while comics history is littered with failed publishers, that speaks more to the difficulty in any startup; that's not necessarily a function of being a comic startup. Within comics specifically, though, the significant challenge seems to be financing. If you look back at those failures, there's a recurring issue of financing getting tangled up somewhere. Not just, "we're not selling enough issues to pay the rent" but more along the lines of "we can't sure enough capital to sustain us through the initial costs of starting a publishing venture." If you look at CrossGen, or Gorilla, or Eclipse, or Charlton... it's not that they weren't making good comics or that their comics weren't selling. They were selling enough to handle day-to-day operations, but they weren't making enough profit to pay for large outlays of cash before their investors/bank wanted their money back.

The other problem I've seen is publishers who are focused so exclusively on the financing that their comics look like crap. They seem to fare better as a business entity, but tend to have little/no respect from the comics community. They seem to sell just enough to keep investors happy, and the finance guys are able to convince them to invest more. They also tend not to pay creators well (or at all!) further making their comics generally undesirable.

The most successful new publishing ventures I've seen have been ones where one or two creative types drove the company direction, but they had financing people on hand from the start to make sure things didn't get all wonky. Of course, then that can lead to flat-out illegal activities as well (witness Platinum Studios) or an endless stream of litigation with no real creative work being done (Stan Lee Media).

AfterShock seems to have a mix of financing and creative individuals on board. That's certainly no guarantee of success, but it does seem like a group that seems a reasonable chance of working things out. So while I'm going to remain skeptical (any new venture warrants some degree of skepticism, I think) it would appear that AfterShock is at least coming out of the gate with a decent mix of creative and business talent at its disposal, and will be worth keeping an eye on.
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