kit (mizkit) wrote,

The Dabel Debacle & Other Things

Other things first:

Heroic, the womanthology, closed at $109.3K, which is pretty flipping fantastic. I can’t really explain why the project means so much to me, especially since I’m not even involved. It’s not just women doing comics, which is obviously awesome. It’s also the outrageous upswell of support for them. That’s just so great.

Turns out the woman behind the whole thing, Renae De Liz, is an artist herself (and I know her work, at least on Rogue Angel, but most people are going to know it because she’s the illustrator for the NYT bestselling graphic novel adaptation of THE LAST UNICORN o.O). She was also born in Alaska. Alaska girls obviously rock. :) And she’s done one of the most awesome Wonder Woman redesigns I’ve seen.

ElectriCity update: still waiting to see if our artist’s schedule is going to work out. He wants to do it, we want him to do it, we may go to great lengths to make it work, because OMG teh awsum.

I’ll just put the Dabel Debacle behind the cut.

This isn’t actually a very long story. But hm, it occurs to me that I should probably note I don’t require advice or outrage or much of anything in regards to it, and that advice in particular is likely to really annoy me. The whole scenario is what it is, and I’m pretty much over it emotionally. If I wasn’t, I would not be posting about it in public. So that said, onward.

In 2007, the Dabels acquired Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files to adapt into comics. Since my agent was now working with them, she pitched my 5-issue comic book “Take A Chance” to them. They signed on, offering possibly their boiler-plate contract which was, as far as I could tell from Internet research, egregiously unlike what typical creator-owned contracts should be. We pushed back, and they acquiesed immediately.

In retrospect, I kind of think they did that because they never had any intention of paying me anyway, but that’s hindsight. Before I signed the contract I talked with a number of industry people who all said “They’re great at sighting potential, they’re very bad with money, keep on top of them.” So, thus armed, I signed and was told they’d be announcing the contract at San Diego Comic Con in 2008. Hoping to make the most of this, I went to SDCC.

Chance was not mentioned at the Dabel panel. At all. A little upset, I went to their booth to talk to them. Most of the Dabel team, but not the Dabels themselves, were there, so I introduced myself.

None of them knew who I was.

Again, in retrospect, I should have walked away right then. Instead, I let go a rant at the next unfortunate person I knew that I encountered.

That happened to be my editor at Del Rey, Betsy Mitchell, who had quite recently signed a contract with the Dabels, too, to produce the graphic novels of their properties. Betsy apparently spoke strongly to the Dabels about me at a meeting that evening, and the next day they were highly enthusiastic about getting Chance out into the world. Victory!

By then it was far too late for the September launch they’d been talking about. The first comic came out that December, a print run of around 5000 copies which were picked up by comic shops with a fair degree of respectability.

I believe the next comic came out in January, as scheduled. The third didn’t come out until April, which was not my fault: it was done. The fourth came out in May, I think, and the fifth and final in July, all of which were delays beyond my control. Not exactly a way to gain momentum.

In the meantime, I was supposed to be paid quarterly and hadn’t been. Not even if one allowed for an extra quarter’s time to get books in order, which isn’t how the contract was written.

That was mid-2009. The graphic novel was supposed to come out in November 2009, but the pre-orders were very low and Del Rey cancelled it. This is still a source of frustration to me, as graphic novels get a significant number of orders from Previews, the comics ordering catalog that comes out three months ahead of comic publication schedule, and the Previews that the Chance GN should have been featured in wasn’t out yet. However, realistically, it was not the pre-orders that were the problem; the problem was working with the Dabels, and Del Rey cancelled their contract with them very shortly after cancelling the Chance GN.

That fall, Dynamite Comics bought out the Dabels. In theory, Dynamite was going to cover all of DBP’s bad debts and take on their lingering projects–like Chance–to develop as GNs. My agent has been working with Dynamite for over 18 months now, but realistically I don’t expect to ever see money to cover the Chance debts. Whether a GN is in development still remains to be seen.

In the meantime, I paid my creative team out of our own pockets and out of a loan I took out, to a total of about $20,000 which did not include paying myself. At the time, I obviously thought I would making my money off the back end, but, well, no. Rather classic case of “how do you make a small fortune in publishing? Start with a large one.” Except I didn’t have one to start with.

The one massively positive thing that has come of all this–and I really mean it when I say this is more important to me than all the rest of it combined–is that Ardian Syaf, my Chance artist who went on to become the Dresden Files artist, is now DC Comics’ rising star. He’s so ridiculously talented that I have no doubt he would have gotten there sooner or later, but I was in the right place at the right time to give him a boost toward the limelight, and if the whole thing was a debacle financially, then the sting is pretty much wiped out by picking up one of Ardian’s comics every month and seeing how far he’s come.

Okay, that was longer than I thought it would be. But there you go, then. That’s the Dabel Debacle in a nutshell.

(x-posted from the essential kit)
Tags: chance, comics, dabel debacle
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