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09 August 2011 @ 03:47 pm
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)
Alix (Tersa): Xmen - Cyclops (after-four-days)tersa on August 9th, 2011 03:38 pm (UTC)
Every time I go into Lee's to pick up the latest Dresden Files comic, I lament that Ardian is no longer the artist on them. I'm not a huge comic geek, but I liked his art style a lot.

And you discovered him. That still makes me stoked to think about. :)

(And I can't help bet get angry on your behalf about this, given that I watched you develop this from pre-Ardian. I know it's unsolicited blah blah blah, but there it is. I sympathize. *hug*)

(And I still love excuses to pull out my Scott icon! :)
kit: xmen_goodafternoonmizkit on August 9th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
Being angry on my behalf is fine, I don't mind that. I just don't want a sudden slew of people telling me to lawyer up or whatever. :)
hegemony hedgehog: hugagrimony on August 9th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
My advice to you is thus:

Kiss Ted, squish Young Sir, and have Ted make you something ridiculously sinful. :)

But only because I'm a smartass and you threw a gauntlet, missy. :)

Edited at 2011-08-09 06:06 pm (UTC)
Mary Annepers1stence on August 9th, 2011 04:54 pm (UTC)
I really like the GN adaptation of The Last Unicorn -- it's very lovely and ethereal....
wichitabagpipe on August 9th, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
Can you take the book someplace else? If it's creator-owned and they didn't pay you and have declined to publish the GN, and your artist is gaining a higher profile now, the book might be welcome at IDW or Dark Horse, or at Image (that would be entirely a back-end deal, but a fair one), and so on.

Andrea Blytheblythe025 on August 9th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC)
I'm thrilled by the success of the Womanthology funding! I love to see women comics creators succeed.

Sorry to hear about the Dabel Debacle. I can't imagine how rough that is. I'm grateful that you chose to share it with us, however, because it can help others learn from your challenges. I hope Dynamite comes through with the funds and with a GN.
Geek of Weird Shit: vengeancegows on August 9th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
*scowl* Pigfuckers.

I hadn't known what the amount paid out of pocket to your artists was, but I'm glad that Ardian's success has brought you such joy and satisfaction. :)
pgwfolcpgwfolc on August 10th, 2011 06:57 am (UTC)
Womanthology rocks. I'm proud to be one of the 2001. I hope it shows the industry that people are interested in seeing more strong females in comics - creators and characters.

I don't know what to say about Chance. I was excited about that comic. I loved the issues we got. I really hope the GN happens. I was going to donate it to my local library because it's just that awesome. (In part for exactly the same reasons I backed Womanthology.)

But hey, ElectriCity is in the works. I can look forward to giving you my money for that!
Kevenn: Lucy Lazykevenn on August 10th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
What a disappointment all that happened on Chance. I saw the comic advertised in Previews, thought it sounded good, and was smitten on the first issue. I pre-pordered the GN from Previews, but wondered why it never showed up. Maybe some day...
Chrysoulachrysoula on August 11th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
This experience right here, which sort of echoes Jenna's experience with Guardians of Order (and other publishers) is why I stalked the small press that now has Matchbox Girls to an indecent and embarrassing degree. And I still eventually decided 'well, it's only a three year contract and they aren't asking me for money and I'm pretty sure I'll make some decent connections through it. And it's just one book.'

Basically, I'm paranoid, /because/ so many of the people who decide to get involved in publishing at a niche level seem to be such... flakes. Or possibly downright evil, but I tend to believe 'disorganized with poor ideas about business practices' (with the exception of people I shouldn't name while other people I know are still working for them.)

(Definitely not intended as 'you should have done more research' commentary. Instead, it is 'Oh God, I hope Matchbox Girls comes out in February/March and my publisher doesn't self-destruct before then. Oh God. Those fuckers.')