Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 Review, Plan, and V5 early release

On Christmas night when the snow was turning blue outside, I finished the last SKIRMISH illustration- Miri, crouching with a pistol in glittering Starfall drifts.

Then I did something I've been craving for a long time:



I finished the lineart on page 43 of Volume 5.   Next up- page 44.

It feels fitting that our final SKIRMISH game art was a Wayward Astronomer character.   The illustrated novel and the battle game are what kept me from focusing exclusively on Volume 5.

Investing my time in those Dreamkeepers assets was a calculated, but real, risk.

Amidst the endless fire-hose of internet content and cheap updates, most readerships would falter and wander towards the nearest set of jingling keys.

But Vivid readers are no ordinary readers- believe it.

You decide for yourselves what's good, where the potential is, and what you want to build.

In fact, during our Year of Risk, Dreamkeepers readership grew stronger.   Book sales boomed online and at conventions, Patreon grew like never before, and e-mails from enthused new readers continue to fly in.

I think veterans and new recruits alike can see what we're building towards- and it's exciting.

This year we broke new ground on multiple fronts:


  • Wayward Astronomer fulfillment completed to backers- and the first standalone Dreamkeepers novel came to be, with 5-star Amazon ratings.   (Great work Geo!)

  • Plush Whip was our first mass-produced toy product, and we completed delivery to backers.

  • Dreamkeepers SKIRMISH, a brand new original game battle system, was developed with EPF and crowdfunded for production- triggering a glittering avalanche of new art.

  • Vivid helped boost the Kickstarter for UberQuest Volume 2, and hardcovers hit the market at Midwest Furfest, history's largest furry convention.

  • I publicly pointed out the strange dual-market reality in comics- a burgeoning crowdfunding scene of new talent, alongside the tanking Diamond monopoly death zone, where even the ultimate insider Marvel has been forced to begin mass-cancellation of their series.  (See:  Marvel Cancellation Bloodbath on Bleeding Cool)

  • Vivid adopted and crowdfunded FIREBRAT- which surprised even me by it's out-of-nowhere success.


Every gamble scored.   Now my hands are free to double down on Volume 5 production- and it's all thanks to our backers.

That's why, for the first time in history, we're going to change up our book release system. 

Chapter 13 of Volume 5 will be released early online to all our Patreon and MakerSupport backers.

The surge in support from you guys this year has been astonishing- thank you!   We couldn't have continued with our work, and dared launch such an audacious growth strategy, without you.  It's due to your support that we've been able to maintain weekly Prelude updates while nailing these projects, and it's thanks to your support that we'll now be unleashed on Volume 5 production.   So it only stands to reason that you, our backers, should get a special thanks in the form of early access to the first chapter of the story.

https://www.patreon.com/Dreamkeepers
https://www.makersupport.com/Dreamkeepers

Every backer at the $1 level or higher will have access to the Volume 5 updates when they release- likely sometime this spring. 

I have 8 more pages to draw in Chapter 13, then I can switch gears and start shading the pages for you.

Meanwhile, I'll be managing the manufacture and fulfillment of SKIRMISH, Liz is coloring Firebrat pages and sculpting-

And we have more in store for 2018.

First off, FACTION WARS.  We're launching a light, fun public and free Dreamkeepers roleplay game.  I'm serving as the GM for one test game.   Then I'll post videos about how it works, step out, and let you guys manage and play to your heart's content while I continue scribbling Volume 5.

Next up- I'm planning an Online Convention for sometime this spring.   If you've ever wanted signed books or other Dreamkeepers merchandise, but can't make it to our rare convention appearances, then this is for you. 

We have a stash of awesome stuff that I don't sell online, because I don't want to constantly be interrupted with mailing chores.   But if I can consolidate all the mailing into one week, that works- and plus we can host some online panels in the form of streams and such.

The online convention will likely line up with the next Vivid Publishing book campaign- we have a verbal agreement with rising star Boneitis to publish False Start.

So strap in- Vivid Publishing is going to flex again.

And, with the success of this year, I can declare with great accuracy our official slogan:

Dreamkeepers:  The Undisputed Gateway Furry Saga.

Monday, December 18, 2017

SKIRMISH Playmat Sample


After a late stream last night, the playmat art is complete!   Here's a sample.  Tonight I'll carry on with Expansion deck art- Scinter or Tinsel cards. https://picarto.tv/dreamkeepers 

Pre-Orders are still up here:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/dreamkeepers-skirmish-shadow-wars-of-anduruna

Monday, December 11, 2017

Firebrat- Final Hours


Last sample of the campaign- now in the final hours:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/firebrat-graphic-novel-the-true-meaning-of-christm

We crossed 100 backers, and hardcover printing has been unlocked- with foil stamping tantalizingly close.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Chat n Sketch 5 this weekend


We're streaming a Chat-n-Sketch this Saturday December 9th:  https://picarto.tv/dreamkeepers

Should kick off around 3:00pm Eastern time. 

This Chat-n-Sketch is a bit different- instead of taking sketch requests, I'll be shading the epic playmat art for SKIRMISH.  And we don't have a guest itinerary this time- I've been too busy to assemble one, so we're going to let the Discord moderators handle guests on the fly.

I'm especially hopeful Mike Rosen of the just-funded Firebrat Kickstarter can make it, so we can hear his perspective on the book.    Also invited are any of our usual suspects, people who've been on the stream before, or anyone the mods deem interesting.

So we'll see how it goes!  This Chat 'n Sketch could be a bit more relaxed and laid back- or maybe it will erupt into chaos.  Either way, art will be unfolding throughout, and we hope to entertain. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

FIREBRAT: Join Vivid's Good List and Color Overdrive

The campaign continues!   You glorious folks have brought us past 4K- nearly 90% to the goal.  The final showdown lies before us.

To ensure victory, we're officially announcing Vivid Publishing's Good List.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/firebrat-graphic-novel-the-true-meaning-of-christm/posts/2054540

Anyone backing Firebrat at Tier 6 ($45) or higher gets not just the glorious Tier 6 rewards- they also go on Vivid's Good List.

Members of the Good List will be mailed a free signed and numbered Limited Edition copy of Dreamkeepers Volume 4 as soon as the campaign successfully closes.  Only 500 are in existence- and Good List members will receive one.   (Not sure if they'll arrive before Christmas, but we'll ship them right away.)

Plus we'll hook up Backerkit to make all Dreamkeepers titles available as optional add-on purchases, signed by the authors Dave & Liz.    So if you can't make it out to one of the few conventions we attend, this is your chance to snag some signed Dreamkeepers graphic novels.

And one last announcement to fuel the final stretch of our battle against Santa:

Liz has made a declaration. 

All these colored page samples put her over the edge.   Full-color interior pages were a stretch goal- but no more.

Liz has declared that she will singlehandedly color the interior of the book herself, for free.  Because nobody can stop a Liz bent on creativity. 

So without the need to procure freelancers or raise money, Firebrat will now be printed in glorious full color, inside and out- once the campaign is successful.

So if you want a gorgeous first-edition full-color book of viciously sarcastic Christmas fun, not to mention the perks of being on Vivid's Good List, head on over.   https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/firebrat-graphic-novel-the-true-meaning-of-christm

And DON'T TRUST SANTA.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Midwest Furfest Bonanza


We're back from Midwest Furfest- now officially the largest furry con in history, clocking in at over 8,000 attendees.   Next year will it break Vegeta's scouter?

It was a fantastic time meeting with awesome people- Boneitis (aka the World's Greatest Furry Artist) crashed the Dick Show with a furry invasion, although I hear only Reagent was bold enough to flash his tail.  Tracy Butler and Eric premiered the brand new Lackadaisy card game, Vivid authors Skidd and Phuufy debuted Volume 2 of their UberQuest series, we caught up with Kay Fedewa of the Blackblood Alliance, along with Michael of EPF games, the developer of SKIRMISH, Luke of Promcolco (our plush & wallscrolls specialist), and Karen, Izabela, plus more friends and readers than I can feasibly list.   Thank you to everyone who stopped by to say hi and spend some time with us, you made the weekend spectacular.  8 )

And thanks to our amaznig readers for a solid weekend of sales- nearly everything we brought sold out at the table, Volume 2, 3, 4, Wayward Astronomer, and Prelude Collections.

I put myself even further behind in my posting queue- a big batch of convention commissions was nailed.  Maybe Liz can start loading these up in the Daily Artifact Patreon postings.  https://www.patreon.com/Dreamkeepers

Now that we're back, I can attack the final SKIRMISH art needed for production- expansion decks.   It'll be quiet online while I draw, then expect a spurt of streaming- plus a new Chat n Sketch coming up this weekend, featuring Mike Rosen.

And we'll be gearing up for the fateful final week of FIREBRAT- the one-of-a-kind Christmas graphic novel Kickstarter.  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/firebrat-graphic-novel-the-true-meaning-of-christm  It could go either way- but we've got some special offers in mind for the fence-sitters, so stay tuned. 

-David

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

FIREBRAT page 008


Another sample page of FIREBRAT to promote the Kickstarter: 
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/firebrat-graphic-novel-the-true-meaning-of-christm

It's climbed to over 70% funded, with two weeks to go- hardcovers, here we come!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

SKIRMISH Tinsel uncropped


Uncropped art for Side A of Tinsel's SKIRMISH card.   Her deck is built around manipulation and control tactics.  Until her card flips, and things get a little more physical.

We just dropped an art update in the campaign- Pre-Orders are still open:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/dreamkeepers-skirmish-shadow-wars-of-anduruna

And we'll be streaming more SKIRMISH art this afternoon shortly.  https://picarto.tv/dreamkeepers

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

FIREBRAT Page 006


Sharing some pages from the opening scene of Mike Rosen's FIREBRAT- before Christmas gets too terrifying. 

Help us bring this book to life on Kickstarter!  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/firebrat-graphic-novel-the-true-meaning-of-christm #Christmas #cartoon #comics

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

FIREBRAT Kickstarter


Still trusting Santa?  Only one book can save you- 

we just launched the Kickstarter campaign for FIREBRAT:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2083757038/firebrat-graphic-novel-the-true-meaning-of-christm

Unwrap the newest title from Vivid Publishing- fingers crossed we unlock foil stamping & hardcovers.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!


The winning entries have been announced: http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/Halloween.html

Thank you again to every artist and writer who made the Halloween Fanart Contest so spectacularly fun.   
If you haven't seen it yet, treat yourself to the entire gallery, and take note of your favorite artists:  https://dreamkeepers-fans.deviantart.com/gallery/64237462/2017-Halloween-Fan-Art-Contest

Entrants- your free Trick-or-Treat sticker awaits!   Contact Ferrous Studios to have it delivered:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/FerrousEnterprises?ref=shop_sugg

Grand Prize and Runner-Up Winners- e-mail me your shipping address, and I'll get prizes packaged and sent in November.  (Dreamkeeperscomic *at* gmail.com)

If you crave more Halloween horror, take a tour through our archive of seasonal Prelude comics:  http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/HPrelude2009.php
And for yet more horror- unplug, go out in the dark somewhere, listen to the wind in the leaves, and bring a piece of candy in case something finds you and you need a bargaining chip.
Have a great Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

JUDGEMENT DAY


The deadline expired, terror inspired, from blood and sweat and talent a gallery sired:
https://dreamkeepers-fans.deviantart.com/gallery/64237462/2017-Halloween-Fan-Art-Contest

We have the impossible task of choosing winners from this fantastic display- we'll announce the results tomorrrow, but for today, wander the hall of illustrations unfettered by pronouncements.
Just beware what lurks around the corner.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Halloween Threatens- Newsletter update

Assaulting your inbox at the speed of night

Newsletter updates convey only fright

Terrifying links, dead or alive

Your only salvation is to click on "subscribe"

http://mailchi.mp/ee67baef7be9/halloween-threatens

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Halloween Fanart reminder

Enjoy Halloween with some fantastic fanart:

https://dreamkeepers-fans.deviantart.com/art/The-Haunted-House-at-the-Margate-shores-711714743

More in the gallery, deadline for entries getting close. #Halloween #Fanart

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Evil Lilith Sketch of the Month


Patrons- new Sketch of the Month is up:  https://www.patreon.com/posts/sketch-of-month-14873558 

Here's an older one for everyone- seems appropriate for the month of October.  A what-if-Lilith-were-evil theme.  Based on the singed costuming, I'd presume she just healed herself after winning in combat against a fiery opponent.  #Halloween #furry #Nightmare 

Friday, October 13, 2017

BOOOOZE


This year's Trick-or-Treat sticker- BOOOOOOOZE

Everyone who enters the Dreamkeepers Halloween Fanart contest gets a free sticker- and winners, of course, get loot.  https://dreamkeepers-fans.deviantart.com/journal/2017-Contest-Prizes-Announced-709132101

I'm excited to see what everyone comes up with this year!  Some fun entries already emerging in the gallery.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Halloween Prizes announced



Prize time- You can win a Limited Edition signed Volume 4 in this year's Dreamkeepers Halloween Fanart Contest. 

Every entrant gets a trick-or-treat sticker- catch the full prize list here:  https://dreamkeepers-fans.deviantart.com/journal/2017-Contest-Prizes-Announced-709132101

Monday, October 9, 2017

Owls and Ravens...Halloween Decorating is Complete

I can't remember what our Halloween decorations looked like before our 2014 fire, but I do know that repairing the holiday decor for it as well as Christmas became an important goal. 

So for the last two years, I've been building a superior collection of holiday decor that we leave up all of October, replace with a plush turkey for November, and then launch into full-blown trees for December.  I confess to having three trees, a large standard tree - a small blue tree - and a white beaded tree, which is out all year long.  Three trees may sound like a lot, unless you count my Aunt's eight tree collection.  It might be eight.  She misplaced a few last year and isn't quite sure. 

This is completely true.

I've worked with painting plastic horses, reindeer, zebras, and unicorns, but a trip to an archery range with friends was quite the eye opener.  They had decoy animals everywhere.  Even coyotes. 


I know, I know.  The possibilities here are endless.  The croc is $700. by the way and about seven feet long.  Ouch.

The sporting goods store, Cabela's displayed a fantastic range of animals from geese to ducks to turkey, etc.  Just stating the facts here.

And a note: Hallmark has a bird ornament collection, 'The Beauty of Birds' that I don't collect.  But in 2016, they made a gorgeous owl ornament in the same vein, and complimented it this year with a 'Ravishing Raven' for Halloween.


I started to watch Hallmark like a hawk.  I couldn't get enough of this owl.  I love the colors so much.  I was obsessed with this color choice and searched Hallmark for more Halloween owl merchandise for two years.  While they did release a miniature owl ornament in the same colors this year, I was quite disappointed about the overall lack of owl.  There was not enough owl and it was sad.

The only solution was to make some inspired art.  This is the sporting goods decoy owl I chose.  Some have heads that turn, but this was a solid piece.  Sent a pic to Dave and he didn't think I was serious.

 That is the face of serious.

This owl stands about two feet tall.  To get the thicker gold rims, I used a combination of puffy paint, glue gun, and gold paint.  The stars are glued on, there's a gloss finish that should withstand the weather.

Final result.  The sporting goods store also had two crow decoys at the time.  We love crows/ravens so much, at one point Dave and I were pursuing the ownership of an African Pied Crow, but settled on the conure parrots instead.  Same technique for the raised gold, plus gems glued on.

Crows drying.


The three birds took about two days to complete, mostly because of the layers of paint drying from each glue level.  I'm very pleased with them.  Gems glued on too, of course.  Once Halloween is over, they'll be a delight in decorating storage.  And as for Halloween night, we have something different in mind, might share a few photos here once it's set up.  And each bird has our address on the bottom, just in case they try to fly away, but I think we're fine.  Happy spooking!  - Liz


Sunday, October 8, 2017

CCA and Troika ranking system & military structure

NOTES:
What follows is an outline of the unit hierarchy /command structure for CCA units.  This hierarchy was assisted by conversations with military personnel.   Thank you to contributors for their insight- any misunderstandings inherent here are mine and not theirs.


First, an overall note on Anduruna and military structure at the present point in the story.   

They haven't had an official military for centuries because, as far as the populace is concerned, there are no significant foreign states to comprise a threat.   There is one that the government is aware of, but a longstanding treaty and significant distance has kept things amiable for all of living memory.   So the CCA has developed more as a police force than a military one, and the Troika are essentially reinventing things from the ground up.


HIERARCHY:

CCA Platoon:
18 members
2 Squads of 8 men each.
2 Fireteams of 4 men each form each squad.
One member of each fire team is a Fire Team Leader, and one member of each squad is also the Squad leader. 
1 Platoon Commander
1 Transportation officer to handle the Gnossus & troop carrier.

If multiple platoons are deployed their sergeants are commanded in the field by a Lieutenant.
District lieutenants are commanded by a district Major who generally does not deploy.
District Majors are under the command of the office of Guard Captain of Anduruna.

District Major offices have administrative staff, some of which may carry the rank of lieutenant even though they are not combat personnel.  These include liasons with local police forces, CCA detective units (distinct from local law enforcement), internal affairs, and various necessary bureaucratic positions. 

The office of the Guard captain has administrative staff, some of which carry the rank of lieutenant or even colonel- placing colonels higher in rank than the Majors who command districts.  Various roles include those within the local district offices, and additional unnecessary bureaucratic positions due to constantly increasing annual budgets. 

The shock troopers do not answer to local law enforcement or local civic bodies, and take their orders directly from the Central City Authority offices of the Guard Captain.  This said, district shock troopers work closely with local law enforcement by necessity- most local branches are prohibited from deploying lethal force or possessing lethal weaponry, with rare exceptions licensed after much paperwork- so the shock troopers are a necessary but unaccountable component of law enforcement at the local level.

Local law enforcement tends to be comprised of 'officers,' and the term 'officer' is often used colloquially for anyone in uniform / CCA combat roles.

Formal Titles:
Shock trooper:  Private
Fire Team Leader: Corporal
Squad Leader: Corporal
Platoon Commander: Sergeant (Colloquially: Commander)
Transportation officer:  Officer.

Field Commander: Lieutenant
District Commander: Major
Head of the CCA troopers:  Guard Captain.

Gnossus are numbered, and naming them is prohibited- although this rule is often ignored, and not strictly enforced. 

The shock troopers also utilize an animal which has a highly developed sense of smell in their detective division.  (Note:  Not ryuu-nekos?  Maybe something we haven't developed yet.)

As for the Troika:

Their structure is currently dispersed.  Prior to the start of Prelude, they had a more cohesive structure- but they were compromised, and the organization suffered catastrophic damage.

The survivors have rebuilt it- but in a different manner.  There are very few central characters with access to relevant information about local leaders- Scinter, Igrath.  They could be designated as generals. 
Directly below them are lieutenants.  Characters like Vi, Bobby, Tia...   Local leaders.    After an initial training period, the lieutenants occasionally meet up at the remote bases for training exercises.   But never all the lieutenants at the same meeting- only Scinter and Igrath could list everyone. 

The lieutenants then recruit more Troika members from their respective communities, and seed independent cells of operatives, trained by the lieutenants.  In addition to these cells are a number of direct operatives and sleeper agents recruited, one way or another, by Scinter, Nainso, and Igrath, riddling the CCA power structure. 

The general Troika strategy is to train in secret and gather intel on Dark Dreamkeepers that have infiltrated the CCA- so, when the time arrives, they can execute simultaneous strikes to kill their antagonists, and take the Troika public to serve as a defense force against the oncoming Nightmares. 

Once public, their plan is to implement a loose hierarchy of responsibilities among the lieutenants- one of the primary ones being to train citizens, en masse in the use of their powers, to create an army capable of repelling a large-scale nightmare assault. 


The general contrasts between the CCA and Troika:

The CCA is more about top-down command and obedience within an established hierarchy.  Initiative is often discouraged, as liability is a concern and obedience is prized.

The Troika, by contrast, foster initiative and responsibility among their operatives, by necessity.  Their lieutenants and soldiers have to be capable of operating unsupported and, if comms are cut, undirected.  So the Troika organization has grown to utilize discrete cells, and even after going public, their general operational structure will be to enable decentralized action.   CCA troopers are trained to execute orders- whereas Troika are trained to achieve objectives.

Now, here's where it gets a bit messy.   So the Troika will have a handful of generals at the top, determining overall strategy.  But when you have hundreds of lieutenants directly below them, how best to communicate those strategic aims?   Will they need to integrate another layer of command structure above the lieutenant level to keep things organized?  Because of the decentralized nature of their organization, I'm not sure how something like that could be optimally organized- if at all.   

One other note to share, regarding the Troika strategy after they go public.

Their forces will be generally divided into two categories.

One category will be primarily tasked with training, organizing, and leading the civilians as a rough militia force. 

The second category will be primarily a combat unit, comprised of the trained soldiers and few to zero civilian recruits. 

While the militia forces will see combat, they'll be in more of supportive or defensive roles, with the elite Troika units acting as spearhead assault and special operations forces.





September Patreon Q&A

Friday, October 6, 2017

Faction War- Create Your Character

Get ready for Faction War.

We're testing out a new roleplay system- I ramble about it here.  Jump ahead and create your character in 6 easy steps:  https://youtu.be/kJaF77A3TuM?t=9m35s

The goal is to have a light, fast, fun roleplay that fields hundreds of players to participate in the same story- while putting them into a close-knit team of allies. 

You can, of course, die. 

We're taking volunteers.

I'm looking for maybe 16-20 players who want to try this out- preference is being given to existing community moderators.   The idea is that anyone interested in moderating jumps into this test game to learn the system-I'll make a video for every stage of the game to explain how it works.  Then, after our test is complete, the mods will take it public and run the show.

 If you're interested, DM us in Discord:  https://discordapp.com/invite/0119hlzTKxn9xDjvy  The game will be hosted on a special Discord server that is being set up now.

Character sheet templates and the full rules  are available here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TbzmMEcYrBOLW3bQyBd0JkAWzb3ipe5tlG3VQ8rcXNQ/edit?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-nsNunMwFGYY1dWRGhtN05SRjQ/view?usp=sharing 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

DREAMKEEPERS the Movie

Dreamkeepers on Castalia House

Need an introduction to Dreamkeepers?   We were invited to write one for Castalia House:  http://www.castaliahouse.com/dreamkeepers/ Swing on over and peruse the pitch.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

#ComicsRevolution- Insurgency

#ComicsRevolution- Insurgency. Check out our latest article on the Castalia House blog: http://www.castaliahouse.com/comics-revolution-the-insurgency/


Saturday, September 16, 2017

12th Annual Halloween Fanart Contest


Like a cursed killer, it's returning yet again- the most spooktacular Fanart contest in all the land, the 12th annual Dreamkeepers Halloween Fanart Contest.
Every entrant gets a trick-or-treat sticker, produced by the fantastic Ferrous Enterprises. 

And more prizes await- one grand prize and two runner-ups in each category:  Funniest, Creepiest, Sexiest, Best Art, Best Costume, Best Comic, Extra-Dimensional, and Writing.

Runner up & grand prizes to-be-announced.

Catch the rules and details on entering here:  http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/HalloweenRules.html

Entries must be submitted in the proper DA gallery by  9am October 30th, and we'll announce winners on Halloween Day. 
Prepare yourself- because there are things you can never un-see lurching onto your screen this Halloween.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Firebrat- Teaser 3


Our third teaser image for the upcoming 'Firebrat' graphic novel. Coming from Vivid Publishing via Kickstarter this November.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Castalia House article

#Comics in crisis- we target the opportunities latent within the present chaos. Thank you @CastaliaHouse for hosting our article:   http://www.castaliahouse.com/comics-revolution-the-crisis/  #Marvel #ComicsRevolution

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Find the Whisperer

#FindTheWhisperer - @ComicsRKewel lets me crash their latest Podcast, where I reveal the secret history of Diamond.  http://slackjawpunks.com/comics-r-kewel-ep-47-lets-talk-diamond-feat-david-pepose/

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Today's Art-ifact

We've started sharing unposted art every day for Patreon backers- Turns out we have hundreds of these. 

Why do we have so much unposted art archived?

It's been building up for years- sketches, concepts, Kickstarter drawings mailed to one backer...  Posting stuff on all our social media & art accounts takes time- upwards of a half hour to post one image everywhere, setting up the different keywords and categories and everything.    So drawings have been building up.

But Liz just recently discovered she can schedule a whole week's worth of posts in maybe 30 minutes for Patreon.   And, hell- these are the people keeping Dreamkeepers viable, so if we only have the time to post them in one place, I guess it'll be there.  Thank you to the backers, for keeping us productive, and giving us an easier outlet to start releasing all this extra art!

Here's one featuring Vi:  https://www.patreon.com/posts/todays-art-ifact-13963803

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Double Vision: Death, Hope, and Diamond

To highlight the brainless punch line that is the current state of affairs in the comics industry, let's examine two problems side by side.

First a stores problem- then a creators problem.

Comic stores are in fear of mass closings. 

This seems to fly in the face of the public numbers and press releases.  Diamond Comics, the monolith that effectively controls distribution, claims ever-higher sales in their shareholder-friendly industry reports.  http://www.comichron.com/vitalstatistics/alltime.html

Sales that just get better and better, how splendid.

Joe Field @flycojoe
Word on the street is there will be a round of #comics shop closings in early '17. Only the support of fans can prevent that! 6/8 pic.twitter.com/nxmABGfjOK
https://twitter.com/flycojoe/status/806702181004951552

A recent newsletter from Vault of Midnight stated 2016 has been their lowest year in sales since the Great Recession.   But this contradicts a rush of happy-talk publicity from Publishers Weekly and other industry outlets, who glowingly claim more comic stores (certainly not gaming stores!) than ever before are rising.

Are these concerned comic store owners simply confused?  Perhaps their accounting is off.   Diamond reports that sales are dynamite!

Of course, not one of those Diamond sales figures necessarily means that a customer actually bought a comic.

Diamond's figures only document bulk sales to the stores themselves.

And- funny little detail- Diamond mandates that shops order a high mandatory minimum for every single title they want to stock.   If you have a smaller store that will only sell three copies of the latest She-Hulk?  Too bad.  You're buying a whole box or you get nothing. 

And surprise- Diamond will then refuse to accept returns for any unsold merchandise.  Because what could be the harm in offloading 100% of the risk to the little guy?

"...all merchandise is sold by DCD on a non-returnable basis unless otherwise authorized
in writing by DCD."  https://retailer.diamondcomics.com/support/retailer_docs/newaccts/diamondtos.pdf

So you see, Diamond can brag about going gangbusters while stores are simply going bust.   

...I'm beginning to understand why this reddit exists.  https://www.reddit.com/r/diamondsucks/

"This one startled me a little bit, but I’ve heard multiple stories about the customers, including regulars, dropping out..."  "...Enough people are agreeing this is happening for me to believe it, but the “why” is up for debate."  Todd Allen, http://www.comicsbeat.com/why-are-the-comics-retailers-worried-about-mass-store-closings/

With the superhero crowd fading- for whatever reason- stores desperately need a fresh injection of new readers.

New readers!   What a coincidence, that's exactly the problem so many online creators are grappling with currently.

Because you see, there isn't one comics market.  There are two. 

The world of comics today exists in two parallel dimensions which do not overlap. 

When I started Vivid Publishing a decade ago, I called for the rise of a new market ( http://vividstuff.blogspot.com/2009/04/article-6-action-road-to-new-market.html ) and it has arrived.

There's the world of comic shops- and the world of crowdfunders.

Crowdfunding has spurred a genuine renaissance- young creators, new visions, new books, and a voraciously supportive mob of enthused new readers.

Patreon, IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and similar platforms are fostering the next generation of talent.  From the near- infinite churn of untrammeled creative experimentation in the cauldron of webcomics, viable careers are emerging, surging forth on ascendant standout works of art.    Beautiful, captivating books- produced with professional touches that include hardcover, spot-foil and embossing.  The art, story and production quality of renaissance creators is pristine, thanks to the support of the readers in the crowdfunding market.

But therein lies one of the biggest challenges facing crowdfunding creators- actually delivering their books to customers.   There is not yet an infrastructure to make packaging, storage, fulfillment, and marketing easy- not to mention some kind of full-time platform to focus on sales, while the creators can focus on creating.

Rather, creators have to tackle these logistical issues single-handedly, or by assembling a patchwork of ad-hoc companies to fill in the gaps.

Fortunately readers love the books enough to fund them, and vault past these hurdles. 

Partially because the books produced are often vastly more accessible to new readers:  Standalone stories and coherent series, rather than the tangled, inextricably cross-referenced swarms of content endlessly spreading from Marvel and DC.

But Marvel and DC are basically all the comic stores have-within their brick walls, you'd never know the glimmering crowdfunding market even exists. 

So those are the two problems, in the two separate markets:

We have a thriving crowdfunding market missing vital infrastructure to assist getting books from creators to readers, and we have a comic shop landscape starving for new books and readers.

Books that need stores and stores that need books.

This is a real simple problem to solve- isn't it?

There's one rock-hard ossified obstacle lodged between retailers and hope:

Diamond Comics Distribution.

Diamond is, in the words of underground journalist Jude Terror, a "distribution monopoly [that] enables Marvel and DC to churn out endless gimmick-based garbage to dwindling readership with no economic repercussions because they control the entire market."  https://twitter.com/judeterror

Let those last words sink in- they control the entire market. 

But it gets worse- not only do they control the ring, but they have a dog in the fight.

Diamond eliminated the competition and seized control of the entire comics market during the brutal Exclusivity Wars in the mid 1990's.  There used to be dozens of other distributors serving comic shops-

And they were all mercilessly crushed.

TLDR history here: http://vividstuff.blogspot.com/2008/12/article-3-score-one-for-idiocy-aka.html

Very strange timing for those Exclusivity Wars.  In the old field with more distributors and more indie publishers- you know, this little thing called "competition"- DC and especially Marvel were seeing a cataclysmic drop in their market share. 

http://www.comichron.com/vitalstatistics/marketsharesyearly.html

They were going down, and going down fast.

But poof- like magic!   After the trade war and their insider deals with Diamond, that frown turned upside down.  Their market share trend immediately, dramatically, and permanently spiked upwards.

Have you ever wondered why Marvel and DC seem to be so ubiquitous in stores, while anything different struggles and slips off the shelves?

Because Diamond not only controls the market, but has an incentive to tilt it in favor of their exclusive business partners.   Hard.

Diamond has engineered special advantages for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image- acting as their exclusive sales agent and rigging an insider discount structure, easier profit thresholds, and uncontested premium placement in their PREVIEWS catalog. 

These insider kickbacks were agreed upon when they murdered the competing distributors, and all shook hands together over their graves.  Who wants to bet there was a lightning strike in the background?

This exclusive relationship places perverse incentives in place.  Diamond cuts their logistical headaches working with a few huge companies, and makes more profit.   They want to keep Marvel and DC from looking at greener pastures- and they have total control over the retail landscape.   So they make sure it's landscaped just special for Marvel and DC, without any viable competition having a chance to erode their agreed-upon market share.

For decades now the Diamond monopoly has curated, for itself and its special interests, a withering, impenetrable market. 

I'm all for capitalism- but the Achilles heel of the system is the tendency to devolve into a stagnant monopoly with no competition.   And the comic industry now is feeling the frustrating crystallization of life within an unchallenged monopoly.

I think it might be high time for just a little challenging.

Those of us creating, reading, and selling comics can do better.  We can successfully bypass Diamond and bring new life to comic shops.  Together we can implement a rescue system- we're producing a video about one possible solution, the ComicShopList.  A decentralized, modular, crowdsourced pre-order catalog that incurs no financial risk to store owners.

But the simple truth is, nobody gets motivated to solve a problem they don't even perceive.  Most readers have never even heard of Diamond Distribution.  They don't understand why comic shops always seem to be struggling.

Most creators just take it for granted that their customers are all online, and they write off comic shops as inaccessible without really considering why.  So let's talk about why.

Let's talk about Diamond!

After all this time, after their uncontested dominance and control ,and in light of these chronic industry problems, isn't it fair to think that perhaps we could have the temerity to ask a few questions, and get a few answers?  Isn't answering a few questions the least they could do?

Questions like, exactly how much are the exclusive advantages worth that Marvel and DC enjoy?  What are the precise rates, factoring in the accrued marketing value of the preferential Previews placements, what rates do they make outside authors pay, and how many smaller publishers have gone out of business during Diamond's reign?

Questions like, didn't anyone think it was the least bit creepy for their logo to be a rendition of  the entire planet earth locked within an angular prison?

Questions like, why did they raise the minimum profit benchmarks for smaller publishers in recent years, and who was involved with the US Justice Department investigation of Diamond in the late 90's?

But Diamond doesn't seem to be in the business of answering questions- not even for journalists.   Their entire PR department couldn't be bothered to provide a comment for a recent Bezinga article discussing the fallout of Diamond's monopoly.

"Sullivan is among an almost unanimity of comic book retailers who say Diamond is bad news. Retailers must pre-order a set number of issues, which makes new titles a gamble. Everybody orders "Spider-Man" or "Batman," naturally."
https://www.benzinga.com/general/politics/17/06/9622653/the-life-and-death-of-the-american-comic-book-shop-how-a-distributor-

And one big question we should all be asking:

What did they do to the "Comics Whisperer?"

Because, you see, someone else DID try to set up an alternate distribution service. 

And they promptly vanished.

https://www.facebook.com/ComicsWhisperer/posts_to_page?ref=page_internal