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Black Friday Comes Early: FCBD Organizers Exclude Publishers Not Meeting Price Point

*This news stories was submitted by freelance journalist and independent popular culture scholar Michele Brittany.

Black Friday came early to the comic book community today. Many of us woke to the news that Rebellion Publishing’s planned 2000 AD 48-page oversized issue for Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) 2016 was rejected. As the day wore on, the list grew to include ComixTribe and Alterna Comics. As the dust clears, it appears the decision to omit or force prior years’ publishers out of the running for the 2016 lineup comes down to money.

In an official statement from Rebellion Publishing, “2000 AD is very proud of the success of our FCBD issue, which saw orders grow in huge jumps every single year, exceeding 60,000 units in 2015. We value FCBD, and the effort Diamond and the retailers put into making the day so successful, for the opportunity to support comic book stores, reach out to new audiences both within and beyond the UK, and to give something extra to readers. As such, we have proudly and routinely commissioned original content from top flight talent for our FCBD issues and increased the page count to a hefty 48 pages.”

Alterna Comics Founder Peter Simeti tweeted earlier today, “Diamond definitely has its faults, but they’re just the messenger here for the decisions that ComicsPro makes on FCBD.” He suggested a “pre-solicit survey” where comic book retailers could complete an online vote for the books they want. He based this idea on the fact that, “Retailers are all independent shops. They aren’t chains. So, why the hell should ComicsPro decide anything for them? No sense.”

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Although Co-Creator/Publisher of ComixTribe Tyler James has not made a public statement, he wrote a lengthy article at ComixTribe’s website titled “What Free Comic Book Day Means to a Small Publisher” dated May 4, 2014. In the post, he explained the impact FCBD has for small (and independent) publishers. James described, “It’s a struggle to get even 10% of Diamond retail accounts to order a single copy of ComixTribe books for their shelves. Our FCBD books get stocked by 70-80% of retailers.” Further down the article, he cited that publishers were expected to target their per-issue cost to between 20 and 30 cents to participating retailers.

The Free Comic Book Day website states that FCBD, which was established in 2002, “Celebrates the independent comic book specialty shops.” The website further explains that FCBD is “administered by a panel representing all parts of the comic book industry: retailers; publishers; suppliers; and Diamond Comic Distributors. Each year, publishers apply to provide comic books at cost to retailers, who in turn give them away for free.” The comics offered fall into Gold and Silver Comics; the lists for 2016 have not been released yet.

For the 2015 FCBD, the following twelve publishers made up the Gold Comics, and all were 32 pages in length: Archie Comics Publications; Bongo Comics; BOOM! Studios; Dark Horse Comics; DC Comics; Dynamite Entertainment; IDW Publishing; Image Comics; Marvel Comics; Titan Comics; United Plankton Pictures; and Viz Media. Silver Comics includes a further 38 sponsored comics.

FCBD provides smaller publishers the opportunity to introduce new and/or long-time comic book readers to books they might otherwise pass up. The same could be said of local comic book shop retailers, who are more apt the rest of the year to limit their monthly orders to titles that will sell, rather than to invest in an unknown title.

Questions and concerns are forming: What will the lineup be for Gold and Silver comics? Which publishers will be able to meet the expected retailer price, but still offer an amazing FCBD issue that will entice new readers? It would seem a foregone conclusion that the bigger, mainstream publishers will have the advantage over the small and independent publishers. And, given that FCBD has become a global event, how will the decisions of the committee impact the international community?

While he understands that the larger publishers keeps Diamond in business, James voiced what a lot of smaller publishers feel, “All the rest of us want a shot. A chance to tell our stories, entertain readers, and not go broke in the process.”

Rebellion Publishing is still planning to publish the issue they proposed for FCBD 2016. Rebellion Publishing stated, “We have […] taken the decision to still bring this amazing work out in May 2016 in a new Summer Special issue, full details of which will be forthcoming.” Their issue will include contributions from Eric Powell, Joelle Jones, and Laura and Mike Allred and will be joined by several others. “We very much hope to be back in FCBD in 2017 and will be working hard for that to happen.” 




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