By Filip Sablik, Publisher of Top Cow Productions, Inc.
Like most people in the US, I was stunned and horrified by the horrible damage suffered by the people of Haiti after they were hit with a 7.0 earthquake last week. And like many, I did what I could do to aid in the disaster relief efforts by donating to a worthy charity. It got me thinking, why do we wait until a disaster to help out the little guy?
Would the people of Haiti be suffering in the same way now if we had been proactive in helping their improvised nation raise their standard of living and infrastructure? In this Op-Ed from the New York Times, David Brooks points out that a similar earthquake in San Francisco killed 63 people as opposed to the 72,000 reported killed in Haiti by CNN. Brooks suggests that the tragedy in Haiti is a result of poverty, not a natural disaster. Further more, we aren’t tackling the problem in the most effective manner.
Now, I’m not an economist, sociologist, or even a politician; I’m just a guy who makes comics. I don’t have any answers for problems of this scale. Any attempt I might make to suggest solutions would be hubris on my part.
I also want to be very clear. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t donate generously to the relief efforts. You should. You can find a list of ways you can help HERE. You can also support Heroes4Haiti, a relief effort by comic artist and the comic industry.
But why do we wait until over 70,000 people die in Haiti before mobilizing into action?
Is it part of human nature? Or something inherent about living in a country where despite economic hardship, we’re all living comfortably compared to much of the rest of the world?
This train of thought brought me to other parallels (albeit smaller in scale and importance). Two weeks ago, NBC announced they were moving Jay Leno back into his old time slot at 11:30, which forced Conan O’Brien to step down from the Tonight Show. There was a great outcry of online support for Conan from fans. Everyone wondered how NBC could possibly take Conan off the air. Well, I suspect if everyone who had rallied for Conan last week had been watching his show for the last six months, perhaps his job would have been secure.
Or when Fox threatened to take Dollhouse off the air after its first season. Fans grabbed their pitchforks and torches, and Fox agreed to renew the show for a second season. When ratings didn’t increase, they canceled the show.
I hear people complain all of the time about how there aren’t more smaller, smarter films and why we’re flooded with big films with the same ten actors, aimed firmly at the lowest common denominator. It’s simple dollars and cents, folks. You vote with your wallet when you go to the theater to see Avatar rather than Up in the Air.
It happens in our industry as well. Truly innovative and interesting series end up relegated to “wait for trade” status. But here’s the rub, if the individual issue sales for a series are low enough, the publisher may be forced to cancel it, which means there may never be a trade.
Budgets are tight and difficult choices need to be made. Perhaps the next time you are at your local comic shop and you have the latest top 10 selling title in one hand and a smaller, under-represented title in the other, you can put the blockbuster back on the shelf. It’ll be there next week. And there will certainly be a trade, a hardcover, and an over-sized edition. That other book however may not be there next month without your support.
I get it. Heck, I’m guilty of it too. I want to see how the big event series or blockbuster film is, so I can talk about it around the coffee machine. I’ve been burned by supporting TV shows, comics, and magazines that get axed before their time. I know the sting of getting invested and never getting a satisfactory ending for my investment. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support those efforts.
So in conclusion, give generously and be proactive about supporting the little guy. Go ahead and “wait for the trade,” but do it on the blockbusters.
Filip Sablik is the Publisher of Top Cow Productions, Inc. He’s been in the business for ten years and is in his thirties. Occasionally, he does a bit of writing and drawing. He loves comics. Top Cow Productions, Inc. was founded by Marc Silvestri, co-founder of Image Comics. Top Cow currently publishes its line of comic books in 21 languages in over 55 different countries. The company has launched 20 franchises (18 original and two licensed) in the industry’s Top 10, seven at #1, a feat accomplished by no other publisher in the last two decades.