Speakeasy Update

Speakeasy has recently come under much criticism for … oh, a whole laundry list of things. Read my original post at the link for details.

Now Rich Johnston, Speakeasy creator, has interviewed Adam Fortier, Speakeasy publisher, in an attempt to get answers to some of the concerns raised. The piece starts with a summary of Fortier’s resume, mostly high points and praise. After that, in response to valid questions, the answers are all maybes and “it’s possible… on the other hand” and in short, nothing’s his fault.

Marketing gaps are blamed on Newsarama and Wizard not doing interviews when asked and retailers not responding to mass emails. (Apparently, a general lack of awareness of Speakeasy’s titles is because retailers ignore spam.) Fortier “can’t guarantee coverage” when retailers and fans are “more interested in some [titles] more than others, it’s a simple fact of life”. Well, then, let’s just shrug and move on.

Creators should trust that Speakeasy isn’t going to cut sweetheart deals with partner Ardustry because “It would be the dumbest bloody thing to do,” although being dumb doesn’t seem to have prevented some of their other decisions.

Fortier’s responses aren’t followed up on by the interviewer. What about the perception by creators and readers that Speakeasy is flooding the market with too many titles? That question wasn’t asked. What about poor retailer reaction to the idea of finishing miniseries online? Nope, not that either.

Johnston then goes into a he said/he said between a creator who claims Speakeasy owes his studio $35,000 and Fortier, who says they were late and provided poor quality work. Fortier continues, “When they were fired I told them flat out I was going to use the initial money they were owed to pay the people that I had to bring in to fix all their f*** ups, and they would get paid out of the TPBs as we had agreed upon early on.” Which seems to be an admission that he didn’t pay them what he owed them at the time the work was delivered. Then comes a bit about he’s a standup guy who always pays his debts, yadda yadda, and implications that the people he’s arguing with are hypocrites.

Wasn’t that another of CrossGen’s tactics, calling people names when they asked for payment due?


12 Responses to “Speakeasy Update”

  1. Rich Johnston Says:

    And phone calls apparently.

    The whole interview was follow ups. Flooding the market questions were asked, and poor retailer reaction to series finishing online was raised last week, after Fortier announced the new policy.

    As the he says/she says thing goes, Fortier also disputes the financial claim made by quoting dates and figures.

  2. Jonathan Says:

    Quoting dates and figures doesn’t mean they’re true. I’m sure the unpaid artists could quote plenty of dates and figures, Rich.

    No shock that you basically let Fortier — YOUR PUBLISHER — have the last word.

    I agree with the CrossGen comparison. Chuck Sterlee’s post on Jinxworld is especially troubling.

  3. Johanna Says:

    You mean this one? Where he says

    My association with Speakeasy has been decent on a personal level and disastrous on a professional level…. We turned in projects on time but that just didn’t seem to matter. The books still found a way to come out late. That is damn frustrating and I never received a acceptable answer for the delays….

    We have to spend a certain amount on a fee. Then we are also charged for printing and another amount for the ad in Previews (which nobody reads anyway for the most part). The fee is my biggest question mark.

    I did the following:
    I marketed my books at my expense.
    I procured all of my own interviews (except one for silverbulletcomics).
    I paid my own talent. (artists, etc…)
    I had my book pre-pressed
    I paid my own travel expenses
    I paid for Speakeasy ( a good percentage) parties
    I procured banners for them
    I delivered my books on time

    Here is what I got for the fee
    Late shipments
    Almost non-existent accounting (even after several requests)
    No marketing support
    Almost non-existent communication
    No proofs or blue-lines … I cannot tell you how many printing errors there have been in Speakeasy books. It is a major reason for late shipments. Rocketo #2 had an upside down back cover and a senior member of the staff told him that “nobody would notice” but Frank insisted on the reprinting.

    All of this said, I have had financing problems but I fixed them now. I have been shopping for another publisher and I found one. In fact, I am very happy at my new place and I am not the only Speakeasy creator to jump. I can tell you that I know of four to five others who are planning to jump to other publishers….

    Their contract, which I am not allowed to divuldge due to a NDA I signed, has many stated duties that they are supposed to do as a explanation for their fee. They have, at last count, been in breach (IMO) of almost 11 of these duties.

    Wow. I repeat the key question: what exactly does this publisher DO for the creators and books it puts out?

  4. Jonathan Says:

    Yes. And the bits where he says he’s paid for organizing the Speakeasy San Diego Con party.

    Certainly from the surface, it really looks like Fortier just used everybody to build a “company,” then turned around and sold it, and left everyone else holding the bag.

  5. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    As a retailer, I thought they had a good start, only a handfull of books, all of which looked to have potential. I contacted them about things and would hear back fairly quickly. A few months later, when I contacted them I’d wait a long time to hear back. More and more books showed up under their imprint, and the ones we’d already ordered seemed to take longer and longer to arrive. I know one of the creators whose work was originallly under their imprint (Sal Abbinanti), and he had said they did little to help promote his book–he had to do most of it, plus they didn’t get it out on time, and they would market his book, which wasn’t designed to be “all age” in other books that were all age, and vice versa, which didn’t really make a lot of sense. So, even though he was supposed to keep the book there until issue #7, he moved it to his own imprint for issue #5. We have ordered few of their newest books, and are very disapointed (as are our customers) with series that have been going a bit longer that seem to never show up. If there is one thing that turns of fans of a book, it’s excessive lateness – they just forget about it and move on. Then we retailers have to do the same, and we hesitate to order new books from that publisher because we expect the same results. It is VERY disapointing to see them go down the CrossGen path, but ai agree that that’s a fair comparison.

  6. Rich Johnston Says:

    No shock indeed. I was the first person to print Dub’s very critical piece online. I also thought it prudent to allow a right-to-reply. I always do, whatever the publisher. In this case, Fortier replied rather than clam up, as is the usual model.

    I can’t see how you’re painting me as some kind of Speakeasy shill when I confronted the CEO if Speakeasy with damning allegations from a known name in the industry – when no one else was even mentioning them.

    And the point I was making about the figures is that you quoted Dub’s figures, without mentioning Fortier’s challenge to them, from the same article. And Dub did quote dates and figures – I printed them. In the same article. Don’t go all Drudge Report on me here.

    As for Speakeasy, they published The Flying Friar. Solicited it, fronted the funds, dealt with printers, advertising, distributors, retailers, and I retain total ownership. I did my usual marketing furore as well – in this case LITG, Catholic press, Newsarama, and lined up media outlets with my best Mark Millar impersonation.

    I didn’t expect any more. I’m pleased that a comic that I’m very happy with will be published. I hope you enjoy it too.

    I have no developing projects with Speakeasy, and have nothing planned. But on the basis of Flying Friar, I’d have no hesitation in considering Speakeasy amongst many, if I do have anything that might suit.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Lisa, that’s very similar to the experience I had. I requested preview copies (as PDFs, so no expense to the company in mailing or anything) several months back of books I expressed a likely interest in, and my email was completely ignored.

    And yes, I agree with you (if I’m not putting words in your mouth) that the biggest problem is that screw-ups like this make it harder for the next guy who’s trying to do the right thing. Retailers justifiably operate in a “once burned, twice shy” mode.

  8. markus Says:

    @Rich
    I’m fine with the Grafiksismik vs. Fortier exchange. It’s lazy he said – she said journalism, but even the NYT and WaPo are guilty of that at times so it’s unreasonable to expect more from a rumour column. (There is however no reason to pat your own shoulder for “confronting (Fortier) with damning allegations” that were out there anyway when you make no attempt to verify them either way. It’s simply asking for comment.)

    The frustrating bits are the questions before. Fortier equivokates every time and there’s no follow up. The simplest and non-controversial follow-up in each case would have been to either ask whether the current situation prompted a policy change (e.g. concerning number of titles) or what exactly was done (how many retailer contacts established, how many positive, how many offers to Newsarama etc.)

  9. Rich Johnston Says:

    I’m not patting my own shoulder. I’m defending myself from an ungrounded accusation.

    The allegations were only being circulated through certain comics professionals, which is how I was made aware of them.

    Every answer was followed by a followup question.

  10. Steve-o Says:

    That guy Adam Fortier have his head implanted firmly in his ass from the sound of it. When he says his life has been miserable because of artists “he did not pay”, does he think nobody know he is driving a Mercedes SUV and that he owns a 3 floor house in downtown Toronto? (Not exactly a cheap area, last I heard)

    I can’t help but remember he was previously CEO of Dreamwave Productions. You know, that “other” poorly managed company that wasn’t paying freelance artists, printers and whatnot…

    At least Pat Lee was never seen online dissing the freelancers he screwed up.

  11. Rich Johnston Says:

    Fortier left Dreamwave well before there was the remotest example of freelancers or staff not being paid.

    I’d have loved it if Pat Lee had answered the allegations put against him. But Dreamwave refused to comment, and then put out word demanding that message boards remove content posted by ex-employees.

  12. rieber Says:

    my two cents’ worth:

    it was commendable of rich to broach the issue, pose the question, and to give both parties the opportunity to state their positions in a public forum.

    i don’t think the item was presented as being an in-depth analysis of the situation, or a researched piece of journalism. so i wouldn’t hold rich’s feet to the fire on the grounds that the material is basically he-said-she-said stuff.

    i would like to think that rich recognizes that while his own positive experiences with speakeasy might be typical, they might not be. with no disrespect intended to anyone involved–if i were a comic publisher, i’d do everything i could to make sure that i treated rich fairly. rich has one of those voices that carries.

    i’d be very hesitant to label rich as a speakeasy ‘shill’ at this point. but until this situation (and maybe a few others) are clearly resolved, i wish he’s consider declaring a moratorium on calling fortier ‘the smartest man in comics’. that does creep me out a little, personally. there are a lot of smart people working in the industry, after all.

    i’d hate to see rich recuse himself from further discussion of the topic. a lot of the more interesting points of the speakeasy/grafik situation have yet to be addressed, i believe.




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