Speakeasy Cancels Titles

From the Riot blog, posted by a retailer (link no longer available):

every single Speakeasy title that I ordered over the past two months has been cancelled…. it’s obvious to me that the publisher is going the way of Dreamwave, CrossGen, and all the other “hey, let’s try something NEW and DIFFERENT” dodo publishers.

Speakeasy tried to do too much too soon. Instead of building an audience for four or five titles over the course of a year and then introducing a new one every three months or so, they chose to flood the market with a dozen indiscernible titles and absolutely no support. Comics, as a medium, are definitely not of the “build it and they will come” variety. You need to offer previews, garner positive reviews, spread the word and plan events if you want your comics to succeed.

Someone who seems to have some kind of official role with the company responds in the comments

Speakeasy is currently in the middle of restructuring it’s [sic] line. You will see less creator owned [sic] books as the company moves toward licensed properties with built in audiences.

That’s what many people had speculated on, that the creator-owned properties would be going away. Kind of a weird way to have that confirmed, though, as a blog entry comment.

Update: Riot has a followup post (link no longer available) about being contacted by Speakeasy creators:

A few of them told me that they don’t have concrete dates yet, but that their titles have been confirmed by the publisher. They then went on to tell me that they haven’t actually heard from the publisher recently. And at least one of them was reconsidering his Speakeasy contract in the face of the cancellations (of which Speakeasy said nothing to them).


21 Responses to “Speakeasy Cancels Titles”

  1. Vito Delsante Says:

    Johanna, I’m the aforementioned happy creator and the person who you’ve said has “some kind of official role with the company.” My name is Vito Delsante, and I’m a freelance writer. As of today, January 4, 2004, I do not have an official role within the company. I’m merely a creator that has a lot of confidence that Speakeasy will weather the storm. To your comments…

    I replied on Jason’s blog because my co-creator, Dean Haspiel, hipped me to the blog and thought I might want to pop in and answer a question or two…since I know a thing or two. While it’s quite ignorant on my part to assume that no one will read a retailing blog, I thought that the comments made were in confidence. Which is why I e-mailed Heidi…to “come out” as it were, as a supporter of my company. Rich (Johnston) gets a lot of flack for being biased, when I’ve only seen/read him taking Speakeasy’s side when challenged personally. So, since Rich, as a creator, can’t support his company publically, I will. Should you care to follow up and do something other than a catty comment here and there, please feel free to e-mail me.

  2. Johanna Says:

    My mistake. (Although you left out that I said “seems to have an official role”.) The way you were speaking on various comment threads, it gave me the impression that you were representing the company. Given that (not surprisingly) the company hasn’t made any comments, you were filling the vacuum.

    And if you want to continue responding here, you’ll play nice. I don’t solicit creators for comment or conduct interviews, so don’t expect an email from me.

  3. Vito Delsante Says:

    Fair enough.

    Yes, “seems to have an official role.” And you are correct in saying that I represent the company…don’t all employees represent their respective firms? When someone sues for sexual harassment (sp), they sue the offender and the entire company. Weird analogy, but I’m sure you understand what I’m getting at. That Rich and I are the only two vocal supporters is a little surprising, but I”ve always been fiercely loyal and I’ve always stood by anyone that stands by me.

    Playing nice, see?

  4. Johanna Says:

    But based on what you said above, you’re not an employee, you’re a freelancer. While those roles may sometimes feel the same, they’re very different legally and in terms of perception.

    When I worked at DC, I saw a lot of people who felt a lot more loyalty to the company than the company felt to them. That kind of attitude is beneficial to the company to encourage, but it’s not always healthy for the person, because the company will hang them out to dry if necessary.

    I hope that that never happens to you, and I wish you good luck with your book and a long association with the company.

  5. Rich Johnston Says:

    “You will see less creator owned [sic] books as the company moves toward licensed properties with built in audiences.”

    and

    “That’s what many people had speculated on, that the creator-owned properties would be going away.”

    They are not the same. “Going away” implies there will be none. “Less” implies there will be fewer.

    You can see an earlier confirmation of this in a CBR interview with Fortier.

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=6241

  6. Jonathan Says:

    I don’t think anyone can predict what will happen at this point. This was an awful first year for Speakeasy Comics and pretty much everything they promised went through some kind of screw ups if I am to believe what I read online.

    I can’t imagine that retailers, creators and readers have any confidence in what Fortier states and “confirms” anymore.

  7. Vito Delsante Says:

    Jonathan, I’d hate to quibble, but I tend to think that Speakeasy had a great beginning of ’05 and a less than stellar end. But, as of right now, we’re starting at a lower point than we’re comfortable with, but that’s a good place to start a year because the only way you can go is up. And I’m adamant in my stating that the entire year was not “screwed up” and instead everyone that is reporting the “downfall of Speakeasy” is really just focusing on the past 3 months. That’s 1/4 of a year…can that be failure?

    And haven’t we already proven a million times that you can’t believe everything you read online?

    And Johanna…thank you for the well wishes!

  8. Johanna Says:

    My problems with Speakeasy go back further than the past three months. Their first press release in November 2004 raised concerns, and other people were pointing out problems in September 2005. Personally (and I know this doesn’t have anything to do with you), one of the few times I reviewed one of their comics, I was treated badly by the writer, which left a poor impression of the company. (That’s kind of the reverse of the earlier situation we were talking about with you “representing” the company.) Your optimism is infectious, though. I think the big question is whether, in the current direct market environment, any small company can get a second chance.

  9. Jonathan Says:

    Vito, I think Atomika’s leaving happened more than 3 months ago. Also, we’ll all remember that Amano’s Hero OGN never came out, although it was their first announced book back in jan 2005.

    Stories about unpaid freelance artists and letterers have been floating around since last summer, at the very least… Chuck Satterlee’s detailled experience might even match that chronology. And then I am sure there is quite a lot we haven’t heard about yet. So while I want to believe better days are ahead for Speakeasy Comics and you, I’d personally be extremely cautious if I had to deal with them.

  10. Andrew Foley Says:

    For the record, I’ve been quite happy with my experience at Speakeasy. Mind you, I got my book PARTING WAYS out as an original graphic novel when the company was still pretty young, so I didn’t have to worry about being cancelled mid-story and perhaps got more attention from the company in the promotional arena than later creators did.

    I don’t currently have anything else slated to be published by the company, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll be able to turn things around. If I had an OGN ready to go, I’d definitely consider doing it through Speakeasy, if they’d still have me. Given the current climate of the market and the new publishing policies, I’d be more hesitant to attempt a serial release.

    Andrew Foley

  11. Johanna Says:

    You know, I just found that the other day and put it on my “read this” pile. Sorry for the delay in getting to it…

  12. Andrew Foley Says:

    No apologies necessary–getting reviewed is a privilege, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks for letting me know it’s in the To Read pile and not the Screw Speakeasy pile, though.

    A

  13. Johanna Says:

    That wouldn’t be fair, to hurt creators because of stupid things their publisher said.

  14. Jonathan Says:

    Parting Ways was excellent, Andrew. While I wouldn’t want to hurt creators and held them responsible for the company’s questionable behaviors and tactics, I must admit it will be hard for me to support Speakeasy books in the future. I think a lot of what they did to creators was just wrong. And let’s be honest, most of the books don’t come out to start with…

    Remember Rob Liefeld’s Awesome Comics? They’d do massive-soliciting-yet-very-little-publishing a lot and quickly people didn’t care anymore and the company vanished.

    Speaking of which, anyone know what happened with Kandora Publishing? I remember reading sometime last summer that they’d now be published through Speakeasy Comics, but I haven’t seen anything by them since.

  15. jason richards Says:

    okay…i have to pop in here since i seem to have started this whole shebang.

    first of all, Vito, you thought your comments were made in confidence? on the internet where anyone can see them? are you serious?

    look, i don’t even know how all of this got to the point it’s at. all i was pointing out was that a bunch of titles were cancelled…titles that i had supported in the past. also that i didn’t like where i perceive Speakeasy as heading. the company offers no support to retailers and that’s my perspective. it’s all well and good that you wrote a book for them. doesn’t make you an employee of the company. in fact, from what i’ve read, you’re actually responsible for the costs if the book fails to meet expectations. splendid.

    you also aren’t the one who has to order a number of books in the hopes that they may sell. remember, these things are not returnable for us. company after company has gone down this road recently. for you to get all indignant about this one just because they happened to agree to publish a book for you is ridiculous.

  16. Andrew Foley Says:

    “Parting Ways was excellent, Andrew.”

    I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing that. Thanks, Jonathan–glad you liked it.

    A

  17. Vito Delsante Says:

    Jason,
    Maybe “in confidence” was not the right way to put it, but I didn’t think that the comment I made would be put on display anywhere but on your blog.

    Now, here’s the thing…my indignance (if that’s a word…if not, you know what I mean) is not due to Speakeasy publishing one book of mine. It’s due to the fact that you, on more than one occasion (as recent as today) have taken it upon yourself to insult the company I work with. Ok, the company isn’t 100% perfect, I’ll give you that. And you can say what you want, but I have friends that also work with that company and by insulting the company as a whole, you are insulting my friends and myself, and I don’t take that lightly…no one would. You determine what you carry in your store, so I wouldn’t ask or assume that you would carry a product you have no confidence in. That’s fine. That’s normal, in fact, and almost expected. Cool. But you’ve taken on a jihad that only you are fighting. It’s Quixotic. Your comments and derisions alone are not sufficient to take down an entire publishing company. And the fact that comics aren’t returnable, if I’m not mistaken, is Diamond’s fault, not Speakeasy’s (and I could be 100% wrong on that, so I’ll apologize ahead of time for that one). Retailers have their own forum for complaints like this one (I would know…I am a retailer and I am a member of said forum) but you’ve gone on Buzzscope and made snide comments and you’ve followed up on posts like this…practically everywhere a Speakeasy article comes up. If you don’t like Speakeasy, don’t carry their books. And I say this because this bickering has to stop and you need to go back to selling books and I have to go back to making them. This is a Mexican stand-off and no one will ever be right because no one will ever be pleased 100%. I hope you do right by your customers and order what they request. Continued success to your store.

  18. Johanna Says:

    Vito, you’re trying to read Jason’s mind, and I suspect you’re doing a really bad job of it. He’s far from the only one pointing out Speakeasy’s many mistakes or refusing to buy any of their books, and I haven’t seen anything from him that I think makes it personal. You’re the one trying to do that here, and it’s not acceptable.

    You are wrong about returnability: other publishers can and do make their publications returnable.Top Shelf and Alternative have both had exchange programs in the past, although I don’t know whether or not they do at this moment.

    Part of the reason you and Speakeasy are gaining a poor reputation is this kind of shoot first, research later pronouncement. Why should you be able to say whatever comes into your head wherever you go online if you’re trying to deny Jason that same right? Long years of online experience have taught me that if you want people to stop talking about a topic, you have to stop responding first. Otherwise, you look like you’re trying to get the last word in.

  19. Vito Delsante Says:

    Johanna, I have to disagree with you that I’m trying to read Jason’s mind because, yeah, I’d do a terrible job. I merely explained my indignance (again, I don’t know if that’s a word, but…). I will agree that most if not all of what I wrote was 100% supposition (and again, I apologize for not knowing about returnability…ignorance on my part). And I have to disagree on the “taking it personal front.” I AM taking it personal, I’ll admit, and that’s unprofessional. This is the first time I’ve ever actually had to deal with something like this and my emotions get the better of me. However, Jason has attacked Speakeasy plenty of times in the past week (the hoax Dynasty post comes to mind) and while he might not be getting personal, I am taking it personally for the reasons I stated.

    I really wish I didn’t feel so offended. I don’t want the last word, but it feels like every time something comes up, I’m the first to reply. And my emotions are coming to the surface when I do. Not really apologizing for anything I said (unless it was factually incorrect and unless I insulted anyone) and not looking to take anything back.

  20. jason richards Says:

    i have nothing against you Vito. i’ve never even met you, so it would be incredibly ignorant on my part to make assumptions about you. and i’m friends with some of the people you’re trying to defend (Dean in particular).

    that aside, unless i’ve crossed into the realm of libel (which i haven’t), i will continue to say what i want to say about the topics i choose. i’m also a member of the retailer forum you speak of and, to date, no one has started a Speakeasy thread there that i’m aware of.

    you are taking this personally and you really shouldn’t. my indignance (yes it is a word) with Speakeasy has nothing to do with you regardless of how much you try to make it so.

    and it’s not a “Quixotic” effort in the least. SOMEONE needs to say something. and i’m by far not the only one (as has been pointed out). speaking up is how things get changed in this world and i refuse to sit by quietly if i think something is wrong.

    now, go ahead and have the last word…

  21. Johanna Says:

    Vito, you were assuming his motivations without evidence, thus my shorthand of “trying to read his mind”. I advise sticking to talking about actions instead of jumping to conclusions about motivations. Just because you’re taking it personally doesn’t mean it is. Oh, and the Dynasty post was “making fun of”, not “attacking”.

    If you’ll forgive some unsolicited advice, the wide audience of people online are not your friends. They don’t know you, and they never will. So they don’t care if you’re upset or hurt — all that gives them is more to make fun of (if they’re so inclined). You might consider that when making public postings (and that includes commenting on blogs). Think of yourself as standing in front of a press conference microphone (the world’s largest) instead of sitting around talking with friends.

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