John Layman posted this on Facebook:
[quote]Edited for clarity: This is not a cry for people to feel sorry for me. A couple bad days does not equal a bad year, nor is my career or life in the tank. Everything is fine, so read the following with a big grain of salt:
Discussion thread: Self-pitying comic book grousing. Non-comic readers Muggles feel free to move along.
Please note: I don’t talk in too great of detail about my personal life. The tendency toward oversharing on social media always sickens and embarrasses me and so I try not to do it. And without going into any detail, this has been a monumentally shitty week, and today was probably the capstone of shittiness, all personal stuff that you don’t really need to know because it’s none of your goddamn business.
But then I get home and click on a comic book website and get a particularly depressing new kick in the nuts. One that I ought to just shrug off, but it’s been such a lousy week, that it hit me far harder than it should-- and this is at least something I feel comfortable talking about.
Comic Book Resources, one of the very best comic sites if not THE best, released its “Best 100 Comics of 2015” list and this year, for the first time, we weren’t on it. Last year we were #19. Before that we’ve been #28 in 2013, #29 in 2012, #26 in 2011 and #13 in 2010. This year we didn’t even rate. And I know “avoid ‘end of year best-of’ lists” is right up there with “don’t read the comments,” but if I had to sum up the year for me, at least professionally, this was it.
Nothing that’s considered hot stay hot forever, I know that and I accept that, and I’m fine with that. CHEW succeeded far beyond my expectation. Got me awards and has taken me across the world, afforded me some financial security and changed my life almost completely for the better* (*except for the death threats I got this year, but that’s a completely different discussion.) And I’ve been lucky that I ate shit and struggled for more than a decade before Chew achieved “overnight success” for me. When suddenly CHEW was red-hot and I had a big circle of new people kissing my ass and trying to be my best friend, I was already pretty secure in the knowledge of who in comics was my real friend and who was not.
But, after 55 issues and 3 specials, our heat has settled down. CHEW does great in TPB sales, we’ve an ever expanding line of merch, and our publishing mini-empire continues to expand around the world. We’re currently in 11 languages and counting.
But we’re not the hot shit. This was the year that CHEW dropped below 10k per issue in floppy sales (still pretty great that we made it 49 issues before crossing that mark.) At SDCC this was the first year Image didn’t have CHEW has part of it’s con banner, and I wasn’t asked to participate in any panels. Marvel and DC, who used to call me because of CHEW heat, no longer give a flying fuck about me. I can count the number of web sites that still cover CHEW on a single hand and the reviews, at least, are still, “CHEW is still good as ever.”
Even so, this many issues in the can, with the end in sight, there are no good jumping-on points. Even my friends are behind on the book, and it’s easier at this point to wait until the book is over and read the whole damn thing rather than juggle it mostly along with three dozen other monthly books. At this point, with the finishing line in site, for the reader and retailer, it’s easier to just wait it out a short period to the end.
And part of it is the comics medium is consistently focused on what’s new, and reinvention, more than long-term delivery. The retailer who has XX of dollars to devote to Image Comics, sees all these bright new shiny things, and it’s easy to lower orders of a book that’s 44 issues deep to make room for what’s shiny and new. I KNOW this.
Meanwhile, the focus on “what’s new” and “what’s next” is so ingrained into comics it is now the primary question I am asked, and my answer is to site the marathon runner who is focused on the END of the race, not the NEXT race. Me? I don’t give a fuck about what’s next. I’m concentrating on trying to wrap CHEW up in the most satisfying way possible. But I suppose that does not make for the most scintillating interview fodder.
The industry has changed. Even in the relatively short time that CHEW has been running, since 2009. That fact that we are one of the higher-numbered books on the shelf is testimate to that. The Big Two are constantly rebooting and renumbering in order to stay fresh and keep the attention on them.
And if I was to go back in time and do it again, CHEW probably would be 50 issues, not 60, and even that is probably too high a number. And if I had advice to give to anybody planning to write their definitive comic book epic, I’d say keep it to twenty-five issues. Anything longer, and I think retailer and the comic book media lose their attention span, even if the readership does not, or at least not to the same extent. I’ll never do anything as ambitious as CHEW again (which was my plan regardless of all this.)
Anyway, not looking for pity or affirmation here. More of a musing about the “always be new” nature of the comics medium, and how it’s especially challenging these days to try long-term, long-running comic storytelling.
But I won’t lie. After spending 5 years on the CBR best-of list, going from #19 to nothing really sucks.
And it’s been a SHIIIIIIITTTY fucking week…[/quote]
One of the interesting bits is that he advises keeping a run to 25 issues maximum. Looking at various series, you really don’t see the 50 or 60 issue runs anymore. They seem fairly rare in today’s market.