Friday, July 29, 2011

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Shieldmates no.1 by Emmanation
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero mostly got it's start from Larry Hama who wanted to start an ongoing Nick Fury comic book for Marvel. Almost all of what G.I. Joe is was because of Hama.

"A Real American Hero" was brought about as a revival of the original 12 in (30 cm) G.I. Joe brand of the 1960s and '70s. After the 12" figure had been absent from toy shelves for a few years, G.I. Joe was re-introduced in a 334 in (9.53 cm) action figure format following the success of the Star Wars and Micronauts 3 3/4" scale toylines.
The genesis of the toy line came about from a chance meeting in a men's room. According to Jim Shooter, then editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics:
The President or CEO of Hasbro was at a charity event that Marvel’s President was also at. They ended up in the men’s room, standing to each other peeing, and I think that’s how they met. They were talking about each other’s respective businesses, and it came up that Hasbro wanted to reactivate the trademark on G.I. Joe, but they were trying to come up with a new approach. [Marvel’s guy] was like ‘We have the best creative people in the world! Let me bring in this Editor-in-Chief of mine and we’ll fix it for you![4]
Prior to G.I. Joe's relaunch in 1982, Larry Hama was developing an idea for a new comic book called Fury Force, which he was hoping would be an ongoing series for Marvel Comics. The original premise had the son of S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury assembling a team of elite commandos to battle neo-Nazi terrorists HYDRA. The idea was nixed, but Hama used the basic premise when he learned of Hasbro's plans to resurrect the G.I. Joe toyline. Each G.I. Joe figure included a character biography, called a "file card". Hama was largely responsible for writing these file cards, especially for the first ten years. When developing many of the characters, he drew much from his own experiences in the US military. The overall premise for the toyline revolves around an elite counter-terrorist team code-named G.I. Joe, whose main purpose is to defend human freedom from Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

The first issue introduces the whole line-up of characters from the toyline. What a great issue! Hama masterfully gives us what this comic will be all about showcasing everyone and all the vehicles at that time. The plot revolved around the kidnapping of a Dr. Adele Burkhart and her knowledge of the Doomsday Project. The perfect McGuffin to get the action rolling.

An interesting note of trivia- In one panel there is a picture of each of the team members. In the corner is a character that was not part of the original toy line or a prominant character in the comics or animated series. It wasn't until later that Shooter was featured in back up stories. There is a small list of appearances now featuring the character.

Having read a lot of both, now, I feel that G.I. Joe is the better product when compared to most eras of S.H.I.E.L.D. The biggest advantage Joe has is the series exists in it's own universe and doesn't suffer from the outrageous appearances of caped superheroes.  A Real American Hero came close enough to that sort of stuff with some of it's rogue gallery. It also often had to endure crossovers with Transformers which I never really cared for. But as for spy/military comics- S.H.I.E.L.D. couldn't tell those kinds of stories because most of the bad guys were beyond human. This can be cool, but G.I Joe has always been more in my taste. I am quite biased, regardless.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy Birthday

Gary Gygax by Lithgrif
Not only is this the birthday of the Father of Dungeons & Dragons- Gary Gygax, but four years ago my son, Jack Elliot was born. Soon enough, Jack will know what Gygax was all about.

Josh Middleton with The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra

Josh Middleton is an amazing comic book artist. He got his start with CrossGen comics on Meridian and has worked for Marvel and DC. He has a very stylized look that has a wide appeal. Josh announced on his blog that he will be involved with the upcoming sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. He said:
I'm thrilled to say that I will soon be joining the incredible crew of Nickelodeon's forthcoming THE LAST AIRBENDER: LEGEND OF KORRA animated series. Here is the limited edition poster I drew of Korra astride Naga for San Diego Comic Con.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Jurrasic Park 4

Tribute to Jurrasic Park by Nicosubnormal
Spielberg says it. It is so...

Steven Spielberg officially announces Jurassic Park 4

Ryan Lambie

Speaking at the San Diego Comic-Con, Steven Spielberg has revealed that Jurassic Park 4 has a writer, and is in development...

Published on Jul 22, 2011

“We are in discussions about Jurassic Park 4," Johnston told Screen Rant. “The most important thing I can tell you is that it starts a new trilogy that will go off in a different direction - a completely different direction that is very exciting, and different from anything we’ve seen.”
A few days ago, director Joe Johnston, on the promotional campaign for his latest film Captain America, mentioned that he may be taking up the reins on the Jurassic Park franchise, and even hinted that his involvement may herald a new trilogy of dinosaur-themed movies.
Over at the San Diego Comic-Con, meanwhile, Steven Spielberg’s been promoting his own forthcoming movie, which is of course Tintin. While on the discussion panel talking about that film, the topic of conversation turned to the JP franchise, and Spielberg has officially announced that Jurassic Park 4 is indeed on the way, and that it already has a writer attached. He further stated that they had a story in mind, and that the film will be with us in the next two or three years.
It’s little more than a news snippet for now, admittedly, but for our the inner child in us who loves nothing more than to watch big dinosaurs breaking things, we’re more than a little excited about this prospect.

More Jurassic Park 4 news as we get it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Body is a Cage

Peter Gabriel V by Volume Junkies
Here is a rough cut of the song that appeared (or was heard, rather) in the John Carter trailer. Peter Gabriel's interpretation of Arcade Fire's My Body is a Cage. This song seems like it could have been made for Mr. Gabriel. This version here is not a perfectly clean copy, but it definitely gives you an idea of how epic this song is. It is unknown if the song will be featured in the film or the soundtrack or if it just used here in the trailer. The song is featured on Gabriel's 2010 album Scratch My Back (track #7). Good stuff.

I fell in love with the song from stumbling across a fan made unofficial music video that featured footage from Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West to the original version of the song. In my opinion the video and song is absolutely perfect match. The long shots, the vocals, the organ, the drum. It all fits.

Agent 13 Republished

Agent 13: The Midnight Avenger, Top Secret/S.I.'s pulp era campaign setting novels are to be back in print.
Pulp Publisher to Collect the AGENT 13 Novels by Flint Dille and David Marconi

Los Angeles, CA - Pulp 2.0 Press CEO Bill Cunningham today announced that the company has signed an agreement to redesign and republish the adventures of the classic pulp character, Agent 13,  created and written by Flint Dille (Transformers G1) and David Marconi (Enemy of the State). This Pulp 2.0 collector’ edition titled The Agent 13 Dossier will be exclusively in print, and will collect all three of the original Agent 13 novels as well as exclusive features disclosing the secrets behind the mysterious Midnight Avenger.

Agent 13 was originally published in 1986 by TSR in a trilogy of novels - The Invisible Empire, The Serpentine Assassin and Acolytes of Darkness.  The character spawned a set of graphic novels drawn by artist Dan Spiegle (with covers by Jeff Butler) as well as a role-playing game and comic. Kidnapped as a young child in 1907, a gifted boy was brought to The Shrine, the hidden headquarters of the ancient organization known as The Brotherhood. His past memories were erased, he was assigned the title Agent 13 and trained as an assassin and agent in clandestine operations. He became the best disciple and would have risen high in the ranks of the Brotherhood, until he discovered its true evil nature under its cadaverous leader, Itsu - The Hand Sinister. Fleeing The Brotherhood he is hunted by their ninja-like agents, and begins a deadly cat-and-mouse contest against the organization. He fights back, forming his own group of allies against the Brotherhood who dare to plunge the world toward war.

“Agent 13 is Dille and Marconi’s love letter to the pulps, cliffhanger serials and comics. We at Pulp 2.0 are ecstatic to present our readers with these great pulp adventures in an exclusive collector’s print edition,” said Pulp 2.0 CEO Bill Cunningham.  “I remember reading... okay devouring these books when they first came out, and I’ve always loved the world and characters that Flint and David created.  To be able to design a new edition to share these rare novels and the secrets behind Agent 13 is an honor.”

“We were sitting in Flint’s living room one day, and we started jamming ideas back and forth. Flint was a big fan of the pulps and he showed me some of the old materials he had. He had a book featuring the old pulp covers that we looked at that was very inspiring. I had just written some screenplays for Warner Brothers and had good relationships there, and said that if we came up with an interesting story/pitch about this stuff, we can possibly set it up as a screenplay to write.’ So we originally developed AGENT 13 as a studio pitch to set up as a film, and spent quite a lot of time developing the story and characters as we pitched it around to the various producer/buyers around town,” said co-creator David Marconi.

“Then, when the movie wasn’t getting set up as quickly as we hoped, but the story had progressed to the level where we had all the characters and everything else worked out, we decided to just write the book. Flint  had access to Random House through Gary Gygax and TSR, so we were able to get a publishing deal, and dove straight into Agent 13 novel world. Which at the end of the day, was more fun in that it allowed us to go much deeper into the characters and backstory which can’t be explored in great detail in a 2 hour script format.”

More details will be forthcoming as the project progresses. The Agent 13 contract was negotiated on behalf of the creators by Howard Bliss of Union Entertainment.

About Flint Dille:

Flint Dille is a living embodiment of Transmedia. His career started by turning toys into TV Shows with G1 Transformers, G.I. Joe, Inhumanoids and Visionaries.  He has designed games with Gary Gygax and written movies for Steven Spielberg. Flint has sold game design documents as feature films - Venom  (Dimension 2006) and Agent In Place (Lionsgate 2010).   Flint directed the interactive movie Terror T.R.A.X., Track of the Vampyre which became a television pilot for Fox as well as Dragonstrike, one of the first hybrid film projects.  

Flint has twice won 'Game Script of the Year' (Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (with JZP) and Dead to Rights and was nominated for Ghostbusters and Dark Athena.  He has worked on crown jewel franchises including James Bond, Mission: Impossible, Tiny Toons, Batman: Rise of Sin Tsu (Guiness Book of Videogame Records for creating the first Batman villain outside of the comics), Superman, Dungeons & Dragons, Teen Titans and Scooby-Doo.

He has a degree in Ancient History from U.C. Berkeley and an MFA from USC.  Currently, Flint is teaching a class on Alternate Reality Games at UCLA.  His follow up book to The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design is about Transmedia.

About David Marconi:

A native of Highland Park, Ill., Marconi was passionate about film making from an early age.  After winning several high-school film making competitions, Marconi was awarded an Alumni Merit Scholarship to attend the University of Southern California's Film School.  Upon graduation, landed his first job as Francis Ford Coppola's assistant on The Outsiders.  

Working closely with Coppola, Marconi "cut his directing teeth" watching Francis direct both The Outsiders and Rumblefish. In 1993, Marconi wrote and directed his first feature, The Harvest, (Columbia TriStar).   The film premiered in the 'official selection' of the San Sebastian Film Festival and went on to win numerous awards in International Film festivals.

The success of The Harvest brought Marconi to the attention of  Simpson/Bruckheimer who commissioned Marconi to write his original screenplay Enemy of the State (Disney) starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman.  Marconi continued  creating tent-pole action films for the major studios; (which served as the basis for the Die Hard sequel; Live Free or Die Hard ) (Twentieth Century Fox,) Perfect Suspect for Chris Rock (Twentieth Century Fox,) and the high-tech., science fiction epic; No Man's Land.  (Dreamworks.)

Most recently, Marconi was a featured guest speaker for IADC, International Attorney's Defense Council, and the Department of Defense Cyber-Crime Conference where he lectured on his film Enemy of the State and how it relates to privacy concerns and cyber-warfare in a post 9-11 world.  2011 will mark Marconi's second foray behind the lens as a writer/director with his new feature film; INTERSECTION, a gritty thriller currently in pre-production being produced by Luc Besson, the director of THE PROFESSIONAL, FIFTH ELEMENT and Europa Corp.  Holding duel citizenship for the US and EU (Italy,) Marconi divides his time between Los Angeles and Europe.

Now if we can only get someone to produce the game!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Star Wars: Boba Fett

Star Wars Boba Fett Slave I by Eyemelt 
I have a bad feeling about this.

Star Wars: Boba Fett spin-off movie a possibility?

Simon Brew

Could Captain America director, Joe Johnston, be looking to make a Star Wars spin-off movie? And will George Lucas let him?

Published on Jul 18, 2011

But might director Joe Johnston have the key to another film? Johnston, who is doing the press rounds for Captain America at the moment, told Screen Rant, "I'm trying to get George [Lucas] to make a feature based on Boba Fett." When then asked if it's a film he'd like to direct himself, he said, "I would like to. It would be a lot of fun."
The last Star Wars movie to hit the big screen, The Clone Wars, proved to be a bit of a damp squib for the franchise, bringing in less than $70m worldwide. And that seemed to be that for Star Wars movies at the cinema, save for the inevitable cycle of re-releases, which starts with Phantom Menace 3D next February.
Now that's all a long way away from the project happening, but until Johnston mentioned this, we didn't even know it was a vague possibility.
It's certainly not a bad idea, especially if George Lucas is willing to hand the reins over to someone else for the film. But we still think it's something of a long shot. We'd love to see it, though...

Sunday, July 17, 2011


GODZILLA by sedani
There is another Godzilla movie coming in 2012. I thought the 1998 film was OK since I have no emotional or nostalgic investment in the franchise/character. I've always thought it was pretty cool though. So here they go again.
Legendary Pictures' upcoming Godzilla film finally has a writer, and its David Goyer. Working alongside director Gareth Edwards, Goyer has been tapped to take over the writing duties for the new film working on the first draft from David Callaham.

Goyer has a lot of experience in gothic and fanbase productions, doing horror early in his career before doing the Blade series and finally continuing with more comic book film work. His most famous films are Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, although he only co-wrote the first and submitted a story for the second.

Despite some high profile work, his name has also been attached to more questionable projects, including The Unborn, which he both wrote and directed, and the made for TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of Shield.

His resume has both hits and misses, leaving the upcoming Godzilla with the possibility to go either way.

Here we have David Goyer is writing the script for this new film. As stated in the article above, Goyer is the man who wrote and directed David Hasslehoff Nick Fury movie. The unintended connection here is through 1977 to '79, Godzilla stomped his way through the Marvel comic universe. He had his own title and many of the mainstream Marvel characters appeared as they tried to reign in the destruction. Most of the effort to control the monster was applied by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Godzilla Squad lead by Dum Dum Dugan!


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Strange Tales 137

The third appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D. This issue starts with the Hydra vehicle captured in the last issue. Nick Fury refers to himself as Agent A-1. Fury is issued a bullet proof suit, a hat with a rear-view camera and a necktie that has a microphone implanted and a feature that will allow the tie to burn when activated in a regular Bond/Q Department scene. As soon as he changes clothes he is ambushed from sliding glass mirrors and shot from several angles which turns out to be the gadget department showing Fury that the cloths are, in fact, bullet proof! Wow. There has to be a safer way to demonstrate this! Nick Fury is quite a forgiving man.

We jump to a different scene with a Hydra defector attempting to deliver microfilm to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Hydra agents moving in on him. The defector is shot just as he tosses the film to the S.H.I.E.L.D agent on the train. Hydra calls in a wing of helicopters to pursue the train, board it and search for the agent with the microfilm. He hands it off to another couple of agents in an automobile. As they're discovered and chased, they head for the sea to which their car transforms into a sub and they escape. But only for a short while, the Hydra Undersea Assault Force catch up to the sub/car and they are destroyed off camera.
Agent of SHIELD by DocShaner

The mission's failure is witnessed from a S.H.I.E.L.D HQ or safe house by an agent named Gabe and Dum Dum Dugan where Fury joins them. Fury gets them all caught up about Hydra's Betatron Bomb that is set to launch soon. With this weapon the organization will hold the world's nations hostage. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team head off through a secret passage to a bullet car transport to the next scene. To the Intercontinental Ballistic Plane where they plan to confront the missile launch head on.

The story cuts to a board meeting of Imperial Industries International showing the effect Hydra has on economics, etc. Farrington, the head of the company is strong-arming members to vote the way he'd desire. After the meeting adjourns we watch as Farrington makes his way down his own secret passage. He adorns the Hydra hood and uniform and is revealed as Master of Hydra! He rewards the agents that prevented the microfilm falling into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s hands. This is a contradiction to all of the punishment that was being dealt out in the previous issues. 

Special Agent G requests private audience with the Master. Agent G is Farrington/The Master's daughter (previously Agent H. The change in code-name is unclear or they are two different characters) where she tries to dissuade him from using the Betatron Bomb. He argues with her for removing her mask! and claiming all of this with the bomb is for her! And then he gives the order to launch!

Until this retrospective into S.H.I.E.L.D. I hadn't realized how popular this Strange Tales series was. In the late '80s and '90s Nick Fury seemed like an old homage character that didn't make sense. There was a lot of nostalgia in his foundation that new comic fans couldn't know. Reading these issues is giving me that appreciation for the Silver Age characters.

Check out Strange Tales 135 and 136

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Silver Surfer plays Pathfinder

Norrin Radd (the Silver Surfer) plays Pathfinder according to Defenders: From the Marvel Vault #1. Click on the image to get a larger version and check out the first panel.

John Carter trailer

The first trailer for Disney's John Carter (of Mars) has been released. It looks better than I imagined it would. It's clear they're keeping the book in the setting that it was written and set in, not updating it for and to modern audiences- the book was written in 1913 and was set in that current time! Bravo for that choice! Although we only see Thark close up, I think it looked rather well done. John Carter and Dajah Thoris appear to be well casted, too. I am doubly excited about this film, now.
I love that the film appears to be told from the voice of Edgar Rice Burroughs, just as the book was written. Burroughs wrote it as if he were transcribing a letter he received from John Carter. This makes the actual historical person of Edgar Rice Burroughs a character in the story. It either breaks the fourth wall, or presents the fiction as biography. I am a sucker for this type of literature.
Another thing I absolutely loved about the trailer is the song the editor chose. My Body is a Cage by Arcade Fire but this sounds like it's performed by the almighty Peter Gabriel. An amazing and natural combination that fits this preview.
Given the age of this story, I will find critics claiming it ripped off Star Wars or Dune quite humorous as THEY ALL drew influence from Burrough's Carter stories.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Honeychile Rider

In the novel and the film Dr. No James Bond meets Honeychile Rider on Crab Key. It is one of the most memorable scenes in all of the Bond films and in cinematic history. The film took some serious liberties to make the character more cinematically appealing. As the very first Bond film Honey Rider sets the bar for future Bond Girls. The Wikipedia article describes her film version as this:
She is a beachcomber making a living selling seashells in Miami.[2] Resourceful and courageous, she states that she can defend herself against any hostile when she first meets Bond. Although she is at first wary of Bond, he is allowed to get closer when he comments that his intentions are honourable. 
Like Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, Honey doesn't appear until half way through the movie. She comes out of the ocean singing "Under the Mango Tree", Bond startles her when he joins in singing. She pulls her dagger out, wary of Bond's position but grows to trust him. Honey shows Quarrel and Bond a way to evade No's men when caught. After they escape, she tells Bond how her father died when on Crab Key, and that she was raped by a local landlord. Honey relates how she got her revenge by putting a black widow spider in his mosquito net and causing his lingering death.
Ursula Andress was a wonderful choice for the character and cinema will never forget the role. It has also been reported that this is the single most famous bikini in pop culture, as well. Which is kind of funny since there wasn't a bikini in this scene in the book.

I found the novel version of Honey Rider much more interesting. She is probably the most fantastical of Ian Fleming's Bond series with almost a supernatural quality about her. The most obvious difference between the cinema Honey and the literary Honey is her face. The book version of the girl is hideous. When Bond discovers her she is naked except for her knife belt. She is whistling to herself and Bond reveals himself by whistling the next verse with her. The very first thing she does is not cover her nakedness, she covers some of her face. When she finally moves her hand away it's clear why she did this strange gesture as Bond notices that her nose was once broken and had never healed right. Her story is more interesting than the film Honey.

Rider is a Jamaican shell diver, descended from an old-established colonial family. She was orphaned at the age of five when her parents' house was burned down. She then lived with her black nanny in a cellar until she was 15, when her nanny died. Rider reveals that she was also raped as a young girl by the overseer of the property on which she lives. She killed the man in revenge later.
Rider is an independent and very beautiful woman, with the minor imperfection of a broken nose, a lasting memory of the time the overseer punched her in the face to subdue her before molesting her. She became a shell diver near Crab Key in order to make enough money by selling them to American collectors, so that she can then have plastic surgery performed on her nose.
While on Crab Key, she meets James Bond and is later captured by Dr. Julius No, who attempts to kill her by tying her to some rocks and allowing crabs to eat her alive. However, she is aware that the crabs do not like human flesh and they won't attack her. She escapes, meets up with a badly injured Bond and, together, they leave the island.
It is implied in the book that she and Bond will later take a vacation to New York City, where Bond plans to help her find work in a museum and also plans to get her nose fixed.
In later novels, Bond divulges that Honey Rider moved to Philadelphia, where she married a doctor by the name of Wilder and had two children from him.

This description doesn't tell all. She explains to Bond that while she lived in the cellar and the remains of her parents estate after her nanny died, she communed with many of the native animals by spending time with them and observing what they liked to eat and what they feared. When workers were harvesting the sugar canes many animals found their way into the same cellars where she was dwelling. It was from here she got the female back widow spider that she killed her rapist with- that did carry over to the film faithfully. Honey Rider was a Tarzan sort of character and Bond even describes her as such. Bond reflected that he knew no other girl at Honey's age that could take care of themselves as effectively as she did, and she was quite intelligent. However, her isolation gave her a child-like naivety. 

Honeychile Rider is probably Ian Flemings most interesting character. I fell in love with her.

James Bond Book Cover Gallery

In 2008 Penguin Publishing re-released the Ian Fleming James Bond series in hard cover. The cover art was done by Michael Gillette. Here is that fantastic set.







Monday, July 11, 2011

Spycraft 2.0 and Print on Demand

The print-on-demand edition of Spycraft 2.0 is a reprint of the last Spycraft product Alderac Entertainment Group produced before they shut down the Spycraft product line. When that happened, the crew behind the Spycraft RPG started Crafty Games in order to continue the line and have since expanded to different RPG genres, most recently developing the Mastercraft game system.

I now have a hardcover edition of the print-on-demand Spycraft 2.0. This version has many fixes from the original run's errata. It also is available in softcover.

This was a re-purchase of the book as I had the original book at one time. A big fan of the original Spycraft, it was difficult for me to let the 1.0 version go in favor of 2.0. The book is rather large. I found it to be too overwhelming and shortly after buying it I shelved it where it sat for many years.

Now my interest is rekindled (I don't know why! I'm quite fascinated with my obsessions coming and going!) and with Spycraft 3rd edition coming soon under the Mastercraft system I longed for this book once again. So here we are. is where I ordered this book. There are many reviews saying how their customer service is great. I'd like to re-affirm this to be true. I made an error in my ordering the book submitting a very old shipping address that was lingering on my account. With one email the issue was resolved and the book was shipped to the corrected location with no problem and rather quickly at that. The whole process took four days- that includes the printing AND shipping.

The hardcover book is an excellent product. It is black and white as opposed to the original's full color production. The paper feels like a lighter grade or weight (however paper is measured) which actually cuts the physical weight of the book quite a bit from what I remember. As mentioned before, the book is updated including errata fixes and a black and white print version of the graphical design. Very well made.

Print-on-demand is an interesting thing. Game books and gamer collectors probably know the frustrations of old and out-of-print books. PDFs are on the rise and probably a majority of gaming products never are even intended to see print. Out-of-print could be a thing of the past (no pun intended), in theory.

My brother has dabbled in print-on-demand with children's books and the market for it seems to be still trying to figure itself out. Here is an interesting blog post about this topic [from The ArtOrder]:

Print On Demand and the gaming industry

Patri Balanovsky -
Leandro A. Pezzente dropped me an interesting question recently concerning Print On Demand (PoD). For those that are not publishing savy, Wikipedia defines PoD as:
Print on demand (POD), sometimes called publish on demand, is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received. “Print on Demand” developed only after digital printing began, because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing.
Many traditional small presses have replaced their traditional printing equipment with POD equipment or contract their printing out to POD service providers. Many academic publishers, including university presses, use POD services to maintain a large backlist; some even use POD for all of their publications. Larger publishers may use POD in special circumstances, such as reprinting older titles that had been out of print or for performing test marketing”
PoD sounds like the magic bullet for everyone that doesn’t have the funding or demand to print the thousands of documents necessary to hit the “minimum print run” required by most traditional printers, doesn’t it? And that goes right to the heart of Leandro’s question:
“My question is related to “PRINTING ON DEMAND” concept , like the one Pinnacle Publishing uses for “Savage Worlds” . More throughly i wanted to know , why such a simple concept that could save Publishing companies thousands of dollars and help to drastically reduce piracy is such a hard one for publishing houses to adopt.”
Sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it? I wish it were that simple. We are starting to see companies adopting e-pub, and PoD strategies, but it is not a decision to jump into lightly. Wizards of the Coast has been investigating all of these publishing options for a while, and I have dealt with the same considerations personally here on ArtOrder. Let’s talk for a few minutes about this issue . . .
Everyone is quick to talk about the cost savings for PoD. There is a little realized fallacy in this statement. Everyone thinks that there is no cost associated with PoD, and that isn’t really the whole story. Yes, it is true that the publisher does not pay for printing – there is actually a cost for printing. But instead of the publisher bearing the initial cost and then passing it along to the consumer – now the customer bears the cost directly from the printer. Many folks tell me “so what’s the difference? I have to pay for the book either way.” So true, but here’s the twist:
Twist #1
Everyone believes that the company is saving money because they don’t have any printing costs – which should result in a saving on the end product. Wrong! While the publisher doesn’t incur a printing cost, the consumer still has to pay for the printing, and they aren’t getting a quantity discount either – so they actually end up paying more for the printing.
Let’s take a real-world example. I’ve got a book for sale on Blurb. The development costs are fixed for me whether I print traditionally or through Blurb. So I didn’t save any money by printing PoD. I have a set “profit*” amount that I need to make for each book, and that wouldn’t change which printing method I use. If I were able to print a minimum of 1000 books, and use my print broker in China on the Lovecraft Creature Lab book I could bring the book onshore for less than $5 each.
$5 for publishing with broker, with volume discount
$5 for profit*
$0 for development (thanks to the volunteer work of Aaron Miller)
$10 Retail Price
Let’s compare that to PoD
$14.89 for publishing with Blurb
$5 for profit*
$0 for development
$19.89 Retail Price
Did you notice anything? The cost to produce the product didn’t diminish in any way, and the cost to the consumer actually increased. Not really cheaper to either the publisher or the customer, is it?
*All ArtOrder products have only a $5 mark-up (whether digital or PoD). This money is used to defer costs of running the blog and community, and to raise funds for ArtOrder scholarships.
Twist #2
As a publisher, when I deal with a printer to print a product I tend to have options. I love options! I can pick certain papers to improve or influence the consumer experience. I can choose print options to affect price, shelf presence, durability, and a million other variables. When I deal with PoD I normally have just a few printing options – sizes, formats, papers stock and finish, cover stocks and finishes, and so many other aspects of the printing process. Because of this, I have very limited options to tailor the customer experience. While this doesn’t really affect my costs, it does affect my perceived value – which in turn affects my ability to set a specific price point on my product. This often directly affects my ability to set a retail price that allows for an appropriate profit or development level.
Twist #3
This is the hardest one to illustrate and get folks to understand. Development costs . . .
Let’s look back at the previous examples. In the traditional model, I would figure out development costs by taking the total development cost and dividing it by the total quantity of books produced to get my development cost per book. Let’s pretend that Allen had charged me a reasonable fee to produce and layout the book. Let’s also pretend that I billed for my time directing, marketing, and various other activities around the development of the book. Let’s pretend that we amassed a development bill of $5000. Modest development costs for a book. So, when I take the traditional model this is where we end up:
$5 for publishing with broker, with volume discount
$5 for profit*
$5 for development ($5000 development cost/1000 books published)
$15 Retail Price
Okay, that probably makes sense right? Not to complicated, is it? I’ve got development costs, printing costs, a target profit level and that gives me my retail price (wish it were that simple in real life…).
Now, what happens when I choose to go PoD. Remember, the reason we are going PoD is usually because we feel we can’t pay the print fees out of our pocket (cash flow issue), or we don’t think we can sell enough copies to hit the minimum print run. In this case we are going to deal with the minimum print run issue. So we don’t think we can sell 1000 copies of the book. Do we think we can sell 100, 200 or 300 copies? We have to decide, and we have to be right. Why? Remember what we need to set our retail price? Print, development and profit numbers. Let’s take a look at an example, and let’s assume we think we can sell 300 copies of the book.
$14.89 for publishing with Blurb
$5 for profit*
$16.67 for development ($5000 development cost/300 books sold)
$35.56 Retail Price
See what just happened to out retail cost? It significantly jumped, didn’t it? Why is this a big issue? If everyone else can produce and sell a similar book with a retail value of $15 (from our traditional model), and we are producing a book for $35.56 – how do we deal with the customers expectations they have for paying twice as much for a comparable book? And what about the risk? I hear you thinking – “What risk? You printed PoD, there isn’t any risk?” Wrong. Remember, I made an assumption that I’d sell 300 books. Let’s pretend that I wasn’t able to convince folks that my $36 dollar book was worth buying when my competitors were selling for $15, and I only sold 100 copies of the book. What does that do to my pricing model?
$14.89 for publishing with Blurb
$5 for profit*
$50 for development ($5000 development cost/100 books sold)
$69.89 Retail Price
But wait, I didn’t sell it for $69.89, I sold it for $35.56. What happens then?
Gross income – 100 books @ 35.56 = +$3556
print costs – 100 books @ $14.89 = – $1489
Development costs = – $5000
profit = -$2933
Holy cow! That hurts, doesn’t it? You did notice the negative symbol in front of that number, didn’t you? Forget the idea of profit. Heck, forget the idea of even covering your development costs.
So, does PoD seem like the magic bullet still? Is it a useful tool? Sure! Is it a great way to develop certain products? Sure! Is it a great way to lose your shirt? It can be. This is the whole reason companies don’t just jump straight into this technology. They have to understand the limitations of the tech, the customers perceptions, and the risks involved. As this industry matures, I except to see more and more publishers move into this technology – but it will not be the massive cost savings that many customers think they will see, nor will it be the ‘get rich quick’ path that many self-publishers hoped it would be.
Great question!

Good Night by Batfish73

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