Maybe it’s because my backlog on comic site articles is almost as long as my YouTube backlog (maybe longer) but it wasn’t a comic news or commentary site I learned about this new company from, but a CNet article with no writing credit. DSTLRY (because poor spelling is kewl) is the brainchild of Comixology co-founder David Steinberg and former head of head of content Chip Mosher. The website right now is just a list of contributors and a newsletter sign-up form, but the article goes over the goals of the creators and why DSTLRY (that’s a pain to write because my brain wants me to fill in the missing letters) was created in the first place.

As Marvel and DC are suffering under their corporate overlords and creators who don’t seem to be as enthused about comic books as their readers DSTLRY, and yes it is written all caps currently, wants to bring creators and fans closer and allow creators to actually own their own creations, to get the credit and merchandise/media revenue they’re deserved. In theory it all sounds great. In practice, I have concerns…especially when you look into how it’s all going to operate…for the reader. Creators with the company are going to love this.

From the article:

Two former Comixology heads unveiled a new creator-owned comics and collectibles publisher Thursday called Dstlry. David Steinberger, co-founder and former CEO of Comixology, and Chip Mosher, former Comixology head of content, hope the new publisher shifts the industry around creator-owned comics and collectibles.

Dstlry will offer a limited number of physical and digital items for sale online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Owners of digital items will then be able to sell their items in the Dstlry marketplace, and the original creators will get a percentage of what the item sells for.

The article doesn’t use all caps but the website does as of this writing so that’s the spelling I’m going with. This is all well and good. If you create a character and you still own it then it’s only fair to get a percentage of the profits. However, these are digital items, not physical ones. In other words maybe an e-book or downloadable images. What about the physical items? If I want a statue of one of their characters can I get that in 3D space without getting a 3D printer? The website boasts:

You buy, you own, you can sell. Creators get a cut every time. No NFT hustle or crypto hassle.

“I thought my dad was Jewish? And really old?”

So I can buy a picture of The Character and then sell that picture to someone else, and somehow the creator still gets a cut of that? What? Sounds like the NFT nonsense to me, but I don’t understand how NFTs work and I imagine I am far from being alone in that. I’m also concerned that this is like me selling a back issue and the creator gets a cut of that despite me not being a store and this already being a purchased item. I recently sold off one of my unwanted Transformers figures and didn’t have to give Hasbro a cut. Back to the article:

Steinberger and Mosher told me in an interview they hope Dstlry can help alleviate pains some creators have felt in the comics industry when it comes to compensation. While some comic characters and stories make millions of dollars as a result of films, some creators have felt left out in the cold.

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, for example, transformed Bucky Barnes into the Winter Soldier in 2005. However, Brubaker wrote in his newsletter in 2021 that he feels he and Epting haven’t been adequately compensated for their work given the character’s success in multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe films and shows.

“For the most part all Steve Epting and I have gotten for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a ‘thanks’ here or there,” Brubaker wrote. “I’ve even seen higher-ups on the publishing side try to take credit for my work a few times, which was pretty galling.”

Except technically you didn’t. Bucky Barnes is the creation of Jack Kirby. You get credit for bringing him back as the Winter Soldier and the higher ups shouldn’t take credit, but it’s not like you created him whole cloth. Bucky existed, you just ruined his life by making him a brainwashed Russian agent with a robot arm. I’m reading the story right now for Tuesday’s “Yesterday’s” Comic. Yet here you give Kirby no credit, so unless the unnamed CNet writer left that out of the article you don’t exactly have Siegel & Shuster’s ground to stand on.

Steinberger and Mosher saw these issues and wanted to be part of the solution by making sure creators are treated well so they can produce their best work for readers.

“We looked at all these problems creators had and we tried to fix that,” Mosher said. “We knew if we fix stuff for creators across the board, on a lot of different levels, then we’d be delivering the best thing for the customers.”

“Without [creators] there’s nothing, and they don’t always get treated that way when their material that they create becomes $100 million movies or billion dollar movies,” Steinberger said. Dstlry is about “honoring their contribution … there’s a joy in trying to correct what is currently out there.”

My earlier comments aside we have been hearing about creators not being compensated for their work, not being credited in extended media (Brubaker and Epting do deserve some credit for the Winter Soldier idea at least, rework or not), and not even being able to pay bills, including medical ones, because they aren’t getting royalties or new work. Work For Hire has proven its downsides and it’s a system that needs to change but at the same time the companies aren’t going to create new characters if they’re not going to make a decent profit on them. It all needs to get worked out somehow. I guess that’s what DSTLRY is hoping to fix. They do boast “Creators own their work and a piece of DSTLRY itself, so they bring it” on their site. It would be more incentive to bring their a-game and that’s how you make memorable characters.

Steinberger and Mosher also said they hope Dstlry will bring the fun of collecting print issues to the digital space. They said when new issues of a comic are released, digital copies of the comic will be sold online at for one week until the next issue comes out.

“However many digital copies get sold between Wednesday and Tuesday, that’s it, never any more again,” Mosher said.

But people will still be able to get their hands on digital issues through the Dstlry marketplace, and mass market digital trade collections will be available more broadly. Physical copies will be available in local comic shops, too. Some creators will also be given complimentary digital copies of comics they can give out to fans.

I wonder how they’ll pull off gimmick covers like this?

What? One of the advantages of digital comics over their analog ancestors is the easy of which to find them no matter how long ago they were published so long as someone has a copy on their website. If it gets accidentally deleted somehow, like a hard drive crash or a toddler gets her hand on the computer. So if you lose your copy you can’t get a replacement without the digital equivalent of a back issue bin, and that’s if someone wants to sell their digital copy. It’s like taking the disadvantage of physical comics and applying it to digital comics, thus robbing it of an advantage. The digital comic should be available from the publisher for as long as they or a third party like ComiXology or Drive Thru Comics are hosting it.

“Artistic growth is spurred when its creators are nurtured and properly compensated for their achievements,” Bonaventura said in a news release. “This new system and its shared equity model will provide an invigorating environment which will foster great storytelling.”

It won’t help if the readers aren’t buying something they aren’t sure they’ll actually own their copy of, which is another advantage of physical media. You own it until someone breaks it or the house burns down. Unnamed CNet writer then tries to put a positive spin on it.

The type of commodities market Dstlry is launching has a few advantages over other commodities markets.

Namely, other commodities depreciate in value after they’re used. Sneakers, for example, depreciate in value the second you put them on your feet. Cars also depreciate in value by as much as 9% to 11% as soon as you drive one off the lot, according to financial counseling firm Ramsey Solutions.

With Dstlry’s model, people should be able to read a digital comic as many times as they want, then sell that comic on Dstlry’s digital marketplace for the price they bought the comic for, or higher. Looking to physical comics as an example, Detective Comics No. 27, which introduced Batman in 1939, sold at auction in May 2022 for $1.74 million. Granted, that’s an extreme example that most new comics won’t replicate anytime soon. But Dstlry wants to create a system where creators still make money from the sale — and resale — of their comics at any time.

So this is all about the money. Does that mean digital variant covers? Can’t wait to see how you work holofoil, lenticular, convention sketch covers, and the drawn by my seven year old variant into this.

That also means if you get into a digital series a few months after it launches, you’ll likely have to pay a higher price for an early comic in that digital series. You’ll probably have to pay more for a physical copy of that comic, too, since those are also sold in limited quantities, but that’s also often true of traditional publishers.

Again, you just drew off one of the advantages of digital comics. I can go to IndyPlanet and look up a series from a creator I met at a convention or saw on someone’s livestream discussing their anniversary issue, get the first issue at the same price it came out in without having to hunt down a copy in a back issue box, and not take a hit to my wallet. Digital files can be copied forever more or less while physical comics cost money to do the same. That’s why only so many physical comics are produced. Now it’s going to cost me MORE to get into an ongoing series unless they do a reprint. And what happens if the comic ends up in the digital version of the bargain bin? Digital comics only cost the price of paying the creators and paying the host, so as long as the host’s prices don’t go up the comic’s won’t, and may even go down if hosting somehow gets cheaper. How is this a good idea for the buyers? And how do the creators make more money from these resales? Living EA’s dream with this one.

Admittedly, this could create a predatory resale market. That could happen if people buy as many digital copies of a comic as they can, then once the comic goes out of print, they ask for an absurd amount of money for the digital comics on the Dstlry marketplace. However, this kind of speculation led to a comics industry crash in the ’90s. People who hope to get rich from the resale of these digital comics will have to invest wisely and understand that some of the largest payoffs come after years of waiting.

Like I said, the money is what’s important here. This led to all those renumbers that still goes on today every time there’s a change in writer or artist, variant covers, and all the other nonsense that was meant to target speculators, not readers, and the stories and art suffered for it. I’d like to think people learned their lesson. I’d also like to think my lost teeth would grow back.

The resale of digital comics on Dstlry’s marketplace should have a benefit over physical copies of comics, though.

With physical copies of comics you need plastic covers and storage space to help keep comics secure and safe, and you’ll have to be vigilant about how they’re stored if you plan on selling them after a certain amount of time.

Digital copies of comics are limited only by the amount of space on your device. And if Dstlry offers cloud storage, people won’t even have to worry about that.

And if something happens to the cloud you lose your comic, or can only read it if you have internet access. So who’s involved with this?

That’s the list currently from CNet’s article and it tracks with what’s on the site. My biggest worry when I skimmed this was that it was going to be another American Original situation, where all these big rewards were supposed to come to the creator when it came to licensing and then disappeared into the ether. This is actually worse. It takes one of the biggest advantages digital comics has over physical ones and strips it off, coming up with a convoluted might-as-well-be-an-NFT system that will make it harder to get into previous stories, cost more to do so, and hurt digital comics in the eyes of the uninitiated.

I want the creators to get the money they deserve but it needs to be a system that favors the reader as well as the creator or they’re not going to become readers, and this won’t make any money because it won’t sell. Video game companies would kill to make money off of resales, and it feels more like a one-time rental fee than actual ownership. I will be surprised if this business model works in the long term. If I’m going to go digital I want the option of not losing it and not having to pay jacked-up secondary market prices when for any other digital comic I just buy it once and have access to it whenever I want, even if something happens to my copy. This may benefit DSTLRY and the creators, maybe even the speculators, but it’s not going to benefit readers and fans at all.


About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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