The outdoor tables of Kafka Kültür Internet Cafe are covered with piles of empty teacups and ashtrays full of half-smoked cigarettes.
Several customers sit and open their laptops, while the chattering and gentle sounds of typing on keyboards and phones vibrating make it almost look like a newsroom.
Despite its Turkish name, many Syrian journalists in Gaziantep know the place by its Arabic nickname Ayen Amak — the name of a popular cafe in the province of Idlib, the last-standing area in Syria not controlled by the Assad regime. The two cafes are similar, sharing the same atmosphere, drink menu, and outside view on a bustling shopping street.
It’s here that almost every day Abedalbaset al-Hasan spends several hours working on his video reports for Syria TV, a popular Syrian news channel employing more than 200 journalists and reaching an audience of four million daily, now headquartered in Turkey.
“I didn’t have anyone to teach me , but in Gaziantep there is a community where we all teach and learn from each other,” says Abedalbaset al-Hasan, 27, as he sips his third cup of Turkish çay of the day while editing some segments about the recent earthquake that struck Turkey on Adobe Premiere.
It’s thanks to the connections he made at this cafe that about 18 months ago he found his current job as cameraman and began covering Syrian social issues like the conditions in refugee camps and economic struggles of displaced Syrian citizens from the relative safety of Turkey.
Reporters Without Borders reports that hundreds of Syrian journalists have been killed and harassed by the Assad regime and armed groups since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. According to the Syrian Journalists Association, which has more than 300 members, only a handful of them still operate in Syria, one of the most dangerous countries in the world for this profession.
In its latest press freedom report, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Syria 175th out of 180 countries in the world for press freedom. Many — if not most — of the media outlets in Syria are controlled by the Assad regime and the ruling Baath party, and journalists are subject to prosecution under a new cybercrime law that prohibits, “spreading false news online that damages the prestige of the nation,” according to RSF. Just last year, the organization reported that in Syria three journalists were killed and 24 journalists and two media workers were imprisoned.
Because of these dire conditions, independent Syrian journalists have fled their home country, many escaping to Turkey because of the close proximity and what at first was a relatively welcoming reception from the Turkish government. These journalists are providing crucial, independent reporting on everything from the Syrian civil war to Covid-19 precautions to the mental health issues affecting refugees. Their coverage has been instrumental in helping both local and Western audiences to understand the plight of the Syrian people at a time when the country and region are regressing in terms of press freedom.
When the border closed for the majority of civilians, people in Syria accessed this journalism online and tuned into radio broadcasts, if they lived close enough. For newspapers, it was even more complicated. Five outlets, including Koulouna Sourioun, one of the first post-revolution, independent Syrian newspapers, and Enab Baladi, a nonprofit print and online newspaper focusing on peaceful resistance stories, created a network in Gaziantep that printed the papers and transported them to Syria for distribution — a risky endeavor that could wind someone up in prison or worse.
Although Turkey also scores dramatically low in terms of worldwide press freedom standards (more than 90 journalists and media workers have been detained there since 2018), it is estimated that hundreds of Syrian journalists have crossed the border into Turkey in the past 12 years and begun working remotely, often as freelancers for international outlets. Within Turkey, Gaziantep — a city at the crossroads of the Middle East — has become the media capital of Syria with the blessing of the Turkish authorities. Over the last decade, about a dozen radio stations and a dozen Syrian exile-led newspapers have taken root here, according to officials at the French Agency for Media Cooperation (CFI), a French media development institute. Syrian journalists are attracted to the city because of the cheaper costs compared to Istanbul, its closer proximity to Syria, and the already high number of Syrian residents.
That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges for Syrian journalists operating in Gaziantep. Many are fearful that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who won another five-year term in late May, will follow through on his campaign promise to deport one million Syrians, a platform that has fueled the harassment of Syrian refugees. The Turkish authorities have done little to quell the unrest, and journalists have often been the targets of these attacks.
In March, Ahmad Rihawi, an anchor for Orient News TV, and Alaa Farhat, the channel’s director, were arrested in Istanbul after a Turkish political analyst went on a racist tirade on air and ripped up Rihawi’s notes. (They were released two days later.) Two Syrian journalists in Turkey were detained in January for deportation, at least one of whom was beaten, according to RSF, and others worry about a similar fate. The bureaucratic hurdles — including having to register a news outlet as a production company and the complicated paths to receive work permits for staff that are often withheld for political purposes — are another challenge that Syrians in Turkey have learned to navigate.
“We just need a safe space where to publish our news,” says Osama Aghi, founder of Ninar Press, an online weekly that covers political news about Syria and is based in Gaziantep. “It’s important to give an opportunity to Syrian journalists to find a [physical] space where to freely report and publish their stories.”
Situated in southeastern Turkey, less than 150 kilometers from Aleppo — one of the cities most impacted by the Syrian conflict — Gaziantep was near the epicenter of the Feb. 6 earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey. The earthquake has tested an already unstable situation for journalists, some of whom have been detained for reporting on the aftermath of the tragedy. From his little table at Kafka, al-Hasan confesses his worries.
“Lately, I feel that even in Gaziantep it’s becoming harder to be a Syrian reporter,” he says. “I feel there still are some boundaries and I cannot deliver the full story or do investigations on our conditions in the country.” Most stories about deportation threats and Syrian child labor exploitation are reported by foreign journalists and outlets, or by Syrian journalists working as staff for them and who can benefit from Western protection. It’s also risky for them to cover Turkish politics, as was the case over the past few months as the country geared up for its presidential election.
But still, the Syrian newsrooms that were forced to close their offices for a few weeks after the earthquake kept operating with their staff working from home or from the few open cafes amid the rubble, similar to the times many Syrian journalists worked under shelling during the war.
Gaziantep has always carried a dual identity. It used to be part of the Ottoman Empire, and today — particularly after a decade of conflict and refugee crisis — bilingual street signs, shops with both Turkish and Arabic products, and Syrian and Turkish restaurants standing next to each other fill the narrow streets that are reminiscent of the old Aleppo city. Today half a million Syrians live here, and since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the city has become a major humanitarian aid hub as well as a flourishing place for intellectuals, writers, and activists.
In Gaziantep, despite the challenges, Syrian exiles have a wide variety of media to choose from across radio, television, print, and digital, including even a magazine for children. This is what pushed Aghi — a writer and activist who spent nearly a decade in regime prison between the 1980s and early 90s for opposing the government — to launch Ninar in 2020.
“In Syria there was no free press before 2011,” explains the 69-year-old Aghi. “We were not allowed to publish anything even slightly controversial.” In the last three years Ninar has covered human rights, feminism, and local Syrian politics. “We noticed there was especially a lack of gender-related stories, so we decided to focus much of our reporting on that,” Aghi says. That helped many of their female readers to better understand their rights, he adds.
Today Ninar has a staff of six, plus a dozen freelancers, many of whom are in Syria, mainly in the northern areas where it’s still safer to report. In Damascus, he says, it’s too risky to keep correspondents. The Gaziantep newsroom, located in the quiet, residential area of Gazimuhtar Pasa, is a simple two-room space with just a few desks and chairs, and a tray always full of Syrian biscuits and freshly-made coffee.
“This was the best possible place to create something like this, because it’s like a new Syria, the one we hoped to create back home, but couldn’t,” says Aghi, who fled his home country after the Assad regime and armed groups began threatening his life because of his reporting on ISIS.
For those still operating in Syria, using fake names to protect identities is a common practice. Aghi says he receives reports from Syria from reporters whose identity he knows but publishes the stories using fake names to protect their identities. When paying contributors, he uses cash so that authorities are not able to trace the money back to Ninar. Although the website has reached so far just a few thousand readers each day, both from Syria and abroad, he says he’s happy with how far they’ve come.
A handful of television stations have also relocated here — mostly small-scale newsrooms streaming online through YouTube and Facebook channels — but there are also a couple broadcasting through satellite signals.
Aleppo Today, which originally broadcasted from Aleppo, moved its operations to Gaziantep after its anti-regime rhetoric made it too risky for them to keep operating inside Syria. The station, which broadcasts over satellite and streams online, covers issues like the migrant situation on the Evros river where many Syrians trying to cross illegally into the European Union have been stuck for extended periods of time because of border patrols, leading sometimes to their expulsion back to Turkey or even their death. One of their reports sounded the alarm regarding about 44 Syrians, including women and infants, who had been stuck for two months on an island between Turkey and Greece. After speaking to them and asking them for videos to confirm their story, Aleppo Today geo-located their exact location and contacted human rights organizations, which then led to their rescue.
Ibrahim al-Sabagh, 33, is originally from Damascus and moved to Gaziantep in 2013. When he arrived, he started working as a reporter, first at Radio Hara FM, another Syrian radio station that moved its offices to Gaziantep right after the conflict began. Sabagh was hired in 2016 by Aleppo Today, where he started as an assistant producer for several of its programs. Today, he’s the channel’s news director, overseeing a staff of about two dozen people. “It was a way to put my skills to the service of my country, keep the connection to my homeland and contribute to informing my fellow people back home, as well as my community here in Turkey,” he says of his work.
One of the most important programs at Aleppo Today Sabagh says he’s worked on is “Sautik Bigaieer” (Your voice changes reality), which presents profiles of Syrian women who need help and connects them with those who can provide support, such as non-governmental organizations, government agencies, or influencers. “We have found solutions to difficult problems for many Syrian women — legal problems, health problems, and even family problems,” he says. One episode about a woman with an amputated foot resulted in a team of volunteers giving her an electric wheelchair and new furniture.
Sabagh says it’s reports like these that allow reporters to feel a connection to the Syrian people and help them appreciate their mission. Part of their airtime is dedicated to entertainment and lifestyle pieces because he believes that journalists not only should give voice to a community’s hopes and expose its problems, but they also have a duty to report on more positive trends about refugee integration through business success stories and how Syrians contribute to improve Turkish society. These types of stories, he adds, are easier to deliver given the threat of deportations.
Lina Chawaf was relieved when in 2013 she moved the staff of the outlet she helped launch, Radio Rozana, from Syria to Gaziantep. Rozana was born amid the early days of the revolution as one of the few independent radio channels; at first, its reporters would move back and forth across the border between Syria and Turkey, but when Turkish authorities closed it, and with heightened threats from the Syrian regime, the staff moved permanently to its current headquarters in Gaziantep, though a few administrators are based in Paris.
“Here we don’t have too much control from Turkish authorities on our content,” she explains from her 15-person newsroom with two aquamarine-walled broadcast booths and linoleum floors located on the second floor of a recently restored building, just a few blocks from Ninar Press. Although she recognizes Turkey’s very own fault lines on press freedom issues and the limits they have as Syrians to cover certain topics, “it’s definitely a big improvement compared to what we would face if we were to still be based in Syria.”
In Gaziantep, journalists also have more access to humanitarian workers and agencies, making it easier to be a watchdog of Syrian NGOs, says Chawaf.
Chawaf, a media consultant who’s helped launch five radio stations in Arab Spring countries like Libya and Yemen, helped train dozens of citizen journalists to become independent reporters inside Syria and later hired them to work at Rozana.
She trained them to cover conflict and corruption in emergency situations, which was useful when covering Covid-19 and the earthquake in February, she says.
By the end of 2014, the radio built a network of over two dozen correspondents who would go back and forth between Syria and Turkey. Those in Syria would send their reporting to the newsroom in Turkey through encryption software, Skype, fake Facebook accounts, or chats that they erased so as not to leave any trace. The reporting was then produced and edited in Gaziantep and streamed and broadcast via FM radio to reach its audience of about 10 million online listeners and millions over the airwaves — 60 percent of which lives in Syria and Turkey. The station has covered stories like domestic abuse cases among Syrian families in Turkey and the environmental impact caused by the armed conflict and weapons on Syria’s agricultural lands, trees, and soil. Rozana also translates its work into English to help Western audiences understand the reality of the upheaval in Syria.
Apart from being Rozana’s executive director, Chawaf also has her own program called “Stigma,” which explores mental health and abuse issues in the wider Middle East. The podcast, which has 15 episodes, has helped individuals find the support they need. For example, the program assisted a woman realize that she was the victim of domestic violence from a bipolar partner and connected her withthe right lawyers to receive legal assistance.The woman later joined Rozana as a staff journalist.
“Listeners don’t want to hear about politics anymore. They want programs about everyday needs, like how to live in Turkey and access services,” explains Chawaf. “That’s why we focus on a solution journalism approach.”
What Syrian journalists hope to achieve in Gaziantep is the impact they wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve back home. Nezhat Shaheen, a producer at Syria TV for the past four years, says that there are many stories that focus attention on the conflict in Syria — namely migration stories on the Turkish-Greek border and the recent earthquake — but those are tragedies. The collective goal of Syrian journalists in Gaziantep is to show a different side of the mainstream narrative.
“In the last two years, I started focusing on the success stories of Syrians in all countries of the world and showing the bright side of their lives away from war,” he explains. Today apart from broadcasting via satellite, Syria TV has found a wider audience through social media, with its Facebook livestreams reaching seven million people daily. Its digital platform, Syria Stream, launched in 2019 and has gained followers among Syrians both inside and outside the country, as well as wider Arab audiences. The outlet’s focus is on positive stories about the revolution, backed by the channel’s most popular show “I was a witness,” a program dedicated to telling the stories of the political activists putting their lives on the line in Syria.
The Syrian press has been financially struggling over the past few years, as attention shifted away from the civil war and its aftermath, and funds for the outlets in Gaziantep have overall been shrinking, according to many of the journalists interviewed for this story.
Each newsroom relies on a different business model to make ends meet. Channels like Syria TV and Aleppo Today are funded by private owners (a Qatari company and an anonymous anti-Assad Syrian businessman, respectively) while others — like Radio Rozana — prefer to apply for funds and grants from NGOs and European institutes to maintain transparency. “Having an owner often means you have to give up on a degree of freedom,” Chawaf says. “We want to be an objective, non-partisan outlet that follows Western standards of press freedom.”
Aleppo Today is affiliated and backed by Syrian opposition forces, and its reporting clearly has anti-regime tones.
Others like Ninar Press have had to come to terms with the lack of funds, and rely on donations from Syrian expats in Europe and the U.S. “Many of our journalists work on a voluntary basis, including me,” Aghi says. “As we opened in 2020, when Covid hit, interest on Syria was at an all-time low. We didn’t have much luck applying for grants.”
The majority of his staff have second jobs. Aghi works as a researcher for think tanks, but that was the compromise he made to stay afloat and join the effort to contribute to a free Syrian press. Despite not receiving money for his role as editor-in-chief, he sees it as a mission, both for himself and the Syrian cause.
“Of course, there’s no press freedom like Europe,” he says. “But no one here bothers Syrians specifically for what we report on, and that’s more than enough.”
In his recent and remarkable book, Biblical Critical Theory, theologian Christopher Watkin points out how often our thinking falls into false dichotomies. Humans are either animals or gods; the planet is either progressing toward utopia or doomed to catastrophe; sex is either no big deal or our whole identity. Back and forth the cultural pendulum swings, never considering that there may be another option: a story that transcends these dichotomies and makes better sense of the way the world is.
Sex, in particular, has been subject to ideological extremes. For most of my lifetime, pop culture has followed the maxim that “sex sells.” So, scantily clad women have been used to market everything from cars and football to movies and music. Beer companies often took the lead, featuring provocative models in swimsuits unabashedly pandering to the lust of their predominantly male customers.
The pendulum seems to have swung the other direction, though the undisguised profit motive remains. For example, Miller Lite’s messaging has done a 180. In a new ad, the beer company chose to appeal to faddish feminist sensibilities. In it, actress Ilana Glazer indignantly tears down beer ads featuring women in bikinis while announcing that Miller Lite is now a champion of women’s dignity and women brewers. The company is doing the right thing and, to quote David Spade from Tommy Boy, “in just a shade under a decade, too … Alright!”
If it weren’t laced with profanity, I could get behind this new direction. I fully support any move away from cynically exploiting women for marketing, whatever the motive. Unlike Bud Light’s recent, disastrous choice to feature transgender actor Dylan Mulvaney (a man) on its cans, Miller is at least gesturing toward an ideal that companies should sell products, not objectify people.
However, here’s where another cultural false dichotomy complicates things. Glazer and the executives at Miller would no doubt say they support abortion, so-called same-sex marriage, transgender identity, sexual liberation, and a whole host of other ideas that have now replaced the “sex sells” mentality of years past. But these still objectify, dehumanize, and exploit women. The pendulum has swung from one misguided extreme to another.
There is a better vision for sexuality that transcends the exploitation of women’s bodies on one hand or the denial of their existence on the other. That alternative was recently on display in a surprising place. Christian pro-life activist Lila Rose appeared on the dating talk podcast Whatever, which boasts over 4 million subscribers on YouTube. She was joined by a colorful assortment of guests, including a self-proclaimed pickup artist and several women who have made careers selling pictures of their bodies online.
Typically, the format of the podcast involves the men shaming the women for their promiscuous behavior, which, of course, the men also engage in. Lila threw both sides for a loop by describing a Christian view of the sexes in which men and women have “equal dignity” and in which sexual relationships are not only about pleasure but also about “procreation and the ability to bring life into the world.” All of this, she added, is designed to occur “within marriage,” “a lifelong, public commitment” to one’s spouse, a commitment which, as she rightly pointed out, social science demonstrates to be the most fulfilling and stable type of sexual relationship.
The other guests on the podcast seemed mystified. One of the men dismissed Lila as “annoying” and “a goody-two-shoes” after she challenged him to exercise self-control and commit himself faithfully to one woman. She may not have converted any of the other guests, but if the reaction online is any indication, she made a lasting impression on a lot of people.
Lila did what every Christian should do in a culture captivated by false dichotomies. She painted a better vision of anything currently on offer. She pointed to an alternative in which men and women are not at war with one another but in harmony, an alternative characterized by self-giving and life-affirming love, not lust or an attempt to eliminate sexual difference.
Even if the world has forgotten this option in its reckless swings from one false extreme to another, God still calls us to reject these distortions and make the case for something better, and not to sell beer or win subscribers but to point people to the One who made the world that way. After all, a life lived in light of this truth can be a far more effective advertisement than anything a beer company produces.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Shane Morris. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
Publication date: June 1, 2023
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Frank Mckenna
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
BreakPointis a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can’t find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.
John Stonestreetis President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Brian Hibbs, of the San Franciscan comic book chain Comix Experience, leads a massive discussion regarding Image Comics switching in Lunar.
by Rich Johnston
Brian Hibbs, of the San Franciscan comic book chain Comix Experience, is one of the most influential comic book retailers in the direct market. It was his class lawsuit against Marvel Comics over a previous distribution kerfuffle that saw FOC instigated across the direct market, first by Diamond and now by Lunar and Penguin Random House. So he had a little something to say about Image Comics’ switch from Diamond to Lunar this last week. Unlike some other publishers who distribute with both Diamond and Lunar, Image Comics is going all in like DC Comics did, with full worldwide exclusive distribution in the direct market of comic book stores though, unlike DC, allowing Diamond to sub-distribute from Lunar. And, unusually, Image Comics partner Erik Larsen chose to join in with the response. Here’s a selection from a very long Facebook thread. Strap in, bookmark this for later, have some holiday reading.
The disappointment of Brian Hibbs.
Brian Hibbs; I am extremely disappointed that Image is forcing us to buy our comics from DCBS, the single largest competitor of all retailers everywhere. I am extremely disappointed that Image is changing their on-sale date to Tuesday (we’ve got decades of effort to brand Wednesdays). I am extremely disappointed that Image will ONLY have a digital catalog (the overwhelming majority of subscribers have been clear they don’t want that). I am extremely disappointed that the publisher who said this (https://www.cbr.com/image-comics-eric-stephenson-slams…/) switched to Lunar. This is a big straw for me. I genuinely wonder if I want to continue to own a comic book store after this news.
Kelly Anderson Heying, owner of Buy Me Toys & Comics in Mishawaka, Indiana: Wednesday is so unique to our industry and I love it. We are sticking with Wednesday.
Benjamin Napier of Mansfield Comics & Manga in Mansfield Texas: On the opposite side of the coin, as a retailer who is only 2 years deep, this is a big win for me as Diamond damages almost 50% of my comics every single week, especially the image books. I cut all my orders back by about 75% and I’m still being charged shipping costs equal to about 1/2 of my cost for my books every week. (About $600 worth of product msrp weekly, paying $150-$175 in shipping per week, consistently. I had been hoping they would switch to PRH, but this is still better than paying stupid money for damaged books every single week.
Brian Hibbs: Our damages are well under 1% a week on average. Always have been. Sorry yours are so high.
Benjamin Napier: You are basically confirming what I have always suspected which is our orders were not high enough for them to care.
LS Kafka,Owner at Sour Cherry Comics, San Francisco: our damages were always terrible and the shipping was crazy. i cancelled my diamond account last month because i was sick of dealing with it and they had the audacity to 1.) try to CHARGE ME for cancelling and 2.) they still REFUSE to refund me for damaged and missing books (over $100) and now i am threatening legal action because they are claiming that i OWE THEM because they didn’t include FCBD charges on the invoice (the invoice which said “0.00” on all FCBD books – changing that price after the fact – 2 weeks ! – is literally illegal in both CA and MD consumer protection laws) so yeah. Fuck Diamond. i am going to watch them go down in flames with GLEE. and i am going to support Lunar still existing because PRH shouldn’t have a monopoly on the DM – that’s how Diamond got in the position to fuck retailers over as much as they have. Lunar providing competition is vital.
Steve Nemeckay, Owner of Amazing Heroes, Union, New Jersey: Benjamin, 50%? I think you are expecting something impossible with a paper periodical. The only damages I report are trades, floppys with a ding hit the rack and sell. I have to much honest to god work to do then look at every corner.
Benjamin Napier: impossible for Diamond thus far, but not a problem for Lunar or PRH, The market is speaking and I’m glad Image listened
Could Diamond be at risk of a lawsuit over its Free Comic Book Day listings?
Brian Hibbs: Just reading back through this thread, and this thing stood out to me: are you suggesting that you thought the FCBD titles were just free for you? Despite clear prices in the catalog? It’s been delayed billing for years now, and there are always several articles to this note in Diamond Daily every year. I’m always fast to drop legal elbows, but in no way is delayed billing illegal. Also: Lunar establishing a DIFFERENT monopoly on product doesn’t *actually* provide competition.
LS Kafka: lol i know they aren’t supposed to be free but you understand consumer protections laws right? they can’t put “0.0” on an invoice with a product and then say 2 weeks later “btw you owe us money” that’s literally illegal IDGAF if “that’s the way it’s done.” and i also don’t care that i am supposed to just “know” that i “have to pay for FCBD books” ?? if they have the idiocy to put 0 on a unit cost next to all the FCBD titles in an invoice they’re sending then yeah.. they need to comply with state and federal laws lol…. edit: so yeah, just btw delayed billing is illegal when you’ve already sent an invoice with a unit price. hope that helps.
Brian Hibbs: You should fully sue them, then. Because, if you’re right, that will be hundreds of thousands of dollars for the class, and you should find a line of attorneys who will be happy to take the case on contingency. I know, because I’ve already won my class action suit.
LS Kafka: i mean like i assume you’re registered with the city for having a point of sale/register with weights and measures yes? and they test you every year? the DPH agent comes in and picks 10 items to make sure that you charge the amount that they are priced? did diamond not send you an invoice with 0.0 as unit cost with your FCBD books? was that a typo on my invoice only? and yeah i mean if you have any attorneys you’d recommend i would love to sue diamond it’s literally been my dream since opening an account with them because they’ve been so consistently terrible for me.
Brian Hibbs: when I sued Marvel, I just sent letters to about 10 class action lawyers. Several got back to me, and I went with Nancy Ledy-Gurren. Looks like her partnership has changed a little and can be found here: http://lgb-law.com. won one million dollars for our class. Good luck!
Back to Image Comics and Lunar.
Kevin Johnson, owner of Universal Comics, North Canton, Ohio: I’m very happy Image is switching. The shipping prices Diamond charges is criminal
Brian Hibbs: I’d be super fine with PRH or Universal. Lunar/DCBS is the enemy.
Frank Forte, publisher at Asylum Press: I thought Diamond said they were reducing these costs over time
Brian Cronin of CBR: Reducing, yes, but still very high.
Kevin Johnson: they were supposed to but I’m not seeing it
Krayz Joe Rider, comic book reader: I will be ordering less, if any, Image. I am too old for this digital sh*t! I’ve been using Previews and Advanced Comics since the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. Same sh*t happened with DC when they fumbled leaving Previews. I was down to two monthly titles, and have only now been adding more as I browse their monthly physical catalog!.. If you make your potential customers jump through hoops to find your product, that is never a good thing. Again, a monthly physical preview may be a cost, but Image will be the only major comic publisher without one. We’ll see after September if it makes a difference…
Steve Nemeckay: New comics are Wednesday at Amazing Heroes. My customers like me and the service and are willing to wait a day.
John Jackson Miller, founder of ComicChron: Contrary to at least one report I’ve seen, Geppi is saying Diamond has an Image wholesale deal coming, for what that’s worth.
Brian Hibbs: It will be “just like” the Marvel one — a 10% or so lower discount and overpriced shipping, making it impossible to make an actual profit.
Carl Pietrantonio, longstanding comics reader, writer and expert: Truly, *as a customer*, I despise digital catalogs. I use them when I have to, for example while traveling for an extended time, but I *much* prefer to sit and read through a physical catalog. Definitely might impact some of my purchasing.
Larry Young, publisher: I always think it’s hilarious when companies whose product is analog makes ordering digital-only. I always think it’s hilarious when companies whose product is analog makes ordering digital-only.
Joe Field, of Flying Colors Comics Comics, Concord, California: The medium is the message… and always has been. I wish they’d get that simple and timeless point.
Then there was the Dynamite Comics diversion.
Jackson Brantley, of Fanboy Comics in Wilmington, North Carolina: Curious if Boom Studio can keep Diamond alive
Brian Hibbs: And Dynamite, heh. It seems to me to be very likely that the days of “full service” stores is now going to be numbered.
Jackson Brantley: no really, this Red Sonja relaunch is going to be the one…
Leef Smith, owner of Mission: Comics & Art, in San Francisco: seems unlikely
Nick Barrucci, publisher and owner of Dynamite Entertainment: It is disappointing too, when we are brought up, to be the butt of your comments. You have employees whom you care about? Well we have 25 employees and over 80 freelancers working for us. And they all have families to support. I don’t think I’ve said anything negatively about you or anyone who does not support us as much as others. It would not be cool. What’s the saying? “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”? And as with Brian Hibbs, I would say very disappointing that this kind of public stance is acceptable. Would you feel good if any publisher were to diss you for not ordering and supporting them? I hope that no one disses you in public and hurts Fanboy Comics or your or your families ability to make money. Again, “Do unto others as you would like them to do to you.”
Brian Hibbs: There is a Cold numbers reality involved — for many stores that I know, Boom and Dynamite alone are not going to be enough of a rational reason to keep giving Diamond business. It was, in a practical sense, Image’s volume that keeps what I suspect are a good many accounts doing business with Diamond in 2023 — I can see scores of stores saying that with Image going, they intend to not order from Diamond any longer in the private retailer groups. I don’t believe that there is the *slightest* amount of “diss” involved in making this observation! Sorry if you thought there was — I regret the unwanted blowback that Dynamite and Boom are likely to feel from this.
Nick Barrucci: And I quote <And Dynamite, heh>. Was the “heh” necessary? And then this <<Brian Hibbs no really, this Red Sonja relaunch is going to be the one…>> where you hit the laughing emoji. You are going out of your way to make fun of us or our business. There’s no other way to see it. There’s a difference between making a black and white statement of “I don’t think that X or Y publisher can maintain sales” or pick your words, and throwing out a “heh” or laughing at a new launch series. As I said, there are a lot of employees and freelancers who count on us, and there are also retailers who do well enough with us that a loss would hurt them.
Brian Hibbs: Again, sorry you are offended. I stand by my reaction to the humor of the notion of the tenth (or so) Dynamite relaunch of RED SONJA as being the thing that’s going to help *Diamond* retain business that is looking to leave with Image’s departure. As I said: I regret the blowback you’re going to end up getting from what Image chose to do, and how that will impact Diamond’s customer retention. Take that as sincere, or don’t. IF I DON’T LAUGH I WILL HAVE TO CRY.
Nick Barrucci: I will take this as sincere. Just the other two, the “heh” and smiling emoji are something that cuts. Simple as that. If a publisher did something like that, “Sure, x retailer who supports THAT line will save that publisher” and the retailer was called out, how would that be received? Poorly, as it should be. There’s a lot going on and hard decisions to be made. There’s a lot of peoples livelyhood on the line on all levels.
Danica LeBlanc, owner at Variant Edition Graphic Novels & Comics of Edmonton, Alberta: Edit: “Sorry I offended you” The way you wrote yours sounds really passive aggressive, and I want to make sure you’re communicating your apology as clearly as possible.
Nick Barrucci: There’s a lot going on, and this is happening fast and furious. And I can appreciate your doing what you need to do. But when we’re doing initiatives like making our first issues returnable, hiring new creators we’ve never hired before and being fortunate to expand the creators we work with, and trying to continue to grow and bring you comics you can sell. It’s very difficult. But it’s the job. But when you say it the way you did, you slight the creators, the editorial, and everyone working on the series. And it is honestly exhausting. And I chimed in because it hurts a lot of people. I don’t care about myself, but there are a lot of creators and it’s deflating during a challenging time. We would never slight retailers saying anything like “you’re x for ordering those books” or anything similar. We need to get through this together. We are a community. We only succeed if we lift each other. Yes, rationally and with good business sense, but we shouldn’t have to slight each other. Again, we have faith in Red Sonja, and it’s why we’re making #1 returnable with just a minimum of 20 copies being ordered.
Jackson Brantley: My store carries everything Dynamite publishes, and while I am personally a fan of Red Sonja my sales numbers are my sales numbers. I take it you work at Dynamite in some capacity? It is impressive that you guys have hung in there as long as you have, and I sincerely hope you can find an escape from the sinking ship of Diamond Comics.
Rob Salkowitz, author, who works for Forbes: Nick doesn’t work for Dynamite; Dynamite works for Nick.
Jackson Brantley: Oh, interesting.
Nick Barrucci: I wish! I’m responsible for over 25 employees, and 80 freelancers on any given month. That’s a lot of responsibility. Hence commenting at 10:36 at night to try and give insight.
Regan Clem: I hope your sales are showing that your efforts are working because they are working in my store. We’ll complain about so many covers. I’m wondering if selling cover art is a main revenue stream for you all. Which if that is what is needed to keep things rolling, go for it. But I also have one person who buys every cover of a few books. That adds up.
There were the former comic store owners.
Thomas Gaul, formerly of Pop Comics, Anahaeim, California: Every day I’m more and more glad I got out when I did.
Joel Pollack, formerly of Big Planet Comics, Washington DC: I retired on Jan. 1. I operated Big Planet Comics exactly half my life. The last three years were brutal.
And the issue that Lunar Comics is DCBS by another name.
Shawn Hudachko, owner of Comics Elite and Artists Elite Comics, who publish exclusively through Lunar Comics: Maybe part of the problem is you’re so stuck on Lunar being the enemy because the same people own an online store. The impact DCBS has/had on me selling weekly books was zero to none. Never once did I think “Id only be doing better if it wasnt for that damn DCBS” Stop complaining about things that have zero impact on you and maybe focus on the fact that you’re barely surviving and make changes where you can control them in your business.
LS Kafka: this, literally. playing to the bottom of the barrel will always result in losing. people who only want discounts are going to always go wherever it’s cheaper. people who are loyal to your brand + store because of all the various reasons that it is unique and fun will continue to support.
Brian Hibbs: Over the 34 years I have been open, we’ve directly had scores of customers directly and specifically say they were switching business to DCBS purely for the discount, so please believe me when I tell you that you are incorrect there. I can enumerate the losses that DCBS and Half-Priced trades have cost us; this is not merely supposition.
Krayz Joe Rider: Shawn, did you read Brian’s posts on how this DOES affect him, with less discounts, higher shipping, and the like? As a customer of my LCS, yeah, nothing changes. I get my comics, but to shrink a retailers profit margins? I was a retailer during the distributor f**kery in the 1990’s, and it increased my cost significantly, increased my workload, but did NOT increase my sales as Capitol/Heroes World/ and Dimond did their self destructive dance…
Brian Hibbs: Shawn is also a retailer, and from what I can tell, he does a pretty massive business in segments like variant covers, so this impacts him less than reader-focused stores like mine.
Shawn Hudachko: You are correct. I very quickly realized that I was not able to keep up with the massive discounts some people were offering so I decided early on to focus my business in a different part of the comic world. I decided to not complain about it and make a change in my business. Lunar and DCBS are 2 different companies owned by the same people. Merc Publishing and Comics Elite are 2 companies ran by the same people. I promise you Lunar is not out there plotting against you. Focus on growing your business.
Brian Hibbs: I appreciate your helpful intention here, but I assure you that I am never ever focused on anything but.
Jo Hansen, comic store employee: if you lose a customer you should try to get new customers, turning casual visits into repeat customers is key. I feel like if you have a comic shop for 34 years you are bound to lose a few customers just due to the linear nature of time and its effects on humans.
Brian Hibbs: *eyeroll*
Andy Liegl, owner of Brave New World Comics at Santa Clarite, California: This.
Jo Hansen: that’s a new one! usually it’s just a “you’re wrong because I said so”
John Cunningham, former DC Comics Senior VP, Sales And Marketing: Who are these chuds trying to lecture you on how to run a goddamn store? FFS…
Brian Hibbs: Shawn makes way way way more money at comics retail than I ever will!
Carr D’Angelo, owner of Earth-2 Comics: Yeah, but aren’t you just a little curious to see Hibbs’ Whatnot show?
Jacob Motsinger of Memory Lane Comics, in Wilmington, North Carolina: I’m holding my own in the battle against giant retail, and do my best to excel at the things they can’t offer. It’s working. I have a profitable business with an awesome staff making a good wage and spend very little time thinking about Amazon or DCBS. I try to focus on the things I can change and keep pushing forward. That doesn’t change the fact that these companies are constantly devaluing the product that our customers are buying, and it is 100% a problem that can’t just be ignored
LS Kafka: it is a problem that has to be ignored because it is a battle you will never win as a brick and mortar retailer. you just simply always have to focus on the customers who appreciate just going into a store in person and looking around
Jacob Motsinger: Are you a member of ComicsPro? Banded together WE are a giant. We have more pull than you think and don’t have to ignore these issues
LS Kafka: lol ComicsPRO is more like a pyramid scheme than a union
Would a Diamond monopoly really be better?
Gabe Yocum of Reed Pop, former of Midtown Comics in New York and Take 2 comcis publisher, I offer these questions because I’m honestly curious- if diamond still held the monopoly they did, and all the other issues brick and mortar shops have had, they continue to have, is that better than Lunar taking over the business from DC and Image? Don’t get me wrong- I understand the fervor about Lunar being parented by competition; I simply want to figure out if there exists a world where a real solution exists where everyone still makes money. In my fraction of a fraction of time In The industry I’ve watched and read Brian Hibbs shine a spotlight on problems and offer common sense solutions, but most importantly, continue to ask hard questions and speak truth to power. I’m exhausted watching, lord knows he’s gotta be. Is the fight unwinnable? If Lunar wasn’t owned by DCBS how much more palatable is this change?
Brian Hibbs: We haven’t changed anything essential about the “monopoly”, is the thing — there’s still only one place to buy DC and Image from, for example. And adding that second monopoly doesn’t generate a single new customer. All it does is increase costs for the average working retailer, be it time/labor, direct discount, shipping, whatever.
Regan Clem, owner of Summit Sports, Comics & Games, Fort Wayne, Indiana: Publishers don’t have to deal with a monopoly. They get to shop around and get the best deal. Retailers still deal only with monopolies. One place to get Image. One place to get Marvel. One place to get Boom. We’ll have two places to get DC it looks like. That will be the only non-monopolistic relationship we will then have as Lunar and Universal will be competing for our dollars. But I don’t know if publishers can afford to go with multiple distributors. That would be what would make distributors compete to provide retailers with the best service and prices. Is that even feasible? What if publishers had distributors competing to make them happy every month. And those same distributors also were competing to win over retailers. And everyone was trying to expand the market. Lunar has done a good job. Set the gold standard in shipping. Rarely has damages. DCBS has been not just an online competitor with me but also a brick and mortar competitor for a while. People worry about the data they now have, which I can come up with ways to use that data to gain customers. Not saying they do, but the option is right there.
Colin McMahon of Pittsburgh Comics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The problem we are having right now is we are working more for less. 3 weekly orders. Extra reorders due to multiple sources. 3 weekly shipments. Each company has their own systems, own way of doing things. This one is just clicking a box. This one is sending a picture and saying please. This one I’ll have next week. This one will be 2. It’s so much more busywork keeping track of things, making sure you’re not ordering something twice, seeing if a backorder has been canceled. It’s hours a week of extra work. Extra aggravation. Less time actually enjoying what we do. That’s the biggest thing for me. They tried to spin 1)working more on Sunday 2)putting books out on Tuesday and 3)sending our customers to DCBS’s website to see the digital catalog as positives for us. None of those things are a positive. It’s more work. And there is no benefit to us. Maybe less shipping. Maybe less damages. Ok. I’d rather have the hours back.
Avi Ehrlich, publisher of Silver Sprocket Press: my publishing house is very small, but our distributors (Diamond, Lunar, Ingram) are very much in competition with each other to provide retailers with reasons to order from them and not the others. The only reason to go *exclusive* with anyone would be a significant amount of extra $ or marketing attention, seems very risky where I sit.
Regan Clem: Your small publishing house is picking up in my stores. Dare I say it was because of Lunar though. Because it was.
Joe Field: I would be very interested to know what changed for Image since Eric made the fairly incendiary comments about DC leaving Diamond three years ago? Now I know one answer to that is “everything changed the last three years” but I feel like there’s a ton of behind the scenes financial gyrations that are not casting Diamond in a good light. For the record, I want a healthy comics specialty market and I believe a healthy Diamond is part of that. But I also don’t want to be over-funding that health.
LS Kafka: lunar offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse lol it is as simple as that. they get tiered discount like DC
Brian Hibbs: I believe that there are multiple elements in play that we’re not publically aware of, so odds seem low “it is as simple as that”. I also don’t know that I think that individually tiered discounts for Image will be all that good of a deal for most retailers given the general inconsistency of sales across the line, though until they reveal those charts, we’re all just guessing at best.
LS Kafka: it won’t be a good deal for retailers but it’s a good deal for the publisher since it will probably incentivize a good amount of retailers to order more just to keep the discount and that will definitely translate to image selling more, for a bit at least. and if they keep their stories worth buying then they might be able to just hack it. i also suggest talking to your sales reps more because i’ve been hearing bits and pieces from them about this move (and others) for a minute so… a little birdie told me that image and boom might eventually move over to PRH but that you will probably see boom at PRH first (as early as next spring) bc they have a kill clause in their contract that if image leaves they can too
So what’s really going on?
Rob Salkowitz: Do you think Lunar’s lack of transparency (eg no sales charts) has anything to do with it?
John Jackson Miller: Image historically looked on the charts very favorably, since their whole purpose was to attract retailers’ attention to promising series they might be missing out on. (I highly doubt that sort of thing ever motivated any dollars-and-cents decision of this scope, in any event.)
Lee Hester, of Lee’s Comics in Mountain View, California: I haven’t had a brick and mortar store since 2020, but I still watch all the changes with great interest.
Marc Arsenault, former Art director at Fantagraphics and Tundra, and General Manager at Alternative Comics: since 2019 here. Lease thingee I miss the people, but don’t miss the bs. And oh yeah, having been in this since my teens and having been a buyer at Comic Relief I still keep a toe in.
Lee Hester: I miss the people too, but the pressure to try make money every second to try to cover my obligations was overwhelming. It’s much more relaxing not to have rent, payroll, and Diamond bills to worry about.
Darren Hutchinson of Unknown Comic Books in Amarillo, Texas: As a retailer that goes that primarily generates sales from online i will say i will always have issue from buying from my competitor. But i will say adapting is what we do. We are in an ever dying market that is comics. These publishers are having to make choices solely on the bottom line for the future of their businesses and if image thinks its lunar ill for sure adapt to make it work. At the end of the day the publishers like any business will have to make choices that effect there clients. Luner being owned by dcbs i think has brought some great rewards to our industry. Shipping is second to none, we get very little errors in our shipments, and we almost always get books in advance to have good processing times. Your stance on Wednesday sales date is archaic…….Tuesday sales date drives traffic on a day that is typically slow for stores. Then you get them again on Wednesday for Marvel. This is like a email everyday about a new topic. It drives traffic to your store everyday. At this point you will respond with how long you have been doing this and we will go back and fourth over whatever in the comments……longevity is not a privilege you are still required to adapt.
Brian Hibbs: I don’t think “We are in an ever dying market that is comics” inherently. I think publishers and retailers have had made specific decisions that are actively murdering the market for periodicals (including the crazy reliance on variant covers, and stunts) — but it’s super obvious from looking at BookScan that the market for the medium of comics is growing quite fine! RE Wed NCD, having to maintain both Wed and Tue means that one has to do (at least some aspects of) work twice. A singular check in is significantly more efficient than doing distinct and separate ones for each distro on different days. While Lunar and PRH are very good about getting comics to us well in advance of sale, that SPECIFIC day (at least *here*) is somewhere between Thur and Mon — IT ISN’T CONSISTENT ENOUGH TO SCHEDULE FOR. Diamond comes on time on Tue each and every week like clockwork (barring “acts of god”) RE “At this point you will respond with how long you have been doing this and we will go back and fourth over whatever in the comments……longevity is not a privilege you are still required to adapt.” I think you’re thinking of someone else…. I’ve absolutely WHOLLY changed the very basis of our store, how we rack, days of delivery, etc etc at least five different times over the decades — I am fine with adapting…. IF THAT ADAPTATION MAKES ME MORE MONEY. But nothing, NOT ONE THING, since DC fucked us all and left Diamond in 2020, has made me more money when it comes to distribution: exactly the opposite. All I see is far more work, for far less return
Phil Boyle, President of Coliseum of Comics in Florida: 40 years isn’t done without constant adapting. I can still see the stupid in the tea leaves. Been here, done this. Always greater cost only this time it’s subsidizing our competitor.
Shawn Hudachko: “longevity is not a privilege you are still required to adapt.” I will be stealing this from you sir. Well said. “All I see is far more work, for far less return” “That….is why you fail.”
Regan Clem: Brian started the Graphic Novel of the Month club. He won us the Marvel lawsuit. He is always giving good insights to help my business. He’s not failing. His biggest issues are being in a broken and failing city. I don’t know if he would… See more
Brian Hibbs: I would quibble with the specific language of “broken and failing”, but yeah The City could be doing much better with different leadership, and thus we would be as well.
And then Erik Larsen arrived.
Erik Larsen, CFO of Image Comics and creator/writer/artist of Savage Dragon: Here’s the thing–I can’t go on record with a detailed list of the advantages of one distributor over another or share proprietary information. Suffice to say that Image didn’t come to this decision lightly and that we didn’t make the move for no reason. We thought it was better for all parties involved, from the reader to the retailer, to our creators. This should benefit everybody in the long run. And we absolutely have listened to retailers along the way. Retailers have let their feeling be know from the offset and we have been listening. I think the DCBS concern is a non-issue just as Marvel including free digital versions of their comics in every book is a non-issue. If readers were going to buy online they’d be doing so now. Hell, every comic book ever published has been bootlegged and is free and available from numerous sources now and your customers aren’t chasing down that content because they WANT to go into your store–they WANT the ritual. This isn’t going to replace the pilgrimage and experience that stores provide. People WANT that social contact. They WANT to experience that. The only reason to fear a mass exodus is if going to your story is an unpleasant experience. Of course a bad retailer CAN drive people away if they really try. But, again, if they haven’t been scared away yet, this isn’t likely to be the thing that’s going to send them screaming out of your store. As far as Wednesday is concerned–there’s no reason customers can’t continue to come in on Wednesday, if that’s what they’d prefer. I do. If you’re selling out of certain titles on Tuesday before some of your customers arrive in your store–that’s a sign that you’re under-ordering books. There’s no reason that you shouldn’t have plenty of comics on hand for Wednesday. I know this is comics and people freaking-the-fuck-out at every announcement is part of the ritual but might I recommend waiting and seeing how this goes before you lose your goddamned minds?
Roger Prows of the Nerd Store, in West Valley, Utah. I appreciate your context. However, I would like to give some counter input from the perspective of my stores (I’m a retailer with 3 stores in Utah). As far as Wed vs Tuesday is concerned, my issue isn’t with the customer facing end. The logistics from both an ordering and receiving end, is a big issue for us. With inconsistent delivery times from UPS we already have times with people waiting on boxes on Tuesdays without things to do, adding a seperate day increases that issue, increases payroll on processing, not to mention the FOC being split is an unnecessary inconvenience. As far as DCBS is concerned, many, of not most, of my customers do not know they exist or that online subscription models or pirating exists. My shops specialize in new readers, we’re in malls and sirens a lot of our efforts on creating new comic fans, and do so well. Over 60% of our holds had never read comics before coming to us. I agree that it’s probably more extreme a reaction in a lot of cases than warranted in long term impact, but there are definitely legitimate concerns that I think should be addressed
Benjamin Napier: As a struggling retailer, my gratitude for this move is infinite, and will absolutely result directly in my being able to afford a lot more of the Image product that I want to be carrying, and even being able to count on it showing up in consistently great shape for the first time virtually ever. Thank you for listening to retailers, and staying connected to the community like a boss.
Roger Prows: i have definitely found that the degree to which Diamond is a problem is greatly amplified for smaller shops
Regan Clem: Erik Larsen I think there may be more to worry about in the DCBS angle. They can have data on where books are selling now and target ads specifically to that region. Not saying they will do that or do. Online retail is probably the biggest bane of growing the industry currently. They create no new readers. Only gain customers by brick and mortars creating comic readers who then want a better deal. The place that gains the industry readers loses a customer to the place that just functions as a parasite. We do survive, as you note, by people wanting that physical/social experience as we don’t win on price or selection. But this is a much bigger idea that could be better fleshed out. There are some of us retailers who pay serious rent and have bought properties to be in great places to be that place where new readers come. Accessible, clean, and welcoming stores. As for Lunar, I think they do an amazing job. Gold standard for packing. I have had every issue resolved pleasantly, and that is with having been their local brick and mortar competition for a while. I don’t doubt they will serve Image well. But the multi delivery release day is an issue that makes us lose money. This actually didn’t change one bit of that though. We had two days before this. We have two days now. I actually asked Marvel to change to Tuesday. That would solve it just as much as everyone else moving back to Wednesday. The workflow was way better when we had only one release day.
Roger Prows: that’s a good point. I prefer Wednesday, but everyone on a Tuesday is better than having 2 days
Brian Hibbs: I appreciate you engaging. Let me say: I do not “fear a massive exodus” or anything like that. Rather, I don’t want *any* of *my* money to go to my *competition*! We all deserve a level playing field. The primary issue with multiple release days is that it creates multiple order cycles, multiple shipments to track, multiple OSD reports to manage, multiple shifts to schedule to time recieving labors against, multiple invoices to pay and so on. It was easy to ignore DC’s insistence that comics come out on Tuesday. It becomes exponentially harder when the second publisher says “us too!” You and I have both been through this long enough to know there is really not enough profit for periodical comics to reasonably support multiple distributors for the category (think what happened with Capital City, or with Cold Cut!) and once you remove the largest players from a profitable channel, then that just hangs the smaller players out to dry. Every buy/sell publisher at Diamond is effectively fucked even more because Diamond no longer has the cash flow to keep their stock on hand (not that, he hastened to add, they historically wanted to!) Finally, if I am “freaking the fuck out” (and I don’t think I am), it is because each and every change to distribution since DC pulled out has cost me time (and thus money), without selling one single more comic book. And in a case of salt in the wound DC’s choice of upjumping DCBS has enriched the retailer’s competition. If it doesn’t make me more money, if it doesn’t gain me a new customer, then a new system inherently becomes a net negative. Twas ever thus.
Erik Larsen: I expect most customers will wait for Wednesday, as per usual. Marvel is still the top dog and I don’t anticipate a lot of folks making two trips to the store when they can do it in one. Shipping prices should change for the better, and there are other benefits which will become apparent over time. Again, I can’t go on record with a detailed list of the advantages of one distributor over another or share proprietary information–but we were very conscious of you and other retailers when we made this move. All I’m asking is that you give this a chance to play out before you jump to any conclusions.
Aaron Settle, Owner-operator at Urban Legends Comics, Mesquite, Texas: I understand your desire to let everything play out. But if it’s something we know from experience is going to hurt us, why wait until it hurts us to do something about it? We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that not having a physical catalog to order from is going to cost us sales and hurt us. We know this because DC did something similar and people ordered less and sales went down. We have hard data that this happened. Looking at historical precedent isn’t jumping to conclusions.
Regan Clem: We’ve switched days so many times in this industry. Wednesday just has been a staple for the most. When I began, it was whatever day comics arrived. Then it moved to Thursday. Then it moved to the Wednesday we know. Now, it’s in flux again. I just would like one day but will be flexible if that’s not possible.
John Cunningham: This “response” was tone deaf and pedantic. Kudos! You have arrived as a corporate executive!!
Something John Cunningham used to be. And then it comes to an end…
Brian Hibbs: If I look outside, and the sky is overcast, and there’s a smell of ozone in the air, and the air is heavy, well I’m going to carry an umbrella that day. Living in San Francisco, we both know that doesn’t *absolutely mean* it’s going to rain, hell, it might not even be a 50/50 chance — but I’d still rather carry that umbrella rather than not. Especially if I am carrying around armloads of paper that are going to be destroyed if I am wrong about being cautious.
Duncan McGeary, Small Business Owner at Pegasus Books of Bend, Bend, Oregon: “Waiting until things play out,” is not a winning strategy. By then, the damage is done.
Phil Boyle: As the economy tightens and new comic prices rise, fans are more cognizant than ever about how much they’re spending. Jumping either online for free/bootlegged downloads or buying cheaply off DCBS has become a real option for many former comic store stalwarts. They still come into our stores but tend to spend less than previous years. Wednesday Warriors have been all but replaced with Wednesday Speculators. Fewer people are talking about stories and are instead talking about which cover will be worth $20 on ebay. If a book specs out, we can sell out on a Wednesday. Then #2 sells almost nothin without the same speculator interest. All this has caused a drop in new comic sales over the past year yet our work ordering and tracking has tripled thanks to the fracturing of the distribution system. Forced subsidization our largest competitor by those who can least afford it is horrific.
Jo Hansen: thank u for the dissenting input. I work at a comic shop 5 miles away from Comix and we all appreciate the move to Lunar, this will make shipment day much easier and with far less damages or missing boxes. We are not in competition with DCBS, Amazon, Marvel Unlimited, Pirate Bay, or the public library system for that matter. We will continue to release all our books on Wednesday because that’s how long it takes to get them ready. Also this is the second time this week, but your Spider-Man run is my favorite this side of Romita Sr, we sell them out of the vintage box all day, hope u are doing well
With Ron Killingsworth, owner of Collected Comics and Games in West Fort Worth, Texas wrapping it all up: This has been an excellent discussion, only thing I will add is that I for one never expected a mass exodus to online, just a slow attrition. You know, death by a thousand cuts. Stores create new customers that eventually move to online discounters as their hobby becomes addictive enough that they cannot afford at full price. Stores become stuck in an eternal acquisition mode without the long tail of acquired customers to fund the outreach.
Enjoyed this? Please share on social media!
Stay up-to-date and support the site by following Bleeding Cool on Google News today!
The Majority Quadriga is reminiscent of the hi-fi separates of yesteryear while also exuding a modern style that makes it look far more premium than the price tag would suggest. The Quadriga is the Swiss army knife of audio products, as it packs in many great audio features and options.
The all-black design is striking, and the Quadriga stands out in terms of its aesthetics and trimmings. The row of clicky buttons on the front panel is black with a silver ring surrounding them, accentuating their form. In particular, I love the large tactile volume dial/multifunction button, which inherits the same styling as the buttons. There’s something organic about changing the volume with a physical dial that’s really satisfying. You also get a couple of 3.5mm jacks for headphones and AUX audio in.
To the left of the dial is the 6 x 4.5cm colour display, which offers an intuitive user interface with an easy-to-use solution that blends the dependability of DAB+ with Internet radio, podcasts, and music on demand from the Internet. Unfortunately, we don’t have any DAB radio stations in Ireland. Above the display is the slot-loading CD player.
The Quadriga has two 4-inch speaker drivers on either side of the display and a third 6-inch down-facing subwoofer, and combined, they can produce an impressive 120 watts of stereo sound.
Around the back of the unit are the AUX/RCA and Optical outputs. You also get a USB-A port that allows you to play audio files from a USB stick, along with a DAB/FM radio aerial, optical, and a round port for the external power adaptor.
The Quadriga offers a myriad of ways to consume audio, from basic FM radio to Wi-Fi-enabled internet radio streaming and podcasts, DAB+, AUX connectivity, and Spotify Connect support. Including a CD player might seem odd, but I have really enjoyed revisiting my old collection of CDs. The only thing that surprised me is that it doesn’t display any album or track information. I would have thought this would have been easy since the Quadriga is connected to the internet.
You also get Bluetooth, which is great for streaming from your mobile phone. Unfortunately, the Quadriga only offers the basic SBC audio codec, which has the best compatibility but also the lowest sound quality compared to AAC, aptX, or LDAC. SBC is a somewhat adaptable codec, nevertheless. It can support sampling rates of up to 48 kHz at a bit depth of 16 bits. Additionally, it can send data at speeds of up to 345 kbps.
The small 2.8-inch colour display is incredibly useful for navigation and information. It makes it easy to switch between inputs, and see information about radio stations, album art, and many other details. For example, I loved being able to see information on the screen about the current tune playing, even when streaming via Bluetooth from my phone.
I use both Apple Music and Spotify, and the latter can stream directly from the Quadriga. You have full playback controls directly from the buttons on the front of the unit, but also via a comprehensive remote control.
You can set two different alarms, each with a set time, mode (internet radio, DAB, FM radio, or buzzer), volume, and the last station played.
The Quadriga is packed with features, but it also sounds decent too. The subwoofer is a big help to the overall sound, but it does get a little boomy despite the large feet at the base of the unit which provides a substantial gap to allow it to breathe.
The overall sound is nicely balanced, and the tuning has been tweaked to suit a broad range of audio, from podcasts to pop music.
In terms of punch and the 120 watts of power, I didn’t find the Quadriga got super loud even at full volume. This isn’t to say it wasn’t loud enough, but if you’re looking for a party speaker to punch through a big room with a lot of people, I’d look elsewhere. That being said, even at maximum loudness, the sound doesn’t distort, but the bass does get a little boomy.
There is an EQ setting that allows you to choose from a selection of presets, as well as the option to tweak the bass and treble.
The Quadriga is complemented by an app called Undok that connects via Bluetooth and is available on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. This allows you to select inputs and adjust volume and playback controls. While the app can be handy, it can’t do everything you can do from the Quadriga screen, including setting alarms or updating the firmware.
The Majority Quadriga is one of my favourite audio products of 2023 so far. It offers outstanding features in a premium package at a price that’s hard to believe. It impresses with its versatility, packing in numerous audio features and options. The audio quality is decent, though not exceptionally loud, and the EQ settings allow for customisation.
The app support adds convenience, although some functionalities are limited. Highly recommended.
Ford Motor Car Company announced a few weeks ago that starting in 2024 their cars and trucks would no longer have AM radio. That’s a decision I don’t understand. I guess Ford and I aren’t on the same wavelength.
Ford wanted to drive toward eliminating AM, hit the brakes, then shifted into neutral when the criticism started, sat in park to think about it and then decided to put their decision into reverse. I guess that proves the transmission of AM is still working fine in Ford vehicles.
Contracts between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and both the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) expire June 30. With 11,500 television and film writers on strike since May 2, neither union has indicated that it has plans for joint action to resist the attacks of the giant conglomerates and shut down the industry.
The DGA, with 19,000 members working as television and film directors, assistant directors, unit production managers and in other positions, began formal bargaining with the AMPTP June 7. The union has not yet called a strike authorization vote.
Like the writers, DGA members face worsening of working and living conditions, demanding schedules and the increasingly precarious character of their jobs, in additional to inadequate residuals.
The list of the DGA’s demands that it has made public, in outline form, includes “securing wage increases that address inflation, maintaining the strength and sustainability of our world-class pension and health care plans” and “negotiating meaningful increases and structural changes to streaming residual formulas that account for the global growth of the audience.”
The Guild also promises to protect “the role and vision of Directors” and to fight for improvements in “safety on the set by expanding and encouraging training and addressing long workdays.” This comes in the wake of the October 2021 incident on the set of the low-budget film Rust that resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding of director Joel Souza.
For a wage increase to address inflation, it would require beating it. As for “meaningful increases” to streaming residuals, the DGA has claimed that they had accomplished this goal in both of the last two rounds of negotiations. In December 2016, according to the Los Angeles Times, “While the guild didn’t release details of the new structure, it said the deal more than triples residuals for members working on original content for the biggest streaming companies.” But three times a pittance is still a pittance.
Long and dangerous workdays, as the Rust episode tragically revealed, are a major issue.
The WSWS recently spoke to an assistant director, Nicole, on the writers’ strike picket line, who offered some insight into current conditions.
She told our reporters that traditionally DGA members receive a three percent raise each year, but for the first time in thirty years the Guild is asking for more money, because “we are asking for more to meet a living wage for the hours that we work.”
Highlighting the real living conditions of DGA members, Nicole noted: “When people see Hollywood, they think we are all making a lot of money. We are working, that is assistant directors, 70-90 hours a week to make that living wage. These are some of the most expensive cities to live in. I live in New York City. I think we need to be paid fairly and the corporations should not be so greedy.”
Assistant directors have exhausting schedules, she went on. They work “non-stop, and once you are home, you are getting phone calls non-stop, and we are just asking for things to make our lives better. We are asking for our health care to be even better, and to secure those things like creative rights for directors which would protect us from the future with AI [artificial intelligence].” This raises equal concern among writers, and with SAG-AFTRA negotiations coming up next, she said, “This is going to be a summer for making big changes.”
Nicole said that workers have increasingly come to see the studios’ protestations of poverty as a fraud. When COVID hit, she pointed out, “You saw that the studios suddenly had millions upon millions of dollars to put into COVID safety, that they have claimed forever that they do not have for us.
“Even when it comes to pay for production assistants, the lowest-level people, they say they don’t have the money. But suddenly everyone saw the façade, on the one hand, and the reality, on the other, when they came up with millions.”
While workers are ready to fight, and want to unify their struggles, DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter and the negotiating team have dismissed this possibility by asserting they fully intend to ink an agreement before the AMPTP begins talks with SAG-AFTRA June 7.
SAG-AFTRA represents more than 160,000 actors, broadcast journalists, dancers, news writers and editors, program hosts, recording artists, singers, voiceover artists and other professionals. The union is currently holding a strike vote. Balloting began May 18, after the SAG-AFTRA board the previous day unanimously urged the membership to authorize a strike, and will continue online until June 5.
Many SAG-AFTRA members have joined the writers’ picket lines in solidarity. “It’s really like the corporate environment against the working people,” a SAG-AFTRA member who wished to remain anonymous told the WSWS at the Netflix picket line.
He spoke critically about the no-strike clause that prevents SAG-AFTRA members from joining the writers. “It seems like it should be under consideration as we negotiate the next rounds of contracts whether we should put in a no-strike clause,” he went on. “This is our opportunity to change our tune on that and essentially say, well, next time we’re not going to have a no-strike clause because maybe the trust isn’t there like it was before.”
Like the DGA, SAG-AFTRA has sent out letters telling its members they must cross picket lines and report to work even if writers are picketing their production. The Teamsters bureaucracy issued a hypocritical statement in April that they would not cross writers’ picket lines and then instructed their membership to load and unload early in the morning or late in the evening, before or after picketing!
Conditions for SAG-AFTRA members have worsened over the last decade. Most artists have to hold multiple jobs to make ends meet, while non-union work has become routine. The union, incapable of addressing the underlying causes of a changing industry, fines talent for having to accept non-union gigs.
The specific demands of SAG-AFTRA have also not been made public. A letter from Los Angeles Local President Jodi Long insisted that the main issues include “Erosion of income and benefit plan contributions due to inflation and the streaming ecosystem. Reduced residuals. Fast-evolving threats of generative AI. Unregulated and burdensome self-taped auditions.”
A joint struggle of entertainment workers would be a starting-point, but the various union leaderships are vehemently hostile to such action, which would raise a host of social, political and cultural questions and seriously rock the boat. Instead they issue empty statements of “support” to each other and call in various Democratic Party politicians to rail meaninglessly against “corporate greed”—the same politicians who are at the beck and call of corporate America and who relentlessly pursue policies of war and austerity.
Broadening the scope of the struggle means turning not to the union bureaucracies, but directly to the West Coast dockworkers without a contract for almost a year, as well as UPS workers, nurses, teachers, autoworkers at the Big Three who have contracts coming up later this year, and Clarios workers who have overwhelmingly rejected a rotten contract for the second time.
Film and television artists are not simply facing an economic struggle, as important as that is. They confront predatory companies run by multi-millionaire executives whose social and cultural interests are directly opposed to those of the writers, directors, actors and others. In fact, securing workers’ decent living and working conditions, including the right to speak the truth about life and society directly and without corporate interference, means challenging the operation of these vast cultural and technical resources as a means of personal wealth accumulation by a handful of corporate sharks.
The pro-big business policies of the various guilds and unions have produced the present crisis. The conditions have not fallen from the sky. They are the result of decades of concessions, retreats and open sellouts. The union leaders who each time proclaimed that a great advance had been made are still in charge.
The same apparatus seeks to wall these struggles off, whether through no-strike clauses, the banning of solidarity strikes or by separating workers based on their positions within the industry or by different contract expiration dates. By separating workers in the WGA, DGA, SAG-AFTRA, Teamsters and IATSE, and keeping bargaining as well as strikes separate, the union tops effectively discourage, isolate and weaken workers.
An opportunity exists to move forward and to strike a serious blow against the global entertainment conglomerates as well as the banks and the hedge funds that own them. To do so, however, entertainment workers will have to take the leadership of the struggle out of the hands of the unions and establish democratically controlled rank-and-file committees which are independent of the unions and the two big business parties. By uniting the struggle of writers, directors, actors and below-the-line workers in the US and internationally, and linking up the struggles with those of workers in other industries, significant change can be achieved.
arbg, a popular torrent website that fuelled illegal downloads of movies and TV shows, has closed.
Users who accessed the website on Wednesday were greeted with a message that alerted them of Rarbg’s demise, Torrent Freak reported.
“We would like to inform you that we have decided to shut down our site,” the statement said.
It went on to note that Rarbg had faced numerous difficulties over the past two years, including the loss of staff members to Covid. It also mentioned an increase in operational costs due to data centre price increases and inflation.
Rarbg also said that it was directly impacted by the war in Ukraine. It said that some of its employees “are also fighting the war in Europe — on both sides”.
Rarbg allowed people to download torrents. These are small files shared online by numerous users in small fragments over a BitTorrent software program. Although torrenting isn’t illegal, it has become closely associated with the distribution of copyrighted content, such as movies, TV shows, video games, and pornography — which is against the law.
Founded in 2008, Rarbg later became an alternative to Pirate Bay after that site’s numerous legal battles and subsequent shutdowns. Several major torrenting sites were also closed between 2015 and 2016, among them KickassTorrents, Torrentz, and ExtraTorrent, possibly acting as a further catalyst for Rarbg.
According to web traffic counter Similarweb, Rarbg had 40.8 million total visits last month.
The most popular torrents on the site were usually the latest episodic TV and streaming shows from Netflix and the like; movies including high-quality films ripped from the internet or dodgy camcorder recordings from cinema screenings; anime series; and pornography. These were typically split into different sections, with top 10s and top 100s that users could browse.
However, it remains to be seen whether the site will live again. Despite going dark in the past, Pirate Bay has surfaced online thanks to proxy websites and alternative domains.
While Rarbg may be gone, plenty of torrent sites remain. Torrent Freak says the top three sites are YTS, 1337x and NYAA.
KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — Households with internet access increased to 96 per cent in 2022 compared to 94.9 per cent in 2021, says the latest report from the Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DoSM).
In the ‘2022 ICT Use and Access by Individuals and Households Survey Report’ released today, DoSM noted that household access to mobile phones, radios and televisions remained above 95 per cent, but the access rate to pay television broadcasts was 76.9 per cent, down from 83.2 per cent in 2021.
The report also stated that the use of the internet among Malaysians aged 15 and above had increased from 96.8 per cent (2021) to 97.4 per cent (2022), where the most popular online activity in Malaysia was participating in social networks.
DoSM explained that the use of the internet had increased significantly for services related to finding information, communication, civics and politics, e-Government, entertainment, e-Commerce and other online services.
“Activities related to services increased by more than 3 percentage points. The activities related to services are finding information about goods or services, which increased to 92.5 per cent; uploading self-created content to a website (17.6 per cent); managing a personal homepage (10.3 per cent).
“Other activities related to services are performing tasks online to generate income (15.5 per cent); internet banking (74.8 per cent); listening to radio online (72.8 per cent); watching television online (68.1 per cent) and purchasing or ordering goods or services via e-Commerce (70.4 per cent),” read the report.
Based on the study, ICT skills which were one of the indicators monitored in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), had also improved.
Basic ICT skills activities include copying or transferring files using copy-and-paste techniques and sending emails with files.
Activities that require specific expertise, such as using basic arithmetic formulas in a spreadsheet and writing computer programmes using programming languages, had increased to 67.1 per cent and 23.5 per cent respectively.
Other activities also increased, such as connecting and installing new devices (79.2 per cent), searching, downloading, installing and configuring software (72.5 per cent) and creating electronic presentations using computer software (62.9 per cent).
The survey was carried out during the transition to the endemic phase, which allowed the community to return to almost normal life after two years of facing Covid-19. — Bernama
Alfred Walking Bull isn’t a morning person. Still, for nearly a year now, he’s been waking up before sunrise on Friday mornings to host Grand Entry on KFAI, a community radio station in Minneapolis.
“I don’t hear a lot of Native music on the air,” Walking Bull said. “Particularly pow wow music.”
Walking Bull is one of several volunteer hosts of Native programs at KFAI. He grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in western South Dakota. He didn’t hear pow wow music on the radio back then because there were few Native-owned stations at the time.
The Voice of the Lakota Nation
Programs — and crucially, Native owned and operated radio stations — have grown in the decades since the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee. Walking Bull says a drive from Rosebud to Pine Ridge reservation revealed the difference between stations.
MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.
Walking Bull is one of several volunteer hosts of Native programs at KFAI. He grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in western South Dakota. He didn’t hear pow wow music on the radio there either.
“The radio in Rosebud in the 1980s was run by the Catholic church,” Walking Bull said. “It was Top 40 during the day. Mostly country in the evening. Then at 10 o’clock, there was the rosary … You pray the rosary and you went to bed.”
Things changed when Walking Bull climbed into his father’s 1976 Ford LTD and the family headed west to visit relatives on the Pine Ridge reservation, also in South Dakota. As the Catholic radio station began to fade, another radio station — this one from Porcupine, S.D. — could be heard inside the car.
“By the time you get to the other side of the ridge, that’s when you’d get the signal for KILI and he’d switch over,” Walking Bull said.
KILI, “The Voice of the Lakota Nation,” is a Native-owned and operated station on the Pine Ridge reservation. That station, likely the first Indigenous radio station in the Midwest, was a big influence on Walking Bull. When his father heard pow wow music on KILI, his reaction was strong.
“Sometimes he’d say ‘Hoka!’ which means now we can party,” Walking Bull said.
‘We own it’
Today, there are more than 50 Native-owned radio stations in the U.S., according to Native Public Media, a New Mexico nonprofit. There are several in Minnesota including Bois Forte Tribal Community Radio, Niijii Radio at White Earth and KOJB the Eagle in Cass Lake, owned by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
Native radio is a critical source of information for people living in rural reservation communities. “[These] stations are your communication, are your link. They were your internet before the internet,” Walking Bull said.
In the early 1970s, Native radio was rare. There were only a few Native-owned and operated stations in the U.S., mostly in North Carolina and Alaska. When the standoff at Wounded Knee ended, Pine Ridge residents made that — and opening a medical clinic — a priority.
Bill Means attended that meeting a half century ago. A member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), he is president of KILI’s board of directors. Before joining AIM, he was a U.S. Army soldier fighting in Vietnam. While serving, Means read about AIM in the newspaper.
“I immediately thought to myself I’d rather be there with my people,” Means said. “If I could just survive this damn war.”
After the war, he returned to South Dakota and attended college. During Wounded Knee, Means says he raised money for AIM’s legal defense fund and one night, smuggled in weapons. Two Native Americans died at Wounded Knee in 1973.
When the siege ended and outsiders left, Means stayed and got to work on projects the community agreed to. A medical clinic opened first. The radio station opened in 1983. The tribe offered to let KILI broadcast from tribal-owned housing, but KILI refused. Its independence was important from the beginning.
“That way we own it,” Means said. “Nobody can kick us out. Nobody can tell us what to do.”
Oglala Sioux council meetings are broadcast on KILI. That’s something longtime station manager Tom Casey said they’re committed to.
“It’s meaningful to be part of the community and have an impact on the community,” Casey said. “It’s meaningful to be able to share: Share people’s stories, share people’s lives, share way of life, share the culture.”
It airs all kinds of local things: announcements about schools and jobs, along with music, pow wows and sports.
Alfred Walking Bull tunes in when he can. Every time he does, it reminds him what makes KILI special.
“In Lakota, kili means something is kinda fancy, an exhortation,” Walking Bull said. “Every time we switched it over to KILI, we knew we were listening to Indian radio.”
Coco Jones, who stars in the Peacock series Bel-Air and recently reached the No. 1 spot on R&B radio with the sultry hit “ICU,” has signed with WME in all areas.
The 25-year-old signed to High Standardz/Def Jam Records in 2022 and released her debut EP, What I Didn’t Tell You, in November. It features “ICU,” which is spending its second week on top of Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, which tracks success at R&B and hip-hop radio. “ICU” ranked ninth on The Hollywood Reporter’s 10 Best Songs of 2022 list.
Jones made a breakthrough as a teen actress in the Disney Channel film Let It Shine and stars as Hilary Banks in Bel-Air, the spin-off of the hit ‘90 TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show debuted last year and has been renewed for a third season. She also stars in her own YouTube web-series T and Coco, alongside co-host Terrell Grice.
Jones has competed for best new artist honors at the NAACP Image Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards. Billboard named her R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month for May 2023.
The entertainer recently partnered with Pure Leaf Iced Tea and performed at Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman Festival, held this month in Atlanta.
Jones continues to be managed by Lydia Asrat and M88, and is represented by Fox Rothschild LLP.