The graveyard of dead publishers is not a happy place to visit. The wild ride the industry has been on the last two years has seen a number of new publishers come up, seeking to carve out their own little portion of the comics industry. At the same time, a number of those same publishers have closed up shop or reorganized after promised money feel through or when expected sales didn't materialize.
In recent weeks, rumors have been swirling around another comics publisher, this time Markosia Comics. Those rumors have included the company is going out of business, isn't paying its creators or that a number of titles are fleeing the publisher. While there are some major changes taking place at the company, Markosia's Director of Operations Chuck Satterlee said that rumors are false and he wanted to set the record straight.
To begin with, a little history. Markosia opened it's doors to comics publishing in 2005. Owner Harry Markos had already been in the book publishing business, having published the fantasy children's book "The Lexian Chronicles" by Harry Gallan. Markos entered the comics business with his partner through an association with Richard Emms. Emms had just shut down his own APC Comics after three years in business, so Markos decided to hire Emms on as EiC of the new Markosia Comics.
Markosia began by publishing some of APC's titles like "Abiding Perdition" by Nick Schley and "Midnight Kiss" by Ryan Stegman and Tony Lee, as well as the comics adaptation of "The Lexian Chronicles."
Created & Written By: Andrew FoleyArt By: Fiona Staples
"The initial plan for Markosia was to do a number of book adaptations," explained Satterlee. "Their first book adaptation (outside of 'Lexian') was to be 'G.P. Taylor's Shadowmancer.' 'Shadowmancer' had seen book sales in the millions worldwide and Markos worked a good deal for the property to come to Markosia. This led to an expansion of the original plan to just do book adaptations. Soon, Markosia had secured the rights to publish 'Starship Troopers' comics."
It was around this time that the problems at Speakeasy began to become apparent. A number of titles abandoned the sinking ship. It was at this time that Satterlee and Markos first began talking and when Satterlee joined the company full time. With his new job, he brought his own titles previously published at Speakeasy over to Markosia, as well as a number of other titles from Speakesy including "The Hunger" and "Mutation." Satterlee moved out East where he could begin to work on increasing Marksoia's business.
"We were able to make all of these plans because we had a European investment group who had agreed to invest a large sum of money in the company," explained Satterlee. "The first payment came with no issues. The second payment did not come. The third payment date came and went.
"We had made agreements for creators to come to Markosia and we had made some generous arrangements for pay, all because we were flush with cash and had a good financial future -- or so we thought."
Fast forward a couple of months and Satterlee finds out that Harry Markos has been floating things from his own pocket book, but it wasn't long before Markos was able to secure a new investor -- a silent partner in the company who'll be in charge of finance. With new money and a new silent partner came some changes the Markosia's publishing agreements.
"[The silent partner] has taken a long, hard look at the books and has decided that, while creators are currently given a page rate in advance of publication, we can no longer offer that and the contracts that are current will have to be re-negotiated," said Satterlee. "This applies to creator owned books and not to licensed properties. The new deal will give the creator options. Regardless of the option, there is still a mandatory ancillary rights deal in place."
Satterlee laid out the new options for creators working with Markosia.
"Option 1: There will be a sliding scale for page rates as they pertain to sales. The lower a book sells, the lower the page rate. The higher a book sells, the higher the page rate. Obviously, this means that invoices must be given to Markosia when the numbers come in from Diamond or our other distributors.
"There is still a profit sharing plan for advertising and there are still back-end splits with this deal and our agreed upon compensation for trades still stands.
"Option 2: Back-end pay only. This will create a 50/50 split of profits after printing. There is no fee. If the book doesn't do well in the long run, Markosia shares in the loss as opposed to charging the creator for everything before a split is made.
"The back-end on trade paperbacks is higher than the option 1 level.
"That is basically the deal. We have gone from one of the more generous creator-owned deals in small press comics to one of the more generous creator owned deals in small press comics," said Satterlee. "We have been letting all of the creators know what is going on. To date, we only have one creator who has gone off the deep end.
"It is through this new deal, and our handsome financial situation, that we feel we will be securing the future for Markosia. Any and all invoices currently in house will be paid or have already been paid."
The books affected by these changes are unknown at the moment, with Satterlee saying that it's really up to the creators themselves to decide whether to stay or not. "We have no control over the books that leave, if any do. We also understand that some creators may feel that they have been slighted.
They made a deal with us and we are changing it. It is only natural and we would be some real cold guys if we didn't understand it. However, we are hoping that creators will understand that the deal was made in good faith when Markosia's circumstances were different. Now, there are new circumstances. We have an investor in direct control of the finances and when you think about it, that is a good thing. We are, by far, a more fiscally responsible company now than we were before. Do we plan on canceling any of the titles to which we have committed? No. Will we be forced to cancel titles that sell extremely poorly? Yes. We hope that no titles will be affected, but we are also realists. If my books, for instance, tank, then my books will get canceled. At this time, I know of only one title that will be leaving Markosia and that is over an unrelated set of irreconcilable differences.
"I know other ex-creators with whom contracts have been fulfilled that are shopping the continuation of a series or something to that effect. That is their right and to my knowledge, they are not upset. I know that I have spoken with other folks about doing other projects at other publishers. My pal, Phil Hester, always taught me to keep relations open with as many publishers as possible. If I talk with other publishers, we certainly would not stop anyone else from talking. It is bad business to keep one's creation all in one basket.
"In the end, these changes were not the type of changes that made all of the creators jump up and down. It mainly affected the monthly books and mini-series. Graphic novels and trade paperbacks were not affected really. The monthly guys (like myself) and mini-series guys were not running home and yelling the good news from the mountaintops. Believe me, I wish I could tell the creators, including me, that we were going to continue to receive page rates up front, but that isn't the case. There are still two very good options and we have, for the most part, received professional reactions to these changes. I guess we'll have to wait for the smoke to clear to see if everyone is still here. I hope they will be."
Written & Created By: Phil Hester
With the new publishing options now in place, Satterlee said that Markosia is still dedicated to their creator-owned books, but also noted that the company will focus on doing a mix of licensed properties as well as creator owned books. With licensed properties like "Starship Troopers" and "Shadowmancer" generally outselling their own creator-owned projects, they will be a key part of Markosia's publishing plans and they are looking to acquire other licenses. "That doesn't mean that we aren't committed to the creators we currently work with," said Satterlee. "We will always want to do creator owned projects, and we will, but you can not argue with the numbers. We believe in projects like 'Done to Deat' by Andrew Foley & Fiona Staples. We believe in Phil Hester's new series, 'Golly' and Brian Augustyn's 'The Witness.' Norm Breyfogle is on 'Of Bitter Souls' and we continue to believe in George T. Singley's projects like 'Silent Ghost' with Brett Wedelle and 'Mutation' with Ethen Beavers. We just also have to be true to our company from a financial perspective and, in order to continue to bring quality creator owned properties to market, we will need to focus on some quality licensed titles as well."
But what of the original investment firm whose checks stopped coming? What's being done there? "As I understand things, repeated attempts had been made to contact the first investment firm. Quite a while passed until contact was re-established. I am not at liberty to discuss the deal made, but suffice it to say that the matter is being handled in a professional and proper manner at this time."
As to the future of Markosia, Satterlee said it looks good, but knows there will those who see all of these changes as a bad sign. "If I was reading this and looking at it from the outside, I'd say that we are rattling our death rattle. I am not going to be able to convince those who think that otherwise, am I? So, why try? I can only say that we are on the verge of a major video game/comic deal. We have some great titles coming up. We have the financial leadership and capital to take us into the future and the re-negotiated deals will insure fiscal responsibility. Our book market deals and our good relations with Diamond are a plus. We have the likes of Phil Hester, Brian Augustyn, Norm Breyfogle among others. We have some fantastic creator owned properties and we are rising in the numbers every month.
"Will there be growing pains? Yep. Will we make all creators happy all the time? Nope. Is it our goal to grow at a controlled and reasonable pace and grow with the creators who believed in us at the start? Yep.
"Hopefully, we'll look back at this in a year, and then two, and then six or so, and laugh. But this is a tough industry. This is a tough business. We are doing everything we can do to insure that. Our new partner has never failed in business. We're counting on it.
As it stands today, we are in good shape. If we always work and never get complacent, maybe we can make a go of it. I am betting on our success. I moved my family out to the East coast for this and it would be a shame to have moved for nothing. I believe in our new partner and I believe in Harry Markos and I believe in our talented creators and I believe in our marketing strategy.
"Get back to me next year and let's see if we have made it. I think we will."