Comics, FYI

By Graeme McMillan

How Big Is Not So Big?



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Comics, FYI
How Big Is Not So Big?
By Graeme McMillan • Issue #49 • View online
It’s another end of an era for ComiXology, and then there’s the uncertainty that is this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

The first part of my week was spent writing something for Popverse connected to ComiXology, so imagine my surprise when I saw the news on Tuesday that Chip Mosher had left the company to “take a new role outside of Amazon,” as the company put it*. It’s the end of an era; Mosher had been with ComiXology for 11 years, most recently as the company’s Head of Content, in charge of the ComiXology Originals program. In a tweet from his own account, Mosher explained away the move by saying that it was “time for a change,” although he didn’t offer any hints as to what and where his new role is. (Start those speculation engines.)
The loss of Mosher continues the view from outside the company that ComiXology is in no small amount of flux**, coming just months after the departure of former CEO David Steinberger, which itself followed the move of ComiXology inside the larger Amazon superstructure earlier this year and all the fallout that followed. It’s worth noting, then, that news of Mosher’s departure from the company was immediately followed with the announcement that company veteran Bryce Gold will be stepping up to take over the ComiXology Originals program moving forward; it’s a signifier that the company isn’t shutting down the program, but also that it’s prioritizing it enough to (a) mention the new lead, and (b) put a veteran in charge. 
According to those in the know, Gold has already been working with Mosher on ComiXology Originals for the last year, and news of his promotion was greeted warmly by some of the creators he’d worked with in that capacity, which is a good sign***. 
I might be projecting, but I feel as if there’s an urge to read disaster into news like this coming from ComiXology ever, arguably ever since the February merger into Amazon went sideways; from talking to people with knowledge of the situation, though, this appears to be a situation where Mosher’s absence will certainly be felt, especially in an institutional sense, but also that the Originals program is in good shape and good hands under Gold’s leadership.
Now, all we need is to find out where Chip is going… Another executive role, something else in editorial, or maybe even more of a creative position…? If only there was a massive industry event just weeks away where such news could be broken.
* The “outside of Amazon” element means that Mosher’s departure differs from that of Steinberger a few months ago; the latter left to head up a new Amazon initiative that’s yet to be unveiled. 
** It’s worth noting that, after Steinberger left, Mosher pretty much became the public face of ComiXology by default, having previously given interviews on behalf of the company. With him gone, will Gold step up? More and more, information and announcements about the company are being made via the official ComiXology Twitter account, which if nothing else is a good way to raise its follower count. 
*** There was perhaps a hint of future publishing announcements to come from Amazon/ComiXology in a third tweet from the company yesterday, which mentioned “sharing more with [fans] at San Diego @Comic_Con!” I’m curious if we’re going to see another deal with a creator similar to that signed by Scott Snyder last year, covering multiple projects across an extended period of time; it feels as if that would be a natural next step for the company, but has Substack’s entry into the comics industry – which came a few weeks after the Snyder/ComiXology deal was announced – changed the game so significantly that this kind of thing isn’t going to seem like an attractive option to creators anymore…?
Speaking, as I just was, about such things: as difficult as it may be to believe, we’re somehow just three weeks away from San Diego Comic-Con 2022, the first in-person SDCC in three years*. I admit, I don’t feel ready… and I’m not entirely sure I’m the only one.
It’s not (just) that I’m uncertain about the prospects of being in the middle of a packed San Diego Convention Center after more than two years of lockdown – the crowds at SDCC can be a bit much even without having successfully avoided crowds for the last 27 or so months, after all** – but there’s certainly a feeling that this year’s show is going to be a different kind of beast than past San Diego Comic-Cons, and in a way that isn’t entirely clear to anyone just yet. 
In talking to a number of publishers and creators across the last few weeks, I’ve gotten a sense that this year’s show might be one of unusually restrained ambition, for a number of reasons. Traditionally, the opposite is the case; in the past, SDCC was the show where publishers and studios went big in an attempt to “win” the show – to have the project or the gossip that everyone couldn’t stop talking about, preferably in a positive way. This year, I’m still unsure how “big” things are going to get.
Part of this doubt is fueled by the reveal that there will be no DC or Warner Bros booth on the show floor this year, something that genuinely would have been unthinkable in previous years*** – but WB/DC is far from the only publisher that will have a significantly reduced presence on the exhibition floor this year, from what I’ve been able to gather so far. (There’s at least one other publisher that has regularly exhibited in the past that won’t have a booth this year that I know of.) 
Similarly, much of the planning for the show that I’ve been privy to – from press registration to putting panels together – has been delayed from where and when it usually is, with some things still coming together just now. 
As of writing, Warner Bros Discovery is one of the few companies to have announced its SDCC plans, but I wonder if the reduced number of DC comics panels at this year’s show – just five were listed on Monday’s announcement, compared with more than double that in 2019 – is indicative of a WBD attitude, or a wider approach to more limited convention. From multiple conversations, there’s a sense that everything is being put together by people simultaneously out of practice with this whole mega-convention thing, and just a little uncertain what it’s all actually going to turn out like on the day.
It’s been long enough ago – and more than enough has happened in the world since then, let’s be honest – but I remember that the 2019 show felt like one where SDCC was already in some form of flux, lacking both significantly big movie news, outside of some Marvel announcements, and big comic news. At the time, it felt as if studios and publishers alike were worried about the signal to noise ratio of the event. Will this year see a continuation of this trend, exacerbated by a post-lockdown conservatism born of uncertainty? Will someone break with this line of thinking and go big enough to make enough of a splash to renew SDCC’s pop culture dominance once again? 
I genuinely can’t tell right now, but I’m (cautiously) excited to find out.
* Yes, I know there was last November’s Comic-Con Special Edition, but that wasn’t technically an official SDCC in the eyes of Comic-Con International. I don’t make the rules, I’m just happy to enforce this particular one because SDCC is a summer show, dammit. 
** Because I am a masochist, attending Comic-Con this year will be my first time in any kind of crowded setting since lockdown began in March 2020 outside of going to the movies to see Crimes of the Future, something that was not only relatively low key, considering – I mean, it’s a Cronenberg film, how busy did you think it would be? – but also enough to make me paranoid about the cough of the guy sitting next to me. 
*** I am, I confess, in a little bit of pop culture mourning about the lack of DC show floor presence this year, given the amount of time I’ve spent at DC booths in previous Comic-Cons. I’d wonder what happened to the synergistic mega-booth attitude of 2019, but that was three years and one corporate owner ago at this point.
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Graeme McMillan

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