Let the fallout begin…
Elk’s Run creator/writer, Joshua Hale Fialkov, confirmed what seemed pretty inevitable earlier this afternoon over on his blog:
So, just got off the phone with Adam Fortier, President etc. of Speakeasy Comics. Speakeasy is no more. Due to some payment problems and low sales, it seems, they’ve had to lock up shop.
Perhaps realizing the story was about to break, Speakeasy mouthpiece Vito Delsante emailed Speakeasy cheerleader Chris Butcher, a Toronto retailer and comics blogiverse gadfly, a confirmation, which he posted about half an hour ago:
“As unofficial public relations for Speakeasy Comics, I feel it is my duty to inform everyone that as of 3:30 PM today, Speakeasy Comics has shut its doors and will not be publishing comics for, at the very least, the rest of the year. Most, if not all, creators have been contacted and informed. If I’m not mistaken, all books scheduled to ship in March will ship. April and May books are up in the air, while June books are cancelled.
Feel free to contact me regarding any questions pertaining to the above.
Interestingly, as I noted last week, Delsante had been curiously silent, dropping hints Saturday and earlier today that the other shoe was about to drop. He apparently knew enough to take down the site promoting his own series, The Mercury Chronicles, which was to be published by Speakeasy later this year, though not the link to it in his LiveJournal profile. [NOTE: Delsante has informed me that he is in the process of switching service providers, and the site being down was purely coincidental. My apologies on that point.]
On what the cynic in me thinks is a related note, Comic Book Resources currently has a blurb posted on their homepage about Speakeasy shill, Rich Johnston’s column being delayed:
NOTE: Rich Johnston’s LYING IN THE GUTTERS will be published a bit later in the day than usual on Monday.
Digging for more info, I assume, and clearing what he can and can’t report with Fortier, perhaps? It’ll be interesting to see how he reports it, and whether or not he’ll address the issue of his own Speakeasy comic, The Flying Friar, which hit the stands a few weeks ago. Did he get paid yet? Also interested to hear if there’s any truth to Fortier’s skipping NY Comic-Con having to do with tax issues, aka unpaid taxes, which prevented him from leaving the country. Rumors abound that many creators have not been paid monies due, too, which I’m looking into myself for a now relevant follow-up to my original article.
UPDATE: Apparently while I was writing this, NEWSarama had [finally] jumped on the story, reposting Delsante’s email with a bit more [unofficial?] direct clarification from him. A 9:25pm update includes comments from Fortier himself, offering an explanation that, so far, jibes with the feedback I’m getting behind the scenes. Johnston pops in on the thread to say his column is ready to go, but CBR hasn’t posted it yet for reasons unknown.
UPDATE 2: So Johnston makes no mention of the Speakeasy developments in this week’s column, beyond a facetious bit of self-promotion, plugging The Flying Friar as “The Book That Sank Speakeasy”. Over at the NEWSarama thread, the theorem that everyone loves bad news is being true as there’s more comments already than any of their PR coverage ever received. Several pros are taking the “don’t speak ill of the dead approach” with Fortier, chiming in with variations on he’s a nice guy who gave it a valiant effort. While I have no reason to think the guy’s an outright con artist — and by all accounts, he’s attempting to make good where he can, though there seems to be as many creators who apparently now owe him money as there are those he owes — the fact of the matter is that he’s clearly not a very good business man.
Many people, myself included, openly questioned the wisdom of his sudden, rapid expansion last summer, taking on properties of varied quality and dumping them onto retailers with little promotional support and ZERO corporate branding. In the NEWSarama piece, he makes a comment that pretty much reinforces in my mind that his heralded business savvy was little more than the usual big talk, little stick smoke and mirror games too many small publishers like to play online: “Even with millions, like CrossGen, it couldn’t be done. So, if the multi-millionaires don’t have money to be able to run a company like that, what hope does anybody else have?”
What “couldn’t be done”, exactly? Launching an Image clone that was going to grow from ZERO to 5% market share in less than a year, on the backs of unknown properties from mostly unknown creators, in a market that is ridiculously resistant to anything new, even when it’s published by Marvel or DC? Well, duh!
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Speakeasy’s collapse, though, is that it happened before Alias went under. Speakeasy had generally superior content and Fortier had much more goodwill in the industry than Mike S. Miller, and yet, who’s still standing (if barely)?