Category Archives: Wayward

Wayward #24 Reviews

Geeked Out Nation: 8.9/10 “…everything exciting that you could ask for from a journey into the unknown, but also painful when you now know the depths in madness that comes from a fight for magic.”

TM Stash: 9/10 “The most beautifully written and illustrated book in comics today continues with an amazing battle that takes us to Tír Na Nóg!”

Under the Comic Covers: “This issue was so shocking but also so powerful.”

Arriving January- WAYWARD Vol. 5!

Arriving in January, pre-order now!
WAYWARD, VOL. 5: TETHERED SOULS TP
STORY: JIM ZUB
ART / COVER: STEVEN CUMMINGS, TAMRA BONVILLAIN
JANUARY 31 / 136 PAGES / FC / M / $16.99

Japan and Ireland are torn apart by conflict. The new power that defines the modern world rages out of control. JIM ZUB (Avengers, SKULLKICKERS) and STEVEN CUMMINGS (Deadshot, Legends of the Dark Knight) continue their supernatural spectacle that combines the camaraderie and emotion of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer with foreign cultures and fascinating mythological monsters. This volume includes design artwork by artist STEVEN CUMMINGS and profiles on mythical creatures by monster scholars ZACK DAVISSON and ANN O’REGAN not found in the single issues.

Collects WAYWARD #21-25

Creator-Owned Economics: Long Tail in a Moving Market

Has it really been 16 months since my previous sales update on Wayward? Wow. Time is flying, gang. I’ve been juggling a slew of different projects this year along with my day job and just didn’t have time to dig into all the numbers until things calmed down.

(Update: I also managed to find time to write up another article about continued sales of Skullkickers after finishing its run that you can read right HERE.)

There’s been a lot of talk about direct market single issue sales through comic shops (also known as the “The direct market”). Sales numbers seem to be declining as retailers jump through ordering hoops for big ticket variant covers while trying not to get stuck with more non-returnable stock than they can handle. I’ve heard from quite a few creators and retailers that juggling numbers on major releases from the Big Two doesn’t leave a lot of time/money to support other publishers, and what is there tends to go to recognizable brands with media pull.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the landscape of media is changing. Every form of entertainment has been shaken up by the digital revolution and a generation of consumers who are growing up with new paradigms that don’t involve owning physical media.

So, with that in mind, here’s how Wayward is faring in a tough market:

Once again, we’re looking at a classic case of ‘standard market attrition.’ The drops between each issue aren’t severe, but they do start to add up issue after issue, leading to an overall decline. It can be tough to maintain visibility for a creator-owned series that’s long in the tooth (and yes, in this market, Wayward has more issues than many rebooted superhero titles so it looks comparatively old). Comic news sites and reviewers want to talk about the latest and greatest, not a series that’s more than 3 years old with 20+ issues. So, what does this mean for our single issue sales profitability?

As of issue #18 we’re releasing issues with an initial loss. Obviously, that’s not an ideal situation but I could see where the numbers were leading us and wasn’t surprised. This matches the overall softness of the comic market as a whole. Retailers are cutting purchasing budgets to the bone and many titles are losing ‘shelf copies’, extra copies ordered to see if they can be sold to customers who haven’t subscribed to a title. I’ve been to more and more comic shops where they order single issues for their pullbox customers and only have shelf copies for the biggest releases each week. It’s understandable, given the current sales environment, but it does make it harder for new readers to discover titles…

…Or, does it?

The simple truth is that the market has moved to trade reading. Affordable, durable, easy to lend to a friend or give as a gift, trade paperbacks are now the market for many titles. Wayward trade paperback sales continue to grow and that really drives us forward at this point. Direct market comic retailers support Wayward with their trade orders, but more than half of our trade sales now come from bookstores and other outlets. Initial direct market orders are pretty good, but the long tail of continued sales through other channels keeps us growing year after year. Good word of mouth from people like you keeps us going.

In addition to those single issues and trades, we had two huge visibility boosts that don’t show up properly on these sales charts:
‌• In early 2016, Image Comics had a Humble Bundle of digital comics promoting diversity and human rights. Supporters who pledged over $20 received a digital copy of Wayward Deluxe Book 1, our packed-to-the-brim issue #1-10 collection with over 80 pages of back matter. That led to thousands of new readers diving into the series and an accompanying boost afterward for digital trade sales.

‌• Wayward Vol. 1: String Theory is part of comiXology Unlimited, a monthly flat fee all-you-can-read service offered by the leading platform for digital comics. We only get paid a small amount per downloaded trade, but it’s the visibility boost that’s really helped. Tens of thousands of people have read Wayward Vol. 1 through the Unlimited platform.

How’s it looking in 6 month increments? Let’s see-

Image printed a huge run of Wayward Volume 1 and 2 and those trades keep selling, so the cost of keeping Wayward in stock stays low while profits continue year after year.

Okay, here’s profit with everything factored in:

In addition to direct market and bookstore sales, this chart also includes a few foreign deals that have been struck to bring Wayward out in other languages, most notably in French from Glénat Comics, with two volumes out so far. Foreign deals are the best because the foreign publisher handles translation, printing, and advertising. For them it’s far cheaper than creating all-new content and for us it rules because we just hand over the print files and get paid.

That small dip in early 2015 was the cost of printing Wayward Vol. 1 with a deep stock to keep us rolling over the long haul, and it’s been pretty smooth ever since. Trade and digital sales have overtaken temporary losses incurred from single issue release. We’re continuing to build our readership in comic shops, bookstores, and online.

Image’s incredible ownership and profit sharing model is unlike any other creator-owned deal in the market. Our small monthly single issue sales and growing trade sales do well enough that Wayward is still Steven’s full-time job (living in Yokohama with a wife and two wonderful kids) and pays a competitive page rate to Tamra, Marshall, Zack, Ann, and myself while giving us the flexibility to make the story exactly the way we want. We don’t get the press coverage of Walking Dead, Saga, Wicked + Divine, Rat Queens or Sex Criminals, but we are solidly plugging away. The additional visibility of an anime series and co-op board game in development could mean even stronger sales for 2018 and beyond.

If you take away anything from this post, let it be this: When fans or news sites only obsess over direct market single issue sales numbers from Comichron (which are not complete, but do provide an overall sense of market leaders and attrition), they are ignorant of a much larger overall market. Comic companies are not obligated to post their sales numbers, but that obfuscation has unfortunately led to a ridiculous amount of armchair quarterbacking by people who cannot see the forest for the trees and are woefully ill-informed about what sells and where. If you only looked at monthly print single issue sales you would assume Wayward was doomed over a year ago, but it’s just not true. The market has shifted and will continue to do so. Readers, retailers, and publishers need to adjust their perception of the market, if they haven’t already.

As always, a quick warning: The above charts only reflect the state of Wayward, my creator-owned comic series. I believe they’re indicative of some broader industry trends, but every series has a different sales cycle depending on the creators involved, publisher, marketing, and whims of the market. Skullkickers and Glitterbomb, my other creator-owned series, have been very different in terms of sales and profitability. Don’t build your own financial plans solely based on these articles.

If you found this post interesting, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics, donating to my Patreon, or buying comics from me in person if you see me at a convention.

Wayward #23 Reviews

Wayward #23 arrives in stores and the response has been great!

Geeked Out Nation: 8.6/10 “The quality of artwork felt movie-like and that is what captivated me the minute we stepped into this situation with Ohara.”

Nothing But Comics: “If you have fallen off of Wayward I suggest jumping back on. It has been consistently great”

Outright Geekery: 9.5/10 “another stunning issue that delivers on great characters and leaves you wanting more.”

Snap Pow: 8.5/10 “the creative team has maintained a high level of quality through out their run and the latest issue is no different, as it more than earns a recommendation from me.”

TM Stash: 9/10 “I’m running out of superlatives for this beautifully written and just as beautifully illustrated masterpiece.”

Wayward the Board Game Report 1: Prototyping

Wayward the Board Game was announced back in May and game testing continues on track as we look to a Spring-Summer 2018 release. The game is designed by Jon Gilmour, co-designer of Dead of Winter and Wasteland Express Delivery Service, and will be published by IDW Games. It’s a co-operative board game with players taking the role of our teen protagonists fighting Yokai in Tokyo. We’re currently play testing the rules and I want to talk about this phase of development as it’s something a lot of people, even board game fans, may not have had much experience with.

Prototyping is crucial in game development. This involves putting together a rough playable version of the game so rules can be tested, options can be explored, and parts can be ditched without spending time/money on graphic design or artwork that may not be used in the final release. At this stage, the game is entirely made up of cardboard counters, print outs and placeholders. In our case, since the game is based on an established comic property, Jon dropped in art from the series to make it look more enticing, but it’s still all temped.

Printouts, cube counters, card sleeves, and tupperware: Welcome to the testing phase.

As testing continues, we look at how the game runs with the following questions in mind:

Do the core rules work?
Does it make sense?
Does it fit with the setting?
It is easy to explain?
Is it challenging to master?
IS IT FUN?

If the game works well with all these placeholders, then we’ll be ready to beautify it up with great graphic design and new art: The polish.

Let’s talk about how Wayward the game plays so far. To win the default scenario (there will be several to choose from with varying difficulties in the final game release), players must slay Yokai and keep them at bay, building up character abilities and energy points to shut down five power locations called the Goshiki Fudo. As the game progresses, the Weave (mystic strings of power and fate most people cannot see) will destabilize, unleashing more power to the players but also unlocking more powerful creatures. “Solving” one area means letting other spots get worse. Winning requires strategy, synergy, well-timed sacrifice plays, and some luck. The game is lost if the Weave unravels completely.

Here’s a game in session. Again, everything is temped right now.

Although the play strategy is quite different from Pandemic (a stellar co-op board game already on the market), there’s a similar build up of tension as the game opens: Multiple locations are under siege. In the first few turns creatures arrive faster than they can be dealt with and it can feel quite bleak. This is by design. Our wayward teens are under pressure and need to work together to start pushing back against the threats building around them.

Character actions are fueled by energy points and those points can only be gained in one of three ways: adding new creatures to the board, using creatures on the board to attack our heroes, or drawing energy directly from the Weave (which moves the game closer to its end). Energy is then spent to attack creatures (individually or in groups at each location), shop for items, heal, use special abilities (unique to each character), or shutdown a location. Shutting down locations moves the group closer to victory, but it also means there are fewer locations for Yokai to spawn, so they build up faster in each remaining spot.

Combat in Wayward is quite different from the typical D&D-style “roll a die, hit a creature” mechanic. Players bid energy points in a “betting pool” and creatures are represented by the dice. The creature dice are rolled and compared to the amount bid and, if the amount is equal to or less than the combat pool, the creature is killed. Heroes gain re-rolls or other bonuses to reduce the monster roll total as the game progresses. Using less energy for an attack could pay off, allowing you to perform more actions per turn, but a bad die roll means you’re ineffective or injured. Some players will want to play safe and use more energy to ensure victory, but then they’re doing less per turn and the creature build up might outpace them. It’s a risk-reward mechanic that throttles quite well as play progresses and is different from most other games I’ve played.

Yes, our prototype dice are regular dice with paper squares glued on the sides.

Characters don’t die in Wayward, but when their stamina is depleted they become far less effective: Movement costs extra energy and, most importantly, they can’t stop damage being done directly to the Weave. The more damage the Weave takes, the more difficult the game becomes and the closer to losing our heroes get. Tougher characters will tend to “meat-shield” the Weave, blocking damage while other characters build up larger pools of energy to use their special abilities or shut down locations.

Ayane quickly moves between locations and attacks frequently. She has less re-rolls baked into her abilities but gains attack bonuses so she can bet lower energy amounts with more confidence.

Emi is the toughest character (with her limbs of stone or steel). She absorbs extra damage taken and traps creatures in sinkholes, temporarily taking them off the board.

Shirai absorbs energy from slain Yokai and uses his spirit power to heal himself. At higher levels, he can also heal other characters at his location.

Nikaido is the weakest physically but he can shift energy between characters and move creatures to different locations, which can be crucial.

Rori gains extra energy by tapping directly into the Weave and can hurt multiple creatures at locations with spells of destruction.

Rori’s prototype character sheet. The final will have all new art and design that makes gameplay choices clear.

Part of our goal at this stage is to see how the characters work, individually and together, to make sure game balance is maintained and that there are fun combinations of powers being used in concert with each other. The character abilities need to be interesting and appropriate while also fitting the play mechanics Jon has built.

Testing out Wayward has been an amazing experience so far. I try to look at it as both an avid board game player and also the license holder of the property being adapted. First and foremost, I want Jon and the IDW Games crew to make a great game. The best advertisement I could ask for is a top-notch co-op game that stands on its own enticing people to start reading Wayward the comic. Jon’s been wonderful about incorporating key aspects of the series and I’ve been helping him attach story concepts and themes to those game mechanics so it all fits together well.

I’m hoping to write more reports about the game as we continue development. Thank you for all the enthusiasm and interest so far. I can’t wait to see the final release head out to stores next year.

Arriving in November- Wayward #25

Arriving in November-
WAYWARD #25
STORY: JIM ZUB
ART / COVER: STEVEN CUMMINGS, TAMRA BONVILLAIN
VARIANT COVER: YUMI YAOSHITA
NOVEMBER 22 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.99

Our fates are tied together…

Celebrate 25 issues of Image’s supernatural sensation as another arc wraps up and the group is tested once more.

Arriving in October- Wayward #24

WAYWARD #24

STORY: JIM ZUB
ART / COVER A: STEVEN CUMMINGS & TAMRA BONVILLAIN
COVER B: ERIC KIM
COVER C (WALKING DEAD #47 TRIBUTE VARIANT): STEVEN CUMMINGS & ROYCE “FOORAY” SOUTHERLAND
OCTOBER 25 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.99

The source of Ireland’s magic is a hidden land of breathtaking beauty and unimaginable danger. Death arrives armed with delicate blades and fae-tinged curses.

WAYWARD has been optioned for television development in Japan by Manga Entertainment. Get on board now and see what all the excitement is about!

WAYWARD #21 Reviews

Wayward is back for a fifth story arc as issue #21 hit stores last week. Here’s what reviewers thought of it:

Geeked Out Nation: 8.6/10 “Steve Cummings and Tamra Bonvillain knock it out of the park”

Horror Talk: 9/10 “This is a gripping character-driven series containing action, horror, and good old-fashioned teen drama.”

Multiversity: 7.5/10 “The consistency of this series continues as it returns for its fifth arc.”

Team Ashen: “The writing has been spectacular. The art is amazing.”

TM Stash: 10/10 “Wayward is one of the most beautifully written and illustrated books in comics today…a rich world filled with Japanese and Irish folklore combined with characters drawn from today’s culture.”

Under the Comic Covers: “It’s so great to have Wayward back.”

Dynamic Forces Interview About Wayward’s Fifth Story Arc

I spoke to Byron Brewer at Dynamic Forces all about Wayward’s fifth arc and the exciting things coming down the pipe for our story. Give it a read!

Arriving in September: WAYWARD #23

WAYWARD #23
STORY: JIM ZUB
ART: STEVEN CUMMINGS & TAMRA BONVILLAIN
COVER A: STEVEN CUMMINGS & TAMRA BONVILLAIN
COVER B: CARLOS VILLA

SEPTEMBER 20 / 32 PAGES / FC / M / $3.99

Ohara’s power reflects the manmade world around her…and it’s out of control!

Wayward has been optioned for television development in Japan by Manga Entertainment. Get on board now and see what all the excitement is about!