I’ve had a lot of people comment to me about how they can’t understand why Red Thorn was cancelled, so i’m going to try and elaborate a bit.
Simple answer: Lack of sales.
Long answer: A changing market that no longer supports long form comics at the Big Two.
This is strictly a business decision, and I understand why they made that call. I get it, and I’m not mad at all, in fact, i’m a little bit relieved. Red Thorn hasn’t sold enough copies in months to get a mention on the sales charts, the only exception being the TPB, and even that only sold a little over 1000 copies.
Comics today, especially at the Big Two, are driven by monthly sales. We’ve known Red Thorn was being cancelled for months now, but because at that point we were so far ahead with art, and through the actions of an amazing editor who fought for us to be able to tidy up the story a bit, we were allowed to continue until issue 13.
We were in trouble by issue 3, like most of the VERTIGO launches of 2015. Dave and I were two creators with no works behind our name to drive sales, or an established property with a TV show that lured people over. While we tried to do our best to reflect the VERTIGO of yesteryear with our book, unfortunately that’s not a viable course of action in today’s marketplace where everything at the Big Two is seemingly driven by the episodic climax, like a really bad CW show. There’s a time and a place for that (case in point, I do love me some Vampire Diaries) but it doesn’t work for all titles, especially ones that need time to breathe. It took us three issues to get to the main portion of the story, it took us three more issues to get to the first real HOLY SHIT moment of the book.
And that’s what i mean about the market survivability of those types of books today. Look at SANDMAN, or PREACHER, or any of the other lauded VERTIGO books of yore. SANDMAN took well over a year to get its footing. PREACHER, while not quite as slowly paced, was still MUCH slower than standard, mainstream books, which was part of the allure. Not every issue was a slug fest with a Baddie of the Week. Even HELLBLAZER (aka, Constantine for those not familiar with the source material) took quite a while to get into it. Granted, each issue necessarily had to have a hook to keep you reading, but those hooks were small little inconspicuous things, not big bombastic harpoons.
I firmly believe that very few of the classic VERTIGO books, if launched today, would survive. Different time, different mindset. The 90s were an incredible era for fringe arts, and comics absolutely benefited from that. Nowadays there’s too much pressure and focus given to “Will this make a good TV show?” and comics are viciously used and abused as cheap storyboards and pitch material.
That’s a different topic though.
Getting back to the question at hand, know that i’m writing this with no animosity. It’s tough for me, as an artist, to put so much time and effort into something (Two and a half years, with fourteen hour days, six to seven days a week), and receive very little recognition, so yes, the cancellation, although sad, was welcomed. As mentioned before, Dave and I are a new team. Maybe if we had more experience, we would’ve done a few things differently to give this book the best chance of survivability. But i’m glad we didn’t, i’m glad it stayed as true to it’s original concept as it could. We can play the “coulda shoulda woulda” game all day long, and point fingers at every issue out there, from lack of marketing, to lack of support, to the sites that give away our books for free like some goddamn comic book equivalent of Napster, to hell, one of us having a bad day and phoning in work (guilty, right here). There are a myriad of reasons as to why the book was cancelled, but first and foremost is the lack of sales.
Your takeaway is this: if you love a book, talk about it. Tell your friends, share your discovery, and for god’s sake, BUY IT. Monthly. Without sales support, on a monthly basis, these books will not continue. It really is as simple as that.