I’ve told you how I got involved with Silver Bullet Comics (SBC), and the good things that came of it. I also told you how things started to sour because of the retail store attached to the site. Now, it’s time to talk about the conflict over trademarks, more issues with the retail side, and how I left the site.
As I said before, things were going well for the press side. Our numbers were climbing, we had features with big comic stars, tons of original columns, many reviews, and everything on that side was booming. Until the retail side of it caused a stink for the entire site.
During all this, there was another comic news site with a similar name that had actually been started several years prior to SBC. The site, at the time, was also called Silver Bullet Comics and used the initials “SBC” for their short name, but their website was SilverBulletComicBooks.com (which is no longer their address). This site, a popular review site that also did news, was founded in 2000. I’m not sure when the SBC I worked for was founded, but I know it wasn’t too long before I started working for them.
SBCB, which I’ll call them for the purposes of keeping the two separate in this article, started complaining about SBC being both a news site and a retailer, calling that a contradiction or a conflict of interest. After all, if you run news stories to sell comics, are you not controlling the press, persuading people to purchase those books you’re talking about? But while that makes SBCB sound jealous and bitter of SBC’s success, that was not the case.
The truth is SBC had begun trying to force SBCB to change their name. Even though SBCB had been around longer, SBC had a registered trademark (or so they claimed) for Silver Bullet Comics. And therefore, legally – if the trademark was in fact filed – SBC did have the right to the name. But SBCB, who again, had been around for several years already, and had built a reputation, were not happy about changing their name. SBC had come in and basically stolen the name out from under them, more or less, and because of the confusion, a lot of traffic had come SBC’s way that was probably originally intended for SBCB.
In retaliation, SBCB started mocking SBC in the press, stating that they provided news, where SBC tried to sell you books. It was all directed toward the retail side, which, again, I had absolutely no part in. But obviously, a flame war did not help what I was trying to build up either, and I eventually got dragged into it.
To make matters worse, another local comic shop in the physical area of SBC called Sssalefish (no, that’s not a typo) started chiming in too, trying to ridicule SBC. By doing so, surely they were driving business away from SBC to their store, right? I’m sure that was the intent, but the owner of that store came off as very arrogant and bitter, unlike SBCB, who were just upset that all their hard work was being tainted by this other site.
What hurt even more was the customer service from the retail side of SBC. Dozens of people were not getting their books. And so when stories started popping up on the bigger sites like Newsarama, The Beat and Comics Worth Reading, about the conflict between SBCB and SBC, disgruntled customers started speaking up as well.
Trying to do the right thing, I foolishly replied to some of these, trying to defend the site, but only got crucified, not for the content I was providing, but for the retail side of the business. And as a result, people started bombarding me with emails and private messages through the SBC forums about their missing orders. Some were quite hateful, and I had to tell everyone that I was not involved and the best I could do was pass on the word. My hands were tied, the ship was sinking, and by this time, I wasn’t getting paid either.
This link sums up the conflict a bit better than I can, and you can read some comments at the bottom. All the links in the article are dead, but you’ll get the picture:
As I said, my paychecks for a while had become late, and now I wasn’t getting them at all. I sadly had to hassle my employer for payment, and was met with responses to the effect of he had been doing me a favor… by me working 80 hours a week for 40 hours a week pay, building up his site. Okay…
There were times I didn’t even get paid in cash. I got paid with variant covers, which I then could turn around and sell on eBay. It was an okay deal considering the covers I got. The last payment I got I won’t go into here, but it wasn’t money. Anyone wants to know, ask me privately. It was an interesting deal…
It wasn’t long after that the site went down. And I was out of a job. And the owner, my employer, could no longer be reached. For a while, his phone was cut off. Then it was turned back on, but he’d never answer for me. He’d never respond to emails or anything. I haven’t spoken to him in 6 years, and probably won’t, unless he reads these articles and contacts me for some reason.
What became of SBCB? They finally changed their name, but not because they were being bullied to. Instead, they changed it so they wouldn’t be confused with SBC, which was getting such bad press. They are still around, though under that new name and new ownership: www.comicsbulletin.com.
It was a sad ending to what began as a great story. It shaped my life going forward and led me into a completely different direction than I had originally intended. It was fun while it lasted, making a living doing that, and it sparked something in me that I just couldn’t let go of.
Next time, I’ll talk about how I almost started my own comic news website before getting a job offer that would destroy any chance of that happening.