Is it wrong of me that I’m kind of ignoring Wizard World this weekend? I mean, yeah, sure, they’ve announced a new Booster Gold series and everything, but this is the third convention in four weeks. Isn’t that con overkill, especially considering that the same people keep showing up at each convention? I’m telling you, this time next year, March is just going to be home to one three-week long vacation called Wizard Wonderland Con: NY where Dan Didio and Joe Quesada will appear on a regular basis to tell you about the latest series they’ve got coming up that just happens to feature the words “War” or “Crisis” in the title.
Yeah, I’m in that kind of mood. Go figure.
This week, we were still dealing with Captain America’s death – For those of you who like knowing where everything went with the will, Stephen Colbert inherited Cap’s shield, but someone else apparently inherited his dress sense - with retailers discussing events from their perspective:
We received virtually no information about this issue being this big. When they did eventually say that is was going to be big, our F.O.C. [final order cut-off] for this issue had passed. I think most retailers can distinguish between comics that are over-hyped for the sake of trying to help it sell and hype that will make it sell. Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness got a lot of hype and will sell well. The Black Panther wedding dress issue got a lot of hype and didn’t sell well. I don’t think it was too tough for retailers to see the difference between those two comics, but we weren’t given enough information on the Captain America issue to be able to make that distinction.
Brian Hibbs, later in the week, put it less delicately, although not for lack of trying:
It’s weird, I’ve been musing over how to word the next paragraph for like 10 minutes now, and all I’ve really done is convince myself that retailers really do have a “battered wife syndrome” with regards to Marvel. I really want to praise them for overprinting. I want to give them kudos for quickly moving those copies into the system. But every other Diamond-exclusive publisher is already doing these things. Further, those copies would have already been in Diamond’s system, so there wouldn’t have had to be the exceptional rigmarole that was gone through to bring these copies to market.
I really am sincere that I want to praise the strong overprinting and the steps taken, because it’s my perception that the limiting factor in Marvel Supply is the penurious and miserly hand of the Board of Directors, not Marvel Publishing’s management. And I want to encourage such behavior, because the more examples we have of it strongly working, the more likely the right number of copies of Marvel books will make it to the stores in the end. I just wish I didn’t have to, is all.
So, that’s the good. The quality of the comic was very high, more copies are being quickly brought to market, another printing is following hot on the heels.
The bad can be broken down into two measures: Greed, and Trust.
One of the problems with the way that Marvel explained things with retailers was the idea that Marvel couldn’t warn retailers about increased demand, because no-one could’ve expected the media response to the issue. Thing is, on Wednesday, Kevin Huxford talked to the New York Daily News reporter who broke the story, and… well…:
The exclusive was agreed on about two months ago. The New York Post – the Daily News’ arch-rival (picture an Australian Galactus running a paper) – had an exclusive when Spider-Man unmasked in Civil War #2 and I heard plenty about it from my editors. When I whined to Marvel that they should’ve kept me in the loop, too, they promised me a future exclusive when a story with mainstream interest would surface. So two months ago, I got a call from Marvel’s PR contact calling me into the Marvel Bullpen for a little powwow. They revealed the plans for Cap right then and there. The publisher wanted several conditions for us to get the exclusive: That we commit to most of a page up front and put a good-sized piece of art with it. It was a no-brainer for us, and my editor gave the green light later that afternoon.
Mind you, creators are even more cynical than everyone else when it comes to this kind of thing, as Vaneta Rogers found out when she asked a gaggle of creators how they feel about comic character death:
I’d be the first to admit that a “revolving door” attitude to characters’ deaths has bedeviled the industry for the past two decades — and the law of diminishing returns has kicked in with a vengeance. What’s depressing is when the resurrection isn’t even done with any kind of style or conviction and doesn’t carry any weight. Donne said “every man’s death diminishes me.” He could have added “especially if there’s some lame-ass deus ex machina twist and he comes back again a year later.”
Sadly, there isn’t an deus ex machina twist in real life, lame ass or not, and Arnold Drake’s death this week diminished the entire comic book world. Depressingly, Drake’s death only got a fraction of the coverage of Captain America’s, perhaps showing that “Punching Hitler in the jaw” is more important to people than “Creating Doom Patrol and Deadman.”
This week was surprisingly full of lots of little stories that were potentially more interesting than they seemed at first glance. As 300 broke box office records and Dark Horse found itself criticized for not getting copies of the book to retailers fast enough, it was interesting to see that they’ve expanded their agreement with Diamond Distributors for the UK and international retailers. Wildstorm, meanwhile, did a kind of stealth cancellation of their horror movie line by presenting it as “updating publisher plans“, whereas Desperado did some of their own updating by leaving Image Comics to go it alone. With all of this activity, IDW decided that they had to do some kind of big move to get some publicity, and went all the way to working with Gene Simmons of KISS to create a brand new comic line. Which, you know, is definitely a big move in some direction (They talked about it over in Wizard World LA, just to reinforce the, uh, interestingness of the whole thing). Personally, I think they should’ve made more noise about their plans to publish reprints of the complete Terry And The Pirates, because the world needs that more than it needs a comic called Dominatrix, if you ask me.
The strangest news of the week, though, may have been Stan Lee Media suing Marvel Comics, even though Stan Lee doesn’t support the lawsuit. The Marvel press release about the whole thing puts it best:
The claim against Marvel Entertainment alleges that nine years ago Stan Lee transferred to Stan Lee Media ownership of a number of Marvel comic book characters he co-created. Marvel believes that the claim against it is without merit and that it will prevail in this dispute.
Stan Lee Media was recently in bankruptcy and is being sued by Stan Lee. In his suit, Mr. Lee is challenging the legitimacy of the management of Stan Lee Media. Mr. Lee is a long-time employee of Marvel and its predecessor companies and currently serves as Publisher Emeritus of Marvel Comics. Mr. Lee commented that, “I do not support this action and believe the suit to be baseless.”
There is nothing about this that doesn’t make me want this whole thing to come to court and become a massively amusing media circus.
As usual, much fun this week was to be found in the interviews. Molly Crabapple talked about Dr. Sketchy’s Rainy Day Coloring Book, a spin-off from a series of events she hosts in New York:
Dr. Sketchy’s Rainy Day Colouring Book is one part dirty activity book, one part DIY handbook, and one part official history of how Dr. Sketchy’s began. So, prep yourselves for sexy paper dolls, drink recipies, games that teach you how to be an art star, and stories of what it’s really like to be a broke naked model in New York… [On my book tour, i]n some cities (Greensboro, Phoenix, DC, Durham) I’m doing full on Dr. Sketchy’s. In others, I’ll be reading from my book at cool indie bookstores. Then, attendees get to sketch a glamorous burlesque girl, with the best drawing winning a prize. In some cities, there may be booze. Or cupcakes.
Less burlesque, but potentially more booze, can be found in the company of Larry Young, who talked about his new series The Black Diamond:
[E]ven though I get tagged by the “high concept” line alot by wags in the audience, my stuff really is sort of quiet and thoughtful. Warren Ellis wrote in his intro for Astronauts in Trouble: “Your actual people sitting down talking about themselves, their lives and their culture, a quiet mindbomb in the centre of the more literal explosions. A David Mamet pause in the middle of a Michael Bay movie.” And in addition to being extremely flattering, is a pretty apt way to describe the thought processes behind my stuff. I like the slam-bang, but I also like to strain to hear the whisper, you know? So there’s a lot of car chases and gunshots and pretty girls and hard men and an ordinary guy in an extraordinary circumstance, and all, but there’re a lot of characters philosophizing to each other, too. Just like you do on a long road trip.
Another book coming out from the same publisher as Black Diamond the same month is Matt Silady’s The Homeless Channel. Silady showed up to explain how he got to go from the guy who picked up books every week to making books that everyone should be picking up every week:
It’s been an interesting transition going from comic book fan to comic book creator. I think I enjoy comic books even more now. It’s sort of like the difference between being a passenger and a driver. Now that I’m behind the wheel, I think I’m understanding the lay of the land a lot better. I love watching other writers and artists work a page in ways that are unexpected and new. Or looking back at Will Eisner nail a bit of dialogue. There’s a depth to this medium that demands more and more of my respect every day.
Indie creator and the co-founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies, James Strum, has moved past that feeling, and into more worrisome areas:
You are always really afraid at the point you hand it to the printer. It’s like your job is done in a way. I guess you could press check but there’s a point where the book is going to be what it is. There’s a huge feeling of dread right before I see the printed book because if something’s wrong, there’s no revision [laughs].
If you think that’s bad, James, you should try and work at the big two. I’ve heard that you have to get press coverage locked in two months before things to go to the printer, and there’s really no chance for revision when the New York Daily News has their hands on a story.