Editor’s Note: Paul Levitz returns to Blog@Newsarama with thoughts on the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award he received during the Eisners Friday night, as well as Comic-Con and Watchmen.
by Paul Levitz
Mistake or not, I’m not giving it up.
In a field like comics, giving a publisher a humanitarian award is almost oxymoronic. Ultimately, the publisher’s job is to run the business, in an industry that is always (and rightfully) centered on its creative goals and accomplishments. Luckily, I grew up loving comics, so I never disagreed with those priorities, even when I recognized that the mix of my skills would lead me to spend more years on the business side than writing or in editorial.
Even more luckily, I learned early that it’s good business to align people’s interests…and that means the creative people need to win when the company does. Friends and mentors like Jenette Kahn, Joe Orlando, Dick Giordano and Phil Seuling taught me how to try to do that, and DC has been part of a corporation that values and rewards creativity as one of its fundamental values, so I was never doing this alone.
Receiving the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award at Comicon International this week was one of the highlights of my life, for its unpredictability (special thanks to Mark Evanier for keeping me from leaving the Eisners for a counter-scheduled DC event–the best turn he’s done me at San Diego since he almost drove us to Tijauana when he gave me a lift here for my first SDCC almost 35 years ago), for the warmth from my peers in the room, and for receiving recognition for a part of my work that has always been close to my heart. The last time I felt remotely that way was receiving an award at the 100th anniversary dinner for Stuyvesant, and getting it from my favorite high school English teacher, Frank McCourt.
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The rest of Comicon is a blur, set to the soundtrack of the WATCHMEN trailer playing in the DC booth. So many friends touched, bits of good news passed on, and positive developments for DC and the whole field. With the wind at our backs from the phenomenal success of THE DARK KNIGHT (was it really less than two weeks ago that we were celebrating at the premiere?), the debut of the WATCHMEN trailer and Comicon sneak peek, and so much more, we’re at a great moment. There’s our rich history to look back on (and celebrated at moments like the 50th anniversary LEGION panel), and an even brighter future ahead.
Speaking of ahead, spent time at Comicon on an opportunity which may create more new graphic novel readers in a short period of time than anything in memory. For years, our retailers have told us that WATCHMEN was the field’s best gateway drug–give a copy to a potential new reader and there’s a good chance of conversion. The WATCHMEN trailer created a response unprecedented in bookselling, boosting sales of the graphic novel by enormous percentages. It hit #2 on Amazon.com (not #2 graphic novel, #2 overall) and has stayed on all hit lists in comic shops and book stores. We’re literally printing every copy we can, shipping over 200,000 in a matter of weeks. If we get historic rates of conversion, we’ll have significantly increased the total audience for graphic novels in America.
I’m going to go collapse on a couple of chairs in the meeting room of the DC booth now, and gather my strength for Chapman’s annual Dead Dog Party.