Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's So Hard to Get Good Help These Days

JayJay here. Oops... I left a whole bunch at the end of the Dazzler story off when I first posted it. So if you read the Debut of the Dazzler before... please read the end. Here it is and it's also been added to the original post. Sorry!

- Continued from below the People magazine cover...



Alice was CUT OUT of this picture!  She was walking beside Bo!

Bo Derek was fresh from the success of 10, with Dudley Moore.  She was the hottest star in Hollywood, top of the “A” list of “bankable” stars.  Bankable means that the mere attachment of such a star guarantees studio financing.

Suddenly there was a BIDDING WAR among the studios for the project!

Now, the bad news, part 1:  Marvel commissioned a screenplay by Leslie Stevens. 

Why not me?  I was the horse who got us there.  But, suddenly, because it was Hollywood, for real and big time, I was “just a comic book writer.”  They decided they needed a screenwriter.

Stevens ignored what I had written completely and wrote a piece of crap that defies description.  In those days, despite the reasonable success of the first Superman movie, comics were still thought of as silly and campy, so that’s what Stevens went for.  It was moronic. 

Stevens also discarded the light powers and gave Dazzler the power to make people tell the truth.  Why the name, then?  Oh, well.

Bad news part 2:  At the height of the bidding war, Bo Derek decreed that her husband, John HAD to be the director.  Famous for behind-schedule, over-budget debacles, John Derek had to direct or no Bo.

Every bidder withdrew.

That ended Bo’s involvement.  

Later, Marvel tried to shop the Leslie Stevens script around with Daryl Hannah attached.  No takers.

P.S.  Later, noting the strengthening of the still-fledgling Direct Market, I proposed to Galton that we publish a Direct Market exclusive issue.  Around that time X-Men and other top performers were selling around 30,000 copies in the Direct Market, in addition to their newsstand sales. 

The Sales Department resisted, fearing angering the I.D. Wholesalers (the newsstand distributors).  The compromise was that we would use a lesser known character, rather than a top seller, which the newsstand people might pay more attention to, and might be upset by. 

I picked Dazzler.  I figured that would provide a good test.

Dazzler #1 was the first all-Direct comic book (at least from a major publisher).  It sold 428,000 copies.

19 comments:

Piperson said...

Very interesting post! I'll never understand why Hollywood wouldn't hire those that know the characters most as even consultants on their movies. I mean if your making a movie about Spider-Man, you want Stan Lee at least as consultant, no? It seems that they are doing that these days, but it took them bumbling idiots long enough!
Your talk about the direct market here reminds me of talk on the other posts about the corrupt distribution system and my own thoughts I've had about the recent distribution system. From the sound of it (on this blog) the direct market was a great way to circumvent the crooked distribution system that was in place. Later, in the 90's, it seems that it was partly the fault of that same system that helped cause the crash of '96'. Now, it seems to me (as an outsider), that the direct market and comic shops are stifling any kind of growth that could happen and needs to happen to the comic industry for it to remain healthy. Those shops seem to cater to a very small demographic, males in their late teens to early 20's. The type of comics that this demographic likes are often violent and sexual alienating a large percentage of the population like young people or girls to become readers. Thank God we have the Borders Books and Barnes and Nobles making graphic novels available to the casual readers. And now that these are closing I'm curious how the comic industry will attract the new readers that we need for the industry to remain healthy. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject Jim.
Thanks for all the great posts!

jimshooter said...

Dear Piperson,

Very insightful thoughts. Thanks.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear JayJay,

Thanks for posting the rest! I feel bad now, asking Jim for more about Dazzler when he had already written it. Oops.

I noticed there's a "Janet Jackson" leading a band in Dazzler #35 which Jim wrote. Your name caught my eye when I was flipping through the Dazzler reprints I got around to opening a couple of days ago.

Dear Jim,

I feel bad for Alice Donenfeld being cut out of the People cover. I can guess why, but still ...

Stars fade so fast. Bo was big thirty years ago, but now ... or even just five years after 10?

I would have expected better from Leslie Stevens, the creator of The Outer Limits. Then again, he did work on Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, neither of which appealed to me as a kid. His Dazzler would have had the same effect, only worse. I didn't like what little camp was in Superman (1978). I would have hated Stevens' Dazzler.

Well, at least there was a happy ending. 428,000 copies of Dazzler #1? A huge number by 2011 standards. I wonder why it did so well. I like the Bob Larkin cover.

(He also did the cover for Crystar #1. It's the only instance of a comic company creating a property for toy licensing that I can thinking of. How did that unusual -- if not unique -- situation come about? Lots of good Michael Golden covers too. If Crystar was owned by Marvel, why didn't it appear in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe?)

Dear Piperson,

I think Hollywood people believe they can do a "better" job than the actual creators. "Refine" raw material into ... garbage. Stan Lee must have a lot of tolerance. Alan Moore doesn't.

I too would like to read Jim's view on the future of comics given the current situation of the direct market and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

JayJayJackson said...

Janet Jackson and the Steel Tuna, if I remember correctly? One of Jim's little jokes. I was quite pleased by it. lol.

JayJayJackson said...

On another note... That link to the Dazzler 35 cover you posted... There is NOTHING that Bill Sienkiewicz can't paint brilliantly, is there?

At least I was smart enough to hire him to do the Spider-Man Wedding poster. I never get tired of looking at his work. My nice, pro-mounted copy of that poster was ruined when our basement flooded, but I still have some folded ones. I think I'll hang one in my office. <3

Marc Miyake said...

Yes, JayJay, that's it! Thanks for reminding me! Someone actually wrote a whole article about this issue including a section on "your" band:

Shortly thereafter, the band—which is rumored to be hotter than a welding torch—takes the stage. Ali watches in envy as Jan Jackson and the Steel Tuna performs in front of the admiring crowd. They’re terrific, Alison thinks. That Janet Jackson is absolutely sensational!

I think Alison's right! But my opinion counts more ... because I'm real!

Is "Steel Tuna" a reference?

There's even a Barry Kaplan reference, IIRC.

Marc Miyake said...

Hi JayJay,

Yes, Bill Sienkiewicz is the best. His covers are one of the best things from Marvel during this period. I was going to say how his work helped make Marvel's licensed comics stand out compared to their counterparts at DC: e.g., the covers for Transformers #1 and Starriors #1-4. And as I've mentioned before, the covers for Dazzler, including the issues that Jim wrote. (Was #30, the Assistant Editors' Month issue by "Ken McDonald" one of them? "Ken McDonald" wrote only one other story for Marvel. Dig Sienkiewicz' dead-on rendition of a Pontiac Firebird on the cover of #30!)

(An aside: the first Sienkiewicz cover was preceded by a non-painted Joe Jusko cover. Never saw his line art before!)

Thank you for mentioning the Sienkiewicz wedding poster. I have no idea how I missed that 24 years ago -- or how I could have forgotten it. It's gorgeous!

JayJayJackson said...

The secret behind "The Steel Tuna" is locked in Jim's brain. I've asked him, but he was cagey about it and would only reply "I dunno. Sounded good." Obviously there's a deeper meaning that he's hiding. (Of course I MAY not have asked him about it in a little over a quarter of a century.) But I think the time has come to reveal the secret origin of The Steel Tuna. Hmm, Jim?

Marc Miyake said...

Hi JayJay,

Hmmm, "Steel" ... maybe it's a Pittsburgh thing that we just can't understand! :)

JediJones said...

I wonder if the Disney stores in the malls will start carrying Marvel comics or TPBs. I've noticed that since the Disney stores started carrying Marvel action figures here, they sell them much faster than the local Toys "R" Us, Target or Walmart do.

Ultimately I really think comic books have to look to online distribution to find their future. Paper may have sentimental value but the art and stories are what makes someone into a fan. Just like with vinyl albums, there could still be collectible printings issued for those who want them.

With the right business model, pricing, marketing and of course quality reading material, I think there could be a revolution in comics readership online. Marvel and DC seem to be offering a big lump sum subscription for all their titles, but all that does is target the existing hardcore fans.

How about an alternative where each new issue was readable online for free for the first month, with ad banners and ads between pages to generate revenue. You could register on the site and pay a small monthly subscription fee, just for each title you liked, to read new issues without ads, maybe read them a week earlier than everyone else, and then a higher price to read the back issues as well. Maybe you could "pay-per-view" one time for each back issue and it would then be permanently available in your online library. Or pay a full monthly subscription price to get access to everything.

The biggest advantage is just how quickly the word-of-mouth for a really good title could spread through online social networking. The barrier to entry for a brand new comics reader is so huge now with so many titles, narrow distribution in specialty stores, and high prices. Not to mention the extra effort of tracking down back issues if one title is in the middle of a storyline. Imagine how easily a curious person could investigate a new comic if they're simply sent a web site link from a friend and don't have to sign up or pay anything to read that issue.

With a big readership, volume would become everything, which could keep the online prices per issue much lower than it would cost to buy paper copies. I'm sure there will be ways to make money once you have a bunch of people visiting that site. Of course there could be an online store for merchandise related to the comics as well. And, heck, if the online comic got that popular, there would be cartoon, movie and merchandise deals to be had as well.

Maybe it's harder for Marvel and DC to push online comics really hard because it would hurt their relationships with direct market retailers. But that makes it that much more of a wide open opportunity for a new startup company like Valiant or Image. It's hard to believe that if some new series as good as Valiant, Watchmen, G.I. Joe, etc. was produced as an online-only comic, that it wouldn't catch on and become a new phenomenon that could build a big readership and change the way people think about comics.

kintounkal said...

Marc,

Why Crystar was left out of the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe is a very good question. On the bright side, this oversight was corrected in 2008 when Marvel Legacy: the 1980's Handbook was published. It includes a Crystar profile intentionally written as if the date was 11:59 P.M. on December 31st, 1989. Since the last Crystal Warrior issue hit the stands on October 30th, 1984, that encapsulates all eleven Crystar appearances.

When Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z premiere hardcovers were released, Crystar's profile was moved to volume 3. It's a shame Tom Grummett's cover for that collected edition didn't incorporate Crystar into the background. I understand Daredevil & Deadpool needed to be shown front and center but I think Crystar is a bit more popular than Karolina Dean.

jimshooter said...

That's one secret that will go to the grave with me. : )

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

Wasn't me. The face on Dazzler #30 cover looks like Ralph, by the way.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc (Re: Crystar),

Marvel owned Crystar jointly with the toy company.

Pj Perez said...

"But, suddenly, because it was Hollywood, for real and big time, I was “just a comic book writer.” They decided they needed a screenwriter."

Funny, because NOW, those two things are nearly interchangeable.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

I thought "Ken McDonald" was you because the name reminded me of your father, Ken Klaczak, and your Grandma McDonald (whom you mentioned in a DEFIANT editorial). I enjoy finding familiar names in your work. Last night I noticed that the "principal photography" in Spectacular Spider-Man #59 was by a "J. Strzltski." Roger Stern said a fan thought your layouts were Ditko's! Wow. I was pleased by your command of Spidey's body language ... in drawings done during your lunch hour and at night, as Stern pointed out.

(ASIDE: I never understood the rationale for multiple Spidey-titles. I was OK with multiple Superman titles in the 60s because of DC's loose continuity, but the only way I can see multiple titles and tight continuity working is to make those titles into a de facto weekly or biweekly title.)

Ralph Macchio is on the cover of #30? The regular editor on the cover during the month of missing editors? Ha!

I didn't know Crystar was co-owned. Thanks for correcting me. I should read the legalese in the indicia if I get around to reading the comics. I was wondering if, say, Jim Galton one day decided, hey, instead of us licensing stuff from toy companies, let's license stuff to them.

jimshooter said...

I may be wrong about Crystar being co-owned. The toy company certainly had a package of rights for a term, at least. Too many toy deals, not enough memory cells.

Cliffy said...

Ralph Macchio was a supporting character in that Ass't Eds. Month issue. It's been a couple years since I read it but Dazz encounters him at SDCC, or on the way maybe, and then they have a couple adventures together. I seem to remember his car getting totaled, but I might be mixing things up. I also think that's the AEM ish that has a very funny scene with Bob Harras (RM's assistant I assume) using the absence of the editorial staff to stage a coup and run the House with an iron hand, which was particularly good given the reputation he developed as EIC years later.

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