Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hijack!

JayJay here. Jim's away and... well, I'm not a mouse, but I'll play anyway. Here's something I thought you might enjoy. When I found my old Marvel Tryout Book to scan the pages for yesterday's blog there were some long forgotten newspaper articles stuck into it. Here's one from New York City Business, February 1985, about the Marvel Secret Wars and DC Crisis on Infinite Earths rivalry among other things.

Tomorrow we'll return to our regularly scheduled blogcast: The Startling Conclusion of the Submission Saga

19 comments:

Marc Miyake said...

Hi JayJay,

A fortuitous find!

I'm amazed at how well-preserved the beginning of the article is. None of my 1985 clippings looks as good.

If only the writer could spell "Spider-Man" correctly! Even comics fans leave out the hyphen, though they've seen it countless times. (Yeah, technically, Joe Simon originally intended the name to be "Spiderman" sans hyphen back in 1953, and that spelling even crept into the original printing of Amazing Fantasy #15 nine years later, but still ...)

Some things haven't changed in 26 years: e.g., I bet it's still true that "DC derives more of its revenue from licensing and other products than it does from comic book sales."

I've never seen an ad rate before. I wonder how much "a[n ad] page in all the Marvel books for that month" costs now.

The article refers to a Spider-Man/Dallas Cowboys team-up comic for a Dallas paper. Jim has been credited with writing this Marvel Team-Up #126 story which was originally for another newspaper supplement. I don't understand the purpose of such supplements. Were such inserts supposed to introduce new readers to Marvel? I wonder why Marvel and DC don't do such things anymore.

The pencils and inks for that story have been credited to a Tomoyuki Takenaka who has no other credits at GCD. Was that name a pseudonym?

I had no idea Alpha Flight and New Mutants, two of the titles I was collecting in 1983-84, were so popular.

I should have guessed that Tales of the New Teen Titans outsold the main book, presumably because it had newsstand distribution.

I wonder what "DC was the first to offer some control to its artists" refers to.

Jim said, "We'd never cancel someone like Captain America -- that would be like cancelling the Constitution." Did he ever imagine that Marvel would publish the "death" of Captain America? (And I don't mean the Steranko classic that was reprinted when Jim was EIC!)

Mars Bonfire said...

It's an illuminating article on the business of selling comic books in the mid 80s.

I notice that Cadence Industries wasn't a listed company any more and the Marvel subsidiary was responsible for 50% of the turnover and 66% of the profits. I did some research (via wikipedia) and found this archived business story from The New York Times in 1988.

http://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/08/business/the-media-business-marvel-comic-book-unit-being-sold-for-82.5-million.html

I had no idea that Cadence closed shop and sold off all it's divisions, with Marvel (Publishing and Productions) sold for $46 million to New World in 1986. Was that cheap? Was there any interest from Disney, Lucasfilms or a publishing house? If not, why not? Who were New World? Is there a future blog on this? So many questions. To think that 23 years later, Marvel was sold to Disney for $4 billion.

Also. I'm not surprised if DC comics were described as square, steady and reliable producing fantasies for children. If most of your revenue comes from selling Superman pyjamas to youngsters (amongst other stuff), you don't want to be rocking that boat. No grim'n'gritty Superman. Isn't that why DC got into trouble when The Joker beat Robin to death? Not very wholesome.

Anonymous said...

The Dallas Times Herald was among the papers that published comic book freebies in the early 1980s. It was a tribute to the 1940s when inserts included the Spirit.

These were done various times. At least 5 were with Spider-man, costarting with Hulk, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, the Cowboy team, and Firestar/Iceman (I think they were in a cartoon at the time) going to see the Nutcracker ballet.

There was another staring the X-Men at the Texas State Fair. Dallas has a mascot--the Mobil pegasus--which is seemingly converted into a centaur motif for this issue and, you guessed it, good and bad mutants are fighting over him.

It seemed to help newstand sales of the papers, but not comic book sales at comic book shops. The stories added a few local touches, but story and art were clearly done by people who didn't live in Texas.

PC said...

Mars, New World Entertainment were a film and TV production company. They were bought by Rupert Murdoch in 1997, according to Wikipedia.

The Wonder Years, Sledge Hammer, Highway to Heaven, Death Race 2000, Children of the Corn, Hellraiser and Forbidden World are some of their old properties. They also did the 1989 Punisher movie.

They got out of the production business in 1991, a couple of years after selling Marvel. Their history looks like a mess of sales, mergers and acquisitions.

Jason said...

New World Entertainment began life as New World Pictures, founded by Roger Corman after he left American International Pictures to set up for himself. Throughout the 1970s, New World provided high-grade exploitation pictures to drive-ins across the country, flicks like Death Race 2000, Candy Stripe Nurses, and TNT Jackson (among many, many others). Lots of talented people started at New World, including Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha) and Joe Dante, who got his start cutting New World trailers. (Dante is partly responsible for possibly the best trailer sales line ever: "Ron Howard pops the clutch and tells the world to 'Eat My Dust'!")

Also during that time, New World distributed foreign art-house films from Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa.

For some reason, around 1980 or '81, Corman sold off New World and started a new company, Concorde/New Horizons (which I believe he is still running). After that, New World seemed to lose focus and get caught up in tangles of business mergers and acquisitions, as noted by previous commenters.

But for ten years or so, it was a focused and successful business enterprise.

Patrick Daniel O'Neill said...

I suspect the absence of a hyphen in Spider-Man in so many newpaper stories is the work of an over-zealous copy editor following the AP style book.

Jay B said...

Wow, "Anything under 100,000 copies isn't worth the effort"...nowadays if you crack the century mark it's a rousing sucess, not a bare minimum.

Seeing Alpha Flight in the Top 4 just brings a smile to my face...no wonder the Byrne issues are fairly easy to find, obviously a LOT were printed! Also interesting to see the Whacko's outselling their East-Coast counterparts...pretty rare to see the spin-off out-selling the original (unless you've got adamantium claws I suppose).

jimshooter said...

Dear Mars,

RE: The sale of Marvel to Perelman: I was the only other bidder. My team, the "Marvel Acquisition Partners," bid $81 million. The full story, all questions answered later.

JayJayJackson said...

I forgot to mention that the man in the plaid shirt just behind Jim in that picture of the bullpen is the much-beloved production manager Danny Crespi! Sweetest boss ever. No offense, Jim! But I know you loved him too!

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Patrick,

That explains why I see "Spiderman" so much in the press. Thanks. Alas, fans who misspell the name can't use the AP style book as an excuse.

Dear Jay B,

When Alpha Flight first came out, none of my classmates were talking about it. I felt like I was the only fan, and many years passed before I talked to someone else who read it.

But I agree with you that the print runs for the early issues must have been big. I recall having difficulty finding some of the later non-Byrne issues. In 1999, I was surprised at how easy and inexpensive it was to complete my set of Byrne's Alpha Flight, and a few years ago I bought a second complete set for a very low price. I guess a lot of people left the book when Byrne left.

Conversely, I wonder if a lot of people started reading Hulk when Byrne switched to it. The only solid run of original Hulk issues that I own is Byrne's! Ditto for West Coast Avengers and other titles.

Jay B said...

Marc,

I never had anyone to talk about comics with growing up, probably why I have a comics blog now. :)

I completed my volume 1 collection over the course of a few years, mostly going through $1 bins. I saw exponentially more copies of the Byrne issues than any other creators'. I still maintain that Byrne's Alpha Flight is the gold standard that no other creator has reached on any volume of the title.

Interesting fact, I wrote a university paper on Shaman (yes, I got to buy comics and justify them as research) and Byrne really did his research on the Sarcee tribe. 95% of Shaman's powers were extensions of Sarcee beliefs. I wish I still had the paper.

jimshooter said...

Danny was the best, the sweetest, however you want to say it. Everybody loved Danny. I miss him.

Tue Sørensen said...

Marc Miyake:

At the height of his career, Byrne used to have a dedicated following of 35,000 fans who would buy whatever he was working on. I have heard them referred to as "the Faithful 35". Around that time, whichever book Byrne switched to would instantly gain 35,000 additional readers. I haven't actually fact-checked this, but I believe it's regarded as common knowledge in fan circles.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Tue,

Thanks. I thought the phrase was "the Faithful Fifty" but wasn't sure and posted without Googling for it. I was hoping someone would come up with exact figures to back up the Faithful (Number) story for Byrne's Hulk. Whatever the actual number is, I'm still part of it. The only current comics I'm buying are Jim's "Dark Key" series and Byrne's Next Men.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

The expression Byrne used to use was "faithful forty thousand" or just "faithful forty."

Tue Sørensen said...

OK, forty it is! To be honest, I wasn't sure myself whether it was 30, 40 or 50. I just remembered it as 35.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Thanks. The term Byrne and others have used on his online forum is "Faithful Fifty." Maybe the number went up after he left Marvel.

His Next Men is in the 8,000 range now. (I hope he gets to finish his story. I've been waiting so long ...) For comparison, this LEGO graphic novel has a first print run of 170,000 copies and "Amazing Spider-Man #666 [...] was the only title in July with sales of over 100,000 copies."

jimshooter said...

Dear Mars,

A series of posts is coming up regarding the sale of Marvel to New World and related stuff.

jimshooter said...

Dear Marc,

Newspaper supplements were intended to be money-making projects. The program was initiated by our "promotions" department, not mine. The idea was to sell ads in the supplement and generate revenues. However, with the costs of creation, printing, shipping and the newspaper's insertion fee, it was a losing proposition.