Friday, March 30, 2012

The Dramatic Conclusion of the New Business Model Rant

First This

Cory Doctorow sent me a couple of nice e-mails recently. He said he liked the last three posts, which discussed issues he raised about copyright, DRM and SOPA.

You probably noticed from the dates on Cory’s articles and essays I cited (if you followed the links) that some were written a while ago. Cory said that he’s currently working on an updated, comprehensive book on the “big, synthesized whole” of intellectual property in the digital age. He sent me a sneak peek at the work in progress and gloriosky, it’s great. It’s not just for people in the biz or those fascinated by legal issues. Draconian digital copyright protection measures currently in use or being contemplated can affect ordinary, innocuous communications and be used in nefarious—make that really evil ways—that never occurred to me. Some of the things Cory brings to light are deeply disturbing.

Can’t wait to see the final product. When it’s published, I’ll give you a heads up.

I provided links to some of Cory’s work, but I forgot this:

THE TOMORROW PROJECT ANTHOLOGY


The Tomorrow Project is an Intel Corporation initiative run by super-smart Futurist Brian David Johnson. (His whole title, by the way, is Futurist - Principal Engineer and Director, Future Casting, Interactions and Experience Research.  It’s better than being Lord High Plenipotentiary of Tunis.) The project is all about getting imaginative types to envision the future and create a vision of same. The book linked to above contains one of Cory’s visions, “Knights of the Rainbow Table.”

I’m working on a contribution to the Tomorrow Project, too. Brian picked me to do their first comics offering. Go figure. More on that later.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that Cory, Brian and I, along with SyFy Channel exec Craig Engler did a panel discussion about the future at the 2011 New York Comic-Con, video of which can be seen here:

http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/10/nycc-panel-screen-future-gaming-comics.html

Thanks, Cory, thanks Brian, thanks Intel, and thank you all for your kind attention.


Regarding My Modest Proposal 

I need to clarify and emphasize a few things….

In my modest proposal for a new business model for comic book publishing, I talked about the current, totally unfair Work-Made-for-Hire practices standard at the majors in the biz. I said:
Here’s a big key: COMPANY OWNED, W4H AND THEREFORE “UNIVERSE” TITLES MUST ALL BE CREATED BY EMPLOYEES ON STAFF. SHARED UNIVERSE WORK INHERENTLY MUST BE CREATED BY AN “ORCHESTRA” OF CREATORS UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A “CONDUCTOR,” OR EDITOR (WHO IS A WORLD-CLASS VISIONARY).
MAKE ANYONE WHO WORKS ON YOUR UNIVERSE TITLES A WELL-PAID, SALARIED EMPLOYEE WITH BENEFITS AND PERKS WHO WORKS ON YOUR PREMISES.
And, by the way, these employees MUST BE GIVEN COMPELLING INCENTIVES TO CREATE, AND REAL PARTICIPATIONS IN THE SUCCESS OF THEIR WORKS.
Ahem. That solves the Gerber, Kirby, Friedrich-type lawsuit problem. 
In my fantasy, the law would be changed to make it so for everyone.
Several people misunderstood. David said:
“By I would agree with commenters who wish you could have let go of one more geek millstone, the shared universe.”
I replied:
You misunderstand, though I didn't explain my point well. My point was about WORK MADE FOR HIRE. That is, if there is going to be a company universe, or for that matter, company owned characters, then they ought to be made under true staff employee conditions, not the current, nebulous, totally unfair deal under which freelancers sign a paper agreeing that for the purpose of copyright they will be treated as employees, but in no other way have the rights and benefits employees have (unemployment insurance, workman's comp, etc. plus whatever the company offers). A shared universe might or might not be part of the new business model. It isn't necessary at all, though I suspect Marvel and DC would want to keep theirs in some form.  
Craig said:
RE: ""Publish all non-Universe work under normal publishing industry terms. Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors."
Hmmm.
Let's see.
I think modern Marvel (and even DC) kind of do this already.
e.g., "Superstar" creators like Brian Michael Bendis can do whatever they want, get the majority of the promotional efforts of the company, etc.

And newbies, if they are even let in the door at all anymore, as shuffled off to titles on the verge of dying, backup features, etc.

So... how would your proposal be different than the current "Marvel only hires Axel Alonso's Hollywood friends and insiders" dynamic... at all?"

And newbies, if they are even let in the door at all anymore, as shuffled off to titles on the verge of dying, backup features, etc.
So... how would your proposal be different than the current "Marvel only hires Axel Alonso's Hollywood friends and insiders" dynamic... at all?" 
I replied:
You missed the point entirely, though I didn't explain it well enough. My proposal suggests that company-owned properties be created by employees, on staff, on premises. As I said, no prima donnas need apply. Bendis and Johns wouldn't make the cut. Only the best of the best would qualify. I would think that it would be rare that a newbie would be good enough. Just as Disney and Pixar artists and writers work (on staff, on premises) under the direction of creative supervisors, the comics W4H/staff people would. When Disney's creative supervisor was Walt, and he had tremendous talents like Ub Iwerks on staff, amazing things were created, and that would be what one would hope for. Since lesser lights have become creative honchos at Disney, well, few truly great things have been done. If the company wants to own outright some creative work, then it would behoove them to hire a reallyreally good, visionary supervisor and reallyreally good artists and writers who, like great creators in other commercial fields (advertising, TV, animation, etc.) do the job required with rare excellence.

For non-W4H works, "Treat stars like John Grisham, treat beginners like newbie authors." That is, if the company was to publish something by someone of the stature of the late Jean Giraud (which he would own, as Grisham owns his works) that creator would be at the top of the royalties scale and receive star-type promo, perks and support. If the company was to publish a new creator's work, they'd be at the bottom of the scale. "Mid-list" creators, as Cory says he is, would be in the middle. Clear? 

A few didn’t grasp the scope of my proposal.  Jim Baird said:
I think you are mostly right, Jim, with one exception. I don't think what you propose can be led by a large investor. Crossgen tried something very similar to what you propose. I don't understand all of the issues that caused Crossgen's collapse, but maybe it was just too soon. I just don't think there is enough money available to buy enough interest to ever make something like that profitable.
My reply: Sorry, CrossGen didn’t try anything like what I am proposing. CrossGen was a weakly capitalized small fry. The creative work they produced was as hit and miss—mostly miss—as is the norm in this industry and it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the quality and level of accessibility that I’m talking about. Merely having a roomful of the usual suspects working together accomplishes nothing. It would absolutely take a “large investor” to accomplish the new business model I suggest. You’re thinking way too small and way too old-school, same-old-same-old if you cite CrossGen. The deal is this—revolutionize and rebuild this industry in sweeping, dramatic fashion, including distribution, or forget it. I think it would take a huge investment, insightful business minds and a lot of great talent to pull it off. And, as I said, it’s unlikely to happen. 

Jim Baird continued:
I think that what you are saying can work with a small enthusiastic group working together at first. It has to build readership, then add creators. The audience needs to grow organically, based on actual story interest. Expansion needs to match demand to avoid the financial pressures of expanding too slowly or too quickly and I think that will only happen if there is a very non-human low capital investment. The creators have to have direct, but group ownership. It has to be a labor of love. The principals have to believe in eventual success and devoted enough to give success a reasonable chance, but it cannot realistically be their only source of income. Web publishing is probably the way to go. I don't believe there are currently any web-based shared universes. A group can publish far more regularly than a single creator or creator team and that makes a print version of a shared universe anthology possible very quickly. After you have a product ready to sell, pre-order may be able to finance the initial print run.
I could not disagree more vehemently. Who would be in this enthusiastic group of people with day jobs? Any writers who realistically could choose to work in TV, film or as successful novelists? Any artists who could realistically choose instead to be a film designer like Doug Chiang, a world-class illustrator or commercial artist? If comics cannot compete for top creative talent, we cannot compete against other entertainment.

What if Alex Ross was a middle-of-the-pack guy? What if Jean Giraud-level creators were the norm?  What if Mark Waid was happy to work in the office writing Work-Made-for-Hire stories for company-owned characters under the direction of a visionary creative leader on a par with Spielberg—because it paid so damn well? And the job had such good bennies.

It takes a great deal of money to attract the best. No one would entrust that much money to a half-assed organization. It’s going to take a big player and a solid organization. And enlightened. Again, that makes it unlikely. Especially the enlightened part.

Ahem.

Then, diogensclub said:
Jim, I have to disagree with you on at least one point : Universe titles.
Universe titles are not the way to go.
You can’t enter the markter trying to create a new universe. It’s been tried, again and again … with poor results.

Marvel and DC universes were not created as universes but as independent series …
The future lies with independant series and, eventually, for the most successfulls, one spin-off … Imaginary Universes are an exception, proceeding only from the trop of the crop.. 
The way to go, IMHO, is to create independent series. 
One thing you don’t address here is the format and periodicity. 
Should we keep floppies or should we do OGNs (one-shots, limited series, ongoing), published one or twice a year, beautiful books to bestow on people as birthday of Christmas gifts. 
You may want to have a look at the french market when thinking about the future.
In that market, we had it all : independent series with top notch talent. 
Now, overproduction begins to become a problem, with spin-offs, low quality books, series with different artists to keep an accelarated schedule, …
I replied:
You misunderstand me, though I see why. Poor wording. I have since clarified the point a little. What I was referring to by "universe titles" were work-made-for-hire/company owned titles. It doesn't matter whether they're in a universe or not, and I don't necessarily recommend launching a universe as part of a new business model company. But, what if Marvel or DC took my advice? They already have universes, and I assume they'd want to keep at least part of them. The real issue I was talking about, again, is W4H.
To that, I will add that I wasn’t proposing a publishing plan or a business plan, so format, periodicity and all that were not at issue. If someone ever undertakes a plan such as I propose, those things will have to be considered.

Craig made a number of observations, to which I replied:
Craig:  RE: "The one (of my points) that I think is least tenable, however, is the centralized office where all "common universe titles" are created.

To succeed in the coming digital era of comics, cutting unwieldy overhead will be a primary concern. If a company had to house offices not only for administrative and editorial staff, but creative types as well, the offices such as Marvel and DC currently own or rent would need to be... much larger."


Me:  The creative people need not be in New York office space. Cheap space is available not far away. Also, there might be several "bullpen" locations -- in the L.A., Chicago, Seattle areas, wherever. Part of my point, albeit laid between the lines, is that it should be expensive for the companies to have W4H done. The companies, in my view, have it both ways now. They use freelance talent, to whom they give few benefits, but they own everything just as if they were providing the benefits of full employment. Make them provide all materials, all necessities including footing the electric bill and other housekeeping expenses, make them provide benefits consistent with management types and then, fine, it's W4H, no problem. Incentives for successful work would be good, too.

Craig:  RE: "Also, such a requirement would almost necessitate that some of the "best, world-class" creators you talk about would be unavailable to those "common universe" titles. 
Like it or not, the trend in business in general, and in creative fields especially, has been a shift toward home offices, and work-from-home environments. 
Can you imagine telling Stephen King, for example, "Hey, we'd love you to do a 12-issue run on MAN-THING or GHOST RIDER, but it's an in-house title. Do you mind moving from Bangor to New York?Otherwise, pitch us something else."

Me:  The best, world-class creators are already unavailable for W4H work. I don't care what the trend is, making W4H on staff, on premises only draws a distinct line. Stephen King or anyone of that stature and position would refuse to move, yes. Exactly. That's the point. He'd also refuse to do W4H for a Ghost Rider series. However, he could write such a series in the comfort of his own office under non-W4H terms, if Marvel would be inclined to give him an independent contractor deal worth his while.

Craig:  RE: " How many people outside of comics would agree that Roger S! Stern was a "world-class" writer who deserved attention comparable to J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, James Patterson and William Goldman? 
Me:  Who said anything about Roger Stern? He might not make the cut. I might not make the cut. Sal Buscema wouldn't make it for sure, not even when he was in his prime. Most comic book "names" wouldn't make the cut. Some, because they couldn't do what was required, some because their egos wouldn't let them.

Craig:  RE: "...it just seems that your vision of huge offices (and thus huge overhead) might not gel with current trends in business and work environments. 
Or the preferred working style of the truly "world-class" content creators." 
Me:  You said huge offices and huge overhead, I didn't. The cost of W4H should be high, and the benefits and security would have to be good enough so that it was a legitimate alternative to doing your own thing. All I'm saying is that if a company wants to be the "author" of your work, that is, treat you like an employee for purposes of ownership, they ought to treat you like an employee period. Being on company premises deals with the issues of the artist having to provide any resources and working independently, both of which muddy W4H. Ideally, the requirement I propose would lead to LESS W4H. and what there is of it being created by people who have reallyreally good jobs -- good enough to choose the security of such over the risks and struggles of independent creative work.  
Craig:  RE: "Can anyone imagine telling J.J. Abrams, "Hey, we'd love to have you write an X-Men arc... but you need to be in the Marvel Bullpen in New York 9-5, five days a week, and forget about FRINGE, PERSON OF INTEREST, ALCATRAZ and all that Hollywood stuff, if you're gonna work on X-MEN." 
And without folks like that, working on the "common universe" titles, the "world class" banner might not take hold." 
Me:  J.J Abrams may have better things to do. However, if the companies pay enough, some amazingly talented people can be attracted. Disney never seemed to have trouble finding good people to work on their premises. Other creative organizations have done so too. Can be done. So many creators would give their non-drawing arm for an opportunity like that, and perhaps the chance to become known and become a J.J. Abrams someday. Miller did it. 
There are many, many people now doing W4H in their own homes or offices, on crummy terms. There are zillions more who would love to step into their shoes! The streets of L.A. and New York are awash with wannabes. Some of them are oughta-be's and some of them are will-be's. No reason we couldn't put together a brilliant staff.

Craig:  RE: " Tough questions." 
Me:  Nah. Not at all.


Big Guns You Can’t Aim

In my proposed new business model rant I said:

“…the Capitalist Enablers must hire brilliant, progressive, insightful business people as well as creative leaders who are visionary. Who are the greatest creative visionaries of our time? Spielberg? Cameron? Creative leaders who belongs in that company. Oh, by the way, no current Big Two creative honchos need apply.

“The visionary creative leaders must see to it that world-class entertainment is created.

“That means bringing in a lot of new, truly great talent, re-training some of the current crop and saying good-bye to many—including a lot of those who are “stars” currently. Stay objective now—they’re stars only to us geeks. They get away with self-indulgent crap because some of us tolerate it, and yes, some of us like it. They are emboldened to do so because they’re playing to people predisposed to love the stuff no matter what, just like local, amateur theater actors hamming it up in front of a house full of friends and family.”  

I must emphasize the above.

The comic book biz is full of Big Guns You Can’t Aim. 

I’ll name names.

Mike Kaluta. I love Mike Kaluta. Great guy. Brilliant, amazing, world-class artist. One time, back in my Marvel days, we needed a special cover for something—one of Larry Hama’s books, I think. Mike was available. We gave him the assignment, carefully explained what we wanted. Mike agreed. Man, we could just picture the cover image we’d all agreed upon drawn by amazing Mike. When he brought the finished cover in, however, it was nothing like what we had proposed and he had agreed to execute.  Completely different. Brilliantly drawn, yes, but way off-spec and not nearly as effective as what was intended.

So, what do you do? Demand that it be done over (royally pissing him off)? Pay Mike a kill fee and get someone else who will do what you want? Assuming no other geniuses are available on short notice, the someone else would almost certainly a lesser light than amazing Mike. And his off spec cover is, after all, not terrible. Not bad at all. A superb illustration, however off-target. Use it and you have the advantage of his name on the solicitation…. Sigh. 

Bill Sienkiewicz. I love Bill. Great guy. Brilliant, amazing, world-class artist. One time, back in my Marvel days, we needed a New Mutants poster. Bill was the obvious choice. We described to him what we wanted, a classic group shot, the definitive, iconic image of the New Mutants. Man, we could just picture the poster image we’d all agreed upon painted by the amazing Bill. When he brought the finished painting in, however, it was nothing like what we had proposed and he had agreed to execute. Completely different. Brilliantly painted, yes. Actually, it was a collage.  It had some radio parts glued onto it. Not what we had intended.
Publisher Mike Hobson’s reaction was “I’d love to have this hanging in my office, but it isn’t what we commissioned.”

Still a pretty good poster, though. We went with it. Sigh.


(JayJay here. An aside. When I was working as the art director of advertising for Marvel my first choice to do promotional paintings was Bill. I'm a huge fan of his work and I'm awed all over again every time I see something new of his. I love the way his work feels unconstrained and wild, but is executed with an incredibly high level of skill. Truthfully, I didn't think I could get him to do the paintings for our department, but he agreed. I was ecstatic. Bill painted the Spider-Man wedding poster and when he brought it in, it was the most beautiful, creative thing I'd seen. It's still one of my favorite posters of all time. When we needed a poster for the New Universe, of course I asked Bill. I lucked out again, he agreed to paint it, too. Bill came in to meet with Jim and I and he worked up a rough sketch on the spot. Late one evening or maybe over the weekend, I only remember I was alone, I got a call from Bill and he sounded upset. He said he had decided to change the layout, had started the painting, that Jim was going to hate it and he didn't want to do the job. As I struggled to hide the heart attack I thought I was having, I asked him to describe the changes, reassured him that it would be fine and said I was sure Jim would love it. I was pretty sure. I mean, it's Bill. A couple of days later, when my fingernails were almost bitten down the bone, Bill brought in the painting. When I saw it, I couldn't even remember the sketch. It was incredible. Exciting. It made me want to know who these characters were. And Jim loved it. Who wouldn't?


Now, back to Jim...)

Walt Simonson. I love Walt. Great guy. Brilliant, amazing, world-class artist. One time, back in my Marvel days, Mattel needed a design for a Secret Wars playset and commissioned us to do concept drawings. Walt leaped to mind immediately. Who is more creative than Walt? Mattel’s instructions to me were clear—they wanted a high-tech look. As intricate as the ships and machinery in Star Wars, but distinctively different. A new take on the Kirby machinery/electronics look. Complex, futuristic, super-scientific, highly detailed technology. Kids, said Mattel, loved detailed machinery. I conveyed Mattel’s instructions clearly, I thought. When Walt brought in the finished designs, however…well…he’d drawn thatch-roofed huts. A simple, rustic-looking setting. Walt explained that he’d thought about it and concluded that futuristic, super-scientific technology would probably appear to be simple. Rude and primitive, even.

Ay-yi-yi.

Maybe I should have asked Bill Sienkiewicz to do that design. He might have glued on some radio parts, at least.

I chose these three gentlemen not because I have any ill will toward them, but precisely because I don’t.

And, as far as I know, that goes both ways. We’re friends, or friendly, anyway.

Mike Kaluta and I never worked together much. He was pretty busy doing Starstruck with the talented Elaine Lee for our EPIC imprint. Maybe he’s the type who has to do his own thing, period. In my proposed new business model, I suspect he’d be doing only non-company-owned properties, ones he owned. He’d succeed, like a John Grisham or a Cory Doctorow, by dint of his own creative vision and talent—or possibly fail—rather than work on, say, Superman, and enjoy all the security, fat salary checks and benefits given to staff, Work-Made-for-Hire employees under the direction of a Cameron/Spielberg/Walt Disney-level boss. Luckily, Mike’s a genius. Why, then, did I throw in “possibly fail?” Because there are more ingredients to success than just genius, and it could happen.  There’s more risk doing your own thing, but potentially greater rewards. 

Bill Sienkiewicz and I worked together for a long time on many things. Aside from that New Mutants poster, Bill almost always delivered what we expected, better than we deserved. The exceptions, of course, are the projects where we encouraged Bill to do his own thing, explore, invent, experiment and revolutionize comics—the New Mutants comic book series comes to mind. We never knew what to expect, but we enjoyed the surprises. Maybe Bill was confused and thought the poster fell under the same swing-for-the-fences parameters that the comic book did. Whatever. I know that Bill has done some commercial art since those days, and therefore, must still be able to take direction when required. You don’t survive in the commercial art field ignoring the client’s instructions. When he was working on the Arrow Collar account, I’ll guarantee you that J.C. Leyendecker didn’t deliver illos of wingtips because one day he decided he wanted to draw shoes.

So, genius Bill could go either way. I’d give him a high likelihood of success as an independent author/creator under the new business model. But, if for some reason he chose to work on staff on Spider-Man—let’s say the company made it worth his while—I have no doubt he would do well. 
Walt Simonson, in my opinion, just doesn’t like being directed or constrained in any way. He is the classic Big Gun You Can’t Aim. But here’s the thing—he’s almost always pointed the right direction anyway. The trick with Walt is to get him on something right for his style and his approach, which is more or less anything he is interested in doing, and stand back. He’ll hit the target. The eight covers for the second month of UNITY at VALIANT come to mind. He took the job on the condition that he could do his idea, his way. Fine by me. And, yes, he hit the target.
By the way his other demand was that he get paid a nickel more than Frank Miller did for the first eight covers, so he could tell people he got paid more than Frank. I handed him a shiny nickel myself. Sorry, Frank.  : )

Walt could do the W4H thing if he chose, if he and the Jim-Cameron-of-comics in charge were simpatico and Walt was more or less left alone. Or Walt could take the risk and do his own thing. He’s got game, just like the other two. 

Anyway, the comic book biz these days is rife with Big Guns You Can’t Aim. What’s really pathetic is that a lot of the supposed “Big Guns” are really BB Guns.

It’s not so bad that the legitimate Big Guns can’t be aimed, because, frankly, most of those in creative management who would be doing the aiming are clueless. Off target. Range-finder challenged. Blind.  Which is why so many BB-Guns enjoy Big Gun-status. The editors and their bosses can’t tell the difference. Guys who have one tiny piece of the puzzle and chutzpah, or a crony in the right place get Big Gun treatment.

In the new business model, besides a creative visionary leader, there would have to be excellent, skilled, talented editors. Two types:  Editors and creative management to govern and direct the house-owned properties and editors and creative management to work with the independent author/creators—not to govern and direct them, but to A) choose the best of the best, B) help them, guide them a little, if necessary to enable them to realize their vision. 

All the work published under the new business model would have to be world-class professional quality, effortlessly understandable by anyone.

Ever had any trouble understanding what was going on in a Michael Crichton novel? Ever watched a few minutes of Law and Order and thrown your hands up in disgust because you can’t make heads or tails of it? Been to any major movies that might as well have been shown backwards in Swahili?  
We have to be as accessible as other major entertainments.

Way more accessible than Starstruck. Sorry, Mike. If you actually tell the story that I know about from talking with you and Elaine on the pages so that anyone can get involved as easily as they can with, say, NCIS, The Lord of the Rings novels or The Hunger Games, then, I think, you win. I know you have the technology, being a genius and whatnot.

Now, I hear somebody out there thinking, “Oh, sure, all the great creators will become independent author/creators and only the drones and punters will do W4H work on the company-owned characters, which sucks for those of us who love Spider-Man, Superman and the rest.”

Nah. Doesn’t have to be that way. Free your mind. Imagine that the W4H/staff deal is reallyreally good.

Seems to me that George Lucas managed to put together a pretty good W4H team for Star Wars. They weren’t owners, but Lucas was generous with points and they all made a lot of money.

Hey, there’s a clue!

Designer Doug Chiang worked for Lucasfilms. He eventually moved on to other gigs and is, last I heard, working on his own property, Robota. I suspect it would often work that way—start out W4H (albeit startlingly well-paid) then move on to author/creator work. 

Cameron managed to scrape together some talent for T2 and the rest.

And Walt Disney found seven old men who weren’t too bad.

Our medium is too magnificent to languish. Too wonderful to be left to the benighted.

Here’s hoping for the future.



NEXT:  Finally, Really, No, REALLY…Evolution: John Byrne Then, Then and Now

322 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,

I watched Rio Bravo last night, written by Leigh Brackett with Jules Furthman and directed by Howard Hughes, and while I don't know the exact terms Brackett was working under, I suspect it was rather similar to the W4H conditions you are describing here. At the least, the result is a high-powered team producing great work. And Brackett of course ended her career by writing the Empire Strikes Back screenplay that may or may not have been the basis for the final movie (there seems to be some dispute about this).

Anyway, what you are saying here about how such a theoretical comic book company would work made me think of that part of the Hollywood system--the well-rewarded (okay, presumably, but I think it's generally true) gears who made the machine run, sometimes well-known (like Raymond Chandler or William Goldman) but also more anonymous gems (like Brackett or Ben Hecht). The point is that you don't even need to have Big Names (outside of the industry I doubt even many Star Wars fans could tell you who Leigh Brackett was) as long as they are good, and she was very good. A comic book company populated by Leigh Bracketts should do very well in the long run, but the commitment to get there is key.

--kgaard

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Glad to see you back. This long post was well worth the wait. Although I've seen the comments you quote and your responses before, I didn't mind the review.

You're now on Cory Doctorow's radar. Excellent. And you'll be doing a comic for Intel? Even better.

I loved Sienkiewicz' run on New Mutants, so you can guess how I feel about his painting of them. The trouble is that it's really a Magus painting. His mouth and his circuitry dwarf the team.

Sienkiewicz' New Universe poster would have convinced me to try it out! Alas, I didn't see it at the time, and I never got around to buying and reading the NU titles until a few years ago.

The big guns are still around and continue to appear over the years. The question is: who will aim them? Editors are essential to your plan. But where can they be found? Who will train them, and how?

Dear kgaard,

Do you think what you said about classic Hollywood also applies to modern Hollywood? Even if it doesn't, as Jim pointed out, current Hollywood product is still accessible in a way that many comics aren't, so there are still lessons to be learned from its output, if not its infrastructure.

Jerry Novick said...

First of all - Welcome back to blogging, Jim!

Now on to the subject at hand...

I agree with you completely... in principle. I think the idea of company-owned material being created in-house by top-shelf creators for nice pay and benefits is a great idea. Especially if said company was to follow the second part of your idea and also fund non-company-owned projects by above-top-shelf talent for pay and points as independent contractors.

But 2 things:

First off, I don't see why the in-house model couldn't have remote/work-from-home based employees, at least on the creative side. With today's technology you could still hold meetings, see efforts and results immediately, share thoughts as if face-to-face, etc. This would perhaps get a few of the above-top-shelf people to get involved with the company-owned stuff as well.

"Hmmm... great pay, benefits, and my wife can still live close to her sisters while I stay close to the beach... Score!"

My second thing is that the non-creative side -- marketing, sales, business operations -- would have to have their roles very well-defined and that definition would have to include the idea of "you market and sell what we create, you don;t tell us to create something or change a creation because your wife likes Dancing With The Stars."

Too often do we see Marketing grab the wheel and drive the bus, much to the detriment of the creative product and long-term sales health. Sure, Marketing, Sales, and Business Operations should give constant feedback on things such as sell-in of product, sell-through of product, cost efficiency, market trends and so on, but the creative vision must rule the day. The day must never come where a Marketing guy says "we need 12 variant platinum-embossed glow-in-the-dark scratch-and-sniff covers for Squirrel Girl" or "can you make Wonder Woman a man in drag because I loved Bosom Buddies as a kid and anyway women heroes don't sell."

Sure, the marketing guy could say "hey, Wonder Woman is tanking; can you take a look at my market research and see if any of it can be used to come up with some new ideas or Business Ops is going to step in and say cancel the series."

But the creative decisions should remain on the editorial side.

If the business model included those things, I'd say we're off to the races.

Kal Elsworth said...

"Ever had any trouble understanding what was going on in a Michael Crichton novel? Ever watched a few minutes of Law and Order and thrown your hands up in disgust because you can’t make heads or tails of it? Been to any major movies that might as well have been shown backwards in Swahili? We have to be as accessible as other major entertainments."
Indeed, the simplest of truths that nobody seems willing to comprehend.

Salamandyr said...

I have a feeling that the likeliest result of an "in house" team for universe titles, would be a writer, and a designer/creative head, while the actual production would be farmed out to various international locations like Korea, as is the case in animation today.

Cerebus said...

I had that same New Mutants poster hanging on my wall back then, and absolutely loved it. If I remember, there was a Byrne She-Hulk done around then that was in a more traditional style that I had as well. The New Mutants may not have been in a traditional poster style for the time, but almost 30 years later I can still remember it vividly.

Brent E said...

"Ever had any trouble understanding what was going on in a Michael Crichton novel? Ever watched a few minutes of Law and Order and thrown your hands up in disgust because you can’t make heads or tails of it? Been to any major movies that might as well have been shown backwards in Swahili? We have to be as accessible as other major entertainments."

I love this sentiment, until I start thinking about it. Maybe it's the entertainment snob/junkie in me, but so much of the easy to get into stuff is garbage. I'm sorry, but just because I can follow the CSI shows does not make them entertaining. So much of television is crap that any monkey can sit around and watch but it feels recycled and and stale.

Then again, shows like Twin Peaks, Lost, Buffy/Angel, Firefly, etc. tend to alienate casual viewers because they can't follow them without see all the episodes. Of course, those are some of the most rewarding shows to stick with! Such a dilemma.

I focused on tv since I think comics line up the closest with that medium bringing viewers/readers back after short intervals. But the same could be said of many films/books. Often the books that the most people read or the films the most people watch are the shallowest garbage being produced. How many people saw Transformers vs how many saw There Will Be Blood. How many people read Dan Brown/Dan Patterson versus how many read Philip K. Dick or Cormac McCarthy.

Of course there is a small intersect of great entertainment that reaches great audiences. The problem is most of the stuff targeted at larger demographics ends up dumb downed or too similar to other successes. Most of the best material tends to be on the fringe.

Comics now are a fringe market. Image comics are probably leading the field in coming out with quality titles that push the envelope, but besides Sage from BKV, none of the titles compete with the top sellers from Marvel or DC. If comics switched to the model you're recommending, they'd likely reach a lot more people, but I'd probably still end up preferring the fringe titles from the smaller companies.

JT Kirk said...

Part of the reason we don't have Law & Order-type comics is that most easy-to-understand TV shows and movies are about mundane situations, but nobody wants to read comic books about that - except maybe the occasional Katy Keene or Mary Worth reader, I suppose. But what works in screen entertainment simply won't drive sales in drawn entertainment, and when comics get adapted to the screen they often have to be simplified to get their ideas across to the largest common denominator who only have 2 hours to understand the premise, characters, and conflict of a situation. The majority of folks who saw the X-men movies wouldn't be willing to read through a single issue of the comic. How do you get super-sized audiences beyond the existing comics readers without stories that are in some way outlandish and extreme, or pander to a new audience a la kids and the original Captain Marvel? The new Hawaii-Five-O is very popular, full of beautiful imagery and tons of action, but if you adapted it to the comics page it'd be the most boring, stupid piece of crap ever printed. It seems to me that there needs to be a focus on what that new super-material will be before you can even begin to think of a new business model to cater to it.

Chris Hlady said...

Welcome back, Jim. Good read, as always.

James Veitch said...

Side note on the style of Bill Sienkiewicz' New Mutants piece. Did you ever take a look at Dustcovers, the coffee table art book that showcased Dave McKean's covers for Sandman? A number of those covers were three dimensional or had something or other stuck to it. Dave would make a photographic copy and render it as needed to be sent to Karen Berger at DC/Vertigo.

Sanjiv Purba said...

Glad to see you back Jim. But where have you been?

Anonymous said...

Jim, I think here and now your idea could work.

Exhibit A: Man of Action Studios.

It's a studio founded by a solid bunch of artists like Steven T. Seagle, Joe Casey or Joe Kelly. They're independent and very succesful. Their company has created well known properties like Ben 10 and Generator Rex. Could this be what you have in mind?

Patrick Joseph said...

I had that New Mutants poster on my wall when I was 14. It was worth mowing the lawn/chopping firewood/tilling the garden or what ever horrible chore it was to be able to earn the money for that one.

Sadly, I lost the poster tube I had it packed in when I moved out.

Defiant1 said...

I used to be a big fan of a certain band. I've seen them about 17 times, and only once did I see them outside of my state. As I got older, they started pissing me off. Their interviews were all the same. If a song had performed well on the charts and made them a lot of money, they talked about how good the song was. If the song wasn't a commercial hit, they talked about how much the song sucked. Excuse me!!! As a fan, I felt their non-commercial hits were magnificent.

My point is that "superstars" are often deemed "superstars" because they had a string of commercial hits, not because they are visionaries or because they incredibly gifted. Sometimes utter crap becomes a huge hit because of marketing. Ultimately, marketing is everything. I've said this before, but I'll say it again in hopes people will have a light bulb pop up over their heads. I can offer to sell you dirt, most people would laugh in my face. If I market that dirt and sell it as "potting soil", a percentage of people are going to think "Hey, I need some of that for my garden." If you tweak your sales pitch by hyping a special formula for your dirt, it creates an image in the consumer's mind that your dirt is the best dirt you can buy. Remember those ads for Certs candy? Certs is better because it has "Retsyn" right? What is "Retsyn"? It's vegetable oil. Put a drop of vegetable oil on your peppermint flavored breath mint and buy something cheaper. Marketing is 90% of everything and it's ALL psychology. Quality to a large degree is psychology. As a product approaches perfection, the cost to achieve that goal approaches infinity AT A very steep curve. Here's a nice chart... http://bit.ly/HzRfTW

Getting a superstar is not only subjective, but it doesn't even address the major hurdle of connecting on a mental level with the consumer. I avoid works by Walt Simonson. I'm not a fan of his art. I find it distracting. He may be a great guy with incredible creative talent, but my past exposure to his work is not a selling point. I think we're in agreement about Bill Sienkiewicz, but his more abstract works are not going to get a broad scale acceptance from people looking for a more traditional style. Quality does not equate to success. At best, it equates to trust. Marketing can make a product successful, even in the absence of quality. Anyone remember "Blair Witch"? It was a success, but quality was absent and trust was lost.

Paul F. P. Pogue said...

"Sanjiv Purba said...

Glad to see you back Jim. But where have you been?"

Making this exact same pitch to someone with tons of money, we can only hope.

jimshooter said...

RE: "Did you ever take a look at Dustcovers, the coffee table art book that showcased Dave McKean's covers for Sandman?"

Never saw them but they sound interesting.

jimshooter said...

RE: "Glad to see you back Jim. But where have you been?"

Had to do some hard deadline pay-the-bills work.

marco said...

RE: "Did you ever take a look at Dustcovers, the coffee table art book that showcased Dave McKean's covers for Sandman?"

Spotter's badge for James Veitch. According to Warren Ellis, from the enpapers of Fell #1:
.
"McKean and Sienkiewicz were alternating on the production of covers for JUDGE DREDD collections, and were trying to top each other with the mad multimedia collage complexity of each new piece. Until Sienkiewicz, in some kind of fugue state, created and shipped a thing that was the size of a coffee table, electrified, with flashing lights built into it..."

You can see this monster right here:-

http://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/iss/600w/244/19702438/1089723.jpg

Great joy to have a fabulous new post. Hilarious line about Bill's radio parts, and a lovely aside by JayJay. Thank you and welcome back, you have been sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

If I understand correctly, the requirement of being a true in-house studio, as opposed to work-from-home, would help head off a few problems before they even have a chance to rear their ugly heads. First off, there is no question about what you create at work (thus company-owned) and what you create independently (creator-owned). If it's created in the studio, on company time, it's company property. Also, having the creators essentially on a time-clock would tend to head off problems with distractions which are inherent in a work-from-home situation. For example, the author who lives near the beach might decide that the waves just look too tasty, and writing can wait until after he's done a little surfing. If he *has* to be in to the office/studio, he's going to be working instead, which helps prevent last-minute deadline crunches.

Of course, I might be wrong. Mr. Shooter might just prefer to have everybody where he can see them and hit 'em with the occasional nerf ball.

--D

Rob Fleming said...

This idea for a comic book company is very much what I had often envisioned. Without the articulation to explain it, the cash or know how to create it or get someone to help me make it. Here's hoping you can someday make it a reality.

In regards to Brent E's comments I completely agree that most commercial successes are total crap. However those commercial hits can allow great critical works to be made. Without the commercial hits of Sex in the City or Entourage I doubt The Wire could have lasted more than 2 seasons for instance. How many unknown authors has Dan Browns publisher been able to take a chance on solely based on his great success with less than stellar novels?

I'm reminded of something Kurt Busiek said in his Comics Journal interview from about 10 years ago (paraphrasing) that Gilligans Island allowed Alias Smith & Jones to exist. My theory is 90% of people care very little for well crafted material in entertainment. You only have to look at the abundance of reality TV to see that. But for the (maybe) 10% who are willing to sift through the shit you will be able to find a gem or two, not in spite of, but because of all that shit.

Great to see you back Jim and waiting in breathless anticipation for the John Byrne post.

Ricky Sprague said...

Smugness and stasism are ruining comics today. For all their alleged attempts to expand their audience (DC's company-wide reboot, Marvel's Avengers Assemble), the attitude exhibited by the big two is, "This is what we're doing-- if you don't like it, then you're not really a fan."

And among the fans, it's "This is what they're doing, and I like it because I'm a fan." It's difficult to imagine a regular comics reader today handing an issue to a non-comics friend -- maybe curious about comics thanks to the popularity of superhero films -- and saying, "Try this, you might like it." And even if they did, they'd have to spend an hour researching the backstory/continuity before they even got started.

ja said...

There's a HUGE balancing act that must be maintained within the parameters of Jim Shooter's new business model.

This balancing act has to do with avoiding the individual product(each book title) looking homogeneously the same as all the other titles published within your company. Too much of a 'house style' can be detrimental.

Valiant had a house style, influenced greatly by the six-panel grid system that was so prevalent. All the books being hand-colored tied everything together nicely. It helped make Valiant stand out amongst the established crowd. It worked for its time, for a time, decently well.

Other house styles, intentionally or otherwise, don't make for great long-term equity in this business.

There was the Image Comics house style, where everyone and their drunk uncle's pet wiener dog drew like Jim Lee or Rob Liefeld. Produced from this mindset were countless weak Lee/Liefeld carbon-copy drones. This also resulted in the esteemed Herb Trimpe trying the Rob Liefeld aesthetic, which personally broke my heart. The only nice thing I can think of that came from this zombie-like parade of Lee/Liefeld-isms, is the amazing work that evolved into Travis Charest's current work.

Neal Adams' Continuity Comics is the best example that I can think of as how a heavy-handed house style (along with dominantly house-written, terribly bland & very unedited stories) can really produce a company-wide pedantic 'sameness'. For example, Neal's Continuity Deathwatch 2000 crossover series (along with a great deal of his other regular comics) was 'thumbnailed' by Neal, meaning they were drawn in pretty painstaking detail, but in a proportionately reduced size, each page about 3" high. The credited 'pencilers' would take the resized blown-up thumbnails, and essentially trace Neal's very tight thumbnails, essentially recreating a watered-down version of Neal Adams' pencils. The people credited as pencilers were just ghost-penciling Neal's work.

After the pencilers would trace off Neal's thumbnails, Neal would then ink the big faces and heads, and then pass off the pages to inkers who would finish the inking over the watered down traced Neal pencils, which was a stark contrast to the faces and figures that Neal would himself ink. Neal's work is always at its best when he's drawing from a strong writer's script or plot. Unfortunately when Neal writes and draws his own stuff, the stories are never very readable. The current Batman: Odyssey is a clear example of that. Not particularly because of the visual storytelling, but the writing derails everything from the start.

Neal Adams is GOD in this industry. But he is also a prime example that his heavy-handed approach toward creating and maintaining a line of books is tantamount to publishing death.

The greatest breakout comic book creators were the ones who were the most distinct in their look, and in their content. Frank Miller's Daredevil/Batman/Ronin, Moore & Gibbons's Watchmen, George Perez's & Marv Wolfman's Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths, Walt Simonson's Thor, X-Men by various luminaries as Len Wein & Dave Cockrum, Chris Claremont & John Byrne / Paul Smith / Mark Silvestri / Jim Lee. John Romita's Spider-Man, and John Romita Jr.'s work is influenced by his father, but is amazingly distinct on its own. Alan Moore's & Brian Bolland's Killing Joke, John Buscema's work on Thor & The Avengers & Silver Surfer & Conan were just as distinct as anyone else's work.

The great Neal Adams's work on Batman, Green Lantern Green Arrow, X-Men, The Avengers, and (my personal favorite) Superman vs. Muhammad Ali are great examples of the best of the best.

And then there's anything Jack Kirby did, which is to my mind, the most distinct and ground-breaking work of all time. Essentially the comics industry's foundation.

ja said...

So with this new business model, how do you rise to this lofty standard?

I'm not saying that every book must be wildly different than every other book that a company produces. I'm saying that every book must certainly stand on its own in such a way that doesn't look as if it's homogeneously (i.e.: boringly) blending into the other books in the publishing line. You don't want the final products to look like they were stamped out of the same cookie mold.

That is about the biggest challenge in this new business model. Even when you have a company full of good writers and artists, you don't want to go overboard, micromanaging the placement - and constant back and forth 'I don't know what I want until I see it' adjustments to fingernail and elbow placement, which can very quickly result in diminishing returns of quality.

This can easily be the Kiss of Death - or the Slobber of Mediocrity - to any comics publishing company.

The best of the best fall into this trap. If this balance cannot be achieved in this new business model, it's a poison pill that can easily erode the company's sales and viability.

Anonymous said...

@Ricky Sprague

Spot on

jimshooter said...

RE: "every book must certainly stand on its own in such a way that doesn't look as if it's homogeneously (i.e.: boringly) blending into the other books in the publishing line."

You betcha. Well said.

Anonymous said...

"I think it would take a huge investment, insightful business minds and a lot of great talent to pull it off. And, as I said, it’s unlikely to happen. "

Jim, here's a counter-proposal I wish you'd consider. Think small.

Here's the problem -- I bought comics as a kid, but grew up and stopped buying. Now, after a 20 year hiatus I'm ready and willing to buy -- but not by trudging down to a comics shop. I want digital comics on my ipad or kindle fire. And they're there. Oh boy, are they there. Just install the Dark Horse app or the Comixology app on the Kindle. But there are soo many of them, I don't know how to choose. So I buy the all 12 Dark Horse Conans that Roy wrote. And I buy every issue of your Doctor Solar. And they're good. And I enjoy them, even at $1.99 a pop. But where to go from here? I haven't the foggiest idea how to find the good ones now, and $1.99 is a lot to plunk down on the hope that I picked one of the good ones from the pile of dreck.

Here's my proposal: give comics away for free on a web site (a la Cory's dandelions), but charge for nice, portable digital copies on the iPad and Kindle. Forget print. It's dead. Anyone can discover the digital copies for free and figure out if they're good. And hey, we know they'll be good because they're on Jim Shooter's site -- the last guy in the world to preside over a really great full line of comics. So you already got us older readers with the money to buy them on our iPads. But since it's free on a web site -- that's how you get the next generation, too. You'll never get back to the newsstand, but you can get them on Facebook.

And where do you get the content? From what I see on Comixology and Dark Horse, there is an overabundance of content. Tell me what the good ones are, or write them yourself as an experiment. Rope in some of your old school artist friends to illustrate? Solicit newbies and publish them if they're good. The key is -- this sort of thing could be funded for peanuts. Literally, only a couple hundred dollars a year up front -- digital distribution is cheap. (Assuming you find some new creators and/or old creators willing to take a risk and invest some time for the chance at a payoff). You wouldn't need to climb out of an investment hole to get this business off the ground. You wouldn't be indebted to skeezy business partners.

I'd be the first in line to buy.

Thanks for listening,
--devin

jimshooter said...

RE: "Plenty of people are wondering how there can be a next generation of comic readers when almost all of the current comics are geared and priced and located in ways that put them out of that next generation's reach. Be curious to hear Jim's thoughts on this... "

That's why we need a revolution, not just some band-aids and more of the same. While attending a Chicago Con once, years ago, I had breakfast with Will Eisner. Among other things, we talked about the decline of the comics industry going on at the time (that continues today). I said, "Will, three times in my lifetime comics have been on the brink of extinction...." He laughed. "Eight times in mine," he said. We agreed that each time the end seemed inevitable, a creative surge, usually coupled with a change in distribution turned the tide. That's what we need now -- a serious upgrade in the creative content so comics are competitive with other entertainments, new marketing, new distribution and new presentation.

When I was a kid, most Marvel comics were thrill-rides well worth the price. FF Annual #1 was like a great, epic movie. That's priority one, getting back to great entertainment, and the ante has gone up a great deal in these days of high-tech film effects. If we can start making excellent products again, surely we can figure out nuts and bolts things like packaging and distribution.

David H said...

Jim, I've been a long-time reader of your blog and just wanted to say it's so great to have you back - your blog makes my day/week.

You've single-handedly got me back into comics including an attempt at writing one, so thank you.

Antonio MarĂ­n said...

Jim, if Marvel asked you, come back to be their editor in chief?

Chris Hlady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Hlady said...

Last few weeks, I've been doing heavy nostalgia for comics, using the DC and Marvel Wikias to bring me back the Spinner racks of old, that were my introduction to the world of comics.

Great stuff (to me) like Bob Haney's Brave and Bold and Super-sons, and the Len Wein Bat-Murderer brought back a lot of good memories. By clicking on the months, it gives the whole "distribution" line of time. Wow, that was lots of talent back in the mid-70s.

I worked in a comic shop for a couple years, and got to flesh out my collections, which ran up, and sold down, many-a-time. The best part was to put names on all the different talents. Some of the names stood out more, but it was amazing how much talent I'd simply forgotten.

Eg. What I would give to buy a Frank Robbins Shadow #8. Wow.
http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:1975,_January

Moving on, when I looked at a current crop of comics, I couldn't imagine looking back on them, nostalgically, at all.
http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:2012,_May

The terrible design, and terrible execution, are part of it. The overall tone, as well, is something that isn't appealing.

It's hard to imagine what the future of comics will have in store. One thing is definite. It will change dramatically. In the wash of creators willing to make good stuff, something amazing will surely emerge. How could it be otherwise?

Drew Geraci said...

Jim,

I would strongly disagree with your assessment of Crossgen being a "weakly capitalized small fry".

The first year was spent mostly on recruiting talent and other staff neccesary to run a publisher, debuting the first four series while preparing the next wave of series. Over it's 4(!)-year run, Crossgen hired a LOT of talent, including George Perez.

What hurt Crossgen was:

a)The company didn't learn the lessons of sales. If I title fails to perform after a year or two, the public obviously doesn't want it. But CG's conceit was to never cancelled a title, and we were stuck with some underperforming titles that lasted past #30 to diminishing returns. There were enough talented people who could have been re-utilized on newer books, but this rarely happened. Chuck Dixon and Steve Epting had Crossgen's biggest hit with El Cazador (a pirate comic with no sigil-coincidence?), but unfortunately it was too late, the company was in too much debt to recover, which is a shame.

b)An expansion of too many titles too soon, like Valiant in it's later years. Except this wasn't the early '90's where everything sold. At it's end CG had close to 20 titles a month. Again, this was due to the continuation of the underperforming titles.

Hope that clears things up.

Anonymous said...

@Drew

Crossgen hired a lot of talent?? What are you talking about - didn't they put out like 4 or 5 different series?? So in their entire life span, they hired 5 writers and 5 artists

And other than Perez and Waid, who can you really name?? Butch Guice?? Greg Land (lol)???

Rocco said...

Gene wilder in the role of dr frankenstein from the movie "young frankenstein" said it best after reading his grandfather's manuscript on how to regenerate life from dead tissue.... "IT... CAN'T... WORK!!!!!" (lightening crash sound effects)

ja said...

@Drew Geraci,

Even though some people are happy to make fun of the company you worked at (Jim Shooter not being one of them), I believe that everyone who gave CrossGen a go did their best. They tried to work their company in a certain way, and they didn't make it for the long haul. It happens.

All you can do is try to do a forensic assessment of what did work, what didn't, and then you go about trying something on your own that at least avoids the mistakes of others.

In this world where Rob Liefeld has had the success he's had, and still gets prestigious work today, you never know what's going to work in the comics industry. Actually, from that example alone, you can see a whole lot of what's wrong with the comics biz.

Sometimes you have to pull yourself way back far enough to be able to see the industry as a whole and hopefully be able to identify the systemic problems and patterns that have gotten everyone in the collective bind, and come up with some sort of plan to do better in terms of... well, everything.

I like Shooter's plan. I'd tweak it a bit here and there, but I think it's a bold plan that acknowledges the problems that have accumulated in the business to date. It's a plan that, if successful, could be the next big resurgence for comic books.

jimshooter said...

Dear Antonio,

If the offer was good, if I would truly be in a position to make a difference, yes. It isn't likely.

jimshooter said...

Dear Drew,

RE: "I would strongly disagree with your assessment of Crossgen being a "weakly capitalized small fry".

Drew, unless you are asserting that CrossGen was capitalized in the $250 million neighborhood, it was a weakly capitalized small fry. Hope that clears things up.

Anonymous said...

don't know what kind of money crossgen had. but they failed because theircomics sucked. yes even george perezand mark waid can make lame comics. and allgreg land does is trace from photos

Anonymous said...

Rocco,

Except the line is "IT ... COULD ... WORK!"

And it did--Peter Boyle turned out great.

--kgaard

Chris Hlady said...

Looking at May, 2012, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:2012,_May , I count 83 titles. For Marvel, I counted 69 (15 X-Men related).
From January 1975, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:1975,_January , I counted 19 DC titles, and 53 Marvel titles (and not even an X-Men reprint).

So in that regard (titles), the market share has grown. Not sure about volumes.

That's a lot of operating capital, any way you look at it.

Jim, when you throw out a number like $250 million, how many titles does that sustain? Plus, how would you break down, percentage-wise, what goes into creative, management, production & printing, distribution, promotion, etc?

catsupdog said...

Hi Jim,

Do you remember the 35 cent variants for Star Wars and other comics back in 1977? I would love to hear what you know about them.

Bobby P said...

Great topic :-)

But realistically, I don't see any big time investors following this model and really trying to make a new successful company.

But I question would it even be successful?

Despite top talent, that does not mean books will sell.

Look at films for example? There are absolutely great movies made, that make little or no money.

Then you got films that are garbage, but make hundreds of millions.

High quality does not equal a successful company or product. It helps, I'll grant you that. But the whole thing can still crash and burn.

Or maybe a new company can't find a proper audience?

Also let's face facts.

In America the books that crack the top 10 and the top 50 regularly, are almost always superhero related in theme.

You look at CrossGen, they tried to think outside the superhero box.

And they NEVER took off. They never got close to being a big time player in the comics game.

SO if someone is serious and wants a successful comic book company to invest in?

Odds are it better be superhero themed if you want to succeed.

Again just look at what sells. It's not rocket science.

Also being innovative, is no guarantee for success either. Maybe they are too ahead of their time? And so never find a buying audience.

I actually think whats going on in independent comics now with creators who are smart, is the way to go.

Look at a guy like Kirkman and The Walking Dead. Could you imagine if he made the book at Marvel?

Marvel would have 5 different series with different writers. Whether Kirkman liked it or not.

Marvel would have the zombies crossover with mainstream heroes, for some cheap sales.

The Marvel editors would then tell TWD creator, how to tell his stores. They could even fire him off the book he created.

No, I don't think going corporate with your ideas is the way to go.

Rather, build up your reputation and gain a following working on other people's properties.

Then launch your own book that you control and are the owner of the property.

Let's put it this way, if you build a property for a company and have little or no rights?

You sure as heck will not get full ownership of the property. They won't give it to you.

But if you make a solo book that you own? You can always sell the property to a company that is willing to buy it.

This second option is far more convenient.

And back to Kirkman, or a guy like Mark Miller.

Both have sold their properties to TV and film companies. And in turn they have financially benefited greatly.

That is the way to go I think. It might sound mercenary. But better to be a creator who owns your properties. And if they fail? So what, you got other ideas. And you can always sell the property.

Then to be a creator in comics who gives your ideas to a corporation.

Drew Geraci said...

Well, my previous post must've been abusive, because it's gone now.

Crossgen did give it the ol' college try with close to 20 monthly titles in it's last year:
Scion
Mystic
Meridian
Sigil
Sojourn
Route 666
Way of the Rat
The First
The Path
Ruse
Crux
Brath
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
El Cazador
Lady Death
Negation
plus miniseries and one-shots.

so there was a hefty investment in talent and overhead to sustain the company for 4 years. Again, I think it was the flooding the market with titles (including the early underperforming ones) that led to CG's demise.

JayJayJackson said...

Hi Drew. That's odd. I didn't remove your earlier post. And I checked the spam filter, it's not there. I don't know what happened. Has anyone else had comments disappear?

Anonymous said...

Hard to say with CrossGen - probably a combination of things.

Personally speaking, the only book I was interested in was Ruse. But like most things Mark Waid writes, that book kind of ran out of gas after about 10 or 12 issues.

I had zero interest in those Sigil, Sojourn, Mystic and Meridian books. But I do remember that they were pretty popular with female readers

Anonymous said...

@JayJay

No never. And you and Jim have said often enough (and demonstrated) that you don't censor and almost never delete comments

Anonymous said...

"Next: John Byrne: Then, then and now"

The Byrne Robotics posters who troll this blog are waiting with bated breath

Drew Geraci said...

JayJay,

I believe you when you say that my comments weren't deleted. Must've been a glitch or something as my previous post was on the wall, then an hour later, it wasn't.

My contention was that Crossgen may not have had $250 mil, but lasted longer than Defiant or Broadway.

The in-house artists on the list of titles I gave was a who's who from Marvel and DC (and in karl Moline's case, Dark Horse).
Steve Epting
Jimmy Cheung
Brandon Peterson
Scot Eaton
Bart Sears
Paul Pellitier
Butch Guice
to name a few.

Another probable reason for CG's failure was the insistence of a character in every title bearing a sigil. This proved tiresome after a while, and kept new readers away, stating "This sigil business turns me off. I feel like I can't get in on the ground floor". The sigil became an albatross.

Despite my harsh break with CG, I'm still proud that we tried to do some genre publishing(Feudal Japan, Victorian era, Sword & Sorcery, Horror). At the time, comic sales were suffering (not like they are now!) so it was probably not the best time to start a new universe.The big two were cutting way back on exclusive contracts and Marvel was in bankruptcy.

Of course maybe the reason it failed is because of the stupid name (Crossgen was short for Crossgeneration Comics - bad branding if you have to explain the company's name).

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed CrossGen. Good art, coloring, paper. I noticed many CG artists went to Marvel after CG closed. Some series were "light" reads, some series had "shock"-driven writing (Negation). Beautiful Sojourn and Ruse art. All in all an enjoyable and varied output from the company.

JL

Bobby P said...

Speaking of CrossGen I think one problem was Mark Alessi listened to bad ideas to run his line of books.

End result, a company that closed down.

Let me explain, I remember reading Ron Marz was one of the top guys he used to shape his universe? And correct me if I'm wrong.

And I'm like, since when is Ron Marz a guy who sold millions of comic books with his ideas?

And you are letting guys like this steer the creative end of all your books?

Bad move taking that advice. If you are going to listen to anyone, try and listen to the guys who sold millions of copies.

Not middle of the road guys who never were big names or selling millions of books.

Plus and this is a personal choice. If you are paying for and the owner of a company, why not listen to your own ideas?

I mean, it's better to crash and burn on a company that was based on your ideas. And then let the talented people work off your concepts.

Then for your company to burn because you had no ideas, and listened and executed other peoples ideas.

Guys like Ron Marz, who when CrossGen failed just got another comics job. And pocketed his money and left.

Yet the owner of CrossGen Mark Alessi lost millions.

See what I'm trying to say?

If he had no creative ideas to steer the books and company. Maybe he should not have started a comics company in the first place.

As it stands Marvel now own the CrossGen book because of Disney.

Yet I really don't think that universe is going to go anywhere. It's been years and very little is being done with those books.

JayJayJackson said...

Drew, I get all of the comments as emails, so I have a copy of your previous comment that disappeared if you would like to have it and repost it.

Anonymous said...

stirring the pot, Jay Jay?

JayJayJackson said...

Am I? I didn't think the comment was offensive at all. I found the information interesting since I knew very little about Crossgen.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Bobby above. I would never call Bart Sears or Paul Pellitier a "who's who" of comics.

They were guys who had comic experience - better than total unknowns (I guess).

Drew Geraci said...

JayJay,

Please repost. I know a lot of it'll be redundant, but I don't remember all the points I was trying to make then.

Thanks.

Drew Geraci said...

Crossgen WAS trying new distribution ideas, like selling at PX's and motion comics (maybe not the best idea, but it was good enough for Watchmen to copy).

In summation, there were a lot of new ideas and money, but as time went on, there was also a lot of wasteful spending worthy of a congressman.

Look at the long list of artists I named. All of them have moved on to top books for the Big Two. Have you seen Paul Pellitier's Incredible Hulks? Epting's Cap & FF? Guice's Winter Soldier? Cheung's Avengers:The Children's Crusade? And they all had fine pedigrees before CG. At the offices, they fostered a friendly competitive spirit that made them top-flight talent.

Chris Hlady said...

@jayjay, i think drew needs you to forward his email back to him.
@drew wasn't aware of crossgen before. from what i've seen, it would have been nice to give it a shot. i think Jim has mentioned many times that public awareness of a property is a huge part of its success.

I heard marvel/disney was bringing back some crossgen projects, but don't know if that got past rumors and announcements.

It's certainly on the radar of catch-up.

Drew Geraci said...

10 years is a long time and a lot has been forgotten. Crossgen made a lot of news when Alessi was constantly picking fights with Quesada and then-president of Marvel Bill Jemas. It was big news but I think it hurt CG. After all, if you're a Marvel fan (and I think we all are), you don't want some upstart company to tell you you're stupid in your choices. You get more flies with honey (if that how the saying goes).

And I think I'm done with this subject(finally, I know...)

Anonymous said...

@Chris - yes, Marvel just published a few new issues of Ruse. But I think it is already cancelled

Drew Geraci said...

JayJay,

I changed my mind: Don't repost my lost comments. I think I've stated my case enough and everybody'll be sick of me :)

ja said...

DREW!

Don't stop posting your comments! You add a good deal to the overall conversation.

I never got into the CrossGen books, although I wish I had. I don't know why they never interested me at the time. However, I do enjoy reading about the inner workings of companies like CG.

So, please don't stop posting. Your posts are very interesting to read!

Drew Geraci said...

ja,

Tempting, but no. I think I've hyjacked this thread enough. But thanks for the kind comments!

Jim said...

Sienkiewicz on New Mutants is a classic case of giving the readers not what they want but what they need. The first couple issues, I actively hated his art because it was soooo different from Bob Layton. After 3-4 issues, though, I settled into the groove and came to love it. I can still look back today and see just what it was I both hated and loved.

By the time that poster cam along, it was the perfect complement to the series. Might not have been what was expected, but sure was great.

I had it on my wall all through college and the mounted poster is still in a box in my basement.

Anonymous said...

@Drew - I second what Ja said. You'll find on this blog that open discussion and differing opinions are welcomed.

ja said...

Drew!

EVERYONE has hijacked the comments thread from time to time. Why should you be any different?

Especially when you're contributing to the conversation, which you are.

Don't hold back on this thread. It's part of what makes this blog very interesting.

jimshooter said...

Dear Chris,

RE: "Looking at May, 2012, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:2012,_May , I count 83 titles. For Marvel, I counted 69 (15 X-Men related).
From January 1975, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:1975,_January , I counted 19 DC titles, and 53 Marvel titles (and not even an X-Men reprint).

So in that regard (titles), the market share has grown. Not sure about volumes.

That's a lot of operating capital, any way you look at it."

RE: "Operating capital?"

Are you saying that it takes a great deal of money to produce the number of titles offered by the majors these days? If so, yes. I suspect, though, that you mean something else. EBITDA, maybe?

RE: "The market share has grown?"

Whose market share? Maybe you're trying to say the market has grown. Or do you mean to suggest that comic book publishing's share of the entertainment market has grown? Or what? In any case, sales volume is very low these days. In 1975 the business was similarly weak, though much larger numbers of much less expensive products were sold. Comic book publishing, viewed stand-alone, is a break-even or losing business now. The major companies make money almost entirely from media and merchandise licensing, though events like the New 52 may provide a temporary bump.

RE: "Jim, when you throw out a number like $250 million, how many titles does that sustain? Plus, how would you break down, percentage-wise, what goes into creative, management, production & printing, distribution, promotion, etc?"

I don't have time to write the business plan. You'd have to be able to sustain a high burn rate for a long time. You'd have to spend a great deal of money on advertising and marketing as well as world-class creative. My ballpark guess is that you'd need $250 million to start from scratch. But, if successful, you'd make a lot of money publishing and enjoy ancillary revenue streams just as DC and Marvel do. I was told by a senior exec at Allen & Company that they had a buyer for VALIANT at $250 million before the market crashed, so, it is not an inconceivable that a big entertainment company would make such an investment. (He also said the fact that I was no longer there caused the potential buyer to back away. They lost interest because "The creative guy was gone.") I think a big institutional investor might also be persuaded. Hey, Fred Smith raised huge money to start up Federal Express, which at the time sounded like an even wackier idea than a comic book company.

Could a Comics Newco operating under the new business model be done for less? Possibly, but even a modified, scaled down attempt supported by a corporate entity that provided overhead and infrastructure, however, would not be inexpensive.

JayJayJackson said...

Hi Drew,

I forwarded the comment to your email that's on your web site so you can repost it as yourself if you want to.

Chris Hlady said...

RE: "Operating capital?"

I'm just trying to square the number you mentioned, and the operating reality of a major versus a minor operation, and put it into some perspective.

RE: "The market share has grown?"

Thanks, about that. Mis-spoke there. Diversity of product (along with glut of core characters), yes. Don't know how they can focus media/merchandise licensing beyond the core.

RE: $250 Million Start-up

Looking back to the beginning of DC and Marvel, With DC, I count 40 comics that they published before the month of Action #1. Detective (15), Feature Funnies (8), More Fun (31), and Adventure (26).

DC, it seems, started with the idea of New Fun (Feb, 1935), which, after the First Annual, the Big Book of Fun Comics (Nov 1935) split into More Fun Comics (which lasted until 1947) and New Comics (which would become Adventure Comics). . A one-shot, Funny Picture Stories (1936), didn't go over. From there, Detective stories began. Along with issue 16, Action #1 (Jun 1938) brought us Superman. It would take until the 27th issue until we were introduced to Batman.

Similarly, there was a lot of fermentation required for Marvel Comics to emerge from the imaginations of Lee/Kirby and Lee/Ditko, as they reintroduced super-heroes for the modern age. -- (aside, it began, for them, with Motion Picture Funnies Weekly (Apr, 1939).

Comics continued to evolve, trying to anticipate (or make) the need of the coming generation.

SUMMARY: So what's different, and what's the same? A market needs to be built on some familiarity, that will evolve from, and into, core ideas. Good people are needed to nurture that growth.

Jim, I do hear what your are saying, about creative being the key for promising profit for an investor. Ultimately, I think investors will be trying to promote core sectors or themes (like fun and adventure, etc). Can't wait for the next fermentation to emerge.

Defiant1 said...

Jim,

If I had $250 million to invest, I would not be investing it in comic book publishing. I think there are safer options. I might invest a fraction of that money to let a creative team prove themselves, but I would not even consider gambling away the full amount. The "high burn rate" would be an even bigger turn off. The goal should be a "No burn rate". I was taught years ago that if you can't manage a small amount of money, the likelihood is high that you won't be able to manage a large amount of money. Some of the wealthiest people in this world stay there because they are cheap and frugal even when they have plenty of money to spend. Author an millionaire Harvey McKay says that if you think a million dollars is a lot of money, the chances are you will never own that much in your lifetime. The people who make millions don't think of it as a lot of money. There are quite a few people who have lost their fortunes only to jump back in and regain it as if it was just a minor setback.

Relatively speaking, Crossgen was well financed. Mark Alessi was a millionaire. If he'd not tried to be a big player all at once and worked instead on a pay-as-you-go business model, he'd have realized the market just wasn't out there for the product line he was selling. Marketing would have helped, but at some point, the product has to be able to sell itself. By that I mean the reader has got to want the second issue after they've read the first issue. They've got to be so excited that they tell two or three other people who become persuaded enough to give it a shot.

The rules of the harvest apply..

You reap what you sow.
You reap in proportion to what you sow.
You reap in a different season than you sow (i.e. don't expect instant results)
You reap more than you sow.

You can test the soil for your business model on a small level. If you aren't getting anything back, there's a problem that goes much greater that the amount of money invested.

ja said...

RE: $250 Million Start-Up vs. $250 Million Offer for Valiant (if Jim Shooter - i.e. 'The Talent' were still with the company when the sale was to go through, as Jim reported)

I can see the $250M offer for Valiant, because of the then built-in equity of the quality and content of the characters & books. However, I wonder if the same $250M investment into a new company headed by Jim Shooter could be had.

Jim is certainly the main equity in a from-scratch startup company headed up by him. It would be nice if someone looking to make a go at a comics company (or even someone who's looking for a helluva tax shelter) would step up to Jim and get things started.

What I'd wonder about, would be that even though Jim is Equity Prime, there would be no as-yet established properties, titles, books, characters. Essentially another dry startup. So at the beginning of a well-funded Jim Shooter-led company - funded by someone who doesn't buy into the comic book industry's bullshit about Shooter - I wonder how close to that $250M starting goal could Jim realistically get?

I think he'd deserve the full funding. Right per$on, right time, I suppose.

Chris Hlady said...

If I were to reinvent the DC Universe, I'd probably start it off with something like this:

http://twitpic.com/96c6ty

ja said...

Hey Jim,

I ran across a nice guide that you might be able to use as reference about the universe in your stories:

http://www.scaleofuniverse.com/

If you've seen this already, then sorry for the repeat.

Avi Green said...

Mr. Shooter,

I know you sometimes answer questions by the various readers of your blog, and I've got what I think are some pretty challenging ones, so here goes.

I know there've been references to World War One in at least a few of Marvel's comics (in Incredible Hulk issue 135 from 1971, and Roy Thomas's The Invaders from the mid-70s). And I know there have been references to the Holocaust during World War Two (certainly in Uncanny X-Men). But have there ever been any references to the Armenian Holocaust during WW1, which is called Medz Yeghern in the Armenian language? (If it comes in useful, here's a link to the subject at the Armenian National Institute.) This refers to the time around 1915 when the Islamic Ottoman empire of Turkey slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians and even Assyrians and Greeks. I think it's an important subject historically, and was wondering if either it had been referenced in any of Marvel's past output, or, if any writer had ever proposed a story referencing this chilling period in history at the time you were the editor-in-chief, would you have accepted the challenge of writing and publishing one?

In fact, I have no clear knowledge, but, were there ever any characters - regulars or guests - appearing in Marvel comics of Armenian, Danish, Bulgarian, Ghanian, Romanian, Chilean, Portuguese, and Burmese descent that ever appeared in Marvel's storytelling? Or, if a proposal had ever been made to introduce superheroes or simpler characters of such a background in the pages of Marvel during your time as EIC (for example, to introduce a variation on Mike Connors and Mannix) would you have accepted?

Thanks for any time you can offer to answer this.

Anonymous said...

talk about off-topic!

Anonymous said...

Does this have something to do with Krees and Skrulls?

Craig Hansen said...

Jim,

Wow... I didn't realize my minor grousing about your ideas would inspire more than the replies you posted. Remember, though, after you explained your concept at length, I did thank you for doing so.

But frankly, I wasn't even sure my comments were worth anyone's time. After all, in the world of comics, I'm a spectator only... even if I did aspire to be a comic book writer as a teen. (And bugged you from time to time with my queries, plot synopses and such.)

I will say you've always been an inspirational figure to me. Even to this day, the lessons on storytelling that I find myself repeating often have, at their core, something you wrote about the creative process at one point or another.

And I repeat, and post links to, a lot of what you say here to other indie novelists.

Anyway, reading your latest post (which is very welcome, since you're posting less often these days) inspired me to ask myself some familiar, if dusty, questions.

I thought back to the teenage days of the 1980s when I wanted to write Spider-Man or Moon Knight more than anything. (As a kid, I always wanted to write on the books I admired most, which in some ways is pointless, I guess, because if I admired them, they were probably already pretty well-written.)

And I thought, "What if something like Jim described could be set up and funded? And further, what if I somehow, at the age of 45, am now deemed talented enough to make the cut? Would I still want to write comics? And if so, would I want to be part of such an organization as Jim describes?"

And here are my thoughts on that.

First of all, I doubt even now I'd make the "world-class" cut. Because when I think of "world-class" I think of the sort of creators I mentioned in previous posts. Folks like J.J. Abrams, James Patterson, Stephen King, and so on? Nah, probably not. If I was in that class, I'd be there by now, I suspect.

But for the sake of pondering, let's say I could make the cut.

Would I be willing to give up my indie-ness to work on a big-name property?

I can only think of one property these days that would draw me in...

Daredevil.

(to be continued)

Craig Hansen said...

(continued from part 1)

But not the costumed hero of today. I'd want to do a totally different take... (one I pitched to Quesada about 15 years ago, still as a nobody from nowhere near New York.)

My concept... the one I'd love enough to work for a Corporate Marvel As Jim Envisions It environment...

Well, I won't give it away here completely, but let's say it's an approach that's a cross between THE PRACTICE (or name your favorite legal drama that's still on the air) and SMALLVILLE.

The take is this:

NELSON VS. MURDOCK

It's a bit of a retcon idea, I realize, and some people despise such things, but...

According to known continuity, Matt and Foggy go straight from graduating law school to starting their own practice with no middle-ground steps.

That always seemed a stretch to me.

Usually, young lawyers are broke. Worse than broke... they owe six figures in law school debt. And they have no track record in court. Who would hire them?

So most law school grads go somewhere else first. Corporate law. Starting out as an associate hoping to make junior partner in five years. They fill second-chair on a series of trials for a more experienced lawyer. Or they work for some DA's office somewhere.

NELSON VS. MURDOCK would be a "legal series in a superhero universe" that casts Foggy Nelson as a legal associate striving to make junior partner in a wealthy criminal defense firm, while Matt Murdock is one of several dozen assistant district attorneys underneath the district attorney of New York.

Matt's aware of his powers, but out of costume and not Daredevil yet.

Both Matt and Foggy are, in their own way, not who they want to be yet, not who they are destined to become.

NELSON VS. MURDOCK puts the Marvel Universe's greatest law partners on opposing sides of the law, and frequently as sparring partners on the cases they are assigned.

We'd get to see familiar faces like Bullseye and Elektra before they became world-class assassins.

And Wilson Fisk, unrevealed as the Kingpin of Crime, would be the benevolent business man who likes Matt Murdock and funded his legal education through a series of private scholarships, because Fisk has plans for Murdock. (And many others, but the series focuses on his efforts with Matt.)

As a comic book series, NELSON VS. MURDOCK is something that could stand alongside John Grisham novels and whatever legal thrillers you could name that you enjoy.

The twist being that some of the tales could be these quiet little tales... cases of "the sort of crimes that still happen because superheroes aren't everywhere stopping every bad thing that happens."

But it could also broaden its scope to encompass a legal epic, like the tale of a man who wants to sue pretty much every hero in the universe who has tolerated The Hulk, because his wife perished in a side-effect from a Hulk rampage. Huge epic told around a very personal experience.

Or anything in between. It's a legal drama series.

And it ties into the Marvel Universe the way SMALLVILLE tied into the DC universe... the "untold tales" of Nelson and Murdock's early legal careers, before they became the legends they would become.

Okay, so that was basically the pitch. So now someone inside the industry will do it and make some change off it. LOL.

But for a chance to do that book and launch that property, maybe I'd give up being an indie and work for Corporate Marvel As Jim Envisions It.

Maybe.

(to be continued)

Craig Hansen said...

Continued from Part 2:

But here's the thing... the element of current, real-world Marvel that would make me not interested at all.

They current level of Marvel cross-title integration in whole-company events.

I mean, I don't know how sane writers can even plan story arcs anymore. I really don't.

Because let's say I was going to do NELSON AND MURDOCK. And let's further imagine that I was at, say, issue 13, and I was just starting a 12-issue epic where "a grieving widower sues all heroes for tolerating the Hulk" a major storyline that I planned to run for 13 issues, culminating in a double-sized issue 25.

I could never do it working at current Marvel, and here's why:

By issue 3, I'd have to attend some semi-annual all-writers-and-editors confab planning out Marvel's major events for the next six months, with an eye on the 12-month plan as well.

So the Big Idea Guy is fellow Portlandian, Brian Michael Bendis. He's been following NELSON VS. MURDOCK and likes the current storyline.

So he proposes some big, all-title crossover called GREEN ENVY. All titles have to take part. It'll run for four months, a HULK-focused event, and because he's BMB, everyone in power's on board.

And Bendis looks at me and says, "We want, of course, NELSON VS. MURDOCK to tie in. Here's the story elements you have to incorporate, and the characters we want guesting in the affected issues."

And because he's Bendis, no one is going to contradict him.

Except career-suicide-guy, ME.

"Hold on," I say. "NELSON AND MURDOCK is a retcon title set in Marvel's past. About six years ago. After most of the costumes appeared, but certainly not part of current continuity. My story-arc's already plotted. It's not set in current continuity."

"But that's the great deal about it," Bendis insists. "Your storyline is the origin of the whole shebang! It's what inspires the events of GREEN ENVY, our 200-title-crossover event! And four of your issues get to be part of it! It'll boost the sales of NELSON VS. MURDOCK!"

Idiotically, I still voice objections:

"Hold on," I say. "The ending of this arc hasn't even been published yet. Why do this now and ruin the surprise verdict and fallout in my title?"

BENDIS
Who's to say the case is even settled by the end of your arc on NELSON VS. MURDOCK? Cases like that get appealed endlessly. GREEN ENVY is about what the government does when your case is appealed to the Supreme Court, affecting all superhumans.

ME
So how is GREEN ENVY anything more than copying my storyline and publishing it six issues before I even finish?

QUESADA
Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Joe Quesada, former Marvel EIC, VP of Talent Relations, and interim general manager of the Monday Night Marvels... Hansen, you're fired. Bendis, you have time for another title on your schedule?

BENDIS
Always...

QUESADA
Then we'll announce you as the new scribe of NELSON VS. MURDOCK as of issue seven. Problem solved. Hansen, before you leave, you get to join a club... The Vince McMah--- I mean, the Joe Quesada KMA Club... ;)

FADE TO BLACK... MERCIFULLY

And thus I'd return to writing indie novels, ending my corporate career.

Anonymous said...

Nelson vs. Murdock epitomizes what's wrong with comics these days. There's no reason your lawyers need to be Foggy and Matt. Your idea has nothing to do with Daredevil. Why not just invent new characters for that and set it in the current continuity instead of more pointless revisionism? I'm so happy you never got to write comics!

Craig Hansen said...

Aw, thanks so much for the kindness, Anonymous. I'm so happy you were the first to comment.

Craig Hansen said...

And you're SO right, Anonymous... I, someone who has never even come close to working in comics... I am the living embodiment of "everything that's wrong with comic books." Me. Personally. A side-line spectator. Thanks for that, too. You're a peach.

ja said...

Craig Hansen,

Nothing wrong with feeling the spirit. Always good to dream, no matter what bully is taunting you.

Makes you the better person in the long run.

Ole M. Olsen said...

Oh, those Anonymice! Gotta love 'em!

Craig Hansen said...

Heh.

On the bright side, Mr. "Talk real bold when no one knows who I am" Anonymous at least apparently believes NELSON VS. MURDOCK is a real book. Glory be, maybe I am in the comics industry and no one bothered to tell me.

Or pay me.

Waitasecond.... Aw, you ornery varmint! I HATE that rabbit!

Anonymous said...

Craig,
no offense but your pitch is awful and retarded. I for one am very relieved that you are not working in the comic-book industry: no need of more hacks! Thanks.

Super Anonymice

Chris Hlady said...

Craig, as a courtesy, I did check out your blog, and even listened to about half of the interview you posted, there. It's true, I'm a glutton for punishment. :)

A couple of things. Shada was an unaired Doctor Who serial, written by Douglas Adams, that got shelved, and never properly finished, because of a BBC strike. It is available in an edited format that showcases the delightful Tom Baker narrating the gaps, of some wonderful Douglas Adams sci-fi whimsy.

I suspect the mileage you get out of your story, Shada, is mostly due to that, but I haven't read it, to form an opinion. From your description, in the interview, you reference similarities to Stephen King's The Body, only different.

I didn't mind your Murdoch vs. Nelson pitch, although I doubt it would work as a contemporary comic-book. Perhaps as a radio-play, or a TV mini-series isn't beyond the pale, depending on being well-written, but you're right about the probability of being over-shadowed by more well-known writers.

Other points from your interview posted were interesting. Eg. hiring an editor and cover artist, in order to ensure your product appears more professional. It's clear you take your writing seriously, investing time and money. I'm not sure if the content merits the investment, but I certainly applaud your effort. You're putting in the perspiration.

One always has to be watchful of Vanity Press. While one might believe one's work belongs on book shelves, or spinner racks, only time will tell if there is actual audience (investor/consumer), that forks over their hard earned cash, to prove it.

Anonymous said...

wow. shitty writer. AND thin-skinned to boot. i predict great success for you!

Anonymous said...

craig also has poor reading comprehension skills if he takes that first post to mean Anon thinks his comic book is real. as craig would say What a maroon

Even Marvel wouldnt touch craig

Cerebus said...

I'll stand up and say the whole NELSON VS. MURDOCK concept sounds pretty cool. I'd love to see the whole thing unfold as a self-contained story.

I'm thinking back to the classic Looney Tunes cartoons, where Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer were treated as actors, and pretty much anything could happen in one cartoon without affecting the next cartoon. The rigid adherence to 50 years of continuity is part of what's destroying mainstream comics. Writers should be free to tell the story they want, without having to incorporate some company-wide EVENT that was only created to prop up sales of flagging titles.

ja said...

I always wonder what goes through the mind of someone who simply must be the turd in the punch bowl, trying to ruin everything for everyone. Always insulting, trying his best to hurt people for no good reason.

Doesn't matter what happened in this person's childhood, or what this person is going through in his life today. This consistent behavior from such a bully demonstrates that this person is nothing but a malicious prick who enjoys hurting others.

I don't show my real name online. Neither do a great deal of people. I fully believe that the ideas of what we write should stand on their own. But even when I'm vociferously arguing principles with someone, I'm doing that just as if I were standing in front of someone in person.

You just know that 'Anonymous' wouldn't be able to do the same. One thing about real-life in-your-face-bullies: they're not so tough in person, are they? This Anonymous Pussy can only hide in shadows to be mean to people like he is. He tries that in person on a consistent basis, someone's going to bust his teeth down his throat, or worse.

Many bullies like to dominate others, and have poor social skills and poor social judgment. They have no feelings of empathy or caring toward other people. Bullies think they're hot stuff and have the right to push people around, and yet are actually insecure. They put other people down to make themselves feel more interesting or powerful.

Bullying is a form of violence. Imagine how violent Anonymous is in real life, toward all the people he feels he can get away with that behavior. Wife & children, perhaps? Obviously he has so much hate left over, he trolls around online looking for people to ridicule and to hurt.

It would really make his day to be able to ruin yours.

However, the really great thing is that we all see through Anonymous like used Metamucil. We all see him for the pathetic, hateful, piece of shit bully that he is.

Anonymous said...

ja is an asshole making assumptions left and right

ja said...

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" remains one of the great guides for human behavior.

The best guide perhaps anyone would ever know.

Except Anonymous, of course.

Anonymous said...

You guys should not feed the troll

There's an endless supply of trolls in the Internet

Anonymous said...

They're like guys who scroll stuff on bathroom walls. Doing so somehow makes them feel like they contributed something to the world

ja said...

There is no 'feeding' of the troll.

This particular troll loves to be hateful all on his own. He's demonstrated time and again that without anyone 'feeding' him, he just loves to pop up and ridicule people just for the fun of it. He'll be this way until the day he dies from the cancer that represents the kind of person he's been all his life.

No assumption needed to identify him for what he truly is. It's good to shine the light on malicious bullies like this.

It's a good disinfectant.

Anonymous said...

This is some bullshit! Jim, I donated money to this POS site, the least you could do is post! You used to post almost every day!

ja said...

I've donated money to this blog, and I have no problem with Jim Shooter not blogging every day. I don't have a problem with Jim not blogging for a week or so at a time.

When I have extra money to spare, I will be donating again, as I get a lot of pleasure, information and nostalgia out of this blog, in addition to learning very interesting and valuable things.

Back when Jim was blogging every day, he had no paying work. Blogging every day was (I imagine) Jim's way of keeping busy. Jim not blogging every day (or even a week or so at a time) means he's getting paid deadline work.

What you or I donate to this blog does not pay his bills.

If you think your pittance of a donation entitles you to daily blog posts even when Jim has deadlines and other things to attend to in his life, then you were sadly mistaken.

What's bullshit is you thinking this blog is a Point Of Sale site. It's nothing of the sort, and you know it. Bitching and whining won't change that, no matter how fun it is to see you complain for no good reason.

ja said...

Also, if by 'POS', you mean 'Piece Of Shit' site... well, then you really should piss off.

Especially after you've constantly demonstrated what a malicious, self-absorbed prick you truly are.

Craig Hansen said...

Chris Hlady,


Thanks for at least bothering to check out my blog before skewering me, LOL.

I did know all about the Tom Baker DOCTOR WHO serial penned by Douglas Adams. In fact, Baker was my favorite Doctor and may be still, though Matt Smith is slowly growing on my enough to potentially overtake him if he sticks around long enough.

But my novella, SHADA, bears little resemblance to Adams' story. It involves no time travel, is set in NW Wisconsin instead of Great Britain, etc.

I came to the conclusion that SHADA would be a good title because it's the name of the narrator, which is a Lakota girl. As I was researching Native American names, I came across Shada and remembered the Doctor Who series of the same name and thought it'd be a great way to pay tribute to my favorite Doctor, as well as my favorite British SF humorist.

And yeah, I figured it couldn't hurt if the name association inspired a few people to stop and take a look. But it's pretty clear my novella is not WHO-related at all. I doubt anyone clicked "buy" because of the title alone.

It just turned out to be a happy coincidence that SHADA is also a Native American girl's name. :) Being a Whovian, the appeal was immediate.

As for the anonymous h8rs taking pot-shots, Lord bless 'em. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but that doesn't mean I am obligated to respond.

All best, and now let's return to the focus of things here: Jumping Jim Shooter!

ja said...

We're supposed to jump on Jim Shooter?

I'm going to need a ladder...

Chris Hlady said...

Reflected glory is one way to remind us that we build on the shoulders of giants.

Jim ...

czeskleba said...

I suspect the anonymous complainer has never actually donated to this site. He's just using false claims of having donated to justify his sense of entitlement.

Anonymous said...

To the last guy, sorry to disappoint you detective, but your brilliant deductive reasoning is false. I did donate. As for you "ja" I looked back at some of your earlier posts since I had no idea what the hell you were blabbering about me being a malicious prick so let me tell you that I am not the same Anonymous who you are feuding with like a high school girl. However, I AM the Anonymous who posted months ago what a douchebag Steve Ditko was. You remember me now, right? The guy who you wished cancer on? Nice to see you still have no life but to feud with strangers on a message board. Here's a spoon, kindly eat my ass.

ja said...

I don't wish cancer on anyone, even malicious people. But I have no problem with malicious people suffering greatly.

And when people who are unrepenting malicious assholes finally pass off this mortal coil, then I celebrate by going out for a nice steak dinner.

That is what I've said regarding people getting cancer. I truly believe that when a life-long malicious bully gets cancer, it's as if Karma just shoved a sharp stick up his ass.

And I have no problem with that.

Anonymous said...

Here's what you said verbatim:

****************************
You know, it's not that I wish painfully drawn-out testicular cancer on a malicious asswipe such as yourself... but I do wish you a lifetime of horrific ball pain, for being such a piece of shit human being that you never cease to be.

It's always interesting to be able to pinpoint the clearly retarded parents from which such a creep like you was shat forth.

Fuck yourself.

******************

All that because I referred to Steve Ditko as a douchebag...seriously man, get professional help, you are a very angry person.

ja said...

Yep, I wrote that. And it's consistent with my above statement. I didn't wish you cancer as you quoted me, I had no problem stating that you should suffer for you being such a malicious person.

In a world where people give bullies a pass every day, I happily stand by that sentiment. It changes nothing in life, except to hopefully be part of an ever-growing chorus of people who push back on hateful people such as yourself.

It wasn't "because" that you referred to Steve Ditko as a douchebag, that I responded that way. It was because you were being such a malicious asshat while doing so.

You're a bully. No wonder you were mistaken for the other Anonymous. You're like internet butt-buddies. Difficult to tell apart.

=D

Anonymous said...

BORING! See Jim, this is why you need to post more often. When you post something, it's interesting as are most of the comments that immediately follow. But left unattended, your blog degenerates into a forum for the shut-ins of the world to bore us with their laughable feuds. Please, please save us from the Wrath of Ja.

ja said...

LOL

When you stand up to someone like you for being rude, for telling Jim his site is a 'Piece Of Shit' site, for reminding us all how he you were being a dick back in a previous post while calling Steve Ditko a douchebag... suddenly I'm the one with wrath for speaking up to you for it?

I don't care if I'm the only person to speak up to you, or the other Anonymous, or anyone else who wants to be a malicious prick; you simply come across as disingenuous when you complain that someone is being 'mean' to you, when all anyone else did was to speak up to you because you were being a monumental jerk in the first place.

No wrath here. But nice try in characterizing it that way. =D

I agree with you on one thing: I do look forward to Jim's next post.

Chris Hlady said...

Wow, quick degeneration to Dullsville.

Was watching Angel and the Badman awhile back on TCM. A classic.

John Wayne played a character who got mended by some quakers who weren't keen on people using guns. Dilemma, to use a gun or not? Well, watch the movie.

Right, so how is it relevant? The Internet is the Wild West. Words can be Bullets, and there are way too many bullets flying.

The carnage of those bullets, is on the internet forever, or until the whole things self-destructs, or the man comes down and imposes the law and order.

Better to have never fired those carnage-bullets-words. Second best is to just use words, and let the pictures painted stand on their own.

Just saying.

Anonymous said...

@Anon

Whether Ja is right or wrong or not, you're still a troll

Isn't there a bathroom stall beckoning you somewhere??

ja said...

I'm not wrong.

I'm annoying in the way I don't let go of things. I know that. I let my 'buttons' to be pushed way too easily, when I see people being maliciously rude and ridiculing.

I don't mean to contribute to any 'dulling' of this blog when I react to people being mean and abusive. I think the malicious pricks who like to desecrate others are the ones who set the tone here, and should be railed against, and frankly, put out.

I have refrained from reacting for periods of time, even though the same Anonymous posters pepper this blog with their malicious abuse. It bewilders me why no one speaks up as much against them, or why the negative comments are reserved more for the people who speak out against the bullies than for the bullies themselves.

But okay. Whatever. I'll try not to let my buttons be pushed so easily from now on. No guarantees, though.

I may be annoying, but I'm still not wrong.

Anonymous said...

Look back at the initial comments that sparked this whole argument. They were quite innocuous in the scheme of things, and compared to what followed. It might be best to just ignore the trolls. They will soon go away if you starve them of attention. It is much more telling and annoying to them if you just carry on the conversation around them.

QW

Chris Hlady said...

@ja, you contribute to the dulling of the blog when your focus is on Anonymous, and not the general subject -- currently New Business Model Rant, (for Comics). To continue the Wild West metaphor, it's debatable whether the Comments Section is more like a Parlor, a Barber Shop, or a Bar. Jim, definitely deserves the respect of a parlor. We're in his realm, here. At the very least, it should have a the respect of a barber shop, entertaining all walks of life. Personally, I don't mind the crudeness of a barroom, and have certainly done my share of brawling. More of it years and years ago, but it's generally pretty dull. Still, I generally avoid the pseudonym-shield, as being an easy-way-out.

@anonymous who calls Ditko a douchebag: Was actually reviewing Ditko publishing history earlier, and will accept that it could be considered reasonable to think of him as one. Not a particularly respectful opinion, but understandable. Ditko was not being particularly respectful of the evolution of Marvel, at the time. He was doing his Captain Atom thing, while plotting the Spider-Mans, and in the final analysis, I think a lot of respect has to go to Stan for putting up with his crap. Crap/Genius. Six of one. Half dozen of another. :)

@QWl - Troll is such a general term, as to be meaningless in the current context, since we're all just waiting for Jim, anyway. There are different kinds of TrollsL eg those who are agitators as opposed to agitating self-aggrandizers. Sure, the latter should be ignored, but the one should be open to take up the challenge of the former.

I was surfing earlier today, and noticed Atlas Comics has resurrected itself, in association with Ardden Entertainment. I had completely forgotten about them, and they were so influential, when I was a ten-year old. I had created my own "Phoenix" character, and had completely forgotten reading the Atlas Phoenix. Now, I find the reboot has five issues out, and I never noticed, until now. I hope they do well.

Defiant1 said...

Avi Green,

Although your questions were not posed to the followers of the blog, I will admit that I had been completely unaware Armenians had been slaughtered by Turkey until about 2 years ago. At that time, I was working with a girl from Turkey and a man who is evidently Armenian. They got along fine, but she was always afraid that he held some kind of deep resentment towards her. She mentioned the historical event and shared her concerns that he might hold a deep resentment towards her. If he did, it never showed.

I think most Americans have a somewhat sheltered view of world history and politics. If America is not directly involved or if the media (TV, newspapers, etc.) do not spotlight events, then it seems we are completely oblivious to them.

Following the world trade center attack on 9/11, there was a fertilizer plant explosion in France that left a crater 100 feet deep and 2500 people seriously wounded. In our news, it was just mentioned as an afterthought. Americans were so preoccupied with what had happened to us on 9/11 that most are unaware of the disaster that occurred in France.

Defiant1 said...

RE: Atlas Comics (Ardden Entertainment)

Prior to my decision to quit actively collecting comics, Jason Goodman sent me some comics. He sent me some of the 70's Atlas comics I didn't own and he sent me the first two comics published under the Ardden reboot. They were written by J.M. DeMatteis and I'll honestly say they were the best new superhero comics I'd read in years. They were just teasers, but I felt they did an excellent job of accomplishing their goal. I liked the pacing. Unfortunately, it had already been announced that J.M. DeMatteis would no longer be writing for them after those two comics. With that news I lost confidence in the future of their titles. The art had only marginally met my expectations. I've looked at their newer releases and feel the art is completely subpar and not to my standards now. The switch in writer is a complete annoyance, since I'm not pleased with 99% of the writing and pacing in modern comics.

Jason Goodman made an extremely kind gesture by sending me the comics and I do wish them the best. Unfortunately, I support comic companies for their entertainment value and don't feel obligated to support them as an act of charity. I did not specifically ask for the comics he sent me. He offered them to me and others on his own. I appreciate his offer, but don't accept it as a bribe to ignore the shortcomings that affect my decisions as to whether I buy comics. I encourage others to test drive their product and give the titles a shot even though I know they don't quite meet the level I want.

I think their future is doomed to failure. When sales are slow, a publisher has 3 options.

1) Cancel the title % stop the financial losses entirely.
2) Slow publishing and hope that new consumers will discover the product and be won over time. This slows the financial losses.
3) Publish at a normal pace and bleed the company dry financially. Crossgen was millions of dollars in debt when they shut down.

Ardden seems to be choosing the second option which has a tendency to discourage the readers they already have. Like all small publishers, they claim unforeseen complications are causing the delays. I feel that negative cash flow is their biggest complication. That's just my opinion.

Chris Hlady said...

@Defiant1: Two movies I was going to mention, regarding the Armenian Genocide, are Elia Kazan's America America, and Atom Egoyan's Ararat. I think the barrier to a comic being done, is one of time and distance. Circa first world war isn't really accessible to a large audience. I would, however, highly recommend Craig Thompson's Habibi, as a nice primer on middle eastern culture that is very accessible, although definitely explicit.

Re: Ardden doing the second option, with less than stellar talent. It's harder, nowadays, to build awareness of a product. However, hopefully, they'll be able to build brand loyalty, and be found worthy. They do have some interesting properties, but I believe they're following some of the points that Jim is espousing, focusing on solid storytelling. I don't think it's charity to invest in a developing company, but an investment towards future enjoyment to come.

ja said...

@Chris Hlady: your unintended(?) hypocrisy aside, scolding me for 'getting into it' with various people (when you've done the same from time to time, most recently some scant weeks ago, or maybe even with your last post to me, which also contributes to the "dulling"), I still take your point that I jump into things with others maybe too much. Thank you for scolding me with that extra dig right after I said I'd tone myself down. I appreciate it so much.

As for my focus not being on the "general subject - currently New Business Model Rant, (for Comics)", I did post 5 times in this comments thread relating to the subject of the New Business Model rant. Thanks for acknowledging that. =)

Of course we're in Jim Shooter's realm here. I've been very respectful, even when I might not be as restrained as you'd want me to be when I get in the face of jerks and bullies. I have to assume that Jim himself or at least Janet (whom I fear more... she might be wearing stilettos) would tell me - or anyone - if we actually went too far. Maybe when we all get into our debates and arguments, we're all giving Jim great reference for how characters can interact with each other in the stories he writes. Who knows.

Your barber shop or saloon analogy describes this comments section perfectly. It's the way it's always operated, including everyone's debates, arguments, and distractions. Just like every other comments section.

Just sayin'.

ja said...

Dear Jim,

How much of a movie or TV show watcher are you? What have been your favorite movies or TV shows that you most enjoy? I'd love to know titles. What is Jim Shooter into? Do you watch whatever on a regular basis, or only on rare occasion?

I wonder if you've seen acclaimed series such as The Sopranos all the way through, or The Wire? I know you've discussed compressed/decompressed storytelling before, but I was wondering if you've seen these, and if so (aside from the format discussion), what you thought of them?

I know I've asked this before, and I don't remember you ever replying. So I thought I'd try to ask again.

ja said...

Chris Hlady,

Do you storyboard for advertising? With just a small bit of tightening up on your drawings on your blog - and with a decent sense of composition and storytelling for commercials - I'd say you could get paid for that.

Even if you don't or can't get into drawing comics professionally, it seems as if you have the makings of someone who could do storyboards for commercials.

Greygor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Defiant1 said...

Chris Hlady ,

Re: Ardden

Unfortunately, it would be charity if I were to buy their product. I don't like the art or the pacing of the stories. They've adopted many qualities that represent the 99% of the comics on the market that I'm unwilling to tolerate.

Greygor said...

I may be misremembering but did Jim once say he was going to watch the first Iron man movie and give us his thoughts on it. Did I miss that post or did life take over and it got skipped.

I only think of this because The Avengers film is due out very soon. I'd be interested in his thoughts on how Marvel have handled their studio output now that they seem to have more control on the product.

Some people have bitched and moaned about what has been changed between comic and film. Whereas others (myself included) have pointed out that comic book movies are not made for comic book fans because as an audience we are too small a demographic to affect Hollywood decisions.

Anyway it'd be interesting to hear Mr. Shooter's perspective on comic book movies vs comic books.

Chris Hlady said...

@ja Thanks for checking out my blog, and for the feedback. I'm not currently engaged in the creative industry. Lots of stress, and expectation, there. Storyboarding is fun, though, and certainly a possibility.

@Defiant1 What I like about Ardden and Atlas is more about greater choice and variety in the market. To me, it's at least worth a look. I'm not trying to flog it on the unwilling. Very grateful for your opinion.

Chris Hlady said...

Anyway, back to the rant.

Watching Part One of the NYCC 2011 Screen Future panel again, with a better understanding of who Cory is, and listening to him talk about comparing the cost of advertising on television versus the cost of advertising on the internet.

------------------

Referencing Defiant1's comment, that there's better ways to invest $250 million than comic books.

-------------------

One advantage to comic books is their rich history. A drawback is an awkwardness in incorporating "New" and "Fun" content, along with the advertisers' message. In effect, it's like "something sweet" that goes with the "medicine."

Nobody much likes advertising, but it is seen as a necessary evil. Corporations need to sell their wares, regardless of whether people actually need them. The more the "something sweet" looks like the "medicine," whether it's chunky artwork, or awkward storytelling, the more ineffective the sales.

In an ideal commercial world, people just see the "something sweet," and unconsciously comply with the requirements of the "medicine." To that regard, it's not unlike the Wizard of Oz, where no one is supposed to look behind the curtain, but be impressed by the special effects.

The trouble has been, and the advent of Reality Shows reveal, that people don't respond to an over-produced package, but are seeking things where they can more clearly identify. That, and things which evoke actual feeling, like sports, and horror. Somehow, it all comes across as more authentic.

It's seems to be better when the actual production is invisible.

So why should an advertiser put that $250 million into comic books, rather than television, or the Internet? First, they don't have to do it alone, but someone has to be managing it. It probably should be invisible, but for the people involved. So where does that put people like Mike Kaluta, Walt Simonson, and Bill Sienkiewicz? Are they the artists you want to have as the public face of your expensive enterprise?

Or Steve Ditko, or John Byrne? I was looking back at The Amazing Spider-Man #38 yesterday. The cover was a composite of images from the comic. So, either Ditko didn't deliver a cover, or it was rejected. Does it matter? The die was cast, and Ditko was never again going to be the public face of the character he "co-created." It was John Romita Sr.'s kick at the cat. John could bring a more acceptable public face to the growing Marvel enterprise. Personality lost over enterprise. Visibility lost over production.

Then, what happened to John Byrne? To me, and purely subjectively. X-Men was awesome. Fantastic Four, not so much. By the time of Superman and She-Hulk, it was clear that personality was prevailing again, and the production wasn't quite as impressive. Again, that's subjective.

So, what do the advertiser's want? To effectively reach their market, they don't want too much personality, because whether it's Kaluta, Simonson, Sienkiewicz, Ditko, or Byrne, they want the public to be consuming their product, unconsciously, without being distracted by personalities.

Can it be done in comic books … again? Is the public too cynical? Is there a talent pool that will comply with being mostly invisible?

For the Freelancer, I just got to say, get it while you can, and don't let it go, cheap.

pell said...

I would try a Nelson vs Murdock trade paperback even if, and especially if, it were not part of ordinary continuity.

I love the characters but have no inclination to read monthlies. There should be more TPB one-shots with complete stories.

Anonymous said...

kk

Dan said...

Chris Hlady said: "Is there a talent pool that will comply with being mostly invisible?"

Isn't that how this industry got started...?

Chris Hlady said...

Hey Dan,

Absolutely. Although, it's been crazy waiting for the John Byrne post. What's Jim going to write about?

Bryne had an interesting answer to an online question:

The Le: Do you have any advice for writers/artists who are trying to get into the Comic Book field?

John: Consider a career in plumbing.


Sigh. It's that kind of world we're in, if you're not an uber-name.
Double sigh.

Mars Bonfire said...

That's a rather clever comment from John Byrne. He's alluding to the fact that, these days, writers and artists can be replaced by (cheaper? better?) international talent living abroad. More competition and less job security for John. Whereas a plumber cannot be outsourced overseas.

Reminds me of what's been happening in the UK. For years, the middle class never complained (too much) when factory jobs went overseas because it didn't impact them and, hey, it meant cheaper clothes, cars and electronic goods. All fine until the Internet and the millions of cheap, educated graduates in Asia gave someone the idea to outsource office and IT jobs. This has caused panic within the middle classes and some have decided to retrain as plumbers, electricians amongst other trades to ensure that they can never be outsourced again.

Anonymous said...

@Mars

As you probably know, the same thing has happened in the U.S. We have outsourced everything, and destroyed our middle class. I'm not sure training as an electrician will help much here.

The U.S. has become a service industry country that produces nothing. I'm no economist or historian, but I suspect that George Carlin was correct when he said "we are just circling the bowl at this point"

cesare said...

"That's a rather clever comment from John Byrne. He's alluding to the fact that, these days, writers and artists can be replaced by (cheaper? better?) international talent living abroad."

Very Sobering.

Anonymous said...

... in fact, the lyrics to Springsteen's new song "Death to My Hometown" sum it up pretty well

jimshooter said...

Dear ja,

Re: http://www.scaleofuniverse.com/

Very groovy! Thanks.

jimshooter said...

Dear Avi,

RE: "...have there ever been any references to the Armenian Holocaust during WW1, which is called Medz Yeghern in the Armenian language?"

Not as far as I know. If any of our writers had proposed a good story related to that "chilling period," as you call it, I would have approved it.

RE: "...were there ever any characters - regulars or guests - appearing in Marvel comics of Armenian, Danish, Bulgarian, Ghanian, Romanian, Chilean, Portuguese, and Burmese descent that ever appeared in Marvel's storytelling? Or, if a proposal had ever been made to introduce superheroes or simpler characters of such a background in the pages of Marvel during your time as EIC (for example, to introduce a variation on Mike Connors and Mannix) would you have accepted?"

Marvel was an equal opportunity comics publisher. Any character, star or supporting cast, of any race, creed, color, sexual orientation or any other variation of the human condition was welcome. People tend to write and draw what they know, however, and some characters that could have been simply never made to to the stage, no malice or slight intended.

jimshooter said...

Dear Craig,

In corporate Marvel as I envision it, a Walt Disney-level creative visionary would decide whether your story had merit, and if so, no prima donnas would be allowed to interfere with it. Bendis wouldn't be there, he doesn't have the chops. By the way, I liked your story idea and your story of how it would go in today's train wreck Marvel.

jimshooter said...

Craig Hansen had the guts to walk out on the stage, to submit his vision to the audience. That alone deserves respect. You like it, you don't, whatever, but at least applaud politely or express your disapproval through silence. Honor creativity, honor courage.

jimshooter said...

Dear ja,

ANSWER:
RE: "How much of a movie or TV show watcher are you? What have been your favorite movies or TV shows that you most enjoy? I'd love to know titles. What is Jim Shooter into? Do you watch whatever on a regular basis, or only on rare occasion?"

I seldom go to theaters. I usually don't fit in the seats comfortably (being huge, over 6'7" and 260 pounds) and around the NY metro area, people are routinely inconsiderate in theaters. You hear more audience conversation than sound from the film. I buy the DVDs of movies friends tell me I ought to see. If I do go to see a film in a theater, I generally ruin it for whoever is with me by groaning and criticizing it as it goes along. "No one would say that!" "Why didn't she just call the cops?" "Well, they're showing knitting needles, that's going to pop up later." "I know the writer wrote a scene showing the girls earlier, but the editor cut it out for time considerations." I just can't behave.

I don't watch any TV series regularly, though I occasionally check out a show that has been recommended by friends. I have been required by employers to watch DVDs of various old shows. One employer required that I watch the entire run of Buffy and also Star Trek (which I hadn't seen because I was busy writing comics every evening for DC back in the 1960's.) I saw the entire run of The Prisoner at a (reel to reel!) marathon at Marv Wolfman's place in the late seventies.

I watch sports events sometimes.

I saw some of The Sopranos because I had a girlfriend who was into it. That and a lot of cooking shows..... Never saw The Wire.

ja said...

Dear Jim,

Yeah, I hate when I have to edit crap movies in my head as I'm watching them for the very first time in the theater. I had to do that for the last 3 Star Wars movies. I would get a headache from my eyes rolling so much.

If you're okay with long-form, decompressed stories that comprise a very compelling series, then I highly recommend The Wire. It's five seasons of primarily the same core cast, with each singular season looking at 'the game' (of drugs, smuggling, power, corruption, etc.) from various angles:

-The first season introduces two major groups of characters: the Baltimore police department and a drug dealing organization run by the Barksdale family. The season follows the police investigation of the latter over its 13 episodes.

-The second season, along with its ongoing examination of the drug problem and its effect on the urban poor, examines the plight of the blue-collar urban working class as exemplified by stevedores in the city port, as some of them get caught up in smuggling drugs and other contraband inside the shipping containers that pass through their port.

-In the third season, the focus returned to the street and the Barksdale organization. The scope, however, was expanded to include the city's political scene. A new subplot was introduced to explore the potential positive effects of de facto "legalizing" the illegal drug trade, and incidentally prostitution, within the limited boundaries of a few uninhabited city blocks — referred to as Hamsterdam. The posited benefits, as in Amsterdam and other European cities, were reduced street crime city-wide and increased outreach of health and social services to at-risk populations.

-The fourth season expanded its scope again to include an examination of the school system. Other major plots include the mayoral race that continues the political storyline begun in season three, and a closer look at Marlo Stanfield's drug gang, which has grown to control most of western Baltimore's trafficking.

-The fifth season focuses on the media and media consumption. The show depicts the newspaper The Baltimore Sun, and in fact elements of the plot are taken from accounts of real-life events (such as the Jayson Blair NY Times scandal) and people at the Sun. The season, according to show creator David Simon, deals with "what stories get told and what don't and why it is that things stay the same." Issues such as the quest for profit, the decrease in the number of reporters, and the end of aspiration for news quality would all be addressed, alongside the theme of homelessness.

Brilliant writing. Complex stories and characters rich with substance that's difficult to come on this level, nowadays.

So long as you pay for HBO on your cable system, you then have access to the full archive of HBO Original shows online, including The Wire, to view at your convenience. You can sign up for HBO GO at:

http://www.hbo.com/#/explore-hbo/hbo-go.html

I can't recommend this series enough.

Anonymous said...

I'm bad about commenting on movies also. I try to refrain because I don't want to ruin it for others, but sometimes I can't help it. I went on a double date and we saw Independence Day...I couldn't stop myself from commenting on the absurdity of the entire film and I think I may have ruined it for the other couple, so now I try to avoid the double date/movie combo. Jim, Mad Men is written very well, but you would need to pick up the earlier seasons to get up to speed. Glad you are back, I miss the blog when it's dormant.

Neil

Anonymous said...

To Craig Hansen:

RE: Murdock v. Nelson

As an aspiring writer and attorney, I had similar thoughts regarding these two characters.Let me just add my two cents and give you some constructive criticism.

The primary conceit of the story is flawed. Many young lawyers often can and do open up their own law firms out of law school. It's bare bones of course, but they work it up into a steady practice. I can see Matt and Foggy struggling as young attorneys with their new firm. I can't see (no pun intended) Matt working for the D.A.'s office or Foggy working for a criminal defense boutique.

You want these two characters to go up against each other in court. However, you yourself stated that first year prosecutors and associate attorneys second chair or do legal research. They would never let them take a case on their own. So they wouldn't be up against each other at all.

Also don't confuse criminal, civil, and corporate law. That's three different things. As primarily criminal defense attorneys if a man wanted to sue the Hulk, or superheroes in general they would seek a civil trial lawyer. I think Matt and FOggy do a little of both criminal and civil work.

Kid said...

Jim, this has nothing to do with what has gone before (apart from legal implications I suppose), but I was wondering if you can explain something to me.

Back in the '70s, Marvel paid the estate of Robert E. Howard to be allowed to publish Conan stories. As was the way of things back then, Marvel was considered the legal 'author' of these tales, paying the contributors (Roy Thomas and Barry Smith) for their services.

When Marvel decided not to renew the licence for Conan, I can understand why they wouldn't be allowed to print their back catalogue of strips, but why would that actual catalogue then become the property of the Howard estate to licence to Dark Horse (or anyone)?

Marvel was the author of the tales, not the Howard estate so - what gives? Can you shed some light on this from the benefit of your vast experience? To me it doesn't seem fair to Marvel. (Although you might not lose any sleep over that.)

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Defiant1 said...

I wondered the same thing about the Conan reprints. I'm not a fan of sword & sorcery, so I didn't ponder it very long. I wrote it off as a lucky score for whoever got the chance to publish the reprints.

czeskleba said...

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing it must be standard practice for a licensing contract to stipulate that the owner of the licensed characters retains ownership of any material produced featuring those characters. Beyond Conan, there are many other examples... Dark Horse has reprinted Marvel Star Wars material, as well as Dell, Gold Key, and DC material featuring Tarzan (since they are the current license holders of those characters). And back in the 70's, DC reprinted many Tarzan newspaper strips when they held the Tarzan license.

Craig Hansen said...

To Jim:

Thanks for the kind words.


To the Anonymous who offered constructive feedback:

You made several good points. What I offered here was more of a concept overview without a lot of details.

If I were ever in a position to work on "my dream project" for Marvel, I'd of course do the research necessary and make sure the scenarios ring true.

The series would need to be set not extremely early in Matt and Foggy's post-law-school career, but maybe a year or two into it, after they've done some second-chairing, cross-examined some witnesses in that role, and shown promise.

The series would open at a point where, through some special circumstances, both are given their first lead-chair cases (sort of as a test, because the case is deemed menial... and turns out not to be) and end up going against each other.

To be honest, I've never spent a ton of time developing it to the point of script, because I've never been in a position to make the work worthwhile. :) But if it ever came up, I'd be sure to work out the logistics.

And with Matt working for a prosecutor's office (DA), that was built into my concept as a character-growth thing.

Daredevil's a vigilante, but Matt's not quite DD yet. He hasn't found the balance of defense attorney by day, justice-balancer by night.

So I start him off as an assistant DA because of his interest in seeing justice done and by the end of the series... he'd realize that criminal defense is more suited to him, after going through some cases that help him see the flaws in being both a prosecutor and a vigilante.

So the series would theoretically end with Matt opening up the firm with Foggy and finding that balance that he was always destined for, but never knew it.

It'd be about the transformation of Nelson vs. Murdock as rivals, to Nelson and Murdock as law partners.

To others interested:

In a way, I wish Marvel had it's own "Elseworlds" concept. That way, an idea like this could exist and wouldn't have to somehow be force-fitted into "official Marvel continuity."

After all, DC didn't sweat it when Smallville did their own thing with the Superman canon of characters. It's just an Elseworlds, more or less.

But, to calm everyone down about it, if they don't find the concept appealing: don't worry. I'm not in the comics biz. I'm an indie novelist. This'll never happen. :)

And actually, the first Anonymous who was a bit rude made at least one valid point. My "legal stories" don't have to be Matt and Foggy.

I agree with that to an extent.

I mean... I think the Marvel U setting makes it fun. Having someone sue the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and et. al., over the action of the Hulk... it carries less weight if you change it all to different but similar original heroes. You lose the legacy and epic feel that working on Marvel characters brings with it.

Which is why those who work in comics want to work in comics.

But I have a series idea to tell legal tales through, though it'll be a while before I get around to that series.

It'll be a novel series and probably won't involve characters who are superheroes at all. It may have some light paranormal content, though... I haven't decided.

But since I'm going to do that series of novels one day, I won't detail that concept here at all, other than to say it has the working title of SEASON TICKETS. :)

So, I'm fine with not being in the comic book writing biz. I get to create my own characters and "universe" in which my tales take place. And the copyright's under my name, not Marvel's, so if anything I write takes off... I'll benefit. :)

As Stan often said, 'Nuff said!

Arthur Nichols said...

I might have some insight into why Dark Horse gets to publish old Marvel Conan inventory.

I found out once that Marvel was going to publish a comic book based upon The Prisoner, but had ceased production partway through. The first issue had been illustrated (and written, I think) by the legendary Jack Kirby. The second issue had been illustrated by the great Gil Kane. However, they never ended up publishing the series.

At the time (1987), I was preparing to move to Portland, Oregon for what ended up being a short stint working as the Art Director for Dark Horse Comics. I thought it might be a fun thing to propose to Mike Richardson the idea of publishing The Prisoner in some fashion.

I called Jack Kirby's home, and talked to his wife Roz. She was kind enough to send me xeroxes of the full first issue of The Prisoner that Jack had done. I got copies of Gil Kane's pencils on the second issue from Tom Orzechowski, who was to letter the book at the time.

Before I went to Dark Horse, I would have occasion to talk with Marvel president Jim Galton while I was living in NYC. He was always very nice, and was happy to take time to talk with me about various things, once or twice bringing me into his office to talk about whatever.

I asked him about The Prisoner, and reminded him that the series never got off the ground, even though some work had been produced, and I asked what could be done for another company to complete and print what was started by Marvel, but never finished.

Jim Galton told me that I needed to first get the rights to publish The Prisoner comic book from the owners of the property. After that, he said that whatever publisher had those rights, could easily purchase the unpublished inventory from Marvel. Basically covering what was initially spent, with maybe a small surcharge on top of that.

I then asked about taking series that have been published only once, like the Logan's Run series, for example. Same answer. If Marvel had no use for the inventory, and someone else wanted to, say, publish a Logan's run collection, then Marvel would be open to making a deal to relinquish the inventory to be printed elsewhere.

So, deals can be made. It's business. Just because Marvel printed Conan or Star Wars, doesn't mean Dark Horse can't end up buying the inventory so they can print it themselves, in conjunction with their own Conan & Star Wars series.

Hope that helps give some context.

Defiant1 said...

Art,

I can understand Marvel's willingness to sell off content they won't use. I will never understand the low ambitions of Dark Horse to merely license content from others. The business model has repeatedly done well for a period and over time... failed miserably. Why? Because it relies upon someone else to create something worthy and it relies upon them compromising to allow you to use it. It is a reactive way to run a business when lasting and inspiring success requires a proactive approach. Dark Horse isn't the first to rely upon this model. Dell used it. Now Comics used it. Charlton flirted with it when they weren't trying to just swipe other people's characters.

Dark Horse is the main reason I don't even consider buying new comics anymore. I had high hopes when they hired Jim awhile back. They didn't even have the decency to promote his work or give it a chance to be something bigger and better. They were more concerned with shoving reprint hardbacks onto everyone. They represent mediocrity and low ambitions. Out of some 10,000 comics in my collection, I doubt I even own 20 published by Dark Horse. At one point I held them up with high esteem until I stepped back and saw them as a company that just milks established talent and properties and brings very little new to the table themselves. Marvel & DC are corporate entities bogged down by the "Peter Principle" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle ). I have no expectation from there anymore. It's going to take a publisher with a hunger for success and desire for quality to make me care anymore. Valiant had that hunger in it's early years. It's not out there anymore.

Kid said...

Thanks Arthur. If Marvel actually sold their back catalogue, that I can understand. However, if it automatically became the property of the Howard estate simply because Marvel didn't renew the licence then that wouldn't seem fair to me.

Craig Hansen said...

Favorite Marvel in-house ad of all time?

A Conan ad.

It showed Conan on the throne, apparently sad or distressed in some way, then a lot of black around him, and a single word balloon, an overheard, off-screen whisper:

"They say the king's gone mad..."

I had never much cared for Conan, or read it.

That ad twisted my arm off until I bought a copy. ;) It was the only issue of Conan I ever read... but man, what an ad....

Arthur Nichols said...

Defiant1,

Whatever you think of Dark Horse's books, remember that Dark Horse Comics is now 26 years old. Mike Richardson is a very smart man to have kept his company going as strong as it has for that long. You can criticize his books all you wish, but you have to at least recognize that he has maintained a consistently prominent company throughout all the extreme ups & downs of the comics industry.

I agree that it takes a hunger for success to make a company successful. Despite all its difficulties, Valiant still had a core of the most dedicated people working double time, mostly 7 days a week to achieve what they did. I'm still catching up on sleep I lost from working there. Mike Richardson obviously has that same hunger even today, or the company wouldn't be around.

I wish Dark Horse had promoted Jim Shooter more, too. I wish that Jim's Gold Key books could have been given more of a chance to get its footing, rather than to be cut off so quickly. But no matter how things turned out, you can't claim that Dark Horse Comics is a failure as a company. Even if everything they do is nothing that you agree with.

------------

Kid,

Maybe the Howard estate's deal with Marvel was that they have control over the inventory if Marvel wasn't using it by a certain time? I suspect that's not the case, but I'm sure Jim can tell you more about that. I'd bet that even after a certain time of not printing Conan books, if Marvel were to suddenly want to do some Conan reprint collections, they'd still have to pony up a new licensing fee to the Howard estate.

Also, I would bet that Marvel would had to have been compensated for the cost of the printed Conan inventory, no matter what. Again, Jim can give much better information than I can. But it's still a business. I imagine that there must be some remuneration to Marvel in that situation.

Anonymous said...

@Defiant

Excellent point about Dark Horse. Outside of Sin City and maybe Next Men, I can't think of any books by them I have ever bought. And as you said, those books are by well-established creators - so Dark Horse has shown little to no ability to find new talent or new ideas

@Kid

On the topic of licensing existing properties - it appears that Dynamite comics is using some loopholes in a slimy way to publish John Carter and Tarzan stories right now, without the consent of the Burroughs heirs. I hadn't noticed it until I saw the article below, but they have been publishing these stories under the titles of Warlord of Mars and Lord of the Jungle - ie, not using the names John Carter or Tarzan, even though they are clearly John Carter and Tarzan comics. Pretty creepy move - but pretty standard behavior by comic publishers I guess


http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=37044

Arthur Nichols said...

Dark Horse Comics does produce new content with their Star Wars books. It may not be the same as Dark Horse creating its own universe, but it's been a successful venture for them so far. As much of a disappointing outcome as the Gold Key books were, Dark Horse at least stepped up to give it a try, to produce new content.

Also, their collecting the Marvel Star Wars comics and distributing them to the direct market and beyond, isn't doing the same thing that Marvel did. I don't remember a Marvel Star Wars collected series of books. Certainly not with the commitment that Dark Horse has undertaken.

If not for Dark Horse (for the most part), we likely wouldn't have had books like Hellboy or Concrete, or some of the other critically acclaimed (moderate or not) successes. Other publishers would/could have published some of these books, but Dark Horse was in a uniquely strong position to get the likes of Hellboy made into movies.

The constant of the publishing world is such that you must fling as much shit up against the wall, to see what sticks. Everyone does it, no matter how focused their efforts.

Publishers at times go down paths that maybe they didn't intend in the first place, but felt like they had no choice in doing. Nintendo Comics, anyone? What you might not like, others do, which keeps companies like Dark Horse alive. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I remember Chuck Rozanski telling Shooter that he expected Magnus Robot Fighter to debut with a grand total of maybe 23,000 copies sold. Thank goodness there were a helluva lot more people who ended up ordering it. Otherwise, who knows how that would have affected the publishing of the other Valiant titles?

Anonymous said...

Hey, if Dark Horse is making a go of it reprinting the worst drivel ever published, I take my hat off to them. In this environment, if you can make it work, DO IT. I don't think the luxury of succeeding under self imposed restrictions exists anymore. If it works, "let them horses run!"

David said...

I actually had the pleasure to work with Sienkiewicz a few years ago on a DVD related piece of work. I was absolutely terrified when I didn't like at all what he first sent over. I wanted "old school" Sienkiewicz, but was worried about asking an artist that I had adored for 2 decades to "go backwards" creatively.

Thankfully he was incredibly gracious and easy to work with (even if he'd call me at 4am at times because he got an idea or was in a panic...). He got what I wanted him to do and I ended up with a piece of work that I absolutely adore to this day.

Anonymous said...

If it was The Venture Bros., it's stellar.

Neil

czeskleba said...

The weird thing about the Dark Horse Conan reprints is that in several cases they used photostats obtained from overseas publishers which had been translated into Spanish. This necessitated complete re-lettering by Dark Horse. And my understanding is that Dynamite's reprints of Marvel Red Sonja material are scanned from old comics rather than reproduced from stats. If those publishers were paying Marvel for the use of the stories, why wouldn't Marvel provide them with the original photostats to use?

czeskleba said...

Anonymous said:On the topic of licensing existing properties - it appears that Dynamite comics is using some loopholes in a slimy way to publish John Carter and Tarzan stories right now, without the consent of the Burroughs heirs.
**************
I don't agree that it is "slimey." The earliest Tarzan and John Carter books have passed into public domain, so any characters and concepts in those books are up for grabs. It's not a loophole, it's perfectly legal as long as ERB's trademarks are not infringed (which will be determined by the lawsuit).

Anonymous said...

Everyone complains on this blog abou the trouble with comics. The main problem I see is the fact that you are expected to pay $2.50 for 18 pages.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are plenty of other quality issues(for one, the comics I see in stores look like crap)but I just thought I'd bottom line it. Kids and parents aren't going to pay that much money for a comic even if Shakespeare is writing it and Van Goh is the artist.

I recognize the need for profit, and I'm not privy to what kind of a profit margin the above referenced comic generates, but give me a break.

I was at Barnes and Noble waiting to pick my girl up from the airport the other day and was surprised to see a huge collection of comics on the magazine rack. I picked up "X-men v. Avengers" and read the whole comic in less than five minutes. It was entertaining, but, when I was younger, I would have to actually sit down to get through a comic.

Note that I said I was entertained by the comic.

Defiant1 said...

Art,

C'mon! Star Wars was a cash cow. Dark Horse grabbed the rights after it was already an established money making machine. They took sloppy seconds milking off of an established success after Marvel was through with it. This illustrates my point that they've brought very little to the creative table. Frank Miller & John Byrne had their successes at Dark Horse after they'd already had their success at Marvel and DC. There is very little they've done that wasn't "milking" off of a reasonably established property.

Where Mike deserves his recognition is getting movie deals pushed through. I don't think that'd be considered an east feat even by people who have a big reputation.

It doesn't take much creativity to tag around with people/projects/ideas that are already successful and see if they'll toss a few crumbs your way. Any money Richardson is making off Star Wars is miniscule compared to what Lucas made. It's miniscule compared to what he tossed aside.

At age 15 or so it became a revelation to me that you can live well off a rich man's trash. Comic book rights to Star Wars is a rich man's trash. If Lucas had ever wanted to start a publishing company to make money off of comics, he could have done it on a whim.

This further illustrates my point. George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie and couldn't get the rights. Instead, he made something that he owns and it's fair to say that Star Wars has not only inspired the world, the spin-off technology from the creation process has changed the world. The concepts of Spider-man and Superman have changed the world. Dark Horse has merely run a profitable business and told a few stories people have liked. Big difference in my opinion.

I'll give Mike a pat on his back and then go listen to what a leader and innovator has to say.

Anonymous said...

@czeskleba

The rights to Tarzan have not lapsed into the public domain in the U.K., only in the U.S., according to the article

But I think the fact that Dynamite has not used the names Tarzan and John Carter on their book covers is telling. I've long since stopped giving people who do sneaky shit the benefit of the doubt

Anonymous said...

@Art

It's worth noting that all the Star Wars stuff created by Dark Horse has been bland to just plain rotten. Even the acclaimed Rogue Squadron was pretty forgettable

I'll definitely give you Hellboy. I recently read The Crooked Man and it was damn good. But come on, 1 example (Hellboy) in 30 years of publishing books - that's a huge fail

Heck, Marvel's Epic line produced more memorable stuff in its brief lifetime

Arthur Nichols said...

Definat1,

The "sloppy seconds" argument doesn't wash. Just because you don't like what Dark Horse Comics is doing with their (their... no longer Marvel's) Star Wars content, doesn't mean others won't. If they can repackage the content to use to their advantage, more power to them.

Remember, you're of an older generation of comics readers. There are countless others who like Star Wars, but never had access to the Marvel content. Also, Dark Horse is producing new content that people are obviously responding to, well enough to make continued revenue for the company. I've seen some DH Star Wars books that were okay, and some that weren't. That goes for any company's track record. So far it seems to be working well with them, and I'm happy about that.

In a struggling industry, you should too.

I love cash cows. If I were a publisher, and I had the ability to put together unused material that other publishers never utilized to its full potential, and I felt I could make money from it to keep my company healthy so I may produce other stuff I really want to publish... what's the problem?

I don't care to get mired into a purely fanboy discussion as to the quality of the content of the books. It's of course an important element of a successful publisher, but that's but a part of what it takes to keep a publishing house afloat and prosperous. It doesn't bother me at all that Dark Horse didn't ever produce new content in the way Valiant did, or Epic. It's a bit of a specious complaint, I think.

"Dark Horse has merely run a profitable business and told a few stories people have liked. Big difference in my opinion." Damn big difference, if you ask me. If you were ever to run a publishing company, you should wish to do as well as Mike Richardson does.

Truth to tell, I look at every company's content, and I have strong opinions as to what sucks, and what doesn't. That includes Dark Horse Comics. But I guarantee you, that's what Mike Richardson does, too. Same with Joe Quesada, Jim Lee & Dan DiDio, and every other Honcho at a comics company. That goes toward what makes their companies successful, to be sure. But each and every company has to make decisions on how to publish their comics that are very likely to be blatant marketing ploys.

Magnus Robot Fighter #0 was. Paris Cullins was to be the Magnus regular penciler, but taking 4 months to produce the first issue wasn't cutting it in terms of a monthly schedule. That's when I got drafted into drawing the regular book. But what to do with this Paris Cullins issue? It was decided to make it a #0. Was that the first time a #0 issue was issued from anyone? I don't remember, but it was a successful ploy on Valiant's part.

If you wish to only crab and complain from your pointed view about the content of a company's books, and pass a complete value judgment on them because they don't do things only your way, then that's your choice.

I for one am very happy Dark Horse has maintained their footing in the comics industry. If Dark Horse were not here, then the comics industry would be that much smaller, and even that much more in trouble.

The comics industry needs as much presence and success in the world as we can get.

Arthur Nichols said...

Anonymous,

I don't know what restrictions on story content Dark Horse has to put up with from George Lucas. But whatever the dynamic is there, there are people who still buy the books. Certainly enough of them for Dark Horse to keep producing them.

I don't buy the argument that Dark Horse is "a huge fail". They're still around. Still thriving, or at least steadily moving forward.

Do I think that there can be better, stronger editorial direction with a lot of these books, from just about every company? Hell yeah. But those books are going to be what they are, because they're edited and produced by those very individuals that may or may not create content to your liking. Even more aggravating to you, is that they produce stuff you hate, but is still successful because enough other people comprise the solid fan base to keep that content going.

It's how I feel about Rob Liefeld's work.

Marvel's Epic line was definitely epic in many ways. Dark Horse has, over its existence, published probably more original, independent content than any other publisher. They've taken those big and medium-sized risks to support independent creators more consistently than anyone else.

If I'm statistically inaccurate about that, then I'd bet I'm not very far off.

Ultimately, the marketplace will determine whether Dark Horse succeeds. Twenty-six or so years old, and the company's going strong so far... =D

Anonymous said...

@Art

In all your paragraphs of soliloquizing about Dark Horse, you have not presented one strong example of something they have done well. In fact, you have even made a pretty good argument for their mediocrity

Some people settle for mediocrity. I don't spend my money on stuff that is just OK (whether it be comics, movies, music, art), I spend it on stuff that excels or stands out.

Dark Horse has not published that much independent content. Can you name some?? Image, Vertigo and Oni Press, just to name a few, have definitely done more in that realm than Dark Horse

Finally, no, there aren't that many people buying those Dark Horse Star Wars comics. Ask any comic shop owner

Chris Hlady said...

Doesn't Dark Horse Comics publish Usagi Yojimbo? I was pleased to meet Stan Sakai back in the early 90s. Brilliant guy.

After Fantagraphics and MIrage finished their runs, Dark Horse picked up the baton, and has kept it going. Kudos to them.

I was in Portland, OR a few years ago, and got to stop by their office for five minutes. Didn't meet anyone besides the receptionist, I think, but it was still cool. I liked the antique shop and coffee shop across the street.

Publishing totally untried stuff is a mite risky, but Dark Horse has done an amazing job in an unforgiving marketplace. No question.

Defiant1 said...

Art,

I'm not talking fanboy talk. I'm talking business model. I've never even read a Star Wars comic from Dark Horse as far as I know.

My complaint about Dark Horse is not whether they have made money. Mike has done well for himself. The market is a tough market because there are no leaders and no visionaries.

I can pout that Jim's writing wasn't promoted in lieu of Dark Horse trying to promote alternative crap or Gold Key reprint volumes, but my problem with it isn't one of disappointment. Comics have disappointed me (and countless others) for decades. My gripe is that I truly believe Dark Horse had a shot at turning the market around. Jim creates universes. They essentially hired him to write a few comics to promote their reprint volume sales. As I step back and looked at that, it dawned upon me that "milking" someone else's success is a general rule of thumb for how they've operated. They have been successful, but now there is more competition for fewer readers. IDW stepped up in a relatively short time to compete head to head with them.

As I stated earlier, Dark Horse is the reason I've quit buying comics entirely.... cold turkey. Dark Horse had the potential to change the status quo. They had a potential to make fans like me care again. Instead they doomed the revamp to failure and produced the same poor-looking product that everyone else is producing.
I call it delusions of adequacy.

Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Since the fan base started shrinking, the creative pool running the shots has been doing the same thing over and over.

Anybody can drive a product into the ground. Anyone can milk from an established success. Very few people have what Jim has on his resume. Jim's editorial leadership increased the net worth of two companies. If I was a company with long term goals, I wouldn't be hiring Jim to write a few mini-series to promote a reprint volume. I'd be putting him in a position to recreate the magic he's done in the past.

Anonymous said...

Anyone catch the latest episode of Public Radio's "On the Media"? It was about the publishing industry and some of the guests echoed a lot of the things Jim and Cory Doctorow said in his last few posts. Here is a link: http://www.onthemedia.org/2012/apr/20/

Anonymous said...

I recommended the latest episode of On the Media before I finished listening to the whole thing. Toward the end of the program, there is also an interesting story about copyright.
John

Arthur Nichols said...

Anonymous,

It seems you're disappointed that I'm not joining you in your rant at Dark Horse Comics. You find their books mediocre, don't buy their books.

I'm not their spokesperson. I 'soliloquized' about them as an observer who has worked on staff at 4 comics companies. I've seen how the sausages are made. I helped make the sausages, so I have an understanding of the pitfalls of doing your best to produce content that people don't like, or that you sometimes don't like, yourself.

I also have a huge amount of respect for those people who simply show up and do the work. That monumentally difficult achievement alone is something to factor in. And I won't be apologetic when I acknowledge the success of a company like Dark Horse, who has stayed afloat for nearing 3 decades in one of the toughest industries there is.

I don't understand why you seem to phrase things in absolute terms. I don't think absolutes apply in the way you're alleging.

"Dark Horse has not published that much independent content. Can you name some??" That's silly. Of course they have.

"Finally, no, there aren't that many people buying those Dark Horse Star Wars comics. Ask any comic shop owner[.]" They don't just distribute their content in comics shops. And again, they're doing well enough to keep publishing these books.

You keep giving examples that don't really make sense to me. You want to bitch about the quality of their books? Fine, but you lose your overall argument when you make these broad statements about how they haven't published "that much" independent content. It feels like your arguments are very one-sided to me.

That aside, I think I see what you're trying to say, that you're hungry for a comics company - and why not an established company like Dark Horse? - to create new content that comprises a bold 'new universe', if you will, of books that have a strong editorial leadership, that will help revolutionize the comics industry. I want that too.

I see books I don't want to buy from every single company publishing comics. I see mediocrity everywhere. But I guarantee you, what I feel is mediocre is something another person will get a lot of enjoyment out of.

Speaking of which, again I point out the work of Rob Liefeld. Bless him for finding a way to make a career of never drawing backgrounds, and always drawing the same 4 poses over and over, along with plagiarizing other people's work throughout the years. But he has an audience, and whether it makes your head spin or not, that deserves a measure of respect.

Dark Horse Comics deserves infinitely more respect than that, for accomplishing what they have so far. Because you don't like what they do, doesn't diminish that one bit.

I (you) can be bewildered and amazed - shocked, SHOCKED I SAY! - that books you find to be terrible have an audience and longevity, but that's the way things are.

Anonymous said...

@Art

No one is trying to make "absolute statements". You said "They've taken those big and medium-sized risks to support independent creators more consistently than anyone else". And I was just hoping you could name ONE EXAMPLE of an independent creator that they have supported.

Chris thought of Stan Sakai, but also told how other publishers had actually taken the chance on Stan, and Dark Horse just co-opted him, just as Defiant said they have done with all their content

There is a disconnect between your perception of Dark Horse as a champion of independents, and what they actually are.

It's really easy. Grab a copy of Previews, flip through the Dark Horse section. You will see page after page of reprint collections, hardcovers, books based on those properties (Star Wars, Conan), and you'll see 3 or 4 new series - often by "the creators of X, who have already proven themselves by creating and publishing X first"

Notice nothing I said in all this has anything to do with whether I like their books or not.

Arthur Nichols said...

Defiant1,

"Jim creates universes. They essentially hired him to write a few comics to promote their reprint volume sales." That sounds like wild conjecture. If they told this to Jim, I'll wait to hear that from him directly. But until then, what you said doesn't ring true.

"As I stated earlier, Dark Horse is the reason I've quit buying comics entirely.... cold turkey." Huh? That's like me saying McDonald's is the reason I've quit buying fast food cold turkey, because I had a bad chicken salad there once. Sorry, that statement just makes no sense whatsoever.

"Dark Horse had the potential to change the status quo. They had a potential to make fans like me care again. Instead they doomed the revamp to failure and produced the same poor-looking product that everyone else is producing. I call it delusions of adequacy." What is "the revamp"? You're talking about the Gold Key books Dark Horse hired Jim to write? If that's the case, it still makes zero sense whatsoever to say this experience has made you quit buying comic books entirely.

To a great extent, I believe the creative pool running the shots in the comics industry don't seem to know how to break upward to greater success, even though I do see them trying with things like the New 52 or whatever. I believe part of why they don't try to be more bold has to do with the fear of upsetting the house of cards this industry seems to be built with currently.

I do agree with you about the Einstein comment. I wish someone in the industry could or would rise up and lead us in a bold new, prosperous direction. I think that Jim Shooter could be that person, if he could finally find a company structure that wasn't shaped like a spiked dildo strapped to a speeding Buick, aimed directly at Jim's ass.

I have deadlines to get back to. Take care, everybody.

Arthur Nichols said...

Anonymous,

I shouldn't have to make a list for you, even a list of one, when you make such a statement as you did before, suggesting Dark Horse hasn't published "that much independent content". I don't need to make a list when you already know the answer while asking a question with a very false and silly premise.

Sigh. "Dark Horse co-opted [Stan Sakai]"? You lose even more of your argument when you characterize bad motives onto sound business and creative decisions. Would it ever occur to you that Stan Sakai may be happier at Dark Horse than where he was previously? Why make it sound so ominous? Yikes.

Seriously, I don't give two whits about whether Dark Horse's whole lineup is publishing things like Star Wars and Conan. So what? Bloody good for them for, I dunno, publishing decades of books that people actually buy! All your blustery efforts to make Dark Horse sound like they're bad people for being the (moderate to amazing, depending on your point of view) success they've been for all these years, just seems like a lot of hot air.

If you're blowing hard about all this because you feel Jim Shooter got a raw deal out of the Gold Key books, then I would rather hear that from Jim Shooter himself. I would rather take his word on this subject, directly. If you are correct about Jim being screwed (as opposed to everyone giving their best efforts, only to see the reality of low sales that lead to cancellation, even - likely? - if Dark Horse had put a lot more advertising behind the books), then again, I would like to hear that from Jim.

I think what I'm reacting to is the feeling that you do have something substantial to say; but that you're delivering what you have to say on a baseball bat with nails on it.

Anonymous said...

@Art

I don't have much to say about Dark Horse. I was merely trying to get you to back up your statement about Dark Horse being the champion of independent creators - which you are unwilling or incapable of doing

If I had to sum up Dark Horse, I would say they did one bold and innovative thing, with Dark Horse Presents back in the late 80's, early 90's. They produced a fairly unique and artistically interesting anthology of black and white stories each month that were gripping and unforgettable. They gave people like Frank Miller and John Byrne a vehicle for letting loose on their craft in a way they had not before, and they launched new stuff such as Concrete and Hellboy. All that started in Dark Horse Presents. In the mid to late 90's they became the Star Wars, Aline versus Predator, Conan reprint and license company, and they have remained that ever since. Not growing, not innovating.

If they make a living at this good for them - but I'm not going to applaud them for it

Arthur Nichols said...

Anonymous, you stinker! You already knew the answer to that very silly question you tried to bait me with.

Considering I was on staff at Dark Horse back in the late 80's for a time, of course I already knew the answer. I chose not to answer it because of the disdainful way you presented it.

Cheers!

Chris Hlady said...

Lstened to that "On the Media." Good episode. Particularly about, what is remembered, and "might" eventually becomes a classic.

Writers are incredibly fortunate who find reknown in their lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I just noticed that the new Valiant Comics is not only making new comics, but they are publishing new collections of your old stuff (a Harbinger hardcover of your and Lampam's work). I'm wondering if you're getting any money from that

Dan said...

Regarding the Dark Horse debate...

I would argue that Marvel and DC are also heavily relying on "licensed" properties--only in their case, it's their own properties. I say this because they produce very little that is new. They just keep publishing new adventures of properties that none of the current creators created. I find more originality in DH's Star Wars than I do Marvel or DC's superheroes.

Anonymous said...

@Dan

I agree. That is why I tried to give credit to publishers like Oni Press or Image.

Image published both Gray Area by Romita Jr, and Cross Bronx by Michael Oeming. This after they were very well established creators working for Marvel. Yet Marvel still would not touch their independent stuff, so they had to turn to other publishers to do so

It looks now like even Vertigo is dialing back on finding new creators and taking chances. Such seems to be the sate of comics right now

Dan said...

DH deserves credit for being a COMIC BOOK company first, meaning their Star Wars license is about putting great ideas into comic book form.

Marvel and DC are motivated by the opposite, using comic books as a means to get their properties into other forms (movies, games, etc). For M/DC, their comic is a means to an end. For DH, the comic is the end itself.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing about DC and Marvel, and their current business models (which you just described accurately), is that they are really successful right now. Despite atrocious output like the Wolverine movie, or the Elektra, Ghost Rider, Catwoman, Fantastic Four movies, people are still frothing over the Avengers movie right now.

So it looks like for quite a while it will be "goodbye good comics" and "hello popcorn movies" at the big 2

For someone like me, who is rooting for the big 2 to go belly up, and for the current rats in charge there to have to swim for shore, I guess I'll be holding my breath for a while

Lanz said...

Really, Mr Shooter? Your big bold new vision for the comics industry is to turn it into network television? Oy . . .

ja said...

Why not turn a comics company into the print equivalent to a Network Television company?

You'll have company-owned titles. You'll have titles that are creator-owned, much like Rescue Me or Louie from the FX channel.

Shooter wasn't talking about only doing company-owned books. He's talked about also utilizing creator-owned stuff.

Don't be scared...

Ken Raining said...

Dammit, I really want to know what Jim Shooter has to say about John Byrne! What the heck is going on? Does Byrne have Shooter locked in his basement?

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess we can all take turns writing what we think Jim is going to say. Like Nicholson's character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest calling the imaginary baseball game. The winner gets a No-Prize.

Defiant1 said...

The business model of Marvel & DC is like buying a house. They own something after they spend the money. The business model of Dark Horse is the equivalent of renting a house. In lean times Marvel & DC can make money off of of the creative properties they own. Dark Horse can only sit and hope the owners of the properties they use will let them keep publishing. You can build your house on rock, or build it on sand. I contend that Dark Horse has built their house on sand. They have to work twice as much to get half the results. They've made money and survived, but wouldn't it be smarter if they owned something worth money after all was said and done?

Basilish said...

@anonymous


Blogger.com Presents
Ken Kesey's
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST

Starring
James C. Shooter
as Randall McMurtry

and

John Byrne
as Nurse Ratched

Chris Hlady said...

The topic of Byrne is a tricky little minefield. MIght be better sold as an article to some buyer. The economics of blogging is still an annoying venture. Is it worth the bother?

Will we get a new blog in April? May? June?


@Defiant1 - I'm reminded that there are "many ways to skin a cat." As distasteful as that metaphor might appear, it is a reminder that there are many, many ways to make money, as a business. So DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse have different niches, defined by property they either own or lease. In a sense, DC and Marvel generate comic sales by leasing freelance talent. In that sense, it's all expense categories that either make or don't make a profit (or help or hinder to varying degrees).

Emphasis on how to use "talent" is an ongoing dilemma. Talent has is own questions, about where they can make their own profit. Perhaps, "talent" really needs better agents, who can get them the higher paying gigs, and better (or varying degrees of) "venues" where that talent can be showcased.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but Jim's analysis will be informative from a comic creating and comic storytelling perspective. Not to mention he is about the most honest reviewer that I know of

But I agree, blogging is not a lucrative way to make a living

Anonymous said...

... unless you have a Youtube v-blog about fashion tips that a million people subscribe to (what a world)

Anonymous said...

I have donated, but what is the going acceptable range on a donation? $5 a mo? $10 a mo?

ja said...

I think the proper donation is roughly $10,000.00 per month.

Hey, you want daily posts from Shooter again... I'm just sayin'.

=P

Anonymous said...

@Anon

Have you ever been to church and watched them pass the collection plate around. The richest people will drop a dollar in the pan

Anonymous said...

Then I couldn't afford internet service.

"I thought you made $120k a year. Why are you living in this Westinghouse box?"

"I'm addicted to Jim Shooter's blog."

ja said...

Interesting discovery!

Lester Dent (best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels about the superhuman scientist and adventurer, Doc Savage. The 159 novels written over 16 years were credited to the house name Kenneth Robeson) had written up his formula for writing any kind of 6000-word pulp stories.

If you're interested, take a look:

http://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/dent.html

Anonymous said...

Jay Jay,

When Jim does not post for an extended period of time, say a week or two, could you (or Jim,)as a help to the followers of this blog, introduce a service whereby you give us some idea when we should tune back in again? This would be particularly useful when the banter between the mice and such peters out.

QW

Anonymous said...

X-O Manowar Hits Over 42,000 Pre Orders:

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/04/26/xo-manowar-hits-over-pre-orders/

RobotProducer said...

At least the Queen Witch of the Bronies is gone. Byrne's Board is only 99.99% intolerable, now. But they'll still rend their garments and sit in ashes when JS makes his next post.

Anonymous said...

At least the Queen Witch of the Bronies is gone.
+++++++++++++++++++

I'm sure I know who you're referring to, and I couldn't agree more.

Defiant1 said...

Anonymous,

If you use an email program like Thunderbird, you can subscribe to the RSS feed on Jim's Twitter account. When you read your email, Jim's Twitter updates will appear just like receiving a personal email. Jim usually makes a Twitter post when he updates his blog.

Defiant1 said...

Chris,

If you do the math, Dark Horse isn't currently selling enough comics to make heaps of money on them. Marvel & DC own the properties for the majority of what they print, so during lean times, they do not rely upon license holder to do them the favor.

Given equal print runs, Dark Horse has the following disadvantages:

1) The cost of the license must be deducted from any profits they make after fixed expenses and business overhead are paid.

2) They don't own very many creative properties themselves, so they have little or nothing to license to anyone else.

3) It requires a high profile creative property or a high profile creator to assure profitability. The high profile opportunities are so obvious that it attracts competition. They have to be at the top of their game to win rights and offer the most money for the opportunity.

4) Past companies who choose this business model have previously done well, but all have ultimately failed... including Dell, Charlton, Now, and a boatload of smaller indy companies.

I did ponder their success in getting properties made into movies. I think they have an advantage in that arena. Their lack of interest in owning any properties might make them look like a good creative partner to Hollywood who is exceptionally greedy. However, for every hit they brought us like "Mask', I think there are just as many duds like "Dr. Giggles."

If the comics quit becoming profitable, they can't afford to direct & manage the creative ideas that lead to movie deals.

I view Dark Horse as a company built on sand. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was their best selling comic (not Star Wars). They are milking Joss Whedon's talent. Joss is smart enough to stay connected to his fans, but he's also smart enough to take bigger moneymaking opportunities like directing the Avengers movie. Dark Horse is relying upon a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" arrangement with Dark Horse. Marvel or DC could offer him a better deal and kill Dark Horse's best selling book quickly.

In modern comics, I think it's a safe bet that the lower selling titles are actually losing money for all the publishers and the top tier books are paying the bills and supporting the books that aren't pulling their weight.

There's more to running a business than hiring creators and paying the printer. All the faces you hear nothing about have to get paid. The building, utilities, and property taxes have to be paid. Accountants, clogged toilets, etc... all have to be covered by their relatively low mark-up. Profitability only comes through volume.

One of my board members posted this video...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvIeTAQ-tcg

Defiant1 said...

Interesting that my post appeared and disappeared.

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