I realize it's been a few months since the last rant, but we've been as busy as ever here working to get this strip section ready to go (I'm sure if you look around the front page you can't help but see that!). We're staring next week whether we're ready or not, granted with only a handful of strips but we're going to get started anyway and we'll let the rest of it fill in over time. I mean, after all, we're not going to be charging for this and it's all for the love and recognition, just like most everything we've done these last few years, but I'm having FUN doing this so you should as well.
So much for the personal business, now I want to address a few things about our wonderful art form. Call this "news commentary", "editorial comments", even "snide rantings" if you will, but these are a few things I've wanted to say publicly for sometime now and the only way I can string them together is by the above title.
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT CROSSGEN, like watching an accident crash and burn a lot of web folks have been gleefully watching as this plane goes down, pointing fingers and giving eulogies, I hope you take a serious look at what this means for our industry because it is no laughing matter. This means that sheer money cannot build a company, there HAS to be enough talent to carry a company in order for it to live.
I've seen the list of titles that they are killing, intended "war" or not, and to me they are about 90% of their most creative product, and that's sad. This must mean that all those merchandising deals are gone, we probably won't see those movies, and that the rest of the line is more than likely doomed, if not creatively then in the minds of most of the fans, and that means monetarily.
To me it is a sloppy business move to just yank 60% of your line. You're telling everyone that you're giving up, and now those fans that DO stay with you after this will have that cancellation "doom" hanging over their heads and will not be as emotionally involved with your product as before. You MIGHT have sealed the bleeding wound but the infection you have caused by doing so will eventually cripple, and then kill the body.
I HOPE I'm wrong about this, but I think they'll be dead within two years, and that's truly a shame.
So, where did they go wrong? Is there a magic screw up point that future comic company start-ups can learn from? They were plagued by bad decisions from the get-go; it's just that the money they threw at the problem was able to keep them from dieing sooner. I really didn't care for their initial staff list, their working theory, especially the "bunker" idea, their initial choices in products were weak, though a couple of the titles had hard potential, Mystic and Meridian among them (and you see how that faired all of their initial start-up titles are being chopped), their policies were/are questionable from a solid business point of view. Stories that were too watered down, or way too verbal and wandering, series with potential, but no real direction, and now their most successful books are built around "fads" or tastes of the moment. Not the way to survive in my opinion.
On the plus side you HAVE to grant them their willingness to take some chances, to fight some fights, take on a few crusades and striker a couple of blows. Those within the bunker system got taken care of pretty well, some much better than they deserved, at least for a while. They still are to a good extent, and bless the Crossgen establishment for that. Loyalty in bigger comic companies is non-existent, with few exceptions and Crossgen was/is one of them. Willingness to experiment and LOOK for ways around the system was also a plus for them. Like the bunker system or not, the idea came from someone looking at a problem and WANTING to do it better, and can you REALLY fault them for trying? I've stated plenty of times that if I had "Crossgen Bucks" I'd be experimenting/bending/ breaking the system, and I don't know if my attempts would have done any better that what they tried.
I think Crossgen's problems are the WHOLE industry's problems. Crossgen has showed how the "old boys" network of this industry runs. They got CLOSE to breaking it, or did they REALLY? How many of their bad business decisions stem from their eagerness to fight their way to the front of Previews? How many bad products came from their wanting more market share? How many came from their worshiping the talent-less, thinking that their rep in the market would automatically translate into big bucks. Oh they made good choices as well, and had fantastically talented folks working on their products as well, but did the good really outweigh the bad?
Perhaps if they weren't so concerned about breaking the "exclusives" back they wouldn't be in the mess they are now. Perhaps if they concentrated more on getting quality out in small doses they would have faired better. Perhaps if they had restarted their reprint numberings when they shrunk to their "traveler" size. Maybe if they had been a little more careful which creator-owned books they took on. Maybe if they had connected with Hollywood a bit better. Maybe if they had MORE MONEY. Maybe if they didn't go out of their bunker system, and then work hard to ignore paying those folks. Maybe if they had started their own distribution system, and stuck to it, they wouldn't have stretched themselves and tried testing the system.
Is it me or did their problems seem to start, or at least become really noticeable, about the time they "acquired" Lady Death? Is there any relationship there, or is it just coincidence? "Karma" anyone?
But I Digress...
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT THE LITTLE PUBLISHERS FIGHTING, all trying to be seen, fighting their way through Previews for sales. Fighting their way INTO Previews in the first place. Jumping through hoops that would've been illegal if anyone enforced equal trade in a market this small. When you're done being amused by all this you have to wonder what Crossgen's failure will do to new company start-ups. I know I'm taking it into account. I know others are as well. I think we'll be seeing a lot more web strips pop up as those who truly LOVE this art form, but not the way it's seen or distributed, continue to work outside the system. The next decade will be a great time to have a strip site, in my opinion. We'll be seen by EVERYONE out there who might consider looking for our kind of entertainment, and yet were too intimidated, or remote, or ashamed to hunt comics down elsewhere. All while the true backbone of our sales chain, the retailer remains alone, disjointed, uncoordinated, and too weak to try to make any change.
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT JEMAS, and the problems at Marvel, and I KNOW we all have, let's just wave Bill a nice good-bye and watch as Marvel's latest in a LONG line of scapegoats quietly fades into the history books. Hey, now folks are saying "sigh, and he was so much fun too, at least he tried SOMETHING". Hey, so did Shooter, and he did it better. Then again, so did Manson, just not in comics. Murder is still murder in my book. Trouble with Jemas leaving is that I don't think it's going to do much for turning the company around. His biggest goof-ball mistake, The Ultimate line, is making the company HUGE bucks inside and outside the comics market. It will not stop, which makes Wal-Mart happy, and will probably grow, which makes Wal-Mart happy, and will make Marvel start looking for more ways to get out of the direct market, which SHOULD make retailers UNHAPPY, but they won't do anything about it.
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT YOUR MONTHLY SOLICITATIONS, did you know that Marvel has it's own solicitation catalog now? I'm sure you do, AND the price of Previews keeps rising so that now it's almost the price of a prestige format comic? You have to pay the mega-corp over four bucks now just to ORDER more profit from the mega-corp. Meanwhile the little guy continues to be squeezed. Hey, that includes EVERY little guy, little publisher, little store owner, little consumer...you get the idea. In the end the mega-corp makes more money, even when they're moving less product and doing less work. Fewer products means that some mom and pop retailers go out of business, which always seems to make Wal-Mart happy...
And Diamond shifted the percentages yet again making it harder for retailers to make profit, which makes...sorry, bad running joke (in more ways than one).
Say, anyone ever wonder if the Diamond owners, or Jemas for that matter, own any stock in Wal-Mart? Now I'm NOT laughing.
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT BLACK LIGHTNING, and the fact that we have yet another black character in comics degraded to the lowest common denominated stereotype possible (that of a killing "thug"), folks will come to realize how prejudiced and racist mainstream comics have always been. I have a collection of early Luke Cage's in my personal collection not only because of their great, fun, storytelling, but because if their blatant "step-n-fetch it" way they wrote the character. I keep it as an example of how I would NEVER write a black superhero ("Sweet Christmas, I be constantly put down by da' man!"). I wonder why the NAACP or Jesse Jackson haven't stepped up to the plate here and demanded equal treatment for black and minority superheroes from these big companies? I'm a predominantly white man and I see the problem. Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella saw the problem YEARS/DECADES ago and tried to address it. Milestone was working in the right direction before it was axed by DC, and we can see that they were even today whenever we see Static Shock on television, but why can't the "big two?"
I've hyped for many a rant about comics needing some positive minority role models. Where are they? Luke Cage is a convict/bar owning/butt thumper, Black Panther, well don't get me started there, The Crew, that I admittedly never read, SEEMED to have it's legs shot right out from under them. Even Storm started out as a street trash thief urchin. Where's Al Sharpton screaming about "equal time"? Where's all the negative publicity this should be causing? Where's the black, Hispanic, and other minority creators out there TRYING to do something about this? I guess it's not worth their time, or they're afraid to make waves. Hey. I see Static Shock is on his third season on the WB, where's the tie-in comic? Where's the reprint collection? Blade is filming it's THIRD movie, and prepping for a television show, where's the Blade series? For that matter, where's the Blade reprint volume? Where's the creators working to publicly shame the companies into giving folks of color some fair, EQUAL respect? This is one major Affirmative Action/Racism suit that I would LOVE to see happen, but frankly is it worth these crusaders time to take up that kind of cause? I guess we, as an art form, aren't as important as we'd like huh?
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT HOW PROPERTIES ARE TREATED INSIDE THE MARKET, heroes killing and butt thumping, being corrupted and endlessly stereotyped in the name of "realism" and the like just think about this: Global Frequency has been sold off as a television series. Warren Ellis has hit the big time and all I can see when I read about this is The "A" Team, and I start laughing all over again. Tarzan anyone? Anyone?
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT HOW NEWS CAN SPREAD IN THIS BUSINESS, maybe we'll take a little time out for something called "integrity". Was the "Orson Welles Was Working On A Serious Batman Movie" thing a hoax? If it was I hope folks will call Mr. Millar onto the carpet for it and give him the lack of respect that kind of stunt deserves. He can re-write Marvel history and make money off of it, but should we allow him to re-write REAL history, not matter how small a detail or footnote it would have made, and just laugh it off? I stopped reading CBR on a regular basis so I'm not sure if his "report" was based on actual fact or not. In fact this kind of "reporting" has caused me to cut back on a lot of my comic news site reading. There's only so many times you can read the same press release and get any enjoyment out of it.
Oh, and like so many of you, I've caught myself pulling the "real" news out of those silly gossip sites and boards. Those guys seemed to have become the "real" reporters around here. "Get out your knitting needles boys, it's time to go a-gossipin'!"
WHEN YOU'RE DONE LAUGHING AT THIS RANT I hope you give a little thought to what I've just typed, run it through your mind and let me know what you think of it. If you think I'm completely full of shit then let me know. I'm opening this up for discussion, wait, let's make it INTELLIGENT discussion, I also stopped reading most of those forums out there because they don't seem to be going anywhere, at least not anywhere productive.
You know how to reach me by now.
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