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This week’s sermon - “Failure to Launch”

07/10/06 

Greetings, my fellow readers of the sequential arts. 

This column may not speak directly to you but I humbly request that you, the reader, will come along for a ride as I’ve decided to offer some topical insight into the whole comic book business. 

So, let me just start with a few questions: 

Have you ever felt despondent when a comic book publisher announces that they’ve decided to cancel your favorite title due to lack of sales?

Or, have you felt angry when a comic book that your store has devoted time and energy into developing a loyal and buying readership only to see said title get the figurative axe?

Or, is your name Dan Slott, who has given both DC and Marvel such money titles like Arkham Asylum: Living Hell and She-Hulk only to see the same companies kill such winners like Manhunter and The Thing, respectively?

Believe me when I say that I understand your collective pain.  Ya see, I’ve got something that should resolve all of those problems.  Yes, even yours, Dan.  But, before I unveil my intellectual creation, I want to explain the events that lead up to this point where I can offer anyone (yes, even you out there in the teeming Blogville universe) the methods to apply my simple techniques into a big-time winning comic book publisher.  Dying to know, aren’t ya?

It all began a couple of weeks ago when a couple of questions started to kick around in my expansive cranium.  I had just heard about the cancellation of one of my regular monthly titles.  The question was - Why couldn’t this title garner enough readers in order to avoid meeting the business end of the bean counter’s executioner’s blade?  Can all of the blame rest at the creators’ collective feet?  Or were there other factors involved that led to a seemingly good title’s demise?  To me, questions like these cry out to be answered so other generations of quality books can avoid the same fate. 

Like I stated above, the mitigating factor in the increasing cancellation rate of comic books are based on the lack of units sold.  Due to the boom/bust of the early 90s, most comic companies don’t have the luxury of letting a low-selling title gain a big cult following over a sustained length of time anymore.  If you can’t pull the minimum number of units every month (otherwise known as the Chuck Austen Line), your run will be shorter than Johnny Fairplay’s stay on Fear Factor - Reality TV All-Stars.  As the saying goes, it’s not personal; bidnez is just that - bidnez.  

(To tell you the truth, the last book that I can even remember that grew an grass-roots audience was “Powers”.  And even then that book had a ton of things going its way like it was part of Image’s foray back into super-hero comics, the fact that it was heavily acclaimed by the critics and since it was Brian Michael Bendis’ first consequential Big Three book, he plugged the hell out of it.  Really, if he’s like publicity gold for comic books.  No joke; the man is a PR company’s wet dream.) 

Back to the hard sell.  So, what can be done to save these well-liked but never bought comics, you ask?  Well, I’m glad you did.  

This column is being used as a springboard for my patent-pending production model that will revolutionize comic book publishing as we know it (as well as make me into an infomercial force on late night TV).   

It’s called the Trifecta Paradigm System (copyright also pending) and it goes a little something like this.  

There are three major players in making a good comic book into a successful and profitable product - the publisher, the distributor, and the retail/hobby shop owners.  All three parts need to work in concert in order to gain financial freedom. And with the purchase of the Trifecta Paradigm System (or TPS), they can make money hand over fist time and time again without fail. 

Now, I hear all of the doubters out there now saying things like: 

“Doesn’t this sound too good to be true?” 
“How can you promise something like this?”
“This guy is so full of it!” 

My answers to those questions would be as follows:

“Sure.”
“I’m like Fed-Ex, my man.  I’m not just promising; I’m delivering world-wide.”
“Why do you think that my initials are BS?” 

For those others that are still interested, I’ll give you a little taste for free but like your neighborhood drug dealers (or AOL/MSN service providers), the rest is gonna cost you. 

For example, one of the cogs in the comic book machine is the publisher.  Their job is to make the book as cheap as possible while not sacrificing the quality of the book.  However, if the publisher wants to keep their bottom line on production low, why are so many of them making more than one cover?  Variant covers are one of the biggest money pits/scams that is being perpetuated today.  Not only does the publisher have to put out additional bills for the printing and packaging of the different cover, there’s the cost for the cover artists.  Not to mention the possible extra cost of handling said variant differently than the “regular” comics.  Sure, an argument can be made for the scarcity of the books making the book in demand.  However, that is just and artificial attempt in making the book seem “buzz”-worthy.  And just like any product that gives you an artificial buzz, the impending crash can be devastating.  (Being in more meetings that humanly possible, I’ve been on both sides of that mid-morning sugar crash – not fun.) 

Another job that is the responsibility of the publisher is the number of units produced.  Sure, the initial cost for printing a comic book is relatively high but why must publishers short their print run?  Printing an additional 20K-30K can be had at a very discounted price so the only reason is that it is just another method of creating an artificial “buzz” on a book due to its limited availability.  Again, most readers will see through that bull crap and playing tricks on your readers won’t make them your readers for much longer. 

So, how can you show these companies, some who are mega-billion dollar corporations with their Harvard-educated presidents of Publishing, the proper and most profitable method of making comic books.  Well, that’s relatively easy.  All you have to do is… 

Now, do you want to read more of this valuable insight from one of the leading minds in comic book excellence?  Before you ask the price, here’s what you get: 

  • A five-CD detailing each of the three parts of the Trifecta Paradigm System
  • A 100-page workbook to help determine where you, the reader, fit into the TPS
  • A 30-minute phone card with a personal number for yours truly; consider it a personal counseling session with the Preacher hisself
  • An 8”x10” autographed Glamour Shot of the Preacher suitable for framing
  • The official TPS diagram that reducing all of the knowledge gleamed from the materials into a simple and easy-to-follow diagram

Now, how much would you pay?  $500?  $400?

Since you are a loyal reader of Preachin’ from the Longbox, I’m prepared to offer you this wonderful package of comic book business knowledge for three easy payments of $99 pkus $14.50 Shipping and Handling.

But this offer is only good for the next 15 minutes after reading this column.  Don’t delay; act NOW!

Or you will continue see books that you love go the editorial chopping block and they won’t come back, people.  It’s either that or you can do the unthinkable – tell everyone that you know (and even some people that you don’t) about these books that are really perfect examples of how wonderful the comic book medium really is.  And then, just maybe only then, will books like “The Thing” avoid the possibility of becoming the comic books’ next version of Marie Antoinette.  

The PftL Mailbox
 

PftL lifer Eddie C writes: 

“Glad to see your back on the new site. I was worried for a moment that the column was discontinued. Anyway, what happened to the ‘email the author’ links at the end of the columns? It was a lot easier, but I’m not complaining.”
 
PftL:  That should be taken care of by this column but thanks for keeping me in your address book. 

“Based on your review of ‘The Batman,’ I think I’ll give it another chance. Only saw a couple episodes from the first season, but I wasn’t too impressed. Didn’t like their version of The Joker at all. He seemed too different from any previous incarnation of The Joker I’d gotten use too (especially B:TAS, but I wasn’t trying to compare it solely to that). Just seemed inconsistent with any other version of the Joker (comics, TV) I ever liked.” 

PftL:  I think that’s the one thing that drew me to the series.  Joker is a wacked-out nutjob.  So, why does he always have to be so nattily attired in a green and purple suit?  Other characters can be redesigned like Scarecrow, Catwoman – hell even Robin without a major upheaval by the comic community, so why not Clown Prince of Crime?  Plus he’s supposed to be crazy and if you ever see that one weird smelly guy in the street who talks to himself about his new alien masters, he probably doesn’t have shoes either.
 
“Also, didn’t Bane turn out to be his friend from the police force (voiced by ‘Practice’ actor Steve Harris, can’t remember the character’s name) or did I miss something. Is that how it happened in the comic or was that way off?” 

PftL: Actually that was the Clayface character and again, I like the origin change as well as making it a different person than the comics since it added some pathos to the villain plus gave a Batman more of a personal attachment to his crusade.
 
“Anyway, the stories weren’t too bad (I saw an interesting Catwoman episode, although the plot was all-too familiar) and I’m not against the idea of seeing a different version of Batman. I mean, hey, isn’t that what Frank Miller gave us in his stories and what we saw in the new (and much improved) “Batman Begins” (which of course was inspired in part by Miller’s Year One story). When you think about it, the character has changed so much over the years, so there really is no definitive version of Batman. Different writers and artists bring something new to the character, interpreting him in their own way (well, the good ones at least). That’s what keeps these characters so fresh over so many years. You have to bring something new to the character, while adhering to what’s come before. That is part and parcel to comics, so any true comic fan looking at ‘The Batman’ shouldn’t expect a retread of B:TAS. I agree, they should keep their minds open at least. There are writers who come and go on comic books and some have a deep impact on the character, but you don’t stop reading the book when your favorite writer leaves, do you? Well maybe, but eventually you come back if you like the character enough.” 

PftL: You’re right about the ebb and flow of the superfluous stuff around a character.  I guess that I don’t understand how some readers are so determine to hate something just because it is different that either their expectations or what they consider is the definitive ideal of the character.  Hell, the original Bat-Man used a gun and wore purple gloves.  Sometimes change can be good.  The problem comes, like in any character alive or fictional, when personal growth or development is stunted or shunned.  Then, everything becomes stale.  And that’s boring.

“The Batman’s biggest mistake I suppose was arriving too quickly on the heels of what was probably the best adaptation of Batman ever in animated form. Maybe they should have waited a little. (Just kidding).”

PftL:  I can see that but shockingly enough, the series came out before the movie.  Hey. Was that a jab at me?  Or am I becoming paranoid?  Thanks for the email, Eddie. 

And if you want to be like Eddie and receive word from high upon the Longbox of Wisdom, click the name at the end of the column and send that email.  It won’t hurt and more than likely, you’ll see your email plus whatever I have say (like you care about that) on this here space in future week’s editions.  C’mon, what ’cha waiting for? 

The One Comic To Keep Your Eye On

Before I start with this one book, I want to offer this disclaimer.  Usually, I don’t offer reviews here on the Quick Stop Entertainment Network for two reasons: 

  • My grasp of the English language is suspect, at best (at least that’s what my Doctor of Rhetorical English brother tells me)
  • And I find that I usually gravitate to books that I like and ignore ones that I don’t (like any book where Rob Liefeld pulls a double-shift since it’s like shooting drunk fish in a fish bowl with a shotgun full of buckshot). 

Now, here’s a PftL review:

 

Emily Edison Cover

 

Emily Edison (Viper Comics)
Writer: David Hopkins
Artist: Brock Rizy
Foreword by Dave Crosland
143 pages; Color, $12.95
All-Ages 

Now this book was not what I expected.  And that’s a good thing.  Emily Edison is a teenaged girl who is joint custody of a poor Earth appliance repairman/inventor and a Royal superwoman from a different plane of existence.  Okay that’s not too weird.  Oh, yeah, her maternal grandfather keeps sending robots over to Earth to conquer it in order for his granddaughter to come back to his world.  Now, that’s something different.  

Hopkins does a good job of conveying the dilemma of Emily and handles the direction of the book’s plot quite nicely.  The dialogue is not forced and Emily, along with most of her supporting cast, are well developed (except for her dad, who does get kind of the shaft as far as character development but that’s a minor setback). 

Rizy’s art has some decent energy within the panels and his influences from Crosland to Mahfood to Morse are very prevalent but his artwork never crosses the line into aping.  The color palette adds some extra funkiness to the scenes and the layout is never too busy or distracts for the action at hand. 

Conceptually, the book is also divided into four chapters, which makes for natural breaks in the action.  And speaking of action, this book is nothing but just that.  Emily Edison is just like a younger Magnus.  She knows how to fight robots and nothing is better than seeing a robot bent on bad things get crushed like an aluminum beer can by a super-powered teenager. 

Emily Edison doesn’t require knowing a ton full of continuity and just throws you right in the action, which makes for a enjoyable read and a head a many of the books already out there now.  Reading the book is almost like going to a matinee to see an animated summertime popcorn movie.  It’s a fun, solid read.  

My only request – I want to see a prequel of how the dad and mom got together in the first place.  I’m picturing a cross between Flash Gordon and Adam Strange.  So, David and Brock, get to work.  Bring on the Prequel!

That’s it.  I’m off the Longbox this week.  Thanks for reading.  And don’t forget, guys and gals.  Keep your bags & boards together and your continuity straight.

-britt

* All claims here within are used only for satirical purposes.  The author will not be held accountable if funds are transferred to his PayPal account without any product delivered. * 

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