15 October 2007

Sometimes, absence makes the heart go wander…

[x-posted from PopCultureShock]

What happens when the "maybe we just need a little space" trial separation makes you realize you're actually happier apart and have no interest in getting back together?

Well, if you're me and writing about and reviewing comics on a semi-regular basis is what you needed a break from, you stall one more month hoping for the good feelings to return before finally acknowledging the truth and writing the requisite farewell post for the 3-5 people who might still care.

In other words, it's officially "adios" for good this time!

To the comics internet, at least. I'm not done with comics themselves, of course; I'm just reading less of them these days and have no interest in feeling obligated to write about them, never mind writing about the incestuous and too-often petty little world of comics publishing and online fandom. Catching up on my myriad Google Reader subscriptions this weekend pretty much clinched it.

It's been real, it's been fun — I've written some things I'm proud of and made some good friends I wouldn't have otherwise — but not unlike the break from poetry that ultimately led me to reading comics again and eventually writing about them, things have come full circle and I'm going back to my first true love. More importantly, I'm taking the next big step in our relationship and building us a new home, aka the NYC-centric online literary journal I'm officially launching in January 2008 called Spindle.

To Jon, Howard, Rich, Adan, Matt and my other fellow writers here at PopCultureShock, past and present; and everyone who ever left a comment or dropped me a backchannel email, positive or negative: thanks for everything — the camaraderie, the support, the feedback, and most importantly, the passion each of you brought to the site. PCS will always be my online home for comics and I plan to check in more often now that the guilt over not carrying my weight the past few months will be lifted!

An extra-special shout-out to Katherine and Erin, whose insightful coverage gave me some helpful direction in my still nascent exploration of manga (I'm officially hooked on Eden and Planetes!) and made it that much easier to kick the Marvel/DC habit that was draining my wallet and tainting my appreciation of the form.

Remember, reading comics you don't enjoy is stupid. It's like drinking Budweiser or Coors just because they're cheaper than Magic Hat.*

Don't be stupid!

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
PCS, 2005-2007 / CBC, 2004-2007

*NOTE: Like certain Essential and Showcase volumes, there's always a time and place for a cold PBR!

08 March 2007

CBC On the Move

Over the past couple of weeks, I've gotten a clearer vision of what I want to do with this site and where it fits in the bigger picture of my own writing, and now that I can see it, I'm ready to move towards it. Quickly!

First things first, the "Comic Book Commentary" blog will be moving over to PopCultureShock, effective immediately. Here, to be exact: http://cbc.popcultureshock.com

NOTE: The new direct RSS feed can be found here:

...or you can sign up for the entire PCS feed here:

LiveJournalers can "friend" this one:
I'll be posting my usual assortment of random opinions and commentary over there, while getting back to writing the occasional feature article, interview and reviews for the main site; keeping an eye out for potential contributors I'd like to see in the mix (Hint: many of them are listed in my Blogs of Note over on the left); and posting some of the better PR I get from time to time.

As much as I enjoy being a [mostly] one-man show, I miss the community aspect of being associated with a larger site, and PCS will always have a place in my heart as the first comics site I found that really felt like home. It doesn't hurt that the redesign looks a million times better than anything I'd ever be able to do over here; plus, I'd particularly like the reviews I write to reach a larger audience because identifying good comics people might have missed out on is one of the main reasons I still blog.

There's a couplafew things still up in the air that I need to figure out, though, including my Marketing Monday column, which doesn't really fit the tone of PCS, so I'd like to place that somewhere more appropriate. I'd also like to continue adding to the "Resource" aspects of this site as much as I can, so it won't be disappearing completely.

As of right now, though, the action moves to Comic Book Commentary @ PopCultureShock.

Stop by and say hello, update your bookmarks and feed subscriptions, and check out some of the other great features they have running.

07 March 2007

On the Web: Spider-Man 3 Preview & Stills

NBC had their exclusive, 7-minute clip that aired on Heroes Monday night up for only 24 hours, but savvy net users quickly posted it on YouTube.

The bulk of the preview shows the complete sequence where Harry and Peter have if out in the night sky over NYC. The end of that sequence has a story spoiler, so consider yourself warned. Not to mention there's a new picture of Sandman that will raise a few eyebrows.

Speaking of pictures...I don't think these will be on the web too much longer.

The pictures, by request of Sony, have already been removed from AICN. I pulled these images in from Filmwad, but hopefully we'll fly under the radar.

My favorite is the last one with Topher's face being pulled in 7 different directions.

The Death of Captain America

No spoiler warning necessary at this point when it's now the featured story on Yahoo's main page!

It was "spoiled" for me on the way to work today thanks to a page 3 article in the Daily News, "Captain America killed!". Even Marvel has now revealed it on their web site, after teasing it with a Daily Bugle: A Hero has been Shot story earlier today that didn't identify the victim. Cute.

Of course, despite most not having read the story in question yet, the blogiverse is already cynically chiming in with variations on "So what?" and "Quesada sucks!" in response to this rumored development, one which admittedly caught me off-guard since I'd assumed it would happen in Civil War, and when it didn't, forgot about it completely.

One of my favorite comments comes courtesy of RobN, via Blog@:

Well this just proves a miseriable fucking company Marvel has become under Quesada. This "Do anything and fuck continuity, fuck the characters and fuck the fans mentality" is going to cost Marvel big.
Now, I have some issues with Joe Quesada's handling of the MU, but credit where credit's due, he's kept Marvel on top of the direct market heap for a few years running now, fending off a strong attempt by DC to unseat, or at least match them. Marvel also makes no bones about where their focus is -- squarely on superheroes and the direct market, with an increasing emphasis on leveraging their properties for a variety of licensing purposes, including film -- and they've been quite successful following that formula.

Considering Captain America hasn't exactly been a significant seller in many a year -- excepting the recent boost from, you guessed it, Civil War, and despite Ed Brubaker's generally lauded run to-date -- killing him off isn't going to cost Marvel anything in the long-term. One of two things will happen: 1) they capitalize on his death and the fragments of potential left behind in Civil War's wake, and tell some amazing stories that demonstrate how dramatically the Marvel Universe has changed over the years; or 2) they botch it and bring him back before the year is out, no muss, no fuss.

The latter, obviously, would "cost" them a bit in the credibility department, but they already have a huge deficit there, so it's not a big deal. Hell, Quesada and company would probably find a way to spin it so that enough fans are placated, turn it into another PR coup and enflame the blogiverse all over again.

As a reader and fan of Brubaker's Captain America, I have full confidence in his ability to make it all work, though. Of course, if he doesn't, I'll simply drop the title from my pull list and move on; no muss, no fuss.

I'm reminded of the recent three-episode arc on Grey's Anatomy, where the fate of the lead character, Meredith Grey, hung in the balance. I never thought they'd actually kill her off [they didn't], and so was more focused on how the possibility of her death affected her friends and co-workers and how it moved their characters forward, which I think they handled beautifully. Not everyone agrees, many expressing their disappointment on the show's writers' blog, but I'm willing to bet when new episodes return in a couple weeks, it will remain amongst the highest-rated shows on TV because it has earned that audience over a period of time by telling compelling stories featuring an amazing and diverse cast of characters potrayed by talented actors. If/when the ratings start to dip -- as often happens, sometimes seemingly on a whim -- they'll need to retrench and figure where they went wrong.

Not unlike, to the objective observer, the team of creators currently running the Marvel Universe through its paces. While YOU may not like the current state of the union, just like not everyone's a fan of Grey's Anatomy or Lost or CSI, Marvel's "ratings" are currently high enough that they're not changing direction any time soon and it simply means you're not their target audience.

And, you know what, that's okay, because there's a ton of other comics out there that are perfect for you. Instead of bitching about the ones that aren't, why not find the ones that are and laud them instead?

06 March 2007

On the Shelves: 3/7/07

Reading is fundamental. Read what you like; don't waste your time reading bad comics out of habit!

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 3/7/07. The full shipping list, as always, is available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]


The Living and the Dead

Star Wars Legacy #9, $2.99

Legacy has replaced Conan, which I still enjoy, as my favorite licensed comic. NOTE: For context, it should be understood that I consider all of Marvel and DC's spandex titles to be licensed comics, too.

Detective Comics #829, $2.99
Helmet Of Fate Zauriel #1, $2.99
Jonah Hex #17, $2.99
Shazam The Monster Society Of Evil #2 (Of 4), $5.99
Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters #8 (Of 8), $2.99

I'll have to revisit the Helmet of Fate: Black Alice issue sometime in the near future, because it was the most interesting of the one-shots so far, but overall, this has to be one of the more pointless series of stories I've ever read. I can't imagine what the payoff will be, or how it's all supposed to add up to buzz for the ongoing series, though. *** While I enjoyed Jeff Smith's fun take on the Big Red Cheese, it wasn't so good that I can't skip the pricey serial format and wait for the trade. *** Palmiotti and Gray continue to deliver the off-kilter goods in Jonah Hex, and among the announcements coming out of NY Comic Con was the great news that there's more Uncle Sam... coming, though it might be via Countdown, which isn't so great.

GI Joe Dreadnoks Declassified Sauve Cvr A #2 (Of 3), $4.99

I totally punked out on my decision to shift to GI Joe to TPB-only after the recent price increase to $3.50, and the first issue from the new creative team, focusing on Baroness, was actually pretty good. The Declassified stories have been consistently good reads, too, so I guess Devil's Due maintains a hold on their small slice of my personal market share.

Lone Ranger Directors Cut #1, $4.99

Anyone out there who's not a Cassaday sycophant who thinks this is worth picking up? I'm curious, but haven't been moved yet to jump on the bandwagon.

Living And The Dead GN, $9.95

I've mentioned this in the past, but there's something odd about the fact that I consider myself a Jason fan, have positively reviewed a couple of his books in the past (The Left Bank Gang was among my Best of 2006), and yet am always surprised to see a new release from him pop up on the shipping list. I know I'm not necessarily part of Fantagraphics' target readership (though I probably am, more than either of us might realize) but with as many blogs and comics' Web sites I scan daily, it absolutely baffles me that is the first I'm hearing of this latest release. Anyway, this is apparently a sequel to You Can't Get There From Here, which I haven't read yet, so I'll be picking both of these up tomorrow.

Bomb Queen III #1 (Of 4), $3.50
Dynamo 5 #1, $3.50
Nat Turner Book 2 Revolution TPB, $10.00

Image titles are few and far between on my mental pull list these days, never mind my actual list, but the first two issues of Nat Turner were amazing and a great pickup for the publisher. Dynamo 5 seems like it might be good, too, though the $3.50 price tag gives it a really short leash and will have to make an immediate impression on me. Bomb Queen, OTOH, doesn't interest me at all, but I like Jimmie Robinson so I'm glad to see it's found an audience and is selling well enough to survive in the otherwise barren wasteland that is the Shadowline imprint.

Captain America #25 CW, $3.99
Civil War Initiative, $4.99
Criminal #5, $2.99
Fantastic Four #543 CW, $3.99
Hulk And Power Pack #1 (Of 4), $2.99
Incredible Hulk #104, $2.99

Like DC's One Year Later, while I wasn't thrilled with how they set the table, I am curious about what Marvel's serving up post-Civil War, so there will be some sampling in my future as Dwayne McDuffie on Fantastic Four and Dan Slott on an Initiative ongoing have some appeal. Hopefully it plays out better than OYL, which resulted in more drops than adds for me.

Dungeon Parade Vol 1 TPB, $9.95

I think Midtown got this a week early, as I'm pretty sure I flipped through this last week, and it looked interesting, but not enough for an impulse buy. A couple of good reviews might do the trick, though.

Persepolis The Story Of A Childhood SC New Ptg, $12.95

The Persepolis movie is nearing completion, so it seems Random House has smartly released a new edition of the book. If you haven't read it yet, you should, because it's very good.

05 March 2007

Hater Blog: Levitz or Quesada?

Dick Hyacinth of the entertaining guilty pleasure and recent addition to the Blogs of Note, Dick Hates Your Blog, has been running a series of "Hate Polls", pitting the likes of Mark Millar, Geoff Johns, Brad Meltzer and Joe Quesada against each other for the title of Most Hated in Comics. Last week, after Quesada soundly thumped previous reigning champ, Millar, he asked who else might be a worthy challenger to the formidable DaQ and my comment was one of my favorite ever, as succinct a description of the "Big Two" as I could imagine:

Yes, Levitz is whom I'd put up against Quesada, though I think DaQ would still win in a landslide. I've always had the impression that he has a lot more power than Didio, with Dan Buckley more focused on the business side, while Levitz employs a firmer hand in running the show over at DC.

I think DC's eclectic variety speaks more to Levitz' old school roots combined with a new school awareness that's been forced upon him, while Marvel's more limited slate is a reflection of Quesada being a myopic fanboy who's surrounded himself with like-minded colleagues. (His recent comment about not really being into Annihilation said a lot.) Didio, on the other hand, is kind of like the short-order cook at Cheesecake Factory.
What I'd really like to see is Quesada take the natural next step, Uwe Boll style, and challenge his detractors to a boxing match. Or, more appropriate, I think, tag team wrestling, with him, Millar and Bendis vs. all comers. THAT would be an entertaining spectacle for this year's series of Wizard conventions and would allow them to tone down the hype on their next round of underwhelming crossovers.

Dick's set a tricky goal for himself of blogging the comics bloggers -- "I mock those who write about comics on the internet." -- crossing the line often between prison guard and inmate, but he's got a strong voice, some interesting opinions and, in perhaps his biggest coup, got the insufferably smug Joe Rice to admit his antagonistic style does more harm than good for his writing on Comics Should Be Good. For that alone, Dick Hates Your Blog is a blog worth reading.

Marketing Monday: No-Brainer Marketing Efforts, Pt. II

Marketing MondayWrapping up the subject of Marketing No-Brainers from two weeks ago, the final no-brainer is the PowerPoint presentation -- a portable, printable document offering an overview of all relevant information on the publisher and/or product based on the intended audience. This presentation should bring together all of the other elements of the no-brainer puzzle into one informative, visually stimulating picture, and has a number of uses.

1) It should be flexible enough to double as the basis for an actual in-person presentation as well as an informational leave-behind or promotional mailing piece.

2) It should include your "elevator pitch", a short mission/vision statement, and strong preview art.

3) An overview of where your product(s) fit(s) in the marketplace, including any advance reviews or press coverage, and bios for notable creators and/or editorial staff.

4) An overview of the marketing plan, including scheduled convention appearances, planned retailer incentives and reader engagement initiatives.

5) Full contact, release schedules and ordering information.

6) Finally, it should be no longer than 16 slides/pages.
The distributor/library version will be slightly different from the retailer version, which will be slightly different from the target reader version, with the former serving as the base template for all variations as well as related marketing efforts. The physical format will also vary depending on the target audience and budget, with choices ranging from presentation folders with photocopied presentations inside, to full-color brochures or pamphlets, to PDFs, HTML or Flash on a USB drive.

NOTE: The presentation should neither be seen as the equivalent of, nor a substitute for, an annual catalog. While there will be similarities, depending on the size of your upcoming schedule and backlist, your catalog will be much bigger and more detailed. See Archaia Studio Press' 2007 catalog for a good example of an annual catalog. (Right click and "Save Target/Link As..." to download 12MB PDF.)

Simple Marketing Fact #5: YOU are your best spokesperson.

In almost every industry, trade shows (aka conferences, conventions, seminars, etc.) are considered the most effective marketing tool for converting prospects to sales because it offers the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with a targeted, qualified audience and no one is going to sell your product(s) better than you can. Myriad research studies have shown people tend to look to such events as their primary source of information when they're ready to make a purchase, and when targeting potential distributors, retailers, libraries and influential taste-makers, such events offer the best opportunity to market to them directly.

Having a free, informational giveaway in lieu of simply giving away sample copies (which you will want to have budgeted and available for major distributors, librarians and retailers, as well as influential reviewers) will be important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is respecting an individual's ability to carry around a limited amount of material, and in the case of potential readers, those on limited budgets. It's always better to have someone walk away with something to remember your product by, and a targeted promotional presentation is ideal for this purpose.

No display ad, banner ad, high-profile review, postcard, message board, or YouTube teaser video offers a better opportunity to generate a sale than a face-to-face presentation.

While trade shows are a vital component of your marketing mix, they can be prohibitively expensive, so choosing which ones to exhibit at, and what sort of presence you should have at any particular one, will depend specifically on your product, its target audience and, of course, your budget. At the 2006 New York Comic Con -- an ideal (but expensive) show for targeting distributors, librarians and fans -- First Second and Jason Rodriguez chose to work the convention floor instead of having booths, the former wearing promotional T-shirts, the latter armed with a full-color pamphlet promoting his proposed anthology's concept, both speaking with as many people as they could.

First Second, whose books hadn't arrived from the printer in time for the Con, later launched to critical acclaim and had several high-profile hits in 2006, including American Born Chinese; Rodriguez was able to assemble an impressive roster of creators and will see his anthology published this summer by Villard Books. I missed this year's NYCC so I can't report on any specifics, but First Second had a booth this time around and Rodriguez' Postcards swag was reportedly on prominent display at Random House's booth (Villard's parent company).

Of course, these two successes can't be directly attributed to any one weekend spent working a trade show, but they are both perfect examples of how trade shows can be effective components of a successful marketing plan. Neither made the significant investment an exhibitor's booth (or Artist's Alley table) calls for, opting instead for a more creative approach, and both are instructive for start-up publishers and up-and-coming creators alike who don't [yet] have the backing of a major publisher to support their efforts.


Having covered the basics of developing a marketing plan and the no-brainer efforts every publisher and/or creator should be willing and able to implement before soliciting their first (or next) publication, it's time to delve a little deeper into the specifics of the Simple Marketing Plan. Whether initiated by a publisher (ideally) or a creator (sadly, the norm in comics), every single title needs a marketing plan of its own in order to be profitable. Amazon.com is littered with books no one's ever heard of because they lacked an effective marketing plan, and there are numerous examples of Diamond rejecting certain titles because of a legitimate or perceived lack of saleability.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be fleshing out a marketing plan for a hypothetical new comic book series featuring unknown creators and targeting a specific niche (all TBD!), but I'd also like to open the floor to any creators or publishers who have specific questions they'd like answered, and separately, offer to develop a marketing plan for one specific publication.

For either option, simply drop me an email at glecharles (at) gmail (dot) com, with plan candidates needing to include their elevator pitch and current status of their project. Questions can remain anonymous, if desired, while, for obvious reasons, the chosen candidate for the marketing plan will need to be willing to be identified and comfortable with aspects of their concept and business plan being analyzed and criticized publicly.

04 March 2007

Ghost Rider's Qualified Success and What it Means for DC

With the estimates for its third weekend in ($11.5m towards $94m to-date, domestic) it's safe to consider Ghost Rider a qualified success as it's quite likely that it will surpass director Mark Steven Johnson's previous effort, Daredevil -- which topped out at $102m after 22 weeks in release -- by the end of next weekend, despite receiving even worse reviews; and its final domestic take should, at least, cover its pricey $120m production budget. In doing so, it will also likely match, or beat, the combined box office of Daredevil and its ill-conceived spinoff, Elektra, which bombed two years ago with a mere $24m domestic take.

Did anyone other than Avi Arad, Johnson and Nicolas Cage (for whom Ghost Rider represents his widest initial release and best opening weekend box office ever) really see this coming? Suddenly, the decision to postpone its release from August 2006 and invest in some top-notch special effects seems to have paid off immensely as it's hard to believe it would have found this level of success in last summer's crowded schedule, lost in the shadow of the likes of Pirates of the Carribean, X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns.

In light of the perception that Superman Returns was a relative disappointment last summer, and the creative turmoil surrounding the Wonder Woman and Flash movies, combined with the imminent release of the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four sequels, it would appear that Marvel is poised to project its dominance of the Distinguished Competition in print onto the silver screen. Marvel's patented formula of relatable, human characters struggling to come to terms with newfound powers seems to translate even better to Hollywood than it does in comic book form, which probably explains why Batman is arguably DC's most bankable character and Smallville has been such an unexpectedly long-legged success.

Perhaps it's time for Warner Brothers to look beyond their sorely dated, ill-conceived Trinity and tap into their deep roster of second and third-tier characters, a la Blade and Ghost Rider, many of whom have more crossover potential and appeal to a non-comics reading audience? They have a much stronger Sci-Fi-based pool to pull from than Marvel does, with Green Lantern Corps, Adam Strange and even the new Blue Beetle being prime candidates for adaptation; Jonah Hex would be perfect for the big or small screen (cable only, please), especially with the recent introduction of Tallulah Black; and Gotham Central would be a no-brainer for the Fall 2008 TV season, which will likely be Smallville's last.

With their only surefire hit not hitting screens until the summer of 2008 -- the upcoming Batman Begins sequel, Dark Knight -- they'll have plenty of time to study Marvel's hits and misses and figure out how to develop a successful slate of films from their rich character pool, but much like it is on the comics side of things, if they're depending on the high-risk gambles of Wonder Woman and Flash to lead the charge, they're in for an even bigger disappointment than One Year Later turned out to be.

02 March 2007

PANEL: Blue Beetle #12

Blue Beetle #12
Art by Rafael Albuquerque and Guy Major
Written by John Rogers
February 2007, DC Comics

28 February 2007

Random Thoughts and an Update

So yeah, "minor" surgery is still surgery, and coupled with a drug industry and medical profession that takes "side effects" a bit too casually, I missed the entire NY Comic Con. The whole damn thing. The PopCultureShock party, too, which pisses me off the most, actually, as I was hoping to meet up with some people I hadn't seen in a while as well as putting some faces to blogs I enjoy.


Anybody out there who did attend the party? I can live vicariously through your feedback!

I spent most of the past week laid up in bed, periodically hobbling around the apartment to take a break from marathon sessions on my rarely used Xbox: Destroy All Humans!, Just Cause and Fable: The Lost Chapters. Not a single comic book tie-in among them, although throughout Fable I was thinking what a great license it would be to adapt for comics. It features a pretty solid storyline that's ripe for embellishment, especially since the main character is so malleable, by design, but driven towards his destiny by forces beyond his control, that much of the subtext takes place in the player's head.

I wonder if the rights are available and how ridiculously expensive they might be?

Other than video games and checking in on work here and there, I didn't do much else, including staying on top of the world of comics. That meant no Marketing Monday or On the Shelves this week. I've also got more than 300 posts in my Bloglines Comics folder that I'm skimming through now, but since most of them are probably about the Con that won't be a big deal.

One that caught my eye quickly, though, was 4thletter's David "hermanos" Brothers' "New York State of Mind" about the Black Panel and, more specifically, Michael Davis' "We define us." statement regarding the attempt to change the name from "The Black Panel" to "The African-American Panel". Having raised an eyebrow originally, Davis' take on it made me reconsider my overly PC gut reaction, especially since I personally have never taken to the label "African-American" because Africa is so many generations removed from my extremely mixed bloodline that it doesn't ring true. For me. And nobody defines me but me, so kudos to Davis for laying that out so succinctly.

I really wish I had caught that panel.

Double Ugh.

Anyway, things will probably get back to normal here in the next couplafew days; definitely by next Monday when Marketing Monday will return to its weekly schedule!

22 February 2007

NY Comic Con: T-Minus 12 Hours

My surgery went well, and other than passing out on the way home, presumably from the combination of Valium and hunger -- head back, mouth open, wife yelling for help kind of passing out! -- I'm feeling pretty good now. Relatively speaking.

My 9:30am appointment got pushed back to 11:15am, so my wife and I walked across town to the Javits Center to pick up my Press Pass and get the lay of the land. We couldn't get past security and on to the Convention Floor itself, but we got a good look at things from the entrance and I took a few pictures before they told me to put the camera away.

There were about a dozen or so pros registering and a couple of other people down in the Press Room, but the only person I recognized was Heidi MacDonald who arrived as we were leaving. I've still yet to meet her in person, but will hopefully rectify that at some point during the Con.

I doubt I'll be back on my feet before Saturday, so it looks like I'll only be able to catch the latter part of that day's session and/or Sunday. I'm still going to the PCS After-Party, though, even if I need a cane and a bottle of Motrin!

21 February 2007

NY Comic Con: T-Minus 2 Days

I haven't been nearly as enthuastic about this year's NY Comic Con as I was about last year's, but that's primarily because last year's was so exhausting, my level of direct participation this year is drastically reduced, and I stupidly scheduled some minor surgery for tomorrow without realizing it was the day before the Con.

Despite dragging my feet, my press registration has been secured (Thanks, Phoenix!) and as long as all goes smoothly tomorrow and I'm on my feet as expected by Friday, here's what I'm hoping to catch this weekend:


10:30AM - 11:30AM
Kids Comics: The Category Waiting to Explode

Nice to see they picked up this theme again this year, though it's too bad that it's scheduled during the trade-only portion of the show. Of course, considering the majority of the audience for my similar panel last year consisted of retailers and a couple of pros, it makes sense, I guess. Glad to see Jimmy Gownley in the mix, too, as Amelia Rules! is an excellent comic deserving of much more attention.

1:30PM - 2:30PM
Graphic Novels: Direct Distribution or Book Wholesalers?

Last year's version of this panel was incredibly informative and woefully underattended by publishers and professionals. It's a little disappointing to see the distributor representation on the panel isn't as strong as it was last year, though.

2:30PM - 3:30PM
Capturing Female Readers: The Fastest Growing Audience for Comics
Comics Bloggers: Rewriting the Rules of Tastemaking and Trade Influence

Tough call here, as I'd love to see both, but I'm currently leaning towards the "Female Readers" panel as I figure the bloggers will post the details of their own panel. I am curious to hear what MediaBistro's Ron Hogan has to say, though.

4:30PM - 5:30PM
MARVEL: World War Hulk

I've really been enjoying "Planet Hulk", and considering it was Greg Pak himself who convinced me to try it out during his appearance at last year's NYCC, this should be a fun panel.

6:30PM - 7:30PM
Mothers & Daughters: Female Graphic Novelists and the Family

If I'm not completely burned out, I may check this out out as it has the makings of a candid, insightful session.


12:30PM - 1:30PM
Don't Quit Your Day Job! The Truth About Breaking Into Comics

I believe this is the panel Rich Johnston has been added to, which should make for an interesting discussion.

2:00PM - 3:00PM
The Black Panel

Terrible name, but interesting lineup makes this a must-see.

6:00PM - 7:00PM
Who Reads Graphic Novels? Who Doesn't!

Intriguing line-up here.


2:00PM - 3:00PM
NYCC Comics School: Writing Under Pressure

Another intriguing line-up.

And, of course, don't forget Saturday night's PopCultureShock's After-Party!

20 February 2007

On the Shelves: 2/21/07

Reading is fundamental. Read what you like; don't waste your time reading bad comics out of habit!

My weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 2/21/07. The full shipping list, as always, is available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]


House of Sugar

Conan #37, $2.99

I'm finally caught up on my post-Busiek Conan reading and am happy to see that Truman has taken the baton relatively cleanly and is running forward with it. If I wasn't a hard-won fan of the series, I'd probably consider waiting for the trades at this point, but there's something to be said for consistently entertaining serial adventures at a time where that's increasingly difficult to come by.

Brave And The Bold Cvr A #1, $2.99
Helmet Of Fate Black Alice #1, $2.99
Robin #159, $2.99

The Big Two need a solid team-up book, featuring done-in-one (or two, at the most) stories that pair up their handful of A-list characters with an assortment of B- and C-list characters and send them on continuity-free adventures. Marvel Team-Up was nowhere near to being that book, but hopefully Brave and the Bold will be. *** Damn Helmet of Fate sucked me in via a completely irrational affection for Dr. Fate and while none of the stories have been terribly compelling so far, they've been solid enough to keep me onboard until the main series launches. *** I've enjoyed Adam Beechen's OYL take on Robin, and I've been hoping for a long while that Geoff Johns would step aside and let someone else take over Teen Titans, so having Beechen on both is a promising turn of events that will hopefully result in some meaningful character development for Tim Drake over the next year or two.

Heartbreak Soup Palomar Vol 1 TPB, $14.95
Maggie The Mechanic Locas Vol 1 TPB, $14.95

I've wanted to get into Love & Rockets and Los. Bros Hernandez for a long time now, so maybe these will be the gateway collections that finally make it happen.

Burning New York Graffiti NYC TPB (resolicited), $39.95

This is a pricey tome but it looks interesting and Gingko did right by me last time I picked up a couple of their books. Still, yet another non-comic book in the comic book section of the list. Seriously, how's that work?

Reinventing Comics TPB (Harper Collins Ed), $22.95

I'm about halfway through Scott McCloud's Making Comics and it is an amazing piece of work, absolutely essential reading for anyone creating or writing about comic books. Based on that, and the equally essential Understanding Comics, I'm going to have to finally stop procrastinating and check out Reinventing Comics.

Annihilation Book 1 HC, $29.99
Civil War 1 For 75 Turner Sketch Var #7 (Of 7), AR
Immortal Iron Fist #3, $2.99
Legion Of Monsters Werewolf By Night #1, $2.99
Powers #23, $2.95

I've seen so many positive reviews for Annihilation, and coupled with the fact that Quesada admitted that he didn't hype it too much because it wasn't his cup of tea, my interest is piqued. Not sure about the Hardcover only collecting half of the saga, but I might pick up the eventual TPBs if I like what I see when I flip through them. *** So, what does it take to get a 1-for-75 variant cover? Assume the average retailer is paying approx. $1.46/copy for the regular issue, so that's approx. a $109.50 investment for each variant copy, most of which will likely be flipped for at least half that much if not more on eBay, except for the major retailers who are ordering 300+ copies of the issue anyway, and can afford to price them lower. Retailers who give into this scheme in the name of superior customer service are ultimately harming themselves because Marvel and DC justify the continued use of variants as supplying the demand. So, who's killing comics?

House Of Sugar GN, $10.00

Well, check this out! A book I've never heard of, and the publisher, Tulip Tree Press, has a nicely designed web site that turns up on the first page of a Google search for "House of Sugar"; detailed information and samples of the book (the WHOLE book, actually); and ordering and contact information for the creator and publisher. Imagine that! It does get a demerit, however, for its lack of availability on Amazon.

Devi Sp Extended Coll Ed #1 & #2, $6.99
Sadhu Sp Extended Coll Ed #1 & #2, $6.99
Snakewoman Sp Extended Coll Ed #1 & #2, $6.99
Walk-In #3, $2.99

Nice to see Virgin making their comics accessible by releasing these bumper editions of the first two issues, but their Web site makes no reference to them or why they seem to cost more than the two issues did individually. Is there extra content? Dunno. Too bad, too, as I might have been tempted into getting one or two of them, but lacking that info, it will now depend on them actually being on the shelves when I get to Midtown, quite likely for a large retailer, but what about those LCBS' with tighter budgets and less experimental clientele? Missed opportunity, I think.

19 February 2007

Marketing Monday: No-Brainer Marketing Efforts

Marketing MondayThanks to Adam Kubert, today's Marketing Monday column will be delayed until later this evening.*

So far, we've looked at the five basic steps to developing a simple marketing plan and how they specifically relate to marketing comics. Last week, I put forth five specific marketing efforts, no-brainers that every aspiring publisher should be ready (and able) to implement in order to separate themselves from the hobbyists with a Previews solicitation, a blog, and idiotic message board posts** whining about the state of the industry and how stupid superhero comics fans are. (Oh, look! Another one. Sigh...) This week, we'll take a closer look at a couple of them.

Marketing No-Brainers

1) Professionally designed logos and trade dress.

2) A non-Flash Web site, with a regularly updated blog; separate landing pages for each title and creator, with links to reviews and interviews; PDF and JPG samples of all titles, current, upcoming and backlist; publisher and creator contact information; release schedules and retailers list; viral downloadables, ie: wallpaper, screensavers, AIM icons, signature banners, podcasts, etc.

3) A PowerPoint presentation promoting the publisher's niche in the marketplace (actual and/or hoped for); titles -- current, upcoming and backlist; creators, awards, reviews, press, etc.

4) Basic marketing materials, ie: business cards, booth signage, brochures, postcards, pins, pens, etc.

5) Well-written, informational press releases with a specific call-to-action.
The latter two are pretty obvious, if not always properly implemented, and I'm not going to spend any time on them right now. There are tons of non-comics-specific resources available that address both of them, and other than booth signage and promotional giveaways, they're all free or relatively inexpensive. The first three items, though, are extremely important and can be the difference between distributors and retailers ordering none, a couple or several copies of your comic book or graphic novel.

Simple Marketing Fact #3: Vestis virum reddit.

"Vestis virum reddit" is the only Latin phrase I remember from my one-and-a-half years of high school Latin -- it means "the clothes make the man" -- and I had to Google it to get the spelling right. Nevertheless, it is a marketing truism, the publishing equivalent of the most common advice to new salespeople to "look the part" and "act like you know".

The next time you're in your favorite LCBS, take a step back and scan the shelves in front of you. Which front-facing titles stand out from the crowd? Which spines are immediately identifiable, no matter the thickness? Which logos properly communicate the tone of the story underneath the covers?

Focusing on the spines of TPBs and OGNs for a second, one thing that stands out to me is how Marvel and Image prioritize their own branding, placing their logos at the top of the spine, while DC, Scholastic and First Second, among others, all give the title of the individual publication that primary position, placing their logos at the bottom of the spine. Neither approach is right or wrong, but both are very specific and notable long-term marketing decisions that are important to consider at the beginning.

Now, visit your local bookstore and do the same thing. What's similar, and what's different? How does a Stephen King novel differ from a Charlie Huston novel, and how do they both differ from the latest Star Wars or Forgotten Realms novels? Can you tell a Harper Perennial from a Beacon from a Soft Skull? Do you need to?

When developing the logos and trade dress for your own comic books, don't assume that just because you have a great artist that they're also a great designer, too; logos are to art as poetry is to fiction, and rarely does the talent for both reside in one person. You also have to look way beyond the comics industry for good examples, especially those publishers whose attention is focused primarily on the direct market. One of the most important marketing investments you'll make in the beginning will be in your logos and trade dress, and there are many resources available that focus on these things, either offering advice on how to do it yourself, or companies who specialize in designing them for you. Use them.

Simple Marketing Fact #4: Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Your Previews solicitation cannot be the first time someone hears of your book. When developing a marketing plan for a new comic book -- whether an ongoing or mini-series, trade paperback or original graphic novel -- the implementation needs to begin 6-12 months before its expected publication date. The process will be somewhat different for a periodical publication targeting the direct market vs. a TPB or OGN targeting the direct and mass markets, particularly the timeline, but the ultimate goal for both is the same: maximizing your publication's visibility and convincing distributors and retailers of its saleability.

Having a fully functional, informational, search engine optimized Web site is an essential second step. Once your logos and trade dress are designed and approved, before the first press release goes out to announce your existence, you MUST have a viable Web site established. It can be via a free service like Blogger or WordPress, or it can be something fancier, if your budget allows, but it's an absolute must-have and you'll need adequate storage space and bandwidth available to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Registering at least a primary .com domain is not prohibitively expensive, and there are hosting plans as cheap as $4.95/month, so there's simply no excuse not to have a Web site.

As I said last week and repeated above, this Web site should NOT be Flash-based, because not everyone can, or wants to, view Flash sites. They're also not search engine friendly and are more difficult to update than a traditional HTML-based site. Flash sites look cool, but letting your ego make your marketing decisions for you is a recipe for disaster.

Your Web site should, at a minimum, include:

1) Definitive URLs (".com" and ".net") for the publisher and individual titles

2) A regularly updated blog

3) Individual landing pages for every publication and creator

4) PDF and JPG samples of all publications, current, upcoming and backlist

5) Mailing list

6) Publisher and creator contact information

7) Release schedules and distributor/retailers list

8) Online store, via CafePress or similar POD provider, for brand-extension merchandising
Additionally, any feasible viral downloadables should be made available, including wallpapers, AIM icons, signature banners, podcasts, screensavers, etc. These are the things that can encourage virtual street teams to organically develop, spreading your marketing message far and wide, acting as brand advocates and demonstrating your publication's ability to attract an audience.

I've purposefully left message boards off of this list because they are a tricky proposition and can lead to various levels of frustration and/or embarrassment. Poke around the various forums on Image's site and in most of them you'll find a dozen or so people hanging around, an awkward combination of fans and sycophants, most aspiring creators themselves, cheerleading the efforts of their fellow creators or talking smack amongst themselves as if they were hanging out in each others' living rooms. Several other publishers host almost barren forums that are little more than repositories for unread press releases and updates on shipping delays.

An abrupt To Be Continued... this week as this one's getting too long and we still have to cover The Presentation and its importance in reaching distributors and retailers you may never have the opportunity to meet with face-to-face.


Geoff Johns: Weasel* Quick Marketing Tip: Throwing colleagues under the bus is a major no-no, even if you're Geoff Johns and you apparently think your shit doesn't stink.

Doing so to "protect" one colleague over another is even worse.

Comics are a collaborative art, extremely dependent on a level of trust between all involved to ensure the best possible end result, and as Salvador Larroca made clear a little while back, an artist who doesn't have a vested interest in a story is one less inclined to stay on schedule: "When I am not so interested on the story, I tend to work less and take time to play tennis and other sports."

Johns should know better.

** SIDE NOTE: Snarking on the internet is not a smart idea for fledgling publishers (or creators). It's an insular, thin-skinned industry and as easy a target as some people may be, snark is best left to pundits with nothing to lose, or established, influential creators who can [theoretically] afford to piss in other people's Cheerios. Remember, marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them.

18 February 2007

Comic Book Commentary v2.0 and Other Stuff

Random, somewhat connected thoughts on the site, traffic and future plans...

ITEM: Ever since I got back on the blogging horse late last year, traffic has been on a steady upswing, which is very nice. January was our best month since our peak early last summer, and February is tracking quite nicely. Many, many thanks to Dirk Deppey in particular, who drives a ton of traffic here every time he posts a link on Journalista!. Thanks also to Johanna Draper Carlson, whose Blogs Worth Reading link sends a regular stream of traffic this way, too.

ITEM: Speaking of Deppey, If I'd have known how much traffic I could get from an off-the-cuff post about Wizard, I'd have made it a monthly column! Who would have thought that Journalista! readers were more interested in Wizard's sculpted butts and busts than in Stephanie Fierman (another unexpectedly popular post) or a series of columns on marketing comics? Rubber-neckers!

ITEM: Speaking of linking, our own Blogs of Note links in the sidebar represents personal blogs of note and not obligatory link swaps. While I'm always flattered by someone linking here, it doesn't automatically mean I'm going to reciprocate. That expectation goes the other way, too, as I don't expect reciprocity from those I link to. The Watchtower, on the other hand, includes links to pretty much every comics blog I come across.

NOTE: For those who DO link here, the preferred URL is www.comiccommentary.com, which currently redirects to the blog, and will simplify the eventual transition to Comic Book Commentary v2.0.

ITEM: A few new tweaks to the site include the addition of an email option for notification of new posts to the blog, via FeedBurner; a Babelfish translator, via AltaVista, for our non-English speaking visitors; and a bookmarking feature, via AddThis, that offers access to your favorite social bookmarking functions (all over in the left sidebar). The Creator Directory is being updated periodically, focusing on lesser-known, up-and-coming creators as I come across them; and the CBC Bookstore, powered by Amazon.com, is perfect for some focused grapic novel and TPB shopping, with a variety of suggestions for almost every taste.

ITEM: I've been on Blogger since 2003 and despite their painfully slow adoption of new features, haven't been terribly compelled to switch to another service. I recently considered WordPress but the thought of converting everything for what seems like a marginal upgrade was off-putting. Last week, though, I discovered iJoomla Magazine, and fell in love. It offers the kind of functionality that fits perfectly with my vision of Comic Book Commentary v2.0, which I've been brainstorming ideas for since I relaunched the site under loudpoet.com last summer, as well as better fitting into my larger plans for my own writing this year.

ITEM: I've signed up for Robert McKee's Story Seminar in March, a huge first step in my shift from simply talking about wanting to focus more on my own writing and actually focusing more on my own writing! I left the poetry scene back in 2003 (though really, my heart stopped being in it back at the end of 2001) and fell into comics blogging by accident in 2004 (not unlike how I got into poetry, actually, believing I could do better than most of what I'd seen) and while it's been great for keeping the juices flowing from a mechanical perspective, creatively, it's been a bit of an obstacle as it sucks up the depressingly little bit of free time I have. The Story Seminar is an investment in, and a commitment to, changing that. Comic Book Commentary v2.0 will fit into that quite nicely, I think.

I hope...

16 February 2007

More Fun With Civil War

Another Civil War parody in the mother-f***ing house, as Spencer Carnage makes with the funny, GYWO style!

Why are these parodies all so much better than the story itself?

NOTE: There's a giveaway tied to this, too, so click through, laugh your ass off, and then take a shot at winning a cool assortment of TPBs, including the first three volumes of Y: The Last Man.

15 February 2007

More Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters, Please

Newsarama has an interview with Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray that includes some commentary on the evolution of the mini-series from Grant Morrison's initial revamp of the characters -- with no credit given to Will Eisner, Lou Fine, Arthur Peddy, Paul Gustavson, Len Wein or Dick Dillin for the original creations -- to the story I've been enjoying far beyond my expectations when it was previewed in Brave New World.

Justin Gray: It's interesting how the series has evolved behind the scenes. Two years ago we started working with a blueprint developed by Grant Morrison. We had character foundations and a series of plot lines that he put together, but as we began to live with these new Freedom Fighters, things began to evolve in different ways.

...rolling into the second issue we began making significant changes to the direction of the book and the characters. Jimmy and I knew we'd have to make people pay attention because the team itself wasn't going to be a huge draw. Ray Terrill and Miss America became a big part of that plan. The one thing we had working in our favor was the connection to legacy characters and with that we hoped to draw the attention of JSA fans. Another part of the plan was to give Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters a unique voice and style, something to separate it from other team books. When your lead character is Uncle Sam, you might as well go over the top in terms of story ideas and villains. That's why we took Grant's idea of Gonzo and pushed him in a different direction.
My review of the first issue noted the surface similarities to Civil War, crediting Graymiotti for "doing more with less" and hoping that it might fulfill its potential by the end, and with one issue left to go, I'd say it has done that and more. Great ensemble cast with solid character development; good old fashioned fisticuffs; a nice balance of real-world and DCU political ideology; distinctive artwork; a genuine sense of consequence; separate but not completely removed from the primary DCU.

I plan to do a full review when the mini-series is completed, but Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters and American Way are two of the best superhero comics DC has published over the past few years, far surpassing the overhyped likes of Civil Crisis, et al.

So, yeah, more Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters, please!

You're On Notice!

Comics on notice!

Call somebody out!

14 February 2007

The Difference Between Juvenile and Wizard

My kids are juvenile.

Wizard is simply pathetic.

[via: Wizard's New Low]

[via Wizard Magazine: Pay No Attention To The Industry Behind The Curtain]

Wonder how the new Editor-in-Chief is working ou--, oh wait; the position is still open! The optimist in me wants to believe that this means there's still hope for the nominal face of the comics industry to stop trying to be a low[er]brow Maxim, because the chances of any serious competition coming along to challenge them are slim-to-none since they'd need Marvel and DC's support and clearly neither company gives a damn about the industry's image as long as the status quo continues to pay off.

On Soliciting Reviews, Entitlement and Reaction Sheets

"You get what you get, and you don't get upset."
--Isaac D. Gonzalez, 6 years old
An interesting debate broke out over the weekend at Johanna Draper Carlson's blog, Comics Worth Reading, in response to a post entitled, Stupid Publisher Tricks: Review Copies and Guilt Trips (and its follow-up, Another Argument Against Review Copies), that took an unnamed creator to task for attempting to make her feel guilty about not having reviewed his unsolicited work:

I know you've never been a fan of my work...but despite that...I took my marketing guy's advice and added you to our review copy list. I just wanted to say that I was quite disappointed when I saw not even a week later that you had both [books] up for sale on Amazon.

I waited weeks to see if you would do the right thing and either write a review (good or bad) or at least contact me to let me know that you received them. All you had to do was say "thank you but no thank you" and I would have paid to ship them back.
Johanna is one of a handful of comics bloggers I genuinely respect, as do many professionals in the industry, so I was surprised by the creator's wrongheaded approach to the situation.

An overblown sense of entitlement isn't something that's limited to continuity obsessed fans, and the worst thing a creator (or publisher) can do assume that their work deserves a review. Challenging a reviewer on anything other than a purely factual level is a no-win situation; the creator is usually the one with more at stake, especially if the challenge occurs in a public forum. While this particular communication was via a backchannel email, the tone of it suggests someone who is prone to getting into public pissing matches*, which is an excellent example of bad marketing.

Remember, "marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them", and that includes interactions with the Press, especially online where Google remembers everything.

One interesting point that came out of the discussion was the suggestion that creators offer "reaction sheets" to simplify the process of getting feedback from reviewers who may, for a variety of reasons, decide to not review a particular piece of work.

A typical reaction sheet I sent out would have sections for the individual tracks on the record, if the DJ/reviewer liked it, how often he played it, if he liked the sound, and what the crowd reaction in the club was.

Like it, hate it, don't ever send something to me again.

That could easily be translated to sections for artwork, writing, design, plot/story, genre and whatever else you want to know. 5-10 boxes filled and one send button later you have your reaction, the reviewer doesn't feel bad and everyone's... well, at least not unhappy.

You can weed out the people who don't like your work, or keep people in mind, who enjoy your art/writing but maybe not the genre of your story, for future output. Also, that's how I handled it, two times no reaction and you're off the list.
This is a great idea, and one I'm going to implement for myself in the hopes that creators (and publishers, publicists, etc.) pick up on it and incorporate it into their regular solicitation process. There have been many times where I've read something that I decided against reviewing, either because 1) it wasn't very good, but not so bad as to deserve being taken to the Woodshed; 2) it defied a brief review but didn't inspire or merit an in-depth look; 3) it was clearly an early effort to build up one's skills and/or resume.

That last one is the trickiest, I think. Because of the relatively low barrier for entry, comics, like poetry, seems to encourage people to "publish" before they're actually ready for broad consumption, resulting in something that is more portfolio piece than viable end product. While I love to read such work because I can sometimes find the promise of something greater to come and adjust my radar accordingly, I have a different set of criteria for judging it that, in the spirit of encouragement, tends to skew a review to seem more positive than perhaps it should be and is more appropriate for direct feedback.

Plus, I do tend to fall behind on things I actually want to review, never mind the things I'd simply like to review because someone asked for my feedback, so the ability to offer feedback without the pressure of an outright review for public consumption is appealing. The prospect of receiving constructive criticism behind the scenes instead of in a public forum should be appealing to creators, too.

So, reaction sheets it shall be from now on when I can't get to a full review; a simple 5-point diagnostic with a sentence or two for each and a brief, blurbable summary:

Comic Book Commentary Feedback

1) Concept
2) Presentation
3) Script
4) Art
5) Synergy

Summary: _________________
Positive feedback I'll likely post here in some manner as a brief review, while the negative feedback will stay between the creator and I. With few exceptions, there's no good reason to savage anybody's hard work, no matter how amateurish it is, unless it's clearly an opportunistic cash grab or ridiculously overrated dreck, in which case it deserves its 40 lashes!

On a side note, I want to point out that Johanna's "How to Review" primer has served as my personal guide to reviewing since I first came across it a couple of years ago and, I think, has served me pretty well in my efforts. It should be required reading for all reviewers.

*NOTE, the second: I'm not speculating on the creator's identity; the linked confrontation is simply an example of how not to handle such situations. For more examples of bad marketing, check out Johanna's Stupid Publisher Tricks archive.

13 February 2007

Mark Your Calendar: Kids' Comic Con

A kid-centric comic convention, in the Bronx?!?! Alex Simmons is my hero!

Kid's Comic Con Slated for the Bronx

Known for his work as a writer of comics, prose and plays as well as an ongoing series of popular kids comics workshops held around New York City, Alex Simmons announced plans to hold the first Kid's Comic Con on the campus of the Bronx Community College, April 28. The first Kids' Comic Con will feature a variety of entertaining events and demonstrations on comics aimed at kids as well as workshops and exhibits focused on using comics as an educational tool for parents, teachers and librarians...

The one-day event will feature a Kid's Corner, where kids can create their own comics; workshops for educators and on drawing for aspiring young cartoonists. There will be exhibits of original art and demonstrations and portfolio reviews by industry professionals. The guest list includes a wide range of comics professionals, among them artists Eric Battle (The Spectre, Batman and Tarzan), Jamal Ingle (Firestorm and Nightwing), Jerry Craft (Momma's Boyz), writer/creator Jane Fisher (WHJC!) and comics editors Joan Hilty, Michael Wright (DC Comics) and Jim Salicrup (Papercutz). Also participating are comics historian Prof. William Foster, novelist and comics industry expert Danny Fingeroth; colorist Chris Sotomayer and many others. The event is receiving organizational support from Bronx Community College; Maurice White and Yumi Odum, organizers of Philadelphia's East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC); Diamond Comics and from the Museum for Comic and Cartoon Art.
On the now requisite marketing note, it's unfortunate that there's no web presence at all for this event yet beyond the PW article and one on Scoop, but there's still time, so I'm going to offer whatever assistance I can give to Simmons now.

Mark Your Calendar: NYCC 2007 After-Party

Last year's PopCultureShock-hosted After Party was so much fun, we're doing it again...Bigger, Better and FREER!

Saturday, February 24th
10pm - Until...?

54 West 21st Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)

** No Cover Charge; No Guest List
** With DJs Dylan Garrett and Mr. Brown
** 2 Floors of Music, Drinks and Billiards
** Free, Exclusive Giveaway from Marvel for the first 200 guests to arrive!!!

[NOTE: Apologies again to those I emailed about this and forgot to BCC the list! Very, very bad marketing!]

On the Shelves: 2/14/07

Reading is fundamental. Don't waste your time reading bad comics out of habit!

In honor of Valentine's Day, my weekly look at select comic books being released Wednesday, 2/14/07 is all about the love. No snark; no bad reviews; just the good, might-be-good and hope-it's-good stuff. As a result, it's a pretty light read, too! The full shipping list, as always, is available at ComicList.

[NOTE: Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one; or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com]


Franklin Richards: Lab Brat Digest

Star Wars Legacy #8, $2.99

Possibly the best licensed comic going right now, Ostrander and Duursema are doing for Star Wars what Busiek and Nord did for Conan.

Forgotten Realms Streams Silver Cvr A #1, $5.50

Okay, this is purely observation not snark, but "WTF?" with Devil's Due's recent price increases? $3.50 for G.I. Joe, now $5.50 for the Forgotten Realms adaptations? That's the sign for me to shift these to trade-wait status, which is bad for them since I was actually buying them along with the floppies.

Battlestar Galactica Zarek #2, $3.50

I finally caught an episode of Battlestar Galactica the other night -- with special guest star, Richard Hatch! -- and was surprised that it was as good as people have said it is. I really liked the NYPD Blue camera work, and Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell are appealing actors who give it some credibility, so I might check in on it now and then. Might even give the comic book a look, too.

Ron Jeremy The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz HC, $25.95

Another regular book listed in the comics section...?

Casanova #7, $1.99

Now THIS is love. Good comics, cheap price.

Franklin Richards Lab Brat Digest TPB, $7.99
Thunderbolts Presents Zemo Born Better #1 (Of 4), $2.99

When you're holding back the snark, there's often so much less to say about the ongoing adventures of the spandex set. Funny that.

12 February 2007

Marketing Monday: A Simple Plan, Part II

Marketing MondayLast week I covered the first three steps of Kevin Stirtz' "Smart Marketing System", focusing on a marketing plan's Goals, Market and Message, and this week I'll take a look at the final two pieces of this simple but apparently often confounding puzzle:

1. The GOALS or objectives you want to accomplish
2. The MARKET you want to reach
3. The MESSAGE you want to deliver to your market
4. The MONEY you are willing to spend to deliver your message
5. The MEDIA you will use to deliver your message
Money and Media, of course, are pretty much inseparable, with the former usually dictating the latter, and they're also the two aspects of a marketing plan most comics publishers seem to approach like a game of darts with Previews ads in the Bullseye, if not representing the entire dartboard.

Simple Fact #1: You have to spend money to make money.

There are many basic marketing efforts publishers can implement at little or no cost, and most of them are relative no-brainers that aren't going to set them apart from the real competition, but will at least give the impression that they're a legitimate publisher with a shot at still being around a couple of years from now.

Marketing No-Brainers

1) Professionally designed logos and trade dress.

2) A non-Flash Web site, with a regularly updated blog; separate landing pages for each title and creator, with links to reviews and interviews; PDF and JPG samples of all titles, current, upcoming and backlist; publisher and creator contact information; release schedules and retailers list; viral downloadables, ie: wallpaper, screensavers, AIM icons, signature banners, podcasts, etc.

3) A PowerPoint presentation promoting the publisher's niche in the marketplace (actual and/or hoped for); titles -- current, upcoming and backlist; creators, awards, reviews, press, etc.

4) Basic marketing materials, ie: business cards, booth signage, brochures, postcards, pins, pens, etc.

5) Well-written, informational press releases with a specific call-to-action.
If a publisher doesn't have these five items taken care of before they solicit their first publication to Diamond (or Ingram, or Bookazine, or whomever), they're simply not ready for prime time. These items, alongside other fundamentals like contracting with a printer and securing ISBNs, represent the most basic aspects that separate the hobbyist from the professional, and without them, your chances for profitability are pretty slim.

And what's the primary goal of marketing? Profitability.

So, that's the no-brainer, stop-reading-now-if-you-don't-have-them-in-order stuff. What about the fun stuff? The display ads in Previews, Wizard, and Entertainment Weekly; the 20x20 trade show booth; the local radio and TV commercials; the t-shirts, hats and private label beer?

All things in time, grasshopper.

Simple Fact #2: Wax on, wax off.

Taking nothing for granted, we have to focus on the fundamentals first. For most publishers, these No-Brainer items represent a significant investment in both time and money, and are the most likely things to be overlooked or half-assed in the rush to the printer.

If you flip through the back of the current issue of Previews, I'd wager that more than half of the publishers soliciting material there don't have all five of these items covered. Even Marvel and DC screw up the informational press release, and almost every publishers' Web site is lacking at least one or two of the items needed to maximize their usefulness as an effective marketing tool in the Google Era. This applies to mass market publishers, too, many of whom have Web sites that were conceived and designed back in the 20th Century and have not been updated since.

Next week, I'll break down these Marketing No-Brainers, showing why they are the most important step in determining the Money and Media portion of our Simple Plan, the crude oil that, once refined, will become the high octane fuel that drives our profit-making marketing machine forward.

10 February 2007

On the Web: Comic Book Movie Round-Up

It's quite likely that Spider-Man 3 will end up being the best superhero movie ever -- an honor currently shared, IMO, by Unbreakable and Batman -- and this clip from National CineMedia doesn't do anything to suggest otherwise.

I think Ghost Rider is going to surpass expectations and turn out to be a pretty good movie, though that acknowledgement may come long after it leaves theaters. It reminds me a bit of ConAir, Nicholas Cage's underrated action romp that reset the bar for loud, over-the-top action movies.

300 looks like it will be a visual masterpiece, not unlike the source material, and with Gladiator far in the rearview mirror, if Zack Snyder and company can flesh out Frank Miller's rather...er, spartan story into a full-length drama, it's going to be a huge hit and Gerard Butler's going to hav free reign to dish out beatdowns to bellhops across the country.

I've still not seen the first Fantastic Four (nor Catwoman, Daredevil or Superman Returns), partly because every preview I saw for it looked boring and uninspired, but the teaser for the sequel not only got me psyched about it, I now want to see the original, too.