10 January 2007

Much Ado About Cowboys & Aliens

I knew a lot of people in the comics industry didn't like Platinum Comics' Scott Rosenberg, but holy cow!

Comics writer A. David Lewis (the excellent The Lone and Level Sands) absolutely flipped his lid last Friday upon seeing Entertainment Weekly's sporadic comics sales chart showing Cowboys & Aliens in the top spot, according to Midtown Comics:

"What smarts most is that C&A is listed as the top-selling graphic novel. Yes, Entertainment Weekly crowns it as #1.

First, that's crap. I think we all know that's crap. And, by 'we,' I mean people who actually go to comic book shops on an almost weekly basis to stock up on the newest, the best, and the guilty pleasures (not always mutually exclusive). Even folks who are only casually aware of the comic book industry -- as either a consumer, a producer, or a critic (again, seldom mutually exclusive) -- know that this is crap. Entertainment Weekly naming Cowboys & Aliens is the #1 graphic novel is like saying Girls Gone Wild Spring Break Sex Riot is the #1 DVD over Pirates of the Carribbean."
The whole post is an apoplectic rant of Fanboy Rampage-level proportions, as Lewis misrepresents the chart and takes a slash-and-burn approach that unfairly slams the book itself -- a solid bit of inoffensive entertainment that's not going to make anyone's Best of lists -- while effectively implicating Midtown and EW in a payola scheme, and representing Platinum as the worst thing to hit comics since Pat Lee's Porsche. I wrote him an email when I read the post (click over to this comments section to read it and the follow-up) and his response made it clear that he was trying to ring the alarm, seeking to spread the word as far and wide as possible, including starting a thread on The Engine that was quickly closed due to, ironically, some unrelated petty sniping between a couple of creators.

In the days since, the usual suspects have picked up the story and Journalista's Dirk Deppey took the rare step of actually investigating the situation, contacting Midtown and Platinum directly for comment and ultimately revealing what was, at worst, an example of the usual "marketing" trickery comics publishers use to inflate their sales.

One thing that seemed lost in all of the coverage was that it's not the first time EW has printed such a list, as Johanna Draper Carlson noted back in July -- when the much-loved Brian Wood's DMZ topped the Golden Apple Comics-derived chart to congratulations all around -- and as far as I've always understood it, their comics coverage is much more a labor of love project by staffers who happened to enjoy comics, as opposed to their revenue-driven coverage of film, TV and music. I mean, it's not like Marvel, DC or any comics retailers are, or ever will be, spending significant money advertising with them.

It would be a really sad thing if Lewis' off-the-mark post has any negative effects on EW's comics coverage in the future. He's already pissed off at least one innocent bystander on Platinum's payroll, while Golden Apple Comics retailer Ryan Liebowitz posted a comment in support of Platinum's marketing campaign, so he ends up coming off as a conspiratorial crackpot with an axe to grind. Considering comics is such a small, incestuous industry, that's probably not the smartest thing for an up-and-coming writer like himself to be doing.

UPDATE: Lewis has posted a follow-up that I just noticed, where he takes an unapologetic step backwards that should draw some interesting comments. Or not. Meanwhile, Steven Grant offers a sensible, not to mention informed, take on the situation.


Erech said...

haha lol@the comics inturwebs. Wow, I hate these people soooooooo much.

Thanks for the laughs though Guy! :)

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

It's been a surprisingly laugh-filled year so far on the comics inturwebs, no?

Now get back to drawering!

Erech said...

I'm drawing, I'm drawing!

James Meeley said...

Just another shining example of how the "inturweb" has given a very large soapbox, for those who ought to be kept from speaking publicly.

Maybe, someday, the MATURITY needed on here, will come to match the techonlogical side of things. Sadly, i fear that day is much farther off than we would like to think.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I don't think this falls into the usual immature fanwank category, though. Lewis comes off like he's on a torches and pitchforks mission and Scott Rosenberg is his Dr. Frankenstein.