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