Pipeline: Pipeline2, Issue #4: Your Man @ Marvel

Fri, July 2nd, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

HOUSEKEEPING

Response to the past couple of Pipeline2 columns has been overwhelming. Some of it has been, well, worthy of columns unto themselves. Thanks for all your lengthy and well thought out e-mails. So please accept this public apology:

The short replies to them I'd be able to muster just wouldn't do justice to the thoughts and opinions you've sent in. I think there's another column or two to be had from some of your e-mails. I'm just taking a week or two breather from the topic. There's so much to write about and so little time. Please know that I have read all the e-mail. I hope to respond to some, if not all, of it. I just need to find the time and energy to do so. Some of your e-mails will even find their way to future columns. So hang in there.

But for those who are sick of distribution talk, I give you this week's column. It's an angry ranting tirade full of name-calling, harsh judgments, opinionated blathering, and vitriol. And this is the toned-down version from the rougher first draft.

Enjoy.

THE RETURN OF PIPELINE IDIOT OF THE WEEK AWARD

Congratulations to the Anonymous Coward, Your Man @ Marvel. This mouthpiece for Marvel, disguised as some sort of wannabe-Matt Drudge, managed in the past week to say one of the dumber things I've ever heard since Dan Jurgens blamed low SUPERMAN sales figures on the Internet. In Your Man @ Marvel's latest column, he managed to perpetuate the myth that DEADPOOL was saved by a reader write-in campaign, blame Erik Larsen for the untimely demise of NOVA, and sound like a complete shill for Marvel.

Now don't get me wrong. This person is a complete shill. Appearances to the contrary, all he does is take whatever press release Marvel wants to put out and rewrite it in some cool mysterious atmospheric language. He's not a newshound. He's not Beau Yarbrough or Michael Doran or Rich Johnston, even. He's a Marvel mouthpiece. Marvel grants him what amounts to an exclusive on all their big news, and he runs with it once a week, putting together a column which masquerades as being big news and which everybody picks up on and runs with later that day. In exchange, Marvel gets some extra hits on their web page, they get a weekly news column to compete with all the other larger comics web sites, and they make themselves look cool.

But, as with almost everything else Marvel-related, it's a sham. Heck, I wouldn't even doubt that there is no single Man @ Marvel. Maybe each editor writes his own contribution and someone cuts-and-pastes the whole column together, making sure to keep it all in the same tone and language. (On the other hand, if anyone knows our Marvel Man's identity, feel free to write me. I'll even keep the secret, if you like. Just satisfy my own curiosity. Please. =)

Anyway, this week, our clueless Idiot of the Week Award goes to Your Man @ Marvel for the following bit of wonderment, in response to a reader's plea to save NOVA:

"To begin, by making the announcement on his own, Larsen himself may have helped bring about the demise of the series. How so? Simple. As soon as retailers hear a book is going to be canceled, most cut their orders, assuming readers will drop it... which many readers do. So before we can wait for the latest numbers to come in to indicate otherwise, or before we can start a "Save DEADPOOL" type effort, the orders are cut by those that place them. Bottom Line #1: while we appreciate creators' excitement and attachment to the books they work on, any sort of publishing announcements should come from the company itself. There are concrete reasons for this process."

First of all, does anyone out there truly believe DEADPOOL was saved by this "letter-writing" effort? Can anyone with a straight face say that this wasn't just a wonderful bit of Marvel publicity? Has anyone else ever heard of a company losing money on a book deciding to spend more money to establish a web site to help make it so that they can continue to publish the money-loser? DEADPOOL is an X-title, first and foremost. If nothing else, it would work as a wonderful loss leader. This "campaign" by Marvel was just a cheap publicity campaign to boost sales on the book so they could keep it going for another couple of months. If the fans had organized the letter-writing campaign, nothing would have happened. They could have received just as many letters and sales might have gone up just as much, but the book would have died. After going through all the "trouble" of establishing a corner of their own web site to save one of their own books, Marvel would look really cheap in canceling the book. All the fans would have also complained that Marvel was jerking their collective chain.

Back to NOVA:

For starters, I don't think Marvel did that great a job with the book. Yes, they did a great job in promoting the hell out of the first issue. After that, they quickly moved the star artist off the book to their new M TECH line, which I'm guessing right now will be dead by its twelfth month, at best.

And as for what Erik Larsen said, I'll quote from CBR's COMIC WIRE of 27 May:

"New Warrior Nova's battles may be ending soon, according to series writer Erik Larsen, who told fans this week that chances of the Marvel Comics title continuing beyond issue seven are "slim," citing poor sales.

"Ultimately, in the case of a book this new," he said Wednesday on the message board on his Web site (http://www.savagedragon.com/), "It's the retailers NOT the readers who decided this book should die. They didn't support it, all the while bitching that the only new books that Marvel gives them are X and Spider books - which are the only ones they buy in droves."

The book was dead at that point, folks, even if Erik had said nothing. Erik didn't announce any cancellation, just that if sales didn't pick up, it would be canned. It was a plea for more readers, not an excuse for readers to jump off.

But now to step away from Your Man's lunacy for a minute, let's talk about Fanboy Lunacy. You're really enjoying a series. The writer and artist have been working together for a small handful of issues, but you're enjoying it. Suddenly, it's announced the creative team is leaving in another 6 issues. You still have 6 issues of a creative team being together on a book you like. So what do you do? Stop reading?!? What're you -- stupid?

If the book's enjoyable, why do you stop reading it because you know it's going to end eventually? It's craziness! Every creative team leaves a book after some period of time. Even Chris Claremont left THE UNCANNY X-MEN after 15 years. Did you not buy X-MEN #1 because you knew Claremont would only be around for the first 3 issues?!? Judging by the sales numbers on that book - the best selling comic of the Modern Age - I'd say not.

Now, if the book were "on the bubble," then this might just be the time to drop it. Fine. I can understand that. But why deprive yourself of something you like just because it's going to end eventually? Why not jump off a bridge now and end it all? You know, I think my life is pretty good. But I just realized my own mortality, so I'm giving up now.

Huh?!?

(Now time for the Clueless Idiot Warning Message: I'm not comparing the very real and serious matter of suicide with something as frivolous, by comparison, of what comics you read. But the logic holds just the same.)

Back to Your Man:

"What is involved is the question of whether the book makes any profit at all."

Wrong. And I believe it was HEROES FOR HIRE that proved that. Marvel decided last year that a profit wasn't enough to keep a book running. It was necessary to be making a bigger profit. When your company has been fighting back the bankruptcy demon for as long as Marvel has, I suppose you can't blame them.

"As for NOVA itself, information on whether it is canceled or not will be included in the next edition of the Marvel catalog (in the pages of Previews)... exactly the place where such information is supposed to be released."

Excuse me while I choke back the vomit this paragraph induced . . .

I think something else Your Man's rant misses completely is the new media of the Internet. Isn't that ironic? News is delivered instantaneously, in public. Creators can make pleas to their readers for help, as Joe Kelly did with DEADPOOL and Erik Larsen did with NOVA. They can alert the unwitting readership when editorial changes their scripts, as Mark Waid did when Marvel rewrote his CAPTAIN AMERICA script.

Not everything can happen under the controlling thumb of the marketing or publicity department. News is broken nearly everyday on some new series that is being developed or some radical changes in direction an established one is taking (LEGION). Creators are freelancers, and as much as companies would like them to keep their big mouths shut and be happy corporate cogs, it ain't happening. It's just that today with the Internet, the creators finally have a way to get their news out in a big way.

The only thing these companies can do to prevent some tragedy like this is to break their own news faster. Heck, if Your Man did a better job at "breaking the news," there wouldn't be this problem. Oh, but that's right: He's not a newsman. He's a shill. Masquerading as a newsman.

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