Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #58

Sun, July 12th, 1998 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

INDUSTRY HYPE AND MAGAZINE

Recently, WIZARD MAGAZINE published their list of the 25 most powerful people in comics. As with most such lists - take AFI's Best 100 Films, for example - it is compiled to start people talking, not necessarily to be definitive. (What the hell, I'll give Wizard the benefit of the doubt on this one. Knowing them, they probably DO think the list is definitive.)

I just don't think WIZARD will like some of the discussion this list is going to lead to. There are many of us who believe WIZARD left the true #1 off the list:

WIZARD MAGAZINE.

There are things in this industry that frustrate me to no end. The fact that the things which pay off handsomely are not necessarily the good things.

Here's your basic formula for a winning book in this industry today:

Take out a full page ad in WIZARD. OK, now you've got WIZARD's

high-priced attention. (A full page ad will run you in the

thousands of dollars.) Make sure that which you're producing is

digitally colored, painstakingly color-separated on a Mac somewhere, and features either a cast of teenagers or a solo female - or a mix of the two.

Announce big-time names are going to be working on this project. The bigger the better. If you can't hack that, announce them as cover artists or "conceptual designers" or "co-plotters." You just need their name attached to the book. Don't worry - it won't cost you much. This is where the genius begins. You might even be able to get Brian Augustyn to write your book, so you can attach Mark Waid's name to it! Genius!

Cancel the book after six issues. Begin with a new number one, citing market needs. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, at least announce a "startling new direction." Barring that, get a new artist. This time make it somebody nobody's ever heard of, declare him to be the next Todd McFarlane or Jim Lee or Art Adams. Odds are pretty good that he is, having learned to draw by copying images from those three people. Don't believe me? Take a look at the works of Joe Madureira, Dan Fraga, Mel Rubi, Todd Nauck, Fabian Laguna (See the Swipe of the Week site), etc.

Anyway, start up a new number one and let this one run for a little while. You should notice interest in the title sharply decline after your first year's storyline is done. (Actually, it'll be dipping before then, but Internet interest will keep the book published until that twelfth issue gets out.)

Then you can repeat the whole new artist/writer/title thing again. The brilliant thing about this is that everytime you change a writer or an artist or you outright cancel the book, your name gets mentioned. First the "Rumor Mill" starts with rumors of what might be coming. That gets your book publicity for a couple of months. And as long as they spell your name right...

Then you start, as the publisher, leaking little tid-bits. That keeps interest alive for another month or so. Then you can make an

announcement. WIZARD will put that in their news section. The next

month they follow up with an interview with someone on the title. Maybe even a cover. A couple of months later the new book premieres and there's another interview or story slated to coincide with this new happening. A couple of months later, they offer a 1/2 issue. 4 or 5 months later there's another interview just to see how things are going. As a creator, it's your mission to answer the silly questions posed to you by Wizard for their letters column in the meantime. ("Boxers or briefs?" "What's your favorite cereal?")

By the way, in case you're lost here: It doesn't matter if the book is any good. Nope, it can be complete crap. If you follow all of the above suggestions, it won't really matter.

If the creator soon becomes more popular than the book, the creator can then spin off into a new title. Make sure he at least partially owns it, so he'll look so completely 'jazzed' about this new title his publisher 'is letting' him do. (For the sake of humility, make sure the artist in question remarks about how surprised he is that the company is 'taking this chance' on him. How he has an unproven track record, despite drawing a top ten selling book for years now. Then print some kind words after that from the publisher declaring absolute faith, knowing full well that the plug will get plugged well before the fourth issue should sales not materialize quickly enough.)

Of course, the new title ain't all that different from the original title. It'll still feature scantily clad females whose breasts only get covered up by, say, the churning water she's swimming through or some well-placed kelp. This is opposed to his first series in which the scantily clad female's breasts were covered by two skeleton hands.

While you're at all this, don't forget to sell the movie and/or TV

rights to somebody. You're better off if they never make the show,

though. This way you get the additional press, you keep the fans

excited, and the ultimately unfulfilling piece of crap shoestring-budget production that inevitably follows superheroes around doesn't spoil it for everyone else. We won't get stuck hearing the headlines in the papers about "BAM! POW! Superhero show stinks!" (Thankfully, judging by the still shots, the JLA pilot will most likely never see the light of day.)

If, however, you stick to writing and/or drawing the same comic

featuring the same character for, say, 50 issues, you're screwed. The only possible way to get more coverage from WIZARD and the press at large is to take over the writing reigns of two or three Marvel and/or DC titles. Ask Erik Larsen. All of a sudden, he's in the Top Ten Writers column.

OK, maybe that's not entirely fair. There have been a couple of

interviews with Larsen centering around the SAVAGE DRAGON since it

began, but they were isolated incidents, and in general poor interviews, centering on the controversy and the outrageous moments instead of everything else the title has going for it.

But the fact remains that comic books are like sports these days.

Nobody wants the 'old' stadiums. No player stays on the same team longer than a season or two because, hey, where's the interest or the money in that? To hell with the fans. We'll just start over anew somewhere else. Nobody wants stablility. That's not excitement.

Jim Lee gets more press for drawing three different series in three years (and 6 issues or less per series) than does an Erik Larsen, who writes and draws 50+ issues starring the same character for 6 years. Joe Quesada gets more publicity for drawing, well, pretty much NOTHING in three years, than does a Dan Jurgens, who writes Superman for decades-on-end. John Byrne gets publicity for skipping around titles like a mad man since NEXT MEN. Heaven forbid we even think of paying any attention to the Duck books, which have been a tradition in this country for something like 60 years. There's no attention paid to Carl Barks, who could tell a story twice as well as anybody I've mentioned in this column so far. There's no attention paid to Don Rosa, who's a media god over in Europe and whose stories appear best over here but who gets no attention for his painstaking craft. (BTW, Todd McFarlane's the only exception to this rule, but he does nothing anymore in comics other than play Stan Lee to Spawn. He's too busy to actually draw or write anything. He's got an empire to build.)

What the hell's wrong with this industry? You make the call.

-Augie, taking deep breaths and counting to ten now

ADDENDUM: Ok, in the heat of the moment I probably made a big mistake up there. (And thanks to Dan for reminding me.) John Byrne did last for three years on Wonder Woman. Even if it was mostly crap, he did stick with it. However, this does make my point even further. Past his first storyline, how much coverage did Byrne get for the title? Did anyone point out how long he had lasted on the title or do a feature on Wonder Woman? Nope, it got ignored and became old hat. Go figure.

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