Loose Cannon: Issue #14

Fri, April 13th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Larry Young, Columnist

Send This to a Friend

Separate multiple email address with commas.

You must state your name.

You must enter your email address.

WITH APOLOGIES TO THE WHO

The comic book industry is on the brink of…

…well, something.

Warren Ellis outlined it in his "Old Bastard's Manifesto." Steven Grant's taken to calling it "The Year of Blood," which has its charms. My pal Joe Casey talks about it, but mentions Stanley Kubrick in the same breath, so how serious can he be?

Let's call it a "revolution," just to get all grand about it.

Too many folks are just flailing about, rending their garments and belly-aching about how comics are dying without actually, you know, putting their finger in the hole in the dike.

But every revolution has those with a vision… those with clarity of purpose or the wherewithal or the pluck to carry things forward. These people aren't the ones looking for The Big Chair. The kinda folks I'm talking about aren't craving the limelight; they're the kind of people to whom something broken is an affront that must be repaired.

The ones who don't set out to become revolutionaries often make the best, albeit most unlikely leaders.

They are Men of Action.

If you read this column, chances are you also read Savant, so this may be a little redundant, but we shall note in passing that Matt Fraction, one of the three editors of Savant and front man and mouthpiece for all that is Good and True in comics, has stepped down from his post.

He is not abandoning The Good Fight, but rather is gathering his forces to wage it on another front.

So while Matt pauses to roll up his sleeves and tighten his belt and get his second proverbial wind, let us all take a minute and reflect on the fine job Matt has done getting the word out about good comics to read, but also underlining the message that comics are good to read. It needed to be said, and it wasn't being said loudly enough until Matt and Dave and Alec put Savant together.

Join me in a toast: to Matt Fraction.

Man of Action.

[Bill Jemas]
Bill Jemas
At the other end of the comics spectrum, you've got your guy at Marvel. You may recall that back in the very first Loose Cannon, I said I'd have my eye on Bill Jemas, the current publisher of Marvel. I was cautiously optimistic, those thirteen weeks ago, that despite his never having had two profitable quarters to rub together, that the addition of Joe Quesada and Stuart Moore and Axel Alonso to the ranks might help Jemas pull The House of Ideas out of its creative and financial spiral.

Let's check in, shall we?

The latest gas can kicked into the fire by Marvel, of course, had been their limited over-print policy. In an attempt to increase retailers' up-front orders, Jemas announced that over-prints are a thing of the past, and that a retailer had better order all the comics they think they can sell initially, because they aren't going to be able to get more if they sell out. What the guys behind the counter call "just-in-time" ordering will go bye-bye for Spidey and his ilk. Marvel's thinking is that they can artificially inflate the numbers and make themselves look attractive to FOX or whoever while increasing their share of a dwindling marketplace.

What this did, however, is place the financial burden on the retailer, by making him bet, three months before they come out, on the exact number of Marvel comics he can sell.

Even a savvy retailer can guess wrong here and end up with a bunch of unsellable inventory…

And a smart retailer's just not going to put the livelihood of his shop on the line for that sort of smoke-and-mirrors sleight-of-hand from Marvel. Which ends up with the numbers not showing the surge Marvel expected, and the retailers loudly and vehemently explaining to Marvel why this is A Bad Thing.

Jemas gets on his weekly conference call and says, and this is a direct quote: "It was sort of an IQ test for retailers - you can count the digits in their IQ based on their enthusiastic response to the no-overprint. The smart guys who like to make money are very happy with the increased overall consumer interest and with the just general increase in Marvel's quality that's really directly related to the additional dough that we have to spend on top creators. And then you have the other end of the spectrum, and they speak for themselves pretty constantly, so I'll just leave it at that."

Let's look at that again.

To paraphrase: "Retailers who don't agree with me are morons."

And since a fan can't buy a comic his retailer doesn't stock, most hip publishers know that the retailer is his first customer. Know how to best ensure your comics aren't stocked? Insult your customers. Ergo, retailers cut orders on Marvel books. The opposite of what Jemas was hired to do.

And I thought I was a loose cannon.

Got a lot of email from people last week who took offense at my misspelling of Jackson Pollock's name off and on throughout the column. This wasn't on purpose; it's just that one of the most superlative comic stores I've ever had the pleasure of going into is Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, Maryland, owned by the sage-like and well-spoken Joel Pollack. While Jackson is an esteemed and rightfully well-regarded painter, I submit that Joel has done more for comics and has thereby earned the right to be forefront in my brain.

A special tip of the loose cannon to Clemson professor Allen Swords who not only took me to task for the misspelling of Pollock's name but also invented an excellently entertaining, although ultimately convoluted, assumption as to why I had so willfully misspelled it. When advised that this was merely an unfortunate typo, we exchanged thereafter a few quite pleasant emails. Hopefully, users of the Internet worldwide can learn from this lesson, that not every "insult" is what you make of it, and reason and civility should be the order of the day in any case even in the most adversarial circumstances. Just in case, you know, there was an innocent misunderstanding. I commend you, Professor Swords.

As a University of Georgia football fan, though, I still look askance at Clemson, no matter how much gentility their faculty comports themselves with in correspondence. How 'bout them Dawgs! Woo!

In order to stave off yet another volley of emails, I will note that the use of the word "dike" above has nothing to do with lesbians.

Most weekly email I get is from woman prisoners, students, and other shut-ins who either are proposing marriage (I'm taken, ladies!), emphasizing my love for run-on sentences and split infinitives (it's an informal compositional style!) or otherwise mostly miss the point of whatever admittedly tenuous thread I weave, and comfort themselves with hounding me to explain the hidden meaning behind the impenetrable column titles. Instead of telling them that some readers LIKE to puzzle over them, or to read the column's every fifth sentence backwards for the secret messages, as I usually do, I'll take pity this week and note that the title of this week's column, of course, refers to The 'Oo's rarities, B-sides, unreleased tracks, and oddities collected on "Odds and Sods."

You know, in reference to there being four short ruminations here, instead of the usual one long rambling one.

That email address, again, is:

Rant-filled, barely-composed, hate-fueled invective about this column should be sent to larry@comicbookresources.com

I saw The Dish the past weekend, and I rather enjoyed it. Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton star in a quirky and ultimately uplifting tale about the Parkes radio telescope, that fateful day in 1969. Interestingly, I gave a little start when the title card read "July 21sst" until I realized that in Australia, that really was the day.

Click on http://www.ait-planetlar.com, and I swear the webmaster will update the site with new content sometime this weekend. Really. What else is he going to do now that his real-job stock options are worthless and even though I told him the fat lady was singing while he started? Pining for the days when he could stare, obliquely at the screen in his cube? Ha! He can get to work for me, now!

Finally, I hope those of you who go home on Sunday to a big baked ham and some games of cribbage and a couple of hours of looking at pictures of your aunt's latest trip to the Adirondacks have a happy Easter with your parents.

Loose Cannon Home | Loose Cannon Archives

 
Loose Cannon