ANOTHER WEEK IN THE COMICS NEWS WORLD
By now, we've read everything there is to read about Paul Levitz. Depending on your point of view, he either saved comics or doomed them for eternity. I think I'm falling on the side of "grateful he was there for a great many things." Nobody's perfect, but the long term good up to this point certainly seems to outweigh the trouble spots along the way.
How about some wild speculation/fanboy thinking: Levitz is out. Will Bob Wayne be next, with an out to write "Time Masters 2" as his going away present? If so, does that open the door to a Marvel/DC crossover? Remember, Wayne said DC would never do a deal with Marvel again while Quesada is at the top of the masthead. Quesada is still there, but if the #1 and #2 men Quesada insulted or otherwise ticked off are gone, doesn't that open the door just as wide? And if the Warner Bros. deal is done so similarly to the Marvel/Disney deal, and just a bit jealously of Marvel's success, wouldn't drafting off some of that popularity be a good thing for DC?
Yeah, that's some wild speculation and hypothesizing right now. Don't hold your breath. I think Marvel/CrossGen is a more likely outcome. (More on that further down the page.)
- Scarier or more exciting speculation: Levitz's departure combined with two behemoth corporations actively in control of The Big Two could easily lead to the destruction of the Direct Market. It wouldn't take much to happen for a repeat of the Distribution Debacle of the early 90s all over again, the likes of which the Direct Market might never recover from. And while part of me hates the Diamond monopoly and the sorry state of so many comic shops these days (not ALL of them, mind you), the thought of dismantling the whole system in relatively short order is frightening. There's still room to succeed, but it would require a radically different comics business.
That's both exciting and chilling. I have no doubts that we'll have a very different Direct Market in five years, if it even still exists. I just hope it doesn't wash away the good while it gets rid of the bad. After all, it's not much help to shift your business away from the comic shops if it's just to move it to -- Borders?!? Yikes!
- Who should replace Paul Levitz? I'd go with Scott Dunbier, but I doubt he'd want the job. He's much happier these days assembling "Family Circus" collections, trust me. And Bob Wayne is in a possibly precarious position, so he's not an automatic.
What the heck, I'd say give it to Tom De Falco. He at least has the right parameters in mind, even if he only half qualifies, at best.
- Ha! I didn't realize Diane Nelson's career prior to Warner Bros. was at -- Walt Disney Records. "It's a small world, after all!" (I know I'm the last one to read that far down her bio, for which I apologize.)
Even scarier, though, is that her first gig at Warner Bros. was with the group that gave the world "Dukes of Hazzard II" direct-to-DVD.
Hey, fanboys, that's who's in charge of Superman now!
- Do you want to be the one in that meeting to explain Alan Moore to Diane Nelson? I'd pay to be a fly on the wall...
- The DC shift is more likely to result in immediate changes than the Marvel sale. Disney doesn't need to swoop in and make major changes right now. They can take their time, do some investigation, and consult with all sorts of people before deciding if they want to push themselves into the comics production racket.
Warner Bros., though, needs to do something fast. The very point of a re-org is to shake things up, make new things happen, and generate results. We've all speculated that a lot of this is in reaction to Marvel's film studio doing so well. DC needs to match that and then beat it on all levels, including licensing and merchandising.
So expect major changes at DC before you see them at Marvel.
- Saw in an ad on my Google Mail screen this weekend that you can now sue Marvel in a class action way! I don't suspect this will go anywhere, but it did raise a point I was thinking about recently.
David Duchovny sued FOX back in the day when reruns of "The X-Files" wound up on FX, a FOX-owned cable network. He alleged that the cable net got a sweetheart deal for being a related company. He thought another network might have paid more, but FOX overlooked that to keep the reruns in-house at a lower price point.
When this Marvel/Disney deal was announced, I was surprised that there was no bidding war. I knew some stockholders would not be happy that Marvel just sold out to the first company to quote a big number. You'd think Marvel would then turn around and ask Sony or someone else to beat it before accepting it.
At least, there's nothing along those lines that we've heard about. And, honestly, perhaps we should be happy that Marvel sold out for a really big number to a company that could handle their properties well, and not just the company that would cut the biggest check today.
- No, Joe Quesada can't say anything. No, this isn't a sign that Disney is clamping down on Marvel. This is High Finance 101, as dictated by the SEC, I believe. They're not allowed to talk about anything until after the merger is done. After that, we'll see what he is and isn't allowed to talk about. Marvel has been a public company for a while, so there have always been things Quesada just couldn't say. That won't change when Marvel is owned by Disney. But during this time period from now until the deal is done, there's a "quiet period" that must be observed. I'm not sure the exact reasons for this, but I'm sure it has something to do with insider trading or corporate malfeasance or due diligence or some such thing I'm never involved in.
Likewise, don't read anything into the fact that he dodged a specific question. The fact that he didn't address the CrossGen question doesn't mean Marvel is working on a new CrossGen line of comics. It means he can't talk about such things, period, positive or negative.
In that interview, Quesada actually talked more than I thought he'd be allowed to.
- What will Marvel's booth look at during CCI: San Diego next year? In recent years, it's been an adjunct to Activision's, right? Will Disney have a spawling megabooth in 2010, including Marvel? Is it too late to start planning such a thing, given that such planning couldn't begin until 2010?
- One correction to my original Marvel/Disney column: Steve Jobs is not the Chairman of the Board at Disney. He's just their largest shareholder. Thanks to Ray for the note on that.
I haven't done all that much in my effort to purge my comics collection in the last month. It's not because I've lost the will; it's due to a lack of time. This weekend, I got back to work, sorting through eight boxes of trade paperbacks and cutting out a "whopping" three boxes' worth.
That's sarcasm, by the way. "Whopping" is more like "underwhelming." What kind of purge is this? I'm barely losing the flab right now. It's tough to let go of some things, I guess. It's easy to get rid of trades that I later bought a hardcover of, or a review copy of something I didn't much like, or some random convention purchase that makes me question my mental stability of the time. ("Really, Augie, you thought that looked good on the con floor? What bill of goods did that creator sell you? Ick.")
Two things jumped out at me that are worth mentioning today, though:
First, I chanced across the box with all the 9-11 tribute books. I bought all three trades at the time, and found myself flipping through them again on the weekend of the eighth anniversary of the attacks. Don MacPherson wrote an excellent blog post about the books last week you should check out. He wondered how much of these books would stand the test of time. To be sure, some of them might seem a little grandiose in retrospect, but they're still great mirrors of all we were thinking about at the time. I can't fault a single creator. Some worked better than others, of course, and there are some with breathtaking artwork that make for a great art book, when all else fails.
I did notice that Jim Lee's contribution was written by Paul Levitz, though. I love it when all these plot threads come together.
Another box I haven't yet decided to purge had lots of CrossGen material. For sure, the trade paperbacks for "Meridian" and "Ruse" will never be purged. But what about "Forge" and "Edge?"
I've been thinking about CrossGen again lately. It frustrates me how the whole thing turned out. By all accounts, the doom was brought on by mismanagement from the top and the desire to get too big too fast. But, sometimes, isn't a crazy vision what's needed to make great change? I don't know. They tried so much cool stuff that I wish more of it had stuck.
"Forge" and "Edge" are two such attempts. These were anthology series (called "Compendia"), put together by combining anywhere from seven to ten issues of different CrossGen series under one cover for the relatively low price of $11.95. They weren't perfect. The compilations seemed a bit random, at times. Why does "Forge" collect "Meridian," "Crux," "Sojourn," "The Path," and "Negation" while "Edge" has "Ruse," "Mystic," "Sigil," "Way of the Rat," "Scion," and "The First?" I haven't figured out the themes there just yet. And the variable thickness of the book is strange. In the two examples I pulled out, one came out to 256 pages, while the other was only 192. Yet both had the same $12 price point. That's not good.
At a time when some fans were advocating the "Supermanga" concept -- making all the Superman titles be one monthly thick anthology series -- this was the first step towards that format. It was another format for CrossGen to put their stories in as an attempt to reach the maximum number of readers in as many venues with as many formats as possible. CrossGen published every comic as a single issue, as a digital comic, as a trade paperback, and also in this anthology series format. Each one is aimed at a slightly different reader. It's smart thinking, with the proper distribution and marketing.
Too bad it didn't work out in the end. Ironically, it was the lack of Hollywood funding for a comic book company that eventually did it under. When I see the stuff that gets optioned today, it really pains me that CrossGen didn't get any movies made.
For more on CrossGen, check out this interview with Ron Marz, courtesy the new group blog, "Trouble With Comics." It's a strong case for the five questions format being far too restrictive. I'd love to hear more on this topic. . . And congrats to Alan David Doane and friends on the new venture, and best of luck to them with it. I'll be reading.
AH, DALE KEOWN
Last week's look back on "Pitt" brought a lot of memories flooding back for a lot of people. And while I had one or two people take issue with my statement that staying on "The Incredible Hulk" would have been a better career move than starting "Pitt" up at that moment in time, I still stand by it. To be clear, though: doing creator-owned work, i.e. "Pitt," is a good idea. The timing and execution were bad, though. Keown's inability to produce any amount of regular work became a liability and eventually shoved him off to the periphery of the comic world. Sticking around on "Hulk" for another year -- even if only doing 10 issues -- would have helped cement his name in fandom's collective mind as a heavy hitter for comics art.
On the other hand, he got in while the money was flowing most freely, so I can't begrudge him that.
Lots of people also brought up that Keown was more interested in music than comics. Given the Pitt music CD that came out, I can believe that. Isn't it funny, though, that the comics world was so floating in money at that time that producing two comics a year gave one enough financial stability to spend the rest of the year working on a music career?
Slumming it in comics to start a music career? Crazy!
My photoblog, AugieShoots.com heads back to Myrtle Beach, with more pictures from my summer vacation. Also, deer!
The Various and Sundry blog has been upgraded now! You shouldn't see any difference, but I'm once again on the latest and greatest version of the software, which has some neat features I hope to take advantage of eventually. Right now, you can read my thoughts on the new "Jay Leno Show."
Don't forget to check out my Google Reader Shared Items. It's the best of my daily feed reading, sometimes with commentary!
More than 800 columns -- more than twelve years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.