''I'm not a comics insider.'' A personal perspective of the Marvel Retailer Rally

Thu, October 4th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

[Editor's Note: This past Monday CBR Contributing Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick attended the Marvel Retailer Rally for CBR. In addition to representing CBR at the event and talking with retailers and editors we also asked Kelly to go as a fan and share her experiences with CBR visitors. Here's Kelly's in her own words. - Jonah Weiland]

I'm not a comics insider. Honestly, I don't know from comics retailing, marketing or any of that hoo-ha. I read comics, and I'm lucky enough to know a few creators, and that's pretty much the extent of my funny books connection. So when I was offered the opportunity to attend the Retailer Rally as CBR's "man on the inside," I felt, well, grossly unqualified. It was kind of like I had the chance to be the one who snuck in and smuggled out the microfiche - except that I hadn't a clue what microfiche looked like!

I went over the assignment again: listen and take notes. Um … okay, microfiche is fairly uncomplicated then? I can do this.

I geared up to face the enemy. The enemy, you ask? Oh, yes. I'm a DC girl, you see. For no other reason than when I started reading comics I was 8 years old and my mom was bribing me with Wonder Woman. I started with DC and with DC, I stayed. I have a freaky kind of brand loyalty. Since I was a DC girl, Marvel was bad.

So, right - the enemy: Jemas and Quesada. The bad guys. Monsters, out to destroy the industry, from a lot of what I'd heard on my hang-out message boards. Right, well, I could take them! I was prepared to write down every little nasty thing that they did and said.

Except that they didn't really do or say anything nasty. In fact, they were - dare I say it? kind of charming. Jemas kicked the whole thing off by acknowledging his reputation and having a laugh at it. When one of the retailers at the Q & A was upset about how little the big companies were doing to advertise comics as a medium, and his question was branching into a hundred other questions like a gremlin hit with a fire hose and everyone was becoming restless and uncomfortable, Jemas came in with a calm voice, answered the question the best he could in the time remaining and offered to have lunch with the guy - right there and then. Um, that's not an evil guy response.

Queseda failed me, too. He was supposed to be kind of smartass jerk, right? Oh, come on - like I'm the only one who's heard that. Well, I was ready for it; I was LOOKING for it. I … didn't see it. He claims to be a "non-denominational comics promoter" and that's pretty much how he came across. He hyped Marvel, sure, but he also sang the praises of Oni Press, Image and others. Image. He GAVE the Image Presentation! His battle cry wasn't "DC sucks!" (I baited him, actually, at the cocktail party and couldn't get a juicy negative out of him), but "fix the inside." "Fix the inside!" is Queseda's answer to how to save the industry. Not the inside of the distribution system, though, hey, I'm sure he has opinions on that, his agenda is to fix the inside of the BOOKS.

Tell a better story. Offer a superiour product. How can you argue with that?

Eric Dion, of Richie's Comic Cabana, seems to think Queseda's plan is working. "When people ask me what's good, I point to Marvel and they laugh at me, but I tell them no, really: Look." According to Queseda's numbers, they don't just look; they buy.

Marvel editors Axel Alonso, Stuart Moore, Bronywn Taggart, and Jenny Lee each did their part to screw with my concept of the Evil Empire. Each editor sat down me individually and went over their upcoming books. Alonso was so psyched about his upcoming Deathlok book. Guess what? This guy loves comics. He wants them to be really good reads. He almost sparkled talking about it. It was embarrassing, frankly.

Marvel's Marketing Communications manager, Bill Rosemann, sat down with me at the close of the event and explained the history of the Marvel overprint policy in layman's terms. He went over why some of the retailers don't like it and why the majority are supporting Marvel's policy. I don't have any idea if the business logic behind his theories holds up, but I'm convinced absolutely that Rosemann believes that the policy is a Good Thing, not just for Marvel, but for the retailers and the industry.

I went in search of the enemy and found myself surrounded by what looked pretty much like Good Guys. Is it possible that they snowed me? Sure it is. But I don't think they could've faked their enthusiasm for the medium and that's pretty much what made them Good Guys. Am I gonna switch my allegiance to Marvel? No. But I'm thinking I might pick up that Heroes book. And Moment of Silence. And Captain Marvel looks pretty good …

 
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