Sunday, October 04, 2015 

Lessons may be learned about Marvel's success of yesteryear, but not from Riskology's coverage

A website called Riskology wrote a small history piece about Marvel's business of the past. Unfortunately, there's some flaws in here, such as this one about the Human Torch:
If they called him crazy, it wasn’t for long. Martin [Goodman] worked hard to develop his leadership and intuition for products that could go big, and he knew he had a hit when his writers delivered the star character in his new magazine: The Human Torch.

If this story is starting to sound familiar but you can’t quite place it, The Human Torch went on to become a founding member of The Fantastic Four—one of the longest lasting and most recognizable comic brands in history. It’s owned by Marvel Comics which, you guessed it, is the name Martin traded for Timely Publications in 1961.
Pardon me, but the original Human Torch of the Golden Age was a robot named Jim Hammond, built by a scientist named Phineas Horton, who could later be seen as a co-star in The Invaders, Roy Thomas' WW2-based title of the late 70s. The name was later used by Stan Lee as the codename for entirely new, different hero Johnny Storm, when he and Jack Kirby created the FF in 1961. And even then, they still kept the original Human Torch around. So this is one of apparently many so-called history items written by somebody who couldn't be bothered to do the research that's quite possible to do, and would've shown just what their story development history was like in better times.

They don't do much better when they bring up the business angle of Marvel:
In 2009, Disney bought Marvel Comics for $4 billion. Yes, billion with a b. And if that’s not impressive enough, Marvel had lost its way and gone bankrupt just a decade earlier.

In a way, the Marvel story is a perfect reflection of every great comic book. Good has been defeated and it seems evil prevailing is a foregone conclusion. Just as the scene is about to go dark, a hero appears. They’re unwilling to go down without a fight. Time is short so the hero springs to action. They quickly ready themselves for battle, they rally the townspeople around them and then, against all odds, they defeat the evil intruder and happiness is restored.
I'm afraid that's only so from a business perspective. Their storytelling quality declined in the 1990s, and continued on a bad path before and after Disney bought them. Just what has Disney done to turn that around? Nothing. The publishing arm is clearly expendable to them; only the movies and merchandise they can adapt from their library matters to them. And that has to be the real reason they were bought out. Bob Layton once said he believes it's only a matter of time before they decide to just drop the original comics altogether, since it's not like they would need newer material to conceive a movie screenplay anyway. That's the sad reality about comics - they're not considered great reading material. They're only considered great movie wellsprings.

So to say it's a perfect reflection of every great comic is merely a joke. Real life doesn't function the same way.

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Saturday, October 03, 2015 

Several tweets by Chris Ross

Ross is a digital director for IDW and Top Shelf Comix, an important reminder that smaller companies have their share of bad apples too. And here are some fishy tweets he posted in the past 2 weeks:

Oh, that's classic. What matters is that the kid was deliberately going around with the casing, scaring everyone at the school even after being asked to put it away, and this angered many at the school grounds. No doubt many parents were offended too. Richard Dawkins said the teen was pulling a PR stunt, and his former teachers say he was a troublemaker. But I suppose Mr. Ross doesn't see that as anything to get pissed about. As for "elaborate" plans, his former teachers say he developed them himself.

Yeah, tell us all about it, please. We could all do without these particular publicity stunts, which are the worst of their kind. According to this info found by BizPac Review, he didn't even invent that would-be clock.

What's that supposed to be, some kind of leftarded victimology? I'm not impressed. He then added the following about the awful shooting this week at the Oregonian university in which the gunman deliberately targeted Christians:

Neat trick there, trying to suggest the NRA support socialism or something. I'd sure look forward to Mr. Ross supporting apostates from Islam, for example, and stressing the positive example of working to make something of yourself in the world (which he just so happens to be doing, you could say; he does work for a publisher, after all). As noted earlier, the people whom the gunman targeted were Christians, and he was clearly anti-religious too (albeit not an Islamist). Doesn't Mr. Ross find that worrisome? Here's yet another industry insider whose world view is pretty poor.

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But there's no education problem, Marz?

Here's what always reliably leftist Ron Marz has to say about gun control, and little else, in his own reaction to the terrible shooting at a college in Oregon:

And no problem with poor educational curriculum anywhere, right, Marz? Not even overseas, where the maniac apparently came from?

When it's noted that a sheriff investigating the tragedy doesn't want to mention the monster by name, Marz says:

Maybe we shouldn't have to mention the shooter by name, but here's something to ponder: we should know what kind of ideological background he came from, shouldn't we? In his case, it was one that espoused anti-Christian sentiment. According to CNN, the shooter also hated blacks, despite possibly being of mixed race himself, and was frustrated with women.

On the other hand, if there's anybody who could be remembered by name, it's the victims, and even the hero who plowed into the shooter to stop him from causing more horrors. How come Marz doesn't recommend that?

Then, in response to the news that the sheriff on the case wrote to Joe Biden in protest of gun control laws, he says:

He may not have known or remembered what the sheriff said earlier, and the above is probably the best way he can think of to get around his initial comment. He predictably refuses to consider that a lot of criminals get their weapons through the black market, and that's what we should really be worried about.

Also, the Federalist (via Accuracy in Media) notes that the Oregon campus was a gun-free zone. Yet, as we've seen, the gunman managed to get onto campus with firearms, and nobody else had one to defend themselves with, not even the one guard working at the time. Yet Democrats are objecting to assigning armed guards to schools, and simultaneously show no interest in improving educational curriculum. Sadly, this still makes no difference to Marz, who continues to make more superficial complaints rather than challenging ones.

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Friday, October 02, 2015 

Films about the lives of mangakas

The Japan Times wrote about a subgenre of movies that deal with the very lives of the mangakas who write and illustrate all the manga books coming out of the far east (usually called "mangakamono" in Japan).

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Thursday, October 01, 2015 

Sales growth slows down

Publisher's Weekly tells how sales for the industry have been getting slower again, and if it's mainstream we're talking about, that shouldn't be surprising:
Despite Diamond's solid figures at the Summit--the event drew 25 publishers and some 450 attendees, representing 250 stores--many publishers are dealing with a host of issues. Some have been in response to retailer complaints about complex marketing gimmicks and late shipments. And recent layoffs at Archie Comics, as well as tepid sales following DC Entertainment's recent superhero relaunch, suggest a general softening of the market.
Now should that be any surprise? I think they know DC's reboots were only intended for short-term gain and didn't come with dedicated, talented writing. Even the artwork's open for scrutiny, right down the editorially mandated costume designs that make the outfits look even duller.

It's interesting to learn Archie's let go of some employees, which proves their attempts to stay relevant aren't working. It suggests they may be on their way out in the future, and they'll have only themselves to blame.

The panels also brought up the topic of variant covers, and here, they only discuss it from a superficial business perspective:
At an industry panel on Thursday featuring representatives from DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW and Image—the five largest comics publishers—variant editions was the big topic of debate. Many publishers produce variant editions, commissioning popular artists to create multiple covers for a single issue, but the ordering process for retailers can be cumbersome. (Retailers can sometimes obtain variants by ordering them separately. However, in certain situations, they are only available as an incentive to order multiple copies of a less desirable title.) The resulting complexity of ordering has drawn increasing criticism from comics specialty retailers. Marvel’s Star Wars #1 had more than 100 variant covers, making it an extreme example of the problems surrounding variant editions.

Image’s director of retail sales Corey Murphy drew applause at the panel when she announced that Image will no longer be doing variant covers. Marvel senior v-p of sales and marketing, David Gabriel, also hedged on variants, saying his company will make it's much-hyped promotion involving hip-hop themed covers--the covers are based on famous hip hop albums--simpler to order. “We realize we made it too complicated,” he said, noting that order thresholds will be lowered 15-20%.
What's the point of keeping on with variant covers? Unmentioned is how many of them are sold to speculators who think they'll really have retail value someday, when it's long become clear they won't. Certainly not if the story inside is awful. Naturally, speculators have to shoulder some blame for keeping this nonsense going.

But if Image realizes now why it's best to stop, they're doing right there. At a time when the prices are getting higher and audience shedding, it'd be too expensive to hire so many artists to do multiple covers for one mere book. What they should really do is pick the most appealing artists based on the subject inside the issue and go with them. And the artists who weren't chosen shouldn't be jealous because they didn't get the gig. I suppose smaller companies are starting to understand why variants won't have long term payoffs. But the big two may still be keeping on with it.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015 

Sexual harrassment in the medium could occur when it's so overlooked

A writer for the Mary Sue wrote about a problem that's probably been going on for years. There are some flaws at the start though:
The comics industry is in deep trouble. Not because it isn’t getting taken seriously, it is; the sheer volume of comic book movies, novels and articles about comics can attest to that.
Or is it? What about the comics themselves? They sell so poorly, you can hardly take them seriously based on that fact. There have been times over the years when Saturday morning cartoons were considered source material for movies (like the Scooby-Doo films in the past decade). Comics as a wellspring for Hollywood is just another example of how they'll look everywhere for something to avail their moneymaking machine, yet isn't necessarily doing it as a favor for the zygote.
It isn’t even that comics aren’t making money. Sales are up in many key ways, women are in particular buying more books than ever before, and that holds true for PoC as well. Independent comics are selling more than ever. In some ways the entire industry is in the best place it has ever been in. So why is the industry in deep trouble?
I'm afraid whatever money they're making is peanuts compared with other mediums like movies and music, so don't try to gloss that over. Plus, paper's becoming so expensive these days.
The people that actually make the comics we read–the business people, editors, artists, scriptwriters, and colorists are almost all men. Let’s clarify this further–almost all are able, white, straight, cisgender men. This is reflected in the representation of gender in comics; only about one in four comic book characters are women, they appear approximately 30% of the time compared to male characters. It’s even worse when it comes to PoC, and worse still for LGBTQ+ and disabled characters in comics.
Oh please. As seen of recent, the big two are going far out of their way to pander to LGBTQ mindsets, but never to Moldovans or Portuguese. And this piece misses a big point about the panderings that are taking place: they're not sold on talented writing merits, just on "diversity". Putting that in just dampens the main issue that matters more. Though I have to say that's an interesting idea to bring up the disabled: they've had many chances to introduce co-stars who're blind, deaf and even people coping with asthma and muscular dystrophy (I once had the latter problem when I was 15 years old), but all they care about is shoving LGBT propaganda down everyone's throats without asking whether it's a healthy practice, and the ideas the writer's talking about only seem to concern costumed superheroes.

And are all the contributors men? If she'd pay attention to some of the past folks like Ramona Fradon, Ann Nocenti, Louise Simonson, Karen Berger and Jan Duursema, not to mention Jeanette Khan, she'd know there have been some, and those contributors were of far more respectable caliber than those of today. But if she argues women are becoming marginalized at the majors, I can concur with that.

So let's go on now to the main issue at hand:
According to a source I spoke to for this article who wished to remain nameless, one of the most senior editors at DC is known by management to have multiple sexual harassment allegations already in his HR file. Instead of firing someone who has behaved inappropriately multiple times, DC has, according to my well-known source, stopped hiring women who would have to work with him. This offender was kept in the DC offices when DC made the move from its New York City location to Burbank–possibly because he’s not the company’s worst offender.

There is allegedly another employee still working at DC who allegedly assaulted a woman multiple times in his office. The woman concerned reported him multiple times to management at DC and the person who hired her, but didn’t receive the support she needed and eventually left DC altogether. Instead of firing the alleged offender for his actions, DC, I am told, moved him from comics to another department. It was apparently considered more important to shield the man involved, than to offer support to the woman. The man allegedly now works under a tacit rule where no women are allowed alone in his office.

According to another source who requested anonymity, another DC editor is allegedly renowned within the industry for the way he ‘mentors’ women (his ‘process’ allegedly involves sleeping with them). This has reportedly been going on for years, and is considered an ‘open secret’ at the company. But it’s not just DC. According to another source, Marvel Comics employs a non editorial staffer who staff now apparently seat away from any women at events. He’s well known for his wandering hands, and they tend to wander up the legs of women nearby without asking for consent first. The same source told about another Marvel regular who worked on very prominent titles in the 80s and 90s is well-known for inappropriate touching.

Marvel’s recently-announced Red Wolf title has also become a very public PR disaster for employing a publicly named and accused abuser. Many readers feel Marvel is forcing fans to choose to either support a diverse book knowing that they are also supporting the abuser, or not support the book but hurt the sales of a diverse comic. It’s a situation that could easily be avoided by Marvel removing the problem individual and then continuing with the title, but the easy solution has not been publicly discussed by Marvel.
As anybody familiar with their output since 2000 knows, the big two published screeds with angles offensive to women in the past decade, among other atrocious, sensationalized trash. So if these complaints have any meat to them, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise they're capable of translating their fanfiction nightmares into real life offenses (and almost 3 years ago, there were two cases that was almost similar). At the same time, it may not be too surprising that some women could overlook the issue too, like DC's current head, Diane Nelson, who's done nothing to improve them in any way.

In fact, that's something the writer's probably not considered: those women who are in higher positions at the big two don't seem particularly concerned with what goes on in the office below, and are throwing other ladies under the bus, which makes them complicit in an offense. If they could serve as apologists for reprehensible storytelling, it should be no surprise they could be such a letdown with real life problems to boot.

And one can only wonder: how many of the offenders alluded to in this piece worked on screedish books like Identity Crisis, and even the Spider-Man story where Dr. Octopus switched brains with Peter Parker? It wouldn't be a surprise if this turned out to be the case.

The writer even says there's homosexual harassment going on in at least one smaller publisher, and these descriptions, be warned, are pretty graphic:
Two different sources told me the same story involving a smaller press. I can only reveal the specifics of one story, as one of those sources asked for some of the information to be withheld. The man involved allegedly has a drinking issue, is deeply disliked by staffers, and has reportedly grabbed employees’ crotches (and in one instance, licked an employee’s ear) without permission. Multiple incidents have happened in public, but for various reasons I can’t discuss those at this time. I was told two other stories about small independent press, but was asked not to give that information out. I’m not sure what it takes to be a guy and get fired from a comics publisher but I know it must take a lot.

Lack of diversity in comics is being reinforced by the industry’s failure to support victims of harassment and its protection of abusers. The volume of abuse within the industry has created a culture of fear and protectionism, and although women and people of color are the usual targets, that’s not to say men have not been affected too. I was told a story by one source of a straight guy getting his crotch grabbed by another guy. The comic book industry is small and very set in its ways, and we have a situation right now where the abusers keep getting rehired but those trying to blow the whistle are blacklisted.
It's pretty amazing that a largely leftist website known for smear attacks on conservatives and apologia for political correctness is willing to acknowledge homosexual assault does exist. Especially since the writer says she's a transgender woman. I suppose we will have to cut them some slack. Nevertheless, this is still a website that's got otherwise untrustworthy people working for them, and plenty of stuff you can't just take at face value.

If these cases are true, then as always, it beggars belief why the victims keep working at companies that protect abusers. If the former DC staffer whom she said quit her job there did so, why didn't she go the police? I'd think that somebody who wisely left a perverted grotto would know that, if the offense was severe, she should by all means turn to police to file a charge. And shouldn't worry about being blacklisted. Some prices are just too high to pay for getting a job at companies who own our favorite universes.

Of course, don't expect any of the most knee-jerk creators to comment on this or speak out against the big two, even indirectly, because they're already so corrupt themselves, the chances they'll help out are close to nothing. That's why cleaning up DC/Marvel is going to be a very long trip.

And even if more people of different racial background are hired for jobs, that won't ensure sexual abuse in the medium goes away: even men of different racial backgrounds can either commit the crime or turn their backs on it. The key to stopping the problem is challenging the companies to prove they're not going to blacklist anybody who speaks out.

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Monday, September 28, 2015 

The dhimmitude of Paul Levitz

Another desecration DC's modern staff is now performing on their universe is with their new, very PC take on Dr. Fate: that the character now wearing the costume is apparently a Muslim, and that only makes the New 52 even more repellent:
The new Doctor Fate book is giving us a Muslim Egyptian-American 20-something in the title role, which is pretty exciting. The preview not only lets us into Khalid “Kent” Nassor’s world as he deals with med school looming over his head, but also sets up the larger conflict of a potential flood that could destroy civilization. The art is enjoyable (like Black Canary, it pushes away from the house style) and I’m already intrigued by the plot.
Sounds like yet another ignoramus who's predisposed to liking their directions no matter how tasteless. And they even just had to make the current character's name a deliberate takeoff of Kent Nelson's name. As for the art they speak of, it looked very dull and unappealing.

Levitz was interviewed by 13th Dimension, and he tried downplaying the Islamic angle:
To me it makes a world of sense that Doctor Fate — or, more precisely, Khalid — is a Muslim hero. Not everyone sees it that way, unfortunately, so I do want to address the 800-pound gorilla: How much do you think that has affected the sales of the book?

Is he Muslim? He’s the son of an Egyptian father and an American mother, and until you read issue #4, you won’t know much about how he sees his religious heritage. The immigrant journey to assimilation usually has some interesting twists for attitudes towards religion, and we’ll see where this all takes Khalid.
Even if he's not an adherent to Islam, there's no chance they'll ever speak negatively about the Religion of Peace here. Besides, this was one of the same men who, when he was still more of an executive for DC, saw to it that they'd collaborate on a project with the Kuwaiti propagandist who published "The 99". The part about attitudes actually gives more reason to worry than it does to assure otherwise.

And Levitz also recently gave an interview to Newsarama about what they're doing with the current protagonist now, and said:
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell readers about what's coming up in Doctor Fate?

Levitz: Much more, I hope, including some world politics, a bit of perspective on religion (how exactly does a self-proclaimed but obviously powerful Egyptian 'god' fit in a religion like Islam, for example), and so much more if we get the chance.

The book's gotten good reviews and critical buzz – I hope your readers will help spread the word, and push the title to where it can sustain a fairly long run. It's hard to launch a non-major-franchise hero these days, and we can use all the magic your powers can provide.
Any realist can guess positive reviews of this new take were deliberate; the medium does suffer from the same kind of corruption now that video games do. Levitz, who only confirms with that interview something's rotten here, used to be a very decent, reliable writer in the 70s and 80s, but since the mid-90s has become a pure disaster and a joke when he took up the job of a publisher. I've had to take his earlier work with a grain of salt, as a result, much like with Gerry Conway. He's also making the mistake of selling the book based on its starring a "non-major-franchise" character, instead of marketing it based on the merits of his writing, which haven't been so good in a long time, or, he's lost whatever talent he once had, not unlike Chris Claremont, whose own writing efforts of the past decade weren't inspiring.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015 

Created for marketing reasons only?

Comics Should Be Good brought up an interesting topic about why the X-Men cast member Bishop might've been created. It was assumed for a while that it was for marketing reasons, and originally because Marvel wanted a black hero in the X-Men, even though they already had a black heroine in Storm. (And in the end, Bishop became an Aboriginal Australian.)

Even though the original "legends" weren't really true, this is certainly the case today, where you have replacement characters of different skin color/gender/sexual orientation shoehorned into the roles originally starring whites/heterosexuals/males. The new "diverse" characters are, in their own way, conceived more for marketing reasons than as their own agencies, and come with no talented writing, another reason why they're not winning over any of the crowds they think are interested.

And the irony about Bishop is that he was, in a way, still created for a marketing reasons: characters like him and Gambit, as I've figured, were created more for the TV cartoon makers to use as an idea laboratory than they were as protagonists back in the pamphlets. But in the end, what good did it do them? If the original template wasn't conceived well, then it's only bound to taint the adaptations to other mediums later on.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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