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Monday, March 25, 2013 

The Trinitonian sugarcoats publicity stunts

The college newspaper The Trinitonian wrote a fluff-coated take on how the mainstream are handling their products:
“There are too many words in this and not enough pictures,” cried one student.

“Gosh, there are like no words in this. My imagination is not at all challenged,” cried another.

At first glance, these could be very accurate portrayals of college opinions, but these are just straw men. Though these reductive opinions are silly, the sentiment behind them suggests that a medium containing literary and visual elements would fill a void. Instead, this medium — with comic books being one of the more popular formats — carries a stigma of either being for children, or for adults who aren’t very respectable. This prejudice is eroding — graphic novels can now be seen in traditional bookstores — though not quickly enough.

Without mainstream support and with the languishing print industry (the Trinitonian aside, right guys?), publishers have to try to appeal to their readers by using gimmicks, innovation and talent.
But they're not using talent by and large, and those who do have talent are often the most marginalized, while once talented people are succumbing to editorial mandates and other poor steps that make the superhero books they'll work on unreadable. Nor are the recent offerings very innovative - they tell a story that's neither very respectable of the original visions nor very stand-alone. And justifying gimmicks that have so little connection with character drama does not help either.

And the saddest part is that in a way, mainstream comics have unfortunately been stigmatized as being geared for disrespectful adults, thanks to editors/publishers with no concern for their public image. They don't have genuine mainstream support either, or those who write about the medium would be much more objective. Instead, they're selective.
The New 52 is DC Comics’ initiative to draw new and old readers alike. Their entire line of monthly comics was cancelled. Some were rebooted, some were axed, new series started and some old ones revived. In total, 52 different series were released, all first issues. The history of the different universes and characters were made to be more modern and approachable. Critically, the revamp was well-received by reviewers and fans. There are some duds in the new lineup, but overall, the new art, characters, storylines and talent have breathed life into DC’s familiar lineup. The “Batman” series has never been stronger, while weaker series like “Wonder Woman” have been rejuvenated. Even the previously floundering series “Aquaman” has been made into a respectable and beloved series.
What a laugh riot. Batman has never been more pointless with a crossover like Death of the Family that leads nowhere but publicity stunt city. WW is even worse now that the Amazons have been reworked into more savage than civilized. And Aquaman? Even that's been rendered very unappealing by Geoff Johns.
Even before the acquisition of Marvel Comics by Walt Disney Company, Marvel had the largest market share of the comic book industry and the movie industry but even they felt the pressure to draw more readers. The “Avengers vs. X-Men,” Marvel’s big crossover event, concluded in 2012, resulting in massive changes in the comic universe. Marvel used this opportunity to return to issue No. 1 on almost all of their ongoing series. This reboot isn’t as defining as the DC one because it introduces a lot of new things, but it’s mostly a continuation. The most notable series to read are “The Superior Spider-Man,” ”Young Avengers” and “All-New X-Men.”
With contemptuous writers like Brian Bendis at the helm? I don't think so. Their suggestion we read Superior Spider-Man says all we need to know that they see nothing wrong with the publicity stunt guiding the mind-switch by Doctor Octopus to take over Peter Parker's body. And if Marvel's staff really wanted to draw more readers, they would have allowed more creative freedom and changed the format to something more along the lines of paperbacks. Instead, they're turning the business into a closed inner circle, almost like supervillain syndicates, and the insular nature they go by is often reflected in the comics themselves.
The most interesting aspect of the comic industry is the part that doesn’t deal with spandex-wearing superheroes. The writers and artists of traditional superheroes do plenty of interesting things, but a lot of the innovation and maturity come from smaller publishers.
The part about smaller companies is true, though even they have their share of bad items. But the writers for superheroes today are no longer succeeding at anything, either because the editorial mandates have ruined everything, because their creative freedom is severely restricted, or because they're fine with the mandates and their visions match the editors' mindsets to a T.

Sad but not very surprising that a college paper would prove itself no better than a city paper.

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To be fair, Batman sells very well. That is what they mean. Whether or not it's "good" or you like it, it sells. That's what they are in business to do. And as far as Superior Spider-man and All-New X-Men, they are both written and drawn very well. Again, like it or not, they sell.

Still, sales don't add up to quality and I doubt that anyone other than the hardcore fanboys are actually buying those comics.

Sandpiper is a member of the Publishing Marketing Association, (PMA) and listed in Literary Market Place. Our publicists have taught classes in book marketing at UCLA and Pepperdine University and have been featured as book marketing experts in media outlets in the US and Europe.


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