Robot 6

Superman #703 turns out to be kryptonite for Cincinnati retailer

Superman #703

A few weeks ago, Cincinnati retailer Kendall Swafford sparked a debate at ICv2.com when he took his DC Comics sales representative, by name, to task for the publisher’s lack of promotional support for Superman #703. You see, that’s the issue in which the Man of Steel swings through the Queen City during his much-ballyhooed cross-country trek. And Swafford’s store is named … Up Up & Away.

“Why isn’t DC on top of this?” Swafford asked. “Why isn’t someone from DC Entertainment playing the point man and helping to coordinate efforts to increase sales of the book? This book, if nothing else, plays on our feelings of civic pride, the same way we collectively share in the winning ways of local sports teams.”

DC didn’t send posters of the comic’s cover or offer help to coordinate press releases or line up an actor to play Superman, he complained: “I’m not looking for someone to do my job for me, I’m looking for someone on their end to help realize this book’s potential.” Several retailers chimed in to defend the sales rep, and to point out it’s not his job to handle publicity, leading Kendall to question the position rather than the employee. “That DC had no one from publicity, sales or even janitorial playing point man on this Superman event is frustrating to me,” he wrote in response to criticism.

However, Swafford didn’t let his frustration with DC get in the way of promoting the issue or his store, located in the Cincinnati suburb of Cheviot (it’s “a one-square-mile town within the city,” he explained). He teamed up with organizers of Saturday’s Cincinnati Comic Expo to promote the issue in Cheviot’s Harvest Home Parade, hired a Superman actor, printed banners, sent out a press release. Cheviot Mayor Samuel Keller even declared Sept. 15 as “Superman Day.”

There’s just one little problem: DC revealed that Superman #703 won’t be released this week, as originally planned, but a month later (there won’t be an issue at all in September).

“We immediately send out corrected press releases,” Swafford wrote this morning, “try and reschedule my Superman actor, call the mayor’s office and, fifty dollars later, have a corrected banner, just in time for tomorrow’s parade. [...] Now, in DC’s defense, they really couldn’t care less about any of this. It’s not like they broke promises to me to help promote the book in my town. They ignored me completely, so I guess they can delay the book with impunity. I would talk to my DC sales rep about it, but he stopped calling me. (Some of you probably think I deserve that one, right? Wrong.)”

At least Swafford’s sales representative is no longer the sole focus of his frustration. Now writer J. Michael Straczynski gets to bear the brunt of the blow.

“Naming names got me a lot of hate mail last time, but … I know for a fact that as of August 18th, the day DC’s The Source blog announced that Cincinnati was Superman’s next destination, there was no script. 28 days to go, and J. Michael Straczynski had not turned the script in. Gotta be penciled, inked, lettered, colored, printed and shipped in 28 days. This is the same J. Michael Straczynski that has very publicly proclaimed his love for Superman, who can’t/won’t/didn’t turn the script in on time. Famously late on Thor, never finished The Twelve, loves Superman more than any other comic character, and he isn’t living up to his end of the deal. Straczynski made me a Thor fan, and I didn’t think that was possible. So I was genuinely excited to see him move to DC and take on the Man of Steel. But if you can’t stand the pressures of delivering twenty-two pages every thirty days, write someplace else. [...] Ultimately, I think it’s about taking responsibility. DC can’t get the script in on time? Fire the guy. He’s one writer. A very good writer, perhaps, but just one writer.”

Superman #703 is due in stores on Oct. 13.

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40 Comments

I’m with Kendall.

It seems no one at DC considered the marketing opportunities as Superman visits real cities. I bet they’re discussing it now, though!

I really sympathize with Kendall Swafford. All his points are valid. He’s even right about Straczynski — a professional comic book writer should be able to turn in a story on time once a month. It’s not a 300-page novel.

Superman #702 was pretty poor IMO, so maybe some extra time polishing the story will benefit #703?

Mysterious Stranger

September 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

This guy is going to get taken to task for saying the same things fans say in situations like this and it will probably hurt his business. Personally I feel the same way about creators being allowed to let their schedule slide like this. I work in accounting paying the bills for the company and if I delay processing an invoice and the payment is late you better believe I get my ass chewed. Why doesn’t this happen in comics? Why, if comics is a business, is it run like a hobby?

Oh and that stuff about DC not promoting the comic that features his city? Sounds like he managed to do it himself without help from DC so I don’t get why he’s upset. Its not an event book, its just another issue in a year long storyline. Now if Superman was going to die or kill a puppy or something in this issue then yeah DC should promote it. But it sounds to me like this guy wanted DC to promote the book for him. Would he care so much if Superman strolls through Denver and DC fails to promote it? I think not.

This is what JMS posted to his Fans of J. Michael Straczynski Facebook page the other day:

“As I’d mentioned downstream, I lost almost two months to a recurring problem with bronchitis which we seem to have finally gottan in hand, and slipped a bit behind. It was for this reason that I canceled going to Fan Expo in Canada in order to catch up. I’m now caught back up again, and actually a bit ahead. The writing tends to slow down when I’m too sick to drag my carcass to the keyboard.”

And when the poster said that he’d thought it was the artist’s fault JMS wrote:

“Nope, Eddy’s terrific. I’ve been fighting this freaking lung thing for almost two years…it’d be fine for a few months, then recur…going from flu like symptoms, to a lung inflammation, to a lung infection, to walking pneumonia, to pneum…onia, and then to acute bronchitis. So we had to really dig in hard to stop this from becoming recurring bronchitis, because that’s just not on the to-do list. I quite literally wasn’t getting the air I needed…for a bit there, my lips were tinged blue. Now at last I understand why I’ve been so low-energy these last couple of years, and have so often fallen behind. This was also the source of the problems that kept me off several panels at last year’s SDCC.

So we hit it with every kind of antibiotic on the planet, plus various steroidal inhalers, and it looks like we’ve finally beaten it. I’ve been clear for a while now, and have more energy than I’ve had in ages. I’m working to get ahead now so there’s a cushion in case it’s ever needed in future.”

I completely agree with Kendall. Straczynski crafted a storyline that was clearly designed to bring new readers in and by placing stories in locations around the country handed them a great opportunity for local interest. They knew that from the very beginning.

But DC has consistently been very weak in pursuing opportunities to promote their product and expand their market. I found it interesting that Warners was promoting unrelated on CDs on Smallville several years ago, yet in 9 years has never promoted the comics that the charactors came from. The same has been true of their films. Years ago, when I worked in film exhibition, requests to tie into the comics or comic retailers would fall on deaf ears and anything you did had to be done locally, with no more resources than a movie poster and typically following a long list of guidelines. Keep in mind that DC (and every publisher) as much more to gain than any single store and therefore should bear some of the burden of promoting their product. This is how it is done in every other industry.

To give credit where it is due, at least DC will co-op advertising costs with stores on a limited basis. That is more than any other publisher will do, even though I understand it requires so many requirements and paperwork that most retailers do not take advantage of it.

This industry will never expand until the publishers themselves start realizing that there is a huge population beyond the fans that visist their LCS each week and take responsibility for reaching that market.

Well JMS comments aside I can agree with some things mentioned about DC’s marketing team and sales rep. This book has been weak thus far. Point blank. It’s not like we’ve never had a Superman that’s not “beating on the baddies”. Even those were better than this. Criticism outta the way… As far as making this book exciting for the fans (at least the fans of cities named) isn’t even close to happening. So what you want about Kendall Swafford, in someways he has a point.

I feel for the retailer. It is unfortunate that JMS got sick. However, as bad as his Superman has been I wouldn’t think that the issue would win any fans any way.

I wonder how much the story will connect to Cincinnati anyway. Some comment about Cincinnati-style chili or the riot from a few years ago? Maybe Superman will pitch for the Reds? Maybe Superman will get lost on his walk and end up in northern Kentucky by accident. That seems to happen to me nearly every time I go to Cincy.

I always preferred “Queen City Comics”, but that’s because it was in a more accessible location.

Having had respiratory problems of my own for decades and a debilitating cough for the past 2-1/2 years I can relate to what JMS described and I feel sorry for him. Now, having said that, I haven’t been knocked out by his work on Superman so far but I was looking forward to the Cincinnati issue of the book since the last superhero I can think of that came to Cincy was Captain Marvel back in the 1940′s.

I work in a business that lives and dies by the attention it gets, and I have a saying I’ve lived by since college:
“I’ve been a whore for many things that did not care about me, and I will be damed if I will not be a whore for the things I love.”
Point being, Kindall can be pissed all he wants over this, but HE did the right thing LIKE HE NEEDED TO, to promote HIS business.
Shouldn’t really expect anyone else to do it.
DC, on the other hand, seems to have forgotten they publish a monthly comic

Even if you hate his current stories on Superman, a fan must admit that they are certainly unusual and rather crafty—considering 70 years of Superman stories.

I have mixed feelings myself, as some parts of the stories work well while other portions are quite illogical….

No matter what, JMS please get better! (and I love what you’ve been doing with Wonder Woman!)

I actually disagree with everyone here. It’s not that i love what JMS is doing, because I don’t. However.
, it really isn’t DC’s responsibility to promote their books outside of the retail venue.
DC’s responsibility in terms of promotion ends with selling their products to retailers. Just like with movies, The Producer of a movie is only responsible for delivering the product to the distributor. The Distributor has the responsibility to sell the movie to the public. It is the retailers responsibility to advertise the products they “choose” to carry (Choice being the optimal word) to their customers. DC provides promotional material to the retailers, sales incentives to the retailers. There is no “DC comics” retail outlet. they’re a wholesaler, they generate a product for sale.
He took it upon himself to try and promote the issue to bolster the traffic to HIS Store. He didn’t do it out of civic pride. He didn’t get the official go ahead from DC so he took it upon himself to do this. Fine and had it worked out to his advantage Kendall Swafford wouldn’t be complaining right now. He’d be bragging about how he put this event together and crowing “why can’t DC operate this way”.
The fact is that it’s not their job to, honestly. People forget this sometimes because of the accessibility of fandom that occurs in this business. They think that DC attends conventions to appeal to fans, when they do it to sell to shop owners. Fans get to benefit from their presence at conventions.
Instead of getting on DC , Marvel, or any other publishers case about why they don’t do more to fans, maybe retailers should actually do part of the job that the better shops do and ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS!! People don’t buy comic because they don’t know where to buy them. THAT’S part of your job, just like any other business.

“However, it really isn’t DC’s responsibility to promote their books outside of the retail venue.
DC’s responsibility in terms of promotion ends with selling their products to retailers.”

Uh, no it doesn’t, but thanks for giving DC’s marketing department yet more weak excuses for not properly supporting their own products. You should see if they’ve got any more openings for shiftless layabouts over there.

J. Michael Straczynski

September 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

To expand upon what some others have posted upstream…for the last two-three years I’ve been fighting a recurring lung situation that would knock me out of the box every few months. The diagnoses went from just flu-like symptoms to a lung inflammation to a lung infection to walking pneumonia to full-blown pneumonia to acute bronchitis. It kept me in my room for most of SDCC 2009, where I missed several panels because of it, for a while made it iffy if I’d be able to make it to this year’s SDCC, and caused me to cancel Fan Expo Toronto in order to catch up on work.

In order to finally stop the recurring problem before it turned into chronic bronchitis, we hit it with every kind of antibiotic you can think of, powerful enough to stun a police dog at twenty paces, and a bunch of inhalers (steroidal advair and albuterol/pro-air being the main ones) to dig it out. For the first time in almost three years, it looks like we’ve beaten this damned thing. My energy level is up, and I’m charging through pages. So yes, I fell behind due to this…but I’m now not only caught up, but I’m now ahead of the game, turning in pages well ahead of art needs. My goal is to be 2 full issues ahead by NYCC.

Swafford made no attempt to contact me. If he had, I would have told him this. I haven’t made much of a deal of it because, quite honestly, I don’t like to do so. It’s my problem, nobody else’s.

Main thing is, as stated, the thing looks like it’s finally beaten, and I’m back ahead of schedule, which is the way I prefer it to be.

As for 703, while some of the story does take place in Cincinnati, I moved the bulk of the story to Danville, since that’s where S&S went to school together. It would be a loss to miss that opportunity.

It shouldn’t be up to the retailer to ask the writer of the comic, it should be DC not being dicks and letting people know about the delay BEFORE the Monday before the book was solicited to come out. I get vibes of Civil War #4 being delayed and no one knowing about it when this is mentioned.

“DC’s responsibility in terms of promotion ends with selling their products to retailers. Just like with movies, The Producer of a movie is only responsible for delivering the product to the distributor. The Distributor has the responsibility to sell the movie to the public. It is the retailers responsibility to advertise the products they “choose” to carry (Choice being the optimal word) to their customers. ”

Oh, really? Just like with movies, huh? I guess you’re right…except that no movie theater in America promotes the films they play. The company that produced the movie, in many cases Warner Brothers, pays for the advertising barrage. The hundreds of commercials for Knight and Day that peppered your television for a month, at least? Do you think that the movie theaters paid for those?

J. Michael Straczynski

September 13, 2010 at 3:17 pm

They weren’t “being dicks,” they/we/I hoped we would still be able to make that ship date, and were racing to try and get it done. (Contrary to Mr. Swafford, there were pages in hand well before the 28th, and I have the emails to prove it.) It wasn’t until pretty much the last minute that the math went against us and we had to surrender that date.

J. Michael Straczynski

September 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm

BTW, Superman 703 was the only issue to be delayed; WW 603 is scheduled to come out on time, and that one is also ahead on script.

Hey, Mr. JMS person, best wishes for a full recovery. And thanks for stopping by.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment on this, and thanks especially to Mr. Straczynski for chiming in. I am A) sorry it was an illness that caused the delay on the book and B) happy to hear you are recovering your health and able to return to work.

My naming of names seems to keep distracting the conversation from my main beef; that DC has missed an opportunity to promote this storyline to people outside of our inner circle of comic book fans. Civic pride is a strong motivator for many, many people. Seeing an iconic figure such as the Man of Steel in a real city, MY city or YOUR city, is something that doesn’t happen every day. And with my store named Up Up & Away!, it would seem idiotic of me to miss this opportunity. I simply wondered why DC wasn’t of any assistance, and questioned why their Sales department couldn’t do something to help.

Having the book delayed not once, but twice, after the machinery had been put into motion to promote the event, was frustrating beyond belief, and I think most of you would agree. I never once thought, hoped or expected DC to do my job for me, I did expect them to want to assist a forward-thinking retailer in moving more of THEIR product. Comic books have been published on a regular basis now for 75 years. As a retailer, I see the havoc that late-shipping books cause, and the erosion of interest among the fan base is tangible. The reasons may be unfortunate, sometimes tragic, but a better communication from the publisher would go a long way in keeping a situation such as this from deteriorating even further.

Ultimately, Mr. Straczynski’s health is no one’s business but his own, and I appreciate his honesty and candor. I spoke with repesentatives from two different departments at DC today, and I think we can all agree to try and move on and move forward in a positive way.

J. Michael Straczynski

September 13, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Mr. Swafford –

Thank you for the reasonableness of your response. I know that DC has wanted to do more direct coordination with stores and the regions in which the story is taking place. It’s a big job, and a big country to cover, but they’re working hard to pick up the slack. I think you will see some improvements in this area.

One side note (and a correction to a post above, where I typed the wrong name for a town)…and this may be something you can utilize to help promote the book and comics in general…though 703 starts in Cincinnati, it then moves over to Glenville, just east of Columbus. More specifically, it features Glenville High School, which is where Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel first met at the age of 16. (We’re using the actual facade of the building and we set some of the story inside the school.) This seemed to me a fitting tribute to that fateful meeting.

So if you wanted to pick up the slack at that end, you could contact and work with the folks at Glenville to promote the book and comics to the media in and around Glenville, and especially to the students at Glenville High.

And next time there’s a concern…as noted above, my email address isn’t exactly a state secret. Feel free to drop a note and if you’re upset about something, feel free to vent it to me directly. I’m a big boy, and I don’t mind, especially if I can help or clarify something.

jms

Hey JMS! Instead of wasting time posting on message boards, why don’t you finish the Twelve. I’m not buying anything else you write until you do.

I’m an Ohio native: Glenville is the EAST CLEVELAND neighborhood where Siegel and Shuster met. There may be a suburb of Columbus of that name, but it’s nothing to do with Superman. A typo JMS? If not, that’s a huge historical error, especially as people of this area take pride in their history–and need to do so more on the occasions when they don’t. Believe me, East Cleveland needs the Man of Steel.

If this isn’ a typo, I hope DC editorial would know better than to let this huge error go unnoticed.

Straczynski wrote: “BTW, Superman 703 was the only issue to be delayed; WW 603 is scheduled to come out on time, and that one is also ahead on script.”

For me, that’s small comfort; contrary to some of the posters here, I’ve really been enjoying Straczynski’s SUPERMAN (issue # 701 was the best Superman story I’ve read in at least a year), but I really can’t stand his WONDER WOMAN so far; it has a character in it named Diana, but she’s nothing like the character I’ve loved for most of my life, and actually reads more like a Top Cow/Witchblade-type story (minus the good-girl art).

As for SUPERMAN, I’m looking forward to # 703, with the hope that after two excellent done-in-one issues, Straczynski will begin to build some kind of story arc, since he’s always excelled at that in the past.

Urgh. As a lifelong Ohioan and longtime comics person, I always thought Shuster and Siegel met in Cleveland, where they both lived and went to school. Did they both live near Columbus at some point in their childhood? If so, this I know a lot less about ‘em than I thought I did.

Kendall, you’re always getting yourself into trouble…but you’re still the world’s greatest retailer!

I have to say I’m incredibly disappointed to hear the issue will only take place breifly in Cincinnati then move up to Columbus (Cleveland?) for the rest of the issue. Cincinnati takes great pride in itself, as Kendall said, and to have Superman walking through our streets, eating our chili and Graeter’s ice cream would have been exciting. I sincerely hope it’s more than just a narration box saying he’s here. Anyway, I love your work JMS and glad you’re feeling well again!

I can understand if a comics creator misses a few deadlines; we live in the real world where things like being sick CAN prevent you from delivering on time. That’s why you need to have other people at hand to do fill-ins. It’s only when you have a lot of unjustified misses that you have to reevaluate if he or she should be working regularly.

On the other hand, there have been several incidents in recent years where comic storylines get delayed -most famously when *all* the Civil War tie-ins where skipped by a month due to late art delivery on the main series- where we see the Company itself bending FAR too much over backwards to fit in a creator’s schedule than the other way around. The fans wouldn’t have accepted ONE issue of Civil War with a guest penciller? REALLY? Or were they more concerned on how it would make the inevitable trade collection look less perfect? Also what happened with having several issues “in the can” with a few months head precisely to avoid this kind of thing from happening? I’m sorry but the way I see it is that this is more DC and Marvel’s fault than the writers or artists’.

If JMS’ email address is so easy to get hold of, how do we do so? I really would like a correction on that Columbus/Cleveland thing. It’s worth getting right (and I don’t see any reason why he or anyone in a position to fix it would still be reading this thread).

Oh, really? Just like with movies, huh? I guess you’re right…except that no movie theater in America promotes the films they play. The company that produced the movie, in many cases Warner Brothers, pays for the advertising barrage. The hundreds of commercials for Knight and Day that peppered your television for a month, at least? Do you think that the movie theaters paid for those?

No Movie theaters, advertise their locations in the Newspapers and online. And yes the movie theaters pay a partial cost for it. The distribution company pays for the ads. Not the producers. Warner Bros. is a distributor, not a producer on most of the movies they put out.

Uh, no it doesn’t, but thanks for giving DC’s marketing department yet more weak excuses for not properly supporting their own products. You should see if they’ve got any more openings for shiftless layabouts over there.
@KET Yes it does. DC’s job is to sell their books to retailers. If they were selling comics directly to customers I could see your point. Frankly it’s not for you to judge how they should be promoting their books and to whom. DC Supports their books all the time, it’s fan think that says they should be doing things like arranging “Superman Day” in a small town in Ohio and getting actors the dress up in costume.

Ken B.
September 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm

It shouldn’t be up to the retailer to ask the writer of the comic, it should be DC not being dicks and letting people know about the delay BEFORE the Monday before the book was solicited to come out. I get vibes of Civil War #4 being delayed and no one knowing about it when this is mentioned.

@ Ken B.
File it under “shit happens”.

@ Guy Fumetti: Technically speaking, DC *is* the distributor of its books and Diamond is only the broker (ie: its sales representative to the retailers) — which is true of the relationship between Diamond and all of its premiere publishers (except, IIRC, IDW). So all of those things that you mention are a distributor’s responsibility with regards to promoting the comics to the public and helping retailers to promote comics to the public are, at least with regards to your comparison of comics to the movie industry, DC’s responsibilities.

J. Michael Straczynski

September 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Cleveland/Columtus…IknowIknowIknowIknowIknowIknowIknow…it was a brainfart typo, like typing Danville instead of Glenville. It’s right in the script, wrong in the post, I was thinking Cleveland and wrote Columbus. Why? Because I’m an idiot and because there are far too many big cities in Ohio that begin with the letter C (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus). When writing the script, I even went to Google streetview to get a look at the school (which technically is the Glenville Middle-Senior High School).

That’ll teach me not to proofread my posts.

Well, at least there won’t be any typos in THIS message.

mjs

J. Michael Straczynski

September 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Goddamnit…

jms

Thanks, MJS! And, by the way, I for one really appreciate that you thought to take him to Cleveland. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the list of cities under consideration and the Cleve wasn’t on there. And don’t worry about Cincinnati: Browns and Bengals fans have been sneering at one another for a while now. We can handle this one, too.

“But DC has consistently been very weak in pursuing opportunities to promote their product and expand their market. I found it interesting that Warners was promoting unrelated on CDs on Smallville several years ago, yet in 9 years has never promoted the comics that the charactors came from. The same has been true of their films.”

No kidding. Do you think Dan Didiot, or anyone else working at DC, even heard of The Dark Knight? Considering they did NOTHING to tie into the movie, and then took Bruce Wayne completely off the table a few months later (preceded by some really shitty storylines that weren’t new reader friendly at all) I’d say not. Even after it became the second biggest movie ever, DC acted like the movie didn’t even exist.

So, Superman is going from Philly to Detroit to Cincinnati to Cleveland to Des Moines…?!? Seems like he’s zigging when he should be zagging.

So that’s what the deal is. I tell you, I have been looking high and low for #703. I finally decided to investigate my situation because no one had any clue as to why the #703 was not anywhere. Politics and drama. I’ll be around in October.

Hmmm….

Just bought issue 703 and it says Danville, not Glenville. Wow.

And as I live across the river from Cincinnati and work downtown, I was looking forward to this book to see the “sites.” no such luck, just one panel basically to distinguish the city.

And it seems like such a missed opportunity to not have used Union Terminal in Cincinnati. Anyone recognize this building? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinnati_Museum_Center_at_Union_Terminal

What a waste of research, time and story … especially to get key facts wrong.

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