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Quote of the day | Tom Brevoort on what fans are entitled to

Tom Brevoort

[Reader question:] Why do writers persist on doing controversial directions/stories that are disliked by fans? We pay good money for these books, so we should naturally get something we enjoy. Consumers shouldn’t feel compelled to vent frustration about their purchases.

[Tom Brevoort:] Writers don’t do stories specifically to piss off fans. Writers write stories about which they feel passionate and invested. As a reader, you’re entitled to one thing and one thing only: a reading experience in exchange for your purchase. And if you like that reading experience, the expectation is that you’ll come back for more. But the audience does not and should never be in control of the stories. Writers are writers because they know how to do what audiences don’t know how to do—tell stories that affect you and move you. It’s way tougher than it looks. Storytelling isn’t a democracy, you don’t get a decision in how the stories go. All you get is your one vote, with your dollars or your feet.

Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, drawing the line on fan entitlement. See also Grant Morrison on nerd culture and Bryan Lee O’Malley on A Song of Ice and Fire. There’s something in the air.

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Comments

27 Comments

No problems with this statement. Stories can be good, bad, or in between, but shouldn’t be written to please a vocal segment of the readership.

I totally appreciate where Breevort’s coming from, but it’d probably be more meaningful if Marvel weren’t constantly trying to put its mouth/hands on/in its readership’s swimsuit area.

He’s exactly right, and he’s exactly why I’ve voted with my dollars and don’t buy any of the products Marvel brings to market. Well, he’s one of them

If fans want to make changes to their stories, they need to vote with their wallets. Complaining about how the stories suck yet buying EVERY issue sends the wrong message.

…so the writers and artists can come in, kick over the toys, go to the bathroom in the sandbox and scrawl obscenities everywhere and fans should just shut-up and quietly go away if they don’t like what the “grown-ups” are doing?

Yeah, pretty much. If you don’t like the direction of a book, don’t read it.

Truth is truth no matter who speaks it. I think Bendis is uninteresting and don’t like his books so I don’t buy them. I think Hickman’s a great storyteller so I read his works. Whining on forums or at con panels doesn’t change a thing (does help you vent though) so speak with the only voice they care to hear.

@spectreguy:

Pretty much, yeah.

Brevoort’s exactly right. The publishers, writers and artists owe the readers exactly one thing: their best. If we don’t like it, we can walk away. Many have walked away from the major houses in the last several years, but as long as we’re willing to buy crap in order to fill out our collections, they’ll keep producing it.

Tom may be right here, but he definitely could have phrased his answer more diplomatically, especially since it’s the readers buying product that helps keep the editors and writers employed.

Wish i could have a new Clone Saga II – The return of the revenge for 2,5 years.

You can write the best Hawk and Dove story ever, but I’m still not going to pick it up with the new 52.

I find the initial question amusing, at least the last line. No matter what you do, fans will bitch. “Too tame!” “Too weird!” “Too predictable!” “Too inconsistent with the past!”

There’s no pleasing everyone.

Whiny FanBoys and Girls…I think they just like to hear themselves talk…

Dan Didio said it himself: it’s not the loud minority that he’s worried about. It’s the silent majority walking away that they want back.

Look at Heroes to see how awesome it is when writers/creators start listening to fans.

I disagree in this sense: voting with your dollars doesn’t work. It’s too blunt an instrument. If you don’t buy a comic book, then a) the company probably doesn’t know that you might have bought it but didn’t, and b) it doesn’t know why you didn’t buy it. (Conversely, if you did buy it, the company doesn’t know what you liked about it.)

So, if this is something you care about, you have to tell them. Write a letter, a paper letter, clear, civil, and concise, explaining yourself. Here’s why I didn’t buy your comic and here’s what has to happen before I’ll start buying it again.

The trick here is to avoid being one of the people Brevoort is (rightly) complaining about. You don’t have the right to demand that everything be the way you want it to be, and if your complaint is that you don’t like the direction, well, that’s a shame. If you’ve got some kind of legitimate criticism, though, of the comic’s quality or some other problematic aspect of the story, then they should pay attention to you. These are creative and artistic people: they want to do it their way and they want it to be good. You can’t move them off doing it their way. You may be able to help them make it good.

Fans get on O’Malley’s case for not continuing Scott Pilgrim past an ending that was pretty much telegraphed from the first book? I’ve said before that complaining about Marvel and DC is really really stupid, but I get why it happens because both companies have spent years fostering the idea that the characters matter more than the people who are actually creating the work at any given time so fans tend to think that the character as they were introduced to him or her is the definitive version and the way its always been. Complaining that you know better than a creator how to tell their story that they made from the ground up? Yeah, there’s an element of that intrinsic to any kind of criticism, but this case in particular just seems very embarrassing.

As to Brevoort, he’s definitely right but after all this Coke vs. Pepsi back and forth I really don’t care what he thinks of the people who still buy his company’s books.

I agree with Brevoort. Maybe the real question should have been “Why do Marvel and DC continue to pay money to writers whose work is continually panned by fans and critics, and eventually retconned anyway?”

Like JMS, for example.

Agree with Brevort, with two notes:

-One: Not everything a writer comes up with is going to be of quality. Probably better than the average fan can write? Yes. But a good story? Not always.

-Two: We get one vote, but in the end, it’s the one that matters the most. A comic that doesn’t make enough profit will fail, regardless of its quality.

In other words: fans should be more tolerant, and writers should listen to want the fans want.

When will people learn to read writers instead of characters? These are the people who make you like who you like. Even many of the books we grew up on aren’t written by the character’s creators. You didn’t grow up on x-men, you grew up reading whoever was writing it. Go find what they’re writing now and read that.

Jake Earlewine

July 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

“voting with your dollars doesn’t work. It’s too blunt an instrument.”

Well said, Matthew.

When I stop buying a book, how is the publisher supposed to know whether it’s because I hate meandering Bendis-style storytelling, or that it’s because I hate scratchy Jim Lee-style art? What if you like the writer, but not the artist? What if you like the penciler, but can’t stand the fact that he’s inked two-dimensionally on a computer?

Or what if you love the character, but not the way editorial is handling him? These days I can’t buy hardly any of my favorite old characters because the grim & gritty Generation Y manga Maxx version doesn’t appeal to me.

Marvel needs a complaint line. For 99 cents per minute, you get to complain to a marketing representative who will shape your complaints into a statistical study that Marvel editorial can use. They’d make more off the complaint line than they’d make from the comics.

While Tom is saying they don’t put out stories for controversy, he has said in the past that they don’t shy away from controversy because there are dollars to go along with it.

Question:What does Marvel fear more? Angry fans or apathetic fans?
Tom Brevoort: Apathetic fans, definitely. When the fans are angry, we’re selling comics.
http://www.formspring.me/TomBrevoort/q/190820746224769349

Question: “When the fans are angry, we’re selling comics.” Doesn’t consistent anger eventually lead to apathy? Eventually you can’t work up the energy to care any more.
Tom Brevoort: That’s not the way it seems to work for us, as counterintuitive as that may seem. When the fans out outraged, that means we’re doing something that’s getting attention and is a bit controversial–and that always leads to better sales for us, always. Whereas when we’re doing something that’s embraced by the fans, the numbers are always soft.
http://www.formspring.me/r/when-the-fans-are-angry-we-re-selling-comics-doesn-t-consistent-anger-eventually-lead-to-apathy-eventually-you-can-t-work-up-the-energy-to-care-any-more/191270715251518496

Unfortunately for Brevoort and Marvel, that style of selling books is, and has been, leading to a steadily diminishing consumer base to sell books to.

Yes, they may anger the 60-70 thousand remaining man babies into buying their books, but they fail to attract any new readers. Worse still, it does lead to loss of interest, so you see a few hundred to thousand every year leaving the game altogether. Combined with simple things like fans passing on, bad economy forcing them to cut back, and it is hard to think Marvel books will be selling more than sub 70k numbers on any book in 10 years time.

Maybe creators yelling about “fan entitlement” will always be “in the air” because it’s easy, lazy, and dull thinking.

You know what? He’s exactly right on this topic, every word of it. It turns out that the Comic Book Guy from THE SIMPSONS isn’t just a stereotype, he’s a pitch-perfect representation of geek fandom, or at least the way geek fandom manifests itself on the internet.

So who needs it? It’s whiny, obsessive, hateful, negative, demanding, shrill, petty, and not at all productive, as it offers no solutions, no creativity, no positivity and only makes childish demands. If you’re a creative individual attempting to do something genuinely worth reading, why would you need THAT type of input? I don’t blame any of these guys for feeling that way.

Which raises an interesting point: Is there even a reason for all these blogs and message boards, other than the insular and incestuous sharing of complaints with other people who feel the same way? Creators don’t read this stuff or, if they do, they often wish they hadn’t as it doesn’t help, it only upsets them. No genuinely useful ideas are being generated… this desire to issue “feedback” and this cultural desire for each person to announce their grievances doesn’t result in better comics. I’m with Brevoort: Love it or leave it. Incidentally, he’s also right about having a choice. At this point, I’m not interested in any comic Marvel is currently publishing so I don’t buy them. Saves me money and not bothering with message boards saves me time.

“Writers write stories about which they feel passionate and invested.” If only that were true. Instead, we sometimes get that, and sometimes we get storytelling by committee, where editors and marketing guys dictate plot points. There are plenty of writers who are only in it for a paycheck, or so they can use one book as a stepping stone to another. Do you really think Marc Guggenheim is passionate about the shitty JSA arc right now? That Joe Casey was super psyched for his Avengers origin minis? No, and it shows. Casey was psyched to do Wildcats 3.0, and we as fans could tell that. AT THAT POINT, we have a choice to either get on board or just shut up and find something else to read. But until every book in the industry is written by talented authors with a drive to tell that particular story, guys like Breevoort are gonna hear about it.

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