“DC extended the terms of their returnability Ponzi scheme for two more months. Until we get to a month in which retailers are ordering straight up, without needing to hit unrealistic numbers in order to qualify for returnability, you guys looking at the limited and skewed charts that you get to see aren’t going to be able to see what is clear to those of us who get to see the actual numbers and track the day-to-day week-to-week sales flow of the business.”
– Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, responding to a question on his always-interesting Formspring account about when, in his view, the Diamond charts will accurately reflect sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles
Comics | While going through a box in his attic, a Grange Park, Illinois, man discovered a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the first appearance of Spider-Man, that he had bought as a kid. While other copies of the comic have fetched as much as $1.2 million, Chimera’s Comics is selling it for $12,000 due to its condition. [LaGrange Patch]
Comics | Brian Truitt profiles Marvel’s Fantastic Four, talking to Mark Waid, Tom Brevoort and Tom DeFalco about the long-running comic. [USA Today]
Publishing | Janna Morishima, formerly of Scholastic and Diamond Comic Distributors, has joined Papercutz as its first marketing director. [Papercutz]
[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.
To help celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, Marvel will publish a line of graphic novels featuring current creators retelling classic superhero tales. Called Season One, the initiative marks the company’s first entry in recent history into original graphic novels.
“We’re hoping to introduce folks who have never read any of these characters to these characters in this format, and also provide an interesting and illuminating story for people who have read a lot of Fantastic Four and Daredevil,” Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, tells USA Today. “If you want to dip your toe in the water and find out the essence of what Marvel is all about, here is a nice place for you to start in big, sizable, meaty chunks.”
The first wave will feature: Fantastic Four: Season One, by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and David Marquez, due in February; X-Men: Season One, by Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie, in March; Daredevil: Season One, by Antony Johnston and Wellinton Alves, in April; and Spider-Man: Season One, by Cullen Bunn and Neil Edwards, in May. A second wave will debut soon afterward.
Season One isn’t a relaunch or an Ultimate Universe-like initiative — “”Everything you know about them, everything that’s existed for the last 50 years still exists and is still there,” Brevoort says — but neither is it a mere retelling of the characters’ origins. “These are individually new stories,” he says, “even though they’ve got bits and pieces of old and formative origin stuff in and around them, as well.”
Visit USA Today to see a preview of Fantastic Four: Season One.
By its nature, the DCU has a more optimistic outlook on the world, and the Marvel U has a more pessimistic outlook….the DCU is Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing”–it’s not how government actually works, but it’s the way you wish that it worked, the way you’d like it to be–idealistic, passionate, energetic, spirited….But too often, DC seems to try to turn away from their core viewpoint, to make their characters darker or more dystopic or more downtrodden. And it just doesn’t play in the long run.
Judging from the comment-thread contretemps they always seem to touch off, everyone either loves or loves to hate Marvel Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort’s publicly aired thoughts on DC Comics. Readers of Brevoort’s Formspring account appear to be no exception, judging from a recent question that asked Brevoort to expand upon his earlier notion that part of DC’s problem, as he perceives it, is their attempt to be more like Marvel rather than playing to their own strengths.
[Reader question:] Unless you guys are going to announce something amazing within the next few moths, DC epicly won this year. Though, I always buy anything involving Spider-Man, so you will get more business there.
[Tom Brevoort:] Yes, they’ve epicly won their way down to being 25% of the market. if they keep winning at this rate, they’ll be out of business before long. They’re the Charlie Sheens of comics, winning their way to extinction.
–Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort on the Distinguished Competition, via his Formspring account. So that would make Marvel…Ashton Kutcher?
Okay, so that was a pretty solid smack from Brevoort Marvel’s crosstown (or round-the-block, as the case may be) rivals. But in other Formspring responses he’s a bit less catty and more comprehensive in his diagnosis of DC’s perceived problems. In one response, he advises DC to “stop trying to become what they think Marvel is” and play to their company’s and characters’ unique strengths, because “their interpretation of how our universe operates and how we plan out storylines and deal with our creative talent is so off-the-mark it’s laughable sometimes….[they should stop] trying to be a bad Marvel clone–because they’re not even getting bad Marvel right.”
In another response, he discusses DC’s recent $2.99 pricing initiative: “they got virtually no uptick on their sales, but cut a quarter of their profit margin away.” Brevoort argues that the audience for (his example) Booster Gold will buy Booster Gold comics regardless of cost, but cutting that cost won’t make a new audience for Booster Gold materialize either out of the non-comics-reading populace or from fans of other properties.
But to hear Brevoort tell it, he’s still pulling for the other publisher. “I want them to thrive and prosper,” he tells one questioner, positing a world where Marvel routinely beats a “a vibrant, healthy, competitive DC” as his ideal. This, he says, is why he thought “their reboot was a necessary step and a smart move overall”…but he adds the caveat that “I don’t think they’ve gone about putting it together in the smartest way possible.” Clearly, some of his initial support for/defense of/optimism about the DC relaunch has dimmed. Hence, perhaps, the talk of tiger blood…
Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso joked around. Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis worried about retailers. Talent guru C.B. Cebulski said he was “excited” as a reader, “terrified” as a pro, and interpreted the promised creative shake-ups as vote of no confidence by DC in their own creators. Yes, plenty of prominent Marvel staffers reacted publicly to DC’s big announcement of a simultaneous line-wide relaunch and day-and-date digital comics program on Tuesday, but one of them emerged as one of the move’s most prominent defenders: Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort. On his Twitter and Formspring accounts, Brevoort repeatedly praised the Distinguished Competiton’s move as a smart, gutsy maneuver that’s precisely what the publisher needed to do to attract a larger readership.
Here are a few choice quotes from Brevoort on the topic, edited slightly for clarity; click the links for full context.
“Just to be clear, for all of the irate DC readers out there, I genuinely think this is the kind of bold and daring thing that DC needs to do. I can sense the hand of my old boss Bob Harras in it, among others. And I’d never bet against a JL book by @GeoffJohns0 and @jimlee00.”
I’m hard pressed to think of a more unexpected development in superhero comics over the past half-decade or so than this: Somehow, the Avengers and Green Lantern have become the genre’s biggest franchises. On a one level it’s not much more complicated to explain than “Brian Bendis and Geoff Johns are very good at writing superhero comics people want to read, and their editors are very good at recognizing this and structuring their lines to support those comics.” Both writers reimagined these perpetual also-ran concepts — Bendis broke the team up, reassembled it with a mixture of Marvel superstars and personal favorites, and placed it at the center of years’ worth of shadowy conspiracy storylines; Johns revived the character at the core of the concept as we know it, then cracked that concept open to reveal a sprawling sub-universe of heroes and villains that arose from the original concept in a totally intuitive way; both of their publishers crafted multiple major event comics in which these freshly popular properties took center stage.
But in Marvel’s case, the newfound primacy of the Avengers was startling in that the franchise appeared to eclipse the properties that used to be Marvel’s bread and butter, the X-Men and Spider-Man. Sure, Wolverine and Spidey are members of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and adding them to the team likely gave it that initial push to the top, but it’s really the “Big Three” of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America who’ve driven the Marvel Universe’s meta-plot for years now. It doesn’t take an omega-level intelligence to notice that these characters, and the team they’ve historically led, fall under the Marvel Studios movie-rights umbrella, while the Web-Slinger, the Ol’ Canucklehead and company belong elsewhere.
[Reader question:] Tom, why are people so concerned with a lack of diversity in a comic? “The Flash Family has become too white with the absence of Wally’s family”, and so on and so forth.I don’t understand this kind of logic. How do you place value of story on race?
[Tom Brevoort:] I don’t know who you are, obviously, but just based on your question I would posit that you’re a white male. I think you cannot overestimate the power that readers, especially younger readers, seeing a heroic character that resembles themselves, can have. For white guys like me, that’s easy–there are hundreds of them. Not so for almost any other demographic you might choose to name. That’s why, I think, people are supportive and even delicate with any character of a particular race or orientation or background. It’s a diverse world out there, and any time we can reflect that diversity in a meaningful way, it’s worth doing.
–Marvel Senior Vice President – Publishing Tom Brevoort, responding to a reader’s scratched-head incredulity on the issue of diversity in comics, and doing so a lot more calmly than I probably would have.
Retailing | The struggling Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, has reversed its January decision to close the distribution center in LaVergne, Tenn. The bookseller will instead shut down its warehouse in Carlisle, Penn., leaving the facility in Tennessee and another in California. [Nashville Business Journal, via ICv2.com]
Legal | A handful of publishers address what effect Tokyo’s revised ordinance further restricting the sale of sexually explicit manga to minors might have on the industry. “This ordinance could attack the creativity of genuine authors, not just attacking perverted comics,” says Pascal Lafine of Tonkam, a French publisher of manga. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Publishing | David Itzkoff profiles Marvel, tracing the company’s route from mid-1990s bankruptcy to its current place at the top of a struggling industry. [The New York Times]
“Let’s put it this way…we lowered our prices and didn’t lie about it.”
–DC Comics Executive Editor Eddie Berganza at C2E2′s “Brightest Day” panel this weekend, responding to a fan who asked if DC was better than Marvel.
You might recall the last time price cuts became a topic for discussion at a Reed Exhibitions comic convention. Back at October’s New York Comic Con, DC announced the initiative that would come to be known as “holding the line at $2.99,” dropping co-features (and two story pages) from all of its ongoing series and pricing them all at $2.99 rather than the then-increasingly-customary $3.99. Not even an hour later, Marvel Senior VP-Sales & Circulation David Gabriel announced that Marvel would be cutting prices too, with new books no longer launching at $3.99 as of January 2011. Though few details were forthcoming, the announcement piggybacked on DC’s in such a way as to lead to “DC and Marvel both cut prices”-style headlines (see here and here for examples). But the price cuts many believed were forthcoming on all new Marvel titles largely failed to materialize, with the new $2.99 titles located almost entirely in the limited-series portion of the company’s offerings. This in turn led Marvel’s then-VP-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort to claim that Gabriel’s statement (and, by extension, seemingly corroborative follow-ups at NYCC by Brevoort and Marvel PR guru Arune Singh) had been “misreported or misconstrued,” which frankly was kind of a stretch given the abundance of comics press outlets who reported the story in more or less exactly the same way. And thus you get Berganza’s pointed pushback.
Of course, Brevoort isn’t the sort to take this lying down. When asked about Berganza’s comments on his Formspring account, here’s how Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing responded:
No, we didn’t lie about it. We’ve been offering more new titles at $2.99, and the $3.99 books stay where they are–we never said any different. (Also, given the pasting they took in dollar share in January and February, much of which was a result of their price reduction, I’d be surprised if they hold to it for the entire year as they said they would. I’m guessing that you’ll see more $3.99 DC books around September.)
Ah, comics: From debates about price points to figuring out whether the Hulk is really “the strongest one there is,” you wouldn’t be the same without semantics.
[Reader question:] How far away are we from seeing the entire Marvel line being released digitally day and date? I’m ready. There are a few titles I would still get hard copies of, but a lot of titles I just want to read and not have to deal with storing/saving.
[Brevoort:] It’s in the future–just how far in the future I can’t even guess at this point.
–Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, on when we might see all of Marvel’s releases debuting digitally on the same day they come out in comic shops. I know this is mixing my fortune-telling-tchotchke metaphors a bit, but it’s kind of like he gazed into his crystal ball and saw the phrase “Reply hazy, ask again later.”
Which reminds me: Digital comics readers, how have your experiences with Marvel’s current day-and-date titles been? I’ve read that these releases — mostly concentrated in Marvel’s Ultimate line — sometimes fail to actually make their digital debuts on the same day that the print versions come out. Has that been your experience, or have things been smooth for you thus far?
It’s happened again (last time it was Michael May), I am interviewing one of my fellow Robot 6 pals. This time it’s writer Sean T. Collins, regarding Destructor, the webcomic described as an “ongoing story of villainy byCollins and Matt Wiegle, updated Mondays and Thursdays … ‘Alone he fled, and came in from Outside. Upon the seething streets of Planet D he landed, in his armor and his rage. With General at his side and Wall behind, he wrote his name in blood across the worlds, worlds he would conquer, filled with foes to crush. He formed the Mob and set their star alight, the guns and gangs, machines and magic theirs, the red ambition his and his alone, until the System shuddered at his name: Destructor—the most dangerous man alive.’” As engaging and sometimes maddening a co-worker (we have vastly different critical minds, an observation that I hope he takes as the compliment it is) as Collins may be, I was not surprised in the slightest to find him to be a great creator to interview.
Tim O’Shea: You are a faithful reader of Tom Brevoort’s Twitter account, do you think he returns the favor and is an avid reader of Destructor?
Sean T. Collins: Hahaha! Aw, I’m sure we don’t have nearly enough commenters asking us who would win in a fight, Jean Grey or the Blue Marvel, and given how much he looooooves that sort of thing we’re probably not high on his reading list. He’s a reader I’d love to have, though. Are you there, Tom? It’s me, the guy who makes posts out of your tweets.
I could spend a tremendous amount of time, effort and energy trying to get comics back onto spinner racks in 7-Elevens. But that would be a waste of resources because the reason there aren’t any spinner racks in 7-Elevens anymore is because they were no longer fiscally feasible. The amount of money those racks generated for the amount of space and maintenance they required was not worthwhile for that organization. All the wishing in the world on my part is not going to change that. I think it’s imperative for us to reach out to the youngest possible demographic and appeal to their sensibilities to draw them into this world, but I think you’re going to see that through digital and animation more than traditional comic book publishing.
–Marvel’s SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort in his brand-new Axel Alonso-less column “Talk to the Hat” on CBR, noting how 7-Eleven spinner racks are no longer a realistic gateway for kids into comics, despite what some fans may think. He also talks a lot about comics aimed at kids, and shares his thoughts on why certain titles work (Marvel Adventures Spider-Man) and certain titles don’t (Thor: The Mighty Avenger) to bring kids into comics.
Yesterday in Reading Circle, we read a competitor’s book that was one the absolutely most amateurish pieces of drek I’ve ever seen. I don’t really want to name the book or the creators, because that feels like a different sort of bashing, but this book embarassed itself. From the folks involved and the company involved, you’d expect a better minimum set of standards. Made worse by the fact that one of the principle creators is a key player at the company, and displayed an utter lack of storytelling knowledge or understanding of how comics work. We put out our share of stinkers, but if one of my editors turned this book in, they’d be on probation, at least. Comics are expensive these days, and so every issue, every shot, must count. We need to have better minimum standards. All of which is hopelessly cryptic without naming the book, of course, but there you have it. It made me want to slap someone.
There’s more craft evidenced on the plastic bag of FF #587 than on the whole of the issue we read yesterday. One of our editors read it and was appalled by it, so I thought it was worth further study by the group. Sometimes, a bad example teaches more by example. An absolute lack of understanding of character, theme, scene, pacing, lousy tinny dialogue, incompetent artwork…it was just a red hot mess. And editorial oversight was ineffective, if even engaged. The editor in question is now in my mind, so if he ever applies over here, he’d better have a good story to tell.
–Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort in a no-punches-pulled (except the name of the book, of course) Twitter takedown of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad comic from some other publisher. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty harsh thing to say about Drawn & Quarterly and Adrian Tomine’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage. Haha, jk, LOL — what book do you think he’s talking about?