MIKE GOLD: Nostalgia’s just another word for nuthin’ left to read
We’re in another cycle of teevee tie-in comic books. Right now we’ve got Transformers, Battlestar Galactica, several Star Treks (or is that Treks Star?), Xena, Stargate whatever, lots of Simpsons titles, Tek Jansen, and a whole lot more.
This happens every once in a while, starting from the time publishers didn’t know what to do when the superheroes stopped selling back in the late 1940s. It’s a bit of a role of the dice for them, as the licensing fees they pay are on top of their regular costs for talent, production, promotion, printing, and distribution. Generally speaking, you’ve got to sell a lot more copies to clear a profit and, on its best day, comic book publishing is not for the faint of heart.
I’m not at all critical of this. Whereas reaching for the licensed material might have been an act of desperation back in the 1950s – I mean, Marvel’s Pinky Lee comic did not fare well, running a mere five issues – today such ventures seem to work when nostalgia based: publishers are reaching for teevee properties that their readers enjoyed before, or at the same time as, they discovered comics.
Now as we all know, the Baby Boomers have a deathlock on our culture. “It was the greatest, it was the best, you people don’t have squat, your music sucks and there hasn’t been a good movie since The Godfather Part 2.” If you’re a GenXer, you’ve heard this way too much. If you’re a Baby Boomer, you’re probably a parent so please give your kids a break. Besides, they’re beginning to think The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is about the Bush Administration.
So where are the Baby Boomer’s nostalgic teevee comics? The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is about to get the DVD box set treatment. I know at least two-dozen writers (and I’m not kidding) who would give their eyeteeth to do that comic book.
What about Rocky and Bullwinkle? Oh, wait. That’s funny stuff. And we can’t do funny comic books, despite the irony of that statement.
How about Perry Mason? He’s been around forever. Books, stories, a soap opera and movies – and that was even before the teevee show that starred that guy from Godzilla.
Let’s face it: Jerry Lewis is still around. He just booked the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas for his 177th annual Labor Day Telethon. He’s still a vital force. Where’s his comic book? He’s a proven success – his DC book ran 124 issues! Admittedly, he had to share the first 40 of them with Dean Martin and, today, a Dean Martin comic book would look a little creepy… but no more so than, say, doing a series based upon the Chucky movies.
I think today’s audience is a lot more sophisticated. After all, we’ve got Stephen Colbert all over comics. Imagine what would happen if Bill Maher had his own comic book? The Adventures of Bill Maher. We could print it on recycled hemp, using no animal fats in the inks. He’d love it! But I kid Bill Maher…
I think the teevee hero we need on the comics racks is Bill O’Reilly. Really, there’s nothing we can do in comics that would be more fantastic than the stuff that comes out of his mouth. And he’s got the perfect arch-enemy.
Anybody know who’s got the merchandising rights to Keith Olbermann?
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.com