Marc Alan Fishman: An Open Letter To Bob Wayne
For as long as I’d been a stalwart attendee at the DC Nation Panel (or whatever you wanted to call it in yesteryear) wherein you and Danny D would layout the next quarter or two of books… you would always tell the crowd that “you vote with your dollars.” Or in other words… if there’s a character we’d want to see or not want to see in the pages of our favorite books, we need only buy or not buy material with them in it. For a long time, this was a satisfactory response for many of my quibbles with the direction of my then favorite comic book publisher. But as I sat this evening – stroking my beard as I do when I contemplate nerd life – I realize that this ‘line’ isn’t good enough anymore.
Perhaps in the 90s, prior to the world adopting the internet as the premium instant communication medium, voting with dollars was easier to swallow. The concept is sound. You like something, you throw money at it. The company who put it out gets richer, and spends its new found riches on making that thing again. Tada!
But, Bobbo, it’s 2013. We no longer vote with just money. We vote with our data. Our views. Our shares. Our opinions. It all adds up to a visceral tableau of reach. It’s how a company like Facebook became a billion dollar entity in the same amount of time it took you to reboot the universe. And while you could end up like Marvel – who probably could care less if their comics tank so long as their movies keep Mickey swimming in dough – your films are basically at break even right now. But I digress. Let’s only concern ourselves specifically to the books, and your knee-jerk retort.
At 31, I am simply not wise enough to connect the dots. I pray you help me. If I purchase an issue of Swamp Thing, and I loathe it, how has my money ‘voted’? I could then choose to not purchase the next issue of the book, but if you’ve changed creative teams (something you tend to like to do often), I’m apt to at least give it a try. Perhaps I’m not indicative of the average comic purchaser. More likely though? I absolutely am. Because as you’ll note above: I am a man of 2013. When I read a terrible issue of Swamp Thing? I tweet about it. I update my facebook about it. I create a vine video of me using the issue to clean up my son’s dinner disaster. And when I review it on MichaelDavisWorld, or ComicMix? I tell people that “I’ll remain on the series, to see where it goes, but I don’t have high hope.” And does that help or hurt your business?
Can you see the issue? Voting with just money doesn’t add up. As it stands, thanks to Diamond Previews and the Internet at large, much of your fan base is spoken for long before an issue hit the stands. And once a book makes it that far? The blogosphere/message boards help cement public opinion before your creators are hitting the bricks due to “creative differences.” The truth, Bob, is that comic readership remains largely “older” than you may want to believe. And the fact is we scour the interwebs day in and day out practically begging our favorite entertainment facilitators to listen to us. Now, we don’t get it right all the time… but I don’t blame the masses for formulating an asinine opinion now and again. I do blame the multi-billion companies that choose not to vet those opinions and marry them with spin doctors who know how to read contextually instead of literally.
In simpler terms: we vote with our voices. And you and DC editorial continue to choose to jam your thumbs in your ears while we grow hoarse. Your creators are out on the internet telling the truth everyday. Their fans grow legion, and only then do you backpedal. Last month the top 10 comics (in terms of sales; the language you speak)… only 3 were DC titles. You may think the forthcoming Trinity War will shift that around. It’ll boost sales for sure. And it may lure you into that trap that thinks we’re voting with our dollars. I sense I may be repeating myself. To be a jerk about it? You’re old. You’re hearing isn’t what it used to be. It’s time to look towards the future.
Hiring your C-Level staff to write your books, when there are literally tons of talented independent ones beating down your door? Promising creative control only to smash it into the ground before ink can even hit paper? Canceling titles, moving teams, and all the while watching only the bottom line? I vote no to all of the above.
It’s not how the world works anymore. If you want to fight Mickey Mouse anytime soon… you’ll have to look at more than the receipts coming in. You’ll have to look your fans in the eyes, and open your ears to what they’re saying. The will of the people, and the leap of faith to trust your talent is the way comics are succeeding in the marketplace.
And that Bob… you can take to the bank.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell