I’ve spent the last few months praising the DC New 52 in one form or another. Months before the books came out, I was debating those who thought the reboot was anything from a simply bad idea to the end of the world, as we know it.
I defended the idea then and in fact over the last three weeks right here on ComicMix. I’ve supported the idea and got into a heated battle with Marc Alan Fishman over the new 52.
Yesterday was Marc’s lovely wife Kathy’s birthday. Happy birthday Kathy and here’s your present…
Marc was right.
The DC New 52 sucks.
Everything about the New 52 is horrible.
I’m going to take a random decision made by DC, a totally arbitrary completely chance judgment they have made to make my point that the entire New 52 is the worst thing to happen to comics since Fredric Wertham and the Spirit movie.
Now. What completely indiscriminate, unplanned, hit or miss just off the top of my head move has DC made with the New 52 that has made me see the light of their atrocious affront to the entire comics, nay, the entire entertainment industry!
Let’s see, lets see, what needle can I grab in a haystack of bad moves?
DC comics cancelled Static Shock!!
Full disclosure: I co-created Static Shock and wrote the original Milestone bible and named all the characters after my family but that has nothing whatsoever to do with my deciding to use Static Shock as an example as to why I changed my mind about the DC 52. My history with the character is beside the point.
No, I did not like the new Static Shock book after John Rozum left and no, I did not say I didn’t like it before DC cancelled the book for fear that the opinion of one of the creators would affect the sales but that’s besides the point.
The point is DC cancelled Static Shock and that’s just one of the reasons I was wrong about the New 52.
My other reasons?
That’s beside the point.
The little support from the millions of Static Shock fans out there is no reason to cancel something I created! The reason it’s no reason is beside the point. Losing half the sales from issue one is no reason to cancel a book where my Mom was the inspiration for Static’s mom. The sheer audacity of DC comics to cancel a book where I have a vested interest in is why the DC New 52 is horrible. Why that matters is beside the point.
Why not cancel the Justice League? So what if the book is selling in the hundreds of thousands? I don’t like it anymore! The fact that I liked it (loved it) before they canceled Static Shock is beside the point.
There that is my unbiased and completely unprejudiced reasoning behind my change of heart regarding the DC New 52.
You were right, Marc. What was I thinking? Happy Birthday again Kathy, you are married to a very wise man.
A few days ago Marc wrote that he doesn’t like the New 52 and he took me to task over a few things I wrote in my Why I Like The New 5article last week.
It seems that Marc, or he who is Dead To Me, or simply Dead To Me as I now call him, doesn’t think DC went far enough with the reboot.
I said in my article that I liked a lot of the books but what I really liked about the New 52 is that DC had the balls to do it in the first place. I also said that as fans of the DCU it would be hard to satisfy everyone with the massive undertaking.
A lot of people hate the New 52. I get that. It’s easy to hate from the sidelines. I do it, you do it, everybody does it. My point was, love it or hate it you have to respect the people that put it all on the line to do it. A lot of people don’t think that matters because to them it sucks and it will always suck because change is bad.
Change sucks. The DC comic reboots sucks. I suck for liking the DC comic reboots. And let me not forget to the GOP, Obama sucks.
Mar… I mean Dead To Me, thinks the reboot was an easy out. He thinks DC didn’t go far enough.
Really? Let’s see how you would have rebooted the DCU. You who are Dead To Me. Here’s how I would have done it.
I’d make Batman black and call him Black-Man. He became Black-Man because his parents were shot in a drive-by on their way to Yale where they were both professors of Black History. Oh, I bet you thought his parents were walking in the projects looking for some drugs or some other stereotypical black bullshit storyline.
No! In my DCU there will be no stereotypes. So Leroy Washington son of Ray Ray and Shaiqua Washington becomes Black-Man!
The Justice League
I’d make the Justice League black and call them the Malcolm X-Men.
I’d make Hawkman black and call him Black Hawkman.
What do you think I’d do? I mean, duh.
I’d make GL black. His name will be John Stewart and his secret identity will be a talk show host.
I’d keep the Flash white. I mean a black guy with super speed? Ron Paul would have a field day with that. “If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.” Ron Paul said that. Now just imagine if the Flash was black. Nah; I’m keeping Barry Allen a white guy but I’m making him a teen-age criminal who robs people and runs away.
He would stay white too. Everyone knows black people don’t swim…duh.
I’d make WW my flagship book. Why make it my flagship book? To make it clear Michael Davis’ DCU avoids racial and any other stereotypical depictions.For my reboot,I’d make Wonder Woman black. Hell ,in my book she’s already a black woman. She doesn’t take any shit and she’s got a banging booty.
So, Dead To Me, where is your DC reboot? My reboot only features classic characters and it’s taken me 10 years to come up with this new universe. Yes, I started 10 years ago when it was crystal clear to all in the industry that I was going to become head of DC.
After waking up I decided to work on the universe anyway and I’m glad I did because it has certainly come in handy today wouldn’t you say? Yes, 10 years of hard work, research, toil and trouble. I lost a wife with my unwavering commitment to redoing the DCU. Well, actually I was going to call it the MDCU but that’s beside the point.
The point is this type of universe building or rebuilding takes some serious balls not serious eggs like you wrote in your column when you thought you were being clever and used Spanish…wrongly.
It’s obvious you don’t regard research as something you need to do when you create something.
So. I await your universe. If you think it’s so easy let’s see you put the time and effort into it and in 10 years we can talk about it. Or you can knock something out by next week because you don’t have the discipline to take the time to do it right.
I’ll leave you what I would do with DC’s biggest character and the biggest challenge for any DC universe do over, the Man Of Steel…
Well that’s not really true. If you know anything about my history you will know the last thing I’d ever do is kiss ass.
It’s simply not in my DNA not now, not ever. I’ve been in many a situation where a well place smack on someone’s ass would have been very beneficial to me but I just couldn’t do it.
I’ve tried to kiss some ass. I really have. I wanted to kiss some ass. I was even looking forward (she was fine) to kissing some ass at one point but I just… could… not…do it.
What always stops me is my inability to show respect to those who do not deserve it.
Respect is a very big thing with me. I’d rather have someone’s respect than just about anything else. To get my respect is not hard on a personal level all I really need on that level is for you to treat me with respect and you have mine.
On a professional level getting my respect is not easy. I’m not the guy to tip toe around people’s absence of professionalism. If you have ever read any of my articles on Michael Davis World (plug!) then you may have noticed a recurring theme in my rants: customer service or the lack there of.
I don’t care if you are an artist, IBM or Larry the Hot Dog Vender, if I’m going to write you a check for your services your professionalism had better be your A game. Anything less than an A game I’ll never work with you or use your services again. You can forget any respect I may have had for you because that my friend, like the old south, is gone with the wind.
Chief among all the reasons I have for liking The New 52 from DC is the massive amount of respect I have because DC went there.
DC comics went where no other comic book company in the world went before: they started over. If the books sucked which they still would have had my respect. There are some in The New 52 that have left me wondering why they went into the direction they went but for the most part I like or love what they have done.
Liking or even loving what DC Comics did with the re-boot creatively is not the main reason I like The New 52. It’s really about respect and balls.
I respect the balls the editors at DC showed in going there.
Every die-hard comic book fan has thought how cool it would be to completely overhaul a comic book universe. The fan forums are filled with what’s wrong with DC, what the problem is with Marvel, or what was Dark Horse thinking? I don’t think there is any comic book universe that is so darn cool that everyone agrees they are doing everything right. I’ll let you in on a little secret; I’m a closet Archie fan. Actually, I’m a huge fan of Little Archie. I’m not sure they even do Little Archie stories anymore but when I was a kid I loved me some Little Archie.
That’s the only comic book universe I had no problem with. The Little Archie universe was perfect to me. Because I was such a fan of Little Archie I tried the regular Archie books.
After reading the regular Archie books for a while I decided if I ran the Archie universe the first thing I would do was have Archie tap Veronica and Betty’s ass.
Hell, I’d have Archie tap them both at the same time. You think that’s bad? Then you don’t want to know the plans I had for Mr. Fantastic.
That’s why it’s good not to have fan’s revamp comic book universes.
Like any young fan, I often wondered why comic book companies don’t do the obvious. Why can’t Uncle Ben come back? Why did Gwen Stacy have to stay dead? Why doesn’t Superman tap the ass of all those people whose initials are LL?
Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lucy Lane, Lori Lemaris? If I were in charge of the Superman Universe Clark would have had some serious LL booty. I mean the LL list is endless!
Lara Lor, Linda Lang, Lighting Lad, Lex Luthor…eh…wait a sec…maybe tapping all the LL’s is not a great idea after all. Another reason it seems that fans should not be in charge of universes.
So, as fans we don’t have the power to make massive changes in our comic book universes but why don’t the comic companies make massive cool ass changes a lot more?
Yes. Every so often some new event happens that sorta, kinda, changes stuff but not really. Not like you are I would have changed it.
Massive, cool, earth shattering new shit that will be the envy of all of comicdom!
DC went there.
However, as easy as it may seem to fans to simply hit the reset button it’s not easy at all. You may think as I did when I was just a fan that imagination is all you really need to run a comic book universe and you would be as wrong as I was.
If you are Larry Comics and you started your comic book company a couple of years ago you can reboot all you want and the only people you have to please is your new fan base.
DC Comics has been around since 1935. That’s a lot of history to muck with.
The people at DC Comics just couldn’t sit in a room and decide to do this. That’s not how it works in the real world. The people who came up with the reboot idea had to sell that idea to the parent company and that parent company is Time Warner. Time Warner is one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world.
I’m not sure what kind of relationship DC has with Time Warner. Time Warner could be completely hands off. I doubt it, but that could be the case. DC may have complete control over the comics and Time Warner may not give a sheet.
I’d think something this big would have had to be run up the flagpole at corporate on some level. Again, I’m not aware of DC’s relationship with Time Warner so I can only speculate from my own corporate experience.
I’ve been President or President and CEO at a few entertainment companies and any major decision over a certain dollar amount I made had to be at presented to the powers that be on some level.
When I ran Motown Animation & Filmworks I was hired to create, develop and sell film and television properties. When I decided to do a comic book line, Motown Machineworks, I had to create a business plan, present it to my boss and hope to God it did not crash and burn.
That’s what a lot of fans don’t understand about comics. It’s a fantastic medium and great entertainment, but it’s a business.
Whoever came up with the reboot and then sold the idea to corporate had good creative intentions to be sure but something that big has a lot more to worry about than creative ideas.
Regardless if the ideas were great or if Time Warner is hands off or not, if the reboot would have been a dismal failure heads may have rolled.
This is the real world folks, with great power comes great responsibility is truer in the real world than in comics. Peter Parker fails to stop a guy who then busts a cap in his Uncle is tragic but at any point Marvel could change that.
Real people put their careers in play on some level. I don’t know to what extent those people were at risk if at all but something as big as a reboot it stands to reason that someone’s ass would be on the line if it went south.
It’s easy to talk a big game when it’s not your ass on the line. It’s not so easy when that great power comes with a great responsibility that could result in you having a real bad ending to your story.
Well that’s not really true. I’m a tall and unbelievably handsome black man. I work in television, mainstream books and comics. Most of the works I’ve created in all of those mediums have featured black people in foremost roles.
I create black characters because I’m a black creator and I’d like to see more black people represented in the media and I think it’s my job to…yada, yada, yada…
Over the years I’ve said a zillion times that the reason I create black characters is because I felt we were under represented and I did believe it was my responsibility to create characters so young black kids can feel themselves represented.
But is it really my responsibility to create black characters because I’m a black man now? Have we come far enough in the country and the industry for me to give up the fight?
When I was growing up there were no black superheroes of color except for the Black Panther and Luke Cage, Hero For Hire. So my two black superheroes role models were an African King and an ex-con who was a superhero only when he got paid to be.
As hard as I tried I just could not identify with The Black Panther; he was an African king in his secret identity. “Oh, that’s a wonderful black man to aspire to be like.” I’m sure some of you are thinking.
I was born in Queens and the last thing I wanted to imagine myself growing up to be was an African king. I’d seen enough Tarzan movies as a kid to know I would not look good with a bone through my nose. I mean… ugh.
What about, Luke Cage Hero For Hire?
Hero for hire?
Like I said, I grew up in Queens or to be more precise, the hood in Queens. I could not imagine being a superhero that sold his services, that as they say in the hood is ghetto.
The young Harlem mother and her child were coming home very late one evening. The bus they were on was empty except for the driver and some gang bangers who looked like they wanted to start some trouble.
She was not worried, there was a rule written in stone in the hood among gangs, mothers and kids were off limits.
Written in stone…
The problem was these gang bangers could not read.
“Yo, (bad word starts with B) what cha lookin at?”
He rose, slowly removing a gun from his jacket.
“I said (bad word starts with B) what cha lookin at?”
She was frozen in place. She had never seen a real gun before and it was at the moment she knew this was the end of her life. She held her child close to her and said softy, “Close your eyes honey it will be OK.”
The bus stopped. Cage entered the bus. Paid his fare and stared down the thug with the gun. The woman’s face lit up as she realizes she is saved!
“Oh, thank God! He was about to shoot me! I’m sure of it! He called me a…”
Cage puts his hand up to silence her then says; “I can save you for $500, your kid for another $500 so that’s $1000,00.”
The woman looks at Cage, she can tell by the stern look on his face he is not kidding. “ All I have is $500 to my name!”
“Then you better tell your kid to keep his eyes closed.”
Really? Hero for Hire? Really?
Neither The Black Panther nor Luge Cage, neither of those black heroes seemed as good as the white heroes I was so in love with. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the like.
Superman was an orphan from another planet whose parents were blown the F up and he had a cool ass secret identity. He was Clark Kent, reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper. Batman’s secret identity was equally as badass, another orphan whose parents were shot the F up. His cool ass secret identity was rich ass playboy Bruce Wayne.
Spider-Man was another orphan whose parents were shot the F up AND as a bonus he was responsible for his Uncle Ben being shot the F up. His cool ass secret identity was a high school student and he worked for a great metropolitan newspaper as a photographer.
Why couldn’t I have a black hero whose parents were shot the F up? Why couldn’t I have a black hero who was an orphan? Why couldn’t I have a black hero whose cool ass secret identity was to work for a great metropolitan newspaper and not as a janitor?
No. I got an African king. In my mind, Tarzan (according to the movies my seven year old ass was watching) would soon rescue a white couple from a boiling pot the Black Panther had placed them in while waiting for a visit from The Fantastic Four, and I got a hero who people had to pay to protect them or in other words…
Also, Super Pimp didn’t even have a secret identity. Like I said, ghetto.
That’s what I grew up with. That’s what the African American comic book artists of my generation grew up with. It’s no wonder many of us felt it was our responsibly to create black heroes that our black kids could use as real role models, heroes that spoke to them not just in skin color but in experience.
When I was a kid a black GI Joe action figure was just a white GI. Joe painted brown. That made him black to me back then but that was not good enough for my kids when I had them.
Don’t get me wrong; I grew to love Lee and Kirby’s Black Panther. I realized just how cool it was to have an African king be his secret identity. That’s around the time I also realized those Tarzan movies were racist bullshit. Hasbro eventually came out with a black version of GI Joe that was a Black Joe. The lips, nose and even hair were modeled after black features. I still remember when I got my first real Black Joe. It was so damn cool.
As for Luke Cage, Hero for Hire?
That, in my opinion was and will always be ghetto. I mean damn, a Super Pimp? Come on! Really?
I grew up wanting and frankly needing black heroes that I could look up to and that spoke to me.
That was then.
Now, there is still need for more black superheroes as there is a need for many heroes of color but is it the job of people of color to create them?
Are the characters of any creator as valid as any other creator regardless if the creator is black or white?
In other words, would Blade be even cooler if a white guy did not create him? Would Spawn be even more badass if a black creator had created him?
Can white creators create viable black characters and vice versa? It seems the answer is an easy “yes” if you look at the success of some black characters created by non-black creators. It’s a easy yes in the marketplace to be sure but how about in the industry and the homes of those black kids who grow up wanting to be Blade?
Does it matter that an white guy created Blade? Should it matter? A great white guy and my dear friend Marv Wolfman but a white guy nevertheless.
Most people in the industry know that my best friend is Denys Cowan.
Denys is one of the greatest comic book artists that the business has ever seen. He’s the artist a lot of other artists look at and as to underscore that fact he’s been nominated for not one but two Eisner awards for best penciler.
He has worked for every major publisher out there. He’s one of the few artists that commands respect from both Marvel and DC without pissing one or both off.
There’s not a major publisher out there that would not consider it an honor to have a Denys Cowan project under their imprint.
Denys is really hard to impress when it comes to comics.
I like what I like but I don’t have the depth of knowledge about comic books like Denys does.
Both Denys and I both think the new DC 52 are just wonderful comics.
I’ve got a less than stellar history with DC comics. That said, they are and have always been my favorite comic book universe since I was a kid.
It’s not just nostalgia I’m thinking about. I feel that way because I think DC comics has done some great creative stuff in the last 20 plus years. The second silver age was 90% DC in my opinion.
Denys looks at comics from a much more artistic point than I do, but we are both fans of the New 52.
So, are Denys and I on crack? Is the New 52 as good as we think?
Please refer to part 1 and part 3 of this series for background. Part 2 was my attempt to try and underscore what I was trying to get across by writing these series of articles. Yeah, I still have no idea why I wrote part 2 either. To recap, I had an idea to get comics in the school system taught as a high interest low level reading curriculum.
Step by step my process was:
Come up with the idea.
Do the research.
Figure out the barriers to entry.
Developed two specific programs: one for Texas, one for California.
Wrote the business plan.
All above steps taken, so now I need a partner.
First rule of fight club: never talk about fight club.
First rule of business: never use your own money.
That’s my first rule anyhow, rather or not you talk about it is on you but the less said about who is writing you a check the better.
There was a period in my career when I wanted to own everything so I paid for everything. I had some success but realized later than I should have, paying for everything can be a dangerous road to travel on unless you have really deep pockets and can afford to lose a grip.
A “grip” is a lot of money. Sorry, sometimes I revert back to where I grew up. You can take the man out of the hood but you can’t take the hood out of the man.
That’s not entirely bad and I’ll get back to that later.
I’ve done quite a few deals where I put up the development money and took all back end… meaning I waited for the venture to start making money to recoup and profit from it.
Sometimes paying for everything was a great idea, sometimes not so much. I don’t regret paying for development the projects I did so one but except for a passion project of mine I doubt if I will ever do it again.
If you have the cash and want to control and own everything in your deal financing everything may work for you. But before you empty your life savings to finance, direct and produce and own your project give this a thought, would anyone but you pay to do what you are about to do?
Each time I sign a deal where someone else is investing in my idea that further validates that I just may be on to something.
I mentioned above a passion project that I want control all aspects of the production. I’m holding out to completely control 100% of everything so I may bite the bullet and write the check myself but for now I’m still looking for the right partner to underwrite the venture.
The right partner is what I needed for The Action Files, my comic book reading program for schools.
And I’m back!
When looking for a partner, be very careful to consider everything, not just the money. I don’t care how much money they bring to the table – it can be a nightmare.
I’ll say it again, it can be a nightmare.
I can’t go into particulars as to why a deal or two bankrolled by a partner turned out to be a nightmare (gag order, restraining order, hit men and a angry midget among other less pleasant things) but trust me it can be so think long and hard before you take that check.
I was lucky enough to have three different companies interested in The Action Files. I met with all three and decided the best place for The Action Files and myself was powerhouse publisher Simon & Schuster. At the time they were one of the biggest publishers of mainstream and educational materials in the world.
At the time they were one of the biggest publishers of mainstream and educational materials in the world.
After a series of meetings we came to an agreement and The Action Files was no longer an idea I came up with a year before it was now about to be a reality.
There is one more step that no one seems to tell young people.
One of the things it’s very important to remember which no one talks about is the vetting process. Any serious player who is about to invest millions of dollars in your idea is going to do their due diligence and vet you. That, in layman’s terms, means to check you out.
The process may be as simple as asking for references or as in-depth as a full background check. So don’t even think about telling a company you did something that you did not do when discussing your resume or bio.
I’m not just a seller of ideas (content) but I’ve run a few entertainment divisions at major companies and was a buyer. As head of my own company I’m often pitched projects for me to take to a film or television studio, comic company or mainstream publisher that I’m already in business with. I’m approached to find financing or finance projects myself or partner with someone to create a project. I’ve been very successful in brokering quite a few deals that I did not create.
I’m currently developing a slate of projects with Wayne Brady as an example of how a partnership would work. Wayne and I are working on a book and an animated project.
Unless I know someone well personality or someone comes to me from a real good referral I almost never get involved with other peoples’ projects. I’ll give advice all day long but I’ve been burned too many times to get involved with others I don’t know from Adam. It happens from time to time but it’s as rare as a black guy from Compton voting Republican.
The vetting process can killed your dream deal faster than a sex scandal can kill your hope to be President Of The United States… Herman!
Tell people the truth about what you have or have not done. If your idea is a great idea and you have no experience at all tell the buyer. More than likely the company will respect that and proceed with that in mind.
I’ve sold TV shows and I had noidea how to produce one when I sold my first show. I have a better idea now but I’d be an idiot to think that I could produce and an even bigger idiot to say that I wanted to.
The vetting process would have outted me faster than Ricky Martin on TMZ.
It’s not just making sure your background is legit – it’s also avoiding the one bullshit line that I’ve heard a million times and it’s just bullshit.
“Disney wanted to do this but I didn’t like the deal.”
I’ve heard that line at least a thousand times in 20 years.
It’s bullshit, and unless your name is Tom Hanks or someone of that stature using that line in a meeting will surely kill any deal you had dead if it was not dead already.
Yesterday at a restaurant some guy recognized me from a CNN interview I did years ago. He pitched me this project while I was waiting for a meeting. Frankly, the idea was pretty darn good and I was considering meeting with him to discuss it when he said…
“Disney wanted to do this but I didn’t like the deal, so I’m bringing it to you.”
“Whom did you meet with at Disney?”
Nothing from him but a blank look, because it was all bullshit. After what had to be a minute he said he had to check his notes and blah, blah, yada, yada, yada.
So, if you have the next great idea and you manage to get a meeting to pitch someone, tell the truth my friend, nothing but bad things can happen if you don’t.
My project from idea to signed contract took a solid year and a lot of work. The Action File reading program started in 1996 and has since moved to Pearson Learning where it’s still going strong.
As you go forward remember my second rule of business: don’t let anyone discourage you or try and kill your dream. Dreams do come true and maybe there’s a tip or two within this series that can help a little bit towards yours, young Jedi. Good luck… and if Disney wants to do your project let them.
Please refer to Part 1 of this series. Part 2 was my attempt to try and underscore what I was trying to get across. Yeah, I have no idea why I did it either. To recap, I was breaking down my deal that put comic books in the school system.
The program was called The Action Files and it’s a K-12 high interest, low level reading program. These were the steps I took and the questions I asked:
Q. Did my idea have merit?
A. Comics in the school system. Duh, duh, triple duh.
Q. What were the barriers to entry?
A. After researching I decided the reason why there was no comic book reading programs taught as a curriculum because of the educational climate and prejudices that were associated (at the time, which was 1996) against comic books.
In other words, no one wanted to see The Hulk on a textbook.
Q. If such a good idea, why had it not been done before?
A. Marvel and DC were light years away from my brilliance! Only I was smart enough to figure out how to get into the school system! Me and me alone!!!!!
Or…Marvel and DC were simply not interested in the market to approach it the way I did which was as a curriculum.
I covered all of this in detail in Part 1. Now comes the Nitti Gritty as to exactly how I was able to pull this off.
The idea of comics’ as a learning tool and comics in the school is not a new idea and certainly not just my idea. I realized that idea was a good one but it was a huge one.
So I fine-tuned the idea to a smaller more manageable and focused idea. Comics in the schools as a reading program. A curriculum based program complete with lesson plans and teacher guides.
From my research I realized that most states have different guidelines for their schools. No matter how smart, well done and even needed my reading program was, it would not ever be seen in a state unless it adheres to that states guidelines.
So how did I get around that? Did I do a program for all 50 states?
I created two different programs, one for California using their guidelines and one for Texas using their guidelines.
Why California and Texas? Why not my beloved New York and some other state I don’t hate like I hate both California and Texas?
Because there are no bigger players in the textbook market than California and Texas, where they go, goes the nation. Seriously, I can’t stand Texas and have no love for California but this as they say is business.
Did I care about the other 48 states and Puerto Rico?
Nope. Not for this deal. Sometimes less is more.
Now I had the program and knew the audience and had created The Action File Universe so now the question was how to get paid. Not how to get the comics into the classrooms.
I’ll say it again; the question after all this work was how I would get paid for this idea. Why was I not thinking about how to get the comics in the classroom?
Because that’s not what I do.
That’s so important. Many people try and be a jack-of-all-trades but end up being masters of none. I’m an idea guy. After the idea I’m like a deer in the headlights.
I don’t know nor do I want to know how the guy I hired to fix my car fixed it. Why? Because knowing how he did something does not mean I’ll be able to do it. So why waste my time trying? Hell, I know how and why my dentist drills my teeth but I’m not buying a drill so I can do it.
I don’t have millions of dollars (not anymore, here’s some advice kids, just say no) to pay for the creation, printing and distribution into the schools nor did I have the juice (influence) to get into the very exclusive education market.
I’ve got the juice now, trust me, I’m a doctor.
Remember. I’m an idea guy. The above is not what I do, even if I had that kind of bank.
I needed a partner. I needed a partner who would not only get it; they would also pay for it.
So, I took another month and wrote a detailed business plan. When that was done, I picked up the phone and called one of the biggest publishers in the world.
I was going to finish up the how and whys of the Action File school system deal this week and begin The Guardian Line Christian publishing deal. I’ve decided to take a step back and deal with some important particulars about these deal-making articles. I’ve gotten some feedback in person and by email over the last week that I want to address so I’ll finish those deals next week.
Someone asked me last week to whom did I think I was giving advice?
I replied: “Me.”
I started last week’s article by saying I was not bragging when I say I’ve got a ridiculous résumé and by ridiculous I mean bad ass and by bad ass I mean impressive and by impressive I mean yada, yada and yada. I stated that so it was clear up front that I am writing from a position of one who has done what I’m talking about. I have little to no respect for people who talk a big game but it’s only talk because they have never really been in the game they are talking about. Case in point, sportscasters who have never played the sport professionally but find it easy to second-guess players, managers and coaches on the field.
I’m not bragging when I say I’ve got a ridiculous résumé, and by ridiculous I mean bad ass and by bad ass I mean impressive and by impressive I mean… you know.
Really. I am not bragging. Consider one of my favorite sayings from the great philosopher Yogi Berra, who said “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”
Trust me on this. I won’t bore you with the details but I’m one the best dealmakers in the comics business if I do say so myself.
And… I do say so.
Yeah, yeah. I can hear the haters out there. Who is this guy? Except for Milestone and ComicMix I’ve never heard of him.
But I’m sure a great many of you love movies and have never heard of Michael Ovitz either. I’ll just leave it at that.
When I say “deal” I’m not just talking about getting a comic book done. I’m talking about expanding the medium to as many media platforms as my mind can conceive. Except for the movies (which I’m working on) I’ve done major deals in TV, mainstream publishing, education, the music industry, toys, the Christian market, radio and I’m working on a (get this) musical.
I’ve done very few comic books as a creator. In fact, I’m only done two mini series, a few covers had some work in a few anthologies and at Milestone. Yet I was named one of the most powerful people in comics for two straight years by Hero Illustrated in 1993 and 1994 and back then I had nowhere the résumé I have to day.
Of course after naming me to that list for the second time, Hero Illustrated went out of business. Coincidence?
Probably not, but who am I to say?
You may ask yourself, as I have, “Self, how the heck did he get on that list?”
It’s the art of the deal my friend, the art of the deal.
I’ve put deals major together such as creating a comic book universe as a high interest low level reading program which is now and has been taught in schools as a curriculum and I did that in 1996. It’s called The Action Files; it started at Simon & Shuster then went to Person Learning.
That’s a pretty big accomplishment, but not my biggest. 15 years later it still holds up as a badass deal.
I’ll use that deal as a step by step ‘”how I did it.” I’ll go from idea to how The Action Files came to be distributed in the school system by not one but two powerhouse publishers.
My step by step will be interspersed with asides which will (hopefully) help provide a better and true understanding of the what-and-why mechanics of the deal.
The Action File Deal
It all started with a great idea: comics in the school system.
I’m not the first guy to think of that not by any means. In fact both Marvel and DC have had comics in the schools for one reason or another for decades. Those “educational” comics covered subjects such as drug abuse prevention among various other public service content.
What made my idea different was this: I wanted to create a comic book universe that would be a complete reading program with study and teacher guides that allow for a specific curriculum to be taught.
Many young people go wrong when trying to do something new or groundbreaking they think that a great idea is all you need.
My idea was neither ‘new nor groundbreaking, but my program was both. With that said here are the steps taken that turned my idea into a deal and that deal into a reading program.
Step 1: Does your idea have merit?
In other words, is it a good idea to anyone else but you?
I knew my idea had merit because it just made sense. I knew this on a personal level because the summer I discovered comics I went from a forth grade student with a third grade reading level to a fifth grade student with a ninth grade reading level. I knew this because I had to attend summer school that year to be able to be promoted into the fifth grade. I tested third grade in July and ninth grade in late August.
Why had it not been done before with a major publisher? That was the question I had to think about. That led me to my next question and step:
Step 2: What are the barriers to entry and why has this not been done before?
After thinking and researching this question for a few weeks (another reason people fail: they think a good idea is somehow magically going to go away or be stolen if they don’t move the second they think of it. So they don’t do their due diligence) I decided the reason why there was no comic book reading programs taught as a curriculum is because of the educational climax and prejudices that were associated (at the time) against comic books.
In other words no one wanted to see The Hulk in a textbook.
When I ran this little tidbit by my then girlfriend she responded“That’s silly! Kids love comics!” True, kids love comics and very few kids would frown on reading them in school.
BUT, you are not selling to the kids; you are selling to educators and parents. Get it?
That’s another reason why some fail at this sort of thing. The idea is everything to them. They focus only on the audience that the idea would be great for. Very seldom is the end user the gatekeeper.
How many times have you seen a TV show and it just sucked? When’s the last time you felt gipped because you spent nine bucks on a movie that was just bad?
Have any comics that you wished you could not only get your money back but also find the creative team and beat them with your copy?
I’m sure the vast majority of the readers of this column have experienced some if not all of the above. Here’s the thing: that TV show, movie and comic book all started out as a good idea to somebody. I’ve had much better ideas and so have you than certain things I’ve seen in the movies or on television. Yet somehow the shitty stuff is on TV and my idea is not. That’s because all the people involved figured out and dealt with the barriers to entry. What happened when the movie or TV show was being filmed is not the problem you should be worried about while you are looking to sell your idea.
That’s another reason people fail. They ask for outrageous things the moment someone shows an interest. I have a dear friend who killed a huge animated deal at DreamWorks because he insisted on directing. He never directed anything in his life so guess what happened to his idea?
It went from a DreamWorks movie to just being another idea.
Here’s another thing most people will not tell you: ideas are a dime a dozen, ideas are cheap and there is very little new under the sun.
By no means is anything I wrote or anything I’ve managed to do a magic bullet for a deal closing. I’ve killed a deal or 50 in my career with bad moves and most likely will again. This series of articles hopefully will shed some light on the inner workings of real deals and how they got done.
Think “ABC” when it comes to deal making:
What good is any idea if it just stays an idea?
Next week, I’ll finish up the Action File deal and begin to tell you how I set up a comic book universe and animated film deal for the church market.
Until then if you are interested in deal making, Goggle Michael Ovitz. I’m good but he’s the best that ever was and compared to him I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut.
A cute and sexy squirrel, but still just a squirrel.