Tagged: DC Entertainment

Michael Davis: Dream Killer 4 – Publish or Perish

dreamkiller4From last week:

That, boys and girl, is called knowing the game. Those who don’t shouldn’t play. So despite being blackballed by one of the big two how was I able to thrive?

Alternative means of finding distribution, budget and happiness.

The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.

There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.

As well I will break down what option was preferred and why for the project I’m using for this series. I’ve been in the game for a long time. What I use as examples are not intended as a ‘how to’ to get into the comics biz. If so the series would be named ‘how to ruin your career.’

The underlying point is to look at the big picture when entering this field. I believe with every fiber of my being one should always look to do the right thing. Comics are a very small industry and to have a real shot, it’s counterproductive working on how well you write or draw without working on your relationships skills.

Put another way, when people tell who they are and what they are about, trust but verify.

“The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use one option.There are numerous more, and I’ll touch on those next time.”

It’s next time.

When I wrote about numerous other options, there certainly are. The four I list are ones I can speak about from a personal perspective.

Publishing Options:

  1. Find a major publisher
  2. Crowd Fund
  3. Fund Yourself
  4. Go outside the box.

The vast majority of top tier creators in the industry use option number one. Presentation to publishers differs from creator to creator. My process varies depending on the entity I’m pitching to.

The Comic Book Companies: Who & Why?

I’m not an idiot. This is a pop culture site heavy into comics. As such a significant amount of this, many readers will know. That’s great, but those who know will be surprised to learn many and by many a mean most of the newbies looking to get into the business have clue zero regarding the publishers in the industry.

There are well over two hundred publishers in the United States and thousands worldwide. For our purposes, we should know the players that meet your criteria for your project. The competitive rules are distribution, brand recognition, and marketing clout. What follows are the current major power brokers of the industry in my opinion.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics is one of the big two. Marvel has a lineup of some of the world’s greatest comics. They include The X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and of course, Spider-Man. When Disney acquired Marvel, the industry thought the mouse would destroy Marvel. Nope Marvel did change but for the better. Marvel is the undisputed superhero king in the mainstream because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. DC has yet to catch the kind of fire Marvel has on the screen.

DC Comics

DC Comics is the other half of the big two and despite my rocky history with them still my choice universe. Time/Warner owns DC, but as of this writing, the noise is AT&T is about to buy Time Warner.

When Disney purchased Marvel, I was one of the few voices that thought this was a good thing and it was. They were smart enough to let Axel Alonzo and other key playa’s stay and soon fear turned into faith. I also correctly predicted DC would oust Paul Levitz and move operations to the West Coast. This is not to say Paul was an obstacle to DC; he wasn’t. He was problematic. His influence spanned three decades and for better or worse Time Warner knew for DC to compete with Marvel Paul had to go.

In my opinion, and I do so hope I am wrong, if AT&T buys Time Warner and DC Comics is part of that deal (it may not be) then DC Comics may be fucked.

Disney is in the content creation business, and even James Bond can tell you nobody does it better. AT&T is in the telecommunication business and realizes within the high stake arena of telecommunication, they are far from the only game in town. What AT&T has is the ability to deliver content better than anyone. What they don’t have is content they own outright. If they buy Time Warner, they get the mother of all content and instantly become the biggest pimp in town. So big Comcast becomes their bitch, and even Disney had better recognize.

As most of you know, the DC lineup includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. DC further has a mature reader line of books called Vertigo. The Vertigo books have a suspense and horror tilt. Recently DC entirely rebooted their entire 78-year continuity with a revamping and retelling of all their major characters twice. The New 52 did not do the kind of numbers DC was hoping for but Rebirth is very strong and the talk of the industry. Outside comics Marvel may be king in the movies, but on TV it’s all DC.

All good right? No. Not really. If this deal happens all it takes is one high powered mofo to say; “What do we need comic books for?” Remember Disney got Marvel because of its superheroes.

Look at all AT&T gets:




Cartoon Network

Adult Swim


The CW

Warner Bros. Pictures

DC Entertainment

New Line Cinema

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

You see comics on that list? Nope. DC Entertainment, yes. Comics, nope. You don’t need comics if you own the property already. Far-fetched? Maybe, but so was AT&T buying Time Warner a month ago.

Image Comics

Image Comics started in the early nineties. They quickly rose to the number three position in the industry. They have a consortium of studios that all contribute to the publishing line. Many creators do creator owned books under the Image banner. Their publishing deal is as follows authors deliver the book Image manages the publishing distribution and marketing.

When I ran Motown Animation & Filmworks, my comic book division had its publishing deal with Image.

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics have lots of success with taking their comics to movies. The Mask, Time Cop, Barb Wire, Mystery Men, and Hellboy to name a few. All of those movies were Dark Horse comics first. Their CEO and publisher also owns a chain of comic book stores. They have the most “Hollywood” take on the comic book business. Dark Horse has a history of working with maverick creators and Mike Richardson publisher is one of the smartest men in the industry.

IDW Publishing

Idea + Design Works (IDW) was formed in 1999 by four entertainment executives and artists, Ted Adams, Alex Garner, Kris Oprisko and Robbie Robbins. They decided to create a company that would allow them to work with a variety of clients on the things they liked: video games, movies, TV, collectible card games, comic books and trading cards. They have produced some of the best-looking books in comics.

NBM Publishing

NBM is a graphic album publisher. They rarely do superheroes but do science fiction, fantasy, horror and what they call Eurotica. They are more of a mainline publisher in the way they conduct business. NBM has published many graphic novels in comics stores with a second window in mainstream bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. Smart people run NBM, and they don’t suffer fools on any level so before you pitch to them, or any publisher make it a point to know what they do.

Dynamite Entertainment

Dynamite Entertainment focuses primarily on comic book adaptations of existing properties, with most of their original holdings being new interpretations of the classics. They hold or have held the rights to publish titles based on films (Army of Darkness, Darkman, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, RoboCop, and Highlander), television series (Xena: Warrior Princess) and literature (Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and Zorro). Other properties include Buck Rogers and Sherlock Holmes.

Lion Forge Comics

When Lion Forge added Joe Illidge as senior editor they changed the game. That move should put a certain landmark publisher on notice. Or put another way, you slow you blow.


Crowd funding the second option was at one time something I was not at all interested in attempting. I thought there was no formula to speak of and I don’t do maybe or hit and miss in business.

What many people fail to realize is once funded they assume all the roles that go along with a crowdfunding gig. It’s true that some notable people (Spike Lee for one) have crowd funded projects. It’s easy with that kind of name recognition and people at that level have an existing infrastructure.

Funding must cover marketing creative, printing, and fulfillment of whatever incentives promised those who chip in. That alone is a massive undertaking. To reach a mass market would in my estimate take funding of between $30,000-$70.000.

There is a growing number of companies that will handle the undertaking for you. Some for a small fee some for a huge stake in your creation. I’m rethinking crowd funding mainly because I found a gem of a project which wasn’t moving. Taking a chance, I funded it all myself then brokered a deal for the property at a mainstream publisher. I don’t own it, didn’t create it but the creator can now think about just doing the work and let someone else do the heavy lifting selling.

What do I get? Right now nothing but the future isn’t built on right now.

Next week I’ll break down funding yourself and try and get you out of the box.


Tweeks: DC Super Hero Girls SDCC Cast Interview

Maddy has been pretty vocal this year about how she is with DC, though even more than Rebirth, Batgirl and Birds of Prey, we are both obsessed with DC Super Hero Girls. Yes, it is aimed for girls 6 -12, but we dare anyone to not love this. Start with the video shorts and eventually move onto the books and toy. And now there’s a new movie.

DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year premiered at Comc-Con, but just this week it’s been released on DVD and we already know it will be running non-stop on every little kid’s minivan TV. Apparently there’s so much action boys like it too. Why oh why was this not a thing when we were kids?

At SDCC, we were able to chat with Tara Strong (Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn), Grey Griffin (Wonder Woman), Anais Fairweather (Supergirl), Teala Dunn (Bumblebee), Stephanie Sheh (Katana), Jennifer Coyle (producer), and Cecilia Aranovich (director) about what they bring to the movie and to the characters. We also find out why a movie about a group of teenage girl superheroes is so important to them and in what ways they identify with their characters.


Martha Thomases: The Solution

three monkeys

Once again I’m going to talk about the sexism in the comic book industry. Yeah, I’m kind of sick of it, too. However, this week, in a wave of optimism, I’m going to suggest a solution!

The subject is in the news once again because DC Entertainment finally issued a statement about the continuing charges that members of its editorial staff engage in sexual harassment.

As far as I know, there are no new charges this week. Instead, the pressure of fan reaction online and in the press must have finally reached the attention of someone at Warner Bros. corporate HQ, and the issue could no longer be ignored. It’s obvious that DC would like this to be ignored, and as evidence, I offer the fact that they released their statement on Friday afternoon, a time well known to publicists as a dumping ground because journalists, like everyone else, like to get a head start on their weekend.

I’m starting to feel bad for Eddie Berganza. He screwed up — badly — several years ago, and he accepted a demotion and did all the other things that the HR department demanded. He’s not the only person in comics to behave badly, but he got caught and he has paid at least a part of the price. Everything else that has happened since, up to including the alleged edict to ban women from working in the Superman office, is a mistake committed by management.

If Eddie really can’t control himself enough to work with women, he needs professional help. If there is a provable pattern of discrimination against women in the Superman department, that is a criminal offense whose blame goes to the people who enforce it. Unless publishing has changed monumentally in this century, editors — not even Senior Editors or Executive Editors — cannot ask a company to break the law on their behalf.

The solution is not to ban women from the Superman office (or the Spider-Man office or the Hellboy office, etc.) but to hire more women. Fill the place with women. Make acceptable and respectful behavior towards women something that happens all the time, every day.

I realize this is a radical concept, and it may be a lot to expect DC Entertainment to change when all of Hollywood behaves differently. Except that Hollywood, or at least a tiny part of it, is changing.

, the people who made the new movie, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which opens today, were afraid they would be unintentionally sexist in their depiction of a modern-day sorority. To avoid this, they hired two women to consult about the script and the female characters.

Before the poor, oppressed straight cis men out there start hyperventilating about “censorship” or “political correctness,” thats not what’s happening here. The women are both writers and professional comedians. They were there to make sure the characters were real and funny, not bimbo stereotypes or delicate virgins.

I’m not suggesting that DC bring in consultants to vet every script or every page of art. Movies are a different medium, with one script (which may be rewritten constantly) and one production schedule. DC publishes more than 50 titles a month. Movie productions tend to each be a specific project, often with its own corporation or partnership, while comics are a continuing process from one legal entity.

Still, I think diversity consultants could be useful. In fact, I think there is an opportunity for just such a business. It would include people of color and people from other continents and people of diverse ages and sexualities and gender identities.

I think this company’s holiday parties would be so much fun.

If this works, it might be more efficient for DC to hire an actual Chief Diversity Officer. Yeah, it sounds like more bureaucracy, but companies are always adding new C-level executives. When I worked at DC, there was no such thing as a Chief Creative Officer. Now, DC and Marvel both have them.

Creativity and diversity go together. The sooner comics (and movies and music and television and theater and dance and publishing) realize this, the sooner we can talk about something other than Eddie Berganza. And won’t that be nice?

Martha Thomases: The Same Old Same Old

Superman Sex Discrimination

This has been a week of heart-breaking news, at least for me. No, nobody I know died (at least as of my deadline), but I hate all the stories coming out of DC Entertainment. No more Shelly Bond? Are they crazy? And Eddie Berganza? I remember meeting his cute kids. What the hell happened?

And that’s before we even get into conjecture about who this is supposed to be.

I don’t want you to think that by talking about Eddie’s kids that I am in any way suggesting that his accusers are lying about him. It’s difficult enough for a woman to stand up and make the accusation. No one does that for kicks. Rather, I’m suggesting that harassers (and their victims) are more complicated than just one type of action, no matter how vile. If anything, if we think that harassers and rapists and other creeps can only be entirely and stereotypically evil, we won’t recognize them in time to protect ourselves.

Instead, I want to talk about the institutional biases, assumptions that are so deeply ingrained in our culture that we don’t even notice them. In this case, it’s sexism, but we could be talking just as easily about racism and agism and homophobia. And I want to talk about it, specifically, in the entertainment industry, of which comics (especially DC and Marvel comics, both owned by major movie studios) are definitely a part.

Hollywood has a reputation for being “liberal,” whatever that means. People like Steven Spielberg and David Geffen and George Clooney raise a lot of money for Democratic candidates, and from this, we are supposed to infer that they are “politically correct” (whatever that means) in their personal lives as well. Maybe they are. I don’t know them. I do know that most business deals in Hollywood are conducted among people who feel comfortable with each other.

Most of us feel comfortable among people who are like us. It’s sad, but it’s true.

I’m not exempt from this. When I was a kid, I lived in a small Ohio city that was only 2% Jewish, but we all lived within the 16 blocks or so that I lived. It was quite a surprise to me to go to Connecticut and find out how many different kinds of Protestants there are. I didn’t even notice how Caucasian my freelance writing life was until I had to get a job doing events for a large department store and met African-American retail executives. When being around white people all the time is what one has always done, it’s difficult to notice how limiting it is.

In entertainment, cis white men (often from the same few Ivy League colleges) are used to being in meetings with other cis white men. They get each other’s references, because they’ve lived the same kinds of lives. That’s why their parents sent them to those schools, so they would meet each other and make friends and be successful together.

Hanging out, doing business with and generally only seeing people like yourself does not fill a person with empathy. To me, the best illustration of this is Swimming with Sharks. When I worked at DC, a friend was having a terrible time with her boss and I suggested we see this movie, since the reviews said Kevin Spacey plays the world’s worse boss and I thought that might make her feel better. Instead, Spacey’s character was almost exactly like her boss.

If your industry is based on an “old boy’s network,” intentionally or not, it’s very easy to decide that sexual harassment is just flirting gone wrong, no big deal. Or that it’s just some woman who was jilted and now wants to sue for a big payday. There are no women in the room to offer another opinion.

For the entertainment industry, it will probably take more than simple soul-searching to make the necessary changes. Even though Pitch Perfect 2 was one of the most profitable movies last year, and Selma got rave reviews, most studios give very few directing jobs to women, and two aren’t giving any. The number of women who can green light a movie is small. So is the number of women who can green light a comic book series.

What can we do about this? I would urge men who consider themselves to be allies to speak up. Don’t let your silence pass for agreement when you see shitty behavior.

It’s not easy to push people out of their comfort zone. Hell, I have trouble pushing myself to get into pants most days, much less notice how many important issues I’m not noticing. Part of the price of privilege is that I have to pay attention and deliberately seek out other points of view.

Am I successful at this? Not often enough. But every day is another chance to get it right.

Martha Thomases: Common Sense Comics Decisions

SupergirlAs a young fangirl, I never dreamed I would live in an age when the characters I loved were available in so many media. There’s a television show based on a comic book just about every night of the week. The highest grossing movies have super-heroes in them. There are comic books in libraries.

All of these developments came about because of and depend upon women and girls. Nothing – not even sports – gets and stays on the television if it doesn’t appeal to women.

This would seem to be Common Sense Capitalism 101. Mass media isn’t really “mass” if it goes out of its way to exclude fifty-one percent of a potential audience.

That’s why, when a major American comic book publisher (in this case, DC) does something stupid, it makes me want to throttle someone. And I’m a pacifist.

DC has licensed two t-shirts that are incredibly insulting to their potential female audience. One shows Superman embracing Wonder Woman and says, “Score! Superman Does It Again,” as if Diana is a thing to be done. The other, aimed at women, says, “In training to be Batman’s wife.” Because obviously, it’s a more appropriate ambition for a girl to be someone’s wife than it is to be the star of her own adventures.

I’m exhausted from being outraged at this. In a lot of ways, it’s a minor misstep. No one is forcing anyone to buy the shirts. They aren’t the only shirts that offend me, nor am I the Tsarina of determining what shirts are acceptable. If you want that shirt, you should go out and buy it.

Except …

If you buy and wear either of those shirts, you tell me a lot about yourself. You tell me you don’t think women are as capable as men, nor are they even fully human. They are trophies for the alpha males. And I don’t really believe in alpha males (at least not as they appear in popular fiction. This is not a biology paper).

DC has issued an apology of sorts. This is what they said.

“DC Comics is home to many of the greatest male and female Super Heroes in the world. All our fans are incredibly important to us, and we understand that the messages on certain t-shirts are offensive. We agree. Our company is committed to empowering boys and girls, men and women, through our characters and stories. Accordingly, we are taking a look at our licensing and product design process to ensure that all our consumer products reflect our core values and philosophy.”

This is a terrible response. I don’t know who approved the t-shirt license, whether it was at the comic book company or at Warner Entertainment. It doesn’t tell us how the shirts got made in the first place. It doesn’t admit to any responsibility at all. You know you’re in trouble from a branding perspective when the NFL shows more sensitivity to women’s feelings than Hollywood liberals.

It’s not difficult to admit you made a mistake. They already have this fine example from one of their other licensees.

And speaking of apologizing, I screwed up last week. Since this is the time Jews are supposed to atone, I’d like to do that now. In my column, I said I wasn’t offering a “stereotypical PC rant.” It has been pointed out to me that this can be read as dismissive of those who write about comics from a political perspective. That was not my intention, and it means I expressed myself poorly. I meant to say that my remarks should be considered more as literary criticism, as something that relates to how well-developed a character is, and not solely in a socio-political context.

I wondered why I used those words, if I was somehow expressing some kind of internalized misogyny. It’s hard to tease out those particular strands, especially from a subconscious that is as filled with various kinds of self-loathing as my own. After all this time, all the marches and the arguments and debates, am I still worried that men might find me threatening and not like me? Do I need to build myself down by putting down other women?

Maybe. Maybe I was just being sloppy in my choice of words, a sloppiness that gives hints as to my inner drama. In any case, it would be my honor to be considered someone who spouts off with PC rants. Really. Just ask me about gluten.

And be careful of the t-shirts you choose to wear around me.


Mike Gold: What Goes Around Inevitably Comes Around

DC Entertainment Co-Publisher and Editorial Big Kahuna Dan DiDio let the cat out of the bag on Facebook last week. In referring to Countdown To Infinite Crisis, he said “Definitely one of the highlights of my time at DC, but it gets me thinking, has it really been almost ten years since then, and maybe its time to do it one better.”

Dan, I’m sorry to say this, but your average seven year old could do it one better; two if you gave him a bigger box of Crayolas.

Look, we haven’t even finished Future’s End, a.k.a. Crisis on Infinite Angst. That means we haven’t even seen its trans-universe gangbang follow-up (pictured above, WordPress willing), Blood Moon. And now you’re “teasing” us with still another Crisis?

No, you are not. I know the difference between a tease and threat. A tease involves taking off almost all of your clothes. A threat is Vladimir Putin taking on Darkseid.

I really liked the original Crisis On Infinite Earths. It was a great series in and of itself. But immediately thereafter DC relaunched Superman and Wonder Woman, which sort of pulled the rug out from under the linear reboot. Then DC launched into a whole mess of predictable game-changers: The Death of Superman, followed by The Death or Disappearance of Almost Everybody Else One At A Time. It wasn’t too long before all the cool stuff in Crisis On Infinite Earths was invalidated or contradicted or ret-conned into oblivion. I can’t count the number of Crisis sequels that followed the one that set the DC Universe straight for the first and still-only time.

Indeed, over the past 30 years the DC fans have learned one and only one thing: we cannot trust DC to sustain a thought.

Like most of your readers and ostensibly many of your staff (hard to tell with the big move to Los Angeles), we all love and revere the DC characters. I know you share these feelings because you’ve said so yourself many times. Some of us were inspired to read because of DC’s output. Some of us got a nice slice of our morality from the doings of these characters. They may be entertainment, but entertainment can be enlightening and DC has spent the best part of 79 years doing just that.

Dan, I am not picking on you, nor am I picking on the talented writers and artists you employ, many of whom I count among my friends. If you want to do a sequel of something, base it upon one of the most innovative, daring and worthy projects in American comic book history. Maybe you can call it Thursday Comics.

You wanna do another Crisis? Do another Crisis. I can’t stop you. But, please do one thing: do not call it “Crisis.” Show some originality.

Besides, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez deserve better.


John Ostrander: Profit, Loss, Publishing and DC Comics

ContractYears back, I was negotiating a contract with DC. I read the contract and there was something I didn’t understand so I asked around the office as to what it meant. Most of the people there didn’t know either but the consensus was, “Just sign it. It’ll be okay.” One person actually said, “We’re all family here.”

My response then was that we were not. I had family and DC wasn’t that. I had friends who worked at DC but DC itself was not my friend. It was a corporation and the relationship I had with it was based on that contract and the business practices of the company. Despite what Mitt Romney claims, corporations are not people, too, except in the legal sense. I’m not saying that was or is bad or good; it’s simply recognizing differences.

Recently, DC announced a change in how it will run its participation program or what used to be called “royalties.” They pay you for the work you do but if the corporation gets a second bite of that same apple, the theory is that those who created the work should get a taste as well. It wasn’t always thus in comics; it was fostered and pushed by the independent comics (such as First Comics) and has occurred during my professional life time.

Many of the changes sound good. Colorists will now get cover credit and a share in the participation pool. I’ve long spoken and noted that colorists are major contributors to graphic work; I’ve compared them to soundtrack composers in movies and TV, heightening and guiding emotional reactions to the story. This change recognizes their importance to the work.

There are other small but useful changes. The opportunity to have one’s participation check directly deposited into a bank account is a good and useful change.

One change gets my Spidey-sense tingling. (I know, wrong company. There isn’t a corresponding DC metaphor. Bat-tinglies maybe?) The memo says: “There are a few significant differences between this new plan and what DCE has offered in the past.  Perhaps the biggest difference is that all participations will now be calculated based upon DCE’s net revenue from a book’s sale rather than on the cover price.”

“Net revenue” is the question mark here. One of the Hollywood jokes is there is no such thing as net profit. Without much effort, you can find a list of Hollywood blockbusters that, according to the accountants, somehow never showed a profit. The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Nope. Didn’t make a profit. The Batman film with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton? Ledger shows a deficit, according to the numbers folks. If one division of a company uses another division of a company for something, they pay them. It’s all the same company or conglomerate but it gets billed. The money keeps flowing around internally.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I think I have benefited from the system. Warner Bros movies and DC Entertainment both belong to the same parent company. If Warner Bros makes a movie and uses Amanda Waller in it, they have to pay DCE a fee for that use. And some of that comes to me.

That said, if we’re dealing with a process involving net profit, the only chance the artist might have to get some of it may be to have a clearly defined definition of net although some might argue with even that. Some percentage of gross is more likely to give the creators some money than net. Working off the cover price was and is more likely to give the creators some money.

There are also new thresholds “which triggers participation payments.” Translated: the amount of sales and/or money taken in. Participation kicks in after the threshold reaches a certain point. Will that threshold be for each individual issue or an aggregate for an arc (usually five to six issues)? Do foreign sales figure into that threshold?

By Hollywood standards, the revenue that comics bring in is chump change. What gets paid to creators is really nickel and dime. So why deny it them? As I said, the principle should be if the company gets a second bite off the same apple, the creators should get a taste. That seems fair.

I haven’t yet seen any definition of net or what the thresholds will be. I have written to DC and asked; I’ve been promised a phone call wherein they will try to answer my questions. A clear definition of net versus gross would cool down my Bat-tinglies.

To be clear, this isn’t an attack against anyone at DCE. I know and like and respect many people there. They work at DC, but they aren’t DC. DCE is a corporation. It’s not my family; it’s not my friend. It’s not my enemy. I expect those inside DCE to do what they regard to be in their own best self-interests and that means in the corporate self-interest.

To paraphrase Mel Brooks, they have to protect their phony baloney jobs. That’s why I’m not certain that the new way of figuring participation is in my best interest. I would be delighted to be wrong.

We’ll see.


Martha Thomases: Book… Fair?

When I went to my friendly neighborhood comic book store last Wednesday, they offered me a free copy of DC Entertainment Graphic Novel Essential and Chronology 2014.

“No,” I said. “It will just piss me off.”

They put in my bag anyway. And it did.

If you click on the link above you get a review of last year’s edition of this book. I was not aware that this was an on-going series. Thus, I have been spared years of rage.

The volume suffers from the kind of schizophrenia common to the comics industry: it doesn’t know its audience. Is it readers of comic books? That might explain the jumbled cover, which is otherwise incoherent to someone unfamiliar with members of the Bat crew other than Batman. Is it new readers that, somehow, get past the cover and look inside? Perhaps, but once these new readers page further in than the first chapter (which is “25 Essential Graphic Novels”), the book is a confusing listing of collections from the New 52.

By the time you get to the recommendations for “All Ages,” it’s collections of stories from series that have been cancelled. I’m sure the books hold up, which is more than one can say for the New 52.

If I had to guess, I would say that the book is aimed at booksellers, particularly those who plan to attend next week’s Book Expo America . The order information in the back is for booksellers. Graphic novels remain a growth area in the book business, and DC Entertainment would be foolish to ignore a growing revenue source.

However …

Back when I worked at DC, there weren’t many people who saw bookstores as a market for our wares. Comic book stores were our primary outlets, and some thought we shouldn’t do anything that competed with our best customers. I understood this perspective, but disagreed. Comic book stores are wonderful places, but comics, especially those with good, satisfying stories, are things that bring people joy. I thought we needed to expose our books to people who didn’t know about them, and the bookstore market was the most obvious place to do so.

The graphic novel was not a new product in the 1990s. Maus, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were all available and selling well. The challenge was to publish other books that would sell as well and yet still fit into the business patterns DC relied upon in terms of paying for work in advance. It was easier to publish the work serially first (as all three of the aforementioned books had been) than to spring for a fully-formed single volume.

Hence, the trade collection.

Here’s the thing: A trade collection is easy for the publisher. Just take four, or six, or eight sequential issues of a comic, put them together and bind them with a spine and – voila – it looks just like a graphic novel.

However, it doesn’t read like a novel, graphic or otherwise. There is not necessarily a beginning, a middle and an end. There is sometimes not even a clear protagonist, a person who has a character arc that leads him (or her) to a more developed character or personality. Quite often, there is so much backstory that the new reader is too confused to read past the first few pages.

Let’s compare a book like, say, The Flash volume 3: Gorilla Warfare, a book I like a great deal by a creative team I admire, and compare it to the third book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Both books provide the reader with certain expected tropes (speed, quidditch, scary enemies) but one is much more inviting to a newbie. J. K. Rowling always alludes to the previous books in such a way that the reader can follow the characters without reading the other books in the series (although having read them makes the experience much richer). DC Entertainment? Not so much.

I can cite lots of other examples: James Bond, the 87th Precinct, even The Hardy Boys.

The point is not that books are better than comics. The point isn’t that the examples I cited are great literature. They may be (I doubt it, YMMV), but that’s not my point. My point (and I do have one) is that when a reader is looking for something to read for pleasure, to pass the time on a plane ride or on the beach or by the fire on a rainy day, that reader doesn’t necessarily want to do homework first. He or she wants to sit down and get swept away by a story.

I used to argue that, while great literature is a wonderful thing, and I was proud to be working for the company that published Sandman and Stuck Rubber Baby, we should be user-friendly. A person who walks into a bookstore, interested in this graphic novel phenomenon s/he’s heard so much about, is most likely to pick up a book that looks a little familiar. When I thought I might like mysteries, for example, I started with Chandler and Hammett, whose work I knew a bit about from the movies. Someone looking for graphic novels is likely to pick up Superman or Batman.

We should make the best damn Superman and Batman graphic novels we know how.

Most of the graphic novels in this DC Entertainment catalog fail this requirement. The Year One books are pretty good, but they are in the minority.

I’ll be curious to see how the DC reps work at Book Expo this year. Last year, I didn’t see any, subsumed as they were as part of Random House distribution. There was no signage I could see, except at the Diamond booth.

Which is all they’re going to get if they keep up this kind of marketing.


Mindy Newell: The Patient Nurse Conversation

I had a good conversation with Mr. Gold on the phone yesterday, as in Mike, editor and columnist here at ComicMix and a columnist over at Michael Davis World, as in Michael Davis who is also a columnist on this site.  Did I ever mention that the comics industry can be a bit professionally incestuous?

Back to Mike, the gourmet of invisible doughnuts (here)—oh, and btw, although once in a while I’ve seen patients respond to anesthesia the way Mike did, I’ve never seen or heard of, and no one I spoke to at work has ever seen or heard of, anyone munching down on invisible donuts while in the ICU—I apologized for not warning him about just how miserable shoulder replacement surgery, and its immediate aftermath, can be.  “I didn’t want to scare you,” I said.  “Especially after seeing the X-ray you sent me.  To be perfectly honest, Michael, my professional reaction was, “HOLY SHIT!” (In other words, guys, Mike had no shoulder left.)

Mike, surprisingly, at least to me, said, and with no malice at all, “Why not?”  I guess better the devil you know, y’know?