Monday, September 17, 2007

The Big Question: Part Deux

A lot of people have chimed in, both here and on Heidi MacDonald's The Beat, with their theories as to why The Highwaymen didn't sell.

To sum up:
  • No one wants to try anything new, so new characters by new creators...nuh-uh.
  • Wildstorm, as a brand, doesn't inspire consumers to buy anymore.
  • The wait-for-the-trade mentality + hatred of the miniseries format = no floppy love.
  • The retailer incentive for issue #1 didn't extend to issue #2.
  • The cover for issue #1 didn't stand out.
  • Readers didn't respond to the concept.
Most of those I'll concede, with the exception of the last two. I liked the cover for issue #1 and while the design might've been a little conventional, I'd have thought the name-brandness of Brian Stelfreeze would've made up the difference. And, anecdotal and empirical evidence both point to readers absolutely responding to the concept. And to the execution. I guess we were laboring under the misguided theory that "good will out."

Maybe, finally, the answer to the "why" is: The market just isn't set up to support a book like this because, ultimately, the readers don't want a book like this. If they did, there'd be more of them. There'd be more romance books, and more action books, and more war books, and more straight sci-fi books, and more police procedural books. I'd say it was as myopic as TV, but then you'd have to posit a TV landscape where there were only sitcoms set in a bar.

But the market, with the rarest of exceptions (e.g., Y: The Last Man, Criminal, Walking Dead, Fell, Casanova, etc.), wants superheroes and only superheroes. Especially superheroes they already know. And especially if there's a possibility that they're zombies.


Anonymous said...

The funny thing is that some of the exceptions mentioned here (Y, Criminal, Walking Dead and you can easily add other titles like Scalped, Fables, Queen & Country, DMZ and 100 Bullets) are titles that seems to rely on support of tpb/hc sales. I read these titles in tpb-format.

This is also the case with The Highmen. I've read the first issue (which was very good) and based on that I decided to buy the tpb when it comes out. Hopefully the sales of the tpb will justify another arc :)

Maybe that is one of the answers to your question. Those exceptions/titles are allowed to grow through their tpb/hc sales.

Tony Lee said...

The problem is, Bernadin - that you don't look enough like Lando Calrissian for the readers to give a damn.

You gotta start wearing the funky cape more. And blue shirts. All the time.

President Fred Thompson said...

1.) One thing that everybody needs to wake up to is the fact that comic book "marketing" is absolutely useless. You can give interviews until you are blue in the face, but don't expect it to make a bit of difference on the bottom line. There is a huge percentage of comic book readers who spend their time exploring every last comic book news site, to stay abreast of what is happening, with absoutely no intention of buying what they are reading about. There is also a lot of comic book fans who, shockingly, ignore altogether the great circle jerk which is the comic book "press." The bottom line: Comic marketing is a joke. Do it if you enjoy it, but don't expect it to make a difference. And don't be surprised when it does not make a difference.

2.) No offense to you, Marc Bernadin, but comic book publishers LOVE to hire people from outside of comics, and make a lot of noise that because this person wrote this or that piece of work in a more respected or widely appreciated media, they MUST be good at creating entertaining comics. But the reality is, the return on these people for the comic book fan has been few and far between. Either these outside creators don't understand how to write or pace a comic, and write mediocre, derivative junk, or they don't respect comics enough to meet a deadline, and leave comic book fans hanging for while the outside writer finishes his or her higher profile, higher paying work. I personally avoid writers who come from outside of comics until they have a proven body of work, because at $3 or more a pop, I don't feel like rolling the dice on an unproven quantity. If you come from another media and are trying your hands in comics, the chances are greater that you will let me down than you will impress me.

marc bernardin said...

Dearest Fred:

1) I've always believed that building awareness is never a bad thing. Did doing all of that press translate directly into blockbuster sales? Apparently not. But I shudder to think what the sales might've been if we hadn't done the press.

2) Your opinion is your own, and you're entitled to it. And I've been burned, just as you have, but "other-media" creators who've dropped the ball when it came to their comics responsibilities. But to automatically assume that people like me don't know enough about comics, or don't care enough to learn how to make them...well, you know how that old "assume" maxim goes.

District Attorney Arthur Branch said...

"But I shudder to think what the sales might've been if we hadn't done the press."

Exactly the same, Marc. Exactly the same.

"But to automatically assume that people like me don't know enough about comics, or don't care enough to learn how to make them...well, you know how that old 'assume' maxim goes."

Marc, this was not directed at you in any way. You could very well be the greatest writer on Earth, and more power to you. But, in the past, too many outside writers have been pushed as the next big thing, only to find out they produce absolute dreck--at the same time the publisher tells you with a straight face that it is good. This wariness is based on having my intelligence insulted one to many times by publishers. I don't think the "assume" maxim applies to somebody who is basing their assumption on past experiences.

marc bernardin said...

then my bad...

And I wish we were pushed as the next big thing. That'd have made my mom happy.

B. Martin said...

Well, I have been burned a number of times by a promising title that fell apart, sometimes not even finished. For new titles by smaller imprints, I will not buy issues unless I absolutely love the idea. Only partial interested, I wait to check out the trade. Issues are too expensive any more to "try' them out.

philippos42 said...

Well, you were at the mercy of a glutted specialty-shop market. If WB/DC/WS had marketed you to non-direct sales shops as a new breed of illustrated book, sort of America's answer to manga, instead of trying to rely at all on the overstressed niche market that is comics shops, you might have had a chance on a new audience.

And they might still have made less money.