Archive for Marketing and Hype

What’s the Deal with Wonder Woman’s New Costume?

Wonder Woman #600

Where to begin? Well, DC has now re-numbered this series to take advantage of the fact that this is the 600th issue since the ’40s, and this is supposed to be the big send-off for Gail Simone, whose run on this series has been pretty popular. But this issue has mostly been overshadowed by all the hubbub about her new costume.

So let’s take this more or less in order.

We’ve got a half-page introduction by Lynda Carter, and some excellent pin-up illustrations by artists including Adam Hughes, Nicola Scott, Phil Jimenez, Ivan Reis, Greg Horn, Francis Manapul, and Shane Davis. Our first story is written by Gail Simone with art by George Perez. Wondy and a host of superheroines take out Professor Ivo’s newest creations — a bunch of Cyber-Sirens who can mind-control men. Afterwards, Diana attends the graduation ceremony for Vanessa Kapatelis, the former Silver Swan.

The next story is written and illustrated by Amanda Conner and features Wondy, Power Girl, and Cassandra Cain cracking down on Egg Fu before Diana assists Kara with a problem with her horrible, horrible cat.

There’s also a short story where Wonder Woman and Superman have to stop a terrorist who’s taken control of Zeus’ thunderbolts.

The big problem here starts with the last story, by the series’ new writer, J. Michael Straczynski. It’s gotten a lot of publicity because JMS announced his new direction for the series (Themyscyra retroactively destroyed in the past, with an amnesiac Wonder Woman on the run from government agents) and debuted a new costume designed by Jim Lee.

This hasn’t been very well-received, partly because of JMS’s mostly unearned arrogance (his attitude in interviews could be summed up as “Wonder Woman sucks and has always sucked. I’m here to make her cool.” All in the voice of Jeff Albertson.) and partly because of Jim Lee’s new costume:

My thoughts? I agree with a lot of what the folks at Project Rooftop had to say — it’s probably a fine costume for any other character, but it’s not a Wonder Woman costume. And Jim Lee really does stick a leather jacket on every character he can. As for the story, it’s a very safe bet that this kind of alternate-reality scheme will be cleaned up between six months to a year from now, possibly by the end of the first storyarc. This is a publicity stunt, no more or less.

But J. Michael Straczynski really is a bit of a jerk, and I haven’t been at all impressed with his DC work in the past year or so. He’d better bring his A-game, or I’m not going to be reading this title for much longer.

Verdict: All told, it’s still a thumbs up. The first story by Simone and Perez is just awesome, at least partly for seeing Perez’s art on this character again. The second story by Amanda Conner is also really cool, partly for Conner’s always outstanding artwork, partly because it’s got a lot of the Power Girl brand of humor.

And a lot of the pin-ups are just absolutely beautiful, especially the ones by Adam Hughes, Phil Jimenez, and Nicola Scott — they should all be out there as posters or book covers or wall paintings, not buried on the inside of a comic book. It’s definitely worth picking up, even with a $5 price tag.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Shakeup at DC!


It was just a bit over a week ago that the big news broke about Disney buying Marvel Comics, and now there’s another big shakeup.

Time Warner, which has owned DC Comics for decades, has announced that they’re going to restructure DC, and Paul Levitz, DC’s publisher and president, is stepping down, supposedly so he can focus on writing comic books again.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (WBEI) has created DC Entertainment Inc., a new company founded to fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand and characters across all media and platforms, to be run by Diane Nelson, it was announced today by Barry Meyer, Chairman & CEO, and Alan Horn, President & COO, Warner Bros.

DC Entertainment, a separate division of WBEI, will be charged with strategically integrating the DC Comics business, brand and characters deeply into Warner Bros. Entertainment and all its content and distribution businesses.  DC Entertainment, which will work with each of the Warner Bros. divisions, will also tap into the tremendous expertise the Studio has in building and sustaining franchises and prioritize DC properties as key titles and growth drivers across all of the Studio, including feature films, television, interactive entertainment, direct-to-consumer platforms and consumer products.  The DC Comics publishing business will remain the cornerstone of DC Entertainment, releasing approximately 90 comic books through its various imprints and 30 graphic novels a month and continuing to build on its creative leadership in the comic book industry.

In her new role, Nelson will report to Jeff Robinov, President, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, in order to best capitalize on DC Entertainment’s theatrical development and production activities and their importance to drive its overall business with each of the divisions of Warner Bros.

Nelson will bring her expertise and more than 20 years’ experience in creative brand management, strategic marketing and content development and production to ensuring DC Entertainment’s dual mission of marshalling Warner Bros.’ resources to maximize the potential of the DC brand while remaining respectful of and collaborative with creators, talent, fans and source material.  Additionally, Nelson will continue to oversee the franchise management of the Harry Potter property, which she has done since 2000, and also continue to represent the Studio’s interests with the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling.  Nelson will segue from her post as President, Warner Premiere but maintain oversight responsibilities of that division.  (An executive succession plan for Warner Premiere will be announced shortly.)

Paul Levitz, who has served as President & Publisher of DC Comics since 2002, will segue from that role to return to his roots as a writer for DC and become a contributing editor and overall consultant to DCE.  This transition will take place as expeditiously as possible without disrupting DC’s business operations.

In his new role, Levitz will be called upon for his deep knowledge and more than three-decade history with DC Comics, both as a comic creator and an executive.  Besides serving as a writer on a number of DC Comics titles, he will be a contributing editor and consultant to DC Entertainment on projects in various media. 

Okay, that’s a LOT of corporate marketing-speak (and there was a lot more that I cut out, too), and corporate marketing-speak is designed to say as little as possible while looking like you’re saying a lot. Basically, all this says is: Levitz is out, Diane Nelson is in, and Warner’s is kinda tired of getting their butts whupped by Marvel’s movies. There’s a lot they’re NOT saying. Sure, we have no idea what really went down, but as they say in the blogosphere: Would it be irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to!

First, there’s not much question that this all went down because of the Disney-Marvel deal. The Warner bigwigs opened up their business section one morning, read about Disney’s big purchase, and said, “Hey, don’t we own a comic book company, too?”

At that point, research was done into one of Warner’s smallest properties, and someone came up not happy with what they saw. It would be nice if they said, “Holy cats! They cancelled Blue Beetle?! Teen Titans has turned into a murder parade?! They’re relaunching old characters and then abandoning them again?! These comic books are crap!” But ya know, like Disney, Warner’s almost certainly doesn’t care about comics. Comics are small fry. Movies and video games are where the big money is, and for the past few years, DC’s comic book movies have been, except for “The Dark Knight,” an unrelenting parade of suck. And even then, the pace of production has been ploddingly slow. Marvel had a huge hit last year with “Iron Man,” and they’re already filming the sequel. DC had an even larger hit with “The Dark Knight,” but they haven’t even started pre-production work on a sequel. To be honest, this was probably more about lighting a fire under their film division than it was about comic books.

…except for Paul Levitz. His resignation — and I have little doubt that this was a “resign-or-else” resignation — would not have happened if this was all about movies, ’cause Levitz isn’t in charge of making any movies. It looks to me like Levitz was pushed out because one of the higher-ups at Warner’s didn’t like something about how the comics side of the business was being run. It could’ve just been “Wait, why are Marvels comics more popular than ours? We’ve got Batman, dangit!” But that’s not certain — maybe someone at the top actually reads comics and is tired of seeing DC publish bad comics.

Now what does this all mean for us funny-book fans? With Marvel, I’m figuring Disney won’t care to interfere with the comic book side of things, but I’m not sure that’s the case with DC. Getting rid of the publisher means someone wants some changes made.

If we’re lucky, maybe Dan DiDio will get shown the door, too, and maybe DC’s books will see some improvement.

If we’re not lucky… Well, Diane Nelson doesn’t seem to have any prior experience in the comics biz — it’s all movies, brand management, and marketing. And I think we’ve all seen far too many marketing-driven comics to expect good things on that front. It doesn’t take too great a stretch of the imagination to see that DiDio might actually be very, very happy about this new arrangement — he may be afforded more power than he ever was before…

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Mr. and Mrs. Archie Andrews?

So the word on the street is that Archie is getting married.

Archie Andrews is about to make an offer someone can’t refuse. In what Archie Comics is billing as the “Archie Story of the Century,” Hollywood producer and comics writer Michael Uslan (“The Dark Knight,” “The Spirit”) is set to take Riverdale’s resident redhead into the future where he pops the question more than 65 years in making: “Will you marry me?”

Well, he’s not actually getting married, of course, because he’s a cartoon character and is not able to actually get married or sign contracts or purchase stocks and bonds. But even in the world of Archie Comics, he’s not really getting married.

This is a story that starts about five years in the future. And it takes place just as Archie and the Gang graduate from college. So what we do here is take a leap into the future and the device that I use here is similar to what happened back in “Archie Digest” #236. There was a story where Archie meets Archie. Archie walks down memory lane and meets Archie from 1941. This time, he goes up the street rather than down the street and winds up walking smack into his own future.

And it is just, to me, a really, really cool setup where we get to explore what impact, making a decision about who you are going to marry has.

In other words, it’s a publicity stunt, just like Spider-Man getting un-married, just like the new Batman, just like the death of Superman, just like, frankly, “Final Crisis.” It’s there to grab a few extra readers for a month or two, and then it’ll never be mentioned in-continuity again.

I don’t mind a few publicity stunts now and then. I just wish the comics industry was better at designing and publishing them.

Besides, everyone knows Archie would marry Betty. Right?

Everyone knows that.

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Man alive, I had actual comics to review today, but then a major corporation’s public relations department had to go and make me mad.

If you missed the news, got hit with a heaping dose of rotten publicity this week. Somehow, either because of a computer glitch, hackers, or something else, books with GLBT, feminist, and health themes got reclassified as “adult” and de-listed — meaning you couldn’t find them if you did a search for them on the website. So you couldn’t buy “Brokeback Mountain,” “Lady Chatterly’s Lover,” biographies of Oscar Wilde or Harvey Milk, or even books about rape survivors and preventing teen suicide — but you could definitely buy “Girls Gone Wild” videos, sex toys, “Mein Kampf,” and “The Turner Diaries.”

Unsurprisingly, the online world completely blew up. Twitter went wild, Facebook went wild, the blogosphere went wild. And justifiably so, I think — Amazon is probably the largest bookseller, online or off, in the world, and lots of people buy books there that are unavailable at their local bookstores. And I do think this was either an accidental computer foul-up or a case of someone hacking the Amazon ratings system somehow — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ leftward political leanings are pretty well-known, and he’s not the kind of guy to just start censoring books he doesn’t agree with, much less books that he probably does agree with.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk about how it happened, because no one really knows yet. I don’t want to talk about the fallout, because no one knows what it might be.

I used to work as a public relations guy, so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.

Because this was an absolutely spectacular failure.

Part of the problem is that the story broke on Easter Sunday, when just about everyone at the company was at home with their families. I cut their PR guys a little slack for that — it wasn’t like they were all in the office when people found out about it. But the thing is, this was the major topic of discussion online Sunday and Monday. Twitter’s top “trend” for the last few days has been “#amazonfail” and I can’t count the number of angry blog posts I’ve read about this. On Sunday, it was already shaping up as a major PR disaster for Amazon, something that they’d have to address as quickly as possible.

But they didn’t address it.

Sure, they talked to a few reporters. They released some statements, finally, late in the day on Monday. But the one place you never saw an explanation or statement was on’s website. And that’s where you need it most, because that’s where people were going to see what Amazon had to say. It looked like Amazon was going to ignore the problem and hope it would all go away. In a case like this, the embarrassment caused by admitting that your site had a problem is vastly outweighed by the need to get unhappy customers back on your good side. Having this happen, whether it’s a glitch, a hack, or on purpose, is a disaster, but taking too long to respond just makes it worse.

The idea that Amazon couldn’t get started on a PR response because of the Easter holiday doesn’t hold water. If you’re the PR manager for a company the size of Amazon, and something like this blows up, you don’t come strolling into the office Monday morning at 9:30 or 10 to start meandering your way through a response. You’re in the office on Easter Sunday or as early as you can get in on Monday morning to make sure a response is ready and uploaded onto the front page. A web-savvy company should know better than to let Twitter and the blogs spend a couple of days talking about a problem like this. It reinforces every bad thing being said about the company.

I suspect that part of the problem was that the legal department got involved and screamed “Don’t say anything! We’ll get sued!” Of course, keeping sullenly silent won’t actually stop you from getting sued if someone wants to sue you. And prompt and effective public relations responses are the types of things that turn angry customers — and angry authors and publishers — into people who understand what happened and are willing to cut you some slack while you get the problem fixed. So the correct response to the legal team would’ve been to lock ’em in a storage room and release a statement anyway.

In summary, with the recent PR screwups by Amazon and, a few weeks back, by the Sci Fi Channel, I’m almost convinced that I’m the only person who has a single clue about public relations. I guess I should send ’em a few resumes…

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Sci Fi Channel to sci-fi fans: "Drop Dead!"

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let us gather together and gaze in wonder at the Dumbest Thing Ever:

In some universe, the name “Syfy” is less geeky than the name “Sci Fi.” Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi Channel, is betting it’s this one.

To that end, the 16-year-old network — owned by NBC Universal — plans to announce that Syfy is its new name March 16 at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York.

“What we love about this is we hopefully get the best of both worlds,” Mr. Howe said. “We’ll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we’ll build off of that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand.”

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie.

“We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”


Consider me gobsmacked.

Well, the unwritten story in this article is that NBC’s lawyers probably realized there was no way to trademark “Sci Fi” — but they could trademark a goofy spelling like “Syfy.” So there actually is a legitimate business reason for the change.

But it’s too bad they didn’t just say that. “Hey, folks, we’re changing the name of our network to something we can trademark.” They might get a little razzing about it, but not all that much.

Instead, what they went with was just pointlessly insulting: “Yeah, we’re going to take our core audience, the science fiction, fantasy, and horror geeks, and just tell ’em to take a flying leap. We’re gonna try to get an all-new core audience, one that’s cool and hip and young and sexxxay, if we can convince them to watch old ‘Star Trek’ reruns, wrestling, horror-themed reality shows, and painfully bad movies like ‘Mansquito’ and ‘SS Doomtrooper.’ ”

So five points for having a legitimate reason to change your name, but several thousand points off for telling your friends in the D&D Club that you’re deserting them to try to con a spot at the jocks’ table in the cafeteria.

The Sci Fi Channel has been a pretty sad joke for a while — a few huge successes like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Farscape” balanced against management so cheap they’d broadcast reruns of “Law and Order: SVU” — but I never really imagined they’d end up going hostile on the audiences who supported them over the years. I don’t know if the Secret Masters of Fandom have enough power or a long enough attention span to convince the world’s geeks to boycott the network, but I wouldn’t shed no tears if they did.

Anyway, what’s the over-under for when “Syfy” switches over to an “All Wrestling, All the Time” format? I’m betting on 18 months or less…

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The Comics I Didn’t Read

There were a couple of different comics that I didn’t pick up this week. Actually, I didn’t even get a chance to get them — they weren’t in the store when I made it in. Could be because they were already sold out. Could be because they weren’t included in this week’s shipment — something that happens quite a lot. Still, even if they’d been available, I don’t think I would’ve bought them. But let’s talk about them a bit anyway.

The Amazing Spider-Man #583

Yeah, the issue where soon-to-be President Barack Obama does the terrorist fist jab with Spider-Man. I’d already heard from a friend who’d seen the comic earlier that he didn’t think it was a very good story, and I was already leery of this being something I’d buy, read, find boring, and want to get rid of ASAP. So it wasn’t appealing to me at all. Just another publicity stunt by Marvel, though by all accounts, it’s been an uncommonly successful publicity stunt — Marvel’s gone back for three printings already to keep up with the demand.

Final Crisis #6

Well, like I’d said previously, I’m quitting the crossovers, especially the crossovers that are $4 instead of $3. I’ve already heard that Grant Morrison finally delivers what he said he’d have in the “Batman R.I.P.” storyarc — the death of Batman. He gets zapped by Darkseid’s “Omega Effect” right after shooting him in the shoulder with a big gun. Way to go, Bats, you actually use a gun on someone, on the biggest, baddest villain in the DCU, a guy who’s planning on killing, well, everyone, and you still can’t shoot him in the head. Great work, man.

Also, please feel free to gasp in wonder at the stunning and humiliating depths of ineptitude displayed by DC’s public relations office. You’re part of a gigantic media megalith like Warner Brothers. You’ve just “killed” the most popular superhero in the world. And you can’t even get a mention on the news because everyone’s talking about Marvel’s publicity stunt with Barack Obama. Congratulations, DC Comics, you are officially the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

And in a related topic, could I direct y’all’s attention to this silliness over at Valerie D’Orazio’s joint, referring to the new issue of “Final Crisis”?

This book comes out the same day as the Spider-Man Obama cover. Such a contrast in energy, direction.

I choose hope.

Puhhh-lease. The death of Batman and the guest-appearance of Obama have exactly the same goals: sales. In fact, the energy and direction of both events is blatantly, unashamedly cynical — fake events, publicity-seeking nothingness, and short-term sales boosts. Will Batman stay dead? Certainly not. Did Obama’s appearance serve any greater story? Certainly not. Both events are there only because the publishers believe that readers will buy into the hype and buy the comics.

If anything, I think the Spider-Man comic may actually be more cynical. Marvel head-honcho Joe Quesada has said they published the story only because they found out that Obama is a Spidey fan. It’s the equivalent of a commemorative plate. I don’t blame Marvel for publishing it — if I was in charge of the company, I’d be nuts not to hook my wagon to an incredibly popular president-elect. But let’s not ascribe unearned nobility to what is simply a fairly shrewd PR ploy.

Oh, and one more thing, ’cause I just can’t let this go yet. As far as all the “hope” at Marvel, and the “contrast in energy, direction” between Marvel and DC — in the past few years, Marvel has killed off Captain America, the Wasp, and Kitty Pryde, and had Spider-Man make a deal with the Devil to end his marriage. It takes more than a back-up story guest-starring a popular politician to erase years of cynical storytelling. The contrast between Marvel and DC is nil.

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Event Fatigue and Secret Invasions

The weekend cannot get here fast enough.

Had one heck of a day yesterday. Busy like you wouldn’t believe. Had multiple projects to upload, had to fix up the site’s front page multiple times. Even my lunch break was less break-like than I woulda hoped — basically, I couldn’t stand the idea of eating the microwaveable chicken-and-noodle glop I’d brought to work, so I went hungry. Not fun, but the chicken-and-noodle glop woulda been a lot less fun. Even now, I don’t feel fully recovered, and I still got another eight or nine hours before I hit the weekend.

Even my comics experience yesterday was less than joyful. There were three different comics due out that I was eagerly anticipating, and none of them made it into the store. The few I was able to pick up were actually very nice, but I was so looking forward to those others, too…

And so that leads to today’s reviews, right?

Not actually. I’m not reviewing anything today. But I will tell you about one comic that I’m definitely not going to review.


Secret Invasion #1

They had a metric butt-ton of these in the store, and I didn’t buy one. Why? Because I’m tired of event comics. I’m tired of pointless spectacle. I’m tired of comics that are driven entirely by marketing. I’m tired of getting hooked by Marvel and DC and then getting disappointed with what I read.

So I didn’t buy this one. The marketing hype for this series — concerning an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” plot by the shapeshifting Skrull Empire — has been unrelenting and seemingly ever-lasting. As always, they promise earthshattering and lasting changes, and of course, the earthshattering changes won’t be lasting, and the lasting changes won’t be earthshattering, and the whole series will end in a muddle that’ll lead, directly and immediately, to more marketing hype for the next mega-crossover event…

So I’m skipping it. I’m tired of being Marvel’s monkey. I’m not going to jump through their hoops for this one. I’m worn out from mega-crossovers, and my pocketbook is definitely showing signs of comic-book fatigue.

Would things be different if “Secret Invasion” had gotten better reviews? Sure. But the reviews, though generally positive, haven’t been very enthusiastic either. Folks are getting weary of spectacle and hype, I think.

Will things be different for DC’s upcoming “Final Crisis”? Honestly, I’m not sure. My inclination right now is not to pick it up — DC has been at least as bad as Marvel at bludgeoning loyal readers with half-assed crossover crap. But “Final Crisis” is written by Grant Morrison, a guy who I pretty much consider one of the Eldritch Pagan Deities of Comics. It’ll be hard for me to resist that. But if I don’t get some pretty solid guarantees that “Final Crisis” is worth all the hype, I will do everything I can to resist it.

I doubt I’m done with event comics forever. They’re awfully hard to avoid these days, and I really have enjoyed some of them a lot. But I really wish Marvel and DC could go a year or two without insulting my intelligence with more of these marketing-driven crossovers. How ’bout some good stories, guys? Why don’t we all focus on making more of those?

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