Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Monday, March 21, 2005

Marvel and Malibu: The Full Story

Two posts ago, I gave a rundown of a number of comic lines, including Malibu’s Ultraverse. Discussing what happened to the UV, I wrote: “Malibu had a computer-coloring operation that Marvel coveted, as well as a west coast location. As a result, Marvel bought out Malibu in November 1994.”

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Tom Mason. Mr. Mason was one of the founders of Malibu and later the Ultraverse line, the co-creator and co-writer of the Ultraverse series Prototype, the creator of Dinosaurs for Hire, the founding editor of Malibu's Bravura line, and later the marketing director for Malibu just after the Ultraverse launch.

He was kind enough to clarify what actually happened:

Marvel didn't buy Malibu for its coloring department. After Marvel bought the company, they tried to dismantle the coloring department immediately by bringing in a group of consultants to crunch numbers to prove it was too expensive to maintain. Marvel had a long-term agreement with a coloring house in Ireland and preferred to send books out of house instead of using inhouse technology. Also, the head of Marvel's manufacturing department at that time was from the old school and had no idea how computers worked.

It was only after the place in Ireland was overloaded and a couple of Marvel editors were trying to get late books back on schedule that they reluctantly shipped books to Malibu for coloring. When that worked out well, word got around and other editors started pulling books from Ireland and requesting Malibu's coloring.The mythology of the Marvel's coloring desires and the goal of a west coast presence were created by Malibu as a way of slowing down rumors that Marvel would just cancel the UV titles as soon as the deal closed. The real reason that Marvel bought Malibu was to keep the company out of the hands of DC which had been negotiating to buy the company since April/May of 1994.

I asked Mr. Mason for further details, and he was kind enough to oblige.

HJ: Thank you very much for clearing up my misconception. I do research for my postings, but the business information that comes my way is fifth-hand, at best. Any corrections folks can make are greatly appreciated.

TM: Well, it wasn't really inaccurate or a misconception -- you just had the information that Malibu sent out to the public at the time. It then got picked up and passed around over the years so it's almost become legend.

HJ: Why would Marvel be worried about DC buying Malibu? If I remember right, wasn't it 1994 when Marvel bought out that distribution company ("Heroes World?") and tried to increase their grip on the industry? Were they, in fact, buying Malibu to shut it down?

TM: Nah - Marvel bought Malibu out of fear. DC had been negotiating to buy Malibu since April/May of 1994 when Paul Levitz approached Scott Rosenberg at Wondercon that year. Negotiations and due diligence were handled by a task force from the mergers and acquisitions unit of TimeWarner and continued throughout the summer. By the San Diego Con that year it was almost a done deal, but shortly after San Diego, Marvel found out about it (this was under the regime when Marvel was owned by Ron Perelman) and Marvel's Terry Stewart called Malibu publisher Dave Olbrich and asked what was going on. According to inside Marvel sources that we had, corporate Marvel was afraid that if DC bought Malibu and was able to grow the company even slightly, the combined DC-Malibu marketshare would be enough to drop Marvel to the #2 company. That was the fear that drove them.

And far from wanting to shut it down, once Marvel realized they had bought a company that had 150 employees, computers on every desk, an in house coloring department (five teams working two shifts), an inhouse email network, an inhouse computer lettering department, they did try to grow the business and give Malibu a chance to survive -- hence, the crossovers, the relaunch with the lower cover prices, the access to Marvel creators and stuff like that.

The problems were three-fold: one, the market was really collapsing and the industry retreated to the safety and security of the known universes (Marvel and DC); two, Marvel's financial picture was worsening and they would soon declare bankruptcy; and three, Marvel was buying Heroes World, an event that was going to significantly alter the direct market distribution of comics (though eventually not in the way Marvel intended).

So there you have it. The true story of what happened behind the scenes of Marvel, DC, and Malibu. Groovy.

I again thank Mr. Mason for his invaluable assistance. Not to mention the nice ego polish his email gave me. The co-writer of Prototype and Malibu big-shot guy read my blog? And wrote to me about it? Woo! (At the risk of sounding like a kissass, I dug Prototype.)

I would also like to thank Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin and the ever-popular Neilalien for linking to Filing Cabinet of the Damned recently. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and vaguely legitimate.

Hey, while I'm at it, thanks to all of you folks out there who read this blog. Regular posters, browsers, even my brother, who neither knows nor cares about comics, checks in once in a while. Thanks to each and every one of you.

...this kind of civility will never earn me a mention in Fanboy Rampage. Dammit. Maybe next time.

Click here to read more!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Ennis Smirk, the Miller Syncopation, and Kingese: Writer Tics

Plowing through the third trade paperback of Preacher, I started to quietly hum along with the Garth Ennis Smirk Rhythm. If you’ve read his work, you know what I mean.

Open up an issue of Preacher, Hellblazer, or Hitman. Look for a scene where the hero is talking to a buddy. Probably over beers. It'll go like this:

Panel 1: dramatic dialogue.
Panel 2: more dramatic dialogue, fraught with portent.
Panels 3-6: dialogue, growing drama, sense of danger.
Panel 7: Hero makes a wry comment, smirks, and lights a cigarette.

He sometimes wrote more than one of these per issue. That’s a lot of smug cigarette lighting.

Ennis lives for the wry smirking panel. Take that away from him, and he’d likely give up comics and write crossword puzzles. Sardonic, cigarette-smoking crossword puzzles.

Then there’s the Frank Miller Syncopation. The best use of it came in The Dark Knight Strikes Again, in Batman’s internal monologue.

Caption 1: This is bad.
Caption 2: Jerry says they’re gone.
Caption 3: Ran out of jerky.
Caption 4: Hope they still have peanuts.

You know that he sounds just like this in his own head. Tough-guy dialogue in short snippets with an emphasis on the last word: “I wake up. The city is a pit of sin. My fists ache to crush bone. Hey, where are my socks?”

And of course, there’s the famous Jack ”King” Kirby style: Kingese.

Kingese is overheated prose, every verb in boldface, and every damn sentence ending in an exclamation point. Plus, of course, Kirby's patented bizarro terminology. The Fourth World titles were written in fluent Kingese:

Caption: Trogdor tears down the steel door! Metal shreds beneath his power!
Trogdor: This day must not end with a Fire Penguin crushed by Strongbad!
Sookie: Hurry! The song of battle calls! I need a lozenge!
Caption: The Positron Lozenge cures the evils of hay fever!

Like beatnik poetry, Kingese has charm, but it reads like the work of a man for whom English was a fifth language, striving for eloquence after drinking two bottles of cough syrup.

...God, I love comics.

I’ve been working on my own stories lately. As I revise again and again to scrub out my repetitive wordings and rehashed dialogue, I take comfort that even the icons of the field fall victim to it.*

“A psychic hamster? Again? And why do half of your damn sentences begin with a gerund? Or split in the middle with a conjunctive ‘but?’”


Writing, she is hard.

Let me amend that: writing well, she is hard.

*I’m avoiding mention of Chris Claremont, longtime writer of X-Men. He was and remains the master of the writing tic. But I’ve never been a fan of Claremont or the X-Men, and I can’t bring myself to list out the Claremont Clichés. Anybody here want to take a crack at it?

Click here to read more!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lines Are Busy

Rummaging around the many longboxes of comics I recently took home from a storage unit, I was surprised by how many series I had that came from specifically designated lines of titles. “Lines,” by my definition, are multiple comic titles created with a unifying artistic idea behind them. Some of these lines were created as offshoots of the Big Two. Others were the efforts of smaller publishers.

There were quite a few lines in my collection. Marvel Comics produced the New Universe and the Ultimate line. DC produced Impact Comics and America’s Best Comics. Malibu had the Ultraverse line. Dark Horse had Comics’ Greatest World. Valiant and CrossGen’s entire output formed lines. (I’m sure there are others, but my memory is spotty these days. Too much fast livin’.)

There are also “lines” retroactively established on existing titles, the most famous and successful of which is DC’s Vertigo line. Originally Vertigo was a way to group already-existing titles that shared common elements. Over time it became a distinct line, with titles created specifically as “Vertigo titles.”

Most lines died within two years. A few have survived for long stretches.

Why do lines thrive or fail?

The Lines

New Universe (1986-1989):
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Unifying Theory: A stricter adherence to realism in superhero comics. No alien empires, undersea kingdoms, no gods descending from the heavens.

Jerkwater’s Opinion - Any Good? Nope. The books just weren’t interesting. Also, the adherence to “the world outside your window” varied wildly from title to title, making the necessity for a “new universe” questionable.

Why’d It Tank? Not that many folks gave a rat’s ass. The “realism” angle, even when applied, wasn’t compelling. Not to say it couldn’t be, but it wasn’t in the NU. Of the eight series launched in ’86, only three made it past issue 19. These titles, Justice, Psi-Force, and D.P.7, all ran to 32 issues.

How’d It End? As the titles floundered, the NU went afield of its original plan to try capturing readers. In 1987, one hero accidentally nuked Pittsburgh, and the NU world took a big sci-fi turn after that.

It wasn’t enough to save reader interest, and the NU died, wheezing to a conclusion in 1989.

Impact Comics (1991-1993)
Publisher: DC Comics

Unifying Theory: Kid-friendly fun comics. The goal was to ditch the baggage of established heroes and start fresh for new readers.* The line was also supposed to be distributed much wider than standard DC Comics fare, to reach young readers who weren’t already reading comics.

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? Yep. The Comet was surprisingly good series, and the twelve-issue run of The Black Hood remains one of my favorite superhero series ever published. I’d say Impact created what they set out to create. But it didn’t sell. Dang it.

Why’d It Tank? For reasons known only to DC suits, the wide newsstand distribution didn’t happen. Instead, the Impact line became part of the already-flooded direct market. The retro charm of the line didn’t resonate with existing comic readers enough to generate sales.

How’d It End? After a year and a half of declining sales, Impact created a miniseries, Crucible, out of which three new series would emerge. Crucible didn’t sell in the expected numbers, so the relaunch was scuttled and the miniseries became the end of Impact.

*Technically the characters weren’t new. They were modern adaptations of the MLJ characters created in the early forties, and Impact was hardly their first revival. Still, Impact ignored all previous versions and treated them as new characters. Thus, for all intents and purposes, they were new.

Ultraverse (1993-1997)
Publisher: Malibu Comics, later Marvel

Unifying Theory: Writer-focused comics, with a unified backstory and tight connections between titles. This was in reaction to the success of Image Comics, which was an artist-driven company.*

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? Not too bad. Gerard Jones’s Solitaire was a solid read, though after the first six issues, the art was handed over to a gawdawful penciler. Yeeg. James Robinson’s Firearm was a great book. The Ultraverse version of Shazam/Captain Marvel, Prime, was considered the Ultraverse flagship book, but I didn’t care for it. The others were hit-or-miss.

How’d It End? The Ultraverse hit the market just as the market peaked, like an internet company debuting in autumn of 1999. Whoops. When the comic buying public contracted rapidly in 1994, Ultraverse took a drubbing.

Also, Malibu had a computer-coloring operation that Marvel coveted, as well as a west coast location. As a result, Marvel bought out Malibu in November 1994. Marvel’s odd management ideas, combined with the market contraction, killed the Ultraverse by mid-1995. Marvel tried a few relaunches and whatnot, but the line was put to bed once and for all in 1997.

*Image Comics isn’t included in this rundown since I don’t consider Image to be a “line.” It was much too scattered for that. Their unifying theories were strictly of the business and contract variety.

Comics’ Greatest World (1993-1995, mostly)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Unifying Theory: Four very different fictional cities in the United States, each with their own flavor.

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? I can’t offer much of an opinion, since I barely paid attention after the snazzy launch. Y’see, DH had a clever idea when launching the line. They put out sixteen “pilot” issues, and made the top eight into ongoing series.

Of these eight series, three reached a dozen issues, two reached twenty-four, and only one lasted beyond twenty-four: the cheesecake-laden Ghost, which had fifty-eight issues and a couple of miniseries.

How’d It End? Dark Horse, long the distant third in the comic book industry, saw the big bucks of superheroes in the early nineties and got on board the gravy train, just like Malibu. And just like Malibu, they climbed aboard right before the bottom fell out. Out of the whole hullaballoo, they ended up with one mildly successful cheesecake title.

Valiant Comics (1991-1996) and Acclaim Comics (1997-2000)
Publisher: Valiant Comics, later the videogame company Acclaim

Unifying Theory: It had two. Originally, Valiant’s core idea was much like Marvel’s New Universe: superhumans in a “more real” world. Tight continuity. No costumes. The laws of physics (mostly) applied to everyone.*

Acclaim’s core unifying theory appeared to be simply “publish entertaining comics.”

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? I need to split between Valiant and Acclaim here.

Valiant: No. Most of the series were poorly written and deadly dull. With very few exceptions, the art was also flat and dull. There were a few decent books, like Shadowman and Archer and Armstrong. However, many of their titles were Golan-Globus Production cheesy late-night cable action movies turned into comics, and others just never flew. The revivals of old Gold Key heroes Turok, Magnus, and Solar, Man of the Atom had interesting starts that got tired fast.

Acclaim: From the stuff I’ve seen, yeah. The relaunched X-O Manowar was fun, and I loved Quantum and Woody. The relaunched Shadowman had its moments. Kurt Busiek’s Ninjak looked like a riot.

How’d It End? Valiant rode the early nineties comic industry boom hard. It took them way up, and then it took them way down.

Acclaim, not recognizing that the whole comic industry was in a slump and that there were fewer comic readers than they ever imagined, bought Valiant in ’97 and tried to revive the books. They figured that comics would (pardon the jargon) “synergize” with their video games. Cross-promotion equals big bucks, no? No.

Acclaim Comics was dead by ’99. A few squeaks and rattles came out over the following year or two, but nothing worthy of notice. Acclaim itself filed for bankrupcy in 2004.

*Valiant’s resemblance to Marvel’s New Universe was no coincidence. They were both masterminded by the same man: Jim Shooter, editor-in-chief of Marvel in the eighties and founder of Valiant.

CrossGen (2000-2003)
Publisher: CrossGen Comics

Unifying Theory: Instead of superheroes, CrossGen published fantasy, science fiction, detectives, historical fiction, and so forth. Linking many of these titles was a “sigil” motif that allegedly tied into some great overarching mythology. This mythology was coming together when the company collapsed.

CrossGen also had a unifying business theory, which was to spread comics into markets into wider markets. They published in unusual formats and pushed to get their trade paperbacks in wide distribution.

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? CrossGen books came in three waves: the initial, the secondary, and the “holy crap, the company’s gonna die, try anything” wave.

The initial wave (Sigil, Crux, The First, etc.) were mostly awful, with the exception of Meridian, a charming girl’s adventure comic. The second wave (Way of the Rat, Route 666, etc.) had some good stuff, particularly Mark Waid’s Sherlock Holmes-style series Ruse and the sci-fi adventure Negation. The “holy crap” wave (El Cazador, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Abadazad, etc.) had promise, but died so fast it’s hard to say.

The distribution idea was a great one. I’m not positive, but I think it was undercapitalization that killed it. You can’t make a huge-ass push like CrossGen did without being ready to take a beating for years. They held out for four years, but it never turned the corner.

Their idea of diversifying genres and distribution networks was an excellent one. The execution was not up to the challenge. Given wide distribution, I’d bet Meridian, Abadazad, and Negation would have done quite well. The cheesecake book Sojourn was their biggest seller, and probably would have thrived as well.*

(CrossGen’s claim to produce non-superhero books isn’t borne out by the evidence, either. They were superhero books, just flavored with a dollop of fantasy or sci-fi. They weren't as different as they thought themselves to be.)

How’d It End? The company overextended itself. Its method for creating a comic line was to publish a slew of titles, see what sold, and go from there. This approach doesn’t work well in comics. The direct market audience is not large, and most comic fans already spend near their maximum budget on pre-existing titles. To get them to sample one or two new books might work, but eight or nine? Nope.

The Big Two have cornered the direct comic market, and CrossGen wasn’t able to expand the comic-buying market significantly or make a large dent in the direct market.

CrossGen filed for bankrupcy in 2004. Disney has bought the rights to the characters, with an apparent interest in developing Abadazad.

*Sojourn and Ghost, two cheesecake-laden books, were the biggest commercial successes of two failed lines. Draw from this what conclusions you will. Ahem.

Ultimate Marvel (2000-present)
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Unifying Theory: Marvel Comics have accrued so much history, they’ve become unfriendly to new readers and overwhelmed by what had gone on before. They’ve become complicated and arcane. The Ultimate line starts everything over, in the modern world, using modern storytelling techniques and top talent on the top characters. Re-do Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four for a new audience.

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? I don’t think so, but it appears I’m in the minority. The Ultimate books are paced very, very slowly, which irritates me. The stories aren’t all that great either. The books aren’t awful, but I can’t get into them. I own a long run of Ultimate Spider-Man, and yet I never feel an urge to re-read the series.

How’d It End? It hasn’t. The Ultimate line, despite a few misfires, has provided Marvel with its bestselling books for several years.

Vertigo (1993-present)
Publisher: DC Comics

Unifying Theory: In the late eighties and early nineties, DC had good success with non-superhero books of a mystical and more adult nature. (Not adult as in “filled with sex and violence,” but adult as in “morally and artistically complex.”)

In 1993, DC decided to group the existing adult books (Sandman, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, etc.) into the new Vertigo line. Quickly they added other titles of the same sort to the line. Vertigo is now known for unusual, arty, and/or adult-themed comics.

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? Vertigo has published a lot of books in its run, so I can’t give a catchall opinion. The highlights of Vertigo were as good as comics get, the lowlights were miserable, pretentious pieces of twaddle. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is, amazingly, as good as people say it is. I loved Garth Ennis’s run on Hellblazer and Preacher.

The line has certainly justified its existence, but its habit of letting creators run amok has made the line very uneven. Massive wave of pretension off the starboard bow, matey. Get yer slicker and hold onto something.

How’d It End? It’s still going strong.

America’s Best Comics (1999-2004)
Publisher: Wildstorm, a subsidiary of DC Comics

Unifying Theory: The whole ABC line is the brainchild of Alan Moore, one of the most important and most successful writers in comics. The ABC books tend to be superheroing of a sort, but a bizarre sort.

The most famous was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which became a terrible movie a few years back. Some titles were homages to the history of pop culture (Tom Strong, The League of Ext. Gents) while others were vehicles for Moore to expound on his personal mysticism (Promethea).

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? Yep. The pop culture pastiche/homages are lots of fun, especially to yers truly, who knows the same stuff Moore’s talking about. The mystical stuff isn’t intrinsically interesting, but Moore makes it work. Once he left the books, they lost a lot.

How’d It End? Moore and DC had a falling out over one of his stories. Some of the stories had natural conclusions, and ended. Also, I think the man just got bored.

The line is still technically active, but I’d say it’s dead. Promethea, Top Ten, and Tomorrow Stories are done, the League is not publishing right now, and I think Tom Strong is wheezing its last, sans Moore.


There are also lines I’ve heard about but haven’t seen.

Tsunami (2003)
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Unifying Theory: Replicating Japanese comics in America. Them kids love that manga stuff!

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? I’m allergic to manga, so I didn't check 'em out myself. According to those who read the Tsunami books, they were awful.

How’d It End? Quickly.

The story is truly odd. Manga usually sells in bookstores in collected editions. Tsunami was expected to go the same route. Before it published the larger editions, Marvel put out some of the series as individual issues. Now, the Tsunami line wasn’t intended for the direct market. Not surprisingly, it bombed.

What is surprising is that Marvel used this failure as evidence that the line wouldn’t sell in bookstores and never put out the trades.

Weird. Corporate politics at work, or just silly people confusing themselves? Ya got me.

MAX Comics (2000ish-present?)
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Unifying Theory: What comics need is more T&A, violence, and blood, dadgumit! Since the comic-buying public is aging, why not see if “unrated” comics sell? Not like parents’ groups will be on publishers' backs anymore.

Jerkwater’s Opinion – Any Good? You got me, pal. Any readers wanna chime in on MAX series? They seem to be only miniseries, except for Alias. Which, okay, I’ve never read.

How’d It End? I think it still puts out the occasional miniseries. (I don’t know what the deal is with MAX. It’s in this entry just for the sake of completeness.)

The failed lines fall into types:

Valiant/Acclaim, Ultraverse, and Comics’ Greatest World: These three lines were attempts by minor publishers to join the Big Two in the world of superhero comics. This seemed possible during the early nineties, when Image Comics became a major industry player and comic sales in general were skyrocketing. When the bubble popped, all three died.

CrossGen was almost exactly the same story, a decade later.

New Universe and Impact: Two offshoot lines from the Big Two that tanked. One strove for realism, one strove for greater fantasy. Readers didn’t care much about either.

America’s Best Comics: Essentially a giant vanity project. When the creator lost interest and got into disputes with the publisher, it ended. Others tried to pick it up, but it didn’t get far.

Then there are the two successes:

Vertigo: Vertigo survived by combining DC Comics’ distribution and publicity with stories of a type not being published elsewhere. Rather than compete, Vertigo exploits a particular niche in the market ignored by the Big Two’s mainstream work.

Ultimate: A raging success that came not by exploiting a niche, but by moving into areas lost by the mainstream. Ten years ago, the Ultimate line would have been redundant. By the year 2000, it made a lot of sense. With the accrual of gunk on the main Marvel titles and the inability to strip off this gunk, lest the remaining hardcore fans revolt, starting over was the only way to get clean.

If I may digress: The Ultimate line is Marvel’s equivalent of the Saturn Project.

Let’s journey to the land of automotive history for a minute.

In the early eighties, General Motors was in serious trouble.* Sales had been declining for years, largely due to competition from Japan selling superior small cars. The company knew of ways to fix a lot of its problems, but the fixes would require a huge remaking of the company and fighting a mammoth and powerful bureaucracy within GM.

To circumvent the problems and test their ideas, the big honchos came up with the Saturn Project: build an entirely new automobile company from the ground up, using what they had learned from years of car building and the lessons given out during the ass-whupping they’d received from Japanese manufacturers. Start from zero, knowing more about the business and aided by GM’s powerful backing.

The cars produced by the new company were unlike GM’s standard hoopties, and sold well. They did what GM should have been doing, but couldn’t.

Had GM not had its head jammed firmly up its ass, or had the company been more able to adapt, Saturn would not have been necessary. But it was. Ditto Marvel and the Ultimate Line.

So…what’s to be gained by looking at this nonsense?

Hmmm...well, DC is looking to launch a new line. What does history say it'll do?

The two successful lines were both offshoots of the Big Two. One covered wholly unexploited territory, the other revisited profitable but abandoned areas. Also, both the Ultimate line and Vertigo launched with few titles, gradually expanding to become full lines.

The failures were either small companies trying to compete with the Big Two by introducing large lines of titles at once, or the Big Two trying to exploit areas of the market that people just weren’t that interested in.**

DC’s banking on a replication of the Ultimates formula (reboot, big name talent, clean history, only two titles at first) with their upcoming All-Star line: All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman and Robin.

Twenty bucks and a box of donuts says it’ll work brilliantly. It will have the publicity and distribution advantages of DC, the instant character recognition of Superman and Batman, and they won’t be at the mercy of a single creator.

But we shall see.


*General Motors is still in serious trouble. –sigh- It staggers from crisis to crisis. Some things never change. But Saturn worked out.

**There were other attempts by the Big Two that I didn’t mention here, but they fall into the same boat. For example, in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Marvel put out a trio of “real hero” comic titles about cops, firefighters, and rescue personnel. All bombed. Why? Because comic readers weren’t interested.

Click here to read more!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Feed the Beast

Blogging is, by its very nature, a narcisstic enterprise. Today I ran across a blogging meme that appealed to my own peculiar flavor of self-interestedness. Lacking anything like self-control, I will throw my ego a big slab of red meat and do the same.

In the interests of nobody but myself, I give you Ten Things I’ve Done That You Probably Haven’t:

1. Delivered singing telegrams in a gorilla suit.

2. Caved in a large piece of drywall with my butt when trying to perform a handstand.

3. Been interviewed at length by Rolling Stone magazine and the Washington Post. Thankfully, the RS article was cut for length, and my pearls of wisdom were never published. The Post quoted me once.

4. Moved across the United States twice in one year, alone and unemployed, for no good reason.

5. Wore a colonial-era costume and operated an eighteenth century printing press for several months.

6. Shoveled ground meats (beef, pork, and chicken) for long night shifts in a meat-packing plant. Yes, shoveled. With a shovel.

7. Cut my hand with a kitchen knife, drove myself to the hospital, and managed not to yell profanity at the desk nurse who asked if I had an appointment. I contented myself to respond only by bleeding on her paperwork.

8. Sent a request to Mr. T’s agent about hiring him to attend my wedding. (I hoped to persuade him to give a reading. “From Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthinans. Love is kind, foo’!”)

9. On several formal occasions, gathered up groups of friends, moved someplace out-of-the-way. Once hidden, we dropped our pants and raised our glasses in toast. I have pictures of my best friend and me in an art museum, in front of a Monet, glasses raised high. We look dapper in our tuxedos with our pants around our ankles. The revealed boxers, needless to say, were flashy.

10. Went to a Halloween party in a suit with a giant red bow around my neck. Attached to the bow, a gift card reading “From: God. To: Women.” I won the prize for “scariest costume."

Please pardon this exercise in self-regard. The internet makes it all to easy to Feed the Beast.

Click here to read more!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Slurpee Goodness

Sweet merciful crap.

They’re doing it.

Marvel Comics has reached an agreement to put comics in 7-11 stores around America as well as Barnes and Noble Bookstores.

That’s about 6,000 sebbin-lebbins and 350 B&Ns that’ll carry Marvels. Whoo. Considering there are less than 3,000 comic shops in the U.S., that's a whole lotta fresh exposure.

The sebbin-lebbin books will primarily be of the more kid-friendly lines recently established, dubbed Marvel Adventures. I think the B&Ns will carry a more normal selection of titles.


Perhaps the folks at Marvel examined Harvey Jerkwater’s Half-Assed Plan To Save the Industry in my very first post and decided I was right. Their plan and mine are startlingly close.

Allow me my moment to bask in the warm glow of my own sagacity. Aaaahhh...

Okay, enough of that. I know it doesn’t take a genius to notice when his house is on fire. Marvel saw the same things everybody else does, and finally did something about it. I guess either they figured out how to overcome the logistical hurdles to get this venture going, or decided that the enormous risk this venture entails was a necessary one for the future of the company and jumped off this particular cliff.

Notice that only Marvel is doing this. This may very well give them a gigantic boost over their competition.

Y’see, comic companies now are primarily licencing operations. Even if this widespread comic distribution loses money, the massively increased visibility of Marvel's characters can only help increase licensing revenues. For not only will this keep their primary characters in the public eye, but it will give lesser-known characters a chance for widespread recognition and subsequent marketability.

If it doesn't prove to be a massive fiasco, DC will most certainly follow within a year.

A calculated risk that stands a decent chance of not only saving the company, but expanding and enriching it?

Ye gods…they’re doing something that seems…intelligent. Foresighted, even.

(Now watch: it’ll blow up in their faces. I know this could work brilliantly. But after years of melon-headedness by the comic industry, I can't help but be wary.)

Click here to read more!