Thursday, July 19, 2007

Count Down

According to DC Comics' October 2007 solicitations, which you can view at Comic Book Resources, the publisher has 62 new periodicals on schedule for that month from its mainstream DC Universe line. Is DC trying to swamp the market?

For an answer, let's look at the solicitations for the months leading up to October. In June 2007, DC's planned output consisted of 41 DC Universe titles. (Due to delays, only 37 of them were released.) In July, the number remains the same. In August, it climbs to a whopping 55 - presumably because five Wednesdays fall into that month instead of the usual four. So far, so good.

In September, things start to look odd, however. Despite only having four Wednesdays to sell their output that month, the number of DC Universe books remains at 55 - before climbing to the aforementioned 62 in October. So, indeed, the trend is clear: DC are massively ramping up their output volume. In fairness, October is another month with five Wednesdays, but an increase of a whopping 51% over June is still excessive by any standard.

So, now that we've established that they are swamping the market, let's look at how they're doing it. In August, Countdown to Adventure starts, an eight-part limited series spun off of Countdown, the publisher's current big event series that isn't doing very well commercially. Also launched are the 52 spin-offs Booster Gold (ongoing), Black Adam: The Dark Age (limited series), 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen (limited series) and Metal Men (limited series); the weekly Outsiders: Five of a Kind (five issues, all out in August); and Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious (limited series). Additionally, there's a Batman Annual, as well as five issues of Countdown, three issues of Action Comics and two issues each of Green Arrow: Year One, Black Canary and Amazons Attack, the publisher's other current big event series that isn't doing very well commercially.

In September, DC launches two more Countdown spin-off limited series with Countdown to Mystery and Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer. Connected with the marriage of DC characters Green Arrow and Black Canary, there are The Black Canary Wedding Planner, a JLA Wedding Special and The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special. Also on schedule are a Wonder Woman Annual, Wonder Girl (limited series), the 52 spin-off Infinity Inc. (ongoing), as well as the limited series Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag, Tales of the Sinestro Corps, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters and JLA/Hitman and two issues each of JLA: Classified and Green Arrow: Year One.

The October schedule, finally, includes the launch of four more Countdown spin-off limited series with Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists, Captain Carrot and the Final Ark, Death of the New Gods (with two issues out in October) and Gotham Underground, two more limited series with Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood and Metamorpho: Year One (two issues out in October) and ongoing titles Batman and the Outsiders, Green Arrow/Black Canary and Simon Dark. Also on sale: The DC Infinite Halloween Special, a Robin Annual and two issues each of JLA: Classified, Superman, Action Comics and Tales of the Sinestro Corps. And, of course, five issues of Countdown itself.

If you're not keeping count, that's a total of 14 issues of Countdown alone, plus 19 new limited series, five new ongoing titles, seven one-shots, six issues of Action Comics and five issues of JLA: Classified, among many, many other books, spread over a mere three months.

Theoretically, this means that audience and retailers have to pick and choose what they're ordering. Considering that DC are hellbent on approaching their superhero line as one big crossover event that never ends, however, flooding the market like this seems tremendously imprudent; if the audience can't get the whole picture, they tend to rather have none of it. The direct market is pretty unforgivable in that regard, particularly given that the response to the Countdown and Amazon Attacks event titles which anchor or connect many of these books has been mixed, at best. With dozens of interconnected books starring B- and C-list characters and tying into not particularly well-received stories vying for attention, the resulting sales performance is bound to be a disaster.

Unless the picture painted by the sales numbers available so far is entirely misleading, throwing that much material at an audience that's already growing more reluctant to pick up your books every month isn't just excessive. It's utterly insane. It makes you wonder what on earth they're thinking.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mining Shares

Last week, Newsarama reported Diamond Comic Distributors' direct market statistics for June 2007. Yesterday, ICv2.com followed suit with their actual sales estimates. What the numbers show is a continuation of recent trends. Out of the Top 25 books, 16 are by Marvel and eight by DC (the remaining book is Dark Horse Comics' Buffy the Vampire Slayer); Marvel has eight titles beyond the 100,000 unit mark, DC has two; and while another six Marvel titles are selling between 80K and 100K, DC has zilch in that area. Marvel's market share in June was 43.62% in dollars and 48.42% in units; DC's was 27.02% in dollars and 28.57% in units. Obviously, that's not a very balanced picture, which leads Tom Spurgeon to suspect that even rougher times may lie ahead for DC.
DC's current event build-up/event unto itself series, Countdown, continues its steady sales hemorrhage. Depending on how many books are out next month, it may fall out of the top 20 entirely. With Justice ending and whatever they're calling the Flash comic a risk not to hold its numbers of its snuff-comic predecessor, DC might have one of those gut-check months in July.
Now, while it's quite fair to say that DC Comics took another sound beating from the competition in June, Spurgeon's analysis misses several key factors.

First up, three of the publisher's bestselling titles, All Star Superman (most recently shifting around 92,000 units), Batman (80,000) and Action Comics (60,000), missed their June shipping dates. Two of them have been released in July so far, in addition to other high-selling titles like Justice League of America, Justice Society of America and - supposedly - All Star Batman, which is slated to come out on July 25. This makes a further slump unlikely, at least for July.

Second, DC Comics only shipped 61 periodicals in June (not counting reprints, magazines and the Johnny DC cartoon adaptations); usually, it's between 70 and 80. This is the result of seven titles missing their June release dates, but also of the fact that, for the first time in a while, no DC titles failed to come out in May, so they didn't have the usual set of stragglers to boost the numbers in June. Obviously, that's going to change again with the July chart.

Finally, contrary to Spurgeon's suggestion, it's safe to say that July's All Flash #1, just like June's Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 and August's Flash #231, will sell significantly better than previous Flash issues: DC's had a sales incentive in place to ensure it, offering any retailer ordering 200% of their numbers of Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #10 full returnability on those three issues. Consequently, they've got nothing to worry about with regard to Flash, at least in the short term.

I'm not disagreeing with the notion that DC isn't having a particularly good year so far. Spurgeon's right to point out that they're losing another sales juggernaut with no replacement in sight with the completion of Justice, for that matter. Still, the situation is not nearly as bleak as he makes it sound. (On a sidenote, I'd argue that two months worth of an average sales decline for Countdown hardly constitute a "steady sales hemorrhage.")

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Screw Job

In his weblog at Marvel Comics, editor Tom Brevoort provided another insightful series of posts this week, titled "Comics I Screwed Up." In them, Brevoort picks out five books from various stages of his long career at Marvel, explaining how and why he thinks he mismanaged them at the time.

o Part 1: Deathlok
o Part 2: Hulk
o Part 3: Captain Marvel
o Part 4: New Invaders
o Part 5: Hellcat

If you're interested in the realities of day-to-day business at the major North American superhero publishing houses, this is essential reading.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Organ Grinder

Back in March, DC Comics released a preview of books shipping in June. Included was an image supposedly showing the cover for Justice League of America #10, drawn by Michael Turner, which displayed a character named Power Girl with an impossibly large chest. It wasn't the first time, and a bit of a controversy among online observers followed.

A month later, the publisher released information on titles shipping in July. This time, an image by artist Alex Ross accompanying the solicitation copy for Justice Society of America #7 showed the character Citizen Steel with a particularly keen crotch, which again aroused online commentators.

So far, so good. Neither the offending images nor the resulting response were anything unusual. DC's superhero line has been at the center of a number of controversies in recent years - notably after 2004's Identity Crisis, which featured the rape and murder of a popular female supporting character by a cheesy old super-villain. What's different now, however, is that DC are actually reacting to the online uproar and go to the length of modifying the images before they see print. For our convenience, Devon Sanders kindly puts the Citizen Steel pieces next to each other, while Loren Collins demonstrates Power Girl's "breast reduction." (Links via Lisa Fortuner of Blog@Newsarama.)

What is all of this telling us? Well, the alterations may or may not be justified, depending on what your expectations on DC's comic are. In essence, though, it's obviously a case of the publisher paying close attention to online reactions and tweaking two of their publications accordingly - and on very short notice. Which, in turn, also lends more credibility the evidence that the reversal of the recent Flash relaunch wasn't the result of a long-term plan, but a remarkably prompt reaction to an overwhelmingly negative response by the audience.

The pattern that emerges doesn't exactly suggest that cooler heads are prevailing at DC right now. Surely, if they've thought this stuff through, it can't be so bad they've got to pull the emergency brakes immediately when something doesn't go according to plan. Unless, of course, (a), they didn't think it through, which begs the question why. Or (b), someone's twitchy because they're fearing for their job.

Either way, some curious things are going on at the publisher right now. Given that the average sales of their mainstream superhero line are still almost 50% up on four years ago, you'd think that was a solid basis for some confident long-term planning. But apparently not.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Updates on a few late-shipping comics:

o At Bags and Boards, Tom McLean has news on Marvel Comics' Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, by writer Damon Lindelof and artist Leinil Francis Yu.
"They have scripts all the way through issue four and I’m about to turn in issue five in about a week," says Lindelof. "Leinil [...] has been drawing New Avengers for (Brian Michael) Bendis, so as soon as he is done with that, and I think he has one more issue and then he’s done with that, he’s going to finish up [Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk]."
But, as we recall, it's a six-issue limited series, so don't get your hopes up. After all, we know the book's publishing history: Issue #1 came out on December 21, 2005. Issue #2 was released on February 22, 2006. Then Lindelof apparently grew too busy with the TV show Lost to keep dabbling in comics. Issue #3 was first solicited for April 2006, then pushed back multiple times, before being taken off the schedule altogether.

Speaking as an outsider, I would now expect Marvel to wait until all six issues are finished before resoliciting them for release, so as to minimize the probability of further delays. As a plethora of examples over the last several years shows (see Daredevil: Target, Daredevil: Father, The Ultimates, etc.), however, that sort of expectation is exceptionally naïve and unworkable and can only be held by those not privy to the realities of everyday publishing.

(On a sidenote, Lindelof seems to be suggesting that Yu's tenure on New Avengers may be coming to an end.)

o Not that things look any better at the competition, mind you. Remarkably, it's worth a proud announcement to artist Jim Lee on his studio weblog Gelatometti that the bafflingly titled All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder might actually manage to stick to not one but two release dates in a row. News on the Lee-penciled Wildcats, alas, which went on hiatus right after the first issue came out - a month late, mind you - in October 2006, are not so happy.
I know you Wildcats fans are DYING for an update... so am I! As soon as I have more script to draw, I will let you know the details. I am still committed to doing my run with Grant [Morrison, Wildcats writer] and I will be seeing him at [the San Diego Comic Convention] to figure how we can we can recover and get it back on track like [All Star Batman & Robin] is.
Note down two more cases in which the delays were obviously bound to happen since day one. And yet, the publisher decided to put out the respective first issues as soon as they were completed, instead of holding back the existing material and waiting for a realistic schedule to materialize.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Comment Line

o Newsarama's Matt Brady talks to DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz about the company's new web comics initiative, Zuda Comics.com. Levitz displays a degree of self awareness ...
I certainly think that DC’s not always the first to move in the industry.
... as well as a spectacular case of tunnel vision, in his comment on making DC's existing periodicals available in an online format.
I haven’t seen a lot of evidence yet that people want to read 20 pages of a comic book on their computer screen, so I don’t think the form of what we mostly do has yet found a home there.
A look at a random torrent site reveals that this is laughable, of course. Levitz really needs to do his homework, if he doesn't have people who do it for him.

o At The Pulse, Jennifer M. Contino asks Justin Gray about his Countdown co-writers Sean McKeever, Tony Bedard and Adam Beechen. Gray's response is an instant classic.
They’re all great guys and talented writers… I don’t care what the internet says about them.
I vote for adding that last line to any comment on anyone. "Joe Schmoe? Lovely chap. Don't care what the internet says about him."

But I'm curious now. What does the internet say on them?

o On a more serious note, Comic Book Resources' Robert Taylor interviews Matthew Clark, penciler of DC Comics' Outsiders, about a year after Clark suffered a heart attack. Among other things, the artist discusses how his health is affecting his working hours.
It's a tough balancing act. I now put in my time eight hours a day, six days a week. I now take one day off a week and relax. I know my editors wish I was the old me, working 14-18 hour days and pulling all-nighters. Unfortunately, I can't and won't do that anymore. No matter what, when the clock hits 11:30pm it's quitting time. I make no apologies for it because I won't put myself back in the hospital.
Clark also gives his thoughts on the recent crossover storyline running through Outsiders and Checkmate.
Jesus [Saiz, Checkmate artist] had left just before, and [artist] Joe [Bennett] was wrapping up 52, so I was working on my issue of Outsiders, then Joe comes in and starts working on Checkmate. Then he changed the costumes on characters, which I understand. He wanted to make a mark. You want to make them your own, but really--during the middle of a crossover? Wait 'till its finished then make the changes. Several of my pages were penciled and inked with the Saiz costumes for Checkmate. So, that part was frustrating.

It was one of those projects that had moments of good times and bad. In the end, I'm proud of my pages and how they came out. There were several pages I wanted to draw for story purpose as I thought it was the best part. But had to pass them over. Life during a crossover--sigh.
o Let's shoot fish in a barrel. John Byrne. Via Blog@Newsarama's Graeme McMillan comes news that John Byrne has read Grant Morrison's New X-Men.
So when the Beast asks Professor X "Why did you have us dress like superheroes?" what is really asking? Could he be deconstructing that which requires no deconstruction? Could he be seeking his own "yellow Spandex" line? Is he speaking on behalf of the writer, and really asking "Why do I have to work with these silly concepts?"
Apparently, the issue is a source of great inspiration for Byrne - shortly after, he starts another thread.
Comments in other threads got me thinking. Here's a short list -- not in any way intended as definitive -- of what I consider Warning Signs that maybe you should not be reading, writing or drawing superhero comics:

A need to…

• … "justify" the wearing of costumes (or)

• … get rid of the costumes altogether

• … make, or have the characters make, snarky remarks about the established idioms and conceits of the genre

• … focus as much as possible on the civilian identies of the lead characters, sometimes to the complete exclusion of the "alter-ego"

• … emphasize psychological problems (often sexual) as a dominant driving motivation for the superhero

• … tarnish as much as possible the whole "heroic" mythos, the idea of doing "the right thing for the right reasons"

• … project an image of being in all ways superior to the material
What's Byrne currently working on, anyway? He is still working in-between being cranky and out of touch, right?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Executive Oversight

A while ago, it seems, Eric Moreno of The ComicBloc talked to DC Comics executive editor Dan Didio. Didio has been in charge of the publisher's mainstream line of superhero titles since 2002. While it's seen a tremendous amount of growth during the first four years under Didio's guidance, the past year worth of books hasn't been as successful.

The interview mostly consists of the usual gushing and high-fiving, but there are a few interesting bits in there - such as when Didio outlines what his job description means in practice.
[W]e are in a position right now where we have a direction in what we are trying to do for the DCU [DC Universe -Marc-Oliver] and we have an overarching story that we’re trying to tell. I’d say about 75% of the concepts that are being created are editorially driven. And realistically, at that point, we are trying to figure out bringing in the best people for the job. One of the tougher aspects of the job is waiting for people to pitch you ideas, you know?
Italics mine. Of course, none of this is news, if you've been following DC's direction over the last few years. Still, it's curious to see it being acknowledged so openly, given the stigma that's usually attached to editorially-driven books or to stories plotted by committee. I guess the success of 52 may have loosened them up a bit, in that regard.

Wrongly so, mind you - a successful comic by Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Greg Rucka speaks precisely for those creators, not for the idea of committee writing. Later on in the interview, Didio points out that his role with 52 was rather more hands-off than with its follow-up Countdown. According to Deseret News.com, meanwhile, he admits that Countdown sales are lower than those of 52, which seems at odds with the expectations he voices - presumably at an earlier point in time - at The ComicBloc. ("[...] Countdown should be the summer blockbuster; 52 is the Academy Award-winning movie at the end of the year.") While the two facts obviously don't have to be related, I'd say it's a possibility that seems worth looking into, at the very least.

What I'm wondering, now, is whether creators are finding the prospect of breast-feeding ideas and concepts worked out by DC editorial particularly endearing. Indeed, looking at Didio's current talent pool, there don't seem to be many names capable of reserving the publisher's major titles a consistent spot in the Top 25. If you're singling out those capable of doing it on a monthly basis, you're down to Geoff Johns, and his next job is The All-New Booster Gold.

Quite possibly, a more hands-off editorial approach may not just make the audience happier and more willing to give DC a shot, but the creators as well.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Shipping & Handling

In the latest edition of The X-Axis, Paul O'Brien makes a number of good points on Marvel Comics' current publishing strategies:

o The scheduling of the publisher's X-Men line leaves a lot to be desired. In the week of June 20, there was one new X-book, X-Men: Endangered Species #1. A week later, there were seven, with a crossover between Cable & Deadpool #42 and the major issue X-Men #200, the event tie-in World War Hulk: X-Men #1, as well as Ultimate X-Men #83, Wolverine: Origins #15, X-Factor #20 and X-Men: First Class #1.

This week, they were down to one again, Uncanny X-Men #488. And for July 11, four are on the schedule so far, with Exiles #96, New Excalibur #21, Ultimate X-Men #84 and X-Factor #21. Lord knows why they chose such a heavily crowded week to launch the new X-Men: First Class title - I don't imagine it's very helpful, at any rate. Obviously, there's some work to be done here.

o Speaking of the crossover between Cable & Deadpool and X-Men, O'Brien notes that Marvel, quite puzzlingly, didn't bother to advertise the fact anywhere. To be fair, the crossover made sense in the context of the story here, but those things are usually done to increase sales - and that won't happen if you don't let people know about them. Given Cable & Deadpool sales, the book could certainly have used the boost. But there you go.

o Speaking of World War Hulk: X-Men, O'Brien isn't convinced that the title's set-up is a particularly strong one.
The basic premise of World War Hulk is that the Illuminati - Mr Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Bolt and Dr Strange - fired the Hulk into space in an attempt to get rid of him. Now he's back, and he's very angry.

So why, you may ask, is the Hulk fighting the X-Men? Ah well, it's because Professor X is also a member of the Illuminati. He was missing at the time, and he had nothing to do with firing the Hulk into space. But he's still a member of the Illuminati and, as one speech balloon right near the end helpfully clarifies, the Hulk somehow extracted this information from Black Bolt. Presumably through the medium of charades. [Note: Black Bolt is a character who's effectively mute. --Marc-Oliver]

Having learned this, the Hulk has come to confront Professor X and find out whether he would have supported the whole "firing the Hulk into space" plan.

No, really, that's the concept. The Hulk has come to find out what Professor X would have done if he'd been in a story that he wasn't in. That's the big idea of this whole miniseries. Lame, isn't it?
O'Brien concludes that the book, though decently executed, is an exercise in pointlessness that dilutes both the X-Men brand and World War Hulk proper. It's hard to disagree.

The 198 Files

At Comic Book Resources, a frequently unnervingly chummy gent named George A. Tramountanas has been conducting a series of interviews with various editors and writers working on Marvel Comics' X-Men titles. Last week, it was X-Men group editor Axel Alonso's turn and, to my surprise, Alonso formulated an official editorial stance on the meaning of the number 198 with regard to the Marvel Universe's mutant population.
One-hundred-and-ninety-eight isn't a hard number. After M-Day, official counts placed the mutant population at 198, but this didn't take into account mutants that were uncountable - either because they were indisposed, thought dead, never revealed as mutants initially, or hidden (either intentionally or otherwise). As such, the number became a common talking point. Kind of like the way the "Hundred Years' War" is never referred to as the "Hundred-and-Sixteen Years' War."

This doesn't mean that there are hundreds of mutants just waiting to be discovered, however. One-hundred-and-ninety-eight, as a count, is fairly accurate. But "198" as a symbol represents more than the number of survivors; it represents the plight of mutantkind.
This shouldn't be big news. After all, it's been one and a half years since a crossover storyline called "Decimation" first introduced the concept. Until last week, though, Marvel had provided numerous varying explanations of the number in and out of their books, and most were irreconcilable not only with each other, but also with the book which had first explained it, right back in early 2006: a sourcebook called X-Men: The 198 Files.

My special interest in the matter stems from the fact that I co-wrote The 198 Files. Specifically, among other things, the task of laying out the meaning of the number 198 on the book's intro page fell to me, in the shape of a mock presidential "Executive Order" and an E-mail message by General Lazer, the character in charge of the Office of National Emergency (or O*N*E), a new branch of the Pentagon created to monitor and contain the remaining mutants.

At the time, I was working from the script for X-Men: The 198 #1, a limited series written by David Hine which debuted around the same time The 198 Files came out. According to Hine's script, 198 wasn't the final number, but merely the "first confirmed number," meaning that there was a possibility that the government had missed a bunch of remaining mutants in its initial count. Also, in Hine's book as well as in various other X-Men titles, it was going to be the number first released to the Marvel Universe public, leading to a group of surviving mutants calling themselves "The 198."

To my frustration, other Marvel books began contradicting the explanation given in The 198 Files immediately after our little sourcebook had hit the stands. And, what was worse, various editors and writers began doing the same when asked about it. So, bearing this in mind, seeing that the new group editor (back then it was Mike Marts, who's now editing DC's Countdown and, I should add, seemed like a nice chap the few times we interacted) has gone back to the source and finally establishes the initial concept of the number as gospel gave me a bit of late satisfaction.

Overall, looking at the book, I'm still pretty happy with how our end of the job turned out, considering the tight schedule and conceptual restraints. While we're at it, though, I should probably extend a belated apology to Eric J. Moreels (of Comixfan), who oversaw the project and brought me on as a co-writer. If I have one regret about working on X-Men: The 198 Files, it's that I spent time being a royal pain in the ass to Eric which I could have invested in the book instead. Still, it was a fun, interesting experience, all told.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Flash in the Pan

On his weblog, comics store employee Mike Sterling comments on DC Comics' unexpected cancellation of their Flash: The Fastest Man Alive title and makes a point that's largely been overlooked so far, but may prove significant to retailers. Sterling suggests that, due to the property's history, retailers may have expected a long-lasting series, stocking up on early issues of The Fastest Man Alive accordingly, in order to give any latecomers the chance to catch up.

Now that both the series and its title character are being replaced again after a mere thirteen issues, however, Sterling fears that The Fastest Man Alive will be quickly written off by fans as an inconsequential interim run and forgotten about, leaving those early backissues to collect dust. Mind you, considering that the series launched with estimated orders of 120,404 units back in June 2006 and dropped to 47,809 by May 2007, that's probably going to be a whole lot of dust, so it's easy to see where Sterling is coming from.

On a related note, Sterling suspects that DC intended Flash: The Fastest Man Alive to be a limited series from the start. As he says, some comments made by DC Comics representatives certainly seem to have hinted at it, in retrospect. Back in January 2006, DC Comics executive editor Dan Didio cryptically remarked to Newsarama that fans "may not want to get too attached" to the protagonist of The Fastest Man Alive. "You’re going to see a hero giving 150% to carry the Flash mantle against pretty bad odds," another Newsarama article quotes Flash editor Joan Hilty shortly after. "After that, [initial Flash: The Fastest Man Alive writers] Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo are going to turn the story completely on its head."

While this indeed suggests that DC were planning for a major plot twist at the time, I'm skeptical whether it's the one that's being executed right now. First up, Hilty clearly expected Bilson and DeMeo to be on board for more than eight issues. The subsequent departure of the book's much-hyped initial writing team doesn't give the impression that some long-term plan was being followed, especially viewed in the context of the book's swiftly declining sales and the largely unfavorable audience reaction. Second, it plainly makes no sense to launch a high-profile revamp of a major property only to reverse it a year later.

And then there are the comments made by various DC Comics writers involved in the story. "It's been in the works for nearly a year," new Flash writer Mark Waid recently told Newsarama, referring to the book's latest reboot. This suggests that the decision to cancel Flash: The Fastest Man Alive was made immediately after the book had debuted. In another recent Newsarama piece, writers Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns, whose current crossover storyline "The Lightning Saga" ties in with the revamp, reinforce suspicions of a hasty overhaul. "To give you a sense of timeline, Geoff and I pitched all of 'The Lightning Saga' well before either of us ever knew that [the protagonist of The Fastest Man Alive] was being killed," Meltzer said. Johns agreed, seeming to recall that "half of the crossover was already written before we found out what they were doing with [the character]."

Finally, Marc Guggenheim, who was hired to write Flash: The Fastest Man Alive issues #9-13, commented on the book's cancellation in an interview with Comic Book Resources. "I think [the protagonist of The Fastest Man Alive] didn't get a chance to show everyone what he was capable of," Guggenheim said. "The backlash was so quick and fearsome, it didn't afford the character - or any writers writing him - much of an opportunity to do anything cool [...]."

So, as much as DC would probably like the impression that the launch and subsequent cancellation of Flash: The Fastest Man Alive are all part of a long-term plan, there's a lot of evidence speaking against it. The more plausible theory, at this stage, is that falling sales numbers and an unhappy audience caused DC to pull the emergency brakes and undo the revamp on short notice.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dank Dimension

Over at Newsarama, a blurb from Diamond Comic Distributors' Previews catalogue promoting the new Spider-Man storyline "One More Day" is quoted. And this particularly misguided attempt at snappy copywriting makes me cringe.
HEADED FOR THE CHOPPING BLOCK?

Black Cat, Mary Jane, and Aunt May?

Is it one of these ladies that take a dirt nap in the upcoming storyline ‘One More Day’? You heard it here, folks. A re-assuring voice and shoulder-to-lean-on is going to be taken out permanent-style in this four-issue storyline, which kicks off in Amazing Spider-Man #544 and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24. This body check is whipped up by war horses J. Michael Straczynski and Joe Quesada. Pain is promised. No tissues will be issued!

Who next gets thrown under the bus like the long-lost Gwen Stacy? Details are hard to come by, but what we do know is that there ain’t much joy in Mudville. Spidey’s gonna get left out in the rain again, and oh, how the tears will flow.
The dodgy syntax and grammatical errors aside, the utter tastelessness and lack of decorum at display here is quite remarkable. "Heading for the chopping block," "taking a dirt nap," "taken out permanent-style," "thrown under the bus," "there ain’t much joy in Mudville" - whoever wrote this thing obviously had a field day fitting as many distasteful (and moronic) synonyms for dying and death as they could into a handful of lines.

Now, I'm aware that Previews doesn't exactly have to compete with The New Yorker, but I'm still amazed to find this kind of train wreck in a reasonably professional, supposedly edited publication.

Don't they have editors over there?