Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Approval Rating

If I were still in a capacity to be shocked at what tries to pass for journalism sometimes, Keith Dallas of Comics Bulletin would be providing a good occasion for it in a post he made at Standard Attrition today.

In the thread in question, someone proposed to do a column involving interviews with current Vertigo creators. It seems that they're a fan who wants more people to read Vertigo comics. So, if they would get it off the ground, it would basically be free promotion, rather than anything overly critical or investigative. Some of the creators seem okay with the idea, not surprisingly. That's where Dallas chimes in:
Just so you know though, an endeavor like this wouldn't just involve lining up Vertigo creators to be interviewed. DC Comics' Publicity Department has a strict protocol about interviewing their creators. Before the interview can be conducted, DC needs to approve the interview request, and they need to approve the interview questions that are going to being asked. After the interview is completed, DC needs to see and approve the transcript before it gets posted.

I'm not passing judgment on this protocol. I'm just saying I'm familiar with it because of my ComicsBulletin.com editing duties (which includes the "Vertigo Spotlight" column: http://www.comicsbulletin.com/vertigo/121322943225813.htm ).

DC is mostly very accommodating when it comes to interview requests, but I have had requests denied with no explanation given, even though both the Vertigo creator and I were eager to do the interview.
Now, it goes without saying that, if true, this practice is utterly preposterous. I suppose you can't blame DC for trying to get away with it. It's anyone who actually goes along with this nonsense - whether it be creators or interviewers - that should be tarred, feathered and laughed out of town on a stage coach.

I'm aware that the bulk of comics press coverage isn't even interested in anything beyond promotion, mind you. Still, these things fascinate me, so I'd be delighted to know: Which other comics publishers have similar "protocols"? And which comics media, online or print, don't go along with them?


Chris Arrant said...

In my experience writing for Publishers Weekly and Newsarama, DC's marketing department isn't nearly as draconian as it's explained here.

And even if they were, there are other avenues for journalists to go in writing a piece.

Marc-Oliver said...

Different standards for different requests, then?

As far as creators are concerned, you can always - or in most cases, at any rate - go to the horse's mouth for arranging an interview, of course. And I doubt that, say, Geoff Johns would have to consult DC marketing before he can do an interview, unless special circumstances apply.

Thanks for chiming in.

Keith Dallas said...

Hi Marc-Oliver,

It *is* most likely different standards for different requests/creators/newssites.

I'll put it this way: for my TwoMorrows Publishing "Flash Companion" book (which details the publication history of DC Comics' The Flash through articles about and interviews with writers/artists/editors of The Flash) I didn't ask DC Comics permission to interview anyone. I just contacted the creator I felt I needed to speak to and conducted the interview.

My publisher *did* have to submit the final manuscript to DC's legal department for their approval, since without DC's permission a book that was filled with images of The Flash would be violating DC's trademark.

With regards to comic book newssites though, it really boils down to what the newssite needs from DC Comics. As you rightly point out in your other entries, the newssites (mine included) aren't truly conducting journalism; we're promoting a publisher and its products.

Brian Wood (just to pick a specific DC Comics creator) is very easy to get in touch with, and since Wood is usually amenable to being interviewed, one really doesn't need to contact DC Comics to conduct the interview...

unless you want the interview to showcase artwork from upcoming issues of "DMZ" or "The Northlanders." If you want that, you're going to need to contact DC, and they're going to want to see the interview, etc., etc. Otherwise, you're not getting the artwork to present in your interview.