Posts Tagged ‘Bendis’

Free Comic Book Day

May 2, 2009

At 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday, the only people  who are out are – Home Depot shoppers, classic car owners, dog walkers, orthodox Jews going to synagogue and of course people like me going to Austin Books for Free Comic Book Day (FCBD).

I only picked up a handful of books, but here are reviews of those books as well as analysis of the publisher’s marketing strategies for each:

Blackest Night (DC Comics): Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers and he’s about to deliver an event that has been four years in the making; Blackest Night.  I anticipate that Green Lantern is going to rock hard this summer, and Geoff Johns delivers the goods in this teaser story for FCBD.  Ivan Reis is the brilliant artist who is able to convey all the emotion and tone needed to make this a perfect story.  The teasers are plentiful and should provide for months of message board fodder.  In addition, Johns is one of the few writers who can simplify 70+ years of DC continuity into a single sentence (or image).  DC, from a marketing perspective, did the right thing by promoting what will be their big summer event.  This comic has enough eye candy and teasers that I suspect new readers will reach out for previously published material and the existing readers were given a nice little treat of what’s to come.  Story, A.  Marketing, A.

Avengers (Marvel): comics like this win Eisners, and Marvel gave it away for free!  What is not to love?  Brian Michael Bendis is not only one of my all-time favorite comic book writers, but I have argued in the past that he is one of the most significant writers to ever work at Marvel; both for his ideas as well as for shaping the current writing style of the “House of Ideas.”  Bendis and artist Jim Cheung deliver a “done in one” single issue story that is both inside of current Marvel continuity but not so tied to it that I couldn’t slide it to any non-reader and have them enjoy it (see notes above on Blackest Night).  Everybody wins.  Bendis is able to mix great character moments and humor with high-octane action.   I smiled after I read this comic.  This comic made me happy.  It was great.  Just fantastic stuff.  From a marketing perspective though, I kind of wonder why Marvel decided to promote the Avengers given that both Bendis Avengers titles are #1 and #2 on the March 2009 Diamond charts and had just received a massive push with last year’s Secret Invasion event.  So it’s not like the Avengers need the promotional assistance.  There was another FCBD book from Marvel, a free Wolverine comic to tie-in with the movie that looked like a “for kids” story and as flipped through  it, I actually put it down.  Yes.  I passed on a free comic.  What does that say?  It says that I’m happy with my adult Millar/McNiven and Aaron/Garney Wolverine books.  Story, A+.  Marketing, B-.

Bongo Comic Free-For-All (Bongo Comics): Bongo didn’t over-think it.  They provided a “sampler” comic with three  stories that represent an average issue of a Bongo comic book.  The Chuck Dixon (yes, that Chuck Dixon) story is fun and self-referential to the FCBD event.  From a  marketing perspective, this is the bare minimum you would expect from a promotional item.  Give them a taste so they go and buy more.  (For example, There’s a nice two page ad for an upcoming crossover event).  Stories, B.  Marketing, C.

G.I. Joe (IDW): I’m digging the current Chuck Dixon G.I. Joe books and enjoyed these stories…THE FIRST TIME WHEN THEY WERE IN G.I. JOE #0.  This is one of those interesting marketing problems.  G.I. Joe launched at IDW three months ago to provide enough lead-time to have titles on the shelf in case readers come in from off the street looking for Joe comics after the movie hits (I’d argue if this will happen, but I digress).  So, IDW just decided to re-publish its 0 issue promotion to continue the drumbeat of G.I. Joe marketing as opposed to offering something new to existing readers  of the titles.  It’s a no-win situation, but it also smells a bit like their marketing department didn’t know what to do at all; so they did nothing but hit COPY/PASTE.  Stories, B.  Marketing, D.

Resurrection (Oni Press): Oni on the other hand knows how to use FCBD to their advantage.  The company is re-launching the Marc Guggenheim Resurrection title with this 0 issue.  The entire previous run is sitting on shelves in an affordable trade paperback format (released within the past few weeks).  Given the massive amounts of press Scott Pilgrim got at New York Comic Con, I suspect that a promotion like this would be spitting into the wind for that book (and yes, there was an ad for Scott Pilgrim in the book).  Resurrection is the title that needed the help, and they went with the right choice.  I haven’t read the issue yet, but the marketing for Oni is B+ (points deducted for making “Tek Jansen” so small on the cover…Colbert sells books, why not make it larger?).

Aliens / Predator (Dark Horse): Dark Horse is relaunching both of these franchises and has been investing heavily in reprinting their already published materials in Omnibus-style trade paperbacks.  This comic follows the standard model (see Bongo) of providing readers with ‘a taste’ of what the next mini-series for each character will be like.  John Arcudi is the “bullpen” Dark Horse writer for their Fox licensed materials.  Again, all the right moves.  But nothing to write home about.  Story, C.  Marketing, C.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TNMT) (Mirage): this reprint of the first self-published issue of the Turtles is to promote the 25th anniversary of the title and promote the reprinting of some of their earliest material as well as the new work coming out of Mirage Studios.  The story, a classic, gets an A.  The marketing is standard (see above) and gets a “Bongo” rating of a C- with a point taken off because they are trying to tug on the heart strings of older fans like myself by showing us nostalgia as opposed to giving us a look at some of the newer work (this would have been a great opportunity to try to sell me on the current title).   

Speaking of TMNT #1, it is often overlooked by comic book historians, but the significance of TMNT #1 can not be ignored.  If  Zap Comix #1 created the comic book underground movement in the 1960’s, then TMNT #1 is the book that ressusitated it in the 1980’s and delivered a second Renaissance of self-publishing in the medium.  

The reason for this was that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird owned their creation.  These are guys who saw Joel Siegel, Jerry Schuster, Bill Finger and Jack Kirby fight for, and loose, the rights to their characters.  They saw how the creators of characters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man (the list goes on) never saw the enormous amounts of merchandising revenue the publishers reaped (and continue to reap) from their characters.  

Which is why in the 1980’s, when the Turtles broke through into mainstream popular culture, their creators still held the rights to their creation and as a result became millionaires (and complete creative control in the process).  It was an inspiring story of success and the TMNT and this self-publishing model is one of the reasons why seven superstar creators left Marvel Comics in 1992 to form a another self-publishing empire; Image  Comics.  

Which is why it’s very humbling when  you look at the first issue and notice that it is dedicated to Jack Kirby and Frank Miller.