Blah Blah Blog – Reader Questions 5

A post from my old Marvel blog in which I answered some more questions from the audience.

Reader Questions 5

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Finishing out the week with more Reader Questions. We’re definitely going to cycle into next week with the balance of these.

>1. When you guys get interviews, how do you get them? Does a creator or a representative contact you or do you guys seek them out?

Posted by acomicbookgirl on 2008-03-28 13:05:23>

In most cases, the folks doing the interviewing contact us. There might be an occasion where we’re doing something large like SECRET INVASION where we’d pitch the story to assorted comics news sources (though these days we’d be more likely to take it more to mainstream news sources), but typically, people come to us or to the individual creators when they see that something’s been solicited.

>I tried writing up a pitch for a comic idea awhile back, but looking back on it later, it was more of an outline of the issue than a real pitch. So what goes into a good 1 page pitch? How much detail on characters, how much on plot, how much detail on the first year (if it is an ongoing), and whatever else.

Posted by Jason M Bryant on 2008-03-28 14:58:11>

The short, unhelpful answer is “as much detail as it takes you to get across the idea effectively.” But if you’re talking about a one-page pitch, then one-page is your limit. Which may seem tight, but the truth is that if you can’t get your story idea across and hook somebody in that much space, then no amount of additional pages are going to do it. You needn’t showcase every single character concept, or every twist or turn either. But you do need enough to get the story across in its simplest form, to get across the core idea that will resonate with an audience. On the average pitch, you know relatively quickly whether it’s something you’re interested in doing or not.

>1.) In comic books characters fight, kill each other, have sex, swear, and drink alcoholic beverages. Why is it that smoking nicotine is so taboo? I understand that Joe Quesada wants to save the children, but aren’t these other influences just as dangerous as the evils of smoking?

Posted by Joshaw on 2008-03-28 15:41:03>

Every once in a while people like yourself show up arguing the merits of smoking being depicted in comic books, and unless you’re working for Big Tobacco, I just don’t get it. This is a pretty basic idea: having characters in entertainment media smoking for years was a way of glamorizing smoking, of attracting more people, especially more young people, to this destructive, addictive habit. So we’ve made a decision: we’re not going to do it any more. None of our characters is made more attractive by showing them smoking, we don’t need to do it, and we should be responsible to the younger generation who might be influenced by what they see our characters do. In the cases of those few heroic characters for whom smoking was an established part of their persona–I’m thinking of people like Nick Fury and the Thing–it’s helpful to realize that they were created in an age when smoking was more socially acceptable, and when the extent of the hazards of smoking were generally less known. So we choose not to go there with those characters any longer, and they’re none the worse for it. In the same way, we wouldn’t depict women or minorities in the same way they were typically shown in that era–time has moved on, and we’ve all learned some things.

>2.) I understand that Spider-man and Wolverine are popular characters, but is their prevalence in Marvel books a sign that Marvel doesn’t trust many of its other characters to carry books?

Posted by Joshaw on 2008-03-28 15:41:03>

No, I think it’s a sign that Spider-Man and Wolverine are exceedingly popular with our audience, enough so that they can each carry multiple titles of their own. But a glance at our massive Previews catalog will show that we publish dozens of titles every month that don’t feature those characters. The underlying premise of your question seems to be that, if we cut down on the number of Spidey and Wolverine titles, other books would suddenly start to sell more. History shows us that this is simply not the case. People who like Spidey and Wolvie want Spidey and Wolvie, not some other comic that happens to be there when there is no Spidey or Wolvie–at that point, they’re most likely to take their money elsewhere and spend it on something else. We publish a wide array of material featuring a broad spectrum of characters, and somebody here has confidence in everything we publish; we trust all sorts of characters enough to give them a shot. But the enduring appeal of Spider-Man and Wolverine isn’t some sort of confidence trick, some slight-of-hand intended to prevent Squirrel Girl and Jack of Hearts from getting their day in the sun. Readers like them, and want to spend time and money following their adventures. That’s what it’s all about.

>Last time you posted, you touched on a subject that worries me. Namely, that trends in comics made people in the ’70s like Flo, and even Stan believe that the zeitgeist for superhero genre of comics was only a passing trend.

Today, given the huge number of other activities available to modern teens, do you worry that fewer and fewer new readers are picking up any genre of comicbook, as evidenced by the fact that comics today with so-called “Big Numbers,” would have been relatively small sellers as little as fifteen years ago. In other words, does the possibility that comics could potentially be a dying medium worry you, (or am I just being overly pessimistic?) and if so, what do you think can be done over the long term to ensure a healthy future for the business?

Posted by cjmcaree on 2008-03-28 18:06:03>

There are a couple of interlocking components to your question, so I’m going to try to take them apart piece by piece. First off, super heroes aren’t comics. They’re a genre of comics, just like westerns or war or comedy or romance or science fiction or anything else you might think of. So a downturn in the fortunes of super heroes wouldn’t indicate a downturn in comics necessarily–if anything, the increasing appeal of manga and the explosion of webcomics would seem to indicate that there’s an audience for stories told visually that’s growing, rather than shrinking. Secondly, the sales of super hero comics have been growing as well, especially as compared to ten years ago, and especially if you factor in the penetration of collected editions into the mainstream (which is something that’s easy to overlook.) Fifteen years ago is deceptive, though, because fifteen years ago we were in the middle of a speculation boom the likes of which the field has never seen before. People were buying comics not for pleasure (and, in fact, reading the books was considered a mistake, because you were likely to decrease their condition that way), but as an investment. A whole segment of the population got played like one of those get-rich-quick schemes into thinking that a dozen copies of X-MEN #1 or whatever the hot comic book of the moment was would accrue in value quickly enough and fiercely enough that they’d be able to retire in just a couple of years. The bottom fell out as people realized they’d been had. And while those sales numbers were good for that small window of time, that’s not a period I’m especially desirous to return to.

More later.

Tom B

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