The art of self-promotion
In previous posts, we discussed the DIY trend. We argued that it makes it possible to avoid paying middlemen whose value added is debatable. At the same time we admitted the limits of this formula. However, it is possible to excel in all aspects of a comicbook project.
Todd Allen says that the top quality needed in DIY is self-promotion. “It depends a little on what your profile is and how good a person is at promoting themselves” (“C2E2: Digital Comics: The Next Page,” www.comicsbeat.com, April 29, 2014). This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Mark Waid, who is involved in the Thrillbent project, a webcomic publication platform, has this to say:
There are four factors to selling anything: content, distribution, publicity, and marketing. We are great at content; we are good at distribution. Because of the limited amount of time in the day, however, marketing and publicity is where we fall down. That’s no fault of the people at Thrillbent behind the scenes; that’s on me – I don’t have as much time as I’d like to pound the drum and get people to swarm to our site. (“Interview: Mark Waid on the Inner Demons of Daredevil, Attitude Adjustment for the Hulk, and the Thrill of Digital Comics,” www.comicsbeat.com, February 10, 2014).
We’re not looking for excuses, but if promotion is hard for an established artist like Mark Waid, then it’s surely a major issue for us mere mortals.
Taking time to retrace our steps
We were always annoyed about how some comic book authors always felt they had to take a page or two to summarize past events. When we first picked up a comic book, we fell into a story arc whose ramifications went back several issues. We adapted.
However, more recently we read an interview with Mark Waid, who said: “Every once in a while, you’ll get some criticism from a fan who goes, “Yeah, yeah. I know all about Mega Crime. Stop beating a dead horse.” And I’m thinking, “Look, it’s awesome you’ve been keeping up with the book, but have some mercy or compassion for somebody who might be picking it up for the very first time.” (Oliver Sava, “Mark Waid on his Personal Digital-Comics Revolution,” July 10, 2012, http://www.avclub.com)
This was something of a revelation for us and we decided to integrate a summary of the past ramifications of the story we’re currently developing. The question was how to present it. We didn’t just want a straightforward summary. In a discussion with one of our collaborators, we were reminded of the importance of our timeline, and we decided to make use of that. It lets us integrate four dimensions: a short summary, a few key drawings, and the timing of the events.
Marketing your characters may stunt their development
Mark Waid has expressed an interesting opinion about seeking profit with Web publications: “Waid commented that the tendency toward merchandizing may encourage the slow-down or freeze of new developments in a character since ‘every character becomes a beach towel’ in the end” (Hannah Means-Shannon, “On the Scene: WonderCon 2013,” comicsbeat.com, March 30, 2013.). This simple comment summarizes the conflict that may arise between financial profitability and artistic integrity.
As we have said in the past, changing authors is often used as a way to boost sales for a series. But a new author isn’t always enough and so an event must be created. Chichester admitted as much in an interview where he explained that the change in Daredevil’s costume in the early 1990s was a way to attract readers’ attention to the series and to position other changes in tone that they wanted to introduce (“Interview With D.G. Chichester (February 1998),” www.manwithoutfear.com).
However, these media events are now often clichéd. Readers know very well that the death of a major character is only a momentary eclipse to prepare their return. Like Graeme McMillan said: “It doesn’t help that it’s War in these teasers, a word that has similar weight at Marvel as “Crisis” does for DC. Between Secret War, Ultimate War, Civil War, Silent War, Chaos War and countless other wars that I’ve probably forgotten about (Oh! War of Kings, of course), the word has become almost meaningless in its attempt to suggest epic bombast, just like… Well, like the sight of Cap’s shield either cracked or splattered with blood, really. There’s an amazing sense of déjà vu from these trailers that’s unfortunate, especially considering that Avengers Vs. X-Men was already treading in ‘Haven’t I seen superheroes punching each other a lot recently in Civil War and X-Men: Schism?’ waters” (“I Don’t Wanna Live a War That’s Got Not End in Our Time,” www.newsarama.com, June 26, 2012).