Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from John Woods and is as follows:-

“What’s the point of all these revamps and re-lauches? If a comic isn’t selling is it the creative team or the character that needs changing?”


Mike Bullock:

I think it’s hard to lay a blanket answer over that question. In some cases, a revamped character might be just what a book needs. In other cases a different creative team, or different format or approach might work well. I think the point of re-launching after some significant change(s) is to show readers “Hey, this isn’t the same book you weren’t interested in before, give it a shot, you might like the new, improved product.” It also allows readers a quick, easy jumping-on point where they don’t necessarily feel saddled with having to go pick up x amount of back-issues to get into a story.

As for what needs to be changed on a low selling book, well that’s a case-by-case basis sort of thing. Some books might have creative teams that just aren’t gelling; others might have a character that just doesn’t appeal in current form to today’s readers. Some low selling books might just suffer from lack of exposure, which is neither the fault of the character or the creator. While others might suffer from some lingering aspect of a past issue/arc/series that fans just can’t get past.

Mike Bullock is a writer, promotion agent and President of Runemaster Studios, Inc. Lions, Tigers & Bears, his first published foray into comic writing, debuts in January 2005 from Image Comics. His other comic credits include editorship on Alias Enterprises’ Imperial Dragons and Dreamwave’s Warlands. Bullock has launched Lions, Tigers and Bears II and the second issue should be out next week.


Kev F Sutherland:

Comics are dying, publishers are desperate. If it’s any consolation, comics have always been dying.

In the late 1940s Timely comics reluctantly cancelled the most popular comic character of the Second World War. The world waved farewell to Captain America (and he took his stable mates, The Submariner and The Human Torch with him, never to be seen again). It was the end of an era.

In the 1950s, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby produced comic strips in each others’ apartments, using an ironing board as a desk, because comics were on the way out, the publishers couldn’t afford an office any more, but the poor fools didn’t know how to do anything else.

A few years earlier The Spirit had been cancelled because an 8 page colour comic strip was too expensive for most papers to run, and anyway comic strips were old hat.

In 1972 Marvel cut the strip-page count of their titles down to 17 per issue, including two pages which had to be drawn printed size so the artist could be paid less. Comics were such bad business; they were definitely on the way out.

Around 1980 there was the DC implosion where they slashed loads of titles, the end was nigh.

In 1996 Marvel filed for bankruptcy. They’d only stayed afloat for the previous 5 years through scams like multiple covers and constant re-launches.

There was no way they’d see the turn of the millennium.

The last gasp of the British comics business was at the turn of the
1980s after 2000AD comic had swallowed up its sister titles StarLord and Tornado.

From then on, the country’s biggest comics publisher, was to give up on producing the new weekly titles it had been launching every few months since the early 1950s. Then an independent publisher launched Warrior. It only lasted 22 issues then died. With no new titles on the horizon, and stranded in the shrinking market of the UK, what was to become of these newly discovered talents? Where could Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Jamie Delano, David Lloyd, Grant Morrison, Alan Grant, John Wagner et al possibly go to find work. It was the end of the world as we knew it.

Comics have always been dying; long may they stay that way.

Kev F out of The Beano (celebrates its 70th birthday in 2008, fingers crossed!)

Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.


James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle):

There’s a third possibility here that nobody seems to be addressing. Perhaps the editorial bias of the publisher/editor needs changing. If the company is showing a downward turn in sales across the board, perhaps the entire strategy is messed up.

If the buying public isn’t responding to the books in the same way they once did, perhaps it’s because the publisher has gotten out of touch with its audience. Perhaps adding more profanity, suggestive behavior, sexual perversion, antisocial behavior, and angst isn’t really doing much to impress folks who might buy comics. Maybe a more family oriented approach would be in order.

Just a thought.

James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.


Chuck Satterlee:

I have heard all kinds of answers on this…and opinions too. Everyone from B. Clay Moore on his threads at the Image boards to readers…and the comments are on both sides of the question.

The creators and the publishers are the ones who make the decisions to re-launch a book or not.

There are a lot of reasons why a book has to be re-launched. In my situation, we were at a publisher whom I felt were dropping the ball…every single time they were being handed it. The publisher had been delivered a book on time…even early…and it came out late still. I felt the writing was on the wall so my studio partner and I went shopping for another publisher.

Our sales were not bad, in fact we sold out of the first issue of both of my titles. True…selling out is relative to the amount printed, but it does mean people liked it so much that we sold out of what was printed.

Creative teams need changing? Maybe…

But in the case of Of Bitter Souls, we have Norm Breyfogle on pencils and inks. And quite frankly, he is at the top of his game. If you take a look at this work on this, it is even better than anything he did when he was younger on Batman or Prime. He is knocking out home runs.

There are just too many reasons why a book would be re-launched.

Publisher problems
Creative team problems
Lateness
Printer issues
Low sales
Etc…

It is almost impossible to explain why a book is re-launched. I wish we would never had to have re-launched my titles…but for anyone to tell me that I can’t or I shouldn’t (except my publisher…who is the boss) is quite frankly, wrong. These titles are like children to the creators. If there is a will there is a way. If a publisher believes in it enough to bring it to their line-up, who is any “expert” to say that it shouldn’t be done?

Here is a little example. Pearl Jam’s TEN was out for almost a year before it caught steam. It caught the ears of America after its second or third trip to press. Look at the now. If their label had given up…we wouldn’t have Pearl Jam.

I guess in the end, the man who wins may have been called out of the game many times…he just didn’t hear the referee.

Chuck Satterlee is the writer of ‘Of Bitter Souls’ and ‘Smoke & Mirror’ and the Director of Operations at Markosia Enterprises. http://www.markosia.com.


Kev Clark:

A little from column A, a little from column B, I think. I’ve loved comics that I feel have been run into the ground by their creative teams, and some that just plain became stale. In those cases, I think it’s a definite need for a change of writer, and sometimes, artist.

That said, every once in a while, a re-launch is necessary. Let’s not forget that a lot of these characters have been around for a long while, and sometimes a fresh take on the book is a good thing. The best example I can think of is Catwoman. The character had a total change of direction, and the feel of the book was entirely different. If that had happened in the space of one issue, it would have been jarring and not so easy to accept. With the couple of months the book went on hiatus, and returning with a new # 1, it was a better way to usher in the new chapter.

I don’t agree, however, on cancelling and renumbering a title as a stunt to boost sales. If the problems a comic has can be solved by getting fresh blood to work on it, then I think it’s the best option. Otherwise, it’s just a short term fix

Kev’s dream of owning the kind of comic’s store he’d want to shop at himself is finally complete, as www.fireballcomics.com is online at last. He’d spend his spare time trying to get bitten by radioactive spiders if they didn’t scare him so much.


Bart Thompson:

Many factors… sometimes a new creative team, sometimes a new direction, but for the most part it’s all about the cash. Facing facts, comics is a business and physical printing costs lots and lots of $$$. It’s a numbers game and we’re in a collector’s medium. Which will sell better: Super Mighty Joe Shmoe vol. 3 #1 or #66? Which issue do you think the media would pick up on faster?

As awesome as it is having Bendis & Bagley doing Ultimate Spidey for 100 issues and beyond, most books aren’t so lucky. You do what you have to do to keep putting comics in peoples hands and to make it to the hands you have to make it to the shelves. To make it to the shelves you have to show the retailers the books will sell. To do that you need buzz, interest, media, hype, etc.

Don’t worry about the issue number… just be happy we have comics in hand at all!

Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the writer of Lethal Instinct through Alias and the writer/creator of Blood, Shells, & Roses coming soon from Arcana Studios!


Donna Barr:

Has NO one even asked about the changes in printing and paper costs?

Cheeze.

We need a publisher’s chat list…

Because it would bore the CRAP out of anybody else!!! (Making comics is like making sausage. Nobody should actually have to watch…)

The reason I’m possibly — POSSIBLY – re-launching three books is because Dimestore Productions lost their bulk printer and went out of the printing business – VERY SUDDENLY. Crunching numbers, juggling printers, getting re-estimating and — (DAMN Dimestore!!! What a bunch of amateurs! Oh, I have other stories….) — massively resetting files just takes TIME (I’m sorry — I won’t hassle you with much more than this).

I would like to say nice things about Diamond, right now, however, who are doing everything they can to help cushion a messy situation. Diamond will bend over backwards is you just keep them informed.

And they will pay them if you BILL them, and not argue and go all stupid like Baker and (Shudder) Taylor, who are a constantly resold bunch of useless broke boobs. If you have any money in B&T stock, get it out — those schmucks are about to collapse. Tell your libraries to order through Amazon.

Patricia Moore, Diamond Accountant, is GOD!

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!


Tim Kane:

Well personally I think it’s healthy to pick up an old idea and take a fresh look at it. But not to the point of soiling the market with a continued rehash time and time again.

Any number of factors can contribute to a book not doing well…A good editor or art director can make all the difference in the world when it comes to these issues. Every case is specific with different factors…

But I personally believe the main problem these days is the lack of communication and a singular vision

Tim Kane is the penciller, inker and colourist for issue six of Smoke and Mirror. From writer Chuck Satterlee and Markosia Enterprises.


James Says:

I have enough trouble trying to launch a new book let alone try to re-launch a book!!

James Hosts this panel for SBC… and runs his own little independent comic company Portent comics.


In all seriousness there are some great answers here this week, especially from Chuck and Donna, in fact ALL the panellists offer some great opinions as always!

Over the next two weeks leading up to the UK’s Bristol Comic Expo (http://www.comicexpo.net) we will be running two special panels asking the panellists to share with us a horror story from an expo/convention experience AND also a story of a good experience from a expo/convention.

Stay tuned to find what panellists will be appearing at SBC’s LIVE BULLETS: The Panel goes live! at the Bristol Comic Expo. I shall let you know next week…

Cheers for reading guys, all the best…

James.


The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great, isn’t it?
– James


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