The worlds of marketing and creativity in mainstream comics seldom go bump in the night. Right now they’re kinda like a married couple that lives in the same house and sleeps in the same bed, but they never talk and they never have sex.

There’s something missing here.

I think there is a problem with this in mainstream super hero comics. We’re talking about DC Comics and Marvel Comics. It’s not THE biggest problem in comics right now, but it is a growing one. One that contributes to other clogged arteries in the business.

I really feel that with there is a problem of the editorial and marketing departments not know who their readers are and what they want. I think the editorial side of Marvel and DC are working in a isolated area. They know what THEY like to look at and what THEY like to read, but they don’t have much of an idea what the readers want.

Let’s face hard facts. There is no true hardcore communication between editors and the readers. There is little true communication between marketing and the readers. I’ve been on all sides of this for close to 20 years. I hear the talk behind the scenes in the office, at the convention and in the meetings. I’ve also made it a part of my job as a writer and on the business end of marketing and creative direction to listen to what the readers have to say.

Somebody has cut the lines. It’s a case of being all mouth and no ears.

There is very little listening between editors and marketing. They still feel that the other doesn’t know as much as they do. They’ll smile and nod their heads at meetings, but as soon as they’re back in their office or cube, the exchange of information goes right back into the negative zone.

Yes, Marvel and DC have websites. Yes fans post on their messages boards, but when you break down the statistics of the posters you’ll find that they are the same posters over and over. True there is the silent majority reading the site and the boards, but what is being done to get their opinion? This is the same with any message board. Check it out for yourself. Look here at Silver Bullet Comics; look at other newsites like Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, The Pulse, and check the creator boards as well. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

Websites are not being used to a fraction of what they could be. Like when a magazine is boasting of their circulation, remember, that circulation is inflated. Same with “hits” and “visits” on a website. Figure those hits and visits into paid sales and you’ll see just how much it really doesn’t mean.

I think right now if you were to find truthful editors that would speak for the record you’d find that they are very puzzled why their books with “A-List-Hot-According-To-The-News-Sites” creators have sales that drop more and more every month. I’m sure you’d hear them say “I don’t understand it. We love here in the office love what their doing.” Key word there? “We”, not the readers.

I learned a long time ago when I was at Eclipse Comics to set my personal tastes aside. We weren’t trying to sell product to our editors, publishers and marketing departments. We were trying to sell product to the readers. I think when “The Office” doesn’t get out into the field enough this working in isolation happens.

Just at random look at icon characters/books like Captain America, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans, Daredevil, Black Panther and Green Arrow? all have top touted creative teams that are in the news all the time. But every month their sales drop more and more. I’m sure there are a few factors that add up to cause this, but I also think that it’s possible that these books are not being written or drawn in the fashion that the readers really want.

Maybe they want Captain America to be more of the semi-flawless character that they always remembered. Maybe they don’t want him doubting himself, his country, his government and his actions. Like Superman, Captain America is an American icon. People don’t like their icons messed with or thrown in an anti-hero light. A “Clint Eastwoood/Dirty Harry” mood is right for The Punisher, but the readers might want their Captain America to be more John Wayne. Captain America doesn’t wear the red ,white and blue because it goes with his eyes. He wears it because, like the flag, it stands for something. Maybe the readers want to see him stand for something again.

The Fantastic Four has always been the “first family” of Marvel Comics. They are the mother, father, uncle and brother that readers have come to call a four color family. There is no reason why the Fanstastic Four shouldn’t be as family friendly and popular as Spider-Man. That doesn’t mean that they have to be goodie-two shoes. It just means that they should take on fighting evil in a way that makes you think of how your family would stand an protect. Even more so, how you would want them to stand and protect. Maybe that’s what the readers want.

The case of Daredevil could be like that of a union. If you don’t have enough it ‘s a bad thing. If you have too much it’s a bad thing. At Daredevil‘s core he was always the guy that fought for the underdog. He did it in his law work, he did it as a super hero. His first 100 issues had him true to his core and doing that. Then he faded. Like what happened to the X-Men in the 70s their ship lost it’s rudder. With Daredevil it wasn’t until Frank Miller dropped the character into the gray are and out of that of four colors that he caught on again. That was a long time ago. It could be possible that the readers are a little weary of the darker side. They might be longing for a lighter Daredevil. A change of scene. It may be time to move him from Hell’s Kitchen and the darker side. Maybe that’s what the readers want.

With Teen Titans the readers might want a change up. With team books that usually seems to be the case. The angst of teens and young adults are always good for soap opera story lines. It’s what made Marvel Comics in the 60s. But from my memory of being that age I seem to remember having a hell of a lot of fun too. Maybe the readers want to see more of that fun side of being that age and having super powers. Can you imagine being that age and fighting against say a team of adult super villains that have been around the block. You defeat them. That’s gotta be a high right there. These are characters that the readers might wanna see grow before their very eyes into adults then move on for the next group of young folks. You’re an adult a lot longer than you are a teenager. I guess that would divide it into The Titans and The Teen Titans. Maybe that’s what the readers want.

Green Arrow and Black Panther? to me both have always been supporting characters. Just because you place a “Hot” or “A-List” creative team on a character doesn’t make it 100% that they will become major stars. We’ve seen blips and spikes in the past like Ghost Rider and Moon Knight. Everybody thought they were gonna be the next Wolverine and Punisher. There was a time when they were the guest star in every comic that came out that month. Then they shuffled off back into their second string spot. You can only ride a horse so long before it gets tired. No one can go full throttle 24/7. There’s gotta be some rest or you wear it out.

I understand Marvel and DC wanting to advance these characters into the spotlight. It has to be done gradually. Mini-series are a perfect way to feed the readers, test the waters and see what happens. Bringing them along in another monthly book as a reoccurring character or for an arc is an even better way. In fact not enough of that is done with new characters anymore. I think a lot of creators are afraid to “give up” a really good character if they aren’t gonna own it or a piece of it.

Moon Knight and Green Arrow are characters that should still be fed to the readers in small portions. Make them want more. If their mini-series is a hit, then give them another mini, but not a monthly. There has to be some mystery. There has to be a reason to come back or in this case to want them to come back. If all women quit wearing clothes it’d be great for a while, but I’d sure hate to think I’d get numb to it after a while. There’s a lot to be said for mystery and a little teasing. Maybe that’s what the readers want.

Don’t start crying to your mommy who live upstairs. I’m not saying that Marvel and DC don’t have some major hits. They do. Market share results in this little market of ours proves that. They have hits that do strike not only at the heart, but the wallet of the readers. That could be planned out or like a chimp at the zoo in it’s fiberglass cage, if you sling enough against the glass, something is gonna stick sooner or later. Even the blind pig finds the acorn on occasion.

I’m not saying I have all the answers. I’m saying there’s a problem. The cold numbers prove that. I’m just saying that there really does need to be more attention paid to who’s reading the comics. Publishers/editors/marketing needs to know who their customers are. Publishers spend most of their time trying to make corporate happy. Marketing spends most of their time trying to make the publisher happy. Editors and creative folks making each other happy. Where does that leave the retailer and the reader?

Somebody is getting left out of this equation. Somebody is getting isolated.

I think it’s the readers.

Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week

Kate Beckinsale

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful faces in films right now. This gal has it all, an amazing smile, a great “real” laugh a body that won’t stop even with the emergency brake pulled back. She’ so fine I’m giving you two photos of her instead of just one.

You’ve seen her in all different styles of movies: Underworld, Van Helsing, Pearl Harbor, Serendipity, and the upcoming Click.

If you see her on a talk show she seems like pretty regular folk. Talks about her family and home. No airhead nonsense and goofy Hollywood party talk. She’s got class. This is one you could bring home to the parents?if you better looking.

Busted Knuckles Manly Comic Book Cover Of The Week

Wings #124
Fiction House, 1954

This is the kinda cover that I used to pose my G.I. Joe’s in when I was a kid. I’m talking about the 12 inch Joes, not those tiny little men that came out years later. This was a time when artists drew equipment and guns with real detail. God Love John and Sal Buscema, but they always drew guns like they were carved out of a bar of soap. This was a time when artists found it fun to be right and draw something the way it really was.Just take a gander at the chopper.

Then you have the always enjoyable stories of “Suicide” Smith. No, it’s not about my own manly adventures, this was one tough army grunt that never took any prisoners. These were stories with heroes with great names like Captain Wings and Buzz Bennett. Just check out the action on this cover. Anybody can wrestle a wild animal and win when you have a knife, but this all-American hero is dangling from a chopper and beating the crap out of a bad guy with his own knife. Let’s see Chuck Dixon beat this with one of his “Disney-Like” poser covers on his website at Dixonverse:

I expect to see you going through the comic book boxes at the next convention looking for real man comics. Don’t let me catch you reaching for a Vertigo book like Fables or one of those titles I can’t pronounce.

Look For You Next Week

I thank you for kindly dropping in here at the ranch. It’s always good to have you stop by and read Busted Knuckles. For you guys it’s good that you can get your weekly dose of testosterone so that you can meet the rest of the week and all the sissy stuff life tries to throw at ya.

For you ladies, It’s always nice to have you drop by, flirt with me and fetch me another cold beer. Bringing the Chili Cheese Fritos was a nice touch as well. I appreciate it.

Thanks go out to William Morris from Tulsa for sending me the great Shell Scott paperbacks by Richard S. Prather. That Shell is one hell of a tough guy. I remember reading these books when I was in high school. They don’t make tough guys like this any more?unless I write em’.

Thank you, William. I hope you enjoy the manly package I sent out to you.

I expect to see the rest of you here next week and ya better bring a friend. As always I wanna hear what you have to say so email me and post those thoughts up on the message boards. We’ll take over all of pop culture yet.

Here’s a little photo of motivation for ya to return next week.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507

Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!

About The Author

Beau Smith

Beau Smith is a writer for Comics Bulletin