Ambidextrous Special: Rules of Engagement
Bill Jemas is doing that thing again.
By that “thing” I’m referring to his innate ability to ignite the online comics community with press releases and public statements that prompt certain internet personalities to question his sanity and suitability in effectively managing a company that delivers comic books to the masses every Wednesday in the form of the twenty-two page pamphlet. He has created a persona of flamboyance and strong opinions that is willing and able to challenge potentially controversial and guarded topics. If you don’t think the President of a company should be saying it…Jemas says it long enough and loud enough to ensure its heard by a pit of online commentators that enjoy participating in the game of message board posting as much as Bill Jemas loves to start it.
Bill Jemas is more than the president of Marvel Comics…he’s a comic industry personality. And like most personalities…you either love him or hate him.
Whatever your personal feelings, you have to admit one thing…he imprints the two words of Marvel and Comics on your consciousness long enough for you to take notice of what’s going on at the House of Ideas. That’s his job…to sell Marvel Comics and sell them in greater quantities than his worthy competitors. (Or perhaps the competition should be more appropriately labeled as distinguished.) Regardless, Jemas gets people talking and something about his approach appears to be successful, even if his company’s recent achievements are the result of talented personnel.
We are gathered here today for a second installment of Ambidextrous in a week’s time to comment on Bill Jemas’ latest stunt. Oh, you haven’t heard??
Over on Comics Newsarama, by way of Michael Sangiacomo’s Journey Into Comics column, Bill Jemas offered his unique viewpoint on the whole Peter David vs. Marvel Comics affair that involves a serious disagreement over a recently announced price increase on David’s critically acclaimed and financially anemic Captain Marvel project. Marvel contended that the increase would keep the title operative for another twelve months while it tries to broaden its readership base. Peter David, the writer of Captain Marvel, took issue and exposed his opinions to the online community. Back and forth between David and Joe Quesada ensued until things reached what appeared a mutual agreement.
Then Bill Jemas appears from the ether, flicks his lighter, and smiles. ( Latest update at this URL: http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=13&t=000962 )
The president of Marvel Comics has challenged Peter David to a serious game of Survivor, or the Weakest Link, or whatever you’d like to call it. Beginning in September, Jemas will offer a new character to the Marvel mythos in the form of The Marvel, offering its sales against the sales of Captain Marvel as irrefutable evidence of what makes a successfully selling comic book. Along the way, he casually undermines David’s abilities as a writer and insinuates that the man is a veritable fossil treading among bright and explosive talent that will soon overtake him.
Jemas’ project The Marvel is currently shrouded in secrecy, but what the president will reveal is that the superhero’s exploits could be ripped from the headlines of modern news events, and that the adventures will take place in modern-day Marvel Manhattan. The artist has yet to be announced.
Jemas claims the ongoing drama has turned into a friendly contest between himself and Ralph Macchio and Peter David and Joe Quesada.
Apparently…the majority of message board posters don’t agree.
While attacking the abilities of someone in your employ, even though the relationship is strictly freelance, suggests a considerable lack of tact and respect…Jemas is honest enough to embrace the fact that he personally dislikes the writing style of Peter David. The possibility that the chief operating officer of Marvel doesn’t enjoy every book that his company publishes isn’t that tough to swallow, and while there are those that will take serious issue with his frank opinions regarding the situation…he has the ability to simply cancel Captain Marvel and fabricate an unrelated justification for his decision, ignoring the cries of a dedicated fanbase.
What gives him The Authority to cancel a critical darling that he personally dislikes??
Jemas doesn’t like everything Marvel publishes. Big deal.
The bigger concern is that this little contest isn’t fair in the slightest.
The Trouble With Numbers
Jemas’ The Marvel already enjoys an unnatural advantage and the mystery artist hasn’t even been named yet. As a rule of thumb, number one issues are typically going to outsell many titles striding into their fortieth issue. By the time Bill even makes it to his third issue, David, Quesada, and CrissCross are following the president’s exhaust trail.
Solution: Captain Marvel’s numbering starts from scratch.
Before the protest begins, from a purely common sense point of view…this is the only way that both projects could even begin to start this frantic dash for the finish line without one firmly entrenched in pole position. Something else to consider is the reasoning Marvel has provided for the upcoming revamp, relaunch, or remix (whichever term you prefer) of titles soon to be formerly known as Deadpool, Cable, and X-Force. Their explanation is that they wish to call further industry attention to the work of worthy creative teams. Peter David and CrissCross are proving their worth on a monthly basis, and there’s truly no other title being released from the House of Ideas that reads like Captain Marvel.
The artist for Jemas’ offering remains shrouded in secrecy but with the style and flair present at the fingertips of CrissCross, David and company being smoked from an artistic standpoint isn’t likely. Let’s make things a bit more interesting by way of first impression however.
An accomplished cover artist can aid in the final sale of any project and while there are several artistic pairings that could elicit a relatively similar amount of second glances from the consumer, someone is going to experience a slight edge.
Solution: Both books have the same cover artist for that corresponding month.
If Joe Quesada renders the cover for Captain Marvel #1, he also contributes the cover for The Marvel #1. The chosen cover artist for the second issue does both titles’ covers and so on until we hit magic number six.
All either writer has to do is insert the X-Men or Spider-Man into their stories and watch their sales spike.
Solution: No guest stars. Period.
This exercise means nothing if the books aren’t relying on their own merits to determine their ultimate fate. Resist the urge to cheat, committing oneself to relying on the titles’ primary characters and nothing else.
Something of this magnitude is much too important to become the exclusive fodder for message boards and opinionated online commentary. The majority of comic buyers don’t have access to a friendly message board or weekly intenet column to infect the world with their valuable opinions.
Solution: Let the other seventy percent in on the joke.
In the Previews containing solicitations for September’s books, Marvel’s section should include a feature article that details the conditions and provisions of the Sole Survivor event that pits two Marvel titles against one another. This article contains a brief, though less volatile, account of the train of events that led us to this point. People know the stakes and are able to make a more informed decision. And about those stakes…
In the event of Peter David’s victory…Spider-Girl and Black Panther receive relaunches of their own, because PAD’s initial argument will be proved correct…that with the appropriate attention and marketing…these critically respected titles can survive and thrive in today’s market.
Now you’re ready to begin…go forth and unleash hell.
And may the best man win.
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