Saturday, January 29, 2011
Marvel: Are They Really This Stupid?
Not even five days removed from the absolute spoileration of their own Fantastic Four # 587 on Monday, Marvel completely destroys any vestige of surprise for Venom # 1 by revealing the symbiote's host today on the "Next Big Thing" conference call!
Folks, you can't make this stuff up. And here's the deal...here's the promise I'm going to make to you. I'm going to be as fair as possible to Marvel today while demonstrating their utter ineptitude yet again. And in the interest of fairness, I like Steve Wacker, and I don't believe he's a complete idiot. Steve Wacker is a smart ass after my own heart, tends to shoot from the hip, typically conducts himself as a professional, and I don't know where this sudden dip into the imbecile pool came from.
But you can't do that. Marvel's entire marketing strategy for Venom # 1 has been the "surprise" about who would be wearing the symbiote. Well, that and the false advertising regarding the fact that it would be the first ongoing series for the character. If the crux of your sales strategy is a mystery protagonist, you can't just blurt out that information four seconds into the call. Ever.
And if your company just made a giant ASS of itself by spoiling its own surprise on Monday, then a mistake like that shoots beyond inexcusable and into the "is this for real?" territory. That's like a forgetting you left your girlfriend at the bottom of the sea near Chappaquiddick Island kind of error. I feel like we're being punked, because I can't believe any company could be this stupid, this often.
If you look back on it, the run Marvel are on right now is quite staggering. You've got your jamming extra unnecessary crap into your extra-tiny Thor: Mighty Avenger trade paperbacks. You've got the continued glutting of the comics racks month after month, impeding new readership, confusing current readership, and destroying their own margins. There's the incredibly ill-conceived "Point one" program, which communicates nothing other than the idea that their other titles are bad places to start reading. Oh, and then they jam another $4 issue down your throat a week later, so you end up paying twice if you decide you like the first one. Get the newbies used to the cornholing early is the thinking, I guess.
Their plan now is to dilute whatever leverage they might gain from the upcoming Thor film by cramming even more Thor books onto the racks in the least logical method possible. The "death" of Spider-Man, oops, they meant Ultimate Spider-Man. Just when you thought you might escape more meaningless "events", along comes Fear Itself. The same mistakes over and over and over again.
My favorite is still the utter disgrace coming out of New York Comic Con regarding rolling back prices. The first news was that Marvel was following DCs lead, then it got downgraded to $2.99 on first issues, and then that got downgraded to some first issues on some mini-series. Sad.
I promised I'd be fair, and I've gone on record as saying that Marvel never publicly announced those clarifications or apologized for misleading us in the first place. I was only half right about that. In early November, David Gabriel did an interview for the Comic Beat where he went public with Marvel's meaningless adjustment on a handful of B-list garbage that shouldn't honestly be on the stands to begin with. (Was that fair? Yes, yes it was.)
But there was never an apology about the matter, and one exclusive back-tracking interview on one news source does not undo letting every other comics site in the world run with "Marvel's going back to $2.99 as well, and we were planning it all along!" during NYCC. They were perfectly happy to let everyone believe the lie, which is a bizarre sort of way to run a business.
While Marvel embarrasses itself on a near daily basis, Tom Brevoort runs his gob on Twitter about DCs page counts and the quality of their books. Listen, I don't hold DC as a sacred cow. To be frank, I think that flooding the market with a gajillion Flashpoint event books is wrong-headed, antiquated thinking that is likely to be more trouble than its worth. But at this stage of the game, Marvel has cultivated a public image which appears to be constructed by a drunk, belligerent, and slightly retarded orangutan.
There is still plenty to like about Marvel. Fantastic Four, and anything else written by Hickman. Scarlet by Bendis is a delight, and delightfully different. Avengers Academy is consistently wonderful, the best Avengers book, and still $2.99. It's not completely empty.
But Marvel's brain trust needs serious, immediate, direct attention. Time to bow out of the secret business, I would think. Secrets are mostly cheap, and even when they aren't, it should be obvious at this juncture that none at Marvel have the will nor the skill to execute them correctly. Don't spoil your own books. Figure out when your character has had an ongoing series before you announce otherwise in a Previews catalog which contains the evidence of your lie. Stop shitting on DC when they are destroying you in integrity and public relations. You look impossibly bad as it is. Brevoort makes you look worse.
Listen, things are getting dire when a die-hard like Monster Mike is Facebooking "loss of faith" posts. I'm not asking the impossible. Avoiding the aggressively evil and stupid should be enough. Can you handle that, Marvel? Because the hour is dark, and we need you to get your shit together as soon as possible.