Sunday, December 26, 2010

If PT Barnum was a publisher......

"There's a sucker born every minute."---P. T. Barnum.

"We snack on danger, we dine on death, and dead men make no money!"---Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand), sometime in the 1980's.

The last part of the late wrestler's bold declaration doesn't hold a lot of water anymore, considering how, for example, Sony released a posthumous Michael Jackson CD just a few weeks ago, and they claim to have more in the can, due to a backlog of material Jackson had recorded before his passing in 2009. Of course, profits are still being made on other deceased musicians such as Elvis Presley & John Lennon.

Marvel Comics' Joe Quesada & Dan Buckley subscribe to the Barnum theory, because, once again, they're teasing the death of a major comics character, hoping to juice up sales on a flagging iconic title. In this case, it's the Fantastic Four.

In 2009, Marvel had Captain America killed off, then brought him back a few months ago. DC didn't quite do the same with Batman, opting instead for an intricate story arc that had the Dark Knight lost in time before being brought back to the present a couple of months back. DC, of course, famously killed off Superman for a period in 1993-94. In each case, it wasn't so much generating mainstream publicity as fishing for extra sales. In the case of Quesada & Buckley, it's all about attention, and how to go about it. However, it's getting old real fast.

A wire service article on the pending FF story arc appeared in some newspapers earlier this week, and around here, the only paper that had the story was the Albany Times-Union, which put it on page 2 of their Dec. 23 edition. Not sure about any others, but I do know that my hometown paper whiffed, as usual. They're routinely a day late and a few dollars short on wire service articles.

There are rumors that, after 2 feature films that weren't exactly very popular with the fan base, Marvel is considering starting over again with the FF at the movies. If this is actually going to happen, why kill off one of the central characters, even for a short time? In 2010-11, there aren't going to be too many people who will fall for this trick again. You know how this is going to play. They'll go ahead with their plans, and, after a few months, bring the deceased back to life in a more-complicated-than-it-has-any-right-to-be story arc. Quesada & Buckley have presided over some pretty stupid story ideas during their tenure at Marvel, but they are risking a severe backlash, especially when you consider that Marvel is now part of the Disney family. No way would Disney allow these two jackals anywhere near Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck, so let's stop with the faux bloodletting, ok?


Samuel Wilson said...

Don't rip the "hometown paper." This story shouldn't exactly have a high priority with anybody. Meanwhile, what's your basis for psychoanalyzing the motives of the publishers this time? Superhero comics do this all the time, not just killing or pretending to kill characters but always promising that "things will never be the same" after the current big event until they decide that "everything you knew is wrong" a year or so later. Comics writers seem to have lost the ability to imagine interesting stories without the tease of a life-changing event for the heroes. Some of the current stories are still good, but the overall trend isn't healthy.

hobbyfan said...

Well, the one article I read wasn't exactly the top story on page 2, to clarify your point, Sammy.

As you note, they're doing this so often now, it's become virtually a cliche unto itself, where there's no real suspense, surprise, or shock value. Not only that, but the "big event" has also become cliched, as if it's become the lifeblood of the publishers in order to keep readers hooked. Where is the imagination? Where is the original thinking? Between DC & Marvel, it's a case of "Can you top this?". The readers don't seem to mind, if sales figures are any barometer.