Secret Empire #10 cover

Plan In Advance, Fail in the Moment

Two Things the Big Two in the Comics Industry Lacks: Planning and Execution.

You can probably add “lead time” to that list, too.

If there’s one thing that baffles me, it’s this comparison between two industries:

In the children’s book market/juvenile fiction market, books are completed as much as a year ahead of their publication date. Done and dusted. Complete. Not going back to edit a thing. Marketing is taken into consideration. Solicitations are made a couple of seasons ahead of time. Advance review copies — print, not PDF — go out to reviewers.

When the publication date arrives, so does the book. As solicited. As expected. As already read by dozens of people along the way. Deals are worked out with the booksellers long in advance.  Endocarps are decided.  Marketing pushes are systematic, author signings are well considered, etc.

In the comic book industry, they hold creative meetings to decide what the next big crossover will be two years out. Then, when the series is being published, it changes how many issues it runs, it runs incredibly late, and the artist needs to be replaced or assisted by multiple inkers just to finish the book, causing a domino effect down the rest of the line.

Does anyone else see anything wrong here?

It’s great that comics can be produced with so little lead time, and that they can be nimble enough to make changes based on audience reaction, cultural zeitgeists of the moment, or unexpected developments elsewhere in the line-up. But at what cost?

Thankfully, Marvel and DC have found the fix for this issue — they just switch out artists as often as possible inside the same series/story to keep up with the deadlines, especially when the deadlines are poorly chosen in the first place.  (Bi-weekly shipping, anyone?)

Don’t worry; if the sales flag, they can always make up for it by selling six extra covers to the same audience.

I’m sure none of this has any effect on long-term sales, readership, or enthusiasm for the material.  Nope, none at all…

Sigh.

 

So, Secret Empire #10…

Secret Empire #10 cover

I wrote the above a few weeks ago.  I always meant to flesh it out a little bit with some examples.

Then, today, Marvel gave me a timely one.  They announced that “Secret Empire,” a series that Marvel has been working towards for years (or so they tell us) and which has published two issues so far (three, if you count #0), is going to have another issue.

Given the way it’s been received by so many, I was betting on them shortening it somehow just to get on with their lives. Nope, they’re doubling down and going long.

I admire that tenacity, actually.

But, still, they’re extending the series in the middle of the series — a series that they’ve worked towards for years. Who didn’t see this coming?

Civil War II added an eight issue

That hasn’t happened since, well, the previous company-wide crossover event series, “Civil War II.”  There was a delay when the artist had a baby, then they added an extra issue, though that extra issue was filled with guest artists to tease possible future events.

To be fair, two situations like this does not constitute a pattern.  Except the same thing happened with “Secret Wars” a couple years ago, too: another extra issue added after the series’ regular schedule ran late.

Bonus Secret Wars #9 issue

Now I’m sensing a pattern.

Insert that gif of Picard shaking his head in his hands here.

Nobody is surprised by any of this anymore. Heck, it’s expected.

That’s a shame.

 

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7 Comments

  • Bram Meehan May 18, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    We talk about the difference between book and comics publishing a lot at the shop — is the answer as simple as capital? Comics can’t/won’t make the necessary investment that far out?

    And don’t get me started on the absence of marketing support, but I think that’s the another symptom.

    Reply
    • Augie May 19, 2017 at 9:51 am

      Oh, yeah, the marketing piece is a whole ‘nother rabbit hole, worthy of devoting thousands of words to. But, yeah, I think the lack of up front capital is what keeps these companies with “plans” from truly ever being able to follow through on them.

      Reply
      • Bram Meehan May 19, 2017 at 7:26 pm

        And given that these are multi billion dollar media compnaies, with far more resources than any publisher*, even more infuriating.

        though I bet most of those publishers are owned by someone bigger …

        Reply
  • JC Lebourdais May 19, 2017 at 8:37 am

    You make it sound like this is new… This attitude from the big two is there from the moment they got started back in the 1930s.
    Don’t you remember how Stan Lee was making it up as he went along in the silver age of Marvel Bullpen? How the Golden age for both companies was mostly trial and error on a constant basis: the DC implosion? The post COIE continuity? Bill Jemas? I could give you dozens more illustrations of this.
    Bottom line is, they don’t publish books, they publish Periodicals. That’s a whole different ballgame.
    This may look worse now because, you know, more books, more visibility due to social media, but this is hardly new.
    Only one notable difference I could point out though: In the old days, both DC and Marvel were run by Finance people, up until Ike Perlmutter and Jenette Kahn; now they’re run by overgrown fanboys. That’s about it. Everything else is pretty much the same.

    Reply
    • Augie May 19, 2017 at 9:50 am

      I agree on all counts. My issue is with the inability to successfully execute something they specifically have planned for years. Not that any of this is necessarily easy, but the inability to follow through on plans is ironic.

      Reply
    • Jim May 23, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      I didn’t get that impression. I don’t think he thinks it’s new which makes it even worse as there have been decades to adapt.

      Reply
  • JC LEBOURDAIS May 19, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Fanboys, ’nuff said.
    Businesses should be run by business people in a totally dispassionate way, and the creative side kept separate.
    Then again, comics buyers are a captive audience for the most part, so why bother managing properly. That’s not where the real money is anymore, after all.

    Reply

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