Sunday, December 10, 2006

What the...?

Lisa at Sequentially Speaking posted about this and I've ranted about it there, but I've still got a bit of rant left in me and need to get it out of my system.

Back in July, the Skiffy Channel broadcast Who Wants To Be A Superhero? -- a six episode "reality series" so obviously scripted and contrived that the word "reality" itself might be able to sue the producers for defamation -- in which Stan Lee supposedly auditioned contestants who competed to become the new superhero featured in a comic book to be published by Dark Horse. Stan himself has real charisma on screen, and in spite of my contempt for the idea and the silliness of its execution, the show became one of my guilty almost-pleasures during its mercifully short run.

Months later, with the show almost entirely forgotten, Dark Horse has announced that the resultant comic book allegedly written by Stan Lee, originally due to come out in October, will ship in January. And they provide this cover preview:

Logic says the cover should be a photo of the winning competitor. Not an awkward pose (and that is one seriously awkward pose there) on a white background! Even the shoestring budget of the the tv version managed to produce more interesting visuals, including a mockup cover featuring the character that was pedestrian, but still more interesting than this. And that mockup had the considerable benefit of actually having been shown on the program itself.

I have no idea what the ratings were on the series -- apparently high enough that a second series is being planned -- but let's assume that the show had genuine fans who, even at this late date, would still be interested in the comic promised by the very premise of the show. I mean, that's the presumed target audience here, right? So why not do everything you can to appeal to that audience and get their attention? By not using a photo of the guy, or the cover that appeared on the air, Dark Horse has possibly thrown away thousands in sales.

And what else is missing here? Stan Lee's presence was a big part of the show, and his name was prominently mentioned in all the publicity, and the comic is purportedly written by Stan. Anyone who watched that show certainly came away knowing the name "Stan Lee" if they didn't before. And his name doesn't appear on the cover? They passed up a chance to put the name "Stan Lee" in honking giant letters across the cover when it would have been entirely right and appropriate to do so? That's, what, maybe thousands more in sales lost right there.

(Some comics have blazoned a famous creator's name on the cover with less reason or even no reason at all.)

Let me make it clear that I had no interest in the comic itself; what bothers me is seeing something done poorly when it could just as easily have been done well. Dark Horse publishes a lot of good comics and has most of the best creators in comics available to them...and they've been very canny about integrating with other media for cross-promotion. To see them doing something this amateurish is disappointing.

I mean...they didn't even put Stan's name on the cover? What's up with that?


  1. I'm actually not sure if Dark Horse can put Stan's name on the cover. I seem to recall hearing something about Stan's last agreement with Marvel including some statement about no one being able to use his name on a comic unless he actually wrote it himself.

    Of course, that doesn't say anything about the artwork -- or lack thereof -- but it might explain a bit of why the comic's not being hyped with Stan's name.

  2. When I get a rant going, in my righteous indignation I occasionally fail to make the fundamental points as clear as I ought to. In this case, Stan is credited as writer of the comic itself. I used qualifying terms like "supposedly" and "purportedly" in the body of the post above because I don't know how much of the work appearing under his name these days is actually written by Stan himself and how much might be written by ghosts. Sheer speculation on my part. But the credits in the Dark Horse solicitation say "written by Stan Lee" so his name belongs on the cover at least as much as they did when DC published their Just Imagine Stan Lee Created... comics.


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