Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Ones That Got Away: Part Two

In the music industry, they have what is called the A&R department. The A&R department sole responsibility is to groom and polish the artist.

Does the the artist have a really thick Boston accent and you're sending him on tour in the South? A&R'll have him sounding like Matt Damon in no time.

A&R is there to not only make the artists it works with shine but to also help the artist present the image the company wants to get across.

Vertigo Comics have been, edgy, well-written and for the most part, innovative.

Who wouldn't want a piece of that?

Seemingly, Vertigo's sister company, DC Comics.

Although, Vertigo has been one HELL of an A&R department for Marvel.

For the record, I have never even stepped foot in inside of DC or Vertigo's offices but I imagine it to be somewhat like this:

When I worked in the comics shop, random persons would come in and put things on hold. Mind you, it cost nothing to the random person to ask for something to be held for a week. Us, not so much.

Now, let's say,the thing that's being held is a "buzz book" that is sold-out at the distribution level and we're on Day 8, one day past the hold point and someone walks into the store wanting to buy the held book. Do you:

A: Tell the customer the book is being held and you're hoping the person comes in to pick it up later.

B: Tell the person, that if the person doesn't pick it up soon, they can have it.

C: Sell the damned thing to the person standing in front of you with the interest and the cash in hand.

I always went with C. I'd much rather explain to someone why I did something than why I
didn't.

With DC, they always seem to have something on hold. As long as there's been a DC/Vertigo, the only time I can point out DC/Vertigo taking someone off "hold" and using them in both DC & Vertigo was Garth Ennis.

While Ennis burned down the house with Preacher, DC hired him to write a book set within they're universe. That title was the critically acclaimed series, Hitman. Since then, it seems to me that, in the interest of DC not wanting to give the assumption that Vertigo is their farm club has taken a kind of hand-off approach in hiring Vertigo writers.


DC, Vertigo writers have not for the holding. They're usually rabid dogs that need to be unleashed and creating buzz. We need more of that in the DC Universe.

Now this has changed somewhat, not too long ago, we say Fables' Bill Willingham come to The DCU and write Robin but too much in the way of editorial mandates made his run less than memorable.

Later, he was given Shadowpact. A team comprised of DC's C to D list characters and the book, on buzz alone, managed to stick around a couple of years.

His successor on Shadowpact, Matt Sturges also writes Vertigo's Jack of Fables and House of Mystery and is due to take over writing duties on DC's Blue Beetle.

These seem to be exceptions rather than rules. While DC doles out lower tier assignments to Vertigo writers, Marvel looks at say, an Ed Brubaker and says, "Wanna follow Bendis' run on Dardevil and then take over Uncanny X-Men?"

Now, I'm all for A&R but man, looking at the cover for The Joker's Asylum:The Penguin, written by Jason Aaron of Scalped fame, just makes me want to shake my head in disbelief rather than rejoice. DC, did you really want to give a taste of what could have been? Was this really all there was to offer him?

DC, may I offer you advice:

Look at yourselves.

Where was that company that hired Geoff Johns, fresh from having written nothing, to write their big "event" book, Day of Judgment? Yeah, it bombed but didn't it lay the groundwork for returning Green Lantern to prominence? And, how did that happen? You watched him.

Did you toss the guy after his series "Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E." was canceled after only 15 issues? No, you gave him a chance and gave him JSA to write.

A few years back, when you had him do fill-in work on Superman, did you go, "Well, he's done here." No, it was laying a foundation for his return to Superman in Action Comics.

Remember when Mark Waid left The Flash and you hired Johns to fill in following his work on Day of Judgment? How'd that work out for you?

Or were you smart enough to see that once he went Marvel and started work on The Avengers that maybe, just maybe, you'd actually groomed a talent worth keeping.

Don't be afraid to groom your shared writers. Trust me, I know about inter-office chaos and the hate "stealing" people form other departments brings but dammit, Marvel's doing it to you anyway. Find a way to make it work for you amicably.

Look at what's there. I know it's been a while since you've heard it, that was "buzz."

Marvel's heard it lately.

Come back later this week for PART THREE of "The Ones That Got Away." Wherein I speak of Greg Rucka and more of what I'd like to see from Vertigo.

6 comments:

ChrisM said...

I dunno...they gave The New Atom to Rick Remender and its awful

Yonatan said...

plus its not like Black Panther or Ghost Rider are chart toppers either

Devon Sanders said...

Maybe, just maybe, Yonatan, what they're trying to do is introduce Marvel readers to Aaron through something like say... a top-selling Marvel title like... Wolverine?

And if they like what they see, maybe, just maybe, they'll want to pick up Ghost Rider or Black Panther, (especially since BP is part of Secret Invasion, maybe,just maybe that's how the game works) but what do I know.

Jon said...

Steve Seagle went from the excellent House Of Secrets, straight over to Uncanny X-Men and Alpha Flight. Sure he came back for American Virgin, but he clearly had some superhero stories in him. Guess DC wasn't interested.

Devon Sanders said...

DC later did use him on Superman but but for some reason he just never seemed to click.

CandidGamera said...

But Willingham's DC Universe work is really, really bad.

Some writers just aren't good at working in a shared continuity.

Better to have them do their own creator-owned stuff for Vertigo.