Let's Get Retarded!

Posted by Dan Monday, September 25, 2006
... or, Why it's never a good idea to let your marketing manager get all "creative" on you.

In a maneuver that smacks of one part desperation and two parts mind-boggling stupidity, Marvel Comics has announced they will have a crossover event with the CBS soap opera, The Guiding Light. In better news, the crossover will feature The Avengers, and S.H.I.E.L.D. In even better news, the announced writer for this high profile project will be Marvel's Marketing Director Jim McCann???? You know, I've been reading comics since the age of six. That means I've got 32 years of reading comics under my belt and I have never understood Marvel's propensity for not using high power talent on books that will receive inordinate amounts of exposure.

Here's the thing. Let's say you need a brick wall built, you don't want to do it yourself who do you have do the job? Do you hire a plumber, or an accountant? Not usually, no. You hire a bricklayer, or a general contractor, and he hires the bricklayer. You get someone with the skills and the background to do the job and do it well. Subsequently, if you need a story written that's going to net your company more media exposure than it's ever gotten before, do you hire an MBA? No. If you have unlimited access to Marvel Comics' talent pool, you hire Brian Michael Bendis or Mark Millar, and if it's a comic book, you put one of your top artists on the project, not some newcomer, or second stringer.

Of course, when you think about it, all of this is probably academic anyway. All you have to do is think about the viewing audience for The Guiding Light, and ask yourself how many soccer moms do you know that read comic books. In fact I'll do you one better. How many middle-aged housewives...(or husbands. Let's be fair, this is the new century, and I do catch "Days Of Our Lives", when I can.) (In my defense, I was programmed to be kindly disposed towards "Days" as a small child because Deidre Hall was my all time favorite Saturday morning superhero, Electra Woman.)... do you know that have even a passing interest in comic books? How many of them will see this big crossover as anything more than a week long annoyance?

The worst part of this whole thing is this: This idea could quite possibly work. Here's the thing. Soap operas are simply serial fiction, so they have at least that core concept in common with comics. If Marvel were to produce something in the way of let's say a graphic novel sized storyline, something that does some sort of major reveal for one of the recurring "Guiding Light" characters, keep the storyline under tight control, and dovetail a daily release with one week's worth of episodes or so. You'd have to make the dailies available across newsstands so that it showed up at your local supermarket, or at Borders and Barnes and Noble. Plus you could give comics retailers an incentive to carry the thing by giving them expanded editions to sell with different covers or production art, or something like that, this could work. The important thing would be to make damn sure it was well written, and stay the hell away from the super heroes. It could work, but it won't, because Marvel can't seem to think beyond the superhero genre.

Now really, how many of you out there thought anything more than, "Huh?" or "What the fuck?" when you heard this announcement? If any of you thought this was anything more than a monumentally stupid idea, let me know, and I'll send someone over to rip up your Chris Claremont collection.


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Im an essayist, critic, online blogger, short story writer and to borrow a descriptor from Peter David, "Writer of stuff." I love all things pop culture related: Music, Movies, Comics, Books, Politics... if you can label it I probably have an opinion about it, and I love to argue. All informed opinions are welcome here.
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