WAKE UP, LITTLE SUSIE
Well, there it is: Marvel has officially gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs with editor-in-chief Joe Quesada's keynote speech to retailers.
But before I get to that latest bit of dance-band-on-the-Titanic, and actual speculation about whether Joe Quesada has been dropped on his head or not, let me tell you a little about San Diego:
That comic book convention kicked ass.
I know that there are all sorts of folks in the world who have opinions who differ and who support other shows and who get all polarized about who-did-what-and-when and whatnot, and get all serious about the net effect of what these things do for comics in general…
…but from my point of view, San Diego kicked ass.
And not just sales-wise, either. You may know I've got my own publishing house, and we set up a booth, there. I'm not talking about commercialism, per se; I'm talking about the high level of enthusiasm that every single person I talked to exhibited about comic books in general.
I'm living the dream, I am, because I love comics. I love comics so much, I have to make my own. I'm fortunate enough to have clawed out a position to be able to get a bunch of my talented pals together and get them to make comics, too. I just get out of their way and let them do the work they want to do. No editorial interference, no toeing of the corporate line. Just good, old fashioned comics, straight from their minds to yours. Nearly a direct interface of funny-book goodness between their brains and yours.
Now, one of the necessary evils of this sort of thing is that a whole bunch of pins have to fall into place in-between Brian Wood thinking, "Y'know, I wouldn't mind doing a comic book about a girl named Olive and a bunch of young Turks on scooters and the Mediterranean fast-food turf-war that results" and having a printed copy of CousCous Express (AUG011709 in your Diamond Previews) in your snug little paws.
And one of those things is getting the word out. And the best place to get the word out is at San Diego.
I'll admit, I don't really like comic book conventions all that much. I sit in my office most of the year and write comic book scripts and wrangle artists and do pre-press on graphic novels and co-ordinate shipping and talk on the phone and if I'm lucky I might see two or three people a day besides the missus and the FedEx guy.
So I'm more constitutionally set up to interact with a few folks at a time, really.
But there's a monkey in the wrench one of my old girlfriends used to call the "Dichotomy of Lar," in that I'm most comfortable interacting with people on a one-to-one basis…
…but I'm really very good at mass-marketing and promotions.
That's what the college boys call "ironic."
So we had the corner booth set up at San Diego, with a whole bunch of folks helping us out. Steven Grant wrote a few pages of Whisper: Day X there, for artist Aman Chaudhary, who was signing copies of Double Image #5, as was Joe Casey, and Charlie Adlard, whom I only see once a year, was there as well, and we talked about our shared, secret love for Commander Straker's secretary, Miss Ealand, in an obscure English TV show from the Sixties…
John Francis Moore, with whom we are in negotiations to release an original graphic novel, came by and showed us pictures of his young son, Josh. John was impressed with editor Mimi Rosenheim's marketing savvy; so much so, in fact, he said: "Mimi must have been a medicine show barker in another life because she was really working the crowd selling those bottles of Dr. Larry's patented and square-bound graphic novel elixir."
I really liked that one.
Anyway, that was just our booth. That's not even mentioning every one of the Sky Ape lads who signed autographs for us all week long…
…or the Sixties Batmobile, or Dan Brereton's Nocturnals set-up, or the cool cats at Oni Press, or the Cyberosia booth sporting the new Frightening Curves, or the Battle Pope guys, or Bendis, or Dwyer, or McKinney, or… or… or…
Well, you get the idea. A lot of really cool stuff was going on at San Diego.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the tireless efforts of David Glanzer, who is the Public Relations Director and Marketing guru of the show. That guy loves comics, he loves his job, and he loves San Diego. And if he doesn't… well, he's fooled me. No matter what time of day or night I was up and working, David was there making sure everything was running smoothly.
Perhaps the most impressive thing is he was always nattily attired, with nary a hair out of place. If you've ever worked any sort of industry trade show, you realize what an amazing feat this is. One a.m.? Dave looks like he's stepped off the cover of GQ. Four and a half hours later, at five-thirty the next morning? A different suit, a hot coffee, and a pleasant demeanor. A quick smile… a jaunty wave… the nature of these things is such that there is absolutely no way that there won't be some sort of foul-up somewhere… but to those of us on the floor the whole thing was a seamless week-long paean to our love for comics, and David Glanzer, and his able team of Eddie Ibrahim, and the improbably-named Mark Yttralde, and Brett, and… well, Fae Desmond… and John Rogers… and I'm naming my first-born after Greg "pronounce the K" Knuth… and… well…
…if you don't know the names of all these folks, it's because they did an incredible job of having everything run so smoothly that you could enjoy the show with no trouble at all. And a heckuva job they did, too.
One of the new wrinkles this year was to hold the retailer-centric Comic Book Expo after the convention proper. The thinking was that, during that part of the week, the retailer would be able to afford time away from his shop, instead of missing a new-comics-day-Wednesday as he would under the old schedule.
As an experiment, it was a valiant one, don't get me wrong. Sometimes you need to try things just to make sure they're not good ideas… But I always found the Expo-first-then-Convention later set-up to be more useful. As a guy interested in all aspects of the comic book creating-producing-purchasing experience, it was more useful for me personally to ease into the show discussing nuts-and-bolts with like-minded cats first, and then diving head-first into the convention proper.
This year, although we meant no insult to retailers as a group, we had to leave the show at the end of the fan-based portion and get back to producing comics.
Personally, I regretted that more than a little.
Even moreso when I read the text of Joe Quesada's keynote speech to the assembled retailers in attendance at his introduction. Based on more than a few discussions with smart retailers in attendance, I've come to the conclusion that Joe Quesada must have been dropped on his head.
If you're reading this column, you're more than acquainted with the ins and outs of the Quesada speech, the restrained and classy DC response, and the backs-and-forths of all the folks in-between.
So, I'll just leave you to ponder this incisive question:
Can you imagine any industry in the rest of the world where one of the top executives from one of the largest companies in that industry would address an assemblage of his company's customers and tell them that they are full of "low self-esteem" because they vend the product that you produce?
Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, said that very thing to an group of comic book retailers, as the keynote address of an expo celebrating the comic book industry.
Does anyone else get the feeling from Marvel corporate of the somewhat loose girl we all knew in high school who bolstered her own low self-esteem by doing anything she could to get the attention of the popular boys in school?
Joe Quesada's in the back seat of a rented limo on prom night with the starting quarterback of the school football team, doing anything he can to get attention…
…and is going to garner about as much respect come Monday morning as Little Susie will.
Against this background, with the Murrow-Stanton headlines competing against the quiz-show scandals, and with Congress demanding the federal regulation of firstname.lastname@example.org
Nice summaries of what happened in San Diego can be found at the official website, here.