A few weeks ago, Cincinnati retailer Kendall Swafford sparked a debate at ICv2.com when he took his DC Comics sales representative, by name, to task for the publisher's lack of promotional support for Superman #703. You see, that's the issue in which the Man of Steel swings through the Queen City during his much-ballyhooed cross-country trek. And Swafford's store is named ... Up Up & Away.
"Why isn’t DC on top of this?" Swafford asked. "Why isn’t someone from DC Entertainment playing the point man and helping to coordinate efforts to increase sales of the book? This book, if nothing else, plays on our feelings of civic pride, the same way we collectively share in the winning ways of local sports teams."
DC didn't send posters of the comic's cover or offer help to coordinate press releases or line up an actor to play Superman, he complained: "I’m not looking for someone to do my job for me, I’m looking for someone on their end to help realize this book’s potential." Several retailers chimed in to defend the sales rep, and to point out it's not his job to handle publicity, leading Kendall to question the position rather than the employee. "That DC had no one from publicity, sales or even janitorial playing point man on this Superman event is frustrating to me," he wrote in response to criticism.
However, Swafford didn't let his frustration with DC get in the way of promoting the issue or his store, located in the Cincinnati suburb of Cheviot (it's "a one-square-mile town within the city," he explained). He teamed up with organizers of Saturday's Cincinnati Comic Expo to promote the issue in Cheviot's Harvest Home Parade, hired a Superman actor, printed banners, sent out a press release. Cheviot Mayor Samuel Keller even declared Sept. 15 as "Superman Day."
There's just one little problem: DC revealed that Superman #703 won't be released this week, as originally planned, but a month later (there won't be an issue at all in September).
"We immediately send out corrected press releases," Swafford wrote this morning, "try and reschedule my Superman actor, call the mayor’s office and, fifty dollars later, have a corrected banner, just in time for tomorrow’s parade. [...] Now, in DC’s defense, they really couldn’t care less about any of this. It’s not like they broke promises to me to help promote the book in my town. They ignored me completely, so I guess they can delay the book with impunity. I would talk to my DC sales rep about it, but he stopped calling me. (Some of you probably think I deserve that one, right? Wrong.)"
At least Swafford's sales representative is no longer the sole focus of his frustration. Now writer J. Michael Straczynski gets to bear the brunt of the blow.
"Naming names got me a lot of hate mail last time, but ... I know for a fact that as of August 18th, the day DC’s The Source blog announced that Cincinnati was Superman’s next destination, there was no script. 28 days to go, and J. Michael Straczynski had not turned the script in. Gotta be penciled, inked, lettered, colored, printed and shipped in 28 days. This is the same J. Michael Straczynski that has very publicly proclaimed his love for Superman, who can’t/won’t/didn’t turn the script in on time. Famously late on Thor, never finished The Twelve, loves Superman more than any other comic character, and he isn’t living up to his end of the deal. Straczynski made me a Thor fan, and I didn’t think that was possible. So I was genuinely excited to see him move to DC and take on the Man of Steel. But if you can’t stand the pressures of delivering twenty-two pages every thirty days, write someplace else. [...] Ultimately, I think it’s about taking responsibility. DC can’t get the script in on time? Fire the guy. He’s one writer. A very good writer, perhaps, but just one writer."
Superman #703 is due in stores on Oct. 13.