Is the Betty White comic book the solution to everything?

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We declared a moratorium on Bluewater Comics news a while ago due to their awful back-end work for hire contract (and were taken off their PR list as a result) but whatever we think of their business model, we do have to give credit where it is due: they are absolute monsters at PR, and the recently announced Betty White Female Force comic is no exception. It’s popped up on our news feed from EW, the LA TImes, the New York Times and everywhere else; a Google search for “Betty White Bluewater” yields 74,000 results. Even the Today Show blog picked up the Reuters story about the comic. A preview is up at Radar but it’s too small to actually read, for better or worse.

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Back in the day it was thought that just getting comic books mentioned in all these places was the way to get more people to know comics were being published and get more exposure, however it’s unclear if all this publicity has really paid off for Bluewater. A spot check of the last few months of ICv2 charts showed exactly ZERO Bluewater titles on the charts. With the #300 title usually hitting around 3000 copies these days, you can see that all the publicity in the world doesn’t really do much good for a book that has more fans in the media than in the readership.

The media interest in what’s a pretty simple idea after all — a comic book bio of a public figure — is an off-shoot of the Hollywoodization of comics. It helps that Betty White is a beloved cultural figure who is enjoying late life canonization. And frankly, the lurid, mesmerising Bluewater covers have a visual appeal that makes the ideas instantly graspable. And perhaps instantly grotesque. But obviously it’s working on some level.

BTW if you’re wondering if Betty White has always been so awesome, the answer is ABSOLUTELY.

Betty White in the 50s with first emmy
Here she is back in the 50s winning one of her FIRST Emmys.

Comments

  1. To be fair, we’re in a period where the larger publishers are very prolific, and that’s affecting the Top 300 lists. In June, only 15 publishers made the Top 300, with 10 publishers accounting for 291 entries on the list.

    I don’t know about Bluewater specifically, but there are are publishers whose sales stayed the same or increased that have nonetheless dropped out of the 300 as a result of the volume of releases.

    I did a graph on this once, which I need to get around to updating, but you can see the trend:
    http://www.comichron.com/vitalstatistics/itemcount.html

    Oh, and viva Betty White. Check out her YouTube “Tattletales” appearances with husband Allen Ludden…

  2. That 15-publisher month was a record, by the way, for the Diamond era — smallest number of publishers ever to capture the entire 300.

  3. This, again, brings to light the question of where one fits in the industry… and in this case how awareness can or cannot traverse across media. I’ve always given Bluewater their respect, mainly because I believe in diversity in comics and since very few, if at all, are filling this niche then I say more power to them.

    As for the top 300, Miller is spot on again, and for that we owe him because there’s nothing better than real knowledge. I wonder how long the iCv2 top 300 will be relevant? Perhaps it should be expanded to get the full range of industry sales data and tracking.

  4. Charles Knight says:

    “I’ve always given Bluewater their respect, mainly because I believe in diversity in comics and since very few, if at all, are filling this niche then I say more power to them.”

    Niche of ripping off naive artists? Naw, I think plenty of companies are doing that. However, I think their offer to pay an artist for some work with two comics (value: $4) was outstanding…

  5. @ Charles, I’m sure you know I was talking about the *end product* niche market, not their behind-the-scenes operations with talent (which I can’t seem to connect the two topics beyond a personal jab at the company).

    As for how they treat their artists; I’m not advocating what they’ve done is right, however, this topic wasn’t about that.

  6. Have they settled those lawsuits with Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber’s management yet? Pehaps this new comic is intending to defray the court costs.

  7. Agreed–Betty White rocks now, and she has always rocked, but it sure would be better if the pictures in the biocomic looked like her.

  8. David G. says:

    And you still give them press coverage….

  9. QuickDrawMcGraw says:

    Heidi, you just backed off your earlier claim of banning the Bluewater articles!! And all this from peer pressure from the Hollywood sites!!!

    The terrorists just won.

  10. Synsidar says:

    And you still give them press coverage….

    The issue is whether mainstream press coverage of a comics publication results in more sales of that publication. In Bluewater’s case, the press coverage apparently doesn’t. The possible reasons for that are worth examining. Simply mentioning Bluewater’s Betty White comic is hardly the same as promoting it. There’s no “so bad it’s good” aspect, apparently no controversial statements about White. There’s no reason to buy it unless one wants limited biographical info about White in a comics format. Perhaps the comics format and the lack of controversial content explain the low sales.

    SRS

  11. Please note: anyone who is a total asshat in this thread is going to get banned.

  12. >>Jimmie Robinson: I wonder how long the iCv2 top 300 will be relevant? Perhaps it should be expanded to get the full range of industry sales data and tracking.

    Diamond does some intermittent expansions to the list where they’ll release the Top 50 “Small Publisher” titles — small defined as publishers under 1% dollar market share. I list them every month on Comichron when they release the data. But the Small Publisher list isn’t released every month, and the result is a ranking with skips, so we’ll see #301 and #304 but not #302 and #303.

    Capital City used to list nearly everything it sold, down to very small numbers. I have one (and only one) of those months online, here:

    http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/1995/1995-01Capital.html

    It’s pretty difficult to work with lists that long, at least from my POV; it’s what’s taken so long to get more of them online. Publisher names often have to be located from the catalogs — not many would remember that Piffle Publishing was responsible for the 100 copies Capital sold of its 597th place comic book, “Phineas, Magician for Hire” #2.

    An additional hundred entries from Diamond would be helpful these days and capture a couple of extra percent of the market, but the WHOLE list would be pretty messy, now that reorders are in the mix. As it is now, when a book re-charts just because of reorders, some people think that’s all it sold because they don’t think to look at the previous month. There’s no easy way to flag the reordered books.

  13. Technically, Bluewater’s comics are books, as each has an EAN. Does ICv2 differentiate between a 32-page graphic novel and a 112-page graphic novel?

    June 2009 (comics)
    #283 WILLIAM SHATNER PRESENTS TEK WAR #1 (MR) $3.99 3,790

    No Bluewater titles in the April-July 2010 Top 300 GN lists, where the cutoff is usually 350 copies.

    What does BookScan say?

    According to WorldCat, Bluewater’s most successful title is the Female Force collection (Palin/Obama/Clinton/Kennedy) found in 94 of the member libraries.

    BN.com lists the Lady Gaga comic as the current bestseller. Amazon: Pattinson.

    I give them props for their PR, but the sales team is dropping the ball. Where are the digital comics to satisfy the curiosity of the general public? Where’s the newsstand distribution? Sure, these are “books”, but what bookstore will stock a 32-page comic book on a book shelf? And how much wear-and-tear will the returned copies experience?

    (Bluewater gets the chutzpah award… their Pattinson preview on Amazon features ads for other BW titles, as well as an HBO True Blood ad!)

    Oh, and really, they should be marketing the heck out of the rock and roll comics. That is the most mainstream product they sell, but hardly anyone, comics press or otherwise, has noticed them.

  14. What most people fail to realize is that comic book exposure across platforms is necessary to gain an enhanced appreciation of the media by the populous.

    Comic book people are always saying “Why don’t people like comics more and give us the respect we deserve?”

    The narrative art comic medium is probably the most powerful media on the planet and they don’t like us because we are too self-inclusive with our super-heroes and cult junkies. If you really want to break out of the backstreets and hit the mainstream. You have to have these niche markets that put you there. The more you help them, the more they help you.

    And believe me, there are a lot of niche markets that no one has discovered yet. Any questions? Just ask.

  15. I find it hilarious that “The Beat” can’t even muster up the courage to address their utter hypocrisy and complete lack of conviction on this matter. I also find it interesting that most of the comments give her a free pass on it. But then again, this is the site for unparalelled comic snobbery and it always lives up to my expectations.

    Being a hypocrite is apparently accepted behavior but commenting on that hypocrisy is “frowned upon”. Interesting.

  16. Somebody should ask Alan Moore what he thinks of this.

    @Daniel Burton: what are those niche markets?

  17. Hey there, just wanted to say that I appreciate and thank you for this nice post. Looking forward to the next one, I’m sure it will be just as nice.

  18. wheres the entry form???

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