Joe Q on Disney

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 Joe Q on DisneyWhile the timing was not ideal, today’s Cup O’ Joe Q&A does give Joe Quesada a chance to tell what he can about the new Marvel. Such as his impressions of Bob Iger.

My initial feeling about Bob was that I could see right away why he’s been so successful and a visionary for the company. He’s incredibly smart, relaxed, personable and extremely likable. He was really interested in our group, our staff and what we did for a living and was looking to us, as the shepherds of our content, to continue doing what we do. He kept stressing several things, content is king, quality-quality-quality, it’s about people and that he wants Marvel to be Marvel in the same way that Pixar remains Pixar. We have our culture, it has been successful for us and he wants to preserve that. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the smart thing to do?

To that point, Bob was just here on Thursday and addressed the New York staff. It was a fantastic meeting as Bob took questions from staff members about the merger and what it would mean to Marvel. Once again, he stressed that he was looking to those of us here for guidance as to how to continue to run our business in the same successful manner it’s always been run.

There are many areas that Quesada can’t speak on, but this exchange with Kiel Phegley on the viability of the original graphic novel as a money making enterprise is interesting:

I’ve stated publicly on many occasions that I’ve never seen the benefits of original graphic novels. The economics just don’t work and are poor for both the publisher, retailer and the creator, especially during this Marvel regime when so much of what we do gets compiled into a collected edition anyway. While I would never discount doing one, I don’t see the outward benefits nor does the model work.


Just look at it from the eyes of the uninitiated, or the neophyte who walks into a comic shop or bookstore. When they decide on a hardcover, do you think it matters to them or that in some cases they even know that it’s an original graphic novel or a collection of a six-issue story?

Yet from an economic point of view it makes tons of sense to release the material in serialized form first because it then allows you to sell the product in several different formats. Also, from the point of view of a creator having their material reach the widest possible audience, the price of an original graphic novel can be too steep for many. That’s why you don’t see OGN’s selling in the hundreds of thousands of copies. Yet, if the story is strong enough, you can certainly serialize it and have that many eyeballs looking at your work in installments. At the end of the day, you can work for a year on a mini series that gets collected later or spend that entire same year on the OGN. I promise you, more people will read your mini series when it’s all said and done and that year of your life will have been spent in reaching the widest possible audience. And from an exposure and marketing point of view, you work for a year on a graphic novel, it comes out and you get one big promotional push and then it’s done. If it’s serialized, you get a push every month a new issue hits the stands and then another when it becomes a trade and then another for the hardcover.

While you can’t fault Quesada’s logic based on the business model that Marvel pursues, Disney’s publishing strategy includes many, many books that people work on for months and then promote once. We’d guess that as the merger evolves, the Disney pocketbook and resources would allow more experimentation in that direction, if suitable projects could be found.

 Joe Q on Disney

Comments

  1. Synsidar says:

    Yet, if the story is strong enough, you can certainly serialize it and have that many eyeballs looking at your work in installments.

    To me, that’s convincing evidence that Quesada isn’t a writer. Far too many serialized stories are damaged or ruined by the use of filler to reach required page counts. If an all-in-one story has a sagging middle, the reader can at least skip to the ending.

    SRS

  2. Matt D says:

    It’s interesting when he uses the “no comment” answer and when he uses the “if they’re talking about this, I haven’t been included.”

    I was surprised at the latter when it came to the Kingdom/Boom stuff. I was expecting a “no comment” there, not an indication that it’s not even a topic of discussion. It’s probably just another sign that the last thing in the world that matters about this deal is actual comic books themselves.

  3. To me, this encapsulates the whole problem with Marvel.

    It certainly makes sound business sense for a company that’s been successful selling serialized superhero comics to people who like serialized superhero comics to continue doing so. But it would be nice that if somewhere in those three paragraphs he’d stopped talking about models, markets, and eyeballs, and actually mentioned the creative, artisitc differences between an OGN and a collected miniseries. Which are many.

    It’s great that serialization works for Marvel, whose stories and characters benefit from an episodic storytelling style. But would anyone really want to have seen MAUS serialized in 22-page chunks? I can’t even imagine it.

  4. I find it charming that the Marvel workers will soon be ‘cast members’. That’s certainly an elevation from such demeaning titles as ‘the talent’ or ‘creatives’. As Warner and Paul Levitz showed us today in unprecedented tragic fashion, if you work for these companies you are just a tool.

    Maybe after today people will start to understand where Alan Moore is coming from, instead of dismissing him as a nut.

  5. Kurt Busiek says:

    >> But would anyone really want to have seen MAUS serialized in 22-page chunks? I can’t even imagine it.>>

    MAUS was initially serialized, in RAW magazine, as it happens. I don’t remember how long the chapters were. It did read well in that form, though.

    But yeah, there are differences in pacing available depending on whether (or how) a work is serialized.

    kdb

  6. “But would anyone really want to have seen MAUS serialized in 22-page chunks? I can’t even imagine it. “

    Can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but in case you’re serious, let me drop some science on you: Maus was originally serialized in RAW,

  7. I probably should have known that MAUS was originally serialized in RAW. My apologies.

    Still, I can’t imagine that it sold in the kinds of numbers that would support Quesada’s argument, or that most people know it in that form and not its graphic novel form.

    Replace MAUS is my original post with BLANKETS, and my point stands.

  8. Sphinx Magoo says:

    I wonder how long it’ll be before everyone starts offering storylines and content online as an alternative to the monthly comic format.

    I know this topic has been talked and written about ad nauseum, but with the recent changes in the Big Two over the past two weeks everything seems up in the air.

    I wonder if the analogy where Disney and Warner approach Marvel and DC as IP and content generation resources as more appropo in the future. A division of the companies whose job it is to try ideas out to see if they fly and thus open avenues to media outside of comics. If there’s an option for delivering new stories in a digital manner that might reach more people than the current print model, then we’re sure to see more content head that way.

    Again, I don’t know. I just see a lot of wiggle room in Joey Q’s comments that leave things open for the future.

  9. All I know is the next few years sure as shootin’ aren’t gonna look or feel like the last few years!

  10. Tom Spurgeon says:

    You know, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I would have had no problem reading Blankets in serialized chunks if that’s how Craig chose to present it and that’s how I happened to buy it. It’s still a single book, you’re just reading it in chunks. In fact, I pretty much read it that way, anyway, over several weeks.

    Whether or not Marvel can sustain two markets for this material remains to be seen, but I think it’s more a question of economics and the preferred buying habits of a hardcore readership really, really trained to adhere to a certain model than some sort of superiority in reading experience.

  11. Darvid says:

    @Scott

    Bone, Black Hole, Jimmy Corrigan, Ghost World….

  12. Mark Coale says:

    Even when the very nifty omnibus, I’m not sure I’d want to read all of BONE in one sitting.

  13. But there are many books that benefit from not being serialized in 22 page chapter breaks. I could give a laundry list but people reading this should know what books they are already.

    I think Marvel just see no reason to make money on a story once (OGN) when they can make money on it twice (serialized-TPB) and writing/pacing issues be damned because it is possible to do good stories in 22 page chapters.

    Plus the comics (if good) become very good advertising for the collection. It’s difficult to create that type of via advertising & previews.

  14. Well, of course it doesn’t make financial sense for Quesada: if it doesn’t get pre-published as a pamphlet: he can’t recoup the costs of producing the work while they’re doing it.

    I wonder: how does Craig Thompson make his living nowadays? He’s been drawing Habibi for years now and it won’t come out in at least 4, 5 years still. I’m sure he needs to pay his rent or mortgage and utilities and food?

  15. It’s my understanding that Thompson made a living as a commercial illustrator while he worked on BLANKETS. Maybe now he’s able to make it on royalties from his previous books, or a combination of the two.

    @Darvid: OF COURSE we can all name lots of great GNs that have been serialized. My own graphic novel, NORTHWEST PASSAGE, was serialized as three smaller digests before the being released in a collected edition. My point was not that serialization doesn’t work, but disputing Quesada’s notion that OGNs don’t.

  16. So, to those who criticize serialization:

    Are you saying that Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist could have been better had it been published as a novel and not serialized? Or that 24 is better if viewed as a 16-hour teleplay?

    Plus: Serialization pays the costs of production. Periodical sales can forecast how a collected edition will sell. Critical buzz from the periodical can help sell the collected edition. The same story can be sold twice to the same consumer. Royalties and wages from periodical sales allow creators to make a living with fewer outside distractions.

    Negative: Creators can be hampered by publishing restrictions. An ongoing story can be cancelled before it is completed. Delays in production can hurt sales. Consumers “waiting for the trade” may not purchase the periodical, resulting in cancellation of the series.

    Can a cartoonist survive on the same business model that prose authors use?

  17. Synsidar says:

    So, to those who criticize serialization:

    There are big differences between taking a completely written story and publishing it as segments, and writing/publishing the story a segment at a time, with the segments artificially limited in length. The chances of artistic failure increase tremendously under the latter approach.

    Aside from OGNs not conforming to Quesada’s business model for attracting and keeping readers, he might not be able to imagine how Marvel would go about selling OGNs based on Marvel or other characters.

    One result of serialization that’s become especially annoying recently is Marvel’s publication of “slice of life” fluff that are hardly stories, because they are practically devoid of plot content. Aguirre-Sacasa seems to specialize in it. Heinberg’s YOUNG AVENGERS, despite its reception, was devoted mostly to character backgrounds that could/should have been provided to readers at the beginning — but the premise for the series was so flimsy that there was hardly anything else to do.

    Combine such fluff (in which stopping points are arbitrary) with decompressed storytelling, filler, etc., and a reader winds up with the opposite of what a story should be, with each page/paragraph playing a part in the story’s success.

    See Laura Hudson’s take on Quesada’s statements.

    SRS

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