McNiven Speaks, fans forgive

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200608161052 McNiven Speaks, fans forgiveOver at Millarworld, Mark Millar has posted a message from CIVIL WAR artist Steve McNiven:

“Hey folks, just thought I should get a post up here. First up apologies to the fans and retailers of civil war. The responsibility for the art delays lies with me, period. I’ve been working harder than I ever have, (and this is my third profession), but this is the hardest project I’ve ever done and as Mark said, I had little lead time. It was as big a surprise to me as anyone else that Marvel changed its publishing schedule to allow Mark and I to finish the series together.

When I was sent word of this yesterday, I realized the problems that this will cause for readers and retailers immediately. After reading Hitchy’s post I am beginning to understand why Marvel went this way, but it still amazes me. Of course I am proud of the work I have done on Civil War and I am chuffed that Marvel feels the same way, but I worry for the people that could be negatively effected by this. Please realize that the art delays were never meant in a malicious way nor am I being a prima donna with my work. What I’m trying is to do service to the exceptional story that Mark has written. That’s it, and is all that I focus on when I’m at the table. I let Marvel know exactly where I am on a daily basis, from day one, so that they can make the decisions like the one they have made. I’ll continue to work hard to put out the rest of this series with the best work I can do in the time I have been given and I hope that you, the fans and retailers will stick with us, ’cause Mark has written a real gem here.


The “post from Hitchy” referred to is this in which he plays the WATCHMEN/DARK KNIGHT card and explains his own views on “on time” vs “good”


These days we have the benefit of hindsight and there are precedents. You can’t set out to create a classic or a series with longevity but it’s getting easier for publishers to spot them as they unfold because the collection market is so large now and one can see what works and what doesn’t. A fill-in might potentially stave off an unfortunate delay but hurt the long term property potential and the only reason a company would consider a fill-in necessary would be to avoid a financial hit in the short term not to keep you guys happy. If they are willing to take what must be a massive hit in the pocket, believing in it’s long term potential, to allow it’s creators to finish the book as intended then that isn’t really a bad thing.

If we do things the way they have always been done then we don’t develop. It pays to be flexible, I guess and Marvel obviously believe they are doing the best thing in the long game for a product they believe in and one that has already proven more successful than they belived possible.

Mark isn’t exaggerating when he talks of how quickly this thing was put together and the small lead time. Nobody had intended the book to even exist; other plans were in place but the geniuses of Bendis and especially Mighty Mark started the ball rolling that Mark would evolve into Civil War (which also means we have to find a new title for our big follow up, so thanks MM). It’s also been the biggest jobs of both Markie and Stevie’s careers and required an enormous amount of work from both. Watcmen was bi-monthly remember and wasn’t a crossover. I envy them their massive sucess but not the even more massive work involved. Nobody gets paid more for working harder in comics.

Mark and Steve should be applauded for the efforts as those efforts are a clear indicator of why the book is a success. Marvel should also be applauded for making sure everybody gets the best prossible product. It’s a delay guys, not a cancellation. Certainly not a crisis!


Setting aside the fact that Hitchy, God love him, has about the worst on-time record of any artist considered “regular”, the casual observer can’t help but imagine a world in which WATCHMEN becomes the centerpiece of a 20-title cross over. One also admires the adaptability of the Marvel staff, which is able to turn on a dime and change their entire publishing schedule after someone gets a good idea in a bar.

But the net effect is to calm the waters once again. The contrition from Millar and McNiven creates an air of forgiveness, as one of the very next posts after McNiven’s statement reads:

Draw Wolverine doing something cool and all is forgiven.


At the end of the day, THIS is why Marvel does this. They know they will suffer no long term effects from readers or retailers. If fans and retailers REALLY stopped buying Marvel books when they ran late, Marvel would stick to a schedule. But they don’t need to.

Comments

  1. Now, first of all make me make myself perfectly clear on one thing: don’t care for CIVIL WARS OF THE INFINITE IDENTIY CRISES in any way, shape or form.

    However, I’m starting to have a problem with so many people hammering down on today’s artists and always bring up Jack Kirby or (insert artist from the 1940s to 1960s here). Yes, they produced many more pages, but would they sell to today’s audience. Nuh! Don’t raise your hand! I’m talking WITHOUT the nostalgia factor. Just as you can’t compare a 1950s TV show (36 eps or more per season, can you imagine that!) to a show like “24” today, you can’t compare the market’s demands on artists today with that of the 1950s or 1960s.

    People like Steve McNiven, Terry Dodson, Bryan Hitch and others have to not only crank out pages, they have to do them in a hyper-realistic way to fly with people reading stuff today. That takes a whole lotta time to do, unless you want them to digitally trace panels (of which many have already been found guilty on) to cut down on production time.

    And it’s not like the production time of certain artists weren’t already a known factor. So, if there are delays, it’s in many cases not even an artist’s fault, but very bad planning at the editorial/marketing stage, where somebody apparently had a plan, stuck to the plan and was just as surprised as George W. Bush when there weren’t any Iraqis greeting US forces with flowers.

    Despite the fact I don’t read those books, or indeed care about them (and I don’t know McNiven), it shows a lot of graciousness on the part to take on all the blame.

  2. Tony Bussert says:

    Don’t blame the artist, blame the publisher for their shitty scheduling and lack of project management. When are these companies going to grow up and start acting like the multi million dollar companies they are?

  3. justme says:

    With all of the war, death and terrorism going on in the world, I love that sliver of the population that gets angry when their comic books dont ship on time.

  4. See! The medium of comic books is really missing out on an accidental fanbase; people at home in the afternoons who love watching soap operas unfold on television.

    I miss the pre-internet days where I didn’t know one single iota about a comic book besides the fact that it was usually on the shelf once a month.

  5. Draw Wolverine doing something cool and all is forgiven.

    What’s the title that Marvel’s given Ellis’ Nextwave collection? “This is what they want.”

  6. With all the war, death and terrorism going on in Civil War, people should be happy for the reprieve.

  7. Anyone who thinks Bryan isn’t working up to snuff lately might just want to count the number of pages in any given issue of Ultimates…

    Ah yes, I remember Watchmen, waiting like, what was it, MONTHS between issues sometimes? Or is that just my rose-colored memories?

  8. or the extreme lag time between Planetary issues?

    I can wait. Especially when the book that gets delivered is quality. I have a limited budget that I spend on comics every month and I usually skip the issues with fill-ins if they don’t tie in directly to the story line. I am a fan of writers and artists, not neccessarily the characters themselves. I like to see what a particular writer/artist collaboration can do to make a charater like Ms. Marvel actually interesting to me. Like in the case of Astonishing Xmen. I hadn’t bought an X-men comic since 1993 when it really hit the skids (foil covers! psyloche a main focus of stories!) But then along comes Peter Milligan writing X-static and then turning X-men into an uprourious soap opera and Joss Whedon on Astonishing, and there I am week after week, picking up those books. Even when they ship late.

    I love what they are doing in Civil War. They are really trying to create a new spin on the entire universe and that is sorely needed for some characters who have become increasingly stymied. I know that many fans want the same thing over and over, but for the sake of the medium, radical shifts in character have to happen. I would have never imagined the Cap in a situation like Millar has created. It is timely and prescient.

    In summary, I will wait and I appreciate Marvel giving them the chance to do the book as they want.

  9. “One also admires the adaptability of the Marvel staff, which is able to turn on a dime and change their entire publishing schedule after someone gets a good idea in a bar.”

    I’d admire their sanity if someone had said: “Hey, great idea, Mark! You and Steve get to work, and I’ll draw up the publishing schedule for March ’07 and onward!” I like Millar and all, but how can anyone be shocked at a Millar comic being late? He’s ALWAYS late.

  10. But Brian, that requires corporate planning!

    I mean, planning like at Microsoft and their Windows Vista…oh, did I say Microsoft? Ah, forget it. We have Sony batteries in Dell latops possibly exploding, the terrorists have taken away my right to take my Snapple Lemonade onto a plane, and especially the latter bit is more annoying to me than anything else :)

  11. Mike Thompson says:

    I can wait. I don’t see why everyone is so upset about this. Movie releases get delayed (or don’t even appear “in a theater near you”), TV shows get preempted, stuff happens.

    There are other comics to read, by the way. Try American Way or Fables or Leading Man or Jack Staff or…

  12. I love this spirit of forgiveness from everyone. What you are forgetting is that retailers are losing a HUGE CHUNK of the product they expected to sell. This could have a serious effect on their bottom line.

    However, with the fan attitudes evinced here, perhaps they shouldn’t worry so.

  13. BuckyB12 says:

    Thanks for that, Heidi. I’d like to hear more about retailer response to this debacle.

  14. “I love this spirit of forgiveness from everyone. What you are forgetting is that retailers are losing a HUGE CHUNK of the product they expected to sell. This could have a serious effect on their bottom line.”

    Yes, and since Marvel has never been late before, retailers had no way of knowing how foolish it was to put all their eggs in Marvel’s basket. Marvel in Late Comics Shocker!

  15. Me? I’m done with Civil War. I can sort of understand the delays in Ultimates (despite the massive lead time given), but a huge company crossover that affect the majority of their line? Nope, I’m not going to put up with it. There are plenty of books that are just as good that come out on time.

    I don’t put the blame on Millar or McNiven. The blame belongs on Joe Quesada and his editorial staff. It’s poor planning all the way around. This type of behavior would stop if more people stopped buying late books, but that’s too much to ask I guess

  16. Jim Caldwell says:

    I don’t know where Hitch lived back in the day, but where I lived, Watchmen wasn’t bi-monthly. It was monthly.

    And yes, Elayne, you do remember some delays on Watchmen. I remember it really only being the last two – three issues that ran one, two, and or three months late. (I think I remember #12 being two or three months late, which was still better than the Camelot 3000 track record. No, I haven’t forgotten. Sorry.)

    I asked my retailer about this today. His response was, “Well, it’ll sting, but at least I don’t rely too heavily on Marvel.” Personally, I don’t have a horse in this race.

  17. As a retailer that does have a horse in this race, it’s more disappointing than anything. We’re not exactly set up like the average LCS as single issues only make up about 1/3 of our sales and Marvel’s singles just under 10% of our total sales for a month.

    Even so, it makes it difficult to make any sort of prediction of sales patterns and if as many Marvel titles end up delayed as it appears will at the moment it becomes almost impossible to predict cash flow. Civil War being late is really not that big a hit, but no Amazing Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, and who knows what else makes planning that much more difficult. And based on the past couple months of Civil War tie-ins, what we will see is books getting released in chunks as soon as they won’t spoil the big reveals, creating seriously imbalanced weeks in which mid-tier titles will take a hit.

    All that said, I prefer the delay if it means a stronger product to sell as a trade next year because that’s our bread and butter.

    And I have to mention that this announcement was accompanied by the announcement that all 7 issues of Civil War would feature 1:75 sketch variants, which will continue to inflate sell-in though not sell through numbers.

  18. Stuart Moore says:

    Heidi: I can understand retailers’ budgeting problems in a situation like this — though some seem more worried than others, and it’s not entirely clear how much material is going to be delayed. There’s a lot of jumping around and panicking today.

    But why should readers not “forgive” Marvel if it means a really good, steady creative team will finish this series without fill-ins? Are fans obligated to take up a crusade on behalf of (some) retailers? Shouldn’t they be more concerned with whether or not the stories and art are good?

    I see a lot of running around (and this site is a lot better than some!) looking for someone to blame — as though SOMEONE’S GOT TO PAY whenever something like this happens. It really strikes me as an overreaction.

    Best,
    Stuart

  19. The Beat says:

    Stuart: Indeed, I’m formulating a new theory which states that this will have no effect at all on actual sales.

    The missed issues — 10 issues of Cap instead of 12 in a year, say — IS a revenue problem for stores, but if they can’t make that up by selling more copies of, say, FUN HOME, then they deserve what they get.

    Yes that was a joke.

  20. Stuart Moore says:

    Heidi: I’m not blaming stores or denigrating their concerns. I certainly never suggested anything like your joke-scenario…though I suspect there won’t be a shortage of Marvel material for most retailers to sell this fall.

    But again: Shouldn’t the fans’ priority be the quality of the work? Are they obligated to stop buying comics they like because of business concerns? Or — just to carry it a little farther — should they run out to demand a CIVIL WAR with multiple artists instead of a steady creative team?

    I’m aware that there are other ramifications, of course! But you see what I mean…

    Best,
    Stuart

  21. Fans want the best of both worlds – steady creative teams and on time books. There’s nothing stopping that except poor planning by the editorial staffs.

  22. mario boon says:

    I’d not want to be Joe Q. having to explain to the board of directors of Marvel why they’ve lost alot of revenue in august and the fourth fiscal quarter.
    This is a strike, or it should be.

    Marvel better make good with retailers!

  23. Heidi,

    There are quite a few number crunching retailers that will tell you late books DO hurt sales. Or at the very least, hurts sell through – which publishers don’t see.

    There are rare exceptions to this. I think Warren Ellis’ books apply. But very few creators have the fan following of Warren Ellis.

    Current trends show the major events have effectively put the eggs into fewer baskets. Publishers are doing them in part to stop people from waiting for the trade. So when a publisher gears a storyline to get people hooked on the monthly serial, tie it in with the rest of their books so they’ll have to be bought and read to understand what’s going on, then put major media promotion behind it to also get a lot of casual and relapsed buyers are picking it up… then drop the ball on the schedual, I can see why they are screaming for heads. It’s like they’ve been set up to fail. The comic industry has a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and it appears to be happening again with Civil War.

    Despite what Hitch says, the majority of the revenue for the DM retailers is still monthly comic books. When you fuck with that, it’s no surprise retailers are going to get pissed. Just because Watchmen and DKR was late, doesn’t give publishers carte blanche to solicit titles knowing full well they won’t meet that date.

    There is a thing called planning ahead. I’m beginning to wonder if Marvel has some cash flow issues. They don’t want to pay creators to do months of work before soliciting. They avoid it like cats avoid dogs and would rather leave money on the table in lost sales than do it.

    Imagine if Watchmen and DKR was planned ahead? We’d still get the same book and it would have come out on time for the monthly readers. More money would have been made, not less. I think that is the goal we should be pushing the industry towards.

    I suspect the major publishers care more about their marketshare though. They’d rather spread their cash flow out thin and put out more titles instead of planning ahead, doing fewer books and having them all come out on time.

    In the end, it will be interesting to see what affect this has on Marvel’s sales for the titles affected. Making those books returnable would be really telling. Retailers are going to cut some, but figuring out how much to cut is really a crapshoot.

  24. >>>But why should readers not “forgiveâ€? Marvel if it means a really good, steady creative team will finish this series without fill-ins?

  25. Ah, doesn’t like those marks… try again…

    Because it isn’t just one title that is being affected — it is the entire line. Regular bread&butter books like ASM and FF, new launches like PWJ and THOR and the new AVENGERS title…. there is a cascade affect down the line.

    Further, a certain percentage of this project’s readers are “the lapsed” coming back to check out the Marvel U — these are readers who have a more tentative relationship with comics right now; they’re not yet wholly sold on “coming back for good”. This kind of SNAFU makes comics look far less attractive to these customers.

    In the grander scheme, this isn’t a “work for the ages” — I’m sure the ultimate TP will be an OK seller, but I think the sales relationship between periodical and collection to probably end up being something like DEATH OF SUPERMAN. That sold millions in its day, but it’s not exactly a mega-seller ten+ years gone. So, whether or not the artist gets a fill-in or not is not the same kind of epic decision as it would be for, say, WATCHMEN

    -B

  26. Yozers, from the Millarworld forum:

    QUOTE(Ryan Higgins @ Aug 16 2006, 04:16 PM)

    I’m only two pages into this, but the one thing that both Hitch and Millar are forgetting is the problem is not Civil War being late. It’s the fact that Marvel has to push back a number of MONTHLY books to match Civil War’s schedule. That’s the problem.

    It’s also their CHOICE. Marvel had the choice to get a fill-in or even a little help. Mark and Steve both expected it by this stage and were okay with it. NOBODY on the creative end of MCW asked Marvel to do what they have done. This came from Marvel because of how they feel about it and because THEY want Mark and Steve together until the end. McN isn’t drastically behind and they gave him some breathing room to sneak past the finish. Great. Hoorah.

    On a world scale of events this really shouldn’t register on your give-a-shit-o’metres. Why not all go out and lose your virginity or something?

    Hitchy

    Why am I even posting? Good god, a moment of clarity!

  27. Yes, it’s Marvel’s CHOICE. However, it’s a choice that shows Marvel in more concerned with CREATORS then READERS.

  28. Ralf Haring says:

    Regarding returnability, doesn’t the delay mean the order cut off dates are also pushed back allowing retailers to adjust orders?

  29. Yes, Ralf… but HOW MUCH do we adjust orders? 5%? 30%? Who the hell knows? Especially as the “big summer event” winds up closing in January (but probably March)

    -B

  30. I think this entire mess shows once more the dependency of the DM market on the output of two companies, which in turn have moved away from trusting in SINGLE series of SINGLE writing/artist teams

    (I refuse to call them creators, they’re content managers – Bryan O’Malley is a creator, Brian Wood or Ted Naifeh are creators, for they actually create new things and not merely do fan fiction on a commercial scale with things that were created a gazillion years ago)

    to HUGE events that are all inter-locked.

    Now, on PAPER, this is great strategic thinking: publish things that hopes to FORCE the core audience to buy stuff all over. In the end, yes, we have all had that debate, it will hurt the industry as a whole, but “we are just giving customers what they want” – like Ford did with the Ford Fuck-You-SUVs.

    From afar, this almost looks to me like the DM retailers are forced peddlers of a duopoly, when 82 percent of all the merchandise comes from only two sources. Not that there isn’t good product coming from them, but when something like this little CW fiasco affects the bottom line of retailers, I have to ask the retailers something…and I’m not being glib here.

    Why not try to diversify a lot more? I do realise that this is a big risk, but when there are numerous other products from other publishers out there, the chance of being led around with a doggie collar by the Big Two diminishes.

    Again, from afar it looks to me like retailers are not being treated like businesses but rather like fanboys, which could be seen as a direct consequence of the monlithic system.

    Shop owners are gatekeepers, in my mind and they can influence customers to a certain point, unless everything has already been pre-ordered through PREVIEWS lists, which then turns the shop only into a pick-up point. When that happens, sorry boys and girls, you are already pwned.

    I was lucky enough to have had a truly great comic book shop in Nuremberg that was incredibly diversified and gave me great recommendations from outside that duopoly, like Courtney Cumrin, Scott Pilgrim, Powers (now part of Marvel’s Icon, I know) and other things that I much rather spend my money on these days.

    And I’m sure there must be others like me, and perhaps we are the group that can be targeted. I would LIKE to buy more comic books than I currently do, because as a medium comics have great strengths and few weaknesses, but I REFUSE to spend money on superhero crossover megalomaniac things.

    LOL… my goodness, I start sounding like Bill Maher: “find the hidden mainstream majority! And now it’s time for NEW RULES…”

    Perhaps it is time, though, for some new rules…

  31. markus says:

    Again, from afar it looks to me like retailers are not being treated like businesses but rather like fanboys, which could be seen as a direct consequence of the monlithic system.

    Alternatively, it’s because too many of them are?
    Online, we’re getting the articulate, engaged retailers that do try to diversify, draw in new people and promote comics as a whole. Unfortunately, the majority of shops _seems_ to be filthy dungeons run by unkempt retards that will laugh at you it you come to them asking for anything other than the latest hit from the big 2 or are insufficiently schooled in decades of Green Latern lore.
    While Marvel’s treatment of retailers is shameful, many of them seem to be aggravating the situation for themselves by relying too much on the hardened fanboy sale.

  32. As far as i’m concerned the only people who have any right be annoyed about the whole delay are retailers.

    Seriously, for the rest of us, what has been lost? 15-20min reading a really cool comic for the month? Seriously… is that worth all the angst and BS getting thrown around? Grow the f*** up people!

    Retailers I can understand. Many comic book shop (esp the smaller ones) work with smaller margins of safety and crossovers like this can be a risk. While I’m sure Civil War is going gang-busters at the cash register, it makes life more difficult for them when, not one, but a whole LOT, of titles get moved around.

    Personally, i welcome the delay. I seriously would HATE to have a fill-in at this point. McNiven (and the whole team) are producing some of the best comic art I have seen in years and I want to be able to re-read Civil War for years to come without interuption.

    And kudos to Marvel for the way they’ve handled it. I think the level of response shows that the big M are actually listening and thinking about the effect this has outside their own walls.

    So – McNiven – please deliver so kick ass shit when the book hits the shelves!

    Sometimes it’s just like all the fanboys lurk on the net looking for something to bitch about…

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