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No Acclaim For These Moves

(This  Stripped column originally appeared in the April 2-8, 1998, Long Island Voice.Click on the artwork for a larger image.)

by Beth Hannan Rimmels

'NUFF SAID:

"Paranoia is a fun game that never ends if you don't want it to, huh?"

— Drew Hayes in a letter column reply in Poison Elves #29

I should have known better. I was just starting to get the teeniest bit optimistic about the industry. After all, some of the inane, geared-to-collectors production mentality seemed to be fading. There seems to be a touch more diversity as companies look for anything that will sell. It even looked like quality might come back into fashion, but reality body-slammed those hopes to the mat.

First piece of bad news: Glen Cove-based Acclaim Entertainment is folding Acclaim Comics. No word yet on whether any titles — led by Quantum & Woody and X-O Manowar — will be sold off. Ironically, the news came out the same week that most people got the issue of Comics Buyers Guide trumpeting on its cover Acclaim's deal with the Sci-Fi Channel to produce SF comics, including a  Mystery Science Theater 3000 book that would heckle comics rather than movies.

Second piece of annoying business: Peter David is leaving The Incredible Hulk, due in part to internal pressure at Marvel. The irony here is that his departure comes right after The Hulk garners its first Harvey nomination for best story. Check out David's sadly eloquent explanation in the latest CBG, in which he also raises some interesting points about expectations and reality in the business.

Look, I would have no problem with tough business decisions if comics were run like a business and not like an overgrown hobby. Combining art and the bottom line is tough. Publishing, film, television and the music industries all make tons of mistakes, but they're driving Mustangs while the comic-book business tools around in its Edsel.

Think about it. Most industry publicists are the last people to find out about real news in their company (or they're prohibited from releasing it until it's gone halfway around the world and back again) in favor of "news" on the latest item collected into a trade paperback. I can't get some companies, like Caliber, to even return phone calls or letters inquiring about their titles.

When Neil Gaiman, riding the crest of Sandman's popularity in 1995, wrote the comic book miniseries and the concept behind the music for Alice Cooper's Last Temptation of Alice, noted pop music critic J.D. Considine, who has also written about comics, contacted Marvel for more information. He was told it was not in Marvel's interest to promote projects by free-lancers. Hello! This affects your sales! Do I have to tell you that a great chance to draw in non-readers was blown?

Or how about when the head honchos at Time Warner decided that the comic book Superman and Lois Lane had to marry to tie into the nuptials on Lois & Clark but failed to tell DC Comics until the last minute, causing them to drop the current plotline and quickly rewrite months of work? Or the fact that getting any Time Warner division to talk to another requires a miracle? Many people at DC find out about their character-development deals through Variety, not interoffice memo.

And what about the companies that send out previews to critics without the end of the story — and not to avoid spoilers but through sheer ineptness? Or the ones that send out previews before they've been lettered? Don't laugh. I've had two major companies do it. Makes reviewing a story a challenge.

Business people are supposed to get stuff like promotion, advertising and distribution right, leaving the creative teams time to be creative. How can you bitch about dwindling profits and no respect when you don't take your business seriously?

I need a drink. R.I.P., Acclaim.

 

Column 1998 Long Island Voice. Artwork 1998 Marvel Comics.