Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

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Ares
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Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Ares » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:16 pm

So, Marvel and DC have both been struggling in recent years. While good stories continue to be told to the best of the creator's abilities, they're often the minority in a sea of bad books done for shock value, motivated by politics of various stripes, contain stories matched with a poorly equipped creative team, and are otherwise some flavor of terrible.

So, lets say they decide to course correct. New management is brought in that is more agreeable towards working together, and they decide to jointly try to fix the industry that both have helped break.

They come up with new marketing strategies to get the books to appeal to a wider audience. They get "digest" sized books back into grocery stories and convenience stores to get kids reading them, they get similar books into school libraries, they come up with story aps for younger kids, they do various things to make the books more accessible. They even come up with gateway books that are out of continuity with the main settings that are sort of a "best of" simple storytelling that includes elements of the films, comics and cartoons to be accessible to everyone, but also includes lists in the back to point interested people towards older stories.

And in the process, both Marvel and DC decide it's time for both of them to have simultaneous reboot events (possibly as a mega-crossover between companies), and bring in a continuity consultant to help the writers figure out what to do. And naturally, this person is you.

Now, you can't precisely start from scratch the way Flashpoint/The Nu-52 tried to do, because as that showed, that just pissed fans off. Instead, you basically get to "edit" continuity, deciding what stories do and don't count, what stories perhaps happen in alternate timelines, what portrayals of characters are the "core" versions of the character, etc. You might even put out "remastered" versions of older crossover stories that were somewhat lackluster and mixed, updating the story and fixing critiques people had with them.

Basically, you get to set the status quo of what did and didn't happen in Marvel or DC. What gets kept, what gets cut, and what gets changed?

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Chris Brady » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:28 pm

First I lower sale expectations. With the advent of smartphones, and the silly post-modernist lies that anyone can be a writer, we have a lot less readers. We're never going to get back to the 250k issue sales runs anymore. That era is done. I'll settle for 50k.

Next, is to use the movies and/or shows as a springboard, most of the characters there are popular and sell tickets or subscriptions to streaming services.

I would also ban political discussion from any sort of 'social' media. Use it to promote your books. Do not disparage your customers even if they disagree with you. Always be polite.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Ken » Fri Mar 30, 2018 2:09 am

1) New formatting. Increase the width of comics by a little over an inch. Make comics the same height and width as an issue of Time, Discover, Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, et al. This will allow them to be placed on magazine racks like any other magazine.

2) More pages per magazine, more stories per magazine. Assume the new traditional magazine comic has 52 pages of actual comic content (not counting the ads). Any one issue could have 2 twenty-five page stories, with room for a letters page or pin-ups, or maybe 3 seventeen page stories. Or two 20 page stories, and a 10.

3) As such, allow for books to be anthology-ish. No reason to be "one character per one book" but at the same time, don't go nuts with disconnects.

e.g. "The World's Mightiest Mortals" might lead with a 17 page Captain Marvel story, followed by a 20 page Marvel Family, followed by a 7 pager with Mary and Dudley, and another 7 pager with Captain Marvel Jr.

e.g. "The Fantastic Four" might lead with a 25 page Fantastic Four story, followed by a 25 page team-up story starring the Thing and the guest star of the issue.

4) Generally get rid of "writing for the trade". Set a soft cap of eighty pages per story arc. Allow one hundred pages for 'event stories'. It doesn't disallow multiple part stories, but it means the lead features in a book will have a definite start and end on an arc every 3-4 months. This doesn't disallow over-arcing stories; if there is an on-going behind the scenes plot of Thanagar secretly invading the Earth, that doesn't have to be wrapped up in 80 pages. But every 80 pages or so, Katar and Shayera need to finish with the "what have they done this time".

5) Trade Dress is the key to keeping seperate continuities together or seperate. If the DC logo is overlain on a Bat-logo and reads "A Batman DC Publication" than one knows that it's a Batman book that does not and should not be considered a part of either of DC's major continuities. If it has the DC logo with a chocolate ice cream emoji superimposed on it, it's a sign that the stories in that book are a part of the coninuity that DC's been pushing since 2011. If the DC logo is the DC Bullet, at an angle, surrounded by four stars, than we know that it's a classic continuity book. I'm not sure what kind of trade dress would be needed to tell classic Marvel books from Ultimate Marvel books from current continuity Marvel books, but they would have something similar.

6a) Multiple continuities not only allowed, but enforced. And they don't interact. The currect continuity books are to not piss off the current readers. These are the books where, you want to do something wild and experimental like new costumes with everyone wearing nerhu collars, or making Bruce Banner a trans so the Hulk starts sporting long hair and silicon breasts, these are the books you do it in. These are the books where less evil triumphs over more evil, and Lex Luthor can join the Justice League.

6b) Some continuities like the Batman-family only universe and the Ultimate Universe, I think are self-explanatory.

6c) The DC Classics continuity and the Marvel classics continuity lines are the books where long time fans will no what's going on. Peter and Mary Jane are still married. Cyborg was one of the founders of the New Teen Titans. The surving Justice Society founders are pushing 100. Bucky is dead. Jason is dead. Damien never existed. Thor, the son of Odin, is the god of thunder, and an Avenger and he posesses a mighty hammer... and Mjolnir. Character designs are the ones recognised. Superman wears red trunks. Captain Marvel wears a gold sash, and a short, white, hoodless cape. Captain America wears a short blue shirt over a white top (with red stripes), and blue trunks over blue leggings. Spider-Man wears a suit that's red and... the same colour as Clark's hair. Captain Marvel wears a dark blue swimsuit with matching gloves and long boots with a red sash. The Classics lines will be the lines that will have the most 'figuring out what counts' books.

7) Hopefully, with this spirit of cooperation, something can be done about the Captain Marvel trademark problem. That said, the word "Shazam" will not appear in the title of ANY Classic DC book or feature, unless it stars a certain Canaanite wizard.

8) Hire the old guys. Find the guys who used to do comics, but are no ekeing a living in Artist Alley and being interviewed by 'Back Issue'. They know the craft. Hire their skills and experience.

9) Hire fact checkers. Have people who read the scripts for continuity gaffs so they can be caught before print.
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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Jabroniville » Wed Apr 04, 2018 7:22 pm

This one's kind of a VAST topic, and I don't think any of us are business pros, so it's tough to say :).

In general, these would be my "rules".

1) If at Marvel I fire anyone who attempts to create another "Superman" analogue. No exceptions.
1a) All existing Supermanalogues are either wiped out or ignored so long as I'm in charge.

2) No political arguments with fans over social media. Hell, keep the arguments themselves to a minimum, hard as that may be.

3) No more "Writing for an agenda" to the exclusion of everything else. Comics has been writing for an agenda for like 50 years, so it's silly to try to stamp it out... but don't turn the entire line into "Preachy Moralistic Comics". Don't act smug within the comics themselves.

4) Only a maximum of two heroes are allowed female/POC replacements at any given time.

5) Keep giving weird, "out there" creators access to minor characters in Limited Series or whatever. See if you can get them to create the next Immortal Iron Fist.

6) Stop flooding the market with garbage. It cannot sustain two companies pumping out 40+ books a month. Keep it so around 30, MAXIMUM.

7) Don't release anything that's guaranteed to fail (Black Knight solo book, launched alongside entirely new Marvel run). That will only hurt the characters involved. Make it a Limited Series instead.

8) Two X-Men books, two Avengers books. Their rosters are huge and can take it, but don't spam.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by greycrusader » Wed Apr 04, 2018 8:34 pm

1) Firing may be extreme, but so far at Marvel we have: Gladiator of the Imperial Guard (along with Xenith= Supergirl, and Kid Gladiator = Superboy), at least THREE active iterations of Hyperion (the one intro'ed by Johnathan Hicks, the King Hyperion from the Exiles, and the microverse Hyperion) along with multiple, deceased versions, Ethan Embry, AKA Virtue (obscure Spider-Man antagonist), Sentry (who is being GIVEN HIS OWN SERIES AGAIN!!!)....ENOUGH! Likewise, Marvel currently has Nighthawk AND Shroud as Batman analogues.

2) Yes. Unless it's something which should be a totally obvious point, e.g., don't participate in marches with Neo-Nazis (or Stalinists/Maoists, if anyone is doing that).

3) I would qualify this with the following: writing with a point of view is fine, if executed with skill, but don't turn your comic script into a monologue-this is no better today than it was when Ditko went kook fringe-Objectivist and started churning out junk like "Mr.A", where the friggin' hero stops dead and then breaks the fourth wall by pointing at the readers and delivering a multi-panel speech on "the primacy of the individual" or whatever.

4) How about just "no more than a couple legacy/replacement characters introduced at the same time, REGARDLESS of minority status or otherwise"? Also, don't try to "hard sell" a replacement by bending supporting cast members, plots, and in-universe history to make the predecessors look worse?

5) I'm good with that. But make the series self-contained until/unless its embraced by fans; that way, they can be "out of continuity" if not done well.

6) and 7) Are complimentary points; too much dilution of the fan base dollars, the creative pool, and snarling up character histories.

8) Team books, yes. Solo books of team members is a different matter.

And I would add:

9) Fewer damn company-wide crossovers. These also full-stop KILL any momentum 2nd and 3rd tier books have-both Carol Danvers books got crushed by getting caught up in the "Civil War" nonsense.

All my best.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by MacynSnow » Thu Apr 05, 2018 12:07 am

This would be my overall "plan of attack".....
1) To ensure company wide confidence,get all the current writers in one place,at one time(even if it's by Skye or what-have-you)and hash out a COMPANY WIDE continuty that will not be messed with Under any circumstances whatsoever with failing to follow this being cause for immediate termination of contract.Have the same meeting happen for the Editors as well,with the same rule applied.

2)At the above meetings,the writers/editors select the characters they want to work with(if It's a Team book,them multiple characters may be selected,but no more than 7)with no overlap allowed.If the selected character is part of a team book,then what happens in the solo book Must either be mentioned or hinted at in the other and vice-versa.Editors will be in charge of "set" books(X-Men books,Aveners books,etc.)

3)The number of books to be published will not exceed the number of writers,save for the 4 yearly company wide crossover events(in which case,you hire an outside company writer & use a seasoned Editor to helm it).

4)If a "New" character is selected to replace an older version,it must be agreed upon by all parties it would effect(the head writer,Editor,Editor-in-Chief,and the head writer&editor of any team book their appart of at the time)

5)Any character that fan vote warrents a book will first be tried out in 2 limited series runs set 6 months apart.If fan reaction is still positive for the second series run,then an Ongoing will be created.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by BriarThrone » Fri Apr 06, 2018 12:13 am

Immediate Performance Evaluation for All Production Staff and Freelancers
This company hires and continues to employ personnel for their contribution to creating and selling a product. The desired product is comic books with excellent story, dialogue, art, and structure. If you do not contribute meaningfully to this goal, you will be removed from your projects at the earliest opportunity.

Code of Conduct for Employees and Freelancers
This company is a business, not a club. We don't want our customer base to be exclusive. You will conduct yourself as a salesperson in all public interactions. This especially includes any and all social media accounts. Setting out to make customers of ANY race, religion, sexuality, or political affiliation feel unwelcome will result in disciplinary action to be decided on by senior management, ranging from fines to dismissal and blacklisting. Targeted harassment of individuals will be documented and submitted to law enforcement. Your employment or freelancing agreement will be amended to indicate agreement to these terms. Signing this agreement by the end of the week is mandatory for continued employment.

Continuity
We will be creating the position of Senior Continuity Supervisor to create Continuity Documents. All active products will have a Continuity Document, to be updated by the editor. The Senior Continuity Supervisor will update and expand the Continuity Documents, linking characters and events in a Wiki-style setup. Contradiction of the Continuity Document will result in disciplinary action to the editing and writing staff unless a form detailing the change is submitted to management and approved.

Legacy Heroes
Legacy heroes are sometimes a necessary evil, but no more than two active legacy heroes will be active at a time. Check the "Current Legacy Heroes" section of the company Continuity site for availability. All legacy heroes will follow these rules.
1) Respect. The writer and the characters must have respect for the original. The legacy character is not inherently superior to their predecessor. Do not tell the reader so. The legacy character was created to leverage the fans' love of the original. Do not antagonize the fans by insulting a character they like.
2) Exit plan. Unless approved by senior management, legacy characters WILL NOT hold the role permanently. Have a long-term plan for the legacy character that involves leaving that role.
3) Necessity. Do not use a legacy character if a new idea makes as much sense.

-------------------

I think this would be a good start.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Jabroniville » Thu May 10, 2018 7:05 am

Oh right- I meant to reply to this, but couldn't find the words, then forgot about it :).
greycrusader wrote:
Wed Apr 04, 2018 8:34 pm
1) Firing may be extreme, but so far at Marvel we have: Gladiator of the Imperial Guard (along with Xenith= Supergirl, and Kid Gladiator = Superboy), at least THREE active iterations of Hyperion (the one intro'ed by Johnathan Hicks, the King Hyperion from the Exiles, and the microverse Hyperion) along with multiple, deceased versions, Ethan Embry, AKA Virtue (obscure Spider-Man antagonist), Sentry (who is being GIVEN HIS OWN SERIES AGAIN!!!)....ENOUGH! Likewise, Marvel currently has Nighthawk AND Shroud as Batman analogues.
Yeah, I primarily wanted to stick to just Gladiator (who really just has Superman-esque POWERS, and isn't as clear a rip as, say, Hyperion).
4) How about just "no more than a couple legacy/replacement characters introduced at the same time, REGARDLESS of minority status or otherwise"? Also, don't try to "hard sell" a replacement by bending supporting cast members, plots, and in-universe history to make the predecessors look worse?
Possibly, with the obvious caveat that D-tier villains & heroes being replaced are fine (there's been dozens of replaced villains over the years).

Agreed on the second point. G. Willow Wilson (who apparently led to this modern craze inadvertently when Ms. Marvel sold well and drew some positive attention) even pointed out this issue. Bashing the old characters just makes the replacements into "Kyle Rayners", which, when added to their minority/female status, combines to create some vicious mud-slinging and accusations going both ways, as fans who are pissed at the Character-Shaming and Newbie-Shilling, are accused of all sorts of things.
8) Team books, yes. Solo books of team members is a different matter.
Yeah, I'd leave that alone. Wolverine, Cap, etc., can all maintain their solo books :).
And I would add:

9) Fewer damn company-wide crossovers. These also full-stop KILL any momentum 2nd and 3rd tier books have-both Carol Danvers books got crushed by getting caught up in the "Civil War" nonsense.
God yes. This really needs to happen sooner rather than later- fans have been begging for this for more than TEN YEARS. And Carol indeed suffered horribly- I think Ms. Marvel was derailed by the first one, and her newest book, which had a TON of major problems (almost becoming Patient Zero for Marvel's problems and tone-deafness as a company), got roped into her acting as a weird "Due Process-Hating" Insane Police Officer.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Batgirl III » Thu May 10, 2018 9:47 am

Deadlines. Ruthlessly enforced deadlines. Turn in your assigned work product (script, pencils, ink, color) on time or hit the door. (Barring genuine emergencies, of course.)

Showrunners. Split the entire line into 4-5 distinct groups of 2-4 related books, under the supervision of a single editor. Each group gets one solo title for its biggest name (Batman), one or two solo titles for popular secondary heroes for that group (Nightwing, Batgirl), an anthology title for one-shots and features of supporting cast (Detective Comics) Let’s say a Superman group; a Batman group; a Lantern group; a Wonder Woman group; a Teams Without A-List Heroes Group (e.g., Teen Titans, JSA); and, finally, the A-List Team “Group” which is just the one book for the Justice League.

No solo projects. With the entire product line into four or five groups, every group collaborated on a twelve month, broad-strokes, plan for what will happen during that span to the books in their group. Then they get to write their monthly books.

No super-mega-crisis crossovers. Cameos and crossovers within a group are encouraged as should happen regularly, crossovers between groups are okay but nothing happening in one group can permanently effect the other group without permission from the showrunner. Such things must be part of the 12-month plan. Company-wide crossovers (e.g., Final Crisis) can only happen every three years.

No vanity projects. Hire comic book writers to write comic books, not celebrities from outside the industry. If a big name outsider (e.g., Ta-Neshi Coates, Orson Scott Card) does want to write a book, he must accept a coauthor who is a comic book professional. They must abide by all the above rules. They cannot be a showrunner.

Limited new characters. Create all the civilians and supporting cast you want, but if you want a new hero or new villain, you need to explain to your showrunner why no previously existing character could fill that niche. Showrunners will be given financial incentives to enforce this.

Family friendly comics. There will also be a line of two or three titles that feature one of the big names in stories that are self-contained (or maybe the occasional two parter) that are written to a “PG” or “G” sensibility. No sex, no gore, mild violence, and minimal continuity concerns. Think Timmiverse. Magazine-sized pages and page count. Published quarterly and sold via newspaper stands, bookstores, pharmacies and Wal-Mart magazine racks. Get kids reading comics again!
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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Chris Brady » Fri May 18, 2018 2:03 am

Sadly, Kids are not ever going to read comics again. Not with this age of easy games with their phones... I wish it wasn't so, but... Apple killed the reader market.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Batgirl III » Fri May 18, 2018 2:41 am

Chris Brady wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 2:03 am
Sadly, Kids are not ever going to read comics again. Not with this age of easy games with their phones... I wish it wasn't so, but... Apple killed the reader market.
Raina Telgemeier, Rachel Renee Russell, and Dav Pilkey would probably disagree that kids don't read comics. Telgemeier alone had six books on the best seller chart in 2016. She sells about a million copies each year. Almost 6.5% of all the sales of the 2016 comics report for Nielsen BookScan were by Raina Telgemeier. That’s incredible, we're talking J.K. Rowling numbers, man.

Kids and teens would probably be more interested in reading comics if they didn't cost $4.99 for a 16-page story with 12-pages of advertisements. Young kids (and their parents) would probably buy more comics if they weren't all "Rated T+" and filled with gratuitous sex and violence... With CW's Supergirl and The Flash drawing big numbers for a "family friendly" tv show, why does DC still not have a Supergirl comic with a heroine who matches the classic, Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El?
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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Woodclaw » Fri May 18, 2018 11:45 am

Batgirl III wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 2:41 am
Kids and teens would probably be more interested in reading comics if they didn't cost $4.99 for a 16-page story with 12-pages of advertisements.
This is one of those things that always makes me wonder: a typical Marvel or DC book cost ... I think ... about 4 dollars for 22 pages full color. for just about the same money (3.50 €) you get 96 pages black and white over here, with no ads.
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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Shock » Fri May 18, 2018 11:58 am

My kids (ages 9-11) read comics on occasion. But they like older comics more than newer ones. They're much happier reading the 60s version of Spiderman than any modern incarnation.

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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Batgirl III » Fri May 18, 2018 2:59 pm

Tankōbon-sized manga books fill shelf upon shelf in every major bookstore these days... Marvel experimented with that format with Runaways and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, but didn’t stick with it. I’m not sure why.
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Re: Thought Experiment: You're put in charge of the next company wide reboot. What do you do?

Post by Chris Brady » Fri May 18, 2018 3:36 pm

Batgirl III wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 2:59 pm
Tankōbon-sized manga books fill shelf upon shelf in every major bookstore these days... Marvel experimented with that format with Runaways and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, but didn’t stick with it. I’m not sure why.
It didn't sell enough to make the cost worth it.

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