Friday, December 28, 2007

Fangirl Fridays: The "Thank You For Buying Countdown!" Edition

What is it with comic book fans using the word "rape" and "sodomy" in connection to storylines and reboots they don't like?

"You raped my childhood!"

"They committed sodomy on the fans!"

"They're asking the long-time readers to bend down and take it!"

Now, I totally understand the rage and anguish fans have over seeing beloved characters retconned out of existence or shot in the head. But why this reoccurring sexual imagery?

Then there is the phrase "continuity porn" -- one I tend to favor myself.

How did "porn" get in there? It's just Booster Gold talking to that little damned robot.

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate and lay out some online PR strategies I think comic book companies might use to their advantage.

1) Sure, by all means have somebody from your team go on message boards as "fans" and counter the bad press. That should be part of your overall PR strategy. It happens all the time. But make sure they are people versed somewhat in actual PR training or methodology. And I'm talking current PR methodology. You can't go on a thread with your brand new spanking "Newbie" Comic Book Resources persona and counter the sea of negative reactions by posting: "No, BLANK COMIX is awesome! I'm so excited about it! You should buy it!"

First of all, you have no cred in that online community whatsoever. Very few to none posts, not so much as a "hello!" on the Introductions thread. And so you carry your unpopular opinion with you to this board or blog, and just drop it in their laps. It's the equivalent of farting in a crowded room, folks.

Such PR needs far more subtlety and a conversational tone. You should gently explain why BLANK COMIX! is, despite popular opinion, worth buying. Create a slight doubt in the naysayer's mind. Be respectful. Above all, be human.

2) Shutting down threads and fan websites is pretty much the worst PR you could possibly create. I know you feel you are "controlling" the publicity flow. But you control the publicity flow (to the extent it is even possible) by interacting with the fans, especially those who are negatively regarding your comic. Silencing and remaining silent never ever helps. By dialogue you defuse.

3) Some editors and talent are natural PR people themselves. They have sparkling, jovial personalities, are popular with fans, and possess a certain instinct as to what and what not to say. Others, however, are trainwrecks. Learn to distinguish between the two. You give a trainwreck their own unedited editorial page or sprawling Newsarama interview at your own risk.

4) Today's consumers don't like to be "sold" to. They are bombarded by sales pitches in the form of 1 billion commercials and ads every day -- on TV, in the newspapers, pasted on taxis, flashing all over their computer screen. They come to their comic book media outlet to get away from all that, to derive a little bit of pleasure from their favorite hobby.

After a while, your numerous previews on Newsarama, Wizard, and Comic Book Resources lose all impact and meaning. The readers think you are in bed with these websites; that is their perception. This perception hurts both the website and your product. It produces apathy.

You would be far, far more successful by approaching Scans Daily or a specially-selected group of personal blogs and write them a personal e-mail inviting them -- asking if they would be so kind -- to post these exclusive pages.

And then use your connections with Newsarama and the rest to run a completely different type of story on your book. Use an interesting angle. Tie it in to current events. Make a poll or contest. Something. Just make that "something" intriguing and unique.

5) Admit when you've failed. Don't get defensive. Whatever you do, don't get hostile or defensive. Or arrogant. Acknowledge popular opinion and then explain how what you are doing from now on differs from that. Try the "It's A Whole New Era" approach. Even if the distance between eras are a few issues apart.

6) Yes there is a big untapped female market out there, yes you have no clue, yes you've continued to alienate and horrify them, yes even when they buy your superhero comics they are often ashamed to be seen with them in public. No I'm not giving you free insights on how to change this.

Here is a Zen parable for you to consider:

There was a time when this was the biggest selling comic book in the world. Meditate. Then take a bath.


  1. "Then there is the phrase "continuity porn" -- one I tend to favor myself."

    Couldn't agree with you more on that one. I find that many people like to use "porn" as a suffix to radiate a sense of psuedo-intellectualism.

    PS...Countdown STILL rocks, still tons of fun. I am loving how the threads are coming together. What will Morrison have up his sleeve with Final Crisis??

  2. "PS...Countdown STILL rocks, still tons of fun. I am loving how the threads are coming together. What will Morrison have up his sleeve with Final Crisis??"

    Dan, Dan, Dan...(sigh)

  3. Here is a top secret your-eyes-only tip on how to get female readers: make female characters that aren't just male power & sex fantasies. Make female characters who are CHARACTERS. Make them good at stuff. Don't pretend they are flawless. Just...characters.

    Then put them in a digest.

    Seriously guys.

    You could call it "Runaways"?

  4. Would LOVE to see examples to flesh out your PR what to do/not to do section.

  5. "Dan, Dan, Dan...(sigh)"

    My New Year's Resolution? Pay no mind to haters. ;)

  6. "Pay no mind to haters. ;)"

    Yeah, it's really bad for your blood pressure.

  7. I'm generally not a hater! But Countdown...Dan, Dan, Dan.

  8. "Yeah, it's really bad for your blood pressure."

    You know how sometimes you hear something at just the right time? Yeah, you did it, Val. THanks, think I needed that reminder :)

  9. "I'm generally not a hater! But Countdown...Dan, Dan, Dan."

    Thats what an ex girlfriend of mine said about Evil Dead 2. I like to think history proved me right on that one...maybe it will be the case w/ Countdown? .... I can hope, can't I?

    Either way, I'm enjoying it, and I guess my point is that there is NOTHING wrong with enjoying the title. I keep being treated like a leper or shill because I enjoy it, which is fairly absurd.

  10. You keep getting treated like a shill because you keep shilling Countdown. If you like it, cool, but I think you're the only one.

    Anyway, with the term "continuity-porn," I think porn is used in a perfectly valid way. A book like Booster Gold exists only to give a visceral thrill to people who care about continuity, much like sex porn only exists to give a visceral thrill to people who care about the sexual act being depicted. It's not pseudo-intellectualism, it's an ironically correct use of the word.

  11. Well, I'm not someone prone to using the expression of "rape" to describe something I don't like, but if I WERE, at least in the context of comics, it would probably be because my (current) utter disdain of DC, previously my favorite comic book company/universe, began with Identity Crisis #2.

    And while I don't use that term and generally disapprove of such unnecessarily over-the-top commentary/criticism (like Harry Knowles' infamous review of Blade 2, which he likened to performing oral sex on a woman), when I do read someone describing the current regime/vibe at DC as being "rape-tastic," it does give me pause...

  12. Danbizzle said:

    "PS...Countdown STILL rocks, still tons of fun. I am loving how the threads are coming together. What will Morrison have up his sleeve with Final Crisis??"

    Now you're just doing it to mess with my head. :)

    And I agree with Kenny--"continuity porn" makes perfect sense as a term. It's something that minimizes plot, characterization, et cetera, simply to get to the "good bits" that people obsessed with continuity want. Much like porn does the same thing for sex. (Incidentally, fun fact, the British use the term "fanwank", coined by the late Craig Hinton in regards to Doctor Who novels that did the same thing.)

  13. "You keep getting treated like a shill because you keep shilling Countdown."

    I thought that is what we did here: discussed books we like and offer disparate points of view on the industry and the books, with a progressive frame of mind.

    " If you like it, cool, but I think you're the only one. "

    Sorry, somewhat stumped as to the relevance of this one...I mean, I know I'm not the only one as I speak to other fans, not to mention the sales being above $8.98 per issue. So what are you getting at?

  14. To Kenny and John, regarding the term 'porn' as a suffix:

    If you guys say so. There are a myriad of ways to express the same idea, but few are as popular as adding 'porn' as a suffix. Its cool, its easy, its interchangable! You can add it to anything: torture, war, continuity...its the suffix that just keeps on giving.

    Much like psuedo-intellectualism.

  15. As a newsarama regular, I don't care is Matt Brady is really Joe Q or Dan Didio. I go there because I can only spend so much time is at my LCS talking comics, everything else (the previews, interviews, etc) is extra. Maybe I like being sold to sometimes
    Scans Daily is nice but a lot of posters there can't seem to post without adding commentary between pages rather than allowing people to read and decide for themselves. Which sucks since often many of the people talking about the issue at hand have not read it.
    EX. Page 1-----see how bad this is?
    Page 7-----where did that come from this is so bad. etc.
    Preview pages from 'rama and other sites end up on Scans Daily soon enough.

  16. I think the real thing behind continuity porn is trying to make the comics that pander to the people who like continuity seem dirty and wrong. Even though every time something new comes along, there's always a legion of people who'll talk about how it couldn't happen because of past continuity or sit back and poke holes in it because of some thirty year old story. It seems more like the actions of a whiney kid who finally gets what he/she wants . . . and then pushes it away, saying they don't want it any more.

  17. ahh countdown sucks...

    oh wait, sorry I used another porn phrase

  18. Dan,

    Let me rephrase what I said. You're seemingly the only poster on this blog who likes Countdown. And hey, power to you. I like Madman a *lot* and I think I'm the only poster on this board who does, but you don't see me shoehorning it into every post like you and Countdown. We get it, you think Countdown is the new Watchmen. Great. I'm glad someone likes it.

    As for the "porn" thing, you're just wrong. It's a perfectly correct use of the word.


    I never thought of the context of trying to make continuity sound dirty by saying saying "continuity-porn." Hmmm.... I want to think about that more now! lol

  19. You say all this as if porn is a bad thing.

  20. Is "asking someone to bend down and take it" even an (unambiguously) case of sexual imagery? The image that immediately sprang to my mind was that of corporal punishment, especially a caning. So part of an imagery of violence, such as the "kick in the nuts" simile I've seen used with reference to "One More Day".

    (Who cares about Countdown anyway? DC made me stop reading most of their mainstream output ages ago).

  21. You know, I bought X-Force #1 back in the day - now, as background, I'm a boy, had read comics before as a younger child (Secret Wars and Spiderman and Zoids mainly, I'm from the UK), and was picking up anything that looked cool for inspiration for the superhero RPG I'd just bought.

    At the time, X-Force was the perfect "in" - it had a distinctive art style (this was like, '91, so Liefield-aping wasn't yet the norm, or at least not in my isolated world), tied in to a big world of superheroics I only needed a little familiarity with (I knew who Prof. X was for example), and allowed me to explore that world with characters that were as new to the world, and to each other, as I was.

    Maybe that's why Runaways is such a good pick-up book for Marvel; I imagine they could do this with New Warriors or The Order as well, if those titles were pushed in the right direction (I'm thinking the Manga format and Korean covers didn't hurt Runaways in that respect).

  22. "you don't see me shoehorning it into every post like you and Countdown."

    Except that many of these threads are ABOUT Countdown. I don't bring it up arbitrarily nor out of context.

  23. "Except that many of these threads are ABOUT Countdown. I don't bring it up arbitrarily nor out of context."

    Hmmm....dang it! You're right! So, I owe you an apology. I'm sorry.

  24. "Except that many of these threads are ABOUT Countdown. I don't bring it up arbitrarily nor out of context."

    --Blood pressure, Dan; blood pressure. :-)

    But look -- you entered the arena of a blog that most certainly did not see eye-to-eye with you, and you did it with an astonishing degree of politeness and graciousness. Some people who were as pro-Countdown and pro-DiDio as yourself might have come on this blog and started talking trash. You didn't do that. That says something about your character and I respect that.

    If you like Countdown, you like Countdown. I think Countdown was a very ambitious project, and I think it comes from a place that honestly feels it is leading to somewhere great. It's like building an opera house in the Amazon, you know? It's this big, gargantuan ambitious project. There is something to be said for spectacle. And I think that Final Crisis probably WILL be very good. And I am willing to bet that the last several issues of Countdown leading to Final Crisis will probably be good as well.

    Look Dan, if you like Countdown, just stick to your guns and support it and just be happy. It's almost over.

    I've had to learn that at the end of the day, it's just comic books.

    Happy New Year.

  25. How did "porn" get in there? It's just Booster Gold talking to that little damned robot.

    Yes, but Booster's got a sexy voice and knows just what to say to get a robot's electrodes sizzling. ^_^

    Me, I think of the phrase "continuity porn" as meaning: A story that bares its continuity shamelessly, for the enjoyment of people who love to look at/read about continuity.

    Continuity should not be viewed my minors. Shrink-wrapped for your protection. Printed on glossy pages for easy cleaning.

    So, maybe it is a cheap way to get some hipster points by slapping "-porn" on something- but I do think it is a valid short-cut to describing a type of book. Let your continuity hang out- we're all consenting adults here.

  26. When you say torture porn or continuity porn, all you're saying is that the first word is something that is bringing maybe a disproportionate amount of pleasure to a group.

  27. Dan,

    I was thinking about what you said about Countdown, and how you only bring up your passionate love for it during discussions trashing it. I'm kinda sad now, because no one ever brings up Madman. It's been consistently amazing for going on 20 years (when Graphique Musique is included) and nobody cares. I almost wish someone would talk about how much they hate it just so I had an excuse to talk about it.

    Anyway, just a thought I had. Sorry again for giving you a hard time.

  28. So what do we call sex porn now? Just calling it 'porn' seems lazy.

    Danbizzle - Pseudo-intellectualism is the same thing as intellectualism. Strange but true.

  29. I HATE Madman!

    No... just kidding! I LOVE Madman! It's not only one of my favorite comics, it's one of my favorite THINGS ever.

    Countdown on the other hand... not so much. But I did enjoy the recent Action Comics tie-in issue. I forget what number, but Gary Frank's art really made that issue for me. To be honest, I didn't read it. I just bought it to stare at the art.

    And as far as "porn" as a suffix goes, I don't really have a problem with it other than how it's overused. I described the movie Marie Antoinette as "clothing porn," and I was (almost) sincere about it. There's barely a story attached; you're just supposed to ogle the clothes in a way that's vaguely pornish in nature.

    And the clothes are indeed quite lovely.

    "Rape" on the other hand is not a phrase I toss around lightly. Mainly because the crime itself is so horrific I think it's ludicrous and extremely offensive to compare some lame comic's effect on our lives with the effect an actual rape would have on a person's being. And it too is another overused phrase that's starting to lose its meaning through repetition.

    And since the real world crime is of such greater negative impact and magnitude, that's something that definitely should be avoided. Hence my never flippantly or glibly using it.

    As creative bloggers/writers/thinkers, I believe we can do much better by our fellow human beings and by our literary endeavors by coming up with new metaphors and similes.

  30. There was a great little interview on NPR in which a reporter sat down with a porn director and watched the Food Network and talked about its similarities to porn: the lighting, the extreme close-ups, the music.

  31. I agree-- I'm much more likely to let ____-porn slide than the casual use of rape-as-descriptor go past unremarked.

  32. This is a great post :)


  33. I am really, really, really missing the "What Val Is Going To Buy On Wednesday" edition.
    That is all.

  34. ....The sad thing is that I own 20 copies of X-Factor #1.