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 Life Skills for Fanboys:  Comics’ Non-News

 written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

A Publisher’s Job

When you’re a publisher (and I’ve been on plenty of times), you often have to make pronouncements that are little more than PR disguised as news.  The hope is you make some announcement about a new creative team or a new title, it’s a slow newsday and you get a write up about.  Maybe even a few and an interview.  It’s how the game is played in all fields of entertainment.

But I think there’s no place other than the comic book industry where an announcement of a major character dying is met with outright yawns and eye-rolling.  Why?  Well, quite frankly, that dead horse has been beaten.  It’s been beaten so much I think all there’s left is a skeleton and that’s almost completely dust at this point.  I mean, c’mon Marvel, you’re really killing off Wolverine?  The Hugh Jackman franchise that will be back in the movies within, say, two years?  And you’ll have no Wolverine comic book?  This I doubt.  This I doubt very much.

The Fish Bowl Theory

This is part of an increased trend of comic book non-news that permeates the Internet.  And it’s non-news not because comic books don’t often make announcements about twist in the story, it’s because the stories of late have been done to death, so who would care?  And one of the big problems with the big two is the baggage that comes with maintaining a superhero universe.

I once described it to a fan at a convention like this:  A writer might create a universe full of characters for a particular comic book or project.  It looks like a fishbowl with a large hole in the top and a small hole in the bottom.  Each character you add to the universe starts to fill up the bowl.  So imagine each character is an action figure.  You start dropping action figures into the fishbowl.  When it gets pretty full, the small hole at the bottom causes some action figures to fall out the bottom.  This represents characters dying, retiring or just leaving the story.  As a writer, you achieve this balance.  Many characters flow in and a few flow out.

Unfortunately in a corporate superhero universe there is no reason to have the hole on the bottom.  Losing an action figure is potential money (movie, merchandise, reprints) that goes to waste.  The object is to make money, not achieve a creative balance.  So the fishbowl gets fuller and fuller.  Eventually, the writers are forced to make the fishbowl bigger, but it isn’t always accommodating and quite frankly, the amount of characters becomes confusing.  So you have this giant fishbowl full of actions figures; some date, some current, some popular, some not.

Real News vs. Non-News

To me, comic book journalists should be drawing a line between what’s actual news and what’s just PR.  Now I’m as guilty as any publisher for trying to spin my PR as news, but that’s a publisher’s job.  Journalists should be more discerning, but they rarely are.  Comic book websites are often full of press releases from the big publishers that are copied word for word.  Here, to me, is a list of real news elements.

1.  Major Talent:  The big talents are always newsworthy.  They are the celebrities of comic books and often they are the major creators.

2.  Big Publishing Changes:  When publishers cut a huge chunk of staff (like when hand colorists went completely digital) or when formats, pricing and other non-comic book story related items that may impact the fans (like when new comic day moved from weekend to Wednesday).

3.  New Talent Emerges:  The new talent of today are the comic book celebrities of tomorrow.  This is something that should be at the top of the list for comic book journalists, but they often push it off into a corner to keep fans of the big publishers coming to their website.

4.  Innovation:  New, original ideas, presentations, formats, characters, etc.  This is one thing that comic book journalists seem to have little sense of.  Where were these people when webcomics were growing?  As far as I could see, nowhere.  Many ignored the growing trend and STILL ignore webcomics and have reluctantly embraced digital downloads only because so many other fans have.

5.  Events of Historical Significance:  This one is a little hard to parse.  Spiderman hitting the movie screen has some historical significance the first time, but not really after.  A big name creator dying or the recent troubles at Archie might qualify.  These are stories that change the landscape of the comic book world forever.

Here, to me, is a list of non-news elements.

1.  Superhero changes costume in a universe where people change their clothes all the time.

2.  Superhero changes gender in a universe where magic, alien technology and super science allows this to happen all the time.

3.  Superhero dies in a universe where people come back to life all the time.

4.  Comic book publishers announces anything with the caveat “This changes everything!” and it doesn’t.

5.  Comic book character merchandise for the second time in any kind of merchandise.  (The first time, it’s barely news.  The second time, it most certainly is not.)

6.  Minor changes presented as big changes.  (Stories on cover artists, fill-in talent, and minor changes in storylines need to be placed in context, not blown up by a website editor looking to pad content.)

7.  Copy and Paste Press Releases:  I know of at least one publication (whose initials I won’t repeat) that would reprint my press releases verbatim, including typos.  If you’re going to print press releases, at least take the time to read them and rewrite them with some kind of slant that your publication is known for.

8.  The same story that happened last year or last month.  Anyone follow this recent Spiderwoman controversy?  It was very similar to a lot of previous stories about sexists covers and was hot on the heels of the Teen Titans cover controversy, which turned into something else.  In a nutshell, whatever point the author of the Spiderwoman controversy had, it probably was blunted by the fact we just heard the same thing two months prior.  If you don’t have fresh angle, new insight or new information, it’s basically a retread.


If the comic book industry is going to be taken seriously, then the people who report on it have to take their jobs seriously.  They can’t just lazily reprint press releases or crank out stories because they don’t require research.  We live in the era of Google for Christ’s sake.  There’s really no excuse to have at least a few links to back up your assertions, even if you’re doing an opinion piece like mine.

Anyhow, that’s my thoughts on it.

One of Extra Item

I mentioned this over the Webcomic Factory blog, but I wanted to mention it here, bros.  I lost my list of “Brother Websites” when WordPress updated.  (Thanks alot, WordPress a-holes.)  If you remember any links that I had or run a website that I used to link to, contact me and I’ll get your link back up.  Until then, I copied the Webcomic Factory’s link list which is pretty much the same.

Previous Columns
Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
Success Kills
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Fanboy Reporters
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age
Who Are the Creepers?
The Cosplayer Treaty of 2014: A Proposal
Female Thor