Tag: Marvel

Brainiac On Banjo: Important Advice For Freelancers

Brainiac On Banjo: Important Advice For Freelancers

Well, we know where we’re going but we don’t know where we’ve been, and we know what we’re knowing but we can’t say what we’ve seen — “Road To Nowhere,” written by Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, David Byrne, and Jerry Harrison

The Ritz Brothers “Here Kitty Kitty”

Deadlines are a pain in the ass, but let’s face it: you became a freelancer because you were tired of holding down a real job. However, work is still work no matter what the clock thinks, and that realization puts you on the Road To Nowhere. You are going to have to up your “cover your ass” game, and I’m going to lose a few friends by letting a few cats out of the bag.

You can not succeed without knowing the rudiments of grammar school arithmetic. Yes, yes, I know. No math. That’s the main reason why you quit flipping burgers. Nonetheless, it is important to know how to do some simple addition and subtraction, the latter simply being adding in reverse. Here’s why: Let’s say your deadline is 11 AM Monday, and it is now 7 PM Sunday. You think it will take you about three hours to do your work. You’ve got dinner tonight, the latest issue of Hey Kids! Comics! to finish, and those teevee shows aren’t going to stream themselves. Then, it’s time for your late-night snack (you are a freelancer; act like one!), and then, you should get a little sleep. When do you start on your deadline?

Well, like everything else in life, that’s a trick question. Your deadline is 11 AM, it will take you three hours to do the job. You weren’t going to do it the night before; if you were, you would have started it back when you landed the gig. So you’re going to subtract three from eleven and start working at 8 AM.

Yeah, of course you are. Out of habit, you’re going to stay in bed until 9:30 or until your brain starts working. At some point, maybe around 10 AM, you’re going to remember you should wash the dishes. After all, everything in life is a choice.

Okay. Let’s say your editor actually gave you a real, honest deadline. I realize there’s only one editor in the history of deadlines who does this, and he’s the one writing these words right now. Silly me. “If you treat people honestly, they will be honest with you.” This is, give or take, the funniest thing I’ve ever said.

However, more frequently I’ve had to explain why they put the word “dead” in “deadline.” We’ll talk about the psychology of editing some other time; this piece is to offer advice to freelancers. So here’s some advice.

First, become an editor. Listen to the talents’ excuses for being late. They know what they’re doing, as they do this part for a living. Write down or memorize the best ones. Then, when you are freelancing and your editor wants to know if you are still among the living, use one of those excuses. Of course, you’ll need to remember which lines you’ve used on which editors — that is how lying works.

Second, just before your assigned deadline brays, put your smartphone in “silent mode” the way you’re supposed to when you’re at the movies or in Colorado attending the Beetlejuice musical. In fact, you might actually be at the movies — that’s a very handy source of motivation when it comes to blowing off deadlines.

Third, check out the weather conditions. If you are not in the same city as your editor, then you have been experiencing severe storms that have been knocking out power all over the county, and you don’t have a clue when the power company is going to fix the lines, and if your editor has a problem with that, ask them if they have a dial-up fax machine. It will help if you know they do not in advance.

Finally, if you are lucky — and, really, this is turning a pound of shit into a shit soufflé — your editor will be representing a corporation that owes you money. That isn’t hard at all; DC Comics has owed me $250.00 for a couple years now, and it’s worth more to me as leverage than its rapidly diminishing spending power. So when your editor is putting the arm on you, change the subject to “hey, I wish you were as diligent about paying me for my work as you are demanding that stuff!”

This can be great fun. If you get in first and your editor hasn’t read this piece (which is likely), you’ll be treated to a lot of amusingly defensive grunts and groans. Swiftly change the subject to the WGA strike — particularly if you’re working for DC (Warner Bros) or Marvel (Disney). Then, just as the topic devolves back to deadlines, seize the high ground and tell your editor you have got to get back to finishing your assignment.

You know. The assignment you have yet to start.

(With apologies to Chris Ryall, Jack C. Harris, Bob Harrison and all my other editors who did not know they were road-testing the details in this column.)

Brainiac On Banjo: The ComiXology Kamikaze

Brainiac On Banjo: The ComiXology Kamikaze

When I look over my shoulder, what do you think I see? Some other cat looking over his shoulder at me. And he’s strange, sure is strange. – Donovan Leitch, “Season of the Witch.”

When it comes to the digital world, sometimes all those zeroes and ones just don’t add up. Let’s look at ComiXology, what I once considered to be a genuine revolutionary force in the medium.

In the history of paper publishing going all the way back to papyrus, it’s often been a crappy way to make a living. Oh, sure, some folks have been enormously successful, but on the same hand some folks win the lottery. Expenses are high and nobody knows what the market wants. Paper is getting hard to find (soon we will have to make a choice between having paper and having oxygen and trees), and places to buy the finished product have run thin. “Book browsing” and impulse purchases have become 21st Century rotary dial telephones.

We needed an alternative way to get comics. In 1981, Marvel Comics published Dazzler #1 and made it available only to the then-growing number of dedicated comic book stores, and that showed us there just might be life after the newsstands and candy shops. To make a long story short, around that same time I turned to theatrical producer Rick Obadiah and said “hey, you know, we could do this.” And that’s the shortest origin story for First Comics ever told.

Things went pretty well until the overwhelming number of distributors bellied up after exclusive distribution deals kicked in. As those distributors were coughing up blood, the “smaller publishers” (meaning just about everybody except Marvel and DC) started getting paid late, if at all. Again, I’m making a very long story short. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The ComiXology Kamikaze”

Brainiac On Banjo: Streaming Ahoy!

Brainiac On Banjo: Streaming Ahoy!

The reading today is from the book of Punter, Chapter 9, Verse 17: “All we have to fear, is me.” – Firesign Theater

Presuming climate change doesn’t do us in first, Americans are about a decade way from abandoning the concept of the continuous media vehicle. In English, that means the idea of television (and radio before 1962) had lengthy “seasons” and, if successful, would return for a following season.

Of course, this was well before streaming became a thing.

Unlike the rest of magazine publishing, the comic book medium also was a continuous media vehicle: numbering was consecutive and rarely split into “volumes” of, say, twelve monthly numbers per year. Nobody cares what consecutive issue numbers were applied to Time Magazine in August 1975, but if you ask the issue number for the X-Men cover-dated that same month there are enough comic book enthusiasts who know the answer to that – #94, for those who came in late – to fill Yankee Stadium. At least the #94 that was in use in August, 1975. Around that time, the late, legendary comics retailer Joe Sarno pointed out in an interview if you put consecutive numbering on something, some people are going to collect it. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Streaming Ahoy!”

Brainiac on Banjo: At Last!

Brainiac on Banjo: At Last!

You might have heard a soft chuckling sound wafting in the breeze a couple days ago. That would be me.

Last Monday, the staff at Image Comics voted to form a labor union – to be specific, the Comic Book Workers United. Their statement leads with the following:

For years, comics publishing workers have watched our professional efforts support creators and delight readers. Sadly, we have also watched that same labor be taken for granted at best and exploited at worst. Keeping our heads above water was the new normal before the pandemic and since its onset we have been expected to take on even larger workloads with fewer resources.

Our workforce, and the comic book and publishing industry as a whole, is overtaxed and undervalued. This is detrimental not only to general staff but also to the creators we are paid to serve and the audiences they in turn work to entertain. Our labor is integral to the comic book industry. It requires specialized skills, dedication, and makes quality publishing possible. We love what we do. But loving what you do doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask for improvements to your working conditions. It is with this in mind and with great hope for the future of Image Comics and the comic book industry itself that we announce our intent to form a union and request voluntary recognition. Continue reading “Brainiac on Banjo: At Last!”

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

“I need you, but I hate to see you this way / If I were Superman then we’d fly away / I’d really like to change the world / And save it from the mess it’s in / I’m too weak, I’m so thin / I’d like to fly but I can’t even swim” — Ray Davies, (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman, 1979.

You might have heard the news. It’s been bombarding El Casa de Oro all week, and it’s been blitzing the interwebs to the point where I’m thinking of upgrading my dial-up. But just in case you’ve been away chasing after the Perseverance Rover, I’ll make my journalism teachers happy.

This past weekend, AT&T sold control and most of their ownership of their WarnerMedia division to Discovery Networks, owners of the many, many Discovery “cable” channels, HGTV, the Food Network, TLC, ID, Animal Planet, the Magnolia Network, and the Discovery+ streaming operation. They call this stuff “reality programming” but, as we all know, reality is in the mind of the beholder. As far as I’m concerned, that million-dollar vaccine lottery is the only reality show.

AT&T had only recently bought what they now call WarnerMedia — Warner Bros, CNN, HBO, Cinemax, the Cartoon Network, TCM, TBS, TNT, and a bunch of other stuff. If you can read the six-point type, you’ll discover they own some publishing as well, such as whatever is left of Mad Magazine and the meandering DC comics. Ma Bell went into so much debt to do this deal that, upon reading the report, King Midas reflexively picked his nose.

After acquiring that Denali of debt load, AT&T came down with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. I’m sure the stay-home-or-die principle that governed most thinking humans these past fourteen months did not help one bit, but it wasn’t a very good deal in the first place. After all, what does AT&T know about running the Home Insurance Building of media (sorry; “I.P.”) companies? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?”

Brainiac On Banjo #087: DC — What Goes Around Runs Aground

Brainiac On Banjo #087: DC — What Goes Around Runs Aground

You know she’s Superman’s big sister / Her X-ray eyes see through my silly ways / Superman’s big sister, superior skin and blister / It doesn’t seem surprising nowadays… yeah! – Superman’s Big Sister, written by Ian Dury, 1980.

When the news about DC Comics pulling its stuff from Diamond Distribution broke last week, we here at Pop Culture Squad — meaning reporter/editor/bon vivant Bob Harrison — covered it, as did just about every other relevant outlet. It really is that important, so much so that I’m going to proselytize the poop out of it.

There was a time, oh maybe a decade or two back, when the rumor-mongers were aroused by their own prediction that DC Comics was going to buy Diamond Distributing. Of course, this was back in the days when we had a functioning federal anti-trust department, and before DC was consumed by the AT&T Death Star.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #087: DC — What Goes Around Runs Aground”

Brainiac On Banjo #083: Why Mickey Mouse Only Has Four Fingers

Brainiac On Banjo #083: Why Mickey Mouse Only Has Four Fingers

The Mayor and Corporation / Have declared such jubilation / ‘Cos the stork has brought / A son and daughter / For Mr. and Mrs. Mickey Mouse / Pluto’s giving a party / And before the fun begins / He’ll present a golden dollar / To the father of the twins — Mickey’s Son and Daughter, written by Tommie Conner and Eddie Lisbona, as recorded by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band 1967.

To no one’s surprise, last week The Disney Company “furloughed” 100,000 workers due to ramifications of the coronavirus plague, a move which is supposed to save The House of Mouse some $500,000,000 a month.

As horrific it is to at least 100,000 families, this is understandable. Disney makes movies, but most theaters are closed… for the moment. Disney operates theme parks, which also are closed… for the moment. Their many television operations are doing fine (well, ESPN not so much) because reasonable people are trapped at home.

I suspect their overall advertising revenue might be down some. However, I should note cable teevee revenue is less dependent upon advertising than it is on payments from cable operators, and streaming revenue is not particularly ad-dependent. Still, Uncle Scrooge doesn’t have quite as deep a money bin as he did last New Year’s Day.

You are most likely aware of many of the company’s jewels. To name but a few: the Disney movie and television empires, the Disney theme parks worldwide, ABC television, the Disney Channels (there are several), the Disney Plus streamer, Marvel Comics, Lucasfilm, The Simpsons, Pixar, Disney Radio, the Muppets, Narnia, the Disney Cruise Line, 80% of ESPN, half of A&E, half of Lifetime, 10% of Vice Media, and enough merchandising and licensing operations to warrant a seat at the United Nations Security Council. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #083: Why Mickey Mouse Only Has Four Fingers”

Brainiac On Banjo #081: The Crack of the Whip!

Brainiac On Banjo #081: The Crack of the Whip!

I mean to say that every day Is just another rotten mess / And when it’s gonna change, my friend / Is anybody’s guess / So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’ / Hopin’ for the best / Even think I’ll go to prayin’ / Every time I hear ’em sayin’ / That there’s no way to delay / That trouble comin’ every day • Trouble Every Day, Frank Zappa, 1966

 

People, including your feckless correspondent, have been predicting the death of the 32-page comic book pamphlet for many decades. It’s been an unsustainable model since the late 1950s, and sooner or later it was bound to catch up with reality. Us fans have been copping Sisyphus’s act for six decades.

Well, if you hang on long enough, most predictions kinda come true. This one hasn’t. Not yet.

Premature as they are, there have been conflicting reports as to when comics are going to resume publication and distribution, and how many comics shops are likely to be open – even with curb service. That’s putting the cart before the horse, but the comics racket has taken on the countenance of the buggy whip factory for a long time now. And, yes, they still make buggy whips, but I’ll bet you know far, far more comics readers than buggy owners. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #081: The Crack of the Whip!”

Brainiac On Banjo #079: The Future of Comics?

Brainiac On Banjo #079: The Future of Comics?

In these disease-ridden times, it is quite natural for us to be preoccupied with matters of life, health, and continuity. But it is equally logical to assume that someday this will pass, and most all of us will be around the celebrate.

Well, I hate to be a buzzkill, but on that much anticipated day… that’s when we step into deep pile of fresh economic bat-dung. Lots of people are going to be hurting bad for money – I’m writing this on Sunday, so I can’t check out my retirement fund, and that is a relief. I suspect almost as many are going to be hurting for jobs.

This hurts all of us, but it likely will be devastating to Mom ’n’ Pop stores, cockroach capitalists, and to self-employed folks of all stripes. In other words, I’m talking about the network of maybe a couple thousand (on a good day) comic book stores. Therefore, I’m also talking about the future of the “smaller” comics publishers, their staffs, writers, artists, and the related backroom activities like distributors necessary to keep everything moving. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #079: The Future of Comics?”