Saturday, May 19, 2007

Week 2 Gameplan

Ah, refreshed from a decent nights' sleep!

So, where are we at as of right now and how do we get to our endgame? Our numbers our down a bit on individual titles. But "The Rise of the Defenders" has gotten some backing from external editorial offices, which says to me that it's good storyline overall and we should play that up, if possible. It also says to me that it'll be something of a rising tide as those X-fans who want the whole story give a boost to FF and SheHulk. That further means we can carry some of that momentum to Balance of Power and kick that series off with more of a bang.

"Rise of the Defenders" crossover -- We're fortunate at the moment that all the crossover titles have pretty stable creative teams, so we just need to make sure that everyone's on the same page about which overarching story beats hit when. Mike, you're coordinating this, right? I'm thinking you need to establish and distribute a chart (not for real; this would be one of your "moves") that shows when all the books are expected to ship, who's working on them, and what the significant story beats are. That needs to go to not only the editors, but all the creators involved. Everyone needs to know where everyone else is on the map.

That said, though, we also don't want to trap ourselves by trying to OVER-schedule this. We saw what happened when one of the "Civil War" books shipped late, so let's avoid the domino problem by trying to make the individual titles A) self-contained enough that they're not entirely dependent on each other and B) not so mutually exclusive that they seem entirely tangental to the overall story. (Yeah, I know. Easier said than done.) This should actually be relatively easy given the outline. We focus each title on Namor and the respective Defenders recuit and simply don't make reference to what the specific status is of what Namor is doing with the other recruits. That gives us a more flexible schedule AND can allow for folks like Reg Hudlin to write his BP issues however he wants.

So, Mike, you coordinate that and handle any specific issues on Uncanny. Phil, you've obviously got FF and SheHulk.

The other thing we need to do is promote this. I'm happy to get inhouse ads going with whatever artwork we've got in for this. Obviously, it'll reference all the books this runs through. (Simply checklist, I suppose, underneath the fabulously cool artwork.) I hinted yesterday at a tag line to try to tie this with Balance of Power. I'm open to catchy suggestions.

I'd also like to see some marketing... something that we can distribute to comic shops. I remember the old "Acts of Vengeance" story had the Taskmaster's business cards as a promo -- looked like a business card/ad for Taskmaster's school of villainy (or whatever it was called) and the back was a checklist of all the crossover books. Heroes Reborn: The Return had foam boomerangs, but those didn't listed titles or issues. I think something gimmicky that has a fairly high degree of relevance to the storyline would be fun, but in lieu of that, we could simply go with promo posters or something. Phil, you know the storyline better than the rest of us -- what might make sense? (Keep in mind, too, that cheaper and faster is better here.)

See if you guys can arrange interviews with the standard outlets. Mike, I know you've already had some dealings with Wizard. Let's see if we can tap some podcasts and venues other than print mags and web sites. One of my EIC Moves this morning was to write a historical piece on the old Defenders for Mike Eury's Back Issue to put the name out in the public conscious, as it were. So don't limit yourselves to "Hey, we've got this cool crossover coming up" things alone.

Balance of Power -- We need to make sure this book gets out before the sim ends. Otherwise, I don't see us hitting that 504,000 mark. The two concerns on the table at the moment are 1) we don't have a writer (JMS is still pending) and 2) concerns about Cheung's speed.

I'm inclined to ignore the speed thing with Cheung. We're not going to get through the whole series within the timeframe of the sim, so I'm tempted to just look at the short term prospect on that. Maybe as a compromise, Phil, you can get covers done by someone else?

We obviously need to nail down a writer. I'd suggest calling JMS in your next move and saying (politely) that we need a decision now. If he can't do it, no hard feelings. But we move on to someone else. You originally had Slott then McDuffie slated on your want list -- unless you're absolutely married to that, I would switch those with the news that Slott's being eyeballed by BigMoney. Personally, I like Slott's work a little more, but I don't want to gamble on a limited series any more than I need to.

I'd also like to throw one more book into the mix. This should be fairly easy, though. The Balanace of Power Atlas. Or 'guidebook' or whatever. Basically, though, a modern Handbook style piece that touches on the main players/locations in the story. I'm thinking most of this is going to be stuff that's already been written for existing Handbooks: bios of the main players; maps of Wakanda, Latveria, etc; maybe a summary/review of the old Super-Villain Team-Up books; that kind of thing? But most of it should be existing material to speed up the process. You'll need to coordinate with the Handbook editor on this.

The sooner we can get this nailed down, the sooner we can get marketing materials together. This is an outgrowth of "Rise of the Defenders", so we could use art from that, but I'd prefer, honestly, working a little backwards here and using Balance of Power art to promote "Rise of the Defenders." Don't know if we can do that, though, given the timeframe.

We'll also need to nail down a schedule/timeline/roadmap for BoPo and the associated titles the same as what I asked Mike to do for "RotD." It won't have a big impact on our sim, but I think it should be out there as one less thing Tom can throw at us at the last minute.

Spider-Man - No, I'm not ignoring you, Pat. :) It looks like Amazing is in decent shape at the moment, and I'm hoping that with Fraction and JRJr, we can get a bump in sales there. Since we're a little behind the game on Spectacular, creative-wise, you'll need to keep some close tabs on Pelletier at least initially until he gets in full swing.

Fraction's asked about Venom. I think we should keep him happy since he's one of our "could leave for BigMoney" folks, so I'd be inclined to say using Venom is okay. Obviously, though, you'll want to establish that A) Venom comes out effectively unchanged so his story won't contradict Michelinie's and B) that Venom isn't getting over-exposed between the two stories. As I recall your Spectacular outline, Venom is more of an undercurrent to the story until the last half? Maybe if Fraction's Venom story is short enough, then it won't be a significant issue. You might want to call him to discuss how extensive his plans are.

I might also suggest that Venom does NOT appear on every cover -- although splitting Venom's cover appearances between both titles might suggest that there's a crossover happening and result in bumped sales. Not a solution I'd be keen on for the long term, but we know we done have a long term! :)

Back-Up -- Yeah, I know. I've been harping you guys to have back-ups for everything. I have an idea that might solve for that, though, and I'd like Pat to tackle this since Mike and Phil are already booked with crossover material.

What I'd like to have is a 18-19 page story featuring Spidey, Wolverine, Thing and She-Hulk. It should be set sometime in the past and feature the four characters relatively equally. Either no villain or someone who's not really tied to any of the above characters. Maybe it could focus on or springboard out of Thing's poker games, to at least give them a reason to all be together.

The basic idea I'm shooting for here is to have a story done and ready to go that can drop into ANY of your books if things are running late. We add a page or two on either end from the current creative team and set up the story as a flashback so as not to interrupt continuity, but we still get a book shipped on time.

My one concern here is that this would theoretically be a change from the original solicitation and therefore become returnable. I'm going to talk to marketing and legal to see how we might weasel through this since A) the originally solicited creators would still be contributing to the issue and B) if we could have that portion reference the solicited story, would that also qualify in circumventing the change?

So, Pat, can you line up some talent on something like this? Obviously, we don't want to worry about big names, so I suggest looking at the small press folks who've never really worked at Marvel or DC before.

X-Men -- Mike, I thinkUncanny is in pretty good shape. Maybe deserves a call to Weinberg for warm fuzzies and making sure he's writing the stories he wants to. We covered that already. Other outstanding questions here -- I would suggest following marketing's suggestion on the 50/50 Sudyam variant cover; as for Turner's, can we line that up with the release BoPo #1? Or is that when #500 is set to ship?

On Wolverine, you've also got a little room for Brubaker with the Lanpham/Gaydos issue, right? Does he know you've given some leeway with that already? Again, given the sim, I'd be inclined to put Wolverine as a priority over Captain America but I'm sure Tom'll find a way to have that bite us in the tookus. If we need another Lanpham/Gaydos issue, I'm not opposed to it, but I hate to put off Brubaker's debut here. At the same time, I don't want to piss him off or force him to do inferior work. Talk to Brubaker and see how much time he needs. In your post to Tom, I suggest putting a lot of if/thens in place to cover your bases depending on Brubaker's response.

Fantastic Four -- Phil, I think giving "RotD" scheduling to Mike should help with scheduling issues on your end. Follow his lead to coordinate those titles accordingly. This is going to be tricky since we're looking at FF tying in with multiple stories towards the end of the sim. The softball issue, I'd bet, is going to come close to the wire, so make an extra effort to keep Deodato on schedule and make sure he gets Slott's revisions ASAP.

I'll back you up on paying Slott for the rewrites. I that was sort of a one-off problem, and Dan's got other irons in the fire. In paying him, I'd suggest being extra nice, "won't happen again", etc. Obviously, we want to keep him around.

Regarding the She-Hulk cover, I suggest seeing if you can get Paul Ryan to do it. Hopefully, not a huge deal for his schedule and will tie into the book's interior.

end notes -- Whew! That took longer than I expected. Sorry for that.

I think I hit everything that needs to be hit. I want us to do well collectively, and so my suggestions here are all based on what I think is going to work best, but I'm not omniscient, so if I've not considered something or you think I haven't thought threw certain aspects of things, let me know.


Philip Schaeffer said...

I've been reading over your shoulder, so my comments come fast and furious.

Skim if you would my possible FF post for day 4 from yesterday. I address several of the specifics therein, pretty much exactly how you suggest to here.

One thing that I also want to do, and this is probably something you should be in on, is set up a Defenders/Balance group meeting with Reggie, Dan, Dwayne, Robert, JMS and all relevant editors to beat out the story and tie-ins etc. That will go a long way against claims of our dictating stories from the editorial desk.

And I'm okay with dropping Cheung.

Tag line: “And, lo, after the RISE OF THE DEFENDERS… there shall come a new BALANCE OF POWER!”

Something along those lines, in an in house ad. I suppose we should also do, once creative teams are locked etc., several big newsarama interviews, maybe Wizard. As a promotion for Rise of the Defenders and Balance of Power (this is so they’re even more inexorably linked in the minds of consumers), I can't think of any unconventional item that would be appropriate (maybe a dust mask); perhaps those stupid livestrong style bracelets? I'd almost be inclined to just do a poster, but that's cause I can't think of anything better.

The Rise of the Defenders crossover... I agree it shouldn't be too continuous so we avoid shipping problems. Also, is the following too irritating a title for the crossover:

Quid Custodiet Ipsos Custodes (or just say it in English, Who Watches the Watchmen?)

That's what this story is about, after all, a new group of "heroes" who claim that they want to make sure the other heroes aren't getting out of line.

We could also just title those issues Rise of the Defenders, but I'd prefer for that to be the banner ala Road to Civil War. After all, Uncanny's got that banner and it's not a crossover (or is it...)

Sean, on Rise, am I reading this right, you don't necessarily want it to have the numbers carrying through different books so we alleviate the possibility of schedule conflicts; instead we should maybe subtitle each one?

Patrick Cook said...

The Venom factor:

Sean, here's where I was planning to go today with this on Fraction and Venom. Absolutely, if Fraction's got some designs on where he'd like to go with Venom, this is something I'm going to honor with a couple of caveats:
1) Michelinie is giving me a 12-issue arc that's really going to focus on two underlying threads of story: the crash of the Bugle, and its assume subsequent renewal, and the return of Eddie Brock to the the Venom symbiote. Michelinie's got some good ideas on his roadmap for the 12 issues and I'm letting him run with it. But that means the Brock/symbiote reunion is his to tell.
2) So that being said, Fraction can absolutely use him, but he's got to wait until at least six issues deep into his run. By that time, David will have accomplished at least part of what he's shooting for. So with that, Fraction can absolutely use Venom, provided he's got Eddie Brock under the black. We don't want to confuse fans who are following all of the titles.
Sean, this also requires some coordination on our part with Molly over on T-Bolts. Absolutely, Venom can stay put there. Any conflicts about who's with the symbiote can be resolved with a footnote that this story takes place before recent events in Spectacular Spider-Man. But when all is said and done on Spectacular's end, T-Bolts can have Venom back to run free and wreak havoc, provided they've recognized his personality change.
I don't want to hijack your thread completely, so I'm going to post more Spider-plans in a separate Spider-office link. But I'll be back here to discuss the week two plans moving forward.

Patrick Cook said...

Sean, I'm on the backup. Got a couple of ideas kicking around, and will post later....

Patrick Cook said...


Sorry, Sean, just remembered - to follow on a previous thread, are you planning to post a bogus Sean Saturdays, and if so, do you need some help? I've got a little time and can help crank out a portion of the Q and A if you want....

Michael Heide said...

About Rise of the Defenders:

This is not a second crossover. It's setting the stage for Balance of Power. It's not a prequel per se, it shows that Balance of Power grows organically out of the different books all across our line. I think Philip has planned to do RotD issues, Uncanny will have two.

About that Turner variant cover:

This has been a misunderstanding. Michael Turner does not create a variant cover for use on UNCANNY X-MEN. He is doing a WOLVERINE cover for Wizard. Ben told me that we could get a cover presence. Since that would create awareness of Ed Brubaker coming aboard, I think it's vital that this turns out nicely. And the actual Wolverine article will have a sidebar explaining Chronomancer's attack in UNCANNY X-MEN, so that book should profit from that as well. And with the RotD issues in UNCANNY X-MEN coming up, we can hopefully carry readers from UXM to BofPow.

The Tagline:

How about "When the new Defenders rise, the BALANCE OF POWER shifts..."?

Just a suggestion. I think we should all brainstorm on this, so we have enough suggestions to choose from.

"Who watches the Watchmen" is too closely associated with Alan Moore, so I won't go in that direction. We won't compare this to Watchmen. We can only come off bad.

Promotion giveaways

I don't want to rip off DC's Countdown campaign. But combining the button approach with the "Whose side are you on" campaign for Civil War, we could have customers showing their affiliation with the Defenders or the Initiative. Alternatively, we could hand out wristbands (might be too expensive, I'm afraid)?

Philip Schaeffer said...

I had the exact same idea for a tagline, Mike, but I don't like that one because it ends on the word "shift" instead of the title. You're right, we should keep throwing it around until something clicks/pops/boogies.

And I never intended to suggest we title anything "Who watches the watchmen?" I've not yet gone completely insane. I was saying we either use the original Latin quote from Juvenal or use a different translation of the phrase, one that evokes no thoughts of Moore (Who will police the police doesn't have the right ring to it but is the correct idea).

Buttons aren't a bad idea. Wristbands don't make a ton of sense to the story but I thought of them myself in the form of livestrong bracelets which are extremely cheap. We could have reversible ones made with different colors on each side reading DEFENDER on one side and AVENGER on the other.

Michael Heide said...

Sounds great.

Sean Kleefeld said...

On Rise -- I'm thinking all the books should carry a "Rise of Defenders" banner/masthead/logo/whatver but I don't think the stories should be so closely linked that reading Uncanny predisposes the reader to information over in Fantastic Four. (Or whatever.) So, in that sense, no, we won't have a "Rise of the Defenders, Chapter 1." Instead you'd have individual story titles (or, if you prefer, a single title for the whole arc as it pertains to one book) that simply falls under the "Rise of the Defenders" banner.

Meeting to get all the creators & editors together is good, but I don't know if it's realistic. Might have to be a conference call or internet chat since not everyone is in NYC. Got to be quick, though, with a follow-up afterwards, as I said, with a roadmap/beat-chart for everyone. Mike, you're handling scheduling here.

Mike, also, since Phil's handling Balance, I want you to take the Atlas (or Guide or whatever). Don't think I clarified that earlier. Again, coordinate with the Handbook editor so he doesn't feel like something got jerked out of his hands.

Given the timeline, and the buzz I'd like to generate, I'm thinking our promo stuff is going to have to be along the posters-for-shops line. I'll either need promo art, or a really easy/iconic idea that the on-staff art dept. guys can throw together in an afternoon.

RE: Cheung -- I'm okay with keeping Cheung, like I said, given the constraints of the sim. We really only need the first, maybe first two, issues from him on time. Might be helped a bit with a different cover artist. (Dell'Otto? Anacleto?) My concern with switching is in getting someone else lined up. Remember, we still don't have JMS 100% on board yet!

Turner cover: sorry about the confusion. My bad.

Pat, just because I don't think I made myself very clear this morning... on that back-up issue idea? I need you to locate/line up talent, but don't have them do anything until/unless I get an all-clear from marketing and legal.

Michael Heide said...

> Turner cover: sorry about the
> confusion. My bad.

Obviously my bad, since Tom thought I was talking about an UNCANNY X-MEN variant as well...

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