Friday, May 18, 2007

Advice from the EIC

An hour ago, I started a post that was going to address the LitG thing on a point-by-point basis... what we should take away from each of the notes and whether it would be worth acting on them and whatever. But since I had to take the dog for a walk anyway, I set the post aside and was able to really put some thought into things without any real distractions.

And I think I have a semblance of a game-plan for next week. I'll start work on it tonight, but probably won't finish it until tomorrow morning.

Until then, I'll just hit this overview of the LitG. He only has one "green" (i.e. reasonably confirmed) story: BigMoney. And we already knew about that from Tom. Everything else is amber (i.e. "the likelihood isn't set") or red (i.e. "I can't quite bring myself to believe it"). I'll also repost part of his introduction from every LitG to help put things in perspective: "Lying In The Gutters is for your entertainment. Neither Fair Nor Balanced."

So, a call to Weinberg may be in order, but don't grovel about it. Say you're sorry, and you're happy to let him write the stories. Everything else is essentially just a distraction.

This evening's been great for me because I've been able to step back for the first time to see where we're at. I'll admit that I was concerned this morning when I saw the numbers Tom posted (in part because I looked at the total and forgot that Amazing didn't ship). But looking at things from a 20,000 foot view, it looks to me like we're on the right path. Not that it's going to be easy, mind you, but I think there's a decent chance that we can just about nail that 504,000 mark. We just need to concentrate and keep our focus.

Okay, that's my pep talk for the week. Check back tomorrow for our master plan.

A few thoughts

1.: Robert Weinberg deserves an apology.

I never meant to dictate my plots to him. So my first step this weekend is calling him, or even better, meeting him over dinner (I pay out of my own pocket, of course).
I apologize for the misunderstanding. And I try to figure out what I can do to amend things. The creative team of Robert and Adrian (and Marko) is really important to me. They were my first choice, because I think that they are the best creators for this book right now.
I guess at this time it's too late to cancel the "Rise of the Defenders" tie-ins. But I want to make sure that he's free to come up with what he wants (within reasonable terms. Flattening Wolverine with a whale is out of the question) after those two issues. Since Adrian will probably need one other fill-in issue this year, I will listen to Robert when picking that artist.
While Arthur Suydam's variant cover for #500 has already been approved by marketing, I haven't told Arthur what I want (I was thinking about Nightcrawler burning in hell, but I haven't told him yet). I'd appreciate Robert's input on this.
If he's really uncomfortable with me editing the book, I will offer to hand it to another editor. If he wants to step down from the book, I could understand. But if he gives me one more chance, I'll try to do my job better.

2.: Sort out the Wizard scheduling mess.

I got the impression that the relationship between the X-Men office and Wizard (especially Ben Morse) worked perfectly. But now, issue 489 of UNCANNY X-MEN has already shipped, Ed Brubaker's first issue of WOLVERINE will probably ship on Monday, and yet Wizard hasn't run the First Look articles yet. I'll take full responsibility for this. And I'll obviously have to do something. The only thing I can offer at this point is exclusive material about BALANCE OF POWER. But I want to make sure that the timing is better than last time.

3.: The reemergence of the Marvel/DC crossovers.

Provided that UNCANNY X-MEN stays in my office (see point 1), I'd love to do an UNCANNY X-MEN/Justice League of America crossover. Sean, could you contact the appropriate editors down the street and negotiate the terms? Who will publish this thing? Who will appoint the creative team?

Another thing that we owe the fans is the DAREDEVIL/Batman crossover by Bendis and Maleev. Daredevil is in Warren Simons' office, so the three of us probably won't have anything to do with this. But still, this should be done.


I don't want to fall into the same trap I did with UNCANNY X-MEN, so I'll scrap the whole plot. Still, I'd love to put something like this on the stands. Sean, could you ask the current MAX editor (Stuart Moore? Nick Lowe? It's been a while since I last bought a MAX comic) what it would take to get this running?


Again, we have come up with most of the plot for tis thing. If we get Joe Straczynski for this, how can we know that he won't complain about us dictating the book for him? Should we start from scratch and take vague description and vacant solicitations for granted? But if we do, how can we make sure that this sells?
Darn, I should have interned at Marvel before volunteering for this thing...

OK, Folks, Breathe...

How the heck did we get half-way through this already? Where did the past week go? Seriously, I barely remember getting started!

I'm going to take at least a few more hours to absorb the past day or two particularly. I don't think we're doing TOO badly -- despite some disappointing numbers so far -- so I'm not thinking we need to do any major course-corrections, just try to laser-focus our individual efforts. If we want to actually hit that 504,000, we should try to plan next week a little more carefully.

Saying that, though, would imply we planned this past week! :)

More later...

X-Men Group Editor, Day 4 - Revised edition

Sorry, having computer problems here. I'll get back to this around 7. Since we have time until Sunday, I hope that's okay.

Wacker is on board as well!

Check this out...


That's very cool of Rich to write up a rumor-mill for the simulation.

The question is: how much of what he says is influenced by hints Tom's given him about where things are actually going?

Example, if we lose Dan Slott, I'm not going to be too broken up about it. There have already been problems with his transition to FF. I really wish I could've kept him on She-Hulk.

But the Green-Light Wackerjack section indicates that we (and by that Rich probably means me) have been way too hands-on storywise of late and that a mass writer's exodus, at least of the guys working on my books, may be looming. That would be something of a problem, though I'll point out that last simulation Tom had to coax his guys into providing story information, so you're always either doing too much or not enough.

However, the possibility of a DC Marvel crossover is kind of intriguing...

Rich Johnston's Playing Too!

This is going to cause all sorts of crap for me/us but I laughed out loud with the Lying in the Gutters installment Tom just posted! Just remember that I told you to lay off the "whale dropping on Spidey" idea! :)

Seriously, though... keep some perspective on things when you read it. Since we've got until Sunday to post our next moves, I'm going to reflect on the actual implications of this kind of thing before posting any serious reactions here.

Clarification From Tom

I e-mailed Tom for a quick clarification. He verified that our next moves are not due until Sunday at 8:00 pm.

He also made a cryptic comment about "one more piece coming a little later today."

My steps for today.


> Michael Turner can do your UNCANNY X-MEN cover.
> But since you've solicited your first issue with Marko, and
> you're trying to get Suydam for the variant on #500, where
> do you want to use it?

It's a WOLVERINE cover, not an UNCANNY X-MEN cover. And it's for Ben, for the Wizard issue featuring the Brubaker on WOLVERINE interview.

> Robert Weinberg isn't opposed to the storyline you discussed.
> He's just not confident that he can make it all work to maximum
> effectiveness if he's writing issues out of sequence--especially if
> he also now has to factor in a tie-in to the FANTASTIC FOUR
> crossover. Robert offhandedly mentions that he remembers a time
> when the other books would follow what happened in X-MEN, not
> the other way around.You should be able to get a variant cover to
> UNCANNY X-MEN #500, but the sales department doesn't think
> that 90/10 is necessarily the best split in this instance. They'd prefer
> to do a straight-up 50/50 split.Brubaker and Perkins have started
> work on WOLVERINE.David Lapham and Michael Gaydos are both
> down with doing an evergreen WOLVERINE story to hold for use
> as a stopgap.

Step 1:
I politely tell Robert that this crossover isn't just centered around the FANTASTIC FOUR. This crossover shows the complete Marvel universe, and I think it's a nice opportunity to put the spotlight on UNCANNY X-MEN. Besides, it lets us use Dr. Doom later on in the run.

Step 2:
I go with the 50/50 split. I tell Arthur that I'd love to have a three-fingered skeleton with fangs in a Nightcrawler costume, burning in Effigy. With his Marvel Zombies covers in mind, he should be the best fit for this.

Step 3:
I prefer to get Ed started as soon as possible. We will shuffle the Lapham issue in when necessary, but probably between Ed's single issues and his first longer running storyline.

Step 4:
I refer Ed to Ben Morse for the interview. And I'd like to include a couple of pages and sketches by Mike Perkins to go alongside the interview.

Four - Day, not Fantastic

So Tom's up with his marching orders. A quick perusal and some quick overall thoughts:

Sean, not sure if Byrne shut the door completely, can't quite read that, but we need to move forward with Pelletier. (From the feedback, it sounds like Byrne doesn't care for the way you treated him. I think that's fixable, but you've got a ton on your plate, so I understand if this gets bumped.)
On exclusives: I have no problem letting Fraction continuing his ALREADY-ESTABLISHED creator owned projects that are out there. It's the new workload above and beyond current capacity that is my concern on him getting Amazing out on time. The Vaughn feedback is a concern.
On the comic book pack-ins with the FF movie: since this is a decision made by FOX, I think it's worth the discussion to have, with an understanding of the bottom line on both parts. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility, but if it looks like it would be too cumbersome on our end and would end up losing us $$$, obviously, it's a no go.
I'd walk softly on the TPB subscriptions. We don't want to alienate our bookstore partners on this.
Watch that red flag on the back-to-back crossovers. I think we need to pay some heed to the VP on that one.
Philip, run with the Black Panther inclusion!
Sean, while we're getting the thumbs down for inclusion in DVD packages for the Spider-Man film release, here's a wild thought - what about a spinner rack of our mainstream, all ages titles, in partnership with Best Buy? Think X-Men, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spider-Man, Runaways in a small rack alongside a specially created DVD display that could show the gamut of Marvel flicks!
Here comes Big Money. We knew that was on the way.
In my case, I've articulated above on keeping Fraction plugged in. Fan reax has been positive, and I think he's going to ignite some momentum on Amazing.


Is this stuff due today or Sunday?

Apologize to Dan for forcing the re-write; check with the powers-that-be about getting him some additional payment for the new story (and hang onto the softball stuff he's already written for possible use at a later date so it's not money burned). Ask Dan if he'd like to take off the Rise of the Defenders issues for breathing room; if so, offer them to Reggie. Inform Reggie that T'Challa is an integral part of Defenders/Balance of Power and that his input is equally integral. Also, ask Paul Ryan if he'd do a retro She-Hulk cover to fill-in for Amanda, and see if anybody else thinks they’ll need a fill-in or breather in the coming months.

Put together a Defenders/Balance meeting with Reggie, Dan, Dwayne, Robert and JMS (after we've put the ideas to the room maybe he’ll take the job). With Cheung too slow/leaning toward Big Money, I'm still inclined to move Deodato over from FF (replaced by Jimenez, Pelletier or McGuinness), so Balance is a natural extension of Rise of the Defenders, or ask Finch or Jimenez. Speaking of Defenders/Balance, let EIC and VP-Ops know that, while we view this as a single crossover, we're willing to do whatever it takes to best ensure the story ships smoothly and timely as one continuous unit.

Balance Story Points EIC requested I share with JMS to see how he feels about:

1. Doom and Reed both observed seismic data indicating the massive tectonic shift was imminent--Reed misinterpreted it but Doom didn’t and planned accordingly.

2. She-Hulk joins the FF midway through Balance and its tie-ins, replacing Sue. Sue feels that Reed is no longer the man she married, that he’s emotionally defective and too certain of his abilities, and that their love is not enough. She is worried about her children growing up with such a man as a role model, as well as for their safety in perilous New York, so she accepts Namor's invitation and takes her children to stay with Namor in Atlantis. Though she doesn’t love him, his recent heroic conduct causes her to consider marrying him, believing her children will have a better life and that she can do the most good as a Defender.

3. Black Panther is the voice of reason for the Defenders; as long as he has influence over Namor, the Defenders act with dignity and grace. T’challa is busy battling the exposed-to-still-be-a-bad-guy Magneto later in the series, when a Defenders aid patrol to Cuba enters American waters and is destroyed by an Initiative hero. Doom convinces Namor Reed’s to blame; Namor oversteps, sends an attack force to American soil to kill Reed, but he is stopped by Sue, who realizes that her love for Reed actually is all that matters. Namor, heartbroken, disappears into the rubble of Manhattan, and Doom and T'Challa move into a dual leadership position of the now not-quite-so beloved Defenders.

A few important story points on Balance that the EIC requested I share. Check with JMS to see how he feels about:

1. Doom and Reed both observed seismic data that indicated the massive tectonic shift was imminent--Reed misinterpreted it and Doom got it right and planned accordingly.

2. She-Hulk will be joining the FF midway through Balance and its tie-ins, replacing Sue. Sue feels that Reed is no longer the man she married, that he has grown emotionally defective and dangerously competent in his abilities and even though they still love one another very much, that that isn't enough. She is worried about her children growing up with such a man as a role model, as well as for their safety in perilous New York, so she accepts Namor's invitation and takes her children to stay with Namor in Atlantis. Though she does not love him, in light of his recent conduct and heroism, she strongly considers accepting his wedding proposal in the belief that her children will lead a better life among the Defenders and that she can do the most good among their company.

3. Black Panther is the voice of reason for the Defenders; as long as he has influence over Namor, the Defenders act with dignity and grace. He is busy battling the exposed-to-still-be-a-bad-guy Magneto later in the series, which is how Doom (who is trying to act with the world's best interests in mind) manages to convince Namor that Reed must be killed for the world to be safe after some overzealous Initiative operatives under Reed's direct command kill a Defenders patrol on its way to Cuba, when the Americans declare the Defenders to be entering their waters. Namor oversteps his bounds and sends an attack force to American soil to kill Reed, but he is stopped by Sue, who realizes that her love for Reed actually is all that matters. Namor, hurt beyond words, disappears into the rubble of Manhattan, and Doom and T'Challa move into a dual leadership position of the now not quite so beloved Defenders.

X-Men Group Editor: Day 4

Okay, I'm starting to get the hang of this. But like I said yesterday, I'm pretty busy today. And Tom still hasn't posted the sit rep for Day 4.

All I can do right now is post the solicitations for my second issues. I'll try to visit a cybercafé around 3pm and read Tom's post. Then I'll be back around 7pm to post my moves.


Written by Ed Brubaker, art by Michael Perkins, cover by Dave Johnson.

"Rock Bottom". Wolverine is joined by the fan-favorite team of Ed Brubaker and Michael Perkins!
After the shocking events of Uncanny X-Men #489, Logan has fallen off the wagon. Sitting in a bar, trying to forget all the friends he lost over the decades, he is approached by a mysterious woman. This stand-alone story is planting the seeds for the next year of stories. From the writer that brought you the return of Bucky and the death of Captain America!

32 pages, $2.99. in stores on September 12.


Written by Robert Weinberg, pencils by Adrian Alphona, cover by Marko Djurdjevic.

"Status Quo Vadis", part 1 of 2. How will the X-Men deal with the fallout from the blow dealt last issue? Crawling from the wreckage, can they recover in time to face the woman known as... Dark Mother?

"Bob Weinberg is one of the greatest comic book writers of all time" -- Dean Koontz.

32 pages, $2.99, in stores on September 26.

Morning Quick Hit

I forgot to answer to one of pat's points last nite...

The collective goal for us, as tom originally put it, was an increase in OVERALL sales. There's different ways of doing that obviously and I think that there's no reason we can't try several simultaneously. (Although, we don't want to dilute ourselves too much!)

Mini-Goal #1 -- Increase sales on existing books. WE've already got a base of (whatever number that was) so let's not just discard that. 200,000 x-fans can't be wrong, as it were. :) So for that we should put good creators on books and tell the best stories we can.

Mini-Goal #2 -- Increase brand awareness to increase overall Marvel sales. As i see it, that's more my job. This is marketing efforts and trying out new things company-wide. That's not to say you guys can't do marketing efforts on your own, mind you, but your marketing efforts would be focused more at the line/title level while I'm need to look atthe corporate level.

Mini-Goal #3 -- Add new sales by introducing new products. That's where things like BoP come in. Can we put out something new that will give us an additional bump in overall sales. Will the guy who's already buying Uncanny, Wolverine, Amazing, Spectaclar, FF, and ShehUlk ALSO buy BOP? There's a finite limit here, certainly, since we're drawing on the same pocket books and wallets. So we don't want to flood the market with new material, but this is definitely a tactic to bring in more revenue. Bear in mind, tho, that we need to do what we can to ensure that we don't lose sight of Mini-Goal #1 either. You stop paying attention to that in favor of #3, and your 200,000 x-fans are going to become 200,000 ex-x-fans!

Let me point out also that we're here to benefit each other. If Phil comes up with a great Spidey idea that you want to try, Pat, pick up the ball and see what you can do with it. If Mike comes up with a great corporate marketing opportunity, it's my job to pick that up and run with that. Mike had an interesting idea for a MAX book and we're going to lob that over to the MAX editor. Even if that doesn't come back to him, it could still benefit the bottom line so wer'e still all ahead,