Saturday, May 19, 2007

Balance of Power Brainstorm

Just pulling out some 'balance of power' quotes to get some ideas flowing...

"There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized peace."
-- Woodrow T. Wilson

"In almost every country there are elements of opinion which would welcome such a conclusion because they wish to return to the politics of the balance of power, unrestricted and unregulated armaments, international anarchy, and preparation for war."
-- Arthur Henderson

"If this phrase of the 'balance of power' is to be always an argument for war, the pretext for war will never be wanting, and peace can never be secure."
-- John Bright

"Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah to 'undo the heavy burdens...(and) let the oppressed go free.' And if a beachhead of co-operation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved."
-- John F. Kennedy

"I don't believe, in the 21st century, in the balance of power system. This is a European idea of the 19th and 20th centuries."
-- Joschka Fischer

"From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength."
-- Winston Churchill

"The stakes for America's democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized. These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation."
-- Al Gore

"The balance of power in a society accompanies the balance of property in land."
-- John Adams

"The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world not destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside ... Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them ... the weak will become prey to the strong."
-- Thomas Paine

"Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people."
-- Thomas Jefferson

Do you need me today?

I've got to go to work now. Do you need me to come online afterwards (around 7pm NY time)? Or is it okay if I wait until tomorrow?

Spider-office weekend updates

Sean and folks,

Wanted to give you a few updates from my end, on where we're going over in this tangled web.
Obviously, I've read LITG, as well as the communciations we've all been firing back and forth here in our brain trust corner of the internet.

Sean, I specifically wanted to pull you into what we've got on the horizon. I'd also like to accomodate some of your other requests/wishes as we're webslinging forward.

As I mentioned in another thread's response, I'm planning to honor Fraction's request to use Venom in his run, but only after Michelinie restores some of the status quo over there. As you know, the first six issues that Michelinie has committed to has been called the Fall of the Bugle. Basically, we're showing what's gone on at the Daily Bugle ever since some of the Marvel Universe-changing events of late. A supporting character in this series is going to be Eddie Brock, who by the sixth issue of Michelinie and Pelletier's run will have reclaimed his symbiote. As soon as that arc has ended, Venom is back up for grabs for whoever wants him, and that includes his continued use over in T-Bolts. Michelinie's second arc is being called Back in Brock, and will be taking a closer look at the symbiote's relationship not only with Brock, but with all those he has "partnered" with over the years, particularly Peter Parker. I'm not going into great detail here, but essentially, the symbiote's having his own separation anxieties which would be akin to our version of cancer, and unless he reunites with each of his previous hosts, he's heading for the Marvel Book of the Dead. Speaking of which, I'm trying to help Michelinie research everyone's who bonded with the symbiote during the time David's been away from the title. Anyone who has any feedback there, it's appreciated.

For Fraction and Romita, Matt had said he wanted to do what appeared to be a series of "Done in One" stories. Actually, as folks are going to realize, there's a pair of underlying stories there, though each issue can be read initially as a standalone. There's a countdown -insert apologies to the Distinguished Competition here - taking place that will reunite Fraction's version of the new Sinister Six. This will give Romita Jr. a chance to go to town with some of fandom's favorite Spider-baddies. Playing out behind the scenes, though, is the discovery of a letter written by Peter's deceased dad, former SHIELD agent Richard Parker. The reveal on that one doesn't some until later in the arc, so we're trying to keep a tight lid on that now.

But what I'm going to most need for support for help from above is this summer's 45th anniversary of Spider-Man. As all of us know, he made his debut in August, 1962, so I'm going to be using Jazzy John Romita Sr.'s variant cover for a special 45th anniversary issue that Matt is already furiously penning.

I'm hoping for some serious in-house ads to help bump this one, as well as some comic shops promos.

Fraction has indicated he's itching to get out there and do some interviews, and I'm willing to let him run. He's really pumped about our offer of exclusivity, as well as the generous offer to allow him to continue his already-established indy titles. But he's also looking to hit the interview circuit, and I'm all game for that. Sean, you want me to run that process through you or just take it and run with it?

For everything else, I'll post in the appropriate entries elsewhere.

Paranoid Raving

Sean, I noticed you posted your EIC Moves Part 1 on Simulation Extra Page, not the day 4 page.


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.

Two things.

1.: I think I know where all this "dictating the plot" stems from. We went at it the wrong way. When we came up with directions for the book, we should have stayed mum about the actual stories. Then, after we got our writers approved, we could have knocked ourselves out writing the fictional solicitations. Of course it looks as if we're dictating the plots! The plots were around before the writers were!

2.: About Balance of Power. I was at my LCS yesterday. I mentioned this simulation to the clerk and told him a few of our plans. When I came to Balance of Power, he suggested that we tie in the Eternals somehow. I think that's a nice idea. With John Romita jr. on Amazing Spider-Man, maybe Patrick should ask Matt Fraction if he likes to write the Eternals into an upcoming issue of ASM.