Gail Simone: “Have We Given up on the Notion of Publishers Supporting and Building a Comic Book Community?”

Yesterday, comic book creator Gail Simone, who has just announced a new Domino series from Marvel, after not working for the publisher for years, asked a question on Facebook.

She talks about how the letters pages, editorial notes in comics and Bullpen pages created a “line-wide, organic continuity” not just the stories “but about Marvel philosophies and what the creators did for fun.”

“Even the house ads tended to cover a lot of books on a single page, not just the biggest upcoming event.”

An answer might be that Marvel has moved much of that to the web. But there has been an attempt to bring back much of what Gail talked about at Marvel, with the return of FOOM, chattier backmatter and the multi-title ads of Marvel Legacy.

But that’s only a recent innovation. Gail sees the trend in the other direction.

I feel like even before the Internet, we let all of those things go one-by-one. And I think it is even reflected on the Internet now, where there used to be TONS of publisher-specific message boards, now very few such specific boards seem to have any traffic, and those are not publisher sponsored or supported.

She also says

I get that news is difficult to hold for the print dates of actual Comics, with Bleeding Cool out there.

Hello. You know, I don’t know how true that even is. It’s easy to be caught in a bubble, but Kieron Gillen, writer of The Wicked & The Divine series she mentions as creating a community, for example, talks about how so many readers don’t even read the Previews solicit – or any preview at all. They come to every comic fresh and unencumbered. But she continues.

But publishers could certainly hold back exclusive information for a Bullpen Page. Wasn’t it a nice feeling to open your comic and see cool information about upcoming books that you didn’t already know about?

And she also wants a central figure for the publishers, straught to the fans.

We are unlikely to have a Stan Lee figure again, but I really enjoyed hearing Dan DiDio and Joe Quesada run panels and write company columns for the Comics themselves. I feel like having those ambassadors for the publishers made the whole thing feel more fun and welcoming.

Joe and Dan do still do this, but arguably less than before. This kind of thing wasn’t the mode of EIC’s Bob Harras or Axel Alonso, but arguably it is more of a CB Cebulski thing, and with Scott Snyder taking a more senior role, he could fill such a function as well.

 

 

And above all, she calls for the return of the letters page, retooled for the modern medium. Which does still exist in Marvel titles, but is a rarer thing.

Comics twitter and Facebook can be snarky, sarcastic and mean, I have been as guilty as anyone. But I feel like now, when there is so much superhero stuff elsewhere, is a time to make more effort to make comics welcoming and friendly and rebuild the idea of community.

You know what? We’ve been talking about the return of regulated message boards at Bleeding Cool.

You can read hwe whole post here. Reactions have been supportive but varied, including,

Torsten Adair cited Cerebus and Stray Bullets “where the assistant editor actually invoked her Mother Voice to remind fan boys to not act like idiots in print. (And then there were the ongoing discussions in CBG.Whatever became of “Name Withheld”?)”

He was on hand too.

Erik Larsen wrote “Individual Image Comics still have letters pages. I tried as publisher to do an Image page with an editorial and comics stuff but not every book made room for it and the majority of the books themselves aren’t really connected or can be–so crossovers are few and far between. The letters page in Savage Dragon is lively and active and we DO have an Image magazine with news and such–so that’s something. It would be easier for a Marvel or DC to do this as they have shared universes and designated ad space.”

While Lydia White underlined how much has changed.

As a reader, I’m not sure I would participate in such a community in this day and age. I feel like one of the best things about social media is how much closer it brings you to creators you want to follow. I’m not clear on what large scale value there would be for me to engage with “all of Marvel” which includes stuff I hate, like Hydra Cap and fridged Black Widow, when all I want to read is Squirrel Girl, and now, Domino. Marvel of course, doesn’t need to hear about all the stuff I dislike either, no need to share that toxicity… I’m honestly just trying to understand what my user journey would be in such a community and coming up on nothing. I think I’d feel exposed to other readers in uncomfortable ways, because of how awful a lot of us can be…

What are your thoughts?

 

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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