Marketing Weirdness and Why a ‘Smallville’ Digital Comic Might Be Really Good
My recent purchase of a Nook Tablet (and waiting for the xda developer people to hack the stupid thing so I can access the entire Android Market) has gotten me more excited than ever at the prospect of digital comics.
And my enthusiasm got jacked up a little more with the Marvel’s announcement at South By Southwest (oh yeah, apparently Marvel Comics makes announcements at SXSW now) that they were kicking off a new digital comics initiative, starting with a weekly series by TQP favorites Mark Waid and Stuart (Nextwave) Immonen.
Waid’s been particularly vocal about revamping the idea of “webcomics,” in particular breaking away from the rigid page-and-panels format of a print comic that’s ultimately not necessary (and in many cases, detrimental) to reading comics on a tablet.
But if we’re really being honest here, I’m actually a little more excited for another recent announcement: Smallville Season 11.
Yes, you heard me.
Let’s go back for a second and talk about the relative failure of branding that befell John Carter, and look, you can go into all manner of explanations about marketing and public expectations and all that. But I’m still not convinced that “Girls won’t see a movie with Mars in the title, and boys won’t see a movie with Princess in the title” isn’t really, really small-minded.
Especially when you could solve a lot of problems by just calling it (as someone suggested), “John Carter and The Princess of Mars,” which tells boys “LOOK, It’s about a dude!” and tells girls “AND THERE’S A PRINCESS!” and tells everyone else “It’s like an Indiana Jones movie, but in space!”
But what I’m most stunned at is: a movie could be released and the phrases “from visionary Pixar director Andrew Stanton” and “the creator of Tarzan” never made it onto a single goddamn commercial.
“John Carter” is a name with zero brand recognition on its own. But “Pixar” and “Tarzan” are pretty easy ways to at least perk up a potential customer’s ears.
I’m pretty sure there was absolutely no harm in trying the fairly time-honored practice of, “Sell people something new by telling them it’s like these things they’re already aware of,” and so I’m baffled that I saw that happen exactly never during the entire marketing campaign.
Which brings me back to Smallville.
Wikipedia tells me that Smallville‘s series finale had a viewing audience of 3.3 MILLION. Meanwhile, let’s look at the sales figures on…well, let’s pick the newly restarted DC Comics line’s flagship title, Action Comics #1: Somewhere around 200K (digital sales not factored in).
And Superman #1: About 137K.
So where, exactly, are those 3 million eyeballs who watched Smallville? Why doesn’t it seem like any of them are interested in following Clark Kent’s adventures into his native medium?
The simple answer: A lot of them don’t even realize there are still comic books. There was never any real cross-promotion from the TV show to the comics.
Which is pretty depressing. But! That makes the notion of a weekly, digital Smallville: Season 11 series even more attractive to me. You’re actually more likely to get eyeballs on a Superman comic called Smallville than you are on one called Superman. And hey, whatever works.
Bryan Q. Miller’s writing it – Go track down his run on Batgirl and tell me that dude does not know how to write some fun, exciting superhero comics
Clark Kent’s finally, y’know, Superman - one of the biggest problems with 10 years of Smallville is the pre-determined end of the series was always, “Finally starts flying, finally puts on the costume,” and with every passing year of him having The Adventures Of Superman without actually BEING Superman, the writers had to come up with a reason for that – and what they usually came up with was “Clark’s denying his true destiny!”
Which usually translated as “Clark’s a mopey asshole who only grudgingly helps anyone.”
So it’s nice to see quotes from Miller about Clark actually ENJOYING BEING SUPERMAN, which as I’ve said before is sort of a prerequisite to my enjoying a Superman series.
I enjoy the weird continuity that has resulted from concocting a kinda-sorta DC Universe in one show. Starting with: Superman’s best friend is Green Arrow, who is married to quasi-Oracle. How goofy is that? In Smallville, the Jimmy Olsen role is filled by GREEN ARROW.
All the problems the show had can’t carry over to the comic. Things like Tom Welling’s limited acting chops, a budget that forced all the really cool things to happen off-screen or with shitty CGI, plots changing as a result of actor availability (not that I blame Michael Rosenbaum for wanting to leave, but…Lex Luthor’s KIND of a requirement in a Superman series). Not problems the comic has to worry about. That’s great.
So Smallville: All the good stuff, none of the bad, weekly, digital, cheap.
If you can’t sell that, then…well, then you are probably on the marketing team of John Carter.