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April 23 2009

Marvel Comics Hates Free Publicity

marvel logoIt would seem Marvel Comics really doesn’t like you to talk about them… unless they tell you what to say.

The Inquisitr and Newsarama are both talking about Marvel Comics seeming hatred of the comic industry press and Twitter.  While using Twitter comments (also known as “Tweets”) in reporting is considered lazy by some, I don’t see it as any different than quoting something printed elsewhere such as in a magazine or newspaper.  I honestly think it is a littler stronger than that because you are 100% sure the person (or their paid representative in the case of some celebrities) actually said it.  However, some of the exectutives at Marvel are taking offense at their Tweets being reprinted elsewhere and are launching a war of words with bloggers, and even going so far as to suggest they are owed payment for their use.

Are they out of their freaking minds?

Oh wait, this is the comic book industry… they ARE out of their freaking minds.

From August 1986 to December 2001 I ran a comic book store.  During that time I worked for a comic book company on the side, consulted with companies, and even worked inside the comic book & toy press industries.  As much as I love comic books as an art medium, it was sort of like the old saying about loving sausage doesn’t mean you want to see how it is made.  I have only recently returned to reading comics, something I used to have a die hard passion for, because it took me over seven years to try to forget just how messed up of an industry it is.

I have still been involved with it slightly over the past few years, and I have grown amazed by seeing an average comic book rise in price to $2.99 a month, with others hitting the $3.99 and $4.99 mark; the days of the entry level pricing are gone.  I have also seen the number of venues where comics are sold dwindle to near non-existence, all but assuring that the industry is surviving only on those that have been it for years already, and no new blood is coming into it.

With all of this in mind, don’t you think they may want to have the word spread as far and wide as they can about what is going on in the business?  Don’t you think that they should welcome every mention of their names and brands in the hopes it might bring in more readers?

Apparently if your name is “Marvel”, you don’t.

Tom Brevoort, Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada, all employed by Marvel, and they decided to launch arguments with the comic press about their, publicly available mind you, Tweets being used as quotes in articles.  This has begun happening in the mainstream press on a regular basis, and even Ashton Kutcher said in the Oprah episode about Twitter that he likes the fact that he can diffuse some stories about himself in the press because he can refute them quickly on the site.  Here is someone who is virtually a household name, and he encourages people to use his Twitter stream as a source of information about him.

spidermanNot in the comic book industry though.  Oh no, we can’t have you using something they made public themselves without first asking their permission to do it.  Apparently they have missed the fact that you can lock a Twitter stream which means that no one is allowed to republish your Tweets.  No, they’ll just go on saying things that anyone can see and then get angry when people actually quote them on it.

In Lucas Siegel’s rebuttal piece to all this (Newsarama link above), he points out that due to the walled garden type situation in the comics industry, the comic book companies enjoy an unprecedented control over their industry press.  If you print something before THEY say you can, they can simply cut you off from any future information.  So, in general, the comics press does nothing that could potentially anger the comic book companies.  This has left them with a feeling of omnipotence that they can somehow control everything that happens, but they have forgotten that once something is on the Internet, you generally lost all control of it.  It takes on a life of its own, and the possibility of controlling the ways it is consumed are completely lost. As someone who has also worked inside the comic book press, I can tell you that Mr. Siegel is 100% accurate in his portrayal of how things work. No matter when or how you learn about an upcoming project, you could not run the news until the company said you could for fear of having all of your in roads to that company quickly severed.

I can almost understand their anger over the Tweets because they simply aren’t used to not having complete control over a press situation.  However, to suggest that they should get paid for their Tweets, let alone the asking for permission to reprint something that was made available to the public, is just disgusting at its core.  If you don’t want it done, don’t Tweet or lock the stream.  Two very easy solutions, but solutions they are choosing not to take.  It is far easier, it would seem, to whine and cry about it and make the press look the proverbial comic book bad guys, and the bad PR they garner over this be damned.

… have I mentioned how glad I am to be away from this industry?

Be sure to listen to this week’s Scattercast, which comes out tomorrow, where I will continue stories of my life in the comic industry, and how one big name creator once called and cursed me out for 90 minutes for daring to express my opinion about his work ethic on a CLOSED forum.



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  • So there's two issues here:

    1. Three Marvel staffers (who may or may not be salaried employees – not sure about Bendis; Quesada is obviously an employee; not sure about Brevoort) complaining about the use of their Tweets in other media outlets

    2. The ability for Marvel Comics itself to control what gets shared with the media (which, when you think about it, is the opposite of Techcrunch, where the media seems to have the power over the producer; actually, it seems to make Marvel more like Apple)

    I really think these are two separate things, though. IMHO, the three Marvel staffers are more concerned about the use of their Tweets from a personal, professional perspective, as if it is an infringement on their rights as creators. The other side would be Marvel's publicity machine centrally controlling the flow of info. Are you suggesting that some puppet master is causing the three staffers to complain, not because of any potential personal infringement on their published content, but instead because it's confidential Marvel info that's being leaked?

    • Actually neither. I\\'m saying if you are a public figure, which these guys are in certain circles, and you say something in an open public forum such as Twitter, you should expect to see it get quoted. If you don\\'t like it, don\\'t say anything newsworthy on it, keep it to, \\"I just got lunch\\". This is no different than Valleywag doing the \\"We read Twitter so you don\\'t have to\\" column, and you don\\'t hear much whining from those quarters.

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