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Monday, September 28, 2015

What’s Wrong at Marvel and DC?

Comics used to be fun at Marvel and DC. Readers used to be able to get 32 pages featuring a fantastic adventure where a hero saved the day and stopped the bad guy.

Then something happened to take the fun out of them. And Editors are still trying to figure out where they went wrong.

Was it was all the gimmicks? Or was it all the events?  Or was it just comics becoming popular in the mainstream?

Personally, I think the editiors and creators take comics at the big two WAY too seriously. And everyone who works at the Big Two just needs to dial it back a couple of notches.

Yes, comics have fantastic adventures. Yes, they feature larger than life heroes in brightly colored outfits. But the stories have lost that sense of awe and wonder that they had thirty and forty years ago.

And because they’ve lost that sense of awe and wonder at Marvel and DC they no longer have that unique energy that makes them feel special. They’re not an escape to readers anymore. Instead that distinct energy has been replaced with a seriousness that makes a comic feel like doom and gloom all the time. Instead of us aspiring to live a superhero’s life, they’re living our lives.

And no one wants to pay money to see their lives depicted in a fantasy.  Business 101.

The way I see it many who work in comics are just trying too hard. I don’t know if they’re feeling pressure from the competition like video games, pro wrestling and big budget movies, but there’s a sense of desperation in the comics published by the big two. As a fellow creator I just see it on the page. Writers and artists trying way too hard do anything to make that one moment that’ll get people’s attention. And because they try too hard what gets published are dull uninspired comics with no heart and no soul.

This is why we get heroes that fight each other instead of taking on bad guys. This is why stories go on and on for years instead of wrapping in three issues. This is why reading a comic feels like a chore instead of a joy, and why readers count down the days towards a comic being cancelled instead of anticipating buying the next issue.

Clearly most creators and editors at Marvel and DC’s publishing divisons are frustrated. Feeling the pressure from the movies, wrestling and video gams they’re throwing crap at a wall in the hopes of reviving interest in the medium. Only to make a mess in the process.

In this third decade of an industry wide-slump many are trying to find that one story that will change things. That one issue ssue that will get readers to notice comics again. And because they aren’t having fun, readers can’t enjoy themselves when they read comics.

So that’s why readers see all the deaths, gory mutilations and characters acting like complete sociopaths. Many who work at the Big two are angry about the state of affairs at their companies and it’s showing right on the page.

Unfortunately, because all their anger and frustration shows on the page all that does is alienate longtime readers and turn away potential new ones. It’s hard to get passionate about a comic when the creators clearly aren’t allowed to showing readers any passion.

Many at the big two in editorial are so focused on making that one big hit comic that they’ve lost perspective. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. And because the editors at the Big Two are trying to sprint to the finish line of a long distance race, they wind up with a short burst of sales on the first issue after an event is announced and then everything starts declining by the third. Because most creators rush, they wind up burnt out on comics in a few years.  

So nothing that lasts long-term. This is why o series can stay in print for any longer than a few months at worst or three to five years at best.

With Publishing being a marathon, an editor has to know that there are going to be boom periods and slow periods. And how to use the backlist (reprints of previously published work) from the boom periods to keep the company afloat during the slow periods. There are going to be books that are blockbuster successes, books that fail from the start to find an audience, and books on the bubble that with a little nurturing and support can turn into hits when readers discover them.

It takes a good editor to manage the catalog so that those titles which are blockbusters can maintain their audience and the ones on the bubble can find one. And it takes a good editor to know when to pull the plug on a project or to kill it before it even starts.

Neither Marvel Nor DC has had that professional to work in their publishing divisions in two going on three decades. And it shows in the products they produce. These days the products coming out of both companies have no structure, no organization, and no direction. Again, it’s desperate people throwing crap at a wall and hoping something sticks with readers. 

Both DC and Marvel need a seasoned publishing professional to lead the rebuilding of their brands. And they need someone who will bring back a sense of awe and wonder back to the offices to inspire the creative teams. Someone who will support creators and help them focus on crafting the best stories possible. Someone who will radiate the passion, enthusasm and heart to disperse all this negative energy from the last 20 years and make comics as accessible, fun and family friendly as YA and children’s fiction.

I believe that superhero comics can make a comeback. It’s clear audience like superheores since superhero movies make billions of dollars at the box office and sell billions more in merchandise. But the publications that led to these characters becoming popular in the first place can’t sell 20,000 copies in a month during one of the biggest baby booms in the last 40 years.

Kids should be buying comics like crazy. But because editors and creators are stuck in the past the readers of the future can’t discover the characters and what’s great about them.

Creators at Marvel and DC need a leader with the vision to dissipate all the negative energy around the brands and just create and publish great comics. Right now there’s too much negative energy at the top at both publishers and that negative energy is sucking the life out of the publications and at DC even the merchandising and licensed products.

Seriously, there isn’t going to be some magic comic that revives interest in superhero comics at Marvel and DC. No it’s not going to be some new costume, or some new story direction that gets readers excited about comics at the big two again. There won’t be a Fantastic Four #1 or an Amazing Fantasy 15 or even a Giant Sized X-Men #1 that brings the readers back. There isn’t going to be some event like New 52 or Marvel NOW that gets readers to rush back to see what’s so great about their favorite heroes. Audiences for comics get built over time and it may take years for readers to rediscover comics again like they did from the 1960s  and the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But the only thing keeping readers from rediscovering the characters in the big two are editors and creators stuck in the past when it comes to story models and even art styles. The days of the annual events and the constant gimmicks are over. It’s time to get back to basics when it comes to character design and storytelling so customers can easily remember their favorite heroes.  If I were running either Marvel or DC, there would be one universe, no gimmicks or events and there’d be a heavy focus on just telling great stories in 2-3 issue story arcs that are PG or PG-13 in terms of content.

From what I’ve seeen people still love Marvel and DC Superheroes and they’re just waiting for creators to bring back the awe, wonder and fun that made reading those comics a pastime for millions them twenty plus years ago. All their bullpens need are the right leaders to take the catalogs of heroes in a new direction for this new millennium.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Five Dollar Comic books-WTF?

I was reading an article online that said many at the big two are pushing to drive the price of comics to $5. WTF?

Let me get this straight…Publishers like Marvel and DC want readers to pay $5 for a 32-page comic book? $5 for 32 pages?

Yeah, this is a great way to drive people right out of the hobby.

I believe the $5 comic will be the nail in the coffin that finally kills the comic book industry.

Has anyone told these geniuses at Marvel and DC that Comic books aren’t selling at $4? Heck, they weren’t selling at $2.99.

When a new issue costs as much as an old back issue from the 1970s something is wrong with the business model at the big two.

When the price of Comics went to 50 cents 30 years ago in the early 1980s there began a decline in comic sales. Sure things picked back up in the late 80’s and early 90’s with the speculator boom but since the mid 1990’s the entire industry has been in decline sales wise. And this price increase could mean lead to the demise of the 32-page comic book.

In the business of publishing it costs money to print comics. Lots of it. And a publisher needs to print a certain mininmum to meet a certain price point. And there comes a point when the printing costs just become too expensive for the beloved 32-page comic book.

If comics are costing $5 the number of comics printed must be under 25,000 or 30,000 units. That’s the only mathematical reason for them to be at that price point. This means that fewer people are reading comic books than in any point in the industry’s history.

And why should they read comics? Most of them are absolutely awful. Most are filled with violence so graphic it would make a 1950s EC comic look family friendly. And many of the heroes we’re supposed to look up to as icons are hostile angry, violent sociopaths with no regard for the communities they’re supposed to protect. Everything is all about them.

Even worse, most people including diehard fans just can’t figure out what’s going on anyomore. At DC we’ve got a multiverse of titles in 52 different universes.. At Marvel there’s a new earth featuring characters from a hodgepodge of alternate universes.  There’s no entry point and no incentive for a new reader to try anything. There’s no way for a title to build word of mouth with readers.

And no reason for readers to commit to a title because in 24-36 months editors will just blow everything up and start all over with a new series of #1 issues where everything starts all over again.

From a business standpoint the Marvel and DC are hemorrhaging money. With all these reboots and relaunches millions of dollars are being spent developing, creating and launching comics that barely go 12 issues before they’re cancelled. Editorial at the big two is throwing sh*t at a wall and hoping something sticks. Hoping, wishing and praying for that Fantastic Four #1 or Giant Sized X-Men #1 or Detective Comics #27 that will usher in a new era where comics will be popular again.

Doing the exact same things with the exact same characters and expecting a different result. The rest of the world calls this insanity but it’s business as usual at Marvel and DC. This plan hasn’t worked in 22 years and now publishers are clearly getting desperate in their efforts to get new readers.

Paperback now costs as much as Two comics!
Asking customers to pay $5 for comic books shows how no one at the big two has a vision for the future of the medium. In a world where people can get whole novels like the ones I publish in eBook form for 99¢ and read a whole library of books for just $9.99 a month with Amazon’s KindleUnlimited program who in their right mind is going to pay $5 for a 32-page comic book?

Instead of raising prices, the big two need to be raising their quality. Comics need to get back to being cheap easy to read fun entertainment. When 32-page comics cost more than an eBook or an app the comic book industry is in trouble.

In Monday’s blog I’ll be asking the question what’s wrong with the comic book industry.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Progress Report

Summer 2015 has been a busy one for me on the publishing side. While I’ve been publishing and promoting titles for the summer reading season, I’ve also been doing final revisions for books like Spinsterella for Fall 2015 and writing books like John Haynes: The Man Who Rules The World and Isis: Imitation of Life for Summer 2016. Still trying to make progress.

Thanks to donors I was able to get the Isis/E'steem Kickstarter launched for the Isis/E’steem Crossover this April. And the covers produced by Hero Busine$$ artist Bill Walko really were just AWESOME! Both covers were strong and got a lot of attention from new readrs and helped to give them that strong first impression.

Thanks in part to those great covers, The Isis/E’steem Crossover featuring Isis: Night of the Vampires and E’steem Undercover did a lot better sales wise in the eBook market than last year’s Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess which struggled to find an audience last summer.

After reading Isis: Night of the Vampires and E’steem: Undercover readers have been coming back for other titles in the Isis series. And a few have been coming back for The Temptation of John Haynes and the original Isis. So the crossover has been very successful in getting readers to search the backlist for titles and learn more about the SJS DIRECT Universe.

Isis: Imitation of Life is coming along. This Fantasy Flashback story set in 1937 has been a challenge to write. I’m doing my best to pay homage to the classic 1934 movie Imitiation of Life, and the pulp fiction like Doc Savage that were the precursors to comic books and superheroes in this story all while trying to make the details of 1930s Black life fit into a fantasy story. Getting near the end of the first draft of this one, but it’s so rough I’m not going to really set a release date for it. It needs a lot of work until I believe it’s ready for publication. I’m really passionate about this one because its one where I get to teach Black history and present our past from a Black perspective.

Because I struggled with Isis: Imitaiton of Life I had to make a change to my plans. My original plan was to start the story after Isis: Night of the Vampires and segue into the flashback story set in 1937, but now I’m gonna write it as a standalone like Isis: Death of a Theta. I’d love to do another Golden Age/Pulp type story set in the 1930s or 1940s with Isis and her Terrific Three, taking on mobsters or but I’d need to see a positive response sales wise to this one.

Thanks to that readjustment there may be two Isis series books next year along with the E’steem series book I planned and John Haynes: The Man Who Rules the World. I still need to finish this John Haynes arc that started in Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess with a conclusion and I’m pondering bringing in a new punk styled villain to finish it up.

The Second Edition of Stop Simpin-Why Men Don’t Need Finance to Get Romance also performed exceptionally well on Smashwords and Kindle this Summer. I’ve gotten a lot of positive responses to the Second Edition of Stop Simpin all over the world, and men and women are learning why boys and men shouldn’t be submissive to women.

Thanks to the launch of the second edition of Stop Simpin people are coming back for the other books in the Simp Trilogy as well such as Manginas- They Think Like Men but Act Like Ladies and The Misadventures of Captain-Save-A-Hoe.

To my surprise people are now starting to find Why 70 Percent of Black women are Single. This was a book that I thought was dead due to poor sales in 2014. But the eBook has started to find some traction a year later.

While my men’s issues eBooks are finding an audience I’m surprised to see both men and women are finding the titles and both men and women are enjoying them.

The Atonement by Lawrence Cherry did exceptionally well this year on its launch. This sequel to his Commemcement not only got sales but led to sales of other titiles in the series such as School of Hard Knocks: The Re-education of Jim Reid and the original Commencement.

After a two-year slump I actually had some paperback sales this year. Books like All About Marilyn and The Temptation of John Haynes got some sales. I’m pondering a relaunch of the Cassandra Cookbook as A Recipe For $ucce$$ in Paperback and possibly launching a Why 70 Percent of Black Women are Single Paperback for next year.

I’ve been experimenting with other promotional areas. This year I did several commercials for books on YouTube and teased Spinsterella on there as well. I’ve been using my YouTube channel to let readers know there’s a person behind the paperbacks and I’ve been building an audience there.

Most of my summer was spent promoting old titles, writing new titles and editing on my sixth novel Spinsterella. This one is a sexy spooky romantic comedy featuring a Goth heroine. I spent over a year researching Goths and the Goth subculture to write this one and I’m so hoping I got this one right because I don’t want to offend any Goths out there. I love the Goth subculture and I want to make every effort to present it in a positive and humanized light.

Spinsterella’s going to be the first R-Rated novel I’ve produced since The Cassandra Cookbok in 2008. So there’s going to be nudity, strong language, and steamy sex scenes. Just want to give readers who are used to PG and PG-13 books like I produce in the Isis series a heads up if they’re not used to that kind of content. I had planned to launch this one for Christmas, but I found out that the big Goth Holiday is Halloween. So Spinsterella’s release is going to be October 31.

In August I got a breakthrough on The Temptation of John Haynes sequel John Haynes: The Man Who Rules The World. I had been planning this book since 2010 and could not get any traction. But I got inspired and wrote the entire book in a week!  With the first draft complete I’m planning to launch it in summer of 2016 if I can get the Kickstarter for it funded.

For next year’s Kickstarter, I’m planning on doing something different. I’m contacting comic artists and I’m hoping I can secure someone to design the covers before I launch the project. I believe with an artist attached to the Kickstarter and cross-promotion between us I’ll be able to get more donors and meet the benchmark earlier. If that’s possible I can see about adding some other extras or benchmark rewards such as eBooks, sketches, or an exclusive story. I’m just waiting to hear back from the artist I contacted so I can factor their price into the overall cost of the project.

I want comic artist covers like those on the last two Isis series books to be the standard for my fantasy novels on the regular. And until I can find a day job to pay for them myself the only way I can pay for them is through crowdfunding. So every dollar that’s donated to the Kickstarters or though PayPal is critical.  

Made a little progress this summer in my struggles. Still working hard to get more people to know about the SJS DIRECT imprint and the books I produce. Taking more steps to the next level.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When A Black Person Gets Another Black Man Fired….

When a Black man enters the workplace there’s often a whole bunch of people who want to see him leave. And unfortunately, most of them are other Black people.

Many of these sellouts who work behind the scenes to get a Black man fired off his job belive they’ll get some brownie points with their White and nonblack bosses and some of the more delusional ones will believe they’ve actually accomplished something important in life. But in reality they’ve actually hurt not only their community but themselves as well.

When Black folks work to get Black men fired they tarnish the image of all Black people at that company. Sure, the sellout who worked so dillegently to cost another brother his job has a job. But that door closes for any other Black people at that company. When one Black man is perceived to have not performed well at a job no others will ever get hired there. The next person who will be hired at that company to fill that job will definitely be Hispanic, Asian, Arab or White.

And those people aren’t going to look favorably on Black people there.  When they get an opportunity to consisder someone for a job it’s definitely NOT going to be another Black person.

When Black folks work to get Black men fired from their job they also start the road towards their own termination. In most cases this Tap-dancing shoe-shining Negro is usually the only Black person in the company. And because they’re so short-sighted they can’t understand that there’s strength in numbers. When there’s more than one person in a company and they have skills valuable to the company they can create a platform to meet their business needs at that organization. With that platform they can get other qualified Blacks hired and get contracts for Black businessmen who decide to leave and start their own businesses.

But because this jealous crab in a bucket shine can’t see past themselves, and their steady paycheck, they don’t understand how more Black people in a business helps them long-term. With them being the lone Black person in the company they have no allies to help or support them. Usually this Negro will believe that White folks and everyone else will be on their side, but usually winds up for a rude awakening during a crisis in the company. Because they didn’t have Black allies in the workplace to support or protect their Black ass this shoe-shining Negro usually winds up being shown the door as well. 

When Black folks work to get other Black men fired from their job they take money out of their community. When that Black man is working he’s putting food on his table and supporting his family. He is spending money with Black-owned businesses. All that money from his paychecks is flowing into the Black community. And when he’s terminated from that job, that money stops flowing into it.

That means no money to take care of his kids. Or to pay bills. So a family suffers because the father can’t provide for it.

What many of these crab in a bucket Negroes don’t understand is that when a Black man isn’t on the job there are no Black dollars in the Black community. And because there are no Black dollars in the Black community there’s no tax base or tax revenue. So that means there’s no money for schools, libraries or other public services Yes, the sellout has their job and their money and they get to live well, but their and the other people in their community suffers.

When Black people work towards getting Black men fired from their jobs it keeps the unemployment rate high in their communities. Sure a Black woman can find a job in a month or two, but it can take Black men YEARS to find another full-time job. Every Black person who works to get a Black man fired makes it that much harder for that Black man to get that next job.

Why? Because now that Black man doesn’t have any references and in some cases can’t use that employer on their resume. So they wind up with a huge gap on their resume. Sure, the brother may have skills. And they may have done some work for themselves. But they have a harder time selling what they have to offer to employers due to the fact that they are Black men and the fact that they have a tarnished work history. Once a man has been fired it become ten times harder to find that next full-time job.

And in that those years they’re out of work that Black man is not only trying to find a way to make a living, but also trying to find a way to explain that employment gap to potential employers. When a Black man has been fired from a previous job it becomes that much harder for them to convince another employer to take a risk on them.

When Black folks work to get other Black men fired from their job they hurt the employment opportunites for others. That Black man who is working on a job is oftentimes saving their money to start a business. When they get fired from a job due to another sellout throwing them under a bus those plans get derailed. And in the long-term that means they can’t start a business. A business that would possibly hire other Black people.

Many of these crab in a bucket Negroes will smile watching a Black man get fired by a White or a nonblack person. Some will feel a sense of pride watching that brother being escorted out of the building by security guards. A few Black women will even have an orgasm. In their eyes they fucked him up.

But they have no idea on how they fucked over their communites and themselves.

When Black people work towards getting other Black men fired they may benefit in the short term but in the long term they hurt their race. Yes, this Negro has protected their position. Yes, they have a few brownie points with some racists. And in some cases they’ve even gotten their revenge on someone they didn’t like. But because they couldn’t work with someone who was the same color as they are their neigborhoods remain the poorest in the world. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kickstarter 2016 Collaboration Brainstorm

Covers from this year's Succesful  Kickstarter! 
I’m pondering doing another Kickstarter or series of Kickstarters for the cover of John Haynes: The Man Who Rules the World and the Isis and E’steem projects I have planned for release in 2016. But this time I want to do things a little differently.

For next year’s cover projects I’d love to bring in a comic artist like Bill Walko as a partner. I believe with a partner I believe I could get more exposure for the project. With all of us promoting the project on our websites and our social media more people would be aware of it. Which could lead to more donations.

With an artists’ name attached to the project people from day one people on social media would know who is designing the covers for the books. And with the artist officially attached to the project from day one I believe donors would be able to know what would to expect in terms of the finished cover and I could have a set date for the final products’ release on Amazon, Smashwords and other online retailers.

I also believe with the artist attached to the project from day one it allows us both an opportunity to build on donor anticipation. If an artist has a following their fans can get on board with the project and put in donations for it.

And along with building that anticipation I can also offer more rewards to donors. Instead of just offering paperback copies of the new book with the cover art on it or a series of older titles, I can also offer something like the eBook to donors. Or the artist could take that time to offer commissions of people’s favorite characters.

Having a partner means we both can work on the Kickstarter rewards. For example, I can work on the shipping of books and possible eBooks and if they wish reward donors with sketches, or a commissioned peice if the donations meet a certain goal mark or make a donation for a certain amount of money. 

Of course bringing in a partner has its challenges. With a partner there’d be equal responsibility. I’d need someone who I could trust to pull their own weight on the art side. That means we’d all have to work together towards sticking to the deadlines in order to have a successful project.

There’s the issue of breaking down the costs of the work and paying for the rewards and the time and labor for the project.  After the project is funded I’d make every effort to make sure we were both paid equally for our labor and efforts.

All of this is still in the planning stages. But I’m looking to build on the success of last year’s Isis/E’steem Crossover Kickstarter and working towards making next year’s books the best they can possibly be. Bill Walko’s new covers got a positive response from readers and I’m looking to carry that momentum into next year’s publications. I believe if readers see the quality of SJS DIRECT publications continue to improve they’ll be willing to give them a try and share them with their friends and family.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Shawn’s advice to the Publishers of Milestone Media 2.0. Part 2

In Saturday’s blog I went down a list of areas the new publishers of Milestone 2.0 need to work on as they restart the adventures of Hardware, Icon, Static Xombi, Kobalt and the Blood Syndicate Since there was a lot of information to cover I decided to break it up into two parts The list continues in this blog and goes over other areas in their business such as:

6. Build the villains into credible threats. On the villain front Milestone 1.0 just kind of introduced bad guys. But because they didn’t give them enough of backstory readers really didn’t care about them. Most Milestone villains felt like jobbers placed there to be squashed by the heroes. If a villain doesn’t feel dangerous, the reader has no incentive to continue reading the comic to the last page or to pick up follow-up stories featuring them.

One of the things I learned from watching WWE develop its heels and reading oldschool Marvel was how to build up a villain into a credible threat. Good villains make the reader feel a sense of danger and make them worry if the hero is actually going to be able to beat them. Moreover, they make the reader wonder how they’re going to come out of it alive. Villians drive conflict and if the villian’s part of the story isn’t strong enough the reader isn’t going to have a reason to root for the hero.

7. Think BIG. Most Milestone 1.0 stories were really on that small scale of the imaginary spectrum. And when you write superhero stories you have to think BIG. A comic story just can’t just be small. It has to POP to get a reaction out of the reader. Like pro wrestlers or Hollywood movie stars, Superheroes are larger than life characters. So their stories have to be on a bigger scale than your standard tale.

When I wrote Isis: The Ultimate Fight I imagined something that started like a pro wrestling feud and led up to a climax like something out of a major WWE Pay-Per-View like Hell In a Cell. When I wrote Isis: Wrath of the Cybergoddess I imagined something on the scale of a big-budget superhero movie like The Avengers. When I wrote The Temptation ofJohn Haynes I imagined things happening like the action comedy Ghostbusters.  And when I wrote the upcoming John Haynes: The Man Who Rules The World I imagined a big budget action feature. Something with larger than life multidimensional characters, a story that grabs the reader and doesn’t let them go until the climax. Milestone’s writers needs to write these kinds of stories for their heroes if they hope to compete with Marvel, DC, Image and Valiant, Boom! And Dynamite.

Bland and drab.
8. Give us BIG ACTION on the covers. Most Milestone 1.0 covers were…Meh. They usually had heroes posed on them in stiff formal art worthy of an artists’ commission or a museum. Sorry, that’s just not good enough to compete in the entertainment business these days with eBooks, action movies and WWE wrestling. Covers have to SHOW a story, not tell it.

Bright and grabby!
A cover is the readers’ first introduction to the character. And on comic books It has to tell a story with an exclamation point! Comic covers have to tell a story with ACTION. They have to whet the readers’ appetite and get them anticipating the purchase of the book. A Comic cover has to SCREAM at the reader BUY ME!

A great examples of action oriented covers are those on Chris Samnee’s Daredevil. Samnee puts art on the Daredevil covers that makes comic fans ready to make the purchase, and eager to read the next issue. Milestone’s publishers need those kinds of covers if they want sales from casuals and new readers.

9. Avoid Events. Milestone was at its weakest when doing event storylines. Shadow War was…Meh. And World Collide was just hot garbage with worms and flies. And don’t get me started on Long Hot Summer.

Events didn’t help the Milestone Universe grow at all. The conspiracy story behind the Big Bang slowed the pace of books like Hardware and Icon and the events like Shadow War bogged things down to the point where the stories just didn’t flow smoothly.

Yes, back in the 1980’s annual multi-series events helped people discover slower selling titles as the reader was compelled to buy those titles to complete the storyline. But the Milestone Universe was fairly new and didn’t really need to launch an event yet. The individual comics themselves needed to be the event! Most of the characters needed those first 12-24 issues to define themselves in their own titles. With this being a new universe the stories in each book needed to be primary focus.

10. Avoid Gimmicks.  New costumes All-new All-different. Revamps. Retcons. Reboots. Relaunches. Stuff like Hardware 2.0, Buck Icon and Darnice Rocket Yeah, these gimmicks have their place. On a struggling title with slow sales or a book taking a different creative direction with a new creative team. But there’s no place for a gimmicks in a comic book universe less than five years old.

One of the mistakes Milestone made back in the 90’s was trying to do too much. That prevented readers from getting to know a character like Icon. And in the case of Hardware, all the new armors prevented readers from even remembering what they look like. In between the conspiracy to figure out who was behind the Big Bang, events like Shadow War and Worlds Collide there wasn’t much room in a Milestone comic for characters to be developed or for relationships between heroes and villains to be established.

While gimmicks get peoples attention for the short-term all they do is distract readers and prevent them from connecting with characters and their stories in the long term. That’s especially bad for a fledgling universe of characters and a company starting to build or in this case rebuild its brand.

The goal of Milestone for the first five years should be primarily on the individual heroes’ stories. The primary focus should be on letting readers get to know the characters, memorize their looks and and showing them using their powers in cool ways. What’s going to get the attention of readers and keep them reading are well-crafted stories featuring these elements.

11. Please keep the profanity, gore, and excessive violence out of Milestone this time! One of biggest turn-offs I had when I read early Milestone titles was the gory and graphic violence. I remember seeing panels in Blood Syndicates where Tech-9 blew off people’s hands, and an early issue of Kobalt sliced off a crook’s fingers. Oftentimes in Milestone books there were decapitations, mutilations and other horrific violence. Yeah, comics show violence but when the heroes are out doing stuff like this it really doesn’t allow the reader to see them as the good guys.

Comics are Black and White With good guys wearing the White hats and bad guys wearing the Black hasts Milestone really should want to create that line in the sand between their characters.

Then there’s the profanity. Yeah, I know Milestone wanted the dialogue to sound “Real” but again it doesn’t make for a good reading experience.

These days when I’m writing books in the Isis series and the E’steem series I try to keep my content PG or PG-13. I really want readers to feel comfortable about buying and sharing my titles. So there’s no graphic violence, graphic sex or profanity. PG-PG-13 is the standard WWE and Hollywood movie studios use these days so they can reach the largest audience and Milestone really needs to follow that standard as well this go around in the comic book marketplace.  

Easy to access and tells a story with thecover!

11. Make every story an entry point.  One of the things I learned from Jim Shooter’s blog and successfully applied to the Isis series is making every story an entry point. Every New Milestone comic will be someone’s first and every story has to be written in a way that the reader can get to know the characters and follow the adventures.

Milestone did a good job on this back in the day. But in this era of 100 issue cross-overs I’d hate to see them start down that road. Keep the comics accessible and the readers will come.

12. Do NOT franchise any characters or make “families”. Back in the 1990’s Technique was supposed to be the female Hardware. And Buck Icon and Darnice Rocket were supposed to be fill ins for Icon an Rocket. Unfortunately with Milestone being a relatively new universe all these replacements did was create confusion at the comic shop and was possibly one of the reasons behind the decline of Milestone 1.0.

In the first two to five years of publishing comics there is no need to create variations of characters. Each character really needs to be unique and stand out. They need to spend most of their time establishing the missions of their heroes, their direction for their stories and rthe elationships with their supporting cast and villains. Once the formula for the heroes is down, then you can bring in variants and derivatives.

Another trend Milestone 2.0 needs to avoid is making supporting civilians into heroes. Comics really need the Lois Lanes, Jimmy Olsens and Richie Foleys. Civilians show the reader why the hero is special and why their mission is important. If anyone can put on the costume and do the exact same thing, then why should the reader care about the hero and their adventures?

Characters really need to carry their own books and show what makes them special. There will be a time to add secondary hero characters to a hero’s book, but in the firs two to five years it needs to be all about the main character.

13. Understand that the 2015 book market is not the 1990’s book market. Back When Milestone debuted in 1993 the comic market was on the tail end of a speculator boom. People were buying anything comic related in the hopes of scoring a payday later on. However in this 21st century everything is different. In addition to a twenty-year slump in the comics market, the publishing industry has also changed.

The approaches publishers used in the 1990’s and even before 2008 no longer work. The publishing industry is a new marketplace and publishers no longer have the leverage they used to. The market is more creator oriented with Print-on-demand technology and ePublishing such as Amazon’s Kindle, Smashwords and webcomics allowing them to access the marketplace. Not to mention fierce competition from movies, TV and social media. With so much competition for the attention of the comic reader these days, Milestone is going to have to provide the highest quality comics and give the reader the most entertainment value for their dollar.  

14. Establish a webcomic. In addition to print comics, one of Milestone’s strips should be a weekly or biweekly webcomic on the official website. Webcomics are a great way of introducing online readers to Milestone’s universe of characters and promoting upcoming issues with previews. Many artists like Bill Walko of the Hero Busine$$ and R.K. Milholand of Something*Positive have built strong followings online with thieir webcomics and I believe Milestone could build an audience with a webcomic featuring one of their characters.

Webcomics are one of the steady growing marketplaces for comics over the last five to seven years and they’re a place where many fans have found new comics new characters, and artists and become fans of them.

15. Establish a digital comics imprint. In addition to a webcomic Milestone definitely needs a digital subscription service. Today’s new readers who want to access older comics from the 1990’s will appreciate the opportunity to access all the history and continuity comics on their smartphones and tablets. It’d also be a great way to allow new readers who read comics on these devices to download their comics.

Combining the webcomic with promotion of the digital comic imprint could net Milestone some strong sales in a five-year plan.

16. Be open to hiring new talent. Milestone wasn’t really open to bringing in new talent in the 1990’s. And that pretty much prevented the company from growing. The comic industry desperately needs new blood and from what I’ve seen on the webcomics scene there’s a lot of great talent looking for an opportunity to learn and take its craft to the next level.

The only thing keeping a lot of that talent from working at any comic company is compensation. Most creators like myself these days own their characters and we do not do work for hire contracts. If Milestone is serious about attracting new talent this time around they’re going to have to offer some sort of licensing and profit sharing on merchandising and possibly allowing creators to keep the rights to their own characters.

 Back in 1994 I submitted a resume and cover letter to Milestone. Never got a response. By 1996 the company was gone. Again, I’d love to be a part of the new Milestone and make a contribuition this time around. With my twenty plus years writing experience and publishing background running the SJS DIRECT imprint these last seven years I think I’d be a valuable asset to the company. I wish the creators of the new Milestone the best of luck and I hope they can take the characters to the next level this time around in the marketplace.