Friday, October 20, 2006

Depressing Folklore

(Or, as I really wanted to title it, "Steel Drivin' Corpse")

I've never really understood why they teach little kids the story of John Henry in school. (For those of you who are entirely self-educated, John Henry is an African-American folk hero, who may or may not have been real, who hammered in steel spikes on the railroad tracks. One day, management brought in a steam-powered hammer that could do the work faster than any man, but John Henry bet the foreman that he could out-pound the steam hammer. He did just that--but keeled over dead right after winning the race.)

Let's face it--after reading the previous paragraph, you probably take my meaning right there. It's always presented to kids as showing how important it is to strive on, even against impossible odds, because you can do things you never imagined if you try...but really, that kind of overlooks the fact that John Henry keels over dead, while the steam hammer will be up and ready to go the next day. It seems more like the message is, "Try to stand in the way of progress, and you'll end up taking a dirt nap while machines do your job. Go learn how to run a steam hammer if you want to get somewhere in this world, kid."

Which, now that I think about it, is probably a pretty good thing for kids to learn sooner or later.

Never mind.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bold Predictions

Michael Vick will not only never win a Superbowl, he will retire from the NFL never having gotten to the Superbowl. If you can find a bookie who takes bets of this nature, go and put a modest sum of money on it and I feel confident you will see a return on your investment.

The reason is simple: He's just not a very accurate passer. Sure, he dazzles with his legs, but every good defense knows that the way to beat the Falcons is to stack up against the run, keep a disciplined pass rush, and dare Vick to beat you throwing. He can't do it, and he's never going to be able to do it because he's surrounded by a crowd of people telling him that he doesn't need to learn that--he should just "let Michael be Michael".

Against a disciplined defense, "Michael being Michael" is indistinguishable from "Michael running around in the backfield like an idiot, then getting tackled for an eight-yard loss."

Next time, on Bold Predictions: Matt Millen will go down as one of the worst GMs in NFL history!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Still Needs No Words

More Comics Marketing Ideas

Aren't you bored yet? Tough.

So, I've mentioned here earlier the 'Marvel Adventures' line of comics--self-contained, single-issue, kid-friendly comics that are just what the Doctor ordered (he's a big fan of comics and wants to see the market expand. Don't ask.) My only problem with them is that they're still only available in comics stores--sure, they put a few in Targets and bookstores, but go try to find one and you'll discover just how under the radar they are--and crucially, you shouldn't need to "try to find one" at all, they should be readily available as impulse purchases, something that your kid sees while you're checking out and begs you to buy, and you give in because you've seen that X-Men movie and both you and your kid liked it.

So, here's the marketing idea. You take the digest editions they're publishing, which are seven dollars and collect four issues. You put them on cheaper paper, newsprint for the interiors and magazine stock for the covers. You knock a buck or so off the price--more, if you can afford it. Maybe even put in ads. You want to get these things as close to four bucks as you can without losing money. (Because "Four issues for four dollars!" looks great as a little sunburst on the cover.) Then...and this is the clever expand the range. They're currently publishing three titles (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Avengers); you expand it to sixteen (my ideas for the other thirteen are below) and put them in every supermarket, drugstore, and Wal-Mart/K-Mart/Target in America.

Why sixteeen? Because there are four weeks in a month, and four months in a digest. With sixteen titles, you'd have a new edition on the stands every week like clockwork. This means that every week, when Mom or Dad goes grocery shopping and brings the kids, they see at the
checkout line a brand-new comic. Sure, they might not recognize every character, but they recognize the "Marvel Adventures" logo as being family-friendly, safe entertainment. The kid gets a comic every week for four bucks, he/she learns about the Marvel characters and gets hooked on comics, and of course at the end of every book, you've got the "Find the comic store nearest you! Call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK! Don't worry, Mom and Dad--it's FREE!" ad to get the kids into the comic stores buying comics. (Which should be under "Yet More Comics Marketing Ideas"--Marvel reps who go from store to store teaching owners how to decorate to entice casual buyers.)

Ta-da. Kids happy because they get to buy comic books, parents happy because their kids are buying family-friendly entertainment, comic stores and publishers happy because parents don't know their kids are only taking the first step on a life-long addiction.

*The Other Thirteen Titles:

Disclaimer: These are just my ideas, I'm no expert on what sells or what can be made into a series. But that's the great thing, it's not set in stone--if Doctor Strange isn't selling, cut it after 24 issues and start up Man-Thing. So long as you keep to the sixteen titles, you can try out new stuff.

1. X-Men. Surprised they're not doing this one already, to be honest; I expect it's on the agenda, since it's probably Marvel's most high-profile property after Spidey. The trick is getting the "soap opera" feel while keeping each issue self-contained (hey, Claremont managed it up until about issue #200.)

2. Hulk. Again, surprised they're not doing this one already--go with the "Banner on the road" motif, be reminiscent of the old TV show, and parents will probably force it into their kids' hands. Sure, it means taking the Hulk out of the Marvel Adventures: Avengers comic, but kids need to learn that Avengers line-ups change.

3. Daredevil. If you're going down the route of "have public visibility", then this one has to be on the list; he's also had a movie, and that means a greater chance of an impulse buy. (And get Karl Kesel to write this. He knows his stuff when it comes to "light-hearted Daredevil".)

4, 5, and 6. Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. The holy trinity of family-friendly, high-profile Marvel good guys, each of which can carry their own book in a heartbeat.

7. New Mutants. Every X-book needs a spin-off, and you can play this one with a nice "Hogwarts" vibe to draw in Harry Potter fans. Kids learning to use their mutant powers at the mutant academy...tell me that can't sell.

8. Firestar. You should have at least a few female-centered titles to act as positive role-models for girls who want to read comics; sure, Firestar's kind of obscure to comics fans, but a) she's a female hero who isn't "She-[insert male hero here]", and b) to non-comics fans, she's actually probably better known than some A-list heroes. "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" ran for a long time, and kids then are parents now.

9. Black Cat. Another female hero, she's an anti-hero (anti-heroes are more popular with kids than adults like to remember)...she robs from rich villains, gives to poor noble people, and skims a bit for herself. What's not to like?

10. Doctor Strange. This one sounds like it'd be a bit tricky to do and stay family friendly--the key would be to look to series like 'Goosebumps' for inspiration, keep it scary while not being out-and-out horrific. And, of course, having Doctor Strange always save the day helps there.

11. Ghost Rider. Another "spooky" super-hero (again, kids love that stuff more than adults want to remember), and one with a movie coming out soon, which puts him on the list with Daredevil, Hulk, Spidey, the X-Men and the FF. And the look is just awesome.

12. Ms. Marvel. Another good choice for a female hero (arguably, she is a female version of Captain Marvel, but I think at this point, she's more famous than he is); decorated Air Force hero who gets super-powers from aliens, hard to go wrong with that story. (It should probably go without saying that both her and Iron Man's kid-friendly comic should steer clear of the "alcoholism" thing. Kid-friendly=no booze.)

13. Marvel Team-Up. Sure, to us sophisticated adults, this is a lame gimmick title, but come on--when we were kids, wasn't it neat to see Spidey team up with a different hero every issue? And can't you just imagine how cool it would be to pick up a digest and get him teaming with four different heroes in four exciting stories? Plus, it makes a good showcase for more obscure characters to see if they could handle a solo book.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Geek Alert!

Warning: The following anecdote requires, at minimum, a mild degree of science geekery to understand. If you cannot dredge up your memories of high-school science, specifically the unit on temperature, you will not only not get the punchline, you will not even understand that there is a punchline present. You will assume that I'm missing the last paragraph, or worse, that I'm one of those people who just blogs random incidences of their life on the assumption that everyone is interested in me and what I do. Warning over.

So Tony, one of my room-mates, has had a character on 'City of Heroes' for a while now by the name of "Calvin Zero". He's an ice/ice blaster, and if that doesn't make perfect sense to you, go re-read the warning at the beginning of this entry. (Calvin was based on an old RPG character he had back in college, and I think the origins of the character go back further than that, but I digress.)

Tonight, we were playing 'City of Heroes' (Tony was not logged in as Calvin Zero at the time, more's the pity) and we passed another ice/ice blaster, this one named "Celsius Zero". He had a decent costume, and a good bio entry...

...but even so, we all had to agree that Tony's character was way cooler.