From the New York Times:
Hollywood has never been shy about poaching ideas from comic books, whether it’s the “Adventures of Superman” television series that inspired a generation of young cape-wearers in the mid-1950s or this month’s “Spider-Man 3,” which has earned nearly $300 million at the box office in just three weeks.
Axel Koester for The New YorK Times
Mr. Dini is lead writer for DC’s new “Countdown.”
But now it is the comic-book industry that is grabbing ideas from movies and television — in this case not necessarily stories or characters, but the way Hollywood does its work.
¶In “Countdown,” a new weekly series from DC Comics that began this month, Paul Dini, who worked on ABC’s “Lost,” is serving as head writer.
¶The new “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series from Dark Horse is being promoted as the never-produced Season 8 of the “Buffy” television show and is written by Joss Whedon, Buffy’s creator, who is credited as the comic’s “executive producer.”
¶Marvel Entertainment is also adopting the “season” mentality — a fresh number of issues and then a break — on high-profile series like “Ultimates” and “Young Avengers.”
¶Platinum Comics has adapted television’s “show runner” concept, used to describe the top writer-producer on a series, into a “comic runner” for their Web-only titles.
“Countdown,” a sequel to the popular “52” series that will weave in nearly all of DC’s superheroes, will require precise coordination so that neither the monthly titles nor the weekly series make revelations out of step with the other. It’s a tall order for DC, which has recently faced major delays in some of its monthly titles, including “Batman” and “Wonder Woman.”
“A lot of the DC universe is synching up, month by month, to events within the series,” said Dan DiDio, DC’s senior vice president and executive editor. Some of the steps have been fairly radical — like skipping the conclusion of a story until a later date to get the monthly deadline back on track.
“Countdown” involves a group of heroes who must prevent a great disaster that will destroy the multiverse — a collection of Earths with divergent histories and champions. Some of the characters at the heart of the series are Mary Marvel, kid sister of Captain Marvel; Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s best pal; Jason Todd, the formerly deceased second protégé of Batman; and two sometimes reformed supervillains, the Trickster and the Pied Piper.
Mr. Dini is the man who has been tapped by DC to spearhead the effort. He is a regular writer for “Detective Comics,” starring Batman, and on “Madame Mirage,” a mini-series published by Top Cow, about a femme fatale who hunts supervillains, that begins next month. The protagonist is based on Mr. Dini’s wife, Misty, a magician and illusionist.
Mr. Dini was a writer and story editor on Season 1 of “Lost” and a consultant on Season 2, and says that the same skills will come into play in the comics. “As a story editor in television, whether it’s live action or animation, I’m really the one responsible for the overall direction of the story,” Mr. Dini said in a telephone interview. In “Countdown,” he said, “each week I go over the beats of the upcoming issue with the editor and the writers.”
If new ideas arise, he amends the series’s outline before writing the script. He then reviews the final script before it is sent to the artist. Once drawn and given dialogue, it is reviewed yet again. “We have to make sure the tone is right and that we’re keeping the ultimate vision of the story line,” he said.
A moderately popular title might draw somewhere from 30,000 to 60,000 retail orders per issue. A successful one, like “52,” draws more than 100,000 orders, and DC has similarly high hopes for “Countdown.”
Already “Buffy” has proved a major success for Dark Horse. The first issue, published in March, had to be reprinted to meet demand. All told, retailers ordered nearly 110,000 copies.
The origin of the series is simple enough: “I had an idea for an eighth season and I knew they wanted to start the comic,” said Mr. Whedon, who created Buffy in a 1992 film that preceded the television series.
The comic “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is billed as the eighth season of the TV series.
“I knew there wasn’t going to be another venue for it, so I started to work,” he said.
The series was originally planned for about 24 issues, but will now be closer to 40 or 50. Mr. Whedon is writing the opening story line, while other writers will step in for smaller story arcs, but everyone will be working toward an already planned ending.
“They all have my sort of manifesto, which I update constantly,” Mr. Whedon said. “And I’ll sit down with the writers so that I can fold their stories into the bigger picture.”
This control over the series’s overall vision is why he is billed as executive producer. “It’s a nonexistent title in comics, but it best fits what I’m doing,” he said. “Everyone goes through me. It doesn’t take as many people, but it sometimes comes as down to the wire to produce a comic as it does a TV show every week.”
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, the chairman of Platinum Studios, which offers Web-only and traditional printed comics, conceived the position of “comic runner” to help produce his company’s online titles.
“The comic runner is basically an entrepreneur who is running a small business,” he said. Mr. Rosenberg called it a “tough job” that required the ability to get comics from idea to final product regularly.
The comic runner must also be the spokesman for the property, helping to make decisions about publicity, merchandising and television or film development.
The traditional model for creating comics is 70 years old, Mr. Rosenberg said, but there is, he added, “no need to be stuck in our old ways.” The company is using “comic runners” on more and more properties.
“The sequel to ‘Cowboys and Aliens,’ which is one of our flagships, is going to be comic run,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “For us, that’s where comics are going.”
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i thought season mentality might be a clever marketing term for "artists not keeping up with their deadlines"
This may be going off in a tangent, but it kinda seems like the industry is, slowly but surely, turning to that of the japanese by giving the creators enough time (season) to churn out quality stuff in a realistic time frame for these "modern" artists.
I think it's pretty ****ing cool.
That and i dont buy single issues.
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I keep expecting comics to adapt more to the novel publishing model, which is already sort of happening... where the end product is a (graphic) novel of a set page length, much like prose authors are expected to turn in X number of words. The creator is paid an advance in order to keep his lights on, then fractional amounts throughout the length of production, and then the balance of the contract is paid upon completion. If the artist needs filthy assistants, he pays them himself out of whatever the publisher is paying him... they are his employees/partners, not the publishers.
There's already a couple publishers (Tokyopop, for one) that are leaning towards this model, and certainly it seems that as more traditional novel publishers are getting into the comics game (Del Rey, Scholastic) that the trend may continue.
i think the model that hellboy and BPRD use is perfect
i like to read single issues and they always come out on a monthly basis between breaks (sometimes looooong breaks)
what happened with the ultimates? didn't that just wrap up "season"2 after a huge gap? i hope for their sake they've got the whole third volume in the can before the first issue is solicited
G-man, what kind of extras would you see in a graphic novel that you wouldn't get in a reprinted tpb? (granted, not all trades throw in goodies)...i think the only downside to the monthlies is the ton of ads you get (and the long waits, which should be eliminated if they followed a "chunk by chunk" format rather than every.single.month.
if there are big breaks in between these chunks, how would people react to them being released on a weekly basis? would that just be too damn long between arcs? would readers completely lose interest if they basically had to wait for 8-10 months before the next issue (instead of maybe 2 or 3?)
Why don't they just call these "Seasons", Maxi-series and be done with it?
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