While comics fans, professionals and journalists were discussing and gushing extensively this week about the unveiling of Apple’s iPad, there were other announcements that had to do with comics that are actually being made rather than those that could be made or digitally distributed. Among the industry news items of the week was Boom! Studios’ announcement that it will publish a comic book in April in partnership with movie star Samuel L. Jackson.
Jackson is teaming with Eric Calderon (a writer/producer with whom he worked on the animated Afro Samurai TV series) to present Cold Space, which Boom! describes as “a hard-boiled sci-fi action-adventure” and suggests it’s “sure to be the most talked-about comic of the spring.”
In regards to the latter claim: no, I don’t think so.
Sure, Jackson definitely has plenty of geek and comic-book credibility. Even before the Cold Space news release, he was described as a comic-book reader, and he’s been the new face of Nick Fury in Marvel comics and movies for a few years now. But I honestly doubt that’s going to be enough to get his comic book to fly off the shelves. Don’t get me wrong… I’ll read it and I hope it’s entertaining.
My cynical prediction doesn’t stem from any kind of doubt in the storytelling abilities of Jackson and the other creators involved, but rather a quick overview of the recent history of celebricomics.
Singer and Transformers star Tyrese Gibson was noted for his public lament over a lack of retailer support for his Mayhem comic from Image last year. Stephen Baldwin barely made a splash with his comic The Remnant. The first issue of Clerks 2 and Men in Black 2 actress Rosario Dawson’s comic book, Occult Crimes Taskforce from Image, barely made a blip, and neither did Bad Planet, from Thomas Jane of HBO’s Hung. Nick Simmons’s Incarnate from Radical Publishing isn’t exactly lighting the sales charts on fire either, and his dad didn’t move many copies of his non-KISS comics when they were offered by IDW Publishing.
Of the five comic-book titles I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I had to do web searches to find/remember the names of three of them.
Mind you, associating star power with a comic book doesn’t automatically mean one’s going to have a flop on one’s hands. Screenwriter/director Kevin Smith moved quite a few comics years ago for several publishers, and TV writer/producer/showmaker Joss Whedon has had a great deal of success when he’s turned his attention to the medium of comics as well.
Probably the best example of a mainstream-media star’s success in comics (at least in recent memory) is that of musician Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. His writing on Umbrella Academy has not only allowed Dark Horse to move a lot of comics and trade paperbacks but has earned him a good deal of critical acclaim for his surreal super-hero dramas. Mind you, promotional efforts behind the title didn’t so much revolve around Way’s status as a pop-culture star but were based moreso on the strength and innovative qualities of the plotting, characterization and Gabriel Ba’s artwork.
Maybe that’s the lesson comics publishers need to learn: well-crafted stories — not well-known people — move product.
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