PR: What Not to Do: Plagarism Inspiration

I’ve never understood the appeal of Big Bang Comics. Why would someone want to read near-copies of old characters and stories when these days, the originals are so readily available as Archives and Masterworks and Essentials and Showcases?

Apparently, not a lot of people do. Big Bang is leaving Image and going to self-publishing. From the press release (link no longer available):

“Erik Larsen and Jim Valentino are two of Big Bang’s biggest friends and fans and we appreciate all they’ve done for us,” added Big Bang co-creator Chris Ecker. “Unfortunately, the books have been breaking even financially or losing money for Image for a long time.”

Why is that? The press release even includes a reason:

“We’ve been publishing two specials a year under various titles and even our regular fans haven’t been sure what was and wasn’t Big Bang product.”

Inconsistent branding and a lack of marketing aren’t ingredients for success in today’s market, it’s true, especially when you only publish every six months. Plus, getting to their checklist/store list from the front page of the site required four clicks, which are at least two too many. Once I got there, I could sort the list of issues by title or by price, not by publication date, which is what I would want to sort out a complicated publishing history.

Overall, I don’t have a lot of respect for someone who’s trying to build a business by simply copying the work of the talented departed. Some call it homage, but there are unkinder words.

Mostly, though, I was stunned at the disclaimer at the bottom of the PR email I got:

NOTICE: The information in this e-mail is confidential. It is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to whom it is addressed.

I’m unfamiliar with the idea of “confidential PR”. It seems self-contradictory, much like “new old comics”.

9 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Plagarism Inspiration”

  1. Captain Spaulding Says:

    Why would someone want to read near-copies of old characters and stories when these days, the originals are so readily available as Archives and Masterworks and Essentials and Showcases?

    At the time they first came out, those stories weren’t as easily available. Plus there was a sort of appeal of “If DC doesn’t want to publish that type of story, I’ll read someone who does.”

    Once I got there, I could sort the list of issues by title or by price, not by publication date

    It’s even worse than that. Within the Big Bang magazine, issue numbers are alphabetical rather than numerical. So issue 19 is before issue 2.

  2. Kelson Says:

    Ah, email disclaimers! Unenforceable at best, ridiculous at worst. There’s a great website all about the stupidity of email disclaimers that gets trotted out periodically on some of the mailing lists I follow — particularly one where people frequently ask, “How do I add a disclaimer to all my outgoing mail?”

    Back to Big Bang, I understand the idea behind recreating the feel of a bygone age — especially since, as Captain Spaulding pointed out, you had to haunt back issue bins, search eBay, or shell out $50 for an archive back when they started.

    But what I can’t figure out is why, in a line focusing on Silver-Age nostalgia, they have stories based on the 1980s versions of characters and later. I mean, “Personality Crisis?” It screams either “Crisis on Infinite Earths” or “Identity Crisis,” neither of which is exactly classic Silver Age.

    (Disclaimer: I’ve only read one Big Bang comic, and it was to read up on the origin of the Blitz. So for all I know, they might be doing Silver-Age-style versions of 1980s stories, which could be an interesting approach.)

  3. Lyle Says:

    I picked up one issue of Big Bang (because it contained Legion homage characters) and the story was cute but the art was all over the place. There was a different artist every couple of pages. That didn’t make for a product I wanted to return to and it suggested poor organization behind the scenes.

  4. Eddie Mitchell Says:

    Every time I read one of your takes on someone’s press release, I get to thinking that you should be working as a paid consultant to small comics publishers and retailers, Johanna.

    Of course this is comics we’re talking about, so the pay would stink and your advice would probably go unheeded, so you’re probably a lot better off where you are now. Plus, if you charged for all your good advice, we’d never get to see it here!

    I really wanted to like Big Bang, but I always felt they never got the difference between homage and fannish copies. I never really felt that their comics captured the quaint charm that attracts me to Sliver Age comics.

  5. M High Says:

    The line between homage and plagiarism is always a thin one. I cannot comment specifically on Big Bang Comics, because I’ve never read them. But “homage” or “inspired-by” comics do have their role in the comics marketplace. I’ve seen plenty of comics stories “done in the style of (insert artist name here)”, often that artist being Jack Kirby. The problem is, it’s a one-trick comic, and that trick often runs thin pretty fast. A one-shot homage is pretty cool; I’ve seen publishers stretch it out to a miniseries. But a long-running, open-ended series?

    Anyway, that’s not the reason for this reply — I really just wanted to make a quick comment on the “press release disclaimer” you mentioned. When I first saw your comment, I immediately thought that it might be a reaction to the recent big hullabaloo over the UC-Santa Cruz press release:

    In short: Student group at UCSC puts out a press release about how they are blocking military recruiters at their campus. Reactionary blogger Michelle Malkin picks up on the story, publishes the press release on her website, including the personal contact information for the students, which leads to a bunch of death threats against the students.

    A comic book moving from one publisher to another is not nearly the same as a highly-charged right-wing/left-wing battle in American politics. But I’m thinking there could be one similarity between the two in this situation — perhaps the Big Bang folks just don’t want their personal contact info spread all over the internet, and that’s all. At least, that’s my first impression.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Eddie, thanks. I do aim to be educational and helpful, and although I know it’s not fun to be the person under the spotlight, I do want to do more than just take cheap shots.

    Matt, that’s a good point, that whatever creative impulse may fuel a one-shot may not justify an open-ended project. I hadn’t heard about the UC stuff, but I suspect that this particular inclusion wasn’t intentional.

  7. Dan Coyle Says:

    This is funny, “now we’re self-publishing”… but that’s how they started out. I clearly remember buying early Big Bang comics in 1993-94, long before they got to Image.

    I think the 1980s revamps and versions of Big Bang were quite interesting- well, the story about the young paralegal taking over the mantle of The Sphinx was quite good.

    But I never saw the point of these copies, Johanna. There wasn’t enough of an original spin on things.

  8. Alan Coil Says:

    The reason I stopped reading Big Bang Comics is that I was uncomfortable with their being ‘copies’ of established comics. But in the 60s, I had no problem with Quicksilver being a Flash copy and Hawkeye being a Green Arrow copy. Depends on the age of the reader and his/her moral stoutness, I guess.

    Is Big Bang headed toward becoming a ‘specialist’ or ’boutique’ publisher similar to AC Comics?

  9. Nat Gertler Says:

    A year later, I notice this and seek to correct a detail: while Big Bang was available before it went to Image, it was not self-published. Rather, it was published by Caliber.




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