New page of Eaten By Planet 29
by Kevin Atkinson, now available.
Click here to read this comic NOW!
My apologies to those of you that have been following Making Comics is Risky Business and were expecting Part 4. I will continue with that series after the holidays. Those of you that would like to play catch-up on that series can read the previous posts here.
But it is Christmas Day, today, and it just wouldn’t seem right if the holiday wasn’t addressed somehow. Christmas, after all, is the one holiday that is most closely associated with tradition. Every family, town, culture, ethnicity, has particular traditions associated with Christmas. Ironicly, though Christmas is a very religious holiday celebrated by Christians commemorating the birth of Jesus, much of the tradition is highlighted by pagan practices and influences from other religions in an effort to assimilate into popular culture.
The Christmas tradition that children the world over look forward to most is the arrival of Santa Claus as he delivers toys to all the good little boys and girls. The tradition of Santa has fourth century roots reflecting the exploits of a generous Greek bishop now known as Saint Nicholas. The more contemporary version of Santa, however, has been popularized by the Clement C. Moore poem best known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which was first published in America in 1823.
Moore’s poem defined the mythology behind Santa, describing in detail, his fur-lined outfit, airborne sleigh, the names of each of the eight reindeer, his agile descent and ascent of chimneys, his friendly demeanor, chubby appearance and his terrible habit of smoking a pipe.
This year, in a brazen move, Pamela McCooll of Vancouver, B.C. decided it was time to edit this classic poem, which is arguably one of the most famous works of American literature that has had a tremendous impact on popular culture. She chose to effect the work, long in public domain, by removing the two lines that reference his pipe smoking, “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.” She changed the title to “Twas the Night Before Christmas: Edited by Santa Clause” and added info on the back cover as to why Santa, “himself,” chose to make the change to the classic poem.
This enforcement of political correctness now opens the doors for those that will argue against Santa’s use of fur, humane treatment of reindeer, and obviously poor diet. Why not update the poem to reflect the interests of contemporary children? Who dreams of sugar plums? Let’s replace that with iPads. What is a sash or a kerchief? let’s change them too! Who really has a chimney anymore? Why can’t Santa just use the front door?
Give me a break!
Does this classic poem about the arrival of Santa on Christmas Eve really need a reboot? Changing the original source material deprives our culture of a piece of our history and lies to us about who we really are. Why can’t the original be left alone and a new story be added to the rich mythos of the character. Would that require too much creativity?
Rankin Bass did an incredible job of creating incredible Christmas stories that embellished on classics. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reinedeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, A Year Without a Santa Claus and many more titles fill our holidays with joy and add to the mythos.These stories injected details, answered questions and adapted the characters. They were new works that became as beloved as the original songs and poems they were based on.
I would have much rather seen a new story about why Santa quit smoking. Maybe Santa responds to listening to so many children asking for their grandparents back because they lost them to lung cancer. One day a small child looks deep into Santa’s eyes and asks, “Why do you smoke, Santa? I don’t know what all the children would do if you died like my , Grandpa?” Santa makes a commitment right there to quit smoking to fulfill that child’s Christmas wish and discovers just how hard it is to do. With the help of all his friends and family he manages to quit smoking just in time for Christmas and embarks on a mission to make a difference in the lives of others by sharing the message that smoking is not healthy.
Isn’t that more effective than removing the lines that told us Santa was a pipe smoker and pretending that he never smoked in the first place? Do we need to to sterilize our culture? Maybe it cleans it up and turns a blind eye to a negative part of our history and culture but it deprives us of important lessons and great art. It deprives us of our heritage. Should we remove, slavery, child labor, women’s suffrage, and the Holocaust from our “story books” because they are uncomfortable. Let’s just pretend they never happened.
I’m sensitive to this issue because I see the origins of comic book characters rebooted all the time. I understand that it is mostly a marketing attempt to keep the characters “current” but I always find it an insult to the originals that should be held as the timeless classics that they are. Leave them alone! Create new stories and new characters! Define a new era with new art that reflects the times instead of bastardizing a classic because it is easier than creating something original.
Regarding original, let’s not forget the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Now, that’s a story!
Everybody, please have a very, Merry Christmas from all of us here at CO2 Comics!
The financial risk of making comics is a cold hard issue that affects every business. It is a gamble that is made, based on educated guesses, that an investment will return a profit worthy of the effort and expenses involved. Like with gambling, there is an excitement to the nature of this process that drives entrepreneurs to engage in these risks. It is not for the weak of heart.
I remember having a conversation with my younger brother, Tom, on this subject. He and I were both prone to start up businesses. I had participated in the launching of Comico the Comic Company and he was involved in some real estate ventures. My brother compared our activities to that of our grandfathers, both of which had been active gamblers that bet heavily on ponies, cards, craps, and sports. According to Tom, we had a genetic gambling disorder that was manifested by our affinity for business risk.
Launching Comico, however was not as risky a proposition as publishing comics had been in the past as I discussed in Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 2.
For the first four decades of the industry, publishers bore the burden of most of the risk involved, making all the investments in production and marketing in anticipation of sales made on consignment. Comico had the benefit of distribution in the Direct Market where most of the risk fell on the retailers.
During the late sixties and early seventies, thanks in part to the success of underground comics that were being sold in head shops, a market of comic book specialty shops began to spring up operating out of flea markets, garages and small stores. Phil Seuling, the organizer of the original New York Comic Art Convention ventured into distribution with his East Coast Seagate Distribution company. He had developed a plan to buy direct from comic book publishers with the promise of no returns. For the publishers this meant guaranteed sales.
Though Seuling originally held a monopoly on this market, it eventually sprang into a network of distributers spread across the country. Retailers would anticipate how many copies of each title they would need. Generally they derived these figures from knowing the interest and buying habits of their customers. They would place their order with their distributer of choice, sometimes paying in advance. The distributor would then place their order with the publishers, generally with a deal to pay thirty days after the books were delivered.
When we began publishing Comico back in 1982 we took full advantage of this system. We solicited our original comics, Primer, Az, Grendel, Skrog, and Slaughterman, with Xerox copies of art three months before the books would ship. A month before printing we would know exactly how many books we would need to print and could anticipate if we would profit from the product or not. We knew in advance what risk, if any, we were taking.
Retailers and distributors, however, were taking the chances on an unknown product based on photocopies and promised enthusiasm from young publishers. They knew that comic collectors were excited about acquiring first issues of comics that may one day be a successful feature making that first issue valuable. Collectors were speculators, gambling that their investment would one day pay big dividends.
Retailers ran the risk of not having a comic and seeing their customers run to another retailer. Distributors could not afford to not have the comics available for fear that their retailers would run to another distributor. So when our first comics, which were rudimentary at best, had been rejected by every distributor we were given a golden opportunity when Bud Plant placed the first order of a mere 100 books. We knew that if Bud Plant had books then every other distributer would have to have them. We got on the phones and before we knew it we had enough orders to justify a print run!
Comico enjoyed great success in the Direct Market. Our orders which began at modest numbers of less than 3,000 an issue escalated to over 300,000 a month in the matter of a few years.
Ironically, Comico’s downfall came when we took on the risk of the traditional Mass Market where we took a chance against the returns of the old consignment market. We bet that the recognition value of the licensed properties we produced like ROBOTECH, Starblazers, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and Gumby would insulate us from returns.
We gambled and lost.
Next week in Making Comics is Risky Business: Part 4 we will take a closer look at the risky business of speculation and why crowd funding is the future for comics publishing.
Making Comics Because We Want to,
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