An Apology: Regarding David Willis

Alright folks.  I have to admit something; something that nearly all our listeners know.  I get passionate.  I get heated.  And now I must admit I went too far.

Should I have created the episode “David Willis is an idiot”?  No.  Not in the form that I did.  Do I think Willis’s math argument is flawed? No doubt.  Whenever one person hears “2 million POSSIBLE fans pissed off”, that’s a poweful number.  However, when I first saw it, I knew from my history of looking at comic book sales that 2 million viewers never translate to even a meaningful percentage of readers.  No, not even 100,000 readers.

DC’s Batman Adventures comic was always on the verge of cancellation every year it ran.  It was a tie-in to the heavily successful Batman: The Animated Series.  It also ran the same time as the cartoon aired.  The Gargoyles comic, which had a huge fan following had…. okay-ish numbers.  The only cartoon franchise that had a comic book revival years later that had any sort of huge comic success was Transformers.  And even then, it had an on-going comic series, and passed several hands before arriving at Dreamwave.

The big thing Willis ignored was the Teen Titans cartoon had a tie-in comic, Teen Titans Go.  Even with 2 million viewers, they reached only 10 thousand readers.  That’s a less than half a percent pass-through rate.  If the cartoon was considered marketing for the comic, it failed.  But it wasn’t.  The cartoon was marketing for… the cartoon.  DVD sales and toy sales made up it’s bread and butter, and it made it’s money back plus a tidy sum, easily.

My tone in the recording was wrong, and off-putting.  I hope I haven’t alienated any new listeners with it.  I have enjoyed some of David Willis’s work in the past, however at times, his tone is off-putting.  As off-putting as my own tone was, I imagine.  I’m sorry, listeners, and I’m sorry David Willis, for calling you an idiot.  But your math is still wrong.

4 thoughts on “An Apology: Regarding David Willis

  1. Wow, I didn’t expect to wake up to this. I thought it would be more like this.

    If there’s a problem with Willis’ page, it’s that the solution he’s suggesting is microscopic compared to what DC should actually be doing. I said on this very show that the changes DC have made are really nothing new. It’s the same shit as before. I even predicted it. DC said from the start their goal was to get new readers, and simply jettisoning 25 years of history isn’t going to do that. You still have the same costumed heroes day in and day out doing the same things. Sure, they look a little different, but only if you squint at the finer details. So they’ve changed up Superman and Batman a bit. Whoopity-doo! Explain to me how that translates into new sales.

    DC’s biggest problem is that they’re scared to death of losing their intellectual properties, and because of that, they’re willing to shoot themselves in the foot again and again to keep their classic characters around, and they fail to even spend a thought as to why those classic characters became classics. Because at one time, they were fresh and exciting.

    I often complain about how the film industry has stagnated. The comics industry is WORSE. DC absolutely refuses to give us fresh stories with new characters from entirely different settings. …Or if they do, they won’t put any effort in elevating said new material to the forefront.

    And here’s another problem; we still have the same old guard attempting to reinvent a universe without even reinventing themselves. I will go out of my way not to accuse people of sexism. I use that accusation with extreme caution. I will even stop short of using it here. But I still feel that if you’re going go to the effort of giving DC a fresh start, why would you allow one of your comic artists to even draw what appeared in the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws? And yes, that’s me saying that. I’m the same guy, on this very podcast, who professed his love for the Betty & Veronica Double Digests that you find in the supermarket aisle and the bikini beach cheesecake splendor one finds within. The Starfire one finds in the Red Hood comic isn’t even a character. The art, which I consider an equal part of defining a character as the written dialogue, can’t even muster an expression that is discernable from a vegitative state. And all the while, the angles from which her body is drawn are done to maximize her boobosity. Again, that’s me saying that. Not some crank crybaby with a political agenda.

    But back to what I was saying when this rant started, I even told Ben before the show that adapting to the cartoon version of Starfire or the new slutty version of Starfire just doesn’t matter. Sales aren’t going to pivot on the changes to one character or even a series of characters. It’s insane to even think that this is how comics work. And the problem with people like Willis making this argument, that DC should have gone with the gentler version of the character, is that Willis and the like are incapable of looking at the industry from an outsider’s perspective, from which they should realize that both versions of the character would probably be met with the same level of apathy. The problem is that DC keeps concerning themselves with old characters when they should actually make some new ones.

    It’s time we faced facts, folks. DC… no… Warner Brothers needs to reconsider this model of regurgitating the same marquees over and over and rule by committee. If there’s one thing we should adapt from the model given to us by TV, it’s that the artists are the stars; not the characters. Adapting properties to new mediums might work, but only if you give the artist autonomy. Warner Animation didn’t make the DCAU a hit. Bruce Timm did. If DC wants to survive, then it’s time to put creativity back in the hands of the artists and stop trying to do everything by fiat. Not only would this give us actual fresh material, but it would eliminate this system of constantly shuffling the writers and artists around, and it would force them to produce work on their own merit.

    • Neil is quite right. On an earlier show, Kittyhawk compared stock prices to playing cards. And the same example goes here.

      Animation viewers are always hard converts to comics. Laird and eastman’s TMNT did stellar numbers for being stapled on a guy’s kitchen table. Those numbers were enough to warrant a goofy cartoon series. Said cartoon series went on to have, AT MINIMUM, ten times the number of viewers to readers.

      Did the tmnt comic let themselves be influenced by the cartoon? Heck no, even if the viewer numbers were higher.

      Why? Because the conversion rate was always crappy. If Avatar the last airbender at 5.6 million, almost triple that 2 million number Willis totes, had a TWO PERCENT conversion rate to their printed medium, they’d have taken dc and marvel out overnight.

      Speaking as a guy that works in marketing, Lucy is less than 5 thousand people. And dc already made their cash on speculators, so they don’t care

  2. I would say the comic book industry should keep going with the gaming side of things. Personally I’m going head over heels with Marvel vs. Capcom 3, future UMvC3, and Spiderman Edge of Time on Marvel’s side. Then there’s the long awaited Batman Arkham City oh my, that game is already blowing my mind . I could keep going, but all these games to me are the future if DC wants to expand their world in the sense that they seem to be getting at, but only if in the right hands like always. Of course I may be in the minority with this.

    • The issue of some is, as it is right now, comics are loss leaders. It’s the movies, games, and cartoons that bring in huge numbers. Amazing spiderman #666 made news selling over 100,000. Spiderman shattered dimensions sold as many copies in the first day, and roi on videogames is much higher.
      Arkham asylum? Forget about it….

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