Thursday, March 18, 2010

Samaritan X?

Wow...JMS just seems to be mixed up in all kinds of questionable decisions lately.

I love the idea of original graphic novels. I was one of the first to buy Son of the Demon at my local comic shop back in the day. I love this sort of thing.

But one of your few forays into in-continuity OGNs is...about a Gotham hospital?

This is the kind of project with a severely limited initial audience that seems destined to have a poor sales performance and lead to corporate thinking of "well, we tried an in-continuity OGN and it failed, so no point in trying it again" while completely disregarding the fact that you picked a project with very limited initial appeal.

I get that it might be critically acclaimed and generate further printing and extended sales. But it seems silly to put out a project like this in a format that you don't regularly do a lot of business with when initial sales expectations have to be low. Putting out a project where you have to hope that word of mouth starts to grow the sales seems like something you do AFTER you become a little more comfortable producing OGNs on a regular basis.

I'd love to see more OGNs. I'm disappointed in this announcement because history tells me that this isn't going to sell in large numbers out of the gate and will likely be used to dismiss calls for more in-continuity OGN projects in the future.


  1. Maybe DC's trying to reach beyond the hundred thousand strong Blackest Night crowd and aim for the many millions of people that watch ER and Grey's Anatomy.

  2. Yes, with an in-continuity DC Universe book set in Gotham City. Because that is exactly what will capture the mostly passive audience of a TV hospital drama and get them into the graphic novel aisle of their chain bookstore.

    If DC demonstrates any kind of consistent dedication to putting out in-continuity OGNs, then my concerns above will be rendered invalid. If I thought such a commitment was even a 50/50 shot, I wouldn't have posted this blog, though.

  3. I share your concerns.

    If there's a silver lining here, I suppose it might be:
    (a) it could actually be a good read (one never knows).
    (b) It does seem to signal an interest in moving to a book format v. floppies, directed at an older audience.
    (c) DC has a willingness to do creator owned stories within their universe? That seems significant.

  4. What about Gotham Central? That series ran for close to 50 issues & was essentially NYPD Blue in Gotham. It was critically acclaimed throughout its entire run even if it wasn't a commercial smash. I don't see any reason to think that ER in Gotham wouldn't be just as popular. I know I'm checking this out.

  5. On the contrary, I believe that if this starts out with mediocre sales, it could still be a very succesful project. One of the advantages of the OGN format is that word of mouth can improve sales unlike the 22 page issue format where sales dip every month until a new arc begins. Look at the Joker OGN or the new hellblazer OGN with Jamie Delano and Jock.

  6. Part of my point is that you CAN'T compare Samaritan X to how well established properties perform, Langer. It is clearly apples and oranges.

    Zod, this might be the first time I can actually see your point. Mind you, Gotham Central had much more established supporting characters in it, but it isn't a huge leap from that to what we have here. I still think that this is a questionable property to put out when you haven't made a clear commitment to in-continuity OGNs already. The idea that they are going to use this to potentially launch an ongoing series just makes it more perplexing.

  7. I believe JMS has said that the story will have established characters, and popular ones at that, such as Cyborg and Supergirl.

  8. Guest stars, not recurring cast. And that's not nearly the same as a well known character in a titular role.

  9. The only really established characters in Gotham Central were Montoya & Allen, maybe Maggie Sawyer. Everybody else was a newbie. You can certainly do the same thing with Samaritan X. Leslie Thompkins?

    I think launching it as an OGN, coupled with the Earth One OGNs, shows DC is really embracing the OGN as a way to tell stories that might not sell monthly, but certainly appeal to the trade-waiting market & to existing readers. You can't expect DC to start putting out $20 in-continuity Green Lantern OGNs & expect readers to keep up not only with them, but with the ongoing series too. These OGNs almost have to be more obscure works, but they can feature big-name characters or locales.

    It also allows the writer to tell the story differently. JMS doesn't need to worry about coming up w/ 3 or 4 compelling climaxes, or about recaps, or any of that shit. Just 96 pages of continuous story.

    For everyone who's been saying that "floppies" are dying & trades are the thing of the future, this is the best example of what that future will look like - serialized OGNs.

    Plus, the fact that this is a creator-owned project set in continuity is awesome. The precedent that sets for DC is incredible. I hope we see more & more writers flocking to DC for this kind of opportunity. I think there's way more good here than bad.

  10. Gordon and Bullock didn't appear in Gotham Central? Or are you just arguing that they were just as "supporting" in this title as any other Bat title, with the aforementioned characters carrying the title?

  11. Nope. Gordon wasn't commissioner of police - Michael Akins was. Gotham Central started up following the Officer Down storyline where Gordon was shot & replaced as commissioner of police. In fact, a good part of Gotham Central was about how it pissed the cops off that they were basically janitors for Batman. Gordon appeared in the first arc w/ Mister Freeze, but only on a few pages.

    Bullock didn't show up until the fifth or sixth arc, Unresolved, but he'd already been tossed from the GCPD for setting up Gordon's shooter to get iced by the mob before Gotham Central started.

    As a footnote, Gotham Central wasn't canceled, Rucka chose to end it & work the characters of Montoya & Allen into the DCU proper. DC would have let him continue writing it for as long as he wanted too. It's really the precursor to the "creator owned in continuity model" Samaritan X is ushering in.

  12. Fair enough on the cast. But, again, that was as a regular series, which is a model that they're used to and make a habit of supporting through low sales when they believe in the quality.

    But using largely unknown characters as part of your in-continuity OGN just seems baffling to me.

  13. That's because in this instance I think the concept is more important than the characters. This is essentially ER in Gotham City. That's a kick-ass concept, one that I think a lot of people would be interested in. It's also predominantly new characters because again, it's the first creator-owned in-continuity work that DC is putting out. JMS has stated though that there will be some big names appearing in this - Cyborg, Supergirl, characters like that who'll be heading to Samaritan X for treatment.

    I really think the concept is the selling point here. If you were to suggest Gotham Central to someone, you wouldn't tell them about what a kick-ass character Marcus Driver is, or how Renet Montoya is a strong female lead. You'd sell it as "It's NYPD Blue in Gotham City - what's not to like?" If retailers focus on selling the concept of the book, & the creative team, I have a hard time believing they won't be able to move copies.

    In a sense, this is like the 2-hour pilot to a tv show. If enough people show interest in the OGN, then a regular series or maybe a series of minis will launch.


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