Tuesday, October 11, 2011

That Old Captain America/Wizard Magazine Controversy

Warning: nothing new to see here. If you want timely observations, you'll need to check back at a later date (or, some would suggest, peruse a better site). This here be history.

I was looking over site stats and saw that Johanna over at Comics Worth Reading had linked to my article about the declining popularity of Newsarama. She mentioned how their doing away with forums irritated her for a reason other than what I was pointing out in my post: links to old 'Rama articles were now dead, since the forums had been wiped from existence.

After thanking her for the link in her comments section, it hit me: one of the few original articles I had done for Newsarama (not counting convention coverage) may have been lost to the ages. Googling it confirmed that it was one of the things that had all traces deleted off the 'Rama website. What a kick square to the nuts.

While I was able to dig up the original Word doc I sent for publishing, I'll never be able to locate the conversation it generated and the give and take. I know from my notes that it was the first interview Drew Seldin had given on the subject, even if it was one of the last to get posted on the sites. For instance, Rich Johnston had a brief bit published about it in his Lying in the Gutters over at CBR, but I had talked to him before that call took place, which is partially evidenced by the message not being quite so well-formed from Wizard yet. There are some similarities in answer, but the longer form of our discussion revealed some stumbling blocks.

As I conducted the whole interview on my own (from tracking down Seldin, to developing the questions and recording the phone conversation), never received any compensation and now the article is no longer even published on Newarama, I'm going to repost it here for posterity's sake.

Oh...and for the record? Drew Seldin was a pleasure to talk to. He's a great guy who had nothing to do with the decisions Wizard made, just was in the unenviable position of having to deal with the aftermath.

Original article (with "Newarama" now edited out) follows after the break.

(full article...)

SCHWAPP!!!: Drew, I just want to say that we appreciate you taking the time out to sit down for this interview. Things are probably just settling back down for you from the convention this past weekend (editor’s note: this interview took place days after Wizard World: Los Angeles, March 16-18, 2007). Your time is greatly appreciated here.

Drew Seldin: Listen, you know what, I’m new to this industry. I’ve literally been at Wizard since February 5th. My plan was to start reaching out to reporters who, from what I’ve been seeing on the web, are popular and accurate and seem to report fairly.

SCHWAPP!!!: We understand that you’re new to the industry, as you said, but you’re probably familiar with the fact that there are only a few major publications that really cover the “spandex” set of comics (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, etc), with Wizard having arguably the highest profile amongst those publications. Obviously, that means it is a natural for you to get big stories and exclusives on new projects that DC and Marvel are excited about and want to get the word out on that will, also, appeal strongly to your readers. This means Wizard will occasionally get information ahead of other retailers (who don’t have publications), sometimes information that they won’t be privy to until the comic reaches their shelves. Has this been a subject of concern for Wizard in the past?

DS: Honestly, I can’t speak so far into the past. What, basically, I would say to that is that Wizard Entertainment is one company…editorial, conventions, and the store. We all work together. We all rely on each other. We’re all in most of the same meetings and things are discussed. How best to proceed, you know, for the company with what information we have.

There was never…and I just want to clear this up…like a backroom deal where editorial leaked something to the store. It was the type of thing where, in the natural course of business, it was, “OK, we’re going to be doing this huge dedication to Captain America in our next issue because of what is going on, so we definitely want to do something with the convention and do something with the store.” That’s kind of how it initially broke out.

SCHWAPP!!!: With the release of Captain America #25, as you’re well aware, it has raised questions amongst retailers and industry pundits whether some retailers have an advantage over others, specifically ones that run comic news publications (like Wizard or CSN). Has this brought up any concerns for Wizard?

DS: No, I mean it is not so much of a concern. Obviously, we saw how upset that people got from this. Of course, that was not our intention. Our intention is always, in the course of business, put out a great product, make money, and, you know, not create the kind of anger that we did…and that was part of the reason we pulled our extra eBay auctions down. Obviously we heard and we saw what was going on.

Our initial intention, really, we wanted to make sure that people who were really closed out and couldn’t get books were able to get books. And, in the process of that…doing business, make some profit on it. Again, once we saw what had happened, we pulled stuff down and tried to scale it down. Now that the convention is over, I kind of want to explain to people that it wasn’t a matter of looking to strangle somebody. That’s the way it happened. We’ll continue to work with…whether it be Marvel or DC or whoever it may be…on an event like this in the future…we’ll really want to work it out to doing hopefully what is in the best for the industry as a whole as well as our company.

SCHWAPP!!!: So what you’re saying is that there are no concerns on Wizard’s part as far as any potential wrong-doing, because there wasn’t any…but in as much as you’d like to help foster good will and good business for the industry, you’d like to work with the publishers to ensure something like this might not happen again? But without having to hold yourself back, either?

DS: Yeah, definitely use it as a learning experience. Definitely there are things…listen…every time there’s a situation that creates negative aspects, there is always something you could have done differently. But, again, as we were planning it, the perception was that we were operating for the industry, to make sure there were books out there, to create excitement, and to make some money.

SCHWAPP!!!: Picking back up from something you said earlier, one of the things that is your focus is that you want people to understand that there were no “backroom dealings”.

DS: No, there definitely was not. It would be like your foot not knowing what your leg was planning on doing. We’re one unit. Some people are saying, “Wizard needs to decide what they want to be…are they a publication? Are they a store?” We’re a company. That’s like asking Disney if they want to make movies and cartoons or own theme parks. Obviously, we’re not at that level, but you know…without sounding pompous or jerky about it…I’m just trying to say we’re a whole group, with almost 100 employees, and we’re trying to function as a business. We’re trying to function as a business and do things that are good for us, good for the industry, good for the comic book makers and good for our readers.

SCHWAPP!!!: What I’m hearing here is that some of the people who have expressed wanting you to decide what you want to be or want you to try to separate the entities…separate the magazine from the retailer operation…it is, in a sense, an unrealistic expectation because it would hamper yourselves from being a solid business?

DS: Right, it is a standard business practice. No company is going to do that…no company is going to limit what they can do to be profitable or successful or increase circulation. You can’t work that way as a business.

SCHWAPP!!!: I think that is understandable…

DS: Something I want to get across is that I’m the first Director of Corporate Communications at Wizard. In the past, one thing I know, is that there was never any kind of response to any of these situations. I’m definitely going to be changing that. I want it to be the type of thing where people have someone to reach out to, whether it be to say, “hey, listen, what went on with that,” or say, “hey, that was a great issue, you should do a follow-up to that.” Again, that is important as well, because the company has never had that before. That’s what I’ve been hearing from people as this has been going on.

That has to be an important part of business as well. That’s why they have things like PR directors. It is important to hear what people are saying and respond, otherwise you get that perception, “well the company doesn’t care…the company isn’t listening…they’re sitting up in their glass tower.” That’s really not the way things are and they definitely are not the way I want them to be going forward.

SCHWAPP!!!: You’re saying that, when something like this happens or anything similar, you want to make sure you have someone there to be able to hear those concerns, address them by working with retailers if possible, but, in a case like this, it is business and you can’t be blamed for doing good business. You want to be able to put a perspective on it, put a face to the discussion, and manage perception?

DS: Well, not so much to manage perception, it is just to be available. The great thing about this country is you can question anyone for any reason. It is more so for when people keep asking a question and no one is answering or no one is home, it leaves one perception. Then again, as we saw what was going on and such a negative reaction was erupting, we did pull the stuff down, acknowledging that we need to pull these things down and address that everyone is very upset at how this broke out.

SCHWAPP!!!: I’m guessing amongst the feedback you’ve received, there have been fans and retailers, but have any publishers expressed anything to you?

DS: To be honest with you, not that I’m aware of. That’s not to say that’s not the case, just not that I’m aware of.

SCHWAPP!!!: You’re saying that, within your function, if that contact has happened, it just hasn’t been through you, but may have happened further up in the chain?

DS: Well, yeah, my answer is I just honestly don’t know if we’ve heard from any publisher expressing anything like, “hey, what the hell was going on with that?”

SCHWAPP!!!: Can you think of any concerns, other than the obvious, that have been brought up by this? Any positives that you’ve might have gained from this, as a company?

DS: I’m looking forward to building relationships with people in other ways. I’m all for talking to Wizard about letting other people write editorials for the magazine, different retailers, different fans. Really bringing more people like that into the fold of what we do. There’s a reporting aspect which we do, but this is such a fan driven industry, it would be great to hear certain peoples’ opinions like that.

SCHWAPP!!!: Would you say this particular occasion helped speed up and prioritize the move towards better retailer interaction?

DS: No, because, actually, I was hired before it happened. This is something that they wanted to do. Coincidently, it came at a time where it turned out to be a good thing that it happened. No, the company was moving in this direction, absolutely, because they don’t want to be seen as this “they don’t care/they aren’t listening”. Because they are, they just never had anyone in position.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I remember this article. It was back when Newsarama actually ran...news. Those were the days...


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