Episode 171: The Economics of Serialization Outside of Print

Last time I discussed the business part of print publishing. Let’s double dip and explore how other media work for this.

Film Industry

Remember how books are big and take a long time to make? Well making movies is like that but with far more layers of complexity and lots of other people who will be employed throughout the filming and editing process. The initial capital to start such an endeavor is hard to fathom. The only relatively easy part is that today’s movie audiences are far more receptive towards movie franchises with sequels, prequels, and reboots. What used to be limited to horror movie monsters like Jaws and Freddy or the most sci fi of stories, having multiple parts to a feature film is far more normal. Consider the overall success that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had since its initial conception with Iron Man even as we hand wave away The Hulk films done a few years earlier. The main Marvel film set still has multiple phases and the other super hero movies are doing well enough, Not to mention that the bad movies might get rebooted once more if there characters have the potential to bring in fans later on (looking at you past and future Fantastic 4 movies). Still, you need big numbers on first and subsequent installments before it all goes down the drain and stories that still have material won’t get made.

Television

Same thing as movies but you get to make multiple episodes at least beforehand. Even if you film episodes a bad enough critique/rating number can kill a series on the spot. The most infamous example is Viva Laughlin a musicalesque show where Hugh Jackman was a casino owner in Laughlin, Nevada. After the reviews of one episode the network executives killed the show from future airings. Which is a big issue with most forms of serialization, those that allow you to start can end it even before it really starts. There are ways around contracts and publishing houses and executives are more adept at making them if they have experienced legal teams on payroll.

Comics

To understand the mechanics of comics is to follow the rules of an industry. Make 28-32 pages of material and be ready to deliver it at weekly or monthly intervals. From there, one needs to keep in mind pacing. Every installment needs to work on its own while pushing a bigger story forward. Television has a similar system to comics while books are closer to movies in that regard. Comics creation, just like writing, are limited to your creative talents and artistic ability. Even with green screen there is only so much you can do that can fit in a budget. If you are working within the big two of Marvel or DC then you need to follow their past and future structure for the characters assigned to you. Original characters or stories that don’t go with the main continuity allow writers/artists to have more leeway but you are more employee than author when it comes to them. Working for smaller publishing houses or on your own allows you to avoid the pitfalls of previous years of continuity but finding your audience and keeping them hooked has its own challenges.

Next time, my bread and butter of webcomics will be discussed.

Until next time.

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Episode 170: The Economics of Serialization

I’ll be heading to a conference soon where I will be presenting on the art and business of serialization. I have written several posts on the more artistic side regarding style and plot development/continuity so for this post I want to explore more of the economic side of publishing over time. Much like my dissertation, I am going to subdivide how each medium of publication has their own rules, standards, and expectations for serial fiction.

For today’s post I’m going to limit myself to just the print medium.

When it comes to traditional books and such, the amount of content per installment is vastly more than say comics or webcomics. Trying to initialize your serial publishing endeavor means either going it on your own or finding a publisher. If you are undertaking a writing solo mission then all the power to you. Many of the rules and gatekeepers get to be ignored and you are the one who makes the tough decisions. But if you are going with a publishing house then you need to assure them that you and your story are worth the investment. This means that the text needs to be fleshed out enough to show the potential for initial and continued publication. For this situation, having one or more of your installments already done or close to it will be a big help. From there, you sign a contract for one or more installments to be published with pinpoint due dates. Should your text become popular enough then you might get an extended contract for more installments, should your story have enough parts to keep it going. One thing to be weary about is the rights of publication which are usually transposed from author to publication house. So let’s say that your first book didn’t sell well and an extension isn’t given, well you can’t exactly go out and publish the rest on your own or with another company if the contract says that they retain publishing exclusivity for a certain period of time or even in perpetuity.

In short, serial fiction in print requires lengthy and near complete drafts of one or more installments before even the thought of mainstream publication can be undertaken. However, the length of book installments that you need to convince readers to purchase a relatively limited number of parts within a fairly extended period of time. Compare that to say getting people to read a 100 issues of comics or a thousand webcomic strips and you can see how individual purchases and publications can make a big difference.

Next time: comics both as a small time publisher or as part of the big two of DC and Marvel.

Episode 169: Spoiler Free Review of Black Panther

I have recently returned from the movie theater and the adrenaline rush from witnessing the most recent entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has left me with a feeling of awe that must be shared. I will do my best to not include any of the actual content of the movie but let me explain some of the things that are worth noting.

Let me start out by saying that this movie has indeed been overhyped. It’s not the perfect film, it is not the cinematographic experience that will end all racism. With that out of the way, Black Panther is ridiculously awesome. The story progresses almost seamlessly from beginning to end without filler or moments that felt out of sync that would probably be fleshed out during the Director’s cut.

The visuals provide a look into a world that is both new yet familiar. It is an experience eerily similar to the first time I saw Lion King wherein the exotic is brought forth and central Africa looks like something that is palpable even as its an experience I haven’t felt firsthand. The landscapes, both rural and urban, are a sight to behold as Wakanda’s fields, waterfalls, mines, and even mountains are expansive and filled with detail. Big props to the amazing CGI team who made this world come to life.

The action sequences are intense too as our titular character is an acrobatic badass with and without his suit. All of the other characters have their own moments of awesomeness as fighting sequences have good use of weapons and hand to hand combat. Without Iron Man or Thor in the cast the explosions and beams are minimal but the combat is still enthralling.

As for the acting let me say that this may be the best cast in a Marvel movie I have ever experienced as even the minor characters are memorable. Chadwick Boseman continues his path as T’Challa from Civil War (which is not necessary to see beforehand but helps in fleshing out the motivations and backstory for a hero who has greatness thrust upon him). Danai Gurira is intense yet still approachable as both general and guardian of Wakanda and its king. Lupita Nyongo’s Nakia somehow balances being both a love interest that needs saving and a crafty spy that can stand toe to toe with the best of them (sorry to all the shippers of Widow and Panther). But the true standout is Michael B. Jordan as the antagonist of the film. Without giving too much away, his development into villainy borders on the cliche but still feels intense and relatable. One of the many criticisms of the MCU is that the villains don’t stand and are more a side effect of the story going forward t=rather than the drivers of the plot. Jordan breaks that mold by being top tier bad guy, second only to Loki (who is now almost chaotic neutral but still up there).

All in all the movie is amazing and yes you should stick around for all the post credit scenes. It’s visuals aren’t as psychedelic as Doctor Strange and story isn’t as grounded Winter Soldier but it is still one of the better films in the MCU. I’d go so far as to put it in my top 5 but time will tell if the post premiere glow remains afterward. If you aren’t experienced in English spoken with different African accents you might have to pay a bit more attention but it’s well worth it.

Go watch it for yourselves and stay tuned for an upcoming spoilertastic post later on.

Episode 168: A Look at Black Lightning prior to his CWification

With the upcoming premiere of the long awaited and much hyped Black Panther movie, there have been a lot of debates as to who exactly is the first African/African American superhero style character to make it big. One of the first ones to come to mind with all my years of paying attention to super hero based media was Black Lightning, the token dark character in the super old school version of the Super Friends cartoon. In the cartoon version he was named Black Vulcan due to licensing issues but he was the de facto electric centered character who helped the rest of the core heroes saving the day and such. The portrayal of Vulcan, alongside Samurai, and Apache Chief was an attempt to make the show more inclusive but wow does it look bad with hindsight. Here’s Harvey Birdman attorney at law clip spoofing just that.

The character itself was okay but it left much to be desired, especially when compared to Static Shock, who is basically the contemporary teenage version of Black Lightning. While many of the subtexts were about specific problems faced in predominantly black schools and neighborhoods, the show did its best to stay in the middle lane and not push boundaries too far, especially when considering that it was a kid’s show for Saturday mornings. Still, Black Lightning himself would remain non existent within the DC animated universe save for minimal cameo moments even as he existed within the actual comics.

A few years ago, DC decided to release some animated shorts regarding lesser known characters from their super roster. Black Lightning returned as a family man for these shorts, balancing being a dad and a hero in a vibe reminiscent of The Incredibles. With two young daughters who sometimes exhibit their own metahuman abilities, Black Lightning cleans up the streets while trying to keep a tight ship at home. Here’s one such clip:

 

The girls would later come back in a mini webisode of DC Super Hero Girls as the duo of Thunder and Lightning as seen here:

However, Black Lightning isn’t here. Which is why I was intrigued when I heard that this electric superhero would be getting his own CW series. It currently does not coincide with the rest of the Flarrowverse but I’m sure some sort of crossover event will manifest entirely. My initial reaction was that this would be Luke Cage meets older Static Shock. I have only seen a few episodes but I will explain more of my early thoughts on the show in tomorrow’s entry.

Episode 167: Update and Plans for Future Writing

So it’s been forever and half since I have written anything on here updating what’s going on in my life. The blog has been put on the backburner for so long that the writing itself was pretty much forgotten except for the sporadic fanfiction post and if I want to expand my academic footprint outside of the classrooms then I need to start writing more. But since I respond more to a formal challenge than just starting up again with no real fanfare.

For these reasons I have decide to use the occasion of lent, starting from February 14 to May 1st. Don’t expect any long diatribes on Catholicism or other religious discussion, just using this temporal benchmark as something more concrete than just writing “for a while”. The proverbial 40 days and 40 nights will provide me with the opportunity to engage in more consistent and disciplined moments of fancy writing.  I have no idea if I can do the all 40 posts but attempts will be made to reach the elusive episode 200. Things I can’t exactly write about, like say upcoming things for publication or pieces from my up and coming screenplay/novel, won’t be added here but I will add a brief overview of any progress made so far.

I wonder if any readers will join in for the fun. If you happen to have any suggested topics feel free to comment and I may use it for one of the many posts ahead.

Until tomorrow then.