Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Reviews and Similarities

Well, the Deadworld: War of the Dead mini-series has finished its run.  All five issues came out in August as it was a weekly series.  I’m still not sure how I feel about that.  I was told by a few retailers that they ordered light on it because if it didn’t do well, they’d be stuck with all five issues.  I guess I can’t blame them.  It was nice to see it come out each week and I don’t really have any way to judge the sales versus potential sales (if it were monthly).  I do know from experience that there are substantial drops from 1 to 2 to 3 and so on and with this weekly format, the numbers stayed pretty close.  But I don’t know if #5 was ordered like a #1 or if #1 was ordered like a #5.  Overall, the numbers were respectable according to IDW.  Checking the charts for previous months, it seems to be right in with the pack on independent comics.  Now, the trade paperback will be available for November and is in the current Diamond Previews (order #SEP12 0375).

It was interesting to see the number of reviews that War of the Dead received.  I mean, it’s a series that has been around since the 1980s and last year was the original graphic novel of The Last Siesta and IDW also released three collections in the last 18 months. So,  it’s not like it had disappeared and returned from a decade long hiatus.  Since it was rebooted some 5-6 years ago, there have been 15 comics and 6 graphic novels out.  Not a regular schedule by any means, but certainly not out of sight.  Judging from what I read from some, it was the weekly aspect that drew attention to it.

It got a lot of great reviews but I was also interested in the negative or neutral reviews.  I was set to deal with that because as a writer or publisher, you know that not everyone is going to like what you do.  Hell, even when Gaiman and Moore were at the top of the world, they had detractors.  Not saying I’m in their class but if they have negative reviews, I think everyone else had better learn to deal with it as it’s going to happen.

There was one reviewer who absolutely hated the series, right from the get go.  He hated the story, he hated the art, I think he hated the very idea.  But what I found strange is that he reviewed all five issues, one a week.  Now he did a lot of reviews and I didn’t see him duplicate any other titles over the last few months yet he wanted to delve into why how he hated Deadworld.  About 10% of his entire output was on Deadworld.  I don’t get it.  If you didn’t like it, fine…but to spend so much time, that just seemed vendettaish to me, but I can’t imagine why. Maybe he doesn’t like me or Sami, I don’t know.  Just found that really curious and makes me wonder what was his purpose, not just on Deadworld, but in general.

A very frustrating thing I found is just how many people issue reviews and never actually read the comic.  Why have a review site if you don’t read the comics?  It’s fine if you say that something doesn’t hold appeal so you won’t read it but to give the illusion that you read it and then spout off about it is beyond disingenuous, it’s dishonest and fraudulent.

The best example is (spoiler alert this paragraph) regarding Dan.  Dan was introduced at the beginning and he was carrying a number of guns and had the long duster and hat on.  First off, people said how derivative the character was.  Well, that look Dan had goes all the way back to 1988….so not sure who it was derivative of back then.  But the major problem is how many reviews labeled Dan as the guy that goes around blasting all the zombies and again, how cliché and derivative that was.  The thing is…in the entire five issue series, Dan never fired his gun…not once.  So, how is he a labeled a cliché when he doesn’t do what he’s being accused of being a cliché about?  There were quite a few reviews that SAID he was a guy going around blasting zombies.  Really?

The most prevalent thing was in reference to Donna.  In the series, Donna is half human/half zombie and wields a sword to fight zombies.  Of course, some reviewers claimed I was influenced by the character Michonne from The Walking Dead.  The thing is, Donna with the sword, has been around almost 20 years and not just from the pages of Deadworld, there was even a 4 issue mini-series on her (Tattoo). Now, I get that someone might not know that as I wouldn’t expect them to know all the characters from the long running series and I get that to some, this was their first foray into Deadworld.  I will grant that they could specify a “Michonne” like character but to accuse me of ripping it off?  For someone to accuse someone, I would hope and expect that they would do a little homework.  

Speaking of the Michonne character, someone mentioned to me (I have never read the series) about how she led zombies around on chains.  One of the earliest scenes (1990, I think)  of Donna’s “zombie” half, a character called Vamp, is how she would lead her victims around hooked up to chains as if they were pets.

There are a number of examples of similarities between the two series.  Although the opening group didn’t travel around in an RV, in Deadworld they had a school bus which was home.  In the early issues of Deadworld, the group found sanctuary at a religious fanatic’s house that for some reason, seemed to be devoid of zombies.  One of the group hooked up with one of the daughters of the religious father/leader.  This was in the first few issues, all of which were produced in the 80s.

Later in the series, but still in the early to mid 90s, a way of escaping the zombies for one guy was to take the skin and guts of a zombie and cover himself with it so the zombies couldn’t sense him.  This was the same guy who hooked up with Clarence who told of how he was holed up in a prison.

One of the leading characters at this time was John.  John was leading a small group (on foot and horseback) and he constantly was being challenged by another guy on every decision.  John had a pregnant girlfriend (Shelley) and a son named Carl.  John also had to shoot one of the older guys traveling with them because he was bitten by a zombie.

The Dead-Killer was a popular character in the series and made his appearance in the first volume of Deadworld in issue 19 as a backup before getting his own mini-series and establishing himself for the duration as one of the key characters.  One of the key parts of Dead Killer was having to chop off one of his hands.  He then hooked up apparatuses to it such as a stiletto blade.

Interesting note that someone just pointed out to me regarding a scene I had put in issue 5 of the second volume (which came out in 1993)…was that the King Zombie played a game with a small group of survivors and chose one to be the sacrifice.  The game was eenie-meenie-myni-mo….and one was chosen (Joey).

The reason I bring up these similarities is not to accuse anyone of anything.  I don’t know.  Let me repeat, I DON’T KNOW so I’m not accusing…but nor am I giving a free pass.  I can only say that I don’t know.  Yes, I get that similarities will arise and influences will creep in.  That’s why I don’t read any zombie comics or watch zombie movies.  But I’m sure I’ve treaded on familiar ground.  Some similarities, though, are hard to chalk up to scenes a faire.

However, I state these similarities mainly so that if I choose to revisit them in upcoming storylines, I want people to realize that these were all Deadworld scenes far longer than they were scenes from someplace else.  

So, when or if I chose to focus on a vicious leader of a small city who showcases his cruelty,  I don’t want to be accused of lifting when Moloch was introduced in the late 80’s and has played a recurring role throughout the long life of Deadworld.   Same with having the “token” black character, or the little girl who has to be shot, or the burning of the bodies…all those were scenes from the beginning of Deadworld (and I will grant, likely common scenes in ANY zombie comic)…so I don’t want to be accused on anything.

As a writer of 100s of comics and different series, I do recognize that there are only so many themes and characters and that we all share many of the same “tools” when developing storylines and narratives.  I take that into account whenever writing something and make a great effort to avoid the expected, without sacrificing the story in order to do so, of course.

Over all, the most common question I get regarding Deadworld, especially this series, is will there be more?  There’s a lot of factors to consider in determining that and I am in the process of doing the evaluations on everything right now.  But it’s actually a pretty easy answer.

Of course.  Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Chin up dude! I know commercial viability is a tough call these days but one thing you do have in droves is a loyal fanbase, some active, some lapsed. Have you considered the use of 'street teams' the way that bands do these days? By that I mean getting fans to proactively promote and lobby for Deadworld

Gary Reed said...

I didn't feel my chin was down...:)

I get what you're saying about street teams but with bands, it's a specific destination and time...with something like comics, it's getting people to order stuff two months in advance at a comic store.

But it's obvious that different ideas have to considered and implemented. Thanks!

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