Sometimes the pop culture products industry gets pretty wild and woolly, and last week was such a time, with three stories in different venues providing some diversion from our regularly scheduled programming.
Salon is publishing a two-part story on Wizards of the Coast, publishers of Pokemon, Magic. Dungeons and Dragons, and many other games. The first installment let us know we were in for a wild ride when it appeared on Friday, March 23: 'Wizards blazed a trail through corporate culture that turned old notions of professionalism and workplace community on their head in the pursuit of a Utopian ideal where geeks would be rich, be cool and get laid.' In 'Death to the Minotaur,' writer (and former WoTC employee) John Tyne creates a vivid picture of the company culture at Wizards, which according to the article was staffed during its halcyon days by managers 'recruiting anyone they gamed, partied or slept with, and preferably all three.' This leads to the most sensational highlights of the article, which states that at Wizards, 'Intimate relationships sprouted like mold on bread, cutting across departments and seniorities with the hierarchy-smashing fervor of our consensus-driven team meetings.... The example was set right at the top: [CEO] Peter [Adkison] and his wife, also an employee, had an open marriage.' Full story is in two parts at Salon.com.
The Splash page on Comicon.com has been covering the continuing saga of Peter Paul, co-founder with cultural icon Stan Lee of Stan Lee Media. Paul has launched a campaign against Industry Standard--which published print and Web articles detailing the travails of the company and Paul--alleging that the Standard was loose with the facts regarding Paul in its articles. Comicon has apparently been in direct communication with the Paul camp, and has the full story on the dispute. We still just hope 'The Man' doesn't spend the rest of his life in depositions. The Industry Standard article quoted a 'close advisor' of Lee as saying that Lee had said to him, 'Now the only people I know I can trust are my wife and my daughter.' In any event, this story runs the gamut from tragedy to farce. Full story is at Comicon.com/Splash.
And in the 'Has it come to this?' department, a front page story on the current edition of (formerly) Madison-based humor weekly The Onion (and flagged on the home page of its website) tells us 'Everything in Entire World Now Collectible.' Mocking the trend toward increasingly everyday products being touted as collectible, The Onion takes it to its logical extreme -- a world where everything, including Dutch Boy paint in eggshell white, Wonder Bread NFL Legends Bags (wait a minute. that's not that far off), 'a rare 2001 extension cord with a limited run of 5,000,' and '3,000 gallons of factory runoff from a waste-processing plant in central Illinois' are all collectible, despite the fact that they aren't particularly noteworthy or rare. The article is illustrated with a picture of PowerPuff Girls cereal, and notes the role of comics in this trend from '...the early 90s, when Marvel Comics encouraged fans to pre-order multiple copies of the much-hyped 'Todd McFarlane's Spider-man #1' because of the book's anticipated collector's value. The issue sold more copies than any comic book in history, but fans still hoarded multiple copies in special dust-proof Mylar bags, in part because of its unique status as the least rare comic book ever.' It's a hilarious commentary on pop culture collectibles, 'manufactured' collectibles, and cultural saturation. The article (and lots of other great humor writing) can be found at TheOnion.com.