Gail Burt of Metropolis Comics in Downey, California saw our recent Talk Back comment (see 'Andy Grieco of Collector's Clubhouse on Marvel and Kevin Smith' and 'Rich Lukes of Comic Collector on Late Smith Books') on Kevin Smith's late books and added her thoughts:


Andy is rightly upset about Kevin Smith and Marvel's lack of enthusiasm for finishing what they started.  We were all so excited when Kevin Smith went exclusive with Marvel for two years -- that should end without him finishing a single project, sometime around... tomorrow?  Did he write anything for them in the two years he's supposed to be exclusive to them?


Well, I have a policy in my store.  I can't sell what does not come out.  When a creator fails to meet his commitments to an egregious degree, as here, I don't carry their product any more.  So when Marvel - or anyone - solicits another Kevin Smith project, I expect I'll order a fair amount, but that will be based on orders only.  Where I would normally order a hundred or more, I will probably order about 35 -- enough to cover my members and have a few shelf copies.  That way, when he (again, as usual...insert your favorite here) fails to finish the story, I'll have long since sold out, and not be left holding the bag with a bunch of unsold books.  And by the way, when we sell stuff this way, we caution our customers AGAINST buying it and cite our reasons: in this case, this author is a known flake who often drops his project mid-swim and then takes years to finish, and this publisher seems to be okay with that.  Although many of his fans will consider it worth the wait and buy it anyhow, many casual readers, who COULD have been in the process of discovering what fun and how great comics are, just fall off and lose interest, never to try again. 


Now, here's where I have to again praise DC, because while they may accept some delay, it rarely becomes this egregious (although there IS the odd occasion -- can you say DK2?).  Although there may be some times when delays occur, you're always fairly certain a DC book WILL come out, eventually.  With Marvel, I have no such certainty.


It's sad, really.  This isn't the first time I've had this experience - everybody recalls Joe Madureira, right?  We knew he could put out a book on time because he had done it with the X-Men titles he'd worked on.  But give him his own book, one he ostensibly cares about, because it's fully his, and he falls apart.  And not only does he fall apart but he allows us all to know just how much value he places on comic fans:  'I guess I just play too much Nintendo.'  Thanks, Joe.  Glad to know you care about the fans who made you a star artist -- very happy that he finally accomplished what it's now so obvious he intended with Battle Chasers (in my opinion, it was nothing more than a slick demo to hand to a video game company to show them the rich world he could create), but you can rest assured, I will never recommend another thing of his to a customer.  Same with Smith: although I will continue to order limited quantities of his work, I will never recommend him to another customer.  And this is sad, too, because Smith, while (I believe) somewhat overrated, is nevertheless a wonderful writer, and it's a shame to have so little confidence in his ability to honor the commitments he's taken on. 


In the end, all we can really do is hope that Marvel will make any unsold books returnable when they finally do come out.  I know I wish they would have made the last issue returnable - on the strength of the writer's popularity and his past performance with Daredevil, Green Arrow and some other things, I ordered strong on Spider-Man/Black Cat.  I have LOADS of them, sitting unsold, because by the time #3 came out, all the casual people were getting the picture -- not going to be a nice easy ride to the end of this story, and not in for the long haul.  Even many of my subscription customers have cancelled their orders on the final issues.  I really wish someone would point out to Marvel and to Smith that if you care about something (a story, your fans, comics in general), this is not the way to be.  This sort of lackadaisical approach to finishing a job is just the thing that forces comics into that realm reserved for kids - only a kid doesn't care how someone wastes his time, because kids have time in spades compared to grownups.  If we want comics to be perceived as a medium that transcends age group and has matured as a whole, then we need to grow up ourselves, and insist that the people working for us do, too. 


Here's a suggestion, though:  Why not insist that a creator have a complete and cohesive idea and a finished story outline BEFORE you print a single page?   Why not add a clause to the contractual obligation - particularly for limited or mini-series -- which states that unless the project is 100% completed, no pay is issued?  Or how about a clause stating that if the book is delayed by the creators - writer, artist, whatever - the publisher may reassign the project to a new team after 30 days?  With a completed story outline in hand, any competent writer could at least be able to finish the series.  Does anyone doubt that Paul Jenkins or Brian Bendis could have wrapped up Spider-Man/Black Cat from here?  Frankly, it might have been an overall improvement, because in my never-to-be-humble-opinion, this story in particular was not really all that and a bag of chips so far.  Who knows -- the prospect of losing a pet project to another team might be the spur that gets the original guy to finish his job; if not, at least the retailers and consumers won't be the ones who end up on the short end of the stick -- again.