The Next Comic Industry Ambassador?
Every kingdom has its king. Every kingdom eventually crowns a new king, thus the one replacing will never rule as his predecessor did.
One’s understanding of the statements above will help many within the context of this post. Let’s be clear right off the bat here, there is no replacing Stan Lee. No one. Ever.
Stan Lee (1922-2018) was not only the consummate professional, but he was also the world’s first social media marketing guru. No one did it like Stan. No one. The educated/knowledgeable person(s) knows that Mr. Lee did not create all of the Marvel characters within the Marvel Universe. While he did create some, names like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby should always be synonymous with Stan’s. Ditko and Kirby were an intricate part, just as important, if not more than that of Stan’s in the creation of what is a multi-billion-dollar business today. So, what separates the big three exactly? This question is the easiest of them all, Stan Lee created what we know today as social media. Ditko and Kirby did not know of the “madness” or “spell” Lee was indulging in. Provided interviews on late shows, and magazine interviews, posing nude with a comic covering his private parts, and making appearances anywhere he could. Having business dealings with a rock band like Kiss. Using their real blood within the inkwell during the printing process….could you imagine the hoops that would have to be jumped through in today’s society to do this? Marketing madness, marketing genius. In the modern world, Disney would never do this. Never. Marvel Comics was doing things outside the box, hence the slogan “House of Ideas”. There are too many creative points to list to Stan’s credit as far as monumental feats. African America characters, the outliers of society, the smart introvert, etc. Stan’s philosophy was simple, let the “other guys/gals” handle the Gods among men and we’ll tell stories of the “real person”, with “real problems”. This was Marvel. Stan created that lure. That grounded feeling, the connection as though you actually knew Peter or Matt or MJ or Steve, etc. That was Stan, that was his doing.
Not only did Mr. Lee figure out the connection with readers, but he also figured out the connection with marketing. The first Facebook, the first Twitter, the first Instagram, yes that was Stan. Never before was there a “human”, excluding the television commercials, as vibrant about promoting their product as Stan Lee was. He was out there on foot, selling his product to anyone that would listen and allow him to speak about it. He was the front-and-center guy, the ringmaster. No one knew Marvel Comics without knowing Stan Lee. His face was the face of the franchise and he relished it. Not shy at all, the bombastic voice, and the confidence he exuded while speaking was infectious. There are speakers and then there are speakers, Lee was a speaker. He spoke, and people listened, just like E.F. Hutton. Stan changed the game in ways no one else could fathom. Why was he working so hard to promote? Many process their thoughts like this; normal people don’t work that hard, they’ll pay their way in if need be. Working that hard doesn’t make sense. Laziness was not a part of this man’s makeup. His mantra was to work as hard as you can to promote what you love. Be your own marketing entity. Your own social media giant.
Ditko and Kirby were not doing this. They simply were not cut out for it. Not many are in business. Most prefer to stay in the background and let their work sell itself or have others work to get the word out. Stan was the latter. No denying Ditko and Kirby were uber talents, but marketing was not their forte. They weren’t made the way Stan was. No one was.
When the heavy marketing campaign began for Stan Lee’s Marvel, at first Lee was proclaiming to have created many of the characters the threesome worked on together. It caused quite a bit of friction to the point friendships were lost, and bitterness came into play. As the years passed and the campaigning continued for Marvel, Stan came to the realization that the promotion was not about him, about his creations, but more about the team that truly made the iconic heroes and villains we all love today. He came around, although too late in real-time. Some wounds never resealed, but maybe now they’re all having a grand old time laughing about the old times.
Let’s be as clear as possible here. There is no replacing Stan Lee. No one will ever replace Stan Lee. That said, a new president is elected, a new CEO is hired, a new Spider-Man (with his own movie out soon), new marketing teams, new managers, new coaches, new owners, new investors, etc. Things do in fact change. Not always for the better, but things do in fact change. It’s the cycle of life. Sometimes the impossible happens and as sports fans have witnessed the likes of Jeter, Tiger, Lebron, Williams, Rolondo, Brady and the list goes on. As an exact counter to these names, many of the yesteryear crowds will say Morgan, Nickelson, Jordon, Everett, Pele, and Unitas. The current or past names here are all part of subjective feelings towards certain individuals because of their time standing. Derek Jeter will appeal to the 30-year-old’s, while Joe Morgan will appeal to the 60-year-old’s. Same with the constant Lebron/Jordan debate and so forth. It truly is a basis on appeal for the age. Do you realize young children will not know of a world with Stan Lee in it? They’ll know of the social media world though. This is the new platform. How marketing is done. Regardless of your political lines, take a look at how President Barack Obama ran his first campaign in 2007/2008 leading up to his first victory. His second bid was more of the same, but not as much. Same raw platform though, social media. Stan Lee innovated this road for Barack Obama. No, Stan Lee was not responsible for getting him elected, he’s responsible for interjecting the platform he started so many years ago. Getting out there and reaching the masses by selling your product (yourself). Social Media does this without having to run to all 50 states before election day. The new face of comics will have an easier way to go because the comic book foundation is firm. The new face will have to know social media and all of the other attributes one needs to be successful in their craft to market correctly in an open forum (real people). Brains, engagement, command, quick-witted, and so forth.
On November 12, 2018, the comic book industry is less the greatest marketer of all time. Now, as clearly stated several times already, no one is replacing Stan Lee. With a full, mature understanding of this, one can move on to the next statement. The comic book industry will need a new ambassador. Someone to lead the industry into the next era. A new face of the franchise. No one will ever live up to the hype Mr. Lee has put forth. It’s simply impossible really. But someone needs to be the spokesperson for the new generation. Do understand too, the comic book industry is solidified already in many ways. but marketing is all about adjustments. Here is what the new era ambassador would have to contend with; video games, Snapchat, mobile phones, Instagram are some of the distractions the new era brings. Shorter attention spans is a monumental feat to overcome, but it can be done. The newbie will have to know about all mediums in order to progress the industry forward. The spokesperson will have to engage with social media, comic conventions, red carpets, new products, knowledge of their craft, be 100 percent relatable, and be that E.F. Hutton guy. If people don’t want to listen to you, well you’re not the chosen one. The first and foremost attribute one needs is engagement prowess, in every sense of the word. Without that, you’re just someone talking.
Did I say no one can replace Stan Lee? So, I compiled a short list (not really short) of possible candidates to usher in the new era. The fresh embodiment of new ideas, new ways, new angles. Let’s be clear here, not one of these names below has endorsed themselves on this list. No one contacted InvestComics/Trending Pop Culture, no one emailed us, called us, nothing. These names are simply put out there as pure entertainment value and to which no creator has given their blessing to be the next ambassador for the industry. This isn’t an election, just a mere suggestion. It’s simple fun to throw names in the ring and to get some banter going among comic book fans.
Check out the names below with a very brief summary (In no particular order). The summaries are not supposed to entail the creator’s entire resume. This is where the reader comes in. Discuss your inspiration about the creator if it’s not briefed, or maybe it is within the context and you’d want to elaborate. Who would you choose to lead into the new era? If the name is not below, name your person and why.
Disclaimer: No name was omitted with purposeful intent. Simply put, you have your list, your friend has theirs, your brother has his, your father has his, and your grandfather has his too. And guess what? They too will forget a name and recall it later. It’s called being human, not malicious.
Todd McFarlane – Comic industry experience; 1985 – present. Todd’s biggest characters included Spawn, Batman, Hulk, and Spider-Man. The contortionist Spider-Man and wrapped webbing will be forever linked to Todd McFarlane. Co-founder of Image Comics. McFarlane toy line. The first Spawn movie was released in 1997. New Spawn arriving with Jamie Foxx slated for 2019 or 2020.
Joe Quesada – Comic industry experience; 1990 – present. Co-created (Jimmy Palmiotti) a publishing line name Event Comics. Has creation credits for Marvel Knights, MAX, and the Ultimate imprints for Marvel Comics. Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics in 2000, relinquished that title in 2011 when named Marvel Comics Chief Creative Officer in 2010. Oversaw the original movies; X-Men and Spider-Man. Adopted the Stan Lee “Soapbox” editorial in Marvel comic books as “Cup o’ Joe.” Understands the history of where things came from and where they should head.
Bob Layton – Comic industry experience; 1974 – present. 44+ years within the industry. During his tenure at Valiant Comics, he co-created/revamped the entire company. As Editor-In-Chief and then Vice President for Valiant Comics, the company earned 65 million dollars. In 1978, changed the bloodline for the Marvel character Tony Stark/Iron Man forever. Like McFarlane with Spider-Man, Layton is to Iron Man.
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Frank Miller – Comic industry experience; 1978 – present. Responsible for the reshaping of several characters within the comic book industry. Batman in 1986, Daredevil in 1980, Wolverine in 1982, plus others. Created two comics that became films; Sin City and 300. Nominated/Winner of at least 11+ Will Eisner awards.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner – Comic industry experience; 1987/1988 – present. We have the first of two power couples. Mr. Palmiotti, co-created Event Comics publishing (w/Joe Quesada). Co-created (w/Joe Quesada) the Marvel Knights imprint for Marvel Comics. An extensive writing/inker credit catalog from the Punisher video game to Superman comics. Created Painkiller Jane. Their most notable recent work is on Harley Quinn. Once again. McFarlane/Spider-Man, Miller/Batman, Palmiotti & Conner/Harley Quinn. His wife; Amanda Conner is also responsible for the Harley Quinn character fans know and love today. Amanda worked alongside writing powerhouses such as Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar on a Vampirella run for Harris Comics. Has penciled a wide range of characters from Batman, Black Panther, Power Girl, Supergirl, X-Men, and others. The power couple is a tremendous draw at any comic convention today. They are currently under their own company umbrella; Paperfilms..
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Gail Simone – Comic industry experience; 2000 – present. Only 18 years within the industry and Gail Simone’s impact writing ability and presence has made an indelible mark. Worked for Bongo entertainment (Simpson’s) in 2000 and made her way to Deadpool in 2002. That’s a leap! Gail has not stopped since. Making the Birds of Prey team her own. As the same with Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Red Sonja, and currently with Domino. The consummate professional and huge draw at comic conventions, Gail is legend status in the making.
Rob Liefeld – Comic industry experience; 1987 – present. The only creator that comes close to Stan Lee on this list as far as the “ultimate marketer”. Why is this you may ask? How about being the hottest comic creator on planet earth in the early 90’s and doing a 30-second Levi’s jeans commercial in 1991 with your comic art displayed throughout. Not one comic creator has done this in the modern-day. Not one. It needs to be done again. It would give the comic industry a kick in the….um…pants? Co-creator of Deadpool, Cable, and many other characters. Co-founder of Image Comics. Tremendous draw at comic conventions.
Jim Starlin – Comic industry experience; 1970 – present. A 48+ year resume. The creator of Marvel’s cosmic universe and of course, Thanos. Mr. Starlin was the creator responsible for making superheroes even “more” human with “The Death of Captain Marvel” graphic novel for Marvel Comics. His historic Batman run included the storyline “A Death in The Family”. Killing off Robin (Jason Todd) in a first-ever fan voting system to vote YEA or NAY to kill off Robin. Robin lost. Created Dreadstar, in which rumors have surfaced of a possible movie or reboot of the comic.
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Robert Kirkman – Comic industry experience; 2000 – present. Created Invincible in 2003 for Image Comics Would stay on this title for the duration of its run until the final issue published in 2017; Invincible #133. In the same year, Invincible was created, he co-creator/premiered the Walking Dead. Robert still writes this comic today, almost 200 issues later. The Walking Dead AMC television series was and still is the biggest draw for that station. Created a subsidiary company/imprint of Image Comics; Skybound Entertainment in 2010. A major force in the industry, Robert will continue to create and wow fans before all is said and done.
Geoff Johns – Comic industry experience; 1999 – present. Brought DC Comics heroes and fans to their knees during his Infinite Crisis storyline. Geoff has reinvented two key characters for DC Comics. So much so, they are forever changed by the creativity of others that have followed. Green Lantern and Flash are two may focal points within Geoff’s creative career. Became CCO of DC in 2010 and then President/Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment in 2016. He left this position in 2018 and began his own production company, Mad Ghost Productions to focus on DC Comics characters to film.
Erik Larsen – Comic industry experience; 1982 – present. Co-founder of Image Comics. A revered Spider-Man artist. Responsible for the Venom tongue! The creator of Savage Dragon which began its run in 1992. The title continues today with loyal and new readers every month. Savage Dragon #240 is the current issue. He writes and pencils each issue.
Jim Lee – Comic industry experience; 1986 – present. Co-founder of Image Comics. Revered Batman, Superman, and X-Men artist. Artist of X-Men #1 in 1991, became the biggest-selling comic book of all time. In 2010, Jim became Co-Publisher of DC Comics.
John Romita – Comic industry experience; 1951 – present. Mr. Romita’s work continues to be republished as various revamped variant covers may pop up from time to time as well. John had creative input into molding characters such as Punisher, Wolverine Brother VooDoo, and many others. Proceeded the great Steve Ditko on his Spider-Man run. John Romita developed a Spider-Man style of his own as comic fans instantly recognize the Romita Sr. Spidey.
Walt and Louise Simonson – Comic industry experience; 1973/1979 – present. The second power couple to hit the list. Between this lovely pair, 45- and 39 years of experience. Walt Simonson falls in line with a creator that’s had a profound effect on a comic character. In his case, Thor. Creator of Beta Ray Bill. The one big difference between Walt and the others who have changed the course of a character is his historic run on Thor has gone unmatched till this day for that character. Louise is the perfect antidote to Walt’s talent. Meeting them both at a convention, you’ll walk away with a feeling of passion for their craft. Mrs. Simonson has written stories for Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men, Wonder Woman, and many others. Created Power Pack in 1984 along with June Brigman.
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Mark Millar – Comic industry experience; 1989 – present. Broke into DC Comics co-writing Swamp Thing with Grant Morrison. Millar’s biggest books include, The Authority, Ultimate X-Men, and Ultimate Avengers, among others. 2004 began his own creator-owned company; MillarWorld. Co-creator of Kick-Ass and Wanted, which spawned three successful films. Netflix bought MillarWorld in 2017.
Scott Snyder – Comic industry experience; 2009 – present. This New Year’s Day baby has made his indelible mark in a shorter time than most on this list. Best known for his incredible work on the New 52 Batman series along with Greg Capullo. Some say this is the best Batman work since Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. Scott continues to be an ambassador within the industry at comic conventions. Fans demand his presence and Scott provides their needs by offering up insightful panels. This man is well on his way to something much bigger in this industry.
Dan Didio – Comic industry experience; 1990 – present. With critics constantly surrounding Mr. Didio, he perseveres and pays no mind to the negative noise (as anyone should). His 18-year tenure thus far has brought Mr. Didio to the front offices of DC Comics. He is currently the Senior VP/Executive Editor/Co-Publisher. Dan still enjoys the writing aspect of comics and refuses to relinquish any part of it. Thank goodness, because fans love his work. An infectious personality during his panels makes for an audience that pays attention to every word he speaks.
Bill Sienkiewicz – Comic industry experience; 1979 – present. The only candidate with two Emmy nominations to his credit. Best known for his abstract style art most of the time, his Moon Knight and Batman work garner a lot of attention, as does his New Mutants run. A professional and professor of his craft. Extreme knowledge of the industry. Visit him at his booth at a show, talk to him, and look over his body of work and you’ll understand why this man is revered.
Neal Adams – Comic industry experience; 1960 – present. Career highlights include, but are not limited to, Batman, Green Lantern, Deadman, and Superman. Countless classic covers, probably the most out of anyone on this list. Knows the business inside and out.
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George Perez – Comic industry experience; 1974 – present. Mr. Perez is beloved in the comic convention circuit. His “jam art” is the best in the business. Only George can fit 45 or more characters on a cover. His accolades are extensive, but to name a few, Teen Titans, Avengers, Wonder Woman, JLA, Superman, and on and on. Played a part in the Infinity Gauntlet series for Marvel which seems to be so popular these days (wink-wink). Also contributed to the storylines “A Lonely Place of Dying” in Batman and “The Judas Contract” in Tales of Teen Titans, in which he introduced the new Nightwing. Drew Firestorm’s first appearance. Deathstroke too. On and on…
Neil Gaiman – Comic industry experience; 1986 – present. In 1989, Neil brought a special sort of comic never seen before in the history of comics. Sandman #1 was the ebb of adult comic reading. Children were not invited to this party. Neil brings a stark contrast to the comic industry that lacks so much depth to his storytelling style, that only Mr. Gaiman can deliver. He essentially created a style unlike anything readers have ever seen before. Vaughn, Moore and others have done this too.
Jim Shooter – Comic industry experience; 1966 – present. In 1984 Jim wrote the epic Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. Twelve issues of history there. One of the most prolific/outspoken Marvel EICs ever. His first published comic was at the age of 15 with DC Comics. Was also the EIC at Valiant Comics after his Marvel tenure.
Grant Morrison – Comic industry experience; 1978 – present. Mr. Morrison’s credits include Batman, JLA, The Invisibles, Superman and others. His Animal Man and Batman stories strike a chord in many comic book fans as some of the best-written stories of all time.
Brian Michael Bendis – Comic industry experience; 1990 – present. Created a legitimate NEW Spider-Man in Miles Morales. Wrote House of M, Secret Invasion, Siege, and Age of Ultron, just to name a few. Has his creative juices in animation and many other entertainment outlets.
Did I miss someone? Who do you think it should be? Or is Bill Maher right??