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John Byrne
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Joined: 11 May 2005
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Posted: 27 September 2022 at 3:20pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

JB: Amongst creators and the industry that you worked with, was there preference/pressure for changing a classic character to keep them "fresh" versus inventing a new character?

•••

There were different schools of thought, mostly driven by ego. Many times, when I was starting out, I heard my fellow “professionals” say they did not want to create new characters because they might “give away the next Spider-Man.”

As far as I can tell, that actually happened only once, with Wolverine, and he was far from an overnight success.

DC’s decision to “reboot” Superman seemed to unleash a drive by every artist, writer and editor to do the same with every character, usually “darkening” them to show how cool and edgy they were. (In my opinion this process reached it nadir with the “darkening” of Congorilla.)

It became rather sad to watch writers pitch “dark” versions of the characters, as if that was a new idea and they were the first to think of it.

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Jason Ladwig
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Posted: 27 September 2022 at 4:49pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Thanks for that answer JB.  

Its sad to think how much creativity might be getting held back by the fear of giving away intellectual property. Don't want anyone to be abused like Siegel and Shuster, but would like to see new creativity in the Big Two without having to radically tear up what has come before. 
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 27 September 2022 at 5:05pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

The first comic book publishers took a risk and discovered there was an audience for this format.

Shortly before Superman became a comic book, the introduction of new material into comic books was replacing the reprinting of newspaper strips. But no one was sure what new content would really succeed and, consequently, new things (like SUPERMAN) were tried. Though it had been created as a potential newspaper strip with high-hopes for its creators, its failure after many submissions left its creators grateful to find a home for it anywhere and it became a comic book feature for National/DC. This led to the retroactive appearance that DC had "bought Superman for cheap" when they purchased all the rights and then hit the jackpot.

The fluke was that Superheroes were an amazing innovation that the world was waiting for.

But, just as the time came and went for Pulp Magazines, there was no guarantee that comics would always sell.

One advantage comic books had was that new children were always growing up and joining the audience --almost naturally ordained with an imaginative interest in the stories.

It's easy to see in retrospect how taking that for granted was a form of "harm" that should have been guarded against.

Edited by Mark Haslett on 27 September 2022 at 7:54pm
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 September 2022 at 5:41pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

They got the benefit of "buying Superman for cheap" because it was a last-ditch effort to keep a dwindling product from running out of content.

•••

This bears no resemblance to any known history.

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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 27 September 2022 at 7:52pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

JB: This bears no resemblance to any known history.
**

Sorry. It was meant to be a short-hand version of something that did.

I tried editing it to something I hope is more correctly stated. If anyone wants to improve it for the sake of this conversation, I'd be grateful.

Edited by Mark Haslett on 27 September 2022 at 8:14pm
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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 September 2022 at 1:46pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

It’s important to keep in mind that National had no idea what they were getting when they bought Superman. The popular legend has grown up that the giant corporation screwed over the naive farmboys from Ohio, but in fact Seigel and Shuster had been working for National for a couple of years when the deal was finally put together, and that deal was pretty standard for the time.

Look at the first couple of years of covers for ACTION COMICS. Superman stars on the first cover, then disappears until the seventh issue. He comes back, then vanishes again. Hardly what we would expect from the promotion of a “hot” new property.

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Joe S. Walker
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Posted: 28 September 2022 at 2:54pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Just looking at the early ACTION covers on www.comics.org, and issues 2-6 all show relatively earthbound scenes - no cars being picked up, or rockets or aliens. Although they led off with Superman, it looks as if that was an experiment. But after issue 7, nearly all the non-Superman covers give him some billing, and from 19 he takes it over for good. So it seems to have taken about a year and a half for DC (to be) to have decided that Superman wasn't going to stop selling suddenly.
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