November 24th, 2011

Peter G

When Your Kids Tell You Their Toys Come To Life, They Ain't Kidding

There was a toy line called "Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future." While the show wasn't bad, I was more interested in the toys and how they worked. Supposedly, the toys "knew" when something was happening on TV and you could shoot at it to rack up points or be hit by it, costing you points. With a little patience and some experimenting with my computer, I eventually found out it worked using flashing colors, and even worked out the cycles for what counted as a target and what counted as an attack. I still have the "charge station" with a Captain Power figure on my Forgotten Shelf next to my Maxx Steele from Robo Force.

With TV going digital, it was only a question of when before someone tried something like this again. The BBC's R&D team has come up with a nifty item they are trying to get out in time for Christmas. It's a small desktop Dalek. You can buy dozens of these things in different sizes on eBay, so what makes this one so special? I thought you'd never ask. They are working to implant metadata in the TV signal so that, at strategic points (like when the Daleks chant "Exterminate!"), the toy Dalek will activate and start rolling around, saying "Exterminate!" and waving its plunger.

I just know the response section to this is going to be filled with "WANT!"
RatReading

Wizard Pulls A Vanishing Act

My, how the mighty have fallen.

It was the early 90's.  The comic book market was already undergoing a seismic shift from the fun and diversity of the Black And White Boom to the speculator market cultivated by Valiant.  Image was on the horizon, with the founders not being seen as artists but as rock stars by their fans.  The winds of change took out the best comic book magazine ever, Amazing Heroes, leaving people who wanted to follow the field with Comic Interviewer (how much you enjoyed it depended on how you felt about who was being featured), Comics Journal (self-important masturbatory bullshit), and Wizard Magazine.

Wizard rode the rock star mentality of the fanboys, hyping Image and event comics from the major publishers and emphasizing how much your comics were worth.  Gareb Shamus started becoming a big name in comics, from a guy trying to help his family's comic store survive to a kingmaker.  Where he listed your comics and how you were written up could make or break your career.

There were imitators, like Hero Illustrated, which bombed out pretty quick.  But the very movement that made Wizard so big also became its biggest threat.  With publishers chasing the money and adoration of the Wizard junkies, alternative comics pretty much died off.  With no one else to support the field, as the Wizard junkies started discovering other things to spend their money on or simply outgrowing the adolescent male power fantasies that were the publishers' stock in trade, the number of people shrunk.  It was the 80's when Marvel was bitching about how the New Universe titles were selling "only" 125,000 copies.  Before the DCnU launch, you were lucky to have one book sell six figures.

Wizard started making missteps.  First, their own staff, they started firing or chasing off, including the people who people in the industry actually respected and wanted to work with.  Wizard then started trying to throw their weight around the comic convention field, buying up cons for the mailing lists and scheduling them close to the big names like Reed and San Diego.  They chased out a small press being run by one of their former staffers (Square One).  Their last big cheerleader, Marvel, got hacked off over Wizard trying to corner the market on the death of Captain America.  When digital started catching fire, Wizard did nothing, didn't even consider it.  The content of the magazine became even more juvenile.  One article talking about five comics to buy explained why, in big bold letters at the top, "BOOBIES!!!"  Basically, everyone was moving on, growing up.  Wizard was stuck in an arrested development.

Last year, Wizard decided to go digital.  Completely digital.  They folded up the print magazine even though they had already gotten several people's subscription money (some of them, in fact, were charged a couple of months after the magazine ceased).  They then did a reverse merger to get listed on the stock exchange.  And Wizard Magazine became a free digital publication.

(Side note:  a reverse merger happens like this:  you want to take your company public, but you don't have time to go through the filings and are aware that your IPO isn't going to be worth very much.  So you look for a shell company that is publicly traded.  You "merge" with the company, although you are actually buying them.  You are now listed on the stock exchange under that company's name.  Change the company's name to your own and file with the SEC for a new ticker symbol, and bingo!  You're a publicly traded company without the embarrassment of being branded a penny stock as soon as you try going public.)

Shamus declared at the time that going digital was "the best thing I've ever done."  Well, that didn't take long.  Wizard has dumped the digital magazine.  Shamus is now just doing a blog like Josh Blaylock (formerly of Devil's Due).  Wizard is only really making money on their comic cons.  Even Geek Chic isn't doing the gangbusters they were hoping.

How much longer do they have, I wonder?