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Top Cow has taken a note from network television to introduce new characters, concepts and series’. But has it worked?

It is incredibly hard to have new characters and series catch on with comic book readers. It seems all comic book fans want are either more books featuring the characters they love, or new series focusing on characters they read in their childhood. New concepts are almost impossible to sell, and even new series featuring favorites from the past have a hit or miss success rate.

Top Cow has come up with a novel idea on how to approach this conundrum—one borrowed from the world of network television. They have brought the pilot season to comic books.

For those of you unfamiliar, a pilot is an episode of a potential TV series done by its producers that they use to entice the various networks to pick up their show. Pilots usually introduce the characters, establish the concept, and set up the conflict. If the pilot is approved, it could act as the first episode of the series or there could be changes made to the cast or the concept before it is picked up.

In 2007, Top Cow put out a series of one-shots gathered under the “Pilot Season” banner. These five one-shots focused on characters from the Top Cow universe—three members of Cyber Force (Velocity, Ripclaw, and Cyblade), a supporting character from Witchblade (Angelus) and an earlier concept brought back for the event (Necromancer). After the books were released, fans could vote for their favorites on the Pilot Season’s MySpace page. The two specials that got the most votes would get their own series. (Velocity and Cyblade won this round).

The next year, Top Cow brought “Pilot Season” back, this time blending four original concepts in with two from the company’s past. The winners this time around were one of the original concepts (Genius) and one based on a pre-existing concept (Twilight Guardian).

For the next installment, instead of going with a variety of creators for the one-shots, Top Cow gave all five spots over to Robert Kirkman, who worked with Top Cow head honcho Marc Silvestri to develop five new concepts for this “season”.

The fact that Top Cow keeps returning to their Pilot Season marketing initiative shows their investment in the idea. But there have been hitches in the execution. Many of the series featuring on the winners have been slow in coming, if they have arrived at all. And the last entry in the Kirkman season, Pilot Season: Hardcore, has yet to arrive even as Top Cow starts a new season.

The foibles continue with this latest edition of Pilot Season, which is a six-week event where fan voting will bring one book back to life as a series instead of two. It was supposed to start last week with Pilot Season: Forever #1. Instead, it started with Pilot Season: 39 Minutes, which was scheduled to be released this week.

You can’t fault Top Cow for taking initiative in trying to expose readers to new concepts. But as noble an idea as that is, their execution needs a little help. Fans’ voting on which concept lives on is cool, but not so much if they have to wait an indeterminate amount of time to see the results. And when the seasons themselves have issues with being released as planned, you have some serious trouble.  

Also out this week:

Wetworks: Mutations #1:

The original Wetworks was the one Image book that I didn’t think would last. It was originally supposed to be released with the rest of the Image launch titles, but a family tragedy caused creator Whilce Portacio to delay the start of his series for two years. I might have been in the minority, but I thought that the possibility was strong that we might never see Wetworks at all.

But it did arrive and has lasted to this very day. It has had two major runs, an assortment of miniseries and one-shots, and is getting another one-shot this week. Granted, it has not had the long, uninterrupted run that Spawn and Savage Dragon has, but the concept has survived longer than many that were introduced in the 90s have. Kudos.

Kevin Grevioux & Christopher Long (W), Julius Gopez (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $3.99, One-Shot.

Terminator: 1984 #1:

The last miniseries Zack Whedon did in the Terminator universe was set before the 1984 James Cameron film, detailing the life of Kyle Reese before he was sent back into the past. This sequel to that miniseries takes place during the Cameron film—but it is anything but a simple adaptation of that original film.

It appears that Kyle wasn’t just followed back in time by the T-800 terminator robot. He was also followed by his friend and comrade Ben. Ben also has a mission in the past as well. What is it? What are his chances of succeeding? And what affect does Ben’s mission have on Kyle’s? Well, we are going to find out in this series.

Zack Whedon (W), Andy MacDonald (A), Dark Horse Comics, $3.50. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Machete #0:

I just love how this concept came into being. Robert Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s homage to the world of exploitation cinema, Grindhouse, was a special treat for any movie fan. To make the experience complete, the directors included fake trailers between their features, never really intending any of them to come into being.

Machete was one of those “fake” trailers, but it was so enticing that fans were clamoring for it to really be made. Rodriguez is never one to disappoint his fans, so he expanded his trailer into a full-length release. And the concept has grown so much that it has spawned this prequel zero issue—co-written by Rodriguez himself—and an ongoing series in December. Pick this up before you head to the theaters!

Robert Rodriguez & Aaron Kaufman (W), Stuart Sayger (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Yin Yang:

The concept of yin and yang usually deals with complementary opposites--fire and water, black and white, man and woman, etc. Usually, the opposites do not work together. However, in this graphic novel, Yin and Yang most definitely work together.

Yin and Yang are a super powered brother and sister whose job is working as a team of bounty hunters. If a superhuman criminal skips out on his bail, these are the guys that you call. Working with Federal Marshall Wade Kendall, no bad guy can escape their grasp.

I don’t know if there will be any other polar differences besides gender to separate the siblings, or if the concept of Yin and Yang only go as far as the name, but it has the potential to be a little deeper than your typical action comic book.

Bobby Nash (W), Luis Rueben Rivera (A), Arcana Studio, $14.95, Original Graphic Novel.

Franken-Castle #21:

I wonder if all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing over Frank Castle becoming, well, Franken-Castle was worth it. Everyone knew that it would only be a matter of time before the status quo was returned. And here we are, on the cusp of that status quo making a comeback.

This issue wraps up the Franken-Castle experiment—and perhaps this series as well—as the next time this version of Frank appears, it will be in November, back to his mobster-killing humanity in Punisher: In the Blood. Of course, how he gets from the patchwork monster of this series to the human in that series needs to be answered, and that answer should be found here. It’s the end of an era and the begining of a new one.

Rick Remender (W), Dan Brereton (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Star-Spangled War Stories #1:

DC’s month long issuance of weekly war-themed one-shots has come to an end, with a reboot of one of the company’s most storied titles. Star-Spangled War Stories was what the superhero focused Star-Spangled Comics morphed into when superheroes went out of favor in the 1950s. It was home to such concepts as “The Unknown Soldier,” “The War that Time Forgot,” and “Mademoiselle Marie.”

That latter concept makes its return in the pages of this comic. The sexiest member of the French resistance is given the assignment of safeguarding some very important cargo. She knows the Nazis are watching her and want the package, and she’s confident she can keep it away from them. However, what she doesn’t expect is that someone from her own side might want it more.  

William Tucci (W), Justiniano & Tom Derenick (A), DC Comics, $3.99, One-Shot.

Powers #6:

A lot of comic fans have been abuzz about Scott Pilgrim, which is understandable considering he has a movie out and his graphic novel series coming to an end and all. But there is another Pilgrim from the world of indie comics set to make a splash. Well, indie as in Image and then Marvel’s Icon.

Deena Pilgrim is back in the world of Powers. She has been put through the ringer the last few months. She was infected by the Powers Virus, killed her abusive boyfriend and run off the force because of her actions. Now she back and she still has a badge—one that says she is an FBI agent. She appears to have gotten a new job, which means it’s her turn to put other people through the ringer.

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Michael Avon Oeming (A), Marvel/Icon Comics, $3.95. Ongoing Series.

The Hope Virus:

Bloggers have a lot of power these days. They can sell products, they can report news, and they can even influence Presidential elections.  They often have a loyal fan base of people who regularly read everything they post and use what they say to live their lives. You can't blame certain bloggers for having God complexes because they are worshipped as such.

This graphic novel takes this idea to a logical conclusion. Herbert wakes up from a long coma to find a religion has sprung up using his blog posts as scripture. What's worse, his writings have brought about an oppressive theocracy that rules the world with an iron fist. Herbert must now undo the misunderstandings of his writing that caused this to happen.

Sean Patrick O' Reilly (W), Owen Gieni (A), Arcana Studio, $14.95, Original Graphic Novel.


Transformers: Sector 7 #1:

Even though that last film was critically lambasted and the next sequel will be without the services of Megan Fox, a lot of people are still excited about the Transformers film franchise. The dedicated fans will eat up just about anything to do with the films, and IDW had a special treat for these fans this week.

This miniseries sets out to reveal the secret history of the film Transformers. A spy organization code-named Section 7 has been following the robots for decades, if not centuries. They know just about everything you need to know about them, and now they are sharing it with the world. This series is part of the lead-up to the second Transformers sequel.

John Barber (W), Joe Suitor (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.


William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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  • CA3

    CA3 Sep 28, 2010 at 7:45am

    Only in the entertainment business do people mistake well thought out marketing ploys for cool ideas. Pilot season allows Top Cow to produce a one-shot comic to court audiences, without the worry of sellers concerning themselves with how well the next issue sells because Top Cow promises no follow up unless readers overwhelmingly demand one. With the increasing level of competition in the entertainment industry and rapidly decreasing expendable amongst American audiences, Top Cow management clearly took the smart route with letting audiences decide if they should invest resources into follow ups on new titles rather than take a gamble based on first issue sales.

    For the untried talent and well known illustrators looking to try the indy market that would jump on this, it gives them an opportunity to present their work to audiences who may otherwise only ever likely see them working on franchise books for DC, Marvel, or never be seen at all. It also forces these would be creators to personally take action to develop and grow an audience for their work.

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Sep 29, 2010 at 7:25am

    correct assumptions.
    I like how TC made some waves at SDCC with the massive release of all those images.. WE CREATE indeed!

    PS all the other titles mentioned above are yummie! I wish I was a zillionaire! BOOOHOOOOOOO

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