Another huge comics discussion this week was around why Marc Bernadin’s (Monster Attack Network) Highwaymen series didn't sell. I can't speak for anyone else of course, but Valerie D’Orazio steals my answer here: "What IS Wildstorm? A wing of DC? A publisher of 'Old Imagey' type comics like Gen 13, etc? The edgy publishers of The Authority? Purveyors of fine Alan Moore products? A prestige artist's studio? Vertigo II? Publisher of licensed product like World of Warcraft?" Then she boils it all down to this perfect question: "What does the Wildstorm brand promise me so that I would run into The Highwaymen in the store and take a chance on it?"
It all comes back to branding. Creators need to do it, and so do publishers. I'm not at a point yet in my career where I'm turning down offers from publishers, but in my head I've already made a list of publishers I wouldn't want to work for. Some of it is because of my own branding: I don't like the product certain publishers put out and wouldn't want my brand to become associated with theirs.
But some of it's because the publisher hasn't figured out their own brand. I hadn't thought about Wildstorm in those terms until D’Orazio mentioned them, but there are other guys who are similarly all over the place.
Speaking of marketingy stuff, Steven Grant has a great article about the purpose of comics cover art. In short, "to catch the eye and suck the reader in so that they want to read the comic." He links to some great Kirby galleries that show how it should be done, and talks about how these days, comics covers are mostly about pin-ups. I wanna think more about this. Maybe start reviewing the monthly comics solicits for how effective the covers are at making me want to read their comics.