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Thursday, August 1, 2002

BUSIEK, GRUMMETT PUSH POWER COMPANY

Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett, the creators of DC's Power Company series, have announced a new focus to the book.

The "new focus" starts with Power Company #8, shipping in September, and include promotional support both from DC and from Busiek and Grummett themselves, including online support and comics-store-focused promotions, including free comics, "virtual" store appearances and giveaways of original art.

The series has been selling in the lower ranks among DC Universe titles.

"Every time a new issue of Power Company comes out," said Busiek, "we hear from a lot of people who tell us it's the best one yet. It's been pretty consistent. Every issue's the best one yet, month after month. Even some readers who gave us horrible reviews when we launched are now calling Power Company 'the best team book at DC.' So we seem to be doing something right."

"DC likes the book, we're happy working on the book, and the readers who are following the series seem to like it a lot. The only thing we're not happy with is the sales. So Tom and I wanted to do something to get people to try the book again. DC's up for it, too, so they're doing their part, but a lot of it is just Tom and me on our own, putting our money (and time) where our mouth is (er, mouths are), and giving away some free stuff to make some noise about what's coming up in the book. We think if readers and retailers to take another look at what we're doing, we'll hook a lot more of them on the book."

Busiek said he thinks the launch of the series didn't go as well as it could have for a variety of reasons.

"First off, we knew we were trying to sell a book featuring new characters," he said, "and we tried to support it with the 'Powersurge' event - the seven specials, each teaming one of the Power Company members with an established DC hero. But after 'Our Worlds at War' and 'Joker: The Last Laugh,' DC readers were event-ed out, and weren't in any mood for another event right then, no matter how self-contained."

The second mistake, Busiek said, was that "I also took too leisurely an approach with the stories. I'd thought up the team and much of the launch 15 years ago, when I was a weaker writer and when it was much easier to sell a new book, and as a result I spent too long laying the foundations, introducing stuff rather than starting off in high gear. People didn't want to wait around through several issues of fairly conventional superhero stuff to get to the more distinctive stories that'd separate Power Company from the other books on the stands. So they gave up on us."

Busiek said readers who stuck with the series, however, started responding to a change in the book as of #4.

"That's when we were past our 'pilot episode,'" Busiek said. "We started getting more into the unique aspects of the book -- the corporate structure, the clash of the members' motivations -- and audience response started to shoot upward immediately.

"So what we need to do, I figure, is give people the book they were expecting in the first place - the corporate superhero firm that does things differently from the JLA or the Titans or the Legion - the stories I really should have been writing from #1. And beyond that, we've got to give people reasons to come back, to check the series out again."

Busiek & Grummett's plan to do that involves new directions inside the book and a promotional push outside the book.

"We can't exactly go back and do another first issue," Busiek said. "So we need an event, something that'll really shake up the team, raise the stakes and grab people's attention.

"What we decided on was that one of the strongest, most distinctive things about the team is that the members are all there for different reasons. Manhunter wants big money. Witchfire wants the spotlight. Skyrocket wants to be a full-time hero. Bork just wants a job. That sort of thing. And despite all these clashing motivations, they're held together by the personal strength and business savvy of founding partner Josiah Power, who keeps everything from getting too heated, from going off the rails.

"Well, what if he weren't there?

"What if the other three partners - Skyrocket, Manhunter and Witchfire - all of whom have very, very different ideas about what the Power Company should be all about - had to run the company themselves, without Josiah's experienced hand? They'd be at each other's throats in seconds. And the result would be a lot of trouble, a lot of scheming, a lot of drama ... and, if we do it right, a lot of fun.

"So that's what we've set out to do. Power Company #8-9 is a two-parter called 'Power Loss,' which takes Josiah out of the picture swiftly and unexpectedly, at a time when the other partners are barely speaking to each other, much less getting along. Now they've got to work together, or watch the Company fall apart. But can they? Do they even really want to? And even if they do, what will the Company become?

"We'll see office politics, bizarre clients, deep, deep divisions over what kind of work they should be doing and how they should be bringing in the business, and lots more. All kicking off in the first three pages of #8.

"As for what'll happened to Josiah after that, that'll be a big part of the story, too, but I don't want to blow too many plot twists.

"#8-9 also guest-star Green Arrow, in the wake of his appearance in #6. That was something that was already going on when we started talking about this new story, so it wasn't anything we planned, but who knows, maybe some GA fans will come along to check out 'Power Loss' for him alone - we won't complain. If nothing else, the Green Arrow/Manhunter fight in #9 is a sight to see.

"That's Part One. New focus, event story to kick it off, even a guest-star.

"Once we're rolling with this, though, we're not slowing down. Another thing readers have asked for is for the book to include established DCU characters they want to see featured somewhere, so we're doing that, too. As of #11, the Power Company will be adding a member to build up the roster with Josiah out of the picture - and it'll be a well-liked DC hero.

"Who will it be? That'd be telling - but that's part of our promo plans, too.

"#11's also part of the buildup to a major, major showdown for the Power Company, one that'll establish them as bigtime heroes in the DCU or break them utterly.

"And even after that, we've got more cool stuff. The one thing we've gotten more requests for than anything else is for this new Manhunter to go up against Batman, after Batman played such a memorable part in the first Manhunter's grand finale. And for our second solo-mission spotlight issue (our first is the Steve Sadowski-drawn Striker Z spotlight in #7), we're doing just that - sending Manhunter to Gotham City on a questionable mission that'll run him afoul of the Dark Knight, leading to a running conflict through Gotham City with life or death stakes. Australian artist Gary Chaloner is working on that now, and doing a stunning job."

The promotional plans, Busiek said, are split between DC and the creators.

"DC is releasing the first three pages of #8 early, to give people a look at how it all kicks off," he said. " Those pages are available to online journalists, and will also shortly be online at DC's Power Company mini-site, which is at: http://www.dccomics.com/features/powerco/powerco.html

"Second, DC is running a poll on their website -- http://www.dccomics.com -- starting Thursday, August 1st, putting the spotlight on #11, and the new member who'll be joining that issue. We've got some special bonus art from Tom -- you'll see what I mean when you check out the poll -- and we're asking readers who they'd pick as the new member. We're doing this in part to disguise who it'll be -- don't want to give this stuff away too early -- but we guarantee that whoever wins will turn up in the book, even if they're not the hero who joins in #11."

That's the DC part of the promotion. As for what Busiek and Grummett are doing?

"I know the thing these days is controversy," Busiek said. "Start a fight, and everybody gathers to watch. But I don't do feuds, and I don't do pie contests or dunk tanks. I'd rather just do the best comics I can and show off that way. So rather than manufacture a fight, Tom and I figured we'd back up what we've got coming up with a more classic, if less contentious, promo gimmick -- free stuff.

"We're going to give away free stuff to a bunch of lucky retailers (and if they so choose, to their customers), as a means of getting them jazzed about the new direction.

"First, we're giving away signed comics. Twenty stores will get 10 free copies each of Power Company #8, signed by me and Tom. Sell 'em, give 'em away to loyal customers, use 'em as prizes, whatever you want - we'll send 'em, and from that point on it's up to the retailer what he or she does with them. We hope you'll pass 'em on to the customers as a part of all this, but whatever suits your store best.

"Second, we're giving away what we call 'virtual store appearances.' We can't travel around to every store that sells the books, but we figured maybe a phone call would be the next best thing. So ten retailers will get phone calls from me and Tom when Power CompanY #8 comes out -- we can work out the details with the retailers in question, so the calls don't come at the height of the new comics day rush, but sometime that week. I'll call five stores, Tom'll call five stores -- and even if you're outside the U.S., it doesn't matter. We're paying for the calls. The retailers can put us on speakerphone, or have readers take turns talking to us, or raffle off who gets to take the call, whatever. We'll be available to answer questions and talk to readers for at least half an hour per store. If you've got questions about what's coming up, about any of the books we've worked on in the past from Astro City to Superman to Teen Titans to The Adventures Of Jell-O Man, about what's coming up in Power Company or JLA/Avengers, about how to break in, or where George Pérez gets those bizarre shirts - we'll field 'em all.

"And third, the 'grand prize,' as it were -- two lucky retailers will get free original art. Tom's picking out a couple of Power Company covers, and we'll give them to two of the retailers who take part in all this. Again, the retailer's free to sell them, give them away, raffle them off, whatever. Original art by Tom Grummett - how cool is that?"

What interested retailers need to do to be part of the pool for these giveaways is to sign up with Busiek.

"If you're a retailer and you want a shot at the giveaways, just e-mail your name, address and phone number to PowerBoost1@aol.com, and you'll be on the list," he said.

"If you're a Power Company reader (or someone who plans to try the book, and wants in on the fun), then you need to get your retailer to sign up with us -- and tell 'em that if they win, you want a shot at the prizes. We'll pick the winners from the folks who sign up, and we'll give out the prizes in September, when #8 comes out."

Busiek cautioned that non-retailers should not try to enter by making up a fictional store name and sending it in. "We'll be checking," he said, "and if you're not a real store, you're not going to be counted."

Any retailer that doesn't have e-mail can get onto the PowerBoost list by regular mail. Just send a card or letter to:

Juke Box Productions

PMB 218

13215-C8 SE Mill Plain Blvd

Vancouver WA 98684-6991

"That's the story," said Busiek. "We think we've got a pretty good book here, and that it's getting better all the time, and we'd like to support it. Maybe we started off on the wrong foot, but we're happy doing it, DC's happy with the book, and the readers who are on board seem to like it a lot. If you're intrigued, but gave up on the book (or never tried it in the first place), make sure your retailer's getting a copy of #8 for you -- even if he's already sent his orders in, DC will still happily take order increases. If you're a regular reader of the book and want to support it (or just want a shot at the prizes), let your retailer know, and spread the word."

"And don't miss #8 - you'll be glad you picked it up."

BRIEFLY

E-mail the Continuum at RobAlls@aol.com



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