In a startling study produced by the Comics Oversight and Watchdog Group Investigating Reader Leanings (COWGIRL), a shocking 53% of all content published by comic book news, rumor and commentary websites is written by individuals hoping to receive work from the entities they cover. The remaining 47% is publicity and press releases generated directly by the publishers and simply cut-and-pasted for “publication”.
Joe Roth, primary researcher on the report, noted the absolute lack of accountability and objective standards from all individuals covering the medium.
“I’ve never seen a more inbred and disturbing pattern of nepotism and backscratching. It’s truly fascinating. The FTC requires bloggers to disclose freebies they’ve been given by companies in exchange for promotional consideration, but nobody thinks it’s odd that Newsarama buried negative coverage of the shamelessly awful end of Blackest Night while one of its higher-ups pitched content to DC?” said Roth. “There’s 6 inches of disclaimer every time you get complimentary movie tickets, but these reporters are covering SDCC panels and then heading off backstage to tell the editors they’ve got the perfect Moon Knight pitch.”
The Moon Knight pitch in question was made by Torkild Hackler, author of this article, and featured Marc Spector as an Egyptian vampire fighting a holy war against werewolves. And I was only pretending to cover SDCC for the press pass. The Big Bang Theory panel was very hard to get into.
Favorably covering a company is not guaranteed to land journalists lacking ethical boundaries future positions. Matt Brady, sacrificed his journalistic integrity with Newsarama’s false coverage of the “discovery” of Marvel Comics‘ character The Sentry. Despite this sacrifice, he has been unable to land a writing opportunity with Marvel. “I appreciate him taking the hit for us time and again,” said Marvel Editor and suspected demon Tom Brevoort. “But all his pitches feature one of our guys getting saved by ‘investigative reporter Pat Braidley’. I can work with that, but he’s insisting on retaining ownership of the character and you know that’s a dealbreaker for Marvel.”
Roth denies claims that he has pitched an opposing report to various comic book media sites. “Look, if I knew what a ‘reverse COWGIRL’ was, I’d give you one. I’d give it to you, the guys at Newsarama, the Comic Book Resources folks, Rich Johnston… I’d give one to Laura Hudson.”
While several sites do disclose promotional consideration or outright ownership by the subjects they cover, the lines are sometimes blurry. For instance, while Bleeding Cool enjoys a nebulous connection with Avatar Press that can best be described as something less than outright ownership, it does not disclose this relationship while covering Avatar Press. For instance, an article about stolen Avatar Press materials was “written” for the site by William Christensen, editor-in-chief of Avatar Press. Christensen once worked for Wizard: The Guide to Comics, the only publication to find any redeeming qualities in 1990′s comic “sensation” Chaos Comics, which provided Christensen with his few creative credits prior to founding a company to publish his work.
Even in cases where publishers do not own their covering media, long-standing agreements to provide promotional materials can result in the comic book media publishing reviews of almost anything. “Ever visit Comics Worth Reading? How often do you see comic coverage there? It’s just the Carlsons reading free manga and watching Warner Brothers stuff they get for free,” said Roth. “Not a single comic fan alive can watch Hop and walk away thinking that James Marsden is capable of putting out good movies.”
“We’re pretty unbiased, I think,” said Hackler, again disregarding authorial integrity. “For one thing, I have no desire to get a comic published. I only pitch to magazines, book publishers, Hollywood and Youtube sketch comedy troupes. For another, the biggest players in the industry do the stupidest stuff. If we gave them a free pass, what’s left to make fun of? Broadway Comics? Defiant?”