I’d once written about how Top Cow’s co-founder, Matt Hawkins, seemed to have thrown the original vision for their output under the bus for the sake of pandering to social justice, and apologizing for their earlier approach to marketing. But in this interview he gave to Cultured Vultures last year, which I apparently missed when it was originally posted, he seems to have at least done a 180 back to some of his original stands and beliefs on being sex positive. So let’s see what he says here that’s either good or bad:
I wanted to know how important social media was to him.
“It’s vitally important. If you want to be a comic book creator today, you have to have a social media presence. It’s expected. There are very few people who are going to break in and build an audience without some sort of social media presence.”
I’m decidedly going to disagree on this one, depending what host it is. If it’s on Facebook, maybe, but based on how toxic the atmosphere is on Twitter, I wouldn’t recommend using their services at all. Just use a blog. To use such a short-message with a severe character limit only makes it look more like you have little or nothing intelligent to say, and besides…there’s no edit option.
“It is weird though, if people read and follow you long enough, they almost feel like they’re your friend, even though I’ve never met them before, and that is a little weird sometimes.” He continued on about how he presents himself there. “I tend to free think. I watch what I say, but I stir the pot sometimes. I always tell people: if you’re going to pick a side, like a liberal/conservative side, pick it and stick with it, because there are people who will spend money if you do that. But, my recommendation is to avoid it entirely.”
“If you’re a creator and you have something interesting to say, create a voice for yourself,” and something I struggle to remember, “I learned this from Olivia Munn: every time you do a post, marking or sales related, you need to have a personal anecdote or something like that every other one, or people will get tired of it.”
And of course how not to abuse it: “don’t burn bridges. Don’t post stuff that is bad about other companies and other creators. Stay positive, which is like streaming upstream on the internet.”
This is also very iffy, because partisan politics can alienate people, and he seems to be aware of that. It’s also too easy to say you shouldn’t badmouth other companies, especially if neighboring companies are antagonizing the audiences you’d think they wanted, as Marvel/DC have been doing. What should matter is whether creators are acting vile online, with Mike McKone’s horrific comments last year a leading example of an insider setting a poor example in the face of the consumer. That’s what the industry is hopefully reining in of recent, but only time will tell if they’ve learned any lessons since.
It’s also revealed that while there’s a video game based on The Darkness, there’s none based on Witchblade:
Since Jackie Estacado got two games, I had to ask if Witchblade would get one also.
“No, we had a—there is a prototype that was done for a Witchblade game that never actually got made. We’ve had that option for development by video game studios multiple times, it just never came out.”
That’s crazy. Something I hadn’t heard about. This was using a Buffy game as a model, according to Hawkins, who he may still have it. There was also an attempt at an Aphrodite game, but that also got scrapped and ended up becoming the third-person shooter, Wet.
I wonder if this has anything to do with the Orwellian anti-sex atmosphere the social justice mob led to? Or, maybe it’s the decidedly unwise decision they made to remake their original franchise in a noticeably duller packaging, replacing the original stars like Sara Pezzini with different ones who’ve hardly made the same impact even within a year or so of their debuts. That’s probably why it’s not so easy to adapt them to video games. I was more disappointed though, by what Hawkins said about superheroes:
It was all incredible news to me, but I had to steer it back to comics though, and one of the big things he said in the panel was that he didn’t like superheroes, so I asked him why.
“I don’t really know, I’ve just never liked them. I always thought their origins were hokey and they just seemed so uh—I mean, why does Superman give a shit? You have a character that is so powerful, it just seems kind of silly to me. I’m not bagging on Superman, and his longevity or the importance of that franchise, but they keep rehashing. Every superhero story that is being told today, has been told already. There really are no new superhero stories. Every time I pick up a Marvel or DC arc I’m like, oh this reminds me of this other run from the 80s, or this, that, or the other thing, and I just feel like it’s all kind of derivative of itself. It feels like the dog chasing its tail a little bit.” That’s an overall feeling, but obviously there are exceptions. “Every once in a while you will have something that is new and its fun.”
I think it would’ve been better to elaborate on why DC and Marvel have ruined their franchises by turning them into closed stores for a small clique of select writers whose politics and other beliefs match those of the overlords, and aren’t interested in pleasing a wider audience. Besides, I don’t think perpetuating this whole “Supes is too powerful” cliche does any good. Especially when those who blurt it out usually reduce it all to a superficial vision ignoring Kryptonite and magic energy as some of the leading weaknesses Kal-El and even Kara Zor-El have. Say, doesn’t this contradict his argument that you shouldn’t speak poorly about other companies and creators? What a head shaker.
Even if the response was a little surprising, I thought it may show some reason why Top Cow is putting out romance comics now. He told me a funny aside about how he used to say, “know your audience,” and pitching Top Cow a caveman romance story would be out of place, yet here we are.
“Sunstone is why we have the romance genre. Stjepan Sejic had put it out as a free web comic, but once there was enough of it, he asked if I’d put it into print. Initially, I was like, eh, I don’t know, you’re giving it away for free. It’s got sex in it. It’s got nudity in it. I don’t know.” Hawkins did finally agree though, and in his own words, it sold like ‘gang busters,” but why? “Because it appeals to non-comic book readers. It appeals to women. There is a massive market of prose readers that do not read comics. We’re a small subculture in this much larger literary world, and I think a book like Think Tank and like Sunstone may appeal to people who aren’t interested in comics.” Many of their books have begun taking this approach. “Think Tank is like a Michael Crichton story. Sunstone has a universal appeal. Everybody likes sex.”
I asked if he felt like part of the appeal was that it showed off the LGBT community a bit more as well, if it was because there aren’t enough stories for that group as well, “Not enough quality ones.” But there’s more than just appealing to a niche audience: “Diversity in and of itself is not a good strategy. You still need to have a plan—story.”
We talked about Swing and his research, interviewing almost a thousand different couples. I was amazed when he told me how many swingers clubs there were in the US, and even more surprised that many of them in LA now carry that graphic novel.
A lot of the S&M culture people didn’t like when Fifty Shades of Grey came out, because it was a tad rapey, and like most material aimed at that subculture, they got it wrong. Sunstone got it right and was a positive story about it. “People in these controversial subcultures don’t want to feel ashamed.”
His research has made him far less judgmental about these cultures and comics research in general has changed who he is in general.
Now this is emphasizing just what the opposition to all the social justice propaganda in entertainment is arguing. Diversity is one thing, but if that’s the only emphasis, and it lacks a solid story to go by, then it all falls apart, and sales tank. And if sex is depicted in poor taste, that too can ruin everything. So I think that’s something where he gets it right, though I’m not sure if the same can be said for the following:
When I last interviewed Hawkins, he had mentioned that Top Cow was moving away from T&A on their covers, changing their image, but now these books are hard R and racy, with two-page blowjob spreads.
“Which is why I was hesitant to put out Sunstone in the first place, but women read it and women really liked it. It’s really about the agency and are they in control of their own sexuality. When you just arbitrarily publish some girl on the cover and have her scantily clad, when we had Witchblade running around in a bikini, some people didn’t take it as well. One is more about subjugation and power over the woman, and that sort of male machismo power play over women doesn’t go over as well. You look at all three of those books, the women are in control of what they do, and dictating what is going on, and it’s still pretty sexy.”
Hawkins wants the books to promote sex positivity.
“Women are just as dirty as guys, they’re just more subtle about it.” That has to be considered when making the stories feel more natural. “Is the sex a story or is it just an add-on? When it is something gratuitous that is just tagged on to show some titties, that’s when it doesn’t work.”
Okay, good on him if he hasn’t entirely succumbed to negative views on sex. But does it sound like he’s promoting these books more from a women’s perspective more than a man’s? Good question, and if he thinks only books aimed at women make for good promotion of sex, I don’t think that’s very balanced or makes much sense. Even books aimed at men can depict sex in good taste, if you play your cards right. It’s been almost a year since he gave this particular interview, and as far as the action-adventure genre is concerned, it’s still not clear he knows what he’s doing.