Okay you may have noticed a slight change in the title to the editorial this month, that's because I've got a lot to cover, along with the necessary Azrael #50 stuff, I've got No Man's Land to tackle, the sites Server Change and I want to discuss the design of the site. So now onto the good the Bad and the Ugly, I'll start with the Bad.
Well there are several big things to talk about in this month's editorial, foremost among them is Azrael #50. There is an almost 100% consensus that the new costume is a mistake, long time die hard fans are actually contemplating leaving the book and one can only imagine that new readers begin to avoid even trying the book while under the belief that the book is nothing but a gimmick, that the name and costume change are nothing but hype to save a struggling book. To an extent they are right, the book is struggling, and the name change and costume are hype, but they are wrong in one major aspect, the book is not just a gimmick.
When Azrael first hit the stands it eclipsed every bat book being published. It had better art than Tec, Batman and shadow put together, the best colouring, and the most engrossing storyline being published. Since then the book has fallen on hard times as evidenced by the letter column, gone are the discussionns on psychology and metaphysics, now it is populated by people calling themselves "Big sexy" demanding Azrael carry a big gun and asking for teamups with the lowliest of Liefeld creations.
The People That Be have to recognize that a new costume and title aren't going to save the book, if anything it is likely to create a backlash against the book. The tieing in of Azrael to the Batman Line has helped but people began reading it to get the scoop on Nick Scratch, not because they saw Azrael, got a taste of his character, and became interested. This is one of Azrael's problems, lack of exposure. Azrael has not apperared outside his own comic except in contagion, and once in legacy. In contagion he was portrayed entirely unflateringly (all those characterisations were in Dixon scripted books, does this mean something I wonder?) and in legacy it was one panel. Even as the title was renamed and reached it's 50th issue the DC publicity department did more to publicise Catwoman's move to New York, than bring attention to this book. As a point of comparison, Lobo got half a page of premier space when it reached #50 and it sold less than Azrael. Basically until Azrael gets some respect from from the marketing people, it's not going to get any from any one else.
Azrael needs more positive exposure. Guest shots in (but not limited to) Nightwing, Supergirl, Birds of Prey, The core Bat titles (no appearances in two years, two panels since the title was launched) and a chronicles appearance to make up for the fact every character except him appeared in Desires. Basicaly Azrael gets NO respect outside his title, I'm sure most creators would rather he didn't exist. What is needed is to make the other creators sit up and take note and for that you need to make his presence felt outside his book, both guestshotwise and buzzwise. This title needs a major storyline as engrossing and mysterious as Fallen Angel, the title needs to bring back the emotional impact that it had, and the marketing people should make sure everyone knows something cool is going on. Azrael needs a house ad for a story that'll make people curious about the title as a whole, Azrael needs a teaser and something to reward the new reader.
Besides Azrael #50 there is other big news at Azrael : Agent of the Bat, as of Jan 30 the site has moved from http://www.angelfire.com/az/SwordofAzrael to http://members.tripod.com/AgentoftheBat , don't forget to update your bookmarks. This has meant that site design aspects that weren't consistent have now been updated. Examples include the guestbook, the message board, the new headers for the main pages. There have also been a huge number of spelling and grammer corrections (well not that many, maybe one every two pages, but over two hundred pages, that's a lot of work). I have pledged to myself that I shall at somepoint update the casting call, but it is a lot of work trying to format the submissions I get. Also within a couple of months I shall be premiering two new sections, and that means a redesigned image map on the front page of the frames section and a site overhaul. I would like comments on the colour scheme of the message board, the current table header colour doesn't look right.
But besides the doom and gloom there is something to celebrate, this christmas Kevin AKA Maudib, has helped me out tremendously by sending me the Azrael Over Power cards that I did not have, and now they are presented in the Azrael Overpower Gallery. This has been a real boon to the site, as I try to compile the most completist of Azrael guides. look for the three Azrael related pinups to appear at some point, and I'm looking towards getting the cover scans up to date. Thanks go out to Kevin, Richard Gambill, Scott Goodison, and every one else for getting the mailing list up and running after the message board crashed, I have to admit I hadn't thought of using the mailing list to act as backup to the board mainly because no one was using it. As it is both the board and the mailing list are doing well, and I'm seeing people post who I've not seen posting before. Oh and the site is on track to recieving it's 2000th visitor within the month.
Gordon Hope-Murray 15/01/1999