The Real Reason Redux: Pilot Season

Last week, it was announced that Top Cow would be restructuring their Pilot Season contest.  Previously, the contest had been to take a number of books from various creators, who each produce one issue, and the best of those would be selected to move on to be a full on series. 

We read all the series from the last Pilot Season, and liked quite a few of them.  The folks doing the work weren’t all new new to the industry, but they weren’t all household names, either. 

Then, I saw the announcement that this time, five series would be created by Robert Kirkman and Marc Silvestri.  Now, I’m a fan of Top Cow, and you know I’m a fan of Kirkman, but I did feel a little bit let down.  I mean, do either of these guys have a hard time finding work?  Shouldn’t someone else get the leg up?

Then I remembered the article I wrote just last week, and the real reason became clear.

I think Top Cow’s pilot season was a great idea.  It was fun, inventive, and interesting.  However, I bought exactly ZERO of those books.  I got them all later, after the fact, but on my own, in the store, the week they came out, I didn’t pay any attention to them.  Why?  Maybe it was because I didn’t know what would continue, or I didn’t know the people making them, or I was just hedging my bets to check out the series that won once it did.  I don’t know, but I read my share of comics, and I’m always looking for something to talk about, and I didn’t even bother.  I imagine most readers did the same.  But these were full bore comics, produced, colored, lettered, printed, with the whole shebang.

So what did the folks at Top Cow do?  They tried to make something out of it, and really, who can blame them?  It’s a shit economy, and comics are a luxury.  People are less likely than ever to spend their pennies on an unknown quantity.  And while it may not be what I would have done, I can’t fault any of them for trying something else.  Doing the same thing and losing money (which is an assumption on my part) would be sort of pointless, and folks with smart business minds know when to hold them, fold them, and/or walk away.

I’m reminded of Project Greenlight, a favorite show of myself and my two partners.  It produced three of the greatest seasons of reality TV ever, and only one movie that was even close to watchable.  It’s no wonder it’s not around anymore. 


  1. OK, so which Project Greenlight movie was watchable, Battle of Shaker Heights, or Feast?

  2. If you have to ask…

    OK, it’s Feast.  

  3. I too was disappointed with this announcement.  Even though I like the idea of seeing five new series created by Kirkman, I can’t imagine that trying to create five new series at once is really going to be the best way to create quality stories.  And even if I do really enjoy one or more of these stories, there’s a chance it could be canceled anyway.  I would’ve been much more excited to hear that Kirkman had *a* series in Pilot Season, and that other talented creators would also be creating titles. 

    I wonder if the last round of Pilot Season bruised a few creator egos? Maybe part of this move is an effort not to pit creators against each other?

  4. Creators are already always pitted against each other.  It’s the nature of freelance creative work.  It’s actually a driving force for a lot of people I’d suspect.

  5. Perhaps a "backup" story by another team would be a great way to expose new talent while still having a big name carry the title.

  6. Well I suppose asking for another anthology would be a bit much.  I feel like I’m the only one out there buying them.

  7. Out of curiosity, which of the Project Greenlight movies was watchable?  I enjoyed the show but was never tempted to actually check out the product they produced!

  8. @ohcaroline: Look at the second comment.

  9. Can you imagine if Joe Kelly was put in this position? Would he be having the rennaissance that he’s having now? If I had to choose between I Kill Giants, Bad Dog, and Four Eyes, and wouldn’t be able to read beyond the first issue of the others, I’d flip out!

  10. Oh great! Like we need more Robert Kirkman comics! Oh wait….that would be delightful 🙂

    I’m fine with this annoucement. I hated all of the previous Pilot Season comics, thought they were all awful. In both art and writing departments. Hopefully Kirkman does a better job with this.

  11. Did they offer Pilot Season as an online comic? Maybe too, reducing the price to $1.00 like they did at Vertigo for first issues would get more people reading it. 

  12. I hate when people complain "Give an unknown a chance!  Enough with ______."  Because all writers/artists were unknown once.

  13. Maybe if the do What vertigo is doing with #1s I picked up Unwritten mostly because the 1 dollar price and I am glad I did, first vertigo book I buy.

  14. That’s disappointing. I’ve always loved the idea of Pilot Season. Maybe they could try something out online, Zuda-style, so there is no need to deal with the printing costs.

  15. @KickAss – But didn’t __________, when he/she was unknown, also get a chance?

    Hell, Jason Aaron won a Wolverine contest to get his start. I’m glad someone gave him a chance.

  16. @StormingTheCastle  The PC term is now co-feature.  I think an excellent idea would be to have the new contest held in the back of the previous winner’s books.  8 pages.  Probably just crazy talk from somebody delirious from over work and stress.

  17. I loved Project: Greenlight, but it will always be a little bittersweet for me. My writing partner and I got into the finals of the third season. Don’t know if you guys recall the details, but when they put out the call for the third season, they wanted a "PG-13" genre film that could be produced on a tiny budget. My partner and I scripted what I still think is a great, lean murder mystery that is totally PG-13 and easy to make on a small budget. And then they went with a hard R horror flick that I’m pretty sure exceeded its budget. ;)Ah, well. We got a lot of good reviews on that script and made it into the top 50 or so, I think (been awhile now).  I know we got far enough that we had to send in a videotape of ourselves (as an audition, I guess).

    Back on topic: I’m not sure I totally understand the logic behind this. Presumably, They’re still producing 5 different comic books with different art teams. So, it’s roughly the same cost, and still only one will emerge as the victor. Only this time it’s guaranteed to be Kirkman. I guess the idea here is that only Kirkman and Silvestri can get people to even notice the contest? If Kirkman was just ONE contestant, it wouldn’t be enough to get people to pick up at least that one book? Why not just let Kirkman and Silvestri pick their favorite? Kirkman didn’t need a consensus to know that Walking Dead and Invincible were viable properties. 

    Personally, I think the flaw is in the contest. I just don’t think there’s a big enough draw for new/original properties in a "contest" format. I think new properties can still sell. Look at PROOF or CHEW. I just think the contest aspect doesn’t really appeal. I know I heard about it but didn’t pick any up. If I had heard rave reviews about the SERIES that was picked up from teh contest, I likely would have checked out an issue or the first TPB. 

    But that’s me. Maybe I’m in the minority. I dunno.

  18. @daccampo: I think the flaw is the contest itself. I understand it helps out new writers and artists and at least Top Cow is trying to get new names out there. (More so then what Marvel is doing, which is basically nothing) But considering Top Cow doesnt sell as much comics anyways (and I dont want to turn this into a sells debate either) how on earth will people get their name out in the first place?

    Having a big name like Kirkman do to all 5 and then decide what he will write is a much better idea. Sure it defeats the whole purpose of this ‘contest’, hell they should get rid of it now since the concept is dead. But a name like Kirkman will see a bit more for Top Cow then….Troy Hickman/Reza (2008) and Joshua Hale Fialkov/Rick Mays.

    Heck are these comics even being published anymore? There’s another problem right there

  19. @TNc – that’s pretty much what i’m saying. I think it’s possible that Marvel or DC could get away with a similar contest, taking 5 minor (existing) characters updated by five up-and-coming writers. But I think among the indies and lesser-known properties… well, I think the readership is too fickle. I think readers are willing to get behind a little series and promote it, but only as it finds its legs and begins to grow. I don’t think they want to be bothered with the contest aspect of it. But that’s just my opinion based on my buying habits. My "$3.99" as it were. 😉

    I understand the concept from Top Cow’s side. I really do. It does two things: creates buzz with audience participation and acts as a bit of market research (which character is the most viable property). But I’m not sure I see that taking hold here.

    I disagree with you in that I don’t think that Kirkman doing all five books is "better" idea. It may work better for Top Cow (than previous versions of the contest), but I don’t really think it’s any more interesting than Kirkman promoting a SINGLE new book, and I don’t think the contest will increase buzz or appeal.

    I also disagree about new talent. Almost all of the previous entries were names I knew, so they weren’t exactly complete unknowns. Many of them have even published with one of the big two. And on that note, Marvel and DC do a LOT for new talent. There are a lot of new names coming into Marvel all the time. You usually find them in small anthologies and such.

  20. I still think the way to do the Pilot Season is to release all of the issues collected in a super cheap trade (they already have really nice Witchblade and Darkness trades for $4.99).  I always consider getting the Pilot Season books, but they’re not released at the same time so missing one, which pretty much defeats the purpose of the contest is way too easy to do.

  21. when is the rest of the full series coming out for the old pilot season?

  22. I think most of us are cognizant of that comic books are a business. These folks want to make money. Creating fun stories and art is a bonus to making cash. Dudes like Johnathon Hickman, who was already a pretty successful in advertising, wouldn’t be doing it if they couldn’t make money.

  23. I believe that Feast 2 is out and it’s directed by the same guy as the first one.  Didn’t love the movie but I can’t believe that something coherent came out of the chaotic shoot.  I loved that show, even though there wasn’t enough of hot, sexy Bonnie Hunt in the first season for me.

    The concept of Pilot Season was flawed from the start.  Why would they expect people to invest in a story that is unlikely to ever see a conclusion?  That’s one of the reasons people aren’t willing to take a chance on indy books in the first place, and they’re using that as a selling point? 

  24. @ultimatehoratio

    Yeah, that’s my problem. Whichever excellent Kirkman premise wins, we still don’t ever see the other 4. 

  25. Just think of the other four comics as just random one-shots. Sort of what Alan Moore does from time to time.

  26. I think the Pilot Season is a good idea, granted maybe publishing the comics might not be the greatest way of doing it, but I think Top Cow is onto something. I read Twilight Guardian from the last season and that one issue stood up on its own, you didn’t need it to go further but there’s enough there that it could. The key is to make one and done issues that can stand up on their own yet lend to an over all story, like a good TV pilot does.

  27. For the record I loved Feast and all of it’s subsequent sequels for what they were…  and exersie in "good" bad movie making.

     Pilot Season should be dropped as a banner if you are going to put heavy hitters on the book like Kirkman and that other guy (I never really liked Silvertri’s stuff).  If nothing else I am at least glad Genius is coming back I am curios to see where this book goes

  28. I don’t know if I trust this whole Pilot Season thing anymore, to be honest.

    I mean, weren’t Cyblade and Velocity meant to have won the first round?

    Cyblade got her own four issue miniseries and that was it, and Joe Casey & ChrisCross’s Velocity series was scrapped entirely.

    Color me disenfranchised.

  29. @ultimatehoratio There’s even a Fest 3, thats right, a Feast trilogy. Feast, Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds, and Feast 3: The Happy Finish

  30. @hbkhumanity: I just saw that at a Tunes store! I want to buy them just to see how worst each sequel gets.

  31. at least you won’t be pissed when your favourite creator doesn’t win! because kirkman always wins!

  32. yay more good ones!!