Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thirteen - The Movie (Official Comic Book Adapation)

Once a regular, though often troubled presence in the marketplace, the Dell comic book company stuttered through a few short-lived and ultimately futile revivals before finally surrendering to the inevitable and being consigned to the dusty stacks of publishing history.

Dell published a few original series, some good and some just silly or a waste of paper and ink. They hit the ball out of the freaking park with a couple titles but were mostly known for quick and dirty adaptations of television series. There were few 60s and 70s television series that didn't get a Dell treatment. Like most of their titles the book would start out strong but would soon feature repeated covers and content as the sales figures didn't support investing in new material. Once a cover and interior content was reprinted, usually with a marked decline in the coloring process, it meant the book had been canceled.

Dell as a company has made a few attempts over the years to re-enter the market, mostly by re-imagining an old book or series. But in the fickle direct market economy the attempts were usually financially disastrous. After limping along through the 1990s, Dell would eventually only exist as the small company that printed the instructional illustration booklets that are packed inside new canisters of tear gas used by law enforcement. One of the more ill-fated, though intriguing, attempts to revive the Dell line came in the year 2003.

Several years before the Archie company would experiment with altering the fabled house art style of the Riverdale gang that had endured virtually unchanged since the 1950s, Dell made a similar attempt with a property of their own. The small publishing house that had become Dell attempted to make an obscure teen comedy comic book series relevant by merging it with the box office smash teen drama Thirteen.

While the Dell company was in familiar territory by adapting a film property, the choice of cinema source material was raw, adult-oriented and full of situations that the comic book malt shop and bobby-sox gang of the 1950s never experienced except as subtext comic book fans would itemize, obsess and analyze many decades later. Of the four issues planned to bring the film to the printed page only one saw print. The following three issues were canceled due to low sales on the first issue. The remaining issues exist only as solicits in a few industry trade magazines and a cover gallery on the GCD.

The problems with the choice of Thirteen to relaunch the Dell company were many. Parents with fond memories of the Dell comics of their own youth were horrified when they themselves read the first issue, presumably long after their own child had it in their possession for several days. The book was returned by retailers in numbers not seen since Marvel published Void Indigo. Not only was the new, contemporary Thirteen out of place in the magazine rack of the local grocery store the company had no idea how to market what could have been a valid adaptation of the controversial movie. Instead of dealing with a niche demographic and garnering small though respectable and steady sales as a trade collection, the book was dumped as a monthly onto an open market that had no idea how to sell it. Dell took a risk and failed. What could have been an interesting effort on the part of Dell to make a come back did not work and it was apparent that the lack of a clear marketing strategy was what closed the Dell shop for good.

1 comment:

  1. "...not seen since Marvel published Void Indigo." Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha!
    THAT's funny!


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