So here’s the thing.

And yes, it seems bloody obvious, but it’s always seemed bloody obvious, and still no-one does it.

Do something new, and people will love you for it.

It doesn’t have to be clever.  And if you find a trick that works with one audience, it’ll work with them all.

Alan Moore took a comic selling 17,000 a month which (and it’s been a while since I checked my comics sales charts, but I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) these days is a reasonable mid-list sort of sales point, but back then was “take it out the back and shoot in in the head, it’d be a kindness” sort of numbers, and got it selling 100,000 a month.  Swamp Thing, obviously.

By doing something new.  Well, by that point he’d done a few times, but somehow, people still hadn’t cottened on.  He killed the lead character, and replaced him with something totally different.  Oh, he may not have looked like he’d done that, but that’s what he did.  In fact, he inverted the usual comic book mantra of “no change, just the illusion of change”, and changed everything except the window dressing.

And because of that we got Vertigo, and Sandman, and all those lovely things.  And everyone assumed it was because he’d made Dark and Spooky comics for people who liked to thing they had brains.

No.  It wasn’t that complex.  He just did something new.  Every month.  That’s all it bloody takes.

Why is no-one in comics (possible exception for Grant Morrison, who is balancing a load of DC retro-shit with We3 and Seaguy and Vinamarama, but still) doing anything new?  Even in the small press, it’s all based on taking something that works in Holywood, and turning it into a comic.  Romantic Comedy.  Teen Horror.  Blaxploitation (I’m sure someone must be at it).  Yeah, I’ve read lots of good comics this year, and at every turn, I’ve thought “Hollywood’ll snap that up in a second.” which really is the ultimate stamp of anodyne non-threateningness.  The kite mark that absolutely assures that the product is one hundred percent free of anything new.

It says something that years ago, I wanted to work in comics, because I thought I might get to do something new there.  Mostly, what it says is I was stupid.  If I’d worked really hard, I might have got to do something new to comics.  Which isn’t hard, and isn’t worth the bother.  Now, I don’t believe there’s any chance of genuinely doing something new in them whatsoever.

But it applies outside of comics, of course.  Tom Waits does Rain Dogs, whole new vistas open up.  He does Mule Variations, and suddenly he’s capable of packing out the Hammersmith Apollo for three solid weeks.

JK Rowling writes a kids book that adults can actually enjoy reading to the little bastards, and suddenly, she’s got more money than God.

Christopher Nolan makes Memento, and suddenly he’s doing Batman.  No, wait, forget that last one.

Do something new, and people will love you for it.

Why is this not enforced?  Why do publishers/record labels/the buying public not hound creative types with sticks the instant that they fail to deliver something previously unseen?  It’s so blindingly obvious, and totally simple, and yet…  It’s the only thing that’s ever driven sales upward, for god’s sake.  In any media.

I went to hear Alan Moore speak this evening (I didn’t get tickets myself, but a friend very kindly helped me out).  I heard almost nothing I didn’t already know, but it was nice to hear his own delivery of some of the stories, but it struck me, listening to him talk that his career has been based on that one simple thing: do something new every month, and people will love you for it.

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