Courtesy of The Beat, here's an article from USA Today catching up on Michael Eisner. One of his latest business deals was the acquisition of the Topps trading card company, makers of baseball cards and cards from other sports. One of Topps other products is Bazooka bubble gum, included in which are comic strips featuring the character of Bazooka Joe.
According to Eisner,
"Bazooka Joe could be the next big hero," Eisner, 65, says. "I'm not saying it's going to be Raiders of the Lost Ark," which he oversaw as CEO of Paramount Pictures. "But that would be the goal. Bazooka Joe is my new Mickey Mouse."I love this because it perfectly crystallizes the different viewpoints of business people and creative people. I would have to think long and hard to come up with a cartoon character who has less personality than Bazooka Joe. Except for the name (reminiscent of a war weapon) and the eye patch, what could anyone possibly say about the character? Creatively, he's practically a blank slate.
From a business perspective, though, Bazooka Joe has name recognition. Everybody has sampled that awful bubble gum and read those mediocre comic strips. When business people sit down to make deals, that name recognition makes Joe a better financial bet than an original property that nobody's ever heard of. The fact that Joe is a cipher is besides the point.
Creators attempt to bring their characters to life; to imbue them with a soul. What concerns a creator in the development of a character is its unique characteristics. What makes this character different from all others? The irony is that a successful character achieves an existence independent of its creator, which makes it a commodity that can be bought and sold.
For business people, a character's value is not internal to the character, only in how much demand exists for it. Business people don't see the relationship between what's inside a character and the resulting demand. That's why we've gotten so many terrible character revivals in recent years.
For business people, a character is just a vehicle. James Bond or Batman can be embodied by several different actors. Comic book characters can be inhabited by several different writers and artists. For Michael Eisner, Bazooka Joe is a vessel with name value. If he can figure out the right way to fill that vessel up (and the only measure of success is profit), he's done his job for his shareholders and himself.
Will Bazooka Joe resemble Superman, Bart Simpson, or Winnie the Pooh? Bazooka Joe will resemble whoever Eisner's team decides is the most lucrative. And he will find a team, because creative people need Eisner's money to be able to afford something better than bubble gum. So while business people and creators are constantly thrown together, the gulf between them never gets any smaller.