The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Comic Industry’

Because that’s not a topic I haven’t talked to death about

Posted by Matt on September 2, 2011

Hey, how about them digital comics?

I think Dustin Harbin brings some good points to the fore. At the very least, it’s a lot more considerate of what the stores and publishers want than people like me with our “it’s obvious, you dumb idiots!” diatribes. The fact is, Marvel and DC (and even the alternative publishers to a lesser extent) probably have every reason to be scared of losing the direct market, because it’s the only market they have right now. Until digital is a sure thing, and who knows what will convince them of that, they will be cautious, and make their digital offerings overpriced and out of date. I’m not saying they’re not stupid for being so hesitant, but there are rational reasons why they aren’t pursuing this avenue.

Then I remember what Warren Ellis said not too long ago, and he’s also right. Even if these publishers do get digital comics going, until they actually start commissioning original stories (that actually take advantage of being on electronic screens connected to the Internet) to be sold on them, they will be second-class, an afterthought. It makes me wonder why, if they are so afraid of making their direct market books available online and hurting the specialty stores, why not make your digital comics new ones instead? I mean, if the quality’s there (well, relative quality for some of them), then it won’t take as long for initial skepticism and brushing off as “silly experimental side projects” (which will inevitably happen) to subside. So you can try out the digital format, and won’t have to undercut DM until you have to (which will also inevitably happen).

I can see why they might scoff at this idea, though. Aside from that initial dismissal, there might be problems finding creatives to work on them, and it would really need some Grade A talent to make people really take notice (or it could take finding some new talent that could pull off something new and amazing, but that`s far less likely). Second, since these would be different books than the `main` lines, some readers might think they are superfluous. Even if DC published a Batman comic digitally, if it wasn’t THE Batman comic, then it might get ignored. This wouldn’t be a problem if the comics were really new, but readers probably would ignore them anyway, as they do with most new concepts in print. Neither of these are problems for publishers who aren’t reliant on established properties and hype, but those same publishers can’t buy New York Times headlines and get the idea out there. I want the alternative press to pursue this option too, but unfortunately they can’t quite get the blogs talking, and I think that’s something that needs to be done to get the rest of the pack to come out of their glossy paper shells.

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All this digital/print comics derpderp really makes me appreciate my webcomics to-read list. They may just be scraping by a lot of the time, but they get to keep their integrity and avoid all the dumb bullshit the rest of the industry spews.

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In related news, DC’s starting their new universe now. In the first issue of JLA: not a whole lot happens. Oh boy.

They also apparently set up some Dame-us Ex Machine in Flashpoint, who reset the universe for some reason and is now showing up in other comics. Like they’re preparing for something. Or making an exit strategy in case they have to. Real show of confidence for your big change-up in either case, guys. Either you’re going back into big crossover mode, or you think there’s a chance that you’ll need to go back to your old horrible universe if your new horrible universe doesn’t pan out. Neither option is terribly inviting to new readers, now, are they?

I’m honestly surprised by the number of people apparently upset by the new status quo. They really need to explain what it was they were getting out of the old one that makes it so sad if it goes away. I mean, the retconning nonsense DC is doing is utterly nonsensical patchwork, but again…how is that different than it was before?

They probably have a point when they say that this won’t really do much good to attract new readers, at least past the first three months or so (especially if JLA is indicative of anything, pacing and general quality-wise). It will almost certainly end up as just another short-term boost in sales before they plummet back to the same levels as a few months before, just like everything else DC and Marvel do. So what was the point of it, then? Well, there probably is no point, although it’s nice to see them acknowledge some of the problems that they aren’t going to do anything about. Pointless or no, though, is doing nothing really better than trying something slightly (very very slightly) different, even if they end up with the same results? At least one shows a little bit of thought on the publisher’s part. And really, who gets hurt here? A tiny cult of lingering carrion feeders? And even to them, how many amazing wonderful stories set in the old DC continuity are they going to be missing because of the reboot (recognizing that several books had to have certain runs and story ideas cut off because of it)?

I’ve heard a couple of people suggest that DC should have made an Ultimate-style line. This is a bad idea because (1) DC has tried that about two or three times now, and aside from getting an all-time great story and a curious relic of Frank Miller’s descent into insanity, nothing came of any of them, and (2) look at what actually happened to Ultimate Marvel: hot shit for a couple of years, and now…god, I don’t even know (I think the new Ultimate Spider-Man kid is a great idea, though: if you’re going to have two Spider-Man comics, might as well make them as different as possible. Plus, I’ve been convinced that a black kid being Spider-Man just makes sense). It’s pretty much verbatim what I said in the digital comics part of this post: once you start dividing it into “the REAL X” and “the other X”, it’s the latter that will get short shrift eventually. The Ultimate comics are pretty superfluous now (even more so because the ‘real’ Marvel universe began to look more and more like it over the last couple years), and would be the same deal for DC (again). Plus, this is far more headline-grabbing, no?

Plus plus, who cares what happens to the DC universe, what with all its five billion Legion of Superheroes timelines.

So basically I point is that the old DCU was a wretched thing, and putting it down was the most humane thing DC could have done. But apparently they still think they should make sure they can dig up the corpse if they need to. If it comes to that, though, maybe they should fucking give up.

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Behind the Curtain: An Excuse to Post My Wikipedia-Derived Knowledge

Posted by Matt on August 27, 2011

So, there’s that call for a boycott on Marvel products since the Kirby case ended. In principle, I actually agree with it. But I guess I also have to agree with Tucker Stone in that most sane people shouldn’t be buying Marvel’s shitty product anyway. I know I wasn’t.

Well, that isn’t true. While I don’t read Marvel comics or see Marvel’s movies (the former out of apathy, the latter out of laziness) or buy Marvel-branded trinkets (because I’m an adult), I did buy one Marvel product in the past year or so laden with Jack Kirby characters: Marvel vs Capcom 3. And there’s a new one coming out in a few months. Oh criminy, my love of fighting games clashing against my respect for creator’s rights.

It got me thinking, though: how much influence from beyond the grave does Kirby have on this game? I thought it was nice in the first version when the end credits listed the individual creators of all of Marvel’s characters, albeit not specifying who made who. How much of the game’s roster is from Kirby? Counting the new Ultimate MvC3 characters, let’s see:

(All characters, unless otherwise noted, were co-created with Stan Lee)

Captain America (with Joe Simon)
Dr. Doom
Galactus
Hulk
Iron Man (with Larry Lieber and Don Heck)
Magneto
MODOK
Phoenix (sort of: Jean Grey/Marvel Girl was created by Kirby & Lee, with the Phoenix persona and design created by Chris Claremont and David Cockrum. The Dark Phoenix was created by Claremont & John Byrne)
Sentinel
Super-Skrull
Thor

So, 10 of the 25 Marvel characters (plus the final boss) were co-created by Kirby. Let’s also recognize the creators of the other characters in the game:

Deadpool (Fabian Nicieza & Rob Liefeld, with the character’s modern comedy persona established by Joe Kelly & Ed McGuinness)
Dr. Strange (Lee & Steve Ditko)
Dormammu (Lee & Ditko)
Ghost Rider (Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, & Mike Ploog)
Hawkeye (Lee & Heck)
Iron Fist (Roy Thomas & Gil Kane)
Nova (Marv Wolfman & Jon Buscema)
Rocket Raccoon (Bill Mantlo & Kieth Giffen)
She-Hulk (Lee & Buscema)
Shuma-Gorath (Steve Englehart & Frank Brunner, with the name/concept first appearing in Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard’s posthumously-published short story “The Curse of the Golden Skull”)
Spider-Man (Lee & Ditko)
Storm (Len Wein & Dave Cockrum)
Taskmaster (Dave Michelinie & George Perez)
Wolverine (Wein, John Romita, & Herb Trimpe)
X-23 (Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost, who originally created her for the X-Men: Evolution animated series, and then adopted the character for comics a year later)

First thing’s first, I never noticed what a grand pedigree the new UMvC3 characters had until now. Thomas, Mantlo, Giffen, Kane, Wolfman, Englehart, and Ploog are all legends. That’s kind of neat. I also never noticed how prominent an idea man Thomas was at Marvel.

It would’ve been cool to do the same thing with Capcom’s characters. Unfortunately, video games, being more like film than comics, has many more people working on each title, so figuring who really was the brains behind the characters would be pretty difficult. I know the original Street Fighter team was also behind Final Fight (and thus Haggar). Shinji Mikami is the mastermind behind Resident Evil and all the characters you see in the game for the most part, Hideki Kamiya is the main man behind Devil May Cry, Atsushi Inaba the guy to blame for Viewtiful Joe, and all three combined to make Okami. Keiji Inafune was the co-creator of the Mega Man series, but was the main guy for both the X and Legends spin-offs, and thus essentially the man behind Zero and Tron Bonne. Inafune is also the guy who brought us Frank West and Dead Rising. Tokuro Fujiwara was the main programmer behind Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and also had a hand in the original arcade version of Bionic Commando (although Spencer in MvC3 has closer ties to the NES version of the game, and of course the American-developed modern remake). Shu Takumi is originator of the Ace Attorney series. But that’s about all I can say for sure.

But the point is, Kirby’s pencil marks are all over this game, alongside many others. Should I be a terrible person and make up some excuses to get my fix, or should I respect the creators who don’t get a cent from the use of their creations and abstain? Oh man, my morals are going to be put to the test come November.

Posted in Comix, Gamezzzzz | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Legendary Hero is No More

Posted by Matt on August 23, 2011

Dear Mr. Morrison (or Grant, if you prefer),

I was a late bloomer, if you will, when it came to comics. I didn’t grow up with the modern mythos, the adventures of Marvel and DC’s line-up with costumed crime-fighters, like you and so many other people did. What I knew about them was gleaned from the licensed products: the television shows, the toys, and everything else. I didn’t know about all the things, great things, those comics contained.

I was given a huge load of comics in high school. Quite the variety, really. Classic Lee/Romita Spider-Man, Watchmen, Claremont/Byrne X-Men, Gaiman’s Sandman, at least one example of Kyle Baker…works both classic and modern. But none, none, affected me quite as much as your with Richard Case (and numerous other great artists!) on Doom Patrol.

When I first picked up Doom Patrol, I was taken in by the weirdness of the characters, the Scissormen, the Brotherhood of Dada, Danny the Street, et al. What delightful fun, I thought. My appreciation of your work only grew the more I read; it opened my imagination to all the possibilities comics had, the limitless number of images, the infusion of Burroughs, the rebellion against a world determined homogenize everything, and the way it can make you connect with its characters. Your characters were people I cared about, people whose adventures I wanted to read about. All of these things culminated in your last issue in that series, which is one the most sad, beautiful things I have ever read.

Doom Patrol, more than any other, has come to be my personal high-water mark for comics. It is the thing that inspires me the most. Part of my motivation for attempting a career as a writer is to give other people the kind of joy you gave me in those comics, and all the subsequent series of yours that I’ve read. I just want to thank you for that.

With that, I come to my main reason for writing this: I think we’re finished as artist and audience.

I haven’t read any of your recent Batman work (although I have read Arkham Asylum and Batman: Gothic, both of which I enjoyed), or Final Crisis for that matter; I’m simply not interested. I could gather in your early work that you really do love DC Comics and it’s characters; they seem to be as near and dear to you as your comics have been to me. You’ve probably dreamed for years of becoming the architect of some of the world’s best known fictional characters. I do not begrudge you for this; I simply skip that part of your output that does not interest me, and wait for the next Seaguy.

No, that’s not my problem. What my problem happens to be is the side of you that these last few years have brought out in you. This is has been especially troubling in the last few months, as you have been interviewed about your autobiography (which I have not yet read, and with all that has gone on, may never read now). To be honest, in a lot of these interviews, you’re come off as full of shit.

Let’s take your recent Rolling Stone interview, for example. Specifically, your controversial statement about Chris Ware. Now, I’m not a Ware reader (not out of indifference or antipathy, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet), and to be fair, I think you sort of have a point. I think the critical corners in the comics world have spent far too much time setting up the world as the superhero crowd-pleasers at Marvel/DC with versus the lonely white boy stories told by Ware and others, as if those are our only two choices. They’re not, and the sooner we exit that dichotomy, the better off we’ll be.

No, where I have a problem is your calling them out on being “privileged American college kids”, and that this comes from your “Scottish working class” background. Maybe that would actually have been true when you were writing Zenith, or Doom Patrol, or The Invisibles, or maybe even New X-Men. But not now. Not when you own a house in Hollywood, get preferential treatment from a large corporation to keep their multimillion dollar trademarks in circulation, and get paid god knows how much to write movies about aliens fighting dinosaurs. You have no fucking right to criticize anyone else for being “privileged”.

Then there’s your statements about Siegel & Shuster in your book. You know, the guys who created the character you seem to think is so important, and are going to be writing about starting next month. You apparently don’t think their side of the story is very important, and that the half-century struggle for proper recognition and compensation for creating one of the best known fictional characters of the 20th and 21st centuries is trivial. Despite your attempts to convince everyone that superheroes are the modern mythology, you can’t make us overlook that Superman, Batman, and the rest were created by very specific people, and are now the property of another group of people who see them simply as a brand for them to sell. You can’t make them go away. The creator rights battle is a major part of the history of the so-called supergods, and I think people are beginning to realize that they may be the most important part.

You know, I don’t like to armchair analyze other people’s motivations, I really don’t, but all these things: the dismissal of people like Ware who aren’t big fans of superheroes, the dismissal of critical circles like The Comics Journal, the dismissal of the creators of the characters you write for, the dismissal of Alan Moore because he realized what a raw deal the superhero industry is and makes sure everyone knows it…it really sounds like your are trying to protect yourself from all the people that make you feel guilty for wanting so bad to be where you are today, the guy who gets to direct a superhero universe (under the auspices of the money men at Warner Bros). You probably need to make sure Alan Moore and all those other voices never get to you, because if they ever do, you’ll realize that, not long ago, you were one of them. Fighting corporate tyranny and it’s sadistic enslavement of imagination. You were once the solution to the problem. Now, you’re the problem’s willing servant.

But again, good for you for getting to live out your dream. I hope you enjoy it. I know I will continue to read and enjoy Doom Patrol, Animal Man, We3, The Filth, and all the rest. But I just don’t think I can take anything you write from now on seriously. Not like I used to. You’ve been compromised by the allure of the corporate superhero.

Thank you so much for all you’ve given me.

Now take your Batman comics and go to hell, old man.

Additional reading:

Dan Nadel at The Comics Journal
David Brothers at 4thletter!
Abhay on the Siegel & Shuster Thing
Comics Commentary

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Posted by Matt on July 31, 2011

Hey, that gender diversity in comics topic is still pretty hot right now, isn’t it? Better hop on the train while the hoppin’s good.

In short, hiring writers and artists of diverse gender, race, sexuality, and background is not simply that old affirmative action canard. It’s a about getting a wide variety of styles into the mix that could then appeal to a wide variety of people. Plus, it opens up the hiring prospects quite a bit, so not only are you not just getting white guys to make everything, but you’re also not getting THE SAME white guys to make everything. This isn’t some draconian feel-good rainbow concept; this is intelligent business for anyone in a creative industry, one that doesn’t plan on stagnating any time soon.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like that includes the biggest names in the comics industry right now.

Of course, I also buy into the counterargument that while there are quite a few female talents in comics (and there really are), there might not be as many female talents in comics who want to play in some big corporation’s multimillion dollar sandbox, where there every idea will be absorbed and exploited for profit by others, with the only credit they get being a ‘Created by’ sidebar on Wikipedia. It’s not like creator’s rights at the big comics companies hasn’t been in the news lately. Same goes for the black creators, or the gay creators, and all the others. So there’s that to consider, as well.

It’s one of those things in comics. A lot of people, myself included, would like to see Marvel and DC improve their publishing outfit, and that includes hiring more and better talent. However, we also have to recognize that the work-for-hire scenario they offer is pretty rotten, so unless someone is either (a) absolutely in love with Marvel/DC’s universes and characters and doesn’t care about the downside of working for them, (b) like Warren Ellis and Joe Casey, who take on books for mainstream publishers solely as a self-imposed creative challenge, or (c) really like money (but not a substantial amount of money, albeit probably more than the average independent will get on their own), why should we expect said people to WANT to work for them? There’s a hell of a lot more avenues to get your work out there now, so really, why bother? It’s not like being a Spider-Man writer or artist or inker or colorist will be much of an status upgrade; it’s going from a niche to a slightly larger niche.

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On a related note, here’s another observation culled from an addiction to trolling comment sections.

One of the frequent wrong ideas perpetrated by the masses in the world of fanservice-based fighting games (yes, I’ve seen it used for every. single. one.) is to lay the blame for the lack of diversity in gender/race (not sexual orientation, though. Gamers aren’t demanding proper homosexual representation. What a shock) on the developers of the game. Basically, if the game doesn’t meet some arbitrary quota of female characters, it’s a sausage fest. I mean, it’s clearly just the individual commentators trying to find the game’s character picks guilty of some social injustice so they can justify their whining about whatever characters THEY wanted not getting in, but let’s address another reason why it doesn’t hold up.

You see, the people behind games like Marvel vs Capcom 3, or Super Smash Bros. or Street Fighter x Tekken, are limited in their material. They set out to make a game that uses previously established characters, and like all fighting game developers, try to make the cast as diverse gameplay-wise as possible. Basically, they want to make the game interesting and fun, but can only use other people’s creations. So, that’s what they do: out of those creations, they choose the bunch that would include the greatest variety of gameplay styles, factoring in aesthetics and fanbases as well. This means that, unless they think it fills a particularly important gameplay or aesthetic niche, they will not consider that character’s gender or race or whatever, because that becomes secondary or tertiary when you bring in gameplay and giving the greatest number of different fans what they want. They’re just trying to do what’s best for the game with the material they set out. As some other commentators in the same arenas point out, there is no point in adding a character to these games if it’s just because they’re female.

Besides, the anger is completely misaimed. You want to see more women or black people showing up in these games? Ask the people who make the games these games pull their material from to create more diverse sets of characters. The world would be so much better if more games had a greater variety of protagonists and antagonists, anyway. So not only do the fanservice games get a wider variety of characters to use, but the games themselves would be more interesting. Everybody wins!

Posted in Comix, Gamezzzzz, NERDS! | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Posted by Matt on June 11, 2011

Remember that time where I said Marvel and DC weren’t really that important? I stand by that, but I’m going to talk about one of them right now. A little armchair publisher can be fun every once in a while.

Well, we now know all 52 new comics DC is launching in September. There’s a bit to talk about, most of which has already been addressed by more capable bloggers. Even so, I’ve formulated a lot of my own thoughts on the matter since the whole process began a week ago. Chances are many of them are extended from sheer ignorance of DC’s publishing situation, but when has that stopped anyone before?

Now, let’s get some things out of the way: publishing 52 new debut issues in one month is a dumb idea. At that level, DC is competing against itself for shelf space just as much as it’s competing with other publishers. Plus, unless they have a real diversity of titles that will be able to build their own individual audiences without much bleeding into each other, then we all know what will happen: the devoted fans will pick up the titles with the biggest name creators or that seem the most ‘important’, and leave everything else to rot. You don’t need to be any sort of market genius to figure out most of these titles won’t make it past a dozen issues (by about 3 or 4, we’ll probably know how many “were really mini-series this whole time, guys”). Marginal books will become even more marginal with a lot of sexier friends sitting beside them, you know?

So, to do it right, they’d have to cut down a lot of titles. First things first, it would be wise to amputate the consistent low-performers: Flash, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, stuff like that. I know many of them are supposed to be important characters, but as long as they’re on the Justice League, there’s no point in providing them extra adventures that no one is interested in, right? Besides, going a few years without comics devoted to those characters might actually mean there could be a demand for them sometime in the future. But that’s long-term thinking, and what’s the point of thinking in the long term?

Secondly, there needs to be fewer spin-off titles. How many people really want to read about Nightwing and Supergirl without Batman and Superman? Completists, and no one else. It might work better to instead use those long-running series like Action and Detective Comics to serve as an outlet for spin-off stories about the supporting casts of those major characters, either an anthology book or a series of mini-series under one banner like the Classified books (and another one of the 52 launches, DC Universe Presents). That way, not only do you save shelf space, but you could also gauge the actual interest of people in these characters or creative teams. I’d say that this could apply to the Green Lantern titles as well, but those are inexplicably popular at the moment, so nothing I say would likely persuade the money men not to milk that motherfucker bone dry. The same format could definitely apply to the marginal characters as well…so why they decided to publish books about Animal Man and Swamp Thing and Firestorm, even with talent like Jeff Lemire and Gail Simone behind them, instead of testing them out in a DC Universe Presents-type book is beyond me.

Then of course there’s the random Wildstorm relaunches, which are just baffling. Especially Stormwatch. Why would you put intentional Superman/Batman analogues/parodies in the same universe as Superman and Batman? That’s just silly.

The one observation about the relaunch I keep going back to, though, is what a missed opportunity it is for DC to try to diversify their line. They say they want to attract new readers? All well and good, but eventually they’re going to have to realize that not everyone wants to read about their superheroes, and there could be a fertile audience in this new arena of overpriced digital comics for new genres and creators. It’s not like DC has never had any success outside the tights genre, either; many books manage to find ways to reference DC’s genre-spanning history, and even cartoons like Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold have gotten in on the action.

What have they got now? One western (because the minority readership of Jonah Hex would have been pissed if it got cancelled, and minorities are the only thing DC has at the moment), one book about vampires, one high-tech super spy book, and a few hybrids like Sgt. Rock and Demon Knights. The Grifter and Voodoo books are high-concept enough that they could go either way. That’s it. Why not throw in some straight-up fantasy books, like an Amethyst or a Warlord (or, *gasp*, an original idea!)? A mystery or cop series like Gotham Central? Something more science-fiction-y? Hell, how about a comedy book or two? (the fact that Dan Didio went out of his way to say they won’t be using Ambush Bug anytime soon may say a lot about that) Even Marvel publishes a few mainstream books that try to do something a little different. If DC is really serious about wanting to look attractive to new readers, why not try to attract people who would never think to pick up a superhero comic? You wouldn’t even need to go outside the DC universe to do it, plus it certainly would help your potential licensing options (the only reason the mainstream comics publishers do anything anymore). But alas, it is not to be.

It just seems a little odd that they’d be willing to go so far, yet get cold feet when it comes to one of the most obvious ways to make your books more attractive to a wider audience (not that it was their actual goal to do that, obviously, but one can dream). So instead, they’re just going to tweak costumes and origins in unnecessary ways (and finally give Wonder Woman pants, which is the best thing to come out of this, yes even better than another Grant Morrison Superman comic) and hope that everyone with an iPad will download them because it will be the trendy thing to do. Whatever. Your loss, dudes.

Posted in Comix | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Posted by Matt on April 5, 2011

Most comic critics spend a lot of time complaining about things Marvel and DC do. This is understandable, as it was likely reading their superhero lines 20 or 30 years ago (back when they had some sort of presence in non-specialty stores) that hooked them on the medium. But I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with my own constant wandering into that territory, because in the big scheme of things, Marvel and DC mean nothing. The whole comics enterprise has outgrown them, just as they seemed to have outgrown the industry that made them.

I’d be hard-pressed to really consider either to be real comics publishers at this point. They still technically publish comics, yes, but it seems more like some niche branch of their greater marketing schemes, a sort of nostalgic reminder of what they used to be known for, before they had super gigantic corporate parents and the clout to sell their pre-packaged properties to Hollywood (there are moves they have pursued that are more in the publisher direction – Marvel has their licensed books, public domain adaptations, and creator-owned line, and DC still has a billion imprints doing different things). They could stop making comics entirely, and only a few man-children on the Internet would really care. I feel like I’m repeating myself, which is probably because I am.

The major influence Marvel/DC have on the current comics industry is mostly through their symbiotic relationship with Diamond, and thus comics shops. This means that they essentially dominate a good portion of the industry. Unfortunately, we’re talking about something that is still fairly marginal, which doesn’t say a whole lot of good about the industry, does it? And with Diamond slowly going down the tubes, and comic shops definitely not likely to have a brighter future than non-specialty book stores, this is a stranglehold on a corpse. A corpse that didn’t even have a major impact when it was alive.

And with all the neat things being done in comics these days by so many publishers and individuals, in print and online, it just makes paying so much attention to what the corporate guys are doing seem like…a waste of time. I’m going to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival next month, which is a good networking opportunity for guys like my friend Ben…and me, I guess, but my inability to draw goodly makes my dreams of comic creation a little harder to obtain than his. Why do I mention this? I just want you to go to that show’s list of exhibitors. Those are the people who make me love comics as a form. With people like those around, who needs Marvel and DC and their stale adventure stories?

And yet…here I am, talking about them. What is it that keeps us interested in what is really not very interesting? The nerd factor? I am more partial to the Science Fiction angles that superheroes can offer in spades, I must admit. Nostalgia? I have none, having not grown up reading anything other than my beloved Sonic the Hedgehog comics, but I do have thrust upon me constantly by my peers in the nerd blogging frontier. Is it the true end of our age of corporate saturation of culture, where we can’t even think about something without having the biggest and flashiest brand names invading? Or maybe we just find what these old, lumbering former giants are up to while the kids actually push the form as some sort of curio, a reminder of what things used to be like?

In any case, I will try to keep my Marvel/DC bitching to a minimum from now on.

Posted in Comix | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Posted by Matt on February 12, 2011

I like digital comics discussion, don’t you?

Item! Diamond is going about digital comics the wrong way! What a shocker, the monopolists controlling the comic shop system may not know how to, or want to, succeed in the case of digital distribution! Woo.

The thing is, I can see the ghost of a decent idea here. Could comic shops also be able to sell digital comics, in a way, as well? Why not? I wouldn’t be against record stores selling MP3s in some way, either. It could just be a further expansion of their market (although, really, the only reliable future I see for the comic shops that will survive the great digital massacre to come will be the ones who primarily sell graphic novels and collections, the things that people will likely still have a taste for in the future). But in reality, the idea of paying 2 bucks for an unlock code at the shop IS pretty stupid (why go out of your way to do that? What would the advantage of doing that over just buying it over the actual app/service?). And getting the same thing when you buy a print copy for an extra 99 cents is maybe even more stupid; considering the disposable nature of the pamphlet format, why would you want both? So you can throw out the paper version and still have the story on hand? Why buy the print version at all, then? Plus, if you’re going to try to sell people on that, you might as well do it for free, as an incentive to get the print comic.

And, of course, there is the topic of Marvel and DC’s current wading in the digital market rather than diving into it. Those two are stuck on the same chain of fuckery as Diamond; Diamond controls the distribution of their mainstream comics, and so all three of them are stuck serving the comic shops, so the comic shops can in turn serve them. The thing is, if the publishers weren’t so servile to the distributors/shops, they would be the ones to benefit from a major digital move. Periodical comics are a marginal industry, and at this point are way too costly to be the impulse purchases they probably should be (4 bucks for the bigger-name Marvel comics? Fuck off). They can sell their throwaway books for a decent price in a convenient place (I.E. not just in scattered niche locations), and they could probably make some real money off of it. Alas, we are not there yet.

We’re stuck in this weird little interzone where Marvel and DC are afraid of jumping into the modern world, even though they have nothing to lose (I don’t think either company’s profitability would budge either way if they simply stopped publishing their comics completely). Are they scared of pissing off the shops? The fans? Diamond? Like they’ve had much of a problem with fucking people (I.E. creators) over before. So why placate this dying minority?

The answer is, as many already know, that they don’t care about their comics. Certainly not enough to put any effort into convincing people to buy them (the odd space filler article in major newspapers about some pointless ‘big event’ notwithstanding). So why would do anything other than the most basic approach to this new distribution model?

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Posted by Matt on May 31, 2010

This is from a few weeks back, but a look at a really big manga magazine. It’s over 1000 pages! And it costs around $5! Whatta deal! It’s the kind of format I think works really well for comics.

I know there has to be something behind the curtains that makes something like this possible. Maybe the creators are paid less. In the comments, readers point out how these magazines are printed on really cheap paper, sometimes detracting from the quality of the art, and that only a few of these magazines can actually succeed, and usually on the strength of one or two series that have crossover appeal (Fullmetal Alchemist being the example from the magazine in the post), and they usually have to be sold at a loss until those series take off. There’s also a difference in culture – most comic readers in North America are used to full-color, professional-looking product, whereas black and white comics magazines have been the most popular format in Japan (and Europe, as well) for over 50 years. There are many extra things to consider before calling this thing obviously perfect in every way.

Even so…whatta deal!

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Posted by Matt on May 11, 2010

An interview with Joe Casey on CBR. Apparently, a story he did for DC was altered after the fact, and he gets some pretty good analysis of the industry out in the open. Read it, dammit.

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Posted by Matt on May 6, 2010

Hey look, something interesting to read about superhero comics

E3 is in a month, and I’m sort of anticipating/dreading it. There will be some neat stuff there – Natal and 3DS being the major ones – but aside from my fanboy obsessions, there really hasn’t been much to be excited by in the industry lately. All I see are a sea of sequels, remakes, and rip-offs – and looking at message boards, this is what the people want. I really hope to see some cool new ideas in games in the coming months, something different to get me excited like Scribblenauts did last year. I’m sure somebody has something…I mean, we can’t have fallen into a creativity rut already. Hopefully?

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