Grotesque Anatomy
Thursday, January 29, 2004
  Readers Answer: Why Not Just Superheroes?
I was going to do a more detailed roundup/summary/analysis of readers' responses in the "Why Just Superheroes" comment thread but Neilalien beat me to it.  (Plus, I don't want to steal Ed Cunard's thunder in case he decides to write a column about this.)  I will say that I wasn't trying to browbeat superhero fans into diversifying their reading material.  I was just wondering why anyone would want to read only superhero comics.  I'm trying to think back on my own comic-buying habits and remember if there was a time when I only read superheroes.  I can't think of such a time, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't such a period in my comic-purchasing past.  (I have a really poor memory, so I may be forgetting my shameful superhero-only phase.)  The closest I can come up with is when I was little and my parents used to buy a lot of my comics for me.  But even then my parents would buy me non-superhero comics such as Turok or other Gold Key comics and I would devour those along with any and all funny books.

I guess I don't understand the mindset of being interested in only one genre in any medium.  (Not saying it's wrong, just that -- as someone external to that mindset -- I have trouble fully entertaining the notion.)  I enjoy film, but I don't limit myself to just action movies.  I enjoy prose, but I don't limit myself to mysteries alone (or fiction alone, for that matter).  Then again, maybe "omnivorousness" across different media is rarer than "specializing" in certain genres:  As Jennifer de Guzman points out, there probably are people who are only interested in reading Danielle Steele romances or Dean Koontz thrillers.  And obviously everyone who saw Pirates of the Caribbean wasn't waiting in line to see The Barbarian Invasions.

So, I don't have any answers, but I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  Maybe Ed can pull some better, deeper insights out of your responses if he ends up doing a column on this topic.  (Hint, hint, Ed.)
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
  So, No Changes For Power Girl, Then
Well, the advance buzz on Claremont and Byrne's JLA arc doesn't look good, but there's always Gail Simone's upcoming arc to be excited about, and not just for the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art.  Over on Usenet, Gail revealed her secret plan for her storyline:
I'm putting them all in wet teddies.

I think I'm on to something here...

Shaggy Man?  TEDDY!

Luthor? TEDDY!


Then the JSA show up, and it's TEDDY-FIGHT IN THE JLA POOL!

Man, the numbers will be HUGE.


Fans immediately expressed disappointment that Jim Lee was not drawing this arc.
  Ed Asks: Why Just Superheroes?
Ed Cunard reviews two upcoming small press books, Street Angel and Baraka and Black Magic in Morocco.  I've preordered both of these and, based on Ed's descriptions of the books, it sounds like I'll enjoy them.  At the end of his reviews, Ed wonders why great books like these don't find more of an audience in the Direct Market:
These books demonstrate the diversity in the I/SP scene that I keep babbling on about. Really, I have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that superhero comics are the sales giants of the contemporary comic book industry. Name one other entertainment medium that a single genre or theme dominates the majority of the market, if you can. It doesn’t happen with the music industry. It doesn’t happen with television – despite the glut of “reality”-based programming, a variety of genres are still well represented. It certainly doesn’t happen with movies… Imagine someone who only watches the romantic comedies of Tom Hanks – while that example may be possible, there aren’t enough of those people to make the movie industry decide to only produce Tom Hanks romantic comedies.

So, if you’re one of those dyed-in-the-wool superhero fans unwilling to leave the world of capes and tights for more diverse pastures, why is that? For once, I’m not saying it to be snarky – I really want to know, and I’d like to hear reasoned responses from those of the “mainstream” set. Hit up the Subsurface Communications message board or e-mail me and let me know. I’ve got plenty of hypotheses of my own, but I’d like to hear it from those people who buy nothing outside of the big four publishers.

I'd be curious to know people's reasons for only consuming superhero comics, too, so write in or comment below if you have some insight into this phenomenon (based either on your own preferences and buying habits, or on speculation about others' motivations).

  Corporate-Speak Quote of the Day
"Outsiders was conceived as an edgy book, without a Code seal. ('Edgy' is a tool we want our talent to be able to use creatively in service of telling a good story.)"
- DC's Patty Jeres, responding to concerns about the 'edgy' content of Outsiders #8

DC had no comment on whether 'character development,' 'plot,'or 'dialogue' were tools DC allows its talent to use in service of good stories.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
  "They're My Sister's Comics, I Swear!"
Forgot to mention earlier one of my favorite blog entries recently, Steven Wintle's post looking back at an old Archie comic.  Boy, did reading this story ever take me back.  I was never an Archie reader, but my younger sister was and I used to read her comics when I was bored.  Wait, I guess I was an Archie reader; I just never self-identified as one.  (That was probably my cover in case any of my friends ever caught me reading Archie:  "It's not mine!  It's my sister's!  I was just checking out how dorky it was!")  Now I'm older and more mature, so I can own up to my fondness for old Archie comics.  Like Steven, I always liked the stories illustrated by Harry Lucey best.  I didn't know Lucey by name back then, but I could always recognize his style when I came across it.  Lucey's figures and compositions were so fluid and expressive.  Just look at these two sample panels:

Harry Lucey Archie comic panels

Marvelous!  Aside from the wonderful art, the story ("These Changing Times") is a lot of fun too.  And Steven's analysis of the story is not to be missed.  Go read!  (Thanks for the memories, Steven. (And thanks to Johanna (who regularly reviews Archie comics on her site) for linking to Steven's post!))
  "Nothing Ends...Nothing Ever Ends"
Given all the recent writing, reflection, and analysis devoted to this book in the comics blogosphere, Watchmen is looking like a shoo-in for Best Comic of 2004.
  Channeling Your Comments
I was thinking back on something Johanna had written not too long ago, about how one thing she didn't like about blogs was how comments get lost as the posts they're attached to fall off the main page.  Well, I don't know if this'll make Johanna like blogs any better, but HaloScan provides a feed for comments, so I've added a link for the comments feed for this blog to the right.  This way you'll know if someone has commented on an old entry.

And now that I'm getting more into this channel syndication thing myself, boy, it sure would be nice if other BlogSpot and HaloScan users activated and published the links to their feeds (hint, hint).
  When The Thoughts Don't Flow
There's a longer post I've been working on, but the words just aren't coming.  So let's look at what others are writing about:

Former mangaphobe Dave Lartigue has gotten over his preconceptions and is now reading (and enjoying) plenty of manga.  He's even started work on his own Manga Stack of Intimidation.  (Hint:  It's more impressive if the manga is actually stacked.  Don't ask me why; it just is.)  Of course, not all manga is wonderful, and Dave runs up against one that he finds damn near incomprehensible.  Despite Dave's claim that I warned him about Trigun, I've never read the manga, so he must have me confused with someone else.  Anyway, I'm glad to see that Dave is reading manga and judging each book by its own relative merits rather than prejudging all manga based on sweeping generalizations.

Dirk Deppey is right:  Jim Henley was on a roll yesterday.  While I'm baffled by his excitement over Bendis' Daredevil, his review of New Frontier contained one of my favorite lines in recent memory:  "That's what carries the Jordan story across the Stupid Threshold and throws it on the Stupid Bed for its Wedding Night of Stupid Bliss."  Go read.  It's a great review, and enough to make me reconsider my thought that maybe I'd pick up this series when it was collected.  (Jason Kimble didn't enjoy New Frontier much either, although for different reasons, mainly clunky narration and uneven story execution.)

Also from Jim Henley:  A suggestion that superhero comics should be seen as "the literature of ethics."
The core question of the superhero story might be phrased as What do we owe other people? The problem is that comics have typically answered the question before they've barely asked it: "With great power must come great responsibility!" Really? Are you sure about that? And how much is "great," anyway? What part of my life can I keep back for myself?
I really like this.  It reminds me of Johanna's contention that superhero comics should be about issues of justice.  I'm wondering if this type of analysis has ever really been applied to superhero comics.  About the only thing that comes to mind is Frank Miller discussing Daredevil's Catholicism, and even there I'm not sure how well ol' Hornhead represents Catholic ethics.  (Now I want to write a comic book series that recasts characters as different ethical schools of thought.  And in classic Marvel style, the heroes will mainly sit around angsting about how to proceed:  The Kantian will try to figure out which maxims he can will into universal laws; the Aristotelian will try to determine the mean in every situation; and the Utilitarian will puzzle over what constitutes the greatest good for the greatest number.  Meanwhile, the Hedonist runs amok!)

Finally, Graeme's linked to an early posting of Marvel's full solicitation copy for April, where it's revealed that, after Morrison leaves, the development of the relationship between Scott Summers and Emma Frost will be entrusted to...Chuck Austen???
Monday, January 26, 2004
  Best Backhanded Compliment of the Day
"If you ignore his tin ear for dialogue, his goofy politics, and his over-the-top pronouncements--sometimes a lot to ignore, I'll admit--you'll find, in Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates at least, some of the giddiest, oomphiest, least intelligence-insulting superhero action comics of the past decade." 
- Sean Collins, defending (?) Mark Millar against Dirk Deppey's criticisms of the popular writer
  Ancient Prophecy
Johanna, knowing my interest in Prophecy Magazine (now Prophecy Anthology), wrote to let me know that the Prophecy home page has been updated with the following info:
Prophecy Anthology, Volume 1 Releases March 15th, 2004

Prophecy Anthology will make its debut on March 15th, 2004, featuring a collection of sequential art by artists such as Shannon Wheeler, Scott McCloud, Sho Murase, Yuko Shimizu, Nathan Fox and Bernie Mireault.

The anthology will be shipped on March 15th to Prophecy Magazine subscribers as well as to customers who pre-purchased the anthology. The book will release in comic books stores nationwide the first week in April, 2004, through Diamond Distribution. For more information regarding the Anthology, check out our What's Inside page.
Sure enough, searching through Diamond's text file for April orders, there it is:
PAGE 304
SPOT     FEB04 2592    PROPHECY ANTHOLOGY VOL 1 (C: 4)    $30.00     = $
Thanks for the info, Johanna.  I'm a bit surprised by the price, but I'll wait to check out the full solicitation in Previews before I make a decision about getting this.  It would have been nice if Sequent Media had provided more info about the book on their site (page count?  dimensions? format? full contents?), especially if they're expecting people to buy it right off their site.  Why is it so hard for companies (not just comic companies) to put together a competent, professional web presence?  (Ignore me:  I QA web applications for my day job, so stuff like this makes me cranky.)
Sunday, January 25, 2004
  Shameless Shilling
Well, you free-loading bastards haven't been stuffing the tip jar, so I'm forced to sell off my comics on eBay.  Just kidding.  I'd been unloading my collection on eBay already, but I'd gotten lazy about putting up new listings for quite a while.  This weekend I was trying to find a particular series and I realized how much crap I have that I need to get rid of.  This week I'm running five auctions:
Check out my auctions if any of these comics interest you, or if you'd like to see how bad I -- Mr. Critical Of Everyone Else's Marketing Hype -- am at writing my own sales copy.  And check back in the future to see my other auctions.  I won't advertise my auctions here again, although I will activate the auctions link on the right.  Finally, as a special bonus to readers of this blog, mention that you saw the auction here and I'll give you free Media Mail shipping (U.S. only) if you're the winning bidder.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
  Feed Me!
Grotesque Anatomy finally has a news feed, mainly because Blogger finally supports one.  They're using the Atom format, which is described at as "a universal personal content publishing standard."  I'm not sure how universal Atom is, however, since my old version of NewzCrawler (1.4) didn't support the format.  I upgraded to 1.6.3 and it seems to handle the Atom feed fine.  If the feed doesn't work with your news reader, I apologize but I don't think I'll be able to help troubleshoot the problem for you.  Hopefully it'll work for people who like this kind of thing (hello, Johanna!) since I figure they're most likely to keep up-to-date with the latest versions of various software.
  "If It's Truly Essential, They'll Be Willing To Pay More For It"
Marvel's April solicits aren't officially up yet, but, as always, you can find their listings in the text order form on Diamond's site.  Most of the"new" projects here have already been plugged on Newsarama (another Daredevil mini; another Spider-Man ongoing; the crappy-looking Marvel Age: Fantastic Four), but there was something I hadn't heard about before:  Two new Essentials are coming out (DD v2 and Tomb Of Dracula v2), but their price has gone up two bucks from $14.99 to $16.99.
Friday, January 23, 2004
  Riding The Bloodstream Wave
Expert hallway navigation hits the mainstream!  Yes, covers the phenomenon that is Bloodstream.  (Thanks to Dirk Deppey for the link.)  This article gave me so much joy, so much laughter.  Example:

"Clothes grace the character on the cover of Adam Shaw’s 'Bloodstream #2'."

Sadly, pants were not an article of clothing that decided to grace Amber with their presence.  (Nor would the top agree to cover Amber's hips.)

This was another great line:
Shaw said he hopes readers will appreciate "Bloodstream" for its humor and psychological foundation as well as for its action, as Amber searches for her past while trying to elude the goons who want to return her to the secret biotech lab where she was transformed into an uber-stripper.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!  "Uber-stripper" -- oh, that's rich!  What, can she lap-dance with the sexiness of ten strippers?  And "Goon-Eluding Action!" may just supplant my fascination with "expert hallway navigation."
  Finding Meaning By Making It
Eve Tushnet has written a wonderful analysis of Watchmen.  Although it's one of my favorite works of sequential art, I can't recall reading much commentary on this seminal work, certainly not anything this good.  I particularly liked Eve's tracking of various themes and motifs, especially the notion of imperfect, relativistic perception and interpretation:  "[T]he comic is full of Rorschach tests: What do you see?"  My only quibble with Eve's analysis would be with her take on some of the psychological makeups/motivations in the book.  Eve writes:
Rorschach's denial of any intrinsic meaning to the patterns and suffering in life, in his speech to Malcolm, is more obliquely in conflict with his actions at the climax (in which he seeks to uphold an absolute vision of justice that implies conformity to a preexisting, objective pattern), but again both moments feel utterly true to life.
To me, this doesn't really seem to be a conflict, even an oblique one.  I think people who come to doubt that life has any intrinsic meaning can be more motivated to create meaning where none exists.  We also see this in Malcom's actions after his optimistic "bleeding heart liberal" belief system has been shattered due to his interactions with Rorschach:  Helping strangers on the street, he says "In a world like this... it's all we can do, try to help each other.  It's all that means anything."  (This reminds me of a fallacy commonly heaped upon atheists:  Because we deny the existence of God, life can have no meaning for us.  Wrong.  Life has the meaning we choose to impart on it through our decisions, actions, and relationships -- in much the same way that made-up fiction gains meaning.  The pattern doesn't have to preexist for us to attempt to create and conform to it.)

I also saw Doctor Manhattan's actions at the end as more consistent than Eve did.  For me, Manhattan's revelation that human life had value stemmed more from his appreciation of the patterns and structures that govern and/or emerge from human existence.  Just as Manhattan was curious to tinker with the inner workings of watches when he was young (and human), now he plans to experiment with life itself.  This would help explain why he is sympathetic to Veidt's actions at the end:  Like him, Veidt sees the patterns and attempts to understand/manipulate them.  Veidt is a fellow watchman/maker.
By the way, here's the blog entry of mine that Eve was referring to.  (And, Eve:  I'd love to see you follow up with the thoughts you weren't able to get to in this essay.  So many people seem to remember Watchmen as only bleak or depressing that I'd love to see you tackle the use of humor in the work.)
Thursday, January 22, 2004
  Street Angel Parody Shocker!
Over on Shawn Hoke's "The Wall" forum, Jim Rugg stops by to clarify what his intention was with that back cover:
I'm not sure what you mean by joke? It's really going to be the back cover of issue 1.

I once did a mini comic called StrikeForce: Bigfoot (a color version is available at Modern Tales Longplay) and needed 3 pages to round out the signatures. So I did fake pinups that aped the styles of Julie Doucet, Mike Mignola, and Rob Liefeld. People seemed to get a kick out of them and I enjoyed doing them.

For Street Angel I couldn't decide on what to do with the back covers. I like seeing guest pinups. So I decided to ape various cartoonists' styles for the back covers. Issue 1 is a Jim Lee ape because Jim Lee drew the highest selling comic of last year. Issue 2 is Dan Clowes. I haven't decided on issue 3 yet (I draw the covers after the interiors are all finished).

The Jim Lee maybe isn't as Jim Lee-esque as it should be. Everyone seems to see the Image style more than his particular style. I think I botched the coloring.

I don't know if I'd call it a joke. Maybe some poor, unknown cartoonist's attempt at a cool pinup? Or how about a dedicated, up-and-coming cartoonist trying to give his readers the best bang for their comic-book-buying dollar? Or...maybe a...well you get the idea.

Is anyone offended by it?

Jim says that he's going to be checking back in that thread to answer any questions people might have about Street Angel, so stop over and chat with the man!  (Me, I want to know if we'll be seeing a basketball match between the pirates and the ninjas.  Something like that would have the potential to rival the Comedy Gold Standard of Monty Python's soccer match between the Greek and the German philosophers.)
  Blogging by Bullet Point
You know the drill.
Finally, I ran across this exchange about manga in Diverging Comics' "State of the Comics" address (an "Independently Minded" (?) round table discussion with "three very diverse comic book fans"):
DIVERGING COMICS: So what about the continued proliferation of Manga, in those same bookstores?

GREG MATIASEVICH To an exclusion of everything else?

STEPHEN LIN: Man... I was in Borders the other day and they had a huge shelf of manga! Placed in between trades and RPG books.

DAVID HOPKINS: Manga is so huge. It is in an industry all to itself. 

GREG MATIASEVICH: I think we need to educate readers to know that Manga isn't everything

STEPHEN LIN: It's a Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon generation growing up.

DIVERGING COMICS: Again, it's a matter of crossing over. Just like with american comics.

GREG MATIASEVICH Comics aren't one genre

DAVID HOPKINS: Exactly. But shoot me now if we have to create a freakin' card game for every cartoon or comic book we publish.

STEPHEN LIN: These are the same kids getting obese and diabetic in front of the PS2 who probably haven't read any books in their lives other than Harry Potter.

So anyway:  What about the continued proliferation of manga in bookstores?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
  "Tell Me About Your Mother, Mr. Wayne."
Graeme's post about Nick Locking on X-Men writers and domination fetishes reminded me that there was some Locking goodness I'd been intending to blog.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nick Locking on Batman vs. Midnighter:
Batman will obviously win. Everything Midnighter does takes about six panels more than Batman because Midnighter is decompressed. Hence, Batman has a massive speed advantage and will have pinned Midnighter to a wall with batarangs before Midnighter has had a chance to gaze in wonder at the spectacle of Gotham City.

"Gone through *pant* this fight *pant* a million times -- SLOW DOWN, YOU BASTARD!"
Also, Locking considers a possible career change:
Dr. Nick Locking, Phd. I will resolve your psychological issues by comparing them with Batman's.
More, please.
  War!  What Is It Good For?
Sean Collins isn't enthusiastic about the just-announced "War" theme for this year's SPX Anthology, predicting "Not since the Comics Journal's Special Edition on Patriotism will there have been a collection of political cartoons as predictable and inessential as this bad boy."  I can certainly understand Sean's pessimism:  When I first heard about last year's "Travel" theme, I expected to be inundated with grating accounts of alt-cartoonists backpacking through Europe.  However, the actual book turned out to be much better -- and much more diverse -- than I had hoped.  So while I can see how the "War" theme could go horribly wrong, a part of me remains optimistic.

Prediction:  Yes, many people will submit typical anti-war pieces, but hopefully the editors will be able to assemble a package that represents varied viewpoints.  In any event, I'm sure the SPX Anthology will continue to remain one of the best values in comics (usually ten bucks for close to 300 pages), as well as a great introduction to creators many comic fans (myself included) would never have known about otherwise.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
  Fan Confused, Threatened by Superhero Comic Lacking Slutty Heroine
I know finding bizarre message board threads is Graeme's schtick, but I stumbled upon a doozie while stopping over at the Pipeline boards to thank Augie for mentioning this blog in today's column.  A poster with the handle "peabody77" wasn't happy with the previews of Street Angel:
YUCK! Street Angel = FLOP!

A superhero comic, with a $3 price tag, without COLOR, without a slutty heroine, and they expect people to give a $#!%?!?

What kind of baffoon kids themselves into thinking anybody in this day and age will LOOK AT anything like SA, much less BUY it?

I hate to be a nay-sayer, but this is just plain laughable! I looked at the preview pages and wanted to puke. THIS is the "creative, in-control creators'" answer to the drek from Marvel and DC?

Street Angel is a waste of time and effort on the creators' part, and yet another loud declaration of the sad inability of indie creators to get past their preposterious selves.

Make a book with a *cute* girl, with slicker artwork, in COLOR, and then you'd have something viable.

Otherwise, why even bother?

The post is so outlandish that SLG Editor-in-Chief Jennifer de Guzman wonders if it was all a stunt by Street Angel creators Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca to drum up interest in the book. Soon Jim Rugg himself stops by:
To set the record straight I am not Mr. (or Ms.) Peabody77. I am however curious why he/she has chosen to direct his/her apparent indie-comic rage towards my book.
An amusing thread, but it's also a bit depressing to think that people like "peabody77" really exist.  (And not only do they exist, but they also post the same vitriol on multiple forums.)  At least some good came out of it:  Several people who hadn't even heard of Street Angel beforehand ended up preordering the book.

Besides, I don't see what "peabody77" is so upset about.  It looks as though Jim Rugg had the "slutty heroine" fanbase in mind when he did the first issue's Image-style back cover:

Street Angel #1
  Because Augie Demanded It!
To be fair:

Yeah, it's not a very good match, is it?  It was the closest I could find, though (white background, couple kissing).

I do wonder if having a strip running down one side of the cover is going to become the de facto book design for any digest-sized trade.  Anyway, I'm looking forward to picking up the first Love Fights collection.
  DC in April Addendum
Something that didn't show up on DC's site yesterday was an advance solicit for JLA: Kid Amazo, a 96-page original hardcover graphic novel by "super-hot" writer Peter Milligan and "cutting-edge artist" Rob Haynes.  "Super-hot"?  "Cutting-edge"?  I knew the arrival of Michael Turner on so many DC books signaled the Image-ification of DC.
Monday, January 19, 2004
  DC in April
Thanks to Kevin Melrose, we get to peek at DC's April solicitations a little early.  Some stuff that caught my eye:
JLA 97
I can't believe that in April I may actually be reading issues of Birds of Prey and Hawkman again.
  Inconclusive Anatomy
The votes are in.  I had asked "Should I buy The Moth Double-Sized Special or wait for the trade?" and here's how you answered:

Trade (4)
Special (4)
Kill Jason Todd (1)

I didn't expect this to end in a tie.  So what does this mean?  That I should buy both the trade and the special?  Neither?  That even dead, Jason Todd still drives comic fans into a murderous frenzy?

Since the whole point of this exercise was to avoid making a decision myself, I'll leave it up to the first person who breaks the tie in the comment thread below:

UPDATE:  Ed Cunard has spoken.  His verdict:  "Buy the special. Why wait, if you're so excited.  And trades are killing the industry. :)"  So be it!

  Anemic Bloodstream
Knowing of my strange fascination with Bloodstream, Johanna Draper Carlson kindly sent me the first issue of the series.  Based on the solicitation copy for later issues, I had hoped that the comic might provide similar unintentional humor.  Unfortunately, the book is just flat-out bad.  Johanna covered many of the book's problems in her review, but here is a short list of my own complaints:
Ah well.  It looks like my interest in this comic was spoiled by actually reading it.  Even my hope of seeing some expert hallway navigation seems dashed by the looks of the online preview for Bloodstream #2.  Apparently Amber will spend more time fighting a wolf in the snow than masterfully maneuvering through corridors.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
  A Tale Of Two Publishers
Reading Newsarama's interview with Joe Quesada and Dan Buckley highlighted for me one of Marvel's biggest problems.  Their idea of diversifying comics is to do multiple versions of Spider-Man for different target audiences.  Yet more often than not, the same readers end up buying the various versions of the character.   Aside from the failure to reach new readers, the "multiple versions of a single character" approach can end up backfiring in another way:  It creates confusion about what audience the character is intended for.

Consider this exchange between Matt Brady and Quesada:
NRAMA: Exactly, but still, it seems that when a Marvel comic that does push the envelope comes out, one of the quickest responses a pundit that the media dusts off for the occasion drags out the "comics are for kids" argument and that Marvel shouldn't be publishing such material.

JQ: There's no question where I stand on this issue. Sure - Marvel needs more all ages titles. We have very few, less than 10% of our line can be classified that way. Not at the exclusion of anything, but just because this is good content that can help grow our business and industry. Just look at what Harry Potter has done for prose fiction.
Can you imagine the outcry if Harry Potter were featured in a novel with "adult situations"?  And it wouldn't be because prose fiction is for children, but because that property has become so strongly associated with children (even if adults do enjoy the books as well).

Similarly, I think Marvel has become so associated with its superhero characters -- characters that are already perceived as children's material -- that the publisher itself is now seen in the eyes of the general public as being "for kids."  And Marvel doesn't do much to disabuse people of this notion:  Unlike DC, Marvel doesn't have distinct, well-branded imprints such as Vertigo to act as firewalls for "edgier" projects.  Marvel's idea of a mature line is to have some of its more obscure characters swear and engage in anal sex.  The fact that the characters are obscure does little to insulate the MAX comics from controversy, perhaps because at one point all the characters appeared in the "regular" Marvel Universe and everyone still remembers that.

In contrast, look at DC.  I've already mentioned Vertigo, but even with lines such as the much-maligned "Focus" imprint (which has been lampooned as DC's "New Universe") DC takes care to brand the books so they stand out from the regular superhero titles.  The covers for the Focus books feature eye-catching artwork from Tomer Hanuka and a distinctive trade dress:

Hard Time #1
Kinetic #1 Touch #1
Fraction #1

It's also instructive to look at the two companies and how they respond when they decide they want to go after new customers.  Marvel decides to redo old superhero stories with some newer, flashier art.  DC forms an alliance with the publisher of European comics.  Marvel reminds me of the proverbial carpenter whose limited tool set causes him to see every situation as calling for the same response.  "We need comics for younger readers?  Superheroes!  Comics for older readers?  Superheroes!  For people who think superheroes are stupid?  Superheroes!"

Disclaimers:  I'm not saying that all superheroes by their very nature are for kids only.  I don't think anyone would read Astro City and think that it was intended primarily for children.  But I do believe that Marvel's superheroes are thought of as being for kids.  Why is this so?  A big part of it is probably historical accident:  Since kids were the ones reading Marvel superheroes when Marvel first started out, the association between the product and the audience stuck over time.  And the fact that Marvel licenses its superheroes for all kinds of merchandise aimed at kids probably helps reinforce the connection.  You probably don't see many bedsheets or breakfast cereals featuring characters from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing that Marvel's superheroes are still thought of as being mainly for kids.  Often times good stuff aimed at children will be enjoyed by adults as well, like with the Harry Potter books or the Pixar films.

I'm not saying I'm against darker takes on classic characters.  I enjoyed Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as much as the next comic fan.  And I don't think Watchmen was an affront to the memory of the Charlton characters.

All I'm saying is that maybe there's a reason why Marvel is repeatedly the target of the "comics are for kids" line of thought whereas DC can put out stuff like Preacher and The Filth without anyone batting an eye.

Live by the superhero, die by the superhero.
  Shonen Jump Sales: Now Divide My Enthusiasm By Two
Almost forgot to mention this:  Last week I asked readers for help in determining what the actual sales figures were like for Shonen Jump.  Helpful reader Mark searched through the January 2004 issue of Shonen Jump and found the following information from Viz's circulation report:
Page 302, down in the corner in teeny tiny print. I'm not going to type the whole thing in, but for October 2003, they list total paid circulation of 140,323 out of a total of 283,000 copies. The average from February thru October shows total paid circulation of 150,961 out of 349,444 total copies.
Thanks for the info, Mark.  And thanks to Matt Maxwell for first bringing this to my attention.  I knew newsstand magazines faced returns, but I had no idea returns could account for half a print run or more.  I'll definitely keep this in mind when I read future press releases from Viz about the amazing sales of Shonen Jump.  Not that I'm suddenly declaring Shonen Jump a failure.  From what I understand, Shonen Jump's rate of sales vs. returns is actually pretty good for a newsstand periodical.  And Viz maintains that circulation continues to rise.  But I will definitely mentally adjust those sales figures from now on.

I'm still left wondering:  Why is selling half of your print run considered a success in the magazine business?  Why don't publishers try to bring print runs more in line with actual sales numbers?  Is having half (or more) of your print run sitting unsold on the stands considered the price of doing business (have to allow for reading copies, which will get damaged/beat up)?
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
  The Bloodstream Solicitation Watch
From Comics Continuum:

Written by Adam Shaw and Penny Register, art and cover by Shaw.

Dr. Evers plans to capture Amber, now a living vessel of the precious Hemosyth technology, at her former place of employment, but she proves to be a very lethal vessel.

Is there a moratorium on exclamation marks at Image or something?  I never thought I'd say this, but that copy could use more hype.

And is it just me or does this cover look a

Bloodstream #3 cover

Amber might be a very lethal vessel, but she's certainly not a very expressive one.

Bonus:  Waiting for the trade pays off yet again:  The first six issues of The Walking Dead are collected in a single trade for only $9.95, almost eight bucks cheaper than the individual issues.
  Interactive Anatomy
I just realized that I haven't ordered The Moth Double-Sized Special yet.  It's still sitting in my online cart, waiting to be purchased.  The order cutoff date is coming up, so I have to decide soon.  At this point I'm not sure which way to go.  On the one hand, Steve Rude is one of my favorite artists, so I'm excited to see a new project from him.  On the other hand, I'm guessing that this special will be collected in a trade along with the upcoming Moth limited series once it's finished.  And since the series is coming out from Dark Horse, any trade would probably have spiffy extras such as sketches or threatening letters from Marvel's lawyers.

So what should I do?  Buy the special or wait for the trade?

Since I'm on the fence about this, I'm going to let YOU decide.  That's right:  In the grand tradition of such stunts as "Should the Joker kill Jason Todd?" the readers will determine the outcome of this cliffhanger.  Simply cast your vote via email or the comments thread.  (Sorry, no 800 numbers.)  Whichever option gets the most votes is what I'll end up doing.  I'll tally things up this weekend and announce the result on Monday, January 19th.

Thank you in advance for helping make this decision for me.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
  The Case For Being Unable To Wait For The Trade
Also from Dark Horse's April solicitations:


On sale April 21, FC, 32pg, $2.99

Warning!! Dark Horse takes no responsibility for bodily injuries sustained while reading The Moth #1. The unbridled action spilling from the pages are an understandable consequence of teaming (penciler) Steve Rude, and (writer/ inker) Gary Martin together. So if you get punched in the eye because you’re holding this comic too close, don’t come crying to us! In this issue, The Moth runs smack into the face of trouble, in the form of his archrival, Nestor the bounty hunter. Check out the picture of Nestor, in the dictionary definition of the word scum!

Steve Rude's The Moth is an ongoing series?  Why wasn't I informed??

UPDATE: OK, according to this Dark Horse press release, The Moth is only a limited series.  In that case, maybe I can wait for the trade after all. Except I already pre-ordered the "double-sized" special, which I bet will end up being included in the eventual trade.  Argh!
  The Case For Waiting For The Trade, Part 284
From Dark Horse's April solicitations:


On sale April 28, SC, 152pg, FC, 8 1/4" x 5 1/2", $17.95

Master of Elusion, foe of tyranny, and champion of liberation—The Escapist!  Operating from a secret headquarters under the boards of the majestic Empire Theater, the Escapist and his crack team of charismatic associates roam the globe, performing amazing feats of magic to aid all those who languish in oppression’s chains. The history of his creators, Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay was recently chronicled in Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. The best of the Escapist’s adventures are now collected into one volume for all to enjoy!

This thrilling volume of Michael Chabon Presents…The Amazing Adventures of The Escapist collects the first two issues of the comic book and features an original story penned by Michael Chabon, the comics debut of novelist Glen David Gold, a new story written and drawn by Howard Chaykin, the painted artwork of Bill Sienkiewicz, and a wraparound cover by Chris Ware!

If I'm reading that right, that's some nice "bonus" material that wasn't in the original issues.  So how does this TPB end up having fewer pages than the two 80-page comics it reprints?  Guess "80 PULSE-POUNDING PAGES" includes ads, huh?
  Also: Spider-Girl To Feature 80% More Panty Shots
Thanks to Augie De Blieck for mentioning this blog in his column today.  I did want to respond to his comments regarding the cover design for the "Marvel Age" imprint:
John Jakala's Grotesque Anatomy posted cover images of Marvel's new manga-wannabe imprint versus TokyoPop's, just to show the similarity in designs. I don't think, however, that this is Marvel trying to trick people into thinking their books are TokyoPop's. I think it's a couple of other things. First, the art reprinted on the cover is in a slightly different ratio than the page size it's being printed on, so the horizontal strip is needed in lieu of art cropping. You can see that happening in the oversized RED STAR trades, as well as the ULTIMATE MARVEL magazines that were coming out a couple of years ago.
But if you look at the cover art for Runaways #11, it seems as though the Marvel Age edition of Runaways does crop the original cover image, at least going by what was shown online in the February solicitations for Marvel:

Cover to RUNAWAYS #11 (as seen in online solicitations)
Cover to "Marvel Age" digest-sized edition of RUNAWAYS

Disclaimers:  That's obviously not a final cover image on the left, since there's no logo on it.  And the ratio for that image is slightly squatter than other cover preview images.  But there's still some cropping of the image on both sides.  In any case, cropping or reformatting images hardly seems like much of a barrier in this digital age.

And this is probably a grossly uncharitable misreading of Augie's statement, but reading it I thought, "So what is he saying?  That there were only a handful of possible cover designs available for Marvel to choose from?  That it was inevitable that Marvel would choose this look?"  Funny how a single series such as Sandman managed to have about a dozen distinctive trade dresses over the course of its publication in the bookstore market.

Anyway, I don't think Marvel will really be able to "trick" anyone into reading anything they don't want to.  Yes, I still think the Marvel Age trade dress is suspiciously similar to Tokyopop's, but I don't think it's going to fool manga fans into buying these books.  I think most consumers are savvy enough to distinguish content from design, and content is really what's going to make or break these books for Marvel.  Sure, the new format might be more appealing to readers who are used to the manga digests, but I think the packaging will only allow Marvel to get their foot in the door.  They'd still better have compelling stories to complete the sale.

So until Marvel comes out and announces that the Marvel Age books will have art flipped to a "right-to-left" format and sound effects translated into Japanese, Make Mine Manga!
Monday, January 12, 2004
  Waiting for the "Waiting for the Trade" Argument To End
Laura Gjovaag links to Peter David continuing to write about the "Waiting for the Trade" debate over on his blog.  In his entry, PAD warns readers that he doesn't care why they don't care whether mid-list monthlies make it or not.  So I'm sure he doesn't care about the thoughts his writings inspired, but I thought I'd share them anyway.

PAD writes: "When fans express concerns about comics, I try to answer them. Fans complain about rising prices; I put my neck on the line to try and keep the price of 'Captain Marvel' [down] as long as I could."  Ah, yes.  The infamous "U-DECIDE!" stunt.  For what it's worth, I thought it was a nice move on PAD's part to try to keep the price down on this series.  But how well did that turn out?  The book relaunched with a new number one and was initially priced at $2.25.  But then with issue #8 the price jumped 33% to $2.99 right in the middle of a two-part storyline.  I'm not suggesting that any of this was PAD's fault, but readers of trades would have known up front what price they were going to pay for a complete storyline instead of having the price shoot up without warning.

PAD writes:  "[I]f fans want to help ensure the survival of new series, they should consider buying monthlies."  Except buying the monthlies is no guarantee for the survival of a series.  Even before trade paperbacks became more regular, quirky series were released and then quickly cancelled, despite devoted fanbases.  (One of my favorite short-lived series was Chase by D. Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III.)  I recall many fans being reluctant to try out "non-aligned" books out of fear that the comics would be cancelled out from under them.  If we're going to debate how fan psychology affects comic sales, one could make a strong case that this "learned defeatism" is more detrimental to the survival of mid-list series than the so-called "Waiting for the Trade" mentality.

PAD expresses his gratitude for "those fans whose support of monthly titles help provide the trade paperbacks."  Perhaps he doesn't mean anything by it, but this statement annoys me.  Is he implying that those who prefer to read trades are indebted to the monthly readers who made the collected edition possible?  Maybe I'm being pissy or obtuse, but I really don't think readers of trades owe any debt of gratitude to those who read the comic in monthly installments.  Conversely, when I buy singles, I really don't expect to be thanked for making a future collection possible.  When I rent a movie or buy a DVD, I don't get all teary-eyed thinking of the moviegoers who made my home-viewing experience possible.  When I buy a hardcover copy of a book, I don't get mad if others chose to wait for the softcover edition without even acknowledging how my purchase enabled their option.  If the publishers of various forms of entertainment decide they want to go after different audiences with different formats, that's their prerogative.  I think it's silly to pit one customer base against another by declaring that one group provided another's edition.

I still agree with PAD's assertion that the "Waiting for the Trade" phenomenon likely makes it harder for mid-list titles to survive in the current Direct Market system.  But I think that's the crucial qualification:  In the current Direct Market system.  Really, I think that mid-list series would continue to have problems even if trades were abolished altogether.  Look at the top 25 comics in the Direct Market: Ten X-Men comics.  Six Ultimate titles. Four Spider-Man series.  There's so much wrong with the current Direct Market system that it hardly seems fair to pin all its woes on "Waiting for the Trade."
  2002 in Review in Review
Since my attempt at a "Best of 2003" list is so late that it would now qualify for nostalgia, I've pretty much given up on finishing it.  Instead, I decided to look back at my picks from 2002 and see "Where Are They Now?"

10. THE POWER COMPANY: Cancelled.  Did not end on a strong note.

9. RAIJIN COMICS: I dropped this manga anthology right before Gutsoon announced that it was changing the publishing frequency from weekly to monthly, a decision that didn't sit too well with many of Raijin's more dedicated fans.  Of the series featured in the anthology, Slam Dunk is the only one I have any interest in keeping up with.  Gutsoon recently sent me some of their books to review, though, so I'll be taking a fresh look at their titles soon.

8. SPX2002 ANTHOLOGY: As I wrote last year, the SPX Anthology is "one of my favorite comics every year."  This year proved no exception.  For the second year in a row the anthology had a unifying theme.  This time it was travel.  I was worried that this theme would be too limiting (I expected many stories to be the sequential art equivalent of neighbors pulling out their vacation slides).  Instead, many contributors came up with novel variations on the theme, including an account of the 1918 influenza's travels across the globe; a retelling of Prince Cadmus' founding of Thebes as a travelogue; and a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style travel board game.  A great bargain (290 pages for ten bucks) and a wonderful introduction to many small-press creators.  (I'm especially excited about R. Kikuo Johnson's forthcoming graphic novel, Nightfisher.)

7. CrossGen's COMPENDIA:  Yikes.  I wonder if every reviewer runs across something like this at some point:  An embarrassing favorite that causes one to shake one's head and wonder, "What was I thinking?"  Even more embarrassing, I ended my description of why I liked CrossGen's Compendia with this fateful prognostication:  "With CrossGen's recent repackaging of the Compendia line (smaller trim size and reduced cover price), I expect that even more readers will become hooked on this winning anthology format."  Instead the Compendia became a huge financial drain for CrossGen (Mark Alessi admitted this in response to fans angry that the books had been solicited through a certain number but then cancelled before that point) and stacks of remaindered copies can be found littering used bookstores.

So for those who get tired of my Shonen Jump boosterism, here's something you can throw back in my face whenever I start to get too annoying.

6. PROMETHEA: Still an excellent series.  It's been interesting in recent issues to be reminded that the ABC line is a shared universe (although one with little time remaining).

5. SUPER MANGA BLAST!: The tedious "Hypernotes" installments completely killed my waning interest in this manga anthology, although I still plan on reading Club 9 and What's Michael? in collected form.

4. OH MY GODDESS: 2003 saw three new trade paperback collections (Hand In Hand, Mystery Child, & Traveler) for one of my favorite manga series.  I like this series so much I don't even flinch at prices nearly twice that of other manga books.  (Mystery Child carried a price tag of nineteen bucks, although it did run 272 pages.)

3. THE FILTH: To be honest, I can't remember much about this series, although I do remember enjoying each individual installment.  Someday I'll go back and re-read the whole series end-to-end and see what I make of it.  Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

2. UZUMAKI:  Finished reading this series in 2002, but it was interesting to note how many other people discovered this and enjoyed it in 2003.  I think someone even referred to Uzumaki as a great example of a "gateway manga."

1. SHONEN JUMP: Yet another manga anthology that I loved in 2002 but dropped in 2003.  And with Shonen Jump, I'm not even continuing to read any of the series in collected form.  I'm still sending my niece and nephews a gift subscription, though, and they've recently written to make sure I renew their subscription for them.

I also looked over my list of the TEN MOST DISAPPOINTING COMICS OF 2002.  With many of those books, they either ended or I stopped getting them altogether.  I gave a second chance to just one series -- Morrison's New X-Men -- and was much more impressed with the second hardcover volume.  Also, a year ago I had this advice for myself:  "It looks as though I bought too many superhero comics that I was ultimately unhappy with, so perhaps I'll be more selective in my superhero picks in the future."  In 2003 it seems I was able to follow my own advice:  I dropped several superhero books that I had been getting more out of habit than anything else (JSA, Avengers) and I was less patient with series that didn't hook me right away (Outsiders, Teen Titans), and not just with superhero comics either:  Lone, Criminal Macabre, Blackburne Covenant, and others were all dropped early on, even if I was only an issue or two away from having the whole series/storyline.  In general, I think my comic-buying habits were healthier than in the past (especially if one ignores the amount I spend on comics each month):  I worried less about "completeism," and superhero titles began to represent less and less of my purchases.  Looking back at the comics I read in 2003, I think there was more diversity there, and overall I enjoyed comics much more than I had the year before.  Let's hope I can look back at my choices in 2004 and say the same thing.
Friday, January 09, 2004
  Hitting Me Where It Hurts
Asked to provide an example of a cancellation that can be attributed directly to the "Waiting for the Trade" phenomenon, Peter David offers up the following (scroll down almost to the bottom of the page):
Well, a fellow named Martin Maenza over on the Byrne board contends "Power Company" qualifies. He wrote, in part:

"One of my favorite titles of recent years was Power Company by Kurt Busiek and Tom Grummett.

"The book only lasted 18 issues. But, it was some of the best 18 issues I've ever read of a series. Very good stuff.

"Problem was: many folks on the DC boards kept saying "I missed the first couple issues - when is the trade coming?" When told no trade was in the works, they opted not to pick up the book. The book sales slowly dropped which lead to cancellation."

I don't know if the people on the DC boards represent enough of a mindset to have affected the book's bottom line. Furthermore, this would be an extension of the "waiting for the trades" phenomenon into the equally intriguing, "No trade? Then I won't start buying it" phenomenon which I was alluding to earlier.

Ultimately, I don't know if he's right or not, but it's his opinion and directly addresses your question, so I thought you'd be interested.

As many know, Power Company (or PCo as fans commonly referred to it) was one of my favorite superhero comics of the past few years.  That's not to say it was the best according to some objective standard.  While I think there was a lot about the series that was worthwhile, I also acknowledge that several issues were clunkers.  (Back when I was assigning numerical scores in my reviews, I think I gave one issue -- #14? -- a rating of 4/10.)  And even die-hard PCo fans acknowledged that the series got off to a rough start, which was further complicated by the fact that there were several "starts" for the series -- the "flashback" one-shots focusing on individual characters; the "flash-forward" preview story at the back of JLA #61; and the opening storyline of the ongoing series proper.  Many of these factors (especially the seven one-shots coming out in the same month, which many fans saw as a money-grubbing stunt) were cited by fans (and non-fans) in unofficial post mortems as being the true death knells for the series.  (There was also a 25-cent price increase with issue #7, which corresponded with a 10% decline in estimated orders from the previous issue.)

Yes, I do remember seeing people posting on the DC boards asking when there would be a trade for the series, but IIRC many of those queries were from fans who did actually start reading the series around the time of the series' "revamp" (around issue #8) and couldn't find the earlier issues in their shops.  Like many other mid- or low-list books, PCo simply wasn't being carried by a lot of shops, or not in sufficient quantities to have leftover shelf copies.  I know this from personal experience:  Having dropped PCo after the first issue (due to an attempt to give up comics completely, which obviously didn't take), I decided to try out the book's new direction.  I liked it enough to seek out the back issues I'd missed.  I think I had to go to five or six shops before I'd found the six issues I was missing.  Other posters complained about similar experiences in their areas, so many hoped a trade could fill that gap.

Of course, there was also the hope that a trade could be used to bring in completely new readers, but my memory is primarily of "latecomer" fans asking for a trade of earlier issues.  And I'm sure there were people who had passed on a new series (especially one with the perceived barrier of the one-shots), figuring they could always pick up the trade if word-of-mouth was good.  But I think PCo suffered from many more problems than simply being a victim of the "Waiting for the Trade" mentality.

This has been your self-indulgent post lamenting the loss of an unpopular and critically-unacclaimed comic book series for the day.

Also, PAD has softened his position on fans who wait for the trade, recognizing that (much as I argued above with respect to PCo) fans deferring their comic book purchases for a later time and a different format is just one of many problems facing most series nowadays (scroll to the middle of the page):
So, as I said...I haven't blamed "primarily" anything on the trade waiting audience. It's another hurdle. It's just not one that I was expecting. I had people tell me they stopped reading "Supergirl" because they didn't like the storyline. Okay. I can deal with that (and did so, successfully...not that it mattered in the long run.) When they tell me that they *do* like the book but won't buy it regularly because they'll wait for another format...that caught me a little bit by surprise. Guess I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.

That's pretty much all I've been saying. Not disputing people's "right" to buy what they want. Not contending that it's the consumers' "problem" that my job has been made that much harder. Just saying, Okay. Yet another hurdle.

Ah well. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

I can certainly sympathize with that and wish PAD the very best of luck.  Hopefully, with one hurdle out of the way (a trade for Fallen Angel is coming out, but PAD goes into much more detail about the many other obstacles still facing this series in the full post) PAD's book will be discovered by more of its intended audience.

(That Comicon thread is still going strong.  As of today it's eight pages long.  I haven't read through all of the recent posts, but Kurt Busiek does stop by again to make some more good points on page seven.)
  If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
(Or At Least Trick Their Customers Into Mistakenly Buying Your Product)

Graeme reports that an astute Newsarama poster noticed some similarities between the covers for Marvel's "Marvel Age" books and those from another company:
"Wow. For a second I thought I was looking at Tokyopop books. Way to rip off a cover design, Marvel!"
Oh, come on:  I think this is just another typical exaggeration on the part of a Newsarama poster.  The Marvel Age covers look nothing like Tokyopop's cover design:

In other news, Marvel now reports that the name of the imprint will be changed from "Marvel Age" to "Kyotopop."
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
  Breakdowns Beatdown
Chris Allen of Breakdowns fame is always good, but his smackdown of John Byrne's most recent idiocy really made me smile:
John Byrne would rather you buy his work in monthly issues or not at all, and if you’re not the direct market pig getting his weekly feeding at the specialty shop trough, then fuck you, apparently. What I’m getting from these comments is that Byrne wants to control how you buy his stuff, to the extent that he’d rather turn away those who would potentially buy it in a format not of his choosing, i.e. the trade paperback. Here’s a thought: maybe not everyone is aware of every goddamn comic coming out every week, or they’re sick for a while, on vacation, or were going through some financial difficulties, or are even new to comics, and they find that his run on JLA or something is in its third issue. If the shop doesn’t have the previous issues, is it now wrong for them to wait for the trade? Mr. “Don’t Be a Mind Reader” has decided that the only reason people buy trades now is because it’s KEWL to do so. Hmm. Can’t think of a less likely explanation offhand, nor can I think of many comics trades that project “kewl” at all.
There's more on why Byrne is wrong, as well as several new comic reviews and a look back at the Good Graphic Novels of 2003 (how fitting that Byrne is mentioned in the same column as this list).  Go read.
  But Does It Feature Wacky Hijinks?
This looks really nice:  8 ½ Ghosts by Rich Tommaso.  Garsh, that art sure looks purty [click for larger image, and see the Pulse's interview for additional samples]:

8.5 Ghosts

This comment from Tommaso caught my attention:
THE PULSE: What are some of the toughest challenges to writing comedy?

TOMMASO: That fact that I'm working in a still form. I can see a lot of gags in my head playing as a movie would, but when they need to be transcribed into a comic form, they often fall to pieces. Sometimes I can change the action, but other times it just doesn't work in ink on paper at all.
It'll be interesting to read the comic and see if any of that comes across on the page.  I would think that comics would have their own advantages in doing comedy (ability to exaggerate details, for example), but I suppose controlling the timing of a gag could be tricky.  Now I'm going to be looking for all the gags that fall flat in the comic!
  Marvel Age: Threat or Menace?
I really don't know how to read the news about Marvel's new "all ages" imprint, Marvel Age.  Well, OK, I know how to read part of it:  The regurgitation of old storylines with "newer" art and "fresher" dialogue exposes Marvel's creative bankruptcy.  'Nuff said.  But insofar as Marvel is willing to take a chance on newer (read: not decades-old) properties that stand a chance of appealing to younger readers, I'd like to be optimistic.  True, so far the titles slated for collection (SENTINEL, RUNAWAYS) aren't exactly new, but then neither is most manga when you get down to it.  What matters is that the concepts aren't immediately perceived as ancient and may actually interest children.

It's also nice to see Marvel willing to experiment with formats a bit.  The "Tokyopop-sized collections containing five or six issues each, reprinted in full color, with a $7.99 price point" sound like a decent bargain.  I just hope that Marvel is serious when they say:
We’re dedicated into making sure these get into the right hands, and not sitting back and just throwing this out there, seeing the shops order maybe two copies each, and then we’ll move on to the next thing. We really want to work to get these into the hands of the kids who should be reading comics.
Given Marvel's scattershot approach to new initiatives recently, you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath.

And this is just ugly.  Ugly and sad.

Marvel Age FF

This is one interview where bracketed "stage notes" would have been helpful.  Marvel’s Manager of Sales David Gabriel said, "It will have a little bit of a manga feel to it, but not so much that someone will look at it and think we’re bringing the Mangaverse back."  Did Gabriel manage to say that with a straight face?
  HELP: Make Me Look Smart
Spiraling out of my remarks on Matt Maxwell's resolution for Shonen Jump Boosters, he and I have been going back and forth in the comments thread wondering how to figure out the actual sales figures for the popular manga anthology -- you know, how many copies are actually being purchased by customers rather than returned to the publisher.  We know that actual sales data for mags is tracked (in order to establish circulation figures for ad sales) but I couldn't find anything on Shonen Jump in the free portion of the Audit Bureau of Circulations site (although I did learn that the OFFICIAL XBOX MAGAZINE has a paid circulation of 344,731).  So I'm stumped.  Anyone know how to figure this out?  Anyone from Viz want to volunteer the info?  Heck, even general info on how newsstand sales operate would be greatly appreciated.

Please forward all replies to me via email and I'll pass along any interesting info as though I came up with it on my own.  Thank you very much.
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
  I Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us
Ever wonder why the "Comic Books = Superheroes" correlation seems so prevalent and persistent across the collective pop culture consciousness?  Part of the reason may be that comic book readers (who should know better) perpetuate the stereotype in their excitement to be taken seriously.

Example:  Matthew J. Phillion (described in his bio as a "East Coast based journalist and award-winning columnist") writes his first new Guttermouth column for the recently-redesigned Comic World News and wonders, "Are comics a fringe subculture no longer?"  In the end, Phillion concludes that comics are gradually becoming part of the mainstream, declaring "[c]omic books might be a popular target for parody, insult and scorn, but as far as I can see, they’re also sort of taking over the world."  His evidence?  All the movies based on comic books being made.  Or more specifically, all the movies based on superhero comics:  Phillion lists established and rumored movie properties including Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Punisher, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and Iron Fist.  Because of course recent movies based on comic books have all focused on superheroes.

Aside from the narrow focus on superheroes, the other major problem with Phillion's argument is that his examples don't support his conclusion.  Just because people are going out to see superhero movies doesn't mean that people are more interested in comics, or that they're starting to give them more respect.  All it means is that people aren't adverse to seeing movies with superheroes in them.  Marvel's claims to the contrary, the release of movies based on their characters does not seem to have led to a significant boost in sales for the corresponding comic books.  Heck, Phillion's own experience demonstrates how it's possible to be into superheroes without being interested in (or even aware of) comic books:  He writes that he loved superheroes as a young child, but didn't start reading comics until later.

Now, if I were trying to demonstrate that the general public might be growing more open to comics, I think there's another emerging trend I'd point to instead...  [NOTE:  If your name is Peter David or John Byrne, please do not click on the link above; it's only going to upset you.]
Sunday, January 04, 2004
  Commenting on Someone Else's Resolutions for Others
Broken Frontier's Matt Maxwell (not a permalink) has a list of New Year's Resolutions for various members of the comic book industry.  One that confused me was his resolution for "Shonen Jump Boosters":
I hereby resolve to remember that the lion's share of Shonen Jump are sold on newsstands (and on newsstands, if you're only returning fifty-five percent of your run, you're doing GREAT).
Who was disputing that Shonen Jump does the bulk of its business on newsstands?  Looking at ICv2's estimates every month, it's obvious Shonen Jump's numbers aren't coming from the Direct Market.  If the point was that newsstand sales operate differently than Direct Market sales, I don't see how this downplays the impressiveness of Shonen Jump's success.  After all, Viz has managed to steadily increase sales of their anthology whereas Marvel's attempt at a newsstand comic magazine (Ultimate Marvel Magazine) fizzled in less than a year.

Other than that, I really liked his list.  The only change I'd make would be the addition of a resolution for one more comic book publisher:
I hereby resolve to pay in full (ideally including interest) the freelancers who remain unpaid for their work.  I also promise to apologize for any insults or insinuations I leveled against the wronged parties, and for the many missed deadlines I promised to make payment by.
I'd almost forgotten about this situation, but then I saw the headline "CROSSGEN '03 NEWS ROUND-UP" over on The Pulse.  I assumed it was a round-up of The Pulse's coverage of the freelancer story, since that was the biggest news involving CrossGen last year, but it's really just a self-congratulatory press release touting CrossGen's achievements and accolades from last year.  I know it's only natural for a company to want to pump up the positive aspects of its record, but it's hard for me to muster much enthusiasm for a company that has treated its creators so poorly.


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