At the NYCC this past weekend, both Marvel and DC promised that costs on their publications would drop in early 2011, with DC stating that their books would drop two pages of content and return to a $2.99 price tag. A good majority of comic fans rejoiced, knowing that most of their books have been $3.99 for a while and that saving a dollar on each of those books would be a huge relief in the long run. Others voiced concerns that cutting content is not the answer and that paying what was the norm not too long ago for less material is not an acceptible comprimise.
Marvel has remained vague on their price changes, noting only that no new regular books will be launching next year at $3.99. I doubt that their major moneymakers like the Avengers or X-Men franchises will decrease in price anytime soon. I think they would sell more issues at $2.99, especially considering the way Bendis writes. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I feel like I don’t get my money’s worth with his decompressed writing. In the long run I greatly enjoy his work, but if I had to pay $3.99 for his Daredevil run way back when I might have gone insane. Seriously, go back and read that run sometime, it’s amazing stuff but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a little padded in some areas.
But I digress…
What does this mean for those of us who still have the disposable income in this economy to collect comic books? I think a good majority of people won’t change their buying habits one bit. They’re not going to use the money saved to buy other titles, they’re going to put it back in their pocket and walk away. It’s not going to do anything to help out the comic publishers. While I’m sure a select few will spread some money around, the majority most likely will not. I’ve been working in a comic shop for close to five years now and I see the way people react to price changes. Granted, this is the first time prices have dropped after going up, but it’s not that dissimilar to running a discount sale. You offer a discount and people will use it on what they were already getting and then shove the money they save back in their wallet and walk away. I don’t blame them. All I hear from people is how most of the mainline books have been declining in quality while the prices increased. I hear that gripe about Amazing Spider-Man just about every week. Not everybody feels this way. I personally haven’t liked Spidey this much in years. But the mindset of the consumer right now is heavily influenced by the recession we’re in. They’re picking and choosing their books with a lot more insight. I’m hoping that this price cut will help people discover new books. Take that four extra bucks and buy a book you normally don’t. Jonah Hex is amazing. Supergirl is getting a new creative team and looks like it should be pretty epic. Freedom Fighters is solid. Over at Marvel you’ve got Avengers Academy, Young Allies, or the new Spider-Girl. I’m just saying there’s good stuff out there you should give a chance.
The real interesting element of all this will be to see how the stores handle it. If people do only buy the same books they buy now, that means that the shops will be looking at a smaller profit for the same amount of books sold. In an industry where a lot of stores are hurting for business, this isn’t going to help. I’m lucky enough to work in a shop where even if one department starts to dip, like comics, the others can pick it up; ie. gaming, toys, statues, etc. But what about the small shop in the strip center down the road who works on a very thin margin? It’s not fun to think about but it needs to be discussed so that everybody can stay in business.
Basically this is just me telling you that if you’ve got the extra cash and you really love this industry, put it toward another book when these price shifts happen. You’ll get the added enjoyment of reading something you previously didn’t have the chance to and everybody from the writers and the artists to the people who sell the books get to keep doing so for a long time to come.
The Spider-Man Wedding : A Treatise on the Dynamic Nature of the Ever-Shifting Comic Book Status Quo and the Reactions It Produces
Last night I watched my friend get married. Today I feel compelled to write about the demolition of Spider-Man’s marriage by the One More Day storyline. I know it’s been a long time since that particular story arc actually occurred, and that in the two and half years since it transpired we’ve had about five years worth of Spider-Man stories condensed down on us in the Brand New Day format. The fact that we have had so much happen in the Spider-Man universe since the deal with Mephesto ended his marriage is one of the factors that has helped Marvel quietly settle it’s readership into the new status quo. We as readers have mostly adapted to the point where Mary Jane no longer being a regular part of Peter’s life doesn’t register on our radar unless explicitly shoved in our face, ie. whenever Mary Jane shows up and makes cryptic references to the past that never was.
My feelings on the dissolution of the Spider-Marriage are fairly simple. I think that in the context of the story, it was poorly executed, but in the realm of comic-books, where fluidity is the name of the game, I cannot condemn it any more than I can condemn the death of Captain America or the Heroes Reborn debacle, or the Clone Saga for that matter. In the end, the events of One More Day are only as permenant as the popular writers of the day choose to make it. If tomorrow Geoff Johns jumped ship to Marvel with a plan to reunite Mary Jane and Peter, you bet Quesada would bow to his whims because he knows it would garner massive media attention and sales. That’s what it all boils down to, commerce. While comic books are an art form, they are also a business. Joe Quesada made a business decision based off of personal preference. There was no malice intended ot the fans in his action, simply a desire to run the creative side of the Spider-Man franchise that was more in line with what he envisioned as an Editor-In-Chief.
I think that the main reason for the uproar over the end of Peter’s marriage, aside from the qualms with the manner in which it happened, is that the majority of readers for Spider-Man grew up with Peter Parker and Mary Jane interlocked and inseparable. To them, Peter without Mary Jane seems like an incomplete machine, a muscle car without an engine. I’m sure anyone who picks up a Spider-Man book in the aftermath of the One More Day storyline would argue that Mary Jane has no more right to be the definitive Peter Parker significant other than Carlie or any of the other new characters introduced after the end of the marriage at the hands of Mephesto.
I think this all boils down to how in the world of comics, due to the fluidity and ever-shifting organic nature of the medium as a whole, events that add an edge of finality are basically a timebomb. Graduation from High School for teenaged heroes, marriages, deaths, children, etc. These elements serve the purpose of allowing the character to grow, but at the same time put up roadblocks that will eventually have to be dealt with. It’s a paradox in every concievable way.
I think this is why I, along with many other readers, are being drawn to series that have a finite run, with a clear beginning and end. You don’t have to worry about important developments being reversed in a series like The Boys, or The Walking Dead because their nature will not allow for it. Superhero comics do not seem to have that advantage. For long-running serialized characters, there will be change after change and then reversion. For every step gained there will inevitably be two steps back. This isn’t to say that serialized superhero comics are somehow inferior to limited-run series, but the fandom associated with the DC/Marvel superheroes will always encourage this sort of behavior.
My overall contention with all this is that there seems to be an overwhelming negativity when it comes to any change made to a mainstream character. I am simply saying that instead of grousing about it for two and a half years, enjoy the progression of the story that comes in its wake and patiently wait for the eventual return of the status quo that you enjoyed so much. And if you simply can’t handle the things being done to the character in between, find another title that doesn’t cause you so much mental anguish.
After all, comics are supposed to be fun.
You know what the best part of yesterday’s “Avengers Day” festivities were? Seriously? When my co-worker brought in cake. Volstagg understands where I’m coming from when I straight up tell you that even the crappiest day could be saved by cake. I mean, obviously when the zombies come and the fecal matter hits the rotating blades, cake isn’t going to make up for that, but I guarantee you that it won’t not help. That’s a promise.
AVENGERS #1 HA 3.99
BRIGHTEST DAY #2 2.99
DEADPOOL #23 HA 2.99
EXECUTOR HC (MR) 19.99
GALACTA DAUGHTER OF GALACTUS #1 3.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #26 HA 2.99
SCALPED TP VOL 06 THE GNAWING (MR) 14.99
SUPERMAN WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #3 (OF 4) 2.99
X-FACTOR #205 XSC 2.99
X-MEN LEGACY #236 XSC 2.99
ZATANNA #1 2.99
I’m not gonna lie, dear readers…this week was slim pickin’s after last weeks full frontal assault by the big two. I will however give you what I can, as is my journalistic duty.
AVENGERS # 1
Let me get this out of the way, compared to New Avengers, this is about as Avenger-y an Avenger book can get. Sure, there’s a lot of Bendis’ trademark standing around and talking, but having recently re-read Busiek’s awesome run, there was a fair amount of expositional dialogue slinging in that era too, and I don’t know too many people who badmouth that run. Mostly out of fear that George Perez will come for them in the night and annihilate their souls with the power cosmic that he keeps stored in the lining of his Hawai’ian shirts.
Let’s see, Romita artwork? Check.
Clint Barton as Hawkeye? Check.
Steve Rogers giving an inspiring speech? Check
MOTHERF##KING KANG?!?!? CHECK!!!
Seriously, is there anything I think of as being more of an Avengers staple than Kang? No! Because he’s the most ludicrous Avengers villain of all time. He embodies the over-the-top grandiose nature of the book in ways that Dr. Doom or Ultron simply cannot. I know that’s a matter of opinion, but I would consider it to be fact, because that’s just how big my goddamned ego is. Kang has the sort of absurd over the top nature that could only be found within the pages of a comic book. I mean that with all the love and respect it entails. Comics as a medium have the ability to take the completely batshit insane and make it work the way that if you tried it on television or on film, you would be laughed at like a gimpy orangutan in a sailor outfit. Oh, the laughs you would garner if you tried to throw a time traveling despot into the workings of even the most out-there television show you could find. If Kang showed up in his purple helmet on the island on LOST, people would groan and punch themselves in the groin. Well, I would make a high pitched shrieking sound and bounce around the room like a walaby on angeldust, but that’s because I like things that nobody else likes.
The fact of the matter is that Bendis has gone back and made an Avengers book for the people who spent the last six years complaining that his books didn’t feel like they were Avengers books. Are those people really going to be able to make those claims when Kang shows up sporting a doomsday device that was supposedly built by a future version of Tony Stark and tells them that the future of the world depends on their new team triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds? No, those people will have to eat their words like a slice of spongey Avengers Day cake. How does it taste, people? The answer should be chocolate.
Wanna guess what I love more in comics than Kang? Give up?
Yeah, I went there. You think I stuck around through all of Green Arrow/Black Canary because I enjoyed the story. Nope. It’s because I am bound by honor to purchase any and all comics featuring a character whose costume involves fishnets. My brain is hard wired that way. Is that shallow? Maybe. How many people bought Power Girl just because of the boobage? I bought it because I love the character. The boobs are only a fraction of that element, so I suppose that makes me better than everyone else. That’s me, champion of ethics.
Anyway, this issue begins with Zatanna in full bondage mode, chained to a gigantic St. Andrew’s cross while the Joker is set to ram a gigantic drill through her torso. Fan service? You bet your ass. It’s all a swerve, of course. It’s a Zatanna book, nothing is going to be exactly what it seems like. But do you think anybody who just flipped open the book to see a hot brunette in fishnets and sexy boots bound and gagged in pure fetish fuel fashion is gonna put the book back on the rack after that? No. They’ll buy it. They have to. Unless they’re a female who can’t appreciate how friggin’ hot that opening page is. But take a closer look femi-nazis, that panel is all about the empowerment of the female form, that when we view a woman at her most helpless she’s truly always in control. Satisfied? I hope so, because I don’t really wantto overanalyze the book. It all really boils down to the fishnets. Let’s be honest.
Before it got shut down by the FBI earlier this week, HTMLComics.com was a website that specialized in putting online, for free, older comics from just about every major publisher and other more obscure ones as well. The site reportedly saw traffic in the numbers of over 1 million hits per day.
To put that in perspective, this site never hits that amount of traffic per month. Granted, we’re a newer site and we are growing exponentially each month, but that’s PennyArcade traffic there. I think that is a fundamental statement on the comic book reading community. Let’s not kid ourselves, comics are popular right now. The geek chic thing hasn’t crashed and burned yet and Iron Man 2 opened to $52 million dollars on opening day. The market is there for the material, the culture however is diverging from the traditional business model due to a shift in the mindset of the modern consumer. You see, it seems like the majority of the populace thinks that piracy is a victimless crime. The majority of people who pirate content, any content, is that if they never intended to buy the product in the first place and only obtain it because it was free, you’re only depriving a creator of money they never would have handed over in the first place. It’s roundabout logic, and in some twisted way I think it makes a little sense. There is a part of me that wants people to be able to experience art, whether it’s music or film or comic books, no matter how they get it. The only problem with that is that people work very hard to produce that art and they deserve to be compensated. That includes retailers. People who work in comic stores like I do need to see people come in and pick up the books. I want to see the medium proliferate, but at the same time I want to see it expand through my doors. I harbor a bit of animosity toward Barnes and Noble and the like for being able to undercut our prices for trades and graphic novels. Casual readers tend to gravitate to them rather than us because they don’t need the things we offer, like back issues and snarky commentary.
But at least it’s legal and nobody is getting fucked over. It’s competition between retailers, that’s about it. They may offer good intro deals on new trades and graphics, but they don’t stock bulk like my store does. They don’t have out of print first editions like we do. But what good comes of a guy who scans old issues and uploads them for free? Erik Larsen of Image comics called HTML Comics “the greatest comic book website on the face of the earth!” on the Image Comics message boards. His Savage Dragon issue were hosted on that server. He didn’t seem to mind too terribly much. He considered the site a great resource, both for fans and creators. Image, coincidentally enough, was not part of the coalition of publishers who lawyered up to shut the site down. DC, Marvel, Dark Hourse, etc., all put their differences aside to combat a site that flaunted it’s illegal activity claiming legal loopholes prevented it from technically being an act of copyright infringement. The FBI raid obviously proved their claims wrong.
So what can we take away from all this? Prices are restrictive to the readership, both new and old. If product could be made available, in a manner that was cheaper than what the average is now, you would see an uptick of purchasing. A dollar an issue versus four? That’s a no brainer. It’s like when the Marvel Omnibi went on sale at Amazon for 10 bucks a pop, people turned out in droves to buy them. That glitch proved that value can attract mass sales. Perhaps an inventive approach to the digital distribution model is worth looking into.
I can’t tell anyone what to do; in regards to their illegal activities or their buying habits. I just want to point out that there is room for new ideas. Someone just has to put them to work.
Presented without comment…
I am going to basically take the week off for spring break, but each day I’ll update with pictures of superheroes in bikinis. Because I have integrity.
I woke up to find someone had e-mailed me a link to CBR where I read this shit.
Sadly, DC Comics announced today at MegaCon that the creative team that launched the title in May 2009 is leaving the book following the release of “Power Girl” #12. The new team replacing writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (“Jonah Hex”) and artist Amanda Conner is expected to be announced next week.
You know, I’m not going to say that whatever creative team comes on next won’t be great, because they could be. But damned if they could live up to the exceptional style that has been present on this book since issue one. Palmiotti and Gray understand how to make the character work without falling into thirty two pages of boob jokes, and Amanda Conner is about as perfect an artist as you can get on any title.
What I’m afraid of is that all the life is going to get sucked out of this title and within another three issues it’ll get canceled. Probably one of the best books DC has launched in years will see the same fate as the other great books that get shafted for no reason at all.
If you look at the comic book industry through a long-term lens. This shit should be infuriating. A new title launches with a character you enjoy, and for once they put a competent creative team with an amazing artist on it. For a character like PG, who isn’t an A-Lister in any sense of the word, you hope for a kind of stability. Because, as I’ve said in the past, in the modern publishing climate, you only have a short while to establish yourself in order to not get canceled, and for PG to last 12 issues is a testament to the creative team doing something right.
Now, as a consumer you’ve invested 12 months into a title. Everything is established and you’re happy with where it has progressed, now the paradigm shifts and EVERYBODY on board from writer to inker gets shifted off. You have to imagine that at least a sizeable percentage of the readers of that book will decide to jump off at that very point. The hope, on the part of the publisher, is that the new team will bring in people to make up the difference. But, in today’s climate, not to many people like to jump onto a book at issue 13, even if it is a new creative team without having read what has come before it. And considering that the first six issues of this particular series haven’t been collected, there is no easy format for transition. Also, like I said, PG isn’t exactly an A-lister, so unless the new team is A-List talent, the ration of incoming:outgoing is going to be skewed.
Why does all of this matter?
Revolving door creative teams buttfuck small titles into cancellation. That’s why. It’s a kick in the balls to diversity in publishing. If this book gets canceled due to a new creative team not catching on, chances are the publisher will not want to place blame on the talent, they’ll say that “the character just doesn’t connect” and then that character, who a great many people have invested time and money in, get shafted because the publisher doesn’t want to invest time in him/her anymore.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go into the corner and weep.