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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

(Chinese) New Year Resolution

Well, not quite, but I'm closer to that than to the Western new year, so it'll have to do.

I'm an accumulator, always have been. Not a collector necessarily; rarely do I buy anything with value in mind. As a kid with no money I accumulated things like matchbooks and stamps. As an adult it's comics. I can never get enough. There's always another book or three that I've just "got" to have. As many fellow accumulators can readily attest, this quickly leads to shelves or boxes or stacks (or all three) of unread comics in every form surrounding me, taunting me. I want to read them all, I really do. But that new graphic novel is just so tempting...

As part of my Christmas gifts, I received a nice chunk of Amazon credit, and true to form, I spent most of it on comics. I could easily justify that by the fact that I wasn't spending money on them, not really. The money had already been spent; I was just converting a piece of plastic into pages of graphical goodness.

That done, it's time to read. I'm not going to pretend that my accumulation is going to stop completely, but I am vowing to ride the brake, and most importantly, to read them faster than I get them. I've gotten off to a decent start so far: I've read Habibi (mesmerizing), Infinite Kung Fu (fun), The Marvelous Land of Oz (pleasantly old-fashioned), and various miscellaneous issues. I have a long way to go, and in the time honored tradition of putting these goals in writing and making them (somewhat) public, here's a bunch more that I want to get to soonish:

Duncan the Wonder Dog - I've actually already started this monster. Dense and fascinating, I'm going to take my time with this one.

Big Questions - Not right after Duncan, though. I can only take so much philosophy before my puny brain implodes. Really looking forward to it. Anders Nilsen is a genius.

Bad Island - One of my Amazon acquisitions. I read all of TenNapel's books and he rarely lets me down.

Petrograd and Two Generals - Love me some historical fiction, and the reputation and pedigree of both of these books are top notch.

Unwritten, Chew, Morning Glories, Hack/Slash, Scalped and too many more to count - Not books or collections, these are among the many series I've been buying in single issues but, as usual, got way behind on.

Box Office Poison - Yep, all of it. I've had this practically since the day I finished Tricked...several years ago. Sigh. Robinson's comics are meatier than most, but they are also compulsively readable. Should take me slightly less than forever.

That's the tip of the iceberg, but good enough for now. It's daunting, but at the same time, I feel pretty lucky to have so much AAA material to look forward to. Comics: the hobby that keeps on giving. Unless you're talking about money, in which case, substitute taking. Hopefully just not as much from me as usual.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dumb comic marketing!

Like a lot of comic fans, I have 4-5 comic news sources in my RSS feed: iFanboy, Comic Book Resources, Bleeding Cool, Newsarama, ComicVine, IGN, etc.

One thing I laugh at is when most of them run the same 5-6 preview pages for an upcoming comic because the level of "journalism" there is merely repasting something sent to you by the Marvel/DC/Image PR and Marketing group.  My first thought is always, " about create some original content for your readers instead of regurgitating something that everyone else is also publishing." Honestly, it's like a bucket brigade for those pages: letterer to editor to marketing to press release to release on the web. lame is the 5-6 page preview to begin with?

What other entertainment medium markets itself this way?  Imagine if instead of seeing the AWESOME trailer for the Hobbit movie, the movie studio just sent out the first 90 seconds of the finished film.  Wouldn't that suck?  Same thing with TV: When they show those "scenes from next week's episode" what if they just showed us the first 15 seconds of the episode?  Again....that would suck.

As far as I know, novels aren't marketed this way either: "Here's the first paragraph.  Enjoy!"

Sure it would be a SMALL amount of work for a company like Marvel, but why not rip out 4-5 juicy panels (tell the colorist and letterer to finish those panels first) from the next issue and splice them together like a movie trailer?  Or does that make too much sense?

- Dean Stell

[Note: I don't want to hear that the problem is that the issues are barely getting done in time and that maybe the first 5 pages is all they've got.  That's just a business operations problem and is addressable by better management.]

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Digital "driving readers to print"?

The big publishers pay a lot of lip service to their expanding digital offerings "driving new fans into the comic shops".  You wonder if they actually believe that this works.  Personally, I have a very hard time seeing a new comic fan who was first exposed to comics digitally saying, "I hear those comic shops are full of single men!  I must seek one out and buy products made out of dead trees!"

Can't imagine that'll happen very much.  There'll be a LOT more migration in the other direction as some fans who bought paper comics begin to desire digital for it's better organization, portability and lack of clutter.  I'm certainly in that second camp.

But, I have found an area where digital-to-print works pretty well: GI Joe comics.  Let me explain a bit because there are two things at play here.  One is that the current GI Joe comics are pretty damn good. This Cobra Civil War story is great stuff!

However, the thing that is pushing me to print has more to do with the fact that GI Joe is a licensed property.  In my lifetime, GI Joe comics have been marketed by a few different publishers: Marvel, Devil's Due/Image and now IDW.  Can you buy those old Marvel issues on the Marvel iOS app?  Nope! Does Marvel put out a GI Joe Omnibus?  Nope!  IDW has published collections of the old Marvel series because they now have the license.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nostalgia as an older person?

I've recently had an interesting experience in my comic reading.  I read all the X-Men comics.  From the sales numbers, there seem to be about 35,000 of us out there who will read any additional title that says, "X-Men" on the cover.

Didn't they forget a few of these story lines?
So, of course, I've been reading Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender and (sometimes) Jerome Opena.  The comic is getting a TON of positive press from the blogosphere.  "Best comic being published by Marvel right now" is a common refrain.  And that puts me in a funny position because I think it's okay, but I hardly think it's the best thing being published by Marvel (that would be Amazing Spider-Man).

However, I've noticed that the guys who LOVE X-Force are all a little younger than me.  They were reading comics when the original Age of Apocalypse when it came out in 1995.  I wasn't reading comics at the time.  I was mostly into using my new legal drinking status to buy drinks for for attractive young ladies.  Since I "returned to comics" a few years back, I've read AoA and I think it's a fine X-story, but reading a old story as a grown-ass man is different because AoA will never be connected to some of those wonderful memories that we all have from our teenage years.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It Came From the Long Box! -- Secrets of House Sinster #6

Secrets of House Sinister #6
cover by Mike Kaluta

I’m fortunate enough to have a comics collection that is widely varied in its tenor and genre, and when I dig through it, I’ve always got a great chance to find something that is both a lot of fun and something that I haven’t read in a while. Last night, while I was trying to reorganize some things, I came across Secrets of House Sinister #6. It’s a recent acquisition, and I had not had a chance to read it up to that point, but I dug into it this morning and had a lot of fun with it.

There’s something wonderful about horror comics, particularly those of a certain era. Naturally, there are those wonderful pre-code horror comics from EC, Charlton, and the like. But there’s another era that is of equal greatness, if not of equal importance, that era is the one that was given it’s vigor in the 1960s by Warren publishing and its Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, and other magazines. Regardless of precise publication date, it’s the braveness of Warren, in my opinion, that made horror comics once again welcomed in the mainstream market place again and helped reinvigorate Charlton’s horror line and allowed for DC’s House of Mystery, House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, a whole host of other titles from DC and Marvel, and, in particular, the subject of this review: Secrets of House Sinister.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I see nothing wrong with Prequel-Watchmen. Here’s Why.

OK let’s get this out of the way – yeah, it’s a money grab, Yadda, yadda, yadda. But it’s not like Alan Moore created the original characters The Watchmen were based on. Remember these were Charlton Heroes of the 1960′s – a few of which Steve Ditko created. How is that any different from Alan Scott or Jay Garrick being re-imaged into the Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash? Could it be said that Moore did the money grab first?

I love Watchmen and their, unexplored, rich history. This could be a fun sandbox that today’s gifted artists and writers can play in. Comic book characters, and all fictional characters for that matter, should be shared and explored once and again for every generation and not lie dormant so uppity purists like The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy can lament about the Golden Age of 1985. The Watchmen belong to us fans now. If you don’t like it, fine. Don’t read it. But don’t tell me it’s going to suck. Not just yet, anyway.

Who knows what a new Watchmen comic will bring? Brubaker on Rorschach? Johns on Dr. Manhattan?

Just be glad Stan Lee isn’t still on X-Men.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Genre comics & superheroes

"Why can't we have more non-superhero work from Marvel and DC?"

That's a common refrain that you'll see on any comic book message board.  The Big 2 make a living on superhero comics, but why can't we get more material like war comics or westerns or crime comics?

A few months ago, it seemed like the publishers might be listening.  One of the comics I was looking forward to most among the new DC52 was Men of War and they had a sexy sounding western title called All-Star Western.  Marvel got in on the act with the recently released Six Guns, which seemed to be a modern-day western.

But, all of these new series have fallen very flat for me because they are still tied to their respective superhero universes.  Men of War tells the story of what it's like to be a solider in a world with superheroes.  All-Star Western puts Jonah Hex in fricking Gotham City.  And Six Guns features bikers and bounty hunters dealing with D-list Marvel heroes and villains.

All of these comics are well written and well drawn, but I lost interest the second I saw that they contained superheroes.

Granted, once you get away from the Big 2, the world is your oyster if you want a non-superhero comic book, but why can't the Big 2 use their financial muscle and access to talent to make it a little better.

How about you?  Do you like having a helping of superhero in your genre comics?

- Dean Stell