Briefs & Boxers! 05/20/10

o “Forget Everything You Know”

This week, the major publishers started releasing their advertisements for comics shipping in August 2010. At DC, the big thing of the month is J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis’s Superman: Earth One paperback hardcover, an original book-length reinvention of Superman at 136 pages, with a retail price of $ 19.99.

I’m inclined to say that there’s potential in this move and it’s about time and such, but then again, I’m not even sure how to measure that book’s success right now. Will it have to reach people in bookstores to do what it’s supposed to? Probably. On the other hand, though, I’m thinking that it could be a major step in the right direction even if it “just” manages to break, say, 25K in the direct market in its first month.

That sort of success would be a limited one, but in the long term, it might lead to a transformation of that market segment that the field as a whole could stand to profit from tremendously, even if it doesn’t catch on with a mainstream audience immediately.

In other DC news, they’re starting to test the waters for 22-page, $ 3.99 comics with the new ongoing series Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, in addition to the previously launched miniseries Time Masters and The Mighty Crusaders.

Delightfully, Wildcats Version 3.0, a bold and visionary take on the superhero genre by writer Joe Casey and artist Dustin Nguyen, is being collected in two new volumes, the first of which, titled Wildcats Version 3.0: Year One, will be out in September. Do yourself a favor and seek them out.

And the company pulls the plug on Magog, a Justice Society spinoff, and G. Willow Wilson and MK Perker’s Air, a generally well-reviewed Vertigo title, presumably because the sales weren’t there.

o “How Did the World Really Forget?”

At Marvel, August looks like a relatively unspectacular month.

Paul Cornell returns to Spitfire, one of the characters from his acclaimed Captain Britain series, in an eponymous one-shot special; Deadpool hits issue #1000, with a contribution by Peter Bagge; Mark Millar launches the third volume of Ultimate Avengers, this time with the unlikely Steve Dillon drawing; Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz say goodbye with Spider-Girl: The End, possibly for good this time; and there are three new series in which the X-Men or Namor, or both, fight vampires, which is probably three too many.

In terms of “tentpole” releases, there’s the “Shadowland” crossover spinning out of Daredevil, which spreads out over an unbelievable seven books in August. And editor-in-chief Joe Quesada himself sees fit to re-open a can of worms in Amazing Spider-Man, because his “One More Day” story from a few years back failed to put Spider-Man’s marriage to rest and instead turned it into a Damocles Sword which has been hovering over the book ever since.

The confidently titled Thor: The Rage of Thor and Punishermax: Happy Ending, both written by Peter Milligan, as well as Daredevil: Black & White, which includes contributions by Milligan, Ann Nocenti and David Aja, among others, promise to be good fun, meanwhile.

o “Tough as Leather and Dry as Tinder”

After DC, Marvel and Image have all released $1.00 comic-book reprints to promote their backlist, Dark Horse Comics joins the fray in August with new editions of some of their more prestigious titles, like Sin City, Hellboy and Conan.

Also coming up from Dark Horse in August: more B.P.R.D. and Baltimore by Mike Mignola and friends; collections and new editions of Jill Thompson’s Scary Godmother, Mario and Gilbert Hernandez’s Citizen Rex and Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon’s De:Tales; and a new Magnus, Robot Fighter miniseries written by Jim Shooter.

And, notably, the sequel book Grandville Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot.

o “I Like to Imagine That All of Coipel’s Characters Are Secretly Rollerblading”

Douglas Wolk, the Thomas Magnum of comics criticism, which I mean in a good way, talks about three shades of Brian Michael Bendis: the conclusions of Siege, Dark Avengers and New Avengers.

o “I Think the Ignorance Isn’t in Limiting One’s Reading But in Not Recognizing That One’s Reading Is Limited, in Strongly Dismissing Things Out of Hand Because They’re Not Your Cup of Tea”

Comics reporter Tom Spurgeon, the Inspector Columbo of comics criticism, which I also mean in a good way, talks to Noah Berlatsky about various aspects of criticism and the people who perpetrate it.

(In the comments section, the conversation takes on a much more personal tone, I should warn you.)

o “Joint, Prick, Semen”

Tom Crippen, the Dr. House of comics criticism, which I yet again mean in a good way, reviews an issue of Hellblazer.

Related: Crippen discusses his process.

o “Born in a Crossfire Hurricane”

Comics journalist and critic Graeme McMillan has joined the Techland crew.

For the last couple of years there’s been some amazing growth—both in quality and quantity—for comics journalism and criticism, and McMillan, since launching his Fanboy Rampage!!! blog in 2004, has been a big part of that evolution.

If anyone needed any more reasons to add Techland to their daily browsing, now you’ve got it.

o “My Dad Was a Baker”

In this week’s Invincible Iron Man #26, writer Matt Fraction and artist Salvador Larroca continue the “Stark Resilient” arc—which, as it were, is something of a sequel to Joe Casey’s Wildcats Version 3.0 and Iron Man: The Inevitable.

For more than two years now, the series has consistently been the best straightforward mainstream superhero comic book on the stands, and now it seems like the creators are ready to push it—and the genre—in a new direction.

It’s a good time to sample the book.

Or, if you’d rather not, go and read the forecasts by critics extraordinaire Douglas Wolk (who also has special features on The Atomic Knights and The Legion of Super-Heroes) and Joe McCulloch.

Marc-Oliver Frisch writes about comics at his weblog and at Comicgate. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Reading about DC’s new titles and 22 pages for $3.99, I’m concerned about the DC “price hike” and if it’s the frog-in-the-boiling-water syndrome.
    And it’s discouraging that a book like Air couldn’t find an audience.

  2. Brandon says:

    The Earth One book is hardcover, not paperback. Worth noting and keeping in mind, I think, since the book and its release is such a novel move for DC.

  3. Torsten Adair says:

    I wonder about Vertigo…
    Yes, they publish amazing series, but it’s an interesting marketing problem they have.

    The stories are not “mainstream” (although there is some interesting overlap with the superheroes in the DCU, especially with Xanadu). Does the alternative audience still shop in comics shops, or do they find read the comics online? Do they buy the trades?

    The stories are usually serious and not filled with much humor. The fantasy is dark.

    Editorially, how does Vertigo differ from Wildstorm? Is there a different contract?

    Speaking of original graphic novels, Vertigo has had some success with their Crime series. There’s also the Paradox Press books from the 90s…

    DC knows how Superman sells in the Book Trade… Chronicles, Showcase, current collections…

    What’s most interesting is that EVERYONE has to wait for the trade… you can’t scan the single issues because they do not exist. With a more flexible schedule, you avoid shipping delays (and possibly produce the story faster than if it were a monthly comic).

    The storyline is also self-contained, making the character more accessible to the new reader. (Just like manga!)

    The big question: Will DC promote this new reboot of Superman like a regular book? Will we see book store events? Mainstream media coverage? Will Joan Q. Public notice this book?

  4. Marc-Oliver Frisch says:

    Brandon:

    “The Earth One book is hardcover, not paperback.”

    True. Fixed it.

  5. Andrew Laubacher says:

    No mention of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” (which is today)? I just want to recommend to everyone who is participating to not show disrespect to the Prophet or to his more intelligent and thoughtful believers. It’s not his fault that some of his followers are asshaats.

  6. Nate Horn says:

    ” On the other hand, though, I’m thinking that it could be a major step in the right direction even if it “just” manages to break, say, 25K in the direct market in its first month.”

    You are a optimistic fellow! I’m…less optimistic. I’m not sure who this book is going to sell to other than the extremely dedicated fans.

  7. Nate:

    “You are a optimistic fellow! I’m…less optimistic. I’m not sure who this book is going to sell to other than the extremely dedicated fans.”

    Well, the JOKER hardcover and the latest WALKING DEAD collection both managed around 17K in their first months.

    I’m aware that 25K is a very optimistic estimate for the Straczynski book, but it’s not as much as a stretch as you think.

  8. Nate:

    Libraries? I know I’ll be buying a lot. It’s a one-shot, fresh take on a popular character with a binding that should hold up to repeated use.

  9. Joe Lawler says:

    Terry: I’m sure the book will have no problem selling more than 25,000 when you take into account libraries and other outlets, but Nate was just talking about Marc’s direct market prediction.

  10. I didn’t make a prediction.

  11. Joe Lawler says:

    Sorry, I typed that before my coffee.

  12. The Noah B./Tom Spurg interview was easily the most interesting and unnerving thing I’ve read all week. Nevermind tension, that was on-the-surface incindiary.

    To Torsten:

    In my experience, the “alternative” crowd considers Vertigo to be “mainstream” as well. They’re the HBO of comics–not prime time, but not art school either.

    That said, my experience with Vertigo series is that they have really interesting hooks, but somehow the passion seems to die after a few issues or books. I dunno. I keep checking them out though.

    I recall a lot of Vertigo books as being humorous and not always “dark.” Yeah, not their crime stuff or Hellblazer or whatever, but there seems to be a good amount of funny stuff. Dark humor, let’s compromise.

    I think they need to advertise themselves as such and drop the painted cover, gritty ’90s outward appearance. Extreme comix makeover?

  13. Nate Horn says:

    @Marc

    Joker sold 17k in the direct market? Holy cow…maybe there’s something to your optimism….

  14. JONAH HEX : No Way Back is a 128 page all new, original graphic novel featuring artwork by the amazing Tony DeZuniga…..

    same format, and out in 2 Weeks…same price.

  15. Nate:

    “Joker sold 17k in the direct market?”

    Just in the first calendar month. I haven’t tallied the number since then, but it’s safe to say that it’s sold well beyond that in the DM. A new, much publicized Superman revamp by a high-ticket creator like Straczynski has the potential to do better than that, I’d expect.

    How much better, precisely, is anyone’s guess, of course – or maybe it won’t do better at all, because there’s no major film tie-in this time. All that said, though, 25K doesn’t seem like a stretch.

  16. Nate Horn says:

    @Marc

    I was thinking 25k for a new Superman hardcover in one month was unrealistic, but if “Joker” can move 17k in that time, it’s certainly do-able. In a year? Yes, I think 25k is reasonable. But you’re a lot more versed at this than I am! ^_^

  17. Christian says:

    I enjoy this columns. I like the cut of your jib sir. Carry on.

  18. Brandon says:

    “Joker” also sold out almost immediately, an was unavailable to reorder for at least 2 weeks…it might have been 3 or 4. That obviously equates to some later sales when reorders finally did ship; moreover, it certain caused so lost sales. Plus, the book didn’t ship until, I think, October–the Dark Knight movie still had heat, but an opportunity was missed (considering the similarities to both versions of Joker). DC dropped the ball.

    Now DC has experience, lead time, and most important: new management to impress. I think it’s safe to say they expect more sales in book stores and Amazon, but it’ll get the royal treatment in the DM. Cover to Previews, retailers will feel that DC is behind it 100%, and order increases should be filled by a very generous overprint.

    I think whatever numbers it sells, in the DM and elsewhere, will be as much as the publisher CAN sell of a superhero OGN (at this time, of course). A persuasive high watermark.

  19. Mainstream = general public

    But I’ll revise that… the backlist Vertigo sells well… just look at the Top 300 GN list from Diamond. “Classic” Vertigo sells. Modern Vertigo… not so much.

    As for “Joker”… it was an original graphic novel produced to tie-in with the movie. It was EXTREMELY successful in the book trade, being one of the bestselling holiday titles among GNs that year. Other Batman GNs also rode that wave… the core backlist that everyone owns.

    Superman? Uncertain. If it’s produced well (and JMS seems to know how to write) and produces an interesting re-origin which won’t make the hardcore fans angry, then it probably will be a success.

    And looking at the current monthlies from Vertigo, I don’t see much dark humor, except for maybe American Vampire. Oh, wait… Fables. Of the current titles, Unwritten has the best chance of becoming a backlist success like Sandman. Initial sales of the first collection were very good.

  20. Synsidar says:

    Wolk’s reviews of the Bendis issues were accurate, I thought, although he might have noted how simple-minded the plot in NEW AVENGERS: FINALE was.

    Looking back, what stands out is the absence of anything significant happening to anyone in a literary sense. And, once “Civil War” started, the issues were mostly tie-ins to events.

    SRS

  21. What Justice Society spin-off got canned by DC? I don’t see anything in the August solicits?

  22. Ohhhh, I get it. LOL Never mind. Magog, a Justice Society spin-off; instead of Magog. A Justice Society spin-off. And Air. – I get confused easily. ;)

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