Briefs & Boxers! 07/11/10

o “Why Bother?”

great nine 200x300 Briefs & Boxers! 07/11/10At Newsarama, Vaneta Rogers interviews Jim Lee, who became a publisher at DC Comics earlier this year (here’s part 2). Among other subjects, Lee discusses his approach to conflicts of timeliness and quality:

I think there’s a responsibility of the publisher, of the company, to make sure the staple books that have been around for decades come out in a timely manner. Monthly books should be out there every month, on the weeks that they’re supposed to be out.

But beyond that, some of the special one-off projects are the result of a certain creative team that wants to do a specific story about specific characters for a specific number of issues. They’re not jumping onto a collaborative storyline that’s been in the works for decades. I think it behooves the company to allow those creators the flexibility to make sure their vision gets done to the way they set out to do it, otherwise, why bother?

Whether DC’s new commitment to letting creators produce “a specific story about specific characters for a specific number of issues” will, in the future, entail the publication of the final issues of their miniseries, Lee doesn’t say.

How was The Great Ten #9 (of 10) (of 9), by the way?

o “New Brand New”

spidey 194x300 Briefs & Boxers! 07/11/10Rich Johnston suggests that Marvel are about to revamp the Spider-Man line and no longer publish the flagship title, The Amazing Spider-Man, three times a month.

The “thrice-monthly” format, featuring material by a group of creators directed by editor Stephen Wacker, was introduced in January 2008. It was a commercial success initially, boosting the book’s numbers above the sales of the three separate monthly Spider-Man titles it replaced.

Of late, though, sales have been slipping, so another revamp makes sense, at this stage. It’s the way the direct market works.

Logistically, the move is overdue, arguably. The big appeal of the one-title, three-times-a-month format, early on, was that it provided a handy, catch-all way to follow the soap opera of Spider-Man’s life. It was the complete Spider-Man experience for less than ten bucks a month, basically, in a frequency that was easy to keep up with.

About a year into the run, that started to change, though.

More and more additional comics started cropping up, spinning in and out of The Amazing Spider-Man, but rarely maintaining its fairly consistent quality.

For the last year, there have been a second ongoing title as well as multiple miniseries and specials, all supplying additional stories about supporting characters and villains. Also, many issues of the main title came with “extra material” at an increased cover price that may have been justified by the page count, but ultimately just added less-than-essential baggage to the franchise for no pressing creative reason.

As the initial premise of the “Brand New Day” format would have it, there were three issues of The Amazing Spider-Man per month, which meant 66 pages for a total of $ 8.97, plus the prospect of an occasional special.

If you look at what was solicited for July 2010, now, there are three issues of The Amazing Spider-Man (higher-than-usual page count, $ 3.99 each), plus one issue each of the spin-off miniseries The Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son and The Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat (regular page count, $ 3.99 each) plus an issue of Web of Spider-Man (higher-than-usual page count, $ 3.99).

All of a sudden, that “full Spider-Man experience” requires you to spend time and money on six comics with a total of about 160 pages for a total price of $ 23.94—a 142% increase in pages and a 167% increase in cover price versus the initial model.

That’s asking a lot of the audience. It’s the equivalent of having to watch three hours of TV every day just to stay up-to-date on your favorite soap opera. Even assuming the quality was still top notch across the board, who but the most hardcore readers have the time or inclination to keep up with that?

It doesn’t look like a very smart publishing strategy, and it defeats the purpose of consolidating the franchise into a single, more frequent series.

o “More Than Anything Else”

Over at Comic Book Resources, meanwhile, editor Tom Brevoort reveals Marvel’s stunning new plan to compete with DC in making their comics even less attractive and accessible to people with lives:

What you’re really going to see more than anything else is the beginning of a fusion and integration between all the various parts of the Marvel Universe.

You’ll see more connectivity between the Avengers and the Hulk and the X-Men books and the Fantastic Four and the Daredevil, street-level characters – not to the point where they’re all standing on top of each other every page of every book every month. But they are going to be many more opportunities for natural cross points where characters involved in one title will get involved with the characters of another title, and we’ll go back and forth in a very casual manner.

It worked in the 1990s, after all.

o “Sick of Reading the Same Story 100 Times”

Returning to Bleeding Cool, Johnston also points to writer Mark Waid, who is evidently sick of reading superhero comics:

Annnnd today was the day I stopped reading super-hero comics. One that I won’t name finally broke me.

Collection stops as of now. No joke. It’s not one bad comic. It’s the unbearably last in a long string of bad comics. Just sick of reading the same story 100 times in the last three years.

Waid may be referring to something written by somebody other than himself, although he technically doesn’t exclude, say, a particularly bad experience proofing a copy of Irredeemable or Amazing Spider-Man.

o “You’re Like a Precocious 12 Year Old [sic] Who Hears the Grown-Ups Arguing and Has a Compulsion to Enter the Fray without Having the Wherewithal to Know What’s Being Discussed”

It probably takes a subset of a subset of a certain type of reader to find value in critics quibbling over semantics before inevitably losing their shit over who said what and how they meant it and whose fault it was that such tiresome matters are now being discussed. When Gary Groth shows up in the comments and shares his feelings, though, you know you’ve got a party for everyone.

o “Jae Lee Does Moody Stuff Where People Stand on Rocks”

David Brothers, meanwhile, knocks out a seven-part series of essays on some of the more interesting artists working in American comics these days. The above link leads to the Richard Corben piece; the other ones are on Ed McGuinness, Chris Bachalo, Amanda Conner, David Aja, Paolo Rivera and Doug Mahnke.

Granted, the enterprise is unlikely to garner Brothers insults from Gary Groth, so I’m not sure it’s up to the high standards of what we talk about when we talk about what we talk about. Yet, in a shorthand manner lacking effort to conceal my intellectual dishonesty, I feel confident in submitting it provides some good critical insight.

o “Investigating a Break in the Continuum”

casanova 197x300 Briefs & Boxers! 07/11/10Out now: The debut issue of a newly colored, lettered and repackaged edition of Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá’s Casanova (link above), as well as the start of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Scarlet, both from Icon, Marvel’s Scooby Snack imprint.

Fraction and Bendis are both creators who started out with strong and unique approaches to mainstream comics storytelling that provided a welcome change of pace at the time. Both were soon grabbed up by Marvel and eventually plugged into the Great Hivemind to have their voices scrambled into the dreadfully generic, or just dreadfully dreadful, mess of the Avengers and X-Men lines. (All right, I liked Alias, and I still enjoy Invincible Iron Man.)

Scarlet, now, looks like a typical Bendis comic about a good-looking violent revolutionary. It’s meant to rotate with Powers, Bendis’s other Icon book, perhaps to prevent them from both not coming out at the same time. It’s probably a good idea to wait for the paperback collection on this one. In the meantime, Kevin Melrose of Robot 6 has collected some early reactions.

Casanova, meanwhile, is a hyperactive, hypercondensed sci-fi spy thriller starring a character who looks faintly like Mick Jagger. It first came out at Image a few years back, with less color and different letters, so this is your second chance to follow one of the most riveting American comics of the last decade—and then be sad that Fraction is too busy producing inferior work to make any more of it.

 Briefs & Boxers! 07/11/10
Marc-Oliver Frisch writes about comics at his weblog and at Comicgate. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. So, in order to make that cheap parting shot work, did you actively ignore the fact that Fraction was already writing more Casanova or did you just not bother to look? Because it seems like if you really think the comic is that good, everyone would be better served by being told there was more to look forward to than they would by that killer closing line you just had to use.

  2. Jamie:

    Fraction said the book was coming back “in the new year” back in 2008, so excuse me if I’m not clearing any shelf space just yet.

    Once it’s out there for people to see, I’ll recommend it.

  3. Yeah, given that the second arc ended in 2008, it would make sense for Matt to have said that at the time. It’s distressing, however, that you can’t connect the dots between the circumstances under which that was said and the set of circumstances under which the book is now being published; also, ironic, given the first item in today’s column. Ironic, but not so surprising if we consider the Gary Groth quote at the start of the 5th item.

  4. Fraction has said in interviews that he has yet to make a dime on Casanova, and what with his need to feed his children and all, I can’t blame the guy for focusing his efforts on better-paying work. That said, as Jaime point out, it’s hardly like he’s given up on Casanova, and here’s hoping that the switch to Icon helps the Casanova team move a few more copies.

  5. i used to be somebody! says:

    …and another onetime comics professional turns into just another internet crank.

  6. John Warren says:

    “It worked in the 1990s, after all.”

    Geez, I’m sick of jaded bloggers. Go outside and get some sunshine.

  7. Chad:

    “I can’t blame the guy for focusing his efforts on better-paying work.”

    Certainly not, but the work is what it is.

  8. Is it okay to buy Casanova AND Invincible Iron Man?

    Plz advise.

  9. Nate Horn says:

    Referring to the Gary Groth quote above – Groth is usually an insufferable asshole, but in this one occasion, I happen to think he’s right. The Hooded Utilitarian is just a place where Noah and his buddies give each other handjobs over their articles and generally take pot shots at anyone not part of their circle. I hope this leads to Groth dumping the HU from TCJ….

  10. “Certainly not, but the work is what it is.”

    Your opinion, fair enough. But if, as Fraction suggests, “Casanova” would not exist at all without he and his collaborators being able to pay the bills with other work, why be sad and snippy about that other work?

    To hear Fraction tell it, the lack of “Casanova” has little to do with his superhero writing (50 percent of which you seem to enjoy) and everything to do with the fact that, in the past, the market hasn’t supported “Casanova” enough to justify him (or his collaborators) doing it more regularly. And at least in part, that might have been a result of its packaging — the “Fell”-pioneered slimline format was unpopular with many retailers. (Which reminds me of retailers’ complaints about the oversized format of Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Storyteller,” which I’m still a little peeved about.)

    Anyway, now Casanova is coming out from Marvel, in color, and hopefully the numbers will get a boost, thus enabling Fraction and co. to do more “Casanova,” which they’re supposedly already working on.

    Marc, don’t be sad: I think you should be happy!

  11. I’d say that it is not a good idea to wait to get Scarlet in trade form – this book, with just one issue thus far, looks to be something really different from any other comic being done today and this should be supported in its bi-monthly format and then when the collection comes out you could by that and gift the single issues to turn someone else on to Scarlet.

  12. Chad:

    “Why be sad and snippy about that other work?”

    Because the reality of creators throwing good time and talent after rubbish work to be able to do bits and pieces of the stuff they want to do every leap year is a sad one that deserves derision until it goes away.

  13. –“Sick of Reading the Same Story 100 Times”

    Waid is being far too kind. Try 10,000 times & you’ll be closer to the mark. And this, on the heels of the announcement that Marvel books will be more integrated. Again.

    Hooray.

    Despite Bendis’ snarky dialog & Faction’s ability to revamp tired characters with some style, the majority of comics being produced today (and I’m lookin’ at you, DC) is just a lot of uber-expensive & recycled mush. And even if somebody like JMS or Morrison comes along and shakes things up, you know… you KNOW that it will be white-washed & undone by 50 year old fanboys who don’t want their precious status quo tampered with in any way.

    JMS’ Spider-Man is a textbook example of this. Peter Parker went from being the whiny puss he’s been since forever to a character that actually GREW – as interesting characters tend to DO over the course of time. A deal with The Devil put an end to that. A fitting metaphor, actually – since a surprising amount of mainstream comics these days seem to be written & produced by people by 1) Seem to be seriously limited in their imaginative abilities & 2) Wish like hell that they could be young again. They can’t, of course. So The Revolving Door of Death & the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t, now-you-see-it-again Multiverse is nothing more than catering to idiot wish-fulfillment.

    That’s not entertainment.

    It’s not even nostalgia.

    It’s just pathetic.

  14. “Because the reality of creators throwing good time and talent after rubbish work to be able to do bits and pieces of the stuff they want to do every leap year is a sad one that deserves derision until it goes away.”

    Again, fair enough — I’d dispute you characterization of Fraction’s work-for-hire efforts as “rubbish,” but I’d love to live in a world where we had more “Leave It to Chance” and less “JLA: Cry for Justice,” for example — but the market is what it is.

    Sounds like we agree on the big picture, I’m just a bit put off by a snarky comment that reads like a slam on Fraction, when this is a market situation that he’s dealing with as best he can — without abandoning Casanova — while still putting food on the table.

  15. Synsidar says:

    Re SCARLET: I was surprised by how reviewers approached the issue, expecting the content to be dramatically different from Bendis’s AVENGERS work, for instance. His mechanical flaws (e.g., grammatical errors, inattention to detail) and stylistic flaws (e.g., stilted dialogue, limited vocabulary) are likely to be present in whatever he writes. His AVENGERS stories were most successful, or acceptable, when they closely resembled standard crime fiction scenarios, and were worst when he tried to use SF or fantasy elements. If he manages to avoid his typical mistakes in SCARLET, then that’s good for him, but I’d bet against that happening.

    SRS

  16. Micah says:

    Why is Thor $3.99? Cap has extra “content” and Iron Man is still $2.99.

    I loved Fraction’s Cassanova, but not enough to double-dip. I can’t wait for the new series, but 32 pages of Cassanova for $3.99 is a great deal.

    Bendis’ Scarlet is the best thing he has written in YEARS, the best since Alias anyways. It was a great read and Maleev’s art is fantastic. I’m on-board in a big way.

  17. I enjoy the current Amazing Spider-man issues that are being published today because the Parker Parker of today sort of parallels what I’m going through at the moment.

    No car,

    No chick,

    No job,

    and No money.

    Who needs that Mary Jane Watson hussie anyway?

  18. Joseph says:

    I agree that calling Fraction’s non-Casanova work (Iron Man? Iron Fist?) “rubbish” is ridiculous. And while this may completely invalidate my opinion in your eyes, Marc, Casanova is too out there for my taste. I prefer my Fraction a little more restrained. I expect I am in the minority on this one.

  19. Joe S. Walker says:

    I knew this thread would contain reference to “food on the table.” Duh, guy’s a working stiff, man. Can’t this embarrassing cliche be jeered out of existence?

  20. Sure. And while we’re at it, can we retire the embarrassing cliché of coming onto a thread about one thing and then nitpicking about writing style for the purposes of showing how cool you are?

    In this case, I used the phrase to distinguish between Fraction writing more superhero stuff instead of “Casanova” in order to chase the big bucks, which was how I initially read Marc’s comment, and writing it to earn a living, a distinction he has made pains to elucidate, as in this interview over at Comics Alliance:

    “And what happens is that we put “Casanova” out, and Marvel says, “You shouldn’t be work for spec, you should be writing for us!” Or Dark Horse says to the twins [Ba and Moon], you shouldn’t be drawing for spec, you should be drawing for us!” What are you going to do, are you going to draw for nothing, or are you going to keep your lights on? It’s a basic thing.”

    Is “keep your lights on” OK?

  21. Joseph:

    “I agree that calling Fraction’s non-Casanova work (Iron Man? Iron Fist?) “rubbish” is ridiculous.”

    INVINCIBLE IRON MAN is a solid mainstream superhero action book, probably the best that’s out there right now. And THE ORDER even managed to push the envelope a little, in terms of superhero stuff, and tranlate some of Fraction’s own brand of madness over to Marvel – I wish it were still around.

    IRON FIST is one of the most overrated superhero books of late, though; I congratulate Brubaker and Fraction for coming up with cool shit to draw for the breathtaking David Aja, but that doesn’t make a good story.

    And when it comes to UNCANNY X-MEN, rubbish seems like a kind term to use. I don’t know how much time and energy Fraction spends on this compared to his other work, but it seems pretty clear that the bulk of that allotted time and energy gets eaten up by things that have nothing to do with storytelling.

    Give me a self-contained, free-standing X-Men book by Fraction and someone like Stuart Immonen or Javier Pulido, then we can talk.

  22. Greg Johnson says:

    I was hoping The Beat could find a more self-important, snarky ego-maniac to offer comics commentary. Maybe someone with a hyphenated first AND last name!!!

  23. Greg:

    “I was hoping The Beat could find a more self-important, snarky ego-maniac to offer comics commentary.”

    Can you say that again next month and claim to be “Gary Groth”? I’d like to impress my girlfriend.

  24. James W says:

    Jamie’s point about new Casanova on the way stands: there hasn’t been a timetable for v3 since Ba was signed for Umbrella Academy, now there is. There’s also new stories in #1 and #7 of the Icon book.

    Re: Brevoort’s shameless take on Marvel’s publishing strategy, there was also this stunning gem:
    I’ve learned from fans’ questions that the true intent underneath is often “Why are you making so many of these? I really would like to buy ‘Green Lantern’!” to which my answer is “I’m going to make two more!” Because the last thing in the world I want is for you to spend your money on somebody else’s books.
    Wow! Honesty, I guess?

  25. Wow! 24 comments, and not a ONE about how Brand New Day may in some way or another be ending, and going to bi-weekly! Marc-Oliver, you sure did start something here! LOL

    I actually picked up Scarlet yesterday after reading all the reviews, and thought it was good (way better than anything Bendis has done in a LONG time!) I have NO clue where it’s going, especially with that last line she says, but that’s part of the intrigue I suppose.

  26. Brett says:

    I think no one is commenting on the end of Brand New Day because no one really cares. Obviously, there was some support for it but just not enough among the masses who were the intended target.

    Also, I think the whole affair has turned a whole lot of people off. Of course, there will be the die hards who will buy Spider-Man no matter how bad the book gets but for the vast majority, the bridge is burned.

  27. Joe S. Walker says:

    The Marvel MTMs used to produce a regular debate whether Spidey sales were or weren’t falling after Brand New Day.

  28. Brian Wood says:

    Because the reality of creators throwing good time and talent after rubbish work to be able to do bits and pieces of the stuff they want to do every leap year is a sad one that deserves derision until it goes away.

    The idea that problems can be solved simply by being snarky at them is… well… um…

    b

  29. Brian:

    You’re probably reading too much into my intentions. If I get people to care enough to formulate an opinion, I’m happy.

    In this particular case, for instance, I’m sure there’s a fair number of people out there who don’t even agree there’s a problem.

  30. M-O: I agree with your take on Iron Fist as “over-rated.” Though I think I like it a bit more than you, as I read it, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve read dozens of manga series that have done the same “tournament fighter” plot line and packed in a lot more action than IIF ever did. It was solid, and spectacularly illustrated, but I didn’t find it to be the mind-blowing, “best of the decade”-type experience that a lot of other people did.

  31. Oh, and M-O: any idea when the May sales charts will start going up? The June numbers are out already!

  32. The Iron Fist series was awesome, one of the best things to come out of the Marvel U in the last 5 years or so. Everyone should check out the trades if they haven’t already.

  33. Jason:

    “Oh, and M-O: any idea when the May sales charts will start going up? The June numbers are out already!”

    I know, and I’m sorry. Paul’s column has been done for over a week, so it’s entirely my fault that the May charts aren’t up yet.

    Working on it.

  34. Synsidar says:

    The talk about IRON MAN made me realize it’s time to stop buying it. I’m getting nothing out of it. I didn’t get the ANNUAL because I had no interest in reading about the Mandarin. My reaction to the start-over with Stark Resilient was “Oh, God, another start-over?” There might not have been too many of those to count, but there have been too many for another one to matter. Whether playboys are considered narcissists, perpetual adolescents, or both, growing up is about the only way for Stark to change significantly and create more story possibilities, but too many readers would dislike the idea of Stark becoming a family man.

    SRS

  35. SRS –

    No interest in reading about the Mandarin?

    How can you have Iron Man without the Mardarin?

    That is so UNAMERICAN.

    ~

    Coat

  36. Synsidar says:

    No interest in reading about the Mandarin?

    What makes him interesting as a character? It’s not his megalomania, his egotism, or other villainous aspects. I’ve been cool toward IRON MAN for months, sticking with the series because of IM’s importance in the scheme of things and Fraction’s technical merits, but the start-over was just too much. And I’ve reached the point where I can’t stand reading more stories about done- to-death villains. I can comfortably live the rest of my life without reading another story featuring Dr. Doom.

    SRS

  37. Alistair Robb says:

    PHEW!! I thought it was just me.

    “Re SCARLET: I was surprised by how reviewers approached the issue, expecting the content to be dramatically different from Bendis’s AVENGERS work, for instance. His mechanical flaws (e.g., grammatical errors, inattention to detail) and stylistic flaws (e.g., stilted dialogue, limited vocabulary) are likely to be present in whatever he writes. His AVENGERS stories were most successful, or acceptable, when they closely resembled standard crime fiction scenarios, and were worst when he tried to use SF or fantasy elements. If he manages to avoid his typical mistakes in SCARLET, then that’s good for him, but I’d bet against that happening.

    SRS”

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