Die, pamphlets, die!

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Devin Faraci, one of the main editors at the movie site C.H.U.D., has a mild-mannered editorial which brings together all the doomsday scenario ideas floating around — how comics going to $4 will destroy the market for Marvel and DC and lead to a whole new landscape for comics. and he’s fine with that:

And this is very, very bad. Superheroes are very, very bad. They’re like 50 year old hookers chainsmoking on the corner: used up, their best days behind them, appealing only to the most debased, most awful people. The fanbase for superhero comics in this day and age tends to be a devolved group clinging to degrading psychosexual power fantasies that take them away from their daily powerlessness. White males on the sidelines of society who are attached to juvenile escapades and repetitive, stunted storytelling. I’m beginning to look at adults who are deeply immersed in superheroes the way I would look at a grown man eating baby food for lunch. Except that I would say the baby food guy is at least getting some nourishment.


And then he begins to get negative.

The continued life of the superhero comic almost feels like a conspiracy. The direct market, in collaboration with the Big Two publishers, Marvel and DC, has pandered to the core constituency of superhero comics, essentially alienating everybody else. Almost feels like a conspiracy, but I think it’s simply the fact that the Big Two are among the worst run businesses in the country; instead of using the core, weekly consumers as a base upon which to rely while growing their business, they have turned to milking that base for every penny possible, which turns off those on the outskirts of the base – shrinking that base yearly. Each company’s attempts to reach out to new readers feels more half-assed than the last, and Vertigo seems to be the only attempt that has borne any fruit… a decade ago. Meanwhile, the Big Two has remained resistant to any changes in their decades old business model; Marvel is JUST NOW starting to sell comics on iTunes, despite it being dead obvious that the internet was the next frontier for comics years ago. And don’t get me started on the way DC dragged its feet on the trade paperback front forever.


Faraci’s viewpoint is interesting as a semi-knowledgeable consumer, but he also lashes out at any target nearby — not sure what he’s talking about with DC’s trade program, for instance, since it pretty much pioneered the market 10 years ago. We don’t necessarily endorse the rest of his views, either — the “Wednesday addicts” may not be as big as the audience that read comics when they were sold on newsstands, but it remains a profitable one. However, we suspect that many of the issues he brings up are ones that bring gray hairs to many execs at both Marvel and DC. Follow-up: Millarworld posters pooh pooh Faraci, and he responds.

Comments

  1. Sean B says:

    Please, please Heidi. For the love of god, don’t feed the fanbaiters. Devin just wants the hits and his “in your face” style is how he does it. If he were saying anything new or saying it in a way that wasn’t so transparently incendiary, I might see the point but…

  2. C.Swicegood says:

    No, Devin isn’t being incendiary for the sake of being incendiary (or for hits), he is right. Comics as a medium and art form are mired in the superhero ghetto and will remain to be until the industry evolves and stops making these power fantasies for grown men that should have left them behind long ago.

    There is more potential to the medium than what the small contingent of men-children will allow.

  3. Sean B says:

    @ C. Swicegood
    And that is an argument that many other people, far more informed and deeply involved in the medium, have been making for years. If you are at all familiar with Devin’s writing, and I am because I do think he’s a pretty articulate and intelligent guy, you’d know that he loves taking jabs at people (see his shots at the Whedon “browncoats” and Nolan Batman fans for example). He makes his living off the hits C.H.U.D. gets, so the more inflammatory he is, the better the chances are that folks like Heidi will link to him and drive up his stats.
    My point isn’t that he’s not saying anything smart, it’s that a) other people have said it before and b) that they have managed to do so without throwing in the digs. If anything he’s saying is news to anyone, and it may be to the casual or lapsed comics reader who checks C.H.U.D. out for movie news, so be it. But Heidi’s audience has more than a passing familiarity with this topic and so it just seems to me that none of Faraci’s comments will be of much interest beyond fodder for the wry chuckle at the expense of all those “men-children” who like superhero comics.

  4. Brian Davison says:

    Wow, what a load of self-important pretentiousness.

    “Psychosexual power fantasies”? “Grown men eating baby food”? People who spout this crap are probably the very same people that try to tell you that any form of violence on television is bad for you and that we should all become vegetarians.

    Pathetic.

  5. Joe S. Walker says:

    Just another noisy little would-be iconoclast shooting his load.

  6. Some really disturbing replies over at Millarworld. I think his article hits a nerve for a reason, it’s true. Heck, I would go one step further and make note how seedy comic shops seem now. I stopped going to my local, because I felt like I was leaving a porn shop everytime I stepped out. With Spider Woman, and Power Girl, or generic busty characters inhumanly shaped bodies adorning however many copies of whatever crappy crossover sitting in the window each it’s no wonder all the customers look like they live in their parents basement. There is a critical issue with comics and the Fanboys (er men?) right now. Remember the chatter Michael Chabon created a few years ago when he said there needed to be more comics for kids?

    I almost feel as though comics lost there way post Watchmen, Dark Knight etc, as they were striving for relevance, they chose a path that was eventually going to make their fan base more myopic. There are plenty of comics, good comics for adults, Maus, Eightball, Love & Rockets, Acme Novelty Library, and if you want to throw in the occasional Arkham Asylum for a well written superhero that’s fine too. But after spending a summer reading Kirby’s New Gods and OMAC omnibuses, as well as Gerbers Howard the Duck, it’s amazing to see where the genre has landed of late. Stories reflecting the grim and gritty, all something grounded. There is nothing wrong with something fantastical, that children and adults can both read. (See Harry Potter in books, or any Pixar movie for examples of how this works.)

    Until the big two realize this, I have little hope for the survival, or a lot of the really good comics that are being put out by the smaller companies. And the responses to the column in question adds an explanation point to the very article they’re railing against.

  7. John Tebbel says:

    It is with a wry chuckle that I recall the cold chill of confusion and betrayal when I first saw the infamous words on my copy of Adventure Comics, “Still 10″ cents.

    Gasp, choke.

  8. pplonthenetlie says:

    I read a ton of super hero monthlies still, I’m 25, so as much as I don’t want to agree…well I won’t, lol, but there is some truth in what he’s writing on, there’s no denying it; even though both paragraphs are packed with heaping spoonfuls of pretentious bullshit, there is truth in what he’s saying, in spots, especially in the second paragraph.

    But honestly, when reading that article, all I could think about was how wonderfully bright, fun, and clever Jeff Parker’s super hero comics are, and work as a counter balance to spoutings like these.

  9. the freaky tiki says:

    What does the author of the piece hope to achieve by this piece? Why the belittling anger? Why would someone bash a genre and companies that others actually like?

    I just don’t get it. Life is too short.

    the Tiki

  10. pplonthenetlie says:

    @Brian Davison

    ““Psychosexual power fantasies”? ”

    Think about the superhero audience, assume that most of us are probably “white males on the sidelines of society” (which honestly is not a stretch, and is honestly, depending on the individual, not always a “negative”). Then go watch Batman Returns, and report back. :) That movie is sorta dedicated to that line of thought, repressed sexuality expressed via secret identity in tight leather, frustration relieved through violent fantasy. Really I don’t see what he’s saying as a stretch, just too bad he hadda be an asshole about it.

  11. Geez, what did we do in the days before the internet when we couldn’t read overwritten, overzealous , pontificating pieces like this that use a lot of words but don’t say much of anything. Let alone anything new.

    Will $4 comics kill the industry?

    Well let’s put it this way. When comics first became a viable entertainment device they were affordable (compared to other current forms of entertainment) short reads that told enjoyable (for the most part) stories.

    Today? They’re vastly overpriced (again, compared to other current forms of entertainment) that don’t tell much of a story at all. In fact they’re nothing more than a CHAPTER to a larger tale. Why the hell should I or anyone pay to read a chapter of a story? A chapter with no beginning or end?

    And this holds true for Marvel, DC, Vertigo, Fantagraphics, etc….

    That’s what’s killing the monthly/bimonthly comic. Not “degrading psychosexual power fantasy” or “juvenile escapade”. The monthly/bimonthly comic has evolved into an overpriced, useless form that doesn’t come close to satisfying the entertainment quota that it’s forefathers did. The public has, believe it or not, just gotten smarter. They’re not the dupes that publishers or comic shop owners believe them to be.

    Why buy a chapter when I can just buy a book?

    As for his whole superhero tirade… has he ever been to MOCCA? SPX? I can buy and read TONS of comics and books (if I wish) with nary a caped crusader in view.

    Why can’t he?

  12. chris7crows says:

    Look, I’m not a big fan of superhero comics — though I do own and enjoy a lot of the better written examples — and I don’t buy pamphlets on a weekly basis, so I should be enthusiastically nodding my head to all these arguments. But whenever someone describes superhero comics as “power fantasies for grown men that should have left them behind long ago” I always want to ask what it is that they think people should be reading?

    And I also feel the need to point out that a lot of genre fiction — science-fiction and fantasy — is, in fact, “power fantasies” for men and/or women. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that, as it’s part of the wish-fulfillment aspect of fiction that allows us to live different lives in different worlds, but it’s a little reductive to keep tarring superheroes with that brush when it can equally apply to other genres and media.

  13. Eh, he’s got points and he doesn’t. Personally, I think comics are “growing up” just fine regardless of the presence of superheroes, not to mention he completely ignores the massive market presence of manga, a lot of which contains material similar to superhero comics. Also, the idea that superhero comics will effectively die is, to me, faintly ridiculous. They will cease to have the market share they now have, but as a genre, it will stick around for the people who like it (including this 21-year-old female who just wants fun, fantastical adventure stories every now and then)

  14. Sean B says:

    @Alexa
    Well, that’s the problem with all of these “What comics need” pieces – the author basically ignores the fact that someone out there likes this stuff! I mean, if Batman ain’t your bag, fine – but why begrudge someone else’s enjoyment of it?
    The thing is, all of these opinion pieces are just that – opinion pieces. One person’s point of view. It kills me when guys and gals say “comics should be this” and “comics shouldn’t be that” – while some ideas may lead to better growth for the industry, which would lead to better employment and sustainment, etc, most of it usually boils down to “the industry should be run so everything is just the way I like it.” Only make movies they like, only make music they like, only make comics they like, etc. It’s nothing new. Contempt for anything they don’t enjoy, and a arrogant desire to see the world reflect their tastes. It’s no different than how religious and political zealots paint the perfect world in terms of their own beliefs, expressing the desire that everyone believe and behave the way they want. Then, and only then, would everything be rad.
    I like the fact that there are cosplayers in this world. And people who like Twilight. And folks who go gaga for Secret invasion. None of it is my bag, but I don’t wish they’d all disappear and make way for shit that that’s more to my tastes. It’s OK that someone likes Red Hulk. I still get my Love and Rockets once a year. I’m not threatened by genres or stories that don’t interest me. I don’t wish the creators of those properties ill. I don’t see them as a blight on mankind. I just don’t hold my own tastes that highly.

  15. 1) When I grew tired of Marvel (in 1990), I didn’t go online to find independent comics, I didn’t go to SPX or MoCCA Fest or APE. I went to my local comicbook store and bought Bone, and Tales From the Beanworld, and Concrete, and Dark Horse Presents, and Omaha the Cat Dancer, and Sandman and…

    Alternative comics and alternative publishers like Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, Top Shelf, Slave Labor, they exist because the Direct Market allows publishers less risk. Once a store orders an item, it never returns. As the independent reader has other places to find her favorite comics (online, comics festivals, wait for the trade), stores are going to find fewer sales (just as comics sales are tanking).

    2) DC became aggressive with graphic novels ten years ago. Their first graphic albums with ISBNs was published in 1983 (this does not include various collections via other publishers in the 1970s). Watchmen was first collected in 1987.

    3) Johnny DC and Marvel Adventures are successful, and reach out to an audience not usually found in comicbook stores. DC’s CMX line continues, silently, to sell manga. America’s Best Comics produced many interesting interpretations and variations on the superhero/adventure hero genre. Marvel Illustrated, which adapts both classics and licensed fiction, is successful, either with librarians and educators, or with fans. (Dark Tower and Anita Blake are consistently among the graphic novels bestsellers on BN.com, and the monthly chapters of “The Wizard of Oz” sell so well that Marvel just released a variant edition of the first issue!

    4) The smart comicbook shops know how to merchandise, know how to present the product, know how to select the best merchandise which appeals to a wide range of customers. Free Comic Book Day exists to bring new and lapsed customers into comicbook stores. Go look at the varied amount of non-superhero titles. Look at the Gold Sponsors and see how many non-superhero titles there are (60%). Look at the Silver Sponsors…

    5) Love in Capes. Astro City. Promethea. The Boys. Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade. Invincible. Evil, Inc. All-Star Superman.

    6) Kinda ironic that one of the most popular, well-known, and successful comicbook publishers has no comics online and a minimal web presence, subscribes to a business model pioneered in the 1930s (and last adjusted in the 1950s), has made almost no effort to expand their audience outside their core readers, not only hasn’t changed their storytelling style but also reprints stories which are twenty, thirty, forty years old, until a few years ago didn’t publish graphic novel reprints, and sells comics for $2.50. No, not MAD Magazine… Archie Comics.

  16. Devin is dead-on. A sea change was already in progress and this economic crisis is just creating a quickening. The average age of these man-child customers has been rising for years, with precious few new readers joining the fold to replace them. (I’ve long said that Spidey will soon be teaming up with Matlock.)
    The age of the crappy comicbook shop is drawing to a close. Thank God.

  17. TopJack says:

    Bottom line: knocking an entertainment someone enjoys is just not cool. It doesn’t have to be your cup of tea, but if someone derives enjoyment from superhero comic books, why should anyone else care, much less repudiate them, especially with such venom? Referring to them as the “most debased, most awful people” is flaming nastiness at its finest.

    The greatest irony is that Mr. Faraci appears to bear a striking resemblance to the very stereotype he condemns:

    http://www.fantasticfest.com/images/2008guests/devin-faraci.jpg

    Overweight, poorly groomed, glasses, looks like there could be an odor problem – he is the visual embodiment of those he scorns.

    But as the adage goes, we criticize the traits in others we find most offensive in ourselves.

    Just live and let live.

  18. I’ve gotta throw my vote in along with the others who say…
    “while he may have been a bit crass in his ways of saying it…Devin is right”.

    The monthlies are going away. It doesn’t make sense. For the same price of a comic I can watch a whole movie.
    Or for the price of 2 comics (44 pages and lots of ads) I can have a whole Graphic Novel.

    Plus the web comics are free, video games give you WEEKS of play, tv is still free too.

    On top of that…I still feel creepy bringing my 6 year old boys to comic shops. Afraid of what they may pick up. They DO seem down right seedy.

    Whereas BOOK STORES carry Kids Graphic Novels now. How cool is that?

    I want my kids to love comics the way I do. But they already are growing up in a world without spinner racks and $.50 comics. I don’t know if they’ll get that same exerience. So here’s hoping that webcomics and Kids Graphic Novels will fill that void and become a fond childhood memory they can grow with.

  19. I just finished reading the book of Jeremiah as party of my daily Bible reading. Jeremiah was the prophet who told the people of Israel and Judah that the Babylonians were going to destroy the two kingdoms and carry the Hebrews away into captivity. The official prophets and priests and the kings and their courts all reassured the people that nothing bad would ever happen to Judah or Israel.

    For preaching the truth, Jeremiah was imprisoned, threatened, and at one point thrown into a mud-filled cistern that was then covered with a huge rock.

    None of that stopped the Babylonians from coming…

  20. Sean B says:

    Wait…so now Devin Faraci is a prophet? Wow.
    I was wrong, Heidi. Obviously you know your readers’ tastes better than I do…

  21. Buzz has the right idea.

    First off, can anybody lay hands on a giant cistern?

  22. Sean B says:

    LOL. I mean, I would be more inclined to see Devin as a prophet if he hadn’t written this:

    “Fantastic Four is the ultimate antidote to Batman Begins’ dourness – it’s light, it’s a little bit silly, it’s not afraid to have a little bit of fun. In short it captures the feeling of the early Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics perfectly.”

    Yeah. That movie captured Lee and Kirby PERFECTLY. Except for, you know, everything that made Lee and Kirby good.

  23. Another observation:

    If these fantasies are so exclusive to “men-children,” why are some of them making considerable money with movie audiences?

  24. Another observation:

    If these fantasies are so exclusive to “men-children,” why are some of them making considerable money with movie audiences?

  25. Michael says:

    Devin, The Comics Journal from twenty years ago called. They want their editorial direction back.

  26. Sean B says:

    Look, like I said, Devin is a smart guy. Hell, all of the guys who write for C.H.U.D. are pretty damn good. Once you get past the snark and the venom, there really isn’t a better news/review site for genre movies out there. I just think that when it comes to the comics industry, Devin’s addressing “issues” that bloggers (whom he also tends to have contempt for) have covered that ground over and over again. He’s not saying anything new. Hell, the guy is championing Scott Pilgrim (10 out of 10!) like it’s the freshest thing this side of the Farmer’s Market…when comics bloggers have been singing the book’s praises well before Edgar Wright decided to make a movie about it.
    Obviously, there are alot of folks who agree with him. Hell, I agree with him on a number of points. But they were valid points last year and the year before and the year before that. And most people who brought them up in the past managed to do so without the transparent attempts to offend or generate controversy.

  27. Alan Coil says:

    “None of that stopped the Babylonians from coming… ”

    Musta been a fun orgy.

  28. TopJack says:

    The hypocricy is what’s most amusing.

    In reading his Millarworld comments – which are primarily him dismissing posters as too stupid to comprehend his genius – he laments that DC hasn’t published trades of the satellite-era Justice League or enough Starman.

    So which is it? Are those who enjoy superhero comics candidates for chemical castration or the powers that be not giving him enough of the men-in-tights action he wants?

    Self loathing can be a strange thing.

  29. Michael says:

    Did he miss the Starman Omnibus? I think they’re supposed to have, like, four of them out by the end of the year.

  30. Mariah says:

    This is one of those articles where I think the tone, rather than the issues, were the point. As you say, Heidi, this isn’t new. People of all sorts in the industry have been saying this for years. Which says something about how it hasn’t exactly come to pass just yet.

    I think monthlies as they currently stand as a format are problematic, because the industry is, and has been, in a state of flux. Monthlies appeal to collectors already interested and invested in the medium than they do, say, your average book reader. The cost is an issue as well. Even $3 for 22 pages is pretty steep when you can get a prose paperback for $8 and get 300 or so pages and, depending on your reading speed, hours or days worth of content. Movies and games are also problematic examples since both offer the same ability to be re-played or re-watched, and again, you’re getting more for the cost.

    There’s also the fact that most people don’t really know how to read a comic. Comics aren’t like prose in that it’s a visual storytelling medium, and they aren’t just films on paper. You have to love the format for what it can do…and in terms of monthlies, you have to enjoy waiting for each issue or installment to come out each month, not to mention the staggered way the story is being told because of the format. TV shows have borrowed this a bit with the weekly schedule, but that’s more immediate, and you’re more passive as a viewer. And I think most people outside of comics wouldn’t see the similarities.

    But I have a hard time believing it’s going to evaporate due in no small part to the fact that the monthly content is what currently fuels most tpb’s. Storylines are often designed to run as arcs to fit tpb’s now, but the monthly sales are still a big part of what is profitable. The industry would have to change significantly to rely solely on tpb storytelling.

    As for superhero’s…I think the article could have made its point without being so condescending and over-generalizing. I’ll admit to not being hugely interested in the genre the way it’s so often handled…but that’s not an issue with the genre so much as an issue with the execution. Stereotyping all superhero fans as “man-children” is pretty unnecessary. You’d make a better argument for that if you said a vocal contingent of fans has views that seem outdated and limiting. Which is true. But it’s still not the superhero genre that’s responsible for that.

    Honestly, what I’ve never understood, is why these arguments are always so all or nothing. Superhero’s are all bad or superhero’s are perfect…supehero’s are too mature and suck now or superhero’s are great and should never look back. Isn’t there room for both kinds of stories? I can enjoy a mature take on superhero’s just as well as an “all ages” one as long as the story is good. There’s room for both. And if comics are going to survive in any format they’d do well to reach as many people as possible in as many age groups as they can.

  31. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Obviously, this man fails to grasp “If you don’t like it, don’t read it.”

    I’ve seen it again and again in various genres that I like on the edge of respectability. Someone feels that it would all be wonderful if it weren’t for those damn other fans. If only the only people who liked the genre were just like them! If only things that once were “low” culture would abandon their embarassing roots! Then, truly the comic / romance novel / horror movie / Western would truly flower. And the “wrong” kind of fan would magically go away.

    You know, I think hamburgers would be better if all the fast food restaurants except Fat Burger went away. The ideal hamburger is lovingly handmade and weighs at least half a pound! McDonalds and company are destroying the burger! If they vanished the world would be a better place! People who like fast food restaurants are horrible weirdos.

    Riiiiight.

    Ah, entitlement issues.

    Luckily, industries rise and fall on their audience and that audience’s dollar. Not random misanthropic “visionaries.” And as far as I can tell from the movie sales of the past five years, people still like superheroes. So I’m thinking they’ll still be around one way or another. So I can’t bring myself to worry, and I seriously doubt his ideal world will come to pass. What a shame!

  32. Was “dead obvious that the internet was the next frontier for comics years ago” to publishers? Well, yeah — everyone in the business thought it probably was. They just didn’t know where the money was, the technology to get at it didn’t exist, and it wasn’t financially feasible to get it out. Regard other “next frontiers” — Alaska, the Antarctic, space. We always knew there was money to be made there: The problems were — and often still are — how, and how cheaply.

    The business challenge of the Internet for publishers, comics and otherwise, remains as it always was — finding what it takes to get their online divisions to become an equal contributor profit-wise, to be more than an ancillary to their print divisions. I think everyone expected it would take a while to figure out — no one thinks Alaska is Seward’s Folly any more, but it’s still on a federal subsidy. The question is, whether the simple existence of THIS frontier is different and disruptive enough to prevent business from being conducted in the old way in the meantime, while they’re getting it figured out.

    So far for comics, the answer seems to be: mixed, but generally no — not with direct market sales up eight years in a row. Comics aren’t music and they’re not magazines — there are several reasons why our experience hasn’t looked like theirs. I don’t think that’s made publishers any slower to try to figure out their online futures, though, having seen clearly how quickly things can change.

  33. Glenn Simpson says:

    I tend to disagree with most of his statements, although if I had kids, and I entered a comic book store that had scantily-clad women in posters and busts and whatnot on display, I’d probably make sure the owner knew that I would shop there if not for those things. There’s no reason why they have to be put right up front for everyone to see. Put a little divider up and have a grown-ups-only section. But that problem boils down to poor marketing education on the part of people managing comic-book stores. It has nothing to do with the price of comics or the dominant genre.

  34. If I had a dollar for every piece I’ve ever read that had this basic structure:

    1. I’m tired of superhero comics
    2. therefore superhero comics are dying
    3. and I’ll move any and all marketplace data-points to prove it

    I wouldn’t have to write WOLVERINE NOIR for a living. But I would anyway.

  35. If I had a dollar for every piece I’ve ever read that had this basic structure:

    1. I’m tired of superhero comics
    2. therefore superhero comics are dying
    3. and I’ll move any and all marketplace goalposts to prove it

    I wouldn’t have to write WOLVERINE NOIR for a living. But I would anyway.

  36. Of course, the catastrophic worldwide economy makes doomsday scenarios more plausible than ever. If the U.S. banking system should collapse, probably a few comic shops will close. But somehow blaming that on DC’s irregular JLA trade paperback program seems like a stretch.

    Sorry for double-post above.

  37. While I disagree with the Spiegelman-coined term for superheroes, “male power fantasies” (it’s not that simple), I do agree that the superhero genre is built not for creating interesting narratives as it once was (Kirby, Ditko, Gerber, etc.), but rather it’s stuck in two ruts: 1) an infinite rearranging and inventory of its own continuity, and 2) trying too hard to anchor its concepts and ideas in “reality” to make the stories believable. This combination makes it impossible for anyone (like me) who would love to buy a superhero comic as they’ll be out of the loop. Just make good comics and stories. People will buy them.

  38. The Beat says:

    All I can say — from a needlessly personal viewpoint — is that I am currently in the office mucking out a year’s worth of pamphlets from the major publishers and if I could pay a reasonable amount (99 cents?) to read (AND STORE) these online, as opposed to having them clogging up my space, I would do it.

    So many of these books are not worth the paper they are printed on. It is harsh to say that since so many of my friends created them, but as I go through these piles and piles of objects, the reasoning behind them becomes less and less clear.

  39. Heidi, I’d just be pleased not to see the word “pamphlets” constantly being used to refer to the delivery system that got most all of us all into this hobby (or, for some, business) and which continues to sustain us. I understand its origin — and perhaps I am responding to the 8-track-tape connotation with which it is often used. But when the comic book still sells more copies than any other vehicle we’ve got, I’m not sure it’s there yet.

    I won’t disagree about storage — I chose my house specifically because of the needs of library, and even the free comics cost something like 25 cents to store. That’s a lifestyle choice I don’t imagine others making. But I’m hopeful that we don’t have to have fans willing to store comics in the tens of thousands of copies to be able to make the model work.

  40. Datapoint: Didn’t the graphic novel format (ie, nearly anything non-comic-magazine) outsell comic magazine format books as an aggregate last year?

    I’m trying to recall the figure, but really I should be finishing my column right now…

  41. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Faraci makes fairly obvious points about how superhero comics are badly written — but how would one go about writing them well? Both Marvel and DC view their characters as corporate assets, things to preserve basically unchanged for years to decades, so that they can publish comic strip-style (formula fiction) stories about them and license them to various other companies.

    If writers aren’t going to have the characters age and eventually reach some type of storytelling completion, then, generally speaking, it doesn’t matter what an individual writer does with a character. He’ll be grinding out formula fiction of the most mechanical sort that shouldn’t entertain anyone who notices the repetitive elements. A writer who stressed being original could do a variation on a character, but marketing out-of-continuity stories repeatedly would be difficult.

    Is a reader just supposed to accept that Marvel and DC characters will be static and eventually uninteresting, because that’s the way the business works, and either stop reading the stories after some point, or read them for the artwork? If those are the only choices he has, then Faraci’s complaints are generally valid. Would writing the characters as SF/fantasy characters and allowing incremental changes over years work?

    SRS

  42. What a rummy.

    TopJack is right. Faraci’s self-loathing is showing through.

    As for “pamphlets” and “floppies”, these are terms coined by people who want to sound edgy. Why don’t we just start refering to “online comics” “or “downloadable comics” as “pixels,” “funny-wallpapers”, “red-eyes”, “jpegs” or something creatively stupid? That’ll get those whippersnappers riled up. Faraci cook probably cook up a suitably snarky term.

  43. Rikk Odinson says:

    Meh.

    I have been reading and collecting superhero comics for over 3 decades.
    I dig them. They make me happy.

  44. Henrik J says:

    The main reason for me not getting into indy comics is the art, even if every Scott Pilgrim preview i had seen wasnt so terrible i could never live with the art, i like the style/quality i find at Marvel/DC and its pretty hard to find it any other place…

  45. Michael says:

    I wouldn’t say the people who throw around “pamphlets” or “floppies” want to sound edgy, rich. I’d say they want to give their personal preferences some kind of rhetorical weight.

    As for “not worth the paper they’re printed on”: If they were instead made of electrons, would they suddenly be worth those electrons? Distribution being a headache and content being crap are not the same problem. Change the distribution, and the content is still crap; change the content, and the distribution is still a headache. Pretending otherwise just adds to the aura of Rapturism surrounding these prophecies of digital revolution and downfall of the whores of Broadway, and makes them easier to dismiss.

  46. “Datapoint: Didn’t the graphic novel format (ie, nearly anything non-comic-magazine) outsell comic magazine format books as an aggregate last year?”

    In dollars, probably — though not units, which is why I said “number of copies.” Comics outsold trades dollarwise something like three to two in the direct market; Milton’s analysis was that the mass market put trades plus manga out in front. I haven’t completed my own tracking of that, but I’m willing to bet that’s true. In this instance, I wasn’t talking about revenue as much as which vehicle existed in greater numbers, and was (likely) reaching more paying customers.

    (It’s further the case that, since the periodical is the precondition for the trade in most production models, the comic book plays more of a role than simply another delivery alternative.)

    While I’m clearly an advocate for print, myself, I hope I sound less “Hey, you kids, get out of my yard” and more “Hold up, pardner — you SURE that horse will make it to the next town?” I make my living writing for print and online both — and while the second part of that has been growing and I wouldn’t object to it growing further, both tiers will be needed for a good while. My checkbook is format-agnostic. I think publishers are, too — they’ve just got to figure out the right financial mix.

  47. John, I won’t argue the numbers. You research them far more carefully than I do from the safety of my armchair. I’ll agree then that the monthly magazine sells more in units in the DM, but what about outside the DM? Are more people getting their comics from the DM than from bookstores, et al?

    Is it easier to make money on a thousand four-dollar transactions or four hundred ten-dollar transactions, assuming there’s a market for the ten-dollar product?

    And, like you said, will the horse get you there? Wish I had a definitive answer, myself.

  48. OMG NEWS FLASH: BLOGGER DOESN’T LIKE WAHT HE LIKED 10 YEARS AGO! STOP THE PRESSES!

  49. Xenos says:

    I must confess those paragraphs echo my own statement, though a bit more anger and snark to them. DC and Marvel seem to be aiming at getting blood from a stone. They target an ever shrinking fanbase with more and more convoluted book crossovers and really don’t streamline or honestly appeal to new readers. Hell, even a long time reader like myself was lost with Final Crisis’s connecting the dots. Meanwhile, all the kids are off reading easily numbered and individual manga stories. I know I got plenty on my shelves too.

    As for ther superhero genre, I hate how painfully right that first paragraph sounds. Save for a small margin of fresh ideas, that sounds like too many books out there. Superheros aren’t inherently bad, but there needs to be better genre diversity or rather people need to recognize it.

  50. >>not sure what he’s talking about with DC’s trade program, for instance, since it pretty much pioneered the market 10 years ago.

  51. Scott says:

    I’ve been saying the same stuff for over 7 years now and it’s been pissing in the wind. Now Devin finally realized it just now. His article was right on many points but nothing new. The same morons are running the big two. The end is still coming…

  52. What I should have said in the above was…

    >>not sure what he’s talking about with DC’s trade program, for instance, since it pretty much pioneered the market 10 years ago.

  53. NOT Having any luck…

    >>not sure what he’s talking about with DC’s trade program, for instance, since it pretty much pioneered the market 10 years ago.

  54. Last chance, (please delete the three comments above by me)

    >>not sure what he’s talking about with DC’s trade program, for instance, since it pretty much pioneered the market 10 years ago.

  55. Understood, Matt — let’s look at the numbers. I have the DM last year at $436 million, of which probably around $280-290 million came from comic books — meaning unit sales of 85-90 million comic books. Diamond’s trades were most of the remainder, call it $140-150 million. Trade prices vary widely — which is why I don’t report units — but the 300 TPBs reported in December had a weighted average price of $18.76. If that carries across, we’re looking at 8 million trades sold by Diamond in 2008, or one trade for every 10 or 11 comic books.

    Outside the DM? Let’s take Milton’s estimates. He puts periodicals overall at $320 million, which would mean he’s thinking $30-40 million newsstand, or about 10% of the DM sales. That sounds reasonable — another 10-15 million comics or so. On the trade side, he’s at $395 million overall, or what would be about $250 million outside of the DM. That’d be 13 million books at the $18.76 price — more if the average book sold out there is cheaper. I can’t tell whether he’s counting manga in the picture or not.

    At any rate, it looks like around 100 million comic books between both markets and between 20 and 25 million trades. The DM has close to 100 million transactions; the mass market, 20 to 25 million. I’m sure the DM sales are concentrated among more repeat buyers, but my guess is it’s still serving more people in absolute terms. That’s very hard to know.

    Again, it comes back to whether the business model is such that the trade can be created in the absence of the periodical to amortize the expense of the creation of the larger book, and to keep the creators fed and producing regular progress on the way to the larger book. I believe it must be more complicated than simply how you structure the deals, or more publishers would have taken it up. Certainly it is the case that the mass market is less efficient for the publishers than the DM, where there are no returns; having two chances at a non-returnable sale with the same page is probably an important part of the model.

  56. Every now and again, I come across an old fanzine from the ’70s I saved. In it, the fans of the day are gnashing their collective teeth at something like the rise of comics from 25 cents to 30 cents and predicting that the total collapse of the industry is right around the corner. Somehow it didn’t happen.
    However, I do agree with the notion that space demands might be a much larger long-term issue than price inflation. I have a feeling that one of the by-products of the current housing crisis is that more people are going to be making due living in smaller spaces.
    I was working with a well-know cartoonist a few years ago. He needed something for reference, and I think he ended up deciding to buy copies online because it wasn’t going to be worth the effort to try to locate the originals in his massive collection.
    Most of us don’t collect obsessively. We just want to read what we like most–when we most want to read it.
    Things like the Kindle, seem to me, to be the smallest hint of what is coming some day.
    When that something arrives and it is as light as paper. looks and feels like paper, you can fold up and put in your back pocket like paper, but is actually a platform for digital downloads–then I really wonder why any of us will be purchasing anything on genuine paper. Unless you like to collect things that smell of smell of old paper or leather bindings.

  57. morganagrom says:

    Why in the world would people buy the pamphlets in the first place, especially from DC, and Vertigo in particular? Besides saving space from not having all those ads, tradewaiting also saves a lot of money. Do people really want to want to continue throwing all that extra money away? At what point do consumers start deciding to act in their own best interests and stop “supporting” a book like some charity case?

    If the pamphlets serve to amortize expenses, then maybe it’s time to look at other ways. Why not ad-supported online serialization? Perhaps the writers can accept back-end deals while still leaving the artists, letterers and colorists with up-front page rates. Something’s got to change, because according to the icv2 numbers pamphlet sales, especially at Vertigo, just seem to keep dropping and dropping within a given series. A few seem to manage to stay constant, and the occasional hit like Walking Dead will see increasing numbers, but for creator-owned books where editors can’t simply bring on a new creative team for a “bold, new direction” there’s usually nowhere to go but down.

    Kudos to the author for writing the article and getting people to discuss the issues.

  58. Larry,

    I second the space concern for storage. I’m going through my long-boxes right now, and I just don’t have space on my bookshelves for all the neat reprints coming out.

    An easy-on-the-eyes digital, portable device sounds great to me.

  59. matt s says:

    “The main reason for me not getting into indy comics is the art, even if every Scott Pilgrim preview i had seen wasnt so terrible i could never live with the art,”

    So you like a bunch of photo referenced faces and buildings passed off as sequential art?

  60. Morganagrom, I’m not sure many writers would be comfortable waiting the six months needed for an artist to draw a trade before getting paid. But the problem still remains of where you get the money to pay those artists, letterers, and colorists so long before anything at all sees print. So, yes, serialization somewhere, or another model is needed.

    The thing with sales within titles dropping is that, while it happens within most series — and seems to have as a general rule for years and years, excepting the boom times — aggregate comic book sales have held steady or improved lately by increases in the number of titles out there, and by the stuff at the bottom of the Diamond list doing relatively better than it had before. We’re about to see the effect of that, I think, in reverse: In doing some back-of-the-envelopes on the January 2009 sales…

    http://blog.comichron.com/2009/02/januuary-2009-sales-raw-big-winter.html

    …it looks like it’ll be what used to be a typical frosty January for comics, with weak unit sales (even with the Obama Spidey issue) relating, in part, to publishers releasing fewer titles. Marvel had 119 comics in the Top 300 in December — 92, in January. I’ll know more when I finish the hard estimates, but I expect the numbers for the month will add more fuel to this debate.

  61. I’m ready for digital. I’m waiting for DC and Image and Dark Horse to start a digital subscription service. I want digital downloads I can pick up through iTunes for $.99. I can’t justify a $3.99 comic book anymore, no matter who it’s from. I’m all ready to get an iPhone if I can read comics with it, but I want content to read on it too.

    I’m ready for the future. Bring it on!

    I just don’t want Devin Feraci’s nonsense, that’s all.

  62. Hmm… this is a very engrossing debate. It’s keeping me away from my work so I better jump in.
    I think Ferachi’s title that this was a “Devin’s Advocate” or intentionally shocking article more along the line of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” than an op ed piece. Devin’s “nonsense” is just that, he’s acting as Devil’s Advocate to put a fire in people’s belly and get them thinking and talking.
    My problem with “pamphlets” as a delivery system for comics is the ephemeral nature of the medium and the speculation industry that has grown up around it. As a kid I can remember watching the prices of back issues inflate dramatically in the 1980s and I felt bad that I wasn’t able to read those stories anymore as they were priced well out of my budget. Today, I would prefer to read the trade and I will often wait until it is released as I like to read the story all at once. I like the fact that it is available longer, that it is available to kids in libraries, encouraging literacy and building up a love of the comics medium for a future generation. I remember when the first comic that had my art in it came out and I went to the various comic stores in the area to see if it was there (this was back in 92). One store owner was surprised that I didn’t want to buy the (esoteric) comic I had asked for and I explained I had some art in it. He grabbed a pen and asked if I’d sign it. I was naturally excited, but as soon as the ink was dry he bagged it, doubled the price and put it up on the “collectables” wall. Now nobody would buy it. I was really bummed out by that and it’s stuck with me for years. In fact, I couldn’t even bring myself to ever go back to that store.
    The second point that people seem to have an issue with is the issue of the superhero being an inappropriate subject matter for “adult” comic readers. I’ve chatted with Chris Ware about this and his attitude seems to be that it’s a genre envisioned for kids and creating for adults is sort of like creating kid-friendly pron, it’s just the wrong demographic. I’m not entirely convinced “adult superhero comics” have failed, heck, I’ve even drawn and written an entire superhero genre book. I do feel that in making superhero comics “adult” (darker) we have cut off the next generation of comics fans. Kids don’t get their superhero adolescent power fantasies from comics anymore, they get them from movies, TV, video games, action figures (dolls), and ANY media that IS NOT comic books. Kids don’t even understand how to read comics. When I taught a comic book unit in my grade 9 English class I was shocked at how many of them couldn’t follow panel flow or just skipped over panels that didn’t have word balloons.
    The problem is that the direct distribution system has ghettoized the comics and game industry, dumping us in with the collectable card market and isolating the medium from the rest of the world. The popularity of Manga using chain bookstores should not be ignored, it also totally changed the demographics of the marketplace. When I used to run my high school comic book club as a teacher sponsor in the early 90s, 80% of my clubbers would be male and making superhero comics. Today it’s 90% female and it’s almost all manga.
    Perhaps Superheroes have transcended the medium. They have always been more innovative in other media formats and comics have reflected this.
    John Jackson Millar makes some great points about writers having to wait to be paid, but the artists, colourists, letterers, are all part of this too and in turn need to wait too. A more generous advance system or “living wage” might be a way to go for publishers, but comics seem to be a means to an end these days as they are co-opted into other media such as games, film or television.
    Finally, I think that the “endless serialized adventures” need some closure. My mom refers to “her stories” and gets much enjoyment out of the serialized adventures of her soap opera heroes and even talks to fellow “soap geeks” about who will dump whom, etc. It’s much the same with the format of the superhero universes posited by the big two with their endlessly dramatic storylines and the revolving door of death. I think it would be refreshing to have superhero universes age in “real time” with generations of heroes rising up to take the place of the last. The endless serial undermines the basic tenets of good storytelling and actually lessens the drama of every crisis. It creates a hopelessly muddled backstory that can only be cleaned up with retconning and reboots. Creative teams come and go, editors try to remake the titles in their own image and the public scrambles to keep up with the puzzling narrative unfolding before them. A series, told in graphic novel format could still have the universe-sweeping scale of the big two universes, but be more elegantly structured and make a whole lot more sense (Loeb/Sale Long Halloween, etc.).
    I love comics as a storytelling medium because it is very democratic and open to pretty much anyone. Today with the webcomic you can create a comic available to the world for pretty much next to no money down. I (still) love superheroes as well, but I don’t think that’s all the stories comics need to or can tell. Superheroes are but one flavour in the icecream store of storytelling. New flavours are waiting to be created and sampled every day. That’s exciting.

  63. “The fanbase for superhero comics in this day and age tends to be a devolved group clinging to degrading psychosexual power fantasies that take them away from their daily powerlessness.”

    Those who think that this is all superheros are, or all a superhero story is capable of being, have no business coming anywhere near a comic book, or anything to do with comic books. For the love of God, what an asinine statement. That’s like saying there are no more stories to tell in romance novels or action movies. Superheros are a vehicle to express any number of limitless ideas that a good writer and/or artist can come up with. Could anyone truly say the same about vampires. Anne Rice used them as a way to express her life philosophies and love of history, while Poppy Z. Brite used it to express her feelings about losing ones self to drugs and debauchery, and Stephanie Myers used it to express her love of Dawson’s Creek. Could you tell Ray Bradbury that Science Fiction is dead and done. I can hear him calling you a sone of a bitch now. What an F’in tool.

  64. morganagrom says:

    @John Jackson Miller
    “I’m not sure many writers would be comfortable waiting the six months needed for an artist to draw a trade before getting paid.”

    Oh well. They can get day jobs.

    Also, as the creator of the story, writers often get media rights in stories that the artists do not. They’ll get by.

    “But the problem still remains of where you get the money to pay those artists, letterers, and colorists so long before anything at all sees print.”

    Somehow many artists seem to get by at Image. How’s that work?

    “So, yes, serialization somewhere, or another model is needed.”

    Serialize online. Sell advertising space. Do it like hulu but for comics where one has to view or watch an ad in order to go to the next set of pages. Sell premium memberships to people who want to read the comics ad free. Easy.

  65. “not sure what he’s talking about with DC’s trade program, for instance, since it pretty much pioneered the market 10 years ago. ”

    Vertigo’s Collections program is awesome.
    Wildstorm’s is pretty good.
    DC’s is a schizophrenic child hooked on low grade crystal meth.

    Assuming DC is bothering to collect every issue of a particular title, which is no guarantee, you’ll be looking at a HC first and then a TPB at least a year away (if you’re lucky). That’s if DC doesn’t engage in the “relevant portions” policy where only certain pages get reprinted. Think about that- a HC and then a long wait for a cheaper format. What do you think happens to sales or interest with such a policy? Wonder Woman’s new series just got the first five issues into trade. When did it start? 2006? And what’s happened to sales on that title in the interim?
    DC also gets real selective about the issues it wants to reprint. Numerous titles and runs have been reprinted and then left key issues out of collections. And these are collections of successful titles like STARMAN or GOTHAM CENTRAL. Why bother with trades if you can’t get the whole series?
    DC has also ignored very loud requests for collections of titles like SUICIDE SQUAD, HITMAN, and JLI. SS has been at the top of request lists for five years. So we should have had a collection or two, right? Stop holding your breath.
    So DC may have pioneered the TPB market, but they’re getting their butts kicked by everyone else.

  66. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I’m tired of these artists whining about “bills” and “food.” All an artist in the caveman times needed was a tiny hut made of hardened dung and a thin gruel made from spare rat parts — and those walls were way better-drawn than your average issue of Robin, with way more mastodons. Shut up, create the delivery system that pays you enough to supplement your day job right this minute and stop the damn excuses.

  67. Ha ha, Tom.

    I too am ready for digital. I read’ em and forget ‘em. Well mostly. The better ones stay with me.

    I don’t care if my comics are mint or printed on varnished gloss 60lb text paper. It’s all about the story, and art that enhances the story.

  68. legitsquare says:

    @neeb –

    DC has been putting out the JLI trades in hardcover and I think the softcover of trade1 just came out. They are up to volume 3 in hardcover. Request HEARD.
    You can hate DC all you want, but at least get your facts right when you do.

  69. It’s not hate. It’s constructive criticism.
    And my complaints about Suicide Squad, Hitman, Gotham Central, etc STILL STAND.
    As for JLI, 3 HCs with a 4th on the way? Seriously? That’s what you’re going to use to defuse my argument?
    Let me remind you that there is only ONE JLI TPB (for those of us who don’t want to drop $25 a collection) available and it’s been the same one available since 2003.

  70. Morganagrom, writing is the day job for many (including myself) — and, no, I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way for most. In prose, authors are paid advances; comics are generally pay-as-you-go. A move to pay-only-at-the-end, if and only if the artist finishes a 100-page graphic novel, would put comics quite out of the list of options of quite a lot of the professional writers I know. As an editor, it was hard enough getting writers to do magazine articles pay-on-publication — and they’re much less work! :-)

    Serialization gets money in, so money can go out — to writers, to artists, to everyone, while the work is being produced. So far, advertising revenue online is not at the replacement level, and no one has a proven model for making people pay to read comics pages in a marketplace where so much other content is free. We thought there might be — McCloud’s “micropayment” suggestion — but it turned out that most people believe they’ve already paid for everything on the Internet when they pay their broadband bills. The New York Times couldn’t get people to pay to consult a fair-sized chunk of the whole of recorded human history. Thus the search goes on.

    But you’re right, something is needed — and we’re both right that serialization needs to be in the mix.

  71. The Beat says:

    >>>So DC may have pioneered the TPB market, but they’re getting their butts kicked by everyone else.

    Neeb, this is the kind of bogus negative nattering that I was writing about a few posts up. .

    Have you not seen THIS? Far from being left in the dust, DC is by the far THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COMICS COMPANY WHERE COLLECTED EDITIONS ARE CONCERNED!

    You can screech or squawk about a couple of books that you would like to have collected. Starman is a fine book, but would it outsell WATCHMEN? Or KILLING JOKE? Or Sandman or Transmet or Preacher or Fables or Y the Last Man? Or the new Joker book?

    Many of Marvel’s key trade collections go out of print and never become available again.

    I had a private correspondence with Mr. Faraci about this, and he didn’t really press the point.

    Anyone who claims that DC does not have a wildly successful book publishing program is nuts.

  72. DC is following a publishing strategy that the rest of the book industry follows: if demand exists for a hardcover, publish it in that format, and then issue a trade paperback a year later.

    You’re complaining that the stories are so good, they’re in a hardcover collection? Or do you expect DC to release the hardcover and trade editions at the same time, even though that makes no economic sense?

    As for JLI… Issues 1-7 were collected in 1989 and issues 8-12 were collected in 1992. (The JLI wikipedia pages has the ISBNs, if you wish to search for copies.)

    There are many ways to avoid paying retail. BN.com has most of the collections on sale. eBay probably has it even cheaper. Or, best yet, request it at your local library, where you and numerous others will be able to read it for free.

    As for what’s inside… DC listened when fans complained about the censorship of CMX titles. DC has collected some esoteric titles (Haunted Tank?!), and is open to both retailer and consumer opinions. The names and address are published in each trade paperback. Send them a letter. Just be respectful, polite, and passionate. Might be a good idea to start a thread on the DC boards.

  73. morganagrom says:

    @John Jackson Miller

    Again, oh well. The writers at Image seem to do just fine, carrying a day job until the writing takes off. Why not adopt that approach at Vertigo if it results in a better product, one not tied to the constraings of 22-page pamphlet serialization?

    Especially considering how the Vertigo numbers just keep dropping and dropping. At DC, the numbers may not have gotten quite bad enough yet to force a change, but with the way the Vertigo numbers are spiralling downward, how long is the present model viable?

    As for free online serialization, again, the hulu model seems like a great fit. Why not?

  74. morganagrom says:

    @The Beat

    “Starman is a fine book, but would it outsell WATCHMEN? Or KILLING JOKE? Or Sandman or Transmet or Preacher or Fables or Y the Last Man? Or the new Joker book?”

    Possibly not, but it might do as well as JSA or Jonah Hex. The hardcover probably doesn’t help.

  75. The Beat says:

    @ morganagrom

    “Get a day job” is possibly the most ludicrous thing I have yet heard in this thread, and there are some dillies.

    The point of having a COMICS INDUSTRY is so that people who are good at creating comics can make a decent living at it so they can support themselves and their families.

    The fact that it is not always doing so is part of the PROBLEM not a solution.

  76. Justin Jordan says:

    @Morganagrom

    So your idea is that people should forgo making a living at what they want so that you can get what you want?

    Good luck with that.

    What the heck, why not have everyone work for free so we can all have free comics.

    That would be AWESOME! No way that would cause any problems whatsoever.

  77. Further: If you like good comics, you should want comics to pay your favorite creative people enough that they don’t have to get a day job. That way you’ll get anywhere from two to five times as many comics by those same creators.

    Image is one model, and a great one to have in the mix. It works for some people across the board, and for others on the occasional project. It’s not the one, best template for the entire industry.

    Of course, life isn’t fair. Some brilliant creators will never reach a big enough audience to continue their works. But ideally, the pie will be big enough to support good work in a variety of publishing models.

  78. I’ll leave the production side of this at what I’ve said. There have been a lot of models for working creators over the centuries, and there’s no guarantees the current one won’t be replaced by something new — or something old. (“You want to be an artist? Get a Medici,” someone once said.)

    I don’t doubt we might have a world one day where it’s “Steven King’s Page-A-Day, Presented By Exxon.” Still, the prospect encourages me to look again at what we might yet do with the existing model.

  79. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Has anyone ever evaluated DC and/or Marvel characters, based on their resemblance to genre fiction characters? The dominant aspects of the genre characters would be their character profiles and the themes commonly seen in their stories; the dominant aspects of the comic book characters would be their powers and visual impact. Examples of genre characters would be the Punisher, Black Widow, Henry Pym, Dr. Strange, the Vision (I), et al. Examples of comic book characters would be Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Hulk, Wolverine, Green Lantern, et al.

    SRS

  80. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I think that paper is presented six times a day at San Diego.

  81. “As for free online serialization, again, the hulu model seems like a great fit. Why not?”

    Because we’re talking about comics, not movies.

    http://www.hulu.com has some recent stuff … The Office, etc. … but a lot of material on hulu is fondly forgotten shows like IT TAKES A THIEF, which have future potential, or material that never caught on much in the first place, like HOFFA. The INCREDIBLE HULK tv series (starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno) holds up well … and can profit from the recently released movies … but it does seem just a little dated in the CGI world of comic-movies, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, hulu stands to profit from ads — “The following program is brought to you by …” — but many of the movies and tv shows are ones that never made much money, are not in favor with broadcast networks, or wouldn’t stand much chance of developing an audience if people had to people up dough.

    The online thing is a great idea for the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko issues — Marvel could give those away and never make another dime on them and still profit … but the NEW stuff?? The old adage is true today that you gotta pay the piper … otherwise FanFiction will be the new standard. We should all be afraid of that.

  82. morganagrom says:

    @The Beat

    If their books are successful, then they should have no problem supporting themselves. Times change. The way Vertigo numbers keep dropping, how much longer will pamphlet serialization be feasable? Perhaps it might be time to try something new, and if it means some creators, or even just the writers, might have to start accepting back-end deals, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It works well enough at Image.

    @Justin Jordan

    Image creators work “for free” all the time. They’re not professionals?

    @Stuart Moore

    If publishers and creators can come up with a better, more consumer friendly publishing model without serialization that allows for advance payments that would be great. Otherwise, why put the onus on consumers?

    @rich

    Lots of people use hulu instead of tvs and dvrs to watch current shows. In most cases it just means having to wait a day. Why wouldn’t it work for comics? The new “issue” comes out, there’s 6 pages, and then a 30 second ad, then another 6 pages, etc. Seems like it would work quite well.

  83. “” >>>So DC may have pioneered the TPB market, but they’re getting their butts kicked by everyone else.

    Neeb, this is the kind of bogus negative nattering that I was writing about a few posts up. .

    Have you not seen THIS? Far from being left in the dust, DC is by the far THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COMICS COMPANY WHERE COLLECTED EDITIONS ARE CONCERNED!””

    McDonald’s is the most successful restaurant ever. Doesn’t mean the food is presented in a way that might be considered, good.

    “”You can screech or squawk about a couple of books that you would like to have collected. Starman is a fine book, but would it outsell WATCHMEN? Or KILLING JOKE? Or Sandman or Transmet or Preacher or Fables or Y the Last Man? Or the new Joker book?””

    Since DC has had an utterly scattered approach to collecting the series and keeping it in print we’ll never know.
    And about five of those titles come out of Vertigo. Think Y Last Man would be as popular if it skipped around its issues the way the GOTHAM CENTRAL trades have? Or EX MACHINA if people who read about it in EW had to rummage through back-issue buns for the singles?

    “”Many of Marvel’s key trade collections go out of print and never become available again.””

    But they at least get to the shelf. In April and May, I’ll be able to buy collections of Spider-Man 2099 and X-Men 2099.

    You can’t tell me those are more successful or better than STARMAN, HITMAN, etc.

    “”Anyone who claims that DC does not have a wildly successful book publishing program is nuts. “”

    In dollar value? I never said anything to the contrary. Content wise, the follow through is terrible.
    As I said, Vertigo and WS do great, it’s DC that seems intent on disappointing.
    I hate this. I want to be able to point at my shelf of the complete run of Suicide Squad or the last three years of Action Comics, but the organs running that part of the program just don’t have it together. For every MANHUNTER or THE QUESTION they get right, there’s four SUICIDE SQUADs or GOTHAM CENTRALs where great issues are left out or not even collected.
    I’d love to give DC (not just Vertigo or WS) tons of my money, but they just don’t seem interested.

    @ Torsten:

    “”You’re complaining that the stories are so good, they’re in a hardcover collection? Or do you expect DC to release the hardcover and trade editions at the same time, even though that makes no economic sense?””

    I’m complaining that stuff in HC never makes it to affordable formats.

    “”As for JLI… Issues 1-7 were collected in 1989 and issues 8-12 were collected in 1992. (The JLI wikipedia pages has the ISBNs, if you wish to search for copies.)””

    My poor college student self bought them out of bargain bins in the mid-1990s [pre-Internet]. I would loved to have gotten TPBs, but, they were out of print [to say nothing of a nascent TPB market]. And again, 12 issues? Five of which haven’t been in print since 1992? The run is about 45 issues long? Would the Star Wars movies be as popular if the only place to see Return of the Jedi was at a second run house two towns over instead of on DVD?
    But if it’s not JLI, then it could be DOOM PATROL or ANIMAL MAN, had they been left in the hands of DC we’d be on ebay or in the bins looking for singles (the way things were in 2003). It took VERTIGO to get those two series to the shelves and Amazon.
    Listen, I want to be wrong. DC can have my money if they prove me wrong. But when they offer a couple of Neil Gaiman stories (128 pages) for $25 that’s $25 I can spend on Walt Simonson Thor reprints.

  84. morganagrom says:

    @Neeb

    It’s true – hardcovers almost always add $5-10 to the price of a book. Why make comics less affordable?

  85. LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN!!

  86. Actually Heidi – I’m sort in accordance with morganagrom when he says that we should all be getting day jobs – in the sense – when I realized that it’s going to a take a awfully long while until I ever purchase that pantheon shaped mansion in the Asgardian skies of Beverly Hills if I’m under the illusion that I could ever make a sole living selling a silly independent comic book called the Deposit Man.

    It came to a point where I had to cobble everything together of all the things I had published in Comics Buyer’s Guide, my small press coordinator duties over at Comic Con International, my ordering manager skills at Rookie’s and showing off my self published works was all I needed to get my foot in the door in getting jobs at the studios. I’ve been employed at four studios so far – the WB, Fox, Paramount, and now at Sony where I’m currently the marketing coordinator of Seinfeld ( and Judge Karen) in syndication.

    And how did I get here?- through my love and appreciation of the comic book medium. The spare money I make here goes back into what I love most: creating comic books and paying the people who help me make them possible.

    In my opinion, what morganagrom said isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    But then I realize, that most of you are not residing in the LA area and can’t just switch on and off your occupations at the drop of a hat.

    ~

    Coat

  87. Justin Jordan says:

    Morganagrom

    ‘Image creators work “for free” all the time. They’re not professionals?’

    Where did I say anything about professionals?

    But you’ve not explained why the onus of taking the financial burden should be on the creators rather than the consumer. Why should they do you a favor.

    You also haven’t explained why writers should take the hit? Can’t artists also get dayjobs?

  88. morganagrom says:

    @Justin Jordan

    Sure, easy. Pamphlet sales, at least at Vertigo seem to be falling and falling. Less and less people are buying the pamphlets and are choosing to tradewait. Why not just release the books straight to paperback? Apparently it’s because the pamphlets subsidize the costs of creating the book. Creative costs are probably the largest expense, so cut there. Why start with the writer? Because it generally takes a lot less time for a writer to write a book than it does for an artist to draw it.

    As for the financial burden, why wouldn’t a consumer want to shift it away from him or herself to the creators and/or publishers? Why should consumers do creators and publishers the favor of “supporting” a title as pamphlets that carry no real added value just so other consumers can get the same material in a better format at a lower price?

  89. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Well, there are problems with attempting to improve the writing in superhero comics generally or in trying to improve the comics’ public image, if the most popular characters are also the most cartoonish and the least amenable to sophisticated storylines. One can’t conclude, in the absence of research, that fans of such characters are less intelligent than other readers. It might be that they enjoy power fantasies, that they buy comics specifically as light, undemanding entertainment and would resent attempts to make stories more complex, or that they react more to the content of the artwork more than they do to the content of the writing.

    It’s not uncommon for a library’s book buyer to be torn between buying what she thinks patrons should read, or buying what statistics indicate they want to read. If she wants to succeed in her job, she’ll buy mostly what they want to read. People can’t be forced to elevate their tastes.

    Someone like Faraci, who wants comics to be graphic literature, might think that the publishing environment would be better if Marvel, DC, and their cartoonish characters just disappeared, but the market for comics could shrink drastically, if not disappear, if that happened. Marvel, DC, and their ardent fans might be necessary evils.

    SRS

  90. Steven said,

    “Has anyone ever evaluated DC and/or Marvel characters, based on their resemblance to genre fiction characters? The dominant aspects of the genre characters would be their character profiles and the themes commonly seen in their stories; the dominant aspects of the comic book characters would be their powers and visual impact. Examples of genre characters would be the Punisher, Black Widow, Henry Pym, Dr. Strange, the Vision (I), et al. Examples of comic book characters would be Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Hulk, Wolverine, Green Lantern, et al.”

    I’m afraid I don’t see why Superman’s concept is any less derived from earlier genres than that of the Punisher, and I don’t think Doc Strange is any less visually impactful than Green Lantern.

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