The Wall Street Journal's Comic Book Smack Down

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By Todd Allen

WSJ logo The Wall Street Journal's Comic Book Smack Downwsj 200x144 The Wall Street Journal's Comic Book Smack DownIn theory, it was supposed to be a review of “Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics” by Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner.  While Tim Marchman does reference the book a few times in his review of the book for the Wall Street Journal, it’s really more of a rant about the failure of the mainstream direct market to capitalize on the popularity of comic book movies.  With the fervor you normally expect from a theater critic, Marchman proceeds to rip all sorts of people a new one.  And, on the side of restraint, he does stop just short of calling the community inbred.

A few highlights:

If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new “Avengers” comic, why don’t more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology.

In a much hyped series from Marvel Comics this summer, for example, the Avengers fight the X-Men for inscrutable reasons having to do with a mysterious planet-devouring cosmic force, a plot that makes no sense to anyone not familiar with ancient Marvel epics like “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” The story is told in two titles, one called “Avengers vs. X-Men,” with a big “AvX” logo on the front, and the other called “AvX,” with a big “Avengers vs. X-Men” logo on the front, presumably so you can keep them straight.

That’s over the top, but he does have a certain point.  I’m pretty sure he’s talking about the “Versus” series there, but I’m not sure what I’d make of it if I saw the two series next to each other on the shelf and wasn’t already aware of what they were supposed to be.  And I sure wouldn’t hand AVX to someone who’s seen the movie and never read the comics.

The first issues of “Before Watchmen” will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”) DC is promoting the project with a “Watchmen” toaster, which will allow you to burn the image of Ayn Rand-inspired vigilante Rorschach into your sourdough.

Zing!  Although that might not be completely fair to Straczynski, since One More Day was an editorial mandate and something he’s vocally disagreed with.  Over on Twitter, Marchman elaborates a bit on that:


Marchman does have kind words for alternative cartoonists, while noting their work is considerably more mainstream than most of DC’s and Marvel’s.  He also is supportive of Robert Kirkman and creator’s rights.

And then you have the parting shot on who’s responsible for comics being so much smaller than their potential audience:

For an industry that feeds on its own past to go 20 years without fresh characters or concepts is death. The most telling sections in “Leaping Tall Buildings” are thus those written about industry powers like Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrison and Dan DiDio. These are the men most responsible for the failure of the big publishers to take advantage of the public’s obvious fascination with men in capes.

Yes, he said Grant Morrison.

Marchman’s view is that of a non-fanboy who enjoys reading some comics but finds himself frustrated on how insular they’ve become.  There’s less room for nuance in a newspaper column and there’s some followup and expansion of ideas as various people have been jousting with him over on Twitter.

One of the things I found interesting was his blaming of Bendis for comics being so insular, when Bendis sold a LOT of Ultimate Spider-Man graphic novels outside of the direct market, back before Ultimatum brought down the line.

He was challenged on this and offered:

@Titan4Ever2488 My son loves USM, has a bunch of trades, and I give Bendis credit for that and other good work.

So yes, there’s quite a bit of back and forth going on.

All in all, I think this tweet sums up a lot of his argument:

@CarlShinyama @mikehchoi Marvel and DC cater to something like 100k people when there are millions who would read a comic. It’s weird.

There’s at least even odds this article will irritate you.  The article and the Twitter feed are both worth a read for a different perspective on mainstream media vs. niche media.  (Marchman’s frustrations involve the comics world being too niche.)  Don’t allow yourself into getting baited into relating this piece to your local comic shop.  The bigger question he asks is about why circulations aren’t higher and the material isn’t widely available.

Comments

  1. Dave Elliott says:

    From what I’ve read above he seems to have a fairly good grasp of the situation.

  2. Ryan H says:

    He’s not wrong about the current state of crossovers.

    I can’t name a single comics event from the last decade that wasn’t at it’s core about events that had previously occurred. Nothing speaks to or grows out of the current actions or stories of the characters. Rather, everything grows from actions that occurred previously.

    When the first Dark Phoenix story happened it was about the Dark Phoenix. Everything in those books was about what the characters were doing at that time and the choices they were making then.

    The current Phoenix event is about the previous Phoenix stories and is about choices that the characters made long ago, sometimes decades.

  3. Most people in the larger “mainstream” audience do not consider comics to be an entertainment option they would be interested in because most people have no idea that comics have anything to offer besides superheroes. Marvel and DC are under no obligation or pressure to change that perception – that’s good marketing on their part. Terrible for everyone else, though.

  4. Marvel and DC Comics are made for boys and men who live in big cities and have peculiar tastes not really shared by the public at large.

    After expressing this viewpoint, I was challenged on it by a young man who vociferously disagreed.

    Then I found out he worked in a Chicago comic-store and only read DC super-heroes.

  5. He’s being blunt, but he is right. AvX and BW are based in stories written some 20+ years ago. It seems, to me at least, that every event carries with it the weight of decades long continuity. I grew up in the go go eighties when everything was fresh, but it’s over. I no longer care about Phoenix or the watchmen or crisis or any storyline that was once groundbreaking but has to get beaten to death.

  6. Hear, hear! I like Bendis as a person, and Morrison had some great ideas 10-25 years ago, but those other two need to retire.

  7. The author may exaggerate a bit (“One More Day” may have been horrible, but he’s written some very, very good comics, and was even nominated for a BAFTA for his screenwriting…Uew Boll he ain’t), but in all the important ways, he is absolutely correct. His criticisms of AvX in particular get a HUGE thumbs up from this reader.

    Todd, you describe Marchman as “a non-fanboy who enjoys reading some comics but finds himself frustrated on how insular they’ve become”…well, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool fanboy, and even *I* am frustrated at how insular 90% of Big Two comics are these days. Thank god the pendulum has at least started to swing the other way in titles like Manapul and Buccelato’s The Flash or Mark Waid’s Daredevil, where done-in-one-or-two stories that don’t require a degree in BigTwo-ology to follow are the order of the day. We need more books like those, please.

    Ryan H.: “I can’t name a single comics event from the last decade that wasn’t at it’s core about events that had previously occurred. Nothing speaks to or grows out of the current actions or stories of the characters.”

    I would say counter with Civil War…which is probably the reason why it was the most successful of the bunch, and continues to sell well. You’d think Marvel would take that as a lesson to do more self-contained, accessible stories, but I guess not.

  8. jaroslav hasek says:

    i used to read a fair amount of Tim Marchmen’s work on baseball and this was basically his MO. He would tackle mainstream baseball shibboleths with advanced statistics and cutting edge theory (aka sabermetrics). i don’t think it works as well here since saying Marvel & DC are creating and marketing books poorly given the success of movies like the Avengers is not the same thing as saying basing your opinions of the value of a baseball player on ERA or batting average while ignoring FIP or WAR is stupid.

    he’s not really wrong in that “mainstream” comics are not effectively reaching a mass market, but i dont see anything wrong in the current S.O.P. either. comics are currently in the same rut that video games were before Nintendo Wii and smart phones. XBox and Play Station catered exclusively to a small subset of hard core gamers at the exclusion the legions of casual gamers that Peggle and Words with Friends have proven exist.

    so it is what it is. someone will figure it out eventually. so i dont disagree with the gist of Marchman’s article but i think his tone is unnecessary and some of his minor points are incorrect or unsubstantial.

  9. I came back to comics after twenty years and within six months was so frustrated at the number of titles, the storylines that would start in Batman 703 and finish in something else…now I read solo graphic novels bought on amazon and have not been back to the comic store.

    It is all so obvious why people don’t buy comics…

    – too insular
    – too short
    – too expensive ($3.99 for a 3 minute read?)

    and on and on…

    The reality is that fixing comics would take major changes that the guys in charge (nearing retirement) don’t want to take and risk the last few years of plum salary.

  10. Jason says:

    “The people who produce superhero comics have given up on the mass audience, and it in turn has given up on them.”

    This statement is basically true.

    Marvel and DC both flood the market with spinoff and satellite titles of everything to squeeze as much as they can out of existing readers. (How many Batman books, X-Men books, and Avengers books are there?) The excess of titles makes reading or collecting too confusing or too much of a commitment to anyone else.

  11. Superhero comics are a niche product. Comics are not. The problem is that ALL comics have to work within a system now geared almost exclusively toward the superhero genre.

    Comics like Scott Pilgrim, Walking Dead and Hark! A Vagrant (and a hell of a lot of other so-called ‘indie’ cartoonists like Clowes, Spiegelman, Sacco et al) have far more potential to grow and expand the audience for comics than superhero titles.

    People like and are interested in comics and cartoons, they’re just not all that interested in the superhero genre. I’m sure there’s a lot of them out there willing to read a few superhero titles as well but I bet if you gave someone an issue of Prophet or The Activity or Akira or Scott Pilgrim, they’d probably be more interested in that than the Justice League.

  12. Oh and yeah, it is odd that while The Avengers and Batman are some of the highest-grossing films of all time, it doesn’t result in even the slightest uptick in those comic books sales. Kids are bloody LOVING the Avengers film. Why can’t Marvel sell comics to these kids? There’s definitely something wrong there.

    Yet Scott Pilgrim/The Walking Dead sell massive amounts due to their adaptations.

  13. Wayne Beamer says:

    Todd: Even odds? Apart from the shot at JMS, I’d say almost all the rest of this column is dead on the money. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, this is the kind of column we need to see written more often in places like this.

  14. I may disagree with a few of his examples. I really can’t see what Bendis did to anyone, and Morrison hasn’t had even the ranging effect of a Bendis on modern superhero comics. But he’s pretty much dead on about everything else.

    The entire conversation in comics over the last five years has been about catering to the people already read comics rather than expanding the market. (With the only exception to that being the move to eText.)

    Find what’s selling and sell more. Find something nostalgic and do that. How do we save the direct market? None of these questions go outside the established (shrinking) readership.

  15. Maybe saving the direct market isn’t the way to go?

    I think his main point is dead-on: the reason for the crashing sales and lack of mainstream acceptability is because Marvel and DC’s business models consistently drive away the best talent. And even when they attract good talent, that talent is now not stupid enough to give them their best ideas.

    As the fanboy apologists like to say again and again, Marvel and DC are corporations who are primarily interested in making money, not treating creators fairly. And though this often falls on their deaf ears, the whole point here is that this business model is terrible and both companies are really quite bad at making money exploiting their properties BECAUSE they treat their talent so poorly. Even bloody Hollywood can see the benefits in treating people who make them a shitload of money well and giving them more control in the “product” (hello, Christopher Nolan).

    Looking at their treatment of Kirby, Moore, Siegel & Shuster and so many others, they may as well have a giant sign on every contract with the words DON’T SUCCEED written on it. Punishing success and placing short-term gain ahead of long-term profits is a really dumb form of capitalism.

  16. Carlton Donaghe says:

    hmmm….

    An entire comic-shop inside a Wal-Mart… and basically by-passing Diamond completely…

    (Oh, you’re exclusive with Diamond? Not if you want your product racked here with everyone else’s you’re not…)

  17. If Walking Dead or Scott Pilgrim were published by Marvel or DC they would each have umpteen million spinoff titles by now.

  18. PreacherCain – An added problem is that these corporations who are primarily interested in making money are now owned by corporations who are primarily interested in making money and do so much better.

    So why struggle to save flagging comics when you could just own a portfolio of properties and license them out in more profitable media?

  19. Back when comics were selling millions of copies per issue in the early ’90s, they were even MORE insular than they are now. And contained FAR worse writing overall, to boot. In fact, you could read the first damn issue of a comic back then and have no idea what was happening in it, due to years of story lines leading up to it. I think you have more of a fighting chance these days.

    Also, at least NOW we have DC trying to do something about that by rebooting their line, and of course a LOT more great Indy comics than ever before.

  20. this is the “Chocolate for chocolate lovers, selling beef to vegans, etc.” argument, which i agree with. good to know I’m not the only one who feels the same way. around this time is when I bemoan Marvel/DC for being nothing more than a soulless IP factory that publishes illustrated movies scripts not comics…its getting rly old saying this over and over again :(

  21. Jesse says:

    I cannot understand why they just don’t crank books out on shitty quality paper. That way you could fall back 30 years on quality and materials cost. Comics are meant to disposable! They are not meant to be some Irish monks’ manuscripts preserving western civilization. They are meant to be read on the toilet, given to friends at school and most importantly thrown away. Forget insular, the stories are accessible enough if the cost problem is solved. (incidentally I say this owning Library Editions etc… but everything is not a masterpiece). This is a cost issue……

  22. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    It does make you wonder exactly how many of us are out there in the comicbook faithful, reading at least one or two new comics a month.

    100,000 the way he suggests? Unlikely, because 130,000 supposedly attended SDCC, even if half of them were into video games or Twilight… 500,000? I wonder if there are any relatively solid statistical estimates somewhere.

  23. Andrew Bonia – “An added problem is that these corporations who are primarily interested in making money are now owned by corporations who are primarily interested in making money and do so much better.

    So why struggle to save flagging comics when you could just own a portfolio of properties and license them out in more profitable media?”

    True. But then the argument is: why not do both? And in so doing, coming up with new properties or – as happened with Millar and Hitch’s Ultimates – new ways to exploit old properties.

    I think we can all agree that the film of The Avengers owes a pretty big debt to The Ultimates. Why would Millar or Hitch bother with providing Marvel with million dollar concepts when they can just create and control their own now?

    I’m not a massive fan of the Ultimates – which in itself owes a pretty big debt to Ellis’ The Authority, to be fair – but it’s as good an example as any here. Like him or not, Mark Millar is at least smart enough to know if his writing is worthy of million dollar investments then he wants to be the one getting the healthiest share of that!

    Similarly Alan Moore is the common factor in a lot of DC’s best selling books. They’re STILL best sellers 25 years after first being published. Why drive away someone capable of reinvigorating old properties (Swamp Thing) or coming up with new ones (Constantine, Watchmen), regardless of whether he’s difficult? DC could well have even more Moore-written works to sell by the millions if they hadn’t been so ridciulously short-sighted.

    If you’re going to have a corporation that relies on creative people then you have to ENCOURAGE that creativity by treating them fairly. If you want to think about it in business terms, talent is a commodity and it’s one you should protect and grow, not hammer down at every given opportunity. Sometimes you might have to bend and give a little more than you want but the ends justify the means and ultimately having the best and most productive talent will give you that edge.

    Ah who cares. US comics have Image and Dark Horse and others. To hell with the “Big” Two.

  24. You’re kinda screwed if you just want to know if the book is any good, then

  25. It’s not quite true that AvX only makes sense if you know years of history. If anything, it makes LESS sense if you know the full history, because then you’ll know that the Phoenix has had human hosts several times before and not much came of it – which blows the entire premise of the story out of the water. For it to make sense, you need to know the history – and ONLY the history – that the story itself brings up.

  26. Marvel’s events have always had rather simple, accessible entryways. The DC ones… not so much. But for AvX, all you need to know is that the big glowy energy thing might be a good thing or a bad thing for earth, and the avengers and x-men can’t agree on which it is. SO THEY FIGHTTT

  27. I bought this book, by Chris Irving, last week and read it over the weekend. Great stuff. Beautiful photos by Seth Kushner too. A wonderful read for both hard-core and casual comic fans.

  28. The fact that DC and Marvel no longer publish anything new of interest to me is one of the reasons I now create my own comics.

  29. Shawn Kane says:

    I agree with much of what he’s saying in the article. I grew up on mid 70’s and early 80’s Marvel. My older brother had a collection but they were scattered throughout the house. It’s amazing that I could pick up an issue and get the story without knowing what happened the issue before or sometimes even how it finished. I still enjoyed them.

    I loved the X-Men in the 80’s, you know when they were a team of 5 people or so. Want a spin-off? Here’s New Mutants. Want the originals back together? Here’s X-Factor. Then along came Jim Lee and the point became “Let’s have him draw ALL the X-Men ever”. The personal stories that were told couldn’t be told anymore so kids gravitated to the cartoon. I quit reading around ’94. I tried to get back into them over the years and couldn’t lock onto anything because of have inbred Marvel became. I could read X-Men: The Hidden Years because they were self contained but I called the owner of my LCS when I decided to get back into comics and said I just want to collect the X-Men. The Hidden Years had been cancelled so he had to explain the differences between New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Treme X-Men, and Ultimate X-Men. He did a good job but I had a grasp on how things worked in comics. Now explain those to a casual reader that wanted to get into comics at the time. I consider it to be worse now.

  30. People may not be going to comic shops to pick up Avengers comics after seeing the movie, but I’ll bet many are going to Netflix and watching the Avengers cartoons, or re-watching the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Cap films.

  31. Synsidar says:

    For it to make sense, you need to know the history – and ONLY the history – that the story itself brings up.

    AvX is worse than that. Aside from the sheer ridiculousness of the heroes spotting the Phoenix Force in another galaxy and deciding that it’s heading toward Earth (?!?!), the main series is at odds with the tie-ins. The Avengers are treating it as a cosmic storm, trying to “cage” its energy, neutralize it, etc., while in SECRET AVENGERS, some Kree perform a ritual to invoke it as a means of reanimating Mar-Vell and to get it to evolve the Kree (again), and over in NEW AVENGERS, martial arts mystics are treating the Phoenix Force as a form of chi.

    The three treatments of the Phoenix Force all conflict with each other, but the least intelligent one, the “Phoenix Force as cosmic storm,” is driving the entire storyline. An alternative approach would have been to begin with the Phoenix Force, via Hope, transforming all humans, not just mutants, and to have people react to their new situations. Better or worse? The end result could be humanity deciding they’re too undeveloped to use new abilities,and need to evolve slowly, not suddenly. The universe doesn’t need cosmic anarchists. They tell the sentient Phoenix Force, “Thanks, but not yet.”

    Marchman does clearly distinguish between literary comics and superhero comics, but in terms of popularity, literary comics are closer to literary fiction than they are to commercial fiction bestsellers. Someone might ask him whether he thinks the absence of prose superhero novels indicates a dearth of story possibilities for standalone novels—can a superhero exist singly, or does the writer need to create a universe in order to write about one?—or do SF superscience stories satisfy the audience that would want to read prose superhero stories?

    SRS

  32. jaroslav hasek says:

    rereading the review, i actually think marchman gets more wrong than right. here’s the same general argument only with a different topic:

    Moneyball just made millions of dollars in the movie theatres and earned multitudes of awards and nominations. however, anyone wanting to learn more about sabermetrics still has to slog through reams of uninviting blogs with no good entry point or mass market appeal whatsoever. baseball cards used to sell in the tens of millions. now, they are a shell of their former self. cheap shot at bill james, cheap shot at rob neyer, cheap shot at bud selig and the rest of the MLB owners. also the new book by baseball prospectus is all right.

    i guess its good that the topic gets a high profile platform but i’m pretty underwhelmed by the effort.

  33. Not sure if he shares my opinion, but two theories on why Bendis & Morrison are currently not good for comics:

    Bendis: He’s just mining the past, adding nothing new to the overall mythology. He’s telling the same old stories with David Mamet pacing and dialogue layered on top. This is very appealing to aged superhero readers who are familiar with the old mythology but looking for more subtlety in the writing. Yet the stories are SOS, and not what an ordinary new reader is looking for in these books, because they are so reliant on prior events. The Ultimate Spider-man book, while a delightful read, adds virtually NOTHING to the canon of great Spider-man stories, after 150+ issues. As far as his creator-owned work goes, Takio is a snooze, Powers was fun but now feels tired and that it’s nearly non-existant on the publishing schedule suggests Bendis feels the same, and Scarlet is nice and has a new-ish in vibe, but has had five issues published in two years, so it’s hard to know for sure.

    Morrison: After being a symbol of originality and proving that other concepts could work in mainstream comics, he is now a Dan DiDio wet dream of regurgitated prehistoric DC mythology (and not good DC mythology either). The Batman books where he dredged up the alternate Batmen of history are impenetrable to anyone without a Batman PHD. His Seven Soldiers story was similar. This tomfoolery might be fine for a two issue story, but like every mainstream book these days, they are written for trades that are 6 issues long (if not longer).

    Both writers are writing to the comics-history-savvy fanboys, not to an average non-comics reader or filmgoer. Stan Lee said writers should remember that “every comic book is someone’s first.” He wasn’t wrong.

    The big two have clearly decided that new concepts and characters are not important to their business. What a mistake. 20 years wasted and all the good ideas going to the indies.

    If all DC and Marvel are going to do is keep copyrights alive, they should look at a different publishing plan because the current one is killing those copyrights, at least in the medium that spawned them.

  34. As Avengers is climbing up the movie charts, I think it is time to put to death the idea that superheroes are not mainstream.

    The dismal sales of comics is probably one of two things. One, the medium of comics is something that is not mainstream. People just don’t like words with pictures except with a few exceptions. Or two, the comics aren’t telling the superhero stories that people want.

    You can’t argue, like the writer did, that it is the fault of the direct market. Superhero graphic novels are available in what he would consider legitimate bookstores, and they still sell poorly. They’re now available for digital download, and that doesn’t seem to be the white horse some were expecting.

    You really don’t get any more mainstream than superheroes. So the problem is either the medium itself or the stories being told.

  35. Regan Clem: “Superhero graphic novels are available in what he would consider legitimate bookstores, and they still sell poorly.”

    Really? How many millions of copies of Watchmen were sold through bookstores? The movie certainly helped sales, but before that it still moved a huge number of units. Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, more recently All-Star Superman all sold really well in bookstores. To the point that DC started going after that market with specific graphic novels like Superman: Earth One. Marvel is now trying to do the same with their Season One series of original graphic novels. I have no idea how good these series are and if they are comparable to what Grant Morrison with All-Star Superman. Perhaps they have the format right now and just need good stories & art rather than redoing older stories & characters.

    “They’re now available for digital download, and that doesn’t seem to be the white horse some were expecting.”

    It’s still very much the early days of digital comics, that it’s hard to write them off yet. Especially as e-readers and tablet sales continue to increase. The potential audience of tomorrow is nowhere near the potential audience of today.

  36. Synsidar says:

    So the problem is either the medium itself or the stories being told.

    What does a writer who wants to create a superhero universe do? If he approaches the situation systematically, he starts with the source of the heroes’ powers. The range of possibilities is pretty limited. At Marvel, the few, unsuccessful attempts by writers to define general power sources have ranged from Nicieza’s Wellspring—magic is the basis for everything—to Bendis’s recent use of “genes” as the basis for all the powers. If he decides to avoid dealing with a source for the powers so that the heroes can be independent and not be beholden to anyone, or controlled, he risks reader disbelief and trouble writing anything besides morality plays. The superhero who’s motivated to fight crime due to trauma has become a cliche.

    I’d like to know what the being responsible for the Jumpstart in the Ultraverse was, what its motivations were. A being who grants people the ability to have powers doesn’t have to benefit personally from them, but that’s what many readers would think.

    SRS

  37. “Really? How many millions of copies of Watchmen were sold through bookstores? The movie certainly helped sales, but before that it still moved a huge number of units.”

    This is WATCHMEN’s reported sales via BookScan.

    Year Quantity % Change
    2003 14,336 —–
    2004 11,340 -26%
    2005 17,384 35%
    2006 37,554 54%
    2007 45,449 17%
    2008 308,396 679%
    2009 424,814 27%
    2010 29,171 -93%
    2011 21,121 -28%

    WATCHMEN has certainly crossed a singular million copies sold, but I do not believe that it is at its third million as of yet.

    For the poster who asked about switching to lower quality paper, it wouldn’t lower the price of the comic enough to justify the massive downgrade in production — a $2.99 comic might go to $2.75 on newsprint, and would look noticeably worse than any competitor’s work.

    -B

  38. “You really don’t get any more mainstream than superheroes. So the problem is either the medium itself or the stories being told.”

    Disagree. The comics/trades that sell beyond the core superhero audience and into the mainstream tend to be things like Sandman, Fables, Walking Dead and manga stuff.

    In my opinion people are more than happy to try reading comics, they’re just not into reading superheroes. Superhero films are now more suited to providing the necessary spectacle and accessability than their comics counterpart and, as others have been busy pointing out, modern superhero comics are entrenched in their own niche continuity and spread over too many confusing titles.

  39. Shannon OLeary says:

    Hey Todd – Am I missing something? Who wrote the comments in the middle that start with:

    “Marchman does have kind words for alternative cartoonists, while noting their work is considerably more mainstream than most of DC’s and Marvel’s. He also is supportive of Robert Kirkman and creator’s rights…”

    Is there a link to that post/article/status update/whathaveyou? If so, can you please post?

    Thx!

  40. Calvin Reid says:

    Ha! I think one of the early comments pretty much sums it up: Marchman seems to have a pretty good grasp of the American superhero Comic Book industry at this juncture in history.

  41. The guy knows how to troll.

    Pity he’s burying his legitimate complaints under potshots. (JMS used to write for He-Man? So did Paul Dini. Bruce Timm and Stan Sakai used to draw for He-Man. Frank Langella starred in the live-action He-Man movie.)

  42. Stark Raving says:

    The insularity and ridiculous crossovers are two of the reasons I stopped reading mainstream superhero books. The other was the fact that I’ve found MUCH better stories in the pages of Dark Horse, Image and Oni Press books, among others.
    Marvel and DC are now both owned by giant corporations who could care less about comics. They’re looking to mine those characters for as much money as they can make in other media, so screw ‘em.
    I’ll be sitting over here enjoying my issues of Hellboy, BPRD and The Goon.

  43. Mikael says:

    Anyone who agrees with the generalizations and broadstroke points of this “article” – which does so little in actually backing up his claims – should just get out of comics completely. Because you no longer enjoy the fun of comics. When you navel gaze to that extent, YOU are the problem. Everyone else reads what they want to read, enjoys what they want to enjoy and seeks out what they want more of. They do more to support the industry than most of the posters in this thread.

  44. James Van Hise says:

    Actually, while Marvel and DC always publish movie tie-in comics, including movie prequel comics, there is no evidence that movie fans are drawn to the comics the films are based on any more than they buy movie tie-in novels (which is why so few are being done now as opposed to how many there were 30 years ago when nearly every movie had a book novelization). The companies have tried but movie audiences just tend to ignore them because comics are not films and films are not comics. I like Star Wars but this interest doesn’t carry over to buying the Dark Horse Star Wars comics because they are a very different experience. DC has done some very nice direct to video animated films based on published graphic novels but they don’t release their animated films to theaters any more like they did when Batman Mask of the Phantasm came out in the early 1990s. Have the direct to video movies helped the sales of the graphic novels, even a high profile now like Justice League New Frontier? Comics seem to be something you either like or you don’t, and movies aren’t going to make you read them. On the other hand, if the companies would bother advertising their books on TV then they might get interest in them that way, but a new Batman movie has never seemed to spur interest in buying Batman comics. People either like comics are they don’t. The Harry Potter books led to the movies, not the other way around.

  45. @Mikael: “Anyone who agrees with the generalizations and broadstroke points of this “article” – which does so little in actually backing up his claims – should just get out of comics completely.”

    Er, most of them have. That’s kinda the point.

  46. Allen Rubinstein says:

    At this point, everyone knows who the superheroes are. If they wanted to read their ongoing adventures, they would. Batman is great for a once-a-year inconsequential adventure movie (if it doesn’t suck), but the books appeal to whomever they appeal to in the current readership and that’s about it.

    My money’s on all the rest of those story types out there that people actually want to read. Two problems being that the majority of adults have never heard of a “graphic novel” and, as was said above, the comics business model is based on riding the superhero raft until the river dries up.

  47. Allen Rubinstein says:

    Reading a particular item is an entertainment choice either borne out of a “diet” of regular consumption, or a recommendation from a trusted source. I really enjoyed watching “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. Will I look for or buy the comic adaptation/novelization? Not a chance, because watching it wasn’t a reading experience, and I can’t fathom why I would want to turn it into one. What was desired by me from Rise was fulfilled, and I’m complete with it.

    Comics needs to penetrate the reading audience with reading choices that appeal to them and promote the idea of reading comics as something just as viable as any novel, not try to shoehorn in some slick, empty Good v. Evil battle that’s a pale reflection of some forgettable CGI spectacle they might have had their husband drag them to see two years ago. You can’t possibly believe that’s the future of the medium.

  48. Regarding comments by James Van Hise and Allen Rubenstein on the market for novels/comics vs movies: I do agree that movie tie-in/novelisations have never done well. I worked for Borders for 10 years and tie-ins just collect dust on the shelf. Customers don’t seem to be interested in that kind of “retro-fitting” a visual experience into a reading experience. However, what does work well is when the original work is a print piece that is adapted into film. Customer interest goes through the roof. Obviously, Harry Potter, but also works as disparate as Nanny Diaries, Kite Runner, the Dragon Tattoo series, Watchmen, Benjamin Button, Scott Pilgrim, The Help, Wimpy Kid, all benefited hugely from increased recognition by the film. (An interesting aside: customers hate the “movie tie-in covers”, when publishers repackage the original book with photos from the movie in an attempt to increase sales. It seems people want the original artifact when seeking such things.)

    Ask any bookseller today what are the hot titles and I’m sure you will hear Hunger Games and to a lesser extent, Game of Thrones. And hilariously, unfortunately, 50 Shades of Smut… err Grey, which I am sure will be optioned into a movie soon…

    I guess an argument could be made that stand-alone stories create more interest than titles like Avengers or Batman that have decades of convoluted history behind them. Too daunting to the average consumer to figure out where to dive in. But there is a large portion of the public who will regularly seek out the printed work once a movie has been made out of it. However, why mainstream superhero comics don’t see that kind of cross-over interest is a subject that can be debated until the proverbial cows come. home.

  49. @David
    If stand alones are so attractive, then why are we getting Before Watchmen?
    Companies want cash cows that they can milk and milk and milk until there’s no soul left.
    As shite as Twilight is/was, I’ll bet money we haven’t seen the last of it. Because there’s money yet to be made, in the piggy bank of some frustrated preteen somewhere.

  50. I don’t know if this has been said before but “normal” people do read superhero comics, even DC and Marvel ones – they go to the library and borrow collections of like, Ultimate Spider-Man or a Batman comic from the 80s or whatever. They aren’t going down to the comic shop every week, but that doesn’t mean that the “somebody’s dad” demographic absolutely hates superhero comics.

  51. Consider: Why would a bunch of RICH AS ALL HELL family dynasties care about a bunch of peasant’s rabble rousing and bickering about a very relevant and significant form of relaying information: IF IT ISNT BROKEN DONT FIX IT! With the average young adult / teen spending OVER 50 HOURS WEEK in the digital realm TIME / WARNER and DISNEY can use *** DATA MINING *** ***NETWORK ANALYSIS ***, to generate *** ‘POINT-AND-CLICK’ PEDICTIVE ANALYITICS *** -which considering the soon-to-be adults (young cattle) walking around pretty much much live in the uber pretentious digital world, these family dynasties can simply guide the herd (that would be us cubicle slaves, labor peasants, debt ridden grueling work-commuting chumps) through the same vocabulary / iconic concept-to-image subtextulization they have been using for decades to keep our sense of “self” in their ‘guidance’ / influence.

    My point is: “dumbing down the herd” keeps us easier to guide and influence, and therefore most importantly to PREDICT. We are billions of people in the planet multiplying faster and faster, and the family dynasties that ultimately have a ‘say’ in our paltry advertisement ridden pamphlets priced out of range of anything ‘acceptable’ w/in our economies of scale are doing their job exactly as needed. Why would family dynasties want to educate or provide any perks or sense of QUALITY to a quickly growing population that have been trained to have their consumer behavior as being synonymous with ‘family member’ or ‘American’??? Who cares -just track em, tag ‘em, herd ‘em, list their actions as either liability or asset and respond accordingly. THAT’S IT.

    You people talking about ‘COMICS’ and saying things like ‘THIS GENRE’… COMICS =the word alone is SILLY and INANE as it deforms and perverts anything that truly has to do with SEQUENTIAL STORY TELLING.

    ***** ‘Comics’ as you guys like to call them are FINE. Who cares about DC and Marvel – IF anyone reading this still thinks using the word ‘consumer’ is totally OK in referring to your neighbors, family members, fellow Americans, HUMAN BEINGS -then please continue this conversation. FOR THOSE THAT ACTUALLY THINK THEY ARE AMERICANS -you actually SEE the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on your passport and birth cert, the PLEASE QUIT YOUR BITCHING AND GO START YOUR OWN SEQUENTIAL STORIES AS YOU WOULDS HAVE THEM (unless you actually do see time/warner or disney on or passport or birth cert…considering the culture today, you pretty much might as well…). “SUPER HERO COMICS” is the Time / Warner and Disney PERVERSION of SEQUENTIAL STORY TELLING after decades of HOMO / HETERAL (99% HOMO) EROTIC POWER FANTASIES used to siphon the brains development and the sexual budding of the human mind’s habit formations into PRODUCT PLACEMENT AWARENESS. So, why spend going on over $$$$$ 5.00 $$$$$ on HOMO EROTIC POWER FANTASIES portrayed through the lense of 20th CENTURY AMERICAN-CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS AND ANTI-COMMUNISM SCARE TACTICS (COMIC CODE AUTHORITY) that have ultimately been used to create a SPECULATORS BUBBLE???

    That Speculator’s Bubble from the late 80’s / early 90’s that bust soo hard, that busted the market soo bad it actually allowed for a slight glimmer of quality (many aspects of NuMarvel) while Perlmutter was too busy trying to figure out how to power-play Marvel into Disney… Think around 2000 – 2004 MARVEL DOUBLE SHOT, TANGLED WEB, E IS FOR EXTINCTION, REVOLUTION NOT EVOLUTION, ULTIMATES, Allred’s X-FORCE (!!!), early Bendis/Maleev DAREDEVIL, CAGE, SUPREME POWER, Brubaker’s Captain American, and others like G0dLAND, We3, the Authority, PLANETARY…. yeah, we also got Fantagraphics!!!

    JOE SACCO IS AUTOGRAPHING HIS NEW BOOK IN SEATTLE: TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    JOE SACCO IS AUTOGRAPHING HIS NEW BOOK IN SEATTLE: TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    JOE SACCO IS AUTOGRAPHING HIS NEW BOOK IN SEATTLE: TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    JOE SACCO IS AUTOGRAPHING HIS NEW BOOK IN SEATTLE: TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    JOE SACCO IS AUTOGRAPHING HIS NEW BOOK IN SEATTLE: TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    :-)

  52. Ain’t that a bitx?: >>> people are willing to spend GOING ON $$$$$ 5.00 $$$$ for a what!!!?????!!! A tiny little pamphlet that is about to have the page stock / quality go even lower, in addition to less story-to-advertisement diff ratios per page. IF THE QUALITY OF THE TRADITIONAL FORM OF MEDIUM IS DECREASING WHILE THE INVESTMENT IN “DIGITAL FORM” INCREASES, THE PURPOSE FOR DIGITAL IS NOT TO IMPROVE CONTENT -OTHERWISE THE QUALITY OF “comics” IN GENERAL WOULD INCREASE. -the INVESTMENT in digital medium is more for creating gimmicks and tricks to snare a readers into the pretentious aspect of their digital device, not so much as presenting a valid form of story telling -yet this is occurring AS THE ACCESSIBILITY OF PRINT COMICS DECREASES (due to price increase, poor quality of page stock, and less story and more advertisements). Outside of the trade paperback market (which will be used as the sole form or print comics eventually -commercial/advertisement free) the digitalizing of comics is not necessary to improve the quality of SEQUENTIAL STORY TELLING, so much as the digital realm of comics is mainly to generate more mailing lists, more membership accounts, more social networking access/click-patterns/digitalizing of the tracking and learning of the SPENDING HABITS of the CONSUMER.

    WHEW!!!! That a muth’fn word full or what!!???!!! ‘The hell am I talking about???: TIME / WARNER owns DC… DISNEY owns Marvel… APPLE / Steve Jobs Dynasty have say of PIXAR AND DISNEY AND APPLE iPAD TECH… TIME / WARNER owns HBO, AOL, and both have ENDLESS SUBSIDIARIES w/in SUBSIDIARIES w/in BANK ACCOUNTS OFFSHORE and FAMILY DYNASITES ACCESS THESE BANK ACCOUNTS.

  53. Dow Jones Inc. smacking down Disney-Marvel Inc. and Time-Warner-DC Inc. …

    Gives me a faint hope that all is not lost.

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  1. [...] finds something to disagree with, but there are a lot of attaboys as well. Todd Allen posts excerpts from the column at The Beat, along with some tweets between Marchman and [...]

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