The Trouble With Comics

I should also mention that despite maintaining our weekly book thread and having a pretty sizeable pull list, I’m only pulling 5 Marvel U/DCU books right now:
Fantastic Four
Detective Comics
Batman and Robin
Flash Rebirth

In comparison I’m pulling the same amount of books from Marvel and DC that aren’t in their Universes:
Sweet Tooth
The Mighty

So, they are giving the choice for readers. Judging by the amount of Sweet Tooth #1’s left over at my LCS, it just doesn’t turn into profits.

Lately, no ones buying lots of back issues, so retailers have big sales to get rid of the inventory.

I’m about done with individual comics. Ideally, every couple of months, my comic dealer would send me an email to order trades he is confident I’d like.

I like the idea of the Wednesday Comics thing, some of the art is great, some of it (The wonder woman one) is completely unreadable - literally, I can’t read the text. But the structure of the stories one page at a time is damned annoying. Probably because there are too many different stories in one issue. And it is way overpriced, IMO.

But I’d buy stacks of stuff on that newsprint at $1/title. The Wednesday Comics issues shows that paper displays the art very well (again except for the wonder woman story which is a muddy mess).

That Longbox gets the big 2 involved. That seems to be the way to go. Maybe Apple needs to be the one to do it to get them in, just use iTunes for distribution, and read on iPhones and iTouches with iComic or something.

I’m hopeful for longbox and other efforts like Sony’s digital comics for PSP. The best innovation are longbox’s pricing model and the way both the readers zoom to one panel at a time, in the correct order when reading a page. Longbox should be able to extend to iPhone and PSP easily with an App/mini, so the biggest problem is getting Marvel and DC committed. Sony already has Marvel on board as far as western comics go, but I don’t know that they’ll have the indies. In any case a broadly supported, read anywhere ecosystem is preferable.

I feel some of these publishers must be pining for the glory days of comics…

Seems to me that the industry should be chomping at the bit to get an Online Digital Distribution presence, whether iTunes, Longbox or whatever.

It’s 2009 and I can get just about any form of media I like online; Games, Music, TV, eBooks, Audiobooks, Radio, Podcasts…but not comics.

With a near endless stream of SuperHero movies spewing out of Studios (in a good way), the industry should be taking advantage of and riding a massive wave of increased interest and new readership.

For me (at the moment), the issue is not one of continuity, rotations, pricing, etc, it is simply one of accessability. Where I live there is maybe two comic book retailers, and I just don’t have the time or inclination to get there regularly enough to keep up to date.

We are living in the online age of impulse buying and “I want it now” attitudes, and at the moment, the traditional comic publishers just don’t seem to be able to deliver.

You can get comics online. I’ve been loving my Marvel Online subscription for a couple of months now.

They look great blown up on a 22" widescreen, and for 5 bucks a month, quite a deal. I’ve read a hundred or so since joining in August, and it’s sparked me to subscribe to a couple of old favorites (Cap and IronMan), plus buy a couple Omnibus’ and a load of single issues from local vendors.

What we really need is a Kindle-like device that doesn’t cost 300 dollars, and can handle color.

Nice! On my way!

Edit: Dammit, now I don’t know where to begin! :)

I should have mentioned the Marvel Comics Online thing but honestly, it doesn’t have up to date comics, the selection often seems random (every New Ways to Die issue except the finale?!), and their online viewer isn’t to my liking. That said, it is cheap.

Nice. I’d pretty muched dropped superhero comics at this point but I’ve been wanting to read Brubaker’s Captain America run and I still enjoy Daredevil and Punisher MAX. And, since I’m canceling eMusic this moth, I’ve got the spare digital entertainment coin!

My two cents on the original article:

I just don’t think continuity makes sense to all but the most insular fan.

I’ve been reading a lot of the Carl Barks duck books with my daughter, and despite ranging multiple decades, the stories all fit together by very much not fitting together. It doesn’t matter when or where each individual story took place, and there’s simply no continuity as such. When Don Rosa took up the mantle, he made a concerted attempt to follow many of Barks’ stories, but the in-jokes aren’t terribly satisfying, and for the most part take away from the current story.

As a reader, I’m simply not going to spend the time or the effort in following multiple titles for years in continuity for Marvel or DC. Not because you can’t pull something like that off*, but because the results are just stupid. Why put in the effort as a reader when the results don’t match the time or money you put in?

Does Detective Comics #623 tie into the past plot of DC #345? I don’t care. From a story perspective, I don’t think it matters at all - there’s no point in maintaining continuity when there’s no central author, just a company that owns the trademark (copyright?). I would be more interested in buying comics (more likely the compilations) if they were self contained stories that didn’t have to tie into some long tortured continuity.

*(well, maybe, cf Cerebus which is its own special kettle of crazy)

I’m a dinosaur and still actually go to bookstores… one of the things, I think, that really limits comic sales, even trades, outside of the comic book store is that in your traditional booksellers they segregate comics into their own shelf. I know tons of people who would read series like The Walking Dead if it was on the same shelves as the other horror books, but they’ll never in a million years go over to the comics & manga shelves to look for stuff to read. In my opinion, getting retailers to stop treating them as “different” from their other books would go a long way to getting more eyes on to the product.

As for comics in general… the price is the reason I stopped reading individual issues years ago. I loved reading the books but $3 or more for 22 pages hurts the wallet, especially when I know I’ll probably be able to get 4-6 or more issues collected in a trade later for $10-$12. I realize that a lot of work goes in to those 22 pages of an issue, but when it takes me 5-10 minutes to read, maybe 25-30 if I spend a lot of time looking at the art, the price per issue of a lot of books is just way too much from a reader’s perspective.

Due to the prices, my brother and some of his friends have formed a comic book club. Each week they buy, individually, 2 or 3 titles, but they read and swap, so with 7 or 8 guys in the group they cover most of what comes out they want to read. Its the only way they could afford to continue reading comics. And I know one guy who took a part time job working weekends in a comic shop so he could read for free since he couldn’t afford to buy anymore and keep up with all the continuity.

I’ve always felt there was fascinating stuff to study in the way comics grapple with continuity issues over decades, multiple writers, different editorial regimes, tension between story progress and character status-quo, mainstream accessibility vs. satisfying the hardcore, etc. The way certain “heroic” measures sometimes have to be taken to shore up diverging continuity (e.g. Crisis on Infinite Earths) is interesting too. I guess you see issues like this cropping up with any massive, multi-writer, multi-decade story property – e.g. Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. What is canon, what is not, what “really happened,” when do you try to stitch it all together, when do you say Fuck It and just reboot, etc. It also reminds me of Alan Moore’s quip (referencing old Silver Age Superman “imaginary story” issues) at the prologue of his brilliant pre-DC-reboot comic “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”: “This is an imaginary story… aren’t they all?” Deftly skewers the preoccupation with what qualifies as Canon and what doesn’t…

For my part, though I have a reasonably strong comics background mainly thanks to a post-college roommate who had stacks of them all over the apartment and who pointed out many of the “must-read” texts to me, I find superhero comics too intimidating to try to get back into at this point. Expensive, too!

My favorite example of this is Hawkman. Maybe he’s an alien…or an egyptologist…or a reincarnated egyptian…or both…and he might be able to talk to birds…or not. But he always has the same name regardless.

According to Wikipedia, Grant Morrison wanted to create a new, unrelated Hawkman in the 90’s, but editorial thought the continuity was so confusing it was basically toxic, and they made him name the character something else.

Well, let’s not forget the few very good things that continuity has done. Most are tied to single characters, but Captain America just wouldn’t be the same without Bucky, and Batman wouldn’t be the same without Jason Todd. I’m not big on the art in Marvels, but all of those events definitely shaped the Marvel universe. For as many confusing ass Hawkman escapades as you see (and I will freely admit that my only encounter with Hawkman to date has been the beginnings of the seeds of hate that it sowed in me for everything Morrison - the Hawkman issue was the beginning of my loathing for Animal Man, and, by the transitive property of ass, most things by Grant, though I will freely admit that that’s part personal problem and part the universal capacity of PETA to cause suckery), there are a few nifty things about having a continuous universe from which these stories emerge. While I certainly agree that it far too often rains on the tasty delicious parade of good stories, it’s certainly not ALWAYS bad.

That’s true, but the worthless continuities far outnumber the interesting ones. Gwen Stacy is another good example.

But, especially in the case of Cap + Bucky and Spidey + Gwen, those are almost part and parcel of their origin stories. It gets back to the old consistency vs. continuity question. Even though Jason Todd isn’t part of Batman’s origin per se, it’s a major event that simply reinforces his major character traits.

I think most people are okay with some events, especially character defining events being integrated into the character’s identity. The problem is with the a)the vast majority of unimportant events that people slavishly work around, and b) the attempts by authors or editorial to force those kinds of major events for no good narrative reason (sales, crossover events, etc).

I will freely grant that I’m not a very good comics fan, but those examples don’t move me at all. Mostly, because I haven’t read those stories!

Batman is just fine without Jason Todd - if you need to tell a story that references the Jason Todd business, then that can be incorporated into the setup. Similarly, just because Alan Moore has a bout of misogyny shouldn’t mean the end of Batgirl for all time. As others have mentioned, as a casual reader of comics, I don’t experience an upside from the crushing weight of continuity, and would prefer good stories that contradict each other rather than meaningless continuity.

Now maybe readers like me aren’t sufficient to support comics as they are - I don’t begrudge folks the joy of the current regime - but it is why I rarely pay attention to current comics, despite having seriously loved some individual books in the past.

The Killing Joke was actually never meant to be in continuity. Other writers and DC editorial just ran with it. I believe Moore regrets it.

All this gnashing of teeth makes me think I’ve accidentally done myself a kindness. I haven’t seriously followed comics at all since the mid-70s - I bought pretty much anything and everything, superheroes, war comics, House of Mystery (DC) sort of stuff, westerns(!), etc. The last thing I remember is Doc Oc kidnapping Mary Jane.

It seems like it’s a lot more interesting to just listen to you guys talk about all this stuff.

I do wish I had managed to hang onto all my Mr. Miracle, New Gods, zomg original [I]Fantastic Four/I and other assorted Kirby stuff…

Yes, I actually owned a copy of this…

…via my mom’s own appetite for comics!

Moore doesn’t just regret it, he’s gone on record several times stating that he thinks the story was poor work and believes any influence it’s had on Batman in particular or comics in general to be negative.

It’s interesting in light of how The Killing Joke enjoyed a substantial sales spike in the wake of The Dark Knight’s success last year. DC and many fans still regard it as a definitive Joker piece.

Not 100% parallel but these aren’t good signs for the long-term future of comic books:

Average age of a reader of Asimov’s or Analog? 59.

11,000 subscribers to F&SF?