So I received a letter at the shop yesterday from the possibly-pseudonymous “Sluggo Jr.” who, inspired by my most recent Swamp Thing/Sluggo mash-up post, sent along a page crammed on either side with pencil drawings, sometimes featuring best pals Swampy ‘n’ Sluggo teaming up, sometimes just Sluggo facing menaces on his own (like fighting a knife-wielding Charlie Brown and a bat-wielding Henry).
Here are a couple of samples:
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do the “Cranius middle-finger” joke before. Well done.
I was only going to scan those two for now, due to time constraints — I’ve been working long hours, as you might imagine — but I just glanced again at the paper and have to present this one, too:
I could read about the adventures of Sluggo and Swamp Thing all day. Thank you, Sluggo Jr., for your fine contribution to the arts.
Well, here we are again. It’s the end of the year, and I’m asking you, yes, you, to give me your comic industry predictions for the nigh-imminent year of 2014. Please leave your predictions in the comments to this post, but please note New Rule #4 in the following bolded text:
1. Don’t read the other predictions before entering your own.
2. Don’t criticize other people’s predictions.
3. Don’t predict any real person’s death.
4. (NEW!) LIMIT OF THREE PREDICTIONS PER PERSON, PLEASE!
Sorry, gang, I need to streamline the process a bit so I don’t spend the entirety of 2015 responding to all of the 2014 predictions. Speaking of which…I’ll be going over your 2013 forecasts starting next week, so consider yourself warned.
Anyway, I always enjoy seeing what you have to say, so please, drop your ideas in my little ol’ comments section here, and I’ll sit on ‘em ’til next year and see how everyone did then. Thanks, pals!
Adventures into the Unknown #12 (August/September 1950) – cover art by Ogden Whitney – image from the Grand Comics Database
So this week sometime I’m going to start going over your predictions for 2012 from last January, but first…let’s get your predictions for what’s coming for the comics industry in 2013! Please let me know what you see beyond the cloudy mists of time’s veil, or whatever, by dropping your predictions in the comments to this post.
As always, I have a rule or three I’d like people to stick to:
1. Don’t read the other predictions before entering your own.
2. Don’t criticize other people’s predictions.
3. Don’t predict any real person’s death.
We’ll see how y’all did next year, assuming I’ll still want to be talking about comics then and haven’t converted this site over to a deep sea fishing blog or something. Anyway, place your predictive bets and let’s see what happens.
image from Action Comics #276 (May 1961) by Jerry Siegel & Jim Mooney – reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 1
So thanks for your responses to my question yesterday…I really wasn’t quite sure what I had to say on the topic, and I’m still not quite sure, but I think I can at least circle the runway even if I don’t land.
Anyway, this particular thought process was kicked off by a comment to my Saturday post, in which I claimed it took the return of the character of Doop to finally get me to pick up a copy of Wolverine and the X-Men. And reader Chance left his response, quite rightly chiding me slightly for not being moved to read said comic simply by the presence of writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Allred, both of whom are quite formidable talents.
My reply to Chance was that, while there are plenty of creators out there whose work I do enjoy, I don’t necessarily have a desire to read every single project they do. I think Aaron, for example, did a swell job on Punishermax and I liked his run on Incredible Hulk. And Allred…I was a big fan of Madman and The Atomics for quite a while, though admittedly I kind of…I don’t know, burnt out on them, I suppose. It’s not you, baby, it’s me. But it takes a lot to get me to buy into the X-franchise nowaways, and the last time I regularly read any X-titles, it was New X-Men by Grant Morrison and his army of artists, and X-Force/X-Statix *starring Doop* by Peter Milligan and that Allred guy.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough that Allred and Aaron were on the book to get me to pick it up…but it didn’t hurt, either. Had it been just them and no Doop, probably no sale. But that it featured Doop, and it was illustrated by Doop’s original cocreator, and it was written by a writer whose work I have enjoyed…all those facts together got me to pull the trigger on grabbing this book. And even then, I still sorta hemmed and hawed over it for a couple of days. Well, it’s not like I tossed and turned in bed nights on end, drenched in sweat, haunted by the existence of this comic book, agonizing over my decision. But I’d see it on the rack at work, think “hmm, wonder if I should pick that up,” and then finally just decided “ah, what the hell.”
But Chance’s question did open me up to thinking about what creators I do follow without question, whose names I see on books and pick up without pausing to wonder if this was a project I’d be interested in. To use a couple of names that I mentioned in this category yesterday…let’s say someone like, oh, say, Fantagraphics has picked up the rights to that old Chaos Comics character Purgatori. (Okay, stop laughing, work with me here.) It’s been a while since I mentioned Purgatori around these parts, but…that’s a character I’ve never much cared for. I’ve often commented here that I think it’s a terrible character and a terrible comic, which…okay, I know the character has its fans, and I shouldn’t just harshly dismiss it like that, so let’s just say the Purgatori property has been firmly established as not being something in which I’d have any interest. Ever. For any reason.
So let’s say Fantagraphics gets the property, and they eventually announce at a San Diego Comic Con a new Purgatori graphic novel by Los Bros. Hernandez.
Would I buy it? Absolutely I would buy it. Are you kidding?
The Hernandez Brothers have, over the (gulp) decades I’ve been following their work, totally gained my trust. Everything they’ve been involved in, I have enjoyed. And I know enough about them and their creative talents to know that, if anyone could rehabilitate the character of Purgatori in my theoretical example to the point of making me want to read a comic with her, it would be these guys.
Reader philfromgermany noted in his comment, after listing the creators he always follows, that the indie artists and writers usually are working on projects they themselves developed, as opposed to some of the folks who frequent Marvel and DC books who might end up on established properties one might be indifferent to or outright dislike. And I think that’s an important distinction, and one I was sort of pondering when I was trying to write this post for Monday. Though that’s not to say there aren’t lines that can’t be crossed…one indie book comes to mind by a creator I almost always followed which promoted a bunch of previously-debunked conspiracy hoohar…a great disappointment.
But creators working on their own material does do away with some expectations a reader might have toward any given project, depending mostly on one’s appreciation of that creator and trust in his/her storytelling talents. A new original Dan Clowes graphic novel, sure. A Batman graphic novel by Dan Clowes…well, okay, that sounds amazing, but if you really, really hate Batman, even the most pure, unadulterated love you have for Mr. Clowes may not be enough to get you to pick it up. But I have picked up superhero books I’d had no previous interest in because of creators involved…like that run of Birds of Prey written by Gilbert Hernandez, which remain the only issues of that series in my collection.
I’m probably contradicting myself all over the place here, but what can I tell you. I have complicated feelings about funnybook buying. But outside of Aragones, the Hernandez Brothers…um, Clowes, and Chester Brown probably, and someone mentioned Jim Woodring in the comments, so I’m probably good with that too…there aren’t that many people who get a full, complete pass with me in the comics I buy.
Of course I simply can’t afford to read everything, but there are still plenty of names out there that grab my attention, if not necessarily my comic-reading dollar. You can get me to look, but not everything is going to be up my alley. (There’s at least one artist whose style I do really enjoy, but the only thing in recent memory he’s done that I actually wanted to read was, um, a while ago.) Picking and choosing what I read I think gives me a lot healthier relationship with this hobby than simply buying every single thing that comes out that may involve an artist or writer I’ve enjoyed in the past. Sometimes it does come down to a Doop appearance to get me to fish out that wallet.
Okay, I’m not sure if any conclusions are drawn, or if we learned anything today. But Chance’s question stirred up some thoughts that I tried to lay out here in my usual exceedingly verbose and sloppy fashion, and I certainly hope he doesn’t take this as an attack or an overly-defensive response. Thank you, Chance, for inspiring me to explore, just a little bit, some of the strategies some of use in making our comic-buying decisions…and giving some of us an opportunity to think about those creators whose work always gives us joy.
Are there any comic creators out there whose new work you automatically pick up without question? Whose work you know, beyond even the faintest shadow of a doubt, will be worth both your time and your money, and that you will enjoy?
I don’t mean writers or artists whose presence in a project is enough to get you to take a look, or to pique your interest. We all have lots of names in that category. I mean creators who put out work and your response is “I don’t need to know word one about this comic, just take my money for it, goodly comic book store clerk.”
I’ll start by giving you the first three names that came to mind as I thought about who’d fit into this category for me: Sergio Aragones, Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez. I absolutely buy all of their work as it comes out, without hesitation. And I have never been disappointed. (Well, okay, that one issue of Jon Sable, Freelance was a bit…odd, but I liked it anyway!)
Anyway, like I said in the title of this post up there, I’ve been sort of pondering some other (likely shallow and obvious) thoughts on this topic over the weekend, but I want to hear what you think. If you’ve got a creator who’s an insta-buy for you, please let me know in the comments.
So I was talking with pal Dorian the other day about the impending release this Wednesday of Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1, and how I thought it, and the Before Watchmen project as a whole, were going to sell.
I think it’s going to sell great, at least at first. As I noted before, there may be a bunch of online outrage about it, but Internet reaction =/= instore sales. Plus, some of those people complaining about Before Watchmen are still going to buy it anyway, because of course they will. (Yes, yes, I know, not you…you don’t need to tell me so in the comments.)
I have been receiving several requests for the Before Watchmen books, as well as a number of comic-saver folks adding it to their pull lists, so, like I said, it should have a strong start, at first. Once we’re a month or two in, and people begin to realize “oh, man, this is like a half-dozen or so new mini-series I have to follow, isn’t it,” then we’ll start to see the sales attrition as the picking-and-choosing begins. (Or maybe the, I don’t know, Ozymandias series will be the Greatest Thing Ever and a sales juggernaut.) Of course, having the “Crimson Corsair” back-ups run through all the minis is a clever way of encouraging readers to get the whole enchilada rather than have missing chapters of that particular serial…assuming of course “Crimson Corsair” is enough of a draw.
I don’t expect a flop. There is enough curiosity out there in this project, even if it’s just “what the hell is DC doing?” disbelief, to drive initial sales. And believe it or not, there are still people who go to the comic shops who spend little or no time online perusing the comic news sites or message boards and will have no idea there’s any brouhaha at all about this Before Watchmen situation. They’ll just see the logo on the stands, think “huh, I remember reading Watchmen, that wasn’t half-bad” and throw the comic in their piles.
Anyway, having mocked the value of online reaction, I am now seeking…your online reaction, via that most most scientific method of pinning down the public’s opinion, the blog poll. I have quite a few options there, but I’m sure it’s not 100% comprehensive…if you have a write-in choice, just drop it in the comments.
So here’s a thing I was wondering about the cover to Spoof #3 (January 1973):
Now, I recognize most of the caricatured celebrities on there:
…the Osmonds, the Jackson 5, the Beatles, Yoko, Mick, Elvis, David, those two politicians of some note. But who’s this guy:
No, not the baby. The dude with the sideburns. …Well, the baby sort of has sideburns, come to think of it. But anyway, I may just be having an Old Man Moment, and not placing the face, but it’s just not ringing any bells with me. I even showed this cover to a couple of folks who’d I’d expected to know right away, and even they were like “huh…who is that?” Even the Grand Comics Database entry doesn’t note who it is.
So, if you know, alleviate our embarrassing ignorance by revealing what is sure to be the forehead-smacking obvious answer in my comments here.
Of course, it may be possible that it’s not supposed to be anybody at all, but that hardly seems likely. The non-celeb types seem to be relegated to being background characters, or stuck behind word balloons:
YOU’LL PUT YOUR EYE OUT, KID. Also, get a haircut, hippie.
I suppose I should probably get around to discussing your responses to my inquiry about how folks feel regarding DC’s New 52 initiative. …Especially since, thanks to Jim, we’re up to 52 comments! Coincidence? …Nah.
I’m probably going to go through over the next day or so and respond more thoroughly to specific comments, but the first thing that I noticed was that a few people are not entirely thrilled with Action Comics thus far, citing plot or art concerns. And, I can understand that….
A PROGRESSIVE RUIN ACTION ALERT! Okay, I just deleted several rambling paragraphs about changes to the Superman franchise and how this new status quo may be interfering with Morrison’s storytelling, or at least reader interaction with same, and blah blah blah you can read what I already wrote about some of my disconnect with this New 52 Superman here. In essence, I think Morrison may have been better served picking up from where the previous Superman creative teams left off, and just telling crazy new stories with the franchise’s toys (like he did with his New X-Men run) without having to deal with these editorially-mandated alterations. Of course, “Superman’s New Costumes!” gets more real world media attention than “Mad Scottish Writer Takes Over Superman, Vows Revenge” so that probably wasn’t going to happen.
Anyway, a lot of what I wrote felt awfully dismissive of people’s reactions to the actual plotting and pacing of the stories, which I totally wasn’t intending to do, so out all that went. I do think there’d be less of a disconnect if it were stories about the Superman we knew and not the post-Flashpoint version, but that wouldn’t necessarily address any storytelling concerns folks might have. I mean, I like Morrison’s Action quite a bit, and it’s selling very well for us, but I can see where people might not be so into it. “‘Your mileage may vary,’ he clichéd.”
I do admit that I’m not sure I like how Jimmy Olsen is being drawn in Action. I prefer the “Representational Archie Andrews” version of the character.
Urgh. My struggling over even that bit of incoherent weblogging took up all my ProgRuin time tonight, and then some, so I’ll get to your specific comments and such tomorrow. Especially those terrible, terrible things being said about Swamp Thing.
…Yes, today’s post was bit of a carwreck. Please enjoy its flaming glory, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
So we’re three issues deep on the New 52 DC titles (and onto the fourth issue for the first-weekers), and we’ve now seen how sales are shaking out for the various series. Justice League, Action Comics, Batman and Detective seem to be the big winners, at least at our shop. Animal Man and Swamp Thing were the surprise hits…and not just at our shop, so you can’t blame the Sterling Factor for the Swampy sales. (“Hey, did you get the new Swamp Thing?” “Nah, wasn’t interested.” “You should really buy it.” “I said I wasn’t….” “I’m putting it in your bag…you’re BUYING IT.”)
But now that we’re a little over three months in…how are you, as readers, liking the titles? Did some start strong for you, then sort of peter out? Or did some grab you right away and then just sort of meander their way out of your hearts and pull lists? Or did some just plain hit the spot right out of the gate, and continue to satisfy month in and month out?
In my case, I thought Justice League started weakly, but improved a bit with subsequent installments. Granted, I don’t know that we needed a “watch the team slowly assemble over several months” storyline, but it’s been enjoyable, and Wonder Woman’s introduction in #3 was a hoot.
Fury of Firestorm didn’t do anything for me at first, which may have more to do with my reaction as a longtime fan to the drastic rearranging of the character’s premise than any particular “flaw” in the book. As more issues have come out, I’m come to appreciate and enjoy the series, though my fanboy jury is still out in regards to the All-New, All-Different Cliff Carmichael.
The other book I didn’t much care for at first is Superman, which, as I noted at the time, was more exposition-dump than story, and more interesting than, you know, entertaining. And that interest stemmed from curiosity about how the New 52-version of Superman differed from the Supes we knew before…I mean, aside from the terrible costume. Again, as more issues have come out, things have improved slightly and the direction of the story is a little more clear. However, I still can’t shake the feeling that we’re not reading stories about the real Superman, but rather some Elseworlds/parallel universe version, which, I suppose, we are, in a way. (And perhaps it seems even more removed to those folks who think the mid-’80s reboot Superman is an imposter.)
Swamp Thing I am still enjoying, naturally, though I do wish a bit that they’d swamp or get off the pot already and get Alec Holland back into Swamp Thing-form. Yes, I know, they’re leading up to it…I’m just being impatient.
That was probably the worst thing I had to say about the New 52 books I’m following…the ones I didn’t care for I dropped right away (Mister Terrific – just didn’t like the writing or art; Justice League International – nothing about it really grabbed me). So, overall, aside from those two, the New 52 titles I started with in September I’ve either continued to enjoy or have moved from “eh” to “okay, I’m enjoying it now” – in the latter case either the books actually have improved or my taste is declining, and there are solid arguments for both possibilities.
Just for the record, here are the New 52 titles I’m reading: Action, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Fury of Firestorm, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Justice League, Justice League Dark, O.M.A.C., Red Lanterns, Superman, and Swamp Thing. …Gee, looks like a lot when I write ‘em out like that. Also, for someone who sure complains about multiple titles for the same franchise, I sure do read a lot of Green Lantern series.
Anyway, please let me know in the comments…how are you feeling about the new DC books you’re reading thus far? Have they improved? Have you dropped any? Have any surprised you? Isn’t O.M.A.C. the greatest? GIVE ME INPUT.
So I asked for caption submissions for that Swamp Thing/Starfire/Robin pic, and several of you delivered some good lines. I have picked this one as the winner, emailed to me in that time-honored format of the gag motivational poster:
That’s from reader Michael (whose fine first name had no influence upon my decision), and you can visit his website, with many more funnybook-related motivational posters like the above, at Michael Paciocco’s Mind.
Thank you, Michael, and thank you to everyone else who contributed!
In other news:
Tim O’Neil writes smart about the passing of Dwayne McDuffie and the great value of his work.
So that Chris Sims guy has a story in Image Comics’ Skullkickers #6 and would like you to buy it. I have read it, and it is the kind of subtle, thoughtful and heartstring-tugging work you’ve come to expect from anything with the name “Chris Sims” slapped on it. Very recommended.
I’m not big on this type of fighting game, but after seeing some footage of the Galactus battles in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, I’m intrigued. Here’s an article with some details on his appearance in the game, and an embedded video showing the big guy in action (short ad at beginning of video, Galactus shows up at the 45 second mark).
And now, for no good reason other than that my pal Corey pointed out to me that it was up on the YouTube, here is one of my all-time favorite SNL sketches:
It’s not so much that it’s laugh-out-loud funny as it is just damned peculiar.