So Chris in the comments to Monday’s post noted that he often wondered why superhero movies didn’t lead to higher sales on the related comics. His answers — price and availability — are part of the problem, clearly. The other answer, essentially spinning off the idea of availability, and one I’ve noted on this site before, is that it’s practically a lifestyle choice. Going to a comic book store on a regular basis to follow the serialized adventures of superheroes is a commitment, as opposed to seeing a superhero movie every few months or a TV show beamed directly into your every week, which is good enough for most people.
The other problem is, as Chris also mentions, is that the stories themselves often don’t tend to welcome new readers. I think it goes even beyond that…if someone sees an Avengers movie and comes to a store looking for an Avengers comic, there’s at least three or four to choose from. Or Batman. Or Spider-Man (which, for bonus confusion, has a side series numbered 1.1, 1.2, etc.). It can be hard to pick which one is the one to follow. At least in most cases, if someone comes in and says “I want a Batman comic” there’s usually a comic that’s just straight-up called “Batman” that I can hand them. And to Marvel’s credit, while their flagship Amazing Spider-Man title is doing some different stuff with the character, there’s a side-series, Spidey, which is a more recognizable version of old Web-Head that’s not tied into any post-Secret Wars, pre-Civil War 2 hoohar for the uninitiated to worry about.
Now, it’s not as bad as all that. I still do reasonably good business (and repeat business!) in folks young and not-so-young just popping in and trying out comics that look interesting. Plus, of course, there are always the trade paperback collections for anyone seeking out longer reads. This is generally despite the comics themselves, with confusion numberings and constant reboots making it difficult for titles to get traction and for new readers to catch on and catch up.
Anyway, as usual, there are no answers here. It’s a weird business, but generally a rewarding one for readers who decide to put the effort into it and figure out just how to keep up with the mostly-bonkers publishing end of things.
Be sure to go back and read the comments to Monday’s post…some good discussion there.
So a few weeks back, Johanna wrote a bit about the forthcoming return of the Badger, a character whose prime period was in the 1980s when it was initially published by Capital and then continued by First Comics.
The point of her post was…well, it’s right there in the title: “You Are Not Owed Pre-Orders Because You’ve Been Around Before.” And that’s true, unfortunately. I’d love to order tons of a new Badger series. I enjoyed the original series, picked up all the revivals (which were of…uneven quality, shall we say), and this new series looks like it should be okay, based on the preview that was presented in Comic Shop News a while back. But, frankly, I can’t order a lot, because I don’t know if it’s going to sell that well.
That said, I did order the new Badger series. I ordered enough to have copies on the shelf. Already that probably puts me ahead of a lot of shops that ordered it for their pull lists only, if they ordered it at all. I like the Badger well enough, and have enough fond memories of the comics, to order just a little bit with my heart over my head. I’m reminded a bit of when IDW brought back Grimjack, another character that had been off the stands for quite some time. I loved that old Grimjack comic, but realized that the audience that had followed it back then may no longer still participating in the direct market. I ordered reasonable-if-lowish numbers on that series, and it sold at about what I expected…partially to old fans, but some to new readers, too, and it probably helped that they didn’t pick up where they left off. Instead, they went with a very back-to-basics, no-complicated-backstory Grimjack, which was great for both new readers and longtime fans.
It is almost inherent to the nature of the Badger comics that there is no complicated backstory that one needs to know before jumping into a new adventure with the character. That’s part of its appeal, that elements come and go as needed with minimal explanation. Which brings me to another point…Johanna commented that the Wikipedia description of the character made it sound like a string of clichés, and to someone unfamiliar with the Badger, like presumably a good chunk of folks in today’s comics market, that surely doesn’t do him any favors. A dry description doesn’t accurately represent the actual tone of the book, as I tried to explain in Johanna’s comments. There was an overwhelming sense of…well, just plain weirdness, an off-kilter sense of humor at work in the comic that I could only describe in comparison to writer Mike Baron’s other major series, Nexus. It was wacky when it wanted to be, dead serious when it needed to be, with quirky dialogue and clear storytelling. It was more than the sum of the parts listed in that Wiki entry.
Part of the problem in later Badger revivals (and, in fact, later issues of the original run itself) is that something of that tone was lost, and attempts to recapture it never really quite succeeded, in my opinion. I mean, some of the latter-day Badger comics weren’t bad, but there was a you-can’t-go-home-again thing goin’ on, too.
Now, in that Comic Shop News preview I mentioned, the interview with Baron makes it sound like he’s really up and ready to go with new Badger comics, and it’s very possible it’ll be a return to form for that character. I certainly do hope so. As such, I ordered on this forthcoming Badger series as I did on that IDW Grimjack, suspecting the majority of sales will be to folks who remember Badger from before, with a few sales from new readers giving it a try. It does help that there have been Badger series within relatively recent memory, so it’s not coming to the comic racks completely cold, but, like Johanna noted, it’s still just one title among hundreds of monthly titles.
At the very least, I’d like it to do well for entirely selfish reasons: I want more Badger comics. Especially if they’re good. And I’m hoping this one is.
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In other news: the latest Trouble with Comics Question of the Week is up, and it’s regarding our favorite use of sports in comics. Why not click on that link and see what my response was?
Just another brief reminder to get your 2016 comic industry predictions in, so that, assuming the asteroid doesn’t finally strike and Trump doesn’t become president, we’ll all still be around to discuss them next year.
And over at Trouble with Comics, we discuss our favorite funnybook first issues. The character featured in my favorite may not be a surprise to most of you, but the specific first issue might.
I also wanted to note the passing of Thomas Bartkowiak. This isn’t someone from the comics industry…rather, this was a member (and de facto leader) of RadioTiki, a podcast from before, I believe, the term “podcast” even really existed. I stumbled across it in iTunes’ “Eclectic” category of streaming radio stations sometime in the early 2000s, and it was just a bunch of pals from the Chicago area, shooting the breeze and discussing pop culture and their own lives and being hilarious at it. It was a biweekly show early on, but in recent years it was on the “whenever we could find time to get together” schedule, but I appreciated whenever they could do it and never missed an episode. Tom was always energetic and funny and a delight to listen to. I didn’t interact directly too much with the show, but I did have a couple of my emails read “on the air,” as it were, and when I mentioned that I managed a comic shop, Tom asked what new Neil Gaiman comics were out. I happily sent him a set of the then-new Gaiman-written Eternals series, which he seemed pleased by. It was the least I could do for the hours of enjoyment RadioTiki had provided me by that point, and would continue to provide me long past that.
My condolences to his friends and family and fans. So long, Tom…thanks for all laughs!
The latest Question of the Week is up at Trouble with Comics, asking “what is your favorite holiday comic?” My immediate response was going to be the Alan Brennert Supergirl story until I saw the caveat “other than the Alan Brennert Supergirl story,” but fortunately I had another answer ready to go.
When I read this post from Rick Veitch the other day, it had a longer explanation about just what exactly was the deal with the rights re: his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stories. Apparently it went into too much detail as it’s been trimmed down to just what you see there now, but I hadn’t any idea that his TMNT stuff wasn’t being reprinted. It’s a shame, because those were some great comics, and worth seeking out in the back issue bins.
Sorry for missing Monday again…I’m still recovering from a cold, and decided “turning in early” was the better strategy for Sunday evening than “generating website content.” Write in for your refunds, etc. etc. …But seriously, while I’ve been at the reduced schedule on this site for a few years now, I always like to have a Monday post, but sometimes it just can’t happen. Thanks for your patience!
In other news:
Last week I was interviewed about the 1977 Star Wars Early Bird Kit for an article that appeared yesterday over at Yahoo! Movies. For those of you who don’t know what the Early Bird Kit was, it’s explained thoroughly in the article, but in short, it was a gussied-up coupon for the first batch of Star Wars action figures that parents could put under the Christmas tree since Kenner wasn’t going to have the figures themselves ready for the first gift-giving season after the film’s release.
As the article states, I was the recipient of one of these kits, and while I’m sure modern kids would think that would have been a completely ridiculous thing to receive in place of actual toys, I assure you, I was quite thrilled with it. I filled out that coupon and mailed it in right away, and probably not so patiently awaited the several months for the toys themselves to arrive.
I mentioned this in my interview, but it didn’t make the article, so I’ll go ahead and share it here: the batch of figures was supposed to be Luke, Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. However, when my package of Early Bird figures finally arrived, there was sadly an R2-shaped hole in my particular assortment. The plucky little astromech was accidentally left out of my box!
Well, 8-or-possibly-at-this-point-9-year-old me wasn’t thrilled at this turn of events, as you might imagine. At my parents’ encouragement, I wrote a letter to Kenner apprising them of the situation, requesting a replacement R2 unit. I even drew a picture (or, ahem, three or four) of R2-D2 in my letter, just to make sure the folks at the toy company knew exactly which Star Wars figure I was specifically referencing.
Eventually, Kenner did send me a replacement R2-D2. It took a while, or at least what passes in the head of a 8-or-9-year-old as “a while,” and while I was waiting, during a Star Wars-oriented visit to the local toy emporium, I had gone ahead and purchased another R2, among several other figures. Which of course meant that when that replacement from Kenner arrived, I had R2-D2 and R2-D2 starring in The ‘Droid Trap or whatever sort of Star Wars toy playing I was doing at the time.
Sadly, several decades later many of my Star Wars toys are long gone, including both R2s. I do have a few figures left, including that original old Early Bird Chewbacca, and I currently have my original one of these sitting on top of my desk even as I type this, staring at me with its single eye.
Sigh. Not that I need more stuff in my house, but I do still wish I had all my Star Wars figures. I have one of those books that has nice big color photos of every figure from the line, but it’s not quite the same.
This week’s Question Time over at Trouble with Comics was “name a favorite book by a creator new to comics this decade.” There are several good answers over there, including one or a dozen I wish I’d thought of, but I think my response isn’t a bad one.
Bully the Little Computerless Bull now has a new magic counting box in his barn so he’s back to busily tapping his little hooves on his keyboard generating content just for you! However, pal Andrew of Armagideon-Time fame stepped in for a number of guest-posts while Bully was down-and-out, and did his usual excellent job filling in with some great entries celebrating the fun of comics.
Oh, hey, the new Trouble with Comics Question Time is up, and the query of the week is “who is your favorite Alan Moore-created character that ain’t that John Consta-teen feller.” There may be a subtle hint as to my response in the corner box of my site, here. Or even in the title of this post. Or perhaps the big ol’ pic that heads the article I’ve linked to. Anyway, there’s that.
So I was asked in the comments yesterday regarding the complete Puma Blues book if the “new” Alan Moore story in this collection was in fact the story from issue #20, published back in 1988. And the answer is, yes, the four-page story “Acts of Faith” written by Moore, and illustrated by Steve Bissette and Michael Zulli, is the one included. In fact, in the hardcover’s copyright information, it is specifically stated that only pages 44 through 47 of issue #20 are included in this volume (though see below).
I had forgotten that issue #20 of Puma Blues was an anthology issue, with multiple shorts (some only a page long) by a wide variety of creators, taking place in, or inspired by, the Puma Blues milieu. Creators include Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman, Rick Veitch, Dave Sim, Dan Day, Tom Sutton, and a whole lot more. From what I can tell, only the Moore/Bissette/Zulli story appears in the hardcover, along with Sim’s one-pager which is included with the hardcover’s introduction, and a page from the story “Pause” by Stephen Murphy, Zulli, and Bissette, included with Bissette’s afterword. As I recall, #20 was a benefit/tribute/something-or-other issue resulting from the Aardvark-Vanaheim/Diamond Comics brouhaha, which seems likely as the comic includes a timeline of events surrounding the incident.
Anyway, many of the contributions were pin-ups, and most of the actual stories were outside the main narrative, so you’re not missing any pieces of the plot if you only have the hardcover. But still, it’s something to look for after you’ve finished this Codex Gigas of a graphic novel.
I was also asked in the comments if I had any quality issues with the binding, and I have to say, no, not that I’ve noticed. Seems pretty solidly put together. It may be a different story as I enter, say, month ten of reading the thing, but it looks okay for now.
And in case you’re wondering, I did sell my shelf copy of the book in-store, after a handful of people picked it up and gave it a glance-through. More people than I expected actually remembered the series, after being gone well over a couple of decades, which honestly surprised me. Ultimately it went to someone who’d never seen the series before, and bought it on my recommendation after he spent some time paging through it. Hopefully he’ll like it and not come back and throw it at me in anger and disgust…that book could concuss a blue whale.
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In other news: the latest Question Time is up over there at Trouble with Comics, and the question o’the week is “which work of Alan Moore’s is the most neglected?” Sadly, I cheated a bit and used a rewritten version of this post (which I do own up to in my contribution there). If I had time to actually write a brand-new entry, I might have picked Moore’s back-up serial from American Flagg! but it had already been covered in good detail here. Or maybe that pin-up he drew for that first Dark Horse Comics Godzilla black and white one-shot…that was pretty amazing.
But please go forth and take a look at my contribution there…it was based on a five-year-old post here, so maybe if you’d read it before you’ve forgotten it by now. Everything old is new again!
So recently I reclaimed a whole bunch of old MacUser magazines from my parents’ garage. I was actually just going to recycle them…in fact, I had actually dumped them into my parents’ recycling bin when nostalgia took over and made me pull ’em back out again and take them home for one last perusal before I dump them into my own recycling bin…or sell ’em on eBay, whichever I decide. Now, most of these are from around my college days, the late ’80s and very early ’90s, filled with reviews of Hypercard stacks, ads for external 300mb hard drives for $2500, and defensive lamentations regarding the 3% home computer market share. But I am enjoying the rereads, particularly the occasional column from the late Douglas Adams, a huge Mac proponent.
In the back page ad section for the June 1988 issue, I found this:
I’d never heard of this particular project, and can’t seem to find any trace of it upon the Internet. The ad claims the comic is “packed with professional graphics That [sic] can be cut, copied and pasted” which makes me wonder if this was some kind of elaborate clip art library packaged in a comic book story format. Or, perhaps, panels were assembled in multiple layers, and each layer element of the drawing can be separated out by an art program. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and they’re just saying you can cut ‘n’ pasted panels willy-nilly. That they compare it to other “art libraries” makes me think “clever clip art presentation” more than “comic book.”
Right off, the claim that it’s the first “computer comic book” is off, given that Shatter beat it to the punch by a few years (unless they mean “distributed by diskette” which, well, still would like some citations there but maybe they’re right).
A prison with guards that work “9-5” seems like asking for trouble. You’d probably need some kind of night crew for that, right?
“A story better than Superman” – well, I can think of a few Superman stories over the years that would certainly pale in comparison to a clip art collection.
And it’s good to know a Certificate of Authenticity for a computer disc doesn’t sound any more or less silly than, say, a Wizard #1/2 certificate guaranteeing that this isn’t some fake copy of The Maxx #1/2, thus frustrating the huge counterfeit Maxx market.
Plus, I’d forgotten 400k diskettes were even a thing at one point. I thought it was a pretty big deal when we moved on up to 1.44mb floppies. Who could possibly need more space than that?
Anyway, this was just some sort of weird thing I noticed and thought I’d share with you all out there. I wonder if this ever was actually released? If anybody out there knows, let me in on it!
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In other news, the latest Trouble with Comics Question o’The Week is up, asking “which creator and work was the most paradigm-shifting.” Usually when I see the word “paradigm,” I turn and run the other direction because that’s clue #1 that the conversation is about to go way over my head. But, I gave it my best shot, and I believe my answer is totally correct because I’m awesome an’ stuff. Another fellow answered with the same creator and work, and made some very good points about how it’s affected storytelling vis-à-vis packaging that I completely missed, so I guess I was only at about 90% awesomeness this time. Ah, well, we all have our once-a-decade low moments, I guess. But, go read…and keep checking back, because we’ve got some “moore” (WINK) good questions coming up soon!
So the latest Question of the Week over at Trouble with Comics was about our favorite penciller/inker teams, and…well, I won’t play coy and say “you gotta go there to find out my choice” since I’m going to post a scan of their work right here, but you should go and read what we all had to say, anyway. I get a bit…florid in talking about my pick, but it’s borne of enthusiasm for the work, what can I say.
I did send a scan along with my entry just to show what I was talking about, but it was a tad large, and may have disrupted the flow of the article. However, I don’t care whether or not anything I do here interrupts any kind of flow, so here’s the pic from Superman #247 (January 1972) by Elliot S! Maggin, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson:
Just look how torn Superman is in that second panel. That’s a man about to make a decision he doesn’t want to make. But you can read more about what I think about Swan and Anderson’s artistic teamwork right here.
Swan has been paired up with a few interesting inkers: Al Williamson over Swan sometimes mostly just looked like a full Williamson art job, but it was still an odd if enjoyable combo that echoed Anderson’s work in the facial expression department, like in this example from Superman #416 (February 1986):
A Twitter pal brought up George Perez’s inking of Swan in the first half of Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” story (Superman #423, September 1986) which brought a slick richness to the art:
And I’ve mentioned in the past Kurt Schaffenberger’s inking over Swan, though the primary example is, as I mentioned at that link, too obscured by the terrible printing. But the other half of that Moore story, from Action #583 (September 1986), we get a better look at Kurt’s smooth, expressive lines over Curt’s pencils:
And then of course, there’s Curt Swan inking Curt Swan (in more ways than one!), from Superman Annual #9 (1983):
Man, Swan was always the best, and that he was almost always paired with wonderful collaborators couldn’t help but make his work shine. There’s a big Curt Swan-sized hole in the comics artform ever since his passing, but thank goodness there’s just so much of work left behind that we can still enjoy.