The Progressive Ruin Questionnaire-Fest 2009, Part Five: The Dream Child.

§ January 24th, 2009 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on The Progressive Ruin Questionnaire-Fest 2009, Part Five: The Dream Child.

Okay, I thought I could do it today, but I’ll wrap it up for good tomorrow…here are more answers to your questions:

  • Monte has a few things to say:

    “Back in the 70’s there was a big debate about nudity in comics. Now with Marvel’s Max and DC’s Vertigo lines the debate is no more. Do you think this has helped or hurt comics?”

    I wouldn’t say the debate is no more, to be honest…there are still plenty of people out there (as I’m sure the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund could tell you) who think any non kid-appropriate material in comics is wrong and should be done away with. Believe me, all the “MATURE READERS ONLY” warnings in the world aren’t going to stop someone with enough motivation from convincing the general public that the evil publishers and their partners-in-crime, the retailers, were selling copies of Preacher to Little Billy.

    As far as within the fan community itself…I remember when there was a lot of debate in the fan press over sex and violence and what have you in the ’70s and very early ’80s, and it was usually over things like “whoa, that Wolverine character, what with the claws and all…he’s too violent!” and “hey, this comic heavily implies that Nick Fury banged the gong slowly with that one gal…I’m offended!” And looking back at it now all I can think is “wow, they had no idea what was coming.”

    “And second they are sometimes called funnybooks(Hate that name) but it is real hard to find comics that are funny.”

    There are still funny comics out there. You just have to look around. I mean, Secret Invasion was hysterical.

    Oh, okay, that was a cheap shot. But I know what you’re getting at…it’s not like the good ol’ days, when there were plenty of gag books sitting side by side with the guys-in-capes books. Marvel and DC really don’t do ’em too much any more (aside from DC’s Cartoon Network and Scooby Doo…oh, and Ambush Bug), so look to the indie titles. Try pal Nat’s Licensable Bear™. Or Amelia Rules (warning: sound). Or Dr. Radium by Scott Saavedra. Or Ralph Snart. Or many others I’m sure my kind readers will suggest in the comments section.

    “Third what are the ground rules for you of quitting a certain comic. Looking back in my collection I see a pattern of me buying a comic hoping it return to it’s former greatness. aka Daredevil in the 70’s and 80’s. At what point does the fat lady sing?”

    Basically it’s just “I’m not enjoying it any more.” Or “the creative team that was the reason I was reading this in the first place is leaving, so that’s as good a place as any for me to quit, too.”

    There are books I have stuck around and read in the hopes it’d get better (I’ve often said I could have safely skipped the middle 60 issues of the second Firestorm series, for example), but nowadays most people can ill-afford such luxuries.

    “Finally are comics a dying art form?
    I mean when I go into the comic store the only kids I see are employees. Most of the customers are 35 and over males. When we go will the younger generation keep comics alive?”

    I still see plenty of kids buying comics at our shop. The store just has to be inviting for…well, not just the kids, but the parents who have to take them there. Mom ain’t gonna bring Little Billy (there he is again!) to a store that looks like a disused basement and smells like a petting zoo. And I don’t think that comics are a dying art form…simply that the delivery system for them (the printed paper booklet) is taking some hits. There are plenty of comics online that are doing just fine.

  • Chad asks

    “Have you ever thought about scripting comics, at least as a creative experiment? What comic franchise or property or character would you revamp if you had your pick? And how would you revamp it?”

    I’ve made a half-hearted attempt or two to sell a script here ‘n’ there, but beyond our own local self-published mini-comics concern, I’ve remained mainly on the retail end of things. Which is probably just as well. I suspect the industry has more need of people trying to sell comics properly than it needs more people trying to create comics. There’s no lack of the latter.

    As far as revamping goes…well, I’ve gone on about Swamp Thing enough, I’m sure, so let me think of another. Well, one character that can use it is Aquaman. He’s gone through any number of permutations lately, and you’d probably want to strip away all that mystical jazz, minimize references to old plot points/supporting characters like Mera and Dead Aquababy, and just keep it to the simple stuff everyone associates with the character. He’s King of the Seas, fights crime underwater, uses his telepathic abilities to communicate with undersea life, occasionally pals around with the Justice League, sometimes fights villains like Black Manta and the Fisherman. Well, okay, you may not want to dredge up the Fisherman, but certainly bring back the Ocean Master. Just make it a plain ol’ Silver Agey superhero book. Maybe not simplified to the point of a comic specifically aimed at kids, but definitely make it kid friendly. I’ve seen enough young’uns at the shop react positively to the idea of Aquaman, so an entry-level, low-continuity title starring the character isn’t the worst concept in the world.

    I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Another canceled Aquaman series?

  • Dallas Senosco has this to say:

    “I would love some reports of recent price increases and affects on customers. I have a job and long ago said that 3 bucks is my limit. I passed on IDW when they were the first many moons ago.
    I have to think that with each price increase, some people stop buying.
    I told my local store that and he understands, but do you not worry that eventually, websites that sell their comics for 40 to 50 percent off are going to be cooking your and all other physical stores bacon.”

    That certainly is a concern, as people are approaching their limits as to what they think is an acceptable price for the standard comic book format. I think $3.99 is…well, not great, but not as much of a psychological deterrent as, say, a five buck price point for the current format. (Of course, fifteen years ago I’m sure I would have said the same thing about the $3 price point). Something is going to have to change…I’m not quite ready for a “trade paperback only” model, but the periodical comics are going to have to beef up their offerings to keep folks willing to pay the entry fee.

    I’m sure physical stores taking a hit from online discounters, but there’s not really anything we can do about that aside from just trying to attract customers into our shop with our service and our selection. And backrubs. Trying to compete with deep discounters will just end up killing our business (someone once worked out that the number of extra customers you’d attract with heavy discounting usually doesn’t balance out with the amount of money you’re losing by not selling the comics closer to retail), so we just have to do what we can.

    Plus, there’s the feeling of just getting to go into a shop to look around and see what’s available, so at least we’ve got that going for us! And the backrubs.

  • Roel Torres reasonably asks

    “Why do millions and millions of people enjoy movies based on comic properties like Iron Man, Dark Knight, Superman Returns, X-Men, Spider-Man, etc. — yet look down on reading comics based on the very same characters as a nerdy fringe hobby?”

    Because “watching” is cool, and “reading” isn’t.

    Well, that’s a bit simplistic. Probably it’s because the movies provide the essentials of the characters/situations without demanding a monthly commitment to following the ins and outs and subplots and tie-ins. For most people, even the ones who really like Spider-Man, one Spider-Man movie about every three years is plenty. Reading three Spider-Man comics a month would just be wallowing in it to the point of obsession, and who’d want to do that?

  • The infamous Aqualad Knox has more for me:

    “When will people stop bitching about Brand New Day?”

    I think people are still bothered by it as it was the result of a fairly egregious example of an editorial decision to fix something that, by most people’s thinking, wasn’t really the issue. The problem with Spider-Man wasn’t that Peter was married to Mary Jane. The problem with Spider-Man was crummy Spider-Man comics.

    The “Brand New Day” era of Spidey comics, which for the most part have actually been pretty good, are simply a continuing reminder of that “Spidey makes a deal with the devil” story that laid the groundwork for the soft-reboot. It’s hard to shake the memory that some of the character’s most basic foundations re: responsibility had to be violated to bring this about. And that twenty years of the character being married is suddenly done away with…that’s a pretty big thing to suddenly ask your 60,000 remaining Spider-man readers to accept. Just judging by the number of customers who’ve asked me at the shop, I’m sure a large percentage of the total readership is waiting for the “conclusion” to the Mephisto storyline, where the marriage is restored, and that all these “in-between” stories are just “alternate universe” Spider-stories that are killing time ’til the former status quo comes back.

    “Didn’t you say you used to be a librarian? Why’d you stop?”

    I’d sorta had enough of it, and the opportunity arose at Ye Olde Comick Book Shoppe for a position there. Plus, it was better pay and more hours.

    Yes, a librarian was able to get better pay and more hours at a comic book store. Let that sink in a bit.

    “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

    For the amusement of the bad people.

  • Direct from beautiful Thailand, Mr. Andrew Davison asks

    “I’d love to see some (humorous) photos of your ‘team’ and the shop.”

    Yeah, it has been a while. I’ll see what I can do.

    “I’ve offered wondered about the mysterious ‘owner’ of the shop, who YOU NEVER MENTION.”

    I think I decided early on it would be poor form to go on about the owner…I mean, not that he’d really care. We have known each other for decades, it’s not like he doesn’t trust me.

    His name’s Ralph, he’s a cool guy despite his preference for the Grateful Dead, and he looks something like this:

    …only his actual cape is maybe a little shorter.

    “You seem to have stopped doing reviews of late.”

    I really don’t like doing reviews, aside from maybe brief smart-assed one-liners or such. Occasionally I’ll get inspired to wax poetic about some book or ‘nother, but generally my reviews are “MIKE LIKE ART, YOU BUY THIS BOOK NOW.”

    Every time a New Comics Day rolls around, I feel like I should say more than a few words about some of the new releases, but ooh, look I found a penny isn’t it shiny?

    “More on the stuff you do for local libraries.”

    Just by pure coincidence, I just wrapped up several hundred dollars’ worth of orders for a couple of the local libraries. In fact, even as I write this, I have a few boxes sitting downstairs in my house that I need to deliver to a library in the next day or so.

    I haven’t said much about it because there’s not really much to add that I haven’t said before. They want kids comics, they really want Pokemon titles, and they really don’t want any Archie comics since kids tend to turn their noses up at them.

  • Oscar Blotnik wants to know

    “We all know how you feel about Swamp Thing, but what are your feelings towards his daughter? Is Tefe a vital element to the Swamp Thing saga or does she add little to his mythos?”

    I think Tefe was an interesting side story, but ultimately not a “vital” element. If you ask your average comics fan what they know about Swamp Thing, the fact that he has a daughter isn’t going to come up.

    Tefe’s position in the mythos is an extension of the generational aspect of the Swamp Thing “position” (geez, I’m using more quotation marks than a Jack Kirby script) in nature that Alan Moore introduced in Swamp Thing #33. Specifically, she was the merging of the Green World and the Human World…an elemental in human form that was supposed to bring about something or another. So basically she’s a supporting character/plot point for Swamp Thing’s ongoing saga, which means she’s only as vital as the story demands.

  • Chris K will wrap things up for today with another Swamp Thing question:

    “What was your first Swamp Thing comic? More specifically, was it pre-Alan Moore/ Anatomy Lesson? (I’ve always had the sense that it was) Were you one of the few people who got in on the ground floor with that run, and how did you feel about it at the time?”

    I actually have noted it before…in this post about Swamp Thing (first series) #23…the one where Swamp Thing is turned back into Alec Holland. I bought that sometime in the very late ’70s, early ’80s.

    I started reading the second Swampy series with the first issue, which meant that I was indeed one of the few who got in on the ground floor with this new British writer: Adam Mores, or something. In fact, at the time I was one of the two people buying the comic at the local shop.

    I was blown away by those initial Alan Moore issues. I must have reread those things about a dozen times each waiting for the next issue to arrive. I remember specifically feeling a sense of dread at the end of Moore’s first issue, after Swamp Thing was shot through the head. I wasn’t sure how Swampy was going to get out of this one, but I was sure it was going to be something pretty drastic.

    And whaddaya know…it was.

Thanks for putting up with this, internet pals. Hopefully Sunday will be the end of this…see you tomorrow.

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