DC Comics will never, ever call me.

§ June 30th, 2016 § Filed under question time § 7 Comments

Bet you thought I forgot about those questions!

Zeb muscles in with

“We all know anthologies just don’t work in the North American market–at least not as ongoings–but why is that? Is it the cost? The format? Just plain ol’ ‘I want only one story and damn you to Hades if you can’t give it to me’?

“Have you found the usual reluctance of people to commit to anthologies with the Legends of Tomorrow book? I was curious about whether this could finally be the book that breaks the curse but have seen nothing about it anywhere online.”

There was a point when regular monthly or quarterly anthologies were the norm rather than the exception in comics, way back in Ye Golden Age, with the idea being that even if a potential reader doesn’t care for one or two features therein, there’s gonna be something that grabs him or her. Why, just having one character or story in a comic would be a disaster! What if a kid doesn’t like that one thing? THAT’S A LOST SALE!

At least, that’s how the conventional wisdom went, anyway. If I were to hazard a guess as to why anthologies have a harder time getting traction in today’s market, it’s possibly the costs involved. A comic reader, faced with the cover prices in today’s market, isn’t going to want to spend money on a comic that he or she may only partially enjoy. If you’re spending $3.99 on 22 pages of comics, you don’t want 6 pages of that comic spent on a back-up story you’re not interested in reading. That’s a bigger risk than dropping a quarter on a 64-page anthology back in the 1940s. And yes, inflation and all that, but still, people tend to be a little more risk-resistant with their comic book dollars nowadays.

Not to say anthologies haven’t been successful…Marvel Comics Presents had a good run, featuring multiple serialized stories in each issue, though having a Wolverine story cover-featured on most of ’em helped. Action Comics Weekly didn’t do too badly, either. And there are tie-ins to crossover events, like Civil War II: Choosing Sides, where hopefully the interest in the event itself will be enough to attract sales, even if perhaps not every story in the issue may be of equal attraction to everyone.

A lot of what I’m talking about here doesn’t completely apply to indie anthologies, but even those have bit of a struggle on comic store shelves. A couple of recent ones started out strong, but even those have petered out to low sales. Dark Horse Presents is still hanging in there, but sales really depend on who’s in the book. Again, it’s possible it’s the perceived value versus cost…why spend that much money on something you’re not going to read completely.

You bring up Legends of Tomorrow, where DC took a handful of planned titles that would probably struggle on their own and squeezed them together into a bargain book (“an $11.96 value for only $7.99!”). That’s selling…okay, but I suspect it’s not long for this world either. I’m reading it, and I’m enjoying all of it, but I can see not every comic in the volume appealing to every reader. I’ve mentioned on the site before that this particular format DC has used of late is potentially the future of periodical comics, but a more tightly-themed presentation (the all-Superman one, or the all-Wonder Woman one) and the context of “this is the only place to see the ongoing in-continuity adventures of your favorite characters” is what’s going to make the sales.

Aside from that possible fate, anthology comics, at least from the Big Two or Four or However Many There Are Now, will probably be limited to the occasional short back-up in one of the regular monthlies, as opposed to a dedicated book with four or five stories in each issue.

Again, this is a fairly myopic view, focusing on superhero ‘n’ related anthologies that publish on a regular monthly, or semi-monthly, basis. This doesn’t address the annual or bi-annual or one-shot comics anthologies like Kramers Ergot, which are different animals entirely, filling entirely different audience demands.

• • •

Pal Skinslip dares to ask

“You can turn any existing other character in the DC Universe into the new Swamp Thing, who do you choose and why?”

Dan Cassidy, in a last ditch effort to rid himself of the Blue Devil costume that had been mystically bonded to his body, finds himself in a remote Louisiana bayou. Here, he has heard of many strange paranormal events, and believing he can tap into whatever magic that may exist in these dark waters, Cassidy begins the final ritual to cast off his azure-hued prison.

However, something goes terribly wrong. The ambient magical forces that drift through the air react violently to the many candles lit as part of the ritual. Flames exploding around him, his own “skin” burning, Cassidy casts himself into the swamp in an attempt to alleviate the pain…unknowingly diving into the same murk long ago imbued with the bio-restorative formula that permeated the seared flesh of a similarly aflame Alec Holland.

Soon, the waters are still, the fire dwindled away in the wet of the surrounding bog. Hours pass. And unseen, beneath the surface of the bayou, plants altered over the decades by chemical formulas and magical events wind their way into ruined human flesh.

Days pass. The water’s surface begins to tremble. Then, busting out of the marsh, a hideous…thing arises. Covered in mud and moss, the faintest hints of blue peeking through skin of green and brown, two misshapen horns jutting out from its ungainly head…red eyes flash open…the eyes of…


(And Skinslip? You ask “why?” I say “why not?” Also, I like the recursion of a guy trapped in one unwanted “body” being trapped in yet another one.)

7 Responses to “DC Comics will never, ever call me.”

  • Skinslip says:

    WOW. I am blown away. I would seriously read that Swamp Devil comic. And not just because I love Blue Devil and Swamp Thing, but because it is awesome and I love body horror heroes.

  • King of the Moon says:

    As a guy with a complete run of Blue Devil, I can’t slow clap this post enough

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Just checked an online inflation calculator. A $.25 comic from 1950 would cost $2.49 in today’s money. I’m pretty sure if Legends of Tomorrow cost $2.50, sales would be pretty good on it.

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    Legends of Tomorrow is gone with issue six, so there you go.

  • Dave-El says:

    I have Legends of Tomorrow on my pull list and I’ve been enjoying the book even as my enjoyment of each individual series within the book varies from issue. With issue #1, I would have said Sugar & Spike was my favorite strip but Sugar’s constant hostility to Spike is really off-putting by issue #4. Meanwhile I thought Metal Men and Metamorpho were a bit flat at first but I’m enjoying these series more. Firestorm is a good old school super hero adventure with co-creator Gerry Conway at the helm.

    Would I have purchased any of these series separately? Probably not. But the sheer bargain of getting 4 comics for less than the price of 3 regular DC comics or 4 comics for the price of two Marvels. (Really, does Marvel really have to slap a $3.99 price on every single comic…and only deliver 20 pages of story and art at that?)

    By the way, Swamp Devil? I doff my cap to your ingenuity, Mr. Sterling.

  • Sure, Swamp Devil sounds like it’d be an interesting read, but for some reason I’d be curious to read the version of that character under the title “Blue Thing”.

    Or maybe it’s jut me….

  • Jason Wheeler says:

    “Marvel Comics Presents”

    outside of the lead Wolverine story, most of what was in there was crappy file stories! The DC version was slightly better.

    And i’d like to recommend ISLAND as an anthology title worth your time & money!