Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dismantling The Hype Machine

During times of war, I stick to the roads less traveled.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What DC Needs To Do...Or Doesn't Need To Do?

Tom Spurgeon put together an article on the moves that DC Comics needs to make coming out of their restructuring. There is a lot in there to like. Spurgeon comes up with some heady stuff.

But in his third and final part of the list, he breaks out its own three part list.

1) a commitment to stricter schedule-making in a way that de-emphasizes crowding similar titles on certain dates, doesn't stack potentially series-strengthening runs into mini-series for a reason that isn't clearly obvious and builds an expectation in the audience for when certain books come out

In a paragraph after this, Spurgeon starts listing the ways companies have dominated the market and how DC needs to pay attention to that. One of the ways Marvel has managed to be the lead dog right now (which Spurgeon doesn't cite) involved a commitment to large stories that placed more emphasis on similar titles coming out on certain dates.

It can currently be argued that the customers want an emphasis on an immersive world where the continuity between titles is strong. Marvel made a huge commitment to just that approach with Civil War and hasn't looked back since. This includes several times where books had to miss their scheduled releases for the greater good of the story.

Don't get me wrong: I really think scheduling needs to be a focus. But doing it to the detriment of other aspects the consumers seem to like that contribute more directly to the product itself seems to be a perilous course.

2) an aggressive program facilitating comic shop store openings that favors neglected areas of coverage and a variety of store models, focused on opportunities provided by the current economy that has led to more people than ever looking towards franchising and small business opportunities

Ten years ago, I'd be all behind this one. But now? Especially given what follows this suggestion?

3) a move towards a proactive digital strategy that involves transparency so that decisions made in terms of price point and timing could be an industry driver and not just a series of in-house contingency plans based on some ill-defined, anticipated event that may or may not ever happen

Move towards a digital age, while encouraging new folks to get into the Direct Market game? Really? I think that would be irresponsible.

There's a lot of talk about what might or might not happen to the DM as publishers start to embrace digital offerings of their product. I've known so many DM retailers that have struggled and either had to shrink their business or fold altogether.

That is without prominent, legal competition via digital downloads. That's without having a LongBoxDigital or iPad to compete with. Yes, independent bookstores still exist with there being a Kindle and other digital delivery options. But less and less independent music stores are left after the move to MP3s.

I'd argue that the push to digital would make collected editions represent a much larger percentage of the physical product they sell. Collected editions are readily available through the big chain bookstores and online booksellers. The only way a DM retailer stays in business 5-10 years down the line is by their focus being on one or two non-comic-book products. A store that sells comic books in addition to their main focus on collectible card/miniature gaming might survive, but is that the sort of business major comic book publishers should make a concerted push to prop up?

But that's just me. I feel for DM retailers, but am against all the push for publishers to find ways to keep them in business. It's like saying petroleum companies should have tried to keep leaded-only gasoline retailers viable. Technology is forcing the publishers to evolve, but we're making them responsible for keeping alive the organisms that lack the traits needed to survive on their own in this new world. Of course, I don't think all the people the health insurance industry employs is a good argument against moving to single payer, either.

But what do you think?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Would Atlantis Chronicles Be Made Today?

Rich Johnston linked to an NPR article about Aquaman that brought a question to mind. OK, it was a question that had already come to mind many times before, but I never got around to blogging about it.

If you're like me, you've been a fan of comic books since the early 1980s. During that time, it seemed like companies would give some of the most unconventional mini-series the green light. There didn't seem to be so much pressure on sales that retreads that were guaranteed at least mediocre sales were put out instead of new ideas that might turn into winners.

If you're like a lot of other fans, you came to comic books in the early-to-mid 1990s. During that time, it seemed like companies would give some of the most unconventional series and mini-series the green light. There seemed to be the feeling that anything that you slapped a "#1" on would sell enough to justify giving new ideas a shot.

In the recently completed 2000s (and, to be fair, the late 1990s), it seems like Marvel & DC Comics sometimes sacrifice fresh ideas for lower risk/reward projects. Each failed project seems to be taken more as an indication that the market just won't support new ideas, rather than the ideas they chose to put in play didn't resonate with the target audience.

A perfect example of this attitude, I think, would be the Second Feature idea at DC Comics. The approach with the properties that weren't selling enough on their own seems to be that the ideas are fine, but the market can't support them as stand-alone series. It is, also, how they've put out a few new projects (retreads, but still something new), albeit with no real metric to gauge interest in them. Other than a nice PR cushion to price increases, it hasn't really succeeded. I'm not talking about the quality of the stories, but the development of new, salable product.

Mind you, I'm just shooting out thoughts here with zero research. I'd really like to hear what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who's That Girl?

Her "Secret" is as guarded as can be.

(do I have to spell it out more directly than that?)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Steaming Pile Part Deux

You know how, when you taste something terrible, you are sometimes driven to tell a friend "you gotta try this"? So it was with JLA #41. I convinced a friend to locate a copy and give it a read. I told him it wouldn't be pretty going in. What you see below is his running commentary, pulled from a chatroom of mutual friends.

[23:56] Frankie/OP: ok!
[23:56] Frankie/OP: here goes
[23:57] Frankie/OP: "America's Dream. Turned nightmare." starting it off classy
[23:59] Frankie/OP: "And some who did survive, MAYBE wished they HADN'T." DRAMA
[00:00] Frankie/OP: is this really Bagley? seems like he's trying too hard to channel Benes, irksome
[00:03] Frankie/OP: i wonder how Vixen can go on about how much she thinks and recalls about Prometheus
[00:03] Frankie/OP: how long*
[00:05] Frankie/OP: /reading from Robinson's script
[00:07] Frankie/OP: lol
[00:07] Frankie/OP: "Help us, Wonder Girl!"
[00:07] Frankie/OP: "Its Ms. Troy, and fuck off, i don't help people anymore."
[00:07] Frankie/OP: "But the children!"
[00:08] Frankie/OP: -d
[00:10] Frankie/OP: Robinson, you are a master of characterization and subtlety. i mean, the way you just TELL us how Donna's feels? GENIUS
[00:11] Frankie/OP: ok, no, really, this art is grating on me
[00:13] Frankie/OP: "The Justice League ails too, my sister." this is what people mean when they say Wonder Woman is (written as) stiff and uptight
[00:15] Frankie/OP: ok, i'm no expert on dialogue from frenchmen in the 1700's, but "a-boil with canker" ? pfffffffft
[00:17] Frankie/OP: i have absolutely no idea whats going on in this 1777 segment
[00:18] khuxford2: That's to be expected, Frankie
[00:18] khuxford2: and to be echoed for almost every scene, regardless of period
[00:19] Frankie/OP: HAHA
[00:20] Frankie/OP: i understand he's recording himself
[00:21] Frankie/OP: but why is this guy talking to himself as though Robinson is talking directly to him
[00:21] Frankie/OP: its like he's found a new form of exposition
[00:22] Frankie/OP: and who is this 90's Image reject?!
[00:22] khuxford2: That scene reads like Robinson realized how terrible his dialogue was but, rather than fix it, he decides to just have the character own up to it as if that makes it good and meta.
[00:23] Frankie/OP: exactly!
[00:23] Frankie/OP: and it just ends up so much worse
[00:24] Frankie/OP: did Damian just call Donna a harlot? HAHAHA
[00:25] Frankie/OP: now i see
[00:25] Frankie/OP: Robinson's inspiration comes from badly translated Shakespearean plays
[00:25] Frankie/OP: "Kid, yes, Drama Queen, Double yes." and Diablo Cody
[00:26] Frankie/OP: "Al Ghul's grankid" IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW, GUYS
[00:29] Frankie/OP: "Judging from your appearance and the tone of your voice, I deduce... you want me in the Justice League." HOW DOES HE GET ALL THAT FROM TONE?!
[00:29] Frankie/OP: oh
[00:29] Frankie/OP: because apparently Dick's some sort of smartass
[00:29] Frankie/OP: are they fist-bumping?
[00:29] Frankie/OP: BAT-FISTBUMP
[00:30] Frankie/OP: RESPEK KNUCKLESSS!!
[00:32] Frankie/OP: so wait, does Donna convince Kimi with just... "But we NEED you."
[00:32] Frankie/OP: "You can't go."
[00:33] Frankie/OP: seriously
[00:33] Frankie/OP: did she just convince her to stay by WHINING?
[00:33] Frankie/OP: if thats how she sets up the Justice League, i don't have high hopes for this team
[00:34] Frankie/OP: oh good, Mon-El zzzzzzzzzz
[00:34] Frankie/OP: i'm sure Mon is only here because he'll need someplace to go after Superman returns to his OWN DAMN BOOK
[00:34] Frankie/OP: the one that Robinson is "writing"
[00:35] Frankie/OP: lol
[00:36] Frankie/OP: i love her argument for why Mon should be in the Justice League
[00:36] Frankie/OP: "Superman did it! Don't you wanna be like Superman?"
[00:36] khuxford2: Argument? Aren't arguments normally longer than 1.5 sentences?
[00:36] Frankie/OP: all i'm saying is, if Superman jumped off a bridge...
[00:36] Frankie/OP: lol hux
[00:36] Frankie/OP: thats my next point
[00:37] Frankie/OP: when did this become "hey! we're making a club! wanna join?" "sure!"
[00:37] khuxford2: Superman ALWAYS ate the lead-poison-cure-reversing-sammich that I made him...
[00:37] Frankie/OP: LOL
[00:38] Frankie/OP: THE RAGE
[00:38] Frankie/OP: BURNING
[00:38] Frankie/OP: WITHIN
[00:38] Frankie/OP: i'm not sure i understand how Ollie feels O_O
[00:39] Frankie/OP: wait, its over?
[00:40] Frankie/OP: i know it continues to the next issue, but the ending to this one could have at least been a bit more...climactic?
[00:40] Frankie/OP: instead we get "OLLIE, STOP WHINING AND JOIN US."
[00:42] Frankie/OP: everyone's going about Prometheus and especially that panel with Ollie holding Roy
[00:42] Frankie/OP: but WHO KNOWS WHY OLLIE IS ANGRY
[00:43] Frankie/OP: man
[00:44] Frankie/OP: that was hard work
[00:44] Frankie/OP: trudging through that
[00:44] Frankie/OP: i'm hungry!
[00:44] Frankie/OP: also
[00:44] Frankie/OP: i don't know if its the coloring or inking or Bagley himself or all things combined, but no, this art was not serviceable
[00:45] Frankie/OP: it wasn't eye-raping, like the writing
[00:45] Frankie/OP: but its offensive
[00:45] Frankie/OP: to me
[00:45] khuxford2: Well, I blame it more on the writing. I think what he was given to work with was shit. I think the raping that the script does to you makes you pre-disposed to think of the entire package as shit. So I gave him a pass.
[00:46] Frankie/OP: tune in next time for JLA 42, where i will push electric eels into my eyesockets to save myself
[00:48] Frankie/OP: no i probably won't
[00:48] Frankie/OP: however, that was fun to bash the fuck out
[00:48] Frankie/OP: of
[00:48] khuxford2: LOL
[00:49] khuxford2: I knew you'd enjoy it in a "holy fuck, I can't believe they published this shit" way
[00:49] Frankie/OP: lol pretty much

Monday, February 15, 2010

Steaming Pile of Shit #41

On Sunday, I read a comic book that single-handedly soured me on reading the rest of the books I bought that day, kept me from placing an advance order on DCBS and has me in a shit mood.

That comic book? Justice League of America #41.

I've been disappointed with a lot of what James Robinson has written without a partner over the last few years. His Atlas arc in the Superman books, the first few issues of Justice League: Cry For Justice and other bits here and there were just terrible. Filled with cliche situations, bad dialogue and exposition measured in metric tons (it's so heavy, get it? I didn't say I could write better).

Why did I give this book a shot? A friend of mine tweeted to James Robinson that he loved the issue and felt it respected so many previous versions of the JLA. My curiosity was piqued.

The result was that I wished I could take not only that issue back for a refund, but the rest of my $33+ purchase, as well.

Where does it go so wrong?

  1. It directly picks up from stuff that happened in JL: Cry For Justice. As stated previously, the writing on that long-delayed, "originally supposed to be an ongoing series but shrunk down to a mini" series was horrendous. The manner of introducing the characters was cringe-inducing, particularly the need to have them all boil their situations down to a "cry for justice". It was as if it was written to be what some writer "slumming it" in comic books thought a comic book was supposed to read like. It read like the worst of 80s/90s comics. And they spend several pages doing a bad job of trying to establish the weight of what went on in that mini. It gives the book a mediocre-at-best start (and, honestly, it can't see mediocre from where it's standing). They, also, have this spin out of Blackest Night, but just barely. Even still, it is a sounder move to have this work with aftermath of the biggest selling DC project, rather than an ongoing that got downgraded to a mini and started ridiculously long after it was initially supposed to come out.
  2. You have heroes quitting. No, I'm not talking about Vixen talking about leaving the JLA. That sort of thing has been done to death, but you can't necessarily knock it. If the membership is going to change, you'll need scenes like this. No, I mean Donna Troy quitting being a hero. I don't just mean deciding not to gather with other heroes to fight crime. I don't mean not going on patrols or anything like that. I mean showing up at the scene of an ongoing crime and telling the police present that she won't lift a finger to potentially save lives. Has this been done before? Possibly. Has it rang false most of the time? Yup. Does it come off as unbelievable here? You betcha.
  3. In about five panels time, we have Donna Troy convinced to not only keep going as a hero, but join the Justice League and start recruiting others to be a member of the biggest super-heroing-show on Earth. Let's see...on one page we have "those people might die? fuck those people" and "I'll go convince others to help me save the Earth from evil-doers" on the next. Holy shit, that's bad.
  4. In this book that couldn't manage to properly make you feel the weight of past events on the characters and had Donna Troy go from "fuck everyone else" to top JLA cheerleader so fast that my head is still spinning, we're given several pages of a poorly written flashback to 1777? If there have been a less enjoyable or useful four pages in a DC Comic book in the last 5-10 years, I haven't seen them (and I'm glad, as I can't imagine what my reaction to THAT work would be). Like so many of the problems I have with this book, I don't think I can say it better than "it reads like the worst 1980s comic book you ever read".
  5. So far, the only purpose the flashback served was to introduce us to some possibly alien artifact that a scientist at the Smithsonian delivers the clunkiest exposition while examining. How clunky? The kind you haven't read outside of the worst 1980s comic book. What's worse is that it tells you that it is bad. Robinson writes the scientist as recognizing how bad the dialogue is. It is as if he realized he was writing shitty dialogue and, rather than fix it, had the character acknowledge it as if it made it cool and meta, rather than lazy and shite.
  6. Donna gets her cheerleading on. She takes a half page to recruit Starfire and the other half to recruit Cyborg. One of the biggest problems I have with this book is that it makes all the wrong choices with how it chooses to spend pages on the story. I get that you have to be efficient and economical with how you dole out space in a book where you're throwing together a whole new JLA. But you have to do that smartly...and that is where this book fails.
  7. Donna then recruits Dick Grayson Batman. And in the five pages used for this bit, Dick calls Damian a drama queen. I know Dick is so much more lighthearted than Bruce...but drama queen? Really? It seems a bit out of character and oddly placed. I can't explain why it should bother me so much as to rate its own spot in this list, but it does.
  8. Please don't make me talk about how terrible the dialogue between Donna Troy and Dr. Light was. I don't think I could survive having to read it again.
  9. Mon-El Superman gets recruited. Two pages/four panels of showing how heroic and stoic he is, followed by a monosyllabic Guardian asking him who he captured and confirming that he captured him and tied together with a bow by Dr. Light recruiting him by simply pointing out that Superman was in the JLA. Really, because we needed a splash page and a three panel page establishing Mon-El Superman so he could be recruited by saying, "you want to be like Superman? Superman was in the JLA." Pages wasted on bullshit and Robinson having the characters having to TELL everything and show nothing. He wants to spend pages on "cool visuals" for throwaway scenes, painting himself into a corner where he has to give you microwave character development and terrible, exposition-heavy dialogue.
  10. I was about to say the Green Lantern/Green Arrow bit was the only part I didn't have a problem with. But then I re-read and caught the "what do I do that'll make the rage burning within go away?" line. Holy shit, this book can't even manage to handle a two page scene without having something hack fall out of a character's mouth.
I'd really like to refine my points above more. At the least, I should really come up with a paragraph or two that sums things up and makes a bit more of a constructive statement than the griping you see above. But I just can't do it. I'm trying to put this issue behind me. What I've shared here is an attempt at catharsis. I'm hoping it will set me free and I can begin reading any of the other comic books (possibly mediocre, but undoubtedly better than this one) that I bought last night. Maybe I'll revisit this next week and try to dissect the book with more care and thought. But I need to try to get away from it now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mr. Anonymous, Is That You?

So I see an old friend pop on AIM and I decide to say hi. Last time he had juicy spoilers for me, I held back on coming right out with the info and made it into a guessing game. Since, I've kinda lost the hunger for getting spoilers. All of this is to say: I really was just saying hello.

But he had an update for me. Secret Avengers lineup.

Hmmm. Eclectic damn thing. We both agree that, if anyone can pull it off, Bru is the man. We disagree on whether it is a definite that Bru and Deodato can make it sell well, in addition to being a quality product. Then again, I guess cast didn't significantly hurt Avengers: The Initiative or the later issues of Mighty Avengers.

I'll say popular opinion on the first teasers is correct. I'll be picking up the first few issues just to see how they make this thing work.