Saturday, December 03, 2011

Worst DC Relaunch Ever

And before I saw the photo-variant cover, I had said, "finally, some New Gods stuff!" ;)
Found here!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

DC 52: On the 1s & 2s: Frankenstein

About, oh, two weeks ago, I asked folks for examples of DC 52 books they might be interested in seeing reviews for. I had the idea for reviewing two issues of a series at once, largely because I wanted to use the "on the 1s and 2s" phrase, but, also, because it has felt like there isn't always enough meat to the single issues of this relaunch to fairly judge just one. The first up is Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

The first thing I noticed when going over this selection was how at odds the cover art seems to be with the interior. Employing JG Jones on covers doesn't just give you art that is at conflict with the interior pencils, but suggests practically a brand difference.

But then breaking past that initial concern, I'm faced with yet another apparent contradiction. The story elements, on the surface, seem to suggest more action movie than indie drama. But the muddied, moody art (including the way coloring is employed) suggests the type of story you'd see in Vertigo books, where the action is rarely THE THING, but mostly there to service the story. The coloring, in particular, really seems to fit what I more often have seen on Vertigo product than DC Universe: larger sections of one solid color, rather than more intricate detail. Which, separate from a review, makes me wonder if there's some manner of cost savings in such a move, rather than simply being an artistic decision.

This is not to say I don't enjoy Alberto Ponticelli's art at all. I do, despite some of the inconsistencies (namely Frankenstein's monster looking like several different characters throughout the book). His art is always effective, tells the story ably and can handle the blend of action, humor and drama well. One of the strongest stretches for the art appears with a flashback in the second issue. In relating a supporting character's history (and, also, informing us on some of S.H.A.D.E.'s history), the art team perfectly evokes the feeling of old, grainy home movie footage.

The book uses classic horror movie characters, which would seem to suggest the style of art is fitting, as moody/muddied is often found in horror comics. But the cast is really a swerve, as it is much more of a sci-fi book with huge, bloodied battlefields through the first two issues; a sort of "sword and raygun" fantasy that might be better served by cleaner pencils.

The writing is very strong. I'll be honest: despite my warning above regarding single issues being hard to judge a property by in DC's 52, I had decided to stray away after the first issue, until this book was suggested for review. I'm very glad for the opportunity, as the additional installment casts the whole in a different light. It's difficult to pinpoint where and why there was a change, but suddenly everything clicked much more nicely once I was several pages into #2. Ideas seem less thrown out there, but are, instead, part of well-executed world building and character depth. Not every note is perfect (the gag about no one telling the doctor that Frankenstein's monster was such a gentleman comes to mind), but, somehow, the accumulation of bits between the issues starts to gel, without there being anything to put my finger on as being done differently from one issue to the next.

Lemire deftly weaves horror concepts into sci-fi properties and makes some of his sci-fi concepts feel all too real. Whether we're talking their base of operations, the prison within it, the communications system or the nature of the external threat in this first arc, all of the ideas just work.

Except when it comes to lettering. Of all the things to still have difficulty adjusting to, it was the method of delivery for communications. The lettering was an x-on-black style (where x could be white or, more commonly, some other color that was used in large amounts elsewhere on the page) that was a bit of an irritant to my eyes. Why the purpose was clear (setting itself apart from other captions/bubbles), the combination of using it in such dark areas of art and often using non-white colors (making it stand out slightly less well on the black) was a source of frustration. Hopefully, it is something they can adjust and I can adjust to going forward.

Overall, this is an enjoyable series with a talented creative team. I think I'll be adding this to my regular purchases going forward.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Request

I'm looking to review a swath of New 52 books from DC. I've read practically all of them, but I'm not such a masochist that I'm eager to go through them all. Ideally, I'd like to go over the first two issues of at least ten of the titles. But, since I'm being selective, I'd like to get a little direction from those who are reading the blog.

Please take the time to note five of the New 52 that you'd like me to review the first two issues of. With the limited replies I generally get, you just might see me review all five of your requests. ;)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Victor Von Dammit!

I think someone pulled a Brevoort here.

To the right, you see a story, as it ran on before Rich Johnston was swamped with complaints about questionable reporting on it (Rich committed the error of putting too much faith in his original sources, it seems).

The story he was fed? The real story behind cancellation of the Victor Von Doom mini wasn't lack of orders, a shift in Marvel strategy or because the original editor (the witty & well-liked Alejandro Arbona) was shit-canned, but that the artist (Becky Cloonan) had personal emergencies that led her to not have finished ANY of the artwork for the mini. Marvel claimed to not have received a single, solitary page.

Sources came to Rich almost immediately upon publication of the article, telling him Marvel's story was patently false and that they had seen the completed pages for the entire first issue.

Which brings me to "The Brevoort"...

Most folks probably don't remember this to the point of obsession like I do, but when Civil War delays led to delaying a bunch of titles that tied into it, Tom Brevoort tried to cover for the fact that Marvel only owned up to it the afternoon before it was supposed to be on shelves because, FOR THE SAKE OF RETAILERS, they needed to hold off on announcing it until they had a plan in place for "fixing" it. I'm in good company thinking that the whole move screwed over retailers, seeing as how that was Tom Spurgeon's opinion at the time. Going toe to toe with Brevoort over how asinine his claim was wound up being the first time I recall Marvel complaining to Newsarama about me (expecting an unpaid reviewer to have his opinion kept in check by the site).

Fast forward to today, with the product being much lower profile, but the overall issue of cancelled Marvel product being a little more embarrassing and the delay in announcing it being, once again, unprofessional. So they leak that it is because a freelancer had personal life get in the way of their professional commitments and, though they still love her and no one is mad at her, it caused the series to currently be cancelled...even if that might not be the real explanation.

While everyone is mad at Rich Johnston for having reported this, the real focus of the ire should be his source. Really...even if true...they wanted so badly to take the heat off of Marvel's decision to cancel by taking a swing at the professionalism of a freelancer that, by their own explanation, seemed to be going through some trying times?

Johnston's reporting here speaks to the larger problem with the state of comics journalism. Due to so few sites being willing to potentially frustrate their meal ticket, the publishers, there aren't many outlets for news stories that might cast anyone in a negative light. Yet a significant number of the audience eats up those stories, making the race to be the one who puts out the few bits of real news that ever trickle out a cutthroat one.

So, Johnston trusts his source. His source places the blame as politely as possible on a freelancer. He makes at least a token effort to reach out to the freelancer, but doesn't hear back soon enough for his comfort. Why the discomfort? It's Friday afternoon and he's losing his most valued readership time. Weekends are generally more dead than weekdays on comic book sites. If he doesn't get this up before the end of the business day, he will have to debate saving it for Monday.

Meanwhile, every moment he holds on to it, there's a chance the story will leak out to someone else who will run it without further confirmation without having nearly the same relationship with the source that he might have. And then what happens next time? Will the source bypass Johnston for the person willing to run the story immediately on their word next time? Maybe he crassly does the math that the source who gave him this story will be in a better position to give him future stories than the freelancer he'd be respecting by waiting for their response or eating the story altogether.

But here we stand: at last check, there were a lot of people who screamed "FUCK RICH JOHNSTON", but I didn't notice anyone adding "...AND FUCK WHOEVER GAVE HIM THIS 'STORY', TOO!"

Of Spoilers & Setups

Ed Brubaker (gentleman on the left in the picture to the right) put forth a Twitter tirade about his Fear Itself 7.1 story getting spoiled on comic book news websites (mostly directed at, I believe).

But he misdirects his anger...and I think even he might admit by now that he overreacted a bit.

No way to discuss this without acknowledging the spoiler, so, out of respect for his frustration, I'm putting the rest of the talk on a click-through after showing a few of Brubaker's initial tweets on this subject:


Out Of Context Theater

I guess we all have our price.
Uncanny X-Men #1

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occasional Competent Studio?

Bleeding Cool pointed readers to a blog by someone who used to run day-to-day operations at Platinum Studios. He goes on about a fictional (read: not that fictional) Goldmine Studios, owned (to its detriment) by a silver-spooned idiot who throws money at any problem or desire.

The stories are much less salacious and about a much smaller "mover/shaker" in the comic book industry than Valerie D'Orazio's DC memoirs, but are so much less veiled as to make up for those shortcomings. It is a riveting and hilarious window into the worst kept secret that a particular studio was terribly mismanaged by its owner, despite having some well-intentioned employees trying to make it a success despite him.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review The Reviewer

After being bothered by it for years, both by sites I contributed to and sites I merely visited, I've been giving great consideration towards "reviewing the reviewer".

I'd likely hit most of the major sites that contribute comic book reviews (and possibly other popular forms of entertainment) to dissect how common it is that the "reviews" are over 50% recap, rather than critique.

My question to the eight people still reading this with any regularity: would you be interested in seeing such an examination?

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Hype Machine...Comes Through?

I've enjoyed a good deal of Mark Millar's work, but his incessant hyping of it makes me less and less likely to try his new projects. The slowness with which they eek out is a deterrent, too, but it's really his endlessly hyping up his own abilities, successes and spinning of his shortcomings as wins that push me away.

But damn if it doesn't work for him.

I don't know how it happened, but somehow I've found up on e-mail alerts from The Hollywood Reporter throughout the day about any entertainment developments. Two of them today have included news about Hollywood Mark Millar:

Universal in Negotiations to Pick Up 'War Heroes' Comic Book Project (Exclusive)


'X-Men' Director Matthew Vaughn Developing Mark Millar Comics 'The Secret Service,' 'Superior'

Though, it is interesting to note, that the second THR article asserts that Vaughn co-created The Secret Service property, which makes this appear more like Millar is a hired hand in the process with Vaughn than the full-fledged creative force that he more often sells himself as. The appearance of this point, coupled with the article mentioning that Vaughn wants to get back more control from start-to-finish of his projects, seems to suggest that he may have played a large role in formulating the key points that the project launches from and then handed it off to Millar to flesh it out.

Regardless, success for comic book projects in other media still brings at least a modicum of attention back to the medium that was its source...and if War Heroes is a success, I'll be thrilled for the payday it might bring to Tony F___ing Harris, stand-up guy and outspoken workers' rights fella on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

George Perez: Out Of Steam?

According to Newsarama, that's exactly what editor Matt Idelson implied by saying, "sometimes there's enough gas in the tank and sometimes there's not," at NYCC this past weekend.

There are many different ways to try to politely explain why a legendary creator is quickly jumping off a title. Even if the above quote is accurate, it isn't the smartest thing to announce to the world. The likelihood that it will be taken negatively is far too high.

You frame it better than that.

"As excited as he was to be writing Superman, he had a yearning to get back to full pencils on an upcoming project that we can't yet announce."

Something similar to that winds up true and is much hard to spin into a negative or have taken the wrong way. I know that, if I were Perez, I wouldn't appreciate the way the move was communicated, as it paints me as being clearly unable to last beyond (or maybe even UP to) six issues.

I'm confident that Idelson didn't dream the statement could be misconstrued as a negative commentary on Perez's ability to follow through on such an assignment, but, when you're at a convention that is essentially a four day press conference, you really have to be more conscious of controlling the message than that.

Here's hoping a more detailed and flowery explanation for the change up is forthcoming.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Superman & #OWS

I was reviewing tweets with the hashtag #ows and I was reminded that Grant Morrison has described his Superman in Action Comics as being a man of the people who is striking against corporations. Seems like a perfect match for Occupy Wall Street.

In the first issue of DC's relaunch of Action Comics, Superman bursts into the penthouse of the biggest corporate "rat" and attempts to force a confession out of him regarding all the laws he has broken. He does this with cops chasing HIM down, telling him to stop.

(spoken by Superman in continuation from above; panel cropped to focus on dialogue)

He resorts to dropping the guy off the balcony to scare him (with the corporate "rat" never in danger, as Superman will save him) and gets his confession. The crimes?

Corporate crimes. White collar crimes. Hurting the American people in the ways they get hurt in real life, not the way comic book super-heroes do it. And this isn't intended to be a one-off.

What's a better symbol for #OWS right now? He is bigger than a corporate IP, but has embodied truth, justice and the AMERICAN WAY, which are all in jeopardy now and being fought for by the folks in every #OCCUPY movements.

I know it will never happen, but how cool would it be to see a large number of protesters sporting the S shield?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shazam Returns? Wither Batman: Earth One? (UPDATE)

Update: Well, no sooner did I post this than stumbled upon better coverage of the convention that demonstrated that BATMAN: EARTH ONE is, indeed, still coming and Amazon has it for pre-order.

Original article:
If you check The Source, Captain Marvel is coming back.

The team doing it? Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. It starts as a backup feature in Justice League, but this is the same team that was supposed to have completed the Batman: Earth One by now, with no word of its completion or scheduled publication coming out.

Honestly, if I had to pick one, I'd go with the CURSE OF SHAZAM project (even if the "curse" part has me a bit worried), despite my strong interest in the Batman: Earth One OGN.

DC has been remarkably quiet about the previously planned OGNs, as far as I can see.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Green Lantern At Less Than 1/3 Cover Price

You'll find it for just that price (pops up automatically for me, but some may need the discount code of GREEN to be put in on the final checkout page).

I've been beating this drum for awhile, but the online deal site,, has had several DC relaunch titles for postal subscriptions at less than one-third the cover price.

Snail mail subscriptions are always cheaper, but never before have they regularly beaten even the discount that retailers get in buying the book through Diamond.

If you couple this with the returnability commitment that DC keeps expanding out for additional months, it might seem to indicate that the publishing strategy on the physical side is to increase circulation so that ad buys will be more attractive and/or increase the pool of potential digital subscribers.

Six or so DC titles offered up at a dangerously low price (not quite a loss, necessarily, given DC cutting out retail and distribution, but having to pay lower class mail rates) upping the circulation and putting them in direct contact with the customer in a way that retailers won't be as alerted to as Marvel's "free digital copy for every comic" idea seems like it is good for the reader and possibly the publisher, but not anyone in between.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Automated "Related" Links Are Bad

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

That Old Captain America/Wizard Magazine Controversy

Warning: nothing new to see here. If you want timely observations, you'll need to check back at a later date (or, some would suggest, peruse a better site). This here be history.

I was looking over site stats and saw that Johanna over at Comics Worth Reading had linked to my article about the declining popularity of Newsarama. She mentioned how their doing away with forums irritated her for a reason other than what I was pointing out in my post: links to old 'Rama articles were now dead, since the forums had been wiped from existence.

After thanking her for the link in her comments section, it hit me: one of the few original articles I had done for Newsarama (not counting convention coverage) may have been lost to the ages. Googling it confirmed that it was one of the things that had all traces deleted off the 'Rama website. What a kick square to the nuts.

While I was able to dig up the original Word doc I sent for publishing, I'll never be able to locate the conversation it generated and the give and take. I know from my notes that it was the first interview Drew Seldin had given on the subject, even if it was one of the last to get posted on the sites. For instance, Rich Johnston had a brief bit published about it in his Lying in the Gutters over at CBR, but I had talked to him before that call took place, which is partially evidenced by the message not being quite so well-formed from Wizard yet. There are some similarities in answer, but the longer form of our discussion revealed some stumbling blocks.

As I conducted the whole interview on my own (from tracking down Seldin, to developing the questions and recording the phone conversation), never received any compensation and now the article is no longer even published on Newarama, I'm going to repost it here for posterity's sake.

Oh...and for the record? Drew Seldin was a pleasure to talk to. He's a great guy who had nothing to do with the decisions Wizard made, just was in the unenviable position of having to deal with the aftermath.

Original article (with "Newarama" now edited out) follows after the break.

(full article...)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Whither "Samaritan X"?

I was just talking with some friends online and, after discussing the news about Archie with their Red Circle characters, we wound up on the topic of JMS.

It's my opinion that, with the possible exception of Superman: Earth One, JMS-at-DC has been an unmitigated disaster. Everything has been stops and starts for him, with very little apparent critical or commercial expense to come along with him being such a hyped signing.

One of the hyped announcements regarding his DC work was Samaritan X, announced in March 2010 to fairly wide discussion, as it was an apparent attempt to add a hospital drama to the DC Universe that was, at the same time, somehow creator-owned. When JMS did his whole bowing out from monthly comics thing, he announced that Superman: Earth One was the top priority, followed by Samaritan X (in November 2010).

We're almost at a year since that announcement/update, but we've heard nothing more about the project. Shane Davis, artist of Superman: Earth One, has already been working on the follow-up OGN, so it makes it clear that, if Samaritan X is ANY kind of priority, there should be some movement on it.

From talks about the relaunch, some recounting of events would suggest that JMS was aware the restructuring of DC's main universe was already under way at the time. The OGN was supposed to be set in regular continuity, so it could be that it requires tweaking, that DC is reconsidering the format or it has been scrapped altogether. But you'd have expected it to come up in some way, shape or form by now. Either my Google Fu is weak or it is something completely lacking any updates.

With the relaunch moves and the whole Amazon/Barnes & Noble GN controversy at DC Comics, might this topic get addressed at NYCC?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Why $1 Extra For Digital Is Better For Retailers

Much is being made of the Avenging Spider-Man free digital copy with every print copy. Great for customers, to some extent, but shitty for retailers.


With the extra dollar charged for the JUSTICE LEAGUE copies that have a digital code, the retailer at least knows they're sending their customer to a competing delivery service and is getting their money up front.

With Marvel's plan, the retailer gets a $.50 credit somewhere down the line for every redeemed code.

But how do they track that?

Is it reliant upon the customer filling out a referral field that says they bought the book at BOB'S BIG COMICS? Or is it reliant upon Diamond records having the right batch assigned as being shipped to the right store and that batch matching up with all the proper codes?

And what system could possibly be in place for a retailer to be assured that they're getting the full credit they earned? Seems like it comes down to "hey, trust us, we're Marvel...have we EVER done you wrong?"

Friday, October 07, 2011

Reason #18373 I'm Not A Brevoort Fan

When DC hit with their 20 pages for $2.99 move, Marvel hit with all kinds of spin.

Brevoort indicated DC could make the cut because they didn't need to make a profit directly off publishing, but Marvel needed the $3.99. This despite someone from Marvel corporate already having told shareholders that they initially raised prices on their titles to see how inelastic they were.

The prices went up on their most popular titles first, not the books that were less popular but having hardcore audiences (like his suggestion that the same folks buying DC's Booster Gold at $2.99 would buy it at $3.99).

But what brings us here today is the sentiment expressed first, I believe, by CB Cebulski and echoed by Brevoort: DC's $2.99 move would hurt the talent, because they'd be getting their rate on 20 pages instead of 22.

Brevoort has, also, defended Marvel's raising prices to $3.99, despite the recession concerns of the retailers and their customers.

Yet Marvel has slowly but surely moved more books to 20 pages, while still charging $3.99 for a lot of them.

That's not the real impetus for this post, though. This is...

According to Richard Pace, he's "been told Marvel cut everyone but the top names' page rates and dropped two pages as well."

So, now the high and mighty Marvel gives less work per issue for their contractors to earn from AND pays less per page?

If there was any doubt that their claims to the moral high ground were false and full of spin, let this put an end to it.

Note: my problems with Brevoort started with his lying on behalf of Marvel to claim that refusing to tell retailers about the massive Civil War delays until Monday or Tuesday of the week the latest issue was supposed to hit was done "for the retailers". That was the first incident where my outspokenness resulted in Marvel's ire being directed at Newsarama. I went back and forth at Brevoort as a fan, since my Newsarama work involved no pay at the time and left me feeling that it would be unfair for Marvel to hold my opinion against them (I was not their employee) or for the 'Rama to feel I should bite my tongue on their behalf.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Devil's In The Bleeding Details

Over at, Rich has an early scoop about DC overtaking Marvel in both market and dollar share. He indicates "(t)he only time DC has been ahead of Marvel in any form for decades was last December," but that'd be inaccurate.

DC beat Marvel in both categories in May 2005, October 2005 and May 2006. DC beat Marvel in dollar share in January, February and August 2003.

It doesn't really put a damper on this accomplishment, if it holds up as accurate, but it does shoot down the needlessly overstated hyperbole.

C'mon, Rich, I know you always profess to not be a journalist, but if you're going to go out of your way to say "decades", rather than "in recent years", you gotta put forth just a little more effort at accuracy in reporting.

In all honesty, though, I might have just passed it over without digging anything up, but a few of my remaining readers dropped me a line to point out a few of the above examples, causing me to work back from October 2005 to see if I could come up with any more. Then I realized that the point is already made without spending the rest of the night pouring over and let it go.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New 52: Aquaman

I'll flesh this out in a later post, but just to get my initial reaction up here immediately:

Why did I have to pay $3 for Geoff Johns to literally lecture a section of the comic book reading audience on how Aquaman isn't the joke they think he is, especially when a good portion of that group probably skipped the book on the shelf to begin with?

For my money, we got about three-to-five pages that should have been in this book...and they were the ones that just featured the new-big-bad rising from the deep.

Any other writer, the next issue would not be leaving the shop with me. But, then again, few other writers would be bold enough to expect their audience to pay $3 to be told (much more than shown) how the character is much cooler than the people making fun of them for buying the issue think.

At least the art is strong, even if some of the coloring effects are a bit much.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DC Comics: Quietly Undercutting The Direct Market

A big deal has been made about digital pricing, with an eye towards how DC will try to discount the cost of electronic comics to increase readership. Currently, the pricing is identical to the printer cover price for the first four weeks of release, which essentially makes it cost more than the print version, given the assorted discounts that can be found at brick and mortar shops as well as online retailers.


If you search for Tanga and DC Comics on some of the discount deal sites, like, you'll find them offering full year subscriptions to their physical books FOR LESS THAN A DOLLAR PER ISSUE. That is a discount that beats anything an actual retail partner could ever afford to regularly offer.

At the link above, you can see they have made this offer on Batman & Robin, Batman (twice!) and Swamp Thing. They've done this for Justice League and Green Lantern, as well. Some of the offerings came before the relaunch books were on the shelves, but I believe all came after the relaunch push was announced.

I could be wrong, but I believe at least four of the five are among their "greater than 100k sold" titles in the relaunch, with Justice League purportedly being well in excess of 200k. To put the fine point on it: they're largely cherry picking what are their bread and butter titles for the direct market to push for an obscene direct-to-the-customer discount.

You can name all the postal subscription drawbacks you like, but at a greater than 66% discount, you're increasingly likely to find a reader willing to make that sacrifice for a sweetheart deal.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Remember Mr. Anonymous?

Don't get too excited: this isn't new, but a callback.

Remember when Mr. Anonymous was putting out the, rallying keep Loeb from being handed the cosmic characters, as Marvel thought he could increase their sales, despite the critical acclaim DNA were getting on them?

A few people used that and the odd Secret Invasion change to try to say he was full of it. Sure, this is far later than when he was warning us, but that's part due to feedback and part because, well, this is Jeph Loeb. Aren't there some projects previously announced as coming from him years ago that we still have yet to see completed?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Scheduling: The Biggest New 52 Problem

A lot is being made about the controversial contents of a few books from DC this week. As with so much in American entertainment, the controversy boils down to sex. Regardless of where you come down on this particular divide, it brings to mind a completely different, yet related problem...


In the previous week, there was the issue of strong similarities between two books that could have been resolved by the schedule for the 52 roll out being over a month long. In fairness, the schedule wasn't so tight that they couldn't have pushed one of these to another week.

But now we have the Starfire and Catwoman controversies that are overshadowing other quality releases. When you want word of mouth, reviews, buzz, etc to influence sales, a comic book Wednesday becomes much like a movie Friday: you don't want your product to get lost in all the attention competing products get. If the competing product is from your own house? Well, you quite simply bump it to a different release date where it can shine on its own.

In releasing two books that, regardless of your personal feelings about, were sure to cause a loud reaction, DC hurt a few of their other books. Ironically, Wonder Woman and (to a lesser extent) Supergirl were two high quality, otherwise-high-profile releases that aren't going to get as much attention as they merited because people will be talking about the sexual issues at play in Red Hood & the Outlaws and Catwoman.

It might be that DC had this as a calculated move, thinking two strong female characters without sexual overtones used would help counterbalance the sturm and drang caused by those otherwise-low-profile books. While you can see the logic behind that (if not, sadly, the effectiveness in use), the better move would have been to stretch out the release schedule a bit more or, at the very least, schedule the two tempests-in-a-teapot to separate weeks so they didn't go all "Wonder Twin Powers Activate! Form of...misogyny accusations! Form of...DC thinks strong women are sluts!"

Controversial works can be good for business. But when they obscure your other worthy products or waste their attention-grabbing ability by being piled up on the same date, it just doesn't make good sense.


I didn't intend for my first new posting on the site in ages to be about the decline of my old stomping ground.

No, I planned on talking about the successful DC relaunch. Why? Because curiosity got me running into the store to get the books and the horror stories of sold out issues had me hot-footing it over there instead of taking days or weeks to head in.

While my pile has been dominated by DC, I've actually bought some single issues I wouldn't have otherwise picked up. I've been trafficking comic related sites and social network entries more, so I saw Clevinger asking fans to pick up a new Atomic Robo issue and people talking about Pigs by Nate Cosby.

Now, I love Robo, but it is normally trade purchase for me. Seeing as how Clevinger had an interesting take on Firestorm that I wasn't going to get to see published, I figured I'd pick up this first issue to show some support (and then decide whether or not to trade-wait on the rest later).

Cosby? He's been a damn entertaining Twitter follow since leaving the editor chair and I was keen to see what a book written by him would turn out like.

There are certainly other non-DC books I pick up, but they were things I'd likely have picked up without this whole New 52 thing reinvigorating my anticipation for Wednesday deliveries. SIXTH GUN is one of the rare books that I'd actually search through the old weeks' shelves at the shops to make sure I didn't miss if work had gotten in the way of my making a weekly visit.

But, yeah, the apathy has come to a rather abrupt end. I plan on trying to post opinions and all around here to see if anyone wants to read them. Most of the traffic I ever got was because of a passionate fan working at a publisher, leaking information because he had concerns about what they had planned. Since he's ridden off into the sunset (for the purposes of this site, not in his life or career), it remains to be seen how piqued curiosity is for my musings...

How The Mighty Have Fallen

I loved the folks I worked with at Some of the folks still working there are people I'd step in front of a bullet for. I take no joy in pointing this out just checked their Alexa stats on a lark. Their global rank? 12,521. That's neck and neck with another popular comic book site. CBR? No, they're ranked 5860.

That close competitor? at 12498. That's right: Bleeding Cool is ranked higher than Newsarama for the last three months.

One of the main differences? CBR and BleedingCool still have forums that encourage readers to discuss their coverage right there. Newsarama? They encourage you to give them feedback on Facebook and Twitter. They're sending you to places that don't help their ad rates and they can't fully monetize, as far as I can tell.

A lot was made of the changes Newsarama underwent a few years back. Much was made of the new bells-and-whistles of how items were presented, but I don't think that was what knee-capped the site. No, I'd say it was the migration from vBulletin to the other message board interface they ran with for awhile, due to having been bought out by another company that happened to use it. They kept tweaking the forums to try to find a configuration that made them more inviting, but they failed. There used to be links at the bottom of articles to a thread in the forum where you could discuss it, much like CBR's current model.

But this message board system had a flawed notification system that didn't properly alert you of the new posts and didn't direct you straight to the newest entry, from what I can recall. So the message board traffic continued to dwindle as more effort was required of the visitor than had been previously or was currently required at their competitors. accounts for 27.95% of CBR's visitors over the last three months, according to I'm pretty sure's forums account for a lot of their traffic, but that info isn't available to me, as it isn't setup as a subdomain. just redirects to It's great that more and more of the front page content is actually a blog entry where visitors can respond, but you need to subscribe to an RSS feed if you want to be kept in the loop, rather than just checking a box to be notified of replies to your comment or new comments in general on the post (as the Blogger and WordPress formats encountered elsewhere allow). Newsarama has more or less actively discouraged visitor interaction with their site.

In short, I believe, for want of a nail (encouraged visitor participation), a kingdom (past traffic dominance) was lost. And it's a fucking shame.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Schwappathetic 52

Count me amongst the folks that felt that DC Comics should have relaunched all of their comics back when they did Crisis on Infinite Earths or several of their other events. It would have been well-timed and, I believe, much better received than this new directive.

For some reason, I can't muster much enthusiasm for this relaunch. I think I figured it out.

All of those other moments where they thought about it or could have done a relaunch? They weren't using an Elseworlds story as the launching point. That's what Flashpoint is.

All of the previous events included at least an attempt to give the characters we've followed for decades a last hurrah. They were going out with an epic fight before being started over. We weren't given empty, alternate versions of the characters to follow through an event that hasn't even given us enough time to be made to care about them sufficiently to even be concerned about the stakes. 

With the original Crisis, there was a fight at the beginning of time. We knew all the players, so you didn't have to learn about them and decide if you cared, but just have it demonstrated that the stakes were high. Zero Hour probably made the weakest argument for being used as a huge relaunch starting point, but it did have the plot devices necessary. Infinite Crisis would have been pretty strong, given all the discussion that had come from DC about this being an example of it being darkest before the dawn, seeming to indicate plans at a tonal shift for their entire line. Final Crisis would have been a bit poetic, given that it was Grant's demonstration of the power of a story, being used to end one while starting another.

Flashpoint? Ugh. It is an "event" in name only, as it centers around only one of the DC flagship characters being used to drive this alternate reality...and not one of the most commercially attractive ones, at that. While this is going on in its mini and a bunch of alternate one-shots and minis, the rest of the DCU titles are going on as if blissfully ignorant of the whole thing. So we don't seem to even get much of an opportunity for creative teams in the original titles to give titles or character versions a real send off. 

In that sense, the whole thing stinks of business-first/story-last. I'm not naive: I'm fairly aware that business, push comes to shove, is always first. But it is in the best interests of all involved to make sure that never stands so naked before the customer as it appears to be right now. Which makes it difficult to build up excitement to continue to read the obligatory event that launches the business decision of the year in September. It, also, makes me wonder if they knew they had the OK to relaunch back when they planned Flashpoint or if it came along after this event was already scheduled, making it necessary to turn this into part of the launch, rather than designed that way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Schwappathy Continues

I've been treading water with the comics habit lately. I'm buying stuff and reading it, but not being wowed. All of the stuff that grabs me is largely read in trade format. Thankfully, I had periods of time where I was out of comics, so there is a wealth of stuff from years back that I can read for the first time today (Gotham Central, for instance).

But what I had been looking forward to snapping me out of my current mainstream comics doldrums (since even the TPBs I'm enjoying are largely from smaller publishers) was FLASHPOINT. I didn't care about the comparisons to the Age of Apocalypse, mostly because I enjoyed that event so much. But man...

I know they couldn't have this sneak up on readers like AoA did. We live in a different age where information can't be kept from the masses (even in cases when it arguably should). But the run up to it had no suspense or excitement. Instead, we saw a few issues of Flash that largely spun their wheels and had everyone read more than a little bit emo.

Then we get the first issue of this alternate reality and never has the term "meh" seemed so appropriate.

Judging by an alternate cover, I get the feeling that we're supposed to be wowed by Cyborg's place in the super-hero world as a leader. But then the contents of the issue show him to be ineffective, with everyone scattering when he can't deliver a more important teammate.

Try as I might, I can't really get excited by the new or obscure characters remade in this reality. Maybe one of the problems is that we weren't really shown what key change was made that turned this reality on its ear. One of the things that made AoA so interesting to me was that we were seeing how some of the players might have been effected by the absence of Xavier. Here...we don't know what, if anything, is missing. We're supposed to be keenly interested because we're trying to divine what that item is that led to this world? Sorry...not really grabbing me.

But one of the biggest whiffs for me was best pointed out by a friend of mine: the product of Shazam was turned into Captain Planet-Thunder. It wasn't really much of an interesting change. I felt like the kids in the group already annoyed me with a surprisingly short exposure.

The only thing that topped it, though, was the "shocking" reveal of an identity at the end. Dropped with a thud.  I'm not really curious how this makes anything different. To my thinking, it just further cements the idea that little is going to feel changed when this story is done.

In typing out these thoughts, it struck me how this issue really was just a collection of scenes slapped together more than a natural story. We just seemed to flip through "hey, look at this different character" moments, rather than focus on telling a story. What little story and character was introduced wound up denied oxygen due to exposition and costume redesigns sucking all of it out of the room.

It's going to be a long summer.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Holy Shit

He's dead.

I feel sadness remembering everything from September 11th and the people lost, both physically and emotionally, on that day.

I feel joy that comes from such a cathartic moment as seeing something evil die.

I feel afraid to go to sleep for fear that I'll open my eyes to find out it was all a dream.


noun - when the owner of this blog is apathetic about the subject matter he generally covers.

Folks, I'm not dead, dismembered or laid up in a hospital that will want my first born (and then some) to cover the expenses.

I'm just busy, tired and seriously lacking in motivation to write about comics lately.

Since the last week of November, I've been working a day job, again. Started up a help desk at a company that had previously used site techs at all of their locations. Not as part of management, but the first and most seasoned member of the actual desk. I'm one who often takes things way too seriously, so I've poured myself into the job and the hours I spend with my mind and actions on the job (in and outside of paid times) more or less fill the day.

Now, that said, I'd still be able to find the moments to write about comics and the like...if things weren't so disappointing and/or boring from the big two. I've been reading plenty of comic book material from anywhere else BUT those companies that is worthy of discussion (The Sixth Gun Volume 1 TP, Locke & Key V. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft TPB, etc). The rub? It would take more time and energy than I seem willing to give.

You see, the "mainstream" comic material that is good or bad enough to comment on doesn't always demand precise wording and detailed thought for discussion. One doesn't feel quite as guilty for basically saying little beyond "me like" or "SCHWAPP SMASH" about those offerings.

Lately, what I've read hasn't even really struck me as clearly good or bad. What I've liked hasn't necessarily had anything particular stand out about it that would encourage a post. I'm still enjoying Secret Six every time I buy it, but I'd be hard pressed to write two paragraphs about it, for instance. What I've disliked is the same. I don't know how many times I can point out what I feel are James Robinson's shortcomings on JLA or if I really want to bother bringing attention to his poorly juggling a hundred and one narrators to someone who can't pick it up on their own.

Beyond that, though, is the problem of the "meh" work. I've been sufficiently underwhelmed by so much of late. BRIGHTEST DAY and JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST come to mind. How much they both seemed to whiff on their final swing of their series is the closest they've come to really giving me any reason to want to say something about them to the five or so people that still look at this blog on occasion. I mean...if a stilted introduction of Swamp-Punisher-CaptainPlanet-ExpositionMan-Thing is the way you finish a book? Next time, don't start it.

Maybe if I had been weened on Marvel as a young 'un, FEAR ITSELF would deliver the goods more for me. If DC wasn't running in place or, in the case of REIGN OF THE DOOMSDAYS, trotting backwards, I might muster up some excitement for FLASHPOINT. I don't know.

I hope this post might be the start of my putting something up here at least weekly. I pray that, by the time I finally get a regular work schedule, I can post more frequently than that and give time to the non-"mainstream" works I'm really digging. But be warned: whenever I've prayed or hoped in one hand, it's always the other hand that's been filled faster. As long as I'm at it, I'm hoping/praying that Cullen Bunn could get at least half the attention that Nick Spencer has gotten over the last year, since, to my thinking, he's at least twice as deserving a talent.