Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 4

Last time, I lamented that I didn't want to buy the hardcover for the second volume of JMS's Thor. Well, I did some math and I can actually justify buying it...not happy about that. I also did some looking into Usagi Yojimbo and, luckily, it's pretty easy to get into. Although there are 23 volumes, they collect the material in chronological order and are plainly identified, unlike some collections of independent series.

As for this week, I'm talking about what effect Ultimate Avengers could have on events, photo referencing, musings about the future of comics and other subjects. Hit the jump to find out more.



The Never Ending Event

People like to talk about how Marvel and DC have entered some sort of Never Ending Event, which is something of an exaggeration. Sure, Marvel and DC are always putting out something that is event-like, but there are generally breaks in between, such as Initiative and Dark Reign, and they are not always line-wide, such as the cosmic stories or X-titles.

However, that may change at some point. Ultimate Avengers will be Mark Millar's return to the Ultimate Universe, renamed Ultimate Comics, and, as he describes it, Ultimate Avengers will be an "ongoing event book". He has planned four six issue arcs, each of which is an event-driven story involving characters from across the Ultimate Universe. How much one arc connects to the next is not known yet, but it wouldn't be hard to write them in way that they build off the previous one.

Depending on how successful Ultimate Avengers is, I could easily see Marvel doing a year long event sometime in 2011. It could take the form of a couple of minis, such as three four issue minis, or New Avengers could function as the Ultimate Avengers for the Marvel Universe or they could venture into weekly territory alla 52. As for tie-ins, I wouldn't have a book tie-in all year long, as that would be hard to justify and coordinate without it being "required", and would definitely have less than the normal amount of tie-ins, if any. Of course, I'm sane and don't have giant dollar signs in my eyes blinding me.


Use Models as Character References

I know some people have a problem with photo referencing (note: not talking Greg Land-like tracing; just obvious photo references like Norman "Tommy Lee" Osborn), but I think it needs to be done. One huge problem with comics is that there are few ways to tell characters apart outside of their costumes. Yes, some characters do have distinctive features out of costume, but most don't. What separates one character from another is not always obvious outside of some dialogue. For example, how would you tell apart Mockingbird and Ms. Marvel in New Avengers outside of their costumes?

Having model references for all of Marvel and DC's big name characters, either earlier versions of the characters or actual people, would be a great way to impose some visual uniformity for characters appearing in multiple books. I would shy away from using celebrity models, but I would not have a problem with it in certain cases, such as movie mimicking like Robert Downy Jr. as Tony Stark. It would also be helpful since faces are something a lot of artists seem to have problems with.



I'm Such A Nerd

As I mentioned in my Northlanders review, I have a Bachelor's Degree in History and, as such, I have a love/hate relationship with historical fiction. So, when I am watching or reading something dealing with history or specific time periods, I am busy going over what they got right, what they got wrong, etc., etc., etc.

For example, after I watched 300 for the first time, my first thoughts about the movie were how great it looked and the amount of stuff they actually got right, which is a lot. Obviously it wasn't all right, but moreso than most would think. Maybe I'll annoy you guys with the details one day.


Anyway, about Northlanders. There were some things that stuck out to me and I was originally going to include them in my review but 1) I felt I was being way too nit picky and 2) I'm probably the only one who cared.

So, what did I have a problem with? First, Sven refers to Gorm as a dictator, which is the wrong word. A "dictator", in the Roman tradition, which Sven should be aware of since he is from Byzantium, is an elected official with unlimited power. The word he is looking for is "tyrant", which is of Greek origin, which, again, Sven should be aware of, and is someone who rules without constitutional authority. Well, actually, Gorm probably isn't either of those since Sven probably renounced his claim to rule when he ran away from home.


Also, Sven refers to Gorm's rule as a military occupation, which wasn't really an idea back then. There was your land and then the land that you had not yet conquered. Those were the two big things. He also used the word "girlfriend", but I have no idea if that was a word back then. There were also a couple of other little things as well, but I've gotten over them.


Shorter Online Comics vs. Extended Edition Trades

Pondering the future of comics has become something I do a lot lately. Mostly because something is going to give at some point and I don't have too much faith in the direct market surviving in the long term. Other periodical publications (newspapers and magazines) are going through a downturn and some serious problems and I don't foresee comics being any different. As such, I've been thinking about what kind of forms comics might take in the future.

One idea I had was, given that digital distribution is going to play a larger and larger part as time goes on, why not entice people who switch to digital comics only to eventually buy the trade collection as well, even if they've already read the digital versions? How would you do that given the fact that they have already read the story?

Simple, "extended editions" of the stories in the trade, similar to Director's Cut DVDs. Basically, the web versions of the stories would contain the minimal, but essential details of the story while the collections would have extra scenes, sub-plots and longer fight scenes. So, if you just wanted to read the cheaper, digital stories you would get all of the necessary details and a fuller story but the collected stories would give you more for your money.



Do Marvel and DC Want to "Fix" The Direct Market?

As mentioned above, I've been doing some thinking about the future of comics and a thought occurred to me. If Marvel and DC actually wanted to fix the problems with the direct market, they probably could. Sure, they have made some bad decisions in the past, but when your business has the prospect of failing, you generally do something about it.

Now, the reason why I think DC probably doesn't take steps to do that is because they are owned by Warner Brothers, which means that 1) they may not have the ability to take the initiative to do so and 2) they are basically subsidized by WB so they don't need to.


As for Marvel, I can't say exactly why, but I do have a theory. Back around 2000 and the few years afterwards, Marvel was recovering from bankruptcy and just starting to turn things around. Grant Morrison was on New X-Men, JMS on Amazing Spider-Man, Bendis on Daredevil and the Ultimate and MAX imprints were putting out critically acclaimed work. It would be a good start that not only revitalizied their line, which it did, but also expanded their sales to something closer to what they had during the boom years of the 90s.

So, why didn't they attempt to fix the direct market? Movies. At the same time Marvel was in the process of turning their books around, their early movies, like X-Men (2000), Spider-Man (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003) and Blade II (2002), were coming out. Now, while some were critically panned, they all generally did well and did significantly better than the comics. I'm betting after seeing the kind of profits the movies made, Marvel decided to invest in them, leading to the creation of their own movie studio, instead of investing in fixing comics.



Where Are All The "Fans" Before Their Favourite Character Dies?

Every time a random character, say Anima, Bill Foster or even Hawkeye (he got better), dies, out of nowhere, a legion of angry fans and fanboys shrilly cry out in some sort of impotent fanboy rage over their "favourite" character dying.

My question is, where were these supposed "fans" before their favorite character died? Seriously, not joking. I hate it. If you like a character, support the damn character! That includes when the character is not around or appearing in any books! You can't just cry "Not fair!" whenever the character is killed off or maimed and expect people to take you seriously after barely making appearances in comics for years and not being able to support an ongoing series. The reason why characters like these can be killed off without repercussions is because their fans don't actually support the character. Simple as that.


Plus, fans of Spider-Girl and Manhunter managed to keep their favorite characters in their own series well past what was probably their natural shelf life. So, if fans do care about their favorite characters, they can influence Marvel and DC.


Do People Actually Buy Books They Hate?

Back when I was active on comic book message boards, emphasis on "was," a lot of popular books, like Final Crisis and Jeph Loeb's Hulk, got plenty of hate and, generally, the haters assumed they were in the majority or near majority and that people were buying the books because they were "important".

I agree with the assertion that "important" books do sell better, but I think that, by and large, people enjoy the books they buy. There is the argument that you have to buy certain books to stay current about the DCU or MU, but not really since you can find spoilers and see key panels (like in our reviews and moments of the week posts) or even read them for free online (at least for some of Marvel's offerings they have up for free at their digital store).


As Final Crisis and Hulk are top 10 selling books, I think people are actually enjoying them, despite the number of complaints and critical panning of the books. I am also basing this off of personal experience as I have never bought a comic book I was expecting to hate. Just seems like a stupid waste of money. Have you ever bought a comic book that you knew you would hate or continued to buy a book that you were not liking? If so, why?


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18 comments:

Daniel Woburn said...

The other day I was going to buy Spider-Man: Noir issues 3 and 4 just for completionist sake. I didn't really enjoy the first two, the art was alright but the story just didn't really grab me. I was standing there in the store with my friend (who knows nothing about comics - he loves Walking Dead, when I lend it to him, but this is the guy who thought Green Arrow was Robin Hood when he saw him on a cover) and I told him I was going to buy them, even though I didn't want them.
'that's stupid.'
He's right. Instead I picked up Groom Lake issue 1 (very cool art, story was pretty damn good too) and Jesus Christ: In The Name of the Gun issue 1, which is one of the best comics i've picked up all year. It's hilarious, and Jesus is a badass. A nazi is pissing into river and JC comes running across said river, runs UP his stream of piss, and does some kind of backflip kick to his face. That is genius.
So yeah, the only time I would pick up a book I knew I wasn't going to enjoy would be to complete a mini or an arc - when really this is just a waste of money. Especially with the increased price tag these days. I used to it a lot more when I was younger and didn't know any better - when I was 15 I got nearby every House of M tie-in, because I thought I needed to.

What a douchebag.

Hoylus said...

"What separates one character from another is not always obvious outside of some dialogue. For example, how would you tell apart Mockingbird and Ms. Marvel in New Avengers outside of their costumes?"

Well, presumably we can tell everyone apart in the real world when they're not wearing costumes as they're people who, like, look different from each other.

The answer must be to get an artist who could draw more than one type of face/body/hairstyle.

Perhaps, failing that, then sure use reference models, but I suggest having original models rather than using famous people.

Imagine the TV show they could get out of that process -

"Who wants to be a Marvel super hero - for real!?"

Andrenn said...

I bought Hulk up to Frank Cho and Arthur Adam's ending on the storyline and I really enjoyed it. I still can't see where all the hate for that book comes from.

Klep said...

With regard to your idea of shorter online comics, that would kill digital distribution for me. I'm not going to pay money for a hacked up and abridged version of something. The very idea makes me feel a little ill. If I want to just get the gist of a story I can read reviews like those available at this blog, and I don't have to pay for it.

If publishers want to get me to buy trades after reading something online, all they have to do is write stories that I want to be able to read even when I don't have internet access. Or, as Marvel seems to be doing, make sure the trade comes out before the last issue or so is available online.

I might or might not have bought the most recent Captain America trades (for example) if all the contained issues had been online before the trades were released. The book is really good, and I'd be proud to have such quality storytelling on my shelf. What I can tell you is wanting to get the full story was a significant contributing factor to my shelling out the money for the trades.

If publishers were to do online distribution as you suggest, by only offering the Cliff's Notes version of stories online and putting the whole thing in the trade, I would abandon digital distribution entirely and spend my time trade waiting.

Kirk Warren said...

@Klep - What you point out as a flaw with trades having extras (not leaving things out, just extras, expanded or "deleted" scenes) upsetting you is the same as digital comics not coming out earlier / at the same time as the normal monthlies and "forcing" you to buy the trade to continue the story.

An example of a trade with extra content that I know of is Spider-Man's Revelations (ending of the Clone Saga). It has some extra pages with Norman Osborn and Ben Reilly that didn't see print for whatever reason. They are a nice extra, but after seeing them, they didn't need to be in the book nor did it really upset me that I didn't get them in the monthlies. It wa sjust that, a nice extra that might provide incencitve to others.

As for digital comics, I won't buy digital comics unless they make them come out at the same time as print versions. They'd also need to give digital copies, not subscriptions, similar to mp3s, among other things that need improvement in Marvel's digital distribution methods.

Johnny B said...

Re: fan support for dead characters, you seem to forget that in many cases, those characters were canceled well over a decade ago, before the advent of the Internet as it exists today, with the types of access fans have now.

To use Anima as an example, a book I liked OK and a character I thought had a lot of potential, but really wasn't done very well by the people who did the actual comics, when her book was canned there was no real way to organize, short of taking out expensive ads in something like the Comics Buyers' Guide or the Comics Journal. Letters pages in comics & comics-related publications, and fan-based APAs were really the only sort of organized way to protest something like that. People used to close their letters to Marvel with things like "Bring Back the X-Men or Silver Surfer" for years before it ever actually got done.

These days, there's more access to the people making the books than ever before, and a plethora of places to express one's viewpoint for good or ill. Hence, the increased amount of complaining when a fondly remembered character, such as Anima, whose death simply seemed to be a matter of some cynical writer seeing fit to do away with some dumb old forgotten character that he or she perceives no one cares about (also see Yelena Belova, Namorita, and many more) in the most offhand way possible- well, of course people are gonna bitch!

Do you really think that if there was some way to have organized a Manhunter-like campaign back in 1992, or 1982, or farther back to try and save a beloved-by-many-just-not-enough character, and actually have it be noticed and successful (something which was never a given, considering the distant profile comics creators had to non-NYC residents in decades past)then it wouldn't have been done?

The world did exist prior to 2002, you know.

Kirk Warren said...

Internet took off around 94 adn people were on message boards throughout the 90's. Marvel has stated the internet rumblings rarely have any affect on sales or decisions and Spider-Girl was kept around due to snail mail and digest purchases, not online petitions or what have you, and similar to your example of Silver Surfer and X-Men letters.

Not sure what happened with Manhunter. Thought it was always on hiatus and never cancelled, but came onto the book later and didn't even know fans had any affect on its return.

HEAT is another example of early 90's internet groups that had no affect on comics (well, you could argue Hal did eventually come back, but had nothing to do with HEAT).

Your last line probably comes off snarkier than you intended, but the internet existed before 2002 and people have been complaining on it about comics (ande verything else for that matter) for a decade or more prior to 2002.

Klep said...

@Kirk I disagree that a delay before getting to read a book online is the same as getting less material in that book, and re-reading what Eric wrote I think I misinterpreted it. I don't mind trades having, basically, special features the way you get with movies and their DVD's. Basically what I'm so stridently against is the idea of not getting the full story. It doesn't bother me waiting to get to read a new book as long as I'm still getting the same book as everyone else. What I really don't want to see is a situation where, as I mentioned in my prior post, what gets put online is a shortened version of what got published in print.

As for your opinion on Marvel Digital Comics, that's understandable. The way it's set up now isn't going to work for everyone and in fact probably is not terribly attractive to someone who's been buying and reading comics for a long time. However I would definitely recommend trying out the service to anyone new to comics. It has definitely been great for me.

Kirk Warren said...

@Klep - True on the digital comics for new people. It is a pretty good deal for the new readers and gives library access to these readers. Could you shoot me an email at weeklycrisis@gmail.com sometime? I havent tried out much of the digital comics at Marvel in a while and wanted to ask you about the service, how its improved, etc since it first launched.

Johnny B said...

Yeah, I guess I was a little snarky. I guess the gist of what I meant to say was that if it was that easy, we'd be seeing the 300th issue of Thriller, the 120th issue of Chase, and so on by now.

And hey! I was on the old DC message boards & chat rooms way back in 1994 myself, so I know whereof you speak.

I will say this- I don't think it's the killing of a character, necessarily, that gets folks all het up; it's the killing of a specific character for no good reason except the author just has contempt for the character in general, and figures no one cares so why not?, all the time forgetting the old adage that every character is someone's favorite...and why kill off that character? Why not just leave him/her/it in limbo until someone comes along with the imagination to do him/her/it right? If this author is good enough to be writing funnybooks for a living, then why can't the author create his/her own sacrificial lamb and let the fringe of the DC and M U alone? Deaths in comics stories are necessary sometimes; gives the stories a little gravity. But this sour, cynical treatment of characters that would be better left alone is just unnecessary, for lack of a better term.

Eric Rupe said...

Hoylus - There would still be the problem that different artists still would draw the characters differently. One artist's Ms. Marvel could look completely different from another artist's version.

Klep - Yeah, Kirk's example is what I was talking about. There is another one from Kingdom Come where Superman visits Orion which wasn't in the singles but in the trade and wasn't integral to the story.

Johnny B - As to your last point, yes every character is someones favorite character but all characters are not equal, which is something I think people forget a lot. Creating a character also takes some work and probably more than having an editor or some one mind a character to kill.

Plus, given the impermanence of death comics, there is no reason why the character can't come back at some point.

Klep said...

@Kirk Done. Check your inbox.

The Dangster said...

who's upset Anima is dead? I want proof.

Eric Rupe said...

The Dangster - If the original scans_daily was around I could prove it to you. One person was doing a multipart history of Anima right before the character was killed.

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