Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 7

Today, I shall be discussing various subjects dealing with trade collections, Dan Didio and Battle for the Cowl, the Top 10 charts for April, and a couple of other odds and ends. Hit the jump to find out more.

Cover Collections

Given the fact that more and more popular artists are only doing covers, with the occasional interior work, it seems odd that Marvel and DC are not releasing collections of their cover work. Yeah, DC released collections for 52 and Fables, but there is definitely more material that can and should be collected. Jim Cheung is an example of an artists that needs a covers collection that stands out to me the most right now.

Speaking of Cover Artists

I really hope Scottie Young and Daniel Acuna are not on their way to becoming cover artists. They both have unique and fantastic styles that I would hate to see relegated to covers only.

Support Your Local Library!

As we are all painfully aware, comics are expensive, in single or trade form. So, what's a great way to read free comics? The library, if you are lucky enough. Yes, not all libraries are created equal, but if you want a way to read more comics, for free, or check out books or writers that you are unsure on, you should definitely give your local library a look.

For example, the first Jeph Loeb book that I read was Fallen Son, which, on the whole, I thought was pretty average, but after reading Ultimates 3 #1, I had to see why Loeb had any reputation as a good writer. So, I went to the library and saved myself lots of money by reading a lot of his work for free. And, if you are really lucky, they will carry books like the Starman Omnibus and Absolute Ronin.

April Top 10

The Top 10 comics for April from Diamond was definitely an interesting grouping of titles. Five slots went to Marvel and five to DC, who claimed the top 2 places. The second part of What Happened to The Caped Crusader? took the #1 one spot while, unsurprisingly, Flash: Rebirth #1 took the second spot and, the big surprise to me, Wolverine: Weapon X #1 was #3 on the charts.

I expected W:WX to chart in the Top 10, but not at #3 and definitely not above the perenniel sales chart topping Dark and New Avengers. It's also worth pointing out that five of the Marvel books cost $3.99. Despite the complaining about the price hike, it hasn't drastically effected sales. For now anyway.

Dan DiDio, Battle for The Cowl, and Waiting for the Trade - Not Getting It.

Let me start by saying that I generally like Dan DiDio. He seems to enjoy his job and, while I know lots of people think he's doing a bad job, I don't really care because DC is putting out books I read. As long as DC is putting out these books, I think DiDio is doing just fine. That said, I don't think he's infallible either.

So, what did Didio say that has me upset? Several things actually, all related to Battle for The Cowl at the DC Nation panel at the comic con in Bristol recently. First, from the article...

So our fear was that everybody would just skip over the ‘Cowl’ story because they would think it wasn’t going to be relevant. Or, more, importantly, that it would all be resolved when all the number ones came out. So a lot of the energy was trying to create this sense of mystery.

Except, it wasn't relevant, at least to the main headlining books, and all of the new stories are going to tell you what you need to know. And what "mystery"? Who the new Batman was going to be? Anyone with a half a brain could have figured that out without having to read BftC. In fact, in this article from IGN with Grant Morrison, he says that Batman and Robin will explain everything you need to know, making BftC irrelevant.

DiDio emphasized the fact that DC’s business was periodicals, not trade paperback graphic novel collections, because those comics readers who rely on trade collections make him nervous. “We have to make it feel like you can’t wait for the trade. I hate the expression ‘wait for the trade.’ It’s the thing that upsets me the most, because it means in my opinion that what we’re creating isn’t worth reading now. ‘I can pick it up a year from now.’”

Completely missing the point. I don't "wait for the trade" because I don't want to read the stories. When I stopped reading Final Crisis with issue #3, I was really enjoying the series and it wasn't fun waiting to find out when the trade will be released. I wanted to read the story now. From my perspective, trading waiting is about two things - money and control.

First, trades are almost always cheaper than the single issues unless you buy hardcovers or oversized editions. In addition, it's easier to find places like Amazon.com that offer discounts on top of that. Simply put, I get more comics for my money.

Secondly, I don't have to buy the books when I don't want to. Singles have a shelf life of around a month, more if there are reprints. I don't have to go to a LCS every other week and get all of the newest books. I can wait till I want to get it or, if money's a problem, when I have the funds to buy it. I can basically buy a trade whenever I feel like buying it. I can also hold off on a series that I may not be fully convinced about and wait to see what other people think.

Let's say I want to get all of the Blackest Night books. If I was getting them in singles, I would have to go down to my LCS every week and buy them. Now, if I had a weekly or monthly budget and DC released more comics that week or month, I would either have to pass up a book or go over budget, neither of which is good. As I am trade waiting, I have a lot more options.

Now, let's presume that DC releases all of their Blackest Night trades in the same month, which they won't, I will not have any budget problems nor will I have any trouble getting them all. Since trades have a shelf life of years, I can get them basically when I feel like it and won't have to worry about going over budget or not being able to find them. I have more control than if I was getting them in singles, which is a good thing for me as a consumer.

DiDio was keen to break this mentality with creating a sense of urgency in “Battle for the Cowl,” generating excitement for readers who were perhaps surprised at the number of cancellations that the Bat-universe reshuffle caused, such as “Nightwing” and “Birds of Prey.” The miniseries and one-shots that fill this three-month gap, including “Oracle: The Cure” and “Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight” all had to feel like they were adding value for the reader rather than be seen as treading water until the Bat-books take off in June.

What sense of urgency? Nothing about BtfC screams "urgency" and canceling a few titles with characters that sell doesn't really create that much of a so-called sense of urgency since it is obvious they will be back at some point. In fact, DC didn't do anything but tread water with BtfC. There isn't even any proof that all of the plot threads will be followed up on, at any point in the future based on solicits. Not to mention that Batgirl took two extra months to launch and the new Azrael series teased at the end of Death's Dark Knight hasn't even been solicited yet! From start to finish, BftC has been nothing but an exercise in treading watering and DC did absolutely nothing to make sure it would not.

Some Related Thoughts About Waiting for the Trade

As I've said before, inertia and hype play a large part when buying single issues. Not to say that leads to buying nothing but bad books, but it does lead to less than optimal buying practices. It's also a crutch Marvel and DC rely too much to sell lower quality titles. And, on a personal level, if Marvel and DC ever decided to stop putting out trades, I would stop buying their comics. I've been there and done that with single issues and I have no intention of going back. Just not my thing.

More Spidey Obama Cover Madness

This time in the form of trades! The hardcover for Amazing Amazing Spider-Man: Election Day has two covers, a standard cover with Obama and a second, "Direct Market only" cover featuring Spider-Man and Menace. Basically, if you don't want Obama's face on your comics and don't want to pay full price, you're screwed since Amazon isn't caring the non-Obama cover.

Of course, this continues the retarded practice of having Direct Market only versions for trade collections. Why though? Trades are not for the Direct Market and shouldn't be anyway, they should be for people who don't go to comic shops! Marvel really needs to get this straight. They already have Direct Market only products. They are called single issues! Yes, you can get them from other places, but they are still primarily sold through comics shops and are tailored to that market. They need to appeal to people outside of comic shops and their Direct Market only shenanigans are not going to get them new costumers.

Too Many Premier Hardcovers

Based on the August solicits, Marvel is releasing 13(!) Premier Hardcovers for their newly collected material. Forthose who don't know, Primier Hardcovers are trades but in hardcover form. They are not the oversized editions that Marvel occasionally releases and are simply a slim hardcover and overpriced edition of a regular trade rushed out.

The list of new Premier HC's includes collections for Dark Avengers Vol 1, New Avengers Vol 11, Cable/X-Factor: Messiah War, New Avengers: The Reunion, Secret Warriors Vol 1, Avengers: The Initiative - Disassembled, Mighty Avengers: Earth's Mightiest (Slott's first arc), Wolverine: Origins - Dark Reign, Punisher: Dark Reign, Spider-Man: 24/7, Immortal Iron Fist Vol 5, Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes and X-Factor: Time and A Half.

Of those, only Dark Avengers and New Avengers warrant the hardcover collection since they are the two biggest books from Marvel right now. The rest of it just dilutes the concept, which Marvel had touted as being an exclusive treatment for specific trades, and, most likely, prolongs the release of the standard TPBs, which more people are probably waiting to buy.

More Marvel Collection Shenanigans!!!

I recently found out that Marvel released a new printing of Reginald Huldin's first Black Panther arc, Who Is The Black Panther. Why shenanigans? Because they added two issues, Fantastic Four #52 and #53, and upped the price by $5, going from $15 to $20.

I seriously doubt those two issues are worth the $5 price increase, no matter how you look at it. Just another example of upping the price by adding issues people probably don't care about in the first place, similar to the recent Captain Britain and MI13: Secret Invasion trade.

They also need to be clear about future collections of their books. A great example of this is the Hulk: Green Hulk/Red Hulk collection. It's an oversized HC, the pages are bigger than the normal comic book size with all of Loeb's and McGuinness's work on the title up to issue #9 and is something a fan of the series would probably love.

However, while it could be something that someone who is interested in the series might be tempted to buy, Marvel has already released all of that same material in two separate trades. Releasing a compilation like this so soon is, quite frankly, really dumb in my opinion. Who's the market? Anyone interested in the series have probably already bought collections for it and I doubt it's going to get anyone who is not interested in the series to pick it up. Releasing this a couple of years down the line would be smarter since people who either bought the single issues or trades could justify buying the thing, but not after less than a year from when the last issue in the collection was released. It's also only nine issues. If it was a full run up to the upcoming #600, then, yes, I could possibly see it rushed out.

Christ Yost at DC

I could have sworn that he was a Marvel exclusive, so seeing him do more and more DC work is a little strange. I wonder if this is going to effect the amount of work he's going to get from Marvel now? They usually seem really petty when to comes to dealing with DC.

Will Gail Simone Fridge Nemesis?

I, for one, hope so, mostly for the irony. I haven't decided on whether or not I want a fridge to actually be involved though.

Why do Marvel and DC Comics have to be "Accessible"?

It occurs to me that I've never seen anyone complaining that the 40th volume of Naruto should be accessible. Why is it only for Marvel and DC that people complain about the material being inaccessible? I mean, being generous here, the big Marvel and DC characters have been around for at least 30 years, often a lot more, and most have been in constant publication during that time as well. How do you tell continuously "accessible" stories with those kinds of characters without devolving into some sort of Archie status quo where nothing ever really happens?

Obviously, you need jumping on points, but lets take two examples from Marvel - the Ultimate Universe and Brand New Day. Sure, at the start, they were probably both good places to start, but, after a while, they do develop in title continuity and become "inaccessible" to new readers. It's something that you are never going to be able to "fix" and still tell stories worth reading. I think Marvel did find something of a good solution though with their "Saga" free issues (ex. War of Kings Saga), but they are still only available in comic stores or on their websites, which only really preaches to the choir instead of making the comics accessible to new people.

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Bill said...

Two things:

On the direct market variants, I actually think it's a good idea. The direct market may not be for you, but monthly comics are still at the core of the comics business. Even if they might not bring in the biggest profit, they are where the comics community decides what they like and what they don't, which leads to marketing the trades, or movie options, or whatever. So making a direct market variant helps drive some business away from amazon and to the local comics shops, who, let's face it, are struggling to stay afloat. Marvel and DC really want there to be comics shops in small cities. Obviously in New York and LA are always going to be able to support one, but it's important to the business that there are comic shops in Wichita and Sioux Falls keeping comics fans buying comics.

And on accessibility, I generally don't have a problem with being able to jump into a series (although I tend to avoid DC events because the multiverse stuff makes me feel a combination of confusion and not caring). But I've tried on occasion to jump into X-books, and my head just spins. There are hundreds of "significant" characters who I don't know at all, and the style of the book is very soap opera-y, and an easy way to get a plot twist is to have a long lost sibling/child/parent/significant other show up at an unexpected moment. But the plot twist is lost on someone like me who, in the case of my attempt to read Fraction's Uncanny, thinks "who the eff is Madeline Pryor?" Then I go to wikipedia, decide Madeline Pryor is stupid, and then don't want to read it anymore.

flipthepage said...

Fair Points on pretty much everything there, especially the tendency for marvel to throw needless 'bonus issues' into their american trades (something that annoyed me to no end with the nigh-on pointless origin of the inhumans issues of thor thrown in to Secret Invasion: Inhumans). But I digress I got that for 7 English Pounds so I can't complain. That and it's a brilliant miniseries....

Enough of me babbling though. DC's attitude to trades is worse, simply due to their tendency to just miss certain issues or throw them purely into event comics (green lantern corps I'm looking at you!), a practice that can only hamper their trade sales sizably.

Klep said...

"...after reading Ultimates 3 #1, I had to see why Loeb had any reputation as a good writer."

Did you find out? It puzzles the hell out of me.

Bill said...

I stil find the Long Halloween perfectly readable. But that's about it for Loeb, he tries the same tricks (a bunch of big name villains, whodunnit, completely random twist at the end) over and over again.

Sebastian said...

I love Marvel's hardcover system. The entirety of the current X-Factor run is in Hardcover, along with the Madrox mini, so the abundance of "Premiere" hardcovers is a surplus I'm okay with. They are much easier to store and manage and are more durable than trades. Having said that, I've never paid remotely near cover price on a hardcover and I doubt I ever will, thanks to Amazon or a dozen other online book companies. I looked at a copy of the recent Braniac hardcover and almost cried. It was beautiful. I'm thinking about switching over my Justice Society, Green Lantern, Action Comics (the recent Johns runs), Morrison Batman and Simone Wonder Woman to hardcover and not pick up any of the books monthly. They just look nicer than having endless stacks of singles everywhere, they're a lot cheaper than following books month to month and they certainly read better. For that reason, I don't pick up New Avengers or Dark Avengers. I can get them in hardcover in a year and save a ton of money. To be honest, I'd probably do that with every book on my pull if they had consistent hardcovers. Well, except for Air, Secret Six and X-Factor. Those are the only books that really kick my ass on a month-to month basis. I don't feel to bad about this, since my shop doesn't give me a discount.

Kirk Warren said...

@Bill - I won't take the post off track with a discussion on Long Halloween and Loeb, but Comics Should Be Good did a re-review of it recently that hit a lot of the points I'd tlak about in regards to the 'quality' of Long Halloween.

It's still very much a Loeb story with its revolving door guest stars, super star artist, ridiculous mystery plot and cribbing of other, better works (Godfather, Goodfellas, etc) for its best scenes that give it hte allusion of quality by associating itself with those better works. It's a good read if you're interested in why some people find it difficult to enjoy or disagree with the quality assessment of Long Halloween.

Eric Rupe said...

Bill - My problem with the Direct Market stuff is that it is the least accessible and most expensive market. In essence, Marvel is punishing people who want to save money.

Also, the X-Men have always seemed needlessly complicated to me, which is why, outside of Morrison's run, I've never really cared about them.

flipthepage - I've never really had that problem with any DC trades I've gotten.

Klep - I think the reason why people think he's good is because his work looks good but actually isn't, if that makes sense. For example, TLH looks like its a good work but once you start rereading it and taking a closer look it falls apart.

Anonymous said...

I swear to god, if Marvel lets DC steal Yost from them and ruin a good series like they did with Nieceza and Bagley then someone needs to be taken out back and shot. They should just say 'How about this? You can have Loeb back.'
p.s. I dont think Ultimate Spider-Man was 'ruined' when Bagley left, just that Trinity in no way measures up to USM.

Bill said...

@Kirk - I'm not saying the Long Halloween is the greatest thing since sliced bread, just that it's a decent read. Even the CSBG review admits it's entertaining.

@Eric - It's not really a punishment, since we're talking about a variant cover. If you want to save money, get the regular cover. Problem solved, isn't it? (but maybe that's just me, I tend to find the variant cover concept to be pretty silly) Plus, it's often in the best interests of a business to try to get people to pay more for a product, and unless they're gouging or driving people away from their product, I don't really see the problem with it.

Eric Rupe said...

Bill - My problem with it is that Marvel is explicitly favoring one group of customers over another and that's never a good thing. And this isn't the first time they have done DM only variant for trades, the HCs for Morrison's Marvel Boy and Smith's Daredevil both had them. The Stand HC was also DM, only for a while though, as well.

I know people who go to comics shops tend to be very passionate about them but they are not looking like a big growth market for comics and favoring your smaller market over a more likely larger one is not good business practice.

Steven said...

Trade paperback variants struck me as incredibly stupid. It really only serves to try and start a collector mentality going for tpbs.

Personally I'm not a huge fan of the Marvel Premiere hardcovers and tend to stick with the paperbacks for that size, the hardcovers just seem a little insubstantial for the price difference. Plus I prefer to get the over-sized hardcovers when possible. They usually collect longer runs, and the art always looks better in the larger size.

Eric Rupe said...

Steven - If Marvel does make their trade variants incentives like their singles variants, which I'm kind of surprised they haven't yet now that I think out it, I may actually just stop buying their stuff out of principle.

Yeah, it would be hard and I may make some exceptions for certain books but I would be done with Marvel for the most part.

Daniel Woburn said...

I love this column. Totally agree with the accessibility debate. When I found out where my closest comic book store was when I was 14, coupled with going on the internet and joining a board, it took me about half a year to get up to date with everything that was going on with Marvel and DC. The internet was the main factor in helping me learn the ropes, as I just talked to seasoned fans who reccomended titles and taught me about the whole other side of the comic book industry i didn't even know about. writers, artists, comic-cons, news sites (CBR, Newsarama), blogs, etc. Before all of this I was just reading the British reprints. You got three issues (with stories from about four years ago, right now they're just wrapping up Civil War) in one for about £2.40 (although now I think it's about £3). So, while everyone else was reading Grant Morrison's New X-Men, I was reading the Apocalypse: The Twelve storyline. But then, like I said, you go on the net, and the internet makes it accessible. you just have to be interested enough.

Tyler said...

In regards to the whole hardcover thing, Marvel just releases them the same way normal books come out: Hardcover then a couple of months later softcover.

mrpeepants said...

I totally like that you mentioned to support you local library. A few years ago I noticed that some libraries carried a decent collection of comics. If you have extra collected comics in various formats, consider donating them to a library.

Sebastian said...

Oh, yeah. I read the whole JLA run by Morrison, Waid and Kelly when I was a kid at my library one summer. I donated all of my trades and Star Wars novels to them (and I had a lot.)

Daniel Woburn said...

some of the first comics i got from my library were the first couple trades of The Authority. amazing stuff, especially when you're quite a young kid.

Eric Rupe said...

Daniel - Glad you enjoy the column. And I agree, there is always going to be a learning curve and the internet is a good way to learn about the specifics if you are so inclined.

mrpeepants - Yeah, I have a small stack of trades that I'm planning on donating but just haven't gotten around to doing it yet.

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