Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ryan L’s Soapbox - A Collection of Random Thoughts Vol 1

Alright, people, I got a lot of problems and now you’re going to hear about them. Well, they’re not exactly problems, or airings of grievances, but they’re discussion points I felt too lazy about to write complete and full articles. I'm hijacking the Soapbox feature for now. Plus, some people wanted this feature back, and I was one of them, so here it is. I discuss Fear Itself, favourite creators, internet chatter, Ratfist, and more. Hit the jump to get your rant on.

Fear Itself – A Sales Saviour?

Marvel said they’d be taking some time away from big events comics (and yet still pumped out the likes of Shadowland, Doomwar, and The Thanos Imperative) and it only took a few months before the next big thing came down the pipeline. Fear Itself will be the mega-crossover event that Marvel has loved doing so well in the past. House of M to Civil War onto Secret Invasion, through the Dark Reign (which didn’t actually have an event comic, it was a banner, people) and then the more stripped down and contained Siege. All of these events sold well but then the vocal minority whined about event fatigue, even though they knew all about the event, and obviously bought the comics, and so fuelled Marvel’s desire to provide events for the paying masses.

It’s funny that we hold the power with our wallets and yet so rarely use that power. Fanlads will not be denied.

Anyway, after Siege, Marvel decided to step into the Heroic Age and just chill for a while. An interesting banner age because not only was the banner hideously lame but it obviously did nothing for sales, not like having an Initiative banner did for your book a few years back. I think buyers have finally figured out that having the banner means pretty much next to nothing. But being part of an event, hell, that’s like printing money, right?

Historically speaking, yeah, events sell well. Civil War broke ceilings, Secret Invasion stayed strong for the whole run. Even Siege ended with over 100,000 units, but that was way back when the top five comics were all over 100,000 units. You know, back in May of last year. Now we can’t get a comic to stay over 100,000 units, even if it launches well over that figure. But event comics, works like Siege and Blackest Night, bring out the best in people’s commercial sides and they all buy up big. It’s pretty much fact, it’s been a while since an event (a true, line-wide, event) sold under 100,000.

With that sort of math, I commend Marvel for doing another event. If it’s good for sales then that has to be good for the industry right? I think so, so long as the product is of a high quality. There’s no point in pumping up a big piece of trash. You have to bring you’re a game and the fact Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen are the creative team on this event makes me smile. It has the pedigree of being something pretty darn good, and it also has Fraction a man who used to regularly rail against crossover-orgy-secret-crisis comics and now gets the chance to do his own. It’ll be interesting to see if he does it his own way or sticks to the company formula.

Can Fear Itself save the comics industry, or at least bolster the sales figures of it? Maybe, but it’s no long term solution. What is that solution, I don’t know, but I’m happy to chip in a few bucks a month to read Fear Itself and do my bit. I’m also happy to chip in plenty of other dollars each month on a variety of titles.

Event fatigue or not, Fear Itself looks and sounds like fun. Count me in. So, what of you, fair reader? Will you be buying Fear Itself, let me know that, and your other thoughts, well below in the comments.

Favourite Creators – Do You Buy Them?

I’ve been thinking a lot about favourites lately. I have my favourites, for sure. If the Coen Brothers make a movie, I’ll be there. If Damon Lindelof ever makes another show, I’ll be there. And if Brian K Vaughan were ever to write another comic, I would damn sure be there. He is easily my favourite comic writer and I don’t care if he writes a gay road trip period romance, I’d be there in a heartbeat. Damn, I’ve tracked down most of his previous work, even to the point I want to sample his Ultimate X-Men run (which I’m sure I won’t like but I still just have to know). That’s what it means, to me, to have a favourite.

But I don’t see that kind of fervour in many others.

Recently, Alan Moore was voted the greatest writer of all time on a CBR countdown. The best there ever is or was. I’m not here to argue that point or not but I am interested in the fact he currently ships two titles and neither seem to be doing so well in the sales department. Why is that?

If I loved Alan Moore, I’d want to know what he was up to now. If he wrote some of my favourite stuff 20 years ago and did a bunch of middle ground work since then I’d still be waiting for him to win me back and he’s have every chance whenever he work shipped. The moment I didn’t want to take that chance on him is the moment he stops being my favourite.

And this comes from a guy who watched Cop Out purely because Chasing Amy is my favourite flick of all time. Once you earn credits with me, they stick around for a lot of projects to come. I have faith and love undying.

Grant Morrison earned second place on this list of writers and yet while his Batman work sells really well his creator owned Joe the Barbarian didn’t fare as well. I don’t get it. Is it Morrison you love or Batman? Or is Morrison only good on Batman, and if so does that make him an overall great writer?

Matt Fraction is a writer who has written some of my favourite comics, and I think some of the best single issues of all time, but there is so much of his work that doesn’t resonate with me that makes him a writer I like but not my number one guy. He’s certainly not buy on sight, that’s for sure.

What, for you, makes a writer your absolute favourite? And once you have a favourite, do you buy everything they write?

Can Creators Use The Internet?

I know I’m well off the buzz of this topic, but I was recently thinking about the Dan Slott incident and I wondered what the future holds for creators and the internet. Most comic writers are on Twitter, and Facebook and the like, but I mostly see them on Twitter. And they’re all usually pretty candid. And I completely dig that. It’s interesting to know what someone is currently writing, drawing, research, etc. It’s not like you know that person but it’s like seeing behind the curtain. I love extras on DVDs and this sort of internet interaction is akin to that sort of behind the scenes material.

Yet sometimes it all goes horribly wrong, and I do blame the trolls.

You can see it in message boards and comments threads all over the internet. Some people are not very nice. The rule is to ignore it. Any level of discourse only breeds more garbage with them so ignore, ignore, ignore. But sometimes a creator doesn’t, and you have to wonder who is to blame.

In all likelihood, this grown adult creator is probably just arguing with a teen or severely maladjusted man-child and if you saw that in person it just would not be cool. The adult, the professional, should know better. But the internet, and the anonymous nature of so much of it, gives comments and entities no context to be ignored many times. Instead, you get one person who works hard at their job and then going up against them is some arrogant fool (or misunderstood jokester) who is willing to take a few seconds out of their life to undermine that hard work.

It’s painful, but it needs to be ignored.

Which makes me wonder, will these creators eventually forego using the internet? Will it just be easier to walk away from it all and concentrate on their work in a vacuum? A shame because so much positive interaction can be had but will it wear them down? I’m not sure, but I hope not. Most creators seem mature enough to only focus on the things they like on the ‘net. More power to them.

Big Two Webcomics

Webcomics do alright business. More and more creators seem to be doing little webcomic side projects, and the Eisner’s even honour in this category now. Webcomics are a real alternative to paper issues, and even more relevant with the digital distribution of comics from the Big Two.

Which makes me wonder, why don’t Marvel or DC run webcomics, for free, with characters from their universes in them?

I know, many will say this won’t make money, and it surely isn’t something to transition the entire publishing house into, but if Beta Ray Bill or Deadman can’t sustain their own titles then why not put out a page a week online for the fans. I’m almost certain there would be creators, good creators, who would be willing to work for cheap, or even donate their time, just to get to work with a niche favourite character in such a slow form. It wouldn’t interfere with their time too much because the obligation isn’t for too many pages and so they can still work on other projects that actually pay the bills.

Not only do I think the fans would go for this, but it would give some of these characters an outlet to be appreciated. It would give creators a chance to try something completely different, and it would be a step towards this millennium we’ve been living in for quite some time now.

Imagine using your iPad to check out the weekly page of Doctor Phosphorous: Into The Darkness by Brian Wood and Yanick Paquette or Spider-Woman: Agent of HYDRA by Kieron Gillen and David Aja – or even Frank Kafka by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

Surely the Big Two would know how to still make money off this, right?

Ratfist – You Checked It Out Yet?

How many of you are reading Ratfist, the new webcomic from Doug TenNapel? It’s about a superhero who dresses like a rat, and has a pet rat, but whose true love hates rats. Compelling stuff, right? Well, in case you didn’t recognise the name, it’s by the guy who created Earthworm Jim. You need more of an excuse than that? He’s also one hell of a comic book artist.

TenNapel has contributed to a wide variety of weird and wonderful independent comics over the years and so it’s nice to support him in this web endeavour. Ratfist only just started, last week, and it aims to ship a page every weekday. So far, it’s been interesting. The story is alright but the artwork is a real draw. This is well worth an investment of time so go check it out, here’s a handy link to help you, RATFIST!

Uncanny Gillen

I don’t think anyone is truly surprised. Not only is this how Uncanny X-Men gets parcelled and handed across now, it is also how Fraction leaves his titles. He brings them in, keeps them warm under his wing, then he departs swiftly. Well, he did on Punisher: War Journal, anyway.

I don’t know what to make of this news. It seems that Uncanny X-Men keeps getting solid creative teams (at least for the writers, why they put Greg Land on anything anymore makes no sense to me), and the title sells pretty well, and yet I rarely hear positive reviews, and never rave reviews. Most pundits seem happy when the issue they just read didn’t suck. That’s no way to judge a comic.

I won’t be picking up Uncanny X-Men, no matter how strong my Gillen love (and to fit with the rant above, Gillen is a writer I like but he’s not my number 1 and he’s not buy on sight), and I support him in Generation Hope, for now, so that should be enough. I just have no interest in reading Uncanny, though I am pleased to see Gillen’s first order of business will be actually using Kitty Pryde. Who knows, maybe this title will become the continuation that S.W.O.R.D. never had. I doubt it, it’ll just be Uncanny forevermore, but I suppose it gives Gillen’s name some good sales, which he can parlay into better comics later, right?

On a side note, there is a high chance I will follow Gillen onto Journey Into Mystery. A Thor comic he describes as being more Secret Avengers to Fraction’s Thor as the Avengers of the Thor franchise. Why Thor has a franchise is beyond me but I’ll go with it. I don’t even mind the numbering starting at #622 – I’m beyond caring about the number anymore (especially at Marvel) I just want a solid tale to read and enjoy.


They’re just a number of things in the comics world that have dis/interested me of late. Let me know what you think about these topics, or if you have your own little rants you’d like to soapbox about go nuts in the comments below.

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Danial said...

Fear Itself
I'm certainly looking forward to this one. Though due to my source of comics (MDCU), I won't get to read any for at least 6 months after everyone else.

Favourite Creators
I can't say I have any. I follow books based on its characters, not its creators.

Creators on the Internet
I think they should. Any feedback is useful. Like you said, you just need to be able to ignore the ill-informed idiots.

I'd love to see the big two putting out single page, weekly webcomics. And if they ever needed some ready-made scripts, I know a good site to find some ;)

Ivan said...

Gotta admire Marvel's restraint in not showing Spider-Man or Wolverine in that Fear Itself promo shot.

I've recently discovered BKV and he's already one of my favourites. I'm buying the Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man trades as soon as they arrive here.

Klep said...

The person I blame for the Dan Slott incident is Dan Slott. He was definitely acting like the maladjusted man-child you rightfully deride. He actually ended up going to random live journals and responding personally to what criticisms he found. Maybe if he'd put the energy he used in angrily attacking his critics into doing his job, ASM wouldn't be a full month behind.

BT said...

"It’s funny that we hold the power with our wallets and yet so rarely use that power. Fanlads will not be denied."

For a lot of fans, comics are like crack. They know there are some comics they shouldn't buy but the do anyway; they buy an "event comic" even though they're tired of that type of comic.

monopoly said...

The Great Ten sold horribly enough that they canceled the final issue. Other than a very small list of creators like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, there isn't any true allegiance to writers these days.

I'm guilty of it too. The only writer over the last few years that I've bought everything of is Geoff Johns, and that's more because he's working on critical titles in the DC universe instead of "weird" stuff.

Space Jawa said...

I'm really hesitant on Fear Itself, simply because the last few event books I followed just didn't cut it when everything was said an done. That's the reason I didn't bother with Shadowland at all. Chances are I won't read Fear Itself beyond any titles I'm already reading, but if the event doesn't land with a thud like the last few that drove me away from them, I might consider paying attention to whatever comes along next time.

The exception to this being the Cosmic titles. Those have steadily been excellent, as far as I'm concerned. If Marvel released another DnA written Cosmic event book, I'd definitely be all over that.

Speaking of DnA, while I do have writers I prefer (because as good as art can be sometimes and as important as art is, the sole example of a time I picked up a book for the art was the Iron Man by Design cover gallery that came out not too long ago. I read comics for the stories, and as long as the art is passible and not "Landed", so to speak, I'm willing to pick up a book regardless of who's doing the art), I can't say there's anyone where I'll see their name and automatically put it in my buy list.

However, if I see the name of a writer I'm a fan of on a title (right now, the two big examples I can think of are DnA - again - and Scott Cleivenger) - I will definitely pay more attention to the book than I would otherwise and be more likely to give it a look and see if it might be something I'll enjoy.

As far as the webcomics idea is concerned, that's not a bad idea. I'm sure there's plenty of avenues to make it a valid source of revenue for certain nitche characters. Collected TPBs is one idea that comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

Marvel stopped with events for awhile? Even after Dark Reign, the World War Hulks event happened. And there are still tie-ins to Chaos War just finishing. And let us not event think about the event after event that is the X-books. While, granted, DC isn't without fault here, but I can't honestly remember a time when Marvel didn't have an event going on.

Brian Lee said...

My biggest problem with Fear Itself is that, unless they're being really sneaky, the promos for it reveal that the Thing will not die in Fantastic Four. Thanks for the indirect spoiler, Marvel!

Marco said...

I did groan at the thought of another line-wide Marvel event however the creative team of Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen has gotten me excited. I think financial woes and event fatigue will get pushed aside as long as the story itself is strong.

MisterSmith said...

Fear Itself
I want to say "No, I'm not going to read this." But I probably will. I really want to try avoiding it, if self-control will allow it.

Favorite Creators
I do have favorite creators, but for me it doesn't mean I'll check out everything they'll do. Fred Van Lente is probably one of my favorites, but I have/had little interest in his She-Hulk stuff or Iron Man: Legacy or Web of Spider-Man. But I'd read M.O.D.O.K.'s 12 in a heartbeat.

I think the closest I've come to reading 'everything' by a certain writer is Rick Remender in the past few years. Punisher, Doctor Voodoo, Uncanny X-Force and plans to read his upcoming Venom. This leaves out his indy work (Last Days of American Crime, Fear Agent) but it's the closest I have to following 'everything' by someone.

Creators on the Internet
I just wish everybody (creators and fans) on the internet would chill out. Like seriously.

Ratfist is quite enjoyable so far, especially the art. For the past few days I've been kind of binging on webcomics for the past few days. I've got a little over 60 in my Google Reader and I'm working on adding more. For the sake of plugging a few favorites...

Kieron Gillen
Kind of relating to the favorite creators thing, I like Kieron but I've managed to shut out most of the X-Noise for the past few years. Generation Hope just hasn't really proven to be my thing. But more Gillen in Asgard? I'm prepared to go on a Journey...into Mystery!

Logan said...

Fear Itself:
I'm actually really excited for it. Usually I trade-wait event comics (I feel they're much more enjoyable that way) so I'm excited to see Fraction take on an event.
Favorite Authors:
I'd say that an authors work on characters I like make me more inclined to buy other things by that author, but I'll never blindly follow someone from project to project.

Anonymous said...

Fear Itself is an interesting concept. However, with all the extra tie-in issues and the miniseries that will highlight lesser known heroes and the everyman I think I'll wait a year or so and pick the issues up in a dollar bin somewhere.
I madly picked up issues of Civil War only to have Peter's secret identity reveal wiped out, and Tony Stark literally losing his mind. The best part of Civil War was Speedball and Avengers: The Initiative. Let's hope Dracula gets an ongoing out of Fear Itself and hopefully it has meaning to the greater MU.
By the way this event will boost sales but it is not the Saviour to the market.

-Retcon Joe

Kraken said...

I buy anything BKV and Alan Moore put out – but only in trades, which I think is pretty common behaviour these days (especially with the delays that plague many titles, like Neonomicon). So low floppy sales aren't necessarily indicative of how popular a particular comic (or the creator) is in that regard.

"if he writes a gay road trip period romance, I’d be there in a heartbeat."

He's already written that – it's called Y: The Last Man... :)

BT said...

I forgot to chime in on my favorite writers.

My favorite writers are guys like Stan Sakai and Jeff Smith. They are some of the few writers that don't need to rely on gimmicks or shock value to tell interesting stories (unlike Mark Millar and Jimmie Robinson).

twobitspecialist said...

Ssshhh. Nobody tell Slott that we're talking about him here. He'll totally come and pick a fight with us.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Kraken - you watch your mouth, man...ha. I kind of walked right into that one.

Interested to see people's thoughts on buying favourite creators, I hadn't thought of the trade waiters. Good point.

I'm interested in people writing off Event comics as some kind of genre. Each event is pretty different, sci-fi, drama, whatever. I don't see Fear Itself as being just like Secret Invasion or Civil War because those are different tales...though event comics do have those same beats, so there's a point there but I'd like to break it.

Frank said...

I'm fine with Gillen taking over on Uncanny, but I'm so tired of the substandard art we've been subjected to lately. Terry Dodson was the artistic highlight for this book and ever since then it's been on serious decline at the hands of Greg Land, Whilce Portacio and the other no-names working the title.

My vote to take over art chores is for Ryan Stegman. I've pestered him over Twitter to beg his bosses for the job :) He's moving on to X-23 soon so hopefully that's a move in the right direction. I'd love to see him on Uncanny, he'd provide some much needed artistic life for this book.

Markus said...

Greg Land - I cant stand his artworks. It only takes a few pages and I'd put the book down with no hesitations. I wont bother reading them again although I suspect some of those books have good stories in them!

Jeremy said...

I don't I have any favorites in any genre that I would without question get everything they do. Sometimes this is because I'm a much bigger fan of their older work than anything they've done recently(Frank Miller, Steven Spielberg), sometimes there's an idea or creative partner I just don't care about(Grant Morrison, my #1 favorite writer, couldn't get me to drop money on Vinnerama), or negative reviews, or a host of other reasons.

For me, if you did something awesome back in the day, but then wrote ten years of s***, you'd still be a favorite based on that awesome work, even if I don't enjoy anything you've been doing for several years now(Garth Ennis, for example). I think the same goes for Alan Moore; he got voted up there based on Watchmen, V for Vendetta, his ABC comics, etc, and that doesn't necessarily mean they want or even need to check out his latest. The merit of his older work is enough to earn them a spot on their favorite list.

Steven said...

Not sure where your obsession with equating sales with quality. Alan Moore does particularly uncommercial work these days and only works with indies. Of course that stuff isn't going to sell well.

The same goes for Morrison or whoever. Of course Joe the Barbarian isn't going to sell as well as Batman. Does it mean that the latter is of higher quality than the former. No, it just means more people will buy a commercial, mainstream story over an original work they aren't familiar with.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Steven - not sure what makes you think I equate sales with quality. I merely point out the books aren't selling as well as others, I make no statement as to their quality.

In fact, most of my favourite issues from Fraction are the ones that didn't sell well. The higher selling titles of his do not resonate with me.

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