Wednesday, November 30, 2005

This week is broken - I want a new one.

I am officially writing this week off. 3 days in and it sucks so hard.

I'm not going to whine about it, but if anyone asks 28th Nov-4th Dec 2005 has been cancelled. Declare it AWOL, MIA or PSP for all I care. Its done. Ignore it. Move along.

But just so this post is worth looking at, here is a picture of me with a drag-queen. Fuck it, if Kirkman can get away with only posting J-pegs then so can I!

Normal service will resume next week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Nuclear Wessel

Busy, busy week. I will try to get a in-depth review of Brighton - something which most comic sites seem to have somewhat floated over - later in the week.
In the meantime, here is some crap that I have been meaning to post on this blog for a few weeks mow


It seems I am not the only person fed-up with the adverts in Marvel products lately, but at least the message has got back to Joe Q. This from Newsarama.
NRAMA: While we realize as E-i-C this may not be your area per se, you usually have a comment or two and can refer us to someone who can comment [about the plethora of adverts of late]?
JQ: We're very aware of the problem and we're going to rectify it.
NRAMA: Is the answer as simple as to increase profit margin? And as a comic book reader yourself, do you believe there is a point where "X" number of ads is too many ads, and if so, what's that number for you?
JQ: We've heard the fans and we will make sure that their reading experience is the number one priority and not the ads. They will be seeing short and long-term resolutions in the next couple of weeks.

So maybe they do listen (Shawshank was right!!!). So far the adverts have found themselves somewhat repressed towards the rear of the comic, and the page count has crept down again.


No editorial needed.
But I am going to recommend the following site, especially the song: America the Burning. It is so preposturous it ends up being quite funny. The best thing is the woman singing as she sounds quite proud and extroverted, surely thats a contravine of the seven deadly sins? Fuck it, what do I know about God? I still think the whole "created the world in seven days" thing sounds like bragging.


Issue #0 of the new Transformers book has shipped, which I am sure most of you are aware of. Just a quick plug for the book as it is written by Simon Furman.
The book which ships from IDW and retails for $1 (about 80p) is available with a plethora of variants, ranging from affordable to silly.
The book, which I felt was a little sparse on Transformers, promises to gradually increase the character count as the astory progresses and is a more than welcome return to the "Robots in Dusguise" concept. Good things are expected from the ongoing, expected January. If you are having trouble finding issues, feel free to contact me and I can help you out.


I liked it, although its not what Asterix used to be what with only one of the creatros still being alive (it resonates half-completion in the way the latter day Red Dwarf novels did). I do however, just love the creator owned concept behind Asterix and most European comics, and I am supporting this book now because when the last creator dies (Udderzo I believe) then that's it. No more Asterix.


Matt Boyces debut book.
I think its a fantastic book and thankfully I am not alone. It has been selling well with very good feedback from both punters and fellow comic creators. Its big launch was at the Brighton Comic Expo (thanks to Liam Sharp - the nicest man in comics), more of which will be mentioned in a later post.
A lot of people pick up this book and say one of two things: "It's funny" or "Matt's a strange one, 'ent he?", I am looking forward to the first person I see pick it up and say "wow, as well as being funny, it's also incredibly poignant too". Some people cannot see the hidden depths behind characters like "the man with a hole in his head", it's a metaphor, a none too subtle metaphor but a metaphor still (I am sure that's far too many "metaphors" in one sentence, and this has only made it worse).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Do Comics Cost Too Much?

This is a topic which get's bought up all the time on the internet, amoungst comic collectors, and in-store. Do Comics Cost too much?
The answer - as with most things in life - is not as simple as yes or no.
When I started collecting comics when I was 15, the average price of a Marvel comic was $1.50, but a lot of books were already retailing for $2, and shiny foils covers like X-Men Alpha or Spider-man Maximum Clonage were selling for $3.50 and upwards. In that ten year period, the price of comics has increased to an average cost of $3 a book.
So yes, comics have on the whole increased in cost, but they are hardly the only product to increase in price in the last ten years. The overall costs in printing have increased a lot, and fuel prices have obviously increased exponentially. But these days the production values of comics are far above that of there badly coloured, low-paper grade predecessors.

And besides, there are options.
We have comics in our back issue section for as little as £1. There are some cracking reads there. Mid #200 Daredevils by John Romita! Classic Dr. Strange adventures. Almost a full run of Defenders, the little super-hero team that couldn't. The list goes on: Web of Spider-man, Excalibur, New Mutants, Punisher, Batman, Superman. Classic superhero tales from iconic heroes, all at bargain prices.
There are always "free Comics" given away at our main point-of-sale (the Counter). They are completely free and don't go as fast as they should considering the lack-of-price. They range from promotional items like the recent Red Sonja #0 or the 25 cent Goon issue, to overstocks of books like Ultimate Marvel Team-up #3 or Captain America: Truth #1. Books that we, to be honest, completely over-ordered. Either way, the titles we give away are hardly shit. And what good are they rotting away in the back store room? Better to give them away to people who might enjoy them and you never know, it may get new readers into comics, or put existing fans onto a new title (as has happened with the Oni overship of Paris #1) or back issue run. Free comic Book Day is proof that this works.

Free Comic Book Day: - Check out the website.

DC "Showcase" and Marvel "Essential". 500 Pages plus ranging from £7 - £11 in price. What a bargain. The first 160 issues of Amazing Spider-man are available in this black and white format, some of the best comics ever. What about John Brynes X-Men run with Chris Claremont? Silvestri Wolverine? Silver-age Superman? Jack Kirby F4? All are available in this format.

Trade Paperbacks. Okay, apart from some recent exceptions from Marvel (Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. 4 springs to mind), Trade Paperback collections usually work out cheaper than the single issue format. Sea of Red from Image is a great example of this at £6 for four issues. The first seven issues of Ultimate Spider-man available for £9!

Hardcovers. The complete Rising Stars for £45. That's a total of 27 issues and works out cheaper than singles or even Tpbs. Okay, yeah, most of the time Hardcovers do work out a lot more expensive than the singles, but not in this case.

Complete Collections. The Complete Bone is only £27! That's less than 50p an issue in one handy volume. Other great examples of this include the great Soulwind and Geisha.

At the end of the day, you will pay the price if you're a fussy reader.

So what's the benefit of collecting comics then?

There are still a few real advantages of collecting single issue form. For a start, you don't have to wait so long between issues, it's easier to find the time to read 22 pages than it is to read 160 and the letter pages help give a sense of belonging and community. you also get to appreciate the cliffhanger ending, books like House of M and Infinite Crisis are predicated on the idea of it's monthly suspensefull ending, yet many people I know prefer to wait for the Tpb. Each to their own, really.
Another factor to the single issue is the resale value of the single issue. There is very little in the way of resale value to a Tpb or HC, most people who buy comics that I know are more interested in reading than in selling them on, but its kind of nice to know they are worth something when you come to sell them on.
I for one will keep collecting comics regardless of the format, although I do prefer the single issues on my Marvel titles it is mainly because I have been collecting them that way for so long I don't know how to stop. With an awful lot of new titles or indie books I check out the Tpb, as its easier than searching for all the singles, and I already have enough monthly titles to keep up with thank you very much.

Over the coming years, there will be a more noticable divide between comic collectors and comic readers, maybe the industry will be strong enough to sustain the two separate markets, or maybe the industry will end up following Japan and Europes lead. Either way, a change is coming to the industry in the next few years

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Death of Superman

It has oft been said that if you have one truly original concept within your lifetime, you will be a rich man.
Since then political correctness has swept Western civilisation - it's altruistic message usually twisted beyond recognition by its supporters - and original idea's have been replaced by the repackaging of old ideas and special edition DVD re-releases.
But, in the pre-WW2 days of the late thirties, two Jewish immigrants by the name of Jerry Seigal and Joe Schuster had an inspirational creation: Superman; and with it the idea of superheroes was born.
An entire genre of storytelling grew from this concept, almost encompassing an entire medium as its popularity wave spread its influence across the decades. Arguably as recognisable world-wide as Mickey Mouse, Coca-Cola and Super Mario (full name: Mario Mario), capturing the imagination of children and adults all over the planet with his simple message that good must, and will triumph over evil
No-one could have foreseen the success that an essentially throwaway character could have had, especially not from the pages of the funny-books, after all, aren't they for kids? He is essentially just a science-fiction creation with underpants on the outside isn't he? Surely if his popularity across 8 decades and his viability as a commercial property could have been predicted, then Seigal and Schuster would have made sure to retain the intellectual rights to the property? But alas, this was not the case.
At best, Superman was a metaphor for Jewish settlers (the strange beings from another land) who wanted more than anyone else for the promise of the American dream to hold true. After years of facing anti-Semitism, the prospect of living free and not being persecuted for your beliefs must have been a charming allure to migrate to the Land of the Free (TM), especially considering how things were heating up in Europe (Note to God: Poland - bad place to put a country). Yes, Truth, Justice and the American Way - what a tag-line (how many other countries have a tag-line?), and what an icon to uphold those beliefs.

But something strange is happening to our icons, they don't have the power they once had.

Mickey Mouse looks different. The Fonz grew old. Tom and Jerry gained the ability to speak. Somewhere along the way, Snoopy became more important than Charlie Brown.

And Superman died.

How do you kill off Superman?

Behind the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iraqi War, it was one of the biggest events I saw growing up. Now I wasn't a comic-book reader at the time, and only had a brief understanding of who the character was and what he could do - but I knew what he meant intrinsically, even if only on a subconscious level, and I knew that Superman wasn't supposed to die.
Now you can make an argument about how we are all mortal and it teaches kids about the facts of life, but damnit, you already took Aslam from us and if you really want to teach kids about life and death buy them a cat and move near to a busy road.
You don't just kill Superman.
But they did, and to be fair, it was a big event. Few comic stories make the national news but this one did, comic shops had queues around the block and many retailers still to this day cite that as their fondest memory as a store-owner. The issue (Superman #75) sold literally millions of copies.
The Last Son of Krypton - in the heart of his adopted city of Metropolis - died, mere feet away from the Daily Planet offices and his loved one he had fought so hard to protect: Lois; Perry and Jimmy. His cape billowed in the wind in a final gesture of nobility and defiance. This strange visitor from another planet, who had lived as an inspiration to all and embraced the American way, died saving others, and proved himself to be as human as any of us.

Fast-forward six months, he is fine. Alive and well.

How do you top that? What does the character have left in him? Where do you go from there? Long hair? New costume? Slightly bigger "S"? Slightly smaller "S"?
As a Superman fan and reader, there have been very few stories that have inspired me in the last 10 years. A lot of damage was done to the character and, I would argue, to the comic industry as a whole. Comic readers are used to characters coming back from the dead, Joker, Magneto, Jean Grey, Mr Immortal, it's part of the industry we all know and accept.
But Superman is an icon, and by bringing him back, the non-comic reading world felt cheated, lied to even. The next time a comic story hit's the news do you think the public will listen as closely? Do you think the news stations will react to the press release at all?

Next year sees the release of a new Superman film for a new generation, so new in fact that the guy playing Supes - Brandon Routh - is younger than me, making me feel bloody old. It's a new lease of life for a previously iconic character and only time will tell if the more blasé, modern day sceptical audience will be as transfixed as previous audiences, especially with the watering down of the character by shows like "Lois and Clarke" and "Smallville". After all, you can see people flying in movies and video games all the time these days, who can't fly. And with most of the world turned anti-American (or at least anti-Bush), what's so good about Truth, Justice and the American Way?

The original Richard Donner Superman movies were heralded by the tag-line, "You Will Believe a Man Can Fly". But Superman is about more than flying. He is about honour, morality, equality. He represents no one race or religion and brings a message of peace and understanding. The concept is worth more than any amount of capitalistic profiteering.
Iconic figureheads tend to outgrow the limitations and intentions imparted by their creators.
Maybe Superman isn't about believing that one man can fly, but about believing that maybe we all can.

-Sid Beckett. Bitter, but strangely optimistic.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Time Magazine ran a feature on their website highlighting the Top 100 Novels of all time, Watchmen featured on the list. Long cited as one of the best graphic novels of our time, it's nice to see a comicbook being featured up there with the true literary giants.,24459,watchmen,00.html


Entertainment Weekly dedicates five pages of its October 28 issue to WATCHMEN, comparing it to Citizen Kane, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Sopranos as "a masterwork representing the apex of artistry in its respective medium."

It's no big news that comics are picking up media attention still, what is impressive is the level of acclaim they are recieving. Watchmen is currently voted 6th on the Time 100 list (and that's voted by the readers, not by the magazine). As well as big magazines, we also have websites trying to bring comic series to the masses.

It's not just the powerhouses like Watchmen and Transmetropolitan getting reviews either, Stephen Holland of Page 45 utilised his entire column in this months "Comics International" to bring the attention of Strangehaven to peoples attention.
It seems to me the only people not paying attention to whats really happening in the industry are the comic fans.
Sorry guys, but I am calling you out.

Is it me or are us lot some of the most negative, bitter people involved with any "fan" base? every time a comic gets noticed, or something different comes along, people seem to start setting up the storm barriers: "It's our industry, we don't weant new readers coming in challenging our opinions". It's the mentality of "I'm alienated by my peers for reading comics, therefore I must be a true fan".

Case in point: Time Magazine's Top 100 novels, there were quite a few people online coming out with crap like "...but it's not a novel", or "Technically, it's a Tpb, not a Graphic Novel" or worst yet: "Isn't Time owned by Warner Bros. who own DC? Isn't that suspicious?" Fuck off. Fucking twat's. One, yes, its literature, therefore its a novel by proxy. Two, does it really matter if they got the terminology wrong? Oh, excuse me, it makes such a big difference, I was going to read something refreshing and expand my consciousness and facility with language but they called it a graphic novel not a tpb so I won't fucking read it, or anything which doesn't have a red "M" in the top left corner. And 3, yes, Time Warner does indeed own Time magazine and DC, but for fucks sake, think about it, even if they are forcing the inclusion of Watchmen onto the list, is it really a bad thing? Besides, they named Art Speigalman in the Top 100 People poll earlier this year, as written by Marjane Satrapi, that's hardly going to turn a profit for DC or Time is it? Some comic fans piss me off.

Don't get me wrong, the majority of my customers are great. They listen to recomendations, they talk intelligently about the things they don't like, and even more eloquently about the things they do like. They have hobbies and interests outside of Cap and Bucky, they go out, watch interesting movies, listen to diverse movies, and even recommend fresh comics to me that I have never even heard off. There are a few comics shops like this up and down the country; obviously I don't know all of them, but two of the best I have heard off are Nottingham's Page 45 and Leed's OK Comics. But unfortunately, most of them have gone the other way, unclean, unfriendly, unapprocahable and unorganised, basically a whole lot of "un". Hopefully, with time, more comic shops will follow suit with the stellar exaples listed above, we might even see the gradual fazing out of Star Wars toys and Magic the Gathering.

There are two types of comic books at the moment (as with most genres actually): commercially acclaimed and critically acclaimed. Stuff like House of M and All-Star Batman and Robin are commercially acclaimed because of the level of advertising that has gone into making them the best-sellers that they are, we hear they are hot books, Wizard run a six page article and we all check them out. Which is fine, because they certainly are not bad comics, by any sense of the word.
Then there are the critically acclaimed books; stuff like Ex Machina, Finder and Battle Hymn. These are the books that the people working in the industry buy / read. You think Warren Ellis reads New Avengers because he wants to (if at all)? No, he reads it because he cares about the industry and wants to see what the top sellers are doing, as a professional its in his best interest to analyse the industry (something which very few creator's seem to do).
These titles, which sell no where near the 248,000 units of the top sellers, are the titles really driving the industry forward. These are the titles that make Marvel and DC take notice, the breeding ground for future talent, Bendis! didn't just get handed Ultimate Spider-man on a plate, it was the sweat, blood, tears and arrests his put into the making of Torso, Jinx and Fortune and Glory which got him noticed as an industry professional.

Yet most comic readers would be hard pushed to identify the names of Criag Thompson, Dan Schaffer, Carla Speed Mcneil, Dan Clowes, Art Speigalman, Marjane Satrapi, Andi Rutton, Andi Watson, Alex Robinson, Rich Koslowski, Scott Morse, Scott Mcloud, Jeffrey Brown and countless others. Heck, some comic readers wouldn't be able to tell me who Will Eisner is.
But this is where the real progression is being made. These are the books which are getting noticed outside of our very blinkered, spandex only genre-within-a-medium-which-defines-a-medium.

I'm not saying don't read New Thunderbolts, Spawn or Teen Titans, as I love my superhero comics more than most (and if I did have a problem with superheroes, that would make me all negative and hypocritical), they just don't define my reading. All I'm saying is; next time you feel dissolusioned by an 8 issue crossover, next time you finish reading two superhero's punching each other in the face and think "it's all a bit samey", just remember, you are the only person limiting your exposure.