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Friday, May 28, 2004
Thoughts, More or Less at Random
So, Morrison's reason for taking the X-Men out of costume was that people were comfortable with the super-hero paradigm and that if the X-Men looked like something people trusted, they would in turn trust the X-Men. But that didn't work, and so it was neccessary to look like something new. Whedon's explanation for putting the X-Men back into costume was that "people trust super-heroes, if we look like super-heroes they'll trust us to." Uhm...did Whedon even bother to read Morrison's run? Cause it sounds to me that the reason for putting them back into costume is the same logic that took them out of costume.
Someone really needs to get the message across to John Byrne that's it's not things like the Incredibles that cause the public at large to not take super-hero comics seriously. It's the super-hero comics themselves, and their defenders, that are causing super-hero comics to not be taken seriously.
I keep thinking about this thing with Marvel and retailers. I keep getting stuck on not trying to say the same things about Marvel's policies and how they are good for Marvel but bad for comics retailers that everyone and their brother has already said. What really bothers me are incidents where Joe Quesada brags about how great Marvel's sales are. But Marvel's sales are only that good because their primary customers, the retailers, are buying more Marvel comics than they really want to because Marvel won't reprint or over-print books, forcing retailers to not just order as many copies as they can reasonably expect to sell during a one month standard sales period, but to order as many copies as they think they can sell for all time. It's a system that inflates Marvel's sales. Speaking from personal experience, it's almost unheard of for us to sell out of a Marvel book. But we sell out of books by every other publisher all the time. On the flip side of that equation is the trade program. We do very brisk business in trades by every major and most of the minor publishers. Marvel trades, with the notable exception of the Ultimate line, sit on the shelves and collect dust. Marvel super-hero fans, as a general rule, simply will not buy trades. It's not in their nature. They'd rather spend money on back-issues, which are usually priced well above cover price, than buy a trade containing the same issues that often costs less than cover on those issues. It's baffling.
I also am less than enthusiastic about Marvel and DC's plans to reprint some of their material in digest/manga format. It seems like a plan doomed to failure. What they're counting on is the "looks like manga=sells like managa" phenomenon. What they're forgetting is that their work, while it may look superficially like manga, doesn't "feel like" manga. Oni's digest sized books, on the other hand, "feel like" manga. And anecdotal evidence suggests that Oni's digests do "sell like" manga. But Oni doesn't publish garish super-hero comics cynically formatted to resemble Tokyopop books. That's the crucial difference, I think.
And this leads me to something that not-to-be-trusted scoundrel Mike and I have discussed before. People seem willing to buy something if it "looks like" something they're already comfortable with. DC has a big back-log of material that is appropriate for children, and has the added benefit of actually being good, in their long defunct humor titles such as Three Mousketeers, Fox and the Crow, Sugar and Spike and Captain Carrot, and the like. People are comfortable with illustrated material for children being published in the "picture book" format. The tabloid and European album formats are so close to the picture book format as to be nigh indistinguishable. Would DC's children's comics back-log, we wonder, sell in an over-sized format?
Oh, and Dirk Deppey's first full issue as editor is not the "middle-ground" comics magazine people seem to want. Not yet. I thought Tom Spurgeon's review of the Ait/PlanetLar books was very poorly done. It felt, a couple of times, that he had personal grudges against some of the creators that clouded the reviews, and the over-all tone still reeked of the intellectual snobbery that turns most people off of TCJ. And the less said about the unintentionally funny X-Statix review the better. As for the rest of the magazine...the fixation on French cartoonists has rapidly become tres boring. The news articles have some meat to them, but I don't really want news from a monthly comic magazine. Sites like Newsarama, as problematic as they are as news sources, have pretty much made the concept of a comics news magazine moot. Work still needs to be done on the reveiws section. Too many pieces still read like clever grad students slumming in the comics commentary pool instead of working on their thesis. Nothing in Mark Waid's Fantastic Four run should require references to post-modern theory in order to communicate a point in a review.