This was my second year in a row of going to Fan Expo in my favorite city in the world (next to Pittsburgh): Toronto. One of the things I dug about last year’s Fan Expo was that it was manageable in that it was crowded but not too crowded. Walking around the con floor was not a chore or a pain. You could stop and go through a vendor’s $1 dollar comic box without feeling like you had to hurry for fear of being pushed out of the way by the oncoming train of people dressed as their favorite Anime character (which usually meant their costume was too big to walk around in a crowded room without ticking off a couple of people).
This year was different.
I was only there for Friday and Saturday which are typically the busiest days of a weekend-long con and I can safely say the number of attendees this year was far more than last year’s. As a result, walking around on the con floor was frustrating at the best of times. It was like shopping at a major department store on Black Friday times 100.
Despite this complaint, I did have a good time at this year’s Fan Expo. I realize the con is experiencing growing pains which, I guess, is a good thing in itself. I do hope the Fan Expo organizers look into expanding the floor plan of the show. This would eliminate so much of the frustration I’m sure a lot of people experienced this past weekend. I also hope they look into hiring some thugs to go around and taze people who think it’s perfectly okay to stop and chit-chat right in the middle of an aisle where people are walking. One can only hope.
Some of the highlights include meeting Victor Lucas and Scott Jones of REVIEWS ON THE RUN and EP DAILY. They did me a big solid by signing my son’s new Batman Lego game. I scored some major daddy points with that so thanks guys! Another highlight was scoring these comics…
That was my first day’s haul. I think only the Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR was the only one not from the $1 boxes. You can sometimes find some good deals if you’re patient enough to look at every-single-one in the box instead of flipping through them haphazardly.
Now, on to the Fan Expo pictures…
Every Friday, I’ll proudly display a comic cover which, to me, deserves to be seen. Whether because it exemplifies what a comic cover should be or it shows how powerful and important a cover is or just because it’s goddamn cool!
First up is the cover to one of my all-time favorite comics growing up: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 134. I hope to one day owning the original art for this cover because I just love it. Plus, I always thought Tarantula had one of the coolest costumes around.
I’m always open to hearing your opinions. So let me know what you think of this cover. Cheers!
Every month, I’ll put together a list of some comics and graphic novels I think you should be checking out. Besides comics shops, you can also find get these through digital distributors like Comixology, Comics +, and Dark Horse Digital (in the case of Mind Mgmt.).
Daredevil- Month-after-month, writer Mark Waid and a line-up of stellar artists produces one of the funnest and best superhero comics in today’s market. If you dig superhero comics, then you owe it to yourself to give Daredevil a try.
Mind Mgmt- In only three issues, creator/writer/artist Matt Kindt has created one of the best titles available today. Weird, intelligent, creatively wild, and so very addictive. In my opinion, Kindt is one of the best pure comic creators working today. A must!
Trio- As a teen reading comics, John Byrne (along with Frank Miller and Matt Wagner) formed my Holy Trio of Comic Gods. His art work captures the true essence of superhero comics. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of his writing, his Trio from IDW Publishing is just fun superhero eye candy.
Fatale- I’m more of a Brubaker fan when he does his own thing like on Criminal and Incognito. And that hasn’t changed with Fatale. Brubaker and his artistic twin and partner, Sean Phillips, have yet again joined forces to produce some of their best collaborative work yet.
Wonder Woman- Leave it to one of my favorite writers, Brian Azzarello, to make me not only buy Wonder Woman but also consider it one of the best relaunches from DC along with Batman.
What do you think? Do you agree with these choices or do you have your own you would recommend? If you do, tell us about it in the Comments section below. Cheers!
This past weekend, The Beat columnist Todd Allen wrote one of the better articles I’ve read on what could be the problem(s) behind the low sales Marvel Comics has been facing lately.
As someone who grew up reading comics in the 70s, the worse it got in regards to crossovers would be the occasional appearance of Spiderman in, say, Daredevil for one issue or there would be the rare multiple-title crossover between The Avengers and The Defenders, culminating in a finale in one of these title’s annual giant-size issues. All was well-and-good in regards to crossovers for Marvel till the mid 80s with the release of the year-long Secret Wars.
Secret Wars was a major success for Marvel. A Secret Wars sequel came out a short while later along with other Secret Wars-spinoffs. For the next 20 years, Marvel would experiment with crossovers and event-driven story lines, mainly involving their biggest sellers at the time: X-Men and The Avengers. This “experimentation” became a full-blown addiction in 2004 – 2005 when Marvel launched a number of crossover / event-driven story lines helmed by writer Brian Michael Bendis. Some of these include The House of M, Secret Invasion, Secret War, and Civil War. All of these were successful in regards to sales and giving Marvel fans what they wanted.
Since these releases, Marvel (and Bendis, to a certain extent) has given us Siege, Heroic Age, Fear Itself, and, most recently, Avengers vs. X-Men. And if that wasn’t enough, this coming October 2012, Marvel will launch Marvel NOW which will (hopefully) do for Marvel what DC’s recent clearing-the-decks sales success has done for them.
But the problem Marvel is finding themselves facing is- if the sales figures for the last six months is any indication- their regular event-driven story lines (while big sellers) could be taking sales from their other titles.
Allen goes over some recent sales figures showing the difference between the sales figures of Marvel’s top titles a month without any type of crossover / event and the following month with the start of a crossover / event. Those titles involved in the crossover / event saw their sales increase (some saw a double and even triple sales increase) while those not involved had the same sales figures as the previous month. Even though their sales figures didn’t dip, these same Marvel titles has lower sales than their main competitor, DC’s titles at the same number of sales ranking.
But what has to be a concern for Marvel is without an event or crossover to push sales, their top titles are selling less than DC’s top titles- which hasn’t had any type of crossover or event to drive sales since their New 52 relaunch.
So What Now?
The decision makers at Marvel have to realize the writing is on the wall: their dependency on crossovers and events has to change. While profitable, they can not base their yearly publishing model on the sales boost crossovers and events provide while their sales suffer the rest of the year. So what is the solution? Here are a couple of ideas of how I would do it if I was in charge:
Wipe The Decks Clean
The easiest solution (and one which has worked out well for DC so far) is to push the nuclear button on the whole line of comics and start over again. Even though Marvel has recently restarted a number of their titles over again, in most cases, this simply meant cancelling a title and restarting it again with little to no changes to signify a major upheaval in the cast or story lines. By rebooting the entire line, Marvel would essentially be starting over again. But this time, they would start out with a set number of titles featuring their A-list characters and teams. Except this time, the mutant characters would stay in the X-Men titles, and no single character would have no more than two titles to themselves. And yes- that is directed at Spiderman and Wolverine.
In the comments for The Beat article, I stated Marvel should use the current relaunch of Daredevil as a model on how they should do their line of titles. This would be the editorial direction I would insist on for this relaunch for a minimum of two years. Doing this would make it easier for new readers to jump onto titles for both regular comic buyers as well as someone new to the medium who wants to check out the latest Spiderman comic, for example.
Publish Cheaper Titles Aimed At Newcomers
One of the major problems facing comics is there is to much competition for people’s disposable income today. Marvel’s current policy of pricing a number of their titles at 3.99 has caused a large number of regular comic buyers from buying their comics. So you can imagine what someone who just saw the new Spiderman movie or The Avengers must think if they decide to checkout their local comic shop to see what they have only to find the latest issues of Spiderman and The Avengers are just under $4 dollars each. Chances are they probably walked out empty handed, disappointed.
To change this, I would introduce a new line of titles featuring just a handful of characters (Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, Daredevil, The Hulk, and The X-Men) that is printed on less-expensive paper done by new and less-established creators. The costs involved would be far less by using cheaper paper stock and hiring creators who don’t command a high page rate.
The main focus of these titles would be to serve as a gateway into Marvel comics. They would be based on the aforementioned Daredevil model of having mostly self-contained stories with little history to deal with. They would be simple in that a person could pick up an issue and have a good idea of who the characters are and what their relations are to one another. By using a cheaper paper stock (I’m thinking something just above the paper stock Dave Sim used on Cerebus), Marvel could include extra pages to market their regular line of Marvel comics.
Just Tell Good Stories
The other option would be to focus on producing the best comics possible. This would mean doing the following:
One: Cutting out the fat with “The fat” being multiple titles involving certain characters and teams. Not every title has to have either Wolverine or Spiderman involved. No character or team would have more than two titles dedicated to them- and two would be one to many.
Two: Limit crossovers to only two titles for a maximum of three issues. Having to buy comics of a character you don’t really care about just to keep up with a crossover sucks- plain and simple.
Three: The story lines are not there to serve a movie or toy line. Now I’m looking at you, Hawkeye.
Four: Make the comics fun to read. Some of the titles published by Marvel just leave me feeling depressed after reading them.
Five: Give the creators more freedom to do what they want. Marvel has some of the best creators working for them right now. Let them see what sticks to the wall and what doesn’t. Chances are, there will be far more hits than misses.
It’s easy to play armchair quarterback in a situation like this. Even though I only read a couple of Marvel titles now, I would hate for their sales to continuing sliding downward. Maybe this new Marvel Now initiative will be a step in the right direction. But I have a feeling they will need more than just one step to get themselves back to the respected House of Ideas they once were.
Last week was a big deal in the world of comics. First, we had the pop-culture-cavalcade-of-nerdiness called the San Diego Comic Con which I’m dying to go to. Secondly, the 100th issue of the widely-popular The Walking Dead came out with all 59 variant covers. The hype surrounding this issue- while bordering on pretentious at times- is deserved. Not many independent comics make it past fifty issues- let alone making it to 100 with no end in sight. So kudos to The Walking Dead team and publisher, Image Comics, for reaching this prestigious milestone.
Now for the actual comic itself.
**** WARNING- MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD ****
As some long-time readers of The Walking Dead will tell you, the title tends to suffer from a case of “Been-there, done-that” disease more than it should. Just about every major storyline since the comic began revolves around the survivors led by the man with the worst luck in the world, Rick, on the search for a safe haven, finding said safe haven only to have to leave again after discovering (a) the people there are worse than the zombies trying to get in, or (b) their safe haven is invaded by people worse than the zombies trying to get in. These particular story lines tend to involve some character’s death either at the hands of the zombies, someone in Rick’s group, Rick himself, or “the people who are worse than the zombies trying to get in”. Sure, when it happens you find yourself going “Well, that sucked because I liked that character” or “About f**king time! That dude was a dick!”
The problem with following this same by-the-numbers routine co-creator and writer Robert Kirkman falls back on is the shit gets old, to be honest. And issue 100 is no different.
With issue 100, I was really hoping Kirkman and his team on the book would just wipe the slate clean. Whether that meant just dropping the characters completely by wrapping up their story in a nice, bloody bow, or just leaving this particular group for a while and focus on a new group of survivors. By bringing in a new cast of characters, Kirkman could potentially tell different stories which didn’t use his tried-and-true formula.
But it wasn’t to be.
Instead we get one of the nastiest, most overbearing deaths I’ve ever read or seen anywhere. Some people and reviewers found it very powerful. Others found it distasteful, unbearable, and just too much. Me, I found it to be a case of Kirkman thinking “Okay, I’ve at the point where I have to kill this major character. But since I’ve killed a lot of major characters already in the past… this time, it REALLY has to pack a punch. And what better way to do that than to show the reader over the span of a couple of pages, the character suffering as his head is bashed in to the point it’s only mush! Yeah- that’s it!”
Issue 100 is it for me. I’m done reading a comic which essentially tells the same story over-and-over again with no end in sight. The death scene didn’t actually bother me. I just can’t help but wonder how the next major character will die? Will Kirkman dedicate half of an issue to zombies pulling some poor kid apart? Or will he first have them tortured or possibly raped by that story line’s villain in order to top the death in issue 100? I don’t know but I’m not sticking around to find out.
Comics: I’ve been plugging away at my first comics project which I’m doing EVERYTHING on. Am I nuts?!? I have it scripted so now it is just a matter of getting the images on paper. I have to say I have a whole new level of respect for artists. Illustrating a comic for the first time is hard. It is intimidating. It is scary. And it is rewarding in its own sadistic way.
The project is going to hit the web first as a web comic which will then be made available in either print or/and digital format. It’s the natural progression these days. The goal is to have the web comic start by this time next year if not earlier. I intend to have the fucker done and ready to go before the first page goes live. It’ll take awhile but it is doable.
My other comic project, BEFORE DAWN ONLINE is going to wrap up pretty soon. I think it has less than 20 pages left to run before it’s complete. I’m in the process of getting digital versions of it ready for people. Once that’s ready, then I’ll send an email out to some horror-centric blogs and web sites to hopefully draw more people to the web comic.
Movies: I’m also in the process of completing a horror script for a movie I’ve played in my head since 2007. The first draft is, I say, 90% done. Once it’s complete. I’ll take a week or two week break from it to get some distance before digging in to find the second draft of it. I’m going for a SESSION 9 and early Dario Argento feel, meaning I want it to creep people out and stick with them long after they have seen it.
Blogs: In between all of this, I’ve been revamping two sites I own and run: Digital Comic News and Digital Comic Directory. The Digital Comic News site was eating up time I wanted to spend on actual writing and drawing. Plus, it wasn’t bringing in enough money. So after some thought and going back-and-forth on what to do with it, I decided to turn it into a resource site instead of a news site like Comic Book Resources or Newsrama.
So that is what I did.
Took some time to redo some things, create new pages, and such. But I’m much happier with the results (it’s drawing in more traffic already), and it’s freed up some time I can use elsewhere. I also took the same approach to Digital Comic Directory except I incorporated the use of some powerful plugins to help turn Directory into what I had originally wanted to do with the site. Both sites pretty much run on auto-pilot now which works for me.
So there you have it. Now that I’ve cleared some things off my plate, I’ll be able to put more time into my baby here. So expect more nonsense and nerdy posting from here on out. Cheers!
Since opening worldwide, the summer blockbuster (even though it is officially spring time, the summer movie season practically starts in spring now) THE AVENGERS has made Disney and the people responsible for the movie a lot of money (well, except for Jack Kirby and Don Heck’s families but that’s another story). And rightfully so. They- well, mostly co-writer and director Joss Whedon- has created Disney / Marvel’s best superhero movie next to SPIDERMAN 2 and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.
With millions of people flocking to theaters worldwide, Marvel Comics (who is owned and operated by Disney) missed- yet again- a golden opportunity to potentially enlighten movie patrons on the source material for this blockbuster. An opportunity which could have led potential customers to comic shops and digital comic sites.
What if Marvel Comics put together a promotional comic which featured pages from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s classic THE AVENGERS #1 and THE ULTIMATES #1, along with information on how to purchase not only these comics but other comics from both comic shops (which would include a directory of every comic store worldwide with their addresses and web site URLs) and online digital comic sites like Comixology? Hell, if they wanted to save even more money, they could just put together an oversized promotional card with images from the two aforementioned comics with some text explaining who they are and highlights of their history while on the back would be URLs to the Comic Shop Directory and online digital comic sites.
They wouldn’t need to use expensive cover or paper stock to print either option on. Nor would they need to hire someone to hand these out. Theater clerks could do this simply by giving ticket buyers a copy at the counter. Granted, some attendees simply wouldn’t care about reading through it. But some would. And I think I can safely say over a million would at least look through it. What if only 100,000 of those who did look through it visited their local comic shop and /or visited an online digital comic site to see what they had to offer? Wouldn’t it have been worth the cost considering without the source material, there never would have been THE AVENGERS to begin with?
As a huge comics fan, my taste in what kind of comics has morphed and mutated over the years. When I first started “reading” comics (which mainly consisted of reading a word balloon occasionally, focusing more on the flashy and cool art since I was around 4 or 5), I was a young Marvel zombie who ventured into DC territory with BATMAN. I stayed loyal to Marvel through my teenage years as I moved from reading such classics as Spiderman, The Avengers, Captain America, and Conan to new titles like Uncanny X-Men, ROM, New Mutants, and Daredevil.
It was during these teen years when independent comics got my attention. I can thank this to reading one of my favorite comic news magazines COMICS SCENE. There was no internet back then (well, no internet for the general public), so for me, reading COMICS SCENE was like heaven. I would find out about all the latest news from a month or two months ago, read interesting articles and interviews with creators I not only followed but also with ones I never heard of like Dave Sims and Matt Wagner.
I was fortunate that the same store which carried COMICS SCENE also had a spinner rack. This spinner rack was usually filled with only Marvel and DC Comics but one week, they started carrying titles from the now defunct comic publisher, COMICO. So one weekend trip to this store proved to be a turning point in how I looked at comics. Stuffed between the latest issues of DIAL H FOR HERO and DAREDEVIL was the first issue of Matt Wagner’s GRENDEL. I only had enough allowance to get two comics, sometimes more if I got to mow my granddad’s yard. So I got my favorite UNCANNY X-MEN by Chris Claremont and John Byrne and this new indy comic which I remember reading about in COMICS SCENE.
My love for comics hasn’t been the same since.
Reading GRENDEL exposed me to a secret world which wasn’t dominated by Marvel and DC. This world- while similar in some ways- was also vastly different. Reading GRENDEL led me to read JUSTICE MACHINE (which appeared on the same spinner rack soon after GRENDEL’s debut) which led me to actively pursue other independent comics.
Fast forward close to 30 years (sigh) and my love for indy comics hasn’t changed. It hasn’t always been pretty (the direct market of the 90s produced some of the worst comics- mainly by indy publishers looking to cash-in on the direct market boom) but it has produced some of the industry’s best comics and creators. The mainstream publishers may grab the headlines but the independent comics are the heart and soul of comics. While the big two publishers continue serving their parent company’s mandates, publishers like IDW, Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, and Image (just to name a few) continue to produce work which only enriches the medium and appeals to those who are not interested in just superhero material.
But one publisher in particular has really taken off in the last couple of years, producing some of today’s best books. I’m talking about Image Comics.
If you look at the material they have published recently, you would see they delve into a variety of genres: horror to sci-fi to fantasy to suspense to crime to everything-in-between. And some of the industry’s top talent has brought their projects there including Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Brian K. Vaughn, and the list goes on.
With the rising sales and popularity of digital sales and the increase in direct market orders for independent comics, I can (and hope) for a future where publishers like Image Comics have as large a market share as the big two publishers. I know that I hope to one day have my work published through Image Comics. Sure, it’s nice to imagine doing my dream Spiderman or Batman project. I think every creator has dreamed of doing a project involving characters they read as a kid. But my heart lies with independent comics and that is where I plan on working and supporting whenever I can.
In this post over at The Beat, Stan Lee (the man whom Marvel would have you believe created just about every major superhero in their stable) in an interview with Moviefone about the upcoming THE AVENGERS movie stated the following:
Moviefone: Fans of Jack Kirby are concerned that his name appears nowhere on the credits of “The Avengers.” What’s your take on their concern?
Stan Lee: I don’t know how to answer that because in what way would his name appear?
While there was a short-lived shit storm of criticism thrown at Lee over this remark (it turns out Jack Kirby and Stan Lee both receive credit for creating The Avengers during the end credits), it doesn’t necessarily remove Lee’s foot from his mouth.
I think what got most people ticked off (including myself) is how Stan The Man has a tendency to let people think he was the brains behind the majority of Marvel’s greatest characters including Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, and others. And this is simply wrong.
Granted, I haven’t seen every Stan Lee interview and I’m in no way a scholar when it comes to comic book history. But I have read articles on the history of Marvel and I have also seen my fair share of comic-related docs and interviews with Stan Lee to determine that he has, indeed, taken the credit for creating these classic characters more times than stating he and some other creator created them together.
And maybe this is what has real comic fans upset. When Lee makes statements like this, it is like reopening an old wound that will never heal. It doesn’t help that he’s in every freaking Marvel movie. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a slap in the face if he was holding a head shot of the other creator responsible for the character the movie is based on when he makes his cameo.
Mainstream horror has essentially been non-existent for the last five years. It has been mainly comprised of horrible remakes of classic staples of the horror genre. Nothing truly original has came out till CABIN.
If you’re any type of horror fan, then you probably already know the plot of CABIN. Most articles and reviews on or about the movie have tried to keep the plot under wraps as to not spoil the fun. I’ll follow suit despite the fact that if you’re a horror nut, then you’ll be able to get a good idea of what the twist is by the time the beginning credits end. But that doesn’t necessarily take away any enjoyment from watching it.
While it is far from perfect, CABIN IN THE WOODS takes a hard loving look at horror movies including their cliches, their stock vanilla characters, and plot contrivances, then it dissects them in order to show why the horror genre is so great and beloved by many including myself.
If you have not seen it yet, then do yourself a favor and go into it knowing as little about as possible. It’s tempting to see what all the fuss is about but don’t! One thing the internet has killed is the mystery surrounding entertainment- especially movies. Don’t spoil things by peeking behind the curtain. Go into the theater just knowing it’s about these kids who go to a cabin in the woods and some weird stuff happens. I promise you’ll see one of the best horror films of the last decade.