Thursday, April 10, 2008

Meanwhile, Elsewhere on the Internet...

—Here’s a short review of David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague by yours truly. I’ll probably have another Ten-Cent Plague-centric post here on EDILW over the weekend.

—I don’t have one of those big lists of blogs on the right hand side of my blog there because a) I don’t really know how to do it, b) I don’t want to learn how to do it, c) I don’t want to, like, offend anyone by not including them, nor do I want to therefore link, like, every comics blog in the whole world ever and d) I don’t think any of you care that much about my reading habits. Maybe about my comics reading habits, but not so much my reading about other people’s readings of comics, you know?

Anyway, one site that I do read and recommend is My favorite feature there is the “Comics of the Weak” reviews, mostly because I really like when Tucker Stone swears at his comics, and I admire his ability to give completely undiluted opinions on them. For example, his entire review of The Authority: Prime #6 was “This comics is a complete piece of shit.”

At, we’d say “crap” instead of “shit.” And we’d probably say something like, “I thought this was a complete piece of crap, but…” because there will inevitably be a parade of posters who would embrace it and say we’re pro-Top Cow for having an anti-WildStorm review, and paid off by Image to slam on WildStorm books and, somehow, inevitably, virginity, homosexuality and politics would come up.

But Stone calls a spade a spade, and a piece of shit a piece of shit, and you’ve gotta respect that.

Anyway, that’s my favorite feature there. But I just wanted to point out that this particular installment of Nina Miller’s “Virgin Read” about Secret Invasion is awesome.

Miller’s a self-professed newbie to comics, and an adult female. So, she’s the kind of person that something like a huge story in Entertainment Weekly or a plug on the Colbert Report might theoretically convince to pick up a Marvel comic for the first time. So it’s neat to read her reaction: “I didn’t really realize that it was a Super Hero comic. And, shit, it isn’t just a Super Hero comic. Its, like, The Prom of Super Heroes.”

Mr. Marvel Blurb-Collector, you can stop right there. “It’s The Prom of Super Heroes” is pretty much the perfect cover blurb for a trade collection.

The rest of her piece might not be something the Marvel blurb-collector would want to clip and save, however: “This is, like, for comic people, the equivalent of when the kids I teach go and see Elmo Live. Its like, ELMO! LIVE! And all the others are there too! Big Bird! And Sully! And Zoe! Singing! And Dancing! But ALL TOGETHER.”

Damn, that’s scary accurate. But be careful where you say that kind of thing. I understand some super-comic fans don’t like it when people call them “babymen”, and comparing the Very Serious and Metaphorical Secret Invasion Epic to Elmo Live is getting awfully close to calling its readers toddlermen, which is only a few months of childhood development away from babymen.

—Has there ever been a comic book about a superhero named “Babyman”? I see there’s a guy who goes by the name, but his special talent doesn’t seem to qualify as a superpower. And there’s an entry for, but no real info about The Adventures of Babyman.

—A whole lot of people linked to announcements that the brilliant cartoonist Keith Knight has a daily comic strip in the works. Any new stage for an artist of Knight’s abilities is good news. I’m just shocked he’s doing another strip. Is he going to continue K Chronicles, (th)ink and his other work? Because that’s a lot of gag-writing and drawing to do each week. Here’s hoping The Columbus Dispatch picks it up, although I wouldn’t hold my breath. Or read The Columbus Dispatch. Both activities are pretty bad for your brain.

Shaenon K. Garrity’s essay about the formulaic nature of Little Lulu is quite astute.

I will take umbrage (whatever the hell “umbrage” is, exactly) with this bit: “The thing about the Little Lulu reprint project is that, brilliant as Little Lulu is, no one really needs 19 volumes of it.”

I do, Shaenon K. Garrity. I do.

Actually, it seems Garrity does too. Garrity breaks down the various categories all Little Lulu comic stories can be assigned into (My favorite is “Tubby the Detective,” and my least favorite is “Lulu Tells a Story;” I usually just skim those sequence and look at the pictures, because Lulu’s stories are always stupid). The very predictability of the comics is part of the charm—Peanuts, for example, can similarly be broken into a dozen or so different scenarios that were repeated over 50 years, with new ones added every decade or so.

—Speaking of Little Lulu, are there any collection’s of Marge’s original Lulu cartoons anywhere? I’d be really curious to see those, if so.

Speaking of Dark Horse reprints, why in God’s name are they charging so damn much for their Herbie Archive? Fifty bucks is a lot to plop down for such a deeply weird comic that looks awesome, but will run the price of roughly four-to-five volumes of Little Lulu. And, sadly, this doesn’t seem like the sort of book that many libraries are likely to carry either. I had the same dillema with Dark Horse’s Shmoo collection, which is still sitting atop that list of trades I’ll buy when I have a bunch of 50 dollar bills lying around (Dark Horse PR folks in the reading audience do note: I do accept comp copies for possible review).

And speaking of Comixcology columns (oh, I guess I didn’t speak of ‘em, but that’s what where the Garrity essay was at), I really like the headline of this one. DC really oughta publish some poetry comics based on their characters.

Wait, no they shouldn’t.

—I’d be happy to field that question: No. Some of it can be, the same way some film or photography can be. Definitions of pornography vary from definer to definer, but usually it’s defined as a work primarily (if not soley) intended to sexually arouse. A good clue might be the presence of any nudity and/or sex acts. Barring either of those, then no, no you fools it’s not. That’s lingerie catalogue-level stuff at the absolute worst. Now, should a 12-year-old boy have that material? Uh, I don’t know; he’s not my kid. But to answer your headline, no.

It looks more like a poster for Shadow movie, if you ask me.

—Apparently, Dr. Seuss doesn’t roll or spin in his grave; he tumbles and grum-humbles in it.

—The eight-page (?!) response thread to Troy’s review of Titans #1 has made for interesting reading, as it demonstrates that there is absolutely no such thing as an objectively bad comic book. Because that was by far the worst comic I’ve ever read, and there were still people who liked it.

I found two comments particularly interesting, though. One was that it was unrealistic to expect the quality of the title’s Marv Wolfman/George Perez to ever be met again. That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.

I haven’t read every single issue of their run on the Titans books—in fact, I’ve only read a handful—but it didn’t strike me as the absolute pinnacle of comics that no one could ever be expected to achieve again.

I agree that it might be reasonable to expect that the market will never embrace the Titans characters to the extent that it did when Wolfman and Perez were on the book, but that seems to be an entirely different matter than the quality of the title.

The other odd point was this crudely written post by a “uscwamer.” The poster mentions that everyone who reads comics knows that comics sell well when they have, er, big breasts in them.

That’s not true. Some comics might not sell at all if there weren’t substantial amounts of TnA in them (I can’t see Lady Death, Vampirella or Tarot turning a profit if their title characters pudgy, middle-aged-men or teenage boys, for example).

But do any Marvel or DC super-comics sell because of the inclusion of big breasts in them?

Look at The Beat anyalysis of DC’s sales data, circa February.

The best-selling book is All-Star Batman, the last issue of which involved Batman and Robin sitting in a yellow room making fun of Hal Jordan for 11 pages, and then 11 pages of crying. It certainly had its cheesecake-packed scenes earlier in the run, but at this point that was years ago. I think it’s safe to say that JIM LEE! FRANK MILLER! BATMAN! and maybe even BAT-SHIT INSANITY! are getting guys to buy this book more than the possibility of seeing Vicki Vale in her underthings again.

Their number two book is JLoA, which features an insane degree of cheesecake, with heroines always posed to show off their breasts or their asses or both, no matter what the script calls for. Artist Ed Benes also draws their costumes smaller than any other DC artist.

Is that a factor in its sales success? Perhaps. But note that on the chart JLoA #6 is over 130K, back when Brad Meltzer was still on the title as writer. Now it’s down to just under 90K, and Benes is still around. That would suggest its initial sales had more to do with Meltzer than Benes.

Other books with a high degree of panty-shots and near-nudity or inappropriate cheesecake? Well, there’s Countdown to Final Crisis with its sexed up Mary Marvel and Forager and Amazons, which was one of DC’s best selling title in February, but is only at 67K. Wonder Woman, which is more subdued, is at 41K. Supergirl? 34K. Birds of Prey, which is a book about women with Barbie doll figures in tight costumes, only sells in the low 20,000s.

Over at Marvel, which in general was selling a lot more books than DC in February, the top books were X-Force and New Avengers (mixed gender team books), Amazing Spider-Man (now de-Mary Janified) and Thor. It’s not till you get to the #5 book that you get to a book in which cheesecake/boob-showing off might be a factor, what with Ultimates. But then again, you have two A-List creators and a perennial chart-topper of a title.

The Marvel books featuring well-endowed, scantily clad females Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk sold a little over 24,000 and a little over 22,000 in February, respectively.

So can we lay this boobs in super comics = sales myth to rest yet? Or, barring that, can we at least insist on well-drawn boobs? In Titans, everyone seemed to have visited the exact same incompetent plastic surgeon.


Tucker Stone said...

Obviously, there's a thanks here. Thank you for eloquently, and flatteringly, making me realize that somebody out there that isn't blood-related or psychotic enjoys the weekly reviews. Awesome.

Moving on: I don't exert any control over the Virgin Read, y'know? Just let her do her thing, and while i occasionally break the original rule, which was I don't answer any questions whatsoever when she's picking her book, after that, i just let her email them to me and I post it up. I figured the Secret Invasion thing would be funny, but I never had any expectations for what she turned in, which ended up completely flooring me. "Super-hero prom" and "elmo-live" are two incredibly accurate taglines for the series, but as snarky as it gets, I can't imagine anybody who reads comics every coming up with them. Although four months in, she may have learned some stuff, she's still operating form a state of mind that I can't even fathom--one that doesn't come laced with remembering the line-up for the Detroit League, who the Corrosive Man was, being in love with Matter Eater Lad. I couldn't make that up, and I'd be surprised to see anybody immersed in this little hobby to come up with it either.

And caleb? Your site is always a great place to hang out and read as well--i'm a non-blog-roller as well, but that doesn't mean it isn't the first thing that comes up when i type the letter e in the browser. Keep it up.

Shaun said...

I skimmed through the Titans book at the store, and while I thought it was awful I really didn't understand the true scope of it's awfulness until reading your review and the hilarious Newsarama thread.

And thanks for the link to the Virgin Read post. It was terrific.

Robert said...

Good post about comic book boobs! I've also noticed the disparity between explicit boobage and sales. Compare say Bomb Queen's sales with what is probably the biggest selling female fronted comic, Buffy and it seems that OTT boobs are a turn off to most readers. It's harder to judge with the team books. Intermittent boobage seems more acceptable when there's a lot of other stuff going on, well, for me anyway.

Incidentally, a word on She Hulk. Yes, she's scantily clad but I've never found her particularly sexy. I'd like to think that more people bought her during Slott's run for his writing rather than Horn's covers (though I guess I could be wrong). Same goes for Peter David/Mike Deodata. Marvel would be foolish to go down a total T&A route with this book. It's under-rated and should have more appeal than it does because, unlike a lot of Marvel supergals, Jen Walters is a very interesting character.

Richard Cook said...

I remember the Occasional Heroine discussing her time at DC and mentioning the use of Ed Benes's cheesecake to raise the sales of Peter David's Supergirl.

I agree that cheesecake alone isn't going to make a book sell well, but I think DC and Marvel believe that they can get a few thousand more units shipped with cheesecake than without.

Jacob T. Levy said...

The Babyman question made me instantly remember Diaper Man from the Mighty Heroes cartoon shorts-- and I haven't thought of them in years. Given the bottomless appetite for nostalgia-goofing, I'm shocked there's never been a Mighty Heroes comic adaptation...

Tony said...

Yep, that's the Shadow alright.

What's with the "This City Is My Lover" business? The Spirit isn't at all that pretentious. The Spirit is the opposite of pretentious.

I'm apprehensive.

I agree with the other poster. A little T&A helps, but it's hard to have a whole book of it.

I wonder if the T&A market is saturated? Like, are all the T&A readers already spending their money on Lady Death and Tarot?

Richard Cook said...

After reading the last poster's comments, I wonder if T&A has lost its commercial value in the Internet Age. Maybe people who'd buy a comic primarily for pictures of pretty girls would be more likely to download an illegal version than people who read a book out of loyalty to the character or interest in the plot.

Just a theory, but some of the superheroine stuff on the Internet makes the cheesecake in comics seem rather quaint.

Caleb said...

Incidentally, a word on She Hulk. Yes, she's scantily clad but I've never found her particularly sexy. I'd like to think that more people bought her during Slott's run for his writing rather than Horn's covers... It's under-rated and should have more appeal than it does because, unlike a lot of Marvel supergals, Jen Walters is a very interesting character.

That's a good point. I don't think She-Hulk is really a cheesecake or T&A type of book. I think it was pretty tongue-in-cheek cheesecakey back in the day, but yeah, other than Horn's covers, it didn't really sell itself as a sexy book.

I was just citing it as an example of a Marvel comic where in sex could conceivably be used to sell. But it probably wasn't a very good example at all.