Friday, January 16, 2015


I don't know if you've heard anything at all about it or not, but did you know that Marvel is publishing a new Star Wars comic? It's true! Since Disney bought Marvel, a comics publisher, and then they bought Star Wars, the source material for thousands of pages of comic books over the last 40 years, Mickey Mouse/The Frozen Head of Walt Disney/Whoever's In Charge decided to start having Marvel publish Star Wars comics.

When I first heard this news, I remember my first reaction: "So, I wonder which artist Marvel will get to draw Brian Michael Bendis' Star Wars comics...?" I was actually quite surprised that Bendis isn't writing the book, or either of the two spin-offs announced so far, as he seems to get first pass at Marvel's various franchises, crossover storylines and potentially lucrative licensing projects (Halo, Castle. I was more surprised still at just how good the first issue turned out. I'm not a huge fan of Cassaday's work, and didn't care for some of his likenesses to the human actors in this issue, but otherwise it was A-OK comics making (In contrast, Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda's Star Wars #1 wasn't as well-written, but better-drawn; it also suffered from splitting the team up at the get-go, whereas this fairly full first issue had the core cast of the first film all on a mission together, and even dropped Darth Vader into the mix by climax).

For my thoughts on the issue, you can read my review at Robot 6. I haven't read many reviews by others yet, but I imagine they will be generally positive (I tend to be one of the harsher critics who writes about mainstream comics on the Internet regularly). One that I did read was Dylan Todd's at Comics Alliance, in which he linked to his review of the Wood/D'Anda Star Wars #1 from a few years ago in the process of re-stating a point about how the sound effects in this book, and that book, and Star Wars comics in general tend to be disappointing.

He writes in his review of "Dark Horse’s attempt at (pretty much) this same series":
My biggest complaint with trying to do Star Wars in comic form is the fact that the films use sound as a huge storytelling tool, with two main characters — Artoo and Chewbacca — communicating entirely through sound effects, and another — Threepio — with a heavily affected and processed voice. Michael Heisler’s work here is fine, but when you think of the latest Simon Roy issue of Prophet, with weird glyphs that stand in for alien speech, or the way James Stokoe nailed Godzilla’s screech in the first issue of his Half-Century War miniseries, you can’t help but wonder if that extra lettering effort would pay off here.
That's a pretty excellent point, really. The new Star Wars comic is pretty weird about sound effects in general, using them only to denote the sound R2-D2's taser arm makes, and not the sound of, say, a lightsaber turning on or off or being swung, or blasters firing or striking things. Maybe Marvel shoulda sat Doug Monench down with a DVD of A New Hope and had him translate everything into comic book sound effects for them...? (I really liked the way Jeffrey Brown handled Wookie hand-writing in his Jedi Academy books, for whatever that's worth).

Also of interest on the Star Wars comics beat, I thought, was this bit on The Beat, wherein Heidi MacDonald notes that there are 89 "confirmed" variant covers for Star Wars #1, which is a ludicrously high number (It's a 30-page comic, so there are three covers for each page...?). I was a little annoyed by the $5 price tag, and if Marvel sold a million copies, then it would seem like that earns them $5 million bucks on it...but, then, you have to subtract the cost of the production (paying everyone who contributed, printing the things) and marketing them. And while I'm sure not all 89 of those variant covers are original works by different artists—some are probably black-and-white variants, or blank variants—that still increases he number of people you have to pay to draw covers for you. Is it all worth while? I guess it must be.

Of course, because of the fucked-up way the comics market works, it's not like Marvel sold a million copies of a $4.99 comic to customers. Instead, they sold a million copies to retailers, who will then attempt to sell those million copies to their customers, and they may or may not succeed, and thus may or may not end up with thousands of issues of Star Wars #1 in the back room, where they keep their first issues of Brigade and Warriors of Plasm.

Finally, I thought this was an interesting observation from Tom Spurgeon:
they're experiencing big sales on the new wave of Marvel Star Wars comics, which makes me think that they're really getting in their own way a bit long-term on the superhero comics. The Star Wars license and the Marvel superheroes license shouldn't be that far apart in terms of comic book market penetration.
I suppose the vast gulf in sales between Star Wars #1 and Avengers #Whatever has more to do with all the variants and marketing and selling strategies than anything else, but yeah, you can look at that in one of two ways. The success of the selling of Star Wars #1 is all smoke and mirrors that can't last very long, and the way Marvel handles the rest of its line is more realistic/less-crazy pants, or they are doing a really shitty job on marketing and selling everything that's not Star Wars.

I had one other review of a comic book appear in a place that was not here this week, and that was a review of Orphan Blade for Good Comics For Kids; you can read that here. It's an original graphic novel written by the late M. Nicholas Almand and drawn by Jake Myler, representing some very interesting world-building behind and beneath it's manga-inspired story of warriors with magical weapons.

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