Sunday, February 12, 2012


On Thursday, DC Comics released the findings of their "New 52" market research study with the same fanfare they release variant covers and new miniseries, and while they were careful to note that "the survey results are not a reflection of all comic book readers or the broader audience for graphic novels," but of readers who bought the single issues of the comics either in print or in digital formats (In other words, direct market readers who buy comics at their local comic shop and/or tried out DC's digital initiative.)

The results, which DC Women Kicking Ass parses a bit here, reveal a readership that is—surprise!—mostly male, mostly adult and mostly already buying comics. Only 5% of the readers were new ones, and DCWKA further noted that number of women buying those comics is actually down a percentage point from 20 years ago, and shakes its head that only 2% of the readers were apparently ages 13-18.

Sooooooo, that's an all-around failure then, right? Few new readers, few kids reading and less women, the only real increase in readership coming from the same group of people who were already reading...and not getting any younger (and, in most cases, any richer, I imagine). And that comes after that unprecedented marketing pitch, that Only Good Once strategy of relaunching and renumbering everything (You can only renumber Action and TEC for the first time ever once, after all) and all DC got out of it was...that?


It should probably be noted that these results aren't really all that much of a surprise, just a confirmation of what seemed evident all aong. A look at the creative teams enlisted to reinvent the DC Universe and all of its heroes for the 21st century, which consisted of a combination of the very same folks who were producing the comics no one wanted prior to the relaunch with such "new blood" as a few guys who worked on Spawn and some Marvel and Image talents from the early to mid-90s, made it clear that DC wasn't going for new readers, so much as lapsed readers who outgrew superhero comics and/or some of the readers who only read Marvel.

I can't imagine the mood in DC HQ is actually as grim an I think it should be, but it seems to me that DC ran around the building breaking all the emergency cases that say "Do Not Break Unless...", employed all their weapons of last resort and through all their Hail Marys and all that accomplished was, what? Edging out Marvel in direct market share for a couple of months?


Okay, with that big, sad news out of the way, let's return to chronological order for these links...


So hey, did you guys watch that Super Bowl thing last week? I sure as hell didn't; it's one of the few things with the word "super" in it I couldn't be the least bit interested in.

The following day a fake Facebook friend posted a link to this new Madonna video, which I was shocked to see included MIA (along with some scary happy looking lady named Nicki whom I had never heard of before, probably to my oldness).

I haven't seen a video like that in a long-ass they still make music videos? Do they appear on television these days, or all just go straight to Youtube? MTV stopped playing them around the time I was in high school, and Judd Winick was still just a guy on one of their reality shows.MIA looks really...uncomfortable dressed like a cheerleader, mouthing cheers and shaking pom-poms. But perhaps I'm just projecting—that seemed like a pretty unusual milieu for her, compared to settings, costumes and personas I generally see her inhabiting in her videos.

It amused me that the football team in the video has the same colors as Ohio State University's football team, which was the bane of my existence every other fall Saturday during the decade or so I lived near OSU's campus in Columbus. (I think; perhaps Madonna's team is red and silver, not scarlet and eye for team colors isn't that sharply defined).

Also, those back-up dancer/cheerleaders were hella creepy in those manga masks......shudder!

I then watched the actual half-time show on Youtube a few days later, as I heard MIA was "controversial" during it (I guess she just flicked off a camera or something? Lame)

I really rather liked how it opened, with Madonna being pulled out onto the field by a bunch of enslaved extras from 300, all riding on a giant throne castle cart like Xerxes. And then she and a court of folks danced around in horns and crowns, swinging swords and suchlike. It seemed perfectly fitting for the climax of Super Bowl Sunday, which has somehow become one of America's biggest holiday's during my lifetime, rivaling Easter and Thanksgiving for Second Place Christmas, but being completely secular, with no one at all celebrating any religious aspect of the "holiday" (except for folks who regularly go to church on Sunday, since Super Bowl Sunday always falls on a Sunday, but that's more of a coincidence than anything else). Basically, she played a pagan queen during a big pagan Amaerican fauxliday, and though the act was self-aware, and really just a commercial for an album of something, that's what Super Bowl Sunday is—a self-aware bachanalia for the entertainment and advertising industries.

So Madonna in February of 2012? Rad.

I do hope she goes on a big stadium tour now, and keeps it up for years...if every show of hers could be as big a production as that one was, it would help a lot of Americans get back to work in the burgeoning dancing, costume-making and set-building industries....


Say, that didn't have very much to do with comics, did it?


"Lemony Snicket teams up with cartoonist Seth" is pretty much an ideal headline, isn't it?

This headline wasn't as exciting, but the article underneath it mentioned a project that sounds awfully exciting. I'd want to know who more of the cartoonists involved are before I danced around my apartment over it, however, but the few mentioned were certainly great enough to make me inhale sharply and sit up straight in my chair.


Golden Age Comic Book Stories has posted a couple of great Golden Age Captain Marvel strips. Check 'em out if you've got a few minutes to spare today. I think they make for a pretty good illustration of why I like the original Captain Marvel so much, especially the first one, which features Dr. Sivana. Billy follows him to his lab—a door in an alley marked "Nefarious Research Inc. — Keep Out!", where Sivana is hard at work on an awesome wish-fulfillment invention. He uses it to capture Billy Batson and then, with his archenemy at his mercy, he puts on his top hat and goes to a nearby bar to have a drink. The second strip features a panel of Captain Marvel fighting a bunch of monkeys, one of the few members of the animal kingdom he can't readily whip.


I've talked a lot of shit on Brett Booth here—mainly because he draws terrible comic books—but a while back I looked around his blog and was somewhat surprised to see how genuinely great he is at drawing dinosaurs.

DC Comics found a way to capitalize on that fact, and in the interest of pointing out Booth's strengths as well as his weaknesses, I would like to direct your attention to this fairly awesome cover to the upcoming relaunch of G.I. Combat, which will feature a "War That Time Forgot" strip among its regular features.

"The War That Time Forgot," you're probably well aware, is the DC feature in which World War II soldiers fight dinosaurs on a mysterious Pacific island. It was awesome.

Here's the cover for Art Baltazar and Franco's upcoming Superman Family Adventures, which I'm hoping will end up reading like a cross between their Tiny Titans and the Showcase Presents: Superman Family collections that are full of Silver Age strips from Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen.

Superman and Lois look like they do in Tiny Titans (the former only appears from the neck down there, however), and Krypto looks like Batlazar's Krypto from the DC Super Pets! line of illustrated young readers books that Capstone publishes. Supergirl and Superboy are both notably older and more grown-up looking than in Tiny Titans, looking like actual teenagers here, and Superboy has a new long-sleeve version of his t-shirt costume.

Looks pretty good so far.


Speaking of DC covers, here's one for the first issue of Worlds' Finest, the book that will star the "New 52" version of Earth-2' Power Girl and Huntress, trapped in the main New 52iverse, written by hot, young up-and-coming talent Paul Levitz and drawn by the impressive art team of George Perez and Kevn Maguire. (Ugh...Worlds' probably isn't a typos, is it...?)

Of special note is the background, which seems to indicate that on their home world, Power Girl was Supergirl and Huntress was Robin. That's pretty different than the original pre-Crisis Earth-2, and the new post-Crisis Earth-2 we saw during the last volume of Justice Society of America. This is an all-new, all-different Earth-2, apparently.

Also of note? Power Girl's got a new costume. I don't like how fussy the armbands are, and the P-Shield looks kind of goofy as drawn there (I'd prefer a simple red triangle, honestly), but compared to many of the "New 52" costume redesigns, Power Girl got off pretty easy).

In his piece offering a quick history of Power Girl costumes for ComicsAlliance, Chris Sims notes how similar PG's new costume looks to Rob Liefeld's Superman knock-off Supreme's costume, something Todd Allen at The Beat also noticed.

I would put it down mostly to coincidence, since Power Girl was wearing a red cape over a white costume a few decades before Liefeld first put Supreme to paper, and she's a Superman-derivative character owned by the same company that owns Superman, while Liefeld's...homage was done for his own publisher that, at the time, was definitely not DC.

But then, whoever designed the new PG duds went so far as to borrow those ugly-ass gold gauntlet-like bracelet things from Supreme, which seems like a rather obvious "tell" of the inspiration. I mean, if you're going to steal from Liefeld, don't steal the bad parts, just steal and slightly alter the stuff he stole and slightly altered from you.


Wait, one more DC cover related tidbit: They also released a variant cover for James Robinson and Nicola Scott's upcoming Earth-2 book, and the previously mentioned Allen wonders why it looks like Flashpoint (I'm guessing he drew the conclusion based on the alternate costumes and the savage, sword-wielding Wonder Woman).

When I first saw it, I immediately thought of Trinity, which featured Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman on every cover, often wearing altered costumes.

As to the why of it, which Allen wonders a bit about as well, I thought the original announcement of the "second wave" of New 52 titles made rather clear that the Earth-2 heroes wouldn't simply be sitting put on their own alternate earth, but engaging the multiverse in general.

Wait, how did DC put it...?

Yeah, here it is:

EARTH 2 – Writer: James Robinson. Artist: Nicola Scott. The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.


This was pretty funny.

I mean, I only read two Marvel comics regularly, and one of them is Daredevil, which just crossed-over with Amazing Spider-Man, in the traditional part of the story's in this book, the other part's in that book crossover fashion. And it's about to do that again with The Punisher and ASM. So that's two crossovers in just a few months in just one of their books.

I was thinking about it, and I wonder if Buckley really was lying, as Brothers says, or if he just doesn't really read Marvel Comics, not even as many as I do (remember, that's two) or not even very much about Marvel Comics, and thus he honestly isn't aware of the fact that Marvel actually publishes a lot of crossovers, like, pretty much all the time.

And then I was wondering what would be worse, from a Marvel audience member's perspective, knowing that the publisher was telling a big, dumb, obvious lie to them, or that he doesn't even read the comics he sells 'em...?


I already linked to my contribution to Robot 6 this week. At ComicsAlliance I wrote a little bit about that Alan Moore-interviewed-by-generous-through-the-computer-screen video (interesting that his explanation of why Morrison talks shit about him so much is the exact same as Morrison's explanation for the same in his book; there's a lot of great stuff in that interview though, you should watch the whole thing, and then give some money to the Pekar statue), Spidey's newest new costume, James Sturm's Avengers boycott, another comics creator dispute that is going to be fought in the courts (in this particular one, it's creator vs. creator instead of creator vs. publisher. That's...progress?), an update on DC's apparently weekly reshuffling of New 52 creative teams and my weekly week-in-review piece.


That Sturm article links back to a couple of pieces Tom Spurgeon has written on Marvel's shabby treatment of Kirby's heirs over the past few years—as he's eloquently pointed out, legal issues aside, it would cost Disney/Marvel very, very little to voluntarily give Kirby's heirs a bunch of money simply because it's the right thing to do—and, in discussing Sturm's current position, Spurgeon also reprinted a section from a 2004 interview where he pressed Sturm about the issue of getting a paycheck for working on Kirby characters. I apologize in advance if this is too big of an excerpt:

TOM SPURGEON: Is there any queasiness working with characters that were part of a dispute? Maybe Stan's recent lawsuit is a contractual dispute rather than a work-for-hire dispute, but it's driven by rhetoric that claims these characters have been exploited unfairly and he's been exploited unfairly. Is it the fact that these specific characters don't hold any extra queasiness for you at all?

JAMES STURM: Like in what sense?

SPURGEON: You have $10,000 in the bank, but Marvel doesn't send Jack Kirby's children trade paperbacks of their father's work when it's re-released.

STURM: Boy. But if you extend that argument to your day-to-day existence, on how you shop and how you spend money and how you interface with the world, you couldn't touch anything. You know what I mean? It's like, we live in a tainted fucking universe. Every pair of shoes you buy was probably stitched together by someone being paid ten cents an hour under ungodly conditions. And that's not to excuse myself, but are you getting at that maybe I shouldn't do this out of concern for...?

SPURGEON: It's one thing to get work-for-hire from an artist who is ceding control of his characters to you, but you're signing a work-for-hire agreement with a corporation that may have, or may not have, unfairly taken these characters from the artist to begin with.

STURM: What the fuck have I done, Tom? What the fuck have I done? Holy shit. Black mark on my soul.

I don't know. Obviously everyone's ethical standards vary, but I just don't feel I've made an egregious ethical breach. I think the question is valid and I'm glad you raised it. But for me, a few things play into it. First, Kirby himself returned to work for Marvel. Second, Marvel has changed owners several times since Kirby's stints there. Finally, I have never heard of any boycott by Kirby's heirs -- or anyone else for that matter -- calling for writers or artists to refrain from using characters he created.

Kirby created something 40 years ago that has so influenced and shaped comics history and I look to honor it. I hope that comes across in the book. Kirby's imprint is all over Unstable Molecules, his art adorns each cover (and several interior pages). My position at Marvel is no different than Kirby's was: work-for-hire.

I'm sure every character that was created some writer feels propriety for. I shouldn't do that Stingray graphic novel because somebody who developed him feels cheated? Remember that stupid character called Stingray from Marvel?

To trivialize a very important issue, I wanted to call attention to that penultimate sentence: I whouldn't do that Stringray graphic novel because somebody who developed him feels cheated?

Was James "The Guy Who Did Market Place" Sturm just picking the name of a random nobody Marvel character like Stingray to use as a humorous example, or does James Sturm really have a Stingray graphic novel in him that he would have liked Marvel to have published?!

I just ask because I'd really, really, really like to read a graphic novel about Stingray by James Sturm.


In that Robot 6 piece, I mentioned that I had never seen the cartoon show Adventure Time, which the comic book Adventure Time is based on, but that I borrowed a DVD from the library based on the strength of the comic adaptation.

They only had one DVD, and it was not labeled as season-specific, so I'm not sure how thorough Cartoon Network's collection of Adventure Time is (Mystery Incorporated debuted later than Adventure Time, and it has at least three DVD collections, all clearly labeled, so far).

There were 12 episodes on it, and it was pretty awesome, from the neat opening song to the even neater one that plays over the credits. Apparently its a cartoon about a 12-year-old boy who lives in a tree house with his best friend, a dog who has Plastic Man's powers and the voice of Bender from Futureama, and they go on adventures that mainly involve quests through an all-ages, cartoon Dungeons & Dragons fantasy setting (Finn, the boy, even fights a gelatinous cube! Although he calls it a jelly cube...) and beating stuff up and wrecking things. Highly recommended...although I imagine most of you who have cable have already seen it anyway. If you haven't, and/or don't have cable, look for the DVD at your library!

The comic's pretty good too, although if you're not wealthy, I'd maybe advise waiting for the trade, as it's a $4 book, and the main story doesn't conclude in the first issue (Also, I imagine the trade will include all the variants, and they seem to be getting some pretty great artists to contribute variant covers, like Jeffrey Brown for #1.)


Here's a fun, if weird, fact. James Fallows' cover story for The Atlantic about President Barack Obama, entitled "Obama, Explained," is 12,000 words long. Static Shock artist and co-writer Scott McDaniel's post about what went wrong with the quickly-canceled title is over 15,000 words long.

(I'd recommend you start with David Uzumeri's breakdown of McDaniel's post, as it's much, much shorter).

I'm not sure what to make of this. Rozum said Static Shock sucked, and he wanted to just write a good story with a compelling cast of interesting characters, but kept finding himself getting pushed aside by his editor and co-writer, an artist doing his first real comics writing. McDaniel said Rozum didn't seem interested enough in the bottom line, and was opposed to he and his editor's attempt to drum up immediate interest in the book by employing shocking content, like the character being dismembered (And that this decision was based on a CBR poll...?).

McDaniel and his editor seemed to have "won" the fight, but the book got canceled right away anyway, and I can't think of anyone anywhere having admitted to liking it. I didn't even like the sound of the book, or what little I had glimpsed of it from far away.

So what's the lesson here...?

I don't know. But since they tried the dismemberment approach and it didn't work out, maybe next time creators find themselves in this position, they'll try the cast development approach.


Finally, to end on a That's fucked up note, have you heard about Marvel's counter-suit against the Ghost Rider creator, the result of which is destitute artist being forced to pay the huge, massively profitable entertainment corporation that is about to make a bunch of money off a movie based on this dude's creation $17,000 bucks?

And this in the same week Sturm decided to wave his arms about Marvel's history of dick moves regarding Jack Kirby's legacy and heirs.

Creators and fans responded by rallying around Gary Friedrich; Steve Niles has set up a paypal account if you'd like to help Friedrich out.

In a perfect world...well, in a perfect world this wouldn't be happening at all. In a slightly more perfect world, Nicolas Cage would drive up to Frierich's house on a motorcycle, rev the engine until the artist came out to see what was going on, and then hand him a check for $17,000. I have no idea what Cage is making for that movie, but $17,000 is a pittance in movie money, even if it's a hell of a lot of money for struggling artists (It's more than I make in a year, that's for damn sure).


ahbartleby said...

I've been reading your blog since I first discovered comics at age 28 (five years ago). I don't really have much to add here. Just wanted to let you know that in my severely limited time I can allot each week to dickin' around on the internet I set aside a few minutes to this site.

Aki Alaraatikka said...

I have no idea if Sturm is making that graphic novel. Probably not.

What!? Geez, what kind of a rich d*** can ask for 17,000 bucks from an artist who probbaly has enough problems already? Let me tell you, a 1910`s silent movie villain.