Category Archives: Comics Beat

The Cutting Room // It’s Always the End of the World Somewhere

For those who don’t know (partly because I am particularly terrible at self promotion), I do an irregular column over at a site call The Beat about comic book retail. As you can probably guess, it is usually filled to the brim with finger-wagging at backwards looking comic shops and fans who would drag this industry backwards rather than forwards.

Whelp, I finally wrote a new column – this time about a lot of the big moves that DC Comics has been making lately – and it went over as well as you’d expect.

I’m not 100% sure, but this person was probably mad about lines like this:

There’s a toxic idea that the direct market is owed something for it’s place in history and… I don’t know. Maybe there is. Maybe I’m too new that I can’t see it. I didn’t work in those trenches. But from where I stand, the direct market is owed nothing. As a retailer, I would laugh in the face of Marvel if they told me I owed it to the X-Men to place more orders for their books because they once helped float comic shops. All ideas have their time. All delivery methods do as well.

It’s as though the business is constantly evolving or something. Wild!

Anyway. Instead of just cross-posting these and walking away, I’ll be tossing a few “extras” your way in these posts, in the form of ideas that were either cut for space, or didn’t quite fit the narrative I was going for. Which is to say, for every article I write, there’s anywhere from 500-5000 extra words I wrote and discarded, depending on the day.

Writing is fun, and I am tired. Let’s get to it.

  • Comics have the power to change your life: I wanted to hit this idea a lot harder. As a medium and a force for change, comics can do so much. In terms of this article, it crystallized how I looked at the outside world, and at comic book retail. Comics made me who I am today.
  • It’s always the end of the world: If you take a look at the history of the comics industry, you’ll find doom around every corner. Portents of the medium’s demise occur frequently, but they’re usually stymied by a shift in how comics get into the hands of readers. When I say “the direct market is doomed”, I don’t mean that the comics industry is doomed – I just mean the current system has been dying for a long time, and delivery system needs to change. Retailers equating the death of the direct market to the death of the industry as a whole seem to forget that they are not the industry, they are a delivery method. 
  • It’s about respect – or so I’ve been told: I can not count the amount of times I’ve been told that I do not respect where this industry has been, because I want to build for it’s future. Asking for change doesn’t mean I’m discounting the importance of structures that once saved an industry – it just means I want you all to be around for the next phase, and digging your heels into the past is just going to leave you there.
  • Out for blood: What is really gross about the retailer reaction is the fact that if Catwoman had been murdered in the final pages, nobody would be complaining about a lack of a wedding. As it happens, Batman #50 ends with Selina making a conscious choice on her own volition. She is in charge of her destiny, and has agency. Let’s not pretend this outrage is about the story – it is about that cheap event money that retailers would have be just as fine earning with blood.

 

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Elsewhere // The Retailer’s View: Rebirthing Problems

If you’ve hit the comic book news sites lately, you’ve probably heard rumblings about something called Rebirth. A quick explanation: DC will be supposedly relaunching their line-up in June with brand new first issues. Over at The Comics Beat, I elaborate on the potential shape of things to come, and what DC should do if they are aiming for a relaunch.

An except:

I’m more than a little afraid that DC’s big Rebirth announcement will be born more from a place of panic than laying the foundations down for a better tomorrow. The confirmation of twice-monthly shipping is a bit of a tip off for that. While I can’t argue with the financial boon having Batman shipping twice a month would provide, I can argue that doing so does more long-term harm than it provides short-term gain. All one has to do is take a look at Marvel’s current publishing line to see the effects of this publishing practice. While having your flagship Avengers title ship twice a month ensures a certain sales level that books like, say Vision won’t ever hope to hit in a million years, it also softens the highs that a book like Avengers can have. People are often more shy about taking a chance on a book that will cost them $8 a month (or $11.20 Canadian) to keep up with, which shaves down the audience. In addition to that, retailers are a little more gun-shy about ordering above and beyond for books that routinely circumvent the Final Order Cut-Off process. Currently, if a book ships monthly, you’ll usually have at least 4-11 days worth of sales data before you have to finalize your numbers for the next issue. Shipping twice a month means that orders for issue #3 will be due around the time numbers for issue #1 are finally rolling in – and armed with zero sales information for issue #2, most retailers will play it safe and keep things tight on the shelf. So yes, sales would be fairly stable, but there would be no chance to grab new readers, which is what DC so desperately needs to do at this point.

There’s quite a bit more where that came from, and you can head off to the full article for more, including a tidbit or two about how the Canadian dollar is affecting things as well.

The Retailer’s View // DC Youoops

Last week over at Comics Beat, I wrote about DC’s recent DC You initiative, and how their current marketing structure failed the books that were coming out. Then DC went and announced the cancellation of a significant chunk of their line with their December solicitaitions. So that was fun.

Here’s a bit from my retail article:

Now that the company is attempting to push outwards from its formerly narrow viewpoint, it is essential that they learn how to market accordingly. Having lost a good source of implied retail vocabulary in Bob Wayne, they are attempting to do without any style or verve. What retailers need to see – especially in terms of their line outside of their mainstay superheroes like Batman and Wonder Woman (and hell, sometimes even Wonder Woman) – is a projection of confidence from the company, whether that’s implied by the incentive structure, or by the language they use to solicit the books, and a perceived interest from their readership, which can be done by mobilizing social media buzz and doing sustained pushes during final order cut-off weeks. Some companies are particularly good at providing previews of their upcoming books during the FOC period, alongside promotion from the creative team and editorial. DC doesn’t quite have a handle on that, as evidenced by the haphazard way they scheduled the 8 page previews of all of their DC You titles in May. Very few of those (if any) lined up with the book’s actual final order cut off date, so retailers weren’t hearing whispers of excitement right before they adjusted their numbers. What’s more to the point, all of these previews were consistently released in a chunk, instead of staggered out over a several hours and days – which would have provided the company with sustained and building noise across a longer period of time, instead of a jumble of noise created all at once.

What’s really interesting about all of this is the fact that it sets up a very interesting January for the company. With a bunch of DC You mini-series wrapping in November, and quite a few books dropping off the schedule in December, the decks are clearing – and not matter what happens in January, it will essentially be a statement on where the company will head next. There’s definitely an article in that line of thought, so more on that in the next few days…

Comics Beat // A Confluence of Events

A few of you were wondering about my thoughts on DC’s upcoming Confluence event, so I went ahead and wrote ’em all down for Comics Beat last week.

Of the two, Convergence is being built as a necessity, more than something extravagant. Even if the concept was born out of creative decisions, the execution is all business, marrying the need for DC to pump out enough books to fill out their budgets while simultaneously alleviating editorial and creative pressures during the big move. As such, it’s already on the back foot, appearing as though it’s a fill-in event, something that is decidedly not their main line of books in any way, shape or form. If they don’t tackle this perception in the marketing, April and May might be a couple of DC’s worst months as many opt out of the two months of content.

The article goes pretty deep into what the company would need to do to make the event as successful as possible. Unfortunately, I think they’ve already screwed a few points up. You can read the whole article here – and when you’re done that, you can run straight into my thoughts on Marvel’s big multiversal event, Secret Wars.

While Convergence is an event being built out of near necessity, Secret Wars is an event that’s emerging from years of planning on the part of Marvel and writer Jonathan Hickman. Both approaches have their pros and cons. While I’m really enjoying Hickman’s work on the Avengers line, it was never anything I would be able to hand to a new reader easily – and his work on the title has only gotten more complex. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially when you have several titles on the stands that new readers can easily gravitate to like Black WidowMs. Marvel, and Hawkeye – but when it comes to the big event, you want to try and make that thing as accessible as possible. DC can theoretically do this with Convergence by structuring their event as a low-threshold buy-in, featuring two part stories that exist without too much connective tissue. Marvel could theoretically do this, but there’s very little known about the actual structure of Secret Warsbeyond the fact that it will be impossible to escape if you’re interested in their line.

You can read that full article here.

Sometimes I think I go a little easier on Marvel because… well, because I’m enjoying more of their line right now, but I think I stayed pretty even-handed with presenting the potential problems and positives that both events could have. As always, your thoughts are appreciated, so comment below, or on the articles themselves!

Comics Beat // Degree of Variants

Because I love puns, you guys. I love them so much.

This week, I returned to providing weekly final order cut-off commentary at Comics Beat with a little ditty about some of the splashier variants coming down the pike.

I’m not a big fan of variants in general (a longer column for another day), but I can at least get behind variants that you can order without qualification. That says you’re offering another variety for a reader to sample, letting them choose what cover they’d like. That, I understand. Qualified variants, on the other hand, are the dirt worst. They’re a dirty manipulation of the whole “supply and demand” market designed for cheap, easy money, both for publishers and retailers alike. If a retailer wants a bigger supply, they will have to order more copies. In order to cover the cost of those copies (many of which won’t sell), they will charge a premium for that cover. And hey, even if they don’t need to charge a premium to cover the costs of extra copies, they’ll probably mark it up because of the low supply, and the high demand.

You can read the full article over at Comics Beat where you’ll also see a quote from the publisher of one of the industry’s biggest companies talking shit about variants. It’s fun for the whole family! Probably. Maybe.

Comics Beat // FOC Fridays

Two weeks ago, I began writing a weekly column about final order cut-offs for Comics! Beat. Time for some links:

  • (09.27.2014) // “So here’s the thing about this new Deathstroke book: I genuinely think there has never been a better time for DC to try and make this book happen. The character is coming off of a high profile turn as the big bad on the latest season of Arrow where he was watched by millions. The DVDs are out. The episodes will eventually hit Netflix. They’d be stupid tonot test the waters with a new series. The problem? They are testing those waters poorly.
  • (10.03.2014) // “This week’s final order cut off has the last issue of Superman Unchained, and now I can set fire my feelings of disappointment and send the whole thing off to sea. While Scott Snyder and Jim Lee put together a phenomenal book, DC could have done so much more with this series. So, so much more.”

Every week I’m not on vacation or otherwise indisposed, these’ll be running weekly, alongside a weekly shot of my regular retail column. All of this along with churning things out regularly. Or at least I hope. As always, we’ll see how this all turns out.

A Beginning of Sorts

Willkommen wondrous patrons! I’m going to be trying out a weird format for the daily posts going up straight through to the weekend. Gaze upon it’s spender and weep.

01. SUDDENLY

Another Tuesday, another shipment to process so that all the good folks of Edmonton can get their hands on brand new comics tomorrow. This week, I’m going broke having pre-ordered a copy of the witzend collection from Fantagraphics – a beautiful two volume set collecting Wally Wood’s self published magazine of the same name. The book is brimming with beautiful art from brilliant cartoonists, and I can’t wait to dive into that chunk of comics history.

In a few short minutes, I’ll be talking about more of this week’s releases over at Comics! The Blog where you’ll be able to find out more about this week’s signature releases, including my pick of the week.

02. PREVIOUSLY

Yesterday my post about Brain Wood taking over Moon Knight with artist Greg Smallwood went up over at Comics Beat. As the unofficial comics retail correspondent over there, it doesn’t concern itself too much with straight marketing efforts, and tackles the question of how to order comics when, say, one of the creators has allegedly done something you find a bit repellant. It was a tough piece to write, but that’s the gig!

Also of note? Monday’s Um, Actually column went up at C!TB wherein James and I talked weddings and lesser known creative gems from established greats in the comic book industry – among other things.

03. MEANWHILE

Patreon is a thing that I’m definitely going to explore in the next little while, both as a patron and maybe one day, as a creator. I’ve yet to do a ton of digging into it, but what I’m loving the most about it is the idea that web comic creators can suddenly get paid for their work regularly, having a fund to work from instead of living so close to the bone. Again, I’ll have to do a bit more digging to hit on all the exact ins and outs, but until then, I’m going to direct you to the Patreon that Canaan Grall is running for Max Overacts – a well deserving project and creator.

04. SOMETIME! IN THE FUTURE!

I’m stretching a bit with that title placard. I need something short and comic book-y that works to describe what’s to come. In the days to come, I’m hoping to drop a bit of fiction on this website. That’s a promise I’ve made several times to myself and others, but have yet to keep – so I’m forcing my own hand. One story, told in fragments of 100 words or less, over however many days. At the end of the story, I’m going to collect the whole thing, and publish two versions – the daily exercise, and a polished, finished version. This may fall apart completely.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you this:

05. ELSEWHERE

Eleanor sits at the piano and places her fingers on the keys. She can still feel his bones in the old piano.

The Short Break and The Long Haul

Of course, I missed updating this site for almost the whole of last week. The goal – one I never said out pound until this point – is to have a hub where you can always find me. My work might be scattered everywhere, but if you come to this place, you should be able to find nearly all of it – or at least the pieces of note. Eventually, I’d like to run a bit of original fiction here as well, but… well, deadlines sure are fun, aren’t they? We’ll see. As for what happened last week…

  • I wrote a couple of pieces for Comics Beat last week, but only one of them saw print, as we continue to push through the part where the training wheels are required. As soon as I’m all up on the ins-and-outs, things should be happening like clockwork.
  • Oh, the piece? It’s a take on those Fantastic Four rumours – the ones that say Marvel is going to cancel the ongoing just to spite Fox, who owns the movie rights for the team. My supposition is that there’s a lot of truth in the team disappearing from the Marvel landscape for a while – but I can bet you anything it’s in service of a big return the month before the new movie hits.
  • Over at Comics! The Blog, we talked to writer Curt Pires about Pop, a brand new mini-series he has coming out from Dark Horse this August. It’s an interview that takes several dark turns, so if you’re not into laughing at soul-shattering horribleness, then… maybe skip the podcast and buy Pop anyway. I’ve already given the first issue a read, and damn, it is worth it. But more on that later.
  • This weekend, Danica and I went to Edmonton’s first ever International Cat Fest and… well, it was a ton of fun! Danica volunteered for the day, while I just hung out and drank in ALL THE CATS COMMA CONSUMING THEIR POWER ALL THE POWER and it was a lot of fun. All told, over 600 people made their way through the door, and well over $8000 was raised for the Humane Society.

And that’s all I’m in the mood for this lovely Monday morning. With any luck, you’ll be seeing my next Comics Beat piece today – a little ditty about Brian Wood, Moon Knight, and the morality of comic purchasing when you’re a business.

Saving the Comics Industry, One Beer At A Time

And then there was Friday. A pretty fantastic meeting got in the way of the daily wrap up for yesterday, so with a fuzzy head, I attack the computer on Saturday morning. Because, you know, I can’t disappoint my ones of readers.

  • My second article at Comics Beat was a piece about Bob Wayne, and how his retirement from DC Comics might effect the comic book industry. Bob was instrumental in setting up the direct market, such as it exists today, and regardless of what’s to come, the industry will be lesser without him in it. Bonus note: the article resulted in a very welcomed and interesting e-mail that I’m still smiling over. I love this work.
  • This week’s second Um, Actually went up at Comics! The Blog with James’ and my thoughts on binge entertainment, X-Men starting points and WWE finishers and catch phrases.
  • Danica has her Best of the Week wrap up happening over at Live Within Your Space, where she talks about what she’s been reading and thinking about lately. She’s also kind enough to mention the two articles I had up at Comics Beat, which was pretty swell of her.
  • My good friend Devin R. Bruce hit C!TB with a brand new instalment of This Column Has Seven Days. It’s probably one of the favourite things we publish each week, and that’s because I don’t care much for my writing, and I also I think it will be funny to see James get all huffy about that comment. Also, Devin is an extremely talented writer, as well as pop culture guru. So, there’s that.
  • While Thursday ended with a whimper and a phone call that crushed my spirit (nope, not talking about it), yesterday ended with an overwhelming sense of potential and joy. Comics and media writer Andrew Foley and I decided it was high time to have another of our strange comic summits over beers, and what resulted was a night where we single handedly saved the comic’s industry from itself. Now if you’ll excuse me, where is the store where you can exchange nerd creed for actual, tangible power. I have a thing I need to accomplish.

And now, comes the weekend. I managed to hit all my deadlines last week, and I plan on continuing to do so for a long, long time to come. It really feels as though I’m on the cusp of some great times. Some hard times, but some great times nonetheless. Talk with you soon.

BIG NEWS and Other Ephemera

Another new comic book day comes to a close, and as usual, I am exhausted. Wednesday’s I usually work the full shift, a long 10-8, putting comics into the hands of people who just can’t wait another day to get their new comic fix – and that’s always a lot of fun… until I finally stop moving and realize just how tired I am.

Anyway, today was pretty cool for another great reason: my first article went up over at Comics Beat today! I’m pretty excited about this. Comics Beat is ran by Heidi MacDonald, who has been working in and around the industry for years. I haven’t told her this, but I was just a kid when she started editing the comic section in Disney Adventures magazine. She was the person who introduced me – and a lot of people my age – the series Bone, which Jeff Smith had been publishing in black and white at the time. Heidi somehow (I don’t know the details) brokered a situation where the story appeared in DA for several issues, going right up to the end of the first volume – and even squeezed out a story that Jeff Smith made specifically for DA as well! Now, of course, you can find Bone in all of your local bookstores and comic shops, as it’s one of the most popular series out there for folks of all ages. So yeah. Exciting!

…oh right, what was my piece about? Whelp, DC is doing another round of lenticular covers this year, and I pitched a piece that would go over the nightmare that occurred during the last time they tried this stunt, and how it compared to this new round. I think I did a pretty good job. Even got a hater in the comments, which oddly makes me feel good!

As for the rest of the day…

  • Over at Comics! The Blog, I did a quick sell of Brass Sunwhich is a book many of you should check out – especially if you’re into a bit of clockwork science.
  • The newest episode of Podcast! The Comics went up, and James made me watch a show where women think they’re on a dating contest show with Prince Harry. It hurt my everything.
  • Danica went over the results of the clothing swap she had on the weekend. From what I’ve heard, everyone came out of the experience with new clothes (for free!) while getting rid of a bunch of things they weren’t going to wear anymore. Win win!

Aaaaand, that’s going to be a wrap for the day. There’s more to talk about, but I’m tired you guys. So tired. Until tomorrow…