At Newsarama, Vaneta Rogers interviews Jim Lee, who became a publisher at DC Comics earlier this year (here’s part 2). Among other subjects, Lee discusses his approach to conflicts of timeliness and quality:
I think there’s a responsibility of the publisher, of the company, to make sure the staple books that have been around for decades come out in a timely manner. Monthly books should be out there every month, on the weeks that they’re supposed to be out.
But beyond that, some of the special one-off projects are the result of a certain creative team that wants to do a specific story about specific characters for a specific number of issues. They’re not jumping onto a collaborative storyline that’s been in the works for decades. I think it behooves the company to allow those creators the flexibility to make sure their vision gets done to the way they set out to do it, otherwise, why bother?
Whether DC’s new commitment to letting creators produce “a specific story about specific characters for a specific number of issues” will, in the future, entail the publication of the final issues of their miniseries, Lee doesn’t say.
How was The Great Ten #9 (of 10) (of 9), by the way?
Rich Johnston suggests that Marvel are about to revamp the Spider-Man line and no longer publish the flagship title, The Amazing Spider-Man, three times a month.
The “thrice-monthly” format, featuring material by a group of creators directed by editor Stephen Wacker, was introduced in January 2008. It was a commercial success initially, boosting the book’s numbers above the sales of the three separate monthly Spider-Man titles it replaced.
Of late, though, sales have been slipping, so another revamp makes sense, at this stage. It’s the way the direct market works.
Logistically, the move is overdue, arguably. The big appeal of the one-title, three-times-a-month format, early on, was that it provided a handy, catch-all way to follow the soap opera of Spider-Man’s life. It was the complete Spider-Man experience for less than ten bucks a month, basically, in a frequency that was easy to keep up with.
About a year into the run, that started to change, though.
More and more additional comics started cropping up, spinning in and out of The Amazing Spider-Man, but rarely maintaining its fairly consistent quality.
For the last year, there have been a second ongoing title as well as multiple miniseries and specials, all supplying additional stories about supporting characters and villains. Also, many issues of the main title came with “extra material” at an increased cover price that may have been justified by the page count, but ultimately just added less-than-essential baggage to the franchise for no pressing creative reason.
As the initial premise of the “Brand New Day” format would have it, there were three issues of The Amazing Spider-Man per month, which meant 66 pages for a total of $ 8.97, plus the prospect of an occasional special.
If you look at what was solicited for July 2010, now, there are three issues of The Amazing Spider-Man (higher-than-usual page count, $ 3.99 each), plus one issue each of the spin-off miniseries The Amazing Spider-Man Presents: American Son and The Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat (regular page count, $ 3.99 each) plus an issue of Web of Spider-Man (higher-than-usual page count, $ 3.99).
All of a sudden, that “full Spider-Man experience” requires you to spend time and money on six comics with a total of about 160 pages for a total price of $ 23.94—a 142% increase in pages and a 167% increase in cover price versus the initial model.
That’s asking a lot of the audience. It’s the equivalent of having to watch three hours of TV every day just to stay up-to-date on your favorite soap opera. Even assuming the quality was still top notch across the board, who but the most hardcore readers have the time or inclination to keep up with that?
It doesn’t look like a very smart publishing strategy, and it defeats the purpose of consolidating the franchise into a single, more frequent series.
Over at Comic Book Resources, meanwhile, editor Tom Brevoort reveals Marvel’s stunning new plan to compete with DC in making their comics even less attractive and accessible to people with lives:
What you’re really going to see more than anything else is the beginning of a fusion and integration between all the various parts of the Marvel Universe.
You’ll see more connectivity between the Avengers and the Hulk and the X-Men books and the Fantastic Four and the Daredevil, street-level characters – not to the point where they’re all standing on top of each other every page of every book every month. But they are going to be many more opportunities for natural cross points where characters involved in one title will get involved with the characters of another title, and we’ll go back and forth in a very casual manner.
It worked in the 1990s, after all.
Returning to Bleeding Cool, Johnston also points to writer Mark Waid, who is evidently sick of reading superhero comics:
Annnnd today was the day I stopped reading super-hero comics. One that I won’t name finally broke me.
Collection stops as of now. No joke. It’s not one bad comic. It’s the unbearably last in a long string of bad comics. Just sick of reading the same story 100 times in the last three years.
Waid may be referring to something written by somebody other than himself, although he technically doesn’t exclude, say, a particularly bad experience proofing a copy of Irredeemable or Amazing Spider-Man.
It probably takes a subset of a subset of a certain type of reader to find value in critics quibbling over semantics before inevitably losing their shit over who said what and how they meant it and whose fault it was that such tiresome matters are now being discussed. When Gary Groth shows up in the comments and shares his feelings, though, you know you’ve got a party for everyone.
David Brothers, meanwhile, knocks out a seven-part series of essays on some of the more interesting artists working in American comics these days. The above link leads to the Richard Corben piece; the other ones are on Ed McGuinness, Chris Bachalo, Amanda Conner, David Aja, Paolo Rivera and Doug Mahnke.
Granted, the enterprise is unlikely to garner Brothers insults from Gary Groth, so I’m not sure it’s up to the high standards of what we talk about when we talk about what we talk about. Yet, in a shorthand manner lacking effort to conceal my intellectual dishonesty, I feel confident in submitting it provides some good critical insight.
Out now: The debut issue of a newly colored, lettered and repackaged edition of Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá’s Casanova (link above), as well as the start of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Scarlet, both from Icon, Marvel’s Scooby Snack imprint.
Fraction and Bendis are both creators who started out with strong and unique approaches to mainstream comics storytelling that provided a welcome change of pace at the time. Both were soon grabbed up by Marvel and eventually plugged into the Great Hivemind to have their voices scrambled into the dreadfully generic, or just dreadfully dreadful, mess of the Avengers and X-Men lines. (All right, I liked Alias, and I still enjoy Invincible Iron Man.)
Scarlet, now, looks like a typical Bendis comic about a good-looking violent revolutionary. It’s meant to rotate with Powers, Bendis’s other Icon book, perhaps to prevent them from both not coming out at the same time. It’s probably a good idea to wait for the paperback collection on this one. In the meantime, Kevin Melrose of Robot 6 has collected some early reactions.
Casanova, meanwhile, is a hyperactive, hypercondensed sci-fi spy thriller starring a character who looks faintly like Mick Jagger. It first came out at Image a few years back, with less color and different letters, so this is your second chance to follow one of the most riveting American comics of the last decade—and then be sad that Fraction is too busy producing inferior work to make any more of it.