§ Steven Grant looks at DC’s return to back-up features:

Not that DC’s heart is in the wrong place. In a sane market, the move makes perfect sense. Raising prices is a great way to lose sheaves of readers who might be forgiven for bristling at paying more money for the same amount of material. The theory is sound: add enough additional material to offset reader doubts and offset the additional cost of the additional material with the additional income provided by the higher price. In theory, it should work, even if the general scheme smacks a bit of if we had some eggs we could have some ham and eggs if we had some ham. All things being equal, it would work.

BTW we have many evolving thoughts on the evolution of the “pamphlet” or the “periodical”, as we prefer to call it, but finding time to give them a coherent shape continues to elude us. Some day.

§ The Great Recession may be killing newspapers and cutting a swath through the ranks of editorial cartoonists, but financial bad times are GOOD times…for Dilbert!

As it turns out, economic collapse benefits at least one oppressed office worker. Dilbert, the iconic cartoon character who represents the crushed souls and wrecked dreams of so many cubicle dwellers, is having a banner year.

In February, dilbert.com handled 1.5 million unique visitors, among the busiest of months in the site’s history. Maybe that’s because lately the strip’s stories of pointed-haired bosses, corporate gobbledygook and naked incompetence feel like chicken soup for our downsized souls.

An interview with Scott Adams follows.

§ Sean T. Collins has the first long consumer review of David Mazzucchelli’s long awaited graphic NOVEL, ASTERIOS POLYP, that we’ve seen:

What I can say with confidence, however, is that I enjoyed that story immensely. And a big part of that is because this isn’t a Woody Allen film or a Philip Roth novel–it’s a comic, and there’s no mistaking it. Yeah, the basic story could be told in other ways, but if you wanted an illustration of that old saw that you should be able to look at a comic and determine why it’s a comic and not a movie pitch or a short story, look no further. Mazzucchelli clearly had a blast drawing this thing.

(Btw, we read it and liked it.)

§ Disappointment. This headline from Women’s Wear Daily looked so promising:Marvel Debuts Female Apparel and Cosmetics…but goddam it, they have a paywall! We’ll have to leave non-subscribers to only imagine White Queen lingerie, Wasp (female) concealer, She-Hulk after-shave skin conditioner, and Aunt May elastic-waist slacks.

§ BUT — see Tom Crippen on Stan Lee’s female characters before you get too excited.

200903260404§ We’re GUESSING, this story on a college talk by Ivan Brunetti was evidently written by a college journalism student because it’s got that weird AP style one-sentence-to-a-paragraph thing going on with absolutely no sense of how people talk, and the awkward result becomes a kind of clumsy poetry:

One of the cartoons Brunetti presented in the slide show was about his first wife in what he considered “a marriage from hell.”

He also showed naked cartoon drawings of himself.

“I am getting rid of my persona or façade,” Brunetti said.

In some of his works, he made fun of his co-workers.

Brunetti said usually people are OK with it.

“One co-worker was angry,” he said. “But the drawing wasn’t even of her, anyway.”

§ However THIS college paper human interest story about young student/fencer/cartoonist Sam Tung is a real charmer:

Wrought in a clean, high-contrast black-and-white style that sometimes resembles a woodcut, the story is set in the Dustbowl of ‘30s. “It was a strange, uneasy point in American history and kind of a cool retro thing,” notes Tung. “I enjoyed researching it.” The hero, a former mercenary, and his buddy, have unwittingly been hired to transport what turns out to be a doomsday device. Machine-gun toting bad guys, bent on stealing the goods, unleash on them gunfire and booby traps at every turn.

This story has everything but a byline, apparently. Oh well.


  1. “BTW we have many evolving thoughts on the evolution of the “pamphlet” or the “periodical”, as we prefer to call it”

    Bullshit. The Beat’s been using “pamphlet” since the word was coined, if it wasn’t coined here. And usually preceded by the words “death of the.”

  2. You know, as a retailer, if you’re going to raise prices, I love the idea of additional pages and additional content. But could publishers please help me sell it a bit? Would it kill them to banner something like “more pages for your money!” or “more pages! more story!” or something of the kind? It’s not always apparant that a book has additional pages and content by simply picking up the book. Many of my customers will pick up the issue, see it’s more than what they want to spend, and not realizing they’re getting more book for their money, put the book down. A simple banner above the logo would help so much and not take anything away from the cover itselt.
    Dewey’s Comic City, Madison, NJ

  3. Regarding DC’s use of back-up features… Didn’t they try this back in the 1970s when paper prices went up? They raised the price of the books, added more pages, and then had to revert when Marvel didn’t do the same.

    Now… WHAT IF… they (DC, Marvel, Image…) printed the comic in black-and-white on cheap, crappy, so-acidic-it-turns-pink-when-wet newsprint paper at a cheaper price, and then reprinted it in color on nicer paper when collected into a trade-paperback? And print the cover on newsprint, too, like Gladstone used to do. And to please the fans who will complain, print some $10 variants with slick color covers.

  4. Calling monthly comics “periodicals” (though probably not intended this way) just underscores how dire a situation they’re in. The mainstay of all periodicals – the daily newspaper – is collapsing. My local paper – soon to be one of the last major dailies in the state of Michigan – just assured readers that they’ll continued to publish “for as long as we can”… like a newscaster in a disaster zone promising to stay on the air until they succumb to it themselves.

  5. I’m not sure where I read it (maybe in the Levitz interview on ICV2 a few weeks back), but printing on cheaper paper is out of the question since the difference in the wholesale prices of the “cheaper” paper and the better paper simply are that different these days. Also, because the printers buy the ‘better” paper in such bulk, and the machines are set up to print the majority of the books on this paper, when figuring in the the costs of shutting down the machines and rejusting to using cheaper paper the benefits of the cheaper paper disappear. I know it sounds crazy. But it does make some sense.

    The difference back in the 70s when DC added pages and increased their prices is that Marvel remained the low cost alternative (they switched for one month, then dropped to the old format but reduced their prices below DC, if I remember right). Now, both DC and Marvel seem ready to increase their price by a buck, but DC will now be the better low cost alternative with more pages and more content. Now they’ve got to make sure people see it that way.

    I’ve been kicking around this crazy idea with folks at the store for a bit. How about if Marvel and DC issue each week’s current books in two ways. They continue to issue each week’s books as they do now, in individual books on the current paper and at the current prices. In addition, for those folks who don’t care about color or paper quality, each week they issue giant size, 200+ page (or whatever) Shonen Jump style books containing most of that week’s books on lesser paper (maybe the same paper DC issues many of their trades on), in black and white or partial color, priced at $10 or so. These giant sized MARVEL WEEKLY or DC WEEKLY would a low cost alternative to many fans who feel priced out when shopping at a comic store. What might hapeen is folks would sample titiles they might otherwise pass on because of price, and then begin picking up that book in individual issues. Yeah, I know it’s kinda crazy. But what the hey, just trying to think “outside the box” as the saying goes.

    Dewey’s Comic City, Madison, NJ

  6. Also, Torsten, as a retailer and a comic fan, I hate the idea of newsprint covers. They tear easily, don’t stand up well on the rack, and age badly fairly quickly. I see your point, but respectfully disagree.

    Dewey’s Comic City, Madison, NJ

  7. Back-up features only work if they’re characters and stories that the audience cares about. Slapping a Detective Chimp story at the end of an issue of Batman isn’t going to do anything for sales. There also needs to be a similiarity in tone and style between the lead and the backup. An issue of Batman drawn by Andy Kubert isn’t going to benefit from an Atom backup drawn by Mike Grell.


  8. Thank you thank you for pointing out a peeve of mine–the one-sentence paragraph “stories” in newspapers. Used to be an editorialist in our local rag that did this all the time, and I couldn’t even finish the stories. They read like bad nursery rhymes.

  9. Of course, if you’re going to put back-up stories in a pamphlet, it might help to advertise the fact on the cover. But then it also might help to have covers that reflect the pamphlet’s contents rather than these boring, generic things we’ve been getting for the past decade.

  10. Uh-h-h-h-h, no. Printing costs are definitely a significant factor when creating logos. If you’ve ever worked in a print shop you know how much of an issue it is. Stationary still has to be printed on a press, and the number of colors and the complexity of gradients is a significant cost factor. Even with all of the improvements to digital machines, printing on a press looks far more professional than running it through a high-end copier.

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