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Sean T. Collins has written about comics and popular culture professionally since 2001 and on this very blog since 2003. He has written for Maxim, The Comics Journal, Stuff, Wizard, A&F Quarterly, Comic Book Resources, Giant, ToyFare, The Onion, The Comics Reporter and more. His comics have been published by Top Shelf, Partyka, and Family Style. He blogs here and at Robot 6.

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Murder

An anthology of comics written by Sean T. Collins
Art by Matt Wiegle, Matt Rota, and Josiah Leighton
Designed by Matt Wiegle


Elfworld

An indie fantasy anthology
Featuring a comic by Sean T. Collins & Matt Wiegle



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The Sean Collins Media Empire
Comics
Destructor Comes to Croc Town
story: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


1995 (NSFW)
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Raymond Suzuhara


Pornography
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


It Brought Me Some Peace of Mind
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota
edit: Brett Warnock


A Real Gentle Knife
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Josiah Leighton
lyrics: "Rippin Kittin" by Golden Boy & Miss Kittin


The Real Killers Are Still Out There
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


Destructor in: Prison Break
story: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Wiegle


Cage Variations: Kitchen Sink
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota


Cage Variations: 1998 High Street
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota


Cage Variations: We Had No Idea
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota


The Side Effects of the Cocaine
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Isaac Moylan
(bibliography)


Cage Variations: No
script: Sean T. Collins
art: Matt Rota



Best Of
The Amazing! Incredible! Uncanny Oral History of Marvel Comics

The Outbreak: An Autobiographical Horror Blog

Where the Monsters Go: A 31-Day Horrorblogging Marathon, October 2003

Blog of Blood: A Marathon Examination of Clive Barker's Books of Blood, October 2005

The Blogslinger: Blogging Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, October-November 2007

The Things That Should Not Be: The Monumental Horror-Image and Its Relation to the Contemporary Horror Film (introduction)
PDF

My 35 Favorite Horror Films of All Time (at the moment)

My David Bowie Sketchbook

The Manly Movie Mamajama

Presidential Milkshakes

Horror and Certainty I

Horror and Certainty II

En Garde--I'll Let You Try My New Dumb Avant Garde Style, Part I
Part II

Evil for Thee, Not Me

Phobophobia

The 7 Best Horror Movies of the Past 7 Years (give or take a few films)

Keep Horror NSFW, Part I
Part II

Meet the New Boss: The Politics of Killing, Part I
Part II

130 Things I Loved About The Sopranos

In Defense of "Torture Porn," Part I
Part II

At a Loss: Lost fandom and its discontents

I Got Dem Ol' Konfuzin' Event-Komik Blues Again, Mama

Losing My Edge (DFADDTF Comix Remix)

GusGus, the Universe, and Everything

"I'd Rather Die Than Give You Control" (or Adolf Hitler, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, and Trent Reznor walk into a blog)

The 11 Most Awful Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks

The 11 Most Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks

11 More Awesome Songs from Geek Movie Soundtracks

The 15 Greatest Science Fiction-Based Pop/Rock/Hip-Hop Songs

My Loch Ness Adventure

The Best Comics of 2003

The Best Albums of 2003

The Best Albums of 2004

The Best Comics of 2005

The Best Comics of 2006

The Best Comics, Films, Albums, Songs, and Television Programs of 2007

The Best Comics of 2008

The Best Comics of 2009

The Best Songs of 2009

80 Great Tracks from the 1990s


Interviews with Sean
Interviews by Sean
Movie Reviews
Avatar (Cameron, 2009)

Barton Fink (Coen, 1991)

Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005)

Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Alcala/Rose, 2007)

Battlestar Galactica: "Revelations" (Rymer, 2008)

Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 (Moore et al, 2009)

Battlestar Galactica: The Plan (Olmos, 2009)

Beowulf (Zemeckis, 2007)

The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963)

The Blair Witch Project (Myrick & Sanchez, 1999)

The Bourne Identity (Liman, 2002)

The Bourne Supremacy (Greengrass, 2004)

The Bourne Ultimatum (Greengrass, 2007)

Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006)

Caprica: "Pilot" (Reiner, 2009)

Caprica S1 E1-6 (Moore et al, 2010)

Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006)

Cigarette Burns (Carpenter, 2005)

Clash of the Titans (Leterrier, 2010)

Cloverfield (Reeves, 2008), Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Crank: High Voltage (Neveldine/Taylor, 2009)

Daredevil (Johnson, 2003)

The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)

Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)

Della'morte, Dell'amore [Cemetery Man] (Soavi, 1994)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl: The Play (Eckerling & Sunde, 2010)

District 9 (Blomkamp, 2009)

Doomsday (Marshall, 2008)

Dragon Wars [D-War] (Shim, 2007)

Eastern Promises (Cronenberg, 2007)

The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)

The Expendables (Stallone, 2010)

Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999)

Eyes Wide Shut revisited, Part I
Part II
Part III

Garden State (Braff, 2004)

Gossip Girl Seasons 1-2 (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2007-08)

Gossip Girl Season Three (Savage, Schwartz et al, 2009-2010)

Grindhouse [Planet Terror/Death Proof] (Rodriguez & Tarantino, 2007)

Heavenly Creatures (Jackson, 1994)

Hellboy (Del Toro, 2004)

Hellraiser (Barker, 1987)

A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 2005), Part I
Part II

The Host (Bong, 2006)

Hostel (Roth, 2005)

Hostel: Part II (Roth, 2007)

Hulk (Lee, 2003)

The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2009)

I Am Legend (Lawrence, 2007)

The Incredible Hulk (Leterrier, 2008)

Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009)

Inside (Maury & Bustillo, 2007)

Iron Man (Favreau, 2008)

Iron Man II (Favreau, 2010)

It (Wallace, 1990)

Jeepers Creepers (Salva, 2001)

King Kong (Jackson, 2005), Part I
Part II
Part III

Land of the Dead (Romero, 2005)

Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jackson, 2003)

Lost: the first five episodes (Abrams, Lindelof et al, 2004)

Lost Season Five (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2009)

Lost Season Six (Lindelof, Cuse, Bender et al, 2010)

Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997)

The Lovely Bones (Jackson, 2009)

Match Point (Allen, 2006)

The Matrix Revolutions (Wachowski, 2003)

Metropolis (Lang, 1927)

The Mist (Darabont, 2007), Part I
Part II

Moon (Jones, 2009)

Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)

My Bloody Valentine 3D (Lussier, 2009)

The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange #1 (various, 2010)

Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

Pan's Labyrinth (Del Toro, 2006)

Paperhouse (Rose, 1988)

Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2009)

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Verbinski, 2007) Part I
Part II

Poltergeist (Hooper/Spielberg, 1982)

Quantum of Solace (Forster, 2008)

Rambo (Stallone, 2008)

[REC] (Balaguero & Plaza, 2007)

The Ring (Verbinski, 2002)

The Road (Hillcoat, 2009)

The Ruins (Smith, 2008)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright, 2010)

Secretary (Shainberg, 2002)

A Serious Man (Coen, 2009)

The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)

Shoot 'Em Up (Davis, 2007)

Shutter Island (Scorses, 2010)

The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991)

The Sopranos (Chase et al, 1999-2007)

Speed Racer (Wachowski, 2008)

The Stand (Garris, 1994), Part I
Part II

The Terminator (Cameron, 1984) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991)

Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974)

There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)

The Thing (Carpenter, 1983)

300 (Snyder, 2007)

"Thriller" (Jackson & Landis, 1984)

28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)

28 Weeks Later (Fresnadillo, 2007)Part I
Part II

Twilight (Hardwicke, 2008)

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Slade, 2010)

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Weitz, 2009)

Up in the Air (J. Reitman, 2009)

War of the Worlds (Spielberg, 2005)

Watchmen (Snyder, 2009) Part I
Part II

The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)

The Wire (Simon et al, 2002-2008)

Zombi 2 [Zombie] (Fulci, 1980)

Zombieland (Fleischer, 2009)


Book Reviews
Music Reviews
Comics Reviews
Abe Sapien: The Drowning (Mignola & Alexander, 2008)

Abstract Comics (various, 2009)

The ACME Novelty Library #18 (Ware, 2007)

The ACME Novelty Library #19 (Ware, 2008)

Across the Universe: The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore (Moore et al, 2003)

Action Comics #870 (Johns & Frank, 2008)

The Adventures of Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls (Herge, 1975)

Afrodisiac (Rugg & Maruca, 2010)

Against Pain (Rege Jr., 2008)

Agents of Atlas #10 (Parker, Hardman, Rivoche, 2009)

The Airy Tales (Volozova, 2008)

Al Burian Goes to Hell (Burian, 1993)

Alan's War (Guibert, 2008)

Alex Robinson's Lower Regions (Robinson, 2007)

Aline and the Others (Delisle, 2006)

All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 (Miller & Lee, 2009)

All-Star Superman (Morrison & Quitely, 2008-2010)

American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar (Pekar et al, 2003)

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories (Brunetti et al, 2006)

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2 (Brunetti et al, 2008)

Aqua Leung Vol. 1 (Smith & Maybury, 2008)

Archaeology (McShane, 2009)

The Arrival (Tan, 2006)

Artichoke Tales (Kelso, 2010)

Asterios Polyp (Mazzucchelli, 2009)

The Aviary (Tanner, 2007)

The Awake Field (Rege Jr., 2006)

Axe Cop (Nicolle & Nicolle, 2009-2010)

Bacter-Area (Keith Jones, 2005)

Bald Knob (Hankiewicz, 2007)

Batman (Simmons, 2007)

Batman #664-669, 672-675 (Morrison et al, 2007-2008)

Batman #681 (Morrison & Daniel, 2008)

Batman and the Monster Men (Wagner, 2006)

Batman and Robin #1 (Morrison & Quitely, 2009)

Batman and Robin #9 (Morrison & Stewart, 2010)

Batman: Hush (Loeb & Lee, 2002-03)

Batman: Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat (Dixon, Moench, Aparo, Balent, Breyfogle, Nolan, 1993)

Batman R.I.P. (Morrison, Daniel, Garbett, 2010)

Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight (Cosentino, 2008)

Batman Year 100 (Pope, 2007)

Battlestack Galacti-crap (Chippendale, 2005)

The Beast Mother (Davis, 2006)

The Best American Comics 2006 (A.E. Moore, Pekar et al, 2006)

The Best of the Spirit (Eisner, 2005)

Between Four Walls/The Room (Mattotti, 2003)

Big Questions #10 (Nilsen, 2007)

Big Questions #11: Sweetness and Light (Nilsen, 2008)

Big Questions #12: A Young Crow's Guide to Hunting (Nilsen, 2009)

Big Questions #13: A House That Floats (Nilsen, 2009)

Big Questions #14: Title and Deed (Nilsen, 2010)

The Black Diamond Detective Agency (E. Campbell & Mitchell, 2007)

Black Ghost Apple Factory (Tinder, 2006)

Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Giant Magazine version

Black Hole (Burns, 2005) Savage Critics version, Part I
Part II

Blackest Night #0-2 (Johns & Reis, 2009)

Blankets (Thompson, 2003)

Blankets revisited

Blar (Weing, 2005)

Bone (Smith, 2005)

Bonus ? Comics (Huizenga, 2009)

The Book of Genesis Illustrated (Crumb, 2009)

Bottomless Bellybutton (Shaw, 2008)

Boy's Club (Furie, 2006)

Boy's Club 2 (Furie, 2008)

Boy's Club 3 (Furie, 2009)

B.P.R.D. Vol. 9: 1946 (Mignola, Dysart, Azaceta, 2008)

B.P.R.D.: War on Frogs #4 (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2009)

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! (Spiegelman, 2008)

Brilliantly Ham-fisted (Neely, 2008)

Burma Chronicles (Delisle, 2008)

Capacity (Ellsworth, 2008)

Captain America (Brubaker, Epting, Perkins et al, 2004-2008)

Captain America #33-34 (Brubaker & Epting, 2007-08)

Captain America: Reborn #4 (Brubaker & Hitch, 2009)

Captain Britain & MI:13 #5 (Cornell & Oliffe, 2008)

Cartoon Dialectics Vol. 1 (Kaczynski, 2007)

Chance in Hell (G. Hernandez, 2007)

Chester 5000 XYV (Fink, 2008-2009)

Chrome Fetus Comics #7 (Rickheit, 2009)

City-Hunter Magazine #1 (C.F., 2009)

Clive Barker's Seduth (Barker, Monfette, Rodriguez, Zone, 2009)

Clive Barker's The Thief of Always (Oprisko & Hernandez, 2005)

Closed Caption Comics #8 (various, 2009)

Cockbone (Simmons, 2009)

Cold Heat #1 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)

Cold Heat #2 (BJ & Santoro, 2006)

Cold Heat #4 (BJ & Santoro, 2007)

Cold Heat #5/6 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)

Cold Heat #7/8 (BJ & Santoro, 2009)

Cold Heat Special #2: The Chunky Gnars (Cornwell, 2007)

Cold Heat Special #3 (Santoro & Shaw, 2008)

Cold Heat Special #5 (Santoro & Smith, 2008)

Cold Heat Special #6 (Cornwell, 2009)

Cold Heat Special #7 (DeForge, 2009)

Cold Heat Special #8 (Santoro & Milburn, 2008)

Cold Heat Special #9 (Santoro & Milburn, 2009)

Comics Are For Idiots!: Blecky Yuckerella Vol. 3 (Ryan, 2008)

The Complete Persepolis (Satrapi, 2007)

Core of Caligula (C.F., 2008)

Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories (Swain, 2009)

Cry Yourself to Sleep (Tinder, 2006)

Curio Cabinet (Brodowski, 2010)

Cyclone Bill & the Tall Tales (Dougherty, 2006)

Daredevil #103-104 (Brubaker & Lark, 2007-08)

Daredevil #110 (Brubaker, Rucka, Lark, Gaudiano, 2008)

The Dark Knight Strikes Again (Miller & Varley, 2003)

Dark Reign: The List #7--Wolverine (Aaron & Ribic, 2009)

Daybreak Episode Three (Ralph, 2008)

DC Universe #0 (Morrison, Johns et al, 2008)

The Death of Superman (Jurgens et al, 1993)

Death Note Vol. 1 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)

Death Note Vol. 2 (Ohba & Obata, 2005)

Death Trap (Milburn, 2010)

Detective Comics #854-860 (Rucka & Williams III, 2009-2010)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Gloeckner, 2002)

Dirtbags, Mallchicks & Motorbikes (Kiersh, 2009)

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow (Nilsen & Weaver, 2006)

Doom Force #1 (Morrison et al, 1992)

Doomwar #1 (Maberry & Eaton, 2010)

Dr. Seuss Goes to War (Seuss/Minear, 2001)

Dragon Head Vols. 1-5 (Mochizuki, 2005-2007)

A Drifting Life (Tatsumi, 2009)

Driven by Lemons (Cotter, 2009)

Eightball #23 (Clowes, 2004)

Ex Machina Vols. 1-9 (Vaughan, Harris et al, 2005-2010)

Exit Wounds (Modan, 2007)

The Exterminators Vol. 1: Bug Brothers (Oliver & Moore, 2006)

Fallen Angel (Robel, 2006)

Fandancer (Grogan, 2010)

Fatal Faux-Pas (Gaskin, 2008)

FCHS (Delsante & Freire, 2010)

Feeble Minded Funnies/My Best Pet (Milburn/Freibert, 2009)

Fight or Run: Shadow of the Chopper (Huizenga, 2008)

Final Crisis #1 (Morrison & Jones, 2008)

Final Crisis #1-7 (Morrison, Jones, Pacheco, Rudy, Mahnke et al, 2008-2009)

Fires (Mattotti, 1991)

First Time (Sibylline et al, 2009)

Flash: Rebirth #4 (Johns & Van Sciver, 2009)

Follow Me (Moynihan, 2009)

Footnotes in Gaza (Sacco, 2009)

Forbidden Worlds #114: "A Little Fat Nothing Named Herbie!" (O'Shea [Hughes] & Whitney, 1963)

Forlorn Funnies #5 (Hornschemeier, 2004)

Forming (Moynihan, 2009-2010)

Fox Bunny Funny (Hartzell, 2007)

Funny Misshapen Body (Brown, 2009)

Gags (DeForge)

Galactikrap 2 (Chippendale, 2007)

Ganges #2 (Huizenga, 2008)

Ganges #3 (Huizenga, 2009)

Gangsta Rap Posse #1 (Marra, 2009)

The Gigantic Robot (Gauld, 2009)

Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life (Paley & Swain, 2009)

A God Somewhere (Arcudi & Snejbjerg, 2010)

Goddess Head (Shaw, 2006)

The Goddess of War, Vol. 1 (Weinstein, 2008)

GoGo Monster (Matsumoto, 2009)

The Goon Vols. 0-2 (Powell, 2003-2004)

Green Lantern #43-51 (Johns, Mahnke, Benes, 2009-2010)

Held Sinister (Stechschulte, 2009)

Hellboy Junior (Mignola, Wray et al, 2004)

Hellboy Vol. 8: Darkness Calls (Mignola & Fegredo, 2008)

Henry & Glenn Forever (Neely et al, 2010)

High Moon Vol. 1 (Gallaher & Ellis, 2009)

Ho! (Brunetti, 2009)

How We Sleep (Davis, 2006)

I Killed Adolf Hitler (Jason, 2007)

I Live Here (Kirshner, MacKinnon, Shoebridge, Simons et al, 2008)

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! (Hanks, Karasik, 2007)

Image United #1 (Kirkman, Liefeld et al, 2009)

The Immortal Iron Fist #12 (Brubaker, Fraction, Aja, Kano, Pulido, 2008)

The Immortal Iron Fist #21 (Swierczynski & Green, 2008)

Immortal Weapons #1 (Aaron, Swierczynski et al, 2009)

In a Land of Magic (Simmons, 2009)

In the Flesh: Stories (Shadmi, 2009)

Incanto (Santoro, 2006)

Incredible Change-Bots (Brown, 2007)

The Incredible Hercules #114-115 (Pak, Van Lente, Pham, 2008)

Inkweed (Wright, 2008)

Invincible Vols. 1-9 (Kirkman, Walker, Ottley, 2003-2008)

Invincible Iron Man #1-4 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)

Invincible Iron Man #8 (Fraction & Larroca, 2008)

Invincible Iron Man #19 (Fraction & Larroca, 2009)

It Was the War of the Trenches (Tardi, 2010)

It's Sexy When People Know Your Name (Hannawalt, 2007)

Jessica Farm Vol. 1 (Simmons, 2008)

Jin & Jam #1 (Jo, 2009)

JLA Classified: Ultramarine Corps (Morrison & McGuinness, 2002)

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (Katchor, 1996)

Jumbly Junkery #8-9 (Nichols, 2009-2010)

Just a Man #1 (Mitchell & White, 2009)

Justice League: The New Frontier Special (Cooke, Bone, Bullock, 2008)

Keeping Two (Crane, 2001-)

Kick-Ass #1-4 (Millar & Romita Jr., 2008)

Kid Eternity (Morrison & Fegredo, 1991)

Kill Your Boyfriend (Morrison & Bond, 1995)

King-Cat Comics and Stories #69 (Porcellino, 2008)

Kramers Ergot 4 (Harkham et al, 2003)

Kramers Ergot 5 (Harkham et al, 2004)

Kramers Ergot 6 (Harkham et al, 2006)

Kramers Ergot 7 (Harkham et al, 2008)

The Lagoon (Carre, 2008)

The Last Call Vol. 1 (Lolos, 2007)

The Last Lonely Saturday (Crane, 2000)

The Last Musketeer (Jason, 2008)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (Moore & O'Neill, 2007)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 3: Century #1: 1910 (Moore & O'Neill, 2009)

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (Levitz, Giffen, Mahlstedt, Bruning, 1991)

Little Things (Brown, 2008)

Look Out!! Monsters #1 (Grogan, 2008)

Lose #1-2 (DeForge, 2009-2010)

Lost Kisses #9 & 10 (Mitchell, 2009)

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 (Los Bros Hernandez, 2008)

Low Moon (Jason, 2009)

The Mage's Tower (Milburn, 2008)

Maggots (Chippendale, 2007)

The Man with the Getaway Face (Cooke, 2010)

Mattie & Dodi (Davis, 2006)

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13 (Ware et al, 2004)

Mercury (Larson, 2010)

Mesmo Delivery (Grampa, 2008)

Micrographica (French, 2007)

Mister Wonderful (Clowes, 2007-2008)

Mome Vol. 4: Spring/Summer 2006 (various, 2006)

Mome Vol. 9: Fall 2007 (various, 2007)

Mome Vol. 10: Winter/Spring 2008 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 11: Summer 2008 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 12: Fall 2008 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 13: Winter 2009 (various, 2008)

Mome Vol. 14: Spring 2009 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 15: Summer 2009 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 16: Fall 2009 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 17: Winter 2010 (various, 2009)

Mome Vol. 18: Spring 2010 (various, 2010)

Mome Vol. 19: Summer 2010 (various, 2010)

Monkey & Spoon (Lia, 2004)

Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby (Nemoto, 2008)

Monsters (Dahl, 2009)

Monsters & Condiments (Wiegle, 2009)

Monstrosity Mini (Diaz, 2010)

Mother, Come Home (Hornschemeier, 2003)

The Mourning Star Vols. 1 & 2 (Strzepek, 2006 & 2009)

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (Petersen, 2008)

Mr. Cellar's Attic (Freibert, 2010)

Multiforce (Brinkman, 2009)

Multiple Warheads #1 (Graham, 2007)

My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Heatley, 2008)

The Mystery of Woolverine Woo-Bait (Coleman, 2004)

Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2006)

Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 4-5 (Urasawa, 2006)

Naoki Urasawa's Monster Vols. 6-18 (Urasawa, 2006-2008)

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, 2009)

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Vols. 4 & 5 (Urasawa, 2009)

Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps! (Neely, 2010)

Neighbourhood Sacrifice (Davidson, DeForge, Gill, 2009)

Never Ending Summer (Cole, 2004)

Never Learn Anything from History (Beaton, 2009)

Neverland (Kiersh, 2008)

New Avengers #44 (Bendis & Tan, 2008)

New Construction #2 (Huizenga, May, Zettwoch, 2008)

New Engineering (Yokoyama, 2007)

New Painting and Drawing (Jones, 2008)

New X-Men Vol. 6: Planet X (Morrison & Jimenez, 2004)

New X-Men Vol. 7: Here Comes Tomorrow (Morrison & Silvestri, 2004)

Nicolas (Girard, 2008)

Night Business #1 & 2 (Marra, 2008 & 2009)

Night Business #3 (Marra, 2010)

Nil: A Land Beyond Belief (Turner, 2007)

Ninja (Chippendale, 2006)

Nocturnal Conspiracies (David B., 2008)

not simple (Ono, 2010)

The Numbers of the Beasts (Cheng, 2010)

Ojingogo (Forsythe, 2008)

Olde Tales Vol. II (Milburn, 2007)

One Model Nation (Taylor, Leitch, Rugg, Porter, 2009)

Or Else #5 (Huizenga, 2008)

The Other Side #1-2 (Aaron & Stewart, 2005)

Owly Vol. 4: A Time to Be Brave (Runton, 2007)

Owly Vol. 5: Tiny Tales (Runton, 2008)

Paper Blog Update Supplemental Postcard Set Sticker Pack (Nilsen, 2009)

Paradise Kiss Vols. 1-5 (Yazawa, 2002-2004)

The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (Gurewitch, 2009)

Peter's Muscle (DeForge, 2010)

Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days (Columbia, 2009)

Pixu I (Ba, Cloonan, Lolos, Moon, 2008)

Pizzeria Kamikaze (Keret & A. Hanuka, 2006)

Plague Hero (Adebimpe, 2009)

Planetary Book 3: Leaving the 20th Century (Ellis & Cassaday, 2005)

Planetes Vols. 1-3 (Yukimura, 2003-2004)

The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Eisner, 2005)

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-3 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009)

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka Vols. 1-8 (Urasawa, Nagasaki, Tezuka, 2009-2010)

Pocket Full of Rain and Other Stories (Jason, 2008)

pood #1 (various, 2010)

Powr Mastrs Vol. 1 (C.F., 2007)

Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 (C.F., 2008)

Prison Pit: Book 1 (Ryan, 2009)

Prison Pit: Book 2 (Ryan, 2010)

Real Stuff (Eichhorn et al, 2004)

Red Riding Hood Redux (Krug, 2009)

Refresh, Refresh (Novgorodoff, Ponsoldt, Pierce, 2009)

Remake (Abrams, 2009)

Reykjavik (Rehr, 2009)

Ronin (Miller, 1984)

Rumbling Chapter Two (Huizenga, 2009)

The San Francisco Panorama Comics Section (various, 2010)

Scott Pilgrim Full-Colour Odds & Ends 2008 (O'Malley, 2008)

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (O'Malley, 2007)

Scott Piglrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (O'Malley, 2009)

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (O'Malley, 2010)

Second Thoughts (Asker, 2009)

Service Industry (Bak, 2007)

Set to Sea (Weing, 2010)

Seven Soldiers of Victory Vols. 1-4 (Morrison et al, 2004)

Shenzhen (Delisle, 2008)

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (Hickman & Weaver, 2010)

Shitbeams on the Loose #2 (various, 2010)

Show Off (Burrier, 2009)

Siege (Bendis & Coipel, 2010)

Siberia (Maslov, 2008)

Skim (Tamaki & Tamaki, 2008)

Skyscrapers of the Midwest (Cotter, 2008)

Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4 (Cotter, 2007)

Sleeper Car (Ellsworth, 2009)

Sloe Black (DeForge)

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Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret (Kupperman, 2000)

Snake Oil #5: Wolf (Forsman, 2009)

Snow Time (Krug, 2010)

Solanin (Asano, 2008)

Soldier X #1-8 (Macan & Kordey, 2002-2003)

Speak of the Devil (G. Hernandez, 2008)

Spider-Man: Fever #1 (McCarthy, 2010)

Split Lip Vol. 1 (Costello et al, 2009)

Squadron Supreme (Gruenwald et al, 1986)

The Squirrel Machine (Rickheit, 2009)

Stay Away from Other People (Hannawalt, 2008)

Storeyville (Santoro, 2007)

Strangeways: Murder Moon (Maxwell, Garagna, Gervasio, Jok, 2008)

Studio Visit (McShane, 2010)

Stuffed! (Eichler & Bertozzi, 2009)

Sulk Vol. 1: Bighead & Friends (J. Brown, 2009)

Sulk Vol. 2: Deadly Awesome (J. Brown, 2009)

Sulk Vol. 3: The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness (Brown, 2009)

Superman #677-680 (Robinson & Guedes, 2008)

Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 (Sadowski et al, 2009)

Sweet Tooth #1 (Lemire, 2009)

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4 (Kupperman, 2008)

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #5 (Kupperman, 2009)

Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6 (Kupperman, 2010)

Tales of Woodsman Pete (Carre, 2006)

Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White (Matsumoto, 2007)

Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) ADDTF version

Teratoid Heights (Brinkman, 2003) TCJ version

They Moved My Bowl (Barsotti, 2007)

Thor: Ages of Thunder (Fraction, Zircher, Evans, 2008)

Three Shadows (Pedrosa, 2008)

Tokyo Tribes Vols. 1 & 2 (Inoue, 2005)

Top 10: The Forty-Niners (Moore & Ha, 2005)

Travel (Yokoyama, 2008)

Trigger #1 (Bertino, 2010)

The Troll King (Karlsson, 2010)

Two Eyes of the Beautiful (Smith, 2010)

Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 (Millar & Pacheco, 2009)

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 (Bendis & LaFuente, 2009)

Ultimate Spider-Man #131 (Bendis & Immonen, 2009)

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Way & Ba, 2008)

Uptight #3 (Crane, 2009)

Wally Gropius (Hensley, 2010)

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Part II

Water Baby (R. Campbell, 2008)

Weathercraft (Woodring, 2010)

Werewolves of Montpellier (Jason, 2010)

Wednesday Comics #1 (various, 2009)

West Coast Blues (Tardi & Manchette, 2009)

Wet Moon, Book 1: Feeble Wanderings (Campbell, 2004)

Wet Moon, Book 2: Unseen Feet (Campbell, 2006)

Weird Schmeird #2 (Smith, 2010)

What Had Happened Was... (Collardey, 2009)

Where Demented Wented (Hayes, 2008)

Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey (Handford, 2007)

Whiskey Jack & Kid Coyote Meet the King of Stink (Cheng, 2009)

Wiegle for Tarzan (Wiegle, 2010)

Wilson (Clowes, 2010)

The Winter Men (Lewis & Leon, 2010)

The Witness (Hob, 2008)

Wormdye (Espey, 2008)

Worms #4 (Mitchell & Traub, 2009)

Worn Tuff Elbow (Marc Bell, 2004)

The Would-Be Bridegrooms (Cheng, 2007)

XO #5 (Mitchell & Gardner, 2009)

You Are There (Forest & Tardi, 2009)

You'll Never Know Book One: A Good and Decent Man (Tyler, 2009)

Young Lions (Larmee, 2010)

Your Disease Spread Quick (Neely, 2008)

The Trouble with The Comics Journal's News Watch, Part I
Part II


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KEEP COMICS EVIL


I Got Dem Ol' Konfuzin' Event-Komik Blues Again, Mama (Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat)

December 30, 2008

I Got Dem Ol' Konfuzin' Event-Komik Blues Again, Mama

In thinking about the stuff Tucker Stone and I have been discussing in the comment thread here and the things Tim O'Neil is saying here, I laid out a few things in my own head in terms of where I stand on Batman: R.I.P. and Final Crisis. I thought writing them down would help clarify where I'm coming from on all this.

1) There's "Batman: R.I.P." the multi-title crossover Batman event and Batman: R.I.P. the Grant Morrison/Tony Daniel comic. Similarly, there's "Final Crisis" the multi-miniseries DC Universe event and Final Crisis the Grant Morrison et al comic.

2) The sense that I get is that Morrison was barely involved with the planning of the wider R.I.P. event, if he was involved at all; it was a creation of editorial and the direction to the other titles involved was just "there's some bad guys called the Black Glove, and eventually Batman disappears--go to town." On the flipside, Morrison and his friend and sounding board Geoff Johns are writing virtually all of the Final Crisis event, so their involvement is obviously more extensive.

3) I think that the R.I.P. event was badly mismanaged as an event, with tie-ins that actively contradict the main storyline and each other. I'm not as grumpy about the way the main storyline apparently continues through two post-R.I.P. Batman issues and into the main Final Crisis comic, because I already planned to read all of that regardless and have been enjoying it thus far. However, I again think that this was a case of event mismanagement--it should have been made clear to readers far in advance how the story would proceed.

4) I don't think the Final Crisis event has been as much of a mess, at least in terms of getting all the story ducks in a row. Some of the tie-in minis seem to have little to do with the central New Gods storyline, but they haven't contradicted it, either. Obviously there are scheduling problems, but the main problems with this event stem less from stuff that's going on within the Final Crisis umbrella and more with the stuff that's going on outside it. Right now, its relationship to the rest of the line is impossible to ascertain. And there are also a lot of questions about the planned follow-through--all this "Faces of Evil"/"Origins and Omens" business afterwards. It probably shouldn't take a multi-month, multi-event program to explain the status quo of your shared universe, not just after your big blockbuster but at any time.

5) That stuff being said, ultimately I couldn't care less about any of that, either as a critic or as a consumer. That's because, as both a critic and a consumer, I'm under no obligation to follow DC's preferred method of following these stories. I'm quite happy to limit my involvement to those titles I choose to follow and evaluate their stories on their own terms. (One of the nice things about the tie-ins being so peripheral is that it makes such a decision even easier than it usually is, which for me is pretty dang easy.)

6) I've really, really been enjoying the Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis comics proper. To the extent that they are confusing, I think those are deliberate storytelling choices, and I've gotten a lot out of them.

7) On a fundamental level I have no problem with event comics being demanding, because I simply do not believe event comics, or any kind of popular art, must be simplistic to be viewed as successful.

[ 7.5) For what it's worth, I think you put yourself in an awkward position as a critic when your criticism is basically a thought experiment where you purport to speak for the needs of an audience you acknowledge to be slow, or at least slower than yourself, and interested in uninteresting things.]

8) But that doesn't mean I don't recognize that Batman R.I.P. event has been a head-scratching mess, the Final Crisis event less so but still pretty perplexing. They really should have been easier to follow.

9) The point is that there's an important distinction to be made between the confusion that stems from Morrison's scripting of the stories proper, which for me is fair game as a critic, and the confusion that stems from DC corporate/editorial/marketing's handling of the events surrounding those stories, which seems to me like a separate and unrelated concern.

10) Even when you get right down to brass tacks and talk strictly about the stories, my attitude is to err in favor of the stories I enjoy the most. If Final Crisis contradicts Countdown to Final Crisis, if the Joker in Morrison's Batman: R.I.P. is different than the Joker in Paul Dini's Batman: R.I.P. tie-in, I'm going to ignore the latter, weaker story information in favor of the former, stronger story information.

11) Moreover, this is made possible because nothing in Batman: R.I.P. or Final Crisis proper forces the incorporation or acknowledgement of those weaker stories. It's a different matter when the basic character or plot points of a story stem directly from some external source--that's how most of Marvel now operates vis a vis their events, so that unless a creative team on an individual series comes up with a particularly clever write-around for the circumstances dictated by the event, you really do need to incorporate other comics into your reading of the comic at hand.

12) The point I really want to make is that we have far more autonomy as readers than most of the event-comics commentary (a term I prefer to criticism in this case given how much more than writing and art is being discussed) I'm seeing lately would let on.

Comments (39)

I think I disagree with this in general. Picking and choosing the way you're suggesting involves a high degree of involvement, a high degree of selected knowledge retained through that involvement and a refined ability to read what's chosen. You're charging up a hill relatively no one has the energy or desire or skillset to join you taking.

Also, I think you both may be overcomplicating the issues through excessive verbiage. To me, Stone seems to be saying that if DC wants big hits, it should create things that function more like big hits and less like inbred clusterfucks that may in their own way be great, odd and wholly satisfying art. That you or I may like the inbred clusterfucks and can appreciate them that way seems sort of beside the point.

I think you did much the same thing when you declared in an earlier version of this essay that if Jim Starlin killed Orion and Grant Morrison killed Orion your brain would accept that Grant Morrison killing Orion and forget about Jim Starlin killing Orion. But as I said at the time, I was temporarily confused by that set of dueling plot points, and I'm not exactly an unskilled reader. I had sympathy for the folks that not only might not see these competing texts the same way you or I have the capacity to, they are being trained by these companies to read the whole tapestry of their titles as the ongoing story and then not operating as if they're holding to those principles.

All that said, I disagree strongly with Stone about the *desirability* of big-business principles entering into comics the way he suggests is imperative, and some other related issues, but that's a different discussion.

Also, I think Final Crisis makes me realize I prefer how Gerber played with these ideas over the way Morrison plays with them, and certainly the way DC plays with them more generally. Didn't Gerber already do all of this with the Congress of Realities storyline?


I think I disagree with this in general. Picking and choosing the way you're suggesting involves a high degree of involvement, a high degree of selected knowledge retained through that involvement and a refined ability to read what's chosen. You're charging up a hill relatively no one has the energy or desire or skillset to join you taking.

Well, I guess that's true. But I think I've already admitted as much. I'm in it for me, not for other people, and my writing reflects that. I mean, relatively no one has the energy or desire or skillset to read Maggots, either. I know, I know, totally different comics with totally different goals and made under totally different modes of production, but to me it's the same underlying principle. Basically, I can't pretend that there's something inherent in the interaction of (say) Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis that makes Final Crisis less
enjoyable, because in my experience that's simply not the case. From that I extrapolate that it needn't necessarily be the case for anyone else. Maybe that's taking for granted a level of involvement that you're not gonna find too often, but as a critic I'm going to advocate approaches I find lead to good comics regardless.

Also, I think you both may be overcomplicating the issues through excessive verbiage.

Oh, I'm absolutely certain of that.

To me, Stone seems to be saying that if DC wants big hits, it should create things that function more like big hits and less like inbred clusterfucks that may in their own way be great, odd and wholly satisfying art. That you or I may like the inbred clusterfucks and can appreciate them that way seems sort of beside the point.

It would be beside the point if Tucker (and Tim) were talking as business analysts. It's not if they're talking as critics. I think they blur that line, so it's not beside the point.

I think you did much the same thing when you declared in an earlier version of this essay that if Jim Starlin killed Orion and Grant Morrison killed Orion your brain would accept that Grant Morrison killing Orion and forget about Jim Starlin killing Orion. But as I said at the time, I was temporarily confused by that set of dueling plot points, and I'm not exactly an unskilled reader. I had sympathy for the folks that not only might not see these competing texts the same way you or I have the capacity to, they are being trained by these companies to read the whole tapestry of their titles as the ongoing story and then not operating as if they're holding to those principles.

I have sympathy for them too, but expressing that sympathy, or more to the point, using that sympathy as my lens for viewing these comics, isn't my bag--except in the above essay, I guess, where I do just that. I don't think anyone's arguing that against the notion that DC has done a bad job handling the event aspect of this stuff. I just happen to care an awful lot less about that than whether or not the new Grant Morrison comic is any good, and it doesn't tend to effect my evaluation thereof.

One related point is that every superhero comic contradicts a lot of other superhero comics in some small way or other, just based on what the creators in question choose to ignore or emphasize from the characters' histories. So when you think about it, we superhero readers are already trained to be selective with our memories, just by virtue of ignoring, I dunno, the one-time existence of Lori Lemaris anymore. It really is the same basic mental skillset that's involved in ignoring Countdown Presents The Search for Ray Palmer or whatever.


"Morrison and his friend and sounding board Geoff Johns are writing virtually all of the Final Crisis event"

Give credit where Greg Rucka is due it. I thought his Resist one-shot was one of the stronger chapters of the whole event (chalk it up to personal taste, but I did).


"If Final Crisis contradicts Countdown to Final Crisis, if the Joker in Morrison's Batman: R.I.P. is different than the Joker in Paul Dini's Batman: R.I.P. tie-in, I'm going to ignore the latter, weaker story information in favor of the former, stronger story information."

I wouldn't even go so far as to favor one over the other. Where I'm concerned, as part of the audience and even moreso as a critic, it's pretty much the POINT of corporately owned characters that you can have wildly different versions of them by creators with wildly different sensibilities and voices.

If a publisher doesn't create an environment which allows their audience to appreciate that (i.e., by allowing any given work to stand on its own), then that's your problem right there.

DC's big assets aren't called the Justice Society of America or Crisis on Infinite Earths. They're called Superman and Batman. As long as that doesn't sink in on a corporate level in the same way it sank in at Marvel eight years ago, I don't see them making any significant progress.


Tim O'Neil:

"It would be beside the point if Tucker (and Tim) were talking as business analysts. It's not if they're talking as critics. I think they blur that line, so it's not beside the point."

Yes, you're right, I can't speak for Mr. Stone but speaking wholly for myself I can say that I purposefully and willingly blur the line between business and critical analysis when talking about superhero comics, because I think trying to separate the two perspectives is a futile position. I've always maintained that, and I believe we've always argued on that. The comics industry in 2008 - soon to be 2009 - is such that marketing and hype and advance catalogs are *just as much* an intrinsic part of the superhero reading experience as the actual creative concerns. As much as you may argue for the creative inviolability of Morrison's Final Crisis as separate from DC's "Final Crisis" or whatever, Spurgeon is absolutely right in insisting that simply the choice of being able to pick and choose between dueling continuities, or multiple iterations of the same story, is not a luxury most readers - even some relatively intelligent readers - probably have. The failure of one iteration of the story does measurably impact the quality of another - I haven't been able to enjoy a single issue of Final Crisis because it reads as turgid and boring as almost every other DC comic I've read in the last decade. If Morrison didn't want his series to be judged by the company it keeps, he should have self-published his own self-contained series called Morrison Crisis. Final Crisis, however, *is* a story about the DC Universe - my interest in the DC Universe hasn't been at a lower ebb since I was eight years old. Ergo, he's got a tough road to climb: the book reads tired and clammy like an old lady sucking on hard candy.

More to the point, and with respect, I must nevertheless say that your final point is, I believe, flat-out wrong. Superhero readers - at least any who came into the hobby after 1950 - are *not* trained to be able to selectively disregard continuity. We are trained to do the exact opposite, and even those of us who like to think we don't care still get pulled up short when we read something that disregards things we "know" to be true. For almost fifty years superhero comics have trained their readership to be unceasingly attentive to the most minute details of continuity. The only mixed signals readers ever received on this point since about 1965 was during the brief period in the first part of the decade when the Quesada / Jemas crew openly flaunted the longstanding continuity covenants (for lack of a less-absurd phrase), and received a monumental heap of scorn (albeit, no diminished sales) for their efforts. Superhero readers, when faced with a situation where Story A contradicts Story B, *will not* under almost any circumstances make a value judgment on each stories respective qualities in order to weigh its significance to continuity. In issues of continuity they - let's be frank, we - have been trained to be absolutely impartial, and accept all stories as equal except in the most pressing instances (Mopee, or Onslaught). When faced with the contradictions between Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis, the only rational fanboy reaction is to reject both out of hand, because the crucial difference is not one of quality but of kind. Even if *you* don't react to superhero continuity that way, it would be foolish to say that the vast majority of superhero readers do not. And if the companies themselves are foolish enough to put their readers in the position of having to play Sophie's Choice with continuity, they deserve to be called out on the carpet for their stupidity.


simply the choice of being able to pick and choose between dueling continuities, or multiple iterations of the same story, is not a luxury most readers - even some relatively intelligent readers - probably have.

Why? I'm totally on board with everyone who says that DC put out a bunch of lousy tie-in comics, but once you realize they're lousy, you don't have to read them anymore, and therefore whatever contradictions they may contain don't matter anymore. Right? Doing otherwise--subjecting your brain and wallet to subpar comics because they "matter"--is what strikes me as a luxury.

Looking at your latest batch of superhero comic reviews, Tim, it seems like you purchase and read plenty of comics you don't like, and my guess is you know going in you're unlikely to enjoy them to boot. So maybe you've got an in to the readership habits that lead people to buy every issue of Countdown to Final Crisis and weigh it against Legion of Three Worlds that I don't. And that sounded snarky but it wasn't--it really is entirely possible that your interaction with superhero comics is far more standard than mine. But no one's provided me with an explanation of why this way of reading these comics must be the case that goes beyond "because the Big Two say that's how their comics should be read." I agree that they say that, I agree that the majority of readers do that, but I don't see why they should, let alone why they must, let alone why we must evaluate these comics based on that standard.

Regarding superhero continuity:

Superhero readers, when faced with a situation where Story A contradicts Story B, *will not* under almost any circumstances make a value judgment on each stories respective qualities in order to weigh its significance to continuity.

Yeah, you're right, we flat-out disagree on this. When was the last time anyone thought about the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh before a few months ago, for example? Or about Batman's kid with Talia? Or about Superboy being a member of the Legion? Meanwhile, when do you think the next time will be that anyone brings up the mystical Spider-Avatar stuff from the early, well-received part of JMS's Spidey run? Writers and readers ignore things, even major things, all the time, usually based on whether or not they think that was a good story or would lead to good stories down the line. We may be told that continuity is paramount, and we may even believe that we hold it paramount, but there are just as many cases of us ignoring it as there are of us valuing or enforcing it. If a generation of superhero readers could be raised to believe that Silver Age DC material was irredeemably silly and has no place in continuity--and believe me, they were, I worked at Wizard and met them--they can just as easily say to themselves "Countdown was ridiculous, I'm ignoring it." They might not do that, and if that's the case DC has no one to blame but themselves, I agree with you on that. But it doesn't have to be that way.

even those of us who like to think we don't care still get pulled up short when we read something that disregards things we "know" to be true.

That's putting it in such a way to make us sound maximally childish. But I don't think it's unreasonable to say that most of the good superhero characters are dependent on certain core concepts and ideas that make them who they are and make them work best, and that you peel those off at your peril. But there's a big difference between wanting your comic to stick with the idea that (say) Darkseid is an evil god bent on remaking the universe in his utterly joyless image, and that Darkseid is an evil god who uses Omega Beams to kill people and seeks the Anti-Life Equation--that's good continuity about the core Darkseid concept--and the idea that Darkseid is an evil god who fought giant turtle Jimmy Olsen for the fate of the Multiverse at the end of Countdown--that's bad continuity that really doesn't have anything to do with what makes Darkseid tic. It's not about "knowing" something to be "true," it's about evaluating what makes a character interesting. That's how I look at continuity anyway.


Marc-Oliver:

If a publisher doesn't create an environment which allows their audience to appreciate that (i.e., by allowing any given work to stand on its own), then that's your problem right there.

DC's big assets aren't called the Justice Society of America or Crisis on Infinite Earths. They're called Superman and Batman.

This line of attack, I'm a lot more sympathetic to. Excellent points.


At the end of this list of points, you make the statement "we have far more autonomy as readers than most of the event-comics commentary...I'm seeing lately would let on."

There's just as much autonomy allowed in how someone--comic book critic, amateur blogger, idiot on a message board--wants to respond to these comics. The method you describe--ignoring specific stories, making a personal decision on what will be addressed and what won't--still doesn't strike me as being any more valid than looking at these comics and being more interested in how they fail, succeed or just screw around as products.

I don't think there's any way I can come to terms with some of the stuff you're addressing as long as you maintain the position (if that's what you're maintaining) that there's something inherently incorrect or wrong with incorporating commentary on bad business choices, bad brand management, and an overall lack of creative cohesion. That choice is no more personal than the one you've made. In that light, I can't see it as any less acceptable or allowable.


I think one of the big crucial things a lot of people are missing, particularly when they get into the mode of "DC should do this if they want to reach a bigger audience," etc, is that on so many levels, they can't, and it's down to the limitations of the medium itself in contemporary American culture. None of this stuff is mainstream, all of it is niche. Batman RIP may not have sold as well as Secret Invasion, but a lot of that comes down to Marvel vs DC market share, and that they're different books with somewhat different audiences in mind. Either way, Batman RIP was a hit for DC, particularly relative to the sales of the rest of their line of titles.

More importantly, you have to understand that this is a deeply dysfunctional industry full of deeply dysfunctional creators who are making products for a deeply dysfunctional audience. I'm not just talking about Marvel and DC, I'm talking about the entirety of comics. You just have to build your expectations out of that, all this hope of comics being something other than a niche thing is so futile and disconnected from reality. You can sit there and go "wait, why don't they run things this way, it's so much more logical," and it doesn't matter, because the people in this world are not logical. Sometimes, that's the charm, but usually, it's frustration.

Sean is absolutely correct in the way he's approaching this stuff: Read and privilege the good stuff, don't get hung up on the backstage politics. It's not any different from any other medium, regardless of the fact that Marvel and DC have shared continuities. Well, actually, here's something I do get worked up over: I am a lifelong X-Men fan and I'm pretty bitter about the House Of M and the "no more mutants" thing because it's the kind of decree that totally hobbles all subsequent X-Men comics and ruins the central premise of the books. That's the kind of shit worth getting annoyed about, the things that fundamentally cripple a major franchise. A weird Batman story doesn't ruin Batman. It's just one more story in an infinite stream of Batman comics, and any disturbance to other Batman comics is very temporary, or nonexistent. DC may have a lot of continuity problems now, but I vastly prefer a company where lots of different, contradicting stories can happen rather than force everything into a lockstep that discourages creativity and wrecks core concepts of hit series.


Tucker - I guess what I find perplexing is that you seem to spend a lot of time writing about how DC could/should make better super-hero comics for some hypotehtical person who is not you. I mean, stuff like Secret Invasion pisses me off because I don't want to have to read a Bendis comic to be able to understand what's going on in Captain America, but I don't know that Marvel taking a different approach makes better business sense. I really like the weekly-ish Amazing Spider-Man series - mainly because it feels like its own, complete, self-contained thing - but I get the sense that it isn't a business/marketing model that would work for too many of Marvel's other titles. (I may be wrong and am too lazy to do any research on the topic, but I think I read something along those lines in a Brian Hibbs column).

To put it another way, Burn Notice is a popular and enjoyable show, but I really am suspcious of the idea that super-hero comics that are more like Burn Notice is somehow a better business bet than DC's current clusterfucks, which, at least, appeal to fans of these kinds of clusterfucks (which you can't get ANYWHERE but in super-hero comics). As I've said before, if people want streamlined, idiosyncracy-free super-hero stories they can rent Iron Man from Blockbuster.

Granted: I agree with Sean that DC has dropped the ball in terms of scheduling and "big picture" coherence issues. Personally, I prefer Infinite Crisis as an event to Final Crisis as an event, partly because it was (marginally) better handled from a logistics p.o.v.


Tucker:

I don't think there's any way I can come to terms with some of the stuff you're addressing as long as you maintain the position (if that's what you're maintaining) that there's something inherently incorrect or wrong with incorporating commentary on bad business choices, bad brand management, and an overall lack of creative cohesion. That choice is no more personal than the one you've made. In that light, I can't see it as any less acceptable or allowable.

Of course! Everybody's free to wear sunscreen. I'm certainly not just crumpling up and throwing away that kind of criticism, or asserting that everyone else should. I do think it's problematic for the reasons I've cited above, I obviously prefer my approach or it wouldn't be my approach, I'm a lot less interested in comics as product than comics as art so I react accordingly to both comics and to comics criticism--but really all I'm saying is that it doesn't have to be your and Tim and Tom's way of looking at these particular comics, and I'm living proof.


Tom Spurgeon:

I don't understand why the validity of Tucker's approach can be called into question. It's not a new thing for someone to write about art with a perceived audience or commercial ramifications in mind. It's not different than criticism. It's different criticism. I believe some arts and cultural critics have even used fake people in their writing with whom they have dialogues.

I mean, you might find it more fruitful to read a different approach -- I do -- but the validity of the approach doesn't seem to me in question.

Sean, I think you're bringing in an appraisal of the art into a discussion of how that art gets processed in an unfair, limited way. You're loading your arguments. Also, in a sense you're being far more rigid than the average superhero fan in deciding how these books should be read and setting up a way too-easy dichotomy between a valuable reading and a not-valuable reading. These kinds of decisions can be more complicated than that, and until you describe why yours is better in a way other than asserting the general awesomeness of your choice and being derisive of the other choices, I'm not sure you're getting anywhere.

By declaring that Darkseid Battling Turtle-Jimmy should be processed and Darkseid Crushing Time-Space Around Earth Like A Fist shouldn't, you're leaving out any number of ways of reading those two comics. Here's four easy ones.

1. Turtle-Jimmy Fighting Darkseid is obviously better than Space-Time Crushing Darkseid.
2. Turtle-Jimmy and Fist-Crushing are equally awesome.
3. The fact that the same story structure can encompass both is the the real awesome thing.
4. Both plot events are worthy of being processed, but one might be dominant in terms of our understanding the other. (Ironically, I think this is what Morrison is doing with some of that stuff, right?)

So while I'm sympathetic to your view that fans create their own comics in a way by placing values here and there, what they choose to process and what they don't, I don't think it always brings with it a clarity when it comes to making choices that you've seemed to enjoy in making your own. If you're saying, "Suck it, that's the way I read this stuff and I think it's awesome." That's one thing. But I think you're asserting a superiority for your way of reading without really digging in to say why it's superior, and expressing or at least asserting again a certain level of confusion/frustration why everyone can't do or won't choose to do the same thing.

Maybe it's that I haven't seen a single person challenge your way of reading as entirely suitable to you, as some of your posts seem to suggest.


Tom - Nothing wrong with creating a hypothetical audience as part of criticism. I do think it is fair to question business/marketing analysis based on hypothetical appeal to a group of people that may not even exist

I suspect making DC comics for and marketing them to fake people is a worse business decision than making DC comics for and marketing them to fans of DC comics.


Moving product and satisfying the audience are not the same thing. I think the big problem I’m seeing in DC right now is that they haven’t got a firm grasp on how to do either - mainly because I'm not convinced they've identified their target audience.

Marvel seems to know how to produce and sell their product to their target audience. There will always be fringe elements that will be dissatisfied with your product, but for the most part Marvel seems to have figured out, at least generally, who their audience is and they plan their events accordingly. One leads to the next, which leads to the next, but they all appeal to the same sensibilities, the same fanbase. If you liked Civil War, here’s Secret Invasion – same great taste, different package.

If everything feels overly calculated by the Marvel Illuminate in their event strategy meeting in the Big Apple, it’s because it IS overly calculated. What’s more, those writers are ultimately on the same page about how a Marvel comic should feel, even if they may squabble over plot points. DC takes more risks, but they don’t seem to be properly calculated risks – they’re gambles that don’t belie any sense of real strategy for growing market share or selling product at a high level. Even in the late nineties, when Marvel took its biggest risks with its titles, there was the sense that they were doing so to aggressively build an audience.

DC doesn’t seem to know if it needs to sell comics to Collins or Stone. It hopes that by throwing Morrison on a book, it will sell to both of them. That’s all fine and well, but if the result isolates, alienates, or damages your relationship with one part of your readership and doesn’t expand or garner the trust of another, you end up looking either indifferent or incompetent or both.

I may think Final Crisis is the cat’s meow, but I only buy two or three DC titles a month. I also happen to be one of those “the crazier the better” people when it comes to their superheroes. Tucker’s argument is that an event book is the wrong place to showcase your freestyle and cater to the kooks like me who think it’s awesome that Mary Marvel is crotchriding Captain Marvel and talking about her naughty magic word. If your goal is to sell product to the broadest audience possible and build market share in the future, he isn’t wrong.

Secret Invasion? It is MARVEL. It screams “I’m a Marvel comic!” Final Crisis? Batman R.I.P.? They feel like Grant Morrison comics (which I love) but they seem to be saying “Hey, at DC we just do whatever the fuck we want. Don’t like it? Take a hike.” That shit doesn’t play in Peoria even if it does play just fine here in my neck of the woods. I may be an Army of Me, but I certainly can't keep DC in the black.




Moving product and satisfying the audience are not the same thing. I think the big problem I’m seeing in DC right now is that they haven’t got a firm grasp on how to do either - mainly because I'm not convinced they've identified their target audience.

Marvel seems to know how to produce and sell their product to their target audience. There will always be fringe elements that will be dissatisfied with your product, but for the most part Marvel seems to have figured out, at least generally, who their audience is and they plan their events accordingly. One leads to the next, which leads to the next, but they all appeal to the same sensibilities, the same fanbase. If you liked Civil War, here’s Secret Invasion – same great taste, different package.

If everything feels overly calculated by the Marvel Illuminate in their event strategy meeting in the Big Apple, it’s because it IS overly calculated. What’s more, those writers are ultimately on the same page about how a Marvel comic should feel, even if they may squabble over plot points. DC takes more risks, but they don’t seem to be properly calculated risks – they’re gambles that don’t belie any sense of real strategy for growing market share or selling product at a high level. Even in the late nineties, when Marvel took its biggest risks with its titles, there was the sense that they were doing so to aggressively build an audience.

DC doesn’t seem to know if it needs to sell comics to Collins or Stone. It hopes that by throwing Morrison on a book, it will sell to both of them. That’s all fine and well, but if the result isolates, alienates, or damages your relationship with one part of your readership and doesn’t expand or garner the trust of another, you end up looking either indifferent or incompetent or both.

I may think Final Crisis is the cat’s meow, but I only buy two or three DC titles a month. I also happen to be one of those “the crazier the better” people when it comes to their superheroes. Tucker’s argument is that an event book is the wrong place to showcase your freestyle and cater to the kooks like me who think it’s awesome that Mary Marvel is crotchriding Captain Marvel and talking about her naughty magic word. If your goal is to sell product to the broadest audience possible and build market share in the future, he isn’t wrong.

Secret Invasion? It is MARVEL. It screams “I’m a Marvel comic!” Final Crisis? Batman R.I.P.? They feel like Grant Morrison comics (which I love) but they seem to be saying “Hey, at DC we just do whatever the fuck we want. Don’t like it? Take a hike.” That shit doesn’t play in Peoria even if it does play just fine here in my neck of the woods. I may be an Army of Me, but I certainly can't keep DC in the black.




HOLY FUCK, what happened to my post, man? It looked fine in Preview...eh, just imagine it makes sense if you would be so kind.


I will process the hypothetical typo-free version of your post and ignore the double post where you fought Turtle Boy.


Excellent. Now, that's how you read a comment thread.


Tom:

I mean, you might find it more fruitful to read a different approach -- I do -- but the validity of the approach doesn't seem to me in question.

I think it's valid, but I'm less interested in it and I think it has problems because it takes for granted certain notions about how to process these comics that I don't think are universal, because I certainly haven't processed them that way. Maybe I oversold that position but that's all I've ever felt and all I've been trying to say.

By declaring that Darkseid Battling Turtle-Jimmy should be processed and Darkseid Crushing Time-Space Around Earth Like A Fist shouldn't, you're leaving out any number of ways of reading those two comics. Here's four easy ones.

1. Turtle-Jimmy Fighting Darkseid is obviously better than Space-Time Crushing Darkseid.
2. Turtle-Jimmy and Fist-Crushing are equally awesome.
3. The fact that the same story structure can encompass both is the the real awesome thing.
4. Both plot events are worthy of being processed, but one might be dominant in terms of our understanding the other. (Ironically, I think this is what Morrison is doing with some of that stuff, right?)

This is true, of course, but for me most of the work of explaining why one is more awesome than the other has been/will be done in specific reviews I've written/will write of those comics, and obviously, everything I write as a critic, including this whole thing about the best way to look at event comics, proceeds from the aesthetic judgments I've made. So it shouldn't be surprising that the way I look at Final Crisis is influenced by my thinking Final Crisis is a good comic for a variety of reasons, while Countdown wasn't. Like water trying to find its level, I try to find ways of interacting with art that support the art I find enjoyable and worthwhile.

In other words, any time i talk about a comic I'm leaving out any number of other ways of talking about that comic. I don't like Lynda Barry's work so I'm leaving out the way of talking about it that says "Lynda Barry's work is interesting and attractive," I do like Chris Ware's work so I'm leaving out the way of talking about it that says "Chris Ware's work is sterile and overly formal," etc.

Man, we're down the rabbit hole! This is my favorite comment thread ever.

Actually, it's sort of an Event Comment Thread crossover between the Comics Blogospher Universe: Collins! Stone! O'Neil! Spurgeon! Frisch! Morse! Perpetua! Hastings! B!

YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!


HA. I should have just gone with my crack about how my zany mystery-symbol infused double post was a brilliant attempt to give your post the feel of a DC event comic...but then it would need someone wearing a Fictionsuit getting punched into The Bleed or something.

Great conversation, sir.


"I suspect making DC comics for and marketing them to fake people is a worse business decision than making DC comics for and marketing them to fans of DC comics." -- Jon is absolutely right about this. If you look around, some of the worst, most thoroughly embarrassing comics of this period have come from people making blandly "accessible" comics that are just devoid of charm, but long on well, internet comics blogosphere cred. As if comics is an artform that just needs some good gentrification, a quirky neighborhood that just needs to get cleaned up for yuppies. That's just not an approach that is going to yield good art, I'm sorry. If you're reading comics and are craving respectability, that's just wack, and you're barking up the wrong tree.

This isn't to say that comics CAN'T be respectable and accessible -- surely, the entire industry has made some great strides in the past 10 years in terms of diversifying content, turning out great work for a variety of tastes, and being seen by "the normals" as something that can be cool and un-creepy. Still, the stuff that connects, on any level, almost always does so because it's the work of people who, ultimately, are chasing their muse, whether it's Chris Ware, Bryan Lee O'Malley, or Geoff Johns doing some aesthetic surgery on his favorite corny old DC characters.

Can we all just come together and realize that chasing "credibility" is embarrassing and self-defeating, and that the entire industry -- creators and fans alike -- need to just get over this transparent inferiority complex? You like comics, that's great. Own it! If you like superhero comics, own it! If you like non-superhero comics, don't feel like you have to slam superhero comics as some stupid rite of passage. Just get over it.


I mean, understand that I come to this from the perspective of a person who mainly deals with music critics, and it's just such a weird reversal, because it's fairly rare for people to put down records for not going mega-platinum. Then again, I guess in a way, Batman RIP is the 808s and Heartbreak of comics in 2008....


2 Matthew:
Yeah, in many ways comics criticism and film criticism share a great deal more in common than your area of expertise. In the film critiquing community, it isn't at all uncommon to read critics considering the business and art sides of the business together, or at least in interdependent terms. People second guess the studios all the time in tandem with discussion on the actual merits of the film in question - witness what folks are doing with The Spirit right now.
Music and books seem to be more immune to that sort of analysis.


That's true. But the thing is, the reality is, the comics industry is a LOT more like the music industry -- it's all dysfunctional people flailing about in a dying industry, with the actual art thriving in a rather ironic sort of way. It's like lit publishing, too. Or radio. Maybe it's because comics fans are likely to be movie/tv fans, they force the connection? But the models and the people who work in them, it's just not very analogous.


2 Matthew:
Oh, I totally agree on the disparity between the comics and film industries (with the caveat that DC is pretty much part of a major film studio, which may be partly responsible for some of their approach to comics publishing).
I was arguing with someone the other day who suggested that DC/Warner should just market their comics using an approach similar to how they marketed Watchmen - get a decent budget, decent director with a nice visual eye, and produce legitimate trailers for big projects. He argued that the trailer for Watchmen moved mountains for DC, so why not push that. The thing is, that trailer was a commercial for a product aimed at a much broader audience, film goers, with a target return on investment that was much greater than anything a niche audience like comics could ever hope to provide. That the trailer moved copies of Watchmen had nothing whatsoever to do with the comic - it had to do with a phenomenon that many folks who've done time in a movie theater recognize right away: many movie goers are smug little sheep who love to be able to say they "read the book" before they go to a movie. I saw it time and time again --- people walking out of a movie saying "Well, it wasn't as good as the book," as if they were a fucking literati because they picked up a copy of The Firm at the airport after they saw a trailer for the movie right before Ernest Goes To New Genesis.
My point is, you can't market comics the same way you market movies because the investment required vs. the return on that investment is so out of whack.Comparing the business of movies and the business of comics is a bit like comparing how they make SUVs to how they make Matchbox cars.


Tom Spurgeon:

I don't understand Matthew's last group of comments and I think half the time he's arguing against a position no one on this thread has taken or would take. Is anyone here really arguing credibility? Is there anything in my entire 15 years of writing about comics that would make anyone think I give a shit about this? What part of Tucker's month-long ode to shitty Bob Haney comics would make anyone think he's credibility obsessed?

Plus if there's a group of superhero comics that have Internet blogosphere stamp of approval all over them, with and without an audience, it's Grant Morrison's superhero comics.

Jon, I don't make a habit of second-guessing comics companies, but if someone was going to I think it's just as ridiculous to set up as their example an imaginary comic that would fail by definition as it is when people set up an imaginary comic that by definition succeeds. I'm not sure you have to compare Final Crisis against Imaginary Not Final Crisis. Final Crisis has underperformed according to how most industry watchers thought it would perform, and I haven't really seen anyone suggest that wasn't true. So there's at least a hint of possibility there that they're not connecting with their audience strongly with this one. Similarly, Secret Invasion performed better than expected. I don't think it's out of bounds for someone to posit that a DC even title that functioned within its market more like Secret Invasion acted within its market is dealing in lunacy. That kind of stuff bores me to death, but I don't think it can be mocked away.

Sean, again, no one is suggesting you have to argue outside of the binary you've selected. I'm suggesting you shouldn't be able to suggest that your way of examining something is superior when your assertion counts on other people accepting this binary.

I agree that DC isn't quite sure who their core audience is. I think it scares them to death. I think there's a good chance you're going to see serious orders erosion at DC in 2009 in anything not a core title, a place where they've been underperforming their expectations generally. Further, though, I'd suggest that both mainstream comics companies have done almost no work in finding out who their core audience *could* be.


Tom Spurgeon:

I don't mean the fantasy of wide mainstream audiences, btw. That ended in 1949. I mean something like doubling current sales.


Were initial orders for Final Crisis lower than expected? I seriously don't recall - it would seem that if they were, retailers were aware that their customers were not feeling the love for DC's product. If that's the case, where did the higher expectations come from? Were pundits simply going off the fact that it was Morrison and Jones on an event book? Was DC banking on that? Again, I'm not being a smartass here but it seems to me that DC has been sucking sales fumes since the whole Civil War event blasted the Marvel line into a new orbit.

And I agree, Tom - DC and Marvel both have been floundering (visibly so) with new initiatives trying to find their way into a new market - a half-assed Internet archive, TV commercials, stories planted in the New York Post...what the hell is any of this doing to build their audience from the core contingency, or helping them develop more interesting product that would appeal to a broader audience?

Marvel's movies are a fine coup, but they don't move books. The question is, if you are now running a successful movie 'studio', do you even need to move books at a reasonable level or find a new audience? How vital is it to build on the 120,000 copies of Secret Invasion 2: Cosmic Boogaloo if you're making bank pimping Iron Man t-shirts at Target? We may see the answer to that in DC. Their most successful merchandising/film property to date is Batman. If DC had to rely on the fruits of their labor without Warner Bros, I don't know if we'd be seeing what we're seeing now.


oh LORD.

Actually, it's sort of an Event Comment Thread crossover between the Comics Blogospher Universe

I think I'll wait for the Secret Files and Origins issue of this thread.

I completely agree with the previous comments in this thread that if companies didn't want continuity to be an issue, then they shouldn't be grooming their audience to pick up multiple issues of different books that contradict themselves. As a longtime DC reader, it is completely infuriating to see how mismanaged the titles are right now. I WISH I could just disregard a less superior story, but I can't. (I mean, I throw a fit when I see the coloring on Wonder Woman's outfit isn't right.) And I can't because I never had to in the past. Maybe I was just blissfully ignorant of other depictions and stories reading comics in my teens and twenties, but I don't think I was completely ignorant and shouldn't have to start now. I think back to the way Mike Carlin managed Superman and Denny O'Neil with Batman... I didn't necessarily care for the stories most of the time but they were at least cohesive.

and Matthew has the single best comment here:

Batman RIP is the 808s and Heartbreak of comics in 2008


Kiel Phegley:

I spend the day driving from Flint to Chicago, and this is what I miss...

It feels like Sean's claims that his personal favorite comics released within the mega event framework should be allowed to count in the face of similar yet less engaging books is a response to the notion that shitty comics containing one set of characters have to ruin good comics featuring the same guys. Right? And in a general sense, I agree with him that a good piece of art that you respond to should be enough based on its own merits, and you should be allowed to enjoy it on said merits without any other considerations. I'm also going to agree with Sean that part of the reason that kind of direct engagement of a comic like Final Crisis (the series itself) gets so dragged down is because of the long-standing fan practice of nit-picking continuity rather than just enjoying single comics. There's nothing more disheartening to me as a person who enjoys superhero comics that my fellow consumers won't stop buying comics they acknowledge to be bad because "Dude, I've been buying Uncanny since issue #184...I can't break up a run like that now!"

That said, I think what Sean isn't taking into account in all this is that there is an obvious effect on most readers from casual fans to critics on these conflicting stories happening within months or even weeks of each other. Tom made a great point a few weeks back that as good as Morrison's twisted version of Mary Marvel might be, its impact is blunted by the fact that a watered down and nonsensical version of that story got published every week for an entire fucking year before Final Crisis #1 hit. It's like a few years ago when that second Truman Capote movie came out after the Hoffman one. I heard it was good, but I didn't see it because one biopic on the writing of "In Cold Blood" is enough for one year, you know? In the examples of plot points Sean mentions, things like Batman's baby or Zur-En-Arrh were off the table for decades before getting pushed to the front of the story, so even though you could easily sit back and pick at whether or not they "fit" post-Frank Miller, you didn't really care because they felt so fresh and fun. That's a huge part of the reason All-Star Superman worked too.

Sean, I don't doubt your sincerity in the idea that you can ignore the bad stories you've only heard about online in order to enjoy the good ones you actively seek out, but you've got to admit that it's easy for people to get burnt out on these ideas if they've been even slightly immersed in DC over the past year, no matter how awesome Morrison's work is when held aloft.

And as for the debate on how much the discussion of the business side of comics can or should play into any critical approach of said comics, I think it's really hard to remove all business concerns from the discussion because the companies insert so much of their business sense into the final product. To me, the ideal situation would be one where the creators come up with their best ideas, the editors help said creators refine those ideas in light of the audience and market, and the sales people take the final product and find the best way to pitch the audience on why they should like it. At DC, Dan Didio has set himself up as the primary idea man for the line, taken loads of market considerations into the creation of said ideas and appointed himself lead pitch man and sole arbiter of what info gets to whom and when. Considering that, it's very hard to look at anything in the publishing line on its own merits, unless of course it's created by those rare creators (like Morrison and Johns) who appear to have the autonomy to do as they like creatively, and even then, the positioning done around them impacts how we view their work in the long run.


Tom Spurgeon:

Ha ha, you're all already out drinking... viva la Mountain Time Zone!

"Were initial orders for Final Crisis lower than expected? I seriously don't recall - it would seem that if they were, retailers were aware that their customers were not feeling the love for DC's product. If that's the case, where did the higher expectations come from? Were pundits simply going off the fact that it was Morrison and Jones on an event book? Was DC banking on that? Again, I'm not being a smartass here but it seems to me that DC has been sucking sales fumes since the whole Civil War event blasted the Marvel line into a new orbit."

You can construct a case that initial orders were they were going to be as low as they were, the same way you can look at, say, Buster Douglass knocking out Mike Tyson and connect the threads as to how that happened, but it still shocked a lot of people at the time. I think most people including people at DC thought that while One Year Later or Countdown or whatever might have underperformed, people will now and always love a big line-spanning crisis and the fans would rally to it, particularly in that Marvel is essentially running our Annual Crossover from 1994 instead of the vastly more clever and cool Civil War.

I think it's been shown that movies can boost sales on books if there's a correlation that normal people can make and the books are out there to be sold. Marvel's trade program is an entire blog unto itself.

I don't really approach the question of DC and Marvel's need to develop new content to meet new audiences. Which I guess they should want to do, which they try, which they're sometimes sort of good at.

Marvel and DC and their attendant communities tend to be Dave Kingman types philosophically; they only function in terms of walks and home runs. They discuss these incremental sales differences of 10,000 to 12,000 as if they're ten times that size in terms of their importance or they rattle on in terms of broad mainstream programs that are wholly unrealistic. What I'd hope for is a dialogue about general industry reform and investment in spirit with what Marvel did in the 1980s with its serial comics and DC did in the 1990s and into the 2000s with the book trade, both not surprisingly to positive effect and massive profits.

In other words, I think it's clear that only a tiny percentage of Iron Man movie customers want an Iron Man comic book, and those are the sales better left to be made by drunk people spinning yarns in bars at 4 AM about being made King of DC or whatever. I'm just not sure why a comic like that and other like it can't in five to seven years sell 140,000 copies instead of 70,000 (or whatever), or sell 110,000 copies and have X-number of readers on-line in some way. I mean, Tucker will still make fun of you, but you've just improved sales 100 percent and your each into eyeballs more than that.

In the 1990s, the worry in industry circles was always that some suit at Time Warner would go, "Why the heck do we need to spend this amount to sell more Wonder Woman comics? They have no effect on licensing. Mickey Mouse hasn't had a movie in 25 years? Why don't we just give these character to Cartoon Network?" Part of that was that these companies presented themselves as low-cost idea factories and profitable besides, part of it was that there was tremendous human capital involved and tradition that far outstripped the real financial investment.

I'd say the worry now isn't that they'd pull publishing altogether but that they'd reorient towards the Internet in a way that destroys the remainder of the middle class livings enjoyed by that kind of comic book maker. One of the reasons why it's worrisome that today's mainstream pros have no interest in creator's right is that they're in effect standing on a way of doing things created by the first generation that reward creators a certain way, and a way of organizing things provided by the second generation that rewards creators another way. They've benefited twice. Many of today's top creators had the opportunity to create a third way whereby creators benefit but gave back the industry traction through greed and chicanery. So there's only to bases instead of three. And both of these bases could be knocked right out from underneath everyone as technology has changed and the corporate needs and uses have developed.

I'm really, really bad at backseat driving industries run by people from whom those industries works perfectly, shoveling them money to the extent they can spend their spare time flying around pantsless in hang gliders made from the finest silks, pooping golden bricks out onto the countryside. But I do think history shows that there are very few movements within comics as a business that have emphasized incremental gains and long-term investments, and that these have done well for that industry.

This has nothing to do with the comic books as art, however. Can someone tell me why the Guardian of the Galaxy comic I bought was so terrible? I seem to remember liking Marvel's recent space comics.


Bruce Baugh:

From my point of view, there's a clear critical advantage in reading comics the way Sean does: he's obviously having more fun with his reading than a lot of people, including me when I was trying to put it all into some sort of master-plan sense. Any approach to art or entertainment that keeps you engaged and yet guaranteed of greta unhappiness bears a high burden of justification, and when it comes to fannish reading, it pretty much never gets anywhere close.


Tom:

Is anyone here really arguing credibility?

No, but some people are arguing popularity as though it confers credibility.

Sean, again, no one is suggesting you have to argue outside of the binary you've selected. I'm suggesting you shouldn't be able to suggest that your way of examining something is superior when your assertion counts on other people accepting this binary.

At this point we're discussing the discussion so much--and I'm so jetlagged--that I'm not 100% sure I even know what we're talking about anymore. I guess what I'm saying is that my way gives people more freedom? But I don't think and never thought anyone was trying to tell me what to do about anything. So I guess we're on the same page on that.

Shaggy:

I completely agree with the previous comments in this thread that if companies didn't want continuity to be an issue, then they shouldn't be grooming their audience to pick up multiple issues of different books that contradict themselves.

So do I.

Kiel:

It feels like Sean's claims that his personal favorite comics released within the mega event framework should be allowed to count in the face of similar yet less engaging books is a response to the notion that shitty comics containing one set of characters have to ruin good comics featuring the same guys. Right?

Right. Or that shitty comics set in a particular universe hurt good comics set in that same universe. As long as there's nothing in that good comic forcing you to deal with the shitty stuff--like how if you want to read Invincible Iron Man you have to reconcile yourself to the Superhuman Registration Act, Norman Osborn Commander of SHIELD, etc.

Sean, I don't doubt your sincerity in the idea that you can ignore the bad stories you've only heard about online in order to enjoy the good ones you actively seek out, but you've got to admit that it's easy for people to get burnt out on these ideas if they've been even slightly immersed in DC over the past year, no matter how awesome Morrison's work is when held aloft.

That's true. (To be fair to myself I HAVE read some of those comics themselves, not just read about them online.)

At DC, Dan Didio has set himself up as the primary idea man for the line, taken loads of market considerations into the creation of said ideas and appointed himself lead pitch man and sole arbiter of what info gets to whom and when. Considering that, it's very hard to look at anything in the publishing line on its own merits, unless of course it's created by those rare creators (like Morrison and Johns) who appear to have the autonomy to do as they like creatively, and even then, the positioning done around them impacts how we view their work in the long run.

That last bit is what I was trying to say about Final Crisis but in a much more coherent form: that unlike Batman RIP, where it's stuff under the same umbrella that doesn't match up, with Final Crisis it's more the stuff going on outside it.

Tom again:

I think it's been shown that movies can boost sales on books if there's a correlation that normal people can make and the books are out there to be sold.

It also usually helps if it's a property that's new to people. Only in extremely rare instances involving very good, very accessible books do big-character movies move product--I'm really only thinking of the Nolan Batman movies and Year One/Dark Knight/especially Killing Joke.

Bruce: I owe a lot of my thinking about that approach to you. Well, you and therapy.


Well, one thing to consider is that part of what makes Year One/Dark Knight/Killing Joke move off the shelves is that they happen to have years and years of time in the marketplace to develop strong reputations. That's the benefit of catalog items -- I mean, the Watchmen movie trailer did a lot to move copies of that book in 2008, but it really just gave a big push, a lot of what drives people to actually read it is that book having this amazing reputation and people going "okay, I guess now is the time to investigate this.." Even if someone made the perfect Batman comic for the marketplace, people are more likely to buy the book they've been hearing about forever, or the one a clerk is going to say "oh, this is essential."


Well, one thing to consider is that part of what makes Year One/Dark Knight/Killing Joke move off the shelves in the wake of the movie is that they happen to have years and years of time in the marketplace to develop strong reputations. That's the benefit of catalog items -- I mean, the Watchmen movie trailer did a lot to move copies of that book in 2008, but it really just gave a big push, a lot of what drives people to actually read it is that book having this amazing reputation and people going "okay, I guess now is the time to investigate this.." Even if someone made the perfect Batman comic for the marketplace, people are more likely to buy the book they've been hearing about forever, or the one a clerk is going to say "oh, this is essential."


Kiel:
"To me, the ideal situation would be one where the creators come up with their best ideas, the editors help said creators refine those ideas in light of the audience and market, and the sales people take the final product and find the best way to pitch the audience on why they should like it."

Yes, that would be the ideal. It sounds so simple, but it requires a knowledge of the audience that I'm not convinced exists in DC right now. Marvel seems to have a better idea of how to do what you're suggested, but again there's still the Big Idea from On High that everyone must work-around. This isn't new, by the way - anyone familiar with DC's history will see this as the pattern of editorial directive from Julie's time on down (or is it up?).

Tom:
"I'd say the worry now isn't that they'd pull publishing altogether but that they'd reorient towards the Internet in a way that destroys the remainder of the middle class livings enjoyed by that kind of comic book maker."

Everything you wrote is pretty much gold, Tom, but this stuck out for me. I think that's a very big concern. There hasn't been a demonstrated understanding of how to use the Internet to provide these folks with a viable, actual living wage for their labors. Everything is supplemental income right now. Even the people who point to Torrenting and say "See, folks want to read you books on their computer!" are ignoring the realities that a) people are reading it for free on the computer, and b) the actual number of people doing this is really small - even if a book is downloaded, say, 1,000 times for free (and that may be shooting low, but my own first-hand experience suggests it's not that far off for a big two book), how would they take that number and extrapolate the number of people out of those 1,000 readers who would be willing to pay for your product? I know that most of the folks I talk to who download their comics do so for the ones they're only marginally interested in following to begin with - want to follow the story, but not enough to shell out the money for it; they see torrented comics the same way they see ALL digital information - something transitory and disposable, easily digested and then deleted. Poor excuse for bad behavior, I know, but it does speak to the problem with trying to build a business model using downloads as a basis for any sort of accurate level of legitimate economic strategy. These are the people who wouldn't buy the product unless you were selling it for fifty cents to a quarter a download, and maybe not even then. They still want the books they love in paper form, be it monthly or in trade. If you don't create MORE product they're will to actually buy, and keep producing tie-ins that they're only marginally interested in, I don't see how you can turn their habits in money.

And I don't know why your superheroes in space comic sucked so bad, Tom. For what it's worth, I bet it was better than Starlin's stuff over at DC has been lately.

Matthew:
"That's the benefit of catalog items -- I mean, the Watchmen movie trailer did a lot to move copies of that book in 2008, but it really just gave a big push, a lot of what drives people to actually read it is that book having this amazing reputation and people going "okay, I guess now is the time to investigate this..""

Well, it didn't hurt that the trailer for Watchmen told everyone that it's the most CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED GRAPHIC NOVEL OF ALL TIME. I'd argue just how much hyperbole that is, but enough people feel that way to justify the marketing, I suppose. As Sean points out, most people seeing that trailer had never HEARD of it before (it premiered in front of the highest grossing film of the year, mind you, and I assure you that while all of them had heard of Batman, maybe a fraction of 1% of that audience had heard of the GREATEST GRAPHIC NOVEL OF ALL-TIME), and the trailer was undeniably visually intriguing enough to spark an interest. Add in that "Greatest graphic novel of all time" bit and you get the recipe for wanna-be-in-the-knows to flood the stores to buy the book (It doesn't hurt that the book is set at 20.00 and Warners made it available everywhere very quickly - I saw copies at fricken' Target!). Not to mention the thousands of comics fans who, as you suggest, might have put off reading it for whatever reason (I can't count how many comics bloggers are actually reading this thing for the first time now, or are, at least, re-reading it now).

But we haven't seen ANYTHING like that in terms of units moved for any comics film to date --- maybe the first Batman movie? --- tho I hear both 300 and V for Vendetta moved books (which backs up Sean's 'new to people' qualifier).


Oh, I don't think many people who were already big comics readers bought Watchmen for the first time in 2008 cos of the trailer. I think those people basically fit this profile: People who, for whatever reason, had become inclined to read (or revisit) comics, or maybe even were buying comics here and there, and had never gotten around to Watchmen. More than likely, these people had at least heard of Watchmen at some point -- a friend mentioning that they loved it, something about it in a magazine or something like that. Maybe not a lot of awareness, but some. I think it's pretty fair to assume that a good number of people going to see a Batman movie have at least a vague awareness of a thing like Watchmen, even if they had never read it. So yes, the trailer looks cool, makes a point of selling it as the most acclaimed comic ever -- which is hyperbole, but fair, as the only comic I can think of that has equal or greater acclaim is Maus, which is certainly not a book that inspires fandom per se, so maybe that counts for something. I just don't think it would have caught fire the way it did without all those years worth of word-of-mouth. I know it's kinda wack to invoke Malcolm Gladwell, but I think it's pretty obvious that the trailer in front of Dark Knight was a tipping point, not the entire cause.


Bruce Baugh:

A stray thought...

I am quite sure that I'm carrying over a knee-jerk reaction from my day job in roleplaying game design and writing, but I think that it's at least kind of relevant in comics as well: a lot of fans want to analyze things in business terms and simply aren't qualified to do so. Now there are reviewers in each field who actually do have the personal experience and current connections that let them make an informed set of speculations, and there are a few people who've learned the lesson from Noam Chomsky and I.F. Stone and provide quite devastatingly accurate analysis by relying purely on publicly available information.

Then there's everybody else.

C.S. Lewis once wrote that, as nearly as he recalled, no guess on the part of a critic as to whether a passage had been easy or hard to write, joyful or depressing to him as the author, or anything like that had ever been correct. That's been my experience as well - I can at the moment think of two (2) reviewers who assayed speculation about what went on behind the scenes in the creation of books I helped make who were right on. That's two, in reviews of volumes that total up to a million plus of my own words and several million more of others. Broadly speaking, fans don't know what's going on in the ofices. Many actively resist being corrected and informed, too.

And all this effort that goes into doomed speculation is basically wasted space. It doesn't help anyone better understand the comic at hand because it's all wrong, or if it's right is right only by accident. Meanwhile, we don't know much about what the reader actually thought of the words, images, and overall presentation of the comic, because they haven't bothered telling us.

I'm certainly not opposed to reading the tea leaves so as to do business analysis. I'm fascinated by what sales data folks can tease out, what they might see in trends about what is and isn't PR - all the stuff Dick Hyacinth comments about on his blog in his entry commenting on this gerfuffle. And in such analysis, remarks on the contents of specific books may well play a part. Good stuff, done well.

It's just that it's not reviewing of the comics, and yet very often it's presented as if it were, and helps saturate the environment against the intrusion of real, honest to goodness reviewing of the sort that (to grab a name at random) that Sean Collins guy is doing.

As I said up front, I know that this is a carried-over bugaboo with me, and I'm really making no pretense of objectivity. It bugs me, I wish it would stop, I wish there were more actual reviewers so that I could learn things about how the books we put out actually work for anyone outside our collective head. I want more reviews that suggest I will have a great time with this comics or should stay away from that one, in both cases because it says enough about what's there that I can make a judgment. I would give up ever so much bogus speculation and irrelevant efforts to pretend one were editor in chief for such things.

Dang I'm grumpy. Time to hit the orange juice and see what I can do about this cold.


Kiel Phegley:

Bruce, I think you nailed it in terms of the number of fans who have an accurate idea of how the business side of comics affects the creative side being dwarfed immeasurably by people who are way off base.

Like you, my time at Wizard Magazine was eye-opening in that the criticisms we'd get for our work, fair or unfair, fell so off the mark in terms of guessing the editorial mindset at the company that all we employees could do was stare slack-jawed at the responses. I can only imagine how much worse that effect is for talk around DC and Marvel.

That said, there are some general trends folks can surmise based on the info out there, and I think the people involved in this discussion have proven themselves a bit more objective and successful in leveling criticisms that combine business analysis and creative success without diving straight into the straw man readership arena. Although, I think there's more than enough straight marketing and business analysis that can be done on the comics industry totally independent of debate over the quality of the product that it doesn't matter in some cases how good a book is. It's pretty obvious that Marvel has killed it in terms of reader awareness of /buzz on Secret Invasion regardless of what any of us think of the series. Similarly, DC's inability to sell Countdown and Final Crisis to readers outside of how the stories turned out could support it's own news organization.

There's value in looking at the general ways in which the business choices made by executives hinders or enhances the creative atmosphere the artists work in, but if folks like Sean can dial all that noise down and just enjoy the books, I think it can give us a better starting point for discussing how good work succeeds or how bad work fails.


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