by Nevs Coleman

Latest

In Fear Of a $10 Comic.

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So, like everyone else working in comics in the last couple of weeks, my newsfeed has been an absolute torrent of news. Fantastic Four, Secret Wars, A-Force,  Convergence, all kinds of speculation to where all this is actually going and what the endgame is for both Marvel and DC once their big events end.

Looking at Marvel’s actions over the last couple of years and the line-up of the ongoing titles DC are launching during and post-Convergence, I think its fair to say that The Big Two have finally woken up. They’ve realised that there is an audience to try to draw in, rather than placating the Buys New Comics Weds Morning 36+ White Male demographics as they have been since the launch of the Direct Market. This HAS to be a good idea, because as things stand, we’re all on a train that makes a lot of noise but doesn’t run very well.

Let me digress here, because I get some grief for my continued belief that the Weds regulars are the thing that’s holding the medium back.

First off, I need to say ‘Thank You’ to that crowd. A genuine Thank You. Before the films, cartoons, Anime and such made the world of comics cool again, you were there without fail, every Thursday and then Wednesday, you kept the industry going through Wizard, through Image, the summer of 93. through Heroes World,, through Diamond becoming the exclusive distributor of comics, through no end of price rises, event books, The New 52, Marvel NOW! and everything else. Every person working in comics today owes you a debt of gratitude for sticking with the business when so many have left.

I do mean that, but I also mean this:

We are at crisis point with the state of modern comics. We;re edging closer with every month towards the standard issue of Batman or Avengers being $5 an issue. Print runs are at shockingly low numbers (Ignore the glitch that was Star Wars 1. A fair amount of that print run was Gamestop buying copies to generate their own variants and even if it wasn’t, what other comic on the horizon do YOU see breaking 1 Million copies in preorders?*.) and unless radical steps are taken, there can’t be a way to keep comics as we understand them going. The maths just won’t add up. Plus, both Time Warner and Disney own DC and Marvel, so if the sales figures get too bad, I have to imagine someone at Disney will say to whoever Marvel’s CEO would be ‘Look, we’ve let you do it your way, and it isn’t working. Now we’re doing this.’

The first step was finally accepting the internet is part of most people’s lives, and rather than letting the pirates get all the income of digital comics (Meaning neither publisher nor retailer saw any profit.), letting things like Comixology, Sequential, Dark Horse Digital and Marvel Unlimited happen. The next was bending the books away from standard playing to the guy who knows the difference between Azrael and Talon and creating more accessible, all ages,woman friendly content  Things like Hawkeye, Batgirl, Young Avengers, Grayson, Harley Quinn, Captain Marvel, Journey Into Mystery. None of these books have sold particularly well, but they are selling to a different audience than the guys picking up all of the Original Sin crossovers, I’ve noticed.

Ultimately, as I’ve said many, many times before, a 45-year-old can appreciate an issue of Batman, but an issue of Batman should never, ever be written for a 45 year old’s appreciation. Which is where the difficult bit is going to come in.

For American Superhero comics (And by virtue, everything else, because I love Love & Rockets, The Goon, Stray Bullets and Sex Criminals very much, but you can’t run a shop on the profits of work like that alone, unless you’re very rich to start with.) to survive, there needs to be an understanding that the writers on those books need to stop writing to you, the afore-mentioned 45 year olds. You’ve had nearly fifty years of being catered to, but Batman has to be a tween book again. Not just Batman, either. Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Flash, Wolverine, Thor, the lot.

And you need to shut up and let it happen. No Gatekeeping. No more demanding that Cosplayers aren’t allowed to dress up as Female Green Goblin unless they know who Lefty Donovan is. This random influx of younger readers who love the material so much they actually dress up as Kate Bishop or Batgirl are the best hope for the survival of the industry. Please, please don’t drive them away because you resent that Batman isn’t written for you and your extensive knowledge of Joe Chill and The Drake family anymore. The truth is those comics should never have been written for you in the first place.

Kelly Sue DeConnick was quoted in a post over at Badassdigest explaining the hurdles with attempting to launch comics in today’s market. On the whole, I tend to agree with her assertion that the main problem is trying to sell radical ideas to a conservative audience, where things that aren’t WASP HeroGuy and his pals and gals (Or New WASP HeroGuy and his pals and gals, or Uncanny WASP HeroGuy and his pals and gals, etc) just don’t sell. I believe she received a bit of stick for essentially blaming the consumer base, but I can’t see who else there is to blame. Publishers respond to what sells and attempts to duplicate that formula, Diamond can only offer what publishers print to retailers who can only sell what their customers are willing to buy.

DeConnick also raises the rise of sales of Manga to young women in America, pointing out that it is actually easier for them to get into Manga, a translated medium than it is to start reading comics about characters they’ve seen in American made films. She points out how simple it is to walk into Barnes & Noble and get into One Piece, which is true. Even walking into any comic shop and picking up her own Captain Marvel isn’t very simple when you realise that there are seven different volumes with the same title, no two of the trades necessarily relate to each other, not all of them actually feature Carol Danvers and that’s without the whole Shazam! thing tied into the name, and as she rightly says, that’s assuming you’re dealing with a friendly & knowledgable member of Comics Retail who isn’t trying to shun any women from entering the clubhouse.

The problem with seeing Manga’s working model as a situation to aspire to is the main problem that The Direct Market gave us.

Comics are sold firm sale to retailers from Diamond. Waterstone’s or Barnes & Noble could take a chance of getting a full run of Ultimate Muscle in stock. A quick Wiki tells me that’s 29 books, and that’s a fairly short run for most popular Manga. If the books don’t sell. No big, they can just be returned to VizMedia and it becomes their problem.

If a comic shop tries that, it’s a firm investment of maybe $250. Once the shop has them, they can’t be sent back to Diamond. Take that risk and crap out too many times and that’s the end of your shop. Assuming the audience you would have had for those books don’t realise that you can read almost any popular Manga these days for free online and aren’t obligated to keep buying the books from you. (It literally took me two minutes to find a site that ran perfectly translated scans of Bakuman, and I didn’t know what I was doing or what the hot hub sites are for this material.)

So, some major problems there: The content is too expensive, it’s inaccessible to new readers and the comics aren’t written to the target audience, who aren’t willing to buy outside of their comfort zone anyway.

I have a couple of ideas on this:

First Off, Marvel and DC need to brand ALL their comics with volume numbers as fast as is humanly possible.

You don’t know much about comics, but you’ve just watched Daredevil on Netflix, and decide you quite like it, so you’re going to learn more about Matt Murdock. You go to a comic shop and the person there sells you Daredevil (Devil At Bay.) Volume 1 by Mark Waid. You take it home, read it, decide that’s quite good as well and go back to the shop. It’s a different and less helpful member of staff on duty, so you search the shelves to find Daredevil Volume 2 by Mark Waid. When you look, you find Daredevil: Volume 2 by Mark Waid, Daredevil Volume 2: West Case Scenario by Mark Waid and possibly also the hardcover called….Daredevil Volume 2. By Mark Waid.

You see the problem here, and that was a fairly simple example featuring a character who only has one title. Keeping up with the volumes of Avengers, New Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Avengers: A.I. and their multitude of relaunches is an absolute nightmare**. Customers come into the shop having seen the films, innocently asking ‘Got any Avengers books?’ and my heart sinks realising the two minutes of explanation this is going to take, made worse by the fact that there are no Avengers comics that are anything LIKE the film that made the franchise desirable to the outside world in the first place. (‘I realise you liked The Black Widow and Iron Man, but I can do you a comic where the Black Panther kills Namor instead? No?’)

I’m aware that Marvel have been attempting to emulate the season format from Television with their comics in recent years, but the thing is, if you put a DVD on sale that reads ‘Breaking Bad: Season Two.’ on the cover, that doesn’t hinder sales because people don’t buy them for their investment value. The comics and subsequent trades are too difficult for any new reader to get into, to the point of their giving up on the entire medium. Just take the books and add ‘Volume 7: Book 3’ or whatever to the spine and cover. It’s not difficult, and to bring up the Manga comparison again, you start reading Death Note with Volume 1. It’s quite simple to both buy and sell.

Make the first three issues of any new series returnable. And preferably cheaper than average.

There are no fixed commodities in comics. None. For every Amazing Spider-Man, there’s a Web Of Spider-Man, a Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Spider-Man Unlimited, a Spectacular Spider-Man, a Sensational Spider-Man, an Avenging Spider-Man, Superior Spider-Man Team Up, Marvel Team Up, books designed to cash in on the popularity of a title. More often than not, it just doesn’t work, because of the refusal to believe that the creative team are responsible for the resurgence of interest in -Men, or Hulk or whatever, so there’s just the daft idea that the punters have suddenly decided they really like Batman, with Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb creating the content having nothing to do with the increased sales. (And you wonder why Image happened?) Just sticking the brand name ‘Avengers’ on a comic doesn’t guarantee high sales.

I, for one, am ecstatic at the risks being taken at the moment. A female Thor, A black Captain America, Ms Marvel, a rise in female-led books, more than ever before, but if they’re fed through the same filter, they’re going to die on the shelves and two years from now, we’ll just see more Avengers and Justice League spin-offs dominating the shelves.

What we need here is the ability to properly promote these books. More than a couple of unlettered pages in Previews and maybe an artist publishing a cover on their personal Tumblr. Say what you like about Image, but when soliciting new comics in Previews, each book gets a couple of pages of story art, the cover, a synopsis in the solicitation and also more content in their newsletter. That’s the best way of doing it, for my mind.

Compare this to DC, who’ll write flimsy ‘An all new start for The Flash as he buys a puppy. $3:99’ or Marvel either releasing as little information as possible so to avoid spoilers and returnable books or just writing snarky text to presumably amuse themselves. It’s all well good to keep the actual events of a comic from readers, but retailers need more to work with than that.

The thing is, we can only guess how well a new comic will sell until it actually hits the shelves, and for all the PR dick waving of Pre-Order Numbers and buying huge quantities of a print run for investment purposes, (Try selling a copy of Rob Liefeld’s X-Force 1 from 1990 today.) how the books sell from retailer to customer are what determines the book’s fate. Chucking comics at us with no preview material, high cover prices and the frankly arrogant assumption that the customers will buy it because it features someone from the Batman family leads to…well, where we are now. But if the new titles were solicited with decent preview material, a cheaper cover price to entice new readers to taking a chance and that 3 issue returnable window would mean retailers would order more copies and wouldn’t be taking such a gamble from their own income should the book tank (You can only lead a horse to water, and we’re a bit tired of paying out ourselves every time it doesn’t drink.)

So, ideally, if Marvel were to launch, say, a Black Cat comic by Terry Dodson and Kathryn Immonen comic spinning out of Secret Wars, the 1st and 2nd issue would cost $2:50, we’d have spoiler free preview material to show customers and we’d be able to see how well the book actually sold in shops and order subsequent issues based on that information, rather than having to do the ’40 for 1, 25 for 2, 15 for 3….Actually make it 30 for 1. People don’t buy female lead comics ‘ formula that can kill books before they even get started.

With cheaper access comics, featuring material written to the correct audiences and a back catalogue filing system that’s much easier to understand, the industry could start to flourish again, keeping the old material in print and embracing a young audience who are demonstrably keen to get into our business, but literally don’t know where to start.

Because if we don’t start thinking along these lines, nothing will change. The audiences will continue to decline, and the rest of us too stupidly devoted to funnybooks will end up paying for those who’ve left or never started in the first place. I’m 37, and I fully expect to see a regular issue of Amazing Spider-Man costing $10 before I die.

I hope, and pray, I’m wrong.

* Now wait and see Secret Wars get pre-orders of 1.5 Million just to prove me wrong…

**Or as a colleague put it last week: ‘Another Powers Issue 1. Huh, I guess it IS Tuesday.’

My reaction to the end of The Marvel Universe.

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So, I’ve seen the same news everyone else has and here are my first impressions.

Well, having been reading Avengers and Avengers NOW and whatever the other ones that aren’t the beautiful Uncanny Avengers, this morning’s news about the end of The Marvel Universe doesn’t come as a shock. There wasn’t a way back from the Black Panther murdering Namor, or Pete’s deal with Mephisto that everyone at the Spider-Man team has been trying to rewrite ever since. Time and continuity in The Marvel Universe has been a fractured mess since Age Of Ultron, and the upcoming Secret War appears to be the get out clause needed to fix a number of stories that have contradicted each other since the beginning.

A number of things spring to mind here, not least of which being ‘How wise is it to launch comics like Silk or Spider-Gwen a few months before everything breaks down?’, but I don’t work at Marvel, so it could be that those titles will carry over post Secret Wars. I personally will be glad to see the back of The Ultimate Universe, a line that’s had no real meaning and suffered a number spike reboots that have read like nothing but professionally drawn fan fiction since Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch finished their run on The Ultimates 2.

A worry is that long-term Marvel readers have put up with a hell of a lot over the last few decades. High priced mini-series, crossovers with no real point, deaths and rebirths, snarky editorial teams throwing personal jabs at readers for not liking what’s been written (‘Brand New Day’ was particularly bad for this.), and this might be it for a few comic fans. I posted on Dan Didio’s wall a few days ago that the reaction from comic readers to The New 52 was that people who’d been buying every mainstream DC Comic out of habit (i.e, Not Vertigo, Wildstorm, and licensed books.) upped and cancelled their entire order for DC product and never came back. That was a loss of sales of roughly 50 comics per month from a number of customers which added up to the best part of a thousand pounds of lost income.

This morning, I’m not at work, so haven’t heard the reactions from the customers to this news yet, but I’m more than aware that many of them are to be blunt, sick of each year featuring two crossovers plus a number of spin-off books that they’ve felt compelled to buy and have been looking for a reason to stop. If, as suggested in the news piece, that this is the end of The Marvel Universe as we know it, then the inevitable Amazing Spider-Man 1, Captain America 1, Uncanny X-Men 1 etc might have to find a new audience., much like Batman 1, Action Comics 1 did.

Personally, I think there’s a lot of potential good here, but as DC proved with The New 52, you can’t put the old poison in a new glass and expect people to want to drink it, so here’s what can be done to potentially expand the comic market beyond the addicts and into the new generation of people interested in Marvel via the films:

1) Keep the ‘controversial’ changes.

With the exception of stupid people, nobody has a problem with Captain America being black, Spider-Man being Hispanic, Northstar being gay or Thor being a woman. There are things that need sorting out with Marvel’s line up of characters, but reconfiguring them so they’re all whitebread WASPS isn’t a thing that needs to happen Whatever else I’ve said about Marvel, I totally applaud their attempts to reach out to other demographics beyond ’45 Year Old White Man Who Thinks All Comics Should Written For His Tastes Alone.’ and speaking of that….

2) Decide who your audience is for your characters is once and for all and write for them.

As a customer, I can go into Toys R Us and buy a Deadpool Marvel Mash-Up action figure, a toy designed for children. I can also go into a comic shop and buy Deadpool Max, which features mental illness played for laughs, child abuse, a brief lecture on the history of the KKK and a good amount of other plot elements that are either unsuitable for anyone under 10 or will just plain bore them.

As a retailer, this trend of writing Marvel Super-Heroes to the older audience has been an absolute nightmare. There should not be a point where I have to remember if the issue of Avengers a child is buying is the one that features Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne having super-powered oral sex. Yes, it makes me laugh, but I shouldn’t be the target audience for characters that also appear in video games aimed at kids like Disney Infinity Marvel. You can’t have it both ways with branding franchises for kids, because parents don’t generally know the difference between Deadpool and Deadpool Max and there’s no reason for them to have to second guess you.

Either cancel all the toy lines/videogames/cartoon merchandising, or put out comics featuring those characters that anyone who’s got into them via Lego Marvel can read, which fits nicely into….

3) Bring Back Epic.

Or if not Epic, or Icon, or something akin to Vertigo, anyway.

The problem with the Direct Market taking control of how comics were ordered is that audience dictated the content. In an ideal world, Marvel’s flagship icons like Hulk, X-Men or Spider-Man would be a gateway comic that led people into the medium, much like Donald Duck or Archie. Once you’d been into them a few years, you’d realise that these aren’t stories in the way that Preacher or From Hell or Cerebus is a story with a beginning, middle and end and you’d graduate up to books that reflected your interests and concerns. That’s a fairly intelligent model that works in other mediums. You don’t quit watching Television because High School Confidential or Hannah Montana doesn’t appeal to you anymore, you just move onto different shows.

Sadly, in comics, what appears to have happened is that the readers of Marvel/DC superhero comics never wised up that they should have stopped playing with the kid’s toys, and moved onto more adult oriented fare, and instead (especially when the fans became pros.) made the kid’s stuff more adult in tone and content. So now Secret Invasion isn’t just a daft story about Skrulls invading the Earth, but rather an allegory for post 9-11 America and the inability to trust close friends for fear that they’re double agents working as terrorists.

Again, in an Avengers comic. The same Avengers who I can buy Lego figures of.

I’m not arguing that intelligent commentary on social issues can’t be done in comics, or even that superhero comics are incapable of tackling such topics, just that Marvel Superheroes aren’t the place to do long office scenes discussing the nature of perception vs reality or hostile corporate takeovers. These things are literally meant to be kid’s stuff.

So instead, create the ‘adult’ line. Bring in the creator owned deal that DC used to run with Vertigo. Sign up the likes of Minimum Wage, Sex Criminals, Grindhouse, offer to reprint Love & Rockets in colour for the first time. Be a PUBLISHER, rather than a vehicle to put out new Marvel Superhero product. A defined adult line would allow writers to express the concepts they’re interested in without having to jack the Spider-Man brand into conveying ideas it wasn’t designed for. and finally.

4) Sort out your pricing structure, once and for all.

So She-Hulk was $2:99  an issue without a downloadable digital copy, Amazing Spider-Man is  $3:99 an issue with the code, but Miracleman runs 16 pages an issue for $5 a pop without the code.

How but who but whuh?

I’ve argued the point about the price of modern comics before, but this is the most defining moment for the future of American comics, I think. (Where Marvel goes, everyone follows.) It is, or shouldn’t be, a secret that comic sales are down. They’ve been in a steady decline since the 70’s and the numbers on pre-orders that are touted as huge news stories today are the same numbers that would have had you fired for poor performance less that twenty years ago. (I think Star Wars is a massive glitch, not a turn around for the future of comics and I expect to see copies of Star Wars 1 in every collection I buy in for the rest of my career as everyone realises a million copies of anything can’t possibly be rare in a market that has less than a million readers.)

Every point I’ve made are occurrences that have been detrimental to the expansion of comics as a medium, whether it’s the content being too adult, too obtuse, too decompressed to the point that it takes 5 issues to tell a two-part story,and essentially a publisher treating their customers like drug addicts who will pick up their next fix regardless, but if there’s one thing I’ve seen standing order customers (That is, people who have an order to pick up an amount of comics from month to month without fail.) cancel their order over  more than anything else, it’s the constant price rises, the gradual jacking up the dollar cost of a comic every two or three years.

While profits mat have remained roughly the same, it’s only due to the price rises making up the deficit in reader, so essentially, those readers who carried on buying when others simply decided ‘No, this costs too much money now.’ are effectively being charged extra for their loyalty.

Obviously, that situation is suicide, and I fully expect to live to see the regular issue of Amazing Spider-Man costing $10. A step forward, and a show of confidence would be to re-price the new line at reasonable amounts. Nobody I know (who doesn’t work for Marvel, anyway.) thinks $4 is an acceptable price for one 24 page comic, and certainly not an amount that would lure younger readers (who I’d remind you again are meant to be the target audience for Amazing Spider-Man.) into getting into the medium. No one would believe Marvel are in danger of going under while they’re funded by Disney, so they could certainly afford perhaps $3 for a regular superhero comic, maybe with the option of another edition at $3:50 with a downloadable code

I’d say it’s long past time to stop playing to the adults who’ll buy X-Men no matter what’s done with the franchise, to stop appealing to the speculators who are and have never been of any benefit to the comics industry with this variant business and finally to stop letting adults who should know better to stop writing The Avengers as a pitch for an adult oriented sitcom.

It’s time to grow up and let the Kids back into their sandbox.

My Reaction To The Marvel Universe Ending.

 

 

sw1

So, I’ve seen the same news everyone else has and here are my first impressions.

Well, having been reading Avengers and Avengers NOW and whatever the other ones that aren’t the beautiful Uncanny Avengers, this morning’s news about the end of The Marvel Universe doesn’t come as a shock. There wasn’t a way back from the Black Panther murdering Namor, or Pete’s deal with Mephisto that everyone at the Spider-Man team has been trying to rewrite ever since. Time and continuity in The Marvel Universe has been a fractured mess since Age Of Ultron, and the upcoming Secret War appears to be the get out clause needed to fix a number of stories that have contradicted each other since the beginning.

A number of things spring to mind here, not least of which being ‘How wise is it to launch comics like Silk or Spider-Gwen a few months before everything breaks down?’, but I don’t work at Marvel, so it could be that those titles will carry over post Secret Wars. I personally will be glad to see the back of The Ultimate Universe, a line that’s had no real meaning and suffered a number spike reboots that have read like nothing but professionally drawn fan fiction since Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch finished their run on The Ultimates 2.

A worry is that long-term Marvel readers have put up with a hell of a lot over the last few decades. High priced mini-series, crossovers with no real point, deaths and rebirths, snarky editorial teams throwing personal jabs at readers for not liking what’s been written (‘Brand New Day’ was particularly bad for this.), and this might be it for a few comic fans. I posted on Dan Didio’s wall a few days ago that the reaction from comic readers to The New 52 was that people who’d been buying every mainstream DC Comic out of habit (i.e, Not Vertigo, Wildstorm, and licensed books.) upped and cancelled their entire order for DC product and never came back. That was a loss of sales of roughly 50 comics per month from a number of customers which added up to the best part of a thousand pounds of lost income.

This morning, I’m not at work, so haven’t heard the reactions from the customers to this news yet, but I’m more than aware that many of them are to be blunt, sick of each year featuring two crossovers plus a number of spin-off books that they’ve felt compelled to buy and have been looking for a reason to stop. If, as suggested in the news piece, that this is the end of The Marvel Universe as we know it, then the inevitable Amazing Spider-Man 1, Captain America 1, Uncanny X-Men 1 etc might have to find a new audience., much like Batman 1, Action Comics 1 did.

Personally, I think there’s a lot of potential good here, but as DC proved with The New 52, you can’t put the old poison in a new glass and expect people to want to drink it, so here’s what can be done to potentially expand the comic market beyond the addicts and into the new generation of people interested in Marvel via the films:

1) Keep the ‘controversial’ changes.

With the exception of stupid people, nobody has a problem with Captain America being black, Spider-Man being Hispanic, Northstar being gay or Thor being a woman. There are things that need sorting out with Marvel’s line up of characters, but reconfiguring them so they’re all whitebread WASPS isn’t a thing that needs to happen Whatever else I’ve said about Marvel, I totally applaud their attempts to reach out to other demographics beyond ’45 Year Old White Man Who Thinks All Comics Should Written For His Tastes Alone.’ and speaking of that….

2) Decide who your audience is for your characters is once and for all and write for them.

As a customer, I can go into Toys R Us and buy a Deadpool Marvel Mash-Up action figure, a toy designed for children. I can also go into a comic shop and buy Deadpool Max, which features mental illness played for laughs, child abuse, a brief lecture on the history of the KKK and a good amount of other plot elements that are either unsuitable for anyone under 10 or will just plain bore them.

As a retailer, this trend of writing Marvel Super-Heroes to the older audience has been an absolute nightmare. There should not be a point where I have to remember if the issue of Avengers a child is buying is the one that features Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne having super-powered oral sex. Yes, it makes me laugh, but I shouldn’t be the target audience for characters that also appear in video games aimed at kids like Disney Infinity Marvel. You can’t have it both ways with branding franchises for kids, because parents don’t generally know the difference between Deadpool and Deadpool Max and there’s no reason for them to have to second guess you.

Either cancel all the toy lines/videogames/cartoon merchandising, or put out comics featuring those characters that anyone who’s got into them via Lego Marvel can read, which fits nicely into….

3) Bring Back Epic.

Or if not Epic, or Icon, or something akin to Vertigo, anyway.

The problem with the Direct Market taking control of how comics were ordered is that audience dictated the content. In an ideal world, Marvel’s flagship icons like Hulk, X-Men or Spider-Man would be a gateway comic that led people into the medium, much like Donald Duck or Archie. Once you’d been into them a few years, you’d realise that these aren’t stories in the way that Preacher or From Hell or Cerebus is a story with a beginning, middle and end and you’d graduate up to books that reflected your interests and concerns. That’s a fairly intelligent model that works in other mediums. You don’t quit watching Television because High School Confidential or Hannah Montana doesn’t appeal to you anymore, you just move onto different shows.

Sadly, in comics, what appears to have happened is that the readers of Marvel/DC superhero comics never wised up that they should have stopped playing with the kid’s toys, and moved onto more adult oriented fare, and instead (especially when the fans became pros.) made the kid’s stuff more adult in tone and content. So now Secret Invasion isn’t just a daft story about Skrulls invading the Earth, but rather an allegory for post 9-11 America and the inability to trust close friends for fear that they’re double agents working as terrorists.

Again, in an Avengers comic. The same Avengers who I can buy Lego figures of.

I’m not arguing that intelligent commentary on social issues can’t be done in comics, or even that superhero comics are incapable of tackling such topics, just that Marvel Superheroes aren’t the place to do long office scenes discussing the nature of perception vs reality or hostile corporate takeovers. These things are literally meant to be kid’s stuff.

So instead, create the ‘adult’ line. Bring in the creator owned deal that DC used to run with Vertigo. Sign up the likes of Minimum Wage, Sex Criminals, Grindhouse, offer to reprint Love & Rockets in colour for the first time. Be a PUBLISHER, rather than a vehicle to put out new Marvel Superhero product. A defined adult line would allow writers to express the concepts they’re interested in without having to jack the Spider-Man brand into conveying ideas it wasn’t designed for. and finally.

4) Sort out your pricing structure, once and for all.

So She-Hulk was $2:99  an issue without a downloadable digital copy, Amazing Spider-Man is  $3:99 an issue with the code, but Miracleman runs 16 pages an issue for $5 a pop without the code.

How but who but whuh?

I’ve argued the point about the price of modern comics before, but this is the most defining moment for the future of American comics, I think. (Where Marvel goes, everyone follows.) It is, or shouldn’t be, a secret that comic sales are down. They’ve been in a steady decline since the 70’s and the numbers on pre-orders that are touted as huge news stories today are the same numbers that would have had you fired for poor performance less that twenty years ago. (I think Star Wars is a massive glitch, not a turn around for the future of comics and I expect to see copies of Star Wars 1 in every collection I buy in for the rest of my career as everyone realises a million copies of anything can’t possibly be rare in a market that has less than a million readers.)

Every point I’ve made are occurrences that have been detrimental to the expansion of comics as a medium, whether it’s the content being too adult, too obtuse, too decompressed to the point that it takes 5 issues to tell a two-part story,and essentially a publisher treating their customers like drug addicts who will pick up their next fix regardless, but if there’s one thing I’ve seen standing order customers (That is, people who have an order to pick up an amount of comics from month to month without fail.) cancel their order over  more than anything else, it’s the constant price rises, the gradual jacking up the dollar cost of a comic every two or three years.

While profits mat have remained roughly the same, it’s only due to the price rises making up the deficit in reader, so essentially, those readers who carried on buying when others simply decided ‘No, this costs too much money now.’ are effectively being charged extra for their loyalty.

Obviously, that situation is suicide, and I fully expect to live to see the regular issue of Amazing Spider-Man costing $10. A step forward, and a show of confidence would be to re-price the new line at reasonable amounts. Nobody I know (who doesn’t work for Marvel, anyway.) thinks $4 is an acceptable price for one 24 page comic, and certainly not an amount that would lure younger readers (who I’d remind you again are meant to be the target audience for Amazing Spider-Man.) into getting into the medium. No one would believe Marvel are in danger of going under while they’re funded by Disney, so they could certainly afford perhaps $3 for a regular superhero comic, maybe with the option of another edition at $3:50 with a downloadable code

I’d say it’s long past time to stop playing to the adults who’ll buy X-Men no matter what’s done with the franchise, to stop appealing to the speculators who are and have never been of any benefit to the comics industry with this variant business and finally to stop letting adults who should know better to stop writing The Avengers as a pitch for an adult oriented sitcom.

It’s time to grow up and let the Kids back into their sandbox.

Sigh, this shit AGAIN?

Right, so this is both awkward and embarrassing, but had a bit of harassment this week, backed up by things I did when not very well. I don’t believe in living in fear of blackmail, so here it is:

During the period between 2009 and 2011, I was misdiagnosed as Bi-Polar Disorder 2. Due to that, I was prescribed a number of anti-depressants that, when mixed with booze, led to my dong a number of things I’m both deeply ashamed of and regret very, very deeply, hurting friends and damaging my life in ways that still haunt me both personally and professionally to this day.

As my reactions to the medication grew worse and the stress of literally waking up every day to a fresh bunch of damage, I became more and more erratic, this culminated in waking up literally mid-seizure. Freaked out by this, I asked my employers at this period to give me a week off to try and sort my head out, be clear of any work related worries. That holiday was agreed and I was given the impression that upon my return from the holiday that my job was secure.

I came back from France to drop off some old stock to trade in to find I’d been replaced and fired after 6 years of employment. In those six years I worked the hardest I could under the…..conditions that job placed me under and trying to deal with the effects of mis-prescribed medication. Despite this, there was no severance package, no exit interview, just aggression and hostility.

People who I’d considered friends turned their back on me, and after a nasty incident, I was left homeless for six months and spent a week in Lewisham Hospital after a suicide attempt. Nobody from my previous employer, many of whom I’d helped out in various ways got in contact. I was literally left to rot whilst begging on the streets. A few months after this, I discovered a totally unauthorised comic depicting elements of my mental health issues was being circulated on the Internet. Whether that comic has derived any income isn’t known to me, but if it has, I would ask that any of that money be donated to either MIND or Shelter.

Now, as most of you know, I’m the best part of two years alcohol free, drug free except regulated anti-depressants (and, MAN, that took a while to sort out.) If you were to ask around if any similar incidents have taken place since getting my life together almost entirely on my own, well, anyone who tells you anything but ‘Nope.’ is a liar. I’ve heard that the story involving my sending dubious text messages was the reasoning behind my dismissal, but that actually happened about four months AFTER my probably illegal dismissal.

Now, in all honesty, I thought that period of my life was done with, I’ll get invites to attend various launches an such there, but politely declined them, however, said blackmailer had details that could only have come from staff there that were either working there at the time, or have passed on information to newer employees. Since this all kicked off around Tuesday afternoon, I can only assume their grudge against me carries on.

So I’d ask now that if you’re compiling a list of invites for various events or tagging me in some publicity on Facebook or Twitter, please don’t. This is a polite warning. Ignoring it will get you blocked from my life entirely. I want nothing to do with anyone working there, and telling me you’ve shopped there won;t be met with much in the way of response beyond an ‘Oh.’ and then changing the subject very quickly. I’m obviously on the side of promoting new talent, but asking me to reblog things you have happening there isn’t going to happen.
Thanks for your time, I’ve left details of my sordid past out for no reason except I have younger members of family on here. If you want to discuss them with me, you’re quite welcome to direct message me, although any members of the comics community attempting to judge me will be probably laughed at, given what I’m aware of and have shown far more understanding of than I’ve got, to be honest with you.

END OF YEAR TOP TEN BLOWOUT BECAUSE NOW IS CHRISTMAS NOT COLUMN WRITINGMAS!* GUEST STARRING IVY DOOMKITTY FOR REASONS THAT ARE WEAK TO SAY THE LEAST!

*(Unless Marvel’s Axis finishes before Christmas, because man, do I have stuff to say about that comic. I’ll postpone wrapping presents to do that column.)

Every time I lace up my boots, I learn something new.’ -Bret Hart

HEY, KIDS!

HOLD ONTO YOUR HATS, AS I RUN THROUGH THE TOP TEN TOTAL BESTEST COMICS OF 2014, BE SURE TO TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS SECTION IF I’M WRONG AND-

Sigh.

No, Bollocks. I can’t do it.

Look, I understand the whole Top Ten thing is very popular at this time of year. It’s an easy gig: Slap together a couple of sentences explaining why chosen thing is good, throw in a couple of adjectives and add a dash of suggestion that you’re not quite keeping up with the Joneses and you probably shouldn’t say anything else until you’ve bought THIS slice of entertainment. It’s quick, easy web traffic and all that. The success of sites like Cracked, Upworthy, Bored Panda and such would suggest that lists are popular with humans. But here’s my issue (The LULZ! ISSUES, THO!)  with the whole process

Taste is entirely personal. I might have gone off on this before, but really, I don’t take my tastes as something to get too worried about, and it doesn’t really bother me too much if someone doesn’t share them anymore than I get insecure if I like banana & bacon sandwiches and you don’t.

I mean, what am I going to do? Shout ‘HOW DARE YOU NOT LIKE BACON & BANANA SANDWICHES?’ at you until you eat one? You didn’t enjoy eating it, and now I’ve wasted a sandwich on someone who didn’t want one in the first place. Achievement, and sandwich…wasted.

Also, while these kind of pieces do generate a degree of feedback, it’s usually the most banal conversation in the world. Either: ‘I’m glad your reviewer, clearly a humanoid of fine taste enjoyed ‘All New Strumpet Lass. I also enjoyed it. Now there are two of us who enjoy each issue of ‘All New Strumpet Lass.’ (To which I can’t really think of a response beyond ‘Good?’) or worse, the kind of response that always runs something along these lines.

Dear Sir.

I have just read your review of ‘Construction Tales’, and can only conclude that you clearly weren’t reading the same comic as I. While you are certainly entitled to your, ahem,  subjective opinion, I enjoyed every single panel hugely. I delighted at the nuances, drank in the splendor of the artwork and a great many of my friends, whose opinion I greatly respect, also had lots of good things to say about the work. I am stunned that you would only rate ‘Constructive Tales’ 8 out of the ten best comics of the year when it should be 2, or perhaps even, dare I suggest, Number 1.

Your Sincerely.

Mr Tony Bloggs, Falkirk.’

This sort of shit was so frequent in music magazines, that when I worked in a record shop around the turn of the century, we’d scour Mojo, Uncut, etc to see who had filled their letter with all those elements first. The last person to get all of those components from the month’s feedback would have to go out and buy coffee for everyone else.

First off, what’s the point of this? Are any of these people actually expecting some kind of retraction to happen?

Dear Readers. Last Christmas, we published a top ten list of comics released in 2014. After receiving a letter from Tony Bloggs, Falkirk, we’ve seen the error of our ways and have repositioned ‘Sexy Violent’ at the number 1 spot, rather than the number 4 place it had been in previously. We apologise for our error and would like to thank Tony for pointing out our mistake. We shall be consulting Tony with all our opinions from now on and also have set him with a night out at Hooters with Ivy Doomkitty, on us. 

Thank you, The editors and our mothers. Who are very ashamed of us.’

'What's your column about this week, Nevs? The futility of list culture as it pertains to the perception of art? Yeah. Good luck drawing them into read THAT this Christmas!'

‘What’s your column about this week, Nevs? The futility of list culture as it pertains to the perception of art? Yeah. Good luck drawing them into reading THAT this Christmas!’

Also, you know, it comes back to the same argument I’ve been making since the last time I did acid. All stimuli is experienced subjectively. Your personal history denotes your personality and what you like and don’t. Since all human lives are utterly unique, there is no possible way any two people can see the same thing since your filters are retaining the information in a totally different fashion. I can not make you like bacon & banana sandwiches if you don’t already have a taste for that kind of thing. You’re either attracted to a thing or not, and when you think of comics in these terms, all the arguments for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art become fairly…ludicrous.

‘YOU DO NOT LIKE VANILLA ICE CREAM. THIS IS BAD. MANY OF US DO LIKE VANILLA ICE CREAM, THEREFORE WE HAVE AGREED NOT LIKING VANILLA ICE CREAM IS A BAD OPINION.’

So, I’m afraid I’ve got no real desire to rate comics on a 1 to 10 scale of quality, since there’s nothing really tangible to suggest that score. At least with football, the team at the top of the league has scored an amount of points at this point in the season that is more than all the other teams. If it were a sales chart, I could show you the pre-orders for Death Of Wolverine 1 that were greater than any other comic published in 2014. How do I allocate quality points to a medium that publishes thousands of new books every year on a huge number of subjects across several genres? I can’t even work out how to compare ‘All New Doop’ to All New X-Men’ without empirical evidence that would suggest one is greater than the other. My argument would come down to ‘Doop is much funnier and less of a twat than Cyclops. Therefore I like All New Doop more.’

Did not kill Professor X, therefore wins. Also, Shut up Scott.

Did not kill Professor X, therefore wins. Also, Shut up Scott.

But here’s that list of my favourite comics published in this calendar year, in no order, just so I don’t mislead anyone with the title:

Little Nemo

The Goon: ‘One For The Road’

All Star Western 34

And Emily Was Gone

Life With Archie 36/37

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out

Multiversity

Dark Horse Presents

Empire Of the Dead

Dicks

(A special mention must go to Spider-Woman 1. While it isn’t even my favourite comic spinning out of the surprisingly entertaining Marvel cross-over ‘Spider-Verse’, it has confirmed my theory that quite a lot of Fandom would happily resurrect The Comics Code Authority, as long as they could redraw offending artwork themselves. Cheers, Milo. Still one of the greatest people to ever draw comics, and his ‘Take the money and run’ attitude to Marvel only solidifies my opinion of him.  Check out his work here.)

For me, the image that defined Comics in 2014

For me, the image that defined Comics in 2014

Okay, so, formality out of the way, but let me get into what I think is a more interesting angle than ‘One more pop culture obsessive tries to tell you how you should spend your money.’

If there’s a question I get that totally confounds me, it’s ‘But how do you know all this stuff?’ Which, I dunno, I don’t want to be sarcastic about it, but there are two reasons I ‘know all this stuff.’

One: I’m a lot older than I look, and I’ve been reading books,  fanzines and professional magazines about comics since I walked into Avalon Comics in 1992 and the latest issue of Comics International screamed ‘McFarlane, Lee, Liefeld Leave Marvel To Form Image Comics’. I didn’t know you were allowed to leave Marvel back then, or why you’d want to. A read through the issue woke me up to the fact that if I wanted to spend any amount of time in the comics business, I better wake up really fast and stop drinking the Kool-Aid that Marvel Age and Direct Currents were trying to sell me on a monthly basis, because all that would leave me with is a house full of bad crossovers, an empty wallet.

So, I guess the answer is I know all this stuff is because I sat down and studied it. Given the option of new comics or new magazines about comics, I’d probably go for the magazine. You can’t know where you are unless you know how you got here, and while every opinion is valid, you can’t really tell me you know much about Image Comics unless you know the joke about the Pizza Delivery Man and The Kirby Awards.

Two: I’m lucky enough to balance a voracious appetite for information with a humility and understanding of how much I don’t know about the history of comics. I’m constantly hunting down things like Inside Comics, Amazing Heroes, The Will Eisner Quarterly as if I were doing a life-long degree on the medium. Attitude will only get you so far, but if you can’t back it up, eventually you’re just sneering at everything.

So instead of ‘Here is why you’re STUPID unless you bought Image Comic X.’, I thought ‘Here are ten magazines/publications about the history of comics that are good starting points for anyone wanting to look behind the press releases. I’m having to miss out far too much, as I’ve tried to keep this to things you’d be able to get hold of directly from here and why they’re worth reading, and there are far too many things that will just never be translated to digital form because they’re just not relevant to anything anymore.

This is one of this columns where I’d actually like feedback of the ‘Oh,  I have Number 3 (or whatever), have you read this magazine?’ kind. Because I LOVE learning new things, and I thought that was the point of the Internet. To share information on interests with like-minded peers, not to try to set ourselves up as Opinion/Information Gods. We’re alright for Wannabe Messiahs in Comics, really. Thanks.

(Note, I would have added later issues of my beloved Hero Illustrated here, as it really found its groove once it dumped the price guide and wannabe Wizard aspects of the magazine, but as far as I’m aware, nobody has legally translated the content into digital format. Shame, but certainly worth picking up any issues you find in cheap boxes. The writers were a bit saltier and happy to let creators vent about problems than Wizard’s ‘EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! BUY OUR NEW COMICS!’ interview approach. Also the 1st issue of Sub-Media magazine, which featured the full, unlettered art for Big Numbers issue 3 and early work by Ashley Wood. Good luck finding a copy, though.)

Comics Journal 81

Just to totally contradict the whole point of this column, I will argue to my dying day that the comic medium peaked with William Gaines’s Entertaining Comics line. There has never been anything better than them in the industry. Not Lee & Kirby’s Marvel work, Not Eisner’s Spirit strips, not even Jodowrowksy’s er, anything (There are no bad, or even mediocre Alejandro comics, and I don’t think you can say that about any other professional comics creator’s output ever.) Sandman? Watchmen? Fables? Scott PIlgrim? Do one, will yer? Pick your choice of the best five comics from any publisher’s history and stack them up against Vault Of Horror, Mad!, Tales From The Crypt, M.D and Shock Suspenstories and see your beloveds stagger home with a bruised eye and in need of tissue for a snotty nose, battered nose.

Here, Gaines talks us through the history of EC, including the Wertham trial, the fall out with Kurtzman, how he ended up running Entertaining Comics in the first place and how it sadly ended with Time-Warner acquiring Mad! Fascinating stuff.

Comics Journal Library: Kirby

Kirby Library

The Comics Journal collects all of their interviews with ‘The King into one handy if somewhat bloody awkward sized volume. Worth it for Jack’s thoughts on Stan Lee alone, but also as good an introduction into the man’s full body of work as I’ve read. Honourable mention must also go to The Jack Kirby Collector, a magazine dedicated to trying to reprint every single thing Jack worked on and keep thousands of anecdotes alive and in print.

The Comics Journal 214

Evan Dorkin explodes at EVERYTHING!

The industry needs more creators with the insight and rage of Evan. I once quit a project in comics because the other members of the project got upset at one of his Eltingville Club strips. Seriously.

Comic Book Creator 1.

Man, THIS magazine started with a bang. Written before the recent settlement between the Kirby Family and Marvel, the issue went at great length to illustrate Jack Kirby’s contributions to Marvel’s movie output and just how little the Kirbys had seen in response to the huge amounts taken at the cinema. Always good to read from when wishing to make Marvel hacks feel awkward, and the next step for Jon B. Cooke after the late, lamented Top Shelf version of ‘Comic Book Artist’. Also a cracking panel between Neal Adams & Denny O’Neil.

Comics Journal 149

Heh.

BOY, was this issue appreciated by me, if possibly not the majority of the Image Seven, Marvel Editorial and certainly not Scott Rosenberg and anyone working at Malibu at the time.

Unconvinced (Unlike 99% of the comics press circa 1992 and no end of mail order comics retailers at the time.) that Image was the final blow in the war against Marvel and DC regarding Creator Rights, Gary Groth writes a both funny and vicious overview with his editorial ‘Tarnished Image’, covering the events that led to the formation of Image, explaining the massive hypocrisy or potential ignorance of setting up with Malibu. Followed up a couple of years later by Groth’s stunned interview with Todd McFarlane which is still one of the funniest things I’ve read, if only for Todd’s ever inventive use of the word ‘Fuck!’

Back Issue 39 

BI 39

Not the deepest magazine in the world (Features tend to run along the lines of ‘Which costumes did Supergirl wear in The Bronze Age?’ or ‘The Legion Of Super-Heroes: Their Greatest Battles!’) but the Pro2Pro section is usually informative and their ‘Rough Stuff’ section collects an interesting sample of lost sketches on a given theme. I selected this issue as it’s a run through the slightly odder end of the mainstream comics industry, with a full history of my beloved Spider-Ham. Also an interview with John Byrne regarding his run on She-Hulk, Reid Fleming and an awesome Pro2Pro interview concerning Ambush Bug, containing the funniest Fan Letter story I’ve read since ‘Man Of Action’ from Punisher 19….

Comic Book Artist  (Vol 1, Issue 24)

An incredibly comprehensive interview with of National Lampoon fame, taking in the movies, his contribution to the film Ghostbusters, how the most ripped off cover of the 20th century came about, how he got work out of the likes of and even the bitter end of the magazine, when it had become a terrible Maxim knock-off and his thoughts on that.  Also  chats with cartoonists Gahan Wilson, Neal Adams and a conversation on the great Vaughn Bode. And exactly what the fuck was going on with those John Lennon/Yoko Ono pictures.

Comics Journal 190

Sadly, BWS doesn’t seem to say much to the comics press anymore. Damn shame, as Bazza’s always both a funny and frank interview when the shackles are let off. Here, while he’s meant to promoting the sadly never completed ‘Storyteller’ project for Dark Horse, he lets loose on his love for Kirby, the, er, awkwardness of Stan Lee’s storytelling in the early Marvel days, explains what happened between him, the Conan ‘Wank’ scandal and why Marvel censored Red Sonja’s arse, Jim Shooter and Valiant, how his Weapon X project for Marvel came together, what the hell ‘Rune’ was meant to be and accidentally takes the total piss out of both Joe Kubert’s ‘Fax From Sarajevo’ and the early Image comics while sheepishly trying to justify why he ended up taking on ‘Wildstorm Rising’. Good work from Gary Groth for being as funny as Bazza the whole.

Eisner/Miller:

em

Published by Dark Horse not long after Eisner’s death a few years back, Frank and Will talk their way through their respective careers, their feelings on where the industry could go. Totally informative, even for those of us with no desire to draw any comics ever. Features some rare con sketches and just an entertaining and often both funny and equally heartbreaking run through the history of comics, how Cartooning Studios were set up, and even a few glimpses into their working processes.

Back Issue 47:

Features the final interview with Dave Stevens. Nothing much to be added to that, really.

DS

And unless anything else happens, that’s it for 2014, I think. I have things involving Tinsel, Lego Batman 3, Longboxes full of bad Marvel comics from the turn of the century and Ladies to do. The older and more informed of you will have noticed a glaring omission from my rundown through ‘Comics Magazines What Were Good, Like.’ and there’s a reason for that which I can’t talk about here, yet. Thanks to all of you who’ve shared, commented, argued the toss either online or in person or have been there for me to hit up at all hours for research purposes.

Special shout outs go to Owen Michael Johnson who apparently reads these words and thought it was worth offering me a blurb gig on the back of it and also getting me a chance to interview one of my heroes,  Alan Martin for being one of the humblest, funniest people I’ve ever met despite my babbling all kinds of ‘BUT YOU WROTE TANK GIRL!’ at him, Dave Taylor for just being sound as fuck, Sarah Taylor-Harman for being a grounding influence and getting where I actually come from,David Hine for the free stuff and the story about the artwork in a skip, Colin Bell, John Lees and Iain Laurie for their Twitter rants at each other that make me laugh shit through my nose, Dave Elliott for being a good mate through everything, Jon Browne for the common sense and ability to quote Pete N’ Dud at any given moment, Guy Lawley for actually getting half of my stupid comics jokes and being very good at pub and medical advice.

(And BREATHE!)……

Alex DeCampi for agreeing to do an interview for Grindhouse despite being knackered, Amy Brander for believing in me far more than I do, Sarah Gordon whose constant genius keeps me humble, Bellan Dye for carrying on listening and being one of the good fans, the London Love Comics boys for encouraging my stupid Spider-Ham jokes and abusing a pub dog into becoming Lockjaw, Alasdair Cooke for general support and being a sound bloke. Amie Barron for keeping me in video games and scandalous stories of her sex life that I can’t begin to go into here, George Khoury for being an inspiration, gossip and mentor, Carly Zombiie just for being one of my oldest friends who’s always up for daft comics gossip at 4am, Eini because…she’s Eini and that’ll have to do for this life, sadly, Simone Borgia & Ana Stevenson for reading through to tell me if I’m making sense before the rest of you see this and any number of ladies who’ve both encouraged me and left me to it enough to get on with writing this, Will Morgan for being who he is and keeping me steadily employed and Jessica Kemp who made it clear that she thought giving me a chance was better than listening to gossip. And that little group of little people who give me dirty looks and scuttle off whenever I show up. Pissing you guys off gives me the strength to go on.

If I’ve missed you in here, it s because I’m a twat.

I leave you with a picture of my favourite comics movie moment of 2014, The banned poster featuring Eva Green for Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For. MERRY CHRISTMAS, YER BASTARDS, YER!!!!

Sin City 2 Eva

‘Garth Ennison. You know, did ‘Priester’ with Bob Dylan’s kid. Steve.’

So, obviously, this happened.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/11275179/pat-broderick-facebook-cosplay-rant.html

I had a few things to say about it. I posted them on my Twitter account. Here’s the expanded ‘Not bound by 140 Characters version for those for you daft enough not to follow me. (Which you totally should: https://twitter.com/Filthy_Nevs

So I’ve given this whole ‘No More Cosplayers’ mindset some more thought. Maybe it makes sense? Just a little bit.

Oh, wait, No. Of course it doesn’t. It’s fucking stupid.

Fact One: Comics sell really, really badly. To make up for this, they are stupidly expensive. Readers moan about this. Rightly. Your entertainment dollar is not best spent on a £6 issue of Detective Comics when you can get Batman: Arkham City for a fiver.

Fact Two: Because they sell badly, working in comics pays really badly. You really have to want to do this job and you’re a bit silly to, because there’s no pension. For every Grant Morrison, there are a hundred, maybe a thousand people who didn’t make it, didn’t save their money. Their characters are on the movie screen while they’re stacking shelves in Tesco or Wal-Mart. Most people cannot live on the money comics pays you to draw a comic a month and end up taking other commission jobs.

Fact Three: To supplement the low-income comics pays, many professionals attend cons to try to boost their profile and sell their books and original pages of art.

Fact Four: Much like Goths, You can NOT be a poor cosplayer. You just can’t, Conventions cost a lot for tickets,,hotels, table outlay. So do the materials to make said costumes,plus maintaining them. It also takes a lot of time to actually make said costumes in the first place, etc.

Therefore: Cosplayers must be generally well off. They’re also coming to a comics show. with MONEY! (Some of you may have seen where I’m going with this.)  Out of nowhere, a well off, excitable demographic has entered comics circles with money to spend whilst DRESSED AS THE CHARACTERS YOU DRAW!

The SCOURGE OF ALL COMICS, yesterday. ***

The SCOURGE OF ALL COMICS, yesterday. ***

This is not a thing to complain about. This is the Tenth Wonder** and the business ought to be thanking God for this…miracle. Because I think this is something that needs recapping on the grounds that we appear to be dealing with dumb people who think that it’s 1987, that fans should just rock up to your table, genuflect on how bloody amazing you are for turning out a comic on a schedule that the Japanese would laugh at, give you all their money, and bugger off.

Can cosplayers be annoying, squawking attention seekers? Sure, SOME of them. I’d rather headbutt The Rhino than get on the tram to Canning Town on a Saturday morning for MCM ever again. On the other hand,  Do you honestly think you lot behave any BETTER  than that? The amount of comic artists and writers I’ve seen sulking behind their table is astounding. I know your job mainly revolves around staying in all day and your social skills might have atrophied a bit, but it if we’re calling out cosplayers for their behaviour, than this cuts both ways, doesn’t it?

(True story: I saw a…fairly high profile comics creator at a show this year sitting behind a table with a vicious scowl on his face. At first I thought well, fair enough, maybe I just caught him at a bad second, but every time I passed by, he was sill angrily glaring whilst sketching Spidey. A mother took her kid up to him and asked ‘So…er..what did you think of Amazing Spider-Man 2?’ He replied, in the most passive-aggressive way possible: ‘Yeah..I’m not really into THAT STUFF anymore.’

Again, WHILE DRAWING SPIDER FUCKING MAN.

That creator has gone on tweet at great lengths that he finds Comic Cons largely to be a waste of time, unprofitable and that he can’t really connect with the fans there. Presumably because of Cosplayers and not cognitive dissonance.)

Is ‘You don’t know the difference between Tim Drake and Jason Todd!’ actually a reason to try and drive away money? Are you…stupid? Have you deluded yourself so much that this world of fiction is so important that you have to be mean and patronising to real living people as though you were the guardians of some profound knowledge which is basically ‘Comics don’t want to deal with consequences of time and charge customers for that.’ anyway?

‘Yeah, there was this Amazonian girl dressed as She-Hulk wanting to spend money at my table and learn more about comics, but she couldn’t tell me how many times Jen had been in the Fantastic Four. The FAKE! I didn’t get any money out of her and I’m DANG PROUD!’

And even if we were hit in the head and decided ‘No More Cosplayers’ was a good thing, How would you enforce this? A test? What? ‘Can you tell me how many times Jean Grey has died? THEN YOU CAN’T COME IN!’ Honestly, how does this even work? Are we saying we actually WANT to reject young, paying, affluent customers from comic shows now? Because….they aren’t really into comics in the same way as you? Obviously, that’s a stupid idea to start with, but even if it was true….

How is that any of your business, exactly? So some lad is dressed as Dr Strange and doesn’t know who Steve Ditko is? Don’t reprimand kids for not knowing as much as you. Get them chatting, take a chance to educate them. Maybe they’ll think kindly of you for giving them more avenues of entertainment to explore and buy some of your stuff, rather than scolding them like a priest having a go at an altar boy for not knowing his psalms.

'And There WAS An Original Sin. And I WAS GOOD. AND NOT OVERPRICED TIME WASTING RUBBISH AT ALL!'

‘And There WAS An Original Sin. And IT WAS GOOD. AND NOT OVERPRICED TIME WASTING RUBBISH AT ALL!’

I mean, do you actually WANT to pay $10 a month for a comic? I remember when comics went up from $2:99 to $3:99 and thinking ‘They’re not going to stand for this.’ And they didn’t. It was a time when online comic pirating had just started and while there are still the zealots who’ll buy Batman, Detective, Batman ’66, Arkham Manor,  Batman And Robin, Legends Of The Dark Knight, Batgirl, Batman Eternal  and whatever else every month, there aren’t nearly as many of them as there were a decade ago. Whatever anyone tells you, the reason for every new crossover, relaunch, etc is because this shit cannot support itself and all of this junk spiking is try to make up the profit that’s being lost on these books.

So, instead of bitching about what has already happened as if you had any power over it, fucking adapt, will you? Offer sketches of the cosplayers for £20 a pop. They’re vain buggers. Stick your Twitter/Deviantart/Tumblr address in the corner of your sketch. They post the sketch online as a selfie. Four of their mates come over and ask you to draw them.

You get a free ad, (because I guarantee you the lowliest cosplayer dressed up as Power Girl has more followers than you.) You just made £100. You’re fucking welcome, like.

Jesus, I wonder why this business is dying on its arse. Oh, because we’re fucking stupid and want to wallow in nostalgia for 1980 Secret Crisis. ‘Where will the new readers come from?’ THEY’RE…THEY’RE RIGHT THERE, IN FRONT OF YOU. DRESSED AS DEADPOOL AND SUPERGIRL. You’re too busy moaning about the old days to notice. Get their attention.

Or die.

*NOTE: All of the Anti-Cosplayer rhetoric is MUCH funnier if read in the voice of Foghorn Leghorn.

**

The Eighth Wonder

The Eighth Wonder

(((

And The Ninth.

And The Ninth.

*** The lass lounging on the comics (Probably devaluing them and never reading them, the hussy!) is Naomi VonKreeps and she’s a mate of mine. You’re surprised, I know. (Find her here: http://www.naomi-vonkreeps.com/)  She is bloody awesome and much better at being a fan than most of the people I know. How she isn’t a special guest at cons, given her range of costumes and ability to discuss Star Wars, Assassin’s Creed, Batman and all other bits of Fandom is beyond me. Get her to the UK as a special guest, will you, Con organisers. Probably more entertaining than one more drunk British loser whoring out his pages in a Sainsbury’s carrier bag.

‘I’m Done With You And Your Illegal Immigrant Bimbo Girlfriend’: 10 Questions With Alex DeCampi.

(Note: Since writing this, Grindhouse: Drive In. Bleed Out has been published and appears to be some kind of sleeper hit, since copies are incredibly difficult to find. Either bother your retailer to order copies back in stock, or get it from the Dark Horse Digital Store here. Also, Gaming types can take refuge in the fact that Alex has written a very rare thing: A GOOD Video game tie-in comic. It’s a freebie also from Dark Horse based on the just released ‘Escape From Dead Island’. Have that one on the house.)

I miss a good letters page, me.

I totally understand why they’re generally unfeasible in today’s world. Pre Internet, they were the hub of….fandom (Sorry, I just get the creeps at describing the collective of people who are into various entertainment as a fandom these days. It’s a bit like calling yourself a ‘Gamer’, really. Creeped out enough, in fact, to invent a new word:

Fandomental: Fan-dom-ental: (noun)

When a person who enjoys entertainment media forgets that is just entertainment  and has a quasi religious overreaction to press releases:e.g: ‘Oh no, Nightwing is going to die/Mass Effect 3 will let you Gay in space!’ that borders on zealotry. Something akin to audience reaction to Scorsese’s ‘Last Temptation Of Christ’.

For example:

‘Dan shit his pants when he heard Arkham Knight won’t let you play as Ace The Bat Hound. He’s gone Fandomental on DC’s message boards! He’s like Superboy-Prime!’

‘Jeez, did you see that meme someone made about a woman who got her Duela Dent cosplay wrong but it turns out she was right the whole time? Talk about Fandomentally insane.’

‘Wally West can’t be Black! That’s Fandomentally unsound!’

‘Don’t even TALK to me about Black Stormtroopers, man. BLACK.’

Essentially, when you think any kind of entertainment fiction is worth being mean to another human being over, you have passed the line from ‘consumer’ into ‘fandomentailist’. You’ve become a person the rest of us look at awkwardly and pray nobody mistakes us for, and we hope you move on from comics, films or video games and onto……Furrydom or something quite soon. Just so you’re clear on that.)

But, yes, a decent letters page is both a rare and treasured thing in comics. Either it veers towards the anodyne, printing praise and connections to plug upcoming product (‘Glad you thought Fantastic Four 476 was literally the greatest comic ever printed, Little Barry. You’ll be no doubt pleased to know Dazzler will reappear in Marvel Triple Action 87 alongside The Grey Gargoyle and Black Widow in a tale we could only call ‘If THIS Be My Joke here’ or else the tone of the page would be one of sardonic ridicule, usually mocking paying readers for asking Rube questions with a superior tone that, frankly, no one who writes comics for a living can have. (You can talk down to me when you can get your comic to outsell ‘Stately Homes Monthly’, mate.)

Also, there is never an excuse to send your fan-fiction poetry to a comic, and even less reason for any publisher to print it. That, frankly, should have been in the Comics Code. And the Geneva Convention.

So when you finally found a decent one, it was a blessed relief. Maybe some kind of after hours style place where you’d get a few gags and insights into what was coming down the pike like Giffen/DeMatteis’s Justice League or James Robinson’s Starman Or some kind of meta-commentary and further explanation of exactly what was going on ala Grant Morrison’s ‘The Invisibles; (where I was first introduced to one of my dearest friends and general Mother Hen over at the lovely Mookychick, Magda Knight.) or just filth and insane contests. Honestly, I imagine they cost a bomb these days, but both ‘Preacher’ and ‘The Goon’ benefit from reading the original comics rather than the trades. Preacher ran all kinds of insane contests in exchange for scripts, whilst The Goon sent you after Strippers and featured the ongoing war between Eric Powell and Dwight T.Albatross that…

You know what? I’ll let you discover for yourself.

Anyway, if there’s one thing I’ve had enough of, it’s metaness. Too much post-modernness, too much dialogue aimed at snarking the reader or pointing out how clever the author is for being aware of this year’s trends and dropping in references that’ll date soon (Go back at read Kick-Ass Vol 1 and feel the awkward as the clunky gags about MySpace and Mafia Wars drop in like your Dad at your birthday party asking the DJ to play some “Dizzy Roswell’. or such. Like we’re meant to thank them for deigning to lower themselves into the realms of (brrrr….) genre fiction, darling.

Alex DeCampi is no such Diva. She just gets on with doing the cool shit she’s into and you’re either into it or you’re nor and either is fine with her. Whether directing Amanda Palmer videos, or writing anything between My Little Pony to Lady Zorro to the upcoming MAYDAY and ARCHIE VS PREDATOR, THO  she’s just doing whatever is cool to her, which puts her far and ahead of any number of anodyne Rent A Moody Brit’ writers. I was first drawn into her world of filth and glitchy VHS memories via Coop’s tits.

Love at first sight. LOVE,  I said. Shut up!

Love at first sight.
LOVE, I said. Shut up!

Or to clarify, someone posted the variant cover to Grindhouse 1, as pencilled by Coop online. I saw the comic and said ‘YES!’ and then a fear struck me. There might be wackiness. knowingness, too cool for thisness. Happily, ‘Bee Vixens From Mars’ was a merry romp through buxotic beauties, small town heroes like John Carpenter used to make. Further issues yielded a love for Straw Dogs and the work of Roger Corman two things sadly under-explored in modern comics. For the eight brief months that Grindhouse: Volume 1 ran, I was happy with at least one comic a month, secure in the knowledge that at least someone out there was into comics and probably as addicted to Mystery Science Theatre 3K as I am  Also, the letters page read like a transcript from an underground cinema Q&A that had got a bit ‘informal’. There’s something about that month to month connection that just doesn’t translate to trade paperback collections, so I recommend you pick up the original issues from Alex’s Big Cartel shop here.

In any event, with weeks to go before the 1st issue of Grindhouse 2: Drive In, Bleed Out, Alex trying to get everything together for NYCC and me trying to bounce between that Tank Girl interview, a job at a coffee shop and a billion other things, now is obviously the right time for us to have a chat and this can only end well.

1. So, importantly, ‘Planet Terror or Death Proof?

Planet Terror, all the way. Death Proof is great in that it’s the first Tarantino film in a long time where you cannot see and map the homages almost exactly onto the films they were taken from. But Rodriguez actually gets the spirit of exploitation filmmaking so much better… Planet Terror is just so much crazysauce. Half the point of exploitation for me is just the sheer insanity of it. Death Proof is awesome, but just… kinda plausible. Great, ahem, vehicle for Tarantino’s girlfriend at the time, though.

2. Can you believe that you can get the remake of Miami Vice on Blu-Ray but nothing by Russ Meyer? I mean, what the fuck?

Ehn. I never buy DVDs and don’t have a blu-ray player. If it doesn’t stream, I don’t watch it. Also, a blu-ray of a movie that was probably shot on Super16…. sure, I’d be all for a restoration and a good digital scan but it looks like Grindhouse Releasing has sort of wound down after Sage Stallone’s untimely death… I’m more concerned with why the blazes is there nothing good on Netflix any more.

3. Clearly, Godzilla wins in King Kong Vs Godzilla. Discuss.

Godzilla always wins. Godzilla’s always been a parable for nuclear war, while King Kong is a parable for Savage Africa. I know kids today don’t really give a flip about nukes but I grew up during the cold war, so Godzilla always has a special place in my heart. Unless he’s only in about 10 minutes of his own goddamn film, Legendary Pictures. Seriously that film should have been called “concerned white people (and a glimpse of lizard)”.

4. I can’t decide if The Ramones in ‘Rock N Roll High School’ or Guitar Wolf in ‘Wild Zero’ is the greatest Rock n Roll performance in a movie or if they’re both overshadowed by Little Richard in ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’. Thoughts?

I have a special love for Nick Cave in Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire, a film which should get a special award for Worst Knitwear Ever. And also, of course, Buckaroo Banzai blew my young mind. There’s always the band in Driller Killer, too. 

The Roosters from 'Driller Killer'

The Roosters from ‘Driller Killer’

5. Someone, Alex, needs to adapt ‘Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls‘ to comic form. Are you that person?

Do you know that Roger Ebert wrote the script for “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”? Like the great editor Walter Murch only directing one film (“Return to Oz”) it’s one of those odd little moments of a great critic/observer getting his hands dirty. I’m not big on adaptations, much as I love both “Valley” and “Beyond”. (I read “Valley” when I was about 12, whoops. You know it was one of the best-selling novels by a woman since, well, since they started keeping numbers?) But it’s certainly likely that I’d do a story that embraces heavy recreational drug use and bad relationship decisions. In fact a lot of my upcoming spy book MAYDAY is about such things. I like to say it’s a book about bad people making terrible decisions (a criticism a reviewer once made of my work, which I’ve sorta embraced.)

As of this writing, still not on Blu-Ray.

As of this writing, still not on Blu-Ray.

6. Keith Giffen tells an amazing story about a man sending in a voodoo doll in protest to Ambush Bug. I get Right Wing Americans assuming I’m gay and sending me 80’s Hip-Hop videos (which I totally discourage, obviously.) What kind of hate mail do you get?

Surprisingly little. Most people think I’m a dude (androgynous name; don’t post selfies; writes exploitation horror). In fact one of my tweets got picked up on by Gamergate trolls after it was referenced on a Breitbart forum and some female (or female sock puppet) said she would never have sex with me. I was like, “darn.” That’s pretty much the worst I’ve gotten so far. Oh, someone wrote into the Grindhouse letter column who was really upset to find out in Issue 2 of Bee Vixens that Garcia was actually the main character (eg after Sheriff Jimmy becomes Sheriff Jiffy-Pop). We published the letter, of course. It was something about “I’m done with you and your illegal immigrant bimbo”. We sent him an I <3 Mexico t-shirt.

i m

7. Did you ever get a chance to read the Roger Corman Cosmic Comics, like Caged Heat 3000 or Little Shop Of Horrors? If not, are there any film to comic adaptations you do like? I haven’t seen anything that tops Rick Veitch’s ‘1941’ for Epic myself?

Again, I don’t see a lot of reason to do an adaptation. The whole fun of Grindhouse is to come up with new stories that feel like they could be sleazy, trashy old stories. 

8. At some point Bongo is going to hit you up to do a Treehouse Of Horror, right?

Oh, I’d love that. I’d have to get a lot more famous, first. I think there are comics people who do horror and comedy ahead of me in line for that anyway — Tim Seeley, for sure

8. You’ve got free rein to cast whoever you want in a Grindhouse Netflix original TV show. Who do you cast for what?

Jeez. I’d probably start with FLESH FEAST because, teen slasher. Those would all be fairly unknown teen actors. And gosh, I don’t know who I’d cast as the Devil Doll. Someone hot but SCARY. Then we’d do BEE VIXENS. Nick Cage as Sheriff Jimmy. Michelle Rodriguez as Garcia. 

Never forget

Never forget

This, either

This, either

9. You and Kelly Sue DeConnick. Who’s better at Left4Dead?

Gotta be Kelly Sue. I never play video games, because I am a little OCD and they would eat my life. I barely manage being a single mom, hitting my (increasingly many) comics deadlines, working a part-time job, and volunteering for a dog rescue. I need sleep. I love games, though. They fascinate me.  I am somewhat over zombies, though.

I'm sorry, I'm still not over this.

I’m sorry, I’m still not over this.

10. Grindhouse 2: Why should they buy it, Alex?

Because we’re the comic your mother warned you about. We’re filthy, tasteless, gory and utterly gratuitous and we will make you feel diirrrrty but oh so happy. Also, we’re an easy in. There’s a new, complete Grindhouse story every two issues so constant variety, and cheap to sample.

GH SL

Finally, not sure why this has happened, but you can pick up the 1st Volume of Grindhouse for Kindle for the STUPIDLY cheap price of £1:94.  Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight. Ask for it by name