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Friday’s Annual Inventory, 2009 edition

As usual for the first column of the year, today I’ll take a look at what my regular pull-list comics decisions are, what I’m going to keep getting and what I’m going to throw overboard. Sort of the fanboy version of a New Year’s Resolution.

The thing that gets depressing about this? Every year since I started doing it, the list gets smaller, at least when it comes to ongoing monthly series. I think overall I’m actually reading more comics than ever, but that’s because of the booming market in bookstore-targeted reprint volumes. (Which is something I love, don’t get me wrong.) But new comics took a real hit in 2008 as far as my buying habits are concerned.

The main reason is that the standard monthly comic is just not an attractive package for me any more. I think Marvel and DC superhero comics as I remember them, the ones in serial monthly book format, are pretty much dead or dying.

Understand, I’m mostly talking about format here. What I mean is the idea of a 22-page monthly superhero comic book, as a discrete, single-issue unit of entertainment, is something that I think is essentially over at DC and Marvel. No one even pretends that’s the primary vehicle for presenting a story any more. They’re done now mostly as loss-leaders for an eventual book collection, since the last couple of years have shown that the market will support trade collections of even the weird, offbeat stuff.

And the structure of the monthly comics themselves has changed to accommodate that. They’re not stories any more, not even in the sense of being episodic installments of a larger serial. They are chapters of stories, completely useless without the surrounding chapters as context.

There’s no point in rehashing all over again whether or not this is a good thing. For better or worse, that’s what superhero comics have evolved into. Long-form books issued as a chapter a month.

Now, I’m largely okay with this… when I get to read the story AS a book. I just wish publishers would follow this line of reasoning all the way to the end and realize that this really is what they’re doing now, and quit hanging on to the 22-page monthly as some sort of arbitrary limit on how comics need to be done. As regular readers will recall, I have become a bookstore evangelist. For the kind of superhero stories we see today, reading them collected in a book is simply a better way to consume them. Better for the storyteller’s preferred pace, better for the price, more convenient to store… just plain better.

However, I’m not going to go through all that again, except to point out that this year I decided to put my money where my mouth has been. The bulk of my comics buying has been through Amazon or other mail-order houses, picking up remaindered trade collections of comics for pennies on the dollar.

There have been a few series I like so much that I get them monthly anyway, either because I want to support them or because I just can’t stand waiting. And there are a few more where I split the difference– I get them in trade collections, but I get the collections NEW, so the publisher still gets the sale and not a used-book dealer. I feel very strongly that a vote with one’s wallet is the only one that counts and I’ve tried to hold to that philosophy.

But even so, the numbers are still going down. This year it was because a lot of my regular books either got canceled outright or they were miniseries that finished up. And the few books that I’m still getting as monthlies are embarking on new directions that almost seem designed to drive me away.

Exhibit A: Astonishing X-Men.

Now, I was prepared to give this book the benefit of the doubt. I put up with the glacial pace of the Whedon/Cassaday run because I was enjoying it and I didn’t have to buy into a lot of X-crossover crap to understand it. It slid pretty seamlessly into my collection behind the Grant Morrison stuff and I was just happy to have an X-book out there I could enjoy again. So the Ellis/Bianchi version had a certain amount of goodwill from me going in.

goddamn it, I wanted to like this.

And, despite some serious reservations about Simone Bianchi’s art, I was on board. (I suspect the muddy look of it is more the fault of the coloring, obviously the work of yet another Photoshop incompetent who can’t be bothered to check how the pages will print on a real press.) I usually like reading Warren Ellis doing straight-up superheroics and let’s face it, if there’s anyone who was born to write arch, snide Emma Frost one-liners, it’s Ellis. And it even looked like the book would be staying on schedule, another hopeful sign.

However, after an encouraging start, the whole thing grinds to a halt for two months so I can spend an additional eight dollars for 32 pages of story– that’s TOTAL, not EACH– and a few extra features, none of which really interest me.

Are you kidding? An extra dollar for THIS? Seriously, are you fucking KIDDING? $3.99?

Let’s stop and examine this from the economic point of view. Ghost Boxes #1 gives us two 8-page stories, both of which are supplementary to the main narrative. Then it gives us a little feature about the artist and the scripts for the stories we just read. For this material we are charged a dollar more than the regular book.

My response to this is basically: Are you kidding me?

And finding out this was the first of two, and this was substituting for issues of the actual comic (as opposed to being issued simultaneously, the way DC does its Secret Files books) my response is quickly amended to: Seriously, are you fucking kidding me?

If this was done as a strategy for, say, a DVD, it would go something like this. “Let’s take that second disc of behind-the-scenes crap off the Casino Royale double set and, instead of selling it as a bonus, packaged with the movie, we’ll offer it separately, market it as the next chapter in the James Bond series, and we’ll charge 33% more for it than we would for the regular movie!” Can you imagine the outrage over that? Consumers would scream bloody murder. And they’d be right.

But I’ll bet most comics readers following Astonishing X-Men rolled right over for it. I think even our other Greg went for it, though I recall he was grumpy about the price. Or maybe it was Brian, I can’t remember.

Not me, though. This just tells me it’s time to cut Astonishing. Obviously this is a book better read AS a book. Better for my wallet and certainly better for my blood pressure. I’m just grateful my shop didn’t count Ghost Boxes as part of the regular series and pull it for me, or I’d have been livid at being on the hook for something that is so clearly a rip-off. As it is, it’s just another series that’s been moved to the trades-only-if-at-all category.

Astonishing was the last Marvel monthly book I’d had on my pull list. I cut the Ultimate books earlier in the year, because I just couldn’t justify spending the money for books that are regularly collected in trade, especially when the trades themselves are discounted so quickly.

So what about DC?

Well, they’re doing the cutting for me, looks like.

Both Birds of Prey and Nightwing are getting canceled. This is kind of a shame.

Tomasi was really starting to get it together here. Bedard had really hit his stride here, this was a good book again.

Although both books had been showing fatigue after good long runs, each one was also ramping up towards doing good stuff again. Tony Bedard on Birds of Prey especially was hitting a nice groove. Peter Tomasi on Nightwing was more uneven but even with the occasional misstep like #149 (and believe me, that was a HUUUUGE misstep, that was an awful, awful issue) I was nevertheless getting the sense that he understood what needed to happen on the book and what a Dick Grayson solo series should be doing.

That’s a big deal. Often at DC in recent years, I get the feeling that the creators don’t really know, or worse, don’t care, what kind of book they’re working on. The Flash is not the same as Teen Titans, which in turn is not the same as Detective, which is a different book than Justice League. This seems so obvious that the only rational response to my pointing it out is “duh, Greg,” but if that’s so, why doesn’t anyone at DC seem to know this? The DC superhero line over the last five years is often written with the same vaguely arrested-adolescent “adult, serious” sensibility. These are wildly different characters, setups, premises… and yet so many times they all have the same morose tone. A grim story that might work pretty well in Batman is ridiculously out of place in Flash or Teen Titans, but that same “darkness” is apparently now de rigeur for the entire mainstream DCU line. (To my mind, that kind of thinking was what led to Tomasi’s hideously inappropriate and lame Nightwing #149.) And if a book strays from that, if it gets tagged with the dreaded label “fun,” well, that’s it, game over. Superheroes are serious business at DC.

That’s why it’s getting to be a rare treat when a DC book hits the right note. Bedard was doing it and Tomasi was (mostly) doing it. So you have a pair of books that have been foundering for a while, but the talent on them seems to have righted the course and they finally have a real direction again… and DC decides that they need to cancel those titles.

I should be fair-minded about this. Sales were certainly low enough to justify that decision, and the new guys have each had about a year to bring the numbers up, so I can’t really fault DC for the cancellations. But it is a shame.

In addition to Nightwing and Birds of Prey I’ve been getting Batman and Detective as well. Usually for me those two titles are close to bulletproof; I’m a Bat guy and always have been. But again this is where I start to wonder if DC is trying to make me go away.

Take Detective. This has been a pretty entertaining Bat book for a while now. Paul Dini has been doing solid stories and his track record with the Batman character is really stellar when you include his animation work. I haven’t minded the rotating artist merry-go-round he’s had to work with, I’m mostly a story person.

But then we get this “Heart of Hush” crap.

Oh, Paul, not you too. STOP DRINKING THE HUSH KOOL-AID!

What is it about Hush? Why does DC keep bringing him back? Did DC editorial lose a bet or something, or is there some contest to see how many Bat books the character can take down? Gotham Knights was chugging along nicely until it became Hush Comics and it promptly tanked. Did they learn nothing from that? Because now it’s happening in Detective.

Let me spell it out in small words. No one likes Hush. He was a lame villain from his first appearance and he has only gotten lamer. He doesn’t make sense as a character on any level. (To take the most obvious flaw– I leave others for commenters to amuse themselves pointing out– but picking one off the top of my head, here’s a stupid Hush factoid for you. Hush knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, and he has routinely circumvented the cave security. So he can destroy Batman any time he wants with a phone call to the local press. “Meet me at this cave on the Wayne property, I want to take you on a little tour.” I can believe Ra’s al Ghul not doing it because he wants to co-opt Batman, he’s still hoping for Bruce to join the family business and give him that Bat son-in-law. But Tommy Elliott? What’s stopping him?)

And the more other writers try to fix him or rehabilitate him, the lamer he gets. Sadly, “Heart of Hush” was no exception, it killed a lot of the goodwill the book had with me. On top of everything else, it had the “R.I.P.” logo plastered all over it which didn’t affect my pull list but I bet it sure made some other folks mad when they discovered the bait-and-swtich.

Grant Morrison on Batman is more problematic. Again, I was enjoying what he was doing, maybe not swooning over it like some of my colleagues but on the whole I thought he was doing good work. Then we got “R.I.P.”, which, sorry, strikes me as a bit of a mess.

This is a lovely little pice, but, you know, we didn't actually need R.I.P. to get it. I enjoyed this wrapup okay, at least... EXCEPT IT WASN'T A WRAPUP.

Take the trademark Morrison style away and what’s left is exactly the same thing Geoff Johns gets pilloried for– an attempt to integrate old forgotten continuity into the character’s history again. Johns does this with Green Lantern or Brainiac and fans jeer. Morrison does it with Zur-En-Arrh and the Club of Heroes and fans say it’s a work of genius. As far as I can tell, the only real difference is in the execution.

The thing that bothers me is that when Morrison himself is going around saying things like, “every detail that’s been in the book for the last couple of years is significant, everything is a clue to the grand design that’s unfolding,” and “When we begin to suspect the identity of the villain, I think it’s the most, like I said the other day, it’s possibly the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years,” and then he doesn’t deliver– does not, in fact, come close to delivering– it annoys me when so many critics and fans act like he did. (Geoff Johns did a story where he implied Hal Jordan was cooler than Batman and fans loudly hooted at him for having a “man crush.” Morrison does a story implying Batman is tougher than the Devil himself and follows it up with one where Batman is tougher than Darkseid. Where’s all the man-crush snark over that, internet?)

I read the same story as everyone else, and I’m sorry, but once you strip away all the self-referential, meta-continuity-patch stuff out of “Batman R.I.P.” there’s not a whole lot left: a group of villains have a plan to do nasty stuff (what nasty stuff that might be is never quite clear, which is one of the things that bothered me) and it looks like Batman’s lost and gone crazy, except it turns out he was smarter than they thought and he pulls out the win.  It was okay, it was cleverly executed, but the identity of the villain sure wasn’t the most shocking revelation in 70 years; in fact, there were no shocking revelations at all, just a couple of teases of one.

For my money, it wasn’t even the best Batman story Grant Morrison’s done in the last TWO years. And I know it’s not just me because Greg Burgas made a similar observation last week. I don’t happen to think Grant Morrison really is “the God of all Comics,” so it doesn’t bother me that much that he’s just having fun playing with old Batman stories, but I do wish fans would stop talking about it as though it’s Watchmen-level transcendent when he does it. Especially when it’s as muddled as “R.I.P.” got in places. Now, I really, really liked the “Last Rites” two-parter that followed “R.I.P.,” but you didn’t need “R.I.P.” to do that story. It doesn’t erase “R.I.P’”s basic flaws for me.

Worse, once again DC has pulled a bait-and-switch because “R.I.P.”, it turns out, wasn’t really a complete story at all. It was yet another prelude to two different mega-crossovers– “Battle For The Cowl” and Final Crisis.

Denny O'NBeil, honestly, has done a LOT better than this.

“Battle For The Cowl” technically hasn’t started yet, we’ve just seen some teaser images. But it’s safe to say that it has something to do with replacing Bruce Wayne as Batman.

To which my response is basically a big snort. Replace Bruce Wayne? Yeah right.

Seriously. Dark Knight just grossed, like, a gazillion dollars. There’s a new Batman cartoon. DC has published countless stories hammering home the point that only Bruce Wayne has what it takes to be Batman, it’s his destiny. Stories including “Knightfall,” the novelized version of which was in print for many years and which was about–what? A battle for the cowl. Not to mention the most recent story to make this point about only Bruce having what it takes, the Last Rites two-parter Grant Morrison just concluded.

For God’s sake. Does no one at DC even try to be an editor any more? Was no one brave enough to raise their hand in an editorial meeting and say, “You know, this Battle For The Cowl thing might seem a little too much like going over the same ground. Maybe doing yet another put-a-new-guy-in-the-costume story is going to be a tough sell to fans when we’ve walked back or canceled every other time we’ve ever done that with a character, including the Barry Allen return we’re currently in the middle of. And do we really want to do a new-guy story with Batman? We’ve been saying over and over again that Bruce Wayne is the one and only Batman. I think our credibility might be gone with this concept. Can’t we try something else?”

Yes, I’m pre-judging. But damn it, I’m the audience DC apparently wants, the knowledgeable comics fan. This is the sort of thing that goes through our minds when we see the ads. And what’s going through my mind, right now, is the notion that I probably am not going to like this a lot and I might just as well skip it. For the first time in twenty years I’m thinking of letting the Bat books go. I felt like enough of a tool hanging in there with Judd Winick and that Red Hood stuff; I refuse to make that mistake again, especially when prices will probably pass the four-dollar mark on monthly comics in 2009.

Final Crisis, itself, has its own problems as far as I’m concerned. Again, I was getting it anyway so I’m not as angry as others might have been when they got to the end of “R.I.P.” Still, how livid do you suppose Bat-readers were who were not buying that book when they reached the alleged end of an alleged epilogue and discovered that, oops, there’s a whole new title that they needed to go back and get to see the end of this?

Anyway, I was already reading Final Crisis and I’m enjoying it well enough, I guess.

Rock of Ages take 2, maybe?

It’s not doing as much for me as it is some others here, and it is far too reminiscent of Morrison’s JLA arc “Rock of Ages” for my comfort, but as company-wide crossovers go, it’s pretty solid. (Although, again, where was the editorial department? No one thought to ask, “Is this going to be different enough from ‘Rock of Ages’? Do we really want to go with Darkseid AGAIN as the villain for our big crossover?”) But, you know, that’s the way it goes. It’s the business they’re in. Suggesting super-heroes might be too repetitive is a bit stupid considering the total-retro state of the DC landscape right now, I suppose.

So if we let the “Rock of Ages” similarity pass, I guess my only real complaint with Final Crisis is that no one in it is ever introduced. If you don’t already know who everyone is, you’re in trouble. Now, with Superman or Wonder Woman, or even the Green Lanterns, fine, I can accept that; but not a thing about Shilo Norman? Libra? The Super Young Team? There’s not enough context there to give us anything to work with. (C’mon, you know the words, sing it with me: “Where was the editor here?”)

But realistically, that’s probably not a problem for the current superhero comics reader base, so maybe Morrison and DC are just figuring, why bother? It makes me sad that this is a legitimate case you can make regarding current superhero comics, that you don’t need to introduce characters or do any setup because everyone reading it is already so hardcore it’s a waste of space… but that’s another column.

Anyway, I went for Final Crisis. It’s on my list. I even have fallen for a few of the tie-ins. I skipped Rogues’ Revenge, but I admit to picking up Revelations and Legion of 3 Worlds.

I don't know what this has to do with the main story, but I'm enjoying it. I like Rucka on this character. But this is the wrong story for her.

And the ones you have to read to make sense of it, of course: Superman Beyond...

how late is this one going to BE for God's sake?

…and Submit and Resist.

Why not just do these as regular issues of Final Crisis?I don't MIND that these were separate. It just seemed pointless.

So, am I pleased with the ‘event’ overall? Yes and no.

I don’t really regret getting any of these comics. I just want to like them better than I do. The main Final Crisis story seems to suffer a little from deja vu. Revelations is well-done but this kind of cosmic story is a bad fit for Renee Montoya, and it doesn’t seem like it really needed to tie in to Final Crisis, anyway. Neither did Legion of 3 Worlds, though that’s fun if you are a DC nerd, which I happen to be, and it will really knock you out if you are a big Legion geek, which I’m not, really. The point is that those two are okay stories on their own but they are strictly what I call “logo-only crossovers,” they’re not true tie-ins.

Superman Beyond, Submit, and Resist? Again, they’re okay but I’m a bit befuddled as to why they’re not just done as regular issues of Final Crisis. I don’t see any advantage to treating them as separate titles when they’re not, and a real disadvantage to doing it since readers trying to stay on a budget might very well have skipped them and miss huge chunks of the story.

The escalating schedule screwups are irksome but I console myself that this is a temporary annoyance, and that it’s not as though it’s dated material or something. Eventually I will be able to read the whole thing at a sitting. But it is one more nail in the coffin of the monthly comic as far as I’m concerned.

Truthfully, there is a key point that DC as a whole seems to have forgotten when it comes to these big Event books. Sooner or later, for the gimmick to work, you have to finish.

I don’t think DC knows how to finish a story any more.

Let’s recap and you’ll see what I mean. We started with Countdown to Infinite Crisis, which ended on a cliffhanger. Then we got Rann-Thanagar War, OMAC Project, Day of Vengeance, and Villains United, all of which were supposed to be finished stories that instead, surprise, just led into Infinite Crisis. Infinite Crisis SORT of finished but really spun out into 52, which ran for a year and led into Countdown which ran for another year and morphed into Countdown To Final Crisis. Somewhere in there we had mini-series like Amazons Attack and Countdown Arena, neither of which had actual conclusions but instead led into other series. Now we have Final Crisis with a bunch of spin-offs and tie-ins, and that doesn’t count issues of the regular books with the “Sightings” logo on them, a logo that suggests they’re all a part of the same sprawling mega-saga.

How long has this been going on? Three years? How stupid are we, that we keep falling for events that are allegedly to set up a platform for telling individual stories– “You need to know this to understand what’s going on in our books!”– but the platform setting those stories up is never finished? “No, really, soon you’ll see the shape of the new DCU. Not, not after THIS miniseries, after the NEXT one. No, not THAT next one, this OTHER next one. We call it Final Countdown to Crisis on New Earth, the day Evil gets a rematch because of a technicality.”

After a while it stops looking like the unfolding of a master plan, and a lot more like there really is no plan.

If I’m going to read comics from a company with no plan, I’ll stick to Marvel Essentials reprinting all that crazy shit from the 1970′s. Those are at least cheerful in their anarchy.

But I think this is my last event crossover. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me seven or eight times in a row and I’m clearly a DC fan. However, even WE have a point where we’re out of patience.

*

There are DC books I like that I definitely am hanging on to, though. It’s not all bad news.

Here’s a little crossover that I actually quite enjoy, that ties in to nothing, that’s just a story with a defined beginning, middle, and end.

Old-school, baby.

This is bombing big-time, from what I hear. But you know what? I like it, it’s got that old-school JLA/JSA thing going on…. except it’s not the JSA teaming up with the League across time and space, it’s the Tangent crowd. I enjoyed the Tangent one-off books when DC did them the first couple of times, and it’s nice to see the characters again; but it’s not necessary to be up on those books to understand this series. At its core this is basically a big Justice League story.

And if I can’t have big ol’ JLA stories in the actual Justice League comic because they’re all too busy sitting around relating to each other or talking about the inspiration of the big three or having wild sex or some damn thing, well, hell, at least I have Superman’s Reign. I appreciate its unpretentiousness, I like that it has an extra backup story in every issue… it’s so not everything that we have come to expect from Dan Didio’s DC that I wonder how it ever got on the schedule in the first place. I’ll be sad when it’s over but glad that at least it gets to be over, if that makes sense. I approve of a mini-series, or even a maxi-series, that actually does what it’s marketed as doing and concludes its tale in the final issue.

Speaking of big sprawling JLA series, I wish there was more fan buzz on Trinity. Because it’s really good.

This has the misfortune of following COUNTDOWN......but I'll tell you, it's the most underrated thing mainstream DC is doing right now.Really, it's GOOD.

This is actually a much more satisfying weekly serial event that the various Final Crisis Countdown Crapola stuff we’ve been getting. It has the great misfortune to follow Countdown and I am afraid it had to take a lot of the ill will engendered by that series. It does not deserve it. It has nothing to do with Countdown or Final Crisis or any of that stuff, and for me that is actually its great strength. It’s over in its own corner, telling one story well in weekly installments. That was what we wanted from Countdown and didn’t get.

I don’t know that I have a lot to say about it other than it’s the kind of well-structured superhero story we’ve come to count on from Kurt Busiek. I’m always a sucker for the alternate-universe, “It’s A Wonderful Life” premise of trying to repair damage to the timestream after important figures are removed from it, and here Busiek is giving us a lot of cool riffs on what might have happened if there was no Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman in the DCU. (The evolution of the JSA into a sort of quasi-fascist police organization was something I certainly would not have thought of, but Busiek makes it plausible.) And I especially like the team of Lost Sidekicks led by Alfred. This is one of the very few places where DC is getting the fun of the serial storytelling experience exactly right… it’s weekly, it’s always on time, you get the pleasure of anticipating the next chapter without getting all pissed off that it’s taking too long to get here, and it keeps you guessing.

There are those who dismiss Trinity as not being innovative enough, or too old-school, or whatever. To those folks I’d say– maybe you’ve been reading superhero comics too long, because you are way too jaded.. A big story with Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and the rest of the JLA is supposed to be a fun old-school adventure. If you want groundbreaking, cutting-edge stuff, I’d suggest that a corporate-owned series starring the company’s three biggest franchise characters may not be the smartest place to look for it. Books with those kind of company-owned characters that still strain self-consciously to be innovative and cutting-edge almost always just end up looking pretentious and condescending, or sometimes just plain nauseating. (Judd Winick’s Titans or Brad Meltzer’s Justice League leap to mind.)

I’d much rather have the superhero team book that knows exactly what it’s supposed to be and just wants to be a GOOD superhero team book. And that is Trinity. It’ll do for me, certainly, until I can have my JLA back in the actual Justice League of America book again.

Isolated unpretentiousness is definitely a big seller for me: I prefer my superhero stories unencumbered by a lot of crap. So I’m very pleased with two team books that turned around for me in 2008.

The hell with JMS, rotating creative teams are just fine with me. Damn the fans that skip books like this for being 'unimportant.' Whoa, when did THIS get good?

Both Superman/Batman and Brave and The Bold pleasantly surprised me by suddenly reverting to the kind of stories I remember from the old versions of those titles. Superman/Batman, especially, apparently got good when no one was looking. Michael Green’s been channeling the spirit of the old World’s Finest gimmick stories (“Batman has Superman’s powers!”) and layering that with modern craft and characterization, and it really works for me. If you got chased off the book by the excesses of earlier creative teams, let me assure you that it’s safe to come back now.

Likewise, both Mark Waid’s swan song issues on The Brave And The Bold and the fill-ins that followed have been entertaining, fun comics, which is really what you want from a rotating team book like The Brave and the Bold. I’m totally cool with the idea of rotating creative teams and after the last couple of months I don’t care if J. Michael Straczynski ever shows up at all. It pains me to think this is exactly the kind of book fans snoot because it’s not ‘important’ or ‘doesn’t count,’ because to me that was always the great charm of Brave and the Bold. I’m hoping Mr. Straczynski keeps that going when he eventually gets here.

Since Julie gave me the first trade of the new Justice Society book I’ve been picking that one up too, and I’m sorry to say I’m not enjoying it as much as I did the first Geoff-Johns-helmed version.

better than JLA, certainly, but not as good as JSA that preceded it.

I like the title enough to hang in there with it a little longer; Johns is still working that Thomas/Buscema Avengers classic team-book style to great effect. But honestly, “Thy Kingdom Come” has gone on WAY too long, it’s been pretty much the last year or so. That was a five-issue story, max, and for some reason Johns keeps padding it. Of all the books I decided NOT to cut, this was the closest call. It’s very much on the bubble.

I’m feeling a somewhat similar ambivalence about the Superman group of titles– Superman, Action, and Supergirl.

Once again going back to the Schwartz/Weisinger well. Only when Johns does it, there are inexplicable jeers.

“New Krypton” is shaping up to be maybe a bit long, and though I’m happy to have the real Kandor back, I’m only “meh” about the story and it doesn’t deserve the amount of padding it’s getting. You could lose a third of this and never miss it. I really liked “Brainiac” that preceded it, though, so I’m willing to give them a little rope; last year I thought Action was the weakest of the Super-titles, but now that the book is back in Metropolis it seems a lot stronger. (Maybe I’m just less of a Legion nerd than I am a Superman nerd.) I was tickled to see both oafish 70′s jock Steve Lombard AND slutty Lois & Clark Cat Grant back in the Daily Planet offices. Why had no one thought of that combination before? It’s so perfect.

So even if “New Krypton” is a bit long, I’m still on board. Especially since my misgivings are mitigated somewhat by the amazing new stuff from the new Supergirl team. In one issue Sterling Gates gave the book a direction, an identity, a mission statement, and a badly-needed infusion of energy.

This was ASTONISHINGLY good.

That alone bought them enough goodwill for me to ride out “New Krypton” and see where we go from there. James Robinson, after a shaky initial arc on Superman, seems to be finding his footing now too. So they stay on the list for now.

There are DC books I only get after the trades come out, but I like them enough to support the trades when they are new, so DC knows they are selling. (Voting with my wallet, remember!) Chief among these is Jonah Hex.

Love Westerns? Love this. Every time I come home with a new one of these the sun shines a little brighter.

I love this book is out there and I’m thrilled it seems to be healthy. If you like Westerns you will love this. That’s all the review you need.

Likewise, Manhunter I always got in trade. I guess I have one more coming.

Sorry to see this one go, but they certainly got a fair shot.

I think that might have been a book that does better in the trade format, period. I’m sorry to see it go… but I can’t fault DC, if it’s not selling it’s not selling. But this would be the perfect time to suggest the GoGirl solution — how about finishing it up with a couple of black-and-white trade digests and go straight to bookstores with it? I’m pretty sure that printing in black-and-white only would give you quadruple the page count for the same price as a full-color 32-page comic. Maybe more (think of what bulk Shonen Jump gives you for what they charge.) Cheap for DC, nice for the fans, and Andreyko gets to finish without having to truncate his story or rush it. Worth considering, anyway.

The last book I get in trades is Dark Tower. I was about to say this is the first year in decades I have no Marvel books coming at all until I remembered this one.

I like this series a lot, but JEEZUS it's expensive in single issues.

For Stephen King fans, this series is a great joy. For those that aren’t fans of the novels, it might be hard going at first but I think it’s worth it. I myself am very fond of gunslinger Roland Deschain and his weird medieval Western milieu: if Conan is sword-and-sorcery, then this would be sixguns-and-sorcery, I guess you’d say.

But definitely the book editions are the way to read it. Single issues are way too expensive for this series at $3.99 each, and it just reads better collected in trade. But Peter David is doing great work here and Jae Lee’s art is haunting in a way that’s hard to describe. You should check it out if you’re not already.

And finally, The Lone Ranger is back on a regular schedule and so I’m right there with it.

I heart this book too much not to run out and get it monthly.

This is probably a silly one to get monthly because the schedule’s a little erratic and Dynamite issues it in five or six different book editions. But I can’t stand the idea of it getting canceled for low sales, so I support the monthly. Voting with the wallet again.

And that’s the list. Cut three regular monthlies, added three regular monthlies, so that’s a wash. Three more very close to getting cut, and most everything else is limited-series stuff that’s almost certain to be collected in book form. I probably should just make the full switch to trade-only and be done with it…. but I’m not quite there yet. Almost certainly by next year, though; I won’t have a choice. When all these limited series expire I think I’ll be under the minimum my store asks for them to maintain a pull list.

See you next week.

32 Comments

Thank you for liking Trinity and Superman’s Reign. I thought I was the only one! I used to hate Nightwing, but I’ve been enjoying it ever since Mr. Tomasi took it over, so I’m quite depressed by the loss of it, Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle and Manhunter. That’s a big chunk of my reading in one fell swoop.

I can understand the appeal of reading a story all at once, in trade form, and it certainly has to be cheaper, but as a creature of habit, I do enjoy my weekly trip to the Comic Book Store.

Greg, I agree with almost everything you said. If I were buying comics weekly anymore -which I am not, mostly due to economic concerns- I would certainly have decided to stop by now and switched to trades as well. In particular, you listed EVERY single reason I stopped reading DC comics (with the exception of out-of-continuity stuff like All-Star Superman) since Infinite Crisis. It just was so obvious to me how DC no longer cared about their characters or their morality (despite PRETENDING to do so in titles like Superman) that I decided I just could not trust to buy any of their series for fear of having shocking stuff thrown at me unexpectedly. And sadly, after all these time I was proven right- even titles like Flash or Teen Titans simply aren’t safe to read for those of us who don’t care for things like evisceration or cannibalism. And it’s such a DAMN shame that this is happening at the company with THE most iconic heroes of all time. (Marvel isn’t a bed of roses these days either, but it doesn’t feel as bad.) And now, to top it off, are all the unbelievable editorial mistakes that keep happening at DC, especially the ones surrounding their MAJOR CROSSOVER. I guess Didio isn’t the only one who needs to be fired. Not that I think it’ll happen any time soon, not as long as so many fans keep buying those comics despite complaining about them.

You had me until the “Trinity is good” part. Uh, no.

Just a few nitpicks:

- The reason Hush didn’t dismantle Batman is that the main point of Heart of Hush was he wanted to REPLACE Batman and take over Wayne Enterprises. I liked Heart of Hush, which was like a BTAS episode featuring Hush. Yes, Hush sucks, but at least Dini honestly tried to make it work, and the character interactions with Alfred, Catwoman, etc, more than made it worthwhile. It’s probably my favourite Batman story in at least five years.

- Trinity started off slow, got pretty good, and since the mid-way point is kind of… floundering. I hate the idea of cutting things short when I’m so far in, but I’m tempted to drop it, simply because I don’t feel like spending the additional $60+ if I’m not going to be entertained. Each installment is starting to feel too short and inconsequential, but maybe that’s just because I’m growing less interested in this whole alternate universe thing and want to see some more asskicking from the Big Three.

- Jonah Hex is indeed awesome. Even though it’s done-in-one, I find myself enjoying more in trade, for some strange reason.

- If all you’re getting from Marvel is Dark Tower, then you’re missing out on at least a couple of titles you might enjoy. Or not.

Omar Karindu, back from an Internet Thogal ritual

January 2, 2009 at 11:17 am

– Ditto: I dug Heart of Hush, which really did come close to making Hush a suitable Batman rogue at last…and the ending, with Selina’s revenge on him, was just good stuff.

— I’ve dropped Trnity, mainly because I’m so tired of Busiek turning every story he writes into a fantasy-novel world-building exercise. Itw orks in Adtro City ’cause that’s the premise, but on Trinity it seems as if the actual Trinity stopped being the plot a while back in favor of endlessly fleshing out the impermanent likes of the anti-Trinity’s new world and Krona’s new world and Konvikt’s society and so on. Like the House of M minis that Marvel keeps churning out, it has the central problem of demanding that we care about the everyday details of realms that will be gone for all other purposes when the story ends.

— Wow. You grabbed two of the lousier FC tie-ins (Legion, which is surely a “buy it for the pencils” project; and Revelations, which is simply dumb all around) and skipped Rogues’ Revenge, one of the better DC stories of the year.

If all you’re getting from Marvel is Dark Tower, then you’re missing out on at least a couple of titles you might enjoy. Or not.

It’s possible. But chances are I’ll catch up to them in a year or two when the collections get remaindered. That’s how I roll with Marvel U stuff, any more.

I agree TRINITY has been a little slow lately, but honestly I think the world-building is fun. That’s the part I enjoy. Mileage varies.

Your comments on the Bat books are where I was ten years ago. I wanted to like the books. I hade been colecting them for 20 years, and yet the never ending “event” stories with 20 different Batman related characters running through the stories had gotten old. Events used to be “special”. Now they are the norm.

I miss tightly plotted stories with a beginning, middle and end, told in a single issue. So I drifted away from the monthlies. I have picked up a few trades, but not many. ANd I keep poking around sites like this looking for signs of change in the industry, but it looks like they have moved further away from what drew me into comics to start with.

Even with the knowledge base I have from 20 years worth of reading, I’m not sure i could pick up any monthly book now. There is no good place to start a book anymore- one would always be coming in mid story. Which would explain why people aren’t picking up the books (even if they could find them all over like we did as kids), the stories are too dense to come into the middle of. People might try an issue, be caught mid story, and not be able to enjoy what they were reading. Another potential reader lost.

Ah well. At least I have the Showcase volumes to read books I missed out on years ago. The stories are new to me, and fun. Even batman can be a fun read- dark motivation and all, when done right.

Where are the editors….

Wait… does that mean you’re not getting Criminal, Greg? That’s a HUGE misstep, and a book that, like Jonah Hex, could use all the support we can give it. It’s great stuff.

Wait… does that mean you’re not getting Criminal, Greg? That’s a HUGE misstep, and a book that, like Jonah Hex, could use all the support we can give it. It’s great stuff.

It means I’m not getting it NEW. This column is the pull-list stuff. I actually get a LOT more comics than this… but usually they are second-hand. I didn’t think CRIMINAL was hurting…. I like it okay, but not enough to buy it new.

Probably an honest oversight, but as the writer of Supergirl, I think Sterling Gates should get the lion’s share of the nice retooling of the superheroine, rather than Jamal Igle (although Igle’s work is solid and appealing).

“Infinite Crisis SORT of finished but really spun out into 52, which ran for a year and led into Countdown ”

That statement I don’t really get – 52 had a pretty well-defined end point for that whole mega-arc, with Countdown (and DC Universe Zero – remember when that was “important”?) being the start of the whole Final Crisis stuff. Of course, then Morrison said screw it and based Final Crisis more on 52 and Seven Soldiers, so while I agree that it’s been continuous, I think everyone saw through countdown very quickly.

Agreed with all above who were heaping praise on Rogues’ Revenge. If that’s the way the Wally era of Flash goes out, it’s a nice ending.

And… yeah, Heart of Hush was pretty good. I mean, if you’re going to nitpick Hush like that, there’s a couple hundred villains out there that are FAR more lame. Heck, for most heroes Hush would be a B-list, maybe borderline A-list, bad guy. It’s just that on Batman you’ve got so much bench strength on the Arkham softball team that he looks like a bad call.
Anyway, I think most people were reading Detective more for Dini actually delivering on the more fun version of Batman that Morrison promised but didn’t really deliver.

Agreed that the JSA Gog arc was about three issues too long. I think I started reading that back in high school… or, at least, it felt like that with all the KC flashbacks this issue.

(And are we STILL on the Nightwing thing? Tomasi even reversed the death from the end of that issue, for crying out loud.)

Oh, and since we were on the “righting the ship” kick, I think McKeever’s started to redeem TT again. At the very least, working in “Aw yeah Titans” gets him a bit of a point back after the whole disemboweling of Wendy and Marvin by a demon dog thing.

Probably an honest oversight, but as the writer of Supergirl, I think Sterling Gates should get the lion’s share of the nice retooling of the superheroine, rather than Jamal Igle (although Igle’s work is solid and appealing).

AAGH! Typo-slash-brainfart. Fixing it now.

Yup, I too agree with most everything you’ve said – and also second the vote for Rogue’s Revenge; you missed a great story. Where I’m not agreeing with you is on Brave and the Bold and SuperBat. To little happens in BATB and I’m beyond tired of the dual internal dialog of SuperBat. I don’t and won’t get Trinity. That’s the price DC pays for Countdown.

And while I agree about the similarity to Morrison’s JLA story arc, when exactly was Darkseid the villain of a DC crossover? Legends is it I think. He’s played a part in other crossovers but not as the major bad.

Although, again, where was the editorial department? No one thought to ask, “Is this going to be different enough from ‘Rock of Ages’? Do we really want to go with Darkseid AGAIN as the villain for our big crossover?”

Morrison claims that he wanted DC to keep the New Gods quiet for the year or so before Final Crisis hit the stands. Editorial proceeded to release Countdown and Death of the New Gods. If true, that says a lot about DC’s editorial quality.

As for Trinity, I get the feeling it would be a better series if it was 26 issues released biweekly rather than 52 issues weekly. There’s a bit too much filler and the plot seems to move a bit too slowly because Busiek lingers for issues over minor details. 52 worked better as a weekly since it had six plots that could be inserted or removed as necessary so it always felt like something important was happening, while Trinity has one plot with a couple minor subplots to keep an eye on and often those plots can stall up. (There would still more people who dislike it, because the Tarot stuff is more confusing than 52′s plot, but I think it would be more read.)

I feel the same way, Greg– what’s left of my pull list has gone and dried up these days. I am feeling the urge to switch to trades as well…

I agree with Thok, a bi-weekly series (minus some of the backmatter) for the cost of a normal issue would be great.

Trades are definitely the way to go. A full story (arc) in one sitting for less coin. The only downside is the wait.

Oh, and I guess you have to dodge spoilers, if you care about those.

Otherwise, a totally satisfactory experience.

And while I agree about the similarity to Morrison’s JLA story arc, when exactly was Darkseid the villain of a DC crossover? Legends is it I think. He’s played a part in other crossovers but not as the major bad.

Fair point. I should have said “storyline.” Rock of Ages, the intro of the new Supergirl, the final season of JLU (yes, that was animation, not comics, but still a familar story to most DC fans) Countdown, the Terror Titans stuff and even sort of in Seven Soldiers. My point was simply that he is over-used. There was a reason Grant Morrison asked DC to back off using him as a villain for awhile.

Just finished my pull list cull as well.. 15 titles bit the dust…

Have to join the chorus backing Heart of Hush and Rogues Revenge.

Similarly, I didn’t go for Trinity, though I have been following the annotations… After really enjoying 52 and being let down by Countdown, which I thought started well… I didn’t want to commit to another 52 issues of a comic.

I was considering dumping JSA, but changed my mind when I heard Willingham and Sturges will be taking over..

I also considered dropping Ast-X-Men, due to the $5 premium you pointed out for Ghost Boxes… But I do love my Warren Ellis, and he made a point of telling people on his Whitechapel blog that it was purely a Marvel editorial decision to charge that much for it… so…

I’m going to follow you into picking Jonah Hex up in trades.. either through Abe’s books or Amazon…

Though my biggest saving per title is going to be a certain web-slinger who now comes out three times a month… That’s three less comics in one cut… plus, it feels like Groundhog day in Spidey-land, whereas JMS actually seemed lie he was taking Peter somewhere…

A few titles are either dying or have died. She-Hulk, Spider-Girl, Checkmate, Secret Invasion (which in finishing has taken with it from my pull list Front Line, Mighty Avengers and New Avengers. Sorry, but not interested in Dark Avengers or Dark Reign, although I will stick with Thunderbolts for a bit longer…)

The only new title I’m actually looking forward to is R.E.B.E.L.S.!!

[...] Friday’s Annual Inventory, 2009 edition Comic Book Resources ,January 02, 2009 Both Birds of Prey and Nightwing are getting canceled. This is kind of a shame. Although both books had been showing fatigue after good long runs, … [...]

I read the same story as everyone else, and I’m sorry, but once you strip away all the self-referential, meta-continuity-patch stuff out of “Batman R.I.P.” there’s not a whole lot left:

Actually, what’s left is Knightfall.

After a while it stops looking like the unfolding of a master plan, and a lot more like there really is no plan.

I’ve been saying this about Didio’s DC for years, and getting bashed for it. I guarantee Final crisis will resolve in a disappointing way too.

The cover to Birds of Prey #125 looks familiar. Is it a swipe/homage of some previous, more famous issue? Or perhaps of some other pop culture thing?

The cover to Birds of Prey #125 looks familiar. Is it a swipe/homage of some previous, more famous issue? Or perhaps of some other pop culture thing?

It does, doesn’t it? The thing is, at a passing glance it looks like the Birds are getting a ticker-tape parade and not being attacked by hordes of assassins. I looked at a couple of parade covers I remembered with the Batmobile, but it’s nothing like them. The angle on the car is so odd I looked at some old Kirby Jimmy Olsen covers, too, thinking it was reminiscent of the Whiz Wagon. But nothing. I do think most of that deja vu feeling is coming from the car and the way it’s depicted– it seems so huge it looks like more of a superhero vehicle of some kind.

“Actually, what’s left is Knightfall.”

Naaah, Knightfall had a good, solid story hook (if a bit bloated) in the “Bane wears down Batman before moving in for the kill” angle, which made it tense because you knew that the more Batman succeeded, the more likely he was to fail in the end. RIP’s hook was entirely in the meta-story stuff – Batman eventually winning wasn’t ever really in doubt.

Of course, since I didn’t care much about the hype, I appreciated it for the good story it told. Anyone who expected anything universe-changing may be disappointed, but I can’t diminish my appreciation of a story to take into account people too dumb to see through marketing hype. I knew Bruce wasn’t literally dying except in the most open-ended of manners, I knew Morrison would have to account for Final Crisis somehow, so it all fit together nicely in my eyes.

“Yes, I’m pre-judging. But damn it, I’m the audience DC apparently wants, the knowledgeable comics fan. This is the sort of thing that goes through our minds when we see the ads.”

It’s really not. I basically think “hmmm, is that going to be an interesting story hook? If so, buy.” I mean, I’m not exactly thrilled that Final Crisis is essentially Rock of Ages on a larger scale, but I can shunt that aside fairly quickly and enjoy the story on its own merits.

(And, really, we’re hating on Darkseid because he was the bad guy in the Supergirl introductory stories? Are we going to start saying Riddler was used too much because he was the mastermind in that Green Arrow arc, too? I think Darkseid shows up in Green Lantern vs Silver Surfer, too… between that and a JLA story from 1997, he’s obviously overexposed in 2009. Maybe it’s because I skipped both Countdown and Death of the New Gods, but “Darkseid, Again” doesn’t hold any validity as a complaint for me at all.)

Wow!
Cool and accurate analysis of the current state of super-heroes comics.

I’ve been staying out of crossovers saga almost since they started doing them in the 80′s. I understood right away that it was not a tool to tell a good story, just a cheap ploy to get you to buy stuff you wouldn’t normally buy.

There was a time when my pull list was limited only by my budget. I could easily buy, on a monthly basis, 15 ongoing titles, plus minis, annuals, etc. Now I have a hard time pick up half a dozen titles. For many years now, I’ve been spending my “comic book money” almost exclusively on Archives edition of old stuff, comic strip collections and books about comic book creators.

It is a sad thing that actual comic books (which is still mainly populated with super-heroes) are selling less and less, year after year. Which is ironic when you think of all the movies and tv series they have generated these last few years. Super-heroes are now accepted as a legitimate and even cool genre outside of the comics-geeks community. This recognition and acceptance should be represented by higher numbers of sales of comic books shouldn’t it?

But, of course, we all know it isn’t. There are many reasons for this, but certainly one of the factor is exactly what you have pointed out in your excellent analysis Greg: you can’t just pick up a single issue of a super-hero comic book and read a good stand alone story anymore.

They have been so many reboots and rebirth of characters in this modern age of comics that you need a masters degree in DC universes to understand anything. I used to be a huge Legion fan but they lost me at Zero Hour. I have no idea what the LSH is all about now. And then, there is this annoying tendency to think that to be cool, all super-heroes must be written in a dark and grim way. Been there, done that… 20 friggin’ years ago!!! Some comic book historian even had a name for it: the Dark Age (started in the late 80′s with Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT and Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN).

I used to be a DC man as well. Used to follow a lot of series. IDENTITY CRISIS put the last nail in the coffin for me. That’s when dark, grim and even sordid became the “hot” way to do super-heroes again. Thats when Didio’s DC went on a murderous rampage of character assassination (in the litteral and symbolic sense). Super-heroes could not be fun anymore.

Aside from Archives and collections and maybe an occasional mini-series or one-shot once in a while, the only DC ongoing title I have left on my pull list is JONAH HEX. And even with this one I am getting tired on the grim violence. Wish they would do more lighter stories. Westerns can be fun too, you know.

When I heard that James Robinson was back writing at DC, I tried ACTION and SUPERMAN for a few months. But then they added a third ongoing series to the package, SUPERGIRL, and even more, a bunch of related one-shots, and it started to look suspiciously like a crossover-type of ploy to get me to spend more money on comic books I wouldn’t normally buy. To make matters worse, they were stories about Robinson clashing with editorial, his leaving/not leaving dance. Dammit!!! I just wanted to read Robinson’s (His STARMAN is still my favorite ongoing series of all time) take on Superman!!! Not have to pick up a whole line of books!!! So: bye-bye (and not “buy! buy!”) Superman line.

I thank you for your suggestion of stand-alone titles Greg. Most of them haven’t tried yet. I will have a look at them. I’m always on the look-out for good old school comic books. I have a few suggestions of my own:

Ed Brubaker’s CAPTAIN AMERICA. Normally, I wouldn’t be into a title that killed their main character in the first arc and having him replaced with a “back from the dead” side-kick. With some ties to the whole Initiative crossover, the basic plot of the series had everything to make me stay away from it. But I’ve been a fan of Ed Brubaker since his SCENE OF THE CRIME. GOTHAM CENTRAL was the only “bat book” I bought for the duration of Brubaker’s stay on the title. So, when he left DC for Marvel I gave him a chance and I don’t regret it at all. CAPTAIN AMERICA is a page-turner thriller month after month.

Ditto on Brubaker’s DAREDEVIL.

And on THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST. Since Brubaker and Fraction left the title, Duane Swierczynski has been doing a good job on keeping my interest. Plus, as a bonus, we get a few nice pages from the great Russ Heath once in a while!

Speaking of the master, the best war title I’ve read for a long time is BROTHERS IN ARMS from Dynamite. Davide Fabbri may even be the new Russ Heath of war comics. He too draws with a clean and clear line. I appreciate that he does his homework on research. Like Heath used to do on Haunted Tank, his Stuart light tank actually look like a Stuart light tank. US soldiers don’t just shoot with generic rifles, they have realistic looking M1-Garands. Plus the story is good too.

Last time I bought an ongoing BATMAN series was Doug Moench and Kelley Jones’ run. So when Jones teamed-up with Steve Niles for a 12 issues limited series I gave it a try. So far so good on BATMAN: GOTHAM AFTER MIDNIGHT, even though I think I have already found out who the villain is, and only midway throught the series.

And the only title I have been keeping on my pull list ever since I started having a pull list: USAGI YOJIMBO! Seriously, not enough people know how good a storyteller Stan Sakai is. Please read it if you are not already doing so.

Greg Hatcher writes:

” I just wish publishers would follow this line of reasoning all the way to the end and realize that this really is what they’re doing now, and quit hanging on to the 22-page monthly as some sort of arbitrary limit on how comics need to be done. ”

I wish publishers would do 22-26 page monthly self-contained short stories for their monthly books, with four quarterly 80 page Giants in February, May, August and November for what would be the equivalent of their 3 issue miniseries releases throughout the year, and two “event” OGNS at 144-200 pages each released in June and December, respectively.

In other words, assuming the price for monthly is going to be $3.99:

January: Batman #XXX – short story
Febrary: Batman #XXX – short story; BATMAN: STORY NAME HERE (80 pager) $7.95
March: Batman #XXX – short story
April: Batman #XXX- short story
May: Batman #XXX – short story that is epilogue to OGN, BATMAN: 80 page #2 $7.95
June: BATMAN OGN #1 comes out first week of month at $19.95 (192 pages), Batman #XXX epilogue to OGN story
July: Batman #XXX – short story
August: Batman #XXX- short story; BATMAN: 80 pager #3 $7.95
September: Batman # XXX- short story
October: Batman #XXX- short story
November: Batman #XXX- short stpry prologue to OGN; BATMAN 80 pager #4 $7.95
December: BATMAN OGN #2 first week of December (192 pages, $19.95), Batman #XXX epilogue story.

12 X $3.99 = 47.88
4 X $7.95 = 31.80
2 X $19.95= 39.90

TOTAL: $119.58

That’s 1,016 pages of BATMAN a year for roughly $120, if you bought everything new. I think that is more than a sufficient amount of product for the year, don’t you, people? 18 books a year total.

And okay, let’s say you want to wait for the collections:

B-R’S BATMAN TPB – Collects 8 of the 12 monthly issues for $19.95
B-R’S BATMAN OGN #1 ULTIMATE EDITION HC: Collects the Prologue & Epilogue story as bookends to the Main story, includes a sketchbook section, and an interview with the writer and artists from the OGN, for $39.95
B-R’s BATMAN OGN #2 ULTIMATE EDITION HC: $39.95

(NOTE: No, I’m not saying “B-R’s BATMAN” as though it was my story. Just the format.)

1 TPB = $19.95
4 Quarterlies – $7.95@ = $31.80
2 HCs – $39.95@ = $79.90

TOTAL: $131.65

So, you can buy it this way instead, and spend $131.65 a year total for the same stories with the OGNs in the higher grade format with some additional goodies.

Now, not every solo character merits this kind of production level. I mean, I don’t think THOR is going to warrant a monthly and 4 quarterlies and 2 OGNs, for example. But your “top tier” characters, I think it works nicely.

“But what about all the spinoff books, like NIGHTWING, ROBIN, BATGIRL, BIRDS OF PREY?” you ask. Well, they likely don’t rate that sort of production level either, I suspect. But then that could be what a BATMAN FAMILY Quarterly at 96 pages at $8.95 might hold, featuring short stories in each, or a larger, 120 page TPB for $14.95 with one larger feature story that rotates with the other three being normal short story length. Meanwhile the characters are guest starring intermittently in the monthly self-contained BATMAN stories. You don’t have to eliminate the prospects of giving these characters stories, just cull the herd of redundant titles and crossover happy lines of books.

I could apply this to Marvel, as well, but I really don’t care to deal with the headaches at the moment, because lord knows I’d cut half their titles, at least.

“Okay, but what about team books?”

Example: JLA —

Monthly books are stories that feature only 3-4 members of the team, self contained, or maybe you do a solo character story for the characters who don’t have their own series. The quarterlies give you the full “Big 7″ roster, for lack of better terminology at the moment, and with the OGNs the threat is so large you call in the reserve members to boot.

Damn, is it really that easy? Yep.

Legion, same thing. Avengers, same thing. FF only has four team members and you can always do a Thing or Torch solo story any given month, and your quarterlies / OGN may feature some additional guest characters. (Darn, that was hard.) X-Men? Well, see, that there’s where I pull out the big scythe…. *wink*

So yeah, Greg, it’s not like 22-26 page stories have to be dead. It’d be smart to do it my way, because then if you don’t happen to like BATMAN this month, you just might pick up that FLASH or GL for a month instead if it has an interesting cover or story hook you heard about, knowing it’s just an impulse buy with no additional commitments required.

And damn if that wasn’t the whole point of comics when we were kids? An impulse buy for a quick bit of light entertainment.

************

“The DC superhero line over the last five years is often written with the same vaguely arrested-adolescent “adult, serious” sensibility. These are wildly different characters, setups, premises… and yet so many times they all have the same morose tone. A grim story that might work pretty well in Batman is ridiculously out of place in Flash or Teen Titans, but that same “darkness” is apparently now de rigeur for the entire mainstream DCU line. ”

That’s what happens when you hire a bunch of exclusive writers to write as many titles as you can drag out of them, instead of doing it properly and looking for GOOD STORIES, without real concern about who writes or draws them specifically. But even with that said, Greg, I cannot agree that a ‘grim’ story told well would be ‘ridiculously out of place’ in FLASH or TEEN TITANS – but there’s the rub; it has to be told well and fit the characters properly. I’ll certainly agree that nobody seems to be following the basic four principles of story editing / writing.

“Grant Morrison on Batman is more problematic. Again, I was enjoying what he was doing, maybe not swooning over it like some of my colleagues but on the whole I thought he was doing good work. Then we got “R.I.P.”, which, sorry, strikes me as a bit of a mess. Take the trademark Morrison style away and what’s left is exactly the same thing Geoff Johns gets pilloried for– an attempt to integrate old forgotten continuity into the character’s history again. Johns does this with Green Lantern or Brainiac and fans jeer. Morrison does it with Zur-En-Arrh and the Club of Heroes and fans say it’s a work of genius. As far as I can tell, the only real difference is in the execution.”

It’s not even that, Greg. It’s just a question of whose writing style you prefer. In terms of actual execution, they’re both pretty lame.

If all a given writer can do is cannibalize the past and recycle it – and that seems to be the modus operandi for about 90% of the writers in comics today – then please, exit, stage left. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Get them the hell out of the industry, because they’re not just screwing the pooch, they’re screwing the pooch’s corpse in some cases, and it’s demeaning. It’s demeaning to the characters, demeaning to the readers, and really demeaning to themselves, when you think about it.

“For God’s sake. Does no one at DC even try to be an editor any more? Was no one brave enough to raise their hand in an editorial meeting and say, “You know, this Battle For The Cowl thing might seem a little too much like going over the same ground.”

“(Final Crisis) is not doing as much for me as it is some others here, and it is far too reminiscent of Morrison’s JLA arc “Rock of Ages” for my comfort…”

“Truthfully, there is a key point that DC as a whole seems to have forgotten when it comes to these big Event books. Sooner or later, for the gimmick to work, you have to finish.

I don’t think DC knows how to finish a story any more.”

I already covered this in my post over on Cronin’s theory of why artists get work easier than writers. It’s very simple to know what to look for in a good story, but it’s time consuming to actually DO it. And you’ve hit all the complaint spots in your column, Greg. Between story redundancy, never knowing how or when to FINISH a story, the lack of uniqueness in execution (irregardless of the technical merits of said execution)… honestly DC and Marvel are both in one big epic fail right now.

Maybe your students should be the so called “professionals” instead of the kids.

****************

RE: Tangent Superman – I wanted to try it, but nobody was really ordering it here. Maybe someday.

***************

RE: TRINITY – I’m relatively confident that Busiek and Bagley are doing fine on it, and it’s probably a well done book, but honestly I had no interest in a weekly year long book, regardless of who was doing it.

***************

RE: BRAVE & THE BOLD – Well, I think I summed up my thoughts on Waid’s run months ago (it wasn’t pretty), and Perez was the only purchase draw for me, so I dropped this a long time ago. But I do feel that Braithwite and Reinhold are doing some nice art on the series.

***************

RE: LEGION OF 3 WORLDS – I *was* going to get it, but DC stupidly tied it into Final Crisis (however limitedly) and killed the sale.

***************

No personal interest in anything Superman…

For whatever reason, the books like Jonah Hex, The Land That Time Forgot, and other non-superhero stuff… either it’s “pulls only” or it’s flying off the shelves at my local shop, because I almost never see these. Thus, I haven’t really been interested in seeking them out….

Never really saw Manhunter…

I cannot disagree with you more about Dark Tower or anything else Marvel or DC is adapting from famous prose authors. If I want King or Hamilton or Card or Kenyon, I want something NEW from THEM. Not adaptations of their old stories I already own by other writers, or these writers’ versions of the Marvel / DC characters, or even ‘new’ stories featuring the same characters from their prose (because to tell you the truth, I’m just as jaded and bored with that stuff due to overexposure). Certainly Stephen King has some new story that he could have collaborated on with Peter David and had Jae Lee drawing, no? Give me Laurell K. Hamilton doing a NIGHTSEER comic book, which is only one novel and offers a whole world to explore. Not Anita Blake of the fifteen to seventeen novels, the latter half of which have been little more than orgyfests, unfortunately.

I mean, really, people, how hard is this?

***************

You’re probably wondering what I *am* buying, huh, Greg?

2008 published books:

Aletheia #1-3 (Image miniseries)
Perhapanauts #1-4 (Image ongoing that’s been delayed)
Hellboy Animated Digests (the first three)
Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1-3
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt
BPRD… well, I got four of the past six minis dating back to 2006, so I can’t remember which one was the newest.
Courtney Crumrin & The Prince of Nowhere
Nocturnals (Image one shot – I think it was subtitled Night of the Beasts?)

And that’s all I happen to remember offhand as being released in 2008.

I have READ (but not purchased) various Marvel Adventures, Young X-Men, X-Men: First Class firest Digest TPB, the first 3 RUNAWAYS Digests, the Astonishing X-Men GIFTED TPB, Morrison’s run on New X-Men in TPB, Claremont and Davis’ ICE AGE story for X-Men in TPB, Kirkman’s first two volumes of Invincible in HC, Two FABLES TPBs, the Meltzer JLA “tornado’s path” or whatever th story was called in TPB, uhm… Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern in TPB where Hal faced off against Hank Henshaw and the Manhunters and reformed the GLC… Whedon’s SERENITY: THOSE LEFT BEHIND or whatever it was called in HC… via reading John Norris’ pulls on the way home from the comics shop, or borrowing them from my library this past year, among some 40-60 other TPBs that I borrowed out of the library.

So I have been trying to “keep up” with what everyone else seems to like, and often saying to myself, “What in the world did anyone see in this to be praising it? If these are the *good* comics, how bad are the books these people are constantly ragging on?”

Ah well. May there be a light in the darkness in 2009.

The Car on the cover of BoP #125 looks like a Morgan (I think the model is an Aero 8 ) if so, it’s perfectly in proportion…

The cover was one of Brian’s Top five picks from his cover-judging a couple of months ago… Could that be where you saw it first? Or is it just a standard ticker-tape homage á la Prez??

I’m with you when it comes to paring down titles, but my culling was due more to cancellations than anything. I was really surprised to look at a list of the titles I subscribe to at my local shop and see that more than half of them have been cut.

Of the 22 books I subscribed to in 2008, half have been cut or are ending soon — Amazing Spider-Girl, Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle, Checkmate, JSA Classified, Justice League Unlimited, Manhunter, New Warriors, Nightwing, Robin, and She-Hulk — and four were limited series — I Hate Gallant Girl, Rogue’s Revenge, Tangent: Superman’s Reign, and Vixen — leaving me with only seven titles on my pull list — Avengers: The Initiative, Booster Gold, Captain Britain & MI: 13, Deadpool, Nova, Runaways, and Thunderbolts — and even then, two of them are recent additions. It’s worth noting that I still buy a few other titles here and there, but the books I subscribe to are titles I want to be sure I get every issue of. And in all fairness, I was really close to dropping Checkmate until I found out the Global Guardians were showing up and then that the series was ending, at which point I figured I’d finish off the run.

But it’s crazy to realize that in five months I’ll have about a third the amount of titles in my pull-box. Then again, with the price increases I’ve been dealing with as a Canadian reader it’s not the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

Have a good day.
John Cage

I completely forgot about the Flash, which ended the other week too. And as a fan of Wally West I’m not 100% I’ll be following the title once Barry Allen takes over the book.

Cripes. That’s 12 books canned in the past year. Geez.

Have a good day.
John Cage

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Johns does this with Green Lantern or Brainiac and fans jeer.

No, bloggers jeer.

Sales were pretty damn high on GL: Rebirth if one recalls.

It makes me sad that this is a legitimate case you can make regarding current superhero comics, that you don’t need to introduce characters or do any setup because everyone reading it is already so hardcore it’s a waste of space… but that’s another column.

As I feel with Rebirth, I feel the same here – I think you worry too much about the book turning off readers… I’ve got friends who go in and out of comics, and they love books I think they’d hate – due to needing to know too much – and yet they love them.
Some people – I was the same when I first got into x-men – love the feeling of a world being over their head, with characters popping up left and right.
I think the trouble actually comes later when they’ll realise that most of this will all be swept away in a year or two.
Some of them thought World War Hulk was the shit, where as I was slightly underwhelmed because I have no idea who Ronin is, who the dude with red glasses and a red shirt is, and what the hell is up with two different Avengers teams.
(Not to mention the ‘heroes’ acting like total dicks the whole time – Hulk risks less lives than Strange and Stark with their hair brained schemes to stop him… I thought heroes being dicks was meant to be DC’s thing according to message boards?)

As for Brave And The Bold, that’s where we totally agree!
I got the first trade and loved the heck out of it.
I don’t know why this doesn’t sell huge, and say ‘nuts to you McGillicutty’ to Joe Rice and his hatred of the first issue.
(Although it does have a lot of what you apparently hate about Final Crisis in it… but then again, when it’s Space Cabbie, who cares as long as he’s appearing!)

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