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CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – The Comics Project, Part 4

Welcome back to The Comics Project, where I asked 22* non-comics readers and lapsed comics readers to pick out an issue of the new DCU 52 and report back.  Head over to Part One if you’d like to read a full introduction for the project. Without further ado, let’s dig in!

As always, beware of spoilers if you haven’t read the book!

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NAME: Andy Peters

BOOK: Aquaman #1

AGE: 42

LOCATION: New York, NY

OCCUPATION: Writer/Social Worker

PREVIOUS EXPOSURE TO COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVELS, IF ANY? It’s been a long time, but I grew up reading Peanuts and Archie.  Saturday morning cartoons – Superfriends, Space Stars (Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Jonny Quest) – were staples of my childhood, so I guess that counts too.  A little older, I got into political satire like Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury.  I recently discovered Prism Comics, which has an amazing list of gay-themed projects that run the gamut from superhero, contemporary, erotica, satire, etc..  I check them out from time to time.

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DC RELAUNCH PRIOR TO BEING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? Very peripherally.

IF YOU DID KNOW ABOUT IT, HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT IT AND WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT IT? I caught a mention of it on Prism’s website.  Didn’t really know what it was all about.

WERE YOU PLANNING TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS PRIOR TO BECOMING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT?  PLEASE LIST BOOKS IF POSSIBLE. No.

AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THIS PROJECT DO YOU NOW PLAN TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS?  PLEASE LIST BOOKS IF POSSIBLE. Aquaman piqued my interest.

WHY DID YOU PICK THE BOOK YOU PICKED? I had a crush on Aquaman from Superfriends so that pulled me in.  I didn’t know any of his back story, but a friend also pointed out there’s a connection to Atlantis, which is the setting for the fantasy series I’m working on.  Plus, I like rooting for an underdog.  Aquaman has a lot of haters.

DID YOU LIKE THE BOOK? IF SO, WHY; IF NOT, WHY NOT? I liked it!  The artwork is great.  There’s a good hook with the mysterious creatures that are rising up from the bottom of the ocean, and the writers cleverly reference Aquaman’s rap as a lame superhero.  When he intervenes to stop bank robbers that are eluding a group of cops, one of the cops cracks:  “The boys at the station are never gonna let us hear the end of this.”  Aquaman is hot, and more badass than I recall, so with that, and his having something to prove, he worked for me as a likeable hero.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? The references to Aquaman’s questionable status.  Besides the cop scene, there’s a scene where he walks into a coffee shop, and the response to him is really interesting.  Women get all tongue-tied and self-conscious because he’s really cute.  A guy plops down at his booth to ask him a bunch of personal questions.  No one takes him seriously, and I thought it was really funny.  Meanwhile, Aquaman takes himself quite seriously, explaining to his curious fan – in scientific detail – that he doesn’t “talk to fish;” his powers have to do with controlling their “midbrains.”  So, there was a nice balance of interesting, nerdy science and humor.

WHAT WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? The brewing storyline about Aquaman having to choose between returning to Atlantis, where he has a duty “he never asked for,” versus making a life on land wasn’t particularly compelling for me.  But it wasn’t terribly bothersome.  Ditto on his romance with a red-haired “mermaid.”  Cliché, but I suppose the straight guys and gals like to see some hetero action in their comics.

IS THE BOOK NEW READER FRIENDLY? I think so.  Probably works better for readers who know a bit about the character, and his lame rap, since they’ll pick up on the in-jokes.  But it pretty much starts where it should – with some action – and then there are flashbacks and dialogue worked in to explain Aquaman’s background.

DID YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF LOST, I.E. COULD YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, WHO THE CHARACTERS WERE, AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WHY? I had to re-check some of the action panels.  Don’t know if this was ever part of his original comics, but I didn’t expect Aquaman to use his spear for anything except shooting out powerful water swirls.  Here, he wields it like Conan the Barbarian, so I had to re-scan the Aquaman/bankrobbers sequence where he’s using his brute strength and a weapon rather than rallying a bunch of fish to his aid.

DID IT INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, IF SO WHY? Maybe.  It was a fun, quick read, and I’m curious to see what’s going to happen with the human-eating sea creatures .

IF SO, WILL YOU BUY THE NEXT ISSUE WHEN IT RELEASES NEXT MONTH? Maybe.

IF IT DID NOT INTRIGUE YOU, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY NOT? If I had more time for reading, I’d say definitely:  yes, I’ll buy it.  But to start following a comic title while I’m researching for my own creative projects…well, I’d have to be totally enthralled, and I’m kind of riding the edge.

DID THIS BOOK INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO TRY OUT OTHER TITLES? Probably not.

IF YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULD NOT BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, WOULD YOU CONSIDER BUYING THE NEXT ISSUE IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD GET IT DIGITALLY (TO BE READ ON AN iPAD OR SIMILAR) FOR A LOWER PRICE? Hmmm…that could definitely be a factor for me.  Eco-friendly…no plastic-bound booklets to be shelved somewhere in my apartment to gather dust.  I probably would get digital issues. [Ed. Note: Should you choose to continue with Aquaman Andy, here's a way to get the book digitally!]

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NAME: Keegan Xavi

BOOK: All Star Western #1

AGE: 35

LOCATION: Minneapolis, MN

OCCUPATION: Artist / Youth Educator / Community Organizer

PREVIOUS EXPOSURE TO COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVELS, IF ANY? Not much, honestly.  At least not until I started doing these projects with Kelly.  When the first Batman movie (Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson ) came out when I was in the eighth grade, I suddenly became obsessed with the Joker.  I used to skip school and go to the library and found this huge comic book (now I know they’re called graphic novels) all about the Joker written and drawn by different artists that really delved into the darker psychological aspects of Batman’s nemesis. Batman himself never really kept my attention for long.  Then I read Arkham Asylum which had the most beautiful illustrations to accompany the story – I liked the stenciled lace and exaggerated lines reminiscent of drawings by Egon Schiele – and read it over and over.  More for the pictures, I think.

In my early 20’s someone hipped me to the animated version of Spawn and I became fascinated with that psychologically tortured figure as well, because I liked how he never really knew if he was good or evil for awhile.  I tried to read one actual Spawn comic, but didn’t get into it.  Earlier this year after doing another round of The Ladies Comics Project, one of my students lent me this huge three-volume Spawn anthology and I sat and read it cover to cover all in one Sunday.  The cartoon was a hot mess compared to the actual comic books.  I didn’t know what I was missing for all these years.

Participating in this project for two rounds before this one, I have read a comic called Madame Xanadu and a graphic novel called Aya and enjoyed them both.  I ordered a few online that caught my eye and have Persepolis, V for Vendetta, Scalped and Footnotes in Gaza all waiting on my shelf waiting for me to read this winter.

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DC RELAUNCH PRIOR TO BEING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? Absolutely not.

WERE YOU PLANNING TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS PRIOR TO BECOMING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? No.

AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THIS PROJECT DO YOU NOW PLAN TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS? All-Star Western was really good and I would love to continue on, however the huge pile of things I have on deck to read first makes me think it probably won’t happen anytime soon.

WHY DID YOU PICK THE BOOK YOU PICKED? The cover totally got me at first glance because I thought it was a cowboy zombie riding a horse in the pouring rain and I was like “that’s nuts!”  So I picked it.

WERE THERE OTHER BOOKS YOU WANTED TO CHOOSE INSTEAD?  IF SO, WHY? I was also interested in Voodoo, once again just because the cover grabbed me.

DID YOU LIKE THE BOOK? IF SO, WHY; IF NOT, WHY NOT? Not only did I enjoy it, my mother picked it up and read it before I did and she EXTRA enjoyed it.  She was laughing out loud and saying things like “hmmmmm…that’s interesting” and couldn’t wait for me to read it so we could talk about it.

So when I actually picked it up and looked at the cover again, I still thought it was about a zombie cowboy, but then I noticed the sign that said “Welcome to Gotham”.  I smiled because I felt I was familiar with Gotham City and was eager to see what it was like in the 1880’s but couldn’t imagine what zombie cowboys had to do with Gotham City.  It didn’t take long to realize that the “cowboy zombie” was actually a disfigured bounty hunter, another clearly troubled anti-hero and so of course I became interested in his character.  It was also cool to see one of the Arkham family forbears co-star in this tale, Dr. Amadeus Arkham.  The Wayne family name was also mentioned very briefly.  Since I already mentioned my teen love for the graphic novel Arkham Asylum, you know I was double-hooked into this story.

There were two elements that kept me going right away:

1)  Dr. Arkham follows this disturbingly violent bounty-hunter around town trying to psychologically figure him out as Jonah Hex kicks the crap out of just about everyone he encounters while investigating the murders of several women.  Dr. Arkham was asking the same type of questions I would if I observed a person who seemed all violence and chaos, yet had some kind of ethical barometer underneath all the bloodshed and craziness.

2) Some of the juxtapositions between Dr. Arkham’s analytical musings paired with scenes of Jonah Hex jacking people up were hilarious to me!  Dr. Arkham’s thought: “however, when suffocated by the confines of a city such as Gotham, Hex is likely either to flee or increase his appetite for the kind of emotional resonance he feels when faced with danger” is coupled with the image of Hex gouging out the eyes of the man in front of him with his thumbs while gnawing on the hand of the screaming man behind him.  I think Dr. Arkham is fascinated by Jonah Hex and in the reason why he fights, maims and kills to mask his true inner pain.  If Jonah Hex showed the slightest interest in Dr. Arkham, I would say they were the perfect odd-couple.

After I finished, my mom told me she laughed out loud when Hex first walks into Gotham City and a bunch of bandits tell him he’s stupid for being alone and try and jump him right away on the second page of the story. Hex laughs and says “Ah ain’t alone…Ah got two friends with me!” and pulls out two pistols and starts blasting.  “What a badass!” she said.  She also remarked on how Dr. Arkham included the fact that Hex was “well suited for the stark landscapes and brutality of the untamed west” as a factor in evaluating his psychology.  My mom linked this thought to the very opening of the story when 1880′s Gotham City was described as being at the crossroads between the western wilderness and impending urban sprawl.  “For men born to and raised in the western wilderness, the progress of cities must greatly unnerve them.  Being so used to open spaces, the claustrophobic nature of urban development must seem akin to a prison”. I hadn’t really noticed that on my own, but it made me start taking guesses at what Jonah Hex’s past may have been like.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? The fact that the cover, the internal illustrations and the story were all interesting to me and gave me a visual/literary experience you can only get in a comic.  After I read this, I found out that Jonah Hex was actually a movie that came out last year (I thought I had heard that name before), but I don’t really want to see it because I don’t want to be disappointed if it’s whack compared to what I just read.  If you saw the movie version of Spawn starring John Leguizamo, you’ll know what I’m saying.

WHAT WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? I don’t like the way comics leave you hanging and I would probably wait until they publish an anthology of All-Star Western before I read anymore.  I know that will be awhile considering this is Issue #1 in this new series, but I’d rather read a few of them at a time so I can get more of the story at once.  Patience is not really my thing.  I loved reading the three-volume book of Spawn comics that way and it was fine with me that I had to wait over a dozen years to do so.

All of the ads for tv shows and other comics were kind of annoying as they broke up the visual continuity of this story’s color palette.  The mood is kind of dim and dark browns and sepia-tones, then all of a sudden BAM!  Here’s super-blue super-red Superman heaving a day-glow orange asteroid thing.  It’s the way I would feel if True Blood had commercials.  Kind of a moodkiller.

IS THE BOOK NEW READER FRIENDLY – I.E. IN YOUR OPINION DOES THE BOOK WORK FOR A NEW READER? Even for people not fascinated by twisted, tortured “am I good or bad?” type characters like I am, I think new readers would also feel comfortable and familiar with the modern history of Gotham City and therefore be naturally interested in what this infamous fictional place was like more than a hundred years ago.  I think that will get them started and the storyline will keep them going.  I had no idea who Jonah Hex was until I read this, but I’m sure there are tons of other people who are familiar with his character as well.

DID YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF LOST, I.E. COULD YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, WHO THE CHARACTERS WERE, AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WHY? No, the story was very linear and to the point, with an equal balance of written words and visual graphics to tell the story.  And I liked when I was surprised at the end.  I was thinking the murderer was a Jack the Ripper type, and was pleased to know the story got deeper than that.

DID THIS BOOK INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO TRY OUT OTHER TITLES? I promised myself I cannot buy anymore comics until I finish all those graphic novels I have sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust I mentioned earlier.  But I do have a renewed interest in comics as I always do after reviewing a book for Kelly.  Reviewing comics makes me want to read more.

IF YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULD NOT BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, WOULD YOU CONSIDER BUYING THE NEXT ISSUE IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD GET IT DIGITALLY (TO BE READ ON AN iPAD OR SIMILAR) FOR A LOWER PRICE? Well….. on one hand I want to say “no” as I don’t have an iPad or anything similar.  I have an old-fashioned love for the tactile/kinetic sensation of reading printed materials and being able to flip back and forth through the pages while feeling the quality, glossiness and size of the paper.  But on the other hand, I fought against a smartphone for a long time always telling myself I didn’t need one.  After my old phone died last month, I finally broke down and bought one and I can’t imagine life any other way now.  Maybe I’ll feel the same way if I ever get an iPad or whatnot and will grow to love reading digital comic books.  Who knows?

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NAME: Robert Bieselin

BOOK: The Savage Hawkman #1

AGE: 29

LOCATION: New York, NY

OCCUPATION: Writer/soon-to-be-student

PREVIOUS EXPOSURE TO COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVELS, IF ANY? None really. I had a few Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles graphic novels back in the day, but that didn’t really have anything to do with the medium – more of a topic fascination. I woulda bought a TMNT diaphragm.

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DC RELAUNCH PRIOR TO BEING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? Nope.

IF YOU DID KNOW ABOUT IT, HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT IT AND WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT IT? I’m gonna write here even though the question clearly doesn’t ask me to… I’m on the fence re: the necessity of the relaunch.  One part of me is like, “why fuck with classics? Isn’t this going to dilute legacies and make it harder for comic fans 50-years from now to figure out what was what?” But then there’s the other side that thinks there’s something generally enjoyable about fresh starts. It’s just a comic book – do we really have to take it take so seriously? (I can already hear commenters typing “yes!” and “idiot”) But it’s not like we’re doing a reboot of the Bill of Rights? It’s gimmicky (and kinda opportunistic) but I’m willing to give it a shot.

WHY DID YOU PICK THE BOOK YOU PICKED? The synopsis of Hawkman (particularly the bit about an alien craft introducing some kind of super-plague to earth) caught my eye. Ever since that Swine Flu scare, my dad’s been asking me to write a sci-fi novel/script about an alien virus that wreaks havoc in a metropolitan area. When the Intrepid Museum started its campaign to dock a decommissioned space shuttle in Midtown he ramped it up, pitching it as “a resilient city battling against an alien virus that entered our atmosphere in the Trojan Horse of U.S. innovation.” Not a bad idea right?  It’s not really my thing, but if you’re interested in co-writing this with my dad, let me know. I’ll set you up.

WERE THERE OTHER BOOKS YOU WANTED TO CHOOSE INSTEAD?  IF SO, WHY? I actually did choose another book, Suicide Squad, but wasn’t able to get my review in on time due to family circumstances.

It (Suicide Squad) had a cool plot: basically a group of death row inmates who were picked by the government to perform dangerous assignments. (Think The Dirty Dozen.) Mini-round-up of Suicide Squad: cool visuals, confusing jumps between the past and present of six characters that I don’t think I entirely understood, a Batman connection that was a little fuzzy (at least for me), and a V for Vendetta – like hostage scenario that fell short of being believable. Cool idea – not great execution.

DID YOU LIKE THE BOOK? IF SO, WHY; IF NOT, WHY NOT? Hawkman didn’t do much for me – and I’m not sure if I should blame the comic itself or comics in general. The set-up and background of the story were basically thrown at the reader in the first few pages. I get the need for brevity, as we’re only dealing with a couple dozen pages, but I think even a teen audience needs more of a lead-in than: “I’m rejecting my super-powers”… “We need you to analyze this alien ship”… “Oh snap! There’s a killer virus” … “The powers I rejected have returned to me somehow! And just in time!” [Note: that’s not actual dialogue from the book, but isn’t far off either.]

I don’t know – are comics (reboots especially) usually this forward? I have to think they could be short but pithy. Like I said, the plot was cool, but it’s hard to get drawn into anything when it’s moving so fast.

Also, have comic books always had ads?

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? I dug the illustrations – especially in the beginning when the once-and-future Hawkman is driving into the forest to attempt to rid himself of his hawk-powers. The depictions of the dark woods and the country roads seemed very carefully sketched. The squares featuring fire or explosions (there were a bunch of them) and the ones w/ human forms were well-done too – kinda angular but not too angular, if that makes sense.

WHAT WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? Again, the rush to tell the reader exactly who everyone is and precisely what’s going on was a bit overkill. The dialogue was a pretty meh too. Is it necessary for an anthropomorphic virus creature to announce his evil intentions to the scientists he’s impaling? Probably not. Does our hesitant hero need to remind us that he’s “born and bred in the U. S. of A.” when confronting his alien foe or announce his intention to “whoop some tail” before whooping some tail? I don’t think so.

IS THE BOOK NEW READER FRIENDLY – I.E. IN YOUR OPINION DOES THE BOOK WORK FOR A NEW READER? I think it depends on the preferences of the new reader.   If he or she is looking for something easy to sit-down with, and/or expecting a comic to do the majority of work – then definitely. What we lose in subtly here, we gain in accessibility.  If you’re looking for something a little more paced and participatory, I’d say “no.”

DID YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF LOST, I.E. COULD YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, WHO THE CHARACTERS WERE, AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WHY? That was never a problem.  Even on the very first page, when the protagonist was in the woods burning something in a sack, the over-running dialogue (“Hawkman’s dead… one of us had to die”) made it pretty clear who he was/what he was doing – even when less explanation would have had a better hook to it.

DID IT INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, IF SO WHY? I gotta say “no.” The cliffhanger (“Hawkman succumbs to [the virus] Morphicius??”) might have brought me back for another if I’d come to care about Hawkman as a character, but, yeah, no.  I might flip through the next issue if I found it abandoned on the train and I was bored and no one was looking and I didn’t think it (the book) contained any kind of virus that could be released by someone flipping through its pages arbitrarily to check out the neat illustrations of fire and trees and angular pectoral muscles.

DID THIS BOOK INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO TRY OUT OTHER TITLES? I can’t say I’d completely rule out the series based a book (or two).  That said, I’m not exactly eager to dive into another after Hawkman or Suicide Squad. The plot would have to be original (or something similar to an idea my dad is trying to push on me) for me to think about it. And even then, I’d probably Google the book first to read some reviews before plunking down $3 that could otherwise be spent on TMNT contraceptives.

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NAME: Shelti Thompson

BOOKVoodoo #1

AGE: 31

LOCATION: Salt Lake City, Utah

OCCUPATION: High School Dance Teacher

PREVIOUS EXPOSURE TO COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVELS, IF ANY? Growing up I had no exposure to comics. I got into reading The Walking Dead through my sister-in-law several years ago. I am still reading it and am hooked! I have also read all of the Scott Pilgrim series and the Batwoman Elegy Trade. I really enjoyed both of them. The only other exposure was during the last two Ladies Comic Projects in which I participated.

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DC RELAUNCH PRIOR TO BEING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? No

WERE YOU PLANNING TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS PRIOR TO BECOMING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? No

AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THIS PROJECT DO YOU NOW PLAN TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS? No

WHY DID YOU PICK THE BOOK YOU PICKED? I liked the name of it and my husband thought I might like it (he knew a little about her character).

WERE THERE OTHER BOOKS YOU WANTED TO CHOOSE INSTEAD?  IF SO, WHY? Yes, my first choice was Batwoman because I really liked the one I had previously read.

DID YOU LIKE THE BOOK? IF SO, WHY; IF NOT, WHY NOT? I did enjoy Voodoo. The cover gives you some taste of what Voodoo is and it makes you want to find out what her story is. What I didn’t expect was the first page of giant cleavage! After I got past my surprise it was fine. I really liked how the two agents gave a brief background on Voodoo and why they were watching her. It set up  her story very well without going into too much detail. I liked how the story was written. It flowed well and was easy to follow. I thought that the part where the male agent, Tyler, is getting his lap dance by Voodoo and trying to get her to turn herself in was a little strange. He knew that she was dangerous and he just goes in there and gets himself killed. I liked how in the end Voodoo shape shifts into Tyler’s body to go and infiltrate the FBI.  Her choice to take over his body was a surprise, why is she trying to infiltrate the FBI?

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? I liked that you got to see  what Voodoo was, but didn’t explain too much.  It keeps the mystery alive. It kept me wondering how she came to earth and what her purpose is. I also really liked the ending.

WHAT WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? What I liked least had nothing to do with the story. I hated the ads in the middle of the story! It just ruins the flow for me. If you’re going to put them in put them at the front or the back.

IS THE BOOK NEW READER FRIENDLY – I.E. IN YOUR OPINION DOES THE BOOK WORK FOR A NEW READER? Yes, this book is new reader friendly. I am a new reader and I thought that this was a great first issue. I didn’t feel like I was missing something from the previous issues.

DID YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF LOST, I.E. COULD YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, WHO THE CHARACTERS WERE, AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WHY? No. I thought that this was a strong point for the comic. I never felt lost and was never confused about who people were. It was very organized and easy to follow.

DID IT INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, IF SO WHY? Yes and no. Yes because I liked the story and would like to see what happens next. No because I would rather spend my money elsewhere. I do think I would be more inclined to buy a trade that is longer. I don’t like just getting into the story and then its over so quickly.

IF SO, WILL YOU BUY THE NEXT ISSUE WHEN IT RELEASES NEXT MONTH? No

DID THIS BOOK INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO TRY OUT OTHER TITLES? No, not really. Not that I didn’t like it. I just don’t want to go spend the money on them.

IF YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULD NOT BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, WOULD YOU CONSIDER BUYING THE NEXT ISSUE IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD GET IT DIGITALLY (TO BE READ ON AN iPAD OR SIMILAR) FOR A LOWER PRICE? Maybe.

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NAME: Debbie Wolen

BOOK: The Flash #1

AGE: 42

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

OCCUPATION: Architect

PREVIOUS EXPOSURE TO COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVELS, IF ANY? Not much – I read a few issues of Spider-Man and Ghost Rider here and there.

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DC RELAUNCH PRIOR TO BEING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? No

AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THIS PROJECT DO YOU NOW PLAN TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS?  PLEASE LIST BOOKS IF POSSIBLE. Possibly – it would be nice to read some of the other titles.

WHY DID YOU PICK THE BOOK YOU PICKED? I was hoping for a story I didn’t already know which wasn’t too bloody/gory.

WERE THERE OTHER BOOKS YOU WANTED TO CHOOSE INSTEAD?  IF SO, WHY? No

DID YOU LIKE THE BOOK? IF SO, WHY; IF NOT, WHY NOT? I liked the story, it wasn’t difficult to follow and the cliffhanger made you want to read the next issue.  Also you didn’t feel like you already needed to know the story because they gave you some quick background at the beginning.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? It was an intriguing story.

WHAT WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? I actually thought the art wasn’t so great – it seemed like it was the rough draft and they needed to come back and flesh it out better.  The use of conceptual space was fine but the people looked stiff and kind of like they came out of the newspaper comic Luann.

IS THE BOOK NEW READER FRIENDLY – I.E. IN YOUR OPINION DOES THE BOOK WORK FOR A NEW READER? Yes

DID YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF LOST, I.E. COULD YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, WHO THE CHARACTERS WERE, AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WHY?  It was easy to follow, not confusing.

DID IT INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, IF SO WHY? Yes.

IF SO, WILL YOU BUY THE NEXT ISSUE WHEN IT RELEASES NEXT MONTH? Possibly.

DID THIS BOOK INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO TRY OUT OTHER TITLES? Possibly.

IF YOU FIND YOURSELF INTERESTED IN OTHER TITLES, WILL YOU ACTUALLY BUY THESE ISSUES WHEN THEY RELEASE IN THE COMING WEEKS? Possibly.

IF YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULD NOT BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, WOULD YOU CONSIDER BUYING THE NEXT ISSUE IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD GET IT DIGITALLY (TO BE READ ON AN iPAD OR SIMILAR) FOR A LOWER PRICE? No.

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NAME: Holly Braithwaite

BOOK: I, Vampire #1

AGE: 35

LOCATION: Salt Lake City, UT

OCCUPATION: Director of Communications, Utah System of Higher Education

PREVIOUS EXPOSURE TO COMICS/GRAPHIC NOVELS, IF ANY? I have done previous reviews on Ghost World and American Vampire, and I’ll never shun an Archie and Jughead.

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DC RELAUNCH PRIOR TO BEING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? I had no idea about the “New 52” but I like the concept. I think I’ll read more now, especially since I’ve spied Superman in jeans. [Ed. Note: Did you also see that Superman wears a t-shirt with a tiny little cape SEWN INTO IT?  It cancels out the fun of the jeans!]

WERE YOU PLANNING TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS PRIOR TO BECOMING INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT? Nope

AFTER PARTICIPATING IN THIS PROJECT DO YOU NOW PLAN TO READ ANY OF THESE BOOKS?  PLEASE LIST BOOKS IF POSSIBLE. Now that Superman’s a bachelor, I’ll likely read some of those. I also love the supernatural comics so I will definitely read Justice League Dark and likely Demon Knights.

WHY DID YOU PICK THE BOOK YOU PICKED? I’m obsessed with vampires. Always have been, always will be. Except the pop culture vampires of today are a little too wussy for my tastes. I’m more of your gothic/Victorian Era vampire kind of girl so I was pleased that the vampires in I, Vampire were more tough than sparkly.

WERE THERE OTHER BOOKS YOU WANTED TO CHOOSE INSTEAD?  IF SO, WHY? I could’ve been given anything, I like trying new things!

DID YOU LIKE THE BOOK? IF SO, WHY; IF NOT, WHY NOT? I very much enjoyed this book. As I mentioned before, I’m in a place right now where I like my vampires grittier rather than glitterier. I thought this was just a good, old-fashioned boy meets girl, boy turns into a vampire, boy turns girlfriend into a vampire, girl becomes bloody Vampire Queen kind of story.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? I loved the artwork in this book.

WHAT WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE BOOK? The two stories told from the guy and girl perspectives intertwined were a bit confusing. I had to go back and reread it just to make sure I was following what was going on.

IS THE BOOK NEW READER FRIENDLY – I.E. IN YOUR OPINION DOES THE BOOK WORK FOR A NEW READER? I think the book definitely works for a new reader. This starts from the very beginning—a very good place to start – and I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up from some weird angle.

DID YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF LOST, I.E. COULD YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS HAPPENING, WHO THE CHARACTERS WERE, AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND WHY? Not really, but then again I could’ve been distracted by my dog who threw up on the living room rug while I was reading.

DID IT INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU WANT TO BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, IF SO WHY? I want to see what they’re going to do with the story and see where it goes.

IF SO, WILL YOU BUY THE NEXT ISSUE WHEN IT RELEASES NEXT MONTH? If I’m reminded. Is there an app for that? [Ed. Note: I don't know if there is, but there should be - someone get to work on that right away!]

IF YOU SAID THAT YOU WOULD NOT BUY THE NEXT ISSUE, WOULD YOU CONSIDER BUYING THE NEXT ISSUE IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD GET IT DIGITALLY (TO BE READ ON AN iPAD OR SIMILAR) FOR A LOWER PRICE? I would rather read anything digitally on iPad. [Ed. Note: And so again I will link to Comixology's digital store - for your reading pleasure Holly!]

.

Survey says?

And we end with even more complaints about ads!  That was the resounding (and surprising) message I got from this project.  Of my 21 participants six complained about the ads and listed it as their least favorite aspect of the book they read, or a very high deterrent.  That’s almost 30%.  I’ll be honest, this reaction takes me completely by surprise.  I think, having read comics for as long as I have, I just don’t even think to pay attention to the ads.  Sure, I don’t like them, they’re annoying, but 90% of the time I breeze past them without even thinking about it.  Yet they were a stumbling block for 30% of readers.  That’s kind of a big deal.  But the cost of comics is very high already…without the ad revenue I can’t imagine how the costs would balloon.  It all leads unfortunately into comics being, even if you really like them, not a great entertainment value for your dollar bet.

The second most frequent complaint was how short the books were/the stories feeling incomplete, and the desire to wait and read the story in a larger chunk, or better yet, a completed piece.  Of course this is interesting because trades offer both fewer/less aggressive ads AND a larger chunk of a story.  I see another Comics Project in my future – offering up trades of existing series to new readers to see how their responses change when we give them a larger chunk and reduce ads considerably.  If you reduce those two issues…what will be the new issue to focus on as a stumbling block for new readers?

The most interesting thing to me in all of this however (other than the really high interest in Voodoo) is that for the most part the reviewers for this project seemed to like their books much MORE than I did.  I read 34 of the new DCU 52 and was pretty unhappy with most of them.  A few stood out as wonderful (Wonder Woman, Batwoman, and Batman) and are definite purchases for me.  A few more I liked enough to give a try for a few issues at least (Animal Man, Swamp Thing, The Flash, I, Vampire, Birds of Prey, and Justice League Dark); and still others (Static Shock, Stormwatch, and Blue Beetle) I didn’t love but want to support and so will give them a few issues to win me over before I pull the plug.  That means initially I’m buying 12 “New” DCU books, with my number to slide back to perhaps 8 books in a few months (if we’re lucky).  But before the relaunch I was already buying 13 regular books from DC consistently…so for a known and quantifiable reader like me it’s initially almost a wash and then an expected fall off of about 30%.

On the whole I thought the “new reviewers” were very generous and far less critical – I hated a lot of the books I read – especially as someone desperate for more good portrayals of female characters, but these reviewers were quite kind to even those books I hated.  Is that just because they’re trying to be nice?  Is it because they were pleasantly surprised by what they read?  And if so, is it because their expectations about superhero comics were already low, or because these books really did impress them?  Are they less likely to throw a critical hammer at those books simply because they’re not inclined to delve as deeply into criticism as an existing fan or because they’re less attached to the stories and characters and thus less critical or emotional about the books?  Or as existing fans are our expectations unreasonably high?  All questions I’m left with after this experiment – and more so this time than in any of my previous experiments.

At the end of the day however, all that really matters is if any of these new readers are going to buy more comics based on their experiences here.  I know for a fact that Jennifer went above and beyond and got a pull list at her local comic shop so she wouldn’t miss out on any Batwoman.  Similarly, Andrew has reported back that he went to the comic shop and bought a slew of number ones and plans to buy at least number twos for a few of them.  Since they’ll be “around the house” I can assume Loretto will read more as well, though she will not spend her own money.  I feel confident putting Holly in the “will read more and spend her money” category, and I also feel confident saying that Paul will buy more Wonder Woman – though both seem concerned that they’ll forget.  Tim seems on board for Nightwing, but I suspect easy access and remembering to buy it might be an issue for him as well.  Jeff seems on board for Birds of Prey and perhaps others digitally, but I happen to know that Jeff is very frugal…so I wonder when push comes to shove, if he’ll be able to make the tough decision to part with his cash for something he knows he can live without.  These people definitively said they would buy more comics, or have actively done so, and thus I’ll count them – so that means six new people buying comics – again – about 30% of the project – which is frankly – huge.  If you could get comics into the hands of the masses and come away with 30% committing to buying more comics?  Well…we’d have a lot fewer problems in this industry.

Add to that, that if you could better solve the access issue (where and how they’re available to people unlikely to go weekly to an LCS) and set up ways to remind folks about their comics (maybe this already exists?) then the number based on my readers bumps up closer to 40%.  Again, a huge number.

As always, though obviously not scientific, and a wildly small sample size, I find these results fascinating.  I was glad to see DC employing Nielsen for official survey work after this venture and I’ll be curious to see what results they get.  That said, having taken the survey myself, I don’t know that they asked all the questions they really needed to in order to dig deeply enough on these answers.  Time will tell though, what the new 52 will bring them.  It’s been a disappointment for me, but they already HAD me (even though they didn’t want me) so is their 30% of new readers enough to compensate for the 30% drop off of a reader of 20 years?  Time will tell!

Thanks as always to all my participants and to Tara Abbamondi for the lovely illustration.  You can read the rest of The Comics Project here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

*the reader for Justice League Dark had to drop out this week due to some family complications, so we ended up with 21 readers in total.

15 Comments

[...] Head on over to check out what the last batch of new DCU 52 readers thought of their books [...]

“I see another Comics Project in my future – offering up trades of existing series to new readers to see how their responses change when we give them a larger chunk and reduce ads considerably. If you reduce those two issues…what will be the new issue to focus on as a stumbling block for new readers?”

Now THAT’s an experiment I want to see the outcome of!

I’ve really enjoyed all of these! They give us some very interesting insight on the effects of the new DCU.

Not sure how you would go about doing this Kelly, but you should try to get DC to notice this stuff; the surveys are there but I’m wondering how much data they’re getting that’s actually useful. If someone at the company sat down and read these Comics Project things, I imagine they’d get better information and maybe actually implement some of this stuff.

@Jase: Check out The Ladies Comics Project Phase II, which had women reading graphic novels and trades, for a similar/related experiment to what I proposed above.

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/category/ladies-comics-project/

An extensive and very interesting analysis, Kelly. All the Voodoo love was interesting, too, and I had to look her up just now on Google since I hadn’t known that she wasn’t a brand new character (WildCATS – no wonder. I’ve never read them and have no clue as to who any of them are/were). I think one reason the ads stand out is because almost all ads these days are full-page illustrated ads that feature comics and other fantasy characters in them, so the eye really gets caught on them easily. (It would help if all the house ads at least could be moved to the end, with fewer interruptions to the story.)

“And we end with even more complaints about ads! That was the resounding (and surprising) message I got from this project. Of my 21 participants six complained about the ads and listed it as their least favorite aspect of the book they read, or a very high deterrent. That’s almost 30%. I’ll be honest, this reaction takes me completely by surprise. I think, having read comics for as long as I have, I just don’t even think to pay attention to the ads. Sure, I don’t like them, they’re annoying, but 90% of the time I breeze past them without even thinking about it. Yet they were a stumbling block for 30% of readers. That’s kind of a big deal. But the cost of comics is very high already…without the ad revenue I can’t imagine how the costs would balloon. It all leads unfortunately into comics being, even if you really like them, not a great entertainment value for your dollar bet.”

I will never understand the people that can just ignore them. They destroy page layouts so often and just completely ruin the design and aesthetics. At least in old comics the ads tended to be drawn in house and they tended to give them their own two page inserts so that they rarely interrupted the page layouts. If you do this again with trades, you should put in a few alt pamphlets like Optic Nerve that don’t have any advertisements (or hell, even Image and Dark Horse leave their in house ads at the end of their pamphlets and they don’t charge any extra and they sell less than DC and Marvel so I really don’t buy the argument that all this advertising revenue is what is keeping the boat from sinking) and see what people’s reactions are.

I find it interesting that the reviewer of I, Vampire said that bachelor Superman was more appealing to her than married Supes. Long-time fans usually hate it when marriages are erased. But, you never encounter the characters married in the popular media. There will probably never be a movie series where Peter and MJ start out married or Lois and Clark start out married. I guess Peter and Clark’s romantic troubles are the most relatable aspects of the characters.

When the characters get married it takes out a lot of the soap opera. I’ve always felt superhero comics should be equal parts action, sci-fi/fantasy, and soap opera. When I started reading Spider-Man comics when I was a kid I was confused by Peter and MJ’s marriage because Peter was a single college student in the cartoon. So I could see how new readers would expect the characters to be single and more like their popular media incarnations.

On the other hand erasing marriages undoes character development, but I guess new readers wouldn’t care about that.

I wonder if this signifies that comics don’t have to be great in order to be read. People already like explosions and they like soapy interactions. That’s all over comics. Maybe the big problem is that, unlike TV, there’re rather large barriers to entry. Bring down the price (I mean way down), put them out in higher-traffic areas and maybe that’ll solve the problem?

Jimmy palmiotti

October 11, 2011 at 5:28 am

I think putting most of the ads to the back of the book would be a smart thing. I loved reading these reviews…for a writer, they are super helpful.

@Jimmy! *faints* … as you can see from my review, I am not a huge comic book fan, but I really enjoyed All Star Western and intend to go back and read the previously released series. That’s so cool you checked Kelly’s project out (and let’s be real – without her I would have no idea who you were!).

Jimmy Palmiotti (and his wife) need to get another Power Girl title going in the new 52!

The whole point of the ad placement is to draw attention to them. If they put the ads in the back of the book no one would see them, and they would be ineffective at advertising their products. That said, I hate ads, and I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired to buy a product by an ad. Sometimes annoying ads make me avoid products, though.

Just popping in to report that I just finished Animal Man #1 & #2 and immediately texted Andrew to put it on his pole list. I was then told it’s actually called a pull list. Anyway, I’ve read most of all the other ones in the house, and this made the greatest impression on me by far. Love the story, love the drawing style, love the color palette. I’m all in on the strangeness and exploding hippopotami. Cannot wait for #3!

Interesting about the ads. From my brief flipping through, I saw the ads seemed to be either those stupid damn sneaker ads with the multi versions of different characters, or the NYCC ad with comics stuff, and so on, so I can see where they’d be confusing.

To play a bit devil’s advocate, though, what is so hard about skipping over ads, or not letting it interrupt the flow that much? These people are all old enough that they presumably have read other magazines and stuff. If someone’s reading an article in a magazine and there’s a text only ad on one page, do they keep reading the ad and then complain that they “break up the flow” of the article they’re reading and have to flip the page on? (Again, just trying to be devil’s advocate. As Kelly says, those of us that have read comics long enough have become able to mostly skip over them easily enough, but it is interesting that so many people brought it up.)

I wonder too if there’s any particular reason new readers are being a bit more generous in their assessments, as I also see intimations of this in other DC 52 comments. Maybe since they’re NOT invested in the characters, they can sit back and enjoy more than some of us can.

One thing that I think I’d thought of, and it was brought back to mind with what you’re saying about people following up and buying more, is that particularly for those people buying online (I suppose ONLY for online…), if DC isn’t sending emails to people for the next issue, or offering “digital subscriptions”, they’re blowing an opportunity. DC can send out emails, or tweet people (or…whatever. I’m not too up on the social media the kids are all over.) to let them know the new issue is out, and also include a “buy now!” option, so that all they have to do is click and get the new one. It seems simple and effective, and would keep people coming back, if they don’t have to “think” about it to get the next issue.

I would read the shit out of a Flash/Luann crossover.

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