The Cipher 05/18/11: Cape Comics Are Dead Edition

May 18th, 2011 by | Tags: , ,


five manga for hollywood

jacques tardi is pretty cool

digital comics, censored comics, blah blah blah


-I wanted to keep with my new format of discussing two works or bits of art I liked, but I’m on the run eating today, in addition to flirting with burnout and depression simultaneously!

-Brief bites, like the old school ciphers of two or three weeks ago. New format returns next week. Fewer complaints, too, I hope.

-The promised album reviews will have to wait, too, ugh

-One bit of art I liked from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira:

-That coach is the greatest.

-Sometimes I go through phases of really believing that cape comics have a chance of evolving and sticking around, rather than navel-gazing their way into oblivion. And then I see the sales charts and find out that John Rozum and Frazer Irving’s Xombi shipped 12k and get depressed and bitter. Twelve thousand is pretty bad, particularly in today’s crappy comics market.

-I keep forgetting that the echo chamber that is the people I correspond with isn’t made of the traditional direct market consumer.

-Cape comics fans don’t want new, or diverse, or fresh, or even really interesting. They want what they have always had, but maybe slightly different from the last time. Maybe a new face, but not too new, in some old clothes, or an old face back from the dead and a little sexier.

-David Finch’s incredibly ugly, boring, and awful The Dark Knight came in at #4, and a couple books saw sales spikes for Reign of Doomsday.

-This is the comics industry we’ve built, and it’s gross.

About as gross as this.

-Knowing how the sausage is made makes it harder to like comics, I think. My mistake.

-I think that the Mindless annocommentations for Batman Inc may be more entertaining than the comic they’re discussing.

-The death of Carlos Trillo is a bummer.

-Mainstream comics: I’m currently regularly buying Hellblazer, Heroes for Hire, Hulk, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Xombi.

-That’s my “pull list.”

-They’re consistently good, fairly free of stupid event-based shenanigans, and just tell good stories, month-in, mouth-out. Those are the most basic things that’ll get me to buy a comic.

-(The art on Heroes for Hire is frustratingly shaky, though.)

-I buy a lot of trades and digital books, too, but these are the only ones I buy on any sort of schedule beyond “Oh, is that out?”

-I realize that my Xombi complaint is pretty much “Why don’t people like the things I like” *throws teddy bear against the wall*, don’t get me wrong. But, that doesn’t make the fact that new books do not, and apparently will never, sell any less depressing.

-My policy is generally “Like what you like, because who cares,” but sometimes I slip.

-But it’s whatever. I’ll read something good this week (probably Hellblazer, which sells less than Xombi but has the benefit of being a Name comic in some way), forget about the fact that most comics fans don’t share my taste, and go back to gushing about how great whatever the last comic I read was.

-That comic’ll probably be Charles Schulz’s Peanuts.


David: Hellblazer 279, Heroes For Hire 7, Hulk 33, Thunderbolts 157
Esther: Yes: Tiny Titans 40, Batman and Robin 23, Superman/Batman 84 Possibly: Power Girl 24
Gavin: Batman And Robin 23, Booster Gold 44, Darkwing Duck 12, Avengers Academy 14, Avengers 13, Deadpool MAX 8, Herc 3, Heroes For Hire 7, Hulk 33, Skaar King Of The Savage Land 3, Thunderbolts 157, Ultimate Comics Avengers vs New Ultimates 4, Uncanny X-Force 10

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12 comments to “The Cipher 05/18/11: Cape Comics Are Dead Edition”

  1. Herc is totally worth picking up.

  2. I’ll never understand why a comic like Xombi couldn’t have been released under the Vertigo imprint anyway; it’s got much, much more in common with that imprint’s output than the DC line proper. 12k is a rousing success for a Vertigo comic. Who the hell makes these decisions, and what in the world could the criteria be?

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, it IS frustrating to see good comics struggle, because that means that there will soon not be anymore of this or that title. I’m feeling the same way about not only Xombi, but the Spirit and Doom Patrol as well.

  3. You got me to pick up Xombi David, so thanks for that because it’s one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a while. To go into a book with no expectations and not only end up loving the main character but the supporting cast as well is a rare thing. It’s too bad it’s essentially DOA at this point, maybe we’ll get a second arc because DC seems to let titles linger longer than Marvel, but I’m not hopeful.

  4. Did you drop X-Force, David?

    Xombi seemed like it was guaranteed to do a lot better than the usual new, obscure book because Frazer Irving was hot off B&R, one of DC’s highest selling titles. And Xombi was also getting a ton of good press up to and after the first issue came out. I can’t even fathom how this works. This “average comic fan” who only buys crappy books with his favorite characters in them doesn’t seem like something that can really exist, let alone dominate the customer base. What kind of a depressing mindset is that?

    I know it seems whiny to go all “why don’t people like what I like,” like you said, but the problem is that if people don’t like what you like, what you like gets canceled. Which sucks.

  5. It’s not worth bashing your head against the wall, it’s never going to change. Have you ever read Chuck Klosterman’s point on culture, and how you shouldn’t be let down by it? It put things in perspective.

    Also, I hate you for that otaku website. I want to cry. Scratch that, I am crying.

  6. I think new books’/properties’ inability to sell is due to a few factors, and not just the resistance of fans. Personally, the reason I didn’t pick up Xombi, was because I didn’t know anything about it, other than that it was a Milestone revival project, and Frazier Irving was drawing it. I still don’t! All the reviews I’ve read vaguely describe it with adjectives like ‘weird’ or ‘offbeat,’ without telling me anything about the book. DC’s The Source Blog is no better.

    After hunting down a lengthy interview with Rozum (http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=32022), I know a little more. It stars a guy named David Kim, who has vague nanomachine powers that are similar to the Interman’s or Marvel’s Darwin? But, that still doesn’t tell me what the high concept is, or what niche the book will be filling in the DCU, to set it apart from everything else.

    Most of my favorite books are ones that have, at the core of them, a really neat idea. Thunderbolts is about incarcerated villains trying to be heroes. X-Factor is about a mutant detective agency, that takes on weird cases. Doom Patrol was about a group of freaks serving as the resident super-team, on an island of mad scientists. That’s how the companies and writers pitched those stories to interested fans, and that’s why I bought them. Had they described them in vague adjectives, or gone on long tangents about Dr. Who during their interviews, I probably wouldn’t have read them.

    On top of that, even if I were interested in Xombi, who’s to say my shop would have it? I live in a town with three comic shops, the largest of which still only orders a few copies of Vertigo/Image/Dark Horse books, while ordering piles of anything with Batman on the cover. I could always ask them to order it for me, but experience tells me that’s basically a dead-end road. What if I wanted to buy it through Comixology? Can’t do that, it’s not available through them.

    Are fans to blame for a book’s low sales? Sure, in part. But, I think they’re a small symptom of a larger problem, that being that the comic industry has no idea how to advertise or sell product, in anything resembling an efficient or reasonable manner.

  7. @Colt: @Colt:

    Frazer Irving drawing a book is very close to enough draw in and of itself to pick something up.

    But I agree with your overall point (especially living in a town with a single comic shop)

  8. @Alex: I figure it’ll last up through issue 8 or 12 before getting the axe. Hopefully DC will release one fat trade of the work, or push out some digital copies.

    @Munkiman: Yeah, I can’t read Billy Tan comics without crying myself to sleep and wanting to kill myself these days. I may jump back on when the art gets good again.

    @OMG: I hadn’t read his point, but I feel pretty much how he feels. I’m good 99% of the time, but sometimes feeling and doing is two different things, you know? It’ll pass.

    @Colt: I’m not sure which sites you read that didn’t explain what the series is about. That sounds sorta like a basic failure in communication to me. I do think that it’s bigger than just the fans, and I think that fact’s obvious. The comics industry has bred a fanbase that serves a particular need, and mainstream comics have trouble branching out from that specific niche. The fanbase doesn’t want it, and if the fanbase doesn’t want it, it’s harder to get the money they need to branch out. The system is broken in a very real way, but broken in a way that’s enormously beneficial for a certain group of people.

  9. At least there’s a bit of variety, a token gesture towards it. Look at the RPG world. Imagine if Batman was the only comic anyone ever read, and everything else was weird and obscure. Even X-Men or Superman. Where’s my D&D!? Oh you wanna play Earthdawn? Pendragon? Shadowrun? Paranoia? RuneQuest? Ars Magica? Call of Cthulhu? Gamma World, which is made by the same people who make D&D? Screw that, I want to play D&D! Now!!!!! Even White Wolf games suffer from this, and they have the second highest market share.

    Also that otaku website is reminiscent of the late lamented Fanboy Rampage, Gamers are Embarrassing or Fat, Ugly or Slutty.

  10. Finch is no better or worse a writer than Todd McFarlane who sold 1.7M copies with his just-as-unreadable Spawn #1. McFarlane learned in somewhat short order he couldn’t write however, but when he brought in Sim, Miller, Gaiman, etc. and people like Bendis for peripheral books was it to juice low sales? Sales have fallen sharply for comics overall (not just the good ones) since Spawn #1 and the rise of Image, but comics as a genre are arguably in better shape than the 90’s due to arguably more diverse voices. Hopefully fans will wake up to the fact that while Finch draws pretty pictures he should be paired with a writer, but that won’t happen unless sales drop. I was one and done on that awful book.

  11. @kevin patterson: That’s the thing – a lot of people believe that Finch doesn’t draw pretty pictures either, unless you like rubble.

  12. “About as gross as this.”

    oh dude nothing is as gross at that