Marvel vs DC: What’s Beef?

January 14th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Here’s an excerpt from a press release Marvel sent out yesterday:

In an effort to provide assistance to comic retailers in 2010, Marvel is offering retailers an opportunity to turn unsold comics into an extremely rare Siege #3 Deadpool Variant!

Retailers – for every 50 stripped covers of the following comics sent to Marvel, you will qualify to receive one FREE Siege #3 Deadpool Variant. The 50 stripped covers can be any combination of the comics listed below and all submissions need to be received at the Marvel office at the address below by Tuesday 2/16/2010. Also included with the stripped covers must be your store contact information including Diamond Account # and email address.

Stripped Covers To Be Sent:
Adventure Comics #4
Booster Gold #26
Doom Patrol #4
Justice League Of America #39
Outsiders #24
R.E.B.E.L.S #10

Ooh, that’s shots fired.

Let’s pull this apart piece by piece, okay? Top to bottom.

First is the timing. This is the first real week of comics news in 2010. Last week was Christmas recovery and fairly light. This week, DC has been slinging high profile announcements left and right. Among other things, they’ve shown off Gail Simone being back on Birds of Prey with some crappy artist, a preview of Jock’s take on Batwoman with Greg Rucka, a look at the Return of Bruce Wayne, and Keith Giffen is getting a Justice League book. Fan-service announcements all, two trying to recapture past glories and two pimping big deals. Add the announcement of Brightest Day, their new biweekly comic and probable spine of the DCU, into the mix and you have a big week just three days in.

This press release is aggressive and instantly controversial, the type of thing that makes people want to argue about it ad nauseam. It’s sharp and pits the two companies right up against each other, upping the ante on the competition between the two companies. It also disrupts DC’s grip on the news cycle in a very major way. At the time of this writing, the Robot6 article on Gail Simone’s return to BoP has 32 comments. The piece on the press release has 107, despite being posted several hours later. Marvel pushed DC right out of the limelight with something that is sure to cause discussion (fights) for days to come.

Second is the subtext of the press release. The first line begins, “In an effort to provide assistance to comic retailers in 2010[.]” Marvel is positioning itself as doing the retailers in the Direct Market a favor by allowing them to trade unsold books for a rare variant that’ll go for big bucks. Essentially, they are saying “We are the good guys. Those other guys did you wrong, but we’ve got your back.”

The subtext doesn’t end there. The books that are part of the promotion have one thing in common: they were all part of DC’s Blackest Night promotion, where ordering 25 or 50 copies of each issue gave retailers the chance to order a bag of plastic rings. That promotion was a huge success for DC, with several books moving as many as thirty-five thousand more copies than they did the month before. They ran the sales charts for November 2009. It left DC holding seven of the top ten spots in the Top 300 sales chart, up from six in October and September and four in August.

Some retailers required customers to purchase a book to get the rings, others treated them like the giveaways they were intended to be and gave them out like candy on Halloween, and others, the worst of the lot, sold the rings on their own. Conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the books stayed on the shelves. The sales charts for December seem to suggest the same thing- once the promotion was over, a few of the books involved lost roughly twenty thousand readers. Past experience suggests that that fall will continue into January. (I’m rounding these numbers off, by the way. To compare for yourself, look at the October, November, and December charts. I’m an English major, I can barely count to ten.)

Now, Marvel is taking a shot at what is basically DC’s biggest sales success in ages, and doing it in such a way that wipes the foundation for that success away. Suggesting that the comics didn’t sell implies that the entire draw for the increased orders were the bags of plastic rings, which honestly probably isn’t that far off from the truth. REBELS is an enjoyable book, but even for a Blackest Night tie-in, it got a huge bump. Comic fans like collecting stuff.

So, top to bottom:
1. Marvel is saying, “DC left you holding a bunch of stuff you cannot sell.” It’s a serious diss, attacking DC’s entire reason for being. Regardless of the quality of the books (I’m fond of REBELS myself), DC needed a gimmick other than good storytelling to sell these comics. If a comics company needs plastic rings to sell comics… well, you do the math on that one.

2. The timing is kicking sand all over DC’s big week. It’s a release calculated to cause controversy, gain a lot of attention, and piss people off. It’s very, very public, and definite shots fired.

3. Deadpool, as in the cover boy of the “extremely rare Siege #3 Deadpool Variant,” is a copy of Deathstroke. Marvel is shipping a cover with a knock-off of a DC character, one who has enjoyed inexplicable success over the past year, in exchange for stripped DC comic books. That’s just salt in the wound, isn’t it? A cheap shot nestled inside a larger cheap shot?

Marvel’s promotion is cruel. Taking DC’s big win last year and big week this year and upending them in an attempt to put DC in its place is fairly messed up. At the same time, it isn’t exactly inaccurate. Despite DC’s big month, Marvel still won November ’09. It’s definitely a cheap shot, but… it’s kind of funny, isn’t it?

This release is the kind of aggressive posturing we haven’t seen out of Marvel since Jemas and Quesada simultaneously pissed DC off forever and rocketed Marvel back into the limelight. It’s Marvel thumbing its nose at DC and reminding them who has the market share advantage. Basically, Marvel is M. Bison and the gang, and DC is Guile.

Verdict? Ouch.

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This Week in Panels: Week 16

January 10th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

More meat than last week. Also features Deadpool’s new black glove fingernails. hermanos pointed them out to me and I can’t not notice them throughout that issue. Why does Deadpool now have black glove fingernails? Why?

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #2
Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott and Eduardo Pansica

Deadpool Team-Up #897
Adam Glass and Chris Staggs

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This Week in Panels: Week 15

January 3rd, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welp… here it is.

Blackest Night #6
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Origins of Siege
Brian Michael Bendis, Lucio Parrillo, Fred Van Lente and many others

And that’s it! That was anti-climactic. Luckily, we of 4L have a little more content to make up for this, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

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This Week in Panels: Week 11

December 6th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Welcome back, my friends. This time we have a special guest panel from reader taters, who’s been reading The Mighty. Let’s give her a hand!

Blackest Night: The Flash #1
Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1
Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott

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This Week in Panels: Week 10

November 29th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

A good variety of panels this week. Granted, it may not be the greatest thing that I’ve been reading Clone Saga out of pure nostalgia mixed with curiosity, but that’s still better than hermanos reading Jeph Loeb’s Hulk for whatever damn reason.

Amazing Spider-Man #613
Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta

Arkham Reborn #2
David Hine and Jeremy Huan

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This Week in Panels: Week 6

November 1st, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Here we go with the biggest week yet of this. Big week for Punisher and Ares, so if you like badasses with skulls on their chests, there you go. Ambush Bug was apparently an almost complete rewrite of what was supposed to be #6, so the panel in question isn’t supposed to say, “This is how funny the comic is.” It’s more, “They’re telling the truth and joking about them joking about it doesn’t stop it from being bad.”

Ambush Bug #7 (of 6)
Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, Art Baltazar and Franco

Anti-Venom: New Ways to Live #2
Zeb Wells, Paulo Siqueira and Chad Hardin

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This Week in Panels: Week 5

October 25th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

To make up for last week’s lackluster batch, we’ve returned with more substance this time.

Amazing Spider-Man #609
Marc Guggenheim, Marco Checchetto and Luke Ross

Azrael #1
Fabian Nicieza and Ramon Bachs

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This Week in Panels: Week 1

September 27th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

This is a new idea I decided to play around with. Rather than write up reviews of every little thing we read every week, we would simply try to get our point across via This Week in Panels. Each week, the collective of 4th Letter would post panels from various comics that have come out that we’ve read. Good or bad, we’ll try to portray them through one panel and let you draw your own conclusions. No gigantic spoilers or anything like that. Just an attempt to show you the essence of what the comic is all about.

Hopefully Esther starts responding to my emails so we can have more DC representation.

Amazing Spider-Man #606
Joe Kelly and Mike McKone

Blackest Night: Superman #2
James Robinson and Eddy Barrows

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The Top Ten Real Life Black Lanterns I Want to See

June 30th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

In only a few weeks, DC will release Blackest Night, the big summer event and culmination of Geoff Johns’ fantastic run on Green Lantern. Willpower, fear, love, hate, compassion, greed and hope will be duking it out as Black Hand and that Cosmic Harvey Dent Smurf resurrect all sorts of heroes and villains to join their side. We’ve been given notice about some who would return and others who might. Earth 2 Superman, Martian Manhunter, Terra and the Flying Graysons will be there for sure. Perhaps we’ll see Elongated Man, Alexander Luthor, or General Glory rise from the grave.

But you know what? It’s a bit cheap. All these black rings are flying around and the only major resurrections go to those who are superheroes, supervillains or acquaintances thereof? That’s no fun! Okay, that’s a lie, since this is going to rock, but that’s not as fun as it could be!

By focusing on the fictional, think of all those we’re missing out on. What about the real corpses out there? We could not only have Heath Ledger back, but also Cesar Romero as the icing on the cake. David Carradine could return to get revenge on those murdering ninjas. Jack Kirby could engulf Jim Starlin in a bubble construct and toss him into the deep recesses of space out of revenge for Death of the New Gods. Elvis Presley could return to Graceland and… oops. Disregard that. I forgot that Elvis never actually died.

After much deliberation, I have put together the Top Ten Real Life Black Lanterns I Want to See.

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Which Lantern Would You Choose?

May 26th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

As part of the ongoing Green Lantern: The Masquerade theme, I’ve been looking through the various Green Lantern Corps, wondering what Corps I’d be signing up for.

Green is traditional, and I look good in the color.  But come on, willpower?  Me?  I’ve spent the last five years swearing that I’d get up early tomorrow and go jogging.  Also I’d have to put up with Guy Gardner.

Red?  I do like kitties, and they have one on staff.  But rage is tiring and vomiting lava is hard on the throat.

Yellow is a terrible color for me, and I can’t see myself instilling fear in anyone.

Forget about the Pink Corps of Star Sapphires.  Wearing that little clothing in the icy vacuum of space?  Why don’t I just pour a tray of ice cubes down my pants?

I flat-out hate the Indigo Lanterns.  Serene bastards.   You’re supposed to be compassionate!  Get off your lazy benevolent asses and get to work!

The Blue, the Lanterns of Hope, might get my vote, because hey, I’m hopeful.  Didn’t I spend the last four months hoping that they wouldn’t cancel Dollhouse?  And lo, they did not.   Behold my power!

But then there’s the Orange Corps.  Honestly, these are the ones I really want to be on.  Imagine all the cool stuff you’d get if someone gave you an magic wishing ring powered by greed.  That would rock.  And hard.

Sadly, as far as I can see, the Orange Corps is headed by Larfleeze, who looks like a bug would if it had just flown up your nose during an otherwise lovely bike ride and forced you to sneeze it out into your hand again.  And the only way you can join the Corps is to let Larfleeze kill you and steal your identity.

There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

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