comics marketing is crawling in my skin

October 24th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I hate a lot of things about comics journalism, man. Maybe I just hate how Marvel & DC market their books. Is that weird? Ironic? Maybe I just hate how complicit the press is in enabling these companies to push worthless information out there, and I absolutely include myself in that condemnation. It’s generally Marvel and DC jockeying for position and Google rank. It sucks.

I’m not sure what I hate most. Unlettered previews are pretty bad, and I didn’t really realize how bad until I did a few myself. It’s sort of a “Hey, pimp this incomplete product for us that was chosen at random from an upcoming issue that we need to goose the numbers on” thing. I’ve never seen an unlettered preview that was chosen specifically for its artistic content. They’re always either from the first four (or so) pages or random pages throughout the book that don’t have “spoilers.”

I hate those stupid blanked out covers. Oh, you have a new team? And you can’t show it to me? Cool, hit me up when you have something to say. No, no, I understand. If you have a cover with say, six blacked out characters, then you get to have one post with the blank cover, one for each of the six characters, and then, if you’re lucky, another post for the completed cover. And that’s seven, maybe eight posts on the front page of a website that DC doesn’t have, and doesn’t that feel good? Great, go feel good over there and away from me.

You know what I heard through the grapevine about DC’s New 52? One of the edicts of the press campaign was “no story info.” You could describe the basic status quo, but nothing more than what’s in the solicits. And if you go back and look at the vast majority of those interviews from May or whatever til August, what do you see? A bunch of writers spinning their wheels, trying to describe their book in vague, unappealing high concepts, and the occasional artist dropping a cool piece about design. iFanboy had a good take on these. They got broke away from the standard rigmarole by getting creators to do goofy interviews that were informative in terms of approach and perhaps scope, but not necessarily on details. They made water into wine with that.

Oh! I hate playing the firsts game. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley created more continuous issues of any comic ever as a team, as long as you define any comic as “Fantastic Four” and team as “everyone but the inker, colorist, letterer, and editor.” Batwoman is something like “the first lesbian superhero to star in an eponymous solo title from DC Comics That Isn’t The Holly Robinson Catwoman.” There’s so many caveats that it doesn’t even matter, does it? Batwing is the first Black Batman (except for the devil-worshipping black Batman who went on to be Azrael the other year). Instead of trying to grasp cheap glory, why not just make some good stories and be like “This is the first good Cloak & Dagger comic ever!” (hasn’t happened yet) or “This story will make you like Donna Troy!” (ditto).

While I’m being negative, what else do I dislike… posting press releases with no commentary is one, I figure, but that one’s obviously stupid. Announcing comics with no creative team. If you don’t have a creative team, back down until you do. I don’t care if you’re giving Hypno Hustler a 100-issue maxiseries that forms one huge story that maps to the rise of rap worldwide. Who’s writing it? Who’s drawing it? I’m not reading no comics by scrubs, fellas. Put your best foot forward by putting your best asset forward: the creators.

Yeah, basically? I got a lot of issues with comics internet. I’m guilty of a few, and I’ve spent the last however many weeks trying to course-correct and obsessing over it. Gotta do better to be better, right?

With all of that out of the way, I really dug the marketing for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Fatale, an Image comic that drops in 2012. Check the rhime:

The interview with Kiel at CBR is pretty good, too. It’s full of information. Fatale has its roots in a Wildstorm pitch. It’s a genre mash. It’s a Brubaker/Phillips joint, which means that at worst it will be “pretty good.” It’s Brubaker attacking his relatively poor (but generally well-written, nonetheless) usage of women as undeconstructed (™ 2011, Brothers Before Others, Inc.) femmes fatales or trophies. It’s got monsters. It’s got guns. It’s twelve-issues long, but may run longer. It hits the ’30s, ’50s, and the ’70s, which are some of my favorite decades to read about. It’s gonna be sorta weird to read Brubaker/Phillips without Val Staples, but Dave Stewart is a monster. Basically, Brubaker gave an interview that made me want to read their book. It’s enormously effective.

But the truth is, it was too late. I wanted to read the book after I saw the images. They’re a movie trailer fitted to a nine-panel grid. It fits in praise for the team a couple places. It gives you a taste of the story by teasing a few scenes. There’s even a bit of narrative in the preview, thanks to the scenes that bookend it. The preview really tells you everything you need to know (how it looks, how it reads, where to find it, what it’s called) in a few short pages. Very deft work.

More like Fatale, please, and fewer blacked out X-Men or Avengers teasers. Cater to me, internet.

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Create, Consume, Recycle 06/06/11

June 6th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

stuff i made

A reprint of an old post about The ‘Nam

A preview of the Static Shock Special, which I had previously discussed in March. I wasn’t really going to pick up the special until I saw the preview. I’m still a little grossed out, to be honest, but it’s clearly a good faith effort on the part of the creators involved. Comics will make you feel weird about things you like, man.

I wrote up Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal: Last of the Innocent. It’s good. Buy it.

Digital ComicsAlliance: this week, I tackle the DC digital pricing scheme with veiled drug references, overt drug references, and references to going on a blackout bender with friends.

something i like

From Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, two non-consecutive pages that I liked a lot:

I read and reviewed this book while sitting in a room I haven’t slept in for four years. I took a trip back home for a week, and it’s been sorta weird. The first thing that happened when I got back into town, like right after I got off the airport shuttle, was that the lady at the desk recognized my last name, asked if I was related to a couple people, and told me about my aunt holding back on a recipe. The rest of the trip has been a whirlwind of sideways nostalgia, where everything is too small or out of place or weird or different from how it was four years ago/when I was a kid. (though small is almost definitely a metaphorical thing, now that I’m looking around my room and mentally comparing it to my apartment)

This latest Criminal is about a man coming home after five years away and being completely seduced by nostalgia for the way things were. The gap between then and now shakes him up early on, but later, when he’s conversating with old friends and having a good time, he starts thinking about how great then feels and how broken and corrupt now is.

This sort of stuff is basic, I think, the sort of universal emotions we all experience at some point. I just happened to read the book at the best/worst possible time to do so. Brubaker and Phillips came through with the execution, and the basic nature of the story (“Life was better then,” whether “better” is true or not) gives it a little extra punch. Widest possible area of effect, right? Even famous people feel that. (“Ain’t kill myself yet, and I already want my life back.”)

This is a good first issue for what will hopefully be the best Criminal yet. It feels very resonant; it’s easy to relate to. Well worth a look.

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3 Formative Works: Wildcats

August 5th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

(with a tip of the hat to Morgan Jeske for this week’s gimmick)

It was Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane that hooked me. McFarlane was on Amazing Spider-Man, and later Spider-Man, around the time I was getting into comics. Jim Lee made a huge impression on me with X-Men #1, to the point where I even still have my issue with the crazy gatefold cover after jettisoning most of the old stuff I owned.

It was only natural that I followed them over to Image, though that was as much a happy accident of trading comics as anything intentional. I stuck with Spawn for a couple of years, inadvertently reading my first Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison stories in the process. WildC.A.T.s… I’m not sure how long I stuck with it. I definitely read it off and on, like I did everything I was into back then, and I definitely read it because a) I loved Jim Lee’s art and b) Grifter had the best mask in comics, outside of black costume Spider-Man.

Years pass. I quit comics at the height of Onslaught and the Clone Saga. I pick up a couple of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira hardcovers on the cheap in 98 or 99, fifteen a piece, and I occasionally browse the racks at my local BX, but I’m not exactly buying anything. I buy my next comic in Madrid, in late 2000, early 2001. It was Norma Editorial’s Spanish language edition of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s 300. I move back to the States in ’02, discover the graphic novels section at Booksamillion in what, early-mid ’03? I pick up Wildcats: Street Smart because, hey, I liked WildC.A.T.s back in the day! I know Scott Lobdell’s name! The art looks pretty neat! In the end, though, it was just okay in such a way that I didn’t bother looking for more.

I picked up Wildcats 3.0 at some point, I think partway its run. I don’t know why–at the time, Joe Casey and Dustin Nguyen were both completely unknown to me. But it knocked my socks off from top to bottom, from the covers to that weird Wildstorm angular lettering, and I was hooked. A few issues in and I backtracked to Wildcats again, this time pushing past the completely lackluster opening arc and picking up Wildcats: Vicious Circles.

And look, Lobdell and Travis Charest are gone, replaced with Joe Casey and Sean Phillips, with a short assist by Steve Dillon. It’s a dramatic change, as the art went from weird and realistic to a fault to being… ugly. I mean, there’s no flash in Phillips’s work, Wildstorm FX was unusually subdued, and cripes, man, there’s barely even any costumes. The panel borders were super thick, too, what is that about?

It took some getting used to, but once it clicked, it clicked hard for me. I got what Phillips and Casey were doing. Wildcats wasn’t a superhero comic, not in the traditional sense. WildC.A.T.s was about a Covert Action Team fighting a war. Wildcats, then, was about life during peacetime. The war that gave all of the Wildcats their reason for being is a distant memory.

Like Winter Men, Wildcats is about what happens next. The answers varies from person to person. Grifter drifts from place to place and job to job, desperately trying to regain old glories and remaining obsessed with Zealot, his former lover. Priscilla is running from life by drowning in leisure. Jeremy’s trying to prove his love for Pris by “fixing” her. Hadrian, always the soldier, stepped into the shoes of his former boss and attempted to run a company in a forward thinking way. Maxine Manchester… well, she’s more or less the same.

Rather than being about any particular bad guy or conflict, Wildcats is more like the chronicles of an estranged superhero family. Hadrian is the father, but he’s distant and troubled. Jeremy is trying to overachieve and win the approval of others. Pris wants anything but to be part of the family, but doesn’t realize that she has no idea how to be anything but part of the family. Grifter needs a cause, and he’s worthless without one.

At this point in my comics reading career, I’d picked up Ultimates and Authority. I was regularly reading Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca’s X-Treme X-Men, Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men, and I think I was just getting into Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. Wildcats, at the time, was the most “out there” book I was into. It starred superheroes, but actively avoided superheroic action. When it came time for one of the big bad guys to have his big showdown, he’s finished off with a bullet in the back of the head. There was plenty of X-Men-style drama, but very little of the accompanying continuity-heavy action and violence.

Wildcats was necessary for me. It was definitely part of the process that opened me up to different kinds of storytelling. Phillips is a personal favorite now, and reading comics about regular people doing regular things doesn’t seem so weird any more. Wildcats is story driven, maybe to a fault, and running into it face first while getting back into comics was definitely did me a favor. Of course, it’s all out of print now, though easily available used. DC’s printing Wildcats Version 3.0 Year One later this year, which collects the first twelve issues of that run, but I can’t really see them reprinting the run where Casey found his legs and setup 3.0.

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Fourcast! 40: The Sinner with the Getaway Face

April 12th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Two books!
-Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal: The Sinners.
-Darwyn Cooke’s The Man With the Getaway Face.
(-The Sinners hits comic shops in trade form this week, make sure you pick it up. Phillips killed on art.)
-We talk about the difference between Parker and other crime heroes.
-We talk about the sociopolitical aspects of crime fiction, vis a vis feminism and racism, filtered through the lens of Parker’s ’50s-era setting and the city without pity of Criminal.
-In other words, we discuss how to deal with overt or covert sexism or racism in crime comics.
-In other other words, is it better to be treated equally and shot by Parker, or treated unequally and condescended to by Tracy Lawless?
-Also, how much noir drama is too much? Just ask Daredevil how running Gitmo: New York City is going.
-We’re gonna spoil one or both of the books for you, but c’mon. The Man With the Getaway Face is based on a forty-year old story and you should already be reading Criminal. No excuses.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-You’ll never catch us alive, copper!

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Last Year in Covers

January 5th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

When I noticed that last week was so dry in terms of releases, I got the idea of doing “This Year in Panels”, especially since I’ve only covered a fraction of 2009. I suggested the idea to hermanos, who wasn’t a fan because he can’t remember enough of 2009 to come up with a collection of panels. Thanks a lot, pot.

Instead, he suggested we do a lovefest gallery for our favorite covers of the year. I’m easy. Let’s do it.

20th Century Boys v.4
Naoki Urasawa

100 Bullets #100
Dave Johnson

Read the rest of this entry �

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“I Love You, Peter”

September 17th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

From Peter Parker Spider-Man Vol. 1: A Day in the Life, which is sadly out of print but available for cheap used, I present the Death of the Chameleon. Words by Paul Jenkins, art by Sean Phillips.

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