Wednesday, June 30, 2010

10,007 Listens in 10 months.

Chronic Insomnia has reached a huge milestone. We've just surpassed 10,000 channel listens on our podcast website. That's huge for us. That means in 10 months with Podbean we've gotten 1,000 listens a month. On top of that our downloads have reached a new average high. We see around 125 downloads a week now. As far as Comic Book podcasts go, this is square in the middle of the range, but as far as what we think, IT'S INCREDIBLE! Lots of podcasts are more popular than us, but we'd take our loyal followers over their mass strangers any day of the week. We've always felt as though we were a cult type show and that's the way we like it.

We want to thank you from the bottom of our filthy little hearts. The story of Chronic Insomnia is long and boring so I will spare you the details, but since June 2007, we've had a great time bringing you filth and vulgarity each and every week.

We have to tip our hat to our good friends in Canada for getting us at least 30 of those downloads a week. I know in some way we've helped them get a few listeners also. It's a great relationship and we might give each other a hard time each week, but in the end we're all good friends and it's just good natured ribbing.

So for those of you out there listening to our show, please know that we appreciate ALL of you and wish you the best. Thanks for giving us a platform to express ourselves and don't worry, we won't change. We're too old to do something that drastic. We love the all of you.

Michael

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The New Wonder Woman!


Wonder Woman # 600 hits stands tomorrow, and while I was correct in mentioning that this is Gail Simone's farewell performance, I was incorrect in stating that it's a hello for Grant Morrison. Chalk it up to sleep deprivation, I guess, since we've already reported the news that Morrison is still slated for a Wonder Woman story, but that it appears so bizarre that DC is unwilling to let it stand in continuity.

So who is taking over the mighty Diana? Why, none other than JM Straczynski, of course! Why not just give him Batman, too, he can have the whole DC trinity and they can start calling him Geoff Johns?

The picture above is Wonder Woman's new 21st century digs as redesigned by one Jim Lee. Call me a pig, but the pants gotta go. Actually, it isn't even so much the pants, but the fact that I can't tell where the pants stop and booties begin. Lee isn't going to be pencilling the book, so maybe that will end up being clear in the actual comic. Much appreciated is the new rings that will stencil a "W" in your face if she punches you. Now that I'm on board with!

So JMS talked about his re-boot with comic book resources and had some of the most brutally kind words about past caretakers I've ever heard:

"In terms of character, I decided to circle in to try and figure out what needed to be addressed and what didn't. Diana is one of the DC Trinity, and should be selling as many copies a month as those other guys. But the book hovers in the low 70s/high 80s, and for the last year or two has been hemorrhaging 500-1000 readers per month. That means that those who are reading are dialing out, and nobody new is checking it out. What this suggests is that the stories are becoming too insular, they're not accessible, and there's nothing going on that will get somebody who hasn't picked up an issue to do so.

This coincided with my sense that, as happens from time to time with characters, Diana had gotten buried beneath years of mythos, backstory, supporting characters and an environment that required a lot of familiarity from the reader that made it a bit inaccessible to casual readers. There's nothing inherently right or wrong with any of that, in sum or in pieces...Gail in particular was and is a terrific writer and did some great stories during her tenure...it's just a matter of one kind of storytelling that is designed to bring in new readers, vs one that is aimed at retaining the current readers. You need both of those at various points.

What I finally came away with was a sense of a character who had kind of ossified within the pages of her own book not through any fault of her own, but because the world she occupied had constricted around her. As I've noted elsewhere, she became this Ferrari that everybody kept in the garage rather than taking it out on the open road. A Ferrari in the garage is safe...but that's not what a Ferrari is for."

Couple of interesting items in there for me. I don't know how exact or how literally JMS is quoting his sales figures, but they seem mighty off to me. He seems to suggest that Wonder Woman sells between 75,000-80,000 copies, and that these numbers pale in comparison to Superman and Batman.

In point of fact, Wonder Woman sells less than 30,000 copies a month, at least according to what Diamond reports, which admittedly is an estimate, and admittedly isn't everything. But if you think Wonder Woman is selling more than double what Diamond is reporting, well, you're just fooling yourself. Over the past year, Wonder Woman has been "hemorrhaging" an average of 500 copies per month, so he's correct on that count.

Incidentally, JMS seems to believe that 80K is peanuts in comparison to Superman and Batman numbers....they wish! Batman & Robin is the top ongoing Batman seller, and that does hover around 100,000. But the regular Batman book hovers around 60,000.

And Superman? Forget about it! Superman can't get a sniff of 80,000, even as an event mini-series. You're looking at 40k tops for the Man of Steel. One of two things is happening here. Either the Diamond numbers aren't an accurate measure of comics sales at all, or Straczynski doesn't have a good grasp on the reality of today's market.

I think it's funny that in the middle of him quietly ripping the previous regimes to shreds, he throws in the fact that Gail Simone is a wonderful writer. You read between the lines, though, and he's pretty clear about the fact that Gail is wonderful writer who:

writes insular, inaccessible stories

write stories that don't attract new readers

"ossified" the character (made it rigid, translation: "dull")

created a world that restricted the character

turned Wonder Woman into a garaged Ferrari

Now...does that sound like a wonderful writer to you? Granted, he wasn't singling out Gail there, I guess you could say he took a giant crap on Greg Rucka and George Perez, too! But he sure didn't exclude her from any of that analysis, either.

Incidentally, I don't have a problem with JMS saying any of that. Those are his opinions, and there may be validity to some or all of them. The golden heyday of comics was the 1950s, when continuity wasn't even on the menu. You could pretty much pick up anything of the rack and dive right in.

By today's standards of sophistication, those stories were absolute childish rubbish. But they had the potential for mass appeal that most of today's comics do not. Hand an issue of Uncanny X-Men to a comics newbie. I dare you.

And that's largely what Straczynski is talking about, and it's not really Gail's fault. We are sort of stuck in this horrible place where if you avoid continuity, your inbred audience of 50,000 virgins shakes the pillars of the internet with rage. But what happens if you feed your base what they want, which is a deepening of the established traditions?( some of which now carry sixty or more YEARS of baggage) Now you've pretty much ostracized any new readership, because they have no interest in doing masters degree level continuity research so that they can pay $4 for 22 pages of funny book fantasy.

It is quite the conundrum, and it is solvable with something like Marvel's Ultimate Comics line....for awhile. The funny thing is, those titles have now accrued enough continuity that the cure has become another strain of the disease. Can you hand a newcomer a copy of Ultimate Spider-Man right now and expect them to swim? Really?

And that's the pickle we're in. Write to the last dying dinosaurs and watch yourself go extinct, or piss of your dinosaurs to try and lure in new readers who don't seem to exist and really implode. The solution of course is to introduce comics to folks who don't ordinarily read comics.

If only there were some other medium, like say, a house that showed moving pictures. Perhaps some of these moving pictures, we'll call them movies for short, actually featured some of these comic book characters, and then the movies would point those eyes toward a comic shop at some point. Ah, but that would only have a real impact if a large number of people went to see these "comic book movies".

Oh, wait. You mean Dark Knight did about half a billion at the box office? Oh, shit, guess we should have done something about that. Incidentally, when I went to see Jonah Hex, there was a lobby full of tiny kids in karate uniforms for a local Tae Kwon Do school advertising their services. Not one hint of a comic shop with Jonah Hex trades, though. Or Iron Man. It's absurd. The whole thing is patently absurd. But I digest.

Wonder Woman # 600 hits tomorrow, let's see what JMS does with his little Ferrari in sensible slacks....

- Ryan





Photos from Issue # 147 Hair Watch 2010!

Check out Ryan's sexy hair. Is he the sexiest man alive?
I'm not sure about you but it's hard to look at Ryan and not want to immediately screw the crap out of him.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chronic Review: I Zombie # 2!


I Zombie # 2
DC Comics/Vertigo Imprint

Script: Chris Roberson
Pencils: Mike Allred
22 pages for $2.99

I'm not sure if I tore into this book on the show when it first hit stands, but I remember being disgusted when I saw the title in Previews. "I Fucking Zombie! Are you shitting me? Does the world really need one more goddamn title about shambling death!"

I vowed then that I would have absolutely nothing to do with the book, even though the first issue was offered at a dollar. That was probably a mistake.

The thing of it is, when you crack open Roberson's I Zombie, you quickly discover that it isn't really a zombie book, at least not in the traditional sense. This is not survival horror, or particularly interested in gore. This is a world-building mystery book.

Oh, don't get me wrong. Gwen, the leader character, is forced to imbibe some brains once a month or she does fall into the old shambling mound of the grotesque variety. One gets the feeling though that she would really just like to paint. The thing of it is, when Gwen does chow down on some brains, she ends up absorbing some of her victim's memories, and hijinx do tend to ensue.

It's a cute little hook, and it's a cute little book. It's not changing the way we look at comics or anything, nor should it have to. The brain eating bit isn't new, it sounds a lot like Tony Chu over at image, and the memory absorption bit is a lot like Rogue, and the nerdy friends act a lot like the guys over at NBCs Chuck, and the paranormal hunters act a lot like....well, you get the picture.

I zombie is a pastiche of stuff you've seen before, with a little bit of a twist, and filtered through the delightfully quirky pencils of Mike Allred, and when you put it all together, many of the pieces seem familiar, but the quilt is it's own entity that feels sort of comfy.

There is a density to this book that I wish more titles would emulate. Most comics you pick up off the rack leave you waiting for the good idea. This one is bursting with oddities. You've got Gwen the zombie and her pal the ghost. (Ghosts can't go anywhere past their living memories geographically) You have the severe looking weirdness hunters, a love interest for Gwen and his two nerd friends. You've got a bizarre looking mummy dude who makes dinner for some kind of leopard creature that he speaks to as if they've been married for some time.

There's a pack of vampire chicks who look like bloodsucking sorority sisters, and they're trying to pragmatically carve out a sustainable feeding system around the tourism industry. You've got the A plot, which is a mystery revolving around the death of the guy who used to own the brain in Gwen's belly. All of this is in one issue, folks. I think Chris Roberson is fit to pop with all the ideas running around his brain, and he can sustain this book joyfully for 100 issues or more, I would wager. That kind of energy is contagious.

So there you have it. If you were avoiding this title because there's only so many zombies you can stomach, I don't think you need to worry. Maybe I should have just trusted Karen Berger? I felt I got more value out of I Zombie than just about anything else I read this month, (Secret Six and Fantastic Four notwithstanding) and really, if Roberson pumps a couple of fresh surprising additions into the mythos he's building, this book could be really special.

- Ryan

PS: Probably a good book to hand somebody with a uterus, too.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chronic Rant: Continuity Crisis!


So here it is - New Avengers is actually a pretty fun read, and it's got some good ideas, and a lot of energy, and all that good stuff. Not enough good stuff to justify prying $4 from your wallet, but I got my copy of issue # 1 from DCBS for less than a dollar. Fine.

It's the blatant pissing in the salty face of continuity that really bugs the shit out of me, though.

I know what you're going to say, and I almost agree with you. "Is he really going to get upset that Wolverine appears in too many books after all these years? It's comic books, stupid! You don't like it, go read Jane Austen novels, douche bag!"

Sure, sure. I'm really not "that guy" who's going to lose sleep over comic book chronology bending the laws of time/space. But the thing of it is, there's bending it, and there's fashioning it into a full scale replica of Bronson Pinchot and ramming it into my asshole.

Look at the cover to New Avengers # 1. The Thing does not have time to be in the Fantastic Four and the New Avengers. Power Man is supposedly spearheading the newer new Thunderbolts and the new New Avengers? One of those teams is in Colorado, and one's on the east coast....are you shitting me? Spider-Man is in fewer books than his peak, but c'mon, man. Ms. Marvel, whatever. And then there's Wolverine, the king emperor of "fuck common sense, he's everywhere at every moment." That cover just sits there and laughs at you with 600 megatons of "we know you're stupid enough to buy this shit no matter HOW little sense it makes!" And that just doesn't feel good to me.

So yeah, I can exhibit a little suspension of disbelief. But this requires you to be a goddamn idiot, and then laughs at you for buying it! Tell me that isn't the point of this quip by Wolverine on the right. Brian Bendis is actively engaging you the reader and saying "Yeah, there's no fucking way this character could possibly do all of these things in a sensible universe - aren't we hilarious!" Well, no, actually you're not.

A big reason why I'm out of patience with this nonsense is the fact that so many of these books do not sell themselves on the artistic value of the stories or characters within. The selling point is always "Everything you've ever known and trusted about X is about to blow into a gajillion smithereens and change forever!!! BOOOOOOMMMM!!!!"

It may ninja up on you a little bit, but none of that matters without continuity. Changing a thing doesn't matter without a sense of attachment to what was. You need a history to engage with it intellectually and emotionally. You need the parts of the universe to be cohesive so you can believe in it, to trust it, to care about it.

This was part of the groundbreaking success of Marvel in the 1960s. Stories used to all be one-and-dones. What happened last month had no bearing on what you reading this month. Marvel came along and Stan Lee began to intermingle characters and events a bit. If Gwen Stacy fell off a building and died, that shit was going to matter next month. And Reed Richards might pop up and help out the X-Men for an issue. That continuity bred verisimilitude - sure, the action was over-the-top, but the universe was a place with shared experiences that felt like life.

And now Marvel is become a bit of a one trick pony that does nothing but trade on the illusion that it is "shaking up" that life-like shared universe. Nothing ever really matters. It's gone in a heartbeat. Where is any vestige of the "BBBOOOOOOOMMMM!" Civil War stuff? How 'bout Secret Invasion? Spider-Man: The Other? Or his stupid costume from Tony Stark? Will we even know Franken-Castle existed three weeks after his inevitable return to "normalcy?"

It doesn't matter, but the solicitations sure make it seem like it should. The entire marketing scheme is driven around a cohesive system that doesn't exist.

And you know what? I know that Brian Bendis has earned the keys to the car and all that. But why not make it make sense? Ben Grimm's reason for caving in and joining the Avengers is that his family is making him crazy??? No way. No goddamn way.

Read Hickman's Fantastic Four and tell me that makes any sense at all. The FF are dealing with galactic level threats, and when that's done with, he's got those moloid kids to take care of, and none of them are driving him crazy in the text. If you're going to break the social contract and press my disbelief on being in two places at once, can't the motivation seem plausible?

I feel no respect regarding the social contract between reader and publisher from New Avengers. The key to the "event" is to make the reader care about the house of cards. Not only is it difficult to give a shit about the house of cards after it's been threatened or supposedly knocked down 33 times in the past five years, but they don't even build the house correctly any more.

Where is the editorial mandate to protect the ship? Where is the voice of reason letting the field lie fallow for a bit so that the crops can grow again? Where is the captain with the discipline to say "Lucas Cage running two teams thousands of miles apart just doesn't make sense!" Because right now Marvel appears to be a thousand kids running around throwing dynamite to listen to it pop. Good luck with that.

Marvel needs a steward, and fast. They're pumping out 150 books of "canon" a month that nobody appears willing or able to keep track of, and their empire is currently built on the foundation of threatened continuity.

You can't have it both ways. If you're going to run your business on events....keep your shit straight. And if it just doesn't matter, then how are we supposed to care about the next big thing that will "never be the same"?

- Ryan

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chronic Review: Superman # 700!


Superman # 700
DC Comics

Scripts: James Robinson, Dan Jurgens, JM Straczynski
Pencils: Bernard Chang, Jurgens/Rapmund, Eddy Barrows
42 pages for $4.99

Is it a bad sign when the best element your epic Superman launch by superstar JM Straczynski is a Robin story by Dan Jurgens?

Probably.

Superman # 700 is actually three different stories. The first is a disgustingly sappy little number where James Robinson chokes us to death with tired emotional cliches.

Clark's been away for awhile dealing with New Krypton stuff, and we get a peek the lovers' reunion. Maybe it's just my return to "Ryan the Robot" mode, but I doubt it. I'm not the problem. This is the problem:


We've heard all of this before from dime store novels and the Lifetime network. Didn't work for me then, doesn't work for me now. What is ultimately more disappointing about it is that these kind of scenes used to be in Robinson's wheelhouse in Starman. Interpersonal relationships were the life's blood of that book; always fresh, always interesting. I don't know what this is, but it's beneath James Robinson. NEXT!

The second installment is a Robin story by Dan Jurgens. Yeah, I know that Superman appears in the tale, and that this is Superman's book. This is a Robin story.

And it's a pretty darned good one. Batman decides that Bruce Wayne needs to make a public appearance to maintain the illusion, so he hangs up the cowl for the evening and tells Robin that he's to take the night off as well on pain of blood. He's instructed to do his geometry homework and relax.

Of course crime doesn't ever take a vacation, and when young Dick Grayson sees trouble brewing, he sneaks out of the house and bites off a little more than he can chew. Cue the man of steel for a quick save from the gun runners, and then cue him again to save his unfinished math homework!

That's right, folks, Superman helps Dick Grayson cheat on his school work. Awesome! That was worth the price of admission right there. The story ends with Batman sending Clark an adorable little "I know what you did" letter. This was an entertaining, done-in-one tale that reminded a little of Straczynski's Brave & The Bold. And that's a good thing.

Speaking of Straczynski, you may have heard something about him taking over Superman. Straczyinski's life long dream begins right here, with spotty results.

It's bee well spoiled at this point that his plan is to send Superman on a walkabout journey across America to re-connect with us normal folks. Kind of a ballsy idea, and not without some danger. In fact, Straczynski warned Didio and the DC brass that they would need " cojones the size of Stonehenge for any publisher to go along with this, because the odds of failure are freaking immense."

Telling more human and personal Superman stories isn't necessarily a bad idea, but it does a feel a little strange. He just got done spending a great deal of time away from his wife and Metropolis, and now he rushes out to leave it all behind and pull a Kwai Chang Kent? It feels false at first blush.

There's nothing inside this issue that would to alter that opinion, either. What massive epiphany sets Clark on his new wandering journey? Well, a grieving Stamford survivor....err...I mean, random woman off the street interrupts his press interview, cracks him across the grill like a pimp and then blames her husband's death on Superman's absence.

It's very weird. What's super extra weird is that Straczynski writes bystanders remarking on how bizarre her complaint really is. How is her husband's medical condition Clark's fault? He's busy saving the planet, a couple of guys with brain tumors are going to slip through the cracks, OK lady??

Rather than just recognize that bad things happen to good people and you can't possibly solve everyone's problem every time, this nonsense starts Clark soul searching about his role in the universe.

He talks to Batman, he talks to the Flash, he remembers some old chestnuts from Pa Kent. Again, maybe this is Ryan the Robot but I found nothing that felt emotionally correct in any of that stuff. It felt like an assembly line conveyor belt toward his "Superman does the Bill Bixby thing" goal he had in mind, come hell or high water.

Before I get accused of reactionary histrionics, it's possible that these wandering monk stories might end up being good. This is just set-up. What I'm saying is, the set-up feels false and poorly rendered. This is not a denouncement of the "grounded" concept, but neither is it a good omen. I'm going into these stories not buying into the motivation even a whisker, and that's hardly ideal.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing in the book is the very back end where DC allowed the other writers in the Superman family to pitch reader's the next year's worth of stories. Cornell's Action Comics pitch sounds pretty interesting, actually. Obviously some eyes are going to fall on this anniversary issue, and I think it was a sound marketing idea.

Bottom line? If you were expecting to be wowed by the new Superman, I think you're walking away disappointed. You've got two warm up acts with varying quality, but neither of which have anything to do with the bold new direction or will be remembered as key pieces of the mythos. The Straczynski material feels forced and emotionally off-key. Welcome the new era!

- Ryan

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chronic Review: Jonah Hex!


Just as an aside, my usual habit is to spoil the ever loving shit out of anything I review. So forewarned is forearmed and all that rot...

I was always going to see this film in the theater, but there was no real urgency to it....until. This movie hit and the world lost its mind. Rottentomatoes had it wearing a 9% fresh rating a few days ago. It's at 15% as I type this. People are reacting to this movie as though it caused the BP spill and a new form of syphilis. And then I just HAD to go see it.

Is it a bad movie? Well yes it is, actually. I can think of four significant (and sadly very correctable) objections to the Jonah Hex film:

Objection # 1: The Tone is a little too goofy
Jonah Hex is supposed to be a weird western saga. There should be some menace, a feeling that all is not well in the universe. There should be an element of fear or at least discomfort somewhere in this movie, and there never ever is.

There was one moment when we had just an inkling of the correct tone for the film. Hex approaches a dead man to interrogate him, and for one sparkling shiny moment, there is a feeling that something dark, interesting, slightly out of control is going to happen. Then all the corpseness falls away from the actor's face, he looks like a normal guy, and the entire effect is ruined. Sad.

I get it, by the way. The job of the movie studio is to sell tickets, and I'm sure they believe (perhaps correctly) that a really dark and unsettling Jonah Hex will not play to the wider masses. So they don't do it. They try to tell a lot of jokes, and they're very careful to let you understand that Jonah Hex is a good guy at all times, and there's a Pretty Woman love story with a whore in it.

Yay for the masses, I suppose. Arrrgh for those expecting a Jonah Hex movie.

Objection # 2: It's too political
I guess that since Jonah Hex was a confederate soldier, it may be unfair for me to criticize the film's politics. Maybe if they'd stuck to the politics of 1876 I would have been more comfortable with it.

Somehow this "western" has overtones of terrorism and big government, and not only was all of that entirely unnecessary, but it absolutely detracted from the very simple revenge story. Trying to make that story hinge upon the heart and fate of America was just a poor idea poorly executed.

Objection # 3: What is with the tech obsession?
Why in the world is this movie trying to be James Bond? I just can't fathom it no matter how hard I try. A large portion of the comic's charm, the character's charm, the genre's charm is its distinct lack of technology.

We want to go see Jonah Hex so that we can escape mini guns, rocket launchers, and WMDs. I want to know who put that in the script, and then I want to know who looked at it and said "Yup, that's a keeper!" These people should not have jobs any more. I was waiting for Brolin to pull off his boot and make a phone call with it.

Now to be fair, it isn't unprecedented for Jonah Hex to use an automatic weapon. He's appeared in the comics with such weapons before. But that scene with the cannons on the horse? That doesn't make sense on any level.

Just before he opens up with that monstrosity, he makes a joke about how he didn't drag the full body of his fourth bounty because the guy was too heavy for his horse. That guy is too heavy, but your building evaporating cannon makes sense? It's just gratuitous and it doesn't fit, and that's the least grating of the many tech items in the film.

Hey! Assholes!!! This is a western. Yeah, a western. You no use techie. It not future enough for techie. Go write Star Trek and leave Jonah Hex alone. It's unbelievable.

Objection # 4: The Obligatory Romantic Puke Shit
Note to Hollywood: not everything needs to have a romance in it. I know they'll never get the memo, and no matter how many films they ruin with this bullshit, they'll never believe that the ill-conceived, misbegotten, oddly fitting romance nonsense was part of the problem.

It doesn't make any sense. It's part of the tone problem. And by the way, there were no packs of satisfied women walking out of that theater thinking they just watched "Fried Green Tomatoes" with guns. You poisoned your soup for no reason.

Women want largely the same thing everybody else wants: Batman stories that don't suck. We've seen the research. And you know what? If you could have demonstrated inside the story that there is some compelling reason these two fell for each other, I'd feel differently. Maybe they should have hung a really weird story around Jonah and Lilah's doomed romance. I think I could have enjoyed that picture.

But that's not what they did at all. They plopped a square romantic peg into a round western actioner hole, and it hurt going in. Badly.

So that's that. And just as an aside, I don't list this as an objection, but did you know that Jonah Hex was a certifiable pyro? Because apparently, he is. Can't visit anything or talk to anybody without setting it or them on fire. Just so you know.

OK. Now that I've had my go at the movie, I have to admit that none of those things end up being deal-breakers for me. Just off the top of my head, let me list five comic book films that are WAY worse than Jonah Hex:

  • Ghost Rider
  • Elektra
  • Punisher War Zone
  • Batman & Robin
  • The Spirit

Yeah, the tone is slightly off, but at least it's consistent. Josh Brolin doesn't do anything wrong as Jonah Hex. And the script doesn't butcher the character, either. I would say the script cheapens the character in his romance with Lilah and the fact that he wears the white hat a little too comfortably. But for the most part, he's a no-bullshit gunfighter with a rigid personal code who will shoot you in a heartbeat if you step on that personal code. They got that part correct.

This movie never drags, and it had the good sense not to run three hours long. Does the plot really make sense? No, it really doesn't, because they had to shoehorn in the whole domestic terrorism angle and make Jonah Hex an acting US Marshall. But the revenge angle? Call it cliched or iconic, but that part works. Malkovich does nothing to make the Turnbull character compelling, but you can understand why Hex wants him dead, and that's enough to drive the story.

So yeah. I understand the frustration with this movie, because it's so easy to see the film it could have and should have been while watching the disappointment in front of you. But as a film...this isn't really even in the bottom half of the superhero genre. Go watch Catwoman and come talk to me about bad movies, my friend. This is a walk in the park!

By the way, you should be doing this anyway, but you need to check out the Where Monsters Dwell radio show this Wednesday. They're going to have Jonah Hex comic writer and all-around entertaining bastard Jimmy Palmiotti on to talk about this movie! And just sos you know, Palmiotti isn't going to sugar coat this if he doesn't like it. It might be the most entertaining interview you hear all year!

- Ryan

Friday, June 18, 2010

Avengers Assemble! Again! For the Third Time Dammit!

The New Avengers # 1
Marvel Comics
Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Stuart Immomen
24 pages for $3.99

Attention Marvel fans, there's a new Avengers book out this month! Gather round and witness Marvel as it proves once again just how much of a whore it's turned into lately. There is yet another Avengers title coming out this month. What the fuck is going on here? The Queen Whores of Babylon have done it again by offering another $4 book we really don't need. I don't get it. Are they trying to kill comic books at a faster rate of speed than it's already happening? What a bunch of douches. Anyways...I feel better now, on with the review.

The Heroic Age lumbers on with yet another incarnation of The Avengers - The NEW Avengers! (cue explosions and celebratory fireworks) This time out we get to see Luge Cage take over the Stark Mansion, which he bought for a dollar from the obviously drunk Tony Stark, and assemble a new team of Avengers. I think that name has lost it's relevance now though, it used to mean something when there was just ONE team, now it's like three. Who the fuck can keep up with this shit? Even Wolverine doesn't really know which way he's going at times. His new mutant power is multi-tasking...ha ha, so funny Bendis.

Tony Stark and "The man we can't call Captain America anymore" ask Luge Cage and a few others to assemble at the newly renovated Stark Mansion. Only he can't have Thor or Iron Man. What the fuck, those are the only two people I would want on my Avengers team. Luke gets the shaft right away if you ask me.

Meanwhile in Doctor Voodoos Sanctum Sanctorum or possible hell (well hell is being a comic book reader who has to keep up with all this shit actually), we see Doctor Voodoo/Jericho speaking with the spirit of his dead brother. Suddenly someone appears and asks for the Eye of Agamotto. If you are not an avid reader of Marvel titles, like me, this makes no fucking sense and that's okay, I actually like it.

Meanwhile again...David Addison and Maddie Hayes are fucking in the offices of Blue Moon Detective Agency when Luke Cage comes in and asks them to be on the NEW Avengers. Well no that really didn't happen, but wouldn't have have been fucking cool? Yeah you're right, it really wouldn't but Luke does hold a dinner party and ask The Thing to join his team. As Luke laments on the history between him and The Thing the Eye of Agamotto appears in his hand. That same person that appeared with Jericho now appears at Luke Cages dinner party and asks him for the Eye. I'm guessing the fight with Jericho went well and Jericho is now dead, but this mystery man was still unable to acquire his prize, the Eye of Agowhatthehey.I am not sure I'm sold on this comic book yet, but it did yield some decent twists and turns. I'm not completely sold on the idea of needing at least four fucking Avengers titles, but in the end there can be only one, right? At this point I'm still hoping for someone at Marvel to get his head out of his ass and realize one GREAT title is better than four half-ass titles. So far all these books are just so-so in my book.

-Michael

My scanner is broken, so excuse my shitty ass photos. I had to use my iPhone camera to get a couple of those shots, so yeah I know they suck, but they still get the point across.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chronic Lament: I Live Here!

Every time I think I've seen all there is to see in The City That God Forgot, she pulls one more surprise out of her hat. This is something I actually witnessed today:










Well, let's just dig in my ass a little bit....










Ah! There we go, that's the ticket!










And......we'll give her a quick taste test, just to be sure....










Yup. Smells like poop. Go figure!!!

And just in case you're wondering, yes, she did spend the next five minutes biting her fingernails, so as not to waste any of the bouquet.

This is where I live. This is where I work. Pray for me.

- Ryan

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chronic Review: Hellblazer # 268!


Hellblazer # 268
DC Comics - Vertigo imprint

Script: Peter Milligan
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli
22 pages for $2.99

And here she is, the grand old dame of Vertigo. Sandman? Gone. Swamp Thing? Gone, then back, then gone, then back, and now gone again. Y the Last Man, Preacher, Transmet.....fuck, they're all gone. There's just Hellblazer.

For a little while, at least. Sales are hovering around the 10,000 level, which is absurdly low for a Big 2 book. Marvel would have pulled the plug years ago. Sure, they do (relatively) healthy trade sales, and that helps. I noticed they don't print Hellblazer on the usual glossy paper, either. It's on the old newsprint that is usually reserved for the DC Johnny titles. Perhaps that's helping to make the title more economically viable.

It would probably seem natural for you to look at this dying dinosaur and feel a little pang of melancholy. Don't.

Hellblazer does not need your pity. It's still around because the character is still as strong as ever, the stories are as strong as ever, the creative team is as strong as ever. Do not sleep on this book when you could just be reading it. For a little while longer.


The trouble in "Sectioned", of which issue 268 is part 2, is that John Constantine has finally gone shit nuts. He's been committed, he's being assailed with a freight train of phobias, he's cutting off appendages to still the voices in his head.

Pulsing beneath the surface is the unspoken recognition that something on the outside is causing all this. John, crazy bastard that he is, still lurks somewhere in there wondering what the hell is happening to him. There's still enough mage in there to try and enlist the help of Shade, the Changing Man, who should be very familiar to Peter Milligan fans.

Shade isn't the man he used to be, and he was pretty goddamned dangerous before. The issue ends with Shade demanding a kiss, which sounds about right, and next issue should be epic fun.

And that's why you should shed no tears for Hellblazer. She doesn't need them, because there's nothing wrong with her. There might be something wrong with the market. Nothing to be done about that. I will honor the book until it no longer deserves it. That old gray mare? She still kicks ass.

- Ryan

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chronic Reviews: A Scattering of Nonsense!

Before I jump in my Delorean and start shouting to Marty about the numerous problems with his kids, I thought I'd talk about some comics and such...

Nemesis # 2

Once upon a time M. Night Shyamalan made a series of pretty good films with wicked clever twists. He got some fame and some notoriety for that, it became his schtick, and his body of work increasingly suffered for it.

Whereas the Big Twist used to serve his stories, they end up owning the stories by the time you get to the Lady in the Water. It was sort of sad watching a talented filmmaker become a parody of himself. I think that's what is happening to Mark Millar.

I defended Nemesis after issue # 1, and I guess I stand by that. We knew we were in for some ridiculous shit, and by golly we're getting it. Do I find some infantile pleasure in watching this dude rip off the Dark Knight while he shouts "Up your game, assholes!" Yeah, I kinda do.


But we're getting to the point where the point is no longer the story. Was there a time when Mark Millar was doing what he was doing because it was his "truth"? I bet there was. It feels a bit now as if Millar is more engaged in trying top himself than in getting to the bottom of things, though.

Nemesis # 2 feels less like a story and more like a frenetic elevator pitch, which is what Millar is really good at. That's nothing to be ashamed of, by the way. Ideas are Life, and he has them in spades. We're getting to the parody stage now, and that's not a good thing.

What's strange is that I think the more insane his work becomes, the more I think he needs to be promoted. That addled Scottish brain cannot handle gearing itself down to plot out a coherent, developed arc. But it sure as shit can create a springboard for one or identify one in a heartbeat. He really shouldn't be writing comics any more, he should be somebody's editor in chief. At this stage I don't think he should be strapped into any one concept, he needs to be guiding and putting energy into a hundred different ideas that lesser mortals with patience and craft can spin into gold.

SHIELD # 2

OK, so I was holding out judgement on the series until we could put some meat on those admittedly sexy bones. So we waited two months for the next installment to come out....and we're still waiting for the meat.

Now, listen. Hold your horses. I'm not suggesting we hit the panic button by any means. I'm not suggesting the book sucks, or even middling, or even less than great. Great is still on the table. What is clear to me after reading the second issue is that this needs to be read in trade form. That's all.

Tim Callahan went on CBR and just declared it the best book of the year. Whoahwhoahwhoa there, Silver. This issue, like the debut, is loaded with outstanding ideas and golden promises, and a unique style that is so far pleasing to me. That Hickmany text page about 2/3 of the way through? Love it!

But we're still in the same boat we were last time. There is no meat here. I believe it's coming. We've been told through exposition that great and wonderful things are happening. We can believe that great and wonderful things are happening from the glimpses of meaty stuff that is snatched from our sight at the barest hint. But we don't have anything yet.

Calling SHIELD the best book of the year is like saying you just had the best meal of your life, except all you did was see a few commercials on TV and one of your friends went to that restaurant and said it was awesome. Maybe it's awesome, maybe it isn't. I'll let you know when the trade comes out, because a few whispers of awesometude every 60 days just isn't cutting it for me.

Secret Six # 22

You want meat, you go to Secret Six. It's starting to not make sense how good this series is. At this point, I keep going in every month with more and more unrealistic expectations, and every month it keeps telling me my expectations are too meager.

You thought the Catman origin was brutal last month? (It was) It just got worse, WAY worse. Completely unexpected. And by the way, the details are left partially to your imagination. Did Thomas cave to his father's wishes or was it an accident? Did Thomas sense that he needed to do that in order to gain the inner steel to seal the deal with his father? I don't know. Up to you, really.

Black Alice's Etrigan poems? So strong, and so Chronic Insomnia approved. That's how that character should be written. As per usual, Alice is dark, and powerful, and vulnerable, and sympathetic all in the same issue, and it all makes sense intellectually and emotionally. And then Deadshot caps off that emotionally charged cancer story with an offer for a cigarette. Are you kidding me??? This is beyond comics. This is genius.

Ragdoll gets his shots in, as always:


And no, that's not an exaggeration. Ragdoll's best friend is a stuffed torso of Parademon that he keeps in his room and speaks to regularly. There is more characterization in one issue of Secret Six than a whole year of whatever else you're reading. There is never a wasted moment in this book, and anything can happen at any time.

It's not the same thing, but in terms of quality Secret Six holds up quite nicely next to Sandman, Watchmen, ACME Novelty Library, or anything else you've got in your library. And we can't find even 30,000 people to read this book? Does. Not. Compute.

The Spirit Movie

I've been running my mouth about how The Spirit might be the worst film in cinema history. I rented it and gave it another shot, just to torture myself.

It isn't the worst the film in history, but it might as well be. Not all of it is Frank's fault. All of that "eggs" nonsense from the Octopus? I'm sure that's Eisner's bit, and it just doesn't work. But all of that ridiculous and grating voice over stuff about the city? Yeah, that's Frank.

The stupid scene with the hopping foot that was supposed to have us on the floor? That was Frank. There's a scene in there where Ellen Dolan is spouting off about how she has to take care of Denny Colt because only she knows his body. What??? He's regenerative, the orderly could just sit there and watch him stitch himself up, you moron!!! It doesn't make any sense inside your own narrative rules! Even if that were in the source material, you'd have to take that out. But I'm betting that's Frank.


The good news is, the women are still hot. I was surprised to recognize officer Morganstern, the ultra-peppy sidekick Colt gets saddled with specifically to make Dr. Dolan jealous and up the male power fantasy quotient. Everybody in the film keeps saying to Morganstern; "You'll make detective in no time!"

And she did. Because that was Stana Katic, Detective Kate Beckett on Castle! Hillarious stuff, and definitely shows her range. The Spirit is still really, really, really bad. But there is some fun stuff in it, most noticeably Scarlet Johansson's performance. Don't go watch it again unless you're a masochist, though.

- Ryan

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chronic Review: Hack/Slash My First Maniac # 1!


Hack/Slash: My First Maniac # 1
Image Comics

Script: Tim Seeley
Art: Daniel Leister
22 pages for $3.50

Hack/Slash: My First Maniac takes us back to Cassie Hack's adolescence, and in the process grows out of its own. Hack/Slash has always been good for a laugh, and it's always been clever about poking fun at horror films, comics, and itself. I'm seeing evidence that the book is growing into something more.

To be clear, there was nothing wrong with where the book was at previously. Tim Seeley was producing entertaining comics under unfortunate economic conditions at Devils Due. He soldiered through it longer than he probably should have in the name of loyalty and integrity. Seeley took ownership of the situation and borrowed money personally to make good for his artists when DDP could not, and now....a new start.

I suppose that I don't have access into the mind of Tim Seeley. I do have a history with this franchise as a fan, though. And as I finished the first issue of My First Maniac I thought to myself "He's pulling a Joss Whedon on this."

You remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right? Before it built a Whedon empire and pretty much redefined genre television, it was a really quirky movie starring Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, and Pee Wee Herman for God's sake.

To be fair, it wasn't a great film, but neither was it a travesty. It was just...silly. A bit clever, certainly unexpected, and silly. That's essentially where Hack Slash has been. I'm not suggesting that nothing dark or developed ever happened at Devils Due. But for the most part it worked as a parody, the action was largely cartoony, and it was played for laughs. It felt "safe."

My First Maniac is not safe. There are no "haha teehee" moments reminding us of the absurdities of Nightmare on Elm Street. Cassie Hack suffers a series of real hurts, both physical and psychological. We get far more interior access into Cassie's emotional state, and Seeley kind of breaks your heart as Cassie chooses to strip away every normal and "girly" element from her life so that she can defend a world that probably doesn't deserve her.

From a plot standpoint, this is a development of an origin story that we already know pieces of. Cassie Hack began hunting "slashers" because her mother was one. Maniac shows us details of what happened directly after that. She's placed in a foster home, and has a window for claiming a mundane existence, maybe even a happy one.


I think that's the thing that struck me most about this issue, is that it was clear to me that Cassie had a choice. Not an easy one, but a choice. In the end, she decides that facing off against supernatural horrors is more palatable than facing down cheerleader hate squads and opening up to new people who probably care for her. It feels less vulnerable and more natural for her to hunt slashers and feed off the pain. And it feels real, not cartoony.

This is not your father's Hack Slash. I noticed Seeley playing around with parallelism, which I hadn't noticed before. I think the move to Image was a chance to re-evaluate and re-energize the franchise, and I like what I see. Cassie Hack and this book are growing up!

I'm not sure if this is a limited experiment, or if Seeley really is pulling a Whedon here and consciously taking this thing to new level of sophistication. It's felt for awhile like the book was growing, actually. Feeding less off of pop culture and becoming more layered, more self-referential.

Is this a good place for new readers to start? Most definitely. Will I be disappointed to see Hack/Slash return to its more comedic roots? No, I wouldn't. I think it's quite viable to throw a variety of emotional tones to a series without betraying the audience. Sometimes Spider-Man can be a straight popcorn action book, and sometimes you get a "Kraven's Last Hunt", you know? There's room for both, and I'm simply impressed with Seeley spreading his wings and crafting a different kind of well-told tale.

- Ryan

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chronic Review: Daredevil # 507!


Daredevil # 507
Marvel Comics

Script: Andy Diggle & Antony Johnston
Pencils: Marco Checchetto
22 pages for $2.99

The first comic I ever purchased was Uncanny X-Men # 163, but the first character I really fell for was Daredevil, beginning with issue # 198. What's funny is that I started with Denny O'Neill, not Frank Miller.

I had no clue that Frank existed until I hit Daredevil # 227, and that was like swallowing a Morpheus red pill. A whole new world. So then I backtracked and got hold of Miller's first run on Daredevil and the lights went on. "Ohhhhhh, so THIS is what I was sensing behind the page!"

Listen, Denny O'Neill has serious chops and his run has nothing to be ashamed of. But the juice was laid down by Frank Miller before he showed up. What I was enjoying at first was a good steward, and now here was the architect. But I digest.

I have always loved Daredevil, and I can't articulate rationally why that character is so special to me above all others. I always seem to find my way back "home" again. Hence Daredevil # 507.

What's extra weird is that for no reason I can discern, I've been interested in returning to the old D.G. Chichester run. You remember "Fall From Grace" with Scott McDaniel art, where he started wearing that armor? Diggle is returning to that piece of the canon, although I don't expect the suit to come back. It's just a weird piece of synchronicity that just as I randomly started considering Daredevil again, and randomly got interested in Fall From Grace, those things should dovetail.

So does it pay off? Well, it's hard to say. The difficulty for me is that I'm jumping aboard at the end of a very complex cycle, and that's just never a good idea. I've got the basic gist of what's going on. Matt Murdock is now the leader of The Hand, which he took over as a "devil you know" tactic to defend Hell's Kitchen from Norman Osborn.


He's in pretty tight with White Tiger, but she's a double agent. She doesn't appear to have any real animosity toward Matt, but she really doesn't seem to have his best interests at heart, either. While Matt is recognized as the boss to his face, it's pretty obvious that he's got major problems of a Machiavellian nature to contend with there.

As for the exact plot twists and ramifications of individual actions, I must admit that I am a bit lost. Again, jumping in at the end, this is more my fault than Andy Diggle's fault. While I was mainly pleased with the tone and direction of the writing, it is Marco Checchetto who really stole the show for me.

What's extra weird is that I got to that opening fight sequence and thought to myself; "WOW. Where have they been hiding this kid?" So the instant I finished the issue I went to research some of his previous work, and then remembered being wowed by his depiction of Invisible Woman in Spider-Man's "American Son" arc. I just have a really poor memory. I will remember Mr. Checchetto forever more, though, I can promise you that.

These pencils are gorgeous. The mood, the snow, the kinetic action, the choices he makes with perspective, it's all so....GORGEOUS. I have always turned my nose up at people who say things like "I don't care who's writing that book, as long as "X" is drawing that character, I'm on board!" I now understand that sentiment.

The good news is that Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston are doing solid work here, near as I can tell. The stakes are high, there is legitimate tension in the book. I found myself worrying about Matt getting in too deep, getting too confident in his position when there are so many snakes lying about. There was more ninja fighting in this issue than I'm ordinarily comfortable with, but again - the Checchetto factor made that most welcome.

Shadowland is a workable concept, it seems to be part of a master plan that Daredevil is being manipulated into, and the mystery is tantalizing enough to tempt me into the mini-series. I think that Diggle could make that pay off.

I'm a teeny bit concerned because the writing craft is not measuring up exactly. The concept is fine, and the execution is serviceable, but not....special. Let me give you an example of a little scene that just felt flat to me.

Daredevil stumbles upon a little cadre of dead ninjas that White Tiger dispatched to make it look like they all committed suicide. And he appears to buy it. The first thing I wondered is whether the dude that Bendis was writing in say..."Decalogue" could be duped by such a thing. But fine. The story sort of demands that he get led around right now, and maybe he's playing possum?

But it feels a little weak. And then he asks his highest underlings if they respect him, which seemed too blunt a question, but fine. And here are their responses:


Now, there's nothing wrong with any of that. But those replies are flat, derivative, kinda boring. There's nothing especially flavorful, cultural, fresh in there. You can bet your ass Gail Simone wouldn't have wasted that opportunity to throw in something unexpected, dripping with subtext, and probably cutting in its deference. That's just...flat.

So, to recap. Diggle and Johnston have a really nice setup. It's rich, complex, very workable. Marco Checchetto is displaying the full awesometude of his excellenticity. If Diggle can throw that kind of zest into characterization and dialogue, this might actually be worth the goddamned $3.99 I know they're going to charge for the Shadowland issues.

- Ryan

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chronic Analysis: Winnowing!

The more I think about winnowing the direct market, the more I'm convinced I'm right. Now, CB Cebulski is quite certain that I'm an idiot and that only the Powers That Be at Marvel have the situation down cold. And, you know, clearly they've got everything under control over there. ;-)

Frankly if I were CB Cebulski, I wouldn't trust me, either. Look at my hair for fuck's sake. That is not the coif of a credible source. And yet...go copulate yourself, Mr. Cebulski.

Because you guys DON'T have an exclusive line on truth, or even marginally good ideas. You have seven readers under the age of 30. Your characters have created literally millions of movie fans and billions of dollars, and you've translated all of that exposure into exactly ZERO new comics readers.

So go fuck yourself and the high horse you're perched on at present. Now I'm not talking to you, CB Cebulski. I'm talking about snarky executive types who believe in their own papal infallibility while their city burns to the ground in front of them. Maybe it's time for a new tactic. Maybe it's time to listen to the people. That's where I come in.

Winnowing: The Basic Concept


What I propose is that Marvel and DC review their publishing strategy and drastically reduce the amount of titles they offer on a monthly basis. It's that simple.

Q: But isn't that insane?

A: I know it sounds a little counter-intuitive to offer less product in the midst of frighteningly low sales figures and aggressive attrition. There are lots of reasons why it makes logical and economical sense.

Name one.


All right, let me ask you this - is it better to sell:

A) 20,000 copies of 10 different titles
or
B) 100,00o copies of 1 title

It's way better to go with A.

Actually, it super isn't. The easy math says A sells twice as many copies as B. But life is rarely that simple.

In the short term, it's possible that you make out slightly better with A, but just by a hair if at all. Part of the problem with A is that you're paying 10 different creative teams, where B is only paying one. So the production costs are not equal.

Neither are the margins on printing. If you've ever planned a wedding, you know that it costs about $7,000 to print 50 invitations, and about $7,025 to print 1,000 invitations. A similar phenomenon exists with comics printing. The actual cost between running 20,000 issues and running 100,000 is negligible, even in color. As your print run increases, so do your margins.

But there's more.

Attrition is a fact in the current market. Unless you tie a book directly into an event or suddenly switch to a higher-profile set of creators, your book is going to sell fewer comics this month than it did last month. Next month? You guessed it, it will go down again. That's just the way it is in 2010.

At 20,000 issues, you're in the black, but not by much. And the clock is ticking...fast. You're on life support, and the prognosis is terminal. If you're an indy creator, selling 10,000 issues is enough to make rent, and the trade collection might even get you a new car someday. If you're a publicly traded company owned by Disney or Warner Bros? That's not even Taco Bell money. There's no point. All of your money got caught up in production.

At the 100,000 issue level, you've got a nice healthy profit margin. Your creator costs are going to be roughly 10% that of B, your margins are better by a mile, and perhaps most importantly of all....you have time. That 1-2% monthly attrition hurts, but you're a long way from the red. There's time to let the fields lay fallow for a bit before you shake things up again. You're not living every moment of your life with one foot in the grave. There's time.

That's great, but if it was so easy to make 100,000 copy selling titles, they'd just do that. How is it going to happen?

It's going to happen when you winnow the chaff out and give the buyers a 20-25 title stable of healthy, delicious wheat.

How do you know that?

I don't know that, per se. But think about it for a moment. What is the prevailing profit strategy for the big 2? Are they going out and aggressively drumming up new business? Are they advertising to non-comics readers and sending them into your local comic shop to try things out? Are they going out of the box and expanding into other venues and reaching a wider audience anywhere?

No. The publishing strategy at Marvel and DC for as long as I can remember is to simply milk more and more out of the same turnips. The strategy lately is to find anything that sells more than 30,000 copies and then flood the market with five satellite books and twelve spin-off one shotters.

People like Deadpool this month? Give him eight titles this month. Hulk is having a renaissance? Let's give him another ongoing, let's turn one into a Hercules book, let's have two more pseudo-events, and for God's sake somebody write me a Hulkity Hulk mini series, stat!

It's absurd. And the scary thing is that it would work....if they advertised their way into an expanding readership. But what really happens is that Consumer X is spending $20 a week. Now, Marvel would like to pretend that Consumer X looks at the those seventeen new Avengers titles coming out and just buys them all on top of their regular ongoing pulls.

But we know better, don't we? What happens is that Consumer X either ignores some or all of the extra books, (and is probably irritated about having to make the decision) or they buy all of those Avengers....at the cost of Ms. Marvel. Or Booster Gold. Or Star Wars Legacy.

Consumer X isn't spending any more than his or her budget allows. What Consumer X is forced to do is shuffle that money around into an increasingly chaotic and crowded rack. Marvel and DC are forcing a limited supply of money into more and more books for less and less and profit.

The numbers back that up?

The numbers back that up. For the first time in a long time, total dollars spent on comics and trades are going down year over year. So it's a little worse than I just described, actually. We aren't drawing on a stable pool of discretionary income, but a shrinking one. This in the midst of a golden era where comic book properties make billions at the box office and are exposed to millions of eyes that are never ever pointed toward a comic shop.

And winnowing the number of titles helps us how, exactly?

As I just described, the operating theory of comics publishing is that there are a finite number of comics readers who simply want to read comics. The sales data suggest they have a stable or slightly shrinking pool of discretionary money that they are going to spend... on comics.

If Marvel and DC winnow into a stable of 20-25 titles, your comics constituency are going to funnel all of that money into a coherent universe of highly profitable books created by top-flight creators. (Marvel is going to keep Ed Brubaker, not Joe Schmoe)

Comic book readers will be far better able to keep tabs on what is going on in these universes, some may even have the ability to collect a publisher's entire line. New readers will have a sporting chance at finding a book they might like, because there won't be 300 titles of white noise shouting at them from the racks.

Quality goes up on every book, because we just got rid of all but the best writers and pencillers, at least at the Big 2. Everybody else can now make a name for themselves on an Indy title, if they so choose.

And guess what? Indy books might actually have a prayer at an audience now should new readers ever enter a comic book shop, because the rack isn't glutted with fifty miles of crap!

OK, that sounds good, but what makes you think it would actually go down like that?

Do you know why college and pro football dominate the sports market now? Because they put out a good product, and each game is an event. You've got 16 regular season games and a handful of playoff tilts. Everything matters. Football rules because it's a great game offered in limited quantities.

Martin Lindstrom reports in his book "Buyology: Truth & Lies About Why We Buy" that if you ask somebody to pick a chocolate out of a box of thirty or a box of six, they grab from the box of six. Chocolate is good, and it's easier to make a choice out of six. Have you ever noticed that you have a DVD in your collection that you never watch, but if it shows up on TV you're quite content to sit down and view it over again? It's because you're paralyzed by your collection. Too many voices, too many choices, the whole thing is paralyzing. When it's just sitting in front of you on the television, it's obvious that you want to see it again.

Lindstrom talks about a book store that was tanking. He walked in to find a clutter of ten tables loaded with bestsellers. Before he got down to brass tacks with their marketing, he told them first thing to remove those tables and replace them with a single display table containing a handful of quality books chosen by the staff. Revenue instantly went up 2%.

If I were a potential new reader thinking about starting up comics right now, the # 1 obstacle would be continuity confusion. Where do I start? What is what? What am I looking at? It's a mess, all of it. Winnow it down to something a human being can wrap their head around. Right now, Marvel alone is pumping out about 130 titles of "canon" material a month. Who can possibly stay on top of that? Who would want to?

If you came out of a movie theater and wanted Iron Man stuff, what would you get? I took a quick spin through May's releases, and I found 6 Iron Man comics, a Rescue 1-shot, a Black Widow book, and 4 trades. How is a newbie supposed to walk into a comic shop, parse through that and make a decision? That's not even accounting for the myriad of Avengers books he was featured in as well! It's madness.

If you winnow into a manageable stable, here's what happens instantly:

  • You get better books, because only the top creators are left employed
  • You get more profitable books, because readership increases on what's left
  • You get a more coherent, manageable, readable level of coherency and continuity
  • You make it much easier for your current clientele to make purchasing decisions
  • You make it nearly possible for a new reader to make a purchasing decision
But if the big 2 cancel a bunch of titles, won't that irritate readers into jumping out entirely?

It will irritate about 53 people into hitting the forums and whining about quitting. They won't. Let's face facts. If the $3.99 price hike for no additional content didn't drive them out, I don't know what will.

We are what we are, until the publishers get off their rear ends and find some more of us. We are here to buy comics. We love the medium and we will take our allocated funds and buy the most appealing books that are out there for our tastes. Funnel us into a reasonable number of quality titles that actually make money and buy the direct market some time until we can figure out how to coexist with digital. Please!

- Ryan