Tuesday, January 17, 2012

WONDER WOMAN #4 – A Review

My Review Procedure

First, I read the issue like anyone who buys it off the rack. I don’t make any notes, I don’t try to analyze on the fly. I just try to read it. Easier said than done, often. Some comic books these days are unreadable.

Some are such infuriating garbage that after a few pages I throw them in the trash to lie in disgrace amid the crumpled junk mail and wads of cat hair scraped off of the lint brush.

Some are so abstruse, incoherent or unfathomable that I bog down partway through. I check my e-mail. I heed the siren call of Solitaire. Checking the Weather Channel seems like fun. I never quite get through them. My attention drifts away and never comes back.

Assuming that my first attempt to read the issue in question succeeds and I make it to the end of the story, then I give it an editor’s reading, slowly and carefully. I do this several times, and do a lot of flipping back and forth, analyzing, comparing things, making notes and diagramming the story.

(ASIDE: If I were proofreading the thing, I’d read it one more time forcing myself to take a micro-pause after each word, and after each sentence to focus on those elements. Then I’d read it once backward. I only do that on my own manuscripts these days.)

Anyway….

This one did not end up in the bin with the Shoprite flyers and the fur wads. I made it all the way through, first try. That’s remarkable, considering.


The Cover

The logo pops. Bold, blocky white letters on red.

The cover is divided roughly 60/40, top and bottom. The top part bears the logo, so the top image and bottom image are fairly balanced. The images are pretty graphically stylized. The large female figure in the top half wearing what I assume is a feathered cape has a bloody sword. There are many figures silhouetted in the background, some apparently with weapons, doing what, I don’t know. Thrashing around. A battle maybe. There are black and red spatters everywhere, even on the logo.

The bottom half features Wonder Woman’s face as if reflected in a puddle, a little distorted. I suppose Wonder Woman’s Q-Score is high enough, at this point, that pretty much everyone likely to see this image knows it’s her. She’s shouting or screaming. The puddle seems to be trickling down from the red background of the top half of the cover, suggesting, perhaps, that it’s a pool of blood. Blood spilled by the bloody sword, feather-caped woman?

Whatever. I’d buy this book off of the rack just because the cover is groovy, graphic and intriguing, albeit mysterious. A lot of thinking, a lot of skill and talent went into the creation of this cover. Being in the design/supervising designers biz myself, I am more susceptible to groovy graphics than most.

JayJay the Blog Elf, a superb graphic designer, may wish to make a comment here, or if she doesn’t, this is the sort of comment she might make: “Well, duh.”  (JayJay here. How could I improve on such eloquence?)

Cover by Cliff Chiang.



The Interior

Brian Azzarello wrote this thing. It’s not a story. It’s a bunch of Lego blocks that form nothing yet, but, who knows, we may be on our way to a little Lego rowboat. Or, maybe a Lego aircraft carrier. Miscellaneous pieces. It’s not a story.

It’s not all bad, either.

This thing starts in Darfur. Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang did insufficient research. What is represented here doesn’t even rise to the level of glib shorthand. It’s bogus. It’s lame.

In the midst of a nonsensical, badly imagined Darfur firefight, with many bodies strewn around, two unusual beings, apparently unconcerned by the violence all around, meet in a very improbable bar. One being is black—not African, mind you, really black. He looks young and robust. His mouth and eyes glow. He wears no shoes—and the creators make a point of showing us that—but otherwise dresses in normal-ish clothes. The other being is an old, thin, bearded, bald guy, also barefoot, also dressed in normal-ish clothes, though his are blood-spattered.
Old guy: “Hello, brother.”

Black guy: “Hell low, indeed.”

Good grief.
That is a prime example of Azzarello’s favorite trick. He has characters play off of, pun off of things said by other characters. This is not a distinctive trait of one particular character. They all do it.

A character called Strife: “Can’t you see I’m trying to be nice?”

Tall woman: “Trying. Yes, you are.”
Good grief.

His other trick is bridging from one scene to another by using quoted captions—either a pithy line from the preceding scene that applies to the next, or a pithy line from the next scene applicable to the ending circumstances of its predecessor.

The aforementioned tall woman might be Wonder Woman—she’s in civvies. Aha, on the third page she’s seen, she’s called “Diana.” That’s a clue for comics-savvy me (actually, I knew from the get-go), but wouldn’t some civilians still not know?

Strife, Diana and others are in a club in London.

So…even in new reader mode, I’m starting to get it. There are these supernatural beings—War, the black guy, Strife, maybe Diana, maybe a young woman referred to as Zola—walking around among human beings on Earth. There’s another guy, colored blue, who keeps himself mostly covered up, referred to as Hermes. P.S., Strife is blue the first time we see her, and thereafter is a more human color. What?

Okay. Even some civilians know, I think, that Wonder Woman has something to do with Greek mythology—Amazons and whatnot.  Hermes, I guess, makes sense. But…War? If we have Hermes, why not Ares? And who the Hell is Strife?

I also wonder about this: people didn’t seem to be aware of War and the black guy, but it would appear, from the fact that they have been served beverages, waiters or waitresses, at least, are aware of Strife, Hermes and Co.

Diana has some tense chitchat with Strife and we cutesy quoted-caption segue to somewhere else.

We eventually find out it’s Paradise Island. Hera, the Hera, Queen of the Greek Gods, one would assume has come to confront Hippolyta, the Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons! Okay, now it’s all Greek to me.

Cutesy quoted caption segue back to the club.

Things are said that are meaningless to my friend Andrew the set designer, Herb the financial wizard and Joe the lawyer, all smart people, all non-comics readers, who couldn’t make heads or tails out of this gobbledygook. They can watch any TV show and get the drift. They can see virtually any movie or read virtually any novel and follow it, but this comic book was unfathomable to them.

Comics-savvy me figures out that whoever the @#&% Strife is, she caused some problems between Diana, now referred to as “the Amazon,” and her mother. Hippolyta, I guess. There is no basis presented for such a guess, but I’ve been reading comics for 56 years. I didn’t read a lot of Wonder Woman along the way, but…I have developed good guessing instincts.

“…split happens,” says Strife. Good line.
There is strife between Diana and Strife. We gather that Diana is protective of Zola, and there is a suggestion that Zola is pregnant. Strife leaves the club with a wounded hand and there is another cutesy quoted caption segue back to Hippolyta and Hera.

Hippolyta has done something to piss Hera off.

With some wonderful dialogue, Azzarello gets the gist across, assuming one has the most rudimentary knowledge of Greek mythology. Zeus, Hera’s husband, impregnated Hippolyta, who bore a daughter. Diana? Maybe? Hera is mad-jealous and vengeful. I guess she just found out about it. Diana appears to be in her twenties, at least.

Hippolyta is actually properly contrite. She brought a giant axe with her when she approached Hera. She gives the axe to Hera! She kneels! The axe was for Hera’s convenience in cutting off her, Hippolyta’s head! Nice twist.

Hippolyta’s Amazons, all of them, against orders, rush to protect their Queen. They stand, bows drawn, to fire at Hera. No evidence of missing right breasts, if anybody was curious.

Hera, by the way, is inexplicably naked, except for her feathered cloak. It’s okay. Something, shadows, the cloak or the axe (it’s a biiig axe) always obscures her naughty bits.
Cutesy quoted caption segue back to Diana and Zola, home from the club, apparently living together. They have a conversation that is unfathomable. New readers, if they hadn’t already pitched this thing into the junk mail/cat hair receptacle do so here.

Even comics savvy people not current with WW, like, oh, say, me, are baffled. Zola talks about her lost home, father in jail, undisclosed mistakes her mother made. And there’s another suggestion that she’s pregnant. Diana says “…the fact that I was created from clay.” Zola responds, “But that’s not a fact anymore.”

Check, please. Taxi.

Later, Diana, wearing what appears enough like the Wonder Woman costume I know so that I’m pretty sure she’s the title character, approaches Hermes, who apparently also lives in the same apartment (or whatever dwelling) as Diana and Zola. WW bears a sword and shield. She trades them for Hermes’ staff.
Now I’m guessing, but I think they’re reasonable guesses that even many new readers might make….

Hermes’ staff enables WW to teleport to Paradise Island.

What motivated that move? Beats me.

There she finds empty Amazon armor and hordes of snakes. If one, even a new reader, were sufficiently engaged at this point to give it a bit of thought, one might guess that all-powerful Hera turned the Amazon warriors threatening her into snakes.

WW says some things we don’t have enough information to understand to her mother, Hippolyta, who is off panel.

Then it is revealed that Hippolyta has been turned (apparently) to stone. By Hera, one would assume.

The end.

The art is stylized. I’m okay with that. Chiang, though a little artsy-fartsy, tells the story well enough and the acting is good. I wish more of the artists I’ve had got that much done.

Azzarello is glib and too clever by half. Brian, stop it with the gimmicks, already. Stop trying to be a Writer and start being a writer.

There is no discernible nod to the fact that this thing was published in a serial format.

OPEN MESSAGE TO AZZARELLO AND DC COMICS:

EVERY ISSUE SHOULD BE AN ENTRY POINT!

This one isn’t.

Azzarello, don’t you understand that you’re excluding people? Lots of people?

I know that your editors and their bosses don’t understand that or give a damn. They’re lazy and/or stupid. But you seem like a clever fellow, bright enough. Don’t you want to reach more people? Don’t you want to entertain more people? Don’t you want more of an audience than however many read your previous issues (assuming that those issues explain what the Hell is going on) plus the few remaining steeped-in-comics-lore people who might be able to pick it up on the fly?

Or are you really screwing over the periodicals buyers and writing for the trade paperback buyers. Hey, it worked for Moore on Watchmen. He gave barely a nod to the initial, serialized presentation, and it didn’t sell all that well. But it has done wonderfully well as a collection in various trade formats. Is that what you’re going for?

Really?
Here’s the good news. The art is pretty groovy. The writing, despite its various self-indulgent riffs is actually clever in a good way most of the time. There do seem to be some things going on that might bear looking into. How much is this going to cost me? Three previous issues…nine bucks.

Sigh.

Okay.

NEXT: Wonder Woman #1-4

196 comments:

Anonymous said...

This doesn't need saying again - but I'll say it anyway - Jim, your reviews are gold

re: entry point. Me, and every person that I know who read comics at one time, bought a comic starting with a random issue. X-Men #123, GI Joe #2, Hulk #255. That's how people get into comics!! I did not have the money nor the inclination to go back and get previous issues to figure out what was happening - nor did I need to. This was my entry point in to a life-long hobby


-Keil

David in SLC said...

Pretty much agree with you except on one point - Azzarello couldn't write his way out of wet paper bag. Thanks to my completionist mentality, I had to endure his tenure on both Batman and Superman over the years. HATED everything with his name on it, knew I would hate this, and yes I do to the point I have stopped buying this book until he is off it, my first interruption in buying Wonder Woman since 1995. 4 issues is enough for me to know that my original assessment of his talent will remain unchanged.

Anonymous said...

David - respect your point of view - but are you sure? His "tenure" on Batman consisted of 5 issues

Agree his Superman sucked

But 100 Bullets, Loveless and his Joker hardcover are some of the best comics in the last 10 years

PS - agree with Jim. The wordplay and puns throughout are self-indulgent and unnecessary

Robert Stanley Martin said...

Hey, it worked for Moore on Watchmen. He gave barely a nod to the initial, serialized presentation, and it didn’t sell all that well.

That's not my understanding. While the total unit sales of Watchmen's serialized issues aren't publicly available, Capital City's numbers and their sales rankings are. (Click here). At least half the issues of Watchmen were among the top-ten sellers to Capital City accounts during the month of their release. Four others made the top 15, and the other two aren't known. Now perhaps it did a lot better through Capital City than the other distributors. But this is the first I've heard that the serialization didn't do extremely well.

Petrus Magnus said...

Is it me or there was actually nothing going on in this issue? From what I get from the review (I didn't read the issue, mind you) there's barely any action except "character development" and/or witty repartée.

Oh, how I miss my 80's comics...

Anonymous said...

Bendis' run on Daredevil - which features exactly this kind of writing - is thought of as one of the best runs of all time - lol

Anonymous said...

"Or are you really screwing over the periodicals buyers and writing for the trade paperback buyers. Hey, it worked for Moore on Watchmen. He gave barely a nod to the initial, serialized presentation, and it didn’t sell all that well. But it has done wonderfully well as a collection in various trade formats."

[MikeAnon:] This is one of those instances where, yes, I'm totally taking Wikipedia's word for it, but according to their entry:

"WATCHMEN was published in single-issue form over the course of 1986 and 1987. The limited series was a commercial success, and its sales helped DC Comics briefly overtake its competitor Marvel Comics in the comic book direct market." (Presumably quoted from Bradford Wright's book "Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America") [--MikeAnon]

Marvelman said...

Fair enough, Jim. I still like the book, but I can honestly see how it would be confusing to new readers. Hey, Brian, don't you want all those royalties?

Jim said...

Jim – great review.

I love Cliff’s artwork and have found Azzarello’s writing to at times be obtuse. In Wonder Woman he has a hit with me as it is the first time I have been seriously interesting in reading the comic itself. I also agree that the fourth issue provided no entry point and I think it is a major problem with most comics.

Way too many comics read better as a trade. While as a long time comic fan I can tolerate reading the monthlies I think DC made a huge mistake with their re-launch because no single issue that I can remember told a complete story. Any new reader was told to come back to get the rest of the story. Instead a great solid story should have been told and then the theoretical new reader would want to come back for more. Instead DC has some great stuff due to strong writers but has amassed a ton of titles all in the middle of stories after 4 issues, in an ADD culture do you think you can build an audience like that?

It reminds me of digital comics, instead of doing innovative things to make them different they are trying to sell the digital version for the same price as the regular comic. Heck CDs are now sold digitally as singles, not as an album concept anymore. If they want to sell the digital version why not add an option to have the script next to the page, show the art without color and/or have a creator commentary track. Instead we get a digital version of the same thing. No one is thinking other then we can reach a mass market with a digital comic. Do they think the digital market wants part of a story and have to wait five months to read the whole story?

Anyway great review and I like how you point out the positives and also make remarks about how it could be improved. An even handed review of what I think is a great series that unfortunately is not being written as a periodical. Wish you were running DC.

modiplop said...

Hi Jim, sorry to go off topic and apologies if it has been answered in full elsewhere. I was wondering why you preferred to work on the Gold Key characters for Dark Horse than stick around and work with the new guys running Valiant comics. Again apologies if this has been answered elsewhere (if anyone could point me in the right direction I would appreciate it). Again I am just going on the few facts that I have read online and I am sure there is more to the story than that. Also whatever the case what are your thoughts about the new Valiant?
Thanks

modiplop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Scott Johnson said...

I really loved Broken City; the Superman story, not so much, but I thought it was okay. I see Grant Morrison's run on Batman as considerably less interesting than Azzarello's 5 issues. To each their own.

Defiant1 said...

Essentially I agree with this review. The art appears to functionally work. Unfortunately, I expect better. It looks like sketch art that has been subsequently inked. No refinements done. It just looks like someone practicing layouts and not something I expect from a finished piece.

The dialogue is boring. The pacing is absurd. Do I really need a full page dedicated to a guy sitting in a chair with his foot propped up? The only thing they do on the whole page is swap items. This could be done off panel and mentioned in a single word balloon. I just feel that publishers have no story to tell, so they waste my time and money instead. If the items swapped are important, why are they off panel? Surely they are going to be used somehow?! I hope their functionality has a relevance to the story... show them! What is with the dead space in the panels? Do we need to look at a wall occupying 25% of a panel while the object being discussed isn't even in the frame of view?

Nothing in these samples shown gets me emotionally invested in the characters or the story. When I think of superheroes, the action-adventure genre comes to mind. I don't think of characters just standing or sitting around exchanging mindless sarcastic small talk.

Even if I was a huge fan of Wonder Woman, I can't see myself ever buying this. It's stylized, but so what?! I've seen better styles.

I'm not going to pay $3 for a yawn. I can do that for free.

The Angry Old Geek said...

Thank you for the very entertaining review of WW#4. I have to agree with you at least in part about this issue not being an entry point in this story line. I have read comics #1-3 and I was a bit confused by this issue. It was almost as if there was a bit of story missing between issue #3 & #4.

I have liked the way the old Gods have been updated a bit or at least not they are not the same old same old Gods. Except for Hera, it would be nice for once if writers would allow her to be more modern or different as with the other Gods. At the very least I would like her to stop taking vengeance on the moms and kids; she needs to just go kick her husband’s rear end. This point just bugs me.

Stumptown said...

The decompressed nature of comics (complete with the lack of entry point beyond the first issue) is one of the things that drove me away from buying monthlies. They stopped being written for the monthly format, so why was I still trying to read them that way?

Unfortunately it also means that my read list has gotten progressively smaller. How can I decide on a new series to read when the entry point is $12.99 (or more) for the first trade which is required reading since I can't just pick up a random issue and give it a shot? Frustrating.

As always, your reviews are entertaining and engaging. Can't wait to read your thoughts on the issue once you get the other issues and can read it in context.

Anonymous said...

"Hello, brother"

"Hell. Low. Indeed"

cringe!!!

Anonymous said...

Great review.

-Joe

Anonymous said...

Aaron - if you liked Broken City - you ought to try Batman Knight of Vengeance. Probably the best superhero book that I read last year (not that I read a ton of them)

Van GoghX said...

They're still doing Wonder Woman comics? Huh!

Eklectic1 said...

Thanks for the review. I've been following this comic since #1 with "the new 52". This particular version of Wonder Woman is probably the first contemporary one I've found that doesn't seem like a tarted-up fantasy to me.

I really, really like Cliff Chiang's art. It different and muscular. It's lean. It's got a cartoonist's edge, but not an undignified one. The mood he invokes pulls me along and makes me want more. So much so that the writing, which I agree is cutesy and much too aware of how cute it is, is the main obstacle to be overcome so that I can enjoy the art. After a certain amount of expensive suffering in purchasing comics and testing today's comic waters, I figure I am too old to like the writing in most comic books nowadays, and, let's face it, as a female of middle years, unless I actually owned the company they worked for and could torment them in a meaningful way at the paycheck level, the writers of these comics aren't gonna care that their overly-clever efforts give me the hives.

But I can always admire a nicely drawn version of Wonder Woman that gives me a sense of her as a kick-ass personality, and one that is not being presented as a male artist's fantasy object...

You may find that this book is worth following from the previous issues. I do recommend you to try it. From the first issue, I found it a new journey and a new mood for WW. She seems serious, well muscled but not insanely so, and just a little strange.

As she should be.

And yeah, the dialogue blows. Try it anyway. And then let us know what you think after you've experienced the first three issues. You've already opened the door to that possibility with your remarks about spending that nine bucks...face it, you'd just waste that nine bucks on something silly like groceries anyway.

Anonymous said...

That's my problem with all the New 52 stuff I read. All time wasting scenes of "character development" and the story starts to move only at the last page or so of the story. I bought several different series and kept seeing this pattern. Finally, I just stopped buying them all together.

t.k.

ja said...

Robert,

Aren't those sales notated through the link you provided good for today, but not so great for the time that it came out originally?

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Looks like I'm the first person who didn't grok the cover of Wonder Woman #4 at first sight. In the Internet age when people see thumbnails instead of full-sized covers on shelves, cover designs should be understood even at small sizes.

At first I thought Hera was some kind of owl monster and wondered why Hera was sending an owl monster after Wonder Woman. Then I read on and realized that was Hera herself. Her shadowy body is hard to see agaisnt a busy black background and I mistook her golden thigh for negative space. And since when did the queen of the gods have the thin body of a teenage girl? The hood, glowing eyes, and sword on the cover don't match the exposed head and axe in the interior.

The people in the background overlap too much so it's hard to see what they're doing. The black splatter gives them context, but fewer people in obvious fighting poses would have been more effective.

The buildings look like they could be in an old-fashioned part of a modern city, even though they're presumably on Paradise Island. Why not use more obviously classical architecture like George Pérez did?

Wonder Woman's face seems oddly flat, as if we're looking at a drawing of her tilted at a slight angle different from that of the pool of blood in the bottom half of the cover. Why not tilt her face to match the pool of blood or have her look directly at us?

Lastly, the white and yellow lettering is difficult to read compared to the title logo and "The Wrath of Hera!": e.g., "52" almost looks like "32."

Summing up: good concept, unclear execution. But it is nice to see a modern cover that isn't a generic pin-up and actually has something to do with the interior. Speaking of which ...

... why start with Darfur? This kind of reference will date the comic. Could the scene have taken place somewhere else? My guess is yes.

Another guess: the creatively named War and Strife belong to a non-Greek pantheon. Dunno about Zola, though.

How is Hera's clock able to be blown upward if rain is coming down?

What does Wonder Woman actually do in this comic bearing her name? Your description gives me the impression that Azzarello is more interested in the supporting cast (largely of his own creation) than the ostensible main character. Would anyone read this comic if it weren't titled Wonder Woman? Would Azzarello be happier writing a creator-owned Vertigo title about supernatural beings on Earth?

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Defiant1,

"Do I really need a full page dedicated to a guy sitting in a chair with his foot propped up?"

And with the guy's staff just coming out of nowhere in the last panel? No space spent on showing him materializing it or pulling it out from under the couch or something. If I didn't recognize Hermes' caduceus, I'd be lost.

"I don't think of characters just standing or sitting around exchanging mindless sarcastic small talk."

Why have superhero comics turned into that? I think it's because they now appeal to middle-aged men who want to read about their favorite characters from childhood behaving like their favorite adult characters on TV or in the movies. Hence this strange hybrid of superheroes in nonsuperheroic situations.

Robert Stanley Martin said...

Those are only a fraction of the sales back in 1986-1987. Direct-sales distribution was very different in those days. Now there's only Diamond, who services every comics shop in the country. In those days, there were multiple distributors who serviced regional accounts.

What's important to look at are the rankings. If those rankings are typical of what the other distributors were seeing, the floppy installments of Watchmen outsold the vast majority of, not only DC's line, but Marvel's as well.

Anonymous said...

It almost sounds to me like you guys are saying, "Where are the big boobs and explosions? And where's Wolverine?!"

"All the time wasting scenes of 'character development'" Wait...really? Maybe the RED HOOD title is more up your alley. Or maybe HAWK & DOVE? I hear Rob Liefeld is drawing that one.

Marc Miyake said...

Anonymous, you assume a false dichotomy. Sexism and mindless violence are not the only alternatives to this style.

Anonymous said...

lol - you're confused. Sarcastic, "edgy" dialog is not character development

peter said...

The coda on this review is my favorite. Sadly, I don't think that's really going to be $9 well spent.

I think Wonder Woman is an example of the storytelling skills of the artist elevating some fairly plodding and predictable work on the part of the writer. All of the better regarded series in the New 52 initiative have this same problem. I've been following the widely well regarded Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and this, and I continue to be baffled at how well received they are.

They're not atrocious. The artists are for skilled, and the writers don't make me want to throw the comics away in disgust but they're still these weak, boring comics. What story there is has been spread across multiple issues, making the development, plot and character, glacial and predictable. The surprising development of each issue is broadly telegraphed because... well because how could they not be with so little story content actually in those 20-22 pages? What else COULD happen but 20 pages of preamble? The scenes of character interaction needed to pad out the stories have the quality of filler because the dialogue is fairly leaden and, because these stories move at this plodding, intensively expository pace, characters are just stuck hanging around talking about the story that in every single case could have been shown more efficiently in a bare handful of panels.

The pacing of the issues and the arcs reminds me a lot of Preacher. But where Ennis made a deliberate and well considered use of the classic western metaphor of space on the page and in the story for the expanses of the west, he also used that space to tell something interesting about the characters or their story.

The recent Lone Ranger series did the same, spreading it's story out, but still delivering something interesting in each issue. In the New 52 comics, it's just a broadly applied technique spreading less and less story more and more thinly whether or not the story warrants the structure. I wouldn't call it decompression, because they're not actually DOING anything with the extra space. It's just taking okay material and padding it until it isn't much of anything anymore.

Marc Miyake said...

... particularly not if, as Jim wrote, "This is not a distinctive trait of one particular character. They all do it." One edgy guy, fine. But a whole cast? Or even a fraction of it?

Scott_D said...

"Hey, it worked for Moore on Watchmen. He gave barely a nod to the initial, serialized presentation, and it didn’t sell all that well. But it has done wonderfully well as a collection in various trade formats. Is that what you’re going for?

Really?"

Someone interested in Wonder Woman can either wait for the trade or buy the first issue digitally online.

Sure, it's possible some comic newbie could walk into a comic store and hypothetically be baffled, but I guess you have to weigh that against the chunkiness of how the exposition would work in a trade paperback. (It's hard to imagine Watchmen working as well as an arty "graphic novel"
with repeated exposition every chapter).

More interestingly, Jim, would you consider trying this "new reader" experiment with, say, chapter 4 of One Piece or chapter 4 of Naruto? See how the world's most successful working comic creators do it?

Anonymous said...

I had the same reaction about wasting $9 on issues 1-3. I'm an Azz fan, but I dropped this title after issue #1

Spaceman is infinitely better

Robbie Morales said...

"I don't think of characters just standing or sitting around exchanging mindless sarcastic small talk."

The reason is comics are being used by "writers" as potential spring boards ( in their minds ) to careers as novelists or screen writers......which in turn leaves us to suffer reading this boring confused drivel.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

I second Scott D's suggestion to look at manga in the middle and let us know what you think. Until I started buying Weekly Shonen Jump regularly in the late 80s, I always started reading manga from the middle. And if I happened to discover a series before any of it has been collected, there was no way to get volume 1 of the reprints and catch up. If I didn't understand a series*, I wasn't strongly motivated to read onward -- or backward. Fortunately, most series made sense to me even without clunky narrative captions.

(*I read Japanese, so there was no language problem.)

Watchmen works partly because it's packed. Up to nine panels per page. Every detail is significant. That probably can't be said for that half-page spent on Hermes and his remote.

ja said...

Jim,

This is an excellent way to demonstrate how the new Wonder Woman title isn't reaching the audience it should, by skipping over the first 3 issues to review issue #4. If I were to pick up the fourth issue of a new title, I would hopefully have enough story elements referenced from the previous parts of the multi-issue story I've missed thus far to make me really want to buy those previous issues so I can enjoy the whole story.

And make the comic book company that extra nine bucks. You know, increasing their profit margine? Yeah.

Azzerello is writing for the trade, and not the regular monthly comic book buyer. I wonder why that is? He's certainly capable enough to do such a thing.

I never understood why it was a bad thing to have the properly (and interestingly) written references one needs in a single issue of a multi-issued story, and then to have those end up in a trade publication.

What, is that too difficult for writers to craft, nowadays?

I'm curious: is this sheer blindness to the realities of how writers are damaging the level of readers by not making stories widely accessible, or is this laziness, or sheer self-indulgence on the writers' part?

Yeah, I know. It's probably all those things. Harumph.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Robbie,

I rarely watch movies, but when I do, I'm turned off by the "mindless sarcastic small talk" that the characters spout. The writers might think it's clever, but in most contexts it comes off as artificial. The audience sitting around me seems to eat up the one-liners, though. I suppose that tiny fraction of them that still reads comics also enjoys the same sort of dialogue coming from their childhood favorites and anyone associated with those classic characters.

Anonymous said...

Ja - the answers I've heard from fans, and from a few Marvel editors, is that older readers just want comics to be like they used to be forever. They think older readers are victims of the "it was better in my day" mentality.

And at least one Marvel editor regularly says "If you don't like it, stop buying it"

I mention this because I think there is no self-awareness in the publishing houses anymore. Any criticism is deflected, and no responsibility is taken, or even pondered for one instant. In light of that, I don't see current comic creators changing the way they do things

ja said...

Okay, cool. Thanks for the info.

It's interesting about the Watchmen. I understand Jim's critique on how it was written directly for the trade. However, I think it worked very well, because I thought that the series was done for the direct market.

Maybe publishers today feel that's the formula to follow, in hopes of recreating the Watchmen 'magic'...?

ja said...

Oh, great.

So this industry *is* doomed.

Thanks.

peter said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eris_%28mythology%29

Strife is Eris, cause of the Trojan war. She cast an apple on the banquet and said, "This to the fairest." That led to the judgment of Paris, who was rewarded with Helen by Aphrodite for choosing her over Hera and Athena. Which is a whole lot of interesting history this comic has done nothing with.

David in SLC said...

Well, it was 6 issues which was 6 too long IMO. I tried 100 Bullets - bleh. Whatever his style is called, I don't like it.

As for the comment regarding Morrison's run, even as a huge Morrison fan I have to admit his time on Batman was a snore. His Batman & Robin stories tho I thought were very good.

peter said...

I get the impression that aside from a few big money creators like Bendis and Morrison, most writers treat their paycheck gigs from the big two as a strict exchange of words for dollars and save the good ideas for the creator owned stuff.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous...

Note that there is a difference between legitimate character development and padding out an issue with scenes to needlessly prolong a threadbare story.

t.k.

Anonymous said...

"The decompressed nature of comics (complete with the lack of entry point beyond the first issue) is one of the things that drove me away from buying monthlies. They stopped being written for the monthly format, so why was I still trying to read them that way?"

[MikeAnon:] Same here. Also, you can get up to a third off the price buying them in trades off of Amazon.com. (Remember to use the link on this blog, upper right column, to make your purchases!)

My expectations for comic book content are significantly lower now thanks to today's decompressed writing. I was reading ETERNAL WARRIOR #1 yesterday, and by the time I was halfway through it, I was thinking, "My God, does this comic ever end? I feel like I've been reading this forever!" There's just so much in it that by the time I was done I felt like I'd read at least two full comics' worth of story. And I did a page check to be sure. (28 pages.) [--MikeAnon]

Aaron Scott Johnson said...

Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check it out.

Anonymous said...

And at least one Marvel editor regularly says "If you don't like it, stop buying it"

And they will....once the superhero movie craze runs it's course and Disney gets rid of what's left of Marvel....what will be left? Nothing like alienating a fan base that spends money. Comics will go the way of soap operas.

Anonymous said...

Please don't think I'm insulting you, Mr. Shooter. I love your blog. But when you asked 'Why not Ares', I just like to point out that the old decrepit man IS Ares.

- TKay

Petrus Magnus said...

Anonymous #2:
Actually "big boobs and explosions" turn me off a great deal. The former particulary aggravates me to no end as I hate to see all the women in mainstream comics being differentiated only in hairstyle and skin color. They all sport the same 86-60-86 measurements, even teenage girls (talk about an artist not having a clue)! As for the "explosions" bit, there's a difference between a good ol' fashion romp à la 60/70/80s Marvel, which I like, and the Wolverine style blood letting of todays comics (that is, when it actually happens).

Anonymous said...

I think Jim was asking why Appollo didn't call Ares by name instead of referring to him simply as "War".

ELS said...

Mr. Shooter,

You noted:
"The aforementioned tall woman might be Wonder Woman—she’s in civvies. Aha, on the third page she’s seen, she’s called “Diana.” That’s a clue for comics-savvy me (actually, I knew from the get-go), but wouldn’t some civilians still not know?"

In all fairness, she is wearing a necklace with the Wonder Woman logo on it. I HATE the thing - but notwithstanding personal tastes, I think it's sufficient to note that it is Wonder Woman.

I myself have no idea what they've done to Wonder Woman (again...) I don't buy many DC Comics anymore; two of the new 52, and I'm about to drop one. Legion Lost will go down, leaving me collecting Legion of Super-Heroes... which, coincidentally, DIDN'T CHANGE AT ALL as a result of the Flashpoint changes and is still a damned good read, IMO. I know you have some history with it, and I'd love your review of it - although I understand if you're reluctant.

I was talking with my local comic book pushe- I mean, dealer - yesterday, about how to save the comics industry. It seems pretty obvious to me...
1) Find the audiences - BOTH new AND old.
2) Provide quality content.
2½) ENFORCE this with editors. Your standards seem pretty good - if a page doesn't read intelligently, if the art doesn't make sense - DO IT OVER. (This will cause a lot of consternation with "artistes", but writers, pencillers, and inkers will learn pretty quick to do it right or not get paid.)
3) Find a way to make the product a little less pricey. My books are now all printed on glossy and presumably pricey paper. Can they not go back to printing them on standard stock? Or are the books intended to be presented as that collectible? Or is it really that minimal an expense? And that's one spot. Yeah, it would probably take a fine tooth comb to cover every aspect of it... but gee, it's only for the existence of the medium. Maybe that's worth a little intensive effort.
4) Get good product into the hands of the buying public. The buying public may have different tastes, and that's okay; a mature branch of a comics line and a "PG-13" branch are okay (although you can't call it PG-13; apparently, some people STILL feel a stigma about buying comics because they're perceived "kiddie books." Lord have mercy on us all.) But whether "mature only" or all-around books, don't sell JUNK.
5) This is the most radical - but pay creators the rate that their product is worth. If Wrodney Writer demands $10000 a book (that's a WAG for the pay rate) and his books sell enough to only make him worth $5000 a book - then a pay cut is called for. If he thinks he can make more with another company - good luck and thanks for your hard work. When you're ready to to accept what we offer, we'll love to have you back. This is a process in major league sports, in corporations - actually, pretty much anywhere in business that I know of.
6) GIMMICKS DO NOT SELL COMICS. Crossovers, reboots, mini-series can all make a spike in sales - but spikes do not keep the doors open. Steady incoming revenue keeps the doors open. (Is that really such a hard concept?)

The consumers drive the market; the market shouldn't drive the consumers. Or the consumers will go away - and today, more than ever, there are PLENTY of alternatives to comics to draw readers away.

Okay, sorry for the rant - but sometimes I get really irritated. Thank you for your consideration.

I remain,
Sincerely,
Eric L. Sofer
x<]:o){
The Silver Age Fogey

Steve Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Jones said...

Personally, I couldn't careless whether a particular comic book has an entry point for new readers. What does it matter to me as a reader? If I worked in the business, perhaps it would matter to me. But possibly, the powers that be at Marvel & DC recognise that the market has changed, that many fans are happier buying collections than getting a set of monthly issues so, perhaps, this section of the market needs to be targeted as well. That the idea of entry point has changed.

People need to recognise the comic book market is dramatically different from 30 years ago and only because these old and tired characters (Superman, Spider-Man etc.) are still going are comparisons made between 2012 and 1982.

Greygor said...

Dear Jim,

As always I always enjoy reading your reviews, you look at comics in such a different way to me it is really refreshing and revealing to read them.

I'm glad your taking a look at 1 - 4 as it would be interesting in hear your overall take on the series.

For me WW was one of the most refreshing relaunches of the new DCU because the writer really gave it a different feeling to previous interpretations of the character while retaining essential elements.

I've enjoyed Swamp Thing and Animal man as well for similar reasons.

Clint said...

First off, love the Blog Mr. Shooter, absolutely love it. Keep up the great work!

Ok folks, did this issue actually have *any* super heroic action in it? Or is it just a Greek Gods and supernatural beings soap opera? That would really make me mad if it is the latter.

I know I quit buying (still read my old comics and occasional trades) comics around when I realized how bad the decompression was (while following Ultimate FF). I was down to only reading Fantastic Four, Ult FF and GI Joe, and when my local gaming shop just up and went to crap and then died, I quit cold turkey. Seeing lots of these reviews and flipping through an occasional issue at the grocery make me happy to be saving that money.

What are they doing to this hobby? They all need to go read some of the Marvel Essentials line and figure out storytelling.

Petrus Magnus said...

I just finished rereading one of the volumes of The Chronicles of Conan when I came across this paragraph on the afterword by Roy Thomas:
«Once again, as in "Return of the Conqueror",the story in Conan Annual #5 works in a flashback early, since, after all, not every potential reader would remember (or even have seen) the preceding story. Ordinarily, Marvel's monthly Conan mag dealt with the hero (...) in his middle to late twenties - while in the Annual we were suddenly jumping ahead to see him in his late thirties or perhaps around forty, with a different life with wich some readers who picked up the issue might well not be familiar.»
I think this shows how writers of this period where aware of the importance of any comic being an entry point to a reader, old or new.

bmcmolo said...

Just curious what of the New 52 people are still buying, if any? Of the dozen or so titles I sampled for the past few months, the only ones left for me are Wonder Woman, Action Comics, and OMAC. And OMAC's going away all too soon. I may check out Earth 2 and see what they've done there, but meh.

A fair review of WW, even though I am enjoying the series.

Fabio Graziano said...

In part I agree with you. The market *has* changed. The point is it did so in the worse possible way: by dramatically shrinking down. And if publishing houses want to do something about that (my opinion is, though, they're ok with the status as it is) some change must be made.

It's possible most new readers, if there are any, could decide to climb onboard by buying directly collected editions, which are way cheaper than both floppies and legally downloadable digital comics.
Still, would you agree that every conteporary story out there, as readable in its collected form, properly introduces its characters and everything? I'm afraid I wouldn't...

Anonymous said...

Steve, not really. The market hasn't changed - rather, the publishers have forced that change on the market. If everything is written as 6-issue arcs, then the public has no choice but to buy things that way.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard a comic shop owner, when a new customer buys one issue, say "Well you need these 4 other issues too". Not because they are good. Not because they are worth it - but merely because you cannot fully understand a single issue without the others.

No one here is averse to change. That is a false argument. But this change has come because of sloppiness and lack of skill on the part of comic creators. It isn't a necessary or functional change - it's just a degradation of an art form

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I'm not buying any. I tried Action and Wonder Woman because of the writers - but I did not think either series was very interesting or original.

Most of the new 52 just looked like the same old stuff by the same old DC creators - and it smacked of sales gimmick. I would have been much more interested if DC really brought in some new creators or tried some new ideas.

jimshooter said...

Marc Miyake is wise, like unto the owl monster.

jimshooter said...

RE: "Sure, it's possible some comic newbie could walk into a comic store and hypothetically be baffled, but I guess you have to weigh that against the chunkiness of how the exposition would work in a trade paperback. (It's hard to imagine Watchmen working as well as an arty "graphic novel"
with repeated exposition every chapter).

More interestingly, Jim, would you consider trying this "new reader" experiment with, say, chapter 4 of One Piece or chapter 4 of Naruto? See how the world's most successful working comic creators do it?"

"The chunkiness of how the exposition would work...." "Chunkiness" assumes a writer without skills. A skilled writer delivers the necessary info gracefully and in-obtrusively. Ask Stan.

At the risk of heresy or shocking you, Watchmen could have been better if foundation information necessary for each issue to serve its role in a periodical format, which could have been gracefully and elegantly delivered in a compact way that non-pros wouldn't have noticed, had been presented.

Show me chapter 4 of One Piece and/or chapter 4 of Naruto and I will cheerfully tell you whether or not the world's most successful working comics creators did their jobs.

jimshooter said...

RE: "Please don't think I'm insulting you, Mr. Shooter. I love your blog. But when you asked 'Why not Ares', I just like to point out that the old decrepit man IS Ares."

What I meant was why not call him Ares. If you're calling Hera and Hermes by their Greek names, why call Ares "War?"

Jerry Novick said...

I read the first 2 issue of the New 52 Wonder Woman and disliked it in the extreme because of the writing. The lack of explanation, the sparse dialogue, the cutesy transitions, the pun upon pun, wore me out and made me sad for a character who should be one of DC's properties at the forefront of drawing in new readers. Okay, nice idea getting the gods involved and doing a mythology-worthy switcheroo on Diana's origin. But make it readable, not a mining expedition that even Indiana Jones would quit.

Anonymous said...

"If I were to pick up the fourth issue of a new title, I would hopefully have enough story elements referenced from the previous parts of the multi-issue story I've missed thus far to make me really want to buy those previous issues so I can enjoy the whole story."

[MikeAnon:] Something that's direly missing from comics today are the little asterisks and corresponding editor's notes that would tell readers, "If you want to see what we're talking about, go pick up [this comic]." [--MikeAnon]

Shawn James said...

Have to agree that every comic is an access point. New readers need to be able to "jump in" a story midway. A new reader isn't going to start at #1. They start at #256, If they're having a hard time understanding things at #4, then you've lost thousands of potential sales. Moreover, you've lost thousands of dollars in sales of back issues.

And this kind of pacing works well for a novel, but a comic has to be in and out in 32-pages. For a relaunch, the storylines should have been done by the third issue. The first three issues are about establishing the main character, their mission and introducing a primary bad guy and a secondary bad guy in the subplot.

Comics today are just padded too much. I feel a lot of the writers want to turn them into graphic novels, with chapters but this isn't the medium for that. comics are about a fast pace and getting a story FINISHED in less than 20 pages or getting to a Plot point in 20 pages. I feel comic writers really need to take a course on screenwriting. It'll help some of them tighten up their craft. or read Syd Field's Screenplay and Robert McKee's Story.

Cerebus said...

Still enjoying OMAC and Frankenstein. Animal Man and Swamp Thing are still worthwhile. The only big name I'm still reading is Wonder Woman, and lovely art aside, it's starting to get boring - every issue is like that page with Hermes and nothing of note happens.

I'm buying them electronically, and the Wonder Woman issues just sit there unread. Whenever the story wraps up I may go back and read them, but the interest just might not be there anymore.

Anonymous said...

Don't think we need Jim to weigh in on whether Naruto meets what Jim considers good comics. I like Naruto a lot, but it is very decompressed. Sometimes I have no clue what is happening in the panels when action is going on. There is definitely not enough information for someone who has never read previous issues to be able to jump in at any time and follow it.

That being said, those guys put out an issue every week 48 times a year if the story telling wasn't decompressed it would make it pretty difficult to come up with that much content.

Steven R. Stahl said...

I was wondering what you’d think of WONDER WOMAN (WW). There were complaints about issue #1 being hard for new readers to understand. The series has received critical acclaim nonetheless.

In my case, I’m reading three DC series -- BATGIRL, BATWOMAN, and WW -- with WW being my favorite. As I commented previously, the lack of information about the characters is a problem, but it’s not an insuperable problem. While the writing, compared to a prose novel, amounts to shorthand, an outline, etc., it’s entertaining, compared to, say, an issue of Bendis’s AVENGERS because the concepts and characterizations are worth taking the effort to understand.

I didn’t realize until WW #4 that the guy with the glowing eyes and dark skin was Apollo, but once I did, I reread the sequence in WW #1, reread the WW #4 sequence, and grasped that Apollo is involved in a nebulous situation that also involves Zeus, his children (including Diana), and murder. War doesn’t want to be involved in the intrigue. Understanding that plot content took more effort than it should have, but the content itself should be entertaining as it develops.

The plot also, IMO, justifies making Diana the daughter of Zeus. There was a lot of negative reaction prior to the issue coming out, but that origin makes Diana a person, as opposed to a symbol. People change and develop; symbols don’t. People can be used for symbolic purposes in stories; symbols don’t become people in them. There is far more story potential in Diana as a daughter of Zeus, and as a player in Olympian intrigue and politics, than there is as a standard, verging on generic, super heroine with B & D elements.

This might not be a best case example of a decompressed storyline, but it is the most entertaining one I’ve read to date. If the lack of information puts a reader off, other storylines, at least those with similar subject matter, might be even more difficult to understand. I’m a bit curious as to whether the “cute” bits in the dialogue are motivated by the style, or are natural for Azzarello. The transitions between sequences are also annoying at times, but that’s a consequence of the decompressed style, I suppose. Heinberg’s transitions in AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE are worse.

Perhaps, in being entertained by WW, I’m being intellectually inconsistent or have just been worn out by the lack of “compressed” reading material, but I can fill in the gaps left by the missing material pretty easily. Were someone to tell me that I was reading the material incorrectly, I’d be upset, and damn Azzarello and his editor, but that hasn’t happened yet.

SRS

Dave Young said...

RE: the idea that every issue should an entry point.

While a great theory, I don't believe it's been practice for a long, long time.

The first comic I ever bought new was Fury of Firestorm #41. It was a Crisis crossover issue. I didn't buy it because of that, I bought it because Firestorm was appearing on the Super Powers show and I liked the character. I recall enjoying the book, in spite of the fact that I didn't know who most of the characters were and what the Crisis was.

I didn't regularly collect comics for another 6 or 7 years after, and when I did start, I jumped in the middle of storylines.

Over the holidays, I read a volume of Showcase Batman, collecting all the stories that served as the inspiration for the 60's TV show. While every issue there could sure be an entry point for a new ready, it was borderline painful to read. The stories were very simplistic, lacking in any character depth, and the only element of real continuity was the fact that Alfred was killed by a wrecking ball and replaced by Aunt Harriet. I think as a first book, I would have preferred the Firestorm over the Batman stories.

It seems to me that there's been an evolution of comics as a whole, rightly or wrongly, away from stories that can be encapsulated in a single issue or that are easily accessible. Hell, I've been reading a lot of the New 52 since issue 1 and feel like there are a lot of "hidden" elements that I don't understand.

Shawn James said...

Also wanted to add, as a fantasy writer one of the things I try to do is make every story an access point. I try to make my material as accessible to the new reader as it is as entertaining to older readers.

It means approaching the material of each story as if it were new and that keeps the storytelling fresh. I often approach my storytelling from the new reader's perspective. Each new story is spent briefly establishing the main characters through their actions then going into the continuing storyline. I feel it's a good way to keep the old readers interested in the next story, but allows the new reader to "jump in" without feeling lost.

Anonymous said...

Well, picking the worst Batman issue you can think of as an example is hardly fair

What Jim has been advocating, but has not spelled out explicitly, is the entry point or accessibility is easily done. A caption here, a couple of sentences in a character's dialog referring to something that happened there. It only takes a few well-placed sentences within the story. It does not take pages of exposition. Any half-skilled writer should be able to do it.

For the bad example that you mentioned - there are hundreds if not thousands of examples of compact, effective uses of small bits of info, inserted throughout a story to keep ANY reader informed

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Dave,

I think you are confusing correlation with causation. I doubt accessibility was the reason those 60s Batman stories were "borderline painful to read." I've avoided them for years because I've feared they were campy. Inaccessible campiness would appeal to me even less.

My first issue of X-Men was #170 and my first issue of New Mutants was #4. Both made sense to me, even though the characters were completely new to me. I doubt either issue was like those Batman comics. Accessibility need not entail being "very simplistic, lacking in any character depth," and lacking "real continuity."

Before Classic X-Men, the average fan's chances of reading X-Men #94 and up, much less X-Men #1 and up, were pretty slim. (At least Giant-Size X-Men #1 was reprinted under Jim's watch.) I couldn't even find New Mutants #1-3 at the time. So Claremont had to write for new readers like me.

Comics have changed, and their audience will also change: i.e., shrink.

Marc Miyake said...

As someone who reads Japanese and who read Shonen Jump every week for years, I don't think that serial format necessarily leads to decompressed incomprehensibility.

I first encountered one of Jump's biggest hits, Fist of the North Star, on TV. Episode 77, to be exact. Its title began with 「第3部完結」, meaning "The End of Part 3": i.e., the third major story arc. Yet I understood the basics of what was going on, and wanted to learn more. I ended up buying the entire manga in both softcover and hardcover format and the entire TV series on region 2 DVD for hundreds of dollars. (Japanese DVDs are very expensive.) All because TV episode 77 -- a straightforward, exact retelling of a segment of the manga -- made sense to me without resorting to lectures.

Conversely, years later I was reading Dragonball in Jump and couldn't believe how decompressed it was. Panel after panel of different camera shots of the hero and villain staring at each other for 15 pages -- the entire length of the episode -- and it was all a buildup to the last line of dialogue which was something deep like, "Let's fight!" I threw away the issue and never read Dragonball -- or Jump -- again. What a pity, because I initially found DB to be quite charming when it was more ... gasp ... compressed.

If writers can't come up with enough new content to fill 48 (or even 12) issues a year without resorting to stalling tactics, they should be doing something else.

buddy said...

Jim, Curious for reviews about Azzarello's Spaceman, which is the only comic I'm buying each month these days (gave up on Animal Man and Action after a few issues), and also Mark Waid's Daredevil which I'm considering.

This whole decompression thing is so true: been re-reading Stern/Rogers/Austin's incredible run on Dr Strange- more goes on in a couple pages than in some current entire issues! And ironically the intricate detail and beauty of their art would far more justify the half or full page panels common today as opposed to the multi (as many as 16!) panels they were often working with.

jimshooter said...

I highly recommend Syd Field's books and Bob McKee's book.

Taibak said...

But they have stopped buying it. Just look at the sales figures over the past few decades.

The real tragedy is that Marvel and DC haven't caught on to this and tried harder to improve their product and expand the audience.

Anonymous said...

They firmly believe in events and other little gimmicks, for sales spikes.

Any other "introspection" on their part - to ponder improving the product or the state of comics - is out of the question

Ole M. Olsen said...

Actually using "The New 52" as a way back into comics after 20 years off, I sampled quite a few titles during the first month, and decided to go with Action Comics, Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League and Legion of Super-Heroes, later adding (and buying back issues of) Aquaman and OMAC, which I found I'd overlooked at first.

Various degrees of decompression aside, I'm still buying, reading and enjoying these titles. The one among them I'm most tempted to drop is Justice League, which is really horribly decompressed and would probably read much better in a TPB. Nice artwork, though. I'll give it two storylines (i.e. about a year, I guess) and see if my patience and conscience can handle it.

When my favourite OMAC goes (R.I.P.), I'll try replacing it with Earth 2 and see how that goes.

I've sampled some other titles as well (in an, ahem, "try before you buy" manner. Yeah okay, technically it's online piracy. But that's also what led me to BUY Aquaman and OMAC). I haven't really liked some of the hyped titles like Animal Man and Wonder Woman. I've only read the first issue of Swamp Thing and a few pages here and there from Batwoman, but they haven't appealed too much to me either. I've never really been into the Vertigo stuff, and these read much too much like Vertigo books for my taste.

I HAVE been tempted to pick up Demon Knights, though.

Brent E said...

It's sad, but a lot of people seem to have the same idea. They look at say, two or three books featuring the characters that have been around the longest, and judge the entire line based on it.

As a result, wonderful books like OMAC get cancelled, and other quality books like Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Superboy, All-Star Western, etc. are ignored by many.

The fact of the matter is: you can't judge an entire company's product by one or two books. Just like you can't say, "wow, 2 and a half men and Big Bang Theory are the most popular shows on tv, and they are produced by and for idiots. All of CBS and, in fact, television is garbage."

It's the same logic most people use with comic books. "Ahh, comics say bang and pow and therefore they're all for kids." Or, "wow, comics are violent and have naked women, they're being written for men in their 20's and up that still live with their parents."

The fact is, there are great comics and shit comics from most all publishers, and your idea of shit is another person's idea of fantastic. If you don't like what's coming out from DC to give to your kids, try Boom's new Peanuts line, or Archie's Megaman books. Tired of the same old boring superhero stuff? Try Conquest of the Planet of the Apes or Memorial.

The problem's not with the new 52, or DC or Marvel, or Image. The problem is getting the things people will enjoy into their hands.

Another problem is all the negativity. I appreciate what Jim Shooter does on this blog, because he seems to really be impartial in ripping certain comics up and enjoying others. That being said, most online commenters (or hell, even store owners) are only too happy to spend half their time pissing and moaning about the comics they don't like while buying the same garbage month after month instead of trying a different one.

There are so many fantastic books out there, but instead of doing a little research and finding them (by, oh, I don't know, checking out IGN, iFanboy, Comics Alliance, Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, Bleeding Cool, G4, the Stack) people are content to judge what they don't read and know nothing about.

End. of. rant.

Anonymous said...

Only partially true, Brent - and also the same mentality that the publishers have taken ("you fanboys are just being negative - there is good product out there")

I've spent a lot of money sampling a LOT of books from all the publishers over the last 10 years.

All-Star Western - Palmetti is a TERRIBLY, terribly, terribly mediocre writer. I went in to Jonah Hex with no preconceived notions, and wanting to like it. And I am a long-time fan of anything western.

As far as sampling different stuff - that is the only thing that has kept me in comics - GI Joe Cobra (the early issues anyway), Spaceman, Butcher Baker...

The myth that it's all a matter of taste - and that there's good stuff out there, is exactly the fallacy that keeps the comic industry from rolling up its sleeves and improving itself

JNcomix said...

I just read WW #5 (out today) and my jaw hit the floor. As much as I've been pleasantly surprised by and enjoy the series so far...

(** KINDA SPOILER ALERT **)


...they made Poseidon look like a giant, squid Pokemon. Yes, that's him on the cover. ...argh...

Jeremy said...

I disagree vehemently with "Every issue should be an entry point". I would never recommend jumping into a story in the middle of its tenure. Its like watching a random new episode of The Wire, and then whining about being confused about the plot and the characters. Well no shit, buddy! Those episodes and these issues are all part of the same story. You want to properly enjoy it, you start at the beginning.

Personally, I'm sick of the constant need for "jumping on points". You start at the beginning of the story, whether it be a new #1 or issue #678 like today's Amazing Spider-Man. That's it. I don't want to go back to the Shooter era where EVERY SINGLE ISSUE the characters have to re-introduce themselves through captions, thought bubbles, and clumsy expositional dialog. Every damn issue of Claremont's X-men he has to introduce the characters AGAIN, explain their powers AGAIN, etc. It's tiring.

Marvel has a "Previously on..." page in the beginning, and that's about as far as I want it to go.

Anonymous said...

Lol - you realize that most TV shows - and in fact, any serialized form of entertainment - presents itself as a jumping on point (ie explaining context, giving appropriate details, so on)

By the by - when you disagree "vehemently" with something - it would help if you were actually capable of articulating reasons why you disagree with it -other than "wah, it's annoying"

Jeremy said...

@Anon

"Appropriate details" are such an subjective concept its hard to really discuss. Would you have the characters constantly explain the visual elements of the book? Is nothing open to interpretation, or suggested by the context of the narrative? Do you need caption boxes in every issue to explain every character and their motivations?

I hate this need to dumb down comics with hand-holding redundancies, so the lowest common denominator can pick up on what's going on. You follow the story from the beginning and see the context, the narrative, and the characters from the origin of the story. If the elements of the book are still foreign to you, then those are storytelling flaws with the comic itself. There's no need bog down your comic with exposition most readers of the story already know to pacify the johnny-come-latelys of the world

Anonymous said...

Jeremy - you don't understand skillful storytelling. You use extreme examples to try to prove your point. Go back and look at some comics from the 70's and 80's. For every heavy-handed Chris Claremont example that you cite - there are a dozen other writers who knew how to add a detail here, a sentence there, seamlessly in the story

From your comments, it appears that you are a fairly new comic reader, and are unfamiliar with how easily and craftily this was done in the past

Anonymous said...

Jeremy - here is an example - from Amazing Spider-Man #179. If you picked this up, you'd have come in in the middle of a story arc. Already for 2 issues a fake Green Goblin has kidnapped Harry, Aunt May is in the hospital, so on.

Early in the issue Spider-Man says "I have to break free. At his very moment Aunt May is dying"

That is it - one simple sentence. Now we have some context, we have some added tension for why he needs to escape quickly

If this were a modern comics, the writer, like you, would consider this redundant, leave it out - and the reader would have to figure it out later or just be confused

It's simple, one brief sentence - no flashback panels - no poorly-written intro page with grammatical errors (like today's comics)

Defiant1 said...

Steve Jones,

"Personally, I couldn't careless whether a particular comic book has an entry point for new readers. What does it matter to me as a reader?"

Do you like paying $3 & $4 for comics? The paper doesn't cost that much. A large chunk of that price goes to pay for the cost of producing the story and setting it up for printing at the printer. Those are fixed costs. Let's say a publisher has a fixed cost of $10,000.00 to produce (have prepped) a comic for publishing. That's a random number I picked. If they only have orders for 5,000 copies, that means they have to charge $2 per copy just to recover those fixed costs. If they have orders for 100,000 copies, it only costs 10¢ to recover those fixed costs. Who do you think would pay for that $1.80 cost difference? YOU. Perhaps you don't care as a reader, but I HOPE you care as a consumer spending your income.

As order numbers drop, the profitability of titles becomes impossible. Comics which might have been published in an industry that has a fan base don't even get considered for publication at all. You lose options as a consumer that you might have had if comics were appealing to a larger fan base. As a reader, that directly affects you.

Perhaps you don't care. If you care about the selection of available comics and the price at all, you SHOULD care.

Dan said...

Around August 1981 I began collecting comics. (I had read them off and on since 1974, but stopped around '78.)

EVERY issue I bought at that time worked as an entry issue for me. I still have most and while they're not necessarily the best issues of that time, I enjoy them as if they were. And... they only encouraged me to keep buying the series, and trying out even more comics. I wanted EVERYTHING on the stands for the next five years or so.

It's just STUPID what Marvel and DC are doing. If your first comic is a turn off, you probably won't want another.

Defiant1 said...

Brent E,

I had a boss tell me I had a negative attitude once when changes were forced upon me that I didn't like. My answer to him (and anyone who whines about a negative attitude) is that my attitude was inspired.

I don't wake up in the morning thinking "Gosh, I'd like a bleak outlook today. I'm going to buy some convoluted shit to read. I'd love to get lost in the plot of a comic and waste 10 minutes trying to figure out what character was drawn on a page. Can't wait to complain about a $2 comic value costing me $4". I've never awoke with that intention. Someone or somebody inspired it. Typically, any bad attitude I have is brought about through someone's ignorance, negligence or a complete lack of regard for anything I feel has value. Either way, I have a great attitude about bad and convoluted comics. I don't buy them. I eat at nice restaurants several times a week. I hang out with friends and love ones. I loan people money if they are struggling from one week to the next. I move on. Would I like there to be enjoyable comics on the market? Sure. I'm sentimental.


In all honesty, every friend I've had that collected comics in the past HAS moved on. When we sit around talking about comics, I tell my friends how idiotic comic publishers (and their employees) are today. I laugh about how proud they are of themselves when when a comic that was printed to order sells out completely. When comics are printed to order... they SHOULD sell out. If they don't, that makes the publisher even MORE ignorant.

Anonymous said...

on the rare occasion i go to the best nearby comics shop, i walk right past the newcomics & go straight to the 12-for-$10 bins. once in a while i flip thru a new comic just to see if it's crap. pretty much always is & when it looks okay there's either no complete story or the price is too high. only new comics i've bought in the past year are some mickey mouse & incredibles comics from disney for my little boy. i wish there were others out there worth my $...also wish i could get a complete story in 1 issue, as i can't get to the comic store on a regular basis & can't afford $20 to get 1 complete tale! - Kap

Dara Naraghi said...

By the way, for those of you interested in the though process behind the coloring of this issue, the colorist, Matthew Wilson, has posted an insightful short article about it on his blog:

Thought process (Wonder Woman #4)

Snippet:

"Cliff noted that the music should feel angry, so I picked red for the stage area. It seemed like a good idea to carry over that red to the background of the last panel where Wonder Woman is angrily stabbing Strife's hand with the broken glass..."

Dusty. said...

Reviews like this make me want somebody like that implementing policy at Marvel!

Jeremy said...

@Anon

That is quite a lot of assumptions you've made not only about my comic book reading but where I stand on comics, Mr anonymous internet person. You know what they say about people who assume, right?

And you're one to talk about extreme examples, considering you have painted all exposition as redundant. A reminder of the stakes is fine, but the book you cite is chokeful of dialog that explains either what's clearly illustrated on panel like its written like a radio drama. Len Wein was a poor man's Gerry Conway, who in turn was a poor man's Stan Lee. Hardly an shining example of "skillful storytelling" as you were.

Whoever you are, anyway.

ja said...

Jeremy,

You also must understand the need for such redundancies. Especially in a dying industry where fewer and fewer readers are buying comics, one day not enough to sustain this industry.

When you cite how there's "no need [to] bog down your comic with exposition most readers of the story already know to pacify the johnny-come-latelys of the world", you're inadvertently identifying the very problem that the industry has.

We need new readers. If that means you're going to have to put up with every comic book being an 'entry point' (assuming people get on board... er, back on board with this concept), then you're just going to have to deal with it.

This is at the very least, Jim Shooter's standard. When Shooter was EIC at Marvel, he effected the most sales growth under his watch which (correct me anyone if I'm wrong) hasn't been matched since, along with all his other company accomplishments.

"Jumping on points" in comics is something this industry desperately needs, as it's in danger of becoming an extinct industry.

Anonymous is right: you don't have to be beaten over the head with 'previous issue story points' clumsily written into your comic book, for the people who have missed previous issues of whatever title they're reading. It can be done with great deftness and craft by the writer.

This is still a business. What may work for The Wire (Jim Shooter, you REALLY should watch this series!) isn't likely to work for the comics industry.

History has proven this out. Either we turn this bus around now, or we will pass that point of no return (if we haven't already), where we'll never be able to recover from.

I hope you get what we're trying to tell you...

ja said...

Jim Shooter appearing on MSNBC:

http://i.huffpost.com/gen/469901/thumbs/s-ANDREA-MITCHELL-KAREEM-ABDUL-JABBAR-large300.jpg

Okay that's, of course, not Jim. But I thought it was a cute Bill Seinkeiwicz-type painted portrait of Jim come to a real life photograph.

Jim, please let me know if this is me stepping over the line with my dopey attempt at a sense of humor.

=D

jimshooter said...

I was not happy working for the Valiant Entertainment people. The longer I worked for them, the more apparent it became that the future there was a dead end. I did not like they way I was treated. I quit. Stupidly, I quit first, then started trying to dig up another gig in a hurry. I called Mike Richardson at Dark Horse, and fortunately, he was gearing up to publish the Gold Key characters and was willing to have me write what I could and supervise the other writers. He paid better, too. BTW, VEI stiffed me on my vacation pay. Does that tell you something about them? And they sued me for violating a contract I was never offered, much less signed. They never even attempted to serve the suit, and eventually dropped the suit once it was clear that it wasn't likely to get them anything. Sound like it was a publicity ploy to you? Or an attempt to scare up some concessions? They are pond scum. Now that Cuneo is running VEI, maybe there are possibilities for them. But I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Lol - assumptions. OK, here is something that isn't an assumption. You are unable to articulate your own opinions.

Chock-full of dialog does not equal bad. You throw around stuff like "vehemently disagree" and "poor man's" this and that - yet you cannot explain WHY he was a poor man's Stan Lee.

If you like modern storytelling, or dislike older storytelling - great. let me know if you ever become capable of articulating and actual reason why you hold those opinions

jimshooter said...

RE: "I don't want to go back to the Shooter era where EVERY SINGLE ISSUE the characters have to re-introduce themselves through captions, thought bubbles, and clumsy expositional dialog. Every damn issue of Claremont's X-men he has to introduce the characters AGAIN, explain their powers AGAIN, etc. It's tiring."

I never told anyone to do it badly.

Bobby P. said...

Great analysis Mr. Shooter.

I haven't bought a Wonder Woman book in years, and it looks like their is no reason to start now.

jimshooter said...

Not at all. LOL!

ja said...

cool =D

Steven R. Stahl said...

There is the question of how to go about making each issue of a storyline easily accessible without shaping the content specifically for that purpose. Given a choice between, say, having the significant characters and their names, etc. listed (dramatis personae) or devoting an entire page or two to introducing them to the reader, I'd generally opt for the list.

The old Avengers and X-titles and their Danger Room and training sequences -- sometimes they were useful for depicting characters and advancing subplots; sometimes, they were just filler.

The focus on decompression and pacing at the expense of story content might have caused readers who value plot content, character development, etc., to quit reading (new) superhero comics. If that's the case, and many current readers read issues as much to experience the artwork as they do to appreciate the writer's work, then attempts to return to the old style will be rejected by editors and many readers alike.

I decided to buy WONDER WOMAN partly because of Azzarello's rep for excellent work, including mysteries. So far, I haven't been disappointed. The lack of accessibility is a drawback, but I wouldn't consider it a structural defect/storytelling error per se; rather, I'd consider it as the author intending the story for genre fiction fans who concentrate to pick up small details. Many hard SF novels would never be read by people who are scientifically illiterate, because the content, however the author shaped it, would bore and puzzle them. The authors and publishers are deliberately limiting the audience to people who enjoy exploring scientific ideas in fiction.

I'd avoid harsh criticism of a writer's stylistic choices.

SRS

Daniel K said...

Now that we are past the 100 mark in the comments I think it's about time to bring everything back to the beginning by reiterating Mr. Shooter's point regarding the Hello/Hell low pun.

It is so atrocious, so poor, so abysmal, so inane that the mere glimpse of that has made me doubt whether I will ever pick up anything by Mr. Azzarello, including "Spaceman" which I was waiting to see turn up in Half Price Books about 18 months from now.

It's a small thing, but the type of thing that could really grate over the course of an entire book. Like Alan Moore's purple prose on early Miracleman, before he reined that kind of thing in (mostly).

Brent E said...

It's fine to have a negative attitude about crap you've read and did not like. My original comment was directed at the individuals who stated they tried Superman and Wonder Woman, and then decided that the entire DC comics line is more of the same garbage.

There's probably a word for the delusion that so many comic readers share that the books were better a generation ago. I think Erik Larsen's wrote about this substantially, but his theory is that yeah, when you're younger you don't notice the bad as much. The fact is, look at any message board or have a conversation with a group of 5 or more comic fans and opinions will vary on how good an older comic is. The Stan Lee era was great fun, but if you released those same comics now most readers would not enjoy how the words tend to explain everything you are already seeing in the panel. The fact is, X-Men by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas and other greats was basically cancelled because not enough people were reading it. So, Chris Claremont did it differently and made it the most popular comic in the world. For all those people reminiscing about Claremont's writing: I see you've tried his books in the last few years and not supported them. Styles change, and shitting on the new books because they're not the old ones is about as useful as complaining about death and taxes.

Now, we can look at the huge numbers those books used to sell, but guess what? There's not nearly the competition for young readers' time and money in 1965 America as there is in 2012 America. Instead of having three tv channels and backgammon, you're looking at constant media bombardment from hundreds of channels, video games, the internet, etc. that wasn't available back then. Yeah, comic reading is down since then, but so are other activities like playing outside with neighbors and board games and what have you.

So, let's all sit around and talk about how we've "moved on," and how "idiotic comic publishers (and their employees) are today." Sure, you liked the stuff better when you were younger. Big deal. That is not an argument that the same product would be better today. DC comics sell a product; Marvel comics sell a product. Comics are not a product however, it is just a method for communicating a story. Having a negative attitude about comics in general does not make sense. Comics include everything from the free web series and news paper strips to graphic novels and Absolute editions. The negative attitude people like you (I'll call you out since your boss had a problem with it as well) exude toward the entire industry is ridiculous. I stand by statement that there is amazing work out there that has nothing to do with the other stuff out there that people are ready to dismiss as $4 garbage. Instead of being ambassadors for this method of storytelling, the only people that actually follow it spend their time ridiculing it to other people.

These shows are bad, therefore all tv is bad. These books are bad, therefore all prose writing is bad. Wedding pictures are cheesy, so all photography is garbage. Comics is one of the only forms of art/communication that people are willing to summarily bash entirely based on nostalgia and ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Spaceman is outstanding. It's creative and original - which can't be said of nearly anything in comics lately

Dave Young said...

Anonymous - what I'm trying to say, although perhaps not well, is that I think there is intent on the part of creators to deliberately obscure details that might make the book more accessible. Look at the new Flash series - there's an interview in the back of one of the issues talking about story devices that he's obscuring in the books that will be come clear later on. In the course of reading the book, I had to go back and re-read prior issues because I thought I missed something. I don't think that makes it a bad book necessarily, but it's definitely not as easy to follow.

Marc, campiness aside, I think they are reflective of a different era of storytelling. I've also read some of the Green Lantern Showcase books from the same era, and they are less campy, more accessible to a new reader, but I think they lack appeal to the modern audience, or at least the modern audience that didn't read them as children.

I have a few of the little DC Digests from the 80's, and I thought it was interesting that in one, there's a letter asking why DC doesn't reprint digests of Golden Age stories. The answer (from memory, so it's not a quote) was basically that modern audiences wouldn't appreciate the more simplistic stories and art of the time.

My overall point is this: back in the day, you used to see lots of stories that were started & finished in a single issue, and a lot more asterisks pointing readers back to a prior issue that explained a previous plot point. While I still see the occasional asterisk here and there, and the occasional fill-in story that's a single issue, I think both notions have passed.

Also note that I'm not saying Jim is wrong for suggesting more accessibility, I'm just saying I think that era has passed.

Anonymous said...

These are the same worn-out excuses that have been proffered a thousand times on every comic massage board on the Internet. The biggest flaw of these excuses - they fail to even try to confront the question of quality. If you believe current comics are high in quality - then explain how they are - give some supporting arguments for that quality

The nostalgia argument, in particular, is a joke. I don't care if Erik Larsen or Jesus Christ himself made the argument. I can go back and read an old comic right now and determine the quality of it. Even a bad Captain America comic from the 70's had better storytelling than 95% of the comics on the market today

Keep holding on to those "blaming the audience" excuses. It keeps you from having to critically confront the level of quality in current comic books

jimshooter said...

RE: "There is the question of how to go about making each issue of a storyline easily accessible without shaping the content specifically for that purpose. Given a choice between, say, having the significant characters and their names, etc. listed (dramatis personae) or devoting an entire page or two to introducing them to the reader, I'd generally opt for the list."

It's not a choice between the alternatives you cite. If you have to devote an entire page or two to introducing the characters to the reader, you just plain don't know what you're doing. A skillful writer will introduce the characters in a natural, unobtrusive way in the course of a scene necessary to the story -- not in a sore-thumb scene contrived for the purpose. And, of course, you never stop introducing the characters, reinforcing their distinctive personas and revealing more about them in every scene in which they appear.

RE: "I'd avoid harsh criticism of a writer's stylistic choices."

Good advice. What about incompetence?

Carol A. Strickland said...

I didn't look at the book as an individual work. I've been following Wonder Woman for about as long as I can remember. I've been looking for her since issue #600, but she hasn't shown her face except in a 90s RetroActive issue.

This is not Wonder Woman; nor is it an engaging story. From what I've been able to gather, DC is publishing "(Xena and) THE NEW OLYMPIANS." Certainly in the past couple years DC has done its darnedest to strip any of the specialness from its number-one heroine, the lady whose licensing makes them so much money.

I discussed the reboot on my blog: http://carolastrickland.blogspot.com/2012/01/illusory-wonder-woman.html

Daniel K said...

I may yet give it a try then, atrocious puns notwithstanding. Maybe he tries harder on properties he owns. The covers look really good at least.

Steven R. Stahl said...

It's not a choice between the alternatives you cite. If you have to devote an entire page or two to introducing the characters to the reader, you just plain don't know what you're doing.

You and I have both seen pages of Avengers-type books in which all the characters address each other by name, apparently for the purpose of identifying them for the reader. That's what I'm referring to; it's as clumsy as having a heroine admire herself in a mirror and in detail.

What about incompetence?

When I see incompetent writing in WONDER WOMAN, I'll let you know, and I will stop reading the series then. I don't criticize stylistic choices, except when they're so obvious (Bendis's various problems with dialogue, writing tics, etc.) that they disrupt the reading experience.

SRS

Anonymous said...

Carol - that was my biggest problem with the new WW series. It was boring - i had no interest in it - nor any of the characters in it

Anonymous said...

Incompetence - ie, not knowing how to do something - is present throughout.

Not giving the reader enough info is incompetent writing.

Being purposefully esoteric - for the purpose of reveling things later - is an oft used trope in comics these days. But guess what, almost none of the writers know how to pull it off. It's not easy to pull off - yet writers insist on thinking they are clever enough to do so - at the cost of good stories

This is hubris, but it is also incompetence

jimshooter said...

RE: "You and I have both seen pages of Avengers-type books in which all the characters address each other by name, apparently for the purpose of identifying them for the reader. That's what I'm referring to; it's as clumsy as having a heroine admire herself in a mirror and in detail."

My point, once more, with feeling: it doesn't have to be done clumsily.

RE: "When I see incompetent writing in WONDER WOMAN, I'll let you know,"

Who said anything about Wonder Woman?

Steven R. Stahl said...

Not giving the reader enough info is incompetent writing.

No graphic fiction which lacks narration and description of thoughts will have as much info as a prose story would, unless the characters and their situation are so simple and self-explanatory that no additional info is needed.

In the case of Azzarello's WONDER WOMAN, there is sufficient info for the reader to enable him to enjoy the story -- imagine you're reading an OGN broken into chapters -- but readers who enjoy mysteries, know mythology pretty well (I devoured mythology tomes and dictionaries as I grew up), and understand the implications of lines of dialogue might well enjoy the story more than others will.

SRS

Brent E said...

You know how to critically confront the level of quality in current comic books? Quit buying them. I like how you ask for supporting arguments for the quality of modern comics and then turn around and say 95% of the comics on the market today are inferior.

Quality story telling? The problem with asking for examples is its SUBJECTIVE. But guess what, it's ok with you being subjective about the entire state of the industry being shitty, that's your opinion. When I name books or authors doing a good job (as I did in my other post, you know, making examples like Memorial, Peanuts, OMAC, etc. which you did not do) it's easy enough for another idiot to jump on board and say "ah but this one was not very good. For example, there is amazing work being done by Kieron Gillen on Journey into Mystery, Jeff Parker on all of his books, Robert Kirkman, Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Mark Waid, Scott Snyder, Josh Williamson, Christos Gage, Marjorie Liu, Jeff Lemire, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, and about 50 other guys on at least one book they're writing. That's just the writers. There are phenominal artists out there as well, like Gabriel Hardman, Paul Pelletier, Yanick Paquette, and Mahmud Asrar, often times even working with the writers that are also exceptional.

Oh, but a bad Captain America comic from the 70's is better? Ok, yeah. Good luck with that.

I realize people like you will always take the easy way out. It's easier to assume that what came out before is better than what came out now. Citizen Kane will always be the greatest movie and I love Lucy the funniest show, and old (bad) issues of Captain American superior to anything today. Afterall, that way you don't ever need to change your arguments. You can keep saying the same shit year after year, because your fond memories of your older comics only grow fonder. And shucks, it's hard to go out on a limb and support something new, or to try something new. Much simpler to just ridicule an entire artform.

The old comics were great. Not all of them, but certainly some of them. The same is true now. There's plenty of great books out there. If you need me to explain how books like Rachel Rising and Thunderbolts and OMAC and Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes and a hundred other good ones that get recognized all the time online by people "making the same worn-out excuses" are good reads now, I'll probably do it. It's better to try to get somebody to enjoy this stuff then to just sit around bitching about how it ain't like it used to be.

Anonymous said...

I knew you'd go to the "subjective" argument - it's the cop-out of people who do not understand objective standards when judging any art form

A hundred other good ones?? Wow, your standards must be really low. As recently as 7 or 8 years ago, there truly were a great many good comics being produced - by the big 2 and by the other publishers. It started to turn to shit around the time of House of M. And now we are firmly in some kind of New 1990's mentality - particularly at the big 2

Your impotent "nostalgia" theory dissolves when I or anyone can point to recent stuff, whether from the early 2000's or currently, that is really good, and sometimes even great. Stuff that did buck the trend of some old-time storytelling techniques - yet did it well, and told entertaining and artful stories.

If you deny that there was a shift in comics around 2004 or 2005 - and that now Marvel goes on retreats to plan the next big event, EVERY YEAR, and that DC has been regurgitating the same ideas, using the same writers and artists - then I can see why you cling to fallacies such as the "wish it was the way it used to be" argument

I on the other hand, look clearly at each comic for what it is - whether it's 40 years old or 40 days old

cesare said...

I'll pay 5 buck for a crit like this before I'd pay 3 bucks for a book like that.

Keep 'em coming Mr. Shooter.

Brent E said...

What a load of crap. Looking clearly on each comic for what it is, while judging the entire market all at once. Over the past 5 years, I've introduced comics to 8 different people that now read them regularly. All it took was letting them borrow some series that I was currently buying. X-Factor, Y the Last Man, Invincible, Savage Dragon, and the Lone Ranger. That's it. Just loaning out a few trades and they were hooked. Do you know why? Because they're good books. Because instead of bashing the entire industry, I recommended some titles that had unique storylines and mentioned "hey, other intelligent people read these and get a lot of enjoyment out of them."

I guess I should of copped-out and said "I'm sorry, but objectively the entire state of the industry is shitty right now. Go watch more CSI." You think I don't realize Marvel Events are garbage? I do. Somebody must be enjoying them (and probably 2 and a half men as well). Sure, 7 or 8 years ago there was great stuff. Wildstorm was blazing new trails at the time. Guess what? There's still great stuff.

So is my argument a fallacy or impotent? The fact is, most of the posters on this message board cling to some long gone era as when good comics quit coming out. For you, it seems to be sometime around 2004 or 2005. You say there is stuff coming out now that is really good and sometimes even great. I think we agree on that.

My point all along has been not to judge an entire line based on 2 titles, or an entire industry based on the most recognizable properties. You seem to be hung up on one of my theories for why people seem to be doing that. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

These things aren't mutually exclusive, though. Comics can be crap and be facing audience fragmentation and distribution problems as well. I mean, even if you believe that comics in general in the '70s were better than now, were they also substantially worse than they were in the '30s and '40s, when sales were much, much higher? Teasing out the causes of the sales drop between the early '40s and the mid-'70s is no small task, but I don't think it's a reach to argue that television, which was almost nonexistent in homes in the late '40s and nearly ubiquitous by the '60s, played a role.

Although Jim has consistently, and rightly, placed quality above all else, this post ultimately laments the shortsighted lack of attention to newsstand sales in the mid- to late '80s. So sure, you can't sell shit on Park Avenue, but you can't sell gold from the bottom of a well, either.

I don't read comics now (with rare exception) so it's hard for me to compare, but it's certainly true that there were a lot of bad comics published in the '70s (and '30 and '40s, and anytime, really). Are they worse now? Maybe, though it seems to me that a lot of times when people are talking about how much worse comics are now, they're really talking about superhero comics. If superhero comics have become a synecdoche for comics, then the medium really is in trouble, but I don't think that's necessary or true. The good comics I've read over the last 10 years have been works like Persepolis or Fun Home. The best-selling comics in the '50s weren't Superman or Batman, but Walt Disney and romance.

So, since I'm not reading many comics at all, maybe those who are can say: Are all comics worse, or just Marvel and DC? And how do you drive audiences to the comics that are good? Or at least popular: I think Walking Dead is terrible, but a lot of people seem to like it and it's at least a known quantity with a TV show and all. And yet its sales look ... okay, I guess. About 34,000 an issue, which apparently is a huge success, mainly because the arrow's been pointing up. But that's a one-off. Is the medium so dependent on Marvel and DC that the "off-brand" comics have to leech off of them to survive?

--kgaard

jimshooter said...

Insightful.

Anonymous said...

Here's an example of some dialog from a comic coming out next week


Reed: No... my cross over the past millennium has been evolution.

Reed: I have had to go to long, painful lengths to expand my intellect.



This is by Jonathan Hickman - considered one of the best writers in the biz

Brent E said...

My point exactly; if you go out on a limb and name a creator who does good work, somebody will jump up and try to ridicule them. Bravo. Well done. You add so much to the conversation, nay the general perception of both the comic industry and its fans with such thoughtful contributions.

Re: kgaard: Very thoughtful post. I believe something to consider with Walking Dead however are its trade paperback sales. I believe if you factor those in the sales numbers are much more staggering than its per issue sales numbers.

Anonymous said...

Brent - why so defensive?? All I did was quote 2 lines of dialog from a Hickman comic. I made to judgements about those quotes

Anonymous said...

Brent,

Yeah, I thought about bringing up the TPB, but I couldn't find any hard data for sales numbers, just rankings, so I couldn't put it into context. But everything I read suggested that it sold gangbusters in TPB (compared to what, is what I don't know). That goes back into the whole reading the issues/waiting for the TPB question and writing for new readers. I read (and as I said, did not care for) Walking Dead in TPB form, so I didn't have a sense of how well it worked as a serial. Could readers jump in? Sales rose issue by issue, according to what I read, so apparently they did ... but maybe they were jumping on from trades? or their friends' copies?

I guess even though I don't read comics much these days, I still have a lot of love for the medium, which is what drives me to blogs like this one (which, if I haven't said, I really enjoy, so many thanks to Jim and JayJay). Part of it is nostalgia, but part of it is respect for the inherent qualities and potential of comics, and a hope that that there are more Little Lulus and Mauses and Lee/Kirby Fantastic Fours and American Splendors and etc. ahead of us than behind us.

--kgaard

Modiplop said...

Thanks for replying to an off the topic question. I have to admit I will be giving the new titles a go. Though I will quickly stop reading if they arent up to much. Same as when I quickly gave up on the Valiant titles after you left as the went downhill very quickly. Other than that I will be looking forward to any projects you have in the future. thanks again.

Defiant1 said...

Brent,

I had plenty to occupy my time and mind when I was buying comics in the 70's. I had Estes model rockets, miniature gas powered cars, a metal detector, a little lie detector device. My dad made us one of those things like you'd see at the fair that made swirl art. I could play quad albums on my dad's quad sound system. I could listen to people's personal phone calls on a receiver my dad brought home. I had a Heathkit device for making electrical circuits without soldering. I could play with my dad's brand new calculator the size of a brick. I built my own Heathkit voltmeter once I could solder. I had plenty to do which included playing outside with my friends. Your argument is essentially bullshit.

Comics are pathetic now, just as your argument is. Answer my question above and explain why I need to see a character sitting in a chair with his foot propped up as he exchanges items that aren't even framed within the context of the panels. Why is 25% of one panel nothing but a blank wall?

Someone called modern comics an "artistic style". I guess driving 15 miles per hour on a road marked with a 65 miles per hour speed limit is also a "style" of driving. It's annoying. It's a waste of my time.

The guy who started Home Depot stood outside the stores in the early days. When someone walked out of his store with nothing, he'd ask them what they were looking for. He'd write it down and tell the people he'd have it in the store the next week. That is customer service.

The comic publishers are running a business. I can count a dozen names on this blog all echoing the same sentiments of what they expect from comics. I can name three dozen names of friends and acquaintances locally who have echoed the same sentiment. The publishers are ignoring their market and their declining sales reflect that. Statistically, there is always going to be someone who is happy with whatever crap the publishers slap onto the pages. Statistically, there are always going to be people who begrudgingly tolerates what is on the pages just out of the sake of sentimentality. The creation of comics is an art form that refined itself over 40 years and hit it's peak of acceptance and respectability under Jim Shooters leadership. I won't even lie and say I like everything Jim did, but his accomplishments stand on it's own merit. He brought the best out of some of the best creators in the history of the hobby.

Again, this is a business. Even if there were stunning comics on the market today, the marketing is completely inept. All the covers pretty much look alike with heroes standing around or flying witrh their chest poked out. I have no idea what the publisher is even trying to sell me. Is it a gallery of superhero portraits from Sears? Is it convention sketches with dialogue tossed on top to be interesting?

You provide whiny excuses to justify a bunch of inept management at these publishers. They ignore what the consumers have requested and they plow ahead with inept business decisions that alienate their customers. The modern publishers don't deserve my money. I'm sick of people saying "you need to support modern comics and your local comic shop if you want them to exist." Why do I want them to exist if comics like the one critiqued above are what the industry wants to publish? I'm tired of giving handouts to people who think they are offering me a service. The consumer's requests are repeatedly disregarded and the money goes right back into making comics that a large number of people have rather loudly stated they don't want.

I have a more interesting life than depicted in modern comics. I'm sick of even opening them to see what is trying to be passed off as entertainment.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out how to throw a digital comic over by the junk mail and cat hair

cesare said...

I tried JLA, first issue was good, a story, more or less, a freshness to the characters, Lee did a nice job. I couldn't bring myself to buy issue #3.

Batman, like it a lot, and even though Bats is the man, you better do a good job or I'll drop it too. Detective, 2 issues..see?...Aquaman, 1 issue. Action, 1 issue. Superman, 1 issue.

Right now, I'm buying from other houses, Planet of the Apes, from Boom, is easily my favourite right now.

cesare said...

oh....OMAC was pretty good because it was fresh, who needed to know anything before? ..... though it too suffered from lack of actual story in each issue.

cesare said...

You can watch any episode of the X-files, and I guarantee you'll enjoy a good, complete story, know who the principles are and how they relate to each other AND be intrigued enough by subplots you don't really grok, to try another episode.

Why can't comics be like be written like that?

Deftly informing the newcomer while having a romp?

I have not read a 22 page single story in I don't how long.

Robert Kinosian said...

Jim, I imagine that you've already purchased the first three issues of Wonder Woman since you wrote this so that you could do your next review. However, if you haven't, I recommend picking them up digitally if you want to save a few dollars.

I personally now buy all of my comics digitally that are available in the format, and I find that it saves me a lot of space and a fair bit of money as well. Also, my wife can't see just how many comics I buy every month as easily as she could before!

Robert Kinosian said...

In regard to your comments on digital comics, I agree that it might be nice for them to have a few extra features when compared to the paper format. However, that's extra work for each issue, which may increase the cost. I'd rather have the issues just be delivered as inexpensively as possible.

As to them being the same price as print, if you just wait a month they do drop in price by $1 for most companies. I read a lot of my comics with a month delay and it saves me quite a bit of money over time compared to buying the issues at the stores. I still get a new issue every month and it still has the same content, it makes no difference to me.

Ole M. Olsen said...

Folks,

With respect: In your discussions about good and bad comics, subjectively and objectively, I think some of you are missing the point a little.

Sure, there are good and bad comics being made these days, just like there always were. And yeah, many among the present comics buying audience enjoy the "modern" style of comics. Good for them!

However, the comics market as a whole is in a steady decline. A lot of "old" comics fans are put off by the present product, and it doesn't seem to be attracting a lot of NEW readers either.

And while some of the present comic books are really good (subjectively OR objectively), many of them are still nigh impossible to "jump on" to. If you're "comics curious" and you pick up an issue of a title (overpriced at $3.99, most likely, or $2.99 if you're lucky) and you don't understand s**t of what's going on in it, I think it's more likely that you'll throw it away than that you'll make the extra effort and shell out the extra $10-15 for the back issues or the trades to get a clue. EVEN if it's a good book. Even if it's OBJECTIVELY a good book.

Chances are fairly high that it will also take you only 5-10 minutes to read it, and you'll be thinking that you've just wasted ten minutes and 4 bucks of your life. So you'll turn around and go back to your TV shows, your video games or for that matter your social life, all of which seem much more entertaining. :-)

(Let's face it, most "causual" comic book readers don't study the artwork of every panel (or double splash page) and admire all the work that must have gone into it, just like people don't pause movies or TV shows to study the sets, the lighting, the make-up and what have you. The artwork of a comic book is the book's STORY in illustrated form. It should make sense without effort and be even more rewarding if you DO put some effort into it).

Sure, lots of us are sort of nostalgic for "the good old days" when comics, in our humble opinions, made more sense and gave us more value for money. But the point, at least for me, is not that comics should be just like they were in the 80s or whenever, but rather that they should be made in such a way as to attract old and new readers alike and indeed keep the artform and the industry alive. Surely that must be the first and most important goal.

As it is at present, even if there should be nothing wrong with the quality of the comics as such, there's obviously SOMETHING wrong with the way they're being made, put together, presented, marketed, sold, priced, etc., etc. Because no one but us seems to give a damn. And we're modern day dinosaurs.

Off topic: Blogger's new comment system, with the "reply" link, does make things somewhat confusing. Sure, it groups replies to a comment together, but in effect that puts old and new comments all over the place, and you have to skim the whole comments section every time you visit to make sure you haven't missed anything. JayJay, is there no way to turn it off?

Anonymous said...

That's not the worst pun, Daniel. Apollo refers to himself as the 'sun' of a king. How do you like them apples now?

- Tkay

Andy E. Nystrom said...

I have a couple of thoughts on the stuff that's been discussed. I hope people won't mind the stream of consciousness approach as it's the middle of the night and that's how my mind works at this hour. I'm splitting this in two because I've rambled so long I exceeded the character length.

I think the decline has a lot of parents and not *just* the current writing style (which, agreed isn't perfect). First off I don't think we can ignore some of the quality issues of the 1990s (at least until 1998 when things picked up a bit). Computer games have been another thing. I've never been ones to want to spend hours learning how to move a character before playing a game, but others seem to have more patience than I do there and computer games are definitely a source of competition. Also the increased ability to watch movies on a computer. And of course paper costs increasing the prices of comics. I think to a degree there would be some decline even if today's comics were deemed very good by a majority of readers young and old.

I think things will change eventually. A typical 1960s comic doesn't look like a typical 1980s comic etc. We're in a new decade so we're probably due for another stylistic change, which will probably not be a conscious thing but rather a natural progression.

One thing I wonder is if the Internet is influencing writer choices. I'm thinking specifically that consciously or maybe even subconsciously some writers might be assuming that any readers who are confused will simply look things up online for clarification. A lot of readers, even if they complain a lot do at times seem quite knowledgeable about their comics so newbies might be overlooked more by accident than by design. I tend not to seek the Internet myself for clarification but I tend to buy runs on sale instead of monthly at full price, so I admit with Marvel books I sometimes look at the summary page of the next issue to identify characters I'm not familiar with in the previous issue or otherwise get clarification. That's definitely a problem.

Andy E. Nystrom said...

The rest:

Another thing: the major companies need to learn to take a gamble and let stories end at some point. I realize that having teasers can get readers to read more, but having a one-shot or limited series end on To Be Continued can contribute to readers' overall dissatisfaction, as can the end of a trade; Irredeemable gets a lot of things right, but the end of each trade seems dictated by the issue number and not by a logical break in the overall story's flow. If you're going to write for the trade, make sure that the reader feels satisfied by the point at which a particular volume ends, even if it's part of a larger grand scheme.

I do think some writers do decompressed better than others. A lot of people on this board don't like Bendis but he's far from the worst offender in terms of his storytelling skills; I think he often picks the points he he leaves off an issue pretty good compared to many decompressed style writers. In fact, like Claremont years earlier I suspect he gets targeted more than many worst writers in part because he has a distinct voice that people can point to, while the more full; writers tend to all blend together in people's minds to the point where it's hard to even name them. I think if you're going to use decompression, at least give the reader something to satisfy them if the read an issue at random, even if they know an issue will work better as part of a greater whole.

I guess you could say I'm not against any one storytelling style as long as it's done well. Stunts bother me more particular ones where readers could feel tricked. The Iron Age is a good example of this. It was labelled Alpha one-shot, 1-3, Omega one-shot when it was more accurately 1-5. And I grabbed a few issues from the bargain bin sealed in plastic bags (this was an impulse purchase; I hadn't read the solicitations) and didn't realize until later that what I thought was Iron Age Starring Avengers#1 and Iron Age Starring Captain Britain#1 were actually the same comic with different covers.

Finally, comics need to make better uses of covers. Make sure that the cover makes you curious to read about the crisis shown on the cover. It's your hook, your giving the reader a taste of the drug before they buy the pill. Also, avoid misleading variants. Even if it's Spider-Ham's 25th anniversary, don't put him prominently on a variant cover unless he's actually in the book somewhere (ditto zombie covers).

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Thanks for the recommendations. I just ordered Syd Field's Screenplay and Robert McKee's Story from Amazon using the link on your sidebar. And thanks to Shawn for mentioning those books!

Wout Thielemans said...

Bendis' biggest crime against storytelling isn't necessarily the decompression. It's the lack of individual voices, the preference for lazy jokes and wordplay which just wastes space and doesn't jibe with the emotional reality of a scene or situation, his gimmicks - The Avengers being told in talking head flashbacks which add NOTHING to the story or the reading experience and drag the reader out of the action and the emotional intensity, the '70s superheroes appearing at the end of Secret Invasion 1 and ALL of them turning out to be skrulls, repeating his Norman Osborn plot verbatim...
Too many to mention.
Sometime he gets things right, though, sometimes he does manage to score an emotional point, or set up an action scene so it has extra resonance. Bizarrely, I enjoyed the latest New Avengers book even though there were points which were totally unclear afterwards, it looked as if the good guys were winning when they fled the scene, too many characters I didn't know... In retrospect it was a pretty bad issue but I had fun while reading it. Go figure.

However, let me add my voice to those pleading with Jim Shooter to review Mark Waid's Daredevil. Best mainstream comic on the stands since issue #1, by a nautical mile, in my opinion. I'd like to hear what Jim thinks!

Brent E said...

"Even if there were stunning comics on the market today, the marketing is completely inept."

Yeah, apparently there is nothing good being created today. Obviously you don't want to support comics, good or bad. So instead you prefer to rail on about how shitty the industry is and how no good comics are even coming out.

Again, great use of your time. Great contribution to the artform. My point, as I'll state for the fourth time now (but since a few people seem to keep getting hung up on one nostalgia theory, we'll call them anonymous knucklehead and defiant1) is you can't judge an entire company, industry, or artform by a few of the most popular books. Comics are made by people, and there are still amazing talents at work creating stunning comics ever week.

Stay close minded. Continue to judge everything that comes out because apparently you've been burned by some bad floppies. Obviously it's enriching you more to do so.

JayJayJackson said...

I'm working on it. Google instituted this new commenting system with no warning and all I can find is their instructions telling how to enable it and none telling how to disable it. Also I am worried that disabling it will delete comments, which would be unacceptable. So I posted a question to their help forum and I'm waiting for an answer. Hopefully soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi JayJay,

I have no idea if this will work, so caveat emptor and all that, but I found this:
How to Disable Blogger's New Threaded Comments

--kgaard

JayJayJackson said...

OK, I took that advice and have changed the commenting to full page instead of embedded. I know this is quite a bit different, but let me know what you think.

Ole M. Olsen said...

JayJay,

Looks just like the old days (i.e. a few days ago) to me! Thanks! :-)

Anonymous said...

Brent - it is very telling that you:

1 - have to make up arguments about what we are saying. Not a single person on here said nothing at all good is being created today. In fact most of us, including myself, have named good things that are being produced

2 - you have to resort to name-calling and other theatrics

3 - you fail, in each of your posts, to truly engage the topics at hand.

Look at Defiant's post. Look at Ole's post just below it. Refute - or at least ATTEMPT to intellectually engage any of those points



Andy - for your theory on video games and other distractions - see Defiant's first paragraph about the distractions. I could add my own list from when i was younger (Atari, GI Joe toys, Shrinky dinks, 50 other things...)

Anonymous said...

I agree. It is much more straight forward to catch up on the latest comments using the old system.

cesare said...

I have to add a couple more comments given the feud we're reading.

Nobody can read all a publisher's titles, who can afford it, especially when a sampling of the product leaves you cold? I have sampled quite a few, and good or bad, the books do not deliver dollar value. That's a big problem, I know how much work it is to put a book together, artists will tell you its a grind. But how do you justify $4 for 10 minutes of entertainment? How do you charge less? The format is a problem, serialized monthly comics are a problem.

There are good comics out there, but not many. And in my opinion, the good ones are still just achieving 'good' and not by much. It seems that most publishers follow the same formula, which appears to be to stretch out a story, I guess in hopes that any issue will intrigue a reader enough to buy the next (or previous) issues. I have been reading the damn things for decades now, and it's not nostalgia, it's true, that in days gone by, something would actually happen in any given issue of any title.

The 'decompression era' may be a tactic, a mandate from the publishers, or it may be that creators don't really know how to tell a story in 22 pages. But there is no more risk in publishing a complete, but inept single story than there is in publishing a weak, slow, drawn out arc. So why not mix it up a bit? Write and draw a solid single issue story once in a while. Charge a bit less for a while. Up the ante, make great comics, I see tons of GREAT art on boards and these guys can't get work, yet there is dreck on the stands.

Are comics doomed? I hope not, I haven't been published yet.

Anonymous said...

cesare - well said

And those things are really the things we should be discussing - each of which is probably a contributor to the shrinking comic market

The decompressed story style, the use of deleted expletives, often for no reason, the splash page covers that convey no meaning for what is inside, the lazy art

Each of those things are probably hurting the growth of the industry

And as Mile High Chuck said in his discussion on the move to the direct market - a huge entry point was killed when that happened (spinner racks, newsstands, Toys R Us). And there is probably no going back. So what are we left with? exactly what Jim preached in this blog entry! We need to present issues as entry points - that is the only control comic makers have to draw in new readers.

Guto (Curitiba- Brazil) said...

Clap clap clap.

Your thoughts and sugestions nail the point. It's amazing to see you do the job that editor should be doing. Sorry my english.

I'm from Brazil and used to read your works in Marvel in the 80', mainly in Avengers (in portuguese: Vingadores).

I'm a huge fan of your blog and i'm waiting anxiously by your analysis of the 1-4 issues.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such entertainment way.

Realy, realy thank you

Brent E said...

Anonymous,

My last post on the topic. I'm sure there are many things we can agree on. For instance, I believe comics could be better at being accessible for new readers.

However, my point all along, which I believe you are consistently missing, which I will point out for the 5th time, is that judging an entire comics line by sampling a few comics (in the case of the original comment, 2 books) is ridiculous. There are quality storylines out there. Somebody said something about the companies putting out dozens of books, and they can't expect readers to read them all. This is exactly what I am talking about. Just read the ones you think are good, because believe me, they are being made.

You wrote: "Not a single person on here said nothing at all good is being created today."

Defiant1 wrote: "Even if there were stunning comics on the market today, the marketing is completely inept." Obviously implying that nothing stunning is being produced today. However, since you definitely aren't reading what I am writing, I forgive you for not reading Defiant1 is writing as well.

Anonymous said...

Brent - I have already stated in previews posts that I have spent a LOT of money trying all kinds of stuff - from the big 2 and from the indy publishers

I have tried events, I have tried creator-owned, I have tried stuff featuring characters that I like, I have tried following different creators when they go mainstream, I have tried new titles, I have tried old titles when some new direction occurs.

Besides, by trying to focus on my spending habits, you are deflecting the conversation about good and bad trends in comic-making

I have spent lots and lots and lots of money on a lot of stuff, mostly bad, and rarely I find a gem

so - AGAIN - you make an argument against something that I never said - just like you tired to twist Defiant's words into some kind of "100% of everything is rubbish" - instead of trying to engage THE WORDS HE ACTUALLY SAID

Anonymous said...

A jumping on point of sorts has recently been initiated in Britain. A series of 60 hardback books has begun to be published. These are to be 'the best of Marvel'. They cost £9.99 ($15) each. So far two books have been published (Coming Home - Spidey 30-35) and Dark Phoenix X-Men 129-137) Others to be released soon include Iron Man Extremis, The Ultimates, McFarlane's origin of Venom, and a Peter David Hulk story.

These books will presumably be what it says on the tin - 'the best'. If they are, then there is a good chance that new readers will be attracted to Marvel's titles - even more so if a similar product was offered in USA. Then Marvel will have an opportunity to raise its game. Here's your egg, lets see the chicken.

In this admittedly hypothetical scenario, will they be happy to experience a small spike in their sales of floppies and then slump back again, or will they grab hold of the opportunity to keep their newly acquired readers by providing real stories at a reasonable price?

Hmmmm, that's a toughie.

Brent E said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, I'm not buying any. I tried Action and Wonder Woman because of the writers - but I did not think either series was very interesting or original.

Most of the new 52 just looked like the same old stuff by the same old DC creators - and it smacked of sales gimmick. I would have been much more interested if DC really brought in some new creators or tried some new ideas."

This was what the original comment was in response to. Was this the same anonymous? Who knows, who cares. But that's what the original discussion was based off of.

(I hate that I had to post this, I really prefer just to lurk on here. Jim my apologies for so many comments that are probably adding little to other's opinions of this thread/blog.)

bcolflesh said...

I prefer the comments in this (non-threaded) format.

Thanks for switching it back!

Anonymous said...

"I prefer the comments in this (non-threaded) format. Thanks for switching it back!"

[MikeAnon:] Agreed. Thanks, JayJay! [--MikeAnon]

Dusty said...

JayJay, I like the full page for comments, but I also liked how you could reply directly beneath the post you were commenting on, and that's no longer an option.

Dan said...

Here's a RULE for writing a comic: in EACH significant character's FIRST scene of the comic, they MUST be addressed by NAME.

Apparently, current writers believe it's bad to do this. Well, I can't count the comics I have stopped reading simply because I have no clue who is in the scene.

I've read comics since Nixon was president. But I don't know who's running around in most of these titles. I know who Wonder Woman is, but I know nothing of her current supporting cast. If the writer doesn't inform me otherwise, I'm going to assume she's talking to Etta Candy... (And a newbie reader won't even have that much of a guess.)

So if I have to make a preference, I would prefer the writer shoe horn in some intro info at the expense of the flow of the story. Because the current option leaves me clueless. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've read many comics that don't mention ANY names in a (civilian, no capes) scene.

When comics were cheap, I didn't mind a few flaws. But at current prices, I'm not putting up with it. At $4, it better be GOOD.

And...they're not.

Phil Bloom said...

Thank you JayJay! This is much better for the comments section. I now can simply scroll to where I left off in the comments, and see the new additions.

PS. I also like the new 'leave your comment page'. Very cool.

Defiant1 said...

I haven't seen anything stunning in years.

Good writing is buried under crappy art.
Good art is buried under crappy inking.
Good inking is buried under crappy coloring.

If any of the above is bearable, it's placed behind a generic cover of superheroes posing like jackasses with their chest poked out.

I've already mentioned the inept marketing. I say that as someone who has worked in retail and quadrupled sales on one series of products I was responsible for. At another time, I was called to a managers office to find out how I was consistently outselling (percentage-wise) some 60 or so other stores in a chain on the their most profitable line of products. From what I was told, I was one person pulling in 10% of the store's business while another 70 or so were making up the the other 90%.

My point is that you can come up with whiny excuses as to why comics aren't selling or you can analyze the expectations and psychology of the consumer as they approach and experience the product.

One thing that annoys me more than the poor quality of the product is the non-responsive complacency that everyone in the industry has towards their contribution to the status quo. Let me define "status quo" as: a steady lowering of quality, the increasing of prices, and a shrinking consumer base.

Even when someone like Jim steps in as a voice of reason, there are no shortage of dipshits that are obsessed with shutting him and his message down. I had waited about 7 years for Jim to work on the Valiant properties again when he was hired to write the Unity 2000 series. I sat on the sidelines waiting for 7 years of mindless drivel to run it's course and meet it's demise. The minute Jim's issues started coming out, the fans of the mindless drivel were whining and complaining. Jim hadn't even established the groundwork of where he was going to take the plot and people were lamenting the FAILED 7 years worth of mindless product before.

Keep in mind that early Valiant was not successful until the plots started reaching completion. At least If I don't like a comic, I can still see when a larger story is being setup. Modern comic writers simply waste my time and money and the journey navigating the plot isn't even remotely interesting.

I told people Jim's run at Dark Horse wouldn't last a year. I could tell by looking at what Dark Horse did with the initial Free Comic Book Day offering. It was doomed to failure before the comics were released.

No one working for DC has enough foresight to realize how stupid the 52 relaunch was in the long term. They have enough foresight to see the spike in sales for the #1, but they can't see the decade long loyal fans saying "screw it" because their favorite series' were cancelled. They'll bring back the numbering in hopes of gaining those readers back, but it'll be too late for a lot of them.

You have to do 100 things right to win a customer and only one thing wrong to lose them. Modern publishers think it takes only one thing to win a customer and they ignorantly/blindly do a hundred things that have been causing them to lose their customers.

Anonymous said...

Back when I did read new comics, and I read a lot of 'em, I remember developing a kind of subconscious technique of scanning over the "newbie" material and only paying attention to the pertinent information and/or panels. A lost art I guess.

Neil

Anonymous said...

"JayJay, I like the full page for comments, but I also liked how you could reply directly beneath the post you were commenting on, and that's no longer an option."

[MikeAnon:] Sorry, Dusty, but that's exactly what we were asking to have changed back. Some of us were finding it too difficult to track recent posts (including Mr. Shooter's posts) because they could appear literally anywhere on the page -- and we can generate some pretty long pages if we try hard. It's just easier to find and read the most recent comments if they're all at the bottom.

Personally, I think it should depend most on what Mr. Shooter prefers. I have a theory that the easier he finds it to view and reply to posts, the more he'll post! :)

One thing I did just find out about the new posting technique, though: Make sure you select the right "identity" option before you post. (I do "Anonymous", of course.) If you don't, the blogger will NOT save your text, and you'll be sent to a login screen that you can't get past, so you'll lose everything you were trying to post. The default "identity" is "Google Account", so if that doesn't apply to you, *you have been warned.* [--MikeAnon]

Anonymous said...

"I haven't seen anything stunning in years."

[MikeAnon:] I would recommend AVENGERS ACADEMY by Christos Gage and Mike McKone. I've only read the first volume so far, but I'm pretty enthusiastic about it. [--MikeAnon]

"I told people Jim's run at Dark Horse wouldn't last a year. I could tell by looking at what Dark Horse did with the initial Free Comic Book Day offering. It was doomed to failure before the comics were released."

[MikeAnon:] I'm curious to hear more about this. What elements did you spot that led you to that conclusion?

I thought the Solar story was a great intro. Magnus was Magnus, pretty standard stuff there, and I was never a huge fan of the character. So I picked up Solar for all 8 issues and fairly enjoyed it. (Glad for the artist change at issue #2, though I would have preferred better circumstances for the artist.) I thought the Tanek Nuro character was a little over-the-top in pure villainy, and sometimes the Solar fight scenes had me going, "Will you please just kick his ass already?" but all in all I would have kept on reading (especially after that beautifully-painted origin story), though I may have switched to "wait for the trade" mode like most of my other books. (Right now I'm only getting Garth Ennis' "The Boys" in single-issue format. Depending on how good the new VALIANT turns out to be, I might go single-issue on that just because I fear it won't last even if it is good. But judging from the one art preview of X-O I just saw, I might avoid the new VALIANT like the plague.) [--MikeAnon]

ja said...

I agree with MikeAnon and others. The original linear feed of the posts are the best, because it's much easier to track everyone's posts.

JayJay, I hope you and Jim decide to keep the format the way it's traditionally been so far, and not the format where people can reply to the individual posts, causing everyone to go hunting up and down the line, essentially having to almost re-read the whole list of posts again and again.

THANKS!

TheGreenDeath said...

That one of the activities that Defiant1 mentions in his "I had a life while reading comics" was owning a device that allowed him to listen in on people's private phone calls is a little creepy and rather counter to the point he's trying to make.

TheGreenDeath said...

We may harp on he fact hat individual issues aren't good entry points for new readers but in my experience new readers almost always enter via trades these days. Floppies aren't as readily available, they don't offer as full a story, they are simply not the preferred way of non-fans to read comics.

Anonymous said...

@Green Death - you don't get it. Comic readership and sales are dwindling. The hobby is nosediving - so "trades as an entry point" obviously isn't working

That's why we are trying to have a conversation about other options. Because the status quo, and those clinging stubbornly to it, aren't working

cesare said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cesare said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cesare said...

.....what I'm trying to say is, my comic book retailer told me that at least once a week he talks to a new or returning reader. That could be, if I were to be optimistically conservative and given a guess of 5000 comic book stores nationwide, maybe 100000 a year.

The implication is, there are still comic book fans out there.

I know I'm oversimplifying, but it could mean that if the products get better, there is a potential audience out there waiting to buy them. It could be argued that there are comic fans, but they won't spend the money to read a broad sampling of books, the price / value ratio is too high. BUT, despite all the other possible choices, leisure dollars can still be directed towards comics if that ratio changes.

I'm just saying.

Matt Adler said...

"If we have Hermes, why not Ares?"

I would assume because Hermes' character is harder to sum up in a single word; he's the god of speed, of messengers, of tricksters, of thieves, and more. As to why they would want to call these characters by a word that sums them up; well, Greek Mythology-savvy me knows who Ares and Eris are, but new reader me would not.

As to exposition; I have to say, even Stan made the exposition really obvious, at least by today's standards. I am personally not bothered by it (I think there are other, more important things missing today that make Stan and Co.'s storytelling superior), but it is a rare writer that is actually able to make exposition seamless, and examples are hard to come by since if they're doing it right, you're not supposed to notice it!

One that comes to mind is Christos Gage, who is writing Avengers Academy. I jumped back in a few issues ago, and after the issue was over, I thought to myself, "Wow, I wasn't confused at all." And the reason I noticed it is because it is such a rare feeling these days.

Dusty said...

I still want to hear what happened the last time Jim Shooter tried to do something at Marvel. Tom Brevoort acts self righteous about it, but with his track record of clashing with veteran creators, I find his innocent act hard to believe. I think he needs to let go of his stubborness. I was involved in a conversation on his formspring, and while he was polite and professional toward me, it's still the same wall I'm talking to.

"Jim Shooter says Marvel knows how to reach him if they want to discuss a project? What's the holdup?" - Dusty

"I think Jim is exactly right. Conversely, he knows how to reach Marvel if he wants to discuss a project. It works both ways, you know." - Tom Brevoort

"Everybody but you and the never wrong NuMarvel seems to know he'd like to do something. Or are you guys slow?" - Dusty

"If he'd like to do something, then he should pick up the phone. And if we have something we think he'd be the best fit for, then we would call him. I get that you'd like to see Jim doing work for Marvel again, but the last time we tried this, it didn't work out so well--so it's kind of up to Jim to let us know that situation has changed (if, indeed, it has.) But absolutely nobody is entitled to work from Marvel." - Tom Brevoort

Anonymous said...

@Dusty

Interesting stuff. Seems Tom is being more than coy. Anyone in business knows that you don't go begging to a former employer's door. Tom seems to be playing games by even suggesting that someone would do that



@Matt

If you like Gage's writing - I REALLY recommend GI Joe Cobra - the very first mini. Some damn fine writing going on in that book. Unfortunately it kind of petered out with the second mini-series - I think because, the series was popular, so they made it into an ongoing. In other words, they had to come up with a full-time storyline when they really had materiel for just another mini

Defiant1 said...

Green Death,

You think it's creepy, but people publicly broadcasted their personal phone calls on a band intended for such. I was exploring the function and use of broadcast bands. It was no more creepy than coming here and seeing two people post replies back to one another. My point-- which you already know and seek to reject --was that I had plenty of things to occupy my mind.

Matt Adler said...

Tom did offer, on this blog, to release the emails about the aborted Korvac project with Jim's permission-- but so far as I know, Jim has not responded.

jimshooter said...

Dear Dan,

The very first meeting of writers I called as EIC of Marvel, I stressed the importance of mentioning the names of the characters -- which had become a lost discipline.

JayJayJackson said...

I hope the comments system is ok. I didn't set it to the threaded comments, that was a change that the Google Blogger people made without warning. I can see some advantages, but it does have drawbacks, too. I had to change the comments settings to do this separate comments page thing to be able to get rid of the threaded comments.

Kind of odd to me. Seems like the Blogger people should have offered threaded comments as a choice first, but hey.

Jim will have his next review of Wonder Woman 1-4 (Part 1) up in the morning. He has been busy and I've been a bit preoccupied self-publishing a story I wrote. I wanted to try self-publishing for a few reasons... obviously to try to make some money, of course, but also to figure out everything I can about how it's done since I've been trying to convince Jim to try it. I figure if I can learn the ins and outs and if I have a little success with it, maybe it will pave the way for Jim to take a shot, too.

Still working on some technical aspects of the process, but it's going great so far. My first try is a short story that's up on my site and on Amazon Kindle so far (others soon), but I'm finishing up a novella I've been working on for a while and I'll self-pub that too and see how it goes. Wish me luck!

Defiant1 said...

Mikeanon,

I looked online to check out the art for Avengers Academy. I wouldn't call the art stunning. I would call it solid. That is more like a baseline of what I expect. The empty backgrounds on the art samples I saw tells me that nothing in the script really requires visualization. By the time coloring is added, I expect the comic to look horrible.

What did Dark Horse do wrong? Wow! Everything they could! Jim's project was announced at a San Diego Con. It gathered a lot of attention and publicity. They did NOTHING with it. It has to be converted. They had a full years to feed a frenzy, but they went on business as usual and mentioned every unrelated product they sell. Things you couldn't pay me to read... they promoted. Free Comic Book Day is one of the most pathetic ways to promote comics. I could write paragraphs on that. If you are selling $3 product, putting it in the hands of cheapskates who just wander in and want something for free is targeting the WRONG customer. It also feeds the critics. I could pick up the comics and know they weren't following Jim's script. I've talked to artists who have worked with Jim. They really should have teamed Jim up with a veteran artist. Better to win a customer back first than try to convert them to either an old style of writing or a new style of artistic storytelling.

Dark Horse doesn't want to hear it. The whole comics industry thinks that consumers are idiots. They think that positive talk in the style of Barney the Dinosaur magically makes everything they do succeed.

Dusty said...

Jay Jay, I can handle the format. Thanks for everything you do to give us this great blog!

Jim, far be it from me to ever defend today's Marvel, but the last time I was reading (about 2 years ago) Uncanny X-Men always listed the character's names and powers right next to them the first time they were shown each issue.

Defiant1 said...

I finally saw the Wonder Woman comic reviewed above. The art samples look more tolerable online than the comic does in print. The comic itself looks horrid. It looks like bad sketch art with lousy inking.

marco said...

Paul Cornell has been using a striking affectation to introduce all his characters in Dark X-Men. He assigns them all a name tag in the form of a text box containing the character's name, brief description of powers and a song by a given band. From issue 1:

"Omega. Sucks Mutant Powers. Helter Skelter."

"Norman Osborn. The Banality of Evil. Glass Onion."

"Mystique. Shapeshifter. Eleanor Rigby."

Etc. (You get the drift!) These are Beatles songs of course; other artistes he plunders include the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Kate Bush, a woman who's probably madder than Norman Osborn. I'm not sure whether I like it or I want to go round and kick him in the nuts. (He doesn't live too far away. He worked on a dismal tv show we have around these parts called Coronation Street, about people who eat tripe and stab each other with darts in a pub, filmed just up the road from here.) On the one hand it's better then having the old "like unto a thing of iron" every damn month, but on the other hand it's more sickeningly cutesy, self-indulgent and depressing than any one of Azzarello's puns or transitions. If he sets his magpie eyes on Morrissey's songs I definitely will go round and kick him in the nuts.

czeskleba said...

Matt Adler wrote:
As to why they would want to call these characters by a word that sums them up; well, Greek Mythology-savvy me knows who Ares and Eris are, but new reader me would not.
*********************
I'm skeptical that's the reason. Based on the review here it doesn't seem Azzarello is particularly concerned with introducing characters or avoiding new reader confusion in general, so why would he be in this one particular instance?

Onion3000 said...

Marco said:"...He worked on a dismal tv show we have around these parts called Coronation Street..."

You'd better hope Mozzer doesn't read this, he's a huge Corrie fan!

The last comic series I followed and enjoyed was Cornell's "Captain Britain and MI13". It was critically acclaimed and a joy to read. Until it was cancelled.

KrisShaw said...

Azzarello, Bendis and his ilk are horrible writers. Loved the Lego block comment. I enjoy your editor's eye review of their work!

Onion3000 said...

Totally off-topic, I wonder if Jim ever saw this name-check from Alan Moore?

http://i474.photobucket.com/albums/rr109/onion3000/Supreme45pg23.jpg

Andy said...

Issues 1-5 have been the best WW that I have ever read, I love it.

It isn't that hard to start with issue #1, if you want to figure out the story easier :)

Anonymous said...

@andy - guess you never read Perez's, Rucka's, or even Byrne's - and probably many more I am forgetting

Anonymous said...

@Kris

re Azzarello - absolute nonsense. I guess you never read The Hard Way or The Counterfifth Detective

Bendis deserves all the derision in the world because he spreads himself thin, withing 5 or 6 books a month. Azz has never done that. He's always written 1 indy title and 1 mainstream a month - though for a while he was writing 2 indy and no mainstream

Phillip Beadham said...

Dear Jay Jay,
Good luck with the novella. RE: getting Jim writing, have you read Marvel pocket novel # 9? It was published in 1979, and Jim contributed a story. The book's got a great Cockrum cover, featuring the Hulk, X-Men, Daredevil, and Avengers. Here's the contents of the 'pocket novel':

The Avengers

In This Evil Undying by James Shooter


Daredevil

In Blind Justice by Kyle Christopher


The X-Men

In Children of the Atom by Mary Jo Duffy


The Incredible Hulk

In Museum Piece by Len Wein


Jim might have some interesting stories about this little gem (hint, hint!)

Best regards,

Phillip

Matt Adler said...

"I'm skeptical that's the reason. Based on the review here it doesn't seem Azzarello is particularly concerned with introducing characters or avoiding new reader confusion in general, so why would he be in this one particular instance?"

I dunno, as Jim has said before, it's not always possible to discern a writer's intentions by reading the finished comic... I'd think that would be doubly true for trying to discern a writer's intentions by reading someone else's review of the finished comic.

marco said...

Dear Onion3000

Thank you for the recommendation. I acted swiftly to get ahold of volume one and am really enjoying it, although the last thing I want in my comic books is a Scouser. (For those fortunate enough to live thousands of miles from the River Mersey, Scousers are a vile under-species analagous to those banjo-playing savages in films about boating in Alabama.) I can see the bloody dialogue starting to grate after a while mate. I think Brubaker's English dialogue was better when he used these characters in Captain America.


I think Morrissey stopped watching Coronation Street around the time Ena Sharples died.

jimshooter said...

RE: "Jim, far be it from me to ever defend today's Marvel, but the last time I was reading (about 2 years ago) Uncanny X-Men always listed the character's names and powers right next to them the first time they were shown each issue."

We did that with the Legion of Super-Heroes, too. Not my idea, but it seemed okay to me.

jimshooter said...

Re: name-check from Alan Moore.

ANSWER:

Never saw it before. Thanks.

Eklectic1 said...

New 52, and what's left for me:

I started buying "Supergirl", "Batman", Wonder Woman", "Batgirl", "Batwoman", "Birds of Prey", "My Greatest Adventure", "Superboy", "Green Lantern", and "Green Lantern Corps".

I liked "Action" until they started tying up Superman and making him seem pathetic (somewhere around Action #2). I stayed until Action #3, then dropped it.

"Batman #1" made no sense to me whatsoever. I could not enter the story line; the visuals jumped around so much I was lost. I deserted it therefor.

"Supergirl #1" was an interesting start, betraying some form of intelligence and artistry in its planning. Then in the second issue she started fighting her cousin Superman, and it became a consanguinous bloodfest. Dropped the book.

"Superboy" was an impulse buy. He's a robot. Hmmm. I realized I'm about 35 years too old to care about this. Left it alone after the first issue.

"Green Lantern Corps" book was interesting until #3, when it became a gore-a-thon, where heads were put up on posts and more of same promised in the next issue(s). Not being a teenage boy or a gamer, I dropped it.

"Green Lantern" was intriguing---doubly so because the most interesting character wasn't GL, but Sinestro. I stayed on board with this until #4. Got tired waiting for the story to happen; everything was set-up, set-up, set-up. Everyone in book angry all the time. Need story. Need variety. Too ADD to put up with this wallowing in dead-end emotion. No longer cared about Sinestro or GL.

"My Greatest Adventure" wasn't bad. I purchased three issues, impressed that DC was trying an anthology title. Eh. Art was good, but the dialogue was the usual sarcastic BS that passes for conversation in a comic today. Didn't care to read #4.

"Wonder Woman" no longer appealed to me after #5. I can't stand it when they change artists on me. Can't stand it!

"Birds of Prey" #1. I wanted to be loyal to books that promised great tough women in action, stomping crime. Black Canary finally looked like a plausible heroine to me, but I could neither follow the story or become sufficiently interested in the pieces of it to buy another issue. So I moved along.

"Batgirl" held me until #5, WHEN THEY CHANGED ARTISTS. I could put up with Gail Simone's constant muttering from the Batgirl character as long as I got to see the exquisite joy of her character swinging through the city of Gotham. I could imagine myself swinging with her; it seemed like a great start. Then the artist-change thing...and I'm in who-gives-a-shit territory once more.

Now, the only one I still buy: "Batwoman." Fantastic art, story that has human beings in it but the bigger self of the female hero is not lost within. Beautiful.

(We'll see if I love it when they change artists...I'll dunno if I can take that.)

So, only one book out of the New 52. And when they change artists, it'll probably be the "Zero Books of the New 52!"

Brent E said...

Eklectic,

I can only speak to Supergirl and Superboy as I also gave up on the rest of the ones you mentioned. However, outside of the fight in Supergirl #2, they've continued to tell a compelling story around the character. Issue #5 has had to discovering what happened to Krypton.

Unfortunately, not every issue of every series is what every reader is looking for. Glad to hear you're at least enjoying Batwoman. Also, Cliff Chiang's back on WW next issue.

SWartStudio said...

It's a great feeling knowing that an experienced and respected man like you, Jim, said so many of the things (and more) I've said to myself or outloud in emails to DC Comics.

Great points!

Anonymous said...

Could you review the new Justice League origin (JL 1-6) next, please? I'm really wondering what your thoughts would be. (Spoiler alert: I didn't like it for various reasons.)