Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Paper Comic DeathWatch: Democrats of Doom

If you've been keeping up with the US Presidential Primaries, the one thing that seems to be clear is that this year is the Democrats really seem to be upstaging the Republicans as far as media attention goes. It's very possible that the Democratic Party may be able to use this momentum from the primaries to get into the White House.

And if they do, that will be very bad for Paper Comics.

For those of you outside of the US, the American political parties boil down to two groups. Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (liberals)

Now before I get 1000 emails explaining why my simplified definitions of the two groups is wrong, let me say that's typically how they are viewed, and whether I'm right about that has no bearing on today's article, so let's all agree to disagree and move on. :)

Okay, where was I.

Oh, that's right. Why Hillary will be the Doom of Paper Comics...

I would like to submit to you that some of the best comics have come from times when they were written by liberal individuals reacting against conservative US governments. And inversely, some of the worse comics have been written during times of liberal US governments.

Let me *prove* my point...

Back in the 1970's Richard Nixon, a staunch republican, was President. During the 70's we got Jim Starlin reacting to this *oppressive* political climate with this guy:


And while many of you may remember Starlin's fantastic run on Adam Warlock, how many of you remember this run, written during the 90's? (When the Bill Clinton, Democrat, was in the White House.)


See Adam smiling?

I'll go on record now as saying if you've written a comic that has Adam Warlock smiling (and it's not because he's found a new way to kill himself.) Then things have gone HORRIBLY wrong.

But there you go. A perfect example of just how badly a happy liberal climate can mess up comicbooks. I can see I haven't convinced you. Let me give you some more examples...

Here you go. Who can forget the King of the Marvel Hippies Steve Gerber and his classic creation - Man-Thing:


Note: If you were a parent who gave your kids this Book and Record set, What the hell were you thinking? Seriously, It's Fun to Read As You Hear somehow doesn't line up with Night of the Laughing Dead, now does it?

Anyway, Man-Thing, as well as Gerber's Defenders, was just chock full of great hippy musings. I think part of the charm of those comics was seeing Gerber wrestle with anti-establishment storylines and counter culture topics while working for Marvel.

As such, the Man-Thing sort of became a benchmark for quality for the Marvel Monster books of the 70's.

On the flipside, what did the Clinton years bring for poor old Man-Thing?


That's right, it burns, it burns, but not in they way it's supposed to!

Really, I challenge you to find a worse comic cover NOT printed in the 90's... I can't comment on the quality of the story, but the particular Man-Thing run only lasted about 8 issues, so I think it's safe to say it sucked.

Okay, how about this. In the 70's Rich Buckler kept us mesmorized with his innovative and gripping story of Deathlok, a cyborg superhero fighting in a corporately controlled future.


However, in the 90's, stories with Cyborg Superheroes weren't quite as innovative or entertaining...


Mired in Destiny indeed.

I bet Stan Lee could come up with 1 million cover blurbs without ever using the word Mired.

Okay, here's my final example. Avengers during the 70's.


Avengers during the 90's (remember The Crossing?)


And Avengers during the Bush Era...

TheUltimatesSo, now that I've *proven* my point, I think we can safely accept my theory that quality in comics is going to take a nosedive if a Democrat gets into the White House. And for every Mage or Marvels the naysayers to this theory might bring up, I can easy point to a Clone Saga or Extreme Justice.

So, if paper prices continue to increase, and story quality declines, then paper comics are going to be looking at at least 4 years of declining sales.

Want to prevent this dark future? Well, if you want more Reagan Era Watchman/Dark Knight quality coming from comic publishers, the choice is clear.

Vote Republican. :D

PCDW points: 100.

Note: I'm voting for Obama if he makes through the primaries, so please spare me your anti-Republican tirades. :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Free Comics Monday: FBU Presents: The Paladin

For today's Free Comics Monday, I'm proud to announce to we have a new Flashback Universe comic ready for everyone to read! This issue features The Paladin with a story plotted by Pierre Villeneuve, Scripted by Chad Bowers and Art by Pierre.

Click the image to download this new comic!
Hope you Enjoy it!
- Jim

Friday, January 25, 2008

Quebecor Press update

First - NOTICE the new Poll. ---->
Please feel free to answer! :)

As an update to my previous post on the state of Quebecor, I present this link from The Beat

If you don't follow Heidi MacDonald's The Beat, I suggest you check it out. It's probably the premiere news blog for the comics publishing industry.

In the post that the link goes to, you see this quote from Heidi:
[...on the issue of this affecting comic prices or publishing schedules...] For one things, other printers would be happy to pick up business which, as precious as it seems to comics fans, isn’t that huge an undertaking.
However, Steven Grant, over at has this to say about the matter:

Should things worsen and Quebecor Press heads south (and I don't mean to Pennsylvania) it could have far greater short-term (at least!) effects on the comics market than anything else this year.

You can check out Mr. Grant's full comments here:
[ ]

Hard to say whether Heidi is correct or Mr. Grant is at this stage at the game. Both have wide knowledge of the comic industry, but its not uncommon for two intelligent people to view a situation completely differently.

Back to the Beat for a second...of particular interest over at the Beat is the comments made by a poster named Paul Stock, who seems quite the resource for how the whole Quebecor/Canadian Government thing works...

There is a big consideration here: There are four companies in Quebec who, while
not necessarily associated with the nationalist/separatist political movement,
are held up by whatever government is in power as examples of Quebec’s ability
to stand on its own as a nation. Quebecor is one of them. They’re not just
heralded as successes, they’re symbolic of nationhood. It would be unthinkable
for the Quebec government to let any of them fall.
Further down the page Paul also makes note of the effect the >Sub Prime Mortgage Meltdown has had on the Timber Market...he suggest paper mills might actually raise the price of paper, not lower it...

There’s one price factor that far outweighs the dollar: Timber prices. With the shrinking print market, and the moribund housing industry in the US, big loggers are (not quite) going begging for work. Happens I have a managed woodlot that’s due for harvest, but there’s no way I’m going to have it cut, not with where the market is nowadays.

Frankly, I don’t know what the effect has been at the paper mill, they may actually be increasing prices due to a higher overhead to production ratio, but whichever way it’s going, I think that timber fluctuations far outweigh dollar fluctuation when it comes to book costs. But that’s a whole other load of stuff to consider…

Again, the reason all this is important is because Quebecor publishes all the comics for DC and Marvel. If as a result of all this hoo rah, the big two have to take their comics to another publisher who doesn't cut them as sweet a deal as say, a printer basically subsidized by the national government, then you can expect comics to become more expensive.

Which leads me back to this weeks poll. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Done In Ones

I spend so much time talking about digital comics and the oncoming paper comic apocalypse that it is sometimes easy to think that the only unique and interesting thing about Flashback Comics is their format.

I'd like to change that today by discussing something else I think makes Flashback Universe comics unique in today's comicscape: All FBU stories are Done-In-Ones.

For those of you not familiar with the term Done-In-One (DiO) - it is a comic that tells a complete story in a single issue. Up until the 70's this was a common practice. Presently, only a few comics every do this consistently (Jonah Hex is a comic that uses this format well on a regular basis.)

I know many readers and creators feel that the DiO format is too confining, but I've heard writers say the same thing about short stories. I think a good writer can find a way to tell a compelling story regardless of the amount of room he has, as long as he understands the limitations of the specific storytype.

Two great DiO examples that recently came out are the Hulk vs Fin Fang Foom and the Lost Teen Titans Annual. In both cases the stories were told completely in one comic.

Albeit, one was the posthumourous work of one of the all time masters of the DiO story, Bob Haney The other was by Peter David, who while doesn't have quite the resume of DiO's that Bob Haney has, he is a master of many, many different type of story formats (novel, screenplay, comic, editorial).

All of the FBU comics are DiOs because it's my intention that no matter what issue a visitor to the FBU site chooses to download, they can be assured of getting a complete story in one form or another.

I try to underscore the importance of this with other FB creators because some are hung up on the continuing story model (something that I'm just not convinced is working for 80% of the web comics guys using it.) [ link to a bunch of guys discussing how they are doing with their web comic sites ]

I selected the DiO format not because it's easy to write (it's not) but because I think it's really the best for format for web content - complete bite size chunks that you can download - similar to how YouTube videos work.

Several people have asked me about making a web comic version of one of my Flashback stories, and while I'm not completely opposed to the idea, I'm not wild about it either.

I think one of the problems with Web Comics is the way the most current page of a web comic has to act as an introduction to the rest of the comic-- To paraphrase -- Jim Shooter, every web comic episode is someone's first.

How that first web comic coaxes the reader into the rest of the story is pretty durned important and many Web Comics do an atrocious job of luring readers to read more. I think its common for a new reader to read the current comic, click a few back buttons and then wander away after a few minutes. Sometimes this can be the result of a clunky Javascript/Flash interface, but that's not always the case.

Even with the best interface (check out the Jon Sable online comic at it's difficult for people to get engrossed in the story because many things outside of the artists control (browser compatibility issues, server lag, user UI awareness).

DiO CBR files circumvent all these issues. A visitor to the FBU site is presented with thumbnails of covers for all the current issues of our FBU comics. This UI gives them an easy to recognize decision path to help them make their choice. (similar to how Amazon presents its search results.)

Comics used to sell a heck of a lot better when they were all DiOs. Heck, based on the recent numbers of Archie comics sold the past year, they seem to be selling well now too.

I think it would be an interesting experiment if either Marvel or DC gave up on their multi-issue story arcs for a year and just did 12 issues of DiOs for their entire line. Imagine being able to pick up any issue by either publisher knowing you'll get a complete story. Sounds cool to me.

Feel free to vehemently disagree. :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Free Comic Monday - Jan 21

Welcome to another Free Comic Monday. The last one was a big success with quite a number of downloads. To those of you who commented or emailed, thank you!

This first one is a character who meant to be a Spirit knockoff but as things have a way of doing, he got a life of his own...Midnight

[ click here to download Smash Comics 50 ]

The second free comic today is another DareDevil comic. What I think is interesting about this one is that notice how even though the comic trumpets 2 Daredevil stories inside, he's not on the cover...

[ click here to download Daredevil 51 ]

Hope you enjoy them!

Note: I use wikipedia as my legal counsel, so if the above materials are not public domain and you are the owner of these materials, please feel free to notify me and I'll gladly remove them. :)

Friday, January 18, 2008

What Type of Digital Comics do you prefer

See the poll over to right? --->

Answer if you will please. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Paper Comic DeathWatch 2

I going to start assigning points to these PCDW articles like Fked Company used to do...

Anyway, here's the article: [ Quebecor World plumbs new depths ]

Shares of Quebecor World plumbed new depths this morning after the beleaguered printing colossus missed a deadline to find $125-million in new financing.
The stock fell as far as 18 cents at about 11.30 a.m. EST in Toronto, and an hour later had crawled back to 24 cents, down by 23 cents from Tuesday’s finish and, hard to believe perhaps, by a whopping $16.96 from its 52-week high of $17.20.
Quebecor World has lined up a $400-million bailout package from parent Quebecor Inc. and Brookfield Asset Management’s Tricap Partners, but the deal requires the support of the printing company’s banks, which investors and analysts appear to suggest will not be forthcoming without massive changes.

UBS Securities Canada analyst Eric Mencke said in a note to clients that while the banks are now in a position to force Quebecor World to file for court protection, they may well wait until Jan. 24, the expiry date for guarantees provided to the lenders Oct. 24. Meanwhile, Mr. Mencke said he has cut his 12-month target price for the company’s shares to 50 cents from $2

This reason this is significant is because Quebecor is the printer both DC and Marvel currently use and I suspect the final outcome of this financial restructuring, if it gets resolved in Quebecor's favor, can only result in higher priced paper comics.

PCDW points: 200

Other places you can download comics from

Over at The Beat, Heidi has an interesting article about the hub bub caused by Boom Studios making the first issue of a new series available online on the same day it was shipped to retailers...
Boom has just released another press release regarding NORTH WIND #1, their
controversial new book
that debuted simultaneously on shelves and MySpace.
This time they are announcing a second printing following the announcement of
the sell-out of the first issues.

Here's the link to the full article:

If you've been following this blog for, oh, I don't know, a week, you should have a pretty good idea of what I think of all the hoo rah the retailers are pitching...

Anyway, a question I get asked way too much in email - where can I get more digital comics? Well the fine folks at Cable and Tweed have put together a great list of sites with digital comics and a little review of each site:

And for those of you keeping track, yeah, I'm sort of dishing out filler this week because I'm busy getting the next Flashback Universe Presents comic ready for distribution next week. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Free Comics Monday

I'm going to start a new Monday feature where I upload some comics in Public Domain for people to download. Another site has a huge library of such comics, but the interface for downloading them intimidates some people (so I'm told via emails.)

So, allow me to introduce this weeks Free Digital Golden Age Comic

The Golden Age Daredevil

This original Daredevil was created by Jack Binder for an eight-page backup feature in Lev Gleason Publications' Silver Streak #6 (Sept. 1940). Editor Jack Cole, who would create the classic Plastic Man a year later, revamped the character in the next issue and pitted him against Silver Streak's lead character, the villainous Claw, for a five-issue battle that made Daredevil a star. The final installment was written by Don Rico, who would write the character through Silver Streak #17 (Dec. 1941).

[ Download Daredevil 09 Here ]

[ Download Daredevil 17 Here ]

I might be crossing some line here, so let me know what you think about this Free Comic Monday idea. If enough people like it, I'll continue. If I get a cease and desist, I'll stop. :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Double Shot 1: 3D Comic Book Viewer

Here's the first of a Friday Double Shot...

I would like to introduce everyone to a very cool 3D Comic Book Viewer!

I was created by a talented 3D Programmer/Producer named Mal in Ireland, who describes like this:

The 3D Comic Book Viewer was developed to enhance the
digital comic reading experience by allowing users to easily zoom in and pan
around a comic, just like they might do in real life with their eyes as they
read various sections of a real comic pages.

The other viewers ( like CDisplay ) that I previously used for viewing
digital comics are great for displaying and navigating comic pages, but they
didn't seem to offer a smooth way of scrolling and zooming around the page - eg
the process of zooming was automatic ( from 100% to 150%/200% ), rather than

With most computers sporting a powerful 3D graphics card, it made sense to
use this hardware to enable this smooth in-page navigation, so I decided to
write my own viewer, and as it became more functional, I decided to create a
blog tracking the development of the viewer so that users could give feedback on
how to improve it etc.

Microsoft Windows ( 98+ )

Optional, but preferrable: 3D Graphics Card ( it will run in Software mode )

Give it a try! It's very cool!

Friday Double Shot 2: Paper Comic DeathWatch

Friday Double Shot: 2

In the January 14 issue of BusinessWeek Magazine (yes, I do read things on paper sometimes...) Media Analyst Jon Fine predicts an oncoming Paper Media Apocalypse...

...Bear with me while I sketch out the structural changes in the paper market. In years past, publishers bought from a wide constellation of papermakers. So it was easier to play one supplier off another to get price cuts, and thus manufacturers' attempts at price increases often did not stick.

That state of affairs is over for the foreseeable future, if not forever, thanks to a wave of mergers that reached a zenith last year with the nuptials of Bowater and Abitibi Price, the top two newsprint players in the North American market. Private equity has consolidated ownership among manufacturers of coated paper which magazines use. ,

All these deals have dampened supply. Coated paper prices increased 10% last year, and further hikes are expected in '08. Newsprint prices will balloon 11% this year, according to industry tracker Pulp & Paper Week, although other observers are convinced prices will go even higher. The crowning irony is that this is happening even as dropping circulation has taken much demand out of the market, and thus the suddenness of the increases has surprised many.

This doesn't sound like good news to fans of paper comics. Or for the people who sell them. It used to be that people would suggest going back to the old newsprint style paper to save the industry, but now, even that might be too expensive.

Didn't DC and Marvel just go through a price increase last year? I wonder if they are prepared to go through another?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why do People make Indy Comics?

Before going straight into today's post, I'd like to take a second to direct everyone to Zuda where you can go to vote for Seth and Diego's comic:

Pieces of Eden
Writer/Artist: Seth Sherwood/Diego Tripodi
Summary: A serial killer has been stalking women and his latest victim, Eden, has somehow survived. In surviving, Eden absorbed little pieces of each the other victims’ personalities. With this quiet menagerie of voices in her mind, Eden sets out for revenge.

For those of you who don't remember, Diego drew the great Trex BackStory, and I'm especially pleased to see his fantastic artistic abilities recognized by someone other than just me. (I know I'm a forward thinking guy, but I can't be THAT far ahead of the rest of the pack, can I? :D )

end of plug...

Okay, here's my question of the day for everyone who reads this blog. (And please, if you don't want to answer in the comments section, feel free to email me directly with your answer...)

Do you want to write/draw your own comic, and if so, why?

I think I've mentioned the number of emails I get with people wanting to write/create characters for the Flashback Universe, and often I respond to these by asking the emailers why don't they create their own comic/cbr? One of the things I never ask is why do you want to create your own comic anyway?

In some ways I think this is one of those questions you should answer long before you start writing/drawing your first comic. I can think of 3 main ones:

1) To get chicks! (Because chicks love comic book writers/artists!)
2) To make lots of money! Because we all know what a goldmine Indy comics are.
3) Because it's just so damn easy...

So, if you don't mind, tell me why you want to write/draw your own comic.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Screenshots and Questions

Here's a collection of random screenshots from this weekend and the questions they inspire...

1) How does one get an invitation to Komic's Live?

I've never mentioned this group before on this blog. I think they came along after I had discovered Z-Cult, so I never explored them. I do know they were the comics downloading site of choice of Matt Fraction (or so someone with his screen name said on the Warren Ellis forum)

Anyway, apparently they are an *invite only* forum and several of their threads seemed to link to this blog, so I'm interested in seeing what they are saying.

2) Why don't more people download Herbie the Fat Fury?

I have no idea whether Herbie is in public domain or whatnot, but damn it's a funny comic! Apparently, only 100 people on Zcult agree with me. Almost as many people find Kade worth downloading. Go figure.

3) What is Suske en Wiske, and why must it be uploaded in single issue torrents?

Taking more room than it rightfully should I suspect, here is a foreign comic series that seems to be all the rage on Pirate Bay...

4) How many voters does it take to win a Zuda Competition?

Check out these two screenshots from the two Zuda Winners so far.

First, High Moon

Next, Pray for Death:

Now, albeit, it's possible that many factors are weighing into the visitor/voter relationship with both winners, and it WAS a Holiday season, so that might have affected the voting results, but overall, doesn't it look like Pray For Death won with just a little more than a third of the votes that High Moon previously got? And only half of the views?

Gentlemen, start your excel graphs now! :D

Friday, January 4, 2008

Who wants to create a Super-Heroine Contest

I get a lot of e-mails from people who want to create characters for the Flashback Universe. And unfortunately, I'm not always in a position to say yes to the ideas, even though they may be fantastic. However, the good folks at ShadowLine comics have a contest going on that might interest readers of this blog:

[ Who wants to create a Super-Heroine! ]

If you've been itching to take a shot at writing comics, check out the link above! The character you create will appear in a printed comic mini-series with art by drawn by *fan-favorite artist, Franchesco.*

Deadline for the contest is January 31st, so click on the link, read all the details and GOOD LUCK! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What's Scanned and UnScanned in the Marvel Universe

Thanks to the efforts of a fine gentleman named Nerone from Italy, I bring you the list of what's been scanned in the Marvel Universe:

It's interesting to see how many old Golden Age comics have been scanned! Also interesting is that so many Malibu and Epic comics have been scanned.

Sad to see that the complete 70's Marvel Planet of the Apes has not been scanned...

...guess I'll have to search for them on eBay...


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