Monday, January 28, 2013

Comic Series I Stayed With Too Long

I think a common complaint from long time comic readers is that at some point in time, they find themselves buying a comic series that they no longer enjoy. I hear this sentiment echoed on podcasts presently, and it has been true for me at several points in my history with comics. Here are a couple of examples of comic runs I continued with, but really should have dropped.

First up - from the Bronze Age: Marvel's Werewolf By Night

What happened was I was a huge fan of the Mike Ploog era of this series. I also have a soft spot for horror/adventure stories that feature characters that don't fall in the standard mold. So, initially, I found a lot to like with WBN. Ploog's stylistic storytelling approach was just a huge bonus.

Unfortunately, after Ploog left, I think the series started to stray from its creepy core. By the time Moon Knight showed up, I was pretty bored with the series and was just buying it out of habit.

But I hung in till the bitter end...

Looking back, I can excuse this by remembering that I was more of a completist when I was younger. Also, most Marvel and DC were less inclined to shift from their thematic axis as WBN had. Marvel Team Up at issue 98 was pretty much the same as any other Marvel Team Up prior to it. The gradual tone shift in stories sort of snuck up on me.

I took a break from most mainstream comics around this time, delving into more of the independent publishers that were cropping up (Comico, First and Dark Horse being the main ones I was reading at this time.) The one mainstream DC series I managed to follow during this time period was the Giffen/Levitz Legion of Superheroes. I dropped off a bit around the Late 80's (it was probably the continuity mess caused by Crisis on Infinite Earths which caused me to lose interest in the series.) However, when I heard about the premise of the 5 Years Later story line I jumped back in the game. It was just the thing for a lapsed DC fan like me.

Those first few years of the 5YL stories were amazing. I didn't always understand some of the references or know who the characters were, but my experience with the more mature stories in Independent comics had taught me not to worry about such things.

Alas, after a few years of stories where you reveal just how much everything has changed, you sort of run out of stuff to show changed, and end up with generic superhero stories. And the solution to this problem (introducing the SW6 batch of LSH Silver Age duplicates) was not way to solve the problem, imo.

Still, I hung in there with this series, buying all the issues right up until they decided to reboot the Legion with Zero Hour. After the Zero Hour reboot, the Legion has never really regained its prominence in the comics market. At one time, LSH was a huge seller, but countless attempts to reboot it back into relevance have just resulted in skeptical old school fans like myself and apathetic younger fans who are intimidated by the history of the series.

Finally, the most recent series I just couldn't stop buying was the 2000's era JLA. Like most comic fandom, I loved the Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's run on the book:

...but the series quickly lost steam after Morrison left (despite a few good stories by other writers.) I think the problem here was, Morrison was telling huge, fantastic stories that the JLA happened to appear in. Other writers tried to tell big stories with the JLA. They sort of begin the project with a handicap off the bat so to speak. I remember barely being able to get through some of the later storylines (Busiek's Crime Syndicate storyline being a real chore for me iirc.) By the time Byrne and Clairemont had a shot on the series, I was well and done. I remember liking their arc on principle but not on merit.

So, what about you? Have there been any series you just kept buying long after you stopped enjoying them?

- Jim

Monday, January 21, 2013

Paul Kirk Manhunter 100 Page Super Spectacular

Continuing my series of Lost 100 Pager Super Spectaculars from the 70's, I present this edition featuring the Archie Goodwin, Walt Simonson version of Paul Kirk, Manhunter.

The main artwork was created by the incredibly talented Jan "Reno" Maniquis, a name some regular visitors may recognize as Reno is a longstanding commenter on the FBU. In order to get the illustration to fit in my 100 Pager format, I had to crop it in such a way that some of the cool details Reno provided are missing, so below, I present the uncropped version for everyone to enjoy. (Click to enlarge)

 You can check out more of Reno's art at his website:

As we were working on this art, Reno picked the Irv Novick version of Talia's costume to use for this illustration - a costume I only vaguely remembered. I tend to think of Talia as always dressed as she was on the cover of Detective 444 (another 100 Pager). I think Reno's choice was the better selection as purple costume has a more Eastern flair.

As to why I chose Paul Kirk, Manhunter for a 100 pager - I must admit to wanting to read more of his adventures. I've talked about my love for that series before, but it's far better that he remain dead. I don't think the current editorial climate at DC is quite the right place for a comic like the old Archie Goodwin, Walt Simonson Manhunter.

On the flipside, I will say that Dynamite's current The Shadow series has done a good job of capturing some of the old Bronze Age Manhunter feel. While the artwork is not as exciting as Simonson's, the exotic locales and intrigue often remind of what I enjoyed so much in the old Manhunter stories.

Feel free to post a suggestion for another Lost 100 Pager in the comments section!

- Jim

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Can Prove It With Charts!

Last week Diamond released their list of the Top 500 Graphic novels sold in 2012 which resulted in a lot of commentary about what a bad job Marvel is doing in the book market (considering how successful their movies are.)

While several commentators had good analysis on the numbers, I felt the data could have been sliced up a bit better in some cases, so today, I've got charts galore doing just that.

First up - DC Trade sales vs Marvel Trade Sales

As you can see, DC leads the way pretty much 2 to 1 ahead of Marvel in the Graphic Novel market.

Now, is that all Watchmen and Kingdom Come trades flying off the shelves you ask? Well this next chart shows the breakdown between old stuff and new content.

For DC, Reprinted material is a clear winner. Not so much for Marvel. I think that can be attributed to two things. One, DC does a much better job keeping their old stuff available for reprinting. Marvel tends to let books go out of print at the drop of a hat. Also, DC has a broader base of material to reprint (Covering Golden Age to Vertigo)

Which begs the question: How important is Vertigo in the scheme of things? I've always been one of those people who sort of felt Vertigo lost its relevance when Sandman stopped coming out on a regular basis. Looks like I was pretty well wrong.

As it turns out - Vertigo Graphic Novels make up over 12% of all Graphic Novel sales at DC. That's a good bit higher than I would have thought.

Still, it's easy to see that Superhero Graphic Novels are the bread and butter, so which of those are selling the best? The answer might surprise you:

Looking at this chart, I'm struck at the huge disparity between Superman and Batman! Now some people might say that can be due in part to Batman having had several successful movies in the last decade. However, why isn't the same true for The Avengers?

I'm also impressed to see the X-men brand remaining so vital in the Graphic Novel market as it languished in the comic market (until the recent Marvel Now revamp.) What is also interesting is just how close the smaller guys all are. The X-men are the only other group with a two digit percentage point and even they aren't out of the teens.

Finally, in comic shops, the dominant sales strategy is Events. But how does that play out in the trades? Not too good it would appear!

This was another one that sort of surprised me, as I think I would have said Event trades probably sold as well as non-event trades, but that's clearly not the case. Apparently the trade market is much less enamored with events than the Wednesday Comic Shop crowds.

Looking at all this, I can't help but think that 2013 will bring some big shakeup in the Marvel Trades publishing side.

- Jim

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Spinning the Web of Tedium

Editor's Note: Last Week, Dan Slott raised the ire of many long time Spider-man fans by seemingly killing off Peter Parker. Matt Linkous today explains why fans got mad for the wrong reason. - Jim

You know even as much as we love the Bronze and the Golden ages here at FBU we like to think that we're not entirely opposed to what modern comics do so much as expressing some disatisfaction with the overall direction the industry and the genre has moved in over the years. We often point out what we feel are some of the inherent problems with it. I guess you could say we at least TRY to keep an open mind. Not always easy for us we admit, but we try.

Then something like Amazing Spider-Man 700 happens.


So, Spidey fans are currently getting Deathjerked. Again. Here we go round and round with same cheapheat gimmicks and grimdark that is turning this genre into an ongoing exercise in joylessness. Now Spider-Man's nemesis is wearing his body like a cheap suit so he can go around being the asshole version. You gotta love how the “everyman” thing always gets trotted out as the defense for this kind of stuff no matter how outlandish it is. Peter Parker is "us" therefore it makes it complete sense that Norman Osborn had sex with Gwen Stacy or Peter makes a deal with the devil. The everyman experience! In other words, it really seems like the everyman thing is Marvel's coded excuse to crap on the characters head in whatever way they feel like it no matter the long term consequences. So long as there's the short-term sales fluff.

There's also something else, it's a body swap plot! This is something that would be tepid for even a single issue story let alone as the next multi-part event gimmick meant to be drawn out for god knows how long (probably the next movie I would imagine). Also on a very basic level why would anyone reading Spidey's book want to spend a year reading about Doc Ock in Peter's body? Where does this even come from? It's only function is to service the death and return gimmick without having to do a replacement characterlike Azbats or Bucky Cap. How do we take Spidey out for a year without taking him out of a year? Ah hah! But it still boils down to the same thing.

Seriously how many more times do people who enjoy a time-honored hero like Spider-Man have to endure this long, tedious cycle? If every single popular superhero gets the big bloated death/return event it cheapens the very concept of death itself. In the process it makes that characters back story convoluted to a degree that is ridiculous even by the fantastic standards of comics and the dream logic superheroes ideally work on. "Oh, then there was the time he was dead. No the other time. But that was long after the time he became a giant spider and gave birth to himself."

Besides, if the creators working on Spider-Man are that tired of writing Peter Parker then maybe it’s time to change the creative team instead of the protagonist? Or even create a new hero entirely?

Amazing Spider-Man 700 is really the kind of insulting thing that makes a reader feel like  
Well, clearly Marvel doesn't respect or give a damn what they do with Spidey in his book so really why should I?"

..and why should you? When you don't like a storyline, do not buy it. I cannot stress that enough. Except the hard part about that is even when you decide not to buy the book the love for the character remains. I also realize that in the era of advanced ordering it's hard to predict when even something that seems stupid on the surface is going to actually be stupid or might be great. Yet it's so vitally important that you do it.


It's the one and only way you have to influence anything that Marvel or DC does. Or any comics company for that matter. They could care less about your opinion no matter where you comment or blog especially when the numbers are telling them the something else. Don't buy just to keep up or to complete your collection or because you've been doing it every Wednesday of your life and can't conceive of being without it. I love Spider-Man but it is exactly *because* I love Spider-Man I will not spend one single dime of my hard earned money on a book that treats the character like crap. Do I miss reading Spidey comics on a monthly basis, yes. God yes! Of course I do! But I'm not going to let Marvel or DC use my love of the characters as means to abuse my loyality by doing whatever insulting stunt they want. Yes, stories need to create drama and conflict but there is also a very basic trust that both companies have repeatedly violated and continue violate knowing that fans will show up anyway.

This Deathjerk is a prime example of that.

- Matt


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