My Week in Comics: June 20–26, 2010

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Learning on the job how to do a weekly thing! Try to be short, try to be pithy! Working on it (though one of next week’s items will be long). Try to be interesting . . . that one might take a bit longer.

This week: Why I’m getting back into single comics . . . DC’s digital announcement . . . Jack Kirby talks about his work . . . What I read, with notes on some.

Next week: Why Garth Ennis’s Punisher is not a force of nature, and prose features in comics.


SINGLES: APPARENTLY I LIKE THEM AGAIN

UNUSUALLY LARGE WEEK FOR ME AT THE COMICS SHOP; bought seven single issues, including two not on my pull list. I’ve traditionally preferred trades for all the usual reasons: complete story, no ads, bookshelf-friendly. But it’s not the only format out there, and lately it’s seemed silly to do so much of my comics reading in only one format regardless of content.

I’ve always been unable to wait for collected editions of a few people’s work, especially Grant Morrison (who is represented twice—sort of three times if we believe the marketing—in the “Read” section below), but a few years ago I’d have read Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four in trade. But lately I’ve rediscovered some of the joy of serialization (though down the line I likely will trade the singles for the trade). And keeping up with it, anticipating what will happen next, discussing it monthly with people at work, has been a lot of fun. The water cooler aspect is probably a big part of it. Before going into comics as a field, few of my friends were comics people.

I’ve also come to realize over time that some things don’t really need to be on my bookshelf. It’s easy to lose sight of that fact when virtually everything gets collected these days, but most of this stuff is disposable entertainment, which isn’t such a bad thing. It’s equally weird to me how virtually all television shows seem to make it to DVD now.

Despite the $1 savings I’d have enjoyed getting the Marvel Divas paperback rather than the issues, I think I’m content to have read it and put it away; no need for a permanent edition. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it. I’m a Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa fan and really liked Tonci Zonjic’s art, which was nothing like the covers the series had. Several coworkers found it amusing that I was the only person they knew buying the series, but I did end up lending it to a few of them, who generally agreed that it was a fun trifle, with a pretty decent action-y ending.

So, looks like I’m back in the singles habit, after a bit of a lapse. Just in time for digital to kill the format.

UNORGANIZED THOUGHTS ON DC’S DIGITAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

HOW ABOUT THAT for a segue? Bam!

Digital comics are a weird thing for me. I believe the digital format is essential for comics if we hope they’ll sell beyond the current market, and that there’s no denying this is how many people want to read today. On the other hand, I’m not one of those people, so I find myself in the position of being a passionate proponent of something I myself don’t particularly want. It feels a bit weird, but there’s no denying the future.

DC’s entrance into the digital comics market seems to have been pretty successful in terms of both its particulars and its unveiling. It’s true that they didn’t make much noise up until they were ready to announce, but it’s good to see that any potential concern that DC was sitting it out until someone else established a model were unfounded. Other companies announced first, but between the amount of material that was immediately available and details like the retailer incentive program, it’s clear that this announcement has been in the works for quite a while.

I was very impressed that DC was ready to do simultaneous release of a series on day one, and after hearing some of the rationale for choosing Justice League: Generation Lost, I think beginning with a biweekly series makes a lot of sense. After all, most of the podcast I subscribe to update once a week or more (I think the only one I do that’s monthly is the New Yorker Fiction Podcast). Makes me think that Marvel’s three-times-a-month Amazing Spider-Man might also be a good choice, moreso than an Iron Man comic debuting months after the movie.

The price being the same online as in stores might make sense for the convenience of instant gratification. However, with printing costs removed (though these aren’t as significant a part of the budget of monthly comics as some commentators seem to think) and distribution costs diminished, I’d like to see DC and Marvel eventually embrace the Internet model of volume over price and go lower. Regarding the $2.99 price point, does anyone actually pay that in stores? Every comics shop I’ve ever been a regular at has had subscription boxes offering between 10% and 20% discounts, so I’d love to eventually see a digital subscription option with a comparable discount.

The other weird thing that came out of this was Marvel’s reaction to DC’s royalties announcement. We now know that Marvel has a system too, or is in the process of implementing one, but having never mentioned it before, it was strange how they took issue with DC’s claims to be the first to announce a royalty plan. Whether Marvel already had one or not, either way DC did in fact announce a plan first. Marvel can hardly blame DC for making hay of being the first to announce such a plan when Marvel was so tight-lipped about their own.

I don’t own an iPad and I have no plans to get one (though the same was true of the iPod up until I suddenly had to have one and the iPod touch until one came with my computer), but this is something I’ll continue to be a fascinated spectator to, even if it won’t immediately impact how I read.So that’s round one done, now for everyone to improve on each other.

JACK KIRBY IN HIS STUDIO (1993) @ YOUTUBE

I DON’T THINK I’ve ever seen video of Kirby before. Less than a minute, but there he is, that little, gruff guy you hear about; equal bits artist and tough guy.

First he talks about how his art connects with regular people, which is an intriguing thing for him to emphasize. He’s right: it’s straightforward and powerful, and easy to understand. But at the same time the content of his work is so far from the common man, getting bigger and more cosmic with every story as long as he lived. An interesting little paradox I hadn’t thought about that before.

I can’t help but wonder what question he’s answering in the second half. Very diplomatic talk about the popularity of science fiction in movies and the more widespread acceptance of the kind of themes found in Kirby’s work. Felt very restrained coming from a guy who felt so ripped off all his career, and whose New Gods is a huge uncredited inspiration for the biggest SF franchise of them all, Star Wars.

Check it out.

READ THIS WEEK:

  • Authority: Lost Year #8 by (Grant Morrison), Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, David Williams & Kelsey Shannon
    Still has Morrison’s story credit. Are they really still going from his outline, and is this really all part of it? Even the “bwahaha” version of the Authority they’ve brought DeMatteis in to co-write? I wonder if they’re just taking “the Authority faces different versions of themselves” and figuring that’s enough to put his name on the cover.

  • Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne #3 by Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette & Michel Lacombe
    While this issue was as good as the series has been, continuing the fun and “oh shit” moments of the last two, I really can’t wait for Jonah Hex vs. Batman next issue. My love of Hex can’t be damaged by the movie, as I have no intention of watching it (see last week’s “why does everything have to be a movie?” piece).

  • The Black Cat #1 by Jen Van Meter, Javier Pulido & Matt Hollingsworth
    After the whole Marvel Divas thing, the folks I hit the shop with on Wednesdays pretty much knew I’d be getting this.

  • Detective Comics #866 by Denis O’Neil, Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
  • Fantastic Four #580 by Jonathan Hickman, Neil Edwards, Andrew Currie & Paul Mounts
  • Hazel is White by Hazel Newlevant
  • Joe the Barbarian #6 by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy
  • Justice League: Generation Lost #4 by Judd Winick, Keith Giffen, Joe Bennet & Jack Jadson
    Still reading this one on paper.

  • Rapture by Taki Soma & Michael Avon Oeming
    Missed the signing Saturday at Things From Another World. Oops.
  • Starman Omnibus vols. 2 & 3 by James Robinson, Tony Harris et al.

Images of Fantastic Four and Marvel Divas © Marvel Characters, Inc. Images of Superman and The Authority © DC Comics.

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