Funnybook Babylon

January 11, 2008

Rambling and Linkblogging

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamaal Thomas @ 4:24 pm

Here at Funnybook Babylon, we try to avoid linkblogging in favor of middlebrow thinkpieces about the comics industry (or if we’re being honest with ourselves, the superhero genre). We try to educate as well as entertain. But sometimes we break our own rules. Plus, I’m distracted by the presidential campaign and new gadgets, so I haven’t had the chance to finish Countdown…pt. 2 (which is eagerly awaited by the two three people who read the first one!)

One More Paragraph about One More Day

I would probably do something NSFW.

There’s already been too much discussion about OMD and BND, and I’m reluctant to add to it, but this reminded me of the flaw in many of the arguments for and against fixing past character mistakes (specifically the Spider-marriage) with reboots (or adjustments) on the grounds that the character trait or status quo is fundamental to the character(1). Although we tend to view all of the old “relevant social issue” story arcs (that have tended to establish many of these traits) through the haze of nostalgia, Jake’s article reminded me of how amateurish most of them really were. Not only did writers introduce personality traits that were not evident (or even implied) in any previous issue, they didn’t effectively lay the groundwork for the change in their own storyline. What’s funny is that every subsequent writer treated these new traits as if they were fundamental aspects of the character (alcoholism defines Tony Stark, just as for many, some kind of Reagan-era conservatism defines Superman). Now, this isn’t to say that characters don’t have an raison d’être that editors are obligated to defend, but I think that some of these character traits are a little less solid than people think. These characters are inherently fluid, and elements that are considered essential rarely are.

The Internet is the Future!!!!

Because Pedro made me insert another image.
I’m still trying to figure out the significance of the controversy about Boom Studio’s efforts to promote North Wind. On one hand, the expectations of the audience have changed, as has the nature of the industry. If retailers are interested in long-term viability, they have to start embracing aggressive and innovative (for the comics industry) marketing practices. And sometimes that means losing a little bit of money today (with a free issue) for more money tomorrow (if customers want to pick up the trade or buy the second issue). On the other, Boom handled this really poorly, especially for a company competing in a crowded marketplace. I’d imagine that retailers are just looking for reasons to drop publishers. Not to mention the fact that the percentage of the audience that is likely to check out the free preview is the same audience that is probably more likely to purchase the collection on Amazon. And I don’t know if the sell-out of the first issue really solves the dilemma, because the increased interest in the book may come from “the increased awareness brought about by offering the comic online for free”. If this becomes standard industry practice, a promotion like this wouldn’t be a story. I think that a similar dynamic applies to all entertainment industries. When a company (or brand or artist) is small, it’s a lot easier to take this kind of risk. It’s also easy if the brand is strong enough to experiment with price structures and delivery systems. But I don’t know if this model would work for other kinds of publishers, or will be as successful when it becomes more prevalent, and it kind of annoys me when commentators ignore this.

(1) Okay, I’m breaking my one paragraph rule. But when you think about it, the idea that Spider Man just has to be married, or has to be the “Job of Comics” is kind of ridiculous. I don’t even think that the original creators on the book intended the original themes to transform into gospel. Don’t forget, the creators of Superman originally intended for him to reveal his identity to Lois at some point. Forward motion is always better than standing still.

UPDATE: JK Parkin over at the Blog@Newsarama has collected responses to the Boom! controversy from twenty retailers. Definitely worth a read. Three interesting things:

(1) Although a lot of the backlash comes out of self-interest, this makes sense:

“BOOM! is also “promoting” this mainly to existing comic fans on a comic fan site, meaning they really aren’t creating new readers. They may move some customers from a shop that didn’t carry this title to one that does but overall, it doesn’t benefit the industry. Having the writer posting their trailer from a popular non-comic site, like his TV Guide Blog, linking to the preview would have done far more to help.”

(2) This seems a little shortsighted:
“North Wind and all BOOM! books. We won’t carry books that are available online for free; that’s just a price we can’t compete with, and rack space isn’t free.

BOOM! Studios was either naive in doing this or they were trying to drum up articles like this one in response to their actions to promote the book. Either one was duplicitous to their partners in sales, the retailers. Without assurances that they won’t be giving away every issue online, we will discontinue carrying BOOM! on our stands though as always, everything is available via pre-orders or reorders should any customer ask.”

(3) And this makes me think that I may be framing this entire issue incorrectly (from the publisher of AiT Planet Lar):
“Initial orders of our books in the direct market are in the 1,000-3,000 range, depending on project and creative team, and that’s where Continuity fell. About average for an AiT book. The month that the pdf was first offered, it had on the order of 30,000 individual downloads. That tells me that the Internet audience and the dead-tree enthusiasts are basically two different sides of the stadium.”

7 Comments »

  1. More than two people read your last article. I’m just on a self-imposed commenting hiatus because I’ve become bitter over mainstream comic stuff. Like OMD…I read it, I don’t care about Spider-Man, and even *I’m* pissed! It was just a really badly told story that ultimately serves to embarrass the medium on the whole. I’m not saying mature adults shouldn’t read superhero comics, but there’s a perception this stuff is all kids’ stories, and trash like OMD just reinforces that sort of thought.

    Anyway, I think you have a strong point. Mainstream superhero characters shouldn’t be defined by much more than some basic personality principals (if their stories are intended to continue indefinitely).

    And Boom… I don’t understand. It’s a wanna be IP farm. Who cares about their comics?

    Oh, something you guys said on one of your podcasts I disagreed with and it popped up here, too. You guys said most people who shop at comic shops buy their TPBs there. I dunno. My friend and I buy our comic floppies at a local comic shop and our trades off of Amazon. I dunno, maybe it’s just anecdotal evidence, but I think we’re not the only ones. We’re not all ballin like you guys are! lol

    Comment by Kenny — January 11, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  2. Yes, because wannabe IP farms hire Mark Waid as editor in chief

    Comment by David Uzumeri — January 11, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

  3. First of all, I don’t recall making that argument. I just think that Boom Studios could have handled the situation in a way that didn’t alienate retailers.

    Secondly, if one assumed that Boom Studios was an IP farm (which I don’t), it would not want to convey that impression to the audience, so it would make sense to hire someone like Mark Waid as the EIC.

    Comment by Jamaal — January 12, 2008 @ 3:26 am

  4. David & Jamaal,

    Hey, sorry guys, I didn’t mean to put you on the defensive! Anyway, I’m bitter over mainstream comics right now. Jamaal, thank you for seeing my logic, I don’t think any IP farm would want to convey that image, and hiring someone like Mark Waid as an almost puppet EIC would certainly help hide the IP farm aspect. Now, I’m just talking out my ass here, because I only woke up 30 minutes ago and don’t feel like researching this again, but everything I’ve read about Boom Studios makes it sound like they’re operating under the same business guidelines as Platinum. In other words, and this is loose as Hell, creators sign away their IPs and the Boom executives do everything possible to flip them into movies and TV shows. I think they’re even largely hiring Hollywood writers, too.

    Anyway, nothing against Mark Waid. I’m all for him cashing a bigger paycheck. I just don’t think he was hired by a company looking to make the best comic product possible. I think Boom is a company trying to make comics with enough fundamentally correct storytelling and such to make it easier to license their IPs.

    I also think Marvel and DC have turned into nothing more than glorified IP farms, too, so keep in mind, I’m *really* bitter and cynical over standard mainstream comic company business practices.

    Jamaal,

    Back to the point about where comic buyers buy their trades, I withdrew the point I thought, perhaps incorrectly, from this line in your article:

    “Not to mention the fact that the percentage of the audience that is likely to check out the free preview is the same audience that is probably more likely to purchase the collection on Amazon.”

    I assumed from this statement you were alluding to the point raised in one of the podcasts from someone in the Funnybook crew that you also agreed there was a difference in people who buy their comics from comic shops and those who buy from Amazon. I’m sorry if I attributed a line of thought to you that you don’t subscribe to.

    Anyway, I really enjoy this site, despite my hostility towards mainstream comics! lol Have fun guys and be easy!

    Comment by Kenny — January 12, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

  5. I think I sounded far more cantankerous in that comment than I intended to. Sorry about that. I see your point. It’s always hard to figure out what audience preferences really are. In the end, we’re all mostly relying on anecdote. Thanks for the comment.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — January 12, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

  6. Jamaal,

    You have nothing to apologize for! But thanks, it was very classy of you! Anyway, I’m the bitter comic guy, not you, so it should be me apologizing! Thanks for always posting such wonderful content on this blog! I truly love this place!

    Comment by Kenny — January 14, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  7. […] (Originally published on Funnybook Babylon on January 11, 2008. I’ve made some minor revisions and edits for clarity.) […]

    Pingback by Rambling and Linkblogging (FBB Classic Post) — August 2, 2014 @ 1:45 pm

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