Cliché Comics: Or let’s play Genre ball, you already know the rules

When I reviewed the Shadow Annual a few days ago, I talked a little bit about the use of cliché in the story, and how lazy it felt. So, I’m going to expand a little bit on my thoughts on how a stereotypical story doesn’t necessarily mean a bad comic. So, in that vein, I’m going to compare the first volume (Coward) of Criminal, the Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips collaboration with the Shadow Annual by Tom Sniegoski/Dennis Calero. Obviously, spoilers for both.

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Real Talk: .1 Vs Nu52

Luke: This week on the Nerdcenaries Round Table: Point 1 Issues From Marvel Vs The New 52 From DC. Joining us we have Nerdcenaries contributing artist Joe Hunter, contributing writer Jon Hex and chief officer Luke Herr.

Jon: Hi, guys.

Luke: Now Jon, I believe last week you mentioned that you get comics somewhat frequently, is that correct?

Jon: Every week.

Luke: And Joe – when do you get comics?

Joe: About twice a month, whenever I’ve got the money.

Luke: I haven’t been sure about the .1s myself. They’ve been a mixed bag and a strain on my money. Thoughts on them.

Joe: Haven’t bothered.

Jon: Most of them seem fairly superfluous. Like why is a book on its sixth issue have a .1.

Joe: Exactly

Luke: It’s supposed to be “Hey you can jump in at this point to a new story but you don’t need to buy this issue if you already read the comic.” Except it didn’t work like that for most of the comics.

Jon: I understand trying to bring people up to speed, but they could’ve inserted a recap at the book.

Luke: And then with Uncanny X-force they just did a one shot with the Ravagers as the bad guys. Never made it important or anything.

Joe: No fucks to be given.

Jon: I think it was meant to be avoided by regular readers. I plowed through, but maybe it was meant that way.

Luke: That said though – the Hulk issue started a storyline that was incredibly important with Rulk getting the nanovirus thingy.

Jon: Some writers make it work.

Luke: I think too many writers didn’t use it the right way. The only one that did in my opinion was Fraction’s Iron Man which got me crying.

Jon: It’s like tie-in issues.

Luke: Fraction did Tony Stark at an AA meeting telling his life’s story.

Luke: Is Matt Fraction Iron Man?

Joe: Is he?

Jon: I seemed like Fraction half talking about himself. An alcoholic.

Joe: Huh.

Luke: Huh.

Luke: #MattFaction

Jon: Looks like you guys don’t read Casanova.

Joe: I haven’t no…

Luke: I only got the first volume and I need to reread that.

Jon: It was an article he wrote at the end of one of the issues. It was a great issue, though.

Joe: Didn’t know that. Learning is awesome!! And holy shit I feel bad now.

Jon: Why?

Joe: I’m dumb. Moving on.

Luke: Now on the other end of the spectrum we have the New 52.

Jon: The .1s that took place in between storylines were cool, like X-Factor’s. The new 52 would have been a lot better if the reboot wasn’t half-assed. For me, at least.

Joe: I just hate the redesigns. All that goddamn piping…

Luke: The 52 was rushed and that shows and it hurts the brand.

Jon: Anyone else notice no one draws Superman’s suit the same as anyone else?

Luke: Not really

Joe: Yep.

Luke: It makes sense though.

Jon: If the books were presented as a completely new thing, that would be one thing.

Joe: but a bunch of them just picked up from where they were the month previous

Luke: If it wasn’t a full generation reboot it would be one thing.

Jon: But they’re trading off old stories, then saying some didn’t happen and others not the way it was presented.

Luke: Yeah. I think if they gave the teams a year in advance it would be better than it is.
Joe: And basically no one has any idea what anyone else is doing, which is wrecking the idea of this being a “universe”.

Jon: They didn’t want to lose the readers of the highest selling books. Man, Kyle Rayner, who’s running a hippie space commune, shows up In Voodoo, like he was the closest GL to Earth.

Luke: Why does Earth have three Green Lanterns when every other planet has one? That always bugs me – spaceism.

Joe: uh-huh

Luke: But I agree – Green Lantern had no changes to the main stuff.

Joe: And the whole reboot/renumbering/whatever isn’t completely terrible, just wildly inconsistent.

Luke: Yeah and some creative teams make no sense.

Jon: They just stopped Batman Inc. dead but kept the storyline.

Luke: And then said stuff that made no sense. Like if there are no events how did Batman die which lead to the creation of Batman INC? If they just went and said we are starting fresh with the characters all 20 years at the start of their careers I’d like that.

Joe: And can someone please explain to me what the hell is going on with the Robins please?

Jon: Every Robin had like a year.

Joe: Oh. Lame.

Jon: And Dick Grayson was recruited at 16.

Luke: Years in comic time make no sense.

Joe: Nothing in comics makes sense any more.

Jon: Announcing them doesn’t.

Luke: I think what would be wonderful is if they limited titles to 10 series, got the writers and creators together and plotted ideas. And sort of plan a time cycle like a One Year Later deal. I never read OYL though.

Jon: They need volume to be profitable.

Luke: You can sell one of each title though if there are less titles to more people. It’s like the In-N-Out idea – limit the menu so people buy stuff easier and then push the digital back catalogue more.

Jon: I think DC is way too big to limit themselves to 10.

Joe: Right.

Jon: That’s like massive firing time.

Luke: 10 main titles and them a bunch of limited series?

Jon: Most people ignore limited series until a trade comes out.

Joe: How about actually planning things out and making sure everyone’s on the same page so things aren’t terrible?

Jon: Crisis On Infinite Earths was the same way.

Luke: How about pushing digital more by dropping the prices while offering more content in print books?

Jon: It was a massive change to the universe and they let the creators choose whether they wanted to participate. You’re really pushing digital.

Joe: Someone getting an e-reader for christmas?

Jon: If I had a tablet, maybe I would buy some digital books. But I love two page spreads to depend on digital.

Joe: Mmmm. Spreads.

Luke: I like the idea of digital but I also think pushing cheaper digital comics would cut down on piracy and would get more non-readers to read. Also I like sticking to print books for most of the comics I read.

Jon: I’m totally for making past issues cheaper, but new stuff should be the same or only slightly cheaper.

Luke: Or offer print only content. Like back up features that won’t show up online except in a collected edition.

Jon: Brubaker does that with Criminal trades.

Luke: It would give print comics a benefit to fend off the cheaper price of digital. Now if a company were to relaunch I believe the consensus was we wanted full collaboration between creators, time to work on it and plan and anything else?

Jon: Planning should be for everything.

Luke: Next Week – Archie Betty/Veronica/Granny Goodness – Marry Boff Kill. Thank you gentlemen.

Real Talk: The Comic Release Format

This week Nerdcenaries sat down in Google Hangout, turned on the mustaches and talked about the state of comics this week. This is Real Talk.

Luke: I am sitting down with Jon Hex and Jordan Neves of Nerdcenaries for the first ever Real Talk where we talk about comic issues of the day.

Jordan: See, I’m not exactly an expert here. I hardly buy monthly books as it is; I stick to a trade here and there and monthly books as they pique my interest. But I have opinions! who doesn’t have opinions on things that barely affect them, right?

Jon: Okay. Well, I’m like the opposite of Jordan since I buy every week.

Luke: Now Jordan, if you do buy trades would you prefer more trades were released in trade only format as opposed to just monthly issues? Jon feel free to respond as well. I mean monthly comics can be a limiting format.

Jon: I mainly buy trades when I come late to a series. I had to buy the first 2 trades of Chew and The Sixth Gun when I decided to read them. I am kind of used to monthly reading and would kind of miss not having something to read on a regular basis.

Jordan: See, I’m more a fan of creators than stories. I haven’t really kept up with what events transpire in the DC or Marvel universe so long as there’s solid art and writing behind what’s happening.

Jon: As much as I loved Scott Pilgrim, I couldn’t wait that long between every series.

Luke: But do you buy trades of what you bought as monthlies?

Jon: Nope.

Luke: But with Scott Pilgrim, wouldn’t it be limited in storytelling capacity by being a monthly?

Jon: I like it as is. I just couldn’t see every comic as a once a year thing. I like it both ways I guess.

Jordan: I’m not opposed to monthlies on principle. Doling out story bit by bit a little at a time is as legitimate as getting all of it between long breaks. It’s not a routine I’m a part of but I don’t think it should be redone from the ground up. At the same time, you’ve gotta fit a satisfying story in 22 pages especially if you’re charging 3 bucks. Even if it’s not a whole story, it should be a satisfying part of a story, at least, you know?

Luke: I’d argue though that not enough stories are satisfying. Some of these mini arcs would waste issues in my opinion.

Jon: That’s anything though.

Luke: But do they make filler-ish stuff naturally or is it due to the schedule?

Jon: They don’t really do filler anymore.

Jordan: Filler is all basically down to the changing mode of pop comics storytelling in the past ten years.

Luke: Unless they stop Superman from saving cats.

Jon: That Superman walking tour was an exception since it had like three fillers in one arc.

Luke: But a lot of stories are overly decompressed in my opinion. Couldn’t more compression cause better issues?

Jon: Not necessarily.

Jordan: I think what guys like Stan and Jack did back when stories were at their densest is admirable but it would be a total style shift for so many modern writers/artists to emulate. Decompression is just what happens after the decades of influence from Movies and Manga and eurocomics.

Jon: I think the acceptance of trades makes it, I don’t know, more pleasing to editors to get arcs. But even if you get one issue self contained stories, it’s not a guarantee that story will be good.

Luke: Let me change things then – Thor the Mighty Avenger – do you think it would have lasted longer if it were released as a series of trades?

Jon: No. It died because it was stamped All-Ages and under promoted.

Jordan: I loved the series and it was remarkable but it was suffering from abysmal advertising and was fumbled as an inbetweener as it was.

Luke: But isn’t it easier to promote singular books instead of a new monthly? Do it as one “BAM” story in a book, advertise one thing.

Jon: I think a singular book would be overlooked more than a series, which has months to build an audience. Then again the level of promotion for Superman:Earth One kind of makes me wrong.

Jordan: To be honest, Marvel mishandled the marketing of the book so much I don’t think it really would have mattered either way, really.

Luke: Are you guys familiar with the magazine Shonen Jump?

Jon: Yeah.

Jordan: Yes. I’ve always seen it available at grocery stores.

Luke: It’s a collection of a variety of manga series. Disregard the fact that the comics are simply translated and reprinted – would you buy a giant monthly book with 200 pages of new comics in black and white on cheaper paper for let’s say $8?

Jordan: I think they would have to be in a non-superhero genre.

Jon: Depends on the books. And I really like color. The Fourth World would be 45% weaker without color.

Jordan: Color is such an integral part of superhero comics and western comics as we know them, really.

Luke: Well, we could have color for trade formats then that come out after.

Jon: Which is kind of bringing it back to what we have now.

Jordan: Maybe we should look at the publication of Bone over the last couple of decades. It was solidly successful as a non-color book and it’s still remarkably relevant with young readers.
Sent at 2:04 AM on Tuesday

Luke: As well as The Walking Dead, TMNT and Sin City.

Jon: There is a market for graphic novel series, but I don’t think it should take the place of monthly comics.

Jordan: Yeah. I think a Shonen Jump book that’s as widely available as it is with varied genre stories could be pretty successful, but that might be wishful thinking. It could hardly replace the comics industry as we know it.

Luke: Oh I’m not saying it would but to produce a larger production with a large variety of content – I think it would be huge.

Jon: I think Marvel and DC could try to diverse the types of books they sell. Not everything has to be about superheros or some weird Vertigo thing.

Jordan: My biggest gripe with the comics market as it stands is that it’s available mainly at comic shops.

Luke: I’ll agree with that Jordan – I think that is what keeps part of the comics are for kids mentality.

Jordan: I don’t think the “comics are for kids” mentality has existed for years.

Jon: But where would you try to sell them? They’re already in bookstores.

Luke: They’re hidden in most bookstores or mistreated.

Jordan: Floppy stands are great to have in grocery/department stores.

Luke: If anything stick them in supermarkets where you put the trading cards at the end – Pick up a $3 splurge.

Jon: Starbucks.

Luke: Yeah, Starbucks has the Free Marvel Digital thing.

Jon: The huh now?

Luke: At Starbucks on their internet you have free access to the Marvel Digital Comics Library. Our enemies at LBFA did a comic about it.

Jordan: Digital is a whole other bag. I think it’s a pretty big deal that all the companies should be throwing all their dice into, but I’m probably a little wrong in thinking that.

Luke: No, I mean look at Warren Ellis who has enough of a following to print trades of his webcomic. As well as Scott Kurtz living off of PVP better than most comic artists. And even Chris Hastings of Doctor McNinja who is now publishing with Dark Horse and who did a miniseries with Deadpool.

Jon: But they built that following by putting out regular comics.

Luke: Only Ellis did. Kurtz and Hasting go solely digital. Or well, Kurtz had the PVP comic book but that was a fiasco.

Jordan: Webcomics are such an individually fueled effort, and yet they’ve got it tackled. I think more people read PVP in a given month than buy the average comic published by either of the big 2.

Luke: Oh easily. I know Penny Arcade has millions of readers. And even newer things like Hark! A Vagrant or MS Paint Adventures.

Jordan: It’s a hierarchy, I think. There are less people that read comics than there are people who read webcomics than there are people who claim to be fans of comics than people who claim to be fans of superheroes. Though there is a ton of overlap.

Jon: If comics were free, they’d all be bestsellers.

Luke: I’d not say that. I’d say there are more people who are fans of superhero comics and characters than there are people who actually read comics. Thanks to shows like the Justice League or Avengers or X-men Evolution.

Jon: I didn’t have as many superhero cartoons growing up. They were all over by the time I was born or started up when I was 12.

Jordan: Yeah, that’s kind of what I mean, really. More kids know about superheroes watching any of those shows than reading any of the comics. Justice League Unlimited alone is probably responsible for hundreds more fans of comics than anything DC published in the past 10 years. And I can’t think of anyone in my generation who doesn’t know at least a little about the X-men after watching the cartoon as a kid.

Luke: More so than Flashpoint?

Jordan: A little, yeah.

Luke: So then why not make a free property you publish online, use ad revenue and like a small library subscription fee and then sell books as well?

Jon: Wasn’t that what Zuba or whatever was for?

Luke: Zuba had no real rights to the DC Properties and limited support

Jordan: To be honest I think maybe this is something we should be asking the people up top. It’s pretty likely they’ve thought of all of this and had to give it all up. With movies and shows and stuff it seems pretty clear to me now that Superhero Comics are not the way superheroes are known. They’ve made the migration to moving pictures, possibly permanently. You guys are thinking of Zuda, by the way.

Luke: I think that the people at the top of Warner Brothers and Disney don’t really care about the comics as much as they care about the properties.

Jon: I really believe that comics have to keep the interest up when the series end and the movies don’t quite pull it off.

Luke: That’s why when a movie is released you return the status quo. To try and get the people who might buy a comic.

Jordan: And that’s kind of the thing. The movies are what’s known. They’re now what really matters. I don’t think superhero comics matter anymore. At least, in the large cultural sense.

Luke: Well, until the copyrights run out and then Whooooo Boy.

Jon: They never will. They’re owned by corporations now.

At this point the discussion turned into a debate about copyright law but obviously this is not an easy topic to talk with and the state of the comics industry is not something that we can solve easily.