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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *