Thursday, June 9, 2011

The big DC reset.

As the internet continues to implode over the news that DC comics will be resetting their entire universe, Again. I pretty much am left alone to roll my eyes.

You see, I've tried to get into comics a number of times. I've tried both Marvel and DC. But usually these experiments get ended pretty quickly. When you are dealing with books that have been running for 400 or so issues, occasionally you reach a point where its simply ridiculous to try and catch up. Not to mention how difficult it is because of the constant starting and stopping of books in the 90's. a steady stream of #1's and "Maxi series" polluted the market and none but the hardest of the hardcore is even passing familiar with what happened in most of them. That was one of my big problems with comics.

My other big problem with them was cost.

I remember at one time comics costing 1.25$. That was a pretty big amount for a kid in the 90's. I got 5$ a week allowance. So I could conceivably get 3 comics a week. That's great. Except when the comic companies are constantly running massive crossover events. I tried to get into Batman at one point. I quickly found I couldn't even follow the storyline without purchasing close way more comics a month than my meagre resources would allow. Those are currently in a trashbag in the attic, and have been there since about 1995.

So on principle I have no problems at all with them starting over from a point 0. this will certainly help alleviate the continuity problems. But it dosen't help with the other problems. Namely, the crossover cash grabs and the cost of each individual book.

Today the cost of a comic from Marvel, DC, Image or Dark Horse is pretty standard at about 2.99$. IDW charges more, depending on the popularity of the property they are whoring out, but we will ignore them for now. So thats 2.99$, not a whole lot really, except when you consider thats 3$ for either 1/6th or 1/12th of a storyline, maybe even a smaller sliver if its part of a big cross over event that spans dozens of books over multiple months. The last time DC tried this, with Infinite Crisis, you had to buy something like 10-15 comics a month to really have any idea what was going on. I Imagine Marvel's big "Civil War" series was roughly similar in size.

It's really no wonder the movies featuring these characters are doing so well. People are hungry for this stuff, but a 10$ movie ticket is easier to stomach than 600$ worth of comics in a year's span. Thats not counting all the Trades and Back Issues a serious comic collector has to buy in order to really really know whats going on.

Marvel at least to their credit has attempted to address this problem of the back issue morass. They did a special DVD a few years ago with every issue of Spiderman ever in PDF format for a very reasonable price (National Geographic has a similar set available, 120 years for 50$, it's a product all periodicals should seriously consider) They didn't do as well with it as they hopped I guess since we never got any more. But they still crank out the Essentials books. 20-30 issues in black and white for very very reasonable prices. They also usually reprint the same stuff in hardcover and full colour for the serious collector.

DC tried to get in on this, but failed. They chose to only use the 60's and 70's issues of their comics in their Showcase books. For some characters thats fine, for some like Batman and Superman, thats jumping ahead by nearly 30 years. Who wants to start in the second act of a play?

Strangely while the big comics companies seem to be suffering, Translations of Japanese and Korean comics, known as "Manga" seem to still be doing serious sales. So much so that a number of companies like IDW sometimes print their books in both normal Trade sizes and Manga sizes. But the one big thing that allows the Manga companies to sell these 150-300 page volumes for 11.99 or so is the fact they are in black and white. The same thing that allows the Essentials and Showcase volumes to be so cheap.

So my suggestion to "Fix" the comic industry, not that anyone cares, is 1)Keep the crossovers contained to a single mini-series or better yet just do it across all your books and limit yourself to a single month to tell the story. 2) ditch the colour. 3) stop having your people write 150 page trade paperbacks then splitting them up into 6 issues. Just print the Trade in black and white and be done with it. Self contained is how all your books used to be, and I imagine if you charted the decline in comics.. it began when you stopped telling self contained stories. In other words, sometimes you need a Conan rather than a Wheel of Time.

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