Comic Wire

Thu, March 29th, 2001 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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OSTRANDER ON THE STATE OF THE COMIC BOOK NATION

[John Ostrander]
John Ostrander
Life may be a box of chocolates, but comic books are apparently donuts. That's the analogy John Ostrander uses, anyway, to explain the woes of the comic industry.

"MY take on the industry today?" Ostrander told visitors to DC Comics' "Martian Manhunter" message board on Tuesday. "It's in trouble but has been for a while. Reasons for this? Many and varied but one of the prime reasons is the direct sale market. I love the retailers, I really do, but it makes comics a DESTINATION shop. Sort of like Dunkin Donuts. You have to be GOING there already. You have to want what is there before you go. In other words, we don't build an audience. No impulse buys. No place to see a comic and think, 'Hmm. That could be interesting.' Too many shops are unfriendly to women (who READ more than men, for crying out loud, at least according to info I saw a while back) AND we're not attracting NEW readers, especially YOUNGER readers. We keep trying to sell more comics to an ever shrinking market. Also, comics are being marketed, not to the readers, but to the distributor and the retailers. The publishers HOPE for a good sell-through, of course, but the ORDERS are based on what the retailers and the distributor THINK will sell. Less emphasis on story and more on stunt, to my mind.

"What's all this mean to the future? Will comics DIE? Why not? Other forms of media have or have changed radically. Nothing written in stone that comics will have to continue.

"How hard is it to break in these days? Really tough. Hard to get work, hard to keep it alive. How many new titles last beyond 24-36 issues these days?

"Could Time/AOL/Warner/Doodah stop printing comics? Sure. They could say -- 'Look at all this inventory. Why go through the expense of publishing new stuff when we can just reprint the old stuff and maybe do about as well?'

"[On the other hand], for a LONG time comics has generated so little money for a conglomerate that they tend not to get noticed. So long as they aren't actually LOSING money as a division, they may do okay.

"What's the future? It's right here. One way or another, the future HAS to involve the Internet ... There HAS to be a way of reaching the casual reader here and getting him or her interested. HOW? I don't know yet. Somebody will figure it out.

"Comics aren't dead but they aren't invulnerable either."

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CORBEN, AZZARELLO TEAM ON HULK PROJECT

Fans of the "Hard Time" story in DC/Vertigo's "Hellblazer" that united "100 Bullets" writer Brian Azzarello and horror comics luminary Richard Corben take note: The man who originally brought them together is doing it again.

Of course, editor Axel Alonso no longer works at DC. Instead, he's now an editor at Marvel, and the next Azzarello/Corben production will be a superhero comic.

A tale of the Hulk, the four part "Banner" will be the first under Marvel's new "Startling Stories" line, which tell stories not linked to current continuity, much like Marvel's "Bizarre Adventures" anthology or DC's "Legends" comics, Tuesday's Your Man @ Marvel report announced.

"Startling Stories: Banner" #1 is scheduled to go on sale July 4.

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JUST IMAGINE ... BYRNE AND STAN LEE REDO ROBIN

More evidence of forward motion on Stan Lee's DC Comics limited series, "Just Imagine ..." came this week by way of John Byrne.

Byrne, one of the artists slated to work with Lee in his project to reinvent DC properties, told visitors to the John Byrne Fan Site message board on Tuesday that he'd just received Lee's script for his issue.

Originally slated to work on Lee's reinvention of DC's venerable Legion of Super-Heroes, "Stan has decided he doesn't want to do anything with groups, so I am no longer doing Legion. I am now doing -- or supposed to do, assuming my head doesn't explode when I read the plot -- Robin."

The "Just Imagine ..." series is scheduled to kick off later this year.

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