Pipeline

Tue, June 15th, 2010 at 2:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

A SERIES OF RANDOM DIGITAL COMICS THOUGHTS AND LINKS

• The other shoe dropped after last week's column, as Joe Quesada confirmed my worst fears that the upcoming "Invincible Iron Man Annual" was going to be more expensive to buy digitally than in print. The nice politically-correct twist on this, though, is that the print copy is promotionally priced -- it should really be $5.99, but they're holding to $4.99 to keep retailers happy. And retailers are loving it!

If Marvel is happy with retailer reaction to their digital comics, that is the only sign they need that they're doing it wrong.

Marvel does a nice job in covering their butts by providing themselves with a nice talking point to appease brick-and-mortar retailers, but the problem comes in the lost readers. We, as current comic book readers, are the tastemakers. Our excitement will transfer out to our friends and acquaintances, who might then be convinced to give a digital comic a try from our enthusiasm and our recommendation. But when you demoralize your base this badly, there's no excitement anymore, and all you'll get are a few cheap press releases.

But, hey, your retailer partners are pleased with you. That's all that counts, right? (Until they have nobody left to sell comics to...)

This "experiment" is pointless. I don't think I'll be buying the comic either digitally or in print this year. Shame, too, because I was interested in the story. But I can't support this test with my dollars. I'll be reading it if it shows up in the inevitable second "Invincible Iron Man" omnibus-style collection.

• What's the biggest mistake Marvel has made this year? Was it selling a digital comic that's more expensive than its print version? Or publishing a new story by Ron Zimmerman?

• "What’s worse, some publishers who have released digital comics seem reluctant to part with their best stuff, or their most recent releases." That's Jason Snell, MacWorld Editor-in-Chief, May 20, 2010.

• "Happy that they're doing day and date. Sad that it's more expensive than print. So, one step forward, the other foot staying still." Jason Snell's tweet to me in response to this pricing news last week. You'd think Marvel would want to court the tech press a little harder on this.

• To be more positive: What's the best thing Marvel has done this year? Was it killing off The Sentry? Or killing off The Sentry?

• Tom Brevoort tweeted this week, "I've come here to chew bubble gum and sell comics. And I'm all out of newsstand retail outlets." Maybe it's time for a more aggressive pitch to digital consumers, then?

• One feature I'll be adding to the Pipeline Podcast when I get back to it regularly is "Comics I'd Buy Digitally This Week for $1.99." As previously discussed in this column, I don't get to the comics shops on Wednesdays anymore. But there are lots of comics I wish I could get to the store for. I'd enthusiastically read them as soon as they were available to me. But the publishers don't want my money, and don't make those books digitally available.

So, to prove to comic publishers that I'm serious about this and actively thinking about it, I'd like to do a segment in each podcast to discuss the 22 page stories I'd pay money to download today, rather than having to wait six months or a year for a collected edition -- or, in many cases, in addition to paying for a collected edition in a year.

In the first couple of weeks I looked at this, I figure there were three books each week that I'd have paid for right away. That's $12 a week lost to the comics industry right now just from me. I know I'm not alone.

• I am convinced that "The Rise of Arsenal" #3 would be the best-selling digital comic of all time, after all the press it's gotten digitally in the last couple of weeks. Sadly, DC doesn't want to take your money yet, either.

OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS

• So, let me get this straight: Neil Gaiman once sued Todd McFarlane for not paying him for new characters he created for McFarlane. Erik Larsen's defense of McFarlane is that Gaiman didn't create anything new for McFarlane; They were just obvious and minimal variations on existing McFarlane-created characters. Now Gaiman is suing McFarlane for making obvious and minimal variations on characters Gaiman created which were once described as obvious and minimal variations on characters McFarlane created.

Comics make my head spin sometimes.

• Thought that "Wednesday Comics" hardcover was big? Check out the upcoming "Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer: Artist's Edition." Yikes!

• Coming this September: The two original "Perhapanauts" mini-series from Dark Horse see a new printing from Image Comics, for just $18 at 240 pages. Here's my review of "Perhapanauts" #1 from November, 2005.

• Have you seen the list of TV shows doing presentations in San Diego this summer? I'm thinking of referring to the event now as "San Diego Ex-Comic-Con." But since it's "Comic-Con International: San Diego," even my new name is years out of date. Besides, this is all just jealousy of those of you lucky enough to be going this year. I'll be home, saving my precious few vacation days for time with the family.

• The link in the preceding paragraph about a comic convention in San Diego comes from The Hollywood Reporter, not a comics publication. Welcome to the modern world of making comics profitable.

• Still, I can tell the convention is just around the corner, because I'm getting the annual spike of people who want to send me review copies of their forthcoming small press (I'm being generous there, in many cases) comics, most of which are so hideous looking that "free" is overpriced.

• One such email came from a publisher whose website categorizes its comics as "Properties." That's not the message you want to convey to comics readers. Save it for Hollywood, folks.

• Dark Horse reprinted "Blade of the Immortal, Volume 3" for the eighth time this month. "Buffy Season 8, Volume 2" is up to its fourth printing. And "Serenity, Volume 1" hit its seventh reprinting. Impressive numbers, all. Congrats to Dark Horse.

Dave Sim discusses "Cerebus" #300. Check out that puppet at the 1:44 mark. Avert your eyes from the Comic Sans font used in the captions.

• Speaking of which, here's an eight minute documentary on the horror that is Comic Sans.

Watch Erik Larsen draw for a fan. On the off chance you've never seen him holding a pen, you're in for a freakish treat.

• Or how about video of Walter Simonson inking a Cyclops sketch?

• I'd love to see Marvel's Soleil lineup include "Legendes de Troy: L'Expedition D'Alunys." Check out those preview pages. Beautiful stuff. The story might be utter crap for all I know, but I love looking at those pages... (Click on the link that says "Decouvrez les 6 premieres planches de cet album." My loose translation: Discover the first six pages of this album.)

• My apologies to my French-speaking readers who no doubt have a headache from my lack of accents in the previous paragraph. As an American, I lack the patience to find those keys on my keyboard.

• Thanks to Christopher Butcher for pointing out Enrico Casarosa's "The Venice Chronicles." Check out a preview of the book here. It's a travelogue diary of Casarosa's time spent in Italy. It's amazing work from the PIXAR artist, often loose and colorful, sometimes simply gestural. As someone who loves to peruse photographers' websites to see what they come back with from trips overseas, I particularly love seeing Casarosa's watercolors and short comics about his time spent in Italy. It's a similar pursuit through a different medium. The book is 144 color pages in hardcover for just $20. It's on my short list of books to buy next.

Also recommended for the photography-minded is David duChemin's e-book, "Venice, a Monograph," which shows off his pictures from a recent trip to the same city. Same location, vastly different results. I think the two might work well together, though.

Keeping it short this week while I recharge the reading batteries. There are enough links above, though, to keep you busy for a little bit, though, right?

I'm over on Twitter for most immediate discussions. Let dodge the Fail Whale together!

Catch my photography at AugieShoots.com and AugieShoots.tumblr.com.

E-mail me! Or come chat at the Pipeline Message Board, and catch up on nearly 13 years of columns in the Pipeline Archives.

TAGS:  pipeline, marvel comics, invincible iron man, digital comics, ipad

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