Pipeline: Digital Comics, SOPA & French Comics

Tue, January 3rd, 2012 at 12:58pm PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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Everyone loves a sale!

Inspired mostly from thoughts I've tweeted in the last week or so, we start 2012 with a grab bag of comic-related thoughts:

  • Comixology retweeted a lot of messages they had pouring in from people who were excitedly buying lots of comics during their 99 cent digital comic sale in December. You don't often see someone tweeting about how excited they are to buy a dozen $2.99 or $3.99 digital books at a go, do you?

  • I know we're all sick to death of being over-marketed to, but why don't digital comics have ads in them? I know the general theory with websites is that they're either ad-supported and free or charge an admission price to use. Web users are not used to paying for a site that still throws up ads at them. (Remember, kids, that if you're not paying for a product, then you are the product!) But if it would shave a dollar off the price, why not include advertisements in digital comics, if only in the back of the book?

    Given the technology at work, why can't those ads rotate over the course of time? The ads you see for a given comic are always going to be the ads that were included in the comic at the time you purchased that comic, but why not automate the insertion of ads to allow for new advertisers in the future. Today's hot ad buyer might be in the dead pool next year, so why waste those ads? Bring in a new ad buyer.

    I'm not saying the ads in the digital comic you just purchased will ever change, but that the person buying that same comic a month from now or a year from now might see an entirely different set of ads at their time of purchase. Publishers can sell ad space across a growing array of titles, rather than just that month's. It might be more valuable for an advertiser to spend their money inserting their ad in the back of every X-Men digital comic ever than it would be in advertising across Marvel's entire line for the next month.

    There are whole new business models that we've yet to explore with digital comics. I hope someone starts with them soon, before it's too late.

  • Brigid Alverson hits the nail on the head with her take on the Dark Horse Digital Comics flip-flop. Pay particular attention to her first point, clearly labeled, "It's what readers want."

    There's a meme going around the internet these days about how much better businesses would be if they catered to their customers and tried to please them and get more of them, rather than just trying to please the stock owners at all costs. Right now, the publishers are working a lot harder to please someone other than their ultimate customer, the readers. It's not going to work forever.

    The other reading, of course, is that the Direct Market retailers are publishers' ultimate customers, and doing everything possible to protect them is the right way to go. I hate to be the one to say it, but if that's the case, then this industry is short-sighted and doomed. Yes, the Direct Market is important, but there are many more potential readers beyond that fence that publishers work very hard to ignore, it seems.

  • I wish Marvel wasn't waiting for March to collect Rick Remender's "Uncanny X-Force." I'd buy it today, without a doubt. But by March? I bet something else captures my fancy and I pass it by.

  • It would have been Isaac Asimov's 92nd birthday yesterday. Without a doubt, he's my favorite science fiction author of all time, and the writer I've read the most prose by. His work is straight-forward, scientifically accurate and filled with clever ideas. It's a shame he's so forgotten today. The last references to him in comics that I can remember came in "Fantastic Four" during Dwayne MacDuffie's too-brief run on the title.

    That's just one minor example of the influence Asimov's work has had on pop culture and science fiction to this day. I'm hoping someday that we'll see a revival of interest in his oeuvre again.

    Sadly, it'll likely come because of a successful movie adaptation of his work. That seems to be what keeps Philip K. Dick's work in print.

  • I know it's the reality of modern publishing, but it's sad that people can't create and publish a successful comic anymore without first registering for the trademark, having a pitch ready for Hollywood, pairing up with a successful filmmaker for a better chance of success and, well, doing everything but the business of making good comics. Even when something "starts" as a comic book these days, that's not the ultimate goal. It can't be; there's no money in it, so why waste your time?

  • I couldn't imagine anyone aside from Tony Harris I'd more want to have on my comic than Bryan Hitch. Since we need the Hollywood money to keep the industry afloat, he's the perfect artist to draw a movie on paper to sell to the mass media. Would Samuel Jackson be Nick Fury today without Hitch drawing him into "Ultimates?"

  • I have Blu-ray movies I got for Christmas last year I still haven't watched. But the boxes of unread comics are even more embarrassing.

  • Marvel releases three exciting hardcovers this week. The first is "Spider-Man: Masques," the long-awaited second volume of Todd McFarlane's "Spider-Man" series. This is the one that features the two-parter with Hobgoblin and Ghost Rider, which is the visual highlight of the series.

    Also due out is the hardcover compilation of Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen, et. al.'s "Fear Itself" crossover event, in which hammers fly and the Marvel Universe is changed forever -- or until the follow-up books reversed most of the big things. Tying into that, the second Fraction "Invincible Iron Man" not-an-Omnibus hardcover collection is finally out, too. I started reading the series with the first such book, so this one is long-anticipated.

  • Remember back in San Diego 2010 when Top Cow announced they bought Pitt and planned reprints and new comics? Or am I the only one? ( I reviewed the original "Pitt" series here in 2009.) Dale Keown beautifully illustrates "Artifacts" #13 this week.

  • I didn't participate in the annual "Top 100 Comics" poll of CBR's editorial team this year. (You can see the Top Ten here.) I finally have reached the point where I realized I didn't read enough monthly comics or enough new releases to have a good contribution to make for the poll. I feel like I knew which comics would chart well just from having read all of the CBR Reviews over the last year, but I hadn't read most of those comics. I'm pretty much a trade-waiter now, so I'm perpetually months behind the curve. I still read a lot of comics and enjoy the ones I do, but I'm not the right kind of reader for the poll. I am, however, greatly looking forward to the first collection of the #1 title on the list, Mark Waid's run on "Daredevil," which is due out later this month.

    If CBR does a Top 100 list of collected editions next year, I'm all over that. We had some beauties in that department this year.

  • I don't generally do New Year's Resolutions anymore, either, but here's what I'm thinking about 2012: I want to do more of the same, just with a greater focus and more action. I continue to whittle away at my collection, replacing stapled quantity with more hardcover quality. My picture for my collection today is walls filled with hardcover books, neatly organized. It's not realistic, as I don't have that much wall space to put bookcases in front of, but it's what I want to lean towards. I'll keep selling stuff off on eBay to help finance a smaller volume of the best-reviewed books, plus the ones I have the greatest fondness for, or the ones from creators I choose to follow.

    I'd also like to complete more series. I have some collected edition series with holes in the line, or missing a volume or two at the end. As it turns out, I'm still the stereotypical comic collector who wants a complete collection, but the cover price just went from $3 to $20. UGH.

    If digital comics come down in price or I finally get an iPad this year, then I might return to more of the weekly reader and feel better educated about the poll next year. I'm flexible. I want to read more great comics. I also want to read them in a way that fits my lifestyle/schedule/wallet.

  • One quick charitable mention for the week: John Arcudi is managing a fundraiser to help a Philadelphia program called "Mighty Writers." Basically, it's an organization set up to teach writing skills to kids in the inner city. Walt Simonson did up a Beta Ray Bill sketch for the auction, and it's pretty cool. If you can't afford the after-market price on that IDW "Thor" book, then go straight for some newer original art here and maybe help out a few kids along the way.
THAT SOPA THING

It's embarrassing for the industry that both Marvel and DC's managements are supporting SOPA, a piece of legislation in front of Congress today that would effectively give Hollywood and publishers the right to kill any website they'd like. It's also not surprising, particularly given that the two publishers are just small divisions of larger companies.

Marvel, in particular, is owned by the company that writes the copyright law in this country. You know when copyright law gets changed? Whenever there's a chance that Mickey Mouse might fall into the public domain.

This is a golden opportunity for a more independent publisher to come out and support the internet and the very backbone of what it is we're all using here to chat about comics today. Dark Horse is an unlikely prospect, given how much business it does with movie companies that support SOPA. Ditto IDW. Since most of the comics industry is in bed with Hollywood -- or so desperately wants to be -- the whole situation is likely never to change.

It would be nice to see Image release a statement, but the truth is that they're just a loose conglomeration of smaller publishing houses. It's hard for one publisher to speak on behalf of all the creators in that case, though it could be done.

I guess comics will sit this one out, sadly. That's a shame.

FRENCH COMICS

I spent time during the holiday break perusing some French publishers' websites to look for series with pretty art. We can start with "Lord Faureston" from Delcourt. I like the art, the lettering, and the coloring. If I could read French more fluently, perhaps I'd get into the story. Some of the preview pages look ridiculously chatty, but the art and coloring is so nice that I'll forgive it.

Over at Glenat, here's an interesting use of lettering, from "Immergés" Volume 2.

Delcourt offers up "Garulfo", a series that's lasted six books so far. I'm not sure what it's about at all. It's listed as fantasy, comedy, and horror. It looks like new takes on classic fairy tales, but I don't know. I just like the funny animal art. I love the cover to the first volume. The artist is Bruno Maiorana, who I just realized also draws the "Lord Faureston" book named above. So call me a fan.

From Team "Ythaq" comes "Cixi de Troy," like "Tellos" mixed with Eric Canete and Eduardo Risso's styles. It's published by Soleil.

Speaking of "YThaq," I enjoyed the series, two volumes of which were printed as part of Marvel's abandoned Soleil license. The series carries on in France, though. Or, at least, it finished after a ninth volume, which would be a third book that never made it to the States. Argh! I'd love to see how it all turned out. Back to learning French, I guess!

AND IN CONCLUSION

I've been pulling together some links from the Pipelines of 2011, and hope to do some kind of retrospective next week, along with a review or two. The new year is off to a good start already, and hopefully we can talk about it then.

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