Pipeline: Comics Ennui, Price Points and Liefeld's New Mutants

Tue, December 4th, 2012 at 2:58pm PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

THE COMICS LULL

In my appearance on CBR TV, I mentioned the peaks and valleys of comics reading that I've had over the years. It's true; there are times when I'm not in the mood to read another comic, or don't feel that enthused to review something I just read, or just want to be doing anything else that particular day. It happens. I'm human. That doesn't mean I'm bored with comics. I've never been that. Usually, when you think you might be bored, it only means you're viewpoint is changing in some way, and new habits have yet to form that take that into account. Once they do, you're back up and running.

But writing Pipeline every week means I don't get the luxury of "checking out" for a couple of months while I figure out what's going on. I've learned a few different ways of getting through those low points and getting back to the fun and joy of comics. They're often contradictory, but one of them always works.

  • Stop reading comics (for a little while). Sometimes, you're just overloaded. Take a break. Go read a novel. Watch a few movies, instead. Catch up on that stack of Blu-rays you got for Christmas last year and still haven't opened, let alone watched. Reset yourself. You'll find that you miss comics soon enough and will come running back.

  • Read something old and familiar. Rekindle an old love. You have all of those longboxes filled with comics. Why? Use them to your advantage. Stop being caught up in the weekly grind. Go back to something you know and love. Pull out that first run of comics you bought back in the day. Reach over to the bookshelf and give "Y the Last Man" another read. Or "Transmetropolitan." Or your favorite artistic era of Chris Claremont's "X-Men." You know them, you like them, you enjoy them. Go back and remind yourself why. I bet you find something new there. I always have when I've gone back.

  • Try something completely new. Your "lull" might be a sign that you're growing bored with the same thing. You need something new. If you're into Marvel, try DC. If you're into superheroes, try an Image book. If you're usually reading licensed comics, try something creator-owned. If you've never read something from Europe or Japan, give it a shot. You never know where your next reading streak might come from.

  • Read Even More. Sometimes, the problem is that you haven't found the exciting new book to spark your interest. Push through it. The right book will, hopefully, show up. This is leaving your fate in the hands of someone else and is, thus, the least effective, but it does work sometimes, through sheer dumb luck. If you're in a Comics Lull, maybe you haven't read the right thing at the right time. You're not going to get that unless you give yourself as many chances as possible to find that book.

  • Go to a convention. Nothing works better for me to get the comics juices flowing again that attending a convention. I think I mentioned this in the video, but it used to be an annual ritual that comics would slow down for me just a bit in the summer until the annual mecca to San Diego. After that, I was set for the next couple of months on adrenaline. There's something to being in a venue like that with so many like-minded people; it has a buzz that will rub off on you.

Whether or not you realize it, I bet you've been through some of these motions, too. If none of those work, though, perhaps you should try numismatics or philately?

THE OLD MAN COMPLAINS ABOUT THE COST OF COMICS

I visited the comics shop this weekend and, on a whim, picked up "My Little Pony" #1 for my daughter. I went with the cover that featured a character from an episode I know she had seen and liked. I don't even know the Pony's name, but I figured she would like it.

The comic is slightly above her reading level (given that she's four and can't read), but I thought it would make for some good Daddy/Daughter reading time. She'll love picking up all of her sight words in the word balloons, I'm sure, and this will give me a new chance to introduce her to comics. Reading anything with a kid who has sight words can be a tedious process. You don't realize how often the words "the," "my," and "I" appear in any reading material until a four year old stops you every time you get to one.

But I did a double take at the $3.99 price point.

I know it shouldn't bother me. I know the way the comic industry works and how a $2.99 price point means profit to all but the creators, themselves. I know that $3.99 means there will be some scraps for the people who actually write, draw, color, and letter the books. But it still brought me up short that a kids book was coming in at four bucks. Yes, those great Sandra Boynton books are a minute and a half read for twice the price, so I shouldn't complain; but those are solid board books and more at my daughter's comprehension level, so it's worth it to me. They'll take abuse and still sit on her bookshelf to be taken down and read dozens of times. And, hey, there's a hippopotamus in there, too!

I love comic shops and want them to succeed. The industry needs good shops to succeed to put a pleasant public face on our industry. But I can't afford the mortgage and a steady diet of $3.99 books, too. I don't buy all my technical books at Barnes and Noble, either. I buy the PDFs directly through the publishers, often at half the price, even lower than Amazon. Digital comics are still playing the protectionism angle so well that they're rarely worth the purchase.

I'd love to get in the mud and fight another political fight about the good and glory of the local comics shop. I'm not blaming the high price of comics on them here. I'm just saying that it's an unsustainable system for me, and I'm glad it's not that way for others. It helps me pick up some bags and boards locally without going through an eBay retailer and picking up 1000 at bulk discount with high shipping rates.

I love comics. I'm willing to pay for them. I just need a cheaper delivery mechanism in my life now. At this point, that's the collected editions. So maybe once "My Little Pony" is in a collected edition -- preferably with a small number of issues and a hardcover -- I can justify the next purchase, if my daughter is so desirous.

THOUGHTS ON COMICS NEWS

I was almost happy to see the news of Karen Berger leaving Vertigo, but not because I bear her any ill will. By all accounts, she was a guiding light for a line that's been doomed to end for a couple of years now. You can't argue with the track record she's had in the last couple of decades. Even the books that didn't work out financially often worked out critically.

No, I was just happy to see comics industry news that wasn't casting for an upcoming movie, rumors of casting for an upcoming movie extrapolating from conjecture and random guesses, or a preview for a comic you can buy next month.

Is it just me, or is the comics news really thin lately?

SO-CALLED ONE-LINERS

  • I'm working on the final part of the Alan Davis' "Excalibur" review opus now, but it's not quite ready yet. Hopefully, you'll be reading that this week.

  • I was hoping for some some major controversy to strike comics on Monday to give me something to write 2,000 words about, but the industry didn't oblige this time.

  • Next week's "Walking Dead" includes a moment I knew was coming at the page turn, but that I didn't want to turn the page over to see. And there it was. I'll give Robert Kirkman credit for one thing, though: He didn't take it completely over the line like he could have. Whew.

  • This is my nomination for cutest panel I've read in the last month. It's from "Excalibur" #64.

  • Tis the season, so here you go: Sergio Aragones draws his annual "Groo" cover for "Marvel Age" #85.

  • Just for the fun of history, here's the inside of that issue promoting the new kid on "New Mutants." Says the text, "Also introducing a new major character who will play an important role in the lives of the young heroes."

  • Someday, I'm going to start a blog just to share awesome pages of comic book art that feature architecture and cityscapes. After the first month, I'll find someone other than Francois Schuiten to scan work from. . .

  • I won't be doing an end of year Best of 2012 list, if only for the fact that I haven't read "Building Stories" and have no plans to do so. Critically-acclaimed though it might be, Chris Ware's work does nothing exciting for me. Your tastes may differ.

  • Someone needs to start a similar blog of "Gratuitous Shots of the San Diego Convention Center in Comics." This week's "Invincible" #98 features one of those.

  • So, that Superman movie poster. Too bad they couldn't find a photographer who could lock focus somewhere in the frame, eh?

  • The next casting announcement for the S.H.I.E.L.D. series has to be a doctor character, right? These people are going to get roughed up, and that calls for a wise shoulder to cry on.

  • Go check out Agnes Garbowska's awesome cute "Walking Dead" cover. This trend towards cute covers is something I can get fully behind.

  • In case you're not sick of the "Fake Geek Girl" meme already, John Siracusa drives it home for geeks everywhere on the latest edition of his podcast, Hypercritical. It's a pretty funny, final, and authoritative word for the subject. Fast-forward to about an hour in for the segment.
FRANCO-BELGIAN ONE-LINERS

  • This political conservative in me has finally found a government program not explicitly listed in the Constitution that he'd consider a brilliant idea: a government-financed comic book industry! Go, Belgium! I wonder if there's any room in those budgets to send review copies to Americans? C'mon, if the government is offering up comic book handouts, I might as well get in line, too!

  • Not to be outdone by their neighbors to the north, France has a Largo Winch coin! Awesome! Largo looks a little like MacGyver on those coins, too.

  • I don't understand a word in either video on this page, but the second one is cool. You get to see a French artist painting the pages of his comic, and then proofing uncut pages from his album. Looks like an interesting book, too.

  • This trailer for "Orbital" is just enough to get me to make it the next Cinebook series I have to try. The trailer is for the fifth book in the series, and I'm sure it's spoileriffic. Cinebook currently has the first four in print, so it's looking good. Time to catch up on a 'new to me' series!

  • Last week, I suggested that an "Artist's Edition" of The Smurfs or Asterix would be a cool thing. Silly me; they've already done such things. They're not quite color reproductions of the original art, but they're oversized reprints of the comics in black and white with lots of production material thrown in, from the looks of it. Here's a "Lucky Luke" edition. (Looks like this is the place to buy them.) These things sell out super fast in small print runs and are expensive collector's items now. Looks like the books are about 10 x 14 inches, so they're smaller than what IDW comes out with, but still larger than standard album size and much bigger than the bastardized versions we get of Franco-Belgian comics in North America. (Thanks, Hunter, for the links!)

  • I very nearly didn't link to the website in the previous bullet point, because they've chosen Comic Sans to represent their brand. Was Papyrus too bland for them?

  • Just to bring it full circle, they are publishing an oversized "Orbital" collection next year, too. It'll run you $250 or more, depending on the Euro conversion. That puts both "Absolute" and "Artist's Edition" books to shame.
HYPE MY STUFF

  • I photographed my first concert in a long time over the weekend. Pictures for that will be showing up on AugieShoots.com in the days ahead. The headliner for the show was Nellie McKay, who's just as playful and funny singing her songs in person as on the albums. Also, she's a hell of a pianist. I was lucky enough to be in the right place to watch her hands flying across the keys.

  • The latest issue of "Savage Dragon" begins its letters column with one from me. I can't remember the last issue I had a letter in there, but I'm pretty sure it's been something like 50 issues, at least. It might also be the first one with my current town on it, rather than the one I grew up in. I haven't lived in that town for many years, so it was time for an update.

  • I reviewed "Chew" #30 for CBR Reviews last week. I liked the issue a lot. Even though we're allowed to spoil at CBR Reviews, I tried my best to talk around The Big Event of the issue. You could read into it and figure it out if you wanted, but I didn't explicitly say it. The review was later quoted in Image's press release announcing the issue's sell-out and seconding printing. I take no credit for that.

  • And my personal blog, VariousAndSundry.com, has been very active in the last couple of weeks. After a decade of blogging, I still have no idea how to describe the content over there besides "eclectic." It's been a lot of tech blogging, but also includes "My Little Pony," my ingenius plan to buy a Canon 6D camera, how the world of DVDs has changed, and more.
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TAGS:  pipeline, my little pony, rob liefeld

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