Today’s Recommended Podcast: 3rd DEGREE BYRNE Ep# 1 AVENGERS 164-166

I stumbled across this relatively recent podcast today. An entire podcast dedicated to the works, the oeuvre, of one of the most influential artists, and later writer/artist, of the 1970s and 1980s… John Byrne.

As a kid of the 70s and 80s, I very much grew up on the artwork and collaborations and stories of John Byrne, so I still hold that work as formative and really ground breaking. And really his body of work remains a large part of the cultural storyboards that power today’s billion dollar comic films.

So this podcast that discusses his work, rather than the politics or quirks or controversy of Byrne the man, I find of great interest.

This 1st episode covers a classic three part story by Jim Shooter (writer), John Byrne(artist) and George Perez (cover artist).

For my money this is, in addition to visuals being borrowed liberally for for the 2nd Marvel Studios AVENGERS film, it is one of the  best Avengers stories.

I’ve sold most of my comics from yesteryear keeping only those that wowed me as a kid, and that still impress me as an adult, books that remain quintessentially the best examples of Superhero Blockbuster action. These 1970s AVENGERS books, 164, 165,166 remain the impetus and heart and idea space for what now 40 years later, have become multi-billion dollar cinematic mythologies… for new generations.

For my money nothing surpasses those three books, and it would be decades before Kurt Busiek in his wonderful 4 part Ultron Story-line in the  AVENGERS (vol III from 1999 – 19,20,21,22) wrote anything as iconic as those three Shooter/Byrne images.  The 90s Busiek/Perez run being very much a homage to those 70s  Shooter/Byrne issues. Shooter and Byrne telling in 3 perfect packed issues, what lesser creators would have ruined by trying to stretch to 4, 5, or 6 issues.

It is no mistake that those two disparate stories were mashed together to make the plot for AVENGERS II AGE OF ULTRON. A movie I liked quite a bit, it is a solid B/B+, but it is not as successful as the two story-lines that inspired it. Whereas the beauty of most of the Marvel Studios output is they are actually superior to the story-lines that inspired them; the movies written to be more sophisticated, and appeal to a very savvy adult audience. The first AVENGERS movie is better than the books that inspired it, as is the 3 CAPTAIN AMERICA movies,  as is the GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY movies, and the IRON MAN movies (the first two Thor movies, not so much 🙂 ).

Jim Shooter was a boy genius who understood hyperbole and the dream of the mythic and heroic, and arguably there is no better example of that than in AVENGERS 164, 165, and 166. These issues are relatively still very affordable as 1st printings, and recently have been reprinted along with other essential issues in a very affordable collection.

 

You can get the issues here:

 

Avengers Epic Collection: The Final Threat

 

This collection is close to going out of print and covers issues #150 to #166, which is really the very best issues of the run. Pick them up at the link above while they are in stock.

Once you have read them, or if you have already read them, check out the podcast below. I disagree with them on some points but overall an interesting listen, and an interesting idea for a podcast. And I have to thank their podcast for spurring this blog post.

http://twotruefreaks.com/media/podcasts/byrne/rss.xml

 

 

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WIZARD WORLD Philadelphia 2012 Convention! Pt 2 of 2!

Well finally the much prophesied final part of my Wizard World Philadelphia 2012 coverage is here. You can see the first part here.

First some sights of us gassing up and on the road to Philly:

So finally done with the “hard-traveling” heroes bit (i.e. the road trip pics), and I already told you about getting to the con itself, and the lines… so we can get to the meat and potatoes…onto the interviews!!!

One of the first creators I ran into at the convention, was the LOADED BARREL Studios table, which was nicely located near the entrance. Their comic, BRIELLE AND THE HORROR, was one of the first comics I picked up, and was one of the first creators I interviewed at my first convention back in 2007. (that’s a lot of firsts :))

So it was a bit appropriate after being off the convention circuit for just about five years, that the first people I should run into should be LOADED BARREL studios. Kudos to the young lady who called us over, or I would have no doubt walked past obliviously. I reviewed their first issue, on this blog years ago and was quite impressed by it. I’m a fan of photo-manipulated comics, and have never seen it done as well as the team of Jared Barel, Jordan Barel, and Alex Goz do it.

So it’s good to know they have since finished BRIELLE AND THE HORROR, and have a new series THE GREY out as a graphic novel. Definitely looking forward to picking it up and you should be too. It doesn’t appear to be available on Amazon yet but you can order it here. I’m looking forward to what the future brings for this company.

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Next up, after some meandering and wandering, I talked to the gang at POWER COMIX with their new kids comic SAGA OF THE POWER HEROES. Following up on that, Spoke to Jim Demonakos of the band KIRBY KRACKLE, and listened to his latest CD.

This was Jim’s first show at Wizard World Philly, and I thought the portable players/listening section he had setup was a nice touch. However being the founder of his own quite successful convention, Emerald City Comic Con, as well as a successful band, Jim is no stranger to conventions or great ideas. The music of Kirby Krackle being proof on both fronts, and comes recommended. You can sample the music and get your CD here.

On the video front, I met Ryan Cole, the cinematographer and Joe Parascand, who plays Sheriff Tom, one of the stars of the film MARY HORROR. Again a nice setup, with a multi-display arrangement to showcase their horror film. A horror film you can find out more about at MARY HORROR.

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My next interview at the con was Artist/co-creator Frankie B. Washington of the quite impressive web-comic ROBOT GOD AKAMATSU. The series done with writer co-creator James Biggie is a nice take on the Giant Robot genre that I haven’t seen before, and highlighted by great visuals, going by his gray-scale drawings.

With movement toward animation and merchandising, this is a series and a creative team to watch. And you can do so here! (One word regarding the site, the artwork there is colored a little dark, maybe even a bit muddy, so you lose the sense of the great line work and gray-scale artwork that they had on display at the convention. So my only caveat to the creators would be think about showcasing their linework/gray-scale art a bit more on the site or work on tweaking the coloring, as I feel the artist’s work gets completely gutted by the current coloring process. Other than that, well worth a look.)

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One of the other interviews of the day, and one of my few purchases was from Shawn Alleyne’s PYROGLYPHICS Studios. PYROGLYPHICS consists of creators Joseph Currie, Koran Curtis, Stanley Weaver, Charlie Goubile, James Mason and the aforementioned Shawn Alleyne and together they’ve just launched a title called STREET TEAM. Highlighted by simply gorgeous art, their post-modern comic is equal parts martial arts, manga/anime tinged, masked heroes, video-games and good old fashioned action. Toss in they also offered a special that included two huge prints, magnets, and postcards, and it was an easy buy.

Now the comic looks like it may just be a one-shot and a spring board for the video game, but I hope not. I hope we can look forward to quarterly or annual issues of STREET TEAM. Well to get your copies of STREET TEAM and find out more go bug Mr. Alleyne himself here or the Street Team crew here.

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I also had the chance to meet the talented husband and wife duo of Jerry and Penelope Gaylord. They have very distinct styles to one another, but very complimentary and very good. See for yourself at IDENTITY COMICS! Tell ’em HT sent ya!

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One of the joys for me of going to these shows is discovering a talent, an artist I was unaware of. So it’s with great pleasure that I came across the artwork of Laura Guzzo (kudos to her friend, Michael I think, who did a great job promoting her and singing her praises). Not only is she an ASTOUNDING artist, but her print prices are ridiculously reasonable.

You need to run, don’t walk to her website (well considering this is the web you don’t have to walk or run, try clicking here :)) and see her great artwork and purchase some at her Etsy store. She’s definitely going to be working for the big comic companies in no-time. Specifically she has an interesting and unique vision, that would make her a strong cover artist. I look forward to seeing her upcoming work.


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Well kids, that’s a wrap for this installment. All in all a fun convention, and I hope I’ve pointed you to some talent to familiarize yourself with. And if I do help turn you on to some new talent, just let them know that Heroic Times sent ya! 🙂

Thanks again for visiting and I’ll leave you with a couple pictures from the con, most notably the Philly version of Black Widow,, which I have to tell you… is a pretty awesome version. Grrrowwlll. 🙂

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In closing huge kudos to Jerry Milani of Wizard World for a fantastically well publicized, and well organized show!

And lest I forget, for anyone who I didn’t cover, please chalk that up to my head and not my heart, more than likely I didn’t have your complete contact info when time came to put this together. Just leave me a comment here, or email me if I gave you one of my business cards and we’ll get that corrected asap.

Thanks to everyone who made the show a great time for all involved! That’s all folks, go out there and be good to each other.

WIZARD WORLD PHILADELPHIA COMIC-CON 2012 Convention Coverage

Just back from the Wizard World Philly Con. Due to pure economics (factors external to Wizard World, sold out hotels, exorbitant remaining hotel and parking prices) one day, Saturday, was the sole day I could be there.

But it was by all appearances a packed event, well attended. They had people lining up inside in one of the upper floors which is a nice change from other Conventions I’ve attended where the line is outside.

That said the line/lines were quite confusing and quite full. Luckily the con is staffed with helpful volunteers who are on hand to direct the stymied. Plus the lines while packed, seemed to be moving, In the future I would just suggest a clearer designation of what each line is and where it is, as they tended to run into each other and be a bit of a cluster.

However their organization for press/attendees was excellent. A helpful volunteer directed us to the press sign-in, and we were able to walk right up, get our credentials, and walk right in. It’s obvious Wizard World Philly has put some thought into their entrance process, and the interior queuing station, and the press/attendee entrance are huge improvements over your father’s con. 🙂

Once entered the hall itself is quite large, filled with a nice mix of retailers/resellers, artists, celebrity signings (The big draw of the Convention floor. The lines for Chris Hemsworth and Stan Lee were getting substantial even before 1030am), and a smattering of costume wearers (Cos-players as they are known). Two of the most impressive were a Blade and a Black Widow. Both really looked the part, the guy playing Blade would have given Wesley a run for his money, and the woman playing Black Widow, definitely had the assets to pull off the skin tight costume. 🙂

There was a 1960s era Batmobile there, recreation or real, and it was manned by a suitably out of shape TV era Batman, he made Adam West look positively herculean. But at least the female Robin and the Batgirl with him, were well fit.

But overall there were less costumes there than I expected, though to be fair, it was just cranking up when I was taking off, and people were still pouring in.

The big draw for me however was just walking through artist alley. The legendary George Perez was there, and from door open, had a line. Greg Capullo, was another one who was mobbed from moment one. I tended to leave the big draws alone, and was more interested in the under-patronized artist.

Next installment will bring you some of those discoveries.

But all in all WIZARD WORLD PHILADELPHIA COMIC-CON is a good local convention. If you are in Philly, it’s no reason not to show your face, unless of course you have to deal with the inexplicable gridlock caused by some good old boy/frat boy street demonstration that was bringing traffic on the way to the convention to a standstill. 🙂

But for people coming from out of town, unless money is no object, the combination of tolls, parking and inflated hotel and everything else prices, may make it a bit of a money pit. Which even the best of Conventions are, though the location and prices of downtown Philly ratchets that up into the stratosphere.

But external costs aside, which is beyond the control of WIZARD WORLD ,(with the exception of tickets, which are reasonable) it’s a well organized event. Check back for part II as I cover some of the intriguing creators met at Wizard World 2012.

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The 2nd and Final Part of the convention coverage has been posted and you can find it here! Enjoy, I had a blast putting it together!

Favorite AVENGERS Comic Book Covers! Pt 3 of 3: The Years 1977 to 1996

Working on the next MONARCHS OF MAYHEM in-between real life stuff, it’s going to come out tomorrow 14 Mar 2012, just because it’s going to take more hours to get ready. These posts take a LONG time, In the interim enjoy the following:

Podcast of the Day: John’s Old Time Radio Show #9! It’s a great podcast. After listening swing by John’s site leave him some good words and tell him where you heard about him. Thanks! -HT

And wrapping up my favorite AVENGERS covers from the original series, is pretty easy. Because after 1977, with very few exceptions the covers are just uninteresting at best and plain awful at worst. Much like the book itself, it was just stumbling from weakness to weakness.

Here then are the best covers in the last 20+ years of the books original run:

George Perez’s finest AVENGERS cover, and one of the most iconic covers of all time. Would make a great poster! This is the last GREAT A+ Cover of the AVENGERS!


Memorable.


Fun.

It says a lot that the numbers jump over a hundred issues, before I list another cover. And this is gimmicky mess, but it was better than all the previous 100 covers. It just clarifies how bad the book got.


A mercy post.


The last one I could find even something remotely interesting in.

So needless to say you want great AVENGERS covers (and comics) stick to issues #181 and before. At least for the first Volume.

In 1998 creators Kurt Busiek and George Perez would launch a new AVENGERS series that largely just pays homage to the great years of the series, You can look at them almost as a remake of the Jim Shooter and George Perez run, that I mentioned in the previous post. But it’s done well enough by Busiek and Perez to be entertaining in its own right.

And then later would come the Bendis’ years, But that is a story for another installment. 🙂

Revisit the earlier posts here:

PT 1 of 3
PT 2 of 3

Favorite AVENGERS Comic Book Covers! 2nd Decade Pt.A 1973-1977!

Per the previous post, in keeping with the upcoming AVENGERS movie, I’ve decided to cover my favorite AVENGERS comic book covers of all time. And this is part 2:

Okay I had intended to tackle all the great covers in the 2nd decade of AVENGERS comics, however that’s not going to happen, there are just too many great covers. So this post will cover the first five years of the 2nd decade of AVENGERS comics. The years from 1973 to 1977.

Enjoy!

AVENGERS 117- I believe this cover is by Sal Buscema. He was drawing the DEFENDERS and this issue is part of a great AVENGERS/DEFENDERS crossover.

AVENGERS 127- Another great Gil Kane cover.

AVENGERS 131- Fun LEGION OF THE LIVING Frankenstein monster cover is pretty fun. At a guess I’d say this is also a Gil Kane cover.

AVENGERS 134- Gil Kane up to bat again, with this cover featuring the always popular golden age Human Torch.

AVENGERS 136- The floating heads is always a nice touch. And even without Gil Kane signing his work, those elbows at jaunty fighting angles even in repose, screams Gil Kane. 🙂 (turns out the floating heads are done by a different artist, John Romita, and that’s what was making some of these covers hard to call as completely Gil Kane)

AVENGERS 139- Here’s another example, the main drawing with that exagerrated action (somebody gets hit and their knees fly into their chest, and elbows shoot out)is vintage, powerful Gil Kane. But those floating heads are by Spiderman artist John Romita. A favorite comic as a kid, so that may be swaying my appreciation for the cover, which is not Kane’s best. I’m going to have to start grading harder or I’m going to end up listing every cover Gil Kane does. 🙂

AVENGERS 141- There have been many face off covers, this is one of the standout ones. A nice Gil Kane cover, his typical hard angles, lessened a bit, being inked by Jazzy John Romita.

AVENGERS 142- I promise you I’m grading harder, but what can I tell you, 1975 and Gil Kane was just knocking these covers out of the park. Add cowboys to it, or people in normal clothes and Gil was in his element. Notice the difference between this cover and the previous. The inker here was more faithful to Gil Kane’s hard angles and musculature, which I think looks more striking. Great cover.

AVENGERS 145- What?! Do you see this cover? I’m trying to avoid anymore Gil kane covers but that’s like trying not to give the MVP to Michael Jordan when he’s playing. It can’t be done. Great Kane cover, inked by Dan Adkins. Wonderful use of word balloons and typography. Something you don’t see too much in modern comics.

AVENGERS 146- Tell me this cover doesn’t have ‘buy me’ all over it? It’s a great design. However you notice how it’s rounded a bit, inked by Al Milgrom, you lose some of the angularity and power that Kane’s pencils are full of. But even subdued Kane is great.

Don’t worry Gil stops doing covers with this issue, so we should be able to jump ahead a few years before we get any more covers this good right? WRRRRRROOOOONNNGGGGG!! Cause the artist they bring in to replace him on covers is…..

AVENGERS 147-148 Last time he made this list was all the way back in issue #20, Jack the King Kirby is back doing the covers! Definitely with 148! 147 however is attributed to Buckler and Adkins, but what I’m seeing in 147 is Kirby and Milgrom.

So I’m going with my gut and attribute the penciling on both of these to Jack the King Kirby. He’s not as sophisticated as Gil Kane or John Buscema, but there is just so much life and energy in these covers, so much going on, that they are just a joy to a young kid stumbling across these issues in the libraries back issue bins or on newsstands.

And the interiors were done by Steve Englehart and Jim Shooter on scripts and George Perez and John Byrne on pencils, from this point till issue 166, almost twenty issues, they are mostly home-runs. I guess the best way to put it in perspective is… all of the comics I’ve mentioned previously… I’ve sold. This run from 147 to 166, are not for sale. In the age of digital these are the comics that are worth having as paper. 🙂

I won’t list all those covers here are the standouts:

As mentioned 147-148 are great, we bypass 149-150 (these are credited to George Perez, possibly George Perez’s earliest work. Look nothing like his great work now, quite frankly they are not good) and from 151-158 we get great Jack Kirby Covers. The best being the following:

158 being Kirby’s last cover for the AVENGERS and he goes out with one of my favorites of his run!

159 So Kirby leaves or is let go, it’s unclear which, who the heck can they bring in till a new regular cover artist is chosen. Who else but the best? Gil Kane returns, and like he always does… he blows the doors off the place! Look at what he’s doing in this cover. It’s just a clinic on great art. Add to that the interior art by George Perez and story by Jim Shooter and you have… classic defined.

162-163 After a couple lackluster covers, George Perez steps in to knock it out of the park with great covers to match his great interior art.

164-166 There’s a lot of nonsense about great comics out there. Here’s the straight dope… this three part storyline, issues 164-166, is the best AVENGERS storyline. Full stop. With Jim Shooter as writer, George Perez on covers, and John Byrne on interior art, they together created the throwdown for the ages. People like to use the term wide-screen entertainment to define something blockbuster in scope, these three issues from the summer of 1977… were wide-screen entertainment before the term existed. If you own only three Avengers comics… make them these three. Highest recommendation. Now that said, while all three of the covers are at least good, only one is great. This one:

AVENGERS 164- And with that cover the legendary John Byrne created the last great AVENGERS cover of 1977!

Come back next time as we finish off the 2nd decade of AVENGERS comics. the years from 1977-1983, and we also tackle the third decade, the years from 1983 to 1993.

Ya’ll come back now ya here!

p.s. As far as purchasing issues, per my previous post (scroll down) Marvel has the first 30 issues available in their oversized hardcover format they call an omnibus. It’s a good deal. However they don’t have omnibuses out for issues 31-164, so getting these issues is a little more difficult. You would think with Marvel’s AVENGERS movie due out this year they would capitalize on interest and release Omnibuses for most of these early issues. But… Noooooo. So failing that look at the links in the first post and this:

Essential Avengers, Vol. 7 (Marvel Essentials)

Essential Avengers – Volume 8

The above two are black and white collections, which is just about sacrilege, the color being such a part of these issues, but if you can’t afford the original issues, and can’t wait for the expensive hardcovers or omnibuses… they are a cheap way to read a bunch of issues.

Hold the presses!!! Here are some better color options to read these issues:

Avengers: The Coming of the Beast – Avengers (1963) #137-140, #145-146

Avengers: The Serpent Crown – Collecting AVENGERS (1963) #141-144 and #147-149.

Avengers: The Private War of Dr. Doom- contains Avengers 150-156, Annual 6; Super -Villain Team – Up 9

If you do choose to buy, please support this blog by using the links provided. This blog generates a couple dimes from each sale, so you guys using the links is definitely appreciated and definitely necessary to keep the blog going. Thanks!

On DC Comics New york Comic Con 2010 News! Zuda Comics and Milestone comics! Price changes and more! Pt 1 of 2!

Well had hoped to be partaking of New York Comic Con goodness today, I had even prepped a nice itinerary of panels and events, but some last minute snafus got in the way. But (hopefully) that just means I get to bring you the Sunday perspective rather than Saturday, and with Sunday typically calmer, it should allow me to bring you some interesting coverage.

Plan is to head out in the AM so I can crash the Sunday Convention doors when they open. We’ll see how well that plan pans out. 🙂

But what I can bring you in the interim, is a bit of feedback on the first 2 days of the New York Comic Con (coverage/news has been surprisingly light), and following that offer a slightly sleep deprived, yet heartfelt questioning on what’s going on with DC Comics. Okay… onto the ranting 🙂 :

Home and the Grace of God

ComingSoon.Net– Has a 5 page gallery of pictures from the con. Uhhh— don’t know who their photographer is, but you are at one of the nations biggest cons and all you can think to take pictures of is toys and props???? Wow. Either that’s the most boring con ever, or ComingSoon needs a new photographer. :). Judge for yourself.

Newsarama- True to their name is on the ball with coverage of various panels. Though the bit of news that got my attention was DC’s price drop, dropping their price from the insane $3.99 price point back to the nearly as insane, but just this side of acceptable $2.99 price point.

Now the following stance is primarily regarding the physical form of comics. But drop a $1 off the pricing and the stance is valid for the digital form of the product. For more on my take on tangible versus digital, go here.

I guess their shrinking sales figures woke them up to the fact (a fact that just about everyone told them before they embarked on the path) that $3.99 (ie $4!!) for a couple dozen pages of paper that will take you ten minutes to read… is not good value for your money.

Ideally I’d like to see the big two comic book companies (Marvel owned by Disney and DC owned by Time-Warner) pick up and run with Warren Ellis’ Slimline/Fell model of pricing… $1.99. That’s the price-point you need, particularly in this economy where the Average person’s salary is stagnant or decreasing, to not only maintain existing reader interest, but to create a viable entry price point for new readers.

Now I’m not crazy that DC is cutting 2 pages of story, 20 rather than 22 pages, to bring the price-point back to $2.99. So they are pretty much screwing the people who were just getting $2.99 books, which was pretty much everybody. So to look at this another way you’re still forcing an across the line price increase by reducing the content for the regular $2.99 books, while still asking a $2.99 price tag for them.

Crap! That makes me mad.

Leave it to DC, to make a necessity, lower prices or lose market share, yet another way to screw the consumer.

I think it reeks of unhealthy quibbling from one of the more public faces of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. I mean seriously, you’re going to stiff us across the line for 2 pages.

Johns, Dido, Lee, Wayne… (a company with entirely too many titles, and too few people really willing to steer the ship), are you watching this?! Great Caesar’s ghost! If we’re losing 2 pages across the line, kick the darn price down to $2.50!

Sigh.

I was taken in by this announcement until I really started thinking about it.

I mean don’t get me wrong it is a start. It’s a start… an underhanded, devious, greedy, backstabbing, slimy, smarmy, odious and stinky start. But it’s a start.

Now all they have to do is publish some books worth buying, and I might jump back on the DC bandwagon.

Oooh, riled a few of you huh?!

Here’s the thing, I’m not a DC basher. I like DC.

While Marvel was the comic company that, like most kids my age, galvanized my attention in my youth; heading into my teenage years it was DC who had picked up the coming challenge of the direct market and a more mature customer base and gave us a very sophisticated and yes literate body of work, in an amazingly short amount of time.

Wolfman and Perez’s NEW TEEN TITANS (look at that great cover! We’ll discuss in a minute how current day DC comics have a hard time producing great covers), Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, Moore, Bisette and Totleben’s SWAMP THING, Miller’s DARK KNIGHT and YEAR ONE, Baron and Guice’s THE FLASH , Englehart and Joe Staton’s run on THE GREEN LANTERN, O’Neil and Cowan’s THE QUESTION, DeMatteis and Giffen’s JUSTICE LEAGUE, (preceded by the equally good run by Gerry Conway and Luke McDonnell on the closing issues of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA) and of course Wolfman and Perez on CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. All those books in relative spitting distance of each other and in many ways they still define what is best in this medium we call comics.

Those runs are memorable touchstones to a lost holy grail, that to this day, companies are still mining for, still trying to recapture. Not least of all DC itself.

DC

Here’s the thing I’m aware from podcasts that DC has quite a few talented creators out there, and some are doing good books. Some are doing FANTASTIC books! DC has one of the best creators, in my opinion, working in comics today in Mark Chiarello, Art Director (as of this writing) of DC Comics. His SOLO and his WEDNESDAY COMICS, in a time where the height of creativity or thinking outside the box in comics, was Zombie variant covers, or killing/resurrecting characters, are two projects, that continue to blow my mind. Just inventive, thinking out the box audacity. And that he’s also am amazing writer and artist (His Negro League cards are STUNNING!) in his own right, just makes it all the more odd that DC doesn’t just turn over the keys to him.

But they don’t.

Instead DC seems to be retreating from very innovative concepts and growth, growth that seemed to have been building up to a watershed of creativity perhaps akin to that 80s period I mentioned, but seemingly forestalled in what can only be seen as a homogenization of what was becoming an ethnically diverse line.

DCs problem today is the same problem that has always been an Achilles heel of comics. Braindead marketing, and over-saturation/flooding of the market.

“Oooohh. One Batman book is good. That mean’s 16 Batman titles would be great!” No you stupid, stupid men. Multiple titles of the same character introduces confusion into your consumers and into the brand. While you will always capture the one moron, with too much disposable income, who will buy, and probably not read, all 16 titles. Historically, and today currently, what happens instead is for that one who will buy into your gouging ploy, you have 600 people like me who will look at these 16 different Bat titles, scratch their head, and say I can’t be fucking arsed to figure out what title is the ‘good’ Batman title.

And I understand, that with so-called 2nd string titles not selling as well, the impetus is to go with a name, go with a name, go with a name. The problem with that is at $4 a pop, no one is going to experiment on a 22 page comic. At 60cents and 75cents I could take a risk on something called SWAMP THING or $1.25 on something called THE QUESTION. But DC, all comic companies have largely priced themselves out of the impulse buy market. At $4 the book has to offer a definite great experience for the reader’s money. In terms of both story, art, character, and payoff. And typically that’s a lot to ask of a new character where the first several issues is about building the character. And that’s a lot to ask of Dc, in particular, because DC cover artiist, for the most part, not very good. Anytime DC gets a halfway decent artist, Marvel swoops in and steals him away, till you look at today, and DCs covers for the most part look like garbage. The tradedress, the actual art, it’s just not something that wouls impel me to stop, pickup the book, and flip through it. If the cover artist sucks, I can only imagine how bad the interior art is.

I refuse to believe Mark Chiarello is signing off on these covers. But whoever it is, needs to tighten up the ship, because fault Marvel for what you will, but their books, their cover artists… are AMAZING! Like I said, I don’t even buy Marvel Comics with the exception of Brubaker’s CRIMINAL, but if I did I would be drawn to these marvel books.

Why is CRIMINAL the only Marvel/Icon book i buy?

Well, because I don’t buy individual issues that don’t come with a letterspage and/or backmatter/ additional conversational type material. One of the reasons I was such a huge fan of books such as FELL and GUTTSVILLE (Holy Hell I miss that book! Two of the most innovative, beautiful and brilliant books of the 21st, smothered to death by that little flooding the market thing I’m talking about) is because they offer this deeper insight into the material. in the case of Brubaker’s CRIMINAL it’s even more amazing material.

So yeah that’s why. If you can’t be bothered to put together a Stan’s Soapbox style bit for your readers, or do a letters page, I can’t be bothered to pay for your effing book.

However all things being equal, if Marvel and DC were to reinstate letters-pages/back-matter, and get the ads out tof the story, based on the quality of the Marvel artists and to some degree writers, I would clearly be buying Marvel comics.

While it’s inane to let a cover be the sole judge of a comic, this is a graphic medium, so the cover means a bit. It’s the resume that gets you in the door, or the hands of the reader, and it should impress.

Marvel Comics, from trade dress to actual artist, typically rocks.

DC typically sucks.

Examples?

Damn take your pick of nearly any DC comic released this month. Such as:

This is your flagship title, right? You couldn’t tell it by this cover. You could barely tell this is a JLA title. You make the title all but invisible? Really? It’s just piss-poor trade dress design. And the central image conveys and illicits no interest what so ever. No art director should have signed off on this.

This is a good artist, however the central image doesn’t really convey much. The Rebel’s title and trade dress doesn’t help to give any kind of interest to the cover. It’s the type of cover that in the old days would have been saved with a word balloon or caption, but evidently DC can be bothered these days with little things, like making their covers sell-able.

Honestly do I even have to point out how bad this cover is. And me not reading DC comics, this is my first time seeing the costume all the podcasters were talking about. I really have no stake in the character, so change away. But make it good, that costume is utter garbage. Beyond that the art just looks… awkward. I’m not sure if she’s preparing to fight or having some type of hemorrhoid attack. :).

Here are 3 more cover images, that just don’t cut it.

The DOOM PATROL central image is actually good, but the trade dress just does nothing to make it exciting. It’s just floating in a sea of boredom. The FLASH image is busy, but busy in a bad way, it’s just not engaging or interesting, but at least the Trade Dress, typography brings some interest to the image. Just not enough to overcome the weakness in the central image.

THE FLASH has some of the best covers ever, it has to do with artists with a great sense of design and placement, as well as a great color scheme, and finally fantastic typography, captions, and word balloons, a life and energy that is mostly missing from this modern issue.
So DC has only itself to blame that it’s new characters find a steep slope to acceptance. Even at $2 I’m open to dropping $5 and picking up 2 books a week. But when $5 will barely get you one book/story, and typically that $5 experience of piece of story is unsatisfying at best.

SUPERGIRL- I’ve heard nothing but good things about this Super-Girl run, but based on this cover alone, I would never pick up the book. Again the central image itself isn’t particularly bad, it’s just not particularly anything. And once again DCs lack of trade dress, typography, just calls attention to the fact that something is lacking.

How is it with nearly 80 years of comic covers to learn from, people still can’t get it right?

Marvel however, really has not only great artists, but as importantly they understand typography and the effective use of typography and cover organization. Bendis was well known for this with his POWERS work. Some examples of Marvel getting it right? (these are from the same month as the DC ones above):

The above Marvel images speak clearly for themselves.

Marvel just kicks ass on these covers (and this statement comes from me Heroic Times, someone who for the most part has turned his back on Marvel monthly comics)! Marvel has those stunning, painterly artists, such as Simone Bianchi that DC simply can’t hold onto.

Marvel is no less culpable than DC with their 6 THOR or 8 AVENGERS titles, but each issue looks orders of magnitude better than their DC counterparts. And Marvel seems, to come to each cover witn a sense of design and layout, for the most part lacking in the DC titles.

George Perez is still cranking out some masterpieces for DC. Relative newcomer Sami Basri , is knocking it out of the park with POWER GIRL (And if DC doesn’t pay this guy, I predict he’ll be the next artist Marvel takes away from them. He’s that good. Look at his cover to issue #16 of POWER GIL, a great use of negative, a great understanding of creating images that speak), as well as Alina Rusa’s attention grabbing cover to BOP.

But these are exceptions to DC’s rule of rather tired, boring, uninspired covers. Marvel on the other hand, while no less event heavy, and just as guilty of flooding the market, you get the sense it’s a rather cohesive vision driving the Marvel machine, and for the most part it really is creator and quality driven. With DC you get the sense it’s mostly editorial mandates, that tend to be a scattershot approach, and that quality across the board is more miss than hit.

Yet given all this, DC still looks to the consumers for the reason their books aren’t selling. The books aren’t selling first and foremost because they are too expensive. And two because, the DC comics I’ver read in the past few years, individual issues, just aren’t very good, even if they were $2, for giving you a good reading experience. The JLA is supposed to be the flagship title for DC, and in the last few years, they’ve been unable to get anyone excited or interested in these comics.

Part of this, most of this is, particularly with Dwayne McDuffie… editorial interference. I have yet to interview Dwayne McDuffie, but the sense I get was he was courted by DC, following his HUGELY successful JLA UNLIMITED series (which got the JLA absolutely right and is the best they’ve been in any medium in years) and given JLA, mainly to weasle the rights to MILESTONE away from him (more on Milestone in a bit). And once that was done he was pretty much saddled with crippling editorial interference, and a less than stellar art team, until he was pretty much shooed off the book.

So when a company’s flagship books are saddled with high prices, and poor, unsatisfying story and art, very few are going to risk dollars with secondary characters or untried characters from this company. It’s why I think ideas like Chiarello’s SOLO and WEDNESDAY COMICS, somewhat of a reinvention of the company’s SHOWCASE roots, are potentially the future of the medium. A monthly flagship title, containing a mix of classic and new characters, with letter pages, and back matter, and a real conversation like comics of old, with popular characters being spun off into their own titles.

The alternative is the diminishing returns model of current comics.

To be continued….