Video of the NYCC panel I participated in, “Screen Future: Gaming, Comics and TV Around the World and Five Years from Now” may be found here
. The panel was moderated by Intel Corporation Futurist Brian David Johnson and included savvy SyFy Channel exec Craig Engler and renowned SF author/visionary Cory Doctorow.
All-New Spider-Man #1
The “standard” cover features Spider-Man swinging through the city, a standard riff. Spider-Man’s pose isn’t distinctive. Make the web into a rope and it could be Robin just as easily. It is also nonsensical, in the sense that the figure doesn’t really seem to be swinging on the web-line. It’s as if he was floating past and reached out to grab it.
Pretty much every shot of the Spider-Man Steve Ditko co-created and drew had him in a pose that was distinctively Spider-Man and nobody else. Ditko also pretty much always made it appear that the web-line was actually supporting him as he swooped along in a series of graceful arcs. Ditko understood the dynamics of a body swinging on a line and the laws of pendular motion.
(ASIDE: I never liked John Romita’s approach to Spider-Man. I love John. He’s a Hall-of-Famer. All-time great. Grandmaster. And a great human being. But his theories of how to draw Spider-Man appalled me. I hated the fact that he simplified the costume. I’d hear him explaining to some young artist that one of the lines on the mask represented the bottom of Spider-Man’s nose and one his mouth. What?! Worse, he’d tell people not to worry about the physics of web-swinging. Just have the web-line go off panel, he’d tell them. It’s just a trumped-up device to justify “flying,” said he, think of it as pulling Spider-Man along
As Editor in Chief, I could have insisted that re-Ditko-izing Spider-Man was policy, and that John should represent it. But, I inherited John and his long-established philosophies when I became boss. They were grandfathered in, sort of. Seemed like it would be a difficult conversation: “John, I know you’ve drawn Spider-Man for a long time, and to a great extent your version has become the accepted benchmark, but you’re doing it all wrong.” I just don’t think that conversation would have gone very well.
Stan agreed with my take on the character and proper presentation of Spider-Man for the most part, but, if I understood Stan at all, he had the same reservations as I did about criticizing or correcting John. He actually did try to gently nudge John toward a more Ditko-y approach in some respects—so did I—but when you have an Exalted Elder, a Superstar like John who does so many things brilliantly, sometimes it makes sense to benignly neglect a thing or two.
So when John drew the web-line going off panel and apparently pulling Spider-Man along into the air, I gritted my teeth, imagined that the web-line was attached to a passing helicopter and comforted myself with a handful of jellybeans.
P.S. Aside from the occasional artist passing by who asked John’s opinion, or the “Romita’s Raiders” art assistants supervised by John, who did the minor art correx, John wasn’t involved in directing the artists who actually drew the comic books, so to some degree his philosophies were academic. The various editors and I generally favored and preached a somewhat more Ditko-esque approach.)
The costume the character is wearing on the cover in question is different from Ditko’s or even Romita’s simplification of Ditko’s, but I suppose even a new reader or civilian would figure it was Spider-Man. Like Batman or Superman, Spider-Man has achieved a very high-level Q-Score. Some people might take the character to be a spin-off Spider-Boy, but most won’t be too puzzled.
I like the Ditko costume better. That’s just me. It’s not a legit criticism for the purposes here, where I’m trying to stick to the basic principles of comics creation and publishing rather than personal tastes.
While I’m at it, though, I do not like the McFarlane webs. Whether they come from mechanical web-shooters or from spinnerets inexplicably located in his forearms (yuck) the sheer mass of that thick, tangly rope of stuff is absurd. And that is a legit point. It’s a logical clinker that will give some people pause. Maybe only a few of us, but…it doesn’t have to be that way.
The logo is reasonably readable. Red pops against light or dark backgrounds, for the most part. If stuck with this cover art, I would have made the red pure, not muddied/grayed down. I might have tried a white drop shadow instead of black, to see how it would look. Might be worse, might be better. Hard to guess without seeing it mocked up.
The drawing is okay. The arbitrary white and sometimes blue outline around the figure is…arbitrary—an abstraction inconsistent with the illustrative background. It’s there to make the character pop, but it’s unnecessary. The character is strongly backlit. Slightly bolder edge-lighting would have accomplished the same thing.
So, it’s a flawed, okay-ish pin-up.
For part of the time I worked (secretly, at their insistence) for the unlearned children who ran Valiant Entertainment, Inc., Bill Jemas, former Marvel publishing V.P., served as a consultant to VEI. I would often try to gently explain various publishing or comics 101 things to the children. Bill would flat out tell them they were idiots. He soon figured out that I knew what I was doing. More than once, he told the children “Just do what he says.”
They almost never did.
The one place Bill and I parted company biz philosophy-wise, however, was on the subject of covers. Bill thought they should all be pin-ups. Character glamour shots. Period. Generate iconic branding images and use them everywhere. Period. Who gives a damn what’s in the book?
Well, I do like the occasional pin-up, especially on a first issue. But there’s no reason a cover illustration can’t be a powerful, iconic image and relate to the content. Offer a “hook.”
I designed a slew of covers related to the stories I was working on to demonstrate the children and Bill what I meant. I’d show you some of those scribble sketches, but the children have already sued me once for absurd things like alleged violations of a contract that was never presented to me, much less signed, leaking their “trade secrets,” and leaving them to take a better job, which they claimed somehow foiled their plans to acquire a license that had already been acquired years earlier by Dark Horse.
Anyone can sue anyone for anything in these United States. Doesn’t matter how inane or insane the lawsuit is, it still costs money to fend it off. What a country.
That spurious suit, as it turned out, seemed to amount to a clumsy attempt to manipulate Mike Richardson into some deal they wished he would make with them. Mike is not easily manipulated. The ploy failed and the suit was eventually withdrawn.
So, no examples. But they’ll still probably sue me for calling them children.
Back to the cover. Jemas’s philosophy apparently still holds sway at Marvel. Pin-up. Generic. Okay, but if so, for a first issue, it ought to be better, stronger. Or offer a hook.
The first variant is a bad drawing. The anatomy looks wonky. What is going on with Spider-Man’s left leg? How the Hell can that foot be connected to the stump of a thigh we see? This is a badly broken body.
John Romita would in his charming and gentle way clue the artist in about how to approach such a shot. How to un-bunch the figure just enough so that at a glance, the limbs looked like they belonged where they were and there were no anatomical impossibilities or visual conundrums.
John used to laugh when he’d see some artist’s drawing of a character—usually, it was Superman, occasionally Thor—flying right toward the camera so that what you saw was head, shoulders, chest, arms…and half of each foot apparently sticking out of his chest. Legs completely hidden by his body. It looks so weird and wrong. So simple to change the view ever so slightly so that a hint of body below the chest, and a hint of legs—just a sliver—can be seen, avoiding pec-ped syndrome.
The second variant features Spider-Man unmasked. He’s leaping, I guess, though the pose is close to a sticking-to-the-wall pose. It takes me a tenth of a second to realize that, nah, that wall behind him is some distance away. He must be in the air.
If Ditko in his prime had drawn this—or Kirby, or anyone with solid fundamentals—there would be not a fraction of a second of doubt. If John Romita, either of them, had seen it, they probably would have mentioned to the artist in their family-trait gentlemanly manner that it could be a smidge better if clearer in that regard, and told them how to make it so. And the artist would have thanked them sincerely and rushed away to touch up the cover, eager to benefit from their wisdom.
If I had told them the same thing, as politely as a monster can manage, they might have grudgingly improved the pin-up, but probably would have condemned me in the fan press as a megalomaniac. “You know how he is.” : )
I guess the hook they were going for here is that the person in the suit is not who we might expect. That’s a little thin, but whatever.
No issues with the logo in either of the variants.
Standard cover by Kaare Andrews, variants by Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor.
It’s pretty good. The storytelling is pretty clear. The draftsmanship is pretty good. The coloring is pretty good. It reads well. It’s visually interesting. The acting and expressions are good.
Generally a good job by Sara Pichelli, artist, and Justin Ponsor, colorist.
The first six pages introduce Doctor Markus, Norman Osborn and Spider #42. Markus is apparently a capable, sought-after scientist of great accomplishment with “four doctorates” who doesn’t know what the word “spinstress” means.
Osborn, we can assume he’s the principal of “Osborn Industries.” He hired Markus.
We also see Spider #42, presumably a research specimen.
Osborn wants Markus to “be Athena,” who transformed a person into a spider.
Osborn reveals that he, Osborn, “created Spider-Man.” One of his genetically altered spiders (like #42, one assumes) bit a young man who gained spider-like powers as a result.
Otto Octavius is mentioned as an authority on such transformations. Osborn makes it clear that he has issues with O.O. Oh-oh….
Osborn also threatens Markus’s life if he should leak any information. Trade secrets? At least the VEI villains only sue you….
Osborn is played pretty broadly, almost Snidely Whiplash villainous.
Markus is apparently sufficiently unnerved that he lets Spider #42 escape. #42 is on the loose.
The sequence ends with the front page of a newspaper, sort of—it’s very fake and unconvincing—that serves as a mechanism for exposition. From this we learn, courtesy of S.H.I.E.L.D, a “world peacekeeping task force,” that Norman Osborn experimented on himself using a “super-soldier formula” that “altered” him into the “Green Goblin.” He attacked a high school, an event coincidental with the debut of the “mystery man called Spider-Man.”
In comics-savvy-me mode, I know who Norman Osborn, Otto Octavius, and the Green Goblin are. I know pretty well who Spider-Man is, though the Spider-Man on all three covers and the one showing his face especially isn’t the one I’m familiar with. I know, sort of, what S.H.I.E.L.D is.
In New Reader/civilian mode, aside from a rudimentary knowledge of who Spider-Man is, and possibly who the Green Goblin is, I know only what is presented here, in this issue. None of the above was presented in such a chaotic fashion that I can’t cope and press on hoping for answers to the myriad questions that are accumulating, but we’re on page seven, now. Come on!
Unaware of what effects the incidents sketched out the newspaper story we saw have anything to do with this story (the one in this issue) we move along and see a masked, costumed cat burglar breaking into Osborn Industries’ laboratory. It wasn’t until I saw the matching shot of the lab, seen before, that I understood the location. Aha! Then I grokked that the big “OI” seen in panel one must stand for Osborn Industries. It looks a little overgrown.
I’m going to take a great leap here and figure that the newspaper article is meant to imply that Norman Osborn/the Green Goblin has been dealt with somehow, and his business is languishing. Poor Dr. Markus. Unemployed.
The burglar steals some things, including a red box, given some special play, so it must be important. Something inside emits light…. The burglar is pleased.
Spider #42 finds its way into the burglar’s swag bag.
The burglar apparently gets away.
Now we meet Miles Morales and parents. Three pages are spent getting him selected by lottery to attend a special school, the “Brooklyn Visions Academy,” apparently a high school of the same ilk as New York’s High School of Art and Design, the High School of Performing Arts or the Bronx High School of Science.
(ASIDE: A standard cheer offered up by “Science High” students in support of their football team goes: “Harrass them, harangue, them, make them relinquish the ball!” Eggheads. What’cha gonna do?)
Miles is selected because #42 is picked. A spooky coincidence. Get it?
Miles seems vaguely unsettled by this whole business. He goes to visit Uncle Aaron, clearly a sympathetic friend.
We see the swag bag established before and the mysterious red box. Uncle Aaron is the burglar!
Spider #42 finds its way out of the swag bag, onto Miles’ hand and bites him.
Miles passes out. What becomes of Spider #42 isn’t told.
Uncle Aaron calls Miles’ father who rushes to see about his son. As would I.
Miles seems okay. His dad is very suspicious of his brother, Aaron, and accusatory. He clearly knows Aaron is a ne’er-do-well.
Miles slips away as they’re arguing.
Dad goes looking for Miles and walks right past him because Miles is becoming invisible.
I pause to gather myself….
So what do we have here?
A bushel of coincidences that would make Thomas Hardy blush.
A series of unlikely events, many related to the movements of spider 42.
A pile of people and things introduced or mentioned that are irrelevant to the issue in hand.
More items devoid of meaning and questions unanswered in the episode in question than one would ever encounter in any professionally written TV show. Even the worst.
A bunch of Lego blocks—not a very big bunch—spilled out onto a table that, with the addition of many, many more blocks might someday become a cute little choo-choo or something. Not enough blocks here even for the cow catcher, though. It’s going to take a lot more blocks. This thing is the decompression gold medal winner. Three pages to get the kid accepted at a high school by random drawing? Which has precious little bearing on whatever the Hell is going on? Three? Of 21? Really?
Brian Michael Bendis is the writer, so savvy-me knows that there will be more Lego blocks, and that a choo-choo is in the offing. Eventually.
New Reader me couldn’t care less. I quit reading somewhere on page ten.
The dialogue is reasonably natural when Snidely Whiplash isn’t talking.
But all in all, this is pathetic. It’s the writer’s fault. The artists are capable enough.
So is the writer, judging from other things I’ve seen. He’s not stupid, untalented or unskilled. It seems as though he phoned this one in. Easy money. Why not, if the Marvel editorial bozos are clueless enough to pay for six pages worth of story fragments crammed into 21 pages, with reckless disregard for, to paraphrase Twain, slovenliness of form?
And people wonder why comics don’t sell.
NEXT: I Force Myself to Endure #2. Feh.
Okay…that would mean the publisher collects $17,925 per issue in the first case, $35,850 in the second. The recalculated results are below. They basically show that if print runs were back around 200,000, they could get away with cover prices around $2.00.
Cover prices needed to get $17,925 revenue per issue:
$49.40 = (($17,925 / 1,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$20.72 = (($17,925 / 2,500 units) + 0.60) / .375
$11.16 = (($17,925 / 5,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$7.97 = (($17,925 / 7,500 units) + 0.60) / .375
$6.38 = (($17,925 / 10,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$3.99 = (($17,925 / 20,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$3.51 = (($17,925 / 25,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$2.80 = (($17,925 / 40,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$2.56 = (($17,925 / 50,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$2.08 = (($17,925 / 100,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.92 = (($17,925 / 150,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.84 = (($17,925 / 200,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.79 = (($17,925 / 250,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.70 = (($17,925 / 500,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.65 = (($17,925 / 1,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.62 = (($17,925 / 2,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.60 = (($17,925 / 10,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
Cover prices needed to get $35,850 revenue per issue:
$97.20 = (($35,850 / 1,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$39.84 = (($35,850 / 2,500 units) + 0.60) / .375
$20.72 = (($35,850 / 5,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$14.35 = (($35,850 / 7,500 units) + 0.60) / .375
$11.16 = (($35,850 / 10,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$6.38 = (($35,850 / 20,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$5.42 = (($35,850 / 25,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$3.99 = (($35,850 / 40,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$3.51 = (($35,850 / 50,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$2.56 = (($35,850 / 100,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$2.24. = (($35,850 / 150,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$2.08. = (($35,850 / 200,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.98 = (($35,850 / 250,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.79 = (($35,850 / 500,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.70 = (($35,850 / 1,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.65 = (($35,850 / 2,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.61 = (($35,850 / 10,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
Including direct costs (creative and production) I guess the current breakeven to be around 20,000 copies at $3.99. Fully loaded, with all overhead/SG&A included, breakeven might be closer to 40,000. Too many variables to tell from here.
Thanks for that info, Jim. I remember the stories on the blog a few months ago about newsstand distribution and the possible fraud going on in the '70s. It definitely rings true to me. Here is a similar recent example. There was a toy company made SOTA (State of the Art) that made toys for one of the Tomb Raider movies about 10 years ago. One of the guys from the company posted online a while back that a retail account asked their company for a lot of money back for toys they claimed were unsold. He didn't believe them and told them that if they wanted their money back, he would either send a truck to pick up the unsold toys at their warehouse or pay to have them shipped back. The retailer never got back to him.
That Diamond markup seems crazy to me. I guess it shows the only reason Marvel and DC are charging the same cover price for their digital comics is to not undercut the retailers on price.
I came up with a formula that should help in estimating what a breakeven cover price would be. For the examples below, I assume that a profitable comic would cost $3.50 at 10,000 copies printed. That would generate $7,125 in revenue for an issue after taking out 60 cents each for printing as well as Diamond's cut. You can change that revenue value in the formula and recalculate if need be.
What appears to happen is that the price per issue starts needing to be unreasonably high when under 7,500 copies are sold. As sales go up from 10,000 to 100,000 copies, however, you can gradually cut the price almost in half to $1.79. Curiously, you cannot afford to lower the price much more once you start selling over 100,000 copies. Double that to 200,000 and you can lower it 10 cents more. You have to get well into the millions of units sold before you can lower it another 10 cents. The reason this happens is because, at that low a price, Diamond's cut leaves you collecting barely anything per copy above the 60 cents it cost to print it.
p = cover price
c = copies printed
i = your printing cost per issue
d = amount of revenue distributor gives you
r = revenue left after distributor and printing costs
p = ((r / c) + i) / d
$20.60 = (($7,125 / 1,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$9.20 = (($7,125 / 2,500 units) + 0.60) / .375
$5.40 = (($7,125 / 5,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$4.13 = (($7,125 / 7,500 units) + 0.60) / .375
$3.50 = (($7,125 / 10,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$2.36 = (($7,125 / 25,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.98 = (($7,125 / 50,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.79 = (($7,125 / 100,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.73 = (($7,125 / 150,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.70 = (($7,125 / 200,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.68 = (($7,125 / 250,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.64 = (($7,125 / 500,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.62 = (($7,125 / 1,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.61 = (($7,125 / 2,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
$1.60 = (($7,125 / 10,000,000 units) + 0.60) / .375
Now let's try something else by rearranging the formula to calculate r. Let's see how much the publisher's revenue goes up as we go from 10,000 to 100,000 copies WITHOUT lowering the price.
r = c * ((p * d) – i)
$7,125 = 10,000 units * ((3.50 * .375) – 0.60)
$71,250 = 100,000 units * ((3.50 * .375) – 0.60)
Since there are no economies of scale represented in the formula, it's a direct relationship. 10 times the amount of copies sold amounts to generating 10 times the amount of revenue.
Too many variables to nail down a unit cost for a color comic book. Sixty cents is a good ballpark number. Unit cost goes down, to an extent as the print order goes up, but not as much in these computerized days as back when there was a lot more hand-work involved in pre-press, there were more make-ready costs and less automation. Diamond's discount is usually 62.5%. That is, the publisher gets 37.5% of cover price. Newsstand, for comparisons sake, by the way, is 50% of cover plus a 10% RDA ("Retail Display Allowance," a largely bogus charge that is really only an extra discount for the ID's). Effectively, then, the publisher receives 45% of cover for newsstand sales — however, there are "returns," unsold books (which aren't really returned these days). The publisher is only paid for what the ID ("Independent Distributor") wholesalers allege that they sold on an affidavit. They lie. So, you may get paid for some small percentage of your draw, or copies shipped to ID's, but you still have to pay to print them all.
The biggest problem with pin-up covers? In my opinion, it is that they all look too much alike. In the last couple of years, I've occasionally browsed the new comics box of several LCS, and looking at comics that I hadn't pre-ordered, I wondered if I already had that.
Unless I remembered the issue number, I couldn't tell from the cover. Because the pin-up covers are so frakking generic that by now every single cover of any given title looks so much alike that you can't tell them apart anymore.
Now imagine how often I left the LCS without buying anything I hadn't preordered, simply because I couldn't tell from the cover whether or not I had already gotten that issue the previous month.
(Okay, nit-pickers might say that I could've checked inside — but if the exterior is utterly and irredeemably dull, what is there to motivate me to check inside?)
Sorry 'bout that. That quote was from the post right above yours on the first page by a gentleman named Roman.
"Brian Doan said, "The stories being told aren't the reason why comics aren't selling…Price, rival pieces of entertainment, attitude towards comics, the direct market, piracy, and the fan base are all contributing factors. You can argue that marvel had a huge piece of the market share cause they are doing something right."
Haven't been on here in a few days, but, um, no I didn't. I haven't gone through all the comments here– the thread got huge and kind of exhausting, both in length and tone, but I can only assume there's another Brian on the thread that you've mixed me up with. No biggie– just want to make sure all is clear.
Wow, we finally broke into a second page of comments here. Looks like a few heads had to roll to do it. KintounKal, we hardly knew ye.
Jim, do you, or anyone else for that matter, know what the per unit price to print a comic would be at levels like 500,000, 1 million and 2 million (or 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000)? I found someone saying an independent comic with a "decent" print run might costs 60 cents to print an issue. Not sure if they meant B&W only. Diamond will then apparently takes 50% of the cover price for themselves. Ouch.
I'll try to do some calculation on sustainable costs for a comic if I can find enough relevant data points like printing costs. Not that I'm smarter than you, Jim. If I was, I wouldn't be learning so much by reading your blog.
Quoting a blowhard Grant Morrison is not helping your cause.
But thanks for including the Morrison quote – now we know Morrison has contempt for a lot of comic fans
Anyways, I give up. I think I bring plenty of information to the table here at this blog but few people seem to welcome it. I have never attempted to silence anyone for having an opinion vastly different from my own. I only voice my annoyance when I type something very straightforward and it's met with skepticism.
So that's it. You get your wish. I'm leaving. I have better things to do with my time than react to unporovoked insults andd vague accusations that I'm commiting great offenses in Jim's comments section. From now on, if anyone else posts as "KintounKal", it won't be me. Goodbye.
Why should I choose a new name? God gave me KintounKal. On my world. You're the one sullying the family name, my friend.
Be mine forever. Smooch.
Yesterday, you called me a troll, an idiot, and a f**kwit and now you act as though I have no right to treat you with a hint of negativity. Give me a break. Are you even aware what "pertinent" means? I was highlighting the fact my corrections are on topic.
Based on my experience, the person who first labels another as a troll is always the troublemaker. Roman was clearly the voice of reason in Wednesday's flame war while Shazbot acted hostile at every opportunity. Don't delude yourself into believing you're anything other than a coward. Calling yourself "The KintounKal of Earth 2" doesn't make you a new person. It just makes you a dishonest person who steals another identity and intentionally distorts my name for your amusement. Are you really so insecure that you can't chose a name and stand by what you say with it?
The link I provided above reveals the Strikeforce: Morituri trade paperback is priced at $34.99 US while Strikeforce: Morituri: We Who Are About to Die #1 costs $0.99 US. There's no way on Earth Marvel would release new material written by Bendis for so much or so little.
Jim, thanks for taking the hit, I find Bendis unreadable. What interests me is your take on Romita's version of Spider-Man. His & JRJR's was the first Spider-Man I saw and all others have failed to look "right" to my eyes after that, precisely for the reason you found to be strange, that the lines of the mask adhered to the human face, where Romita placed markers for the nose and mouth. I think it makes perfect sense and I always assumed he intended that, thanks for confirming it. When I first saw Ditko's original version after Romita's, it looked "wrong", but I've come to love and appreciate Ditko's as THE version, and without it, Romita had nothing to "perfect". But how I would have LOVED to have seen Romita ink a Ditko Spider-Man, particularly Ditko's last few issues because Ditko's did begin to make a more consistent web design on Spider-Man's suit, which Romita then pushed even further, bringing order to all of the haphazard webbing on the mask and suit. The combined version would have had all of the quirkiness of Ditko's version, his inimitable poses, but with Romita's polish. I wrote and drew about the Romita version on my blog a little while back. I love that Romita was such a stickler in how to draw Spider-man's mask and webbing, as I think it makes perfect sense to place deliberate, purposeful web lines on, instead of, again, haphazardly placing them with no rhyme or reason. Here's what I wrote on it:
"John Romita Sr. perfected Steve Ditko's brilliant Spider-Man costume design by giving order to the webbing that wrapped around the suit, most especially with the face mask. I think Romita's design was built on the human face, with a perfectly symettrical design that suggested the placement of the nose and the mouth, with the webbing as vertical markers for both, so when one looks at his version of Spider-Man's mask, it makes more sense than simply haphazardly placing webbing all over it.
Here's my visual take on it. http://bit.ly/lie9OJ
"Labelling me as "the freecreditreport-dot-com/ Progressive car insurance ad" must be your retarded way of pointing out that I tend to post quotes pertinent to this blog."
Just a note – calling someone retarded pretty much negates whatever "pertinence" you think you bring to things.
It is true that I prefer not to give my personal information/ identity to combative internet troll-geeks like yourself. Where I come from, that's not cowardice but common sense. Why give you a new person on whom to sublimate your obvious frustrations?
But you have inspired me with your words… I can now reveal to you my identity: I am the KintounKal of Earth-2. There is no escape. It is simply too embarrassing to see my counterpart behaving the way you do in these comments threads – by far the worst offender; just go back and read your old comments if you haven't deleted them to hide your tracks – without stepping up. I take my responsibility to the KintounKal time continuum seriously. You're shaming the rest of us with your jackass ways. Come back to the light Carol Ann.
Love you, love me,
The KintounKal of Earth 2
(The Mycroft to your Sherlock)
That's not lucky, I had hoped it was a creator-owned comic that Marvel published at the time.
Published by Marvel, it could mean a Brian Bendis Strikeforce Morituri – and there is no way I would buy THAT!
Luckily, Marvel will publish this Strikeforce: Morituri trade paperback. Detailed January 2012 solicitations probably won't be unavailable until Monday but the Previews web site just released a list of products and their corresponding prices at
A Strikeforce: Morituri TPB? I very much want it!
Who is publishing it?
As a Strikeforce: Morituri fan, you might be excited to hear the first ever trade paperback and a sampler comic titled We Who Are About to Die #1 will be released in January 2012. It's still unknown how many issues will be reprinted in the TP but the price suggests 12 or so.
I'm reading this blog post late because I've been working a few 12 & 13 hour days. This is actually the first blog post here where I flat out lost interest in reading the comments. Why? Because I have no interest in reading comments that defend this comic.
I own over 10,000 comics. I own an Amazing Fantasy #15, Hulk #1, Fantastic Four #1 and more. I was a proud "Marvel Zombie" as a kid. By the time I was 18 years old, more than 80% of what I owned was Marvel. I was never interested in anything DC produced. I've always felt the foundation of their characters was inferior. After all these years, I am no longer buying comics at all. Your comments make me feel that you are a contributing reason.
Jim's points above address marketing, consumer value, and quality. You can discard his advice as "personal tastes", but I am the potential consumer that Marvel has lost. None of my peers that grew up liking Marvel Comics buy them anymore. I'm 100% sure that if Marvel increased the quality of their product, there are thousands of fans who might consider buying the product again.
As it stands, all I see are gimmicks. The gimmicks include printing 666 cover on a comic hoping collectors may by the same story in multiples like mindless sheep. It involves creating new #1's… so that collectors buy more than 1 copy… like mindless sheep. The gimmicks involve established characters dying or something that "changes everything you knew about the character". Yawn.
When I buy Spider-man, I expect Spider-man, not some "bait-and-switch" character that you'd never be able to sell without putting the words Spider-man on the cover.
The marginal proficiency of the artists today, the lax standards, and the inability to make the story flow intuitively is a quality problem.
The "decompressed" stories are a problem because many customers feel Marvel is not providing a good value for the money.
I consider comics a lost cause now. I'm happy when a comic book store shuts down because I feel the owner has "wised up". I feel bad for the owners struggling every month with nothing to show for it but almost worthless back issues.
I know Marvel has run off a large number of potential readers with comics like the one reviewed above. I won't debate or argue the matter because I've discussed this for over 10 years with former collectors. They all have the same complaints. If Marvel started making comics the way Jim describes it would make me consider buying comics again. Unfortunately, it would take years for people like me to ever trust Marvel again because the company has shown no respect for my tastes as a consumer, nor the creators that spent years fine tuning the art form.
I could beg and plead that you return comics to something I respect, but I'm fine just saving my money. I vote with my dollars and now my money is going elsewhere.
To end this, I must add that I love the way Marvel has embraced ethnic diversity by giving this new Black/Hispanic character an Uncle that is a thief! Nice touch to show how open minded and willing Marvel is to exploit any race & culture for the sake of money.
I recently stopped buying Amazing Spider-Man after reading it non-stop since I was in kindergarten. (I'm 35) I dropped Ultimate Spider-Man after the first issue 10+ years ago and never looked at it again.
Your complaint about the covers is spot-on: my friends and I often lament about covers and how the cover made us WANT TO BUY the comic just to see what was going to happen. I've bought many books I didn't regularly read just because the cover sucked me in.
Also, as someone who draws, and wanted to be a comic artist, modern art in comics is way too detailed for my tastes. It's impressive what they are capable of doing now but it makes the pages so full of detail and over-rendered that I struggle to follow the action at times. Sequential storytelling is a lost art.
Anyhow, the current direction of comics by Marvel and DC has pretty much soured me on the industry. Heck, Spider-Man hasn't been consistently good since right after Venom was introduced way back in #300. It's sad that it took me this long to realize that I was no longer excited to head to the comic shop and get my new issue of ASM… I wish they would start a new book and just call it "classic Spider-Man" or something and let the old guys get back in there and show them how to do it.
As an "older" comic reader, I feel alienated by the constant pandering to get younger readers. It's as if they don't care that I and thousands of others just like me have carried their book through good times and bad. I'm not saying they owe me anything, but, c'mon… if you can't get ME to keep buying Spider-Man comics, you're doing something wrong.
Your impression of Uncanny X-Men #167 is about as wrong as it possibly could be yet you continue to feel offended when I highlight this fact. The gist from your posts seems to be "Why can't I share my loopy recollections of comics I last read about 3 decades ago?" Go ahead. I'm not stopping you from doing so. Just don't act indignant if I draw attention to the errors found in your summaries.
Concepts like "done well" are far harder to define than the Earth's round shape. I brought up integrity because it seems to be what you find lacking in events like the Death of Superman.
We definitely are not friends. I'll continue to have a low opinion of you and I'm sure you'll view me the same way. I can't respect anyone who visits a blog dedicated mostly to comics and suggests comic book characters can't die.
Last time I promise –
"How emphatically do I need to say that your memory of this issue is utterly faulty? Every claim you make about Uncanny X-Men #167 is wrong. For example, it was published 29 years ago not 20."
– I conceded the point. So what if it is? I wasn't recanting the storyline but my impression of it at the time I read it.
Stunts and gimmicks are forever going to be intertwined with the adventures of superheroes. Being jaded towards them now doesn't mean earlier deaths and resurrections had more integrity.
– Who said anything about integrity? I merely noticed the world wasn't flat because of this book. Sure they are intertwined its fantasy, escapism. but its also crutch or cop-out much like time travel stories. Good when done well. Hollow when they miss the mark
By the way, I'm not your friend and I didn't ask for your snobby advice. People like you ruin the comments section of this blog.
– I suppose we are not. Your words not mine. And it takes 2 to tango. Just let it go.
Say what you need. I will not reply to you again.
My apologies to Jim and the peanut gallery for hijacking the best blog on the web for a little a while.
Clarifying what certain spiders are capable of doing is hardly stupid. Luckily, not everyone shares your pessimism or lofty standards.
The magic is still there for me at least.
Grant Morrison was interview last month for the UK newspaper called 'the Independent', As he said "It seems like things should be refreshed every generation but yeah I mean there's a whole raft of people who just want everything to be the same but I think they're the ones who discovered it when they were young perhaps and it had a real particular effect and like going back to crack cocaine it's never as good as the first time as they say (laughs) and they just keep going back and comics don't give them that feeling but they keep going, “just make it the way it was when I was a kid and I'll feel that again” and they don't realise it's them that's changed, you know I mean it's just the sad truth of life, the inevitability of it, you change."
You're wrong. Brian Michael Bendis has done his research on this matter. Miles' camouflage is probably based on a species of crab spider known as "Misumena vatia". It can change color to match whatever flower it's sitting on. Suggesting this power shouldn't extend beyond his clothes isn't very practical. Do you expect him to fight crime naked?
Really? You go there? How stupid.
Even though these are JUST comic books, I would like some of the science to be correct. An ability to camouflage his skin should not extend to the clothing, if it's based on some genetic change to his biology. It's poor storytelling on the part of Bendis, or was it the artist? Who's to blame? If it's not biology then tell us!!! Him being a mutant would make more sense. Maybe Spider #42, which seems like the most interesting character in this title, didn't effect him at all?
What power will he get next? Is he going to grow fangs and develop venom? Is his digestive system going to become more spider-like? ( That would be interesting!!! )
Maybe Spider #42 will get it's own title! Maybe the Beyonder could show up, give it intelligence, and give it a more humanoid shape. THAT would be a better story than what Bendis has been writing.
Oh well. Maybe the age of comic books will soon be over. The magic is gone. Greed has taken over.
Dear KintounKal –
My earlier comment was meant to be addressed to Anonymous, sorry for not being clear. I meant that Anonymous' rant basically guaranteed an escalation/ response, so it was 100% contrary to his/ her (probably his) "stated aim." You're right, tho, no difference between you and whomever or Roman/Shazbot.
I'll say that seeing the comments thread turn in a bickering direction / two people endlessly clarifying their point and arguing at the other for not getting it is not fun for me as a reader, but no one's got a gun to my head to read anything, so what do I care. Besides, it's a common enough thing in comics fandom to not really faze me at this point in my life. I've certainly been in situations on the internet and out there in the matrix, too, where sticking up for myself or defending a point/ reasoning was construed as trolling/ over-defensiveness or whatever. I defend anyone's right to pick his or her own battles without justifying it to anyone. No offense meant.
Regarding the mainstream Marvel Universe Spider-Man costume, I enjoyed reading Marko Djurdjevic's thoughts on Ditko's design in his Marvel art hardcover. On page 190, Marko shares a test drawing and says "This particular cover was an excercise in many ways of just how realistic with detail I could get with the Spider-Man costume. It's also the first time I came up with the particular style of webbing that I used, because I always thought that Peter Parker – the kid that stitches his costume by himself – is not going to be so diligent about how nice the stitches are arranged, or how far they are apart from each other. His costume would be a rough interpretation of a spider web on his costume. Through painting and the placement of light, I was able to render the webbing with a very handsome look, like something that came from his bedroom instead of a big fashion house."
Sorry about the broken english on the last few comments, folks. I should have proofread them!
Scanlation DID work wonders for manga in the West, but my experience says that most of it is for works that have already some degree of popularity (say due to the anime versions) and classic, formative works like Kamui-Den and Cyborg 009 are as unavailable in scanlation as they are commercially in english (even less, since a little of both WAS published in english, without sucess).
British publisher Cinebook is doing a decent job translating classic french-belgian comics to english, far more than any "grassroots", non-legal initiative ever did, so a smart publisher is still a better option.
Smart being the operative word here. As an example, Marvel translated some french comics by Soleil a few years ago, but left out Soleil's biggest hit in France, Lanfeust de Troy, a comic almost tailor-made for the tastes of teenage/young adult super-hero fans!
If I got back in time, I probably would be too busy forcing the guys to give some right back to the creators at gunpoint to worry about giving them advice. But a wiser desidion would have to let inflation run its course and keep rising prices at the same rate as other magazines, NOT cutting pages! Maybe even adding some, like the europeans did througout the years.
I've read Wounded Man in english. Since the translation was quite bad (some sentences are broken and/or make no sense, a clear sign of bad translation for someone with experience on the field like I have), I don't know if the bad portuguese was on the original or the translation. I was more worried about the absurd situations that happened at the story (SNOW at the amazon basin? WTF?!?). But it's a fun comic, regardless of the absurdity.
And I have A LOT of knowledge about comics and the comics industry, either in the US or abroad. I read a lot about it, in multiple languages.
I have always like European comics, ever since first being exposed to Tin Tin as a child and later Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal. One of my major motivations for learning French was to read the Gaston LaGaffe comics I kept collecting. It seems to me that there would be a good opportunity for some publisher to translate more of the European comics for the American market. I'm not exactly a typical comics reader, but I would be interested.
It occurs to me that if some enterprising fans translated some of the comics and made them available as downloads, that it might bring the opportunity to a publisher's attention. But maybe I've just been reading too much Cory Doctorow since last weekend. lol. His ideas about content distribution are radical to say the least.
Jedi Jones, I meant fair price IF comics still had 64 pages, hence the quotes on fair.
JayJay, sadly the italian comics are undertranslated even for other european languages. Shanghai Devil is itself a sequel of this comic, Volto Nascosto (italian for "Hidden Face"). Here is a description in english:
As far as I know, the only italian Bonelli comics ever translated in english (and just a few issues each) were Tex, Dylan Dog, Martin Mystère, Nathan Never and Dampyr. Also humor limited series Leo Pulp and the Dragonero one-shot. A few of them are available at Amazon.
In Italy they are all monthly (a rare few of them bimonthly) B&W comics, published in thick, small format issues of 100+ pages, usually with self contained or two-part stories. All excelent value for money and that would have a more than fair chance of sucess in the US if an enterprising publisher sold them in the correct fashion (either at the newsstands or on fat bookstore editions).
Thanks for reminding me about the ending of the Danguard manga. I've never read it, but I have read about its almost nonexistent robot content.
I think Matsumoto had little to do with the production of the Danguard TV show beyond the initial conception and designs, so Toei Animation could have made the robot appear much earlier if they wanted to regardless of Matsumoto's lack of interest. I don't know why they didn't, but obviously their gamble paid off.
You have a point about the artificially low price of American comics for a long period. You wrote,
"US comics have taken the wrong business decisions pretty much every single time since the 50s!"
If you could go back in time and give Donenfeld and Goodman advice, what would you tell them? To raise prices to 15 cents years before Dell did?
I am amazed by your knowledge of the American comic industry.
It's interesting to see how English turns up in Italian comics: e.g., the titles Shanghai Devil and Dylan Dog and the untranslated background elements on this Dylan Dog page.
Have you ever seen attempts at Portuguese in non-Portuguese/Brazilian comics? Kazuo Koike's 傷追い人 Kizuoibito had volume titles in Portuguese (albeit in katakana) and even some Portuguese dialogue for scenes set in Brazil, IIRC.
American attempts at Japanese names and dialogue usually make me cringe.
Dear Shawn James,
I get the feeling that a lot of comics are "attempt[ing] to look smart." The unspoken messages are, "Look at me, I'm the new David Mamet!" "Look at my photorealistic art!" The ironic thing is that Stan Lee et al. did get an adult audience back in the 60s without trying so hard.
Comics can be high literature, but aping the perceived traits of high literature isn't enough.
Thanks for mentioning Spider-Man 2099. I wasn't that thrilled with the 2099 line as a whole, but that was the best title of the bunch and one of the two I kept buying until I quit comics. (The other was Stan Lee's Ravage.) As you wrote, "All in the space of one comic" … which made me want to get the next comic! I appreciate what Peter David did a lot more now after reading Jim's reviews of Ultimate Spider-Man (2011) #1-2.
"Most writers haven't proven that they can entice a large number of readers to follow them to another company the way that artists have."
How many Bendis fans have tried out his pre-Ultimate crime comics?
How many Mark Bagley fans have tried out Strikeforce: Morituri? I love Morituri in spite of his art, and I was surprised to see him become a star (though it's fitting that he returned to the character that launched his career in the Try-Out Book). Spider-Man has made stars out of many of his creators. John Romita was an anonymous romance artist at DC before he took the Spider-reins at Marvel.
When did you study Italian?
How was this arguement anymore preventable than the nasty exchange of words between Roman and Shazbot last evening?
That's correct. The Mondo Marvel/70th Anniversary Panel was held back on February 8th, 2009.
I didn't say Bendis was getting even at you. gn6196 wrote that.
I only correct things that are categorically wrong regardless of opinion. Since, I didn't even contribute to this blog throughout September, you're way offbase to say "Nearly every comments section has this idiot picking at things and trolling."
Labelling me as "the freecreditreport-dot-com/ Progressive car insurance ad" must be your retarded way of pointing out that I tend to post quotes pertinent to this blog. Are you so afraid of me challenging your preconceptions about something that you want only one voice heard here. You must live in Bizarro World to accuse me of being a troll while hurling a volley of curses as "Anonymous".
"People can come to this blog with working brains and truly individual opinions. Naturally some of them don't agree with each other. For the most part, there is a lot of civility but occasional fights do break out. It's still a good bar to come to; you just have to stand back sometimes. "
At least in the Mos Eisley Cantina you could slice off offending parties' arms. 🙂
Just curious…what do you suppose Bendis was "getting even" for? I never had anything to do with him, never even met him, in fact, and the incident in question was long before yesterday's blog, right?
Anonymous – way to go, you've got him going with someone else now…
Nope. I will not shut up just to please you.
Have you got a name, coward?
Good God, KintounKal, would YOU PLEASE SHUT UP?
CAN you shut up?
Lol at "people like you ruin the comments section of this blog." That is HILARIOUS coming from you. You are the freecreditreport-dot-com/ Progressive car insurance ad of the Jim Shooter comments section.
Please, people, stop feeding the troll! Go back and read the other blogs if you need proof. Nearly every comments section has this idiot picking at things and trolling. Stop dithering with this f**kwit.
I don't see that as a proper method of getting even. Nobody asked Bendis for his opinion on the quality of Secret Wars 2. When an assistant Editor is alerting fans that an ambitious reprint project is in the works, a contemporary writer shouldn't insult that material in front of a crowd.
Someone smarter than me should calculate what a sustainable price for comics would be if they were selling a couple of million copies each issue, like Captain Marvel in the early 50's, a million an issue like Superman somewhat later, and half a million an issue, like my entire run on Adventure Comics, 1966-1970.
It's ridiculous that you're still clinging to this absurd belief that we're debating semantics and issue numbers. How emphatically do I need to say that your memory of this issue is utterly faulty? Every claim you make about Uncanny X-Men #167 is wrong. For example, it was published 29 years ago not 20.
I have no desire to argue the merits of controversial events. So quit claiming I'm OK with content I've said nothing about.
Don't make me laugh. You're not a big picture person at all. Thinking something pivotal happened when it did not reveals you to be a broad strokes person.
Stunts and gimmicks are forever going to be intertwined with the adventures of superheroes. Being jaded towards them now doesn't mean earlier deaths and resurrections had more integrity.
By the way, I'm not your friend and I didn't ask for your snobby advice. People like you ruin the comments section of this blog.
Haven't read all the posts above so I don't know if it's been mentioned, but the phony looking "newspaper" is supposed to be a web page. Outside of that nitpick, I generally agree with everything you said.
I'm not a fan of Bendis's style, personally. I don't want to wait 5-6 issues for the hero to finally put on a costume and decide to fight crime when I buy a SUPERHERO comic. As bad as this is, his recent Avengers run has been even worse. 8 or so pages of heroes being INTERVIEWED about their actions! And here I thought the number 1 rule with a visual medium was always "show, don't tell…" 😉
Hunter, I should clarify one thing. By using the online inflation calculator AND adjusting for page count, comics should cost 54 cents today. So, this lends credence to you saying that the inflation calculator might be too broad. I was worried about building numbers off of data going that far back too when I started looking at this a few weeks ago. That's why I only tried to extrapolate from 1980s prices.
Also, I should clarify that the 1980 baseline I referenced above was using your prices for comic books and Time and adjusting using today's Time price as well as adjusting for today's slightly higher comic book page count. That gets us to a $2.04 cover price for comics today.
Sorry, I meant Bendis wanted to get even for the negative stuff said.
I'm a Shooter fan but I've never head good things about Secret Wars 2. Bendis was just trying to get even.
Its an asinine argument.
Comic Characters are not alive thus they cannot "genuinely" die.
I take it you are OK with the Death of Superman and Breaking Batmans back as acceptable examples (that I mentioned previously) since you don't harp and drone on about those?
If you want to position yourself as the X-men historian knock your socks off. I'm not gonna stop you. I sold my X-men to fund a Spring break trip back in the 80's. I only kept the 94-102 issues. The 167 is long gone and I haven't picked up an x-men since. I lost interest in the x-men before 192 so that was a non starter for me. Im a big picture person and don't feel the need to be overly bogged down by esoteric semantics. I'll concede the point on x-men.
Wether or not you grok and approve each example is not the point. Stunts and gimmicks happen. They exist or do you dispute that as well? I believe they are the marketing departments short term gain wet dream. How do they advance the story or the character? I say they don't and they turn people off. They did me.
So lets cut to it; What vested interest do you have in defending them as acceptable story telling devices?
You've got spirit and passion in spades my friend. However, respectfully, I think you could do with more honey and less vinegar however in your approach to addressing people. Best wishes
The difference being, Secret Wars II had a clear and coherent plot. That this is lost on Bendis, who is a WRITER, speaks volumes
Hunter, thanks for the recommendations. They actually made a Dylan Dog movie starring Brandon Routh of all people, but it went nowhere in the U.S. It did a smidgen better overseas.
I get the idea of comparing comic books to Time magazine for inflationary purposes, but you run a risk of doing too narrow a comparison in that case. Not to mention it might be more of an apples and oranges comparison than you think. Time is news, not entertainment. And readers aren't as compelled to buy multiple issues consecutively since Time isn't written as a serial. To be fair you should also average out the price paid for a subscription vs. off the racks. Time is only 54 cents per issue by subscription. Marvel Comics are over $2 an issue by subscription. And I would suspect a higher portion of copies of Time are sold by subscription as compared to a Marvel comic.
Just looking at the figures you provide, and accounting for the fact that comics have 1/3rd the amount of pages today than they did in 1934, a comic book should only cost $1.11 today as compared to Time's $4.95. Maybe you could make an allowance for superior paper quality and the resulting figure isn't that far off from where the real inflation calculator took us. Even using 1980 as the baseline says comics should cost $2.04 today, still far less than they do. Like I said before, my previous research into this suggests comics should cost between $1.50 and $2.00 now to be fairly priced and competitive.
I really cannot see how you conclude that comics are at a "fair price" today unless you aren't adjusting at all for the reduction in page count. Granted, I don't know how the page count of Time might have changed.
By the way, it's worth mentioning Brian Michael Bendis was asked about his use of the Beyonder at NYCC 2009's Mondo Marvel/70th Anniversary Panel. According to Albert Ching from Newsarama, it led to some jokes about the character's hairstyle. "That being said, Secret Wars 2 Omnibus comes out in April," McCann said. "Yes, buy it and read to find out what a horrible, horrible comic it is," Bendis said.
Later on, a fan asked why are the prices of comics going up? "Because it's the world we live in," said Quesada. "Things go up."
While Quesada attempted to further explain, Bendis left the panel and raised his hand from the crowd for the second time. "I'm sorry I said Secret Wars 2 sucked," he said. "That was insensitive."
The problem isn't that I have OCD. It's that you're completely senile. Why should I give you a free pass to make your 100% undeniably false statements?
I never even implied that you should re-read Uncanny X-Men #167. You erroneously claimed Xavier died in that issue and then proceeded to rant about stunts and gimmicks. I politely directed you toward an issue where Charles genuinely does die and you had the adudacity to say my assumption is wrong. Well, I'm not. You don't have a clue what you're talking about.
"Dylan Dog" had several issues translated into English and published by Dark Horse. I read that recently and was very impressed. The Mike Mignola cover they used on the US version I feel did a disservice to the original material, which is far more detailed and beautiful. It would be nice if more European comics were available Stateside.
Shanghai Devil looks very interesting. Are there ways to get translations of any of these comics? Sadly, my Italian isn't good enough for anything complex.
"At the very least, the comics companies ought to figure out a way to produce a subset of comics for readers like us who won't complain that a comic is "too wordy." Maybe they should do a separate line under a brand like "Ultimate" but specifically gear it to more "retro" tastes with less decompression, smaller panels, more plot per issue, etc. Why not put another option out there and see if it catches on?"
That does exist in a magical wondrous place named Europe. Take a look at the pages of current day Dylan Dog comics: http://www.sergiobonellieditore.it/auto/componi_sbeweb1?ID_giornale=65&pers=DYLAN%20DOG
Or shiny new series Shanghai Devil:
Or actual retro stuff, like Blake and Mortimer (published in english by Cinebook):
Jedi Jones, I don't trust those calculators because REAL inflation is different from the statistical one. Some products , in particular technological ones, get actually cheaper over the years – and they mess with average inflation calculations.
I made the comparision with a more similar subject for an article I wrote: The price of Time magazine, a very similar commodity, but with much less page count variation over the years (it did get better paper and printing over time, but then so did comics).
In 1934, comics cost 10 cents (but had a slightly larger format and some SIXTY story pages!) and Time Magazine cost 15 cents.
In 1961, at the time comics finally got more expensive, they cost 12 cents and Time cost 25 cents.
In 1980, just before Jim and the guys at DC gave us back 22 pages of story an issue, comics cost 40 cents (for meager 17 story pages), while Time cost US$ 1.25! Comics had got EXCEEDINGLY cheap, but had also lost almost 70% of content!
Today comics cost between US$ 2.99 and US$ 3.99 (with some 20-22 story pages), while Time costs US$ 4.95.
So comics got MUCH cheaper during the intervening years (while losing content) and when they got back to their "fair" price nowadays, they had become a much less satisfying package.
Marc posted a link to this article about adjusting modern comics for inflation. It's definitely worth a read:
Chris Tolworthy's essay "Comics used to be value for money before they committed economic suicide."
"But today’s comic writers don’t get that. They pad a story with expository sequences trying to apply literary devices to the comic book medium in attempt to look smart."
That's very insightful, Shawn. I've read, or tried to read, a lot of mainstream comics recently to be able to suggest them to (and discuss them with) Jim for his reviews and the writers' motives have been positively abstruse to me. I was apt to dismiss it as ignorance, but it makes much more sense that it is intentional wrongheadedness.
Hunter, if you take real inflation from of 10 cents from 1934 on then a comic book should cost $1.61 today. I did some calculations extrapolating from the 1980s to now a while back and basically came up with a range of $1.50-$2.00 for what a comic should cost today to be a fair value.
Gary M. Miller, you seem to be suggesting that comics now have a "house style" of writing, even though anyone can see they have anything but a "house style" of art, due to the wildly divergent styles that don't stick to a clear model for the characters' looks or even for the look of human anatomy.
This makes me wonder if we're still dealing with "Image" fallout. The artists seem to have the upper hand because they can always threaten to take their work elsewhere and bring a lot of readers with them. Most writers haven't proven that they can entice a large number of readers to follow them to another company the way that artists have. So the editorial staff seems to be putting the squeeze on writers' creativity while letting artists run wild. This seems to be backed up by some of the private discussions with comics industry insiders that Jim has referenced in the recent past.
At the very least, the comics companies ought to figure out a way to produce a subset of comics for readers like us who won't complain that a comic is "too wordy." Maybe they should do a separate line under a brand like "Ultimate" but specifically gear it to more "retro" tastes with less decompression, smaller panels, more plot per issue, etc. Why not put another option out there and see if it catches on?
Mr. Shooter, since it's my first time posting, I just want to say thank you for all the great comics, and thank you for this blog.
I think it would be interesting to compare the introduction of this Spider-Man, not to the intro of the original, but to the first issue of Spider-Man 2099 by Peter David. David had a pretty big challenge to achieve, not just debuting a new character, but introducing an entire world, which he managed to do with flying colors.
We start, bam, right in the action, a different, yet strangely familiar figure being chased by agents of some kind of authority, called "Alchemax", we get some quips, some action, and we find out in this universe, Thor is worshipped. Then we cut back 24 hours, learn who Miguel O'Hara is, meet the big bad, create and resolve the conflict that creates Spider-Man, with a great tease on the last page.
The issue succeeds on every level; we see the character in action, the world is introduced, including details that will play out over the next several years. We get introduced to the big bad, and get to know the hero. All in the space of one comic. It's been a long time since I've seen it, but if I recall it was a normal length comic (though double sized issues were more common then), but even at double-sized, there was a heck of a lot of story.
From my twenty plus years of experience as a novelist and almost ten as a screenwriter There are just too many expository sequences here. Like most modern comics, this one takes WAY too long to set up. And when the writer takes too long to set up a premise they lose the reader. Publishers have only one chance to make a first impression on the reader. Once the reader is gone, they are GONE FOR GOOD and will not try that publisher’s products again. Too many comic book publishers don’t understand this and this is why they can’t get new readers to discover their products.
Tight writing requires a fast set-up, establishing characters, plot, and premise ASAP to hook the reader and keep them compelled to read to the last page. Moreover a good writer knows that storytelling is about endings and beginnings and to end on just enough of a cliffhanger to hook the reader into buying the next issue.
But today’s comic writers don’t get that. They pad a story with expository sequences trying to apply literary devices to the comic book medium in attempt to look smart. Unfortunately all they do is turn off the new reader who has dozens of cheaper entertainment options at their fingertips that are easier to access.
Instead of following that simple three-act paradigm which has worked for close to 60 years, today we have writers trying to be novelists and trying to turn comic books into high literature. They fail miserably because their approach to storytelling is all wrong.
Show me any padding at all in Hamlet."
Well, its been a while since I've read Hamlet, but I could introduce you to a room full of eighth graders from back in my teaching days that think Romeo and Juliet has plenty of padding.
Random other comment: They actually re-printed USM #1-3 as a unitary volume as the first three kept selling out. It did read better that way.
"If you want to compare, don't forget to think about the pagecount either. 30s books had something like 60 pages, a 70s book only around 20 pages."
I mentioned it, that's why they were able to keep prices down. The stupid policy I talked about. it wasn't magic that made FORTY years of inflation have so little impact on comics! We reaped the ugly consequences later on and the pathetically low comic print runs ever since made them even more expensive!
The blame isn't just on modern-day policies now. US comics have taken the wrong business decisions pretty much every single time since the 50s! One of the reasons I respect Jim is that he was one of the very rare guys to buck that trend for a time.
HA! I think your OCD is showing.
As I previously stated, I havent read this book in over 20yrs Im going by my memory of a feeling while looking at the cover. Take it with a grain of salt.
Who are you that I should go re-aquire and re-read this issue? Im frankly not that invested in it.
Its not the central point anyway. It just semantics either its this issue the one before or the one after.. The POINT is the feeling it elicited.
It opened my eyes to gimmikry of a sort whwn I was a youth. Nothing more, nothing less.
It's not a… good rendition of a news website. Far too clean. They tend to be headlines on the front page, and then main articles after the link. You get to show more adverts that way. But the three-column format is how things work. (which this is: photo takes up two columns)
Basically, it looks like someone took the front page of the Post and turned it into a website. So, kind of double-half-assed.
On 42: Good call on Jackie Robinson. Both are meaningful and relevant. The point being that it is a horribly SIGNIFICANT number that pulls you out of the storyline. Sort of like how some old comics would always say "Clark (Superman) Kent", or some such.
"If you compare that with the 70s prices you'll
see how BELOW the inflation were comic prices."
If you want to compare, don't forget to think about the pagecount either. 30s books had something like 60 pages, a 70s book only around 20 pages.
I've read the original Danguard manga by Leiji Matsumoto (in italian, I don't read japanese) and the giant robot appears just on the very last page (although the trsnsformed plane version appears during most of the story)!
The reason is simple: Matsumoto hates giant robots and avoided as much as possible to draw them. He did Danguard for the money (not a sin, it IS very well done!).
Now, going to Mr. Tolworthy's essay, he starts out wrong, like many before him. The price of comis can't be compared from the 70s, when it was at an all-time low due to the stupid past policy of trying to keep the 10 cent price at all costs that lasted some 20 years or so. That made comics an artificially extremely cheap commodity!
Comic price inflation must be calculated from the 10 cent Famous Funnies #1 from 1934. It was the first of what was the standard comics format on the 30s (bigger than the current one in both size and number of pages!) and all other comics of the time copied its format.
If you compare that with the 70s prices you'll
see how BELOW the inflation were comic prices. That couldn't be sustainable in the long term, specially with sales going down and creators' wages going up.
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)
On the subject of Norman Osborn being played like Snidely Whiplash, Jim is very perceptive to pick up on this. Believe it or not, Matt Fraction made a comparison between them in The Invincible Iron Man #8 ("World's Most Wanted Part 1: Shipbreaking") back in 2008. In a scene set at Funtime, Inc., Tony Stark is meeting with Pepper Potts and Maria Hill.
He says "Eichmann was a high-school drop-out. Eichmann. The architect of the holocaust. He was a high-school drop-out and a lifelong follower of other people's causes. He wasn't diagnosed with a mental illness. He was just…a guy. "Doing his job." Lots of people "did" the same thing. This is what I'm saying. When power gets abused…It's rare that it's a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash that's doing the abusing. Trust me, the irony doesn't escape, okay? My point is — in Norman Osborn — we don't have a bunch of dropouts and failures calling the shots. We've actually got a real dyed-in-the-wool, mustache-twirling looney toon running the show."
This thread got me thinking about how long one can delay the debut of the titular hero in a series. Two extreme examples that come to mind from anime are
Danguard Ace (1977): The titular giant robot doesn't appear until episode 12 of a 56-episode series, though it does appear in transformed plane form starting from episode 4. (Yes, this is the same robot that appeared in Marvel's Shogun Warriors, though the anime story had nothing to do with what Doug Moench created for the comic.)
Dancouga (1985): The titular giant robot doesn't appear until episode 16 of a 38-episode series, though its components appear one by one in earlier episodes.
These two cartoons deviated far from the typical Japanese introduce-the-titular-merchanding-item in episode one pattern. I can't imagine the sponsors being terribly happy with this slow pace. How could you sell toys of Danguard Ace and Dancouga if the robots only appeared in the opening and ending titles — the TV equivalent of the all-new Spider-Man only being on covers?
I saw all the episodes of Dancouga leading up to #16 a few years ago and was surprised that I enjoyed them because just two robot-less episodes of Danguard tested my patience. But I knew Dancouga would appear in #16, whereas the average viewer back in 1985 had no idea and might have given up on the show a lot earlier. The late introduction of Dancouga might have hurt the show and led to its early cancellation. (The series was concluded the following year in a straight-to-video release.) Then again, Danguard had a healthy run lasting over a year. Why did one succeed where the other failed? I don't know. So many variables for success.
But all things being equal, I'd opt for showing the titular hero as soon as possible in a serial. I'd be more patient with an all-in-one work like a movie or a TPB. Having to wait for the hero to appear in costume after the first hour of a movie is one thing; having to wait months for the hero while buying sections of a story sold for several dollars each is another.
I assume you're referring to Sean McKeever's Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series. Yeah, that is indeed separate from Marvel Adventures continuity.
Bendis Ultimate Spider-man (the ultimate version) seemed a lot better than the 'real' Avengers or Spider-man books that he did or did-not write. I got the impression they stopped caring about how good the books were years ago. Theywould introduce the biggest of things and not care about them. They would have a big game-changing crossover that barely had a begginning and no ending. It's just unfathomable how bad it has got. Look at the 'real' Spider-man books. That goofy guy doesn't seem anything like Spider-man to me other than the name, costume, and some of the powers. How many times did they change costume last year? I see artist come and go and some of them aren't comic book artists at all. One artists looks like he should illustrate children's books and most of them are shoved out of the way for Ramos (who is the lesser of the Cliffhanger artists even though he can keep a scedule). The Marvel I loved is gone and the Ultimate line is partly to blame. They wanted to reinvent stuff not, not put out good material. I think DC won this past month and will keep on winning. I'm not a DC guy, but I actually cared if Hal Jordan got his ring back or not. He's broke. Hey, I'm broke too. I did not make a deal with Mephisto and if I revealed my identity to the world it would of had a decent plot… a great one.
People can come to this blog with working brains and truly individual opinions. Naturally some of them don't agree with each other. For the most part, there is a lot of civility but occasional fights do break out. It's still a good bar to come to; you just have to stand back sometimes.
Gary M. Miller
Good commentary on the new Ultimate Spider-Man, Jim. I picked up the first issue, found a bunch of the same issues as you, and well, I'm glad I bought it for far, far under cover price and never pre-ordered the subsequent issues. It's derivative of Bendis' inaugural Ultimate Spider-Man story from 2000, and is clearly padded in the same style that has become de rigueur at the House of Rehashed Ideas.
Moreover, I see in theory what first Marvel and later DC have been doing with their readership in recent years. We used to have crossovers as a once-a-year event; now we have them all the time. We used to have limited series as special events; now every series is really a cleverly-disguised series of limited series. Put the two together and you have an endless series of events, with storylines and characters tied in knots all for the sake of selling more comics.
Marvel in particular is guilty as sin of making their books an absolute tangled mess, where every book ties into every other book, and you can only get "the whole picture" by picking up various books. In trying to get people to read the books, they came up with this scheme which has actually become an even greater source of consternation. If you don't believe me, take a look at how many books Spider-Man appears in every month, or Wolverine. And the amount of derivative works like Red Hulk, X-23, and Venom makes me long for the relatively restrained days of the nineties.
The proliferation of these five and six-part storylines (and longer) has made the "done in one" stories not just rarer but also painfully threadbare when compared to stories in the early nineties. And if you try to put out a story that has as many words as earlier decades, then people cry "purple prose" and shoo you out because that isn't the way comics are made now. Sigh.
Speaking of threadbare, don't get me started on series like Fear Itself, whose structure is clearly meant less for the main series to be read and more of a launching pad so that "fans" will pick up all those ancillary crossovers so they can see every key plot point, virtually none of which were told in the main series.
So, death of the comics industry…mercy killing?
Right now, the battle of Marvel Vs. DC seems to be rephrased as a battle of complex continuity vs. completely jettisoned continuity and immediate individuality. Though I wonder how soon DC will again engage in a gigantic interconnected event.
Being able to tell a story in a few pages and make it interesting and exciting, so that the reader is left feeling that they have experienced a complete and satisfying story is an art, and is not an easy thing to do. It requires the writer to choose important moments carefully and to hit the right beats at the right time so that the story moves along and a good pace, but at the same time doesn't leave the reader feeling confused or cheated. That's what good comic writers used to do, and it has become a dying art-form.
Many comic writers today are just plain lazy. It's much easier to write a story with no time or space limitations that just meanders on for as many issues as the writer wants. That way they don't really have to make any hard creative decisions. Such as picking and choosing what story elements to include and what not to. Which scenes are really important to the story, and what can be dropped for purposes of pacing and clarity. No, nowadays they can just regurgitate everything in their head onto the page and just keep going until the story just sort of fizzles out to what is usually an unsatisfying conclusion.
Shazbot said it well when he wrote… "Most of today's comics are garbage. They're boring. DC's new direction sucks. Marvel's destroyed Spider-Man."
"The worst of yesteryear's comics are still infinitely better than what passes for entertainment today."
"I am so tired of DC and Marvel expecting me to lay out good money for lame, pointless treacle just because they own these characters that I have fondness for. They are disrespectful to these legends of modern mythology."
"The people who complain that Mr. Shooter is being too harsh are fooling themselves. They want to like this stuff because there's nothing else new featuring the characters they love that's any better."
'There isn't more than one interpretation of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man.'
Is the 'Mary Jane Adventures' Spider-man the same as the 'Marvel Adventures' one?
There isn't more than one interpfretation of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man. Furthermore, the 2099 and manga versions of Spider-Man aren't really relevant anymore. Of course, there are plenty more iterations of Peter Parker. Within recent years, different versions of Spider-Man starred in Noir and 1602 mini-series.
Just to be pedantic, Xavier's beating in 192 was fatal. "Clinically chum, you were already dead", Callisto told a resurrected Charles in the next issue.
I'd count Xavier's transformation into a brood as a kind of death. From everything we'd learned about the Brood at that point, the transformation was akin to death — there was no coming back from it. Only, all of a sudden, we get Charles' mind taking control of the Brood body, and then the Starjammer's ability to create a clone body was introduced pretty much from nowhere.
Brian C. Saunders
"No CEO or corporate exec ever told me to make a book bad. I never told an editor to make a book bad. I don't know of any editors who worked for me who commanded creators to do a bad job, though I do know of a few editors who didn't care much."
This I can see easily. Everyone wants to do a good job. Where it breaks down is whether something is objectively bad, or is this what the company wants. As an outsider, this is something I can't know, so I appreciate your point of view. I was thinking that if Marvel bought it, it must be want they wanted. But a creator should have higher ethics than just meeting their publisher's expectations. I didn't think of that before.
"The strategy from upstairs may be flawed, but to a great extent, the words and pictures readers see are made by creators who should know what they're doing and should care. Flaws on that basic level are their fault."
When we make a purchase, we should get full value for the $$$ paid, as regards clarity of storytelling, since that's a basic expectation of every reader. I think I understand your point a little better mulling this out. Thank you for your time.
Brian C. Saunders
Also, I'll readily admit that I used Superman as an example of 'lost opportunity' for the shock value alone.
However, my rationale stands; there remains too many comic books with continuities and legacies that are no longer sustainable. (or coherent, for that matter.) How much lost opportunity can be reclaimed towards new characters, heroes, villians, comic books, and graphic novels?
Jim Shooter said something like this a few days ago. (I'm paraphrasing from memory…) Ask DC what happened in 1961, when a formidable competitor burst upon the scene. The same thing could happen again in the near future, blindsiding the current 'duopoly' of DC/Marvel.
Good point. I do agree it is an underhanded tactic to an extent. However, producing comics and graphic novels should still be a business decision. If a particular title isn't selling, despite its pedigree, a change in the creative team would be warranted. Failing that, then cancellation.
Also, comparing Superman to baseball is comparing apples to oranges… A better analogy is TV. (Still an weak analogy.) A lot of popular titles have come and gone. Anyone remember "Heroes"? It was a hot TV show in its first year, declined a little bit in its second year, and then the bottom fell out. It got canned by NBC in 2010.
I fully realize that Superman is an iconic franchise with an enviable pedigree recognized all over the world. Perhaps its serial adventures are coming to an end; it may yet find new life in graphic novels.
However, it all comes down to a strict business decision; is it selling? Can a new creative team salvage it? Etc. Even the pedigreed ones in the comic book industry are not immune to the invisible hand of the comic book marketplace.
Thank you for sparking some discussion.
Simmer down now, ladies and germs. It's amazing the passions that are ignited when someone simply says they don't like a comic. One thing I'm sure of is that if someone criticized Jim's comics work, he wouldn't suggest to you that you go read something else and not post about what you dislike. He would either offer a defense or say that you're entitled to your opinion. I know this because he just did it the other day.
If you want to read some real tough criticism, pick up "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie" by Roger Ebert. Critics serve a purpose, and it isn't to offer praise for everything they like but "look the other way" when they don't like something for fear they might offend someone. One purpose is to educate the readers on the artform. Whether or not the review is favorable or unfavorable is irrelevant.
Those of you who can't handle criticism of your pet comic books need to "man up" and take the heat. The answer to speech you don't like is more speech, not less speech. So offer a spirited defense of your side, but don't question whether Jim should post his opinions.
I welcome any review Jim wants to post. This, I think, was his best one so far. If he wanted to, he has the chops and then some to become the premier critic that's ever existed for the comic book artform. That could be a real boon for comics, forcing the powers-that-be to defend their practices or take a second look at what they're doing. The fact that Jim's reviews seem to get more comments than most of his other posts tells me there's a demand for quality criticism of the medium.
Ireactions and others, do you realize "phone it in" is not a literal phrase? Until recently, it was impossible to literally phone in a comic book. Now thanks to the IPhone, you actually can phone in a comic book, even a good one, and it's faster than shipping it.
Do you also realize that saying Bendis phoned it in lets him off easy? What's the alternative, "I hated this comic book. Because I am sure the writer worked very hard on it, that means he must be the most talentless hack who's ever collected a paycheck in the industry."
Critics are allowed to conjecture. I'm sure I've seen some say things as harsh as that the creator had contempt for his audience. If that's what the critic feels, then it is valid to write it into the review, as long as he doesn't claim he has facts backing it up. A review should express the critic's honest reaction, period. Oh, and, Jim was even nice enough to take his statement back. So stop harping on it already.
Brian Doan said, "The stories being told aren't the reason why comics aren't selling…Price, rival pieces of entertainment, attitude towards comics, the direct market, piracy, and the fan base are all contributing factors. You can argue that marvel had a huge piece of the market share cause they are doing something right."
Or you could argue that as a lowering tide lowered all boats in comics, Marvel simply maintained its existing dominant position through inertia. Brian, the main argument to your points is that EVERYONE in and out of the industry was saying comics were dying in the late '70s right before Jim became EIC of Marvel. There was enormous competition from TV, movies and video games in the '80s but comic sales rebounded. If the companies can't even sell comics now that they're a click away from everyone online, then they must really be producing a bad product. To paraphrase a political phrase, "It's the stories, stupid."
Lincoln G., could you elaborate on Marvel's "buddy system?" It sounds like a systemic problem, similar to the writer/editor structure that our esteemed blog host Mr. Shooter dismantled when he became EIC at ol' Merry Marvel. Is this the situation I believe I've heard of where one writer edits another writer and vice versa, setting up a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours loop?
Lincoln G- I actually liked the Infinity Gauntlet story better then the Kang time stream story that came before it. I actually think Bendis should give up that Avengers title and stick to New Avengers as I feel his work on that book is stronger. I have to disagree though Bendis cares about comics and to say other wise isn't cool. A lot of these creators at the end of the day are writing stories that they would like to read it may not line up with how you like things but that's how it goes. I don't like Morrison's Batman(or Superman for that matter), the choices he makes for stories, but I don't accuse him of not caring about comics.
Anonymous Jackass Roman said: "Your last post doesn't even warrant any come backs or real response cause all you did was insult me the whole time"
And? Nothing you've said has meant a damn thing, anyway. If you haven't noticed, you haven't gotten any "real response" from me, either. You felt the need to jump on me, so I'm returning the favor.
"I'm pretty sure you posted in a open forum where discussions were happening which means it is NOT just between you and Mr.Shooter. Let me check…hold on…oh yes yes you did."
I didn't dispute that, moron. I was addressing my comment to Mr.Shooter, not you. If it's not addressed to you, it's none of your business. Sticking your nose in others' business isn't polite either, is it?
"Finally just because no one else disagrees with you doesn't mean I cant and I called you out on being a rude and disrespectful because my parents raised me right and to have manners so I guess you could call Mr.Manners. Have a Good Night Troll."
I'm sure many people on here don't like what I said in the original post that you shit your pants about. It was meant to get the ones who bitch at Mr.Shooter for his choice of words to try and think before they criticize him.
You didn't call me out on anything. I knew I was being politically incorrect when I made that post. I don't care. Political incorrectness isn't a crime and it isn't a sin. You're parents didn't raise you right, or I wouldn't have to put you in your place.
You'll be an aging fanboy yourself someday, unless by some miracle you're elected to the Supreme Court and get to legally enforce what I can or can't say. Oh, right. They don't get to do that, either. Not really. Bummer for you.
I'll have a wonderful evening. Good night, you miserable little piss-ant. Don't forget to do your spelling, counting, grammar, and reading homework for school. Mommy and Daddy will be so disappointed if you don't.
Seriously? The Infinity Gauntlet story was what made me drop that book! Ive never read a more terribly put together story in my life! After the first issue, I was fairly certain Bendis 1) doesn't read comics and 2) is completely unedited in everything he does.
Had a huge nerd debate on my shops message board about this single point from the first issue of that arc… There is no "infinity gauntlet". The Gauntlet was Thanos' glove which he kept the Infinity Gems on, yes. It could also be said that the characters were running a gauntlet provided by the gems. Got it. According to that story, Bendis thinks the actual glove is part of the deal and you can't get everything to work right without it. Horse and shit. The Hood, who was collecting the gems, could of just as well put the gems on his hood and had an Infinity Hood but that doesn't make that a thing. The gems are a thing, th glove is not.
Sorry for the mighty geek out, but this was just one of those things that got stuck in my craw. Guy doesn't know or care about comics. End of story for me.
Talking about the business being in trouble is irrelevant. Marvel said a few years back, right around the Disney acquisition that the comics were just an excuse to keep their 'properties' alive and they were more focused on movies these days. New Marvel comics suck because Marvel doesn't care about comics, period.
If my assumption is off, so is your synopsis for that issue. In what way did Xavier die in Uncanny X-Men #167?
Your last post doesn't even warrant any come backs or real response cause all you did was insult me the whole time. Except for 2 things:
"I expressed my opinion to Mr.Shooter, not you, so kindly butt the f' out."
I'm pretty sure you posted in a open forum where discussions were happening which means it is NOT just between you and Mr.Shooter. Let me check…hold on…oh yes yes you did.
"Oh, but I want to listen to you babble; it's fun. New readers, new readers, blah blah blah.
You get new readers with sustained, quality work. Joe Blow doesn't give a rat's ass what I think. Do you see anybody else arguing with me?
No, just you, self-appointed Miss Manners."
The quality of a product does not always guarantee that it will sell especially in the entertainment industry. Also the fan base can have an effect on new customers. In today's society image plays a huge part. Who wants to be associated with a bunch of angry aging rude fan boys? It goes hand in hand with the image of comic shops. Finally just because no one else disagrees with you doesn't mean I cant and I called you out on being a rude and disrespectful because my parents raised me right and to have manners so I guess you could call Mr.Manners. Have a Good Night Troll.
I have enjoyed Bendis' work over the years. His Infinity guantlet arc in the Avengers lasted 6 issues and it felt like all the pages were utilized , not decompressed.
Has anyone been able to keep track of how many comic book versions of Spider-man there currently are?
So there's the 'mainstream' one; at least two Ultimate versions; the Marvel Adventures one (possibly several of these); the 2099 one; a manga version … that about it?
Shit. I spelled my name wrong. See, where's the editing?
I was never a HUGE Bendis fan, but I still liked his work up up until about 2006, 2007. The thing where a bunch of characters sit around a table and jabber like coke heads is entertaining a time or two, but after a while it really starts to get on my nerves. I like my Avengers to fight Kang somewhat more than they discuss what's on television and eat pizza. Maybe that's just me.
Bendis could be a great comic book writer. Maybe one of the greatest. Unfortunately, due to the "buddy system" at Marvel for the past decade or more, he's lacked the one thing he's needed to get there… A strong editor.
If only we knew where to find one…
– Lincoln G.
Is it a full moon tonight? Or maybe this is the blog version of fight club…
I did not spare the editors and management. It comes from the top. I blame the CEO, the publishing execs they hire and the editors they hire as well as the creators.
To a point….
No CEO or corporate exec ever told me to make a book bad. I never told an editor to make a book bad. I don't know of any editors who worked for me who commanded creators to do a bad job, though I do know of a few editors who didn't care much.
The strategy from upstairs may be flawed, but to a great extent, the words and pictures readers see are made by creators who should know what they're doing and should care. Flaws on that basic level are their fault.
Well since you asked, I couldnt see the cover(s) or flip thru it to see if anything about it struck me art or story wise. It was all in or nothing. I found it off putting.
No your assumption is off. This is indeed the issue 167 – http://www.wolverinefiles.com/Images/uncanny-x-men-167.jpg
I read it New (back when it was on the stands. I was young) and the sands of time may have eroded the details leaving me with only the impression of how I remember it. But it affected me all the same.
Im not saying it was the 1st time it was done, (Captain Marvel anyone?) I'm saying it was the 1st time I recognized it as a gimmick. They are ALL gimmicks when they when they revert to a stunt like this.
I tend to think of stunt and gimmick as synonymous in the context of comics, do you have a different take?
How many times can Galactus threaten to eat the Earth? We know how it plays out. the Earth gets spared.. Just tell me a story and make it interesting. You dont have to to have Galactus travel to a parallel Earth in the past and feast. Lame solution.
Anonymous A-hole Roman said: "sorry I really should proof read."
No, you really should stop typing. Proof-reading doesn't help idiocy.
"I like how you missed the whole point of the post. I'm sorry I may not have articulated it properly. My point is you shouldn't be rude or insulting because their isn't a need for it."
I didn't miss anything, as there was nothing to miss. The point of your post was to tell me what I can and can't say. I'm polite to people who warrant it. I say what I think to idiots such as yourself.
"Thank you I thought it was cute too. Insulting me? Rude again and not necessary at all. I spend my money on what I like. Just because you don't like me means its garbage."
Obviously, you don't understand sarcasm. I said you were cute, meaning you were transparent and unoriginal. Aw, you don't think I like you? What makes you think that? I love you. Marry me.
"Ok so continue coming off has as an angry child who insults people he doesn't agree with or whose work he doesn't like. Good to know JayJay and Mr.Shooter have that much power over you."
One of the things I love about you is how you lie and put words in my mouth that I didn't say. I agree with many of the people on here, including Mr. Shooter. I disagree with many people on here, also, but I respect their opinions enough that I don't feel the need to argue with them. I choose to express myself differently. I relish calling out fools like you. You don't have the brains to stay out of what doesn't concern you. I announced my support of Mr.Shooter in a way you didn't like. Who asked you? I neither asked for or respect your BS. Eat feces and expire.
"Is it nonsense to expect people to be polite or at least be respectful?"
For you, yes. For people who deserve it, not at all.
"And you don't have to listen to me but you are exactly the type of person who makes the fan base and community so unappealing to new readers."
Oh, but I want to listen to you babble; it's fun. New readers, new readers, blah blah blah.
You get new readers with sustained, quality work. Joe Blow doesn't give a rat's ass what I think. Do you see anybody else arguing with me?
No, just you, self-appointed Miss Manners.
"I'm glad to see you have some respect to apologize to them but then you should apologize to me for insulting me."
Go F' yourself, crybaby. All better?
"Your only making yourself look like a troll and that is not a good look. I didn't know one post made me a loud mouth though. Good to know"
The only troll here is you, jackass. And I'll not only feed you, I'll cram everything you say down your f'n throat until you choke. I called myself a loudmouth, idiot. And I count 4 posts by you.
I expressed my opinion to Mr.Shooter, not you, so kindly butt the f' out.
Hugs and kisses
Jim Shooter wrote: "Criticism of my work has never bothered me."
Mr. Shooter, I can see that, I have since the first entry of this blog. But I'm not talking about criticism.
This is a moot point, I admit, but since I have a lot of admiration for you, so I'm just going to say it. You have been accused of you being a power-hungry lunatic, an abusive employer, a homophobe, a man who played favourites and damaged the earning income of others due to greed and spite. And often, these accusations have been made by people who've never worked with you and don't know you.
False accusations. Made by people who theorized as to your motivations and internal thinking without any genuine knowledge of who you are, what you're about and what you do.
Now, there's a HUGE gulf between, "Jim Shooter is the baby burning bastard who wouldn't give Jack Kirby his art back and screwed Steve Gerber over," and "Bendis phoned in this comic." But at the end of the day, it's speaking ill of people's personal motivations without any genuine knowledge of them. And I think a man of your character is above that.
(1) Decompressed comics are BORING. They drag on forever and take 6 months of real time to get through JUST ONE ARC. Gad! Old comics got you past the dull parts pretty quickly (page and a half, usually; not 21!).
I have yet to read a Bendis run that actually read like a STORY. All I see are a bunch of scenes–like a Quentin Tarentino movie–that don't add up to anything. And these mega-stories are, IMO, intentionally drawn out so that it's IMPOSSIBLE to discern the story. That way no one can easily see that they've been hoodwinked.
(2) Decompressed stories are TOO EXPENSIVE. Not worth the money at all. The page count should be proportional to the story put on them. If it takes 3 minutes to read a comic, then it's a ripoff. The story is just too thin. Use smaller panels and get it done in 8 pages, tops.
(3) I. HATE. DILUTED. CHARACTERS. I hate every derivative character from Superboy to this new Spider-Man. There is only one Spider-Man, and that's Peter Parker. DC is absolutely cancerous with this junk. DC believes their characters are nothing more than a logo, costume, and/or powers. And DC believes that anything they throw together with that costume or logo should be treated as if it was the original. I. HATE. THIS. And I refuse to buy any of it. And yes, this has cut my comic buying to the bone. I say, if a publisher wants something new–then MAKE SOMETHING NEW. Stop diluting the concepts.
I want to see the market research that says this attracts new readers. I don't mean stealing away a current reader, I mean someone who isn't buying comics at all (former or all-new). Because it seems to me that all this accomplishes is to pollute the franchise (Hawkman, being a prime example).
DC used to be my "home" universe, the one I was dedicated to. But now they make me gag. I'm reading old reprints 50-to-1 these days. Old comics might not have modern stories or art, but at least I know who the character is…and the stories have middles and ends that are resolved before I've forgotten the beginning.
Keep firing, Shooter. Marvel and DC are almost entirely tripe. And they need called out.
I think that in spite of the fact that superheroes are now the recipients of massive promotion in movies and yet DC and Marvel still struggle to sell more than 100K of anything speaks volumes as to the manifold incompetence and incomprehension of the folk in charge. They repeat the same tricks ad nauseam that caused a brief boom and then killed comics in the 90s. That is not intelligent.
All that said, Tom Brevoort seems to be a stand up guy. I respect him for coming on here and giving his p.o.v.
Just because you don't like it* means its garbage.
sorry I really should proof read.
I like how you missed the whole point of the post. I'm sorry I may not have articulated it properly. My point is you shouldn't be rude or insulting because their isn't a need for it.
"What gives me the right? The American Constitution gives me the right, commie."
You can have freedom of speech but it also comes with the responsibility to use it properly.
"Cute, using my words against me. Opinion isn't an awful mentality. You are just the kind of self-righteous fool I was talking about. You want to waste money on garbage, feel free. I insult these "creators" because they insult me by trying to foist sub-standard work on me using the characters created by truly artistic writers and artists."
Thank you I thought it was cute too. Insulting me? Rude again and not necessary at all. I spend my money on what I like. Just because you don't like me means its garbage.
"I'll leave it when I want to leave it, and you won't tell me when to do so. Only JayJay and Mr. Shooter can do that."
Ok so continue coming off has as an angry child who insults people he doesn't agree with or whose work he doesn't like. Good to know JayJay and Mr.Shooter have that much power over you.
"I'm not speaking for anyone except me. And what imaginary line are you talking about? Who are you to judge what is acceptable? You are a sheep and a mouthpiece for nonsense."
Again I'm talking about being rude and insulting. It isn't needed or warranted. But then again you continue to insult me and call me a sheep. A mouth Piece for nonsense? Is it nonsense to expect people to be polite or at least be respectful?
"Bull-F'ing-poop! Garbage is garbage. Intelligent people don't buy garbage, they make enough of their own. Case in point, your ignorant post."
Again Intelligent people are individuals who buy what they like. Again everyone has their own taste. The only person coming off ignorant here is you.
"Already do, child, but thanks so much for telling me what I can and can't do."
Thanks for calling me a child even though I'm being an adult and expecting people to behave like adults. And you don't have to listen to me but you are exactly the type of person who makes the fan base and community so unappealing to new readers. This is a new age folks the image of a industry doesn't stop with the product and creators but extends to us the readers as well.
"My apologies to Mr.Shooter, JayJay, and the numerous intelligent and articulate posters on here for wasting your time, but peabrains bring out the loudmouth in me. "
I'm glad to see you have some respect to apologize to them but then you should apologize to me for insulting me. I'm so glad you ended your post with another insult to me. Your only making yourself look like a troll and that is not a good look. I didn't know one post made me a loud mouth though. Good to know.
Brian C. Saunders
I think any conversation about the execution of a single comic book ought to include the editorial policy that improved. That might be out of Jim's intentions when doing these reviews, but the companies approved and buy the books you like and don't like. It's work for hire and that means editorial at every level is responsible for commission and production. In other words, just singling out a creator, while fair, only goes so far. I don't think that's why Mr Shooter does these reviews. It's the sensibilities and commercial objectives that need to be called out on. The execution may be off from time to time, but storytelling, characterization and price points are all determined by publishers. I haven't read the issue of Ultimate Spider-Man in question, but I have no doubt it reflects what Bendis and Marvel wanted it to. The issue is that seems to be the problem, re: Marvel. Bendis is the top writer at Marvel at a time when the comic industry as a whole is circling the toilet. The question is if Bendis hasn't changed, but comics are still going down hill, then maybe what Bendis is doing(or say Geoff Johns at DC) is wrong. There needs to be a discussion at what a comic book is and should be at a basic level. That conversation is taking place at blogs like this, because the companies seemed to have stopped. The conversation needs to happen because comics are on the verge of dropping out of commercially viable distribution and hoping digital saves the companies, doesn't mean comics will be saved, if that's even still possible. I'm glad that this blog is one place where that conversation can take place. Thank you, Mr. Shooter.
Anonymous Crybaby Roman said: "Wow what gives you the right to be so insulting to these creators?"
What gives me the right? The American Constitution gives me the right, commie.
"This awful mentality is whats become wide spread."
Cute, using my words against me. Opinion isn't an awful mentality. You are just the kind of self-righteous fool I was talking about. You want to waste money on garbage, feel free. I insult these "creators" because they insult me by trying to foist sub-standard work on me using the characters created by truly artistic writers and artists.
"You don't like the stories and thats fine you can say that and leave it that."
I'll leave it when I want to leave it, and you won't tell me when to do so. Only JayJay and Mr. Shooter can do that.
"You can explain how you and many other fans like to cross this line and that is unacceptable."
I'm not speaking for anyone except me. And what imaginary line are you talking about? Who are you to judge what is acceptable? You are a sheep and a mouthpiece for nonsense.
"The stories being told aren't the reason why comics aren't selling that much there are many factors that contribute to this."
Bull-F'ing-poop! Garbage is garbage. Intelligent people don't buy garbage, they make enough of their own. Case in point, your ignorant post.
"If you don't like most of what the industry is doing then buy the stuff you like and leave the rest. It's really that simple."
Already do, child, but thanks so much for telling me what I can and can't do.
My apologies to Mr.Shooter, JayJay, and the numerous intelligent and articulate posters on here for wasting your time, but peabrains bring out the loudmouth in me.
What kind of a solution is that? Removing a popular franchise so that the public is forced to accept something else is a very underhanded tactic. It would be just as outrageous as saving sports by getting rid of baseball and replacing it with cricket. What makes you think that's better?
As one of the people who recommended USM in an earlier comments thread, I feel partly responsible for your pain. (: Because of a lack of time currently, I haven't had the chance to read the new USM yet, but I was a big fan of the previous 160-issue, Peter Parker version, and suspect I'll like this version, too. But I guess my question is– if you didn't like this issue, why suffer through issue #2? You always wrote that "every issue is someone's first issue" (true), but it's just as true that every issue could be someone's last, and I don't see a problem with that, especially as you have no professional investment in it as an editor or other authority figure. While I love your reviews, I'd much rather see you seeking out material you'd be interested in than just making yourself have an unpleasant experience with issue #2 (especially since I suspect your initial post and the lively discussion in this thread might cover what would be in the review, anyway). I mean, tell us more about NYCC, or your experiences at Valiant, or anything else that might be more pleasurable for you. More fun for you=more fun for us.
You can explain how you feel but you and many other fans like to cross this line and that is unacceptable. *
sorry computer issue
"The bastards who have been entrusted to care for and enrich our icons have whored them out to make quick and easy money."
"The people who are currently responsible for DC and Marvel, from the writers and artists all the way up to the greedy devils who own the companies, should be ashamed of themselves. They don't care, though. They're pimps, and they disgust me. This awful mentality isn't limited to comics, of course. It's widespread, American, accepted S.O.P. Kudos to Mr.Shooter for being willing to call attention to it."
Wow what gives you the right to be so insulting to these creators? This awful mentality is whats become wide spread. You don't like the stories and thats fine you can say that and leave it that. You can explain how you and many other fans like to cross this line and that is unacceptable.
The stories being told aren't the reason why comics aren't selling that much there are many factors that contribute to this. Price, rival pieces of entertainment, attitude towards comics, the direct market, piracy, and the fan base are all contributing factors. You can argue that marvel had a huge piece of the market share cause they are doing something right.
I'm sorry that you don't like the current direction at Marvel. I hate to see people not like what I like but we all have our own taste. I don't like DC's current direction but I don't insult the creators over there and you know what I spend my money on things that do interest me. If you don't like most of what the industry is doing then buy the stuff you like and leave the rest. It's really that simple.
Shooter: "…I do not like the McFarlane webs…..the sheer mass of that thick, tangly rope of stuff is absurd. And that is a legit point. It’s a logical clinker that will give some people pause."
[MikeAnon:] I actually liked the McFarlane webs because (1) the binding outer cord helped explain how the web didn't scatter into a zillion strands and (2) thinking about how complex the web shooter would have to be to make a web line like that make me consider Peter Parker even more of a genius. [–MikeAnon]
Shooter: "The second variant features Spider-Man unmasked. He’s leaping, I guess, though the pose is close to a sticking-to-the-wall pose. It takes me a tenth of a second to realize that, nah, that wall behind him is some distance away. He must be in the air."
[MikeAnon:] Total agreement there. In fact, all this time I've see that picture, I've just assumed that he was sticking to a wall, and my brain literally blurred out the background because it makes no sense relevant to his sticking to a wall. [–MikeAnon]
Miyake: "What would a breakdown of the first six pages of this new Spider-Man comic look like for comparison? I thought 'That's all?' at the end. I read Ultimate Spider-Man #1 when Marvel offered it for free online 11 years ago. I had a similar reaction."
[MikeAnon:] I don't know if you know this, but it took Brian Bendis five issues to kill Uncle Ben. Five issues. There is no excuse for that. There is no excuse for Bendis' taking so many issue to produce so little content. This is not about pacing. This is about content. Specifically, this is about thinking several panels with characters looking at each other and nothing else happening is content. Amazing Fantasy #15 cost 12 cents (86 cents in real dollars) and contained ten times the content that today's $4 comic book costs. That's why I no longer buy single-issue comics. If it takes a trade to give me a complete story, I will wait for the trade (and buy it on the cheap, thanks to Amazon's generous 33% discounts). [–MikeAnon]
Aspmo: "But because of how well Uncle Ben was established in Ultimate Spider-Man, the readers truly felt bad *themselves*, viscerally, when he was killed."
[MikeAnon:] What readers were these? Granted, it's been a long time since I read USM, but all I remember about Uncle Ben was (1) stupid pony tail, (2) trying to be a nice, cool guy, (3) took five freakin' issues to finally turn him into a chalk outline. I read USM up through the Clone Saga and I never once missed Uncle Ben…nor did I ever have much of an attachment to Aunt May, for that matter. She irritated me more often than not, probably because she was so much younger than the 616 Aunt May, and that made it harder to feel sympathetic for her. "Shut up and get a date already!" [–MikeAnon]
I know this question was intended for someone else, but, until he answers, I'll have a go.
"Can you explain what it is about polybags you don't like? I see no reason to hate them when they can be discarded so easily."
Okay, help me out a bit here. Am I to understand, based on the comments up thread, that these polybags lead to a comic's cover being completely obscured within? If so, then why bother coming up with a decent cover at all? Surely a good cover should work as a 'hook', designed to draw a potential reader's attention: ideally, the image should have some relevance to the story within. Even someone not as big a comics buff as many of you, such as myself, could list off iconic covers for hours: whatever the relative merits or demerits of the three variant covers to this comic, as discussed by Jim, why go to the trouble of preparing a cover or covers and then covering them up? I really don't understand…
Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but Jim Shooter's is the most important one here, being his blog and his opinion being what we're all interested in, right? I'm sure he would disagree with that sentiment, as he seems to genuinely enjoy discussing others' differing viewpoints with them. He even does it with those who are somewhat disrespectful to him.
What I find so fascinating about Jim Shooter is that he says things the way they are. He states what happened in situations without excessive emotion. If he feels he may have erred in some way, he owns up to it. He presents details that he could just as easily not have mentioned. He doesn't fudge things to make himself look better.
More people should strive to be like that. It is a very honorable way to be.
What is prompting me to attempt to stand up for Mr.Shooter (not that he needs me to), are all of these little comments criticizing his choice of words during his latest review.
Where were all these puckery, holier-than-thou so-and-so's when Mr.Shooter was (and still is) being raked up one side and down the other by crybabies and opportunists?
Most of today's comics are garbage. They're boring. DC's new direction sucks. Marvel's destroyed Spider-Man. All of this "new" stuff was done twenty years ago when Image started. It was novel then; it's beyond played out now. The worst of yesteryear's comics are still infinitely better than what passes for entertainment today. How's that for politically incorrect?
I am so tired of DC and Marvel expecting me to lay out good money for lame, pointless treacle just because they own these characters that I have fondness for. They are disrespectful to these legends of modern mythology. The bastards who have been entrusted to care for and enrich our icons have whored them out to make quick and easy money.
The people who complain that Mr.Shooter is being too harsh are fooling themselves. They want to like this stuff because there's nothing else new featuring the characters they love that's any better.
The people who are currently responsible for DC and Marvel, from the writers and artists all the way up to the greedy devils who own the companies, should be ashamed of themselves. They don't care, though. They're pimps, and they disgust me. This awful mentality isn't limited to comics, of course. It's widespread, American, accepted S.O.P. Kudos to Mr.Shooter for being willing to call attention to it.
I think the regular posters here all understand his philosophy and the way he expresses it. I believe they all hold you in high esteem, Mr.S., as do I.
I'm not trying to be an apple polisher, but I have been in similar damned-if-you do and damned-if-you-don't situations, so I can relate.
Vinny, I like hearing everyone's different ideas to revitalize the industry. I'm not sure though that the format is the problem. To me, digital distribution is more promising than any print format. But I believe customers will find great storytelling in whatever format it's put out in. Certainly putting unappealing art and writing into a new format isn't going to generate sales.
If there was just one magic bullet to make the industry rebound, someone would have found a way to fire it off by now. Pricing is the biggest problem that I see. The inflation rate of comics has far outpaced things like movies and toys. A standard comic should cost $2 now to be competitive. There's no way comics can create fans out of kids the way they used to at these prices. It spells major trouble in the future for comics if current fans leave through attrition and no new blood comes in to replace them.
In terms of the content, I think there has to be a back-to-basics approach. The universes need to be simplified. I'd take the bold step of rebooting the Marvel Universe completely and rolling out titles slowly enough to give people time to sample them all. There shouldn't be any major changes to the origins or costumes, just a modernization. The important point would be to clean up the continuity.
We also need all-ages appropriate stories as the mainstream, ongoing titles. Of course many other series and special releases could be geared to adults.
More new characters are fine, but what would getting rid of the classics like Superman, Spider-Man, etc. accomplish? There's no chance of it anyway since those brand names are worth billions.
There also needs to be marketing muscle put behind any new push. The marketing's been solid for the New 52. It just doesn't look like the content is going to keep new readers coming back.
Just to clarify: I took your comments on the relative merits or demerits of various Spidey costumes as purely your own personal opinion, just like you state that it was. I didn't take a preference for one to automatically mean you disliked the other. For the record, I prefer the Ditko costume to this new one also. As with many of my generation (mid 30s), I also have a level of appreciation of and nostalgia for the black costume which you, being older and having been EiC at Marvel when it was introduced, may not: that's not me saying that you didn't LIKE it…hell, even for something intended as a short-lived event, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have gone with something that looked like crap…more that someone of my age could be expected to have more of an emotional connection with the design, much as how the 60s Marvel comics probably resound on a deeper level with you than with me as you would have read them keenly, and probably also explains how we're seeing 'Image-lite' art in so many comics still, due to the creators having admired that when they were young.
That was a great link. Re: Chris Tolworthy's essay on comic book's economic suicide. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Jim Shooter, for another comic book review. I still can't believe variant covers are still being shilled out. I appreciated your insight about Dikto/Romita's visual art treatment of Spiderman.
As for the sorry state of the comic book industry, I don't need the caustic commentary in this blog to understand the situation. (Additionally, I feel it detracts from whatever positive and constructive dialogue there is in tackling the issue.)
In a nutshell, the serial nature of sequential art has played itself out fully, ad nauseum. The comic book industry needs a paradigm shift, to graphic novel storytelling, with completely new characters. (Or do existing characters in a graphic novel style.)
I remarked earlier that, for the comics industry to propser, Superman simply needs to leave. Allow me to elaborate. Superman is all about opportunity cost.
It cost DC the creative talents of a writer/artist/colorist/editor team in creating a single issue of Superman. That same resource(s) could be redirected towards another comic book. It is a lost opportunity.
Customers buy issues of Superman. (I don't know the circulation figures, but let's say… 100K issues a month?) If there were no issues of Superman for sale, customers would try another comic book title. Again, another lost opportunity.
At least, turn popular characters like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, etc. into the graphic novel format, and then create a whole new swath of characters/heroes/villians for comic book consumption.
I didn't mean to suggest it's mandatory that reading a comic should take longer than 3 minutes. If you find the art to be unappealing, there's no need to stare at it. I just wanted to convey the idea that reading a comic can last as quickly or slowly as you want.
As I recall, there was a letter printed in an early Broadway comic where a fan said he never reads a comic in one sitting with the exception of Powers That Be. Apparently, he spent way more time focusing on art than most readers.
Mrswing, Jim has remarked in the comments here that he enjoyed Mark Waid's recent Daredevil issues. So just in case anyone thought Jim was not giving a fair and balanced approach to Marvel, if he keeps doing reviews, I'm sure we'll see some positive reaction. I agree with whoever said that the Ditko/Romita dissection was the most interesting part of the review. You did a great job mixing incisive commentary both on the classic and the modern here, Jim.
Kintounkal said, "In my opinion, anyone who finishes a 21 page comic in under 3 minutes has no desire to admire the art."
Kintounkal, that works if the art in the issue is pretty. But this art isn't, not to me anyway. I did find the art in Aquaman #1 to be quite beautiful. I didn't mind the larger panels because I spent a lot of time admiring each one of them. For me comics are about appreciating both the art and story, but I find just as much trouble finding good-looking art as I do good stories nowadays. I didn't like the "Image-lite" of the late '90s but I don't like the lower detail, sketchier stuff I'm seeing a lot of these days either.
I wonder why Marvel's current EIC and previous editor for 10 years, Axel Alonso, isn't referenced more frequently when discussing current Marvel. He edited DC's Vertigo comics for 6 years before joining Marvel. The visual and storytelling style of issues like this Ultimate Spider-Man seem a lot more like a Vertigo comic to me than the kind Marvel was known for from the '60s to the '90s. The storytelling here is slow, moody and muted. The artwork is offbeat, angular and sketchy. This doesn't look like fun to read, it looks like a chore.
Comics like this may have a fanbase, but they are not what most people expect from mainstream superhero comics. Like someone said above, a style like this might work for the noir genre, but for superheroes, I don't think so. If superhero movies were made like this, they wouldn't be blockbusters, they'd be small independent art films. And critics would be wildly divided on them along love/hate lines, just as we see represented in this blog.
In terms of our various critical opinions, I hope we can agree to disagree when necessary. Movie criticism is as rough and tumble as it gets but the comics industry and its fans may not be used to that. I don't want to see critics put on kid gloves, I want to see them give their honest opinion. Nor do I want people to take offense when their work or something they like gets criticized. Critiques of a creative work are not something to be taken personally. Negative vibes like that are a disincentive to the free exchange of ideas which is never a good thing.
Can you explain what it is about polybags you don't like? I see no reason to hate them when they can be discarded so easily.
I'm guessing the incident with Xavier you're referring to occurred in issue #192 ("Fun 'n' Games") not #167 ("The Goldilocks Syndrome! (or: Who's been Sleeping in my Head?"). I don't think all other deaths were meaningful before and suddenly meaningless after. You thought the beating Charles experienced at the hands of his students was fatal and you were mistaken. The fact that you were gullible toward one stunt does not make this stunt more of a gimmick.
John said: "Going by the sales charts, it seems it is an approach a significant portion of comic readers prefer."
Going by the sales charts, comic-books won't even be around 10 years from now. So let me rephrase your statement to read more appropriately, John.
"Going by the sales charts, it seems it is an approach that the few people who still read new comics seem to prefer."
My point being that the way that comics are produced today (decompressed storytelling, pin-up covers, muted and muddy coloring, etc.) has driven away a significant majority of the comic-reading public. As a result the only ones left still reading them are the people who like this particular indie comic style of storytelling in the first place.
Show me any padding at all in Hamlet.
No rules. No absolutes. Any style, technique, whatever can work, done right, under the right circumstances. But does the pacing suit the need in this particular case? Does it succeed? Does it accomplish the goals? Opinions vary. Publishers are hoping for commercial success. Will enough people prefer, or like, or tolerate this? Or will fewer like it than not? My judgment is the latter. I could be wrong. I make that judgment based on experience and training. Maybe my experience is outdated, maybe my teachers were wrong. But, that's my assessment for now, till something changes my mind.
The sales charts sing a song of woe. Comic book sales are depressingly low.
Duh. I stand corrected. I'm a luddite. Is it a reasonable facsimile of a newspaper web-page?
Brevoort already called me on that and I changed the phoned it in comment. It seems phoned in, I stand by that, but as Tom pointed out, I wasn't there, I don't know how hard he tried.
Criticism of my work never bothered me.
Dear Anonymous (unsigned),
The lottery scene doesn't accomplish much in my opinion. We get to know mom a little, and to a far lesser extent, Miles and dad. Take ten pages to introduce the folks, if it's done effectively and the content is relevant, I don't mind. Right instinct: introduce the characters. Execution? Not so good, in my editorial opinion. A long tease can work. Anything you can imagine can work. Lost built mystery, not confusion. The writers were skillful people. Ditto the Prisoner. Episode by episode, scene by scene info was skillfully, expertly delivered. No irrelevant stuff, no poor organization, paced as needed to suit — expanded and texture-rich or quick and to the point. I criticize the craft of the writer, not any particular technique or approach.
Read what I said again. I acknowledged that the Lego blocks have purpose, and that Bendis will build something from them eventually. He's no punter. The blocks offered in this issue don't add up to much this issue.
I gave Bendis his props. Didn't you see?
By "phoned in" I meant that it didn't seem to be done with the care and skill I've seen in other works by Bendis.
Yes, I know he's had best sellers. I expected more of him re: this issue.
I don't know or care how much work he does. I was reading this issue.
I don't know whether Stan ever just slacked off on an issue. He was usually working under incredible pressures and constraints, which hurt the execution sometimes. That's not the same as phoning it in.
I try to keep my personal tastes separate from the reviews, which are meant to be technical/editorial, based on my experience and what I've learned over the years working with some of the best editorial minds ever to work in the industry. Disagreement is welcome. Others may see things differently. I made sure that my personal preference regarding the costume was identified as such.
I didn't say I didn't like the new costume. I said I preferred the Ditko version.
The black costume was a story element, intended to be done and gone when the story was done. I never imagined that it would literally and figuratively take on a life of its own. : )
Bendis is without a doubt the most overrated writer in comics today (if not ever). He is relentlessly self-indulgent. 21 pages for Peter to tell MJ he's Spider-Man – and at least 10 of those pages could be cut. He's in love with the sound of his own voice (one which he applies to 90% of the characters written by him – at least). So instead of drama, we get chit-chat. Instead of character moments which stay with you, we get one-liners. Instead of steadily building excitement, we get blabfests, framing devices which take away all the tension and immediacy from the plot, and really bad climaxes. This is what characterizes at least 80% of his work. Sometimes, he does get it right, and he manages to pull off a strong issue or an emotional moment with real resonance – and even then, the editor's red pencil would still have improved the end result.
And don't get me started on the rampant stupidity of events such as House of M, Secret Invasion and the like. Bendis hasn't overseen a single good event yet. They've generally been detrimental to the quality of the Marvel Universe as a whole.
But Bendis is not alone. Mark Millar almost destroyed the very concept of the superhero in Civil War. Matt Fraction is making a right mess out of Fear Itself. And what Jason Aaron has done to the X-Men franchise in Schism is a low down dirty shame. The big schism is about letting a squad of X-kids decide, for themselves, without any undue pressuring, whether they want to flee their base of operations or stay and fight to save it. For this, Cyclops and Wolverine beat each other to a pulp, not only while a giant unstoppable Sentinel is nearing the island, but even when it's attacking them directly! They ignore the threat in order to kill each other!
And what's really shocking is that comic book reviewers on major sites don't even notice just how insanely stupid and badly written, plotted and edited this crap is.
Ah well. At least Mark Waid is FINALLY making Daredevil a character worth reading about – for the first time since Karl Kesel's run. Let's hope he stays on board for a long time and keeps the groove he's in.
Steven R. Stahl
The best ones do focus more on character and allow dramatic beats more space to breathe. If that is "decompression," I like it. But I can appreciate that it does not appeal to every reader.
You're ignoring the absence of content. Many decompressed stories can be compared to dumping a screenplay onto pages, with minimal descriptions added. The artwork in superhero comics, specifically, serves only a descriptive purpose. Dialogue and artwork don't suffice for a complete story. Page space is being wasted.
Appropos of virtually nothing in this post… have you had a chance to get a load of the "Stan Lee" biography comic that Blue Water Comics/Orbit just published?
For the most part, it seems to have portrayed Stan in a fairly honest light, but the comic had at least a half-dozen errors due to poor proofreading, and then, well…
They mention you on a couple pages, with drawings of you that make Doctor Doom seem like a Boy Scout, and pretty much portray your involvement in Marvel the same way. (Seems like they buy into every uncomplimentary thing Perez and Byrne ever uttered about you, without even so much research as surfing over here to your blog would necessitate.)
Funny thing is, in light of your critiques on the New 52, I found myself also wondering about the odd panel designs on some pages (in a biography, no less) and deficiencies in the art's pure storytelling, which lacks flow. (Many panels were just closeups of Stan's eyes, for example.)
One page was laid out so poorly, someone actually added in arrows so the reader would know which panel was supposed to come next.
And I won't even veer near their integration of every complaint Jack Kirby ever lodged…
Anyway… wanted to know if you'd seen it.
It's odd. The mentioned and included Roy Thomas and John Byrne without slant or bias… but your era came up and they present your arrival as worse for Marvel than the Perleman Era….
And oddly, the comic portrays Stan as almost dead/irrelevant from the mid-90s on, ignoring everything he's done in the past 20 years.
Just a lot of odd choices.
"The thing is, in most "decompressed" stories I've read, there isn't really any more character development or detail…"
I think that is a valid complaint. But a lot of the criticism of modern comics comes off as "They don't do it like they did in the old days." I agree that comics today are different than they were twenty years ago. The best ones do focus more on character and allow dramatic beats more space to breathe. If that is "decompression," I like it. But I can appreciate that it does not appeal to every reader. As an illustration, the AMC show "The Killing" was an investigation of one crime over an entire season. Law and Order would have done it in an episode and still had time for the trial. Neither show is inherently better or worse than the other. One show's approach might appeal to you more than the other's, but both have their merits.
You're wrong. Brian Michael Bendis has done his research on this matter. Miles' camouflage is probably based on a species of crab spider known as "Misumena vatia". It can change color to match whatever flower it's sitting on. Suggesting this power shouldn't extend beyond his clothes isn't very practical. Do you expect him to fight crime naked?
John wrote: Bendis made a choice to slow down his story and focus on character moments and details that might not have been focused on twenty or thirty years ago.
The thing is, in most "decompressed" stories I've read, there isn't really any more character development or detail than there was in stories 20 years ago. Rather, the same amount of character development is stretched out over more pages, because of the sparser amounts of dialogue and overall text on each page.
beta ray steve
I would join Mr. Shooter in complaining about decompression, but decompression helps me prune my pull list. When I try a new book, they have one issue to give me a major chunk of story, or I won't be back. I used to give books 4-5 issues, but these days, that'd be $16-20!
It's easy for Bendis to write up nice little character moments because it spares him from moving the plot along. His comics lack any kind of urgency, the pacing is flat. Daredevil vs. the Kingpin? Six issues. Daredevil vs. Stiltman? Six issues. And there's a year gone by, and there have been two Daredevil stories.
If you didn't care about Stiltman, would you remember to come back five months later?
Steven R. Stahl
Scientific literacy has rarely been demonstrated in comics, and to this day the mutants in the Marvel universe are described as a "new" species… and an endangered one at that. I doubt things will change anytime soon.
Scientific illiteracy is widespread, but the handling of kinetic energy is elementary school stuff. Playing pool, a baseball breaking a window — if neither Bendis nor Brevoort understands physics at an elementary school level, how can they handle material dealing with genetic engineering?
Handling superheroes and their powers isn't difficult if one understands the sciences: just establish rules for how powers affect things and interact, and don't violate them. That's what an editor is supposed to watch out for.
All well said Vince F!
The Bendis criticsims are interesting… I've heard them before and while I don't necessarily agree, I respect the opinion.
I don't like everything Bendis has done, but it was his Daredevil that FINALLY got me interested in the character and has caused me to go back and start at the beginning with the Essential trades. I think his Alias series is one of the best things I've read and overall, I've enjoyed his Avengers work.
That said, I respect Jim's view and opinion, which is not only simple conjecture, but is backed up with tangible experience in this business. Comics have changed since he was over Marvel, and whether that change is good or bad, it is certainly a different ballgame and Jim's editorial eye/view may not be the same as those in charge now. Doesn't make it any less valid than Tom's (who I appreciate making himself known), just different.
In any case, as with everyone else, I appreciate Jim doing this blog. It's been fascinating and enjoyable read, filled with great stories and history. Thanks Jim.
Just look at the sales figures. People are NOT supporting this dragged out story telling.
Jim – THANKS for pointing out Twain's rule about crass stupidities. The sad things is, there are a bevy of readers who defend the creators who do this – the very ones who are the recipients of the crass stupidities not only buy it, but they defend it
"According to that point of view, how much timed entertainment do you get out of buying a painting or a poster? "
No one buys a painting or a poster for entertainment.
LOL – Tom Brevoort's post in this thread just reenforces how clueless many industry insiders are today about storytelling. Sadly, reading Brevoort's post, it appears that he genuinely does not get it
Dear Steven Stahl,
Scientific literacy has rarely been demonstrated in comics, and to this day the mutants in the Marvel universe are described as a "new" species… and an endangered one at that. I doubt things will change anytime soon.
One of my favorite pieces of proper science in a Marvel comic was, appropriately enough, written by Mr. Shooter during Secret Wars II. If I recall correctly, Luke Cage jumped out a window to catch somebody who was falling off a building, saying something like "I'm heavier, so I should fall faster… Hey! It ain't working!"
It was a cool character moment, showing that Luke hadn't paid much attention in school (as one would expect from the big lug!)… and, of course, the proper use of science was welcome.
The movie industry is more clever in that they release movies in thousands of theaters simultaneously in order to cash in quickly on a dud. A slow, Bad comic will immediately lose readers at 4 dollars a pop.
Actually, the Ultimate Comics relaunches were polybagged to hide copies with with Stan Lee signatures and certificates of authenticity. You can find photos at
"On 42: This actually annoyed me the most in this issue. It's a clear and obvious Douglas Adams shout-out, 'the answer to life, the universe, and everything.' If you wanted a clever number with meaning, maybe 23, but using 42, these days, is a good way to just make people jump out of the story. "
Or it's a nod to Jackie Robinson who wore the #42 as he became the first major league black player on a franchise baseball team.
Steven R. Stahl
One point that deserves mention is scientific illiteracy. That affected USM #1, since the conversation between Osborn and Markus didn't make sense. Words were used incorrectly, or in meaningless phrases — and the blood sample Osborn had would obviously have had genes in it.
An example of such illiteracy ruining a story is NEW AVENGERS #17. A vaguely humanoid robot is supposedly able to absorb kinetic energy. That's questionable, but not impossible. However, Bendis has Wolverine use his claws on the robot, which, by Bendis's own reasoning, is impossible. That's a kinetic energy attack. The claws should have bounced off. Brevoort is at least as responsible for that mistake as Bendis is.
Shooter is certainly correct as far as the disadvantages of decompressed storytelling is concerned. If any of its advocates are able to defend it in terms of content, they haven't done so. The fact that current comics are much easier to read than comics with narration and thought balloons doesn't make them better.
Huh, Whaddya know, I got a variant in my baggie. Version #1 to be exact.
As a lifelong comic enthusiast, I've been reading 37 of my 43 yrs. I know what I like and what I don't like pretty crisply at this point.
I didn't buy this book FOR the new Spider-man, or for Bendis or for Marvel. Its like one of those movies you see so you can be topical and part of the conversation. I wanted to check it to be in the know.
I don't like new comics in poly bags.
The pacing was pretty slow. No doubt to be a hook to get you to come back… but there wasn't enough to set the hook for me. I kinda lost interest and despite the school lottery thing.. I didn't "click" with the new guy.. maybe by issue 13 if I bothered to stick with it.
Much like the gimmicky bag, or foil holograms, or variant versions – it felt like a stunt. The whole book.
The entire Ultimate's line strikes me as an "Elseworlds" or "What If" pocket universe. It exists in parallel with the licensed properties we all know, love and grew up with. It gives the hardcore fan-boys something salty to munch on.
New Spider man is Black. Batman broke his back Superman is dead. Whatever. The 1st character death that drew me in was Xavier around ish X-men 167. After that it ceased to be meaningful. Stunts and gimmicks.
Remember this title?
If the book doesn't gain any traction in the marketplace or in other words continue to sell a butt-load of comics. This will all be forgotten.
This book is the epitome of why I (for the most part) I quit buying new comics and only buy Silver and Bronze age books.
Long ago, comic-books had 20 pages with 8 or 9 panels per page. Now we have the same ammount of pages… with three, four or five panels. And lots of splash pages.
The storytelling resents this lack of space. Now you need 6 or seven issues to tell what usually was told in just one.
Let's say 12 issues if you are Mr. Bendis.
I understand and respect your point, Stephane. I just don't agree with your characterization of what Bendis is doing in this situation.
You're assuming everyone reads a comic book precisely at the same speed you do. In my opinion, anyone who finishes a 21 page comic in under 3 minutes has no desire to admire the art. According to that point of view, how much timed entertainment do you get out of buying a painting or a poster?
What an insult to Stan Lee!
Spider-Man punches the chameleon.
Spider-Man, angry and hurt, punches the chameleon, who just endangered his girlfriend.
Spider-Man punches, with his fist, the Chameleon, in the face, and the face of the Chameleon is so hit by Spidey's fist.
Jim – others in this thread have probably already said this, but this issue is not atypical of Bendis, it is typical of his work. He has been producing issues like this for 10 years at Marvel – and has been called the modern day Stan Lee
Development and stretching isn't exactely the same, John.
"For me it is hard to understand how someone talented can take, say five or six issues, to tell a story that could be told in three or four at the very maximum"
You could tell the story of Hamlet in a sentence or two, was Shakespeare "padding it out" because he tells it in five acts? Mr. Bendis made a choice to slow down his story and focus on character moments and details that might not have been focused on twenty or thirty years ago. It's not a choice that most of the posters here prefer, but that doesn't make it bad. Going by the sales charts, it seems it is an approach a significant portion of comic readers prefer.
"Decompression" is really a misnomer, as it implies there is something unnatural about the pacing of older comics. I prefer the term "padded out" since to me that more accurately describes stretching one issue's worth of plot out over several issues. I know some people like that style, but it puzzles me that people are willing to pay $3-$4 for a book that takes at most 3-4 minutes to read. A dollar a minute is a pretty hefty price for entertainment. Would you pay $100+ to go see a movie?
It is headed that way. Too many movies made only to push the next sequel *cough* Iron Man 2 *cough* *cough*. Unfortunately we are not quite at the stage where the audience has pushed back with their wallets, but almost.
Dear Tom (& Jim),
It is a bit easy for me to take Jim's side on his blog, but the "phoned-in" thing is an impression that i often have too about Bendis, particularly because i agree that he is a talented man. That has to do with the decompressed style of writing. For me it is hard to understand how someone talented can take, say five or six issues, to tell a story that could be told in three or four at the very maximum.
The maybe easy coclusion is that it takes less work to fill six issues with the matter for four rather than writing a richer six-parts story, or two shorter stories, for those six issues.
With respect and sympathy, and if i may not be a fan at all of current Marvel, i have only nice things to say about how i saw you interact with the readers on the internet other the years.
I'm not sure when the decompressed style of comics really became the norm but I believe the sales crashing over the last few years is a result of that trend. If movies were made the same way, that industry would crash as well.
gn6196- it didn't wanna take my ID
Seriously, I discovered your blog through Chris Tolworthy some time back. I'm impressed. Happy to see you here.
Lest someone argue that Tolworthy is 100% against decompression, he did make the same point you did about slowing down for the trades:
"A small number of cinematic [i.e., decompressed] comics sold well. E.g. Dark Knight Returns. But they also cost a lot more money. They only work as an occasional high priced novelty."
Any technique might work some of the time. But not all of the time.
Technically if we are using a political type metaphor then Jim Shooter is NOT Keith Olbermann…
Jim Shooter is John Adams or Alexander Hamilton.
And I agree that Chris Tolworthy is worth a read.
If you're writing for the trade, then just publish trades. That's the problem. If you're writing for periodic installments, then write that way.
Dear Marc – thanks for those links. I'm still poking around that japanlifeandreligion site – some great reading in there. And Mr. Tolworthy's piece is spot-on.
that can't stand alone?
Who wants to read something that's all broken up into little chunks
Decompression is bad. It's annoying.
Your explanation for 42 is more likely than mine. I've never read anything by Douglas Adams. I was looking at the number through my own (irrelevant) prism. The Japanese avoid 42 in license plates because of its homophony with "death." And it's significant when a man reaches the age of 42.
As for decompression, I highly recommend Chris Tolworthy's essay "Comics used to be value for money before they committed economic suicide."
You hit the nail square re: a big problem creators and the industry face: Many readers are steeped in the lore sufficiently so that things may appeal to them that are Swedish movies with no subtitles to new readers. Conversely, things "aimed" at new readers can seem tedious to aficionados. We want, and NEED new readers. We want to please the ones we have. Some see that as an insoluble problem. I don't. The best comics writers and artists elegantly and artfully deliver the story so that it is clear to EVERY reader, ANY reader effectively, gracefully, so that no one feels burdened with useless baggage and no one feels lost at sea. Whether you liked the New 52 Batman #1 or not, Snyder did a good job of communicating and Capullo mostly did. Back in their prime, Stan, Jack Steve and others did. You can name the creators who meet that test as well as I can. We need more like them.
JediJones, in case Jim's answer about the printing plates isn't to laypeople, this explanation of offset printing may help:
How Offset Printing Works
It was a matter of cost. Removing the UPC box entirely would have been a four-plate change, and required a second set of separations, film, etc. Removing the black UPC and inserting a black headshot is a simple one-plate change.
I have to say, I agree with Jim on almost all of his point when he dissects a comic like this.
I feel like Marvel's books are increasingly "thin reads" and not worth the price, no matter how great the art may be at times.
So for me, the worst part of this book may be it's price. $3.99 for this comic is just too much IMHO and that's why I find myself buying fewer and fewer comics as time goes by. The content of the comics often don't warrant the price on the cover. Ultimately I think that will be the final nail in their coffins.
I'd be curious to know what you've read of Bendis' that you thought well enough to consider him very talented? Powers? Torso?
Bendis is the KING of "decompression". I venture to say that, while he may not have been the first comic writer to work that way, he is certainly responsible for making it mainstream.
The problem is, it's a style that may work for noirish material like Powers, but it simply does not work for mainstream superhero comics. It's just straight up boring. And it does come off to many a reader– who have no reason to think otherwise– as lazy writing.
I do appreciate Tom B. posting his thoughts. It's interesting to hear, since we rarely (ever?) get to hear anyone in the DC/Marvel heirarchy defend the current work.
"Decompression is a preposterous narrative strategy for an expensive product that is 21 pages long. It's like taking a short story, blowing up the typeface so that you can only fit ten words on each page, and then publishing it as a "novel". "
Well put, Daniel K.
Further commentary: 21 pages. One story. Decompressed, slow to tell, quick to read. And people wonder why I say the comic world needs a new Stan Lee to kick it in the tail before it dies.
On 42: This actually annoyed me the most in this issue. It's a clear and obvious Douglas Adams shout-out, 'the answer to life, the universe, and everything.' If you wanted a clever number with meaning, maybe 23, but using 42, these days, is a good way to just make people jump out of the story.
On the webs: I always saw the thick ropes as something that inflated when it hit air, like foam.
Minor technical detail? That 'newspaper' article is a web-page. See the 'log in' link? It's slightly more convincing that way.
That was an awesome review.
When I tentatively started reading comics again after a ten + year absence, one of the first things I picked up was a 'Powers' TPB. It was OK, I suppose, but incredibly slow moving. Haven't read anything by Bendis since. Kirkman's Walking Dead, which I read at the same time, was much better & I have most of the series now. And if I can pick up a Kirkman TPB for a $ or 2 in a bargain bin I will. He's always entertaining, even on things like Ant Man.
Bendis may sell well, but it's relative. He sells around 20% of what a top selling comic did back when I was collecting seriously. Something is very wrong there. Decompression is a preposterous narrative strategy for an expensive product that is 21 pages long. It's like taking a short story, blowing up the typeface so that you can only fit ten words on each page, and then publishing it as a "novel".
I think Mr. Shooter has adequately explained his 'phoning it in' comments, so no need for offended parties to keep harping on in the comments.
I honestly felt the same way when I read the first issue. To me a comic that is about a person to the point their name IS the comic; then the comic should be about THEM, and not everyone else in the world. The next two issues are much better in that they actually involve Miles in what is supposed to be his story, rather then focusing more on his friends, family, or hell even the punks that bully him as I fully expected Bendis would go off on a tangent about how they are abused and just taking it out on the world, seeing as it felt like he was more interested in everyone but Miles in the first issue.
But even then it still feels very by-the-numbers. Issue 2: Miles is scared of his new powers, his friend is excited over them, he has a heart to heart with his Dad "You can tell me anything son. Oh, and did I mention I hate super heroes? I think they should all just die and go to hell. So tell me anything that your worried about!" "Nothing dad." with it ending with a panel directly lifted from the last time Bendis did the Spider-man origin.
Issue 3: Once more establishing the world around him, focusing on the school again, mother still hasn't been seen again for how much attention she got in issue one. Mild heroics, except oh ho ho Miles hates it and swears them off… Until the news comes that Spider-man has been fatality wounded! Oh No! What a quirky twist this is, that Miles gets Spider-powers right before the old Spider-man dies. What will he do now that he's sworn to never again use his powers in this book cleverly titled "Spider-man"?
Yes to me this feels like Bendis isn't even trying. It basically goes from cliche to cliche to the point of predictability.
This was a fascinating article to read for your comments on Ditko and Romita. I was born in 1971, introduced to Spider-Man by a treasury edition that reprinted 3 Ditko stories. I bugged my parents to buy me the regular comic–that was during the Conway and Andru tenure–and even at the age of 5, I could tell something was wrong. Same character, different comic book. In my teens, I finally got to read all of the Ditko issues, and was blown away, particulary because Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz were doing a great version of Spider-Man that was true to Ditko (and Lee's) version of him. Reading this article, I imagine you had something to with that…thank you. I just wish DeFalco and Frenz hadn't been interrupted mid-storyline, ironically, just the way Ditko left the book right before the revelation of the Goblin's identity…
I agree with your assessment of Romita. Brilliant artist, but not right for Spider-Man. In Romita's defense, I think that Spider-Man is a more unique character than most–while Superman and Batman, for example can thrive under vastly different writers and artist–Spider-Man was so suffused with idiosyncratic Ditko touches that it was difficult for anyone to follow him. Although I'm a huge Ditko fan, I'm not saying that Ditko was better than any of his successors, just that he was so distinctive in his approach to the character he co-created that it was almost impossible for anyone to get it right. DeFalco and Frenz came as close as anyone, I think….
I generally agree with most of what you post about comics, Jim, but here… I'm lost. This is a tight introductory story to a new character, with very good dialog and a compelling story. 3 issues in, the book is moving slow (which is a BMB trademark) but very strongly.
>>>>>>>>>>>So is the writer, judging from other things I’ve seen. He’s not stupid, untalented or unskilled. He obviously phoned this one in (and many others, I suspect). Easy money. Why not, if the Marvel editorial bozos are clueless enough to pay for six pages worth of story fragments crammed into 21 pages, with reckless disregard for, to paraphrase Twain, slovenliness of form?<<<<<<<<<<
Jim, this is seriously out of line. Your criticisms are fair and valid, but now you're making personal judgements about Brian Michael Bendis. It's unprofessional and it adds a nasty tone to otherwise fairminded and constructive criticism. You have suffered this sort of mistreatment at the hands of others for many years, and while you're certainly being gentler than those who've spoken ill of you based on hearsay and a HULK story they didn't like, you should be better than this.
I don't believe for one minute that Brian phoned in this script; I think he simply has different priorities in storytelling than you do. He wants to write strong scenes, extensive back-and-forth Mamet-esque dialogue, to fully explore and personalize each moment and scene. You say it's a waste, that it's inefficient. That's fine. You say Brian hacked it out for a paycheque. You don't know that, Jim. You should be better than this.
With regard to Jedi Jones question about the "character heads" v's UPC code box on the front of Marvel books, I'd always assumed that both the UPC and the character heads were overprinted in black onto the covers after they had been printed. That way their would only have to be a single print run for the covers.
I thought your criticism of this issue was particularly hard. Whilst I agreed with some of your points your sledgehammer sarcasm nullified the point.
3 pages for the lottery? A little excessive perhaps if you don't know Bendis's style. He took 21 pages in Spider-man vol. 1 for Peter Parker to tell Mary Jane who he was. Which I'm sure Stan & Steve could've knocked off in a half-page!
I find your build blocks analogy mildly insulting – each of those blocks has a purpose. It has been thought about and argued and tweaked until it meets and fits with the other blocks. The long tease is an acceptable modern style – look at the Lost TV series – that was all tease! Or before then what the old TV series The Prisoner – again a complete tease until the very last episode and even then it was left open-ended. So let's cut Bendis some slack and credit him with some writing skills.
I wonder if the 'phoned in' phrase was a reference to the number of books he's doing? Is he spreading himself too thin? Even Stan couldn't cope with all that plotting & left it to Steve & Jack. If that's your point, then let's have it out front and address it.
Bendis sells and his relaunch of The Avengers line has pushed that franchise to the top. His Ultimate Spider-man sells. He also has various creator-owned titles as well. Does he pad out his stories for the trade books? Maybe. But it's a bit of a leap to to accuse him of phoning it in.
Would you say Stan ever phoned it in??
I haven't read All New Spider-Man #1, and have no plans on doing so (it's nothing against the issue itself), so I can't say whether or not I would agree with your own criticisms, some of which, being a matter of taste, would all be down to an individual anyway.
However, I found it interesting that, and forgive me if I am reading stuff in there that wasn't your intent, you should choose to criticise the costume, comparing it unfavourably to the Ditko original, given that Spider-Man's first proper costume change in the 616 universe, to the black (originally alien, subsequently a cloth replica) costume, came during your watch as EiC, and this new Ultimate costume clearly combines elements of the Ditko original and the black costume. Whether it works as a design or not is another thing, and I far prefer the original or the black costume to this on an aesthetic basis, and I realise that it may be the execution rather than the idea of a new costume that you find flawed: if so, and while stressing that this is down to personal taste, we may be in broad agreement, though I wouldn't call the design offensive either…
Your use of the term "Bozos" threw me off. On the surface, it seemed like a personal comment. That's why I made the comparison to Keith Olbermann. I see now that you're using this term (and others like it) in the context of how you actually see executives, editors and creators who are not upholding a quality storytelling standard.
Also, I didn't think you really thought that all stories must be as compressed. Rightly or wrongly, I anticipated someone misinterpreting what you were saying, and asked the question. If that means I'm the one who actually gave that impression by asking the question itself, then I'm sorry about that.
For what it's worth, do you think it might be more helpful that you always keep repeating the refrain, "This business is in trouble.", in pretty much every blog entry when you write about bad (or even good) storytelling? I mean, as a way to always hook in new readers to your blog who might not know what your primary thesis is, making that your blog's 'entry point' for new readers?
Maybe you can state this vital point about the industry you're trying to get across to everyone as a separate blurb on the right side column of your blog?
Or am I being too simplistic?
It seems both you and Tom Breevort are both ready to sit down with each other and hash things out. Or at least to present each person's side of the failed Korvac sequel (and hopefully a general discussion of what editorial standards should be – and isn't – in the industry).
I don't expect to see it anytime soon, but I do look forward to it whenever it happens.
Wanted to add that even though I have some strong disagreements with the conclusions made in this review, I'm happy that the review (as well as the DC reviews, which I largely agreed with) was written at all. I do consider the source to be about as knowledgeable as any, and I greatly appreciate the specificity used in the analysis. And I hope to see many more such reviews in the future.
The question of how well the cover works with regard to getting a reader to pick it up off the stands was rendered pretty much moot because all of the Ultimate line re-launch books were packaged in stark white polybags with nothing but the logo and an icon that corresponded to the title (the spider from Spidey's chest, the "X" in a circle, etc.) on them. They weren't polybagged *with* anything, so I guess it was just a way of unifying the line and being distinct on the store shelves (which they were).
Heh, well I thought I was reviewing the regular cover. I didn't realize the second one above was the regular. I wouldn't waste my time commenting on that one with any type of serious critique. Besides not having any storytelling features, it's just butt-ugly. It doesn't even achieve what a pin-up or poster should. The character on that cover looks like some sort of reptilian horror movie monster, not a superhero. I don't know why any new reader would start picking up comics if that's the kind of grotesque and decidedly unheroic imagery staring back at them from the shelf. And what the heck is that background? Some sort of Photoshop effect they cut and pasted in? I forgot though, this work wasn't "phoned in" at all, despite the appearance that the artist found a cheap shortcut that allowed them to avoid looking for any reference at all.
The 3rd "unmasked" cover is definitely the best of the lot. At least there's some meager sense of character expressed on his unmasked face there. I think a non-angled background would have worked better though since it would contrast with the acrobatics of the character (unlike the Web #1 cover where the angle prevents the gargoyles from looking too symmetrical against each other).
Wait…WHAT THE HEY?!?! Spiderman is turning invisible? So this is a new Spiderman? Peter Parker is dead?
Okay, so the kid has just been bitten by Spider #42, he's running away, and starts to turn invisible. Or is it some kind of chameleon effect? Even if it is, then it shouldn't effect his clothing. Epic fail. If Bendis worked hard on this story it doesn't show, from that one fact! What kind of spider does either of the two anyway?
I'm not going to rant about the variant covers, because it's a lost cause.
I’d ask a question if I knew what it should be.
I acknowledge the validity of all of your criticisms.
And, if I was a writer and you were my editor, I would be scribbling furiously in my notebook as you demolished my most recent effort, knowing full well as someone who takes his craft seriously that it was all for the best.
Here’s the problem: I have really enjoyed the past three issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. Maybe it’s the art. I don’t know. But I find myself really caring about Miles and his world even when Bendis’ well-known excesses cause the story to drag.
I don’t know what this says about me. Maybe it says that as a long-time reader of sequential art and even Brian Michael Bendis I have the requisite knowledge and patience to allow all of the Lego blocks to fall in to place. But, yeah, if you want to get comics back in to drug stores and on newsstands, this may not be the way to go.
I still really enjoy this series, but I’m not sure how much patience a 12-year-old would have with this stuff.
I think it’s also worth noting that this new first issue parallels the first issue of the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man very much in structure. That issue also ended on the main character (Peter Parker in that case) inadvertently using one of his newly attained superpowers for the first time, as well. And there was much complaining about how we never even got to see him in costume, much less fully in action as Spider-Man. That was, as I remember it, when the agitation about "decompression" really got going.
The common refrain was that Bendis was taking seven issues (the length of the first story arc) to tell a story that Stan had told in fifteen pages. This was a silly criticism for many reasons.
First, it's not like those fifteen pages were consciously decided as being the ideal length for that story – it's just the amount of space Stan was given. Second, it was only four issues before Ultimate Spider-Man caught up to the end of Amazing Fantasy #15 plot-wise, not the full seven. And third, most importantly, there was a lot more happening in those four issues than what was put into that original story. There was also the origin of Green Goblin, establishing Norman Osborn as a character, establishing Harry, establishing Mary Jane, and introducing Flash and even Otto Octavius.
And, most significantly, there was a proper establishment of Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Honestly, a lot of that original origin reads (because of the page restriction) like a synopsis rather than a fully dramatized story. In it, we are *told* that May and Ben are a kindly old couple; and while we feel bad that a kindly old man has been murdered and we feel bad *for* Peter because he lost his Uncle, it's in a somewhat detached way.
But because of how well Uncle Ben was established in Ultimate Spider-Man, the readers truly felt bad *themselves*, viscerally, when he was killed. One sentiment I saw often (from people who, of course, knew what was coming because of the original) was a hope that Marvel might consider killing off May instead, because it would be less painful.
Again, in those four issues (as in the new issue) there was a lot more going on than just getting through the plot. And it's why that series resonated so strongly with people, why it was such a best seller, and why it skyrocketed Bendis's career.
Jim, I have a side question for you. I was wondering why Marvel Comics produced for the direct market back in the day had to have that little rectangle with Spidey's or other characters' heads in it. I know it replaced the UPC symbol visible on the newsstand editions, but why wasn't the rectangle completely removed for the direct market?
I struggle to understand why the "Ultimate" comics exist. It seems like Marvel trying to bastardize their own iconic characters with arbitrary changes before Hollywood can. Don't these titles dilute the brand name of the characters? If the creators want to work on characters with different powers or personal lives, why not make new characters that co-exist in the Marvel universe? If the line is intended to get new readers buying comics, why not cancel the old series? If they're not good enough to attract new readers anymore, maybe they shouldn't be published.
Tom, thanks for commenting. It's always good to see other people from the industry weigh in. I think you're being too sensitive over the phrase "phoned it in." That's an absolutely standard cliche in criticism by now, synonymous with saying something was bad. That's a way for the critic to tell us the issue FELT phoned in to him. We don't take it to mean he had definitive knowledge of what went into the creation of the comic.
I haven't read the issue, but I'll comment on the cover. As a basis for comparison I'm going to pick something of a classic, Web of Spider-Man #1 by Charles Vess. It's tough competition, but Marvel should always be trying to do classic stuff, especially on these big #1 issues. I agree with Jim that I don't like pin-up covers all the time but they can be appropriate on a #1 issue.
The background of the Web cover is oozing with atmosphere and character. The moon, the clouds, the fog, the gargoyles, the tilted angle all contribute to a cover that would be enticing even if you removed Spidey's image. That first Ultimate cover by contrast has a generic cityscape background that looks like it could have been pulled from a stock photo. It's not that the artist isn't capable of a more interesting drawing, because the last page of the issue has a far more attention-grabbing alleyway background. It just seems like there's an editorial policy that's forcing so many covers to be wannabe posters instead of using them to offer any sense of specifics at all, let alone storytelling.
The rendering on the Ultimate cover seems to waver uneasily between rough and gritty and a more slick look. Vess' cover looks like it had loving care put into every brushstroke. The Ultimate cover looks sloppy and dare I say, phoned in. Maybe the artist spent a month working on it, I don't know, but it LOOKS phoned in, and that's what counts.
The pose on the Web cover looks more interesting because it looks like Spidey is ABOUT to make a move. That invites tension and curiosity. Ultimate's Spider-Man pose is just a glamour shot that screams "look at me!" Spidey on the Vess cover looks like he has a body based on real human musculature while the Ultimate Spidey looks "tooned up." It's a personal preference, but I want comic book art to have more realistic detail than I can see on a cartoon. When that detail is lacking, it's hard not to feel like the artist was just being lazy, even if they justified it in their own mind as a "stylistic choice." Vess' cover does have one flaw, where Spidey's left hand meshes poorly with the Gargoyle background. One can also quibble about the white logo not popping enough.
Covers are important to attract new readers. I was starting to collect comics as a kid soon after Web #1 came out. It was prominently displayed on the recent back issue rack at the comic store. I think it was one reason I decided to buy all the back issues and collect the Web of Spider-Man series, as well as start the other Spidey titles. That cover got burned into my brain, helped define my interest in that character, set a tone for the series and kept me coming back for more. This new Ultimate Spider-Man comic just doesn't appear to be anything special, inside or out.
No, I am not saying that all stories must be as compressed as Stan and Steve's first Spider-Man. What gave you that idea? There is no right way. There are no rules. But in commercial art there are goals. Entertain the audience and sell more books would figure to be two of the goals of this story. I think it fails to achieve those goals as well as it might. My editorial opinion is that it suffers from poor structure and excessively slow pacing in places. I wouldn't say any approach that serves to build and develop characters is generally bad. If it works, if it's effective, great. If it drags and doesn't accomplish the mission, maybe it's time to rethink it.
I don't mind three pages of Miles and his family to introduce Miles, make him appealing and sympathetic. Absolutely a good thing. I don't see how the scene as is does that. What is established about Miles? He seems kind of neutral about the whole thing, and even reluctant. Is that the point, that he's not pushy and aggressive? We get a better line on his mom, who seems to think it's a big deal that he gets into that school, but she doesn't figure in any more this issue. Things said later support the notion that it's a good thing.
And it's a very sparse three pages.
You are correct, Tom, I should have said that it seemed to me like Bendis phoned the issue in. I wasn't there. I don't know how hard he tried. But I am aware of his talent, and because the results are weak, not commensurate with the level of skill he has demonstrated in the past, I leaped to the phone-it-in conclusion. My apologies.
(I started writing this before Brevoort came in and made many of the same points, but since I don't work for Marvel, perhaps I won't be accused of being a "shill")
"Three pages to get the kid accepted at a high school by random drawing?"
It's not like that was all that was happening in those three pages. The sequence established the main character, who he was, who his parents are, how he relates to them, what his family's social status is, what his life is, what his world is.
The school lottery system is not something that most readers are going to have a first-hand knowledge of, so it's definitely worth portraying that experience. It's also used to show how unfair Miles feels the system is, and his inability to get excited about winning that lottery because of his empathy for those who didn't get arbitrarily chosen for the charter school.
There's a lot going on in those three pages.
"Which has precious little bearing on whatever the Hell is going on?"
It has every kind of bearing on what's going on. It's the story. This is the story of Miles Morales and how and why he becomes Spider-Man. How could establishing who he is and where he comes from possibly not be relevant or worth dramatizing?
And this is all done through people talking *to* each other with natural, relatable speech patterns rather than dryly spewing information and exposition *at* each other. The readers are allowed to observe these people, rather than simply be told who they are.
There are subtle bits of character establishment throughout the issue. In the scene with Miles and his uncle, the panel of the uncle checking the hallway after letting Miles in to his apartment elegantly and immediately clues the audience in to what kind of person he is, even though there's nothing overtly in the dialogue or any blunt narration that could interrupt the flow of the scene. And because it's not overt, it is able to add subtext to the conversation that ensues and creates an uneasy counterpoint to the ostensibly positive relationship we are shown that Miles has with his uncle. And that's all accomplished with one panel.
The only part I do think drags a bit is the Osborn scene at the beginning, but there's a lot of exposition gotten across there. Not just for new readers, but for readers of the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man who get to find out how this new story fits in with what they're already familiar with. And since it seems likely that Dr. Markus is going to be an important character in this series, it was worth spending some time to get to know him as well.
And, by the way, I guarantee you that Bendis would take deep offense to the "phoning it in" and "easy money" accusations.
"When exactly did someone decide…?" After Perelman took over Marvel it shifted from creative-driven to marketing-driven. DC was always more marketing driven anyway, but drifted more that direction along with Marvel.
Ditko's original costume design was red and black, with blue highlights. Ditko slowly diminished the black. John took it all the way to blue. The webs all over were simplified, made bigger.
Yes, I agree, Ditko's Spider-Man evolved somewhat in latter issues.
John Romita didn't do as many full figure and long shots as Ditko. I think that might have been partially because of his romance comics background.
Keith Olbermann? No. I'm not like Keith Olbermann.
I try to tell it like it is. Damn the torpedoes. This business is in trouble. The emperors have no clothes. More people should point that out. Fiercely and unabashedly. Supposedly professional editors who buy pathetic work are bozos. Sorry. The people who hire and empower them are fools or worse. Sorry.
I praise what is good. Most of what Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder did is good, and I said so. Some of the work even in the New 52 books I found wanting was good, and I said so.
I don't ever make personal comments. If an editor has a comb over, I don't see what that has to do with the work. I'm too ugly to win an insult contest. With me, it's all about the work, nothing else. T'was ever thus.
One of Mark Twain's "nineteen rules" requires that "…crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader…." At DC and Marvel in recent years, playing crass stupidities upon the readers has become systemic.
I don't see evidence of much competent editorial work. Creators' efforts vary.
If things ever change and the big two start making a sincere effort, I will cheer them on even if I'm not good enough to make the cut. I love comics. I love the wonderful characters in their care.
I don't have any malice. I have a good bit of righteous indignation.
I would cheerfully meet with anyone or everyone I have had problems with face to face. None of my contentions with any of them are matters of opinion or judgment. Not one. I don't believe there is a single instance of a "problem" where I wasn't the aggrieved party. How could it be otherwise? What could I possibly have done to any of them? Redraw the penciler's art? Steal all the colorist's yellow pixels?
I was the first in the creative chain. If a script of mine was bad, why did the editor approve it? Even if, as I suspect, the editor never even looked at the things, they were tacitly approved at least. Nonetheless, artists and colorists too often butchered the scripts and the editor and/or his assistants too often bungled things or inserted errors. I was the one staying up all night in the final hours trying to adjust my words to their mistakes, high-handed changes and failures.
The thing with Tom Brevoort still baffles me.
I would love to hear them defend their actions. The one thing they can nail me on is that I complained. You betcha I did. If the DC people want to hear why their butchery of my scripts upset me, I'll be happy to defend that.
I forgot to mention that 42 might be a reference to Japanese 死に shini "death" which sounds like 四 shi "four" and 二 ni "two." But maybe Bendis' choice of that number is a … coincidence.
I know you asked Jim, not me, but I don't think all stories have to be that compressed. I just think it's reasonable to expect a Spider-Man in this new Spider-Man comic. A faster pace would have gotten Miles into his costume a lot sooner. But if that weren't an option, why not start in medias res? Drag out the mystery of how Miles became Spider-Man, but at least show him in action.
I don't have a problem with decompression as long as it imparts significant details as opposed to what Jim described as "A pile of people and things introduced or mentioned that are irrelevant to the issue in hand." Padding isn't depth.
Flying Tiger Comics
You know where I can get a Brevoort boilerplate on behalf of Disney? Anywhere in the comics shill internet.
You know where I can get a straight from the lip dose of Jim Shooter? Only here.
As for the whole ALL NEW sunshine spiderman, blecch.
Marc Miyake brings up an interesting question for me.
Jim, can you clarify: are you saying that all stories must be as neatly compressed as the first Spider-Man story by Lee & Ditko, to be good stories? That if a writer were to take a more drawn-out approach to build his characters (therefore effectively 'slowing down' the pacing), that this is generally a bad thing?
I have always considered Ditko's Spider-Man to be the definitive version, but was unable to articulate why (and merely being first isn't enough). Now I can. Thank you.
I wonder what is supposed to grab the reader in those first pages. Is this a comic about scientists? That's what a new reader might guess. Compare that opening with the splash from Amazing Fantasy #15. We see Peter standing in the background, mocked by the cool kids in the foreground. But the shadow of Spider-Man contrasts with Peter's sad figure. This picture evokes emotion and mystery. What is the connection between Peter and the shadow with the spider crawling over it? Stan Lee's narration is as biting as his dialogue for the kids, dismissing standard superheroes as "long underwear characters" who are "a dime a dozen" and telling us "you may find our SPIDERMAN [no hyphen; sic] just a bit … different!"
No Miles in sight on page six, whereas by page six of AF #15, Peter announces, "Okay, world — better hang onto your hat! Here comes the SPIDERMAN! [sic]"
Let me break down those six pages:
1 – splash
2 – intros Ben, May, Midtown High kids, Peter's whole social situation
3 – Peter bitten
4 – Peter discovers his powers
5 – Peter vs. Crusher Hogan
6 – Peter creates webshooters and costume
What would a breakdown of the first six pages of this new Spider-Man comic look like for comparison?
I thought "That's all?" at the end.
I read Ultimate Spider-Man #1 when Marvel offered it for free online 11 years ago. I had a similar reaction.
How many new readers will get #2 on the basis of this issue? We can guess.
Thanks for chiming in. I believe you make good points about connecting with Miles in those 3 pages, even while agreeing in principle with Shooter about writers languishing/loitering in scenes way too long (I call it 'Saturday Night Live-itis'), when brevity is needed more in way too many cases.
There are countless ways to achieve a good story, which no matter what, someone's not going to like it because of their personal tastes. I just don't want to get in the situation where I have to edit something as I'm reading it, or as I'm watching a movie, which I've had to do with the last 3 Star Wars movies.
I'm easy when it comes to stories. Take me down whatever road you wish, feed me whatever cockamamie premise you come up with. Just please make it compelling. Make it sensible and believable, in whatever context your characters are in.
There is an inherent danger to thinking that you should have only one particular angle on how to tell stories. The result of which is a whole line of books that are the same the same the same the same. It doesn't have to be that way, but often is. Continuity Comics is a good example of that.
I like to think that you can have what you think are the good solid basics of storytelling, but with a nice 25% interpretational pendulum swing to either side, allowing the particular quirks and eccentricities of the creators involved, still creating an enjoyable story.
Tom, if you and Jim do go through this chapter-and-verse look at what happened to the Korvac sequel, I'd be interested in several particulars: did anyone believe that there was malice involved in how anyone was treated, or was it just a personality/process conflict?
Also from you directly, Tom, I'm curious if in general what you believe Jim Shooter could positively contribute to Marvel's editorial in today's market? If so, then how?
I have many more questions, but I'm sure this is enough for now.
Two quick points here, for no other reason than that I was curious as to what you'd make of this issue. And, having had absolutely nothing to do with it, I feel like I can speak reasonably objectively about it (although clearly I'm going to have a bias.)
The first is that, at least from my point of view, those three pages of Miles and his family attending the lottery to get the kid into a decent private school are probably the most important pages in the book, and the ones that most readily accomplish the one thing that I find so lacking in most of the competition's new first issues: they're there to introduce the lead character and, more importantly, to bond with him, to understand his place and position in the world, and to come to like him and relate to him.
I get that the pacing of that scene isn't to your liking, but I think that's more a matter of personal taste than anything, But it's absolutely the one sequence I would maintain, even if I had to cut everything else. Especially given the inherent controversy in making some new kid Spider-Man–after first killing the original–it was, in my opinion, absolutely essential for Brian to get the reader to connect with Miles. Could he have done it a different way? Well, there are a million ways to do anything, but Brian is brian, and writes like Brian. So maybe the sequence didn't work for you, but I completely disagree on its importance to the final product.
Secondly, and this is one I take a slightly more personal position on, I understand that it's an easy cheap shot, but Brian hardly "phoned this script in." I wasn't involved in any of the discussions, the writing and rewriting, since this isn't a book in my stable, but I can tell you for certain that an awful lot of work went into it from his end. So like it, don't like it, that's completely your right–but don't dismiss it as a creator just phoning it in. That's pretty disrespectful, and even a touch arrogant. You don't need to go for the cheap personal shot in order to make your point.
Also, JA, I'd be happy to go through chapter-and-verse on the Korvac project at any point that Jim would like to. Like him, I've saved all of the correspondence from that period, and I'm happy to share all of it if Jim is, provided that it's all of it, and not some edited transcript designed to make one side look better or worse. I think it's a shame that the project never happened, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
I was so heartened to read your thoughts on Romita's Spider-Man. I thought I was the only one! A great example of what you were writing about with the web-line is the cover of Marvel's Greatest Superhero Battles: http://images.wikia.com/marveldatabase/images/d/d3/Marvel%27s_Greatest_Superhero_Battles.jpg
Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself. Another great analysis of modern comic storytelling. I swear, if I live to be 100, I'll never understand why comics have degraded into the piles of crap they have become.
I don't know why any marginally intelligent person would think that an extremely "decompressed" writing style is a good fit for a book that is only 21 pages long, and only comes out once a month. Hey, it will only take you six months (and cost you $20.00) to be able to read a story that will take you all of a half-hour to finish. Awesome deal!!!
Plus I've always hated those damn pin-up covers with a passion. It makes for a very boring and generic comic collection when all the covers basically look the same. "Ohhh, here's one with Spider-Man swinging through the city. Wait, here's another one with Spider-Man swinging through the city. Oh… boy, and here's yet another one with Spider-Man swinging through the city. Gee, I wonder what next months cover is going to be?"
When exactly did someone decide that it would be a good idea to take everything that made the comic-book medium the unique art-form that it was, and just crap all over it and toss it out the window? Could someone please tell me that. Because I'd really like to know who the freaking creative genius was behind that notion. I mean gee, it was only a successful formula for over 75-years. No wonder someone came along and decided it needed "fixing".
On a happier note, I've always loved Steve Ditko. His Spider-Man is, and will always be, the definitive version of the character to me. In fact I'm a fan of pretty much all of Ditko's creations. Captain Atom, The Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), The Creeper, Hawk & Dove and even Speedball. (Boy Marvel sure did a number on that last one. Talk about completely destroying a character.) My favorite Spidey artist after Ditko was not John Romita (Sr. or Jr.), but Ron Frenz. His early Ditko-esque take on the web-slinger was pure genius in my book.
Could you perhaps elaborate more on how John Romita simplified Spider-Man's costume? Was it just the mask, or were there other changes overall?
Also, no matter what people like "Ja" may say, you keep up the good and honest, tell it like you see it commentary and I'll keep reading faithfully for as long as you care to continue.
Rob Clay (Flailthroughs and Co.)
I'm really enjoying these critiques, Mr. Shooter. It's particularly nice to see a professional take Bendis to task for his decompression abuse. I've read comics by the man that I liked, but I'm getting good and sick of comics stories that take six issues to get anywhere.
So Spider-Man did not even appear in this Spider-Man comic? Fascinating.
I never was a huge fan of Brian Michel Bendis, and I'm less of a fan of his (ongoing) run on Avengers. Is it me or does it seem unnatural to have Spider-Man and Wolverine on the team?
Another great entry, Mr.S. You articulate exactly how I feel about current comics.
Your discussion of John Romita, Sr.'s Spidey style was not what I expected, but it makes perfect sense to me, since the Spidey you first enjoyed was Ditko's.
I started reading comics in the mid-to-late 70's, so Romita's Spidey was what I was exposed to first. It was everywhere, of course, being the official house style. I always got very excited seeing Spidey on "The Electric Company" PBS show.
I was next exposed to Ditko when I got a Spider-Man reprint/primer style book that had a lot of Ditko's power and costume explanation art in it, as well as the Amazing Fantasy origin story (with Peter's pupils showing through the mask!).
I rabidly ate up the Marvel Tales reprints of Ditko's Spidey stories, which I'm sure you encouraged. Ditko's Spidey was creepy-looking and gawky in the early issues, and that was an exciting contrast for me to discover at the time.
But didn't Ditko's style sort-of streamline towards his last year or so of issues? Peter seemed more muscular and the costume was not nearly as creepy as it had been.
In the two-part Goblin story where Romita took over, it looks to me like Romita is pretty close to Ditko's later Spidey style, although the perspective seems "closer", if that makes any sense; more medium-close shots as opposed to medium shots.
Both Ditko's and Romita's art hold special places in my imagination, but I cannot look at Romita's Spidey without seeing the "smiley face" in the mask's web pattern.
By the way, how is "Romita" pronounced? Is it "rom-it-uh" or "row-meet-uh"?
In reintroducing myself to the Marvel comics catalog in the last 10 years when I was not able to afford physical copies, the covers became one of my pet peeves. I certainly can enjoy a nice pin up form time to time, but what annoyed me the most was when I saw a cover that I thought was a hook to the story, and I am reading the comic waiting for that moment to occur in the story, and it turns out to be the last panel of the book. I can't explain why, but that just bugs me so much for some reason.
You know, I love the KKK's cute little pointy white hats. I love their robes, and how they burn those lovely crosses on people's lawns.
You know why? BECAUSE I LIKE MY ASSHOLES AND IDIOTS RIGHT OUT WHERE I CAN EASILY SPOT THEM!
So, nice post, jerkweed. That is the most absurd comparison ever.
Feh is making Spiderman black! The african american community would be up in arms if Marvel transformed the King of Wakanda T´challa into a little jewish white boy…
I'm realizing that, given your embracing of the fact that these comics companies are likely never to hire you again (freeing you from publicly having to be 'political' with your opinions), you are becoming more and more the Keith Olbermann of comics.
Olbermann's new iteration of his show on Current TV allows him to add more of his personal opinion to all the facts that he presents (way more than what he could do on MSNBC), while he is more vociferous with his unabashed opinions, which make me cringe whenever he seems to go WAY over that usual 'polite' line, whenever he adds to his criticism actual insults (like 'Bill the Combover' for Bill O'Reilly).
I cringe when you call others bozos, and things pathetic, ensuring even more that no one from these other companies are ever going to hire you again.
I understand it. I certainly relate to it. The reason I cringe is that I picture myself doing the same thing, and then realizing that I've committed political suicide.
I'm more of a pragmatist/coward that way. I know more and more my place in this world, and I know full well not to state what I'm REALLY thinking on my facebook page, or in a blog. I know exactly how I can be crushed like a bug, and no longer have any work by the very people I would be foolish enough to publicly criticize.
But I do understand you're beyond that level, with those concerns way back in your rear-view. I respect you for speaking your piece boldly and bluntly. I don't see any malice in it whatsoever, which is how I determine whether something like this is right or wrong.
It's not malicious. It's just impolitic. That's certainly a big part of what makes your blog so damned interesting, to be sure.
I would love to see a time on a panel discussion or controlled interview – dare you do it? dare anyone else? – where you sit down with some of the people you've had problems with face to face, so you can publicly go over the details of how things went south on projects such as your 2008 Legion of Superheroes run, or the failed Korvac sequel.
Or is that just too undignified a thing to do?