Posted by: Graeme McMillan on November 29, 2005
So I may have gotten slightly carried away with that whole Thanksgiving thing and not done any reviews for last week. But in my defense, I didn’t read any comics last week apart from the two Seven Soldiers books that came out, so I wouldn’t have had much to review anyway. This week? I’ll review possibly one-and-a-half-times as many books as normal. Maybe.
Anyway, that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about Brian.
Mr. Hibbs’ last Newsarama column has had people talking all over the world wide web this past week or so. Heidi MacDonald was the first to take up the conversational baton, initially with a back and forth with Brian himself, before following up with a mini-essay about the competition between new readers. With some judicious cut and pasting, you can make it seem as if Heidi was having an argument with Tom Spurgeon, who also weighed in on the whole shebang. Heidi:
“Back when I was an active participant in making comics, I would often stump my colleagues with the following question. ‘What is the best selling comic DC publishes?’ JLA, peoples would guess, or Batman, or whatever was at the top of Diamond’s chart that month. And I would say no. ‘It’s MAD magazine.’ The response was always the same. ‘That doesn’t count.’ I always got the same reaction when I tried to point out that at a time when comic book sales were struggling, the best seller lists, paradoxically, were crammed with comic strip collections — Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County, For Better or Worse. Some of these are among the best selling books of all time. But again when I brought them up as examples of comics reaching a wider audience I was consistently told the same thing: ‘Those don’t count. They are different.’ So reading a 22 page continued story about heroes with 40 or 50 years of backstory is indeed different than reading a collection of three panel gags. If I were a publisher I would look at the relative sales and decide that more people like laughter than continuity, but few people think the way I do.”
“To point out that mainstream outlets have made hits out of Mad Magazine and Dilbert means that it’s a market to pay attention to, but step past the dizzying world of gee-whiz possibility and a second look reveals there are fewer comics humor magazines than ever before and only the top comic strip properties manage even one percent of their daily audience in book sales. Bookstores by themselves are not a panacea. Market myopia doesn’t work; the future demands multiple venues.”
Ah, cheap laughs. Like those provided by The Comics Journal, which makes its overview of online comics news sites available online:
“If, like the Journal, you visit these sites looking for comics news, you will probably come away with a few nuggets of news, after sifting through promotional press releases, reflections on He-Man action figures and the Star Wars franchise, and speculations about who should play the villain in the next Spider-Man movie. Unless we have a particular fondness for He-Man, say, we associate the site with the news nuggets we found and are only dimly aware of surrounding static. But by approaching the sites scientifically, categorizing and counting the many links to links to press releases about Superman action-figure retailer promotions, Q&As with the editor of Vampirella, and Heidi’s diary entries, we were made horribly conscious of what a vast array of nonjournalistic content regularly rolls out of comics news sites. It is not a pleasant task, as the Journal was informed by the staff members who were delegated to perform it, and readers are not advised to try it at home.”
As you may be able to guess, TCJ finds the entire internet wanting. It’s a feeling shared by the returning-to-the-blogosphere Alan David Doane:
“I worked directly with Matt Brady at Newsarama for a good stretch of time, and I can tell you he’s a decent guy who tries hard to make his site relevant and entertaining. If I say that I personally have litle use for the site in general — or its nearest competitor, The Pulse — it’s not at all to disparage the people running the sites. It’s the flashing banner ads, overreliance on feel-good corporate comics features, and those damnable message boards that keep me away from these sites as a reader. I honestly shudder at the thought of what type of person makes those sites a daily part of his internet experience.”
Shuddering, honest or otherwise, aside, what value do those sites provide? Well, they give us gift ideas for this upcoming holiday season (Tom Spurgeon’s is here, with Newsarama’s here, here and here). They also report on the various changes in DC’s superhero line next year (Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes? Hopefully, Mark Waid will remember to give her a personality), internal dissent between DC’s sales and marketing departments, and Adam Fortier being sneaky about whether Speakeasy has been bought out or not, so they’re good for something, I guess.
Apart from that, I have no idea what’s happening. I’ve been on holiday, Goddammit.