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Tilting at Windmills #202 is up

Brian Hibbs

Yeah, I skipped a month there, but hey I’m back!


Go and read it here.


Thoughts and opinions can be put here if you don’t want to post on CBR



12 Responses to “ Tilting at Windmills #202 is up ”

  1. I’m sure most of the regular readers have already jumped over to read this but if not–you guys should. It’s an excellent piece, Hibbs.

  2. Wow, thanks man.

    *I* can never tell.


  3. “I also firmly believe that the publishers (especially Marvel) don’t actually know that they’re slowly strangling their own base”

    Keeping this to just Marvel and DC, do you think Disney and Warners, or even just the higher-ups at Marvel and DC, care about the long-term prospects of their comics publishing divisions and the DM? If, say, ComicsPro set a letter or something to Disney and Warner outlining the problems you mentioned in your article do you think they would listen to the suggestions and maybe do something about it or would they just ignore it since they don’t care enough or the profit from the comics isn’t significant enough when compared to their overall profits?

  4. I’ve always thought the only reason TimeWarner, and now Disney, keep publishing comics at all is because it’s the easiest way to keep all of DC and Marvel’s trademarks active.

  5. I literally very much appreciated the explanation of how many copies of a comical periodical a shop needs to shift for it to be worth their while. Particularly as I thought the price rise had led to less comics being sold but as they cost more everyone (up the business end) was happy as Larry. Larry being notable for his happiness. Not so, so it seems! More fool I!

    Isn’t stuff like this though just evidence that the radioactivity of the Marvel Price Rise has entered the water table? I betcha dollars to doughnuts that the production of more than 12 issues of a title per year has been implemented to take the sting out of the stealth decrease of their 2.99 comics by two story pages. (“Yeah, we said DC were The Evil for taking those pages away from creators but, look, we gave the creators an extra issue to fill. And the audience will always want more comics! Always! More! More! More!”) Naturally this results in new and different problems (which you identify ) which leads to compensatory measures (what will they be! The suspense!) which lead to new and different problems (which, thrillingly, we shall discover together!)…ad infinitum. Where does this baffling emphasis on the short term come from? Did they all believe that stuff about the world ending today?

    I can’t decide if it’s all the result of stupidity or greed but as time passes and I learn more about how the Machine works I’m inclined to believe greed is just stupidity with a purpose. I fully expect Marvel to decide that by purchasing their products we retroactively agreed to rent not purchase said products with the legal onus to prove otherwise falling to the customer. I’m looking forward to being awakened to find some guy in mouse ears rifling through the wife’s jewelry drawer. I’m joking. She doesn’t have any jewelry.

    Good stuff, lots of other bits I’d like to probe with my cattle prod of stupidity but time? She eludes me again.

    Thanks muchly.

  6. Eric:

    There’s no way to fix this that won’t take a fair amount of short-term pain, and I’m not convinced that the individual members of ComicsPRO will necessarily vote for pain.

    I DO THINK that DC has taken a number of useful steps — cancelling books, “hold the line at $2.99” and so on — which is sure a good first step.

    Marvel, I’m not sure, is interested in actually listening to anyone.


  7. I definitely agree the Big Two should chill out with the everything-gets-a-trade-collection strategy.

    It used to be, like, 10-15 years ago maybe?–that if something made it into a trade collection at all, it was because it was perceived as really good/there was high demand. Now everything gets collected, and the result is that if I have ANY reservations about a serial comic at all—too expensive, too many ads, I only sorta like the artist, I’d rather spend money on something else this week–I wait for the trade.

    Then, when the trade comes out, it’s not just competing with other serial super-comics that come out that week, but, because it’s a more “permanent” format, it competes (in my mind) with EVERYTHING available, and thse days EVERYTHING IS AVAILABLE. Dropping a twenty dollar bill just to read the 575th Batman story of my life is less enticing when its creative team of, say, Tony Bedard and Scott McDaniel are competing against all of the masters of the entire history of American, European and Japanese comics.

    The other thing about trade-waiting is that so many trades are available at a library for free, that there’s a whole second line of me deciding not to buy something.

    When something comes out in serial form and I decide there’s something I don’t like about it, I’ll tell myself I’ll wait for the trade. When the trade does come out, if there’s still something I don’t like about it, I may decide not to buy it all, but just get it from the library and spend that money on something I know I’m gonna like.

    That’s just me, though. I’m not sure how to solve the trade collection problem. It’s a very nice format for reaching new readers via bookstores, libraries and friends-lending-to-friends, and it’s an attractive alternative in the age of $4 comics, but Big Two trade collections compete with my money against Big Two serial comics like crazy, and usually win.

  8. I have a lot of different thoughts in response to this excellent article.

    – It’s seemed to me for a while Marvel’s plan has been to take any and all money they can now. It seems like they just flood the market with anything they have ready and have no real plan when it comes to how to support sales after a book is released. Look at their trades are just dumped in the bookstores with no rhyme or reason. If you’re trying to buy something like “the Thor story” or “the Captain America story,” good luck!

    – There are a lot of bad comic stores that only order in the top 100 of Marvel and DC and refuse to order anything outside of that even if the customer fills out the Previews order form and offers to pay for the goods up front. I won’t shed a tear when those stores close.

    – I think the idea that digital is a savior is a poor one. The biggest reason why I believe this is I believe people will usually pirate as opposed to buy. (It doesn’t matter how unethical it is, it’s human nature.) Beyond that, the digital solutions offered so far have not been very good. Viz has the best so far offering half price collections that are easy to read, but I don’t see how that will do the DM any favors. And why would anyone want to buy digital from a DM store when they can just buy it straight from the source?

    – I don’t understand how Marvel and DC can’t plan their release schedules better. Every business in the world has projects that have timelines and it seems to me sometimes like Marvel and DC are the only two companies that routinely blow their deadlines.

    – I think if the DM is going to survive, the current business model of the DM taking on *all* the risk has to stop. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to run a business on the margins you do and have no ability to return any of the product. How are you ever expected to take a chance? Sadly, I don’t think it will because why would Marvel or DC want it to?

  9. The article documents only one instance of what I think is the biggest problem: too many things are being diluted in modern comics.

    Characters are being diluted. There are multiple Captains America and Hulks, Superman had quite a few surrogates while the (ahem) Last Son of Krypton was off-planet, and the number of Batmen seems to be growing every month with the notion of corporate franchising. There are even groups of groups: multiple Avenger teams and now approaching a dozen different color-coded variations of the Green Lantern Corps.

    Titles are being diluted. There are way too many titles each month for the more popular characters, so it’s rare to find a consequential story being told by an all-around effective creative team.

    Stories are being diluted. Decompression means that it takes way too long for any single story to be told. With so many events and crises, it seems that hardly any story can be told without wrapping up the loose threads from the previous event or being interrupted by the next event.

    Even ignoring the further dilution of multiple/alternate universes, what we have is a month’s worth of comic books where hardly any single title is REALLY worth having by itself, certainly not for four bucks: publishers have to draw us in with gimmicks, plot-hammering and events, killing the living and raising the dead.

    With so many DC stories wrapping up before Flashpoint’s scheduled conclusion as the only title to ship in the last week in August — any takers on the wager that schedules will slip and foul this up? — DC could really shake things up with some SERIOUS pruning.

    I think that the main DCU could actually be well served with only 10 or 12 monthly titles: extra-sized issues presenting multiple stories — each one less decompressed, the headlining story focusing on a high-profile character, with shorter back-up stories for less prominent characters — and the higher price would be somewhat ameliorated by economies of scale.

    If there were only two Batman books each month (Batman and Detective), most Batman fans would buy both with hesitation. There simply wouldn’t be this problem of no margin for error with the low-selling titles, not with only two or three titles a week.

    It would be a bold step worth trying, at least for a while. Anything would be worth trying at this point.

  10. “I definitely agree the Big Two should chill out with the everything-gets-a-trade-collection strategy.”

    I recently switched back to mostly single issues after years of only getting trades.
    Mostly, just due to life, it became preferable to read short bursts of comics, but also I find it preferable to be able to drop a book after an issue or two, rather than have brought the entire arc.
    The other trick that got me out of it, was DC decided to slow the release on their trades right down, and Marvel turning any odd series into a confusing franchise (Agents Of Atlas, Hulk and Incredible Hercules all have gotten very confusing to follow in trade).
    That gave me time to not only read reviews of that particular arc, but also what came next for the book – knowing that the next trade of a series is just there to set up the next event, and the event isn’t getting popular reviews in serialisation – really makes me not want to pay money to read that trade.
    If the big two had gone the other way – if writing knowing eventual collection is coming, it has to be worthy of a collection – I’d still be buying them exclusively.
    But they didn’t, and although shelves of trades look good, being able to ditch JMS on Grounded, and then be able to come back for Roberson on Grounded without having to pay for the other shitty JMS issues, seems the better luxury.

  11. I rarely, and that’s an optimistic assessment, buy anything new in TPB. All my TPB purchases are for stuff I think is worth the more permanent and classier format. And for me that’s the old timey stuff. The only new thing I’ve read in the last year that I would consider purchasing in a spined format is STARSTRUCK (It’s for The Ages that is. Fact.).

    I would find this disinclination ironic given the dominance of “writing for the trade” were it not that this term is a weaselly thing indeed. “Writing for the trade” contains the unchallenged assumption that such writing will take advantage of the long form to deliver a story that is unusually well crafted and rewarding as opposed to the single issue. The reality is that “Writing for the trade” more often than not translates as “Padding For The Trade”. This results in an unsatisfying product in its first periodical appearance and also in its TPB appearance. The basic material that feed both formats is flawed from the get-go.

    There’s now around a year between Events (OOOO! Sales spike!) which is about 12 issues which is on average 2 storylines. And when these storylines are as profound and insightful as ScoffingFowl gets shot and The ChattyPals have trouble getting an ambulance why would you choose to enshrine this for posterity rather than wish to forcibly reacquaint it with the posterior it emitted from? Inessentials, anyone? Sticking such stuff between hard covers doesn’t magically make it any better. Crucially, it doesn’t encourage people to come back for more.

    Wait! Questions: Do sales from Marvel’s top periodicals translate into top TPB sales? Or is it even more ironic in that readers will put up with writing for the trade (grrr!) in the monthly but not in the actual trade? How do Avengers pamphlet sales compare with the same story in TPB for instance? I don’t know.

    Looks like where once TPBs were once a presentation of the very best the genre comics had to offer with a view towards providing an entry point they now simply seem to be another variation of the periodicals and all their problems; insubstantial contents, too many, too confusing, too expensive etc.

    The only purpose they seem to serve is to get a physical presence for comics into bookshops and libraries. Which is great and all but not if they carry the problems of the periodical with them. Such problems are not how you entice and keep a new audience. Or even, as we appear to be discovering, the old audience.

  12. Sad but true statements from everyone here. I’ve had to drastically cut the amount of titles offered for the same reasons. The fact is, that none of the customers seem to notice. I guess that says something about the over abundance of what’s offered.

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