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Checking to make sure those muscles still work

Brian Hibbs

Just a little warm up on some older stuff, as I test my posting muscles again — I *think* I’m going to attempt an Old-School write-about-every-comic-that-came-out-this-week thing on Wed or Thurs, since it’s such a small week of comics…

First some NotComics:

 

THE WITCHER: I’ve had this game (got for super cheap through some mechanism I can’t remember now) for at least 18 months, sitting there uninstalled. I changed that this week.

It is weird.

As I understand it, this is a project from a small Polish studio, that somehow against all odds caught on and got American distribution (We’re the center of everything, aren’t we? At least, that’s what it said on my Membership card…) — and one can easily see why: the engine is beautiful, the gameplay is smooth, and I’m having a reasonable amount of fun. The only problem is that the game is kind of a standard RPG (with lots of “go here, kill that” and “FedEx the MacGuffin to that guy” and all of the standard tropes). This wouldn’t be so bad, but the game was originally in Polish, and it was translated.

Now, here’s the weird thing (to me): they sprung for full and complete (and, actually, very good) voice acting (in American, even!), but, as near as I can tell, the translation was done by running the text through Google Translate or something… there wasn’t any attempt to… well, I was going to type “polish” in the sense of  “shine up”, but maybe that’s confusing, given the national origin?

I’m sure the script is beautiful and lyrical in it’s native tongue, but, man, in mangled English, it is really really hard to follow what is going on — especially since the game is VERY wordy, with lots (and LOTS and LOTS!) of characters telling-telling-telling you what’s going on. In the second “chapter”, you need to figure out a Murder Mystery, and, can I tell you? That’s pretty damn hard to do with a badly translated script. Ultimately, I kind of was clicking answers more or less randomly (“Well, that one seems kind of confrontational? Let’s try this one instead!”) and got through it.

Still, I liked it, mostly because the protagonist almost literally is willing to fuck anything that moves (I hadn’t been playing for 10 minutes when the first sex scene happened, and one of the things you do in the game is collect “sex cards” to document your conquests), and it’s got some heavily violent Conan-level combat. I don’t know that I’ll ever FINISH playing it, mind you, but the 4-5 nights I’ve been dicking with it so far has been at least amusing. It is highly OK.

 

THE SHADE #2:  This is a hard one to me — this really is “vintage” James Robinson, with sharp funny dialogue, crisp plotting, basically everything we ever wanted from a STARMAN spinoff… but it’s sort of 10 years too late, and it’s hidden in the shadow of 52, and I think that a LOT of people swore of JR after the JLA stuff, and, anyway, this is a perfect example of a “wait for the trade” book…. except that maybe it won’t even make the full 12 issues?

Also, well, I dunno if I really care? I really liked Jack and Opal and all of that… but I only really liked Shade in small doses, and in reaction to Jack, at that. He’s a rich character, yes, but he’s no protagonist.

And, I have to tell you, the continuity thing actually kind of pisses me off — they opted to have the “DCnu” Deathstroke as the villain at the climax of #1, but clearly STARMAN/Opal couldn’t have possibly have happened in the DCnu, as the JSA is so incredibly integral to the story, and there was no JSA is DCnu. They should have kept this squarely “old” DCU or, maybe, early Earth-2, or something… *sigh* So needlessly complicated.

Anyway, gang, yeah, if you don’t support the serialization, then no one WILL collect the work. I know sales on both #1 & 2 were roughly half of what I expected, and I’m slashing orders as fast as I can….

Too bad, despite my conflict, this is very GOOD work.

 

 

That’s it for today, the B&T order just arrived, and I have to get those boxes checked in… what do YOU think?

 

-B

 

16 Responses to “ Checking to make sure those muscles still work ”

  1. I was looking forward to Shade, but the ending page of issue #1 made me drop my sub for it. I’m just tired of that level of violence in my DC books, even if it’s immediately undone by next issue.

  2. I never picked up Starman in serial (partly cause it started when I left comics in the bad 90’s) so I have 10 beautiful Starman trades on my shelf. Why buy the serial when I fully plan on adding an 11th trade to that shelf from Shade?

    “You’ll be sorry when we’re gone” is not a justifiable (or successful) business model. DC needs to man up and accept that it will sell in trade.

    But as an irrational fan of the medium (and of Starman) I’m think of starting to buy the damn serial solely out of guilt. But even then it may not be enough! Comic Book Readers are not rational.

  3. Well, actually, you DO realize that the trades are both woefully incomplete, AND (more importantly) they are OOP (or, at least, Not Going Back To Press for the handful that might remain)?

    I can see, maybe, the Expectation that SHADE will be released in hardcover, in the same format as the STARMAN OMNIBUS HCs — but I’d be willing to wager you’ll be waiting a really really long time for a SC release.

    In terms of “manning up”, DC (and every other publisher for that matter) are ONLY going to print permanent stock books they believe will sell sufficient copies. The PRIMARY way they have of determining that is the sales velocity of the periodical (and/or the RELATIVE sales velocity, for “off brand” books).

    We won’t know much actionable intelligence for another 6 weeks or so when the charts with the orders for #3 should appear, but my GUESS is that James wouldn’t had made a tweet like he did if there wasn’t a DIRE contraction in periodical orders from #1… and that would deeply mitigate against the possibility of a collection, regardless of what format you or anyone else might feel Entitled to.

    DC, we should note, has been cancelling at least a book collection a week for the last month or two, due to low orders, and it would again be my GUESS that the velocity on “old DCU”-driven backlist titles has cratered since the nuDCU launched.

    “If you want it, here it is, come and get it; but you better hurry. ‘cuz its going fast”

    -B

  4. Depending where you bought it, you may want to check if youve got the fancy special edition patch for The Witcher installed. A year after release they did a mega patch fixing a bunch of stuff and redoing the whole translation in a better state. Still not perfect, but much better than it was in release state.

    (which there’s an interesting story behind if you google around to find it. I actually played it first time with the polish voice acting which was I) better and ii) gave it a fascinating foreign film vibe)

    KG

  5. I was really looking forward to purchasing a Shade collection to sit next to my Starman omnibuses. Is it possible to send DC a message of support by buying the first couple of issues, or do I need to buy the whole series?

    In which case I probably wouldn’t buy the collection, so…

    GARRR, so confusing.

  6. DC has announced a Justice Society series for next year so they will be part of the DCnu, even if it’s “just” an Earth II scenario (which I’d prefer). I’m of the opinion that especially regarding Starman and Shade, that as long as none of the stories contradict what Robinson has already established, continuity with the rest of the DC universe isn’t important to me (even though they do want us to believe these characters exist in a shared universe).

  7. I got the first issue of THE SHADE and enjoyed it, but my #2 I had already has my fill of such a Mary Sue portrayal of the character. As Hibbs says, you can get away with a little of that in contrast to a main character. It gets old real quick in large doses.

    Mike

  8. I’ve enjoyed the first two issues of The Shade but agree it is an odd and oddly timed project.
    Honestly I think part of the problem here is the marketing.
    Robinson in recent interviews has been pretty clear the NU52 is not impacting his story.
    But at least in the run up to issue 1 that was never made explicit by DC – and I read pretty much all the major comics websites. So for someone like me – a huge fan of the Starman run who is already overextending my budget on some pretty good NU52 books – I was wary of a Starman spinoff that wound up rewriting that continuity. Why bother investing the time/money when really the whole point of Starman was how Robinson revelled in DC’s 75 years of continuity?
    I think in this case DC should have just said, “Know what? This Shade series was commissioned months before the NU52 was planned and launched. It’s aimed at fans of Starman , who should take comfort in knowing it’s a return to the characters/world they loved.”
    Sure that’s an odd marketing ploy ’cause you’re basically telling new readers not to bother. But in this case, how else do you market this book? Likely a lot of Starman fans were as wary as I was initially and decided to avoid the project altogether. I haven’t compared numbers but I’m assuming DC was at least hoping for the number of readers Starman had when it ended and those haven’t appeared yet.
    I also think that The Shade is a good example of the challenges DC faces as we move further and further away from the launch of the NU52 and the company looks to launch new titles. Don’t get me wrong. I generally support the idea of the relaunch/reboot and want it to succeed and am certainly buying more DC books now than pre-September.
    But all the focus has been on those new 52 books. What’s the hook to convince new readers to now start picking up The Shade or T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents or that Penquin mini or Huntress mini or even Legion: Secret Origin? New fans lured to shops by the NU52 likely aren’t familiar with the concept of mini series and likely don’t care all that much about these titles. And why should they? They’re not part of the NU52?
    But back to The Shade proper. I agree that as a main protagonist he’s not necessarily the draw. But neither was Jack Knight the be all and end all, at least for me. I bought Starman for the whole – for the world Robinson created and the characters that starred and guest-starred. For not just Jack but his dad, the citizens of Opal, The Shade, the references to the JSA, the appearances by Adam Strange and the Elongated Man and the Condor, etc. etc. etc. And, judging by what I’ve read so far of The Shade and read about upcoming issues, that’s what we’ll be getting here. Robinson is taking The Shade out of Opal, sending him out into the world to meet a host of new international heroes/villains. It’s another opportunity to experience Robinson’s style of writing and of playing with the DCU and DC history. Plus you’ve got all those wonderful artists on board.

  9. One more thing…
    I would love one of the interviewers who speaks with Robinson to at least ask him more directly about the continuity issues, ’cause I’ve been really curious about how this has all been handled behind-the-scenes.
    Has he been told not to directly reference the JSA, etc. in Starman? Was he told to play it loose as to not turn off fans? Is this supposed to take place on Earth II or in its own “Starman-verse”?
    Again, as long as there is nothing that really mucks with Robinson’s wonderful Starman run, I don’t care. It’s inside baseball. But the fan in me really wants to know the real scoop, because you know that these issues have come up at DC.

  10. Mr. Hibbs (to differentiate from our fellow Brian in this thread), I don’t know about what format others feel “entitled” to, but me, I have money I’m willing to give DC Comics. If DC Comics can’t figure out how to get it out of my hand, the failure is DC’s, not mine. Yes, my every whim may not be feasible in the wider market, because I’ve got me some damned idiosyncratic whims, but if DC judges interest in a trade collection on how well an item sells in singles, when a huge portion of the trade market would be people NOT reading it in the serial, then I’d say their customer intelligence is failing them.

    I understand how hard it is to perfectly predict a market, but if I, AwesomeDude and others are interested in the trade, and DC doesn’t have a mechanism to account for our interest, that’s not our fault. Might not be DC’s, but I guess your use of capital-E “Entitled” kinda rankles. Like it’s consumers’ fault if we find DC’s delivery mechanism (or other factors) unsatisfactory.

    I understand the realities, and I DO buy a small number of struggling series in floppy and trade specifically because I want to support the serialization, yet want the book on my shelf. But I can’t do that with everything, and I MUCH prefer to have trades on the shelf rather than singles in longboxes, so sometimes I decide to wait, and I don’t view that as an “entitled” approach.

  11. Don’t get me wrong — the problem is essentially one that Marvel and DC have both created on their own: the expectation of the audience that everything they want WILL be collected in TP… the problem is both that it’s kind of not true (LOTS of stuff doesn’t ever get reprinted), AND it works against the publisher’s best interests.

    I mean that in almost every sense — as a retailer, it is overwhelmingly transparently shockingly true that virtual every book sells much much much MUCH better in serialization than in book format. There are exceptions, of course, and some of those exceptions are so awesomely slanted the other direction (your BONEs or WALKING DEADs) that that is the standard by which too many people assume that’s How Things Works.

    Even books which I consider to be poor selling periodicals (say…. BIRDS OF PREY), go on to be even WORSE SELLING perennials. While I have positioned Comix Experience as a BOOKstore specializing on comics, and we tried for a really long time to stock EVERY book available, I gave up on that one 4-5 years ago — we don’t even bother stocking a single copy of at least 25% of book releases (and it might be as much as half, I’m not really keeping records on what I DON’T sell), and at least a third (and maybe up to half) of the ones we DO stock never end up selling that one single copy (or do so long after release as to be an utter waste of working capital)

    So, yeah, I go just a little nutsy when someone says something like “DC should man up” and just go straight to book, because a book on the scope of SHADE would have to be a $50 dollarish HC on release to have even a prayer of recouping creative costs, and that means it would be lucky to hit 5k sold in it’s first year on sale.

    The “problem” with “they need to offer it in the format *I* want” is the audience doesn’t speak with one mind, and the multiple formats tend to ultimately undercut one another as none of the individual segments (TP only, HC only, serialization, digital, skywriting, whatever) individually can even hope to recoup expenses.

    I know for a fact that for me personally, as a consumer, there are films that I’m at least somewhat interested in that I DON’T go to the theater to see BECAUSE “Oh, I’ll just see it on DVD”, and that removes money from the entire chain. Luckily for film, that’s a multi-billion dollar business, so they can still make films even when some flop out… but I really don’t think that’s the case with comics.

    Hm, I need to repackage this rant as a TILTING, I think….

    -B

  12. The Shade maxi is a weird one for me. The project seemed a little schizoid before even reading it anyway. Due to Starman being such a strongly creator-influenced project originally, this maxi along with Robinson seemed to have a vivid Pavlovian quality that, one would think, was kinda banking on the Starman series brand.

    Now, the problem is that that brand is wildly out of style at DC right now. The fictional historical standing of most of the foundation of the Starman series is in question. One could even argue it’s not even wanted, or at least not needed to understand what’s currently going on. So that makes it irrelevant. So that means that the Starman series is largely irrelevant. So that means that the prevailing feeling about this Shade project, before it even started, could be one of absolute confusion. The beauty of the Starman series though was that it was pretty self-contained. So one could extrapolate that even though the sentiments that were freighted by the Starman series (nostalgia, legacy, family, refreshingly novel but sophisticated and timeless values that cut against the grain of the jejune coarsening of DC Comics in the new 52) could still find a place in the Shade series. It might even be a respite for some.

    But someone not caught up in the DCnU, possibly seeking an escape hatch in the form of a Shade series, probably aren’t so jazzed about the periodical offerings of DC at this present time. And may even be so cynically-inclined that they may not believe something like a callback vanity project like The Shade by James Robinson, such as it is, could even outrun the influence of the reboot.

    Putting all that aside, there’s still trading on the recognition of a series that was so unique it can only really be expressed by what, for most folks, can best be described as a library of collected editions sitting on their shelves somewhere. Not best complimented by 12 floppies peppered with garish ads lacking in any intrinsic charm and superfluous pap material at a bleeding edge retail price.

    I could be wrong though. But the clarion call of premature cancellation kinda backs up the haphazard logistics on this one. That you’d commit to a 12 issues maxi-series with a collected edition being contingent on the sales of the periodical that banks on Starman, a series that just got the Omnibii treatment, is absolutely confused.

    And how do scare tactics in the face of the new reductionist trend in publishing really help? It comes across as DC not knowing what the hell they’re doing and fans, as they’re want to do, expected to pick up the slack by layering on the veneer of much-needed “support” like some kind of small press or indie book. Gimme a break.

    At this point, I’m willing to call bluffs. If it gets cut and Robinson has to shorten the story and it’s one TP instead of 2, or it gets strangled in the crib and nothing else comes of it, then so be it. I’ve still got my Starman books and always will and this kind of thing makes me appreciate ‘em all the more as complete.

    Forever and ever, amen. :P

  13. “I’m willing to call bluffs. If it gets cut and Robinson has to shorten the story and it’s one TP instead of 2, or it gets strangled in the crib and nothing else comes of it, then so be it. I’ve still got my Starman books and always will and this kind of thing makes me appreciate ‘em all the more as complete.”

    That goes for me as well. Haven’t been to a comics bookshop since the Johns/Lee “DC Heroes Reborn”, but seeing mention of a Robinson SHADE book piques my interest…only to be put off by what I’m reading. Local cable company had a Chip Kidd interview of Neil Gaiman for the 92dn St Y On Demand, and that was the most enjoyment related to DC that I’ve had in a very long time. Not sure why that DC ended up where it is today.

    I always loved the JSA, and still wince that DC cancelled the Starzewski/Parobeck book -almost twenty years ago (!)- but there’s a massive amount of inertia attendant to ever heading back to a comics shop,and SHADE doesn’t get me over the hump – especially if it’s dying on the vine. It’s rather like “Firearm”, another James Robinson project that I dearly loved, but whose further adventures I’d only find in Lucien’s library.

    If “Shade” had been published, rather that the New Krypton/Mon-EL/ Cry for Justice…

  14. I think DC was really BEGGING readers to trade-wait this poor series. Not only is it a limited, will-fit-nicely-into-collections-sized story, but launching it alongside a reboot of their universe makes a lot of readers uncertain about it. (As others have stated, Robinson’s Starman was one of those series that was only possible because of DC’s long, complex, occasionally crazy continuity). I’D want to read an Old 52 Shade series, but not a New 52 Shade series, and since I don’t really know what’s what in the New 52 or with this series, it seemed safer to wait a year until it’s all over.

    I imagine a lot of folks are also waiting to see which Robinson is writing the book—he hasn’t done himself a lot of favors with his post-Starman work for DC. (In fact, I think “Cry For Justice” was probably a factor in the reboot—how do you move forward from a book like THAT?)

  15. Um, I’m a James Robinson fan (at least willing to give pretty much anything he does a shot through mostly peaks and some valleys) I didn’t even KNOW Shade was out till your review, so I share your prognosis. It’s belatedly going in my pull box nonetheless. It’s a shame this is coming before the post-52 JSA by Robinson, which I’m greatly looking forward to (speaking of overdue, this is the book he should have had eons ago). Hopefull “all will be revealed” and DC can smoothly reset Earth 2 and DCU WWII to reconcile how JSA are not ninety years old w/out the usual Dr. Fate’s magic kluges (since you can reset time/place on Earth 2 WWII could have happened only decades ago).

  16. [...] follow James Robinson on Twitter and saw this on November 26th. The story was further picked up at The Savage Critics, The Beat and Comics Should Be Good at Comic Book Resources. I'll let you read those links if you [...]

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