The Comic Glutton

Adventures of a Guy Who Buys 100 Comics a Month

Saturday, January 27, 2007



Deep into January, the ad glut continues. Marvel not only sticks an utterly worthless piece of cardstock advertising $#!& in their magazines all month, destroying comics and pissing off everyone who realized that no matter how many comics they bought, they still only got 25 free E-music songs (with submittal of your credit card information, of course), not 25 for each card … Marvel also ups the page count to allow eight more ads with no extra content.

I’ve been traveling much of January, so I’ve barely had time flip through my comics, let alone read them and realize I was getting shafted by yet another of Joe Quesada’s broken promises. Marvel’s product for the month has been loaded with 40-page adfests. Not as egregious as the holiday glut, where about half the comics were 48-page phone books with more ads than comic. But still annoying enough.

Here’s a tip: Marvel comics in January, just look on the left side of the page. The right side will be some stupid ad for Marvel-licensed crap you’ll probably only find at Everything’s A Dollar. Eau de Hulk, anyone?

Quick run-down for the offenders I brought home on Jan. 24:

Doctor Strange: The Oath – 40 pages, 17 ads.
Punisher War Journal – 40 pages, 18 ads.
X-Factor – 40 pages, 17 ads.
Silent War – 40 pages, 17 ads.
Civil War: The Return – 40 pages, 16 ads.

I hate to stick a "Liar" label next to Joe Q, but after some back-and-forth between the two sides of my brain, I'm leaving it there. From everything I know, he's the kind of guy I would probably really enjoy hanging out with. He loves the medium, he's a skilled artist and editor, and he deserves a lot of credit for making Marvel great.

But either he isn't playing straight with the readership regarding legitimate complaints, or he's being lied to by some corporate schmuck a few steps up the food chain. Either way, his credibility is in the toilet with me.

Next Christmas: the debut of the 64-page advertising blockbuster. I wouldn't bet against it, anyway.

Monday, January 01, 2007

DC Comics MIA’s for December – A World Without Superman??

Ethan Van Sciver dropped by and left a comment below, explaining that Superman/Batman #30 was intended to be his last, since he's now working on a Sinestro Corps prestige format 2-parter. Thanks for stopping by, Ethan!

I counted seven late and absent books from DC this past month, and four of them belonged to the Superman line. Product synergy opportunities lost, as well as Ethan Van Sciver’s monthly penciling gig, apparently. More on that below.

Weirdly, with all the late books this past year, the last week of December saw a couple of earliness anomalies. Detective Comics #827 was supposed to be a January release, yet there it was in my pullbox on Dec. 28. And Justice League of America #5 showed up just two weeks after the late-arriving previous issue to get back on track … with Sandra Hope still credited as the issue’s only inker. Someone was working overtime!


MIA: Action Comics #846 – Bring in even a beloved Hollywood type to co-write the story and, predictably, the title falls seriously behind. The first two issues of the current Richard Donner/Geoff Johns arc were right on time, but the third failed to ship as scheduled on Dec. 27.

Further delays on the arc have already been worked into the schedule, with only an annual scheduled for January and the contents of issue #847, 3-D glasses and all, shifted a month to March’s issue #848 in favor of some fill-in material, which not even the official DC Comics website has any information for. Their website does, however, list both issue #846 and Annual #10 as arriving in stores on Jan. 31. (No sense spreading them out or anything.) In other words, the Johns/Donner/Kubert story is a bimonthly.

MIA: Superman #658 and #659 – The title I must admit I am more eagerly awaiting than the Johns/Donner story is slower than a stationary bullet, I’m afraid. October’s scheduled issue #657 was late and slipped into the second Wednesday of November, and November’s issue #658 is scheduled to ship this week on Jan. 3. For those tracking the intervals, that’s seven weeks between #656 and #657, and eight weeks between #657 and #658. In other words, bimonthly.

The next two issues were solicited as apparently stand-alone fill-in stories with fill-in creators. Carlos Pacheco gets a breather on art duties in #659 with Rick Leonardi drawing a Krypto story, and Kurt Busiek gets another script assist from Fabian Nicieza on #660, which is also scheduled to feature art by newcomer Peter Vale.

MIA: Superman/Batman #32 – Ethan Van Sciver managed to produce three issues of the title (for which I’m thankful) before being replaced mid-arc by Matthew Clark, an artist who seems not to be an obvious choice, but has the virtue of being able to produce more than one issue per quarter. Yes, fully three months passed between the street dates of Van Sciver’s second and third issues on the book. The following issue, #31, arrived quite late on Dec. 27 with Clark onboard as penciller, taking over one issue earlier than the solicits had announced.

Clark’s own regular title, Outsiders, has been getting ever more sketchy looking over the last few months. He’s been regularly assisted by fill-in pencillers and some of the backgrounds have been little more than a horizon line. He also unfortunately had a heart attack a year or two ago. Yet he’s on board to get the last three issues of the current late-running storyline onto the shelves before the delightfully lifelike and photo-realistic art of Pat Lee takes over in March (at which time comic readers are expected to leave the book in droves). I for one am looking forward to seeing every face of Superman and Batman look like Rocky Balboa on a bad day.

MIA: Alleged Superman #7 – Yes, I’m being cute about the All-Star line. A meaningless solicitation date for this issue, of course, as issue #6 hasn’t come out yet. Issue #5 arrived back on Aug. 30, and, believe it or not, All-Star Superman #6 is actually listed on this week’s shipment from Diamond.

MIA: Green Lantern #16 – Please, guys, just admit this is a bimonthly already, and solicit it as such. All of the One Year Later issues by Ivan Reis have been about eight weeks apart, at least until November rolled around when issues #14 and #15 both shipped, just three weeks apart. I suppose from a marketing perspective, the positive is that the new arc, “Wanted: Hal Jordan,” had that much more opportunity to hook some forgetful readers’ attention. But issue #16 is back to the bimonthly thing again, with a current ship date announced as Jan. 17.

MIA: Wonder Woman #4 – No surprise, and I only mention it among the December MIA’s again because that’s when it would have shipped had the book met even a modest bimonthly goal. In fact, it’s really a quarterly. The Allan Heinberg relaunch should become the new definition of “buzzkill,” since any suspense about the status or identity of Wonder Woman post-Infinite Crisis has surely been made irrelevant by her routine and healthy appearances in other titles. To recap, 11 weeks passed between the release of issues #1 and #2, another 13 weeks passed before the release of issue #3, and if the book keeps that pace up, it will be late February or early March before we see the arc’s penultimate issue. (DC’s website claims a Jan. 10 street date.) Ironically, both issue #5 and the start of the new writer’s tenure on issue #6 have been solicited for the same month. I shall not be placated.

It’s worth noting that new writer Jodi Picoult will almost certainly not have had the opportunity to read Heinberg’s final scripts by the time her own script deadlines arrive. Come March, let’s all look for continuity errors.

MIA: Authority #2 – And this was even announced as a bimonthly book. DC’s website now lists a ship date of Feb. 14, a mere four months after the first issue arrived. That's not even quarterly.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Marvel’s MIAs for December – Artists Pulled, Rewrites in Progress?

Just four of Marvel’s titles, by my count, missed their solicited arrival dates in December, at least by a margin worth mentioning. Counting Civil War #6, about which curious excuses have been made, and the presumably spoilerish Punisher War Journal #2 tie-in, we technically have six late books, although these last two are scheduled to ship Jan. 3 (or Jan. 4, allowing for postal holiday delays). Implications are ever so slightly scandalous in the following.


MIA: Civil War #6 – Listed by Diamond as shipping Jan. 3.
MIA: Punisher War Journal #2 – Listed by Diamond as shipping Jan. 3.

MIA: Runaways #23 – Wow. No sooner does Brian K. Vaughan announce he’s got a TV writing gig than a Brian K. Vaughan comic misses a ship date. It’s the first time at least that I can remember. I’m sure the timing is pure coincidence, but it sure does cap off the year with irony, doesn’t it? Scheduled to ship Jan. 10.

MIA: Eternals #6 – Methinks we’ve got some rewrites going on here, delaying the book, though that’s speculation on my part. Since a seventh issue of this six-issue miniseries has been solicited, at least it fits as an informed guess. Here’s some more info: The first four issues all came out perfectly on schedule, but then Eternals #5 didn’t show up in October. It arrived in stores a couple of weeks late on Nov. 8, and coincidentally enough, six days later Marvel solicited the previously unplanned seventh issue for a February ship date. We should see issue #6 some time in January, then, two months late.

MIA: Wisdom (MAX) #2 – Stumbling out of the gate, this issue was announced as delayed until January, with Trevor Hairsine pulled off the book after the second issue. Joe Quesada cited “a few extreme personal issues” for Hairsine, as well as the schedule being difficult for him, and reported that Hairsine is working on another Marvel project. The final four issues of the series will be drawn by Manuel Garcia.

Par for the course as far as Hairsine’s recent work at Marvel goes. He’s been favorably compared to Bryan Hitch in style, but suddenly, readers have little reason to expect he can finish what he starts. X-Men: Deadly Genesis, his most recent prior work, saw him credited as penciller on just the first issue. After that, he was simply on layouts, with Scott Hanna and Nelson DeCastro (also credited just as Nelson … a name familiar to those aware of the redrawing controversy on a few issues of John Byrne’s Action Comics last year) finishing pages that would charitably be described as looking “rushed.”

Before that, Hairsine was tapped for the five-part Ultimate Nightmare, but after the first two issues, Steve Epting stepped in to draw issue #3. Hairsine returned for issue #4, which hit the shelves two and a half months later, an emergency crew of five inkers in tow. To their credit, the issue actually looked remarkably consistent. Hairsine drew the final issue, which arrived two months later, delayed.

MIA: Moon Knight #7 – Though #7 was originally announced for a November ship date, issue #6 didn’t arrive until Nov. 15, and no issue arrived in December. Issues #8 and #9 have now been solicited for February and March. Reportedly, Moon Knight #7 is now scheduled for Jan. 17 after slipping from a previously announced Jan. 3 street date.

Clearly, David Finch is a highly skilled artist, deserving of his steadily increasing star status. But he can’t produce 22 pages a month. All six issues of this title’s opening arc arrived at intervals of six weeks or more, yet not with any predictability. The pattern was similar during Finch’s run on New Avengers #1-6.

Marvel has moved Finch to some unnamed project after Moon Knight #8, and judging by the Mico Suayan preview pencils released, the new artist will fill the shoes well … although I have little hope Suayan is going to be a reliable monthly producer either. We shall see. It is disappointing that the art switch must occur mid-arc, but “Midnight Sun” in issues #7 and following is clearly intended to get Moon Knight caught up with what’s happening elsewhere in the Marvel U, and Finch’s continued inability to deliver on a monthly basis will only hamper that effort. That first issue at least has been promoted as a Civil War tie-in, although the bulk of the arc is now going to hit stores after Civil War has wrapped.


Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk -- One last item of note is that Diamond announced the following on Nov. 20:

“Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #3 (FEB06 1987, $2.99) has been cancelled and will be resolicited when issues #4-#6 have been completed.”

Thursday, December 28, 2006

ADWATCH Finale (?) and Fiscal Fancies

Let’s provisionally accept the notion, plausible enough on its face, that Marvel’s engorged advertising scheme is done with, at least until next year, as of this week’s end-of-year comic releases. If next week does indeed see a return, across the board, to page count normalcy, I will breathe a sigh of relief not unlike the one I would exhale after a particularly portly airplane passenger vacated the seat next to me on a layover. I still got to my destination and received the product I paid for … it just wasn’t very comfortable.

There are many negative consequences to me the reader when I’m trying to wade through a comic book whose advertising pages outnumber story pages, as did most of Marvel’s magazines over much of the past two months. But this week, at least regarding the purchases of this weekly comic addict, one of the negative consequences visited Marvel. Specifically, I dropped Onslaught Reborn.

The Loeb/Liefeld revival of the “Volume 2” universe, as I prefer to think of it, was always an unstable proposition for me. The lightest whiff of wind could topple this title off my buy pile, and with this week’s issue #2 release, that tiny puff of air was the ad count. The series already faced a series of high hurdles with me in attempting to earn my continued purchase beyond my usual polite first-issue tryout. I have never read any of the original “Heroes Reborn” stories, so unfamiliarity was its first hurdle. I tend to avoid miniseries that don’t explicitly promise any real impact on the rest of the in-continuity universe, so that was the second. And my current artistic tastes have moved away from Rob Liefeld’s style, making for a third, nearly insurmountable hurdle right from the start.

So when I flipped through my pull stack Thursday, hefted the deceptively thick Onslaught Reborn #2 in my hands and noted that it was a regular priced issue, I envisioned the frustration I would feel reading a book I just barely cared about while plowing through just as many pages of worthless advertising dreck. Then I decided I’d spend my three dollars on something else. That impulse of advertising disgust was just enough to cost the miniseries, already under probationary review by my wallet, any further patience.

With that, here are a few final statistics based on Marvel’s output over the last two weeks. In all, I brought home 29 Marvel comics this week and last, as well as two comics published by Marvel under imprint labels.

29: Total comics
13: Regular 32-page comics
11: Ad-stuffed 48-page comics (of which at least two had above-average story page counts)
4: Extra-sized 48-page comics ($3.99 each)
1: Slightly-ad-stuffed 40-page comic

As revealed by these representative numbers (with the caveat that I did not buy every title Marvel published in these two weeks, nor did I count pages in the few I left on the shelf), the ad glut definitely tapered off at the end of this Christmas shopping season – a good thing, certainly.

In fact, I was just about ready to declare the ad-fest over last week, when just two titles showed up buried under piles of advertising. But this week swung right back into negative territory with just 3 of 11 regular-priced comics coming in at the standard 32-page format. Not a very encouraging final week trend, if “final” it truly be.


It’s worth making note of the two imprint titles I brought home from Marvel’s publishing output during this timeframe. Criminal #3, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ creator-owned title under the ICON banner, contained fully 25 pages of story, several pages of unique essay-formatted bonus content, and exactly one page of advertising – which was really closer to a sort of public service announcement on behalf of indy publishing. All for the standard price of $2.99.

Similarly, Red Prophet, my first foray into the Dabel Brothers imprint, contained 22 pages of uninterrupted storytelling, an extra-heavy paper stock and a swath of in-house promotional ads placed after the story, all for just $2.95.

Being a self-confessed ignoramus regarding the economics of profit-earning periodicals, I can only be confused that advertising-free titles such as these find their way into the marketplace at exactly the same price as their ad-bearing cousins, and still survive to publish further issues while selling the merest fraction of what sponsored books sell each month.

I can only surmise that Marvel, as publisher, shifts an enormous portion of the financial risks to the creators under the creator-owned ICON line, and thus has a greater profit margin with which to absorb the loss of revenue seen in printing Criminal without advertising. And I surmise further that the Dabel Brothers operation, as a more or less independent imprint, supplies publishing capital from other sources not tied to Marvel’s sales-plus-advertising revenue stream, thus allowing Marvel to forgo the securing of further commercial sponsors.

However it works, the production quality of these ad-free titles, which seem to be at least profitable enough to earn a green light from the publisher, suggest it’s possible to run a comic company successfully under a minimal advertising model. These examples, if nothing else, most certainly argue that a publishing scheme featuring literally more pages of advertising than actual editorial content is fiscally unnecessary.

And this week, at least for this buyer, Marvel's choice to increase that superfluous ad revenue literally cost them the revenue of a potential sale.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Newuniversal ... Starring Bruce Willis, James Gandolfini, and Josh Holloway (“Sawyer” from Lost)

Larroca admits to his Hollywood casting habits at The Pulse.
THE PULSE: How did you decide the look of Len Carson and some of your other leads in these pages?

When I read the pages, I had in mind how they should look -- maybe I had the cinema and the TV shows as references, the fact is that they’re famous people, only that sligthly altered so to not get me in trouble.

Sometimes I used to go to see any picture, and pretty often I used to think …”this guy would be a perfect Captain America or Spider-Man or whomever…” sometimes they’re famous artists and sometimes unknown, it’s funny.

The fact is that I spend a lot of fun time doing the cast for my series … It’s probably the most expensive film of the history!

I finally got around to reading Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca’s Newuniversal #1 today. What a star-studded cast!

It seems that Bruce Willis is playing Justice; Josh Holloway, better known as Sawyer from Lost, is playing Star Brand; James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico from the Sopranos are cast as (can you believe it?) small-town Sheriffs from Oklahoma of all places; and either Gene Hackman or Armin Mueller-Stahl (who had a memorable role in the X-Files motion picture) get a cameo role as some archaeologist.

Don’t believe me? Take a look:

Star Brand, just before the White Event...

Josh Holloway...

Star-Brand and his girlfriend getting cozy...

Sawyer and Kate kissing (and no, I'm not responsible for this montage)...

Here's Justice, after being transformed by the White Event...or is that Corbin Dallas?

And Bruce Willis...

A couple of Oklahoma sheriffs...

And the Sopranos...

The archaeologist...
And a couple of casting options...

Now, I knew as soon as I started reading that this art was a clear departure from the usual Larroca style, with his familiar stubby noses and swollen upper lips. It was a clear improvement. Seems it's also clearly something else.

I had an online conversation once with a high profile artist (who shall remain nameless) who drew a certain DC character with a distinct likeness to Robert Mitchum. As soon as I mentioned it with my great appreciation, he clammed up. Seems there are certain legal issues in patterning comic art too clearly after real people without their (or their estates') explicit permission.

I'm betting we'll see a lot more of the usual Larroca style on this book before long. Although, in his defense, I didn't see any obvious photographic matches to the panels in question upon doing a quick Google search. But screen caps from DVDs are so easy...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

X-Men: Phoenix - Warsong ... Finally a Worthy Idea?

After four plodding issues, the penultimate Phoenix Warsong #4 finally reveals the slightest nugget of a cool idea, but it's just way too late to interest me much. Here's a sample of my latest Silver Bullet Comic Books review:
...there does finally seem to be a nugget of a worthy Big Concept here: that the Cuckoos are really part of a giant, collective, genetically engineered Phoenix capture device. But, as I said, it seems to be just a nugget, since I have zero faith that all the fascinating implications of such a revelation (if I’ve gotten it right) will be adequately explored by this creative team with just one issue to go...

...More central to the deflation I feel in reading this series has been the tepid art by Top Cow’s Tyler Kirkham. Look, the series is already on difficult artistic footing when it’s conceived as a story revolving around three identical looking characters whose only distinguishing visual features are the colors of their pajamas. Throw in their two resurrected identical sisters and a heavy helping of Emma Frost – who, it seems, bears a striking resemblance to the Stepford girls not by accident – and you have the potential for unbearable visual monotony panel after panel, page after page, issue after issue, as the art relies on six near-indistinguishable faces. Not even eye color can serve to differentiate the ladies, as they all have featureless glassy orbs instead of normal eyes...

...Storywise, the X-Men are mostly wasted here. Wolverine and Colossus stand around. Cyclops stands around shooting eye blasts up at things. Colossus had, I believe, exactly one line of dialogue, and it was delivered in a balloon floating in from off-panel, situated between the backs of two other people’s heads as they faced, well, nothing. Such use of art, space and character are not why the unique medium of comics was created.
For the full review, go here. For all of this week's SBCB reviews, go here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cool Ads of Yesteryear #2

Now THIS would have been a great toy for Santa to bring! Imagine, six feet long, big enough for you and a buddy to crawl inside and close the hatch. You probably had to “drive” it Fred Flintstone style, but who cares, right? It reportedly had a real periscope and “rockets that fire,” and of course, back in 1968, that probably meant an actual spring-loaded launcher with some real punch. My grandparents have some of my uncles’ old toys that could kick projectiles out hard enough to put your eye out … and I once had a Sunday School teacher who told us all how he had done just that.

Not exactly an iron-clad beast, of course, this baby was pure “200# test fibreboard,” and who knows how well that Space Age wonder material held up on the backyard battlefield.

And what a price! Only $6.98!!

Here’s the quaint kicker: “Because of its gigantic size we are forced to ask for an additional 75c shipping charges.” Heh. That’s practically a kid’s whole weekly allowance right there.

Those were the days, folks. Those were the days.

Scan from Daredevil #41, June 1968.