Wait, What? Ep. 133: Born Before '61

 photo 2dbf736d-a049-4513-aac6-8146f61dc223_zps80e75131.jpgAs I reacall, Patti Smith shit-talked the Bizarro Movement in Just Kids, didn't she?

yes yes yes this is a real thing that was published and yes yes yes it is Steve Gerber how did you know?

After the jump, another episode of our humble little show, complete with show notes that are even more humble and, um, even more little?

0:00-4:26: A weirdly off introduction! Words are exchanged about the weather, albeit briefly.There were some Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacs I was going to drop here in the show notes because she sings some song where the chorus mentions the weather, right?  I owned that Maniacs record where she sings about  beat writers and I don't know why, but thinking about that now makes me wish I could travel back in time and punch myself in the face.  I mean, technically, I could just punch myself in the face right now without the time travel (and god knows, there's plenty of times where I do exactly that, most days) but it seems like it would be letting the me of the record-buying era off far too easily. 4:26-17:20: "You know what it is?  It's nature preparing us for James Spader as Ultron." And with that, we are officially off to the races!  Also covered: Variety headlines; Nextwave: Agent of Hate; Ben Stein; every Ultron story ever; and Dan Slott's interview on the Nerdist. 17:20-26:47:  This leads to us talking more specifically about Superior Spider-Man by (you guessed it) Dan Slott and various artists. 26:47-33:57: By contrast, Graeme also has a lot to say about Young Avengers #9 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.  Graeme also is loving Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw (with heavy-duty spoilers at the 31:01 mark for about a minute?) 33:57-40:00: And we had positive things to say about Justice League #23 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis and the conclusion of Trinity War. (And there are spoilers here at 35:52 until about 37:00, if you want to avoid having one of the book's big moments revealed.) 40:00-43:31: The Batman Inc. Special! Dear god, am I going to list the times for every one of these books, and also whenever we spoil an important moment in that book?  I wonder who will find my desiccated corpse in this chair? Anyway, we talk about this grab bag "epilogue" with a special shout-out to the terribly executed afterword by Grant Morrison.  What the fuck, DC -- that is basically the special shout-out (spoilers!) -- what the fuck. 43:31-55:09: The American Vampire Anthology! Adventures of Superman #4 with stunning work by Chris Weston!

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Action Comics by Scott Lobdell and Tyler Kirkham!  Superman Unchained by two unknown newcomers whose names escape me! 55:09-1:12:02: Superman related!  Jeff grabbed Superman: Phantom Zone by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan and he has mixed feelings about it.  Adoration, sure, I mean how can you not adore stuff like the image that heads up this entry but….well, there are things, and Jeff talks about them. (Oh, does he talk about them!) 1:12:02-1:25:42:  Graeme has read the latest Batwoman collection, Batwoman Vol. 3: World's Finest. And this leads to us talking about the fruits of collaboration, the current difficulty with seeing today's work as such, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, and more. 1:25:42-1:34:59:  Speaking of Jack Kirby's OMAC: One Man Army Corps:

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Jeff speed-reread all eight issues of OMAC and oh man that is glorious, glorious stuff. Since this was recorded the day after Jack Kirby's 96th birthday, we had to talk (all too briefly!) about the wonder that is the man's work. 1:34:59-1:38:03: Jeff also read the collected The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman, finally getting a chance to finish it many months after loving the first issue. 1:38:03-1:44:21: Jeff has read Batman 66 and walks to talk about it, and tries to instigate a bigger conversation about digital motion comics that, sadly, neither Graeme nor Jeff himself are really ready to have yet?  Oops. 1:44:21-1:53:53: This does lead us to discuss Infinity's infinite comic, which leads us to discuss recent work by Jonathan Hickman for Marvel, which leads us to discuss Matt Fraction's work for Marvel, which leads to... 1:53:53-end: Closing comments!  Ben Affleck as Batman! Scary fingers! And…scene.

Look to the skies! (By which I mean: iTunes!) Look to the skies! (By which I also mean:  our RSS feed, which is absurdly long now.  It's like the opening scrawl to Star Wars -- it just scrolls into the horizon forever, at this point.)  The candy-coated skies!  (By which I mean, uh... you are also welcome to check out the episode below, should you choose, at your leisure?)

Wait, What? Ep. 133: Born Before '61

As ever, we thank you for your kindly attention!

Wait, What? Ep. 117: Sometimes Dead is Better

PhotobucketOne of Annie Wu's great covers from the interior of Hawkeye #8.

Yep, it looks like this posting on Monday thing might be our new podcasting schedule for the conceivable future.  I hope it is not a problem for everyone (including Hibbs, who just posted the shipping list a few hours ago, do go check it out and comment.

After the jump: our charming and trying-hard-to-be-respectable old chum--the show notes.

0:00-5:11:  Here's our opening, a bit more truncated than usual, just so we can jump in with the Bizarro talk and humor for children. 5:11-11:41:  This is definitely a full spoiler episode for the stuff discussed (although as Graeme points out, a lot of the stuff under discussion have discussed and spoiled by the mainstream press).  And although that sounds like the perfect lead-in to our discuss about Batman, Inc. #8, we actually end up talking a bit about Channel 52, DC's spoilery back-up feature currently in all its books, Dan Didio's writing which leads into Graeme's discussion of... 11:41-18:46:  the latest issue of Legion of Super-Heroes, by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.  Graeme makes it sound pretty amazing, let's put it that way. 18:46-22:26: Graeme has also read Action Comics #17 (which Jeff read last week) and Graeme is far kinder about the work than Jeff was. 22:26-32:24: And so by comparison and contrast, there should be a discussion of Batman, Inc. #8  starting here…but instead we give a shout-out to Excalibur Comics in Portland, Oregon and grouse a bit about the Constantine preview currently popping up in DC books. 32:23-49:13: And then *finally* we get to Batman, Inc. #8.  A lot to talk about here, with Graeme bringing the hard questions and Jeff bringing the jabber. 49:13-1:05:55:  Also, in another round of DC Catch-Up, Jeff read Batman and Robin #17, that strange book that bridges the Morrison and Snyder sides of the Batverse, and what its future might be post-Batman, Inc. #8. 1:05:55-1:08:40:  Getting away from the Big Two books, Graeme and Jeff are both pretty enamored of Jennifer Blood, issues #22 and #23. We are very careful not to spoil any of the very big things going on in this book, but they are pretty darn good. 1:08:40-1:18:18:  Saga #10!  Although we start off by saying we will not spoil the end of Saga #10--Spoiler!!--we totally go on to spoil the end of Saga #10. 1:18:18-1:22:21: Jeff really liked issue #34 of Prophet, since he feels that Simon Roy really bring the "Space Conan" vibe to the issues he works on. 1:22:21-1:33:26:  Graeme and Jeff are apparently really out of the swing of answering questions, but we do have a few things to talk about that have been brought up by commenters in our threads recently about craft and intention and clarity. 1:33:26-1:42:37: It's been a while since we've digressed to cover other areas of pop culture, but Graeme has a recommendation for Jeff: The Following.  What does the show have to do with DC Showcase: World's Finest, The Strangers and Bad Machinery, both from Oni Press ?The answer may surprise you! (Probably not, but, hey, you never know…) 1:42:37-1:45:21: Jeff has a recommendation in his very-late-to-the-party kind of way.  If you like your comics in digital format, David Boswell has put up (nearly) all of Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman on his website for "pay what you like" downloads. Even Heart Break Comics, the amazing original graphic novel from back in the day (1984?) is available, and they're all fantastic. 1:45:21-end: Speed round reviews! From Jeff:  Witch Doctor Mal Practice #4, Black Beetle #2, Flash #17, and Avengers Assemble Annual #1 by Christos Gage and Tomm Coker.  Graeme has things to say about Brandon Seifert's other work, the excerpt from The Fictional Man, Al Ewing's latest novel, Angel & Faith #19, Young Avengers #2, and Hawkeye #8 by Matt Fraction and David Aja.  Do we also mention Hook Jaw?  Of course we do!  Also, we thank those who have supported this podcast by sending Jeff digital copies and other materials -- a topic about which Jeff was quoted in this article by Todd Allen over at Next Web -- and if you listen at the close at the ending, you can hear how Jeff COMPLETELY misunderstood what was happening at the beginning. That's, like, some serious circularity, man.

Okay, so since this is getting posted at the same time I upload to iTunes, there's a chance it's not out in the wild yet, but you can find it below, ripe for the plucking (I'm not the only who finds that phrase a little on the obscene side, am I?):

Wait, What? Ep. 117: Sometimes Dead is Better

As always, we hope you enjoy and thank you for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 115: Less Than Greek

Photobucket"It's funny! It says 'I choo-choo-choose you' and then there's a picture of Aquaman."

Well, on the plus side? It is a Monday and we have a new Wait, What? for you--almost an entire day early!

On the minus side, we won't be recording this week due to Valentine's Day, so there won't be a recording next week, I am totally behind the eight ball on my other projects, and I couldn't get Graeme to draw a Don-Wan Kihotay for us.

After the jump, this week's episode and some super-speedy show notes!

0:00-3:18:  Odd greeting! Neurotic confession! Bizarre Love Triangle! Can you tell which one of these is a description of our opening, and which one is a New Order single? 3:18-12:34:  Strange Press Release!  (Another unsung New Order single.)  Graeme and Jeff  discuss the recent press release announcing the Rogue and She-Hulk novels for female readers. 12:34-20:17: From arguing about mythologies in tie-in products, we move on discussing whether Disney is getting too crazy with their Star Wars movie plans or not. 20:17-31:37: Jeff isn't sure how to he made the jump between Star Wars films and the twin legacies of Sylvester Stallone and Walter Hill. (The term "twin legacy" is used, and Luke and Leia are twins with a legacy?)  Nonetheless, if you were hoping to have a healthy dose of "Hey, you kids, stop misunderstanding the historical legacy of my lawn!"  YOU ARE IN LUCK.  (Please note: when Jeff says "Lawrence Silver" in his triade, he really means "Joel Silver." 31:37-1:07:48:  And from a topic of nostalgia and misunderstood legacies, Jeff tries to look at Marvel's Jack Kirby Captain America Omnibus and the hardcover collection of Neal Adams' Batman Odyssey. 1:07:48-1:08:24: Intermission the First! 1:08:24-1:12:54: And we're back.  Most of you probably know about my beard, but not many of us know about Graeme's secret sideburns…or about his even more secret interview with SKY NEWS. 1:12:54-1:22:28: The battle for New Comics begins!  Graeme has read Young Romance: New52 Valentine's Day Special and the first Jeff Lemire-scripted issue of Green Arrow.  Graeme didn't like them much. Jeff saw the preview trailer for Injustice: Gods Among Us. Arguably, he liked that even less.  And then came…the dreaded tech problems.  We liked those least of all. 1:22:28-1:22:52: Intermission the Second! 1:22:52-1:36:05:  We are back, to continue with a bit of grousing about DC.  Graeme has read the huge DC: 75th Anniversary book by Paul Levitz, leading to a conversation about what made DC great in the past.  We are excited about the new digital Superman book, maybe not so much (or at all) about Orson Scott Card, but we are very excited about Jeff Parker, Chris Samnee, and others.  Graeme has also got a sneak peek at Superman: The Unauthorized Biography by Glen Weldon. 1:36:05-1:45:22:  Jeff talks a little about the fourth issue of Multiple Warheads, in a "I would really rather talk about it when we've both read it, but Graeme keeps asking me questions" sort of way.  Also, Jeff doesn't wants anyone to think he's super-high but he decides to compare Multiple Warheads to Zero Dark Thirty for some reason?  Graeme gives the low-down on the Netflix remake of House of Cards. 1:45:22-2:11:25: Questions! We do manage to answer some questions (honestly, we were supposed to answer more and once again we got distracted).  Here we are speeding questions from four Whatnauts: Jesse M. on December 6th, 2012 at 7:08 pm asked: No way you’ll have time to answer all of these, choose one!  1) What’s the single issue of a comic that you love best?  2) I’ve been loving Journey Into Mystery From Gillen and Immonen. Once Immonen’s Sif run is finished, what team should tackle the Warriors Three? 3) Are there any current comics that would benefit from a JiM/BPRD style spinoff? Ben Lipman on December 6th, 2012 at 7:22 pm asked:  Should Marvel bother with covers?  They print them on the same stock as the pages, the books are ordered months in advance and sell to an audience that actively seeks them out. Why not save the price of more pages/art and just have the title sit above the first page?  Is FATALE becoming an ongoing series a good thing?  I enjoy it though it’s not their best, but was looking forward to Bru and Phillips moving on to something else.  What was the best and what was the worst comic you read for each decade you have read comics? Zomboner on December 6th, 2012 at 8:03 pm said:  What happens to Ross’ moustache when he turns into the red-hulk? mateor on December 6th, 2012 at 9:28 pm said:  How about…  A) Has anyone, ever, done more for a comic than Eddie Campbell did for From Hell?  B) Could we expect a modern reader to get anything out of the big 2 comics “masterpieces” of our youth? I am thinking of in continuity stuff here, something like Simonson’s Thor here, a book that pretty much ruled my world growing up, yet something I will ever be able to properly explain to my son, even if he had the issues in front of him. I don’t have the same doubts about Romita’s Amazing or other earlier runs, there is just something about those eighties books that seem stuck in time.  C) If you gave 100 people on the subway issues of Bill Sienkeiwicz’s New Mutants (with the lovely painted covers removed) how many would tell you it was the worst looking comic they have ever seen? and D) What would happen if Robert Kirkman decided to spend his next month’s income and buy the publishing arm of Marvel? Not the IP, just the right to publish Marvel comics the way he wanted…which characters would die each month and by which blunt instrument? How sad would the Punisher be while he used his slowly diminishing appendages to get the rest of the Marvel U killed, one 100 issue spectacular at a time?  Who would he think was calling him while he cried into a disconnected telephone and would he still have the beard? Would Aunt May be the big bad? 2:11:25-end:  Closing comments! Many apologies! Graeme tells you something that would make him laugh! Nothing but exclamation points! Or…are there?

And...there you have it...if by "it," you mean "the show notes."  If by "it," you mean "the show," then in fact, you do not have it...unless you look below, and then you will indeed have that, too:

Wait, What? Ep. 115: Less Than Greek

We hope you enjoy, thanks for listening, and we hope you have a grand Valentine's Day.

The Digital Bits

You may recall that when we started the digital store here, I promised that I would keep things transparent and out in the open about our results. So, here ya' go. Clearly, iVerse/Diamond Digital is, at best, "people's second choice" -- ComiXology has won the day. Further, at least for now, the iVerse/DD store is missing a few keys players, like Marvel and DC, so it's hard to say if they COULD catch up.

I thought (and still think, actually), that I have one small potential advantage from a lot of sites: we're a well-established "brand" for reviews, and seamlessly connecting a store to that would seem like a bit of a no-brainer. The problem, of course, is that coverage here is very similar to what sells in the DM -- it's 70% or better for Marvel and DC, so there's not as many direct links as I would have liked.

(What, I have to tell you to buy Saga?)

So, anyway, here's what happened: in 2nd Quarter, we mad, after the split with the publisher and iVerse/Diamond, $21.92 from selling some 20-odd comic books. More than that were downloaded for free (like Saga #1!).

In the 3rd quarter, we sold exactly 3 comics, and made ourselves $2.95.

Somewhere in there, the store blew up due to something on the Diamond or iVerse end, and the store was down for "some amount of time" -- maybe a month, even. It got fixed in the fourth quarter, but not without a wholllle lot of testing by iVerse folks. In the course of that testing (as well as testing things like with Top Shelf's Double Barrel was actually up), and for something else that looked hella promising, but never followed through on, I made another $12.31 from various people testing various things. Not one cent of that $12.31 was from a consumer sale, however.

So, in year one, I grossed $37.08. Wow.

In exchange for all of these micro transactions, I had to pay PayPal an astounding $14.19 in fees (and that's much less that in would have been, if I didn't switch over to "micropayments")

So, my net was $22.89 in year one. Not bad for something that doesn't cost me any inventory or anything, but San Francisco minimum wage is current $10.55/hour, and I spent at least 20 hours of my life dealing with various things to do with the store and infrastructure, so HARDLY a productive use of anyone's time, really.  Esssspecially because that net amount? We split it evenly among SavCrit writers.  My personal share was under $4!

I'm, of course, hopeful that the store will continue to generate more money as time wears on (honestly, there was one test they did there which could be paradigm shifting.... but that was months ago, and the follow up hasn't happened yet [maybe at ComicsPRO, next month?]), but, as of right now "it isn't worth the time I've invested so far".

Either way, if you like this site, we always appreciate you supporting it -- if you buy a comic from our digital store we get (as you see) a small cut, but it's a cut nonetheless for something that, we hope, you were going to buy anyway.  You could also clock on the little "buy us a beer" button off the the right over there, and make a direct donation to us, if you wanted. So endeth the ad.

Time to go help Ben with his homework!!




I think I will have some reviews up Very Soon (maybe even today, if I follow the plan in my head), but in the meantime, here's a little link bait of stuff that's been sitting around in my browser and made me think a little or a lot:

The first link you're probably already seen and read, since everyone else has linked it, but I was impressed by Jim Zub's analysis of costs for printing comics. The reason I bring it up here is that I think that it needs to be completely underlined that most of the other legs of the chair ALSO make very small amounts of money from straight publishing in the kind of low circulation world that Jim accurately describes -- publisher, distributor, retailer, none of US are making any money from 5k-and-under books either. In fact, you might recall that my last Tilting was about how even books selling under 30k are breaking the periodical market at this point for the big publishers. The problem is the same at the bottom end of the ecosystem -- too many people putting out too much material that's only marginally commercial, and since we don't have any (good) filter for access-to-the-market, the stuff that's actually got a chance (like SKULLKICKERS!), gets crowded out for anyone without the fortitude to play the Long Game (and, let's be realistic, even then...)

A lot of people in Zub's thread are going "hey what about digital?" and while this is not strictly the same thing, I want to make sure that people say this essay by Damon Krukowski of the band Galaxie 500 about what "streaming" services generate for musicians. I have to imagine that the economic picture on TV and film, be it through something like Hulu or Netflix or whatever, is pretty equally bad.  My favorite paragraph is this one:

"Or to put it in historical perspective: The "Tugboat" 7" single, Galaxie 500's very first release, cost us $980.22 for 1,000 copies-- including shipping! (Naomi kept the receipts)-- or 98 cents each. I no longer remember what we sold them for, but obviously it was easy to turn at least a couple bucks' profit on each. Which means we earned more from every one of those 7"s we sold than from the song's recent 13,760 plays on Pandora and Spotify. Here's yet another way to look at it: Pressing 1,000 singles in 1988 gave us the earning potential of more than 13 million streams in 2012. (And people say the internet is a bonanza for young bands...)"

I also really liked this post by Hilary Smith discussing how an author or a work's social media profile doesn't necessarily have anything to do with its sales. PARTS of the promise of digital are clearly a chimera.

I suspect everyone who comes here is also a Beat regular, and has thusly read Grant Morrison's response to the allegations that his work is derived from Alan Moore's, was, I think, my favorite read of the week. If you haven't already discovered it: you're welcome.

Finally, I was mesmerized by this post on Rock, Paper, Shotgun of how video games can open you in astonishing ways to new worlds. I thought it was a powerful and touching piece.


Shop Update: Double Barrel Achievement Unlocked!

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Hey, everybody.  Jeff here with a double reminder that:

(a) Double Barrel #5 is out today; and (even better)

(b) all issues of Double Barrel are available for purchase from the Savage Critic store!

As regular listeners to the Wait, What? podcast know, Graeme and I are huge fans of this two-talent monthly anthology from Top Shelf.  Each new issue is $1.99 and usually features approx. 1oo+ pages of great comics and enjoyable comics crafting essays.  (Issue #4 is only 81 pages.)  But since Top Shelf drops the price on the previous issues, you can get issues #1-4 for at $0.99 a pop.  There are two main recurring serials: Zander Cannon's Heck, about a modern-day adventurer who uses his house's portal for Hell as a business opportunity, and Kevin Cannon's Crater XV, a sequel to his Far Arden graphic novel, about a washed-up cantankerous sea dog who gets immersed in arctic high seas adventure.  (Don't worry, I hadn't read Far Arden when I started in with issue #1 of Double Barrel and it didn't trip me up at all.)

So my quick notice here is sort of a two-fold plea:  for those of you who've picked up Double Barrel on our recommendation, I hope you'll consider purchasing the latest issue through our digital store. I know it's a bit of a hassle to flip between two different comics apps (Comixology and iVerse's Comics Plus viewer) but it would throw a small bit of change in our pockets.  And if you still haven't picked up Double Barrel--take the time, energy and the dollar and get the 122 page first issue.  It's great stuff, and both Cannons, Zander and Kevin, are more than just brave and daring adventurers in this digital wilderness: they're also top-notch cartoonists and storytellers.

Unfortunately, Double Barrel wasn't available in our shop from day one, and it took some emails and communication with the hard-working staff at Top Shelf (Thank you, Chris Ross!) and the people at Diamond Digital to make sure we had access to us.  Making this available was important to everyone involved--it certainly was important to me because I think Double Barrel is a great, affordable read (even more so now that previous issues are less than a buck!) and a possible outlier of the future of digital comics that can work in tandem with direct marketplace shops.  I hope it's an experiment you will be enough of a daring adventurer yourself to investigate...and I hope you consider investigating it through our shop.

Everyone Loses: Hibbs on 9/3's cape comics

Four superhero books below that cut!


AVENGERS VS X-MEN #12:  Man, it would be nice to have a Marvel crossover once that ended right. I don't know what frustrates me more: Captain America's extraordinary hypocrisy in the face of the breaking point he engendered, or why no one is asking about what happens with all of the *good* stuff that the Phoenix Five engineered (food, energy, water, worldwide). but, these are superhero comics, and superhero comics don't like dealing with ramifications, do they? Like I said back at the review of #1, this comic clearly is reviewer-proof; nothing I could say or do would impact it's entire success as a commercial juggernaut -- I'm certainly selling twice or more copies of AvX than I do of either of the component characters any longer.

The thing is, I'm afraid that this series fundamentally broke the X-Men -- what are they any longer?

With Xavier dead, the mutants no longer an "extinct race", Cyclops considered a super-villain, what's presumably the world's stock of Sentinels melted down (along with all of the battleships and nuclear weapons in #6) "Uncanny Avengers", and so on -- well, what's next? Where can you go from here? The core metaphor might still have need today -- but can the X-Men still be the spirit of alienation in any clear way when mutants are now responsible for bringing peace and food and water to Africa, y'know? I have my doubts, especially because the first new x-book off the blocks this week is actually an Avengers title, and the "flagship" X-comic is going to be a time-travel story, which doesn't even sound remotely sustainable to me as an ongoing monthly.

At the end of the day, I thought AVENGERS VS X-MEN #12 was pretty AWFUL. Though I doubt that's any real surprise to anyone out there. I also thought that the X-Men "won", in that Cyclops was right, and his species is now viable again... even though they're left at the end as being a largely irrelevent concept in the Marvel Universe. Funny how those things work out.



AVX #6: As a modern piece of comedy, I thought this was generally pretty darn GOOD. "Captain America is level 15 in Guilt Trips," indeed! Though the Hawkeye sexploitation dream was pretty dang grody, and prevented the book from scoring higher.



DAREDEVIL END OF DAYS #1:  I was originally looking forward to this, because on paper, at least, it sounds good: Bendis, Mack, Janson, Sienkiewicz all back on Daredevil for one final story. Too bad the result is a gory mess, with multiple scenes of people beating each other to death. Yay, comics? Overall the art, mostly Jansen being inked by Sienkiewicz, has the worst of each artist's tics, though there are a few nice and painted panels that entirely work. Seeing those lovely panels make the rest of the book look that much worse, sadly.  Pretty AWFUL.



LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #1: So, this is a collection of  Batman stories that, as far as I know, ran as digital content before being collected here.  This is the fourth (fifth?) "re-purposed" digital comic, and, at my store at least, sales have all been uniformly awful on these books, but I can't tell if it is the chicken, or if it is the egg. Batman, in serialization, is going through a pretty nice period right now -- BATMAN itself is my top selling DC comic. and all five of his monthly books are selling at least 25 copies a month for me. This one? I sold 2 copies in week 1, and I'm not expecting that to grow in any manner I'm willing to carry the risk on. So, is LDK flopping out because it is digital first, and people don't want leftovers? Or is it flopping because it's Batman-led comic #6? Or is it flopping because it is shitty?

There are three stories here, one by Damon Lindelof & Jeff Lemire which is close to the worst Batman story I've ever read being, I think, a "what if?" of "What If Batman was an arrogant drunk?" Hrf?!? The second two stories are kind of  NEW TALENT SHOWCASE teaming newer writers with solid artists (JG Jones, Nicola Scott) -- but the stories aren't any great shakes, neither rising above what you might hope for in a new talent anthology series: not shitty, exactly, but not so great either. At least not for $4.

The bigger problem, for me, is that these comics are kind of the "proof of concept" for the problem of what you do for natively-digital work when the iPad landscape/computer monitor being different proportions from the printed page.  Mark Waid was the first person I ever heard who said, "Duh, just plop the two screens on top of each other, and your back to normal proportions", and I thought he was genius when he said that.

Except... now I've seen what it looks like in practice. It is... not very good.

So, first, if you're even slightly aware of it, you can "see" the weld made on each page as writers are aiming the "beat" for the bottom-rightmost panel of each "page", except each page now has two of THOSE, and it TOTALLY blows the "rhythm" of the comics page.

Second, because you have to present the page smaller than it displays on monitor/iPad, it feels oddly cramped, with too-small lettering.

Third, it really shows just how limited the landscape format is for density-of-content -- It is hard to cleanly fit more than 4 "panels" on any "page", then, which gives you an extremely limited number of choices of page layout and panel arrangement. then you see that twice on each printed page, and it is kind of a mess.

So, I guess now I really don't think that digital comics can be reformatted to print in this way without kind of crashing out the beauty and strength of the real unit of comic books: the page. I thought the Lindlehof story was AWFUL, but the rest was decent enough it could drag the entire book closer to an EH.



That's me, what did YOU think?



The Digital Store

Wholly unbeknownst to me, the store looks to have been down for some amount of time.  Maybe months, I'm not sure. (That sounds sad, but I don't buy digital comics, and no one mailed me to say "its not working!" -- I just hadn't notced I wasn't getting regular paypal notices of purchases any longer).  BUT.. it's working again now, after, lord, nearly a week of back and forth of figuring out what went wrong.  You can find the store right here -B

Wait, What? Ep. 97: How soon is NOW

waitwhat97Just listen.  Trust me.

Episode 97! We are getting very, very close to the triple digits!  And, as you can see with the show notes after the jump, we are still capable of bringing the high weirdness.

(After the jump: Hi, Weirdness!)

So, right.  Show notes.  You are still digging these, I hope?  Because they do add a bit of extra duty to my editing chores...

1:04-2:45: All apologies:  Jeff is late, Graeme is behind.
2:45-13:30: But we are once again quick to start talking comics--more particularly, The Essential Incredible Hulk volumes and the art of Herb Trimpe.  We also talk Hulk and the crucial Harvey character that Jeff can't seem to remember.
13:30-38:39: And since we are talking old comics, Jeff brings up the curious case of Aquaman #56 (1971).  He was able to explode Graeme's mind with this story; hopefully, he can explode yours as well.  (There's also a harbinger of our tech problems to come in the middle of this.)  Also included: words of praise for the mighty Jim Aparo and frustrations about accessing reprints.
38:39-43:30:  On to other comics!  Jeff talks highly of Double Barrel #3 (Master of Feng-Shui!), Amelia Cole #2 (story by Adam Knave!), and Archie #635 (art by Gisele!).
43:30-48:08: Also discussed:  The 64 page 2000 AD sampler (partially read, partially too-completely discussed) and our hopes for their offerings as they leap into the digital marketplace.
48:08-55:34: Unsurprisingly, this leads to talk of Dredd as Graeme has recently read a span of Judge Dredd and tells us about it.  How is Judge Dredd like the silver-age Superman?
55:34-58:33:  And somehow I work in Spider-Man, X-Men, and the near-impossibility of reading every appearance of a superhero character. I assure you it organically flows into our discussion of...
58:33-1:04:34: Miss Thing and the Marvel NOW! announcements.  Graeme makes his picks; Jeff suggests that the Fantastic Four are done with.
1:04:34-1:10:49: And why should that be, exactly?  The answer might lie in a very different area than is typically discussed.  Belated props are given, btw, to Jonathan Hickman and we also mention the Waid and Wieringo run.
1:10:49-1:25:59: Speaking of which, Graeme has been re-reading Waid and Kitson's Legion of Super-Heroes book. Also Waid-related: his recent Four Panels That Never Work  about which we (incorrectly, apparently) assume the worst.  But on the plus side, Jeff hypes vol. 13 of Bakuman which is god-damned delightful and highly recommended.
1:25:59-1:37:58: And then, even though Jeff tries to talk about the new Archer and Armstrong reboot from Valiant, we talk about the second Walking Dead lawsuit between Tony Moore and Robert Kirkman about which...hoo boy.
1:37:58-1:41:13: No, we weren't done talking about the lawsuit, but Skype or Jeff's microphone just up and gave up on us.  It takes a minute or two for us to get back into our groove.
1:41:13-1:49:10: Like, Joss Whedon and his exclusive deal with Marvel? Hell yes, we'll talk about that!
1:49:10-1:52:39: Oh, and Archer and Armstrong?  Jeff does get around to talking about it.  Graeme has some good things to say about other books in the Valiant reboot: the new Harbinger and the new Bloodshot.
1:52:39-1:55:08: Also, Becky Cloonan on Batman #12 is a little bit of all right.
1:55:08-1:58:42: Also, Jeff picked up G0dland, Book Thirty-Six from the other week and found it (and we quote) "Kirby as fuck."  Tom Scioli does tremendous work,Joe Casey ups his game, and Skype (or Jeff's microphone) shits the bed.  (Due to the number of awesome double-page spreads in G0dland, Jeff recommends you do not pick this up in digital.)
1:58:42-end:  Graeme has a closing question!  Also, next week is our skip week...so we will be back two weeks from now.
And, well, there you have it, eh?  I'm a little exhausted at the moment so lemme just point you to  the direct link in case you don't have access to our feed on iTunes:
And, as always, we hope you enjoy!

Wait, What? Ep. 95: Flop Flips

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppAbove: Izzy's Guac & Lox with extra red onion and sliced tomato, on an onion bagel, from Los Bagels in Arcata, CA.

Oh, man.  I don't know if you've ever had the above but if you do--I highly recommend it.  It's a little pricey, but the guacamole is great and the lox are fresh.  Just a fine old dining experience.

But you're not here for the food talk, are you? (Wait...are you?)  You are here, in theory, for the latest installment of Wait, What? Ep. 95, so join me behind the jump for....show notes!

1:18-4:18: Vacation, all we ever wanted!  Graeme and I compare notes: I had one and it was fine.  Graeme hasn't had one in YEARS.
4:18-7:28:  Comic Books Are Burning In Hell are totally dropping "the McMillion" in their new episode?  We should all listen! (Except Graeme, probably.) We tried to help them with their RSS feed, honest.
7:28-13:40:  Jeff racks his brain to see if he has a comic book related anecdote about his vacation, but he does.  Oh my, yes.  Probably skippable if you're not a member of the family (or even if you are, I bet).
13:40-14:34:  "Congratulations, Detective!"  Graeme and I ponder the mystery of...Robo-Warrior? Judge Trooper? Don't worry, we figure it out.
14:34-15:58:  Jonesing for 2000 AD, McMillan-style, which leads us into discussing...
15:58-37:10:  Zaucer for Zilk by Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy, which Jeff has now read and we now discuss, along with Axe Cop: President of the World #1 and Prophet #27. Jeff draws a connective line between the three; Graeme is less sure of this.  A very big discussion about the difference between self-consciousness and self-awareness ensues.
37:10-41:57:  Returning to other 2000 AD-ish goodness, Graeme schools me on the difference between the progs and the Megazines and talks about what's in the current issues of the latter, as well as recommendations for how and when to jump on to 2000 AD digitally...
41:57-47:37:  For comparison/contrast sake, Jeff talks about the new title in Shonen Jump Alpha, how his digital subscription to Mad Magazine on the iPad is going,  and the awesome opportunity to get Charles Forsman's The End of The Fucking World as a PDF over at OilyComics.com as well as his awesome subscription deal running through the end of July.  Yes, the future is here and we just gave you links to four very different and excellent types of comics experiences difficult to find in your average comic shop.  (Now, if I could only get Top Shelf to get Double Barrel onto the shelves of our digital store...)  I won't give away the segue, but all of this does lead into:
47:37-1:19:50:  "Dark Knight Rises. Go."  Jeff saw it very recently, Graeme saw it a few days previously, and we talk about it here lots and we pretty much spoil it everything so don't listen if you haven't seen it already.  (Note: my Bane imitation was done in-mic: no filters added.  I am inordinately proud of that.)  Around the 1:19:50 mark, Graeme makes a terrifying confession.
1:19:50-1:28:19: (Hint: It involves Batman Returns).
1:28:19-1:36:54:  New comics!  Graeme talks Captain Marvel #1 and National Comics: Eternity; Jeff talks Flash #11 and Detective Comics #11.
1:36:54-1:52:14:   Whoever had 1:36:54 as the time in the pool when we talk about Grant Morrison wrapping up his monthly book duties at DC, please collect your winnings.  We also talk about some amazing things said by Morrison at his recent CBR case.
1:52:14-1:59:26:  Closing comments, of a sort.  Graeme admits he read Extreme X-Men #1 and, as a Dazzler fan, he felt let down. Oh, and also All-Winner's Squad over at Marvel.com.  And then we say goodbye!  No, really, that's the end for now.
Because of some funky work scheduling, this is hitting the Net about 24 hours earlier than usual, and has perhaps already been seen cavorting with Bigfoot and a Chupacabra on iTunes.  But you are also invited to plunge into Savage Critic's own personal Mystery Spot, and listen to it here and now:
And, as always, we thank you for listening and hope you enjoy!

Wait, What? Ep. 90: Back in the Game

Photobucket Ladies and Gentlemen: GRAEME MCMILLAN IS.

The nice thing about writing a post during which you lose your mind and decide the best thing to be done is to embed as many of the lyrics of an Elvis Costello song as you can is you realize: (a) it can't be topped; and (b) maybe you're allowed to go easy on yourself every now and again; and (c) your attempts to give the page a catchy image and a bit of punchy jibbety-jab really only go so far, as it's the actual thing you are introducing that people are (or are not) here for.

(Also, you realize you are addicted to parentheticals and alphabetized lists, and have no idea exactly how you're going to get those particular monkeys off your back. Is there a twelve step group underwritten by the Chicago Manual of Style?)

(Also, these muscle relaxants aren't really capable of doing shit as far as making you feel mellow and floaty, but they're kind of dynamite for making you feel like every word you're typing is WRONG, in a near-sacrilegious way. I feel like Henry god-damned Miller writing this thing!)

Anyway, Wait, What? Episode 90 is here, lemme just shuffle off to Buffalo and bring it on: it's two hours and twenty-one minutes, it's Graeme and I answering the questions on Twitter we forgot about until Rick Vance (I...think?) reminded us, it has us talking Batman: Earth One by Johns & Frank; Skull The Slayer; Steve Englehart (lots and lots of Steve Englehart); Dracula World Order by the fabulous Ian Brill; Batman #10, Andy Warhol's Robocop (not at any particular length, sorry); Spider-Men #1, and our old buddy "much, much more."

Those what like iTunes will have have already dipped their toes into our radiant tide pool. The rest are invited to remove your shoes, roll up your pant legs, and wade in below:

Wait, What? Ep. 90: Back in the Game

As always, we hope you enjoy and thank you for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 88: Starry-Eyed Cynics

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Yup, we continue to make headway on Operation: Q&A, with perhaps as many as *ten* full questions answered in this, Episode 88 of your friendly, neighborhood Wait, What? podcast.

The wolf is at my door (figuratively speaking) so allow me to fill you in on what to expect and then I'll have to run (literally speaking--I don't know, it gets complicated but you can figure it out):

For a hearty two hours and five minutes (with the first ten devoted strictly to music talk), Graeme McMillan and I gab about which Alan Moore's universe we'd like to see continued; the recent first issues of Batman Inc., The Ravagers, and Superman Family Adventures; Erik Larsen and The Savage Dragon; digital content and comics as a niche market; who gets a bigger free pass--Marvel or DC; Greg Rucka and Brian Bendis' discussion over at the Mulholland Books website; the degrees of freelancer success; Scott Kurtz and cynicism; Jim Lee and the role of creators in corporate comics; and really just so much oh my god you guys I cant even begin to tell you

Those with an Internet connection and our patented SynethesiaGoggles may have already watched the warp and woof of our mellifluous mouthtones on iTunes, but you can also have a grainier, more auditory, and some would even say more fulfilling (but that may be because they didn't want to fork over the extra fiver for the goggles) experience below:

Wait, What? Ep. 88: Starry-Eyed Cynics

As ever, please secure your bags either below your seat or in the overhead bins before departure, and thank you for listening!

New Tilting is up!

You can read the latest right here, as I talk about FCBD, changes at DC Entertainment, Diamond's breaking street date, and some bits on digital. I'm a little behind on writing reviews (as I pretty much haven't read any comics yet this week [it's been hectic], but I expect I'll get something up BEFORE the next batch arrives, just watch me!


Digital: Week 1

There's NO WAY I am going to do this each and every week, but I thought it might be instructive to look at first week digital sales here. So far, we've sold six comics.

One was to a fellow retailer, who, when contacted, said "just wanted to see what the user experience would be like, thought that was worth $4!", so I'm kind of not going to count that one.

Of the remaining five, and I find this FASCINATING, only 2 of the 5 were a book from a review (in this case, Popeye #1... which, additionally, IDW seems sold out on; or at least, there were no copies to reorder this week)

Two other sales were for Danger Club #1 (which sold terribly for me in print -- I'll be cutting my order for the next one by 2/3rds, I think), and there was also one for Manhattan Projects #1 (which sold well, and continues to sell well with a second printing, for me in print)

The five sales were to four unique customers. Going by the mailing address on their PayPal accounts, two of them are in Ohio, one is in Texas, one is in Washington (the state). That's as close as I'm willing to identify individuals to you. Three of the four live in cities that HAVE a comic book store. OBVIOUSLY, the mailing address on a PayPal account isn't necessarily factual, or takes things into account like "I travel 10 months of the year" or whatever.

But, I have to point out that I sold 6 print comics within four minutes of opening the store this morning (and Tuesdays are, generally, our worst days), and I earned a much better margin on those sales, and don't have to split them with a bunch of fellow reviewers, so this is not, as of this second, going to fund my retirement!



Byte Me!

Hey, remember a few weeks ago when I said "There's a big announcement coming!", and then I had to walk that back a little? Well, hey, it's here, below the jump! So, like first off, I'm just going to lay this out person-to-person. You understand that I am a retailer, and I sell things for a living, but I don't sell here at Savage Critic. I (and my wonderful cohorts) tell you what they think, whether that's good or bad or indifferent or [Schrodinger's Cat]. While I'm working up to a good and/or service, I'm going to speak to you how I like to be spoken to: largely focusing on ones/(my) Perception of The Truth, rather than trying to Sell you on anything.

People think of me as anti-digital, I guess; though that's really not accurate at all. It's more that I'm against any kind "Everything will be 100% better with digital" thinking, because I don't think the "problem" with the comics market is access and availability, but, rather that we're a niche market, not a mainstream one. Even at our highest highs (boy, isn't Walking Dead doing pretty super?), we're still at just a small fraction of the viewers of that TV show.  WATCHMEN is past a million copies but, I think, short of two... while maybe something on the order of 15+ million people paid money to see it in a theatre, and hell, probably 3+ times that have watched it on DVD or streaming or cable or something else.  Meanwhile, it's extremely unlikely that the "Before Watchmen" books will sustain 100k+ sales, and it wouldn't shock me if some of the involved titles bottom out below 50k.

We've been through "The grass is greener!" more than once, most recently with the bookstore market, and, guess what? We can still count the number of million copy best sellers... well, probably not on one hand, but it certainly isn't a large club. And that's in a population of 250+ million people.

Comics are an acquired taste. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Hell, I think we're smarter and sexier because we know comics and "they" don't, but "they" are a long long long way from even beginning to embrace us.

Further, I truly think that comics that are created for paper are inherently better ON paper, because physical space is an important part of how comics "work". I especially think that panel-by-panel viewing thing that cmX has is the absolute work of the devil -- the gutters are exactly where the magic of comics fundamentally lies, and you can't remove that panel border and have it still be comics, exactly. I truly think that comics belong foremost as a print medium, and I think that most of the audience agrees, which is why we're running entirely counter-cyclical to any "normal" digital trends in this medium.

Having said all of that, it is obvious and clear that some people disagree, whether it is from honest cognitive disagreement, or "well, that would be nice, but there's no place within 100 miles that sells any form of comics" or, just, "fuck, I don't want clutter any more". What *I* think about the "purity" of the medium really means fuck-all, doesn't it, when there ARE obviously some number of people that want digital.

cmX has a retailer participation model, but I've actually read the contract that you have to agree to, and I thought it was flatly one of the most lopsided, unfair, and kind of blatantly evil documents I've ever read. Others surely disagree, and there are certainly some retailers who will say that they're generating large sums with no overhead. But I'm totally unwilling to do so under the contract cmX offered.

So, that brings us to Diamond comics partnership with iVerse to bring digital comics directly into retail stores. Most of Diamond's focus has been on a kind of "do you want fries with that?" digital copy upsell in store. Hell, maybe that can even work -- though I have a hard time picturing it, and, besides, the physical print market is already niche enough that physical retailers would be, I think, largely foolish to even raise the possibility that customers in their physical stores might migrate to digital (not that I think they WILL, as a mass) (but the REAL problem is that if the "wrong" 10% -- the heavy users who buy most of the comics; the cats who buy 20+ comics every single week -- shifts their business, the entirely possibility of much of the physical market kind of disappears for the other 90% of the participants, whether they want it or not)

All I know is that I'm sure as hell not going to promote digital within my individual physical sales environment. I think that's plainly counter-productive to my physical print-based business.

The internet, however, is different. I'll be surprised if even 1% of my regulars read this blog posting, or even an aggregation site's picking up on the "story". But there are hundreds, thousands, lots! of readers reading these words who will never set foot in my store for the simple reason that you're nowhere near me whatsoever. SOME of you are interested in digital comics.

And so for you few and proud and awesome!!!, I've very proud to announce that because I'm one of the very very few people who has both a Diamond account, as well as an internet review site, boom, now we're selling digital comics.

Yeah, didn't expect that, didja?

We're selling digital comics through iVerse's program, but as you see from that URL and site, that's branded as SavCrit, and ComixExp; and all sales are pretty much under Diamond's Terms of Sale, with the main exception of the split. As it is set right now, I get one third, Diamond and iVerse get one third, and the publisher gets the last third. I don't know how Diamond and iVerse are splitting dollars, but even in a crazy unfair world, I bet Diamond is still preserving most of the profit slice they normally get, while having almost no overhead at all.

(I'm losing 33% of my gross profit on publishers that cap in print at 50%, and 40% of my profit on a brokered publisher like Image, where it's 55% off. But the upside is zero inventory expense for unsold copies.)

I know that there's going to be a vocal contingent of people who will say "yeah, but I use comiXology, and don't want a second system", and I feel you, I really do, but y'know, in this app based world I kind of have to file that one under "white people problems" -- switching between apps really isn't hard.

I don't expect anyone to really just go and "graze" at the store, instead what we'll do is, when we're reviewing a book that we also have for sale, there will be a hotlink to that book. I wish this happened a different week (Onomatopoeia, and order form this week!) so I'd have a proper review up at the same moment to show you how it works in practice, but pretend as I reprint this one from last week:

PROPHET #24: Ugh, now THIS is comics! Man, I don’t even know what this bit has to do with anything in the first three issues (same character, wholly different scenario), but I also don’t care, because it’s such fun science fiction, AND we get some wonderful artwork from Farel Dalrymple. I think I’ve said this before, but this reminds me of nothing less than HEAVY METAL from the 1970s, amazingly inventive and lavishly illustrated science fiction that may or may not make a ton of sense, but who cares because the passion just drips off it. I think this is truly EXCELLENT work.

Something like that, anyway -- I may not link the review summary word now that I see it looks kind of ugly. Either way, it's meant to be unobtrusive and not all "Buy!"-y

There are drawbacks to iVerse & Diamond Digital -- the first being that the back library  is, right now, only a few months behind. The second being a fairly small number of publishers represented -- Ape, Arcana, Archie, Bluewater, Boom!, Broadsword, IDW, Image, Top Shelf and Viper. More, we presume, will be added as time goes on.

Also, I'm told that while you can buy comics using Firefox, you'll have to READ THEM (if you're doing so on a browser, rather than using the app) on a different browser for now. That kinda sucks.

All of "my" (1/3) share of the digital sales will be split evenly amongst the SavCrit participants while we test this -- so if you've always wanted to support the site, but have felt like you didn't want to do a direct Paypal donation or something (though certainly feel free to do that, as well), now you can buy comics and understand that it keeps Graeme and Jeff doing podcasts (and maybe even written reviews again, wouldn't THAT be nice!), or John one step closer to that high powered telescope, so he can watch EVERYthing that Howard Victor Chaykin does, and so on and so forth.

Oh, the last thing is that I, like Mark Waid before me, intend to be fairly open about the success and / or failure of this initiative. I suspect that once a year I'll pop in with a "this is how digital is doing" post.

Well... that's about that, I think? Please feel free to offer comments in the thread below, though I doubt I'll be able to answer any tech questions whatsoever.

So, what do you think?



Big and Bad: Hibbs 4/4's

I know you'd never know it from my Industry-driven posting (seriously? It's what I DO), but I've actually been sick as a dog the last week, and have barely read any comics at all. But I said "I'm back on the horse", and, barring the two weeks where I couldn't log on TO post here, I am , I am! So, here's 3 (or maybe 4) books, below the cut.

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #1: Rich Johnston was right, I think, when he said this book is review proof. No one is going to buy or not buy this comic based upon anything I (or anyone else) says about it, and, because it's purely an exercise in smashing the action figures together, I doubt anyone is really looking at this for an exceptional example of sequential storytelling, or anything.

Which is terrific, because it kind of sucked.

Sort of even to the point that I'm not even really sure where exactly to begin.

Well, let's start with the talent. I like JR JR, I really do... but I like him on things that are gritty and "street" and dark -- KICK ASS he's suited for, shiny-Avengers-heroes? Not so much. Scott Hanna's inks help a little, but overall, the effect here is of the absolutely wrong artist for the book.

Then you have the "Story" credit going to FIVE different people. Really? Reallly? I mean, I have to assume that something really change-up different is going to happen at some point here, because "The Avengers and the X-Men fight" hardly needs FIVE plotters. Damn, it don't need one -- even my eight year old can plot this. In fact, I asked him to tell me why they might fight, and he said, and I shall quote: "they're superheroes, they just do"

Smart kid.

And, oh, oh, oh, the scripting. I don't know if it's that Bendis is just getting too frayed from working on too many comics, or that I've just "learned" his ear too well from reading too many of them, but his dialogue has descended into self-parody at this point. "What's going on? Never Mind. Don't care. Are we having an Avengers meeting or--?" "Guys -- we got a thing here."  Damn, they all have the same frickin' voice. Even the single normal human being in the entire comic, who has a line after flying through the sky with the rubble of the Chrysler building, then is webbed safely by Spider-Man (wait, what? How?!?! 3/4 of those people should be corpses!) says "Wow. That's It. I'm moving. I'm done."


(Plus, like, destroying the Chrysler building? This is your signifier of "yeah, the stakes are real!"? Ugh)

(See, even *I* am doing the bendis voice! Man!)

I also really like that "scorecard" thing at the top of the issue that has like 20+ Avengers, including a bunch not even cameoing in the issue (War Machine?), while the X-Men side is all of 6 people.

I don't, AT ALL, get Cyclops' motivations here. I could maybe possibly understand him if it was "We don't have enough power, we need more, we can't let the humans have this", but all of that bullshit he was spouting about rebirth and shit? Are you nuts? Scott should hate the Phoenix force more than almost any other human in the universe, given that it destroyed his first love, his child, his school, and now it is going after his grand daughter, who is "the future of the mutant race". Given what happened to Jean, how could he POSSIBLY be ok with Hope getting anywhere near the force?

Also: Where the fuck is Rachel, anyway? Why would the thing WANT Hope in the first place? We've always always seen the Phoenix force go after TELEKINETIC TELEPATHS -- what does it want with a girl whose powerset is *copying* other powers, and who, afaik, is utterly powerless without other mutants around?

Hell, maybe that's what we need five plotters to explain?

So, nope, didn't like it, not a bit... but it's going to make a big pile of money regardless. I thought it was pretty AWFUL.


INFINITE COMICS #1: Free with the digital download of AvX #1 was the first of Marvel's "Infinite Comics", by Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen. I read this as well.

I have to say that I thought it was... adequate. Waid's script is filled with some fun things about moving faster than the speed of light, but there's not a single thing about the PERSON behind the suit (other than his liking hot dogs or whatever it was, but that was so generic, it literally could have been interchangeable between Spider-Man, the Human Torch, Speedball, or fifty other characters).

The art was fairly pretty (duh), but when it came to major, important things like, dunno, SMASHING THROUGH THE CHRYSLER BUILDING, it's staged in such a way you can barely tell what's going on.

As a "What happened between panels 5 & 6 on page 4" (or whatever), it was perfectly adequate... maybe even fairly decent.

But as a technical achievement? Wow wow what a dog!

Maybe, I don't know, but maybe possibly this is because I read it on an iPad 1 -- but this, rather than the "Luther" proof-of-concept where elements fairly seamlessly "floated" into place, here each new element was on a seperate page of it's own that I could LITERALLY *see* being served to me.

What this meant was that.


What this meant was that as each page would come up on the screen.


What this meant was that as each page would come up on the screen my eye automatically started to read.


What this meant was that as each page would come up on the screen my eye automatically started to read from the left again.


What this meant was that as each page would come up on the screen my eye automatically started to read from the left again until eventually the.


What this meant was that as each page would come up on the screen my eye automatically started to read from the left again until eventually the whole page was finally rendered.

Oh. My. God! COMPLETELY unreadable.

I thought "Well, maybe it's just the first iPad?" so I went to try and read it in-browser on my computer, which Marvel SAYS you can do. I followed the link PROVIDED ON THE "redeem" page. No. That takes you to a page full of press releases about previous free digital downloads. Then I spent at least 20 minutes reading through help pages on Marvel.com, and finally found a different link that the help pages insisted was direct to "all of your free-with-print digital downloads", but THAT page redirected me instead to a four page preview of AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #1 that the only way it would let me escape was if I signed in to Marvel Digital Unlimited... which is not even close to the same thing, so I closed my browser in disgust and said "fuck it".

I probably wouldn't be so disgustipated if it wasn't for the THREE (!!) pages that IC #1 had to serve me to proclaim that this was the "FUTURE OF COMICSSSSSSSSS!!!!!"


If that's the "future" of comics, comics can go fuck themselves. As much as I didn't like the "hey we're showing off by taking control of your reading experience for you!" that "Luther" did, it was a BILLION times worse in the one-page-at-a-time slideshow on the iPad. It made me want to choke to death on someone else's vomit.



THE BOYS #65:  While there are 3 (4? 5?) more issues left of the series, this is really the big moment everything has been pointing to since that first issue, and there's a clear Ennis-ian Nelson-style "Haw haw!" in here as everything everyone thinks is going on is flipped on it's side before the gory gory gory gory climax of it all. I liked the twist, I thought it was "fair", but this issue really REALLY suffered, I thought by being drawn by two artists, neither of whom is Darick Robertson. Russ Brown and John McCrea are just fine, but neither is the co-creator of the series, and I kept recasting every page if DR had drawn it. The version in my head is better. Still? Solidly GOOD.


SUPREME #63:  It's been like ten years since the last chapter, has it? I guess that explains why I sold less than a third of what I thought I might of this unseen Alan Moore Script? What's weird is that, as a silver age pastiche, it really kind of read as if I had just read the previous issue last month. I miss the hell out of this book. I can't believe this really was to be Moore's LAST script, though, because there's clearly 1 or 2 more issues to go along this whole thought.

I quite liked Erik Larsen's art here, though -- made me think he was channeling Kev O'Neill, especially on those Suprema pages. The blurbs seem to indicate that the next issue is abandoning the silver age stuff and going back to 90s-style Rob Liefeld Supreme, and while they're earned one more issue from me for that, my instincts say I'd rather be forced to read INFINITE COMICS again.

Anyway, does this mean we can hope for a proper reprint book of Moore's runs that isn't scanned at the wrong resolution or whatever the hell the problem was with those Checker editions?



Right, that's it for me this week, see you in a day or two with the next batch of reviews!!


As always: what did YOU think?



About Waid's "Print Math"

Mark Waid has a very thorough post over here on “Print Math” that I think everyone should read. I started to write this as a response in the comments thread, but then realized it would be quite a bit longer than a comments thread response should probably be, and, anyway, would almost certainly be down at response #80 or something by the time I finished writing it, so I thought it better to dance the dance over here, below the cut.

Let me say a few things up front so that there’s absolutely no confusion of any kind (though I imagine someone, somewhere will misinterpret this for the usual “Retails against digital! OOOg!”) – I absolutely and in every way think that creators should explore each and every way to bring their material to market. While I am certainly pro-DM, there is no doubt that the coverage of DM stores is nowhere near as strong as it could or should be, and that digital is certainly one of many tools that is available, and should absolutely be pursued.

Mark should be commended for getting out in front of this debate, and for trying to provide a real and solid basis of his perceptions of the market and the possibilities for the future. I strongly want to urge Mark to continue the blog posts on the subject, because more clarity can not help but be good for everyone.

(I’d also like to use this chance to apologize to Mark for being a techno weenie and running Firefox with just about everything turned off that can be turned off – I never ever see ads on the internet, for example – which includes virtually all scripts, and which I keep forgetting to turn back on when I comment at Mark’s site, which means my comments keep getting put into moderation, and he’s got to manually pull them out, which I am sure is a pain in his ass)

Mark, as I said, makes some wise points cogently, but I’m sorry to say that I think that several of the base assumptions that he makes about the market (both in function and size) are fairly drastically off.

The first place to begin, I think, is in access to the market – to any market.

I’ve been struggling with this thought for days, but I think I’ve come to the final realization that gatekeepers on a market are not inherently a bad thing. We all know Sturgeon’s Law (well, really Sturgeon’s Revelation, but that’s neither here nor there): “90% of everything is crud”, but I think that my personal Revelation is that in the absence of Gatekeeper’s trying to weed out the silk from the dross, that number really more properly becomes 99.999%. Have you read any of the horrific and mangled prose that people have out in the iBooks store? I’ve read a few, and, golly, much of what I’ve read is nowhere near professional quality.

More to my own point, as a guy who owns a comic book store I get a whole lot of samples and pitches from wannabe creators. Many of whom who have done print of demand (POD) comics and are usually trying to flog them outside of the traditional distribution system – either because they’ve been rejected, or would be rejected, by Diamond for distribution. I see a LOT of comics, and virtually all of them are NOT ready for primetime. Most of them are juvenile, poorly done, and just look or feel amateur.

There’s another hard truth about creative works that usually goes unspoken, and that’s that the creator is, generally, their own least reliable critic. In the comment thread linked above there’s an established creator who is lamenting what was poor sales on a particular release, and it took every single ounce of willpower I possessed to not post that the reason was actually because the work was a steaming pile of shit. That I took a chance on his comic, sold less than 10% of what I ordered because it was ludicrous, ugly, poorly plotted and motivated, and so on.

Comic book retailers really really like selling comics. It’s sort of what we do. For a living and everything. We all want to sell more comics. We all take chances on many things and try to find out what the floor and the ceiling for any individual work might be, if we think it is even REMOTELY commercial. And, if you have a comic that is sitting at issue #20 or something, and you’re only selling 5k copies, I have to tell you: that’s on you, not on the market for failing to recognize the flower of your genius.

Oh, sure, there are a few exceptions here and there, but that’s what they are: exceptions.

There was a point when Diamond, the big bad monopoly that they are, pretty much let almost any piece of crap come to market (I think mostly because they were concerned about being labeled as the monopoly), and what happened? The catalog swelled, sales collapsed, and suddenly they’re distributing hundreds of utterly unprofitable comics that simply didn’t have any commercial potential of any kind.

Even today I have to say I can easily think of at least 5 publishers who truly don’t deserve the privilege of access to the market, because in multiple years of publishing, they’ve never come close to publishing something of lasting value.

I’m not saying this to be a dick; I’m saying it because it happens to be true. (If it was to be a dick, I’d be NAMING them)

*I* think one of the biggest flaws with the current system is that Diamond done signed themselves a contract which basically says the premier publishers can do whatever the fuck they want with little to no consequences – What we really need is a distribution system that says: “new 52? Um, sure, if you feel like you must, but we’ve only got 16 catalog pages for you DC, and, frankly, we’re going to list Mr Terrific in a single line of 8 point text” – the worst thing that ever happened was Marvel and DC, et al being able to design their own catalog pages, with no real restrictions of any kind.

(Also? Diamond's only sorta a monopoly -- because DIAMOND has NO DIRECT CONTROL over roughly 85% of the volume of product it distributes. DC Comics can insist that every issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE comes packed with a literal sack of shit, and Diamond has very little option than to pack that shit. Diamond is AT LEAST as yoked by the terms of the deal as any given small publisher, believe it or not. Probably more, because they're not, AFAICT, paid enough now to offset the tightness of that particular leash.)

Anyway, I’m dropping down a rabbit hole with this, can we go back to my long held notion that you are now competing against Watchmen and Dark Knight and Kingdom Come and (insert awesome, and awesome selling work here) – being “OK” is no longer good enough (if it ever was) to get you catalog and rack space if you’re not a publisher who can FORCE your work to be carried. You really do need to be exceptional. Most of the available consumer purchasing dollars are being soaked up by the Big Two, largely through overproduction.

At the end of the day, I think barriers to gain access to a market are (if they are reasonable barriers) not at all a bad thing – and, let’s be realistic, the barriers to NATIONAL DISTRIBUTION to a NETWORK OF SPECIALIZED STORES are, realistically, EXTREMELY low in comics. It’s certainly easier to gain nationwide distribution into retail for an unknown and untested comic book, than it is for a new print book, or a music recording, or a film. Like, 1000 times easier!

Let’s talk about books, because at least the book world is a little more transparent about how things work (I’ve spent hours googling music and film, and can barely understand most of what I’ve found… which is little) – I thought this post about the realities of the book business was sobering, especially when you consider that books are RETURNABLE and comics (generally) are not… what that means is that no comics publisher ever, anywhere ever has to ship an UNPROFITABLE comic book, whereas publishing a book is an extraordinary risk, one that you don’t even know if you’ve won or lost until many months later!

Anyway, you think Waid's math is sobering? Try this:

“Here’s the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies.  Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies.  Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies.  The average book in America sells about 500 copies” (Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006).  And average sales have since fallen much more.  According to BookScan, which tracks most bookstore, online, and other retail sales of books, only 299 million books were sold in 2008 in the U.S. in all adult nonfiction categories combined.  The average U.S. book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime.

Now, this is utterly putting aside that BookScan is NOT 100% of book sales, of course, and also, as was pointed out by Justin Jordan in Waid's thread, the other difference between books and comics is that a best-selling book can sell multiple millions in a few short months, while the top comic will likely top out at a tenth of that, so the theoretical payoff for successful prose is much much higher, but, even with all of that.

I can't find anything similar for film or music, and, really, the best I can muster is an implication from this chart. I think (if I understand things correctly), that the "unrated" films are  movies that are not distributed with MPAA ratings, and thus, are, generally, not being distributed by one of the large dominant studios that would be roughly equivalent with Marvel, DC, all the way down to a Boom!-sized houses -- a small number of firms which control the absolute majority of distribution. So, those 2279 released films? (roughly a quarter of the total) *They* only made an average of $773k per film. So, how many of those movies earned their costs back? Few, if any?

But the point that I want to make, again, is that no comics publisher ever need ship an unprofitable comic -- these are firm sales, and, in fact, it at least has been entirely possible in the past to go to a printer with a Diamond PO, and an assignment of payment, and to not actual front ANY upfront cash in order to print and distribute your comic!

So, yeah, even with all of Diamond's faults (and they are really myriad), I barely find them hard gatekeepers for the market. In fact, if I were to level a real criticism at Diamond's Purchasing department is that they need to hire a bunch of 20 year olds with broader taste and then back up that initial inventory acceptance with aggressive purchase orders and to-retailer marketing. Diamond's never really had a proper equivalence to what Capital City would do with "Certified Cool", where CCD actually stood behind the product.

That's the first bit.

The second bit is Waid's printing costs analysis. His math is based on color printing, which has never been essential to self-published or truly small press books. Certainly, it has no long-term impact on the "real world" success or failure of a work, as we can clearly see with the Success of Manga, and MAUS, and WALKING DEAD, and FUN HOME and PERSEPOLIS (etc etc etc) out among the Mass audience.

Waid kind of just waves away black & white printing with a "You’d be surprised how little that lowers the cost." and without backing that up, but I've been told that in the past that lowers printing costs anywhere up to 40% -- I have no idea if that's still true, however -- and, of course, that's one less potential creator to pay (or, "job to do", depending on the creative set-up)

The third, and final bit is Waid's comments about the DM retail community.

So, let's put aside the hyperbole (because it looks like there is a place to buy comics in Tupelo, Mississippi, and there's at least three stores within something like a half-hour drive of Pratville, Alabama, in Montgomery) -- sure, there's no doubt it is more difficult to find adequate access to comics the further you get from dense population bases. It's also harder to find stores that stock ANY number of other things that don't appeal to a mass audience. That's kind of how supply and demand works.

What I don't know is whether or not there are actually huge audiences out there just waiting, under-served. I actually wonder if anyone has ever done an analysis of sales of Jazz or Poetry or Indie Films or whatever other clever-but-niche media, pre- and post-internet/Amazon/Digital to see if there's any significant lifting of sales in non-mass things when there suddenly no geographic barrier whatsoever in purchasing them. I suspect strongly the answer would have to be "No", because it's often the availability of object in a community in the first place that creates the demand for more of it. If you're not exposed to Jazz (or comics!), why would you ever begin to think you should seek out more? I actually find the internet to be self-reinforcing in terms of interests -- while free things can pass virally, I can't think of an example of a PAID object that has done so to a wider customer base that wasn't ALREADY INCLINED to already want it (so, no, the Louis CK example fails -- in fact, it's probably a smaller audience than he would have had on HBO or Comedy Central or whatever).

Either way, this has always been the truth in brick and mortar comic shops -- 75% of the eventual customer base of a new store ultimately is formed of new-to-comics customers.

To put this another way: while I do think that SOME "entirely new to comics" customers will inevitably be created in the digital space, you're going to need to work really hard to convince me that this will be a truly significant number, worthy of minimizing print for.

Because, one of my largest concerns, as a print retailer can be maybe summed up by this article. The author discusses living in NYC (an area with many many excellent stores), and switching to digital, and how he'll "always go back [to Midtown comics], at least for a look." and I thought, "Well, no, if enough people do that, then Midtown comics won't be there for ANYONE, will it?", which is why retailers kind of cringe when creators stride forward with at least implied statements about why they think digital is better.

Mark "complains" that the number of stores stocking any given work is low, and aye, almost always that is true. Yet, the REASON it is true is not because the retailer is cruel, but because the CONSUMER AUDIENCE IS NOT THERE.

Let's take INCORRUPTIBLE, for our example, because Mark used it as well. The most recent issue, #27, which came out six weeks ago, has only sold two copies at Comix Experience, so far, one of those to a preorder. There's one more sub copy sitting in the store, unbought so far, but it is safe to say I will ultimately sell it, bringing the total to three copies. Keep in mind that I brought in five, which means I'm almost certainly going to lose money on #27 (though that's my own fault because I misread the stronger sales on #25 as being permanent)

I've never once sold 100% out of an issue of INCORRUPTIBLE in less than 45 days, and the most I've ever sold of a single issue was 10 copies of #1 (on 12 ordered).  It's just been a very slow leak over the last 2+ years until I'm down to 3 copies sold.

And I'm a reasonable sized store (#2, I think, in volume) in a major metropolitan market, and I can't shift four copies with a subscriber base of 125, and a stores that handles at least 1000 transactions a month, and yet there's an expectation that it's somehow wrong that a store in Tupelo, MS doesn't carry the book in the first place? That hardly sounds rational. It sounds more to me like the natural market response to a product that is aimed at a niche segment (people who want non-Marvel/DC versions of...) of a niche genre (...superheroes...) of a niche medium (...comics) and, as such, you should actually be THRILLED that as many as 500 stores carry it.

I've written elsewhere that you might want to think about comics in relationship to poetry. I have to imagine that poets and poetry fans would be ECSTATIC if there was a nationwide network (even with less outlets in Alabama than on a coast) of poetry stores that specialized in poetry and were passionate advocates for it. I'm further fairly certain that despite the many options for delivering poetry digitally, the overall economic market for poetry isn't going to explode because "everyone" (ha) has an internet connection, and thus, can access poetry. I'm even willing to predict that the ease of digital posting of poetry is going to lead to much more doggerel, more than anything of lasting value that is providing a living wage for more than a tiny handful of poetry creators.

Now substitute "Comics" for "poetry" above, and you'll see why I think we've actually got a fairly reasonable (but by NO MEANS "perfect"!) system of distribution in this country?

As far as I know, there are numerous studies that show that having the goods on display in a showroom ends up selling more goods -- here's just one example of that.

Mark's Print Math shows that for $5k and the cost of a pen and paper, you've got a fairly reasonable shot at NATIONAL distribution to a network of dedicated stores that actually give a damn about the product they sell. How many media can legitimately say that? And we're casting these things as negatives?

Can it be better? Damn right it can be better! But that doesn't make the system without a strong set of clear positives.

In the end, my fear, like I said, is in that Kotaku column I linked to above -- that JUST enough people will move laterally to digital that print WILL collapse, and then it won't be economically feasible for the print OR digital versions of most of the goods we all love to be produced. Especially if you've convinced the world that (*snort*) 99 cents is the price point to be.

I could probably go on, but we're at , jeez, I'm told 3.2k words already, and I wasn't even smart enough to package this as a Tilting, and get paid for it....

(Hey, it's the entire problem with digital, right there, isn't it?)


Wait, What? Ep. 81: On Tact Cleanses

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App [Image above from the awesome Sharknife: Double Z by Corey Lewis, which we did not discuss in this episode, but believe me it was rad.]

Sorry, sorry, for reasons that will probably be apart for those who listen to the podcast, I've got to pull some serious Hello!, I Must Be Going shit because I'm on night nine of the ten day Flowers for Algernon diet.

So join poor old Graeme McMillan and I for two-plus hours of the jibberty that goes jabberty.  Our topics include The Silence of Our Friends by Nate Powell and Mark Long; Shooters by Steve Lieber, Brandon Jerwa and Eric S. Trautmann; Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks; digital comics and Infinite comics; Spaceman issues #4 and #5; the Wednesday Comics HC; Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, and Joe Casey; Jim Shooter's Legion of Superheroes, New Deadwardians #1, Avengers Vs. X-Men #0, Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev, and the proverbial much, much more.

Nine out of ten dentists who choose Jif, etc., etc., iTunes, turn, heel, kick--jazz hands!

Wait, What?, Episode 81: On Tact Cleanses

P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.

Hibbs says "Heeellllo 3/14's comics!"

Two weeks in a row, yeah, baybee. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #1: Yeowch, that was rather poor. Part of it is just how inconsequential the story felt (and part of that is having the stupid "Zodiac" characters as the antagonists... ugh, have they EVER been interesting?), part of it was the need for "Marvel Continuity" to now reflect "movie continuity" (despite the fact that this kind of material DOESN'T BRING IN A MEASURABLE NUMBER OF NEW READERS from the films to comics), so we've got "Dumb Hulk" running around here (And I think Bendis totally doesn't "get" his voice, sorry), despite that not being the Status Quo in the Marvel universe, or in any currently published "Hulk" comic, oops. I guess this entire comic is a spoiler? Weightless, flabby, and, of course, $4 for the privilege. Ew, this is absolutely EH work.

CROSSED BADLANDS #1: Gahd, what a horrible title. Well, at least Garth's back on the book he created, but I seriously think that this comic isn't sustainable 24 times a year, and that by June we'll be selling under half of what we might sell of this first issue. Anyway, it's Crossed, and it's Ennis, and so it's filled with all kind of depraved stuff you can just hear that naughty little boy giggling over, and while I like it, I don't really love it, and it's effectively an anthology series now, so we'll see what happens going forward, but for now: I like it, but don't love it. OK

FANTASTIC FOUR #604: I strongly liked this issue, even with it's fairly heavy Deux Ex Machina (even if that's an established plot point) -- I like it's message of Hope and family, even if I'm not exactly sure why the plan worked, or even how it got came up with or anything like that. Still: GOOD.

LUTHER: Hey, not at all a print comic, but Mark Waid's free "proof of concept" for his vision of Digital comics, where you advance through it with the arrow keys.  I liked the story quite a bit, but there's something that's not quite "comics" to me about the whole process.

Sometimes it is overt, like the panel where the shovel suddenly appears in frame, where I think "well, that's just animation, just only two frames, isn't it?"; sometimes it's more covert like all of the times where Waid is actually controlling the reading experience by forcing when balloons or panels actually appear.

I think that comics are, in some ways, as much about time and space as anything else, but all of those elements really should remain in the hand of the reader -- it's my choice if I want to read all of the captions on the page first, or which elements of the illustration I choose to believe are the most significant and deserve my focus.

One last consideration is that this story is all of 33 panels long. Just over 3 pages, if it was a Watchmen-style 3x3 grid. (This is, of course, a stupid thing to say -- if this same story was told on a print page, even if it was 3x3, the rhythm of it would be ENTIRELY different; this same story would, of necessity, be a different size and shape) And while it was a well told and reasonably engaging story, I can't really see spending (let's say) 99 cents for 33 panels of comics.

Having said that, I did very much like the story, and judging it entirely on the basis of the content, I'd call it GOOD. Sadly, it also has the tech issues, and those distracted me, rather than drawing me in, and that reduces my grade, ultimately, to an OK. Still, can't beat the price, go give it a read.

SAGA #1: Now this, on the other hand, I loved.  So much so that we've put a copy is (almost) every subscribers box and are offering it 100% money-back guarantee. "Star Wars meets Game of Thrones" is the easy log-line, but the more important thing is the characters are rich, the world intriguing, the dialogue crisp, and the art really swell. There's kind of this weird "MOONSHADOW" vibe going on with the narration, but, thankfully, without the hippies. Either way, this is a wholly wonderful start to a series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, and I thoroughly recommend this book as one to read. EXCELLENT.

SAUCER COUNTRY #1: Hrm. On the one hand, I find a lot compelling in here (especially the ghosts [?] of Pioneer 10), on the other hand I'm not sure that the lead thrust of the book is adequately established. It's weird when the supporting characters make more of an impression than the protagonist. I'll most certainly give this another issue (or two) to grab me, but this first one didn't GRAB me all by itself. I want to give it a low GOOD, but I'm having a really hard time actually doing so... it's more like an extremely high OK.

SECRET HISTORY OF DB COOPER #1: Here's the thing: the charm of the title rally depends on you know WHO "DB Cooper" is, and based on a bunch of informal polling virtually none of my customers do (Or, perhaps, some do once you explicitly say it to them -- "oh, yeah, I've heard of him"), which means that a huge chunk of the high concept is immediately swept away. The second problem is that this issue kind of just stops, and I could not, if you put a gun to my head and forced me to jump out of an airplane with $200k, tell you whatsoever what the premise of this book ACTUALLY is, other than the vague notion from the title. There just isn't anything here to get me to come back for issue #2, I'm sorry, which is the only real goal of a first issue. So: I liked what I read, and I liked the surreal concepts I saw, but I don't know why I would spend $4 for it exactly, or why I would want to come back for #2, unlike SAUCER COUNTRY which intrigued me JUST enough to say "Sure, give me another dose". So, yeah, this is merely OK, despite my enjoying the ride as I sat on it. I'd just never stand in line for a second go, y'know?

SHADE #6: I hate this comic because the art from Javier Pulido is SO good, and yet I don't give a single wet fart about any of the not-Shade characters, or what the superhero situation in Barcelona is, at all. It's "The Atlantis Problem" for me (I care about Aquaman and Namor; I DON'T care about "Atlantis". I care about Black Bolt and Medusa; I don't give a fuck about "The Inhumans". I very much love Wonder Woman; I'd rather like the street clean than read about Amazonian culture or what the Greco-Roman gods are doing in modern America. And so on). Y'know, I think that STARMAN worked because Jack was a fine "everyman" of a protagonist; and Shade was a TREMENDOUS foil/friend for him... but I think I only care about Shade in the context of Jack's world, because every issue I sit down, eager to read, and I walk away feeling "Man, that was just OK"

WOLVERINE AND X-MEN #7: Have I said this already? If every Marvel comic was at least as good and dense and humorous as this, then maybe people would be happy to pay $4 for it. But because so many Marvel books just aren't worth the four bones, nowhere enough people are buying this book in my store, and there's this (wrong, so far, in this case) feeling like you can't just read "one" X-book. Well, you can, and it should very much be this one -- it's action packed, it's hilarious, it's incredibly energetic. Jason Aaron is one of the very few writers in comics that I can think of that seems to be able to equally handle "dense, gritty narrative" and "light-hearted romp". I love Nick Bradshaw's art, too -- it's got this nice Art Adams-y thing going on without being derivative. This is probably my favorite superhero comic being published today, and I thought this issue was VERY GOOD.

That's me, this week -- what did YOU think?