The dog ate my homework and I stayed up all night and then the computer flipped out and ate three hours like they were beer nuts and then I tried to think of what image I would put here and just about wept at the difficulty of it. So… this will be a speedy set of show notes. One day I promise to rock the shit out of these things and then we will all be happy, each and every and all and yes.
(Although maybe you’re already happy? That would be a lovely thing if so. No pressure, though! I know what it’s like to be pressured into trying to fake it.)
00:00-8:54: Welcome! Even though we haven’t missed a podcast in our schedule, it feels like it’s been a while, hasn’t it? In our opening section, we talk a bit about Jeff’s recent visit to Portland, Oregon, as well as his R&B album from the early ‘90s, Can You Feel The Feeling That I’m Feeling? (Reportedly available on Amazon and Google Play). Also discussed: Jeff’s photo post for the website; the comic books Jeff was looking at in a photo; Graeme and photos of Graeme; and more.
8:54-19:57: Marvel’s settlement with Jack Kirby’s family! This is a pretty big deal in a lot of ways and we talk about it. Super-worth checking it is Kurt Busiek’s no-bullshit explanation of the suit, the settlement, and why it happened. Definitely check that out if you haven’t already.
19:57-27:53: Pivot! Graeme has read the first issue of Thor by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman, and we talk about the hype, the end result, bait and switch (Bates & Switch! They’re private eyes! Who are also professional fishermen! In Hawaii!).
27:53-37:49: Jeff makes a reference about people waiting for the trade without even knowing about Peter David’s comments about the cancellation for X-Factor. David’s comments lead us to talk about the midlist at the Big Two, the chances for books to survive in that spectrum, and the recent strengthening of titles at both companies that fall in that spectrum. Discussed: Lobo #1, Birds of Prey, and the first issue of Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier by Ales Kot and Marco Rudy which Graeme has read and tries to unpack in a non-spoilery way.
37:49-42:51: On an earlier recommendation from Graeme, Jeff picked up The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage #1 by Jen Van Meter and Roberto de la Torre, and we talk about it at a bit more length than last time it was brought up.
42:51-55:12: Speaking of Valiant books (which Dr. Mirage is), Jeff plunked down coin for the recent Humble Bundle Valiant sale which Jeff thought was a fantastic deal. Graeme mentions the still-ongoing Humble Bundle Oni sale (through October 13, anyway) which he also thinks is great and which Jeff, uh, is, uh, maybe less convinced of? At least compared to Valiant? Come, listen to Jeff’s churlishness. He is being a churl! Believe me, you will be on an early path to reaping many potential rewards by doing so!
55:12-1:11:24: Back to the topic of comics (as opposed to comics procurement): we both read Gotham Academy #1 by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl, and Jeff just recently saw the first episode of Gotham and so we talk about these Bat tie-ins, a compare-and-contrast of the two, if you will.
1:11:24-1:23:18: And while on the semi-bat-trip (which I’m pretty sure was the name of one of The Spin Doctors’ less successful albums), we also discuss Grayson #3 by Tom King, Tim Seeley and Mikel Janin where we compare to those other books, as well as the pretty darn amazing Future’s End issue from last issue.
1:23:18-1:59:20: Darkseid War Update! Graeme has read Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead #1 and Green Lantern #35 with a dilemma for Jeff: can he ignore the revision of Jack Kirby’s original conception in exchange for a crossover with the feel of a Seventies Marvel crossover? Tough call, my friends, tough call. Also discussed: Thanos Quest, the changing status quo of the antihero in superhero comics, CEOs, Ms. Marvel, internet culture, visiting Portland, and more.
1:59:20-2:21:23: A quick rundown from each of us on books since we realized it was getting close to wrap up time! Graeme: Wild’s End #1 by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard (co-signed by Jeff, btw), and Dr. Who The Eleventh Doctor #3 by Al Ewing/Rob Williams, Simon Fraser, Gary Caldwell and crew. Jeff: Annihilator #1 by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving; Saga #23 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (co-signed by Graeme, btw); Men of Wrath #1 by Jason Aaron and Ron Garvey; Walking Dead #132 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn; Nightworld #3 by Paolo Leandri and Adam McGovern; Bumperhead by Gilbert Hernandez; and the stunning The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino, which is a little bit like reading Crisis on Infinite King Cat Comics.
2:21:23-end: Closing comments! Tote bags! Places to look for us at—Stitcher! iTunes! Twitter! Tumblr! and, of course, on Patreon where, as of this count, 80 patrons make this whole thing possible.
Here is a non-auto launchy link to our episode to cut and paste into the browser or program of your choice:
Gonna be fast here and thus this will be loaded with spelling and grammatical errors … see how I did that up-front? ;-)
I am sick and tired of creators and/or companies blaming us buyers for trade waiting. We, as the consumer, have every right to buy the products we want in the manner that we want them. If we (read as “I”) feel like we get better enjoyment and value out of trades, then that is the way we will buy them. Stop trying to make us feel guilty for not supporting a product you want us to support. We are the entertainment consumers. We will buy what I want from you, when we want it from you, in the format we choose.
I personally have many reasons that I prefer and buy trades or hardcovers:
Price – $4 (now $5 sometimes) is too much to pay for the current monthly product
Storing – Easier to put a trade on a bookshelf. No “comic boxes” involved
Value – I get more story and bang for my buck buying trades at 50% off
Story – The story reads better when you can read one after the other
Memory – I am old, right at 50, I forget what happens from month to month :-)
( I do thank Marvel for putting reminders at the beginning of their books)
Plus, the industry (Marvel mainly) is starting to handle monthly titles in the exact same way as trades. As they know that number ones bring in more readers, they are essentially formatting their comics like an over-sized trade. Each new creative team gets a new volume. Very similar to trades is it not?
And Mr. Peter David, who’s writing I really enjoy, If there are companies out there that still cancel books based solely on the monthly sales (digital and floppy) while ignoring trade and Hardcover sales, then that is a problem for the company. However, I don’t think that is the case here for as much as your new X-Factor may have been lauded as great by some, most people I talked to found it less than stellar and I totally agree with them. It just wasn’t your best, sir.
Okay, have to go. Apologize to all for the piss poor writing.
Not piss-poor at all, Perry. (Alliteration!) Thanks for replying, and some very good points here.
The blaming readers thing is the awfulness of the ‘team comics’ mentality at its finest. We’re all suppose to be in this together, and if something fails its because you wernt a passionate enough zealot. It couldnt be a poor business decisions on the publisher’s side.
It would be sorta understandable for something like Multiple Warheads which is an original idea done entirely by one dude, but X-Factor? A tie in to a IP thats been around for 50+ years and has had a major blockbuster film come out every 3 years since 2000. Thats insanity.
I really don’t subscribe to “trade-waiting killed X-Factor.” A boring story starring my least favorite members of X-Factor is what got me to stop buying X-Factor. I’ve purchased every issue PAD wrote since the All-New team debuted in 1991, but this latest reboot bored me to tears. Issue 11 was the last I purchased.
It’s a shame, as the prior series was awesome. PAD wrote perfect endings for Guido, Madrox and Rahne. Goodbye, X-Factor.
I’ve become pretty cynical about trade waiting, to the point that when a b-level or below book is floundering in sales, but excelling in quality I usually say to myself, “I’ll just wait until it is cancelled altogether, then I can get all the trades at once and it will be a nice compact story.” Perpetuating the cycle, I know, but I can’t wait to read Superior Foes in full.
Apologies in advance as I’m way out of touch with sales and that sort of thing, but do trades of X-Factor sell really well? As in, are they selling at a level out of step with the sales of the single issues?
Or is PAD doing that thing again where he blames trade-waiters for the cancellation of his books, even though the actual culprit was a lack of interest in the material in any format?
Hello fellas, I hate to be that guy again, but I must ever so humbly request a download link for the new episode. My now ancient smartphone would never let me simply stream a podcast. Thank you in advance and keep up the great work.
Hey, Kentendo: I need to figure out how to put a link in there without it automatically converting into a playable one.
That works like a charm. Thanks so much, kind sir. You’re too good to me.
Not at all: ensuring you can listen to us is really the least I can do. I’ll try to remember to make a comment with the link going forward until we can get the template ironed out.
I co-sign what Perry wrote and his point about monthly prices being too high. Four or five dollars for a comic book is utter insanity. I think that the appropriate price for a physical copy of a monthly comic book is two dollars, with the appropriate digital price being one dollar. This just feels “right,” all around. It would engender a good feeling amongst readers that they were getting the proper value for their money and it would lead to a healthier industry and castly increased sales all around.
I’m curious how everyone else would feel if monthly comic books today adopted what was the Fell/Casanova format, where it was 16 or 18 dense pages (meaning, lots of panels and words, ala Hawkeye) with a good bit of back matter for two bucks a pop. I think that this would be the smartest thing a company could do with a monthly line of comics and I can’t help but believe it would at least double the sales of a good book, thus actually making more money for the company.
There was a fascinating article on comics alliance a few years ago which concluded that the price of comics has fallen completely out of whack with the minimum wage rate in America and that this absurd escalation in price is obviously a huge factor in the marginalization of the medium. The article basically ended up saying that comic books today, going by a logical metric in-step with the rest of American society and industry, should cost around $1.75 or $1.80. Here’s an excerpt:
“Fantastic Four #1 was cover priced at 10 cents US. The US Federal Minimum Wage in 1961 was $1.15 per hour and, figuring the same 36 hour work week, a person would have earned $41.40 per week. To purchase the first issue of Fantastic Four, a person working minimum wage would have spent only 0.24% of their pay cheque. That is a stunning difference in price. To put this even more plainly: it represents a 379.2% increase in the price in relation to minimum wage from 1961 to 2010.”
Anyway, it’s a conventional wisdom exploding article that puts the lie to the corporate-speak from comics punlishers that, “Oh, everything is way more expensive than it used to be.” While that is obviously true, comics have increased in price, proportionally speaking, WAY MORE than any other popular medium… Like, to a crazy degree that makes it nigh-impossible to convince anyone that monthly floppies are worth their cover price. Because, as we know, they’re not. Here’s the link:
“…castly increased sales all around.”
Err… That should have read, “vastly increased sales.”
That reasoning assumes that comics have maintained a steady level of popularity since the 60s which we all know they havn’t. The price of a comic at bare minimum is ‘cost of production for the individual issue’ + (‘cost to produce the content’/’expected number of readers’).
So if the expected number of readers is drops way lower the the cost of production needs to be carried by less people and the product ends up costing more.
I dont disagree that most comics today arn’t worth the cover price, but just looking at their price compared to the minimum or average wage is missing the bigger picture; that comics are now are much more of a niche product rather than a mainstream thing. Kind of like vinyl records.
I hear what you’re saying, Dave, but I’m not sure your vinyl analogy holds water. My point would be that the reason comic books became, as you say, a “niche product” is *because* of price as a primary causal factor. Vinyl records becoming a niche product had everything to do with evolving technology and the mainstream utility of the cassette and CD over vinyl. Well before the advent of digital comics, physical comic books were ridiculously overpriced and this in fact played a huge part (along with comics being taken off the newstand) in comic books becoming a niche product.
I fully understand the basic economics behind the cost of production and the fewer readers now buying comics and the reasons why companies have taken to raising prices. What I am saying is that this is ultimately shortsighted and wrongheaded thinking which is contributing to comic book sales not being what they could be in this country. I think that what is needed is a company to gamble a bit of money in the short term by dropping prices dramatically across their line and approaching things more creatively as far as advertising and distribution (picking up distro in logical outlets like airport and subway newstands, as well as supermarkets). I believe that a short-term gamble of money in this way would yield a huge benefit for whatever publisher had the gumption and the smarts to give it a shot. Imagine if SAGA and THE WALKING DEAD were suddenly two dollars an issue and were available in supermarkets, subways, etc. It’s hard to believe that sales wouldn’t at least double or triple for these books, thus easily offsetting any cost of production issues. The larger point here is that no industry can flourish if its goods are deemed to be overpriced even by its most ardent fans. That’s my two cents, anyway.
I think its probably a bit of both rather than it being purely a ‘cost causing dropping popularity’ or vis-versa.
As far as the comparison between comics and vinyl, if you take a broader view of comics as being one method of ‘mainstream visual fantasy entertainment’ I think its a fair comparison. Since the peak of comics popularity we’ve had cartoons, Star Wars, Nintendo, Pixar, World of Warcraft and Netflix. We choose comics over more popular and more available alternatives because we appreciate the subtleties the same as people who still buy vinyl.
I personally dont believe Saga would be dramatically more popular if it was $2 rather than $3. Didnt they try that with Fell? And comics in supermarkets are never going to happen, not enough margin to bother stocking them.
Thanks for another top show, lads. The tote bags look really good, but honesty, feel free not to give us any more presents – just spend the money on what we’ve given it for, the show. You need the money for technical stuff, and to buy comics, and waffles, it seems counter-productive to then give the money back to us in the form of gifts. The only reward I need is the continuing show, every two weeks. It makes me happy.
The discussion of anti-heroes on superhero teams was very interesting. Graham’s comment about the Legion of Superheroes not working with anti-heroes was spot on. look what happened when Paul Levitz had to add to Geoff Johns’ execrable Earth Man to the team. He had been an outright villain so his government-ordered presence made zero sense, everyone else on the team except Shadow Lass hated him and that wasn’t convincing, and so Paul Levitz had to kill him off as quickly as was polite.
Comics dropping in price to $2 will never happen. Even if they doubled their readership they’d still just be making the same amount of money as they are now. Also, it reduces the profit margin for retailers. I think Brian HIbbs said in one of his Tilting columns that cutting the price doesn’t bring in new readers. It’s still the same core audience buying this 99 cent introductory issues, so they’d be losing money. There is a certain price threshold that needs to be met for it to even be worth it for retailers to shelve.
But surely comics cost more to make now as well? e.g. colourists are a far more important element of comics now than they were in the ’60s and should be getting paid more than they were back then.
Also, it’s my understanding that newstands and stuff don’t actually want cheap items because they won’t make enough money off of them. I could be wrong though…
In regard to retailers (at comics stores, supermarkets, etc) not wanting to stock comics at $2 a pop, because the margins aren’t high enough, here is one solution to that: adopting the Shonen Jump-style magazine format with four or five continuing serials and price the mag at $5 or so. Everyone wins. My supermarket here in Los Angeles already carried manga magazines in this format, as well as Archie digests. Imagine, if you will… Image Comics puts out “Image Monthly” and you can get a single monthly mag that contains the newest issues of SAGA, THE WALKING DEAD, STRAY BULLETS, SEX CRIMINALS, and perhaps one rotating slot to showcase new titles, all for $5? And it is distributed like a proper magazine (meaning, it is available at places frequented by most people regularly), so you can pick it up as you buy your groceries or as you hop on the train to work? That would be value for your money, that would bring in droves of new readers, and that is a world I want to live in.
Funny that you guys mention Cyclops as the old standard for what readers wanted out of their heroes, because in a lot of ways he’s become the biggest anti-hero of them all, to the point where his negative qualities have far surpassed Wolverine’s. Logan’s faults manifested as a bad temper and a tendency to kill his enemies, but he made up for it with his compassion, honor, and unwavering loyalty to his friends. Cyclops has long since ditched all of those, instead becoming a radical demagogue who goes on about “the race” while being willing to sell out any and all of his fellow X-Men if it’ll serve his agenda. Hell, Wolverine actually became the one to most call out Cyclops on his increased militarism, and I remain to be convinced how giving traumatized young mutants a survivalist life in an abandoned Weapon X bunker is at all in their best interests.
At least the new Cyclops hasn’t become the new standard, though there’s still the obnoxious “Cyclops was Right” contingent in X-Men fandom. They tend to share the mindset (and reading comprehension fallacies) of the Hunger Games fans who think that Katniss should’ve ended up with Gale instead of Peeta.
Huh, I hadnt considered that.
Have things completely flipped an now Wolverine is the model of the ideal citizen in the X-books?
P.S. something seems to be broken about the url that clicking your name directs to.
Subscription renewed, link back up. Go to Ruby Nation for plenty of superhero shonen young adult dystopian webcomic goodness!
And Cyclops’ corruption hasn’t made Wolverine the model citizen of the X-Men. Based on actual morals, that would be Nightcrawler, and that’s probably just because he only recently name back from the dead and hasn’t had the chance to descend in the petty in-fighting, crackpot proselytising, and questionable moral decisions that now define everyone else.