Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Endorsement

"I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the Planet Earth."

Vote for the superhero geek.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I'm over there!

First post up on Tor.com! It's about ROBOTS! And Mirrors!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Moving Right Along

Tor Books has a new group blog.

I work for Tor.


I'll be blogging on the Tor's new group blog, so radio silence on this blog will continue for a while longer.

Friday, May 02, 2008

"You Know, For Kids"

Is there anyway to track newsstands sales of comics?

I ask because, when analyzing monthly sales figures, The Beat uses Diamond shipments and bookstore sales numbers to calculate sales, with the caveat that this will under report more kid-oriented books, such as the Johnny DC and Marvel Adventure line, that sell better at the newsstands.

So I have a theory, but without newsstands sales figures, I only have anecdotal evidence to back it up.

I think Blue Beetle is the gateway comic.

You know, that mythical beast, the comic you can give to a 10-12 year old, where he or she doesn't have to know the history to jump right in, is age appropriate and yet intelligent and genuinely moving, and might, just might, interest the young reader, or older reluctant superhero fan, to get interested in the rest of the superhero universe.

I think this because, well... That promo piece for the new kid oriented The Brave and the Bold cartoon? There's Blue Beetle. The cover for the Johnny DC Tiny Titans? There's Blue Beetle again. The "Spanish" issue that came out this week is part of an effort to attract more Hispanic readers. Matt Sturges, new ongoing writer, what's the most important part of the series? "I want Blue Beetle to continue to be a book that’s as fun for my twelve-year-old nephew as it is for me and my friends".

Clearly someone thinks that Blue Beetle not only appeals to kids, but that the character is actually an excellent ambassador for the DC Universe as a whole. Certainly sales of the series in the direct market don't support this claim (lower than canceled series Shadowpact and Checkmate, which launched the same month as Blue Beetle).

Which leads me to suspect that Blue Beetle is selling in newsstand market. But I don't have any numbers to back that up, and can't seem to find any.

Can someone help me out?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

As Seen on the Daily Show

Not to go all Warren Ellis or anything but seriously: What year is this?

Thirteen "suspected sorcerers" have been arrested in the Congo for "stealing or shrinking penises".

Strangely enough, the arrests are the most rational part of the story, since arresting these "suspected sorcerers" is the best way of protecting innocent people, usually foreigners, from being beaten and burned by angry mobs spurred on by panicked men screaming that their penises have vanished.

It's straight out of Monty Python's Holy Grail, including the part where the police try to explain to the "victim" that he still has a penis, and is not believed.

Maybe the worst part of the story, this strange brew of superstition, sexual anxiety, paranoia, xenophobia, and just out and out ignorance, is that it's not an isolated incident: it's common. In 2001 in Benin, in 1997 in Ghana, in China and the Sudan, wherever understanding of human anatomy is low, this pattern repeats and repeats.

It's sickening and depressing. People are dying because no one took these men aside during puberty and said "Penises shrink. It happens. Sometime it's anxiety, sometimes it's just cold. Here, watch this episode of Seinfeld."

People, we need to talk frankly about sex. People have to learn how their bodies work. Sex is how we as a species survive, it's built into our notions of romantic love and gender dynamics. If people grow up not understanding one of the most vital parts of living, they are going to just be fucked up, and more people are going to die because some idiot stayed in a cold shower too long.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Apples and Much Much Bigger Apples

Kevin has a moment of clarity about the comics industry when he reads that CBS canceled a show after it's first episode got only 4.6 million viewers.

But that's a highly unfair comparison.

There is no medium that can compare to television (particularly broadcast television) in terms of popularity.

Yes, the comics industry is a small niche market. The best selling comics sell a hundred thousand, maybe, and the average is sales are closer to the ten thousand range (maybe higher if you're Marvel or DC, but not by much). So if 4.6 million people bought a comic, it would be the best selling comic in the last thirty years.

But if a (non-Harry Potter) book sold 4.6 million, it would ALSO be record shattering and pay for all of the other books that publisher would put out that year.

A movie that sold 4.6 million tickets would make 40 million dollars, which is a healthy opening weekend (it's how much "There Will Be Blood" made, total).

Heck, even Battlestar Galactica, a HIGHLY successful show--on cable--had only 2 million tune in for the season 4 premier.

Network television is a low cost medium. Low financial cost (once you've bought the set, broadcast shows are free). Low cost to acquire (the program is piped directly into the home). Low cost to "read" (the pictures and sound happen for you). It's incredibly easy get and understand and enjoy.

Comics, ALL comics, not just the superhero stuff, are high cost mediums. Each issue costs money, they must be acquired at book stores if not specialty shops, and they must be read with a skill for navigating image and word that must be learned. That requires a lot more investment from the reader, and thus a lot less people feel like its worth it.

When you compare comics to a more similarly costed medium, like genre paperbacks (which also must be purchased, which need to be bought in stores or specialty stores, which require specialized knowledge of the genre or series), then the sales numbers become a lot more similar, averaging around ten thousand of so.

And of course I'm talking about comic books. Comic strips, like Dilbert, which are syndicated in almost every paper in America, have GIGANTIC audiences in the high high millions. That's because they are low cost financially (they don't cost extra once you've bought the paper) and they don't require a lot of effort to get (most papers are still delivered to the front door). Web comics have similar advantages of ease of acquiring.

But they'll still be comics, with a sequence of words and pictures telling a story, which means it will still take more effort to read than to watch television, and that's going to reduce potential audience. (not that TV shows can't be complex. Many are. They just don't have to be). So comparing comics to network shows is always going to be comparing apples to apple orchards. Comics just cannot compete.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


From Blog@Newsarama in regards to Angel Season 6, the comics continuation of the television series:

Any time you’re thinking “wow, we could never have done this on TV!” that’s a sign that you shouldn’t be doing it.
I have trouble disagreeing with that statement more.

I think it defeats the whole purpose of adapting a story from one medium to another if the adaptation is limited strictly to doing what the earlier version has already done, and better.

It seems to me that the only reason to adapt a show to comics (or a comic to movies, or whatever) is specifically to do what could not be done (or done well) in the previous medium.

The law office drama (with occasional fights) that was Angel season 5 worked with live actors, television length episodes and pacing, and, honestly, better dialog writers. It would have been deathly boring to repeat that on the page, where snappy banter is harder to communicate and actors' charisma doesn't come through the pencil and inks.

On the other hand, "Angel fights a dragon", exciting as that is and hinted at in the series finale, would have looked terrible with television quality special effects, but makes terrific comics.

Arguably, too many changes lose the intangible essence of the original, and that's terrible too. But an adaptation that does nothing but repeat what has come before, what was designed for the strengths and weaknesses of its previous form, is an adaptation that should not be done.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


So there's a petition to save J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, from being killed in an upcoming crossover.

To say I think this is stupid is probably pretty obvious.

First off, there's the fact that he's a fictional character, and his death will have ZERO consequences in the real world.

Then there's the fact that, even in the DC Universe, his "death" is unlikely to be anything permanent. He's a brand character with forty years of history, a role in the justice league (sage advisor) that just isn't filled by any other character, and a huge fondness with fans and creators alike.

Plus he's an alien, shape-shifting, psychic. Which is three plausible resurrection strategies right there. Add in non-character saves like time-travel and clones, and you're looking at a guy who just won't stay dead.

All of which is besides the point. The point is this is a petition against the possibility of J'onn J'onzz being killed. This isn't trying to bring back a forgotten character, or be given a bigger role. The petition wants J'onn J'onzz to never even appear to be in any real danger of dying.

Well, doesn't that just rob any story about him of any drama? If we know that J'onn can't die, why do we care?

Yes, I wasn't happy when the Bart Allen Flash died, but that was because the solicitations basically said, "In this issue, Bart Allen dies." There was no suspense, just a joyless death march, which made for a terrible story. If this petition were successful, I'd be just as unhappy for the same reason. Without the possibility of death, the possibility of failure, the story is just boring.

Which is, basically, what this petition is. It's a plea to DC not to kill a beloved character, at the cost of drama and plot. "Please, Mr. Didio, don't threaten me with unhappy endings. I just don't know if I can take it."

Look, there's lots of causes regarding superhero comics I fully support. I would love to see new female and minority characters, and better writing for the ones that already exist. I'd like to see more support for less "mainstream" books and self-contained, new reader friendly books (basically, please please please keep Blue Beetle and Manhunter going). I even support the return of characters that were "loaned" to Vertigo fifteen years ago.

But I can't support the preservation of the status quo just so some schmoe can keep his imaginary best friend.

p.s. the other character rumored to be killed along with the Martian Manhunter is Aquaman. Who is already dead right now. And no one cares!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Booster Gold #6

So, in this issue, everything that fans have been asking for since Countdown to Infinite Crisis, um, happens. Time-traveler Booster Gold goes back to save the Blue Beetle from being killed.

Moreover, he does so at minimum personal cost (he gets bruised a bit) and with, he's assured, no repercussions to the timeline (everyone, including Max Lord, will still think Ted Kord was killed, Wonder Woman will still snap his neck, and Infinite Crisis will proceed apace.)

This is, on one hand, highly unsatisfying and, on the other hand, terribly exciting!

You see, if it were just this issue, then the ease with which Booster changes history to his liking would be emotionally hollow. Nothing so boring as unearned reward. Particularly since Booster's greatest wish is just handed to him by "Future" Blue Beetle, a cypher of a character who appears out of nowhere with a Deus Ex Machina, um, machine.

But but but, in context, the ease with which Booster Gold saves his best friend gives a fantastic sense of dread. Because in context, we know there is going to be a price.

Last issue, Rip Hunter painfully demonstrated the futility of trying to change a "solidified" event (and that's going to be another post, about what counts as a "solid" event in shifting comics continuity.) And next issue is a tie-in to Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time, and solicitations for the issue after that show Booster and Beetle facing a world where Max Lord won.

It's reminiscent of JSA #66, the last time Geoff Johns tied a story directly into Zero Hour where heroes from today travel back in time to save a hero just before he dies. Not only does the one hero (android Hourman) have to die to save the other (original flavor Hourman), but it opens a "window" that allowed a time traveling Nazi to take over the world (a Nazi who happened to cameo in issue #5 of Booster Gold, by the way)!

And that's one way the story could proceed ("Future Blue Beetle" will probably turn out to be a villain trying to change time to his liking). But tying it into Zero Hour presents a different route the story could take, and I'm really excited about the next issue.*

For those that don't know, Zero Hour was DC's first sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, a weekly miniseries with the cute gimmick that it counted down to its final, zero issue. (Why doesn't DC do something like that anymore?) And while the meta-textual purpose of the series was to wipe clean some of the messy character histories, the story itself was about...

... okay, the story itself is the usual crossover mess where a lot of stuff happens but not a lot of it makes sense, and the entire plot occurs in the last issue.

But, in retrospect, Zero Hour is about Hal Jordan's attempt to fix the mistakes of his past, and utter destruction it causes. And the destruction of all time and space weren't unintended side effects of Hal's plan. That was his plan. That was his point.

Which neatly parallels Booster's position. Booster Gold is now capable of fine tuning history exactly to his liking. Not only is he likely to go save his sister, who was tragically killed, but he might also go and save Sue Dibny, or Spoiler. He might go back and, using the tech he had this issue, stop Barbara Gordon from being paralyzed.

But why stop there? He could keep Doomsday from ever "killing" Superman. He could keep Lex Luthor from even being born. Booster is a very fallible character (which is what makes him such a great character). Given unlimited power, what would stop him from using it? What stops Booster, like Hal before him, from playing God?

And that's a story I'd like to read!

*The other reasons I'm excited to read a tie-in issue to a twelve year old crossover are that a) if "all of time" was threatened, then "all of time" is still threatened, um, all of the time and b) it's Geoff Johns first opportunity to write Hal Jordan as Parallax since his reveal that Hal was possessed by a giant yellow space bug, and I'm curious to see how he plays that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Spider-Man? Me?

I like Spider-Man as a character, but I don't buy his comics. I find them angst-filled affairs too caught up in their own byzantine history to be inviting or appealing, and the recent string of editorial stunts has replaced real storytelling and character growth with cosmetic changes.

So why did I buy The Amazing Spider-Man #546, the first issue of "Brand New Day"?

Dan Slott.

What can I say, I love the way the man writes Spider-Man. Whether it the riotous guest appearance in She-Hulk or the the Free Comic Book Day issue (you know, the one with the Spider-Man-obsessed supervillain, a perfectly healthy Aunt May, and new superhero named Jackpot who calls everyone Tiger?), Slott's Spider-Man is upbeat, resourceful, and actually FUNNY. Screaming about the lemon cake he is missing while being dragged through the streets of New York was one of the best moments in comics last year!

So I figured, what the heck, let's try it out! And the results are...

...okay? Slott's writing is still good. The dialog is clever and the results of Peter's misguided attempt to catch a crook in his plainclothes is a wonderful "wah wah wah" moment, and even the melodramatic cliffhanger seems there only to set up a mind-blowingly awesome splash page next issue. The art's okay. Steve McNiven's photo-realistic style is pretty but lends the affair a serious the writing doesn't back up. A more cartoonish style might have been more appropriate.

But the real problem is the new status-quo, which Dan Slott basically admits, was handed to the entire creative team before any of them (including editor Steve Wacker) was hired. And it's not that I have problem that it is a new status quo (I wasn't terribly invested in the old one), or that the new status quo was created in one of the worst ways possible (that's a complaint for another day...).

The problem is that the new status quo is so relentlessly... old. Peter's back living with Aunt May? Peter still doesn't have a steady job? Harry Osborn's back from the dead? But everyone else in the world has moved on? It's like they stuck a 22 year old in a 30 years old body.

And it doesn't help that Peter actually thinks about how unfunny it is to still be living with his aunt. Usually hanging a lantern on the problem helps the reader acknowledge it and move on, but in this case I just found myself nodding my head and asking what Slott was going to do about it.

The worst part is the return of Harry Osborn, acting for all the world like Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville. Harry being back drives home the point that this IS your father's Spider-Man, exactly as he remembers it.

Harry represents a giant plot hole in the current storyline (if Peter needs a place to stay and Harry wants to help, like his company, AND has a giant apartment, why doesn't Peter move in with Harry?). He also represents a problem with the general plotline. His missing years are a mystery, and trying to explain them reminds readers of One More Day, and no one wants to think about that anymore.*

But I'm going to stick around for the next two issues because a) Dan Slott, and b) I'm hoping by the end of the first storyline, we'll have a new, workable status quo to go forward with. Because I like Spider-Man. I like comics.

It'd be nice if I could like Spider-Man comics.

*I keep typing "One Day More". Guess I got a little Cosette in me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stay in Your Bubble

Siskoid has an interesting post on "bubble worlds", the smaller circles of temporal and physical setting superhero characters exist in within the frame work of a larger, company-wide continuity.

It's funny, because "bubble worlds" used to be the norm for superhero stories before the 60s and 70s. Superheroes used to exist in their own stories in their own comics unmolested by outside interference. They stayed in their own fiction-opolises and only teamed up in special "team up" books like Justice League or Teen Titans that had their own continuity, existed in their own bubble.

It was the rise of the Marvel heroes (who all worked in New York and therefore ran into each other all the time in their individual books), Roy Thomas's ret-con fixation ("all heroes are related somehow") and the popularity of crossover events that really created a meta-continuity within companies.

Even so, certain characters have almost always maintained their own bubble. For example, in Detective Comics, Batman rarely, if ever, teamed up with any of his Justice League allies, no matter how dangerous the situation became (plague, earthquake, monstrous plant woman).

Because if Batman called in Superman to help one time, the question would be why he didn't do that every time. And if he did call in Superman every time, then Detective Comics would be just another Superman title, with Batman reduced to the role of Jimmy Olsen.

The easier solution is for everyone (Batman, the villains, and the readers) to forget that Superman even exists, let alone that Batman has him on speed dial, and just tell the story of how Batman, and nobody else, would solve this problem.

The worst violator of this is Judd Winick in Green Arrow (Now Black Canary/Green Arrow). Winick writes some fun action and sets up good situations (the Arrow team is just being out-classed by two world class assassins, or Green Arrow II has been snipered in the middle of the ocean), but then blows it by having a deus ex machina in blue tights fly in to save the day. Twice now.

Now, the logical response for anyone in the DC Universe to horrible circumstances is to shout "Superman, save me!" because, more often than not, he will (Kurt Busiek did a good story about that last year). But in terms of story, nothing sucks out the suspense like knowing the heroes aren't really in any danger because a demigod is waiting in the wings. For story purposes, Black Canary/Green Arrow has to exist in a world without a superman.

Remember, DC isn't telling one story. It's telling and told lots and lots of stories, for over 70 years that we pretend all take place in the same place because it's more fun that way (again, I'm paraphrasing Busiek. Smart man). I think comic book stories are a lot better when they have stronger internal continuity and are worried less about their place in the grand scheme of things, where crossovers and cross-continuity is treated as a special event and not the norm. Basically, I'm advocating for stronger bubbles.

Like that guy from Lilo and Stitch.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Moving Up in the World

That Tor Books/ Seven Seas merger in PW?

Tor has added assistant editor Steven Padnick to its staff to work on Tor/Seven Seas projects.
Yeah, that's me. That's not my title, I'm actually just an editorial assistant, but yeah, I work on comics, now.