Carla Hoffman, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
How are new comics priced? I ask this mostly as a rhetorical exercise; I’m sure there is a process to decide how much new titles cost that involves sacrificial chickens and a large dart board, because it seems absolutely unfathomable to me some days. The average comic is either $2.99 or $3.99, and I’m always a little thrown off by which books get to be what price. There’s a certain amount of prestige to the $3.99 books, but I couldn’t tell you why. All I know is that I’m really glad Hawkeye is $2.99, and no one wants to jinx that by overthinking the cost process.
I also know that a more reliable indicator of cost is size; the bigger the comic, the more money they want for it, and that’s fair. More pages, more work, more money; it’s not that difficult a sell. More pages also mean a special occasion as they don’t bust out the 80-page giants for just anything. Larger comics are for a special occasion, even if that special occasion is just an annual that only happens once a year. They celebrate things, like anniversaries, milestone numbering or big story events. Say, a wedding…
That bad segue leads to the shocking event that three books this week totaled up, cost around $20 in the United States, around the price of a trade paperback. But just for three comics: Daredevil #1.50, All-New X-Men #25 and Deadpool #27. Were they worth it? Read on and find out.
WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead for Daredevil #1.50, All-New X-Men #25, and Deadpool #27; I’ll try to leave out any juicy bits, but I will talk about what the books are about. You have been warned.
Let’s get this out of the way first: so many spoilers ahead, you guys. So very many spoilers.
I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. So please bear with the incredible amount of spoilers ahead in this week’s Fifth Color, not to mention the rampant speculation about what’s ahead of us yet. This one is big, perhaps the biggest Marvel movie since the first Iron Man.
The short and spoiler-free version is this: Go see the movie. It’s brilliant, very well thought out, and if you’re a fan of the Ed Brubaker years on Captain America, you’ll not only enjoy the tone of the film, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the twists they throw in. #itsallconnected is the simplest way to put it.
This isn’t traditional cinema any more, not with Marvel Studios. Each of its films have been both sequential and separate, with a slowly rising degree of success. By all rights, you should be able to watch The Avengers without watching all of the solo movies that came before it, but you get a grander enjoyment if you’ve seen more. Iron Man was a fun movie, but now it’s even more fun in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Trilogies come close to this kind of storytelling, but even then there’s a commitment to seeing at least the first one to get the idea of what’s ahead. With Marvel, audiences already knows the theory behind superheroes to enable them to jump in when one catches their eye. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, at its best, should be able to be viewed as separate movies and as parts of a whole. However, after Captain America: The Winter Solider, there’s not much of that whole left.
WARNING: Not joking on the spoiler thing. If you are spoiler-fearless, already saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier or just want to jump into the speculation pit with me and float around in a very well constructed cinematic universe, read on!
Iconic comic characters mostly rely on their looks. This isn’t as shallow as it seems, as comics are inherently a visual medium. It’s why Cable’s creation tends to be attributed to Rob Liefeld rather than Louise Simonson. The best characters have timeless looks, the kind of visual appeal that will work no matter when you’re introduced to him. It’s one of the reasons Spider-Man keeps coming back to the classic red-and-blue costume; he can have a bunch of different costumes, but there’s only one real one.
Two characters who are just as iconic in appearance are Silver Surfer and Ghost Rider. Here in California, there’s barely a beach bum out on the waves that doesn’t know the shiny silver visage of the Silver Surfer. Bikers and tough guys near and far love the Ghost Rider’s signature skull. And yet, for all their visual popularity, I’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows exactly who these characters are. Norrin Radd isn’t a household name, after all. Defining Ghost Rider’s powers gets a little tricky for the average Joe once you move past “His skull is on fire.” There’s just a lot of detail missing from the public perception of who these characters are, but they still remain popular.
Trust me, we all know what it looks like when the characters don’t work, so what do what is it that’s essential for them to make it?
WARNING: We talk vaguely about the new Silver Surfer #1 and All-New Ghost Rider #1, but nothing major is spoiled. Still, grab a copy and read along!
I never talk much about Marvel’s trade paperbacks or graphic novels because they tend to be pretty reliable. Working at a comic shop, I have quite few customers who are comfortable with the little engine of collected works the House of Ideas quickly puts on the shelves once the single issues are finished. Now, whether they are hardcover, softcover, digest or oversized, that makes things tricky. Still, if you only want to buy collections of comics, Marvel provides a way to keep the story going. So by the time I get to the trades in the solicitations each month, I generally shrug my shoulders and know it all must be working out OK over there. Let’s talk about tie-ins!
Trust me, we’ll get to those, but let’s first take a lingering look at the books headed our way in June. Marvel solicitations, take it away!
To celebrate its 75th anniversary, Marvel seems to be doing a much slower build than I expected. Even the website seems a little barren, and the announcement that Alex Ross will be creating various covers throughout the year kind of came and went. Still, I have some hope for a pretty big bash, because take a look at this puppy right here …
I listen to a lot of podcasts because I don’t sleep very well, and if they’re especially enrapturing or I just can’t drift off, their topics float around with me through the day. How Did This Get Made did the former when it discussed the movie A Winter’s Tale and the idea of magical realism.
Magic realism is “a genre where magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment” (thanks, Wikipedia!), a concept we’re accustomed to as comic readers. There’s a lot that goes unsaid about New York City’s alien-invasion rate, and we’re fine with that.
Marvel is big on making its universe “our universe,” and while DC Comics keeps its distance with completely fictional cities like Metropolis and Gotham, Marvel is proud to have its heroes interact with New York City. While audiences (or at least the marketing departments) clamor for more “gritty” reboots and realism in their comic movies, do remember that Gotham was threatened by mass hysteria in Batman Begins and a giant nuke in The Dark Knight Rises. We crave dark grit but still want those fantastic elements that challenge the hero and raise the stakes.
So is it reality we crave or is it something else?
I know the precise moment I stopped caring about the Ultimate universe: Ultimatum. If I’m not mistaken, a lot of readers lost interest there and then, for good reason. I remember reading through the event and somewhere, maybe after the Wasp’s cannibalized corpse, or during the big confrontation with Magneto, with the callous assassination of Cyclops, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to care any longer. My energy could be spent on better comics. I could go outside, maybe learn a language. I could do anything but care about this storyline and the characters Ultimatum left behind.
Event books aren’t supposed to do that. As much as we might grouse about their prevalence, they do serve a very important purpose within their universes and Big Two comics as a whole. “Events,” where a larger plot is spread across several titles, effectively act as a lure; for DC and Marvel, they’re a Whitman’s Sampler, offering a taste of what’s going on to new readers and longtime fans. They have to be something big, really big, so that readers don’t want to be left out of this major catastrophe. In fact, the idea of “saving the world” leans toward very easy reading for people coming into the event. The more characters they have working on this big world-shaking event, the more at least one of them will stand out for the reader.
Well, NOW season is over, and hopefully a lot of the new titles will settle into their new places within the Marvel Universe. Not that we won’t see anymore #1 issues until the fall, but at least the full crop of them will be harvested later as await The Ultimate NOW or what have you for 2015. Until then, what looms on the horizon? What awaits our summer season on the shelves? What did he see? WHAT DID HE SEE!?!
That’s our teaser tag line for this year’s summer event, Original Sin. The Watcher is found dead on the moon with his eyes removed — and whoever possesses those eyes holds the key to discovering everything he’s ever witness. The start of what we know is uncovered with CBR’s press conference call with the House of Ideas. Writer Jason Aaron is leading the pack of Avengers books on this one, along with a surprise tie-in title that might not be what it seems …
But what does it mean for your pull list? And your wallet? Let’s look at Marvel’s May solicitations and see what’s what.
Valentine’s Day, with its reflection on love, is inescapable. That could be romantic love filled with cherubs and soft-focus lighting, or it could be friendly love, like those little paper Valentines you get in grade school or around the office. It could be family love, like roses for your grandmother to let her know you care. Heck, it could just be the love of chocolate and the knowledge that all those heart-shaped boxes will be on sale tomorrow.
Who we love is based on what we love about them: It could be their rockin’ abs, their sense of humor, their empathy or their discount sale price at the drug store. Maybe it’s elusive. Often times, what others love about us are qualities we can’t see in ourselves. Those are the aspects we have to recognize to better understand our loved ones and, most of all, who we are — because, as RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
No one in the Marvel Universe needed to hear a drag queen’s words of wisdom more than X-Men Legacy‘s Legion.
WARNING: Talking about Simon Spurrier’s X-Men Legacy series as a whole in vague terms and X-Men Legacy #24‘s huge spoiler, so go grab all the issues you can and read along!
The “Guy Card” doesn’t exist. No one can take away your masculinity however you choose to define that. So get out there and take dancing lessons or moisturize your face (note: I have no idea what would constitute the removal of a Guy Card because it doesn’t exist). In fact, there’s no such thing as a “Girl Card” either, so fail at wearing heels and makeup with impunity because no one other than yourself should have the power to call you on it. Be you, because that’s all we can be; pleasing everyone else is just way too hard.
What we do or don’t do shouldn’t be an indicator of gender, or race or sexual identity. I mean, we can make guesses, but that doesn’t tell you who you are inside, and it’s the inside that really counts, or so years of cartoon morality lessons have taught me. There’s no such thing as “not black enough” or “you act too gay to be straight,” because that says more about the person making those statements than the person they’re defining. The United States started out as just some humble little colonies trying to forge their own identity, coming to America to be themselves.
And some people want to be Carol Danvers.
WARNING: A spoiler-free review of Ms. Marvel #1 lies ahead, and I promise this is about as preachy as I’m going to get.
Yep, this year’s Marvel kickoff film is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, due out April 4 (which is a little weird considering the studio historically releases its films the first week of May, giving Free Comic Book Day a boost), so we’re starting to get that media blitz a-rollin’ with teaser trailers, Super Bowl spots and the like. However, nothing will be seen as consistently or as widespread as the movie posters.
Keep in mind, posters are a little boring these days, especially for action films. There’s a certain color palette used, that gray-blue shine and airbrushed effect that has become shorthand for “cold and hard.” You know, like an action hero. But I digress. The movie posters released for Captain America: The Winter Soldier have the traditional “‘people walking at you from a horizon line,” two different profiles of Cap with headgear on or off, Nick Fury looking like Samuel L. Jackson looking mean and, the one a lot of people are talking about: Black Widow.
There’s just something about Natasha. Everyone has an opinion about Black Widow as a character, about Scarlett Johansson’s body shape and about what the retouching of photos does to our perception of beauty and realistic expectations of women. A single image has caused so much of a stir, I can only imagine what people will do when she actually shows up in the film. Because we can’t talk about Johansson’s performance and Natasha’s place in the storyline, let’s focus on the poster.
WARNING: No spoilers, but if you’re sensitive to body issues, I understand if you’d want to skip this one today. Everyone is beautiful, Photoshopped or not, voluptuous or rail thin! Now let’s go complain about a celebrity.
Let’s get this one right out of the way: it’s going to cost you about 12 whole dollars to get the big finale to the Octo-Spidey era and the beginning of the return of Peter Parker. That’s some serious cash to spend, and it’s the price point that really takes me out of the story and into the “Well, isn’t this a fine marketing ploy!” territory.
Let’s face it, we all knew Peter was coming back; this isn’t the Ultimate Universe, after all, and there’s a movie career to think of. At the same time … maybe if it had just been regularly priced issues? Or if they’d been at annual prices? Or heck, just one of them at the big $5.99 bucks and the next issue back down to normal, I don’t know.
Is price how we demarcate importance in comics? Or is it the #1 issue? Or the anniversary issue? The amount of variant covers to be had? Could it even be the (gasp) the story inside?? Let’s take a look at April and see what’s going to be important in the months ahead for Marvel (or at least make our best guesses).
Today is different: If you own a copy of Black Widow #1 in its All-New Marvel NOW! form, I don’t think I have to tell you anything. You know what the book is like, you know it’s pretty awesome and that this was a long time coming, considering how popular the character’s been since debuting on the big screen. On the other hand, if you don’t have the issue, passed on picking up, or simply aren’t interested in the continuing (hopefully!) adventures of Marvel’s foremost super-spy, then please read on! There are so many reasons this book should hit the sales charts hard, and it’s difficult for me to find who this book isn’t for.
I mean, obviously it’s not Plato’s perfect comic book, and there are going to be some who give it a pass, but it just does so many things right! It hits so many sweet spots that were just right there for the taking that — well, just keep reading for a detailed list. And if you weren’t interested in the book, see if any of the following floats your boat, and then maybe give Black Widow #1 a second look?
I work in a comic shop (Metro Entertainment in Santa Barbara, California — cheap plug!), so to say that I’m wary of digital comics is an understatement. My livelihood depends on people wanting a physical copy of a comic book; if everything went digital, no more retail job. My store happens to work very hard at providing those physical copies of comics in every form we can put under one roof, including the rare opportunity for a deep back-issue selection. I can’t say it’s very cost effective, but having back issues from decades gone by available to customers has made many people happy and seek out our shop when traveling through California.
Buying comics from an actual person behind the register is a little like talking to a bartender: They know your name and what you like, and they can chit-chat about your woes with the business and give a few words of advice. I know the customer base, so I can provide off-the-cuff information about who’s on what book, when a title might be ending or, say, offer to save a Warren Ellis fan a copy of Moon Knight #1. I’m not saying that all this information isn’t online, but it’s nice to get that personal touch that we secretly crave. From a pile of 50-cent issues for a school art project to a rare copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, physical comics are still needed and wanted.
But for how long?
Today, Carla and Tom continue to muse through all the news the Big Two have brought us in 2013. See can read the first installment here.
Tom Bondurant: The Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers division) is now five and a half years old, and consists currently of eight movies, a handful of shorts, and a half-season of TV.
Carla Hoffman: Holy cats, we work fast!
Tom: However, it’s about to get a lot bigger, adding two movies next year, plus the four Netflix series (and the Defenders movie coming out of those). Clearly this looks like a long-term commitment — but how long can it go?
Carla: Ask me after Ant-Man. That’s going to be the hardest movie to sell to non-comic fans. If that turns out to be a surprise hit enough for Ant-Man (whichever alias he may be) to turn up in an Avengers movie, then I can’t think of a property that wouldn’t work on the silver screen as long as the right creative team is at work.
TB: See, I think Ant-Man just got a lot easier to sell, because now it’s “Paul Rudd joins the Avengers.”
OK, it’s the last weekend before Christmas. This is it: Time to gird your loins and brave those last-minute gifts for friends and family you’re just not sure about. Or heck, maybe you were invited some place and you feel like you should bring a gift along. A Secret Santa deadline? Unexpected company who doesn’t have anything under the tree? Did you just get something practical and want to supplement it so you’re not just the Sock Giver? Don’t worry, comics are here to help!
“But Carla,” you cry, “not everyone likes comics! I want to be cool and hip, not just the nerd who foists other nerd stuff on people!” “Well,” I reply, “comics are for everyone, even those who have no interest in the medium.” There are just so much comic influence in the media right now, from TV and movies to games and other visual aesthetics, it’s hard to escape comic culture entirely. Trust me, even those who have never picked up a comic in their lives and have sworn off the idea of ever looking at words and pictures together in a sequence have a little bit of comics in their lives somewhere and, this Christmas is a good time to capitalize on it.
If you can, please try and make it in to your friendly neighborhood comic shop for some of these goodies. They’ll be glad you did! Otherwise, Amazon has their last minute shipping dates here. All right, let’s do this …