Back in June, all of your Marvel comics that were priced $3.99 and up came with a free digital code to help you start a digital comics collection. You had one in your hand and one on the Internet, two comics for the price of one, right? At the register of my local comic shop, I’d remind customers that, hey, there’s a free digital comic with this issue, and I’d get some mild interest in return. I’d explain how to redeem the code in the back of the book and how Marvel.com basically saves that redeemed code on an account for you, so you can read the digital comic anywhere you can log on to the Internet, whether that’s your phone or computer or a tablet. I am again met with mild interest. I’ve explained that Avengers vs. X-Men has this special symbol where you hold your phone or whatever computer you have that has a camera, you can learn a few things about the book you’re holding. I’ve demonstrated if I have the time, showing off the cover animation on the first Avengers vs. X-Men issue, which I can’t say worked perfectly every time. But when it did, customers seemed interested, but no one leaped back from the counter, declared this the finest innovation in the world and ran down the street to declare me a witch or hail the amazing new Marvel Revolution.
I mean, I wish they had but it was always just mild interest.
At my comic shop, Metro Entertainment (cheap plug!), we do our part every week to look through books for violent or sexual content, and then shelve them accordingly. It’s important to do that because no one wants their young son or daughter to accidentally pick up an issue of Crossed, right? Things that get graphic are bagged and labeled to keep them out of the hands of curious kids and to give parents a little sense of safety, knowing that when we recommend a book for their kids, there’s not going to be any HBO-style content inside.
Parents should be protective of their children’s exposure to violence; it’s a rough world out there, and not worth jumping into the big problems of society and strife too soon. At the same time, watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon and try and tell me what violence is appropriate (what’s that mouse doing to the cat OH GOD NO). In the realm of superhero comics, it’s not all that out of line to expect Spider-Man to swing at a supervillain or for the Avengers to fight toe to toe with the X-Men.
Marvel has its own rating system to handle what gets in the hands of who. It’s a little imperfect — the difference between ALL AGES and A is a little difficult to explain by just looking at the cover — but it does give an idea of content and structure. An A-rated title is for ages 9 and up, while ALL AGES is self-explanatory. Between A and T+, the content will mature; more talk about romance and teen drama than in the A books. From T+ to Parental Advisory, I think the content matures again between the iCarly fans and the Law & Order set. MAX is … pretty understandable by now. So if we take Wolverine and the X-Men #14 (rated T) and Uncanny X-Force #28 (Parental Advisory), there’s a clear change in artwork and intensity between the stories.
How violence is handled is absolutely key in good storytelling. There’s a big difference between The Amazing Spider-Man and Space: Punisher. Even as adults, sometimes a tasteless drawing of a guy with a grievous head wound is just a guy with a grievous head wound, while a slim shadow drawn over someone’s face can imply a lot more violence than a few dozen swords. Comics can handle violence in an all-ages fashion without resorting to picking flowers and, even better, can use an act of violence as a backdrop to a much larger theme of justice, morality and heroism. And who doesn’t want kids learning about justice, morality or heroism?
WARNING: Spoilers up ahead for Uncanny X-Force #28, so grab a copy and read along!
At the end of the state of California, a comic book war rages on. Publishers large and small vie for attention, engage in one-upmanship to prove they are King of Comic-Con and that their future looks brighter than the rest. Dear Reader, I do not envy you if you attend this San Diego showdown, because it can be crowded, relentless and overwhelming as the convention seeks to consume you, mind and body; anyone who’s gone can attest to how tired you can get after just one day. Thankfully, we here at the classiest and handsomest of websites have a lovely selection of all the news you’ll ever need in a rush of headlines, photos and exclusive interviews.
From the very comfort of your own home, you can let Comic Con bring it’s secrets to you, invite their grandstanding to your couch and comfortably choose your own King of Con without having to spend $9 on a sandwich or lose yourself in Line Purgatory.
So what else is there to say? I mean, the main site has everything covered and then some, Robot 6 is grabbing up all the tender morsels of personal moments to bring the Con to you and Twitter can keep you instantly updated to all the attention grabbing headlines as they’re made. What’s left, Dear Reader?
Well, there’s always the present.
It’s funny how comics released the week of Comic-Con probably don’t get as much attention as they deserve. On one hand, some issues may need to be out in this particular week to pave the way for possible convention announcements; on the other, they could simply be filler and play little to no role in the future of their series. Hearing that a lot of major books are getting canceled can put a reader off a book, deciding to drop the title for now to wait for the brand-new No. 1 issue. We are a fickle consumer, swearing never to do this again, or else remaining steadfast to the heroes and creators that haven’t let you down, depending on the very announcements at Comic-Con to judge the months ahead. For a brief moment, let’s look at the present, this very week, and see what Marvel is doing for us lately.
Sadly, I’m broke this week so, no thoughts on The Amazing Spider-Man.
Actually, I have a lot of thoughts about the idea of the new Spider-Man adventure out in theaters this week and a lot more thoughts on the idea of the new … *sigh* Marvel NOW! relaunch happening this October. A lot of thoughts about the need to be popular and successful, and what that means for the little nerd in all of us.
Because it’s very important to remember that when you see a new and younger Spider-Man or a fresh first issue on the stands for a book that was just renumbered what seems like last year, all of that gloss and fanfare just isn’t for us. It’s not for the longtime reader or the devoted fan; marketing rarely takes us into consideration. After all, they have our money. All they have to do is put together a solid creative team with a fresh idea and publish it regularly. And who wants to make it that simple?
Let’s talk about how frustrating it is to organize a comic collection when things get renumbered, and mourn the loss of the familiar, and why we don’t have to rage against the marketing machine after the break.
This wasn’t the halfway point I was expecting. When it comes to summer events, it’s kind of an unstated rule that there’s going to be a bigger focus on spectacle rather than content. When a giant cosmic force of life and death barrels toward your planet, you expect all the heroes to get some new costumes, maybe pick up a couple of new skill sets and give it all they’ve got to battle the Big Bad of Summer 2012. Not a philosophical comment on the nature of man and their relationship and understanding of the future.
Of course, that’s awesome, but unexpected.
It’s like getting a box of Fruit Loops, and about halfway through the box you find the answer to life, the universe and everything (to borrow a phrase). Sure, it’s not the most reliable answer, as it came out of a box of Fruit Loops, but how astounding is it that it’s even here? Does it give the answer more or less weight considering where you found it?
Let’s talk a little thematic philosophy and also kicking and punching in this week’s Avengers vs. X-Men Round 6, shall we?
Hey, did anyone else notice that $3.99 books are coming with a free online copy? This announcement must have missed my eagle eye because this week it sort of came to me as a happy surprise. I know I’ve only recently learned to love the digital comic, and it’s actually been super-helpful when I miss an issue or want to share my comics with people in another state. Having Avengers vs. X-Men be so interactive really warmed me up to letting comics online and in person coexist comfortably. If you haven’t bothered with it yet, try it out and create your own little library online for free.
Also, as I turn my gaze toward the end of summer and the new cycle of comics due to hit the shelves in September, I wonder why some titles have two solicitation entries or just one with the numbers listed together? Won’t each comic have enough information to be sold as a separate entity, or are we getting to the point in modern comics storytelling that 32 pages can’t contain the decompression? Why are some books twice a month and others just one? Join me, won’t you, as we take a look at what Marvel will be sending our way this September and try and make heads or tails of the future.
There’s news being reported by fan sites and our own Spinoff Online that The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will not be making it past the current second season. You might not have seen the animated series, and that’s sadly understandable: It’s on at a weird time (Sunday-morning cartoons?) on a weird station (Disney XD), and it had a ridiculous theme song for the first season (we’re talking Star Trek: Enterprise bad). Cartoons are still more or less considered kids’ fare, so I can imagine someone eschewing these half-hour animated stories.
Now, I have no idea why they would want to, but I could see some factors involved in missing it, not getting around to it, or simply not having access to it.
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is the most important cross-media ambassador we have to attract a new generation of comic fans that might still hold true to the original values the last age fell in love with. It’s a Herculean feat to transform classic comic storylines into fresh-faced continuity kids young and old can enjoy. Did you know Rocket Raccoon and Groot were in an episode? ROCKET RACCOON! GROOT! There are such deep wells of character development and introduction that I can honestly say The Avengers: EMH version of Carol Danvers is the one I know best. There are no gimmicks, no CGI or special power suits, just quality adaptations of quality stories, all wrapped up in a bow and left on a really far away doorstop at a really awkward time of day.
A few weeks ago, Gail Simone posted something on Tumblr that shamed me:
I love Barbara Gordon so much.
I love her as Oracle, I love her as Batgirl, I love her in Year One, I love her in the cartoons, I love Babs cosplayers…
…I just freaking love her, all right?”
There is no doubt in my mind that this is true. Last year, when the New 52 was announced and changes were rolling in, Simone was one of the few creators who listened to fans’ complaints against changes and maybe mourned a little with them as Oracle went back on the shelf and Batgirl returned. She has been steadfast in the development of Barbara Gordon for a long time now (man, since around 2003), and there is simply no doubt in my mind that she really loves that character.
And how wonderful is that? That a creator can love all incarnations of her favorite character, even the ones she has nothing to do with? Yeah, Simone has a lot of control on how we see Barbara Gordon, but there are so many mediums where that character is there but she is not. But with every incarnation comes another chance to see that Barbara Gordon in a new light and with fresh eyes.
How come I couldn’t say the same?
I had a dream last night that comic books were dead. It wasn’t a bullet or a ray gun that killed them; it was just economics and a general shift of popular culture. The bottom dropped out of the New 52 and DC couldn’t regain lost readers. Marvel moved out to Los Angeles, and their publishing arm waned after relentless budget cuts and eventually dwindled down to nothing. Robert Kirkman had a huge lawsuit over rights and appropriations, and he left to go work on movies and television, taking a lot of young hopefuls with him. Popular titles got sold off like police auctions, and creators left comics for the greener and more lucrative pastures of other media. Less comics came out every week, leaving comic shops to stock up on action figures or Magic cards, eventually phasing out their back issue stock and relegating comics to a small corner of the store. Eventually, comics just disappeared entirely.
After the massive, colossal hit that is Marvel’s The Avengers, there’s a lot of buzz in the air about what comes next. What will be the next property to hit the big screen? Will it tie into the new movie continuity? Will Joss direct the next Avengers installment? Even on my way into the theater for the midnight showing of the Avengers movie, I had friends trying to tell me what the next “obvious” sequel was going to be. With as much success as Marvel Studios has seen this year and others, the doors are wide open for all sorts of properties to find fresh new life in a whole new medium. But none of this brave new frontier of pop culture seems to really involve the actual comics medium. So let’s talk about it.
Where do I start? There are so many things in the Avengers movie that it’s super difficult to find just one idea and use it to explain that this was … this was a dream come true. In my lifetime, there is a big-budget Avengers movie written by and starring incredibly talented people, and everyone I know is going to see this. Not just a few friends with a bootleg tape we can groan over, but a real-life movie full of real live people who have no idea that Hawkeye is deaf in one ear or that the Avengers have a charter by which they elect chairmen to lead them. But there they are, selling out seats in midnight showings, crowding theaters overseas, all there for the excitement of seeing these characters do heroic deeds on the silver screen.
I once asked Geoff Johns at a signing if he liked the (at the time) new Teen Titans Go cartoon show. Johns was writing a very in-depth and classic Teen Titans run in the comics, and I would have thought that the incredibly anime attempt at storytelling might have irked him. Instead, he told me that he loved the show and that it was amazing that thousands of kids who watched it now knew who Cyborg was. As I left the theater and two teens passed me by in delirious midnight showing glee and shouting to one another about “Oh my god, Arrow Guy! I thought Captain America, but- ARROW GUY!!” I think I get what Johns was talking about.
So where do I start? At the amazing fact that this movie even exists and will make tons of money? At the continuity kept between this movie and the rest of Marvel Studios productions? With all the massive character development or all the massive action that took place around (and during) the character development? In fact, this movie has so much going for it, it’s nearly overwhelming to watch. If anything, its great success as comic book storytelling brought to film could be its greatest detriment.
WARNING: I’m going to try and not reveal too much as far as spoilers, but it’s safe to say that’s going to be difficult in a movie this awesome. I’m just going to want to grab you and shout, “Oh my God, Arrow Guy!” So if you’ve seen the movie or just want to read about someone who has, join us in the link below!
What follows is a theory about one of Marvel’s most resilient characters, Nick Fury, and all the forms he takes. From a sergeant with the Howling Commandos to an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Samuel L. Jackson and beyond, the character of Nick Fury endures. But why? Let’s talk about Battle Scars #6 and look at all the Furys (Furi?) we have on the table.
WARNING: Yep, talking about Battle Scars again, so if you’ve picked up issue #6 or are just a fan of internet spoilers, read along!
Looking at the solicitations isn’t what it used to be, folks. We work with such a strange system already, trying to see into the future of three months from now and what we’ll like then, and the recent shift from paragraphs to bullet points just brings home the futility of it all. Who are the solicitations for? The readers, looking to get an idea of what’s to come with their favorite characters and titles so they can plan accordingly? Are they for the retailers, who have to pore over these lists and cover images, and figure out what people are going to want casually versus regularly? And what if, say, a month from now, a writer or artist has a better chance to tell you more about their book and reveal something the solicits couldn’t tell you? What if a book you see now just doesn’t make it to the print and we’re left with an echo of what could have been? This information can change with a story edit or a creative team switch-up. How do we handle this information anymore?
Well, hopefully I can take a look at what July means for Marvel and for you, the consumer. Gird your loins, Gentle Reader, and let’s look at what the House of Ideas wants you to know about Comic-Con Month, also known as ‘July’.
WARNING: Since Avengers vs. X-Men #2 came out this week, I might drop a few spoilers for that when talking about what that book might become later on. Also, I make an educated guess about a [REDACTED] name, so that means I also read Wolverine & the X-Men #9. Grab your copies and read along!
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If you watch boxing or, say, UFC, first round knockouts can be incredibly disappointing. Depending on the build-up and the hype put on for the match, it can seem like a waste of talent. Worse, it can seem like a waste of your time and money that you spent ordering the darn pay-per-view or getting tickets ringside. Maybe you watched months of lead up, interviews, training docs, compilations of past fights and then, with one right hook, Junior Dos Santos is champ and FOX has some air time to fill. You can know your combatant so well that seeing anything less than three full rounds just won’t showcase their talents enough for a satisfying contest.
Well, with Avengers vs X-Men #1, you don’t have anything to worry about as far as first round TKOs go. With around 31 pages to fill, it feels like each team barely gets into the ring.
WARNING: Below, we will shorten some titles and talk about AvX #1, AvX #0 and about combat sports in general, the latter not too well. It’s a metaphor bonanza so grab your copies and read along!
Dear Digital Comics,
I’m sorry. I’m sorry I considered you gimmicky and fake. I’m sorry I thought that you were unwieldy on my computer screen and that your pictures were badly scanned. I’m sorry I spurned your free codes, and I looked down my nose at your formatting and strange reading interactions. Most of all, I’m sorry that, deep down in a small corner of my heart, I thought you were going to take away my job. I’ve been working at my local comic shop for more than 10 years, so that’s a long time to get set in your ways and feel that any new idea might threaten your way of life.
For a long time, I’ve really felt there was an either-or issue between print comics and digital comics. I tend to be a very partisan kind of person (Go Marvel!), so it’s not a surprise that I weighed the merits of both, made my choice and then dug in my heels. Digital comics, I felt, required so much of me technologically (a computer, a good monitor, access to the internet in some cases, etc.) that I didn’t think about all the requirements that print comics ask of readers as well (a healthy income, access to a good comic book shop, some research into what exactly was on the shelves, etc.). The way that comics are read on a screen was just going to be inherently different than the way they’re read in print and that, in a direct transfer, we were just going to lose something in the translation. Besides, there have been years and years to make the returns on print comics better than a digital file; personally, I grew up tracing the heroes in my comics to learn how to draw. You can trade them, give them away, share them with friends and some days, just put them all in a big pile and roll around like a chinchilla (not recommended). I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the big advantage that print comics have over digital: selling them. It would seem in the great debate that paper just covers digital comics for the win.
Two years is a long time to wait for closure. And while it might not have been exactly two years since we started Avengers: Children’s Crusade, there were months that felt like we were on this journey forever. Months where you picked up an issue and wondered where everyone in this book was in the grand timeline of the Marvel Universe, how long ago this was supposed to be set from the books we were reading at the time and, especially with the earliest of issues, where we were all going by the time we hit the final issue. What was this crusade for?
Way back when at issue one we find Billy Kaplan, the magically-powered Wiccan, at a crossroads: his unexplained and undefined magical powers were chafing in a Marvel Universe full of super-science, genetics and good old fashioned genius. The potential was there for the Avengers and/or X-Men to have another fiasco on their hands and came to step in. While the adults bickered (and honestly came across as really rash and hostile as opposed to say the approach taken with the Avengers Academy kids, just saying), the Young Avengers teamed up with Magneto to find the one person who knows about having out of control & mistrusted magical powers: Wanda Maximoff.
Early on, this mini-series was presented as the final word on the disgraced Scarlet Witch and the truth behind M-Day. Reading the series over now that the complete picture is here, Allan Heinberg was very clearly here for one reason, but what was it?
WARNING: Avengers: the Children’s Crusade will be discussed to the point of utter spoilage. Please grab your copies and read along!
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