"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
If you happen to be in Muncie, Indiana, some weekend, stop off at Alter Ego Comics — the person who rings up your issue of Daredevil might just be the guy who wrote it.
Writer Mark Waid, who sold his print comics collection to fund his digital-comics site Thrillbent, is now a comics retailer: He and his partner Christy Blanch, who taught the MOOC on “Gender Through Comic Books” earlier this year, have each bought shares in Alter Ego Comics from original owner Jason Pierce. Waid, who lives in the Muncie area, refers to Alter Ego as “my store of choice for some time.”
“This isn’t a vanity purchase, a symbolic gesture, or a silent partnership,” Waid explains at Thrillbent. “Christy, Jason and I are each equal shareholders in Alter Ego Comics. I have skin in the game, and I’m eager to see what there is to learn about the only side of the industry I’ve never involved myself with.”
As a champion of digital comics for the past few years, Waid has often joked about incurring the wrath of retailers, so this is quite a twist. But it makes sense: He believes digital and print should work together, and some of that has to happen at the retail level. As he does with his digital comics, he plans to write about his experiences, and since Waid doesn’t mind discussing his mistakes as well as his successes, that should make for interesting reading.
And if nothing else, Waid’s comic shop just has to be cool. As he himself says, “Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s probably worth stopping by just to see all the props and memorabilia I’ve brought from home. Who else do you know who has both a full-size Phantom Zone projector and a scale-model replica of the Batcave?”
Look for an interview with Waid this afternoon at Comic Book Resources.
Remember when Batman was a jerk?
Remember when Batman was such a jerk that no less than Mark Waid called him “broken”?
Starting in 2006, writer Grant Morrison aimed to help fix him; and this week, with Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #13, Morrison concluded his Bat-saga. The issue is a neat encapsulation of the themes Morrison has played with for the past seven-plus years — including the portability (and immortality) of “Batman,” the uniqueness of Bruce Wayne, and the importance of not going alone — all drawn with verve and giddy energy by Chris Burnham. (There’s even a dialogue sequence where the punchline is “Cancelled!”) Like the infinite-Batman cover or the eternal-circle image that dominates an early spread, Batman will go on, but it is the end of a unique era.
As usual, though, some history first …
Mark Waid’s Thrillbent, which hosts a variety of digital comics that can be read in a variety of different ways, is adding a new way to purchase titles: download-to-own. Starting today, readers can buy downloadable PDFs of Waid’s Insufferable, Art Balthazar and Franco Aureliani’s Aw Yeah Comics!, and other comics. Insufferable will be offered on a pay-what-you-like basis.
All the comics on Thrillbent are available to read for free in a web browser, and the site also offers free downloads, in CBZ format, of many comics, including Insufferable. The titles are also offered, at prices between 99 cents and $1.99 per issue, on comiXology.
So why charge for PDFs if the CBZs are free? Waid recently addressed that in a post on the Thrillbent blog. While the free CBZs are simple files containing the weekly installments, the PDFs will include “bigger chunks of story” as well as links to bonus web content, such as footnote and behind-the-scenes features, that will be created specifically for each comic. So basically, while both CBZs and PDFs are downloadable comics that live on your device, not in the cloud, the PDFs will have added features.
“I think it is not only unaffected by piracy, it benefits from pirating. You cannot stop pirating of comics. It’s like trying to push the tide back with a broom. You can either be angry about it, and resistant, and fight and clamp down harder, or you can find ways to make that tool work for you. With Thrillbent, we offered all our files free to download on a weekly basis, so you can read them free on the site and you can also download them for free, and that way, sure enough, we got to control the quality of the image, we got to make sure it was not out of focus or crappy or corrupted files or whatever, we got to make sure there was a placard at the end that says, hey, if you like this come to Thrillbent for more stuff, and that worked wonders for us. And I know that pumped up our traffic. That is not the answer for every publisher, but I will go to my grave not buying the baloney that every pirated comic was a lost sale.”
– Mark Waid, during the “Digital and Print” panel at Comic-Con International, when asked whether piracy poses a threat to the comics industry
Publishing | Sales of comics, graphic novels and digital comics totaled $750 million in 2012, making that year the best of the millennium so far for the comics business, according to the retail news and analysis site ICv2. Total print sales were estimated at $680 million and digital at $70 million, a hair over 10 percent of print and almost triple the 2011 total of $25 million. The website also breaks down the top properties in eight graphic novel categories (superheroes, genre, manga, etc.), based on interviews with retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Interestingly, Hawkeye is nestled at No. 7 on the list of Top 10 superhero properties, between Iron Man and Spider-Man. [ICv2]
Publishing | Torsten Adair takes a look at IDW Publishing’s financials, and they’re looking pretty good. [The Beat]
Retailing | Saying that video games, texting and digital comics have killed interest in collectibles, 80-year-old Joseph Liesner is closing his Sunnyside, Queens, store Comic Book Heaven after nearly three decades. “The store’s not making any money,” he says, “and, besides, I’m as old as Methuselah.” The store will remain open for another two months, with Liesner using the time to search for a much younger girlfriend via a sign in the window. [Sunnyside Post]
Last week Mark Waid was asked on Twitter about whether or not he received any sort of credit in Warner Bros./DC Entertainment’s big mega-blockbuster film Man of Steel, currently breaking records and setting the box office on fire in a theater near you. Waid of course wrote Superman: Birthright, parts of which inspired the film. He said he didn’t, that the practice of DC crediting creators whose work influenced a film in some way stopped when Paul Levitz, former president and publisher at DC Comics, stepped down from his position.
As he noted on Twitter (and in the comments section of my post about it last week), Waid wasn’t looking to pick a fight, he was simply answering a question; but it did cause a lot of discussion. So he’s taken to his blog on his Thrillbent site to explain the history of work for hire in the comics industry, the addition of royalties in the 1980s and the “extra-media compensation” that came during Levitz’s tenure at DC, where creators received a bonus if an element from a comic they wrote found its way onto the big or small screen. He notes that these bonuses were a courtesy, not a legal obligation, and now DC “pays bonuses only on material that’s a straight and highly faithful adaptation of existing work,” like the recent The Dark Knight Returns animated films. He also notes that he still sees payments based on the fact that he co-created the character Impulse with Mike Wieringo, so he gets something for every Impulse trade paperback or action figure that’s sold.
But he doesn’t get anything for his contributions to the Superman mythos that made it into Man of Steel, and he’s more than ok with that. “Hell, for me, honestly, the smile I got on my face the first time I heard lines from Birthright in the MoS trailer — the confirmation that I really did give something lasting back to the character who’s given me so much — is worth more to me than any dollar amount. (Your mileage may vary.)”
If you’re interested in these sorts of matters, I recommend you read the entire piece over on the Thrillbent site, and if you’re not, then hey, that’s cool too — you can head over there and read some comics instead.
“This old version of To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus kills a rabid dog isn’t *my* Atticus”
– Max Robinson, commenting on fan complaints about Man of Steel
I’ll try to keep this as non-spoilery for Man of Steel as possible, but if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to know anything about it, you may want to skip this.
There’s been a lot of discussion the past week about certain choices Superman makes in Man of Steel and whether those are things that character would/should do. Mark Waid describes being so upset by Superman’s actions that he stood up and yelled in the theater. In that review, the writer talks about “the essential part of Superman that got lost in Man of Steel.” And while I agree with what Waid describes as essential, not everyone does. In fact, some folks – like Robinson – question whether readers have the right to make those kinds of statements about someone else’s characters.
Auctions | The original art for two Peanuts Sunday comics, one of them autographed by Charles Schulz, sold for a combined price of $78,200 at auction on June 6. [artdaily.org]
Creators | Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, who are doomed to be forever yoked by the parenthetical phrase “no relation,” reminisce about the days when they were paid for their work in beef, and talk about their digital-first strategy, serializing Zander’s Heck and Kevin’s Crater XV in their monthly digital magazine Double Barrel before releasing them in print. Mark Waid drops in to praise the Cannons for their digital strategy, saying, “If you let the audience access your material over the Web rather than force them to search — often in vain — for a retail outlet, they’ll be your fans for life.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
“Dude, I didn’t even get a free ticket. Are you kidding me? It’s DC. Even Marvel invites me to the movies.”
— Superman: Birthright writer Mark Waid, answering the question, “Did you get a ‘based on work by’ credit in [Man of Steel] due to Birthright?” In the conversation that follows, he adds, “They’re not legally obligated to. Why would they? When they did before, that was Paul. Paul’s gone,” with “Paul” being Paul Levitz, former President and Publisher at DC Comics. Update: It’s worth noting here (as Waid points out in our comments section below) that Waid was asked the question and answered it directly, versus complaining about it. As he said in a follow-up tweet: “I’m not complaining about the situation. I could be mad about the policy change, but why? That won’t mend it.”
I didn’t stay for the credits after the movie ended when I saw it earlier this week, so I didn’t see who did and didn’t get credited. But it’s a shame that this policy changed when Levitz left, for many reasons. Blogger Andrew Wheeler makes a good argument for why crediting and compensating creators for their contributions makes good business sense: “I know the moral argument is pointless and the legal one is dead, but I feel there’s a clear financial argument. Incentivising the best writers to give good ideas to companies that trade entirely on ideas seems sane to me.”
With director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel opening today nationwide (many theaters had screenings as early as 12:01 a.m.), it’s impossible to swing a dead Kent without hitting a dozen Superman-related items online or in print. Although most of them are directly related to the Warner Bros. franchise reboot, there are plenty with clear comic-book ties. Here are just a handful of them:
• Superman gets the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly, on which Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson’s rendition of the Last Son of Krypton (from December 1972’s Action Comics #419) is given prominence over the movie and TV versions — possibly because Man of Steel star Henry Cavill was featured in April, but hey, we’ll take it. But poor, poor Brandon Routh …
• Mark Waid, whose 2003-2004 miniseries Superman: Birthright (with Leinil Francis Yu) influenced Man of Steel, saw the movie last night and tweeted, “That thunder you heard at around 9:15 EST was the sound of my heart breaking in two.” He followed that with a review on his Thrillbent website that he prefaced with, “It’s a good science-fiction movie, but it’s very cold. It’s not a very satisfying super-hero movie. That said, if your favorite part of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE was Superman standing in the Fortress while Jor-El lectured him, you’re gonna love MAN OF STEEL.”
DC Comics is calling June “Superman Month,” but next week is Snyder Week. The first issue of Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained arrives next Wednesday, and the premiere of director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel premieres in most places two days later.
Therefore, because there will be a lot of Superman talk coming down the pike, I thought I’d get mine out of the way early.
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One thing that comics blogging has taught me is a healthy respect for the roles (including the rights) of creators. Creators’ rights aren’t unique to comics, of course, but you really can’t talk about the history of superhero comics, or the development of corporately handled superheroes, without at least acknowledging the people who first introduced the concepts. In this respect Superman is a special case, because he seems to have developed past his creators’ original idea (or, certainly, past the original parameters) into something Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster might never have imagined — and people seem pretty cool with that, in a way that perhaps doesn’t apply to similarly long-lived characters.
How quickly we’re evolving: From Yvyes Bigerel’s rough demo in February 2009 to the near-simultaneous launch of Mark Waid’s Thrillbent and Marvel’s Infinite Comics in March 2012 to the Marvel ReEvolution suite of digital initiatives announced earlier this year (and still coming). And now we have DC Comics’ entry, DC2 (“DC Squared”), which looks to be the company’s take on Bigerel’s concepts. Also announced is DC2 Multiverse, a choose-your-own-adventure style digital comic that will inform DC on readers’ story choices.
While the latter seems a little creepy, it’s becoming clear that after years of digital and webcomics primarily mimicking print comic books and comic strips, a new kind of comic is emerging, one that is changing how they’re made and read.
These current platforms were far from the first to experiment with digital. Artists like Cayetano Garza Jr. began experimenting with limited effects and layout as early as 1998. Scott McCloud’s infinite canvas theory, in which digital could break free of the confines of the limited dimensions of a page, was proposed in 2000, ironically in the pages of his print book Reinventing Comics. Experiments with using an infinite canvas followed, but it never grabbed hold as a standard format. Mostly, webcomics have echoed the structure and dimensions of daily newspaper strips with the occasional experimentation.
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For those who might’ve missed this 2006-2007 miniseries, Doctor Strange: The Oath is a five-issue story written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin — that pedigree alone should ensure it has a place in your long box or the handy trade paperback sits on your shelf. Vaughan’s clear, lyrical writing style is in full force, and Martin’s art is as fluid and dynamic as it’s been for Mark Waid’s Daredevil. The story delves into the occult to save Wong, who’s been stricken with a fatal disease. Not only does it have magic and mysticism, it also reminds you of Strange’s classical origin as an arrogant surgeon who had to learn humility in an area both street-level and far-flung dimensions. It also brought Night Nurse in as a strong supporting character to the good Doctor’s retinue and, as the back cover tells me, firmly establishes Doctor Strange in the Marvel Universe.
A nice idea, but it really did nothing of the sort.
Conventions | Comic-Con International in San Diego is about six weeks away, so it’s time for Tom Spurgeon to post his massive list of tips for those planning to attend: “It helps to remember that the hassle of going to Comic-Con is mostly an accident of our recent cultural history — All those spectacle movies! All those fantasy franchise books! Marvel’s post-bankruptcy comeback! All those graphic novels! The toy explosion! The rise of manga and anime! — rather than something the convention itself enjoys or endorses or requires or was ever shooting for. I honestly don’t have any more fun going now than I did in ’96 or ’01, back when it was so much easier to attend the con that the worst-case scenario was registering on-site and staying in a $65 hotel ten blocks away. It wasn’t that long ago! But I also can’t stress this enough. I still have fun.” [The Comics Reporter]