The Middle Ground
I have to admit, I was surprised to learn that Rob Liefeld’s relaunched Extreme Studios line had received attention on the online news magazine Slate, and reading the article itself, I realized why: It presumes Liefeld has done something he actually hasn’t. Writing about the transformation of Prophet, Glory and Bloodstrike at the hands of Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell et al., David Weigel says that Liefeld “open-sourced” the characters, noting that “every copyright holder should be this generous, and this clever.”
Of course, this isn’t what happened; Liefeld still owns the characters, and Graham, Keatinge, Campbell and everyone else is working for him in much the same way other creators have worked for Todd McFarlane on Spawn, Marc Silvestri on his various Top Cow characters, or even Marvel and DC for decades now. It’s not really “open source” comics at all, because there’s still an “official” centralized canon version of the characters, and the material isn’t available for free for all to use as they wish. But reading the misconception made me wonder: What if Liefeld had open-sourced the characters?
Something that jumped out at me from last week’s (must-read) interview with Mark Waid at Tom Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter:
I think the system is, in terms of the way we’ve been doing business, the way we’ve been doing print business, stacked against them. Unless you’re one of Diamond’s premier publishers, you’re not getting the discounts you really need to make a go of it. I love the fact that guys like Nicky at Dynamite and the IDW folks have managed, by my outside perspective hanging on by their fingernails, to continue to be a viable force. Or at least a voice out there that can make a living for people. Not a great living, but they can get paid for doing what they’re doing. I find it kind of astonishing, I think “Oh, my God. How did some of those companies stay in business?” I haven’t the foggiest notion how it is that Oni Press is still in business. [Spurgeon laughs] That’s not a critical assessment of their company. That has nothing to do with their work. It’s that I know how expensive this stuff is. I just don’t know, and I’d be fascinated to find out.
The cost of comics — like, the actual monetary expense of making and distributing these damn things — is a source of constant curiosity/wonder/horror to me. I am arguably the furthest thing from business minded in some ways (read: most ways), and I admit to looking at sales figures and shaking my head at times, wondering how publishers managed to break even on certain titles, or even if they actually did.
Sometimes, you see the announcement of a project that, although you are quasi-convinced that it’s likely to end in tears, you can’t help yourself but be grateful for it happening in the first place, and also hoping against hope that it succeeds against the odds. To wit: the news that Titan Publishing is launching a new line of creator-owned comics aimed at the American direct market but created by British creators.
As 2012 draws to a close, the holiday season is now officially in full swing, and that means it’s time to think about the next year, and also maybe get a little greedy in the process. With all that in mind, here are five random things that I’d like to see from 2013′s comic books.
The first time I read Ales Kot and Morgan Jeske’s Change, I was distracted by all the things I didn’t like about it: the similarities to the stories that influenced it, the use of language at certain places, a knowing tone that seemed smug. I’d read, and disliked far more than I’d expected, Kot’s earlier Wild Children, and that had made me suspicious of Change even before I got to the first page, I think.
And then I re-read it.
Ah, the joys of comic book sales. With everything that appears in your local store on a weekly basis, you could be forgiven for overlooking some treasures waiting for you in the back issue bins or the graphic novel back stock shelves, but when the sales come along, it can be a gift: Not only a reason to dive into the back pages of things you might’ve missed, but also a chance to get them for less money than you would’ve paid the first time around.
For some reason, I keep reading and re-reading Jim Zubkavich’s breakdown of indie comic economics, as if at some point it’s actually going to make sense to me. It’s not that I don’t understand the math as he presents it, but more than my brain refuses to comprehend the scale of the unfairness of distribution of wealth when it comes to comic books.
In case you haven’t seen it, Zub’s breakdown for a $2.99 comic goes like this:
This isn’t a “Best of 2012″ list, because (a) 2012 isn’t finished yet, and (b) every time I attempt to put “Best of” lists together, I inevitably end up forgetting something that I utterly adore and feel guilty about it afterwards. Instead, inspired by Thursday’s upcoming holiday and the fact that you might be thinking about buying things on Friday for some reason, here are five things in comics from this year that I’m thankful for.
Ladies and gentlemen, my favorite page on comiXology’s website: Free Digital Comics. Yes, I’m that cheap. No, wait. That’s not what I meant to say at all.
I’ve always been a fan of the idea of letting people try before they buy, at least when it comes to entertainment. Sure, you can have teaser campaigns and cool-looking advertisements, you can have interviews with the people working on the comics – or the movies, or the television shows, or whatever – and you can have reviews, but when it comes down to it, the very best way for someone to actually decide whether or not they’d like to spend money on something is to give them a sample for free and allowing them to, you know, actually decide for themselves. It’s a bold idea, I know.
This week sees the release in the United Kingdom of Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth Vol. 3, a collection of the final days of the original run of 2000AD‘s cloned science fiction soldier. Re-reading the book this weekend, it struck me how little the kid who read these strips at the time they were published appreciated some of the greatness they offered, how oddly ahead of its time Rogue Trooper was during the period these strips came from, and how surprisingly educational this book is for wonks like me who like to see how the comics sausage is made.
Let’s start with that greatness. Look at this art by Jose Ortiz:
You know that it’s possibly time to abandon all hope when one of the first thoughts you have when reading the news that Lucasfilm has been purchased by Disney is “But what will that mean for Brian Wood’s new Star Wars series from Dark Horse?”
The other day, a friend was visiting and asked in a somewhat halfhearted manner for something to read. I gave her The Nao of Brown, fairly confident it’d be her kind of thing in terms of tone and theme (and entirely confident the art would bowl her over), and then started thinking about gateway comics. What makes a good introduction for newcomers to the entire comic medium?
Whether it’s re-released previous print work with all-new material included, or using digital to release work that never even made it to the print stage in the first place, this past week has been one that has suggested that, yet again, old indie comics could find themselves resurrected by digital.
My problem with diary comics, I think, may be that I read them in the same way I do other comics, and then end up feeling guilty when I judge the central character — i.e., the person creating the actual comics — for decisions they’ve made or things they say. It’s not even as if they know that I’m thinking such things, but nevertheless, I find myself feeling bad for being so unsympathetic to such talented people.
I feel like I’m being a bad fan by not being too upset by the news that the third series of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram is going to be delayed until sometime in 2013. Originally quasi-announced in February for a November release, “life happened” as Gillen put it, and now it’s been pushed to an unclear point next year.