Fuck “saving comics”…let’s just make ’em better.
For the last several years, every online pundit with a pseudonym and a platform has been spouting off about how to “save comics”, how everything is a festering pile of doo-doo and only they have the magic formula to remove all the stains.
Lemme tell you somethin’…kill that fucking noise.
We’re tired of it, sick of hearing about it, can only roll our eyes one last time before they burst. It’s 2002 and people are still yammering on about “saving comics”. If I have to hold your hand and lead you to the realization that though creators aren’t swimming in their personal money bins like Scrooge McDuck, the industry isn’t nearly as bad off as some suggest, then you’re beyond aid. The mere usage of the term “saving comics” implies a heightened degree of pretension and expertise few commentators have business even conveying. I just find it highly disappointing that in the new millennium, with Hollywood producers and mass media crawling up our ass to see what’s contained within…still, after bothering to claw our way from the gutter of the mid 90s…
…people don’t want to read fuckin’ comics anymore…they want to “save” them. Imagine that.
I’ve read comics for about ten years, and I don’t think they’ve ever been better. From the approaches to the slow expansion of genre to the production values, it’s a good time to read comics. It’s a bad time to be my budget, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Too many books to read and not enough time and money to support the habit. Why would you want it any other way??
However…there are a few nagging inconsistencies and nervous habits I’d like to watch the industry shake loose in this new century. Though I’m not pretentious enough to instruct you on how to “save comics”…I will provide a few suggestions on making them better. A diagram if you will. A set of requests aimed at comic publishers to usher in the creation of books for a bold new millennium.
Let’s take this by the numbers…nice and easy…
The cover of any decent comic should exist as a work of art that inspires above all else…curiosity. If you’re not hitting them in the stomach, then you ain’t doing it right. Covers are a publisher’s initial line of defense against a closed wallet. In a perfect world, curiosity leads to closer inspection, which may result in a purchase. Whether the buy is planned or impulsive really isn’t the concern, only the final sale matters. Covers, if produced effectively mean money.
So why in the hell are the majority of our modern covers so excessively dull?? This makes absolutely no sense when considering the artistic caliber that some of our creators are bringing to the table. And this lack of excitement can be attributed to one thing…tradition. Traditionally, the titles have been placed at the top of the book in luscious oversized lettering. Traditionally, the company logo rests in the top left-hand corner. And traditionally, this makes for boring-ass covers.
Stop me when this starts making sense.
Your premier comic company goes to the trouble of securing an A-list cover artist that manipulates style and composition to construct the most striking image possible. Then this beautiful piece of art is dropped into an ancient template that exists as acceptable because it always has been. It’s the new millennium…it’s time more of our comics looked like it.
Seeing a comic that has chosen to do something unique with the arrangement of title and credits is a truly rare occurrence that demands additional attention. Planetary was a comic with beautiful front images. Wildcats after Wildstorm finally allowed Sean Phillips free rein was always fun. Anything Kaare Andrews touches with his pinky finger. Altering the way a cover acts and feels is the first step to true enlightenment. Major companies are most guilty of this because their universes are brimming with these hugely recognizable characters that don’t require funny fonts to identify. The Big Two could do literally anything they want…and yet…they give us the same old thing.
You don’t have to display the words SPIDER-MAN and BATMAN in large letters to sell their damn books. The title could literally be written in another language with the company logo buried in the background and it would still present the same effect. And it would be much prettier. I’m not even suggesting that this become a monthly ritual for every title on every occasion, but when you have a big storyline, a huge creative debut, or some other special event please do something non-traditional with the cover layout.
Even the Ultimate titles offer a visual scheme that stands out on a Wednesday afternoon at the local retailer. And they could sell those damn things without covers. It’s time to think out of the box, hell…burn the box. There’s so many possibilities that a skilled designer could present in that little space, yet 95% of our covers are paint by numbers in an ancient format that we could stand to ditch on occasion.
This is a personal pet peeve of mine, only surpassed in annoyance by a slow internet connection. Comics are probably averaging a cost of two bucks and fifty cents, and in this modern day and age, there are still some publishers that don’t want you to or don’t care if you understand what is happening in their fuckin’ books. Just don’t care. It doesn’t occur to them that requiring a decoder ring to fathom the notions of the characters is entirely unappealing. Marvel just recently announced a line-wide initiative that will cause every book coming from their catalog to include a synopsis page to introduce some of the main characters and touch on exactly what they were doing last month. Now, there are differing viewpoints in regards to the precise catalyst that brought on this decision, but one would assume that common sense was one of them.
When confronted about the particulars of what’s “wrong” with the industry, a fair percentage of people are going to cite accessibility…or lack thereof. Ten years of interlaced continuity shouldn’t be required reading for the latest issue of Spider-Man. Accessibility is a necessity for the new millennium comic, and anything else is not only negligent, but extraordinarily lazy. After the consumer shells out nearly three bucks for your book, at least provide them with a rudimentary guide map.
I cannot tell you how many books I’ve passed over because of a suspicion that the story wouldn’t resonate properly. And all it takes to bring folks up the speed is a paragraph. One paragraph, that’s it. There’s not a book on the stands that I shouldn’t be able to pick up on the strength of a beautiful cover, read and potentially enjoy without wondering what put the characters in their current situations.
Before I turn on ER, I’m treated with a blurb of “what’s come before” that contains pertinent information relating to the upcoming episode. Now an ER freak like myself isn’t paying it much attention, but there’s a percentage of viewers that are getting something from it, and those are the people we should be targeting. Every book out there should contain an issue summary in some shape or form, even if it’s seen as an exercise.
Got it?? Good. Now that I’ve told you what these things should look like and offer from page one…let’s continue onto what should go into the damn things…
In seven days, The Blueprint 2 assaults issues of content and the enemy of man…crossovers.
In the meantime, help yourself to The New Hotness…
The New Hotness – The Books You Should’ve Read Last Week
Light week for releases and therefore only two books I feel confident in recommending…
X-Statix #1 (Peter Milligan/Mike Allred/Darwyn Cooke)
Pop culture assassination in the form of an X-book continues in earnest. Since X-Force mutated several issues ago, it’s offered one of the most progressive reads to ever emerge from Marvel’s mutant stable. It turns the whole “feared and hated” dogma on its head and casts the societal outcasts as rock stars and figures of inappropriate worship. The title relies on the examination of inter-office politics, staged fights, and the responsibilities and powers we place on modern celebrities. In this oversized premiere issue you’ll encounter insane fans, ambivalent “heroes”, and an experience that can only be described as O-Force. Milligan’s script, as usual, straddles lines of genre, handling humor and emotional confusion simultaneously, while Mike Allred continues to render an environment and landscape that pokes holes in pop culture, but is very much a part of it.
I knew this was gonna be a good book. At Wizard World the creators told me to my face that it was gonna be good. Rex Mundi is very likely Image’s next hit, and this zero affair lays the groundwork for what looks to be an exciting series. The first caption says
“Paris, 1933” but you’ll immediately notice that this isn’t the City of Love found in any travel guide. It’s a dark city with a secret or three beautifully rendered by Eric J and his coloring collaborator Jeromy Cox that blanket this world in appropriate shadow, contributing to the rising tension in Arvid’s script. An engrossing and impressive debut from a team set to kick over a few tables in the months to come. For more on Rex Mundi and why it’s the next big thing, check out my interview with co-creator Eric J. (a friendly neighbourhood link to that interview will be attached HERE by our ever-loving blue-eyed editor-in-chief, Mr Jason Aloysius Brice)
And in seven…The Blueprint continues…tell people.