Friday 17 February 2012

.1 Issues...The Good and the Bad

Recently Marvel has been putting out ".1" issues of their comics.  As I understand it, these .1 issues are meant to be a jumping on point for new readers.  When they first came about I thought they were going to be a one-time thing, but I keep seeing solicitations for new .1 issues so I guess that isn't the case.

I'm of 2 minds on these issues.  The long time comic book reader in me doesn't really like them.  I do like stand alone issues, without question, but since the .1 issues are usually done by a different creative team the tone of the .1 books just doesn't resonate with the rest of the series, at least in the ones I've read.  If I'm going to go back and reread a run (which I enjoy doing), I don't care for the .1 issue throwing off the tone of the main creative team.

Due to that lack of consistency, it seems to me that the .1 issues are also a way to pad the time the creative teams have to put out their book.  I'd rather see a planned fill-in issue than a mad scramble or delay, so if that's part of the strategy then that's fair enough.

I do, however, like Marvel making an effort to reach out to new readers.  Dan Slott commented on Twitter that for everyone who complains about the Amazing Spider #679.1 issue numbering, somebody else tells him that the numbering is why they picked it up.

I guess part of what bugs me is I don't care for the Big 2's "creative accounting" to get to milestone issues.  I've detailed this before using the Thor books as my example, so I won't go too deep into it here.  Basically, I don't like how books are canceled and relaunched with a new #1, only to revert back to the original numbers to get the sales boost of a #1 and a #500.  With the .1 issues, this approach to issue milestones can get even more convoluted.

I really do think that comics should look at adopting a volume system.  You get the sales boost of a #1 and a "final issue" every year or two, however long you decide a volume is going to be (I would say at minimum 12 issues since that's two-6 issue story arcs).  It would also make it far easier on new readers to break in and be able to follow along; to be honest, if I hadn't of bought the Thor books as they came out, trying to follow the story through the numbering system alone would be a nightmare (again, see the linked post for details).

So good on you Marvel for reaching out to new readers, but I think there is still work to be done as that same approach is going to make things even more confusing in the long-run.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Digital Comics...When & Why I Buy Them

I have to say, I really enjoy reading comics on my tablet.  With that said, I'm pretty choosey about what I purchase.  Not necessarily because of the content, I like reading a variety of books, but moreso because of cost.

I generally will not pay more than $1.99 for a single issue, and even then it has to be something I really want.  However, if I can get a digital book for $.99, then I'm willing to snag a bunch.  I know that debate rages about the price of digital books, and I don't pretend to know all of the costs involved with digital, but I do know what the value is to me.

If I shell out $3.99 for a physical comic book, I own something.  If I resell it I'm probably not going to make a profit, but I am probably able to get something for it.  I can't do that with a digital book.  What happens if the company I bought the digital book from goes under, and I suffer a data loss?  I'm now out that money, whereas with a physical book once I have it I have it, barring something like a basement flood or fire I'm not going to lose them; and even if I do, I have insurance on my physical books, you can't do that with digital.

That is why I will not spend $3.99 on a digital comic book that takes me 5 minutes to read.  However, there are times when I am willing to spend that much or more, and I wish that more of these collections existed.

While browsing around on the Comixology app on my tablet, I happened across an X-Men/Spider-Man digital pack for $5.99 that was over 150 pages, containing team-ups of Marvel's merry mutants and their friendly neighborhood arachnid from various comics over the years.  Now this is exactly the kind of initiative that can be done easily in the digital comics world. I mean, you made the money on the content the first time around, why not offer it in a bundle like this to entice readers to try out something they haven't read before?  In fact, this was created to promote a (then) upcoming crossover between the two teams, that's great marketing!

I would love to see more stuff like this...why not put Bloodties together in a digital pack for $5 as marketing for the upcoming Avengers vs X-Men?  Or in the lead up to the Galactus-Asgard snorefest war put out a bundle of cosmic Thor stories, such as his battles against the Celestials, Ego the Living Planet, etc.  Marvel has made their money already with these stories, so why not use them as gravy to marketing upcoming events?

Really my only beefs about the X-Men/Spider-Man bundle was one of the stories within ended on a cliffhanger and the resolution wasn't included.  My other beef was that I already owned 4 of the issues in the pack, and there was no way to read what issues were included before purchasing.  Fix that little mistake and I'd be very satisfied.

Feel free to steal this idea Marvel, DC, any comic company that wants my money!

Monday 13 February 2012

Smell Like An Avenger

I was reading an article today about a line of Avengers colognes and perfumes coming out in advance of the movie, and while at first I scoffed at the notion, I will admit based on the descriptions that these guys actually did their research.

Patriot, inspired by Captain America, pays homage to the "confident, stand-up-to-bullies average Joe" in every man, with "hints of green lime and white pepper, and finishes of dry oak, sandalwood and tequila."

Okay, this one doesn't knock my socks off, though the tequila finish kind of caught me off guard.

Mark VII smells like mandarin and jasmine with light patchouli, reads a company release, for an Iron Man-like "I don't play well with others" confidence.

Okay, I almost laughed out loud when I read that the principle odour in Iron Man's fragrance is mandarin.  While at first I thought this was just really ironic, as I kept reading I get the impression these guys actually did their homework.

There is also a "Russian spy/trained assassin" perfume, called Black Widow; a Nick Fury-inspired scent, called Infinity; and a "dangerous-sexy" unisex scent based on the villain Loki, the bad brother of Thor.

Okay, giving Iron Man a scent of mandarin as opposed to WD40 could have been a one-off, but the fact that they named the Nicky Fury scent "Infinity" really leads me to believe these guys put some thought into these.  For anyone reading this unaware, comic book-Nick Fury owes his longevity to a little chemical cocktail called the Infinity Formula.

I skipped posting the details of Thor and the Hulk because nothing really struck me there, you can read them at the full article if you wish (  Well done JADS, well done.

Friday 3 February 2012

Reading GIT Corp on Android

I've posted before about reading comics on a tablet, and how the Asus EEE Pad is perfect for digital comics. The aspect ratio is pretty much perfect for a comic book page, they don't fit as nicely on an iPad's screen.

I've also made mention of the GIT Corp DVD collections that Marvel put out some years ago. Before Marvel created their online subscripton service, they were licensing their books to GIT Corp to create DVD's containing entire runs of books like Amazing Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Hulk, etc, stretching from their inceptions in the 60's until a cut-off in the early to mid 2000's (when the discs came out). At the time they were a tremendous deal, between $40 and $60 for 40 years of comics. Some of the collections are hard to find now and as a result very expensive, but I have collected almost all of them.

I never cared for reading comics on my desktop computer, so I didn't read the GIT Corp collections as much as I wanted to. When I got my tablet, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to start reading them more. The question was, what app would be best to read them on?

The books are PDFs, and there are a number of PDF viewers available in the Android market. The trick is, most of these readers display a MARVEL watermark on the books, which can be read through but is annoying.

After some trial and error I finally found an app, for free no less, called Perfect Viewer, that lets me view my GIT Corp comics without the Marvel watermark.

GIT Corp comics are a little different than current digital comics; the GIT Corp comics are all 2-page spreads (think of a comic book opened up and laid flat on a scanner...since that's what they are!), meaning that they read a little bit small even when the tablet is horizontal. However, Perfect Viewer will let you invert the comics and then zoom in so you can view one (comic) page at a time, you just need to swipe across. This lets you read the GIT Corp comics like current digital comics, very easy to read!

You'll need to download the PDF plugin for Perfect Viewer, but it's also free so that's no big deal. For all my fellow Androids out there, here is a link to the Android Market where you can download the viewer!

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Marvel's Birds of Prey

If Marvel were to have an all female book ala Birds of Prey, what would the cast look like?  I know Marvel has the Lady Liberators, but I don't really care for the name and I'm not even totally sure what the concept is.

And that is important, why would an all-female team exist?  I saw this topic on a message board and it looked to me like some respondents were just listing their favourite female characters.  There needs to be a reason for these people to come together as a team, and why these characters in particular are the best fit. 

Therefore, for my all female Marvel team, let's go with the concept of a group of women who want to do things smarter; they want to target the source of the problem, not the symptoms.  In the super-powered Marvel universe this will still lead to fight scenes, don't worry action lovers, but it will also provide a platform to air a women's perspective on things.

So who wants to change the world for the better but also isn't afraid to throw down if things go south?  Here are my picks.

Team Leader: The Invisible Woman
Sue Richards is a pretty busy lady.  She is a mother of two very exceptional children (four if you count the antics of Ben and Johnny) and is a full time member of the Fantastic Four.  However, her husband is the undisputed leader of the team, and it can be difficult to try set your own direction for the group when the smartest man in the world is calling the shots.  I would view this team as something "just for Sue", where she can get away from the family and pursue her own agenda without Reed being there to influence what the team does.

Tech Support: Shadowcat
Kitty Pryde and the Invisible Woman just seem to be a really good fit, and I could see Kitty actually looking up to Sue.  Kitty would rather use her brains than her fists any day, and therefore I think she could be a pretty good fit.

The Rookie: Lightspeed
Lightspeed has been added recently to the cast of Avengers Academy, but I really think it's important to have that younger perspective on the team.  Without a character like Lightspeed, like it or not the "inexperienced" role is going to fall to Kitty, which I absolutely do not think is right.  It's been insinuated by a fellow teammate that Lightspeed is homosexual...could make things a little uncomfortable for her on a team of all women.

The Muscle: Big Bertha
I know that the obvious choice is She-Hulk, but that's just too obvious.  I'd like to see Bertha venturing into adventures without her teammates to see how she does.  And while Bertha is comfortable the way she is around her goofball teammates, does she still feel that way when on a more serious team of beautiful women?  She is a model in her civilian identity, but by stepping out onto a larger stage will she end up having issues with her superhero appearance?  Body image is a very real issue for girls and women that could really be explored here.  Or go the other route, and show Big Bertha being completely comfortable in her own skin.  Either way, it can be explored.

The Agitator: Emma Frost
Emma rubs a lot of people the wrong way, as opposed to when she was a stripped at the Hellfire club (Bazinga).  Kitty really doesn't like her, and I can't imagine the rest are huge fans of hers.  Emma is on the team for similar reasons to Sue, as Cyclops is undoubtedly the alpha male of his team of X-Men.  Unlike Sue, however, Emma is arrogant enough to think this venture is doomed to fail without her involvement.  And I will admit, Emma helps boost the star power in the book for the readers.

Intelligence: Sharon Carter
Sharon isn't really a superhero, but her resume is pretty impeccable as an agent of SHIELD.  If this team of proactive superheroines wants to tackle certain problems at the knees being forewarned is going to important, and Sharon in an intelligence expert.

The Difference Maker: Firestar
The New Warriors, when they were first created, didn't have a lot of direction.  As the series progressed though they developed an informal mission statement of changing the world for the better, which is exactly what this team is trying to do.  I can see Firestar taking on a sort of mentorship role with Lightspeed, and it doesn't hurt that she is a former Avenger.  I think I'd go with a Firestar who is perhaps a little too over eager at times, but still respecting that she is a veteran superhero.

I'm still trying to think of a name for this group...any suggestions?

Friday 27 January 2012

Thursday 26 January 2012

All Ages Book Gets It Right

Today I stumbled across a free (and legal!) online copy of Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #11, and I have to say, the characterization in this story was better than that in a lot of the 616 books these days.  You can read the story (I don't know for how long!) at  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Note the solicit and the comic don't match, so don't panic when Thor doesn't show up.

Without spoiling too much, the book starts out with the Hulk seeking out the Thing for his help.  Hulk found something (I won't spoil what) and he didn't know who to turn to for help in finding out what it is, so he sought out the closest thing he has to a friend, the Thing.  As Hulk put it, "Rockman is strong and smart".  So off the pair go to investigate.

The other part of the book features Steve Rogers and Richard Rider, but I want to focus on the Hulk and Thing part of the story.

The Thing and the Hulk take the Fantasticar to investigate the Hulk's findings, and the Thing notes that the Hulk is uncomfortable and a little withdrawn.  He asks if the Hulk is afraid of flying, and Hulk replies that he is just scared he is going to break the vehicle and then the Thing would get mad at him; everything breaks easily for the Hulk.

After Hulk uncovers his discovery Ben calls in the Invisible Woman to help them out.  I admit I was surprised that he didn't call in Reed, but things are obviously a little different in the All Ages universe; for example, Sue says that she runs the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, while in 616 Marvel she is not a member of the Avengers.

Anyway, it becomes apparent why Sue was summoned, and it's for story purposes; she has a bit of a heart to heart with the Hulk, talking about friends.  Hulk says he doesn't really have any, and it's kind of heart breaking.

There's a fight at the end and a conclusion, but I've spoiled enough!

The Savage Hulk is a tricky character to write, but Paul Tobin really does a great job with him.  Hulk isn't a monster; rather, he is misunderstood.  His lack of social skills (he punches the Thing when they first meet in this issue because he's scared the Thing will punch him, whereas Ben then tries to explain the concept of a handshake as a greeting instead) combined with his immense strength lead him to a lot of the conflicts he finds himself in and would rather avoid. 

This book illustrates two things that are lacking in a lot of comics these days:

1. A story can be told in a single issue but still be a part of an over-arcing narrative.  I haven't read any other issues of Marvel Adventures Superheroes, and I had no trouble following the story.  I wasn't expecting Sue to be the leader of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, but it was explained very quickly and easily.

2. Characters drive the story.  Sometimes it feels like a writer has a story to tell and they will try to mold the characters to fit the narrative even if they have to act out of character to do it; in this story, it feels the opposite.  The characters are driving the story, which makes for a far more enjoyable reading experience.  It also adds a lot more impact to action sequences; I want a reason for characters to fight, especially when it is a hero-vs-hero match.  There are 2 fight scenes in this book, and both happen for a reason; the first one in particular has a lot of oomph due to the relationship between Hulk and the Thing even though it is a skirmish at best.

I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if switching over entirely to the All Ages line would be the way to go, as I find I am rarely disappointed when I venture into those books.