Ron’s List of the Worst Things in Comics in 2011

So here we are, another year in the books.  As we look back on 2011 (and iFanboy’s 10th year in existence), I’m back at the keyboard to provide my annual best and worst of the year list.  Yesterday we celebrated the great things, in my opinion at least, that existed in comics in 2011.  Today, we take a turn down the negative road.

Now, before I get to my list of the Worst Thing sin Comics in 2011, I do want to clarify why I do this list. Personally, I’m not a big fan of negativity, at all. I try to live a positive life and would much rather celebrate the good things. But sometimes it does help to take a moment and reflect on the bad things, the things that aren’t working, purely with the hopes that they may get better some day.  So the intent of this piece isn’t to whine or gripe, but purely from a good place with the hopes to make things better.

So without further ado, I present to you my list of the Worst Things in Comics in 2011.

5. The Covers to the Ultimate Books

What would a Worst list be without SOME level of nitpicky complaining? Heh. But in all seriousness, Marvel Comics did a good thing this year with their third relaunch of the Ultimates line. Bringing in Jonathan Hickman to helm The Ultimates added a layer of strength and awesomeness to what Brian Michael Bendis was already doing with Ultimate Spider-Man, and the addition of Nick Spencer promised some youthful energy on Ultimate X-Men.  It seemed like it was primed to be one of the best things of 2011. But then we saw the covers. I’m STILL scratching my head over these.  Painted by Kaare Andrews, who I’ve been a fan of previously, these covers have been cold, lifeless and without any connection to the actual stories within the books, other than highlighting a specific character. Most recently, The Ultimates #5 featured Spider-Girl on the cover, and she was in the issue for 2 pages.  The Ultimate line has always suffered from not so great covers, and I do truly believe that covers are important to a book in both selling the book and as a part of the story over all.  Unfortunately The Ultimate line disappointed greatly in this category.

4. Marvel Comics: The House Is Running Out of Ideas

It really does pain me to include Marvel Comics as a whole on my worst list. It really does. You see, Marvel Comics is what got me into comics in the first place and the word “Marvel” holds a special place in my heart. But everyday I have to come to work and put my emotions and bias aside and approach things objectively and this is one of those times, because if you look at 2011, it was not a good year for Marvel. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, you RAVED about the X-Men books in your best of column…” And I did. They’re fantastic, one of the true bright points at Marvel right now. And there are other good things at Marvel, like Amazing Spider-Man & Venom, Fantastic Four and other things here and there. But they’re just glimmers in what’s been a down year when you look at everything. And what is everything? Let me break it down:

- Fear Itself – I know that Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen and the entire team worked their butts off on this to keep it on schedule, but now that we’re a few months past the ending, it’s finally okay to admit that it was a failure. The story got too big and unwieldily and it became difficult to carry any weight. There were some great moments, but the major events, like Bucky “dying” and Thor “dying” were recieved with total indifference by the reading audience. I mean, the days Bucky and Thor “died”, NO ONE was talking about it. At my comic shop, Twitter, here on iFanboy, it just was collectively ignored. And maybe rightfully so, because not a month after the end of Fear Itself, they hit the reset buttons with those point one issues, destroying any weight or value to those stories.

- The Architects – What an embarrassing debacle this has been. I understand what their intent was, to highlight the main guys who are putting together the stories that we’ll read and love. But what it ended up doing was alienating the rest of the creators at Marvel, creating animosity towards the Architects themselves, while giving us way too much fodder for humor with a photoshoot that was part boy band and part…well, creepy. I’m a big fan of many of the writers highlighted, and it’s good to see Marvel promoting their talent. I just wish it was a bit classier, like Image Comics’ recently launched ad campaign.

- Digital Comics Pricing – While we should be celebrating that Marvel, after a year of testing and experimenting with digital comics, will be joining the ranks of same day as print releases, along with doing innovative things like offering download codes with print copies. It’s all a bit moot when Marvel continues to be the most expensive comics on the digital market. Other publishers have adopted the cover price for 30 days, then drop the price model with great acceptance. Why can’t Marvel?

- Editorial Vs. Sales/Marketing – Now I understand that Sales and Marketing is an important aspect of any business, but the thing that made Marvel the top publisher in 2000s was the focus on the stories. Top writers and top artists telling great stories. But as the years have progressed, and it was most notable in 2011, it felt like departments within Marvel other than Editorial were driving things. The need for events, character deaths and double shipping of titles became rampant.  When a title like Alpha Flight gets announced as a mini, and then they make a big announcement that it’s now an ongoing, only to then cancel the book a month later, it makes you wonder just what exactly is going on over there. Given that aside from the few bright spots I mentioned above, I think it’s safe to say that the entire publishing line has suffered quality wise, which eventually (if not already) will affect sales.

Life is full of cycles and ebb and flow, and the comics industry is no different. Marvel was up for a very long time, after a period of being down rather dramatically. So it makes sense that they would dip down eventually. I’m sure they will work there way back to the top eventually, but given the recent trends, I’m not sure when. I also understand it’s been a tough year for Marvel, there have been layoffs and other organizational changes, and lord knows running a successful business is hard. Many assume that just because Disney bought them, it would be smooth sailing, but clearly that’s not the case. I’m extremely sympathetic to their situation, with many friends and colleagues employed there, and as I mentioned, I’m a fan of Marvel, so of course I want to see them off this list come 2012, but I’m not quite sure Avengers Vs. X-Men will be the answer.

3. DC Comics, Sexism & Gender in Comics

I think everyone can agree that one of the negative byproducts of the DC Comics The New 52 Relaunch was the reaction to books like Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws and the question of sexism in comics.  Personally, I stayed pretty quiet on the topic as it was developing, partially out of my desire to remain positive and also because others were making the points far better than I can. I’m not going to condemn any books that were published this year for being sexist here, rather I just wanted to lament the fact that this is an issue at all.  I struggle to find the words to adequately express the need for equality across gender, race and whatever other types there are. Positive role models are important and while the comics industry has some great shining examples of steps in the right direction, the bad here always outweighs the good.  But this issue goes beyond sexism as well as there’s a darker side to the question of gender in comics and I see trends and opinions developing that to be honest, upset me.  Lines are being drawn between men and women and I don’t like that. Josh discussed this in an excellent column a few weeks back and it’s not an easy subject to broach. I know that my position as a white, middle class male makes it easy for me to comment, as there’s a certain amount of societal privilege that comes with that, whether I want it or not.  But the combination of the approach towards gender and conversely a lot of the flag waving and cheering around gender that I see within the comics community feels is starting to feel uncomfortable. I think it’s awesome that women read comics. I think it’s awesome that women work in the comics industry. I have two nieces that I provide comics to because comics are a fun medium for them to enjoy stories in. I don’t give them comics to read because they are girls and we need more girls. I think it’s awesome that men read comics and some work in the industry as well. Now, I know this is a complicated issue and I may be over-simplifying a lot of it and much more could be said, but ultimately as someone who supports gender equality, I’d hate to see it go too far and become something that works against everyone involved.

2. We’re All Watching…Negativity & Embarrassing Behavior

One of the topics I praised in my post yesterday about the Best Things in Comics in 2011 was the positivity and enthusiasm from within the comic book industry, which is further heightened by the role of social media. But with that positivity there’s a flip side, and that’s negativity and the kind of embarrassing moments that come when people forget that social media is a very public place.  It’s human nature to have disagreements, I understand that. But for years the disagreements and embarrassing moments in comics happened at cons, or at the bar in the hotel at cons, or in private. But as more and more creators and professionals flock to Twitter, those disagreements have sometimes moved there as well.  We’ve seen some of our favorite creators get pulled down in petty disagreements and public sniping and honestly, it doesn’t help anyone. I’ve yet to have a disagreement come to a meaningful resolution within the confines of 140 characters and this is the one thing I wish that many in comics industry would learn. Have a disagreement or a problem with someone? Take it offline. Send an email, pick up the phone. But please, stop doing it in front of all of us.

And this doesn’t stop at the comics professionals either. As a member of the comics media, there have been way too many moments this year where I’ve cringed at a statement or exchange by another member of the comics media. And the rampant trend of copy-and-paste blogging and swarming like moths to flame whenever there’s a hint of controversy or “breaking news” (which is really breaking trust) doesn’t help anyone. Page views are important to us all, but not at the cost of others, at least in my opinion. I’m not saying iFanboy is innocent either, but we strive to be the best that we can be, and I’ll be damn sure that in 2012 we continue to.

1. Facing Facts – Sales Are Dropping

As great as 2011 was for the comics industry in both quality and sales (with a big surge thanks to DC Comics The New 52 Relaunch), if you take an honest look at the trends and data, it’s hard to ignore the truth.  And that truth is that the audience and market for comic books is getting smaller ever year. There are upticks and trends like the DC Comics surge, Image Comics and IDW doing well and things like that, but ultimately, in the big picture, the numbers are going down.  It’s tougher than ever to own and operate a comic book store and while we all see Digital Comics as the great hope, it’s still way early in the game.  I don’t see a point where comics aren’t present in this world, but we have to face facts that things are pretty rough. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a comic book publisher, much less an independent comic book publisher, these days.  We tend to focus on positive things and promoting books that are good because we want to see all the publishers and all the comics stick around.  We get upset when books we like get canceled because we like them.  Every book that I no longer read due to a cancellation from low sales is one less book that I find enjoyment from on a monthly basis and that’s sad.  The less times that happens, the better.

We’re doing our part here at iFanboy to help, but that’s not enough. It requires you, the reader, to help. If you want to continue to enjoy your comics, you’ve got to do your part too.  Pre-Order your comics with your local comic book store. Vote with your dollars. Tell your friends about the comics you like.  Go to conventions. Don’t pirate comics.  These are things we need to do and if I ask one thing of the iFanbase in 2012, is that you continue the great enthusiasm you have for comics and help us continue to celebrate these wonderful funny books.


And that sums up my Worst of 2011.  Thanks for indulging me and here’s to a great 2012!

 

Comments

  1. Tomb says:

    I wonder how Allie Brosh would draw the “over-simplifying alot”-monster.

  2. That was the most positive and constructive “worst of list” i’ve ever read..quite an accomplishment i’d say. You really make some great points and insightful “audits” of whats going on within comics. I really hope the industry and fanbase takes some time to reflect on these things and figure out a way to improve themselves a bit. Everyone could use a bit of self reflection and improvement once in a while.

    • Smasher says:

      I concur. Fair play all the way, Ron.

      With regard to Item #1 – I think publishers can do more to interact with their readers. As evidenced here the comic book reading community is a bonafide social network. It would be interesting if in 2012 publishers gave readers – particularly ones who are actively engaged a community like iFanboy, who write reviews, and make comments – acknowledgement and reward.

      For example if you’re reading a comic book digitally and you’ve written a review about the issue, the publisher sends you a coupon so that your friend (or twitter follower) can purchase that issue for a discounted price. How neat would that be?

      As readers we are the best sales force for promoting comics publishers have (and can afford). Our loyalty is insane. If a publisher can figure out how to harness our fandom and in turn sell more books… whoa.

    • yeah that’s a really great idea. I mean social engagement on that level is really tough to pull off especially when you have corporate parents, but something on that level of really bringing the customer into a direct relationship with the publisher (instead of blaming them for all their business woes) could be really great way to foster loyalty and so on.

      however, i’m very sure that the publishers and creators are actively lurking, reading our opinions and getting a feel for what the buzz is around books. I’ve worked for a traditional book publisher that tasked its marketing department interns to do that stuff and create reports based on their findings.

    • Smasher says:

      Yeah, I don’t know how strict Disney and WB are with their respective funny paper children but you’re probably right.

      Tasking interns to lurk is one thing but engagement is another. Take the cons for instance. The editor Q&A and the Preview sessions (i.e. What’s in store for the X-Men in 2013) are well-attended at the Cons but engage a sliver of the reading public. I’m not convinced sending editorial to Cons (especially if it’s on the company’s dime) is as effective a way to engage fans as them having a stronger online presence.

      Also, in general, the amount of money folks spend to go to a con is cash they aren’t spending on books.
      What’s the economics behind a comic convention anyway?

  3. wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

    They need to replace Fraction with Mark Waid in the marvel Architects boyband

    • significarta says:

      On and slightly off the topic of Fear Itself and Matt Fraction and Mark Waid. Did anyone read the Mark Waid arc on Captain America in the 1990′s called American Nightmare? as collected here
      http://www.amazon.com/Captain-America-Nightmare-Mark-Waid/dp/0785150846
      At the onset and during the marketing campaign Fear Itself seemed vaguely reminiscent of this storyline. At the end of it all I found that fear had practically zilch to do with Fraction’s Fear Itself. American Nightmare on the other hand creeped the hell out of me at the time. Very effective.

  4. Zeppo Zeppo says:

    Have to agree with Marvels entry here. I was a Marvel Zombie for years, now all I get if Ultimate Spider-man. DC might have made the odd mistake here and there but everything they’ve done has been to push forward. Folded by Marvel making one nothing announcement after another. X-men vs. Avengers as an idea does nothing for me. It’s a real shame. Where as DC seem to be getting indie creators and giving them the keys to the kingdom, Marvel seem happy with their ‘architects’. It just made me feel like Marvel had no respect for the books I was enjoying…obvisouly they didnt they cancelled them.

  5. LucasEwalt says:

    I’m with you on the “Marvel Architects” thing. My immediate reaction to that was, “So… I don’t need to read anything by anyone else…?” As if anyone else who works at Marvel got a memo that said, “Well, you can continue to work here, but you won’t be building/shaping/designing the Marvel universe in any way, shape, or form.” Plus, it doesn’t help that I actively hate a full 20% of those guys (hint: he wrote another one of the worst things in the Marvel Universe mentioned on this list.) Full disclosure though: I do absolutely love 40% of them, and another 40% of them are pretty hit or miss for me (hint: one of them looks like a very creepy child molester in his Architect photo.)

    Numbers 1 and 2 are sort of ongoing problems, and nothing really new in my mind. Number 5 isn’t really relevant to me since I haven’t read anything “Ultimate” since “Ultimatum.” And I haven’t allowed myself to form an opinion on #3 because I’m also a middle class white male, and anything I think or say or do regarding that is almost certainly going to be wrong. (That sounds sort of bitter, but it’s really not. I just really don’t want to get into any arguments where I can’t possibly put myself in another person’s perspective.)

    • Zeppo Zeppo says:

      Your math intrigues me, as I think I agree with your %. Telling me a guy whose work I don’t care for is behind the future of story telling at the company sent me the other way.

    • bansidhewail bansidhewail says:

      Yep. I flat-out refuse to read one Architect because he wrote a scene that upset me so much I thought, “Never mind, can’t trust this guy not to traumatize me in a frigging 616 book!” (If it had been a MAX title, or Vertigo, or Icon, or whatever, I’d see it as caveat emptor, but dude, it was a regular old Wolverine book.) Another Architect I used to really love…but I think he’s overextended, because all of his characters just kind of sound the same now. They all sound…like him. Another I think is a fine enough writer but not truly that exciting or compelling. And the final two I regard as “slow-burn” writers, whose stories will turn out to be great ultimately, but whose single-issue storytelling skills are somewhat lacking…in other words, if I read them at all, it’s in trades.

      So no Architects on my pull list whatsoever. Well, except Ultimate Spider-Man.

    • LucasEwalt says:

      Well, now I want to know who you guys are talking about. Fraction is the one I hate – mostly because whenever I read a scene he wrote, it feels like he did it while saying to himself, “This is going to change the motherfucking world. God damn, I am a clever bastard.” I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with his name on it that I can describe as “fun.” Hickman and Aaron are the ones I currently love, but to be fair, they’re both fairly new to me and I haven’t read a LOT of their stuff yet. (bansidhewail’s comment has me very worried about Aaron…) And Bendis and Brubaker are very hit or miss. I think they both hit grand slams with Ultimate Spider-Man and Captain America, but I just haven’t really been on board with anything else they’ve done.

  6. Blargo Blargo says:

    That picture of Bendis….yikes.

  7. The Architects thing was…weird. I mean yes, those guys are definitely some of the greatest writers currently in the industry, but the whole “Follow these guys to read the stories that REALLY matter” vibe that the Architects announcement gave off was a bit off-putting. It plays up to the fans who solely judge comics based on if they “matter” or not, which is a trope that I wish disappeared off the face of the Earth.

  8. MisterShaw MisterShaw says:

    I am anxiously awaiting Marvel Architects hit single.

  9. Bluestreak says:

    SO Marvel is running out of ideas but ifanboy variously likes:

    Uncanny
    X-Force
    Wolverine and the X-Men
    Thunderbolts
    Daredevil
    Ultimates
    Ultimate SpiderMan
    FF
    Fantastic Four
    Spideman
    Avenging SpiderMan
    Wolverine
    Venom
    Secret Avengers
    Hulk

    Variously X-Factor, Avengers Academy, Punisher, Captain America and Bucky get a lot of good press.
    I hardly think Marvel only has good stuff coming out “here and there”

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      I am currently reading 4 Marvel titles.

    • g0ofgnewt g0ofgnewt says:

      Psst…Spider-man not Spiderman

    • wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

      they should make a comic about a guy named John Spiderman who gets constantly hassled by people who thinks he’s spider-man

    • Neeks Neeks says:

      The back and forth with those two big companies and how many titles your reading from both will keep changing constantly anyways and each would have in people opinions their down periods in terms of quality comics.

      Look at Dc prior to the relaunch for example, i for one just getting back into comics a couple of months before was reading no DC titles and now am reading more DC then Marvel thanks to the New 52 and quality of comics coming out and in a few months with upcoming Marvel titles im starting to enjoy that will probably change again. Just the natural order of things

    • ctrosejr ctrosejr says:

      Two comments. First, there is a high percentage of the books you listed being written by only a handful of creators. Of the 19 books you mentioned, 4 writers make up 58% of your list. (Hickman: FF, F4, Ultimates; Remender: X-Force, Venom, Punisher, Secret Avengers; Aaron: Wolverine, Wolverine and X-Men; Parker: Thunderbolts, Hulk.) While it is no surprise that Ron, Conor and Josh are currently enjoying books by authors they tend to enjoy anyway, I think they are enjoying the books you listed mainly because the writers in question are talented, not because of they particularly like the characters, nor because Marvel is doing anything particular to draw them in.

      Second, Marvel publishes A LOT of books each month. In November, Marvel published 90 comics (not adjusted for double-shipping titles). For the iFanboys to only like ~20% of the entire line is pretty bad, actually.

    • Neeks Neeks says:

      As of right now to my surprise the number of titles i have on my pull list which arent going anywhere or im not just grabbing an issue or two of just to try are 6. Including :

      Punisher Max (which is ending in 2 issues)
      Wolverine (Which ill probably drop after Jason Aaron finishes his last arc)
      Wolverine and the X-Men
      Daredevil
      Amazing SpiderMan
      Uncanny X-Force

    • Neeks Neeks says:

      ^^ Thats of Marvel titles of course

    • Bluestreak says:

      @ ctrosejr – apply the same logic to DC – take out Johns, Morrison, Snyder and Lemiere and it gets pretty thin.
      @Josh – that’s fine Josh but I think most people would agree that the list i presented are generally well regarded books. Not everyone likes all of them (i’m not a fan of X-Factor for instance) but not many people would regard them as dreck. All I’m saying is that that indicates to me that saying that Marvel is “out of ideas” is a bit a rough

    • Neb Neb says:

      If you look at the number of titles that Marvel puts out overall vs. what you listed here, you’ll find that this is a small percentage of their overall line of comics. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong here, but in a given month, I think DC puts out 60-65 books while Marvel will publish over 100.

  10. Lovedrop Lovedrop says:

    I don’t rate Matt Fraction at all. Got the Invincible Iron Man omnibus and I didn’t get doo reall till the last 5 issues. Fear Itself was supposed to be his coronation and he completely blew it. Will always be a second tier writer in my opinion. I think Bendis needs to go somewhere and hit refresh, Marvel completely coddles him and lets him do what he wants. He’s become stale and has been spread to thin. I think Brubaker needs to helm another big character and maybe let someone else take over Captain America.

    • Lovedrop Lovedrop says:

      doo reall? meant really good. sorry

    • kmob181 kmob181 says:

      A big seconded on Fraction. Although I think calling him second tier is generous. His run on Uncanny was downright embarrassing.

    • Fraction’s a pro, through and through. Yeah, Fear Itself and Uncanny X-Men were pretty big failures, but when you look at series like The Order, Casanova, Immortal Iron Fist and Iron Man, it puts everything into a much more realistic perspective. FI and UXM were just duds that seemed bigger due to the length of the run (UXM) or the high pedestal the series was placed onto (FI).

    • Lovedrop Lovedrop says:

      Iron Fist- the concept was developed with Brubaker so you can’t say that was an out and out win. Admittedly I haven’t read The Order or Casanova so can’t comment. Iron Man should be a fantastic book, instead it is just mediocre as best. Art can be ok, but the stories suck. Picked up the last issue on a whim because the Mandarin was on the cover and I have been waiting a long time for the modern reinvention of that character, and the issue just completely sucked.

    • kmob181 kmob181 says:

      I will give Casanova a try one day. Iron Man didn’t do anything for me though. But I was probably unduly harsh on him. I recognize that different people like different styles of writing and he just isn’t for me. As I said though I will try Casanova at some point but I don’t see myself buying any more of his Marvel stuff.

    • nbcabaniss nbcabaniss says:

      @lovedrop brubaker’s said in quite a few interviews (several of his wordballoons), that after the first few issues on iron fist, fraction was pretty much running the show. you can tell this as well by reading the issues, which read much more like a fraction comic than a brubaker one.

    • Neb Neb says:

      The Order was a great comic book! It was such a bummer when they canceled it.

      Those folks that want to try Casanova should be warned that it WILDLY different than anything else on the shelves. I enjoy it for its inherent out of bounds storytelling and wacky ideas, but I know from experience that it is a specific taste thing.

  11. zombox zombox says:

    Good article and thoughtful. Still down not agree with the cries of sexism on a grand scale. Every female can’t been a positive and reinforcing role model. Those would been some damn boring stories if every female was a magnificent princess. Also, not very true to the spirit of exploring humanity and our vast repetoire of experiences through fiction.Your characters need flaws, problems and quirks. One of the most common complaints your hear from Superman haters is some variation of him being too perfect. Immaculate heroes are dull and make for uninteresting stories. There are plenty of movies and novels about women (and men) of relatively disreputable circumstance and not one complains about that. Why are comics not allowed to have salacious moments when they are prevalent in every other form of media? So long as it isn’t every book or even particularly common (and it isn’t) I see no problem.

    • bansidhewail bansidhewail says:

      I am so with you on this! I don’t want to see female characters treated with some sort of bullshit kid gloves, held up to some different standard than the male characters and forced to act only in ways that a certain type of feminist considers to be positive female role model behavior. It’s so paternalistic and moral majority, really. Some readers might *wish* women weren’t sexually confident or aggressive, but that doesn’t mean it’s an “unrealistic” portrayal, and it certainly doesn’t make it offensive to all women!

    • rocknrolla says:

      I also agree. Why not let writers and artists tell the stories they want to tell? Why are people so thought police? It’s art it doesn’t have to be “realistic” if it does’nt want to

  12. Maty. Maty. says:

    I agree on those awful Ultimates covers. They look like lightswitch plate covers.

  13. harwellpkg harwellpkg says:

    I actually have enjoyed the covers to the Ultimate line, to each their own! As for sexism in comics, every comic is different and if you are not a fan of a book because it is too sexist then don’t buy it!

    • Mincer Ray says:

      Except the “don’t like it, don’t buy it” kind of market-based solutions do not work when there is a collective action problem, as there is here. Given the tendency to race to the bottom, any solution will come from an industry-wide effort,

      Dr. J. Maggio

  14. nmoline says:

    “Don’t Pirate Comics.” It isn’t necessarily that simple. Pirating comics is not always 100% bad for the industry; for example:

    A person can’t afford to buy all the comics he desires at $2.99 per comic so he decides to pirate them. As he was never going to buy the comic in the first place the industry has not lost any money. If he just stopped pirating them he would not give any additional money to the industry. Furthermore, it is likely he might not discover a new artist or a new story that he found worthy of any extra dollars he earns in the future.

    Second, pirating keeps him interested in the comic universe and may make him more likely to buy a movie ticket to see Green Lantern 2.

    Simply “Don’t Pirate Comics” doesn’t solve the problem. You should state “don’t pirate comics that you could afford to purchase.”

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      Whatever makes you feel better, dude.

    • MattKelly MattKelly says:

      I think simply “don’t pirate comics” solves A LOT of problems, actually. If pirating didn’t exist, then the people who were desperate enough for the content would simply FIND A WAY to buy them! Or, they’d patronize their local library!

      Several years ago my wife and I bought a house, so we had to start cutting corners. She couldn’t get her nails done and I said “good bye” to comics. After a while we both decided that this arrangement sucked, so we got part time jobs to help pay off our still looming school loans AND to have some extra money to use on the things we liked.

      Piracy is for the lazy who don’t want to contribute to society. I’m not being harsh, that’s simply the fact! And I know I fit into that category once upon a time. But we all have to grow up and get responsible, you know?

    • It’s kind of sad when nmonline’s pro-piracy argument is the number 1 crutch argument used to try and prove why piracy is good. The argument can be shut down by the second sentence:

      “A person can’t afford to buy all the comics he desires at $2.99 per comic so he decides to pirate them. As he was never going to buy the comic in the first place the industry has not lost any money.”

      Right. And the proper parties aren’t being compensated for you reading their product. That right there invalidates everything. If the company isn’t putting it up for free, then it wasn’t meant to be free. People can say all they want about “discovering a new artist or a new story that he found worthy of any extra dollars he earns in the future”, but that can be done in MANY other legal ways. Go to a bookstore, go to a library, read reviews. Don’t act like piracy is the only way to discover new material.

    • Let’s try something here…

      A person can’t afford to buy THE CAR he desires at $23,999 so he decides to STEAL IT. As he was never going to buy THE CAR in the first place the industry has not lost any money. If he just stopped STEALING CARS he would not give any additional money to the industry BY BUYING GAS. Furthermore, it is likely he might not DRIVE TO PLACES that he found worthy of any extra dollars he earns in the future.

      Second, STEALING THE CAR keeps him interested in DRIVING and may make him more likely to buy a MOPED to GET TO WORK EVERY DAY.

      Hmmm…. Seems like the same points being made, but sounds a lot like theft, right? Like, you wouldn’t be surprised in the least if you got arrested and put in jail for years for doing it, correct?

      S’funny.

    • Blargo Blargo says:

      “A person can’t afford to buy THE CAR he desires at $23,999 so he decides to STEAL IT.”

      Improper analogy. Pirates never steal physical copies of the comics they pirate.

    • lifesend lifesend says:

      @comicBOOKchris It’s not true that creators are not being compensated for pirated comics. They are, by the person who bought the comic and scanned it. They’re being compensated just as much as when a comic is borrowed from a friend.

    • The ratio of a friend lending a book to someone GREATLY dwarfs the ratio of a guy uploading a comic online for the entire fricken world to download.

    • while there have been some legitimate case studies and anecdotes that show artists and comic creators using things like bit torrent to “pirate” their own work to create buzz and gain exposure for themselves with varying results…some even being incredibly positive, i don’t think its ok to use those types of one time marketing gimmicks as justification for across the board piracy.

    • mark. mark. says:

      @ blargo – actually, it’s an improper analogy because pirates don’t use cars. they use boats.

    • Lovedrop Lovedrop says:

      I only pirate stuff that isn’t in print for some reason e.g Marvelman & The Who is Scorpio? arc of Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D

    • Exactly. Rap artists nowadays usually put out free mixtapes online to build buzz around their music, but just the mixtape.

    • Blargo Blargo says:

      @mark.

      Doh ho ho. :P

    • CAM CAM says:

      Artists deserve payment for the art that they create. Consider your average artist takes about a day to pencil a page, some go faster, but that’s pretty standard. The Walking Dead is currently at issue #88. 22 pages a book, let’s do the math, that’s 1936 days of work. 5+ years. That’s JUST the artist, not the writer, not the inker. You claim to enjoy the book, why not value the time/effort and creativity of the person who created it?

      From Ifanboy:

      http://ifanboy.com/articles/colleen-doran-on-piracy/

      And I’m just going to leave this here:
      “If the owners or creators don’t want the books to be downloaded digitally, and you bit torrent the book, that is stealing. There is no other word for it. It doesn’t matter if you think that they are stupid for not digitally distributing their work. That isn’t your choice to make. I get why people do it. Comics are expensive. Times are tight. It is still stealing.” – Tom Katers

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      @nmoline:

      Just to adding emphasis to the chorus, but — as someone who used to use your exact argument to justify pirating comics….it’s total bullshit.

      While there may have been a period of time where I truly could not afford to buy any comics, I used that excuse for FAR longer than it was valid (if it ever was in the first place) to satisfy my brain that downloading was okay.

      I’m doing my best to atone by buying trades of the things I enjoyed, and maintaining a healthy pull list at my LCS.

      I recommend you do the same. You’ll feel better about yourself.

      I mean, I suppose if you have both the foresight AND follow through to commit to buying everything you’ve downloaded at a point in time when you CAN afford it, then hey, knock yourself out.

    • edward says:

      nmoline’s point is totally valid, pirating comics in the way he describes would lead to more comics sales. However, I doubt if the reality of matches that. It would take a very strong willed person to not fall for the temptation of free comics available now.

      Pirating sucks and I would never do it, I just wish the experience of shopping at my LCBS, the price and quality of some comics didn’t make it so appealing

    • Mincer Ray says:

      I like the physical comics, so I don’t even read that many legally on things like Graphicly. So pirating is not my thing. That being said, you can call me a silly liberal, but I do not see the problem pirating Marvel and Comics (generally), as opposed to, say, Reed Gunther or indie comics.

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      The only way to fight piracy is to make the legitimate goods more convenient and appealing than the pirated one. When the pirated good is easier to find and/or use and/or has better quality than the legitimate product then the industry is doing it wrong. I’m looking at you draconian DRM on some videogames, download movies with no subtitles, DVDs with unskippable anti-piracy ads, etc. When they are doing it right they are usually compensated. Good music sellers (even iTunes) and videogame sellers (e.g Steam) have proven successful. eBooks are such a delight to read on e-ink display that they are making paperbacks obsolete. 1.99 for digital one month-old comics is reasonable (even if I think 2 or 3 years old and older titles should be even cheaper) and as the reading experience will improve I believe Digital Comics may have a bright future if the industry don’t screw it up.

    • @Bluestreak — Now apply yourself in that situation. In your job for example where let’s just say your the only one working hard and everybody else is lazy riding your coat tails. How would you feel then?

    • nmoline says:

      @filippod Is correct. While I personally do not Pirate comics instead I barely read any currently; the industry needs a digital solution. Individual issues would need to be $.99 or why not try an all you can read subscription approach Ala Netflix.

      I’d be amazed if the amount of revenue from either of those situations did not outpace the current revenue; and furthermore the .99 price point would reintroduce so many more casual readers.

      One more issue I forgot to mention, what other medium can one be entertained for only 15 minutes for $4? Movies are $10 for 2 hours or about $1.25 every 15 minutes. Music assuming you listened to an album once a $10 album of 70 minutes would be under $2.50 for 15 minutes; but music has replay value. Comic books are overpriced period.

    • @nmoline–i’m with you. the more i’ve been thinking about it the more i think some sort of netflix style subscription plan might do wonders. Have different price points or packages with one low subscription fee…story arcs, titles, mins, events, genre’s or an entire catalog. i’ve watched so many movies and shows on netflix and on demand that i would have never considered because it was “free” with my subscription. Make money off the access, not necessarily the ala cart items. The current business model and strategies just aren’t that sustainable anymore…

    • Limitless Limitless says:

      I’ve said it before, so I figured I’d say it again…

      Downloading pirated comics, along with finding iFanboy’s POTW Podcast, is what got me back into comics. I heard about all these great comics, downloaded some of them, read the first few issues of them, and realized how much fun I was missing. To this day, for comics that arent as easy for me to get my hands on, I still download them to see if I like them.

      However, if I like them, I buy them. I don’t know about anyone else, but there is some serious loss in my comic enjoyment when reading comics on my computer. I want to hold them in my hands. To me, it makes all the difference.

      Having those free comics out there was the gateway drug to a 200+ dollar a month addiction I nurse to this day, so some good does come from them.

    • MrSethypants MrSethypants says:

      This is so screwed up. PIRATING IS WRONG!

    • the current price point is for collectors looking for a return on their investment and not for any casual reader who wants to read batman or spiderman between movie releases

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      @SomeCreepyDude: I’m with you that comics are too expensive to appeal to the casual reader who gets curious about comics after seeing a movie, but I think anyone buying modern comics as a collectible long-term investment item is severely deluded. Between collected editions and the growing digital library, the secondary market for single issues has got to be smaller than ever.

  15. kmob181 kmob181 says:

    Am I alone in really disliking the reduction of comics to 20 pages?

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      No.

    • significarta says:

      2 pages missing is actually 10 percent of the story gone. The new length feels awkward and disbalanced any which way. It is 2 pages of character development missing or dispensed with in an plot driven title, or two pages of action missing in a character driven one. And plus I feel cheated. Paying more than twice the cover price for each title down here.

    • And at $3.99 per issue(Marvel): you can’t get a better deal!

    • edward says:

      I love it. Even less pages at a higher price, I said

    • Mincer Ray says:

      It makes total sense to decrease the value of a product as less and less people are buying it.

    • BronxRonin BronxRonin says:

      no…

    • Blargo Blargo says:

      I say we charge $1 per page.

    • BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

      I just wish writer’s would pack more story into those 20 pages – everything being stretched out feels even thinner when you take away a couple of pages. There are some books packed with story (I’m not talking about George Perez’s Superman), but a lot of books (especially a lot of the new 52) are taking way too long to get to the point.

    • kmob181 kmob181 says:

      Vertigo books have really suffered from this. I can’t begin to count the number of rushed/awkward endings or panel layouts since the reduction – especially in Fables. There have literally been issues where I have to look to make sure I didn’t miss a page because the transition was so awkward. But the weirdest thing is that whereas DC announced their reduction, I don’t seem to recall Marvel ever saying anything. Just one day I counted one of my Marvel books at random and noticed there were only 20 pages. Am I wrong on this or did Marvel just make the change quietly? Have all the Indie publishers stuck with 22 or are some of them on 20 as well?

      Ron’s points are all good ones but this really is my number one thing. I will continue to advocate [to anyone who will listen] for an industry-wide rate of $3.50 for 22 pages.

    • RobotZombie RobotZombie says:

      @BCDX97 I agree completely. I feel like I went from getting a complete story per issue to getting a story segement between commercial breaks. I don’t mind long form stories but each issue needs to advance the storyline.

    • muddi900 says:

      2 pages out of 22 is a 9% reduction #helpfulInternetGuy

    • MrSethypants MrSethypants says:

      At least DC was upfront and promised to keep prices at 2.99 if there are only 20 pages but allowed 3.99 with extra content. Overall, DC has been giving me value for money books with their 3.99 comics, marvel OTOH………….

    • Mr.Enigma Mr.Enigma (@EJsingley) says:

      $3.99 for 20 pages is annoying. I started buying trades/HC of some of the marvel titles that I read because of this.

  16. icn1983 icn1983 says:

    I’ve been thinking about the sexism in comics issue a lot and I have to say that overall, I have to 100% agree that the even the best depictions of superheroines in mainstream comics are often sexualized if not highly sexist. As for the arguments that guys wear skin tight outfits as well, it’s still different because those costumes don’t show as much skin.

    I think if you really want to get to the heart of the issue, look at popular contemporary sci-fi or fantasy programs. “Battlestar Galactica,” “Lost,” and even “Game of Thrones” all feature characters who wear clothes that seem logical and practical, with the exception obviously of Caprica Six, although by being the only scantily clad woman most of the time in the BSG universe, that made her stand out that much more.

    See, in all of those shows, when characters go to work (i.e. fight, fly starships, raid a castle), they put on their work clothes, and when they go to play (i.e. cue the disco music), they put on their play clothes or their birthday suits.

    Less than a decade or two ago, sci-fi and fantasy was overrun by “Xena” and “Hercules” clones and bad “Star Trek” rip offs that were filled to the brim with medieval wonderbras and alien species with risque native dress. Not so much anymore. Notice how televised sci-fi and fantasy is way more respected now as opposed to then, being discussed in “Entertainment Weekly” and NPR as opposed to “The Anti-Gravity Room” and “Hero Illustrated.”

    I guess my point is that if we want comic books to reach a wider audience or at the very least keep up with the other competing and arguably superior mediums (movies, video games, tv), then yes, comics have to become more sophisticated and yes, characters like Starfire and Ms. Marvel will have put on some pants before they clock in. However, what they do on their own time is between them and God (and probably the reader as well).

    • zombox zombox says:

      I don’t believe the amount of skin particularly matters. The two complaints I see most commonly are that the characters should only present positive role models for women and that the physical portrayal creates an unattainable image. The masculine image is no more attainable, and if your believe men aren’t psychologically or emotionally affected by unachievable body goals I have dozens of steroid junkies to introduce you to. As to the positive role model conundrum, I am not interested in reading a public service annoucement. I want conflict, drama and interesting stuff to happen. Sex and relationship issues are a great tool for those things. I suppose the bottom line for me is that I want to been entertained and I down not seek role models in my fiction, only interesting things to see feel and experience.

    • har13quin har13quin says:

      @ Zombox I don’t know how our experience of this debate is different, but I rarely hear people demanding positive female role models. There already are plenty of, dare I say, superheroic female characters in comics. The issue as I see it is, why do many female characters have to be dressed at best for the pool and at worst like a stripper, while they are doing their superheroics? It is, in essence a double standard which undermines any positive characterisation and repels many readers, potential or otherwise.

      In the realm of pure character the recent furore over the likes of starfire and catwoman abound less because of their attire, which is a big issue with Starfire particularly, and more becuase their characterisation and depiction (positioning within the image, body style and so forth) is at odds with what we might call heroic, laudable behaviour and even simply normal behaviour. Portraying Starfire as little more than a personality void sex bot does *might* introduce drama or conflict. But what little potential there is in that depiction is overshadowed by how it plays up to the worst stereotypes of male comic book readers. The very stereotype which most damages the medium as a whole.

      Anyway, you or I saying we don’t have a problem with it, does not stop there being a problem. Ultimately there are plenty of people who find this issue distressing, who are we to say their point of view is less valid than ours? Especially in the context of a seemingly dying industry, we should be making the greatest possible strides to fix any problems, percieved or real.

    • zombox zombox says:

      I value every opinion, I just feel as though this is deeply reactionary thinking. Some women are vacuous, some of those women are highly sexual. Those kinds of women exist and there could been fun stories in how they go about doing good deeds. There may been good stories in her redeeming herself to a more contemporary sense of ethics. It may been that help alien culture is kind of sexy and there are fun stories in her conflict there. She’s always been one of them more sexualized characters in comics. That said, I cannot speak to that book as I have not read it. All I am saying is that one should not look for role models in fiction. Look for them in your really life. Characters are archetypes intended to entertained, educate and amuse… That means they will sometimes down things we find odd, vulgar or annoying. Its all to try and make and interesting story.

  17. i do hope the creators reflect on how they portray women in comics. It seems to be that on a character design level, male characters feel like they are modeled after athletes, while the female characters are designed more after porn stars or given costumes that completely objectify them. I get its about exaggerated physiques and catering to a mostly, young single male audience, but i don’t think there is a need for some introspection. I think this is where the lack of more female creators working on A-list books is really hurting the industry.

  18. bansidhewail bansidhewail says:

    Totally agreed on Marvel’s inclusion in this list. Over the last two years, I went from about 50/50 DC/Marvel as far as my Big Two pulls to more like 80/20 by the end of 2011. The Architects thing left a bad taste in my mouth and seemed pretty lacking in class, honestly. Marvel has a few of my favorite writers on contract, and they have been there a lot longer than some of the recent hires who were named as Architects. I still love Avengers Academy, X-Factor, and both Ultimate & Amazing Spider-Man, but other than those, I just scan the Marvel list for new titles by Christos Gage, Fred Van Lente, Peter David, or Nick Spencer. I don’t feel that I am missing anything by not following characters, storylines, events, etc, the way I used to (and the way I still do with certain DC character families).

  19. jman4201 says:

    Nice column and one I largely agree with. I used to only buy one Batman book from DC and the rest of my comics were either Marvel or a couple of Image titles. I’m now buying the DC 52 thru digital means and am loving it. I’ve really dug getting into characters I’ve not always known about but never really followed.

    As to the sexism and the dwindling customer base. I sure wish there were a few more comics I was inclined to let my 10 year old daughters try out. I know one of them really loves to read but some of the images of female is just not something I think my 10 year old daughter needs to look at. Maybe I’m being a prude maybe I’m not. I will say that after sampling the new Supergirl comic I think I’m gonna let my daughters check it out and see how they like it.

  20. mark. mark. says:

    an open question here, if anyone has the numbers handy….

    we know the dwindling comic market is not new. it seems like it parallels the declining numbers we’re seeing in the respective music and prose book worlds (e.g., every single record store in chicago except for reckless closing, borders going out of business). so, it’s becoming a niche market.

    my question is, does anyone know the amount spent on comics in 2010/2011 (say, books, trades, and digital download) relative to the amount spent on music (albums and digital downloads) for the same time period? not that a growing market isn’t ideal… but, by comparison, it seems like the music industry has reached this bizarre state of equilibrium where, if it ain’t dying, it’s at least treading water based on a small but devoted bunch of collectors… and i wonder if a similar thing can happen to comics.

    second, an observation and a thought… if new fans really aren’t coming into comics, and the market is dwindling, then doesn’t that mean a significant problem for comics is that it’s **losing** current readers? (like, didn’t tom katers quit this year?) ron, this really drives home your points about the worst things of comics in 2011 and kinda implies that there are some things that might actively be pushing current readers away (double-shipping, shitty retreads of story lines, pick your poison). not being alarmist, just saying is all…

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      Losing current readers is normal, most people change tastes and/or outgrow their interests. The real problem is when you are losing old readers faster than you are getting new ones. Superhero comics (which I personally still love, despite all odds) have probably become the most expensive and less accessible form of entertainment around. Other genres might have a chance if properly promoted. Give a look at Amazon’s best sellers list in comics for further puzzlement: http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Comics-Graphic-Novels/zgbs/books/4366/

  21. stevetwo stevetwo says:

    On the mention of declining sales. You reminded me of “dying comic art”, specifically those old paperback compilation books of newspaper strips like Peanuts, B.C., Beetle Bailey, and other really old strips. I devoured these little paperbacks when I was a kid, and when the first Garfields were published in nicely bound books with high-quality paper, I bought those up too. Expanded my collection to include Dilbert and the Far Side. These oversized compilations killed the little supermarket paperbacks, and, it seems that only a few newspaper strip titles are still being compiled and published. I’ll not include the hardback collectible editions of Peanuts, Dick Tracy, Family Circus, etc. as I believe that particular audience may not be interested in the current paperbound titles and vice versa. There are successful titles on the Barnes & Noble bookshelves to be sure, but THEY seem to shrink in number too. I know because I used to be one of those readers who perused those shelves on every trip to the bookstore. I’m intrigued to find out the numbers those particular books sell now. Man, comic art – all of it – needs a real boost. And not just another Spiderman movie.

    I feel like I’m at a local stage production of ‘Peter Pan’ and someone is telling me to clap if I believe in comic books. “Clap if you believe, and comics will come back to life!”

    • mark. mark. says:

      totally. newspaper strips haven’t been my thing for a while, but they’re just as legitimate an art form. i defy anyone to argue that the average calvin and hobbes or far side strip isn’t an example of great storytelling.

  22. BronxRonin BronxRonin says:

    I wish you all a great New year…and continued success! I found that the “Marvel Architects” was so corny and found myself distancing away from marvel from that first viewing of the add. Initially the crop of marvel writers were some of the folks that were actual fans working it…after that i was like really?As a result for me i totally found myself reading and buying less and less marvel comics.Currently two books uncanny and children’s crusade and when i get my discount ultimate spider-man. Maybe i over reacted but it totally turned me off to marvel…and maybe the cost of their books as well. Call it bitching about the price but its hard to justify 4 dollars for certain creators…i know they have to get paid according to their profiles but times are hard all around.

  23. Grey56 Grey56 says:

    Wonderful article, appreciate the candor and obvious emotional investment. Glad to see so many of the community sounding off in an intelligent and passionate manner as well. Makes me feel good to see that after so many years of our industry living in small alcoves that we have finally found venues whereupon to more openly share dialogue and passion for this past-time. And although of course these little grottos aren’t new, they are new to me.
    A small thought in the dark though in relationship to the notion that the industry/sales are slumping by market perspective; what would the sales numbers look like from the late 70′s/80′s or even that of the mid 90′s ? As I recall, Marvel itself filed for Chapter 11. This is not meant to be snarky rhetoric. My point is more to calm the waters by saying; this too shall pass. Change is a constant, sales numbers are not – however they can be cyclical. Support your local shop, but try not to worry too much.

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      Marvel numbers are lower now than they were in bankruptcy time. Mid tier books today would have been canceled in the mid late 90s showing the numbers they’re getting today.

  24. sphinx69 sphinx69 says:

    Good Stuff Ron

  25. j206 j206 says:

    Bravo, Ron. If only all of us were able to state our criticisms with the same positive/hopeful tone. Very impressive. I tip my cap to you.

  26. Bendrix Bendrix says:

    Marvel did an Architects ad like the one with the writers with artists, too. It included Mark Bagley, who, to my knowledge did not one Marvel book since then. Weird.

  27. JoseRivera83 JoseRivera83 says:

    I read this article and it made me think about how I see Marvel. I’m a die hard DC guy, but I like to look in and see what Marvel is doing. Many years I’ve tried to dip my toes in the waters of what the competition has to offer. Secret Invasion had me hooked until the disappointing ending. Marvel Noir was one of my favorite things but it fizzled out.

    Every year I try to see if Marvel offers something that will bring in someone like me and keep me hooked. This year didn’t offer much. I’d hear of some good titles like Uncanny X-Force but I just never got pulled in.

    The “Architects” thing is unfortunate. It makes the other writers and everyone on staff must feel like shit. I know they are amazing writers–I hear the work Aaron has done on Wolverine is incredible–but this seemed more like selling people on marquee value, which in turn must make the guys who bust their humps feel like crap. I know it wasn’t the intent but that must have backfired on Marvel horribly.

    It is my sincere hope in 2012 that Marvel has one or more titles that will hook me and have me coming back for more every month. I believe there’s room for a little of every company within the die hard comics fan. Yes, we all draw our line in the sand and say “I’m with THEM!” but there’s got to be something said for competition.

    So, impress me in 2012, Marvel!

  28. Thank you so much for saying ‘The Architects’ idea was TERRIBLE. An insult to any writer who isn’t on that list I can’t believe no one complained from anyone else who worked for the company.

    I would go further on the negativity comments but I pretty much stated my claims in the last article. Great article though Ron.

  29. I’m a Marvelite and when I first started reading comics two years ago I only read Marvel books for months. Then later I grew tired of only enjoying the Spider-Man books. I then started reading DC comics, but only a few because I heard of the relaunch and the less characters I knew the better. Now my pull list mostly consists of DC titles and I want to give more of my money to Marvel, which sounds stupid cause their just comics, but with some of the books I’m reading either being unentertaining or cancelled, I’m gonna miss X-23, Marvel is making it harder for me to do that. But Marvel is starting to pull me into more X-Men books which could reignite my love for the company.

  30. mguy77 mguy77 says:

    From Marvel, I’m reading just FF, FF (2.0) & Daredevil. The $3.99 ban is still in effect for this comic fan.

    Matthew

  31. serabird serabird says:

    This is a great column. Except now I’m back in a: COMICS ARE IN A DEATH SPIRAL mentality… Ennui ensues.

  32. Ali Colluccio Ali Colluccio (@WonderAli) says:

    Gender has been a very big topic in the comics community this year. I’ll admit it’s frustrated that these issues sometimes get in the way of what we’re all here to do: enjoy comics. It’s disheartening to see that “flag waving and cheering around gender” are being listed as equally part of the problem. We’re all striving for gender equality. But we are sadly not there yet. That’s why projects like Womanthology and GeekGirlCon that work to spotlight and celebrate women in the comics community are invaluable and very important. And it’s not just about gaining and keeping female comic readers. It’s about treating people with respect and acknowledging that these women are every bit as valuable to the community as their male counterparts. And saying that a women is welcome in the community so long as she doesn’t cheer around her gender is just as sexist as saying she can’t be part of the community because she’s a girl.

  33. LucasEwalt says:

    Josh or Ron (or even Conor) – how many Marvel books are you currently reading that are by the MARVEL ARCHITECTS, and how many are by worthless, no talent has-beens/hacks/punks like Waid, Rucka, Remender, Gillen, etc.?

    • serabird serabird says:

      I think that’s besides the point. No one’s arguing that the “architects” are not important writers. However, when you promote a group of writers as the IMPORTANT people in your company who are “shaping your universe” you automatically make your universe smaller. If Marvel has around 50 titles coming out a month, should you only read the architect ones? On the flip side, it makes the whole company look worse when the architects fail. Fear Itself failed, and while Wolverine and the X-Men is an amazing book, I found Schism to be overhyped, a bit of a mess, and fundamentally a let-down after the importance they gave it. But the fundamental flaw of the “architect” movement, in my opinion, is that every single one of those writers’ books sell. Neither Bendis’s, Aaron’s, Hickman’s, Fraction’s, nor Brubaker’s books need reminding that they are important, generally good, books that are worth reading. They have the highest sales. They’re the hottest in the company, if not the industry, so why do they need the extra ad space? From the podcasts, I’ve been lead to be believe Remender is Ron’s current God. And I know for myself that Gillen’s doing amazing things on JIM. All of which will go unnoticed because Marvel isn’t advertising them properly and far too reminding people to buy books that already sell.

      Also, has-beens/hacks/punks is extraordinarily rude, which I’m sure is what you meant, but not a way to prove your point. It makes you look low, petty, and short-sighted.

    • Ron Richards Ron Richards (@ronxo) says:

      I read the majority of what Marvel publishes, so yes, I read alot of books by the Architects. I never said I didn’t read them or that I didn’t want to. In fact I even clarified that I’m a very big fan of them – more than half of them in fact.

      That said, I have a feeling that the various awards such as Eisners and Harveys along with immense sales and critical acclaim would argue your description of the other writers you mentioned.

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      I think that LucasEwalt was being sarcastic as Daredevil, Punisher, Uncanny X-Force and Journey Into Mistery are arguably Marvel’s best books.

    • Josh Flanagan Josh Flanagan (@jaflanagan) says:

      I read DD, Thunderbolts, Venom, and Ultimate Spider-Man. Sometimes I’ll try some others, but that’s it for regular books at the moment, I think.

    • LucasEwalt says:

      I was being very sarcastic. Daredevil, Punisher, Uncanny X-Force, and Journey into Mystery are my favorite Marvel books at the moment. It was more a comment on wondering why those guys aren’t included as architects of the Marvel Universe. Sorry, I thought everyone would get that immediately since those books/writers are amazingly awesome.

  34. Limitless Limitless says:

    Agree with the take on Marvel. Until the release of Flashpoint, I had absolutely no interest in DC whatsoever. I was strictly Marvel. But now, the list of Marvel books I buy is about 1/3 of the amount of DC I buy. Daredevil, Avengeing and Amazing Spider-Man, Hulk, Uncanny X-Men and X-Force, Wolverine and Wolverine and the X-Men, Captain America & Bucky and Thunderbolts are, essentially, the only “sure thing” Marvel books I buy. 10 books a month, which I’ll just round up to 12 a month. Thats three issues a week, give or take. I buy anywhere from 12-18 comics a week.

    I know its just my personal purchasing habits, but that is a helluva poor ratio, and as a long time Marvel fan, it bothers me, but I’m not going to buy what I dont enjoy.

  35. heroesnhunks says:

    You forgot the return of Rob Liefeld.

  36. Neb Neb says:

    Can we add the Ed McGuiness covers for Captain America and Bucky to #5? I like McGuiness, but man, his art on those covers totally did not match the tone or feel of that book at all.

  37. MrSethypants MrSethypants says:

    Usually I’ll be the first person to argue when it comes down to DC, but I appreciate Ron’s effort in making this worst list, positive and constructive. One thing to point out is that what people fail to realise is that positive role models comes both ways for men and women. If people want starfire to be a positive role model, then likewise roy and jason needs to fall in that category. But face it, they are all outlaws, they’re not positive role models, they’re screwed up individuals just like you and i, but that makes them all the more humane.

    I do urge for Gender Equality, but I’ll say that many of the comments that were pissed at starfire or catwoman and called them ‘sluts’ are totally uncalled for and they’re not at all facilitating the movement on Gender Equality, but further opressing women.

    • har13quin har13quin says:

      @MrSethypants I agree with your first point, however I take issue with equating the starfire/catwoman with female opression. These are characters written by men for men, as opposed to real people. That is where the issue lies, if these characters were real people then we could at least respect their choice to act the way they do, if not their actual actions. Unfortunately these characters are made up and as such each writer has a responsibility to his or her audience when portraying them.

  38. TinCanGoat TinCanGoat says:

    Ron, your list is spot-on. The comments on Marvel are exactly what I feel.

    I’d like to mention that any time Marvel polybags an issue, I cringe. All collectors know that it’s a chance to open a polybagged issue, and having Marvel polybag everything they think is important is just ridiculous. Especially a recent issue of Uncanny X-Force.

    I agree with the “running out of ideas”. I’m tired of the clone story line with Spider-Man. I could write a hundred Spidey tales and none of them contain a clone.

    Thanks for the list.

  39. chop360 chop360 says:

    Its funny to me how people like to bash Marvel for doing something when DC is doing the same thing. Marvel has 3.99 and 2.99 books so does DC. Marvel has good books and bad books so does DC. At the end of the day we read comics for our enjoyment, I tend to read more Marvel than DC, but i enjoy reading comic books from both companies.

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      In the November top 300 charts DC has 85 titles, 5 of which are 3.99 (0.7%) Marvel has 90, 48 of which are 3.99 (53%). I still read more Marvel than anything else because I love the characters but the 3.99 price tag really bugs me. I buy approx. 20 Marvel monthlies and 50% are 3.99 but I always have to think twice and close my nose before I add a new 3.99 title to my pull list.

  40. stevetwo stevetwo says:

    You can complain about it all you want, but the price of comics WILL NEVER GO DOWN. Never. Print or digital. Period. Accept it. Only a limited time special now and then, a fluke book (love the Vertigo $1 first issue deals and the cheap Untold Tales of Spiderman), or there’s a fundamental change in every industry to make permanant price reductions as a way to attract consumers.

    Many digital music downloads are up to $1.29 from .99. Magazines, newspapers, movies, books, certain foods – let’s not even get into the price of cereal… those companies have overpriced their product 400% for decades and haven’t come down – all rising. True, once music or DVDs which have been out for some time wind up on the bargain shelves of iTunes and Target, but comics are a different kind of product/medium. If you accept a “month-later” digital price of $1 less than the day and date price as a good thing, that’s fine. But there are sacrifices involved. Do you want to wait? Most readers don’t, that’s one reason why publishers don’t feel the need to address pricing.

    It’s a lousy deal, yes, but so is $5 for a box of Frosted Flakes, and that’s gone by the end of the week. On the other hand, we buy our national grocery chain’s brand of Honey Nut Cheerios over the official stuff. $3 cheaper. The product is virtually the same in ingredients and taste. How does this apply to comics? I don’t know. I just lost my train of thought. There may be a point where I don’t buy a title because it’s too expensive, but I doubt that’s coming any time soon. Why? Value. As long as the product is good for me in value (price vs. content), I’m going for it.

    As for losing readers, I’m surprised by Josh’s stats that Marvel is selling less now than during the bankruptcy period. Still, I’d like to put on rose-colored glasses and believe people will come back – IF THE VALUE IS THERE.

    But it won’t be because of price, that’s for sure.

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      I’m confident that Marvel will review their digital pricing, eventually. It’s confusing and makes little sense. Back issues which enter the digital stores after their publication date are priced 1.99, while comics that are published digitally same day as print never went down in price so far. There are titles published in September 2011 which are still 3.99 (e.g. Captain America, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, etc). DC and Image’s policy of dropping down 1$ on one-month old titles seems a winning idea to me.

  41. Smasher says:

    I have less of a problem with $3.99 comics and more of a problem with back issues who’s prices became artificially inflated after they sold out, or featured a new character or creative team.

    Removing the collectablity, I think, is one of the best things about digital comics. Paying less for a back issue helps the industry far more than hurt it.

    • Smasher says:

      …back issues whose…

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      Another advantage of digital comics is that you can buy just what you actually have time to read, one second before reading it. No need to stockpile because of advance orders.

    • stevetwo stevetwo says:

      Smasher: You’re right that buying a book digitally removes one facet of collectibility. Collectibility has been on its way out for years, a lot due to reprints and trades. So this brings up a good question: With this new technology, is there now ANY collectibility (high demand) for comics, and how does this answer affect how collectors and the general public perceive comics?

      Pre digital, when many older titles turned to gold by popular authors or artists (and word of mouth), like John Byrne’s Iron Fist, Claremont’s X-Men, and McFarlane’s Amazing, you couldn’t find them because they were collectors items and there weren’t reprints, digital, etc. Now, if I missed Scott Snyder’s first issue of Detective Comics in the shop, I could buy it digitally. IF I wanted it digitally. Does that make the physical copy any more valuable? Does anyone care?

      Just throwing this out.

    • Smasher says:

      Collectors will keep collecting because that’s what they do. I think the general public continues to harbor the stereotype of the comic book fan as a collector. And that stereotype dissuades people because they think in order to become a reader you also have to become a collector.

    • KenOchalek KenOchalek says:

      @Smasher: YES! One of the things that has made me excited for digital comics is the fact that it FINALLY creates a business model that downplays “collecting comics” in favor of “reading comics”.

      Tradition and habit has me still buying bags and boards for my physical issues, but I cringe a little every time I resupply. Despite my joy at the availability of digital comics, I’m primarily a print buyer because of my LCS’ member discount. But if digital every becomes a better deal, I’m all in.

  42. flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

    Great picks, Ron. It’s hard to argue with any of them.

    “the combination of the approach towards gender and conversely a lot of the flag waving and cheering around gender that I see within the comics community feels is starting to feel uncomfortable.”

    Yeah. Amen. On the one hand, it’s not not to want more diversity in comics by any and all means. On the other hand, there is now a quite annoying contingency of fans who seem to demand any and all changes just for a the sake of having another gay character. It becomes tedious and inexplicable to read online rants demanding the DC make Jason Todd gay just for the sake of making him gay. On the other hand, DC seems so tonedeaf about sex and gender that there’s really no defending them. And when people say that the recent stuff with Catwoman and Starfire doesn’t bother them at all in any way, I have to scratch my head and wonder how some of these guys ever got wives.

    And, lastly, yes, Marvel has been pretty annoying and obnoxious this year. They’ve just been…so smarmy or something, patting themselves on the back every chance they get. A good example is the hoopla over the “Architects”. I actually like all of those writers (though Bendis has left me cold lately), but to see them in those poses? And to see Marvel make such a big deal out of them at a time when most of them had subpar years, and when Marvel itself had a subpar year? It seems like a lot of hype and nonsense. Just get back to telling good stories on a monthly (not bi-weekly!) basis, Marvel! Stop spreading your talent too thin and creating overhyped advertisements for every little aspect of your publishing format!

    • flapjaxx flapjaxx says:

      Typo: “it’s not not to want more diversity in comics by any and all means” –> I meant “it’s HARD not to want more diversity in comics by any and all means”

  43. Smasher says:

    Just curious…

    If Disney/Marvel put together a promotion that every person who purchased a ticket to see Avengers opening weekend would also receive a coupon to download a free issue of the Avengers, which issue would you pick?

    Would you assign that issue its original number, re-number it, or call it by its story title (ex. Avengers #7 is entitled “I AM AN AVENGER!”)?

    Would you choose a self-contained story or part of arc? And if you chose the latter would you sell the next (or previous issue) for cover price?

    Would the issue have ads and if you could choose the ads which would you choose?

    Finally. Would you be upset that it’s an issue you already read or would you be encouraged by what the publisher is trying to do?

  44. Toshimoko29 Toshimoko29 says:

    Wow, how many hot-button issues can we fit in one comments section? You have a great list, Ron. Very constructive but still definitely criticism; I can see your love for the industry in all your articles, this one even more than most.

    Gender equality: Women don’t have to be moral at all, but it bothers me when we are pandered to. That picture of Starfire above is a fantastic example. Saying this is how you want comics is like saying you think more movies should be like Showgirls. I don’t have a problem with sexuality in general, but treating every reader like a horny young guy is just not helping attract new readers.

    20-22 pages: I’ve said before and I’ll say again; number of pages wouldn’t even cross our minds if the content was even half of what it should be. By that, I mean that I want more words, I want less splash pages, and I want more things happening in every single comic that I buy. Why am I buying 6 comics to get a story that should fit in 2?

    Downloading: is stealing. Duh.

    Digital comics: I have to think that as comics move forward a Netflix-styled system will end up being the most profitable and the most convenient for people. I think there will always be physical copies for those of us that love them, though. I wonder if digital comics become more prevalent than physical ones, will we start seeing more enhanced versions (like the Watchmen motion comics) becoming the norm?

    Dropping readership: To the industry, I say this; Change the format of a comic to fit the story in it (traditional, manga, original graphic novel, etc.). Put comics back in drug stores, grocery stores, etc. Stop treating comics like collectibles (#1 Collector’s Issue, etc.), make people want to share them, not horde them. Make comics that fit more people, instead of fitting more people to comics.

    • I’ll say this on the female sexuality issue: its always been a tough call in comics. I think the radical reworking of starfire is a pretty dramatic and misguided turn, but even Wonder Woman in her early incarnations was supposed to push the whole female sexuality angle into the mainstream in a somewhat controversial way. I definitly think Catwoman and Starfire’s interpretations in the new 52 have been more influenced by male pornographic fantasies and the marketing to a certain pathetic audience in that, but it is a little bit of a hard call on how to take this. I think the real issue here is actually that those incarnations were more influenced by how to market those characters as opposed to how Wonder Woman was used when she first arrived on the scene: she was supposed to challenge societies view on women and push it into a more progressive and equal view with men. The problem has been that these characters have been turned into properties for creating money as opposed to expressing values for social change. Its a risk to try and market the female characters in that way, but its a risk that needs to be taken if we are going to be getting well written female characters that will succeed on the sales front. DC needs to get on the ball and fix this fast.

  45. Urthona Urthona says:

    My college daughter, an anime and art fan who I think fits the mold of new target fans, only knows one thing about the New 52,…”that people really hate it because it is so sexist”. I wouldn’t underestimate how much the Starfire issue (and, btw, my daughter was a fan of the Teen Titans animated series where Starfire is treated 180 degrees the opposite so it seems shocking to her) negatively has affected attracting new fans in 2011. The Starfire issue was only one of a myriad of related issues that seemed to coalesce as anti-women in the new 52, from creators to book starring women seeming to all take a hit during the relaunch.

    FWIW, I’m a fan of Voodoo and Bomb Queen and definitely understand what Toshimoko29 above is saying too.

  46. Personally, I think 40% of those bad things listed are a croc. Sexism at DC is definitly indisputable, and a lot of the creators being accused of it I have a hard time taking seriously anyway. (I REALLY loathe Judd Winick). Sales are dropping for sure, and its very bothersome and disconcerting, but we are also in a recession and their are plenty of guys and girls out there who probably aren’t buying because they lack the money. Doesn’t meant he fans should give up prosyletizing though. We definitly need to be out there spreading the good news of comics as a medium for finely crafted entertainment.

    That all being said I don’t get what the uproar is about with the Marvel architects. I just assumed that they gave five guys creative control of the direction of Marvel’s properties, instead of Quesada being the sole progenitor of a lot of the ideas at the company. That doesn’t mean that Pak, Slott, Liu, and Ellis etc. are being marginalized. But if your going to keep things cohesive at the company, you can’t have thirty people running in all different directions and expect it all to work out cohesively. And personally speaking, with a few exceptions, I’d say that is probably one of the best talent pools I’ve seen for writers as your big guns. I’m personally loving what a lot of those guys are doing with their respective books. Particularly Matt Fraction, whose books I will buy without a seconds hesitation if his name is on it. His Uncanny X-men run at the moment is my favorite run on that book EVER. Now I get that everyone isn’t going to see eye to eye with me on this and people have a right to their opinion, but stop acting like your opinion is absolute truth on these matters. A lot of the guys you go around trashing are some of my favorite writers, and they are probably given the respect they get because people are voting with their wallets. You can dislike them and refuse to read their books, but I like them and will continue to buy what they put out, particularly Fraction. And If you don’t like what they are selling, stop buying it. Personally though, with the exceptions of Morrison, Lemire, and Snyder, I’d say that the architects are the best in the business currently. And if their books continue selling well, then face the fact that maybe your opinion on their talents is in the minority and grow up.

    Sorry if I became a little frustrated, but I get sick of what I sometimes hear coming out expressed as the majority of fans opinions about certain creators. Particularly when to me they seem the most brilliant and cutting edge talents in the business.

  47. And One last thing.I really dug Fear Itself once I sat down and read it all in one sitting. Coming out month to month it didn’t hold up well, but in trade format it was one of my favorite books of the year.

  48. I was thinking about dipping sales in comics the other day and I thought of something: TPBs are more and more designed to ignore the singles they came from. What I mean is that many series don’t put volume #s on the trades (Superman/Batman, for example) in an attempt to imply that you don’t need to read them in order, and trades often now don’t include any kind of editorial stuff (letters, “Next Month: blah blah” captions, etc.). There’s nothing in trades that say “pick up the ongoing series at your local comic shop every month!” It just seems as if they deny the existence of the singles that make up the collections.

    I was a Trades reader for a very long time before I made the wonderful jump to Wednesday weekly comic book collecting, and I think a big part of it was that I didn’t understand how it all worked, and didn’t get how stories were collected. Trades are definitely a gateway comic for non-comics readers since they seem a little more “respectable,” can be found in more stores, and can be put on a bookshelf. Wouldn’t that be the ideal place to advertise and draw in more monthly readers?