The iFanboy Letter Column – 05.04.2012

Hello friend, I’m Tobias Fünke, the world’s first analrapist!

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means it’s that I blue myself, and take a banger in the mouth. For others, it means going down to the Queen Mary for some good times with the ladies. For others still, it’s about never ever ever ever ever never going completely nude. Ever.

For the guys who run iFanboy, Friday is letter column time.

You write. They answer. Very simple.


As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of iFanboy’s shows or answered here, in the letter’s column keep them coming to

I was wondering if you have ever read a comic where you disliked the art so much you weren’t willing to give the story a chance?

Having really enjoyed all of IDW’s Star Trek issues and being a big Doctor Who fan I decided to give their Doctor Who series a try with issue 15. I opened the first page saw the art and just said ”No thanks.”

Callum from Selby, North Yorkshire, England, UK

These days in comics it seems like writers get most of the attention but comic books are still a visual medium and as such there is no one more important to a comic book than the art team. And as much as I am reading comics just to enjoy a good story, if I can’t on some level connect with the art then I can’t enjoy the comic.

I can think of two high profile examples off the top of my head where the art kept me from enjoying the story. Both involve Batman. I know, you’re surprised.

The first is when Philip Tan took over for Frank Quitely on Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin series. Quitely is one of my favorite artists and Tan is one of my least favorite artists. That personally jarring transition on my favorite book at the time made me completely overlook the story in that second arc. I remember not liking that arc at all when I first read it because of how much I disliked the art. Many months later when I reread the arc in the hardcover collection I tried my best to overlook the art and focus on the story and found that behind that art was a pretty terrific story.

When Frank Miller returned to his medium shaking classic to write and draw The Dark Knight Strikes Again, no one was more excited than I was. I had read and reread The Dark Knight Returns multiple times a year since the late 1980s. But when the book came out, not only was Frank Miller drawing in his new style, but he was inking himself (no Klaus Jansen), and Lynn Varley was experimenting with the then nascent process of digital coloring. The result was a book that I found both unpleasing to the eye (from the garish coloring) and far too visually divorced from the established look of the universe (the new art style). I just couldn’t enjoy it. It didn’t feel like that world that I loved so much. I bought all the issues but I don’t think I read them that closely. I’ve been told by people I trust that the story is actually really good but I’ll probably never know.

The funny thing about art is that it’s so personal. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash. And it’s also visceral on a way that writing isn’t. You don’t look at a word balloon and instantly feel a gut reaction like you do with a panel of art. So for me it’s easier to overlook bad writing if I really connect with the art because the story can be told just through the art if the art team is doing their job. But if I can’t connect with the art, at least on some level, then chances are I just cannot connect with the comic book.

Conor Kilpatrick

Hey guys, remember Longbox? Comics were going to be $0.99 and creators would still be making good money? I remember quotes from such iFanboy favorites as Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie that said they could make an actual living with that price point. Now here we are with our iPads and digital comics stores which all seem to be based on ComiXology and digital comics are the same as the print cover price while only losing a dollar after a month even if at all. Not to mention no discount for collections or even the existence of collections for books that have print collections released.

Before this becomes more of a rant than it already is (too late) what happened to the dream of digital comics? They don’t have near as much overhead and raw material cost that print comics have, yet they cost as much. Where is the value proposition to the consumer, and “taking up less space” wears thin pretty quick. This isn’t the way to bring in new readers who weren’t going to go to comic shops and can buy a game in they digi-device for easily less than a cost of a single comic and they will probably get longer enjoyment out of it.

David from Minneapolis, Minnesota

Before we get into what we don’t have, let’s take a look at where we are and what we do have. Most comics today are available digitally at the same time they’re released in stores. If you had asked me a year ago if we’d be there, I’d have said no way.

Now why aren’t there the things you want out of digital comics? That’s a question for the publishers, and specifically Marvel and DC. They lead the way. They prices aren’t lower for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, they can get people to pay them. It’s mostly a protection measure for the retailers. If they undercut the retailers, they either fear retaliation from retailers (which has been threatened, such as with Dark Horse Comics, and others that weren’t publicized). Further, the assessment that there’s much less overhead isn’t exactly correct. There’s overhead, and while there aren’t printing costs, every time you buy a comic from an iOS or Android app, 30% off the top goes to Apple or Google. If the comic is on a third party service, they’re going to take a cut as well. Since publishers haven’t seen massive gains in digital yet, they see no reason to have it endanger their retail/physical business. This will change when Marvel or DC decide they want it to change. It looks like DC forced Marvel’s hand on day and date, but right now, the pricing looks set for the time being. Wait around, and it gets cheaper. Publishers are the ones setting their own prices, so it’s up to them.

Do you know how all this changes? This all changes with volume. When many thousands more digital comics are sold on a regular basis, it will change. The idea of a $0.99 digital comic from Marvel and DC is a pipe dream, unless there’s a sale. The overhead of talent and production is too high to make it work, and they’ve decided that lowering the price will not increase the volume to make up the difference.

Listen, I get it. I had to download a comic this week that didn’t come to the shop, and paying $4 for a 20-22 page digital comic seemed silly. It also seems silly in the store when you break it down like that.

I don’t know what happened to Longbox. I suspect that the $0.99 dream wouldn’t have made it to the final product for all the reasons outlined above. It would have been just another digital comic shop, just like ComiXology is, and like Graphicly has been.

Digital comic shops are just like physical comic shops, in that they’re mostly going to attract people who already like comic books. One of the things we’re doing at Graphicly is taking the comic shop out of the equation, and making it so readers can skip that middle step and get their books from iTunes, Kindle or Nook, without having to find a specialized store, physical or otherwise. I’m biased working for Graphicly obviously, but I do think it’s the way to go, and the way to get comics in front of more eyeballs.

The thing is, this is a long journey, and it’s not even close to over. You’re not going to get the digital market you want exactly. You’re going to get the digital market that evolves as a result of all the various forces between customers and publishers. In the meantime, support the companies who make the choices you most agree with. The future isn’t here, but it’s on the way.

Josh Flanagan

I started reading comics with The New 52. I garnered up a lot of books even some Marvel. I expected reading Uncanny X-Men I would get a progression of character at the school or on utopia. I recently, inherited New Mutants Vol. 2 and I love it for the focus on school kids and teenage life, and that slow progression. I want more of that, do you guys have any suggestions? Maybe a fair priced omnibus or series of trades?

P.S. You guys should read New Mutants, Vol. 2. The first six issues are collected, you have to buy the rest online. you should do it. I’m sure Ron would like it.


I have indeed read New Mutants, Vol. 2 and agree it was a blast to read. One of the things that made the X-Men so engaging for me as a teenager when I was reading them, was that slow progression of story that Chris Claremont was using across Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, Excalibur and other titles he was writing. There was a great balance between ongoing plot lines, short story arcs and intense action, all littered with slice of life moments and it really gave you a sense of what it was like to be in those shoes.

If you enjoyed New Mutants, Vol. 2 and are looking for something like that, obviously the most recent Wolverine and the X-Men series by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo and Nick Bradshaw is the way to go. It’s a book refocused on the school aspect of the X-Men and is definitely scratching that itch for me. But if you want to find some older material that’s collected, I think New X-Men is probably the best option for you. Now, this can get a bit confusing, but I don’t mean the New X-Men that was written by Grant Morrison, rather the series that came AFTER that, New X-Men (also known as New X-Men: Academy X) was the next step beyond Morrison’s run and that volume of New Mutants you read.

Written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost with various artists including Skottie Young and Humberto Ramos, New X-Men focused on the next generation of X-Men characters learning to use their powers and the pitfalls and high points that come with it. Drowning in tension and teenage angst, I think New X-Men is one of the more underrated X-books to come out in the 2000s. Kyle and Yost did a bang up job, putting out nearly 50 issues over 4 years as they picked up the ball from Morrison and fleshed out some great characters that are present in the X-Men today like Pixie, Armor, Dust, and Rockslide.

With 46 issues that I’m pretty sure are available in trade paperback, New X-Men: Academy X is the way to go. And if you can’t track down the trades, the issues were recent enough that you could probably find them at con from a dealer if you look. Beyond New X-Men, you may want to go waaaay back in time and track down the original New Mutants run by Chris Claremont, which should be available in Marvel’s Essentials low cost black and white reprint format. Those set the standard for the kind of stories you clearly enjoy.

Ron Richards


  1. New X-Men is probably one my favorite X-Men runs of all time. While I do like Wolverine and the X-Men’s focus on the school, there still really hasn’t been an X-Book that has captured the magic again for me.

  2. Great point, David, I remember it wasn’t that long ago when, as far as I knew, Longbox was the future for digital comics. They were the first company to really talk up their plans, and I remember following Rantz Hoseley (Longbox CEO) on twitter and seeing frequent mentions of exciting meetings with major comics publishers and big news being just around the corner. Those big announcements never seemed to come through, however, while Comixology and Graphicly and others just started doing the stuff that Longbox had been endlessly talking about. I wonder if there’s a reason things fell apart for Longbox, or if their talk was just never as realistic as I’d hoped it was in the first place.

  3. Let’s not forget that the first 19 issues of New X-Men: Academy X were written by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilipis, who wrote that New Mutants series Drew read. This further underscores what Ron said in that it is a direct continuation. And between the two writing teams, that was a series of great X-Men stories.

  4. Conor (Tobias Fünke) stated, “…and take a banger in the mouth”
    Conor, you blowhard. Here in the states we say, take a sausage in the mouth.

    The Dark Knight Returns was not only an assault the eyes, but on comics in general. I did not enjoy that experience at all.

  5. Kyle and Yost didn’t start on New X-Men until the 20th of the volume, the first after the House of M crossover. Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir did the first 19 issues.I only read the first arc of DeFillips and Weir’s run, but in my opinion it is nowhere near as good as the Kyle and Yost issues I have read. Since K&Y made several cast changes and took the series in a completely different direction in their first arc, their debut issue is a good jumping on point.

    But speaking of Morrison’s New X-Men, the school stuff there is pretty great, especially the RIot at Xavier’s arc.

  6. I used to be extremely ticked and considered not buying Amazing Spider-man when they switched Todd McFarlane with a young Erik Larson in the 300’s. At the time, both artists had a somewhat similar style (to me anyway). The switch seemed like a blatant attempt to continue ASM’s success by subbing a “close but no cigar” amateur version of what was hot back then. Comics have done that from time to time. This was really bad. Eventually I grew to enjoy Larson’s art and storytelling and get over McFarlane’s poor writing. Whenever I see that jarring switch now… still disrupts the brain.

  7. “I blew it Michael”

  8. RE: Digital- I kind of find the “retailer retaliation” argument a bit silly. While you’re right about retailers potentially boycotting Dark Horse, they can AFFORD to do that. Hell, I’m sure they could even afford to boycott Image, but if both Marvel and DC (and probably even just one of them) decided to sell their digital comics cheaper, there is no way they could boycott their product. Marvel and DC are what bring the customers into the shop, they ultimately hold the power that business relationship and I really dont understand why the big two are scared of shops. Like I said, the smaller publishers have reason to be scared, they need the shops (even if some don’t bother stocking most of their books in the first place), but Marvel and DC? No way.

    I also think some of the frustration felt by fans with regard to pricing stems from the fact that we have been trained by the publishers to accept comic price increases due to the rising cost of paper. If you’ve been told for years that te price of comics have to go up because paper is so expensive and then they go ahead and get rid of paper entirely and STILL charge the same exorbanant prices, something smells fishy. I think Marvel and DC PR is extremely behind the ball on this. They need to better explain these costs and their rationale to the public instead of staying quiet on the whole subject. It just breeds animosity with their customers and I think it may be one of the reasons some people have turned to pirating comics to be honest

    • I agree with that first point. A retailer could never afford to boycott Marvel or DC. At the same time, those two companies have enough problems looking like the bad guy to the fanboys (for various reasons and various opinions) and I think they would be afraid of looking like a bully.

  9. Digital comics actually cost me slightly more than paper comics. I have to pay sales tax on the digital download but in my area I don’t have to pay sales tax on periodicals. A by-product of all the strange tax laws.

  10. Hey Drew:

    Go pick up the trade of Scott Lobdell’s Generation X. My all time favorite comic for the reasons you listed in your question.

    • Hell yes to this. Sadly, the only trade available is the Phalanx Covenant aspect of that story (an event that existed solely to promote the new upcoming series) or am I wrong and there are actually real trades of the series itself?

  11. It seems to me that Digital comics are being viewed as something supplemental to help print sales instead of unique product for a different set of customers and for a new market.

    I think the publishers are squandering a golden opportunity to reach new customers and expand their readership with $3 and $4 digital comics. Like it or not a 22 page digital comic is competing against every single 99 cent app in the store and every digital magazine and book that offers much higher value, and user experience for the price.

    • I don’t think DC or Marvel sees having $3 or $4 digital as losing sales. When DC drops their prices by a dollar after a month they still sell less books than a day-and-date book. Even the 99 cent dgital books are not getting bought as much as the full price books. Just check comixology’s site and they’ll show you the highest selling. Until that changes, DC and Marvel will take the risk of selling at the higher price.

    • ts a bit unfair and short sighted to say there is no demand for cheaper comics based solely off of random B-list characters/ series and month old stuff.

  12. I LOVED New X-men. It was probably one of my favorite books when it was coming out, and I discovered two of my personal favorite mutants in the bunch, Icarus and Elixir. A lot of fun in that book that turned surprisingly dark once Decimation hit and then it was sad seeing some of your favorite characters —


    — get killed before your eyes. Poor Wallflower :'(

    Wish those books were still in print in some sort of ultimate collection or omnibus. Highly unlikely that will ever happen though.

  13. Art: I know a guy who is a published comic artist trying to get a big break. He absolutely hates Steve Dillon art to the point that he won’t read anything he draws. I keep trying to get him to read the recently Punisher Max run, but he won’t because of the art. His loss, though, that book was freaking awesome.

    There have been times when I could not tell what was happening in the book due to the art, and I don’t like that, and it has made me think of not reading the book in question. I will sometimes read a book with good art and poor writing, but I don’t think I’ve ever dumped a book solely because of the art. I may not love art, it might not be my favorite artist, but if the story and writing is good, and I can visually tell what the hell is going on, and it’s something I find interesting, I will read it.

    Digital: I understand the pricing is to protect (or at least not bankrupt) physical comic stores. And I don’t want comic stores to go away, I LIKE comic stores, and I like paper comics. There are advantages and disadvantages to both paper and digital. But what it boils down to for me is that a digital comic is something that isn’t “real” and therefore doesn’t have the same value as a paper comic. Sure, I can read it, but I can’t hold it in my hand. I can’t print it out and make a paper copy. It just seems to be of lesser worth to me. If comics were $0.99 per issue digitally, I would probably buy most if not all my comics digitally and live with the limitations. But at the same price as a physical copy, I think not.

  14. Great questions and answers this week, especially the response from Josh on digital comics.

    Also, I do think the “rising cost of paper” was played up way too much in the past, and this is why people naturally expect digital to be so much cheaper. The thing is, paper is relatively more expensive, but it’s not THAT expensive. Think of how, in the last six months, Marvel has frequently DOUBLED retailer orders on Point One and Defenders #1 FOR FREE. Marvel just said: “Here, we printed twice as many as you ordered, at no extra cost.” And publishers (especially Marvel, again) have been giving away free preview comics for years now. I feel like once a month or so I walk into my LCS and see a whole stack of free preview comics. That wouldn’t be happening if the cost of paper was so high.

    On Dark Knight Strikes Again: I had an awful reaction to the art the first time around, and it definitely caused me to reject the story. But after going back a few years ago and trying it again, I feel that DK2 really is one of the best comics of the 2000s. Once you get past the art — actually, once you start appreciating the art on its own terms — I think everything in the book works really well. It’s the perfect art to tell the story Miller was telling, and that story actually is a lot better than it may look on first glance. I don’t think it’s as good as the original DKR, but it’s damn good. I always recommend people who hated DK2 when it came out, to go back like I did and give it another shot.

  15. On the topic of bad art or not my “cup of tea” art…I got my cringe moments : Ed Mcguiness on Superman “ungh” I realized Loeb was telling good stories whenever a guest artist(s) filled in for EM. Honestly tho, Ed was ok at times on the S title but some of those panels made me want to pull my hair out. There was a lot of weird art on the Superman books in those days also, some could easily be accepted.
    It’s weird tho, I think if your favourite character(s) gets drawn by an odd artist you will get that cringe moment because I’ve seen some bad art on other books and I like it, then again not all the time, I really like a good looking comic book…don’t get me started on that awesome looking book with that lame story…cringe….

  16. There will never be enough volume for price drop for digital comics, unless there is a massive surge in demand or they drop the current business model and switch to a whole-sale like model.

  17. If .99 cents are your price point, there are massive amounts of 99 cent comics out there. Sure you have to catch the sale, but they are there. I have about 3,000 comics in comixology, most were bought on the sales. Sure its not day and date, but there have been lots of good stuff.

    I wanted them to start doing day and date, so I bought every day and date comic they released for a while. Showing, with my purchases, that was what I wanted. We got it, and frankly I couldn’t afford, or have the time to read every new issue, so I backed off and now just buy the ones I am most interested in.

    I really like the 99 cent price point, so again I show them with my purchases and literally have bought every issue of every sale they have had for most of the past couple of months.

    I also loved the marvel infinite format as well as the DC beyond format. So I have bought every one they have released.

    If you look where we were just a year ago on digitial comics, I would not have dreamed we would have came this far this fast. This time next year things could totally change.

  18. And while I do not disagree with Josh’s statement about overhead and why comics are not cheaper… lets look at the math.
    30% to google or apple. and for arguments sake, lets say the same to the app you buy it from (even though I suspect that may be high). If someone runs a store they could give an idea what kind of a % cut the store gets on each paper sale to tighten that number up a little bit. So from a starting point 60% of the sale goes to other people. A 3.99 comic means that $1.60 is left to go to the people making the comic (company/creators/etc). $2.40 to overhead. Lets say they drop the price to 2.99 on the same comic. Does 1.40 still go to overhead leaving only .59 to the people making the comic. no. If they drop it to 2.99 then it drops to 1.20 to the people making the comic. And then the real equation, which is the key to the question… does making (hypothetically in this case) 40 cents less a comic bring in X number of more sales to offset that. And while we probably don’t even know what in what ballpark that number is… the sure way to meet is is as Josh said.. volume.

  19. Some of those arguments supporting the current pricing and state of digital don’t really ring true. Print has physical costs, distribution costs, storage, transportation, and more. Digital has essentially none, and there is no reason for large companies to rely on Comixology or Apple/Google for distribution of anything really. DRM is also a major problem, look at Graphicly and if/when Comixology gets bought or discarded by publishers, same thing (or worse) again. There is just no reason to not open up massive back catalogs in a sane manner at a low price, even sub-0.99 for collections, say packs of 25, 50, etc. for say $10, $20, etc. respectively.

    The whole current digital model is broken in comics and it is partly because of simple greed and partly due to an industry having its hand forced by music and film/tv into jumping in way before they were fully ready fearing that they would somehow miss out on this new craze. It hasn’t materialized because it was done so haphazardly. Once it matures and they have time to get it right I hope it changes significantly, otherwise I’ll stick to print forever.

  20. Art:

    After seeing Avengers I decided to renew a love for Thor by picking up Mighty Thor #13 on FCBD, but the art was confusing. So confusing, I thought that the book had been printed slightly out of order. I’ve heard great things about Fraction’s run, so I’m hoping the next issue will be more clear.