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August 04, 2004


Peli Grietzer

I tend to think the retail format is just very strange for anyone who isn't used to it as a given-

I got into comics rather late, by the standart watchmen & sandman combination (collected editions) , and I just can't bring myself to buy single issues each month. No matter how excited I am about them, I just figure I'll read the collected edition when it comes out.

Yesterday I was happy to discover a comics store around where I live, and excitedly asked if they have Sea-Guy, which they did. But then realized the issue is going be over in just about five minutes of reading. It's not even the money, just that as someone not used to the comics reading culture, a bite-size expirience each time seems to me like such a downer after waiting.


"And maybe that's why some people are getting so defensive"

Uhm, maybe i missed the point, but your own experience seems to validate millar's argument. he's saying kids who DO read comics want to read whatever the cool comics are, not the books trotted out as being good for them. it seems like your own experiences validate that point... so...?

and bendis is pointing out that the kids who don't read comics, they're going to be hard as hell to get. which everyone disagrees with and says "Bad man! BAD MAN!" but then starts talking about how the direct market has to be abandoned, so...???

i find the reaction to their comments far more interesting than the comments themselves. because it started by demonizing these guys because they're the Voice of Rape Comics or something. and then its quickly become pie-in-the-sky "they should abandon the direct market and get their comics in GROCERY STORES" nonsense.

i like chabon more than i like mark millar, and i sure liked that speech, but "hey, do kid's comics"... you know, i'm just going to guess that had occured to people before. if some guy with a higher paying higher profile day job to fall back on came up to me and told me how to do my job, i'd find it elitist too, so...

and i think maybe there's a reason kid's comics are REALLY hard to do. everyone's celebrating bone NOW, but before now, it went from being an indie darling to YEARS without anyone mentioning it at all, except to complain that it wasn't a pastoral comedy anymore... or the fact Disney makes kid's comics work as proof of... ANYTHING... disney could sell bags of flesh-eating bacteria in the millions... that's what makes them DISNEY, dammit, so...

and i don't know- i haven't liked millar since river run and that avengers preview was without question or hesitation truly godawful, i don't think either of them are really good at kid's superhero books (though i obviously have a better opinion of Bendis's non-kid stuff) but: blaming freelancers, even "exclusive" or highly successful freelancers, for the way things are macroscopically in comics...


i can't tell if they're calling that fanboy rampage "Wef 2004" in a nice way or a much meaner, much more accurate way.


"i can't tell if they're calling that fanboy rampage "Wef 2004" in a nice way or a"

whoops- i meant that Thread. not fanboy rampage in general, which is fantastic.

Dave Intermittent

You're hitting a theme I touched on before, Marc; what hooked me on comics as a kid (growing up at roughly the same time you did) were stories that gave little ten year old me access to themes not otherwise available in kid lit. Murder. Betrayal. The occasional swear. Stories that appeared to have something actually at stake (I'd lose that little bit of naivete eventually, of course). Based on my experience, and that of the other kids I read comics with, sanitizing comics is not the way to kids' wallets.

Of course, even Bronze Age style comics might be ignored today. The semi-adult content of those books was so revelatory to me partially because I had no easy access to it anywhere else; today, maybe that's not the case. I'll leave it at that. I'm even less qualified to ruminate on general cultural trends than I am on comics.


Abhay - Maybe my own experience does validate a lot of what Millar and Hitch are saying. It also validates a lot of what Chabon is saying, which is why I find Millar's snit so ridiculous - it's almost as if he's responding to what somebody told him Chabon said, not the actual speech. Chabon doesn't seem to be calling for all comics to be written for kids, and the agenda he offers is actually very close to what Hitch and Millar are advocating (if not producing) - complexity, accessibility, and excitement, not pandering.

As for Bendis, well, crying "Elitism!" to dismiss an argument is almost always bullshit; just because Chabon comes from a more respected field and carries a Pulitzer in his back pocket doesn't make him wrong. This just seems to be a group of insiders getting stung because an outsider to the field is being taken seriously. I could see getting irritated because a guy who's written all of two comic scripts is telling them what to do, but he's really just calling for an expansion of the field. He wants more Lee and Kirby and Wolfman and Perez, not Ultimate Disney or All-Ages Alias.

(And now we all pause to summon those grisly images...)

If I have any qualms about Chabon's speech it's that he naively thinks a change in production alone (i.e., a return to the comics of his youth) can conjure a kids' audience.


"it's almost as if he's responding to what somebody told him Chabon said, not the actual speech."

Ha: i think that's a given based on some of where he goes with it.

its funny that the examples of "good kid books" being thrown around are so far from what chabon was talking about. i just find the whole reaction to the reaction... de-railed.

sure, it'd make me happy if guys that big would recognize the need for more long-term thinking from publishers and retailers, and if that's what people are getting mad at, maybe that's somehow a legitimate complaint. but long-term thinking is a somewhat easier thing to call for than to do, so...

"If I have any qualms about Chabon's speech it's that he naively thinks a change in production alone (i.e., a return to the comics of his youth) can conjure a kids' audience."

Which was Bendis's point too!

it'll take some sort of marketing, first of all. manga didn't happen overnight just because they flipped directions or found the 9.99 sweet spot pricing- there was a decade of college anime clubs and midnight Akira screenings behind it. (half of the launch titles in shonen jump were based in proven, CURRENT hits from the cartoon network)...

it'll take editors losing their jobs because they'll be taking risks. it'll take freelancers getting lower page rates and royalties because they're working on less successful books (short-term, at least). publishers will have to have risky and expensive experiments with different formats (marvel's already failed on the magazine front within the last five years)... there'll be a whole new set of people to deal with- libraries, parent groups, schools-- you'll need some sort of comics code...

the payoff's probably worth it, and its too bad there's not more effort in that direction, but... i wouldn't yell at anyone who's suggesting its not going to be easy, which is what i (perhaps naively) took millar and bendis's point to be...

"As for Bendis, well, crying "Elitism!" to dismiss an argument is almost always bullshit"

I'm not accusing either Bendis or Millar of rhetorical skill, no...

but for that amount of heated discussion, shouldn't someone have been a little more WRONG???

(well to the extent that millar was suggesting "kid's just don't want comics" that's obviously disagreeable, but i felt he went beyond that, and i didn't see anyone really address millar's own experiences with all ages books, so... i'm personally not willing to reduce things down that far...)


I have to say, I've never been especially interested in "How can we save comics?" spitballing. If I worked in the industry I might have a very different stake in it, but as a scholar and a reader I just care about the finished products.

So I don't really give a damn about all the different theories and plans people have been tossing around on Millarworld and Fanboy Rampage and elsewhere. I'm interested in this discussion to the extent that Chabon's ideal formula seems to equal 60s/70s/80s comics, and that both his comments and those of his critics match up with my own experience. Screw the rescue plans; this is just a neat way of thinking about comics and their appeal.


Personally I think there is room in comics for both ways of thinking. Both the 60s/70s/80s and the newer style books. Why not do both? That way you keep the audience you have while gaining another?


I don't think anybody was saying that comics shouldn't have a variety of styles.

As far as the current audience, it seems like they only show up if a book is drawn by Jim Lee...

Robby Karol

"everyone's celebrating bone NOW, but before now, it went from being an indie darling to YEARS without anyone mentioning it at all, except to complain that it wasn't a pastoral comedy anymore..."

Actually, as regards both Bone and Disney, when I was about ten and collecting comics, I had a subscription to Disney Adventures, which usually contained a few stories on Disney's licensed characters. However, it also serialized the first issues of Bone. I don't know how well it did, but it seemed to fit well with the Disney manufactured material.

Kevin J. Maroney

And while Bone wasn't an overnight success, it didn't take that long. The turnaround was at issue #5, iirc; issue 4 was the low-point of its circulation, and then it was a fast climb to self-sufficiency, which it reached by issue 7 or so. So, maybe a year, maybe two. Much faster than Cerebus or Elfquest, though slower than TMNT.

Anthony Welborn

I think for the most part, "kids" comics are doomed for certain failure for a variety of reasons, and no self-respecting comics professional who has any memory at all of BEING a kid would ever believe such a thing would work.

Above all, kids sense sincerity, and they KNOW when they are being talked down to, and like anyone reacts when their intelligence is insulted, they resent it. They will never stomach a comic they know is being "targeted" at them. Comics like "Popeye" and other assorted cuteness (Chip & Dale, etc.) were on the newsstands when I was a kid, but I was more concerned about Spider-Man being suspended over a vat of boiling oil by the White Dragon.

I personally am against the "dumbing down" of any media in the quest for that larger fabled phantom audience. Books (whether they be comics or prose) exist best when they're not TRYING to BE anything. A good story is rock-solid, no matter who reads it. A ten or twelve year old kid may not catch all the mythical and literary references in for example, "Sandman", but that doesn't stop its power for them, it doesn't in any way hinder its ability to be a great story.

So no, dumbing down comics is not going to save the comics industry. Making better product will. The market right now is saturated with far too many look-a-like titles with no real standouts. It's been too long since anyone came along and really raised the bar. What was the last title you remember reading that you really looked forward to, and illicted a real reaction in you?

The Prankster

I'm utterly baffled as to how anyone could type ABC as being either a "Silver Age Retrospective" or "for kids".

Hello? Promethea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Top Ten? For kids? LoEG features, in Vol 2., a guy getting raped to death by Mr. Hyde. Promethea features an issue-long sex scene. Top Ten features the Justice League as a kiddie porn ring.

Even Tom Strong doesn't strike me as being for kids per se--more of an excercise in *GOLDEN* Age recreationism that isn't neccessarily kid-unfriendly.

(And yes, I realize no one directly called ABC "for kids", but it was strongly--heh heh--implied.)

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