Thursday, July 19, 2007

NOW DISCUSS :: Better Late Than Ever?


Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #3. Remember that comic? Trust me – everyone seems to, even though it hasn't come out. More than a year after it was due in stores, people still ask about it all the time. Writer Damon Lindelof hasn’t forgotten about it, either, as he said earlier this week that he’s finally turned in the script to #3 and is nearly done with #4.

Pretty quickly after this news hit the ol’ Interweb, I read some comments on the story. Let’s just say not all of them were very kind. The message behind most of them was something to the effect of “This kind of lateness is unacceptable; let’s teach Marvel a lesson by refusing to buy this book.” While I think we can certainly all agree that late books are never a good thing, I find myself falling into a different camp – the camp that wants to see how the story ends. Especially if I’ve got a year and a half’s worth of built-up curiosity. Certainly, the quality of the comic itself plays a role – I’d easily wait a year if I had to between issues of All-Star Superman. Thank heavens I don’t! And The Ultimates was good stuff, even if it took its time getting there. But other readers may not be as patient as I am – do even gold-standard books like those lose readers with their tardiness?

So, what’s more important to you readers out in Heroesonline Blogland? Finish out a story you enjoy that happens to be really late, or “stick it to the man” and skip the end? Is there a happy medium? Or does it even really matter, given the growing number of readers who “wait for the trade” these days? I’m sure anyone who picks up Spider-Man/Black Cat now isn’t too torn up by Kevin Smith’s delays at the time, for example. Enquiring minds (or maybe just mine) want to know!

56 comments:

Douglas Merkle said...

You write like someone who is conditioned to waiting for, um, stuff.
Ugh- while I want to argue with you, I can't. Now, I'm not sure why Jason still reads Sabrina The Teenage Witch considering his complaints concerning its chronic lateness, but I do understand waiting on top artists like John Cassaday or Steve McNiven and the top Hollywood guys. If a book if high quality, people will wait and come back to the book when it finally sees print. Ignoring top flight books because they are late is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. (though for Jason, that may be an improvement)

Andy Mansell said...

I believe that MAINSTREAM comics have a responsibility to publish as they say they are going to publish. If they don't they lose readers and money. To me I prefer getting one phenomenal issue of Eightball a year instead of 12 mediocre but reliable issues. that said, I think Marvel should be applauded (did I just say that?) for not firing the writer and/or editor for letting this lapse occur. It would have been easy to fill in with whomever was avaialable and finish it off, but they didn't and now interest is gaining and this title has become something of a "legend".
Remember it's only lines on paper...but what lines!, what paper!

Douglas Merkle said...

The paper really isn't that great.

Dustin Harbin said...

He's right, Andy. They really skimp on the paper.

I'm with Andy on the whole mainstream/non-mainstream thing, BUT Jason's right--it completely doesn't matter later. A new reader could care less about Spidey/Black Cat being so late years ago, because now there's a nice shiny paperback collection, and there you go. The lateness is terrible--awful!--for readers who come in every week, and are patiently waiting for the THIRD installment in nearly two years. Many of them will throw up their hands and stop reading it--for them, Lindelof being done with the third issue isn't particularly impressive.

But people like me wait--to be honest, I don't really buy any single issues, unless it's something that might never get to trade paperback. I only have two little boxes of comics, but hundreds and hundreds of TP's and hardcovers. I havne't bought a single issue of All-Star Superman, but I sure am going to buy that nifty hardcover.

I think Jason's article leads to a larger question: how much longer will the majority of comics be published in periodical form?

Douglas Merkle said...

Andy, your argument tends to pound the drum for proper solicitation, which I think is a wagon we can all hop on. Is Marvel setting the bar to high for the Hollywood writers and slower artists?

In support of Jason's argument again I offer Grant Morrison's New X-Men run as an example where fill in artists where used to get the book back on schedule. THis caused, in my opinion, a precipitious drop in quality. Can you imagine picking up your New X-men Omnibus gazing on nothing but pages and pages of Frank Quietley? I think Marvel learned their lesson here which is why we have had Civil War and Ultimates delays. I know I enjoy my Ultimate HC a lot more than I would if there where a couple issue pencilled by Joe Schmoe dropped in to give Bryan Hitch break.
DC has offered the alternative a fill of the ENTIRE creative team. Yeah, I don't buy those issues.
An aside: why does DC not put the Kubert brothers on the same book? that makes almost too much sense.

Douglas Merkle said...

in response to Dusty's question- "wait-for-trade" is, relatively speaking, a new phenomen. I believe it will take at least a generation before the waiters outnumber the weekly buyers.
As long as the superhero companies publish big crossovers, the floppies are't going anywhere.

Phil Southern said...

Are the comics so late because the artists can't seem to be motivated to draw 22 page conversations?

Phil

Douglas Merkle said...

leave it to Phil for a sobering perspective

Dustin Harbin said...

Ha! Good one, Phil. It seems like it would be easier to draw a bunch of heads talking and furrowing their eyebrows occasionally, doesn't it?

Merkle, you're wrong--I started working for Shelton in 96, when maybe 1 out of 30 books each week was a TP. I will once again bring up me telling Shelton 6 or 7 years ago that his business would be mostly trades in ten years, and he scoffed at me. Dummy! Todd can attest to the fact that Shelton is constantly complaining now about trades that we don't have, or are out of stock now--if he could afford it, he would stock every. single. trade. in print, at least the mainstream ones.

Douglas Merkle said...

that's a great story, but how am I wrong? I myself w-f-t on many books, but that does not dispove my points.

Dustin Harbin said...

Calm down, sunbeam. A generation is between 20 and 40 years. Our shop will be better than 65% tps inside of 3 or 4 years. Meet me back here and I'll show you. Recent employment trends point to me working here until I die.

Douglas Merkle said...

you only said that i'm wrong- you did not offer any true rebuttle.
My point is that it will take an entire new generation of reader that grows up buying trades before we see the floppy go away.

You get the "no-prize" for the first "calm down" comment.

Phil Southern said...

Ultimately, the grousing heard vis-a-vis late comics mostly bespeaks a continued excitement for the titles, whether it was MiracleMan (in the '80s) most of the Image line (90's) or Civil War (today). Luckily, the overall level of quality has been good, as opposed to waitng months, or years, for what could be characterized as "poo".
I didn't realize that the last issue Hawkgirl came out months ago, until someone pointed it out to me yesterday. I don't really remember any level of outcry.

Douglas Merkle said...

Phil you must have missed Wheatley dressed as Hawkgirl for his "save Hawkgirl" campaign after the last issue came out. He waore taht outfit for a month. Headpiece and all.

Todd Harlan said...

Two things:

In the past twenty years the comics industry has transitioned to a business model that views the profit from single issues sales as a financial means to publish and promote the sales of tp collections--for the big two at least, it's now all about gaining shelf space at Barnes&Nobles.

For ever new reader that comes through the door of HAHTF and embraces the notion of collecting single issues on a weekly basis, I'd estimate that there are at least three new readers that want nothing to do with what they perceive to be the culture of comic book collecting. In dealing with_new_ readers over the past four years, I have seen a growing disparity between what is percived as "graphic literature" and "comic books".

None of that bodes well for the continued financial viablity of single issues.

Dustin Harbin said...

What really bodes ill is Jason Wheatley in a Hawkgirl outfit. I've always thought of him as more of a Black Canary.

Todd Harlan said...

No, definitely not Black Canary--Jason doesn't have the legs to pull off fishnets.

Douglas Merkle said...

wasn't he Black Canary for Halloween last year?

Phil Southern said...

No, it was Black Canary the year before. Last year was Magnum, P.I., with short-shorts. I was T.C.

Douglas Merkle said...

thaaaaaaaaaaaaat's right. He had to stop shaving his chest for that one.

Jason Wheatley said...

Please, I've totally been working my legs at the gym. You only see me in jeans and baggy shorts - if you saw my gams in fishnets, it'd blow your mind.

But seriously, I also wonder how much of a role initial interest in a title plays in the "wait for the trade" argument - by that, I mean that if I'm genuinely interested in a title or project beforehand, I'm more than likely going to look for and pick up the single issues when they come out - Civil War and World War Hulk being two recent examples. Most often in those cases, I don't go back and buy the trade when it's collected - I already have the story.

On the other hand, if I first hear about a title or hear a title is good after it's already started, it's much more likely that I'll just wait and get the trade when it hits. After that, it's pretty rare for me to switch back to "singles" or "floppies" or "pamphlets," whatever you want to call them, on that title, even if I catch up to the comic - Y: The Last Man, Fables, and Invincible, for example. I like to stick with one format.

Only in rare instances have I switched over - Powers and The Walking Dead are the only title I can remember doing that with, Powers because there was a natural break when it jumped to Marvel, and Walking Dead because the first trade and the next issue came out on the same day, so it was easy to grab both. And I'm debating switching back to trades only with Powers - it just reads better that way, I think.

Daniel Von Egidy said...

When its time for the "Last Son" arc to be collected its not going to include the filler. Collections are becoming more and more viable as the way people prefer there comics. We have the manga market to thank for that. Why American publishers aren't following that business model is beyond me.

Did you know that newstand comics are $3.99 now? 4 bucks for 22 pages. Shonen Jump is like 7 or 8 and is the size of a standard trade. Nobody made a stink about that price hike because nobody buys single issues at the newsstand anymore. If you go to Borders and see a $4 pamphlet and then you go to the Graphic Novel section and see a $12 book what are you going to buy? The next time the price goes up in the Direct Market your going to hear a sound. That will be the sound of the single issue dying.

This will be the point when American publishers will finally have to think outside of the box for the first time in 15 years. They'll have to change there formats, they will have to expand the subject matter they publish. We all love superheroes but crossover events aren't going to save us. I bring up the manga point again. Readership in Japan is 6 million, Spirited Away is the highest grossing movie in Japan ever. And that's just in the country. If you compare Japan's comic industry to ours there's just wins in every way. There is no comparison.

I say look to the East for inspiration on how to sell comics but do it in a way that makes it uniquely our own.

Dustin Harbin said...

America: Love it or leave it! Jeez, Daniel!

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Phil Southern said...

Wow, it is like a transcript of work...

Dustin Harbin said...

Good Gawd! What's up with that crazy looking picture of Phil?! Whoa!

Rusty's perspicacious comments aside, I have to disagree with you, Daniel--Japanese comics are a whole other animal. For one thing, they're just as periodical as American comics--moreso, in fact--just in larger chunks. Manga are paced much faster as well. The same fight scene that might take up 8 pages in an issue of New Avengers would be 20 pages in a manga--and on average probably 2 or 3 panels per page. Manga are often printed on cheap, crummy paper, but might be 200 pages thick for a single issue.

Too, manga have penetrated far, far more deeply into mainstream Japanese culture, so many, many different genres of manga can be supported by a vast Japanese readership. not to mention the level of competition between the myriad of companies, printer, and--important distinction--distributors. We've just got the one.

Todd Harlan said...

Look to the east?

How about, first star to the right and straight on till morning . . .

or, one if by land, two if by sea . . .

or, click your heels three times and say there's no place like home . . .

Dustin Harbin said...

I heard that if you say Daniel's name three times in a row while looking into a mirror at midnight, you'll win the lottery.

Not the big lottery, but maybe ten bucks or something, I think.

Shawn Reynolds said...

real mature guys.

Dustin Harbin said...

Okay! Let's keep our discussion reasonably related to the topic--while we want everyone to be free to post, posts that are a little too far outside the normal flow of things will be deleted. We want to keep our blog open to readers of all ages, so please, let's keep it clean everybody!

Jared Moraitis said...

Remember, the longer we wait, the higher our expectations, the greater the letdown when it finally does come out. There's no way this book is going to live up to the 2 years of anticipation that will have built up by the time the thing's finally on the rack. Remember STAR WARS EPISODE ONE? Twenty years of buildup led to one MASSIVE disappointment.

I don't mind the book taking a while to complete (4 months max), but wait until the WHOLE THING is finished before soliciting the thing as a monthly or bi-monthly series!

Daniel Von Egidy said...

Phil did you take beard growing lessons from Alan Moore?

Douglas Merkle said...

I think Wheatley's dressign habits are completely on subject. He is the author of the question. We must understand the, er, man, before we can understand the question.

Shawn Reynolds said...

I did hear that he only has one shirt. But I don't want to hear more about his Black Canary costume. It will give me nightmares.

Dustin Harbin said...

I agree on the having the whole series finished before soliciting the first issue on short projects. I'm puzzled, too, because I constantly hear our guests referring to stuff they're working on now that's not scheduled for publication for a year or something.

Then again, someone like John Cassaday is pencilling and inking Astonishing--I'm not sure how perfectly on time it is, but I thought they had a good idea with the break they took after the first 12 or whatever.

Daniel Von Egidy said...

He showed me the sketches of his Zatanna costume the other day. I'll never look at top hats the same way again.

Jason Wheatley said...

When it comes to the wait/expectations vs. finished product thing, to me, that's more of something that rests with each reader. It can certainly be hard to keep anticipations and expectations low, but it's possible. I understand how and why people end up thinking that way, but length of time doesn't necessarily translate to a better final product, and it's kind of unfairly hung on creators.

Episode I's a good and bad example at the same time - it took 20 years to come out, but it's not like that entire 20 years was spent working on that movie. They didn't spend any more time on it from start to finish than most other movies. So what you had was an ordinary movie...but that a generation of people had been looking forward to (or, going by Merkle's definition, about 4 or 5 generations). Wolverine vs. Hulk is kind of the same thing...all told, the actual time of work put into the comic won't be much different from that of a normal comic...but because of the wait, it will be perceived differently. They're victims of their own success.

On the other hand, I've been working ALL YEAR on my Lady Death costume for this Halloween, and let me tell you, it will exceed ALL expectations, just you wait and see.

Chris Watson said...

I absolutely HATE chronically late comics, but on the other hand I do like to see the story finished. I'm more forgiving of mini-series being late as opposed to monthly series. There is no excuse IMO for a monthly comic to be several months late consistently (The Ultimates comes to mind). It will be a sad day for me when single issues are no more. I guess I'm just old school, but I like getting my weekly fix. I've never got into buying trades yet, but if it was my only choice then I guess I probably would.

Dustin Harbin said...

Ah, Chris--there's the beauty. For a customer like you who is shopping each week, and who looks forward to getting his books on a periodical basis, the trade is just a matter of convenience. As I type this, I can turn my head a little to the left and see my beautiful bookshelves, filled topped to bottom with delicious comics. If I'd like to read one--as a matter of fact, I think I do--I can just reach over and pull down my copy of the Casanova hardcover if I'd like to thumb through an issue. Much easier than figuring out what box it's in, hauling that box out, unbagging, etc.

There's room for both of us! Your problem is you're not spending enough money yet. We need to get you buying monthly comics AND the trades, too.

Chris Watson said...

You know Dustin, you're probably right (nice to see that I'm not the only one up late trolling the Net BTW). I'm sure it's much more convenient to just be able to reach over and pull that trade out of the bookcase instead of digging through the long boxes. I've just been buying single issues for SOOOOO long that it's hard to change. Howerver, I have purchased a few oversized hardcovers (ASM Omnibus, JLA/AVENGERS), so it's not like I haven't bought any. It's just hard for me personally to wait for the trades. I gotta have my fix weekly/monthly if you know what I mean!

Dustin Harbin said...

You'll see--you'll start with one little shelf, then a bookcase. All those omnibus's lined up in a row look mighty spiffy.

Phil Southern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Wheatley said...

I blame Todd for getting me hooked on those hardcovers. I only had a few when I started working here, but after listening to him tell me how awesome they were ALL THE TIME, I fell under his trance, and now I find myself buying more and more. Even that Lee/Ditko Spider-Man omnibus I swore I wouldn't buy because of the price. Dagnabbit, Todd!

Douglas Merkle said...

IF i hear Dusty or Todd say "I sure wish i bought that Absolute Planetary" one more time...

Cooper said...

Wow...That was all fun to read through.I am slightly confused, though. I feel that it was lacking much of the cynicism and whining of an internet thread. You all need to try harder...

Dustin Harbin said...

We talked about it, and felt that just having Phil participate in the conversation added enough cynicism by association, regardless of what he actually said. And as for whining, Jason usually takes care of that within two or three lines. So you see, Internet prerequisites met!

Phil Southern said...

You call it cynicism, I call it hard-won world-weariness...
I wish I could unsee what I done seen...

Jason Wheatley said...

I'm not whiny! I'm not, I'm not, I'm not!

d. morris said...

Phil Southern, the one man Cynicism van of Heroes Aren't Hard to Find.

Phil Southern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Southern said...

Quoting Jason:

"...I find myself falling into a different camp – the camp that wants to see how the story ends. Especially if I’ve got a year and a half’s worth of built-up curiosity."

The problem is the lack of a payoff when that late comic book arrives. For every All Star Superman, there is Infinite Crisis' muddled, rushed and revised ending; or Ultimates #13, with a fold out and a great deal of discussion about the awesome, off-panel war, that occurred in Washington, D.C. (An aside-I like the "wide screen" approach used so effectively in the first 24-odd issues of the Authority. This in not a critique of that approach).


Comics rule plot-driven, action and adventure story-telling. No one does it better. However, when asked to wait more than 30 days, it makes the weakness of the package even more obvious. Momentum in serialized fiction is important.

Phil Southern said...

And I realized I just aped what someone else said, more elagantly and succinctly...

Jason Wheatley said...

Phil, you are absolutely right about expectations and payoff. That's why I long ago mastered the art of keeping my expectations ever-low; hence my enjoyment of Vin Diesel movies and Ang Lee's Hulk.

Phil Southern said...

Elegantly...and by that, I meant he was moreso than I.

dialhforhero said...

I don't mind a wait, if the story's good. Most of the stuff I'm reading these days is trade-worthy, anyway. (Picture me, doing my best Elaine impression and telling a comic that it ain't trade-worthy. Because that's what I do -- figuratively, and much more masculine, of course.)

If I could, I'd purchase EVERYTHING in trade format. But I haven't the willpower to wait 6 months for a collection of Y the Last Man or American Virgin. See how I name-dropped there?

But those trades do look nice on my shelf, and I despise long-boxes. What am I to do?

If you folks would set up a scrap-booking table in your store, and help us bind our own singles into home-made trades, we could be BFF.

XOX,

Tim Schleining.

PS -- re: two posts down: The paper is good, dagnabbit!

Big Dog Studios said...

This might have been mentioned earlier, but 55 posts kept me from finding out...

If the story & art are top notch AND the storyline isn't pertinent to existing continuity...I'll wait. But if you have to read it to keep up with the goings on (see Bendis' Secret War) then count me out.

And I'm with you Dusty...Marvel's paper SUCKS! Just about every book seems wavy even after you bag & board it!

Brandon