Monday, July 13, 2009

WHY YOU SHOULD BE READING WEDNESDAY COMICS



by comic strip fanatic and general know-it-all Andy Mansell

My favorite memories from my childhood were the Saturday nights when my father would take me to the drug-store and we would buy the Sunday editions of all four major Chicago Newspapers. I had four, 12-page full color comic sections. It was heaven. This may be inconceivable for most of you under the age of thirty; but with the rise in classic comic strip reprints, the fondness for this great lost art is growing.

The strips were great--some adventure, some humor, some soap opera, but there were no superhero strips except perhaps the Phantom. Around the same time, I purchased a Batman 80 Page Giant for a precious quarter and lo and behold there was a reprint of a Dick Sprang style Batman Sunday page from the 40s!



My mind reeled—I sat down and drew my own fantasy Sunday Section with a full page Hourman, a full page Doctor Fate—in the style of Prince Valiant—an Aquaman vs. Sub-Mariner battle strip and a full page Fantastic Four. This was my childhood fantasy—my first “collectors” dream.

With the Sunday strips dying a slow painful death—even though we strip fanatics hold onto them for dear life—DC has decided made a bold step forward to bring my dream project to life! (They must have found the letter that I wrote to Julius Schwartz back in 1970!)

Thus Wednesday Comics was born—and you must read it for several reasons:

1. You will get to experience the joy our parents and grandparents felt every Sunday morning. In the Charlotte Observer, there are no less than 8 (8!!!) comics on a single page. DC gives you a single strip per page like the way it was back in the 30s and 40s. Nirvana!

2. The creators take full advantage of their format. Some explore the size with challenging results. Some stick to the traditional grid.

3. And the Flash Comics duo of half page features uses every old strip convention to create something refreshing and new!!—you have to read it to believe it!

4. Although they are all ‘hero’ strips, the results are wide and varied.

5. If you are a fan of current comics, the list of writers and artists reads like a veritable all-star roster: Azzarello, Busiek, Gibbons, Palmiotti, Kubert(s), Didio and Gaiman-just to name a few!

6. If you are more intrigued by a contemporary or “Indy” slant, you have Paul Pope tackling Adam Strange and Kyle Baker taking Hawkman to new heights (sorry--I had to)



7. The Gibbon/Sook Kamandi strip is told in the format of Prince Valiant. For me, this page alone is worth the price of admission! (Yes, it blows my Dr. Fate clear out of the water!)

8. Unless I am mistaken, we will finally find out who would win the epic battle: Krypto or Streaky

9. Best of all, you will finish the book (paper?—PAPER!!) and you will anxiously await next week’s edition. That was the sole job of the newspaper cartoonists back in the day.

10. Finally--It is only $4.00

Try it! Buy it!! Don’t wait for a couple of issues to come out. Don’t wait for a trade collection. These comics are meant to be read once a week in one sitting. So select your breakfast cereal of choice—I’ll take Fruity Pebbles —and enjoy!

26 comments:

Shawn Reynolds said...

I read it and loved it! The art is amazing and the stories are fun.

And just so everyone knows, we are sold out right this second, BUT we have lots more copies coming in NEXT WEEK. If you want one just let me or anyone at the store know and we can put you on the special order list for it!

Rich Barrett said...

Nice writeup, Andy! I really need to get myself to the shop this week to pick this up. I've been excited about this for a while.

Brian said...

I loved the concept.

I have issues with the way they decided to use the format. But they have great creators on board that will obviously turn in great work.

But the $4 price is ridiculous and that is the number 1 reason the first issue will be the only one I'll buy.

Rusty Baily said...

Yeah, a bit expensive....

but...

KYLE BAKER HAWKMAN ....

WOW!

Fool's Brigade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fool's Brigade said...

'm dumbfounded by the complaints about the price of Wednesday Comics (Also, I do not know how to spell Wednesday).

What you have are 15 individual story pages per edition, with no ads.

Each of those 15 pages is the equivalent of four comics pages.

Now, I'm no Stephen Hawking of John Maynard Keynes, but I believe 4x15=60.

Additionally, the individual strips are, for the most part, excellent, and at worst, readable.

Further, it took me about 1/2 an hour to soak in and read the entire issue. Dark Avengers, also four bucks, takes about 10 minutes, an average issue of New Avengers, even less.

I fear this may be an issue of perceived value versus actual value. I hope and pray that Wed. Comics (again, I don't know how to spell Wednesday, can we not simplify it?) is the rousing success it deserves to be, and will be imitated out the yin-yang.

Phil

Andy Mansell said...

This may sound dumb-- but I think many are balking at the price because the folded up WC resembles the FREE Comic Shop News.

Appearance is everything....

Phil Southern said...

Andy,

I don't think it sounds dumb. I think it is spot on. I've also heard numerous folks bemoaning newsprint, so I ask all of you:

Why all the newsprint hate?

Dustin Harbin said...

I think I can see both sides of the argument... on the one hand I know it must have cost a pretty penny to gather up all that high-profile talent. I know some of these guys are still in the middle of the project, inking and coloring these giant pages in a series of all-nighters and stress parties.

On the other hand, seriously, $3.99 for 12 pages of newsprint is pretty nuts... I'm into the newsprint part, I think it's cool, a great marketing idea, et cetera, although some of the art looks washed out against that brown-grey background (as opposed to glossy white paper). But we're in the middle of a fairly high-profile recession lately, so four bucks for twelve bucks of newsprint.... I mean, the daily paper is what, like 50 cents? A dollar? Just saying.

Dustin Harbin said...

Another way to put it--newspapers are not exactly a growth industry lately, whether on or off the comics page...

Phil Southern said...

I noticed little problem in the color. Hell, I thought it looked great, compared to the overly-computer-rendered crapt in most titles.

Is it unfair to say that the colorist, unfamiliar with coloring for newsprint, just didn't adjust for the intended printed medium/media? This is not a judgment on the presented work, WHICH I THINK IS AWESOME, but a legitimate question. I ask the question because I DO NOT KNOW.

Maybe we should go find the four-color masters who colored on newsprint for years!

As a further aside, if old fashioned printing seems to detract from these modern artists (not sure I agree, by the way), does older work suffer when presented in a more modern format?

Example: Daredevil Born Again looks great in the original issues, but terrible in the recent, slick trades.

Discuss.

My verification word is "hooking".

Dustin Harbin said...

I think some of the guys planned for the brown and others did not--I'm especially thinking of that, um, was it Ben Caldwell? Or Sean Galloway? The modern nouveau all-ages style, really slick and illustratory, but with not very many hard lines--that's the one I'm thinking of.

I think the good and bad thing about this is the format--it's fun that it's on newsprint, sure, but would be way more fun if it were a buck. Because most people like me would prefer to read it in a more concrete format anyway. Something like this would work better (I think) as part of a larger whole, just as newspaper strips originally did. Buying 12newspaper strips that cost four times as much as a whole paper seems a little cart-before-the-horse. Not in terms of quality, just the format.

Did anyone hear about the proposed McSweeney's paper? A new magazine/newspaper hybrid, longform journalism, full-page comics like this? Pretty exciting, especially if the price is nice and low.

Andy Mansell said...

The only alternative would have been an over-sized--read un-folded or non-foldible (are either of these actually words?)-- edition that would have cost 20.00 for an "over-sized" (!!) soft cover and 35.00 for a deluxe "over-sized" (!!)hard bound. Better yet, offer it in three editions...paging Alex Ross!!

Or look at it this way....
Would you pay 4.00 for a 12 page excerpt of Kramer's Ergot 7 on foldable(there's that non-word again!) newsprint? Suddenly, it sounds really reasonable.

A leading question no doubt, but one to ponder.

Jeez, why pay 4.50 for a mini comic that was Xeroxed at the local Kinkos?

The price is more than reasonable. If they did not use newsprint that could be folded, the whole project would have been something else all together.

I still stand by the fact that it just looks too much like the free ad papers. If they didn't exist, no one would be griping about the price.

Thanks for listening.

Phil Southern said...

Y'know what I realized today?

Between Wednesday Comics, Mazzuchelli's Asterios Polyp, anything Brubaker is working on (especially Incognito) and Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter next week, we are going to remember the summer of 2009 as one of those magical comic summers, like 1982 and 1989. I am pretty darned happy to be comic reader this year!

I think we can have three or four Heroes Discussion Groups out of the past month's worth of new releases. I would even come in on my night off for that!

P.S. Four Bucks is still a bargain.

Phil Southern said...

Andy,

You stole the Kramer's Ergot argument (as in debate, not as in yelling at each other) right out of my mouth. You were able to phrase it out far more neutrally than I could.

And Wed. Comics has 15 pages of stories, one ad for Robot Chicken. You can get 31 1/4 copies of Wednesday Comics for one copy of K.E.

Phil

Andy Mansell said...

Right Back atcha--

You have to add George Sprott by Seth and the Doug Wright comic strip collection to the great summer of 2009 all-star line up.

Doug Wright's wordless cartoons had me laughing out loud dozens of times

If only they'd published on newsprint-- okay someone notify PETA, I've just been found guilty of beating a dead horse.

Dustin Harbin said...

Dudes, I don't think we're disagreeing--it's not that I particularly care about the $3.99 price, and if I bought regular comics I don't think I'd have a real problem paying it. But I'm not a regular comics customer--I'm a Kramer's Ergot -type customer.

Kramer's Ergot--and, I think, Wednesday Comics--are boutique objects. If you're going to drop $125 on a giant comics anthology, you're a dedicated reader at least, a collector or amateur librarian even. Drawing comparisons between Kramer's and Wednesday Comics works except for the newsprint factor. DC is trying to sink two baskets at once, making a boutique item but printing it on crap paper. Again, I think it would be a grand slam at a buck, even two bucks maybe. Kramer's Ergot #7 is a massive 16" x 21" hardcover printed on high-quality stock with numerous special printing techniques used to fully exploit the format. Wednesday Comics is really cool old-style comics by high-profile artists, printed on newsprint (cool points for retro-style) but priced like a regular expensive modern comic. Disconnect, is all I'm saying.

Rich Barrett said...

I finally got this today (only read the first issue so far though) and I LOVED it! LOVE the format! Love the paper! Dustin, I even think the newsprint paper is part of the boutique aspect of it. Half the charm of this thing is reading it like a newspaper. It wouldn't be quite the same as an oversize book.

I understand the price complaints too though. I think part of the problem is the weekly aspect of it. $4 a week on top of everything else we buy is a lot even if it's only for 12 issues.

I'm not reading much superhero stuff these days but this is exactly how I want to read these characters. Great art, no current continuity, a variety of characters and little, easily read snippets of story at a time.

Dustin Harbin said...

I think we're agreed: the format is DEFINITELY awesome, the book is TOTALLY cool, the price is a LITTLE out-of-phase with the whole retro feel of things.

Phil Southern said...

I have to say (again, I know) that except for the lack of a shiny cover, you actually get more for your money.

Rich hit on the nail on the head for the appeal of Wednesday Comics, with some other thoughts thrown in:

1) It is a visceral super-hero reading experience, consistent with the characters but with no continuity. It is like they've taken the Platonic ideal of the characters and are attempting to tell good stories. You don't have to know about the parallel world Batman who has come back from the dead and gone crazy!

2) It, by its nature, is compressed, requiring that something happen on every page. In the second edition, the bulk of the stories have resolved one cliff-hanger and set up another one for next week! I can't remember the last time so much happened in a comic.

3) It is good for the environment, requiring less fuel to transport and less shipping costs!

4) It is DC's best weekly since the much missed 52.

Meredith said...

For those of us who don't live near a comic shop, the point is moot. I'd love to get a copy but can't. I'd like to see a subscription option, like with the monthly Shonen Jump.

Rich Barrett said...

It would be interesting if DC gave you an online code with each issue that allowed you to download a digital version since it's going to be pretty hard to keep these newsprint copies from deteriorating over time.

Also, if you go into it cold, not knowing that these are the first chapters of ongoing stories, the very first story in the first issue is pretty funny:

Gordon tells Batman that someone has kidnapped a rich Gotham banker and that he will be killed at midnight. Batman says, "but it's like midnight now". Cut to the banker being killed. The end.

Fool's Brigade said...

That's 'cause its compressed.

Brian said...

If I buy a mini-comic for $4 I am usually doing so to support the work of a friend and an independent artist. Somehow I don't feel the same way about supporting a subsidiary of Warner Brothers.

A USA Today would cost you $1 and just one of their sections is double the content of one $4 issue of Wednesday Comics (part of which also appears in USA Today).

The price of regular comics has me drastically cutting my pull list. In my mind $4 is too much for any comic from these major publishers no matter what newly numbered, foil covered or newspaper gimmicks they choose to try to explain it with.

Andy Mansell said...

True Brian-- but...

Compare how much money DC and Marvel expect their regular readers to shill out for cross-overs, weekly series that last a year, etc. It is a major financial commitment.

To me this is 12 complete stories for 48.00. How much is the average comic book today-- about 4.00. So it is really a wash except for the paper.

Last time, Dustin, I promise-- I think the paper is a novelty-- not a cost cutting way to make money.

But, fair is fair; anyone under the age of thirty-- and comics is a young man's game-- only know comics on these slick "New Format" or "Baxter" paper. It is now the norm; and like trying to get younger viewers to watch black and white movies, getting to try something "old" will not happen for a sizable majority without a struggle.

thanks for listening!!

Daniel Von Egidy said...

Boy I missed this entire debate, so here's my late two cents. I'm f'r it. It's really nice looking, the packaging is neat, I like the newsprint makes it easy to read in most light and it takes me like 20-25 minutes to read so I feel like I get my four dollars worth.