Comics For Curmudgeons

For a long time now I’ve wanted to do a comic book review. Nothing fancy. Just the odd blog post here and there. But I haven’t bothered, because I felt that the moment I said something negative about anything I would open atomic Robo up to unreasonable criticism simply because someone decided that they didn’t like what I said, and not because the work deserved it.

Not that our book doesn’t need constructive criticism. Brian and I find all sorts of things wrong with our book. So do a lot of reviewers. We take note. We strive to avoid the same mistakes. As a result Atomic Robo has gotten consistently better the more we work at it. At least, I think it has. But I digress.

When I quit comics cold turkey back around 1995 I wrote off the entire medium as a complete waste of time. In retrospect this seems a bit harsh, but you have to understand that at the time I felt that sifting through the great mountains of crap that came out, just to find a few comics worth reading, was just not worth the effort. And when did the books i liked come out? Well who the fuck knew? I wasn’t going to buy Preview, and the shop I was going to at the time was pretty terrible on the customer service front, (they are much better today I can report).  It’s not like today where I can just set up a subscription with TFAW.com or Midtowncomics.com and the good shit would just arrive on my front door as if by magic. No, this was a time when the Internet was still like a teenager who’d just gotten it’s driver’s permit. It could barely get out of second gear, and there was a whole hell of a lot of gear grinding. Back then comics were even more of an impenetrable morass than they are today.

Since coming back to comics I have discovered two amazing things relevant to this post; First, that there has been an explosion of new, really good, material, and Second, it was almost too easy to get your hands on it thanks to the Internet 2.0.

The other day, as I so often do, I got into a conversation on Twitter about the comic book industry, and how it was dumb in the face. Strangely, for once, I was playing the part of the moderate devil’s advocate, but I was still the one who got the messages asking me to stop bitching. =) The comment wasn’t that direct, because Scottie Young is a classy guy, but that was basically what he was saying.

More to the point what he asked for was recommendations and thoughts on comics that I believed were good. I think his request was more to the general creator community, not me specifically, but it struck a chord and brought up the familiar urge to proselytize a little.

And then that same day Eric Powell and Robert Kirkman released this little video, entitled the Creators Front For Diversity In Comics. The video raises a lot of valid points. Everything it says is true. It was well shot and edited. Funny at points. The anal rape was off-putting.

One thing the video did help me figure out was how I could do this comic book review thing and not get buried in hate mail. I will not be negative. Which, of course, is my default setting but I think I can get around that if I only review comics that I really enjoy. I’ll tell you why I like them, and give my opinions on what I think the people making them are doing right. This is why it will only be an occasional thing for me, because to be honest, there aren’t all that many comics out there that I think are worth the cover price. So there will probably be a burst of reviews up front followed by a sharp drop-off, resulting in a slow trickle as time goes on.

But there you have it. Maybe this can count as my somewhat late 2011 New Years Resolution. Except I think New Years Resolutions are retarded. So forget that. Its just a thing I’m going to give a try and if I enjoy doing it I will keep doing it.

  • Anonymous

    All this and you leave us hanging without a single first review? ARGH!

  • Ola

    Agreed! i am dying to know what you reed!

  • John I.G.

    Yes, this is what many people online have started doing (for instance “movies you may have missed”, that or just hate on everything equally (like “zero punctuation”).

  • Mwickliff

    Back when I ran a shop, my philosophy was (and still is) “Everything is somebody’s favorite”. Doesn’t mean you can’t personally dislike a book, as long as you try to remember that to at least one person, it’s the best thing ever printed.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a valid complaint. I started with comics in the mid 1980s. By high school in the early 1990s, comics had gotten 1. expensive way faster than inflation, 2. cheesecake-y in a very juvenile way, and 3.. extremely stale. I don’t think it’s trashing the industry to acknowledge that it became lame for almost 20 years, and is only recently getting better again.

  • Scott!

    yeah but Yahtzee get his hate on in such a hilarious way. i’m almost sad when he likes a game. (and I also agree with him 99% of the time, LOL ) .

  • Scott!

    It will be a week or two before I’ve got the first one ready.

  • Scott!

    I agree. Sometimes I forget to think that way, but when i’m calm and rational I feel the same way.

    I’m more interested in getting some attention on books that i think add something to the medium, rather than ragging on other books just to get a cheap laugh.

  • Scott!

    While it flies in the face of what I just said to Mwickliff; Yes. =P

    And no. I guess where I’d like to go with this is into the idea of what is “the industry”. To my mind what was stale, cheesecakie, and just lame as hell was most (not all) superhero comics.

    I feel pretty much the same way today.

    But there is so much more on offer these days. Its just not coming from Marvel & DC most of the time, and you’re just as likely to find it in your local bookstore rather than the comic shop.

    I feel like when people talk about “The Industry” what they usually mean, whether they are being positive or negative, is “Marvel/DC”, and they ignore everything else.

  • Anonymous

    Ok, the industry isn’t only Marvel and DC, but face it, they dominate sales volumes. If you talk computers, it’s mostly Microsoft and Apple (on Intel hardware).

    Thee are always bright spots in any era, even by the big players. But for every Hellboy, there are ten Superman restarts where he’s angsty, or less powerful, or some other spin of SOSDD. There was a time when we got new stuff like Spawn. And then right after that there was this dead era where comics got expensive while rehashing the same old big franchises.

    I suspect what we’re seeing now is that cheaper mass printing techniques are making a lot of small volume indie comics possible. Hence this sort of reaissance in comics. Plus the web lets people experiment prior to investing capital in publishing. I dunno, would Red 5 have even been possible in the 1990s?

  • Scott!

    I had a big reply and then lost it. Lucky for me, Scott McCloud pretty much touches on the same feeling I was going for.

    http://scottmccloud.com/2011/02/01/what-year-is-this-again/

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    Granted, there’s a ton of diversity in comics that didn’t exist ten years ago.

    Granted, it’s now possible for indie creators to have careers in ways that were impossible ten years ago. Being an independent comics creator is the only job I’ve had, and it wouldn’t have been possible just a few years before I started.

    Buuuuut as far as market share goes? All that diversity just means Marvel and DC are getting 94% of the money instead of 98.9%.

    It’s a start. And it’ll indies will only become more and more viable.

  • Scott!

    But most/some/a lot of/? Marvel DC fans are not really what you and i would call fans of comics. They are Spiderman or Batman, or Anything X-Man fans. They don’t follow an artist, or a writer, or anything like that. They follow a character.

    If Marvel and DC went away tomorrow sure things would improve for guys like us, but not as much as everyone sems to think.

    How many of your 8-Bit readers transitioned with you to Atomic Robo? 1%? 3%? Because they don’t care about you as a creator. They just liked Final Fantasy. Or Black Mage.

    Also, they were cheap fucks, but even then, how many of them are still here reading the free digital Robo material, HIKYM, and Warbot in Accounting?

  • Mike

    If you think about it, this is the real reason characters like Wolverine, Spider-Man and Batman show up in live every third book Marvel and DC put out. You drop Spider-Man into the second part of a, let’s say Darkhawk story, and you’re much more likely to not only get them to buy that issue of Darkhawk, but they’re also more likely to buy the rest of that story…quality and price of story being big deciding factors, of course. I mean, Robert Kirkman is one of the biggest names right now when it comes to Indie books, but how much do you wanna bet that Invincible got a decent bump when he showed up in Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man?

    Actually, you know what would be really cool to see? I’d like to see Marvel dump Wolverine into a random portal in one panel, and come out another a page later talking about how he had been jumping across universes for something like 5 years (That’s why I say Wolverine, because he can age 5 years without anyone having to draw him differently after). Then, Marvel could cheaply license him out to smaller companies for an issue or two…maybe make some of the proceeds from those issues go to HERO or something.

  • Anonymous

    /shudders

    Marvel has been doing crossovers for a long time. The 70′s and 80′s had Marvel Team-Up solely for that purpose (not sure about the 1990′s-present). It really grated me when key story information required me to purchase yet another comic book from a different line. It’s a cheap marketing tactic, especially if it’s obvious that the crossover is a total kludge to the real story.

  • Anonymous

    Re: 94% vs. 98.9%

    Well, Marvel and DC are behemoths with dozens of product lines and fairly large staffs (heh). Indie comic lines are maybe 5 people, so per-employee profit on a successful comic might be very good money. It’s just a shame that Marvel and DC have a (seemingly) much better distribution channel, while you guys are stuck with Diamond. Or are the Big 2 stuck with Diamond as well?

  • Scott!

    Everyone is stuck with Diamond. But Marvel and DC have a very different relationship with them than other publishers. We had to really fight to get them to keep Atomic Robo in their warehouse so that when stores asked for more they weren’t told that it was “no longer available”.

    The whole direct market thing; Marvel/DC/Diamond/the mainstream fanbase -I don’t really see any place in it for guys like us. Not in the long run. It’s all such an inbred cluster fuck that there’s no fixing it to work for the rest of us.

    Comics, as things stand now, are Egypt . . .you see where I’m going with this? =P

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Serge-Broom/1567496523 Serge Broom

    The only mainstream comic I still read is “Captain America”, and I grab whatever new attempt from Marvel to bring back “Doctor Strange”. The rest is your work of course, and whatever comes form Mignola’s fevered dreams, Moore’s “Echo”, and “Girl Genius”. That’s it. By the way, I have successfully corrupted a couple of young male minds with “Robo”.

  • Anonymous

    “Comics, as things stand now, are Egypt . . .you see where I’m going with this?”

    Hell yeah, man, I’m with ya. Clockwork. Fuckin’. Mummies!
    ;)

  • Scott!

    Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. =D

  • Scott!

    Is Girl Genius good? I’ve been curious about it. Are we talking about the webcomic?

  • http://twitter.com/Goolic Goolic

    Yes, it’s a webcomic that’s printed/published as it reaches a edition and a volume

    Its very good, i got to read it this weekend and ended up ordering the first 3 volumes and reading all of it on-line =D

  • http://twitter.com/Goolic Goolic

    Is the video off-line ? I cant get to it even searching youtube directly

  • http://www.nuklearpower.com Brian!

    No. There’s no video. Yet.

  • Scott!

    Well done, sir! Well done indeed.

  • Scott!

    That’s something else, Brian.

    It looks like they took down that YouTube video.

  • Scott!

    That’s what I thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Serge-Broom/1567496523 Serge Broom

    Yes, I mean the webcomic. Is it good? Well, I like it a lot, which is why I’ve done my bit to make people aware of it. And corrupted the same young minds who now enjoy “Robo”. Mind you, because I like it doesn’t mean it’s every one’s cup of tea.

    Back to my comment about “Doctor Strange”… Last week, I saw that a one-shot has been released. I especially enjoyed the part where Doc invoked the Mists of Munnipor AND the Winds of Watoomb to put out a fire in his house. Next time, set up a sprinkler system, Doc.

  • Scott!

    I just watched Spongebob Squarepants and Neptune battle it out to see who was the best fry cook in all the ocean. Likewise, Spongebob’s more practical approach to the issue trumped Neptune’s use of magic.