Thursday, May 11, 2006

the comic book reader

"I contend that DC readers are more willing to drop a comic then Marvel, therefore Marvel can crank out whatever and maintain the sales lead." -Jim

I thought that this was an interesting enough subject to take it out of the comments box and do a post about it.

I have to say that I agree with Jim's comment to an extent. I still hold that DC fans are more loyal overall, I just think Marvel has a lot of fans who don't care about quality in the things that they read. DC fans expect quality and so they're more likely to drop a book even if it contains a favorite character (although I read Devin Grayson's Nightwing stuff anyway because I kept praying they'd drop her from the book) if the story is bad.

For example, after reading some of the early X-Men Essentials I was reminded of a lot of characters I used to really love when I was a kid. So, despite knowing that Marvel had since gone down hill, I went to the store and picked up some of the latest X-books. I was happy to see it wasn't as bad as I thought, but my hopes have been short lived as the writing is spiraling down yet again. Now, if I was a Marvel fan, I'd probably still pick up the books regardless - just to see Wolverine vs the Hulk and other such nonsense. I'm not sure if it's because Marvel fans don't care about story or if it's like watching a train wreck, but either way they religiously buy the books. But as a DC fan, I expect and demand quality in my comic books. So, if the Marvel stuff keeps going downhill I'll stop reading it.

Now, for a DC book I'd probably give it more of a chance before dropping it because I have a certain amount of faith in DC's standards. I'd also come back to an old favorite without waiting 10+ years to give it another chance. I think Jim's right though, a DC fan is more likely to drop a book than a Marvel fan. It's what happens when to have customers who expect a better product.

The other factor to consider here is the fact that DC fans seem closer knit than Marvel fans. Most Marvel fans I know (not too many considering some of them have been converted *smirk*) tend to buy all there own stuff and also buy every spinoff that comes out as well. DC fans seem to have an elaborate exchange going on, simalar to the mailing circle Jim and Jeff have going on (as I don't really buy anything, I just recieve and then give stuff out to other poor DC fans down here in Tampa). The DC fans I know seem more willing to share, and perhaps DC gets less sales because of that.

Well those are my thoughts. One day when I have money I'll purchase some of my own books :)

Maybe DC would interest some old fans (and hopefully new ones) if they did something simalar to the Essentials.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff said...

I know a whole mess of Marvel fans buying New Avengers every time it comes out even though they hate the book with a burning passion. Why do they buy it? Cuz Spider-man and/or Wolverine are on the team and they have to buy every Spidey or Wolvie book that comes out. That kind of thinking never has made sense to me. Why buy a book that is horribly written just because your favorite character is in it? Historically, DC has been more concerned with writing and story, Marvel with art and character. Most Marvel fans I know don't even read their comics. They give them a flip through and that's it. In fact I know many guys in their mid 20's who get upset if it takes them more than 5 minutes to read a book. $3 for 5 minutes entertainment?!?! How did I get into the wallets of these suckers? DC fans really look for good writing. And I think it's great that DC fans can read a book and pass it on to someone else. Most Marvel guys read the book, toss it in a plastic bag, then never speak of it again. So what books does your old man send you? Perhaps I can help expand that list. Oh, and DC's answer to the Essentials, which I love, is the Showcase line. Check it out!!

Thursday, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Let's see, I get most of the Bat books - Detective, Batman, Birds of Prey, Nightwing and Robin. Action Comics and Adventures of Superman, Supergirl, Aquaman, JLA Classified, the Thing, She-Hulk, Fables, Ion, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Teen Titans, Outsiders, Legion, Fell, Action Philosophers, Mouse Guard, Skye Runner, Elfquest, Blue Beetle, X-Factor, Manhunter, Conan, JSA Classified, 30 Days of Night, Battle for Bludhaven, Villians U, Testament, Local, Daredevil, Uncanny, Batman/Superman, Batman 100, Batman Secrets, Man-Bat, Civil War, Nightcrawler (which I pick up myself), Planet of the Apes (don't ask), annnd Invincible...

I think I covered them all but I could be wrong.

Thursday, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Actually Batman Year 100, She-Hulk, Batman Secrets and All Star Batman (when it comes out) all come to you via Jeff.

Nice post. Amazingly I agree with it.

Jeff - How do we get into the Marvel Zombies who will buy anything's wallets? Sounds like a money making market in it for us somehow.

Thursday, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

That is one impressive list! You are one lucky woman to have such a generous daddy. Not much I can add to that list. Did you ever read Slott's GLA? Or his Arkham Asylum Living Hell? How about All Star Superman? Wow! You get every Marvel book worth reading, all 4 of them. You get the best of the Image books with Fell and Invincible. You don't really have Vertigo covered, but that's something you could always get in trades. You're getting the bulk of the good DC superhero stuff and a lot of the best Indie titles. What a well-rounded reader you are. Kudos!

Thursday, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Yeah, well, my Dad has always encouraged his kids to read :)

We did read GLA, André was especially a big fan (which reminds me, we get Fear Agent too, but that's mostly for André). I don't think I ever read the Arkham Asylum book, but I do get both Allstar books, I just forgot to list them. As for Vertigo, I'm not sure how much I'm actually missing. Books of Magic makes me sad everytime I see it =/ I also read Walking Dead but that's a trade. I read it before I give it to a friend of mine.

The stuff I'm curious about is the Fathom and Witchblade stuff. Mostly because someone gave me Fathom Dawn of War and it was somewhat interesting. Turner's artwork is decent too (although I don't think it's as wonderful as everyone says, maybe it's because I'm straight).

Thursday, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Some of the best Vertigo books are 100 Bullets(which is used in about half a dozen Universities in Literature classes), Loveless(great book if you're into Clint Eastwood westerns), Fables(which you are familiar with) and Lucifer(if you liked Sandman you'll really like Lucifer). So here's an observation about DC readers: many are people who grew up loving Marvel, but once they hit adulthood they fell in love with DC and never looked back. So do you think that DC readers are more intelligent, more mature, and more "non-geeky" than Marvel fans??

Thursday, May 11, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

I think DC fans are more mature. As DC is usually more story driven then Marvel.

I got into comics because of Marvel, I have stayed because of DC and their Vertigo line and now the independents.

Thursday, May 11, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Personally, I started comics with DC (Wonder Woman and Detective Comics to be specific). But I agree that DC fans are probably more mature than Marvel fans.

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

More posts - please!

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

The biggest mystery in comics, at least to me, is why quality doesn't matter. We have the latest Eisner nominees announced and DC has a great showing. Image and Dark Horse also had an impressive list of nominees. All the books hoping to win the award, including Ex Machina, Promethea, Solo, Desolation Jones, Fables, Age of Bronze, Fell, Rocketo, All Star Supes, and Top 10 49ers are all spectacular works both in terms of art and writing. Yet most of these books are not being bought by today's comic fans. Why not? And what Marvel comics got listed? Only Astonishing X-men(a mediocre book at best) and Young Avengers. Young Avengers?!?! Was this a mistake? Maybe it's a good book cuz it's been put on indefinate "hiatus", but the issues I read were merely okay. So why don't books of quality get bought by most comic fans? Why do they prefer to buy the latest issue of Wolverine Takes A Dump over something like MouseGuard, Fell or Rocketo? Comic fans are adults now. Shouldn't people in their 20's be moving away from capes, not totally but some, and move onto adult books written for adults? I'm not saying that adults shouldn't be allowed to read superhero comics, but superhero comics should always be all ages. Seems to me, most of the problems with comics can be fixed by moving away from superhero books. How do you get more women reading comics? Move away from superheroes and give them romance books or whatever else they want. How do you get more people who don't read comics into comics? Move away from superheroes and make comics more varied, like manga is. In fact, the only audience truly served by focussing purely on superhero books is kids, but the books on the racks right now are WAY too adult for kids. What a mess!! At least DC gives us variety. We get superheroes, Wildstorm, Vertigo, and some american attempts at manga. And why is it that great writers go over to Marvel and suddenly they can't string a story together? Ellis, Moore, Morrison...these guys are nominated for Best Writer in the Eisner's this year. I can name several great works that they've done for DC, yet I struggle to find anything that they've done for Marvel that is worthwhile. Why is this??

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I think just fixing superhero books would help the comic book industry. In fact I've gotten a few people more interested in comics as of recent because the superhero books from DC have (mostly) gotten better.

People aren't buying a lot of the Eisner books because many of them aren't friendly to the uninitiated. They look dark and depressing as well as confusing. I wouldn't pick up Fables on a whim if I didn't know what a great story it was. Check out the marketing for Vertigo books - it's like they're targetting the "Goth" crowd. Even if you're a mature reader you're not nessasarily going to pick up Fell unless you're like, hey! I want to read something dark and depressing today! I wonder sometimes if Fables would get more non-comic readers interested if it wasn't a Vertigo book.

Also, comics appeal to many people who never went past the See Spot Run picture book stage of reading - I assume that's where Marvel finds most of their sales.

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Thanks - but I meant more new blog post - why do you think characters should or shouldn't age.

Who is the best hero and why?

etc, etc.

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Actually I got a guy I work with - who is in his late forties (and only reads Catwoman) into Fables. He is on trade #3/4 and loves the series. If you get someone to read the stuff they will usually like it. I would have missed Mouse Guard but for Rusty loaning me issue #1.

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Cshiana, I would really like your input on the following excerpt taken from Oeming's interview with Matt Wagner:

O: Here’s an interesting argument I get into. People say that superheroes (tm Marvel/DC, please don’t sue us) are modern day mythology. I disagree. I think only a few are, but as a whole I disagree with the idea entirely. What do you think?


W: Why do you disagree with that?


O: I’m thinking only Superman and possibly early Marvel Stan Lee/Kirby/Ditko books really qualify as modern day mythology, but even those I think have stopped qualifying. I’m sure there are a few others off the radar, but as far as mainstream characters go, I think that was it, but they no longer have that standing. This is really unpopular to say and I’m going to get shit for it, but here it goes.


Mythology requires belief. Mythology and religion are hand-in-hand. In the days of Greece, not only did people really believe in these stories, but they didn't ask those questions because it was so ingrained in their life.


Mythology is a reflection of ourselves, of our cultures, as are stories, and I think comics largely qualify in the second category. Story. I don’t feel comics qualify as mythology any more because they are a product of franchise, not as an explanation of life, who we are as a culture. Those aspects are there, but still it’s overridden by the fact that superhero comics are purely fictional and commercial. They aren’t created as mythology was, to explain why we are here, what the meaning of life is. Those early Marvel books and Superman clearly reflected and commented on what was going on at the time. The Jew coming to America, alien, must hide and reinvent himself, despite that his true self is a Superman, the chosen people of God. With Marvel it was the fear of foreigner, a reversal of Superman. Fear of mutants, Communist invasion and the Atomic Age. I just don’t see comics serving those roles anymore, especially in an era where everyone is afraid of political fallout. I think our society has in short, sucked the belief out of everything.


I think comics say a lot about society, but that doesn't make it mythology.


W: Well, WHY doesn’t that qualify as mythology? Because there’s no shrine to Superman? Because people don’t get baptized in the name of Professor X?


I think you’re confusing mythology with organized religion. You mentioned that the ancient Greeks believed that the stories of their gods were true and factual. I don’t know that that’s necessarily so—at least not in the sense you’re describing. The priests who served at the various temples certainly WANTED their citizenry to believe that these tales were actually true because that furthered their own power in that society. But I suspect the average man on the street or on the battlefield viewed those myth cycles as a convenient belief structure that served to both quantify and qualify their everyday lives. They may have thought to themselves, “Oh, the gods do this…” and “The gods want that…” but, really, most of them realized that they had never really MET a god or seen a titan.


By the time the ILIAD was written, I think most Greeks knew that the gods who watched, wagered and dabbled in this narrative of the Trojan War were, in fact, dramatic devices used to reflect and underscore the actions of the war’s far more human participants. I think there are religious zealots the world over and that there always have been, but I think the vast majority of people hold their religions in their hearts as a metaphor, even if they don’t actively describe it to themselves in that fashion. For instance, I mentioned that my parents are very traditional in their Christianity. Still, my mother has no trouble reconciling the fact that most of the biblical stories that mean so much to her are metaphors created by a more primitive people. Thus, even though she believes God created the heavens and the Earth, she has no problem thinking of the “six days” scenario as a metaphor—a description of stages by a human mindset that couldn’t yet conceive of, much less describe, the billions and billions of years that were actually necessary for our universe to unfold. “Days” were a time frame that they understood and the description of God accomplishing all of creation in a matter of “Days” is a metaphor to describe his omnipotence. For her, creationism and evolution AREN’T mutually exclusive. Similarly, my mom clings a little more literally to the tales of Jesus’ various miracles but, whenever I challenge her on that, she admits that what is, in fact, most important to her is Christ’s message of compassion and peace and that the litany of his “magic tricks” or “miracles” (take your pick) are most likely tall tales meant to illustrate the elevating power of his philosophy.


Y’know, I proudly describe myself as an atheist and that often scares people or just downright pisses them off. Very often, I’m met with an indignant hostility about this attitude, as if my not adhering to any specific belief structure is an outright affront to those who do. Which confuses me…if I was a different religion from those objecting to my lack of faith, they’d have no complaints. It’s the fact that I don’t cling to something that’s readily and easily described by an established myth structure that deems my opinions as unworthy to many folks. And, believe me, I am sick to death of people lumping me into the category of “Atheists don’t believe in anything.” Not so. Campbell describes it thus: “Theists (mono, poly, etc..) believe that THEIR mythology is the one universal, cosmic fact. Atheists realize that ALL mythology is merely a grouping of metaphors.” Which, of course, doesn’t preclude a deep understanding of the moral lessons and realities that all religions espouse. Just because I don’t believe that Christ is my personal savior, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate his sermons and the tale of his sacrifice. Just because I don’t believe that Yahweh spoke from a burning bush and caused the Ten Commandments to be carved into living rock, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a common code of ethics that shape and guide human interactions. So, I see mythology as something somewhat different than religion. To me, religion is the organized power structure meant to impose its views on the populace at large while mythology is the genuine expression of a culture’s core beliefs, hopes and dreams. Religion seeks to codify all of life’s mysteries into a series of concrete and dogmatic answers. Mythology seeks to pose all those eternal questions in the form of a metaphor.


O: I think my definition of Modern Mythology would fall into categories like UFOs, GHOSTS, CONSPIRACY, ESP, and Cryptozoology. To me, mythology has to be a mixture of fantasy, reality, solid facts and the intangible, and yet carry an internal truth. Comics come close, but I don’t see them approaching that level of Mythology. I think comics at best are a reflection of ourselves.


Stories like Mage, Powers, Bone, Maus, reflect our society, they make strong bold statements about who we are and what we believe, but I still don’t think that qualifies as mythology.


W: Okay, again, so your contention that a lot of superhero stuff isn’t modern mythology is based on the fact that there isn’t a group of “followers” who hold those narratives to be absolute reality.


O: That’s my contention, yes.


W: And I don’t think that’s what’s specifically necessary to make something mythic. Campbell wrote a series of four books collectively titled THE MASKS OF GOD, wherein he examined the world’s major belief systems from the beginning of time. The first volume covers PRIMITIVE MYTHOLOGY; the second, OCCIDENTAL MYTHOLOGY; the third, ORIENTAL MYTHOLOGY; and the last explores the future of human legendry, CREATIVE MYTHOLOGY. In the latter, Campbell maintains that codified myths structures arose as a result of many factors but that geography played one of the most significant roles. Religions developed as a way of banding the people of any particular region into a societal whole, answering their fears and lending support to their emotional needs. Different versions of religion arose because of human societies evolving in different areas of the world over years and years of history. In modern times, the bonds imposed on our sense of communication don’t really exist due to any geographical limitations. Nowadays, you can easily touch a button and instantaneously establish close contact with a person literally living on the other side of the world. So, Campbell contends, maybe the need to codify and limit the face of God in order to strengthen the cultural identity of any specific tribe is no longer a viable factor in the mythic experience. Maybe we have reached a stage wherein each and every person can paint their own particular Mask of God, describing in their own fashion the mysteries of life and what they, themselves, see as the limitless potentials of eternity. Sounds a bit Utopian, I know, but I really think we’re moving in that direction. The realities of mass communication have only existed in our world for a hundred years or so and just look at all the changes that have resulted. And, believe me, a mere century is nothing so far as societal evolution is concerned, a drop in the bucket. Now, I’d agree that most of DC and MARVEL’s various continuities don’t even come close to attaining mythic resonance. But the ones you mentioned (in addition to the more indy examples you gave) do, I feel, spring from that particular well in the human soul that cries out for expression and which finds its best and boldest release in the form of myth.


You mentioned how Siegel and Shuster’s Jewish heritage played such a significant role in their creation of Superman. This even comes out in the similarities between his origin and that of Moses, both cast adrift to escape certain death only to later deliver freedom from oppression via supernatural feats. Additionally, the names of Superman’s family are derivative of the Hebrew suffix “El”, meaning “Of God”. Thus, Jor-el and Kal-el are on a par with the mightiest archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Emmanuel, etc… Now, those are the cultural roots that influenced their seemingly timeless character, but their personal realities played a huge factor as well. Did you know that Jerry Siegel’s father was shot and killed by a burglar when the son was only sixteen? That fact explains a lot as to why the young writer would later create a bulletproof hero as his modern day messiah. So, yeah, I do think some (but certainly not all) modern comic book characters do qualify as myth. But not for the effect they have on their readers (or “followers”) but more for the reasons they sprang from their storytellers’ imaginations in the first place. Thus, SUPERMAN is an American myth while BOOSTER GOLD is just yet another bit of DC product.


O: I think that last sentence is a good middle ground, or as close as we can get to it.

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Jeff - I'll go into detail on my thoughts on this later tonight - I don;t have time at the moment to give it justice as myths are my passion and the reason I went into anthropology, and I'm a big J. Campbell fan. But I have to go see André's mom now, so I'll post later.

Friday, May 12, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

actually, I got home and I'm exausted since today was a busy day, so I'll post twice tomorrow, one in response to Jeff and one in response to Jim. Sorry guys, my post wouldn't be too coherent at the moment and It takes at least an hour to put together these posts. I have a feeling the response to Jeff will take even longer.

Saturday, May 13, 2006  

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