Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Platinum Comics Buys Drunk Duck

The New York Times as an article, excerpted here that contains some interesting things in it: ideas of how to leverage the digital medium to gain a mass market, how to market your creations to a potentially huge audience, and a few others. I thought that it was worth taking a look, since most of us here are web-savvy comic readers who very likely have both bought and read stuff on the web as well as buying things from the brick and mortar LCS (local comic shop).

The digital impact on previously print-only content reflects similar pressures on other traditional media. Comic books, which have appealed almost exclusively to children and young adult readers — who are more likely to be lured to electronic entertainment than their parents — have been especially hard hit as sales decline and press runs grow more costly.

But the comic-book industry has more than $500 million a year in revenue, and still has many very popular titles. And Mr. Rosenberg has shown that he can produce hits. With his previous company, Malibu Comics, he published “The Men in Black” comic books and was credited with taking the concept to Hollywood, where it became a billion-dollar movie franchise for Sony Pictures, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.


First, I would say that the Times is only about 30 years behind in its appreciation for how comics have been marketed and who they have been marketed to. Obviously the writers children havent' been renting the unrated DVD of Daredevil or Electra in all its violent glory. The adults that the comics have been marketed have not always responded the way that the industry would have predicted.

Malibu was certainly not making a sales dent in Marvel and DC's core titles with its copycat approach to comics. Men in Black was a true fluke honestly and owed more to Hollywood than its source material, which is the reverse of, say, Spider Man, where Raimi certainly makes a good call whenever he stays close to Stan and Steve's vision.


But a crucial difference, he said, will be in how Platinum plans to use the site to create a broad mix of revenue streams, “full-circle commercialization,” for the company and its content contributors.


If only all those web companies from the late 1990's were able to "monetize" their community as well, they would still be around.

For example, Mr. Rosenberg said he planned aggressive marketing of the site — which already receives a million unique viewers a month, mostly drawn by word of mouth — coupled with advertising sales. While the advertising revenue would not be shared with the comic creators, artists would share in the revenue from downloadable comics for cellphones and mobile media devices like iPods, comics-related ring tones, wallpaper and items like T-shirts or plastic scale models of comic book characters.


Interesting to note that the advertising would not be shared with the actual content providers. Instead they are given a tiny sliver to the items that people are least likely to pay for. I mean, c'mon, when was the last time that you, yes you, paid for a downloadable wallpaper for your computer?

Product creators, Mr. Rosenberg said, can expect to receive 10 percent of the adjusted gross revenue earned by sales.
Really? A whole 10% when they could be distributing this themselves and getting 100%? Isn't that the whole power of the web?

The Times also fails to mention books like Mom's Cancer, which have also made a successful transition from web comics form to books by energizing an audience that is not normally the one the looks like it would be caught dead with "drunkduck.com" in their browser bookmark.

This is another case where I suppose that I should be happy that comics make the popular press, but I'm not. I almost feel they bought some hollywood press release hook line and sinker without examining the profound effect that comics are currently having on popular culture again. They should be taking a longer look at just how superheroes are making waves in our community to the tune of millions of dollars per picture and where else people are getting their superhero fix these days. On line? Perhaps, but no one is quite sure who and how to make money at it right now.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Work in Progress: Carnival Promo 2

Working on this as a break between the Pistoleras work. What do you all think? I'm trying to replicate the ink wash that I used to watch J.G. jones kick out so easily.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Praise of: Marvel Premiere #13 Dr. Strange by Englehart & Brunner


A culmination of artistic talents brought the somewhat read Dr. strange series to a dramatic head with this last few issues of Marvel Premiere. basically, it was clear after Lee and Ditko were done with the character that no one knew what to do with Stephen Strange. The book was cancelled and Strange languished in character oblivion.

When he was resurrected in Premiere, the art was dire. The early Barry Smith work didn't work, and the writing by Gardner Fox was really wrong. What was needed was a master plan. Lo and behold, Steve Englehart had one. And Frank Brunner took a couple hits and really got to work at his board.

Brunner has one of those epiphany moments that last a good year or two where the artist grows so much over the short period of time that buying a monthly title by them is tantamount to a time lapse movie of a person's life. We voyeuristically watch the artist grow on so many different levels: as a storyteller, as penciller, as an inker and interpreter of their own work, as a draftsman of pages, as someone using the visual medium as a vehicle for personal expression, that the growth can be dizzying. Just in my years as a fan remember watching Brunner, Rogers, Jim Lee, and more than a few others go through this. It may be one of the best things ever about monthly pamphlets despite my arguements against them in other posts).

The inks were by Crusty Bunkers team which was quite the all star inking team. It was basically whoever was around to do the inking, which might have been Neal Adams, or Alan Weiss, or Barry Smith, or Dick Giordano or even Brunner himself. It makes for an interesting mish-mash of looks, but all those hands somehow made a sum that was greater than the whole of it's parts. The talent level was nothing short of amazing. It would be interesting to try to dissect who inked what on those issues. The reality is that, given the limitations of the color printing then, you had the black lines being printed on metal plates, and they had a good chance to pick up the delicacy of a Neal Adams feather, or an Alan Weiss cross-hatch.

Sadly, it was not to last. After Dr. Strange regained his own series, something that I believe had more to do with Marvel's marketing decision to flood the market during that time period than anything else, and the Silver Dagger story arc, Englehart and Brunner left, and the stagnation began again. It took until Stern and Rogers showed up to really make the series interesting again for me.

Of all the golden periods from Marvel's early 70's luminaries (i.e. pre-All New, All Different X-men): Starlin's Captain Marvel, Colan and Wolfman's Dracula, Perez and marcos' Avengers, Moench and Gulacy's Master of Kung Fu, Thom as and Smith's Conan this is the series that I think that has escaped reprinting, that has fallen under the radar. And it's too bad.

Did I miss any great Marvel series runs from the early '70's?

All Hail the Comic Book Rack


This makes me very happy. I finally got this just a few days ago and I've been repopulating it with classic comics, mostly bronze age stuff. It just looks so right to my eyes, seeing old Strange Tales, Astonishing Tales with IT, The Living Colossus (as if a dead colossus had any chance of garnering an audience), old Fantastic Fours, Marvel Team-Ups, Don Heck Daredevils, Tuska Iron Mans, and the new DC Scooby Doos.

My 5-year old daughter came out the next morning and immediately started to spin the rack and check out the comics. Made my heart proud to see it!

Friday, September 22, 2006

DrawerBoxes

i don't think that they have a website, but i'm already happy that I'm trying out the Drawerboxes that were being advertised in San Diego. Yes, I'm tired of stacked boxes of comics meaning that I have little access to any but the top box. Hell, I've given away two whole collections over the last 15 years, so the comics that I've kept i want to read. They mean something to me! It'll be nice to actually get to them without an annoying amount of work. I have no idea if this is one person's invention, but they deserve our money. Buy some now. Your comics will thank you.

Pistoleras Poster Sample

A little something new, working out tones for a sample Pistoleras poster.

You know, I envy artists that can just whip out these pieces, I work and work at them to make sure that I get the tonal quality correct before reaching the final piece. Is is just an illusion, or do others struggle as I do? Is the notion of easy art just an illusion?

Monday, September 18, 2006

In Praise of: Genshiken by Kio Shimoku

I'll put this out there right now: I'm not a huge manga/anime fan. only little bits of it have actively engaged me. The early Yamato movies, for one, Captain Harlock for another. Ghost in the Shell disappointed, although I still need to get a copy of Black Magic M66.

Let me put this out there also: I love Genshiken. Love, love, love.

These characters, while I may not speak their original language, nor do I get all the cultural references, are my friends, are ME. We speak the same language really.

If you've not seen the book, it needs to be picked up and read from volume 1. There are only 6 now out there, with 8 as the final number, so its easy to get in on. Kanji Sasahara decides to join a club in college, and he is reluctant to embrace the Otaku lifestyle: that of comics, anime, games and a life of fanzines and going to comicfests. Its the story of what happens when he joins the Genshiken, the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture. There are 3 DVDs of anime, but they pale in comparison to the books. Get them. Love them. Be them.

Al I know is that when it ends, i'll miss not getting to spend any more time with Ono, Sasha, Madrame and the rest of the gang. If the hallmark of good fiction is that you don't want it to end then Genshiken by Kio Shimoku is essential good comics. Great stuff.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Long Form vs Short Form

As writers and artist we certainly move and change our approach to our work as the format demands, and the biggest change in this, recently, has been the approach of writing from short form to long form "story arcs". Like it or hate it?

We can all blame Chris Claremont. Or Stan Lee.

As someone who has been moving towards the trade version of comics anyway, I have no problem with mvoign on to the long form, as I believe that it gives us a greater level of depth and, hopefully, story sophistication. perhaps i'm wrong, but I can hope for the best.

However, as james meeley commented on my last post about the "pamphlet", whither the beauty of the short and concise story? He has a point. I recall john Byrne's fan level pissy fit over the low sales of Danger unlimited, his FF clone at the time for Dark horse. The problem was so obvious that I can hardly believe that he didn't see it: It took him 3 issues to bring the origin story to a close. Lets go back to FF: in 3 issues they defeated the Mole Man's huge green monster, went under the earth and confronted the mole man himself, had their identities stolen by Skrulls, were captured by the US Army, escaped and then flew to Space impersonating the Skrulls themselves and returned, met and defeated a seriously threatening hypnotist called the Miracle Man. Stan's pacing for those little gems wan't always correct, he really ahdn't gotten the 22 page sotry right yet, but that's OK, it would come.

I keep certian issues in my studio in a rack next to my board, and a number of them are great single issue stories: Gaiman and mcKean's "Hold Me" from Hellblazer, the Jam's super cool color injected turbo adventure from hell by Bernie mireault, conan #2 by Thomas and smith, etc. The question remains how much we need these single issue stories.

The idea that every issue is potentially someone's first one is an idea that has been floating around for so long that I'm not sure whether anyone has actually held it up to the light to see if it has any opacity. it is an idea that was born in the newstack spinner rack culture of the 1960's, long before the internet and readily available back issue market. today's distribution channels usually are comic shops with the potential of having more than a few issues to check out right at your fingertips. usually when i try a new series i'll buy two or three in order so that I can actually get a sense of whether or not I'll like the series. in television, I can expect that if I turn on an episode of lost or west wing, or some other continuing dramatic series, that there will be some level of catch up on the first 3 minutes. should we have to suject the reader to the Stan Lee presents blurb at the top for a 3 line precis version of the character? Or utilize a single page to bring the reader up to date on the story? It's not a bad idea really. it would certainly make it an easy jumping off point for new people.

i like the single issue story just as I like the epic and I think that we should be able to do both well, although some writers are clearly better suited for one than the other. Perhaps we should target the series out there by sophistication and storyline as we do the age appropriateness of the stories. More comics with single issues that would balance out The ultimates long form epic story. it would allow for a better appreciation of the form for newer readers and let them move on to others when they are ready. The pamphlet sdoesn't need to die, but could actually live longer as the a series of stand alones that you don't need to constantly read in sequence. My oldest daughter's Scooby Doo comics are perfect for that. They can be ready in any order, and have a shelf life, from a marketing standpoint, as long as a trade would due to the completeness.

soda; tom Strong did this extrememly well now that I look at the series as a whole. Great fun stories, almmost all a single issue, with a smattering of double issues stories. Good on ya again Alan Moore. Folks, here is your template.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Having a cute model...

is always a help when producing work on a deadline. A local poster, with my youngest daughter as the model. Only in real life she was holding a sharpie pen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

working away on... well, its a secret...

Ok, been a busy last couple of days with the wife gone on a business trip and me being daddy to my two great daughters, but i've been putting some late hours in the studio as well once my offspring are safely tucked into their beds. I'm sworn to secrecy on what this image might be used for, but I like the way it came out, so I'm sharing it here.

In the creative process mode, its interesting how necessity is truly the mother of invention. I had to work quickly on this and a few other comps, and I ended up creating a new process that allowed me to work up a sketch, create some copies and tone them up with old decidedly low-tech but effective prismacolor markers. And trust me, these are prismacolor markers from the last century. I did the tonal effect that the markers get when layered while they're still wet. Cool.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bendis, Bendis, Bendis, are we sick of him or what?

Finished up reading the other three collections of Alias and I have to admit that I really liked this series. Makes me want to go back and find old reviews on the web and check out how it was preceived by everyone at the time that it was coming out.

Here is the important thing that I've learned from reading Powers from day 1 as a serial, and Alias in collection form: Bendis' writing makes me want to read it in a trade paperback environment. Sorry, just does. He writes to set up the cliffhanger fairly well, sometimes very well, but his strength is the extended storyline, something that I'm sure he'd be the first to admit. These last 4 or five issues of Powers have had the continuing theme of opening and closing with a stand up comedian act, which is a nice monologue into that allows all his femail characters to swear as prolifically as the men in the series, and as a plot device will certainly work well in the trade. Lets face it, it will work better there.

I actually enjoyed Civil War 22 as we get a nice issue with Luke Cage and Jennifer Jones. It should sit on the shelf next to the Alias trades.

There are some people bemoaning the death of the pamphlet and the rise of the trade, and I'm not one of them, as I belive that I've made clear on some of my other posts. What is funny, and has more than a touch of irony, is the medium's hottest writer in pamphlet is better on the long form. The continuing use of collections, and god love him for keeping the Powers trades, the Jinx trades, the Torso trades and all the rest in print for fans, really is putting the nail in the coffin for the monthly series and he's square behind it.

I also like that Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim both have powers and are hiding it from each other. I don't like that he's had to reboot powers as many times as he has. I like Mike Oeming's artwork and have two originals in my collection. They're too violent for me to put up in the house however.

Jinx isn't all that, it reads like another Goldfish story.

More on the Alias collections, #2 - 4 which I've just finished reading.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Master of Kung Fu

Gulacy. Yoakum. Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu. In process of being inked. Nuff said.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New York - Jack Kirby - a small story


Mid 1990's and i'm working for Defiant comics, Jim shooter's company after being outsted at Valiant Comics. We have a fun crew to work with, an interesting collection of folks both neophyte and old school. One of the last Big Apple Con's takes place, and we are all out in force trying to make magic happen for the second time for Shooter: set the world afire with titles like Dark Dominion, Good Guys, Warriors of Plasm, Wardance.

Jack has just died a week or two before I believe, and there was a real sense of the passing of the greatest generation before us, even though at that time Julie Schwartz and Will Eisner would not pass on for many years.

As we all went out to dinner after the con at a crappy Italian Place on 8th Avenue, Mange Bevi, Alan Weiss stood up with his glass of scotch and proposed that we all name our favorite Kirby issue. I still remember his, of course: "Mother Delilah" [BOYS' RANCH #3; February, 1951]. My pick was FF #15 "This Man This Monster". Round the table we went, penicllers, inkers, letterers, editors. At the end, Alan again raised his glass, and solemnly said in his best voice of god voice: "To jack."

Not only did our table in the center of the restaurant raise its glasses to echo the toast, but we could hear the murmur of assent from other voices all around us. "To jack." in any other city in the USA we would have been met with silence, but the people of New York knew their trailblazing son, a Jewish child of the lower east side and surely had read the Times obituary, respected for the creative genius he was.

All around us: "To jack." "To jack."

While years have passed since he left us, I see his influence all around us, in ways that would probably confound and delight him.

To Jack.

Friday, September 01, 2006

san diego comic con: artwork musings redux

As a collector of original art, I find myself constantly looking at the field of artwork that gets assembled in San Diego (and I'm sure at Wizard Con even though i've not been there in a few years) and wanting to track it like the stock market. But even the stock has a more predictable nature. Artwork can show up out of the blue to tantalize you and shock you by its very appearance!

Case in point: It has been years since I've seen essentiall any Byrne/Austin X-men from the classic years, and this year yielded the cover to X-men 113 as well as two page spread from a later issue with the new Brotherhood of Evil mutants. Amazing, even Uncanny, to coin a terrible joke. I found it hard to believe that this stuff just showed up out of nowhere.

Then I realized that I've had some key Starlin Captain Marvel pieces off of the market for years, well over a decade, and that the day i decide to let them go, it'll be magic to someone who hasn't seen that piece since the early 90's, fifteen years since I had picked up most of my Starlin pages. By 1993, i couldn't afford a single one that was still on the market.

The scarcity of Kirby pages from the FF was pretty staggering, but doing the math on the number of twice up pages that were produced, and then figuring in a degree of loss over the years yields a staggeringly low number available to collectors. No wonder the prices have continued their steady rise.

What didn't I see? I didn't happen to see a single Perez Avengers piece from the '70's, nor even a single Perez FF piece. Any Bissette/Totleben pages from back in the day on Saga of Swamp Thing? Not a one. Surprisingly, a great Nova splash from the '70's surfaced and made its way into the hands of my buddy Todd. I think that I saw a single Gil Kane page from the '70's. Considering Kane's output, that in its self is remarkable.

More thoughts later.