Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Shelly's Comic Shelf: Her Pondering and My Thoughts

Shelly over at, surprise, Shelly's Comic Book Shelf, asks a lot of good questions in her most recent post mostly about personal responsibility in supporting marginal product, etc. , just a line or two of which I'm recycling here:
We support what's there when we buy it, so do we have the right to complain? Do comics publishers owe us anything? I have no answers, just questions right now.
Go over and read the whole post and then come back, I'll be waiting.

Good. Are you back? Then lets go over a few potential answers.

I think that much of this goes back to realizing that we, the consumers, vote with our all-mightly dollar. And we deserve the entertainment that we pay for. this is the reality. Its a business. And I tell you that if everyone that bought X-Men last month went and bought Scooby-Doo this month, Marvel and DC would not collapse, they would scramble to start to produce Scooby-Doo knock-offs. And if they don't come up with a good enough knock-off, then they deserve to go out of business. Period.

History has shown this. Its quite clear. Where the dollar leads the companies will follow. Panting. Most companies are two bit whores, which is a perfect analogy as to why we got all the chromium covers that we could wallpaper the birdcage with in the '90's. And I'm not slamming comic companies with just this brush, it works for car companies, TV networks, magazines. They stay in business giving the customer what they want. We have to show them what we'll support, what we want.

So anytime that we keep pull lists in shops that aren't filled with exactly what we want to read, we're reinforcing bad behavior by the companies in ordering patterns. I'm really stunned by the number of comic book bloggers that talk about having wean themselves off of certain books. Sorry, too many bad '70's marvel comics with Arvell Jones, Rich Howell, and John Tartaglione got me out of that habit.

I do have the quandry with the trades, and I've posted many times on this, and will probably post many more times on it. I'll say it again here: I prefer trades and this is clearly the medium of the future. It allows for a work to stay in print, giving it a longer shelf life, presents a more compelling read: self-contained and, hopefully satisfying a real read, not a 10 minute diversion, and markets well in a book store, not a niche shop. I'm still waiting for the final issue of Ultimates to come out so that they can collect the damn thing. I want to read my books in this form and I'll pay the money to support it. Don't own a single issue of Fables, but I have all the trades on the book shelf in my studio. Someday I hope to have Pistoleras to put next to it.

Occasionally publishers, networks, and other entertainment outlets will support a work that the editors stand behind, and we've gotten a lot of good work this way, from TV to comics to movies. But it is in the minority. Everyone has an example of that critically lauded TV show that was cancelled despite everyone who ever saw it liking it. But TV has the imperfect filter known as the nielsens, and comics have a far more direct outlet to prevent this for happening as much. I mean really, does anyone actually remember how idiotic it was for them to cancel Babylon 5? And what numbers that show has done on DVD? That was probably the last such casualty of its type... (until Firefly and Serenity).

If we don't support gratuitious ass shots and poorly written female characters, then we'll likely get a lot less of them. (I love having a spinner rack in the house, and seeing what comics my 6 year old daughter Sophie picks up from the rack. Its not often what I would think, which is why I stock it with a variety of different comics!) Adolescent boys will always be drawn in by T & A, and to that I say a big, "duh". Even the most ardent feminist would be not be so naive as to try to show a logical argument as to why the 14 year old should be steered to a more "relationship oriented" comic. Hormones have power.

But what if a huge variety of non-power fantasy oriented comics were readily available to young girls? If they grow up reading them, they'll likely be readers for life. So we have to support the alternatives to the superheroes, any alternative that we like, so that they have the chance to build up to a critical mass and be self supporting. Welcome to the Manga marketing plan.

Shelly, I think that we have the ultimate ability to get the entertainment we want, if enough of us show that we want it. And I think that it has the chance of happening, especially in this era of internet marketing, where the brilliant little guy can actually get a product in front of a million eyes with the click of a button. We don't have any responsibility to buy the next issue of anything if they screw up our favorite character. I'd rather the sales figure put a quick end to the Clone Saga, to the Spider-sperm saga, to the return of Captain Marvel, to the decimation of the Fantastic Four, to the slow ugly saga of the Supergirl abusive boyfriend than anything else.

Don't worry, when the people lead, the entertainment industry will follow.


Shelly said...

Thanks for the link. And you make good points. But I also allow for personal taste and that leads to people willing to put up with or reward different things.

I'll "reward" the lateness of books I enjoy. Not those I've stopped enjoying. So, I'll be dropping All Star Batman and Robin.

I've already dropped Flash, not because it's a bad book, but because I don't like Bart. Personal taste.

If we don't support the sexy and sexualized female characters, we might get fewer of them. We might end up with fewer female characters overall. And I really can't bring myself to drop a book because of an inch of fabric that should be added to a costume if I don't find much else in the book to complain about. I don't expect everything I read to be great. Sometimes, I just like a quick, pleasant read.

I buy a book, I've also bought the right to review and comment on it. That's my lobbying method of choice. Not that DC listened to me way back when I wrote to tell them why I was dropping New Titans. They published the LoC and a long defense of what they were doing. Neither my letter or the loss of my money made a difference to them. I guess enough other people didn't think the book sucked. ;)

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

I am constantly amazed by what other people don't think suck.

And my wife and I will have differences of opinion as to what might constitute exploitation. Somethings that I think she'll object to won't bother her at all, so what do I know? I have a problem with supergirl's costume, but mostly on her body type. The '70's Supergirl, in her little red panties, was so totally unsexual, and so much more normal is her body type that I can be clear that it's not the fabric that bothers me. Its wehre the fabric sits.

I do think that if we don't support sexy female characters, we'll get less of them, which will lead to a lesser number of female characters, but then we have to do the opposite number and support, vocally, the non-raped, non-porn face women, and they will likely replace the former.

I have no doubt, after working in this industry, that they pay attention to the blogs. They should, we're their best mouthpieces when they get it right, and the first to really give them the feedback they need. Review away!