WHAT’S IN A COVER?
I’ve received a couple of e-mails on last week’s “Pipeline Previews” column concerning some of my comments on Marvel’s offerings. I mentioned in the column that I’d like to see Ed Brubaker’s run on CAPTAIN AMERICA reprinted in Marvel’s hardcover format. I received e-mails correctly pointing out that both the NEW AVENGERS and the newly redubbed NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA collections were hardcovers. They are, you see, Marvel’s new “Marvel Premiere Edition” format, which recently debuted with WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE. This means a slimmer collection in what is referred to as “trim size.” The pages are the same size and format as the regular comics were. You get the hardcover, but miss the larger page size. I suppose there’s still a chance that Marvel will issue a full oversized hardcover edition of the first year of both titles somewhere down the road, but that would be a wild guess at this point, and not necessarily a risk I’m willing to take.
Now, on the bright side, these “Premiere Edition” books are a pretty good value. The prices are only a couple of bucks higher for a hardcover over a trade paperback. NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA collects seven issues for $22, while THE NEW AVENGERS collects six issues for $20. July’s DOCTOR SPECTRUM mini-series collection is $17 for six issues, although one might guess that the price point needs to be a bit higher to make up for the lower sales inherent in a Mature Readers title. The latest ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN trade collects seven issues for $16. Again, projected high sales probably helps drive that price down a tad. For another point of comparison, MARVEL KNIGHTS 4, Volume 3 has six issues for $15.
Of course, $20 for a hardcover of 6 issues looks pretty paltry compared to $30 for an oversized hardcover with 12 issues plus plenty of bonus features. Like everything in life, it’s another trade off.
Sometimes, there’s just no making everyone happy. Oh, sure, I have a theory. I have a plan that could make consumers happy and ensure good will with the publishers. I just don’t know how realistic it is. Actually, I know it’s completely unrealistic. Some of it is even beyond the control of the publishers, who often have to wait for sales figures and focus groups and word of mouth to tell them what to do next. But here’s a concept:
You have a book like ASTONISHING X-MEN. You know ahead of time that it’s going to be 12 issues and one overall storyline, broken neatly into two halves. Being Marvel, you know you aren’t going straight to a collected edition with that. That’s fine. Being Marvel readers, we know that there will most definitely be, at the very least, two trade paperbacks collecting the whole run. But what if you’re a reader who is willing to wait for one large oversized hardcover book to encompass the entire run? It’s a guessing game. It’s seems like an obvious money grab, but it’s not guaranteed. Do you wait on that and hope for the best, or do you settle for the two trades?
Wouldn’t it be nice if Marvel came out and said, “We’ll be printing 12 monthly issues by this team, blown deadlines not withstanding. After the seventh issue is out, a trade paperback collection of the first six issues will be released. After all the issues are out, a second trade will be released for that half. Finally, an oversized hardcover collecting all of the issues complete with new bonus materials — scripts, sketchbooks, what have you — will be released three to six months after the final issue.”
Now, the consumer can no longer complain that Marvel wants him (or her) to buy the same thing two or three times over. It’s YOUR choice now to spend your money as you see fit. Call me horribly old fashioned, but I like having control of my own money.
Clearly, this kind of advanced planning can’t be done with every book. Surprises will pop up here and there. But can’t DC figure out which ABSOLUTE books it might work up further in advance? Can’t Marvel figure out which series will be done in hardcover — which in the “Premiere Edition,” and which in oversized year-long spectacles? Don’t they budget for these kinds of things when they hire new creative teams and start new titles? I know there are people in there doing projections and forecasts.
Sorry, I’m living in a dream world at the moment. It’s a nice place occasionally. Book publishers generally have a better grip on these things than comic publishers. Maybe this is all part of the learning curve?
ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS
- According to a Newsarama report (quoting an International Herald Tribune report), DC is changing their logo. The cynic in me is guessing we’ll see something slick, shiny, slightly CGI-looking, and definitely three dimensional. It’ll involve two colors, one being a highlight color of the other.
I try not to be one to prejudge things. We’ll see what this thing looks like at the end of the month.
Check that — Newsarama updated the story shortly after I wrote this on Sunday. Click on through to see the new logo. I think I was pretty close. They used a gradient for the highlighting instead of a secondary shade of blue. That soft sound you hear right now is that of me patting myself on the back. I like Tom Spurgeon’s comment best, though, that the new logo looks like something worked up for an Ultimate Frisbee team.
- Nothing against Bill Finger, but does the comics world need another award? Did someone decide that they missed the Inkpots that badly during the Eisner Awards in the past couple of years that they had to add a juried Writer’s Award?
We also now have The Shusters, to honor Canadian comics talent.
For an industry as relatively small as the comics industry is, we sure do like giving out tons of awards, don’t we?
- I don’t believe in petitions. I’m a hopeless old cynic. Yet I feel strangely compelled to point to this PROMETHEA petition, asking DC to do an ABSOLUTE edition of everyone’s favorite magical ABC character
If nothing else, there’s a decent set of links next to the petition to reviews of the series, interviews with its creators, and message boards where you can discuss the series.
- DC is raising the price of its cheapest titles from $2.25 to $2.50. This follows hot on the heels of Marvel doing the same. Once again, the same discussion/debate erupts across countless message boards that we see any time a price is hiked. I’m getting sick of these cycles.
When I first started reading comics in 1989, comics had just gone up to $1.00. I think I managed to pick up the last couple of SUPERMAN comics that were still 75 cents before shifting up. Back then, that’s a jump of 33%. This quarter represents a price hike of barely 12%. If kids were reading comics and their parents were still giving them $5 a week for an allowance, I’d be worried about these hikes, perhaps. But when the kids walk into the comics shops with their noses buried deep in their Gameboys or PSPs on their way to picking up the next $5 or $10 pack of Digimon cards (or whichever ones are hot now), I have a hard time mustering up disdain for Marvel and DC for raising their prices by a quarter.
Now, if this price hike opens your eyes to the fact that you’re just not enjoying a book anymore and don’t want to continue throwing good money after bad — then it’s a great price hike. Look at the money it might save you. Personally, I hope you spend that money experimenting on a different title somewhere else. Image has a pretty wide variety of titles these days. Honestly. Check them out.
- The good news is that TOP TEN will continue after the forthcoming graphic novel. The bad news is that Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon won’t have anything to do with it. The new writer is a science fiction prose writer by the name of Paul Di Filippo. He’s walking into some deep quicksand with this assignment. It’s not that the characters are boring and uninteresting. It’s just that the beauty of the series was in the style that Alan Moore pulled it off. He absolutely nailed the HILL STREET BLUES feel that he was going for, with the overlapping dialogue, shaky camera work, and overlapping story arcs. There was a cleverness to all the plots, and the visual look of the title had multiple layers of meaning, complete with crammed-in background gags, visual humor, and unexpected turns of events. Di Filippo is going to have a hard time carrying that on. If he — along with the far-too-overlooked art of Jerry Ordway — turn this into Just Another Superhero Cop book, then they’ll have missed the point. They need to add something new to this book to keep it interesting. I wish them luck, and I’ll be keeping an open mind.
- Congratulations to Jim Demonakos on his new position at Image Comics as Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator. Give Erik Larsen another year, and I think he’ll have hired on fully half the SavageDragon.com message board regulars as staffers.
- Nope, I didn’t attend FREE COMIC BOOK DAY this year. In fact, I don’t think I’ve attended a single one yet. It’s not for me. I already spend far too much money on the things, and my niece is too young yet to appreciate Uncle Augie bringing her by the comics shop for free ARCHIE and DONALD DUCK and SPIDER-MAN comics.
I also missed the second annual Hawthorne High School convention this weekend, sadly. It fell victim to my body’s on-going war against some sort of virus. That’s what’s kept this column so short lately. I’m afraid it also kept me from the show this year. If you went, drop me a line and let me know how it went. I’d love to run a con report in this space next week.
Alan Davis has left UNCANNY X-MEN. I suppose I should be upset about this in some small way, but the truth is that I’ve been waiting on the trades for his artwork on the series. I haven’t missed much, and I fear that I won’t be missing much once I do get the chance to see his work with a spine glued to it. Davis wasn’t going to build a career by drawing 6 issues out of 12 of a monthly series. He’d be better off drawing a six issue mini-series once a year at Marvel, even if that means jumping around a bit and never establishing any artistic continuity. He’s not developing any on UNCANNY X-MEN, so what’s the difference?
We’re not going to get EXCALIBUR out of him again, as nice as it is to imagine. Let’s just hope for a couple of nice short runs on other books. And let’s hope he does something a little more light-hearted in the near future. I think the sense of humor he displayed on EXCALIBUR and even THE CLANDESTINE.
- If you look quickly at this link, you’ll see that SIN CITY is scheduled for an August release on DVD. On the bad news side of things, it looks like it’ll be the bare bones release, with all the bells and whistles coming in time for Christmas or early 2006. I’ll be waiting for the second release, thanks.
I also hope someday that The Digital Bits makes linking to their current posts easier. I know that URL above won’t be good for longer than 24 hours, but the current post doesn’t exist in their archives yet, so there’s no permalink I can give you for the story. Someday, we’ll all work together to get this wacky web thing worked out.
- Is it me, or is it now fashionable to bash the work of Brian K. Vaughan? Is it that WIZARD started to like him or something? Everyone used to love him, and now they ceaselessly point out flaws and foibles in his work. Was he just more popular when less people read his work than he is now, now that he’s everywhere and you can’t swing a dead cat around the room without hitting four things he’s written? While his ULTIMATE X-MEN hasn’t fired me up, I still get a charge every month out of EX MACHINA and Y THE LAST MAN, two titles which seem to be getting less and less plaudits as the months go by.
- Yes, the preceding is filled with vague generalities and my perceptions of a cross-section of reviewers and bloggers. I make no apologies for that. Let’s not spiral down into never-ending arguments of semantics here.
- Easiest blog entries to skip past: Those that list all the search terms that referred people to that blog.
Remember when every magazine and every piece of junk mail you got at home included an AOL CD? There’d always be a two word random generated password to start your free account for a month. Quite often, those two words paired up to something humorous. PC magazines would run back pages filled with such humorous nonsense. After about a year, everyone got tired of the joke and stopped running the AOL password jokes.
That’s about how I feel about the use of search terms as entries in blogs.
The Pipeline Podcast returns later tonight or early tomorrow morning. I’m really hoping to have some reviews in this column for you next week, even though my reading schedule has been limited the past couple of weeks.
Over at Various and Sundry: Lots of AMERICAN IDOL stuff. Apple releases Tiger, and I have my ups and downs with it. STAR WARS III reviews are coming in. TITUS the TV show announced for DVD. And even some SURVIVOR talk.
The Various and Sundry DVD Podcast continues to look at the week’s DVD releases, every Sunday afternoon. Those of you with a podcasting program can subscribe to it right here. Shownotes are posted each week on Sunday afternoon.
All political discussions have been pushed off to one neat side at VandS Politics.
More than 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They’re sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are also still available at the Original Pipeline page. I haven’t had that account in years, but they’ve yet to delete the page space. Go fig.
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