Pipeline2, Issue #22: Reader App

When I put out the call on Tuesday for your questions to answer in this week's column, I didn't expect the sheer breadth of questions you'd ask. But I'm here to try to answer them all, though it may take two weeks to do so. Some of them require more depth than I can give in this little column. =)


Charlton Hargro suggests, "I have a suggestion: Talk about why most independent comic books can't be published on a continuous basis due to the incredibly low orders they get from retailers. I'm talking about like 200 orders -- not 2,000. Why do retailers order so few independents? What is the formula for ordering comics?"

When I put out the call on Tuesday for your questions to answer in this week's column, I didn't expect the sheer breadth of questions you'd ask. But I'm here to try to answer them all, though it may take two weeks to do so. Some of them require more depth than I can give in this little column. =)

Ah, I think this leads us back to the earliest days of PIPELINE2, and the discussions of the direct market contained therein. Retailers won't order what they don't now they can't sell. It's not a question of whether or not they think they can sell the books. If they don't know they can sell it, they often times won't order it. That's the danger of a non-returnable marketplace mixed with product that needs to be sold in such large volumes in order to realize a profit. It costs more to stock a single copy of a single comic than it brings in to sell it.

The formula is simple: Order what people will promise to buy. So if you want to get your hands on the latest issue of some unknown comics, order it from your retailer when it gets solicited. This doesn't guarantee any copies will find their ways to the shelves, but when you've got a PREVIEWS magalog clocking in at 300 pages, it's impossible to keep track of everything. I don't care how great a retailer you are. But if a bunch of people asks their retailer to order a specific book for them, the retailer might realize there's a marker and buy extra copies for the shelves.


Ben Herman, a.k.a. "Purple Vengeance" on the CBR message boards, is full of questions. But let's be honest: the boy never shuts up. (Yes, that's a joke. Save your e-mails.)

    "1) What do you personally think of "bad girl" books? Any that you like, that you would list as "guilty pleasures" that you buy and read? Are they as awful as most people believe, or is it a mistake to lump them all together?"

Here's something I've wanted to address for a long time: "Guilty pleasures." The more I think about it, the more I loathe that term. You either like something or you don't. Don't try to be coy about it and try to curry favor with other people by calling something a "guilty pleasure." If you like reading something, just say so. I don't call Rob Liefeld comics "guilty pleasures," although it would probably keep some people off my back whenever I mention his name. I freely admit that I enjoy many of his comics for various reasons. I don't try to soft sell it by covering it with fancy terminology.

As for "bad girl" books: If they have a decent story and aren't too far out there, I'd consider buying one. That I can think of, I've only bought one real "Bad Girl" book, and that was Warren Ellis' short 3-issue run on VAMPIRELLA. I don't recall particularly liking it, either.

Yes, it's a mistake to lump them all in together. The stuff you see in the black and white section of PREVIEWS with nothing but leather and blood is most likely crap peddled only to show the more prurient stuff the addled minds of the publishers can dream up. On the other hand, there's some stuff that's rather good that features objectified women.

And now the Sequential Tarts will never let me write a column for them, for sure. =)

    "2) What is the most overrated comic book or comic story arc or miniseries you have ever read? What did *not* live up to the hype or critical acclaim?"

Oh, man, I hate these questions. I've read WAY too many comics to be able to come up with stuff off the top of my head. I know I was recently disappointed with THE INVISIBLES. I didn't think James Robinson's THE GOLDEN AGE was as great as everyone has said it is. Come to think of it, UNCLE SAM was a huge disappointment.


Joe Keatinge pleads, "Will you please stop harassing me?"

No, you little annoying brat. Go back to your room.


John A. Claus asks:

"I just wanted to get your take on some general trends in the industry. I have long been a superhero genre fan and more specifically Marvel fan for well over 15 years. But recently I noticed my tastes changing from superhero to other genres and more specifically DC/Vertigo. Good books by the Vertigo imprint have been THE TRENCHCOAT BRIDGE, EGYPT, NEVADA. The impetus for the change seems to be my discussions with the professionals at the last couple of San Diego Cons. The Marvel "suits" seem more corporate in their attitude towards comics and are more concerned with merchandising and film rights. The DC "suits" seem more open to the creators. DC seems to be willing to take more chances with the creators and creator comments about DC editorial are a lot more favorable than Marvel editorial comments. (of course, Bob Harras probably skews the Marvel curve). Although the Marvel Knights imprint is a start in the right direction for Marvel. If Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis are willing to write for Marvel that is. My main question (minus all the rambling) is why do you think DC has been making greater strides in the industry than Marvel who used to dominate the market?"

Money. It's pretty much that simple. DC can afford to take more chances. They have the Warner Brothers multimedia empire to fund their efforts. The comics are only published to sustain the properties that can be fully exploited in the movies or the television screens.

Marvel used to do the same sort of stuff DC is doing now, back in the 1980s. Between Epic and their line of graphic novels, the content was pretty varied. Science fiction epics, superhero stuff, warm and fuzzy elves, a wayward wandering warrior with one joke, a full line of kids books. When the boom hit in the early 90s, the suits took over. They nearly destroyed the company by trying to buy out all their competition to take over all the shelf space. Marvel's gone through presidents more often than people with colds go through Kleenex. They've been in front of bankruptcy judges more often than yesteryear's television children stars. They can't afford to do anything more than what's guaranteed to sell. More Spidey. More X-Men.

DC is a small cog inside of a vast corporate empire. Marvel is its own empire and so every little thing counts more. The ironic thing is that this set-up allows for DC to do more risky stuff. Their losses are covered by the profits from BATMAN BEYOND, or some such licensed show. (This isn't to say DC willingly takes on books which are known losers, but that they're not afraid to have one every now and then.)

These are all just crass generalizations, of course, but the root of it is the same: money. DC has it. Marvel doesn't have the same kind of corporate structure that would allow for the publication of a stronger line of comics. (A portion of the profits from items licensed from DC comics characters goes back to DC Comics. Marvel doesn't have a similar deal. Actually, they might. They reorganize so many times it's tough to tell. Is Toy Biz considered Marvel's owner or just a peer organization?!? UGH. This is why I've stayed out of all these proceedings.)

And while we're discussing Marvel and DC, Lt. Marvel asks:

    "1. A complete denial that "Reader Appreciation Day" equals "Help! I've run out of topics to write about!"

Reader Appreciation Day does not equal "Help! I've run out of topics to write about!" This idea is strictly a message that I'm too lazy to put together one well-thought-out column and that I'd rather slap together a half-dozen poorly-conceived notions and call it a day. So there!

    "2. A review/essay of "Desperately Xeeking Xena" (from Sunday's Simpsons Halloween ep) and the comic book/toy collector mindset skewed within. "

I thought it was funny. But, then, I also thought the William Shatner "Get a life" sketch was funny. The media panders to all sorts of clichés and poorly advised commonly-held beliefs which are usually incorrect. There's no fighting it. I liked STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. That doesn't mean I dressed up as R2D2 and stood in line for a month leading up to the movie. And I don't think those people who did are complete geeks. Just because they chose to hang out outside a movie theater for a week instead of at a bar drinking themselves silly doesn't mean they're imbeciles. (Oh, sure, there were plenty that probably were imbeciles, but not as many as the media tried to portray.) Besides, many used it as a charitable event, which seems to have gone completely unnoticed. The idea of a line for the movie is not terribly dissimilar to the message boards contained here at CBR. It's a bunch of people with one thing in common sitting around the campfire talking.

I'm digressing pretty badly here, aren't I?

    "3. Reviews of the Eisner (and other) winning materials."

I've actually reviewed most of them in previous Pipeline columns. Maybe I'll go through them for next week's column, though.


Joseph B Canganelli asks, "What do you do for a living??? Where do you do it???"

That one's simple. I'm a computer consultant, programming Oracle database systems for Fortune 100-type companies. Right now I'm working at a major pharmaceutical-type company in Summit, NJ.

This explains how I'm able to afford way too many comics.

Ben Herman is back with more questions, conveniently sequentially numbered:

    "3) Is your life any different now that you're so well known? Do complete strangers recognize your name because of Pipeline?"

And they stop me in the streets, too, after the San Diego pictures were published. Seriously, though, no. The comics audience is so small that I'm but a tiny blip on the radar. People recognized my name at the San Diego Con from Pipeline, which was nice. Most of them knew my name because Jonah had an uncanny ability to be at their table ten minutes ahead of me and mention my name. Ask Jim Krueger, for one. =)

More people recognize my name from the letters columns of comics than from Pipeline, I think.

    "4) What kind of name is Augie? Serious question! It's *very* distinctive, and I would be interested in hearing where it comes from."

In this case, it's Belgian. Flemmings rule! Walloons suck! (There's an in-joke for both of my readers from Belgium. =) My full name is August Vincent De Blieck Jr. And I'm no relation to the likewise easily remembered "Olav Beemer."

    "Oh, yes, I was also wondering if you will be going to the NYC show this month."

Yes. I'll be there either Saturday or Sunday. I should be wearing my CBR t-shirt. Of course, given the cold temperatures, you probably won't be able to see the logo through the jacket. =(


A reader by the moniker of "pbp" wished to compliment me. This one was too good to keep to myself. My comments are interspersed:

    "You have obviously not read enough latter 20th century literature, particularly postmodernism work, Reichian metaphysics, voodoo mysticism or simply lack imagination (obvious enough by your appreciation of mr.pointy-knees-of-death Liefeld) to appreciate The Invisibles. No, it's not mean to be accessible to the superhero-adoring public. That's why he also writes the JLA."

I thought he wrote JLA for the money. I have no interest in any of the other stuff you mention at the top of your run-on sentence. Pardon my uncultured brow. I managed to get through college without attaching myself to all those usual dogmas. I did "real world" stuff.

    "It's [sic] similarities to the Matrix are not thematic as you point you. They are in the details - giant insectoid robots and AI mental interrogation were of the few shocking simliarities [sic] to the Invisibles. Added to the fact that the Wachowskis are comic book fans and you have more than enough to indict.

    "I usually don't read your column. Thanks for the validation by your weak criticism of Morrison."

The sad thing is that pbp will never see his work in "print" here. ::sigh::

But while the topic is up for discussion, I had to apologize to the fine folks over at Mania.com. Last week's Invisibles discussion was inspired by an interview with Grant Morrison which appeared over there a couple of weeks ago. I failed to mention the source. I regret the oversight.

Marvel's Black Cat #1 Outsold DC's DCeased #2 by Over 100K

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