Robot 6's Charismatic Mr. Collins assisted Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort in asking a particular question back on Monday to our assembled Robot readers. After hearing a lot of frazzled fans at this year's Baltimore Comic-Con, Mr. Brevoort wants to know what readers think of event books. Enough news and views have happened in the week, but this question is super important and cannot be ignored by Yours Truly.
Event books are a touchy subject. One one hand, they sell a lot of comics based on the sturm und drang of their stories; on the other hand, they ruin a sense of stability for the reader. Some of them have been truly game-changing events, and others have been World War Hulk. Now, you can dress up an event book in the uniform of a particular character and call them more 'localized' events like Curse of the Mutants and Shadowland, but people picking them up off the shelves and taking them to the sales counter know what they really are: an event book, just like all the others have been.
I would like to thank Mr. Brevoort for being brave enough to unleash such a subject into the wilds of the internet. We of the internets are an opinionated and passionate bunch who will tell you exactly what we think (sometimes to our own detriment). Event books are the holofoil covers of our time, just another way to promote a book and perpetuate interest, and it's cool that a Real Live Editor(tm) might really want to know how much interest they're perpetuating. I hope he reads each and every one of our readers wonderful comments; I know I'll be certainly going over a lot of the stuff they originally said over here but in the end, it's all going to come down to one answer.
This answer will make both long-time readers happy, interest new readers and generate sales in the long term for our House of Ideas. It will slice, dice and also make Julian fries. The answer is HERE, my friends! Not a dream, not an imaginary hoax, the real true answer to the event book question is live and in person and right below that continue reading link! It's there! Get yours today!
First off, I think we should take a moment to see things from Mr. Brevoort's point of view. He felt, along with editor and proud former San Franciscan Axel Alonso, that Marvel was putting away the Story of the Century for more localized attention. And he's right (Man, another column, another Editor is Right pull quote from me, I'm such a shill...), Marvel has finally stopped the company-wide mega event. The roller coaster ride of Avengers: Disassembled to Civil War to World War Hulk to Secret Invasion to Dark Reign to Siege has finally pulled to a stop with the Heroic Age. Not so much an event as a state of mind, that Heroic Age banner is just a way of say that the Marvel Comics Group is giving you their best. In a way, you could argue that if readers don't have an event book, they could feel a little cheated in their sense of story. Why should I pick this book up if Spider-Man's going to only do Spider-Man stuff and not, say, go to the moon and tackle an alien symbiote with Wolverine and Deadpool? And if Wolverine and Deadpool are on the moon fighting Spidey's Big Event, then what are they doing back in San Fransisco tackling a god like being of infinite power that will test Logan's resolve to remain a mutant? And if that's going on, why is Deadpool teaming up with the Avengers to see where I'm going with this long convoluted metaphor that will result in the death of a beloved character (hint: it's Dr. Strange)? The coordination for these kinds of stories must be hellish on editorial and the writing staff, because it can be a very special kind of hell for the comic retailer and reader.
Smaller event books have no gun to your head, and should require a very small checklist but also give you that "This Book Counts" feeling. Sometimes, like with Doomwar and The Thanos Imperative, they don't need you, but from the scope of story and the quality of characters, you need them. They require little of your budget and deliver on something large enough in scope that you're getting that all-important money's worth. In events like Shadowland and Curse of the Mutants, it starts to be a little less clear. Tie-ins have a fantastic purpose in that they give you a very choice cut of the Big Beef story. You really like Civil War, but want to know more about Tony Stark's intentions through the registration process? Go read Civil War: Iron Man. If you think Gambit is dreamy (who doesn't?) and want to see what he's doing during every minute of the vampire invasion? Go read Curse of the Mutants: Storm & Gambit. Tie-ins should never be required reading, as the story should be contained within the main title itself. No one would read Hamlet if they first had to put the book down in the middle of it to go read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead #1. It would get confusing to try and juggle where everyone was at what time, and some would never want to read Hamlet in the first place with that kind of responsibility. I want to read a story about Hamlet, not Hamlet and his buddies fight pirates in the sea only to be harassed by actors. So a lot of people are getting exhausted already by the very thought of Chaos War, and it hasn't even come out yet! Just the oncoming train of tie-ins and one-shots and god-level battles are causing a Pavlovian response in comics readers as an event isn't something you look forward to anymore, you endure it.
Why do we endure? Why are event books the continual topic of conversation when comic fans feel over-saturated with them? The hard-to-bear answer is that event books work. Go look at the Distinguished Competition over there and tell me that that ever-rotating color wheel they employ isn't selling books. Batman has died, been reborn and is now getting his own franchise within his own franchise of titles, and people are going berserk for more. To a more casual comic reader, event books tell them when a book is "good," good being the subjective term that it is. With so many titles on the stands, how does a reader know which one to buy? How do they know they'll be getting the biggest bang for their buck out of all the other books out there? Well, the book with the most characters they like is a good start. The book where the most stuff happens that will echo throughout the ages is another. A book that continues a storyline they've already enjoyed is also a good indicator that a comic reader's grabbed an event book off the stands. Holofoils were obnoxious and expensive but man, did they make your comic cooler in the '90s. Not to mention more speculative in the comic collectibles market; an event book normally means a note in the Overstreet Price Guide, which might result in a price increase to fund your kids' college tuition on.
But what I'd really like to say here, as well an answer as definitively as a humble reader and retailer can, is that Tom Brevoort should work as hard as he and all the editorial staff can to lower the price of Marvel's comic books. This $3.99 thing is killing me, guys. Books need to be cheaper. This event stuff and all is nice, but at the end of the day, what really gets my attention is how much I'm spending on comics. If books were cheaper, then I could try something new or pick up something on a whim without feeling like this is not the best way to spend my hard-earned cash. If books were cheaper, budgets would unwind a little more and be less tied to what needs to be read in order to get by. It's a huge disappointment when you read a $4 event tie-in only to have no key information inside of it and no feeling like you've gained anything by spending that money in the first place. Sure, it might have been a fantastic Ben Ulrich story but when ol' Ben isn't in the main book everyone's reading? It feels like a waste, especially for cash that could have gone to something better.
You could even make an event out of the lowering of prices! Come one, come all to the Mighty Marvel Money Movement! Buy all these titles at the low price and learn a little something about Marvel's merry mutants! Spider-Man swings in to your wallet, along with his amazing friends, and there's room to spare!
Okay, that's corny, but you could definitely come up with something better. Marvel is always king in my book for cutting edge decisions that change the industry. Mr. Brevoort, I challenge you to do it again and find a way to lower the prices of your books.