Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Greatest Movie Poster You've Never Seen

It speaks for itself.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just When Community Couldn't Get Anymore Awesome...

Someone goes and does this:

This is probably the best thing ever and not just because it further solidifies my 'Abed and Annie are destined to be together' theory.

Go check out more of Kinjamin's awesomeness (including the Batman Heroes version of the same picture) over at his Deviant Art page. And after that, go check out some episodes on NBC so they know not to cancel it this season.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Bill December 8, 2011

The Bill:

Did you like how, after a full month of nothing but new comic reviews, I ended up skipping a week last week? If nothing else, I'm trying to keep y'all on your toes. Just when you think I'm gonna zig, I dig and shatter your perceptions...

Of online comic reviews...

on a small blogger site.



Whatever. Let's get this show on the road, shall we?

Old-School At Its Best:
The Defenders
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Terry Dodson

I want to know where this Matt Fraction was during Fear Itself.

Where Fear Itself felt over extended, limp, and half-baked, The Defenders is just the opposite. It's a fresh take on a old property, told in a manner that's satisfying to the buyer of a single issue, but still (potentially) satisfying in a trade. In a scant twenty pages, Fraction does in one issue what it takes Bendis to do in three. And it's honestly pretty amazing.

The story is pretty basic: A crazy new threat pops up and it comes to Dr. Strange to put a stop to it all. You know, standard stuff. From there, it's a refreshingly brisk, and active, tour of the world as Strange assembles his team around him. You can tell that Fraction is having a blast with all these characters and has no shortage of ideas.

The only odd stand-out, from a character perspective, is Fraction's take on the Silver Surfer. I don't know if it's a fall out from the Galactus Seed story line over the The Mighty Thor, or something that Greg Pak did in his mini-series, but the Surfer seemed very.... fluid. Literally. Something happened and now the Surfer is apparently made up of a sentient pool of liquid in the shape of a man. Is this a new thing? Can someone shed some light on this for me?

Weirdness aside, I very much enjoyed this issue. In this of four dollar comics, it's very nice (and sadly rare) to read an issue that's worth the money. The Defenders is certainly worth it, and I hope it's a trend that continues on into the future.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Argument Against Digital Comics

Straight up: The digital comics movement scares me.

Not "scares me" in a I-think-I'm-going-to-die kind of way, but rather in a I-don't-know-if-the-comics-industry-can-survive-it kind of way. After years of being told that the industry is on the brink, I think I'm finally believing the hype.

Let's take a step back and start from the beginning. As I'm sure anyone who reads anything about comics online knows, there's been a big push from the major publishers to deliver their books digitally the same day they become available in print (otherwise known as 'day and date'). This idea, rightfully so, terrifies retailers who can only see customers leaving their shops and heading straight for their computer screens. To belay these fears, the big two have kept their prices online the same as in the store under the guise of not wanting to hurt their retail partners. Then, last week, Dark Horse jumped into the online game and nearly capsized the boat.

In their initial announcement of going 'day and date', Dark Horse declared that their new books would be offered for a dollar cheaper online than in the stores. The retailers were furious and within a few days pressured Dark Horse to amend their announcement to say that the books would be the same price at both points of retail.

Finally, a few days ago, Brian Woods (of DMZ and Demo fame) took to his blog to write a well thought out response to these retailers. His argument basically amounted to: 'the whole industry is hurting for cash, no one's making money, the fanbase is drying up, and something drastic has to be done'.

To Woods, an online component to retail only strengthens comics as an industry and will serve to get more people interested in my favorite hobby. Retailers ought to be happy that there's being made an effort to engage a new fan base that will eventually mean more profits for all. Except that, if we look at other entertainment mediums, it won't.

Here's where my cynical nature takes over.

Simply put: I don't trust these big publishers. For all the nice words they have for retailers and their attempts to 'make things right', I just don't buy it. When I look at the basic economics of the situation, it doesn't make any sense for the big publishers to try to work with physical retail partners.

Let's break down some numbers. Say, for arguments sake, that an average comic costs the consumer 4 dollars. Of that 4, let's say half goes to the retailer and Diamond with the rest going to the publisher. Of that half, so two bucks, carve out another dollar for production fees (printing, packaging, quality control, etc.) and royalties. Finally that last dollar is spent covering the 'above the line' costs of the writer and artists, with anything left over spilling over into profit. So that means, in real rough numbers, the profit for any book is probably pennies on the dollar (assuming that it meets the sales threshold to break even). To say that's a shitty return is putting it lightly.

So let's check out the numbers by going digital with the same cover price. So without having to go through a retailer or a physical distributor, a book sold for 4 bucks nets 4 dollars coming back to the publisher. We'll say that the the production costs, royalties, and 'above the line' costs remain the same, which means the publisher ends up with around 2 dollars profit per each book sold. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out, even with these rough numbers, that digital is far more profitable for the publisher than anything else. The question becomes: What about the collateral damage to the industry?

As an example to what I'm implying, let's look at the home video market. For years, when a movie came out for home consumption, you had two choices if you wanted to watch it: you could either go rent it from a video store or pony up the dough to buy your own copy. Then Netflix happened; rocking the boat first with their convenient 'rent by mail' model, and later with their 'instant streaming video'. As a consumer, it's awesome because I can get almost anything I want without leaving the comfort of my couch. But while that kind of convenience is awesome for me, it's death to the video retailer. In recent years, it's meant the decline of both video rental stores and DVD sales which has lead to decreased profits that are only now climbing up the chain to bite the distributors.

Worried yet?

Maybe we should look at the music industry, that (eventually) went full bore into the digital market place only to see their profits decline and record stores drop like flies. Or the magazine industry that's seen sales/profits plummet as their content becomes cheap and convenient online (not to mention the disappearing ad revenue) while the idea of a newsstand has wilted. The list goes on and on, but I'll stop before I sound like too much of a curmudgeon. You get the point.

Making things conveniently available online seems like a great idea for everyone, but ultimately just ends up hurting the overall industry.

The way I see it, the comics industry is standing on the same digital precipice that all those other industries stood on years ago and needs to be careful to not make the same mistakes. While the physical distribution model isn't perfect, and certainly isn't as immediately profitable, it does more to sustain the industry than a pure digital model could. The implicit costs of changing things need to be weighed just as much as the explicit costs because once you start going down the road of cheap and convenient, it's damn near impossible change course.

In the end, I hope everything will work out; that this, as with most proclamations of the 'Death of Comics', will fade in time. For whatever reason though, I have this nagging suspicion that it won't and I am, for the first time, very scared about the future of the comics industry.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mondays are for M.O.D.O.R.D.

That's Mental Organism Designed Only for Roller Derby, of course. The greatest creation to ever come out of a drunken A.I.M. technology jam session. Well, second greatest, if you count this guy.

Those A.I.M. guys really know how to have fun. It's only a matter of time until they splinter off to form A.I.F.T. (Advanced Ideas in Fun Times!)...

From the disturbed, but awesome minds of Jed MacKay and Sheldon Vella in X-Men: To Serve and Protect #4, the greatest issue of an X-Men anthology that you've never heard of.