Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Free Webcomics?

Newsarama just posted an article about a poll they conducted on their website about whether "digital comics" should be free. I'm actually somewhat surprised that the numbers are so high for paying for digital comics. And I think in many ways, I agree with a lot of what is said. First up, I think giving it away free does devalue the comics themselves. And I just don't think relying on advertising revenue is a viable model, you're relying on other companies to be successful enough to pay you and if they hit a dry spell so do you. Also, I've talked before about the feeling of "investing" through paying for comics in my previous rambling on webcomics.

On the other hand, I still haven't seen a model I'm entirely happy with. For one thing, I really want the download option or something similar. And this actually goes beyond just "download", I want the book to remain readable 5 years from now so this means it probably can't rely on one company's reader software. This wouldn't be for all books, some I'd be happy to just be able to read online and that's it. But other books, I may want to be able to open up 5 years from now and read it. So if the book is no longer available (because I haven't kept up with the subscription, the company stopped offering it, the technology used to read it is no longer supported, or whatever) then I can't. You could also go with the option of providing digital and print versions but then the creators have to take into consideration that their work has to fit both mediums and that could limit their storytelling techniques.

I also wonder where webcomics like the ones on Zuda, DrunkDuck or whatever could fit in this. I could see someone paying a buck for an issue of Spider-Man or the latest Brian Michael Bendis book but would they pay for an unproven talent with a new idea? Probably not at first. But if you give them away for free I wonder how many people will pay for them down the road. Perhaps if they are good enough some people will want that guarantee of being able to read them in the future and want a downloaded or print version. Or if you do try to fit them in then perhaps they can be freebies to start, pay to read some comic and you get a few pages from a Zuda/webcomic for free. But these are just ideas off the top of my head and the idea of giving these webcomics away for free does go against my earlier statement that comics shouldn't be made available for free.

Another issue I see is if companies go their separate ways on this then that could be a stumbling block. If someone wants to read two Marvel books, two DC books, two Dark Horse books, two Devil's Due books, two Image comics,... then are they going to be happy going to any number of sites, downloading software for each site, paying for each site, etc, etc. I'd probably get tired of it myself. I think it might even be better in some ways if one external company ran it. That would be an interesting model, especially if you tied in webcomics. So someone could pay to read an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, be given the option to add a few pages from a webcomic of their choice for free, and the money is split between Marvel, the webcomic owner, and the providing company (with Marvel getting the bulk of it). I can't really see this happening of course but I think it would be interesting. There is the huge risk that the comic companies would now have to rely on this external company to keep things running.

It seems the more I think and ramble about the idea of digital or web comics the more questions it raises for me. I also have friends who own or work in comic stores, and it scares me to think what this would mean for them.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekly Comic Reviews for March 25, 2009 -- SPOILERS

I'd like to say it was a fairly busy week for me comic-wise but it's just relative. Since I don't buy too many books a week of 3 books plus Wizard magazine is "fairly busy" for me. So let's get right to it shall we... Oh wait, be warned that all of this week's reviews will CONTAIN SPOILERS so you have been warned...

Runaways vol 3 #8 -- This issue seems to fit in with Moore's other books in terms of pace in that in the end, you don't really feel like much has happened. There's a lot of little events and character moments but it can feel like it's dragging on a bit. It's still enjoyable but I'm still looking for something more (and no, I don't even know what "more" is). The art was okay, I wasn't really a fan of Ramos on this book so this felt a little better for me, though there were some parts I felt could have been a bit better (Nico's look seemed off in some panels). And speaking of Nico, Moore has really been writing her as bad with the magics. I thought she seemed a lot more competent but since he's taken over, her spells have been going awry, more like she was in her early days. I kinda hope there's a reason for this but I have a feeling there isn't.

Skaar Son of Hulk #9 -- Well, at least someone can write a good Hulk even if it's not the current Hulk writer and it's not even the Hulk. Okay, that was uncalled for. A lot of people are really enjoying the Hulk series and I'm just bitter. Getting back to the issue in question, it has the feeling of things falling into place. Both literally (the ruler of Sakaar determined, people fall into line, etc) and in other terms (Skaar coming into his own, his character being flushed out a bit more, and we see there will be some progression made). I'm looking forward to seeing what Caiera and the Surfer have in store as the end of this issue was interesting to say the least. I think the series has also improved under Lim's art. I normally like Garney's art a lot but something just wasn't working for me with his work on Skaar. I think this book still has potential and I'm sticking with it.

Elephantmen #17 -- In some ways, you sorta know where this issue is going right from the start but I was still intrigued to see how it got there. And as is the norm for this series, the unique characters really make the story from the overzealous police, the old lady, right to Hip and Ebony. Also, we get a quick moment to indicate that the events from last issue of the Spore Wars story aren't necessarily over and done with which I rather liked because I had originally thought Miki's survival came a little out of nowhere. I love how the story just keeps growing with each issue of this series. I did find the art a little lacking in places and I found a few parts a little off (I don't want to get side tracked with the details but one jarring scene had two police talking helmetless and the next they were helmetted, it was rather weird, I wasn't sure if that was to indicate the passing of a small amount of time or whether the scenes where they were talking took place before they even started going after Tusk). As well, the two main officers just looked too similar once they had their helmets on. One seemed to be the older of the two (the bald one) but it became harder to distinguish them. So I thought there was some room for improvement there. I think I've rambled on enough though, despite some shortcomings (and what book doesn't have some) it was another strong issue from a series I continue to enjoy.

And I guess that's it for now. So let me know what you've been reading if you want. And if you don't then take care. :)

Monday, March 23, 2009


I finally got around to seeing Watchmen. I'm not going into great length on it, I think pretty much everything has already been said about this film. But overall, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was as faithful to the book as they could make it (though I know some would disagree on this point based on the major change in the ending). I could nitpick about this or that, or say what parts I wished were included but overall, I thought it was a great film.

Now if I could just get my hands on a copy of "Watchmen Babies in V for Vacation".

And for something totally unrelated, I also decided to catch up on the Guild recently. I had heard about it on some Joss Whedon sites and on the Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog DVD, and I thought Felicia Day was great in Dr Horrible, so I decided to check it out. It was good for a few laughs. I'm not actually a gamer but I still found it pretty funny.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Weekly Comic Reviews for March 18th, 2009 -- SPOILERS

Let's get right to it shall we...

Angel #19 -- I liked Kelley Armstrong and Dave Ross's first issue much more than the first 17 and I think this one may have been slightly better. I think the storytelling, the art, the flow, the dialogue everything seems to be working better for me. It's not really blowing me away mind you but I'm enjoying it. I've already pretty much decided I'll be dropping the series after issue 22 but I think I'll enjoy these last few issues.

Mysterius the Unfathomable #3 (of 6)-- I think I forgot to list this one in my monthlies last month. I guess it's because it's only been a few issues and I have a crappy memory. So my apologies for that. I found this issue to be packed with stuff being hurtled about at a very fast pace. And it works for the most part but I did have times where I had to go back and forth to figure out who was saying what, there were times I found that there was just so much crammed into it. But it worked well in giving a sense of urgency to the characters and the story. And Tom Fowler's artwork lends itself well to this kinda out there story and unique characters. I feel I should point out that one of the main reasons I started picking up this series is because Tom is a friend of a friend of mine but I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I'm enjoying it.

I also polished off two TPBs in the past week. Powers Vol 12 and Planetary Vol 1. Some quick comments on both but be warned MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!!!

Powers vol 12 -- I'm rather happy that Deena is powerless by the end of this story, I really didn't like having her and Walker being powers. Though obviously her powers were a bit different than your standard ones. Anywho, it was a very intense chapter for Powers but a very well done one.

Planetary vol 1 -- I don't really know why I picked this up, I just noticed it on Amazon and remembered so many people talking about it in the past and thought "what the heck." On the one hand I like the writing and Cassaday's art is great (though I find he's improved a lot since this first volume) but on the other hand, I found myself shrugging off some of the "twists". The "tie" to Crisis/JLA/multi-world stuff, Doc Savage, Godzilla, the FF, the Hulk,... it just felt a little "done before" to me. But the main story of the Planetary themselves is interesting and I'm curious to see where it goes. The fact that it's only 27 issues/4 TPBs also probably helps, if it was ongoing I might not be as interested to see where it goes.

I think that's it for now. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spider-Girl goes "digital"

So Marvel has announced that Spider-Girl will be continuing online via its Digital Comics Unlimited thingmajig. Could this be the start of something? Could we be seeing more and more books that aren't selling as well start moving online? And would it be seen as a viable money maker? And could this have saved some of the Marvel books I liked that were eventually cancelled?

I think we'll just have to wait and see. I will say this however, I do like that Marvel is trying to find a way to keep these books alive in some form or another. Though I'm sure someone will see it as them trying to get Spider-Girl fans shelling out for a subscription even though they only want that one book. But you can't please everyone. :)

A few things from the interview with Tom DeFalco:

"Marvel.com: Will the digital format change anything about the way you plot or script your stories?

Tom DeFalco: Not at first, but, as time goes on, I'll be experimenting with the format. As far as I'm concerned, the digital format is like the early days of television. It took the writers, actors and directors a little while to learn what could and could not be done with their new format. At first, everyone treated television a lot like radio, but then people realized that the actors could actually move around and that visual action could be used to advance the story. We're still learning what the digital format can do. You should ask me the same question a year from now."

I love that answer!


"Tom DeFalco: I think it's time to introduce a whole bunch of new villains and supporting characters."

That was one thing I had said about the series before, I didn't like the Spider-Man foes or their knock offs that much. I'd be more interested in seeing something new.

And a final thought of my own, on the one hand I really hope they maintain top notch talent on whatever books they go the digital route on. On the other hand, I think it could open up the door to Marvel to possibly showcase newer talent.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yahoo on comics

While visiting Yahoo I noticed they had a photo gallery of comic related pictures on their site and flipping through I see pictures of Captain America #25 (his death), the Hulk (movie version), Downey Jr (as Iron Man), Obama/Spidey, etc. and then I get to a picture of Ultimate Captain America and I read:

"This illustration released by Marvel Comics, shows comic book hero Captain America from the Ultimates universe. Marvel Comics, which killed off the veteran superhero almost a year ago, brought him back to life Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008"

Now I wonder how I'd explain to the layperson just how they got it wrong...

Edit: And would the layperson even care? ;)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekly Comic Reviews for March 11th, 2009 -- Pas de spoilers!

I got nothing.

Yep, travelled down to the comic shop and there was nothing for me. I did expect it but I had hoped I missed something or that I'd see something on the shelf that caught my eye but nope, nothing. At least nothing I really wanted to spend money on. So I went home and cracked open the Incredible Hulk Omnibus. I've had it for a while now but I've been busy reading other stuff. It's really interesting to go back and see how the character started. I find the Hulk to be one character in particular that has been portrayed in so many different ways through the years by the various writers so it's interesting to me to go back to the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby stuff.

Which kinda leads me to a possible rambling. I don't have all my thoughts laid out just yet but it also connects to something that was said in the Comic Book Club's latest review video of Final Crisis #7. I think it was Alex who said that he feels Final Crisis would have been better for him had it been outside continuity. Then there were comments on Valerie D'Orazio's post questioning what will be the next classic graphic novel where it is suggested in order for a book to achieve this it will have to be something that is discreet. Which leads me back to the question that I've rambled about before, how should continuity be handled.

I have to say that Alex's comment rang true for me to a high degree. I haven't really been a big fan of the Marvel or DC event storylines as many felt forced to me and one of the reasons for that is that I'm always trying to figure out where it all fits and how everything got to these points so quickly. But if the events weren't part of some larger continuity, if we just had a story marketted as "Let's see what would happen if Norman Osborn gained control of SHIELD, etc..." and we could just brush it aside when it was done (which some of my friends have said that is how they look at it) then I might pick up the TPBs (provided I didn't have to buy 10 just to get all the crossover stuff).

And even the non-event books might fit into the same category. Looking at the Hulk we have a few points in his history I didn't like, John Byrne's second run, Bruce Jones' run, and Jeph Loeb's current run. But again, I find that for me a big problem is seeing how these fit in the overall storyline for the character and the Marvel Universe. Again, if they were marketted as a disjoint story I'd probably have less of a problem with them. I know there are other Hulk books that are said to be outside continuity that I've read and were of probably a lesser quality than these runs yet they didn't seem to rub me the wrong way like these runs did.

Now quite a few of my friends say that this is how they read comics anyways so they don't have the same problem that I do. So maybe I'm alone here but I do want to point at least some of the blame on the companies and writers as well. It's not like they are pushing the idea of the stories being disjoint and a lot of their stories rely on the continuity and they flaunt it when they can go back to tie their story into something that happened 20 years ago. And I think they encourage the idea that Spidey in comics now is the same guy Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created, the same guy that was on the bridge when Gwen Stacy died, the same guy that went through the whole clone saga, etc, etc. And I understand that, fans feel they have a connection to that character as they've been reading his life story so long it's almost like he's their closest friend (yes, I know how sad and geeky that sounds and maybe it's overstating it).

And that can be the biggest loss of dropping continuity altogether. Fans have grown attached to the character and if you're always playing with the idea that the Spider-Man in one story shares some elements of his history with some of the previous versions then is he really the same character? And if all we have are Hulk comics where the character may or may not share some of his history with previous versions can we really grow so attached to them? They may make for compelling individual stories but will there be something that makes the character speak to us if he's always speaking differently?

As you can see, my thoughts are still a bit messy on this subject. I could ramble on and on, going back and forth, but I think I'll just leave it for now because really, I have no answers yet. Maybe I'll do a more proper rambling on the subject in the future.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hip Flask: Ouroboros???

In an interview over on CBR, Ladrönn had this to say about his current projects:
"I’m working on three projects right now. In the U.S., I’m drawing the second issue of “Hip Flask: Ouroboros,” ..."

This is the first I'm hearing of "Hip Flask: Ouroboros" and as a Hip Flask/Elephantmen fan I'm very interested so I'm putting it out there, anyone have any info on this?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Few Tidbits...

I don't think I have any books coming out this week. That usually means I'll end up spending more money buying TPBs. :) So few tidbits...

I'm nearly caught up on Powers, I recently finished volume 10 (volume 11 is out and 12 is coming out shortly). I've been enjoying this series quite a bit but I'm a little uneasy at the direction the story seems to be taking. Though I'm hoping the writing will get me through it. One thing I'm kinda noticing is that with Oeming liking the 2 page spreads I sometimes get a bit lost if I don't notice the panels spreading over the break or the letter balloons falling right in the middle because I don't crack open the TPB far enough (don't want to break the spine). But that's just me I think. :)

I also picked up the Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. It was an interesting story with a unique look artistically. For Batman fans who can't get enough Joker I'd definitely recommend it.

In terms of Zuda comics, I'm still reading my usuals (High Moon and Bayou) and the new chapter of Celadore started and it looks good. I'm also curious to see where "I Rule the Night" is going. I haven't got through all the latest competition entries but some look very nice, I just hope some of the writing is of the same level of quality.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I am such an evil person...

Because I keep getting friends who had stopped buying comics back to feeding their addiction. Whether it's Fables, Elephantmen, Invincible, or even books I don't even buy (New Avengers and a crapload of other Marvel titles). I'm even working on my 18-month old nephew with Hulk and Spider-Man toys. Which leads me to... I'm going to be an uncle again. My brother and sister-in-law are expecting their second child.

Yeah, you got me. This post has nothing to do with me being evil, I just wanted to post my happy news in a weird way for some reason.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Watchmen Review... But Not Mine

I wasn't able to get out to see it on the weekend, hopefully next weekend. But some friends went to see it and when I asked one of them what he thought he replied in a not so happy voice:
"Ugh! The action scenes were great but it was like two and a half hours of story!"

Friday, March 06, 2009

Weekly Comic Reviews for March 4, 2009

It's rather funny that while I'm trying to trim down my purchases I end up having busier than normal weeks for me. But it was only 4 books.

Hulk Broken Worlds #1 (of 2) -- Yeah, I'm still trying to get my Hulk-fix after dropping the Jeph Loeb series. So maybe the delays with that series are helping me as I get to pick up these filler issues. This issue varied... A lot. From the classic look/feel of Roy Thomas/Herb Trimpe to the Hulk 2099 story. It's 4 short stories, all well done in their own unique way. And for long time fans of the character who may want to see more of a specific time in the Hulk's life (Future Imperfect, House of M, Jarella, etc) or a certain personality then they are good little teasers. Obviously for non-Hulk fans the history will most likely be lost on you. Still, I actually recommend picking it up.

Ultimate Wolverine VS Hulk #3 -- The wait is over. :) To be honest, this particular issue didn't work for me all that well. The jumping back and forth in the story just seemed to take me out of it and yes, we get it, he ripped Wolverine in half. The book just seems to focus too much on that, trying to make it "the" cool moment. The way I see it is that it happened, it was shocking, let's move on and not jump back and forth in the story so we can keep centering on it. The art was great though with a high energy level. But despite my dislike on how the story is being presented, I am liking the story if we could just get it moving. So although this particular issue felt like a little bit of a letdown I'm still looking forward to the rest of the series.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer #23 -- I had mixed feelings about this issue as well. On the one hand, I don't really care for the whole "Harmony goes public" storyline so far. And the rogue slayer just doesn't seem all that interesting to me. On the other hand, I really liked the Andrew story elements here, the art was its usual high caliber, and we get some more Buffy fun. It's still a good series for Buffy fans.

Echo #10 -- I know, I know, this book has been on the chopping block for a while now. Overall I rather like it but I'm really thinking the monthly book format is not working for me here. Even this issue, which did have some pivotal scenes, felt lacking to me. Everything seems to be moving along so slowly that every month I get to the end of the book and think "That's it?" So this is going to be my final issue. I may keep an eye out of the TPBs though as I am a little intrigued to see where everything is going.

So that's it for this week's comics. I also finally finished all 10 volumes of the Sandman. Wow! That series has a lot to absorb. Feel free to let me know what you've been reading.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gearing Webcomic Content Ramblings

In the comments to my last rambling (the one before the reviews) Von Allen posed some interesting questions in discussing making webcomics, either for portable electronic devices or something else: "Should content be geared to these screen dimensions? Or a compromise between the requirements of print versus online versus handheld? Or something else?" So allow me to ramble on the options...

Gearing Content to a Specific Medium/Device
There are some definite advantages to doing this. The comic creators have control over how content is presented and can feel their message is as they want it to be where as different mediums/devices may "distort" it. Looking at a print comic for example, they've been around for a while now and writers and artists have built up a library of techniques that have worked, and what hasn't. And that library is still growing. But I find that when print comics are taken directly to another medium (whether it's "motion comics" or just scanned in) you are now adding a new level that can change how the book is read.

Additionally, creators can take advantage of some features of the medium/device and how those users are used to using it. A print comic can be pretty limited in comparison to what you could do with the infinite canvas of a computer monitor. You can even direct the reader as you like through the panels or scenes. Webcomics are very young in comparison to print comics and I think it'll be exciting to watch them do so.

And there's the question of whether you can really compromise for every scenario. Who knows what the next device will be? How it will be used? At least if you build your comic for the iPhone you know what the reader will be experiencing. Attempting to compromise for every medium possible would be impossible.

By not gearing your comic to one medium or device you are also not restricting your audience. For those of us who don't have an iPhone, comics made for that device won't be read unless it eventually gets ported to a medium we do have access to. And if the creators don't have control over that transfer then it may not work as well as it should. And here we're allowing the reader to pick the medium they are most comfortable with. Some are more comfortable reading comics on the computer or handheld device than print and prefer to make that decision for themselves. Because as much as I talk about the creators controlling their work, it's the readers who buy it and who interpret it. Some readers may be okay with a creator saying "This is how I envision this work, take it or leave it" while others will want a more flexible environment that accounts for their personal tastes.

Also, gearing your work to one medium/device can actually be limiting in some ways. You are limited to the abilities of that device and you fall into a narrow view. Making your work more generic and forcing the device to have to do the work of presenting your comic in a readable format (by people writing software or whatever else to present comics in a readable format) means you can actually open up some options to the creators.

Technology changes very quickly and gearing your work to a medium or device could be a waste of time if that medium/device is obsolete by the time you're finished your comic.

Final Thoughts
I really don't want to say "This is the way I think it will go..." or even "should go...". A lot of people (even a lot who read comics) who might read this rambling would probably say "they're just comics, who cares about the 'medium' and all these other 'artsy' ramblings?" And though I may disagree with the idea that they're "just comics", a lot of readers don't care about this stuff, they just want to escape into a "good read". There's also the more business minded because let's face it, people need to make money to live in this world. I've barely touched on the business side of things, it can be a rambling of its own, and the business factors will be a (if not 'the') driving force behind a lot of decisions made by the creators and the companies behind them.

So yet again, I have no answers, just more ramblings. But I do think that one way or another this will be one of the more memorable times for comics, for good or bad. There is so much possibility for comics going so far beyond what they are now while at the same time, with that possibility of success there's plenty of room for failures.

And I don't see an answer in sight any time soon. I mean, look at print comics, that medium in itself is still in growth. They are still finding news ways of getting their stories out there, you could even say the idea of writing for the monthly book versus the TPB still hasn't been settled (according to some) and probably won't any time soon. And not everyone agrees that this is even an issue.

So feel free to share your ramblings, hopefully I'm not the only one who ponders these types of things. :)