Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Selector

New comics recommendation for May 28, 2008:

(Click on image for more information.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sales Numbers and What the Fuck Does Brian Wood Know?

I tried to send Brian Wood a personal message, since I'm kind of tired of the public back-and-forth nonsense, but that bounced, unfortunately. So here we go again.

I'm writing in response to a thread titled "Sales Numbers and What the Fuck Does Anyone Know?" at Standard Attrition. While I appreciate the discussion on sales, I feel compelled to address a number of things.

On the collection of Fight for Tomorrow, Wood says:
It was published on March 3. My royalty sheet tracks its sales through March 31, so roughly three weeks being covered here.
According to Diamond, the book was released not on March 3, but on January 16. It showed up on the January chart with those approximately 1,700 units Wood cites. Based on that, I'm not sure what to make of Wood's suggestion that three weeks are covered by his royalty sheet - without further information, my guess would be that the 3,850 units he mentions are total sales since January 16, which would fit with the 1,700 sales documented for January. But hey, it's his royalty statement, and I can't check it for him.

For what that's worth, I certainly agree with him that those first-month sales covered by the chart are unlikely to paint a remotely accurate picture of the book's total numbers.

On a discussion at The Engine Wood and I had a while back, he says:
When I used to talk to Marc, over on The Engine, I brought this up and he admitted that he doesn't have a lot of time and what he does it about as much as he's willing or able to do.
While I don't recall the exact phrasing, I don't quite think that's what I said. Rather, I think my point was that, for various reasons, it's not viable to write paragraphs worth of commentary for each and every book each and every month - particularly if there's no change in the established pattern. I think those comments are an appropriate way of documenting a continuing trend.

Also, I've elaborated on Northlanders and DMZ sales, including the significance of collection sales, quite a bit, both in the column and at the blog. I just don't do it every month - not because I haven't got the time, as he suggests, but because I don't see a point in it.

In this context, the Shakespeare poem (!) I re-wrote (as quoted by Jason Aaron in the thread) was a response to Wood's objection to those kinds of comments. If it came across as petty or sarcastic, I apologize - that wasn't the intention, and I didn't expect anyone to be offended other than Shakespeare. I thought it was a more charming way of saying that sales come and go, basically, or, if you like, are "slowly declining." Your mileage may vary.

I like the title of the forum, by the way, which is why I'll make an exception and not bill Jason Aaron and Brian Azzarello for the perfectly good coffee I inadvertently sprayed on my notebook upon first discovering it.

I'm awfully sorry Brian Wood doesn't care for my analysis of DC's sales figures. That's fine, and I suppose it can't be helped. I still appreciate the feedback. But I think I've done a reasonably good job of double-checking my facts and getting them straight, and I'm asking the same of Wood, particularly if I'm to be the scapegoat of choice for Vertigo's declining periodical sales.

Places to Go, People to See

So, I'll be heading for the Comic-Salon Erlangen tomorrow. Mostly, after the pleasant experience at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, I'm just looking forward to meeting a lot of comics people again.

The convention also marks the release of a couple of print publications I've contributed to, and which you can obtain in exchange for local currency. First up, there's the third Comicgate Magazin, to which I've contributed a few reviews:

Second, the sixth German volume of The Walking Dead is out, translated, as always, by yours truly:

I also see that Darko Macan is apparently going to be there. His run on Cable - and its successor Soldier X - with Igor Kordey is one of the most surreal, off-the-wall things Marvel have ever published, right up there with Howard the Duck, X-Statix and The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man, so I'll see if I can get a glimpse of the man.

All of which is to say, if you're on this side of the Atlantic, feel free to drop by and scold me for killing Vertigo, or something, over a pint. I should be hanging out around booth No. 49 at the main hall, along with the other fine folks of Comicgate.

So long.

First Contact (IV)

Thankfully, I was able to complete my DC Comics review marathon without greater bodily or mental injury last week, but let me tell you, it was a close call. Here's the final list:

Week 1:
Justice League of America #1
Trials of SHAZAM #1
Batman: The Mad Monk #1
The Brave and the Bold #1
Countdown #51

Week 2:
The Flash #231
Booster Gold #1
Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #1
Justice League of America #13
Batman and the Outsiders #1

Week 3:
Captain Carrot and the Final Ark #1
Action Comics #858
Countdown to Final Crisis #26
Salvation Run #1
Wonder Woman #14
The Authority: Prime #1

Week 4:
Birds of Prey #113
Legion of Super-Heroes #37
Robin #170
Justice Society of America #13
The All New Atom #21

I'll have a look at some of the common threads running through those various books next week, if I find the time. Overall, let's just say I'm glad I'm back to reading comics I'm interested in now, because other than Matt Wagner's Batman: The Mad Monk, there wasn't really anything in there that I'd particularly want to revisit.

Selector

New comics recommendation for May 21, 2008:

(Click on image for more information.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Nuts and the Bolts

Sometimes, I despair of DC Comics.

J. Michael Straczynski is a writer best-known for his five-year television epic Babylon 5, which he created, saw through from start to finish and frequently wrote and directed along the way. For the past eight years, Straczynski has written numerous comic books for Marvel, most prominently Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. Last year, he relaunched their Thor series and has been knocking it out of the park commercially. He also wrote the screenplay for Changeling, a film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich that's set to debut at Cannes next week.

You could say, in other words, that Straczynski's career has just reached a new high point. For Marvel, now, that's tragic, in some ways: A contract exclusively securing them the writer's comics-related activities ran out without being renewed in 2007, and there was a bit of a fall-out between Straczynski and Marvel over creative differences concerning "One More Day," the controversially received storyline ending Spider-Man's 20-year marriage that concluded his work on the character. While Straczynski will apparently continue writing for Marvel - notably Thor and a limited series called The Twelve - it's quite clear that he's become a bit disenchanted with the publisher over the last couple of years.

So J. Michael Straczynski, cult TV creator, best-selling comics author and high-profile Hollywood screenwriter, wants to work at DC Comics now. Hey, looks like DC just hit the jackpot, right?

Well, not so fast. People at DC Comics are busy, you understand. They've got their ways of doing things. They've got countdowns and crises of their own, and they're not going to drop everything just because some cult TV creator, best-selling comics author and high-profile Hollywood screenwriter wants to lend his services to their properties. They've got their priorities, you see, and all the Superman and Batman and Justice League projects for the coming ten years are set and shan't be meddled with, anyway.

And so they give Straczynski The Brave and the Bold.

Estimates have it that The Brave and the Bold, a book launched by prominent creators Mark Waid and George Pérez back in 2006 that is set on the fringes of the DC Universe, currently sells around 40,000 units, falling rapidly. Pérez recently left, and once Waid and his successor Marv Wolfman are done with it, DC can be ecstatic if it still moves 30,000 units. The artist Straczynski will be paired with is Jesús Saiz, who does good work but - like many artists who have been working at DC for the last five years - hasn't really been built up by them commercially. If Straczynski's name gives The Brave and the Bold a really good boost, perhaps it goes up to 50,000 - which still wouldn't quite place it in the Top 30.

Decisions like this one are, of course, precisely why DC is being thrashed by the competition month in, month out. Have they totally lost the plot? It certainly looks like the people in charge are unsure how to properly maximize and market their existing resources to an audience younger than 40. If they were Marvel, rest assured that the hell would be marketed out of this. Straczynski would probably be doing the same thing, mind you. But it would be relaunched and called Ultimate Batman Team-Up, drawn by Steve McNiven and set up during Secret Invasion. And anything less than 100,000 units sold of issue #1 would be considered a disappointment.

At DC, though, it's called The Brave and the Bold #20-something, and we're shooting for the Top 50. The announcement is emblematic of the publisher's woes over the last couple of years, really, and, to be frank, it doesn't inspire great confidence in their post-Final Crisis plans.

Selector

New comics recommendation for May 14, 2008:

(Click on image for more information.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

First Contact (III)

Am three quarters through my DC Comics review marathon, stop. Am exhausted and cranky, stop.

Bought copy of Captain Carrot against better judgment, stop. Checked in with "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" arc in Action Comics, stop. Paid return visit to Countdown, stop. Was driven to despair by Salvation Run, stop. Was somewhat pacified by Gail Simone's Wonder Woman, stop. For my sins, threw in the WildStorm Universe title The Authority: Prime as a bonus, stop. Regretted it immediately, stop.

Came looking for comics, found fish in barrel, stop. No fun, stop. Just one more week left now, thankfully, stop. Want it to stop, stop.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Selector

New comics recommendation for May 7, 2008:

(Click on image for more information.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Messenger, Shot Dead

Well, ouch.

I used to think it didn't matter if people bought a series in monthly issues or in trade, just so long as they were buying it. But now I feel like it's imperative that we get more fans buying the monthly issues right from the get-go, just to get them talking about it, blogging about it, posting about it on message boards, bugging their retailers to order more than one shelf copy, everything. It's just so easy for a new Vertigo series to get written off before it's even really out of the gate. You get these so called "analysts" looking at the sales numbers for the first issue and already saying, well here's another failed Vertigo launch, already dead in the water. You get people already assuming the book won't make it past issue 12. And suddenly it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As writer Jason Aaron explains, it's all been my fault, all the time.

If a Vertigo book debuts with outrageously poor numbers, you see, then it's not the shifting market that's to blame, or the quality of the art or the writing, or the marketability of the work or its given genre, or the publisher's marketing efforts, or the attractiveness of the trade dress, or the prominence of the creators, or the strength of the publishing brand, or the value-for-money perception, or the retail community's willingness to order the product or the readers' decision whether or not to buy the bloody comic.

Nope, none of those silly things matter. The single most relevant factor which has caused average Vertigo periodical sales to decline by an estimated thirty-two point fucking four percent over the last five years is, without a shadow of doubt, something else entirely: It is I, so-called analyst.

With my crooked column, you see, I have wrought nefarious numbers and wretched writings into a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. Indeed, by my contemptible calculations, I thus reckon that I will have single-handedly wiped Vertigo comic books off the face of the earth altogether by the year 2019.

Erm, really?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

First Contact (II)

Over at Supercritical, I'm now halfway through my DC Comics review marathon. Last week, I read my first issues of The Flash, Booster Gold and Suicide Squad, and checked in with writer Dwayne McDuffie's debut on Justice League of America and the start of Batman and the Outsiders.