Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Comic Book Ronin

These days, I feel more ronin than ever before.

This thing that I used to give my life over to is collapsing in upon itself. It's sad, really. I find myself nostalgic for yesterdays. I miss the excitement of firing up the laptop and seeing where our minds could go.

I had a routine back then. At the height of comics' Infinite Crisis/House of M/52/Civil War fervor, on any given day, I would, easily, check some two dozen comics blogs.

At the time, there were hundreds of comics-related blogs to choose from. My own personal litmus test for reading a blog was that you could entertain, find new spins on oft-discussed topics and post somewhat regularly. To me, it said something to certain folks' writing ability that they could rise to the occasion and land in your blogroll.

Today, I might check two and that's on a good day.

Yesterday, I went looking for new comics blogs to add to our blogroll and really didn't come up with much. It made me a bit nostalgic for the days when I had to remind myself not to overload my old blog, "Seven Hells!" for fear of it looking cluttered. I cannot lie, I miss the excitement of wondering what would come next from the minds of others.

Better yet, I miss the Big Two of DC and Marvel providing us with something to be excited about. I think the blogosphere feels it, as well.

For years, we have been followers of the adventures of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. We read and I can only speak for myself, we read out of love. Love for a medium that could give birth to these avatars of our imagination.

In 2009, we've been told that this love will be returned by these characters by... sending them away.


This time around, Superman will be vanquished to space.

Wonder Woman will be broken.

Batman, R.I.P.

In the wake of Infinite Crisis, they went away again.

Some ten years before that, they were sent away in the interest of death, dishonor and disaster.

Over at Marvel, the villains won and Spider-Man, greatest foe The Green Goblin has been handed the keys to the Marvel Universe. Two weeks ago, I read a comic where the regal Doctor Doom and the son of a god, Loki sat in a room and took orders from a character barely qualified to hold their capes.

Meanwhile, the moral compass of the Marvel Universe, Captain America, lies dead.

Given these circumstances, anyone would find it hard to be inspired.

It's almost as if the Big Two are daring us to find some sort of inspiration in imagination's downturn.

I'll take that dare. I'll find some.*

Inspiration is out there.

Meet me back here Friday to see what I find.

*If you find it before I do, feel free to post here, as well.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why 'The Spirit' Matters

If Frank Miller makes a movie, and no one goes to see it, does that matter? In short, yes... yes, it does. Now, there's enough Frank Miller hate floating around these here internets, so I will talk less about his most recent steaming pile of weird Freudian crap and focus more on why he matters, why 'The Spirit' matters, why comic book movies matter, and most importantly, why 'Watchmen' will probably not be any good.

Frank Miller is one of those guys even the non-geeks know. Everybody has that friend who 'doesn't read comics' but has read Dark Knight Returns. Lots of people saw and liked 'Sin City' (which, even I have to admit, was a well-done piece of film-making). But that's not why he matters. He matters because he has that carte blanche to make whatever project he sees fit and to mold it in his own warped image. 'Sin City' and '300' were his own work, transposed to the screen nearly panel for panel, but 'The Spirit' is something else entirely. 'The Spirit' is a revered text. That's not to say it isn't deeply flawed (I showed my girlfriend a picture of Ebony White and she damn near had a stroke), but it's important. It's influential. It was challenging the confines of comic books when the medium was still nascent.

It's not just that Miller's interpretation was his own. That is neither here nor there. The Spirit is not above interpretation. Darwyn Cooke's 12 issue 'Spirit' run was absolutely dynamite, but I'd hardly say it was completely true to Eisner's original vision. If anything, it poked fun at it. The problem is that Hollywood values comic books for style when their real offering is substance, and Frank Miller's cinematic carte blanche typifies that set of priorities. Frank Miller, as a storyteller, has mostly confined his writing to stories of determined struggle against irrevocable, and often fatalistic, circumstance. There is a looming sense of inevitability in his writing which has occasionally allowed him to be brilliant (i.e. Daredevil: Born Again) but mostly makes him drab and predictable. But his best known works are ultimately defined by their aesthetics, be it the ever-present red tones of '300' or the shadowy noir of 'Sin City'.* And it is in this regard that Hollywood has decided that his talents translate to film.

Hopefully, the poor box office showing of 'The Spirit' compared to the huge success of 'The Dark Knight' will shift this thinking. Hopefully, the powers that be in film will start to see that the best offering comics have to mass media is the rich well of character and conflict rather than the stylized imagery. The 'Spider-Man' and 'X-Men' films began with this in mind, but these trilogies both withered at the end under the weight of special effects as a substitute for real character development and intelligible plotlines, either of which they could've gotten by, you know, picking up a trade paperback or two.

So where does 'Watchmen' fit into this rant? Simply put: My prediction is that 'Watchmen' will be historically bad. My reason: Zack Snyder. 'Dawn of the Dead' was a fun, campy remake. '300' was so weird it made me squirm in my seat. '300', if run end to end without slow motion, would probably be about six minutes long. Plus, the source literature takes about 20 minutes to read. It simply isn't dense and complex like 'Watchmen'. Directing for style is not the same thing as directing for substance. It's why 'The Matrix' is a great movie and the sequels are a joke. 'Watchmen' simply wasn't recognized as a piece of literature. It was looked at like it was 'GI Joe' or 'Transformers', so that's the kind of director they got. I really hope I'm wrong, believe me, but the trailer looks... well... ridiculous.

I guess the point of this whole thing is say that, yes, I think Frank Miller mostly sucks, but he's not the reason great comics get turned into crappy movies.' He's a symptom of the problem. And honestly, I think the only cure is to only see these films in the theater once and pirate the ever living crap out of those DVDs.**

* Note: Dark Knight Strikes Again is best known for looking like it was drawn by an eight year old.
** Note: This is a joke. We here at Second Printing do not seriously condone piracy of any kind, be it of bad DVDs or Saudi oil tankers. No, we don't like pirates. Pirates can suck it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 In Review: Devon's Take

2008 has been an interesting year for me, comics-wise.

This was the year the glamours came down and I saw ugly.

Personally, I developed alot and hoped that my comics would keep up with me. Instead, what the big two did was tell us of the wonders of the new places they were going to take us, the wonderful opportunities for us that lie ahead. Instead, our sense of wonder was taken away like a passport and we were given weekly comics that go nowhere, plots that went on forever along with event after event, in the hopes that we'd never have an opportunity to leave.

This was the year I soured on the superhero comic.

I read Batman R.I.P. and shrugged.

The best Superman comic in decades came to an end.

My favorite comics, Checkmate and Catwoman came to an end due to low sales and critical acclaim.

The comic that rejuvenated my love of comics, 100 Bullets comes to and end in 2009, along with my former golden children, Manhunter and Blue Beetle. The quality of comics production has never been higher while simultaneously enthusiasm has, seemingly, never been lower. With the way we spend we are wrestling with the realization we've enabled the creation of the current comics market.

Ummm... our bad?

And I haven't even mentioned that, in a recession, we're possibly looking at $4 price points for 22 pages of paper and ink.

Stay with me here, brothers and sisters. The news isn't all bad. In 2008, I saw things that gave me hope. And some things that 'til this day, make me cringe. Like any good child, I learned to share:

1. Jason Aaron

Last week, at 1:30 AM, I get an e-mail from a friend titled, "G-Damn, dude!" This friend of mine had just read volumes 1 through 3 of Aaron's Vertigo series Scalped. This book, like 100 Bullets, constantly surprises, taking the comics medium kicking and screaming into the world of "I-could- hand-this-to-someone-who's-never-read-a-comic-before." You know, something like... a book. With his Wolverine: Get Mystique and Black Panther: Secret Invasion arcs, he showed an absolute understanding and love of the superhero genre. With his Penguin one-shot at DC Comics he made me damn near cry over missed opportunity.

2. Ed Benes on Justice League

I will never wish for someone to get fired but damn, ths man's art makes this comic almost impossible to read. My two favorite JLofA comics were decidedly Benes-free. His art shows no sense of "panel-flow." Each panel never seems to be as consistent as the previous and many pages seem done more done for the original art aftermarket than for the direct market. In last month's issue, the final page was so horribly rendered that along with the reappearance of the Milestone characters, I almost had to check the front cover for a 90's street date. It's simple, really. I'll come back when he's gone. Sorry if that sounds harsh but well... that's how I feel.

3. iVerse

This year, I got an iPhone and I decided to check out some comics. On my phone. The verdict? The intent and the technology are totally there but the content? No so much. Available for free download were some random issue of Shadowhawk (*meh*) and Proof #1. The iPhone allows you to scroll horizontally from panel to panel and for a suspenseful comic like Proof, this optimizes the comics effect. What it did do for me wasn't the intended effect. No, I wasn't interested in dropping a dollar on issue two. No, issue three is not available for iPhone. No, I'm gonna buy the trade.

The other thing that stood out was more of what iVerse could be. iVerse would be perfect for a smaller company like Archie Comics to get their product out to a larger audience. If I were a parent with a restless child, I would love to have the ability to download a comic, hand it to my kid a watch them do something quiet with an electronic hand-held device. iVerse tech could be a future saviour of our medium.

4. The Trade Paperback

Where I became somewhat disillusioned with the comics market, I became enthused by the trade. In reading comics in trade form, I experienced an enthusiasm I hadn't felt since my comics collecting height of two years ago. In one month, I read eight Brubaker Captain America trades and was astounded that I read EIGHT Brubaker Cap trades in one month, especially upon the realization that Brubaker was essentially telling one story and what a story it is.

Also, this year, Local was released as a trade even though I own every issue. The term "trade" truly isn't good enough for this thing. It is a beautifully bound hardcover with a nice thick, white paper stock. If it were a DVD it would be a Blu-Ray edition as it is packed with extras.

Sketches, guest art, commentary, scripts and all twelve covers reprinted in their entirety and all for less than thirty bucks!

is how you present a collection, folks. I proudly gave this book as a Christmas present to one of my best friends. Thanks to Oni Press for doing it right and giving me the opportunity to follow suit.

5. Ryan Kelly

If I had to point a finger at a "talent-to-watch-out-for" it would be this guy and for more reason than one. 2008 saw him wrap up Local, the series that defines him, right now. Mood is all about what this artist brings to his expressive body of work.

In the space of months he went from drawing the journey of a young woman in North America (Local) to chronicling the story of four young ladies lives amongst urban steel and fragile egos (The New Your Four) to inking the story of three British paranormal detectives (Vinyl Underground) to drawing the pseudo-historic tales of long-dead Vikings (Northlanders), every line perfectly fit the tone of each. Whatever he chooses to do next, I'm sure it will be well worth reading.

So there, you have it. A somewhat positive reflection of 2008. Though it may not seem so, there really is alot to look forward to.

It's just that right now, we have to look a little deeper for it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Detective: Comics. Who Am I? - Updated

I am not as you knew me then.

(Introduced as a "non-costume" this character has taken up the mantle of superhero.)

I took the long way of getting here.

(See above.)

I have been a member of an ensemble cast.

(Gotham Central)

I have been a loner.

(Their current role.)

I have been a partner in more ways than one.

(As a detective, her partners have included Harvey Bullock and Crispus Allen. As a partner, she has partnered with Daria Hernandez)

I have walked alleys and climbed mountains.

(Gotham has alleys and in in the maxi-series, 52, she was shown climbing the mountains of Nanda Parbat)

I have been shown one way in one place and unrevealed in another.

(In the DC Universe, she was outted. In the Batman: The Animated Series universe her sexuality was unrevealed)

I have questioned God and been answered by the devil.

(A former devout Catholic, she has wrestled with her sexuality and faith. As The Question, she has faced the wrath of God, her former partner and current Spectre, Crispus Allen. She is currently appearing in Final Crisis: Revelations fighting Cain who wants to bring about Hell on Earth.)

I may not have begun in the place you have found me.

(She was introduced as a character on the Batman: The Animated Series and later was introduced as a comic book character in the pages of Detective Comics.)


The answer is:

The Question II (Renee Montoya)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008: Big Mike's Take

My questions about comics right now are similar my questions about the economy: Are we ready for a recovery or should I brace myself for things to get worse? This time last year, my favorite comics were Robin and Blue Beetle. They got bad... then they got canceled.

I was also collecting and liking Teen Titans and JSA. What happened? Dropped and Dropped. X-Factor and Astonishing X-Men? Flailing and god-freaking-awful. Secret Invasion really let me down and Final Crisis isn't as good as I expect from Grant Morrison. And don't get me started on Spider-Man.

Look, I've been really down in the dumps about my Marvel and DC comics. I've fled to more adult comics, finding refuge in Scalped, Walking Dead, Fables, and The Boys. They give me consistently good writing. They give me drawn-out and well-developed plots instead of cheap stunts. They give me character development that makes me laugh, cry, and everything in between.

But they're not what I grew up reading. My head loves these books, but my heart longs for tights and capes. As the 90's were winding down, and people were fatigued from character stunts, fancy covers, and book inflation, someone got it into their heads that this wasn't the crap we read comics for. Someone figured out that if you take the 7 most recognizable characters (regardless of whether they are Blue or, you know, Kyle Rayner), put them in the Justice League, you're half way to a damn good book...

That if you explore the underlying mythos of a big name Marvel hero by outing him to the public in a way that drives the story forward (instead of just, you know, because we need good guys to be pro-registration), you can have compelling narrative, even if it's written by Bendis...

That if you ask simple questions, such as 'I wonder what it's like to be a Gotham City Police detective?', you can crank out some damn good comics.

It wasn't so long ago that we were at a place where the creative forces behind comics were ready to figure this stuff out. They were ready to abandon the hysteria of the extreme and the hype of the crossover and look into the past to revisit those pillars that have brought strength to the super-hero genre. Are we there again? If not, how much farther do we have to drop before we hit bottom? I'll tell you this much, though... I'll be there when they bounce back.

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 In Review: Graig's Take

It's the most wonderful time of the year,
where the blog words start flowing
and hipsters start showing
their impeccable minds, eyes, and ears
it's the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, it's "best of" season, where all across the metaphorical landscape of das interweb, geeks, nerds and wonks of all shapes and colours start culling through the previous 11.5 months of acquisitions, observances etc. and constructing the penultimate list of favourite whatevers, which means absolutely nothing and yet absolutely everything at the same time.

The "list" is the effete blogger's way of wading through all that they have consumed, and bloggers blog in part because they consume so much that they have to let it out somewhere. The "list" shows us what, in each mind's eye, what was most notable, if not technically, subjectively or even objectively the best. We here at Second Printing are not immune, for we wouldn't be here if we didn't have something to say and some opinions to share. We love comics, so, for the most part, our lists, as they appear over the next week-ish, will be about the medium we love, for better or worse. Of course, we're each unique voices, with unique experiences and unique things to say, so there's no guarantees that we're staying on topic here. But we'll try... starting with this guy [two thumbs raise and arch back, indicating myself]:

2008 for me was an interesting year. In a push to get myself out of debt, I decided to do a "buy nothing year" on all my entertainment vices (comics, DVDs, music), which didn't exactly work out as expected (I wound up buying very little, yet still acquiring much by trading in old for new and doing a little work-in-trade). In the process of paring back pull lists and making decisions about what to buy and what to leave behind, I've come out a new man, no longer obsessed with having to keep up on everything or being the first in line for anything. DC and Marvel have also made it easy to pare back on reading their titles, thanks to near-universally middling product and the scaling back of the distribution limits at Diamond has made smaller press more difficult to find (good for my pocket book, bad for obtaining a well-rounded comics-diet).

My list (soon to follow any sentence now) isn't going to stick to format. It's going everywhere and anywhere it wants. I'll explain it all when I get there. You don't have to agree with me, it is afterall a matter of opinion... my opinion. In no particular order, but numbered for the sake of delineation:

1) The Dark Knight and Iron Man (and to a lesser degree Watchmen) - we're fooling ourselves if we don't think that these two films have done more for comics than any single printed book that hit the stands this year. Hell, the Watchmen sold tens of thousands of trades based on a trailer alone. At this stage, who cares if the film is any good (well, I'm sure we're all hoping, but I digress)? It's nice that cinema is able to put together comic book stories that resemble their source inspiration and not something "tailered for a wider audience". TDK and IM are two films which have broke the mainstream wide open, and the unprecedented reception these movies have had, Oscar noms or no, is more than enough to make them groundbreaking and noteworthy for the simple fact that they're no longer just "genre" pictures but substantial motion pictures. Superheroes and their "BAM POW" reputation for being kiddie fare has officially changed in the public eye.

2) Disappointments:
2a) End of line: John Rogers and Greg Rucka finishing their runs on Blue Beetle and Checkmate. Both titles unceremoniously cancelled within the year afterwards. Rex Libris has also taken leave for which we're all the poorer for. I'll let Devon lament Catwoman. Though designed to be for teenaged girls, for what it's worth, I found the now-departed Minx line to be a refreshing voice in the testosterone fuelled market.

2b) Returner: Chuck Dixon made an almost triumphant return to the Bat-universe he nurtured so well years before, but undisclosed difficulties sent him packing only a few months in. James Robinson also returned to the DCU, but wow... totally not worth hyping over. Meanwhile, indie favourite Scud: The Disposable Assassin and cult TV series Serenity made a re-appearance to comics this year, both lacklustre and unmemorable.

2c) MIA: Kyle Baker's Special Forces and Gutsville by Si Spurrier and Frazier Irving both failed to finish their respective mini-series runs. Also, all hope for a conclusion to the Morrison/Ha Authority was abandoned.

3) Triumphs of the mainstream - these are the books you should've been reading from the big two this year that you might, for some reason, have missed:

3a) DC:
i) Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam - okay, sure it's only gotten two issues out in the past half-year but if you have kids (and even if you don't) you'll recognize there's something special in Mike Kunkel's interpretation of the legendary Captain Marvel. This is a character built to be a child's power fantasy, and Kunkel more than gets that. Hopefully his 2009 will be more productive.

ii) Secret Six - former Birds of Prey team Gail Simone and Nicola Scott have DC's only certifiable ongoing must-read right now. Slightly depraved, wildly chaotic, and darkly hilarious, the first storyline is like a super-villain rendition of "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World".

iii) Teen Titans: Year 1 - took a little longer than expected and the final issue of the six-issue mini was a bit of empty nothing, but Amy Wolfram and Karl Kerschl's early days of the sidekick collaboration was keenly entertaining and visually stunning... certainly the best the Titans have seen since the Wolfman/Perez heyday.

3b) Marvel
i) Captain America - who would have thought that a resurrected Bucky and a dead Steve Rogers would = the best Captain America comics I ever read? To be fair, I've barely read many Captain America comics until now, but that's a testament to Brubaker and company's storytelling, having made it must-reading every month.

4) Catching Up - two things I read this year for the first time and was crazy excited about afterward:
4a) Legion of Super-Heroes (vol 4? aka: 5 years Later) - coincidentally this was the Legion's 50th anniversary and I read well over 120 Legion comics this year, spanning the last 5 years of Paul Levitz's Legion through to the early Zero Hour reboot. But I have to say, for my money, (dug out of the discount bins) Tom and Mary Bierbaum and Keith Giffen crafted some of the most unique and audacious superhero/sci-fi/fantasy comics ever made in thier 50-issue Legion (14-issue Legionnaires) 5-year later run. The first 10 issues are a might confusing, but damn, it's a crazy ride 40+ issues afterwards which still seems way too short. I'm likely in a very small minority here in my appreciation.

4b) Daredevil - volumes 4 through 13 (apprx), the Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev run on Daredevil is absolutely epic. You can forget Frank Miller's DD, compared to Bendis's grit that guy was a pantywaist crybaby. Brubaker's done a good run following, but I'll hold this massive run as up the quintessential DD for anyone that asks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Wasp: A Remembrance by Jon Carey

Marvel's tribute to the Wasp is a reprint of Avengers 213 - AKA Hank Pym's defining character trait, wife-slapping - and I'm struggling to think of, well, anything the Wasp ever did besides that. Hit on Magneto? Hit on... everyone? Get turned into a bug? Inadvertently drive Scarlet Witch crazy? Name the Avengers, in spite of a grievous lack of avenging? She's one of the least-important Important characters I can think of. The Skrulls could've whacked Rick Jones and I would've cared more. At least that kid hung out with Rom, The Spaceknight.


While I'm at it, when the Hell did the Skrull kidnap Mockingbird? That's some serious retcon work somebody's gonna have to do - actually, Hell, Dan Slott's probably banging out a story AS I TYPE about how that time Grim Reaper used the corpse of Bobbi Morse as a weapon it was actually a Space Phantom masquerading as a dead Mockingbird working on behalf of Immortus. And that time she was shown in Hell? Mephisto was just screwing around, because he's a wacky devil. And that other time she was shown in Hell? That Dead Girl/Dr Strange mini is completely out-of-continuity, you silly billy.

And this has been The Wasp: A Remembrance by Jon Carey.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The High Price To Pay

Top Cow is proclaiming that they're going to keep their monthly titles at $2.99 throughout 2009, while Marvel has basically stated that the economics have forced them to a $3.99 price point for their monthlies. No word from DC about what they're doing but once one publisher does something, the other usually follows suit (oligopolies are like that). Dark Horse, Image and the smaller presses have all been flirting with $3.50 and $3.99 price points for at least a year now, (sometimes in full color, sometimes in black and white), and I can't say I'm surprised. We kind of expect smaller press to be a bit more expensive than the mainstream. But if that's the case, then isn't a $1 price jump excessively drastic? I seem to recall books flirting with pennies and quarters during unstable boom-and-bust times in the 1990s, from $1.95 to $1.99, to $2.25, to $2.50 and $2.75 until ultimately where we are now. I also remember paying $0.60 for comics and realistically 25 years doesn't seem that long ago. Not for the inflation rate of comics to jump over 650%.

Let me say that again, in 25 years, the price of a 22 - 28 page comic has jumped over 650%. Very little in this world, save maybe housing costs in some cities (and public transit in Toronto), have climbed so steeply.

Rich Johnston created a handy table over at Lying in the Gutters about a month back showing that, had comics moved with the real CPI rate of inflation, they should cost today about $1.10.

Of course, there was the paper and coloring surges throughout the 80's and 90's which accounted for the steeper price jumps up until the mid-1990s when the quality of paper pretty much reached its peak and computer coloring became a mainstay. But, in rough numbers, since 1998, the inflation rate should have pushed comics another 30 to 50 cents or so up in price from the regular $1.75 to even a modest $2.25. So honestly where's the added value in the other $1.75.

We've lost letter column pages to ads, and sometimes the page count increases, but also only for ads. Is the quality of writing or art of a comic book better than it was in 1998? Not by much. Yes, writers and artist are getting paid better, which is a good thing, but does that make up the $1.75 difference? Perhaps, with flagging sales it might... but there's still a lot of mediocrity being pushed out the door and $3.99 makes it very, very difficult to justify buying any of it.

For me, a $3.50 or $3.99 comic tends to be a treat, a mini-series or one-shot put out by a preferred artist or writer from a non-mainstream company. It's not something I want to be plunking down per-book every week. Hell, $2.99 still seems excessive.

I don't know how Marvel (and if DC follows suit) can expect to maintain even today's tragic numbers with such a sharp price increase, nevermind attracting new readers (young reader... in these recessive times, teenagers are going to be vying with the unemployed for even part-time jobs, and thus having far less disposable income... as if there even really comics' target market anymore). Personally, I'm far more likely to wait for trade on most books I'm interested in than pay $3.99 per issue for the same story. I picked up X-Men: Noir #1 this week, not noticing the cover price, and thoroughly enjoyed it. But then, noticing it's price tag, I'm rethinking purchasing the remaining issues (but since I already invested the $4 bucks, I probably will, but will be far more wary of price tags in the future).

What $3.99 signifies to me is possibly the end of the monthly format as we know it. If you thought illegal file-sharing scans were a problem before, this will push even more people to them. As well, new series are going to have a far more difficult time making it, and collections of titles will be reduced because of it (if there's no perceived demand for the floppy, then there will be no perceived demand for the trade). Pretty much only the flagship books are going to be able to continue on unless there's something more there to attract the reader.

But what more could there be? What do I want out of a $3.99 monthly title?

Well, for starters, for $3.99, every month, I'd want more pages, at least a full 32... perhaps ad-free? If not all one story, then a main feature and a quality back-up. That's bare minimum.

Honestly, though, for $3.99 we should be getting 48 pages, aka double-sized issues (although in recent years, "double sized issues" have been more like 38 pages). Put them on a 9-issues a year schedule (every six weeks), and hold firm to schedules.

Also, for 3.99, do us the courtesy of at least adhering to schedule. Artists who can't support a monthly book should not be put on monthly books. Same for writers. Talent who continue to fail adhere to schedule should be restricted to mini-series and specials. And then those books should only be solicited when they're ready.

Another thing, for $3.99, a title should be able to be read without having to purchase books in another series. Forcing the reader to pay another $3.99 that they weren't intending to pay to complete a story is just slimy.

And finally, I think we should just avoid $3.99 in the first place. I'm more than willing to accept a drop in paper quality and coloring for a cheaper book. Look at the Johnny DC kids titles like Magic of Shazam or Tiny Titans. $2.25 on a lighter, less glossy paper and still perfectly readable. Most books that come out aren't worth the $3.99 price tag, and thus not worth the paper they're printed on... let the sales of $2.25 newsprint books dictate which books are worthy of glossy printing... IN TRADE FORMAT. If people think a book deserves a better look, then do it when reprinting it for the bookshelf. Let comics be fun and disposable again.

The initial reason comics went to Baxter and Deluxe printing was to showcase their more popular books (DC's Swamp Thing, New Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes), but eventually, as the perceived collectability of comics increased, it was deemed that most titles needed this better printing and refined coloring to preserve their collectibleness. I think if the 1990's proved anything it's that most comics aren't collectible (anyone else trying to rid themselves of hundreds of X-Men and Image comics from the era, or just me? Shoulda bought a house with a fireplace...), and it holds true today. I don't need fantastic coloring reproduction or cardstock covers, I just want to read a story.

Let's move away from highlighting something in its first run, let's celebrate things only after they've proved they're worth celebrating. Let's keep the cost of comics low, and keep them accessible. If paper is what it takes, then let paper be our guide.

So, Second Printers, how do you feel about the price of comics today? If you're going to pay $3.99 for a comic, what do you expect from it? Would you be willing to have a visually less refined comic for a lower price?