Now That's Rich #1 - An Introduction…
As it clearly states above I am Richard Frankel your host and nitpicker for this new column. I, like most of you who visit SBC, am an enduring comic book enthusiast and unlike most of you, discovered comics at a later time in my life. If memory serves me right it was actually about a year and a half ago or thereabouts. In retrospect this was both a positive and negative occurrence. Positive, as it developed my interest in comic book script writing but also negative as I had missed out on a medium so uniquely profound in its expression. Why is this, you ask? Well, I didn't grow up reading comics as most kids do. I'm originally from Sweden, where comics, though not unheard of, aren't massively publicized in the mainstream market. The only European comic that I had heard of when I was a kid was a French comic called Asterix. You may have heard of it. It is very popular in Europe and has dozens of volumes translated into just as many languages. The copy that I had was strangely enough in French and being from Sweden where Swedish is both spoken and written I had no clue what it was about. That was until the movies.
I can't remember exactly if Asterix was a TV show at all but I'm certain that there were movies. To make a long story short, I loved it! At the time though being nine or ten years old I didn't make the connection anymore to the dusty old French comic book lying somewhere in the attic. Several years passed and I forgot about comics all together. I would watch the various Superman, Batman, X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons aired on TV and that was the first thing that really got me interested in the super hero genre. Alas, no one I knew shared my interest and therefore no one was available to introduce me to the comic book medium.
Presently, I am in my last year of high school. It wasn't until my second year that I had formed a love for Japanese animation (anime). Anime had become the main attraction on kid's television mostly due in part to the surge in Japanese licenses by American companies that enabled half a dozen or so shows (some good, some outright disgusting) to be watched and admired, and fully translated and dubbed to boot! A good friend of mine, Eric, also shared likewise interest. I was a low level fan at the time and only watched the stuff that happened to be on TV. It wasn't until I met Eric that I started to watch what he called the good stuff. Indeed, it was good.
Ah, the good stuff. The good stuff wasn't the over the top edited stuff they showed on TV. No, no. The good stuff was on video. Where do you go to rent Anime videos? I would've never guessed it. That's right, the comic store! Strange but true, I would've never gotten into comics if it weren't for Anime. That same comic store, a year and a half later I now consider to be the best comic store in the area, possibly even the entire city of Toronto. The guys who run the place are great, the selection of back issues, trade paperbacks, hard covers, rare wall books. You can't find a better selection like this. Every Wednesday, my life is incomplete if I don't go. It doesn't even matter if stuff that I don't pick up isn't there. I just love the atmosphere and consider it my third home. Right after my actual home and school (where I have learned many things that will surely help me in my writing career, like trigonometry and photosynthesis!).
What's this column going to be about in the coming weeks, you ask me? It all boils down to several interesting things. The first being taking a long hard look at comic books, past and present and future. I have been fortunate enough to have many friends who are into comics and we've worked out a system that no one of us picks up the same book. This way we get to read dozens upon dozens of single issues and trades every year. I've read Spider-Man, Sandman, X-Men and Batman storylines that I would never have been able to afford on my own. So every week I'll be taking a look at a different book. There are a lot of great books out there that go unnoticed because people just don't have the money to read everything they like. I went to the shop today and paid $11 Canadian for three issues. $11!
I'll also be informing you guys on my progress with script writing and getting my stuff published. As an aspiring writer I've come to value the industry for being a closely-knit collaborative storytelling medium that has endless possibilities of exploration. In a world devoid of uniqueness in its pop culture, comics in all its shapes and forms stands out as living on its own terms. And who knows what else will turn up in the column? Guest writers, interviews, important news, character biographies, behind the scenes with writers, artists and editors, everything and anything are possible. Limiting ourselves to covering one thing sure is no fun. So let's take a look at some books, shall we?
I thought it would be fitting to start off with taking a look at some of the promotional books that appear every now and then. You can advertise something to death, but if you can't get people to read whatever you're advertising, then what's the point? People don't have enough money to pick up everything that interests them, so promotion is a great way to get people to read monthlies that they normally wouldn't take a second look at.
Last year there was a basket case full of successful promotional ideas across the industry. It began with the Free Comic Book Day last May. This was a great idea, as everyone loves free stuff! However, the reason for its success wasn't only in that many of the companies could give away top selling books, it was in the emphasized media exposure to the entire event. I saw news articles, TV newscasts and Internet ads everywhere preceding the event. I went to the shop that week and there were at least forty or so people lined up all along the stairs to get into the store. I had to stand in line to get into my shop. A line! And people weren't just leaving with the comics that were offered through the event, they were leaving with a bunch of other regular books too. If that's not a successful promotional event, than I don't know what is.
Time flew by and the companies realized that by giving some books a dramatically reduced price would be a great way to introduce people to books with new creative talent or a start of a new story arc and what not. There was a whole bunch of them that appeared throughout the year including Batman: The 10 Cent Adventure, Fantastic Four #60 at 9 cents, and most recently Superman: The 10 Cent Adventure and Daredevil #41 for 25 cents. Some of these books were all right, most notably the Marvel issues but otherwise, I felt that I didn't get my money's worth, even at the heavily reduced price.
Take the Batman 10c comic for instance. It retold the origin for about the fiftieth time, which I guess is good for people who don't know anything about Bats (as is the target audience) but by the end of the issue, it threw the reader right into a huge Bat book cross over…does anyone else see anything wrong with that? They're expecting a casual reader to start picking up four different books a month just so they can follow along with the story? That is stupid. Likewise, the recent Superman 10c book felt like 21 pages of filler until the last page where yet again they toss the reader into picking up a multi issue storyline. DC's intentions were good, but they missed the mark on this one.
Marvel on the other hand has thus far succeeded with the idea of a reduced priced comic, because they introduced a new storyline and the basics of the character with the option of only picking up that character's book if you wished to continue with the story, unlike DC that forced the reader to pick up a multitude of different cross over books to get the entirety of the story. At Marvel the story continued in the title that the reduced comic appeared in and nothing else. Big difference. The Fantastic Four issue that got Mark Waid's run on the title started had just a page or two of introduction then went straight to the story. Even more continuity based was the Daredevil issue that started a brand new story arc. That's the way to do it, I say, and that's the way it should be done. It shouldn't matter if the comic is 10c or $2.50; a casual reader who may not have read a comic in years or have never been exposed to the medium before should be able to get a nicely wrapped up story in a single issue. At least that's what I think. So is large-scale promotion healthy for the industry? Hell yeah! But it shouldn't come at the price of getting a half assed story. Price should never determine quality!
Next week I will be taking a look at what's happening with the popular mature imprint Vertigo in this coming year and what books have impressed me during the imprint's momentous ten years on the shelf. Of course I would like to hear your comments so please post them on the message board or e-mail me through the link above. Your comments will be posted if they contribute to the discussion, which they surely will.
Hope you have enjoyed yourself. I sure have. Looking forward to a new year in comics, at SBC and in my life.
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