Improving Free Comic Book Day

FCBD line

Photo Credit: Bob Bretall

I love Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) and make sure the 1st Saturday in May is always set aside to visit a number of shops and participate in some really great events all over Southern California.  I’ve been going since the yearly event started in 2002 and have visited anywhere from 3 to 8 shops on any given FCBD.  Even though I love the day, I have noticed that there are some things that could be done to improve the event for the Publishers, the Comic Shops, and the fans.

What is the purpose of FCBD? 

More comics in the hands of more people.

Let’s look at how we can serve the purpose of FCBD, putting more comics in the hands of more people for all the constituents of the day.

Publishers
Publishers want to expose their comics to fans and get them coming back for more of those comics in the months after FCBD.  To do that they need to put out an accessible, high-quality comic that is going to speak to their target demographic.  It needs to provide enough story and entertainment to and grab them, while giving them a hook that makes them want to come back for more.

Publishers have gotten a lot better of the past years at providing compelling material for FCBD.  In the early years I saw a lot of scattered reprint material and FCBD ‘comics’ that were loaded with sketches and press-release sorts of material.  This year I reviewed 50 FCBD comics as either ‘this will make me want to buy the comics showcased here’ or ‘No thanks, nothing compelling here, I’ll pass’.  On the positive side, 40 of the comics I reviewed earned what I thought was a solid ‘buy’.

PUBLISHER ACTION: DO NOT waste your FCBD offering on text-heavy press-release/sketchbook type of offerings.  It is Free Comic Book Day.  Give the fans a comic book story.  Make sure the selection (new or reprint) stands on it’s own, is understandable, and provides a solid chunk of story value while hooking the reader to come back.

Comic Shops
Shops have at 2 distinct groups to market to on FCBD: Existing customers/comic readers -and- new fans who have not been regularly reading comics (or who have never read comics).  Your goal should be increasing sales into your shop, this means you need to handle these 2 types of fans separately.  I can understand when shops need to limit the number of comics each person can take for free, but there is a better way to do this than I have seen in most shops I’ve visited.

Existing customers/Comic Readers:  I have talked to a LOT of people on this topic.  Most of them, when confronted with a limit of 3 or 4 comics on FCBD will just pick the comics from the comic company they are ALREADY buying comics from.  They don’t don’t want to miss out on a story from their favorite publisher(s).  People Reading Marvel will pick the 1 or 2 Marvel comics.  DC fans grabbed the Divergence book.  Valiant fans got the Valiant book.   This is NOT translating into new sales.  If a shop wants new sales they need to expose fans to new comics.
Note: Some comic shops are already doing this the right way.  No advice can possibly be universally applicable, but don’t take the fact that some retailers are getting it right get in the way of the fact that a LOT of retailers could improve the way they handle FCBD.

COMIC SHOP ACTION (Existing Customers): You know what your customers are buying.  If they buy Marvel from you every month, just give them the Marvel books.  Give them the DC books if they buy DC from you.  Do the same for Image, Valiant, Dark Horse, etc.  ON TOP OF the comics from the publishers they already buy, let them take 2-3 additional comics from publishers they DO NOT regularly buy comics from.  Exposing them to some new comics may or may not translate into new sales, but you’re guaranteed to not get new sales if they just get the stuff they are already buying.
Make an effort to let customers with a pull list select their comics before FCBD and don’t make them stand in line.  Put them in their pull box.  It will make the free comics line shorter, and hopefully the regulars will come by the shop for the FCBD events anyway.
This, of course, assumes a retailer knows their regular customers and actually has pull lists for regular customers.  For shops that do neither of these, that’s a good ‘next step’ completely independent of FCBD.

COMIC SHOP ACTION (New Customers): These folks are comic to your shop for the first time ever, or maybe for the first time in months.  Walk up and down the line as the people wait and talk to the people.  I rarely see any shop owners/employees ‘working the line’.  Ask them what kinds of movie/TV shows they like, what genres of entertainment are their favorites.  Make recommendations about comics they might enjoy, both free ones and ones that are available (on sale for FCBD) as single issues and in collected editions.

Fans
New readers are not going to be reading this blog so I’ll target this at the existing comic readers.  Try something new.  Check out the Free Comic Book Day web-site and be educated about the books coming out.  Communicate with your shop owner before FCBD, give them a heads up about what books look interesting to you.  Support the event and the sales your shop (hopefully) runs on FCBD.   Engage the new customers in conversation, make suggestions about what comics they might enjoy (PLEASE, try to be diverse here and not just suggest super-heroes unless that is what the new cusotmer says they are interested in).

If Publishers, comic shops, and existing fans all work together FCBD can kick it up a notch and really deliver on that mission:

More comics in the hands of more people.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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The Death of the Marvel Universe?

SW1

People have been talking about the “Death of the Marvel Universe” for months.  Mostly because Marvel has been hyping the death of their universe for months.  Said ‘death’ occurred in Marvel’s latest big event book, Secret Wars #1.

I’m jaded.  I feel like Marvel (and DC too) is the ‘Boy who cried wolf’ when it comes to death.

Captain America died.  He was shot right in front of us and they verified that he was dead!  He came back.  I’m still not sure exactly how and I read the books it happened in.  Yes, it was just that convoluted.

The Human Torch was ‘killed’.  He ‘died’ off camera and I was even one of the people interviewed by USAToday to comment on his death.  When he came back (it turned out he really wasn’t ever dead) in the exact issue with the exact sequence of events I thought they would use I realized I had been reading too many super-hero comics.  It’s not that it was  a bad story, but it was predictable if you had read enough other super-hero comics.

Spider-Man died.  Well, not really.  Doc Ock over-wrote his own brain into Peter Parker’s body and took over.  That didn’t hold either.  Peter Parker came back pretty much the way I expected.

Wolverine died and he hasn’t come back yet, but he will, I have no doubt.

These are only the most recent deaths.  There have been more in the past and there will be, I am sure, many more in the future.  Marvel editorial is on record as saying the deaths are a mechanism to tell interesting stories and it doesn’t matter if they don’t stick.  I agree with this, to a certain degree.  I like a good story.  At the same time, I find it impossible to get myself emotionally or intellectually invested in these stories any more.  The revolving door of death and disaster has been used as a device so frequently that it has lost almost all meaning for me in the context of the super-hero universes.  I can enjoy some of the stories, but when any story tries to milk an emotional response out of me over an alleged death I can only roll my eyes and think “Oh please…..fool me once…”

It used to be that you could say “if you don’t see a body then they’re not dead”.  Once fans tumbled to this the companies just disregarded that altogether.  Now they show the body and bring the characters back anyway.

So…  THE DEATH OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE!!!

I don’t think so.

The Marvel Universe will be back and it will be just fine.  They have done a number of soft reboots on the Marvel Universe over the years, this one has a lot more hoopla around it, but I suspect that after the dust settles around the Secret Wars event we’ll have the majority of the characters we know and love right back where they were with a new coat of paint on a few of them and over time we’ll be back to the status quo for the majority of Marvel’s line.

If anything, I suspect this reboot of the universe will serve to make it more similar to the movie/TV universe that has already been creeping into the print books over the past couple of years.  This isn’t a bad thing, it’s evolution.  ‘Evolve or Die’ as they say.

This is all part and parcel with the super-hero experience.  Don’t get overwrought about any change you don’t like because another change will be following along soon enough.  Am I jaded?  Absolutely.  I freely admit it.

The main thing is how much any reader enjoys the stories.  I got much more accepting of this when I got the Pokemon-like “gotta get ’em all” monkey off my back several years ago.  I have pretty much every Marvel Comic from 1961 through 2011’s Fear Itself event (50 years of Marvel Comics is a pretty solid run…).  That was when I pulled back and started to get only what I REALLY liked.  I gave up on trying to get, read, and keep everything straight.  Some people are rightly amazed that I was able to keep it up for as long as I did, but I know several people who continue to buy and read the majority of the Marvel and/or DC books every month because they don’t want to miss any aspect of the universe.

My current mantra for super-hero comics, that now only make up about 25% of my comics reading diet, has made me much happier as a comics consumer:

Get the comics you enjoy, skip what you don’t.
No death is EVER permanent in super-hero comics.
Not even the death of a Universe.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some darn good stories told as part of the Secret Wars event…

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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How Valiant Comics Lost a Dedicated Fan…

BOD_001_COVER-A_GILL

CREDIT: Valiant

That specter of death on the cover of Book of Death #1 from Valiant may as well be looming over my fan status.  The marketing stunt Valiant is launching in relation to this book is causing me to pull back and NOT buy every Valiant comic for the first time since their relaunch.

Valiant fandom is a funny thing, it falls into a few categories:

Hard-Core Fans: These folks buy everything Valiant puts out.  And I mean everything.  They collect all the comics and more, they collect all (or many/most) of the myriad variant covers Valiant puts out every month as well.

Dedicated Fans: I put myself in this category.  I buy all the Valiant comics, but I don’t buy all the variant covers.  I have been known to occasionally double or triple dip and get multiple covers to the same book, but not all the time, and not as much lately since I’ve been pulling back on variant covers in general.

Casual Fans: They “buy what they like”.  They get a handful of books and go on and off books.  They may read monthly comics or they may just pick up the stories in collected edition form.

It’s funny, because for most other companies “buying every comic they publish” would make you a hard-core fan.  Not so for Valiant.  I see them at cons and when I see how the really hard-core fans collect, I realize that me just buying 1 copy of each comic makes me a mid-tier fan at best.

So, what was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”?

BoD-Geomancer

CREDIT: Valiant

BOOK OF DEATH: LEGENDS OF THE GEOMANCER #1 (of 4)
A special BOOK OF DEATH retailer incentive! The true history and lineage of the Geomancers – revealed here in an all-new series of never-before-seen stories from New York Times best-selling writer Fred Van Lente (IVAR, TIMEWALKER) and artist Juan Jose Ryp (Ghosted) that won’t be collected for the trade paperback!
ATTENTION FANS:
• SPECIAL ALL-NEW LIMITED SERIES!
• QUANTITIES WILL BE LIMITED!
• NOT AVAILABLE DIGITALLY!
• WON’T BE COLLECTED FOR THE TRADE!
• ASK YOUR LOCAL RETAILER HOW TO ORDER!

If you order from DCBS like I do, it will cost you $20 to get this comics that is “all-new” and won’t be collected anywhere else (or so they say now).  This is issue 1 of a 4 issue series.  I love Valiant, but I am NOT going to pay $20 for a 24 page comic.  And it’s just the 1st issue of 4.  I’m not going to pay potentially $80 for the entire series.  There are a LOT of other comics I’d rather buy for $20 to $80.

EDIT: Some people have been confused.  The normal Book of Death series is not $20.  It is the Legends of the Geomancer mini-series that is a Retailer Incentive book and will cost whatever your retailer decides they need to charge for it.  DCBS is charging $20.
I am also told that #1 is 1:25 and #s 2-4 are 1:10 so will likely be more like $10 each.  So ~$50 to read this mini-series.

I’m curious on the blow-back this may have with fans of all categories. Maybe no impact for casual fans, because most won’t even notice what they’re missing.  Maybe other dedicated fans will just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh well, I guess I just won’t get this one, but I’ll still get all the others”.  Hard core fans?  Some may see this as yet another badge to show that they are the ultimate Valiant collector, superior to lesser fans.  Others may begrudgingly buy it and be a little bitter about Valiant reaching into their wallet.

If you’re not a completist like I am it may not bother you at all. For me, once I cross the line of “I’m not getting them all” it’s a short trip to “I’m not getting any”.  This has happened to me before when Publishers pushed me away from collecting everything by making some elite items unobtainable by normal means.  When I cannot collect everything without digging down deep and paying a lot of extra $$, for me personally it gets me thinking that maybe I can just do without a lot more than just the special thing they are making super-collectible.

Since I’m not getting this, I will instead go “All Out” on the Book of Death event. I will just skip the DCBS “all Valiant bundle” for the very first time.  That is 8 comics Valiant will not be selling me from July to September.  Moving forward, I may never go back to getting all the Valiant books.  What this means is I won’t buy every book automatically just because I’m getting the “Valiant bundle”.  I know I’m not getting Book of Death, beyond that, every book will need to stand on it’s own merits, which is probably as it should have been all along, but doing a blind “I’ll get them all at a 50% discount” (the DCBS bundle) was very compelling up to this point.

Is it just me?  I asked some people what they thought:

I’m only in on a few Valiants right now,  I stopped a bit earlier and hearing great reviews on Rai got me back in.  I was thinking maybe I should get “all in with” Book of Death but I may just stick with the few titles I’m reading.

Like many shops, mine barely pulls Valiant. There’s no way they would order enough to get this book. I know, I talked to them about it.

I save enough money on my DCBS order overall that I will be getting the exclusive books anyway, despite my reservations.  There are plenty of people that will neither have the access or the money, so I’m lucky in that respect. And I’ve spent that kind of money on regular variants without new story.

The comic shops are stuck in the middle: They potentially get stuck with piles of unsold comics and/or they have pissed off fans who either don’t get a comic that they want or feel like they were ripped off paying a high price for it.

EDIT: I am told that the Book of Death comics are “fully returnable” so if a comic shop orders 25 to get the Geomancer book they can return the unsold copies.  That said there is always a cost.  Labor.  Possible return shipping fees.  Something.  Many shops will not want to bother with this and would rather just skip dealing with it.
I talked to my Local Shop AFTER Atom! Freeman had a chance to personally call them with his Book of Death sales pitch.  They told me they already support Valiant.  There are already Valiant comics on the rack for people to buy (I know this is true, I see them when I go in there) so people are not missing out on Valiant because there are no books to buy.  If they wanted to get enough of the Geomancer books so customers who wanted it would get copies they would have to order several hundred more copies of Book of Death than they can sell that they know they would have to return.  They didn’t think just having 100s of extra comics on the rack was going to translate into 100s of extra sales.  They have copies for people to buy now that do not sell.  They’ll up their orders a bit, still not have enough Geomancer books for people who want it, and will sell it for somewhere around $12-$15 (or whatever the ‘market price’ settles down to when the book comes out) and it will sell on a first come first served basis.  This seems fair.  Since I don’t go to the shop on Wednesday and also won’t pay even $12 for this comic, it means I’m not going to get a copy.

I’m not a fan of “manufactured collectibles” in comics, and this may have unintended side-effects for Valiant.  Instead of building their fan base, this could help tear it down.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I hope I am because I really like the guys at Valiant.  But I’m not letting them reach into my wallet on this one.

EDIT: There has been a LOT of blow-back on this already.  I have been told by some that I am an ‘entitled fanboy that just thinks he should be able to get any comic he wants’.  I do think I should be able to buy any story a publisher puts out and making this story manufactured from the get-go to be read by only a handful of fans is an ill-conceived idea on the part of Valiant.
Turning fans into part of the sales force to badger their shops into buying 25-packs of Book of Death so they can get a copy of the Geomancer book for themselves is a really bad idea.  But that is just my opinion.

So, I used to just get the Valiant bundle from DCBS and order everything they put out.  My May Valiant order is as follows:
IMPERIUM #6 CVR A EATON
IVAR TIMEWALKER #7 CVR B LIEBER
NINJAK #5 CVR B JOHNSON
UNITY #20 CVR A BERNARD KANO
X-O MANOWAR #38 CVR C CAFU

I still like these series and will continue to read them.  I’m skipping Book of Death just on general principles.   It may be a great story, but I am not going to support something with a marketing campaign as divisive as the one dreamed up for this series.  If this is a successful campaign I would fully expect to see other Publishers replicating it (it may be replicated even if it fails for Valiant).  I was not crazy about the first issue of Bloodshot Reborn, so I’m dropping that title.   I’m not ordering any more issues of the Dead Drop mini-series until I read the 1st issue.

Will Valiant win me back full-on at some point?  Time will tell.  For now, they are losing me as an “all-in reader”.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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FCBD 2015 – The Comics: Part 4 (All Ages)

I got all the comics save 1 from FCBD this year and I’m going to be taking a look at each of them on my Blog.  You can see the 1st 12 comics I read in Part 1, followed up by 14 more media tie-in comics in Part 2, and 11 Indie comics in Part 3.  This time around I’m looking at 12 all ages comics.  This is a great group of FCBD comics; as I was reading them they were mostly really well done and would be perfect for getting younger readers into reading comics.  I’m not sure how many actually ended up in the hands of young readers because (a) shops would have to order them and (b) kids, or their parents, would need to pick them instead of comics with familiar super-heroes or media tie-ins.

I’m not going to do full detailed reviews.  I’m going to look at each and try to give an assessment of whether each comic made me want to seek out and but more comics.  That is, I assume, the purpose of these free comics.  They’re teasers to try to get a customer to want more.  Let’s see how effective this year’s batch were; I’ll give some suggested age ranges, but that’s going to be for “first contact”.   In general, once someone becomes a teenager they usually proactively distance themselves from what they perceive as “kid stuff” even though it can still be fun to read even for adults.  My ratings will be as follows:

Buy: This either made me want to buy what comes next, or it looked like it was enough to make “someone who likes this sort of thing” buy more.

Pass: The comic didn’t provide me a compelling amount of material that made me want to follow it to the next level.

BOOM-10th Chakra Jurassic

BOOM! Ten Years Celebration (BOOM! Studios)
Buy: A great anthology of stories that will give a taste of properties from media tie-ins like Adventure Time, Regular Show Peanuts, Garfield, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth to creator-owned phenoms like Mouse Guard and Lumberjanes.  I thoroughly enjoyed most of what was in this comic and it was a great sample of all ages material that BOOM! is putting out.  Appropriate for kids & adults of all ages.

Stan Lee’s Chakra the Invincible (Graphic India/POW!)
Buy: This was a great kid-friendly super-hero book showing off 5 different artists on 5 short stories.  I have a feeling Stan Lee’s name is being trotted out here to give this a feeling of legitimacy.  He helped create the character but didn’t write any of the stories in here.  Stan’s name isn’t needed.  This was a good comic that can stand on it’s own.  I’d target this on kids up to about 12 years of age.

Jurassic Strike Force 5 (Silver Dragon Books)
Buy: Shades of the Ninja Turtles!  Here we have fighting dinosaurs who like tacos, but it was all good fun and should be some great action for kids who love dinosaurs up to 12 or 13 years of age.

BodieTroll Rabbids Tick

Bodie Troll (Red 5 Comics)
Buy: Bodie Troll is a fun character and this was a really well done comic.  Appropriate for kids up to 12, but be warned that Bodie gets “drunk” on root beer, so if you’re REALLY hard-core about keeping your kid away from even a hint of such things, read it first before giving to a younger kid.  This also had a story of Drone, where a gamer remotely runs a combat drone, which would be fine for 7 or 8 up to teens.  The issue is rounded out with Creature Academy which should be good for kids into Pokemon or similar properties.

Rabbids (Papercutz)
Buy: The Rabbids remind me of Minions from Despicable Me, albiet with bunny ears.  In any event, they’re fun.  This issue also has a story of Ariol who is searching for that one last collectible sticker to finish off a set, a situation many collectors can relate to.  The issue is rounded out with the Smurfs and Garfield.  A nice selection of stories for kids and adults alike.

The Tick (New England Comics)
Buy: The Tick has been around for a long time.  He made the break into animation and a short-lived live action series, but he’s not a character that seems to have the overall awareness and popularity of “big two” heroes.  Nevertheless, there are some fun stories in this comic that might turn new readers on to the tick and the comic points them at collected editions of all the Tick material that’s out there in some easy to collect “Complete Works” collected editions.  Good for kids, teens, and adults.

Cleopatra VIZ_201502FCBD2015SolicitationCover.indd Overstreet

Cleopatra in Space (graphix)
Buy: This is a story about a tween version of Cleopatra that starts in ancient Egyptm but Cleo finds herself transported to a future/space setting with talking cats and other oddities.  Cleo is a spunky girl and has a fun/rambunctious personality, very likeable.  I enjoyed her time in Egypt, the space adventures which are not really seen other than a basic setup in this issue, now have a bar to surpass.  This should be good fun for kids 6 and up, particularly ones that like cats.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Viz Media)
Pass: Al reviewed the 1st volume of this manga quite favorably, I think maybe reading this in a larger context might be better than the excerpt of story presented here.   The 15 pages presented here seem to jump into the middle of the action, there is some aimless fighting and I never really got a feeling for what was going on.  What I read here would not cause me to want to get any more of this.  The 2nd half was a 15 page Yu-Gi-Oh story that did a much better job of being comprehensible and standing on it’s own.  The JoJo story seemed more suited to older teens (13+) while the Yu-Gi-Oh story would be suitable for readers 10 and up, particularly ones who have watched the TV show or played thee card game.

Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace (Gemstone)
Buy: This is genuinely all ages, though probably much more suited to teens and adults.  It’s not really a comic book, but a sample of the Overstreet Comic Book Marketplace magazine with articles like “How DC Comics Took Over Television”, stuff on the monetary value of comics (which is pretty much Overstreet’s gig), a nice article on collecting Winter Soldier original art by Steve Epting, and an excellent examination of the secret Marvel/DC crossover that occurred as part of the comics featuring the Rutland, Vermont Hallowwen parade.  This is well worth picking up for the Crossover article alone.

Gronk March CBLDF

Gronk, a monster’s story (Action Lab)
Buy: Gronk is a lovable monster that has come to live with a woman in rural British Colombia.  This story is a good intro to Gronk, and more can be read on the web (but the webcomic is B&W and the comics collection is in color).  The back half of this comic is another “cat friendly” offering “Hero Cats of Stellar City”.  Both are great for any kids 6 and up, younger if parents read them with their kids.  Wonderful material for young readers.

March Grand Prix (Capstone)
Buy: March is a race-car driving rabbit in this action packed racing adventure for young readers.  I was completely entertained as an adult and think this would be great for reading to young children or giving to young readers as a first comic.  Completely appropriate for any young reader, this was an extremely well done comic that has me wanting to get the full story in the full OGN volume available in August 2015.

CBLDF Presents Defend Comics (CBLDF)
Buy: This presents a variety of shorts focused on communication, freedom of speech, and attempted censorship; perfect subject matter for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  Some really good takes in here, probably suitable for ages 8 to 10 and up.  It’s a good book the read with your kids and help them understand the concepts that are broached here and how some people like to try to dictate what others can read and express.  Hopefully you’re the kind of person who is in favor of freedom of expression and against censorship and will identify with the people fighting the good fight in these stories.  If you find yourself thinking it’s OK to ban a book and/or tell others what they can choose to read, please unfollow my Blog now ;-)

…and that’s all of the FCBD 2015 offerings (except for Hatter M, which I can recommend on the basis of reading the OGN’s first hand).  A nice batch of comics this year, a lot of them were perfect lead-ins for new readers.  That’s not to say that FCBD is without room for improvement.  I’ll talk about some of the problems with FCBD that should be addressed by Publishers and comic shops to meet the needs of both existing and new readers in the next installment of this Blog….

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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FCBD 2015 – The Comics: Part 3 (The Indies)

I got all the comics save 1 from FCBD this year and I’m going to be taking a look at each of them on my Blog.  You can see the 1st 12 comics I read in Part 1, followed up by 14 more media tie-in comics in Part 2.  This time around I’m looking at 11 indie comics (stuff that is not the major publishers and is likely to be completely new or off-the-beaten track for many comics readers).  This is an interesting group of FCBD comics because they were likely ordered in small quantities by most comics shops and are mostly not featuring flashy/recognizable characters on the covers.

While a casual fan picking up a comic for the 1st time on FCBD might well find something really cool here, this is the group that I wish people mired in super-heroes would try out.  These are books that a comic shop owner should purposely buy and give to readers who primarily read super-heroes and media tie-in comics in addition to their standard 3 or 4 FCBD comics they get to pick at most shops.  Most fans mired in the world of the “Big Two” are usually going to use their 4 picks on the Marvel/DC selections so they keep abreast of the latest for their favorite heroes.  Giving these folks a couple of extras as long as they are in the Indie category would be a great sales tool for a comic shop owner who has these people in their shop every week mostly buying the same old stuff.  Use FCBD to nudge them along the evolutionary path of their comics reading.

I’m not going to do full detailed reviews.  I’m going to look at each and try to give an assessment of whether each comic made me want to seek out and but more comics.  That is, I assume, the purpose of these free comics.  They’re teasers to try to get a customer to want more.  Let’s see how effective this year’s batch were; my ratings will be as follows:

Buy: This either made me want to buy what comes next, or it looked like it was enough to make “someone who likes this sort of thing” buy more.

Pass: The comic didn’t provide me a compelling amount of material that made me want to follow it to the next level.

Valiant Hip Hop

Valiant 25th Anniversary Special (Valiant)
Buy: I tottered on the brink of giving this a “Pass”.  I love Valiant and what they’re doing, but this issue seemed to me like it will play really nicely to existing fans, but I don’t think it had the grab it could have for pulling in new readers.  Bloodshot has been essentially turned into the Punisher; the 1st 4 pages of Ninjak #1 were what pulled this over into Buy territory; the 4 page preview of the Dead Hand storyline coming in X-O Manowar was, I think, impenetrable to a new reader.

Hip Hop Family Tree Three-In-One (Fantagraphics)
Buy: I’m not the target demographic for this.  I don’t listen to Hip Hop because I don’t particularly like it.  But I love this history of Hip Hop.  I look at it like a history book and I like to learn about things I don’t know about.  The backup story was from something called Cosplayers by Dash Shaw and it was superb!  I’m going to be seeking out and buying Cosplayers and other stuff by Shaw.

Mercury Heat Emily ComicsFestival

Mercury Heat (Avatar)
Buy: A good 11 page intro story to the sci-fi world of Mercury Heat by Kieron Gillen. Particularly nice was the lengthy essay by Gillen explaining the series and characters, this has me sold on this one and looking forward to its debut in July

And Then Emily Was Gone #0 (ComixTribe)
Buy: People will look at this and either fall in love with Iain Laurie’s bizarre art style or be turned off by it.  But what they see is what they’re going to get!  Pretty cool backup story featuring the Oxymoron.  I had not previously seen a fairy sitting on a toilet, but it worked in this story.  Weird, but good weird.

Comics Festival (Toronto Comic Arts Festival)
Buy: A mixed bag of Canadian comics creators in this anthology.  I didn’t like everything, but it’s rare that I read an anthology where I do.  That said, I loved Con/Game by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang as well as the Superhero Girl story by Faith Erin Hicks.  It gives me some more stuff to be on the lookout for, which it the point of this comic, so it was a success.

Canuck Motorcycle Samurai GFT

Captain Canuck (Chapter House Comics)
Pass: I read the original run of Captain Canuck when it first came out back in the late 1970s, which probably puts me in a very tiny percentage of the people checking out this comic.  I liked it back then, maybe almost because of it’s flaws (journeyman art but a LOT of heart).  This issue was split between a new updated version of the Captain (which I didn’t care for) and a story of the ‘classic’ Captain (which I liked more than the updated version, but also didn’t cry out to me as something that warranted revisiting).  Not for me.

Motorcycle Samurai (Top Shelf)
Pass: This was one of the FCBD books I was most looking forward to, based on early descriptions I had read.  I may have fallen prey to “unrealistic expectations” because the reality of this didn’t live up to what I was expecting and didn’t click with me at all.  It has one of those very distinctive art styles that will either work for a reader or not.  For me it fell into the ‘not’ category.  The narrative didn’t do anything for me either.  That said, people should flip through the book, it may work for them.

Grimm Fairy Tales: Wonderland (Zenescope)
Pass: This read to me like a pseudo-Twilight Zone story with a horror twist.  There were elements of the GFT Wonderland story woven into it, but it wasn’t particularly effective at really delivering the Wonderland backstory in a way that popped for me and made me want to read me.  I got to the end and thought that I had read an average story and didn’t feel compelled to seek out more.

Lady Justice ICE2000AD

Lady Justice (Super Genius)
Pass: Lady Justice originally came out in 1995 from TeknoComix and I bought/read it back when it first came out.  Touted as “Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice”; Neil came up with the concept, but the execution was left to others who do not execute at Neil’s level of skill.  This is a reprint of the original #1 issue. Reading it again after 20 years, I don’t think it aged well and didn’t really cry out to me as something that needed to be revived / reprinted.

I.C.E. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Bayou Black Out (12-Gauge)
Buy: I.C.E. is a action oriented police procedural done in comics form and well done for what it is. It’s not an over-used comics genre, though it has been beaten into the ground on TV.  Decent setup for the next series, Bayou Blackout, coming out soon.  I liked the short story “The Ride: The Devil Don’t Sing No Blues” more than the main event.  A nice Twilight Zone-esque standalone short.

2000 AD (2000 AD)
Buy: 2000 AD, the long running British comics prog, is home to a number of fabulous characters, many of whom are not familiar to people in the US.  A character that is familiar to most comics readers is Judge Dredd, who is featured in an all-new story here that is a great example of the character.  There are 2 other new stories: Death Rock (which was very good and left me wanting to know “Who is Harry 20″) and Doctor Sin.  We also get a reprint of Nemesis the Warlock, Dan Dare, Slaine, and 3000 AD The Traveller.   Good stuff that left me wanting more.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Posted in 12-Gauge, 2000 AD, Avatar, Chapter House, ComixTribe, Fantagraphics, Super Genius, Top Shelf, Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Valiant, Zenescope | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

FCBD 2015 – The Comics: Part 2 (Media tie-ins)

I got all the comics save 1 from FCBD this year and I’m going to be taking a look at each of them on my Blog.  You can see the 1st 12 comics I read in Part 1.  This time around I’m looking at the comics that (with the exception of DC’s Divergence) have roots in movies, TV, and video games.  This is an interesting group of comics because they are in many cases more familiar to the casual fan who wanders into a comic shop for FCBD with little or no prior comics reading.  Super-Heroes & media tie-ins are key entry points for new readers.

I’m not going to do full detailed reviews.  I’m going to look at each and try to give an assessment of whether each comic made me want to seek out and buy more comics.  That is, I assume, the purpose of these free comics.  They’re teasers to try to get a customer to want more.  Let’s see how effective this year’s batch were; my ratings will be as follows:

Buy: This either made me want to buy what comes next, or it looked like it was enough to make “someone who likes this sort of thing” buy more.

Pass: The comic didn’t provide me a compelling amount of material that made me want to follow it to the next level.

Divergence TT_Scooby

Divergence (DC Comics)
Pass: Like with Marvel, I think people bring some baggage with them to DC Comics.  There is a certain expectation.  After what I thought was a fairly pretentious text piece from DC co-Publishers Dan Didio & Jim Lee talking about “celebrating the past while reinventing the present and propelling our characters and out shared mythology boldly into the future” we get 3 short pieces featuring an armored Batman who is not Bruce Wayne.  A bearded Superman who looks like a homeless guy who has been “outed” as Clark Kent by Lois Lane, and an intro of a new villain with serious parallels to Wonder Woman.  I’m really not sure how this will play with an audience who wander into a comic shop having no more exposure to DC than movies/TV/cartoons.  This is not their DC.  It will likely play well with current DC readers, but I’m a lapsed reader and nothing here made me want to go out and buy a DC comic.

Teen Titans Go! / Scooby Doo! Team-Up (DC Comics)
Buy: After the relentlessly dark & grim Divergence comic, here was a comic that was light-hearted and entertaining.  Fans of the TT Go animated series should find this to be a continuation of the same fun-filled vibe.  In the back half we get the Scooby gang teaming up with the Super-Friends in a story that’s a lead-in to getting someone to purchase a collected edition, and it worked!  It made me want to read more of this story!

Layout 1FightClub Avatar

Bob’s Burgers (Dynamite)
Buy: Targeted at fans of the TV show, this reprints stories from issues #1 thru 5 and seems to capture the look and feel of the animated series.  I don’t think this is meant to appeal to people who have never seen the TV show.

Fight Club (Dark Horse)
Buy: A precursor to the Fight Club 2 series by movie creator/writer Chuck Palahniuk.  A bit of cognitive dissonance for me in Cameron Stewart’s slightly cartoony style, the art did not click for me with the tone of the movie or David Mack’s cover image.  This also has an original Goon story that was pretty great and a story of The Strain.  Fans of the movie could be compelled to pick this up and they might actually like the Goon story more than Fight Club!

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Dark Horse)
Buy: An all-ages entry for fans of the super-popular Avatar cartoon series, this also has a story in the world of the Plants vs. Zombies video game and a story of Bandette.  I like how Dark Horse pulls readers in with the popular media property and slips in a really nice story that is pure comics.  I wish IDW had done this with their media tie-in comics.

Doctor Who TransformersTMNT

Doctor Who (IDW)
Buy: Three new stories featuring 3 doctors; Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth.  And an added teaser of the upcoming summer event that crosses these 3 doctors over with one another.  This is meant to appeal to fans of the Doctor Who franchise and will likely be impenetrable to people who have not watched the show.

Transformers: Robots in Disguise #0 (IDW)
Buy: A nice animated style on this story that leads into issue #1, coming in July.  Yet another comic that aims to capture the interest of a property (Transformers) popularized in media outside comics.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW)
Buy: Finishing up IDW’s trifecta of media properties, I think they are catering to what will be familiar to people who come to FCBD and have not been buying comics.  They’ll know these properties popularized on TV.  They’ve been putting out some decent stories of the Turtles in the past few years and this could be a great entry point for people who weren’t aware that they were doing new TMNT comics again.

Sonic POK_201502FCBD2015SolicitationCover.indd

Sonic the Hedgehog/MegaMan Worlds Unite (Archie)
Buy: Sonic & MegaMan are extremely popular characters in both video games, animation, and comics.  Archie has been publishing Sonic comics continuously for over 20 years and that doesn’t happen unless they’re doing something right!  This is a perfect intro to this summer’s Sonic/Megaman event.

Pokemon (Perfect Square)
Pass: Hooked into a larger story and nothing happens in this.  I had my son give me a second opinion on this and he agrees that this should have had more action and perhaps a Pokemon battle.  As it stands it was boring.

Layout 1Adobe Photoshop PDF

SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies (Bongo)
Buy:
Another comic where I went to my son (a fan of SpongeBob) for a second opinion.  He thought it was a solid humor comic that would appeal to kids.  I liked the fact that we got some nice art in the vein of SpongeBob but with some variations from the animation standard.  I particularly liked the one-pager by indie creator James Kochalka (American Elf).

Bongo Comics Free-For-All 2015 (Bongo)
Buy: The Simpsons are a cultural phenomenon that have been on TV for a staggering 26 seasons!  This was a really fun issue with a great selection of stories, my favorite being the Don Martin style one-pager featuring Sideshow Bob gracing the inside of the back cover.

AttackonTitan StreetFighter

Kodansha Comics Sampler (Kodansha)
Buy: A nice sampler of manga: Attack on Titan, Noragami Stray God, Vinland Saga, Inuyashiki, and Your Lie in April.  A bunch of genres from sci fi to historical action/adventure, to drama to romance.  Something for everyone if they’re willing to give manga a try.  The main hurdle will likely be reading from right to left for most people.  For my own part, I’m going to want to check out both Vinland Saga and Inuyashiki based on the previews provided here!

Street Fighter Super Combo Special (Udon/Capcom)
Buy: Lots of action and some pretty nice art too.  I was a bit lost (having never played the game) but it seems that fans of the franchise would find something fun here.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Posted in Archie, Bongo Comics, Dark Horse, DC Comics, Dynamite, IDW, Kodansha, Perfect Square, Udon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

FCBD 2015 – The Comics: Part 1

I got all the comics save 1 from FCBD this year and I’m going to be taking a look at a lot of them.  I’m not going to do full detailed reviews.  I’m going to look at each and try to give an assessment of whether each comic made me want to seek out and but more comics.  That is, I assume, the purpose of these free comics.  They’re teasers to try to get a customer to want more.  Let’s see how effective this year’s batch were; my ratings will be as follows:

Buy: This either made me want to buy what comes next, or it looked like it was enough to make “someone who likes this sort of thing” buy more.

Pass: The comic didn’t provide me a compelling amount of material that made me want to follow it to the next level.

Secret Wars Avengers

Secret Wars (Marvel)
Buy:  This presents a new story with Valeria Richards that was kind of slow and I’m not really sure it’s going to make someone coming into the comic cold (like from the movies) want to buy more.  I liked it, but I’ve been reading Marvel.  People already bought into Marvel should see this as a good precursor to Secret Wars, but like with anything, I’m sure some Marvel fans won’t like it.  There was also a backup story where Marvel heroes battle the giants from “Attack on Titan”.  Another story that should resonate with a really specific demographic but I’m not sure if it has general appeal.
Marvel is kind of a strange beast since they’re so visible in the movies and pop culture.  I think people bring some baggage with them when reading a Marvel comic that an Indie book that is completely unfamiliar to them doesn’t have to deal with.

All-New, All-Different Avengers (Marvel)
Pass: Another new story with, as promised, a completely new team of Avengers; Ms. Marvel, Ultimate Spider-Man, Nova, the female Thor, Sam Wilson Captain America, Vision, Nova.  It also had a story of the Inhumans (being set up to be the new mutants of the Marvel Universe).  I’m having a hard time separating my personal opinion of this and being objective.  Nothing here made me want to read more, in fact it helped me decide to NOT order the new Avengers book.  I’m not sure how people coming in cold who have not been reading Marvel will react to this, it’s VERY different from what they’re seeing in the movies.  I really like Thor and Ms. Marvel in their own books, they did nothing for me here.  I’ll keep up with them in their solo adventures.

Honor Savage Dragon TerribleLizard

Tales of Honor #0 (Image)
Buy: Really nicely done new story about Honor Harrington set up with some informative intro text and pictures.  Hard Sci-Fi at its best, I think this will hit a sweet spot for people who are looking for something different in their comics.

Savage Dragon Legacy (Image)
Buy: I have not read a Savage Dragon comic in years but this comic brought me back up to speed in the course of the narrative.  And I seem to have missed a LOT!  Erik Larsen did a good job here weaving a Savage Dragon history lesson into a new story.  If a reader digs what they’re seeing here, they are getting the perfect setup for what Larsen does every month in the regular comic.

Terrible Lizard (Oni)
Buy: A reprint of issue #1 of the all-ages series that serves as a commercial for buying the collected edition. This tale of an orange time-displaced T-Rex imprinting on a tween girl and being set up for a modern day adventure end on exactly the kind of cliffhanger that will compel someone who liked this to want to get more.

Th3rdWorld Legendary

The Stuff of Legend/Thanatos Diver (Th3rd World Studios)
Pass: The Stuff of Legend of a GREAT series, I enjoy it immensely.  The pages presented here fall FAR short of conveying what really makes this book special.  They would have been far better off putting in a complete short story to give a solid feel for the series.
Thanatos Diver is something I was really looking forward to based on the description I had previously seen.  Seeing a full 12-page story was a disincentive for me.  The art was not working for me, it felt incomplete/unfinished, particularly in the faces of many characters.  Stylistic preference for sure, but it was not working for me at all.

Legendary Comics Sampler (Legendary)
Pass: Legendary has put out some great comics, but they really dropped the ball with this sampler package.  Instead of presenting some solid samples of comics they have some textual marketing blurbs and pages of unlettered sample art.  I’m sure I’ll end up liking some of the series advertised here, but this comic did nothing to make me want to seek out more.  I think they would have been better off picking 2 properties and presenting fully produced intro pages/stories: Pacific Rim and Black Bag, for instance.  Had I gotten some entertaining new material I would have come away from this with a “Buy” feeling.

Goldilocks Dark Circle Phantom

Steampunk Goldilocks (Antarctic Press)
Buy: I’m clearly not the target demographic for this book, but it was a full issue of material and should be enjoyable for the people who are into this kind of thing.  Reading this is going to provide a really solid decision point on whether you want fore of this stuff from Antarctic.

Dark Circle Comics (Archie/Dark Circle)
Buy: This was a good intro for people who had never heard of or seen these reboots.  Pretty worthless for people who have already been checking out the reboots as it’s just reprints of stuff that has been out for a while.  This reprints the 1st 11 pages of the new Black Hood #1 and Fox #1 comics.  They give a good feeling for what these books look like and people who like what they see should be out asking their shop for the comics.  I wish there had been more for the upcoming Shield book than the couple of pages of sketches presented.

The Phantom (Hermes Press)
Buy: This gives a nice capsule summary of the Phantom’s origin and presents reprints of a couple of Gold Key Phantom stories and one from Charlton (with Jim Aparo art).  This won’t be for everyone, but for people it clicks with, they will know that they can go out & get reprints of these old comics from Hermes.

WorldsofAspen SuperMutant

Worlds of Aspen 2015 (Aspen)
Buy: Nice art and dynamic action in a 13 page story for Fathom: Blue and 12 page story for Eternal Soulfire.  As with other books, this was a good sample of what you’ll be getting if you pick up these books.  I had not previously been planning to get Eternal Soulfire, but the preview here has sold me on the series.

Super Mutant Magic Academy/Step Aside Pops (Drawn & Quarterly)
Buy: B&W reprints of 17 pages of 1-page gag-strips with the students of the SuperMutant Magic Academy and 13 pages of strips from Kate Beaton’s latest “Hark! A Vagrant” collection titled Step Aside, Pops.  Another great sampling of what’s in store for you, you’re either going to be entertained or not, but this is a free sampler and it’s pointing you in the direction of where you can get more if this was entertaining to you.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Posted in Antarctic, Archie, Dark Circle, Hermes Press, Image, Legendary Comics, Marvel, Oni Press, Th3rd World Studios | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments