2012 Comics of the Year

Watch Dan and I talk about our picks.

Top Marvel Book: right at the beginning

Top DC Books: 7:20

Top Creator-Owned Book 12:40 sec

Top Marvel Arc 19:14

Top DC Arc 23:46

Top Creator-Owned Arc 27:49

Best Old Comic 31:35

Biggest Surprise 40:14

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Do the economics of digital comics/Comixology make sense?

Until a few days ago I wasn't paying much attention to digital comics. I don't have a smart phone or a tablet. I don't mind reading stuff on my computer, but I wasn't impressed with the Marvel Chrome app (and it limits me to reading right in front of my computer). Also, I've been burned by DRM before: bought tracks from the relaunched Napster that refused to play when I lost my account details and bought books from Microsoft service back before Kindles and Nooks existed, and those books are unreadable now. But four things converged to make me take a look at Comixology. First of all, Marvel's been giving away free digital copies of its comics as a way to justify their higher prices when compared to DC Comics. I've been redeeming the codes, but, as I said, the Marvel app was more annoying for me to use than reading the physical comic. (floppies as they're called in the scanning community) Last week when I entered my codes, I saw that I was able to link my account with Comixology. (I did that last night - more on that momentarily) Second, the latest Team Fortress 2 update comics were released in .cbr format. Third, I'd been thinking of digitizing my comics anyway so that I could share them with my daughter without risking damage to the (potential) collectables. (Same as I've been doing with my DVDs and Blurays) Fourth, I came across Mark Waid's Insufferable , an online comic available from his site as a .cbz file. So I decided to check out Comixology and the idea of digital comics.

I really like the Comixology reading interface. This is weird, because Marvel licenses it for their site, but maybe the Chrome Marvel app doesn't take full advantage of it? The panel-by-panel reading experience is almost like a motion comic without the voice acting. And it helps to keep me from spoiling myself as sometimes when reading floppies my eye wanders to the last panel of a page when I turn the page.

But the question remains: does it make sense financially to buy digital comics? Right now I'd have to say it's a huge "it depends". Let's get the DRM issue out of the way really quickly. Even though you're "buying" your comics (often for the same price as a floppy - more on this in a second), you're actually licensing to rent them. This is because the file you read is proprietary and resides only on their servers. So if Comixology goes belly-up you lose your comics. There goes hundreds (if not thousands of dollars). Or they could do like Amazon did with 1984 - if they have a dispute with Marvel they could be forced to remove all your Marvel books. They may or may not give you back your money - but now you've lost the ability to read your Marvel issues. (Or in the case of Batman Inc Vol 2 #3 - my shop sold it to me and couldn't take it back - Comixology could) As of right now I don't know a way to back up your books to a DRM-free format like cbr/cbz or adcf. However, this is important to greater and lesser degrees to people - some people find this so important they won't buy until the comics are DRM-free (like happened with music) and others couldn't care less. They're only reading the comics once and if they disappear no biggie. So let's not worry about this too much going forward in this article.

So digital comics seem to make the most financial sense if you like DC Comics or Image Comics. Both of them discount their titles by $1 if you are willing to wait one month to read your comics. Sure, this means you miss out on the zeitgeist or might get things slightly spoiled by Comic Vine's podcast (although they tend to be pretty good about spoilers), but if you are limited in the amount of cash you can spend on comics (like me), this could make a big difference. Most DC Comics are now $3 (with some at $4). For every two DC comics you delay by a month you can afford to buy another one! So that's win-win! You get to read more comics and DC gets more money from you. (All of this also applies to Image - or at least Saga - I'm not sure if it's title by title since they're creator-owned) I know I had to drop a bunch of DC books and I might be able to use this to get back into them.

Marvel, on the other hand, appears to be a horrible deal for digital comics. They seem to have taken the opposite approach of DC - they want you to prefer buying floppies. After all, if you buy the physical book you get a free digital copy. If you buy the digital copy for the same price you don't get a physical book. And, if you are of the opinion (like me) that a physical book is better - after all there is no DRM - you can share it, scan it, cut it up for a collage, etc - then it's a pretty dumb thing to buy Marvel issues digitally. (Unless you a) have a very small living space or b) live in a country where you can get digital copies of things you can't buy physically)

Also, I only looked at Marvel graphic novels and trades on Comixology, but they are a better deal as a dead tree book purchased from Amazon.

Finally, this might not affect everyone's economics, but my local comic store offers pull box discounts. I tell them what books I want every month and they give me a 10% discount on those issues as well as anything else I pick up in the store. I can't get those on Comixology. (That I know of) Now, I know that Comixology doesn't have any incentive to do that. After all, if they have an issue in their database it's there whether 1 dude buys it, no one buys it, or 1 billion people buy it. My store is out money if they can't sell all their issues so they'd prefer for everyone to subscribe instead of just picking up issues willy-nilly. However, that just means that any issues I want on the day they come out ONLY make sense if I buy them at the store. I'm losing money buying them on Comixology and not getting the ever-so-versatile physical comic book so why would I do that?

So what do other Comic Vine readers thing? Am I missing out on some key fact? Does it make financial sense to you to buy digital comics? I would really love to hear what others have to say.

Thanks!

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My Comic Collection Stats #4

Main Protagonists

Current StatsApril 2012
1. X-MenX-Men
2. BatmanBatman
3. Spider-ManSpider-Man
4. Fantastic FourFantastic Four
5. SupermanSuperman

No major change there.

Supporting Protagonists

CurrentApril 2012
1. Avengers1. Avengers
2. X-Men2. Batman
3. Batman3. X-Men
4. Alfred4. Future Foundation
5. Future Foundation5. S.W.O.R.D.

A little change there

Antagonists

CurrentApril 2012
1. Court of Owls1. Hellfire Club
2. Avengers2. Onslaught
3. Hellfire Club3. Joker
4. Onslaught4. Court of Owls
5. Joker5. Jackal

Court of Owls gets a boost from all the Batman and Family books. Avengers jumps in there because I count them as antagonists in X-Men books during Avengers vs X-Men. Joker gets bumped to the back, but he may recover with Scott Snyder's new arc this fall.

Keywords

CurrentApril 2012
1. Avengers vs X-Men1. Spider-Island
2. Spider-Island2. Regenesis
3. Regenesis3. Flashpoint
4. Flashpoint4. Schism
5. Night of the Owls5. Onslaught

Avengers vs X-Men takes the top spot because of all the books involved. It may be hard to unseat it in the future. Night of the Owls comes in, but might easily fall off.

Publisher

CurrentApril 2012
1. Marvel1. Marvel
2. DC2. DC
3. Archie3. Archie
4. Image4. Dark Horse
5. Dark Horse5. Image

Image moves up a bit and will eventually overtake Archie.

Series

CurrentApril 2012
1. The Amazing Spider-Man1. The Amazing Spider-Man
2. X-Men2. X-Men
3. X-Factor & X-Men Legacy3. X-Men Legacy
4. Astonishing X-Men4. X-Factor
5. Astonishing X-Men and Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four fell off the edge. X-Factor has caught up with X-Men Legacy since I dropped the book as part of my reigning in of my comic spending.

Writer

CurrentApril 2012
1. Jonathan Hickman1. Scott Lobdell
2. Kieron Gillen2. Kieron Gillen
3. Dan Slott3. Dan Slott
4. Peter David & Scott Lobdell4. Peter David & Grant Morrison

By writing 3 books a month that I collect, Jonathan Hickman catapulted himself into the top spot out of nowhere. (Also he wrote some of the Avengers Vs X-Men books) Pretty impressive.

Penciller

CurrentApril 2012
1. Andy Kubert1. Andy Kubert
2. Giuseppe Camuncoli2. Humberto Ramos
3. Greg Land & Humberto Ramos & John Romita Jr3. Greg Land & Art Mahinney
4. Guillem March & Carlos Pacheco & Paul Ryan

Inker

CurrentApril 2012
1. Jay Leisten(forgot to include this last time)
2. Scott Hanna
3. Cam Smith
4. Tim Townsend
5. Victor Olazaba

Colorist

CurrentApril 2012
1. John Khalisz1. John Khalisz
2. Rachelle Rosenberg2. Justin Ponsor & Barry Grossman & Paul Mounts
3. Justin Ponsor3. Rachelle Rosenberg
4. Chris Sotomayor
5. Paul Mounts

Rachelle soars to a comfy second thanks to the fact that I've seen her everywhere recently. She has been BUSY!

Letterer

CurrentApril 2012
1. Joe Caramagna1. Joe Caramagna
2. Cory Petit2. Cory Petit
3. Chris Eliopoulous3. Richard Starkings
4. Richard Starkings4. Pat Broseau
5. Clayton Cowles5. Carlos Managual

Joe Caramagna retains his commanding lead. He'd had to definitely take a huge break to keep Cory Petit from catching up. And everyone else has less than half as many books as Cory so they are pretty safe in their positions. #3-5, however, are all within a few issues of each other so that could end up getting mixed up by the next time.

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My Comic Collection Stats #3

I was curious to see how things have changed since Sept when I last took a lok at this. Quite a few changes since last time! (A + means a rise in the standings and a - means a fall )

Main Progatonists

  1. X-Men
  2. Batman (+) - helped by the fact that there are 4 Batman books
  3. Spider-Man (-)
  4. Fantastic Four
  5. Superman (+) - Knocking Sonic the Hedgehog (which I haven't bought in like 2 decades)

Supporting Protagonists

  1. Avengers (+)
  2. Batman (-)
  3. X-Men (-)
  4. Future Foundation (+)
  5. S.W.O.R.D. (-)

Antagonists

  1. Hellfire Club (+) (thanks to WatXM and Schism)
  2. Onslaught (-)
  3. Joker (-)
  4. Court of Owls (+)
  5. Jackal

One of the most subjective categories:

Keywords

  1. Spider-Island (+)
  2. Regenesis (+)
  3. Flashpoint (-)
  4. Schism
  5. Onslaught

Now some of the most accurate stats:

Publisher

  1. Marvel
  2. DC
  3. Archie
  4. Dark Horse
  5. Image (+)

Series

  1. The Amazing Spider-Man (+)
  2. X-Men (+)
  3. X-Men Legacy (+)
  4. X-Factor
  5. Astonishing X-Men & FF & Fantastic Four (+)

Writer

  1. Scott Lobdell (+)
  2. Kieron Gillen
  3. Dan Slott (+)
  4. Peter David (-) & Grant Morrison

Penciller

  1. Andy Kubert
  2. Humberto Ramos (+)
  3. Greg Land (+) & Art Mahinney (-)
  4. Guillem March (+) & Carlos Pacheco (+) & Paul Ryan

Colorist

  1. John Khalisz (+)
  2. Justin Ponsor (+) & Barry Grossman (+) & Paul Mounts (+)
  3. Rachelle Rosenburg (+)

Letterer

  1. Joe Caramagna
  2. Cory Petit (+)
  3. Richard Starkings (-)
  4. Pat Broseau (+)
  5. Carlos Managual (+)
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Shameless Self Promotion (Just This Once)

Just wanted to mention a project my younger brother and I just launched today that I think is a great compliment to ComicVine - Comic POW! Dan and I select a couple comics each week and debate which was the best one of the week. Check it out and feel free to chime in the comments section on what you thought of our analysis.

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My Comic Collection Stats #2

A look at what changes the first real week of DC's New 52 has had on the collection stats.  For the most part it hasn't quite made too many changes yet.  We'll see what the weeks ahead hold.  (A + means a rise in the standings and a - means a fall )
 
Main Protagonists 

  1. X-Men 
  2. Spider-Man 
  3. Batman 
  4. Fantastic Four 
  5. Sonic the Hedgehog 
 
Supporting Protagonists 
  1. Batman 
  2. X-Men 
  3. Fantastic Four 
  4. S.W.O.R.D. 
  5. Avengers 
 
Antagonists 
  1. Onslaught 
  2. Joker 
  3. Hellfire Club 
  4. Break World 
  5. Jackal (+)
 
One of the most subjective categories: 
Keywords 
  1. Flashpoint 
  2. Onslaught 
  3. Spider-Island (+) 
  4. Schism (-) & Vampire (-) 
 
Now some of the most accurate stats: 
Publisher 
  1. Marvel 
  2. DC Comics 
  3. Archie Comics 
  4. Dark Horse Books 
  5. Harvey Comics 
 
Series 
  1. Sonic 
  2. Amazing Spider-Man & X-Men (+)
  3. Uncanny X-Men 
  4. Detective Comics 
 
 Writer 
  1. Peter David
  2. Keiron Gillen (-)
  3. Tom deFalco Tied with Scott Lobdell tied with Grant Morison (+)
 
Penciller 
  1. Andy Kubert 
  2. Art Mawhinney 
  3.  Paul Ryan 
  4. Georges Jeanty tied with Dave Manak 
 
Colorist 
  1. Barry Grossman 
  2. Marte Gracia 
  3. John Khalisz  tied with Bob Sharen 
  4. Paul Mount (+)
 
Letterer 
  1. Joe Caramagna 
  2. Richard Starkings 
  3. Cory Petit 
  4. Comicraft 
  5. Mindy Eisman
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Ya Know DC, I think you brought this upon yourself

 Some sick, sadistic bastard up in NY has been laughing his butt off since the New 52 announcement.  The purposely misleading first information along with the dearth of knowledge has led to the craziest speculation with people being pissed off at perceived changes to their characters.  Little by little as interviews and solicits have come out, it's become clear that for a large portion of the DC Universe, there was nothing to worry about.
 
What I cared about most was Batman.  At first it seemed like they were going to redo everything and I was annoyed at all that having to start from scratch.  Then we felt like jackasses when they told us, nope, pretty much all the continuity remains with the Batman side of DC.  Then we got into an uproar over Babs.  Then they told us - don't worry, there'll be an explanation (we'll see if it sucks or not) as to why she's not Oracle anymore. Finally, others who had history with the Teen Titans were getting mad because DC made it seem like the team was being rebooted - it was the first time the Teen Titans were formed.  Again, a purposeful misstatement.  Because all they were rebooting was the most recent lineup of Teen Titans.  A recent interview with Scott Lobdell reveals that the original Teen Titans existed.  Dick was still with Starfire (and all the complications that may or maybe not bring to his possibly renewed relationship with Babs Gordan) and so on.  
 
And so, in the end, it turns out that unless you're a Superman fan, there wasn't anything to get pissed about.  (And even then - we'll see.  I know I'm excited about Supes for the first time since I was eight)  They're making the most minor changes possible to tweak what a couple decades of continuity (since the last real reboot) have made a little complicated.  And they're also trying to write the books such that new readers have a good entry point (nothing is supposed to be assumed) while at the same time not dumping the continuity that long-time fans enjoy. 
 
 I do love me some witty answers and so in the Scott Lobdell interview that I linked to above, my favorite question and answer:
 
CV: Will the Titans still have Titans Tower as their base?

SL: No. The Teen Titans are going to be much too busy and much too hunted to erect a ten story glass tower on a small island off of a major city where every villain on the planet can find them on Google.

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Was Grant Morrison A Bit Unfair?

A recent rolling stone interview had Grant Morrison saying the following:
 
"Kids understand that real crabs don't sing like the ones in The Little Mermaid. But you give an adult fiction, and the adult starts asking really f-ing dumb questions like 'How does Superman fly? How do those eyebeams work? Who pumps the Batmobile's tires?' It's a f-ing made-up story, you idiot! Nobody pumps the tires!" 
 
On the one hand, I think this is accurate. Many, if not most, of us have gotten hung up on a detail within the fiction at some point in our comic reading lifetimes.  Some of us do it with every issue.  Some of us only do it when it's egregious.  Others of us do it for fun - picking apart tropes like wondering who pays for all the collateral damage that heroes cause.  And sometimes that ends up in the comics (Marvel's Civil War explains what happens when you look at Super Heroes through realistic eyes if you're the government)
 
But is it fair for Morrison to be so disparaging?  (Ignoring that fact that he was probably just flaming)  While I think we need to remember that it's just a work of fiction when we get too worked up about these issues, I think the fact that we want consistency in our works of fiction show our investment in the world.  It's a compliment that we care enough about the characters and the world that the writers have created that we want to know how things work.  While we're imagining the concept of a billionaire who runs around fighting crime in a bat costume we'd also like to stretch out minds to fill in the rest of the details in how a world like this would work.  For example, where would Batman stop to put gas in his car?  And how would he pay for it?  How does he always have what he needs in his utility belt and so on. 
 
I think it's fair to say that we wouldn't have the highly profitable expanded universe of official and fan-made stories that surround our fictional franchises if we didn't care about the characters.  I think it's human to want to know more and more details of the story.  Maybe it's the same thing in our head that makes us want to share gossip/news stories?  Who knows, but I don't think it's as bad a thing as Morrison makes it out to be.  I can see how, when you get the stereotypical comic nerd (does he even exist or is he just an exaggeration) who needs an explanation for every retcon or other inconsistency or detail of the universe criticizing you that it could sour you as a writer on the way some fans experience the books.  But it's all in the numbers.  While comic reading is at a low, I think the numbers are relatively consistent month to month.  And that shows that we will just go on the Internet and gripe feel like we've been heard and then go back to reading the series.  And if they jump the shark too much or too often, then we stop reading and they get the message and either fix things or can the book temporarily.  
 
So, I see his point, but I still think it's pretty harsh.  (And, as I said above, maybe he was just being controversial and trying to start flame wars to get his name out there in everyone's consciousness ahead of the new Action Comics)

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My Comic Collection Stats

My brothers and I love stats and so I was happy that Tellico can generation reports based on my 20 year old comic collection.  Here is some of the data.  I thought I'd start with the interesting ones, although they're also the least accurate as I only recently started getting this detailed about my comics. 
  
The top five in each category in order of greatest number of appearances to least number: 

Main Protagonists 

  1. X-Men 
  2. Spider-Man 
  3. Batman 
  4. Fantastic Four 
  5. Sonic the Hedgehog 
 
Supporting Protagonists 
  1. Batman 
  2. X-Men 
  3. Fantastic Four 
  4. S.W.O.R.D. 
  5. Avengers 
 
Antagonists 
  1. Onslaught 
  2. Joker 
  3. Hellfire Club 
  4. Break World 
  5. Riddler 
 
One of the most subjective categories: 
Keywords 
  1. Flashpoint 
  2. Onslaught 
  3. Schism 
  4. Vampire 
  5. Spider-Island 
 
 
Now some of the most accurate stats: 
Publisher 
  1. Marvel 
  2. DC Comics 
  3. Archie Comics 
  4. Dark Horse Books 
  5. Harvey Comics 
 
Series 
  1. Sonic 
  2. Amazing Spider-Man 
  3. Uncanny X-Men 
  4. X-Men 
  5. Detective Comics 
 
 Writer 
  1. Peter David tied with Keiron Gillen 
  2. Tom deFalco Tied with Scott Lobdell 
  3. Grant Morison 
 
Penciller 
  1. Andy Kubert 
  2. Art Mawhinney 
  3.  Paul Ryan 
  4. Georges Jeanty tied with Dave Manak 
 
Colorist 
  1. Barry Grossman 
  2. Marte Gracia 
  3. John Khalisz  tied with Bob Sharen 
  4. Justin Ponsor 
 
Letterer 
  1. Joe Caramagna 
  2. Richard Starkings 
  3. Cory Petit 
  4. Comicraft 
  5. Mindy Eisman
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