And we’re back.

I spend entirely too much time discussing comics on Twitter. I tend to cycle between different forms of communication—texting, tweeting, blogging, writing letters, posting on message boards—depending on what form gives me access to the largest amount of acquaintances at a certain time. Twitter definitely wins out more often than not. And sadly, the blog withers.

But not today! Today, The Beat made the announcement that DC will be offering ten-page back-up stories in certain books. These books will feature a higher price tag of $3.99. Jaded fan that I am, I immediately recalled WildStorm’s price hike to $2.50 after adding eight-page back-up features in certain issues. The features soon disappeared; the price remained.

In the case of DC’s new venture, these features will not showcase new creators or new characters and will deal with material that ties directly to the current story. Why can’t this new material simply be part of the central story arc? Did page length and price really need to be altered? Is this simply a slight of hand to bump up cover prices down the line and shine a spotlight on Marvel’s more expensive prices ($3.99 for 32 pages) for a momentary marketing boon? I hope not. Still, I must admit that such tactics have worked before in the past and will likely work again in the future. Ease fans into the idea of the back-ups by using creators they are already fond of; make sure to mention that the deal being offered provides more content than the nearest competitor provides; and finally, make fans feel that the back-ups are truly central to the main story.

Once fans have become accustomed to the idea? Start making changes. Introduce new creative teams that you hope to build your new hit properties from. Once fans warm to your new tribe of creators, change the subject matter. Use back-ups to launch new characters or inject lifeblood into older properties. After all, a blood transfusion from Batman can go a long way.

But I’m being a bit mercenary, aren’t I? Looking at a small number of my Twitter comments from today, I’d say so:

“Anyway, since I’m all about the underdog, I’m more concerned with how Dark Horse and Image can compete on DC and Marvel’s level. And before anyone gets snippy, I’m not talking about quality; I’m talking about being able to sell ‘The Fandom Experience.’ DC and Marvel aren’t just selling books, they’re selling communities. How can Image and Dark Horse build a community and culture—especially when these are things that are supposed to develop naturally and cannot be created by companies?

“I suppose Image and Dark Horse could get those communities quickly in the short term by stealing from developed ones in other genres. But, (very important) you have to have a community that likes to read. You do a comic about a fratboy shooter and it’s not going to help you. Questions to ask: Have multiple communities with different flavors developed around this brand? Is fanfiction being created? Does the brand already have material that would directly compete with a comic line (paperback novels)? Yes, yes, no? Then you’re good.”Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Dark Horse has followed this model successfully utilizing its Buffy franchise. It also has the wonder that is Hellboy, but seems to care not one whit about developing a community around this brand. How sad. Much like a rental property, these communities can be life-sustaining for a brand during lean times financially and creatively. And Dark Horse has open access to the superhero communities that have built themselves around DC/Marvel, and yet leaves Empowered, an amazing series, out to drift with minimal marketing. This is criminal.

Image has The Walking Dead, but that is merely one book compared to the multiple series and miniseries in the ever-expanding Buffy universe. In regards to The Walking Dead, I don’t think diluting the brand with multiple books is a good idea. If Kirkman has another powerful ongoing story to tell in that world, then that’s fine. Until then, leave that strong workhorse alone.

The Top Cow and Extreme universes, however, can and should be mucked about with. I love the talent being poured into the Extreme universe and wish some of it could be reserved for the Top Cow universe—which could use fresh blood, a good jumping on point, and a large helping of diversity. And I love the way that Top Cow employees are dedicated to developing a universe that fans can feel a part of, and are also concerned with nurturing a community built around its brand and watching it grow. And that’s what Extreme needs. Fans want more than just a comic—especially for $2.99-$3.50. Where can I ask the creator a question? Where can I discuss the plot with other fans? Where can I see takes on these characters by others? These are questions that need answers. The company does not need to provide answers, but if no one is? The comic in question is not likely to sell well.

Still, it’s a new year. Let’s see what the big five decide to do with it.


Rock, paper, scissors.

Comics, completely consumed by superheroes, has only two active fandoms—Marvel and DC. Given that my budget allows for only one ongoing series and I don’t feel right illegally downloading comics, I’ll have to pick one fandom in which to participate.

I’ve chosen my comic. It’s Wonder Woman. I’ve chose my fandom. It’s DC. I feel horrible. I feel like I’ve just chosen my gender over my race.

I picked Wonder Woman because the preview pages I read intrigued me. I’ve never been a big fan of Wonder Woman, but I have been a huge fan of ancient Greek myths since I was a child. The way that Azzarello and Chiang have handled the Greek pantheon has drawn me to the book. Also, quite a few people whose opinions on comics I hold in high regard have spoken fondly about the comic. Last, but certainly not least, a new universe allows me to get in on the “ground floor” of Diana’s life. All three of these elements were necessary in Wonder Woman being the series for me. That new universe free of any history to untangle is what led me to pick Wonder Woman over Wolverine and the X-Men (which also appears to be a quality book given the previews provided).

But Idie. Oh, how I love Idie. Each snippet from Scans Daily I read featuring this character makes me want to crawl into a comic for the sole purpose of buying her toys and ice cream. The awkward and uneasy interaction between Wolverine and Oya is wonderful. (Wolverine buys the child her first doll ever and it’s white with long, straight hair? How lovably stupid. I can’t wait for Cecelia to call him on it.)

And though I haven’t been interested in the Amanda Waller role Marvel has foisted upon Misty Knight, I adore the character of Misty Knight and hold out hope that she will return to her Daughters of the Dragon incarnation in her next series—or perhaps something even more interesting. I’d gladly drop Wonder Woman for a comic featuring Misty Knight as the lead character in a female-focused series.

DC? DC doesn’t have a Misty Knight. DC does not have an Oya. Moreover, it seems as though they have no interest in developing one. And that’s why I’ve regretfully chosen gender over race. DC’s development of its female characters of color is abysmal. Though can it be abysmal if there is no development?

Unlike Marvel, black women in the DC universe are merely window dressing—objects for the actual hero(ine) of importance to struggle against or deliver a quip to. Agent Fallon, not the animalistic Voodoo, is the competent, no-nonsense heroine of Voodoo. Skitter is the unattractive, unpleasant monster who’ll skulk around Wonder Girl’s pedestal in Teen Titans. Amanda Waller is merely a supporting character providing intense action for others to engage in. The character’s role could easily be fulfilled by one panel of a Suicide Squad member listening to orders on an iPod. And though Vixen is in a better position than her peers, I certainly don’t hold out hope for the character. Look at her promotion compared to characters such as Cyborg, Batwing, Mr. Terrific, Static, and Green Lantern. If Vixen wants to be a major player in the DCU she’d better start on hormone therapy and seek out a quality surgeon.

And this goes beyond just black women. Where’s Cassandra? Where’s Talia? Where’s Rainmaker? Does anyone really believe Katana will receive the same promotion and panel time as Canary or Ivy? Does anyone believe that Element Woman will receive the same attention as Wonder Woman or even Mera? I certainly don’t. And I don’t believe they’ll receive the same attention as the Atom, Robin, or Blue Beetle either. For all the extolling of DC’s female-led ongoing books and all the talk concerning DC’s female-friendliness compared to Marvel, no one is talking about how that friendliness only extends to certain women.

So, one weighs the pros and cons and makes the best choice from what’s available. DC offers a lower price, a fresh start, an active fandom, and a quality creative team. Marvel offers an active fandom, a quality creative team, and female characters of color that play an important role in the Marvel universe. Four beats three and I opt for DC.

Yet, I can’t help but want it all.


For the long haul.

“Given that times are tight, longevity is so important in entertainment. I still play The Sims 2 four years later. In regards to comics, a very important question comes up: can this book entertain me after it has been read? Has an online community developed around the book? Can I have a lively discussion about this book with others? Does the creator provide random content in installments during ‘down time’? (Sketches? Sneak peaks? Snippets of the creative process?)”
Cheryl Lynn Eaton

These are difficult questions for a creator. You can’t simpy fabricate a community. One must develop naturally. However, actively interacting with fans can help.