Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Eighty percent of success is showing up


Well, by the standard articulated by philosopher Allen Stewart Konigsberg, this little blog wasn't successful last week - I missed my paltry once-a-weekend update. I can only say that it has been unseasonably hot here in the great Pacific Northwest lately, so I have either been outdoors enjoying it or in air-conditioning somewhere avoiding it. Or maybe I have just been having too much fun reading the other wonderful comics blogs out there. Or maybe, since it was sort of my "vacation" (a short break bewteen spring and summer quarters), I was just infected with acute laziness.

In any case, I wasn't here. but I will be back soon.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New stuff!

In the past ten years or so, I have done a lot more reading about comics than comics-reading. Since I started to play around in the community of comics bloggers, I have been drawn into starting to pick up some new stuff, for the first time in a long time.

First, Scipio got me to buy and read Infinite Crisis, at least the first two issues. I didn't like it; even to someone predisposed to understand the form and enjoy the characters, it seemed inaccessible and nearly incomprehensible. I could not get past the sense that this was less a story than a marketing event.

For the record, I was around for Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I didn't like that much either. I remember discussing it with a pal (in his kitchen, since there was no intarweb) and our take was something like this: if DC really wanted to re-start everything, they ought to have written finales to all the series, stopped the numbering, and started every magazine over with #1 the next month. There was no compelling reason top pursue what was essentially a company policy change as an in-story development. (If this option had been pursued, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow would have an even more respected place in the canon, as the coda to a whole continuity.)

The same thinking, in my reckoning, applies to IC; if continuity was a mess, ball it up, toss it in the trash, and start over. This convoluted universe-remodeling seemed pointless and unwieldy, and brings with it some extra baggage: from what I understand, the characters in the DCU, including just plain folks, are somehow aware that history has changed and that there are alternate universes and that some existences have been deleted and others merged and so on. Now, even in a world that accepts super-powered people but which is otherwise emotionally and spiritually like our own, wouldn't this make a profound change in how humans view the universe? How could it ever be business as usual again? Wouldn't this knowledge affect the warp and woof of every exchange among people - religion, commerce, ethics, science? Is DC really going to integrate this development in any meaningful way?

Okay, so the chatter on IC got me to taste it and I didn't like it; the chatter on 52 got me to pick it up and I'm loving it.

I enjoy it not so much because of its place in this huge retconning, but because it is clearly a story that has been crafted with care and attention to detail. I like that it comes out every week and that I can see the developments unfold swiftly; I like that there is an emphasis on second-string characters; I like all the visual and verbal clues scattered through the work; I even like the art. It's still a bit inaccessible; if you didn't know what was going on already, and if you didn't have a lot of knowledge about the DCU, it would be a bit hard to understand. But I forgive all that because it's telling a story - a full-bodied, robust story with good legs.

(Now, the History of the DC Universe back-up, on the other hand, is a waste of ink and paper. Maybe it's supposed to provide the accessibility factor, but it's like watching a lecture from really bad educational TV - both ponderous and superficial.)

Lastly, Marionette's review persuaded (compelled?) me to pick up the new Wonder Woman. She had the dreaded spoilers there; I won't go into details here except to say that the comic has my new favorite panel in the world. Here's a bitty version; click for a big hi-res version if you don't care about the reveal.

So, I guess I'm going to pick up Brave New World in a few weeks, and maybe even check out some of the series that come from it, such as Atom and Martian Manhunter.

It looks like I am reading comics again.

Friday, June 09, 2006

My favorite panel in years

We're still experiencing some mission drift here at TDwTG (we haven't even looked in the Last Shortbox for a while). Apparently, this is not a unique situation: bloggers much more resolute than I (Devon, The Fortress Keeper, Dave Campbell, and even Mike Sterling) have been on hiatus or going emo (in Mike's words) over the past few weeks. Maybe it's a bug going around. A blog-bug.

Anyway, part of the issue around here is that all this blog-reading has actually gotten me to buy some comics again, confusing me about what I want to discuss. I have been picking up 52 to try to catch up on the DC Universe (and will have some comments on that later), but since I have been hitting the stores again, I have been looking at other stuff as well. This led to a purchase today that included my favorite comics panel in years. I picked up a copy of the 2001 Bizarro Comics TPB, a collection of short superhero spoofs framed by a Myxyptlk - Bizarro team-up story (which has a guest appearance by the JLA). The eighth story begins with this:

Man, this just takes me back.

First of all, it starts with an old-school expository caption box. Expository caption boxes rock.

And this caption box describes a recreation annex adjoining a lab complex. How cool is that? I mean, if you had a huge laboratory complex, wouldn't you add a rec room? Isn't that essentially how Microsoft designed their campus?

And look at the decor - the open-source stairs, the pod-chair, and the built-in album shelf in the couch. I think I had that standing lamp in my first apartment.

Of course, the Metal Men are relaxing in this groovy setting, every goofy, neurotic one of them, along with Doc Magnus himself (in his ever-present checked sport coat). Some of my favorite characters, despite - or because of - their improbable psycho-sexual backgrounds.

Writer Bob Fingerman makes great use of that aspect of the group's continuity in this seven-page story, sending Tin off on a quest for a girlfriend and the rest of the crew out to keep an eye on him. The ensuing hijinks (at what can only be called a discotheque) are full of good humor and really bad fashions. As a bonus, Pat McEown's art put me in the mind of the best of Walt Simonson.

I don't want to turn into one of those whiny, everything-was-better-then guys; I know a lot of stuff from the Silver and Bronze days was pretty dumb and I couldn't read it now without wincing. On the other hand, I was glancing through one of the Seven Soldiers of Victory TPBs in the store today and came across some guy named the Spider impaled to a wall with three arrows. I know everyone is saying that this series is good stuff, but I have to tell you, a little bit of that goes a long way for me, and it's not what I usually go to superhero comics for.

What those older stories did have, along with their silly plots, was optimism, elan, some belief in the Good, and most of all, a sense of fun. And I'll take fun in my comic books any day.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The survey says

I have de-linked the Women and Comics survey and called it closed with 42 responses. This was a surprisingly high response; I didn't publicize the survey anywhere but here, but it was linked by a couple of blogs and LiveJournals.

The primary research question of this pilot study was whether objectified or highly sexualized images of women affect the comics-buying decisions of female fans. The hypothesis was that such images would affect purchasing behavior. A weak or inverse correlation between the fans' having been offended and decisions not to purchase would tend to disprove the hypothesis; a strong correlation would tend to support it.

It can be presumed, based on the access to and sources of information about the survey, that the responders are fans invested enough in comics to read comics blogs or discuss comics online; since the responders self-selected, it was clearly not random.

Responder demographics:

Two (2) of the responders were aged 12-17, 17 were aged 18-25, and 23 were over 25.

Nineteen (19) responders buy five or fewer comics per month; nine (9) buy 6-10 and nine (9) 10-20; five (5) buy more than 20.

The reasons for purchasing a particular comic (responders could choose more than one) seemed to span a broad range and be consistent with reasonable expectations:
  • 32 mentioned the writer
  • 20 mentioned the artist
  • 37 mentioned the character
  • 29 mentioned the current storyline
  • 3 mentioned the cover
  • 11 mentioned the need for completion
  • 5 mentioned recommendations
There were also five considerations that were mentioned only once: the publisher; whether a complete version of a serialized story is available; the "nostalgia factor"; "something that's different"; and "boobs"

Research questions:

The survey indicates that 37 of the 42 responders (88%) have been offended by a cover depicting objectified/highly sexualized images of women.

Such covers have caused 28 of the 42 responders (67%) to not buy a comic they otherwise would have purchased.

The survey indicates that 28 of the 42 responders (67%) have been offended by objectified/highly sexualized images of women in a store where they purchase comics.

Such images have caused 20 of the 42 responders (48%) to not make a purchase or to stop visiting a store.


While this pilot is too limited to draw broad conclusions, it seems clear that the hypothesis (that there is a connection between images considered offensive and the purchasing choices of female comics fans) is not without support.

It seems of particular interest to note that while only 7% of the responders indicated that the cover generally contributed to their decision to buy a comic, 67% indicated that they have refrained from buying a comic because of a cover that was perceived as offensive. Rather than merely being a feature of books that are already known to be male-targeted or female-targeted (as some have suggested), highly sexualized female images seem to be a barrier to women's accessing books they might otherwise have been interested in. Artistic merit aside, this raises concerns from a marketing perpective, at the least.

It is also interesting to note that the two extended comments left by responders both indicated that a greater influence than any particular instance of an objectified cover image was the "repeated objectification" of women in the pages of comics - described by one as "wearying." While the cover images may be a touchstone in this inquiry, it may be that the overall sensibility of a comic is even more significant.


The first six reasons for purchasing a comic were selected from a list; the remainder were entered as text after the responder selected "other."

The text entry of "boobs" may indicate a spurious response; no attempt has been made to isolate any associated data.

The complete survey may be accessed here. (Further results will not be tallied.)