Monday, September 15, 2008

Fun Fact

Every time somebody at the Byrne Robotics forum links to me, I get more hits than any other comic-related referrer with the exception of LITG.

I would assume that this means that there are a lot of people who read that forum.

My questions:

If there are that many dedicated JB fans, and apparently many want superhero comics that are not cynical and gory, do they constitute a big and loyal enough fanbase that maybe there should be more comics targeted to them? Are they being alienated by today's crop of books?

Is this the market that supposedly the comics industry was playing towards -- only, maybe the industry isn't really doing that anymore? Is what we see now, with more violent and cynical books, a reaction to these fans -- distancing itself from them? By embracing the "needs" of the mass market, is the result more violent books and ambiguous heroes? And is this truly the "need" of the mass market, or are their desires for entertainment being shaped with what is offered to them?

And is a whole new market being created within comics fandom for reprints and commissioned works, because the new material that this segment craves is not being produced? Honestly, I see this big-time with the Valiant Comics fanbase, and I think I'm seeing this with the Byrne fans as well.


  1. At least in my case, it was the takeover of comics by the antihero (along with the plethora of cross-overs) that turned me off a few years ago. I like Wolverine and Batman as much as the next person, but at some point the norm of the anti-hero can be just as boring as the goody-goody.

  2. I would have to say that there is a significant amount of fans who would like and support a return to more 'escapist' superhero fare. I know that I, myself, am one of those and most of the fans I know are as well. This maybe because we are older fans (I'm 45) but a lot of us simply aren't interested in these gloom and doom comics. Now, I'm not suggesting a return to the days when Batman fought lots of space aliens but going back to the classic O'Neal/Adams era would be very appreciated.

  3. The only floppy I've bought on a regular, month to month basis in years is the new Booster Gold series. They just don't make them like that anymore. Most of the time I wait for the trade paperback to come out. If DC and Marvel had been putting out more Essentials and Showcase editions, I don't think I would have "gafiated" as much during the nineties and aught aught's. I think the market for material like John Byrne's is really underestimated - it's smarter and more "adult" than it is usually given credit for.

  4. Everyone on the JB Board bought FX.

    Me as well.

    But it didn't sell that well and buy the end dropped out of the Top 300.

    There is an audience there, and one that can be nurtured but I don't think it's large enough to build a publishing plan upon, sadly.

  5. One of the things that drove me away from comics in the early to mid Nineties was what I call the "Arms Race". Specifically, with the advent of artists like Liefield, McFarlane etc. and their subsequent breakaway from Marvel, you suddenly began to see superheroes taking on a far more paramilitary quality with half the characters carrying some sort of assault rifles, John Woo-inspired double sidearms, or Japanese cutlery.

    That was when you suddenly saw a proliferation of limbs being severed and chest cavities being blown out in lieu of character driven storylines.

    There are cases where the violence works. In the Electra eight book mini series, or Frank Miller's Hard Boiled, it adds a sort of dark humor to what is already clearly a satirical storyline. These are books that are distinctive graphic novels which are not written as part of an existing run of a popular character series.

    When you see this trend overpowering the classic comics, however, the unfortunate result ends up looking like GI JOE meets Stephen King.

  6. Oh and regarding LITG, Flying Friar sold worse than FX, so...

  7. Anonymous1:26 PM

    I was really disappointed in JB's The Demon series because of my irrational love for aforementioned satanic entity.

    Somehow it was grittier and gorier and shallow, and this is a comic which by default is about a guy with a white stripe in his hair and a demon living in him. It's like Jack Kirby prefigured the 90s.

  8. No.

    No critical mass to justify the investment unfortunately, imho.

  9. I don't know.

    I like the darker stuff.

    Brubaker's noirish line of stuff. (cap, daredevil, etc)

    fraction's more "real worldy" stuff (invincible iron man, uncanny xmen)

    geoff johns crazy superhero big picture stuff (green lantern, flash, etc.)

    i dont mind lots of death in a comic, but to be honest the only death that has mattered in years was superboy, and before that was jean grey. the rest are kind of meh for me.

    the most enjoyable comics on the shelf for me to date are mike carey's x-men, brubaker's daredevil and geoff johns's green lantern and justice society.

    i read pretty much every marvel and dc comic and those are the ones i enjoy the most.

    i also like kick ass and air.

    of course my favorite comic on the stands hands down is fables, but i read that in trade.

    i dont know, i dont mind the darkness as long as it isnt crap like the last teen titans, cause that was just vomit on a stick.

  10. I like my Superman super, my Batman mysterious, my Legion of Superheroes hopeful, my Justice League noble. DC needs to quit being ashamed of that side of their heritage and build their "new" universe to be at least as fantastical and amazing as what had come before. They don't need to be Marvel.

    The Marvel U. is so messed up that I'll probably never read another Marvel U. comic.

    But whether you prefer the hero or the anti-hero, I think we can all agree that telling good stories should take precidence over producing the "crossover" events that each company has been foisting on their fans the past several years.

    And Booster Gold probably is the best superhero comic book being put out by the Big 2 these days.

  11. Generally, I like John Byrne's comics. Bought the Fantastic Four Visionaries volumes. Would buy an Essential Sensational She-Hulk, or a Visionaries collection.

    The "Image" period of Marvel was when I stopped reading most Marvel Comics.

    Would JB consider creating another universe? Or be allowed to create another universe, like he did with Generations?

  12. Now, I'm not suggesting a return to the days when Batman fought lots of space aliens but going back to the classic O'Neal/Adams era would be very appreciated.

    Put that team on All-Star Batman and I'm there.

  13. Let me note that not everyone on the JBF bought FX. One of the problems with it was that it was, to borrow from what someone here has already said, more Batman fighting aliens on the moon than O'Neal/Adams era Batman.

    There is an oft-misunderstood difference between "for kids" and "all-ages". FX was "for kids". The Byrne work that we're thinking of is "all-ages".

    Having said that, I believe there's more than just an audience of "older fans" who want nostalgia, but also there are new readers who could be harvested and cultivated.

    Finally, the market should have room for both, as well as others. In a perfect scenario, there would be all sorts of comics.

  14. I think the problem is free will and the latest cultural shift has caused comics to become grown up, but for all the wrong reasons. When Alan Moore wrote the horrible mini-series called Watchmen there was already plenty of violent and gory action flicks with anti-heroes in it. And all he did was direct that shift in story tone to the comic industry at the price of reducing what was good storytelling for exercises in pseudo intellectual d*ck waving. Now, instead of having scores of story tellers. We have a bunch of disturbed idiots trying to imitate if not out right duplicate Alan Moore's work so they themselves will get accolades for being brilliant. But those truly aware of what's going on see them for the talentless imbeciles they truly are.

  15. I'm not a member of the Byrne board, but I do admire a great deal of the man's work. Not all of it, but enough so that I bought the John Byrne's Next Men reprint...

    Which brings me to your question: And is a whole new market being created within comics fandom for reprints and commissioned works, because the new material that this segment craves is not being produced?

    I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I suspect there is because my own buying patterns have changed. I've almost completely abandoned the new monthlies in favor of archival stuff. The Byrne book (and also his Fantastic Four reprinted stuff), The New Mutants Classic volumes, DC's Showcase books (especially Teen Titans when it has Nick Cardy artwork) and the big EC archives.

    Recently, I got the Howard Chaykin American Flagg book published by Image, which is gorgeous and cool and a lot more mature and adult than any of the recent stuff from either DC or Marvel. The positive connotations of those terms, not the pandering to juvenalia it seems to entail these days. A mature work for mature minds.

    And of course, anything by Jack Kirby.

    By comparison, I read the first two issues of the new Batgirl miniseries even though I swore I wouldn't. My interest in the character got the better of me. Batgirl originally was so close to my dream book that it was tantalizing... and the new series is so bland and perfunctory (blood and all), took me 5 minutes to read both books, that I immediately went back to my new Creepy archive book.

    So yeah, I am that market. I have disposable income I'm willing to spend on newer comics, even superhero stuff, if it appeases my aesthetic demands in a way violent, cynical pandering to fads and trends in storytelling absolutely cannot. And it's not the violence I object to- I love Lady Snowblood and Lone Wolf and Cub and those things are covered in blood. It's that along with that, I want depth and characterization and art that enables me to suspend my disbelief. Stories that make me care about the characters.

    Today's crop of comics definitely alienates me.

    I do think to a certain extent comics are missing out on a greater number readers in favor of concentrating on the established fanbase. I mean, it's not that the established, hardcore fans shouldn't get what they want, if this is the kind of stuff they want. My dreck is someone else's masterpiece.

    And why can't there be newer comics appealing to my sensibilities as well?

    Well, I guess you could argue the reprint stuff I'm encountering for the first time is new in that it's new for me.

  16. Have you tried his Star Trek books?

    I am not a Trekkie, and can't say I even watched it in syndication, however, as a JB fan, I gave 'em a try, and find them a breath of fresh air in a smoggy market.

    Most naysayers on JB's output lean towards the writing element being at fault. To them I say, you've been given the chance to read pompous over-educated written masterbation, and yet, you still yearn for something. You yearn for a story that will make you believe a man can fly. Not one that brings him DOWN to your level.
    You yearn (natch!) for more Byrne!

  17. Concerning J's comment I think it's interesting to mention that Etrigan created by Jack Kirby was a demon in which Merlin turned to a human and not the other way around. JB actually returned the Demon to his original form.
    As far as FX is concerned, much as I like it, I don't think it's an appropriate measure of the marketing of a potential JB created book, since it was written by someone else...

  18. I think for a lot of us, we just liked comics a whole lot more when Byrne was working on X-Men and FF (for me, it was the latter, for sure).

    JB is an artist who can actually free-hand draw without all the photoshop tricks that you see running throughout a comic these days. Some of the hacks like Mack, Land, those guys trace the real artists like Adam Hughes, or my favorite is when they have one drawing (usually traced from another source or a likeness of a movie star) then they resize and flip the thing to create a whole page worth of images from the one drawing. You didn't see that with Byrne.

    The artwork stinks, you have morons like Millar obsessed with deconstructing the whole notion of a "hero" you have comis like New Avengers where all the characters sound the same (snarky, sarcastic, without ideals).

    Byrne's board is just the most identifiable oasis for us I guess.

  19. Yeah, I'd like to second what Warren said re: Booster Gold and the DC legacy. DC needs to stop being ashamed of it's silver age legacy. Like it or not, the recent batch of Teen Titans, Justice League, and Legion of Superheroes cartoons prove that that the less "kewl" concepts still have a lot of juice and broad appeal. DC editors should also look at the t-shirts on sale at Urban Outfitters and ask themselves if a Lobo or Deathstroke t-shirt really sell better than one with a classic "Flash" or "Hawkman" design.

  20. Different Warren here - I read all kinds of comics - Paul Pope, Moebious, Scott Pilgrim, bande dessinee, Metal Hurlant, what have you.

    BUT - the comics my wife/kid/kids in class like & occasionally read? All ages fare all the way. I think this 'market' is bigger than the local LCS. And DC/Marvel are picking up on that, by the looks of it.

    (Still waiting for Marvel to reprint John Romita Sr's Spider-Man 'Easy Reader Series'! Perfect stuff for kids to get reading)

  21. Oh, I think there's a huge audience out there for all-ages, retro-Silver Age books. The problem is, they're "out there", not in comics stores.

    The issue isn't just one of content, it's of marketing and distribution as well. Right now, if you aren't physically entering a comics store or visiting a comics-themed website, comics are an invisible medium. The Big Two need to get smart about getting people to buy their product, or any new "fun" series will fail because it's being marketed and sold exclusively to thirty-something fanboys who don't like it because there are no disembowelings. :)

  22. I believe that one of the main reasons you get so many hits when ByrneRobotics is mentioned is because of the "Train Wreck" psychology. We can't resist looking at mayhem, and in recent years, that website has been renowned for the controversial incidents and comments by Byrne himself. This includes examples such as "blonde latinas look like hookers" when discussing Jessica Alba in the FF movie, "Steve Irwin deserved to die," his wars with Wikipedia and sometimes with his own forum members. In all honesty, I think the people who want to see what sh*t he's stirring up now far outnumber those people who are interested in his work.

  23. The fun books are out there, they don't necessarily do that well. I don't read much Marvel, but DC has Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, All Star Superman, probably some others I'm not reading. The new Terra series sounds promising.

    Its out there to balance the Teen Titans and Batman books that end up being more bloody and violent. Its hard to say if they kick up the violence in the bigger titles to try and appeal to a certain audience, or whatever. I'm a huge Batman fan and I certainly got really tired of the huge jerk, dark and brooding Batman from a few years ago. I think he is a better character now after the One Year Later thing, they haven't undone all of that or anything. Batman stories will still probably be dark and violent but as long as Batman isn't the super-cranky version its not oppressive.