With the January 2011 releases, most DC Comic books are now at $2.99; a 32 page, full cover book with only 20 pages of story/art instead of 22 of the last decade +.

At first I thought the two pages would revert back to advertising, but according to a house ad in the back of most January issues, at least one of those two pages will be reviving those bygone days of letter columns. Will this work? What do you think of DC's current actions?

A nosy inquiring mind wants to know.

As for myself, I started reading comic books in 1974, when you had 20 out of 32 pages for only 20 CENTS! With a letters column.

Obviously a lot has happened in the years since. I have seen both the best and the worst that the comic book industry has to offer in the decades since, both creatively and business wise.

In this case, my wallet loves the price freeze, but the long time reader in me fears this might (at some point) herald an even lesser story/art page count standard. I have lived/read through the dreary days when comic book fans only got 17 pages out of a standard 32 page book, around the 30/35 cent price range.

Those are definitely not days I want to go through again.

OPINIONS? FEEDBACK?

 

(BTW: Considering I've only been a member of this august board for a couple of days now, does anyone know if we can post emoticons with our messages, and if so, how? Thanks in advance to those who reply to this part.)

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Thanks for posting that link to Jason's blog, Mark. He makes some good points--especially DC not telling its creators they were about to get a pay cut. He also says:

if it comes down to choosing between a book that's seemingly vital to following the overall story of the Marvel Universe and one that's seemingly inconsequential, a lot of fans are gonna go with the book that "matters" more.

I find it all interesting, because it's a key problem with comics fans. They feel they have to buy extraneous comics as part of a crossover to know all the consequences of the MU. But then they complain about all the extraneous comics being part of it and how it was bogged down. But if they're buying them, they'll get more of it. They're voting with their dollars, not their blog posts.

As I noted before, my tastes are virtually the Bizarro version of this. I will stay away from stories that are vital to the overall story; I have no hope of keeping up with all the details, and buying occasional parts of that won't be satisfying. I try to buy comics that have as little to do with the overall universe continuity as possible. If big crossovers occur, I usually drop the title for those issues and pick it up again later, with the hope that it won't be too affected (it usually isn't).

I always like the stand-alone episodes of X-Files and Smallville instead of those that bring us back to the big conspiracy or season's "theme." I think endings are satisfying, even if they are "inconsequential," and we don't get enough of those in comics.

-- MSA

Of the January $2.99 books I've read so far, the reduced page count didn't correspond to a reduction in enjoyment for me. I'm sorry to see the Jimmy Olsen and Commissioner Gordon backups go, though -- and sorry that I'll be getting fewer pages of Legion a month, as well.

I agree with Rob Stager about the enjoyment factor.

 

Meanwhile, getting back to what appears to be an ongoing subplot in this thread about the potential of doing comics in a magazine format; using Time as a template since it is about the basic size and paper stock of most current comics, here's what I'm thinking if it were up to me at DC. The thoughts are based upon the fact that the current average page count of any given issue of Time is roughly 64 pages, counting covers.

Action Comics: A Superman lead to maintain tradition, and then other characters/features to maintain the title theme. Would not make it an ALL Superman family book since there are other candidates available to consider.

Page count of each feature would vary according to story need.

Superman: The lead character, and then Supergirl and Superboy for sure. This would be the Superman Family title.

Superman would definitely get the full 20 page lead. Remainder of pages would be split according to story needs.

Detective Comics: A Batman lead to maintain tradition, and then other characters/features to maintain the title theme, such as Red Robin.

Page count of each feature would vary according to story need.

Batman: The lead character, and then Gotham City Sirens and whatever didn't make it into Detective Comics. Between this and 'Tec, would cover the Batman family.

Batman would get the full 20 page lead. Other features would vary according to story need.

Green Lantern: Hal, Guy, the Corps, etc.

Page count would vary according to story need, but you could rotate the lead.

JLA: The team, and then related characters like Green Arrow and Flash.

The title team would get the 20 page lead, remaining features page count would depend upon story need.

JSA: The team, the All-Stars (unless you fold those characters back into the core group), Power Girl, etc.

Title team would get 20 page lead, remaining features page count would depend upon story need.

Wonder Woman: The title character, Birds of Prey, and any other female characters.

The Amazon would get the 20 page lead, remaining features would depend upon story need.

Adventure Comics: The Legion of Super-Heroes, and then any thing else that didn't make it into the others.

Legion would get the 20 page lead, rest would depend upon story need.

World's Finest: The Superman/Batman team ups, the Brave and the Bold (although wasn't this canceled with issue 36? If so, I haven't seen the Adam Strange/Lois Lane issue anywhere!); and anything else that didn't make it into the above.

S/B would get the lead 20 pages, rest would depend upon story need.

 

NOTE: The above thoughts only covers the main DC Universe, NOT the Johnny DC and Vertigo lines. Those would be separate issues to be addressed independently of the above. Also, my interests in the Marvel Universe has waned over the last couple of decades, so they're on their own.

 

Of course going to a magazine format, regardless of how many you actually publish in any given month, would result in existing titles being canceled, mini-series being serialized within the back of the appropriate magazines, and any future DCU events needing more coordination.

 

But all the above is just my humble thoughts on the subject. Your opinions may vary.

Mr. Silver Age said:

Thanks for posting that link to Jason's blog, Mark. He makes some good points--especially DC not telling its creators they were about to get a pay cut...

I always like the stand-alone episodes of X-Files and Smallville instead of those that bring us back to the big conspiracy or season's "theme." I think endings are satisfying, even if they are "inconsequential," and we don't get enough of those in comics.

-- MSA

Aaron's column is consistently interesting, I think. He's quite frank about the process of writing comics, from the viewpoint of a writer who is still trying to get established. I agree with you about finding story endings satisfying. That's one of the big reasons why I have largely dropped superheroes from my reading diet. I don't even bother with standalone single issues, though. For me it has to be a non-continuity series like All-Star Superman.

Mark:

With the cancellation of Madame Xanadu, The Unwritten is the only Vertigo title I still read. Allegedly some of the new rules (like DC's new self imposed ratings system) are not supposed to directly apply to this longtime company off shoot.

On the other hand, they have moved the properties that originated from it (like Madame X) back into the DCU proper, so your guess is as good as mine if the page count/price freeze will affect the entire Vertigo line, or just some titles.

Mark Sullivan said:

Lee Houston, Junior said:

And for those interested, Vertigo titles (or at least The Unwritten #21) do not seem affected by the page decrease/price freeze. Yet?

 

"Yet" is right.  Jason Aaron wrote about the potential impact on Scalped specifically here. He also talks about his work at Marvel and the impact of the change more generally, so I recommend this particular column even if you're not a Scalped fan.

As I was flipping through some of my old notebooks, I found some musings of reviving venerable DC titles with several heroes in them. Quite the coincidence!

Some examples:

Ghosts- with Deadman and the Spectre

Mystery In Space--with Adam Strange, Martian Manhunter and Captain Comics, er Comet!

House of Mystery--with the Phantom Stranger, Doctor Fate and a tale told by Cain

Also there were solid super-hero books, a couple of war titles and a western!

Rob Staeger said:
Of the January $2.99 books I've read so far, the reduced page count didn't correspond to a reduction in enjoyment for me. I'm sorry to see the Jimmy Olsen and Commissioner Gordon backups go, though -- and sorry that I'll be getting fewer pages of Legion a month, as well.

Way back when Joe Kubert was the editor of DC's war titles, he always put backup tales in the books because he felt that they gave more value to the reader. I think he was right.

With the short-lived jump from $2.99 to $3.99, it seemed DC made an honest effort to provide value to the reader by adding backup tales. I have read complaints about the very idea of backup tales, to the degree that some complained they would make that buyer less likely to read the book, which I cannot understand.
You know, it didn't occur to me until just now that the books that had back up features only had a 20 page lead (the back ups got the last 10 out of a 40 page book), which is exactly where we are now with the $2.99 price freeze.
Welcome to the Captain Comics Message Board, Lee. It's great to see so many new faces around (or avatars, at least).
It's an interesting suggestion but I don't see much of a future for the magazine-format that's being discussed here. Similar attempts have not met with success. As Mr. Silver Age noted, a lot of fans didn't feel that the 10 extra pages for a back-up feature justified the extra $1 for the entire book. It was often a character they weren't interested in, or a lesser quality story. Fans are complaining about paying $3 for a Superman comic book as it is. Are they really going to be happier paying $8 for a Superman magazine that also combines Action, Supergirl and Superboy in it? Or will they drop the title altogether because they're not enjoying enough of the stories to make it worth their while.

Several years ago, CrossGen tried a similar format with their Forge and Edge books. They would combine five titles into one trade. However, fans treated them as introductory samplers and then shifted over to the one or two titles that they were most interested in reading. The format didn't have staying power, and became a huge money-pit for the company. Part of the problem is that this kind of format limits choice. We want to the freedom of choice in our entertainment. We record television shows and watch them at our time of choice not the networks. We go to iTunes and download the tracks we want rather than paying for an entire album. In that light, I have a hard time seeing a solution for comic books that reduces the customer's choice by combining a bunch of things into one.

I could be wrong. I understand that the format has worked in other places (Shonen Jump, Life with Archie). And Dark Horse is giving it another try with Dark Horse Presents. However, if I was a publisher, I would want to see more examples of success before throwing all of my eggs into this basket.

I like anthologies, but I'm well aware that they have a reputation for not being liked by most readers, and it baffles me as to why.

 

One aspect of it you point out -- that backups too often are tales of characters the reader is not interested in, or present lesser-quality stories -- seems to me to have a simple solution: Don't do it that way! Not that A-list talent is called for, but way too often, anthologies are given over to new talent still learning how to sharpen a pencil, or inventory stories looking for a home. They seem lesser because too often they are lesser. However, DC didn't do that with Wednesday Comics, and should be applauded for it. 

I wouldn't have them put all their eggs into any one basket (which they mostly do now). I'd create new eggs for new baskets.

Granted, if there is a Secret Six comic book, readers might decide they can get all they want from it rather than buy other stories they don't want. But, as Clark points out, ideally all of the stories are interesting enough to make them worthwhile. Certainly some of Wednesday Comics was better than the rest, but I don't know that everyone would agree on which parts were their favorites.

I wouldn't convert Action Comics or Adventure or any of those long-running titles, even though they offer great titles and it would return to their original format (and Adventure just got going again anyway). I'd use Superman Family and that approach, especially if they were all Super-related.

I think part of the problem is that some of us like anthologies, at least in theory, and that's not true of a lot of readers today who are out of the habit and look skeptically at any new feature they have to pay for. The cost might be prohibitive, too, but Archie's is keeping its magazine reasonable.

-- MSA

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