Monday, January 18, 2010

Looking Back at the "0*"s - Top 5 Iconic Comic Book Related Events

Comics had their share of amazing moments since 2000. While these might not have made the news, they were something of note to comic book fans as they happened. I went with things that were a little more obscure rather than the obvious.

1 - DC - The Birth and Death of the Weekly Comic Book

The rumors grabbed everyone's attention. DC was planning on attempting something that hadn't been done before: a weekly comic book. The bigger news? It would be done without an appearance from the "Big 3" of Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. Drawn by the same artist throughout, 52 would flow seamlessly after "Infinite Crisis" to tell the story of what happened in the year after Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman disappeared.

The project worked. Incredibly enough, DC was able to keep each issue going out as planned and the fans enjoyed what they were reading. It played havoc with comic shop owners who were having to figure out how many to order when there was no major star to draw readers in. DC did a good job of picking the stars for the series though (The Question, Black Adam, Booster Gold, and Animal Man) and it had its own moments of plot twist shockers.

As it drew to a close, DC quickly announced they were continuing the process with a 52 issue series ominously called Countdown (later changed to Countdown to Final Crisis). Fans who were willing to invest $4 a week in a new thing were a little less enthusiastic about the new series. Folks began to do the math and realize they could wait a few weeks until the trade paperback came out and save about 40% off the cost of buying individual issues. The fact that the series became strangely twisted and hard to follow didn't help matters.

The final nail in the coffin came when the reader found out everything they'd paid to follow actually didn't mean a single thing to Final Crisis. It was as if none of it had even happened. It did not sit well.

DC went to the well one final time, this time banking on their big 3. Trinity focused on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in a weekly series. Unfortunately, the series didn't do well. We had just seen Bruce Wayne killed as Batman, so where exactly did this series fit into continuity? While DC recently tried something called "Wednesday Comics" (a newspaper format of different heroes), they've steered clear of the weekly comic. The closest they have come is the recent announcement of a 26 issue bi-weekly comic series called "Brightest Day" that will, of course, be the sequel/aftermath to "Blackest Night". Geoff Johns is writing this, though, so expect good things from it.

2 - Alex Ross Returns to Comics

While Alex Ross is best known for his work on stories like "Kingdom Come" and "Universe X", his work on entire comic books began to dwindle. While still a huge presence on covers everywhere, his interior work was almost nonexistent. Then "Justice" came along.

Alex proved himself true to form here, recreating some iconic scenes from Kingdom Come (Captain Marvel standing over a fallen Superman) while paying homage to the old comic stories. I would love to comment more on some of the specifics of the stories, but if you haven't read it that would spoil some good stuff. You want to give this one a look though.

So far, Alex has only stepped in for interior work one more time. That was in the JSA's "Thy Kingdom Come" storyline, which was supposed to be a true sequel of sorts to "Kingdom Come". He did the interior work for the issue that featured the battle between the real Superman and the KC Superman. He also revisited it for a final epilogue of KC in the last pages of the storyline. This is available as a 3-part TPB set as well.

Even though that's all we've seen, it was a great set of moments. I hope Alex  picks up some major storyline soon so he can give us more of his incredible artwork.

3 - Comic books become more expensive than a gallon of milk

That's not meant to be sarcastic, it's just truth. At some point in this decade, comic books hit the $4 per issue mark, while not offering any more content than they did in 2000.

Suddenly publishers were complaining because sales were down. Sales were down because comics were so expensive a casual reader had to be selective in what they bought. Series were canceled after only a few issues rather than giving them several months to build an audience. Fans were leery to begin new series because they didn't think they'd last. 

The reasons given by the publishers were the new paper and better ink quality allowed the issues to hold up better over time than the old newsprint. The pages were more vibrant and alive! The readers responded with the same answer: $4 for one comic book?!? Pop out a double-size issue and it was suddenly almost $8 for one story!

The publishers say their life blood now comes from trade paperback sales after the issues have gone off press. That's probably true. Even though a TPB can go for over $20, it's still cheaper than buying six individual issues.

4 - The release of "Vault" books

If you're a fan of comic book nostalgia, then chances are good you've picked up one of these books over the past few years since they started coming out. Originally released as a rather expensive title (the "Marvel Vault" was first of the bunch and published at close to $100) they've come down in price and become something pretty affordable.

So what makes them such a big deal? Imagine being able to hold in your hands a copy of the Christmas postcard sent to Marvel fans in the 60's. How about being able to hold a real Batman mask from the 50's? Things you might see mentioned in ads for old comics are reproduced here for you to actually be able to see and touch. The chances are slim and none that you'd ever find the real things (or be able to afford them if you did), but this is the next best thing.

The history reprinted here is detailed and enjoyable. Almost everything is true to size and very close to the original paper it was printed on (if possible). The format allows for you to pull out and hold the "collector's items" and still be able to put them back away safely for storage when you're through. With one for Marvel, DC, and most recently Batman, there's bound to be one you'll enjoy. They are most definitely not the pricey investment they once were, so grab one.

5 - Everybody gets an action figure!

When  I was growing up, we had the "Super Powers" collection from DC and the "Secret Wars" collection from Marvel. The figures could bend at the shoulders and hips, and their heads could turn. Every once in a while  someone could bend a knee or elbow, that was all she wrote. And it was almost always a major hero or villain. Obscure characters need not apply.

The past 10 years have seen a huge surge in action figures. Now just about any hero out there either has one or is on the list for one in the future. And the articulation on most of these is amazing. They can bend at wrist, knees, ankles, and some even cover fingers and toes. Just about any pose you can imagine can be created.

While the market has cooled dramatically recently, there is still a growing market of figures coming out. There is even a "retro" set of old Mego-style DC figures that will be hitting the markets in March. It's definitely a collector's world out there if you want to fill in the gaps on any hero or villain you missed back in the day.

Next week, we look at some of the greatest characters in comic book history of the past 10 years!


Rick said...

I still don't understand why people say that 52 was the first time a comic book went weekly. Amazing Spider-man was weekly for a couple of summers. Action Comics went weekly for awhile. Another Marvel comic, the title escapes me at this time, was also weekly. 52 may have been the first one to do so for a year but it wasn't the first one to go weekly.

Brian said...

I was looking at 52 as the first one that was created solely for the purpose of being a weekly comic book for a year. You're right that others have gone weekly (at least temporarily) before, but this was to me DC's biggest push into the format with exclusive titles. Good observations on the others though! Thanks for adding them!

Rick said...

For a long time I heard that in tghe 40's Captain Marvel was weekly. Then I found out that it was a the height of his popularity and he was in a different comic book title every week. Not hard to believe. You would have had in in Whiz, Captain Marvel, Marvel Family and maybe in Captian Marvel Jr. you could have had him every week.

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