Saturday, October 08, 2011

One last bit of comics talk

Before I finally give it a rest, here's a little bit more interesting analysis of DC Comics' "New 52". I picked up copies of the six #1s I was still missing in London today (as well as the Order Of The Stick game - a roleplaying game based on a comic based on a different roleplaying game, which I now need to find up to five local nerds to play with me) so now I've swelled DC's coffers considerably in their September accounts, and contributed to the wholesale changes they'll doubtless be making next year when the #7s don't sell half as well as the #1s did.

Bang for your buck
All the "New 52" comics cost $2.99 for 36 pages, except for Action Comics, All Star Western, Justice League and Men Of War, which are $3.99 for 44 pages. Three-dollar comics normally have 20 pages of comic story, and four-dollar comics have 28 - the other 16 are the cover and a variety of 'house ads' for other comics or paying ads for products that comic readers might like.

Justice League #1 has just 24 story pages, despite being four dollars, but adds four 'sketchbook' pages talking about how they designed the heroes' new costumes. All other comics in the selection have at least 20 or 28 pages - the exceptions are...

Action Comics #1 runs to 29 pages of story, rather than the usual 28. But #2, which came out this week, only has 20, with a 'bonus' eight pages of the writer and artist talking about the creative process. Isn't that what the internet's for?

Swamp Thing has 22 pages, and cuts out a couple of house ads to make room. Apparently this one was written quite a while ago and had to be altered to fit into the New 52 continuity, but presumably they couldn't reduce the page count without making the story even more incomprehensible than it already is.

Batwoman is 22 pages too, and the same thing seems to apply here. J.H. Williams III's artwork looks like it takes longer than other people's, so hopefully he got a head-start.

Green Lantern also runs to 22 story pages, although a lot of the 20-page comics squeeze in a heck of a lot more plot than this one does...

Aquaman again stretches out to 22, but this one at least devotes those pages to introducing the central character.

Wonder Woman gives us 24 pages of gods and horse-decapitations and even a fleeting glimpse of Wonder Woman herself.

Batman also has 24 pages of really rather awesome story and art that I can't think of anything snarky to say about at all, and in fact I'm very grateful for it!

Detective Comics #1 also gives us 24 pages of kiddie-friendly death and mutilation (see below), but #2 in this week's selection goes back to the standard 20.

And the biggest bang for the buck comes from Superman #1, with 25 pages of extraordinarily detailed artwork that I can't believe PĂ©rez and Merino can keep up with on a regular basis (especially as the strange release schedule seems to have #4 coming out just two weeks after #3). Now that's value for money!

Target Audiences
All of the New 52 comics are clearly marked on the cover as "T" for "Teen", or "T+" for "Teen Plus" - the most remarkably useless system of age-rating I've ever seen in all my born days. But you can get a slightly more sophisticated guide to who these comics are aimed at by seeing which advertising package DC have put in them. There are three different packages, as follows:

"Mature" adverts - the new violent Deus Ex game, Cobalt gum and grown-up things like that
All Star Western
Animal Man
Batman the Dark Knight
Green Arrow
Green Lantern Corps
I, Vampire
Men Of War
Red Lanterns
Resurrection Man
Suicide Squad
Swamp Thing

All these comics are rated "T+" except Batman the Dark Knight, Green Arrow and Green Lantern Corps. Despite the title, there's nothing particularly dark about the Dark Knight, at least not compared to the other Batman comics, and Green Arrow is similarly innocuous so far.

"In-between" adverts - the Deus Ex game and the gum, but also shoes with superheroes on them and the "Got Milk?" ad encouraging teenagers to drink lots of milk
Batman and Robin
Birds of Prey
Captain Atom
DC Universe Presents
Demon Knights
Frankenstein Agent of SHADE
Green Lantern New Guardians
Green Lantern
Justice League Dark
Justice League International
Justice League
Mister Teriffic
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Wonder Woman

"Kiddie" adverts - no Deus Ex or gum, but "Got Milk" and the shoes are joined by Lego and Hot Wheels
Action Comics
Blue Beetle
Detective Comics
Hawk & Dove
Legion Lost
Legion of Super-Heroes
Static Shock
Teen Titans

Action Comics is kiddie in #1, but steps up to in-between for #2. Detective Comics, though, is full of toy adverts and rated 'teen' despite the closing scene of the Joker having his face cut off and describing the experience as 'fangasmic', not to mention the scene in #2 of Bruce Wayne and a woman flirting and then on the next page sitting around scantily clad in a pose that can only be described as post-coital.

The "kiddie" ad selection includes several house ads for Teen-plus rated comics, strangely enough. It's all a bit confusing.

Which comics do they want us to buy?
Each comic contains two pages of promotion and creator-interviews for comics from that week, as follows:

Week 1 - Batwing and Animal Man
Week 2 - Resurrection Man and Demon Knights
Week 3 - Red Hood & the Outlaws and Blue Beetle
Week 4 - Hawkman and Firestorm
Week 5 - Hawk & Dove and Stormwatch

And each week's advertising package includes full-page ads for as many comics as are necessary to fill the page count:

Week 1 mature - Green Lantern New Guardians, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Batman, Aquaman, Action Comics, Swamp Thing
Week 1 in-between - Green Lantern New Guardians, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Swamp Thing
Week 1 kiddie - Batman, Green Lantern New Guardians, Superman, Swamp Thing, Aquaman

Week 2 mature - Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Batman the Dark Knight, Green Lantern New Guardians, Swamp Thing
Week 2 in-between - Flash, Batman the Dark Knight, Green Lantern New Guardians, Aquaman
Week 2 kiddie - Green Lantern New Guardians, Swamp Thing, Flash, Wonder Woman

Week 3 mature - Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern New Guardians, Swamp Thing
Week 3 in-between - Wonder Woman, Green Lantern New Guardians
Week 3 kiddie - Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, Superman

Week 4 mature - Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern New Guardians, Flash
Week 4 in-between - Superman, Batman the Dark Knight
Week 4 kiddie - Batman the Dark Knight, Flash, Green Lantern New Guardians

Week 5 mature - Frankenstein Agent of SHADE
Week 5 in-between - none
Week 5 kiddie - Justice League Dark, Red Lanterns, Catwoman, Frankenstein Agent of SHADE

The non-kiddie comics of week 5 are blessed with a six-page preview of another new Batman comic, which cuts down on the space for house ads.

Action Comics #1 has a single page promoting Superboy, Supergirl and Superman. Strangely, Suicide Squad #1 has an ad for Batgirl that isn't found in any other comics.

This leaves 24 of the 52 without any in-comic advertising. The neglected comics are a mixed bunch, but they do include a lot of the really good ones that readers might not have heard of and might be inclined to try if only they saw an advert. Maybe the publishers will remedy it in future weeks.

Okay, that's exhausted everything I have to say about the New 52! I hope you were enthralled.

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