Lots happening in comics this week. Let’s get to it in Comics Disassembled, my look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the week of comics.
1. Graphic Novels, Doing Work
This is going to shock you, but once again, I must inform you that graphic novels are rather popular in book stores. In fact, it seems that this channel was one of the biggest risers in a year that was otherwise down for print sales, with graphic novels leaping upwards by 16.1% in 2019 versus 2018, while overall numbers were down by 1.3%. What does that say to you, my kindly reader? We’ll probably see even more efforts by book publishers to make this segment work for them, as graphic novels are hot, hot, hot!
Quick side note: Janna Morishima, one of the co-founders of Scholastic Graphix, launched Janna Co., recently, an agency for children’s and YA comic creators. That’s another way we’ll see this growth manifest itself, as there is plenty of business to be done on the periphery of the business.
Back to the main bit: it makes sense that graphic novels would be up too! I mean, it was a Double Raina year and god only knows how many Dog Man books Dav Pilkey released (Google would know, actually, and the answer was two), which means there was a huge push by the most popular creators in the game right now. That was enough to turn a flat year into a big year, as they are massive difference makers by themselves. But it’s also promising for the medium as a whole, and it puts the big book publishers even more on the case of trying to fill the needs of younger readers, but those readers as they age. We need those big budgets on that kind of problem solving, so fingers crossed.
2. How to Read Comics, The Right Way (and other Marvel newcomers)
I give Marvel a lot of guff for publishing an unbelievable, unsustainable amount of comics, and with good reason: I’m not sure there’s a market for the amount they’re publishing. But that volume every once in a while results in something genuinely quite interesting being published. For me, that came in the form of a most unusual comic that was announced this week: How to Read Comics the Marvel Way, a four-issue mini-series by writer Christopher Hastings and artist Scott Koblish.
The basic premise of this comic is Mysterio trapped Spider-Man in a comic book, and presumably, this series will find the Wallcrawler figuring out how to escape. But the more meta aspect is it’s going to do just what the title suggests, as it’s going to teach people how to read comics through Spider-Man’s engagement with each aspect of the medium. As a person who knows people who actively wonder how comics work and how you’re supposed to read them, I love this idea, especially with the rather clever and inventive Hastings writing it.
It’s a perfect match of writer and subject, and I could see this being a shockingly good title that unfortunately many people will sleep on. What I would have loved to have seen was this as a one-shot, a single story that you can buy and hand out to aspiring comic readers as a go to bible for them. Four issues is a tough sell, and it makes the whole thing a little weirder from a tool standpoint even if it makes more sense as a narrative. I’m rather into it regardless. It’s coming in April. I’m here for it.
Speaking of Marvel comics coming in April, there are…a lot! Including…a Giant Size X-Men issue starring Nightcrawler with Jonathan Hickman writing and Alan Davis on art! A very obvious Black Widow tie-in but also not a tie-in mini-series! A new Taskmaster series from the solid team of Jed MacKay and Alessandro Vitti that is also definitely a tie-in! A Red Guardian/Yelena Belova series that’s somehow even more nakedly a tie-in! The last three very obvious tie-in books are strange, even for me, Mr. Taskmaster! I’m not really sure what the audience for those are, even with a Black Widow movie coming out.
Jeff Lemire and Mike del Mundo on an Immortal Hulk one-shot story, though? That’s verrrrry interesting. I am here for that, on the other hand, even if it’s going to be weird reading an Immortal Hulk comic from someone that isn’t Al Ewing.
So, some good, some bad, but a lot of everything. Sounds like business as usual at Marvel, unfortunately.