After a bit of a grump week last week, this week comes…stunning positivity! A bunch of things I like! Actually, I think for once, all ten things you’ll find below are a like, which is wild. So let’s get to the crazy world of positivity during a pandemic, as Comics Disassembled looks at ten things I liked or, typically, didn’t like from the past week of comics.
1. Marvel, Stepping In, Stepping Out
This week, Marvel’s part of the return plan was revealed, as the publishing giant revealed its schedule of releases all the way to July 8th. It’s an important level of transparency, as shops likely want to know what they’re getting into, and what we found was…well, a surprisingly protracted and thoughtful schedule that protects shops from getting burned by too much product up front. That’s a good thing. That said, it might actually be too slow burn? It’s so stretched out that there are entire weeks where there aren’t any single issue releases at all, a bizarre turn from expectations that might be an overcorrection. In fact, in the first seven weeks back, there isn’t a single issue of X-Men within the lot, which is bizarre.
I’m conflicted. It buys shops time to get back in order and cities time to open up more, but it’s still a little weird to see everything spread so far out. Part of me wonders if this is partially a product of reverse engineering the timing for whenever new Free Comic Book Day will be, as the X-Men line is reliant on the timing being right for X of Swords, I’m guessing. I’m not sure what the situation is, but it’s an interesting solution to an unexpected problem. Also: no Empyre #1 in that period! Wild!
Speaking of wild, Marvel also revealed that eight titles will be switching to digital only, including Hawkeye: Freefall and Ant-Man, two well-liked titles, even if they also happen to be not the most popular books. I’m going to talk about two different aspects of this: the public response and my take. First, the public response. It was seemingly unpopular, if Twitter can be believed. Naturally, those who bought any of these titles that were already running – one is switching before its first issue dropped, meaning no one bought print issues yet – were displeased, and understandably so. It sucks to be in the middle of a series and it gets cut out from under you. Some shops were unhappy too, as this means they’ll be the ones that have to tell the average customer that this is the case. It’s a tough thing to ask of shops.
But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like this is a good solution. If this was ten years ago, these comics would likely have all just been canceled, never to be seen again. None of them are hits. All of them have small (but occasionally passionate!) audiences, with the majority of the conversation around these books coming upon their unceremonious conclusions in print. If these just were canceled, I feel like the response would have been less negative, and you know what? That’s kind of weird to me! These comics will still be released as single issues digitally and eventually in print as trades. That’s more than a lot of comics get. I’d rather be able to finish comics I like in a format that isn’t my favorite over having them canceled entirely. And that’s probably the other option each was facing.
I also feel like it’s the right move for Marvel overall. It’s going to be a weird ordering environment for the next few months, and the majority of shops I talk to says Marvel has way too many titles already. Dialing it back while giving readers a path to finishing these stories feels like the perfect middle ground solution. I like it, even if I get why others don’t.
Quick note: there’s been talk about how orders are supposedly up upon FOC, and hey, maybe Marvel shouldn’t have ended these titles in print because it’s a potentially good ordering environment. Here’s my theory on that. Orders are up because every publisher besides Marvel is offering returnability. Even if shops are skeptical of the ordering environment, I’d wager plenty of them are eager to bet slightly larger than usual as a potential in-house stimulus package if things work out well. Now, long term that may mean a whole lot of returns. But this is why returnability is a crucial tool, as it gives everyone a chance to win a little more.
2. Lemire, Kindt, and Rubin, Cooking
Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and David Rubin as individuals are worth the price of admission alone, as each is a creator I largely buy each project from if even just one is involved. Now, all three are working together on Cosmic Detective, a new project they’re Kickstarting that’s described as a sci-fi/noir series. Lemire, Kindt, and Rubin on a sci-fi noir series that I can get a glorious hardcover AND a set of playing cards of all things from? That’s an easy, easy sell. It helps that it looks good, of course, but why wouldn’t it? That trio is fantastic. I’d tell you to back it, but given that at as I type this it surpassed $91,000 in support, I imagine you already have.
One note, though. As I mentioned in my Mailbag this week, some have noted that this project could be a bellwether for a larger trend, as if this is the beginning of more Kickstarters from notable creators. And maybe that’s true. But when you read the language of the Kickstarter, something becomes abundantly clear: this will not be the only printing of Cosmic Detective. I’m not sure if it’s going to be at Dark Horse – I’d wager it will be – but they’re careful to note “Exclusive” in the language over and over, meaning that this will be different than later prints. It’s going to be printed again. If there’s a trend this is starting (or really a part of), it’s that Kickstarter is an excellent place to generate what amounts to page rates for creator-owned projects as well as great promotion for projects creators would like to be picked up but haven’t found a home for already. I’d wager that’s the case here, although in terms of the latter, I don’t think that’s any worry.
I could be wrong! I often am wrong! But I bet I’m not here. Oh, and the trend I do think is happening will come at point ten. Stick around for that!