Comic All Star Teams, Black and White Comics, Digital Marketing, and more: The February 2024 Mailbag Q&A is Here!

Yeesh! What a week! It’s been a weird one here in the SKTCHD offices, as the heat is out and my teeth are chattering. But the show must go on, so let’s get to the Mailbag Q&A a little earlier in the week than I might typically do, as I asked SKTCHD subscribers and Off Panel patrons for questions, and they all delivered. To the answers!

The NBA All-Star Game was yesterday, and it made me think — who would be the starting lineup on a Comics All-Star team this year? For positions, you could go with Writer, Penciler, Inker, Letterer, and Colorist (and maybe a bonus spot for Editor) or any other setup you might prefer. – Ross Binder

I’m going to go direct market oriented on this, and aiming it 75% towards sales and 25% quality. The latter will happen naturally, but the former isn’t necessarily as easy. Also, I’m interpreting this as an of the moment sort of thing, one that needs to present a snapshot of the most impactful names at each position right now. So, with that in mind, here are my picks.

Writer: James Tynion IV. This is an easy pick, as there aren’t many more marketable names out there, if any, and Tynion’s the reigning Eisner Award winner for Best Writer. (With apologies to: Jonathan Hickman)

Penciler/Inker: Daniel Warren Johnson. Another easy pick, I’m not sure anyone else gets close to DWJ’s heat right now in the direct market. (With apologies to: Dan Mora, Jorge Jimenez)

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire. High volume, high quality, high impact. You can’t ask for anyone better right now. (With apologies to: Mike Spicer, Tamra Bonvillain, Matt Wilson)

Letterer: Aditya Bidikar. Clayton Cowles might top Bidikar in volume, but as an advocate for advanced stats, Bidikar’s per issue impact is the highest in the game right now. (With apologies to: Cowles, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou)

Cover Artist: Peach Momoko. A third easy pick, Momoko arguably has a case for Penciler/Inker as well, but her impact as a cover artist outdistances her interiors, even if that might change when Ultimate X-Men #1 hits. (With apologies to: Artgerm, Jim Lee, Alex Ross)

Editor: Wil Moss. The Ultimate line is maybe the hottest game in direct market comics right now, and Moss is so good it made Tom Brevoort’s move to the X-Men a possibility. Moss might even be underrated right now. (With apologies to: Chris Conroy)

I am sure I am forgetting some essential names right now, but those are my picks off the top of my head. Now, if we’re talking about who would I trust to get a bucket in a basketball game rather than make a comic, it might not be any of these folks. But that wasn’t the assignment, so I’m sticking with this crew.

What would it take for there to be a monthly comics criticism/journalism periodical that is available in comics shops? I’m not just saying bring back Wizard (it was before my time and I have no attachment to the brand in particular), but it does feel like something is missing ever since they folded. – Stephen Adkison

Real answer: a time machine.

The truth is, there just wouldn’t be enough support out there for an actual periodical about comics. There are niche efforts, like Bubbles, a zine that’s very much about the indie and alt comics world. But that’s printed in black and white and is largely found at comic shops of a certain variety, rather than all or even the majority of them. Aiming for a high quality production would nuke a project’s viability almost immediately, even if you had broad buy in. It’s expensive as heck to make a worthwhile print periodical these days. As a person who regularly buys magazines, it’s not atypical to find ones that cost $15 to $30 if they have any production value at all.

And given how information travels these days — quickly, before being moved on just as fast — the vast majority of what could be contained within these efforts just wouldn’t be a major draw. By the time a new issue of whatever this enterprise is hits, the average comic’s life cycle has already ended effectively and most news stories would be toast, unless it’s completely fresh reporting. And that’s expensive too, without even underlining how difficult it is.

The combination of how funding things works today, the cost of printing and distributing things, and the speed at which interest in certain stories evaporates makes it extraordinarily unlikely that something like this might happen. It’s just not something the world sustains these days, even if you’re a bigger name with a broader reach like many legacy magazines were. I wish that was not the case! I loved magazines and would read a magazine like this if it was done well! Unfortunately, 2024 is not a great time to print and sell this sort of thing, at least if you have any interest in sustaining the work in a real way, or are aiming for a niche like Bubbles is (and it’s already serving that well).

Which member of the Justice League would you most want to see on a team of Avengers and vice versa? – Hayden Dunlap

I think for both, I’d want to see someone that doesn’t match their typical vibes, just to see how that changes things. A good example is even though I normally wouldn’t think of him as an Avenger, I think I’d pick Beast for the Justice League, just because you’d have all these overpowered people and then a blue guy with fur with a brain for science and deeply questionable ethics. Everyone would be highly suspicious of him besides Batman, who would be like, “I kind of like the cut of this guy’s jib.”

Similarly, I’d either go with someone like Green Lantern (wildly different power set, plus a cop, which is a different vibe) or Wonder Woman (would absolutely cross lines most regular Avengers wouldn’t, and would be so unimpressed by Iron Man it would drive him insane) just to mix it up. Superman would be interesting because Tony Stark would be completely perplexed by him, but he’s too similar to the wholesomeness of Captain America. Contrast would be my goal, because that’s where narrative drama could come from. So, I am going to say Beast and Wonder Woman would be my picks.

What are your top five black-and-white comics of all time? – Frank Baxter

So, I consider top five is very much open to interpretation, because that leaves the determinant up to me. I am not a big fan of declaring my preferences to be the best, so this list is of my favorites rather than that. If I had to pick five, they’d be Jeff Smith’s Bone, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, and Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, with a purely memory based nod towards Christopher J. Hicks’ Mister Blank (which I loved when I first read it when I was 15 and have never managed to track a copy down of it since). Is this list missing clear standouts, like Maus, Persepolis, Essex County, and even something like The Walking Dead? Yes it is. But that’s why this list is my favorites, not the best.

That list would probably be different, but it isn’t the list I’m doing here!

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