Saturday, February 16, 2008

Comics Aren't Cheap

A freeform post this one - I really want to do a post about comics but don't really know how, without sounding like a child or overly serious about a mass entertainment medium which these days is largely out to milk the customer dry.

At Marvel it's all about Civil War still. Sure, many of the developments are already undone - Peter Parker's identity is now completely secret once more, Reed & Sue Richards' marriage is back in one piece, there are multiple signs of reconciliations between the Avengers teams and Captain Marvel...well what about Mar-Vell? We now have Millar & Hitch on the Fantastic Four, a Brand New Day for Spider-Man, and the upcoming Invincible Iron Man looks to reunite Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca (who together did the truly sensational Sensational Spider-Man annual) on a book which isn't continuity dependent.

So what is my gripe? It's the inconsistency in the argument Millar, Quesada and others put forwards. No, you don't have to read 100 books in order to appreciate the Civil War and its aftermath. You don't have to read 100 books in order to appreciate World War Hulk and its aftermath. You won't have to read 100 books in order to appreciate Secret Invasion and its aftermath. It just helps. And once I would have leapt at the chance. Bendis is still writing both Avengers books, the Mar-Vell storyline is progressing pleasingly (who'd have thought?), Hitlar are doing their Ultimate thing in the 616 universe, Captain America's the best it's ever been...the event books themselves are even done by great, entertaining creative teams. But comics aren't cheap anymore. I used to be able to read the FF and have it stand alone entirely. Thank you John Byrne. I used to be able to read Moon Knight and have it stand entirely alone - thank you Moench & Sienkiewicz. And that was in a day when they only cost 35-50 cents! Try nearly 10 times that now!

You shouldn't have to save up for these things - the same is true of DVDs. I don't want to have to spend £60 for a Dr Who box set (and haven't), leaving the real options of avoiding these media altogether. I know quality on these media is rapidly improving, with quality creators rushing to make their next zillions on a sure thing. But until I win the lottery I just don't have the money. And as pretty as some of it is, I'm not sure whether I care about retrodden work - Millar & Hitch on FF? Claremont & Davis on Uncanny X-Men? Busiek & Pacheco on Superman? Are any of those series as interesting or as pretty as when Byrne was on them? I don't think so. At least a TV show like House is self-contained, enjoyably self aware, and ends up with cheap box sets. No wonder it's so popular. Marvel and BBC take note!

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