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  1. #16
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    Default AvengersG....

    I can see your point and relate, if a shop can't keep a simple reserve list then you have every reason to walk away.

    On the other hand, for every copy of Hawkeye & Mockingbird that I may have sold by ordering a few extra, I would be stuck with Young Allies, JSA All Stars, Namor copies sitting on my shelf. No business whould be ordering 10 items hoping 1 will sell well enough to compensate for the rest. You also have to factor the no returns factor, that cuts into the profit margins nicely. If Marvel & DC gave retailers Strip Cover returnability on even a small % of the quantity ordered, your Hawkeye & Mockingbirg would be in stock when you walked in, couple that with Marvel's super tight overprint policy so that they can announce that second print asap. If Marvel had so much confidence they could have printed enough extra so that when if I saw a book selling out I could rush ship some extra copies in and no one would miss out.

    Sorry to anyone who thinks digital will save us, there are lots of benefits to digital and it may gain the industry some new blood. I have several friends who have downloaded comics illegally for years and now they won't even download the comics for free, due to the lack of content and the dilution of product. Thats not availability, or 2nd prints taking to long that is pure content problems. If someone won't read a book for free, what makes anyone think $3.99 in a shop or $1 online will make a difference.

  2. #17
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    Although it's only one of many points in the article and comments, there is here and in the internet air a lot of talk about pull lists in DM shops. Reading Brian's columns over the years, he seems to be a careful, frugal orderer. This is certainly not the norm. I've worked in both comics retail and comics publishing, and if I were to throw a number out there, I'd say probably 20% of comics ordered don't get sold to customers (I'd love to hear other people's informed guesses). They either sit lost in storage or get blown out at a show for $1 or to another dealer in bulk for pennies on the dollar.

    Maybe I'm crazy--but if there was a reliable returnable distrubutor like the days of old, I bet retailers as a whole would profit more in the long run from lower discounts and full returnability. Of course, that's never going to happen--I'm just saying...

    And imagine the consequences to publishers if that 20% (or even 10% or 5%) of those ultimately unsold copies were reflected in the monthly sales numbers. But instead retailers are subsidizing a huge part of the monthly comics machine.

  3. #18

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    Another outstanding column Brian!

    $3.99 for a ten minute read (15, if we're being generous) is absolutely a waste of money. There's nothing that can't be gleaned from wikipedia or message boards to keep you "up to date" with current storylines while enjoying much more cost-effective ways of reading (libraries, essential collections, et al). I don't care how nice it looks. $3.99 gets me halfway into a 90 minute movie, or 1/10 of the way to an exciting video game with 20/30/40/50+ hours of entertainment. Where's the value?

    And I suspect that piracy does in fact play into things than you suspect. Do you really think your customers are going to openly admit to you that they're buying less because they're downloading more? Hard line to lay out there, especially if they consider you to be a friend.

  4. #19
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    Thumbs up Be positive

    Can you only get an article published if you want to be negative about the industry?

    I own a comic store, and this year will mark our 32nd anniversary. And sales are at, probably our second highest rate EVER. (The 90s period around X-Men #1/Creation of Image/Superman dying being #1, probably forever) I realize that maybe my store is a statistical outlier, but I doubt we are the only store on planet Earth with happy customers that can find it in themselves to actually – GASP! – enjoy comics.
    And guess what – we are literally at an unparalleled time of non-'fanmen' enjoying comics. Walking Dead on AMC has people coming in off the streets begging to try out comics. “I liked this zombie one, what else is cool?” Scott Pilgrim, despite not doing well in the box office has done amazingly at my store. We cannot keep any of the volumes stocked. And those two books are literally both ends of the spectrum. One is a hyper-violent ‘realistic’ survival story that rewards readers if they keep reading. The other is a light-hearted story of boy-meets-girl with as many video game references as could possibly be crammed into a thousand pages, and it is now complete, you will never have to buy another issue.
    But those aren’t Marvel or DC, the two tent-poles that hold up our entire business. Ok, lets go at it.
    Uncanny X-Men has not been THIS good in 30 years. X-Men has been an incomprehensible pile of garbage for three decades. Not anymore. It has returned to the core mythos that makes the X-Men great. Say what you want about House of M, but trying to maintain a story with the main characters as a minority despite there being millions of them is completely unsustainable. I read only Uncanny X-Men and I have never felt like I missed something by not reading the other titles. And yes, X-Men doesn’t sell anywhere near as much as Uncanny X-Men and Iron Man: Legacy doesn’t sell as much as Iron Man, but the keen observer might have noticed that Matt Fraction writes the two main titles, and I can’t tell you who writes the other ones, and selling comics is how I make my living.

    And to anyone that complains about comics being too dark and gritty now… I don’t even know what to say – Have you been reading Avengers – its goddamn fantastic. Time travel, Kang, Maestro, alternate dimensions, alternate timelines. It is everything that the comic book ‘Avengers’ was created to be. The entire book is a love letter to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Roy Thomas. And if you can’t sit back and enjoy the ride, I wonder if you’re capable of enjoying anything with a sense of wonder. And while I’m sure there will be people here that say I’m wrong – guess what – you are the minority. I sell a gigantic pile of Avengers every month. And while economic success does not mean the books is good, my point is A LOT of people enjoy this comic; raise your voice dammit. Don’t let us be a group of people that love to hear the sound of our own complaining. To be on this site, to be reading comics, you have to enjoy them. Let people know. Don’t let yourself be drowned out by complainers. Being negative about the business of comics can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes there are a BUNCH of terrible comics out there. They outnumber the good ones even. But that is true of literally EVERY medium of entertainment. Music. Movies. TV Shows. Books. Video Games. There’s way more crap than greatness. But only in comics do people focus on the bad almost entirely.

    And a little history lesson for those that say comics are too grim and gritty now –
    Batman used to carry a gun. (1940s-1950s)
    Superman threatened to rip criminal’s hearts out. (1930s-1940s)
    Have you ever read an EC crime comic from the Fifties? Eye gouging and decapitation abound. (1950s)
    Yellowjacket beat his wife. (1980s)

    I too think it is ridiculous for comics to go from $2.99 to $3.99. But every article I’ve read talks about people being up in arms and dropping titles. And I just don’t have that experience. I have literally one regular customer than complains about the price hike. Out of 200 pull customers. The most vocal complainers I get are people that haven’t bought a comic in twenty years and are surprised that comic book stores still exist. CDs cost ten dollars at least. A ticket to the movies is over $10 at every theatre near my store. Books are $25 new. THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE PICTURES! I’m not a member of any boards that deal with those forms of entertainment, but I can’t imagine that they complain as much as we do. Instead of focusing on the fact that you find Grant Morrison incomprehensible, focus on the comics you enjoy, because I bet you enjoy a lot of them or you wouldn’t be here.

    Geoffrey Patterson
    Geoffrey's Comics

  5. #20
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    I think the problem isn't that there aren't good stories, that was one part of the article that I did disagree with. I am really enjoying the New Avengers magic themed storyline and Fraction's X-Men has me reading X-Men again. I agree with that.

    Your comic shop is definitely a bit of an outlier. I know places around where I have been living that have been dealing with harsh economic times. I think most of us are unhappy about the price point coupled with bad storytelling and huuuuge over arching storylines that involve 100s of issues to tell each story. I think the X-Men storylines back in the day had the right formula. Take X-Cutioner's Song for example. Fourteen issues, each one builds off the other and connects remarkably. Same thing with Second Coming. I think a mess is created with the Secret Invasion-esque storylines where every title is dragged into the continuity mess kicking and screaming. Secret Invasion was thrown onto books where really, you didn't need them to tell the story. In fact, they should have just stayed on their separate storylines. Peter David left X-Factor in the early '90s for that reason.

    The main mini-series of the event merely plods things along instead of being the actual meat of the storyline. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed Blackest Night, but the nice part about it was that you could get three comics a month and have the entire storyline. Take any Marvel storyline of late and you'll see what I'm talking about. Siege, while short, was incredibly disorganized on a month to month basis. It was like Marvel didn't really think or care about how the issues were coming out and it kind of killed some marvelous portions of the plot.

    I do worry about another crash of the comic market and sales across the board have been declining. If Marvel and DC fall down, the lack of readership could keep it there. I think most of us aren't being negative, we're just worried about this industry that we have invested a great deal of time and money into. I have dropped some titles because of the price tag of 3.99. It's ludicrous. I know creators have to get paid, but it's like they aren't making any money on all of the movies at all. Comics shouldn't be going up in price with all of the crazy movies that are making millions in profits. If Marvel and DC aren't getting a share of the profits, than we are worse off than I thought.

  6. #21
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    This was an excellent article, and certainly one which provoked much response. I think, like anything else, many significant and subtle things go into the current state of comic books, from the completeist mentality to superhero decadance, to this, and that. But also, part of the problem, which is directly related to the cover price, and writing for the trade, is- presentation.

    I believe 90% of current comic 'superstars' have a collective chip on their shoulder about being involved in comic books. They want to be filmmakers. They want to work in Hollywood. Even devotees of Alan Moore apparently missed his comment about being able to do thing in a comic book that you could never do in film.

    I flip through TPBs at the bookstore, and it amazes me anyone would dish out money for what I see being put out- honestly, it's almost insulting. 2 or 3 *words* per page, splash, splash, double-page splash, ending with a splash page... no wonder it takes you 2 minutes to get through it. And the reason is, Marvel especially, has taken a 'cinematic' approach. This is also easily proven with the useage of 'seasons' in comics, as well as the blurb 'packed with DVD-style extras!'

    It's tragic and it's horrible... and I really feel that way. The comics industry lets people from Hollywood come in to write, talented or not, but then lets them piss on any kind of ethic to standards and discipline. I remember someone complaining that a Daredevil come they waited a year for was late, due to the writer (who was also a filmmaker). And Joe Quesada replied, "come on, he has a dayjob, folks." We are so used to this method of thinking that the sheer insulting nature of such a remark- and I'm pretty sure thats an exact quote- is amazing. Comic creators worked through the depression, the war, the 50s Wertham era, and so forth, but *YOU*, the reader, the customer, are made to feel grateful for 'superstar' creators. Nonsense. People dismiss Jim Shooter, and I wonder if he would have tolerated such remarks.

    Go and look at these stories, and the way it's stretched out- and then remind yourself that these writers are often late, and missing deadlines. Seriously? You're late- writing that?

    Comic Books *are* in the mainstream, fans. You can't get it any better than that. And guess what? NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Nothing is different. Stop worrying about mainstream acceptance. You gleefully embrace being called a 'geek', and geek culture- this is as good as it gets. Get back to escapism, and thrills, and a sense of wonder. If you want DVD style extras... guess what you can go buy?

  7. #22
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    Geoffrey, I wanted to respond to some of your points, as I disagreed strongly, but I want to stress, no disrespect is intended.

    And to anyone that complains about comics being too dark and gritty now… I don’t even know what to say – Have you been reading Avengers – its goddamn fantastic. Time travel, Kang, Maestro, alternate dimensions, alternate timelines. It is everything that the comic book ‘Avengers’ was created to be. The entire book is a love letter to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Roy Thomas. And if you can’t sit back and enjoy the ride, I wonder if you’re capable of enjoying anything with a sense of wonder.

    - I think this is slightly insulting, but that's okay. I believe another thing we haven't discussed is the feeling going into reading a book. I can't enjoy anything like this, and I love Roy Thomas and The Avengers. Like alot of people, I spent years reading this title, and so, you have an emotional investment as part of your youth was given to this. But do you know why it's hard for alot of readers to enjoy this love letter? Because they are aware that it is being stretched out on purpose. Consider that.
    As another poster noted, these writers take 4-6 issues to tell a story Roger Stern could've done in 2, maybe even one and a half issues. I can't get lost in the sheer pleasure of a story when I see splash pages where you didn't need one, double-page spreads where it isn't exciting, and less and less dialogue.. all because of the inevitable TPB release. A sense of wonder comes from the, yes, cheap thrills comics used to provide. When they were created for the reason of escapism. Not to shill trade-paperbacks, cater to the elusive mainstream reader, or get into the Wizard Top Ten. When people are *aware* that they're being pulled along, not only do they kind of resent it, they also lose interest.


    And a little history lesson for those that say comics are too grim and gritty now –

    oh, this again? ok, i'm a comic book historian. let's see what you got.

    Batman used to carry a gun. (1940s-1950s)

    so did Dick Tracy, Junior G-Men, Tom Mix, The Lone Ranger, Red Ryder, and every other rootin' tootin' cowboy that all American Boys dreamt about. Except for Geoffrey here, who dreamnt of Liberace. ok, I'm just teasing you Geoff. But this is a vauge argument. Batman carried a gun, but you didn't see him cursing, or having one night stands with Catwoman, Black Canary, and so forth. Yeah, I actually have zero interest in the sex lives of super-heroes.

    Superman threatened to rip criminal’s hearts out. (1930s-1940s)

    I challenge you to show me where this happened more than once. That happened in ONE STORY, baby.

    Have you ever read an EC crime comic from the Fifties? Eye gouging and decapitation abound. (1950s)

    Compare ANY EC story with any Marvel story today, and tell me which is better written, has better vocabulary, and in which you got your money's worth. Tell me which story enabled you to 'escape' and get a thrill from more. In fact, I will PayPal bet you Geoffrey, that I could find an EC story thats less than 10 pages which has more words in it than a 2 issue story of Bendis. Let me know.


    Yellowjacket beat his wife. (1980s)

    yeah, and it was repeated 25 years later in "the universe where anything could happen!" the Ultimate Universe. go and compare how the two storys were handled. "Oh, but Hitch's art is so REALISTIC!!! *slobber*"

  8. #23

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    I'm a longtime comics buyer, but I'm not buying as many issues as I used to because of problems with money and content. There are very few comics that I'm interested in enough to warrant paying $3.99 US for. I live in British Columbia, Canada so my local comic shops add an extra 10% to the US cover price to convert it to Canadian dollars. To make matters worse, British Columbia recently introduced a Harmonized Sales Tax that increased the sales tax on magazines from 5% to 12%. Trade paperbacks are classified as books and subject to only 5% tax. My local comic shops are struggling and I'd like to support them, but I lost my job this year and have cut back my spending. I can buy trade paperbacks from online retailers at a discount or borrow comic collections from my local library. When I do buy individual issues it's usually after they've been put on sale for a dollar or less.

    I find the content of current Marvel and DC superhero comics mostly unappealing. I'm tired of the drawn-out crossovers and bleak tone of the stories. The plots have become stale and repetitive (someone is maimed or killed, someone comes back from the dead, a hero becomes a villain, a villain becomes a hero). I usually prefer to read reprints of classic superhero stories or non-superhero comics.

  9. #24

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    I personally think one of the biggest problems in the industry right now - and one that is kind of brushed off by representatives from the bigger companies - is the scheduling.

    When I was new to comics, books rarely if ever shipped late; or at least if they did, I didn't remember it. Instead, you could predict what usually came out when, and books from the same "family" shipped apart.

    For example, with Spider-Man, you could bet that Web of Spider-Man would be out the first week of the month; Amazing in Week 2, McFarlane's Spider-Man Week 3, and Spectacular in Week 4. It was really easy to collect the whole line because your wallet wouldn't be killed. Even with the X-Men, it seemed as though Uncanny X-Men, even when biweekly for summer months, rarely if ever shipped the same week as Wolverine, X-Factor, or Excalibur.

    This past week we even had two issues of Amazing Spider-Man on the same day, one of which was $3.99. When people asked Tom Brevoort about this on Formspring, the response was something about not delaying #642 because of something with budget, etc... .not picking on Brevoort... but I know if I was 12 years old and only had five bucks, I'd miss an issue of Spider-Man there, and I probably wouldn't be back for the one after that, or the one after that. I also don't meant to pick on Brevoort there by the way... I think it's great and admirable that he has had open communication and is honest with the fans. I don't agree with the strategy, but someone like him would know far more about the industry than I would.

    What makes it hurt even more is that I know there are weeks with, say, no Avengers books at all. And then bam, we're slammed with 6 in the same week - most of which are $3.99, "justified" by filler "oral histories" in the back which they could have just saved the paper on, even if it meant keeping the same price. That's going to make people sick of it, too.

    As for the sheer volume of what is put out... Maybe it's that they want to have as many books available for trades when the movies come out (hence 11 Thor books in a few months). But I sometimes wonder if, if there were fewer titles. I love Hawkeye & Mockingbird for example, but why should someone buy it when completists would rather have the two issues of Amazing Spider-Man that week?

    And for one last note that dates me - the other thing that I most recall about when I started collecting comics was that new titles were a Really Big Deal. For a few years there, Marvel would launch six new books a year and market them heavily. Now, you might find weeks with three, four, or maybe more new launches. And why should someone pick up, say, Young Allies when Avengers Academy launches in the very same week? I'm all for experimentation, but I do miss the "event" nature of a new series #1. Yeah, 1990's X-Men #1 had five covers and great Jim Lee art, but it was at a time where there hadn't been three dozen X-Men #1's already.

  10. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonedeafgeoff View Post
    And a little history lesson for those that say comics are too grim and gritty now –
    Batman used to carry a gun. (1940s-1950s)
    Superman threatened to rip criminal’s hearts out. (1930s-1940s)
    Have you ever read an EC crime comic from the Fifties? Eye gouging and decapitation abound. (1950s)
    Yellowjacket beat his wife. (1980s)
    The early gun-toting Batman didn't last long. A year after Batman debuted he stopped using a gun, would no longer kill, and gained Robin as a sidekick. The Golden Age Superman may have threatened to harm criminals and even caused a few deaths, but the comics weren't very bloody. Superman would allow a vehicle containing people to crash, but he never went through with ripping a criminal's heart out.

    EC Comics were dark and violent, but that suited the horror, crime, and war genre stories. The "grim and gritty" style fits some comics, but I don't think it's suitable for many super-hero characters. I don't want to read about an evil Mary Marvel or Dr. Light raping the Elongated Man's wife.

  11. #26
    Junior Member die_yng's Avatar
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    Excellent column Brian.
    Right on every point, you really nailed it.
    I've been thinking and talking with friends about this for some time now, it's really impossible to understand how shortsighted both Marvel and DC act.

    Busiek point's about the stories are mostly true, while I still think there is lots of great stuff around (even some grim'n'gritty titles), but the amount of mediocre titles and pure rubbish is so big, it really get's on my nerves.

  12. #27
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    I live in British Columbia, Canada so my local comic shops add an extra 10% to the US cover price to convert it to Canadian dollars.
    Bicycle-Repairman, you need to find a better store in BC. There's not a shop in Toronto that tries to pull that extra 10% garbage for currency parity on individual issues.

    And for one last note that dates me - the other thing that I most recall about when I started collecting comics was that new titles were a Really Big Deal. For a few years there, Marvel would launch six new books a year and market them heavily. Now, you might find weeks with three, four, or maybe more new launches. And why should someone pick up, say, Young Allies when Avengers Academy launches in the very same week? I'm all for experimentation, but I do miss the "event" nature of a new series #1. Yeah, 1990's X-Men #1 had five covers and great Jim Lee art, but it was at a time where there hadn't been three dozen X-Men #1's already.
    Kryptonsite, I totally agree!

    Thoughts:
    The pre-order sites like DCBS don't work well for me in Canada economically because I'm not only subject to a pretty steep shipping cost but also custom fees which ended up eating away at that 35% discount. They also didn't work well for my reading enjoyment, I felt out of the collective fan-loop. The long wait for a monthly shipment (especially once you add on the international shipping delay made me close to two months behind the latest issue for the comics that are released early in the month). It was almost enough to break me of the weekly addiction altogether had I not broken out of the preorder stranglehold and gradually slipped back to my LCSs, addiction is definitely the best word.

    I"m not a DC reader (except Tiny Titans and some Vertigo stuff) so I can't really comment how that half is doing business. $3.99 caused me to jump ship from a number of my Marvel titles, but I'm still spending about the same amount each week - I'm just getting fewer comics for it, which leaves me pretty peeved.

    Shadowland may be a "smaller, family-of-titles crossover", but it still has me buying just as many books as the other crossovers always did. I'm not sure after this is over whether my weekly spending will go down significantly or not. The universewide crossovers, as much as everyone complains about em, seem to have kept sales pretty high. I'm curious how the less-connected Heroic Age will fare financially.

    Now Marvel is putting out just as many if not more books but with no reason for me to buy them. Also, Marvel's producing more comics than they even have talented artists to draw. The stable creative team seems a thing of the past (Invincible IM excepted), and it's a shame they didn't get someone better than Billy Tan for Shadowland. All the corners of the MU seem to be segregating in hopes of appealing to each of the disparate tastes of vocal fans, but just because someone wants to write a story, that doesn't mean the story needs to be told. "Should I pick up this new limited series?" Nope! That's just a one-off story by a between-gigs tv writer decompressed to cost you 16 to 24 bucks over half a year which won't matter to the comic landscape a year from now. I'm sure I could enjoy something like Hawkeye and Mockingbird or Young Allies or Avengers Academy or X-vampires or one of 15 Thor or Cap minis, or any color of Hulks but can I afford it? hells no!

    The big-chunky Avengers title is too mired in alternate universes and indistinguishable (except by their costumes of course) characters quipping Bendis-speak, all dragging at the slowest of paces, for me to enjoy it. It doesn't seem like the required-reading that the first New Avengers series was. Each niche seems to less and less affect what's going on in the other and yes I feel I'm limiting what I'm buying due to oversaturation of trivial titles that are just "grim-and-gritty" versions of classic storylines. But, so as not to end on a downnote, I'm quite pleased Marvel grabbed Jonathan Hickman to bring wonder and excitement to a few titles. Also, I like the move they did with Thanos Imperative, conflating all the cosmic titles into the one crossover, both me and my wallet were quite pleased.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bicycle-Repairman View Post
    The "grim and gritty" style fits some comics, but I don't think it's suitable for many super-hero characters. I don't want to read about an evil Mary Marvel or Dr. Light raping the Elongated Man's wife.
    Exactly! This, coincidentally, is why Bloodsport is the better movie than Kickboxer. There was no reason for Mylee to be raped; it makes the entire story unpleasant, despite a terrific training montage.

  14. #29
    Junior Member Another Aaron's Avatar
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    Default Get off my lawn!

    Just thought I'd chime in and say I'm the opposite of this "trend." I stopped reading comics for a decade during the whole "foil & hologram" covers debacle in the 90's.

    The only thing that got me back was walking by a shelf and thinking, "Wait, what are Spider-Man and Wolverine doing in the Avengers?" Over the last year or two, I've found my comic "intake" increasing from one month to the next. I love what Marvel is doing right now - whether it's Bendis's Avengers or whatever is going on with SHIELD.

    I will agree that the decompression is a little much sometimes. I kinda wish Bendis would up his word count per issue....still, when I read them collected they're a great read.

    (On a somewhat unrelated note - the moment they go digital I'll never buy a paper comic again. I have no desire to fill a room in my house with paper, which is what eventually happens with this hobby.)

    In any case............I'm not trying to be mean, and I can see some serious areas of concern here . . . . still, this sounds an awfully lot like "dem kids and their new-fangled rock & roll! Back in my day, girls not only wore dresses, they stood in refridgerator boxes so you wouldn't see NUTHIN!"

    Fess up, who in here's wearing dentures and feels cranky? :)

  15. #30
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    Default Glad I'm not alone

    I used to spend 50 dollars a month on comics. Last November I killed my pull list 100%. Civil War left a bad taste in my mouth but I hung on. The ending of Secret Invasion left me cold but I hung on. Finally though, between the seemingly never ending Osborn stories I had had enough. Meanwhile at DC I was actually sort of enjoying Blackest Night. Then the cross overs just were one repetitive, meaningless story after another and when I learned through the net that in fact the characters who were being killed off were not all coming back I gave up.

    So now I have an extra $200 a month to spend on other hobbies. I keep up with what is going on through CBR and Newsarama but, if anything, the previews and reviews drive me even further away.

    For me, it isn't about the price. It is about the kinds of stories the current creators and editors at both companies seem to want to tell. They are all incredibly dark and depressing. The heroes can barely save themselves much less the world. If you look at the body counts from the storylines at either company, you have to believe they might be better off without the so called heroes. Anyway, I certainly am, at least financially.

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