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Introduction by Alan David Doane
2006 is here, and with the coming of the new year, as I did last year, I wanted to ask some of the smartest folks I know what they think will be the defining trends over the next year. Participants include commentators Alex Ness, and Joe Rice, retailer and comics writer Rob Vollmar, critic and Comic Book Galaxy Managing Editor Christopher Allen, retailer JC Glindmyer, Comic Book Galaxy Editor-in-Chief Chris Hunter, retailer and journalist Christopher Butcher and retailer James Sime.
What are you most looking forward to in comics in 2006?
Christopher Butcher: In terms of actual comics, I'm probably most looking forward to Scott Pilgrim 3 (and 4 maybe?), as well as the new ongoing series from Kevin Huizenga, Sammy Harkham, Anders Nilsen, that whole excellent crop of young creators all seem to have irons in the fire. There are a couple of manga that I've heard through the grapevine are on their way, and I'm pretty excited there too. I think whatever Grant Morrison is doing, post-Seven Soldiers, is going to be facinating. And as much as I'm not really enjoying the current Infinite Crisis series (It's sort of like Warren Ellis' Ruins, that mockery of Marvels, isn't it? "What if everything went wrong all at once for no real reason?") I'm very curious to see what comes out the other side of it. I have a feeling it's going to mean more good stories not bound by continuity, a focus on quality and entertainment rather than artless, hollow spectacle.
Joe Rice: More issues of All-Star Superman and the resolution of the Seven Soldiers epic. Jeez, I seem like even more of a Morrison shill than usual here. But, seriously, my other favorite creators release on their own time, so I never know ahead of time when a new Eightball or Optic Nerve or something is going to come out.
James Sime: Since November there's been a new BLACKSAD book out in France, with more great writing by Juan Diaz Canales and gorgeous art by Juanjo Guarnido. I'm already counting the days until a translated and republished BLACKSAD ÅME ROUGE hits the states!
JC Glindmyer: As a retailer, I’m curious to see fan’s reception of the new DC universe, the “52” series and Civil War from Marvel. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 3 if it’s coming out, or anything else by Alan Moore. Basically, great comics by creators on the top of their game – Grant Morrison, Dan Clowes, Mark Millar, Chris Ware, or Evan Dorkin.
Chris Hunter: I'm truly looking forward to something knocking my socks off and leaving me with a craving for more of it, like I felt when Ellis and Hitch gave us The Authority and Millar and Hitch created The Ultimates years ago, and even more recently, Ellis and Hamner's Red or Morrison and Quitely's We3. Something different and exciting to me. When it comes to the Big Two, I've always been a Marvel guy, so I'm somewhat interested in what Millar and McNiven will be doing in Civil War, but outside of The Ultimates, Millar has been hit or miss for me. DC/Wildstorm will also be revitalizing the main Wildstorm universe and I'm curious to see what Morrison will do with that. I'm also looking forward to what Jason Pell will be doing with Zombie Highway. That's a fairly new series that has clicked with me and has gained my interest.
Christopher Allen: More Obnoxio the Clown, or really, anything from Paul Kupperberg.
Rob Vollmar: BATMAN YEAR ONE HUNDRED by Paul Pope.
What do you think will define 2006 in comics for good or ill?
James Sime: 2006 will be known as a year of infinite glory or infinite garbage! Thanks to DC's massively ambitious "this changes everything!" events of next year and Marvel's flying-by-the-seat-of-their-pants attempts to regain the spotlight, we as comic readers and fans are going to get quite a spectacular show. Because really, there's only two routes to go... will all the careful planning, great creators, hard work, and good intentions lead to masterful interplays of continuity and great story telling for the ages? Or will it all have its head shoved so far up its own ass that it will end up being an embarrassment train wreck of superheroic proportions? Either way, it's going to be fun to watch it all play out and will certainly be one of the things people will talk about when they look back on the year in comics 2006. And most definitely in years to come people are also going to be looking back on next year and remember when they were first exposed to one of their favorite comic book creators... when said creator won the 2006 Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics!
Christopher Butcher: The Internet.
Rob Vollmar: The continued spread between fiscally viable monthly pamphlets and the rest of the market.
Christopher Allen: More decent good titles drained of interest by greedy/lazy/arrogant creators who want the party to go on forever. More publishers flooding the market with half-assed books and no identity. More incompetent criticism. Less humor. As far as anything negative, though, that's hard for me to say. I'm an optimist.
Joe Rice: DC's unending oroburous-style self cannibalization and marketing scam. OR the emergence of new good direct market shops. Sadly, more the first than the second.
Alex Ness: How the industry addresses the needed changes in the distribution monopoly, in format, and timely payments to creative people.
JC Glindmyer: More people will become familiar with comics with the feature film releases of V for Vendetta, X-Men 3, Superman and Ghost Rider. Unfortunately, as in most cases, this won’t translate into higher sales for the books themselves. On the flip side, the plan of inserting reprints of Spider-Man classic comics into Sunday newspapers in 2006 has the potential cultivating new fans and reviving older ones.
Chris Hunter: 2006 will be defined by whether or not the comic book industry will be able to think outside the Direct Market box and find new ways to reach new people and find ways to distribute more effectively. Additionally, there has to be a way for the comic industry, as a whole (publishers and retailers), to be able to make converts of the millions of people that go and see the big blockbuster comic book films that are released almost every year now. So far, I've seen no growth from their advent.
What trend do you hope is brought to a halt in 2006?
Joe Rice: The ripping of children's material away from children.
Rob Vollmar: Big crossover events.
Alex Ness: John Byrne rants and brain farting made public.
Christopher Butcher: Honestly, I wish people would stop "going along with it". Whether that's feeding the professional trolls, swallowing press releases whole and shitting them back out undigested onto the net, or continuing with a series/strip/whatever that you're not enjoying just because you've always done that. I'm tired of shitty things being done unchallenged. It makes me feel sick to my stomach to see either Marvel, DC, and Top Cow employing Pat Lee after he viciously fucked over so many people this year. Where's the outcry though? Hell, where's any level of dissent at all?
JC Glindmyer: The chapterization of comics, having every issue reading as a stand alone chapter of a story with no flow from the previous issue to the next one. Rushing collected series into trade paperbacks within weeks of the release of the final issue. Small digest trade paperbacks reprinting regular sized comics. Long delays between issues (see: Iron Man, Secret War, Ultimate Secret, Spider-Man Black Cat). Rob Liefeld’s career.
Chris Hunter: Editors not doing their jobs to insure that readers receive serial comics in a timely fashion by scheduling accordingly. Projects like Secret War, Iron Man, Spider-Man/Black Cat and Daredevil/Bullseye are just some examples, and surprisingly, all from Marvel.
James Sime: More than anything, I'd like to see the long-standing trend of selling our industry short come to a halt in 2006. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that funnybooks are where it's at for movies, libraries, art galleries, schools, publishers like Pantheon Books, bookstores, and The New Yorker Magazine recognizing that comics is an artform that has been accepted by the mainstream. But for some reason a far too large proportion of our industry's fans, retailers, publishers, and creators alike are still treating the comic industry like we're the second class citizens of the art and entertainment world. Somehow no matter how much mainstream acceptance comics and graphic novels receive, our industry seems to only speak when spoken to. Yeah sure, we're all a bunch of comic book nerds here, I get that, I got my D&D dice taken away in middle school by the big mean kids too. But for the comic industry, "middle school" was a long time ago and for fuck's sake, don't you think it's time for our industry to get over it already? We're sitting in first class, seat A, row 1, across the isle are Entertainment Weekly, Universal Pictures, The American Library Association, Sony Entertainment, Nickelodeon, The New York Times, HBO and they're all thinking about moving into that empty seat next to us, buying us a cocktail, and chatting our sexy selves up. It's time to tuck in our shirts, sit up a little straighter, flash a wink and a sly smile and dazzle them all with a little bit of the old fashioned comic book charm... we've got the best seat in first class, let's start acting like it.
Christopher Allen: I'm tired of Nude Comics Day. My comic shop owner tells me it's catching on, but I'm not convinced it sends the right message. Also, it's hard to listen to him when he's naked.
What do you think comics retailers should do in 2006 to capitalize on the new mainstream media focus on comics and graphic novels?
Christopher Butcher: I'm almost hoping they don't. We had a gangbuster Christmas/Boxing Day because new customers, people we'd never seen before, were coming to us for "hard-to-find" graphic novels like WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, and BATMAN: HUSH. So, you know. We were happy to sell lots of them. (To be fair, we were out of Arkham Asylum.) At any rate, I'd hope comics retailers take advantage of their position as specialists in the medium, much more so than bookstores or even internet wholesalers, to stock a diversity of product with enough depth to make comics specialty shops "must visit" stores. I can get anything from my seat here, thanks to online discounters. But knowing what's worth getting is the domain of smart salespeople and business owners in a face-to-face setting.
James Sime: Anyone who knows me or my shop knows that I'm pretty passionate about bringing comics to a wider audience, it's why I opened the Isotope. I'm of the opinion that a modern day comic store should be built from the ground up with the potential new comic reader in mind. And that means diverse stocking, good lighting, plenty of room to move, a friendly and knowledgeable staff, and a relaxed setting in which to discover the world of comic books. You're going to need to focus on graphic novels, because that's what the new readers are going to be looking for, and you're going to want to do everything you can to make sure those graphic novels are some of the first things people see when they walk up to your front door. And remember my retailing brothers and sisters, even if you can't afford to put in good lighting, go deep with your diverse stocking, have nice shelves and display space, and have a location where a whole lot of people are... you can still afford a smile. We friendly retailers sell a lot more comics to both non-traditional comic readers and to hard core comic enthusiasts at our shops than the cranky-behind-the-counter guys do. And our businesses are growing.
Rob Vollmar: Utilize a wide number of distributors to keep releases from Pantheon and other legitimate book publishers in stock within the Direct Market.
Joe Rice: Be media savvy. Know your market. Establish clean, attractive sales areas. Don't be afraid of scaring away a few ubernerds, they'll keep coming anyway and just talk to you less (win win situation).
JC Glindmyer: To get serious and more aggressive on promoting comics, however, we can only do so much with what we’re given. Right now, we’re limited by what materials are available to us. We do get the occasional DC Co-Op ad slick, but what we need to do is have more effective advertising materials. DC does have a co-op commercial, but this one was made when Lobo was a hot property and George Bush Sr. was in office. We do get the occasional poster, but they are very few and far between. Promoting comics should be no different than promoting movies, customers should always be tantalized by posters of upcoming releases. And they should always be available and rotated. A smart retailer will know when to take advantage of an opportunity to promote comics and right now there is no better way than Free Comic Book Day. And it’s coming in only 125 days (From December 30th).
Alex Ness: Carry full lines of TPBs and OGNs, present them as books, and offer newletters or websites where someone at the store can discuss all the new and interesting product coming out.
Christopher Allen: Nothing. Nothing at all. Stay the course. Nobody's buying anything in bookstores -- the increased shelf space is a scam, a gimmick I tells ya! Manga?! A fad like rock and roll, cinnamon rolls and oral sex. I would just keep pushing whatever Marvel or DC tell me to, and stay away from anything recommended by Time or Entertainment Weekly, because they don't have their finger on the phantom pulse of comics zombiedom like retailers do. I'd keep thinking short term, quick 'n' diminishin' returns, like Infinite Croesus and such.
What dream project would you like to see released in the coming year? Not an already-scheduled title, but some pie-in-the-sky combination of creator(s) and project/title that you think would set the industry/audience on fire.
James Sime: What would I like to see that I think would set the industry on fire? Well, it's easy to say something like, oh I don't know... Brian "Y THE LAST MAN" Vaughan and Jim "STREET ANGEL" Rugg doing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or Grant "SEVEN SOLDIERS" Morrison and Charles "BLACK HOLE" Burns doing PHANTOM STRANGER because... (laugh)! Man, would those be some great comics! But me personally, I'm a guy who always loves checking out new things from new folks. And any brief tour of the vast array of comic-related blogs, message boards and news sites will show that there are literally thousands of intelligent, funny, passionate and creative comic readers out there, some of whom I think could bring amazing things to the comic industry as publishers, retailers, and creators. That's what I'd like to see as a dream project that would set the industry on fire, thousands of potential comic creators bringing the passion, charm and wit that makes them such entertaining writers, pontificators, and industry personalities to the published comic book page. Wouldn't it be cool to go to the comic shop and be able to pick up monthly books from people like Ian Brill, Chris Butcher, Graeme Mcmillan, Heidi MacDonald, Sean Maher, John Jakala, Joanna Draper Carlson, Augie de Blieck, and Neilalien? Me, I'd love it. And let's be honest here... what Comic Book Galaxy reader wouldn't want to get their hands on Mister Alan David Doane's ARCTIC SHITKNIFE?
Christopher Butcher: Probably a good LOST comic or original graphic novel? Something really tied to the show (like the "Laura Palmer's Diary" project from Twin Peaks). Something big, other-media, but not tied to the superhero/sci-fi paradigm like Joss Whedon's work has been. Comics that are comics, even while being other-media extensions. I think that'd be something interesting. Or a new issue of RAW maybe.
JC Glindmyer: Having Todd Mc Farlane stepping in to do a few issues of Spider-Man would do for that title what Jim Lee did for Batman. Settling that nasty Miracleman lawsuit so the series can be reprinted in a series of trades. I’m sure a few copies of this might sell.
Joe Rice: The All Star Marvel Family Anthology Ongoing featuring Morrison, Quitely, Pope, Hernandez, Mahfood, and more. And since we're talking about the future here, comics you can read while riding in your rocket pack. And comics that feature virtual reality sequences starring Audrey Tautou, Angelina Jolie, and Nao Oikawa.
Chris Hunter: I'd like to see Graeme McMillan have a project published. Nuff said.
Alex Ness: I have many favorite creative people, and choosing one is difficult...so how about, Tony Isabella and Eddy Newell kick some ass on BLACK LIGHTNING Volume 3 at DC.
Christopher Allen: Oh, gee. Let's have a miniseries or arc that explores some hitherto unrevealed event in Batman's past, maybe having to do with his parents or Wayne Industries, or a chick. We can get someone really awesome like Ben Raab or Chuck Dixon or Will Pfeifer or Judd Winick or Anderson Gabrych or really any available hamster on the treadmill, and the art could be by just about anyone in the kick-ass DC talent pool. Pete Woods? Bart Sears? I know, it's a pipe dream, but just think what it would do to the status quo! And don't forget covers by someone who used to do interior art but makes more money this way! I'd also have it edited by a stressed-out wretch who has no time to read real books or the news and who gets four hours of sleep a night if he's lucky.
Rob Vollmar: Richard Corben on the Ulimate Jesus from Marvel. Mary Magdalene would be STACKED!