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Monday, August 03, 2009

 
Burning Bridges -- Frank Santoro has a great piece up about how the Direct Market era has come to an end, signified by the disinterest comic shops had in supporting the new Nexus efforts of Mike Baron and Steve Rude.

This is, in retrospect, a glaringly obvious point, and good for Frank for laying it out so well. My earliest days of weekly shopping (and one summer working) in the Direct Market look, through my rose-tinted specs, like racks and racks of nothing but Nexus, Love and Rockets, Cerebus, Elfquest, and The First Kingdom. Of course, there were many other exciting titles emerging at that time, but those are the ones that really stood out, and your knew if you found those on the racks next to Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans, you had found a comic book store that knew what it was doing, staying sharp, looking ahead and looking out for the best interests of its customers and the industry as a whole.

How times have changed. Good luck even finding the best and most vital comics titles at most "comic book stores," these days, one of the reasons why I continue to assert that the vast majority of Direct Market retailers are really superhero convenience shops, servicing the desires of superhero fans, not true comic book stores, catering to the diverse tastes of readers of comic books who seek out whatever genres and styles appeal to them and speak to them as readers, as people.

My experiences over the past couple of years in the Direct Market have been very mixed. There are few truly visionary comic book stores within a day's drive of where I live; the shop I regularly buy comics at is very good at special orders, but there's no depth at all in terms of the sorts of alternative and independent comics that I see as the vital lifeblood of comics at the moment, and if I miss ordering those sorts of books in the narrow one-month window of any given Previews catalog, I'm left to find things on eBay, from online retailers, or often, I'm just, as mom used to say, "Shit out of luck."

That Baron and Rude are "Shit out of luck" within the Direct Market blows my mind and saddens me a bit, because that was a comic I loved when I was 14. I'll admit I haven't read any new issues in years (I have never seen the new run on sale, anywhere, so the news it's failed is really no news at all), but any time I re-read the first batch of issues, they always bring a smile to my face. So much energy, so much potential. For Nexus; for me.

Where did it all go wrong?

Go read Santoro's piece, it's an eye-opener.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Chris Hunter said...

Alan,

Come on, man. That's a load of crap.

When was the last time that Nexus was published? 10 years ago?

That can't be blamed on the DM, bro.

That can be blamed on the creator(s) of said books. You have to keep the work alive and vital or it'll go the way of the dodo.

The same DM that you are referring to and agreeing with Frank about has also brought us great books like Criminal, Sleeper, The Walking Dead, WE3, Powers, Gravel, Black Summer, Midnight Nation, and...

The list could go on and on.

The creator is even more responsible for keeping their work alive than the DM is nowadays. ESPECIALLY with all of the ways that creators can market themselves AND their work in today's comic market place.

The DM is not dead at bringing us great independent work currently and it's not solely responsible for the demise of Baron and Rude's work. I'm sorry that you're probably experiencing the end of an era concerning Nexus, but it's not the DM's fault.

And all the above is said with love. You know that.

03 August, 2009 22:38  
Blogger Mikester said...

Alan, I see your larger point, but I have to agree with Chris...Nexus was its own worst enemy here. Months between issues, culmination of years-long subplots, too-high entry cost for new readers (old issues available in $50 hardcovers? Really?), and the fact that there's almost certainly been attrition of Nexus's audience over the years. The people who read Nexus 15 years ago are, by and large, out of the direct market. Not saying that stores not carrying Nexus aren't a problem, but even if they did, Nexus isn't a title that'll grab new readers. I mean, I've been a fan of Nexus since its Captial Comics days, and even I had a bit of trouble following everything in this new series.

By contrast, IDW's Grimjack seems to be the way to go. Standalone minis that don't require heavy backstory knowledge, and relatively inexpensive (a strange thing to say re: IDW product, I realize) TPBs gave this title more of a chance in the modern marketplace than Nexus ever had. Sure, I'd like to have seen Grimjack pick up from where it left off at the end of its First Comics run, but that would have been its death, I think.

04 August, 2009 16:37  
Blogger Steely Dan said...

I have to agree with what Chris and Mike said. Using the collective lack of interest in the new "Nexus" series as an example just doesn't work. I'm a HUGE Steve Rude fan and even I had trouble getting interested in it.

1) I don't buy comix in the magazine format (pamphlets) anymore. I prefer them as paperback or hardcover. And I think a lot of the potential audience for this felt the same way. It's like Bon Jovi releasing a comeback album on cassette only. You have to meet the market on its own terms.

2) I loved Nexus in its day, but the story has grown stale. It was a great allegory of the 1980s, but the '80s are over. Stories should have beginnings, middles, and endings. They aren't meant to go on forever. I'm just not interested in perpetual soap operas anymore that go one with no end in sight.

3) It's been ten years or more since the last series was released. Who even remembers what happened? The new series was not at all a friendly entry point to new readers.

4) It took two years (maybe more) to release three issues. Two years! This series would have been best served if it had been released all at once in paperback form.

5) As Mike said, those hardcovers of the original series are really, really expensive. They're the perfect place to catch up on what happened before, but the price is a HUGE turnoff. Why has that stuff not been available in affordable paperbacks instead?

6) There was no marketing for this thing at all. None. Create some excitement, do some interviews, use Steve Rude's website to really push this thing. But they didn't.

7) As I said up front, I love Rude's art. He's one of my five or six favorite comix artists. But do something different. Tell me some new stories. Introduce some new characters.

From what I've read Steve Rude lost a bunch of money on this series and I feel really bad about that. But an artist has to meet his audience half way. There are problems with the Direct Market, but the failure of this series to catch on has nothing at all to do with that.

07 August, 2009 18:01  

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