A few weeks ago, in an e-mail I referenced in my review of MARVEL AGE: SPIDER-MAN #2 last week, "MutatisMutandor" wrote in about the next generation of comic book readers and how to get them hooked. (My words, by the way, not his. Makes us older fans sound like drug dealers all of a sudden, doesn't it?) In this e-mail, he wrote, "I have kids and I collect comics. I would love for them to be able to enjoy this hobby with me. The problem comes from rising costs (yes, I know this has been touched on previously and there is no real way around it). Still, though, after some thought, I began to wonder: Why don't the 'Big Two' reprint older stories for cheaper prices? The work is done on them and paid for, so no more fees, the profit is there. The stories from a while ago were geared more towards kids and printed on news print without computer enhancements. Imagine going to the store and being able to buy your kid an issue of SPIDER-MAN for, like, $1.25. I know there was an attempt at something similar a few years ago with CLASSIC X-MEN, but that was for older people. I also don't think these books would have to sell well. Just enough to warrant another issue. Also, because they are reprints it should avoid the 'collectability' trap that plagues the toy market. If you want to know what I am talking about, ask your toy collector friend how hard it would have been to get your kid a 'slave' Princess Leia action figure upon its release. Of course, since I know very little of production costs and creator royalties, it may cost more than I believe to create reprint series."
I'm going to answer that last bit of speculation with one of my own: I imagine that, while the production costs just might be low enough to make a $1.25 cover price still feasible, the creator royalties might bump that price back up again. But like you, I'm no expert when it comes to the costs of comic production, and I'd appreciate anyone in the industry who'd be willing to enlighten me about it. So bear in mind, the discussion that follows is written to answer the spirit of the question rather than the realities of it. What if the production and royalty costs were low enough to allow the Big Two to reprint their older stories at a lower cover price? If it were financially feasible, would it be a good idea - or even a successful one?
The reason why MutatisMutandor's question strikes such a cord with me is because I've just finished writing my review of MARVEL AGE: FANTASTIC FOUR #1 and I've had the opportunity to read the MARVEL AGE: SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 DIGEST which collects the first four issues of the MARVEL AGE: SPIDER-MAN series (and the second issue of which I reviewed last week). The whole idea of "retelling" a story that's already been told by another writer and artist still strikes me as a very odd way of going about getting kids into comics (especially when those newer versions aren't nearly as good, which is the case at least with the SPIDER-MAN series). It makes far more sense to simply reprint those stories and to make them available at a cost that even the young'uns can afford. Problem is, the stories that hooked us as children may not be as likely to hook them as children, for a variety of reasons.
For one thing, there are elements in those early stories from both companies that we characterize as "innocent" when we're in a reflective mood but are much more likely to classify as "cheesy" or even "outright dumb" when we're not. Kids, however, are far more likely to be forthright about their opinions, and if something strikes them as dumb from the start, they're less likely to be forgiving of it. (At least, the children I've been around are like that - hopefully your nieces and nephews are better behaved than mine.) As much as I laud the original Stan Lee versions of the scripts that Daniel Quantz and Sean McKeever are adapting, for instance, I'm fully aware that even I can't sit through an entire collection of those early stories without taking a break and reading something contemporary just to restore my grip on reality. Try reading the first Thor story from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, for instance - it's not quite the barrel of fun that you might think, and it requires more than the usual suspension of disbelief, even without factoring in everything we've learned about the character since then. Now try putting that same story in front of a contemporary ten-year old (provided said ten-year old is even interested in reading). You'll probably never see him or her making a beeline for the Game Cube quite so fast again. I'd bring in an example from the DC Comics of that same era, but I suspect the reaction would be the same - if not quicker.
Or would it? It's truly hard to gauge such things, particularly since, when I was that age, I also found some of the stories written before I started reading comics (somewhere around 1975) to be hokey and silly. Those earlier stories may or may not have been geared more towards kids, but they certainly felt like they were to me, even then. And yet I kept reading them. This was at a time when I had a video game system, so I spent just as much time playing video games as contemporary kids do, and while there was no such thing as the Internet, there was still the phone. Television may have had fewer channels, but it was still television. Nearly all of the same distractions away from reading that existed then are still around today. Perhaps all it takes to create a new comic book fan is the right introduction - and perhaps making that introduction with older material at a lower price is the right way to go.
I apologize for the brevity of this column, but this is one of those rare issues about which I'm not sure what I think, so I'd like to get your opinions about the matter. Are the comics companies doing what you think they should be doing to interest the next generation of comics readers? Are the Marvel Age "retellings" the way to go? Should reprints be made available in the same digest format at lower prices? Is collecting such series as RUNAWAYS and SENTINEL the best way to get kids involved in contemporary series? Or is the DC approach of making "animated" versions of its popular characters more viable? Send your comments by midnight on Saturday, April 24, via the web site contact address here or to me directly. And as always, don't forget our discussion boards. Now, here's what in the stores for you this time around:
Dark Horse is
Think how thrilled your kids will be to receive BATMAN ADVENTURES #13 this week - and this how thrilled you'll be when you get BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #52, featuring Hush; the
BATMAN IN WORLD'S FINEST ARCHIVES VOL 2 hardcover for $49.95, featuring some of those older stories that you might just want to share with your kids (unless you want to steer them away from any bad talk about the Japanese, perhaps); and ROBIN #125, which features a kid but is ironically not intended for kids.
Spidey fans have a similar choice this week, and possibly a lot more money to pay. Their choices includes the SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN VOL 1: THE HUNGER trade paperback for $11.99; the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN VOL 6: VENOM trade paperback for $15.99; or the MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL 6 2nd edition hardcover for $49.99, with optional variant with dustjacket for $54.99. Of course, you could just plunk down your three bucks for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #57 all on its lonesome, but where's the fun in that?
Four Philly guys steal the components of a battle suit in DC Focus' FRACTION #1, and someone wants to buy it back. Bet it's one of those pesky ROBOTECH fans.
Meanwhile, HAWKMAN #27 features a "Past Lives" story crafted by the able hands of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Kudos to anyone willing to do a tale about Hawkman's past in the wake of all that ZERO HOUR silliness.
No "Long, Hard Shaft" jokes anymore, gang - the new story arc débuting in HAWKEYE #7 is simply called "A Little Murder." Still, isn't murder one of those things that you can't really have just a little of?
By the way, has anyone else noticed how strange it is that POWERPUFF GIRLS #49 is coming out at the same time as LUCIFER #49? And is it a coincidence that at the same time someone said, "Hey, let's give Old Scratch his own series," they decided to do one for the Girls? Makes you go "hmmmm..."
Bit of a misnomer on this one: the JLA: ONE MILLION trade paperback out in a "new printing" for $19.95 is actually the same collection previously released as DC ONE MILLION. It still contains #s 1-4 of the miniseries as well as the #1,000,000th issues of JLA and STARMAN, and excerpts from the tie-in issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, GREEN LANTERN, SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF TOMORROW, and RESURRECTION MAN. So, you must decide: was this really the comic so nice you'd buy it twice? Or is that three times, if you own the originals?
Earth's still in trouble from the Kree/Skrull/Sh'iar armada, and Genis is still fighting them in CAPTAIN MARVEL #22. And like yours truly, he's still crazy.
Speaking of "still crazy," the ROSE AND THORN miniseries continues with issue #5 (Of 6) this week. Sorry, that's all I got. It's been a tough weekend.
Spider-Man's in FANTASTIC FOUR #512 as the team returns from Heaven and try to reestablish their reputation. Heck, if our leaders can spin a few bad decisions into positive press, why can't these guys?
If you like Will Conrad's artwork on ELEKTRA, you'll no doubt love it when he crosses the carpet for OUTSIDERS #11. Oh, yeah, Judd Winick's writing it, too. Double your pleasure!
Greg Rucka takes over the scripting chores with ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #627; the odd appearance of a "Supergirl from Krypton" continues to give the boys fits (and not just Bruce and Clark) in SUPERMAN/BATMAN #9; the SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES hardcover collects the first six issues of the aforementioned series for $19.95; and the "real world" Superman faces his last challenge in Kurt Busiek's SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY #4 (Of 4) for $5.95. Someone please tell me it doesn't involve some guy with a hammer...
And if his taking over of ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN isn't enough, Greg Rucka has Batman guest-starring in WONDER WOMAN #203 this week! I know he already wrote for the guy in THE HIKETEIA among other things, but do you get the impression that Rucka's ultimate goal is to write for every single character in the Big Two? Nice work if you can get it...
Three fantastic things about DAREDEVIL #59: 1) it celebrates DD's 40th anniversary; 2) it guest-stars Spider-Man, Power-Man, and Iron Fist; and 3) it's written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev. Could life get any better than this?
Wildstorm's shipping out the ARROWSMITH/ASTRO CITY one-shot this week (this isn't a crossover, by the by - even Wildstorm's not that crazy) in addition to TOM STRONG'S TERRIFIC TALES #10.
If you've gotten hooked by the digest collection of MARVEL AGE: RUNAWAYS featuring the first six issues, why wait for the second one? Pick up RUNAWAYS #14 today - but only if you're 12 or older, now!