After Monday's column originally appeared in Comics Buyer's Guide #1653, I received e-mails from comics creators who were also publishers. I'm going to run these without comment, but feel free to respond to them on my message board or in your own e-mail to me. The first e-mail is from Hanther...
It's the last part of March and I'm reading comments you wrote in January. I'll try not to be overlong.
You've heard, I'm sure, of Will Rogers. He had this little comedy act he performed night after night. He modified his act a bit from show to show, but if you saw his act on Monday night and went back Tuesday, you pretty much saw a replay. Then his boss opened a supper club and Will was one of the performers. This supper club was a place where many customers came night after night and they weren't into hearing the same tired jokes over and over. They wanted fresh material each night. Will Rogers suddenly had a major problem. He was looking at reserving his place in the soup line as he joined the ranks of the unemployed. Will had to do something new and revolutionary or he was out on his ear. He looked around his dressing room, saw a newspaper and picked it up. He stuck the newspaper under his arm and walked out on stage and said, "All I know is what I read in the newspapers..." and an American icon was born!
People are complaining how bad times are now, but times are great compared to the financial crisis of the Thirties. What you might want to remember is Milt Caniff, Chester Gould, Harold Gray, Alex Raymond and numerous other comics people became very wealthy during that time of economic meltdown. The Thirties were when the first comic books were published. The Thirties were when Superman first appeared, revolutionizing an industry. It's worth remembering Superman was unsalable until Max Gaines cut the art apart and repasted it for comic books. The Thirties were a time when comic books sold in quantities Marvel would kill to see sales figures on Spider-Man approach. We are an industry born of financial hard times. We came of age amid doom and gloom.
How are economic conditions in my area today? On average about the same as everywhere else. I just lost a major advertising client who blames his demise on the economic meltdown, but he was blaming economic hard times several years back when times were reported to be good. I have another client who is growing and hiring people for his business. The guy produces and sells crude city maps that are wall posters. These maps have no practical value, being distorted beyond recognition and having on them only the businesses that paid to be included. If this map is not of less practical value than a comic book, I can think of nothing that is, and yet this guy's business is growing at a steady pace.
I have been asked why I chose now to expand Tandra from a weekly page to a twice weekly page with the economy as bad as it is and promised by the regime in Washington to get much worse. Most of the promises made by politicians are not worth the hot air that comes out of their mouths, but this promise I sincerely believe the administration will do their best to keep.
I am expanding Tandra because I can and because this is a good time to grow a business. Competition is hunkering down for hard times and the market is open to new products. Certainly there are those who will not wish to experience Tandra, but those people exist in the best of times. The success of any product from comics to kitchen appliances to industrial tools is not dependent upon the mess the Washington politicians and bureaucrats have made of the economy. The success of any product in good times or bad depends on the quality of the product and how well it satisfies the desires and needs of the customers. That is the reason I make Tandra as good as I possibly can and I write stories that touch on topics of which other features only tippy toe carefully around the edges or avoid altogether.
There was a report on National Public Radio a few months back concerning a Katrina victim who was sitting on her front porch watching television as she waited for the government to come and paint her house. If you are one of those people who pin your hope for deliverance on the bureaucrats in Washington, your future is bleak indeed. If you are one of those people who, faced with the challenge of creating something new that will arrest people's attention and you pick up a newspaper as you walk out on stage, the future is yours and no government-created disaster can restrain you.
We are comics writers and artists. We were birthed in adversity. We can certainly survive this crisis, and in style!
I read your "comic books as crack" theory of management comment. That concept - hooking readers with never-ending serials instead of good, solid, well-written single issues - is why I'm writing.
In "Tony's Tips," you asked for suggestions on how to enjoy comics and still be frugal. I'm happily reading excellent comics and keeping my spending down to about $50 a month - not counting conventions; that's another budget - utilizing two guidelines: I skip all mega-crossovers and cancel books I no longer enjoy.
I require a satisfying $3-4 worth of plot and characterization to keep a book on my list. Increasingly I find myself drifting away from the spandex crowd and into well-known indy books and classic collections.
Maybe I've lived long enough to become bored with character reboots. I'm tired of writers thinking I'll care about what happens in a few months. I'm more concerned with the book, page and panel I'm reading NOW! I'm simply looking to read thoughtful pamphlet short stories.
Thank you for the informative reviews. I need them to plan my frugal purchases!
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: