Dec 302012
 

Life With Archie #16Since it’s time for “end of 2012″ lists aplenty, I thought I’d get in as well. And since everything seems to be couched in “best of”/”worst of” lists, I’ll go that route as well. So let’s start off with a look back at the best and the worst of comics over the past year.

Best

  • The wedding of the adult Kevin Keller in “Life With Archie” selling out, as well as One Million Mom’s boycott of “Toys R Us” for carrying the issue backfiring hard. 
  • Similarly, the wedding of Northstar in the “X-Men” comics.
  • “Batwoman” winning a GLAAD award.
  • The present-day Kevin Keller’s own comic, which continued to be entertaining.
  • “Reed Gunther,” a fun Western/light-horror comic. Unfortunately, it’s been canceled.
  • DC Comics selling same-day digital comics through the Nook and Kindle stores. A move away from Comixology’s digital monopoly and their heavily DRMed comics model is a good thing. (Yes, the Nook/Kindle books are still DRMed, but at least they’re actual files one can remove the DRM on and back up…)
  • The 2012 C2E2 show in Chicago. Still fun, even if I could only spend a single day there.
  • Another “Love and Capes” series!
  • “Superman Family Adventures,” the one DC book I’m still reading (unless waiting for the trade paperback for Morrison’s “Action” run counts).
  • Archie’s “New Crusaders” has been enjoyable.
  • Dan Slott’s run on “Amazing Spider-Man,” and Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Miles Morales’ title.

Worst

  • The “Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes” miniseries. Dragged out plotline + my existing dislike of Q (even if he apparently got rather easily captured by Fred Flintstone’s evil cousin, a.k.a. Vandal Savage) + the predictable “reset button” ending rendering it all even more pointless = “hoped that Star Trek/Dr. Who crossover did better with Who fans.” Still, at least this series acknowledged the Kal-El Superboy was a Legionnaire.
  • The shutdown of Graphicly, with the promise of keeping their comics servers up for those that bought books through them…for now, anyway. A big reason I don’t like the Comixology digital model of (basically) paying full price for what amounts to renting comics long-term, as long as the company stays in business/with files tied strongly to a proprietary app. I can only hope the recent move by DC to sell their books as actual digital files via Kindle and Nook stores means Comixology’s glorified-rental model won’t last, and that some changes are in store.
  • The Meaning of Lila” ended its newspaper run. I’m currently reading the strip’s reruns on GoComics.com.
  • DC Comics overall is definitely on this list. Long story short, the “New 52″ reboot bites, and I still wish DC had different, more progressive-minded leadership as a company. To wit:
    • The cancellations of Mister Terrific and Static’s books. As troubled as they were, they could’ve at least tried to keep them around a bit longer, or clear up their writing/editing situations. Instead, they’re both axed to make room for Yet Another Batman-related Book, among other things.
    • DC’s ugly new “Peel” logo.
    • Captain Marvel is now called “Shazam“… and Billy Batson’s been turned into some obnoxious, rude brat.
    • “Watchmen” prequels nobody wanted or needed, despite the otherwise excellent staff involved in producing them.
    • Re-introducing the “New 52″ Earth-2 Alan Scott as gay is OK, albeit at the expense of his now-nonexistent gay son Obsidian, since they’ve also de-aged Alan into his 20s like the rest of the characters in “New 52″ line. (Even Bronze Age DC’s timeline with Superman being 29 wasn’t as extreme as the take in the “New 52″—the JSAers were allowed to age!) However, what happened to Alan’s better half—being killed off right after being introduced—puts this on the “worst” list.
    • Superman being written out-of-character. Clark Kent should never say the words “booty call,” DC. And the “Little Abner” “early days” costume is still dumb.
    • Lois’ treatment in the “New 52″ is still lousy. Given they have a major movie coming out starring, among others, Lois, can’t see DC keeping this up through 2013 (Superman’s 75th anniversary)… then again, this is DC…
    • The Superman-Wonder Woman romance. Bad fanfic/fanboy fantasy ideas given the “green light?” Um, no. Again, “major Superman movie out in 2013″ (see Lois above)…
    • Plenty more I’ve probably missed, but it’s probably easier to read this blogger’s post about DC this year, which sums things up pretty well.

As lousy as the worst of the above could be, the best of comics this year, as always, will leave a much better impression of the medium. I look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store for comics!

 

Apr 062012
 

Comixology displaying an Archie comicThe other day, news was given that digital comics retailer Graphicly (a.k.a. “Graphic.ly”) is shutting down its single-issue digital comics sales, to focus instead on producing ebooks (including ebook graphic novels) to sell for the Kindle, Nook, etc. Comics Alliance has more about the details of this: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/04/05/graphicly-switches-from-digital-comics-distribution-to-ebooks-pr/

While it’s nice that Graphicly will allow continued access to already-bought digital comics, this is why the current digital comics system is, in my opinion, fundamentally broken, and no better than the early digital rights management (DRM) laden days of iTunes’ Music Store. One’s basically paying for a glorified rental, with the downloaded comic files tied exclusively to a particular app or website, and impossible to mix between the two (i.e., I can’t take Graphicly comics over to Comixology, or vice-versa). And if the site that actually owns your purchases shuts down, then good luck. The fact that they insist on charging the same (overpriced) $3-$4 per issue as they do for paper copies makes this even worse.

It’s too bad the mainstream comics industry apparently didn’t learn anything from the music industry for how to sell digital comics. While I’d like to think eventually they’ll come around (as digital music stores have), it seems like it’ll be a long ways off with nobody but Comixology dominating the landscape.

A better solution for the digital comics landscape would be to offer comics in standardized open formats, such as EPUB, PDF, CBR, and/or CBZ files. If piracy’s still a concern, they could embed some sort of non-DRM identification features such as watermarks into the files, such as the ones in the Archie “Bronze Age” DVD-ROM comics collections from the mid-2000s. There’s also what “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling’s own site is doing—offering DRM-free ebooks of her series.

In the meanwhile, I suppose there’s public domain material, smaller publishers, or independent comics producers (or, for some, pirated CBR/CBZ files, or scanning your own paper books yourself) to rely on for non-DRM digital comics.