Archive for the ‘comics’ Category

Hemp and how it could save comics

Posted: January 31, 2011 in comics
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I’ve been talking a lot about the cost of comics lately. Just about every customer I talk to has had to cut back on the number of books they read due to cost concerns. Trimming down to just the bare minimum, usually sticking with a certain character or team. There are a bunch of weird side effects of this that I have been noticing especially of late. Those people who stick with their favorite character often become disenchanted with the books they read because they keep reading that character no matter how awful the story might be. I have noticed a much higher level of comic book satisfaction from the people who follow creators as opposed to those who follow characters. For the most part, if you know you like a persons work, it doesn’t matter what they are writing at the moment. You are going to like it. I’ve started taking that road when shopping for comics. I follow people like Brian Wood, Gail Simone and Ed Brubaker to whatever book they are working on at the time. I wasn’t really excited for the “Fear Itself” event this summer until I heard that Brubaker was the mastermind behind it. Reading books that are good as opposed to sticking with your favorite regardless of how good it is can help keep your love of comics alive and in the process, make you a more satisfied consumer.

That doesn’t really address the issue with cost though. I can help you find books you will love but that doesn’t mean much when you can’t afford to buy them. I’ve been doing some research about pricing trends especially where comics are concerned to try and combat the “comics cost too much” argument. I agree that $4 a book is a lot to pay, especially if you consider comics disposable entertainment as so many do. I see a lot of people pointing at Marvel and complaining about the cost of their comics and trades and hardcovers. On average Marvel books are around 20% more expensive than their competitors. For a long time I looked at it as corporate greed but I have changed my assessment of late. But we will get back to that in a moment. First I want to mention DC’s new PR campaign, “Drawing the line at $2.99.” That is some extremely clever marketing going on there and at first, I was stoked to see one of the big companies listening to their fans and doing something proactive. I thought, “why can’t Marvel do that?” Now I’m thinking “What is the reasoning behind this?”

From my limited perspective it seems to me that both companies see comics as something of a loss leader. They keep making books and creating characters they can put on tee shirts and turn into action figures and movie franchises. Who cares if the company makes a profit on the comics when the movies will bring in big bucks? The argument can be made here that DC couldn’t possibly be doing that because with their track record in film. I disagree. Cartoons featuring DC characters have been huge for decades and licensed merchandise is always a big seller. It seems to me that the lowering to $2.99 is DC’s way of saying “we care about you more than those other guys.”

However you look at it nobody makes a lot of money from actual comics. Even with Marvel charging 20% more than the other guys they aren’t making a lot off their comics. Why do these major companies keep making comics if they aren’t profitable? Movies, toys, merchandise.

Maybe that’s why so many people see comics as disposable entertainment.

As for the price of paper, there is a very simple solution to that problem. Sadly I don’t see it happening any time soon. Here is part of an article from Hemphasis.net.

Making paper from trees is kind of a joke, because trees are made up of only 30% cellulose. The other 70% of the tree must be removed using toxic chemicals, until the cellulose can be formed into paper. The higher the percentage of cellulose in a plant, the better, because fewer chemicals need to be used, and less work needs to be done before the paper can be made. Almost any plant in nature with a strong stalk is better suited to make paper than trees, especially hemp because it can be 85% cellulose.

Hemp makes paper stronger and which lasts centuries longer than wood paper, which could be very valuable for people who want to keep records aside from on computers. Hemp paper does not yellow, crack, or otherwise deteriorate like tree paper does now. The acids which are needed for wood paper eventually eat away at the pulp and cause it to turn yellow and fall apart. Because of this publishers, libraries, and archives have to order specially processed acid free paper, but they could just buy hemp paper which already meets their quality standards.

Hemp paper also does not require any bleaching, and so does not poison the water with dioxins or chlorine like tree paper mills do. The chemicals involved in making hemp paper are much less toxic, in fact, both paper made from hemp hurd, and from the long bast fiber can be made without any chemicals at all, but it takes longer to separate the fiber from the lignin. Making paper from hemp could also eliminate erosion due to logging, reduces topsoil loss, and water pollution caused by soil runoff.

One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4 to 10 acres of trees over a 20-year cycle, but hemp stalks only take four months to mature, whereas trees take 20 to 80 years. This information was known in 1916, according to a USDA report. Hemp paper can also be recycled more often, though this fact is not of much value, since hemp is a reusable resource.

Anyone else feel a need to call their congressman?

Life takes funny turns. I’m in the process of getting a divorce from someone who is still one of my best friends. I take her advice into account when I do things even when I don’t actually follow it. She and I will be linked forever because of our children but I think our bond is actually a lot stronger than that. We can still do everything we used to do as a couple. We talk about our day, we ask each other advice, we buy each other dinner. This is going to change soon because I am moving out at the beginning of October. For the past two years I have been a resident of the living room, sleeping on the sofa and generally trying to be as small as possible (a humorous visual for anyone who knows me). I’m tired of sleeping on an uncomfortable sofa and not having my own space. Amy would never tell me to leave but I know she’s looking forward to being on her own for the first time.

On the work front things are moving along nicely. My boss is still in the middle of his move to Norfolk and by the time I’m in my new place he will be in his. The plan as of today is for him to come up and work on Wednesday for new book day. My part timer will be moving around the same time so I’m trying to hire someone new. I have a candidate but my boss needs to interview him before making it official. I don’t know when that will happen but I hope its soon.

I tweeted a little while ago, “If you aren’t reading Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross I don’t wanna be your friend anymore.” I’m not exactly serious about that but it is the best comic I’ve read in a long long time. It is brilliantly written as a murder mystery / fantasy /crime noir /history of literary geography. It is impossible to put this book into any one genre of fiction but borrows heavily from several. The series is only 16 issues deep and the second volume collecting issues 6-12 just came out last week. This is one that would be easy to jump into from the beginning and for any of you I see on a regular (or semi-regular) basis I would be more than happy to loan you my copy.

It seems that the fine folks over at Archie comics are taking a page from the DC playbook to make their characters more diverse as is fitting in modern society.

The official release from Archie comics:

New York, NY (April 22, 2010): Archie Comics, home of the famous Riverdale High students Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead, is about to welcome a new classmate this fall! On September 1st, Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character, will be welcomed into the town of Riverdale.

“The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books,” stated Archie Comics Co- CEO, Jon Goldwater.

VERONICA #202 features the full-issue story, “Isn’t it Bromantic?” that introduces Kevin, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. Kevin Keller is the new hunk in town and Veronica just has to have him. After Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger eating contest at Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe, she desperately latches onto him. Mayhem and hilarity ensue as Kevin desperately attempts to let Veronica down easy and her flirtations only become increasingly persistent.

In addition to the new ongoing achievements at Archie Comics–the #4 iPad book app and most downloaded comics on iTunes, the launch of Stan Lee Comics, Archie’s Red Circle superheroes at DC, and exciting new partnerships with Abrams, Dark Horse and IDW–the introduction of Kevin as an openly gay character is part of the commitment to keep Archie properties reflective of the current world of teens and teen media.

This interview was posted yesterday at Feast of Fun and reveals the plans for a new gay character in the Archie comics.

The images below were posted with the press release.