NYCC 2011: Retrospective

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012

Rock Stars: Annual Walking Dead panel continues to grow at NYCC but no longer the sole headliner as the Avengers and a rash of video games previewed have transformed the largest purist con into a state fair of geek buffet.

NYCC 2011 Retrospective Part 1: Times are a Changing by Ronald H. Pollock

Every morning at 0715 at Midtown comics, I stand with 4 middle aged men of various successful professions discuss comics. We don’t know anything of each other. We only discuss comics. It’s our unwritten rule. The days of purists are over as “Comic Cons” have become less and less about comics and more of a modern state fair. It’s a reflection of the times, geeks are hybrids of hobbies. Is it better direction? Perhaps for the survival of Comic Con it is but every movement has consequences.

Are video games the key to adapting comic book arcs for purists? If Batman Arkham Asylum series is any indication, it’s the key to the introduction and survival of American story-telling for a new generation.

As NYCC grows and grows, 2011 Comic Convention noticeably shifted more towards media entertainment. The massive billboards, banners, and sets for the franchises of Mass Effect, Max Payne, Uncharted, and Star Wars respectively overshadowed the comic book industry on the main floor like the Towers from Lord of the Rings. Indicative of the times changing. What are Comic Cons today and what does that mean for fans new and old? Is it all bad for the comic book industry or is there something mutually beneficial?

There is No School like the Old School:

The comic book equivalent of Detroit’s Big Three in the American Auto Industry, Marvel and DC resumed their annual dominance, jockeying for position during their expose’ panels. For the 2nd year in row, DC acknowledged and addressed their solution to problems in an industry that has noticeable age lines and receding hair. Fortunately nerds and geeks have maintained their affinity for the elderly who still have stories to tell.

Double Dragons: Jim Lee (left) & Geoff Johns (right) architects of the DCU relaunch new 52 that once again, one upped Marvel comics in creating buzz, controversy, and dissension amongst fans.

In 2010 at NYCC DC addressed rising cost of comic books and launched their “hold the line” campaign. At the cost of 2 pages of pay per issue, all DC titles were kept to $2.99 in an effort to increase or maintain # of units sold. To build on top of “Hold the Line” DC followed up in 2012 with new 52 relaunch. Citing problems with new readers finding it extremely hard to afford a library of knowledge built on stories harkening back to their grandfather, the new 52 relaunch was a call to shorter arcs, less dialogue driven and more artist oriented visual language, and new entry way points with a tweaked characterization that a new facet could be constructed. Most importantly the new 52 gave comic shops the option of refunding certain titles if their sales dipped below a set market value. Unfortunately I found roughly 12 of initial 52 titles to be new reader friendly: Action Comics, Aquaman, Animal Man, Batman, Batman & Robin, The Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League Dark, I Vampire, OMAC, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman. Many of the titles suffered from opaque writing styles that either tried too hard to reinvent the wheel or were just plain ugly. Regardless overall sentiment from the fans was positive. While such a bold move, won’t stop collectors from hording free copies like pigs at a trough when the floor opens in the morning each day at Comic Con, I appreciated that DC recognized the elephant in the room.

On the other hand, like a MAC Expo Marvel continued to push forward their new products without blinking or bowing to negativity. They accentuated on the positives, most notably the success of Marvel Studios, the fresh take on a biracial Spider-man and its implications on the industry, and its next releases without any concern over their rising cost or books and products. The excess seemed clear to me, Marvel believed kids have no less disposable income than before. I couldn’t disagree with their methods. Marvel’s business model “Give the fans whatever they want, they’ll spend their money” hasn’t shown to be faulty by their sales records. If Venom or the Scarlet Spider sells 5 times more than secondary character driven titles, why would any businessman deny an addict their methadone in print? The only consequence being, older fans like myself who have collected comics over 30 years felt a little alienated by all the sudden, whimsical changes for the sake of movies that have no consideration for continuity. Their methodology was abrasive but poignant. Counting down to NYCC 2012, once again Marvel boldly shakes up the team rosters of both Avengers and X-men titles. Will this rude shake up detract collectors or their loyalty? Don’t count on it.

What me worry? Quietly, Robert Kirkman and Image comics continues to be the most progressive comic book company in the business, proving the business model you don’t have to draw the largest % of the market but the most loyal.

Lost in the shuffle for who can over saturate the market with Batman and/or Spider-man titles, Image Comics continues to be the most unsung progressive comic book publisher operating today. In 2010 Image comics pushed the envelope with more strong female protagonists in their line of comics. The additions of Hack and Slash and Shinku complimented the heroines in the Walking Dead, Bomb Queen, and Morning Glories. In 2011, Blair Butler crossed the lines of journalism to help promote the freedom of owner driven comics with Heart. The additions of Scott Snyder’s (Batman) Severed, Nick Spencer (Thunder AGENTS) and Kirkman’s (Walking Dead) Thief of Thieves, Johnathan Hickman’s (Fantastic Four) Manhattan Projects and Teeth, and Ed Brubaker’s (Criminal, Captain America) Fatale and upcoming Grant Morrison project will make 2012 Image panel to arguably be the most star studded since the company began more than 20 years ago.

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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief

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