Tag Archives: editorial

What’s Really Costing Marvel Sales?

For those of you who aren’t aware, Marvel Comics recently came under fire when VP David Gabriel, made a statement about their sales slump being the result of having “too much diversity.” Because readers just don’t want to hear about women and people of colour. He has since retracted the statement due to the understandable backlash. 

So, what’s really to blame for the lack of sales? Well, as someone who used to buy Marvel comics , let me try and provide some insight into why they lost my money and, I’d wager, quite a few other people’s. 

1.) Consistent Editorially Mandated Events

Remember when company wide events were incredibly rare to the point where you might have one a decade? Remember when those events were basically relegated to their own mini-series and every comic wasn’t dedicated to tie in material? Well, I’m old so I do. I also miss those times. And that’s one of the big reasons I stopped buying Marvel comics. Writers are constantly having the story arcs they’re doing disrupted so that the comics they’re working on can tie into the latest House of M, World War Hulk, Civil War or whatever. You can’t just be a fan of the X-men and Spider-man or of the FF and Iron Man any more because you never know when those stories are going to be disrupted for actual months to tie into the latest event. Which probably makes it hard to find new readers too. How many people do you think want to read all the big books just to know what’s going on? But there’s something else that ties into this. 

2.) The Big Events Themselves

Honestly, I  was a fan of a lot of Marvel’s characters and titles. So, for me, the big events might not be a problem if they were well written. The problem is that, well, they aren’t. Most of them have heroes fighting one another instead of villains for stupid and contrived reasons. Most of them also feature a lot of wasteful character deaths, that may or may not last, for cheap shock value. It’s not even shocking at this point because they do it all the time. That’s not good writing and what it tells me, as a fan of a lot of these characters you’re killing, is that you don’t care about my ability to enjoy your comics. “You like Bill Foster? Well, too bad we’re going to kill him in an exceedingly disrespectful way.” Is it any surprise that I don’t want to give them my hard earned money to see that?

3.) Character Ruination Everywhere

Marvel doesn’t have to kill characters off to ruin the experience for readers. They can just make really stupid changes to them. Hello, Hydra Agent Steve Rogers. But it’s not just Cap losing all his nobility and dignity. It’s a pretty persistent issue. Jubilee was a cool character. Then she was a vampire and sucked, both literally and figuratively. Speedball was cool, then he went full emo- Penance mode and he’s been an awful character since. They tried to fix him, but the damage was done. Luke Cage was a cool character, but then they saddled him with Bendis’ Mary Sue and now he sucks. The Scarlet Witch was a cool character, but then they made her quasi-incestuous and mentally unstable. And those are just a few examples. There are many, many others who have been ruined by a combination of bad decisions and editorial interference. 

4.) The Handling of Legacy Heroes

In theory, legacy heroes are a great idea. Have the old hero step down, bring in a new, interesting one. The trouble is that Marvel’s been handling these heroes in a way that alienates the fan base for the previous hero. Gone are the days when Tony Stark stepped down to let James Rhodes take the Iron Man mantle due to some personal problems. These days, the old heroes die or turn evil, most of the time. Marvel, I know this is complicated but maybe the way to retain your fans is to treat your characters with respect? 

5.) There’s No  Reason to get Attached to the Heroes

This kind of connects a lot of the prior points. For me, as a comic fan, there’s no impetus to get attached to Marvel’s new characters. Because I know that there’s a good chance they’ll be killed off during a lousy event, get completely changed in a way that’s absolutely devastating to their character or turn evil for stupid reasons. If I get invested in that character, I’ll be setting myself up for disappointment later. And it’s, frankly, not worth my time. 

6.) The Writing Aesthetic

This is going to be the final point I bring up. Speaking personally, my favourite Super hero comics are from the Bronze Age. Back when they could incorporate serious themes, ongoing story lines and character development while also maintaining a lot of the fun, goofy elements. You got good stories that could balance serious themes with more light-hearted moments. A lot of modern Marvel comics, in contrast, are fixated on being dark and edgy. There’s a reason so many heroes die cheaply or turn evil. There’s a reason the good points of so many characters have been lost in a bid to make them darker. There may be an audience for that aesthetic, but I’m certainly not a part of it and it seems like I’m not the only one who feels that way.

So, those are the reasons that I turned away from Marvel. And they probably hold true for a lot of other people as well. So, David Gabriel, maybe instead of blaming the levels of diversity you should focus your efforts on helping the company “get good” as the Internet would say. 

Captain America: Agent of Hydra?

I don’t normally talk about Western comics on here, but with the recent reveal that Steve Rogers aka Captain America aka the personification of truth, justice and all things paragon was revealed to be a long time double agent of the Nazi organisation, Hydra.

Naturally, fans were not happy and were quick to point out all the ways in which this is out of character, made no sense in continuity and was just an egregiously stupid decision on Marvel’s part. Which it is, certainly. However, it’s also not surprising from a meta perspective. 

This isn’t the first time Marvel has done their utmost to absolutely ruin one of their characters. Remember when Tony Stark was revealed to be a sleeper agent for Kang the Conqueror and he ended up getting replaced by his teenage self? Many comic fans remember it as the second worst thing to happen to his character after Civil War. How about when Spidey sold his marriage to the devil so that his old, sickly aunt could live for another week before natural causes caught up with her? (Yes, I know that Aunt May is still alive, I was being facetious.)

How about when Jubilee became a vampire? When Scarlet Witch had a breakdown and her power to affect probability somehow reconstructed the universe into one where Magneto rules and she had babies that were implied to also be her brother’s? When Magneto ceased being a complex character who did morally questionable things for the sake of safeguarding his people and became one-dimensionally evil for the evils? When Cyclops had sex on his wife’s gravestone? When Bishop saw the first signs of the future he was trying to prevent surface with a registration act and decided that it sounded like a good idea?

There are many, many other examples of horrendous characterisation. Some of which ultimately got retconned and some of which are, unfortunately, still part of the Marvel universe. Honestly, that whole pattern of shitty writing is a big part of the reason I stopped buying Marvel comics. Because they do this kind of thing all the time. 

So, why does it happen? Well, part of it is a way to regress characters in age. After all, these are characters who have existed in comics as adults since the 60s, 70s or 80s. If they aged up along with the times, they’d almost all be retiring to make room for new, younger heroes. 

Part of it is just that they don’t always hire the best writers and Joe Quesada was a completely inept chief editor. His replacement, Axel Alonso, doesn’t seem to be doing a better job. Judging by the Captain America thing. You’ll notice that most of these events happened during one of their watches. In fact, some of them, like Spidey’s marriage getting eliminated in a stupid way, were mandated. The combination of incompetent editorial oversight and writers who aren’t that great at writing results in some characters just getting screwed up. 

There’s a third reason too. Mainly, it makes a good publicity stunt. These large-scale character butcherings usually get a lot of attention for the company. If it’s bad enough, they may very well undo the damage and wait for the praise to be piled on them for fixing their own stupid mistakes. Either way, they can rekindle a lot of interest in the book. At least on a temporary basis. It’s a lot easier of a method than actually writing good stories and letting the word spread. 

So, what can we do about it? About the best we can do is, if you hear about something like this happening, don’t buy any comics related to it and send them an e-mail explaining yourself. If it really hurts them financially, they’ll undo it. as for stopping it from happening at all, that’s not going to happen. Just on a realistic level. Characters will keep getting dragged away from people who understand them for crappy company wide crossover events or being given to people who don’t really know the characters or who aren’t very good writers. 

As for the Captain America thing, I don’t think it’ll last. There are just too many rightfully outraged people. 

My Review Process & Philosophy.

Hello, Everyone. I thought I’d take a moment to discuss my process and philosophy towards reviews. 

My process is pretty simple. I take a lot of requests and try to watch and review those anime as quickly as I can. Right now my request queue, not including One Punch Man since it’s coming this week, is: Golgo 13, Code Geass R2, Ixion Saga DT, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka series 2, Sket Dance, Toradora, Charlotte, Rakudai kishi no Cavalry, Sword Art Online 2 (really not looking forward to that one given that the first series was horrendous) & Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders. 

If you ever have an anime you’d like me to review, you’re welcome to leave a comment. Just keep in mind that I’ll review the Japanese version and I don’t review hentai, the reason being that the primary purpose of hentai is sexual stimulation and I’m sure most of you don’t need to hear about what stimulates me or, for that matter, to hear me complain about the story or characterisation in a hentai being weak because that’s really not the point. 

I will, occasionally just review something because I want to see it or review something short at random between reviews of longer series just to give me more time to watch the longer series. Before I even start watching a series, I’ll do some basic research and write out the opening paragraph, sometimes including a prediction about the series and I have been surprised on occasion when I do that. Sometimes pleasantly. 

After I watch a series I’ll wait at least a day before writing out the review so that I have time to mull over my thoughts and I just find that that helps me be clearer and more concise when I go to actually type the review out. 

My review philosophy is actually fairly simple. I have two main principles I follow. The first is honesty. The second is clarity. 

I always tell you guys exactly what I think even if the majority of people disagree with me. Because, honestly, it’s fine to have a minority opinion. It’s perfectly valid and we all have things that we’re like that about. Furthermore, I think those of you who follow me and read my reviews regularly are mature enough to accept it when my opinions don’t coincide with yours. Even when I get a bit snarky about expressing myself. 

I know some reviewers like to do things like take it easy on popular series, in spite of their personal feelings. The opposite is also true. Some reviewers like to go the hipster route and always go contrary to popular opinion. If that’s what someone wants to do, that’s fine but it’s not for me. If I feel like an anime deserves a “1” I don’t care if it’s popular, unpopular or most people are unaware of it’s existence, I’ll give it the score that I personally feel it deserves. And I think my reviewing history pretty thoroughly illustrates that. 

When it comes to clarity, it really means two things. The first is that I’m going to do my level best to explicate on the flaws I found in a series and the things I liked about it and I’m going to explain that as well as I can.

It also translates to me expressing my views very bluntly. I know that some people, when they know their opinion isn’t popular, like to try and mitigate any backlash they might get by trying to phrase their criticisms nicely or by trying to phrase their praise in a subdued way. Which, again, is fine if someone wants to do that. But I’ll just come out and say exactly what I think or I’ll give something criticism but do it in a really snarky way that makes it readily apparent that I’m actually insulting it. Because I think you’re all great readers and that you can handle that level of honesty. 

I’m thinking about doing a Q&A post on the 27th. So, in closing this little post about why I do things the way I do, I’ll just ask you all to leave any questions you may have in the comments. I’ll answer those for you, assuming they’re questions I actually can answer. I hope you all have a great week and I hope you enjoy the One Punch Man review when it goes up on Wednesday. 

Where to start watching: the ten anime everyone should see?

Often-times I’ll find myself under the same inquiry from friends who don’t really watch anime. “I’m curious about anime as a medium, but I don’t know what I should start with. There are so many critically acclaimed series and films out there.”

I could give you some vague list of ten anime that everyone should see as a simple answer, but there’s a problem with that method. There is no such thing as an anime that everyone should see. 

you might be thinking, “what about those things you’ve rated really highly? Surely, everyone should see those, right?”

Well, let’s examine one of those just for the sake of illustration. To be specific, Nausicaa. While I personally adore this film & consider it a masterpiece, I also wouldn’t say that everyone needs to see it. If you really hate environmental messages, it’s probably not for you since it’s environmental message, though subtle, is an integral part of the film.  I also wouldn’t recommend it for people who hate post apocalyptic future narratives.

Rather, when someone asks me where to start, I ask what kinds of things they do watch or read. A big fan of sci-fi? Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing or Blue Drop might make a good starting point. Do you really like horror? How about Another, Shiki or Perfect Blue? Do you like fantasy works? If you’re into the sword and sorcery variety, try the Slayers, Berserk or Record of Lodoss War. If the supernatural variety is more your speed, I’d suggest Yami no Matsuei, Death Parade or Vampire Princess Miyu.

How about comedies? Most people have some sense of humour. So, it really depends on what makes you laugh. Are you into the more zany, absurd types of humour? there’s plenty of anime that play into that. Try Galaxy Angel or Nuku Nuku. If humour based around quirky characters is more your type, there’s Yuru Yuri, K-on or Love Live. Are you into referential humour? I’m personally not, but Lucky Star and Gintama both have a lot of that if it’s your thing. Are you really into the crude humour about body parts and fluids. Gintama also has that or you could try Panty and Stocking.

The point I’m making is that what kind of anime you’d personally enjoy isn’t going to be determined by what anime are popular or well known. It’s going to be based on your own individual tastes. Look for anime in a genre that you really like and find one where the synopsis looks interesting to you. Or, if you really want my input, tell me a few things you really love and I’ll try to think of some anime that you’d probably be into based on that. If your favourite thing is a cartoon about colourful ponies, there are plenty of magical girl series with a similar aesthetic. If you love the old silver age comic thing, there are a few series I could suggest based on that. Of course, those are only a few examples and your tastes might be very different from mine.

Top five things that IDW’s Jem Comic Improved

Today, I thought I’d talk about Western comics for once. To be specific, let’s talk about IDW. Admittedly, this is a strange choice because their stuff is a pain in the ass to get a hold of, at least where I live.

Anyway, they’re primarily known for adapting other works of media into comic format. When I was reading the one comic of theirs I read regularly and saw adverts for a Jem and the Holograms comic, my initial instinct was to ignore it. After all, the timing made it seem like it was coming out to complement the film. Yes, the one that flopped harder than a 200 kilo person diving into a kiddie pool. So, even though I have a fondness for the old cartoon in all its cheesy glory, I didn’t want to bother with the comic. 

b63f67e5-cec2-42c7-afaa-d8de1c194376_zpsotqd50kv (Here’s my man card if any of you want to revoke it due to my liking Jem.)

As it turns out, I was a bit hasty in that assessment, and I officially apologise to IDW, on the off chance that someone who works there may read this, for not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I started hearing a lot of good things about the comic on the Internet. Enough, at the very least, to make me curious. So, I ordered the first seven issues to give it a fair chance. 

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. Even without the awesome music from the cartoon, the comic was clever, funny and had a lot of really endearing stuff. It takes the basic premise from the cartoon and modernises it while drastically improving on several factors. As such, I’m going to list the top five in order from the ones I appreciate slightly less to the one I appreciate the most. 

5. On the subject of inheritance.

One thing that always bothered me about the cartoon was that Jerrica’s father left basically everything to her. It’s not like she’s an only child. She has three sisters. So what is the deal with this blatant favouritism?  Jerrica gets the business, the secret warehouse with a ton of equipment and basically everything else we see that he gave out. Her sisters get whatever she chooses to share with them.

In the comic, this is not the case. Every indication we get suggests that the four of them are sharing what he left behind equally. Jerrica still gets the jem star earrings, but it’s outright stated that they were a birthday present. As a result it actually seems like their dad was really nice and didn’t play favourites. 

4. The Secret Identity makes sense.

So, in the cartoon why did Jerrica need to have Jem as a secret identity instead of using it as simply a stage name? It causes her all kinds of problems and there doesn’t seem to be any real benefit. She doesn’t even tell the guy she’s been dating since well before the series began. Which just causes even more problems. 

The IDW comic fixes that problem by giving her an actual compelling reason for the Jem persona to be a secret identity. Mainly, Jerrica is really shy, suffering from extreme stage fright. She uses Jem as a method of coping with that. It also makes sense that they don’t tell Rio the truth because, in the comic, they don’t know him that well. They meet him after Jem’s debut. Plus, he’s an entertainment reporter and probably wouldn’t keep it a secret just out of sheer professionalism. 

3. Kimber and Stormer.

From the way I discuss ho-yay in every review, you may have the impression that I’m in favour of it being in everything. That’s not quite accurate. I like seeing it when it’s well written, but I wouldn’t say everything needs it nor even that everything would be better with it. Some things, certainly and these comics prove pretty definitively that Jem is one of those things. The budding relationship between Kimber and Stormer isn’t just adorable. It isn’t just a really well crafted relationship. It’s also a great source of tension, given the rivalry betwixt the bands. At the point where I am, there’s some relationship trouble and, I have to say, I really want to get more comics to find out where it goes because the relationship is so good. 

2. Continuity Matters. 

Like many western cartoons of its time, Jem wasn’t big on continuity. Things would happen in an episode, possibly carrying over to the next in cases of multi-part episodes but, ultimately, the status quo would reign supreme and everything would go back to the way it was.

Take my personal favourite episode, The Bands Break Up. In that particular story, Kimber, feeling unappreciated, leaves the Holograms. At the same time, Stormer leaves the Misfits for similar reasons. The two coincidentally meet up and start performing together, becoming very close. in fact, that episode may have been the inspiration for them being a couple in the comic. After that episode, their friendship is never mentioned again nor does it ever come into play. 

In contrast, the comic’s consistently built on the events of previous issues and had much stronger character dynamics and development as a result and there’s no indication that it’s going to stop. 

1. The Holograms all act like sisters. 

One of the more interesting aspects of the cartoon that, unfortunately, didn’t get used to its full potential, was the fact that Jerrica, Kimber, Aja and Shana were all sisters. Except for the fact that they never really acted like it. Whenever something sisterly happened it was between Jerrica and Kimber. Aja and Shana were treated more like Jerrica’s school chums. I guess because they were adopted they don’t get to act like real parts of the family. Which was a shame because there was some great untapped story potential there.

That’s where IDW’s comic comes in. The four of them all have a very sisterly dynamic. You never get the feeling that Aja and Shana are just in the background. They joke around along with Jerrica and Kimber. They all support each other. They just genuinely act sisterly towards one another and I have a feeling that it’s going to lead to some superb stories. 

Now, any of these could change. The comic hasn’t exactly been going all that long, but these are my early impressions of the most dramatically improvements in the comic. Check the comics out if you’re a fan of Jem or if you like really good slice of life style works. I’m going to go order the rest of what they’ve done because it’s truly outrageous in the best possible way. 

Why review old anime?

Here’s a question some people always have when it comes to reviews of old series. What’s the point? After all, a series that’s two or even three decades old is pretty antediluvian at this point, so why bother watching, analysing and discussing it when I could be focusing my energies on the latest releases?

Well, for me this one primarily comes down to a simple factor. No matter how old or even obscure an anime is, there are going to be people who haven’t seen it and may be curious about it. In fact, I’ve gotten quite a few requests for anime that are a decade old or older. Plus, I like to draw attention to older series that may merit looking into. After all, newer does not equate to better. There are plenty of good old series out there and reading my reviews may make someone curious about a series they missed, even if the review was negative overall, I do encourage all of you who read these reviews to make those judgement calls for yourselves and it’s fine if you end up disagreeing with me. Or the opposite may be true. You may very well read about a series and decide that the premise or narrative don’t sound appealing even if I liked the series. In which case, glad I could save you some time.

There are other factors involved, I like to review series that are completed even if they’re set-up for a sequel. It gives me a full impression of what it’s doing and how well it’s doing it. Which is true even when a series is clearly leaving room for a sequel series. I may think the sequel improves or detracts, but I can still judge that first series. If I were to review an ongoing series I might find that the final stretch of that series ends up changing my perspective on it completely. It’s not common for an ending to be that bad or good, but it happens

What I’m curious about is why some people think I shouldn’t bother with older series? I think it’s really two factors. The first is the fascination we have with the things that are shiny and current. There’s a mentality that those works of entertainment that came before are over and done with and they’ve been exhausted, except for those works we’ve decided are the best and “everyone has to see.”

That brings me to the second reason I think this gets brought up. A lot of the older works people really remember are the ones they either really hated or really loved. My taste isn’t always representative of the popular opinion and some people would really prefer that I not stomp all over their nostalgia by frying their proverbial sacred cow. Oddly enough, people seem more accepting of you liking something they didn’t than hating something they liked. At least, that’s been my experience talking with my readers.

Feel free to leave a comment about whether or not you enjoy seeing reviews of old stuff. Remember, Gankutsuou review this Wednesday. That one’s a little over a decade old at this point. I’ve also got requests for Code Geass, Nanoha Vivid, Golgo 13, Stand Alone Complex series 2, Overlord, Gangsta, Kekkai Sensen, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru, & Kannazuki no Miko. You can also feel free to leave a comment adding your own request to the queue. Although, it will probably be a while before I can get to it.

Writing Extremes: The Inane light and the unpleasant dark

Today, I thought I’d talk about two types of writing aesthetics, both extremely unrealistic but on opposite ends of the spectrum. To be specific, the light-hearted work that’s over the top and goofy compared to the excessively grim and gritty work. Now, you can have a light-hearted work that has a realistic scenario and characters just like you can have a dark and edgy work that’s very realistic. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the ones that go overboard.

To begin with, let’s talk about the overly goofy. To use an anime example, Heroman is like this. With villains who are one-dimensionally evil and a goofy super hero story with no sense of realism. Alternatively, consider Galaxy Angel. A zany comedic work with only a tenuous relationship to reality. Is that a bad thing? I would argue that it’s really not. A series like Heroman can be fun and entertaining in its absurdity. It may not have verisimilitude, but it’s also not trying to. This silly, over the top aesthetic can work for comedies or for more light-hearted action works.

Let’s move on to the area where I’m going to spend a bit more time. Namely, the excessively grim and gritty work. It’s just as unrealistic but, in my opinion, it’s worse. Why? Well, that’s because the overly light and fluffy aesthetic has some genres where it works and the overly dark stuff really doesn’t.

Think about it. Whereas the overly goofy stuff can be comedic or entertaining, the overly dark stuff is meant to be dramatic and serious. The problem is that it doesn’t work on either of those levels. In trying too hard to be dark and adult, it ends up going outside of any realm of believability for there to be a real drama or connection with the characters and no connection means no dramatic tension. Take Cheesesteak Suppository (Aku no Hana) or Midori Shoujo Tsubaki. Both works try to shock the viewer with how extremely dark they are, but neither one works because their characters read more as exaggerated parodies than as people. Which doesn’t work for a serious dramatic piece.

Compare them to something dark and well written like Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin or even BerserkBerserk may have fantasy elements, but the characters are complex and the dark moments are balanced with normal, everyday scenes that show the characters acting as normal, everyday people. In contrast, the excessively grim and gritty stuff has to constantly emphasise that its characters are abnormal and dark to the point where their characteristics are so far to that extreme end that there’s nothing about them that’s relatable or realistic. For a goofy comedy, having completely absurd and exaggerated characters can work. In a serious work, it just ruins any potential for immersion and makes it seem like the writer’s trying too hard.

Of course, I think the biggest problem with the excessively dark end of the spectrum is that works in this category frequently try to handle serious issues. Abuse, Sexual Assault, Murder, Insanity and so on. These topics get thrown in not because the writer has a good story use for them, but because they think it’ll make their work seem more adult. The trouble is that it, like the rest of the dark content, gets handled in a very over the top and rather puerile way. Rather like a young teenager trying to sound “adult” when they clearly have no real conception as to what they’re talking about. Bringing these issues up in the way they do just illustrates how far removed these works are from reality and comes across as disrespectful to those serious topics.

Let me emphasise, once more, that things can be either goofy or gritty without going to the extremes and those works are fine on both sides. But, when discussing the extremes, I am personally a lot more okay with the overly light and goofy than I am with the overly grim and gritty. Both are completely outside of any realm of reality, but the goofy stuff can be entertaining in certain arenas & the gritty stuff just comes across as unpleasant.