In the past year or so, I've managed to re-ignite a co-worker's interest in comics. He used to read various Batman and Spider-Man titles back in the early 90s, but left in part because of the frenzied collector, holo-foil, die-cut, 12-cover-variations garbage that marvel and DC started putting out. Seeing me bring back new comics every week coupled with some good comic-related movies and video games that he's seen, though, has piqued his interest again. He started borrowing some of the books I'd bring to read during his breaks, and actively asks whether or not the latest issue of such-and-such title has come in.
A month or three back, he started actively ordering TPBs from Amazon. He started with, I believe, Marvels and Kingdom Come primarily for Alex Ross' work. Over the next month or two, he quickly segued into Dave McKean and David Mack. Then on to Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons. He recently commented about being impressed with some of Ben Templesmith's work. Obviously, he's an art-centric guy, which is hardly surprising since he's a graphic designer by education and trade.
His last purchase from Amazon included Tales of the New Gods, a reprinting of a good chunk of 1997's Jack Kirby's New Gods and 2000's Orion. I hadn't actually read that particular series, so I could only tell him about the characters a bit. But he went ahead and purchased it primarily on the strength of Frank Miller's name being attached to it.
He brought the book in today and handed it to me, "Here. You can have this."
Turns out that he couldn't stand it. He got 15-20 pages into it and then started skipping around, looking for art that stood out for some reason. It was precisely the type of story he was NOT looking for.
"Wait a second, Sean! I thought you said he was an art guy? But he set aside the book because of the writing?"
Like I said, I haven't read these stories so I can't comment on their quality, but given the list of creators involved, I can't imagine that it's that bad. But I got the impression, from his comments, that it was all about continuing the adventures of the New Gods characters. He had no vested interest in the Fourth World beforehand, certainly, and these stories seemed to him to be written precisely towards somebody who was.
Think about that for a minute.
There didn't seem to be an issue with the storytelling -- he could follow along who each character was and how they related to one another. That would also suggest that the stories weren't so laden with continuity references as to be incomprehensible to a newcomer. Both of which (again, not having read these personally) are reinforced in my mind by the creators involved -- like their ideas or not, they generally all have proven themselves as solid storytellers. My co-worker didn't have a problem with the genre, certainly, as he's gone to reading a few superhero titles again.
So what was his issue?
As near as I can surmise, it was too fanboyish. It seems to have been aimed exclusively at the folks who just want to see Darkseid and Orion and Mr. Miracle and the rest of the New Gods. It's a placeholder. It was designed to get those people who must have all things Fourth World to part with their money. It's a pay-to-play option for kids who are already in the club.
It seems to me that it's not dissimilar to the industry's problem catering to women. The content of the material is designed in such as way that it not only keeps the existing customer base coming back (and make no mistake, in the publishers' minds, you are customers, not fans) and dissuade new customers from other market segments from trying their product. Now, granted, not every product is going to be suitable for everyone but when the vast majority of your product actively turns away customers -- my co-worker paid for the book, disliked it after only a few pages, and then gave it away -- it seems to me that you're shooting yourself in the foot. Yes, it's easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than generate new ones, but if you don't generate new ones at all, then you're not going to be in business very long.
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