THE CRACKER BARREL"Comics Face The New Year 2003"
by Tom Mason
In this new year of 2003, what's up with comics?
What has changed? Marvel seems to be riding high with the immense
success of the Spider Man movie helping to spur sales on the many Spider Man
themed books. They are trying to add to the mythos of Captain America with a
new series on how blacks were experimented on with the super-serum pre-Steve
Rogers. You can read my comments on this ground-breaking idea in the
News Stand as more issues in this series come out, each more outlandish than
the previous one.
Marvel continues to reprint their Marvel Masterworks from
the past, but have no plans to do any new material for the Masterworks. As
far as any reprinting of classic Timely or Atlas material, the have no
interest in that area at all and are very vocal about it.
With the upcoming
release of the new Daredevil and Hulk movies, you will probably see new
interest in their respective titles and of course, the inevitable juggernaut
of toy merchandising comes with it. Buy that Daredevil or Hulk lunch box
Overall Marvel's sales have improved somewhat for them, but they are
still not what they used to be. In fact, the comics sales of both of the
majors DC and Marvel are nowhere near those of the silver or bronze age. The
once proud independent lines are just barely managing to keep their heads
above water. Todd MacFarlane has lost a major lawsuit over creator rights
to some of the major characters in his line and that is a chunk of change
out of his pocket. Big Bang Comics, once a fun retro tribute to the comics
of the Golden and Silver Ages seems unable to maintain any sort of regular
schedule at all.
DC comics, seems to be holding its own. Some books have failed, the Spectre
revival has gone by the wayside. Supergirl's book is also cancelled. The
Green Arrow book is still on the schedule although Kevin Smith has departed.
Dead Man is dead.again. The promised new Brave and the Bold series seems to
be in limbo. The newly designed Justice League Adventures on the Cartoon
Network is doing quite well with well thought-out stories and has spawned a
comic based on its cartoon style (Batman's ears are longer than ever!) and
is a favorite of mine. A promised new series, Teen Titans, is being hinted
at also for the Cartoon Network. John Byrne has a third limited series,
Superman/Batman Generations III. This time it is in regular format and goes
for 12 issues.
The DC Archives series remains one of my favorites and DC has continued the
complete series of Will Eisner's The Spirit Archives that show up about quarterly during the year. DC has even gone out of house to present the acclaimed Tower Comics series by Wally Wood, The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, in
the archives series with a hint that a new ongoing regular series may follow
if sales warrant.
Batman has been given new life with Jim Lee taking over
the main book and giving his special touch to the artwork. How long that
will last is anyone's guess. The atrocious Japanese Manga-art look that had
been bestowed on Superman has been abandoned with promises to return to the
traditional Superman "look". Just what does DC consider "traditional?" I
doubt we will ever see the likes of Shuster, Boring, or Swan's style used.
As for toys, Hasbro has lost the rights to the DC line of characters to
Mattel and DC Direct is forging ahead with plans for figures of their own
but certainly not in the five to six dollar figures we are used to. Now you
pay twelve to thirty-nine dollars for figures and sets. They are beautiful
and sculpted in great detail, but you pay the price. Marvel is releasing
many of their classic characters in new sculptures that are quite detailed
and priced reasonably though their Toy Biz line. Praying Mantis is in the
middle of releasing many classic Batman models and new model kits featuring
the Batmobile etc. Evidently, the revival of Captain Action with all his various
comic book personas has faded into the background. No new costumes are
being issued and bargains galore can be found on the internet of previously
Today, most of my comic buying is severely curtailed and I confine myself
mainly to DC comics and Bill Black's AC Comics reprints from the golden age.
Sadly, the trend of comics shops closing continues on and there seems to be
no great revival of comics popularity coming up due to all the other media
sources kids have nowadays.
The best buys today on high ticket items would seem to be on the internet as
most comic shops cannot afford to discount product to customers. A fifty
dollar Archives edition can often be bought for as little as twenty dollars
or less bidding on eBay. Comic shops just cannot compete with those sorts
of discounts...they say.
So with 2003 are things looking up? It depends on your point of view.
Marvel says things could not be any better and would like us to swallow that
line. Even their staunchest supporter and hype guy Stan Lee is suing them
for monies he thinks are owed to him. Diamond Publishing still controls
most all distribution and has even raised prices on the Previews catalog
each month, all this with no improvement of service that I can see. The
publishers have still failed to attract the youngsters that used to buy the
inexpensive ten cent comics in the Golden Age. Today, I walk into a comics
shop and only mature adults are in there, oftentimes just browsing and
hoping for something to appear that is readable. With prices of comics
starting at $2.50 or more, who can afford them? Kids have video games,
cable, satellite, and that ole computer available to them. Why spend the
money on comics?
Is there a miracle around the corner for comics to be revitalized? I still
doubt it. As I have said in the past: "THANK GOD FOR REPRINTS."
For the commentary Tom made on the comic book industry last year, click here. A Dying Breed 2001
©2003 by Tom Mason