Sunday, October 10, 2010

This is information

Last week, I talked a bit about the state of comics journalism, from the perspective of somebody who makes a living in the daily world of mainstream media. One of the points I tried to get across was that the standard and caliber of comics journalism was actually a whole lot better than generally accepted, if one was willing to step back and look at the overall picture, generated by dozens of different sources.

After more thought over the past week, I’ve only become more convinced that this is the case. The amount of information and analysis that we all have access to every day is still astonishing, and the efforts of a wide variety of people have created a level of journalism that the comics industry has never, ever seen before. And that’s something to be thankful for.

This is what I see:

* An hour after I first read that DC – and Marvel, to a certain degree – were dropping prices on many of their comics from $3.99 to $2.99, I’d digested the press release, got all the information I could ever want, read a number of thoughtful initial reaction, and informed my local comic shop of the news.

This was the one piece of news that directly affected me – I’ll now be buying Batman Inc and a couple of other titles, after earlier deciding that the higher price point was too much to handle – but it wasn’t the only interesting thing to catch my eye this week

* The current corporate shake-up for DC remains fascinating reading, and the amount of detail coming out of that is fairly impressive. Most companies aren’t as sexy as entertainment businesses, so executive reshuffles and personnel changes aren’t usually subject to the amount of attention DC has seen. Almost every redundancy or shift is noted, and there is plenty of coverage over what it all means.

Still, at this stage, there is only the bare information, and that’s to be expected. A list of names who have been let go from DC is pure data – the analysis of that data is still to come. There are doubtless fascinating things happening behind the scenes at DC, but you can’t expect them to all suddenly become public knowledge.

That kind of stuff takes years to leak out, but it does eventually. Over time, feuds are forgotten, gagging clauses lapse and people at the end of their careers don’t care so much about annoying the wrong people. There is still interesting information coming from the time Carmine Infantino was publisher of DC, and I have no doubt Jim Lee will be giving similar interviews in 2030.

* Also on the hard data side was some of the information coming out of the New York Comic Con, including some interesting sales figures: down 12% overall, with manga and graphic novels taking the biggest hit. Hardly surprising in the current retail climate, but publishers will need to be clever to get those figures back up.

But somehow, even though it’s not hard to find plenty of people predicting that the entire comics industry was going to fall over soon over the past decade, the comics industry keeps trucking along.

* For more than just breaking news, there was also plenty to choose from. But there was simply no contest for the best interview of the week, with Tucker Stone’s terrific talk with Darwyn Cooke taking that prize.

An interview that rambled amicably around the subject of Cooke’s latest Parker book, it delved into the nuts and bolts of adaptation, while also getting into other sources of inspiration and the different ways strong material can be packaged.

It’s a fantastic interview, if only because it’s interesting to hear Cooke’s take on things without an interviewer relying on stock standard questions. It’s easy to disagree with some of the conclusions reached during the discussion, (Cooke is wrong about Michael Mann’s Heat – it’s long, but it’s never flabby), but it’s a real pleasure to hear a man’s honest opinions.

It should also be noted that in an interview that ran for thousands and thousands of words, I only spotted one typo, which is a marvellous journalistic achievement. Good spelling and good grammar are an essential part of journalism – it’s impossible to communicate ideas without the common ground of established language – but producing this amount of text with only one missed word is something worth praising.

* There is also lots of interesting amateur analysis of the tiniest things, with more ongoing debate over that single interview Alan Moore did with Bleeding Cool weeks ago that never fails to entertain, as brief asides made by the writer are picked apart until they’re completely unrecognisable. The point sometimes get lost in the wave of opinion, but at least there is some thought going into it.

* And then there was the usual load of good, thoughtful writing on a bewildering variety of comics. In just the past few days, these included Alan David Doane's boredom with recent Spider-Man books, Jog's typically meaty take on Moore/Burrow’s Neonomicon, several brilliant takes on Love and Rockets by Sean T Collins, and another nifty reappraisal of Wednesday Comics.

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. There have also been innumerable previews, reviews, sales figures, statistics, teasers and new series announcements, all in the past week.

There really is more information, more analysis, more journalism in the comics business than ever before. It’s almost impossible to keep track of it all, but it’s fun to try. It’s all out there, right now.

Who could ask for more?

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