Wednesday, June 13, 2007

You maniacs! You blew it up!

-So I managed to avoid spoilers on the final Sopranos episode yesterday Monday, which was no mean feat. My wife managed to get spoilered (spoilerized?) despite precautions. I was more paranoid--I avoided the busy parts of the internet, concentrating instead on browsing sites about old SNES games. (Related: I tried playing the translated ROM for Shin Megami Tensei, and I think there's a bug. Googling for info led me to THIS VERY BLOG, which is when I knew I was basically boned. So if there are any intrepid Googlenauts who have been directed here in hope of finding info on the SMT ROM, sorry and good luck.)

I really liked the final episode, and I'm glad I didn't read anything about it beforehand. Unfortunately, a day of avoiding the internet has left me woefully behind on my blog reading. (And so has installing our air conditioner, which I did yesterday. I hate the summer.) So some of my commentary about certain blogs might be a little tardy this week. Sorry about that.

-Like so many of you (I'm guessing), I decided to order some of those 80% off books from Amazon last week. I ended up with the 1961-2 volume of Peanuts, Terr'ble Thompson, An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Late Bloomer, Amphigorey Again, and Shenzen, all for about $30. All of these except An Anthology and Amphigorey Again had been on my wish list (and the latter was actually for my wife), so I was pretty happy overall.

Unfortunately, the books all arrived somewhat damaged. The worst was probably Terr'ble Thompson, which had an indentation on every page and a loose cover (which has since fallen off completely). The latter is probably due to glue melting in a hot delivery truck, but it's still irritating. All the others had small tears of some type on the corners. It's not such a big deal, given the steep discount, but I'd be a little put off if I'd been paying the regular Amazon price. The only other time I've had a similar problem was with the Blood and Black Lace DVD I bought for my brother a few Christmases ago--and I think that was Barnes & Noble, actually. Anyone else have similar problems with Amazon lately?

I'll probably lower myself* by posting an actual review of Terr'ble Thompson, and maybe An Anthology of Graphic Fiction. We'll see.

*Criticism is the lowest form of (comics) blogging. The highest form? Taking other bloggers' words out of context and adding snide commentary.

-Alan David Doane emailed me directly to point out the (I think) revised version of his essay on comics retailing. I thought this was the famous "mini-comics and manga" essay, but that's actually here. My thoughts on the new essay:

1. It reminds me that my LCS is really awesome. I'm never at a loss for great stuff to buy when I go in there, and the proprietor is most interested in non-Marvel/DC comics--which is not to say that he doesn't know where his bread is buttered. I might be terribly wrong, but I can't imagine he would be able to stay in business if he had to rely on non-superhero comics exclusively. But still, he's clearly got a great enthusiasm for a wide, wide variety of comics. That's really what makes the store such a great place to shop. He doesn't read comics because they feature superheroes; he reads (a select few) superhero titles because they're good comics.

Related: ADD's brief history of the direct market is interesting, because it seems that this store is exceptional in a number of ways. It's a very, very old business by the standards of the market, but I don't get the sense that it was a superhero fanboy operation in its early days. I need to get around to conducting an interview with my local retailer, partly just because I really want to hear how he would narrate the history of his store and the DM in general.

2. I'm not looking forward to the inevitable boom in 90s nostalgia, but I do think it's time we reevaluate that decade--or at least the first half of it. I actually have a lot more to say about this, now that I think about it, so I'll probably save those thoughts until later in the week (or month, given my current rate of production).

3. I think I fundamentally disagree with ADD's central argument. I don't think that the well-stocked, diverse store will be the model of the future, simply because I don't think people are going to be reading physical copies of their books for that much longer. We're probably less than five years away from a viable digital reader--probably a lot less than five years, actually. The existence of such a device would not necessarily be enough to effect wholesale changes in the way people read, but this is part of a much larger change. We all know it's already here for music; most of us know that it's coming soon for video (which is the best reason to avoid the current high def format war). It's illogical to think books won't be affected. Lots of people say they won't read comics on a monitor, but I'm convinced they'll change their minds with (a) better technology, (b) cheaper prices, (c) immediate gratification, and (d) unlimited selection. I don't think that the bookstores will completely disappear, but they'll be increasingly dependent on two types: collector scum and luddites.

The former are better served by the existing direct market than the one ADD proposes. The latter might prefer better stocked stores, but their numbers will be too small to matter much, in the greater scheme of things. No sane person would launch a new business (or extensively modify an existing business) to appeal this sort of clientèle, especially if their existence is predicated on their refusal to adopt a widespread technology. Actually, this kind of sea change will probably inspire a much more conservative reaction among comics shop owners: a greater emphasis on used stock and special orders. I certainly wouldn't expect them to look to Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, or even Viz for the answer.

Of course, it's easy to say an argument will be rendered moot by changes in technology--it's almost a deus ex machina sort of reasoning. But I'm convinced I'm right. We'll never see a better Direct Market than the one we have right now (except maybe the one we had in the late 80s). Plus the new digital market will be more democratic, more eco-friendly, etc., etc. And it should last about five years before we hit our inevitable Mad Max-style future.

-Can we please quit complaining about grammar? I mean, it's much more important to complain about style. I'm actually quite serious about this--grammar is really just a luxury of the elite. If you don't have a handle on style, you run the risk of confusing (or even misleading) your readers. A document riddled with grammar errors is usually still comprehensible. The same is not true for a document marred by confusing syntax, poor word choice, or excess verbiage. These are words to live by, fellow bloggers. (Please note that I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular here. And I'm ready to be hoisted by this rather conspicuous petard.)

-Related: I'm actually not offended by the comment Church cites. It sounds like the words of some immature kid. If I'm right, it's a good thing. We need more immature kids buying comics. More on this whenever I get around to talking about the 90s. If it isn't an immature kid...well, we are only a few years away from the digital comics renaissance. Then the apes take over, I guess.

EDIT: Okay, I finally got around to looking at the comments, and there are WAY more annoying people than Bedlam66 (or whatever his name is). Like this Brad Morris fellow, who I'm thinking is the type of fan who threatens comics more than some kid who doesn't understand capitalization rules. Also, WHAT THE FUCK WAS WITH THE MARVEL VS. DC SHIT? David Brothers was the only one of you who evinced even a smattering of common sense, re: this non-issue. Seriously, this was embarrassing, people. Come on.


bitterandrew said...

Did you come across this at all?

The ROM has issues with certain emulators.

Kevin Church said...

Grammar is a tool of the educated, not the elite, and I state in the comments that it's a big red flag for me, more than it probably should be.

My apologies for not providing a blog that points out what you think needs to be pointed out.

Dick Hyacinth said...

I have read that file. I'm actually using SNES9X, just because it's my emulator of choice. I don't know for absolute certain it's a bug--it could be user error. The basic problem is this--I defeat a mini-boss, which is then intended to open a new area for exploration. But the trigger isn't set off for whatever reason. In fact, the boss is still in the room when I re-enter. Maybe I'll start over in a year or two. SMT2 is supposedly better anyway, right?

Kevin, you're not the only one talking about grammar right now, so this isn't just about you. I brought up the issue of style because it's a criticism I've made a number of times on this own blog, and I wanted to explain this apparent inconsistency.

Also (as I'm sure you know), historically education has been the near exclusive province of the elite. It's less so now, but there's been a corresponding deemphasis of grammar in most schools. Kids are lucky these days, I say.

Jaap said...

Sorry Dick but I can't agree with your theory that comics and books will be digitalized. Or wait, sure it will happen but it won't have a grand impact. Music and Movies are digitalized and portable because there just is no other way to go about taking them with you on the bus or train, or wherever. Books ALREADY are portable and easy to use, plus their batteries can't run out right when you are about to read just exactly who has been manipulating the Justice League all along.

Dick Hyacinth said...

It's true that books don't require hardware to be used, but I think consumers will be won over by reduced cost, exponentially greater selection, and (perhaps most important) instant gratification. Another thing I should have mentioned is that Marvel and DC (and any other company with a roster of popular intellectual properties) will almost surely see digital distribution as a major boon. It's a major reduction in cost for the producer. On the other hand, this (hypothetical) change might hurt publishers whose output is copyrighted by the creators--digital distribution would eliminate most of the distance between creator and reader.

And that's why blogs need to be better--without publishers or retailers, someone or something will need to do some serious winnowing. I should probably say more on this subject, but I need to eat lunch.

Jaap said...

But the actual choice we have in books is HUGE. I want to read actual books but not knowing where to start leaves me with maybe 2 books a year to read. It's not a matter of too little choice, it's a matter of paralyzingly giant choice. Even in comics, you can go into ANY comicbook store and buy a Spiderman comic from any era. Sure the specifics might be a tad hard to find, but even then, eventually anything get's collected probably. Let's leave out the comic store and talk eBay. 3 minutes on it and you got yourself the entire run of I, Vampire or SandMan in floppies.

And what do you mean with instant gratification? Turn on computer, select file to read isn't a lot of actions before you can read something but it's still more than "opening book".

And you say reduced cost, and that's the only argument I will allow you, in theory. Let's forget the hardware needed to read the book (for comics it has to be a colorscreen, even) DC and Marvel are not stupid*. They aren't going to think "Well they were paying us 3 dollars then, so why would they stop paying us three dollars."

I'm sorry, but I just don't think it will happen.

*well, not when money in the shortrun is involved.

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