Recall the last time you went out to dinner – not a fancy jacket and tie thing, but a reasonable restaurant or a decent pub. You’ve finished your main course, perhaps a 21-day hung steak, steamed seasonable veg and hand-cut chips. Then the dessert menu comes out, and there it on the top of the list a cheesecake, maybe vanilla with raspberry coulli.
Sounds good right?
But let’s look at this critically.
When you order that cheesecake, you only know how much it’s going to cost, it sounds good, but you don’t know how big a slice you’re getting, you don’t know if you’re going to enjoy it or whether you’ve had a decent plate of food and eating a sugar-heavy dessert is only leave with a need undo your belt a notch before you get in the car. All you have to go on is that you’ve had a vanilla cheesecake before so you think you have an idea what this one will be like.
Plus I know my local supermarket sells cheesecakes for £2 and the restaurant is maybe buying in a better class of cheesecake for £5, cuts it into eight slices, adds some sauce, covers it in icing sugar and adds one of those wee orange fruits that no-one can identify. £5 please.
So the cheesecake might be great, might not. Is expensive compared to the rest of the meal and other cheesecake options and may leave feeling rather disappointed. Sound like anything else?
Which brings me back to comics: you don’t know what you’re really going to get, and you’re paying more than for similar entertainment.
I know comics aren’t cheap to make and I don’t think we’re being taken for a ride, but compared to a blu-ray or an album I think it is an expensive medium.
And what’s the right approach with comic buying? Buy the first issue of a run and see what you think? Wait until CBR issues it top 100 of the year and buy those in trade?
Another quandary I have is that my local comic shop is a new business and I really enjoy popping in and supporting them. But having a pull list is expensive – got a £21 surprise yesterday having only been in there two weeks ago!
I could wait for the trades I suppose, but the comic shop sell those at RRP so a six-issue story is typically £12. But of course then the ‘great South American river’ comes to mind and I know they’re only asking for £8! But then I’m feeding that massive gorilla and not the guys selling comics in my local high street.
But cost is only one of the things we’re talking about here. If that cheesecake was £8 but amazing, you wouldn’t care!
So as I said I was stood in my local comic shop yesterday faced with a wall of sealed, carded, bagged comics and what do you have to go on? The cover and maybe a creative team you know, but we all know of a book that’s promised lots and delivered very little. And even if we get to look at the book we really can only go on the artwork, and that seems to be enough for some, but I got tired of seeing double-page, should-have-been-a-poster spreads in Marvel years ago. I want to read a story that’s told through words and art that make me want to sit up and pay attention.
Why do I come away so disappointed so often then?
I’m currently massively disappointed with IDW’s Judge Dredd series. It seems to have no clue what it’s trying to do. I don’t like the two stories per issue thing they’re trying and the stories just seem .. well, I don’t know what to call them. I’ve read better stories in Zarjaz though! On the other hand IDW’s Judge Dredd Year One in a single issue has overtaken the ‘main’ title. It’s telling a story that grabs you from the second page, the character of Dredd is told through his reaction to the story and I can’t wait for the second issue. I think it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll be getting the main title removed from my pull list.
But I don’t want to just pick on IDW. I’m also not at all convinced by Bendis’ two X Men titles. The premise of bringing the classic X Men forward in time to act as fresh eyes was what drew me to the title, but I need to see more from this title.
I guess what I’m asking for is for the industry to become story driven, not event driven, not license driven and not ‘big idea’ driven. It’s not good enough to just have the X Men fight the Avengers, it’s not enough to go licence the latest ‘brand’ an slap big covers on the issues and it’s not enough to have a great idea and have no story to back it up. And it’s the writers that need to take some of the blame here but I guess they’re under pressure to produce more issues and give the artists big pages to draw. I’d just like to see the industry to maybe recognize that less is more, that quality needs to improve and let’s allow these talents to produce what they’re capable of not what they capable of producing quickly.
Anyway I have some cheesecake to eat!