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The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:



Just when you think you’ve got everything under control, the Universe usually does its best to point out that a) you don’t and b) you’re going to be punished for even thinking so. And so it went for most of the month of December for me.

As you may well know, my first OGN, STRANGEWAYS: MURDER MOON is finally due to come out after having been announced on the first iteration of this column, back over at Broken Frontier ages and ages ago. And then it was going to be put out as a series of monthly comics by Speakeasy comics, back before I stopped polishing the brass on the Titanic and realized that Speakeasy wasn’t going to be around long enough to put out two issues of the story, much less four. Then the book gets re-announced towards the end of the summer, having exhausted all other avenues of publication and returning to my original plan of an original graphic novel presentation.

Well, it’s actually happening. I still don’t believe it, just like I didn’t really think that Diamond was actually going to pick the book up (but they did – Thanks to Jim K. and Joe Rybandt who helped me ram it through the process). Just like I kinda didn’t believe it when the original pages started flowing to me from the artists down at Estudio Haus in Argentina. But then I didn’t believe it when I was reading the pages put out by the original artist for the book back in 2004. I mean, if I keep not believing it, I’m going to be shocked when I hold the actual book in my hands early next year.

And I may very well be shocked, refusing to believe it’s actually happening until it’s already happened. Then I’ll probably wish that I had a history rewind button, so I could savor every instant of anticipation. But at the moment, I’m too busy to do that. I’ve got to line up the print advertisers (outside of the comics world; inconceivable.) I’ve got to revamp the website. I’ve got to get a copy to the publisher in New York who’s shown some interest. I’ve got to keep talking to retailers and start making personal appearances at the comic stores in town and out in the Bay. I’ve got to clean up the vomit deposited in the bedsheets at 4am yesterday by my adorable 4-year daughter. I’ve got to take care of birthday parties for two kids under the age of 10 and attend a third. And there’s some holiday rolling around, something around the Solstice. Oh, did I mention that the fillings that I paid for several years ago were apparently put into my teeth by a somewhat incompetent Orangutan? ‘Cause they’re leaking now and I’m visiting my very nice, very personable dentist four times in three weeks, starting a couple weeks ago?

At least I managed to secure a Wii for Christmas.

Seeing that this is getting in just under the deadline of the fourteenth of December, just before the site goes into hibernation for a little while, I was hoping to have some kind of year-end review. And then I thought about that some more, and ultimately, in comics, there’s not going to be much more important than the fact that I’ll finally be getting a book out there after talking about it for so damn long. Granted, it’s coming out a month sooner than I wanted it to, but that mistake is on me and nobody else, since I had the opportunity to clarify an ambiguous statement on my part, which I did not do. So suddenly the unreality of this thing is shifting into the headlamp of an oncoming train. Choo-choo, you clueless monkey!

But I suppose there’s other things worth talking about. Like the Big Two finally accepting change. Or are they? DC put out Zuda comics to establish a web presence, but oddly enough, they seem to be doing just about everything they can to ensure that DC and Zuda don’t get conglomerated. If I really wanted people to read my webcomics site and I had a stable of franchise characters with established audiences and the pick of superhero artists, you know what I’d do?

I’d have Jim Lee and Grant Morrison do a web-only Superman story. Bingo. Numbers out the wazoo. Ads that link to the other online fare attached to this, and you’d have a heck of a lot more eyeballs. Better yet, open the Zuda comic underneath the lead story so that readers don’t have a choice but to look it over (they’re already wasting the boss’s time as it is.) But the reluctance to lend their marquee characters to their online presence, much less brand it as a DC offshoot leads me to wonder what they expect the outcome to be.

As for Marvel, they’ve got a comics-rental system planned, which I suspect will be far more successful in the immediate term. It might even get them some new readers since they’re presenting Marvel Comics and not trying to generate new intellectual properties out of the arrangement. Granted, they’ve still got some major hurdles built into the system (delay between conventional and web publication, no model for ownership, only subscription viewing), but it’s a better stab at brand-building than DC’s so far. Of course, neither of the Big Two wants to alienate the real market, that being the DM retailer, yet. Though I’d argue that the DM retailers have more to lose in the long run, since they’re effectively being cut out of the distribution process like this.

But Marvel is doing something else interesting. Well, it could be interesting. It could be a huge waste of time. It all depends if the final outcome has staples or not. What am I talking about? Marvel Manga, of course. Marvel and Del Rey are joining forces to do manga re-imaginings of the X-Men, arguably their most popular and most easily adaptable franchise. Really, everything that made UNCANNY so attractive under Chris Claremont and John Byrne (then Cockrum, Paul Smith, etc) back in the day could do quite well with teens today. Interpersonal relationships, kids who don’t fit in, magic, mystery, mayhem, and oh yes, the beautiful freaks in shiny, shiny leather.

Really, it’s a no-brainer. Unless of course, Marvel insists on adherence to the pamphlet format. My hope is that they won’t, and that Del Rey will be able to convince them of the necessity of going to a manga digest presentation. Because if they don’t, this will just be a rehashing of the oddity that was the Marvel Mangaverse. I suspect they’ve learned their lesson, but I’ve been wrong about that in the past. However, the presentation in this case will be everything, even more so than the characters. Comics readers already know about the X-Men. The audience for this won’t, though they may know the name from the movies and that’ll be enough to get them to pick up a volume from their local bookstore.

Oh, and speaking of that, following up from my column two weeks ago about the gigantisizing of reprint collections from the Big Two: I thought I’d point out that I can’t find any of them in stores other than some of the DC Absolutes. I go to a good comic store and I can find Marvel Omnibuses, but if I go to Borders? No freaking way will they have it on the shelves. Makes it kind of tough to ask for one for Christmas when my family doesn’t have access to a comic store. Yes, they can order one from Borders, but who pre-orders anything in this consumer culture anymore? Why pre-order when I could defer gratification by just ordering from Amazon for a better price? If I’m gonna wait, I may as well wait for the cheaper price.

What else is news, what else? Oh yes. Hint to people who want to use Mephisto in stories. He works as a malevolent omnipotence like Cthulhu, that you don’t have to see in the scene. Or he works as a scenery-chewing villain. He doesn’t work when you whip up a fake imperiling of a loved one to force a retroactive continuity change. Mephisto shouldn’t have to clean up “messes” left by years of accreted change on characters like Spider-Man. He’s better than that. Of course, Mephisto versus Spider-Man is kinda like… Thanos versus Hawkeye. As a serious match-up, it’s laughable. Play it for laughs and you’ve got gold.

And so, gentle reader, I wish you the best as we quietly endure the longest night of the year and wake up to the sun ushering in Winter. Odd that Winter is seen as the bleakest, when in reality it seems like Autumn with its ever-increasing shadows and deeper colder nights is really the bleak one. Winter is strong only when we forget that it’s really being chased by Spring.

Happy holidays, all.

Matt Maxwell

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