these aphorisms are terrific

Expand full comment

Non-editors are able to spot some of the more obvious errors in a comic -- big ones likes pages upside down, and smaller one like a font not loading so "Blüdhaven" becomes "Bl?dhaven," or a character's costume is miscolored. What are the more subtler mistakes that may have crept in, that we usually don't notice because we're happily reading along?

Expand full comment

Gifting one more cookie aphorism to you and yours, my friend: HOME IS A VERB.

Expand full comment

Thanks for another fine newsletter, Tom.

Your answer to Mikel raises a question I've been meaning to ask for some time: back in the days of yore, the Marvel Bullpen (such as it actually existed) consisted of the in-office art and production staff: in various eras, John (and Virginia) Romita, Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe, Sol Brodksy, Morrie Kuramoto, et. al. What, if anything, does that staff look like in 2023? Is there still a staff department that makes, say, last-minute artistic corrections on a book, or is that all done solely with individual freelancers these days?

And it's interesting to hear about the re-inking Don Heck needed to undertake for that Masterworks volume. I know that this sort of thing happened from time to time in the absence of original art stats (including one particularly notorious Spider-Man page that had to be entirely re-drawn). Are there any other particularly noteworthy instances you encountered where, ah, creative re-creations had to be done?

Expand full comment

Sadly the only one I can id is Tennessee Tuxedo. From the Underdog cartoon, voiced by the legendary Don Adams.

Expand full comment

Thank you for your thoughtful answer - very cool. And for the record I loved the new Punisher. I am hooked. It was a great start (action, mystery, ties to the Marvel U but accessible, etc.) that was a satisfying read that leaves me wanting to read more about this character and how he interacts with the Marvel U.

On the other side I was disappointed with the new Thanos series: I found it dull, the main character did not keep my interest and Thanos was barely in it - not for me (which is ok).

Which made me think - what characteristics do you think make a great issue 1 of a comic?

Expand full comment

It occurs to me that, at least for Marvel, X-Men has probably introduced more new characters who either became part of the team or an adjacent one such as New Mutants or X-Force where it wouldn't surprise anyone if they became an X-Man. In your opinion, who would be the latest X-Man to have broken through and become a core member of the team (other than any Logan clone)? By this I mean when the old order changeth, the creators pretty much have to decide whether to use them or not. Or to put it another way, say the new lineup is Cyclops, Iceman, Wolverine, Storm, Shadowkat, and Eye Boy; it's pretty obvious which one is the unexpected non-core one, even if he has been used before. Offhand, as an X-Man, I think it might be the White Queen, ignoring her time as an adversary. Of course no problem if you don't think you should answer this.

Expand full comment

"I’ve kept the quality bar low over the past 84 releases?" I know you're joking but rest assured this substack is one of the best reads and highlights every time it comes out. Thank you again for this.

My question this week: Should we [unfortunately] look for more Marvel comics to have a $4.99 cover price soon? I know DC did it first with having that as the regular price point for Batman and Superman, and I know economics are hard for everyone. Personally speaking, though, I've had to give up on monthlies that I enjoyed because I just can't afford them anymore. Maybe my better question is "will there still be room for $3.99 books?"

Expand full comment

Not Tom but as a retailer, I'd say you should expect that to be the creep as we move forward. $3.99 as a standard was established more than ten years ago and post-Covid paper products as a whole have increased significantly (Pokemon cards went up $2 in Canada per pack in two years). Past that, retailers are seeing overhead increase with inflationary needs and actually benefit from moderately higher prices significantly. And generally speaking, sales have remained pretty stable with increases.

That's not to dismiss your concern. Times are tough, money is tight, and there's always an upper threshold for everyone. My biggest concern when prices as a standard go up are for the more fringe titles. Batman or Spiderman could be $7 or $8 or $10 an issue and a lot of the fandom would figure it out because they have a dedicated audience already established, but (in my experience) higher price points tend to cause the C and D list books to be dropped in favour of keeping up with the A list ones...which benefits shops (as a leaner relevant line can be easier to order on, shelve, etc) but is less great for the creators/publishers and fans of those books. As someone who prefers trade paperbacks for my collection, I'm often buying the monthlies on those series just to do some part in keeping them viable. So it's definitely a balancing act.

Anyway, I hope you (and Tom) don't mind the unsolicited add-on from someone this wasn't directed at, but as someone who's been selling books since $2.99 was a fresh price point, I've seen a lot of precedent on it.

Expand full comment

I appreciate your input actually! I feel bad for my retailer because there were some books on my pull list that I just can't afford to keep up with anymore. I do understand there are challenges on your end, and I know we've been at $3.99 for a long time. I first got into comics hardcore when they were $1.00 and I feel like they were at $2.99 within 10-12 years of that.

I think another thing as a consumer that bugs me, kind of related to what you just said, is that if, say, Avengers or Amazing Spider-Man come out 2x a month at $4.99 a pop... that means those people aren't trying out those C and DC list titles you mentioned. But even worse, it's causing long-runners like Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Fantastic Four to be deemed irrelevant by those trying to keep up! It's drowning out everything else, much like how I feel Batman has drowned out most of the DC line. (Full disclosure also: I gave up on most of the X-Men titles when they did the X of Swords crossover where everything was jacked up a dollar, too.)

Still, very much appreciate your feedback. I just worry at a certain point longtime readers are going to just give up.

Expand full comment

So the reason I initially commented was because I think this is a really tough topic. People always feel the impact of price increases directly and it can be hard to contextualize them fully within the bigger picture. The unfortunate fact is that they're usually necessary and that the negatives (which are definitely real) are always considered within the balance.

My experience with this is weird, because I'm Canadian so in addition to MSRP changes, our pricing fluctuates with the dollar. When I grew up in the 90s, comics were $2ish MSRP as a standard with various gimmicks (Double sized, fancy cover, etc) boosting the price higher. At its lowest, our dollar ran about 46 cents to the US dollar. So I grew up thinking comics were around $5 each, give or take taxes. Then when the price saw significant increases in the late 2000s, the US financial crisis put our dollar typically around par with the US dollar and sometimes a little better. So comics were suddenly $3-4 for us, lower in face price than the 90s and lower still in terms of actual cost adjusted for inflation. Now our dollar is fluctuating a lot in relation to the US, but it's generally between 68 and 78 cents, meaning that a $5 book can run between $7 and $8 plus tax, finally putting us significantly ahead of where things had been.

I say all of this to preface that the Canadian experience with comics pricing is weird, but there's also a LOT of comic shops here thriving.

(As a weird aside, through our distributor Marvel charges us in CAD at a consistent rate while DC and other publishers fluctuate with the exchange rate and while you'd think it's a little thing, it means a $4 Marvel book can stay at $5 while a DC one goes as high as $5.65)

I entered the labour market straight into comics retail at 18 years old in 2006. At the time, minimum wage here was $7.75 an hour. We just had it increase to $16.55 per hour. So while our comic prices are up to as much as double what they were, the real cost of living has increased by even more. And the problem is, while we've seen decent minimum wage pushes here, that's not true everywhere or even here above a minimum level. There's a genuine cost of living crisis happening and something that's an industry wide challenge is how to balance everything when you're an entirely entertainment based hobby at a time when people are struggling to put food on the table more than they have previously.

In terms of books that may be impacted by it, it's honestly less the Daredevil or Doctor Strange or Fantastic Four and more stuff like Inferior Five or Damage Control or other attempts to bring C or D list characters into focus. Typically any property you're going to think of without being into the weirdo stuff like Electric Warriors (Steve Orlando was killing it on low profile DC series, seriously backtrack some of his stuff) usually has its own audience. It's not so much sales falling out on established hits so much as newer stuff and/or attempts to revive fringe stuff will often see less traction. While I have had some people drop titles for budget, it's more common that they're more hesitant to try something new but keep on with their existing stuff, though some will see that hesitance extend to a relaunch.

It's not all doom and gloom. Shops close, but new shops have been opening too. I'm seeing younger readers getting into things. People are participating within their means. And in some cases that means stepping back for a while or switching to trades or grabbing Marvel Unlimited and/or DC Infinite and/or Kindle Unlimited subscriptions or going to their libraries (my shop supplies one of our local libraries with single issue comics and has for over a decade). It's a time of high stress and while it's good to be conscious of the potential obstacles, it's important to note that there are positives happening as well that may be less visible to you.

Regardless of the DM, Comics *as a medium* will be fine. Comics outside the direct market have had some of their best years ever the past few. Raina Telgemeier is still selling like gangbusters, FNAF comics are doing great numbers, manga is booming again, and we're seeing YA lines like the Papercutz Marvel stuff and DC's formerly Ink and Zoom selling well in the bookstore market and to younger readers. There's going to be new generations of comic readers and superhero readers, and while it's a stress test for the specific medium of monthly stapled comics for sure, one way or another we'll still be seeing this medium thrive for a long time to come.

Again, none of this is to dismiss your personal spot. I've had periods where I was unemployed and straight up could not afford any new books for a while. We all have points where the delicate balance of our income and our expenses stop vibing and it's extremely hard to pull back on a hobby you love out of financial necessity. I've been there personally. It's understandable to find that frustrating or even scary. But I wouldn't be too concerned with the health of the medium as a whole right now. The skies are turbulent, but they're not falling.

Expand full comment

At no point did I feel dismissed. I welcome and appreciate your insight!

Expand full comment

I can identify 3/12, and one that feels like it is on the tip of my tongue but I can't quite get it

Expand full comment

Mikel's question got me thinking about foreign editions which got me thinking about the Mexican Spider-man comic diverging plot wise from the main one in the 70s. That made me wonder about something you've brushed on before regarding the Spider-man manga...what goes into the decision making about what internationally licensed released will get localized, what kind of hitches do you run into (art file inconsistencies, etc) and what international original work would you like to see localized if it were solely your decision?

Expand full comment

Hey Tom - on aging readership/price of comics/Free Comic Book Day:

Spider-Boy #1 was a big hit with my three kids (age 6, 8, and 13), so despite the speculator hype I’d love to see the book do well and perhaps open the door for more All Ages books with top creative teams.

Is there any appetite at Marvel - creators/editorial/publishing/brass - to get comics out there at a price point that KIDS can afford?

Seems like Free Comic Book Day/Children’s Book Week is a means to get books in kids’ hands, but if no revenue is generated directly for the publisher from those FCBD issues, does the FCBD exercise amount to a promotional or advertising expense?

Don’t know what that expense is in total is or how an ROI is measured against Marvel’s bottom line, but would it help that bottom line if Marvel were to scale back the number of FCBD issues produced/dollars spent and release 12 issues of, say, a new Untold Tales of Spider-Man at $1.99 or $2.99 targeted specifically at young kids and - assuming it sells - get a direct return, however marginal?

I think I just want Untold Tales Vol 2 vs mountains of FCBD issues stacking up year on year in comic shops.

Magical thinking?

Thanks Tom

Expand full comment

I can do 9 of 12, some of which with the help of the internet. I have:

1 - Justified

2 - ???

3 - Mad Men

4 - Star Blazers

5 - Underdog (thanks Kevin!)

6 - ???

7 - Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous?

8 - Red Dwarf

9 - Doctor Who

10 - Also Doctor Who

11 - ???

12 - Have Gun, Will Travel

Expand full comment

Apologies for reposting, but I'm genuinely curious: What are your favorite books (or media) about comic book history? "Men of Tomorrow" is excellent even if I had to mentally block out who wrote it. Have you ever considered writing a book about the industry?

Expand full comment

A bit of a nerdy question : I noticed several times that the font/logo of your blog (The Tom Brevoort Experience) look VERY much like the one used in 2001 for the Thor: Godstorm limited series, edited by you (at first, it reminded me a bit of the one used for Morrison/Jones's Marvel Boy but that's clearly not it). So is there a reason why (particularly proud of how those three issues turned out ?).



Expand full comment