The decline of modern comics...

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The decline of modern comics...

Postby hypervirtue » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:29 pm

This thread is here to continue a line of discussion that this thread: http://www.atomicthinktank.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=54357&start=15 entered into.

This thread is here for us to discuss the following topics:

  • Have comics declined?
  • Why have comics declined?
  • How can this decline (if it exists) be corrected?

This is going to be highly opinionated though so lets keep it civil and respect that our personal views may, or may not, reflect the views of the comic book reading community at large.

-----

So I'm going to start by reposting, from the other thread, the last couple responses and then make my own continuing statement.

saint_matthew wrote:
Darrin Kelley wrote:And the reason for this is their overall lack of story quality. And it has steadily gotten worse over time.


To be fair its not just DC, its also Marvel. I'm not sure where the fault lies anymore, be it writers, editors, bean counters, execs, or both companies trying to be movie studios, but the writing recently (over the last 3-5 years) has suffered because of it (both from a technical stand point & also an interesting writing standpoint). Maybe its time for some fresh blood on the writing & editorial side of the equation.

but that has nothing to do with JLA: War, so back on topic. No I'm not getting it, but I do suggest picking up Necessary Evil, its a good documentary about Super Villains.


Darrin Kelley wrote:The big two are the ones who have really suffered. Editorial and writing have suffered in the face of hiring "star talent". They are so busy promoting "star talent" that they are ignoring actual product quality. And it's been going on since the 80's It's just gotten progressively worse over time.

They are doing it to themselves.


saint_matthew wrote:That is certainly one element, another would be the constant focus on events, cross-overs, news release spoilers & gimmicks. Things like Angela being in Guardians of the Universe.... First they spoil the story by announcing it in a press release & then they try to pretend its a big old secret by putting the issue that it occurs into polybags to "protect the secret" from being spoiled... The very secret they themselves spoiled months before.

There appears to be a lot of blame to go around, but I think at the end of the day the problem is that the creators are just out of touch with the readerships legitimate desires. An as much as I hate to make blanket statements, maybe its time to cull the older writers, editors & creators, to let in some fresh blood & some new ideas across the board. An if that means changing the paradigm under which these people are employed, than that's what's going to happen. If that means ditching the exclusive contracts & making "skill hire" the go to system, than that's what should occur (not saying it is necessary, but if it turns out that it is, that's what's going to have to happen).

Having no special insight into the business side of the business, I can't even guess at where its going wrong, but its going wrong somewhere & that's where it needs to change.



I think some of the problem with comics is the internet. Literally as others have stated, things get leaked, previews go out, and suddenly shocking twists aren't shocking at all because we knew they were happening five months before hand and the comic book reading population has already weighed in on the topic. It makes it hard to tell stories with surprising twists.

I think another problem is that every writer wants to add a shocking twist. Comic book stories don't have to be shocking twist filled Shyamalan-style tales. There doesn't always need to be some call back to a previous villain.

Case in point I bring you the stupidest X-Men story (and yes, I know, it was made even dumber by the subsequent writer trying to undo what the previous writer had done) I have ever personally seen... That, by the way, is saying a lot.

The X-Men find a mutant who wears a special metal helmet because he has a star for a brain in a camp in China and they free him. This mutant is Xorn. Xorn heals Professor X's legs, then goes on to become a teacher at the school.

In a shocking twist Xorn is revealed to actually be magneto who is actually hopped up on the sentient mold Sublime. In a not-so-shocking twist he killed Jean Grey. Again. Oh, and he also damaged a large portion of New York city and none of the other heroes in New York City bothered to show up to stop him, like, you know, the Avengers... Anyway... Magneto was then beheaded by Wolverine (because he must have forgotten Wolverine was there or something because he could have used his magnetism to shoot him to Canada or something) because Wolverine must be the hero in every X-Men book ever.

Due to some monumentally bad planning the writer of the Xorn story (Grant Morrison) didn't tell anyone that Xorn was really Magneto. He also didn't tell anyone (not even the editors) that he was going to kill Magneto or Jean. He did this in an attempt to make it certain that the story wouldn't get leaked to the public. (It still got leaked anyway.)

Thus the next writer, (Claremont I believe) had to try to backpeddle the death of Magneto. This his explanation was that, in fact, it wasn't Magneto who killed Jean Grey (and destroyed New York) it was actually Xorn's secret twin brother... Who was pretending to be Magneto... Who was pretending to be Xorn...

Darn it... Just writing it makes my nose bleed.


The problem is, in my opinion, this story started the comic book decline. This story was so monumentally bad that it damaged the fabric of reality as far as comic books go. After this every book had a shocking twist.


My opinion on it is... Why?

I mean, I could fix the Xorn story easily. Granted, I was a comic book writer at one time, but only for indie comics, and even then I was mediocre at best, but I could fix this in my sleep and I'm 100% confident every reader on this forum could write a better story than this using the same basic plot.


Here is my version:

-----

The X-Men find Xorn, a mutant in China, with a star for a head in some kind of detainment camp. They rescue him. Xorn heals Professor X in gratitude and seems to be incredibly zen-like and gains the trust of the staff at the school. Xorn is eventually asked to come on as a teacher, to which he agrees.

Xorn is not, however, used to his freedom and begins to indulge in it a bit. He goes to the city, using an image inducer or some such to hide his giant evil-looking metal helmet, and eventually comes into contact with what appears to be an anti-mutant group. He witnesses them trying to beat a mutant to death and interferes.

What Xorn, however, doesn't know is that this is one of the few times the mutant beating was justified. The mutant actively attacked the anti-mutant group who was actively holding a peaceful protest. In this case the men were literally just defending themselves.

Due to that Xorn is arrested and thrown in jail where the X-Men have to bail him out. He is confused and this injustice, to him, is just too much. So he goes all militant hard-core and starts teaching his students to resent humanity (just like Xorneto did) and eventually says, "Forget this noise!" and goes on a rampage in New York.

The X-Men try to stop him and they fail. Jean is killed, Wolverine is flung into low orbit, and the X-Men are helpless. Xorn is simply too powerful for them and his powers are largely unknown, thus they don't have a strategy to use against him, while Xorn spent his time studying the X-Men because once he went militant he knew he'd have to face them sooner or later. Finally however Xorn is stopped, not by the X-Men but by the Avengers.

Rather than being taken alive, however, Xorn commits suicide.

-----

This, in my opinion, would have been a better story. It doesn't involve using Magneto. Wolverine isn't painted as a hero. It leaves better emotional stories to tell later. Wolverine, for example beats himself up because he wasn't able to avenge Jean. Scott continues to have an affair with Emma Frost because the Marvel writing staff hates Cyclops. The X-Men, as a whole, deal with the fact that they can't police mutant-kind. The anti-mutant hysteria is triggered again because, in part, of the fact that the X-Men simply couldn't stop a mutant from going ground zero on a major city.

But no... Instead we go Xorn's twin brother, pretending to be Magneto, pretending to be Xorn.

Why go with twists when comics don't always need them? Comics are basically an illustrated character drama with super powers. They don't need "What a twist" moments that often because the readers care more about the characters than the "epicness" of the plots.
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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby saint_matthew » Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:52 pm

Have comics declined?


Yes.

Why have comics declined?


A couple of reasons

- They are to hard for new readers to get into.

- They aren't relevant to younger readers, since they are trying so hard to be mature & by mature, I mean its political in-fighting between characters who seem to not be able to stand each other.

- There are to many crossovers & events for new readers with limited resources to ever actually follow stories.

- Stories are to often laid out online & not in the actual title itself.... Some of us have taken to calling it "Event Hijacking": Take Gothtopia for instance. I've been out of new comics for a while now, but John let me read the relaunched Batwing & I was enjoying it (for the most part). One story came to an end, Gothtopia started & I had no idea what was going on, because there is no basis for the story in the story... Because apparently the story was explained online.

- Younger readers no longer have access to titles because there are to many titles & so newsagents & service stations no longer carry comics: When they do they don't keep them up to date, they just sit on the shelf till they are sold.

- Poor writing on a technical level

- To much focus on event speculation over solid writing & the constant promise of "something good is going to come over the horizon, you just have to hang on & suffer the mediocrity just a little longer," but without any kind of pay off.

- Spoiled story lines months before release & race baiting, gender begging press releases to stir up faux-controversy has become the rule, rather than the exception to the rule.

- An then when you get negative press as a way to get attention, trying to get good press by pandering to non existent demographics that inevitably create products that under perform the minimum profit margin (sometimes costing more money to make than the profits they are making off of them).

- Creative stagnation, of constantly going back to the same well, rather than creating anything new... Marvel is MUCH worse at this than DC is.

- Constantly changing your comic books to reflect the trends in movies. The prime example would be how they shoe horned in a black Nick Fury into the 616 universe just for the benefit of the movie. When we know the movies do not spike sales on the contemporary comic books they are based on, they only spike sales on extant trades.

- Lazy & old writers, editors & creators... Many of whom are just phoning it in now.

- Execs & bean counters calling the shots

- Reboots & a lot more... These are just the ones off the top of my head.

How can this decline (if it exists) be corrected?


A lot of hard work & some really harsh choices made at the holistic level of the business based on unpleasant realisations that have come from looking at ones self in the mirror & asking "how did we get to where we are now? Who let it get this bad?"

hypervirtue wrote:I think some of the problem with comics is the internet. Literally as others have stated, things get leaked, previews go out, and suddenly shocking twists aren't shocking at all because we knew they were happening five months before hand and the comic book reading population has already weighed in on the topic. It makes it hard to tell stories with surprising twists.


That's not a problem with the industry, its just the means by which the real problem expresses itself. One of the big problems is Marvel & DC's desire for pre-emptive attention, spoiling the actual art of the medium. It'd be like if the movie industry decided to tell you every single plot point 4 months before the opening weekend of a movie. Or if publishers gave you a chapter by chapter breakdown of as of yet unreleased novels, plus keeping in all the reveals & posting them online, prior to the release date of the book.

The problems not the internet, so much as big mouths who can't keep there big mouths shut.

hypervirtue wrote:This mutant is Xorn.[...]

Due to some monumentally bad planning the writer of the Xorn story (Grant Morrison) didn't tell anyone that Xorn was really Magneto. He also didn't tell anyone (not even the editors) that he was going to kill Magneto or Jean. He did this in an attempt to make it certain that the story wouldn't get leaked to the public. (It still got leaked anyway.)

Thus the next writer, (Claremont I believe) had to try to backpeddle the death of Magneto. This his explanation was that, in fact, it wasn't Magneto who killed Jean Grey (and destroyed New York) it was actually Xorn's secret twin brother... Who was pretending to be Magneto... Who was pretending to be Xorn...

Darn it... Just writing it makes my nose bleed.


The problem with that story is the same problem Morrsion stories always have: His damn ego keeps on getting in the way of the work. Same thing happened with his run of Batman & how he single handedly destroyed the nu52 superman right out the gate (literally exactly the same deal as Xorn. He did things he wanted to do, didn't tell editors & then looked shocked when the other writers writing Superman titles had no idea what Supermans NU history was).
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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby Darrin Kelley » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:35 pm

Yes, comics have declined. Especially at the big two. And because of one particular factor.

The "talent" believe themselves more important than the product they are working on. And because of that, they are not really working to promote and produce those products in any kind of competant way. They are focused solely on themselves. And stroking their own egos.

As long as the industry keeps being held hostage by those who serve their own egos above all,things won't get any better.

It's going to take a new breed of comics creator to change things. One who focuses on creation and being entertaining above all else. And who are willing to just let their work, what they produce, do the talking for them.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby hypervirtue » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:18 pm

I agree with the egos getting out of hand.

I think one of the things that would help the comic companies is if the editors regrew their spines and started smacking the backs of writer's hands and going, "No! This is stupid!"

Another example:

DC did an Elseworlds story called, "Act of God"

This stems from a particular writer known as Doug Moench, who has an obsession with Batman. I'm not making this guy's fanboy-ness up either. He's batty for bats more strongly than Sonny is Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

If this guy writes a JLA story expect Batman to be the best character ever. Batman is always perfect. Batman is God.

His work on "Act of God" was... Well more of the same.

Long story short, this comic is about all the superhumans on earth losing their powers... Oh wait... Did I say superhumans? Sorry I mean... All beings on the planet earth (and theoretically in the entire universe) being transformed (somehow) into normal, ordinary, humans.

Wait... What?

Well the writer clearly didn't think this through. If I make a device designed to strip away the super powers of anyone I shoot with it and I shoot, for example, Superman, this device should do exactly nothing. Why? Well Superman isn't a superhuman. Superman is an alien. He's a typical alien being of his species.

Wait... What?

Well to be clear, Superman's a kryptonian. There is nothing special about him. He has the same capabilities as anyone else of his race. Basically, Superman doesn't have super powers. The same goes for the Martian Manhunter, Starfire, Supergirl, Powergirl, or any other alien life form that isn't somehow a mutant of their species.

Then we have the Green Lanterns. Their powers aren't powers, they come from a technological device that is highly advanced. It is so advanced the powers might as well resemble magic, but they are clearly stated to just be advanced science.

In the story this "Act of God" happens and everyone is turned into base humans (somehow) and all technology more advanced than the technology Batman has is rendered inert. The author never bothers to explain why this is. Batman is also not effected, despite the fact that he's clearly some kind of meta human due to the massive amount of skills he's developed in a relatively short amount of time.

Right there, the plot is horribly written, and yet nobody at DC comics thought to slap the writer's hand and say, "Bad writer! No cookie!"

The same should have happened to the Xorneto thing. The same should have happened to Marvel's Civil War. Editors need to grow a spine and really start to reign these guys in if they want to save the medium.
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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby Darrin Kelley » Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:16 am

The only hope for the medium is in the independants. That is the only place where people are willing to take real risks. And push new frontiers.

The big two dominant comic book companies are hopeless cases. They are the establishment. They have everything wrapped up in them being the establishment. Innovation just will never come from them. Because they are content with the status quo. A status quo that is killing the medium.

To be fair, I'll tell you a bit about myself. You see, I have joined with a partner and we are going to put out our own graphic novels. Based on characters we created, in a universe largely created by me. I'm about to jump into that big pond of an industry in a serious way. And we intend to take it as far as we can take it.

But we have a structure that we are approaching this with. One finely crafted based on our likes and what we see as the inadiquacies involved with the current comics medium. We intend to do it better.

The goal, however, is not fame and fortune for me and my partner. The goal is to put out stories worth reading, for the widest range of age demographics we can get away with. We want readers of all ages reading and enjoying our books. We want our material to speak for itself.

Personally, I would be happy to end up successful because of our books. I can't deny that. But how we get there is absolutely critical to me. We are setting out to build a living breathing legacy. Something that will hopefully out-last the lifetimes of both myself and my partner. Because that is our dearest wish. To create great stories with great characters that withstand the test of time. The creative rewards in that are very much beyond mere money.

I'm walking in the shoes of Jack Kirby. He is my rolemodel. And I can only hope that I can do his memory proud.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby Kyle » Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:51 am

You guys, comics are amazing. You don't even know.

If there's any decline, it's because fans buy the same tired crap, regardless of quality, because of brand loyalty, collector mentality nonsense, and the good stuff, the books that are worth reading have to fight for what's left. Marvel figured this out recently which is why they're publishing ten plus books with Avengers in the title every month to supplement the fifteen plus X-Men books.

But seriously, comics are so good right now.

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG
ATOMIC ROBO
EDISON REX
FATALE
GREEN ARROW
HAWKEYE
MIGHTY AVENGERS
QUANTUM & WOODY
RAT QUEENS
SEX CRIMINALS
SKULLKICKERS
SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN
WONDER WOMAN

Just off the top of my head, without looking at my pull list. That doesn't include recent titles published in the last few years that have concluded, or upcoming books -- I can't describe how excited I am about the new volume of UMBRELLA ACADEMY that's supposed to come out this year -- or stuff I'm not aware of, or webcomics.

The bottom line is that ninety percent of all entertainment is crap, but you don't have anyone but yourself to blame if you're not enjoying the media you're consuming when there really is so much good stuff that takes only a minimum of effort to find.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby Darrin Kelley » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:59 am

I'm not going to get into the temptation to pick apart your list in a detailed manner, point by point. Instead I will just summarize what I have to say.

The mainstream is glutted. The only way to clear out that glut is for the independants to step up with quality books. Quality that cannot be ignored. Because that is the only way to save the medium from the glut that it is suffering right now.

The comics business has been in trouble since the 90's. Due to a constant shrinkage in the audience. Partly because new media has come in and diverted the attention of the former audience away from comics. And partly, because of the sales tricks that the big two companies constantly engage in that drive more and more readers away, because the readers finally had enough of them.

Comic book companies are fighting these days for an ever-shrinking audience. And it's not getting any better.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby Kyle » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:44 pm

By all means, pick my list apart. Tell me why my comics aren't as good as the comics of twenty or thirty or seventy five years ago.

And I'll spot you the art on MIGHTY AVENGERS. Greg Land is pretty much the poster child for a lot of what's wrong with current comics, but that book is still well written and ton of fun.

If the question is whether or not the comics industry as it exists in decline, there's no question. Comics have been dying a slow death for decades now, and the speculator boom of the '90s certainly didn't help matters. Though I would argue that the flourishing of webcomics is evidence that the industry is going through a transition -- partly in form but more in distribution -- which is really encouraging.

However, the question posed seems to be one of quality of material as opposed to health of the medium, and while I fully understand how people who've been reading the same titles since they were twelve with little outside experimentation would think that, I don't think it's an argument with any real evidence to support it. There are bad comics and good comics. Some bad comics are really bad and some good comics are just amazingly great. That's how it's been since the birth of the medium, and that's pretty much how it's always going to be, probably at about the same ratios.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby FuzzyBoots » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:28 pm

saint_matthew wrote:- Constantly changing your comic books to reflect the trends in movies. The prime example would be how they shoe horned in a black Nick Fury into the 616 universe just for the benefit of the movie. When we know the movies do not spike sales on the contemporary comic books they are based on, they only spike sales on extant trades.

I'll yield your other points, but you have this one backwards. Samuel L. Jackson let them use his face as Nick Fury's on condition that he could play Nick Fury in the movies.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby saint_matthew » Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:01 pm

FuzzyBoots wrote:
saint_matthew wrote:- Constantly changing your comic books to reflect the trends in movies. The prime example would be how they shoe horned in a black Nick Fury into the 616 universe just for the benefit of the movie. When we know the movies do not spike sales on the contemporary comic books they are based on, they only spike sales on extant trades.

I'll yield your other points, but you have this one backwards. Samuel L. Jackson let them use his face as Nick Fury's on condition that he could play Nick Fury in the movies.


I think you may be mixing up ultimate universe with standard 616 universe.
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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby saint_matthew » Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:40 pm

Darrin Kelley wrote:I'm not going to get into the temptation to pick apart your list in a detailed manner, point by point.


I know what you mean, but I will say this: Any list that has the current Green Arrow & Hawkeye on it should probably not have the words "good comics" in the description of that list. Kyle I know you are a huge Green Arrow fan, but the NU52 version has been singularly disappointing. Its one of those books in which the author needs to be asked one really simple question.... What is the purpose of this book? (another issue in the decline of comics, would be just that: Having books as place holders rather than having a reason for the book to exist)

Because NU Green Arrow seems to have been created purely as a place holder for whatever they eventually decide GA is meant to be, because he's not being anything at the moment... If writers are going to ignore who Green Arrow use to be & create something entirely new with the same description, I honestly couldn't think of a less impressive, less interesting way of doing it than the way they did. There is so much potential in the concept, to waste it like they did was tantamount to character assassination.

As for Hawkeye, if I have to see even a single panel more of Hawkeye lying around complaining about the pointlessness of life like a 14 year old emo-girl writing sophomoric tumblr poetry about the darkness of her soul, I swear to Odin I'm going to snap & hunt down the writer in some kind of Avengers Arena-esque death-camp scenario. :lol:
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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby Kyle » Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:56 am

GREEN ARROW was fairly atrocious and I stuck with it way too long before dropping it from my list. I checked it out again when Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino took over on issue seventeen, and it's completely turned around. Based on what you've said before, I don't imagine you'd like Sorrentino's art, Matthew, but Lemire's world building on the title has been great. He's established an interesting supporting cast, introduced interesting and complex villains, and he's really carving out a place for Ollie in the New 52.

As for HAWKEYE, regardless of your personal taste it's one of the most critically acclaimed books from Marvel or DC right now. If you don't like it, that's fine, but that doesn't make it a bad book.

I'll fully admit that I am biased towards archery themed characters in general and Green Arrow in particular, but both are really good books, and not the weakest on my list. Which is probably RAT QUEENS, but it's new from a fairly new writer, and shows a lot of promise. Also, just a lot of fun.

I will agree that the big two publishes just pumping out books with the specific intent of edging other titles off the shelves regardless of strength of concept is a problem, particularly DC's slavish devotion to having exactly fifty-two DCU titles every month, regardless of reception. Though, on the other hand there have been several New 52 titles that I liked that got cancelled so we could have more batbooks because they sell better.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby saint_matthew » Sat Jan 11, 2014 4:06 am

Kyle wrote:As for HAWKEYE, regardless of your personal taste it's one of the most critically acclaimed books from Marvel or DC right now. If you don't like it, that's fine, but that doesn't make it a bad book.


The thing about being critically acclaimed is that it doesn't really mean anything. When something is critically acclaimed, it just means that the people who work with the people who write a thing go around telling you its critically acclaimed, in the hopes you'll feel like you are missing out.

After all its critically acclaimed by the same people who put up "Superboy: Attack on Smallville" for an Eisner award for "best new series" just before flashpoint.

But just to put this up against something else for scale: Hawkeye, critically acclaimed, My Little Pony not at all critically acclaimed.... First two trades of Hawkeye combined, only just add up to just above half the sales figures on the first trade of My Little Pony.

At the end of the day I'd rather have a book that is good, over one that I have to be told is good, because I might not have noticed the quality, because they hid it behind the "not being a very good book." :lol:
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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby FuzzyBoots » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:16 am

I have rather enjoyed the recent Valiant reboot. Archer and Armstrong and Quantum and Woody are excellent books with a lot of humor in them.

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Re: The decline of modern comics...

Postby saint_matthew » Sat Jan 11, 2014 6:14 am

FuzzyBoots wrote:I have rather enjoyed the recent Valiant reboot. Archer and Armstrong and Quantum and Woody are excellent books with a lot of humor in them.


Yeah I'm not a fan of Quantum and Woody... I can see why some people would be, but I don't really get anything out of fart jokes & stoner humour, so it kind of just got on my nerves. However I did enjoy "Midnight Tiger" & also "Masks and Mobsters" from Monkey Brain Comics.

Unfortunately the indi's can't support the industry if Marvel & DC collapse.
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