Friday, July 7, 2017

OPINION: How I saved DC Comics (and by extension, the entire comic book indistry) — Part II

To build a better comic book, start with the ads

In Part I of this series, I described what I think is wrong with comic books today, and how they got that way. You can read those bon mottes here, but in brief: Comics today cost too much and give too little, in part because a decompressed, movie-script style of writing means plots move at a glacial pace, with no single issue ever providing a complete reading experience. Meanwhile, the art style is often confusing to follow for those not well acclimated to the artform, while the stories themselves are equally incomprehensible, due to the interconnected nature of shared universes.

The theme of the piece, left unsaid there, but I'll just go ahead and spell it out here, was that publishers tried to stay in business by playing to the front row. As casual readers hit the exits in frustration over an increasingly insular product, all publishing models were shifted to a singular goal — getting the rabid fanboys who remained to buy more of the same thing.

My thesis for Part II is this: That to survive and thrive, comic book publishers need to make a renewed effort to capture the attention of casual readers, i.e. those people, young and old, who might sample an issue here and there but never have need to purchase a long box for permanent storage of a burgeoning collection. To that end, we'll talk about editorial content, but first we need to address why people publish comic books in the first place. 
(Yes, I know I am talking in a general sense, despite teasing a DC-centric purpose in the title, above -- I'll get to DC and, in Part V, I'll detail every book I think the company should publish as part of an All-New, All-Different, Totally Rebirthed New 52 line, but we have some ground to cover before we get to that.)

Now, you may think comics exist as an artform in order to help us understand the human condition via stories centered on the metaphor of the iconic super-hero. Or, you might say comic books exist today primarily as corporate warehouses for intellectual property, useful only to maintain and protect trademarks.

Both are true.

Also, neither. 

The real reason people publish comic books is to sell advertising.

Allow me to illustrate that assertion with an anecdote — not from comics, but radio. In addition to being a newspaper reporter, for about a year I was the news director at a Portland-area radio station. (Not the one in Oregon, the real Portland. In Maine). But long before that, I was a bartender. That matters because during the mid-1980s in Skowhegan, I worked at a place  frequented by the owner of a local radio station, who more or less invented the term "barfly." Every day at about 6:30 p.m. he'd shuffle in, sit at the bar, and quietly nurse a Dewers Manhattan on the rocks. Then two more. Sometimes four. He'd be there often until 9 or 10 p.m., not really talking to anybody if he could help it. And remember, this was about 20 years before the first smart phones. Hell, a few years before cell phones, even! So, he was not multitasking, as it were. No, he would just sit there, tasked very singularly on the beverage before him while he let the pressures of his day slowly drift away.

At least after a while. When he first started to come in, he would get peppered with questions from the younger wait staff. And not kind ones. Frankly, I'm surprised he kept coming back after that first month, or so.

A back comic comic book as from (I
believe) the late 1970s. Sure, American
culture has changed such that you prob-
ably can't market firearms to kids any-
more, but the point is, there was a time
when advertisers bought ads in comic
books because comic book advertising
worked. Step one to saving the comic book
industry is creating a comic businesses
will want to advertise in, and that means
creating comics cor the general consumer,
not the niche fanboy population.
Now, I won't mention the guy's name. Mostly because I can't remember it. And I won't mention the station, other than to observe its broadcast tower was (and is) located at the Top Of Sugerloaf mountain. So, here's the thing — when this fella bought the station, about a year or so before he started coming in to this then-new restaurant I worked at, he changed the format. It had been alt. rock. College radio you might call it. A lot of U2 before anyone had heard of U2. But he changed it to classic rock. REAL classic rock. Like "Sweet Emotion" on hourly rotation. When the change happened, the artsy-fartsy kids in town staged a protest in the form of s wake, dressing all in black and carrying a coffin with the station's call letters emblazoned on it through downtown Skowhegan.

Flash forward a year-plus later and this poor man could not get three sips into his Manhattan before one of the crew was tommy-gunning him with arguments in favor of the former station format. Generally, he'd just nod, thank them for their comments, and say he'd take it under consideration.

But finally, one day, when he arrived in the middle of the dinner rush and the first prospective program manager was not able to make way to this man's barstool until he was well into Drink No. 3, he kinda snapped.

"You get that I need to sell advertising, right?" be barked.

The waiter stepped back kind of doe-eyed, paused a moment, and finally intoned that, yes, indeed, he got that.

"Would you pay to listed the radio?"

The waiter just shook his head no. This was long before satellite radio, so the concept of paying to listed to a radio station was completely alien. Especially in Maine. It was like asking back then if you'd pay to drink bottled water. After all, while cable television was a thing, in this area, at this time, it got a toehold mainly as a better alternative to poor aerial reception of local channels, not because anyone was interested in paying for cable-only station options.

By this time many of the other waters and waitresses, having heard the verbal explosion, were on scene, and they, too, assured Mr. Radio Owner that they got it. See, keep in mind this was 1986, maybe 1987 — Michael Douglas had just single-handedly turned the Me Generation into the Greed Generation, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and the snowflakes of the Millennial Generation were not yet so much as a gleam in daddy's eye. So, even these young liberals gathered around in their waiter's aprons, they all understood capitalism was king. No, question, they said, advertising is what makes radio work.

"Well, here's what you need to understand," the owner said. "I don't sell advertising in order to play the kind of music you like, or even the kind I like. What I do is, I play whatever kind of music will bring in the ads."

The owner had done a metric ton of research before buying the station, and had determined that, while there was a large enough business base in north-central Maine to support the station, which was losing money hand-over-fist when he bought it, he was only going to be able to sell enough ad spots to make a go of it if he could mitigate for his customers the chances of anyone tuning out because they heard a song, or artist, or music style the did not care for. It had to be one classic song after another, songs the listeners had heard 1,000 times before, true enough, but proven songs they were sure to like and listen to all the way through, assuring they'd still be there when the ad came on.

The wait staff barley took notice of the man after that day. Their cause, they understood, was hopeless. What they had failed to consider was that the radio station needed to direct its efforts to the greatest common denominator, not at them, personally.

Now, I told you that story so that I could tell you this: From the perspective of the comic book publisher, as with the radio station owner, the customer is not the buyer that matters — it's the advertiser.

Of course, that's not quite as cut-and-dry as it is with radio, even today, because the buyer is in fact buying the product. But the issue that needs to be resolved first and foremost, before we even begin to think about anything else, is the fact that comic book companies today depend on far too much of their revenue from the sale of product. It used to be that comics were a lot like newspapers in that the lion's share of the coin came from advertising. Single copy sales were almost a token thing, a very minor part of the revenue stream that, frankly, was most useful in helping to determine circulation, i.e. what sold where.

Until the direct market came along. 

ASIDE No.1 — Yes, I know this was not particularly true in the early Golden Age when comics were born. There was little advertising in them at the time. But that's largely because they were a new and untested medium. Publishers began selling ads as soon as they possibly could, and continued to do so for decades after, until almost nobody would buy ads any more.

ASIDE, No. 2 — Many newspapers are actually ditching paid circulation entirely. The papers I work for are direct-mailed to all homes in the coverage area, while one of our direct competitors (a paper I sued to write for) is what we call a "counter-drop" paper, meaning it is left in stores, sidewalk boxes, and other high traffic spots to be taken free of charge. I'm not suggesting DC start offering free copies to goose sales, just that the cover price needs to be low enough to entice the reader and high enough to satisfy the retailer, with the portion going back to the publisher really not all that important.

At about the same time comics began selling less to casual buyers an more to a core demographic — the stereotypical momma's basement dweller — advertisers began shying away. Circulation was cratering in part to distribution woes, true, and we discussed why in Part I, but before geek culture came out of the closet with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic book buyers were viewed by advertisers as a dead-end market. Advertisers will strive to reach out to a niche buyer, but only if those particular folks are perceived as culture "influences," meaning their buy-in will eventually lead to additional sales as others strive to copy and be like them. That was not at all the description of the typical comic book fan back then.

A typical comics book page of classified
ads, offering some questionable products,
like your own pet monkey, it's true, but only
one ad for comic book back issues — the
kind of thing that would come to dominate
such pages entirely as circulations declined,
until not even those kids of ads could get
sold and these types of pages disappeared.
It's not coincidental, I think, that the classified page, a longtime advertising staple that had once featured x-ray specs, body building booklets, and magic lessons, came to be predominated by comic book dealers offering back issues. Niche audience was niche, as reflected in the ads.

The average comic book today has 20 pages of story and art, up from 17 in the early 1980s. In my hands as I type this, I hold a completely typical comic, a copy of GREEN LANTERNS #26. It is 32 pages long, 36 counting the covers. Of that, the story is 20 pages; then there is one promo page and the cover, for 24 pages of editorial material. So, 38.9 percent of the product is advertising. That's a little below the 55 percent my newspaper shoots for, but still within tolerable ranges.

EXCEPT — only six of the ads actually produce any revenue for DC. The rest are so-called "house ads" for other product. At my paper we call those "filler ads" — it's the crap you throw in to fill column inches when you have space blocked out for an ad that did not sell. So, in truth, the actual ad rate is 16.7 percent. And that's pretty good these days. At almost every comic book company that is not Marvel or DC, the ad rate is closer to, and in most cases actually is, zero percent! In other words most — meaning upwards of 100 percent — of all revenue comes from the sale of single copies, heavily discounted to Diamond Distribution.

Therefore, if the publisher of DC Comics, or any other comic book company, is going to think like an actually PUBLISHER, and not, as I'd argue Dan Didio and Jim Lee do, as executive editors and editorial content managers, Goal No. 1 needs to be selling that ad space!

Now, you may surmise from my radio analogy above that the way to do that is to never experiment, never do anything risky, only publish the tried-and-true. Play the hits, as it were.

Far from it. What I am saying is that, in  order to lure back advertisers, comics need to boost their circulations to numbers that will be meaningful to those asked to advertise within the books. And to do that, comics need to accessible — that is, made available in places were they can be easily found by those not already predisposed to buying them, and easily read and understood by those lacking a degree in Geekology 101 who do choose to give them a try.


So, how do get comics in places where they are not now on sale? It's arguable that DC owes its early success, maybe even its very survival, to the fact that it owned its own distribution arm, Independent News. In fact, I'll go so far as to tell you that Superman and Batman lived past the Golden Age of comics in large part due to the fact that DC controlled its own distribution.  Therefore, I argue that DC Entertainment needs to get back into the distribution game — that is, if it's serious about sustaining and growing its comic book business beyond simply issuing limited market collectibles for the sole purposed of maintaining trademarks.

Of course, starting up a distribution branch does not necessarily mean getting back into newsstand sales, nor does it mean DC exercising its option (which I think still exists from the 1990s distribution wars) to take over Diamond.

What it does mean is being creative, and making an investment.

It can make a deal, for example, to sell comics through giant discount chains like Walmart, Target,  and Toys-R-Us, either as single issues, or as multi-paks. The traditional argument against this is that these retailers demand such a huge discount, there's no profit to be made. But that's okay. DC doesn't have to make a penny on comics sold through these outlets. Much like the direct-mail and counter-drop newspapers I work with, the idea is to boost circulation. If you just break even (or even lose a little on printing costs), on sales, but SUPERMAN gets a boost from being in Walmart stores nationwide, going from 50,000 copies sold per month to 250,000 — that's a win. It means advertisers will come around again and start kicking your tires.

Incumbent in this success however is DC running its own advertising department. I am fairly certain it does not (and has not on the order of something like forever). Ad sales are now handled via third party agencies. I can tell you my newspaper would survive about two weeks paying someone else to sell and design our ads. Bring that sh*t in house!

Another necessity of selling comics outside of comics shops, however, is that they need to return to newsprint, or something like it. This isn't just to lower the cover price. There's a logic in that, of course, but newsprint is getting to be as expensive as other types of paper these days, just because of the smaller market for it. No, the real reason to use newsprint is durability. The problem with hi-gloss comic book pages made of clay is that they can weather next to no handling without sustaining damage. In a comic book store that's okay. Comics don't really get pawed over there. Heck, many, if not most, go straight into customer pull files. But in a mass market outlet where the market is massive, people will pick and choose, bending the books over shelf guards and spinner rack handles. Newsprint is more supple and can take a little bending and mangling before it begins to break. At least more so than heavy stock pages and covers. Obviously, even casual buyers do not want to buy a product that's damaged. The comic must stand up to being handled a few times and still look new to the person who does take it home. For that reason, newsprint and thinner covers, more akin to 1970s-era packaging, is what's needed.

The other argument I hear against trying to make deals with high-traffic stores is that encouraging people to shop elsewhere will alienate and piss off comic book store owners, who are these days represent about 90-95 percent of all comic books sales. For defs, we do not want to throw those retail outlets under the bus as we strive to expand our market. So, here's what I would offer then — comic book vending machines.

A vintage comic book vending machine
from the 1960s. Sale of comics vie these
devices high traffic locations and other
places frequented by potential customers
unlikely to visit a comic books store, or in
places with no comics shop nearby, is an
idea worth revisiting in order to boost
circulation enough to interest advertisers.
It boggles my mind that comic book companies do not try and sell comics inside movie theater lobbies, or even outside the theater. After all, every time a super-hero movie, or something like it, comes out, there is an audience right there predisposed to buying your product! Why not take advantage of that? So, DC should develop a vending machine to place in or around theaters, as well as grocery stores, shopping malls, highway rest stops, and anyplace else people with children congregate. But here's the thing — DC should then make a deal with comic book stores to operate and maintain those units.

This would help control distribution costs because the comics could be shipped through Diamond to its current accounts, and it gives the retailer an opportunity to pull in extra dollars by reaching customers he or she is not reaching now. Moreover, if the comics are vended inside a bag and board, the retailer can drive those new customers to the store by including promotional material slipped into the bag. And the real entrepreneur might make even more money still by selling advertising flyers to other area businesses to stuff in the bag. Alternately, DC could put the new advertising branch I've advocated for to work selling regional ads, directing some of that revenue to the retailer/vending operator for time spent stuffing bags. After all, the local trampoline park, for instance, would have no reason to advertise in a nationally distributed comic book, but it might have a very high interest indeed to getting a coupon into comics sold in the local area.

Another possibility might be to launch a comicmobile not unlike the one Bob Rozakis piloted for DC in the 1970s. If a design for these mobile vending units could be standardize, they could go on routes nationwide, selling comics inside subdivisions, along city streets, and at ballgames and other local community events. They'd have to sell more than just comics, I think, but imagine if the local ice cream truck rolled up also offering comic books! Happy-happy, joy-joy, indeed!

But these trucks also could target sponsored events. Let's way Warner Brothers decides to sponsor a NASCAR team, as it has in the past for big movie releases. Right there at the track every single week you've got an audience that's five times larger that the monthly circulation of the average comic book today, with almost every one of them in need of something to keep passengers occupied with during the long drive home. Pull up your comic mobile to the parking lot (Actually, NASCAR would probably allow access to the sponsor swag-sale area inside the gate) and start selling!

One other aspect of comicmoble sales is that DC could handle all aspects of distribution to these outlets. Diamond and local retailers can be left in charge of vending machines (unless DC decides to extend that effort to areas not served by a local comic book store), and the big retailers will handling getting the books from a main warehouse to all of their store locations. But both will probably want some form of returnability. Because people who buy comics from an ice cream truck, or at the race track, are likely to be less discerning — at least in terms of knowing (or caring) whether a comic for sale first came out last week, last month, or six months ago — DC could take returns and funnel all copies still in VF or better condition to the mobile vending units, thus getting a second bite at the apple, as it were.

The great thing about these ideas is that initial investment may not be as high as they'd seem at first blush. Some of the larger comics shops may be willing to pay for part or even all of the cost of teh vending machines, based on the promise of expanded business. Or, at the very least, the assurance that they'd help boost orders into the next-highest Diamond discount level. Meanwhile, the mobile truck owners would actually be buying into a franchise opportunity, getting the concept and the comics, but buying the truck themselves.

Now, of course, sponsoring a NASCAR team is no small thing. A full-season sponsorship of a race team can run upwards of $10-15 million. Is DC going to see enough comics at the track to make that back? No, of course not. However, the visibility can be very valuable to DC's, or more correctly, Warner's bottom line — gaining more attention for DC movies, tv shows, toys, and other licensed goods. It's also possible that snack and beverage brands that choose to go in with DC on the mobile vending franchise concept may be willing to buy associate sponsorships on the race care, thereby reducing DC's own outlay.

But a NASCAR team can also be useful in supporting the local comics shops, which is something DC may want to do to bolster than market as it seeks new ones, and so sooth the feelings of retailers who might feel slighted by a push to bob-box stores. After all, I promise you, an appearance at their ship by NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and her show car would make any comic store owner VERY happy, indeed. Such a thing promised to not only draw in young female fans who look up to Patrick as a role model, it's certain to draw in every fanboy who ever ogled a boob window.


If you've made it this far, be assured this last section will be much shorter. That's because it basically boils down to this: All that stuff I complained about in Part I — don't do that.

In fact, do the opposite.

As I've said earlier, playing to a more general audience does not necessarily mean playing the same song over and over. Comics have that over classic rock stations, at least. But you do have to meet certain expectations. What you produce can't be relevant only to a very small group of core aficionados. You can't have people tuning in expecting to get something stylistically similar to The Rolling Stones, and instead give them Guy Lombardo's Hot Polka.

For that reason, editors have to start being actual editors again, and not just glorified production managers. They have to ask themselves with every single story, with every single page, would a person who's never read a comic book before have any idea what's going on here, or have reason to care? They have to look at every single page layout and ask themselves, if this was the first time I'd ever read a comic book, could a follow the action where, to have any clue what's going on?

Now, I'm not saying every single story has to be a stand-alone tale devoid of connection to anything else that ever happened in your fictional universe. But those connections have to be made in such a way that the novice can follow along, and that he/or she does not need to have any familiarity at all with 20 years of continuity in order to understand why the story is even being told. The story has to be about something, and that something can't be to establish that Hawkman either is or is not a space cop once gain. The focus has to be on telling good, quality stories, not on expanding, explaining, connecting, fixing, or retconning the characters and their histories. And again, this does not mean present tense only with no reference to the past, just that you can't make something readers may be unfamiliar with the basis of why the story is being told. The readers you need to reach don't care how many times Hawkman as switched back and forth from reincarnated Egyptian prince, or that different versions used to exist in different settings, but now share a single timeline, unless they don't. This week. The casual reader just wants to be entertained. They are not interested in what amounts to fan-fiction. They just want to know who is this guy right now and what is he doing that's worth paying attention to? Plot, my friend, in comics, plot is king.

Think of it this way: BREAKING BAD was a great series in which each episode built upon what had come before. There was an overarching theme and solid character development. So, you don't need to be stuck in a storytelling rut doing the same Superman-battles-Luthor thing time ad nauseum. But the thing about BREAKING BAD is that each episode still managed to give a complete story of some sort — some element that was introduced, explored, and resolved in each episode. A new viewer, having heard good things about this series, could start watching at any point and have a complete and entertaining fictional experience, while still understanding who everyone was and having some idea what had come before, along with what led to this point — all with virtually no use of exposition.

But modern comics read like each issue is just the few minutes of a BREAKING BAD episode between the first and second commercial breaks. And just as we need more plot action in comics in general, and within single issues in particular, we also need to give readers more to chew on within each issue. You can't continue to ask customer's to plunk down $4 for a comic book that can be read in about eight minutes! But keep in mind, giving more does not mean each issue has to be overly wordy, it just means more has to happen.

ASIDE: When the New 52 Superman launched by George Perez, I was beyond thrilled. Now, THIS, this was a comic book I thought. There was a lot going on in each issue, such that the book really reminded my of my Bronze Age favorites. Each issue took 20 minutes or more to read. I was at my local comics shop one day praising the title when a young guy browsing the stands (and by young, I mean young for a comic book reader — say mid-20s) said he actually did not like the book. I asked why and he did not hesitate. "Too many words," he said. So, I think we do have to accept that in giving casual readers something they can grab on to, we are going to face a backlash from some corners of the collecting community. But that's okay, we want people who will actually read the damn books, not ones who just want to slab and re-sell.

So, what do I mean by "more has to happen." Well, go back to the last image posted with Part I of this treatise. It's a beautifully dawn page by Todd McFarlane, depicting Spider-Man swinging across the rooftops in three panels. The page has 50 words, all about Spidey thinking it's good to be Spidey. Okay, all fine and well. But as I said then, that is a LOT of space to chew up in a 20-22 page story on basically nothing. The page sets a moment, but does zero to advance the plot, or deepen our understanding of the character and his world. It's just, "Spidey swings from a rooftop feeling good about himself." Ask yourself, would Stan Lee have used an entire page to convey that little snippet of action? Better to have done it in a single panel, maybe with all 50 words, but probably pared down somewhat for the Millennials who have been trained that comics are to be looked at, not read. Then, move on with the action.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #14, on sale
April 19, 2006. ©Marvel Comics. A
classic example of decompressed story-
telling, in which Wolverine takes an
entire page to contemplate the relation-
ship between Colossus and Kitty Pryde.
When used thoughtfully and with a narr-
ative purpose, decompression an be a
powerful storytelling tool. The problem
is that too many comics today take too
long to convey narrative information not
because the creators are purposely draw-
ing out a moment for effect, but because
they have no idea how to advance a plot
in the "sudden fiction" format of comics
with any sort of expedition at all.
After all, imagine if your first episode of BREAKING BAD was just that 12 minutes between commercial breaks — because most issues in extended comic book stories these days amount to about that — and four minutes of that time was just Walter walking the trash out to the curb thinking, ya know, I think today is going to be a good day. Now imagine if, in order to get the full one-hour episode, you had to watch in 12-minute chunks spaced not one week apart, but one month apart, such that it took you four months to get one episode worth of story, never mind the larger season-long plot. And yet one-quarter of that four months was just Walter walking a trash bag to the curb!

Here's another example — in my review of last month's THE DEFENDERS #1, I noted that a scene in which the various team members scour the city trying to turn up info on Diamondback's whereabouts takes place in four panels spread over two pages. Did the editor stop to consider why this action needed to take place over two entire pages of a 21 page story?  It's not as if the panel of Daredevil busting up a bar was some Schomburgian battlescape one needed to linger over for days to take in every juicy detail. Those four panels read in about 12 seconds!

It would have been better to have condensed the search to four sliver panels at the top (or bottom) of a single page. And this is not just to preserve narrative space. There's also a metatextual reason that any student of Will Eisner or Scott McCloud would understand. The whole point of the scene was that the Defenders were not doing any detailed detective work, they were conducting a rapid-fire punch and poset strategy to intimidate potential henchmen into giving up the goods.

Well, Jessica Jones excepted, but her panel could have been a little larger than the other three. A series of sliver panels would have helped to communicate the sense of fast-moving action happening more or less simultaneously. But four half-page panels over two pages, despite taking all of 12 seconds to read, actually serves to slow the action to a halt. 

Thus, using less space for this scene would have better communicated the impression of what was happening and saved 1.5 pages for additional plot and/or character development.

ASIDE: A series of sliver panels, especially when dividing a single image, can actually work to slow time down, as well. So, it's all in the execution. Just keep in mind that comics are a form of "sudden fiction," meaning a lot of information needs to be conveyed in a very limited space. As in journalism, there should be no unnecessary words to a story. And, as in a comic strip, include no drawings that do not advance the story.

It is also worth saying, I think, that comic book creators need to stop thinking of their work as mini-movies. Comics are a uniquely American form of artistic expression, and as such they have their own storytelling modes and motifs. Creators need to stop ignoring some of the most powerful tricks in their narrative toolkits, things unique to the comics form, like narrative captions, thought balloons, and word balloons on the cover, just because they seem quaint, or old-fashioned, or silly. Keep in mind, the idea is to tell a story that will sell to the masses, not to be seen as an auteur by your fellow nerds. Imagine if all novelists up and decided, you know what, from now on I'm going to limit my prose to just dialogue and the minimal stage direction that would be used in a movie script.

Trust me, the movie studios will most want to adapt your comics work when it catches fire with a critical mass of the entertainment-buying public. And that has the best chance of happening with you exploit the unique storytelling strengths of the comics medium that no movie could ever hope to directly mimic, or adapt.

To summarize then: 

A comic book company like DC needs to stop trying to survive by getting the same dwindling base of fans (dwindling because they are, in fact, dying off) to buy more of the same thing, by over-saturating the market with 43 titles of the same character, each published with 17 separate covers and tying into to 112 other books and 40 years of backstory. It needs to focus instead on boosting overall circulation by bringing comics to casual readers and giving them a product they will actually want to read.

To do this, DC (and other companies) need to expand circulation outside of traditional comic books shops in a way that will not alienate or actually damage those modes of distribution.

And the stories themselves need to be produced with non-faboys in mind, written and drawn in ways that make then easy to follow (even when the subject matter is challenging) and gives value for dollar, providing a complete reading experience even when an issue is only a chapter of a larger tale.

That's what will bring advertisers back, which is why every action should be undertaken with the goal of never again having to fill non-comics pages with house ads.

But there's also this — there is more to giving value in a comic book then just the comics story. And that will be the subject of Part III.

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