by Jarrod JonesBraving the gauntlet of Big Two events, prestige format risk-takers, off-the-radar indie releases and a non-stop avalanche of floppies is DoomRocket’s HOT PRESS. With so many comics out there screaming for your eyeballs, HOT PRESS is here with recommendations, commentary, and general chatter concerning the comics industry. This week: Paying for content, Natalie Hains’ great summertime ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ cover, quick thoughts on ‘Planet-Size X-Men’, more.

Lots of talk about piracy in comics this week. (Seems like this one always pops up right about when the ol’ “writers vs. artists” debate hits a low ebb.) It’s not a complicated issue. It breaks down like this: reading pirated comics is a scummy thing to do. Especially if you know that comics production isn’t cheap and creators aren’t always compensated for the level of commitment they bring to these projects. If you know that and you still read your comics for free, you suck. Simple. Comics is a business and it takes money to go along. Some creators see the traffic on these dodgy pirate sites and feel like they’re missing out on a large chunk of cash. Makes sense why so many amazing creators go running to Image Comics or Kickstarter in the hopes that they might achieve their 6- or even 7-figure self-publishing dreams instead of doing work-for-hire at a corporate outfit. It might be a big reason why Ed Brubaker don’t write Batman no more.

The piracy conversation sometimes gets mired in the “whatabouts” concerning webcomics and what’s considered fair compensation for creators who largely post their work online for free. “If I can read these comics for free, then why can’t I read those comics for free,” that kind of thing. Here’s the rub: a sizable chunk of online readers likely don’t pay for a goddamn thing, ever. They just read the work and move on without visiting the creator’s Patreon or Ko-fi or buying something from their webstore. There are people in the world who don’t tip their servers, and there are people who don’t tip their webcomics creators. Both of these types suck. But they exist.

Ram V. says piracy is a fundamental aspect to the business, like gravity is a fundamental law to the universe. (That simile is precisely why I throw money at Ram V. projects as often as I can, by the way.) There’s no way to entirely disagree with him. Piracy is always going to be around. People like free shit. Simple. But, unlike gravity, you can change reader behavior.

I presume there are people who don’t think about things like production costs or or creator compensation or supporting small businesses like comic shops (they’re typically younger folks, and young ones are sometimes prone to Not Knowing Shit), so whenever one of these folk saunter into your life, take a minute and talk to them about how utterly self-serving piracy is. (Politely.) Maybe take them to a comic shop and direct them to some of DC’s Dollar Comics or Marvel’s True Believers or Image’s Image Firsts. They’re all a buck. Cheap (and good) comics often encourage return business. Failing that, explain how libraries work.

But, most crucially, pirate comic sites do not “help” readers “find” new creators. It saves these readers four bucks when they want to check out a book that they already know they don’t want to spend any money on. They’re giving revenue freely to the pirates, and the creators and publishers don’t see a cent.

Buy the content you use. Music, television, film, comics, whatever. I wish that went without saying. Anyway.

– My Star Wars: The Bad Batch recap assignment has been incredibly fun, rewarding. The latest installment is up over at The A.V. Club right now. Captain Rex finally made his appearance on the show and while it wasn’t the emotional reunion I think a lot of people were hoping for (these are soldiers, after all) it was a pretty killer episode that moved the central storyarc of the series along. After a couple of episodes that felt like filler, I was all for it.

The latest episode of CASUAL WEDNESDAYS is up! MJ & I talked about the Eisners and how limiting its nominations can be. (Snubs. We talked about snubs.) We also talked about whether or not Batman goes “downtown” which is a euphemism for “oral sex on Catwoman” and had a good time with it. We also talked about the debut issue of Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, and we both liked it very much. Also…

– CASUAL WEDNESDAYS’ ELSEWEEK is back! It’s a bonus podcast MJ & I have been trying to kick out more frequently that covers all the Elseworlds specials DC has ever published. This week we cracked Batman: Holy Terror, and my goodness. Whata goofy, glorious mess it is. You can listen to it here.

Look, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe it’s the fact that this summer is the first time I’ve felt even remotely comfortable going outside in well over a year, maybe it’s because I’m hungry for chili dogs. Whatever the reason might be, Natalie Haines’ variant for IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog #41 is doing it for me this week.

It’s the colors. The blues of the ocean sliding onto shore with a clean, clear brilliance. The way red becomes orange and back again and how it does so much work on this piece, particularly how it colors the smote robo-crab army—once out to ruin a brilliant beach picnic, now a smoking ruin littering the sands. (I presume Sonic will be doing some clean-up after lunch.) The details work wonders here, too. I love how we know Sonic is totally going to house at least four chili dogs before this afternoon is over. The way Sonic & Tails came to a beachside battle packing a cooler for a hard-won post-war picnic. The Sonic/Tails freeze pops poking their daffy eyes from a heap of precious ice cubes, melting elegantly in the aforementioned cooler. I want to taste the difference between a Chaos Soda and a Chaos Cola. Haines’ had fun with this piece and now I am, too.

Planet-Size X-Men lived up to its title, no doubt. I’m still working my way through as much X-Men comics as I possibly can (slow going because I just don’t have much time to read comics for fun these days) so I’m still relatively new to all this mutant mayhem. But I no longer have any questions concerning what an “omega-level mutant” means, jesus christ.

This current X-era is pretty highfalutin in terms of ambition, scope, and attitude, but it does feel like an extension of what Claremont was doing with this book back in the 80s, only far more “operatic” than “soap operatic”. The roster is bigger than it’s probably ever been, and juggling all these characters feels like an exercise a lot of the time. (And the sheer amount of titles in this line, fucking hell.)

But the big moments feel like Big Moments. The current X-line might be a bit pretentious about how it goes about telling its stories (I am both for and very much against the line’s haughty data pages), and I’m not sure I’m all the way up for its “superhero Met Gala but make it a reality show” approach or its fashionable, occasionally tiresome sass, but I appreciate how current X-Men can make you go “damn” every once in a while. The first few pages of Planet-Size X-Men did that for me this week. (I am wondering whether this “Krakoan supremacy” thing is going to start having serious world-wide consequences, especially after this issue. Hopefully that story gets told, because there’s a lot to work with there.)

– One of the Eisner nominations that has me very excited is Kat Leyh’s nod for Snapdragon. (It scored a spot on the Best Publication for Kids aged 9-12.) I feel perfectly comfortable plagiarizing myself when I reiterate that Snapdragon is “so blissfully alive it sometimes feels like magic.” Because it’s the truth.

Image: First Second Books

Snapdragon is magic. A comic crackling with comedy and drama and also the peculiar things that hang out in the periphery of our waking lives. It’s a story about a young kid named Snap who thinks there’s a witch living in her neighborhood, how Snap befriends this witch and forges a friendship that cracks open secrets even Snap’s mom didn’t know. There’s motorcylcles, unrequited love, mischievous foxes, happy pups, cute haircuts. And a big ol’ heart beating underneath it all. I can’t say whether Kat takes home an Eisner this year or not, but she should; Snapdragon is award-worthy material, a story that will linger in your mind long after it’s over with, one that will make you smile at the mere thought of it. It’s that good.

That’s all I got. Shorter newsletter this week, but I’m in full-fledged hustling mode. Lots of pans, lots of fires. Hope to have some new, exciting things to show you all before long. Meantime, buy some comics with your hard-earned cash. It’s still the cheapest form of entertainment out there.

More HOT PRESS:

HOT PRESS 6/10/21: ‘Hey, Amateur!’ Eisner nom, Romero & Bellaire’s ‘Black Hammer Visions’

HOT PRESS 6/3/21: ‘Everfrost’, ‘Nice House on the Lake’, and the trade release of ‘Skulldigger’

HOT PRESS 5/20/21: ‘Red Room’, Moore’s ‘Violator’ & RIP Kentaro Miura of ‘Berserk’

Send all submissions, inquiries, and correspondence to jarrod@doomrocket.com.