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The Wednesday Waffle: Episode Seventeen - Still to come in 2019...

So, last week we scratched the surface of things to come from Marvel Comics. Now, let's take a look at the Distinguished Competition...

Well, first up from DC, and only a few short weeks away we have a new Batman/Flash crossover as together they take on The Last Cold Case. Now, the last time they did this with The Button they caused us no end of trouble with copies not arriving and people not realising the story was spread across two books. We hope we've learned from that mistake, but if you normally read one title and not the other, and you want the whole crossover, be sure and let us know.

That bit of housekeeping aside, why should we all be excited for this?

Well, in the wake of Heroes in Crisis a lot of heroes are dead and al ot of people are angry about it. As one of the three creators of the Sanctuary project, Batman is one of the people in line for the blame - so anticipate some bat/speedster conflict as the two greatest detectives in the DCU (everyone always seems to forget that The Flash is also a detective...) set out to crack a cold case from the Justice League's past.

The whole shebang is being written by Flash scribe Joshua Williamson - which does mean we'll be deprived of the brilliant Tom King on Batman for the duration, but Williamson has a pretty decent track record, so we're not worried on that score. Looks like it could be fun.

Far more interesting from our point of view as a retailer is the forthcoming launch of DC Ink and DC Zero. DC has, for some time now, been a little bit keen on breaking itself down into imprints. Vertigo, specialising in the wierder, more adult oriented types of storytelling has been around since the nineties, and the late lamented Helix imprint expanded the DC "family", although it didn't last long.

Then came Gerard Way with his Young Animal line, a sort of poppy, teen oriented version of Vertigo - still wierd, but they bleep the swearing, essentially. Then Bendis turned up with his creator owned Jinxworld line, basically giving a home to all of the stuff he wants to do that isn't owned by DC.

DC Ink and DC Zoom are different. They are intended to be decicated homes for comics aimed at younger readers - and younger readers matter an awful lot. First of all (hang on for a second while I pause for a second and put my "former English Teacher" hat back on...) comics are a very effective gateway drug for literacy.

Everyone agrees that getting kids reading is a good thing. Too many people then try to get prescriptive about what kids should actually be reading and comics often fail to make the cut. (Listeners to our Podcast The Geeks at the Gates may recall that I mayself wasn't allowed comics as a child. I guess we can all see how well that worked out...) The reasons for this are many and varied, but basically boil down to intellectual snobbery - pre-literate children have pucture books, comics have a lot of pictures in them so they must be for the less-literate reader. QED.

Except of course, it's more complicated than that and comics are a powerful tool in the classroom. For a start, kids like them. Never ever underestimate the power of that. Talk to a lot of kids (especially boys) and they'll tell you that they "hate reading" because "reading's boring". As a teacher I always used to suggest that they'd been reading the wrong books. Well meaning adults often force their own favourite books on kids thinking they're doing them a favour, but if the kid doesn't like the book, and that's their only experience of reading it's easy to see how they come to dislike the activity.

Comics cut right through that, because they do several things at once. For a start, they're colourful with a vast amount of imagery to catch a young reader's interest. Compare the visual impact of a comics page with a page of prose. There's no contest - and it's all very well to say that words paint the best pictures in the reader's head, but if you're not a confident reader - as a lot of kids aren't, for a variety of reasons - it seems like an awful lot of effort to access that descriptive imagery. Comics just give you the images.

The existence of the pictures also helps less confident readers to follow the narrative - if they don't quite understand every word in the speech bubbles and the narrative boxes, they still have the pictures to help them work out what's going on from context. This can be an easy, embarressment free way to expand your vocabulary, making reading prose easier (and so more pleasurable) too.

Literally everybody wins.

And that's why we're so excited for DC Ink and DC Zoom. They're bringing age apropriate stories in comic book form and making them accessible and easy to find. They're a little bit late to the party, of course, Marvel is already doing something very similar with their Marvel Super-Heroes line - but this is definitely a case of "the more the merrier"!

The first DC Ink and DC Zoom graphic novels hit the racks in March, so expect me to be making a bit of a fuss about them the.

So what else?

Well, that's a good question - just as with Marvel we've barely scratched the surface of what's coming from DC in the coming year - and we haven't even thought about the other publishers - what are Vault, Aftershock, Dark Horse, Valiant, IDW and BOOM! up to?

We'll, that's a subject for another time - see you next week!

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