What’s Bugging Me – Comics Edition
I know I have ranted about the things that comic companies have been doing before, but it really felt like the right time to revisit the rant. This is especially so since it seems that when I look at what’s going on in comics now and in the months to come, I just get all riled up once more.
Starting Over, But Not Really, Well, Kind Of
It started with the New 52. DC planned on restarting their entire universe. It was not really all that unexpected. If you look at the history of the DC universe, there has been such a restart every 20 years or so. The Golden Age of the 1930s slowly gave way to the Silver Age 1950s and 1960s, and the Silver Age exploded into the modern era in 1986. Ignoring for the course corrections (Zero Hour, 52), the New 52 comes a little over 30 years after Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was a move that was made even bolder when DC announced that all the titles in the New 52 would begin again with issue 1, including long running books Action Comics, which had just celebrated a major milestone with its 900 issue, and Detective, which was soon to reach that mile mark as well. There were skeptics. And there were detractors. But it was a success.
Now, we get ready for Marvel Now, which is described as not a reboot, but a restart. It seems just a bit coincidental that we are getting Marvel Now, which restarts a number of titles back to issue #1 after DC’s New 52, especially since, for the most part, the New 52 has been a success.
I have a number of problems with Marvel Now, the biggest being the restart of a number of long running books like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. Granted, these titles have been restarted by Marvel so many times that their original numbering has long been lost. Other titles just seem like a restructuring of teams, many of which were just restructured barely a year ago. Many of the X-Books barely had a chance to complete one story line before A vs. X began, leading to Marvel Now, where now members will be joining new teams and new books. Then there is Avengers Arena, a book that looks like it is just going to be a poor knockoff of Hunger Games and Battle Royale. Even the initial cover art is a direct rip off of Battle Royale.
Playing Catch Up… Poorly
Often the Big two have worked on parallel paths. Most notably is the near simultaneous creations of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Man-Thing. Man-Thing may have reached the shelves first, but given the creation and printing process in the 1970s, two months may as well be the same month. Since then, DC and Marvel have been playing a dance of who does what first. The sad part is that whenever Marvel seems to be the lagging company, they seem to do it very poorly.
Case in point: DC Comics kills off Superman. In the months that followed, DC introduced four heroes all claiming to be Superman. Over the course of The Reign of the Supermen, we learn that none of these claimants are the real thing. In the end, the real Superman returns, while two of the replacements get spun off into their own titles. Given the success of this story line, it isn’t surprising that Marvel would try it. Don ‘t remember it? Probably because they chose The Punisher for the story line, and introduced seven different vigilantes assuming the mantle of the Punisher. Nothing came of it.
But, this “Reign of the Punishers” is par for the course for Marvel. DC released the phenomenal Identity Crisis, Marvel comes up with Identity Disc. When it comes time to bring back Captain America from the dead, Marvel worked out this bizarre “lost in time” story which did not make much sense given how Cap was originally killed. At least when Batman was lost in time, it was after he was blasted by Darkseid’s Omega beams, a power which has never fully been explained. And in the wake of the New 52, we have Marvel Now. It can go either way at this point, but history does not seem to suggest it will be all that great.
The Grim Revolving Door of Death
Both DC and Marvel suffer greatly from the lack of finality of death. Superman died and returned to life. Hal Jordan died, and returned to life. Marvel has this issue too, though it seems that Death has a worse grasp on who it takes than in the DC Universe.
The big problem with deaths in the Marvel universe is how fast characters return from the dead. Thor died at the end of Fear Itself, only to return from the dead no less than one month later. The same with Bucky/Winter Soldier/Captain America/Winter Soldier. The Bucky one is even more troubling in that at one time, Marvel said it had only two rules when it came to deaths: Bucky stays dead, and Uncle Ben stays dead. It is difficult to have any outpouring of emotion for a character’s death when they return three pages later. This is why I did not get all that phased when Professor X died. I seriously expect him to be back in a few months, most likely without any real explanation of how he’s back.
I won’t even mention the “death” of the Human Torch because it was done in a classic comic misdirection: we never saw him die on panel.
We’re Pleased To Announce That Crappy Artist Is Working On…
Good writing and artwork is a matter of opinion. I am a big fan of Mike (Madman) Allred, while I’ve talked to some people who hate his artwork. I am also not a huge fan of Larry Stroman (I dropped X-Factor for several months because he was brought on as the artist), and I think Rob Liefeld is… well, the less I say about what I think of Liefeld’s writing and artwork, the better.
With any writing and art change, the reader just has to buffer the changes. Maybe its a good thing, like when Frank Quitely took over on X-Men, or maybe the book will spiral to cancellation (Hawk and Dove). You just have to deal with the changes as they come.
However, there seem to be a few creators who seemed to be universally reviled. Some of these creators are hated because of their actual “talent” (bad artwork, bad writing, bad both). Others are despised because they just don’t seem to get the concept of a monthly book (“I got the first book done, they can wait a few months for the next one”). In spite of this, these creators still seem to get work. And, as anticipated by everyone but the publishers, they fall into their old habits. It really makes you wonder if anyone at the publishers are really paying attention to what’s going on in the publishing world.