Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why Marvel and DC are Stale

Like bread left out too long Marvel and DC are stale and I’m starting to see some mold on the sides of the slices.

Okay I’m about to take some vacation time and part of the trip I will be in Baltimore and attending Balto-Con. I have decided that I NEED to stop getting all Marvel and DC books and will try and set a target date of six months from now. I will make up to ten monthly exceptions and Vertigo will not count.

My problem is that Marvel and DC refuse to modify their approaches with the characters and that the characters no longer work because you cannot continuously publish a character for 50 years and still maintain continuity.

One problem I believe is with both companies is the lack of new characters. There is no real money in it for the creators to create any new characters. Why add a new villain into the DCU or Marvel or a new hero and watch them become the next Wolverine. Do you think Len Wein and John Romita Sr. (who designed him) are living off the riches this character has generated for Marvel and the movies? If you honestly believe that those two guys are now fats cats living off their millions from that creation I can sell you part of a bridge in Brooklyn, cheap. To the best of my knowledge neither Marvel nor DC is paying for new characters and I’m sure it is work for hire.  

Heck this problem could be solved with some creative thinking. Lease the character for five years with a fixed payment and then reopen negotiations or have options built in for both sides. Lots of stuff gets optioned and nothing every happens, but at least this way creators could maintain a financial interest in the success of the character and the company can exploit the character in agreed ways. Let’s say I create Kinetic Man and I lease the character to Marvel for five years for $50,000 with additional payments if they market him into cartoons, t-shirts whatever. Of course the problem is that neither Disney nor Warner Brothers want to exploit something then do not own lock stock and barrel. This means that creators are going to hold back new ideas and try to do something new with a creator owned project. It also means that consciously or unconsciously the creators are not putting their best effort into these books. They want to do a good job, because it is a good paying job for most of them, but it is a job. Ownership in a process creates a better product (usually).

Specific to Marvel comics is the problem that their characters are too much a product of their times. I think Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spider-Man and other characters are truly tied to the sixties. If those characters were created today they would be radically different at least in their approach. The problem is that you have characters that have been continuously published for 50 years and they are still the same people. Instead of Val and Franklin running the FF, they are children forever. With too few new characters being added it is just an endless recycling of using the same characters over and over and over again. No matter how many events and gimmicks you try it is till Reed Richards, Sue Richards, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm. Any growth is wiped out with the next writer. When you look at the origins of the characters they no longer make any sense which is why the movies desperately try to update the material. So we get Thanos and Sentinels as the villains for the current events – wow that is different.

Specific to DC comics is the issue of lost continuity. When they launched the new 52 they threw the baby out with the bath water. There is no legacy and the history of the characters is a blank slate that we have to guess at, but have no basis for our belief. Issues like how did Nightwing has a relationship with Starfire with out having a Teen Titans, if Hal never went crazy (which I’m convinced is the case now) why is Kyle a Green Lantern? You start to push on any continuity or history of the characters it all falls apart. I would have preferred a brand new start from the beginning instead of this squishy mess of continuity.

Another point is that now the actual stories have been devalued, not only from a collector or resale standpoint, but from the standpoint as a reader. On Ebay selling pre 52 stuff is giving away the books. The interest is very low in the more recent books. As a reader when I re-read the stories something is lost knowing that a favorite story no longer is “in continuity” for  a character.  I know many stories are that way and over time I’m sure I will just enjoy what I have.

Of course that is the point; I think it is time to just enjoy what has gone before. I can pick up stuff like Wonder Woman, Batman, Hawkeye and a few others. I can keep my finger on the pulse of good stuff from the big two via the websites. I can indulge myself with more and more of the indy titles and enjoy Todd the Ugliest Kid, East of West, Uber, Suicide Risk, Bloodshot, Red Team, Mind Mgmt, Wild Blue Yonder and other books. Time to leave the big two behind for the most part and to hope that maybe they can help maintain the fan base to keep the industry alive.

I think one solution for the big two is to so screw continuity and just tell the best stories then can or they can. Or they can continue their event driven marketing stunts to cover up the fact that both companies are stagnant. If they drop continuity at least the writers are free to tell their best story about a character. Look at Daredevil Knights by Lee Weeks and the old Batman black and white stuff, just iconic type stories. No worriers about what is in continuity or what is not.

My final thought is that I was talking with a friend about how long print comics will last as the next generation will not give a damn about print. The new generation will be happy to read their comics on a table style computer. I said that they will still be a niche market and then I realized that with a successful comic only needing to sell 50,000 issues in a country of 350 million, comics are already a niche market. It is the fact that they have been so integrated into the main stream via movies, cartoons and apparel that we tend to forget the actual product is a very small market. 


  1. What time is your panel on Saturday? I don't want to miss it! :)

  2. my thoughts exactly; instead of rebooting these characters, why not just introduce new ones for the new generation of readers; Iron Man, Captain America and Thor for example are overexposed characters;