Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Ruination of The Big Two or Why Marvel and DC Comics Suck Part 2

Where I continue to bitch, whine and moan like the curmudgeon I have become.

Next up is the lack of continuity. This is related to no cohesive universe but also different. One example is what Marvel is doing now by playing fast and loose with what survives Secret Wars and what does not. Add in an eight month jump when restarting their books and you have the New DCU. Remember DC said they were not resetting everything after Flashpoint, but they did and were constantly adjusting things on the fly. Now Didio has stated continuity is not important only telling a good story. Which would be great if they were producing books like All Star Superman, New Frontier, Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moores’ Swamp Thing. Instead what this has come to mean is that when a new creative team comes on a book expect a restart of continuity. If doesn’t tie into what came before, don’t worry just enjoy the great story.  This may work at times, but for me it is too jarring.

When I read a series I get invested in the characters. Starting over and make jarring changes causes me to lose a sense of the character’s identity. If I lose interest that I stop caring about their continuing adventures. Maybe I’ll buy a trade of a good arc down the road, but why invest in the continuing series. DC really screwed up by introducing a lot of stuff in the back up stories during the Convergence disaster (or event). When I tried out a series or two I was already not starting at the beginning as eight pages had happened as a backup story.

It doesn’t help that the characters never grow older so the incredible weight of the amount of back stories is impossible to handle. The writers are forced to pick and choose what is important. So fifty plus years later Peter Parker matronly Aunt May is still around and had more adventures then Indiana Jones. Marvel writer’s supposedly have a sliding scale that everything happened in last ten years, but that means Captain (Steve Rogers) America was thawed out in 2005. It doesn’t work, the characters are not creations of 2005. They are creations of 1960’s. Worse even the replacements Marvel has shoved in the character roles are still old creations. Sam Wilson and Jane Foster are old as dirt. At least Ms. Marvel is a fresh face. With both companies  any investment you make into a character or a series will be unceremonious dumped at one point and what “made” the character for you may now be gone.

Another issue with many comic books is the casting of characters into roles as opposed to paying attention to established characteristics. It used to be that characters were so well defined that when a writer placed them in certain situations you would know how character “A” would react. The comics almost wrote themselves was what some writers said at that time. If a character reacted in a different manner then established some reasoning would be given. I think I first noticed the casting of characters into roles with Marvel’s Civil War. In order for a Civil War to occur you needed the characters to act a certain way. The characters were cast into roles to fit what story the writer wanted to tell. Characters acted less heroic and very out of character. No rhyme or reason was given.
This has led to more and more the writers coming in who wanted to tell their story. Often they will just use any character and ignore long standing characteristics and relationships. So Wolverine and Cyclops decide to hate each other. Wolverine becomes a professor at the mutant school. Hal Jordan loses his mind and kills the Green Lantern corps. Of course part of this problem is companies’ inability to allow characters to age and have a new generation under the mask. With a character that has been around for 50 years these are often the only way some writers can manage to introduce some drama and excitement. Or the dramatic retro-con, where we find out previously unknown relatives or revelations about a characters past. Still I feel that way too often a writer wants to tell his grand story (often a rehash of a Shakespearian play) or editorial mandate that Avengers will fight X-Men and then they cast the roles. So Juliet will be Sue Storm and Romeo will be Spider-Man, makes no sense, who cares.

In the same vein I believe way too many writers want to make some social or political point. Now we all have a world view (except maybe Kim Kardashian) so I get that you may try to slide in your POV here and there. That is all well and good, but it is like being beaten with a sledge hammer anymore. A recent example was in Thor, now a woman. She is Thor for five seconds and is being lauded as a better then the former Thor. Male bashing was in abundance in that book. I have no issue with trying to diversify and represent other groups but you don’t raise up anyone by beating down on someone else. I have worked with people who felt tearing down others was the best way to make themselves look good, I disagree. What gets lost in pushing your agenda in an overt manner is that the writers and companies are not writing stories for the characters. It seldom feels like writers are coming onto a book with a vision of who the character is and try to make that happen. Grant Morrison is perhaps the last writer that I can remember who really did that with X-Men and Batman. He actually cared about the characters and wrote stories to advance the characters. If he dropped in his world view here and there, that is fine, but the story should come first.

Remember you can buy the single issues of this column and also get the variant covers. We have the A, B, C and D covers that were all produced at the same rate. Next are the E, F & G covers that are rare, rarer and rarest. Of course we also have the retailer incentive cover, which is the same cover where we just drop the coloring and made it black and white. This is even more rarest and we call it the Virgin Art cover, because it sounds sexy. Coming soon Part 3!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Ruination of The Big Two or Why Marvel and DC Comics Suck Part 1

It is becoming harder and harder for me to be able to actually be critical of Marvel and DC because I read less and less of their books. I’m only getting one Marvel comic. That is the Jeff Lemire Hawkeye books scheduled for only eight issues I believe. With DC I have dropped so many books recently and find it hard to even read what I get. I know I’m sticking with JLA by Johns because he has ignored the newest DC reset. I can also say that I get zero books under the Batman family or Superman family. In total I might be getting six or seven books from the big two.

There are a number of reasons for this and it has lead me to conclude that Marvel and DC are currently at a creative nadir.

One of the major reasons is the editorial mandates that are controlling way too many books. Dan Didio at DC has been notorious for changing direction on the fly and making one decision and then another. Re-writes being called for and not paid for was a persistent rumor about DC as creators fled in what seemed like droves at one point. Didio finally get complete control of things at DC after Levitz and Jeanette Kahn left management. One of his first things he did was the new DCU. Those in one fell swoop he mandated the destruction of all the past history of the company. One of the core elements of DC was its legacy and now it was gone. He also hired Bob Harras as his EIC, who by all accounts failed at Marvel in the same role years ago.  We are already on a second revamp with the DC You crap. I personally can’t read 90% of what DC produces because none of it has any staying power as Dan and Bob will force a change in direction in a New York minute.

Marvel is just as bad since Disney has taken over more and more I feel like the stories are being given a strong push by management in the direction they are going. Death of Wolverine was a prime example of something the company decided they wanted to do and therefore Wolverine died. Now with the mandated eight month jump in time as Marvel does their half ass reboot after Secret Money Grab, eer War – we have odd variations of characters being advertised as All New All Different, yet just the same (or so Marvel tries to promise). There has always been editorial interference and direction being pushed from above in comics. The difference was before I felt like a lot more was allowed to occur a little more organically. At least some of the ideas percolated up to management for approval as opposed to being mandated strictly from above.  It takes the heart out of the books as you can feel the stories have no impact and the characters are serving only to advance some plot that does not always fit them or what has gone before.

Another reason that the big two are dying is a lack of a cohesive universe. One can make the argument that this happened a long time ago and that is true to a large degree. It is worse now. Even going back to Morrison’s run on JLA, he had to acknowledge the shifts that occurred to major characters. When Superman was Superman Blue, he was in JLA. Now Johns JL has Superman and Batman like we know them to be for the most part. Yet in their books Superman is depowered and has a buzz cut and Batman is Jim Gordon with a robot body. 

Marvel does a little better as changes to Captain America and Thor were recognized rather quickly in the Avengers while I was still reading their books. Again though the cohesion is not really there with Marvel. This is most evident with the Avengers books. There is no way I have ever seen how Remender’s Uncanny Avengers ever tied into to the Hickman Magnum Opus. Trying to make the X-Men books fit into that mess is even more of fool’s errand. I don’t need all of this stuff to tie 100% together like Marvel did in the beginning, but I like to think I’m reading about one universe. At this point I was often taken out of stories when internal logic fell apart. Hell even within titles that star the same characters there is no rhyme or reason as to what is going on in another title until a cross-over and then we get a jam sandwich.

I’m planning this as a multipart post (maybe 3) and then of course we will do a collected hardcover version, then release a trade paperback version and in three years if it sold well a deluxe version with previous pieces of scrap paper we found on the floor.