News, Notes, and Rants!on June 14, 2011 at 11:09 am
Greetings from Ithaca, NY, my new base of operations. Carol and I moved here last month for her job. The one thing that has stood out so far: everyone drives a hybrid. Ok, maybe not everyone, but an insane amount. Back in Oneonta, I used to play 'Spot the Prius' with Carol. That game's not even remotely fun here. Anyhoo, some news, notes, and rants...
- Comeback Kings #1 was officially sold out last week! Thanks to everyone who went out and purchased a copy, or followed a link and ordered one. The comic itself has received some pretty positive press, including this particular gem from the HuffingtonPost. I'm just a megalomaniac who drools over seeing one's name in print. A 2nd printing is already in the works (or a Director's cut, your call).
- Movies. Watching Thor, I couldn't escape one nagging thought, "This is the plot from Disney's Hercules." I don't think it was necessarily intentional, but it was a distraction from an otherwise fun film (and I say fun not in a patronizing sense). I was genuinely anxious to see this film because Iron Man 2 left a sour taste in my mouth. To me, Iron Man 2 felt like an expensive toy-commercial (not unlike X-Men Origins: Wolverine), legitimized by good actors (who phoned in their performances), interesting special effects, and the good faith left over from the original film. When you boil it down, the sequel was missing all the heart from the first film, all the excitement of new territory, all the natural chemistry developed between the actors, the disciplined story structure that gradually built tension and action (instead of just throwing it at you in some jumbled mess), and so on and so forth. In many ways, Thor and Iron Man 2 are just tie-ins for Avengers, but Thor understood that at the very least, you should tell an actual story, even if it's a formulaic one. (Jeez, why the hell am I talking about Iron Man 2 a year late?)
And I just have one question related to X-Men: First Class. How is Michael Fassbender NOT James Bond yet?
- I'm currently reading Y: The Last Man (7th volume). It was always one of those comics on my bucket list that I neglected to purchase. Enter the Thompkins County Public Library. Y is a very addictive read, and I totally get why people went crazy for it. Another wonderful mystery comic (or comic with a mystery in it) I recently devoured was 100 Bullets. It's funny reading these 2 series back to back. 100 bullets was a labyrinth, prolonging its reveal/explanation until the very end, while Y: The Last Man feels more like a detective story, divulging portions of its big secret midway through. Or hey, maybe it's a red herring, I won't know until I'm finished. Giving me part of the answer has kept me hooked, but it also rewards me as a reader. I feel like I'm getting more of my money's worth, metaphorically speaking.
- WARNING: RANT UP AHEAD
And the last topic I wanted to touch on is the needless reboot of DC Comics. First of all, if this weren't DC, and some random upstart company was launching 52 titles at once, that company would be dead in a heartbeat. Who remembers the staying power of Virgin Comics? How about CrossGen? Yes, I know, those companies didn't launch 50+ titles at once, but what they TRIED to do was build a sustainable line of comics out of nowhere, without any real support for the type of comics they were publishing. There's an old saying: market presence doesn't mean market dominance. Luckily, DC has enough loyal support from diehard fans who need comics like a junkie needs a fix. But I really don't understand certain titles. Deathstroke #1? Is there really an audience for that?
I'm also baffled by the arguments in favor of said reboot. "This will clean up continuity. This will make it accessible to new readers, especially younger ones. The digital initiative will work." I don't know how anyone can repeat that first excuse with a straight face. When has ANY attempt to clean up continuity in comics ever lasted? For Christ's Sakes, they brought back Golden Age Superman! Even if this reboot IS successful, how long can it really last? Remember when they re-numbered all the Marvel titles to reflect the actual number of issues printed? Spiderman #500, for example. When Action Comics hits #1000, do you honestly believe that DC Comics WON'T make a big deal out of it? Who wants to take an early bet?
Then there's the next elephant in the room: bringing in new readers + lapsed readers. I don't think the average person ignores super-hero comics because there's too much continuity. I think it's because they don't care about super-heroes, or at least not the stories they are telling. Plus - and I think this is the biggest issue - comics are Fucking Expensive. $3 for 22 pages, otherwise known as toilet reading? A subscription to Entertainment Weekly is only $0.39 an issue. How do you expect new readers to jump aboard, especially in a crap economy, if your product is astronomically expensive? And it's even harder for me to believe that anyone would pay $3 to download a 22 page comic.
I, myself, was a lapsed reader in high school, and now I'm back bordering between casual/frequent/sometimes obsessive reader. In high school, I started reading Amazing Spiderman again. It was the Ezekiel storyline by J.M. Straczynski. I loved it. I was a bit confused by - oh, I dunno - EVERYTHING that had happened between the end of the Clone Saga and the current issue in my hand. But guess what? I ignored it and read the story, and it was a damn good one. MJ and Petey are divorced? Oh, ok. Bummer. Where's the next issue? I find the whole 'rebooting-will-bring-back-lapsed-readers' defense to be a bit insulting. I think I have the basic intelligence to follow a comic book plot. It's not like I'm diving into Ulysses midway.
From my perspective, I believe it's more important to simply tell good, captivating stories with solid visuals and clean storytelling. If a character has a complicated and confusing past? Or just a dumb past? Just ignore it! When Frank Miller took over Daredevil and made it a best-seller, do you think readers were outraged by the lack of Stilt-Man? "Where is my Stilt-Man, damn it! He's an integral part of DD's story!" Or how about the fact that he basically transformed DD into a hard-boiled crime comic? Or that he took a Spidey villain and made him a DD mainstay? No re-numbering. No rebooting. Just take what works (his powers, his friendship with Foggy) and ignore what doesn't... like Stilt-Man.
Here's another rhetorical question I'll throw out there - how many of you expected All-Star Superman to become the most critically acclaimed Superman story since Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? A nostalgic silver-age style comic with actual crossover appeal? And did they make Supes younger and edgier and hipper and all that jazz? No, Morrison and Quitely just went out and told a great story. (You can say that it started with a #1, but it was a mini-series, not a reboot of the flagship series)
Comics are all about trends - cyclical trends - and each of the big 2 experiences their trends separately (understandably so, since their respective universes are ages apart). When DC rebooted everything with Crisis in the 80s, Marvel was riding high with their X-lines. Then Marvel has Heroes Reborn, and that worked out swell. Then DC did Zero Hour. Then Marvel did Spiderman: Chapter One (or whatever that John Bryne thing was), shortly followed by the Ultimate Universe. And now DC's doing this. (I'm sure I missed a few reboots or soft-boots here, so please excuse me) I'm sure in another 10 years, we'll be sitting here complaining about whatever reboot is destroying the landscape of our beloved franchises. Or at least I will.
So what am I trying to accomplish with this rant? -Deep Breath- Look, I'm not diametrically opposed to rebooting. I'm not staging a boycott or calling for anyone's head. I just don't see reboots as a wise or necessary tool. I see it as a gimmick. And gimmicks don't last. I don't believe that renumbering issues and sprucing up costumes will work. It's about the stories. If you have a good story, or better yet, a GREAT story, it won't matter if it's #1 or #147.
But HEY, maybe I'll be 100% wrong. Maybe this isn't just a publicity stunt and all the stories will be superlative. Maybe I'll be eating my words a year from now. Who knows, right?