Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why I Am Being Driven Away From Comics

Karen: In last week's FOOM review, I commented about how I felt that too many of today's comics were driven more by marketing trends than by creative thought. This article at Newsarama seems to confirm my belief.

Karen: So some guy in Sales at Marvel has declared that they will kill off a major character every quarter to make more money. Is this really what comics have devolved to? I know it's a business, and they have a right to make money. But is there no one with any artistic integrity there? Isn't anyone willing to argue for an organic growth of stories, rather than following the sales figures and forcing storylines on books?

Karen: It's the same reason we have been plagued with company-wide 'events' for so long: the desire to get as much money out of the consumer as possible, regardless of whether the story made sense or needed to run over into every single title. I find it absolutely appalling.

Karen: I'm so close to just cutting new comics out of my budget. I find myself enjoying them less and less. There's the occasional nugget of gold, but for the most part, I'm beginning to find them so artificial and contrived that I can't enjoy them.

Doug: Karen asked me to toss in some comments from my perspective,
and I think I've made this known in the past. I'll approach this from when new comics ceased to be fun, -- that is, as a recovering completist (I'm sure there's a therapy out there somewhere for that!), when did it become easy to just pile up the new books, with no real timetable for reading them? For me that began to occur in the 1990's, probably toward the middle of the decade. When I got back into comics in 1985 I really enjoyed a solid 5-6 year run of not only catching up on the stuff I'd missed during high school, but the new books were pretty well done, too. But I think it all began to go downhill around the time of the creation of Image Comics. Comic books now became exceedingly art-driven (and bad art at times) with less pay-off issue to issue. If you think that sounds funny coming from me, who is always commenting on our Bronze Age graphics, you might be right. But there became less bang for the escalating buck, hence the lack of interest in reading them right off the shelf.

Doug: Like Karen, the multi-part crossovers were becoming increasingly annoying, and truly pointless. Is there a memorable story in all that mess? Not for me. The repeated re-numbering of issues, the gimmick covers, and the ratcheting up of sex and violence destroyed what had been a childhood love. A few books held my attention: the Busiek/Perez Avengers (although I may not like it as much as other Avengers fans), the Legion reboot that alternated between Legionnaires and Legion of Super-Heroes, Bone, and the Ultimates (a guilty passion in the first 12-issue arc; the second 12-issue series really pushed the envelope for me). Oh, and a mini-series here and there, like Marvels and Kingdom Come, and Superman: Secret Identity. Other than that, much of what I bought should probably be recycled, as it will never be resold for even cover price.

Doug: A last remark -- economics kept me from buying a huge assortment of comics each month. As the price went past $2 and headed to $3 (and on up), I bought less and less. So I may not have as wide a background in modern comics as some of our readers. Given that, I'm sure there are many among you who might say that I was reading the wrong stuff. I've been out of the new-buys for over six years now, thanks in large part to what Karen has posited, as well as one Brian Michael Bendis and his destruction of my favorite characters. The "necessity" of the gimmick, see-through as they all are, to sell comics is deplorable. If the companies who make your household products marketed this way or made their consumers feel like some of us do, we'd take the same action we're taking here -- either go to a competitor or stop buying altogether. I'm smarter than to have my intelligence insulted by these underhanded (and lame) tactics like the "monthly death" that will "forever change the universe" and "shake the heroes to their very core!"

Karen: OK, we've vented long enough. What do you think about this plan of Marvel's?


giantsizegeek said...

I stopped buying comics regularly in 2005. But when Green Lantern and the Sinestro Corps War happened, that re-ignited my passion for good solid comic stories. I started buying a number of titles regularly each month.

Now I think I've placed my last regular order for May. I still like the Green Lantern titles, although I think the number of spinoffs is ruining that universe. Legion of Super-Heroes is a kick just to see my favorite team return after 30 years. The Flash has been very good, but I think it is way too soon to have a mega crossover like Flashpoint. At any rate, economically I can't justify buying monthly titles anymore. The trades are 50% cheaper!

Marvel, meanwhile, has big problems. I don't hate Bendis as much as you do, some of his stuff is entertaining. But the Fantastic Four comic, I can't understand why people give it rave reviews. Each issue is light in terms of story. Often there is no ending, just a text page. The "death" of Johnny Storm was the biggest joke ever. Matt Fraction seems to be another over-rated writer on Iron Man and Thor. I decided to just drop all Marvel titles completely.

Anonymous said...

I’ll start telling you where I’m coming from, as I suspect you will actually envy my situation (in a nice way).

I started collecting mid-70’s and dropped out mid 80’s (so I collected between the ages of 8 and 18). I was away for about 20 years and came back circa 2004 when I joined eBay and found an Aladdin’s cave of comics I would have died for 30 years earlier.

Since then I’ve set about collecting the Silver and Bronze ages, and for the sake of the same kind of completism you’re talking about Doug, I’m collecting up to the end of the volume ones . If understand correctly that was about 1998 or so, so kind of makes the millennium my cut off point.

As I complete each set, I read it. Slightly easier with the likes of the Surfer, Ms. Marvel and Nova than the Avengers and the FF. So far, I have not set foot past the Bronze Age much and I don’t feel I’m missing out.

Firstly, I’m sure we all raise our eyes when people say comics are for kids, but I think they are...i.e. they have an immediacy and a style of storytelling (epic but simple) that (1) appeals to us as children and (2) has the power to reach the child in us even when we’re adults. The key differentiation is between what is child-ISH (immature) and what is child-LIKE (innocent, interested, enthusiastic, reachable, STILL THINKING). I understand that kids today are a lot faster-advanced than we were, but I think the fact that they’ve loaded comics with sex and violence has simply made comics part of the background, part of the constant musac. They don’t need to be that: they have the power and the form to be special without selling their souls.

Comics share this immediacy and grand simplicity with 2 forms of narrative: fairy stories and legends (actually with opera and ballet as well, but both of those are a triumph of style over content to me, whereas comics...good comics...are a triumph of both).

That’s why our superheroes have outlasted every kind of detective, war story, horror fad....because they come from the same place in the human psyche or the collective unconscious that creates legends & fairy tales and makes us beguiled by them.

Part of the joy of Marvel comics was that they managed to combine the epic-ness of heroes with the everydayness of plain folks. Opera meets Soap Opera. If they’ve basically just become Jean Claude van Damme meets Charles Bronson in 90210, they’ve lost sight of not one but BOTH halves of the thing that made them great.

And if they’ve fallen into the hands of corporate marketing, then they will go the same way as everything else....think of a unique and charming restaurant with beautiful decor that made delicious and nutritious proper food and is now a McDonalds drivethrough, shovelling out as many cardboard fries as possible for people to force down without even stopping the car.

Last thought: have a look on ebay: you’ll see comics from our era selling INDIVIDUALLY for high prices and comics from the tin foil age (or whatever we’re in now) selling in piles so deep it costs more for the postage than the comics. Isn’t it interesting that a comic that sold for a few cents is worth a fortune and one that is selling now for several dollars is worthless almost immediately. There you have the true respective values (in EVERY sense of the word) of the two ages of comics.


Doug said...

Thanks to both Richards.

Richard II -- beautiful explanation.


david_b said...

Dittos to both Richards. Couldn't sum it up better myself.

In actuality, my comic collecting initially was only from '73 to perhaps '75, picking up a few Avengers and Batman Family or something in '76. It wasn't until the mid-80s, bored in college, that I started collecting the New Titans, some Avengers&FF, but mainly focusing on vintage Silver and Bronze collecting.

My best moment was finding a local dealer in '86 who had every original run of the Titans in VF+ to NM condition, selling 'em for $5 a piece... Drooling.., I could only afford a dozen, but they're SPECTACULAR.

As for keeping current, I liked some of the Perez Avengers work a few years back, but nothing else.

It's no longer my Marvel..

Anonymous said...

So if a major character is to die every quarter, who will be left after 4-5 years? Or will there just be a constant revolving door of dying and resurrecting characters?

I'm not as down on contemporary comics as a lot of commentators here are, but I will admit Marvel's pricing strategy, a dislike of Bendis, and Bendis/ Marvel's general disrespect for the integrity of the characters have led to my currently buying only 3 Marvel comics on a regular basis--Fantastic Four (which I'm really enjoying), Amazing Spider-Man, and whatever title Hercules is in now.

Bizarre, for the first time ever I'm buying more DC titles--four-- than Marvel, although I'm far less emotionally invested in the DC universe. The difference is, if I try a DC title and like it, I can afford to keep picking it up!


pete doree said...

I haven't bought anything new from The Big Two for at least 3 years. I'll read stuff out of the library, but I'm damned if I'm actually gonna buy any of that rubbish.
That article just makes plain what we've all known for years: There is an absolute creative dearth in mainstream comics and there has been for a very long time. Killing off a character is the last resort of a lazy, untalented writer who can't think of anything else to do. Setting it up as company policy is literally saying, in bright neon: 'We have NO new ideas'.
And forget even pretending giving a shit about what the fans want, forget about trying to bring in NEW fans by engaging them with involving stories, that's all over.Let's just chase the movie money. That's not a short term solution at all, is it?
When it's this obvious no one cares anymore, can they blame us for voting with our feet?
Unless these idiots in charge of our beloved characters wake up, real soon,this industry has got 10 years max.
Even if I was prepared to buy comics with artwork that all looks exactly the same, with every single character having the same personality, with incredibly drawn-out, uninteresting stories, this would stop me buying instantly.
Of course this is a business, but this is the equivalent of your favourite pub / bar stopping selling beer, in order to attract that dr.pepper crowd to come in for a night or two. But hey, the dr.pepper drinkers'll only stay for a coupla' hours, and if you stick around, drink soft drinks for a while, we MIGHT sell you some warmed over beer later.
What great ecomonic sense that makes...

Doug said...

Holy Crap! A Pete Doree sighting!

Fire up The Bronze Age of Blogs again, friend!

Good to hear from you,


david_b said...


Also enjoyed your comments about comic pricing on eBay..: I can't even give the remaining comics (Avengers, FF) even from the 80s..

As for interest, I assume there's blogs out there for current comics much like us here at the Bronze Age, but the Age where my love of comics defined my both imagination and where my heart resided, is right here.

Stardust Kid said...

I totally agree with your comments. Apart from the odd comic none of the modern variety appeals to me, for much the same reasons that you and others give.

Mainly cost, but also too many pointless cross-over events, and far too much reliance on tie-ins to the latest movie release, hence the saturation of the market with Thor and Cpt America titles. And don’t get me started on the so-called ‘Heroic Age’ – just treading water until the next big cross-over.

My formative comic buying years were the Bronze Age so I’m a little bit biased towards this era, but I think it’s no coincidence that most of the comic blogs on the net are based around the bronze and silver ages. Ok, some of the stories back then were a bit simplistic and one dimensional, but at least they had heart and soul.

It seems readers (older, loyal ones at least) are now just an after thought for Disney - sorry Marvel, who now seem to follow an agenda to grab (but not keep) a newer more fickle readership.

Endless # 1’s and re-boots are not the answer to dwindling sales. How many more times can Wolverine or Spider-Man turn up in every comic Marvel produces.

Call me a die-hard traditionalist (and many people do) but I don’t like or want Spidey as part of a team, old ‘Marvel Team-Up’ aside.

We all know that death is not forever in comic land – I just hope that the route Marvel seems to be heading on doesn’t end in their own demise, only this time with no hope of a resurrection.

Terence Stewart said...

Yeah, that Marvel plan...

I'm sort of leaning towards a conspiracy theory there, and it's to do with the Kirby lawsuit. The Fantastic Four no longer exist, instead we have the Future Foundation with some similar characters in very different outfits. What if Marvel plan to kill off all the Kirby characters/concepts and replace them with characters/concepts that bear only a slight resemblance?
I only buy new DC comics on a monthly basis now - my Marvel habit died with Avengers Disassembled, but I carried on buying Ms Marvel until it was cancelled.

Anonymous said...

I collected from late 71 to around early 84. When I got in college, I spent a lot of time studying and really didn't have time to keep up. By that time, all the Direct Only and crossover issues started springing up and it was hard for me to keep up.

Even though I wasn't reading them at the time, when I saw the Should Robin Die vote via 800 number, I sensed that it was headed toward a slippery slope at that time. I never picked up a regular series after that, but did buy the occasional collection via trade paperback.....just enough to keep my interest. Recently, I looked at a few of my brother's latest issues of Spider-Man, X-Men, etc...and it just doesn't move me that much. I'd rather read the ones from my time. I agree it's more of a corporate driven than story driven business now.


Redartz said...

A lot of good comments here. I still pick up a few current titles, but only Amazing Spiderman from Marvel. Actually, most of the titles I buy are non-superhero, for many of the reasons so well represented in this column. Perhaps what is missing is a sense of fun; when was the last time reading a new comic was just a big kick?

This is not to say that there aren't good reads out there; there are many if you look. I simply find most of those reads outside the big two these days. I hope this changes; there is so much potential for good storytelling. The characters are proven winners. Perhaps if enough readers bypass the latest 'mega-event' in favor of a well- told story issue, the powers-that-be would reconsider...

Karen said...

I was hoping we'd see a lot of response to this post, and I'm not disappointed. Thanks to all of you for sharing your take on the current state of comics.

My biggest problem still is with this highly calculating,writing by committee method which has been employed for years now in the movie studios, much to the detriment of the quality of the films being produced. Comics have been emulating movies and tv for years now ("Previously in Avengers") and they've taken this synthetic method of story development to heart. I'll soon post a review of The Art of Jim Starlin, and he makes a number of salient comments about the over-abundance of assistant editors, contributing editors, etc, that now all have a say in the writing of a book.

Stardust Kid makes a great point too about the superhero films driving the books now. In many ways, one has to wonder if the comics are not produced now solely so that all of the various other money-making products (movies, dvds, toys, games, etc) can be made. The films drive the direction of the books, not the other way around.

Could a young Jim Starlin, or a young Mike Ploog, a new Steve Englehart actually be able to develop and thrive in the business today? Would they be allowed to pursue their own creative impulses? Or would they find a different outlet, something other than comics, for their art? Can anything in modern comics really be called art now, or is it all 'product'?

I wonder how much longer comics can really survive with such a formulaic, synthetic, and lifeless approach.


Fred W. Hill said...

This marketing ploy of killing off a character every quarter is possibly the lamest, short-term sales boost strategies I've ever heard of, although I'm not really surprised. Is Marvel really going to gain more new readers than lose old readers who are fed up with their marketing schemes?
Like several other posters, I mostly gave up comic-collecting ages ago, although I can't help but still love the things, and when I somehow find out about a compelling series that strikes my interest, I'll get it, although for the last decade that's mostly meant getting the trade paperback collections rather than individual issues. These days, I really prefer the sort of series that are mostly or entirely outside the DC or Marvel universes and are more driven by the author/artist than by corporate strategies, in which there is some genuine character growth and the series might even come to a satisfying conclusion after a good run. Then again, one of the last series I collected via individual issues was the all too brief run of Too Much Coffee Man, which I regarded as pretty entertaining silliness with some biting satire of corporate lunacy.

Unknown said...

I agree with the Kirby lawsuit conspiracy theory, I think it explains some of the bottom of the barrel shit going on at DC and Marvel.

But fundamentally I agree with those wise heads who say Marvel continuity begins in 1961 and ends circa 1975 with a few remaining holdouts until circa 1991.

Current Disney and Warner comics for me do nothing but irritate. The artwork is frequently everything one would expect from the amount of money they spend, but in terms of being actual comics with stories- they aren't. Spider-Man and the Bendis crap are the two standout offences for me, but it's a big target- DC has a slew of awful books and Marvel in general has become everything it used to laugh at DC for, just with better art.

There are no more stories with characters, it's now unequivocally just brands being published to maintain copyright and sell merchandise. They are on the level of the yellowest Yellow Kid from prehistoric Hearst.

J.A. Morris said...

I stopped collecting in 1995, after buying comics just about every month since the mid-70s. There's a comic shop near my job, so I'll occasionally pick up a new comic to read to kill time on a lunch break. I still pick up back issues and reprint books(mostly Bronze age reprint books), and that's about it.
The only recent comics I can say I can recommend are 'Super-Villain Team-Up:Modok's 11' and 'Doctor Doom and the Masters Of Evil'. The Doom series was part of the 'Marvel Adventures' all ages imprint. They were fun mini-series(now available in reprint books)and the plots didn't require you to be up on recent continuity.
I was talking to a co-worker yesterday about the Torch's "death", it seems like all Marvel has is gimmick shocks nowadays.
The FF story reminds me of the introduction of X-villain Vulcan a few years back. They retconned this back story where a fetus is ripped from the womb of Cyclops' mother and raised by Emperor D'ken. Just so they could have a "dramatic" final panel where Vulcan shouts "I AM YOUR BROTHER!!!".
I'm glad the internet exists,it's nice to "follow" comics without spending a penny. I don't see myself collecting again.
Far as I'm concerned,Bucky and Osbourn are still dead and I don't plan on reading any new stories that feature them.

Doug said...

I fear what David said about not being able to give away recent comics may be true. I think I am ready to liquidate what's left of my collection, but 70% of what's left is "modern". Sure, I can move the Avengers run, FF 48-50, ASM 39-40, and the Claremont/Byrne X-Men. But I will want to get rid of all of it... Short of putting it out at a garage sale 4 for $1, I don't know what I'll do.


Karen said...

Regarding selling or getting rid of recent comics: I've donated a lot of my 90s and up comics to different charitable organizations. We have a regular monthly pick up by the Boys and Girls Club here in Phoenix and I just put big grocery bags of comics out for them, as I know none of this stuff is worth anything, nor will it likely have much value in the future.

I must admit though, I feel bad for the kids who actually wind up reading that crap. but maybe it will get them into better comics, or at least help keep the medium alive.


Doug said...

We have a huge rummage sale at our church to finance youth summer camps, mission trips, etc. I know I could never put the modern stuff in that setting! We're not a stuffy church, but hey -- not the proper place for all of the pictures of (as Karen puts it so well)... BUTT FLOSS!!



J.A. Morris said...

In re getting rid of comics:
Boys/Girls clubs,churches, other charities are good was to get rid of comics published in the last 20 years that you don't care about.
You may also consider seeing if there's a University Library that collects comics for their Special Collections department. I work in such a library, I've donated lots of recently purchased comics, if your donation is big enough it may even be tax deductible.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a blessing that the last 3-4 years I've only been interested in 2-4 comics per month/on average----and I still love the Marvel handbooks.

I really don't want to spend more than 10 to 15 bucks a month. But if it wasn't for a few new comics, I would have to get a new hobby. Right now my pull-list is Avengers Academy, Secret Avengers (not sure how long I'm sticking with it, though), Heroes for Hire (so far so good), and recently I'm digging Levitz's legion stuff. And Marvel Handbooks (looks like Thor's up next). No more Event books, I've learned---don't believe the hype.

Thankfully, I missed the 90s dearth. Busiek's Avengers piqued my interest again, also Milligan's X-force/statix stuff. Also, Millar's Ultimates 1 and 2. Yeah, Ultimates 2 got kinda funky, but it was still light years better than most modern stuff. I even considered checking out Millar's new New (??) Ultimates, but I just can't stomach Leinil Yu's art. In hindsight, the whole Ultimate Universe has been turned into crap, unfortunately. And Millar's FF could have been alot better if he didn't focus on those darned KIDS!!! BOOORING! Oh, I LOVED Old Man Logan, BTW.

I just thought it was a neat coincidence that my tastes were similar to what the other B.A. babies were into, as far as recent comics go. Man, I miss the 80s more and more....


Inkstained Wretch said...

I've beaten this dead horse before and I'll do it again now: The industry's decision to move away from selling through spinner racks to specialty stores was its doom. Financially it must have appeared to make sense at the time but it hurt comics in the long run by cutting off the supply of new customers.

I bought comics from about 81-91, finally getting irked at the preponderance of pointless crossover events which were little more than cynical efforts to pick my pocket by making me buy titles I had little interest in. The other reason was there were fewer and fewer places to buy them.

Throughout most of my collecting years, I bought comics from 7-11s, phamarcies, grocery stores and newstands. Comics were ubiquitous in those days. No matter where I was could pickup an issue at the corner store. It was a quick, fun impulse buy and with comics usually less than a dollar I could give a lot of titles a try-out. That's how this casual fan became a serious fan.

Today the only place left that has spinner racks in Borders and now those stores are closing too. Othewise there are only four stores in entire metro area where where I live, several of them miles and milies away. And comics now cost about four bucks apiece. Why bother making the effort?

The result of the transition to speciality shops was that they focused on the hardcore fan. This seemingly made sense because they bought a lot, but the stores didn't really cultivate new fans like the spinner racks could. So there were fewer and fewer new fans.

This sparked a vicious cycle where the comics became more and more geared to the serious fan which then served to again drive the casual fan away.

These days when I go into a specialty store I see mostly guys in their 30s like me or even older. You rarely see kids anymore. That's not a good business model for this medium. The low level of sales for comics today, compared to where they were in the sixties and seventies, tells the tale.

A similiar thing happened to jazz music. In the 1930s and 40s it was a broadly popular music forum, the most popular in America. By the the 1950s it broke away from popular music with bebop and cool jazz, which were oriented towards the serious, hardcore fan. The casual fans instead drifted towards the newest populist music form, rock n' roll. Today jazz is a narrow, niche artform with paltry sales.

I fear the same thing has happened to comics and the medium's best years are behind it.

Jonathan Stover said...

Since I came back to widespread comics reading in 2006, I've found that NOT having a monthly membership at a comic shop helps. I drop titles really quickly, something I didn't do during the heady buying days of the late 1980's and early 1990's. I also buy a lot of discounted and remaindered trades, and limit my new trade buying to essentials (but not Essentials...I don't think I've paid more than $10 for a new Essential in five years).

Of course, comics companies keep making my life easier by either cancelling the titles I'm following (Byebye Firstwave Doc Savage and Unknown Soldier! Au Revoir Shadowpact!) or making titles I'd like to buy unreadable (I thought J. Michael Straczynski would be good on Superman following the off-putting New Krypton arc. Boy, was I wrong!)

On the bright side, this is the Golden Age of comic-book reprints. Enjoy it!

Doug said...

Jonathan --

It's true what you say about the Golden Age of reprints. Even some of the obscure Marvel stuff from the Golden Age and the 1950's is getting the Masterworks treatment. Not my cup of tea, but I'm sure some are buying. And just today I saw that a softcover of the recently released Lee/Kirby (albeit garishly recolored) Tales of Asgard ships March 2. Again, good news for folks in the market for such things.

But I still wish Marvel had produced more of the DVD-ROMs 10 years ago...


Anonymous said...

Inkstained Wretch, I enjoyed your comment. My "kid" phase for comics was 1984-91. And 7-11 was where I got my earliest "fix", for sure. I hate that now there's no spinner racks in 7-11's, and their stores around Delaware don't even have arcade games anymore (guess the loitering got bad....funny, i remember spending hours, and $$$, at my local 7-11).

And my LCS is the same way....very few kids. Sadly, I just don't think my 5-year old nephew will be a comic book reader, even though he already knows alot about superheroes from other media.


Anonymous said...

I have never seen a kid buy a comic book at a comic book store. Granted, I only visit the one I like about once every couple of months (and then only to check out the dollar bins for old stuff), but the only children I ever see in the store are being dragged in by their dads who are just there to pick up a stack of comics they subscribe to and then leave. The kids aren't reading them, that's for sure. How many are published that you'd want your kid to read anyway? People ripping each other's bodies in half with guts spurting all over, near-graphic sexual situations, foul language, and very few "heroes" who actually do anything heroic or embody any kind of nobility or righteousness.

Now when I was a kid, my friends and I would find our way to the local 7-11 type convenience store and browse multiple spinner racks to see what looked cool, spend maybe a dollar and get 3-4 comics for it, read them and swap for ones we hadn't read (unless one was a particular favorite worth keeping).

Marvel and DC have made comics physically inaccessible to kids by making them available pretty much only in outlets you have to drive (or be driven) to. And even if a kid can get there, most of what they produce is wholly inappropriate for a kid.

Plus the stories just aren't any fun. When was the last time you read a comic book and smiled at what you were reading?

Edo Bosnar said...

I initially wasn't going to participate in this discussion simply because I basically stopped reading any ongoing titles at ca. 1990/91, and even when I got back into comics about 5 years ago it simply meant I bought & read older stuff and reprints from my heyday in the 70s/80s. The only "new(er)" stuff I read now is more indie, non-big 2 things like Bone, etc. or fun things like Nextwave or Fin Fang 4. So I was "driven away" from comics a looooong time ago.
But I have to agree with Jonathan (and Doug) about this being a golden age of reprints. For someone like me, this is a truly awesome time. I can't believe how much cool stuff from the Bronze Age has been or is going to be reprinted. As an example, I can't wait to get a hold of DarkHorse's reprint edition of Marvel's John Carter series from the 70s - I don't even mind the b&w format...

Jonathan Stover said...

Fun mainstream comics...well, I enjoyed the first 12 issues of Power Girl, but then they switched creative teams. I liked what Gail Simone was doing on the All-New Atom...but then they switched creative teams and went for grim 'n' gritty. I liked Shadowpact, but it got cancelled. Though the grim, unfun new take on Doc Savage, The Avenger et al. also got cancelled this week, so there is some balance. Jeff Smith's Captain Marvel mini was fun for all ages. There was that fun Mark Waid Dr. Strange miniseries, though a depowered Dr. Strange is ridiculous. And I did like Straczynski's Brave and Bold, which must be why he moved over to Superman and Wodner Woman and made them both grim and unfun.

I'm detecting a pattern.

Anonymous said...

Further to point that Stardust / Karen make about the movies & merchandising driving the comics, I’m not sure it’s true and damn sure it doesn’t have to be.

Firstly, one thing that strikes me about the movies is that they ALWAYS use the old plots from our day: Iron Man #1 is TOS #39 updated with Stane chucked in from the 80’s. IM #2 is Whiplash from TOS. His supporting cast are Pepper, Happy, the Black Widow & Nick Fury. FF#1 is...well, FF#1, with added Doc Doom from FF #5. FF#2 (ROSS) is FF# 48 – 50. The Xmen films draw on the origins from the 70’s & 80’s and somewhat crappily on the Phoenix. Daredevil was all Electra. Hulk #1 was very much the Hulk of ‘Hulk will smash’ rather than World War Hulk (whatever that is), and Hulk #2 was the Abomination. Spidey 1,2,3 = Goblin, Harry Osborn, Doc Ock, Sandman and MJ filling in for Gwen at the Goblin’s mercy (yeah, I know, Venom, but even Venom is 25 years old, guys). It’s rumoured that the Avengers will be Kree/Skrull war. Cap is supposed to be going right back the WW2 plots. And Thor is going to be Jane Foster, Don Blake and that silver age goodness.

I know your point is that the movies are driving bad decisions regarding the comics, and I agree, I’m just pointing out the irony that the movies , having knackered modern comics, are steering well clear of them for their plots and going back to our era.

Secondly, even if the plots/characters of the comics are being dictated by the need to merchandise that still doesn’t mean they have to be crap. It should mean the exact opposite. The reason Star Wars was the merchandising opportunity of the century was that the plot & characters were so cool. And, let’s face it, Star Wars was a comic book adventure through and through.

Last point (and it’s probably a good job I’ve got the Atlantic between us as you’ll turn into torch-wielding villagers at this point) but I liked the Secret Wars. When I read at the time that Marvel were launching a comic PURELY because of a merchandising deal, I shuddered and only read it because it was impossible to understand what was going on in ANY other comic until you’d read it, but I actually thought it was quite an interesting idea.

We’ve all gone so far down the road of commercial = crap that we’ve forgotten it doesn’t have to be that way, and , indeed, to be commercially viable, (in a sane world) something actually OUGHT to be good.


William said...

I know that no one will probably see this since this post is relatively old, but I felt I compelled to offer my opinion on this subject, because I feel pretty strongly about it.

I had an argument with the guy at my LCS a couple years ago wherein I told him that what he sells today shouldn't even be called "comic books" anymore. I reasoned that since so-called "modern" comics aren't anything like what comic books used to be, that they, in effect, were no longer the same product. That it would be like if your favorite Rock Band suddenly started playing Country Music, but still tried to call themselves Rockers. I guarantee you the Rock-n-Roll stations would stop playing them.

I even suggested to him that the "new" readers of comics aren't really true comic fans at all. They are fans of whatever it is that modern comics are. I call them "illustrated melodramas". And, in fact, these so-called "fans" wouldn't even like "real" comics.

Comics were a truly unique artform that used to be about fun, fast paced action/adventure stories, with dynamic and colorful artwork.

Now they are slow moving, dark stories with over-rendered, muddy colored artwork. All the new writers these days seem capable of is mining the old classic stories - ret-conning them and completely trashing the characters. A great example of this is J. Michael Straczynski's run on Amazing Spider-Man. He did more damage to the character than 10 Clone Sagas combined could ever do.

As a result of things like that, I quit reading new books a while ago (even my beloved Spider-Man), because I just wasn't enjoying them at all any longer. In fact they mostly just ticked me off. I even threw an issue of Amazing Spider-Man I was reading across the room because I just couldn't take no more. That's when I decided to just give up and start rediscovering and enjoying "real" comics again.

I basically disregard anything of the last decade or so and consider today's Marvel to be a totally different Universe than the Marvel of the Silver and Bronze Age.

So, I went back to reading the stuff from the 70's and 80's and I am actually enjoying comics immensely once more. I've even started picking up stuff that never read back in the day, and it's a real blast.

It's nice to find that there are other people out there that feel a similar way that I do. Excelsior!!!

Doug said...

William --

I'm glad you posted your thoughts. And don't worry about exposure -- after all, you felt moved to comment on a month-old post. Someone will be along to add to this conversation.

Thanks for chiming in,


Karen said...


Thanks for posting your thoughts on this subject. Please feel free to post on any of our blog entries, regardless of age. We are aware when someone posts here.

While I'm still picking up a handful of books, it just doesn't feel the same any more. Like you, I sometime get 'ticked off' by what I read! But thankfully I have plenty of 60s and 70s books I can go back to!


Anonymous said...

First of all,I congratulate you for these great articles;
thousands of kudos for you,folks!!!
To me,the new guys in the comics world - including some morons who call themselves "fans" without even heard about Kirby,Dikto,Colan and many others - achieved what Dr Doom,Mephisto,Darkseid and other villains have been trying for decades:they killed all of our beloved heroes !
All the art looks the same indeed(heritage from the Image's crew),the writers changed the characters so much that we don't recognize them,and I suspect that the only books that those people who write comics nowadays read are the shitty Eclipse/Harry Potter trends...
The way for someone who really appreciates a very good comic book is buying those published in the past decades(I love the 70's era too,Pete),or buying the Essentials/Showcases...
And the worst is that there is no more visionaries in this already dying industry,no more Stan Lees,James Warrens and Schwartzzes;they were replaced by people who are good selling film franchises,but who are unable to produce a readable - and collectable - comic book !
Hugs,and best regards
Stephan,from Brazil

Anonymous said...

I never see kids in comic book specialty stores. A few Publix stores carry some comics, but most don't, and I never see kids buying them. With long story arcs and cross continuity and tie-ins, you would have to buy six issues each of two or three different titles just to understand the story. At today's prices, that is not practical. And, as someone noted already, a lot of stuff is unfit for kids anyway.

Anonymous said...

The marketing ploys-e.g. make a Big Event out of killing off a major character, then make another Big Event out of reviving him six months later-are downright insulting. And the variant covers are artificially inflating sales. DC and Marvel may think that 5000 fans bought Amazing Forbush Man #1, when it was 1000 fans who each bought five copies. And the speculators buying "The Death of Brother Power the Geek" are not regular customers; they won't be back to buy more comics next week.

Anonymous said...

At least the paper is recyclable.

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