Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Marvel Now-ish"

Have a read of Sequart's take on Marvel current direction in Marvel Now-ish.

"Marvel, on the other hand, pretty much admitted defeat in trying to expand their audience beyond the core super-hero fans. But even new titles and characters are given a link to an already established brand name..."

"This reeks of desperation – they basically admit to themselves that House of Ideas ™ has no new ones."

"Despite putting its people on the same-old-concepts, one cannot deny that Marvel employs some of the better writers and artists on the market; they have creators with extremely distinct voices that, thankfully, are not stifled by the weight of the titles they work on. One could easily argue about the quality of the titles Marvel produces nowadays (and certainly most of them will end up on my shelf) but not with their distinctness."

"There’s a sense of uniqueness to Marvel’s output. DC’s latest work seems, more and more, to be the result of committee"

Your thoughts? I find the lack of continuity in the Marvel titles distracting. While I love the creative direction of some of the Marvel books, I feel that they don't mesh well together. For example, Captain America is off in the Z-Dimension, but at the same time is being mind-controlled by the Illuminati and then leads the defence of the Earth against an alien attack. That's where the editorial control is lacking.

There's no overall attempt to help guide new readers, let alone old ones. If someone loved the Avengers movie, how the hell are they supposed to go into a comic book store and figure out which Avengers title to pick up. I can just imagine the look on their face as the comic book store guy breaks down all the Avengers titles. A great book like Fraction's Hawkeye is getting overlooked amid all the Avengers titles.

And then on the cosmic side, Marvel is actually doing a reboot of Star-Lord, Nova, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. This effort confuses me as the rest of the Marvel Universe isn't undergoing a reboot, so the inner fanboy in me struggles to reconcile past continuity. I'm also frustrated as I loved Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's run on Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy and I feel that this reboot wipes out the great run they had.


  1. My own opinion is that story always trumps continuity. If Captain America doing three different things in three different places (you neglected to mention that he's also leading the Uncanny Avengers against Red Skull), it doesn't bother me if they're good stories.

    I'm not sure I know what you mean about the Guardians being "rebooted." There's going to be some explanation in #1 about how they didn't "really" die, I'm sure. So I don't really know that it's a reboot.

    I'm actually more excited about the Marvel Now initiative than I have been about anything they've published for a long, long time. There seems to be a real effort to put creators at the center, to bring characters into new situations, and to make the universe more cohesive. Personally, I love it. And I'm glad that we're doing with heroes-fighting-heroes, at least for a while. Because that's gotten a little old.

    As for the Avengers movie question, I would imagine the best thing to do would be to ask someone who works in a comic book shop. And that person SHOULD point someone to Avengers Assemble, which I've heard great things about but never picked up.

    I don't know. I guess the comics landscape is big and confusing. But that's been the case for a while. I actually think NOW has changed some of that for the better. But it's definitely an initiative aimed more at die-hards than at new readers. But I'm not sure there's EVER been an "initiative" aimed at good readers that works. Good characters, good creators, and high distribution make for new readers. Always have, and probably always will.

  2. Marvel and DC keep trying to re-invent the wheel, but obviously something is very wrong. They have amazingly popular and profitable properties at their hands, but they can't make the comics sell at all. No matter how many great artists or writers they hire, they fall flat, and sales get worse and worse every year. And that's crazy because these are some of the best books (On a technical level) they've ever produced. I think the problem lies in these areas:

    1) Storytelling and clear stories are out the window. Remember how you used to pick up a comic up until the 90's, really, and on the first page the captions would explain the situation, and then when a character was shown there would be a blurb about their powers or how they fit in? It could be a bit verbose, sure, but the writers treated the story like it would be someone's first, and you could potentially get the second issue of a 3-part story and still understand what's going on. It also made it feel like you were getting more bang for your buck - None of this decompression going on. And nowadays I can read all the parts of a multi-part story and still be lost.

    2) DC and Marvel have absolutely saturated the market. Does DC really need 52 books out every month? They're spreading themselves thin, and this is leading to lower tier titles selling less than 20,000 copies a month. When those books are canceled they then fill the gap with C- and D-list books, which people in turn could care less about. In 2000 it was a pain for me to buy 3 regular X-Men titles (Uncanny, Vol. 2, and X-Treme). Now I don't buy any because there are too many and I don't know which is the "right" one (X-Men, Uncanny, Wolverine and the X-Men, Legacy, All New, and any others I've forgotten). All New X-Men, to me, seems like a good concept for a mini-series or story arc, not its own title.

    3) They're catering to an incredibly insular market (Adult nerds). There's no attempt to market towards kids, except for books specifically labelled as "kid's books". I'm sure all of us discovered Marvel and DC as kids - Are adults likely to buy a comic if they never read them as kids? And since they target adults, the stories are increasingly dark and cynical. To me, guys like Cyclops, Professor X, Captain America, and Reed Richards were good role models. Now I can't find anything likeable about them. In fact, I sympathize with the villains more, because the heroes are TOO flawed (I know flawed heroes are Marvel's M.O., but it's too much now).

    4) They're not keeping it simple. I was born in 1986, so I missed the golden, silver, and bronze ages. But I still LOVE those comics. I mean, there is a nostalgia factor, but overall these were extremely well-made comics. The writing kept you informed, the art actually served to tell a story, and I could actually care about the characters. Yes, they were aimed towards kids, but that's what I loved - They were pure escapism. I like realism in my comics, sure, but I want my leisure activities to be free of negativity, cynicism, and "real world" problems. Comics are filled with that nowadays, and I usually feel like I'm not able to get that same feeling of "escape".

  3. What's amazing about the comic industry is how user-unfriendly they insist on being (though recently this is more a Marvel problem than a DC problem) - as you pointed out, even if someone had been spurred by the Avengers movie to check out the comics, they would have been baffled trying to figure out which comic was "the Avengers". The industry is incoherent because they are trying to satisfy a number of contradictory impulses: artificially goose sales as high as possible with re-numbering and events, appeal to a dedicated fanbase (which they evidently think has unlimited funds at its disposal) which values continuity, create good "art" and yet also make ineffective efforts at drawing in "new" fans. They can't achieve all of those.

  4. Hey David, thanks for your comment. It great to see so many different points of view. The reboot of Guardians I was referring to is based on the first issue of Nova where Richard Rider seems to have been taken out of the story altogether. Perhaps that will be explained after a few issues, but still very confusing nonetheless.

    I'm not seeing how Marvel NOW has simplified the landscape. Personally, I find it that much more confusing and user-unfriendly.

    As for story over continuity, I don't think a writer needs to necessarily be hampered by it to get their story across, simply an aside by the editor to point out when these events occured would help orient readers. For example, just a statement in Captain America that this story takes place in between Avengers #2 and #3, would help ground readers. These creators are operating in a shared universe and that can't be neglected. But, that's just my take on it.

  5. Hey Ian, thanks for the comment. I think you hit the nail on the head. You can tell a compelling story and still be clever and clear. Perfect example is Hawkeye. Wonderful self-contained stories that still operating in the Marvel Universe. Albeit, it's a lot easier when he's a secondary character... Same thing with Daredevil these days. A great, fun comic book .

  6. Hey Anonymous, great observation. They are indeed serving too many masters. I think we're definitely seeing the movie industry become the primary drive of the Marvel Universe. If it wasn't for an upcoming Guardians movie, would there even be a reboot of these cosmic titles?

  7. "I'm not seeing how Marvel NOW has simplified the landscape. Personally, I find it that much more confusing and user-unfriendly."

    This. I personally haven't picked up a New 52 book because, again, I know it's a sales gimmick and nothing else. And this new, streamlined continuity is just making things more confusing - It's great for new readers, but I can't help but feel it'll, in turn, alienate established readers. There have been so many reboots in DC (Crisis, Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Flashpoint) that I don't know what's canon and what's not anymore. The New 52 has essentially rendered all of my DC comics collection irrelevant - Is it even worth it to read the new stories now, knowing that another reboot might completely retcon them away?

  8. According to stories I've read, the change in the Guardians of the Galaxy was concocted by Bendis and Loeb before the end of the Abnett Lanning run, part of the planning for the future Marvel Studios films. The Abnett Lanning run(also the last series I bought from Marvel) was finished up to make way for these plans.
    I no longer buy Marvel. I like most of the talent and wish them well, but their business practices have rubbed me the wrong way for far too long to patronize the company any longer. There is plenty of past Marvel greatness that I have yet to experience, so I'll hunt for back issues of series when I feel like reading Marvel books.

  9. I think what Ian says above is the central problem of comics: not only can you not please everyone, you really can't please anyone. Ian points out that "It's great for new readers, but I can't help but feel it'll, in turn, alienate established readers." So fixing continuity is a problem. But the "confusing" continuity of Marvel Now, what with all these new teams and everything, is cited as a problem because you can ONLY follow it if you're a die-hard. So what's the solution? The fact is, there ISN'T one that would satisfy everyone. Fact is, I didn't buy any comics between 1994 (like Ian, I was born in 1986) and 2012. I did a few hours of research online to get caught up in terms of continuity, and I jumped right back in. It's really not that overwhelming if you really want to do it. And I think that's how comics readers have always been. They jump in, and if it doesn't make sense at first, who cares? Two or three issues in, you'll have most of it figured out.

    The point about kid-friendliness is a really valid one, though. I personally would like to see a lot of the silver- and bronze-age comics re-published on cheap paper (not the nice glossy stuff) for a buck or two, so that kids could read those old issues and learn more about the characters they see on TV and in movies. I think that would be a low-cost, high-reward solution to the problems Marvel faces (I've always been a Marvel-only collector) with reaching the youth market. It would keep kid-friendly stories on the shelves (speaking of which, marketing to toy stores would be a great way to go), because those stories are a bit more "innocent." It would serve to introduce characters, AND you could get classic stories out there for kids to read. Plus, you could print on cheap paper and make it inexpensive, so that parents and/or kids don't feel like they're blowing TONS of money. It's pretty much a win-win for everyone involved.

    Finally, in response to Jason, my understanding is that Rich Rider died in the Cancerverse, while the Guardians (somehow) escaped. Now there's a new Nova. I wouldn't really consider that to be any different from Rhodey becoming Iron Man or Eric Masterson becoming Thor. I wouldn't call it a re-boot, anyway. But I haven't (and probably won't) pick up Guardians or Nova, so I could be wrong.

  10. Hey Andrew and David, thanks for the great comments. And for the update/correction on Nova.

  11. Ian and David's comments are similar to rants I've made on my blog. What gets me is, a lot of great comic book creators from the '70s and '80s are still out there -- guys who actually put out good comic books that sold well. Why aren't they be hired to come back and fix things?

  12. What people tend to forget is that Marvel and DC are profit oriented companies with a goal to sell their products to as many customers as they can. They don't care about continuity or character development any more. That is why we have 52 titles per month from DC; and that is why there are 8 Avangers and 11 mutants titles (not to mention solo series of those well-recognisable-franchises-established-by-movies).

    That is also the reason we see event after event, because, as Axl Alonso has put it: people complain about them but figures show that they sell very well, so we'll continue to release them.

    Where does it lead to? Quantity over quality, writers being restrained by editors resulting in the former leaving the company (so many examples of those in recent months) and good titles being overlooked in the see of mediocrity and thus, canceled.

    What I would recommend, is to do some research, find the books you like and stick to them (and tell your friends about them). We don't really have to follow 'Avangers' to enjoy great 'Thor, God of Thunder', for example. So, yeah I would say there is still good stuff out there. Shrouded in impudent marketing, continuity errors and terrible events, but still :)

    In worst case scenario - there are always the 80's :)


  13. Hey Scott, thanks for your comment.

    Marvel Fan, you make some good points. There's always the '80s!



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