Sunday, January 28, 2007

52 Civil Wars - State of the Union

I have recently crawled off my deathbed after being poisoned by a local restaurant While the weight loss was okay, this is not the way to do it. I'm just now starting to feel better in time to go back to work. What a bummer of week-end.

It has been suggested to me that comics are the worse they have been in years and the other question raised will Civil War be remembered as Marvel's Watchmen.

The answer to both question is I disagree and no way.

I will address the second point first. Watchmen was a stand alone event that changed the way people looked at comics. While it was not the first time someone wondered what would happen if super heroes were more pro-active in the structure of running the world it was the first one done so well and done in such a literate manner. It made the outside world actually notice that comics can have some literary qualities. It elevated the art form into a different level. Civil War is tied to a shared universe and the actual series is more of a montage of events then a cohesive story that stands on its own. Watchmen can be read by someone and they will get the story, my guess is that once Civil War is traded you will not be able to read it or even really understand it by reading it by itself.

Instead of elevating the art form, Civil War has been a successful marketing ploy by Marvel to increase their sales on many titles. I believe in the long run they may have hurt their shared universe, but these events are often ignored by writers within months and therefore have no long term impact. So Civil War is not going to be the long sought after magnus opus and perennial best seller they have longer for, it just doesn't cut it.

DC after the one year later jump is it a success or are we back to the same old stuff. Mixed results in my mind. Superman has been very successful in my mind. They have revived what was to me a tired old franchise and reinvigorate and made it new again. Batman's two main titles are strong and Matt Wagner's work on his mini-series has been excellent. JSA's recent restart I believe have been done well and while 52 is not always consistent, as a series it has been a rousing success to me and I book I look forwarding to reading each and every week. Add Supergirl and The Legion, as my current favorite series, to Green Arrow, Robin, Birds of Prey and some others and DC has at least done half the job. The huge failures have been Flash, Wonder Woman, JLA and Hawkgirl. Flash was the book that started the Silver Age, putting the next generation launch in the hands of two comic book amateurs was a bad move. Thankfully by issue #9 we are seeing a new writer. Wonder Woman is given a make over by issue #6 as the current writer apparently can not deliver his scripts and the series is all of the map, this was an unqualified disaster. Hawkgirl was my personal biggest disappointment as Walter Sinonson was the writer, but this was again a series that died almost at birth. The idea was probably based on her huge popularity in the cartoon, but this is a totally different character and Chaykin's highly stylized art made it fall even flatter. Finally we come to JLA and Brad Metzler. Who maybe a great novelists, but he can't write this series. It has been a start that has never happened. We are five or six issues in and still waiting for the return of the JLA. Hopefully he will be leaving after issue #12.

So is the DCU better or worse. I believe the DCU still has work to do, but I believe they are better off then they have been in a few years.

Now Wildstorm, the All Star Line, Vertigo all have plus and minuses also and you add into the mix the independents with groups like IDW, Oni, Image Dark Horse, Boom, Avatar, Dynamite and Virgin comics and you have a lot of material on the market. Marvel's branding of the Dabel Brothers work and other ventures show comics are trying to open the market back up to more then just the core demographic.

Are comics at their all time low point. No, I don't think so. We have a lot of very talented people in the market and have attracted a lot of talented people from other market places. Comics are not what they used to be and in a changing world that has been effected by technology and information processing to an unbelievable degree nothing has really remained the same. Especially in the entertainment arena. Comics have a lot of lousy material out there, but it also has a lot of really good material out there. So comics may not be in a golden age, but we are well out of the age of being the ghettos of the entertainment field and have the potential to become even more.

As a last side note my last post has generated a terrific both and forth discussion by Shawn and Jeff over the merit of the Boys and a general discussion of Ennis's work in comics. Well worth reading.


  1. Quick comment on Civil War. I know a couple of guys who work for Marvel. According to them, Marvel believes that Civil War will be their Watchmen, the series that 20 years from now people will still be talking about and buying. That's why no fill-in artist when the book runs late. A change in artists would ruin the flow of the story once it's traded.
    Anyway, I know a plethora of self-described Marvel Zombies who think Civil War is the biggest mistake Marvel has made in years. One made this argument:

    Marvel is saying that their books take place in the real world. They place heavy stress on reality. So are we supposed to believe that the rest of the world is okay with the USA drafting and amassing a superhuman army, registering every superpower on the planet while countries like China, Russia, France and the UK have nothing? It would be like we were telling the world that the US was the only country allowed to have nukes and the rest of the world would have to make due with sticks and rocks. How are the other major players just sitting back saying nothing as the power balance of the planet topples completely in the United States' favor?

    He's got a point. I think it was Marvel's emphasis on realism that made people chortle when they saw Cap surfing on the outside of a jet.
    All in all I think Civil War has been a huge disaster. The character who comes out of this thing looking the best, the only character represented accurately and never betraying his beliefs, is the Punisher. Punisher has become the hero of the Marvel 616 U. How sad is that?

  2. Just one comment... I LOVE the JSA right now... so frelling cool

  3. Man, sorry to hear about the food-poisoning! That is indeed one of the worst ways to lose weight! Hopefully the universe takes it easy on you today. =)

  4. Brainiac6--

    Here's your chance to sell someone on JSA. Just what is it about the series that makes it so cool? Why should I add it to my pull list?

  5. Jeff,

    I will actually do a post here in the next day or so and give you a full overview of the JSA restart! :)

  6. The rumor is that Paul Dini is overseeing a new DC weekly called COUNTDOWN. It starts after 52 and counts backwards. (i.e. 51, 50, down to #0.)

    Sean Mckeever is supposed to be one of the writers on it.

    I wonder if it is true.

  7. I just hope that DC takes some of it's eggs out of the 52 basket. They are putting far too much effort into that book while their mainstream books writhe in the mud. How about giving Flash, WW, and Green Lantern a little love and attention?
    And Marvel needs to leave the stink of Civil War behind and move forward. They killed my favorite hero by making him a loveable loser, Charlie Brown, and the whipping boy of the Marvel U. Spidey deserves better than that. I long for a return of quality to the Spider-books.

  8. SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE is the best Spider-Man book being written and created right now.

  9. Jim... I just realized while rewatching Lost season 1... Paul Dini is the story editor! Pretty nifty

  10. Thanks Shawn! I'll have to embrace my manhood tightly, break out my pink shirt and coolates and proudly ask for a copy of Spiderman Loves MJ from my comic guy. Damn the teasing I'm sure to take, if you say it's good there should be some merit to the book.