Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Problem with Comics Pt 1

Recently, Jim, Thomm, and myself had a discussion about what we felt were the problems with comic books today. Below is a transcript.

LEE Hey team, did you read this? Hibbs, of Savage Critics fame, wrote a great piece on the malaise of comics. See here. I wish we had written this because it is probably the best write up of what I perceive to be many of the problems with the DM today.

To pick on Jim, I don't think the answer is a new Batman, or Spiderman, or new anyone under the cape/cowl. It's a major way to change the character but I feel that it's more knee jerk and doesn't solve the underlying problem. I think the problem is the stories suck. Characterization was been shoved aside for, lack of a better term, shock and awe.

I think Greg/Jim mentioned it in the monthly Cosmic Comix panel (Store website here and podcast with Jim, Greg and more here.) that Batman joked with GL that he hadn't removed the mask in forever. That's the problem, GL isn't a person with problems, he's a mask going to the next battle. Combine that with everything just leads to the next event and there is NEVER a jump on point. I've so far removed from the Marvel/DC universe that I have to read trades of books written 20 yrs ago if I want my superhero fix. Sorry to bash yer idea Jim...

THOMM It’s a Catch-22 for the Big Two. The stories circle around in faux appearance of development, mostly in story and not character, to keep the core fans happy with things happening to the beloved characters. They can’t stray too far from what the characters are because they’ve become writ in stone over the years, especially the bigger characters like Batman, Spider-man and so forth. Changing more minor characters is even hard quite often because of the totemic view many fans have of characters.

Jim’s idea of introducing new characters behind the masks helps to get around those issues and allows for the development of new characters, but it removes the beloved original from the equation, which leaves the Big Two losing a bunch of readers who want those. Unfortunately, the big two have started to killed off the new version after a short period, as seen in Ant-Man and now Blue Beetle. I suppose the next step is to revive Ted Kord, if Jaime’s actually dead. Look at me, using the word actually. Of course he’s not dead.

Cards, Comics and Collectibles has embarked on a marketing ploy of selling trades and hard covers at 50% off every Sunday in March. I’m seizing the opportunity to spread out the pain of purchases and hit the store yesterday. Nary a superhero tale in any of the purchases. I got the pocket sized Strangers in Paradise first volume, a book about Nat Turner, and Brian Vaughn’s Pride of Baghdad. Unless the store runs out of interesting independent titles to check out, I doubt any superhero books will be coming home with me this month.

LEE If you're looking for trades ideas, then go here. One of the best reviewers of Indy books I've read. I wri... *cough* ...I read the column weekly and have found the reviewer to have superior taste in material.

You have a point Thomm but we had good stories and things "changed" in the 80's/90's and we didn't have the issues that we have today. I personally want to blame continuity more than anything else. Suddenly everything HAS to matter. The events have to be bigger, and better, and more earth shattering than the last event. Continuity has loosey-goosey before and the only time it really, truely matter is when the publisher revived a minor character. Nowadays, continuity is cannon and can't be broken. I find it interesting that Marvel took a break from all the events with the year long 'heroic age' stuff and sales slipped. All that means is we going to get more events that are bigger and better and more convoluted and drive more people away from stores.

JIM I still believe that a new whatever is the way to go as Cap and Batman are better reads because of it. Of course Secret Six and Thunderbolts are cool because you can do whatever. In many ways I have moved on as Vertigo and others of that ilk are what I enjoy the most.

THOMM Sales for the Heroic Age dropped? A curious result, what with the plethora of super hero movies and their success.

LEE Reading the comments at the bottom of Hibbs post was interesting too. One person said they want back into a store to try a book and saw shelves that had 5 Thor titles, and 6 Cap titles, and 12 X- titles, and decided if there was that much of it, then the chances were most of it was junk. And, I think that is what happens; you can't even begin to know where to start looking anymore. Marvel/DC floods the stands with books and none stands out anymore than the others. Then they all stink, and good books Thor by Landridge, ends up getting axed even though it was good.

THOMM Oversaturation is definitely a problem for the Big Two. It ties in with the events problem, too. They’ve created a system of books that is entirely impenetrable to the casual reader. Hell, as someone who reads comics regularly, it’s not worth my while to try to figure it all out or even sample bits of it. Just imagine the level of apathy of someone who doesn’t read comics in the first place. Whenever I try to get someone interested in comics it’s not any of that Big Two super hero stuff. It’s Vertigo, Image, Boom, Red 5 or something along those lines that can be enjoyed just within the book in hand.

JIM Another issue is the direct market. Which saved comics is now killing the market. The stores have to buy the books and with the market being flooded a store can't gamble. Therefore a critical darling like Thor The Mighty can't generate extra sales because when a reader gets interested the store can't stock extra copies of that title.

And the talk concludes tomorrow...

1 comment:

  1. LOL - Love the pictures for this post.