Sunday, September 02, 2007

Event Fatigue

I’m stealing a subject matter addressed on Newsaramama, where reporter Vaneta Rogers addressed the subject with retailers. As I was a retailer from ‘91-‘94 and currently a fan of comics I have my own opinion as to the subject matter.

The short answer is yes we are suffering from event fatigue. In Marvel we have the upcoming third part of the never ending Hulk event, Amazing Spider-Man is being turned into a stunt book by calling all three titles Amazing and making it one long story, the X-event is forthcoming, the Initiative acts as an event in and of itself and the forthcoming mega event of 2008 “Who Do You Trust”. My sarcastic answer is certainly not Marvel.

Next up we have DC who went from Identity Crisis (which was self contained) to Infinite Crisis (which had four lead-in mini-series), to 52, One Year Later, now Countdown, Amazons Attack, The Ras As Ghul return and building up to next years event of Final Crisis. I hope it is a final Crisis, because I think DC has burnt that term out. When I was younger the yearly two part “Crisis” story was a special event to look forward to reading. Now it is a term that denotes more hype and little change and the potential of screwing up regular titles that I enjoy.

I try and have a positive outlook on this stuff and hope from a fan perspective that it will mean real change, but my logical side tells me no way is anything worthwhile really going to happen. It is event after event to try and drive market share. What becomes lost in the shuffle is producing solid titles.

In the nineties as a retailer we not only had Marvel and DC going nuts with cross-overs, we had Valiant, Image and Dark Horse entering the fray. It was an ordering nightmare and the level of software that I had to help me with my ordering at that time was not sophisticated at all. Of course with these types of events you have no history to base your orders and the ordering process becomes a crap shoot at best.

From a fan perspective Civil War begat a slew of titles with the Initiative banner and in hopes that there may be some fire to these titles I tried some of the newer titles. (The Initiative banner is a crock of sh*t by the way, as Fantastic Four, Omega Flight and some other books have nothing to do with the Initiative itself.) The newer titles have a ton of characters running around and the books for the most part have bored me to tears. I have already dropped New Warriors, The Order and Avengers Initiative is hanging on by a thread at this point. The current idea of telling stories in the long form may work great for the eventual trade, but as a monthly reader if you can get a story going by issue #3, I’ll never know how great your book is.

The various tie-in mini-series drew me in with Civil War and Infinite Crisis, but with WW Hulk I passed on Front Line, Gamma Corps and all other tie-ins (unless I got the book normally) except for WW Hulk X-Men, because I like the writer Christos Gage. With DC I still get most of the tie-ins for Countdown, but I actually get them because I love the characters in the book and not because of the tie-in. Countdown to Adventure have Animal Man and Adam Strange, the next Countdown book has Dr. Fate, so DC would have me reading those either way. Still I would be more inclined to be reading those books if they were individual titles featuring those characters.

What gets lost in the shuffle is the ability to create solid good monthly books. Instead of worrying about producing good stories about the characters we get stories that become artificially interrupted by these events. Secret Wars II was one of the biggest offenders in that sense in certain titles had a story flowing along that took a sharp left turn to have the Beyonder show up for no good reason.

Recent examples of this is the inane Ant-Man cross-over into WW Hulk, Teen Titans being thrust into Amazon Attacks. These are books that just need to be left alone and have there own uninterrupted story lines.

When I think about the greatest runs in a comic of all time, none of them involve cross-overs or mega events. Spider-Man with Ditko and Lee was a book that remained to itself, Fantastic Four from around issue #30 to issue #50 was overflowing with concepts and ideas that Marvel is still using today. Captain America currently fights to remain out of the fray, but really has remained a good story as it remains to itself, as does Iron Fist. Over at DC Blue Beetle is a great series and has remained out of the limelight of the mega events. The great runs of all time at DC involve Levitz/Giffen on Legion, Waid on Flash, O’Neil/Adams on Batman, Broome/Infantino/Anderson on Adam Strange. O’Neil/Adams on Green Lantern/Green Arrow all self contained stories. The Sinestro War is vastly superior to WW Hulk as it is more self contained and actually remained in the regular GL book.

When I think of some great series right now many come from outside of the big two, Invincible, Walking Dead, Dynamo 5, Wasteland, Wormwood Gentleman Corpse and then for short series Left on Mission, Bad Planet, City of Others, Cover Girl, Mouse Guard and many others come to mind.

The problem for the big two centers on sales numbers. In order to really generate the right sales numbers instead of actually working on fixing the books they rely on gimmicks. I think DC was trying to really fix some of the books, but were derailed by the failures. The delay by Andy Kubert killed the momentum the Superman books were generating. I won’t even mention the aborted attempt to jazz up Wonder Woman. Marvel has very few solid series in my mind and all but one that jumps to mind has the name Brubaker as the writer (Captain America, Iron Fist, Daredevil and Thunderbolts).

In order to succeed they need to take the long view and really change the characters. I say let Dick become Batman, let the Human Torch become 30 years old whatever. Absent that approach remember Loeb/Lee made Batman a number one book, Millar/Hitch will make the FF a book will stand up and take notice of, but these are and will be short term fixes. The apathy sets in because no one will take a chance to really make a change.

Back to one of my favorite themes is make real changes. Why does Ras As Ghul need to come back? One he should have never been killed, but two because you know it can be an event. Ultimately no matter what you do with Bruce Wayne as Batman it has been done before. Once the hype is over the monotone sets back in. Change who is under the mask and ever story is fresh. Whatever you do with Professor X has been done before. Have Xavier really die and have someone else run the group. Almost every character in the Marvel and DC pantheon of characters has been written about forever. Introducing little new characters as part of these mass groups is not the way to actually make change. The “Death of Batman” sells and if the new Batman is not Bruce we have a whole new world to play with. Blue Beetle and Atom are more interesting because they are not Ted Kord and Pay Palmer.

Worried about never seeing those characters again? Why, if someone has a good story to tell make it a solo mini-series (Matt Wagner’s Batman tales). We have an audience that accepts Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man, has Jeff Smith’s Shazam and Judd Winick’s Shazam selling side by side on the comic rack.

The core books need strong talent and the ability to make a lasting change to the characters to make them succeed. With parallel worlds and Elseworlds, Ultimate Universes and everything else the companies can make the individual titles the focus. If they do that they have a chance at long term success. Events are short term junkies fixes which leads to fans who only want the hype or worse causes others to realize they need to break the habit to get better.

The nineties and the collapse of the speculator market almost killed the comic industry. We are still recovering from that type of mindset. Fortunately the independent side of the market is maintaining the diversity in the market and they have not jumped into the “event” mode. I see BOOM, IDW, Dark Horse, Image, Arachaia, Red 5 and other companies striving for solid, readable, entertaining stories first and foremost.

I personally think that if DC or Marvel just focused on producing titles that had directions and strong teams producing stories centered on the characters or teams and ignored events that the overall product line would be stronger. When an more organic event presented itself then a cross-over would be a true “event”.


  1. I agree with the remark about the Big Two.

    Look at the SINESTRO CORPS WAR. It's a crossover happening in two books and one (so far) special. Small, self-contained, and not like AMAZONS ATTACK which had crappy issues of various DC titles devoted to not adding anything else to it.

    I'm suffering from event fatigue.

    It's getting hard to invest time and energy into regular titles when you know they'll be crossing over and changing at some point.

  2. you should tell Dan Didio this if you meet him at the con!

  3. I agree with you both. I am suffering from event fatigue and almost fell over when I saw the series of one-shots dealing with the SINESTRO CORPS WAR. I have enjoyed it up to that point. WWH has been good and I too have avoided the tie-ins. I think that's why I have enjoyed it more. Also, DC jumped the shark with the WW3 books and I fear they are doing the same with SCW.

  4. Oh and one more thing. I know that everyone is all hot about Bianchi's art, but doesn't Ra's look a little too familiar to Wolverine? Just throwing that out there.

  5. Ron - Maybe we will enjoy these events better if we ignore the add-on mini-series, one-shots, etc.

    I think I really resent when they invole or screw up a regular series that I am enjoying.

  6. I don't think people are as tired of events as they are of crappy stories. If Sinestro Corps was in a different format, people would still love it. 'Cause it's good. People will buy good "events" by the truckload. But they'll be "fatigued" when they read poorly executed events.

    I think the only problem is that, in the effort to have multiple tie-ins and crossovers, quality has sometimes been sacrificed.

    Oh and thanks for the mention. :)

  7. Vaneta - Your welcome and your probably right, the fact that these events are not events is a huge problem.