POW! ZAP! BLAM! Comics definitely aren't for regular people anymore...

Here is the first of three links that I thought worth sharing, on where "mainstream" superhero comics stand today.

 

It's from the Wall Street Journal, and is ostensibly a review of a book about comics creators called called Leaping Tall Buildings, but really it's a withering attack on today's superhero comics culture.

 

Perhaps it's ruder than I would write myself - JM Straczynski is introduced as 'former He-Man scripter" for instance, and employing him to produce the Watchmen comics is "the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." - but the points the article makes are on the money, as far as this longtime follower of the subgenre is concerned.

 

"If no cultural barrier prevents a public that clearly loves its superheroes from picking up a new "Avengers" comic, why don't more people do so? The main reasons are obvious: It is for sale not in a real bookstore but in a specialty shop, and it is clumsily drawn, poorly written and incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in years of arcane mythology."

 

More here:  Worst Comicbook Ever!

 

Perhaps the spotlight caused by The Avengers' blockbusting performance at the cinema may not be an entirely good thing for Marvel and DC, if its glare focuses on the these dumb and getting dumber aspects of superhero comics?

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...Thst.s Rupert.s WSJ wot printed 'dat !!!!!!!!

Yet it includes Grant Morrison as one of the problems. How do you feel about that?

Marvel is putting out Avengers Assemble, a title that features the six movie Avengers, apparently in their own seperate continuity. Which is a good thing.

Emerkeith Davyjack said:

...Thst.s Rupert.s WSJ wot printed 'dat !!!!!!!!

lol.  Rupert turns on everyone sooner or later.

Interesting article. I don't agree with everything the writer says, but I think he gets more right than he gets wrong. He's obviously knowledgeable about the field.

Philip Portelli said:

Yet it includes Grant Morrison as one of the problems. How do you feel about that?

There might be something in it. Morrison gets away with a lot because he entertains ME so much. His earlier work was very accessible. Zenith and Animal Man. Even Doom Patrol must have been fun for people with a little interest in modern art or modern literary movements. Few superhero comics are so engaged with non-comics ideas as DP was.

When I saw Morrison's name there, the first thing I thought of was Seven Soldiers of Victory, which as well as being dense and literary (no bad things) was also quite obsessed with continuity, and the DCU as an entity rather than other less arcane storytelling concerns. Metafiction is fine in a story, so long as it is used to explore subjects other than metafiction itself!

SSoV was the big story that Morrison wanted to tell on returning to the DCU in 2004 or so. As such it would have had a big push, and might have registered more on the non-fanboy scale if it had been more accessible. Having said that, now that it's collected most of the story is there as one complete story, albeit a fairly challenging one.

Morrison's Batman is wonderful, and gets better each time I read it, but accessible it aint.

The thing is that Morrison did his bit with mega-successful, invitingly straightforward superhero stories with JLA and NXM. He was trying to lead the industry and show the way with those books.

The Invisibles is just a great series. It's self-contained, but not for everyone, and those who do like it, get a lot from it that speaks to life in the real world, rather than just the unhealthy closed-in world of superhero continuity. The Filth is similarly a magnificient acheivement as a work of art, although not the most inviting at the outset.

Marvel is putting out Avengers Assemble, a title that features the six movie Avengers, apparently in their own seperate continuity. Which is a good thing.


Yeah, it's good. Any loosening of the shackles of continuity is good. Especially the kind of continuity as it is practiced these days.  Unfortunately it will be lost in the welter of Bendisverse titles on the shelves. Parents bringing their kids in for their first Avengers comic run the risk of landing home with sexually humiliated naked Spider-woman, or the Sentry's wife getting throttled to death from the point of view of the guy getting sexual kicks from it.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Interesting article. I don't agree with everything the writer says, but I think he gets more right than he gets wrong. He's obviously knowledgeable about the field.

I thought it was especially interesting as a piece for mainstream consumption. Up to now mainstream articles tended to focus on the great work of the likes of Moore or Kirby to the genre's credit and just touch on their mistreatment and the mismanagement of such potent properties. This is the first article I've seen that focuses on the mistreatment and mismanagement (and mismanagement by mistreatment.)

Superheroes are especially vulnerable to this attack, as they are supposed to be about guys who always do the right thing.

Journalists who loved comics did a lot to try to bring comics into the mainstream in the 80s, but by definition, if you love comics these days, then you can't be blind to the failings of this area of the field, and the hypocrisy and greed of the BIg Two will be the story to focus on.

I was in a discussion about this article the last time I was at my friendly neighborhood comics shop. I concur with Jeff: I don't agree with everything the writer says, but I think he gets more right than he gets wrong. He's obviously knowledgeable about the field.

One thing we at the comics shop lamented was that, every time there's a surge of interest in comics and comics buying from some big movie, the comics companies almost aggressively fail to offer a product to capture those new readers.

Case in point: The Avengers movie. The store clerk sees dozens of people wandering in every day who just saw the movie -- so, he asks, why doesn't Marvel do a simple movie tie-in book, a single issue or a brief miniseries that gives a shorthand introduction to the characters? Instead, what's out there is "A vs. X." I'm a die-hard comics fan, and I don't want it; how would it entice the moviegoer who wants a new Avengers story and can't wait two years until the next movie?

What's that? There's a title called Avengers Assemble that does those things? Apparently not very well, according to at least one review (here). 

Clark said:

Case in point: The Avengers movie. The store clerk sees dozens of people wandering in every day who just saw the movie -- so, he asks, why doesn't Marvel do a simple movie tie-in book, a single issue or a brief miniseries that gives a shorthand introduction to the characters? Instead, what's out there is "A vs. X." I'm a die-hard comics fan, and I don't want it; how would it entice the moviegoer who wants a new Avengers story and can't wait two years until the next movie?

Marvel has done movie tie-ins in the past, and they fail miserably in sales. I can understand them not banging their heads on that wall again. If I was a clerk at a shop I would steer people towards a trade. They are cheaper than regular comics, and you will get a complete story. Eve if Marvel did a mini-series (not a one-shot) you run the risk of the mini not being done when the movie comes out, so now you are asking this consumer to remember to come in for another 2-3 months. Or the mini has finished, but you ran out of issue number one, and Marvel won't be doing a reprint for another 2 weeks. By that time the consumer has moved on.

tl;dr version

Marvel has, and they failed.

Travis Herrick said:

Even if Marvel did a mini-series (not a one-shot) you run the risk of the mini not being done when the movie comes out, so now you are asking this consumer to remember to come in for another 2-3 months.

 

The risk of the mini not being done when the movie comes out? That's a risk? I suppose it is for an industry that doesn't meet its schedules, but should it be a given that there's no point in launching a project because we fully expect not to meet the deadline?

 

Travis Herrick said:

Or the mini has finished, but you ran out of issue number one, and Marvel won't be doing a reprint for another 2 weeks. By that time the consumer has moved on.

 

Well, that's just a bad business practice, which goes to my point: almost aggressively failing to serve those new readers.

So here's my thing with this article:

His premise, if I can boil it down, seems to be, "The Avengers is the latest example of comic book movies that are making tons of money. So why aren't comic books themselves making tons of money? Because they're mining decades-old stories, mired in continuity, and don't have any artistic heft to them."

The problem I see is that all those things — mining decades-old stories, mired in continuity, etc. — apply just as much to the movies that are making all this money as to the comics that serve as inspiration.  I don't see how it stands to reason that audiences who slurp that kind of thing up in the box office are somehow turned off by it on the printed page. The Avengers made so much money because people loved seeing all their favorite characters brought together in an epic (but somewhat MacGuffin-y) adventure; but if they go to the comic books and find Avengers vs. X-Men they'll be turned off by this epic (but somewhat MacGuffin-y) adventure that brings all their favorite characters together...I'm sorry, but that doesn't track.

There absolutely are barriers that keep the pop culture-consuming public from reading comics — price of entry, availability — and the powers that be at both of the big two have made serious missteps in capitalizing on the audiences that their movies are attracting, but I don't think quality of content is, generally speaking, either one of those barriers or missteps.

Alan M. said:

So here's my thing with this article:

His premise, if I can boil it down, seems to be, "The Avengers is the latest example of comic book movies that are making tons of money. So why aren't comic books themselves making tons of money? Because they're mining decades-old stories, mired in continuity, and don't have any artistic heft to them."

The problem I see is that all those things — mining decades-old stories, mired in continuity, etc. — apply just as much to the movies that are making all this money as to the comics that serve as inspiration.  I don't see how it stands to reason that audiences who slurp that kind of thing up in the box office are somehow turned off by it on the printed page. The Avengers made so much money because people loved seeing all their favorite characters brought together in an epic (but somewhat MacGuffin-y) adventure; but if they go to the comic books and find Avengers vs. X-Men they'll be turned off by this epic (but somewhat MacGuffin-y) adventure that brings all their favorite characters together...I'm sorry, but that doesn't track.

 

That premise, as you rightly note, overlooks one blindingly obvious point that the writer still missed: The movie audience isn't the comics audience. Avengers didn't make half a billion dollars (and counting!) on the strength of the comics audience, because it's far, far too small. What people want from a movie -- and what they get from it -- is different than what a comic can provide.

...Is the writer of the WSJ review a " dissilusioned former fan " ???????????

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