I didn't want to completely threadjack Figserello's JLA retrospective so I decided to move part of the discussion over here. 

 

I'm still surprised that that period of 'reconstruction' wasn't a high-selling point for comics.  Just cause I was buying comics doesn't mean everyone else was, I suppose.

 

I think it has a lot to do with external factors.  A lot of comic book fans like to theorize that sales trends are exclusively or even primarily based on the quality of the content when historically that
hasn't been the case.  The sales of superhero comics declined
precipitously after World War II, even though certain companies like
Nedor were putting out some of the best material of the era.  They
dropped again in the late '70s when comics were being squeezed out of
the newsstand because their low price point made them unprofitable to
news dealers.  The drop in the late '90s can be partially or even
completely explained by external factors as well- the collapse of the
speculator market and Marvel's bankruptcy (which was related to their
acquisition of other companies and not the sale of comics).


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I wouldn't worry about threadjacking the JLA thread.  I think the context of the comics I look at in my reading threads is just as important (and interesting) as the content.  It's all grist to the mill, and can add a lot to the discussion so long as we can bring any insights we uncover back to the books under discussion...

 

There are several avenues to go down here:

 

1) Sadly, mass-market entertainments often find it an easier sell when they appeal to our baser instincts.  The most extreme example I can think of is the 'Bread and Circuses' policy in Roman times that used people's bloodlust to keep everyone lulled and content with the staus quo. Likewise, comics featuring murder, betrayal, sexual crimes and revenge have a lead start on stories that depend on appealing to our better natures.  Looked at this way, your reconstruction period in the late-90s, which I loved, was swimming against this tide.  For it to continue, you need creators who want to present more positive stories and the actual quality of the comics would have had to stay as high as we saw on JLA, Busiek's Avengers, Starman, Supreme etc.

 

Where that creative skill, or the will to present positive stories are lacking, the creators can always fall back on murder, betrayal, etc. and the sensationalism will sell the comics.

 

2) Perhaps there is only so much mileage in the 'positive' stories.  I'm starting to see some repetition in how Morrison is approaching his JLA for instance.  Keeping murder, betrayal etc out of it further limited his options.  In the same vein, Busiek's govt liaison being a fan of the Avengers in that series was nice, but that made it harder to make the character interesting.  On the other hand, everyone remembers Gyrich because he had such dramatic storylines.

 

As a reader, I was probably spoilt during the late 90's and didn't appreciate that I had to more strongly support the good stuff.  By the time Morrison moved off JLA I wasn't fussed about continuing with the series.  I didn't really give Waid a chance, because I'd been satiated with good JLA stories for the previous 3+ years.  I probably wasn't the only one, and the drop in readers possibly encouraged DC towards more sensationalist storylines to keep the readers onboard.

 

I was also probably one of the readers that didn't stay with JSA after I followed Starman over there.

 

Love of sensationalist storylines is the baseline condition for fans, whereas interest in more well-wrought positive stories is a fad we go through, perhaps.

 

3)  'Reconstruction' is an interesting period to consider.  No less than Johns himself tried to continue Avengers in the same vein as Busiek, and on the face of it, they weren't bad comics, but they didn't fare too well, did they?  Long-running comics are usually in a bad place when a drastic sweeping makeover like Bendis' becomes nessecary.

 

It's also interesting that both major companies had their main heroic teams, shown at their best, as the backbone of their lines during it.  For me, 'Reconstruction' is beautifully capped by JLA/Avengers.  It is the last hurrah of Morrison's JLA in all but name, and also, not just of Busiek's Avengers, but the Avengers as we'd grown up with them in the early 80's.  (Drawn by one of the best-loved artists of that period, too). 

 

A bonus is that the major reset of both universes during it allows the continuity geek in me to say that the old universes actually did end then and what followed were two whole new universes with completely different characters and 'founding principles', so I don't have to feel so bad about not caring about them!

 

No less than Johns himself tried to continue Avengers in the same vein as Busiek, and on the face of it, they weren't bad comics, but they didn't fare too well, did they?

For me, 'Reconstruction' is beautifully capped by JLA/Avengers

 

Just did a little research and the sales were still a couple of thousand up from then end of Waid's run a year and half after Johns came on board. Now as to the quality, I didn't enjoy what he was doing, and there were
a lot of people who didn't enjoy it either. Plus, I didn't think Olivier Coipel
was the right artist for the book when he came on-board as the penciller.

I know I am in the vast majority, but JLA/Avengers just didn't for much for me. It was merely okay.


Great post, Figserello.

I was intrigued by your points about the difficulty of maintaining positive stories over an extended period of time. I thought that Mark Waid's run on JLA was every bit as good as Grant Morrison's (especially with the excellent Bryan Hitch art). And I never had a problem with the Batman Protocols or the Tower of Babel story though I certainly remember the heated discussions of the time. But now, I see why others might have had such a strong negative reaction to that story: the Justice League was dealing with an internal threat rather than an external one. However, I do think that you can have some internal squabbles while maintaining a generally positive tone. The Avengers' Kooky Quartet and the Bwa-Ha-Ha Justice League are prime examples.

Once again, great post.

What's the post-war Nedor stuff you have in mind, Chris? The best Nedor stories I've seen were Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin Fighting Yank stories.

I was thinking of the America's Best Comics anthology.  After the war, Miss Masque received a more prominent role and, in my opinion, brought better covers and comics with her.

Luke Blanchard said:

What's the post-war Nedor stuff you have in mind, Chris? The best Nedor stories I've seen were Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin Fighting Yank stories.

 


I'm not sure I agree with you, unless you mean the aging readership is the shift from little kids to teenagers.  Teenage readers are definitely interested in sensational stories.  My friends and I were very interested in The Death of Superman and Knightfall when we were in high school.  My friends' teenage son got into comics through Marvel's big crossover last year.  Little kids may like their done in one Caspars or Archies.  But the idea that sensational stories only appeal to adult readers who have "been there, done that" doesn't fit with evidence or experience.

 

Detective 445 said:

I have a theory that sensationalistic story lines have risen to prominence because of an aging readership.  As younger readers have been phased out of the market, so has the more direct and "traditionally heroic" approach to storytelling.  Why? Because adults have all "been there, done that" they may need something provocative or salacious that pushes the envelope in order to maintain interest and many of them won't look outside the superhero genre that they grew up on.  That's why I think Vertigo writers like Morrison migrated over to mainstream superheroes and have eventually begun to dominate the genre.

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