http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=23952

Interesting article...what do you think?

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The writer seems to be spinning it as a new phenomenon, but it's not, really. And it's not limited to characters, either, but extends to even long-running series as well. The fictional universe of the Big Two is like a workplace environment that's made up of half high seniority employees, and half with very low seniority who cycle through at a fast clip. Look back at group shots in crossovers or posters in years past and notice how few of the characters which comprise the active "universe" in a given year are around the next. A few years ago, a co-worker had a ten year old boy who was becomiung interested in comic books, and my co-worker was continually asking my opinions and advice. I'd always keep my eye peeled in the local Half Price Book Stores for good runs of comics, and although they were easy enough to find, if they motivated my friend's son to seek out new issues of whatever series it was, he would have found the older (like, five years) material no longer relevant and the current series very different, indeed.

Now, too, there's a whole lot of characters from the '80s which didn't stick the first time around being introduced by writers who grew up reading about those characters 20 years ago. It has been my observation, looking at comics of the past (not just the past 20 or 30 years), that what will stick will stick... eventually. It's going to take time, but if the writer looks at comics again in another 20 or 30 years, he'll see some of the characters introduced in the last 20 or 30 years still hanging around.
Firstly, having read good stories about a character creates an interest in reading more stories about the character. Characters who've been stars for a long time have had more good stories told about them, in more periods. Secondly, some characters are simply stronger than others.

Aquaman is a so-so character, but he benefits from the fact that he's been published over a long period of time. So an OK title starring Aquaman is likely to do better than an OK title starring a new character who is about as interesting.

Creating really outstanding characters isn't easy. How many really outstanding characters, heroes or villains, have been created in the last thirty years? I'd be interested in hearing what characters the Legionnaires would nominate.

Wolverine may have been introduced in the 70s, but he's really an 80s success story: that's when he acquired the personality that made him a star.
I suppose businessman Luthor is a creation of the last thirty years, and he's at least a leading villain.
Swamp Thing.
Elektra.
Nova.
Punisher.
Outsiders.
Harley Quinn.
War Machine.

All of those are 70's- 90's creations that currently (or recently) star or co-star in their own titles. Except for Swamp Thing, who is about due.

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Blue Beetle and his entire supporting cast.
I chuckled a bit when the writer mentioned Kurt Busiek creating so many characters and "they didn't stick". The first one he mentions is Bluebird. Ummm, yeah. In Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Busiek took a background character from Amazing Fantasy #15 named "Sally", gave her a last name, fleshed out her character, and put her in a costume ... and killed her a few issues later (in a car accident in her civilian identity, not in costume). That might be why she "didn't stick".

Maybe it's just me, but when I see an article like this, and it is fairly obvious that little to no research took place, it makes it difficult for me to take the point of the article seriously. Too harsh?
Too harsh? - definitely.

I always enjoy Callahan's pieces, but he does occasionaly let gaffs through. I like his larger ideas though.

And his essential idea here is that these universes 'soften up' every now and then during big industry-wide shake-ups (Crises without) and let new characters in. Having just read it, its an interesting idea, regardless of his fine details.

Callahan and Steven Grant are two writers whose columns I always check out each week - the only two, in fact - and Grant went over this same topic a few weeks ago in a Permanent Damage

Here are some outtakes:

"[The superhero]'s just landlocked. Nowhere to go and no way to get there.

For some reason this subject has come up in several completely unrelated discussions over the past couple of weeks, so there's something in the air. A dawning consensus, maybe.

[...]What new characters, or what take on an existing character, have proven sustainable since 1985 at either company?

...Let's see... at DC, there's WATCHMEN, and that's been sustainable only in the sense that it has never gone out of print. That's probably responsible for its sustainability; circulating between divers hands, editors and directions would almost certainly have crushed any interest in the series, the same way it crushed THE AUTHORITY. I can just picture the crossovers with the Archie superheroes and Captain Carrot & The Zoo Crew.

At Marvel? Ares? The Sentry?

"[...]The longevity of these characters is as much a function of corporate insistence as of popular appeal. New characters just aren't viewed that way, unless they catch fire quickly and in a big way. (Rule of thumb: once a character becomes a mascot for peanut butter, he's sticking around one way or another no matter what.) It may be less that Marvel and DC, on a corporate level, are incapable of successfully launching a new superhero as that they are merely disinterested in it.

[...]The superhero genre may not be the Titanic, no icebergs in sight, but everyone's still just rearranging deck chairs now. That's how the companies want it, because they're no longer marketing creations. They're peddling brands."


Getting back to Busiek, I don't think it was a coincidence that Chris Fluitt's recent top ten of Busiek's work was headed by Astro City. Creators are going to save their best work for their creator-owned projects. Unless they have an idea that will only work for the real Batman or Superman, they are more than happy to just use recycled characters in series for the Big Two. Look at how quickly BND Spider-man reverted to telling us the same old stories with the same old villains again.

We shouldn't under-estimate how loathe writers are to 'gift' their corporate paymasters with characters that the creators will never see a fair share of the profit from. And its not a new thing. It's the reason why the Vision was made from cobbled together bits of old superhero properties, and the reason Roy Thomas played with the old toys lying around rather than making his own new ones. He was in the room when Kirby was being stiffed, as he saw it!

And then look at how many currently popular series have taken the Alan Moore/Swamp Thing route of saying 'here we have a line of superheroes, or a legacy, all similar to each other, but different.' So we just get variations on old themes.

This is a fascinating topic to me and I'd love to hear more views.

It's very much tied into the parrallel topic of DC trying to launch a new series of 'starting from the beginning' Earth One Batman and Superman stories. New stories with the old properties.
John Dunbar said:
I chuckled a bit when the writer mentioned Kurt Busiek creating so many characters and "they didn't stick". The first one he mentions is Bluebird. Ummm, yeah. In Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Busiek took a background character from Amazing Fantasy #15 named "Sally", gave her a last name, fleshed out her character, and put her in a costume ... and killed her a few issues later (in a car accident in her civilian identity, not in costume). That might be why she "didn't stick".

Apropos of little, but Sally Avril has been one of the main supporting characters on the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon for two seasons now. No "Bluebird" identity for her, but still...someone remembered the character.
Actually, I think that's apropos of a lot. *This* is how characters start to stick. Sally Avril was far more important to Peter's life, i'd say, than her Bluebird ID. And if the cartoon goes on long enough, maybe they'll put her in a costume for an episode. But even if they don't, her presence in the show will probably inspire other writers to use her, down the line... and it will build and build.

Into something little, no doubt. But Sall Avril could very well stick around for a while.

Like Renee Montoya, for example.
I was thinking, how many super-hero characters have been continuously published for long periods without either being canceled or in great danger of being canceled at some point due to low sales? As near as I can tell, the list is:

1. Superman
2. Spider-Man

And that's it. Even Batman supposedly was in danger of being canceled prior to the "New Look" revamp.
Sally Avril, huh? Sounds like Brian Bendis had a similar idea, with Jessica Jones being an old schoolpal of Peter's, even to the extent of showing her as a background Ditko character.

The businessman Luthor has 'unstuck' - he's back to the nutty scientist, hurrah!

I'm not convinced by Tim's argument here. No one sticks but sometimes they do, and that's because of X? I'd guess the reason most new characters don't stick is that there are so many already to follow that to edge into the forefront of the crowd a new character has to have something unique in terms of personality, look and abilities. Or a bloody good writer.
Martin Gray said:
The businessman Luthor has 'unstuck' - he's back to the nutty scientist, hurrah!

No it hasn't. Superman: Secret Origin has established the scientist/ businessman role as being in current continuity.

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

Check out the Secret Headquarters (my store) website! It's a pretty lame website, but I did it myself, so tough noogies

Listen to WOXY.com, it's the future of rock-n-roll!


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