Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Monday Musing: Shakeups in the Comics Industry! One Fan Reacts! (A Rant Circa 2001 that remains relevant today)

Written By: Tracy - Jul• 11•11

I was going through a stack of old essays that I wrote in 2000-2001 when I came upon one that I wrote about  the state of comics. Given DC’s announcements this summer about how they are changing everything (again) this seemed relevant.

For some background information on where this particular tirade came from: in 2000-2001ish, Joe Quesada took over as Editor in Chief for Marvel Comics. During this time, he mandated that a lot of the X titles needed to be either retooled or jettisoned. During that time period, I read everything with an X on it. Some weeks I would spend nearly $70 (1990’s dollars) a month on Marvel titles.

The purpose of the marvel shake-up mandate was to “streamline” the X titles. I suppose in hindsight, he was right that there were too many X books and that they became too cumbersome for the new fan to feel that they could approach the books. (And it’s not like they were declaring No More Mutants! . . . wait)

But in retrospect, given how many of the titles were resurrected later and how many new titles have been launched since, it seems like another stunt designed to grab attention.

Maggot. Those bugs are his digestive tract. Why was this guy a super hero?

Storm ripped her heart out. How do you survive that?

You need to remember at this time that just a few years prior, the editors at marvel wrote most of the core X-Men out of one of the books in order to create yet another “all new, all different, all over” x-men team that included a guy with a digestive tract that looked like two giant maggots, and crawled out from a hole in the guy’s belly and a former villain that died when Storm ripped her heart out of her chest. I gave the new team about a year. I think they may have lasted that long, but I don’t remember.

So once again, another “lets pull a stunt to grab the attention of the casual reader and make them a new fan” storyline was forcing me to say goodbye to characters that I’d come to love. I was in a word: bitter. The move served as my jumping-out point for comics. I haven’t been able to call myself a faithful reader since.

Welcome to the shiny world of comics new reader! In these pages, you will find action! Adventure!  But before you become too attached to this amazing new world, there are a few things you need to know.

  1.       In a week, you will be an old reader. The creators don’t care about old readers. They just want to attract new readers. If you are already immersed in a story line, expect that story line to get dropped summarily in order that the title can be tied into a 63-part megacrossover. Maybe they’ll get back to it after summer is over. Maybe they won’t.
  2.       The only purpose of this crossover is to pull you into other books, even if it’s just temporarily. Remember: comic books are like crack. One of them serves as a gateway drug to the others. And the others probably cost $2.99 per issue.
  3.      Don’t get too attached to a character. Unless they look hip and trendy, they’ll be dropped like a hot stone. After all, the doctor with boring superpowers and a good story line is not as much fun as the hidious former villian who can angst.
  4.     

    Marrow after joining the good guys. She not only got better from having her heart ripped out, she also grew hair and a more attractive face.

    Speaking of hideous: The angsty/ugly former bad guy will quickly be changed and made to look good (or at least a form of ugly that is more aesthetically pleasing. Because no one can be a hero and be ugly.

  5.      Girl characters will look so top-heavy you expect them to tip over like an oil Derrek. They will also wear something that resembles butt-floss on a regular basis.
  6.       Don’t get too attached to a story line. There will always be a new writer who wants to take things in a “fresh new direction.” Give some of these a chance. They might be good. Unless they involve Spiderman and clones.
  7.      Don’t expect any changes to be permanent. Jean Grey came back from the dead. So did Superman.  Plotlines that are dubbed “this changes everything” will be undone in a matter of years.
  8.      You will always see Gambit or Cable in every freaking comic book possible.
  9.    Don’t get attached in general.

 

What’s hilarious about this tirade is that all of this came before the Spiderman deal with the devil and the rise of authors putting wolverine in every single title under the sun (he was already pretty popular at that point, but Gambit and Cable were pretty much products of the Nineties) Overall, it shows that the problems that I had with comics 10 years ago haven’t really changed.

Remember when character death was actually shocking?

What I take from this: Comic Books have pretty much been about numbers. It’s not about delivering the best possible content to fans. Huge crossovers and stunts are all about swelling the bottom line. So when something like Brand New Day happens, even if fans hate it, it draws attention and swells readership.

Is this good marketing? That’s debatable.  Good marketing is about trying to determine what gives the readers the best possible reading experience and delivering that. Constantly. All the time.

I think that a majority of comics readers are tired of constant stunts. These stunts pull in readers temporarily, but if the writing isn’t good consistently, they drift away again. Over time, the big comics companies have got to come up with bigger and bigger stunts.  In the 90’s Batman had his back Broken. How do you top that in the 2000’s? Make him a killer. Then kill him off. Then give him a son. Then franchise him! (Wal-bat! Actually, considering that he owns a major corporation, that one makes sense, sorta).

On the subject of the DC reboot: When the announcement first went out, my thought was: What, again? After all, didn’t we just have Zero Hour a couple of years ago?  But I’m going to withhold judgment. After all, it may be that the re-launched DCNU is actually good. Despite this, I give it 10 years max before we have another “This Changes Everything” event in that universe.

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