Friday, March 13, 2009

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 1

In addition to my weekly column, Trade Waiting, I will also have this bi-weekly column, which is exactly what it says it is - a collection of random thoughts dealing with comics. No subject will be off limits and there's no expiration date on what I'll talk about! I'll be discussing whatever comes to my mind, whether it be an old controversy or a panel from a comic I read three weeks ago or the latest blockbuster.

As for this week, hit the jump for some thoughts on Marvel's event fallout, Brian Bendis' unique writing style, Marvel's obsession with Spider-Man's youth and much, much more.

Writing To A Demographic

Whenever the topic of Brian Bendis' New Avengers comes up, there is usually a discussion or comment about the way he writes the various characters. Usually, people critique, and rightfully so, the way his characters all basically sound the same. Each character's dialogue is written as if it could be said by any character on screen and have the same effect and they all, generally, have a twenty-somethingness feeling about them. Now, I've always seen people say its because Brian Bendis can't write diverse characters or can't handle team books, but there are other books where he has done so successfully, so I've been thinking it's on purpose.

There has been a trend at Marvel recently to make their books as "accessible" as possible to new readers. They are trying to go for a younger demographic than the Distinguished Competition since those newer, younger readers are the ones likely to see the movies Marvel is making a killing off of and then maybe try out the comics.

Maybe Bendis is purposely writing his Avengers the way he does because of some editorial mandate or some general guidelines? Bendis's Avengers work, in general, is probably more appealing to a younger group than something like Kurt Busiek's Avengers because it has characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine, plus other pet characters like Luke Cage and Iron Fist, that are not necessarily obvious choices for a typical Avengers title, but may have an appeal to a younger audience that a classic lineup would not. A proposed guideline or editorial mandate would also help explain the difference between the way Mark Millar depicts the Fantastic Four in Civil War and the Fantastic Four ongoing. Of course, I could just be over thinking things.

The Viking Plague

Northlanders has become a critical and cult success for DC's Vertigo line while over at Image, there's a new series titled Vikings coming out soon. And Marvel's Thor has been doing amazing.

Is the beginning of a new fad in comics? I'm calling it here - vikings shall be the new zombies! So, any bets on how long before we get another Marvel Zombies spin-off called Marvel Vikings?

Marvel's Event Fallout Is Better Than The Event

Strange but true. Sad as well. Brian Bendis' New Avengers, Ed Brubaker's Captain America, Warren Ellis' Iron Man and JMS's Thor (if you want to count it despite the huge delay between the end of Disassembled and its launch) relaunches where better than the actual Avengers: Disassembled event that spawned them.

Similary, Peter David's X-Factor is better than House of M. Even Warren Ellis' Thunderbolts, Avengers: The Initiative and The Order were all better than any of the hundred or so books associated with Civil War, including the miniseries itself.

Incredible Hercules is better than World War Hulk, even though the rest of the Aftersmash books(Warbound, Skaar: Son of Hulk, and Hulk) were, well, less than good. We'll call that one a draw then.

Finally, Dark Reign has to be better than Secret Invasion by the sheer virtue of Secret Invasion's less than stellar quality and has proven that with books like Dark Avengers, Captain Britain & MI13 (technically started during SI), Agents of Atlas and several others.

The Cyclical Nature of Comics

When DC announced some specifics of stories like Battle for the Cowl and The World of New Krypton some people complained that they were just rehashes of stuff like Knight Fall, Reign of Supermen and Exile.

Of course comics recycle stories. That's the whole point! Super heroes are a vehicle for telling stories, not stories in and of themselves. Writers merely take the classic ideas that all stories use - boy meets girl, good triumphs over evil, etc - and turns them on their head with the use of super heroes, similar to how sci-fi is recycled stories with new settings. Star Wars is the classic hero on a journey to stop the ultimate evil.

Comics are no different than any other story in any other medium in this regard. Brand New Day boils down to a rehash of the pre-marriage Spider-Man stories and Secret Invasion is basically Body Snatchers with Skrulls and superheroes taking the role of the little green men (actually, Skrulls are little green men, but you get my point!).

Getting back to New Krypton and Battle for the Cowl, obviously, these stories are "new" to those people who did not read Knight Fall or World Without Superman. As such, where others bemoan the lack of new stories, I am cautiously looking forward to Battle or the Cowl and World of New Krypton.

I Think He's Kidding But...

At, Tom Brevoort said he would like to see Aunt May and Uncle Ben reunited in one of the TGIF columns. He actually has a whole scenario worked out for it which involves things like Ben being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with a LMD, May marrying Doc Ock again and having him die in a nuclear reactor and, finally, having Ben return as an aide-de-camp for Spidey.

Now, he's most likely only joking, but, after OMD and the fact JMS and Quesada had, at one point, plans for the return of Gwen Stacy, I wouldn't be surprised if this actually happens somehow.

Third Time's The Charm

My biggest problem with One More Day was not what it did, but, rather, how it's the third time Marvel has pulled this stunt with Spider-Man. The first time was with the ill-fated Clone Saga, where they attempted to replace Peter Parker with his clone, Ben Reilly. The second attempt was with Mary Jane's vanishing act after the Mackie/Byrne reboot back in 1999.

Each time, the only apparent motivator behind each event was to return Peter Parker to his unmarried and, supposedly, more relatable version. The sad fate of Ben Reilly and the Clone Saga can be found over at The Life of Reilly archives and the '99 reboot failed because, well, Howard Mackie was in charge of the Spider Books at the time.

This tells me two things: 1) A young, single Spider-Man actually goes beyond Joe Quesada's mandates and is something that Marvel will constantly try to achieve and 2) I'm not the kind of reader Marvel wants for the Spider-Man titles.

Given that Amazing Spider-Man sales have generally held up over the past year, it's likely that OMD/BND will be a permanent change. The fact that Marvel had both a solid plan and generally appealing creative group on the book probably helped.

Personally, while I don't think that the 3x monthly plan probably was the best move, it does have some advantages for Marvel and readers as well. Since there is a rotating creative team, it's a lot easier to do stories like New Ways To Die or put "all star" creative teams on for an arc and build some interest in the book over the short term, which is also helped by the faster publishing schedule.

So, even though I don't like the changes wrought by OMD, I think Marvel has set themselves up for success the best way they could. However, even if they fail this time, I'm confident they will simply try again a couple years down the road anyway.

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Mike I said...

In regards to your Fallout > Event Thoughts:

About a month ago, I read a speech/interview of a well know film director with, I believe, a group of film students.

He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, in order to have a true masterpiece you need to become like the God of your work. That is, you need to be in complete tight control of the characters and environment such that the audience suspends disbelief.

How does this relate? Well, in these big events there are alot of characters, each with alot of baggage and backstory, and a lot of cooks in the kitchen on the other side of the pencil. So what you end up with can still be good, but will feel sloppy.

altonralston said...

Thanks for the post. I like the random thoughts idea. Good thoughts too. I do not like BND and must not be who Marvel is writing for either.

Eric Rupe said...

Mike - There is probably a some truth to that but even then, events like WWH also tend to lackluster even though they are a lot more focused.

altonralson - Glad you like this column.

Mike said...

The event fallout is so true. It's kind of sad really. Marvels events all crash and burn by the end of the story or get delayed into oblivion like house of m and civil war, but the fallout is usually great stories with high profile creators and new ideas.

DC is the opposite with usually a really focused event (Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, 52, Final Crisis, SCW), but not one ounce of follow up and its like they forgot they had to write books afterwards. is there even anything coming out of final crisis?

Mike said...

And this was a different Mike from the Mike I from above. Should have probably get a google account or used a different name.

Mike I said...


Eric Rupe said...

Mike(not Mike I =P) - Yeah, DC's strength seems to be their events but they can never follow up properly, the sole exception being 52.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

Bringing back Uncle Ben would be the stupidest move since OMD. That would all but invalidate so many parts of Spidey lore as to be a disaster. Bringing back his birth parents (even though they turned out to be fakes) and making them spies was a bad idea, too.

RJackson said...

Garth Ennis already DID Marvel Vikings! I can't remember the exact name, but it was Vikings attacking the Modern Marvel U with Thor in the middle, heh.

Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine said...

Great post! This blog is the number one comics blog I always return to. Some thoughts:

About Bendis...
I don't think the Bendis voice is deliberately meant to be accessible. Or, if it is, this is probably Bendis's idea of accessible rather than something suggested by editorial. The funny thing is that his dialogues where the greatest strength of his Daredevil work for me and now the same thing annoys the heck out of me any time I take a look at any of his Avengers titles. The biggest problem is that his distinct style is so, well, distinctive that it's hard to forget the writer when reading his work. It's like when you watch an independent movie with a really iconic actor and you keep seeing that actor instead of the character he's trying to portray. It just doesn't feel real.

About event fall-outs, I totally agree. Interesting thoughts on OMD as well. Thanks for a great post!

Anonymous said...

Spider man has lost almost half of its readership during the past year, so i don't know where you are getting the fact that its holding up in sales. As for the sales, if it were not for variant covers, the book would be in the low 60,000/50,000 and getting lower, that's not good at all. I doubt this new timeline is going to last if things continue down this road. Joe could only pad the sales but so much.

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