Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 8

Today I shall be talking about the Multiverse, more on Marvel's trade collections, X-Men Forever, Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel's movie schedule, DC's new and up coming launches and more after the jump.

Archie, Milestone and Magog

A lot of people seem to be questioning why DC is trying to launch "new" properties instead of putting out books for characters like Hawkman, the Atom or Aquaman, which is a fair complaint.

After all, DC has plenty of characters that do not currently have books. How many of those properties are smash hits or massive successes though? DC is most likely just looking for the next big hit rather than simply ignoring their many characters that do not currently have a book. Even if the recently announced Magog isn't the next big hit, he still may turn into a viable property and sustain an ongoing for a while.

So, DC could put out another Hawkman or Aquaman book that will do okay for a year or two before being cancelled or they could take a chance on a new character (or recently purchased line of characters) and maybe get a new long term and viable character, possibly even a smash hit, no matter how unlikely that is.

Personally, I like that the fact that DC is taking a chance with some new stuff instead of putting out another doomed for failure book that would most likely end with cancellation and just be a retread or "all new, all different" take on everything that has come before. Of course, the odds of any of these books actually succeeding is very low. I'm definitely going to check out JMS's work on the Red Circle characters and then decide if I actually want to follow up on any of them. Keith Giffen's enthusiasm for Magog is kind of infectious, so I'm also willing to give it a shot. As for the Milestone characters, I have no interest in them and won't be picking their titles up.

Leinil Yu Needs to Work on a Sci-Fi Book

Although I'm not a big fan of Secret Invasion and Superman: Birthright, the one thing I truly enjoyed about each of them was the art by Leinil Yu, who seems to have a knack for coming up with great sci-fi inspired designs, from Skrulls to Kryptonian architecture. I would really love to see him on something like Fantastic Four just to see what he would come up with.

Don't Explain It!

There has been a tendency at Marvel and DC by some writers to explain some of the sillier aspects of their characters, like the "S" symbol on Superman or the fact that Wonder Woman's costume is based on the American flag or the secret origin of Barry Allen's bowtie. Don't. Just accept the that fact that it is silly and don't worry about it. It's like trying to use real world science to explain why some powers work. It's not something that should be focused on.

More Marvel Trade Variant Shenanigans

Both Ultimates 3 and the first volume of Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man have five variants for the various collections. Five! Why the hell does a collection need five different covers? It's just absurd.

Ultimates 3 has three covers for its hardcover edition and two for its paperback edition while Invincible Iron Man has two covers for its hardcover edition and three for the paperback. There is only one cover for the bookstore markets and Amazon while all of the variants are only available in the Direct Market. This also doesn't factor in eventual new covers that will be used if/when these titles go back to print for second or third printings.

Is Thrice Monthly Amazing Spider-Man Slipping?

It seems to me that there might be cracks starting to form in Amazing Spider-Man's quality and shipping schedule. If you look at the past couple of months, there have been a lot of one and two issue story arcs, fill in artists and artist being unable to completely finish an issue or even dropping off an arc completely. For instance, Barry Kitson couldn't finish a recent two issue arc and Phil Jimenez dropped off the current American Son arc.

While some people thought that Brand New Day Amazing Spider-Man would eventually fail because of its One More Day origins/retcons, I always believed that it would fail because of the shipping three times a month schedule. I assumed it would be too expensive for most and people would start dropping it, but it seems that the art might be a problem as well. There also doesn't seem to be any three issue arcs anymore, or very rarely, and the only artist to do more than three issues in a row is John Romita Jr. It seems like the creators are getting bogged down and artists can't keep up. I wonder what is going to happen if this keeps up.

Ultimate Peter Parker - R.I.P.

In Ultimatum #4, the Ultimate Peter Parker apparently died and, despite the fact that Ultimate Spider-Man is one of my favorite comics, I find myself not caring one bit. Maybe it's because Jeph Loeb wrote it. Maybe it's because Brian Bendis didn't write it. Maybe it's because it looks like their might be a magical reset button on the way to undo the whole thing. Or maybe it's because I've become incredibly cynical towards Marvel and DC over their continued use of these kinds of stunts. I know why Marvel and DC use death and rebirths all the time - sales boosts - but, of all the numerous deaths and rebirths, things have slowly become meaningless because of the overuse of this cheap tactic, moreso than even when it really started being used a lot in the 90's.

How Long Can Marvel Keep Doing Two Movies Per Year?

Marvel's current plan for their movie studio is the put out two movies per year, but I wonder just how long they can do that. Trilogies are an obvious way to go or, in the case of Spider-Man, sets of trilogies. But, eventually you are going to have to start mining less than optimal material for your movies.

In fact, Marvel already has plans to do an Ant-Man movie. I don't find this very sustainable over the long run because, like most fads, which is what superhero movies are turning into, people will lose interest. Plus, if they do go the multiple trilogy route with some of their movies, how long before boredom with the franchise and increasingly larger sequel numbers on the movie title start to drive people away?

Top Creators on Non-Continuity books

Since books like Amazing Spider-Man and Batman are going to sell regardless of who writes them, I would like to see big name creators work on non-continuity books. It frees them from the shackles of continuity and shared universes and can allow them to do something unique rather than working within the confined spaces of in-continuity books.

X-Men Never Again

I'm going to go ahead and declare X-Men Forever the worst book put out by Marvel or DC this year. I know there is some stiff competition from books like Ultimatum and a couple of WTF? books from DC (like Dead Romeo), but still, I think Forever takes the cake.

Why, you ask? It's like a microcosm of everything Marvel and DC shouldn't be doing. Do we really need a series about what would have happened had Chris Claremont had his way with a book that he left over 15 years ago and that everyone has moved on from? No, we don't! The constant dredging up and "reliving" of past eras is never going to work. This is a similar problem, to me, that Amazing Spider-Man currently has and DC has with the Kingdom Come stuff they are working into their books.

Of course, people will point at Hal Jordan and Barry Allen over at DC as dredging up the past and being successful, but there is a difference. Johns isn't writing The Flash or Green Lantern as though Crisis on Infinite Earths or Emerald Twilight didn't happen. And even though DC is drawing a lot of inspiration from things like the Silver Age, it's just that, inspiration. They are not trying to copy them verbatim.

Now, I don't necessarily have a problem with Marvel and DC drawing on their past for inspiration because it's obvious they have no interest in developing their characters in a progressive manner. Their characters are more valuable to Marvel and DC as licensable properties, so they have an interest in keeping them in a form where they work "best" or are the most recognizable, but that doesn't mean they should try and copy previously successful versions or takes verbatim. Inspiration is okay but wholesale reproduction of specific comics is not.

My final problem with the series is that it's going to fail. Claremont's last series, New Exiles, lasted 18 issues before cancellation, and the whole series's selling point was Chris Claremont. Obviously, some Exile diehards stuck around but, still, Claremont was the main selling point and the book didn't even last two years. So, instead of trying out a new series that might succeed, Marvel puts out a series that is going to be canceled. I'd be surprised if the book lasts for even two years. An utter waste.

Cup O' Joe Returns

In cased you missed it, Cup O' Joe is back. This time at CBR. Ever since it moved to MySpace, I found it unreadable, literally, but I decided to give it one more try. Well, it's at least readable, but still the same double speak as before. To be fair, Quesada didn't actually answer any fan questions this time, so I'll check out the next installment to see if he sticks with the more condescending/PR speak non-answers when it comes to reader questions.

Make Use of the Multiverse

When Didio is often asked about Captain Marvel, he usually brings up the problem of making the character work within the DCU. Fair point. Captain Marvel doesn't really work well with the tone that DC has these days. There is a simple solution though - don't use him in the DCU! Make use of the Multiverse and give him his own Earth. Earth-5, which has been designated the Captain Marvel Earth, has been around since the end of 52, but DC has refused to make use of it.

I know Didio has talked about letting Grant Morrison set up the Multiverse, which led to the Multiversity concept, but, and I say this as a fan of Morrison, DC shouldn't have waited this long to make use of it. DC had a chance to provide books that there was some demand for in a way that would have gotten rid of many of the major problems with accessibility and continuity that people have, but they didn't. A huge mistake in my opinion.

Plus, the last time Morrison left them with a set of revamped characters and concepts, Seven Soldiers of Victory, DC completely ignored all the work Morrison did on them, which leaves me wondering just what kind of longterm goals they have for Multiversity.

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Matt Ampersand said...

Technically, Claremont took over Exiles a couple of issues before it relaunched (somewhere in the mid-80's, I think, and until issue 100), so it lasted more than just 18 issues. New Excalibur lasted about as long, with 24 issues and a 5 issue mini-series.

mugiwara said...

I kinda liked X-Men Forever despite a cast of characters I hate and/or don't care about anymore. But perhaps it's just because Ellis and Fraction are so bad on Astonishing and Uncanny that Claremont looks good in comparaison.
I think that Marvel should get rid of overexploited characters like Nightcrawler, Rogue or Colossus in the 616 and use them only in comics like X-Men Forever or UXM First Class.

Thomas said...

Yeah, the Peter Parker from Ultimate Spider-Man is finally dead! Like Captain America, or Batman, or Superman, Green Arrow, Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, or God knows who. The only Question seems to be, when will he finally being reinstated? After one Year, 12 Issues, or do we have to wait 2 Years, till he is coming back?
Or till Jeph Loeb finally writes that too, or destroys it completely. I don´t know, maybe a good name for a comic publishing company would be "WHERE THE DEAD STAY DEAD PUBLISHING!"
Would be nice to see, how the storys will play out, if the dead ones don´t reapear in time.
And in the real Marvel Universe Mary Jane is coming back to the Spider-Man series, after all they have gone trough, after all that scheming, the absurd storylines, Mephisto, and I don´t know what, just to get rid of her, now they bring her back???
And don´t get me wrong, I like comics, I actually love them, but when the storys tend to not matter anymore, and anyone can come up with another bad idea, the fun is no longer there, and when I have to pay for it, I expect a least something readable!
And Warren Ellis is Warren Ellis, he is very bad, if he is forced to play by the rules, and with the X-Men, he has to play by the rules: "Don´t do that, avoid those, please do not use them, that or those, and by the end, your storyline has to fit to the contiunity of everything else here, even if your artist needs 3 months to draw for one issue!"
Must be real fun, to work like that, the sad thing about it is, it pays better than the Creator owned stuff, so they do it, from time to time.
And about Comicbook Movies, I can´t stand them anymore! Isn´t there anything else out there, wich someone deems worthy, to make a movie about. Don´t some have original ideas by themselves anymore. No, we just take a cool Comicbook Character, change everything about him the longtime readers know about, because everyone has to understand about him, and then tell a stupid origin story, use some good looking computer effects, and voila, there is the next Comicbook-Summer-Blockbuster!
And about Chris Claremont, there is always the same question: „ If someone has done some really great things in the past, but is, in the present not longer capable to do so, is he still great, a good writer, and should he be given chance after chance to proof that, only because he was once great?“
I don´t know, I´ve never have read anything from Claremont´s X-Men run, because it doesn´t matter to me today, and I do not care about it, and I will not walk around like a living, fleshy lexicon, that keeps 1000 events in mind, from wich most of them lie ahead over 10 years ago, only to understand one simple issue he writes, sorry, where is the fun in that, and what should I tell my children?
„Oh, I´m really, really sorry, but before you can read one of these, you must first read all of those wich are stashed on the attic!“
So they would never read anything at all!
Why does everything today seems to be so complicated and always in continuity, where are the storys that are readable, fun, easy to follow and sometimes for Children too?

Anonymous said...

The whole "X-Men Forever" thing is only going to get worse. Marvel's already announced a six-issue "Clone Saga" mini-series, which is supposed to be the way the saga was originally going to be told... presumably before Terry Kavanaugh, et. al. turned a 1-2 month story arc into a 1-2 prolonged string of arcs, minis & tie-ins. This new mini is being written by Tom DeFalco & Howard Mackie, though I'm betting that Mackie's not really involved & that they'll use notes or synopses that he wrote at the original story's conception. Considering the way Quesada rushed him out the door, I don't think it would be very likely.

Another one who was shown the exit by Quesada was John Byrne, who was doing another Marvel retro series, "X-Men: The Lost Years". (History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme on occasion.)

Personally, I wouldn't mind this whole retro trend if they did something that the fans would really dig. Maybe an "Iron Man" series with story & art by Micheline & Layton? While I've liked "Iron Man" since the Civil War ended, I could see the appeal of a series set in a continuity separate from everything that's happened since Dark Reign, Civil War, & Secret Invasion. Hell, the series' greatest virtue would be that it'd treat all those 1990's "teen-Tony" stories like they never happened at all!

Andy said...

Amazing Spider-Man also missed its thrice monthly schedule in March, only shipping two issues.

mugiwara said...

If they really wanted us to believe Ultimate Spiderman dead, they would have killed him the same way they killed Wasp, Dr Strange or Pym. But looks like gore death are for lesser iconic characters.
Ultimate Peter "died" in a MAGIC explosion and his body was not foud. 3 reasons for him to not be dead.

The Rook said...

I actually like X-Men Forever. Is it the way *all* comics should be? Of course not. It is a niche, continuity-driven title. But I don't see the problem with having books aimed at different segments of the comics reading populace -- the hardcore, continuity guys; the newbies; etc.

Eric Rupe said...

Matt - I know Claremont did those other books but New Exiles was specifically for him and by him so it seemed like the best example.

Thomas - I've found most of Ellis's mainstream stuff to always to be at least competent and better than some writers who actually seem to be trying to write a good story.

Anonymous - Yeah, I saw the Clone Sage thing. So stupid. I guess if it and XMF are successful we are going to see more and more projects like that, which I don't consider a good thing.

Micheline actually wrote an Iron Man mini last year called Legacy of Doom if you are interested.

Andy - Forgot about that.

The Rook - I have no problem with comics for long term readers and what not, but XMF is the completely wrong way to go about it since is such an incredibly small niche.

Thomas said...

Hey Eric, I didn´t mean that was Ellis writes mainstream is bad, but off the leash and the sky as the limit he is a lot better.
And I still will read all the things that come out mainstream or not, and I like the man, he is crazy, and he knows, and makes the best of it.
And for the rest of ot, sometimes it get´s better, and sometimes they make it worse, but in the end, if you look hard enough, you will always find your share of good comics out there, and sometimes there no longer from Marvel or DC!

Eric Rupe said...

Thomas - Okay, but that's true for pretty much any writer. Powers is better than New Avengers, Criminal is better than Cap, The Nightly News is better than Secret Warriors, etc.

Harry Seward said...

I thought X-Men Forever was a horrible idea from the first time I heard about it. Not that its something I am concerned about, but good job adding yet another layer of confusing inaccessibility for new readers. We constantly hear about the X-Men's convoluted history and how hard it supposedly is for new people to start following the mutants. So to help rectify the situation, Marvel releases a book that has nothing to do with the current continuity and requires knowledge of what happened more than a decade ago.

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