Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 12

Today, I shall be talking about comic book renumberings, Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, The Ultimate Villain, some of my favorite Grant Morrison works, Wonder Woman, my favorite Green Lantern plus a new Reader Question. All this and more after the jump.

What More Do I Need To Read?

So, being a huge Grant Morrison fan, I loved his New X-Men run. It was one of the few times I've actually cared enough about the X-Men comics to get excited about them. I've sampled some other stuff afterward, but, outside of Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, very little of it has had any appeal to me.

Took me awhile, but I eventually figured out why. It was because I didn't need to read anymore X-Men comics since Morrison had, to me, produced superior versions all of the basic X-Men stories, from recycled Sentinels to destruction of the school to even a space based story, so that any other stories from other writers that I would read would be inferior.

Since Marvel and DC recycle stories for all of their characters, once you've read the big, important ones, what more do you need to read? The same goes with, say, Superman and Batman. Once you've read enough of the "must reads", you don't really need to read anymore unless 1) you love the character or 2) a writer whose work you enjoy is writing the character.

Batman vs. The Ultimate Villain

Why hasn't Batman fought the ultimate villain yet? A Zombie Alien Nazi Cyborg Vampire. Why, I ask. Why? It would be awesome.

"Ongoing Creative Team"

When Marvel and DC announce a new ongoing creative team for a book, what they really announce most of the time is the new ongoing writer and the artist for the first arc, if that. Recent examples include just about every Batman title in the post-RIP relaunch and Ultimate Comics Avengers.

I really wish they would be more honest about this stuff. There are very few artists who can do more than one arc on a book before either there is a fill in or a new artist takes over. It would make a lot more sense, to me, if Marvel and DC announced that the artist was only doing one arc and mention whatever artist is doing the second arc. It would be an easy way to mitigate some disappointment among fans while keeping some positive buzz going on books with these rotating creative teams.

The Walking Dead

I managed to check out the first hardcover for Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead and, unlike the trades, it came with extras in the back. There was an essay in the back by Kirkman in which he described The Walking Dead as a post-zombie movie story which struck me as odd. To me, The Walking Dead seemed like just another zombie story, like dozens of others out there. Now, this isn't a slight against Kirkman, but I would be intrigued by a post-zombie infestation/invasion story so I was a little disappointed that The Walking Dead didn't offer that.

Grant Morrison's Marvel

Grant Morrison generally gets a lot of praise for his DC and Vertigo work but, for me, his best stuff was when he was at Marvel. Specifically, New X-Men and Marvel Boy. They are just so vibrant and full of energy. They are some of my favorite works from him and I really wish that he some day returns to work at Marvel. He just seems to be more free, creatively, than when working at DC or, possibly, doesn't hold the characters with the same Silver Age reverence as he does with many of DC's properties.


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Wonder Woman Renumbering And Second Ongoing

Recently, I have seen a lot of fan talk about either renumbering Wonder Woman to #600 when the series reaches the issue, giving her a second going series or both.

Fans argue that Wonder Woman is important and deserves to have here series numbered similar to Batman and Superman. They also argue that a big anniversary issues will draw in new readers, which is true, but the series has bigger, and more fundamental, problems than an anniversary issue can fix.

Wonder Woman #33, the issue and finale of the Rise of The Olympians arc, was #61 on the sales chart and outsold by Thor: Trial of Thor (#60), Punisher #6 (#59), Action Comics Annual #12 (#58), Skaar: Son of Hulk #12 (#57) and Marvel Zombies 4 #3 (#56). Her book was outsold by a meaningless one-shot (Thor), the Punisher, and a Hulk spin-off. An anniversary issue is just going to be a temporary fix, if that. This is also why she shouldn't get a second ongoing since she can barely support the one she has.

Some fans will argue that Wonder Woman is important, which is true, so that should override sales factors, at least in the short term. Well, no. Important characters are not always relevant characters, which both Superman and the Fantastic Four have to deal with constantly. After all, Superman only has two titles right now, unlike the four he had in the 90s.

Yes, she has always been one of the only female superheroes to be in constant or near constant publication, which does grant her a degree of credibility in the sustainability regard, but it does not give her relevance, which the character is desperately lacking.

If the character becomes relevant again, or at least to the point that more people know her for her comics or stories than her Diana Carter pin-up days, then maybe giving her a second series or renumbering her book would make a bit more sense and be a little bit more justifiable.

Of course, this would mean that DC would have to figure out what they want to do with the character, which they are chronically unable to do, and then figure out away to successfully market their new direction. Perhaps if Grant Morrison was given an All Star Wonder Woman title or other project with her, as he speculated on for a potential future project at one point, this might change things. Otherwise, it will be same ol', same ol'. The new animated feature was a step in the right direction, too, but very little follow up on it and comics that don't even reflect it.

Comic Book Renumbering

Speaking of comic book numbering and renumbering, I don't think it's as big a deal to me as it is to some fans. Honestly, I'm fine with Marvel and DC rebooting all of their books every 50 to 100 issues. It's a way to reinvigorate a book, draw in new readers and separate one writer's run from another. For example, when Geoff Johns eventually leaves Green Lantern, the title should definitely be rebooted. It is an easy way to demarcate Johns's run from whoever follows and, again, is a very easy way to signal a fresh start.

That said, I think their are a couple of titles that should keep their full numbering, for either one of two reason. The first are books with some historical significance. They would be Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Fantastic Four. Action Comics introduced Superman, Detective Comics is where DC gets it's name from, and The Fantastic Four was the book Marvel launched with in the Silver Age. Superman, Batman, Uncanny X-Men, and Amazing Spider-Man should also keep their numbering since they are their respective companies biggest characters and franchises.

Why Bzzd Is The Greatest Green Lantern Ever

Reader Question - How Long Do You Give A Book Before Dropping It?

When you are trying out a new ongoing series or a new writer's run a book, how long do you give the series before you decided whether or not you are going to follow it series or drop it?

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Thomas said...

For me, the really good stuff on Morrisons X-Books was that you did not need to know what was before, because it wasn´t important. You could jump in, and everything else was explained on the way. I liked that a lot.
On the Ongoing Creative Team. It´s funny when you think about it, but only as an example, what have the Kubert Brothers really drawn for DC as long as they where Exclusive to them? I can´t remember much!
And I think if you are a penciller for Comics, it´s the Job that makes you money, so you should, like everyone else work your 8 to 10 hours a day, and I you do that, you might get some work done in the end!
And with Batman & Robin, DC announced Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, but Morrison told later in some interviews, that there would be some more artist to the book and not Quitely alone.
I think they do it, because Quitely sells better than Tan or the rest, and we could always tell more details later!
To The Walking Dead. I like a lot of stuff from Kirkman, but the hype arround this zombie book, I don´t get it. Maybe it´s because I am not that much into zombies, but I think it would be better as a finite miniseries and not as an ongoing.
And how long do I give a book before dropping? If it is a new one, or a new run, I read the first issue, onla to see, if it to my likings, and then I usually wait till the first storyline is finished, I read it and decide then if I drop it or read it further!

Kevin said...

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I personally don't quite get what everyone sees in Grant Morrison. No matter how carefully I read his books its always feels like I've skipped some pages. His stories just don't seem to to fit together from one issure to another. Maybe its just me. And he uses the sound "TT" all the time. What is that supposed to be?

When it comes to new books I use the same rule that I do for new TV shows. I give them three episodes or issues and then I decide where to go from there. The exception was Greek Street, I dropped that three minutes after reading the first issue.

Kirk Warren said...

@Thomas - Quick note on artists in comics - many treat it like a secondary income and make it known going in. They have advertising, design, foreign work (many work by correspondance in Europe, for instance, even North American artists). Take Steve Skroce as one older example. He did storyboards for the Matrix films and other film projects of that nature. It's more lucrative to do that than any number of comics, so it's a major reason why some don't do the 8 hour, 1 page a day schedule.

Jim Lee is a famous one. He does all kinds of video game work. I've seen him do a full page Gambit sketch (it was on YouTube, he posted on Twitter) in like 2 minutes. He's not as slow as he has been shown to be and could do a monthly, but he could also go make more running his company and doing video game and other design work, like he's been doing with DC's MMO game.

Daryll B. said...

Morrison has always been hit or miss with me...I liked 3/4ths of his X-Men run but it always kind of stuck in my craw a bit that he was given carte blanche to do what he liked in X-Men while writers like Waid, Nicenza, and Lobdell were essentally handcuffed / cut off at the knees by big events.

I hate renumbering with a passion. Always seems like a cash grab to me...

Bzzd goes down as one of the most fun Green Lanterns of all time. He was essentially a wise-cracking insect with a power ring. Whoever invented him needs a raise...

I tend to give new books a story arc or 2..For some like Secret Six and Secret Warriors I hit it out of the park. For some I dropped early like Blue Beetle and Invincible, I kick myself

Radlum said...

I have tried to read Morrison's New X-Men, but so far I haven't been able to find the TPB (besides some in Spanish, but I'd rather wait longer than read a translated comic; I studied English so I could aprecciate art in its original language). Whedon's run was great, tough I wonder why my favorite character (Nightcrawler) is always out of the team when a great writer is in the book.

On The Walking Dead; I love that book, partly because I really like zombies stories and partly because Kirman's writing is actually pretty good, tough I wonder what he meant by "post zombie-movie story"; anyway, The Walking Dead is on the same level as Romero's Dawn of the Dead in terms of zombie stories, the only downside is that Kirkman doesn't want to end it soon and sadly, all stories start to show signs of aging after a while.

I usually give a book three or four issues; sometimes I read the entire first arc before definetly dropping it, tough when it's a major book like Uncanny X-Men or Mighty Avengers I usually come back to it if there's a major event.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

How long to hold onto a title?
Until I don't want it anymore. You can't afford to be a completist, especially not with conversion to Australian dollars. If a series is perennially the first thing I read because I'm getting it out of the way, then it has to be gotten out of the way, drop it. I read monthlies of books I absolutely cannot wait for the trade for, which is only a few, and a read a fair few in trades because I can wait. I am going through some current restructuring, due to finances, personal situation, and I find that a comic with something else to offer will make the monthly cut. Criminal/Incognito gets there because of its back-matter. If Casanova were to ever come back (and the fact that Fraction is writing Uncanny but not Casanova does make me so sad) I would pick it up in a heartbeat each month. I get DD and Iron Fist because I love them and The Boys because I can't wait each month. As for other stellar reads, The Walking Dead, Scalped, Northlanders, I wait for the trade because it can be done, and it reads well in one big slam dunk.

Were Brian K Vaughan to come out with another monthly, I don't know what I'd do, he is a genius and I'd want it each month, but I'd want them neatly collected on the shelves like my Y, collecting can be hard.

brandon said...

I usually give a book a full arc to see if I stick with it.

Though, there are still the ones I cling to as some sort of punishment to myself, regardless if the new team is good or not: Hulk, GI Joe, GL...damnit I have decades of these books I cant break the string for one bad arc (not that GL has had this lately at all), right?

Or in Hulk's case a year's worth.

THK said...

@Kirk - I do know that, but sometimes you get to wonder after all the hype in the beginning that there goes nothing, issue 3 late issue 4 lost in oblivion, and then they bring an artist in, that doesn´t even look 10% like the one he is going to replace. And what I never can understand about that is, no information about it, nowhere, not even on the website of the publishers. Nothing, till some day, something comes up again, oh look there issue 5, who would have believed it, oh wait, a different artist, oh, oh, oh, very different.
So I can wait, I´ve waited years for Planetary to be finally over, but what I sometimes wish for is, that the Publishers from the beginning of this gig would take 2 artists that can draw the same way, there can always something happen, one could get sick, and so the other can replace him without looking totally different.
And on Grant Morrison, sometimes you need to look harder, read slower, or after you finished read it again, and then you can see, what he really intended to show, or appreciate what he has given you. And sometimes, and that is right, it just makes no sense at all, but as long as there are still the things I can understand and I do like, I like him. And he was always someone who had a different take on things, and his Captain Marvel was the Best Marvel Knights Series that was.
And on Steve Skroce, has anyone heard anything about why they stopped publishing Doc Frankenstein?? I don´t know anything about it, till today!

Eric Rupe said...

Thomas - The Kuberts drew, combined, maybe 12 issues? I know one was one Morrison's Batman for a couple and then the other did the Last Son arc on Action.

Same for me on TWD. I don't much care for zombies so I'm not that enamored with it.

Kevin - Morrison is definitely an acquired taste at times, plus as ---- said, there is usually rereading required to really see what he was going for.

Daryll - Well, Morrison was brought in to completely revamp the X-Men at the time while the others were just to do continuing adventures types of stories. It's the same reason why Johns has a lot of freedom at DC right now.

Radlum - There are three new collections for Morrison's New X-Men that collect the whole series - Vol One, Two and Three.

From what I remember, Kirkman was talking about when the movies end but, to me, it still reads like a zombie movie since there are still zombies around.

Andrenn said...

I usually give it 2 to 3 issues if I'm going to keep buying it or not.

brandon said...

what's interesting about the Walking Dead discussion is how some folks find it to just be a zombie book or like a movie whereas others dont see it as a zombie story at all.

To me, it's a survival book and just so happens to occur in the midst of zombies. For example, this week's issue didnt have one zombie in it. Not even on the cover.

However, prior to reading the whole run I was of the mindset that it was just zombies so I get where those folks are coming from.

Kirkman has made claims that he has up to issue #350 plotted out so I would think it literally is the zombie movie that will never end as he boasted in that hardcover letter.

Matt Ampersand said...

I agree with Brandon. The real story is about the survivors, not the zombies. The zombies are just the vehicle to carry the story, it could have been vampires, werewolves, monsters, whatever, and the same survivors (with different reactions to the crisis at hand, obviously). It's about humanity and how individuals react to a crisis of this scale.

Tromeritus said...

I give a series anywhere from 1-3 issues. If the one issue I read is horrible, there's almost no chance of me picking it up. If the issue is decent (especially if it's highly recommended/acclaimed), then I shall pick up one more. I SHOULD have a good feel for the comic by the second issue, but this is not always the case. If I haven't decided wheter or not to trade-wait on buy the on-going, then "third time's the charm". I'll end up seeking out another installment in order to decide whether or not to drop the book.

Kirk Warren said...

I usually wait for one arc (~6 issues) unless it is absolutely terrible.

Anonymous said...

TIme was, the amount of time I'd give a series before dropping was pretty liberal. I've been an Iron Man fan since I was little, and I gave up being a completist when Len Kaminski took over the title in the 90's. I collected the Vertigo "Shade the Changing Man" throughout, even during the last couple of years after Kathy died, and the series felt rudderless.

Nowadays, I'm pretty darn fickle. If a series starts skidding, I'll bail after one issue. Diggle's "Thunderbolts" is a perfect example; I gave up after the first Obama issue. I've given "Power Girl" 3 issues, but the last two issues didn't make any impression on me, so it's at risk now. The new Deadpool series is also on notice; the series needs more than art by an imitation Mitch Byrd to sustain it. Marvel should be grateful that "Marvel Zombies 4" wasn't longer; the last issue stank out loud!!!

Matt Ampersand said...

@Anon, it's a shame you dropped out of Thunderbolts after that issue. It got a lot better, in my opinion, after they got that cleared up, and the personalities started to shine more.

Ramon Villalobos said...

Eric, don't you mean a Zombie Alien Nazi Cyborg Vampire GORILLA? That would probably be the ultimate, right there.

Because I hate incomplete runs, I generally wait a couple issues in and then buy back issues of stuff I like so there is no dropping so much as picking up from a safe point. That's what I did with Action Comics with the Legion Saga because prior to that although I liked Johns, Gary Frank had not yet really shown how insanely good he would be, I had no interest in the Superman books nor Legion. Then I ran with that book until those two creators left because... I just don't care about Superman or whoever else is being written about in his book.

Also I completely agree with what you said about Morrison's X Men even though I've never thought about it like that before.

About Wonder Woman though, I think around the sixties with the whole female empowerment thing there became a forced sense of dignity for a character that may have been more popular without it. I mean, I don't want to be chauvinistic when I say this, but I just don't think she is a character that survived the superhero drought by being a symbol of female empowerment. Instead they had a lot of stuff like this going on
that's not to say she wasn't like tough or anything
nor was she a bad role model for children
there just wasn't a sense that she HAD to be respected. It was a completely different attitude than when she became a symbol for women's rights and all this sort of thing. She's less fun because creators seem to walk on eggshells when writing her and too many seem afraid to be kinky with a character that is so rooted in bondage and... well kinkiness. That's why I hope Grant Morrison get's to write her. I think more than Geoff Johns who is like the revamp king at DC, he'd be able to breath some life into Wonder Woman. And as we saw in Final Crisis, he showed he doesn't care about disrespecting her a little bit for even the tiniest bit of pay off in the end.

Eric Rupe said...

brandon, Matt - Well, I've only read the first four trades and seemed it like a zombie story to me, even if it did spend a good amount of time focusing on the characters.

Ramon - Adding a gorilla to the equation would just make it too awesome though. =)

Jeremy said...

LOOOOOVE Morrison's New X-men run. Its one giant, imperfect epic that really says it all about the X-men. I mean, you got the crazy Sentinel story, Dark Phoenix, Shi'ar, Mutant/Human relations, Days of Future Past, Magneto, Weapon X, and all the great X-men soap opera thats been the backbone of the series since Claremont started writing. I love it, flaws and all('cept those ugly Kordley fill-ins on the Imperial arc, ugh; good thing Quitely came in for that double-sized finale). Morrison's X-men and to a much lesser degree(but no less completely aweseome) Whedon's Astonishing X-men are the only X-men runs you'd ever need.

Jeremy said...

And I do love Marvel Boy. Heck, I'm re-reading it today at work since its crazy slow. Its that "crazy pop cool" that Morrison does so well, and because its a brand new character, he can pretty much do whatever he wants, like a corporate-based virus, an Iron Man/FF Jack Kirby villian, and imgination-based starships.

I feel the way about Morrison's JLA. He wrote them so well, with about hundred "Cool Comic Book Moments" spread throughout the run, all culimating with the ultimate evil itself, (Ar)MAGGEDON(always written in full caps), I you really need to read anything else? Maybe JLA: Earth-2 with its awesome alternate world premises, or JLA Classfied #1-3 that involves Knight/Squire, Batman in a UFO, robot JLA, infant universes in humonoid form, armies of jetpack apes, and Gorrila Grodd monologuing about his future dyansty and "Gorillapolis" only for Batman to sneak up and kick him in the balls("There goes the Dynasty").

Which are also written by Morrison ^_^

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