Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 16

In today's installment of A Collection of Random Thoughts, I'll be talking about the recent Batman: Reborn relaunch, another discussion on Marvel's price hikes, New vs. Classic Avengers and Superman's recent retcons, his origin and what makes the character work for me. Hit the jump to see what I have to say.

Starting Over With Batman: Reborn

It occurs to me that if DC really wanted to move the Batman concept forward, they have a pretty good set up to do so with the Batman: Reborn titles. They have a strong and logical replacement for Bruce Wayne in Dick Grayson and a new Robin in Damian Wayne, who seems to have caught on well enough from what I've seen.

Tim Drake, as Red Robin, can arguably take the place of Nightwing in both the publishing line up as well as a similar position in the Batman "family" as the kind of outsider that is still part of it all.  Depending on the direction Batgirl takes, it could replace Robin as the teen-centric Bat book while Gotham City Sirens is the villain-centric book replacing Catwoman.

Of note, there is not a Birds of Prey-like book, but Batwoman's starring role in Detective Comics is more of a new book than really replacing a pre-Battle for The Cowl book, and you could possibly consider Streets of Gotham as a replacement for Gotham Central.

All in all, if DC actually wanted to move the Batman concept forward, which they obviously don't from a marketing and licensing standpoint, but, if they did, they would be in a pretty good position to do so with Batman: Reborn.

Brevoort On The Classic Avengers

In a surprising move, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort has announced there are no plans to return to a classic Avengers line up anytime soon, which pleases me to no end. I know that classic Avengers fans tend to be pretty die hard in their conviction, but, as someone who never bothered with the Avengers franchise until New Avengers launched, it's nice to see that Marvel's first impulse isn't to return to an old status quo even though that is bound to happen at some point in the future.

That's It! I Give Up!

After looking over the prices for the latest trade collections from Marvel in their December solicits, I have decided it is too much of hassle to buy comics from them.

As everyone is well aware, $4 is slowly becoming the average price for a single issue from Marvel nowadays and the prices of their trades has been slowly creeping up as well, to the point where I have to "do the math" to see if I'm getting a good enough price to page count ratio and, when it comes down to that, it's honestly just not worth the effort.

Of course, there are still some Marvel comics I am interested in. Incredible Hercules remains the best comic they put out and Jeff Parker's works still remain a good value as do many of their recent oversized hardcovers, but, to me, the rest of the stuff really isn't worth bothering with since I can get other trades of equal quality from publishers like Dark Horse or DC at a more affordable price.

Brainiac vs. Superman and The Legion of Super-Heroes

As I've mentioned before, to me, Geoff Johns's work on some comics seems to be a mix between an actual story and a fix for one continuity "problem" or another. A good example of this is his work on Action Comics with Gary Frank.

The first arc, Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, reestablished the original Legion and Superboy as part of Superman's history while the second arc, Brainiac, reworked the history of both the titular character and the Bottled City of Kandor.

Both of these arcs are pretty decent stories in and of themselves and you wouldn't notice the retcons unless you were already aware of the various continuities Johns is dealing with and, even with the obvious retcons, like with Brainiac, it doesn't get in the way of the story. Basically, they are part of a story that isn't dependent on the retcon for it's existence.

This is one of my main problems with Superman: Secret Origins - it's whole existence seems to be for justifying the inclusion the of Superboy and the Legion into Superman's origin. The Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes arc in Action Comics did a perfectly fine job of putting the Legion back into Superman's history, so I don't see why you need a six issue miniseries to cement that "in continuity".

Of course, there could be more to Secret Origins than that, but, given Johns work on Green Lantern: Secret Origins, which just added one or two minor Blackest Night retcons and did nothing else really, it is always a possibility.  The changes that Johns made in Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes are obvious and I don't see why there is a need to further expand on them. I guess because it's part of Superman's origin, but, even then, I still don't think it's something that is needed.

Of course, there is going to be more to the series than that, but how much of that demands another miniseries about Superman's origin? Which brings me to my next point...

Does Superman Actually Need A Secret Origin?

The answer is a definite no, he doesn't. In fact, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did the perfect Superman origin in three pages and five panels in All Star Superman #1. Of course, that is a very short "story" and lacking in detail, but that's the point - Superman doesn't need a detailed origin.  He's beyond it as a character. Everyone who would care to know already knows what Superman's origin is. Just like with Batman and Spider-Man. These characters don't need a detailed origin about how they became heroes. They just don't. Any such retelling of their origins, in my mind, is just going to be about continuity "fixes" and nothing more. These characters are beyond detailed origin stories or retellings, they are that ubiquitous.

Ultraman's Conversion

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond is probably one of my favorite Superman stories. In it, Superman meets various versions of himself from across the Multiverse in order to save it from destruction. One of those Supermen is Ultraman, Superman's Antimatter Earth counterpart, who Morrison characterizes as a vain, selfish man motivated by nothing but his unending greed. Eventually, Mandrakk appears at the end of the first issue and the second opens with this scene.

(click for larger image)

That is definitely one of my top five scenes from the whole Final Crisis event for one main reason - it does a really good job of selling the threat of Mandrakk. Here you have a man who thought of nothing but himself finding a higher purpose in a god whose entire existence is devoted to destroying all of reality. You can't really do much better than that, but the next scene is perhaps one of my all time favorites.

That is why Superman is awesome. Here he is, with reality itself collapsing all around him, and he just stands there, with a smile on his face, and says, "Sounds like a challenge to, Ultraman.", because, really, it's all just a challenge to Superman. This is a man who can shatter planets with his bare hands, is one of the most intelligent and enlightened beings in the universe and there is never any doubt that he is going to win. That is why Superman is awesome, because he can do anything. That is why I've always found it so hard to get into the Superman comics because, when compared to the events of Superman Beyond, they all seem so mundane. It's kind of sad that a character with such potential is often limited by poor stories.

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PMMJ said...

"This is a man who can shatter plants with his bare hands,"

Dude, I can do that, if it's really cold out.

Kirk Warren said...

But can you tear a phone book in half? Fixed that to planets. =p

Zdenko said...

Regarding the New Avengers... I've never cared for Avengers before Dissasembled, they've seemed boring to me and I hope they won't be a return to old times anytime soon.

Flip The Page said...

whilst new avengers and the event that led to it suck arse (yeah disassembled, you can fuck right off) events coming from the new avengers have been interesting, and Slott's Mighty Avengers line-up is still the fucking king of all time avengers teams.

... Actually I say that I should be slightly bitter now he's finished pawning the series off to Christos Gage.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Interesting thoughts about Marvel's prices. I agree that their $4 cover charge sucks Alapaca balls, but I will still buy what I want to buy. I only get a few Marvel books, Dardevil, Iron Fist, Spider-Woman (and I'll give it an arc to see where it goes), and I guess the Criminal/Incognito works count out of Icon. But then I buy other stuff outside of Marvel. If they all went $4, yeah, I would hate that, but sadly I'd probably still buy it because I want it. I don't buy anything out of habit or because I have to, I buy every issue every week because I love sitting down with it. This means I may get fleeced in price occasiaonlly, the Immortal Weapons specials come to mind, but I'd rather read what i want than read good value.
Does that make me an idiot?

Also, as always, love the random thoughts, cheers!

Space Jawa said...

Besides, for those who really, really want a classic Avengers lineup, there's always Marvel Adventures Avengers. And it's a dang good way to read about them, too.

Eric Rupe said...

Flip The Page - I read the first three issues of Slott's MA run and didn't care for it. I found it boring and predictable.

Ryan - Well, I'm going to be buying the DR: Sinister Spider-Man trade so I guess that's wouldn't make you the only idiot.

Daryll B. said...

Space Jawa, I'd be careful while saying that outloud. I remember folks saying "for those who want an unmarried Spidey, there's the Ultimate and Marvel Adventures lines." You saw what happened after....

I keep saying that Superman Beyond was the event while Final Crisis was the filler...

Ya know, I would like the direction of the bat books better if we never got that last page reveal in Final Crisis. Sorta put a huge shadow on this run for me....

Superman's Secret Origin...is there anyone who doesn't know Supes origin by now? This should have been done in his book a la Green Lantern. CASH GRAB!

And yeah the Marvel trade prices are killing me too. Bastiches! This just means piracy is looking more and more intriguing for fringe books.

Salieri said...

"...Gotham City Sirens is the villain-centric book replacing Catwoman...and you could possibly consider Streets of Gotham as a replacement for Gotham Central."

Nothing personal, but regarding quality, both of those statements are definitively untrue. In the former case, the writing possesses none of the intelligence of Brubaker's or even Pfeiffer's runs on Catwoman, and SoG is basically pudding in comparison to the depth of character in Gotham Central.

Dini isn't really worthy of comparison to any writer other than, say...Loeb.

Kirk Warren said...

@Space Jawa - MA: Avengers has Spider-Man, Wolverine, Storm and one or two other non-tradional Avengers on the team. It's more MA: New Avengers than a classic team.

Eric Rupe said...

Salieri - I was talking about their niche in the Bat Books line-up, not their quality. I have no interest in the books one way or the other.

Space Jawa said...

@ Both: Excellent points that I should have considered...

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

Wait, you say prices on Marvel trades are too high, and then say you prefer DC? Have you seen the collections DC puts out? The two issue hardcover Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader, which throws in some filler to get to the bare minimum of 128 pages, goes for 25 bucks! Yeah, I'd much rather have a 6 issue Hercules hardcover for 20 bucks, thank you very much.... What about the Death in a Family collection? Printed on Newsprint, going for 40 bucks. At least marvel has decent paperstock.

It's not really fair to single out Marvel when every single publisher has these dumb prices.

Eric Rupe said...

Jeroen - Yes, every publisher has over priced offerings but Marvel has a lot more of them and on a greater frequency not to mention that their overpriced stuff isn't obviously overpriced. Their average trades prices, not including HC, are almost certainly higher than DC's and maybe Dark Horse and Image as well.

Jeroen said...

I am not sure that is true. Not looking to do ellaborate comparions, but lets look at some recent ones:

Batman and Robin Hardcover, 25 bucks, 160 Pages
Captain America, Road to Reborn Hardcover: 25 bucks, 176 Pages
Captain America Reborn HC: 25 bucks, 144 pages

Green Lantern, Agent Orange HC, 20 bucks, 128 Pages
New Avengers Volume 12 HC, 20 bucks, 120 pages

Uncanny X-Men, Nation X TPB, 15 bucks, 136 Pages
Justic League: Sanctuary TPB, 15 bucks, 128 Pages.

Seems to me like both publishers have about the same prices for the same page counts for the same level of titles. Sure, there are exceptions, but to single out Marvel like that, when the difference isn't really there....

Oh, and btw:

Hellboy Volume 9: Wild Hunt, TPB: 20 bucks, 192 pages.

Also bout the same price.

I mean, Hardcovers are more expensive then TPB's, and marvel does have the annoying habbit of releasing everything in Hardcover before they release it in TPB, but in general the prices are not much higher then anyone elses.

Eric Rupe said...

Sub-Mariner: The Depths - 120 pgs, $20
Dark Reign: Skrull Kill Crew - 136 pgs, $20
DR: The Sinister Spider-Man - 112 pgs, $17
DR: Young Avengers - 120 pgs, $17
Ultimatum: X-Men/Fantastic Four - 152 pgs, $20

Those are some recent examples of overpriced trades from the Dec solicits. You generally don't find those kinds of prices from DC or Dark Horse/Image for material that's already been serialized as single issues. I've been noticing it for a couple of months and while it's not all of their trades, nor is it that much of an increase but it's the same has the price increase from $3 to $4 for a single issue. It may not look like much but it's just that tipping point from "willing to buy" to not.

Jeroen said...

I am not saying these prices are not creeping up, which is only logical seeing how prices always go up, I am just saying that it is not just Marvel...

smkedtky said...

I remember when Marvel increased the price of its deluxe format books (better paper, etc...including EXCALIBUR and WOLVERINE) from the universal $1.00 to $1.50. I was pissed then, because before that, I was able to buy all my books, every week, on my pittance of an allowance (all my books!).

$3.99 is terrible as a price point and DC definitely gives you more for your money when they make a book that much (see back up stories in BOOSTER GOLD and such vs. books like ASTONISHING X-MEN: GHOST BOXES from Marvel). The thing is, books are going to keep getting more expensive, especialy as production costs increase and sales decrease. Eventually, its going to collapse on itself so doing the math and figuring the best value is pointless. I'm going to enjoy the comics I love while they are still around.

Eric Rupe said...

Jeroen - From what I have noticed, it's mostly Marvel and they have the most blatant price increases but that's just what I've seen.

smkedtky - Thing is though, there are cheaper comics out there, like manga, which I have been buying a lot of lately. In fact, I've only bought three trades in the past three or so months versus the dozens and dozens of manga I've got, and will continue to get, simply because of the cheaper prices and what comics I have been reading are from the library.

Not to mention all the webcomics that are, well, free. Like FreakAngels from Warren Ellis, Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart and The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl.

There are Marvel comics that I want to read but, given my limited budget and the fact that is other quality entertainment out there at a cheaper price, or free!, I can't really justify buying most of those comics.

smkedtky said...

@Eric: I understand your point but why spend less money on something that may be less than what you want or a second choice? If I buy more manga because it is cheaper but enjoy, say, THE AVENGERS more, aren't I wasting my money even more by settling and not purchasing what I want? I understand that there are cheaper stories out there but if we didn't love the expensive ones so much it wouldn't be an issue.

Also, I may be in the minority, but I loathe web-comics. My enjoyment of comics comes from years of ritual (going to the store every week, finding what you want, sitting down to read it) as much as it does from the characters. I love comics and it isn't the same without having a tangible paper copy of my favorite issue at hand.

smkedtky said...

@Eric: But I totally agree that the portrayal of Superman in FC: SUPERMAN BEYOND is the reason I love the character so much to begin with.

Eric Rupe said...

smkedtky - It's not that I'm passing over comics that I like for only manga though. I'm still buying the Incredible Herc trades and plan on getting the Batman and Robin hardcovers but it's all of the other stuff that I enjoy but don't love that's getting passed over. Basically, if I enjoy Comic A and Manga 1 the same, why should I buy the comic. And, just in general, I'm just looking for comics I enjoy and if I can get more of them from manga for cheaper, why not? It's just entertainment, for the most part.

I actually started reading webcomics before I got back into comics so I have no problems with them. Plus, they are free so I don't really care if I have my own copy or not. And the only take a minute or two to read in most cases anyway.

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