Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Collection of Random Thoughts, Vol 17

Welcome to the latest edition of A Collection of Random Thoughts! This time I will be discussing Marvel's event comics from the past couple of years, my problem with comics like Blackest Night, more perplexing comments from Joe Quesada, my ideal brain trust for Amazing Spider-Man, the New York Times Graphic Books Best Seller list and more after the jump!

One Interesting List

If you take a quick look the New York Times Best Sellers list for October 2nd you should see something interesting and it is easy to figure out - Batman occupies almost half of the comic book listings! Nine out of a possibly twenty in fact and a third of those comics are almost two decades old at this point.

And, in the totally strange category, Batman: Cacophony comes in at #1. Another strange thing about that list, if you consider what is said on the internet to be the majority's opinion, is that Batman R.I.P. has the most appearances of any Batman collection, 31 at the time of that particular list, compared to 16 for Frank Miller's classic The Dark Knight Returns and even edges out The Killing Joke which had appeared on the list 29 times. In fact, the only comic to appear on the NYT Best Seller list, excluding manga, more than Batman R.I.P. was the Watchmen, which has appeared on all 33 lists. Batman R.I.P. has appeared on the list 32 times and has only missed the most recent list.

This, of course, tells us two very obvious things: 1) Batman is arguably the most popular superhero in print right now. Even on other NYT lists, he almost always charts multiple books and, in the Direct Market, has the highest selling book that isn't an event book. And 2) the Internet is wrong, again. If you had listened to all of the bitching when R.I.P. was being serialized, you would think that it was one of the most unpopular comics at the time despite selling in the Top 10. Of course, you could argue that it was an event comic which boosted sales, and there is no doubt about that, but if it's one of the top selling collections for eight months, and as a hardcover, then it is definitely a popular book. Even more so when something like the trade collections for the Sinestro Corps War only stayed on the charts for a few weeks.

If I Created The Spider-Man Brain Trust...

It would be composed of Matt Fraction, Joe Kelly and Brian Bendis. Also, Warren Ellis because I think that would have tons of potential for hilarity.

You Know What Would be Simultaneously The Greatest And Worst Comic Of All Time?

Wonder Woman by Mark Millar.

Comics Can't Die

Generally, when there are discussions about the future of the comics industry, people will often say that the death of the Direct Market would be the death of comics, which is a lie. The death of the Direct Market would only mean the death of the Direct Market and, almost certainly, the single 22 page comic book.

Of course, that doesn't mean the end of comics for two reasons. 1) Bookstores. Obviously, the loss of the Direct Market would definitely impact bookstore offerings but they would still be there and be an avenue for new material. And 2) webcomics. I know traditional comic book readers might be adverse to webcomics but the audience for some webcomics vastly outnumbers the readers for comics in the Direct Market. To my mind, webcomics are probably the future of the American comic industry unless something drastically changes with the Direct Market for the simple fact that it's easy for creators to produce and make their comics available to new readers.

I Want A Conclusion Dammit!

One thing that really annoys me about event comics, and can even change my opinion about how good I thought they were, are weak endings that are not really endings or are basically a trailer for the story line. For example, Civil War and World War Hulk just stop, they don't end. Yeah, the main conflict is kind of resolved, more so with World War Hulk than Civil War, but the actual story doesn't end, it just continues somewhere else. To me, that's a really horrible way to tell a story.

I get the whole serialized storytelling and shared universe thing but you can have a proper conclusion that leaves some room open for a continuation of some of the plots and themes that the mini introduced. Marvel, and DC to a lesser extent, don't actually do this due to, I would guess, a fear that people might stop reading. They get to the point that where the next story can start and then start that one up, regardless of whether the previous story received a proper ending. Of course, if you told a good story then that would get people interested in the next story but hyping and then not delivering a proper story is so much easier.

Again, with Civil War, the story stops with Captain America's surrender but there is no real resolution to any of the plot lines from the series. Even the conflict between the two hero factions does not even get anywhere close to something resembling a conclusion. In fact, if you think about, Marvel still hasn't provided one even though they are couple events removed from Civil War. They just stopped telling that story and moved on to the next one!

In fact, when was the last time someone mentioned the SHRA? I get that Secret Invasion didn't really have anything to do with the SHRA but what about Dark Reign? Granted, I haven't actually been reading many of those books but, then again, I have never seen it mentioned once in any online discussion outside of how the Initiative book is continuing or Tony Stark is on the run. And what are the odds that Siege will deal with it in a manner that doesn't involve someone basically going, "Oh, it doesn't matter anymore", if they even bring it up at all?

So, what the hell was the point of Civil War, as a story, then? Oh, right, the punching. Totally forgot about that. My bad. And the money. Can't forget the money.

How I Got Back Into Comics

In the course of thinking about comics recently, I eventually got to thinking about how I got back into comics. Long story short, after doing some surfing on the internet, I came across the Wikipedia article for Ultimate Spider-Man. After I read the summaries of all of trades that were available at the time, I was interested in the series and decided to get the first couple. Now, you would think as someone who used to go to comic shops on a regular basis I would go there, right? Well, actually, the first place I went was Amazon.com to see if they had the trades, which of course they did. Obviously, this is just a personal example but I wonder how prevalent it is. Are Amazon, bookstores, and trades more appealing than single issues, even to returning comic readers? This is something I think about a lot but the problem is there is no real way to find out.


As mentioned above, I read the spoilers for most of the USM trades before I purchased them. You know what effect that had on my enjoyment of the stories? None. To my mind, that's the difference between a bad or average comic and a good or great one, they can withstand spoilers. This is one of the reasons I found Peter David's anti-spoiler crusade kind of misguided, although I could appreciate the sentiment. If the story is good enough, and well written, spoilers shouldn't matter.

And, if you are curious, the other reason I found found PAD's stance misguided is that generic praise rarely gets people to buy books but spoilers can get people interested enough to try out a book.

Is It Just Me Or...

Am I the only one who sees the irony of Blackest Night bringing back a bunch of dead characters, and comics, that no one really cared about the first time around? Well, I guess it wouldn't be no one but characters that most people didn't care about.

Serious question - Was the DCU lesser for not having the Dinbys, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter around? I would say no. Now, don't get me wrong, I know they have their fans and, as a huge Ben Reilly fan, I get that but, honestly, many of the characters that will inventively be brought back are not integral to the DCU and don't really have anything to offer in the hands of most writers. I mean, when is the last time J'onn J'onzz actually added something to the DCU instead of just being a back ground character/permanent Watch Tower duty bitch and has DC been worse off since his removal, for the most part, from comics since Infinite Crisis? Same thing for the Dinbys, Aquaman and even Hawkman.

Again, I get that part of the appeal of something like the DCU is the massive tapestry of characters and such, but how many of those characters actively add something to the DCU instead of just being there since they've always been there and how many of those characters can truly shine in the hands of most writers? I'd say not many. After all, Geoff Johns can only write so many comics and that's only if you actually like his writing.

Not to mention that DC's current creative talent pool isn't that deep, especially when compared to Marvel's, which is another impediment to them successfully using characters like Hawkman or Aquaman. This not to say that DC's current writers are untalented but that their record with lower tier characters, and even higher tier characters, isn't that great, even with the odd exception like Secret Six aside which, while receiving critical praise, isn't a great seller. What's the point of adding more characters to your universe when you can barely, or not even, make full use of the characters you currently have?

I think that, aside from the fact that I didn't enjoy Blackest Night #1 on any level, is my biggest problem with the event. It seeks to return things to a "better" status quo by bringing back characters whose absence hasn't been a provable negative. Yes, bringing back those characters will placate their fans but I don't think it will either bring in new fans, because really, who cares about Aquaman or Hawkman, or lead to better stories because the characters don't necessarily lead to great stories. Great stories are the result of attitude and skill and you don't need marginal or obscure characters to write great stories.

In essence, Blackest Night is potentially (assuming they end up bringing these dead characters back to life) just another One More Day - a turning back of the clock to a "better" status quo that, even if it does end up creating better comics, is almost likely going to be incidental to that since great, or even good comics, are the result of an attitude, not a status quo, which is a point Marvel and DC seem unable to grasp. Instead, they think they can substitute a status quo for an attitude and almost always fail in the end.

You Can't See It But I'm Facepalming Right Now

From the Cup O' Joe on October 5th.

Kiel Phegley: Because it wouldn't be an Ultimate Q&A without a mention of mutants, Comicbookfan wants to know, "Hey Joe, what does the future hold for the X-Men in the Ultimate Comics line?"

Joe Quesada: There's just one word to describe mutants in the Ultimate universe – dead and scarce. Okay, that's two words. There aren't many left after the events of "Ultimatum" and one could say they're feared and hated more than ever before. But let me be very clear here, there are no longer any X-Men in the Ultimate U. Like I said, Ultimate U is now a radically different place.

That sounds incredibly familiar. I know I've heard it somewhere before. Wait! I got it! That's almost exactly like the X-Men post-House of M! The Ultimate Universe is a radically different place! It's now the regular Marvel Universe! Congrats Marvel! You took something interesting different and interesting and made it bland and boring. Good job!

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Servando Gomez said...

Damn, you got me regretting the post i just mad on Matt's review of "The Stuff of Legend" for showcasing spoilers lol. Other than that, amen to the your observation on the X-men. I faced palmed too after reading it.

Warren Ellis said...

"It would be composed of Matt Fraction, Joe Kelly and Brian Bendis. Also, Warren Ellis because I think that would have tons of potential for hilarity."


-- Warren Ellis

Matt Ampersand said...

Holy crap, I wonder if the Internet Jesus really did stop by our little corner of the blogosphere, or if it is just a doppelganger.

Servando Gomez said...

I'm speechles..... Ellis commenting on the Weekly Crisis? That's nothing short of amazing.

I would though have liked to read why he felt that way. Anyways, Ellis if you come back on, Planetary 27 was well worth the wait.

Daryll B. said...


One interesting list: I said it on my friends' radio show, I'll say it now; most comic book fans are chumps. Sure we'll complain and get in a huff about the direction of a company or a series but then WE'LL PICK UP THE DAMN BOOK ANYWAY!!! Just to complain about it...*shakes head*

I Want A Conclusion Dammit: I tend to see this all as Civil War hasn't finished. This is all phases of one long story arc but yeah I hope Siege has a great payoff. But Siege leads me into...

Spoilers: Ok I can take an internet fan or if a creator says something at a convention but when a big reveal is SHOWN ON THE COVER OF PREVIEWS or if I am enjoying a storyline because of seeing a main character crumble, wondering when he'll get his / her comeuppance and the company renders that mute by announcing SIEGE starting in December...yeah I a lil pissed.

Is it just me..?: OK I have had my misgivings about Blackest Night, you guys knew this but B.N Batman just took the cake. Lemme get this straight, Bats and Robin avoided the Bl. Lanterns by 'dying' when covering themselves in a block of ice? 1. When Black Lanterns are, I dunno, TRAVELING THRU SPACE and attacking folks what is a lil ice mean to them? 2. If B&R 'died' shouldn't black rings have gone and sought out their corpses? I mean they have hit every other hero deceased (well at least on Earth that is). In a nutshell, they ruined this story from point one when it extended beyond the Light War in the GL family.

Ultimate Universe and Spider-Man are still going on? Man I stopped colleting both when one got Loeb'd and the other got Mephisto'd...

Great Job Eric!

Ryan Schrodt said...

I have to disagree about the Internet being wrong on Batman RIP. I can't recall anyone stating that the series wasn't popular, just that it isn't any good. As one of the more vocal critics of teh storyline, I still stand by that, regardless of sales.

It certainly was wildly popular, but popularity has never been an accurate sign of quality. Just look at Lady Gaga, she is selling tons of albums and her concerts are sold out, but she's still a hack.

Klep said...

@Matt - It sounds like him.

Primewax said...

@Daryll B.

I think the whole ice thing was to render them catatonic, and thusly, emotionless. Therefore, they were undetectable to the Black Lanterns.

Which still doesn't make sense considering Dove was technically emotionless in BN Titans, and they still beat the crap outta her. Oh well.

Daryll B. said...


All I am asking for is a lil consistency in the depictions of the "non zombie" Black Lanterns. These descriptions and powers(?) have run the gamut.

And I may be wrong but wasn't B.N. Batman written by Tomasi who is one of the key contributors to the big story? Shouldn't he know these basic things?

Again I think I was just soured at the beginning of this thing when the Hawks get taken out in 2 pages but Commissioner Gordon and Oracle can survive through a couple of issues sans help...

btownlegend said...

Hating on Morrison is one thing...but relax when it comes to GaGa.

Space Jawa said...

@ Klep: Are we sure it's not just a leftover anal Skrull? Quick, someone grab a Richards Skrull-detector doohicky and make sure!

Max said...

Yes, the DC universe is a lesser place for not having Aquaman, J'onn J'onzz and Ralph Dibny around. These characters may not be to your liking, but they are characters with tons of history, and characters like that are just waiting for a gifted creator that likes them. Like Alan Moore writing Marvelman. Like Neil Gaiman writing Black Orchid. Like Brad Meltzer writing Roy Harper. Like Grant Morrison writing Cliff Steele. The result was fantastic comics. Killing classic characters off for a cheap shock is a waste for future comics.

Dickey said...


Personally I feel that streamlining the amount of characters can help tell universe wide stories. I just got back into reading these cursed things this year thanks to Green Lantern/Blackest Night so I have been playing catch-up on the past story lines from DC this decade. Most of these I've been satisfied with just getting the gist of the story on Wikipedia. But since I've enjoyed the work Geoff Johns has done on Green Lantern I though I would pick up a trade of Infinite Crisis.

...Worst decision possible. It's not even so much that the story was rather asinine (There were definitely shades of this though). My main problem with it was the editorial mandate was so concerned with showing just how extensive the crisis was across the DC universe that they had to waste a couple of panels on every random character they had throwing a punch. We had to waste reading time looking at the likes of Uncle Sam (never knew before and still don't care who he is) and every other no-name character the company wants to pull out to give a sense of how big the universe is.

If DC had less characters to begin with they would be able to tell a universe wide story and actually be able to spend time in the story fleshing out character's motivations and thoughts. You know, let a writer do what he is supposed to do. Instead Johns basically wrote a skeleton so some artist could spend eight or so months cranking out splash panels and issues consisting of what Patton Oswalt would dub, "Punch, Drink, Cry". Since everybody knows Aquaman and Martian Manhunter but they aren't typically vehicles for good stories they have to waste a precious page to show us the event is affecting the too. After we see them for a second they are then allowed to be kicked back to the curb. Then it's one to a couple more pages of real dialogue with a main character like Batman only to be broken up again by a quick shot of some other no-name. "Oh no! Superboy-Prime just punched of the head of a random Teen Titan I will never care about!" For characters like that DC or Marvel should just be honest and draw them all as generic Storm Trooper, Red Shirts, etc. because they're just mooks with a slight backstory.

You are right that a great creator can salvage a random character with a rich story. But, such as with your case of Alan Moore's Marvelman, most of these characters are empty shells being inhabited by a gifted writers story. This great story could be told through many different established characters or an original creation of the writer. Moore could have told the exact same amazing story from Marvelman in something he owned called Amazingman. No one cares about Marvelman's previous history as a character, least not me, and having that history there does nothing to add to Moore's version. And if it had not been that established character with copyright issues maybe I would actually be able to buy a trade to read, rather than having to download scans. So possibly him rescuing that underused character hurt his story in the long run by making it less available to the audience.

Also, one of my main problems with that previous example of Infinite Crisis is that since we have to waste time putting a short spotlight on all the random characters they have we don't get to see too much of smaller ones that have been telling consistently good stories for years. Of course we get plenty of time for the Trinity, but what about Green Lantern, Flash and others like them. They each just get a few lines. If a story like this concentrated mainly on 15-20 characters it could have been successful. But instead we jump around to give short spotlights on over 100 characters and none have the time to be done justice.

Sorry this was supposed to have been a short response and it just snowballed.

Jule said...

It was "The" real Warren Ellis???

if it was, thanks again for Planetary 27

Eric Rupe said...

Daryll B. - Yeah, Siege could be a big payoff for all of the outstanding plot threads Marvel has had going for the past few years but I'm not expecting that to happen.

And, if you are taking about the BN cover spoilers, I'd say that was necessary considering a lot of people probably don't know about Nekron.

Ryan - A lot of the people I saw complaining about it made the assumption that people were just buying it because it was an event comic and not because they enjoyed it.

Max - I agree that just about any character can be great in the hands but when was the last time something worth while was done with any of those characters? Or even a lot of other DC characters.

I agree that maybe killing them wasn't the best idea but bringing a character back isn't a problem nowadays with comics. The problem is with creating good and worth while stories with those characters. Let's say Aquaman does get his own series after BN but it isn't written by Johns. What are the odds of it being just another retread of what's come before? Pretty high I'd say and that's what I'm taking about.

If someone does have the next great Aquaman epic then yeah, DC should definitely publish it but if there isn't then I don't think the comic world is worse off if Aquaman isn't a around. And that goes for a lot of other characters. They don't always need to be around or in publication.

Mike Haseloff said...

"Dead is dead."

Seemed like the thing to say, for more than one reason.

TheGoose said...

Completely disagree with your opinion on Blackest Night. I think that some of the characters you've listed have a lot more purpose than you give them credit for. After all, Aquaman defending the city of Atlantis is a big responibilty, which if poorly handled could mean full scale war between the surface world and the Atlantiens. Just because a writer doesn't write a character well doesn't mean that that character isn't (or couldn't become) important in the universe that they live in.

The most I disagree with you is that you say Blackest Night is a "One More Day," event where they turn back the clock to a better time. With One More Day it's been permenent change with Mary and Peter broken up, Harry Osborn alive, etc. I don't see how its anything like Blackest Night. So far I haven't seen any scenes where any characters come back to life and act like they used to. It's not like Elongated Man and Sue are back fighting villians and hanging out with the Flash or the Stallelite Era Justice League like they used to do back in the 60s and 70s.

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