The Creative Desert Of Mainstream Comics

August 16th, 2011 by Kyle

Kyle here;

I have an admission to make. I don’t read comics. I haven’t for years.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to read them – a lot. In the 80s, the comics I read were The Nam, GI Joe, and Groo – all of them mainstream Marvel comics, and none of them superhero stories. Later I graduated to Vietnam Journal and Spawn, before finally discovering manga and leaving American comics more or less entirely. I’m one of those readers that the mainstream comics industry lost through its failure to expand the kinds of stories they tell. The circulation figures show that there’s a lot of people like me out there.

So what happened? Total artistic and creative stagnation at the Big Two. The base of the problem is that for many reasons, the Big Two have come to believe that they can skate by by continuing to to write the same basic stories about the same set of a couple dozen or so half-century-old characters forever.

Part of this is the fault of the companies for refusing to take chances and because of their fear of dealing with with creator-owned characters – but part is the fault of the fans. Well, not all of the fans – but a certain segment of the fans that is becoming an increasingly large percentage of a shrinking market. This is a segment that wants comics to be, better art aside, basically exactly the same as they were when these (now early middle-aged) fans were kids, and to never, ever change. Look, for example, at the negative reaction many fans had to Peter Parker and Mary Jane finally getting married after – what – 40 years? Plenty of people bitched and groaned that “Peter Parker should always be the lovable loser!”. In other words, that the character should never grow, change, mature, or even find himself in different circumstances. That’s the kind of attitude you’ll find in a lot of the hardcore base of comics fans.

The thing is, this becomes a vicious cycle. The more that comics sales shrink, the more that the comics companies listen to their remaining fans, and the more the comics they produce are written to appeal to – and often only to – those hardcore fans. Thus comics goes from an industry (and I’m talking about the comics themselves, not the related movies) with broad appeal to a large audience to increasingly being a niche market that appeals to a small but loud group of hardcore fans.

At very least, this feeds into the mentality of the current crop of editors at the Big Two, who simply can’t get over their own personal Silver Age fetish. You’d think that they might have taken a hint from the rise of manga (at least before that market got destroyed by piracy). If you want to attract new readers, you need to appeal to more people than simply your base of hardcore fans. You need to get new characters in new situations, and to expand the kinds of stories you do. I mean, when was the last time there was even a noteworthy war comic from the Big Two, or a science fiction story that wasn’t based on an already-existing property (Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, etc.)? The Nam, maybe?

In the end, deciding never to take any risks is in itself taking a risk. Yes, the Big Two can coast for a long time on their hardcore fans and on being intellectual property outlets for movies and animated TV shows. But they can never really grow or be what they were like that.

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Categories: comics

Coming Soon…An Epic Tale…That Will Change The Universe…Hey, where are you going?

August 31st, 2010 by Dave

So, I just read this article about the major story arc this fall in Fantastic Four where *gasp!* someone gonna DIEEE!!!!111!!!!!11!!!1

Seemed like a good time to pull this gif out…

Seriously, Marvel. WTH? I thought Heroic Age was all about getting back to basics and leaving these stunts behind. How many times have we seen this before in Marvel? We’ve seen it before in the Fantastic Four before for crying out loud. You’re going to inflate sales artificially with a big event story, when when the sales drop back down again, you’re going to bring back the dead character, probably by reality breaking using Franklin or Valarie, to create another artificial rise in sales. It’s more than just a continuing cycle that you’re locked in where you have to create bigger and more shocking stories, it’s flat out lazy writing.

This is why I don’t shell out money for mainstream comics anymore. It seems these death stories are all they do anymore, and It’s anti-climatic. Can someone please tell me one good reason why I should get emotionally invested in the heroic death of a beloved character to save his/her team/planet/universe when the character is going to be brought back to life a few months to a year later? We’ve taken this journey so many times with both Marvel and DC that we know the route by heart. So, while Marvel wears some more wheel-ruts into the road, I’m going to go over hear and look at this unexplored path. Because that’s how you make the memorable experiences: by going down new roads and new paths.

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Categories: comics

Badly Played, Marvel

February 10th, 2010 by Kyle

Kyle here;

So I’m really dreading this topic. It’s the biggest comics story of the week, and yet I hate the idea of talking about it. Geek Tragedy is not a political podcast – and in fact, we take pride in not being one. We like being a place where people can get away from all the bad news and divisive politics out there.

And then Marvel had to go and do this to us.

For those of you who don’t know, the just-released Captain America Issue #602 contains Cap (Bucky) and The Falcon, hot on the trail of some violent white supremacists, ending up in Idaho and encountering a group of protesters who bear a more than passing resemblance to the “Tea Party” protesters who have been in the news so much lately. I think it would be pretty objectively fair to say that the thinly-veiled Tea Party protesters are not shown in a flattering light.

The real-life Tea Party people got pissed. And Marvel is now backpedaling as fast as they can on this, in a manner that’s not particularly convincing. Joe Quesada says that “there was zero discussion to include a group that looked like a Tea Party demonstration”, and “There was no thought that it represented a particular group”.

That’s a load of crap, Joe, and you know it. Anybody who looks at the art in that issue can tell that it was supposed to be the Tea Party protesters.

Joe says that the thinly-veiled Tea Party protesters don’t have any connection to the white supremacist militia types that are the bad guys in the current storyline. Oh, really, Joe? Then why are they in the comic at all? Do Marvel writers make a habit of dropping random stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with anything into their stories?

So one issue here is Marvel’s unsavory attempts to weasel out of responsibility for its editorial decisions. And when I say “Marvel’s editorial decisions”, I pretty much mean Joe’s. Being EIC means that the buck stops with him.

The second is about Captain America. Captain America is supposed to be the embodiment of “truth, justice, and the American Way”. Well, he, or at least his comic, wasn’t in this case.

Whether you agree with them or disagree with them, the Tea Party protesters are American citizens peaceably exercising their rights of free speech and free assembly to express their views on policies of their government and to transmit those views to the people in power. The right to do exactly that is the essence of American freedom. The defense of those freedoms, even when exercised by people that one might disagree with, is what Captain America is supposed to stand for. And if he doesn’t stand for them, then he’s just another buff dude in blue tights.

Demonizing people for peaceably exercising their Constitutional rights is most definitely not what Captain America stands for. And that’s what you did, Joe. Any denials or BS aside, that’s what you did. In a Captain America comic. Not in Punisher. Not in Avengers. Not in X-Men. In Captain America.

I would suggest that this means that some people at Marvel really just fundamentally don’t understand what Captain America is all about.

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Categories: comics