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Monday, September 05, 2005 

The more things "change" the more they end up appalling

I'd heard that Gannett News Service had become pretty bad recently, and this comics article from the Montgomery Advertiser could certainly attest to that. Wow, is this ever dumbing down mainstream comics coverage! The owner of a comics store is told to be of the following position:
It's the day he gets to see how Batman will react after being betrayed by his closest allies and seeing his greatest failure come back to life; how Superman will react to seeing one of his best friends resort to murder right in front of his eyes; and how Spider-Man will deal with the fact that his perfect life isn't his life at all.

In short, it's a great time to be a comic book fan.
Simply H-wow. Having terrible things happening is something to celebrate, is that it? But there you have it, one of the biggest problems with how comics are being covered in the mainstream media lately: they make it sound as if gloom and doom are something to celebrate with a capital C. How touching.
"We've had to up our orders just to keep things in stock," said Jason Barnes of Comics and Cards Trading Post on Vaughn Road. "They're definitely some of the most popular crossovers in awhile."
Is that so? Last I looked, DC's sales had falled back behind Marvel's in the charts again. While as for Marvel, theirs aren't exactly making massive waves now either.
DC and Marvel are no strangers to crossovers, but these new ones seem poised to actually deliver on the promise of completely changing the universes of their popular characters.

"Any time you shake up the foundations of a whole universe and kill off a couple of characters, it's going to draw interest," said Rob Duncan, owner of Capitol City Comix on Atlanta Highway.
Now isn't that the stuff that the MSM just loves to lap up like milk. Clearly, this man does not pay sharp attention to what people have to say on the internet, no matter their positions. And that he should be following in the footsteps of the companies themselves by making it sound as if he too favors death and destruction as a way of getting sales for his own store, all that does is discourage me from ever buying there.

Any time you do what he says, there's every chance it'll raise heckles and cause anger among the audience, whether for good or for bad. But you wouldn't know it from reading the above.
Duncan said that many of the comics connected with the two series are already in their second, third and even fourth printings after selling out, and he's constantly had to order more copies.

"DC Comics have picked up across the board," he said. "Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and JLA (Justice League America) are really doing well."

And with what they have going on, it's not surprising.
Really. I'd blogged an article or three here on the subject, and even provided Diamond's sales results for the summer, and, having turned to Diamond again on their own website, this is what I found in publishing shares for June 2005:

MARVEL COMICS 41.12%

DC COMICS 36.59%

How about that. More or less five percent ahead, that's our Marvel alright. I remember that PostmodernBarney once suggested that Marvel fans have a harder time dropping their books, or DC fans an easier one. Now that's not saying that DC fans are more high-minded than Marvel ones, or vice-versa, but one thing I've come to realize in past years is that: apparently, because Marvel's characters have/had personalties, and presumably livelier dialogue, so that's led to a lot favoratism. It's not something I'm happy about, if it's true, but that's apparently one of the leading factors, aside from having "hot" writers like Bendis on board, for Marvel's constant success in the Diamond sales charts.

In any case, the salesmen are largely exaggerating. ICV2's website also indicates that sales for graphic novels (trades) are the ones that're actually doing better. But if there's anything definate here, it's that the really biting questions are being ignored.

And, to make matters worse, we're told here what to think/believe:
The crossover started with the six-issue series "Identity Crisis" and since then has seen Batman's memories erased by fellow heroes and almost killed by a mind-controlled Superman. Wonder Woman killed a man in cold blood to free Superman from the mind control. And there's the return of Jason Todd, who was once Batman's sidekick Robin but was killed by the Joker, and his revelation that some of the DC heroes had taken to altering the minds of several supervillains.

"Things are getting darker and edgier in comics," Barnes said. "Fans love to see the darker side to their heroes, like seeing Wonder Woman go where Superman would never go."
No kidding. Please, do tell me something else I presumably don't know. I look at Comic Book Resources forum, one of the most outspoken on the subject, and while there are those who do like what Mr. Barnes says, there are also those who don't. What this salesman is doing by not drawing distinction between the two sides is basically insulting.

And what's this about WW going where Supes wouldn't? Is that supposed to be some kind of implication that Supes really wouldn't? Or is it discrimination? Puh-leez.

It gets worse. A comics fan from the area says:
"I think DC and Marvel are listening to the fans," he said. "We want to see heroes die and stay dead for a while, and if they have to come back from the dead, come back for a purpose."
Still telling what to think/believe, I'm afraid, to say nothing of speaking on behalf of all the fans without prior consultation. Sorry. Please purchase a ticket at the theater booth and come back.

That fans wall-to-wall and coast-to-coast are only interested in how the reader quoted above puts it is one of the worst parts of this piece of propaganda. In fact, it's perpetuating stereotypes, that's what it is.
The best example of this may be the return of [Jason] Todd as well as the recent Marvel resurrection of Captain America's long-dead sidekick Bucky. Both have come back as dark vigilantes who have no problems with killing.

"The comics are definitely getting more real," Duncan said. "Instead of the good guys fighting the bad guys and the good guys winning, it's no longer about having a happy ending all the time."
Ha ha ha. This is really awful now, since what we see here glosses over the question of story quality. And is it really real, or, shall we say, realistic? This article certainly isn't telling. And the part about Jason Todd and Bucky killing is definately disturbing. In fairness, I could probably buy into Bucky killing, if it's nazis he's terminating, but Jason? In the contemporary era, depending on what he's dealing with, I doubt it.

Now for the token dissenting voice, though even that, I might warn, is rendered superficial:
But not everyone sees this darker and more realistic trend as a good thing.

Jeremy Wells of Montgomery, 30, has been a big comic book fan since he was a child. He has passed on that love to his son Justin, 10.

But he's having trouble finding any comics he grew up on and loved that he can allow Justin to read.

"Comics have just gotten too evil for him," he said. "How can I let a kid his age read Captain America when he's cussing and getting so aggressive or Wonder Woman when she's killing people?"

Wells said he's dismayed that there are not many comics he can read with his son.

"He's past the age of the kiddie comics but not ready for some of the stuff they've got out now that's targeted towards adults," he said.
That's a fine argument there, but, what about the adults? Let's not forget that not every adult reads comic books just for bloodletting and devastation. If there's any really hard-hitting question that's been left out, there you have it.

The Capitol City Comix owner caps it off with a pretty big letdown:
Duncan said he hasn't seen that as a problem, since the comics are targeted toward adults and adults are buying most of them.

"There's so many out there -- kids don't really have the income to get them all. I pretty much have all adults buying them," he said.
Huh?! Kids don't have any income? Is he saying that parents don't try to help buy them for their children either? Talk about insulting the younger generation! And of course, the above blurs out the question of if part of the reason why kids aren't buying comics is in part because nobody's doing anything to encourage them to take interest in them, again or anew. Aside from that, whoever said that they wanted to or had to get 'em all? There too, an ambiguous response.

So there you have it, a pretty sad case of even a Gannett-owned newspaper dumbing down the whole inside story on comics. Sad, isn't it? Sigh.

Last but not least:
The success of these comics likely will continue. Once "Infinite Crisis" (the series doesn't even release it's first issue until October) and "House of M" end, the next big crossovers come with DCs "One Year Later" (which, as the title suggests, moves all the company's titles one year after the events of "Infinite Crisis") and Marvel's "Decimation," which deals with the fallout of "House of M."
Groan. Does this include DC too? I don't know, but it certainly looks like Marvel's got one more item to foist upon readers.

I won't be there, though. No more crossovers for me, that's it.

Update: speaking of Bendis, here's an awful item from the ultra-establishment Newsarama, and guess what Brian Bendis called the House of M in their report on the subject:
"Bendis called the series a 'love letter' to all the Magneto and Avengers stories that came before, and the idea of House of M is not to turn the Marvel Universe on it's head 'because we think we know better.' ...Bendis said that the series is a 'Valentine' to Marvel Comics from the '70s where he feels creators were creating new characters and new stories trying to one-up Stan Lee (in spirit). Bendis added that just because they are looking to tell new stories and new ways of telling them, doesn’t mean that anything old will be destroyed."
It makes no difference. After what Brad Meltzer called Identity Crisis last year, to call even this miniseries a love letter or a valentine, both of which I marked in bold, is to do little more than to signal more bad news, and could very easily put in doubt what's being planned, or will be the turnout for this story. One more reason why I'm just not interested.

Via Fanboy Rampage, which has another entry about people who still buy into all this "hype".

Plus, here's an entry from Comic World News about why all this "hype" is bad.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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