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Wednesday, August 16, 2006 

One more reason why comics get ruined: costly delays

There is a lesson to be learned here. The question is if the editors themselves are willing to sit up and listen. Depending on how you view it, some of this is bad news: both of the big two are having massive delays in when a book goes to press:
We don’t really follow the day to day announcements of Marvel and DC, except when they strike us in some larger sense, but yesterday’s shocker that CIVIL WAR #4 and 5 would be delayed by a month and two months, respectively, got even our attention. As ICv2’s recently released sales estimates show, CIVIL WAR #3 by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven sold just a skotch under 300K copies, making it a sales blockbuster by any estimate. But it gets worse: the mini-series is but the tentpole for a huge interconnected web of tie-in mini-series and crossover comics — in order to keep the story fresh, some 30 other titles will also be delayed. Reaction among retailers and readers was flabbergasted. Of course, just about every other blockbuster tentpole of the last few years has had delays (HOUSE OF M) or else drastic “many hands” artistic line-ups (INFINITE CRISIS) and delays, but still.
On the one hand, given how lowly I tend to consider the premise of Civil War itself, I'm not too bothered by this. But apart from that, I'm really disturbed by how a whole smorgasboard of other books had to be dragged as far into this quagmire as they were.

And, as noted above, DC isn't far behind either:
Can’t wait for Wednesday is, at least this week, much better called “I’m still waiting for Wednesday.” Eternals #3, Justice League of America #1, and Wonder Woman #2 were all slated to be released today, along with Civil War #4 — all are delayed. The ongoing Wonder Woman series, scripted by Allen Heinberg, has had a substantial delay, supposedly due to Heinberg’s Hollywood duties. JLA #1’s delay is even more sudden — only days ago, DC was promoting it in the NY Times and Publishers Weekly because it contained an excerpt of writer Brad Meltzer’s new novel. Reportedly, as recently as last week DC did not even know the book was going to be delayed, which sounds odd, but we can’t even begin to hazard a guess on all the reasons.

Graeme rounds up message board reactions. While late books are a fact of life, the delay of a huge chunk of Marvel’s line will have a huge impact on retailers, not to mention books that skip shipping for a month or two impacting on creator’s income. It’s a huge mess, made all the more dramatic by the fact that it was announced less than 24 hours before the issue was to have shipped.
On the one hand, I couldn't care less about the new volume of JLofA being delayed, since I have no intention of buying a book written by someone who stooped as low as Meltzer did. But as far as much of the rest of DC is concerned, yes, this is very shameful.
We thought comics companies caught on to this back when Kevin Smith first started writing the funnies. You got plenty of books in the can before going on the schedule. Now the cross-over comics scripters are dragging the schedule back.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just special mini-series. Late books are a fact of life and comics fans have come to expect delays when high-strung, high quality creative teams are at the helm — ULTIMATES and PLANETARY anyone? But events like CIVIL WAR are crucial to the entire comics economy. Marvel has planned everything in 2006 around it, and this time they gambled and lost.
And DC isn't far behind.

If Heinberg is a Hollywood staffer, I think that should be enough to make clear that the Hollywooders who enter comics choose either one career or the other, but NOT both. This is just one more reason why we need perhaps more teen talents like in the days when Gerry Conway, Cary Bates, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein and Jim Shooter first made the scene and stardom. Talents who're dedicated to just one profession and not obsessing themselves with Hollywood glitz simultaneously. That's probably one more reason why the above comics writers, when they first began in their teens, managed to turn out such entertaining books.

While we're on the subject, I thought to take a look at that press article interviewing Meltzer, and providing yet more on which to take issue with him. He put an excerpt of his next book into the pages of the comic he's currently writing, and he says:
A lifelong comics fan, Meltzer calls the excerpt an effort to break down artificial walls between categories and maybe smash a bit of literary snobbery as well. "A reader is a reader," says Meltzer in an interview from his home in Florida. "If we can bring any new readers over, then it's a plus. People can like Beck and Motown. A good story is a good story, whether it has pictures or not."
Lifelong fan? Please, do keep going with that. The article of course obscures the bigger picture, that what Meltzer himself has been doing is to inject the very snobbery he speaks of into the comic itself, accompanied by more than a bit of violence, perversity, and even moonbattery. And as for "good story": please, do tell us about it. Because what if it turns out to be a bad story?
"I noticed that 40-year-old men who haven't read a comic book in years and suburban housewives into thrillers were both picking up Identity Crisis," Meltzer says. "Identity Crisis has no series continuity; anyone can pick it up. I just wrote the kind of book that I write. No one realizes how much comics books have influenced my novels," says Meltzer. Whether he's writing comics or prose novels, Meltzer says, his books are focused on "American heroes"--he spent a week each with former presidents Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush to research Book of Fate, a thriller involving a presidential aide. "If you read the first chapter of Book of Fate, it reads like a 32-page comic book and if you read JLA, it's like reading my novels. It's about making readers care about the characters."
Very interesting. He justifies IC's rancid existence by doing something that almost implicates 40-year-olds as perverts, and housewives as desensitized to violence. And, more tellingly, he says that the book has "no series continuity," when here, it was meant to, and was indeed used, to influence the overall DCU and its continuity! How laughable.

I'm also not comfortable reading that he's gotten cozy with two former presidents who aren't exactly looked upon in admiration today. And wow! After depicting all the heros in IC in such an unsympathetic light, and certainly not making us care about the females, he actually has the nerve to say that his next book is about making readers care? The dishonesty repeatedly displayed by Meltzer is just unbelievable.
Meltzer emphasizes that this experiment in cross-promotion is another step in the acceptance of comics as a mature literary medium. "Is Alan Moore's Watchmen a lesser work because it has pictures? Somewhere along the way, comics began to get serious literary reviews," he says.
Frankly, I don't think anyone ever considered Watchmen a lesser work because of the pictures. But I do think there are some out there who'd consider IC a lesser work because of the violence and promiscuity it wallows in. And yet, he does hint at what he's really done, in a manner of speaking, which is to turn comics into a smutfest, in contrast to what he may be trying to argue.
He continues: "Snobbery toward comics is being attacked, and the lit snobs realize that comics readers have a voice. The San Diego Comic-con is successful because everyone realizes now that they have to court comics geeks like me. It's about the revenge of the nerds, and it feels fantastic."
What about snobbery within comics, including your own, Moonbat Meltzer? And here, there may very well be a touch of irony, indicative of something I've had to question: are newcomers really rushing en masse to comics? Maybe some of Meltzer's own readers, but other than that, I cannot find any concrete evidence that they're zooming in on either that or on other stuff as well. And if not, then what converts to comics are we speaking of, or even newcomers?

And how ironic that he should admit that readers do have a voice. Yes, we do. We call it the blogosphere now, and on it, we battle to expose dishonest and cynical writers such as Meltzer himself.

Open trackback parties: The Mudville Gazette, NIF, Point Five, The Right Nation, Stop the ACLU.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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