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Monday, April 11, 2011 

Fear Itself won't save comicdom, nor will Flashpoint

MSN's movies site talks about Marvel and DC's upcoming crossovers and how comics sales have shrunk drastically (H/T: Soccerdad). They ask if Marvel's newest event will save comics, but if recent results say anything, the answer is no.
With the eyes of fans focused on the four major comic book-based movies coming out this summer and how well they may or may not do at the box office, there is other news that should concern hardcore readers: The sales of comic books themselves have been sliding for some time now. According to the widely read Mayo Report at Comic Book Resources, February 2011 was the fourth-worst month in comic book sales since hard data began being reported in 2003 by major distributor Diamond. February also set a new low for sales of the month's top-selling book, "Green Lantern," which moved just under 72,000 copies.

As John Mayo points out, those figures aren't necessarily final: They are based on direct sales (through comic book shops) and don't take into account sales from newsstands, bookstores and other outlets. Yet since most comics are sold through specialty shops, those do represent a large percentage of the total sales. And those sales have been steadily decreasing over time (it's not just comic books, of course; people are reading less overall, part of the dumbing down of our society itself, but that's another conversation).
Bad storytelling is another reason why people could be reading less, and the decline of Marvel and DC's quality is evidence why they're the big losers in sales.

It's worth noting that the whole book selling business has suffered badly too: Borders has filed for Chapter 11, and there may be other book chains facing the same problems.
The comic book industry tends to combat sales slumps -- and there's no telling whether this one is short-term or permanent -- with publishing events that are the equivalent of summer blockbusters at the movies. In Marvel's case, the company's big 2011 event kicked off on Wednesday (April 6) with the arrival of issue No. 1 of "Fear Itself," a seven-part epic written by Matt Fraction (the man behind the current, award-winning run of "The Invincible Iron Man") that deals with the God of Fear, a malignant nemesis that confronts the superheroes of the Marvel Universe -- Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Cyclops, etc. -- with their worst nightmares.

"Fear Itself" is the company's first crossover event -- meaning it spans not just the core series, but a number of tie-in books -- since 2008's "Secret Invasion," but Marvel has promised that you can just read and enjoy the main seven "Fear Itself" books without having to track down all the tie-ins. That immediately makes it more attractive to us: Feeling like we had to read every offshoot of Marvel's "Civil War" or DC's "Infinite Crisis" had the curious effect of making us want to give up reading comic books entirely. We weren't that interested in picking up "Fear Itself" as a result of this, but knowing of Fraction's involvement and hearing Marvel's promise that the story will be relatively self-contained has tempted us to pick up the first issue this week.
Oh good grief. That's why they're wasting precious time and money on Fear Itself? Because it's supposedly self-contained? If there's more miniseries connected, and even flagship series themselves, it's not as self-contained as it may look. Most importantly though, what if the story is awful as plenty can predict it will be? And Fraction is not as good as they must think.
DC, for its part, is unveiling "Flashpoint" in May, a five-part limited series in which Barry Allen, the Flash, wakes up to find that the entire universe and timeline has been altered somehow and that he is the only one aware of it. Beyond the five-part main event, "Flashpoint" will tie into 16 three-issue offshoot stories and at least four single-issue tales. As far as we can see, DC has not made the same promise that you don't have to read all the tie-ins to enjoy "Flashpoint" on its own -- a mark decidedly against it. There's just not enough time in the day, except if you're the Flash himself and faster than anyone else alive.
Okay, so they recognize that DC's own plans are a disaster in the making, but it shouldn't have to just be based on whether the story is "self-contained" or not. The real question is whether the story will turn out to be good or bad.

And speaking of Fear Itself, the following description on the Dixonverse forum may tell it's the latter:
So, I picked up Fear Itself #1, pretty well written, but, once again the villians are Nazis. Seriously, at this point in history why can Nazis and Neo-Nazis still be dredged up, but, Communists and the current Nazis, the Islamic Fascists, not even remotely appear in comics? Well, In the side 'event', which, comics giants love to do now, Fear Itself: Homefront, puts the extremism against terrorists in perspective. Yes, Speedball, and superheroes, still, being blamed for causing the deaths that led to the superhuman act, 'Civil War', and the Death of Captain America, tries to make amends. He goes undercover to try to help folks only to be confronted by a 'hateful' and 'intolerant' mother of someone killed in the attacks. The mother a cross between Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin finally uncovers and confronts Speedball with an angry mob who try to kill him, continued in the next issue, I also will not buy. Neo Nazis abound in the next story in this issue which informs us of over '600 groups' of Aryan Supremecists, etc.. who bomb synagoges and African-American churches.. blah, blah, boo, boo. OK, I put Fear Itself: Homefront, back on the shelf.

The writing is left-wing fantasy land. But, the sad reality is that many on the real left and even liberals, really believe this fantasy. This is why the Tea Partiers are called 'hateful' and even 'Terrorists' at the drop of an Obama/Hitler sign and the real terrorists are excused and even shown in sympathy. This is now approaching sheer insanity in it's total abscence of reality, even as it is a comic. The allegories are clear, the enemy is other Americans, while the real enemy is to be pitied and even protected. Shame on Marvel for putting out this propaganda. Fear Itself: Homefront, should be feared and shunned.
I would note that years ago, there were communist villains, with Marvel and DC contributing allusions to the Cold War during the 60s, 70s and 80s, and there were even some supervillains whose origins and backgrounds had ideas drawn from communism, like the Crimson Dynamo, KGBeast, The People's Heroes, and even Iron Man's leading nemesis, the Mandarin. And Black Widow was a defect from commie Russia who became a goodie working for S.H.I.E.L.D in the Bronze Age, and an ally of Daredevil. The question is whether communists are still being used as baddies, if at all. And if recent history is any suggestion, the answer is...no. At a time when Russia is sliding back slowly into an autocracy, you'd think Marvel and DC would think of reviving the use of their villains who allude to communism, but in an era when self-esteem is lost, they show no interest in any challenging stories like those. Only publicity stunts for short-term sales boosts that decrease with each consecutive story.

And with a conservative-smearing story in Fear Itself like the what the above describes, I'd say the real scare is that very miniseries and the pretentious writers and editors involved.

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They should have a crossover about the God of Recycling, who tortures heroes by running them through the same plot endlessly.

Captain America issue- "tea bag the libs before they tea bag you" - the end of marvel comics for me. It was pretty much over for years beforehand but that was the absolute "you are dead to me" moment.

Hey come over to my crappy blog for some tasty tid bits of how to actually save comicdom from a couple of guys.

Hey who wants to place a bet on how long till I'm kicked to the curb at a convention...

I was waiting for Marvel or DC to trash Palin, and, hey, there you go. Yeah, that kills any hope I had with Marvel. Hope the cheap shot is worth it.

As for the acceptable targets issue, like Communists or Islamists vs. the soon-to-be ubiquitous Neo-Nazis, I'll address that when I get my wits about me. Either way, yeah, it isn't like it used to be, back when Marvel was allowed to mock Communism.

Wow! Great post. I'm so happy to have found someone else who sees that liberal writers and editors are doing a serious disservice to the industry.

Fact: We have a serious and determined enemy in the form of
Islamic extremists. Yet, Captain America is concerned about The Tea Party movement? Sigh. Marvel is so politically correct they've locked themselves off from mines filled with great stories. Hence, why I don't buy nearly as many comics as I once did...

@Killer Moth: Mock, yes. Actually punching out some of their big names, no.

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