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Friday, October 07, 2016 

The Marvel vs DC battle ceased to excite long ago

Another sugarcoated column on Arcamax about the rivalry between Marvel and DC, which has long become pointless, and little more than a battle of the bad writers and editors. It begins with:
The rivalry between the two publishers goes back to the Golden Age of Comics (roughly 1938-1950), when DC was still National Comics and Marvel was known as Timely Comics. But the real battle began in the late 1960s, when Marvel topped DC for the first time.

The two heavyweights have been slugging it out ever since.
But should they be? Point: they weren't always on the best of terms, and that was decidedly one of the worst things they could do, since the hostility between them's only gotten worse since then.
In recent years Marvel has been Big Cape on Campus, more or less since it emerged from its late '90s bankruptcy and was bought by Disney (in 2009). It doesn't hurt that Marvel Films has virtually owned the box office with movies like "Captain America: Civil War."
But it does hurt that their comics have been damaged beyond belief by ultra-leftists now running the store, who now force their politics onto the characters and books in the worst possible ways. Even the aforementioned movie's not immune to this.
Meanwhile, DC Comics shot itself in the foot in 2011 with a lame reboot called "New 52." While the idea was to make iconic heroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman younger and hipper, the result was DC erasing some of the greatest stories, relationships and legacies in its own history. Longtime fans were not pleased.

Realizing its error, DC tried another reboot in June called "Rebirth," which fixed many of its previous fixes. In addition to simply making the books better -- always a good move -- DC reduced the number of titles it was publishing, while increasing the frequency of its better-selling ones. That is to say, instead of publishing "Batman" and a lesser title monthly, DC is simply shipping two issues of "Batman" each month.
How fascinating they're suddenly calling New 52 for what it was, because 5 years ago, the same people writing these lame articles were more or less cheerleading these changes without genuine criticism or objectivity. Besides, Rebirth alone won't guarantee an improvement in story quality, as recent examples of their work are already proving; just like Marvel, they too have become very political. And they're still overflowing their output, as the above already notes:
This "less is more" strategy -- publishing more than a dozen popular titles twice monthly, and reducing the line overall -- turned the board over. In July, DC pulled slightly ahead of Marvel in market share, according to numbers from Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. But in August, they dropped the hammer -- DC's lead in market share over Marvel was more than eight points, 39.27 percent to 30.78 percent.

If your eyes glaze over at the sight of math, just take my word for it: That's a lot.
For as long as it lasts, which isn't likely to be. Publishing dozens of series twice a month isn't reducing the amount, it's just replacing the overflow of weakly written titles with double the number of supposedly popular books. That's not reducing the sum at all.
You know it's gotten ugly when "Red Hood and the Outlaws" outsells every book Marvel has except for "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Star Wars."
The title first written by Scott Lobdell where Starfire was reduced to a bimbo? Oh yes, it's gotten very ugly indeed. Even if resurrecting the second Robin Jason Todd is okay, they certainly don't know what to do with him here in this new role as Red Hood.
And it's not like Marvel hasn't been trying. They've had a big summer crossover going that's supposed to be dominating the sales charts. It just hasn't worked.

It's called "Civil War II," and it's a sequel of sorts to the source material for the "Captain America" movie that just burned up the box office. In this story, an Inhuman named Ulysses has come along, a fellow who can (possibly) see the future, which divides the Marvel superhero community into two camps. One, led by Captain Marvel, wants to arrest people before they commit the crimes seen by Ulysses, "Minority Report" fashion. The other, led by Iron Man, sees fascism in that approach.
Now isn't that hilarious. In the first crossover, Tony Stark took the side of the government, and, if memory serves, Carol Danvers did too. Here, all of a sudden, IM has seemingly come to his senses while the real Ms. Marvel is still a baddie, in a manner of speaking.
This being comics, a philosophical divide can have only one solution: fisticuffs a-plenty. Everyone has taken sides, and mayhem has ensued.

So it's a big story, affecting most of the Marvel superhero line. And it's consequential. We've already seen -- Spoiler Alert -- the deaths of Bruce "Hulk" Banner and Jim "War Machine" Rhodes. And Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters has lost control of her big, green alter ego (which is now gray and mean).
Well there you have it, that's the whole problem with this tale. It's just an excuse to kill off cast members and turn other goodies against each other. The oozy, fluff-coated tone of this article isn't helping.
Still, you don't have to be a cynic to see why Marvel planned this particular storyline at this particular time. People leaving "Captain America: Civil War" with a song in their hearts and money in their wallets could walk into a comic shop and see multiple titles with "Civil War II" on the cover. Bazinga!

The problem is, it didn't work.

While the main "Civil War II" title is selling very well, the tie-ins are not. For example, in the Top 100 list for August, "Amazing Spider-Man" #16 is at No. 4, but "Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man" #3 is at No. 65. As should be obvious, one is CWII-related, while the other is not -- and the big summer crossover book is the one with the weakest sales.
Well that's actually good news. It proves there's some people waking up and coming to terms with how these crossovers are not worth the trees wasted to print them. And, despite ASM supposedly being in the top ten, it's not selling in the millions, so I don't see how that's working either, what with the awful people writing and drawing it.
For one thing, the "Rebirth" event has just about come to its natural end. DC is still in the process of revamping its superhero titles, but the big guns have already been fired. The titles receiving the "Rebirth" treatment in the last few weeks have been the likes of "Blue Beetle," "Batman Beyond" and "Deathstroke." Those titles won't stay in the top 20 for long.

And Marvel may not have any bragging rights, but it's still making money. In fact, virtually all the publishers are still making pretty much the same money they were before DC's "Rebirth."
Yeah, but how much? Do they even deserve to? Again, nothing the Big Two put out now is much good, and Rebirth's unlikely to change all that with Dan DiDio still influencing the DC lines.
That's because, while DC is gorging on market share, it's not really cutting into anyone else's profits. According to trade magazine icv2.com, "Rebirth" is bringing in, for lack of a better term, new money.

"Sales to comic stores by Diamond Comic Distributors in North America were up a whopping 31.62 percent over the same month a year ago in August," ICv2.com said. "With DC's Rebirth re-launch driving sales, periodical comics were up 44.58 percent, while graphic novels were up a more modest 5.53 percent."

It's a rising tide, and it's lifting everybody's Bat-boat. But where is that money coming from? Is "Rebirth" bringing new customers into the comic shop? Are existing customers simply buying more books? Are retailers simply ordering more and getting stuck with product they can't move? The answer to that question will also answer whether the current sales trends are meaningful, or just a summer fad.
It could be from people who found the direction taken with Identity Crisis offensive, and they're under the vibe this is all leading somewhere better. But alas, the Rebirth crossover doesn't guarantee better writing alone, and they've already sent out signs this'll lead almost nowhere.
Meanwhile, Marvel is fighting back. They're already pushing the re-launches of several titles prompted by the events of "Civil War II," with one of them -- "The Champions" #1 -- already in the 400,000 range on pre-orders. (That's more than both August issues of "Batman" put together.)
Say, I thought they said CWII didn't work! Which is true, yet the writer seems uninterested in noting that they're still sticking with a poor direction. And pre-orders don't translate into big sales. I find it particularly strange the stores want to order so much when they're bound to return so little.

In the end, despite everything, this is just another article that supposedly admits something's gone wrong, yet doesn't ask if what's coming later will make the same mistakes. Besides, it's all sunk down into a one-dimensional battle between DC and Marvel to see who can produce the most pretentious stories.

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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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