These days, when we think about books and GNs we feel very optimistic, but when we think about periodicals/pamphlets/floppies, we feel much less so. It seems every time we post the Marvel and DC monthly sales analysis a new round of internet kvetching begins: Marvel and DC are destroying their sales with their reliance on big events! While some of it can quote rightly be dismissed — no matter how much people complain about CIVIL WAR or 52 or SPIDER-MAN: REIGN they are ordered in droves by retailers — DC in particular seems to have been having a good bit of trouble lately simply getting regular teams to work on their core books, and most of the most OYL relaunches have seen initially strong sales dwindle quickly.
Now, we’re the wrong audience for all this — keeping up with monthly comics isn’t our bag, and we’re pretty much wait-for-the-traders. However, it must be said, very few of the new books seem very interesting to us. Back when OYL was first announced, we had this to say:
We haven’t had time to read all the reactions, but after a cursory glance, it all seems to be a bit more restrained than we’d expected. We were hoping to see Supergirl married to a Cuban bandleader; Green Lantern working as a doctor in a small Alaskan town; Wonder Woman taking a new job as a psychologist for a mob boss…I dunno…make something up. Instead it’s the kind of little changes that only initiates will care about: Robin is someone new, Batman is not Batman…again…Green Arrow is mayor…Supergirl has shingles…wait! We made that last part up.
Indeed, it seems that every bit of PR, hype or creator comments that we have seen from DC and Marvel alike is all about how THIS ties into THAT and how if you read that other mini epic you’d be STUNNED when you find out really happened. There is no jumping on point.
Thus, we were a little…surprised when we read Marv Wolfman’s comments on taking over as the regular writer of NIGHTWING. They just seemed so….odd.
But being in New York meant bringing in a new cast of friends and foes. Since I didn’t want to set up a super romance right away – Dick had been falling into bed a bit too quickly for my taste – I wanted him to find some female friends, not just lovers. At least not immediately. That would come soon enough, I knew. I also wanted to introduce him to a few new male friends. But friends to Dick Grayson, not just to Nightwing. Someone a guy like Dick could go out for a drink with. That’s already been started although most readers don’t know it yet…..The trick to Nightwing is giving him purpose and drive. Because the murder of his parents was resolved quickly he never developed the rigid obsession that has motivated Batman. His motivation comes from the pursuit of justice. But maybe something happened between the last days of the first run of Teen Titans when he disbanded that group for reasons we will learn, and the first issue of the New Teen Titans where he returned to the fold more grown up and less a kid sidekick than he ever had been before.
Do you see?? Do you see what Marv did? He analyzed the character AS A CHARACTER and thought about WHAT WOULD MAKE THE STORIES MORE INTERESTING FROM A STRUCTURAL STANDPOINT. As in…you didn’t have to read 99 other comics to care about Nightwing.
This brought to mind something that had troubled us so much when we originally read it that we SAVED IT FOR THREE MONTHS in our queue. It was an item at Blog@Newsarama about a big name writer spilling the beans and revealing all about his new book (We won’t name the writer or the book here because, really, it’s not their fault. It’s just the system, man. Our elisions are in double brackets.)
That’s Dawnstar. You’ll see this [followed up on] very, very soon. All of these [scenes] take place in the first year, but this one is coming very soon. Obviously she mentions having to find Starman so he plays a major role in what’s coming up. We want to hit a couple of really high notes within the first 12 issues… I don’t want to get too much more in-depth, but yes, you will see [[big mini-series]] characters in [[ongoing monthly]]. You know at least one you’ll see [from this page]. There is a reason that Alex is so heavily involved later on in the year.
From our viewpoint, this is what’s wrong with comics in a nutshell. Why should you read this book? Well, because it’s all about this other book that you read, and bringing back this character and that character…Honest, we know who STARMAN is because we loved the Robinson/Harris run, but we never read the Legion, and have no idea who Dawnstar is…so…big whoop.
Again, we are not the audience for these books. Maybe Dawnstar is a great character, like James Robinson’s Starman was…a fuck-up who could never live up to his father’s expectations but kept trying, even if it meant flying around in a suit. That was memorable. (It’s no coincidence that Harris has brought the same ground-level humanity to his current superhero book, EX MACHINA.)
But there you go, if you listened to the internet, you would think turning WONDER MAN into a book about a cranky superhero who goes to an eccentric Alaskan town would sell like gangbusters. Or Batgirl as a homely but quick witted assistant at a bitchy fashion magazine. But then you see that nothing sells that isn’t a franchised tie-in these days. In our perfect world AGENTS OF ATLAS and WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY and JONAH HEX would be selling 50K a month. In the real world they struggle to sell 20K. There is no market for the quirky creator driven book anymore. The audience craves shock and horror and not solid, character driven fiction. You can’t blame the Big Two for giving the people what they want. As an observer and a sometime editor, my instincts tell me that readers want characters they can identify with and clear problems that these characters need to solve. But the real world shows no evidence whatsoever for this. Was I wrong all along?