Is there anything new under the spinner rack? Only yesterday, Chris Irving quoted the late, great Dwayne McDuffie on the difficulty of launching anything new in comics:
“I look at the new Blue Beetle, which was really well done and really entertaining, even though it didn’t sell at all. The new things in the universe are pretty much impossible, and new things out of the universe are pretty unlikely, because people won’t try new things. I hope I’m wrong and there’s some wonderful new thing. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Static will break, but I don’t think people will try it, or that people at comics stores will even care. That book should have come out in 2002 when it was the #2 cartoon on television, and not 2010 when it was in reruns on Disney XD.”
Jason Wood expands on this idea at iFanboy by actually counting the characters on the charts:
I was listening to John Siuntres’ always excellent Bendis Tapes this week and something they discussed served as inspiration for this week’s column. During the Q&A, one of the questions related to whether Bendis would ever consider launching a new team book, akin to The Order, where he would get to establish an entirely new lineup of characters. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially Bendis made the point that he may someday get that urge, but the market currently isn’t very supportive of those kinds of initiatives. He and John went on to observe that had Bendis launched Alias in today’s market, its chances of success and staying on the shelves would’ve been far less likely. When you juxtapose Bendis and John’s comments with some of the more vocal complaints fans have had lately as their favorite books get cancelled, it brings up a great point. Can new teams or characters thrive in today’s direct market?
Wood goes on to count all the characters on the top 1000 characters of 2010 and comes up with the following list of 35 “newish characters:
1 American Vampire
2 Avengers Academy
3 Avengers Childrens’ Crusade
4 Avengers Initiative
6 Batman and Robin
8 Blackest Night
9 Daken Dark Wolverine
10 Dark Wolverine
11 Fall of Hulks Red Hulk
12 Fall of Hulks Savage She-Hulks
13 Generation Hope
14 Green Lantern Emerald Warriors
15 Guardians of Galaxy
17 Heroes for Hire
19 Incredible Hercules
21 Joe the Barbarian
22 Kick Ass
25 Secret Six
26 Secret Warriors
30 True Blood
31 Uncanny X-Force
32 Walking Dead
33 World War Hulks
Personally, we’d hesitate to call, say, X-Factor, which debuted in 1986 a NEW property — new characters, sure, but really NEW? Wood goes into his reasons for picking each one and breaks them down into Kirkman-verse, Millar-verse etc., etc. It’s a good analysis. The need to create new characters is something we’ve been harping on for YEARS — we vividly recall standing in Paul Levitz’s office once and asking him to come up with a new character that was less than 5 years old (the closest we came up with was TRANSMETROPOLTAN.)
Thus it’s even a little MORE alarming to see that Wood’s cut-off for a new character is….”10-15 years”?
WHAT THE FRAK?
Five years ago, there was no Glee, no AVATAR, no Hunger Games, no Bieber, no Gaga. Seven years ago there was no Twilight, no Lost, no Dexter. It’s a lot harder to find new characters in film because they are as risk-averse as comics, but in TV and books they are the lifeblood. Have comics REALLY become that ossified?
Wood asks if 20 years ago Cable and Deadpool would have been singled out as new characters, and I can tell you that 17 years ago, anyway, they absolutely were.
The idea that something 10-15 years old qualifies as a “new” idea is patently alarming. And the idea that we can’t launch something newer than that is even scarier.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.