The wildfire that is THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD can’t be contained. Don McPherson speaks up for the book’s many admirers:
One of DC’s mid-level super-hero titles has been the focus of a fair bit of discussion online as of late. Plummeting sales figures have prompted industry pundits to ponder the problem with The Brave and the Bold. It’s been a critical darling of many reviewers, and it was launched to a bit fanfare, especially given the involvement of two of comics’ stalwart talents: writer Mark Waid and artist George Perez. The series had a lot going for it. Seemingly separate from current DC continuity, it’s an accessible read, embracing a more traditional approach to super-hero storytelling. Comics readers tiring from endless events and crossovers could find relief in Waid’s words and Perez’s pencils. Those who thought the super-hero genre had grown too dark — especially DC’s take on the heroes, in light of its Identity Crisis series, with its incorporation of rape, betrayal and ethical breaches into the plot — were offered a kinder vision of the publisher’s iconic characters.
But then there’s John Jakala for the prosecution:
I still follow a number of superhero-focused blogs, and everyone and their mother seemed to be raving about this series, saying it was a return to more light-hearted and “fun” comics. I’m not the biggest fan of either Waid or Perez, but I used to love all those old superhero team-up series, including the original B&B, so I was intrigued enough to check this out. So when I read the book and didn’t care for it, all those reviews came back to mind and I felt like a grouch for not liking it. Still, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out my reasons for disliking the book (even if doing so reveals me as a definite grumbly, grumpy grouch), so here goes. [Editor’s note: This all seemed a lot more original when I started writing this review last week before it was revealed that comic book bloggers may be the only ones reading and enjoying this series.]
However, cartoonist/animator Mike Manley kicks it into a whole new orbit by bringing in the new BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD tv show, which he just happens to work on:
One of the things I enjoy about this new Batman cartoon is the fact we are going back to a kinder, friendlier Batman. A Dick Sprang version, which is the guiding design principle we are working from and there still is a slight echo of the BT styling, which is a nice break from the grim and gritty. Let’s face it, these cartoons are for children, young children 5-10,12 years old. Cereal eating, fruit rollup snacking, toy buying kids, not 30-something, 40-something bitter bee babymen who want these characters in adult situations. The message boards are already full of babymen angst about the show, how they hate the art, the idea of a kid friendly Batman and I have to just laugh at the rediculous comments.
That draws many comments, including one from a fellow named Bruce who suggests that adult audiences keep kids cartoons afloat:
That guys is a complete idiot, in my opinion. If all these shows are supposed to fail, because only the Babymen are watching it, what the hell does he have to say about, DCAU, Bruce Timm and his team started off back in 1992, and you know what MR. lead artist the series continued on all the way through 2006, and it wasn’t the kids who kept it going it was the true and loyal fan base of BABYMEN. Although those shows were intended for kid audiences it continued because those characters grew and evolved along with us fans (babymen) who saw the show as kids and are now adults.
Manley responds with a post called The Walled City of Babymania:
I don’t expect the babymen to ever see what I’m talking about, they can’t. But the fact is their taste is not the taste of a large pool of average readers, it’s the taste of the fetishist, the niche collector. They so resist change and want such a limited type of product that unless you have been following this stuff for years it’s really not something the average reader could even get into. Even back in the 80’s you had a big variety of comic, from Richie Rich, Archies, Conan, Rock, CarToons magazine, the Warren mags, Heavey Metal ( when it was good) Marvel, DC, Goldkey/Western all of which published a much wider selection of book. Now almost everything is superjocks, some kind of zombie and if it isn’t—it doesn’t sell worth a crap. And by sell I mean enough to make the creator a few grand minimum an issue, or a livable wage.
But the sad fact is since no new kids in any real number are coming into the hobby of comics and falling in love with them for a few years and since 90-95% of retailers are the worst kind of dumb businessman you can imagine, who don’t seek to build more customers, and definitely not kids, it’s a double whammy. There has been to my observation over a 10 year unraveling of the old idea of what the comic biz was always about driven faster to it’s doom and bust by the speculators.
While Mike’s view is spot-on in many ways — and is a veiw we have subscribed to ourselves — there are still many layers to be parsed here. As we pointed out in an earlier post, younger readers have been discovering comics. It’s my feeling — and it is only a feeling — that the Babymen are not necessarily the majority of comics readers any more. It’s our guess that there are more “traditionalists”, to use a less loaded term, running the retail end of comics right now, and that is where the tension comes from.
Here at SBM, we’re not very interested in superhero soap operas, and are more interested in other comics genres, so why all the interest in this paradigm? Superhero comics are still the predominant genre as far as making a living in the comics field go right now, and exert a huge influence over everything in the comics field. The “new traditionalists” will doubtless have much to say about the future of the comic book industry, and it seems worth a bit of time figuring out where they’re coming from.