Big BIG report over at The Comics Reporter as Bart Beaty lays smack down on David Hajdu’s THE TEN CENT PLAGUE:

I read The Ten-Cent Plague with great avidity. Hajdu is a compelling storyteller, and his interviews with some of the key players at the time add important shadings to our understanding of the period. There are places where the book really excels, not the least of which is in the important research on the comic book burnings that began in the 1940s, an area that is often mentioned but seldom dealt with in the depth that Hajdu brings to the issue.

At the same time, however, the book has certain shortcomings, and I’d like to address these over a few posts.

Few posts indeed. Beaty is only up to number two, with more promised!

Related: Eddie Campbell comments, and Steve Bissette comments in the comments.

This particular showdown has become one of the great myths of the comic book (I’m using myth correctly to mean ‘sacred story’ rather than ‘falsehood,’ the usual debased meaning given to the word these days). I saw the same thing in Eisner/Miller (Dark Horse 2005)

§ MEANWHILE, Noah Berlatsky responds to some comments by ADD in the new Comics Journal about the state of the direct market:

I think Gary Groth has made a similar argument, and I thought it was silly then as well. The problem with super-hero comics isn’t that the quality is bad. I mean, there’s *lots* of dreadful stuff that have a huge fan base (things like, oh, Scooby-Doo cartoons…or Rolling Stone concerts….or Alicia Keys albums….) Quality isn’t objective, of course, but using any aesthetic criteria, you’re going to find that sometimes quality and popularity are directly related, sometimes they’re inversely related, and sometimes they don’t seem to have any relationship at all. The problem with super-hero comics isn’t that they’re “bad” (though I agree that many of them are bad); it’s that, bad or good, they’re aimed at an audience which is increasingly insular, and that, as a result, the genre doesn’t really look sustainable in the long, or even medium, term.

Tom Brevoort approaches the same thing from a different angle:

Here’s one of the things I’ve realized about this business: it’s all cyclic. The same patterns repeat themselves again and again, from generation to generation–not the specific instances, but the overall shape of people’ reactions.

I’m still reacting in part to some of the people I spoke to at the New York Comic Convention, as well as the e-mails that we’ve been getting. But it’s really driven home this idea of cycling.

For example: it’s not great secret that there are still people upset about the changes to Spider-Man. Fair enough, But in the space of a day or two, I got five-or-so comments lamenting the elimination of Spidey’s organic webbing, and the fact that there’s been no mention of the additional powers he gained during “The Other.”

Which comes as a bit of a shock, frankly, because the overwhelming majority of the reactions we saw at the time those two stories came out were decidedly negative! Nobody seemed to like the organic webbing, and people wrote long treatises about how Peter creating mechanical web-shooters was better, because this showcased his science skills. But just a couple short years later, we go back to the mechanical web-shooters, and it’s like we fire-bombed something.

Finally, Brian Hibbs sums up DC’s current output and it doesn’t look good:

The first real signs, for me, was “One Year Later”, which was about as unmanaged and poorly fitting of an idea as anything I can think of. Virtually every DCU book took a sharp downwards spike in the wake of OYL, as the readership didn’t understand what was going on in the books they followed, and given no real incentive to pick up new ones.

That could have been managed had it not been for COUNTDOWN, “the spine of the DC Universe” — a spine that virtually no one enjoyed, and that had what seemed to be a billion-jillion awful tie ins and crossovers and “spin outs” all predicated on branding and ideas that no one (not even, it seems) the creators were especially enthused by.


  1. Bart Beaty’s articles bugged me because of this particular line

    “2) by constructing the book as a morality tale with Bill Gaines as the hero and Fredric Wertham as the villain, too much is simplified;”

    Reading the book, I never felt that Gaines was portrayed as a hero or as a man I would ever want to look up to. Hadju even includes a quote from a creator who portrays Gaines kindness, one of a handful of positive qualities Hadju gives him, as manipulative. Shoot, half the time Gaines is hopped up on pep pills.

    I’m very surprised anyone can walk away from this book feeling that Gaines is a “Hero”.

  2. Brian Hibbs’ article on DC is right on the money.

    I can sum up DC’s problem in two words:

    Dan Didio.

    He may be a heckava guy outside but he’s broken the entire DCU. Which is kind of sad because they have the greatest library of characters in the world… but out of all of them, Didio is appears most obsessed with Dead Jason Todd, he’s been one of the main focal points at DC (and Countdown) since Didio’s Reign of Horror began.

    Go figure.

    DC’s Tagline? And Evil shall inherit the Earth.

    No, just amateurs.

    Well yeah, okay… same thing.

  3. What does Groth have against Alicia Keys? She at least composes and performs her own music- unlike the other dweebs!

    And she’s a progger at heart. She’s a big fan of Bigelf!!



  4. I think the point behind Tom Brevoort’s observation is not that regular readers dislike organic webshooters or mechanical webshooters but that they dislike change.


  5. Yeah, OYL really messed things up, especially Firestorm (for me anyway).

    Still, Action Comics has become a must read, along with Booster Gold, Green Lantern, and JSA. Green Lantern Corps is getting good, Manhunter is returning, we’re FINALLY getting a Secret Six series, Gail is FINALLY writing Wonder Woman, and All-Star Superman should be on everyones reading list.

    So, just ignore the cross-overs and stick to your regular books and all will be well.

  6. I think OYL drove away a lot of fans that haven’t necessarily tried to come back and test the waters. Seeing Didio’s reaction to being asked about OYL at NYCC was a revelation of how it must be a thorn in his side.

    OYL was a concept with great potential, but just wasn’t executed that well.

    And on the Tom Brevoort thing? I think part of it isn’t just disliking change, but change that really doesn’t make much sense. Peter makes a deal to save his aunt’s life…and that gets rid of his organic webs and The Other powers? Most of the complaints I’ve seen about The Other powers is about how they made a big deal introducing them and did nothing with them.

  7. I think if it was just One Year Later, people would be more forgiving. It’s been more like; one big let down after another since Didio began. Again, he may be a great guy but his ideas are just not working.

    1. Nearly all of his revamps have failed miserably. Fans wanted Firestorm, he gave them someone in a Firestorm costume, a book crashed and burned miserably. Atom? Blue Beetle?

    Acclaimed books but people just ain’t buyin’… maybe it’s just that people don’t want to buy a comic where the main character was changed just to make for a more racially diverse line-up. It’s never worked before, why should these have been different? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. You want diversity, create new heroes but if you don’t replace one, don’t destroy the original in the process.

    2. Many of the big name creators he signed on let people down in a big way. Kuberts? Heinberg?

    3. The WW relaunch was a disaster with delays and stories printed out of order, which occured in Action as well. To say nothing of the Flash fiasco. Pissed off Wally readers by cancelling his book then tricked readers into investing into the Bart book (with some of the worse writing and art in decades) only to discover he planned on killing that character all along. Piss those fans off and then bring back Wally. WTF?

    4. In 1985, DC did Crisis because it was felt that following 5 or 6 earths was too much for readers. What did Didio do to follow up? Undo the work there to unleash 52 new earths for readers to keep track of… but its all part of a big plan to clean it all up.

    See comments on The Flash: Make mess, clean it up.

    5. He spoiled the ending of 52 before the series was half completed.

    6. He brought back Jason Todd then made this shlub of a character part of the spotlight on the spine of the DCU. Is it any wonder why Countdown was so broken?

    7. Lastly, far too many of DC’s comics are littered with amateur, fan fiction type stories and art that is just pitifully bad. They feature characters who used to write themselves but are now slaves to the whims of some wannabe-professional fans.

    Really, its not just One Year Later.

    Again, it’s more like, One Thing After Another.

  8. I’ll add another complaint to Brett’s laundry list of Didio flops:

    He gets Dwayne McDuffie to do JUSTICE LEAGUE. I buy two issues, thinking I’m going to get some great return to good superhero storytelling basics, as exemplified by McDuffie’s JLA cartoon.

    Instead, I get this poorly-drawn **** that reads pretty much like any of the crossover crap. I read the same number of Meltzer issues and am horrified to say that Meltzer wrote a better JLA than McDuffie.

    This suggests to me that Didio is not an editor who has any understanding of storytelling basics. He’s like a Shooter manque: “pile on the continuity until they cant’s take no more!”

  9. BTW, Pedro’s right and Beaty’s wrong: Gaines is not portrayed as a hero.

    It’s likely Beaty was put off by the fact that Wertham doesn’t come off as a three-dimensional figure, but that didn’t bother me much, as I felt the man ACTED like a cartoon.

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