When Marc Oliver Frisch asked why Brave and the Bold by Mark Waid and George Perez had been sliding in sales, it seemed to touch a nerve, and Graeme at Blogorama kept the ball in play. Surely Waid and Perez were fan favorites? (Perez has left the book, but Waid continues on.) Shouldn’t such a book be right in the wheelhouse of the presumed 40-year-old fanbase of DC Comics? But is that really who reads DC comics any more?
We’re always suspicious of comment threads as a barometer of any kind of valid demographic or marketing information, but the one at [email protected] is worth looking at for the widely varying reasons readers have rejected the title. The overall picture is a reminder that just because it was hot for the Tweeners who now run comics, doesn’t mean the current audience likes it. For instance, Ryan Dunlavey, artist on Action Philosophers writes:
Why I don’t buy Brave and the Bold:
1 – It’s boring.
2 – I don’t like George Perez’s artwork.
3 – Super heroes.
“Don’t like George Perez”???? Wha–? That’s heresy! Ed Ward has a even more stark assessment:
The fact that it reads like older, pre-decompression comics is, I’m pretty sure, one of the reasons it’s a tough sell to contemporary readers. The storytelling is very much a part of a different era of comics and, I suspect, doesn’t ‘click’ with a lot of people explicitly because of that.
I also think that people who may not innately respond to that style of storytelling make adjustments when they are reading older work, because they expect that storytelling style going in, but will not make that adjustment for new books.
I know that it definitely takes a lot more effort for me as a reader to find an ‘in’ to a book by George Perez than it takes me for almost any other contemporary books, and it it’s more work for me to stay involved. The adjustment in my headspace feels very similar to the adjustment in headspace I need to make as a film viewer when I’m watching something from the silent-era as opposed to something contemporary.
Given the constant exumation of every facet of both Marvel and DC history, the idea of “contemporary” isn’t one that necessarily tops the list of current comics selling points. (Other readers in the thread say that the overall storyline wasn’t strong enough to keep their interest.) But seeing this brought up several times shows that it isn’t just John Byrne who’s out of touch these days.
Johanna also links to this thread but picks another pull quote
B&B appeals to intelligent readers who appreciate the history of DC’s universe and the caring attention Waid and Perez give to the characters they use in their stories. Such readers have by and large stopped reading DC comics, since the bulk of the DCU is now run by overgrown fanboys with dismemberment fetishes.
This comment reflects the general consensus of many respected observers on who reads superhero comics and why, but there is no denying that the Ultimate/Identity Crisis/52 generation of superhero comics readers IS a generation of superhero comics readers, and not just the lingering survivors of an older tribe.
While old timers–like The Beat–turn up their noses at this “decompressed” storytelling — rejecting what seems like plotlessness and a lack of pacing, for today’s readers, this is what they expect from comics. And for old timers with any sense of taste, the difference in quality between a Millar/Hitch comics, say, and the average rush job corporate comic, is fairly obvious. In the same way that the Image style drove out John Byrne, the “decompressed” style is throwing dirt on the grave.
What’s interesting from our own viewpoint, anyway, is that in a quest for new comics that satisfy in less widescreen ways, the only place to go is indie comics. The average Oni, D&Q or Top Shelf book has more “traditional” storytelling than corporate comics these days, and are created by young cartoonists with completely different sensibilities.
Looked at another way, a few posts back we linked to some gobsmackingly beautiful old comics by Reed Crandall. Crandall’s heydey as an artist would have been 20 years before those Harris comics were published — a shorter time than George Perez’s heydey was from now. Looking on the Crandall pages today we’re stunned by their artistry and timeless skill. Had they been published 10 or 20 years ago the style would have been seen as hoplesssly old fashioned, however.
But the 20-something comics reader has got his own bag now. What do you think, kids? Who are the greatest storytellers of the “decompressed” era?