On my lunch break today, I decided to catch up on a few books I had fallen behind on.  Among them was Silk.  I picked up the latest issue, branded with the “Last Days of…” banner given to all Marvel mainline Secret Wars tie-ins, and while I missed the cleanliness of regular artist Stacy Lee’s lines, I found fill in Tana Ford’s slightly edgier style to be a good fit for a world supposedly on the brink of collapse. [Spoiler Alert] I just didn’t expect the world to actually end by the end of the issue.  While I’m sure things will be back to “normal” in Silk‘s world by the end of Secret Wars at latest, as someone not actively reading the event series, stunts like this one make me feel cheated.

Silk_7_Cover

By all accounts, Secret Wars has been a fantastic crossover.  I loved the first issue, and only haven’t kept up on it because I fell too far behind and had too many other books to pull.  I’m following a number of the stellar “Battleworld” crossovers like Noelle Stevenson’s and Sanford Greene’s Runaways as well as Jason Aaron’s and Mike Del Mundo’s Weirdworld.  However, by and large, I’m not really a Marvel guy.  The floppies I read from their main roster are those that come from the nouveau style of Marvel Comics, or what DC might refer to as the books that Batgirl.  These titles include Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and the aforementioned Silk.  All of these books more or less exist on their own terms, and barring the irregular Spider-Man or Wolverine cameo, stay on the outer edges of Marvel continuity.  That’s how I liked it, and that’s why “Last Days of…” has been so jarring to me.

As a reader, I’m not big on a lot of the things current direct market industry professionals consider to be the backbone of comics sales.  I understand the reason why Marvel and DC rope entire universes into event series and why we release floppies while trades slowly but surely contribute a greater percentage to company revenue streams than floppies do.  They boost sales.  Pure and simple.  Slapping a “Last Days of…” or “Battleworld” banner across every title titlates spend-happy collectors like almost nothing else these days.

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However, these collectors don’t necessarily translate into new readers, and shoehorning Kamala Khan, Gwen Stacy, or Cindy Moon into a potentially world-ending scenario just as readers, some of whom have never read a comic, are falling in love with them feels extremely damaging to current reader confidence.  I remember feeling incredibly disappointed when Spider-Gwen went on hiatus a few months ago (after only making it to issue five!), and even though I know it’s coming back with its continuity intact, I can’t help but wonder why Marvel couldn’t allow the series to just run concurrently with, but parallel to, Secret Wars.

In my opinion, pulling this new style of superhero comic into a Crisis-style event like Secret Wars just doesn’t work.  These series’ modus operandis are too different from those of more conventional modern superhero books. Ms. Marvel et al. are approachable specifically because they don’t rely on continuity.  To use a DC metaphor, while I would be fine with seeing a book like Action Comics or Batman roped into the latest Convergence-style event, I would not like to see Brendan Fletcher’s and Babs Tarr’s Batgirl series getting roped into the thick of things.  It’s just tonally inconsistent.

Imagine if she had to tango with a villain pulled from even Snyder's DC run.
Imagine if she had to tango with a villain pulled from even Snyder’s DC run.

More importantly, I don’t think that the audiences for titles like Ms. Marvel and the audience for a book like Secret Wars overlap much, if at all.  Comics are entering a new era of creative innovation, and while attempts to merge the new audience who came in through books like This One Summer or Scott Pilgrim with the decades-entrenched Wednesday Warriors who were raised on Crisis on Infinite Earths are admirable, they may be misguided.  If nothing else, the practice feels reflective of the constant and growing battle between commercial viability and artistic success in comics.

Instead of attempting to subsume new comics devotees into old ways, why not let them have their niche and see what innovations they bring to the table through it?


Maybe I’m insane, but hey, it’s just my opinion.  What do you think about line-wide crossovers in 2015 and their effects on new titles not steeped in continuity?  Sound off on Twitter (I’m @waxenwings) or in the comments below.

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. Or…readers of each book need to be encouraged to try other books, and a crossover can be a good way of doing that.

  2. @Glenn –

    Why do they need to be encouraged to try other books?

    Or if we accept that premise, why does the way to encourage them need to be a solo title being roped into a crossover? There are plenty of other ways to promote another book without forcing crossover content into a solo book.

  3. @Zach – because Marvel is a business that needs to make money. One of the ways to do that is to get your current customers to buy more of your product.

  4. And there are plenty of ways to do it. But including the character in a crossover is probably a very effective way.

  5. @Glenn –
    That’s a want, not a need. And the efficacy is questionable. Who knows how many readers you pick up vs how many you drive away?

  6. The fact that sales reports show that sales go up on crossover issues, meaning you picked up more than you gained, at least for that issue.

  7. I read Batgirl and Ms Marvel from Marvel and DC. To be honest, I didn’t understand a lot of what you wrote. I’m buying A-Force right now to keep up with Ms Marvel and it’s ok? I don’t understand a thing that’s going on with the wider series, but an all female Avengers is cool. It would be more fun if it was set in the normal universe.

  8. @Glenn – But there’s no telling the sell through on those issues. Could be that the retailers that are programmed to think they need to up their orders and are now stuck sitting on unsold copies of those books, right? Just seems like a good way to make some readers feel obligated to buy a book, as opposed to being genuinely interested in a book. And if I were a new reader and thought that it was common for me to have to buy comics I wasn’t interested in to fill out a story that I AM interested in, then I might just say “F that noise” and not attempt to get into the comics that sound interesting.

  9. No, retailers have a business to run, and they aren’t going to buy a bunch of books that won’t sell. It might happen sometimes, it’s not perfect, but it’s also not chaos. And it doesn’t matter WHY the consumer buys the book – obligated or otherwise – as long as they buy it.

    As for your last example, sure that probably happens. But that doesn’t mean they also don’t have a bunch of readers who discover something new from the crossover either. There’s a reason they’ve been doing them for decades.

  10. Think of it like DVRing. Commercials pay for TV. DVRing allows an individual to filter the broadcast into something more personal/preferential by, among other things, cutting out advertising.

    Events and all that malarky pay for a good bit of the comicbook industry: the event business model is how DC and Marvel publishing run, DC and Marvel comprise a formidable piece of the Direct Market, the Direct Market feeds into the larger industry and so on and so forth…to be unabashedly reductive…

    So then when it comes to comics, think of your brain as your DVR and be as right-brained or left-brained about it as you want and get only what you like. That last bit is the important bit. No doubt, just like TV, there’s a necessary evil propping the whole thing up that never quite sits right with a good many involved in the enterprise. Tell your retailer what you like and don’t like, have them help! This is fun, this is usually centered on trying to keep that happiness level up. This usually involves feeling good about comics.

    The other end of the spectrum is going SJW on it and doing the hearts&minds thing and trying to make a dent in the upside-down nature of the biggest and dumbest and most expansive and self-important and gimmicky and over-hyped stuff selling the best. All of the time. Everywhen. This one has painful choices and sadness and a lot of concern trolling and trying to get people to do what you want when they maybe don’t want to. On this one the optics of buying the Big Event Miniseries and letting it sit for months in a read pile is probably discouraged. This one doesn’t have time for fun because the mission, man…the mission.

  11. @Glenn –
    Not sure about the stores you shop at, but most of the ones I’ve been to tend to have unsold copies of unsold “big” issues (relaunches, crossovers, etc). Retailers can and do buy copies of stuff they can’t sell.

  12. The success of the original Secret Wars (1984) and Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) convinced Marvel and DC that this was how you held on to the hardcore fan-collectors — and maybe gained a few new ones — at a time when casual readers were abandoning comics in droves. It’s a gimmick that seems to work. Doesn’t appeal to me, but obviously other people like it.

  13. Interesting article about challenges for the comics industry. Retailers are complaining about the huge number of variant covers Marvel is hitting them with, all tied to the October relaunch. And a lot of retailers (and fans) fear Marvel’s sales will slump back to a mediocre level when the excitement of the relaunch fades.

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/67955-four-risk-factors-facing-the-comics-industry-in-2015.html

  14. Cross-overs may be great for sales, but they’re not just awful for new readers. I’ve been reading many of these titles since my early teens and they now make no sense to me, let alone a highly overly complicated cross-over. I now buy no Marvel or DC titles at all. Every time I try a title it crosses over with something else and they lose me again.

    Also, by ‘great for sales’ you’re talking about that given year. Sales are sliding across the board. Cross-overs boost sales but they rarely go back to where they were beforehand. What does it say that Star Wars and Walking Dead are comics big sellers? Should Marvel just do comics around their movie universe?

    The ability to produce good mainstream comics seems to be dead.

    I’d cut Marvel and DC’s lines down to just 16 titles each. Just four titles each per week, but make them the best comics ever.

  15. The Publishers Weekly article I linked to mentioned that retailers may have to live with Marvel and DC sales at a much lower level that they’re used to. Considering that the Big Two sell 70 percent of America’s comics periodicals, that could be quite an adjustment.

    As mentioned in Sean Howe’s book about Marvel, one reason for reboots (and for the Ultimate line) is to simplify the continuity. But what’s the point, because after 5 years things will be as complicated as ever. If I had started reading comics in the last decade, I would probably seek out movie and TV-related comics (Buffy, Angel, Star Wars, Walking Dead) and not deal with the Marvel and DC universes.

    Dave Elliott said: “I now buy no Marvel or DC titles at all. Every time I try a title it crosses over with something else and they lose me again.”

    Same here. I dropped their superhero titles in the mid-’90s, when they were awful imitations of the era’s awful Image comics. The endless company-wide crossovers, reboots and relaunches have kept me from coming back.

  16. Line-wide crossovers became money-savers for me back in the 1990s, because it meant I would stop buying DC or Marvel books that month, waiting for the stories I was reading to (hopefully) resume. They eventually pushed me to stop buying DC and Marvel altogether (with limited exceptions). It’s objectively crappy storytelling that appeals only to a niche of (shall we say) neurologically unusual readers.

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