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Two guys talking about comics

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Jeff Lester and Ian Brill rap about what it takes to read comics in the “No Fun” era:

IB: Let me ask you, do you feel the effect of this climate of sensationalism affecting what you still read? My purchasing habits are similar to yours and I’m in constant fear that the books I dig are headed for the chopping block because no one gives a damn about a self-contained book that his its own stories to tell. Real stories, not just a series of “explosive” events tethered together ever so slightly amongst various books. That’s another thing I worry about. The skill to write a real thorough story is losing its value when the interconnectedness of a shared universe can be used as a crutch.

JL: What worries me is almost the opposite: as sad as I’d be to see a book like Blue Beetle get the chopping block, I think it’d be worse if someone at DC thought the best way to “help” the book is inextricably tie its storyline to Countdown. An example might be something like Punisher: War Journal, which had a pretty great first issue, and then got incredibly blah for me: I can’t tell if that’s because I really don’t like the current team’s take on the book, or if the book never got a chance to develop a take that wasn’t tied to whatever big event was happening in the Marvel Universe. And now that (if I remember correctly) sales are going down, and the tie-ins to Civil War and the Death of Cap are over, how hard is going to be for the team to avoid tying the book into Secret Invasion or whatever big event Marvel’s got coming down the pike?

  1. Brian Bendis, in his Write Now! interview, discovered that comics fans are like sports fans. They follow mediocrity because they care deeply for the team or character, and want them to succeed.
    Usually that connection is created at a young age, and continues for a long time, like a friendship, where a person will accept faults without ending the relationship. Nostalgia is similar, much like the friend who moved away or went to college, but you meet ten years later by accident.
    So, there is not much difference between sports radio and internet blogs.
    “People will complain about anything, even though they may have little to complain about.”–Torsten Adair

  2. Interesting that Bendis should make such a point, since devotion to name-brands in spite of mediocrity is pretty much the only reason why anything of his after “Avengers Disassembled” has continued to sell.

    The smart move that Bendis has made, though, is that he doesn’t just rely upon fans’ devotion to corporate-owned characters – he’s also turned himself into a name-brand, whom people will buy in spite of his own increasing failings as a storyteller. It’s a Liefeld model of success.

  3. I find it odd that they picked Punisher War Journal as their example. PWJ was started basically to be that book, featuring “Punisher as part of the MU” stories so as to tie the character back into the universe at large and not interfere with the out-of-continuity Punny stories that Garth Ennis was doing on the Punisher MAX title. It doesn’t surprise me that it ties in with every crossover, nor do I think it detracted one bit from my enjoyment of the series.

    And the series is fresh for me, too: I just read the last 10 issues over this past weekend, conveniently enough….

  4. “Usually that connection is created at a young age, and continues for a long time, like a friendship, where a person will accept faults without ending the relationship. Nostalgia is similar, much like the friend who moved away or went to college, but you meet ten years later by accident.”

    And sometimes, you discover you have nothing in common with that friend any longer. Which explains why I won’t bother with Spider-Man before and after the OMD thing.

    Why must the Punisher tie in with the Marvel Universe, anyway? Why can’t there be a series about an urban vigilante with no connection to skrulls? or anything else?

    Sounds like event fatigue might set in for the writers as well as the fans.

  5. Interesting Jeff Lester’s astute comments:
    “There are lots of people who buy comic books because they want to read shit that is bad-ass. I sold copies of Civil War, Infinite Crisis–hell, even dull ol’ House of M–to guys who ate this stuff up with a spoon because it was, again *bad-ass*. So there are assuredly people who think it’s really cool that Dr. Smash-em-up is now the Totem of the Smash-em-up God because it means Dr. Smash-em-up can now kick twice as much ass as he used to. And they feel that way because they dug Dr. Smash-em-up since they were five, or nine, or eleven, and they have a very deep complex connection to Dr. Smash-em-up that would be kinda difficult and embarrassing to explain to others.”

    Difficult and embarrassing, eh?

  6. Thanks for the link Heidi. I’m surprised the “fun” angle of this discussion took off as that was not my aim when I asked Jeff to do this. I was more concerned about fan behavior and the Big Two prioritizing “shocking” events over storytelling and how those two phenomena feed into each other. Not that I mind and really, with the Waid interview I started off with, I could have seen it coming.

    Speaking of Punisher: War Journal I am actual a fan of the book and defended it in the comments section. I think that book is a good example of taking a character in a shared universe that still utilizes focused storytelling. Speaking of fun I think the book is actually very fun and very funny. Matt Fraction has a sense of humor about Frank Castle. He’s not making fun of the character, I believe he takes The Punisher seriously. It’s just that he also has moments where The Punisher’s sidekick says “it’s a gun Frank. A gun that shoots swords.” I loved that and the series so far has had a lot of similar moments.

  7. rich:
    Why must the Punisher tie in with the Marvel Universe, anyway? Why can’t there be a series about an urban vigilante with no connection to skrulls? or anything else?

    There already is. It’s the Punisher Max series that Garth Ennis has been writing for the last like 8 years. Punisher War Journal was started for people who *do* want the Punisher to tie in to the Marvel Universe. And both series are chugging along just fine (although Ennis is leaving the series in a few months).

  8. “There already is. It’s the Punisher Max series that Garth Ennis has been writing …”

    Ok, Ok … point taken. I suppose that’s marketing. I just never saw the point. Except for an occasional encounter with another hero, I always figured just let the guy work in his own milieu. I guess if two different titles is what it takes …

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