Jul 19, 2012

She Is Screaming in the Shower: Industry Standards

She Is Screaming in the Shower is a column written by Robert Leichsenring for The Comics Cube! Click here for the archives!

(Note from Duy: Robert's thoughts do not necessarily reflect mine. They don't necessarily not reflect mine either.)

Industry Standards: Why Publishers Are Not Even Trying
by Robert Leichsenring

Hi nation,
It is me again. And today I bring a back full of ranting.

For the last two or maybe three years I have been absorbed in comic books. I read everything I could lay my hands on: A lot of Marvel, parts from DC and a lot from smaller publishers and webcomics (seriously, check out DrMcNinja.com [he is a doctor and a ninja … and Irish]).

But over the last 10 months I started to feel tired. I was missing the excitement, the fun and the love that I normally get from comics. But it seems that to find that I have to stray from the pack that is the Big Two and venture deeper and deeper into the slow burning hell that is the independent market.

But why do I feel like this?

At one point it just felt like the Big Two (and a couple of the other publishers) have just stopped to care. It seems to me that Marvel and DC are like zombies from Land of the Dead, trying to get on with the life they had before the apocalypse (which we can all agree was the 90s).

But life taught us that normally nothing just goes back to an old state and then we live happily ever after. If things go south it normally takes time and a lot of engagement to get them back up.

So why do I say that the Big Two are phoning it in?

In the last 10-15 years Marvel and DC tried to recover from the 90s' big breakdown on the comic market, trying to find new readers, getting as accessible as possible, and pushing the quality.

But from everything I see, I call BS on them. Let me break it down for you.

Does one of the Big Two really try to get new readers? Let's have a look at the DCnU, one of the worst attempts to hide laziness and ignorance under a soft-reboot-abomination-thingy. If DC really wanted to get new readers, why don't they really try to get new readers? Ads are still mostly in comics or LCSs and can barely reach a comic virgin. The movies do their part but from what I gather it's only momentarily spikes for singular books. Just because you like the movie doesn't mean you're going to like the comic.

Advertisement has to become more widespread, especially online, where most of the community is active. But instead of giving hot spoilers and announcements to comic book-related websites like Newsarama, maybe it would be better to try and hit the mainstream market: AvX announced in FHM with preview art and interview, that draws attention. National TV. For God's sake, get it in front of your own movies, dammit. Is it so hard to get a billboard in NY? For Disney or WB?

But as we can see, the publishers feel comfortable in their niche, were they can control the consumer and their closed market.

See, when I'm talking about the Big Two phoning it in, I also mean the quality of the work. Stories, writing, and art. How many really memorable, or even original, events, books or ongoings did we get in the last 15 years? Oh sure, there were some amazing books out there and still are. But theyre getting so rare, especially with DC killing their whole line in one epic quality shitfest (I'm looking at you FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. and of course good old Rob) and Marvel following closely behind with maybe 5 or 6 titles out that are actually worth buying (we know the few good ones, eh?).

What happened to quality, what happened to big creators with bigger ideas (shut up, Morrison, it's not about you … yet), to adventure and limitless possibilities?

The most original comic I picked up in the last year was a reprint of KING CITY (thanks again, Pól), and I was wondering and amazed by how Brendan Graham creates a world full of the most crazy ideas and characters but DC and Marvel fail to do anything original to this day.

Let's take a look at Marvel:

So, "Who is Alpha?" was the newest teaser for Spidey and it seems like he gets a sidekick. Great idea. We haven't seen any sidekicks in … oh wait. No we have. More than enough. Batman has sidekicks to burn (or blow up), why should we do this with Spidey? Cause it worked with other characters, duh.

Originality is dead, and, even if it is sad to admit it, we fans helped the publishers kill it.

Batman has a brother now, did you know? What's next? A coma after a car crash, and when he wakes up he will not look like Christian Bale but someone else and no memories of the past years?

As customers. we are served the cheapest tropes from 80s soaps ala Dallas or Denver Clan.

X-Men have basically become a "who sleeps with whom" and Avengers are a single market for people in pajamas. The Justice League is a bunch of douchebags, and sex and violence seems to be the only thing that guarantees sales. (I still like the X-Force mini. Gabriele Dell'Otto draws a gorgeous Domino – which is not my cat in this case)

I want Alan Moore back. I want Warren Ellis back. I want crazy designs from imaginations like Kirby's not another generic spaceship or alien race or a new hero/villain with paint-by-numbers powers. We repeat and repeat and repeat, spicing up an old story with one or two new elements, and tadaaa, you got a brand new books. Success. For the publisher.

We? We lose.

And we do not deserve it any other way, 'cause we still buy all the BS and every new event gives us goosebumps and we talk about it without catching a breath.

FEAR ITSELF, FLASHPOINT, BLACKEST NIGHT, SECRET INVASION, all the Crises — one crappy event after the other. Half-finished ideas, bad editing, confusing storylines, or just plain useless or boring.

But it looks nice, right? Ivan Reis would never convince me to buy BLACKEST NIGHT. He ain't this good. Art should never be the whole selling point for a book. But bad writers continue to plague the market, but it's fine as long as the publisher gives them an amazing artist.

Please, no. Stop giving Loeb work. Or JMS, who has obviously lost his mind somewhere in the middle of his ASM run. Why was FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. even published? Can no one read at DC?

Why do we let people work on comics that seem to have no understanding of the art form (Rob, we really need to talk about that, you know?). Because the publishers have found out that it is better for them to have a crappy ongoing, it seems, than a new WATCHMEN. They keep us reading with the typical cliffhanger endings and story twists that we know from movies and series that have outlived their creative potential, but are being kept alive by brainless writers for as long as possible.

They even turned Batman into CSI.

Where are the sunglasses?

I applaud the Big Two. You're idiots.

And then there is the accessibility. Man, how can you get this wrong? Again. And again. And again.

Look, you know why we love definite endings and shorter series? Because they're accessible. We do not have to read shitloads of comics to understand WATCHMEN. It helps, sure, but it doesn't define the story.
Every time I try to read a DC book, even the #1 after the reboot, I have no idea what they're doing. And I know the background. Funny thing is that it is not getting better now that were nearly a year into the DCnU. I dropped everything. Good work DC.

Marvel is better at this, keeping their universe together for quite some time(except that huge parts of the 90s have been erased, only to show up again), but even here we reached a point where the X-Men or Avengers are so confusing, with like 20 titles between the two of them.

Who is supposed to keep up with that? Or to even afford it? I can't. Can you?

What I want to say is this:

If Marvel or DC would really care to improve and to gain new readers, they would do it, and not hide behind half-assed attempts and millions of books, tie-ins and events. They want to keep the market like it is: controllable, closed and with fans they can easily direct wherever they want. At the end of the day, the Big Two are companies. And companies are not people, they're no artists. They're machines, built to make money. Not to pamper our needs and wishes, or that of the artists and writers.

And I do not see that changing in the nearer future.

Maybe I have to step away from comics for some time to gain a new perspective. Or change my pull list completely.

But right now I'm mad, disappointed and close to giving up.

I'm signing out.

Robert "Nemo" Leichsenring


Pól Rua said...

Speaking as someone who agrees with you for the most part, it's very important to remember two things.
First, that Sturgeon's Law applies - 90% of everything is bullshit.

Within the remaining 10%, there are a LOT of good things out there. King City, Atomic Robo, Castle Waiting, Infinite Kung Fu, Snarked... it's just with the big two companies putting out so much horrid shit, it takes a bit more digging to get to.
The ones suffering from this the most are the kids, who can no longer just pick up an issue of Avengers or Batman without being confronted with inappropriate material or being buried in a tidal wave of weird nerd puzzle porn.

The second thing is, it's a wonderful time to be looking for older stuff to read. The Showcases and Essentials are wonderful, and there's also the Masterworks and Chronicles volumes for those who MUST have colour.
The Jack Kirby omnibus editions have been a non-stop source of delight, and the array of collections of archival material available has never been better.

So it's not all gloom and doom. It just takes a bit more work to get to the good stuff.

Nemo said...

Pól, I totally agree, but sometimes you just have to ive way to the disappointment :)

and you´ve seen King City up there :)
I´m sorry for the typos Mr. Graham, next time I´ll be more careful.

and I love how you never give up on comics, Pól.

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