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Why We Cease To Care

Brian Hibbs

Comic sales are down, as we all know; people are reading less of the periodicals, and, in many cases, walking away from the hobby altogether.

It is my belief that, in almost all cases, this is the very fault of the publishers. Here, for me, are four examples of why, in the form of four “reviews”:

BRIGHTEST DAY #21: There’s just three issues left of this, and we still don’t have any real idea of what the end of BLACKEST NIGHT actually meant, what is driving the white lantern, how the seemingly unconnected resurrected heroes are connected to anything whatsoever, or really what any of it means.

In the last few issues we’ve seen: the Hawks seemingly get immolated and die again, Aquaman lose his hand (again) and seemingly die again, and now in this issue Martian Manhunter seemingly die again (though, ugh, the symbology, along with Firestorm, is the classic elements: Fire, Air, Water and now Earth, which sort of makes me think that they’re going to make these character the new Elementals, and I WAY hope that’s wrong)

But I’m just tired of all the torture and the agony, and the just general level of unpleasentness that’s been grafted upon the four “leads” here — and grafted it is: the four antagonists (“Deathstorm”, Hawkgirl’s mom, Mera’s people’s war leader, and D’Kay) (see, I can’t even remember the names of half of them, which shows you just how memorable they were) NEVER EVEN EXISTED before the start of this storyline, and these “epic struggles” therefore have just no weight or meaning to me as an individual reader, as they don’t actually flow from CHARACTER, but from artificially induced INCIDENT.

So, yeah, this is the “tentpole” of the DCU right now, and, once again, it’s looking like an excuse for, shall we say, Torture Porn of these characters, and that based upon FALSE INCIDENT. Jeez, no thanks!

The sole saving grace of this issue was that J’onn went down with equanimity, but if I was paying cash money for these comics, I am certain I would have dropped it last issue after “cut off Arthur’s hand, and rekill him” happened.

Breaking faith with your audience, EVEN IF YOU ARE PLANNING A THIRD ACT REVERSAL, is seldom a good idea because that audience may not even be there to SEE that reversal.

I’m thinking this is kinda AWFUL, sorry.

FIRST WAVE #6: This is where the scare quotes really come in, because I can’t “review” what I haven’t read, and I stopped reading this like with issue #3 because the delays between issues made me stop caring.

I’ve said it before: in this busy busy world with 900+ TV channels, and all fiction of all kinds being ETEWAF, and more words being published on blogs than any thousand humans could even HOPE to consume, the real commodity is ATTENTION.

Bi-monthly (or worse) series that don’t not only kick your ass, but then makes a fluffy pillow from the remains, snuggles you tight, then rekicks that ass, can NOT hold the audience’s attention.

The entire “First Wave” concept was brutally beaten to death in it’s crib because:

1) The core series didn’t come out in a six-month time frame

2) Spin-off books weren’t held until AFTER THE COMPLETION of the core relaunch series TO SEE IF ANYONE CARED

3) And the spin-offs were both too expensive for the content, AND didn’t launch with the “right” creative teams from day one.

“First Wave” is a MASTER CLASS in how you DO NOT launch and market a “line” of comics. It also, I think, shows why you CAN’T launch a “line” of interconnected comics in the first place — it’s insincere and managed, and the audience can see that coming a mile away, and wish to have nothing to do with your cynical ploy to take money from them.

GREEN LANTERN #63 (WAR OF GL): You’re going to be hard pressed to find a bigger GL fan than me, and, even more specifically, a bigger Hal fan. “Who is your favorite character?” would always get an unflinching “Hal Jordan!” from me, even before he was cool… and even when it was the darkest days of Parallax and all that shit. Magic wishing rings are just cool.

I’d really like to read a comic book about Hal Jordan. Not “one he appears in”, but a comic ABOUT Hal Jordan, where his character and motivations dictate the actions, not outside incident and plothammering.

Geoff Johns had it right for a really long time — something like the first three years of the book it was actually about Hal. But around “Sinestro Corps War” he let his love of incident take over. Now, we were all cool with that, because it was fun and clever, and big and ‘splodey, and at least the root of the idea was rooted in Sinestro’s character.

And then came “Blackest Night”, and same thing, kind of — I mean, he HAD been building to this at least from the “Rebirth” mini-series, and “dead superheroes walk the earth” and the entire “Rainbow Corps” is a funnish High Concept, and, what the hell, we can let it go because, at least, it appeared he always wanted to get HERE.

But now that the “here” of BN is done and gone, I at least, get the sense that we’re totally into “making it up as we go along” territory, and the book called “Green Lantern” really barely has “Green Lantern” in it, and even if it does, it doesn’t matter that it is Hal — this could have interchangeably been Kyle, or John, or, hell,  Nadroj Lah of sector 4182 for all of the practical difference it would make to the story — Green Lantern hasn’t been the protagonist of his own story in something like 3-4 years?

I’m still reading GL — and this issue was OK — but I stopped buying the collections (Blackest Night was my last… and I didn’t bother with “BN: GL” even). I gave up on “GL Corps” even earlier, and I’ve only read a single issue of the third GL spin-off (mostly because Guy is AWESOME as a FOIL, but really painfully dull as a LEAD) — and it’s all because it really has nothing to do with that cool-ass Hal Jordan fighting the Tattooed Man or something with a giant green boxing glove.

And, see that (parentheses) in the title? “(War of GL)”? Yeah, this is the launch of another multi-month, multi-book storyline, which means we’re going to be even more multi-months where the book isn’t even about it’s lead. *sigh*

I’d like Green Lantern to be the actual protagonist and motivating spark of the comic called “Green Lantern”, please.

WOLVERINE BEST THERE IS #4: There’s a certain amount of sense to give an inherently violence-driven character like Wolverine (His powers are metal claws, and the ability to heal from any wound!) a “Mature Readers” comic. A certain amount of sense.

And, if I’m going to do that, yeah Ryp is probably the artist I want to try and get to draw that — I love the cat’s style, and I’ve always thought he should be a super-star artist.

Here’s what you DON’T do however, from a marketing perspective:

1) Flood out the market with ongoing series and “the one shot of the month” so that when you try and consolidate and relaunch a monthly no one even knows that you’re doing that.

2) Create a “family” of books to surround it (Daken, X-23, also monthlies!)

Those are bad enough and an uphill climb for titles, but then they make the two specific-to-this-book dumb ass moves:

3) take a “dirty” artist like Ryp, but give the books COVERS by a “clean” artist like Bryan Hitch. I understand that Hitch is “hot”, but you can’t put work that SO stylistically different from the interiors and expect that ever to work in any universe. The customers think “Oooh, clean Hitch!” when they pick it up and go “Ugh, NOT!” when they put it down

4) Make a book “Mature readers”, ESPECIALLY with putting that huge ugly PMMC-style “warning” label on the cover, AND THEN BLACK OUT THE SWEARING. Are you fucking kidding me? Or, as the book would have it: “Are you ####### kidding me?”

Obviously, it doesn’t help that you’ve got a story that is, at best, a two parter and its stretched out over what I imagine is going to be six issues, filled with a whole lot of pretty uninteresting antagonists who get page after page after page of their backstories and motivations and techniques which the protagonist just passively sits there and takes it.

Sadly, this is AWFUL stuff, but the marketing behind it is even worse.

What do YOU think?


38 Responses to “ Why We Cease To Care ”

  1. It seems like much of your issue with these 4 books has a lot to do with their marketing/overall purpose as opposed to the craft behind them. That’s definitely seemed problematic to me over the past few years. A lot of bait and switch. Promise one thing, but then deliver another. That’s lead to a lot of frustrated, disillusioned readers who, when coupled with the increase in price, are just as happy to stop “wasting” their money.

  2. I was thinking that the protector that The White Power Battery Guy Thing was talking about would ultimately be not an individual, but a Justice League (with the four old JLA-ers you mentioned in it, along with some iteration of the Big 7 and some of the oddball characters in the current run). That would seem to give the JLA title and concept more primacy in the DCU, and a bit of a push with fans.

    But if that were the case, I imagine there would be some sign of it by now in the solicitations and suchlike, huh? I really can’t guess how its going to end now, or if anyone’s gonna be the White Lantern of Earth, unless its Deadman, which seems too obvious.

    Maybe that baby bird from the first issue…?

  3. I enjoyed First Wave and all the attendant titles. I just wanted to state that for the record. Thanks to all the creative talent involved for the brief but intense pulpgasm.

    But, as you so pithily ilustrate, the marketing was a black joke. DC just published them and expected the audience to find them via osmosis or tingling comic-sense or something and then there were all the astonishing idiocies you highlighted which just shotgunned the whole thing in the face.

    I reckon things are going to continue to degrade rapidly until the comic companies realise that the current audience is no longer large enough to support them in the style to which they have become so complacently accustomed. The lazy days are over if they want sales to kick it back up a notch they will actually have to market this stuff properly like a real business. I say again, as I so tediously tend to, they will have to give people (other than we faithful) a reason to buy these things. They are gonna have to do some graft and get people’s (as you so rightly say)ATTENTION. Like, if you want the world to beat a path to your door build a better marketing department. For starters.

    Apologies but I have to disagree with “it’s insincere and managed…the audience can see that…and wish to have nothing to do with your cynical ploy to take money from them.” I disagree only in that if it were true comics sales would be worse than they are. That FF “death” hardly gave off the heady whiff of sincerity but it sold okay (to retailers). Sure, the audience know but they don’t care. Cynical ploys are pretty much just accepted as how it is, daddio. I think.

    Cheers for the thought fodder.

  4. Hibbs,

    I agree completely. Well said.

    The GL titles are a never-ending event, with only rare splashes of characterization. Brightest Day is a collection of super-hero vignettes that look pretty but do not fit together in any logical way. First Wave was inexplicable.

    In addition, why would anyone think that was a market for two LSH books, two JSA books, 3 or 4 GL books, etc? And Superman as a character is so damaged that he hasn’t been in costume in his own books on a regular basis for a few years now.

  5. I don’t normally read or even keep up with Marvel or DC, but I did plop down the other day in Barnes & Noble to read that Brightest Day book. Even accepting I don’t know the back story, I was *really* confused and underwhelmed. There just didn’t seem to be any sort of narrative thread tying everything together. It just seemed like a bunch of random stories that weren’t even that interesting. I kinda assumed I was just missing too much of the larger picture from not knowing what was going on in other books, but it doesn’t sound like it. It sounds like it’s just not very good.

  6. I will read a Green Lantern book that focuses on several members of a cosmic peace keeping corps exploring the universe and having a variety of adventures with and without established DC characters.
    The Green Lantern franchise for a few years now has been soley concerned with the Green Lantern franchise. When Dave Gibbons was writing the new Corps, he for a few issues actually told some nifty little adventures focusing on different alien races that had joined up.
    Then the Sinestro Corps War hit. And I pretty much enjoyed that BECAUSE Gibbons had been allowed to spend several months just telling solid science fiction stories. But THEN the GL books focused on building up to the next event, Blackest Night, which was all about creating even MORE Corps when really I would have prefered just some great stories focused on the Green Lanterns.
    And THEN the last several months have been building up to a war AMONG the Green Lanterns.
    The Green Lantern Corps is one of the greatest fictional concepts and presents so many opportunities for creative writers to produce some really great science fiction tales. But instead all DC publishes are stories about rebuilding, expanding, destroying and rebuilding the Corps.
    Ah, for a writer who, month after month, could give us tales like “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize”…

  7. Dropped GL at Sin Corps. haven’t seriously considered a Wolverine comic since Rucka launched the title. Had every intention of checking First Wave out in TPs but seeing as how it was DOA, not going to bother. Tried 2 random issues of Brightest Day–was not intrigued.

    Navigating the good, the bad, and the ugly of the superhero comic set takes a savvy and informed buyer. Not unlike most anything else these days. I can’t say personally that I’m accepting anything from any medium sight unseen. Ploys abound in these troubled economic times. Comics appear to be no different.

  8. My last visit to the comic book store was confusing. I hadn’t been there in awhile. There were what felt to me like several dozen indistinguishable Thor titles, bunches of Wolverine (and Wolverine-related) titles, and several different Iron Man and Captain America series. There were way too many X-Men books to tell apart (I thought Marvel was supposed to have reduced the amount of mutant books they were going publish. Seems like more than ever). It appeared to me like Marvel’s just throwing a bunch of shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. It was actually kinda depressing and just way too much to keep up with, so I ignored it all and moved on to the DC titles.

    I picked up GL as it appeared to be a good issue to jump on board and I wanted to check out what this new GL War was about. I have some questions. Do the rainbow lanterns enjoy each others company so much they they are still hanging out together on some asteroids in the middle of bumfuck outer space? Don’t they have anything better to do? Why are the Guardians still whiny little vindictive bitches? For a race that has been around for a billion years (really Geoff Johns, a fucking BILLION years?) they haven’t learned much humility or patience. I know my patience wore pretty thin after reading this issue. Nobody seems to ever learn anything or evolve as characters. Or is it Geoff Johns who hasn’t evolved? After all, these are his characters.

    I liked Superman/Batman #79-80, a nifty two-parter involving the Superman and Batman from the DC One Million books. That was a fun little story.

    I really want to like the Legion of Super Heroes and Adventure comics, but Levitz has lost his touch. The story lines seem to shift and meander and dead-end. Is anyone buying those books? They should get some real talent on the Legion books, like Jim Lee. Phil Jiminez on Avenger’s Academy, er, I mean Adventure (featuring the Legion Academy) is doing a serviceable job, but the writing is uninspired. Guess what? The Legion Academy inductees are spoiled young upstarts who challenge their superiors. Gee, I wonder if they will learn humility by the time they graduate? I’m sure the book will be canceled long before that occurs.

    Sorry, I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney. Hey you kids, get off of my lawn!

  9. Dave Gibbons’ GLC was a really fun book, and I would gladly pay for a similar sci-fi “Gotham Central”. The fact that books like that don’t exist for long and are rarely promoted intelligently before or after their cancellation are a big reason I quit the Wednesday habit.

    Thanks for the write-up Hibbs. Unfortunately, it validates my decision to switch to trades of things that aren’t currently published by the big two.

  10. 1. Brightest Day has done nothing for me since the zero issue. It’s a series about characters the creators want us to care about, but unlike with 52, they haven’t actually made us care. They just keep telling us that we should. It’s not just a bad read, it’s embarrassing. I feel embarrassed on behalf of the creators.

    2. See, when GL was about Jordan, I thought it was boring as hell and dropped it, because Johns has not made Hal into an interesting character. When the book became a space opera with Hal somewhere in the middle of it, then I cared because the supporting characters were interesting. Lately, though, the book’s lost its way, focusing on all these other color monster thingies like they’re pokemon. It’s the one time all this shallow “these colors are meaningful!” pseudo-mythology really fell flat for me.

  11. “Ah, for a writer who, month after month, could give us tales like “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize”…”

    Alan Moore kind of did that back during the ABC days (it wasn’t exactly month after month but still fairly regularly) and it’s not as if this really caught on with people. Top Ten, Tom Strong, Tomorrow Stories and Promethea were very different books with great and consistent artists that could appeal to various audiences but simply didn’t.

    As for the first few years of Green Lantern, there were two years from #1 to #20, and then the Sinestro War started. But both the One Year Later and Star Sapphire stories before Sinestro War were already laying the groundwork for all the multi-colored lanterns and the big events. So I don’t know if very much of the Geoff Johns run has actually been about Hal so much as it has been about playing with GL concepts.

    I always felt Johns’s Wally West-Flash days were stories about Wally and the life he was leading, but I never felt that with his Hal-GL, although the eventful nature of the stories did keep me interested. Unlike the Barry-Flash he’s writing, who doesn’t captivate me as easily as a character, but at least Manapul’s art is great.

    Brightest Day seems to be a series of mini-series mashed together, much like 52 was, only 52 was somewhat more coherent. In BD the threads don’t seem to connect in any meaningful manner. “Why don’t people like Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Firestorm? Let’s try to get all their books uncanceled!” But they’re still not giving us a true reason to like them. We know they’re all nice, you still have to make them separate from other characters.

    On the other hand, the audience isn’t big enough to support a varied interest. Shrinking the number of titles is the only viable option, but that means putting a lot of people out of work. I know the problem so I don’t envy the publishers, I can imagine they want to try and hold on to the old way things worked for as long as possible, but they’re heading absolutely nowhere in the current way. And when they catch on, it’ll likely to be late.

    In the meantime, I’m hoping for as many reprints of old stuff as possible, that’s where the gold really is, in the past.

  12. I don’t really know that the past is where the gold is so much as in the past, we have had enough time to establish a critical eye and can more easily judge what is “excellent” and what is “crap”. I’m not sure what everyone’s past is, but I’ve been reading comics since the mid-80s. There was a lot of crap then, and on through the 90s, just as there is now. Ignoring the frame of nostalgia, it’s much easier to look back to the 80s and 90s and see that, while several random issues of Claremont’s Uncanny run were crap, they lead to a greater story in general and are therefore more excusable. Maybe even knowing where they lead, knowing what their payoff is, or just flat-out not having to wait a month between issues, we re-evaluate them from crap to somewhere closer to the middle. In 10 years time, we might even do the same thing with these middling issues of Johns’ GL story. I always think superhero comics from Marvel and DC generally lay on a sliding scale influenced by time. (Of course, some stuff is crap and will always be crap – JLA Rise and Fall, for example). But when dealing with a story that is, for all intents and purposes “infinite”, it’s very easy to insert artificial beginnings and endings in that story and decide that during that time things were better.

  13. I wonder whether the First Wave line was before or after the shakeups at DC. Was it a victim of the reorganization, losing an editor that had championed it? or was it the result of the reorganization, demonstrating that whoever had been promoted or assigned to it really didn’t know what they were doing? and is the line editor still there, blaming the failures on marketing (or vice-versa) or the artists involved?

  14. 3)… AND didn’t launch with the “right” creative teams from day one.

    I think, at least in the case of The Spirit, you’re dead wrong here. Schulz/Hine and Moritat did excellent work from issue one.

  15. The thing with Claremont’s X-MEN (and Byrne/Austin/Cockrum/Smith, et al.) was that the stories came out like clockwork month after month after month after month. This is not a feat that most publishers are currently capable of, believing that a near-perfect four-dollar “mini-masterpiece” is something that people will wait for. Publishers have decided that they’re selling seasons/trades instead of single issues. Problem is, they’re still trying to sell them as single issues.

    If the story happens in the second/third act and the first act is all the characters acting like jerks in anticipation of their inevitable redemption, the audience may well decide not to participate in that second or third act. That’s not a risk you run with a novel or DVD set or whatever. It *is* a major risk in a form that you want people to consume serially.

  16. Great points, Mr. Hibbs.

    I really enjoyed Johns’ GL (and GL-related) work for years. Then in the lead-up to Blackest Night everything became an event. I enjoyed BN well enough, in the way that I can enjoy a popcorn movie, but I had no illusions about the substance of the story: there was no substance, just a lot of screaming about meaningful concepts like life, death and resurrection.

    Leading into Brightest Day, I got off the books in a hurry. The shock value that was (understandably) raised to a crescendo in Blackest Night never really abetted. I see covers of GL and Brightest Day now, and I have ot shake my head. EVERY ISSUE there’s still a random “shocking” development. “IS BRUCE WAYNE THE WHITE LANTERN???” “DO THE HAWKS DIE AGAIN???” “WHO HAS BEEN RESURRECTED HERE???” The worst, most annoying tricks in Johns’ monthly arsenal seems to be the tactic of having characters switch hats. “IS BARRY ALLEN THE SPECTRE NOW???” “WILL DEADMAN BE THE NEW BATMAN???” I don’t know if any of those particular developments actually happened, but you guys know what I’m talking about. It was overkill even when Johns made a “New Lantern Corps” of those six random characters during Blackest Night.

    None of these developments last very long or amount to anything yet, issue after issue, they’re accompanied by the shrillest, loudest amount of hype possible. It’s utterly annoying and a turn-off and even an insult to the readers’ intelligence, in my opinion. Johns can do so much better. Instead everything is very by-the-numbers and formulaic, even if the formula is “be shocking”. On a technical level, he uses FAR too many full-page spreads and double-page spreads in EVERY ISSUE. It’s super annoying. None of the “shocking” developments that he foregrounds amount to anything for more than an issue or two, and as a reader I got really, really sick of Johns trying to make me act like a happy gullible sucker, going along and pretending to be excited for every damn “shocking” change of events every 12 pages or so.

  17. “EVERY ISSUE there’s still a random “shocking” development.”

    If you haven’t been paying attention, Johns has been doing this during his whole writing career, and is often one of the things he’s most lauded for.

    The problem these days is that there’s no development to follow up on the shocks, or characterization to balance them.

  18. My long-standing problem with Johns’ Green Lantern is this: imagine a cop show where the police spent 99% of their time fighting amongst themselves, cops in other precincts, superior officers, or former officers, and only 1% of their time chasing down criminals. This has been the case at least since Sinestro Corps War; even Nekron turned out to be yet another part of the “emotional spectrum” conceit which has tethered together every last thing that has happened in the book for the past few years.

    Green Lantern has been a victim of Sinestro Corps War’s success. In such desperate times, I can understand why DC would try to replicate its success by turning that arc into the perpetual model for the book, but it has made the comic downright insane–in a desperate, flop-sweat way. Even the X-Men used to take an issue here or there to play baseball. When was the last time we saw Hal’s family? Cowboy? Any of the non-powered supporting characters on Earth?

    I notice that Johns may be aware of the problem, as the last couple of issues have hit on the question “When was the last time you took off your ring?” but it seems half-hearted. The secret identity ship has sailed for most superheroes, presumably considered too boring to hold the attention of tenuously held readers even for a page or two every few issues. I wouldn’t mind the endless event structure if there was room within it for any kind of human characterization, a minor breather now or then–or even an actual external threat or disaster that justified the existence of the galactic space police.

  19. Cole and Matt raise some brilliant points. It’s a riddle, all right. Maybe if we can squeeze a forum out of Senor Hibbs we can all jam it out. I love the comments on this site and really wait for new posts on the off chance it will develop into something open-ended in the the comments thread. Back later when more time is available.

  20. “I love the comments on this site and really wait for new posts on the off chance it will develop into something open-ended in the the comments thread.”

    I agree with J Smitty. Brian, this site could be the Gawker of the comics world, in which snarky, clever, entertaining and indulgent comments are often the highlight of the posts. (Not to take away from your brilliant insights and posts). It doesn’t have to be a bitch fest, as these things sometimes become, but a place where thoughtful connoisseurs can come to comment in a fun and entertaining way. Snark welcomed.

  21. Mr. Bacardi is right about the current Spirit series — one of the three or four books I still buy in the monthly format. Mr. Hibbs is painfully right about everything else.

    I trade-waited on the GL launch, and DC took soooo long to get the books out of hardcover that I lost interest, but eventually I did pick up the pre-Sinestro Corps books. Even then, not enough Hal for me, and what Hal there was didn’t remind me of any Hal I’d ever read. I did like the first collection or two of GLCorps, but once the events started, I was out.

    But I look at the sales, and I’m in the minority. I guess that there were once more comics readers who liked character over event, but they’ve given up, and now sales are much lower and the audience that remains mostly gathers in groups of 115,000 around events, and nicely crafted character books (your Manhunters, Madame Xanadus, Blue Beetles) sell poorly and get canceled. And how can I argue? I mean, when me and 15,000 friends show up for Blue Beetle, but Death of the Brightest Secret Invasion of the Blackest Civil Reign Crisis does ten times that … I dunno. I will end that sentence with a sigh.

  22. Just finished off the First Wave miniseries– even setting aside how they blew launching the line, I just didn’t understand the choices they made on that series.

    It just seemed so much more interested in what was going on than I was.

    There’s a part where the bad guy’s evil speech is just a lengthy quotation of a famous news article about the Bush administration…? Or at the end, there’s like a head bad guy and he just farts in the face of one of Doc Savage’s 12 sidekicks, and then goes off to, I don’t know, play croquet or pleasure himself to erotic playing cards…

    All their ideas– they just weren’t clearly explained in the book. It was rare that I understood or could remember what was at stake, or who anyone was, or what they wanted exactly. Or… And the use of 1st person narration, that’s that oblivious to what’s being seen visually– does that technique work for anyone? I’m usually pretty tired when I read these things and I just don’t have the concentration to pull that off– maybe that’s just me… I started skipping it by the 6th issue, and didn’t really miss it any…

    I could just go on and on because i think… I think they had a premise, and neat enough characters, and some interesting ideas, but they chose the wrong style. “Like a movie but with way too much voiceover” — that style is just not one-size-fits-all, and I think this is an object lesson why… Expository narration, expository dialogue, all that bad ol’ comic book writing– I think they needed those things. Sure, it’s bad writing– but the comic’s a PULP homage. It’s not an homage to Patricia Highsmith novels…

  23. – I had no idea the antagonists of Brightest Day hadn’t existed before the series – I assumed D’Kay was new, but thought the others must have been around before.
    That really has destroyed whatever weight the series had for me.
    (I thought the Hawkgirl’s mum thing was clearing away confusing continuity for the final time, not adding to it!)

    – Up until Graeme had a whinge on the podcast, I hadn’t realized Aquaman losing his arm again was meant to be serious – I had a good old laugh when I read that page, and had assumed it was a joke.
    Looking back, I can see that it wasn’t meant to be – that’s sad.

  24. My first instinct is to get my dander up and defend First Wave since it had the only style it could have if Brian Azzarello was writing it. It’s what he does and I likes it, I tellya. I can see how his elliptical and downright obtuse storytelling could irritate, particularly if the reader reads it when tired. But I re-read my comics. I certainly re-read my Brian Azzarello comics. And they reward that and I don’t think it’s a happy accident – it’s built like that. I don’t think that kind of writing should be penalised I think it should be encouraged. Comics benefit from being worth a re-reading, I think. Sure First Wave wasn’t perfect (that island that was tsunamie-ed? Blackhawk Island? Isle of Lucy? I Don’t Know?) but it wasn’t stone cold bone deep soullessly bad. Keeping it Brian-centric I subjected myself to NEW AVENGERS last week (Howard Victor fan) and that thing wasn’t even worth a first reading. If there was nothing there than that’s more than I found. So, I thought First Wave was a stylistic success because, yes, I like that style and I appreciated the fact that everyone involved wasn’t just creating it while waiting for HALO3 to load up.

    That’s my knee-jerk jowl shaking defence of a series I enjoyed but it misses the real point which is that the approach, as much as I enjoyed it, was pretty much inimical to success. Pulp is a niche, comics are a niche, enjoyment of Brian Azzarello appears to be a niche, so you’ve got possibly the most nichiest niche imaginable. A recessed recess in a recession? Not a recipe for smash hittery. Here’s the science bit: If you represented it via a Venn Diagram the area of overlap would be, well, apparently 5,000 people. If you want some banal quips, a cheerless page eating chase and a 9/10ths blank(!) page in the Verbal Gibberish History of The Avengers then you get, what, 60,000 readers? Okay, I don’t like that stuff (the 9/10ths blank page was the best bit)but that stuff sells more than the stuff I like. (But, really, 60,000 readers that’s nothing to get aroused about either.) So Abhay’s right First Wave was a stylistic failure because it isn’t a style suited to sales. Damn you, Abhay, with your truths. And damn me with my old-timey tastes!

    Also: there should be more of that “bad ol’ comic book writing” Abhay (jokingly) identifies. That the approach should match the material is an important point, but I think at a more basic level than bringing a too cerebral approach to pulp. Writing comics is not, I believe, the same as writing for TV/Movies; the results are way too thin. (Obviously it’s faster for the creators, I get that.) I can’t prove it but I believe the long-term lack of satisfaction with the results of this approach are another of the several factors in declining sales.

    Hey, in about seven months we can all have this conversation again about T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents!

  25. “Just finished off the First Wave miniseries– even setting aside how they blew launching the line, I just didn’t understand the choices they made on that series.”

    I don’t understand an awful lot of what the Big 2 put out. I mean, I picked up a Doctor Strange one-shot recently that was based on a story Roger Stern wanted to do in his old Marvel Universe series. As Stern described it in the issue, somebody at Marvel just called him completely out of the blue and said they wanted to do the one-shot with him using the plot he came up with for Marvel Universe before it got cancelled.

    Now, how the hell did anyone at Marvel ever suggest “Hey, you remember that series from 10 years ago no one bought? Let’s dig up one of the unused plots from it and put it out as a one-shot!” I actually like the book, but I defy anyone to explain to me how it got published.


  26. “So, I thought First Wave was a stylistic success because, yes, I like that style and I appreciated the fact that everyone involved wasn’t just creating it while waiting for HALO3 to load up.”

    And I certainly thought it worked… on 100 BULLETS. but with 100 Bullets, there were always things going on where … I may not have understood the larger meaning of things, and I DEFINITELY got lost and over, but there were things carrying me along. Thrills, sex, violence. The bit with the bear trap– I’ll remember the bit with the bear trap. And sure, the art. But that was just a different genre of story, and I don’t know what worked there did so here, at least for me… But if it did for you, great. I can see your point…

  27. The Dr. Strange book got published because it was already done and had been sitting in a drawer for over a decade – meaning, the cost to publish it was probably minuscule, since the bulk of the work had been done years ago. It might not sell a lot of copies but if it makes just a few dollars in profit that’s more than it was making by sitting in a drawer unseen.

  28. And I see your point too, Mr. Abhay. And your point is the better by far. So FIRST WAVE worked for me, hot dog! You’re right it wasn’t the right approach; it’s gonna have to work for a lot more folk than special old me to be a success. It’s just the failure is so…dismayingly abject that it can, to my mind, only really be a cause for even less work that dares to be different to the Successful Formula. And that really rides my shorts up high. Grrr!

    It’s hard to argue with the logic of: Q: Why Don’t They Do More Good Comics (i.e. Ones I Personally Like)? A: They Don’t Sell. Does anyone really think DC will do a post mortem on this cadaver and endeavour to do better next time or is it not more likely that this will become a self fulfilling prophecy. Even more of one, I mean. Take a risk or trump out another Batman comic? To the Bat-cave!

    Also, I got a bit antic about it…I’m certain I got a bit out of hand back there earlier so I apologise and I thank you for your tender mercies.

    100 BULLETS, ey? Now there’s a re-reader. Still didn’t have a clue what was going on mind you but still…good times.

  29. Cole Moore Odell wrote: “My long-standing problem with Johns’ Green Lantern is this: imagine a cop show where the police spent 99% of their time fighting amongst themselves, cops in other precincts, superior officers, or former officers, and only 1% of their time chasing down criminals. This has been the case at least since Sinestro Corps War…”

    NAIL ON THE HEAD!!! I wish I’d come up with that description.

    At a certain point all mainstream superhero books have these re-active and internal story-arcs. I’m a huge Avengers fan and if I actually sit down and flip through those issues, I bet there are a ton of storylines where it’s not just about the Avengers saving the world, but about the Avengers saving the world from either: A. A member gone bad or B. A team of villains out to destroy the Avengers.
    My biggest frustration with Green Lantern Corps is that, with the right creative team, it could be brilliant science-fiction. My vision of a Green Lantern Corps series is one filled with the back-up stories from the original Green Lantern that were recently packaged in trades, the same back-ups that gave us Alan Moore’s “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize.”
    But to be fair it is probably difficult to publish that type of comic. You’d really need a high profile talent with the skill to write such stories and also the name recognition to draw in the same fans who are buying the “event-based” Green Lantern Corps. So I understand why DC would stick with the current formula. It just makes me sad. I love the Green Lantern Corps, but I wouldn’t collect the current series if you gave them to me for free.

  30. “The Dr. Strange book got published because it was already done and had been sitting in a drawer for over a decade”

    The book was drawn, but unscripted. I assume they had to pay Stern something for that. Throw in production costs on top and distribution costs and retailer mark up and I don’t quite see how it was a smart business decision. They may not have lost money but spending $2 to make $2.05 is not a great idea.


  31. “spending $2 to make $2.05 is not a great idea.”

    That’s actually a lot better than the profit margin you’d expect from some of our larger retailers and wholesalers.

  32. Quickly, you meant “symbolism” not”symbology” and “PMRC” not “PMMC.”

    Brightest Day is incomprehensible rubbish, and the Wolverine book achieves levels of rubbish I never before thought possible.

    Kids WILL read comics if parents are comfortable buying them and putting them in the kid’s hand. But what parent feels safe doing that these days? And so a audience that commands a massive amount of disposable income is shut out. That’s bad business.

  33. “At a certain point all mainstream superhero books have these re-active and internal story-arcs. I’m a huge Avengers fan and if I actually sit down and flip through those issues, I bet there are a ton of storylines where it’s not just about the Avengers saving the world, but about the Avengers saving the world from either: A. A member gone bad or B. A team of villains out to destroy the Avengers.”

    Between A) Jason Todd and especially B) Doctor Hurt, this pretty much sums up five years of Morrison’s Batman, regardless of how mind-blowing and exciting some people find the execution.

    First Wave was pretty good, but not great: probably not quite worth the money or the wait — and Doc Savage sent the Avenger to impersonate HIM, in order to THAT? — but not paint-by-numbers crap.

    But how it’s been handled… the mainstream publishers are just in a death spiral, and I’m not sure they are able AND willing to pull out. It’d be nice for there to be some more good books before this niche line is unceremoniously cancelled.

  34. FWIW, it appears that the First Wave is being cancelled.


    Check out a comment, further down, from JG Jones.

  35. If you want better quality DC comics, understand this: Geoff Johns is your enemy. IS. YOUR. ENEMY.

  36. Re: my last comment, and OTOH, DC keeps including First Wave titles in their solicitations:


    The First Wave line’s days are definitely numbered, but I wonder if the Bleeding Cool article that seemed to start the rumor wasn’t premature. At the very least, DC might finish JG Jones’ 6-issue story in Doc Savage.

  37. Also speaking as a big Hal Jordan fan I couldn’t disagree with you more on your take on what’s going on in Green Lantern proper.

    First GL is and has always been about Hal since Rebirth nothing has changed. The only thing that is different is the scope of the stories the first couple of years were spent on earth rebuilding his life and relationship with family and the GLC.

    Once that ended it was time to move from earth and deal with the big space opera that GL is about. But no matter how many different corps popped up or how many big events went down in the end the meat of the book continued to be about Hal.

    You don’t agree go back and re-read the books and this time don’t get thrown by the big fights and spectacle but look beneath all that into the actualy story. You’ll see that once you get past the big 2 page spreads and rainbow corps that it’s all about Hal, Johns just doesn’t have to stop the presses and shine a spotlight for people to notice. Like most of Johns work which always seems to go over the head of people who only seem to ever get what’s on the page and nothing more there is alot more depth to his stories but you have to be able to look past the intial barrage.

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