Friday, February 05, 2010


QUESTION: Do I really think things are really going to change with the newly announced more "optimistic and bright" directions from Marvel and DC given all the creators are still the same?

ANSWER: No, but it doesn't matter because it's going to change anyway, for reasons I'm about to explain.

Now, on the simply practical matter I don't think some of the writers currently employed by the Big Two Corporate Comic franchises have any other setting than grim and gritty. I'm hard pressed to imagine Brian Bendis' new Avengers title is going to be any different from any of his other efforts. He's not going to turn into Kurt Busiek or anything. But that really does not make a lick of difference at this point because he, and most of the current Marvel regime, are hanging on to their jobs by a thread.
Every morning Joe Quesada steps into the office is another day in the longest Marvel EIC run ever recorded.
Remember when Kurt Busiek left the Avengers book because with Mark Millar's Ultimates coming out, he didn't want to be considered "the old guard"? Well, Bendis has now been with the Avengers franchise almost twice as long as Busiek.

It is inevitable. If you think differently, ask Tom DeFalco or John Byrne get the idea.

Now, how are they going to be replaced? A few possibilities exist. In a more traditional time, what would likely happen is new blood coming up through the ranks. You can almost see this happening right now with the Avengers relaunch coming right on the heels of the Marvel Adventures relaunches. Now, while there's likely no way that Marvel Adventures is going to outsell Avengers, not all things are equal. All Paul Tobin has to do is exceed the very low expectations of the MA sales base, and he can claim a big win, whereas Bendis has to maintain his high sales on the Avengers books to keep his reputation intact. Bendis has already had some serious sales troubles with big shake-ups and restarts with Ultimate Spider-Man, and there's every reason to believe that things might no go well for him. That's an example you can apply line-wide at both companies where a small increase at a book with no expectations can yield some high results.
Another traditional alternative is that the higher end management of the corporate giants that control these companies simply start rotating in teams to manage their properties from other arms of their respective media empires. A sausage factory approach where the suits move the talent to whatever part of the company they think merits the attention. A method guaranteed to bring in a level of mediocrity and result in the adaptation of the old school "House Style" of comic creation, but not an impossible result.
The final method is that of outside recruitment from independent outlets, comics and otherwise. In the last decade, this took the form of a lot of TV and movie writer talent migrating to comics for a quick stint before going back. However, given that the corporate demands will be higher in this new world, I suspect that another realm might be poached for its talent; the internet.

Yes, I know this sounds like a bad joke, but hear me out. What a media outlet wants more than anything is new content generated for them to profit from, and that's something that can be found in spades in on the internet. Whether it is the webcomics which create new content and possesses a natural talent pool of creators who know not only some of the storytelling fundamentals, but are familiar with the challenges of getting an audience in a post-internet universe, to talented amateurs (paging Mr. Chris Bird, of course). I think we're going to see the internet open up as a new talent hunting ground in this decade, because it's necessary.
See, here's the bigger thing: comic companies don't know what the hell kind of trouble their industry is really in. Go to a bookstore, and compare the manga shelves with the "graphic novels" section that has Marvel, DC, Dark Horse Image and etc etc. The Manga shelves are clean, uniform and easy to find things with. The Graphic novel sections is chaos incarnate where a non-fan would get lost without a roadmap. And let's not forget things like online shopping and marketing, where the comic companies are silent. It's an unexplored (and mature) frontier that comics are nearly entirely absent from, and if that doesn't change, it doesn't matter what stories are being produced because no one will be reading them.

No comments: