Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
We’ve already linked to Tucker Stone’s decade-in-review piece for ComiXology. But I’m happy to do so again because of this elegantly simple three-graf summary of what the ’00s meant for the various strands of North American comics. Seriously, top this, pundits:
Although it would be hard to look at the last ten years of comics and see much of the decade’s woes frankly expressed, it’s not hard to see the seams of conflict that float beneath them. Marvel spent its time messing around with the same sort of surface-y relevance that used to be the purview of the 70’s clunky DC Comics about race relations and drug abuse comics, with stories like Civil War that could be seen as an exaggerated version of Red Staters versus Blue Staters. (Or Secret Invasion‘s religious nuts are a-coming. Or Dark Reign, which was probably planned by a group who assumed America wasn’t gonna Choose Hopefully.)
DC went in a different direction, embracing the public’s love for nostalgia mixed with Will Ferrell’s adult man-child films, and started telling various kids’ Crisis stories with hard R plot twists. Manga publishers underestimated their audience, then overestimated it, and are now currently in the throes of figuring out how big, exactly, it is. Companies like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly kept their toes in the new, but found that the market for high-priced reprints of classic comics was strong enough to make a Comics Criterion Collection viable.
And down at the bottom, abandoned by a distribution center that didn’t care, tiny publishing houses carved out a business carrying unedited works of self-expression, depending on the Ignored Masterpiece rating doled out by the blogosphere to sell off their 200-count print-run. Webcomics became an actual opportunity for creators to make a living outside of the direct market.
Now, the meat of the piece ends up being, more or less, that critical discourse is irrelevant (this is a theme of Tucker’s), and that the real movers and shakers of comics in the ’00s were the readers who suddenly made a wide variety of modes of expression in this medium viable simply by buying and reading what they enjoyed. But if you ask me, Tucker’s deadly accurate encapsulations of Marvel, DC, manga, alternative comics, reprints, artcomix, and webcomics sorta invalidate the argument that arguments are invalid. (The Criterion Collection comparison is a killer.) Read the whole thing — including the rather glorious concluding list of good ol’ fashioned good comics — and see what you think.