Robot 6

Quote of the day #3 | JMS’s vote of no-confidence in monthly comics?

“…Straczynski basically indicates that the future is stand-alone works and short runs, which strikes me as a terrible vote of no-confidence in terms of such a company’s — an industry’s! — bread and butter. If JMS doesn’t want to write continuing series, doesn’t that suggest that fans might want to reconsider reading them?”

The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, analyzing the ramifications of J. Michael Straczynski’s decision to depart his runs on Superman and Wonder Woman for the original graphic novel series Superman: Earth One and similarly formatted projects. “I think that’s where the business is going,” JMS said in his statement; will it go there faster now that one of its most high-profile writers has made the switch?

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26 Comments

Mysterious Stranger

November 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

This decision to quit monthly books wouldn’t have anything to do with his inability to keep a monthly schedule would it? I don’t see readers dropping monthly comics because one writer has decided he can’t keep his commitments. Now if this starts a trend and we see people like Bendis, Fraction, Johns, Morrison, etc leave monthly books for one-shots and short run miniseries then we might have a problem. But until then, I see this as JMS finally realizing his limitations in being able to keep a monthly schedule and not so much a prediction of the future of the industry. And I say good for him. Realizing what your limitations are and working within them can only be a good thing for everyone. If only more creators would make this admission and do what they can as opposed to what they want then the industry as a whole would be in better shape.

JMS is always controversial and he does tend to poke authority in the eye. So I would take his statement with a grain of salt.

I think its more an indication that the stories JMS was writing in Superman and WW were weak and pedestrian, readers realized that, and sales on the two books reflected that. Rather than owning up to his own shortcomings, he attempted to make it an indictment of the industry as a whole. Sounds like something John Byrne would do.

Never mind Superman and Wonder Woman; they’ll be fine. What’s going to happen to The Brave and the Bold? I don’t really care if Straczynski writes it or not, but I want someone to.

Or is it simply a vote of no-confidence in having JMS write monthlies? I’m a fan of much of the man’s work, but monthly comics are meant to come out like clockwork (or pretty close to it), and when they don’t, you lose a lot of the momentum and enthusiasm that gets built up for a series. And lately, JMS doesn’t seem to be able to stick to a monthly schedule, so shifting him to a schedule that works better for him makes sense.

I know there were delays here and there, but it’s hard to imagine Walking Dead, for example, becoming the hit that it has without the comic coming out at a pretty regular clip. There’s definitely something to be said for having that regular presence on the racks. Some creators (artists and writers alike) can hit a monthly schedule, and some can’t. Where the big two (mostly DC, to my eyes, at least of late) are running into trouble is when they assign creators to a monthly who simply shouldn’t be on that kind of a schedule. Which leads to aborted runs, frustrating creative reshufflings and yet another nail in the coffin of monthly comics.

But is JMS wrong? Both DC and Marvel have been writing their books for trades for several years now and, worse, many-if not most-of the individual issues at both companies are simply chapters of lengthy crossovers.

RE: Matthew E

Me, too.
I was really excited to see The Brave and the Bold make a comeback, but it seems to have either run out of gas/steam or stalled or flatlined – which is a shame.

I liked the idea that it was going to open up more to random team-ups, without Batman as an anchor…

It’s a shame to see a book like that just fade away…

I’ve got to agree with Hank. The business has shifted from a new stand-alone story every month to two six-part epics a year, each serialized over 6 months. Books are renumbered from 1 on a regular basis. “Part 2 of 6″ is a more important label than “Issue 34″ because it tells you whether you’re jumping into a story in the middle or not. And everything is planned for the eventual collected edition.

It’s not that much of a jump from putting out 12 issues a year with continuous numbering to putting out two limited series of six issues each, making it clearer where the story arcs and creative runs start and end – and making it that much easier to figure out how the hardcover or paperback editions map to the serialized form. And if the schedule slips a bit, wouldn’t it be better to arrange things so that it skips a month between two miniseries than between two issues of a story?

And from two miniseries a year, each of which is going to get collected in trade paperback or hardcover form, it’s not that much of a jump to just skip the serialization and go straight to the hardcover. There are drawbacks, of course, including maintaining audience interest without the monthlies, plus artists and writers benefit from the constant exposure. On the other hand, a lot of stories would benefit from this. How many times have you heard or said, “It’ll read better in the trade”?

There is also the fact that from a digital standpoint smaller amounts monthly material would be better than what he is proposing. All this is an excuse by a person trying explain away their continued unprofessional actions by being some form of visionary/trailblazer.

JMS is wrong because people do not buy multi-volume crossover sagas. Go to your local Borders or B&N and check out the graphic novel section. You’ll see lots of copies of those kinds of books. It is too confusing and expensive for the non-comic reading person to jump in and spend $75 to $100 for a continuity-heavy story.

What sells? One shots, Ultimates, and gimmicks (Spiderman meets Obama).

IMHO.

Throw me on the pile with those who are more concerned with Brave & the Bold.

I don’t care for JMS’s work, and his terrible track record told me not to get involved anyway.

I can say I collect virtually all the front-of-Previews books I collect in trade rather than as monthlies (though because of my gig in the comics press I’m able to keep up from month to month in a way that a lot of other folks probably can’t). I definitely prefer to read the material that way. That said, there’s always a trade-off for these things. Like, the graphic novel boom is great, but it’s still rather depressing to think that the alternative comic book–pamphlet-format Acme Novelty Library, Eightball, Palookaville, Love and Rockets, Yummy Fur, etc.–is basically lost and gone forever.

JMS is the voice of an entire industry? JMS is the dictator of my taste?

“If JMS doesn’t want to write continuing series, doesn’t that suggest that fans might want to reconsider reading them?”

No, because JMS has written one of the worst Superman stories in his post COIE history. Even For Tomorrow, as bad as that was, had Jim Lee art and didn’t go completely stupid until 5 or so issues in.

Kurt Busiek monthlies will always top JMS written anythings. Flash fact, beer me five.

“This decision to quit monthly books wouldn’t have anything to do with his inability to keep a monthly schedule would it?”

You nailed it, MS!

JMS is a fairly good writer whose major talent appears to be selling himself. I wish him luck in his future endeavors. And I wish he’d take Bendis with him.

Where are my final issues of “The Twelve”?

JMS is only the latest creator who can’t finish a project began on the monthlies and its a problem that has only grown worse under both Joe Quesada and Dan Didio.

People wonder why comics can’t get more new readers or why they have been shedding readers at such an alarming rate?

Here’s a clue: Publishers can’t reasonably expect readers new and old to buy into a product released on a regular basis when they can’t even get the talent creating them to stick around long enough to complete an entire story.

It’s utterly irrelevant whether trades or one shots or whatever are the future of the industry, the important thing here is that JMS committed to re-presenting or, in Wonder Woman’s case, “redefining” the characters in a twelve issue story arc and then pulled out less than halfway through. It’s not a problem with the format, it’s a problem with a writer not fulfilling his promises or even his basic obligations. Making this a “trades-vs-floppies” issue just strikes me as absurd.

JMS is an A-or-B-list screenwriter (at least I’d assume, after Changeling) apparently with health issues, who came to comics with some pre-existing cache and fanbase from his television work. He’s not exactly the median comic writer, and doesn’t have the same income or cash flow issues as the median comic writer, so I don’t know if using his career choices is really the best canary for the coal mine, especially as the number of Hollywood-crossover style creators seems to have died down some from the mid-00′s. Also: has the shake-out of fans deciding whether they want to read continuing series or wait for the trade– has that NOT happened yet? I thought that had happened already.

Writers hate the monthly deadlines, just ask Neil Gaiman.

Here’s where I see the business heading:
Monthly comics become digital, and will revert back to the 1980′s mode of storytelling, where a continuing story might only last three issues, and most of the issues will be done-in-one. Most of these issues will be inventory issues, with a changing creative staff, which will allow for regular scheduling. These issues will be sold mostly digitally, and like comics were sold in the 1970s, they will be disposable entertainment. If popular enough, they can be collected into collections, either as a cheap Essential Showcase, or as some sort of anthology (creator, best of, theme).

Publishers use the digital issues to develop series and talent. If someone becomes popular, like Gaiman or Waid, then the publisher rewards the author or artist with an original graphic novel.

These writers then become novelists, which has more cachet than “writer”. They can tell a longer story, not worry about chapter length or deadline, and allow for a higher quality product. Publishers can then schedule the title more effectively, market it like every other book publisher, garner more press, and make more money.

funkygreenjerusalem

November 11, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I think Spurgeon is overreacting to JMS trying to spin his decision.

JMS can’t keep up with a monthly pace due to health issues and other commitments, and is switching to mini’s and OGN’s.
The whole ‘where the business is going’ is just JMS trying to make it look like THE smart move, as opposed to just a smart move for him.
If you read JMS interviews and statements across the years he does do quite a bit of spinning to make everything he does sound great or like the best idea – he just keeps it low key, so it’s not as noticeable as when Joe Q or Dan D do it.

For me the odd comment he made – again trying to spin what happened – was about The Twelve:

(where Chris has now caught up with the script, and now it falls to me to do the last bit and bring this thing in for a landing).

Was Chris Weston ever behind on that series?

I seem to remember having read an entire issue written and drawn by Weston, to fill the gap, months ago.
I know he’s not flat out blaming Weston, but it does seem a bit backhanded to refer to the artist having to catch up, especially as it wasn’t the artist who started the year plus delay.

funkygreenjerusalem

November 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm

It’s utterly irrelevant whether trades or one shots or whatever are the future of the industry, the important thing here is that JMS committed to re-presenting or, in Wonder Woman’s case, “redefining” the characters in a twelve issue story arc and then pulled out less than halfway through.

What bothers me is that this decision has been made due to sales of Earth One – which just came out – and yet he’s only got one more full issue on both ongoings before someone else takes over.
Couple this with Cornell and McDaniel stepping in to take over Batman And Robin #17 a month or two before it comes out, and the significant delays the Morrison Bat-books have had – what the hell is DC’s editorial doing letting schedules get this out of control?
Dropping two pages each issue isn’t going to counter the problem if you’re pushing the print deadline every issue – why not get a few issues in the can before launching a new series?

And heck, they waited to see sales figures on the first OGN of their ongoing OGN line before even starting on the second the one?

I work in TV and I seem to have a bigger buffer than DC do for a monthly fictional story.

$20 for 136 pages? that’s where the future is?

Nah, that isn’t where the future is. The future is in 99 cents for 22 digital pages.

(…although everyone is going to fight tooth and nail for a higher price point.)

You’re paying just about that if you’re buying 3.99 single issues.

I’d love to say that you’re right about the digital price point, but we’re not there yet.

“funkygreenjerusalem
November 11, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I think Spurgeon is overreacting to JMS trying to spin his decision.”

Winnah, winnah, chicken dinnah!

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