Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | The earnestness of being important

The Flash #163

As we all know by now, DC’s big summer event Flashpoint includes the main five-issue miniseries, fifteen three-issue miniseries, and an as-yet-undisclosed number of one-shots. My first reaction to this format was along the lines of oh good, just five issues. I take it this is a minority opinion.

To be sure, it makes Greater Flashpoint about 90% ancillary, and that is a proportion more suited for profit than for narrative. There is also the notion that DC is diverting resources to all those tie-ins which could just as easily have been used on projects aimed outside the insular superhero readership.* It’s usually the case with these kinds of events that you buy the titles you want and you leave the rest on the shelf; but here, the sheer magnitude of tie-ins suggests that DC is doubling down on Flashpoint in a very specific, market-targeting way which will be hard to ignore.

As Douglas Wolk has pointed out, however, Flashpoint is not the most voluminous DC event. He counts 76 single issues in 2009-10′s Blackest Night, although twenty of those were part of the regular Green Lantern and GL Corps runs. (Because GL Corps told an ancillary storyline about the defense of Oa, I’d even argue that BN Proper really only included the eight-issue miniseries and those issues of Green Lantern which tied directly into the mini.) Going back a few years, Infinite Crisis ran for seven issues, four six-issue prefatory miniseries, four one-shots tying the prefatory miniseries into InfC proper, the Countdown To Infinite Crisis one-shot, the four-issue “Sacrifice” storyline which itself tied into The OMAC Project, plus assorted regular-series storylines like JLA’s “Crisis Of Conscience.” Of course, every issue was important to the year-long weekly miniseries 52, Countdown, and Trinity, so arguably Flashpoint covers a similar scope in a shorter period.

Guiding the consumer’s buying practices, though, is the question of “importance.” Does Flashpoint: Secret Seven have any real bearing on Flashpoint Proper, or is it just an excuse for Peter Milligan and George Pérez to riff on Suicide Squad? The Blackest Night: [Title X] miniseries, and the “zombie issues” of cancelled titles, all played out against the events of BN itself, but by and large they weren’t required reading. In fact, the Blackest Night: Flash miniseries may work better as a bridge between Flash: Rebirth and the current Flash series.

That, in turn, brings us to the recurrent question of whether these titles really “matter” in the larger scope of DC’s superhero line. Even three months out, I daresay Flashpoint, like any alternate-timeline story, cannot by definition leave much large-scale effect. The one detail I expect Flashpoint to change is Nora Allen’s death, since (according to Flash: Rebirth), that’s part of Professor Zoom’s timeline tampering. Moreover, Flashpoint itself probably won’t fix Wonder Woman’s changed history — clearly, you’d think that would happen in Wonder Woman — but the end of “Odyssey” should come just as Flashpoint is starting, so I suspect those changes will be addressed somehow.

All that said, upon reading this week’s final issue of Dan Jurgens’ Time Masters: Vanishing Point — itself marketed as a tie-in to the Return of Bruce Wayne miniseries — I realize I may have been thinking too narrowly. SPOILERS FOLLOW …

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… mostly to tell you that TM:VP ends with a “To Be Continued” blurb directing the reader to Booster Gold #44 (which should be out in May) and, yes, Flashpoint #1.

See, I thought TM:VP was an opportunistic (although logical) way to ride ROBW’s coattails. Turns out it’s also a way to connect ROBW, and by extension Final Crisis, with Flashpoint and the aforementioned Professor Zoom subplot from Flash: Rebirth. Because it’s Jurgens, though, TM:VP has used the Linear Men (from his early-‘90s work on the Superman books), Waverider (from Armageddon 2001 and Zero Hour, both of which he pencilled), Supernova (originally in 52, then in Geoff Johns’ work with Jurgens on Booster Gold), and the Black Beetle (BG again). This means issue #6 is concerned mostly with moving various players into position, both behind the scenes of ROBW and in preparation for Flashpoint.

Thus, the “importance” of Time Masters: Vanishing Point snuck up on me. Again, at first I thought it was just Jurgens using Booster and company for an entirely appropriate storyline. It bothered me that ROBW had a three-issue head start on TM:VP, because that would apparently take some of the suspense out of the latter’s “search for Bruce” plot, but then TM:VP went off on its own and that became less of a concern. Still, those tangents further reinforced my perception of TM:VP as one of Jurgens’ pet projects, not a lead-in for DC’s next big thing. The miniseries’ final two issues were four weeks and seven weeks late, respectively, so a 6-issue mini which started in July is just now ending — but oddly enough, just as DC is revealing the details of Flashpoint’s format. Curious readers who figured TM:VP wasn’t anything to worry about can now either hunt for the back issues, or wait for the paperback, due April 6. It makes me wonder whether issues #5 and #6 were delayed in order to set up Flashpoint, or whether DC originally planned to stick “to be continued in May” at the end of an issue scheduled for December.**

Anyway, it plays perfectly into the view of DC Comics as a publisher who does not reward the casual reader. Although this is nothing new, I am reminded of the 1992 Vengeance of Bane one-shot and Sword of Azrael miniseries, which the publisher strongly hinted would play significant roles in the Batman line, but which didn’t sell commensurate with that hype. (If I remember right, the Bane special soon became particularly valuable in the short-term speculator’s market.) Because today’s DC is much more invested in its shared universe, I am surprised when something like Time Masters: Vanishing Point isn’t accompanied by a big pay-attention banner. If it means Flashpoint will bring together all of DC’s time-travelers, as well as provide some closure on that lingering Flash: Rebirth plot thread, this summer’s miniseries could be the capper to stories from the likes of Jurgens, Johns, Grant Morrison, et al., going back at least a couple of decades.

Understandably, though, DC wants readers to think all its books both work together cohesively and are perfect jumping-on points. I think DC realizes this is an unattainable goal, so it errs on the side of us lifers. This too is nothing new, especially not as supposed by me, who is all for new-reader friendliness and gladly trusts that the shared-universe maintenance will take care of itself. I’m sure there are also comics readers who view the whole “does it matter?” argument as the most moot of all points, since hardly any corporately-produced superhero stories truly “matter” in the literary sense.

Nevertheless, the current superhero-comics market is what it is, and this summer it’ll include the 50-odd issues of Greater Flashpoint. It’s much too early to tell whether most of those ancillary miniseries will be worth reading, although I am predisposed to like anything drawn by George Pérez. I do think that Flashpoint has the potential to be new-reader-friendly, both because it’s an altered timeline and because (despite its girth) it does look fairly self-contained. Even the high-concept Blackest Night was the culmination of four years’ worth of Green Lantern, not to mention various other bits from GL lore and previous DC events. I keep saying that DC’s best crossover remains 1998′s DC One Million, which essentially introduced a familiar-yet-different take on everyone’s favorite superheroes, and left the main superhero line virtually unchanged.*** Flashpoint is similar, at least superficially. Just as every DC-superhero title jumped ahead to its “millionth issue” in September 1998, Flashpoint looks to be ubiquitous for the summer of 2011.

We’ll see soon enough if all those miniseries were justified. Quality forgives quantity, after all. Regardless of its effect on continuity, Flashpoint can be — and needs to be — important where it counts.

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* [Conversely, if these fifteen miniseries will replace the appropriate regular series for three issues, they could potentially disrupt ongoing storylines, and nobody likes that. I don’t think this will be the case, considering that in-series arcs like “War of the Green Lanterns” and “Rise of Doomsday” look like they’ll be running alongside Flashpoint.]

** [September’s solicitation for issue #6, which scheduled it for December 15, asks “How far has Reverse-Flash gone this time in his manipulations of the time-stream?!” and begs “Do NOT miss this peek at what lies ahead for the DCU!” It looks like maybe that was the plan after all.]

*** [Unless you count Hypertime, which a) was only implied by the future-history of DC1M and b) has been virtually ignored for the past ten years or so.]

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26 Comments

I’m one of those “lifers”.

After reading the article, my first thought was: “Didn’t we go thru Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1984-85 to AVOID inane things like this?”

Then, I thought: “I’ll take a look at the Marvel soliciations.”

Took a look. More of the same.

Said, “Hell with both of ‘em.” and went to look at YouTube.

Every time they do this sort of crap, there’ll be more “lifers” following the same pattern…

Thanks for the information in the spoilers follow section! I was waiting to get the TM:VP in trade, mostly out of nostalgia for the Dan Jurgens Linear Men story… but (SPOILERS) I might skip it if it doesn’t have a proper ending. Can it be enjoyed as a self-contained story, or does it definitely requires to follow up with those issues?

Guido – Pick up Vanishing Point. It touches only tangentially on Return of Bruce Wayne OR Flashpoint and really is primarily a time-traveling adventure featuring Booster, Rip, Matthew Ryder, Liri Lee, Superman, Hal Jordan and a handful of almost-forgotten old-school DCU guest stars.

I also hasten to point out an interview I did with Dan a while back (before the word “Flashpoint” had yet been uttered in public) in which he described Time Masters: Vanishing Point as a bridge to connect 2009 with 2011 in terms of DC’s big projects. If you read between the lines in a way that wasn’t too hard to do, he told you before #1 hit that it would be a Flashpoint tie-in.

Thanks Russ! That sounds like the kind of story I wanted it to be, I’ll pick it up when the trade comes out.

BTW, I checked your website, it looks pretty good, I’m sure I’ll be stopping by every now and then.

I was surprised by how many they announced, its kind of off putting.

I agree with ACMC. The sheer volume of tie-ins that they announced was really overwhelming.

Tom, where are you hearing any creative teams for the tie-in minis? I’ve not seen any of that information anywhere yet.

One of the greatest disappointments in my super-hero collecting life was the whole Final Crisis event, in that neither the series itself, the minis that funneled into it or the minis that came out of it could support themselves. All of them (at least the ones I read) were either continued in other books or pivoted somehow on events in those other books. To me that seems like the point where DC really decided to step away from the casual reader and focus on the hardcore collector.

Another case in point: Cry for Justice. I sat down at read through this at a bookstore a couple weeks ago, and I was struck at how… incomplete it was. If you didn’t already know intimately the histories of the characters AND what was going on in current continuity month-to-month, it’d be impossible to really understand what was going on because nothing is explained well enough for the first-time reader. Robinson implies some things pretty well, but that’s not good enough for a series that should be able to stand on its own.

I was hoping to check out some of the ancillary Flashpoint minis, hoping that they’d be complete stories with a beginning, middle and end. But if they’re each just going to be three issues of hype and treading water with no resolution until the next event, I’ll pass.

My only beef is when DC starts screwing around with the one title left that I actually read in singles format (and really at all now): Secret Six. I get why it’s probably fun for the creators to tie-in with Luthor or the Doom Patrol, because they at least make sense, and the BN/Suicide Squad thing was a hoot, but I don’t want to see them get too deeply enmeshed in the other crap, because I don’t want to have to read any of that other stuff.

You make a good point above about all of these ancillary books tying stuff like Flashpoint in to these smaller titles, or other crossovers, and it’s really disruptive to those people who are selective about the books that they read. It’s very early 90s of DC and Marvel to be doing those types of things.

I have a suspicion that there were some rewrites in this to tie it into Flashpoint, hence the delays, and I felt it was really a dick thing for DC to do to solicit this as the “Companion Book” to ROBW when it was so obviously a rouse to get people to pick up the book in the first place.

I know that’s just business but it was rather bush league in my opinion. The final page was basically what the teasers that were just released said and the Batman aspect was written off as, “Well, we couldn’t have done anything anyway” 2/3 into this issue.

I’m surprised by DC doing so many mini series and I want to get Flashpoint and I’m not opposed to getting the minis, too, as long as they look fun, but at the same time, I wonder what they’ll do with the regular monthly titles during that span.

Are they suspending them a la Age of Apocalypse and changing the name for the duration, or having them continue as regular but addressing none of the event.

That will be the real issue for a lot of people as to how well this will be received.

DC 1 Million also introduced the robotic Hourman

It’s so simple: after years of being the broke completist fanboy, I have now matured into a reader who follows the creators’ narrative.

Therefore, if it’s not by the same creator as the visionary writing the main series, it’s just merchandising. Some good, some bad, but all optional.

Therefore, BN was for me whatever BN Geoff Johns was writing: essentially the mini and the GL issues tying into it. FlashPoint will likely follow a similar pattern: the mini and any issues of the Flash interweaving with it.

I think Flashpoint is also (as is Brightest Day, Time Masters, and others) a way for Geoff Johns to, in a big sweeping way, explain or fix holes in continuity or flesh out the 52 Universes.

Sure there are the completists out there who will be anger that they MUST BUY all the ties ins, but for the bulk of us “Lifers” we realize that the world won’t end if we miss an issue and ultimately we will read the books that feature characters we like or that are done by writers or artists we like.

This is an entertainment. Like a movie. If the ads look like shit then you don’t go see it. And if your buddy suddenly says “hey it was really good” then you fork over your money and see it.

I liked Time Masters for itself. I liked the Rip/Booster relations fleshed out. It was fun.

There are a few ways to look at the tie-ins vs. regular monthly involvement with events.

1. It’s nice that the monthly titles (if this is the case) won’t be affected so that people can still get their issues without having to be lost and wondering why suddenly their characters are appearing in a situation that wasn’t raised in the last issue but rather in some other book(s). The problem is that when a huge event is not reflected in at least major monthlies, it makes you wonder just how huge and impacting it really is in the first place.

2. There are those who get many monthlies as it is, but may now want to get some minis but can’t afford it because it’s an “extra” few books a month. For example, suppose, like me, you get between 75-86 issues a month across Marvel and DC, most of those being regular monthly titles. With Marvel’s Siege last year, I was already getting the Avengers and Thunderbolts titles, so for me, the only “extra” books were Siege itself and any one shots or minis I wanted. But suppose the monthlies I was already getting didn’t have any tie-in at all–would I have been able to or wanted to get those AND minis to replace them from happening in the book, especially if written by the same writer or if they looked cool?

For some, the trick is knowing which minis are integral and which aren’t and several here have pointed correctly that, generally, read the ones written by the main architect and you’re good.

You really needed Submit and Superman Beyond to get some major beats of Final Crisis and all were written by Morrison. Conversely, you could have done away with Legion of 3 Worlds or Revelations entirely for that event. For Blackest Night, you really needed the GL books and a couple of the one-shots written by Johns and Tomasi, but you didn’t need BN: Superman or Wonder Woman, etc.

One problem is when some of these tie-ins wind up not being a part of the main story as much as vehicles that lead into other series you are getting, so that you kind of do “NEED” to get them.

Legion of 3 Worlds wasn’t necessary for Final Crisis, but was a continuation of Johns Action Comics and JLA arcs and led into future storylines. Rage of the Red Lanterns was a one shot with FC slapped on it, but it continued in the regular GL title with a cliffhanger ending.

This Time Masters book was billed as a companion to ROBW, but leads into Flashpoint and Booster Gold instead so you don’t even get a complete story.

There’s a balance that is difficult to strike and not everyone will be pleased all of the time. I’ll wait until the solicits hit to see what it’s going to be–monthlies being “suspended” a la Age of Apocalypse in place of some minis, monthlies AND minis tying in, or monthlies continuing blissfully ignorant of Flashpoint with the minis doing their own thing.

obviously, this isn’t confirmed yet: but I am pretty sure that most of the announced minis will be REPLACING regular titles for those months that they are published a la Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse.

Maybe not, but I thought this was at least rumored.

It was rumored, you are correct, but you are also correct that it hasn’t been confirmed either way yet.

Personally, I think DC is running a HUGE risk if that’s what their doing because AoA only affected the mutant books, but other top selling titles like Avengers and Spider-Man, etc, were still going during those few months.

If this takes off GL and Batman or whatever off the board for a few months, there’s no doubt that the minis don’t typically sell as well as the regular monthlies, so they’d be taking a risk at taking a hit.

I guess we’ll see with the next round of solicits!

It is clear that this is a bit of a DC putdown, which of course happens here often..

Here is a idea……DON’T BUY IT if you are out off by how many mini – series there will be. It’s funny how there is major whinning about these events, but they alway sell big.

correction…..”DON’T BUY IT if you are put off “

Flashpoint? Yawn. Call me when there’s info about a mega event that people cares about like Fear Itself.

All this, plus what Mr. Baserap said, I agree is true. But again, there’s still the fact of people who get turned off by these moves. So, a simple thing of advice should be given to the companies-

If it’s ACTUALLY part of the big story, and deals with events linked to the main story, THEN you can label it as a tie-in.

If not, then DON’T bother giving it a label, send the story to the reject bin, and have it rewritten so it doesn’t reference the big story.

When you’re planning on doing tie-ins to a big story, SET LIMITS ON HOW MANY YOU WANT. Do a minimum number, like only 3-5 tie-ins.

Set a mark for when you want to do a big story, and have it only for ONE year, don’t let it overlap into the next year, don’t put out any tie-ins a year after the story is done. Do it the way the planners of the Olympics do-every FOUR years.

Simple as that.

I actually did a 20-page research paper for college (gotta love art schools that let you do that for an English class) dealing with the comics industry as a whole, and especially the issue of what will get the mainstream public back into comics-i.e. what would it take for a monthly or a trade paperback to sell a million copies again?

My conclusion was that such a feat was more likely to happen to a self-contained creator-owned title. Obviously it would be a title that absolutely set the world on fire. BUT-sales numbers indicate that when those outside the regular comics fanbase buy graphic fiction, it’s NOT Marvel or DC topping those lists-only the OGN Superman: Earth One placed in top 20 in Bookscan’s January list for bookstore graphic novel sales. So you could argue (and I did) that the key to success would be stories involving these iconic characters, free of tangles with other titles or decades of continuity.

Something that comics fans would NEVER stand for.

In the sequestered ghetto of the comic world, we may bitch and gripe about titles not having good jumping on points and not being reader-friendly enough by adhering to histories dating back long before most of us were born. But imagine if every title rebooted itself, ignored past history, and re-imagined its history every year or so? Would YOU still be reading? Does a TV series decide every season it must never refer to anything that happened more than a few weeks ago? What if say, “The Office”, makes a joke about Pam being engaged before marrying Jim? Are they not allowed to because it happened too long ago?

No. Those are the histories in these works of fiction. They cannot be forgotten-not all of it has to be constantly mentioned or known to understand the present story. The difference in DC and Marvel is these histories are contained in hundreds of titles over the course of many, many years. It’s too large and intimidating for the casual onlooker, but if these companies decided to scrap all those years of stories for a clean slate JUST to make a play for the casuals, they’d risk losing the diehards forever.

The main universes of DC and Marvel are always going to be a challenge for attracting new readers and keeping them, simply because the long histories and massive worlds of them that WE love are just not going to attract the greater public. So let the bookstore crowd get their side of things with fare like the Earth One books. For the regular comics fans, we’ll overindulge on massive amounts of tie-ins and miniseries, because in the end, we gobble that up. Look at how sales dropped off last year when DC and Marvel weren’t publishing huge event books like “Blackest Night” and “Siege”-BOTH steeped in YEARS of continuity.

I’m going to be getting Time Masters in trade – and not because of Flashpoint, but because I loved their Booster Gold series, and this is really just a continuation, with some guest stars.

I really hope that Jurgens is going to be writer/artist on one of these 15 mini’s – maybe the one that hasn’t been anounced! ;)

I don’t mind the fact there are so many mini series with DC events – ‘llI still just pick and choose what I want to buy. You never HAVE to buy everything.

On the plus side, seeing that Flashpoint is only 5 issues – can Kubert really fall that far behind schedule? :)

DC with Flashpoint is sadly creating an event where none exists. There has been no leadup except the announcement of the event itself and its marketing gimmicks. Madison Avenue would love it. It reminds me of an old Rock Hudson Doris Day movie where Hudson as an ad executive heavily markets and successfully creates a demand for a product that doesn’t even exist. The Flash monthly is shedding readers at the rate of 3000 per month (when it comes out), and they are far overreaching with the amount of minis. There’s a sucker born every minute so the main mini will sell OK, but expect low sales on the others.

Boy, I hope they don’t stop the regular monthly books in order to do these cheesy crossover minis. I mean, there’s fifteen of them. That would replace like a third or a quarter of their DCU books. If they take a comic off the shelf that I do like and replace it with something that might be good, but probably won’t, I will skip it out of spite. That being said, I guess it would save me some money for a few months. Or I can take that money and try something creator owned that will probably be better than what I’m missing from DC.

My main problem with the premise of this story is that it looks like it’s just going to be another story created to fix old plot holes. Maybe this will finally give us an explanation for Iris West’s unexplained de-aging. Or maybe it will address why Barry has come back from the dead and has shown no interest in seeing his own children, the tornado twins. I seriously doubt that either of these things will ever be addressed, but for the sake of the narrative, they definitely need to be.

This leaves two possiblities for this series. Either it does address old plot holes and it reads like continuity homework, or it doesn’t address old plot holes and it just feels like a mess. And let’s face it. DC writers and editorial don’t seem to give a crap about their own continuity any more. Every character to ever put on spandex and die has come back at this point. Every bad thing Hal Jordan ever did has been erased. The Robin we voted to kill isn’t even dead anymore. So now they’re doing a time travel heavy story? How can a time travel story work when all the old plot points have been contradicted or ignored? They can’t travel to a past that doesn’t really exist anymore, can they? It sounds to me like they’re gonna make a bigger mess of what is already a ruined continuity and fill it in with a bunch of else world type stories that have no long term effect on anything. At DC these days, death means nothing and everything that has happened in the past is likely as not to be ignored and contradicted. I really hope Flashpoint doesn’t effect the Batman books. Those are about the only DCU books I read anymore.

I’m really sick of these tie ins…And they almost usually screw up other story lines. The whole bringing Barry back is such a joke and I’ve been a Flash fan for near thirty years. I’ll pick up the main series and that’s probably it.

John Gregory and Fox Broome bring up alternate sides of some interesting points.A drop off in sales because there were no events I find difficult to believe.The entire year was filled with crossover minis which to me are the same thing.This made the reader jump from at least one to two minis at least 4 issues each to at least one or more ongoings.What the heck were Return Of Wayne/Chaos War/Shadowland/Thanatos, which breaks the pattern slightly because Nova and Guardians were suspended, if not events?Multiple title explosion in both Avenger,Batman,Green Lantern, Spider Man and X Men worlds have the same effect.The economy is down.At least three regulars at my main LCS have lost jobs recently.Ours is a small market to begin with here and little numbers add up quickly to a drop in sales.The fact that DC and Marvel took almost 2 and a 1/2 years to address the pricing issue and DC specifically added a story page drop to 20 pages may have contributed to a loss of sales.If FoxBroome is right about Flash losing readers then how this Flashpoint nonsense is supposed to help is beyond me.I’m out as of Flash#12 but don’t see myself picking it up again in trade because the majors seem to be hiking the price there to offset the drop on the monthly/weeklys.Add digital to the picture and there you go.

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