Robot 6

The Fifth Color | What to do if your favorite series is canceled

FF # Evolutions Variant Cover

In the future, all comics will look like this!

Holy hand grenade, it’s been a week of nasty cancellations over at the House of Ideas! Yesterday it seemed like it wouldn’t stop as smaller titles were stripped away seemingly far too soon. Ghost Rider feels like it only just got here, but that’s now ending with issue #8. X-23, a successful breakout character in her own right (and currently on my TV screen in Ultimate X-Men vs. Capcom 3) is gone with Kssue 20. We’ll also be saying goodbye to a personal favorite: Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive is ending as of #529. 2012 does not seem to be a good year for new ideas as, while I can’t say that a Kirby-created character and two male-derivative heroines are all that new, we’re losing some of the more fringe books while our core titles seem to be bringing up old fan favorites.

Then, while PunisherMAX is coming to a conclusion rather than a short and final stop, there’s a quote from a Marvel representative saying that “A big change is coming to the MAX universe and nobody can miss what we’ve got coming.” Couldn’t tell you why, perhaps it’s the littered canceled titles scattered before them, maybe it’s the fact that the MAX titles are a struggle to publish and promote, but this statement doesn’t rest any fears.

The marketplace is vast; I mean, have you seen a Diamond catalog? While I think it’s a little thinner that usual these days, that doesn’t mean it’s not a PHONE BOOK OF COMICS AND COMICS ACCESSORIES produced monthly. Sure, maybe a little more white pages than yellow, but that’s still a lot of published titles you may honestly never see. Or perhaps want to see, as the range and scope of subject matter extends far beyond super-heroes. Marvel itself publishes Halo and Sense and Sensibility comics, and then everything in between. And while I might think Jane Austen is a bore, someone reading right now might be willing to club me with a shoe for maligning the great Jane’s name (please don’t hit me with a shoe). One reader’s Gravity is another reader’s Sammi the Fish Boy. While every comic may have a fan, they might not always have an audience.

Marvel has canceled books before they hit the shelves, before retailers have had a change to order them, and I’m sure there’s even books pitched right now that might never see the light of day. What do we do? What can we do as readers to change such a system, and how do we keep the hope alive? Here are a few thoughts.

Avengers Academy #23

It's like she never left!

First, find out where that character is going. That’s why we’re in this, right? Ghost Rider is cool, and so we want more issues with Ghost Rider in them. X-23 fans are in luck because she’s going to be in one of the best Avengers titles around, Avengers Academy. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see her pop up in Wolverine and the X-Men for a guest spot or two. We know that the last two Ghost Riders will return for Ghost Rider: Cycle of Vengeance #1 in January, plus Matt Fraction’s got the Defenders in their own book now, so certainly there’s a potential to find the Spirit of Vengeance over in that book. Black Panther recently turned down the opportunity to be an Avenger again, but you know his wife’s going to sign up by Avengers #21. The man can change his mind. I know these shots aren’t the same as having your own starring title and in Alejandra’s case, it feels like this is all just a footnote to the Marvel Handbook. Still, it’s worth a try to go pick up a couple issues of the book your cancelled characters will be appearing in.

What if the change was too great? What if the characters weren’t the draw for you and kept you reading month after month? Then find the creators. Scour your comics for the title pages and take those names to Google. More often than not, your favorite writers and artists and inkers and colorists will have a website, if not a Wikipedia page where you can discover what they’re doing next. Maybe even what they’ve done before; did you know Marjorie Liu has a hit series of paranormal romantic thrillers? How about that Francesco Francavilla has done a lauded run of issues on Detective Comics? Did you know there are about a billion Rob Williams between the U.K. and the U.S.? Good news, the one who wrote Ghost Rider is also writing RoboCop for Dynamite Entertainment. Robocop! Make sure these great creators who you enjoyed don’t fall by the wayside without their canceled title. Sometimes following a favorite writer takes you into new and interesting places, places you’ll come to love just as much as where you found them. I used to read a lot of Star Trek novels as a kid and when I learned that Peter David did comics, I checked them out and picked up a couple despite my previous lack of interest in Spider-Man. The rest, as they say, is history.

Okay, so you’ve scoured for artist’s names and websites, you’ve flipped through pages to find out where Black Panther may be next, what else? This one requires the help of your local comic shop or, if not available, a friendly and helpful message board. If your favorite title is being canceled, try and dissect why it was your favorite title. Was it the artwork? What were qualities of that artwork that really drew you in? I mean, just get in there and find every adjective you can and be as objective as possible. Was the idea of a female Spirit of Vengeance something new and exciting? Was a young woman’s loss of humanity and the desire to gain it back touching? Was the use of shadow and light engaging to the eye as you read Black Panther? What was it about any title you’ve had canceled out from under you that really made you miss its absence?

the Kree Supreme Intelligence

the forums are kind of like this and sometimes, just as dangerous

Great, now take these adjectives over to your friendly neighborhood comic shop and tell them what you need. Any store worth their salt should be able to have recommendations ready and some selection to choose from, but the more adjectives and ideas that you have will help them form the best retail search engine and get you want you need. No local comic shop or worse, no good local comic shop? Welcome to the internet! Our own CBR message boards are full of people who create this vast Supreme Intelligence who may know a little something about what you’re looking for. Head over and find the right place to pose a polite inquiry; you might be surprised at what you find.

Lastly, write a letter. I’m not talking about petitions, I’m saying a simple heart-felt letter. Send it to the creative team, send it to the editors, send it to the internet. If any canceled book meant a lot to you, it’s worth it to let people know. Trust me, the writers and artists appreciate it and your support can mean a lot. Writing to editors is probably the closest the fan on the street is going to get to telling the top brass what distinguishes cult hit and cash-dollar success. And while some fan letter campaigns never work, but honestly, some times they do.

Check your favorite titles, my friends. Do they have Wolverine or Spider-Man on the cover? How about on the inside? Anybody soon to be in a movie in there? As, like, a guy? If no on all counts, please treasure them. As Comics Alliance put it, these are fan-oriented books, rather than market-oriented; in fact, fans are what makes them marketable in the first place. Marvel has to have the faith and trust in we the people to see a title like X-Factor through, with or without a guest spot with Wolverine.

But fighting the system only takes you so far. Swearing you’re never going to read Marvel comics again on a message board or a comment page doesn’t bring these titles back. The system is flawed, but it’s workable: just look at Deadpool. Obscure X-Force villain to multimedia oversaturated hit! It took awhile for sure, but with a little faith in the title from the company and a mighty fanbase working side-by-side, we can keep the more fan-oriented books alive.

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Comments

6 Comments

We comic fans are lucky. Comic book characters always continue on in some form. If your favorite TV show gets canceled that’s usually the end of it, you’ll probably never see it continue in any form.

And what if your character gets rebooted and everything you liked about him/her isn´t there anymore?…and even if you decide to give the new incarnation a chance, and get to like it, you still know it will be rebooted again at least 4 times in less than a decade or in a more definitive way in a few years? I prefer cancellation in such case.

Gentlemen, there’s something you should read that could supplement this article:

http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/darkmount1/the-sorry-state-of-the-superhero-comic-book-today/87-75259/

It may save your lives, it may save your hobby, it may save the industry.

Writing a letter is better than an email, but putting your money where your mouth is–well that just may be the future of so-called democracy. If you like it, buy it. If you don’t drop it. I am a DC fan mostly…I bought all of the new #1′s–negotiated a great price from my LCS and now by month 3 I am buying from my LCS the books I like–a handful I buy used, from a great second hand bookshop that gets new comics turned around quick, to see if I will jump back on board. If you buy lots of the garbage the big two print, guess what–they will print more of it.

The wave of cancellations signal that the new management is eager to trim expenses to the bone in order to maximize value on a stockholder scorecard. Expect more of the same unless SOME INDIVIDUAL at Warner Bros. or Disney decides to buck the trend by bypassing safer immediate returns and taking a chance on promising experiments.

Comic books as an industry have gotten away with murder for decades, in terms of putting the work of creative eccentrics in front of a mass audience; all the other remotely-”popular” creative industries — film, TV, music, fiction — are years or decades past such brazen experimentalism. The fact is that there is no Alan Moore or Grant Morrison in any other medium with remotely as large an audience. (Examine the ongoing popularity of the “Watchmen” trade paperback, for example, and then, by very rough comparison, imagine a music industry in which Tom Waits sold as many albums as Justin Timberlake. Not a snowball’s chance in hell.)

Then again, is there a potential payoff for a powerful executive or creator willing to take a chance on quality instead of continuing along the lines of the crap that currently sells? Ask Jeff Smith about that (for the most recent mega-bucks example) … or call up Alan Moore, although he’s not likely to take the call (too sensible by half!).

@Carla Hoffman
You are either a daring optimist or a pollyanna. Regardless, kudos to you for the article and sentiments within.

I’ve always thought that it was about demand. I loved the X-Men when I was a kid and would scour 7-11 or High’s Dairy Stores for the newest issue. Each time I didn’t find a new issue, the anticipation for it grew. Plus I would pick up Daredevil or something else that I didn’t normally buy at the time to satisfy my need for the Marvel Universe at that moment. Now you go to Books A Million to buy and Avengers/X-Men comic with your $5 and you can’t make up your mind which one to buy. When I bought that Daredevil comic I was blowing 60-75 cents (depending on the year) so it wasn’t a $3.99 gamble on which Avengers/X-Men comic I might or might not want. The oversaturation of titles, not to mention Fear Itself style tie-ins, makes it frustrating to penetrate a particular title. Marvel successfully had a bunch of Spider-Man titles in the 70′s and 80′s so they did it with the X-Men in the 90′s as well. With the extra titles came higher prices and eventually the system messes itself up.

There are anywhere in the area of the 3 to 5 Avengers titles a month, 3 to 5 X-Men titles, etc… Plus Marvel double ships some months. How much am I spending if I just buy X-Men and Avengers titles in a given month? I possibly can’t afford X-23 or Daken or Black Panther. Marvel for the past few years has just come across as greedy and their lesser selling titles (I’m a HUGE Thunderbolts fan) are becoming casualties. Tom Brevoort tends to mention fan demand as a reason that a title gets cancelled but Marvel helps foster that inability to purchase the lesser selling books by flooding the market with variations of the same title.

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