Robot 6

The Middle Ground #88 | Take a second look

One of the most frustrating – and, almost as frustratingly, most common – things that happens in today’s comic market is realizing that so many comics only have one chance at grabbing attention/eyeballs/sales, and then they’re essentially left out in the wilderness for the most part while other, newer, things get the bells and whistles of publicity because they stand more chance of being The Next Big Thing by dint of, well, being newer and little else.

This isn’t something that’s solely limited to comics, of course; movies and, to a lesser extent, television shows have a similarly limited window in which to make an impression on the wider audience (Music, less so, because new singles/radio tracks can always be spun out of older albums to draw attention). I understand the desire – and, perhaps, need…? – for the Next Big Thing, and to constantly be seeking out the new and the popular and the like, but the danger with focusing on What You’ve Not Seen Yet But Will Love is that all manner of great stuff falls through the cracks, whether by accident or – horror upon horrors! – because the first impressions aren’t necessarily the best impressions. Sometimes, things improve with age and practice, but in a culture where you get one look, that can mean that your best stuff isn’t seen by anyone but the most faithful, or those who saw potential way back when and had the patience/money to stick with you while you finessed everything.

It’s easy to see why we’re always looking for what’s coming up from a cynical perspective; there’s so much out there that, just to stay on top of the things you’re unfamiliar with seems like a full-time gig sometimes, so the idea of doubling back to revisit something can appear counter-intuitive if not downright misguided. Who has time to go back and check in with something you’ve already sampled when there’s all this new stuff to deal with, after all?

What brought this to mind for me was reading IDW’s Memorial #2 the other week; I enjoyed the first issue quite a bit – and it had a reasonably sizable amount of publicity before it launched – but the fact is, the second issue is just better, and left me with the impression that those who didn’t really think that the debut worked for them, for whatever reason, might’ve been won over by this second look (Of the many reasons why I thought the second issue was better than the first, there’s the more relaxed pace; the more confident tone in the narration – That might be the wrong way of putting it, but there’s some lovely writing here from Chris Roberson, especially in the omnipotent narration – and the revelation of the series’ back story, which is the kind of wonderfully imaginative, full of possibility, thing that you want as many people to read as possible. Rich Ellis’ art continues to just shine, especially in the scenes with the kind and queen of shadows; his stuff manages to seem mainstream and indie at the same time, harkening back to some ideal crossover time that maybe never was).

It’s an odd quandary; we expect – or, at least, hope – that the things we read will get better over time, as creators get more comfortable with their collaborators, more involved in their story (as we do), but the market en masse tends to judge things on tentative first steps, and doesn’t look back to see how far things have come in later days. Maybe we should all agree to make a big noise about everyone’s second issue, instead of the first, just to have a better idea of what’s in store longterm…

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One Comment

Thanks for your article, Graeme.

The Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Superman, Batman, The Hulk, Iron Man, Flash, Green Lantern, etc., are all comics that got better over time (before they got a Whole Lot Worse). These strips matured as their creators refined their appearance, their personalities, their powers, and their supporting cast.

But these characters were created 50-70 years ago! For the last 30 years, DC and Marvel have eaten out their insides like Zombies. They have sucked dry the creations of Jack Kirby and others. DC and Marvel have been running on fumes. When was the last major character introduced? Wolverine, in 1974? No wonder the industry is in dire straits!

Over the decades, Armies of editors, writers, and artists have twisted these characters in so many different directions that they have lost all definition. They have become formless blobs, re-written, re-booted, and re-costumed at editorial whim.

Shame on the money-grubbing comics publishers and their lack of heart, soul, and vision.

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