The Middle Ground #110 | The Way These Things Turn Out
This was, at one point earlier in the week, going to be the place where I looked forward to the first wave of Monkeybrain Comics, which were originally going to be released tomorrow. Then, of course, Monkeybrain got announced, went viral in the way that lots of publishers claim to but don’t actually manage, and ended up putting out their books two days early due to reader demand. I’m telling you, I don’t like the way that their good fortune screws with my carefully planned* timetable.
The success of the line so far (“So far,” like it’s more than two days old – Is this a sign that writing about comics on a daily basis for a decade has finally entirely wrecked my sense of time, or a sign that Monkeybrain’s launch went so well that it managed to pack multiple days’ worth of events into a single, overwhelming, day of being a massive hit? You decide, but my money’s on a little bit of both) feels like a victory on numerous levels, not least of which for the argument that getting talented people and letting them follow their individual muses can be a recipe for success. Looking across the initial five books offered by the publisher – Aesop’s Ark, Amelia Cole and The Unknown World, Bandette, Edison Rex and October Girl – there’s only one that conforms to the traditionally dominant superhero genre, and even that finds itself detoured by a twist in its DNA that finds it more closely resembling something like Mark Waid’s Irredeemable by way of classic Superman and Pixar than anything being published by either Marvel or DC.
(There’s an almost inspiring presence of what’s sometimes called “Young Adult” material in the line, too. The official Monkeybrain site even contains age ratings that emphasize this; of the six titles listed, only two aren’t deemed suitable for readers younger than age 15, and – maybe it’s my own twisted sensibilities having been raised by the media in this world gone mad – I think that Bandette could easily be handed to those younger than that age, to be honest.)
There’s a sense of “What The World Has Been Waiting For” about Monkeybrain, which manages to be on the “right” side of two ongoing, important, conversations about where comics as a medium and as a business is heading, being both creator-owned and digital. There was a comment on Twitter yesterday from David Pepose along the lines of “What if [Monkeybrain founders] Chris Roberson and Allison Baker have saved comics?” which is maybe a little hyperbolic – to be fair to David, my muddled memory may have made it even more so – but a fair summation of anticipation surrounding the timeliness and potential of the publisher. There’s some sense of payoff to a trend that’s been building for some time, including Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett’s Lady Sabre & The Pirates of The Ineffable Aether and Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Insufferable, along with whatever optimism/excitement/insert applicable emotion you get from the start of something that promises so much.
(Plus, the comics are cheap: 99 cents or $1.99 per issue? That’s difficult to complain about, even if you’ve managed to convince yourself that everything is doomed to failure.)
So, Monkeybrain, then; not just the start of something at the very least interesting and worthwhile, but something that has been embraced in a way that’s almost as exciting as the publisher and its comics. It’s not just that the work itself is good, but that the audience seems to be, from first looks, responding to it; that’s the other important part necessary to this going from “exciting” to “potentially important and meaningful.” If only they hadn’t been so successful that they ruined my original idea for this week…
(* This is a lie. Almost nothing I do is carefully planned.)