Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘It’s a terrible jumping-on point’

avengers24-now

“It’s a terrible jumping-on point. I don’t think I’ve written an issue 20-something of anything that I’ve done that is a good jumping-on point. With the way you can download all the books now and everything is collected in trades, I’m not even sure I buy into the validity of the argument that every issue should be able to be read as if it was somebody’s first issue. That, of course, may be a complete construct to prop up my inability to do that. [Laughs] So yeah, it’s a terrible jumping on point …”

– writer Jonathan Hickman, addressing the notion that the “Point Now” part of Avengers #24.NOW means the issue is a good jumping-on point for new readers. Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, has a differing opinion on the matter.

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43 Comments

I love honesty. Thanks Jonathan.

Thank goodness someone finally said this. I personally dislike “one and done” style stories in most books. If someone needs a backstory then that’s what back issues/trades are for. Don’t slow the wagon for the stragglers please.

There are some good one & done books. Anthologies of course, like A + X, Adventures of Superman, and Legends of the Dark Knight. And then there’s Avengers Assemble, which is not quite one & done, but the storylines are always so short that if they’re not literally one & done, the prior issues in the same storyline will still be on sale.

I love Jonathan Hickman, but yeah, its exactly that attitude that keeps new people from comics.

Okay, so no, that’s a blatant lie. Its the ridiculous price point of comics. Seriously, no one is too stupid to pick up a series in the middle and not follow where its going without needing the back story or conversely being able to pick up the previous parts of the story. Except new comic book readers, who can’t afford ridiculously priced trades and single issues.

Comics are stupidly expensive . . . and they’re dying as floppies. Trades are the future, and I don’t see a lot of superhero comics making the jump. Which is the saddest part. Sure Spidey will never go away, even if Marvel went straight to trade formats. But Moon Knight or Nova or something less obscure? Yeah . . . no. I don’t see our beloved b and c list characters surviving outside of team books . . .

Floppies are dying a slow protracted death. I will miss them.

It’s a terrible book period. Go back where you came from Hickman, your Avengers are worse than Remender’s

so that is what the NOW part in marvel now means? never knew that which is sad since I would be their intended audience. I always thought it meant that they are ‘in the now’ or are current.

Sounds good. Then it won’t be a bunch of BS and recap.

All comics are terrible jumping on points these days. The problem started with Brian Bendis and the whole “Comic Writers Are Rock Stars” attitude that has poisoned the business since the late 90s. Everything is 6-issue story arcs that are padded, boring, and basically these hack writers trying desperately to prove that they’re “real” writers, when the inescapable truth is that they aren’t. They are comic book writers. Comic books are for children, or at least they used to be. Comic books are supposed to be fun to read. Would anyone describe Hickman’s Avengers as “fun”? Is unreadable. It’s pretentious, boring, and just plain stupid. But kudos to him for at least being honest about his crappy, embarrassing, impenetrable approach to writing children’s fiction.

Does anyone remember when things actually happened in single issues, when plots were advanced and events occurred month to month? Think back, dear readers, to a time when you simply didn’t see five pages in a row of talking heads and hacky Bendis-y of Fraction-y dialog, where every character has the exact same cutesy, smartass personality. Think back, dear readers, to a time when the writers were coming up with original ideas instead of ripping off third-rate KROQ Kevin and Bean material -like Matt Fraction in Hawkeye with the “Bro bro bro” thing- and letting everyone tell him how “cool” and “clever” he is (and check out his recent press pics – he actually believes it). Think back, dear readers, to a time when every issue was so packed with excitement that the wait between issues was excruciating. Think back, dear readers, to a time when comic writers were in the business of entertaining readers, rather than desperately trying to prove they’re actually legitimate writer. The gag is up. You aren’t real writers. You’re comic book writers. Write fun stories and let the artists own the medium…like they should – Like they did back when comics actually sold. Because, guess what? The number don’t lie. You don’t sell anymore, and your sales fell off a cliff right around the time Bendis and his hilarious sensibilities came on the scene. Look how seriously he takes himself! This guy reads plays and talks about David Mamet! His really sarcastic and snappy with critics! Whoa!!!

LOL.

He’s a joke. Comics are a joke, and a bad joke at that. How anyone can read an issue of Avengers and see adults in colorful costumes having conversations that consist of soap-opera level mediocre dialog and take it seriously is beyond me. How anyone can spend $4 to read conversation between people in spandex is beyond me. How anyone can spend $24 total to read a shitty, hacky, stretched-out 6-part story arc that could have been told in 1 issue is beyond me. Have at it, though. It’s your money. Waste it how you like.

Why the fuck are you here?

@Jack: Its a shame that you feel that way. Comics are a great form of entertainment with lots of ppl doing great things and making really great books. Hopefully you’ll realize that right now we are getting some of the best comics and comic related material that we have gotten in recent years. Please stop trying to be smarter then everybody else in the room and enjoy yourself.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

December 6, 2013 at 11:34 am

“…I’m not even sure I buy into the validity of the argument that every issue should be able to be read as if it was somebody’s first issue…”

And we wonder why we always put the term “elusive” in front of “new reader.”

Granted, Marvel’s recap pages are a pretty decent way of catching people up (they’ve got a list of relevant characters, a paragraph about the book’s purposes and a paragraph about the current plot occurrences), but I still think there should be some effort on the part of the writer to make things digestible for a layman who decides to pick up any given issue.

This medium has to keep a consistent influx of new, young readers or else the whole industry’ll die out in the next couple decades.

Yeah, there are some (like me) who’ll keep buying comics until they’re dead (or until comics go all-digital, but that’s another thing), but a majority of the current audience will phase comics out over time. They’ll either lose interest, have other obligations or otherwise not be able to afford the hobby any more. And when those readers do drop out, there has to be readers there to replace them or else the entire shebang could collapse in on itself.

The movies and TV shows are keeping the characters popular in the mainstream, but we don’t know how long this particular bubble will last. And when it bursts, the publishers need to have a steady, sustainable comics reading audience to rely on.

To assume everything’s going to keep on like it is in perpetuity is short-sighted at best and disastrous for the future of the medium at worst.

Rant over.

Jack is the troll of the day lol

Hands down.

“With the way you can download all the books now and everything is collected in trades, I’m not even sure I buy into the validity of the argument that every issue should be able to be read as if it was somebody’s first issue.”

I have liked everything by Hickman that I have read, but I am shocked by the lack of insight or even intelligence seemingly on display here.

Seriously, the reason not to bother making comic books new-reader friendly is that a new-reader can immediately go out and download the entire story so why bother? So a new-reader presumably knows that because they’ve been studying comics for months and months in advance of actually reading one? And the whole reason they never got into comics yet is that they were just waiting for a comic to finally accumulate enough story for it to be worth it to them? He’s basically saying “I don’t know how to make stories that appeal to anybody who isn’t already interested in the characters that I am writing about.”

I dig Hickman, but I am having a hard time not agreeing with the trolls here, that this is a big part of what’s wrong with the industry right now.

The Medium Lebowski

December 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

The troll is right, though. “New comic book reader” is an oxymoron. They just bilk their long time fans at every opportunity with the events and crossovers. Seeing a new comic reader under the age of 30 in San Diego at the con would be akin to a unicorn sighing.

Try writing a novel where any reader can open the book to a random chapter and understand what’s going on in the story within a page or two.

The only real answers are to either not bother with story arcs ever, or to accept the fact that long-form comics stories are tough to follow for people coming in halfway through, and trust them to bring themselves up to speed by going back and reading the preceding issues.

Jonathan Hickman’s honest, and he’s being realistic. I appreciate that.

I also gotta agree with Jack. Bendis made it safe and popular to get real lazy with comics writing process.

I have to agree with Hickman. Not everything can be new-reader friendly. The best way to make something new-reader friendly is to make #1 easily accessible. I agree that price points are a problem, but these days with digital and trades and good old fashioned back-issues in your LCS getting caught up is not hard to do. And the onus should be on the reader to do so, as much as the publisher. Or do as Marvel has been and launch a new #1 every 16 months. Sure, you don’t get into triple digit numbering, but these endlessly serialized stories now come in more discreet chunks.

I don’t start watching the 14th episode of a TV series and expect that they assume i’ve not seen the previous episodes. If a creative team is attempting to build a full story you can’t constantly hold back your momentum so everyone can jump on.

Done-in-ones are great, but if you expect that with every issue it’ll seem that the characters are perpetually stuck and nothing happens, like a sit-com. That reminds me, one thing I really dislike about reality TV is how after every commercial break they recap what happened in the previous 15 minute chunk. So much time is wasted with all that narrative padding. And at $4 a pop, I don’t want to waste panels telling me what I already know.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

December 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

E. Li said, “Try writing a novel where any reader can open the book to a random chapter and understand what’s going on in the story within a page or two.”

A novel is a complete work with a beginning, middle and end. Therefore, a reader would logically start reading from the beginning.

We all know comics used to be composed almost entirely of one-and-done issues: you buy an issue and get a complete story.

We also know that hasn’t been the case in comics for a long time. Now, since a lot of serialized comics nowadays are being written in a longer form like novels, you’re only get one chapter of a larger story when you buy one (trades excepted). Since they’re selling each chapter as a separate product (and with the cost of individual issues increasing every time you turn your head), I think the writer is obligated (to a degree) to try and write each issue in a way that wouldn’t be totally impenetrable to a new reader.

Not to belabor a point, but to do otherwise is extremely short-sighted and bad for the future of the industry long-term.

I’m not saying every book has to be one-and-done or that we should rid ourselves of long-form storytelling. I’m not saying that at all.

I just think there needs to be some attempt by the writer to subtly bring new readers up to speed each issue. Because, as much as I think Marvel’s recap pages are a step in the right direction, not everyone picking up a comic for the first time wants to read an exposition dump on the first page to know what’s going on.

The idea that ppl aren’t reading comics because they aren’t easily accessible is ridiculous to me. When i started reading comics I didn’t start with the Stan lee&Jack Kirby Fantastic Four #1 or Action Comics #1,and im sure most of you didn’t either. I started in the middle of some story of a book i bought off the shelf and was hooked right there. I made the most of what i had available to me and followed as best as i could. Like Hickman says,you can download anything you want,find trades,buy comics online for on the cheap,Wikipedia.
As far as seeing new comic readers under 30. Ppl are into comics a different way now,They cos-play,they are into the video games or into the movies.Its no longer about how many ppl go into a shop on Wednesday anymore/

Think back dear readers to a time when people didn’t have an internet to troll on with bad impressions of Alan Moore. All that was missing was talk of emotional development among the readers of these books.

@E. Li what makes you think that going to the “preceding issues” is the answer? Those are equally unreadable because they are rely on the previous issues to make any sense. As much as people would like to believe that the poster Jack up above is a troll or he’s just being hateful, he’s not only absolutely right but he should probably go a little further. Comic characters are recognizable the world over, and have movies that make literally billions of dollars, while comics themselves struggle to crack 100,000 issues in sales. Why is that? Sure, part of it is because many people would rather see a movie than read, but look at Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc… those books sell pretty well, right? It’s because the writing in comics is insanely shitty. Comics sell so poorly that the trick of never ending a story (to make readers buy next month’s issue to see what happens) is the only one they have. That’s why comics are like that, it isn’t because of new readers at all, one way or the other. Anyone who doesn’t believe that single-issue storytelling with easily approachable characters is relevant or possible anymore needs to understand that sitcoms use this method every single week, and measure their viewers in the millions, not tens of thousands.

I don’t see what the interesting thing about this quote is. The fact that Hickman’s Avengers run, at its 20th issue is not “an easy jumping on point”? Are people looking for things to blow out of proportion these days?

Of course and a title with as many issues behind it won’t be easy to get into and understand everything or even most. That is what the past 20 issues are all about in a continuous run: 20 issues worth of stories, all connected together. What is so alien about that?

If the preference of done-in-one is the matter then readers can go check out those titles instead. Continuous story-telling and complex world-building are not wrong; they are just an artistic choice, adhering to certain readers’ taste. The rest won’t like it; but then again nothing in art is universally admired, ever. Personally I’d much rather the main Avengers title follow its current long-form story-telling approach than the 2 decades old done-in-one approach. It never felt right. It felt crowded, like someone was trying to pump the issue to the brim, and as a result it read ridiculously. Not to mention the attempts to offer information to new readers by awkwardly have characters’ names get mentioned at every ooportunity, as well as their powers, and their relationships, etc.

Hickman’s approach is a much more delicate and refined one than the done-in-one. It does have its negative aspects; and it is not to everyone’s tastes; but it’s something interesting: an attempt to tell a story over a large amount of time, taking all the benefits of having all that space to unravel your vision. Not all comics have to be fast moving. Brawls/shocks/surprises/twists/exaggerations-per-minute has rarely been the standard of quality for a comic. And it’s quite weird that what is generally admired in other story-telling mediums, like novels and television shows, is frowned upon by some comic-book readers, who seemingly have the attention span of a little kid, expecting to be showered with fist-fights, hollow plots, and pompous theatrics all the time; and cry out at most attempts to grab their attention for more than couple of issues or, goodness forbid, to make them think.. Perhaps the notion of the general public about the maturity of the medium is not that far off in some cases.

I would never argue it as a possible artistic choice, but I could spend months telling you why it is a bad business decision. That’s the problem, if the books don’t make any money, there won’t be more books. Who cares what one person likes or another person likes? If the book purposefully makes itself harder to sell, that becomes a different level of managerial negligence completely.

@James:No I have to disagree with you there. You can’t compare ratings on a TV show to comic book sales numbers. The difference between the 2 is that it takes zero effort and commitment to watch TV. As for comics and other forms of print you have to make a effort and be invested. Look at Game of thrones. Why was everyone so surprised about the Red wedding episode? Because nobody read the books. You can pop in a box set and be done in a day. Hell I watched season one of the Following in one day and couldn’t tell you half of what happened.

Don’t blame Hickman for writing the kinds of inaccessible, True-Believers-only stories that the Direct Market rewards with its dollars.

@Mike T I think the point you are trying to make doesn’t make sense. It requires a commitment of time for both TV and comics, along with the money spent to obtain either. Just because you read comics with your hands doesn’t mean there is more “effort” in using the material. Also, I don’t expect comic sales to meet or exceed TV ratings, but the disparity is still alarming.

A recent preview of an Iron Man arc has a big #1 on it, in the finer text saying it was “#1 of 6″ or something in a story arc. I think that’s a great way to reconcile where new folks can jump on board, versus an issue that’s in the middle of a story — all while keeping a series ongoing number system.

I love comics, have done so my whole life. I stopped reading new books about 10 years ago because I was destitute financially, and just started back up this past month. As a relatively new reader of all these new and new to Marvel writers, I gotta say, there’s not much difference now than in any time in my past. There’s good and bad, writers and artists. I can’t stand Jason Aaron’s work on Amazing X-Men, but I’m loving Remender’s stuff. I just don’t get why everyone seems to love making blanket statements about the medium and industry being full of lazy writing, or unpenetrable pretentiousness. There’s some of that in every artistic medium. Maybe doomsayers just like saying doom. If you can’t find any well written comics, that’s your fault.

When writers tell big sprawling epics, people complain about how hard it is to jump on in the middle.

When publishers relaunch series with new #1s to make it clearer to new and lapsed readers that this would be a good place to jump on board, people complain that it makes it confusing for collectors.

When publishers try to tell done in one stories that don’t tie into any overarching narrative, people complain because then the stories “don’t matter”.

I really believe that the difference comes from the fact that a lot of ppl aren’t casual readers anymore. Like I referenced earlier Game of Thrones. Lots of ppl that love the show have no interest in reading the books. Ppl just prefer TV and movies to reading. I have a wide variety of friends that all love the marvel movies but none of them have any interest in picking up the comics. And its not because ofa jumping on point because I get asked questions about superhero stuff from them all the time.

@Greg: exactly. Cause comic fans so one thing but say a whole different thing with the wallet.

I agree with Jack Mehoff, whether anyone calls him a troll or not.

And the reason he’s here, Drew, is because he loves comic books enough to care about what has been done to them.

I’m to the point where I don’t buy the new rebooted versions of marvel and dc super-heroes. I just read them for free by borrowing the trade from the library. And most of them are sooo bad, most of them have such weak stories and crappy art, I’m very grateful that I didn’t waste my money.

I would hope that Hickman’s #24.NOW would at least be the start of a storyarc. That’s about as “new reader friendly” as we can hope for nowadays. Shame that isn’t advertised on the cover as often. “Part 1″ or “Start of a new story!”

When I was a kid I picked up “Amazing Spider-man” and I bought “Amazing Spider-man” for the next twenty five years. Same with “The Incredible Hulk”, “Fanatstic Four”, “Avengers” and so on. Now you pick up a Spider-man book and it doesn’t resemble the character that’s known to the public. It may be some other person as Spider-man. In the other 19 Spider-man books they are printing that month 19 other writers are doing something completely different. And you have the Ultimate version that is a completely different thing. Then just as you get a bead on what’s going on…RELAUNCH! Throw all continuity out the window because we wouldn’t want the delicate flowers that pass as writers at Marvel to actually have to deal with what has gone on in the past. Just flush it. Make all the books you bough irrelevant. Then that will go on for two years (Or one year. Or six months. i.e. until sales slip again.) And guess what? RELAUNCH! Spider-man is now a cross dressing Asian man in his 70s.

I don’t need a “jumping on point” in my books. I like coming in media res and then seeking out the issues before and after to flesh out what I just read. That’s how I started reading comics some 37 years ago, and I still peruse dollar boxes for old books to do just that. I hate the constant reboots to #1, and it has turned me off from new books as of late. It’s sad. I’ve been a huge fan and collector for most of my life, and now, I just can’t connect like I used to.

Brevoort thinks it’s a perfectly good jumping-on point, so everything is fine.

Well, this just means I won’t be reading any of Jonathan Hickman’s current writing at Marvel, simply because I do not feel like having to read through the last several years of his stories just so I can understand his new stuff. Besides not having the time to do all that, I am absolutely not in any sort of position to be able to afford spending that kind of money.

Hickman may be a very talented writer, but attitudes like this have resulted in me currently reading exactly one Marvel and one DC ongoing series. Everything else I get nowadays is from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Archie’s Red Circle imprint, and various other books that are not published by the Big Two.

The first issue I bought of the X-Men was #179. My brother had much of the Byrne/Claremont run but there was a difference of about four years or so between his last issue and my first issue. I didn’t know why Colossus was in the state he was in. I didn’t know who the Morlocks were. I didn’t know what Kitty’s deal with Caliban was. I continued to buy the next 100+ issues until Claremont left. There was enough in the story to keep me hooked. Back issues helped me eventually catch up but the fact that I could pick up a comic at #179 and continude to read the book showed a better understanding of the craft than a lot of today’s writers have (It also helped that I was an 11 year old kid who only had to spend sixty cents to read the story…) . There’s some credence to the Rock Star Writer idea in that publishers seem to be more interested in pushing the names inside the book than the name on the cover of the book.

While Jack made some valid points, it’s because he was lucky, not smart.The foundation of his argument, that comics are for children, is flawed. It’s the equivalent of saying radio is for old people, or that newspapers are for middle aged adults. Are cartoons for children, too? Even Family Guy, or the old Spawn series?

Just because the popular content from the 1960s were for children, don’t limit the medium. There’s plenty of literary content available in comics. See Maus, or MIND MGMT, or Morning Glories. None of these are for children.

And the nostalgia for done-in-ones is also myopic. Am I the only one here who’s read the older books? Multi-issue arcs have been around pretty much forever. In the early 70s, Lee and Kirby’s Thor had arcs that lasted 12 or more issues. The idea that they all had to be accessible didn’t mean they were done in one. It meant the first two pages were more expository text than art. Replacing this clunky writing with a recap page was brilliant, and should be encouraged. (This isn’t to say it’s always done well.)

And Marvel should drop the whole point numbering. 24.Now is supposed to be new-reader friendly? How will they know that? Will this new reader even be looking at the issue numbers when they grab their first book? Or just the cover art? Numbering a book 24.Now (or 24.1, or whatever) seems even /more/ impenetrable to me. When these new readers like what they find and go to find the back issues, how will they know when they have a complete set? Should they really be expected to know they needed issue zero between numbers 11 and 12? Here’s the dirty truth: The “new reader” these are meant for isn’t someone who doesn’t read comics. It’s a loyal comic reader who isn’t reading this particular series yet. And those people will know it’s a long form story, and won’t bother starting the series at anything other than #1.

I think there is a fallacy made by most of us in conflating a ”jumping on point” with the beginning of a storyline. Especially in a medium like superhero comics where you have a shared universe and sub-plots running throughout many books and characters with histories that span decades in real life.

But there is a reason that a lot of you started reading comics with some random number of Fantastic Four or Uncanny X-Men or The Avengers or Batman and continued to do so even if that issue wasn’t the beginning of a story. Back then the issues gave a lot of information about who the characters were, what was their motivation, what was their relationship with those around them. The issues usually had a set-up, pay-off and twist structure that not only moved the plot but also, and more importantly, offered a satisfactory narrative arc. Sometimes things got a little cheesy or contrived, but for the overall effect it was worth it. It’s not like they were some great drama that needed all the subtlety and tact it could get. And they aren’t now and it’s nothing wrong with that. Also, that doesn’t mean that they cannot be more than simply mindless entertainment.

So, making each issue a jumping on point is less about recapping the plot, or making the issues done-in-ones and more about setting up in them enough information that unwraps organically and gives the reader the feeling that he gets the comic, that he knows who are the people he reads about, what they are set to accomplish and who opposes them and that anything that might be unclear he could catch on the fly by continuing reading. Not feeling completely lost and being told to go back and download the back-issues.

I think there are two very different points being bandied around here.

Hickman’s Avengers has had a /lot/ of done-in-ones. They aren’t done-in-ones because they tell a completely isolated story that has no effect on what comes before or after. They’re done in one because they’re a chapter that has a beginning, a middle and an end. They have an existence /outside/ of the larger story, as well as having an existence with in it.

I /like/ that. I like done-in-one stories not so that I can read them in isolation without following the book as a whole–if I like the book, I’m going to read all of it. I like done-in-one stories because they’re /good storytelling/. The basic unit of storytelling in a comic book is the issue. An issue should be a chapter. It should be a package. It should be worth something. It should occupy a different space from the issue before and the issue after.

Look at Dark Knight Returns. The first issue is the Two-Face story, the second issue is the mutants story, the third issue is the Joker story, the fourth issue is the Superman story. They’re done-in-ones in that each of them contains a complete conflict.

Look at Watchmen. The second, fourth, sixth, seventh, ninth, and eleventh stories are character-focused flashback issues. That makes them done-in-ones.

This is good storytelling. It’s a rule that can be broken to great effect, but I don’t like the trend of series launching into diffuse twelve-issue story arcs as soon as they start. Hickman eased us into the mythology with his initial three-issue arc (which is /clearly/ broken into a three-act struggle, with a different character focus in every issue) and then three origin issues.

Now, Chris Claremont’s X-Men is a good example of a comic that had big, sweeping story arcs, but also made sure that every issue was a good jumping-on point: recapping everyone’s powers or whatever. Hickman is arguing that that’s not necessary because the way people consume these books has changed. I agree with this. The numbers support this. Television has latched on to this completely. Not only can people go back and get the previous issues, if they don’t want to do that they can Google characters’ names and figure out what’s up with them. And while Claremont’s stories are amazing (better than Hickman, for sure!), if he were doing them today, he could have trimmed some fat, because the model isn’t the same.

Hickman writes much like Johns. They don’t think of budgets, price points and offering stories. No everything has to be an opus, a grand interwoven pre fab event. That is why I like Remender’s book right now. But I will say this he has talent. I just cannot afford to follow his stuff.

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