Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
The notion that we rely on independent companies to save comic history is something that crept inside my head at some point last week, and refuses to leave. It’s an idea that I wrestle with — almost literally, one that I want to try and defeat, just throw to the ground and finally deal with once and for all — a lot, and yet no matter how much I want to say “No, that’s stupid!” it returns, whenever I turn my back, tapping me on the shoulder and saying “Well, actually …”
Okay, I admit it: I’m sold.
Thing is, I couldn’t tell you exactly when I got sold, and that’s a strange part of the charm. I can remember enjoying, but not loving, the first issue of the X-O Manowar reboot, and then finding that the new Harbinger was far closer to my sense of a good thing, but it maybe wasn’t until Bloodshot that I realized I was — by accident, almost — all in. The new Valiant, it seems, is a cumulative process.
The plus side of something being creator-owned is that, in most cases, that means it’s also creator-controlled; the more practical and technical aspects — release schedule, pricing, etc. — are something that creators have some level of input into, even if not final say over. Which is, let’s be honest, a pretty great thing … well, until it means you have to wait for the good stuff, of course. Which is to say: I can’t tell you how glad I am that Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s Stumptown is back this week.
One of the best things about comics — about any media, really, but for some reason it always feels more special when it happens to me with a comic — is when you’re reading something that you already had high expectations of, and end up bowled over by how easily those expectations were beaten.
I remember being so stupidly nervous about Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, for example, convinced that my anticipation of the final chapter and love for everything that had come before was somehow dooming the book to an entirely unearned doom, and the feeling after finishing it that it had, somehow, been better than I’d expected. Or the fourth issue of Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges, with Huizenga playing with the iconography of calendars and time in a way I couldn’t have imagined in the middle of a story about insomnia that felt bold and inventive and completely unexpected. There’s something about that realization that, hey, this thing called comics can hit you on all these different levels at once and leave you dazed and amazed as a result.
The more I think about it, the more strange Image Comics’ position in the modern comic book industry seems. Think about it: It’s currently the place where up-and-coming creators publish their own creations, looking to make a name for themselves and catch the attention of the Big Two publishers, and yet it’s also the place where established creators publish their own creations, having made a name for themselves by working on familiar brand names and characters at the Big Two publishers. Doesn’t that seem odd to anyone else?
The odd thing, perhaps, is that the Big Two publishers are part of the equation at all. If Image is both your launching pad and your escape pod, then why take the detour to Marvel or DC in the first place? I’m asking somewhat sarcastically, because I know that the answer is “because we want to,” as well as “because there are readers out there who pay attention to the Big Two in a way that they don’t pay attention to other things, and it’s a way to catch the attention of an entirely different readership that isn’t available anywhere else.” And yet… I don’t know; I’m feeling more and more exhausted by the churn that Marvel and (especially, lately) DC seems to have for creators, as well as the disrespect and hoops to be jumped through. A friend and I were talking about rumors about internal politics at both companies recently, and the question “Why would you want to subject yourself to all of that?” came up.
Robert Kirkman and Image Comics have spent the past week sending out teasers for the upcoming 100th issue of the superhero series Invincible, promoting “The Death Of …” before, today, promising “The Death of Everyone.” Wouldn’t it be great if it actually delivered on that promise? Continue Reading »
You know that you’ve become too cynical about comics when, reading Brian K. Vaughan talk about Saga, it feels like a surprise to see him mention a 50/50 split of royalties with artist Fiona Staples. Or, to put it another way, you know that you’ve become too cynical about comics when Tony Moore upgrades his legal battle against Robert Kirkman, and your first thought is, “Well, sure. Of course.”
Just when I thought I was done talking about 2000AD, Rebellion goes and makes the weekly series available digitally on the same day as U.K. print release, which … well, feels like it should be a game changer at least for 2000AD, if not the larger British comics industry. If things go the way that they should, of course. Continue Reading »
I’ve been reading a lot of 2000AD again recently; I think I can blame that on a confluence of things including nostalgia, Douglas Wolk and actually having some recent 2000AD to read, for once, and as a result, find myself almost unable to read any other comic without feeling dissatisfied somehow.
It’s not that 2000AD is that good that everything else pales in comparison — although, at its best, it’s pretty damn great, and the variety on offer in each issue (and reliance on new, with even long-term strips like Dredd pushing forward in terms of characterization and changing the status quo, to their credit) is something that puts a lot of the mainstream American comics industry to shame — but that there’s such a particular story structure and storytelling dynamic on show in each strip that almost everything else feels … slow, and somewhat bloated, in comparison.
Does anyone else get comics guilt? You know, that feeling you have when everyone’s talking about a particular comic or creator and they’re all excited about them and you know that either (a) you’ve never read what they’re talking about, (b) you have read what they’re talking about and didn’t get it/like it, or (c) you literally have no idea what they’re talking about and want to ask if they’re making it up but they’re all acting like you know exactly what it is and it’d be embarrassing and you should really know and doesn’t this make you a bad comic fan and oh, God.
For a while, before Comic-Con International, it looked like it was going to be Marvel. Marvel NOW! was announced, and it seemed as if the weekend would be filled with announcements of new creative teams on old books with new numbers, sucking up all the air in the room and creating a buzz vacuum (not that any of that actually happened, of course). And then DC Comics pulled out Neil Gaiman and Quentin Tarantino, and it seemed that they’d pulled some kind of coup … and then the Image Comics panel on Saturday hit, and holy moley.
I’m both amused by, and entirely supportive of, Tom Spurgeon’s promotion of the 30th Anniversary of Love & Rockets as the news story to come from Comic-Con International. Amused because the cynic in me laughs at the idea that Love & Rockets‘ long-running success will manage to make itself heard over the inevitable sturm-und-drang of Marvel NOW! and whatever the new DC promotion is these days (is it still the New 52, even a year later?), and supportive because, really? It should be a massive news story: Three decades of creators continually at the top of their game, when their game is already pretty much better than everyone else’s even at their worst? That’s definitely something people should be talking about, especially when compared with “X-Men franchise gets relaunched 13 months after the last time it got relaunched.”
All of that said, I find it really hard to write about Love & Rockets. Continue Reading »
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.
Sorry, Rob Liefeld and Mark Millar.
I’m tempted not to explain that, and just leave this week’s column there, but I think there may be a word-count issue to deal with if I did. Also, it needs some explanation, I think, because it’s more to do with my prejudices and faults than anything else, and it’s always good to air those kinds of things publicly, he lied.
Here’s the thing: I was reading the Ed Brubaker interview with Tom Spurgeon from this weekend — if you haven’t, you really should, because it’s wonderful stuff — and when I got to Brubaker explaining his reasons for leaving Captain America after nine years, I had one of those, “Oh, there’s that other shoe dropping” moments. “Partly, it’s the beginning a shift from work-for-hire to books I own, instead,” he said. “I hit a point with the work-for-hire stuff where I was starting to feel burned out on it. Like my tank is nearing empty on superhero comics, basically. It’s been a great job, and I think I found ways to bring my voice to it, but I have a lot of other things I want to do as a writer, too, so I’m going to try that for a while instead.”
It’s one of those weeks when you see things that are connected, and feel the pull of something larger behind all of them, just waiting to happen. You might not know what that “something larger” is, necessarily, but you know it’s there, and that’s somehow enough to make you simultaneously impatient for it; both nervous of and oddly exhilarated by whatever will come afterward.