It’s Sunday morning and I’ve been reading comics since yesterday, because the storms knocked-out my Internet. It was a mixed blessing; I am so far behind in my reading that I’m literally lost -- period -- and this gave me the chance to catch-up on some of it, but I obviously need my Internet and lost money while it was down. So I’m expounding on my dissatisfaction with Marvel’s Siege crossover, because I’m almost caught-up on my reading now... and I’m still completely lost.
Here’s how this works: The editor is called into the editor-in-chief’s (EIC) office, and told, “We have this major event we’ve been PLANNING FOR SEVEN YEARS [but didn’t bother to tell anyone else about until just now -- because we’re that good at ‘keeping a secret’ - MD] and we want your title to be part of it.”
The editor usually says something like, “But... we just got a new writer and he has this great story arc all charted-out -- I sent you the outline the other day -- and...”
The EIC dismisses him with a wave of his Cuban cigar, and gives with this speech:
“Well, you’ve got a hot title there and we need some of that heat on the 44352 titles that aren’t performing as well. We’d cancel them and focus our attention on the good ones, but we want to make a shitload of cash. These snotnosed kids’ll buy anything, and if those old nerds had anything going for them, they’d be spending money on something else -- hell, we’re doing them a favor! They’ll throw money at anything we do right now, so instead of doing them right, we’re gonna pump as much shit into the pipeline as humanly possible... cuz we’re gonna make some movies.”
Editor, “With all due respect, Mr. EIC, I -- I mean, I love movies, but -- I got into comic books because I want to do comics, not movies, and...”
The EIC laughs, “That’s why I like you, Editor: You’re flippin' stupid!
"Fuck comic books! Fuck ‘em right in their four-colored ear! We’re here to make money, son - fat, sloppy, dripping piles of money; crunchy, munchy, nutritionless money. Now, you need to work this big event into your title month after next. And don’t give me that, ‘It’ll screw-up our storyline’ nonsense, either -- just do it.
"Oh, and editor?"
"Yes, Mr. EIC?"
"The door. Mind it doesn't bump you on the ass when it closes behind you."
Now, that’s a fairly accurate depiction of what goes down: The editor of a title is told to work-in something, and he has to wrangle the creative team into doing it, because they tend to balk at such obvious, commercial machinations -- especially since they have to submit a year or so’s worth of plotting just to land the gig, and they have about 25 days to get the next issue together. And they generally don't use a fill-in team, because the whole point is to get as many Names involved as possible.
Marvel is known for these "editorial retreats" at which the editors and writers all go out to a moose lodge in the middle of nowhere and bounce ideas back and forth -- sort of like a Nerd Summit, I suppose. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? And I truly think it would be, but at the end of the day, the ideas are ranked not by importance, sense of drama and fun, or anything other than Potential for Return. Yeah, it's a business, but it's also an art form, and when it goes too far in either direction, it's a tragedy.
So I open Mighty Avengers #35 to find that I know absolutely nothing about what’s going on and the whole Siege “tie-in” is nothing more than a quick wraparound (it opens with some Siege-related scenes and closes with the same, but the story in-between is entirely independent of the crossover event which prompted my purchase), then I open New Mutants #11 to learn that something -- a BIG something -- happened between issue #10 and this one, and I have no idea what that was. As usual, I found out that I couldn’t read the current issue until I’d read five others I don’t usually collect.
[POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD]
Apparently, Dani Moonstar became a Valkyrie (again?) -- maybe sometime between issues 10 and 11, during which time the team also (apparently) forgave Doug (which was a major theme of issues 9 and 10, but... you know, suddenly isn’t anymore!) -- and this may have happened during Dark X-Men, Nation-X, or Doomwar. Or maybe in Uncanny X-Men, or X-Factor, or X-Force - or even 20 years ago, in the first run of the title! Whatever the case, the only thing I know for certain is that it did not happen in New Mutants #9 or 10! Nor does New Mutants #11 bother telling me exactly where or when it happened (as in: *TITLE #n - ed.).
Oh sure, I could go ahead and read it, but then again, I’m not going to know WTF is going on -- and I may as well just give-in because it isn’t getting any better! You can’t even subscribe to a Marvel title anymore, because you are going to get n number of sequential issues before the whole thing jumps ship and starts-up, in-media-res, with a storyline about which you know absolutely nothing until you buy five or six issues of titles you don’t collect. I had fallen in love with Uncanny X-Men -- for the first time since I was about 15 - only to pick up issue #514 to learn I had absolutely no idea as to what was going on, and needed to buy several issues from several titles to find out. Worst of all, there weren’t even any editorial notes telling me which issues from which titles I needed to buy -- I had to go online to find out for myself!
[END SPOILER ALERT]
Now, why would I want to read this issue, not knowing WTF is going on, and possibly spoiling the other story, before I read the pertinent ones leading up to this? I have all these crossover issues and mini-series because I collect X-everything, but I haven’t had the chance to read them all, largely because, in the last six months, they have gone from Utopia to Dark X-Men to Nation-X to Doomwar and are heading into Shadowland -- meaning I need to read at least six or seven issues a month just to keep-up with Uncanny X-Men, or New Mutants!
Now, think about that for a moment; really let that sink-in: Six to seven issues at $2.99 each is right at $20.00, per month, to follow one title. And, were you to really be faithful to a character/team (property), that's not even scratching the surface; Wolverine appears in no fewer than 10 titles each month.
I subscribe to a title because I want to follow that character/team's story, and when that story happens offstage, I have every right to feel robbed - because I have been! I shouldn't be coerced into spending another $15-30 just to find out what happened to the characters in the title to which I subscribe and/or follow -- yet that is exactly what is going on! And I could stand this, to a greater extent, if it happened once in a while -- say every 15-16 months or so -- but not (literally) every three to four issues!
Like I say, I think I have all the comics that will fill me in on what I’m (at this point) missing, but it cost me dearly, and few have the money for that. You may say, “Well, that’s your job,” and you're right, and that's why I did this; this is what I do and, were it not for this, I could never afford all these comics. But there is the other thing: I’ve wanted to work in comics since I was a child, and Marvel is making it harder for everyone to enjoy the medium, and the hobby, because they are flat-out greedy.
Despite what you may have heard, greed is not good. In fact, it's a fucking sin. But it's not like I'm a particularly religious man myself, so let's move on.
Though comics may be a "springboard"-type industry these days (for people who really want to make movies, TV, or just get their name "out there"), the people who use it for such aren’t actual "comic book people." Most of the artists, writers, creators, et.al., in the industry want to be there -- they want to do comics -- not make movies, not make TV. I don’t want to say it’s a "calling" -- I believe that it is, but I’m not here to wax poetic -- but however you look at it, a lot of the people making comic books are doing so because they really want to, and they deserve better than this. And so do I. And you do, too!
I don’t want people to get turned-off by comics the way we were all turned-off to them back in the ‘90s, because it took 15 years for us to get back into them, only to have Marvel (and DC) PULL THIS SAME SHIT AGAIN! (I told you so I told you so I told you so!)
I want comic books to be a popular medium and pastime; I want Marvel Comics (and DC, and Dark Horse, and Image, and Bluewater, and Antarctic, et.al. 1) to make money; I want to enjoy good product. What I'm saying is that these things are not mutually exclusive!
By churning out product and flooding the market, the publishers are forcing both retailers and readers/collectors to choose sides, as well as books, and that's not good! The Big Two could easily run a crossover event through multiple titles that not only boosts sales of flagging titles, but entertains the readers, and fulfills its purpose. Instead, they create separate mini/maxi -series, run their consequences through 10-12 different titles over the course of four or more months, slap-on another mini-series or two at the end, then rack a slew of one-shots. The result is nothing short of robbery.
Did you know that Iron Man got a total "reboot," so Tony Stark doesn't remember anything that happened in the last five years or so? Kinda like how Spidey made a deal with a devil to "forget" his marriage and the last 20 years of continuity. In other words, we all just bought thousands of dollars' worth of comic books to follow stories that never happened!
That's like paying for a concert at which the band walks onstage and says, "Goodnight!"
It's affecting the community, it's killing the hobby, and it's bad business all the way around -- to say nothing of the fact that it's sloppy work any hack off the street could do! And that makes me angry -- as a reader/collector/fan, as a creator, as a wannabe industry worker... on more levels than I can even think of without doing a full inventory. The Big Two have hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of complex, wonderful characters, and nearly 100 years of history, and these people just wring it out, hang it out to dry, then pull a Dallas. With straight faces, no less!
I've lost all respect for these "colleagues" of mine. I understand it's a paycheck; I understand these are properties; what I don't understand is why all of these people have the work ethics of a 16-year old fast food cashier! They should be ashamed, but it's probably hard to feel much of anything beneath a pile of cash.
I love comic books; I love the characters, the medium, the hobby of collecting -- the whole shebang; I honestly love them blindly, madly, passionately. Would you hacks kindly remove your collective dick?
1 I'm leaving Dark Horse, Bluewater, and the rest out of this discussion because they don't pull this crap. Image is starting to, to some degree, but I can't blame them, either; it is a business and I'd like to see Image give the Big Two a run for their money, even if that means getting down to their level to do so. Besides, Image needs a good crossover event or two to establish the Image Universe's connectivity and continuity.
© C Harris Lynn, 2010