Goin’ On Up To The Skateboard In The Sky

Ai ya, Bloggers. This is doing my head in.

I’ve had to rewrite this, a bunch of times. I was going to start out talking about the big problem with the Big Two, and where it all went wrong for them, and how that critical moment eventually landed us with this weird DC relaunch thing. And then I was going to give “my” 52-issue relaunch, the titles I’d reboot at a New Number One if it was all up to me. And I’ll still be laying those out in a while, don’t worry, but…while I was doing them, polishing off this great big post about the thing we’re all busily discussing, something occurred to me.

It doesn’t work.

You see, I’m still thinking about it like an Event, like the in-story manifestation of a new editorial direction, full of timelines and rationales and old associations either severed, altered, or maintained. But it isn’t like that at all, as I discovered when cobbling together that little wish-list of mine — to treat the relaunch as though it was the result of a multiversal reconfiguration of some kind just exposes a million little faultlines in it, things you can’t make add up. So this isn’t Crisis. It isn’t even Zero Hour. It isn’t even Elseworlds. It’s Amalgam, only without the Marvel component. Our idea of a hard reboot, as comics fans, is something that does something to a character: changes them according to some scheme, to achieve some new desired in-story effect. A new origin, a new timeline, a new set of interactions. A new feel, in a familiar touch?

Actually, I don’t think this is about that, anymore.

But let’s talk about the Crisis, first — I mean, the real-life one. You see, for me nothing really happens in or around the Big Two that isn’t connected to history, causality, continuity if you like…so for me the “secret origin” of this whole mess — and that’s how I interpret it, as a mess! — business-wise and otherwise! — is in Jack Kirby’s dissatisfaction with Marvel Comics. Of course, that is maybe a little bit arbitrary of me, to put it back in the 1960s instead of about twenty-five years earlier with Siegel and Shuster…which is the true Big Bang origin of all of it, but then again I could’ve moved it up, too, and kicked it off with Steve Gerber.

You might wonder what I think employee dissatisfaction at Marvel Comics in the Sixties and Seventies has to do with DC’s big gamble of 2011 — the rebooting, the aggressive entry into the digital marketplace and the inferences about the Direct Market that we’re all so busy drawing from that, these days. Well, you see, it’s like this…for me all that just speaks to the conservative, reactionary culture of the Big Two: which of course is the same everywhere you find it. Kind of like noise, and kind of like the point. I mean, this reboot just has such a Nineties feel to it, doesn’t it? An amazingly Nineties feel, really…All-New All-Edgy Teen Titans? Characters reinvented as mercenaries? Sexy, dangerous women…you know I always wonder: is it that they’re dangerous, that makes ’em so goshdarn sexy?

Or is it the other way around?

And even Rob Liefeld on Hawk & Dove, why will wonders never cease. I guess all we need to really complete the picture is somebody on a skateboard, and somebody else sent back in time to save the future…and hey, what if they were on some kind of futuristic skateboard? And okay, okay…I may sound a bit snarky, but you can’t tell me we haven’t been here before. Sometimes I think we never do leave, you know?

So what’s it all got to do with Kirby and Gerber. Well, they both had ambitious ideas about new markets for comics: Jack with his graphic novels sold in bookstores, Steve with his magazine formats and brand-new characters. It doesn’t really matter if these guys are only standing in for all the other people who groaned under the same conservative system, or if we stand ’em up exactly as themselves and leave the rest alone…because the thing is, their ideas weren’t just business ideas, but creative ones, and that combination goes real deep in any case. But they didn’t know how deep it went, so they didn’t see that the ideas just weren’t going to fly…they were missing part of the picture, because they never had a business idea that wasn’t also a creative idea, so to them the two things were one and the same.

And hence: failure. Not to mention: history. Mind you, we can forgive anyone for not grabbing hold of the tail-fin of Jack’s rocketship at the time, because let’s face it…he was ahead of his time, and that shit must’ve sounded crazy. And maybe Steve’s ideas, too, sounded like a big risk to take. But the third thing, the thing that would’ve blocked those ideas even if Stan had been willing to jump on board and shoot the moon…that thing actually was not a particularly ambitious thing, and it could’ve been done at the time. But it wasn’t done, and so here we are.

To have a more progressive workplace. That’s all it was, really.

Such a small thing!

But at the Big Two, it seems as though it’ll always be the old 1940s attitude of “who knows how long this ride’s gonna last, let’s get our money out of it the simplest way we can, and keep a parachute handy.” Sure, things are better today than they once were, but…it was really too late once it didn’t work the first time. That’s when the first wave of talent started to go, and through all the ups and downs and ebbs and flows of the decades since, the writing was still on the wall even in the good times, and the writing said: this wall isn’t going anywhere, and neither is that ceiling.

That’s how I read it, anyhow. Reboot? Relaunch? Same-day digital? None of it adds up to a bigger market than was around last year, does it? None of it’s any riskier than it absolutely has to be, and so no wonder this looks like the Nineties, because it is the Nineties — because that’s the last time they were looking for a way to frantically rearrange these deck chairs. And, so okay, there’s actually no real need for that kind of frenzy these days…because this is all big business now, and deep pockets, and each of the Big Two are owned by a BIGGER Two, who’ve learned over time that you can afford to throw away that parachute, if the ride can be kept from ending…and then in fact you can hardly afford not to throw it away…

But having once learned a habit, unless one is a person like a Kirby or a Gerber — or many others I could name, that these two could stand in for or not! — it’s pretty hard to unlearn it. Oh, the Nineties. They’re all that so many of us have to fall back on, aren’t they? Kewl stuff. Edgy stuff. Reinventing-oneself-out-of-sheer-desperation stuff, asking-the-kid-in-the-mailroom-what’s-awesome-in-his-opinion stuff, flop-sweat stuff, Christ-I-gotta-get-an-idea-soon stuff. In a way that’s where your Nineties comics guy is most comfortable, I think, and where he does his best work: on the bubble, spinning up pre-existing elements and using them to re-inform one another, once the crazy visionaries are all gone. This whole business is a bubble. So anyway when your innovators have flown the coop, anyway you gotta come up with some stuff, am I right…?

And there’s no doubt you can do it; but for today’s world, sometimes it’s actually very very inappropriate stuff. I ask you, Bloggers, can you really even have a mercenary mystique in a world where Iraq and Afghanistan are always the biggest topics nobody’s bringing up at a cocktail party? Where 60 Minutes interviews the head honcho of Blackwater and it turns out he’s your crazy Uncle Phil, only with power? In the Nineties, it was so much easier: white male models in cushy black ops telling each other to stay frosty…surface stuff, informed by other surfaces, just there for the lifting. God, but we were so goddamned ignorant back then, weren’t we? That fucking rocked, didn’t it? Couple kids on skateboards and we were ready to go; that was all the aesthetic we needed to think about. Getcher shoulder-pads on, dude. Let’s ride this puppy. You know sometimes I dream that I’m a twelfth-level half-elven magic-user/thief…

What?

“Uh…nothing, man…just thinking about something the kid in the mail-room said…come on, let’s ride, stay frosty…”

I don’t want to be mean. Honestly, I’m not a mean man. And I don’t want to imply that no one’s got any ideas over at DC. I mean…they hired Peter Milligan to write Red Lanterns, didn’t they? And this speaks of a truly wonderful self-awareness to me, a sense of proportion about things that I mean to emulate if I possibly can. War comics? Pshaw, well maybe Ennis was busy, and Veitch laughed at us over the phone, and Chaykin threatened to come down here with a baseball bat…but comics about weird space rangers who get so mad at you they magically puke lava vomit because they’re wearing these stupid fucking rings? Dude, we got Milligan. I swear to God, Bloggers, if we’re lucky this is going to be DC’s own X-Statix. Such a stodgy universe, everybody’s always giving an Academy Awards speech about their super-powered grandma up in Heaven…the super-sentiment builds just like it was being built by an expert bell-ringer…round and round and round, the tone rising higher…and then at the moment of supreme noble multiversal sacrifice…just as somebody strikes the Pieta pose…

…Your superpower makes you puke cosmic lava into the lap of Power Girl, or Amethyst, or Dr. Mid-Nite, or whoever’s sitting next to you. “WASSSSSSAAAAAAP…!” “AIIIIIIIEEEEEEE…! Now that sort of thing cries out to be put to use, that’s the sort of thing that speaks to that distinction between sentiment and sentimentality: sentiment is when you swerve to avoid hitting a dog with your car; sentimentality is when the swerve takes you up onto the sidewalk and straight into a bus stop full of people. And true, as sentimental as it is, on the surface this does not seem to be a universe that would welcome that sort of satire…

…But surely if the Red Lanterns stand for anything, they stand for hope?

Hope that it might go over a lot of heads, on its way to me. I swear to God, I have the highest hopes for this comic. And it is not the only comic I have high hopes for, even though it’s the the one I have the most highest hopes for…

…But let’s face it, a lot of the rest of them look like shit. Strap your snowboard on! Grab a stick of Juicy Fruit! Stay frosty, brah. Honestly we were always going to end up here, though. The early Sixties was the tipping point. That’s the thing that made the Nineties. And that’s the thing that made this. Sorry, did I not mention I was going to ramble on aimlessly…?

Fair warning: I may ramble on a bit, and the rambling may not have a particular aim.

Or , then again, it may not not have one. Bloggers, I am not saying I’m against change. Even if it’s stupid change. Because in fact I’d like to try a little of it on myself! Since, you know…the low bar, and everything. Think of it this way: if this really is the age of the IP farm instead of the comics company, then it doesn’t have to be the Nineties, does it? It can be just as stupid without the Nineties, in fact it doesn’t even really have to be stupid at all. It doesn’t have to be any particular sort of thing at all. Because all of a sudden — if we can only see it — there’s a freedom in here, again: the freedom of having nothing special to lose by experimentation. The impetus for change may not come from anything so unambiguous as a bankruptcy, but arguably there’s as little to lose, so you could change it even a little bit more, if you wanted to…

And so since I didn’t particularly like the Nineties myself, this is how I’d change it. Which is not how Kirby might have changed it, nor Gerber either…but as long as we’re only talking about rearranging chairs

WASSSSSAAAAAAAAP…!

So okay: here’s the continuity you need to have in hand for this.

In the beginning, there was Superman. And then there was Batman. And then they met on a boat this one time.

Thus was born the Shared-Universe Concept of superhero comics. Of course it wasn’t much at the time, and as far as many professional people were concerned it came with the drawback known as Slightly Stupid Fans. “These are just books, okay sonny? WE PRINT BOOKS, f’r Chrissakes what’s wrong with you? So something in one book doesn’t match up in another book, who cares, THEY’RE DIFFERENT BOOKS…!” But then one company took the Shared-Universe Concept’s dull-ish pebble and began to shine it up into something special: and lo, they perpetrated a massive SCREWING ‘pon their competitors, because the fans ate it right up. So in the twinkling of an eye (that only took about twenty years to complete), the company of Superman and Batman decided that they, too, would shine up their shared universe into something special…in large part thanks to the availability of people who used to work for the other company. And much money was made, and back and forth they seesawed, each always trying to get the better of the other, each trying to get the biggest slice of pie on their plate….especially since the pie was shrinking all the time. And it was the Shared-Universe Concept that proved to be the knife that cut it all up, so the Shared-Universe Concept was what they used…in large part, it seemed it was the Shared-Universe Concept that drove all the money around. And after a time this became such a habit of thought that no one bothered to consciously think it anymore: shared universes were what these things were, and that was that.

But then the Big Fish came along, and swallowed up the small fry, and perhaps (perhaps!) took a good look at this shared-universe business and decided it was past its prime as far as making money went. That it was no longer the primary driver of comic-related sales, even if the still-shrinking pie was largely made from the stuff…

And so here we are. (Perhaps!) In a world where the Shared-Universe Concept is, if not obsolete exactly (shared universes still fascinate lovers of serial fiction everywhere, of course), at least ready to be downgraded: identified as the least important part of overall brand-maintenance. And what’s the most important? Recognition. And I guess we think we know what that is, but we should also consider that maybe we don’t! What is, for example, Birds Of Prey all about? Primarily it is about “a superhero girl group run by a computer nerd, kind of like Charlie’s Angels.” That’s all; and that’s enough. What’s important to know about the “historical” tale of the adventures of Superman? It’s important to know what average people know about it, and whatever’s left over after that is not important.

It’s a tougher discipline than it looks. To let BoP have nothing in particular to do with Barbara Gordon, to have Babs’ story not really, for want of a better word, count? And yet it doesn’t count; we may like that character as much as we like any of our favourite characters, in any medium, but the story of Barbara Gordon is not in and of itself a brand. And this is about brands. I mean…again, I’m not saying that out of all this we will lose the characters we love, in fact as far as I can see this will all be a lot less disruptive than previous character-brand-switcheroos…didn’t you ever wonder at that, anyway? What does it matter if they want to get rid of Kent and Inza Nelson, why on earth would they care to get rid of them, what exactly was broken there that required new names, to fix it? What did that ever aim to prove, except that the names weren’t all that necessary to the brand either…?

Except of course a) they actually kind of were, a little…and b) there’s absolutely zero reasons to care about “proving” anything one way or the other, because this is not a philosophy term paper. No one needs it to be proven that you can have Batman without Bruce Wayne, because it is in no way necessary to have Batman without Bruce Wayne, and people know who Bruce Wayne is, so…exactly how hard are we trying to make this for ourselves, anyway? Strongman-from-another-planet Superman’s secret identity is Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter…evil lawyering aside, at a certain point that’s who he is, that’s the brand…and the brand is more important that what can be done with it even while the writer is wearing handcuffs. So in the end all the New Number Ones must be obedient to the dictates of marketing, as far as I can make out…and not editorial direction, which means they just sort of, er, kind of START, at some point, somewhere, as whatever it is they’re probably going to be. And that’s not necessarily a recipe for disaster, in fact for a guy like me who loved the post-Crisis cosmological ferment it could actually seem sort of promising…

…If it weren’t so damned NINETIES-LOOKIN’, but forgive me, I’ve gotten off-track, and I should really get back on. Basically what I’m saying is that I had to tinker with “my” 52 a LOT, to get past my own ingrained prejudice…to come to grips with the (apparent, at least for the moment) fact that there simply are no antecedents to these new Number Ones in story terms, merely brand attributes in publishing ones. All because history is no longer the driver. The map of continuity has been burned up in the fire. None of that stuff is real. Of course, it never really was real: Captain America is a two-fisted guy in a flag suit, not a member of the Avengers; Batman’s a millionaire with a cool car and a pointy-eared mask, not a man driven to avenge the death of his parents. These things matter to us. But they don’t really matter to the property-owners. Batman may be better with Thomas and Martha Wayne, but he can survive without them too; no one is going to take Thomas and Martha away from us, but it’s just that they’re not essential.

Because none of this is essential. No detail of the shared universe or its history is essential, no principle of the shared universe or its history is essential. Flashpoint will be no more essential than Crisis, by the time it’s concluded. Flashpoint isn’t about anything, and nothing’s going to come from it; this relaunch will not “come from” it, will not have had “come from” it…at the very point it is over, it’ll be irrelevant-ized. Hey, I’d be willing to bet it’s just not going to be capable of furnishing any kind of explanation, in an in-story sense, for the relaunch anyway. I mean, how could it? Crisis had a “story goal” that was pretty much co-extensive with its marketing goal: let’s make this place make a bit more sense, and hang together a bit less loosely, like Marvel’s universe does! And Zero Hour had an editorial goal, too: let’s stop all this improvisational stuff people are doing, before what happens in the books stops matching up! And then there was Infinite Crisis, which as far as I can tell had as its goal the checking off of items from a laundry list no one ever got to see…but what on earth could Flashpoint’s story goal be, or its editorial goal for that matter? If I’m proven wrong then I suppose I’ll be happy, but right now I don’t think we’ll see anything much in the way of a road going from A to B, down which the DC universe will travel…I think it’s just going to happen. And then it’ll have happened. And then that’ll be all there is to say about it. So…

Tinkering, yeah: I had to do a bit of that. And maybe it was even a little bit fun to do as an exercise, but of course I would rather have put it all together in a neat cosmological bow for you…because I’m a guy who grew up in the days of King Canon…

And then if I recall right, he abdicated in favour of Queen Meta…

But I’m starting to think now that maybe there’s been a bit of a revolution, that went on right under my nose. President Synergy? Did I ever really think he wouldn’t make changes, once he came to power?

…And honestly, they could be changes I could live with, if it weren’t for all this pathetic frost-free edginess and sexiness. So, might I still try my hand at a little change, I wonder? After all this adjustment and confusion, is there any point in me imagining that this really is the way it’s going to be, and trying to think of a 52 Pick-Up I’d like to play, within these new parameters? This was going to be a Meme, but I’m afraid it isn’t going to look much like one, now…

And maybe it won’t look like anything much at all! But I guess we can both make that determination for ourselves, when I finally get around to the damn thing…

…In the next post.

O tempora! O mores! This is not my beautiful house…!

But I guess if I knocked out that wall, I might have a bit more space to play with.

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15 responses to “Goin’ On Up To The Skateboard In The Sky

  1. This would’ve been a lot less choppy if WordPress wasn’t saving my draft every three seconds or whatever it is — hard to edit under such conditions! Is this another one of those things where I’m supposed to buy a new computer to make things run properly?

  2. So, I guess a brief addendum…

    If the idea is making your comics company into an IP farm — I’m thinking, too, about how good a pitch farm it’d be…did Mark Millar ever get to write a movie script, even a little? You see what I would tell Mr. Millar, if I were a head honcho, is that I did not WANT him coming out to Hollywood and competing for screenplay-dollars, but would much prefer him sitting at his desk making elaborate pitches for me in comics form, a thing I would even pay him for since it would probably make back the money anyway, so that if and when I wanted to make a movie from one of them I could be sure he’d be happy with a “Created By” credit, and I’d just suck the thing in and do whatever with it, and everything’s a lot simpler for me that way…

    But I’m just guessing, about that. JESUS CHRIST THESE NEW WORDPRESS FEATURES! They are slowing shit up like nobody’s business around here, when will the Internet realize that I can’t afford to get a new computer every time somebody wants their website to look cooler…?

    Damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn. Damn it. Damn it all. They never will stop making more demands on CPU time, will they? Never never never never never never never never never. All the people who make this stuff have top-of-the-line machines, where is the Internet for the computer-poor people? Argh.

    Anyway…

    So the new idea at DC is actually not too bad, in a way. So long as you get the various properties into a state where they’re pretty much constantly synergy-ready — and some great comics have been made under far harsher constraints than that! — then basically it doesn’t much matter what you do with them, and you could even afford to make them good. NOT what they’re about to make them, but consider how the forces that made the current culture have just evaporated, and then imagine what you’d do if you were Dan Didio, suddenly stuck in that vacuum. You’d panic, at first. But then I think you might see that there’s a good way forward, out of excess and crap…

    Of course your market would still have already been much bigger than it is, if way back when the men in charge had pursued a more progressive corporate culture…which was really my main point, though I think it got a bit lost. Something could be done with the DCU now that will in all likelihood be better than what’s been going on lately…but you’re still stuck with a shrinking market for the comics, aren’t you? For me, at a basic sales level, it’s all about whether the books are good enough to make people want to buy them. And in comics in 2011, they aren’t good enough to make me want to buy them…when Brian Hibbs talks about the lapsed customers who could be lured back, that’s me he’s talking about, and he’s right — I could be. But there’s not much of that kind of luring going on that I can see.

    Anyway…thoughts for another day, I guess, I feel like I’m just rambling on and making no sense…time for bed…

  3. Buying a new computer won’t really help. What do you think of writing the post in a word processor/text window and then just pasting it in here?

  4. Oh, that’s what I do! But it always needs a bit of editing once it’s pasted. Ye Gods, I don’t know what I’d be driven to if I was actually trying to compose in WordPress…

    What d’you mean a new computer wouldn’t help? Are you telling me this feature creep problem’s hitting everyone?

  5. This isn’t really comics as IP farm, though, because on a farm they breed livestock and raise it and nurture the calves or the chicks or whatever. This is more like comics as an IP veal pen. Except it isn’t even that, really, because at least veal gets fed. This is just trudging tired old cows through the chute one last time, before you know what.

    (Pardon this city and small town boy his poor attempt at constructing an agricultural metaphor; I hope someone who knows farming will correct the above for me.)

    And yes, Kirby and Gerber — but more than them, this reboot thing is the continuation of the corporate war on Siegel and Shuster by any means available. I mean that literally. There’s a hidden agenda here and the details of what might be happening to whose continuity is trivial compared to that. It’s about the opposite of cultivating new ideas or approaches or talent, in fact it’s been designed to close those things off; it’s definitely about diminishing the importance of creators and elevating even further the primacy of corporate properties. Even after everything that’s happened, they still think it’s Superman that matters, not Grant Morrison. It’s about tightening their grip on the bits they already own and not letting go, and not leaving room for anything else.

    The DC and Marvel superhero comic is over, and I feel bad for the talented creators trying to keep it on ventilation instead of doing creator-owned work. But for those of us who still want to read a superhero comic, EMPOWERED is the real thing.

  6. “Same-day digital? None of it adds up to a bigger market than was around last year, does it?”

    Well, see, that’s the thing, is that IN THEORY, them doing same-day digital is supposed to attract a new, wider audience. Because it’s on THE INTERNET. But that’s a HUGE “in theory.” I mean, that’s what my brother and I naively did when we were younger: “All we have to do is load a couple of songs onto MySpace and SOMEONE will discover us, right?” The couple of interviews I’ve read with Bob Harras (a blast from my past) et al really drive that home: there doesn’t seem to be a real PLAN, it’s just, “Well, we’ll put it online…that’s all you have to do.”

    This new DC initiative reminds me very much of what it was like to work at a newspaper owned by a larger corporation. It reads to me like Warner Bros. walked into DC one day and said, “Look, you’ve gotta do something about these sales figures,” and DC folks, understandably not wanting to lose their jobs, said they’d do SOMETHING, but it’s hard to totally re-work things from the ground up like you might say they OUGHT to do. I mean, if DC were really SERIOUS about this, they’d close up shop for a year or so! Develop a really sound strategy and get the exact right mixture of talent on the exact right mixture of books before going through all this trouble. But newspapers can’t afford to close down while they retool, just like hospitals can’t just refuse to see patients while they perform internal maintenance, and DC can’t put retailers out of business by not producing any product for a significant period of time. So it all has to be done on the fly, and so you get this half-serious reboot. I legitimately FEEL for DC.

    So to me, it feels like DC has put together an initiative that reads good on paper, enough to keep overseers happy, but isn’t designed to actually DO anything. So that if doesn’t work, DC can say, “Well, we TRIED to put out a Mr. Terrific series and diversify our line with Western and war series, but the market JUST DIDN’T RESPOND, so what are we to do?”

    But Richard brings up a good point that gets lost often in discussions like this. People like me are always like, “DC and Marvel have these characters…no, these BRANDS that everybody recognizes. Why can’t they capitalize on that?” Which totally ignores that these things are only so recognizable because there are actual human creators who were invested in creating them. As much as I dislike Geoff Johns, HE IS THE REASON there is a Green Lantern movie coming out, isn’t he?

  7. It is very hard to stick up for DC and Marvel superhero comics in 2011…even the IDEA of DC and Marvel superhero comics. “Why don’t you just let it go?” “Well, I KNOW, right? But…”

  8. Huh, seems I have actually talked about this before

    Darn strange. And speaking of Rick Veitch, I have to say I find it pretty disturbing that I don’t recognize the vast majority of the writers on the new 52. For artists I’m always ready to presume that, much as even the worst professional hockey player can at least skate really, really well, even the worst professional artist can draw and lay out a page well…but I know the writing biz well enough to know that that’s not a safe assumption to make with writers. So where are all the guys with names I know? Hmm…well of course it’s just as you guys say, and I think I may even have mentioned this myself, back when I was being Mindless-interviewed: when people believe in brands, they believe the brands make their own value — but of course it’s only the creators who give the brands value. People could stop buying Spider-Man pyjamas for their kids, it could totally happen…which is a business reality too, so hmm, it’s all a little schizoid, isn’t it? Because there is also a belief that once a brand’s been imbued with value, it can keep it all on its own, which means it doesn’t matter who writes or draws it. Which is obviously a really wrongheaded assumption, as we can see from comics’ dwindling sales through time. It isn’t all just trends. So, yeah, I think it’s been a few years since people in comics had a good idea of who the audience is, that they should want to reach…and Time-Warner’s solved that problem for DC by saying “it’s us, we’re the audience you’re trying to reach”, but their problem is that they think the editors are making brand-value and that the writers and artists are easily replaceable. Hey, you could hardly blame them for thinking that, in this age of editorial events and brainstorming retreats! Sometimes I wonder if the editors themselves have been tricked into thinking that way, too…

    But anyway, it’s a mess, right? In other words, not that much different from the problem at large in the corporate world: all the people on the bottom who know what’s what, pretend that they don’t…all the people on the top, who don’t have a clue, pretend they do. But maybe it’ll work as a veal-fattening pen, anyway. At some point I fully expect whoever T-W has got reading the comics to make a report saying “I can’t explain it, but it’s all shit…it’s just so weirdly Nineties-obsessed…” And at that point Mark Millar may well talk himself into a job as EIC. I don’t know…stranger things have happened?

    It definitely won’t matter, though. If the companies had seized the opportunity to become more progressive employers then there would’ve been a hell of a lot more wiggle-room, for all kinds of things, but as it stands they’ve just got what they’ve got what they’ve got, and what they’ve got is only worth so much, and then no more. Huh, I don’t think I know anyone, actually, who hasn’t been shafted by a non-creative partner in some way…like, someone who suddenly pulls the emergency stop cord at some point and says “my agenda’s satisfied: we got the money out.” In the minds of such people the end-point of every process is the time of consolidation, the time for settling into a repetitive groove. And though there’s a lot to be said for being cautious in business the way this works best for someone who is protecting their own agenda is not to share the power over stopping the train. “Easier to get forgiveness than permission,” yeah…except, as I have sometimes had occasion to point out, when you can’t get forgiveness, and then it’s you-made-your-bed time…

    But then I’ve also found that most of the time agenda-protectors are happy to make that bargain, you know? And just figure that when the ride’s over it’s time to get off. Oooooh, sorry, didn’t mean it to be such a rant, but of course we’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’ve all got those old issues. They cut off their noses to spite their faces, and then say “well, sometimes the bear gets you”, or something…then stroll off whistling merrily and patting themselves on the back. So infuriating. I’m no elitist, but you don’t have to be an elitist to harbour resentment towards con-men…

    But anyway I still see some hope in the new set-up at DC (I wonder how long it’ll take Marvel to get to someplace similar?), if only because a) nobody really caring or knowing about anything could mean freedom if editorial interference eventually gets leashed, and b) it’s the old story, if creators can own their work, then good things can always happen. Of course you can’t have both; you can’t have both freedom and non-freedom. But maybe the eminences at T-W will eventually realize that the old model won’t run anymore even if you break it…maybe, who knows, they will at some point get some good advice from somebody. How do you run a comic company that works? You run it responsibly, that’s all. You don’t try to make your new money the same way you made your old money.

    I don’t know…I think it’s going to be interesting, possibly, potentially. I don’t know if they can just cycle the brands as brands per se.

    As for Johns…as long as Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2 are out there, I think there was always going to be a Green Lantern movie, don’t you? And the fans still would’ve flocked to see it. It’s just that if he hadn’t been writing GL, the stories wouldn’t’ve been Johns-style stories. Hey, they might’ve been better! Although the people who like Johns like him a lot, that’s also a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy…as long as the sales keep circling the drain, no one can really claim to have had a sales success, can they? The “fuck-yeah” laden, pandering kind of thing Johns does is always going to interest a certain audience — more important than how well he can pull that audience in, is somebody’s decision that that’s the only kind of fish they’re interested in catching.

    Wow, I wrote a lot…maybe too much…

  9. With Bob Harras on board with Jim Lee, Scott Lobdell, Rob Liefeld and Ken Lashley, it’s an obvious return to the 90s, the lesson that the excesses of that period almost destroyed the whole industry.

    Is this an indication its death-knell isn’t far around the corner again?

    Not only a war on Siegel & Shuster, but Alan Moore as well.

    Geoff Johns obviously took personal offence to Uncle Al’s crack about his Blackest Night and is now showing his inability to act professionally by dismantling the Great Gazoo’s entire DC creative input including the greatest DC Comics run of the Modern Age by returning Alec Holland as Swamp Thing, in addition to blowing up Mogo and ‘curing’ Barbara Gordon’s paraplegia. No doubt Grant Morrison will assist grinding his own personal axe with Moore by evolving John Constantine into the ridiculous costumed buffoon he was in his run on Doom Patrol.

    God forbid comics have reached the point of being able to write believable disabled heroes anymore.

    While we might criticise Marvel, at least they aren’t ashamed to place their characters’ impairments to the forefront.

    To Moore’s credit, while he is blamed along with Frank Miller for ushering in the Dark Age, he at least progressed the cultural zeitgeist by understanding that we needed crazier characters and stories to reflect the crazier times we’ve been entering for the last thirty-plus years. The true successor to Steve Englehart no more on display than in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.

    This move on DC’s part can only be an utter failure, just like Zero Hour and the countless unnameable events before it.

    If it doesn’t mean the death-knell of the industry, it at least will for DC Comics.

    Maybe this current situation needs to be viewed through the lens of Moore’s recent Neonomicon series (to understand that each character represented an analogy for someone within the comic industry).

  10. Ooooh, I didn’t know that about Neonomicon!

    Huh, my 52 isn’t even going to have Swamp Thing in it…who still has a Swamp Thing story in them, I’d like to know? Who has an idea of what would be the next cool thing to happen to Swamp Thing? So I’m gonna go insectile instead of vegetable, for my eco-metaphor book…

  11. Good to see you’re back bashing out fan-fixes, Nate! I owe you some mail, hopefully I will be able to send it soon…

  12. In true Blundlefly-fashion Swampy could get infected by some insect that got caught in amber/ sap that breached one of his tubers and its consciousness begins to subjugate his own.

    I’ve read the scripts for Neonomicon and its subtext is undoubtedly his most scathing attack on the industry that nothing more needs to be said on his behalf.

    I look forward to your reviewing and adding some of your usual incisive comments to my fanfixes. And I look forward to your email replies too (and your Marvel Merlin-fix and our Hank Pym collaboration:)

  13. This is the best commentary on the whole business that I’ve found.

    I totally agree: the problem is the nasty corporate business model. And that problem, of course, is not restricted to comics.

    That editors have too much power over story arcs and big “events” feels as though the writers and readers are being rail-roaded, to borrow a term from role-playing games, and that’s never much fun.

  14. Thanks, Chris! And no…no it isn’t restricted to comics, is it? But comics may be the canary, here. Well, one can hope.

    It really is just as simple as editors sitting down and plotting their whole line over a couple weekends, isn’t it? It’s boring, and one feels used, and in the end there’s radically insufficient payoff. It’s a little like they’re telling you you’re stupid.

    Pardon me, feeling just a bit punchy at the moment…a long night’s posting just behind me…

  15. Pingback: In Full Measure Do I Enjoin Thee To Stay Frosty Mine Brah « A Trout In The Milk·

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