What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Comics News

February 10, 2015

So I was talking to a comic industry professional the other day — someone who’d undoubtedly be amused that I described them that way, but still — about the June DC launches announced last week, and they made the suggestion that said launches were doomed to failure, and a sign that DC had given up competing with Marvel in any meaningful way.

When they said that, I had this moment of No, that’s too cynical, there’s an audience for this, but my optimism and faith in the comics industry was quickly dashed by the announcement, hours later, of Marvel’s A-Force — a new Avengers book that repeats the all-female gimmick of Brian Wood’s X-Men, but this time with a nonsensical name (Did X-Force sound this dumb when it launched? Probably) and a Secret Wars tie-in. Sound ridiculous and kind of flat? Perhaps, but according to some folks at some websites I know, the traffic and engagement for that story way outstripped the DC announcements.

Something about that stung; the announcement of 24 new series, including some genuinely unexpected choices both in terms of content (A new Prez series? Even with the Green Team revival awhile back, who the hell saw that coming?) and creators, apparently effortlessly eclipsed by what’s essentially a run of the mill Avengers launch?

(It’s not entirely run of the mill, I know that — G. Willow Wilson and Margueritte Bennett is a great co-writing team, and the all-female gimmick is going to remain a potent one considering the growing interest in superhero diversity and the oppressive lack of same in the industry today. But still: 24 new series, including Annie Wu and Irene Koh on Black Canary or David Walker writing Cyborg, and people are really more excited about a new Avengers book…?)

At first I thought it was more evidence of Marvel’s dominance of the market, and the subsequent (weird, laughable) belief in many minds that anything with the Marvel logo is inherently superior to the alternative, but I’m not so convinced anymore; the apparent lack of interest surrounding the Garth Ennis Secret Wars book, or the M.O.D.O.K. book feels very telling, as well. It’s not a bias towards Marvel at the cost of anything else, it’s… something else. A conservatism towards the known, an eagerness to embrace brand names.

The response to the Sony/Marvel Spider-Man movie news reinforced this. Such excitement over the fact that, hey, that company that makes the superhero movies we love is making this other superhero movie series that we want to love but don’t: seeing headlines, written without irony, saying “This Changes Everything.”

All of which is to say: part of me is almost glad that these new stories were announced at a time when Jeff and I wouldn’t have a chance to talk about them on the podcast; instead of feeling excited by things that I really should be — and was, in the case of the DC announcements, before I realized how little people apparently cared about getting what they say they want — I just feel distanced from it all, and somewhat grumpy towards comics fandom as a whole.

Of course, when Marvel finally gets around to announcing Secret Wars: Englehartworld, just watch me change my tune so fast your head will spin.


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9 comments on “What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Comics News

  1. I’m holding out for GerberWorld, myself. :D

  2. Steve K. Feb 11, 2015

    You’ll drive yourself mad burrowing down that particular rabbit hole. Remember: the internet generally didn’t care about the launch of the Harley Quinn series either, other than being outraged about the naked bathtub thing, and that series is one of DC’s biggest success stories in years.

    As pervasive as the internet often seems, the preferences of the online comics community still bears only a marginal resemblance to the preferences of the audience as a whole. That’s particularly highlighted when the various publishers publish books aimed at a non-traditional (read: more diverse) audience, since most of those folks probably aren’t reading the major comics websites anyway.

  3. Matthew Murray Feb 11, 2015

    My immediate reaction to seeing series like Prez announced was that I thought it was…funny? cute? tragic? That DC would announce Bat-Mite as a six issue miniseries, but Prez (and series like Mystic U or whatever) as an ongoing. Have the death pools opened yet? They’re both cancelled by issue 8 right?

    (I am sometimes super cynical…)

  4. Of course less and less people care about DC now; Marvel has the way more popular movies and their big creators keep going to other companies. And unless DC reboots their entire line its going to seem like a minor version of the new 52.

    On this very podcast Jeff and Graeme made jokes (funny jokes mind you) about how underwhelming the Image Expo announcements were a little over a month ago. Those announcements included the names Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Cliff Chang, Brandon Graham, BKV, Emma Rios, Darwyn Cooke, Carla Speed McNiel, Chip Zdarsky, and others. And they were overwhelming new IP.

    Im glad you’re excited for these new books but I’m not sure why you thought it would be massively exciting comics news that would get everyone talking.

  5. I remember in the early 2000s, when Quesada and Jemas were shaking things up at Marvel, how there was a strong conversation about how comics (at least superheroes) needed to be about more than just other comics and actually connect to the outside world and people who wouldn’t normally read comics. Now geek culture has become the norm, and while the printed comics themselves are still in the margins, a lot more people have invested themselves in the creative circle-jerk that is the sprawling shared universe. It’s like the dream of comics becoming mainstream came true in the most reductive and disappointing way possible.

  6. I, for one, am SUPER-INTERESTED in that Garth Ennis comic about dinosaurs and biplanes. So as long as we’re relying on anecdotal evidence to measure internet enthusiasm, I want to make my dino-biplane voice heard.

  7. So… you wish that the less popular books were more popular? Me too buddy.

  8. At first I thought it was more evidence of Marvel’s dominance of the market, and the subsequent (weird, laughable) belief in many minds that anything with the Marvel logo is inherently superior to the alternative,

    People say this all the time, and as someone who believes that anything with a Marvel logo is inherently superior to anything with a DC logo, I don’t find it weird or laughable at all. If something has a Marvel logo, I am getting a guarantee that Dan Didio, Jim Lee, Bob Harras, Dan Didio, and Scott Snyder had no part in the creation of the book. They didn’t have to be even consulted on in any shape or form. I am very willing to pay a premium for that guarantee, and that guarantee is enough to guarantee superiority to a DC book.