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.