Saturday, June 1, 2013

How to fix the comics industry. (one geek's opinion)

With the revolving door deaths, constant reboots, and reimagings, not to mention retconning, and all the foolish, foolish changes. I think we can all agree the comic industry is in a mess. O.K. Not the whole comic industry, you can point to some great books like Cerebus, Scott Pilgrim, Bone, and The Tick that haven't become a clusterhump of continuity errors, screw ups and flat out crap that has ruined most major comics.

The problem is really two fold. first comics like soap operas are designed to keep the same story going indefinitely. In All My Children for example the show started with Susan Lucci playing a teenaged Erica Kane, now 43 years later the show has been forced to evolve with her as an adult, and while I have not followed the show (yeah all the previous info was thanks to a quick Wikipedia search.) I know that there has been a lot of cartoony and cockamamie plots covering it's 40+ year run.   You also see that With the Simpsons. the plots begin to contradict themselves. I recall an episode where Homer lamented never following his dreams of being a rocker, yet he was part of a resurgence of barbershop quartets with his band the B-sharps, and was the Kurt Cobain like frontman for the grunge band Sadgasm. Both while Bart was younger or not born. This is what happens when characters continue on and on with never an end in sight, all good things come to an end. Something Marvel and DC clearly take issue with. After all actually ending Spiderman or Green Lantern would mean selling less of either, and that siomply cannot happen.

The other big issue is one that is unique to US comics. The idea of a shared universe that slaps everything and the kitchen sink into it. When DC bought Fawcett publications Captain Marvel ceased being Superman's chief rival for sales and became a more minor part of the DC universe. When they bought Charlton the same thing happened. When Malibu was acquired by Marvel in the 1990s Prime, Hardcase, and the Exiles (now X-iles!) all became an integrated part of the marvel universe. not seperate but published by. I mean it was now possible for Prime to have a conversation with Captain America, or for Sweetface to apply to the Xavier School for gifted youngsters. And when Jim Lee went to DC he slapped wildstorm, his own label into the DCU. now Grifter can hang with Batman, and the possibility of a Daemonite invasion hitting earth can be stopped by the local Green Lanterns on duty. Imagine of other media did this. James Bond, is produced by MGM, but so was UHF. does this mean that we must assume that the two should coexist in the same universe? Or in litierature because Harry Potters American rights are with Scholastic does that mean that they are part of the Scholatic universe/metaverse, are hogwarts students actively helping rebel against the capital of Panem from the Hunger Games in the future, as they are the same publisher? No so why is this the case in comics it makes for horrible storytelling, and slapdash connections. Don't believe me Patton Oswalt did an amazing bit trying to link the Marvel Universe to the Star Wars universe in this clip from parks and recreations-
Of course this also links Tron, the Black Hole, Escape from Witch Mountain,Cars, Toy Story and Ratatouille to Star Wars and Marvel but who's counting right?

So what is the solution? Here is my thoughts.
I- have one more (and final) big universe shattering storyline to end these comic universes as we know it. DC can call it Crisis 2 electric boogaloo, or whatever. the point of this is to break free from the old system entirely. it's done, over kaput.
II- wait one month for new comics, yeah I know it's a business but I think the time of mourning can give a sense to the change, rather than just do more business as usual. At this point you can number your books back to 1 if you like but now we operate the comics industry under some new rules. These rules listed below will make it easier for a newbie to get into any given comic, and do away with the other big problem comics have which is that as iconic figures any major change you make will invariably piss someone off. Heck the current writer of Spiderman had death threats over his whole doc ock mind swap bit, come on people.

1- each book is an island on to itself- No writer need ever be forced to push the entire marvel universe into one book. as they are co owned characters the writer can use them in his book, but what the characters do in the book is no longer connected to another. DC did this with it's All Star Series, Batman was a damn near sociopath in All Star Batman, yet when Superman talks about him in All Star Superman, he describes a completely different Batman, much the way that Christopher Nolan's Batman films portray the same character of Batman as Brave and the Bold did but in entirely different ways.

2- The basics aside the creative team tells the story from their continuity until they are done. Once they leave the book, the new creative team starts with a clean slate with the character(s) in this scenarios creative teams should expect to stay with it for some time not juggle from one book to the next. we keep the continuity simple, to the level that can be introduced in say a movie, a writer's bible if you will for each book, and while you start at the same point, the sky is the limit. You can then use the characters to tell more and differing kinds of stories knowing that the basics are just that and remain, this is also how you package them once you make them into graphic novels. more like comics in other countries. This frees the writer to do what he wants killed spidey at the end of your run, that's fine the next volume of Spiderman will start with all the basics in place, just the way a new movie series or animated series would. no more trying to track 53 years of actions from getting bitten by a radioactive spider, to meeting a girl, watching her die meeting another girl , getting a symbiotic costume who turns into an antihero who wants to kill you and who spawns another suit for a mass murderer, marrying the girl, finding out you have a clone, finding out your aunt is going to die, making a pact with the devil to lose your one true love to get your aunt back some life only to find out your powers actually come from a mystical spider totem BS.

3- block off these stories by volume numbers so we don't have to keep going back to number 1 AND lose the fact that the book has been around for a long time. A number one sells mostly because it represents a good starting point for a new reader. Sure there is always some dumbass who believes that buying a #1 will somehow become an investment (if so I have a shit ton of Jim Lee's X-men #1 to sell you at $10.00 each) the industry needs to be less about collecting and speculating for value and more about accessing an audience. In french comics I can still pick up the first adventures of Asterix (a beloved french comic) for the price of an average graphic novel, and while i am sure first prints may have value similar to an Avengers#4, or Green Lantern #16, It's not unaccessable, and while we sell compalations here it often becomes hard to go back that far as so few non fans expect the eccentricities, (GL's racist nickname for his sidekick, or X-men going so long without Wolvereen) So this is where the market need to go.

No comments:

Post a Comment