Diversity versus Hydra
April 4, 2017 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Marvel’s recent Retailer Summit (2, 3) sparked controversy when Marvel’s flagging sales were blamed on an increase in diversity in they books, such as the recently Hugo nominated Ms Marvel. The actual sales numbers appear to tell a different story, with possible causes for their woes being event fatigue, a dip in the sales of X-Men books as Marvel fails to replace them with The Inhumans, and a lack of diversity amongst creators leading to mishandling of issues. A poorly timed storyline with Captain America becoming a Nazi and leading a Hydra takeover of the Marvel Universe (complete with a takeover of websites) may only be making matters worse. Meanwhile Ms. Marvel writer G Willow Wilson has her own take on diversity and the direction the market is going.
posted by Artw (121 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
The part where they tried to say that too much diversity was the cause of their bad sales was just pathetic.
posted by sotonohito at 10:54 AM on April 4 [36 favorites]


The problem is that every time they try to be diverse, it ends up being a ham-handed, self-congratulatory wankfest so, of course, it hurts them. If they could be honestly and empathically diverse, it wouldn't cause a problem. Even comics fans get sick of the PR stunt du jour.
posted by Samizdata at 10:58 AM on April 4 [9 favorites]


They also managed to piss off creators as well as fans by saying they don't really have any salebale artists.

Oh, and apologies for the Bleeding Cool link, but they really need to get Nick Spencer off of Twitter.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on April 4 [7 favorites]


They need to get Nick Spencer out of the business.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:03 AM on April 4 [7 favorites]


I love comics. I don't care about superhero comics. I'm never fully going to, it's just not my thing, but I'm also not the kind of person to write off entire genres completely. Ms. Marvel is exactly the kind of superhero comic I can enjoy; charming, witty, stylish and neither embarrassing to read nor look at as a grown woman. That anyone (let alone anyone in a position to actually affect production) can look at it and think, Yep, that's just going too far is sort of indicative of why superhero comics/fandom have always been so offputting to me, a comics-loving human.
posted by byanyothername at 11:06 AM on April 4 [21 favorites]


The problem is that every time they try to be diverse, it ends up being a ham-handed, self-congratulatory wankfest

Yeah, I saw a comment somewhere on Twitter where someone said something along the lines of "having the same old white dudes write "diversity" without understanding why it matters or why audiences care or how terrible they are at it is part of the problem".

If your attempts at diversity only show how much you hold the concept in contempt, or how hypothetical you consider other voices to be ("non-white non-male non-heterosexual comics fans??? THE VERY IDEA"), then it's probably just going to make things worse. When people say they want something, and you do an intentionally terrible job to prove to them that they were wrong and should shut up forevermore, that doesn't mean that they were actually wrong to request something new. It just means you suck.

Also, count me as one of the fans who found Nazi-Cap to be incredibly mean-spirited and hurtful, and it led to me spending a lot less money on Marvel merchandise than I would have otherwise. (I also found all of the "only fake comics fans would even care! comic book stunts like this happen all the tiiiiiiiiiiiime" rants to be even more upsetting. I own comic books. I buy comic books. And even if I didn't, that so isn't the point.)

Between that and all of the comics writers who spend their time going on MRA-rants on Twitter, I'll basically spend my money on anything else.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:07 AM on April 4 [21 favorites]


Step 1) Marvel starts paying creators more royalties for back issues.
Step 2) Comics creators can afford food and insurance. Yay!
Step 2a) Everybody on earth discovers the perfect slice of joy and wonderment that is Spencer & Steve Lieber's Superior Foes of Spider-Man
Step 3) Thanks to 2) and 2a), Spencer never has to work again, and stops ruining Captain America.

Everybody wins!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:09 AM on April 4 [11 favorites]


I'm just starting to get back into buying comics again - there was a year or two where I had a huge backlog and not enough time to read them, so I went on hiatus. There's a couple of Marvel series that are back on my virtual pull list - America, Hawkeye, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but even hearing stories about the bullshit they pulled last summer makes me scared to go with anything that Marvel thinks is top-tier. I'd rather stick to the comics that are likely to be cancelled, I guess.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:09 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


(Also, right now is a pretty great time to be getting back into comics; Shade, the Changing Girl; Saga; Bitch Planet; Clean Room; The Spire; My Chemical Doom Patrol; there's just a lot of wonderful stuff, and the overall culture feels a lot less hostile and casual-bigot parochial. Marvel's stance here could not be more poorly timed.)
posted by byanyothername at 11:10 AM on April 4 [10 favorites]


The current Hawkeye comic is also great, by the way: It's Kate Bishop fighting this pick up artist cult.

Spider Woman is also on my list, but haven't dug in yet. Eventually I'll start reading comics about white dudes again, maybe.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:12 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Comic sales were circling the drain for years before diversity was even on their radar, and nobody said, "Hey, people aren't buying this crap; must be because of the lack of diversity."

People who want superhero/supernatural/speculative/alternate universe/whatever-the-hell kinda stories can now get them, often in a much-better-realized form, in movies, Netflix series, and video games. And people who want to read comics can do it online, often for no money down plus a monthly payment of no dollars and no cents. And the big comics publishers are mostly committed, for whatever reason, to publishing the same kind of horseshit they've been cranking out since the time I was buying Marvel comics new for one quarter apiece. But sure, blame it on "diversity" and enjoy your continued slide into total irrelevance.

>A poorly timed storyline with Captain America becoming a Nazi

(I-don't-see-how-that's-a-party.gif) I don't see how that's poorly timed.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:13 AM on April 4 [4 favorites]




People who want superhero/supernatural/speculative/alternate universe/whatever-the-hell kinda stories can now get them, often in a much-better-realized form, in movies, Netflix series, and video games.

But Saga, Pretty Deadly, and Bitch Planet do exist (Saga is now on Fanfare!). Paper Girls is like Stranger Things, but better. I don't think it's fair to denigrate an entire art form because of Marvel's bullshit.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:16 AM on April 4 [8 favorites]


(I-don't-see-how-that's-a-party.gif) I don't see how that's poorly timed.

I can count on the fingers of zero hands the number of people I've met that are excited for Secret Empire right now.
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


And okay, one coda to my rant: I have been on the verge of spending a lot of money on comics and comics merchandise SO MANY TIMES in my life. I loved the XMen cartoon as a kid. I always loved Superman and Batman. When the first XMen movie came out I made all my friends go see it. They filmed the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman on my college campus, and Willem Defoe had a hilarious conversation with my friend who had no idea who he was, so I was excited to see the movie. I bought comics and I loved them.

And EVERY TIME I was on the verge of being a bigger, more involved fan, comics fandom & the comics industry did its best to tell me I wasn’t welcome. Creators saying that female fans were stupid. Major characters being fridged. Plot arcs that were seemingly designed to tell casual fans they weren’t welcome. Constant reminders that people who got into comics via movies or shows “didn’t count”. That stupid Mary Jane figurine. Nostalgia for the days of yore when characters could be brutally raped and no one would complain. Going into physical stores that reeked of body odor where no one would help me or my friends and then sneered at us when we asked for help (I know the last one sounds like a cliche, and even as it was happening I was thinking “this is the weirdest and most cliched thing I have ever experienced and yet it is happening and I can’t make it stop”). Constant fetishizing of “The Killing Joke” above all other Batman narratives. Female cosplayers at cons being stalked and assaulted. Fans freaking out every time a comics character is cast to be played by a PoC, but simultaneously explaining why whitewashing PoC characters is Totally Different and Completely Fine.

And the problem is “diversity”? Lol okay. That must be it.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:19 AM on April 4 [53 favorites]


>A poorly timed storyline with Captain America becoming a Nazi

(I-don't-see-how-that's-a-party.gif) I don't see how that's poorly timed.


I think many people saw it as poorly timed because they'd hoped that Captain America would continue to embody the best of America during a time when the worst of America was ascendant. Cap doesn't represent the government or the President, he represents the collective good will of regular Americans trying to do the right thing for their country and for the world. If the President in our world is an authoritarian, that makes it all the more important for Captain America to stand as an example against those ideals.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:21 AM on April 4 [26 favorites]


Colin Spacetwinks' The Problem With Comics is an essay presented in the form of a twine (you just open the html file with your browser) which goes into the history of comics sales and how Marvel decides which books to cancel and why they're constantly rebooting. When I got to the part about how Marvel actually determines sales figures (spoiler: going to a comic shop and buying a comic off the rack somehow doesn't count), my jaw dropped open. Everything is terrible.

Comichron is a website that tracks sales month to month going back to '95 and has some year to year data for the 60's. I almost wish I'd never seen the site, since there's only two comics I buy (Squirrel Girl and Flintstones) and neither of them sells well, so now I'm worried that they're going to get cancelled.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:21 AM on April 4 [19 favorites]


Also, count me as one of the fans who found Nazi-Cap to be incredibly mean-spirited and hurtful, and it led to me spending a lot less money on Marvel merchandise than I would have otherwise

Ditto. I'm still angry at them for that one, and so I'm not buying more Ms Marvel for the kidlet, but it's not because of Ms Marvel, it's because of Cap.
posted by corb at 11:26 AM on April 4 [4 favorites]


Also, Cap didn't become a Nazi as any kind of reflection of the state of the country, it's just MacGuffin-induced memory rewriting. There's zero considered political dimension to the story, and thus no catharsis or element of reflection, which is part of why it's so poorly timed (especially since the original Secret Empire storyline was a full-throated response to Watergate).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:26 AM on April 4 [16 favorites]


G. Willow Wilson is fantastic:
If you’re going to write a smug thunk-piece about the “failure” of “diversity” in comics, maybe don’t use the cover image of a book that’s had 4 collections on the NYT graphic books bestseller list, won a Hugo and cleaned up at Angouleme. Just because you HOPE it’s on the chopping block, oh Riders of the Brohirrim, doesn’t mean it is.
Also: "This is a personal opinion, but IMO launching a legacy character by killing off or humiliating the original character sets the legacy character up for failure. Who wants a legacy if the legacy is shitty?"

Also, too: someone (really, a big group of someones) seems not to have learned even the slightest lesson from the X-Men, which in its reboot replaced a bunch of white American teenagers with a group that in terms of diversity could have been the bridge crew on a random Star Trek show, including one guy who didn't even really look human, and were rewarded with success well beyond any that the original group ever enjoyed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:27 AM on April 4 [22 favorites]


G. Willow Wilson is fantastic

Really if there;s any takeaway from this thread I would love it to be that.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on April 4 [3 favorites]


I saw that Silk is on the chopping block. So is World of Wakanda.

Silk, Ms. Marvel, Totally Awesome Hulk, and Black Panther were the four superhero series I had actually purchased in the past year. They were, additionally, the only four superheroes I was interested in. (I get Miles Morales, but I hadn't gotten around to picking up his Spiderman stories, and because there are so many Spidermen, I'd have to do the legwork to find out which title I actually needed: Amazing Spider-Man? Sensational Spider-Man? Spectacular Spider-Man? Superior Spider-Man?)

Except, see, I don't buy the issues themselves, I wait until they're collected into trade paperbacks. Maybe that's not being reflected in the sales figures the want, but that's how I'd rather read them.

Well, all the other problems aside, I suppose they'll be getting less money from me now once Silk is gone; if they don't kill her off, she'll have the usual fate of an Asian-American, that is to say, relegated to a bit player or sidekick, if she's lucky. Otherwise she'll be a white dude's girlfriend.

And here I thought that Marvel print actually cared about seeing more than two colors.
posted by anem0ne at 11:33 AM on April 4 [8 favorites]


>A poorly timed storyline with Captain America becoming a Nazi

(I-don't-see-how-that's-a-party.gif) I don't see how that's poorly timed.


A few months ago I randomly picked up a 1970s-era Captain America from my local comic book store, and its plot was almost exactly this -- if memory serves me correctly, the Hatemonger brainwashed Cap into becoming a white supremacist, and the Falcon had to snap him out of it by reaching the good man Cap really is.

But said plot lasted one issue, and it gave an outraged Cap an opportunity to deliver one hell of a The Reason You Suck speech to the villain and his minions.

Oh, and why was I browsing the back issue bins? Because current comics cost four dollars each, and I can still find comics from the 70s cheaper than that.

I am buying Black Panther, but that's about it.
posted by Gelatin at 11:36 AM on April 4 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile, if you're looking for proper superhero escapism beyond Marvel, DC's big summer event is literally turning the Dark Knight into a heavy metal cover.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:39 AM on April 4


Colin Spacetwinks' The Problem With Comics is an essay presented in the form of a twine (you just open the html file with your browser) which goes into the history of comics sales and how Marvel decides which books to cancel and why they're constantly rebooting. When I got to the part about how Marvel actually determines sales figures (spoiler: going to a comic shop and buying a comic off the rack somehow doesn't count), my jaw dropped open. Everything is terrible.

It's both horrifying and amazing, considering that it's following a model that's been waning for over a decade - kind of Nielsen ratings or landline polling on steroids. But figuring out a different method would be hard, so they keep on going on with partial information and their gut feelings about what those numbers mean.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:39 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


>A poorly timed storyline with Captain America becoming a Nazi

(I-don't-see-how-that's-a-party.gif) I don't see how that's poorly timed.


Even apart from the actual geopolitical RL Nazi problem that Strange Interlude mentioned, the scheduling was phenomenally stupid from a merchandising perspective for a few key reasons, but a big one was this: they had this massive Captain America 75th Anniversary merchandise push going on in retail outlets nationwide. I remember coming down an escalator at a Kohl's and seeing this HUGE display of Cap paraphernalia, and all I could think was "they made the shield into a swastika".

It doesn't matter that it was retconned almost immediately. At the very moment when they wanted people to celebrate the rich history of the character through spending many many dollars, they were selling comics that said the character people loved had never existed, because he had always been a sleeper agent for Nazis. I remember thinking-- did anyone from the comics division think to let the merchandising division what they were planning?

(Other factors: CA: Civil War was still in theaters, the actors were still going to cons and suddenly having to answer questions about the new plotline, Chris Evans got kind of blindsided by it, people who would have continued to go rewatch the movie in theaters changed their minds, etc. Add all that to real life Nazis on the verge of taking over multiple superpower governments and it was just...bad.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:39 AM on April 4 [20 favorites]


Oh, and why was I browsing the back issue bins? Because current comics cost four dollars each, and I can still find comics from the 70s cheaper than that.

Right? Even on digital platforms it's about that much. Why should I buy those when I can wait a few months to buy the trade paperback (digital or real) which contains 6-12 issues and provides more than a 5 minute read time, sans ads, for about $20 or less?
posted by anem0ne at 11:40 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]


So over the past couple years I've become quite a fan of movie and game reviewer and geek culture commentator Movie Bob AKA Bob Chipman, who, near as I can tell, gets a +1 attack roll and an extra d6 of damage against anyone who uses the acronym SJW as a pejorative.

He analyze this whole thing pretty well over the past month in these two videos: The Real Marvel Agenda and Make Mine Marvel?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:41 AM on April 4 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, if you're looking for proper superhero escapism beyond Marvel, DC's big summer event is literallyturning the Dark Knight into a heavy metal cover.

I dunno, there's a distinct lack of straight-dude-bait-women on it.
posted by anem0ne at 11:43 AM on April 4


Nah, I lowercased "heavy metal" for a reason.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:47 AM on April 4


Also, count me as one of the fans who found Nazi-Cap to be incredibly mean-spirited and hurtful, and it led to me spending a lot less money on Marvel merchandise than I would have otherwise.

To me, this is one of the sharpest indications that they're not in tune with fans, especially not women fans. There is no way that you could possibly think that contemporary Captain American fandom would go for this story.
posted by Frowner at 11:57 AM on April 4 [21 favorites]


Step 1) Marvel starts paying creators more royalties for back issues.

But Saga, Pretty Deadly, and Bitch Planet do exist (Saga is now on Fanfare!). Paper Girls is like Stranger Things, but better. I don't think it's fair to denigrate an entire art form because of Marvel's bullshit.

Perhaps these have something to do with each other. All of those titles are published by Image, and are creator owned. With so many comics being made into films, why put your best ideas into someone else's property?
posted by zabuni at 11:58 AM on April 4 [6 favorites]


There is no way that you could possibly think that contemporary Captain American fandom would go for this story.

I just wonder who the fuck they thought /would/.
posted by corb at 12:00 PM on April 4 [17 favorites]


I am THE target demo for Marvel and DC, and I have been basically since I was six years old. And yet, the only superhero comic I own is Watchmen. I generally only buy collected editions because I want complete stories or arcs. I loved Fun Home and bought its sequel. The only comic I've ever subscribed to is a non-cape story about three women in uni. I think Bone is a masterpiece. I'll empty my wallet for the third volume of Berlin.

Diversity ain't the problem, Marvel.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:03 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


Marvel’s flagging sales were blamed on an increase in diversity

So the lesson is, to be more marketable, we need more highly, highly popular stuff like Iron Fist.
posted by My Dad at 12:04 PM on April 4 [8 favorites]


sotonohito: The part where they tried to say that too much diversity was the cause of their bad sales was just pathetic.

I find it pathetic that in a historically white, male medium (the sad history of diversity in superhero comics, including the first interracial kiss ... in 1975, two decades after I Love Lucy broke that barrier on TV), they try to bail on diversity after what, a few months of decreased sales this is the issue?

Guys, and I'll write this because the key execs and board members are all guys at the time of writing this comment, maybe shifting readership patterns takes more than a year, when you've sold to the same demo for decades? Market Research [Said] 46.67% of Comic Fans are Female back in 2014, and that article had one title to display Marvel's catering to women: Ms. Marvel.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:05 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


Perhaps these have something to do with each other. All of those titles are published by Image, and are creator owned. With so many comics being made into films, why put your best ideas into someone else's property?

You can also tell weirder stories if you aren't working in a shared universe. But the other thing is that creators that have the biggest hits on Image oftentimes worked for Marvel/DC for a bit before getting to go-ahead by Image. It seems like the usual trajectory is smaller inprint/web -> big 2 -> larger inprint (Image or Boom).

This seems to be more true of writers than artists/colorists, though. Possibly because fanart is a thing?
posted by dinty_moore at 12:06 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


The best story about Captain America being a Nazi was from Matt Fraction's Punisher War Journal. It's set right after the end of the Civil War crossover, which ends with Cap getting shot and (apparently) killed.

Anyway, this guy shows up claiming to be Captain America. Only he's hanging out with a bunch of "Minutemen"-style amateur border patrol militia assholes. And Frank Castle knows Captain America, Captain America was a frenemy of his, and you, sir, are no Captain America.

So Frank goes down the militia camp, figures out that the fake Cap is actually Hatemonger, gets blasted with Hatemonger's H-Rays, except it turns out that guess who Frank Castle already really, really fucking hated even before getting blasted with H-Rays? White supremacist assholes who pretend to be Captain America! Asses are kicked and everybody has a good time (except for Hatemonger and the militia guys, who all get super dead, because it's a Punisher comic and they're the bad guys).

Speaking just for myself, I'll tell you what made me drop out of comics: boring events that just rehashed the same stupid fucking formula over and over again. When characters had a chance to breathe and tell their own stories, like Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel run or Matt Fraction's Hawkeye run or Greg Pak's Hercules run, I enjoyed the comics. When the events came in to drag the characters out of their current storylines and into some cookie cutter ZOMG WORLD THREATENING!!!! scenario, I tuned out. Sometimes forever, even for comics I had previously been really enjoying.

Eventually, I got so turned off that I just quit comics cold turkey. I bought a TPB of Ms. Marvel but haven't read it yet, even though I know it's not going to do any of the things that made me hate comics. It's just tainted by association at this point, and I'm not in a mindset to actually enjoy it. I skipped over Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther, too, for the same reason. Which makes me feel like an asshole, since the comics I was buying every week were white as fuck, and the stuff I wound up passing over is legitimately diverse with diverse creators. But fatigue is fatigue, you know?
posted by tobascodagama at 12:18 PM on April 4 [15 favorites]


> The problem is that every time they try to be diverse, it ends up being a ham-handed, self-congratulatory wankfest

I am the most casual of casual fans, but in the past year or two I've loved reading Ms Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Captain Marvel, and Patsy Walker. They're all female characters, and none of them felt ham-handed.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:25 PM on April 4 [8 favorites]


So, I've told this story before, but:

I used to know a guy who managed a comic shop in the 90s, and he was very much a Marvel fan. He never really got Vertigo, and he he didn't really like the DC comics of the time, but enjoyed the original Image line-up. He was a basic comics-bro, but fairly good-hearterd. Anyway, he ended up going to work for TokyoPop selling manga, and, periodically, he'd get together with friends who worked for the superhero sides of Marvel and DC, and they would say "women won't read comics." And he would say "what do you mean? women read comics like crazy; the vast majority of manga readers are women, and we're kicking you asses sales-wise. You need to tell stories women want to read." And they would stare at him like he was speaking Japanese and say "what can we do to get women to read our comics." He would just shake his head.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:33 PM on April 4 [28 favorites]


I'll admit that I stopped reading after like the first two or three issues, so I'm legit asking:

Wasn't the whole point of the timeline interference to make Cap a Nazi intended to be a commentary on the US's current proximity to fascism? That was my read on it just in those couple of issues.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:34 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


I mean, that's arguable. I read the first couple in that spirit.

Then the election happened and I noped the fuck out of reading the rest of it.
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


(also there's the factor where Nick appears to be the best counter to any arguments in flavour of Nick's work - dude should be in books about how not to do PR)
posted by Artw at 12:38 PM on April 4 [6 favorites]


Honestly I think the election was why I stopped too, now that you mention it. It wasn't a conscious decision so much as my stack one Wednesday was already big enough, I looked at that one on the stands and was basically "ehhhhh, I don't know if I'm up for that."
posted by middleclasstool at 12:39 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Saga, Pretty Deadly, and Bitch Planet do exist

And Girl Genius and Dicebox
posted by clew at 12:45 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


Why should I buy those when I can wait a few months to buy the trade paperback (digital or real) which contains 6-12 issues and provides more than a 5 minute read time, sans ads, for about $20 or less?

You're supposed to buy both. The floppies have to sell well enough to justify compiling them into a trade. Let me tell you the sad, sad story of loving Shade, the Changing Man

Which is yet another way in which comics are broken. Also: still halfhearted efforts for digital distribution; still making subscribing a painful process intended to be done through "your local comic shop" (a thing that doesn't exist in most of the US). Major publishers seem to have an idea of what comics even are (let alone who they're for) that's stuck in the 1960s.

There's a lot of wonderful stuff coming out right now, and the medium itself allows for huge amounts of creativity and diversity, but there have been major problems with how comics are sold for as long as I've been reading them, and most people seem unable to see better, alternate models because This is Just The Way Things Are or something.
posted by byanyothername at 12:47 PM on April 4 [5 favorites]


There are a lot of problems with Marvel right now and having too much character diversity is not one of them. I blame a lot of this on Spider-Man. Instead of having multiple monthly spider-books, they combined them all into one title, release as close to weekly or biweekly as they could manage, with the same writer but a rotating cast of artists. And because it was one book and one writer, they could do bigger and bigger events without worrying about throwing anyone off. And Marvel decided to follow that, double shipping more and more books. Writers have been able to keep up with accelerated ship schedule. Artists have not.

There were a lot of Marvel books I really enjoyed leading into Secret War. And Hickman is one of my favourites, so I dug the event itself. But once it was done, it seemed like a lot of momentum changed in the main books, as well as tone. Aaron's Thor books and Squirrel girl might be the only two series I read regularly both before and after Secret War. I'm bouncing off of most Marvel books now the way I bounced off of most of DC's stuff right after Flashpoint. I can't put my finger on why but I'm not excited about Marvel's mainstream stuff the way I was 2 years ago or 5 years ago or 10 years ago.
posted by thecjm at 12:47 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


The corpse in the library: "> The problem is that every time they try to be diverse, it ends up being a ham-handed, self-congratulatory wankfest

I am the most casual of casual fans, but in the past year or two I've loved reading Ms Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Captain Marvel, and Patsy Walker. They're all female characters, and none of them felt ham-handed.
"

I was rather referring to their more modern attempts, rather than older titles.
posted by Samizdata at 12:48 PM on April 4


I am the most casual of casual fans, but in the past year or two I've loved reading Ms Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Captain Marvel, and Patsy Walker. They're all female characters, and none of them felt ham-handed.


And they all have a female writer, female artist, or both. The "diverse" books that don't get received well tend to be written and drawn by white guys (I love you, Mark Waid, but you're not helping).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:49 PM on April 4 [11 favorites]


I was rather referring to their more modern attempts, rather than older titles.

Patsy Walker debuted last year?
posted by dinty_moore at 12:50 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


(re: "older titles," all of those books save the Kelly Sue DeConnick run of Captain Marvel are ongoing now, although Patsy Walker: AKA Hellcat! is ending.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:50 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


I should catch up on the Nick Spencer version of Sam Wilson because there's no way it can be as bad as it sounds (bad guys called the SJWs etc...) On the other hand again anytime Nick Spencer talks about it he makes a good case that maybe it can be.
posted by Artw at 12:57 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


You're supposed to buy both. The floppies have to sell well enough to justify compiling them into a trade. Let me tell you the sad, sad story of loving Shade, the Changing Man

Am I now? You're right about how broken it all is. If I buy them digitally, there's no reason for me to buy the trade paperbacks in digital form. It just makes no goddamn sense.

I'd be perfectly happy if they did it in the fashion of TV shows on iTunes/Amazon/Google Play. Let me buy a season.
posted by anem0ne at 12:59 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


I'd be perfectly happy if they did it in the fashion of TV shows on iTunes/Amazon/Google Play. Let me buy a season.

You can't quite do that, but you can do the netflix model - either through Marvel Unlimited or Comixology unlimited. It's not a bad deal, though their selection doesn't include everything (and back when I tried Marvel unlimited a few years ago, their reader was horrible).
posted by dinty_moore at 1:00 PM on April 4 [1 favorite]


I should catch up on the Nick Spencer version of Sam Wilson because there's no way it can be as bad as it sounds (bad guys called the SJWs etc...) On the other hand again anytime Nick Spencer talks about it he makes a good case that maybe it can be.

The pages from the Bombshells stuff in that bleedingcool link you posted upthread were pretty bad.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:02 PM on April 4


The "direct market" is a huge factor in everything screwed up in comics.

And then you look at bookstore sales and it turns our what actually sells is Raina Telgemeier, who I suspect a significan portion of comicstore denizens have never even heard of.
posted by Artw at 1:04 PM on April 4 [7 favorites]


The pages from the Bombshells stuff in that bleedingcool link you posted upthread were pretty bad.

Maybe there is context? At this point I am grasping at straws for I know not what reason. Residual respect for Superior Foes and The Fix I guess.
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on April 4


what actually sells is Raina Telgemeier

Yeah, an important thing to consider in all this garbage is that the most important and successful comics creator of the decade is a woman who works entirely on YA graphic novels sold through bookstores, while Marvel and DC fight over comparative scraps (and movie pitches).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:07 PM on April 4 [12 favorites]


Does 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' count?
posted by My Dad at 1:12 PM on April 4


I didn't follow the Nazi-Cap arc past the very beginning but I still haven't heard any complaints about the premise other than "This offends me! Because Patriotism!" and the very reasonable "Marketing and toy sales wise that was poorly timed".

So the symbol of American propaganda and obedience to the state turned out to be a literal Nazi. Makes sense to me. For a guy who hates Nazi's so much he didn't quit after Operation Paperclip, did he?

And they made that happen just *before* most of the recent real world events that made it obvious. As someone who isn't American, hates their foreign policy but is steeped in American culture (ie, I'm a Canadian leftist) the premise made wonderful sense. A lot of people were nodding along, thinking "Well, of course he is. Brave of them to finally admit that he kinda had to be".

That's the premise, I'm not going to defend the execution.
posted by Infracanophile at 1:13 PM on April 4


Not to derail this into an AskMe, but...what is the best* way to get digital comics these days? Is there a "Spotify for comics" (with both a good interface AND a good library)? Is my best bet to just go straight to the publishers themselves (e.g., I know Image sells digital editions)?

* the best legal way. Torrents have always been fantastic (free! permanent! great clients!) for me, but obviously not for the creators, and I would happily throw money at them if it was easy.
posted by isnotchicago at 1:16 PM on April 4


That's the premise, I'm not going to defend the execution.

That's not the premise. I guarantee you that you've put orders of magnitude more thought into the implications of a fascist Captain America that the current writer did. The writer has Cap as a Nazi 'cause someone rewrote his personal history.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:16 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


About a year and a half ago, I subscribed to "Marvel Unlimited," where you get to peruse a shit-ton of Marvel's comics on an iPad for a flat fee for a year. MU is essentially "Netflix for Marvel Comics," with the provisos that you don't get to keep the comics and you're six months behind what's on the stands. (I don't care about either, so I barreled ahead.) Courtesy of MU, I've been able to read whatever Marvel's been putting out over the last few years as I see fit.

While I'm speaking as a single data point, I can tell you what looks like wrong to me. Spoiler: it ain't the diversity issue.

The biggest problem is that it's impossible to tell what's going on anymore. As this is a storytelling medium, that's a bit of a problem.

Part of it is ill-considered brand expansion: the Avengers have split into multiple factions that have no relationship to one another and are in constant flux; Spider-Man has turned into a franchise with multiple Spiders-Man, interdimensional shenanigans, "Parker Industries" all over the world, and Bendis-chatter filling pages.

Part of it is bad decision making: Steve Rogers as Nazi Cap is a terrible idea if it extends past two issues; pushing the Inhumans despite a lack of interest; the obnoxious ineptitude of Civil War 2: The Squeak-quel.

But the biggest sin is interfering with their own stories. Series keep getting borked by events, creator shifts, and general chaos. Secret Wars was a hideous offender in this regard. SW was structured brilliantly to irritate the fuck out of readers. STEP ONE: build up to The End of the Marvel Universe. STEP TWO: End it in a mass catastrophe. STEP THREE: Replace the entire line with a bunch of crazy filler nonsense for many months. STEP FOUR: Bring it all back but with things changed, storylines dropped, and a sense of connection severed wherever convenient. But not always. Oh, and what about that whole big "end of the world" thing that just happened? Never mind. That happened but it didn't. Or something.

Take Iron Man. Tony Stark had undergone Villainization in a recent crossover event and become an epic dickhead. Okay, fine. This has been done a lot lately (Spider-Man was possessed by Doc Ock for a long time and became a morally dubious figure; the Hulk started to develop a nasty personality, but I forget where that went; Steve Rogers is a'villaining as we speak) but it was interesting. Tony Stark unhinged. It played out with his friends trying to figure him out, then stop him, and it was kinda interesting. Then came Secret Wars before the storyline ended, many months of one-off wankery, and WHOOP we're back, that story's gone, never to be resolved or mentioned again. This happened a lot. How about Cyclops of the X-Men coming down from his years of rage and borderline super-villainy to address the world with a speech about finally getting past all the anti-mutant hate...then WHOOP we're back and he's dead and a hated terrorist and what the fuck? (How that played out was similarly frustrating. He's a hated terrorist because he did...something that hurt nobody? Whuzzuh?) Years of storylines chucked without a backwards glance. So why care about today's story? It'll get ignored tomorrow.

Marvel starts and stops books so frequently momentum is lost and consequence evaporates. Everything feels even more arbitrary than it used to. New this! All-New that! Crossover time! Woo! There is no status quo to return to; it's all endless circling chaos. It's just a bunch of noise and punching and angst and bad fashion choices, and that's too much like life.

Not every book falls into this problem, but man, so many do. When I open the MU app and check the new comics for a week, I'm surprised how often I'll see, say, twenty new releases and think how few of them are worth the time to read. Squirrel Girl is a damn delight and a few other titles are good, but hoo boy it's a lot of dreck right now. They need to settle down and let shit breathe. Let a few status quos develop.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 1:17 PM on April 4 [21 favorites]


Speaking of Mark Waid, you know what would solve all this continuity garbage? Fuckin' hypertime.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:19 PM on April 4


So the symbol of American propaganda and obedience to the state turned out to be a literal Nazi. Makes sense to me.

Sounds like you've never read a single Captain America book? Many of his plots are about how he finds American propaganda and obedience to the state to be moral obscenities, and he keeps punching people, including American fascists, in order to prove this point.

If you hate American patriotism, imperialism, and exceptionalism, you might actually have a lot in common with Cap.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:24 PM on April 4 [31 favorites]


So the symbol of American propaganda and obedience to the state turned out to be a literal Nazi.

He's. . . not? The whole point of Captain America is that every so often, he says 'fuck off' to the American government or whatever organization he is working with and does what's right and just. Becomes Nomad, or leads an underground rebellion, whatever.

Reading Captain America as obedient to the state is strange considering his characterization since the 1950 weirdness, and also the major Marvel films.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:34 PM on April 4 [6 favorites]


For instance, one of the all-time great Captain America moments: "America is a piece of trash!"
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:35 PM on April 4 [8 favorites]


Seems like somebody might be confusing the actual Captain America with Mark Millar's extremely shitty Ultimate Captain America? Or maybe with Frank Miller's wrong-headed idea of who Superman is.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:42 PM on April 4 [7 favorites]


HZSF, that's from an issue of What If? written by Peter B. Gillis, one of my favorite comics writers from the eighties who sadly hasn't done much in comics since then. (He also wrote a What If? in which Peter Parker stops the burglar before he can kill Uncle Ben; not having learned the important lesson about great power and responsibility (he did it basically because it would be good publicity for his reality show), Peter becomes just another show business asshole.) Strictly speaking, it's not in continuity, but it's still a great story and, of course, very timely. For example, we find out that there's a yuuuuge wall built around Harlem to keep those people in.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:50 PM on April 4 [2 favorites]


It's not in continuity, but the only difference is supposed to be that Cap slept until the 70s (of course, in modern continuity he woke up in the 2000s, so......best not to think about it) and otherwise is the same guy -- loyal to nothing, except the dream.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:54 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


For me, I think that Captain America is about the tensions between love of country and morality, and the tension between love of American ideals and hatred of American realities. He's one of the most relatable characters for...I guess you could say, for the average kind of person, because we are constantly living that tension. He's also about being shaped by American history while having a lot of ambivalence about that history. It's true that he's the better angel of our natures - most of the time we don't react to American immorality by, like, leading a rebellion.

The reason that the whole "and American values were fascist all along" narrative works in the abstract and doesn't work for Actual Cap is that Actual Cap, far more than many superheroes, is really dependent on his own subjectivity for his status as a character. He isn't a perpetual motion machine like Punisher; he's someone who keeps going not because he's been set in motion by an original cause but because of the tension that he carries within him. If he doesn't have that tension - if he isn't a consistent person - his whole story falls apart.
posted by Frowner at 2:20 PM on April 4 [26 favorites]


I like G. Willow Wilson's point about scrapping the word 'diversity' in favor of 'realism' or 'authenticity'.
posted by signal at 2:39 PM on April 4 [14 favorites]


The current model adopted by the big two is irrevocably broken and arguably has been since the 90s.

They still privilege the FLGS because they don't want to cannibalize direct sales and piss of diamond even though single issue floppies haven't been priced for most consumers for decades but as others have indicated trade paperback sales are predicated on floppy sales. Furthermore trade paperback sales are largely focused on 6 issue runs which can barely tell much of a story at all especially when Marvel and DC are in a constant hype cycle to push their latest crossover event.

So unless you are purchasing a vast amount of books (or more likely pirating them) it's really hard to get a stand alone story except in the niche books that aren't typically forced to participate in the events. Avengers, X-Men, etc are almost always a part of a twice yearly event cycle.

Then you get a variety of writers some of whom are decent in some book types (Bendis for instance loves a lot of dialogue and that works well for solo books but it's awful for the big team books but of course he's a big name creator so he's typically on flagship titles). You also have rotating door creative team issues so that creative teams can't really develop into a synergistic relationship. Part of the reason why I think the big 2 do this is that they want the Characters to be a bigger draw than the creative team but it's wrong headed and has generally resulted in a complete lack of notable storylines coming out of Marvel and DC.

Inevitably when you talk with long term comic book readers the runs that typically stand out are the extremely long ones where a creative team was stable for years and that's almost unheard of anymore.

So is it really any wonder why the more compelling stories are happening in creator owned books where all of the business constraints imposed by Marvel and DC are largely ignored? That isn't to say that there haven't been some decent comic put out but in general it feels like you can drop Marvel or DC for a couple of years and go right back to them and quite frankly due to the status quo almost nothing notable has changed.

Of course Marvel Comics is virtually irrelevant to the bottom line of Disney because the IP is the only thing of real note but you have people like Perelman who have basically been strangling the storytelling capacity of Marvel since the 90s (not coincidentally when the great decline started).
posted by vuron at 2:58 PM on April 4 [5 favorites]






Why I don't do big two comics?

reason 1: Even works like Ms. Marvel have moments of deep intertextual referencing which are almost completely incomprehensible to a reader who hasn't bought hundreds of dollars of comics across over a dozen different titles. "Events," are the worst at this, since your favorite characters can be sent off to die (or the equivalent) in a series you don't care about so that a character you don't really find interesting can angst about it, and you never know if your title is going to be the same again.

reason 2: It's pretty clear that only a half-dozen characters in each franchise really matter, and no editorial fucks are given for any level of continuity outside of their marketing.

reason 3: While Marvel and DC are still dithering over LGBTQ subtext and how much they want to say explicitly on the page, I got WicDiv, Rat Queens, Shutter, and Saga that don't fucking dither at all.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:40 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


Am I now? You're right about how broken it all is. If I buy them digitally, there's no reason for me to buy the trade paperbacks in digital form. It just makes no goddamn sense.

Yeah, to be clear, I'm not defending the practice. Just pointing out how broken it is. I prefer to buy things in collected trades (and partly because the things I like just work better in that format), and have read and been told by numerous people who work in comics that individual issues have to sell well enough for publishers to consider compiling them into trade paperbacks. Which makes sense at a cursory glance, but makes no sense at all when you break it down and realize you're asking audiences to buy things twice, or just omitting the (larger! hi!) audience of people who would be more willing to buy things as trade paperbacks than single issues...but you have to print the initial runs as single issues because of advertising revenue and besides, it's Just the Way Things Are.

In my ideal personal utopia, comics are widely available on digital platforms and long-form works are just published as books instead of magazines. In our Universe C actual factual reality, it was flat out impossible to subscribe to DC imprints online well into the 2010s, and the storefront is still a complete wreck (I just looked).
posted by byanyothername at 7:09 PM on April 4 [3 favorites]


I'm just gonna be off in the corner pouring one out for Mockingbird. I pre-ordered it and they didn't even bother to ship the last one to the store I ordered it at, for fuck's sake.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:00 PM on April 4 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: just a bunch of noise and punching and angst and bad fashion choices, and that's too much like life
posted by Gelatin at 4:58 AM on April 5 [3 favorites]


I like amazon's Comixology for my digital hook up.
For old, weary eyes, their Guided View* is a godsend. The only Marvel I read is the new Daredevil, which is nothing short of amazing.
For indies, I'm all about Saga.
When it comes to DC, they are getting ready to start a Batman/The Shadow crossover that looks totally boss.
That's it.

*You can get this via the Comixology app or now, the Kindle app, depending on where you purchased the comic.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 6:22 AM on April 5


Are Kindle comics not doing the goddawul pop-up thing anymore? That's good. Their comics viewing experience used to be vastly inferior to comixologies so if they've just copied it that's great.
posted by Artw at 6:25 AM on April 5


Well, Amazon purchased comixology, so I'm reminded every time I sign in that if I have any kindle comics, I can view them through comixology instead.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:36 AM on April 5


Makes sense. Now I'm wondering if they use the same files (Kindle used to be glorified HTML, comicology a .cbr with metadata) but that's probably deep off into detail land.
posted by Artw at 6:46 AM on April 5


The "The Problem with Comics" essay from Colin Spacetwinks that Pope Guilty linked to above is very much worth the time to read, even though there's a deadly section where he's comparing stats for different comics across the years that screamed for some decent graphs instead. Of particular interest is the discussion about how Kelly Sue DeConnick had to tell the fans how to order her comic (for a character who is going to have her own entry in the spectacularly successful MCU movie series), and Marvel's failure to promote Chelsea Cain's Mockingbird, followed by Tom Brevoort's passing the buck onto fans for not doing Marvel's job in promoting the title.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:58 AM on April 5 [4 favorites]






If Squirrel Girl isn't played by Stranger Things' Shannon Purser, I'm gonna throw something.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:25 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]




It turns out that Shannon Purser is in another comic-book-based property. Hosannah in excelsis Demogorgon!
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:21 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]


Squirrel Girl with creative control held by Ryan North and Erica Henderson would be amazing. I'm not sure I trust other writers and artists.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:54 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]


MARVEL To Reward SECRET EMPIRE Readers If They Buy It From A Comic Store

I am not sure I understand the insider points thing or if this is standard for events, or if this is the desperate bribe it kind of gives the vibe of being.
posted by Artw at 2:54 PM on April 6


Ya know, if I wanted dumb overly convoluted plot devices to get men in tights beating up on other men in tights, I could just stream Captain America: Civil War and get it all in three hours of idiocy about how that terrorist is totally a cinnamon roll because he has good hair and soulful eyes, the genius who crosses the Atlantic twice because Disney needs to mark their territory on a franchise character they just reclaimed, and the super spies (including cinnamon roll terrorist) who don't take that opportunity to quietly get to their destination, and instead WALK ACROSS AN AIRPORT IN COSTUME.

And even if I paid to see that projected on a big screen, all that idiocy would cost less and be less insulting to me in the audience than a Marvel "event."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:19 PM on April 6


if I wanted dumb overly convoluted plot devices to get men in tights beating up on other men in tights

If you wanted singing, you'd go to the Opera. Same conventions.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on April 7




You can get America #1 for free this weekend, in case you want to see what the book is like. Written by Gabby Rivera, who wrote Juliet Takes a Breath, and is a queer latina herself.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:37 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


Though, to my knowledge, Gabby Rivera cannot punch a hole in the universe like America Chavez.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:38 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]




Okay, one thing I do appreciate about Marvel: Every issue of Squirrel Girl comes with a code for the digital version. DC's Flintstones books don't come with that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:02 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Space Goat Comics Announces NAZI PUNCHER Anthology
“Unlike some publishers,” said Space Goat’s Director of Marketing and Sales JD Boucher, “Space Goat believes the only time a Nazi should be in a comic or displayed in a store is if they are getting punched in the face.”
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:45 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]


Is Captain America Currently a Nazi? The Answer Is... Complicated

To which I would reply that no, it really isn't, and gosh is that a lot of handwaving over something fairly simple.
posted by Artw at 10:31 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


Well, calling them Schmazis instead absolves them of all guilt.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:54 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed seeing Dracula kick Hitler in the balls even more than I thought I would.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:54 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Secret Empire explained
posted by Artw at 12:25 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]






This came up on Twitter and it's worth pointing out because it shows why you should tread REALLY FREAKING CAREFULLY when you mess around with World War II: In Secret Empire, we discover that the Nazis originally won the war, but the Allies used the Cosmic Cube's wish-granting powers to rewrite history. So they created a world where the Third Reich was defeated, but the Holocaust still happened. That has Implications, and I'm sure the editorial team at Marvel spent exactly zero seconds grappling with them.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:45 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]


Kind of hoping the timecubed tombecubery is revealed as a secondary timecubing and timecubed out of existence along with the rest, because yuck.

Most likely in a few years everyone will just forget it all happened.

Oh, and they might kill off cap for a bit again too.
posted by Artw at 2:18 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


*Nick Spencer is given a hand-written note, folded neatly in half*

*he opens it, reads it, and collapses to the ground in anguish*

"Why don't you put the whole WORLD in a COSMIC CUBE, Nick Spencer?"
posted by tobascodagama at 2:28 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


Here's the deal. I stopped thinking about comic books as canon like 4 or 5 universe shattering events ago.

And with the interconnected Arrowverse, Gotham, Marvel Cinematic, Marvel Netflix, ( all so satisfying ) and ( there's a tiny chance they won't fuck it up ) the upcoming DC movies... I'm glad I made that choice.
posted by mikelieman at 2:31 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


I have witnessed one big name former Marvel writer tell another biggish name Marvel writer that they were the only person who gives a shit about continuity so it's possible to over estimate the degree to which it shapes the stories themselves. Basically ic it happened a long time ago it counts, if it happened recently it counts for a while and in the middle everything is optional.
posted by Artw at 3:00 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Okay, so can we fast forward to the point where we don't have to care about this stupid hurtful plotpoint anymore?
posted by dinty_moore at 3:39 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


/rubs magic cube.
posted by Artw at 4:56 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Ewww.
posted by Etrigan at 5:18 PM on April 19


WHICH IS JUST A CUBE NOW, GOD.
posted by Artw at 5:57 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


I kind of feel like I'm starting to get my fondness for superhero stories beaten out of me by the big two. Part of it may be just that every damn time I walk into my LCS, every damn customer looks exactly like me.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:57 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Mark Waid, you know what would solve all this continuity garbage? Fuckin' hypertime.

It really, really wouldn't. Really.
posted by straight at 7:15 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Somehow, in a world full of sitcoms and cartoons that hit an implicit reset button at the end of every half hour, comics remain convinced that an absurd laser focus on making sure that every single thing is directly connected to every other thing is necessary for good story telling. Because god forbid you read a comic that doesn't "count". (Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!)
posted by tobascodagama at 8:33 PM on April 26


Part of that is that few superhero comic books tell a full​ story in just one issue. Every episode ending in "to be continued" wouldn't make sitcom viewers happy, either.
posted by asperity at 9:30 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


In his very brief run on the relaunch of Moon Knight, Warren Ellis did this and it was wonderful. This month: Moon Knight tries to stop a sniper. Next month: Moon Knight punches ghosts in the goddamn face. It was a breath of fresh air.

What Jeff Lemire's been doing has been more of a serial story (Moon Knight coming to grips with his own mental health is going to take more than 20-odd pages, for example), but it hasn't tied into greater continuity at all, so it still doesn't feel nearly as encumbered as most of their titles do. Marvel doesn't appear to give much of a shit about Moon Knight outside of keeping the book going as long as it sells well enough, and I am glad for that.

You know how a lot of us loved Google Reader because we basically had a sort of underground social media network with an unusually high signal-to-noise ratio that hadn't gotten ruined by commercial/investor concerns like Twitter and Facebook did? That's kind of how I feel about Moon Knight in the greater Marvelverse. And I'm worried that Marvel will one day notice it and either shut it down or tie it into Secret Nazi Fetish continuity and make it exhausting to read.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:10 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


You know how a lot of us loved Google Reader because we basically had a sort of underground social media network with an unusually high signal-to-noise ratio that hadn't gotten ruined by commercial/investor concerns like Twitter and Facebook did? That's kind of how I feel about Moon Knight in the greater Marvelverse. And I'm worried that Marvel will one day notice it and either shut it down or tie it into Secret Nazi Fetish continuity and make it exhausting to read.

I think the hidden secret is that there's a lot of those books out there that rest in that middle area for a little while before tipping to one side or the other, and the trick is finding them and sussing them out - my marvel reading is mostly finding the grey area between 'getting cancelled' and 'popular enough to be tied into a special event'.

Sadly, it looks like more and more of them are getting cancelled, but I'd rather have a good 8 - 16 run series than dealing with special event coverage.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:22 AM on April 27


comics remain convinced that an absurd laser focus on making sure that every single thing is directly connected to every other thing is necessary for good story telling

I think it's more that every time they try to ditch continuity, it necessarily fails. Say you want to write a Fantastic Four story about Galactus. Do you reference the 50-year-old story of how Galactus came to Earth and the FF drove him away? Or do you have to start with a (probably inferior) retelling of the original story before you proceed with your own? If you don't want to maintain continuity with the older stories, you just end up spending half your time retelling them. (How many times do you want to re-read The Death of Uncle Ben or Ma & Pa Kent Finding a Baby in a Rocket or watch the pearls from Martha Wayne's necklace clatter to the ground?)

No writer can resist making reference to the earlier stories; if they didn't want to have any connection to those earlier stories, what's the point of writing Fantastic Four at all instead of just making up new characters?

Furthermore, good use of continuity is one of the chief pleasures of serial fiction. One of the most satisfying things in storytelling is a good payoff. It's when something happens that you didn't see coming, but seems like a natural or even inevitable outcome of what came before. It might be previous events in the plot coming together nicely, a clever explanation of some earlier mystery, a person doing something surprising but totally in-character or getting the chance to at last respond to a previous offense or kindness. It's seeing a relationship develop in an interesting way between two characters based on their history together.

Serial fiction multiplies the opportunities for a good payoff. It's delightful when a writer takes a seemingly insignificant detail from a previous story and uses it as a hook for a new story in a way that fits so well it seems it was intended from the start.

You can't keep people from reading the old stories and wondering how they relate to the new ones. (Is this Hank Pym character the same guy who hit his wife in a story 35 years ago? It matters to the story!) And you can't prevent writers from dipping into them to find hooks for new stories. DC Comics has tried over and over to cut ties with the past and start fresh. All they ever accomplish is making their long complicated history longer and more complicated. Any attempt to write off some of the past, to make a list of what is and isn't relevant to current stories, just becomes itself another chapter in the whole long mess of continuity.
posted by straight at 12:49 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]


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