September 19, 2005

Gordon Fixes the Comic Industry

When I last posted, James Meekly had asked what three problems I saw with the comics industry, and what I thought the solutions were. To be honest, I rarely talk about the industry, mostly because I would rather talk about the product, and maybe focus on the stuff I think people should be reading. However, never turning down an opportunity to be pretentious, here are my two cents (as opposed to Mah Two Cents) with the industry (which are, incredibly, focused on the big two):
  1. Overreliance on Continuity and the "Franchise Mentality" - once upon a time, the whole notion of a "shared universe" was kind of a cool idea in a Wold Newton kind of way. A shared history, interesting takes when two heroes meet...unfortunately, it has led to a kind of myopia in comics. When you consider that Infinite Crisis' major selling point is that every past mega-crossover since Crisis On Infinite Earths has been a story beat...a company wide crossover was a cool idea 20 years ago; now, it seems stale and cliche. (What's even scarier is when, while reading a blurb for House of M, seeing a statement to the effect that "the seeds for the next major event will be sown at the end of this major event.")

    In addition, there is an overreliance on proven "franchises" in comics - I understand that it is hopelessly naive to assume that, in this age of global mulitnational conglomerates, comic companies should only focus on comics. But do we really need more than two or three Batman/Superman/Spider-Man/X-Men books at any given time? (With rumors that DC will be pursuing a more "corporate" than "fanboy" philosophy, this becomes even more critical). My solution would be to begin wide spread cuts. Cut down your franchises to two or three books. Concentrate on making them high quality comics. It's similar to what happened with Star Trek: Enterprise - no matter how many times Berman and Braaga try to deny it, it wasn't franchise fatigue, it was creative fatigue. Rather than focus on making good Trek, they just focused on making Trek, running a long-running franchise right into the ground. Comics deserve better.

  2. Spandex Overload - Luckily, there are other companies that are making a strong effort to expand choice, but there are just way too many superhero comics. Brad Bird, in the commentary of The Incredibles, talks about how animation is often considered a genre in and of itself, and how that attitude is somewhat insulting. Animation can handle a multitude of genres - comedy, science fiction, Western - and why should it be limited to just one or two?

    My solution is something the industry won't do - promote other, more challenging books along with the spandex brigade. Yes, superheroes are the big two's bread and butter...but it's up to readers to begin expanding their tastes. Maybe even a small ban on Marvel/DC/select Image books.

    And finally, my personal "big problem with the comics industry":

  3. Ego Run Rampant - and in all fairness, I spot it, I got it. If it's not the ego of creators doing "definitive" takes on characters, or who show complete and utter contempt for their readers, it's a select group of fans and pundits who mandate their tastes be applied to all. For every comic artist/writer who believes himself to be God, there is a snarking, cynical fan who has no problem engaging in character assassination rather than critically examining a given artist's work.

    Recently, grand proclamations have been made about the death of the comics blogosphere, to which I respond - these are greatly exaggerated, in my humble opinion. This is one of the things that I find so right with the comics industry: never before has it been cool to actually love comics.

    For every snarky, derisive, more-contemptuous-of-the-art-form-than-thou semi-pundit (many of whom can be found in the Comments section of Fanboy Rampage), there is a some comics blogger who may not always love what happens in the industry, but who doesn't hide behind cynicism.

    Cynicism is always an easy posture to take - you never have to worry about justifying it, rationalizing it, or explaining it. It takes real courage to back convictions, to be unapologetic about your preferences. It's the difference between someone whose heart has been broken repeatedly, but is still a romantic at heart, and a person who gives up on humanity over a broken heart. It's the difference between someone who repeatedly buys and reads books they don't like, and those brave souls who actually stand by their convictions and refuse to play the game.

    Good example - I defy anyone to visit The Absorbascon and Dial B for Blog and not have a knowing smile on their face. To a cynic, they highlight the cheesiest parts of comics, those parts that are not real "art". For those who love comics, they are loving reminders of why we love comics.

    Well, that and this post about Power Girl.
Whew - what a post! Hope that answers your question, James - or, at the very least, sparks some lively, intelligent, snark-free debate. you hear that?

I think the Internet is cracking in half.

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