Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

Diversity in Comics …

April 19, 2017

So, comic book sales aren’t going all that well. And so the question has arisen of whether that decline is being caused or helped by diversity, or if diversity is the way to solve that decline. Alex Brown at Tor.com is arguing that diversity is not, in fact, the problem. She’s responding specifically to comments from David Gabriel:

Later, Gabriel gave another interview that, in part, rehashed that hoary old proverb that diversity doesn’t sell: “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.”

As I’ve already said, Brown thinks he’s wrong. I’ll get into her arguments later, but I think it will best frame the discussion if I give my opinion first:

Diversity doesn’t sell.

Now, when I say that, I don’t mean that a diverse cast of characters won’t sell, or that a female or black main character won’t sell, or anything like that. For the most part, if the characters and book are well-written and get noticed by readers/consumers, they’ll sell. What I mean by that is that using a claim of “This is diverse!” will not, in and of itself, drive sales, at least beyond the short-term, especially in a field that hasn’t actually been diverse. The problem is that, from the start, you are going to have some fans that are deeply resistant to anything that might be considered as diverse or deviate from the norm. Maybe those fans are indeed racist and/or sexist, or maybe they just see it as too deep an intrusion of politics into their media. These people, as soon as they hear “It’s diverse!” as a selling point, are automatically going to avoid consuming that product. Now, the argument is that those fans will be balanced out by more “diverse” fans who would buy it for the diversity, but the problem is that if that’s not a form of media that they would normally buy they aren’t likely to stay with it or even pick it up in the first place because, well, they likely don’t really like that media in the first place, and not everyone — yes, not even all nerds or geeks — like every type of “nerdy” media. So the hope to balance those who hear the word “diverse” and spit with those who hear the word “diverse” and have their ears perk up probably isn’t going to happen.

But even if it would, trying to sell on the basis of diversity has an impact on “middle-of-the-road” consumers like myself. I’m probably as middle-of-the-road as you can get here, and when the main selling point of a work is “Look how wonderfully diverse it is!” my immediate reaction is “… Really? That’s the best you can say about it?” How about talking about how great the story is? Or the characterization? But simply saying “It’s diverse!” leads me to think that that diversity is the main point of the work, and not the story or characters or whatever. And I get very skeptical about a work when the best people can say about it is that it has a diverse cast. That skepticism will get me to avoid spending my money on it, and instead to buy things that are “safer”, where I know — presumably — what I’m going to get. So trying to sell it on diversity is going to push away people who don’t care whether it is diverse or not, but are worried that diversity is the only thing it has going for it.

So, while I say that a work being diverse isn’t going to hurt its sales, promoting a work for its diversity will. Now let’s look at Brown’s view on diversity and how it isn’t the problem:

Disregarding the sugarcoated PR update Marvel made praising diverse fan favorites, Gabriel’s comments are so patently false that, without even thinking about it, I could name a dozen current titles across mediums that instantly disprove his reasoning. With its $150 million and counting in domestic earnings, Get Out is now the highest grossing original screenplay by a debut writer/director in history; meanwhile, The Great Wall, Ghost in the Shell, Gods of Egypt, and nearly every other recent whitewashed Hollywood blockbuster has tanked.

But are these really good examples? Get Out is a fairly unique take on horror, and benefited from that. Ghost in the Shell is the best known name out of the other examples, and was likely going to be a hard sell given that it is based on anime, which a lot of mainstream audiences have never heard of (as an example I, who is more tuned in to these things than the average person, had heard of the anime, but never watched it). She’s trying to do the comparison based on a movie that had some racial implications vs some movies that she calls “whitewashed”, but doesn’t compare the impact of genres and quality and what impact that might have on their sales. So it’s hard to say that it’s just “patently false” when her examples aren’t ones that would, well, prove the statement.

So let’s look at comics specifically. Maybe those examples will be better:

Even sticking strictly to comics, Black Panther #1 was Marvel’s highest selling solo comic of 2016. Before Civil War II, Marvel held seven of the top ten bestselling titles, three of which (Gwenpool, Black Panther, and Poe Dameron) were “diverse.” Take that, diversity naysayers.

Black Panther #1, which had a big following from the movie tie-in and was an established Marvel character, did well, certainly. That being said, it would be a bit odd to challenge Gabriel using that as an example, since he talked about returning to core characters instead of promoting diversity specifically and, well, Black Panther, as I just said, is a core Marvel character. So let’s look deeper at the monthly numbers, starting in April, where Black Panther, Gwenpool and Poe Dameron were all in the top ten. The thing to note here is that those were all #1s, and Marvel had another #1 in that top ten, which was C3P0, which she ignores (droids obviously not being “diverse”). #1s always get a bump due to them being the first issue, and all of these had ties to other things that would get them noticed. As I’ve already mentioned, Black Panther got a boost from the publicity from Civil War. Poe Dameron was linked to “The Force Awakens”. And Gwenpool was linked to both Deadpool and Spider-man, and was such an odd concept that people might definitely be interested in checking it out just to see what the heck was going on with it. Obviously C3P0 got the same boost.

So let’s look at what happened the next month, which had Civil War II 0 and maybe some other Civil War II crossovers. Black Panther #2 fell to 9, Poe Dameron fell to 12, and Gwenpool collapsed to 45. But that could be the influence of Civil War II, right? Not likely. Amazing Spider-Man #12 didn’t move at all compared to #10 and was only slightly 10,000 higher in sales than #11. Spider-Man Deadpool #5 sold basically the same as Spider-Man Deadpool. Star Wars and Star Wars Darth Vader didn’t lose any ground at all (Darth Vader actually sold more issues in May than in April, Star Wars had a slight decline). And Deadpool, despite releasing two issues that month (11 and 12) stayed roughly the same as well. So it’s far more reasonable that the decline came from the issues no longer getting the #1 boost than from Civil War II.

In June, more #1s flood the top ten, and so they lose even more ground (Black Panther comes in at 27, Poe Dameron at 43, and Gwenpool at 76) but Black Panther’s sales are mostly flat while both Poe Dameron and Gwenpool lost sales. For comparison, Star Wars stays flat, Darth Vader loses some — but also has two issues in the month — Amazing Spider-Man loses but has three books in that month, including the Civil War II tie-in — which didn’t lose when compared to Amazing Spider-Man in May — Spider-Man Deadpool’s sales are flat, as are Deadpool’s.

So, given these numbers … I’m not sure what “that” the diversity naysayers are supposed to “take”. It doesn’t really look like the new, diverse comics outperformed those focusing on core characters after the glow from their first issues faded, and most of them had influence from core characters or other media buttressing them in the first place. This is not a good argument that the idea that diversity doesn’t sell is just patently false.

Brown then moves on to differentiate the old school comic fans from the modern comic fans:

Comic book fans generally come in two flavors: the old school and the new. The hardcore traditionalist dudes (and they’re almost always white cishet men) are whinging in comic shops saying things like, “I don’t want you guys doing that stuff…One of my customers even said…he wants to get stories and doesn’t mind a message, but he doesn’t want to be beaten over the head with these things.” Then there are the modern geeks, the ones happy to take the classics alongside the contemporary and ready to welcome newbies into the fold.

So, technically, by this I’m both? My subscriptions included — when I still had them in force — Deadpool, Darth Vader, and Agents of Shield (with the latter clearly being “contemporary”). So I like my classics and I like my contemporary, and don’t care one way or the other about “newbies”. However, I am indeed one of those customers who says that I like stories an I don’t mind a message, but I don’t want to get beaten over the head with it. And, to be honest, I can’t see what’s wrong with that. Is Brown going to suggest that being beaten over the head with a message is a good thing? She could be trying to argue that what they see as “being beaten over the head with a message” is nothing more than being diverse period, but she’d need to a) demonstrate that and b) well, actually say that. Which she doesn’t as she moves on:

This gets to the point made by a woman retailer at the summit: “I think the mega question is, what customer do you want. Because your customer may be very different from my customer, and that’s the biggest problem in the industry is getting the balance of keeping the people who’ve been there for 40 years, and then getting new people in who have completely different ideas.” I’d argue there’s a customer between those extremes, one who follows beloved writers and artists across series and publishers and who places as much worth on who is telling the story as who the story is about. This is where I live, and there are plenty of other people here with me.

So, Brown is promoting customers who don’t care about the specific characters, and don’t care about the specific stories, but care about who is telling the story? I mean, okay, there are writers and artists that I might chose to follow to books that I might not otherwise buy, like Peter David or JMS, because I like what they do. But even then I’m not likely to pick up a work with a character that doesn’t interest me. And for artists, that’s more likely to be an exclusion list than a “Oh, I like their art but hate the character and story, so I’m going to buy it!” So … where do I fit in this paradigm? And where do the “old school” customers who do follow writers and artists around fit?

Or, does Brown really mean that she cares not about their skill, but about who they are? Does she follow them because she likes their work … or because they are themselves “diverse”? This would indeed be a difference, but I’m not sure that it’s one that we should promote as being a good way to approach comics, or that comics should try to appeal to these customers who don’t seem to care about the actual product.

Blaming readers for not buying diverse comics despite the clamor for more is a false narrative. Many of the fans attracted to “diverse” titles are newbies and engage in comics very differently from longtime fans. For a variety of reasons, they tend to wait for the trades or buy digital issues rather than print. The latter is especially true for young adults who generally share digital (and yes, often pirated) issues. Yet the comics industry derives all of its value from how many print issues Diamond Distributors shipped to stores, not from how many issues, trades, or digital copies were actually purchased by readers. Every comics publisher is struggling to walk that customer-centric tightrope, but only Marvel is dumb enough to shoot themselves in the foot, then blame the rope for their fall.

I have to agree with her, in some sense, on this. As I’ve said before, the subscription model is terrible, which stops me from subscribing. This is at least in part because they keep cancelling and rebooting books, and because they keep driving events that would require me to buy far more than I’d like just to get the entire story. Brown says more about this in the post and all of those points are reasonable. I do agree that this is probably causing more of the problems than “diversity”. But as I said above, the solution to that is not going to be promoting diversity, because that doesn’t help.

When you look at the sales figures, the only way to claim diversity doesn’t sell is to have a skewed interpretation of “diversity.” Out of Marvel’s current twenty female-led series, four series—America, Ms. Marvel, Silk, and Moon Girl—star women of color, and only America has an openly queer lead character. Only America, Gamora, Hawkeye, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (cancelled), are written by women. That’s not exactly a bountiful harvest of diversity.

But Brown thinks that, indeed, that’s the solution. On what evidence? What evidence does she have that ramping up the diversity is going to improve their numbers? None of her examples demonstrated that at all, and weren’t bountifully diverse themselves. And then she says this:

Plenty of comics starring or written by cishet white men get the axe over low sales, but when diversity titles are cancelled people come crawling out of the woodwork to blame diverse readers for not buying a million issues. First, we are buying titles, just usually not by the issue. Second, why should we bear the full responsibility for keeping diverse titles afloat? Non-diverse/old school fans could stand to look up from their longboxes of straight white male superheroes and subscribe to Moon Girl. Allyship is meaningless without action.

So, those who are diverse and thus would be the intended audience can’t be expected to, you know, actually buy comics in the way that keeps them afloat. Instead, those who are not the intended audience and many of whom who have no interest in being an “ally” in the first place need to belly-up to the bar and buy those comics for … reasons. Riiiiiiiiight. Or, you know, they can keep buying the comics that they, you know, actually like and let you buy the ones you like and keep them going. If you can.

Really, this is just ridiculous. If the comics can’t appeal to their own intended audience enough to get enough sales to avoid cancellation, then they should be cancelled, and appealing to those outside of that audience to save them is just … well, doomed to failure, and utterly entitled.

“Diversity” as a concept is a useful tool, but it can’t be the goal or the final product. It assumes whiteness (and/or maleness and/or heteronormitivity) as the default and everything else as a deviation from that. This is why diversity initiatives so often end up being quantitative—focused on the number of “diverse” individuals—rather than qualitative, committed to positive representation and active inclusion in all levels of creation and production. This kind of in-name-only diversity thinking is why Mayonnaise McWhitefeminism got cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi while actual Japanese person Rila Fukushima was used as nothing but a face mold for robot geishas.

So, know who “Mayonnaise McWhitefeminism” is? Scarlett Johannson. That’s a great way to encourage “allyship” by tossing an ally under the bus, and then driving the bus forward and backwards a number of times just to really drive home how loyal you are to your allies.

Also, I agree that making diversity the goal is not a good idea, because it leads to simply counting diverse characters/writers/artists instead of making sure that, for example, things are actually done with those characters and their diversity or that you are getting interesting, quality and also different narratives. So, given that … how come her examples above are all about counting the numbers? She just counts the numbers across more fields than simply the characters in the books themselves. Kinda hypocritical.

At the end of the day, using diversity as a main selling point doesn’t work. Diverse audiences won’t flock to media they don’t care for just because it happens to be diverse, those who hate diversity will avoid the titles like the plague, and everyone in between will just throw up their hands in frustration and retreat to those boxes of comics they have in their basement because, hey, at least they know what they’re getting. Brown’s arguments in favour of more diversity aren’t demonstrated and Gabriel’s comments ignore the real structural problems in comics that have nothing to do with diversity. Until people can figure out what’s really going on, comics are not likely to recover.

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Thoughts on X-23 (2010)

March 13, 2017

So, after deciding to focus more on buying and reading Trade Paperbacks, I’ve decided to comment on some of the ones I’ve read that I feel are worth commenting on. The first one of these is the TPB covering most of the X-23 comic books series from 2010. I admit that I was looking forward to reading this when I found it, because I’ve always, at least, found the idea of the character interesting, as well as what little of her history I gleaned from the other books. So I was very interested in seeing how she worked in what was, essentially, her own solo mag.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The problem is that X-23, at least there, was a character that had no personality … or, at least, didn’t have a personality that she revealed. And there’s nothing really wrong with that, as that sort of personality was reasonable given her history and provided for an interesting contrast with Wolverine, who with a similar history had a very strong personality. However, that would make watching her go through issue after issue as the star of the comic fairly boring, so the writers decided to team her up with someone who had personality. Having that be Wolverine would risk making the book be all about Wolverine, so they gave her … Gambit. But Gambit is also established and also has a very flamboyant personality, so the risk was still there. To me, it seems that their attempt to deal this was to tone Gambit down so that he didn’t overwhelm X-23 and overshadow her in her own book. However, this left Gambit less interesting, and so they weren’t really able to leverage his personality to make up for X-23’s lack of personality. Thus, at the end of the day, adding Gambit ends up not solving the problem they wanted to solve while still at times having Gambit’s history overshadow X-23’s story.

The best parts of the TPB are when X-23 and a vampirized Jubliee are paired together, because this dynamic actually works. The two of them have similar issues and a similar link to Wolverine, which gives them a lot in common. But Jubilee has maintained — and possibly even enhanced — her personality, which provides an interesting counter to X-23’s stoicism. However, they are roughly of an age and, more important, are roughly of the same prominence (both of which are odd considering how much longer Jubliee has been around). Thus, they seem to be two contemporaries and even friends hanging out or working together, while with Gambit it seemed like X-23 was hanging out with her favourite uncle, which is a completely different dynamic. I think that it would have worked so much better if it had been X-23 and Jubilee for the entire run.

I’m not going to go into details on or talk about the story, as I found it passable but not particularly interesting in any way, good or bad. But the character dynamic between X-23 and Gambit and X-23’s lack of personality did, indeed interest me. I don’t regret buying it, will likely read it again, but don’t consider it particularly interesting.

Comic Lapse …

January 18, 2017

I think I’m letting my Marvel subscriptions run out next year.

I’ve already talked about the problems I’ve been having with it. They’ve continued to get worse. Agents of SHIELD is over. Darth Vader is over. I’m not enjoying X-Men ’92 that much. I ended up taking Star Wars: Han Solo … and it ended, to be replaced with Darth Maul. I’m not interested in the replacements, had already been having a hard time finding good series to replace the ending series with, and am not interested in scouring the lists every few months to find something cool. The only series I still like is Deadpool, and I’m tempted to just wait and buy the trade paperbacks. Sure, price-wise they’re more expensive, but then I get the entire story one-shot, too, and have an easier time storing them.

It’s been a while, certainly, and if things hadn’t kept changing so much I would have stayed. But it changes too much to be worth it for me right now.

Pop Culture Speculation: How Marvel Got Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Spider-man “Back”

October 26, 2016

So, Marvel recently managed to get the rights to use Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in their Avengers movies, and also managed to get the rights to use Spider-man in their movies with a tighter relationship with Sony. I have some speculations on how they managed to do that.

The key is that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have generally been better known in the comics as Avengers than as mutants. Sure, they have the relationship with Magneto and have been in the Brotherhood at various times, but most of their main storylines were as Avengers. I suspect that Marvel argued that while they don’t have the rights to X-Men characters, they have the rights to the Avengers, and thus characters that were in the Avengers are fair game in, at least, Avengers stories. Fox could have argued that, but since these two characters were well-known as Avengers and less so as X-Men, this was the case that, if they were going to lose it, they would, and losing the case might result in a broader interpretation than they liked. So they let it go, and made sure they put Quicksilver in the next X-Men movie to maintain their right to use those characters even if they were also in the Avengers.

Now, Spider-man has actually been an Avenger for quite some time now, and so I suspect that they went to Sony and made the same argument. Sony would have had a better case for claiming that Spider-man is better known as a solo hero than as an Avenger … but they also didn’t have any team affiliation for Spider-man either, which would lead to the argument that Marvel can use him in a team and they only have his solo rights. Since Spider-man isn’t an X-Man, that doesn’t leave Fox with an opening to argue that they can thus use him, too. Sony also isn’t knocking Spider-man out of the park and isn’t competing as much with Marvel over this stuff, and so likely decided that playing ball and getting the free promotion from Marvel was worth more than they’d get from fighting it, and so gave in.

The evidence for this is that recently Marvel has started adding more and more mutant characters to other teams, particularly the Avengers, and downplayed the X-Men. Kitty Pryde was also with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a while. Deadpool joined the Avengers. They had an entire mixed X-Men/Avengers team for a while. All of these seem aimed at one thing: associating X-Men characters with the Avengers so that Marvel can claim that they can use them in Avengers storylines.

Now, the most interesting character in this is actually Wolverine. He joined up with the Avengers at about the same time as Spider-man … before Marvel started having success with their own movies. Thus, an argument that they just added the character there to get around the Fox rights to the X-Men won’t really fly (like it would for the others). But Wolverine is clearly an X-Man first and foremost. It’ll be interesting to see if Marvel tries to get Wolverine into the Avengers movies, and if Fox will let them get away with that.

Anyway, just speculation. I have no inside knowledge and even lack a lot of outside knowledge here, but it seems to work for me.

Thoughts on “Civil War”

October 14, 2016

So, I recently managed to watch “Captain America: Civil War”. My thoughts on it will contain spoilers, so I’ll put it below the fold:

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Diversity Through Replacement …

July 22, 2016

So, according to Time, Tony Stark is going to be replaced as Iron Man, in the comics, by a black woman. Essentially, she’s some kind of genius who builds an armoured suit in her dorm room, which impresses Tony, which leads, eventually, to her replacing him after Civil War II. And as I read that, it came to me that there have been a number of moves to attempt to add diversity to the admittedly not particularly diverse — but not completely non-diverse either — Marvel Universe by replacing existing characters with diverse replacements rather than building new characters or giving more prominence to existing characters. And I think this is a big mistake.

Let’s take one of the earlier examples, where Thor was replaced by a female Thor, despite the fact that Odin had to essentially retcon all of history by calling “Thor” a title and not a proper name, and ignored all of the other previous characters who had held the title of “God of Thunder” who were not Thor. No, they went with a female Thor, essentially replacing the existing Thor with a female version. And since the fact that this character was female and so added diversity was played up by many, that this added diversity does seem to be a major reason for the move. Except … if they wanted to focus on a female Asgardian with special abilities doing … whatever it is that the female Thor was doing, why not elevate Sif and give her her own book and series, or at least temporarily replace Thor’s book with a book for her? Or put her in some of the Avengers teams instead of Thor? After all, in the Thor movies, the character filled a warrior role quite well and was, it seems to me, rather well-liked, so trying to play on that to both increase the popularity of the books and the character should have been a slam-dunk. And it worked well for Phil Coulson. So, then, why wouldn’t they take an already well-established character and let her be herself and see if that could float? Why not try to add diversity, if they wanted that, by adding instead of subtracting?

Replacing Captain America with Falcon makes even less sense, in my opinion. At least in this case they were leveraging the success of Falcon as a character in the movies … but Falcon, as Falcon, was a long-running, well-established character, even as an Avenger himself. He might have been Cap’s sidekick in the movies, but in the comics he really was his own character, semi-distinct from Captain America. To strip away his unique identity to shoe-horn him in as Captain America should have been seen as a grave insult to any of his fans. And especially since there were always characters who were more tightly tied to the Captain America mythos — Nomad, for example — that could have taken over and whom it was more logical for them to take up the shield, as again Falcon had no real need to take it up. Now, since I haven’t read how that came about, you could argue that it all makes sense in context … but taken as an overall idea it seems to make more sense to highlight Falcon as Falcon and, if you have to replace Captain America, do it in a way that allows you to establish a completely new identity for the character.

The same thing can be said for this new replacement of Iron Man, which is ironic because Iron Man has actually had a successful replacement that promoted diversity, as right around the time of the “Secret Wars” Tony Stark was replaced by James Rhodes, who was a) not in any way a scientific or engineering genius and b) also happened to be black. But he also happened to be a long-time friend and confidante of Tony, and someone Tony could clearly trust. And he was popular enough that even when Tony Stark returned, he ended up getting his own suit of armour, the War Machine, and becoming a stable enough character to play an important role in both the Iron Man movies and the Avengers movies.

If they wanted to diversify the line-up while replacing Tony Stark, why not someone like Pepper Potts? Which they already did in the movies and I think even in the comics at some points. She’s trusted by Stark and could provide an interesting new perspective on the whole thing. Instead, they’re going with someone with a similar background to The Beetle, although presumably she won’t try to take on heroes to prove herself first. Hopefully.

Even the new Ms. Marvel reflects this odd thinking. Sure, Carol Danvers got promoted to Captain Marvel, and so wasn’t really replaced … but why invent a new character and then stuff them into a specific existing role, especially one that you then had to build a relationship to Captain Marvel to? Heck, replacing Wolverine with X-23 and having rename herself Wolverine seems odd … and was a reason why when Wolverine died off and I was considering actually, you know, switching to a book with X-23 in it I didn’t, because X-23 as X-23 was interesting, but X-23 as Wolverine was not. Yes, the stories might be different, but it’s still true that at that point the X-23 identity was subordinated to the Wolverine one. Sure, as a tribute to him it made sense … which is more than I can say about the other ones, I guess.

It strikes me that the people pushing for diversity seem to want to be able to piggy-back on the name recognition of existing characters, and are afraid to try to sell their diverse characters strictly on their own merits. That’s why they want to see Miles Morales replace Peter Parker in various media instead of simply getting his own books/movies under a different name, and why they want the movies to make Peter Parker gay instead of introducing a gay character. This, at a minimum, sells those characters short. She-Hulk, for example, finally managed to get some popularity not by replacing the Hulk, but by being very different from him. Deadpool’s success comes from him being unique, not from being a rip-off of Deathstroke. Emma Frost at least used to be one of my favourite characters because who she is, not because of who she’s emulating (and I’m still bitter about the cancellation of her solo series, which I really enjoyed). Magik is another one of my favourite characters because I like her as a character, not because she gets shoe-horned in as the new Doctor Strange or some other such nonsense.

If you want diversity, you need to have more confidence that diversity can work on its own. If you don’t have that confidence, then “cheating” by fooling people by playing on name recognition is not the way to gain diversity, because more than anything else it shows that even you don’t think these characters can work on their own. And if even you don’t believe that, why should anyone else?

It Got Worse …

July 13, 2016

So, as I talked about in this post, I’ve been having some issues with how Marvel handles subscriptions, and how it handles its books in general. When I last commented, I had SHIELD, Darth Vader, Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, Inferno, and Uncanny X-Men in my list. Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars moved to Deadpool, SHIELD moved to Agents of SHIELD, I moved Inferno, I think, to Black Knight, and moved Uncanny X-Men to Extraordinary X-Men. And out of those, I like Deadpool, loved Darth Vader, was fond of Agents of SHIELD, tolerated Black Knight, and was underwhelmed by Extraordinary X-Men. Black Knight ended, and so I switched it to X-Men ’92 (I have no idea how I’ll feel about that series, since I haven’t read an issue of it yet). I don’t see myself re-upping with Extraordinary X-Men. Agents of SHIELD has moved to “tolerable” from “liked”, as I pretty much only like Coulson and find that they underuse characters like Melinda May, but I still like it better than the TV series, which I’ve stopped watching. I still like Deadpool and still love Darth Vader.

Except … Darth Vader is ending after only a few more issues, and I don’t know yet what they — or I — will replace it with.

So, out of my subscriptions, there’s one that I like and won’t change, one that’s ending and so will have to be changed, one that’s okay for now, one that I haven’t read yet (ie I just changed it) and one that I probably have to do something about at some point. So, Marvel not only keeps changing things directly on me, but also changes their other titles so much that there are new series that might be interesting to me if, well, they would only stick around long enough, and would fit into my list of subscriptions. And all the changes are forcing me to read them as soon as they arrive, which is less than ideal for me.

I’d start trying to replace these with buying graphic novels — the “Darth Vader” series would have worked better as a graphic novel if I’d known, and I just bought and read “Deadpool: The Complete Collection Vol 1”, which I loved — but when buying them I always choke on how expensive they are given what you get from them … although, compared to subscription rates, maybe it isn’t as bad as it looks.

Alternatively, I could stop buying and reading comics altogether. I don’t think that’s what Marvel had in mind when they came out with … whatever strategy it is they’re using.

Anyway, I’m boxed in by that strategy and it’s causing me more annoyance than I’d like. I’ll have to see how I go on in the future.

Just don’t get me started on the crossovers …

Comics History

July 31, 2015

So, I’ve been following along the Comics History videos at SFDebris. To be honest, when he started them I didn’t think I’d find them that interesting and actually expected that I’d end up skipping them, but so far I’m finding them quite enjoyable, as he goes into the personal and business relationships and decisions that have made comics the way they are. And watching them has gotten me thinking about my own history with comics, starting from when I was a kid and leading up to now, and so what I want to do in this post is outline that history to lead up to one of the big annoyances I personally have with comics today.

As a child, like most children my age, I liked superheroes, but didn’t really have a lot of comic books. I had some Western ones that my father had, and some Disney ones or comic strip ones, but I didn’t have a lot of the Marvel or DC superhero books. Then, one day, my mother was at one of her friend’s house who was getting rid of a collection of her son’s old comic books. Knowing that I pretty much read anything I could get my hands on, she bought a couple of boxes of them, which I sorted through, kept the ones I wanted, and gave away the ones I didn’t.

What I mostly had and kept were Marvel comics: X-Men, Spider-man, Avengers, Defenders, Alpha Flight, and so on. There were some DC books — Legion of Superheroes, Blue Devil, Teen Titans and Crisis were the ones I most read and liked — but ultimately it ended up as mostly Marvel. From this, my favourite character ended up being Wolverine, but I also liked Cyclops, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, and Shadowcat of the X-Men, Puck, Vindicator and Sasquatch of Alpha Flight, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor of the Avengers, most of the Defenders, Magik, Karma and Mirage of the New Mutants, and of course Spider-man and the Hulk.

After this, I started using my allowance to buy comics from the local drugstore. Here I mostly bought Transformers and X-Men. This went on for a while, and to be honest I can’t remember when I really stopped. I remember that I still shopped in comic stores when I moved away for university to a city that actually had them, but I don’t think I was buying as regularly as I was before. Eventually, I just stopped buying.

At some point, in a local mall near work there opened another little comic store, and at around the same time I’d been watching Teen Titans and playing City of Heroes. When I wandered in there, they had comics of those series, and so I started buying again. But the big problem that I have with comics reared its ugly head there, which is that comic stories are too split up for me to really enjoy them. Remember, I started with a massive set of complete stories to read through, but regular comics are short stories spread out over months. As I discovered when I started watching TV shows on DVD, I don’t like long waits between installments; I much prefer just being able to read and enjoy the story. The Teen Titans works were complete stories, so they worked, but the other ones just weren’t as enjoyable as they should have been, at least not until I re-read them.

That being said, I think it was at this point that I started reading and enjoying Deadpool.

At any rate, the owner of the store decided to close the storefront, but still had the contacts and so was still willing to sell comics to regular customers, delivering them to them every so often. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind holding mine for a number of months and then deliver them all one shot, so I’d pay him and then rush home to read a whole bunch of them at one shot. This worked out quite well for both of us, as I only got big bursts of comics and so enjoyed them more, and while he had to take a little bit of a risk that I wouldn’t pay him, I always did, and ended up often buying more than my regular subscriptions (that’s how I got almost all of Civil War), for example. Alas, at some point he decided to go back into a regular job, transferred his contacts to someone else who wasn’t willing to take the risk and well, that was that.

So I went back to maybe buying some graphic novels or collections every so often, but then right before Christmas in 2012 I decided that I’d try subscriptions. Trying to get to a regular shop for comics wasn’t all that easy for me, and this way I could have the subscriptions for the books I wanted and dump the books in a drawer — literally — to read in a burst when I got enough. Of course I started with Marvel but I did look at one point for what DC had to over, but didn’t find anything that appealing, so I never started anything with them.

Anyway, here’s where the annoyance starts. I started with “Age of Apocalypse” (I had parts of the original run), Wolverine, Wolverine and the X-Men, Deadpool and Uncanny X-Men (which featured Cyclops, Magik and Emma Frost, three of my favourite characters). Soon after, Age of Apocalypse ended, and so I switched it to “X-Men”, the all-female X-Men book. I didn’t care much for it despite it containing a number of good characters, so I let that expire. Then Marvel killed Wolverine, and so I moved Wolverine and the X-Men to SHIELD (which I enjoy) and picked up Darth Vader and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler again ended soon after, but was switched to Inferno. Deadpool moved to Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars. So, here’s what I have now:

Darth Vader
Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars
Inferno
S.H.I.E.L.D.
Uncanny X-Men

Of these, Deadpool is rumoured to be cancelled in some way (it ended), possibly because of the Deadpool movie, and Uncanny X-Men is changing to remove most of the characters I liked. And I don’t know that Inferno will turn into when its run ends (right now, though, I’m really liking Domino). So I’m likely to be moving those to something else, which means that at the end of this all I’ll have no books left of what I started with. And while looking back it doesn’t seem to be as often as I thought, I do recall some titles switching around a lot because they ended. Marvel is actually really good at this, as if a series ends they usually move it to something else, and in general they let you change a subscription any time you want (with unfortunately a ramp-up time before you get the new series), but I always have a hard time keeping up with what’s going on, and so only notice when they change that, hey, that book’s ended and I need to find something else. Secret Wars is also being really annoying with this because some of the reworks sound interesting to me, but I don’t want to have to try to find them in comic stores and don’t want to have to subscribe and maybe miss part of them and really don’t want to have to spend a lot of time trying to keep up with what’s going on and what’s changing.

I can’t help but think that things wouldn’t be as bad if I was still dealing with that person again, who would slide me preview mags of what was upcoming so I could just tell him what I wanted that was new, or what I wanted to switch to. I also have to note that while the changing books were annoying, it’s really the overall destructiveness of Secret Wars and the fight with Fox that’s really grinding my Gears at the moment. I’d just drop all of this and get collections and graphic novels, but for what you get from them they often aren’t worth the price (although I enjoyed reading AvX, Schism, and House of M that way). I want to get them but I don’t want to have to continually research to see what’s going on to know what I should be doing with them. I want to buy subscriptions, not manage them.

It shouldn’t be this complicated, but sadly it probably will be.