Wednesday, September 28, 2011


So Disney bought Marvel Comics, presumably for the movie rights as comic book adaptations have gone from being big news to standard fare in the box office over the last two decades.

Allegedly Disney's top brass have made Marvel comic title's more family friendly, reversing from the 'gritty realism' that dominated western super hero comics since basically Frank Miller did his Daredevil/Batman: Year One runs in the early 80's.

There was nothing 'real' about the grittiness that comic nerds so craved, and I feel in Marvel's case particularly lead to some poor decisions like cladding the X-men in black leathers for the movie franchise instead of their vibrant original costumes. Grittiness may suit characters like Batman, but he is one of the few characters that really hang out in the noir spectrum of comic book kind.

But family friendly? Marvel, marvel, marvel (or rather Disney, disney, disney...) basically since the 80's you had the first generation of comic book fans that grew up with their comics. Previously you read comics through your childhood into adolescence and then cast them aside. Why? because the stopped having relevance to the readers real lives.

Until writers started innovating with the famous Iron Man issue - 'Demon in a bottle' where Tony Stark battled alcoholism rather than some communist threat. You had Alan Moore deconstructing shit producing the killing joke, watchmen, V for Vendetta etc that humanised the previously one dimensional characters. Prior to that you had Stan Lee adding two-dimensional characters (a huge innovation, now forgotten) in Spider Man/Peter Parker the adolescent struggling to get a date that had to take on super-hero responsibilities at the same time.

This is like a return to the censored years of Batman, where violence was removed and thus Batman had to escort Robin around to solve ridiculous crimes with farcical gadgets that had no bearing to reality at all. (These years were the basis of the 60's live action Batman series)

But this time it's Marvel, Batman survived censorship, I'm sure Marvel's franchises will too, but let's hope it doesn't take a decade.

On the flipside, DC decided to reboot all their comics, to get rid of the burdensome continuity they had accumulated over 60+ years. In some ways DC were always on the fronteers of comics, no one else had to deal with the icons of Superman and Batman being in continues publication for over half a century. How do you keep it fresh whilst retaining the identity? How does such a narrative evolve with so many writers and artists?

I personally fucking hated Grant Morrison's recent reign of terror on the Batman titles, and was sick of the constant 'events' like the rise of the Black Lanterns and shit that went on for ages and got churned out with increasing frequency.

They were shit, and trying to bolster the sales of a bunch of struggling DC titles by tying them into the continuity of the two performing titles (Superman and Batman) was kind of just pathetic, it brought everything down rather than alevating anything else, but alas getting rid of all the continuity?

Neither companies have the answer, I think honestly Marvel was always ahead, except DC was kept alive by it's ownership of the only 2 icons in the comic industry Batman and Superman. Marvel basically throwing away accumulated generations of readership to go family friendly and attract one generation of readers at the expense of three is I feel questionable mathematics.

DC on the other hand, have possibly 'stolen defeat from the jaws of victory' by rebooting their universe. There are always going to be story arcs that we wish we could undo, but usually these are undone by the short term memory of comic book readership, more accepting of retconning and say two face constantly getting his unlikely facial injuries repaired and disfigured again and again.

But clearing out all the crap in one fell swoop is only useful if you don't immediately replace it with new crap, and that is what DC have done.

DC needed to just expand the Kevin Smith - Green Arrow model. Get an actual good writer and give them reign to write good comics. Maybe create 5 year plans and minimise interaction between titles.

This approach makes no sense in terms of short term profitability though. We shall see a bunch of fool collectors buy evry single print of DC's new #1 titles, then watch as sales go tumbling down.

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