On Reboots, Refreshes, and What We Want
So by now both Marvel and DC have rebooted, restarted, refreshed, re-whatever-ed their respective universes with Marvel NOW and the New 52, respectively. Things are (supposed to be) new and fresh, issue numbers are low (until they hit a triple digit milestone), and morale is high (it is, right?). Fantastic comic movies are being made (Avengers, Dark Knight), and exciting events (A VS X, Death of the Family) are taking place. The future of comicdom has never been brighter, right? Things are at an all time high, right?
Well, yes and no.
Let’s take a look at the New 52 first, since they have a year lead on Marvel. DC is clearly going for the quantity over quality approach, maintaining fifty two monthly titles. That’s quite a bit. And I do have to give them props for taking a risk resetting everything. Not sure it was totally necessary, but it was a risk. But with 52 titles each month, there’s going to be varying degree of quality. With the exception of some notable standouts (Batman, Batwoman, Animal Man), most seem to range in the fair to poor range. That said, with that many titles, you’re bound to find something you like.
On the other side of the fence, we have Marvel NOW. Not a continuity reboot, but more of switching around of creative teams. Getting some new blood on old titles and try to keep things fresh. Definitely not as many monthly titles as DC, but so far they’ve been pretty good (except Thunderbolts). But do they have the staying power to maintain subscribers? Will people continue to stick with them? Do fans want more of the same, or something completely different? And lastly, and most importantly, why isn’t there more Nightcrawler? Seriously.
Obviously the end goal for Marvel and DC is to make money. Ultimately, that’s what they’re out to do, and if they tell some great stories in the meantime, fantastic. But the almighty dollar is what it’s all about. That said, producing quality product will make it easier for them. So we have two different reboot attempts, two gambits to increase attention and gain readers. And they both have worked, in a sense. When the New 52 launched, it was the first time in a long time that DC outsold Marvel. But when Marvel NOW started sometime later, Marvel returned to the top. It will be interesting to see this summer after the newness of Marvel NOW has warn off. Will things go back to normal? Will Marvel stay on top? How close with the gap be?
So yes, these did work. However, so do sub-par events like Avengers VS X-Men. A VS X was essentially your summer blockbuster movie. Lots of flash, cool characters, special effects and fight scenes. It also lacked a great deal of substance. My reviews are gone now, but it averaged out between a 3 and a 3.5. No bad, but not great. But because it was the big event, it sold. This sends the message to publishers that that’s what we want. And I’m part of the problem, I bought into the Hype with everyone else, got all the tie-ins. They’re all in my boxes. Will I re-read them? Unknown, maybe some of the larger series I enjoyed like Avengers Academy and Wolverine and the X-Men. But the event itself? Probably not.
So publishers want money. But what do we want? Do we want to keep reading the same stories over and over? Do we want something radically different? A friend of mine likes to say “we don’t want different. We think we do, but we don’t. What we want is the same thing with a small change”. Something different enough to keep us reading, but familiar enough to keep us comfortable and safe. Maybe this is the case. I’m not sure. Reading the same thing over and over again does get boring. But then something like Superior Spider-man happens, and fans blow a gasket. What is it that we want?
Personally, different is what resonates with me. I love my superhero comics, both DC and Marvel. I pick up many each week. But then I read something like Sandman, Planetary, Scarlet or Invincible. Something like Debris, Fatale, Jinx, or Queen and Country. DMZ, Y: The Last Man, FreakAngels or American Vampire. Something new, different and exciting that takes me in a story that completely unlike anything I’ve read before. I really love the weird and out of this world. Something like Animal Man that’s weird as hell. Or Avengers Academy where no one’s safe and characters WILL die. I want Marvel and DC to take risks, give us new stories that are unlike anything we’ve read before. Maybe take a page from Image or Vertigo. Give us some ‘what the?’ in our superhero stories.
But that’s just me. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Or maybe I’m just a pretentious twat who spends too much time thinking about stuff like this and I should get back to fixing computers. You tell me. What do you think? Leave a comment, or find me on twitter, @theindiegeek.
Header image taken from Jonathan Hickman’s The Red Wing