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Yeah, I think I'm about done.
Every month of solicitations from Marvel and DC sees me dropping more and more books and checking out fewer and fewer new titles. I don't really care anymore, with the notable exclusion of works by Garth Ennis. Garth Ennis is always awesome and his quality of work never drops. Comics barely pique my interest these days and basically I'm just purchasing titles with limited runs in order to finish reading stories I am still interested in. I used to pull several dozen Marvel - now it's down to about 12. At most. And even then it shrinks because of everything under the fucking sun tying into Secret Invasion regardless of the merit of linking an ongoing series to OH NO CHINESE FIRE DRILL IS FOR REAL THIS TIME. (Like X-Factor. Why must X-Factor tie in when it's now taking place in Detroit, a place Skrulls couldn't infiltrate in a million years since getting shot in drive bys would quickly reveal their feint?) As for DC, over the past year I've bought a total of three DC monthlies - Jonah Hex, All-Star Batman and All-Star Superman. And with those last two we must use the term 'monthly' loosely. Otherwise it's a lot of Vertigo and Wildstorm, which shrinks every month thanks to everything fucking getting cancelled. Why is this happening? Why am I losing interest in comics almost across the board? I believe it to be a result of a myriad factors, which I will identify and explain in this article. I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way now.
Marvel and DC, the main publishing outfits of the industry, and the only ones who regularly are in the black, have become more and more creatively bankrupt after a small period of creative resurgence (DC = late 90s, Vertigo's heyday, etc., Marvel = Quesada with Jemas). Not to overly wax nostalgic about 'the good old days', but a scant few years ago we had shit like Morrison on New X-Men, Milligan on X-Force, JMS on Amazing Spider-Man, Ennis on Punisher, Christopher Priest on Black Panther. Now? A clusterfuck of continuity comics under the X-brand, a serious version of X-Force, Dan Slott, a rotating team of so-so novelists, and...Reggie goddamn Hudlin. DC too used to have a lot of stellar runs and a Wildstorm which actually had real books and not shitty adaptation rubbish come out on a monthly basis. Now it's mediocre tie-ins to mediocre event comics (and mediocre is me using a charitable descriptor). Civil War was the example of an event done well, an event actually about something, whereas Secret Invasion is a pathetic skullfucking of a tired idea (whose only important questions are "DO YOU THINK IRON MAN IS A SKRULL?!!?!!?!" and "How evil are foreigners: evil or REALLY evil?") and Final Crisis is an incoherent trip into Grant "Phish" Morrison's mind.
And now I realize the gambit the companies play in order to get high sales: they get one or two writers and put them on every fucking book and then relaunch the same 5 characters as many times as possible to earn extra green through the tried and true new #1 method. Yeah, by like 3 issues the sales fall down to pre-relaunch levels most times, but it's a successful process for a couple months! Right now for DC it's Geoff Johns, the modern day Roy Thomas, who fellates the continuity sense of balding middle aged men and writes thinly veiled white supremacy stories about a white cop who purifies the universe with his unlimited hegemonic white power ring. If you like The Turner Diaries, you'll love Geoff Johns. As for Marvel it's something of a triumvirate now of Bendis, Brubaker and Fraction. Bendis is sorta on the way out; he's been very prolific for a while and I expect him to scale it back soon. Brubaker and Fraction are right now at the stage where idiot comic book fans believe any character can be fixed by giving it to either one or both of them. Even though that doesn't work, as shown by the shittiness of the new X-Men event (X-Men events happen more often than Wilt Chamberlain illegitimate children) and Invincible Iron Man, people do it. Soon enough the two will become hated and another fan favorite or fan favorites (I'm guessing Dan Slott, Christos Gage, maybe Jeff Parker) will be the fandom's golden boy for about 6-8 months. It's all goddamn cyclical.
The comics industry staying in a holding pattern is what makes me apprehensive to bother with reading comics regularly anymore. Almost every fucking thing at Marvel ties in with Secret Invasion, an event which bores me, and I know almost every fucking thing at Marvel will tie in with the next big event that'll come next year. And so on and so forth. Anything low selling will get axed or will be forced into shallow sales raising efforts, like, you know, tying in to events for no reason other than the momentary sales boost. Neither Marvel nor DC has a particular history (recent, anyway) of nurturing titles a la the way NBC allowed Seinfeld several seasons to find an audience (which NBC has never really done since). The only exceptions to this trend include Manhunter, Blue Beetle and Black Panther, and those continue because of the EIC having a vested interest in each's survival. The best titles are ones which end on their own terms, and none of the superhero books at Marvel or DC that get cancelled are allowed such a luxury. The Order ended at Fraction's preference...and it proceeded to end in a callow advert for his next book, Invincible Iron Man. To those suggesting "what about Vertigo?", DC cancels those early too. See The Exterminators, Army @ Love, etc.
Barring a few notable long runs, the pall of corporate, editorial interference makes it such that no book goes of its own volition without obstruction from something, be it crossover, constant artist changes or a desire to make the comic more palatable for Hollywood or some other rubbish. Take the famous example of Marvel fucking up MAX because George Clooney read Fury and didn't want to play George Clooney playing Nick Fury due to Ennis' portrayal of the character. A recounting of the various corporate fuck yous to DC's Wildstorm line could fill an entire article (and did). So why not scorn the mainstream and embrace the indie comics, you say. Well, unlike film and music and books, there is not a lot out there not produced by some fucking company that wants Hollywood whore money. Since comic books bring in diminishing returns perpetually, not a whole lot of people can afford to put out an indie comic if they do not already have a reputation for attracting some pretentious fuckstain demographic. Or Goth kids in the case of Jhonen Vasquez. I remember reading a series called Atomika. I'm still waiting for issue 9. Also, for the large part, indie books suck just as much as mainstream comics if not more. Who wants to read autobiographical shit about some Midwest boy who undergoes romantic turmoil? At least superhero comics have imagination.
My age also must be considered a significant aspect of my ennui. When I started to seriously read comics, I was in high school. Now I'm in college, a year shy of being legally able to drink. And during that period, I've come to realize more and more my views of comics formed in the beginning of my reading were very naive and based on believing all comic book companies were not lying scumbags who wanted my money and nothing else. Perhaps marketing sucked me in and influenced my opinion or perhaps I believed comics were immune to some of the more loathsome elements of the more popular industries, such as film, television and video gaming. But now, as my knowledge has expanded, I understand those countless interviews I read from Joe Quesada, Bendis, Millar and the like were not honest appraisals of the work they've done but rather hollow "GIMME YOUR MONEY" puff pieces enabled by terrible journalists at Newsarama, CBR and, oh god, Wizard. This revelation, I should mention, coincided with my increasing antipathy for this stupid shitty country with its stupid shitty commercial culture that strangles the life out of art in favor of compromised product which will sell better to morons and which will be easier to market to those morons. Hating the American comics industry goes along hand in hand with hating America.
Basically, the comics industry is an alternate version of the television industry. Imagine soap operas were the most successful form of television and made up 85-90% of the available product. Imagine you'd have to go to a lot of fucking trouble to find TV shows of other genres, and when you did, they'd have really low budgets and come out on an erratic, fluctuating schedule. Wouldn't that fucking bug you after a while, even if you did really like soap operas? You need diversity, and even though I'm a proponent of superheroes and find them largely to be a more interesting subject than many of the other common comic book topics (shitty autobiography, ripping off a TV show, a comic that is a naked pitch for a feature film and/or television series), too many books of the same genre, using the same tropes over and over until the end of the fucking universe, stifle creativity. Everything eventually begins to read the fucking same. Isn't Marvel introducing female versions of male villains all around the same time? With very little variation in the style of these introductions (i.e., Loki is reincarnated as a chick, Ultron becomes a chick upon rebirth)? Really, you don't need 70 slightly different recyclings of plot elements created 40-50 years ago.
Especially when the stories never go anywhere and stay within the same wheelhouse at all times to better allow for merchandising and adaptations into other mediums. Spider-Man appears on underwear; he can't truly evolve from high school kid who lives with his aunt. Batman cannot go past his status quo of bossing around children with no pants. The X-Men will never be accepted. Professor Xavier will always find a way to cripple himself again. Everything eventually sets back to the original factory settings. Remember the phrase "nobody stays dead except Bucky and Jason Todd"? Yeah, not accurate anymore thanks to Ed Brubaker and Judd Winick. Nobody stays dead and everything becomes marketable. No reason why it shouldn't be that way, since Marvel makes most of their money from merchandising and DC is a property wing for Time Warner. Every new set of characters for either is a backdoor movie or TV pitch. Fuck, even the creator owned shit is these days. Millar's Kick-Ass has a film script finished but not the comic yet. OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE.
I now realize my love for the medium is not undying and when boredom sets in, my money gets spent on superior product, like used noise CDs no one with taste would listen to and KMFDM shirts. You may think Black Japan fucking sucks, but they're much better than New Avengers and Action Comics and all the other rubbish coming out in American comics. When Ennis leaves the industry, so do I.