Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Problem with the Big Two

A very interesting article points out the problems with Marvel and DC as their sales decline, with an emphasis on how many titles they put out each month.

Here's my comment on the post:
I’m a Boomer, in my early 60s. I read more Image comics than from any other company. Saga, Lazarus, Velvet, Black Magick, Descender, Shutter, and Copperhead are amazing comics and they don’t force me to read crossovers with titles I don’t have any interest in. From Marvel, I read Ms. Marvel and am looking forward to the return of Captain Marvel and Black Widow. From DC, I read Red Hood Arsenal (but only because Roy Harper is my favorite character; the book kinda sucks right now), Harley Quinn, and Black Canary. Astro City continues to amaze and delight. 
I like diversity and variety. I grew up a DC reader, getting 30-40 titles a month, but I got tired of reboots and being made to feel like I don’t matter. I got tired of endless crossovers and the unrelenting lack of fun in most DC books. It was the New 52 reboot that drove me to find new comics to read and inspired me to sample Image titles. 
I can’t help buy wonder if DC and Marvel even know who their readers are or what readers they want to encourage. It seems that every time I get to like a character or comic, they’re rebooted or canceled. It’s too frustrating for me.
I wish I could enjoy the other good books at DC, but I feel I've read about as many Batman and Superman stories as I care to, at least right now. I'm tempted by the Lois and Clark book because it's the pre-new 52 version of the characters, or so I've heard, but so far, I've resisted. If I can't keep reading stories set in the pre-new 52 'verse, then I want something as different as possible from that. Harley Quinn and Black Canary are giving me that, with nice art, good writing, and a fun attitude. Similarly, Gotham Academy is something new to me. But Starfire is just too bland for me to take seriously, though the art is nice. It's a good book for younger readers getting into superheroes.

As for Marvel, I've never read more than a few at a time, but it seems that as soon as I get into a character or storyline these days, everything is turned over. And that's okay, as long as what follows is good. But I'm a bit dumbfounded by the change in Star-Lord, though I'm still giving the new, revised origin, year one book a chance. I'm nervously looking forward to the new Captain Marvel and Black Widow. And I'm very glad nothing substantial as changed with the excellent Ms. Marvel.

But all the event stories and crossovers and reboots, etc. are exhausting. I didn't mind a crossover for a book or two in the past, but these days, it's an investment in time and money I don't want to make. I've got stacks of graphic novels and collected editions (just finished Alias and have started The Pulse: Jessica Jones) to read. I don't want to have stacks of monthlies, too. Stories that continue for too long is another issue. Sure, Image books do that, but the best finish an arc with issues coming out on schedule, then take a break for their creative team to stockpile issues for the next arc. (I'm looking at you, Team Saga!) But with Image books, there really is a feel that you're reading a novel in monthly or bimonthly chapters, bringing to mind the old pulp magazines, the format in which authors like Charles Dickens were first published. If the story is good enough, the characters engaging enough, the art special enough, I'll happily read that way. At least the books stand on their own, each with its own universe. Each gives me a unique reading experience. The stuff DC and Marvel are putting out don't quite do that. After a while, it all starts to feel the same.

I applauded DC's most recent attempt to resurrect its lineup. Continuity didn't matter as much as telling a good story. But in reality, this doesn't work so well, at least not for me. Because when it's about characters like Starfire, who in her book seems to not have been in a relationship with Roy Harper, but in Red Hood Arsenal, Roy is still trying to get over their breakup, it leads to a mental disconnect I found confusing and irritating. DC, like Marvel, was always set in one universe or multiverse. We knew what Earth our Earth-bound characters were on. We knew where everyone stood. And we knew everything was connected somehow. But now, in an attempt to make their books more reader friendly, to entice new readers, they've created what I see as a mess, a muddle, a lot of pieces that might or might not be connected. And if they are connected and you don't read all the books -- the crossover events that seem to come more and more often -- you end up lost and might give up. When characters deviate too much from what they were, from their essence, you might give up, unless you love the new version more, and how often does that happen? And Marvel is probably just as guilty of this, but I don't read enough and haven't read enough Marvel titles to know for sure.

My solution to what bothers me about DC, and to some extent, Marvel, is to read more Image titles, with a smattering from other companies as they interest me, along with Vertigo and Dynamite imprints. Maybe a diversified market is good. Maybe more competition is good. Maybe it's time DC and Marvel shared the audience and the wealth. I can get behind that.


  1. The endless crossovers are really getting to me... and from what I read, to a growing number of people. The number of fans willing to shell out money for ever-growing issues with usually only a tangential connection to the crossover du your, is shrinking, and DC and Marvel seem to be getting more desperate.

    I actually applaud Marvel for coming up with more quirky books, although I refuse to get sucked into reading the fifty different Avengers books or Spider books or X-Men books. Same thing with DC. I still haven't forgiven DC for tossing some seventy years worth of continuity out the window.

    Maybe there is just too much corporate pressure on DC and Marvel, and the independent publishers aren't under the same pressures to come up with characters or a story for the next movie.

    1. You're probably right about the corporate pressure. Both companies are now part of much bigger companies, and they've expanded their characters into movie and tv properties. That's a lot of pressure to succeed. But they still have little clue how to do it with the comics.

  2. You are right about that!