I don’t normally take time to “respond” to articles on other sites but Dave Elliott here is so on the nose with this I have to just a take a moment to talk about some stuff he brought up. I’ve been talking about this thing for years. In short, the comic industry is shooting itself in the foot by making a huge line of vastly interconnected comics with multi-issue storylines. In ye olden days comics use to be dirt cheap, self-contained (sometimes multiple stories in an issue), and as prevalent as magazines like “Time” or “Women’s World”. My favorite line from this article was, “When was the last time Time, People, Premiere, La Monde, Pravda, serialized content?”. This is so true. You don’t pick up a copy of superman in the waiting room because you haven’t read the three tie-in comics to the current storyline in Action Comics, Man of Steel, and Convergence.
I remember what got me to stop reading the new 52 Teen Titans series. I was less than 10 issues in and there was a multi-part tie in with Legion Lost, Superboy, and an annual issue. Mind you, I thought Superboy was a tool and I couldn’t care less about Legion Lost. I still think that actually; but I had to buy 4 comics to understand what amounted to some poorly written deus ex machina to toss these three titles together and one big fight scene. It didn’t get me interested in Superboy or Legion Lost- it turned me off to all three and an issue later I stopped reading.
Ok, so imagine this:
There are 6 or 7 comics that DC (or Marvel if that floats your boat) publishes. Each of these titles feature a heavy hitter (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc) or a team of heavy hitters (Justice League, Batman Inc., Green Lantern Corps, the Legion, etc). They give us the best of the best of their writing staff (someone give Grant Morrison more things to write btw). Make the stories self-contained and accessible to new reads. Got something game-changing, a limited run, or cross-comic? Print it like a graphic novel. Collected, awesome, and a lot higher price ($15-30?). I will buy that. People will buy that. I know we all have our favorite supporting character or obscure villain or antihero or whatever. Great- give them a limited run, make on of the 6 or 7 titles a “showcase” one, feature them heavily in one of the main titles, or even do a back up story.
Now, having partaken in a lot of creator owned comics, do I think they are the answer?
In short… no. Go read (or try to read) Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood series. The biggest issue and, at the same time, blessing creator owned comics brings is that there is no design by committee. A guy or gal sets out to tell a story and does it all without much interference from the guys in marketing or some overarching editor dictating continuity-wide plot. Sometimes, this means that some really bad ideas get published and other times it means that some really out-there and wonderful ideas come to life (note: TECHNICALLY Sandman wasn’t creator owned but basically Neil Gaiman got to do whatever he wanted).
There are some REAL gems on the indie scene and publishers like Image, Dark Horse, and Top Cow have proven that creator owned comics can be done to fantastic effect. However, there is a reason Marvel and DC are number 1 & 2. They test and test and test new concepts before adopting them. They are reliance on name recognition, market saturation, and nostalgia (I mean… you know who batman is right?). Any time you see an elseworlds comic, a “what if” series, an alternate universe, or whatever they come up with to give you a new take on the character- they are testing new grounds (I mean they basically made some version of the Dark Knight returns canon at this point). See, ironically comic companies doesn’t make all or even most of their money on comic sales. No, they make it on licensing. They make deals with movie studios, toy companies, video game developers, cartoon channels (etc). This isn’t a bad thing. I LOVE me some Bruce Timm animated series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is fantastic. However- they use comics to test out what resonates with audiences. Did you like Miles Morales? You bet your butt that they are going to shove him into everything they possibly can. How about Spiderman 2099? Do you remember him? No one does so they kinda forgot about him. Batman Beyond, which started as a TV show, was so popular they made Terry McGinnis a part of the comic universe and are still publishing a title or two with him in it 13 years after the final episode of the TV series.
-Self-contained comics would be awesome.
-I like the idea of smaller universes that we can read.
-Creator owned comics are not necessarily the answer.
-I stopped reading Teen Titans (New 52) because I had to buy too many other bad comics.