Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Problems with Marvel Comics

In 1962, my ten-year-old self discovered a copy of Fantastic Four no. 4 in a barbershop.  I was stunned. This had been going on for four issues without me?!

Some years before I had begun to get bored with comics as I started to notice a certain sameness to the stories. I remember realizing that the adventures my friends and I made up as we played Superman in the backyard were more exciting than those in the comics. Two things prevented me from getting back into comics up to my earlobes right then--first, my family, always in hard times, had fallen into even harder times, and there simply was no money for such things, and second, those whatchacall’ems--Marvel Comics? They were impossible to find around Bethel Park, Pennsylvania in those early days. How Bruno’s Barbershop acquired one remains a mystery.

During the summer of 1964, I spent a week in Pittsburgh’s Mercy Hospital where I had minor surgery and a major revelation. There were lots of comic books lying around in that kids’ ward, and I had lots of time to read. There were Archies, Harveys, Dells, Charltons, Nationals--and Marvels! All of the Marvel Comics were ratty and dog-eared--read to death, it seemed. Their wretched condition plus some childish loyalty compelled me to read one of the relatively pristine Superman comics first. I hoped that perhaps all comics had gotten better since I’d stopped reading them back when I was an eight-year-old kid. I was twelve, then. An eternity had passed. Anything was possible.

No such luck. Superman was right where I left him, worrying about Lois Lane discovering his secret identity and seemingly avoiding doing anything exciting with his powers--! Oh, well...

I turned to the Marvels. The Amazing Spider-Man no. 2. I was blown away. It was so... credible. When the villain, the Vulture, took to the air, people were shocked at the sight of a flying man. Just like I would be. No one ever seemed to notice--or care--when Superman flew. Everyone in Spider-Man seemed real--at least, in comparison to the cardboard cutouts that populated Superman. Not only did Spider-Man use his powers the way I imagined that I would, but he, and his civilian self, Peter Parker, seemed a lot like me in many ways. In and out of costume, Pete made mistakes. He had problems. One problem in particular hit home. Pete was broke. His number one problem was lack of money.

Wow.

It seemed that all my life lack of money had oppressed my family. We always seemed to be on the brink of financial oblivion. Struggling. Hanging by a thread. Wolves at the door.

Just like Pete and Aunt May.

Pete was a good boy. Again, just like me. He wanted to do good with his powers. he meant well. But there was the small matter of keeping body and soul together. He and May had to eat. So Pete had to use his powers, as honorably as possible, of course, to make some money, first and foremost. If he hadn’t been bitten by that radioactive spider, he probably would have had to drop out of school and get a job at the supermarket.

For me, at twelve, getting a job at the supermarket, or any other job beyond delivering newspapers seemed even less likely than gaining spider powers. Nonetheless, The Amazing Spider-Man no. 2 clearly indicated a solution to my family’s money troubles simply by the fact of it’s vast superiority over any issue of Superman. Somebody, I reasoned, must get paid for making the comics. All I had to do was figure out why Spider-Man comics were better, learn how to do that, make some Superman comics that were as good as Marvels, and sell them to National. Simple.

26 comments:

Steve Fox said...

You are so right, man. Comics have transformed since the "Comics aren't just for kids" days. They're so sophisticated they've destroyed their customer base and replaced it with one that's causing the industry to age itself out of any real audience within 20-30 years.

I'll pretend you asked my opinion, and break down what I think needs to change:

1. Title independence - Characters need to live in their title. Their adventures should be restricted to ONE book, and that book should hold a consistent visual presentation from artist to artist. Gil Kane's Spidey was unique, but it lived in the same New York that Romita's did. Inconsistent representation places emphasis on the artist, not the character. Over exposure of the character is dilution of the only currency that superheroes have, BEING SPECIAL. Isolating characters in their own book allows them to be something they can't be in the presence of other heroes. People don't succumb to awe anymore in comics because in the context of the comic, superheroes are absolutely common. Even if a writer pulls in the occasionally awe-struck spectator, their impact is neutered by the 6 other heroes next to him. A superheroes best friend should NEVER be another superhero.

2. Episodic content - In a single issue of your standard superhero comic, nothing happens. Each issue is a set up for the next. Artistic expression has pushed standard panel numbers from 6-10 a page to 2-5. Artists should have the ability to flex their creativity, but at times it prevents the meatiness that a comic should have. For my money, I'd rather read a comic than just look at it. While having a story stretch across multiple issues can work, the delay in closure should be traded with some other gratifying event: a new relationship (or stage in a relationship), a revelation about a specific power, a subplot victory or defeat, a job change, location change, character tidbits...you get the idea.

3. Production Value - This is going to sound nutty, but the truth is, modern comics are so well done that they're too well done. The charm of comics is the accessibility to readers. When a kid picked up a comic before the 90s, it was deceivingly simple. Poor paper quality, simple colors, simple plotting, & direct conversation with readers. All these things told readers: "You can do this too." With current production values, comics aren't something kids believe they can emulate. Instead of observing the success of animation and manga, comics have pushed harder and harder to look, sound, and BE more adult. NO KIDS ALLOWED. American comics that ARE geared toward kids suffer from the same problem that licensed comics do. They seem like passionless cash ins.

Anyway, you've struck a nerve with me. To summarize, I agree.

Pastrami said...

Great post Jim (and JayJay!)

I like Steve's comments too.

Kid friendliness is indeed gone, in the content, in the price and even in a "climb aboard now" sort of way.

I kinda hate it that you have more followers than me after, what? Two days? lol

Simon Williams said...

One of the big differences with comics today as opposed to yesteryear is that comics seem to be produced with the trade-paperback in mind... in that they seem to work better when read in that format, rather than the individual issue in mind. Very rare these days I can pick up a new comic and find it easy to know what's going on... something else I miss about the comics of old.

And yes, comics have lost their 'kid friendliness' as well... a colleague of mine was only saying yesterday how unnecessarily violent a recent issue of Wolverine was. :o/

Will said...

Steve F has some good points. Its hard to really argue against them.

I'm in my early 40's and I think comics will go from marginal to irrelevant much quicker than 20 yrs, and that saddens me.

Price - Ties to production values. Not everything NEEDS to be super-glossy on the high end paper du jour. Make it cheaper so I can buy more, expand the advertising base to subsidize cost of production. An 500pg magazine book of wedding dresses can sell for about the price of 1 comic. Something ain't right...

Episodes - I can see that .. to a point. Some cross pollination is GOOD, it could expose me to something I wouldnt normally find, but its currently overdone.

I think chase covers should be outlawed. They account for a lot of consumer confusion. I'm a completest in my book runs and the variants throw off what I have in my mental inventory and break up the sequence. As a result I have some holes and some things I've bought 2x thinking I had a hole in my collection. Drove me away from new comics. Frustrating.

Stories - Paramount. If it doesn't take me someplace new or at least spin it with an intriguing slant, I ain't interested.

Comics taught me how to read. It saddens me that the stuff that has brought me so much joy will be relegated to "Just Paper" to my kids

Wylodmayer said...

I know Steve, and I think it's telling that an artist (Steve's a GREAT artist) is telling us that comics need to be more than something to look at. That's significant - a statement against interest, if you will. When the artist thinks that comics have put too much weight on looking good rather than being good, there's something really wrong.

Honestly, what I think comics today need is strong editorial oversight. It doesn't much matter to me whether the comics are wholly episodic or telling five-and-six issue arcs. Done right, both can work well. There's also nothing inherently wrong with having a character from one title show up in another. It doesn't HAVE to be bad. What Steve's comments highlight, though, is the need for someone to have the authority and creative vision to veto the stuff that WILL screw up the character, the issues that ARE just spinning their wheels (because the writer doesn't actually know what's going to happen yet).

Editors need to insist that writers have some sense of where the narrative is heading, what's going on. It's fine to explore a character's central themes over and over in different ways, but - as Big Jim noted in the original post - you can't just do the same damned thing over and over. There are ways to combine plausible character progression with faithfulness to the character's thematic core, but it takes a good writer, and that's a skill set over and above simply being able to produce a 23 page adventure tale. Fortunately, a title's writer needn't even have this skill set; a strong editor in chief can impose a certain order on the creative process by being the one to take responsibility for the big picture. "You guys focus on writing stories that sell the monthlies," the EiC can say, "and I'll shape your efforts into an overarching creative unity." The writers are responsible for driving sales; the EiC is in charge of a legacy.

For what it's worth, I tell people that as far as I'm concerned, Marvel continuity stopped when Big Jim Shooter stepped down as Editor in Chief.

JayJayJackson said...

That's an interesting comment about "Chase covers." I find the variant covers confusing since I don't buy so many comics that I am intimate with all of the variants and different versions and such. As a reader, rather than a collector, I wish I could just go pick up a comic book series to read and not have it take research to figure out how.

DougieMcCoy said...

I agree with what Wylodmayer said..."Marvel continuity stopped when Big Jim Shooter stepped down as Editor in Chief."

WHAT TO I SEE IS THE MAIN PROBLEM IN THE COMIC BOOK BIZ TODAY: Well lots of little things like its a closed market , most people I talk to don't even know that they still make comics let a lone where to get them. When i was a kid they was every where in supermarkets , drugstores and the likes. I know now days with direct markets (comic shops) they only have to print a small fraction of the old days which is a good thing.
But i thing the biz also shot its self in the foot in a way with now the only way to get a comic is know where to get one in other words you all ready have to be a fan of comics to get comics.
Also in sort of the same line as that there not many comics for kids only DC sells its Cartoon Network line up which okay but I think thier sitting on a goldmine with all the Hanna-Barbera stuff also Marvel has few and Boom Studio have some great Disney comics.
Still least it better than the late 80's and 90's with all the hard R rated stuff with Bad Girls with big boobs killing everything in sight.There room for improvement.
Back in the day they had tons of comics for kids Richie Rich, Casper the friendly Ghost, Sad Sack and tons an tons of Archies comics.
So what you say, well with out kiddies books we don't have kids reading comics and with them we don't have that next generation of comic readers and the market gets smaller and smaller.
Hey its only my hypotheses but that one reason why want to make my comics there light hearted and fun enough for kids but also not in the same league as the Care Bears so called grown up can like them. The two level thing likes Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle and Underdog the kids like them because the Moose talked and the grown ups likes because what the Moose said.

JayJayJackson said...

Someone wrote to Jim today complaining about the title of this blog post, "The Problems With Marvel Comics." I've been editing some pieces that Jim wrote some years ago and he has been working on some new ones for the blog. This is one of his older pieces. I gave this segment the title with the intention that it be a kind of funny way to say that the characters in those old Marvel Comics had problems and Jim as a kid had problems getting ahold of them to read. Maybe my sense of humor is too obscure. I didn't mean to offend or mislead anyone. Maybe I'll have to let Jim write the titles from now on. lol.

Will said...

@ JayJay -
Thats where I'm coming from as well. Those "covers" annoy me and confuse me greatly.

If a book is to have any meaning or inherit value, let it 1st start with an entertaining story.

Amritas said...

Jim,

Your article makes me want to reread Spider-Man #2. I've read it several times before over the past 30 years, but your essay points out what made it so special at the time. I grew up during your years at Marvel and took those qualities for granted. Now I want to step back and rediscover the magic. Better yet, understand it. You captured it in your Legion stories which outshone those of Jerry Siegel and Edmond Hamilton, neither of whom were minor-league writers.

Nowadays the magic is missing. Steve Fox suggests ways to bring it back. I'm with him on the first two but not so much on the third:

1. TITLE INDEPENDENCE: I've long been drawn to self-contained series. My favorite titles from your term as EIC include MICRONAUTS, ROM, GI JOE, ALPHA FLIGHT, TRANSFORMERS, STRIKEFORCE: MORITURI, and last but definitely not least, STAR BRAND. All of these titles could be read without reading the rest of the Marvel line. Perfect for new readers. And many had consistent creative teams or just one switch halfway: e.g., ROM was like one long novel by Bill Mantlo.

I don't mean to say that I'm totally against team-ups and crossovers. In fact, I just read SECRET WARS and SECRET WARS II over the past two weeks and I wish DEFIANT had lasted long enough so the whole of SCHISM could have been told. But what made those stories of yours special was that they were ... special. Once Wolverine appears in every other title, once there's an event every year like clockwork, the mystique is reduced to routine. The "whoa!" effect of Spider-Man swinging into TRANSFORMERS #3 or Wolverine guest-starring in ALPHA FLIGHT #17 is gone.

2. EPISODIC CONTENT: My time and money are limited. Whose aren't? Paris Hilton's, maybe, but she's not exactly the target audience, is she? So when I fork over four dollars for a comic, something important better happen in it. No filler. Every so often I try a mainstream DC or Marvel title, read it, and wonder why I bothered. Even if something did happen, I might not fully understand it. So many comics fail what you called the "brother-in-law test." I've been reading comics for 36 years and if I can't understand a story, who can? The guys who collect every single Wolverine crossover and commit them all to memory, I suppose. Good for them. Bad for the industry. Alienating all but the most hard-core is not the way to go. The ultra-loyal will buy comics no matter how slowly they are paced, how empty their content. They are addicted to images. Pin-ups. The same old characters in the same old poses ad nauseam. But what about stories?

Amritas said...

3. PRODUCTION VALUES - I've long had the impression that comics inspire their readers to be creative to a degree that other media don't. But I didn't understand why until Steve pointed out that old school comics "told readers: 'You can do this too.'" And of course you literally did it at age 13!

However, I don't think there is such a thing as "too well done." That phrase could be misinterpreted as a directive to "dumb down" comics. I love the painted covers of your new Dark Horse titles. Are they really forbidding to kids? When I was a kid I was drawn - pun unintended - to the work of artists like Neal Adams. Way beyond my ability to imitate. When I see art like that, I don't think "adult." Instead, I think, "How did he do that?" In other words, "What's his magic?" There's the m-word again. That elusive, powerful quality that I pursue both as a reader and a creator. Sophisticated art and writing give me something to look up to. I feel challenged, not intimidated. When I discovered Steranko as a seventh grader, he set a new art standard for me.

Aspire for the highest. A message that's explicit in superheroics - and implicit in excellent stories and art, that's needed more than ever in a country embracing dysfunctional celebrities.

It's easier to purchase higher quality paper than to find and nurture artistic greatness. Poor paper didn't stop Bill Sienkiewicz from impressing kids like me. I'd gladly take a production quality downgrade if it were the price for a creative upgrade.

I do think Steve is right about the "NO KIDS ALLOWED" attitude being a problem. I'm just not convinced that quality is the cause. Stan Lee didn't believe in talking down to his audience. Nor did whoever wrote that Donald Duck comic with "bouillabaisse." STAR WARS deeply impressed me as a six-year-old with state-of-the-art design and SFX work. Why shouldn't comics do the same? As you said in your seminar on writing comics, "[D]on't think we're aiming low because it's comics."

I think the barriers to entry are due to an absence of craft, not an excess of it. Stories that scare away all but the uninitiated. That might as well have an ANDROID'S DUNGEON CLUB MEMBERS ONLY stamp on the front cover. Things didn't used to be this way. I jumped into the middle of your Korvac saga as a seven-year-old and didn't feel lost.

Amritas said...

Steve,

My apologies if I misunderstood your point. And my thanks for the most thought-provoking comment I've seen in a long time!

Will,

Have you heard about IDW's *eighty* variant covers for GODZILLA #1?

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/02/19/all-eighty-variant-covers-of-godzilla-1-from-idw/

Sadly, the book may be remembered for that stunt rather than its contents.

Wylodmayer,

Regarding editors, Sam Agro wrote,

http://samamovingpictures.blogspot.com/2011/02/comics-part-2-tyranny-of-talent.html

"Today’s editors really have almost no say in what they do, and much of what happens in the comics is cynically decided by committee in an attempt to create media buzz. And, many of the people working as editors also never worked as artists or writers. They graduate from business schools, become production assistants, then assistant editors and then editors. I’m not saying they’re all bad, but their appreciation for the jobs creative people do is limited."

I don't know how accurate that is, but when I read that, I thought, "If that's true, what comics need is an old school editor like Jim Shooter."

I agree with you about Jim's departure resulting in the end of Marvel continuity. And, I would add, New Universe continuity.

And last but not least, JayJay,

Thank you for bringing your friend into the social networking world!

You wrote,

"I wish I could just go pick up a comic book series to read and not have it take research to figure out how."

Me too! This complexity is just another unnecessary barrier to entry.

I confess that I was confused by the "with" in the title. I appreciate your explanation.

Best to all,

Marc Miyake

Joseph Tages said...

The reasons Jim cited for Spidey trumping Supes were still true when I began reading comics in the early 80's.

Fleuretta said...

I agree with so much that has been written. (Great points about comics being written for Trade collections,and the fact that you can only find them at comic shops) But for me it all boils down to writing. It used to be thought that comics were boring because you knew that in the end the hero would be fine, unharmed, and triumphant. Especially when working with hero's like Superman or Thor, heck these guys can basically destroy the universe by listening hard! So in response, comics got "gritty". Especially in the 80's. Heroes could be harmed. Heroes could die. It was thought the suspense of not knowing... of not being sure what would happen would enliven the story and create more suspense and doubt. But it didn't, and since then comics have never recovered. All it did was add meaningless violence...aka, bad writing. The nuance that was missing begining in the 80's was actually knowing in the back of your head that your hero would win... would survive, and would be victorious. But it was the journey getting there that was gripping. Having a Superman or a Thor was a challenge for a writer. It was fun watching your hero navigate the challenges in the story. It was good and clever writing dealing with supremely powerful characters. The creation of that suspense is why Shooter's Legion soared. There was an art to that writing. That's why his stories were so much more dynamic than Hamiltons and the others. For them Superman was just being super. For Shooter, Superman was being challenged... and moreso, he was flawed. Sure, he'd prevail... but the art of the writing was how he was going to do it!

Steve Fox said...

Don't get me wrong...I'm a big fan of absolute statements. I wield them like a blind, one-legged samurai wields an 12 foot sword.

I maintain my earlier stance(s), but there are obvious exceptions too. For instance, I loved the Johnny Storm/Spider-man friendship when it first materialized. One of the reasons for that though, was it's uniqueness. I also don't think that Legion is blasphemy simply for having a team of supers in one book. I just feel as if current superhero comics forget the most critical element to these stories-Unbridled, impossible escape. THATs the core reason that Superman sucked (sucks) for so many years. Superman couldn't escape, because no matter what he did, he was checking off a laundry list of duties or idiotic obligations. His adventures weren't fun, or interesting. They were formulaic opportunities to "do the right thing." DC had set Superman up to be your dad, while Marvel snuck in and wrote a story about YOU becoming a hero. "Doing the right thing" should be the motive for a character, not the plot for a story. Peter Parker on the other hand dealt every day with things that were humiliating and defeating, but every night he'd slip on his Spider-man costume, and go "web slinging." That's something Marvel did beautifully for many years. Even when Parker hated the duality of his life, he could still clear his head by USING HIS POWERS. These days, Peter is overwhelmed with problems, and then BAM! Another friggin' supervillian gets in his way. In the old days, the subtle insinuation was that Peter almost needed Spidey and his adventures as a release from all the bullcrap of being "Puny Parker." (hence the constant joking)

As far as production values- I'm not saying that comics can't or shouldn't be the best they possibly can be. What I'm saying is that the production quality of current comics distracts the industry from the problem. The strength of comics has nothing to do with the latest "hot artist" or the crazy level of quality. It has to do with the soul of the book. Manga KILLS American comics in sales. Why? Most manga is black and white, on crap paper, and generally very "fluffy" in the plot department. What manga does have in spades is soul. The characters react dramatically to crazy situations. The art is consistent, and usually performed by one guy for a much longer duration than current American "pro sports style" contract talent. Manga is made with love. American superhero comics are absolutely temporary. Every real change only lasts until next year's event, or the new creative team decides the previous guy's ideas were irrelevant.

Want a case study on how great comics die? Check out the first year of PowerGirl, and then read the issue AFTER the original team left. The second team isn't awful (although I'm no Winick fan(although I AM a huge Amanda Conner fan)), but it totally abandoned all the solid ground work laid in the first 12 issues. A great comic series needs a method. The method shouldn't be predictable, but it should nurture consistency. The current climate in American comics doesn't allow that.

Marc Miyake said...

Steve,

Thanks for your clarification. Now I see where you are coming from:

"What I'm saying is that the production quality of current comics distracts the industry from the problem."

Gotcha. Like I said earlier, it's easier to improve the quality of paper and printing than the quality of *content*. I *read* comics. Story is my first priority. Glossy photorealistic pin-ups without story don't interest me. Obviously the many readers of manga also can do without them.

I speak and read Japanese, have read untranslated manga since the 80s, and have professionally translated manga for Dark Horse for several years. So I found your comments on manga to be especially interesting: e.g.,

"The art is consistent, and usually performed by one guy for a much longer duration than current American "pro sports style" contract talent."

In manga, the rule is that the same creator stays on one series from beginning to end. Creator ownership is the rule. There are no corporate "universes": no Shogakukan Universe, Kodansha Universe, etc. Every manga creator has to stand on their own feet and prove themselves.

I prefer this model myself, which is why I am attracted to series and universes (VALIANT, DEFIANT, Broadway) that have consistent creative teams. Teams that have an investment in their creations. That aren't just going to move on to the next title.

The downside of the manga model is that good concepts with middling to poor execution die out and can't be improved by others. But maybe that's a small price to pay for all the benefits.

I am a Jim Shooter fan because he has proven that he doesn't need established, big name characters to shine. He is a CREATOR in the true sense of the word. How many could create four universes (VALIANT, DEFIANT, Broadway, and the proposed DARING) in less than one decade? DC and Marvel just perpetuate decades-old ideas. Where's the imagination? Jim Shooter's got it. Manga's got it. "Mainstream" American comics need new ideas to bring in new readers.

This isn't to say that old ideas should be totally abolished in comics. The great thing about manga is that old series are available as reprints. Marvel's ESSENTIALs and DC's SHOWCASEs sell. (Notice how they're black and white and on cheap paper, just like manga.) Jim's LEGION will live forever in reprints. But new comics will die unless the status quo shifts. Quickly. Otherwise, I fear Alan Moore is right:

http://www.sfx.co.uk/2010/07/04/alan-moores-farewell-to-the-comics-industry/

"So although I've had a great love of comics as a medium, I belatedly came to realise that the comics industry does not want progress. In fact, it isn't capable of it and it doesn’t want it.

[...]

"It looks to me as if the comic industry is pretty much already getting out of comics. The individual pamphlets don't sell as much as the collections. The biggest circulating news I saw coming from DC Warner Brothers last year was that they'd sold the rights to use Superman for some sort of online gambling.

"This is basically the only thing the characters are worth now? They're so debased that they’re only useful for franchises, that you can knock out a few more Batman films, a few more Superman films… once that dries up, then what will there be?"

I think one day Spider-Man and Superman might end up like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in the US. Universally recognized as icons but without much of a regular media presence. There is no modern Carl Barks.

- Marc Miyake (Amritas)

Greg said...

Am I missing something? The "Trouble with Marvel Comics" post ends without any mention of what's wrong with Marvel comics. It stops with "All I had to do was figure out why Spider-Man comics were better, learn how to do that, make some Superman comics that were as good as Marvels, and sell them to National. Simple." Where's the rest of this post?

g

JayJayJackson said...

As I said in a comment above... My title. It was a mistake. Nobody gets my sense of humor. I'll leave the titles to Jim from now on. sigh.

Chris said...

I gotcha, JayJay. I assume Greg's joking, because I thought it was pretty obvious after reading the blog that there was no knock against Marvel. Marvel was delivering stories that readers could relate to. If anything, it's the people who found the repetitive Superman stories of the time exciting who might disagree. :)

Magic Mike said...

Thank you for that story. Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. When I was young I didn't really know why, but recently I have realized it's because of the same reasons you said. He could be me. There are always cool ideas coming out in comic books, but without real characters to relate to a cool idea can get old really quick. That's why I find myself still picking up issues of Spider-Man, but not really caring what's going on with Superman these days.

Alejandro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alejandro said...

Photo Test

Sonofspam said...

This story made me clap with child like glee

c said...

Hi Jim,
I have to agree with the fellow that said Marvel continuity died with your departure. There's some stuff I liked down to about '92-93, but that's still the line I draw. Those artsy-fartsy types need a strong hand to keep 'em in line. :p

What I always say is that the perfect comic is just as good for kids as for adults. Clean and fun, but can be read and appreciated on a deeper level when you go back years later.

That's why I love my Silver/Bronze reprints so much, that's when they came closest to the right balance. Occasionally some stuff I didn't agree with, but mostly I wouldn't mind letting my (non-existent) kids read those classics.

The crap the slop out now I wouldn't even touch as an adult...

Flying Tiger Comics said...

The proof of the "Shooter hypothesis" is the comparison between the first Fantastic Fours and the recent Fantastic Fours.

Technically the comics are slick now but soulless and without meaningful continuity - Marvel continuity probably died circa 1969 and finally was provably dead circa 1976 - the stories are utterly pointless.

rolandmann said...

Wow...what a great thread.
OP Steve, wow--You've said what I've been saying for the last 10+ years and I think is still 100% on target.

"Comics have transformed since the "Comics aren't just for kids" days. They're so sophisticated they've destroyed their customer base and replaced it with one that's causing the industry to age itself out of any real audience within 20-30 years."

I read a quote many years ago by Stan the Man which suggested the target age for Marvels was 8-15 because at 16 boys found girls and cars, but he wanted stories sophisticated enough to be enjoyed by the parents. In so doing, the "audience" would change every 4 years or so with new readers coming in.

the comic industry no longer "builds" new readers. People have pointed to the "kid" lines that Marvel and DC have tried, but I content that will ALWAYS fail, that the move MUST be company-wide because of branding. Many many many parents do NOT read what their kids get (most are unlike those of us reading this blog and interested enough to comment)...therefore, when they see softcore "kiddie" porn on X-Men, they see the "Marvel" logo and then everything with the logo is off the table. For it to work, Marvel and/or DC MUST do it lock/stock and barrel...any other attempts will fail.
IMO