I think I decided I was done with so-called “facsimile” comics, but I was still open getting more comics. These two 100-page Giant comics for $5 each got my attention in the solicitations for the week. At Wal-Mart a couple of years ago, DC offered a large square-bound comic for $10. I didn’t pick it up because the stories inside were all random recent reprints and most seemed to be continued. In other words, it was just a tease.
These new Giants featured half new material and half recent reprints. I had, long ago, advocated for something sort of like this. I posted this position on my MySpace blog ten years ago. (Yes really, and I wasn’t the only person blogging there.)
I propose for Marvel and DC the publication of their monthlies in a standard
magazine format. Specifically four titles each, coming out about one every
week. The price point should be about $5 to $6 and it has to be sold on the
Marvel: Spiderman, X-Men, Avengers, Universe (Featuring Ironman, Hulk,
Captain America, etc. on a rotating basis)
DC: Superman, Batman, JLA, Universe (Featuring Wonder Woman, Flash, Green
Lantern, etc. on a rotating basis)
Each issue contains three full-length stories per issue: a standalone story, a team
up story, and a chapter of a limited series story.
The Standalones: Experimental, new talent, alternate takes, low-key character
development or interaction, or just a good short story.
The Team-ups: In the solo books, this is pretty obvious. In the team books,
feature a story with just two or three characters. These stories should probably
not run for more than two or three issues.
The Limited series: The centerpiece of each issue, a chapter of a multi-part
storyline. These stories should not probably not extend more than six issues, if
for no other reason than, if the story is bad, it least it hopefully won't cost you
regular readers. If it's good, it leaves you room for a sequel.
Oh, but wait. There's more to this.
These stories won't build on each other, like a serial, but would be independent of one
another, both within the titles and between them. I know this is counterintuitive
to how the comics industry runs now. Realistically, stories are just fodder for the
trades anyway. The goal is to produce more good stories, not shoveling out
more monthly filler in-between the epic-mega crossovers, which have made
superhero comics distasteful and impenetrable to anyone not collecting regularly.
If you want a major event, do it in the Avengers or the JLA book with a bunch of
guest stars. Resist crossover epics between magazines and overbearing
continuity between stories in the magazines. That's how the current audience
for comics was bred, and how everyone else with any interest in superheroes
was shut out.
There needs to be a core continuity of characters, teams, and major events.
These guidelines should be loose, sketchy, and brief. They should establish a
character's personality and how they got that way, so that there can be some
consistency between different writers and artists. Writers can place stories
whenever they wish in a character's life, as long as it doesn't change that core
continuity (barring a few Elseworlds or What If sort of tales).
Won't this keep the characters from really ever changing? As opposed to how
things work now? How lasting is any change in a comic book? I hate to make
this comparison, but why not look at Archie Comics? The gang is always in high
school. The love triangle between Archie, Betty, and Veronica is never resolved.
The characters never really change. Hardly anybody ever complains, and there are actual Archie fans that quibble over continuity. (I'd be tempted to pitch a change to the digest format for Marvel and DC, but the effect on the artwork would way too detrimental.)
The point being, if Marvel and DC's superheroes are meant to on-going
characters that don't age or die, then anal retentive continuity needs to go.
Freed from the tyranny of having to match up with decades of old, outdated
baggage, the characters can always be written within current society or even
placed in a retro or future setting. As long as there is a core origin and some
reference is made to the time frame, anything goes, as long as it's a good story.
Where does this leave the friendly, neighborhood comic shop? Nowhere. There
are some big stores that will stay in business selling comics and those that have
diversified into other fields, but as for the rest, I can't think of a graceful way
exiting the business.
Would this idea really sell? Well, at least I'd try out more comics in this format,
which is more than I can say for the current one.
Back to 2019, things have changed. The MCU movie series has made superheroes more popular than ever. Unfortunately at the same time, “floppies” have gotten more expensive than ever. All their stories are completely intertwined and, let’s face it, are unreadable because of the real world agendas of the writers and publishers. It’s the best of times and the worst of times.
I also posted a version of this on an Archie Comics fan website. (The website crashed and wiped out everything I’d ever posted there. So much for, “The Internet is forever.”) I’d pitched for a couple of magazines, one for Archie and Jughead and one for Betty and Veronica. There’d be rotating features for other characters. They did actually do it, after a fashion, with their Married Life With Archie series. However, it only focused on adult Archie. They only “rebooted” their continuity with their floppies instead. Archie did publish Marvel reprint digests for about a year. It was an interesting experiment. It was kind of uneven, but had potential.
These two Giant comics are, I think, a better idea than a standard-size magazine. Mostly, it has to do with the format of the original comics and the size of the pages that the artists work with. They’ll still fit on a magazine rack. Certainly, the price point is great, but I’m sure it was just done for promotional purposes. (By the way, back in the day, DC did do regular 100-page comics, so this is a throwback to that.) If it was all new material, it’d be more expensive. I still like my idea of doing four titles a month with a mix of ongoing and standalone material. So, I liked everything about these books, except the content.
Batman 100-Page Giant #1
First up, the new Batman versus Clayface story was the best in the issue. It was a good story and well-drawn. But, it was deeply ambiguous about Batman’s heroic nature. Clayface seemed to be the one administering vigilante justice. Just a question, does the current Batman not know how to shave? Bat-stubble looks strange.
The new Batwoman story also questioned Batman’s/Bruce Wayne’s method of justice. (Shooting an immortal villain into orbit seems a bit ridiculous as a means of incarceration.) Batwoman promised to be an advocate for criminal’s right, while punching the guy into wet concrete to immobilize him. This story is here to promote the new CW Batwoman TV show. The character looks cool in costume, but just doesn’t have Batman’s backstory to make her a worthwhile character. She’s just a gender biased dilution of the concept, much like what Marvel has done to Spider-Man.
Two other stories involved reprints of the Court of Owls storyline. The Batman story seemed absurd with the amount of tech he’s using. It makes you question why he doesn’t have jet-boots and replusor beams in his hands. (Seriously, why doesn’t he have a flying suit like Ironman?) The Nightwing story again questioned Batman’s actions and teachings. These stories were okay, but were just a teasing slices of larger stories.
There are Harley Quin stories in both comics. She’s got a new movie coming out with the Suicide Squad. She might be DC’s most popular female character. (Wonder Woman is just better known.) Strangely, in the Batman book, Harley is a straight-up evil psychotic in this origin story. Here, she targets children for mass murder. I’m not sure this is how I’d want my valuable IP being portrayed were I a DC executive. This story left a really bad taste in my mouth.
Villains 100-Page Giant #1
The first new story was again good with a somewhat ingenious Joker plot to cause chaos. Just like in the real world, the Joker has a Twitter (-ish) account, like actual terrorists and various racist organizations. (Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos are still banned.) However, there it was again. There was this deep-gray questioning Batman’s existence and methods. The current writers seem to question why there’s a Batman. I’m not entirely sure if the writer was doing an elaborate satire on government welfare with this story or was bemoaning a lack of it. Take your pick.
Next up was a new Deathstroke story. He has a contract on Jimmy Olsen. It’s still the real Jimmy here, not the fake Jim Olsen from the Supergirl TV show. Supergirl shows up to save him, but Deathstroke does accomplish his mission.
Then there’s another new Harley story. This time she’s getting assistance from the Huntress in hunting down a villain. The captions even acknowledge that sometimes she’s good and sometimes she’s bad. She looks more attractive here and does take out a bad guy. He was mean to her in high school and had to die. This was feminist revenge porn, not terrible, but it is what it is. The other story was reprint, so this more heroic version might be the more current take on Harley in the comics.
Strangely enticing was this ad for a Harley Young Adult graphic novel. I looked it up. It features Harley in high school with Poison Ivy and the Joker as a bunch of teen anarchists.
I think the writer should be sued by this guy from a few years ago who pitched a Gotham High animated show. Over the weekend, I was at Barnes & Noble and ran into a Raven YA graphic novel out in the aisles. I guess there’s a whole YA superhero franchise in the works. She’s a teen girl in high school with magic powers and a demonic father. I thought I saw the rest of the Teen Titans as regular students playing D&D with her in one scene. (That’s probably a misunderstanding on my part.) The artwork was good, but not fully colored. Interesting. I’ll think about it, but only if I don’t have to go into the Kid’s section to pick it up.
The reprints were origin stories for Darkseid, Reverse-Flash, and Poison Ivy. The Darkseid one skipped over a bunch of stuff and seemed to show him triumphant over Superman in the end (unlikely, I should say). The Reverse-Flash origin was really good, but again incomplete in showing how he actually became a villain. Lastly, Poison Ivy’s origin was beautifully illustrated, but here again, she’s a villain because she was wronged by the men in her life and wants revenge on them. She’s basically portrayed as an eco-hero, who kills bad people (just men).
These two books were disappointing overall. In some places, it’s the disturbing content. In others, it’s the incompleteness of the stories presented. They look good, but don’t “taste” good. I do like this format. DC could do more and better with this sort of presentation. Editorially, they need to not undermine their heroes. They should draw a line to show who the superheroes are, how they are different from the villains, and what their role is in society. It’s okay to question things, but you have to provide some sort of answer.