State of Comics or How Marvel Has Been Found Wanting…

April 22, 2017

I’ve been doing this breakdown of my comics pull-list as I adjust and budget for the future and have made a few observations.  I’m going to break it down by company.

  • With DC Comics, I continue to collect several titles.  Aquaman, the Flash, Batgirl, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Batwoman, Batman, All-Star Batman, Wonder Woman, and Scooby: Apocalypse.  Most of these titles I’ve collected consistently since the onset of the New 52, with a few changes made here and there.  I’ve thought about collecting Superman or Action Comics again, but I only have so much money to work with and I have to draw a line somewhere.  Although if there are enough ongoings out of the way, I might add them again.  Despite the flaws with the New 52 and Rebirth, I’ve actually been really impressed with a lot of what DC Comics has done.  It does feel like they have a good plan and are more willing to take chances with that plan.
  • Independent Comics are a steadily growing part of my collection.  From Dynamite Entertainment, I’ve been collecting the James Bond title.  Mostly because Warren Ellis had been writing the title, might drop that one now that some one else has taken over.  From IDW I have been collecting My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as well as My Little Pony: Friends Forever, which is being replaced by My Little Pony: Legends of Magic.  Despite an exgirlfriend’s best efforts, I never could stand the television show, but the comics were top notch.  And this new comic is supposed to deal with the history of magic in the MLP universe.  From Image Comics, it has been a steady lineup of Bitch Planet, East of West and Sex Criminals.  All three of which have been excellent.  From Titan Comics, the Doctor Who series focusing on Doctors 9-12.  Kept meaning to get into the Torchwood comic as well, but never did.  Again, budgeting.  The last Independent comic I’ve been keeping on is Insexts, which has been this weird, delightful story.
  • Which leaves Marvel Comics.  This is where I’ve cut most of my books actually.  Mostly I’ve been collecting the Star Wars comics–Star Wars, Poe Dameron, Doctor Aphra, Darth Maul–while the core superhero titles is down to the Avengers, Hulk, the Mighty Thor and the Unworthy Thor.  Hulk has been a really good PTSD story, while Avengers and the Thor books have been fairly solid and consistent.

So I’ve outlined what I’m actively collecting right now.  I’ve observed this general shift away from Marvel, which has been for a number of reasons.  Not likely to ditch any Star Wars titles, but the core titles have been dropping fast.  Even the Thor or Avengers titles could go soon.  And here’s why.

  1. Creators.  Not that long ago, Marvel Comics had writers like Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Kelly-Sue DeConnick, Jonathan Hickman, Rick Remender, and Kieron Gillen working for them.  Artists like John Romita Jr., Dale Eaglesham and Declan Shalvey has since moved on from Marvel.  Every one of those that I’ve just listed had some role in the overall redefinition or rejuvenation of a character.  Most of them have gone to do work at Image or other independent companies.  Meanwhile, I look at DC and think they have done a pretty decent job of finding good fits for their overall plan and keeping them in positions to be at their best.  Not all the time, but a lot of the time.  I think it would have established a better consistency of tone with Marvel if they hand been able to keep a couple more of those writers and artists around.
  2. Stories.  Despite their flaws and missteps, DC seems to be sticking to a bigger vision for their titles and that comes out in stories on all levels.  From the solo street level characters up to the big cosmic team books, there has been a solid and consistent vision.  Marvel on the other hand, I just think they’ve been telling mediocre stories.  So many of their books are just building up to the next event so we don’t have an opportunity to see any character development.  Stories too dependent on ex machina gimmicks and Macguffins.  DC might be guilty of that too with the Watchmen button, but I argue the return of Wally West and the Pre-New 52 Superman made that a bit less of an annoyance.  Cosmic Cubes and Infinity Gauntlets are more what has become an annoying dependency for Marvel.
  3. Pricing.  I think Marvel could make more of an effort to keep more of their books under $3.99.  It is more the nature of the business, but I think DC has made a much more obvious effort to keep their prices under control.
  4. Diversity.  Marvel has tried to blame slumping sales on too much diversity at one point or another.  The one way that happens is if they force things too much.  I do think they have tried too hard to diversify, but haven’t necessarily given the conditions for those titles to succeed.
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