Comics Realism: Pay vs. Say and the Spandex Nostalgia of Marvel Now and DC New 52
Bleeding Cool’s newest columnist, John Babos, has been blogging about comics and pop culture for over a decade. In addition to his weekly weekend column “Comics Realism” at Bleeding Cool, he continues to write “Demythify” a Monday weekly column for Comics Nexus. The title Comics Realism is inspired by the theory of Fictional Realism that asserts that all fictional characters exist out there, somewhere, for real.
Before I begin this week’s column, I’d like to offer my thoughts and prayers to the victims of the twin U.S. tragedies this past week: the Boston Marathon bombings last Monday and the West Texas Fertilizer Plant explosion last Wednesday. While these tragedies occurred for different reasons, both saw innocents die or be seriously injured including first responders. We mourn with all Americans.
I don’t know how to pivot seamlessly from such a sombre opening, so I won’t even attempt to.
This past week also saw the 75th anniversary for Action Comics #1 marking the birthdays of Superman, Lois Lane and others at National Allied Publications which would become the DC Comics we know today. This milestone effectively ushered in the age of super-hero comics. Fandom and pop culture owes a debt to American Jerry Siegel and Canadian Joe Shuster for their creation of the Man of Steel.
I was around for Superman’s 50th birthday in 1988. I wonder if Time Magazine will give Supes the cover treatment for his 75th the way they did for his 50th?
I’d also like to thank you all for your response to and comments on my debut Comics Realism column last Saturday for Bleeding Cool. Your feedback – positive, constructive and venom – was appreciated. Thank you.
With that, here’s this week’s topic.
As I was wrapping my latest Demythify column on Monday, discussing the creative cost of DC’s Justice League-ization and Marvel’s Avengers-ization of the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Guardians of the Galaxy, I got to thinking about what fans expect and really want from the Big Two versus other publishers.
I have never really believed that social media and online platforms like forums properly gauge what fans really want. Many of us “SAY” that we want we want creativity, diversity and new voices from Marvel and DC super-hero comics, but when push comes to shove most of us don’t “PAY” when the companies try to put books like that out.
Yes, some of you do go beyond the Top Tier icons from the Big Two, but most of you do not. Sales figures support this.
I know many of you will retort that the “quality” was lacking in those DC and Marvel creative efforts with non-Justice League, non-Avengers, non-Batman, non-Superman, etc. books, but there are really several examples from the Big Two over at least the last five years of books that received critical “online” acclaim that did not lead to commercial success.
That leads me to believe, that the majority of paying fans really only want from Marvel and DC super-hero comics are the “big gun” icons that only the Big Two can deliver. We want lots of Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Deadpool, Justice League, X-Men, Avengers, etc. books. That is why all of these properties have enough different series that you can get your weekly dose of them if not several doses in a given week.
That doesn’t mean we can’t get creative stories with those icons. We can and we do, monthly. It’s like seeing a family friend that we’ve known all our lives encounter something new or at least new’ish in the pages of super-hero comics monthly or bi-weekly in the case of some Marvel Comics ongoing series.
When we say we want originality and creativity from Marvel and DC, we really mean what we want to see are their established familiar characters from their creative catalogues. We really don’t want to pay for new characters; moderate successes like the DC New 52’s Talon notwithstanding.
We want comfortable, familiar characters from the Big Two. That’s what we pay for that in droves afterall. These characters are comfortable, familiar and hearken back to our youth because they all predate us. Some of you may even remember Spider-man or Superman plushies from when you were a baby or other toddler toys of the Big Two’s icons.
That said, some of us really do want to read about new super-heroes and other new comic book concepts. That is why Image Comics has become a huge player in the industry and in the last 20 years has become part of the Big THREE alongside Marvel and DC. The super-hero title Invincible has been a standout for Image as has storied and continually published hero properties like Spawn and Savage Dragon. In addition, The Walking Dead has raised the bar past super-heroes and has become a pop culture and merchandising force with a TV show anchoring the franchise alongside the comic book series.
I know it’s a hard truth for many of you, but you will accept and pay for new concepts from Image Comics and other publishers, but you won’t do the same for Marvel and DC. You want creativity within the familiarity bubble from DC and Marvel. You want spandex nostalgia from the Big Two.
Your dollars speak volumes. This is what they are saying. It certainly contrasts what is said online; Say vs. Pay indeed.
Thanks for reading. All feedback welcome.