Friday, June 27, 2008

Joe Quesada Out, Siskoid In

Let the Marvel rampage begin! Hey, fair is fair, and as far as I'm concerned, Joey Q's rating is lower than than DiDio's no matter how much better he's doing financially. He makes some of the same bonehead decisions, and compounds it with criminal PR disasters. So what would I try to do with Marvel Comics were I given those particular reigns?Well, what's good for the goose is also good for the gander, so there are some strategies I detailed yesterday that could apply just as well to Marvel. Series shutting down when its creative team leaves, no more line-wide crossover "events", distinctions for what deserves hardcover treatment, and tighter editing are all still good ideas across the road from DC.

In addition...

-Marvel has always maintained that Continuity was King. No reboots, no fresh starts, everything that happened, happened. This is clearly fallacy. Siskoid doesn't like hypocrisy, so we're no longer making a point of this. Does that mean I'd advocate a line-wide reboot? That's a tough call. On the one hand, no matter how badly it was handled, the Spider-reboot has done good for the character. On the other, it seems like Marvel can't possibly do a reboot because that's the competition's thing. But when Marvel HAS rebooted characters and situations, they continuity contortions to justify it have been, shall we say, difficult (One Last Day, Secret Invasion). Still, if Mephisto has the power to reboot a single character, some final rebooting event is entirely possible using the Marvel cosmogony. In the end, the Marvel Universe would be dreamed back into alignment to bring its icons back into focus with as much or as little baggage as they need. Much like they did with Spider-Man.

-Among the things I would do away with is Civil War's repercussions. It makes the Marvel Universe too fascist, bringing elements from the X-Men franchise to every other title.

-Lower prices. I'm not against making money, I'm against unfair price points. There's no reason why two Marvel Comics with the same number of pages and paper stock should have 1$ difference. A 22-page comic for 4 bucks is simply too much. I would also reduce the number of alternate covers across the board (what is this, the 90s?), and reduce prices on comics DVDs so that they are more in line with what was previously offered by GIT Corp. I see no reason to fleece an already fragile customer base.

-Creators that might fall from favor include Bendis who is for the moment spread out so thin he keeps repeating himself. There's no call to have him on so many books. Other than that, all those cover artists who can't draw feet, you know the type. Mark Millar's cynicism is counter productive to my way of thinking and I refuse to continue wasting good artists on his brand of shock theater. JMS and Jeff Loeb aren't high on my list either.

-An odd detail to focus on, but I hate the fonts used by letterers in too many Marvel titles, specially those that use lower case letters. It's becoming the new Comic Sans Serif for me.

-Practice some sensitivity. Marvel has done a poor job of depicting minorities and women in recent years. I don't care how many fanboys would like Mary Jane Love Slave or Eviscerated Bride statues on their mantle, Marvel needs to act more responsibly to gender and racial issues. Quesada's reaction to MJGate, the Hentai cover, and other charges of representational misogeny was to say the dead parrot was only resting. Combine that with photos of him in strip bars on the Internet and claims that readers couldn't identify with a married man, and you have one of the most disagreeable public personae in Comic Book Land. Marvel also needs to do a better job with racial issues: Storm and Black Panther get married cuz they're both Africans, the death of Black Goliath at Aryan hands, and have you read Kick-Ass? Maybe there's malice, and maybe (probably) there isn't, but editors need to realize the appearance of a thing is as offensive as the thing itself.

-Marvel needs its own Vertigo imprint. Ages ago, they briefly trotted out Frontier, along with, what, 3 other new imprints, all at the same time. All were doomed to failure. I would like to see a little harsher separation between Mature Readers books than the rather soft line between "Parental Advisory" titles like the Marvel Knights line. Marvel could definitely stand to revamp their horror books (all of which are available as Essentials) into modern horror, and I believe a better identified imprint would help sell books like Omega the Unknown and Criminals to the right audience. Call it Frontier, call it Epic, but call it.

-Marvel's website definitely needs an upgrade, especially when it comes to its actual comic book releases. As it is, the week's comics are way at the bottom, and the catalog lists are filled with variants of all sorts, not very well organized, and never list creators. The website listings are actually less useful than a 3-month-old copy of Previews.

Now for some notes on individual titles...

-Cancel and never again resurrect: Kick-Ass, Anita Blake (sorry, Chris Sims), Marvel Comics Presents, and... You know, I'm looking at June's listing, and there are way too many titles that are less than a year old and that I know nothing about. Hard to cut them loose, but I do see it as a problem. Because while I can't be expected to read every book on the stands (unless you actually give me the job), I do read an awful lot of comic book blogs. And if it's not on ANYBODY's radar, well, that can't be a good sign, can it? Certainly, I'd pair down the X-titles, Wolverine titles and Avengers titles, but how exactly would demand more study than I'm willing to give it right now.

-Amazing Spider-Man: It's crazy, but One More Day is working out fine. A good direction to keep, though I'm only really attached to Dan Slott as a writer. Could the "braintrust" be a good way to go for other multi-title characters/teams (of either company)?

-Iron Man: Invincible is the title to beat. Not only does it play down the character assassination that has been going on in virtually every other title, it's a nice place for the movie's fans to go. I would call for all successful Marvel movie franchises to do the same. Not quite kowtow to movie continuity, but still respect the same iconic tropes for smoother movie-fan-to-comics-fan migration.

-Hulk: An example of how this is not currently done. There should be an Incredible Hulk comic starring Bruce Banner on the stands parallel to the movie's release. Red Hulk, Son of Hulk, Incredible Herc... Some of these are good/promising, but it's not the same.

-Captain America: I trust Brubaker on this, but I fully intend Steve Rogers to return at some point.

-Avengers and X-Men: Both franchises need to be a lot trimmer. Every time they sprawl team books like this, you can't get a classic line-up going.

-Alpha Flight: I'd write the damn thing myself to make sure it's properly Canadian.

-Marvel Adventures: No problems there.

-Ultimate Marvel: I would consider shutting it down. It made sense as a way to attract new readers afraid of the established continuity, but today has enough baggage to deter new readers just as much as the "real" MU. Furthermore, while I enjoyed the experiment for the first couple years, it may have become a sort of competition for the regular stable of titles. If you're going to offer an alternative Spider-Man that's more fun that the real deal, readers are likely to desert one for the other.

-Also worthy of a series: Damage Control, Doctor Strange, Nextwave.

-I'd mention limbo characters, but Marvel has been really good at trotting out even the most obscure of characters lately (Rocket Raccoon, the members of the Twelve, 3D Man, etc.) but I would have to say Rom Spaceknight, right? ;-)
And you?

16 comments:

Adama said...

Doctor Strange ongoing FTW!

On a serious note, I doubt we'll ever see ROM back in print. Since he was licensed from another company, they'd have to buy the rights back to print new ROM adventures, or even reprint old ones, and that's assuming the rights are even for sale.

'Tis a shame, for I do love that Galadorian bastard.

Siskoid said...

Oh I know. Just felt it was my duty to mention it. At least get reprint rights, you know?

snell said...

Marvel already did a reboot, it was called the Ultimate line. It was also called the Heroes Reborn fiasco from a decade ago.

Given the quality of those results (of course, your mileage may vary), I see little reason to believe that a line-wide reboot would do anything quality-wise for Marvel.

With a couple of miniscule exceptions, you could have told the EXACT same post-One Last Day stories without any Spider-Man reboot. Quesada could have just put Dan Slott and company on it and said "Make it fun again." The key is good writing and editorial direction, not sandblasting the past.

The best writers (Brubaker, Fraction, Waid, etc) show the way. Write good stories, use what continuity you will, and ignore the rest. You don't need a reboot for that, just talent.

Siskoid said...

Part of why those "reboots" were more (Ultimate) or less (Image) successful is that they weren't line-wide. For Reborn, you knew it wasn't going to last and they would rejoin the MU sooner or later. For Ultimates, there was no question this was a separate line.

I think I'm more for an invisible retcon in which certain parts of continuity can be ignored (and in many cases ALREADY ARE). Things like the Teen Tony Stark, etc.

The reason I talk about reboots is that right now, Marvel is trying to "fix" continuity with elaborate, convoluted and ridiculous non-reboot events that are likely to cause even more "continuity problems". One More Day and Secret Invasion specifically.

But like I said in the post, it's a tough call.

Fred said...

I would DEFINITELY read Alpha Flight if you wrote it.

Siskoid said...

It would have a lot more Atlantic Canada action, I'll tell you that right now!!!

De said...

Marvel needs its own Vertigo imprint.

They tried that a while ago with their Max imprint. Unfortunately, the imprint became an excuse to inject sexual sado-masochism into just about every story.

Also worthy of a series: Damage Control

Damage Control was certainly welcomed upon its return by your s truly as a mini-series within the World War Hulk storyline. Unfortunately, they disappeared again after that.

I think the series of mini-series would work best for Damage Control to keep the concept from getting too stale.

Siskoid said...

Max: That's why I specifically evoke Vertigo. Max is little more than an R rating on the Same Old Comics(TM). Vertigo can actually be called a Mature Readers label, with ideas that interest adults, not just "mature" sex and violence.

Damage Control: As it was originally. They've got a good opportunity for one after every major crossover. A chance for a clean-up and some appropriate satire. Since my proposal for both companies includes "mini-ongoings" or "staggered releases" or whatever you want to call them, that's also how I'd see Damage Control.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

Hey, it's like Joe Q. was talking about you in this weeks Cup of Joe's Overinflated Ego at MySpace Comics.
http://tinyurl.com/3k54az

Careful reading, folks. Some of what's in there scares me and shows why if it wasn't for Adventures I wouldn't be reading anything Marvel's putting out.

snell said...

Siskoid--I think the Ultimate Line is one example of a reboot not fixing anything. Instead of using a "new universe" as an excuse to tell new stories, most writers seem fixated on how quickly they can introduce Ultimate versions of "old universe" characters, with a What If? twist. As one blogger commented a while back, if you're introducing Ultimate Cable and Ultimate Stryfe, you've pretty much mooted the whole mission statement of the Ultimate universe.

The funny thing about Crisis 1 is that it wasn't really a huge reboot. Superman and Wonder Woman were rebooted, prior interactions with Golden Agers were left open to interpretation...but pretty much everybody else continued on as they were. But it made a convenient excuse for DC to be finally dragged into the Modern Age.

mwb said...

Yup. You've got it.

Right now, I'm only following Ms. Marvel and the MC2 line which is all I really like from them nowadays.

I was tempted by parts of War World Hulk though.

Teebore said...

Dr. Strange absolutely needs an ongoing series not written by JMS (whose work I don't entirely dismiss, but I did not like that bizarro Strange miniseries he did a while back).

I'm also reluctant to trumpet the reboot horn (but I'm just as reluctant to trumpet it at DC as well). Like you say, if there's something they don't want to acknowledge (Teen Tony) just don't, and move on.

I'd also say the Ultimate line has run its course, especially with the Marvel Adventures line offering "continuity free" comics already. Though I'm still reading Ultimate Spider-Man (that Spider-Man never made a deal with the devil) so I'd miss my Spidey fix if it went away.

Seriously, what's the deal with the $3.99 Marvels? Knock that off already...

I'd love to see a Vertigo-esque Marvel imprint, but I'm not holding my breath. I can't quite tell if Marvel's repeated attempts keep failing because they botch the execution, or because, maybe, Vertigo came about seemingly more organically, and that lightening just can't be caught in a bottle again.

Oh, and yes, not every bloody storyline needs the HC treatment. Look, I love Incredible Herc, but there's nothing about the first arc that screams "hardcover" to me. Save the HCs for complete or lengthy runs, or big story arcs, or old classics. The "collection of the next chunk of issues" books should just be softcovers.

So, I guess I pretty much agree with most of your directions. Though why so down on Secret Invasion? I've been enjoying the ride so far (but then again, it's the kind of continuity tweak I like: a retcon rather than a full on reboot).

Siskoid said...

Probably because it's mostly occuring in books I wasn't following, which makes the actual mini-series a big series of splash pages and little else. I'm sure it's fine if you're into the current Avengers books.

No man escapes the Manhunters!

Adama said...

I love what JMS is doing on Thor, but that Strasnge mini they put out a couple yuears ago was indeed crap.

Now, if Brian K. Vaughn could do an ongoing as good as he did The Oath, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Siskoid said...

The Oath is exactly what I was thinking about.

Doctor Mi said...

Quote: It would have a lot more Atlantic Canada action, I'll tell you that right now!!!

It needs a hero that speaks chiac*:

How come qui ont killé le guy?

LOL

*A hybrid dialect of French-English spoken by Acadians in Southeast New-Brunswick