Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say “BLAARGH!”
The onslaught of big comic events and direction changes for titles (going hand in hand with creative changes) is nothing new in mainstream comics. It’s been a staple for the major companies for quite sometime now. But we’re now in a time where the superhero movie reigns supreme at the box office and comiccharacters are more widely known than ever. The recent rise in the popularity of these properties have led to some inexplicable decisions made by comics companies that have affected our favorite characters
Or, to paraphrase a line from the movie “Clerks,” “These would be some great comics if it weren’t for all the stupid editors.”
A perfect example is DC Comics’ “Villains Month.” The idea behind the “event” is to have every title in DC’s line spotlight a different villain throughout the entire month. Normally, this would be a hiccup in some ongoing stories at worst and an interesting diversion at best – much like last year’s “Zero Month,” in which all of DC’s titles reverted to #0 issues with origin stories. Some of those #0 titles were a minor side-trip while others, such as the nefarious Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, were flat-out head-scratchers. (Seriously, The Joker orchestrated Jason Todd into becoming Robin just to kill him?) Overall, “Zero Month” was a bump in the road for some ongoing stories. “Villains Month,” however, is shaping up to be a gigantic “Bridge Out” sign with a deadly drop at the end of the road.
Rather than renumbering some issues or coming up with a simpler integer, DC has outright halted some books and given others a stranger “point” numbering scale. All of the Batman titles are a prime example of this; out of the 56 books DC is releasing in September of 2013, 16 of them belong toBatman villains. Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Batman and Robin (you know, the character that was killed but the title still hangs around?) will all have four separate issues, 23.1through 23.4 (told you it was strange) with a different villain in each one. And if you’re asking if any of these will have anything to do with “Year Zero,” the retelling of Bruce Wayne’s formative years by the critically acclaimed team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo currently three months deep in Batman, the answer should be an obvious “No.”
Batman isn’t the only title getting interrupted for this stunt. The Flash is in the midst of reintroducing the Reverse-Flash in an excellent mystery story that has continued the title’s stance as one of the quietly better titles in DC’s canon since the company reboot two years ago. But, rather than remain focused on that, The Flash is being split in three as well. The Flash #23.1 features Gorilla Grodd (who just took an ass-whooping from Barry Allen before the Reverse-Flashstory began), #23.2 actually features the Reverse-Flash and #23.3 features the Rogue’s Gallery (see: Grodd, Gorilla).
In focusing on “Villains Month,” DC has made an absolute mess of their ongoing titles for an entire month. If you do the math from the last two paragraphs, we’ve talked about 19 out of a regular 52 titles that DC normally publishes in a month (not counting the Forever Evil miniseries running in September). While some titles are getting multiple issues for multiple villains, you probably guessed by now that some titles aren’t around at all this month. And some might be, but good luck trying to figure that out. For example: Justice League of America #7.1, aka Deadshot #1. Does this get filed under Justice League of America, or under Suicide Squad, since Deadshot is a main character in that book?
It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Marvel isn’t safe, either. After building to an earthshattering story for well over a year, Age of Ultron finally happened in March. Ten issues later, it ended in June. On the heels of that, Marvel’s newest earth-shattering event, Infinity, has already started. A mere two months after their last earth-shattering story ended.
Age of Ultron was billed as a universechanging event which,technically, it was. As a result of chasing Ultron all over the timestream and killing – and then unkilling – Hank Pym, the big change to Marvel’s universe is that it is now in a state of “Hypertime” (go ahead and look up that messy example of DC’s editorial interference). Basically, any character in any time can exist anywhere andMarvel wasted no time in apparently wiping out their “Ultimate” line by having Galactus showup there for dinner in the current miniseries, Hunger.
All of these big events, continuity destroyers, and algebraic numbering of titles are all the result of editorial influence over both Marvel and DC due to attempting to institute some sort of corporate synergy. The end product, however, is usually the exact opposite. Editors are making so many sweeping changes that any hope of consistency is flushed down the toilet. That doesn’t even speak to the revolving door at DC known as “creative changes,” which has become an unfortunate staple of that company. Gail Simone still writes “Batgirl” only because Tumblr threatened to burn down DC’s offices otherwise. She’s one of the lucky ones, as often times creators are fired from titles soon after the books are solicited. Isn’t that right, Kevin McGuire? Many of these changes happen just as a new writer finds their feet and really gets started telling a story – one they have no hope of finishing because DC won’t let them establish an audience. It’s either generate sales right now or hit the bricks, it seems. Editors, at the mercy of corporate masters, make these rash decisions and then wonder why a book won’t sell.
It’s become a sad fact of mainstream comics that titles or creators are rarely given time to shine and deliver consistent quality. The writers and artists, as well as the entire line of product, are at the mercy of rapid-fire firings and overhyped events that seem to happen almost monthly. Those reasons are why companies like Image, IDW, and Boom flourish and many creators set up shop in these smaller companies so they can be given the chance to tell a cohesive story without a corporate overlord or rampant editorial influence. It’s almost impossible to enjoy the characters we grew up with within the confines of comic companies owned by massive media corporations, which is why we exclaim…”BLAARGH!”