Comic Books: Are Gimmicks Grounding Story?

comic-collectors-advice

 FOILED AGAIN #ASKSROB

Dear Rob,
What’s your take on all the gimmicks coming out of DC Comics now?
 You seem to be a fan of DC but their constant stunts are killing me,  especially as I feel they are distracting from the core of what makes comics – good story. First a New 52.  Then 3d comic covers.  Then Selfie comic covers (!) and now a scratch and sniff comic (Harley Quinn). 
How about writing some good stories?  Wonder Woman and Batman (Maybe Aquaman) are the only characters that have managed to stay afloat in this new era of gimmicks.  Is there hope for change?

Great Question Foiled,

I’m taking this into two parts, because cover clusterfucks are a different situation than story!

On covers, c’ the fuck’ mon dude, you’re a fellow marketing wonk. Surely you know as well as I do that blurring the lines between quality of product, and presentation of that product are utterly independent factors. We know this because we do it every day for our masters. We don’t lie, but anyone wearing a marketing hat is most certainly an illusionist. Were this the 1970’s, one of us would have a pornstache and be wiggling our fingers like Doug Henning while the other one was picking audience pockets (or we could both have a pornstache, I didn’t mean to limit us).

DOUG-HENNINGAre we really going to begrudge our fellow marketing wonks at not just DC, but Marvel, Valiant and a million indies looking to scalp the same success? We get assed up because we love this hobby, but on the same token the marketer in me applauds each of these companies as kids and noobies come stare at these seemingly magic pages that move as you walk past. I’ll also admit, the comic collector in me becomes a bit less jaded as well because if this is the bait to widen our dwindling club, than so be it.

Now, I will says the chance of sustainable interest in the medium varies by cover:

  •  Valiant 8-Bit cover reminded them of Pitfall, will remember a time when people had to read for fun.
  • DC Pin-Up, Monster, Lego, Insert theme month here the person has a modicum of appreciation for art
  • Marvel Wolverine holo-foil will probably keep coming back every time a new Avengers trailer is released.
  • Looking to scratch and then subsequently sniff Harley Quinn’s beaver is the dude who walked in with his friend and will be blind from either alcohol poisoning or excessive masturbation shortly. Seriously those 4th wall breaking Harley Quinn one shots revel in awful…

So while the purist in me longs for a time back when covers were:

  • Indicative of the story inside
  • Not afraid to use a fucking word balloon
  • And were not a cacophony of color and needless posturing poses.

The marketer in me, the grown up, the suit, the man will not deny the numbers. Scott Snyder’s WYTCHES recently sold 90,000 copies with Image. JUSTICE LEAGUE 1 sold 350,000 copies. “Wytch” was the better story? It doesn’t matter. When you are battling icon to icon, noise and not substance is the key to swift movement.

Futures-End-Superman-1However, sustained interest and the making of comic collectors comes from quality serial storytelling,  and here is where I need to crash the second story in comic’s current house of cards. 

Comics are no longer printed for comics’ sake folks. When Gen X and before were kids, the sustainability of our favorite stories lived and died by how many floppies were sold. Today, floppies are R&D for the widening of dissemination into more lucrative revenue streams.

The fall of story for profit started with BATMAN BEYOND and trade pacing. If you look at today’s current universes and pacing of titles, the patterns are eminently obvious. We feel anemia in some issues because they are made purposely anemic to stretch out the page count. An editor must look at how these things will be collected for sale on Amazon since so few spinner racks exist anymore. It is the more portable and profitable means to an end. It is also a way to gauge the worthiness of content for animated cartoon, video game or the ultimate score of a movie.

If we look at MULTIVERSITY coming out of DC right now, it is truly the perfect follow-up to the decimation of the universe we saw in play four to five years ago around the time of FINAL CRISIS. The Monitors birthed 52 new worlds, which then instantly disappeared and turned into 52 titles about one earth.

Huh? Makes no fucking sense from a universal story perspective does it?

However, it makes perfect sense for a scared shitless Warner Brothers’ suit who got an M shaped pineapple shoved up their ass when the audiences didn’t give a rat’s taint about any of the 27 plot lines shoved into the GREEN LANTERN movie.

The New 52 was a lifeboat, not a rocket ship kids. As Mickey launches the Marvel brand into the billions of people served mark, DC needed to “youth”anise quickly or be euthanized by the WB corporate den of doom. Look at what changed and what didn’t. GREEN LANTERN and BATMAN were allowed to ignore FLASHPOINT because they were selling well and had movies in play. Look at the deluge of TV series that have come out from CONSTANTINE to GOTHAM. Each of these s steeped in the “freshness” of the New 52 to reach across the aisle at those who need imagination spoon fed to them.

MULTIVERSITY 1 COVERThis spoon feeding not only stymied the real DC New U of MULTIVERSITY, but has also obliterated an oft debated subject of tight universal continuity. With BATMAN BEYOND and the idea of series that live outside canon, publishers could ensure saturation into every demographic. Dark shit was going down in BATMAN during the late 80s and early 90s, and BATMAN BEYOND served up a younger dude who was way less morose and “deathy” than the days of broken backs and hunchbacks in the cave.

From that sincere broadening, we have the tainted “choose your own adventure” continuity we see today. Honestly, I truly believe I am a fool sometimes for reading as much of each universe as I do. Outside of Valiant, no one is doing a flawless cross. Now, DC takes the most hits because they made the most noise with their reboots. I look at Marvel as we close out 2014 though, and they are in just a bad of state as DC was pre September 2011. AXIS was a train wreck in a long string of who gives a fuck events this year that never interwove and now characters are being killed off for the sake of cutting off revenue streams from other studios. Wolverine is dead so that when Fox tries to do a movie in 2022, no 8 year old will know what the shit a Wolverine is.

I applaud the examples you used above for your vested DC interest. They are all great titles and if you look at each of them you will see they remained away from the taffy pulls of bringing the universe back to some semblance of good comic booking versus being a cross-media tentpole.

As for my coverage of books my formula is simple; “Review for those who care about what you say!” When I started reviewing comics for Ain’t It Cool seven years ago, DC showed an earnest interest in promoting my words and interacting with me on the then fetal social media channels. Geoff Johns would drop me a thanks for a review. Dan Didio accepted my friend request on FaceBook and I gathered some true fans for my work in their PR department at the time.

rob-patey-sad-faceDespite my reviews being an equal 33% DC, 33% Marvel and 33% Indie, it was always DC giving me feedback and asking for further reviews and forwarding .PDF comps. Marvel from creators to back office have never given two shits about my thoughts so I stopped trying. I’m not needy for affection, I am needy to effect change in comics. That only happens when the right people are listening.

The record will show, I have never pandered because of comps or favoritism. However, I will ALWAYS give you priority publishing the more time and money you spend in trying to get my attention. I may shit all over the book, which I have done from my beloved DC all the way to the ignore me Marvel, but I will cover it with keyword rich text for SEO awesomemsauce.

You say you want good stories, well then go write them my friend. I will never be arrogant enough to believe my views have directly affected the choices made in the industry over the past flew years, but I believe I helped trumpet a public zeitgeist of disdain for choices that helped all of our feelings be heard.

Find your story solace where you need. I recommend EARTH 1 for true impact and full Fryetag’s Pyramid for your money. You simply must wait forever between volumes. In the meantime go to Image. DC’s CONVERGENCE in April will be interesting. If MULTIVERSITY is to be taken literally, we could have a serialized version of EARTH 1 like titles in floppy form. Personally, that will be the end of my time with New 52 or Universe Prime as I believe it is now designated.

Marvel, I can’t tell you. They don’t want to talk to me. So…

Do you want to #ASKROB? Submit your questions in the comments or via email – because this is the face of caring!

JUSTICE LEAGUE MOVIE FIX – Send in the Geeks!

JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 COVER

by Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

So apparently the JUSTICE LEAGUE script has shit the bed. Finger pointing is currently aimed at Warner Bros. Studio Execs. I’ll buy this as maybe half the problem. The other half rests squarely on the fact that NO ONE is looking at the one thing that made AVENGERS the billion dollar baby.

Geeks know comics. Joss Whedon made AVENGERS…the AVENGERS…plain and simple.

I’m sure Will Beall is a nice guy. My parents loooooovvvveeee Castle. But what the hell makes this guy qualified to write a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie? Has he read all of the new 52 titles? What about DC Universe before the New 52 (you know, the continuity that ALL of the rest of the world outside comic geeks knows and understands).

3 Easy Steps to Fix JUSTICE LEAGUE THE MOVIE!

Legion_Of_Doom_(Justice)Stop Aping Marvel – Bag Darkseid - Bring in the Legion of Doom:

Walk down the street and show anyone the word Darkseid and they will look at you like you are illiterate especially after you pronounce it for them. Now, show someone the words Lex Luthor and Joker. DING DING DING! Instant recognition.

Now to round out a one-to-one villain ratio for the rest of the team we will have to travel outside of public awareness, but if we make them cool enough it could work. Green Lantern can take on Sinestro. Wonder Woman has a whole cavalcade of slippery siblings to battle, personally I like Eros. And of course Flash should take on Captain Cold. Finally we might see a frozen city in a DC movie that doesn’t look like it was created from cellophane.

Get a GEEK. Hell Get a Gaggle of Geeks

geoff_johns_576Again, Joss Whedon is what made AVENGERS so damn good. Likewise, Christopher Nolan loooooves comics, so DARK KNIGHT couldn’t help but be win sauce. Why does Hollywood insist on employing writers like Will Beall who have nothing to do with comics? What formula are they using as success? 

Warner Brothers owns a whole cavalcade of successful writers who actually UNDERSTAND COMICS. Walk out into the bullpen and go, “Who wants to write a movie?” I’m sure you will get takers. 

Once Jim Lee pulled himself out of the New 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE equation the book became really good.

How about it Mr. Johns? Want to write a movie?

4 Hours – 2 Movies (at least)

harry-potter-and-the-order-of-the-phoenixIt will be too damn hard to acclimate Betty Lou Sue, from Bumbfuck, Arkansas who was born in 1998 to the world of comics in one movie. Twilight, Harry Potter, hell even the next two chapters of The Hunger Games showed that a movie can be split into two and succeed. 

Or go Lord of the Rings  and film it as a trilogy. You will need to set-up: who these characters are and why they fight their respective villains, bring the villains together, bring the JUSTICE LEAGUE together and finally battle for the world.

Of course an engaging script will also be required, but with these three steps in place pretty much a mongoloid could write this thing.