New IGW corrospondent Jonathan D. Comics asks DC: Where has all the talent gone? Click to read this controversial piece and so much more!
Welcome to a weekly column summarizing the good, the bad and the ugly that occurred throughout the week in comics. With fifty billion websites covering all the minutia of the comic industry and dozens of comics hitting the shelves, it's about time that someone has the stones to take it all in and regurgitate it like a mother bird to her chicks. Idiot's Guide Weekly will cover pertinent news, the best and worst comics of the week, and anything else worth mentioning in a jovial and mocking manner. So enjoy it while it's fresh: Idiot's Guide Weekly aims to please.
Top News Story of the Week: Elisabeth Sladen, who portrayed Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this week. Sarah Jane was widely considered to be the most popular of the Doctor's companions over the year which led to the creation of the spinoff series nearly forty years after the character was first introduced. Sladen brought an instant warmth and likability to the character and seamlessly picked up the character of Sarah Jane when the series brought her back. Her warmth and love of the Doctor Who mythology will be missed.
John Constantine, of Hellblazer fame, has been confirmed to return to the DCU for the first time in many, many years. Constantine will be making his return to the DCU in the Search for Swamp Thing miniseries.
Two new Batman cartoons are coming soon. Frank Miller's Batman:Year One and The Dark Knight will both be hitting DVD shelves soon. I look forward to watching them on Netflix months after they come out.
An Idiot's Guide Special: Where Has All the Talent Gone, DC?
Last night, I was in the process of writing out a humorous piece about whether resurrected heroes have to pay back taxes when I got this rather long essay from Jonathan D. Comics, who had submitted the article via a fake email account. I've long wanted people to submit their ideas for submission but this....well it's not quite what I was looking for. It's a bit of a controversial piece and I had to think long and hard about whether to include it as the feature for this week's column.
At the end of the day, I decided that there were some pretty good points that merited discussion and chose to shelf my idea for another time. I will say that the ideas expressed in the article are the thoughts of one anonymous schmuck on the internet and are not endorsed by myself, IGW or the Outhouse. So, if anyone from DC reads this, don't shoot the messenger, because I still like your comics. I've also taken the liberty of adding a couple of comments throughout the feature...just because I can.
In 2006, the talent levels at Marvel and DC seemed to have reached an equilibrium of sorts. Marvel had the top writing talents of Brian Bendis, Mark Millar and Ed Brubaker, while DC countered with the likes of Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison. With top talent evenly dispersed throughout both companies, the comic book industry seemed to make positive strides in both sales figures and relevancy for the first era since the speculator collapse in the late nineties. However, there's been a recent shift in the level of talents involved with both companies over the last two years. While Marvel continues to employ both industry pros and hot new talent from smaller publishers, DC has slowly been losing talent and growing more stagnant by the month.
I want to preface the rest of this article by saying that this is not an attack on DC's group of writers or on any writers in general. While I'm sure that DC's writers are as capable as many of Marvel's employees, the fact remains that there is at least a growing perception that Marvel is collecting all the available talent, leaving DC outside in the cold.
The first indication of the disparate talent levels can be seen in the way that Marvel and DC has been marketing their talent to the public. For example, Marvel has coined a set of their top-tier creators "The Architects", a collection of some of the hottest names in comics over the last three years. Industry stalwarts Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker join Matt Fraction (writer of Marvel's newest event Fear Itself) and rising stars Jason Aaron and Jonathan Hickman to form Marvel's latest braintrust, a group that Marvel claims will change the very fabric of Marvel's universe. Marvel shows such confidence in these five creators that they actually did some sort of photoshoot in connection to the advertising campaign and thrust these creators as the best (and possibly last) hope for a resurgent comic book industry.
IGW Note: Remember, children. Photoshoots equal confidence. If your employer ever takes a picture of you, you're all that stands between your company and ruin.
Meanwhile, DC has also employed a marketing campaign featuring a bevy of different creators in connection to their latest event, Flashpoint. On DC's The Source blog, the Flashpoint Fridays feature has featured creators involved in ancillary tie-in stories explaining why anyone should give two craps about the upcoming event. Many of the answers, from industry pros such as Scott Kolins or former Vertigo editor Pornsak Pichenshote, point towards Geoff Johns involvement of the project as the main reason to stick around and see what happens in the event. Despite the involvement of over thirty creators, DC has made it clear that Geoff Johns is the one to be watching. While Johns is writing the main event, it's a little disturbing that creators are choosing to promote Johns' involvement over their own.
IGW Note: I just read all of the Flashpoint Friday releases and could only find three quotes from other creators saying that they should read the book because of Geoff Johns. So not quite true....
The second indication of the disparate talent between the two companies is the curious case of Nick Spencer. Spencer was a freelance writer who began to dip his toes in mainstream comics after establishing himself as the next big hit of the indy world. Spencer first became involved with DC, jumping on T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents and then Supergirl. However, after only one issue it was announced that Spencer had chosen to leave Supergirl to focus on his other books. Only a short time later, Spencer went exclusive to Marvel. When asked about why he had chosen the company, it became apparent that DC's handling of Spencer on Supergirl had put him off from the company and sent him to the company which gave him more creative freedom. This sentiment was echoed by Keith Giffin, who a few months earlier had left Justice League: Generation Lost citing creative differences. While I can see why DC editors refused to budge to whatever Giffin's demands were due to the crossover nature of Generation Lost, I can't help but wonder was the issue that DC chose to make Spencer feel like he couldn't stay aboard. There seems to be a growing sentiment amongst creators (which can be seen in various interviews, especially amongst Marvel creators) that Marvel is the place to go if you want to have a greater sense of creative freedom. When was the last time that you read an interview about a DC project in which the creator said that he really got to take an idea and run with it?
IGW Note: Nick Spencer appears to be happy enough writing T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents for DC, which was given an exemption in his exclusive contract with Marvel. If he hated the company so much, why would he ask to keep writing for them?
The third indication is the sales figures, namely the amount of books that each company enjoys in the top thirty. In March 2011, DC claimed seven of the top ten spots in the sales charts. However, most of these books had shipped twice that month. Green Lantern, Brightest Day and Batman Incorporated all shipped twice. Beyond the top ten books, the disparity becomes evident. DC appears only three times in the 11-20 spots and only two more times in 21-30 spots, giving it a total of eleven of the top-selling comics of the month. Of those eleven, none are without Batman or Green Lantern, and six of them (Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Emerald Warrior and Brightest Day) all share common plot points penned by Geoff Johns. Marvel, meanwhile, has a diversity of titles in the sixteen books that reside in the top thirty spots. Avengers, Spider-Man, Wolverine, the X-Men, Venom, Captain America and an Ultimate title are all represented in the Top 30. Only one book, Uncanny X-Force, appears twice on the list.
IGW Note: While the figures are true, it's a bit of a stretch to say that Brightest Day has tied into Green Lantern for months now.
The final indication is actually looking at which creators are involved with which company. Marvel can boast of books being written by the likes of Warren Ellis, Waid and Rucka (the latter whom publicly left DC in 2010 in the middle of a critically acclaimed Batwoman run) as well as an exclusive contract with the hottest writer on the market today, Nick Spencer. When counting the five Architects, Marvel will be employing a total of six established top-tier writers (Bendis, Brubaker, Ellis, Fraction, Waid and Rucka) and three of the comic book industry's rising stars (Spencer, Aaron, and Hickman), all of whom are working on the biggest titles that Marvel has to offer. That's not even counting other talent such as Rick Remender and Keiron Gillen, who both have been enjoying positive reviews of late, or Rob Williams and Cullen Bunn, solid Indy writers with a resume of enjoyable books, who both look to be getting more involved with Marvel in the coming months.
IGW Note: Of those nine big-name writers, Waid, Rucka and Ellis all have committed to writing one title a piece. Who knows who long they'll last?
Meanwhile, in addition to Johns, DC has Grant Morrison, admittedly one of the top writers ever to write comics, who is making his mark on Batman (with DC starting two new books just to cater to his unique story ideas) and.....little else. JMS, a top Hollywood talent who DC wooed away from Marvel last year and was supposed to provide an injection of talent into the erstwhile company, has all but disappeared, abandoning a grounded Superman and an amnesiac Wonder Woman (with straps!) in midplot.
IGW Note: JMS is currently writing Babylon 5: Earth Two or something like that for DC since Emoman: Earth One was a smash hit and a half.
Admittedly, DC does have a smattering of new talent. There's Scott Snyder, writer of American Vampire, who is taking on a larger role in the Batbooks in the coming months and Paul Cornell, whose Action Comics run recently topped the New York Times Hardcover Graphic Novel bestseller list. However, neither Scott Snyder's Detective Comics or Paul Cornell's Action Comics placed in the thirty top selling titles of last month. I'd also venture to add Chris Roberson among that list, despite The rest of DC's writing talent is comprised of serviceable writers with cult followings (Marc Guggenheim and Gail Simone), artists turned writers (Tony Daniel and David Finch, both of whom are writing Batman titles) and Geoff Johns' purported writing buddies (JT Krul and James Robinson, who ironically helped break Johns into comic writing). While some, if not all, of these writers have definite talent, many are pigeonholed into writing low selling books with little fanfare.
IGW Note: I'd like to point out that Jonathan forgot Paul Dini, Fabian Nicieza, Bryan Miller and Judd Winick, whose easily four of my favorite writers right now. Still, thanks for playing, Johnny!
So what's the solution? I wish I could say. If it were me, I would start by recruiting some of the fresh Indy talent that Image has been churning out as of late. I'd suggest Kurtis Wiebe, the Canadian horror writer, or Nate Simpson, the video game artist that has Rich Johnston's panties wet. Then, I'd let them go wild in the sandbox. Turn Superman into a zombie. Make Wonder Woman bi-curious. Do something besides revert back to a pseudo-Silver Age (which ironically features a Justice League that doesn't feature a single Satellite Era character) continuity. If DC wants to stem the tide and prevent a major disaster when Geoff Johns inevitably burns out, it needs to make bold choices and start to move the burden of carrying the entire DC universe off his back.
IGW Note: DC, please make a Brave and the Bold comic featuring Bi-curious Wonder Woman and Zombie Superman. Please.
Thank you. I appreciate your time.
An Idiot's Guide Contest: The Marvel Book of Mammon
After much cajoling and pressure from his friends, family and girlfriend, Mammon has agreed that it is time to start reading Marvel books so that he may know the enemy better. However, he doesn't know where to begin!
It's been decided that the best way for him to navigate the wily world of Marvel is to let the readers decide. Therefore, he's asking you to pick out what you feel is the best Marvel title that he should read and why in one hundred words or less. Mammon will pick out one to three recommendations on May 1st based on what you have to say.
Of course, it wouldn't be a contest without prizes! The winner(s) will get a copy of Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #1 personalized and signed by Eisner Award winner Sean McKeever sent to your home free of charge! So if you like Marvel, want to make Mammon suffer or love yourself some Sean McKeever, be sure to submit your recommendation either in the comments, click here!
Speaking of Mammon...
The Book Of Mammon: Flashpoint!
Since we just had Jonathan D. Comics smack DC around a little bit, here's Mammon to gently coo the publisher and tell Batman and Superman that everything will be alright. Mammon, why do you think Flashpoint will rock?
I am really looking forward to Flashpoint.
A few of the reasons would be because of an Aquaman title which looks like its going to be pretty dark. I've always liked villians and seeing a favorite hero of mine as a villian is just a good idea all around.
Secondly I am stoked to see Abin Sur alive and well as GL, that and to see him interact with Sinestro when challenged by the Guardians. I have a feeling i'm going to like this.
There are more reasons i'm looking forward to Flashpoint, like Reverse Flash, Dan Abnett writing Wonder Woman and the Batman mini-series is looking like it could be enjoyable as well.
Overall, I think DC has put a pretty cool event together and with it only being a month away I wont be waiting long.
The Comics (There Be Spoilers Below!):
Moment of the Week: Strong Guy dies and is resurrected without a soul. (X-Factor #218) Well, shit. That was one hell of a development. Peter David's long running title has had its ups and downs, but issues like this justify why I keep buying the book.
Comic of the Week: Sixth Gun #11. It's been a while since I gave this book some love. Phenomenal end to the second arc. The next one looks to be just as promising.
Surprise of the Week: Zatanna #12. Matthew Sturges shows that you don't have to be married to a Zatanna lookalike (like Paul Dini is) to write a good Zatanna story. A great fill-in that reminds readers that standalone issues do still exist!
Best Character of the Week: Wolverine (Wolverine #8). Wolverine gets the nod for having a room in his mind dedicated to boffing Squirrel Girl, who has a surprisingly large rack.
Worst Character of the Week: John Stewart (Green Lantern #65/Green Lantern Corps #59): What the hell, tribal tattoos? Dew rag? Please take the Indigo sniper staff and shoot yourself.
Other comics of note:
Iron Man 2.0 #4: I'll be honest. I think this was the first Nick Spencer comic I wasn't in love with. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't my cup of tea. Still, he should get a gold star for trying a different form of storytelling.
Invincible Iron Man #503: Tony Stark gets pwned by a parapalegic in an octopus suit. Now he's really ready to go up against some Asgardian demon thingies.
Uncanny X-Force #8: This issue seemed to largely be a piecemoving issue. Betsy has lost the battle for Archangel's soul, setting up some interesting future arcs.
Avengers Academy #12: Twelve issues in and it's still largely ambiguous if these kids will be good or bad. Kudos to Christos Gage for another great episode.
Avengers #12.1: Why did the Watcher show up for this again? The Hood got beat and the Infinity Gems got rehidden, this time under Steve Roger's command. Yawn.
Hello (New Characters):
Dubbilex (Supergirl #63): Not really new, but he's evil now and he just came back from the dead.
Goodbye (Dead Characters):
Shadow King (Uncanny X-Force #8): I thought he was dead, so this isn't a big shocker to me...
Everything Else (Musings and whatnot):
Doctor Who was pretty awesome last week. Matt Smith has quickly become one of my favorite Doctors.
Sorry for the lack of pictures. I might throw some up tomorrow if I have the time.
I'm disappointed that I didn't get to show off my knowledge of the US Tax Code this week. Oh, well. There's always next year.
Wally West will be making an appearance soon in IGW. You have been warned.
Next Week: A report detailing what we know about Flashpoint thus far!
Written or Contributed by: BlueStreak