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2014: A Year in Review (Part Two)

Written by Christian on Tuesday, December 30 2014 and posted in Features

2014: A Year in Review (Part Two)

Christian Hoffer continues his look back at the year in comics.



Just about every other comic site of note has spent December recapping 2014 in detail and going over their "Best ofs" and "Worst Ofs" lists with a billion different qualifiers. I've never really understood what the point of "Best Of" lists are, other than a way to heap praise on some creators and leave others subtweeting about your site after you snub them.

While my original plan was to make a list of prominent 2014 comics and compare them to 1990s pop bands, I realized that comparing every superhero to Creed probably wouldn't bring me any friends. So instead, I'm just going to ramble about some observations I had about 2014 in comics and myself. I've decided to divide this into a few parts, because more parts means more hits and shorter articles mean that more people might actually read what I have to say.  The first part can be found here.


Marvel is just as bad/good as DC - One of the most common questions/comments that hits my desk about the Outhouse is "why don't you have a 'Stupid' counter for Marvel?" There's a few answers to that question.  Someone got to the URL before us.  We're lazy.  We didn't want silly counters to be the only thing we're known for (probably too late on that last one.)  But 2014 definitively proved that Marvel is just as bad as DC when it comes to making baffling decisions that alienate readers and promote backward mentalities that have no place in the 21st century.

There was the whole flap about Kelly Sue DeConnick not getting invited to a writer's retreat because she wasn't an exclusive writer, despite male non-exclusive writers getting invites.  There was that whole Milo Manara Spider-Woman cover.  There was the decision of putting Greg Land on the Spider-Woman book, while promoting it as a book that would appeal to women.  There's the company's introduction of the $5 price point (a move that inspired the Outhouse's Jude Terror to write a weekly article about good comics that are still affordable).  The list goes on and on, but you get my point.

While Marvel got its fair share of bad press, it's not like the company is solely made up of money grubbing executives looking to exploit a dwindling fan base with comics created by dispassionate creators.  The company finally settled its long-standing feud with Jack Kirby's family, and immediately started to credit the artist in its comics.  Bill Rosemann's Marvel Custom Solutions created a new character with cochlear implants for the Children's Hearing Institute.  The company published Ms. Marvel and introduced a black Captain America and a female Thor to its audience.  See, comic companies can do good things, too!

And hey, DC did just as many good things, too.  They helped inspire kids facing chemo treatments with special medicine bags.  They credited Bill Finger as the co-creator of Batman during the character's 75th anniversary celebration.  The Flash debuted on the CW, and WB had the good sense not to drag the Arrow universe into the steaming cesspool that is the "DC Cinematic Universe".  Most of their comics are still cheap! 

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that both Marvel and DC do good and bad things.  Neither publisher is better than the other, at least not in terms of business practices. 

 

Mark Doyle is the man – In February of this year, DC announced that Mark Doyle would be replacing Mike Marts as the editor of the Batman books due to the latter's defection to Marvel. Doyle has a close relationship with Batman writer Scott Snyder and collaborated with Snyder on his breakout hit American Vampire, so that might have something to do with Doyle's move from Vertigo to DC.

Doyle has brought a wave of new talent and new ideas to what already was the strongest line at DC. Between the relaunched Batgirl, the teen-focused Gotham Academy, the spy-thriller Grayson to the ambitious weekly series Batman: Eternal, Doyle has made good on his promise to bring a "Batman for every fan". Doyle's strategy has paid off dividends for DC, with 11 of the company's top 16 best selling comics in November 2014 in the Batfamily of books.

Doyle's editorial principles need to be emulated, not only at DC but by the comic industry as a whole.  If more decision makers tried publishing a diverse publishing slate, the Big Two might not need to rely on constant events and gimmicks to drive sales.   


 Libraries are really good resources for comics - In August of this year, I found out I'm going to be a father.  There's a lot of really amazing and scary feelings that came out of this pretty big life announcement, which I might talk about in a few months when baby CBR Yacht Hoffer is born (there's a Tweet out there that explains why my son's name is CBR Yacht, you should all follow me and find it). 

This wasn't an unplanned pregnancy and my wife and I had made several life changes in preparation for us eventually having a kid.  One of those decisions was me significantly cutting back my comics budget to something that normal humans could afford. I slashed my budget by about 75%, which meant dropping every single mediocre superhero comic that was only being purchased so I could stay up to date on the world of mediocre superhero comics.  I also made the decision to stop purchasing as many trades and collections that helped to backfill my comic knowledge.

So what's a writer about comics to do when he doesn't read as many comics?  In my case, I discovered that the Columbus Public Library has an amazing collection of comics, both old and new.  Not only does the library keep up to date on its superhero collections, it also has an extensive collection of indie and alternative books.  Not only was I able to fully catch up on Love and Rockets, a series I've been woefully negligent in reading, I also picked up just about every major 2014 release from non-serial publishers like First Second or Fantagraphics.  I'm convinced that the Columbus Library must have a major comic junkie as a buyer, because it seemed like there was very little the library didn't have.  In total, I'd probably say that about 50% of the comics I read in 2014 came from the public library.  That's a shitton of comics.

One of the biggest recurring complaints I hear about comics is how high price points act as a barrier for entry to fully enjoying everything the medium has to offer.  If you have access to a quality library system, consider supplimenting your weekly reading by seeing what your local library has. 


I'll wrap up 2014 tomorrow by talking about the ongoing discussion about race and gender in comics and a couple of other things.




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About the Author - Christian


Christian is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Christian is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.

 


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