Recently Marvel Editor Joe Quesada stated that the current Dark Reign event series would carry Marvel Comics all the way through the end of 2009. Meanwhile across town DC Editor Dan Didio has let it be known on numerous occasions that the current World Without Superman, Superman New World Of Krypton and the lack of Bruce Wayne in the Batman titles will not only go through 2009 but will affect every single title in the DC Universe. Looking at those two statements I can only say this:
Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, 52 Crises’ That Lead To A Countdown, House Of M, Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign From A Secret Invasion Based On A Civil War From The Ashes Of A House Of M, and on and on. It seems that the need for Marvel and DC to beat us over the head with “Event Series” has largely chipped away at the idea of letting comic books and their characters breathe on their own. People don’t get into comics so they can start collecting every single issue in a brand’s roster they do it because they fall in love with a specific character.
Most of us who are older long time comic readers started off loving one character that became the doorway into a larger world. For me it was Batman issue 391 that ushered in a lifelong obsession with comics. Some of my friends got in through Spider-Man, Superman, Green Lantern, Wolverine, Daredevil and so on.
Today any kid buying his first comic has a 90% chance of buying into some story he doesn’t understand, featuring characters he doesn’t care about. That isn’t the magic of comic books, that’s the magic of advertising. DC and Marvel have stopped focusing on keeping their individual titles taught and interesting because they’re too busy trying to get everybody to buy every title so as to stay current with the latest event to go down.
Not only are these event series bloated they never seem to end. Marvel’s Secret Invasion felt too many like nothing more than a conduit getting readers from Civil War to Dark Reign. With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Secret Invasion to read the last issue and find it only lead to yet another event series left me feeling really disappointed. DC’s Final Crisis was even worse because writer Grant Morrison decided he would dose himself on Acid and then write a huge event that made no sense and was pseudo intellectual to the point of making me want to burn down the DC Offices with Morrison tied to the side.
My other favorite thing with the non-stop event comics is how each and every one is touted as the end all be all to comic books. How many times must we be told that these events will change things forever, destroy the DC or Marvel Universe as we know it or alter the future of this character or that one in way we couldn’t dream of.
Usually that ends up being a lot of horseshit. Bad guys lose, good guys win and then we’re pushed into the next event. Sure in comics the good guys always win but when it’s kept to their individual stories it becomes a personal journey fans choose to join in to. When it’s used to shill more books it becomes the comic book version of the boy who cried wolf.
“Oh I see this time it’s going to change everything. Oh, oh wait nope, didn’t change anything. Oh I get it, ok, this next thing is gonna change it all. Wait, shit, damn it another one!”
See how anti-climactic that is? DC and Marvel are way too frightened to actually change things forever so those tag lines become hollow promises that generates more frustration than excitement. Even the promise of the “death of a beloved character” means nothing anymore. Christ they brought Barry Allen’s Flash back after twenty years so who really believes any character that dies will stay dead? When you remove the emotional impact of death or actual changes to the lives of the characters what you get is a mess, not a great read.
Another issue with these huge events is that DC and Marvel will completely change a character’s behavior in order to make their event work. Look at Captain America in Civil War. Here’s a man who has always believed in law and order and his country. When that country calls upon him to do something he doesn’t fully believe in there is no turmoil, no time where Cap is searching for what’s right. Instead BOOM he runs off and starts a resistance.
In Marvel’s current Dark Reign we’re all supposed to believe that Norman Osbourne has been entrusted with all aspects of National Security simply because he helped in Secret Invasion against the Skrulls. Norman Osbourne has always been an evil sociopath but suddenly he can preen for a camera and have the world eating out of his hand. Not to mention the strain on credibility that a world so paranoid about their leaders would give a former criminal the proverbial golden ticket.
Then there’s the mess DC and Marvel make Editorially. I have yet to see these event series handled without serious delays or weird gaps in the stories time line. Civil War was eight issues and there were constant delays in the release. With every other title tied into Civil War it held up nearly everything Marvel released. In the normal Spider-Man story the events of Brand New Day erased almost all of Spider-Man’s history from the last 20 years and yet that hasn’t sifted over to the time line in Dark Reign where Spider-Man is part of the New Avengers.
Currently over at DC Comics there’s a series called Final Crisis: Legion Of Three Worlds. This series is a spin-off of Final Crisis but won’t end for another three months, nearly five months since the end of Final Crisis itself. Why would anybody buy into these tie-ins when the publishers themselves can’t seem to release them on time or in a way that makes sense with the rest of the timeline.
So what I think we need is a year, one year off from major event stories. Within that year let’s allow each of these characters to breathe a little, develop their own story lines and get back to what we loved the most about them.
I think it would be great to allow writers to create and execute stories that move along the lives and mythos of the individual heroes instead of only furthering the agenda of an event series. Look at a writer like Ed Brubaker who has largely kept Captain America and Daredevil out of the current Dark Reign series. Coincidentally (or not) those are two of the best titles currently in production.
After this year off maybe DC and Marvel could really look at what makes an event series work. Look at something like Secret Wars, one of the greatest events in comic history. It was a 12 issue series and when it was over, that was it.
From there we got to watch the impact of how Secret Wars affected each title. Spider-Man’s new black costume, the Fantastic Four sans Ben Grimm and so on. That’s the kind of series that really works. It comes along every couple of years and while it does last for multiple issues it doesn’t mess with the continuity of the individual titles.
DC managed to do that with the 52 series but then got greedy and forced readers down the road of Countdown. Countdown was only interesting because the beginning middle and end were all a mess, that’s pretty impressive from a writing standpoint. The response of fans to 52 versus Countdown proves that a solid and well thought out event series will always win out over something done simply to try and hawk more books or create some kind of false buzz.
Another aspect to the event series that could help would be to keep them contained to specific titles. Much like The Dark Phoenix saga for the X-Men or A Death In The Family within the Batman Universe an event story that stays within one title can be just as exciting and way less intrusive. It allows the writers to build a story over time then move it into the event series. Once the series is over then we get to see how the fallout effects everyone involved. That creates tension and drama and that keeps people coming back.
Even the much-debated Batman RIP was a step in the right direction. True it was an asinine idea that was executed with total incompetence but it least it only screwed with Batman. The one-title idea also helps if a series is a complete failure or if the physical publishing of it gets delayed. Any bump in the story, the quality or the continuity affects only that one title, not the entire Universe.
So what say the fans? Do you think it would be good idea to take a year off of big event series and just let comic books be comic books? I say Marvel and DC should let the current series run their course and then just back off for 12 issues. Let the writers and artists go down roads they always wanted to, create new and interesting plot developments and introduce new drama to their books.
This would not only allow readers to just kick back and enjoy the comics they love but also allow publishers to really plan out a new event to make sure all pistons were firing before it was released. I know I’d like to see a return to comics being about the characters and not just vessels to launch event series.
That would actually be one of the best events that could happen to comics.