Thursday, September 15, 2016

Green Lanterns Disappointment (and corrections)

So a few days ago, I went on a mini-rant about DC comics, and my reasons why I would/would not buy certain issues based on the editorial staff, and how morally reprehensible they may or may not be.

*cough* Eddie Berganza *cough*

Well, it turns out I’m a big fat idiot because I didn’t do any research into the Rebirth lines. It would seem there has been some editorial restructuring I was not aware of.

Alas, last night as I was happily reading my issue of Green Lanterns, a book which I have been enjoying, I noticed something. Now the Green Lanterns book is interesting because none of the traditional Green Lanterns of Earth (Sector 2814) namely Hal Jordan, Guy Gardener, and John Stewart, are in it. It features two newish characters, Simon Baz, a Muslim from Detroit, and Jessica Cruz, a Latina. I like that this book features diverse characters, and I’ve been enjoying their dynamic so far.

No, not THAT Jon Stewart.

Then came last night. I was thinking about the piece I wrote about Supergirl vs Batgirl (not to be confused with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which is a whole other rant for another day) and I decided to check the credits page to see if any women work on the title. To my surprise and horror, not only do zero women work on Green Lanterns, it is also evidently under the editorial supervision of none other than one Eddie Berganza.

Boy did I feel stupid and betrayed.

Pictured: Eddie Berganza

I just days ago wrote a self-righteous screed about buying one title over another based on moral misgivings and using the power of your wallet to send a message. Well the message I evidently have been sending was “we don’t look at the credits anyways, so do whatever and we’ll buy it.”

So I don’t know. I guess don’t listen to me, both of the people who read this blog. Because I, evidently, don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. The good news is, it would seem that the Wonder Woman Rebirth comic is no longer under the same line editor as Superman books, so go out and get that one, like yesterday. Or don't. What the hell do I know?

Seriously though, go get it.

Apologies for going off half-cocked without doing my research. I’ll be cancelling my pull of Green Lanterns (and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps) albeit with a heavy heart because once again I like the characters, but I cannot support a Berganza book. I just can’t. I’ll replace it with Wonder Woman and Batgirl, and that will be just fine.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Read Supergirl, Read Batgirl

I’m kind of done with Marvel comics for awhile. The constant reliance on huge crossovers has me so disappointed and frustrated that I’m just leaving them alone for awhile. But I still love my superheroes, and by all accounts, DC’s Rebirth (not a reboot) rebranding has been pretty good. So, even though most of what I read by (and about) DC comics during the New 52 was somewhat less-than-stellar, I decided to give them a try. Two books, however stand out to me.

First of all, I want to talk about Supergirl.

Supergirl was given a major overhaul in the New 52 relaunch. I don’t know a lot about what she was before New 52 aside from her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 80’s. I do know that the character has kicked around here and there since that time. But in New 52, she came crashing to Earth all over again, and woke up not knowing the language, not knowing where she was or what happened, or why she had crazy new powers, and solved most of her problems by screaming at them or punching them.


I didn’t hate what I read of it, but it was a little frantic, at least the first two volumes. She has a lot of teenage angst, which I would guess anyone would in her situation.

Anyways, towards the end of her New 52 run, the CBS show Supergirl began to air, and it was entirely different. This Kara Zor-El crashed to Earth ostensibly to protect her (then infant) cousin Kal-El at a younger age than the New 52 comic, and was raised by a caring human host family. This Kara, while still something of a fish out of water, is not nearly as intense as the New 52 version. In fact, she is closer to Superman than to her latest incarnation in comics.

Seems more heroic.

Enter DC’s Rebirth. Now Kara is living with a host family, something like what is presented to us in the show. She is still trying to fit into a human world (moreso than in the TV show) but seems to be much more even-tempered than in the New 52, even if she does make rash decisions. I read the Supergirl Rebirth one-shot, which bridges the gap between New 52 runs and the first issue of the new ongoing series. I liked them both well enough. The art particularly in the new one is different and interesting, adopting a more cartoonish lean than the typical DC house style. This book is a nice balance between the edgy angsty New 52 Supergirl and the gee shucks idealism of the CBS show.

I wonder if they are trying to be more like the TV show.

There is just one small problem: The credits page

This book is created by an all-male staff, from the letterers and inkers to the writer and artist, all the way to the line editor one Eddie Berganza. If you read comics and haven’t heard this name, the guy is basically a serial harasser. And rather than relieve him of his duties as the line editor of Superman books (which also contain Wonder Woman by the way) DC simply keeps women out of that line. Women writers and artists aren’t hired to work on Super books at all because I guess this guy can’t help himself? Why punish him when it’s easier to continue to not hire women creators? So Supergirl does not, and will not for the foreseeable future have any women working with her in comics. None. Not even a chance.

As much as I liked the Supergirl book, I can’t help but look at that credits page and shake my head and feel bad for even buying the thing. I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any more of them even if it received all the critical acclaim ever. My only solace is that I did not add it to my pull list, and the comics shop did not order any extra for me. (The direct market is another animal altogether).

Now Contrast Supergirl with Batgirl and the Birds of Prey.

I loved what DC did with Batgirl towards the end of the New 52 run. The Batgirl of Burnside run with Babs Tarr on art, and Brendan Fletcher and Cameron Stewart writing was great fun. I didn’t grab any issues of the Batgirl Rebirth run because I just couldn’t imagine anyone but Tarr on art for it, and plus I hadn’t been reading much DC.

Babs Tarr is a gift.

On a Whim (the same day I picked up Supergirl, in fact) I grabbed the Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Rebirth one-shot, and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1. They tell an intriguing story that comes right out of the New 52 run of both Batgirl and Grayson, both of which were great series when I was reading them.

How could you not?


AND Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (BBoP) Has an all women creative team. The writing duo of Julie and Shawna Benson, and art by Claire Roe. (The art btw, is amazing. Claire isn’t Babs Tarr, but she’s doing her own thing and I love it). OK, to be fair it isn’t all-female (There are also inkers and colorists, etc), but these are the main creative voices of the book. To have an all-female superteam being written and drawn by a (mostly) all-female creative team is a good thing, and is still, sadly, a rare find in the big two comic publishers.

It also happens to be a really great book.

So If I had to choose between the two, I will continue to read BBoP and will drop Supergirl because I can’t. I just can’t ignore the injustice being perpetrated by DC in its Superman line. Now, to be fair, Wonder Woman’s art is partly being drawn by Nicola Scott, so I guess either things are relaxing a bit, or they’ve separated WW from the Superman line, but that doesn’t change the fact that Eddie Berganza continues to have a job at DC comics.

I will do my miniscule part to support female-lead books in BBoP, and maybe will start reading Batgirl which is written by Hope Larson. And I hope more comic readers will follow suit. The only way to make the big publishers understand is by hitting them in the wallets.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Comic Book Critical Mass

Some time ago I wrote about holes in my comprehensive overall nerdery. While I have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of movies and TV, for example, I had nowhere near that kind of association with comics. I hadn’t read anything since the early-mid 90’s before collectors and speculation nearly destroyed the industry altogether. Well, since I wrote that piece I have returned to comics in a rather big way. I’ve been reading new comics for about two years now and supplementing that with reading back issues and trades from the last decade in whatever format I can find. I’ve developed a basic picture of what comics have been for the last decade or so.

What I see is an industry that in its current form is unsustainable.

My reintroduction

Let’s back up a bit.

I started on a whim with a couple of Marvel titles. Ghost Rider, since it was what I was reading back in the day, and She Hulk, because She Hulk is awesome. I liked these books ok. She-Hulk by far more than Ghost Rider. I then spread out to Ms Marvel and Captain Marvel since they were both relatively new titles. I found that these were good as well. I started grabbing up a bunch of stuff and trying to snag back issues of things that were already well into their runs, both from Marvel and from DC. It was a pretty solid couple of months of comics reading.

From Marvel I was getting She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Secret Avengers, Spider Gwen, and Silver Surfer. From DC I was Getting Grayson, Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Gotham Academy, and a short run of Batman. Not a ton of titles, but I was enjoying what I was reading.

But then something weird happened.

A crossover event in Marvel called Axis happened, and a series in DC comics called Future’s End happened as well. Out of nowhere comics I was reading took one or two months off of whatever story I was reading (and enjoying) to take part of a line-wide mega-story. I’ll tell you what. I have no interest in line-wide megastories, and least of all tie-in stories that happen in a character’s title that only relate to the main event in a peripheral way. (The DC titles were not affected as badly as Marvel was, to be fair, but I liked the Marvel ones better).

I dropped most of the books I was reading. I stuck to obscure characters that seemed to be immune to the big deal events. I was still happy, albeit with a smaller pull list. I stuck it out with Ms. Marvel, and Silver Surfer, and with Grayson, although Grayson took part in a multi-title robin crossover, so that one went bye bye as well.

What happened next may shock you. Yes, more line-wide crossovers, this time leading to complete reboots of every major series. Everything gets a new number one, unless it wasn’t selling, and then it’s gone completely in favor of a totally new title. Marvel called it Secret Wars. DC called theirs Convergence followed more recently by Rebirth. In both cases, my series all ended. My waning interest ended. I decided that the characters I like, and/or creative teams that I trusted I would read in collected trade paperbacks. I would rather wait 6 months and get a whole arc. It’s cheaper, easier to read, and less of a pain to store at home.

The Direct Market

As it turns out, this practice is bad for comics business. As it turns out, this practice will get the books you like cancelled. You see, comics base all of their success on pre-sales of single issues to comic shops. Trade paperback sales are the comic book equivalent of DVD sales for a movie. Movies live and die based on box office, not DVD sales or merchandise.

This holds true for single issues of comics. If a comic series isn’t bought in single issues, it will languish and die after somewhere between 8 and 12 issues. Comic creators know this, and some even go so far as to lay it on us, the consumers, to support the books we like by buying the single issues. PRE-ORDERING them, as a matter of fact, not just grabbing them up off the shelf at the store or buying back issues. Once a store orders their copies based on customer pre-orders, the publisher’s job is done and they move on unless demand is overwhelming for a reprint. Backissue sales don’t count. Trade paperback sales don’t count. Digital sales don’t count.

There is a long and complicated history as to why this business model functions the way it does, which I will not get into here. But the point is that the system sucks. It sucks for comic fans, and it sucks for potential, not-yet-fans. Relying solely on presales predetermines a comic’s life or death far too quickly. Say a comic is fantastic, but not that many people read it from the beginning. By the time it’s 4, 5, 6 issues in, its sales numbers are already at a point where it will either continue or be cancelled. Even if word of mouth creates a renewed interest in the book, and people catch up via trade or digital version, the damage is already done. And unless you are already a fan, who has a store to go to, who knows what books are coming out, there is nothing you can do.

Are you a casual comic reader who finds paperbacks at Barnes and Noble? Those comics are already dead. Buying them and loving them will not convince the publishers to create more like it. Too intimidated to go into a comic shop and brave elitist nerds or confusing shelves full of titles? Go ahead and buy digital. The comic you love will still get cancelled, so why bother?

A book has to do gangbusters right out of the gate or it won’t last. This system has lead to desperation on the part of the big 2. Comics have to do well right away, so new series are heavily promoted over existing ones, and bombastic crossover events are constantly in the works. It isn’t about telling good stories and building a fanbase, it is about the quick dollar to keep the ship afloat.



Except that, yes it will, and yes, we have. Less than a few months ago, in fact. House divided? You’re telling me heroes will fight heroes? Where did all the villains go? Wait the villains are the heroes now? How original.

That She-Hulk series that I loved and thought was amazing lasted 12 issues. The Ghostrider one made it a bit longer. Ms Marvel actually gained in popularity, and is now a part of the Avengers, which really sucks because you know why? Now she has to participate in all those crossovers. I want to read about Ms Marvel, not an obvious cash grab like Civil War 2.

Occasional crossovers used to happen back when I was reading comics in the early 90s. Occasionally the Punisher would show up for two issues. Maybe once in awhile you would have to buy an issue of spider man to find out what happened to Ghost Rider in a two-part crossover. I don’t mind that at all. It’s fun seeing characters meet and interact. It’s not fun seeing whole giant teams of characters I love not behaving like themselves for the sake of some super huge universe-changing event that will ultimately lead to nothing, and it makes me not want to buy comics until I’ve heard if they are worth reading. But by then it’s too late.

This model is unsustainable. The market demands instant hits, which prompts sensational events, which alienates the readers which leads to lower sales which leads to increased need for hits which creates more sensational events which pushes readers away even further. Superhero comics are circling the drain. The only good thing is that I’ve been out of the game long enough that there is a ton of old material for me to read, so I guess I’ll start there. Maybe by the time I’m caught up, comics will have been reborn as something better than they are now, but I’m not holding my breath.