For the comic section of my articles, it seems like a good idea to get everything on the same footing by establishing what I buy and read on a month to month basis. It establishes what I’m looking for in a book, what universes tickle my fancy, and what to expect out of my articles. I’ve split it into tiered sections to denote my level of interest. After the list, I’ve followed up with some general comics talk. Enjoy.
Section I: I’m Lazy! — I’ve fallen behind on these books, usually by multiple months. I like them just fine, but they don’t represent any sort of reading priority.
- Captain America (Marvel)
- Sweet Tooth (Vertigo)
- Uncanny X-Men (Marvel)
- The Incredible Hulk (Marvel) — blame Jeph Loeb for this one
Section II: Pretty Good Stuff — Middle of the pack books here. I get to them relatively quickly, but they don’t demand immediate attention.
- Deadpool (Marvel)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse)
- The Unwritten (Vertigo)
- Thor (Marvel) — I expect this to change when Fraction takes over
- Secret Warriors (Marvel)
- Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics)
- Hellboy (Dark Horse)
- Avengers (Marvel)
- New Avengers (Marvel)
- Secret Avengers (Marvel)
- Avengers Academy (Marvel)
- Pet Avengers (Marvel)
Section III: Must Reads — I’ll take care of these within a day or two of my shipment arriving regardless of what my reading list is looking like. This is the best of the best
- Fantastic Four (Marvel)
- Fables (Vertigo)
- Chew (Image)
- Invincible Iron Man (Marvel)
- Any Marvel Cosmic Book (currently The Thanos Imperative)
- Terry Moore’s Echo (Abstract Studio)
- Casanova (Icon)
Section IV: S.H.I.E.L.D. — Yes, it gets its own section. If a new issue of SHIELD is in my shipment, I will read it within an hour of getting it. No exceptions.
- S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel)
Obviously, I’ve stuck to ongoing series for this list. I get my fair share of miniseries to taste around the core of ongoings. Van Lente and Pak’s post Incredible Hercules stuff, for example (Heroic Age Prince of Power leading into Chaos War). You can’t really include things like this on a pull list, so I’ve chosen to leave them off. What you’ll also notice is that there’s a whole lot of Marvel on this list and not a single DC book. I wouldn’t call this actively intentional, but there was a time when I read five to ten DC books a month. I was reading JSA, Booster Gold, the Green Lantern stuff, some random minis, Brave and the Bold, etc. I grew dissatisfied with a lot of it, and by the time Blackest Night (although this was also the case for Final Crisis) rolled around, the only DC books I was reading were Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. The DC universe had left me behind, and I decided to just cut my losses and give up on DC as a whole. To be honest, I haven’t noticed much of a difference. I haven’t found myself pining for DC books. Warner Brothers still gets a decent chunk of change from me thanks to the awesome work churned out by the Vertigo line, but DC proper’s going to need to recruit a Hickman/Fraction/Gaiman level talent on an ongoing book for my to come back and stick around. I have no ill will against DC or anything, but when you go without something for long enough and don’t miss it, it’s difficult to muster up the incentive to come back to the fold.
Comics are in a good place right now. Everyone seems to have a solid slate of writers and artists available to them. IDW has managed to join DC, Dark Horse, and Image at the front of Previews, turning the big four into a big five. Sales aren’t super high, in fact they’re generally staggeringly low, but the overall quality of the product has been gaining strength over the years. Obviously, financial solvency is more important than editorial excellent, but that ship sailed on a large scale when comics left the news stands and moved over to the direct market. It’s disappointing that The Order was never given the opportunity to spread its wings that it would have in a healthier market with less overhead concerns. The margin for error gets smaller as the average sales of middle tier books continue to drop below 30,000 issues a month. Comics as an industry has been fiscally declining for years now, and they have to hang their hats on a Secret Invasion or a Blackest Night to keep budgets in line and keep the talent paid. It’s worked so far, but also represents a dangerous situation when it stops working that could have serious and severe long term effects. The quality of comics could in some ways be unprecedented (except maybe for the Alan Moore/Frank Miller years of the 80’s), but it’s not all blue skies and red roses.
As I’m writing this on Tuesday, DC just announced that most of their offices would be moving to Burbank in order to capitalize on Hollywood (and presumably be closer to parent company Warner Bros.) as the DC Entertainment brand continues to expand. The offices of DC Comics itself are staying put in New York, but the restructuring appears to have cost them both Wildstorm and Zuda as imprint brands. Some could argue that the push to move comics even more mainstream that comes with DC fracturing their offices is an overall positive for the potential health of the industry. This is probably true. However, we coics fans are notorious for a sky is falling mentality, so there will presumably be some backlash from the loss of jobs and books this decision will create. Everything happens for a reason. Wildstorm and Zuda were losing money. Altruism has no place in true business. Companies can’t afford to keep around failing properties because of the vocal minority. That’s why Firefly was cancelled. No matter how much we loved it, it lost Fox money. Regardless of whether it was Fox’s fault (read: probably was), the situation remained. The Wildstorm universe has been established as one of the 52 universes of DC’s new-look multiverse, making a relaunch into DC proper a simple exercise. What’s more fascinating is what this says about the big two. There is a pretty strong spotlight on Marvel and DC right now thanks to the phenomenal success of the Iron Man and Batman film franchises. Marvel has ridden that wave full on into Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers. DC has done practically nothing except announce there would be a third Nolan Batman film (shock), Green Lantern, and that Nolan would be involved in a Superman reboot. Which they haven’t actually announced is happening. Maybe this will put them on the right track, invigorate them, and get me to buy some of their books again. Maybe Marvel will have to step it up even further in response. One can only hope.
This post was written to the tune of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus