The Roundtable


NOTE: The individual opinions of each Roundtable contributor are their own, and is not representative of anybody but that contributor.

RUMOUR: DC wants Mark Millar to write two Superman monthlies, one drawn by Jim Lee, the other by Bryan Hitch, despite personal difficulties with DC President Paul Levitz. (credit: All The Rage)

Jesse Baker (Nexus reviewer): Nerdrage Mode On.

If there is a God, Levitz will kill this dead and tell Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch to f*** themselves.

Millar and Hitch’s recent public posts about Superman show that they (along with Waid) want to return Superman to the dark ages of the Silver Age, when the book was the laughing stock of the comic industry and exhibit A for why no one takes comics seriously, to such an extent that the Pre-Crisis Superman made the Adam West Batman look like f****** Dark Knight Returns

And why would Jim Lee be given a second chance on Superman? His run has been so boring that people aren’t even caring about even complaining about it! And Hitch is a lazy hack who needs to be blackballed, not given another high profile book….

Nerdrage mode off.

Paul Sebert (Nexus contributor): Gasp… horrors? People aren’t complaining about Jim Lee’s run on Superman. So obviously people must think it’s extremely boring. That’s the only obvious explanation… I mean it couldn’t possibly be because a lot of people, maybe… just maybe… actually like it?

Perhaps I should translate this into Bizarro for Jesse’s sake.

Gasp… joy? People am complaining about Jim Lee’s run on Superman. So abstrusely people must not be thinking it’s extremely exciting. This am only unobvious explanation. Me mean it could be possible because a lot of people, maybe… just maybe actually hate it. Because hating am liking in Bizarro world, and everything am backwards.

There – a perfectly imperfect explanation.

“Starman” Matt Morrison (Writer of Looking to the Stars): Ten-to-One this rumour got started by Mark Millar or someone working for him.

Jesse Baker: IIRC it was Hitch who got the ball rolling but I could be wrong.

That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just a ploy for him to try and get DC to hire him back after his Marvel contract is up. Millar has been making noise about how he’s taking time off from writing for Marvel soon, so I wouldn’t be surprised that Millar’s wanting to jump ship to DC and bitch Marvel out/suck DC’s c*** in exchange for an über-slim chance to write Superman. Though I would love to see Millar burn both of his bridges by having him turn
against Marvel and call everyone there a–holes in hopes of getting work at DC only to have Levitz kill any deal to bring him back to DC or bring him back but without any hope of ever writing Superman, which causes Millar to turn against DC and results in him and Rob Liefeld leaving Marvel and going away for good….

Matt Morrison: While I would just love to debate the finer points of taking Superman back to basics being a bad thing, (the one thing in Jesse’s post that, scarily enough, I disagree with) I would like to point out that Jim Lee has had nothing to do with the story or writing of the incomprehensible exercise in prolonged, extended writing mess that Superman has become. Chalk that one up to Brian “Oh, how I wish I was Warren Bloody Ellis” Azzarello.

Give credit where credit is due, Jesse. If we’re going to talk about Jim Lee coming up with bad ideas, let’s talk about The Intimates

Iain Burnside (your new Roundtable host): Woah, woah, woah, woah! Let’s leave one of the most promising new series of 2004 out of this, shall we?

Matt Morrison: I didn’t say anything about Small Gods

Manolis Vamvounis (Writer of Leave Your Spandex @ The Door): Like Iain said, leave The Intimates out of this. If the first issue is any indication, this is THE book to watch out for in 2005.

As for Mark Millar on Superman, I say go for it. No writer has managed to make me care for the Man of Dull so far, a more light-hearted take on the ole goody-two-shoes might just do it for me.

Tim Stevens (writer of DC News & Views and Nexus reviewer): I actually sort of agree with Jesse here about it being a bad idea to bring Superman wholly back to his Silver Age era persona as that version was just too damn powerful for my liking (and there was way too much Kryptonite lying around…like more than even Smallville). However I have to point out that that process has already begun. Supergirl is back, the Superdog is back, Supes can breathe in space again, there is all sorts of kryptonite on earth right now, etc, etc. So if Millar did that, it would only, really, be the natural progression of what Loeb has begun. Besides, Millar crafted some of the more enjoyable Superman stories of the past several years during his run on Superman Adventures, so maybe, if this is real, we are in for more of that.

Jesse Baker: Those Superman Adventures stories were written before Millar turned into “My sh– don’t stink” egomaniac/self-absorbed “martyr”, not to mention the fact that Millar was basically writing a bunch of throwaway stories that didn’t have anything to do with the core of the Superman franchise. It’s a world’s difference between that and writing the core franchise, especially since Millar’s ego has gotten to the point where he believes he can do know wrong and considers any attempt to curb his sh– writing tendencies a conspiracy against him.

If Millar really wants to write Superman, just give the c*** a revived Superman Adventures book and stick him there with it being told that basically he’s going to be bound towards the cartoon canon/kid friendly format so long as he’s writing the book and that he’ll have zero say in the direction of main Superman books or in the Superman franchise. And if he doesn’t like that, he can go f*** himself or better yet, have Rob Liefeld f*** him since they’ve become butt-f****** buddies this last year, with Millar forcing Marvel to take his C***-in-Arms Liefeld back and give him work…

Paul Sebert: To quote Mojo JoJo from the Powerpuff Girls Movie:

“Yeah that’s classy.”

*Rolls eyes*

Really gang… maybe I’m just old fashion here, but can we watch the language here? I mean if you got a problem with Millar fine… but try to be logical about it.

Tim Stevens: Wow…for one second there I actually thought Jesse and I were going to agree and get along. Silly, silly me. Anyone else the slightest bit uncomfortable with the pseudo gay bashing in that last response?

In Jesse’s defence though, plenty (at least on the Internet) have been complaining that Superman is moving slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowly, so he didn’t just conjure that one up out of thin air.

Matt Morrison: Uh yeah. Tone down the language, Jesse. You’re better than that… most of the time.

Despite the major negative vibes in how he said it, I’ll back Jesse up on the fact that there are some people so bored with Superman that they don’t bother to complain about it… mostly because they gave the first two issues a shot and haven’t read it since.

Thankfully, I have the benefit of working in a comic book store where my job requires me to glance through everything that comes in, so I’ve been able to keep on Superman and confirm that. “No, nothing’s happened…” I feel like Brian from Family Guy when he became a seeing-eye dog and took a man to see Blair Witch Project, when people ask me what’s going on in Superman.

“Nothings happening… Nothings happening… there’s something about a device that makes people vanish… nothing is happening…. Wonder Woman is talking with some witch or something who tried killing Superman….nothing is happening…. it’s over. A lot of people look pissed.”

Mike Maillaro (writer of Marvel News & Views and Nexus reviewer): Count me among the people who dropped Superman. I gave it four issues, and I was out the door. Of course, it’s very hard to blame Jim Lee here. He was doing the best he could with Az’s dull scripts. Az really needs to stick to 100 Bullets.

Vaughan confirms that Runaways vol. 2 is an ongoing series, provided that sales on the first 12 issues are high enough. (credit: All The Rage)

Matt Morrison: Now here is the man who needs to be getting more high-profile gigs instead of Mark Millar! Hopefully we can get some more of the fans from Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man to check out what has been one of the more enjoyable titles Marvel’s made in recent memory.

Manolis Vamvounis: Wasn’t this kind of redundant? Every new series to come out of the House of Short Lifespans fits this bill: all new ongoing series are in danger of cancellation at the 6 or 12 issue mark (Inhumans, Sentinel, etc), and all limited series are viable to be turned into ongoings after the 12th issue if they prove successful (Thor: Son of Asgard). Runaways is the freshest concept book currently out by Marvel, I hope they keep it around for many years to come!

Jamie Hatton (Writer of Diner Talk and Nexus reviewer): I love/hate news like this.

Love: Because it means that every once in awhile, Marvel listens. It means that on certain occasions, us, the fans, have saved a book – albeit by lining Marvel’s pockets with TPB sales, but hey, at least vol. 2 is going to come.

Hate: Because this book still rings with the air of ‘I might be cancelled’. WHY?!?! The book apparently has some weird sort of thing called fan support. It has the ability to become a hugely popular book given the right amount of time and gestation. Why does it need to be given this disclaimer of ‘it will come if sales are high’? By adding that in, you are almost admitting that ‘Yes, we know the book is great and deserves to be on shelves, but we’d rather put out a piece of crap book that will garner a few more dollars than put out a smart book that will receive critical praise.’

I understand looking at in a dollars and cents, black and white way –
Marvel is correct to stick with what pays the bills, but as a
publisher they have a responsibility to try and put out the best
possible material out. I know this is more of a logical dream than an
actual one since it’s well versed that Marvel only gives a damn about
the bottom-line and not the people behind those numbers.

Sorry, I’m done venting.

Iain Burnside: Vent on, m’boy!

I’m just not really sure how Marvel comes to these decisions regarding their books. They say they are committed to making a real go of District X and She-Hulk, which is cool, but then they turn around and cancel Mystique, arguably the best X-book not to have been written by Joss Whedon. Runaways gets a second lease of life, yet Sentinel does not. Thor got a massive sales boost from Disassembled, yet that was cancelled and Thor: Son of Asgard extended. What the smeg is going on?

As far as Runaways itself is concerned, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this would make a great TV show. It could be animated, it could be live-action, it doesn’t matter – it would work. Or at least, it would if Vaughan was an executive producer or something.

Paul Sebert: To be fair Iain there’s actually a pretty good explanation for all of these decisions made when you stop to think about it… Mary Jane is returning in May, and She Hulk‘s not getting cancelled so much as getting relaunched. So apparently Marvel does care about its critical darlings.

As for Thor I think is that the book was already cancelled before Disassembled and Michael Avon Oeming’s arc was supposed to wrap off the book. I think no-one saw the book’s sales taking off like they did under Oeming’s run, so I kinda wonder why Millar’s getting to do the re-launch rather than Oeming. Son of Asgard meanwhile was extended because they thought it would do well in the book store market (and it probably has. The girls that troll through the Manga section love Pretty Boys.)

And as for why Runaways got the relaunch, and Sentinel didn’t. Simple. Runaways outsold Sentinel, both in the direct market and on trade. Runaways‘ critical buzz managed to influence its sales while similar praise for Sentinel didn’t make a dent in its sales.

And I do agree that Runaways would make a great TV show. Granted I thought the same thing about Generation X.

Anyway all of this talk about relaunches, “second seasons” what you will has me thinking. Maybe it’s time to take a serious look at how ongoing series are distributed and see if there really is time for a change. Yeah I know hardcore fanboys bitch and moan every time an old standby like Captain America is relaunched, but well… just how many series launched in the past 10 years have made it past the mythical “landmark” of 100 issues? Let’s see there’s Robin, Cable (ugh), X-Force (*wince*), umm… Sonic the Hedgehog?

Why not instead of just chucking out issue after issue month after month for an indeterminate period of time, just have everything start out with contractually set number of issues for a “season?” I mean the big two make most of their money on trade paperbacks these days, so we’re already half-way there and the fact is it *is* a lot easier to sell a #1 issue than an issue #17 no matter how you repackage the title.

Obviously I’m not saying this approach should be taken to every title but well in a direct market where it’s so damned hard to push a new product in the long term, and a bookstore market clamouring for fresh ideas and material (i.e. Manga), it might be worth a shot.

Iain Burnside: If Marvel cared about its critical darlings then books like Mystique, X-Statix and, to a lesser extent, Alpha Flight would still have a future.

Anyway, I do wholeheartedly agree with your points about the “seasoning” of comic titles. You could even say that it’s pretty much happening already, as there are an increasingly few number of single issues released by DC and Marvel that actually stand alone and aren’t solicited as ‘part X of Y’. On most titles, such as Batman, the creative team even changes after practically every arc – making it even more of a standalone story as opposed to an ongoing. Plus, since comic books have lost any real value they might have held in the past, it really doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether it’s Iron Man #1 or Iron Man #500-and-whatever, despite what the Brodies and Steve-Daves of this world might say.

Oh, and we can add JLA to your list. And Nightwing, shortly :)

Paul Sebert: Well unlike the Distinguished Competition, even with movies and merchandising Marvel doesn’t have Time Warner’s fortune to rely on and well if sales don’t pick up you can only publish an unprofitable book for so long.

That and to be perfectly honest, while I loved both Mystique and X-Statix… I never really expected either of them to last a year. Particularly with the volatile reaction the later got during its X-Force days. I’m just glad I got what good stories I got out of the deal.

Two of the real advantages I see of the “season” model of business are that… 1. It gives the publisher the opportunity to remind the customer that a particular product is still out there and 2. It provides readers who have fallen out of the loop with a very obvious jumping on point.

I think a gradual move away from the collector’s market altogether might be a good move in the long run. Let’s face it wasn’t just absurd gimmicks, bad writing, and mega-crossovers that crippled the medium in the 90s. A huge crippling factor was the fact that one of the medium’s real practical advantages was it was a cheap fast means of entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong… I love how a computer-coloured piece of John Romita Jr. art looks as much as the next guy but well, I think if the big two don’t want the direct market to be swallowed up by the bookstore chains… well it’s in their best interest to figure out how to lower the product’s price as soon as possible. And well if that means switching to news stock, or out-sourcing inkers/colourists… well that might be a sacrifice we fans might have to take.

Because let’s face it. The kids who are reading Shounen Jump right aren’t upset because the book’s in black & white and printed on cheapo paper… because they’re getting several hundred pages for $4.95.

Manolis Vamvounis: I don’t agree with ‘seasoning’ titles. Sure, it works for small fry titles like Runaways (well, we’ll need to wait and see on that front, won’t we? But I’m keeping my fingers crossed), but imagine if it became a regular practice for all of Marvel’s titles. Sure, a #1 on the cover looks flashy, but we would eventually reach a point where we’re looking at Captain America vol. 11 #1, and it just seems too ludicrous.

A nice alternative in my opinion would be to de-emphasize the issue numbers on the cover, and put the arc title and part number in the front. For example, instead of X-Men #167, we could have X-Men: Golgotha #2 (167) with X-Men #167 in the inside indicia for those keeping them in linear collection.

Iain Burnside: I know it means something to some people but honestly, numbering is null and void as far as I’m concerned. They could get by quite easily by just using sub-names for their titles. It certainly doesn’t harm long-running novel series such as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Still, your idea seems like the best compromise that could be made.

Jason Berek-Lewis (Writer of A View From Over The Edge): I’m 100% in agreement with Paul. I think the days of the ongoing series are limited. If Marvel/DC focus on putting together strong maxi-series 6 – 12 issues each, I think that would rock. It makes it easier to collect in TPB and it means that new fans can easily come on to a book without having 400 issues of continuity bogging them down.

Manolis Vamvounis: Making them into maxi-series won’t automatically negate the characters’ continuity, Jason. It has already been taken care of by editorial, quite a long time ago. Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Girl and Astonishing X-Men are the only Marvel books that have acknowledged past continuity in recent memory (as in, in the last 4 years of Marvel stories).

Paul Sebert: I think that’s a bit of an extreme statement. Heck, I’m not into negating a character’s continuity… just glossing over some of the stupid parts. She-Hulk, Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Alpha Flight, Mystique and Captain America & Falcon have all made references to past continuity at some point or other.

Heck the only book on the shelves from Marvel I’d consider to be a total revision would be Warren Ellis’ Iron Man, which is ok because it’s Warren friggin’ Ellis.

RUMOUR: Crisis 2 by Geoff Johns & Phil Jimenez will see the entire DCU jump ahead by one year. The series will then fill in the gap, leading up to new creative teams of Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely on Superman, Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee on Batman, and Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver on Wonder Woman. Or not. (credit: Lying in the Gutters)

Matt Morrison: If this is true, I shall fall on my hands and knees and give thanks to the merciful gods that all my favorite writers are now running the big guns of the industry, that there is at least one comic company who realized you can have a big hype machine and quality products, cancel my subscription to all Marvel titles and become a full time singer of praises for for the Distinguished Competition.

Mary Jane will return in March 2005 for a four-issue mini-series. (credit: Sean McKeever)

Matt Morrison: But it will be cancelled at issue two if sales don’t pick up on issue one…

Iain Burnside: Yup, so everyone go and buy it please.

Michael Ryan, Aaron Lopestri and Frank D’Armata sign 3-year exclusive deals with Marvel. (credit: Newsarama and everywhere else)

Iain Burnside: Bizarrely, the press release mentions Ryan’s work on “fan favourite Mystique” – recently cancelled as of issue #24.

Paul Sebert: The words “fan favorite” really are kinda pointless these days as just about every title is someone’s favorite.

I mean Mystique‘s obviously got a dedicated fanbase but… alas sadly it’s not enough fan’s favorite title.

Really I find the most interesting of these deals to be Frank D’Armata’s. I love the guy’s work… but in this day and age of digital colouring am I the only one finding it a bit odd to see a colorist getting an exclusive deal these days? I mean what’s next… a letterer? A tracer? (To borrow a gag from Chasing Amy.)

Manolis Vamvounis: Honestly, if I get one more e-mail from Marvel with the words ‘exclusive deal’ in the subject line… Is it signing season over at the House of Joe or something?

I’m cheering for Michael Ryan, he is a truly phenomenal artist, and he is the ideal choice for New X-Men; I predict he will be for that title what Bill Sienkiewicz was for the original New Mutants.

Aaron Lopestri, on the other hand… He got an incredible chance to shine when the whole Kordey-Marvel fiasco went down, but he has failed to make a grab for glory. His work has improved from the CrossGen clone days, but his art still remains fairly ordinary, and when combined with the even more ordinary Excalibur scripts, I don’t understand how this title still floats while every other new book around Marvel is sinking…