I'm Just Sayin'…#7

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Hey guys. I’d like to blame the lack of a column last week on FANTASTIC FOUR #556 rendering me physically incapable of forming a coherent thought – I’m fairly sure some of the other guys at Midtown Comics heard me when I flipped through the issue, put it back on the shelves, and said “Aaannnnd I’m done with this piece’a shit,” before I picked up CAPTAIN AMERICA # 37 and IRON MAN #28 – but alas, bronchitis was the culprit. Not a pleasant experience, let me tell you.

As a general practice I do a lot of reading between the proverbial lines, and I’m starting to think there’s a reason why Mark Millar was allowed to have the cover style of FANTASTIC FOUR re-styled into something not unlike a celebrity gossip magazine. For one thing, it feeds Mark Millar’s apparent need to feel like a superstar. For another, it serves as a warning that what you’re going to get if you pay for this comic is highly comparable to a celebrity gossip magazine – mindless, pointless, easily disposable – which would explain why any editor let this happen in the first place – and for another still…well, we all know that once Millar’s gone, the cover style will go back to the classic version. So basically, you have a clear marker for when you should’ve stopped buying, and soon enough you’ll get your “all-clear” to come back. It’d be really interesting if the next creative team gets to start at issue #554 too!

To my fellow New Yorkers, or fellow comic book fans who were in the city this past weekend – any of you who went to the Convention, could you drop me a line? Especially if you went to any Marvel panels? I mean…Marvel Apes?

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I mean…is this for real? April Fool’s was two weeks ago, what’s going on here?

Plus, I read some of the report on the Cup O’Joe panel over at Newsarama, and not only am I more than a little disheartened at the thought of these people trotting out Stan Lee to endorse the recentmost violation of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but there was this little portion of the Newsarama report that caught my eye:

Yet another question concerning when Marvel is going to “slow down” with the big, status quo-changing “events” was asked. “You mean when are our books going to suck again,” Quesada joked.

I…guess that could be seen as kind of funny. I know if I were the person asking the question, I’d be annoyed and a little insulted, too. Because not only did Quesada dodge the question, he pretty much turned his shoulder to the person. He may as well have said flat-out: “I don’t care what you as a reader may want.” At least that’d have been a little less disingenuous.

And then there was something else that bothered me:

When asked about the Ultimate line, Quesada reiterated that he wants to keep the line small, and that there’s some “huge upheaval” coming within those titles. He also described the Ultimate universe as a “testing ground” for things that might happen in the Marvel Universe proper.

Wait…I thought the point of the Ultimate universe was so that creators could play with familiar Marvel characters in a different universe, and give the readers something different without toying with the Marvel Universe proper. You know…so that you could have a single Peter Parker who still went to high school, without screwing around too much with the original?

I’m starting to think that Quesada is becoming so self-assured in his persona as the guiding light of Marvel Comics, he is beginning to reveal to us regular people more than he ought to about his true motivations – or in the case of this scene from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #546, maybe Dan Slott is trying to warn us on the sly…

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…and we as readers, as fans and as customers need to start speaking up.

There’s one thing I’ve learned from performing standup: I may be the one up on stage, and I may have been the one to think up the jokes, but that doesn’t mean it’s all about me. It’s not all about what jokes I want to tell. The audience is there first and foremost to laugh, and while I as an artist may have a point I want to make on any given night, my job first and foremost to make them laugh, and they have a say in this exchange. And if I’m not delivering the laughs, then I need to be cognizant about that and make the necessary adjustments.

If I were the person who asked about the endless string of “event” stories, I wouldn’t let it drop at that, and I wouldn’t let it slide, either – screw this “eh, if I were him, I probably wouldn’t care, either” mentality. This is the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. They can afford a deficit in slack. Hold him and every last editor there to the standard that should imply. Same goes for DC and any other publisher. They need to work for your money, and if it were me, if the editor-in-chief answered a good faith question with such…flagrant douchery, that would be enough for me to start passing out flyers in front of my comic book shop, encouraging people to stop buying dissatisfying comics and start demanding some real storytelling quality for the three-to-four dollars per issue that they’re asking of us.

Because there was the notion implicit in this “joke,” that what’s important is that people buy the comics, no matter what. When Tom Brevoort tells Jeff Ritter in an interview published by this very Nexus that “a good story takes priority over continuity,” what he’s saying is sales numbers are more important than any actual (or coincidental) quality in the story. When once it was dark, tortured brooding characters in black, it was variant covers and absurd accessories like certificates and armbands. And what’s working now is “big, status-quo changing events.” So basically you’re being told exactly how comics publishing works at its bottom line: a book only “sucks” if it doesn’t sell. And since comic book shops don’t do refunds, what should Quesada and his inner circle care if, after some eight months, you come away from the latest “event” thinking, “wait…that made no sense at all!” Their bait worked, they’ve got your $32-plus, and as far as they’re concerned, all they were responsible for is the fact that they gave you a shiny comic book. And to reinforce that point, how about you hit me one more time:

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Just a shiny $3-4 magazine, published in relatively four week’s time. That’s all you were entitled to, and if you don’t think you got a good comic book for your money, then tough; that’s just your opinion and quite frankly, if you didn’t like it then you don’t get what they’re trying to do anyway.

My point is, you have a say in this exchange. Sometimes it’s not just you. Sometimes it does suck. Sometimes it is a stupid idea, sometimes seeing your favorite character reimagined as a monkey even for just a few months is a fan-fiction waste of everybody’s time and money, and whether Karl Kesel was just joking, or if he’s desperate to write something high-profile so that maybe Quesada will return the favor and let him take a real crack at FANTASTIC FOUR like he’s always wanted – or if he’s performing an undercover sting operation on behalf of the Comics Code Authority in some bid to re-establish its own relevance – whatever the reason may be, Joe Quesada okayed this idea and that just goes to show: sometimes the emperor isn’t just wearing no clothes…sometimes he’s playing with himself, too.

I just looked at that last line…I’ve used that joke on stage before, and I have to say, I kinda miss the days when I was only talking about George W. Bush. That reminds me: y’know the difference between the Star Wars prequels and the War in Iraq? One outlines the manipulation of a corrupt, complacent democracy into a manufactured war to facilitate the rise in power of a megalomaniacally oppressive force…and the other’s got lightsabers. Hit me!

January 20, 2009. Mark your calendars and at least enjoy the departure of one stubbornly single-minded pseudo-visionary. After all, as someone else said at the New York Con, “I’m not an elected official, at the end of the day.”

Just sayin’, is all.

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