Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Only Way to Reboot

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The comic book industry is destroying itself, and I alone have yet another solution to one of its many problems.

Believe it or not, blending Batman and Wolverine into one character is NOT the answer.

The industry has long had the problem of being an insular hobby. Connecting with new readers has always been an ongoing struggle. I've had many people who don't read comics tell me "I would totally read them but I don't know where to start" or "their long-running continuity is too hard to understand to just jump in."

In layman's terms, wouldn't you (let's pretend you don't read comics) be much more willing to read Iron Man #1 after seeing an Iron Man movie, rather than Amazing Spider-Man #578 after seeing a Spider-Man movie? The fact that comic books are serialized and long-running are part of the reason why they are doomed from re-attaining mass appeal in today's world.

"Ummm....start with THAT one."

Another problem are the collector's themselves. We as collectors like to have nice, long runs of a book featuring a character we love. For example, in addition to having every single Superman comic book published between 2001 and 2011, I also have every single Green Arrow comic book published from 1984 to 2011. Are every one of those Superman or Green Arrow stories worth owning? Absolutely not.  In fact, many of them are horrible and I HATED feeling obligated to buy them. Yet I still bought them, because collector's have always dealt with the difficult balance of being a collector or a hoarder.

If comic book collecting gets in the way of you owning furniture...
then you've got a real problem there, pal.

The real problem of being a fan/collector of comic books is that since they are stories told periodically, you wind up with long runs of stories and hundreds (if not thousands) of books on hand. You wind up buying books that you don't like or upset you for years, simply because you have a long-standing subscription to a particular book and have the habit of buying it every month. That infamous "gap in your collection" is a hard nut to swallow for almost every dedicated comic book fan, so that's why we keep buying. It's almost like we feel obligated to keep the collection gap-free, just because we have the last few year's worth of books (uninterrupted, of course). Even if the stories stopped being good years ago, comic book fans have a hard time jumping off, knowing full well they will be back when the book gets good again.

There's got to be a simpler way to keep long-term fans happy and gain fresh new comic book readers along the way without alienating anyone. I'm not even talking about pricing or page-counts with this argument (you should know my stance on that already). There must be a way to maintain that sense of continuity with periodical comics that we all love so much, yet have fresh starts to the books on a regular basis for the newbies.

"Where the fuck is Action Comics # 727 Part 48?!? MURDER!!!"

My revelation is this:

Make EVERYTHING a mini-series. No more long-running titles that go on for decades at a time. Reboot every title of a book when a new creative team/direction comes on board, and end the book when that particular tale is done. Every story can still tie into the greater story (or continuity) being told. For example, instead of Detective Comics you could have Detective Comics: Title of Writer's Story. When creative teams don't work out and a change is needed, instead of burdening the new creative team with taking over a book at #36 or what have you, give them a fresh start with a new #1 so that their story has a definite beginning and ending, which would be easier for fans to track down. What I'm saying is...instead of rebooting a title every so often (as its currently done), do it all the time instead.

What got me thinking about this as a viable way to keep comics fresh and appealing was the news that Jeff Lemire would be taking over Green Arrow with #17 of the current run. The initial interview with Lemire explained how it was going to be a completely fresh take that would be taking the Mike Grell-written series from the late '80's/early '90's as inspiration. Lemire stated that he wished the book could start with a new #1 because his run is intended to be a true reboot for the character. With the current Arrow TV series on the CW Network being a relative success, it would make sense for Green Arrow to get a new #1, right? Especially since the latest volume of the book has failed on nearly every level to connect with readers old and new. However, DC just rebooted the book (along with every other DC title) in 2011 so my guess is that they think it wouldn't make sense to reboot Green Arrow 18 months after it's already been rebooted.

BETTER THAN HAWKEYE.

If you're not a reader of the Green Arrow comic book but are a fan of the Arrow TV show, don't you think you'd be more willing to read Green Arrow #1 over Green Arrow #17 with a blurb on the front cover that says "new creative team?" In my mind, rebooting a failing book with a new #1 would be more successful than hoping Jeff Lemire can turn a lame-duck around after 16 issues of utter fail.

Mini-reboots like this would never be a problem if there was no such thing as "an ongoing series" anymore. Let every creator have his story under the umbrella of the main title of a book, but start it over again with a new "mini-series" when the next team comes on board. Comic book fans are already used to new #1's and reboots all the time anyway. Might as well roll with it.

The main benefit of this is that it would be easier for collectors to simply not pick up a book they don't like. Instead of buying the book out of obligation, it would make it easier for them to follow the characters with the creators that they like. For example, instead of being suckered/obligated into buying Tony Daniel's awful Batman stories just because you subscribed to Batman or Detective Comics, or J. Michael Strazynski's bullshit "Grounded" story in Superman just because you subscribe to Superman, you could just wait until a team you like comes on board and start with their #1. That burden of a long-term subscription out of obligation simply wouldn't exist. In a world where there are 13 related Batman titles on the market, and around 30 Avengers or X-Men titles, this could easily be done.

This was 15 issues of EPIC FAIL that could have been easily avoided if I wasn't saddled with a long-running Superman subscription. Had I known it could be skipped in favor of a better Superman story being told elsewhere (that still "counted" for continuity's sake), then this toilet paper wouldn't be taking up space in my comic book boxes right now.

For those who protest my "radical" idea, give this a thought:

You can still have your loved "long runs" of a book with my "mini-series method." Instead of Brian Michael Bendis's various Avengers books (4 different books that ran concurrently for several years, 2 of which were rebooted even though they all had the same writer), you could just have Avengers: The Bendis Story #1-350 or however many issues Bendis wrote while in control the Avengers franchise.

Instead of having to follow Grant Morrison's long-running Batman story in Batman, Batman & Robin, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman: The Return (one-shot issue) and Batman Incorporated (volumes 1 AND 2)....it could all have just been told in one of the various 13 related Batman titles with Morrison's story name as the subtitle. It would just be a limited series of however many issues it winds up being when it's all said and done.

This is what Time-Warner and DC Comics should just change their name to...

So what do you think, comic book fans? Do you think this would work? In an age where books are expensive and there's a lot of things out there to spend your entertainment dollars on, I think the dying comic book industry could benefit from a system like this. Books are basically advertised in this fashion already...you might as well run with it and stop caring so much about the particular issue number. Follow the character with the creator you like...not the obligation of "filling the gap."

Bow me out, Wesley...

Wesley Willis
"I Whipped Spider-Man's Ass"

5 comments:

  1. Excellent post my friend. It makes me think about the differences between Marvel and DC...Marvel has spent the last 50+ years showing how a shared universe and continuity can be done right. They are able to restart/renumber titles every few years and it's not confusing, and all of the previous stories still count.

    On the other hand, DC has done this with the added twist of changing origins and continuity, which has caused wholesale invalidation of old stories, alienating many old school fans. Marvel has shown that the right balance between attracting new fans and appeasing old can happen; DC ends up shooting itself in the foot by confusing news fans over what back story is still valid, while alienating the old. And after this New 52 debacle, I have been alienated big time (Lemire on Green Arrow does sound promising though).

    I read a similar idea about renumbering which I like, and is pretty similar to your idea. Basically, ongoing comics would be like magazines, where they would have a different volume every year. So a comic would come out in January 2013 and be "Vol. 1, issue #1," and change with each subsequent year. With each storyline or arc averaging 6 issues these days, that would equal about 2 arcs a year. What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  2. They already kinda do the books like that to some degree, as many of the books credits will say "volume 7 issue 9" or whatever. But yeah, I think that could work as well.

    I think the main difference with DC and Marvel is that with Marvel, they just don't address continuity concerns as much as DC seems to try doing. Marvel just ignores the glitch and moves on, whereas DC will take that glitch and turn it into a 8-part event with 37 tie-ins.

    The New 52 hasn't alienated me per se, but its certainly made it easier to streamline what I get. I haven't bought any of the new Green Arrow series other than the first issue. I buy 2 out of 96 Batman titles. I only read Action Comics, not Superman. Etc. Going digital has helped out a lot on this too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah, they way they do volume numbers now is based on how many times the title has been restarted. This way, it will be an annual thing no matter what. They could even subtitle it with the year.

    The New 52 has had some good titles (Animal Man, etc.) but overall it has sucked to me. I do wanna buy the Batman books because they still maintain a large amount of old continuity, but when they crossover with the newly rebooted books like Teen Titans, I'm not interested.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Seriously DarkClaw? they tried to combine Wolverine and Batman what the hell thats just silly shame shame on the comic world just the kind of thing that killed my intrest in comics in the 90s geeze.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The nice thing about the Bat books is that you don't have to read all that stupid tie-in shit. The story is still fairly self contained. Animal Man has been awesome, as has Swamp Thing. And yeah Ben, that happened in the heyday of comic book crappiness.

    ReplyDelete