It’s been a weird month or so at Marvel, what with a bunch of layoffs, the cancellation of several ongoing books (Including Jason Aaron’s Punisher MAX, Crisis on Infinite Midlives favorite Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, and X-23 and Ghost Rider – Marvel’s only two books with female leads), and a couple of books (Destroyers and Victor Von Doom) that haven’t even come out yet. The word is that Marvel has been particularly nutcutting because of budgetary concerns, which means Marvel may be the first company that requires people with the job title of “Architect” to bring their own fucking toilet paper to work.
Any detailed analysis of what Marvel is doing and why would require more knowledge of the comics industry than a guy who just likes comics has, and, you know… math and shit, which means I’m not the one to do it. Kiel Phegley at Comic Book Resources runs down what’s happening and possibly why from an informed prospective, which you should go read. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
You’re back? What? you want to know what I think? Didn’t I just tell you that I’m not the one to ask? But then again, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, which means that we’re all doomed to listen to some drunkard spouting off in an authoritative manner about things they know nothing whatsoever about. Okay, fine; fill your glass, pull up a chair, and listen to your Uncle Rob run his mouth about something he knows nothing whatsoever about.
There’s a concept in auto racing called “drafting” that I learned about watching Days Of Thunder at two in the morning when before I had a TiVo or self-respect. It’s when you’re trailing a car and you pull in just behind them to pick up their wind resistance to go faster yourself.
Ever since DC Comics started their New 52 initiative, which was specifically designed to attract new readers and bring in lapsed ones, they’ve taken the lead from Marvel in both raw sales numbers and units shifted. Comic stores have anecdotally reported that because of the New 52, they’ve had their best traffic in years. And what was Marvel’s biggest headline-grabber during that time? Killing Johnny Storm. Which they just took backsies on.
DC spent a year and a half planning the New 52 reboot; rebuilding an entire comics universe isn’t the kind of thing you can just do if you harbor any kind of morbid fear of being burned in effigy, particularly if you’re Dan DiDio, of whom an effigy can be made by Sharpieing a goatee onto a blow-up fuck doll. Marvel certainly isn’t gonna do it that quickly, not when rebooting Spider-Man caused half of fandom to call Joe Quesada a filthy DiDio fucker.
The point is that Marvel isn’t in a position to try anything like a massive overhaul, even if they wanted to. But now they’re in a position where every indicator is that DC’s initiative is bringing new readers into the store where Marvel’s comics are. And those people are buying Superman and Batman and Teen Titans like they did when they were kids… while next to them are Marvel books with titles like X-23 and Victor Von Doom. Which are good titles if you like comics. And if you don’t, they might as well be the names of Park Slope hipster bands, or the street names of the designer amphetamines used by Park Slope hipster bands.
So what do I think? I think Marvel’s decided to cancel just about any book that doesn’t have a title that can’t be found in the Blu-Ray section of your local Best Buy, hoping that when you come into your local store for Justice League, you’ll see Marvel titles you recognize and buy them, letting them ride DC’s wave as effectively as possible. And they’ll replace anything they cancel with something with Spider-Man or Avengers in the title. Probably because it might be seen as unethical titling an Avengers title “Tits.”
I’m not the person to address Marvel’s layoffs or financial decisions; I can barely balance my own checkbook, and I can only do that because any dingbat can add zero and zero. I don’t know what’s going on in Marvel’s books, or what’s in there that is making people need to lose their jobs. But what I do know is that, as a comics fan, Marvel’s decisions mean less diversity in books, fewer opportunities for new creators to break into comics, and, frankly, less cool shit to read.
DC faced a problem and responded with more new comics and a creative solution. Marvel responded with fewer comics and a business decision. I know who I’m pulling for: Marvel. Because I’m hoping they eventually turn around and find a creative solution.