One thing I’ve learned over several years of attending the San Diego Comic-Con is that DC Comics panels are more entertaining than Marvel panels. That’s a harsh reality but for me, a true one.
Panels from each company are jam-loaded with hype, and each does its damndest to try and whip the crowd into a screeching nerd frenzy, which is fine; Comic-Con panels aren’t press conferences, they’re public relations exercises that happen to include some pieces of legitimate comics news. And often that news is exciting – Neil Gaiman back on Sandman, anyone? – so I don’t blame either editorial staff for trying to whip the crowd into a slavering geek frenzy. But for me, the difference is that Marvel is just so self-congratulatory about things.
Here’s an example: last year, DC Comics blew up their entire universe and ran a real risk of alienating a huge chunk of their core audience. Instead, the move allowed DC to overtake Marvel in sales for he first time in recent memory, and their sales have reportedly stayed damn solid since then. We have attended no less than five DC panels so far at SDCC, and the biggest pat on the back DC gave themselves was when Bob Wayne opened the New 52 panel yesterday by asking the crowd how many people spent SDCC last year thinking that DC was insane for making the move… and followed up by asking why more people didn’t think that at the time.
Compare that to Marvel, who last year introduced a black / Hispanic Spider-Man. In the Ultimate Universe, which thanks to the recent 616 universe crossover in Spider-Men, is the equivalent of DC’s Earth 2 – a sandbox where Marvel can mess around with characters without it affecting the valuable core titles from which they make movies. Was is a bold move? Sure it was… but compared to blowing up your entire continuity, it’s about the same as comparing dropping a washer slug into a Coke machine to sticking up the Federal Reserve with a dynamite belt: one’s a little easier to walk back if the plan goes sideways.
However, if you listened to the panelists at yesterday’s Marvel Ultimate Universe panel, you’d think they cured the common cold. “This was a big risk,” said Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso, “It was harder for us to kill [Peter Parker] than it was for you guys.” Alonso also said that the new Ultimate Spider-Man was the best work of Brian Michael Bendis’s career, and make no mistake: it’s a pretty good story, albeit utterly decompressed. But the hype was, personally, a little hard to take. My notes from the panel read, “Lot of ‘We’re so awesome and brave’ shit on the panel for killing Peter and having an Afr.-Am. kid as SM. There’s no news here, just fucking hype.”
And then Alonso announced that Ultimate Spider-Man artist David Marquez just signed an exclusive deal with Marvel. And my notes read, “There’s your news, writer prick.”