The Marvel Lament – by The Phantom

The Marvel Lament – by The Phantom

I used to be a comic book nerd. Back in the mists of time, in the 1980’s, I would take myself down to Unknown Worlds on Danforth Avenue in Toronto’s Greek Town, and buy everything that was new that week. Mostly Marvel Comics, but also DC if it was a comic or a series I was following.

I was a comic freak. I knew all the characters, all the plot lines, everything. It was why I went to work. So I could have money to buy comics.I loved them. I used to buy comics when it was a choice of comics or food, and eat oatmeal for a few days.

When I moved to New York State, I was very happy, because that meant the cover price was a lot less, and I could buy MORE COMICS!!! Woo hoo! One of the first things I did was locate a proper comic book store, and catch up on the new stuff I missed when I was moving.

But then, around 1993-94, something happened. It started being a lot less fun. The stories were preachier. The characters meaner, more destructive. At first it was only one or two, so I stopped buying those titles. But then more titles followed suit, and before long I wasn’t buying anything.

That situation did not change for me. Occasionally if I am in the USA at a Barnes & Noble, I will look at whatever they have on the shelves, but I never buy them. They’re mean, and they’re boring. Both at once.

A couple of weeks ago there was an uproar over this article quoting Marvel Comic’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel:

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?
I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

That sounded a lot to me like David Gabriel blaming the customer base for a sudden loss of interest in Diversity, as if nerd racism was taking over after Donald Trump won the election.

SJWs were very quick to raise all kinds of Hell over that pronouncement. I found this one the funniest, wherein Charles Pulliam-Moore explains that because Black Panther and Ms. Marvel got nominated for Hugo Awards, David Gabriel is super duper el-wrongo.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.”

‘Nuff said about that, right?

It would be easy to declare victory at this point and move on, but I’ve found over the years that nothing is ever simple. That brings us to this Brian Hibbs article here, which looks at things from a comic shop perspective.

So, right now Marvel comics is in a little spot of trouble. In February 2017 Marvel’s best-selling ongoing superhero title barely passed 60k on the Diamond chart estimates. They ran three “event” style crossovers – “IvX”, which sold fewer copies than that, and “Clone Conspiracy” and “Monsters Unleashed”, neither of which cracked 50k. In fact, in what probably has to be a first for Marvel comics, other than “Amazing Spider-Man”, they don’t have any ongoing superhero titles selling over 50k in February.

He’s got a different logic to explain what’s going on from a customer perspective, which makes a lot more sense than “nerd racism.”

I’ve been selling comics long enough to remember the “Marvel Zombie” – the guys who were buying Marvel’s entire output (and loving it). Even at the height of the “Sandman” salad days for my main store, when we were a significant prototype of “the Vertigo store”, we had always had scores of “Zombies” shopping here (and we loved them for it!), but the tribe has been hunted to extinction by Marvel’s own sales practices. First the “Marvel Zombie” started to fracture into families – becoming “Avengers Zombies” or “X-Men Zombies” – then it descended further down into character-driven purchasing as they expanded your line, not just by title count, but also by frequency-of-release as well as by overall-cost-to-collect. It isn’t merely that there are never fewer than six “Avengers”-titled books going on at a single time (February 2017 brought “Avengers”, “Avengers point one”, “Great Lake Avengers”, “Occupy Avengers”, “Uncanny Avengers” and “US Avengers”, sheesh – the best-seller was about 40k copies, yuck!) – but that Marvel prices each of them at $4 (minimum), and tries to publish as many titles as it possibly can at 16-18 times a year.

Here’s what that looks like for a store owner:

One personal stat that I always try to get across is that at my main store, most mainstream superhero style books, because of mismanagement of the brands by the publishers, have dropped down to “preorders plus 1-2 rack copies”.Generally speaking, this yields sell-ins that are sub-20 copies for most titles, and a truly depressing number of books are sub-5.

It should be lost on no one that Brian Hibbs is describing ME, the Marvel Zombie. The guy that buys all the titles. I used to buy ten comics a week, forty comics a month. At today’s prices that’s $40 a week, $160 a month. But ten comics a week was the whole Marvel Universe, and some of DC too. Now you’d be lucky if that was all of X-Men.

This is what that looks like for sales in February. There’s over 100 titles. A Marvel Zombie is paying out over $400 a month to collect the Marvel Universe. No wonder they’re all gone, right?

None of which addresses the thing that made me quit in 1994: the stories. They’re -boring-. The principal comment about Hugo-nominated comic Black Panther in the comments sections of these blog posts is that it is boring. I wouldn’t know, I’ve been extremely disinclined to read it and find out. Furthermore, as a Sad Puppy Adjacent guy, I can’t help but notice that Marvel has spent the last ten to fifteen years heaping disrespect and ruination on their own characters. SJWs are trying to pretend the “diversity” titles are selling, but according to people who read the numbers, that is not the case. Never the less, the destruction of characters continues.

That trend culminated in this year’s “Captain America, agent of Hydra”. i09 had a roundup of the title.  That’s what happens when you off-shore art, when you pay peanuts to writers and artists, when your management never leaves the island of Manhattan, and politics is more important than entertainment value.

They haven’t changed course since the early 1990’s, when they lost me and a whole bunch more. The comments by the VP of Sales David Gabriel indicate they have no intention of changing anything fundamental under the present management. They’re going to keep beating up the customers until they get in line and buy what they are served.

That’ll work, right?

The Phantom

246 responses to “The Marvel Lament – by The Phantom

  1. How cool is this?! The Phantom gets a post! Woohoo!

  2. I don’t do comics, but even I know that ‘Captain America, agent of Hydra’ is wrong.

    • Likewise. Marvel dumber than ox.
      Other news: water wet. fire burn.

    • Wasn’t that just some ruse? Like Cap pretended to be Hydra to be a spy or something? I keep hearing this brought up, but the big complaint I heard is that they hyped it up, and then it turned out that, by the end of the issue, Cap was shown to just be a spy or something.

      Sounds really stupid, but that’s it. Is there something I don’t get?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Nope, apparently Marvel is serious about Cap being an “agent of Hydra”.

        Although, I have heard “talk” that Cap is trying to bring Hydra “back to its True Values”.

        It’s still a bunch of Sh*t. 😦

        • It stinks to high heaven.

          There are some icons that should not be messed with, next thing they will be telling us that Babe Ruth was a fake and cheated at baseball. Say it ain’t so Joe.

          About the only way the story could work is if the end reveals is that Cap was a triple agent, and that would still be a little too too.

          • Wasn’t that already done in Larry Correia’s Hard Magic? I seem to vaguely remember one of those little chapter-beginning quote things talking about how he used magic to hit so many home runs.

        • Cap as an agent of Hydra is even less believable than Obama as a libertarian.

      • The problem is that “Captain America is a double agent” isn’t remotely plausible, because there’s no way Hydra would accept that he was on their side without something really serious. Even most comic book villains aren’t dumb enough to go along with, “Hello, I know I’ve been your worst enemy for around seventy years, but now I’ve seen the light and decided to join you. You will give me all your secret plans rather than just shooting me outright, won’t you?”

        • The rumors have been that Steve Rogers has always been part of Hydra. Would you believe all those seventy years of conflict is a cleaver and cunning plan to protect his cover?

          The fact that it doesn’t make sense is of no matter.

          • Steve Rogers is straight, white, and male. All the evil in the world is done by straight, white males. The center of evil on Earth in the Marvel Universe ergo Steve Rogers has always been part of Hydra.

            That really does seem to be the logic of it.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              One individual was talking about how the Cap Fans were hating what Marvel did to Cap but….

              It was their fault that Cap went Hydra.

              You see the “evil” Cap fans didn’t like the Black Cap (formerly Sam Wilson who was the hero called Falcon) so Marvel gave them “white” Cap back and because the Cap Fans were Nazis, Marvel made white Cap a Nazi.

              IE Cap Fans got what they deserved for rejected Black Cap.

              Oh, I consider that individual an idiot.

            • Are you going to tell me that Irma Ida Ilse Grese, the beast of Belsen and Ilse Koch, the witch of Buchenwald didn’t do evil?

              Just so you can’t argue I am picking on Germans of a certain persuasion, how about Biljana Plavsic, former member of the three member presidency of Republika Srpska (Bosnia-Herzegovina), who argued that ethnic cleansing was ‘natural’ and the nation could be saved by six million deaths?

              Lest we conclude that the problem is with Europeans, consider Maria ‘Chata’ Leon who ran the gang The Avenues, or Ranavalona I (1828-61) of the Kingdom of Madagascar, who in six years oversaw the elimination of half of the population of her nation, or Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission found personally responsible for murder, torture, abduction and assault, or Fusako Shigenobu, who served with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine before she formed the Japanese Read Army and was for some time the world’s most wanted terrorist.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Citizen! Report to the nearest Re-Education Camp!

                The Narrative clearly states that evils done by non-White Males are still the Fault of White Males! 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈

                • Raspberries!

                • kenashimem

                  Pretty sure a certain White European Male is partly responsible for the actions of those “ladies” active during the second half of the 20th Century; but this specific White European Male also seems to get a pass from the SJW crowd.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Unless he was working for them from the beginning on the grounds that Hitler and FDR weren’t all that different.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Wasn’t a ruse. Apparently Steve Rogers was always a Nazi, and the real Marvel timeline is one where the Axis won.

      • The fundamental problem you run into with comics at this level is the powergaming reality deus ex machina issue. In order to pull this crap with Captain America, they effectively just snapped their fingers and had the maguffin of the moment rewrite the history of the universe for them. When you’re at the point where people can do that to tell whatever story they want, why is there any reason to care anymore about what anybody does? It could all be deux ex machinaed out again in the very next issue.

      • If you can stomach i09 there’s a link that explains the whole Cap/Hydra thing.

        In a nutshell, somebody used the Cosmic Cube to jigger time, and what popped out was Captain America Agent of Hydra.

        The problem with that is, the entire notion of Captain America is that he’s the incorruptible man. Captain America is the one guy who never gives up and never knuckles under. No matter what you do to him, he stays true.

        So now, with Agent of Hydra, that’s no longer the case. When circumstances change, so will he. There is some set of events which can corrupt the incorruptible man. That breaks the character, and turns the book into something I for one do not want to read.

        They’ve picked “nothing is incorruptible” as the hill they’re going to die on as a company. They did it back around 1993, and they haven’t changed their minds since, despite crap sales.

        This is because they are -stupid- as far as I can tell.

        • Michael Houst

          Except they didn’t corrupt the incorruptible man. They erased him and replaced him with a new, corruptible version.

          • Terry Sanders

            Are you sure? What you’re describing would make as much sense if he were true-blue and incorruptible.

            He is, and has always been, a Nazi. He is, and has always been, dedicated to the ideals of Hydra. You could never make him betray them.

            Just like our Cap. With a completely different backstory. Which is now The REAL Truth.

            The aerosol brain bleach is in the truck. I might last long enough to get back there.

        • Captain America= Lawful Good. (Actual lawful good, not the “lawful stupid” version– unjust laws are unlawful. Yes, I have been considering writing an essay on this, in my Copious Spare Time(tm))

          The only way Captain America: Agent of Hydra works is if you remove “good.” Which switches to at best lawful stupid, and more likely just Random Evil.

          • Lawful vs. chaotic is a particularly stupid thing because they invariably conflate three things: how orderly your life is, how much you support society, and whether you believe a fundamental order to the universe. There are combinations of those where someone believes “unjust law” is an oxymoron.

            • Depends on how dumb the DM is being– 3.5’s discription of what “lawful” meant was pretty dang clear.

              • There have been times when the books describe them as all three lumped together.

                • *shrugs* I defeated a malicious GM because he assumed that “lawful” meant that all he needed to do was have the bad guy pass an evil law… on a paladin of the god of suffering…. riiiiight…..

                  • All he had to do is strip you of your powers by divine fiat. After all, the gods are merely his NPCs. You’re lucky he was more – lawful than that.

                    • Nope, not within the powers of a DM– I ws being a perfect little follower of my god, to the letter.
                      He did try to use other routes. Just got the rest of the party actively working against him.

                      Refraining from doing something you cannot is not lawful, unless you’re doing one of the more cartoony anime based games…..

                    • Nothing is not within the power of the DM.

                    • The DM’s power comes from the books– and is limited by them; he’s just got a lot more options than the characters. That’s why homebrew rules exist.

                    • kenashimame

                      The DM is G.O.D.

                      (Game Operations Director)

                    • Terry Sanders

                      The power of the DM comes from the players’ willingness to put up with his ****.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Marvel did that story to comment on the alt-right, apparently. But now SJWs think that Marvel is endorsing the alt-right.

      I wish I could feel some sympathy, but . . .

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I defend it, on the grounds that the 1960s retcon that created the Avengers already ruined the character as someone so loyal to America itself that they cannot rest while America is in a declared or undeclared war with anyone, and that an FDR loyalist of same degree of fanaticism isn’t all that much different from a Nazi.

      That said: Moe Lane makes the case that it is a fundamental violation of the character’s powerset.

      http://moelane.com/2017/05/04/ok-i-think-i-have-a-lead-on-what-rankles-me-on-the-captain-america-hydra-thing/

      • There were a lot of FDR loyalists who were only so because they found him to be the least bad of those involved.

        Steve Rodgers isn’t perfect, but he’s loyal to America, not her president.
        All enemies, foreign or domestic–doesn’t make him perfect.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Yeah, but one can deliberately read too much into differences between how he was portrayed operating against Nazi agents during WWII, the current post 1960s canon of how he treated Communist agents during the Cold War, and the handling of Islamic agents currently.

          The market during WWII apparently did not have the political discussions about civil rights and rules of evidence going on at the same intensity, and so was less likely to notice if Cap busted Nazi heads in ways that FBI counterintelligence wasn’t supposed to be doing.

          • You mean they actually had heroes being heroic, instead of tryng to make action comics into an ignorant, gotcha form of courtroom drama?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            The differences between “what a superhero is allowed to do” in the comics and “what the police/FBI is allowed to do” in the Real World is IMO another discussion than “what Marvel is doing to its characters”.

            IMO Part of the appeal of the “superhero” has been that he or she is free to act against “bad guys” not bound by the rules that law enforcement is rightly bound by.

            Since the “superhero” is fighting for the Right and is very rarely “in the Wrong”, we generally don’t think about “what laws is the hero breaking” and about “what happens if the hero is wrong about so-and-so being a bad guy”.

            • snelson134

              To update Dirty Harry: “When I see someone in a power suit chasing a woman through an alley armed with a blaster and a codpiece, I figure he isn’t out collecting for the Red Cross.”

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Superhero genre seems to have evolved from vigilante crime fiction. Vigilante crime fiction sells to the perception that law enforcement is corrupt or otherwise dysfunctional in managing the criminal population.

              The modern form of the genre seems to be one that advocates for policies dysfunctional in managing criminals, on the basis of theories of criminals generations removed from any real contact with criminals.

              Steve Rogers was a government backed vigilante doing counter intelligence work. That the industry cannot endorse a government backed vigilante doing intelligence work now is probably tied to eighty or more years of changes in superhero comics.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Superhero genre seems to have evolved from vigilante crime fiction.

                That. 😀

                But they also IMO evolved from the stories of lone “warriors” seeing bad stuff happening and taking action against the bad stuff even if they weren’t legally required to do so and/or they were not acting on behalf of the Legal Authorities. 😀

                • The antecedents were pulp novel characters, such as The Shadow and Doc Savage, and radio dramas, such as The Lone Ranger and his descendant, The Green Hornet (created 1936, predating Batman).

                  Anybody following news out of Chicago and various other locales might have had good reason to believe the police either corrupt, ineffective or both. In the first of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels it is made clear that Wolfe does not see himself as an agent of the police or the court but as an agent of justice.

                  Laws exist to limit the actions of government and have merely coincidental utilitarian connection to justice. Thus individual heroes can legitimately act to prevent crimes where legal authorities are largely limited to acting only after a crime has been (or is in the process of being) committed.

                  BTW – in reference to preceding comment by the registered fool, Steve Rogers was (largely) not a government backed vigilante, at least not over the last fifty or so years. He cooperated with the authorities, he acted (occasionally) in concert with SHIELD but received minimal financial and logistical support.

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    During WWII he was government backed when he was violating the civil rights of Nazi agents.

                    • snelson134

                      Except, of course, that unless those Nazi agents were American citizens, they have no civil rights.

                    • Hence my limitation by inclusion of the phrase “at least not over the last fifty or so years.”

                      I don’t think that WWII took place in the last fifty years or so, but I am willing to retract my statement if proven wrong.

                      I am insufficiently familiar with the Golden Age Captain America to speak directly to whether we were in a state of declared war* “when he was violating the civil rights of Nazi agents”, but if we were then their civil rights would have been in a state of suspension. Further, many f the legal issues in question had yet to be established by the Supreme Court and thus were not enforced.

                      *I believe the events depicted occurred after Pearl Harbor, especially as he had been actively attempting to enlist, but the topic is muddy. Although the cover date for his first published appearance was March 1941 it is well known that comic cover dates and numbering back then routinely suffered from certain irregularities.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      On the other hand, most of Cap’s actions during those times were toward people he had valid reasons to know that they were Nazi agents so IMO civil rights were less of a factor.

                      IMO when it comes to superhero actions and “civil rights”, it comes into play with “how does the hero learn that a person is a Bad Guy”.

                      IE the difference between Spiderman interrupting a bank robbery and Spiderman trying to find out if a person is a criminal (when the person isn’t actively involved in a crime).

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      We had an undeclared but quite real war with the communists both immediately post WWII and during part of the last fifty years. It would have been consistent for Marvel to have a protagonist carrying out government backed vigilante counter intelligence activities against communists, yea or nay?

                      There is a case for war with Islam. Government backed vigilante counter intelligence activities, yea or nay?

                      We have a de facto state of war with the cartels. Illegals are potentially proxies for the cartels. Yea or nay?

                      The Pope’s statements of support for our enemies can be considered as committing his nation state to a position. Yea or nay?

                      US citizens are counted among the agents or contacts of all these powers and organizations. As there were US citizens spying for foreign powers in WWII.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    But my point is that the “pulp novel characters” were preceded by stories of “wandering knights” who acted because “it was the right thing to do” not because they were agents of the Law. 😀

                    • Didn’t the guys in the armor overalls generally have to obtain a government license to be called knights? Kings smacking them on the shoulders with swords, that kinda thing? So they were arguably deputized agents of the crown.

                      OTOH, Robin Hood …

                      If you go back to Greek (and presumably other) myths you get Heroes such as Theseus, Perseus and the like acting according to your premise, I will agree.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      In the “Real World” Knights were both trained warriors and rulers of a domain (or directly served a ruler of a domain).

                      However, there were legends about “wandering Knights” who were not in the service of a King or high noble who acted in the Name of “What’s Right” not in the Name of the King or High Noble.

                      IE the difference between what the Knights actually were and what the story Knights were. 😉

                  • Well, it also follows crime story comics. “Detective Comics” ran for 26 issues before they even introduced the character most associated with the series.

            • Terry Sanders

              I always liked Larry Niven’s formulation:

              A vigilante/hero is someone who works outside the law against those who are–or claim to be–above the law. If he is caught, he will be treated as the outlaw he is. He accepts that.
              ***
              That said, there’s a wide continuum there. On one side, we have the Punisher. On the other, certain values of Batman: Everybody knows what that spotlight on the PD roof is for, but everybody knows he has no official connection to the force. Just a concerned citizen, nothing to see here, folks, move along…

  3. Mike Houst

    That pretty much sums up the reason why I stopped buying and collecting, except for occasional stories or covers. The artwork style became cruder, the stories weren’t even as interesting as an abbreviated grocery shopping list, the urge to accentuate a hero’s flaws to the point the flaws were greater than any heroics or worse, they betrayed all the principles the character was based on, the multi-character crossovers where even a PhD in rocket science wasn’t enough for you to identify all the issues you needed to pick up to get the whole story, the inflation of cover prices that make oil and gas prices look stable, the “how many different sized comic books can we sell” played havoc with any storage media methodology, and the proliferation of alternate series to the point it became impossible for me to have any time to read them all, much less regular books put out by pure text authors such as yourselves. Finally, so many times a comic will grow so overpowered and unrestrained that it fails to fall within the realm of believability and becomes nothing more than a pure fantasy. Pure fantasy, like medicine, sugar, or even steak, has an LD50 level. DC first, and then Marvel, reached the point where they killed their readers.

    • Your reasons for giving up comics are my reasons for being grateful to G-d, to man, and to the Nature Theater of Oklahoma that I never got into them in the first place!

      • Professor Badness

        Now, there are a lot of good, older titles worth reading!
        I was going through reprints of the original green lantern (Hal Jordan) from back in the day, and found them quite enjoyable, especially from a historical perspective.
        Of course, I realize now that I was reading those because so much of the new stuff was garbage.

        • I grew up reading my uncles’ old high school binders full of comics. (You finish one year, it’s too beat up for the next, but you can use mom’s three-hole punch and store the comic books in it. For 50 years.)

          There is a blessed REASON that they’re offering digital back-copy subs to their stuff.

  4. It take a hell of a good story to over come the effect of an unlikable main character. If you like the main character, you can excuse an occasional boring story. The combination is deadly.

    And with comics, add in the quality of artwork.

    Three essentials. Don’t mess ’em up, and you can shade in all the political crap you want. But I really recommend against it.

    Being blind to these essentials? Death spiral.

    • They fell victim to Marxist-aesthetics. Like SF and other genres, they had to be “relevant in the right way.”

      • … they had to be “relevant in the right way.”

        Who cares if the stories is any good so long as they are ‘correct’ in population and philosophy?

      • Mike Houst

        More like “relevant in the left way”; but I grok what you mean.

  5. I’ll admit, I stopped paying attention to Marvel and DC in the mid- to late-70s. The universes and storylines became so rococo that they were both nearly impossible and not interesting enough to follow. At this point the DC TV universe and the Marvel movie one are mildly interesting, but their comic worlds are a complete waste of time and money. If I want superhero comics, I’ll just look at some of the many webcomics available, which are both understandable and enjoyable. I particularly like The Specialists, Flying Ferret, League of Super Redundant Heroes, SuperFogies, 3 Minute Max, and Dresden Codak.

  6. paladin3001

    I wasn’t a Marvel Zombie, more a story zombie. I went on a binge of comic buying back in the late 80’s early 90’s and at one point I was dropping $50 every week just to get the latest story. Then finances changed, I started losing interest in the stories they were telling. We weren’t the only ones. Some friends of mine were the same. They no longer were interested in dropping scads of money on pointless stories. Funny thing is that people like that and me eventually either had their copies destroyed (flood, fire, moving) or just gave them away at pennies. It’s not that we didn’t like the characters anymore, it was just that we felt robbed of time and money. I was liking the MCU there for awhile since they were telling the old stories, the good stories. Now? Well, we shall see.

  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    As been said elsewhere, it’s not that the comic fans “hate diversity”.

    It’s that the comic fans are hating what is being “done” in the name of diversity. 😦

    • Yup, you got it.

    • FlyingMike

      It sounds like the actual, measurable fact is that comic fans hate most modern comics. The further ‘why’ is just projection by management from there – everyone must hate stuff because of abstract etherial reasons as much as they and all their NY friends do, so they pick something that they could not possibly change and declare victimhood.

      It can’t be because the writing and art sucks.

      • Since the publishers and writers hate their fans, or at least hate the kinds of stories their fans like, it’s grossly unfair that the fans should turn around and hate the product.

  8. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

    — David Gabriel, Marvel Comics’s Vice President of Sales

    I am not a comic book geek. Still, I can tell the Mr. Gabriel that it wasn’t the diversity or the female characters per se that was at issue with the fans, it was the way they were doing it.

    We are talking comic books here, people read them for fun. If the stories and characters aren’t fun why use your limited resources to buy them?

    There have been successful female characters. What are Sue Storm, Lois Lane and Wonder Woman if not capable and female?

    You aren’t going to get very far with your buyers when you keep insulting them by telling them they somehow deficient.

    • What? You mean the Democrats’ strategy of insulting people whose votes they need isn’t going to work for Marvel… and maybe not for Democrats?

      How can this be? They’re so much smarter than us. I know, because they told me so (and told me, and told me…)

    • Feather Blade

      There have been successful female characters. What are Sue Storm, Lois Lane and Wonder Woman if not capable and female?

      Ah, but it’s the Current Year, and women have always been downtrodden and relegated to unimportant roles and portrayed as weak, ineffective, and useless.

      Those characters you named only appear in your memory to have been capable and female because of the false consciousness implanted in you by the hetero-patriarchy.

      Therefore we need more Strong Female Characters (TM) because they have never existed before now.

      QED

      (Anybody got something to wash the Marxism off my fingers? Ech…)

      • Watching a presentation from C-Span where Ron Chernow was discussing the adaptation of his book on Hamilton to the Broadway musical, on which he worked as a consultant.

        I was struck by one of the questioners. A woman got up and began her question with a mini-lecture. It began with how we all know that women had no real roles in greater society back in the times of the Revolution. It was an amazingly cringe worthy display of ignorance and current indoctrination.

        Chernow was very polite, waited through it, and answered her actual question.

        (The answer contradicted her mini-lecture. I lay odds she failed to notice this.)

      • Any memories we have of women in Science Fiction, Fantasy, comics, et al, whether they be artists, writers, or characters, were alternate reality memories planted into our heads by Kobik, in much the same way she convinced Captain America that he’s an agent of Hydra.

      • Hands Feather Blade a Clorox wipe.

        Bleach is the only thing that I have found works. And not always, it depends on what you managed to get into…

        • Feather Blade

          Grazie!

          • FlyingMike

            If that doesn’t work, the decontamination booth over by the door will run through just about any settings you give it.

            Be careful, though – the settings for decontaminating the scaly reptiloid folks will do a real number on us pale pink critters.

            • Probably a good thing I’ll never have an unlimited budget for our living quarters. Knowing the spouse, I’d end up living in something like the facility made famous by The Andromeda Strain.

    • … we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

      Then they weren’t actually exciting, were they? This is what experienced marketing experts call a “clew” that you’ve lost touch with your customer base.

      Look, Peter David may have been a hard-core liberal, but before he was a writer he was Marvel’s comic-store contact guy and he knew how to find the pulse of the fans. His cycle on the Hulk was terrific, and he didn’t have to make Thunderbolt Ross a twoone-dimensional caricature of the career military guy to make it interesting. One of the biggest problems Leftoid writers have is their inability to offer realistic, credible-but-wrong conservative characters. I don’t mind Liberal leading characters, I do mind being insulted as not simply well-intentioned-but-mistaken but as evil.

      • One of the biggest problems Leftoid writers have is their inability to offer realistic, credible-but-wrong conservative characters.

        I just realized what bugged me so dang much about the comic version of Civil War.

        K, short version: it starts out with a Bad Guy (known, previous offenses, etc) being chased to a place with a school, and he suicide bombs the school.

        Which leads directly to enslaving to gov’t service (the stuff movie-Tony signed up for was the least of it) and locking everyone else up in an inter-dimensional portal.

        And that’s the GOOD side….

        • Anyways:
          That isn’t how conservative minds THINK. I may use it as an arguing point, but I don’t actually want anybody more physically blessed than myself harmed at all.

          I don’t think a mass shooting means guns are bad, I think it means THE BAD GUY is bad. If you can’t contain him, then that’s an argument for capital punishment, not imprisoning anybody with a trigger finger.

        • Terry Sanders

          I never considered watching the movie because I couldn’t figure out how they were going to make the comics story work on a screen. They tyned it down a LOT.

          • I too the risk because they’d done so well in responding to early issues– real issues– with Cap. Remember how they were talking about making him a GWOT vet?

      • Terry Sanders

        He meant they had a lot of ideas that were exciting to *them.* Ideas that would CHANGE THE WORLD!!!!

      • Peter David also knew how to write entertaining stories tailored to the fanbase he was writing for. He was freaking EVERYWHERE – DC, Marvel, books, etc. I would snap up every single Star Trek title I could find with his name on it because I knew it was going to be a good, entertaining, solidly Star Trek story, with the characters being completely in character, and with awesome dialogue and plot.

        • Writing entertaining stories with consistent characterization, awesome dialogue and plot? What a wacky business plan that is! He’d never win a Hugo doing that kind of stuff. Lecturing about the immorality of Capitalism and the West, that‘s what brings you the critical praise!

    • Quibbling, I know, but … Lois Lane was possibly the least credible “capable” female ever this side of Gracie Allen. Were it not for Superman constantly rescuing her I don’t know she’d have ever turned in a story. And how did she express her appreciation? By trying to out his secret identity! No thanks. It wasn’t even as if she was even mildly competent at that.

      Better to go with Kathy Kane / Batwoman, or Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. Or, better yet, Mary Marvel, alter ego of Billy Batson’s twin sister Mary Batson, who gained the same powers as Billy when she uttered the magic word, Shazam! Introduced scarcely a year after the Captain, she had her own comic book by 1945.

      There were others — Janet van Dyne (The Wasp … probably not a joke premised on her white anglo-saxon protestant heritage) And Scarlet Witch on the Marvel ledger and Black Canary, Zatanna, Hawk Girl and Phantom Lady at DC, even Fly Girl at whoever that publisher (Fawcett?) was …

      The biggest problem I ever saw with such female supers was their strange proclivity for spike heels and fishnet stockings, surely not the best garb for engaging in combat in the asphalt jungle.


      Heck, even The Spirit had strong, capable femmes fatales, from Sand Sareef to P’Gell to Powder Pouf to Silk Satin to Pantha Stalk to Silken Floss to Dulcet Tone to Nylon Rose to …

      • Carrington Dixon

        The biggest problem I ever saw with … female supers was their strange proclivity for spike heels and fishnet stockings …

        There’s always Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. No spike heels or fishnet stockings. Indeed, no shoes or stockings period.

        • Not only that, Sheena had no scratches on her legs from thorns, vines, twigs or such like. No mosquito bites, either.

          I may need to reread PJFarmer’s Lord Tyger … probably better than anything awarded a [legitimate] Hugo the last few years.

      • Or the Legion of Superheroes one of whose founding members was a woman, Saturn Girl, and which had a roster that at worst had a 2:1 m:f ratio and gets close to 1:1 at times.

        Plus, the Legion leadership was routinely held by women including the aforementioned Saturn Girl and Dream Girl among others.

        And as for comic fans being sexist, both were leader in periods when the readership voted on the leader for the next year’s comics.

        But like the fact that “there were no strong women in SF 50 years ago” despite Lessa of Benden making her first appearance exactly 50 years ago (and her the heir of many before her) those female heroes and the fans who voted them Legion leader don’t count.

        Because if they did then current women who want to whine to the top wouldn’t be able to and might have to actually work.

      • Female supers did tend to have flight as an ability, which sounds like the best way to wear heals to me.

      • Terry Sanders

        To be fair, Lois Lane is right behind Supergirl in the race for “most frequently reinvented character.” The one you’re describing is from the late Golden Age, continuing well into the Silver.

        The original Lois was the classic “plucky girl who charges in and gets over her head.” In the circles she ended up travelling in, “over her head” was frequently a euphemism for “the bottom of the Marianas Trench.”

        And the “out Superman” thing was a somewhat late development.

        Kurt Busiek wrote that successful comics, whether consciously or not, externalize the emotional conflicts of their readers. Superman obviously externalized the desire to be competent, strong, and admired. Less obviously, he also externalized some other things, like how that conflicted with humility and the possession of interests other than athletic prowess. Thus Clark Kent, who was just as good as Superman (he *was* Superman, after all), but got no credit for it.

        Lois personified that–at first, anyway. She was Veronica to Clark’s Archie *and* to Superman’s Reggie–more or less ignoring one while fawning on the other. And both (who were the same man, after all) found the whole situation amusing, frustrating, and rather puzzling. Just like their audience.

        Teri Hatcher more or less nailed that Lois, though they played her more for laughs.

        The “out Superman” bit was the result of the unstable nature of that situation. As with the Archie-Veronica-Reggie-Betty-Archie runaround, you can only loop that loop so many times before it gets boring. Their solution to that problem was inutterably stupid, but nobody accused the early DC writers of deep insight.

        By the Fifties, she had turned into the Lucille McGillicuddy Ricardo of comics, but she didn’t start out that way.

    • Peggy Carter

  9. If you’re having to PLEAD with your customers to stay the course because something ‘new and exciting’ is coming up at the end of the current storyline – you’re screwed.

    You CAN’T stay in business alienating your customer base. Look at ESPN – bleeding out before our eyes and what do they do today? Have ANOTHER of their talking heads saying that EVERY CITY in the US is racist. Oh, yeah – that’ll get the people back, won’t it?

    SMH. They don’t even TRY to hide their disdain of the customers any more.

    • I just wrote a big long comment about some of my thoughts, and it occurred to me at the end of my ramblings that an author or a comic book industry that has trust with the readers might just be able to pull of a “Captain America is now a Nazi” stunt without much complaint or backlash if they had a good reserve of trust with the readers. If they do an excellent job of wrapping up such a storyline, they will not only refill that reservoir of trust, but perhaps even add a little more to it.

      That there was a such a backlash with the first issue seems to indicate that Marvel doesn’t have that much trust to begin with…

  10. My fist Marvel comic I read was when Fantastic 4 #7 hit the racks. I had them all in my youth, the first Spiderman, Hulk, Iron Man, Avengers, X-men. Every one (until my mother threw them all away while I was in Okinawa serving in the Navy.)

    Yet I walked away from Marvel for the same reasons. I wanted entertainment… I got depression and worse from reading the “new style” of superheroing that emphasized there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between good guys and bad guys… and treated the good guys as if they were dirt instead of someone to look up to, admire, and want to emulate.

    • (until my mother threw them all away while I was in Okinawa serving in the Navy.)

      Ouch.

    • *offers Jack a crying towel* Ya know, it turns out that paper can last really well in a landfill. Did you happen to have a copy of [exceedingly valuable and now rare title]? If so, which landfill? 😉

      • Joe Wooten

        Imagines her in a gas mask and hazmat suit wielding a shovel busily digging away at the old landfill……

        • Professor Badness

          (Imagines what kind of minions she would call on to do the work.)
          Cats don’t like to get dirty.

        • I see a full archaeological set up utilizing proper methods, with grids and a range of tools. You wouldn’t want to risk ruining one of those precious items for which you are looking by just digging around willy-nilly, would you?

    • Terry Sanders

      My stepbrother had a bunch of old stuff on the back porch. I recall the first appearances of Thor and Ant-Man.

      My stepmother cleaned up my freshman year in college…

  11. Marvel Zombie? Nyahhhh, not me. Sure, I bought everything this side of Millie the Model (okay, if they had done a MtM meets Wolverine …) that Marvel put out, but I was also buying everything DC and most of the other “serious” publishers put out … and yes, I admit to buying lots of utter garbage during the B&W boom, staving off the collapse of that bubble by a good three days, all by myself.

    But life has a way of limiting your reading time, and while I had the disposable income to buy comics, I no longer had the disposable time for reading them. Nor the disposable storage for accumulating them. Unread boxes were piling up when finally the unthinkable happened: I misplaced a box. Superman was dead, Batman’s back was broken, I forget what was happening in Marvelverse and I couldn’t find the #@$%ing box for the next month’s shipment!

    So I walked away. It was bad enough that there were probably fewer than a dozen books a salivated for, probably no more than a couple dozen I opened with hopeful anticipation, and too many books I opened with hope they had gotten so bad that a new Alan Moore, Frank Miller or Grant Morrison had been given the reins and told, “What the F! Sales are so bad we’re gonna cancel the book in a few months anyway, so have fun with it, kid.”

    Very little that has happened in the intervening years has given me the impression I am missing much. I remember the eagerness of buying Fantastic Four off the newsstand, the awe of Steve Ditko’s Spiderman and Doctor Strange (sharing Strange Tales with Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. — now that was a well-titled comic!) I still have hopes of turning up the missing box and finishing up the decade’s worth of comics subsequent … but it is more a matter of curiosity than excitement.

    But the fun had largely gone by then, anyway. The feeling of disgust over allowing the publishers to exploit my OCD had gotten pretty bad, and it didn’t matter that I could shrug off any sense of abuse over the fortieth crossover of Wolverine, Punisher, Lobo, whoever because I was already buying the books. It was more a matter of finding I could no longer keep track of the extended plots in X-Men (and Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants and all the interlocked mini and maxi series.) It wasn’t that the plots were too complex (although they were) so much as I simply didn’t care. The weren’t telling stories any longer, they had discovered that mutants were a metaphor for gays (not true — read the first few of the books, back when Lee & Kirby were creating them: mutants equaled Jews) and were beating them to death.

    Had I wanted grey goo I could have bought effing books full of the stuff, spending less money and being able to present myself to society as an intellectual instead of a geek.

    Happily, I can enjoy the movies, snicker at the Easter eggs and ponder the revisions made to adapt the characters/stories to new medium/era … but buy any comics? Meh. So Steve Rogers is a Nazi. I remember when they assassinated him, and when he fought his McCarthyite Fifties doppelganger and … Hell, I remember when they Avengers found him frozen in the North Atlantic. I just don’t care. There hasn’t been a writer who understood Steve Rogers since Roy Thomas and I very much doubt the current crop of SJWeenies has even a tenth of a clue.

    And I don’t expect any other comics on the stand to interest me, to stir up that old sens-o-wonder. Instead I live in dread of opening a comic to find they’re offering me a “Dark & Edgy” Herbie Popnecker

    .

    • Wha?! The Herbie Popnecker jpeg didn’t pop up?


      I am dismayed. I am furious. I am Groot.

    • As I understand it, the CW has done a “Darkier and Edgier” adaptation of the Archie comics.

      • Riverdale, it premiered this year and has been renewed for a second season.

        No, I don’t watch it.

        • I haven’t seen it either but I’ve heard awful things about it. My only experience the the Archie comics universe is being a fan of the Sabrina the Teenage Witch sitcom in the ’90s. Salem was my favorite.

          • Never saw Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, but I am familiar with Melissa Joan Hart, as The Daughter used to watch Clarissa Explains It All. From what I saw of it she seemed quite charming in that.

            • It’s a cute and funny little show but best to stop watching when she graduates high school.

              • MJH starred in God’s Not Dead 2. Kevin Sorbo starred in the original God’s Not Dead. They’re both sweet movies.

      • I’ve seen the adverts. I have NO intention of seeing the show.

        And I admit to having read Archie Comics in my youth. Heck, I even read DC’s Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope comics and (in a pinch) Richie Rich, Caspar, Hot Stuff, Little Lotta and Little Dot.


        Night Nurse was even acceptable in a pinch.

      • Yes, for whatever weird reason.

        Archie’s Weird Mysteries was a pretty good cartoon and sometimes got dark, but did not mess with the characters. So of course, they had to make a live action Riverdale that is all about sex.

        • *headdesk*

          Of course.

          Because that is what any reasonable person thinks about when they hear “16 year olds in high school.”

          Sex.

          #TodallyNoddaPedoThing

          • Terry Sanders

            It’s not. That’s what 16-year-olds in high school think about. And since morality and self-restraint are So Last Century, it must be the ONLY thing they think about. Or it should be, anyhow…

            • *sad smile* They told me that when I was 16, too.

              No matter how many times I told them that no, I wasn’t, they insisted I was, and would then lay their fantasies on me.

              Sounds like pervy adults to me.

              • Terry Sanders

                You should have spent more time in locker rooms. Or not. 🙂

                • One set of girls hijacked a study class to write pr0n. It got them all sorts of desired attention, which was the point. They were “cool.”
                  Having seen what was done to guys who were less than absolute horn-dogs, I don’t credit locker rooms with a lot of accuracy in that area, either.

                  (Having been pregnant several times, I’m not discounting hormones– but I am discounting absolute uniformity of horndoggery with any disagreement needing to be beaten out of existence. Something that absolute wouldn’t need the defense.)

                  • Terry Sanders

                    I didn’t mean any of it actually *happened.* But they sure tried to make you think so. So when they grew up and started writing things about being cool kids…

                    • For some people that’s all they ever think about for the rest of their lives. It’s kinda pathetic to see in a 40 year old.

                    • My reaction to my high school graduation was “Free at last! Free at last!” I still refer to having escaped [school] in 19 mutter mutter, instead of graduating.

                    • adventuresfantastic

                      That was pretty much my reaction. When someone asks my favorite high school memory (not something that happens very often), my response is always “getting out”. I have never been to a high school reunion and don’t ever intend to.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      I deliberately “don’t remember High School” and won’t go to a class reunion.

            • One wonders how little these people remember about high school. Because yeah, sure, there were people who were all about getting laid and getting high. Those people, however, were profoundly uninteresting.
              Not to say that a book about my friends and I would exactly be a thrill-a-minute, but there wouldn’t be a lot of boot-knocking in it, or a lot of trying for it either.

              • My favorite comic was the original Richie Rich. I enjoyed it for the conspicuous consumption.

      • Ironic, because in the early 1970s, Archie Comics put out a horror comic hosted by the character Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. This was an honest-to-goodness horror comic, with Sabrina showing a dark side similar to what would be seen in HBO’s Crypt Keeper.

        Now, I liked horror comics. Horror and satire were the last comic books I read before my tastes changed. But I picked this up because the Sabrina, the Teenage Witch comic was as light as any of the Archie comics, and I wanted something light and ridiculous. This wasn’t it. Most definitely wasn’t it. The most disconcerting thing was horror done in the Archie comics style of art.

      • kenashimame

        Caught an episode; best way to describe it: Archie Comics by David Lynch.

  12. “The Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its ‘diverse books.’ ”

    Give me a moment to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes at that, and then I’m going to ask just how many people were involved in nominating for the Hugo awards this year. Given that the Sad Puppies have pretty much bowed out, I’m curious if they even managed to crack 4 digits (I would have said 3 digits, but I think the Rabid Puppies are still active and probably keep it above that number). Hugo voters are a nice-sized audience if you’re a webcomic being done as a hobby but a microdrop in the bucket if you’re a serious business with major motion pictures promoting your product line.

    • Last I heard, the only RPs who were going to nominate were those paid up from last year. EPH is well on the way to do what He Who Shall Not Be Named expected; ie, make the Tor-Hugos irrelevant. I believe he did a Totally-Not-A-Slate list, and there might be a Rabid Puppies logo, but no energy and no discussion on the blog.

      • It was almost like, as he said, the whole point of RP was to get Tor to murder the Hugos as part of his pissing contest with NPH and…

        The in crowd did exactly what he openly said he wanted.

        Although he may be taking the year off and waiting until EPH passes so he can prove they handed him a guaranteed one nomination of his choice per category per year.

    • As we know Zsuzsa, this year the mean cheatin’ Puppies (they’re all the same, y’know) have been brought to heel by the brave forces of True Fandom, who went out there an changed the votin’ rules so those exp[letive-deleted Nazi scum couldn’t rig the nominations.

      Therefore, this year we are seeing the Hugos as they were Meant To Be!!!!

      Ghostbusters because Wimmin!!!
      Ms. Marvel because Mooselimb Wimmin!!!
      Black Panther because black dude!!!
      Bunch of books/stories because Non-White Author!!! (boo white authors!)
      And so forth.

      Now, some may accuse me of being all racist/bigot/homophobe here, but if I recall aright that is exactly what the International Lord of Hate and our lovely Evil Empress of the Space Ways said was going to happen. They nominated the worst film of the year based on a checklist. That’s their victory dance.

      That’s the type of people running Marvel right now too. They’ll do the same thing. On the bright side, Disney has accountants as well as hipsters.

      • Oh, I know that the Forces of True Fandom ™ have fought bravely and regained the Hugos from the evil influence of puppies. I’m just curious as to whether or not there are enough of them to fill a good-sized lecture hall on your average college campus.

        • The nomination numbers for many categories are in the hundreds. Nomination numbers overall are around half what they were in 2015/16 when Sad Puppies expressed an opinion.

          They might fill an average lecture hall. Not the auditorium. They are few, and as all Lefties do, they seek to control the situation by rules-lawyering and bullying.

          I’m happy to let them. Their true nature stands revealed, and very ugly they are I must say.

  13. To state the obvious, the geniuses running Marvel and DC live in the same burbs, went to the same ivy league schools, and have offices in the same Manhattan buildings as the schmucks running the Big Five into the ground.
    They all vote the straight Democrat ticket, believe in gun control and socialized medicine (for the little people of course, not them or their families), and have utter contempt for the customers who pay their bloated salaries.

  14. Here’s a clue: In any business; be it publishing, pinball machines, or pest control, you make money giving the customers what *they* want. Not necessarily what *you* want. The art is in finding the sweet spot where what they want and what you can deliver coincide.
    Once you’ve lost touch with what the customers want, you might as well pick a vacation spot by putting on a blindfold and throwing darts at the map as try to peddle new! fresh! exciting! ideas.

    • B-but… I really want them to want the 15th reprint of Dark Gritty Edge Lord Man vs. Nazi Climate Change Man. If they don’t want to buy it, the’re clearly racist. -Marvel

  15. I remember when the publishers did this to fantasy and sci-fi. Now there are people who are revitalizing the genres. Maybe someone will start a treat graphic novel that is NOT run by the traditional comic venues. Or maybe it will be one of you…

    • I think the comic equivalent of indie publishing is webcomics. Think about it…

    • Actually, there are a few indie books worth reading.

      Many of them by writers and artists that made their bones at Marvel and DC and got sick of the BS there.

    • Maybe it’s also the reason more people are reading manga?

  16. I have little experience with comics. I dabbled with them in junior high/high school in the ’90s, and for some reason they didn’t stick. Perhaps part of the reason was that neither my family nor I had the income to collect them, dampening any potential enthusiasm.

    When I first heard about the “Captain America is a Nazi” gambit, my thought was, “They’d better have a good reason for this.” Reading the io9 article, it seems that they have a good reason. I’d really like to see this story-arc end by Captain America doing damage to Hydra by being himself, doing what he normally does, despite his memories (ie Hydra’s plan backfires hard), and *then* he’s returned to normal. Will they do that? I don’t know. I’m not following the story, so I don’t care, either.

    I’m not emotionally invested in Captain America beyond the movies. I *really* want to watch all the Superhero movies that have come out in recent years (I still haven’t seen either Avengers movie, darn it!!!) but time limits prevent me from doing so.

    Having said that, one comment to that io9 article stood out. “We’re tired of all these story lines that make our heroes into enemies, and we’re tired of these Hero Civil Wars. Why can’t we have some new straight-out villians?” I suspect that this story arc wouldn’t have created the angst it did if they also produced a steady offering of such things.

    Also, when I was dabbling in comics, I had the impression that in order for me to understand what’s going on, I’d have to pretty much read every comic from the 1930s to the present. Perhaps it’s a mistaken notion…but to the extent it’s true, it means that only dedicated readers are going to stick on, and if those drop out for any reason, it’s only going to hurt sales. Comics need some sort of entry-point for newcomers, because without new blood, they will eventually die.

    Random thought: When I was at LtUE this last February, author MichaelBrent Collings said there are only two rules for writers: “Confuse me, you lose me,” and “Bore me, you die.” Two complaints about comics stand out: they do so many crossovers that everything is confusing. They are doing so many “Hero is villain, let’s start a Civil War” stories (among other things) that they are becoming boring. Is it any wonder that Marvel is tanking?

    • Another random thought: in order to pull off “Captain America is really a Nazi”, I think the audience needs to trust you that the story is going to come through in the end. The backlash against the story would seem to indicate that the audience doesn’t trust the comic book industry to do the right thing….

      Marvel should be asking themselves “Why don’t the readers trust us?” rather than try to lay the blame on the readers.

    • It wouldn’t be difficult to write a Captain America, Agent of Hydra story-line that could be interesting. Start with the Red Skull gets his hands on the Cosmic Cube and uses its power to rewrite History, making Steve Rogers a Nazi from the beginning. Rogers, however, is subconsciously aware that there … is … something … wrong! Make the story about his efforts to regain his true identity and undo the Cube’s tampering with the timeline.

      Now you have a story about truth, justice, identity, and all the other good things readers enjoy, including a struggle against insuperable odds.

      • I’d read that. But they don’t want to write about truth and justice and all that stuff. They want to inform us all how bad we are.

      • kenashimame

        The problem with that idea is how likely are the Nazis to use a super-soldier formula on the original 90lb weakling? Rather than a dose of serum he’s more likely to die of starvation in a camp, or toil away in a defense industry job.

        • “Test this for safety. We must not risk a good loyal son of the Fatherland without being sure he will be unharmed.”

          I know, but it IS fiction.

          • 1. Cosmic Cube: kinda all powerful deux ex machina device. It only needs the will of its wielder, no logic required — just good handwavium.

            2. Deep cover agent slipped into America’s Super Soldier Project is a case of, as Orvan says, a no lose for the Nazis subverting the project. If it works it means one of theirs is embedded, if not what do they lose? See #1 above. Red Skull does this as worst torment possible for Steve Rogers but, as noted elsewhere, Rogers is integrity embodied and finds a way to undo the Cube.

          • Or they could consider it the hallmark of a good, loyal son of the Fatherland that he’s willing to undertake it despite his weakness. After all, they did remind people that people subjected to involuntary eugenic sterilizations were victims, not villains, and should not be treated with contempt.

    • The movies are doing a much better job with Cap than the comics these days, even if they did give Cap’s greatest line EVER to Sharon Carter in the Civil War movie.


      Nick Spencer cannot destroy this character. He will be remember as a contemptible afternote in comics history, and Captain America will outlive him.

  17. adventuresfantastic

    I got back into comics after years away when DC did launched Rebirth. I picked up all of the titles initially and have started dropping them after giving each title a chance. I expect to have purged about 50% of them by the end of next month. Haven’t had any desire to read Marvel.

    • I got back into DC with Rebirth. I buy only one title. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. It feeds my Hal Jordan addiction but at a price. I have to put up with lots of stupid in the plotting and each issue is like reading a story a paragraph at a time.

      They’ve even done this to comic book heroes on TV. The big bad of season 3 Flash turns out to be Barry Allen in the future. They’ve broken the character and I won’t watch the show anymore.

  18. For reference guys:

    in the early 90s, the main Spider-man comic (he had like three) sold 300,000+ issues every month. a good crossover would push that higher (like 450k).

    In the same time period, the average Uncanny X-Men issue would sell 500,000 issues and get up to 800,000 on a good story/crossover.

    • These days they’re calling 40,000 copies a “success”, and not cancelling titles with under 20,000 copies a month. Those are the famed “diversity” titles.

      Their flagship book is Amazing Spider Man and it is coming in around 100,000.

      • I’d say that this is the comic industry version of roll Left and die.

        • Yech. I know very little about comics – but business and economics…

          I don’t believe that their fixed costs per issue can have gone down all that much in 20 years – and I do believe that their per-unit variable costs must be at least somewhat higher, being spread across far fewer units – their profit margins (if any) must be absolutely terrible.

          • The comics don’t make a profit. The publisher is subsidized by the movie profits.

      • they used to cancel anything under 50-75k

  19. Stephen J.

    I have to admit that what I am most reminded of by Steve Rogers as HYDRA — or by the female Thor, or all the other diversity-reboots comics have gone through — is Alex Dally MacFarlane’s infamous call, a few years ago, for an “end to the binary gender default” in SF stories. And the reason I say that is because that call, I think, had as much to do with sheer boredom with that default as with loftier goals of advocacy.

    Much of Marvel’s choices, to me, seem to be coming out of that same headspace: it’s novelty more than anything else that they keep trying to use as their hook, because it’s the simplest thing to try to create and it’s something they know has a proven hook factor. What they haven’t realized is that in a day and age where SF fans are literally spoiled for choice, in both volume, distribution, platform and type — where the market for entertainment options has literally never been as saturated as it is today — novelty has an incredibly steep curve of diminishing returns, and the only goal to staying profitable is the right mix of novelty with familiar.

    Staying with the familiar, however, is death to anyone trying to be “relevant” or “on the cutting edge” or “in the forefront of change”. And so Marvel finds itself torn between trying to appeal to its audience’s tastes as they are, to stay in business, or trying to nudge those tastes towards what Marvel’s management thinks they “should” be, to justify being in business. The fatal paradox of the dedicated SJ advocate is that the very advocacy which for them is the only worthy motive for being in business is the thing which ultimately makes those businesses unprofitable — hence the affiliation for government support whenever possible.

    • One element of which you remind me is the proclivity of the comics companies for steroidal stunts to boost sales, aka bannering “Collectors’ Issue Classic” on the cover.

      The problem being that even comics geeks can only be taken to that well so many times before they figure out that any book labeled a collectors’ item isn’t.

      It is amusing to consider that back in the Golden Age there were no issues numbered 1 for fear that newsstands wouldn’t give space to a first issue, something with no established track record or fan base which might not sell, so the books typically began their numbering with #5 or #10.

      • Stephen J.

        I’d heard about that before but forgotten. The irony is that that tactic is exactly what *kept* me from buying comics as a kid — I hated starting stories in the middle and not knowing everything that had happened up until now, or constantly being told “See Issue #49 of Other Title” in the footnotes.

    • I have to admit that what I am most reminded of by Steve Rogers as HYDRA — or by the female Thor, or all the other diversity-reboots comics have gone through

      Female Thor: “I am Thor!”
      Villain. “I’m not surprised, in that outfit.”

    • There’s another point that hasn’t been mentioned about the Marvel idiots. They’re oikophobes.

  20. It’s times like these I’m happy I came to comics very recently and haven’t read the vast majority of them. Now every week or so I stroll straight to the dollar bins and pick out five books or so, usually clustered in near-complete storyarcs, and if I want more I can check out if they’re available through the library.

    I haven’t read a comic from later than the very early 2000s in…years.

  21. 11B-Mailclerk

    Folks want -heroes-. Americans, especially, want -HEROES-, inspiring ones, victorious ones, Champions of what we all hope to be.

    But to get us to change into something else, something more obedient and less troublesome to would-be rulers, we need to be convinced we are -not- special, that we are no better than any other system, and that we -must- know our place.

    Thus, those who subscribe to those non-American views seek to foist off upon Americans a counterfeit of Heroes, false in all ways. Disloyal, dysfunctional, disappointing, discarded, to be replaced with a self selected Elite that will lead the Masses to their Radiant Future.

    And thus, their sales are in the crapper, relative to when they sold Heroes to Americans.

    In other words, Duh.

  22. snelson134

    The last time I was impressed by a Marvel title was when Straczynski wrote Thor in 2011.

  23. I never read the actual comics, I was always introduced via other mediums like television or film.
    I remember being delightfully creeped out by the early 90’s Batman cartoon.
    I remember watching Lois & Clark the new adventures of Superman and loving Superman and Lois there.
    I also enjoyed the 90’s X-man animated series although I remember I got tired of the Scott/Jean/Logan angst and was more interested in what Rogue, Gambit, Storm, et al. were doing.
    Nowadays, I watch some of the Marvel movies. Thor is my favorite, RDJ’s Tony Stark is an entertaining mess, Dr. Strange was fun (although I don’t recommend watching that one if you have a slight headache), Guardians of the Galaxy was a blast. I am Groot.
    I haven’t seen any of the new DC movies but my sister wants me to watch Suicide Squad with her, my mom wants to watch the Wonder Woman movie, and I might see the Aquaman film if I hear good things.

    • I’m looking forward to WW just on the strength of Gadot’s portrayal in Batman V. Superman. Only other movie I’m actually anticipating is Branagh’s Dunkirk.

    • Wonder Woman is coming out on C’s birthday, and we’re going to see it then. But I’m not sanguine about DC films; we saw Dawn of Justice, and not only was the characterization terrible, but we sat through all the combat scenes thinking “how long is this going to go on?” I haven’t dared try Suicide Squad yet. The few minutes in DoJ that we enjoyed were mostly those that had Gal Gadot on camera, so we’re hoping for better from Wonder Woman . . . but, well, there’s a joke that when Dr. Strange goes down on his knees and says, “Teach me!” the Ancient One is Marvel and Strange is DC. . . .

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        The Ultimate Edition of B vs S is much, much better. It has all the characterization and motive and plot they foolishly cut in the theatrical version.

      • “No.”
        *gilligan cut to Strange getting thrown out*

      • I’m rather looking forward to something not connected to either Marvel or DC: Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets. I used to love the French comic when it was first translated to Finnish in the 70’s (all the classic earlier albums, up to early 80’s – they are pretty standard adventure stories, and while I have read that the creators’ liberal worldviews come forth way more clearly later at least in the early stories it’s not a problem, the storytelling is solid enough) and while it’s completely possible the movie will fall short when it comes to acting and/or plot (for starters, the two main characters, Valerian and Laureline, are not played by actors who raise my confidence…) from the trailers it seems that at least visually it will be very faithful to the original, there seemed to be scenes which were almost one on one copies of what is in the comics. So at the very least it will probably be very much an eye candy feast.

      • Feather Blade

        My general impression, given their respective offerings in each category, is that DC is better at episodic TV storytelling, and Marvel is better at the epic film blockbusters

        • I watched an episode of Flash and couldn’t persuade myself to watch another, but I’m still watching Agents of SHIELD in the fourth season. I was amazed when they had Coulson contrast the HYDRA philosophy of the state over the individual with the SHIELD philosophy of the individual over the state . . . and without apparent intent to say that HYDRA were the good guys after all.

    • Scott/Jean/Logan angst was freaking BORING and was one of the reasons why I started to lose interest. Rogue was a much more interesting character.

      • Terry Sanders

        Don’t know about the animated work. Back when she first showed up in the comic book, she was the only X-Man who’d EARNED her angst. Every bit of it. It made her fascinating, in spots, in a weird way.

        The time she tried suicide-by-villain…

  24. Christopher M. Chupik

    Not to mention Marvel’s “brilliant” idea to pit mutant and Inhuman fandoms against one another. Now you have X-fans cheering the Inhumans getting rounded up and put in camps by the mutants in the Hydra timeline.

    Tolerance!

  25. To quote Clark Gable, “Frankly I don’t give a @#$%.” I really don’t. If they want to be a relic like The Yellow Kid, I say let them go for it. Meanwhile, might I suggest artists create Indie alternatives?

  26. Hm…. 94… isn’t that about when the cartoon X-Men was busy being awesome?

    And when I got knocked out of buying, that was when Spiderman was busy being they-had-to-edit-the-towers-out awesome superhero.

    And right now? The Avengers blob of series is busy being AWESOME.

    Maybe people telling stories folks actually want to hear causes them to lash out in horribleness….

  27. MadRocketSci

    I’m not a comic nerd, but I’ve almost stopped consuming media entirely.

    I have noticed the “get someone to like a character, then corrupt the character, drag them through the mud” schtick.

    It’s almost like an avenue of attack on the reader: A way to get inside your head and screw with you. I wonder if there isn’t some intentional campaign of psychological warfare being waged by assholes somewhere in these formerly “creative” organizations for some sick reason.

    Unfortunately I am short one couch and thick german accent, so I’ll have to pass on figuring out what drives it. But I’d be willing to read people who don’t corrupt their heroes.

    Vaguely reminds me of something Ayn Rand was pointing out in “The Romantic Manifesto”.

    • madrocketsci

      Webcomics are usually pretty good (well, sturgeon’s law applies, but the ones that are good are usually pretty good, as long as the author maintains their project.) No one to answer to, therefore no one trying to corrupt the characters if the author doesn’t have that sort of bent to begin with.

      (Of course, it also means glacially slow publication for the author because there isn’t much in the way of a paycheck – it remains a hobby, not a dayjob.)

      • Yeah… *looking regretfully at the rough outlines of my so-far 490-page graphic novel yet to be completed* That’s the way of things in webcomics. But at least I don’t have any SJW overlord telling me what to do.

    • Hrm.. I know I’ve felt better since freeing myself of television in 2009 or so. I’ve only listened to broadcast FM to see if a receiver worked or if I didn’t have a SiriusXM set around. And even with satellite radio, it’s the 1940’s (or maybe 1950’s, or even more rarely 1960’s) music… or the classic radio shows for longer trips. Times when, for the most part, things were about if not feeling good at least quasi-real (alright, the 1960’s can break that.. but even then it was rarely unreal AND depressing at the same time) or had characters one cared about. Am I “out of time” or “out of synch”? Perhaps. Also, don’t care. Too much now seems like how Seinfeld described itself: A show about nothing.

      Unless I need vacuum, I don’t care about “nothing.” If Truth is relative, if Justice is relative, and the “American Way” is somehow evil… well, “include me out.” No, everything need not be coming up roses. A Canticle for Liebowitz is hardly that, but what message it may have is wrapped in a helluva story. A story about overcoming adversities, making genuine progress and improvement, and the reader gives a damn about the characters and isn’t hoping the next world-as-we-know-it ending conflict comes sooner and sooner and wipes out the lot of them.

    • I have to fight against this in myself, and push for redeeming characters instead.
      Our education has pushed “nobody is clean” for so long that at fifty four I have to fight not to transmit this message which I find human hating and wrong.

      • Humans are hateful and wrong, but that is our nature and not a character flaw. A character flaw is acknowledging that nature and acting according to it rather than acknowledging that nature and acting to remedy it.

        The fact that nobody is clean is not license to wallow in the mire but rather an argument for practicing good hygiene.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I think it is an attack.

      An RPG site once made the point that the behavior of minor NPCs does a lot to set the tone of the setting. Are they trustworthy or backstabby?

      We Americans consume enough fiction that this kind of flavoring can bleed over into estimates of the surrounding population.

      A Marxist thinks historical status quo American society is evil, untrustworthy, and in need of destruction. They would want to influence someone relating to that society in the direction of mistrust.

      An unrelenting stream of grimdark in fiction would serve that end.

      Is it proof? No, but the guy talking about puppies and candy in the back of the white paneled van likely does not have my best interests at heart.

    • I’ve gotten sick of the same stuff. In my view it really is an information attack against our culture. Americans really don’t understand what people outside the USA see and hear about y’all. Canadians are convinced that your major cities are free-fire zones populated by criminals. Americans are violent, low-class @ssh0les.

      Because that is all we ever see on the news, all we ever see in movies, and all we ever read in books.

      I moved to the USA in 1992, and the first thing I did was buy an FN-FAL. Because I was pretty sure I would need a rifle, and that was the best one I knew about. That’s the result of unrelenting propaganda.

      Obviously I figured out how wrong I was, but it took a couple of years living in the US before I was able to realize just how thoroughly the media had pulled the wool over my eyes.

      That is not an accident. That is an information attack.

      My response these last couple of years, has been to stop reading and write a hero into existence. The message of the book is, don’t be an @ssh0le out there. You don’t HAVE to become evil just because you get a bit of power. You don’t HAVE to throw your weight around. Maybe the best idea would be to do as little as possible, being really careful not to break anything. The Enemy is a force trying to unify the human race toward one goal. How often have we heard that? If only we all pulled together! What would that really look like? It would look -bad-, and that’s what I wrote.

      I had to write that book because NOBODY ELSE IS. They used to, back in the day, but now they don’t. And I want to read -that- book.

      Basically, I blame Larry Correia. Darn you, Larry, for writing big dumb Owen Pitt, the incorruptible hero. Now I can’t stand reading the other crap anymore, where everyone is crooked, everything is negotiable and everything is horrible all the time, and that’s the heroes of the story in the good part of town.

      I like Owen Pitt’s world, where evil is rare, it hides in the cracks of the world because it is cowardly, and it can be shot in the face if you’ve got the balls for it. That’s what I want to read about.

    • I hate corrupting characters. Fortunately I don’t feel the slightest impulse to corrupt any of mine.

  28. DC picked a different way to ruin their comics. I’m thinking, for example, of Starfire, who in her first appearances came from an alien race that relied on emotions the way humans rely on logical thought—a really interesting inversion of the Spock trope—and who was passionate and sensual and strongly attracted to Dick Grayson. In their latest version of her, she was devoted to her senses and to physical pleasure, and would couple with anyone (at least anyone male!) and not remember her former partners or have any attachment to them. And it was clear from the stories that the writers weren’t treating this even as “this is a species difference in behavior” (which might have been interesting, though it totally clashed with the former portrayals of her) but as “this character is morally contemptible.” DC seemed to have developed a positive enthusiasm for undercutting its heroes, emphasizing their moral flaws; the message seemed to be that there are no actual heroes. And that wasn’t what I read comics for. I stuck it out for a few issues with Supergirl and for more with Wonder Woman, but I can’t read them any more, and don’t want to try.

    • They did that to Starfire? See, that’s why I’m out. Stuff like that pisses me off. How completely disgusting, to do that to that character.

      Jeez. And they have the gall to wonder why their sales are down.

  29. Off topic, but on the Judge Posner beat(down), from Althouse this AM:

    2. “Judge Posner Is Beyond Catty” is a column by Ed Whelan at National Review who is incredibly irked at 7th Circuit judge Richard A. Posner for doubting that Neil Gorsuch cried while skiing when he heard that Justice Scalia died. Posner doubts both that the news intercepted Gorsuch on a ski slope and also that the crying could ensue, given that Scalia was 80, a heavy smoker and — in Posner’s un-PC words — “known to be obese.” Whelan struggled to come up with mean enough words to lob at Posner. After trying “What a jerk,” he ended up with Posner’s own words: “I have exactly the same personality as my cat…. Cold, furtive, callous, snobbish, selfish, and playful, but with a streak of cruelty.” Poor hapless Whelan, trying to make us hate Posner and serving up one of Posner’s best witty remarks. Whelan, thinking he’s getting the better of Posner, follows that cool joke with a humorless “Yes, indeed. Decent human beings aim higher.”

    • Hmmm … I had read Whelan’s discussion of Posner’s snit and neither found Posner’s joke amusing nor Whelan’s response humourless.

      But then, I have a much higher opinion of cats than does Judge Posner.

    • Whatever. Posner is still a moron.

  30. Basically people who came out of lit classes that were relentlessly critical of The West (*cough* Critical Theory *cough*) massed into mainstream literature and made it their own playground, then moved on to SF and TV and comics and so on, dragging their negativity with them and pushing out people who didn’t comply. It was easy in lit, as they also naturally moved into editor positions and even ran book clubs and libraries. Movies were harder because, despite *very* creative accounting, they needed to make money compared to other movies.

    The overseas market has really helped the anti-Western push, especially with China pirating less and paying for more.

    Personally, all I can do is hope enough people reject that trend to keep other markets for ideas alive. Also, a miracle cure for the mental illness that has swept social media like a hurricane. 🙂