Friday, December 03, 2004

Trading Short Term Gains, For Possibly Long Term Problems

An edited version of my part of a conversation taking place in a different forum.

Today's comic industry is on a recycle spin like never before in its history. Many of the most popular comics today are little more than retelling, through foggy lenses, of past events or to set up stories of the past.

For DC this is things like the Kara Supergirl, Hal as Green Lantern, Bart becoming Kid Flash, Brubaker retelling the first Batman and Joker meeting and many others.

Marvel is not only retelling their stories, they are doing it 2, 3 sometimes 4 different ways a month. With multiple versions of their lines like the regular Marvel U, Marvel Knights, Marvel Age, Ultimates etc.

Right now it is a smart business move in the direct market since the audience is salivating for that stuff.

Yet long term I wonder what the business of just reworking the past will lead the comic industry to. There are only so many times you can retell Superman's origin or reintroduce the same group of characters before all but the diehardest of audiences gets bored.

For the superhero genre to truly survive it needs to find new concepts, stories and characters that can take the genre in new exciting directions. Yet instead I see an ever growing disdain for anything new by both the audience and creators, and a move back to making the superhero lines even more insular.

Not all mystery novels only feature Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes. Yet in superhero comics that's what it amounts to, with little window for anything that hasn't been done many times before.

Which I think could eventually spell the doom for the genre for a good long while in the not too distant future.

1 comment:

Shawn Fumo said...

Frankly, I think this is also a lot of what helps manga to stay healthy both in Japan and in the US. Sure there are plenty of concepts that are done over and over again, but it is always at least a bit different.

Many many stories have a similar track of say a boy hero who is cranky and wants to be the best "something". He has to train, has rivals and setbacks. Ends up finally besting the best at the thing. That can be changed up in so many ways. Even if it was nearly identical in almost every way but had a different setting, it makes a difference. Maybe someone loves pirates and someone else loves ninjas.

An example might be one manga this one title about a yo-yo player. The thing is just terribly generic, but since I'm a yo-yo player, it is great cheesy fun.

When you think about how many ways a new series can change things up with various combiations of ideas, you can have a real sense of vitality even with some typical ideas present. When you combine that with a author that sticks with the title the whole time, that opens up even more possibilities. Someone may start off copying their favorite author but then diverge over time...

I think the universe concept in superheros is pretty interesting and pretty unprecidented really in terms of scope for any medium, but at least the way it is currently being done, has a lot of issues.

I think Spider-man is a cool concept. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing re-vamps at times (like Ultimate Spider-man) or some spin-offs. But constant re-invention? And a ton of simultaneous titles that might have different continuity? I think it is just too much and keeps new ideas from thriving in other areas.

Also, frankly I think it'd be interesting if say Spider-man's original team had kept working on it for a good amount of time, built up to something and actually ended. Imagine the power the Spider-man story could have as a whole if Peter was allowed to grow as a person and come to some resolution or real change?

Perhaps in those years that wouldn't have been possible granted the extreme compression and serial stories, but if it had ended some other story could have taken the concepts and ran with it until you finally got something like Ultimate Spider-man either as a product of occational re-workings or some totally new title.

Any super-popular title in manga like Akira or Dragon Ball or Rose of Versaille is going to cast a long shadow over titles to come, but those titles don't have to try to compete with the originals (in terms of new releases). The creator of Naruto might have become a manga creator because of Dragon Ball, but the series certainly has its own voice...