THAT’S A SENTENCE I NEVER HEARD BEFORE: 2012 Year In Review Part 1
Welcome to the start of WoohWaah’s 2012 Comics Year in Review. Every day between now and New Year’s, you’ll get a fresh look back at some of 2012′s best, worst, and most inane events, starting this week with the Dumbest Controversy, Best Trend and Biggest Problem.
Tony Harris (acclaimed artist of Starman and Ex Machina) posted a block shaped rant on his Facebook page about the devilry of cosplaying women and their vain attempts at snookering the feeble male comics fan out of his precious…attention? Affection? Ability to comfortably traverse a con floor? I’m not really sure what he thought these belatexed jezebels were taking from us, but judging by all the capitalized words, he was in a state about it. It was tough to glean his point from a post that had all the formatting hallmarks of an anonymous comment on an article on BigBreitbart’s Internet Journalism Mausoleum. There are a number of appropriate responses to his insane rambling—pointing out that he, as a comic artist, is perhaps the wrong person to complain about skimpy costumes on comic book cosplayers, as HE DESIGNS THE COSTUMES ON LADY COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS; trying to engage him in a conversation about sexism in consumer representations of women; relentlessly mock him because he calls them “BOOBIES” like a 13 year old reading a bird encyclopedia. My choice: rub the bridge of my nose, mutter “idiot” under my breath, and stop buying his work until he stops being an asshole.
This is dumb because it’s tired. Alan Moore is the industry’s biggest crank; a brilliant comic writer who does nothing but shit on the industry and everyone in it, around it and interested in it. Grant Morrison is a thoroughly crazy, incredibly talented comic writer who has some of the most insane and wonderful ideas in comicdom, likes poking at Moore and decided in November that he was going to take a point by point swing back at Moore’s swipes at him. You would think that watching two black magicians have a dick measuring contest would be interesting*. Turns out, nope, it’s just as tedious and boring as watching two regular guys argue over Tim Tebow, only Moore and Morrison’s squabbling was more grounded in fact. Unfortunately, because of the stature of both men, their pissing contest set the tubes ablaze for a week or so.
Winner! This is hands down the dumbest controversy of the year in all of comicdom! Dan Slott, writer of Amazing Spider Man for like, 150 issues, has decided to make a major change in the status quo of the book. This is unquestionably a HUGE change—it’s no longer Peter Parker under the mask, but I won’t spoil it here. Suffice it to say, some people go really, really pissed and started making death threats to Slott on the intertubes. These idiots, readers of a long-form creative medium that has seen six different Supermen (I’m counting Red and Blue Superman, as well as the four who took over for him in ’92), three different Batmen, three Captains America, two full DC Universe reboots, four Green Lanterns (five if you count Hal twice), the Scarlet Witch travel the full continuum from good to crazy to evil and back, EVEN TWO GODDAMN SPIDER MEN, and seen every single one of these changes undone, have decided that this is their hill to die on. If Chuck Austen never got death threats over writing that it wasn’t Magneto in Morrison’s X-Men, that it was Xorn’s brother Xorn impersonating Magneto who was then pretending to be Xorn AND THAT WAS NEVER CHANGED BACK, then people need to take a goddamn chill pill over changes to Spider Man. Seriously, people, I have lived through The Draco, through a dramatic X-Men retelling of Romeo and Juliet that simultaneously tried to explain that there were so many canine related powers and winged people in the X-Men universe as some ancient war between dogs and angels**, through a story where Spider Man makes a deal with the devil to erase his marriage from continuity because a divorce makes Peter Parker too old, and yet the death threats come out because of a continuity change so obvious and easy to undo that it’s already happened twice on Fringe. These guys make the assclowns in HEAT look like a 60s hippie sit in.
Biggest Issue Flying Under the Radar
The ticking clock on the Marvel/DC Universes
In his Q&A on the CBR boards, Jonathan Hickman, new writer on Avengers and New Avengers gave a glimpse at what will soon become a huge problem for Marvel and DC: nobody wants to make new characters for anything but creator owned books.
In responding to a question about diversity, Hickman said:
Most of the talent creating books at Marvel are fairly progressive, so generally we all want diversity in the abstract. The problem comes from the fact that the catalog of Marvel (and DC) characters are predominantly straight white male because of the era they were conceived in — and it’s the basic building blocks of what we have to work with.
Which begets the question: Well Jonathan, if this is really one of the root causes of the problem, if you really feel that way — if you’re not a fraud — why don’t you just go create some new, more diverse characters?
Which is where things get tricky. In light of numerous historical examples, contractual realities, and the shelf life of creators, is it really in a creator’s best interest to be making brand new IP for the big companies on the cheap?
I mean, we still do it sometimes, because, frankly, we can’t not…it’s in our DNA as storytellers and problem solvers — but is it the ‘right’ thing to do? Would it be right for people to ‘expect me’ to do that?
I don’t think so.
But that’s just one example — There are others (some even more negative, plenty positive).
First off, that’s an impressively honest answer, especially coming from one of the architects of the Marvel Universe right now. Secondly, it’s indicative of an issue that played into the Best Trend from 2012:
The Creator Owned Renaissance
The internet has enabled a creator owned revolution of sorts, and the creator participation policies at Marvel and DC are further encouraging it. Between Monkeybrain, Thrillbent and Aces Weekly, an incredible amount of talent is working not on characters like Superman or the X-Men, but on books that they own, where they’ll see the benefits and residuals. This is the direction that the industry has been tiptoeing in since Neal Adams tried to unionize artists in the 70s. This revolution’s not limited to the web, though. The last great leap forward for creator owned comics has had a good year.
Image is currently publishing Saga (kickass space opera from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, more later), The Walking Dead (I’m not entirely sure how you could end up reading this article without knowing what the Walking Dead is), The Manhattan Projects (insane alternate universe sci-fi written with gleeful abandon by the above mentioned Jonathan Hickman, and with art from the supremely talented Nick Pitarra), Fatale (horror noir from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, who have been making incredible comics together for almost 10 years, I think), Happy (from legends Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson), Multiple Warheads from the immensely talented Brandon Graham), and Skullkickers (a ridiculously fun straight up fights-n-jokes comic good enough to get me to buy Birds of Prey when the writer of Skullkickers, Jim Zub, takes over after issue 17), among many others. That’s a startling amount of talent, and a pretty incredible variety—there’s a lot of space between what Brandon Graham’s doing in Multiple Warheads and what Robert Kirkman’s doing in Thief of Thieves. In part because they’ve stolen a page from the drug dealer handbook—give readers the first taste for cheap, then get them on the come back—and in part because of the incredible crossover success of The Walking Dead, there’s more buzz and more people reading Image Comics than at any time I can remember.
Add that to the work that Dark Horse (the Hellboy universe, The Massive) or BOOM! (all those $1 first issues back in the summer from guys like DnA, Simon Spurrier and Sam Humphries, or the new one from Paul Jenkins) or even the wreckage of Vertigo (with stuff like Sweet Tooth or American Vampire from Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder) has been putting out, and we are at a point in industry history where big name and talented creators are putting out more work for themselves, and outside the traditional big 2 structure than in. As a comic reader with a conscience, this is a great development. If I was on the board of Time Warner or Disney, I might have some concerns about this, though.
The continued, 70+ year existence of modern superhero characters proves pretty conclusively that this is a mine that never runs out. The vibrancy of the characters, however, relies on talented writers and artists willing to pour their hearts into these books. The danger here, and it is real, is of the creators viewing it not as their dream, to continue building on the legacies and universes that they’ve been lucky enough to play in, but as a job, as simple propulsion in the continued existence of the characters.
*Editor’s note—You would not think that.
**If you’d like to learn more about Chuck Austen’s seminal run on Uncanny X-Men, don’t. It was awful, and anyone who argues otherwise should be sterilized for risk of contaminating the gene pool.
Tomorrow: Best New and Best Revamped character
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