(is privately my name for my column, and also)
This weekend, I was thinking about how far comic book readers seemed to have come as a group since I rejoined the fold ten or so years ago, or at least the comic book readers I encounter on a regular basis. Maybe Newsarama threads have descended into Lord of the Flies, with people putting each other’s avatars on pikes at the edge of camp, but I’ll never know. All I know is that the view is pretty good from where I’m standing.
In particular, I was thinking about lateness. Or rather, I was thinking about how I never think about lateness anymore. If you’ve just started reading comics in the last two years or so, you may not even know what I’m talking about, God bless your little heart, but in the early 21st century there seemed to be some kind of highly contagious tardiness epidemic going around. One of the first books I was reading when I got back into comics was this Joss Whedon miniseries, Fray; it was an eight issue series that took two years to conclude. After issue six, it just disappeared for a year without a word. Around the time it was winding down, Kevin Smith started a Black Cat miniseries that took a three-year break (three years!) halfway through so he could devote his undivided focus to crafting and honing Jersey Girl. He also authored a Daredevil “series” that put out one issue and abruptly ceased to exist altogether. Years later, Jon Favreau did the same thing to Iron Man.
The money I spent on those two books could have gotten me a delicious sandwich, many Snickers bars, or something else that actually ended up being satisfying, but never mind that now. No lawyer would file that class action suit.
It wasn’t just the Hollywood types who were guilty of this behavior, either (although Damon Lindelof deserves at least an honorable mention). From Miller to Millar, just about every high-profile creator that comes to mind was delayed by one thing or another during those heady days. There were months when I thought Image had gone out of business. According to my dodgy memory formed from my dodgy perception, the public at large finally seemed to lose their marbles about all of it when Marvel announced that the last issues of Civil War were, as I recall, running about an hour and a half behind schedule.
“This is the greatest outrage in the history of human endeavor!” people cried. “We need to take a stand against these fat cat comic book creators, sleeping until noon while the rest of us camp out in the cold rain for books that will never come. We must vote with our wallets and punish these layabouts for their hostile disrespect for the audience. They knew the schedule when they signed up for the project. They should have prepared for this somehow. Stand up and be heard, reader! We want our comics, and we want them like clockwork!”
I was idly reflecting on those days when I realized I hadn’t heard anyone trying to start that rally for a long time now. It had been ages since I heard anyone complain about delays. In fact, the only complaints I could remember seeing lately were “who’s this clown drawing issue #6 of my DC book?” and “why is Marvel trying to kill me by double shipping all these series and shifting the artists around so much?”
“Oh,” I suddenly realized. “They haven’t stopped complaining. They’ve just shifted their complaints to complain about the exact opposite thing. They’re complaining about getting exactly what they said they wanted five years ago.”
Who is this clown drawing #6 of your DC book, instead of the usual artist you like? I believe his name is Johnny The Book Is Coming Out On Time Congratulations. You are outraged by having to wait for the next issue? Well, now it’s coming twice as fast as ever. You literally asked for it.
Perhaps you should be more careful with your monkey’s paw next time.
I would not work in the comic book industry for a million, million dollars. (Well, maybe for exactly that much. Make me an offer.) It is impossible to please anyone. The readership reminds me of a moment from one of my favorite Simpsons episodes, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show”:
Focus Group Guy: [after showing the kids some Itchy & Scratchy cartoons] Okay, how many kids would like Itchy & Scratchy to deal with real life problems like the ones you face every day?
[all kids cheer]
Focus Group Guy: And who would like to see them do just the opposite, getting into far-out situations involving robots and magic powers?
[kids cheer again]
Focus Group Guy: So… you want a realistic down-to-earth show that’s completely off the wall and swarming with magic robots?
Milhouse Van Houten: And, also, you should win things by watching.
Focus Group Guy: [sighs]
There will always be someone crying injustice or conspiracy because a publisher did something they thought would make people buy something and like it. They didn’t get a fill-in artist for Cassaday on Astonishing X-Men, and the delays were upsetting. They started rotating artists to prevent delays, and that was upsetting. They gave everyone more of their favorite books, and people started wearing barrels to the store, inconsolable. You may not find that funny, but I laughed long and hard about it this week. They just can’t win.
Jim Mroczkowski gets outraged, too, but he’s going to start with blood diamonds and work his way down to Yanick Paquette’s work ethic.