We’ve talked about this a time or two before in a broad sense, but this Marvel NOW! thing has got me at something of a personal crossroads, here, and I’d like to bend your ears to see if anyone is as far up a tree as I am on this one.
Why do you read the comics you do? Is it the characters, the writers who are writing about them, or the artists drawing the stories? Or some combination thereof?
I thought I knew. Had you asked me a couple of months ago, I’d have fired off an answer without even giving it any thought: “Oh, I’m a writer guy. I’m not one of these people who keeps buying X-Men no matter which Joseph Hazelwood is left drunkenly at the helm. I’ve read X-Men since I was a kid, but I still immediately dropped it during the [poor sap who somehow became a professional writer, perhaps by owning blackmail photos, who everyone now kicks while he's down] era. On the other hand, every time I’d tried Moon Knight it left me cold, but I read every issue of Brian Bendis’ run and it was one of my favorite books month in and month out for that whole year. I grew up being bored to tears by the Avengers before Bendis got his grubby little mitts on them, and within a year their book was my favorite one on the stands. Bendis retold the Spider-Man origin for the 1100th time and made me say, ‘Thank you, sir; may I have another?’ In summation: writers!”
Marbles NOW!!! is making a liar out of me. There’s obviously more to it than that.
One recent example of my mental pretzel, as the time for making preorders draws near:
- Rick Remender is great. I love Rick Remender on Venom.
- Cullen Bunn is also great. The Sixth Gun is a delight.
- Rick Remender leaves Venom. I say, “Do I need to keep reading Venom now? Meh? I’m suddenly acting like Remender gave birth to this character from my childhood. Cullen Bunn… I dunno….”
- Rick Remender gets Avengers. I say, “I dunno… Rick Remender…?”
(See also: Hickman, Jonathan, uncontested talent and brilliance of.)
They hop from book I like to book I like, and suddenly I’m treating them like some chancy unknown quantity. Clearly, there’s more going on here than “I like writers.”
Poor Remender got it again from me on another book. “This just in: Brubaker is off of Captain America and Winter Soldier.” “This just in: so much for Captain America and Winter Soldier. Local man to reclaim $7.00 a month.” As if Rick Remender, John Romita, and/or Jason Latour have ever done a book I didn’t love. (Well, I suppose Latour might have. To be fair, I haven’t the first opinion about the man yet, other than “you’re not the Winter Soldier’s daddy, and you can’t tell him what to do [door slam]!”)
Some of these books have been in the same hands for so long, it’s like they’ve been grandfathered in as creator-owned. I love Kieron Gillen, but… someone else writing Iron Man? Bendis has had his hands on Avengers for almost as long as Adult Me has been reading comics; how can… why would… what if…who then…? [collapses onto fainting couch]
On the other hand, I would not be reading Batman if it weren’t for Scott Snyder. I’d have no idea what a Resurrection Man was if not for Abnett and Lanning, nor would I give a flying tinker’s dam about any Birds of Prey were it not for Duane Swierczynski.
Who knows what the real draw is in this medium? The big-league players who want to
bleed you dry of every last dime even as you lie openly weeping, clutching your desiccated throat and crying to the heavens, “Why, God? I have given you everything, and this is how I am repaid? What recourse is there for me?” as your bloodied wallet falls into an open gutter provide their consumers with the very best comic book entertainment on the market at the fairest, rock-bottom prices have their own ideas about what drives their consumers. In the wake of the New 52, DC conducted a survey about its audience’s reading habits. As far as I can tell, this question– do you buy for characters, writers, artists, or some combination thereof?– was not part of that survey. I dearly wish it had been. I would love to see the breakdown among the community, and I use that word in the loosest, closest to ironic sense possible.
Let’s take it as a given that I have no clue what real comic book readers want (a very safe bet indeed; as millions were hoarding Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 with all five of its covers and buying lead-lined bomb shelters to keep them in right next to their prized Beanie Babies, I was bowing out of the comic reading biz altogether). Maybe they’re curious what Matt Fraction has up his sleeve next; maybe they just want to see Spider-Man punch a guy for the millionth time. Neither one is wrong. I’d just like to understand the end result.
Jim Mroczkowski loves the thought of Marbles NOW!!! as a protest movement his grandfather spearheaded as a boy.