I’ve got a funny feeling about this one.
I’ve spent a lot of time watching the political horse race for the last few months, devoting attention to all the petty, stupid, snarky reality-show squabbling that I’m supposed to ignore in favor of The Issues. I’ve watched the polling. I’ve chuckled at the gaffes. Mostly, against my better judgement (any judgement at all, really) I’ve followed the pundits. Every day, they remind me of a valuable life lesson: try very hard not to be a pundit.
It’s hard to resist the temptation. You think, “I’m a pretty together guy. My opinions are probably pretty reason-based. I recognize that this comic book artist is obviously tracing photo references off a lightbox, badly, often using the same photos over and over again. We as a society must agree that he’s objectively bad at this. Yet this huge company keeps hiring him for high-profile jobs. What does he have on these people?”
Well, what he has is gigantic sales, because a lot of people you don’t talk to love what he’s doing. Your message board community constitutes maybe one hundred people out of the one hundred thousand who buy this stuff. A lot of people also like the guy currently in the Green Lantern outfit just fine and haven’t thought about Stephanie Brown in a long, long time. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your anecdotal observations and personal experiences are universal, and be careful with that crystal ball.
So I try not to make any grand predictions about the future of this industry I sort-of follow. Right now, though, I’ve got that funny feeling.
When DC announced its “New 52″ initiative over a year ago, a lot of people predictably freaked out, but as the launch date drew nearer the overwhelming mood seemed to be one of excitement. People wanted to see how all of this madness was going to play out. Other people saw it as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. Even jaded old-timers like me with deeply rooted suspicions about the DC Universe started buying more of their books than ever before. It stirred up real enthusiasm that lasted for a good few months, even if a lot of us have since dipped back down to pre-52 levels of consumption.
The approaching Marvel initiative seems to be giving off a whole different vibe.
This is probably where my personal experience clouds my punditry. With rugrats running around my house replacing my leisure time with four-hour tea parties, I find that when one of my favorite TV shows announces its final season, my immediate response is “I get an hour back!” instead of mournful mistiness. Time is becoming precious.
Where DC was concerned a year ago, I was a blank slate. A reboot sounded like a great jumping-on point, just like they planned. Marvel, though? Marvel has dominated my pull list for ages, and when they say, “We’re ending just about everything, shuffling the deck, and starting fresh,” my immediate response is not, “Bully and huzzah, a slew of new lit’rature to devour!” The first, unbidden thought in my head is, “Oh, man, it is going to be incredibly satisfying when all those books I read come to a natural end.”
I cannot be the only person thinking that way. I know I’m not, in fact; I’ve heard other people ’round these parts say the same thing. Although I’ll be giving all kinds of #1s chances this winter, I can’t shake this funny feeling that’s whispering, “What if Marvel just accidentally engineered the perfect comics Jumping-Off Point?”
As I think about the list of books I pull now, I see almost nothing but shrinkage. New Mutants is ending again, and being replaced by nothing. The Defenders is gone. Avengers Academy is being replaced by a book in which fans get to watch members of Avengers Academy get murdered. Wolverine is a question mark. They took the Red Hulk out of the best run he’s ever had and took the Punisher away from Greg Rucka to saddle them with Daniel Way and Deadpool, which even to someone who has spent the last several months following gaffes is awe inspiring. X-Men Legacy now follows Legion, a character whose defining characteristic is not having a personality.
Secret Avengers? Dark Avengers? Your guess is as good as mine.
Now, as I said, there are plenty of #1s coming that I’ll try out when the day comes, and there are still oases like Scarlet Spider and X-Factor out there (though I see from the cover of Uncanny Avengers that poor Peter David got one of his characters yanked away from him again). Hopefully, other people are saying the same thing in droves. When I look ahead, though, it does not feel like a time of beginnings. It feels like a time of endings.
Is my funny feeling wildly off-base? Should I leave the punditry to the pundits? Will the All New X-Men be greeted as liberators? I hope so, if only because a rising tide lifts all boats and I root for success whenever I can. In the meantime, I can only scrutinize the teasers and wait for the previews. I can’t wait to see what happens, even if it’s as much out of trepidation as it is anticipation.
Jim Mroczkowski has noticed that absolutely no one on his Twitter feed has mentioned Doctor Who all season, which also strikes him as weird and unnerving.