Double Spaced: Can Cosmic Comics Come Back?

Nova_01_CoverI have received my instructions to like extraplanetary tourism this year.

Last week, I observed (not complained, dammit, just observed) that a lot of DC’s behind-the-scenes moves lately have looked so bad and resembled blind flailing so closely that they almost had to be doing it on purpose. This, of course (of course) was more than a little tongue-in-cheek; DC hasn’t planned anything since they wrote “New 52??” on a dry erase board in the conference room. If they seem like they are making it up as they go along, though, their counterparts over at Marvel sometimes convey the equally far-fetched impression that every butterfly that flaps its wings in the Marvel Universe was hashed out in a flow chart that Stan Lee drafted in 1967. It occurred to me this week when I read about an upcoming DC writers’ retreat that I could not remember ever hearing about one of those before, while I know stories about the annual Marvel retreat better than I know some of the comics that came out of them. Gather ’round, children, and I will tell you of how ye Joss Whedon saved the ending of Civil War. Don’t you roll your eyes at me.

While the Marvel Engineers do a pretty good job of reassuring the audience not to panic, that this is all going somewhere and all part of the plan (“‘Fear Itself’?… Well, I guess they know what they’re doing”) this does occasionally makes things feel a little… canned. As “The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show” tells us (The Simpsons is like a 21st-century scripture, in that there’s a passage applicable to every occasion and someone is always ready to quote it at the drop of a hat, but perhaps I digress) you can plan all you want, but you can’t dictate what your audience is going to think is cool. Indeed, the harder you try to plan “cool,” the less cool your endeavor ends up looking, especially if the audience has seen you do this sort of thing before.

All of this is my wordy, roundabout way of saying, “I don’t know what to make of these space books coming our way, you guys.”

I get it. We all get it. It doesn’t take an MBA. Someone somewhere in the Minority Report tub underneath Disneyland decided that the next Marvel movie was going to be Guardians of the Galaxy, of all things, and now the publishing division has to leaflet the populace in anticipation of the pop culture invasion getting fully underway on the ground. Lo and behold, then, new books about Nova and the Guardians appear on the radar for 2013, written and drawn by the heaviest hitters on the Marvel bench. If you’re like me, one of the people who bought every issue of Guardians when it was a cult series occupying its own cozy corner of the universe, literally light years away from the crossovers and the Superhero Registration Act, this is amazing and bewildering in equal parts.

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy_3_CoverOn the one hand, seeing these deeply odd characters getting this kind of four-star attention is extremely gratifying. On the other hand… when the movie Iron Man came out, comic book people were delighted, but the world at large didn’t know what an Iron Man was. It took them by surprise. Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic book that makes the comic book people say, “I’m sorry. Who are these people again? Is that a talking raccoon?” I admire the chutzpah and confidence of taking this ragtag bunch and handing them to Bendis and Loeb and McNiven and McGuinness, saying in effect, “The ten people who read these books before saw something in them. Now it’s everybody else’s turn.” At the same time, it seems a little bit like announcing, “Oh, this is what you will all be loving this year. Await further instructions,” and that has a way of falling on its face.

I just don’t want to see us end up in Ryan-Reynolds-Green-Lantern territory, here.

Whether you’re talking about Marvel’s taste planning or DC’s whatever-they’re-doing, in the end I want everyone to succeed. I want desperately to see more bestselling talent to take on weird little Novas and Moon Knights instead of cranking out yet another Wolverine story. I want to see James Gunn knock it out of the park like the next Spielberg and get a plaque at my high school. (Did I mention James Gunn and I went to the same high school? I did? Forty-five times? Well, get used to it. Unless the movie bombs, in which case he and I are unacquainted.) I read news about these characters and picture my son lugging around a stuffed Rocket Raccoon a year from now and cackle like a madman. When I do, though, I also hear a voice whispering “Jar Jar situation” persistently in the back of my mind.

But what the hell? My kids love The Phantom Menace. Someone comes out ahead here no matter what.

Jim Mroczkowski also went to the same college as Howard the Duck.


  1. “(The Simpsons is like a 21st-century scripture, in that there’s a passage applicable to every occasion and someone is always ready to quote it at the drop of a hat, but perhaps I digress)”

    If you have to explain it… it’s not.

  2. Good article. It echos my feelings as well – not sure how they green-lit GoG and now I’m not certain about how they’re going to ram it down everyone’s throats without killing it.

  3. If people were self aware enough to recognize old-stuff-in-new-packaging, Marvel Now! and “Avatar” wouldn’t get so much praise and attention. I’m not excited for the galactic marvel books (I’m sick of Bendis putting Avengers in almost all of his books, and I swore off Jeph Loeb after “Ultimatum”), but I am looking forward to the movie. To me it seems natural, after “Avengers” where can you go next? More Iron Man, Thor, Cap America, and Avengers sequels for the next decade? No, you move forward, new territories, new characters! There’s no real reason to doubt the Marvel cinematic universe at this point, everything in that made money and spawned sequels (personal tastes aside, this is true). With “Star Wars”, “Star Trek”, and all those future/alien/post-apocalyptic coming out soon why wouldnt Marvel want to jump in with an new(er) concept similar to the Avengers? I would love it if Ghost Rider and Moon Knight could get some honest attention from Marvel Now! but I know it’s not in the cards. Good article btw.

  4. DC really should’ve (I feel like so many comments on comics start like this now a days) rolled out a new Strange Adventures or Mystery In Space book for the relaunch. They’ve ceded “cosmic” stuff to Marvel even though their second biggest franchise (Green Lantern) takes place totally in space that’s all they have. They should’ve made a push for a reexamination of “space” in the DCU post-War of Light.

    • Well, they are trying to get Threshold out before the GotG relaunch so people think GotG is a rip off of the DC Cosmic stuff. I don’t know if you read Threshold #1… but it doesn’t even come close to the cosmic stuff that Giffen and DnA put out.

    • I’m less familiar with DC’s cosmic side, to me Marvel’s is more pronounced. Besides GL, New Gods is the only other title that springs to my mind offhand. But DC has been running Red Lanterns, GL Corps, and New Gaurdians since the New 52 started so there’s 3 more cosmic books DC has been running besides GL (versus the GoG and Nova Marvel is just about to release). I agree more could be done post war of light (this is what I was afraid of once the blue lanterns were introduced, more colors eventually becoming pointless), but I think DC wanted to “cast” a wider net to catch new readers so they pushed for more variety of characters (I,Vampire, Hawk and Dove, Frankenstein, Animal Man, Dial H). Don’t forget they used to have a “DC Comics Presents” that was canceled not too long ago.

    • Also they decided to go with the magical side which we all know DC is much better at.

    • Giffen has been running around saying that Captain K’rot from Threshold will be the new Rocket Raccoon, so there’s obviously some direct competition there.

  5. I’m happy they are going crazy with the Marvel Cosmic because I’ve always liked it – thanks to the Infinity Gauntlet when I was younger. But I most likely won’t be buying either Nova or GotG – mostly due to the creative teams not being my cup o’ tea – but I hope they are successful. I’ll be content for now getting my cosmic from Hickman’s Avengers, and Fraction’s Fantastic Four.

    But again, I hope they are good and people enjoy them so they continue to get play in the future.

  6. disney will mash star wars with guardians by 2020…maybe even throw in some Pigs in Space.

  7. I’m not too worried about a Poochie from Guardians of the Galaxy, the thing that worries me most (inasmuch as I worry about Guardians of the Galaxy*) is an attack of over explaining. For the movie, I don’t need to know Rocket Racoon’s origin. He’s an anthropomorphic beastie with a ray gun and an attitude is all I need to know. Seriously, I want to see this wacky batch of characters interacting, space battles, and maybe a mad Titan or two. Too much backstory gets in the way of that.

    *I’m a fan of Westerns in general and Jonah Hex specifically. After that particular comic book adaptation, it takes a LOT to get my dander up.

    • Totally agree! I don’t think there’s much of a problem about comic readers’ familiarity of the characters. Although Annihilation and the spin-offs weren’t initially promoted as much as Civil War, they eventually popped up in various website reviews, etc. For movie-goers, the Guardians movie needs to be less an origin film like “Iron Man” and more “Star Wars” (sorry). Sure, we’ll need to know why the Guardians are going to do what they need to do, but we don’t have to know Rocket Raccoon’s entire biography. Like Ben Kenobi walking up to a big hairy creature in Star Wars who turned out to be Chewbacca, have Rocket and Groot, etc. just “be there.” Kind of like the recent cartoon on “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

      As a comic reader, while I like Guardians as a concept, their earlier stuff could never hold my attention. When I got into the post-Annihilation series I realized what the problem was: Story and characters. The characters- nor their “powers and abilities”- just weren’t interesting. The post Annihilation Guardians may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but the stories and their personal motivations were compelling. I think Bendis and Slott are similar when it comes to their methods of storytelling. First you create the characters, then you put them in situations to have them react to, not the other way around.

      I’m giving them and Nova a try (though Nova for me is Rich Rider). You never know if you like them until you try, right?

  8. Good article, but…

    “The Simpsons is like a 21st-century scripture”

    Well, if you mean it goes on WAY too long and isn’t funny, then yeah.

    • Simpsons IS scripture… Your comment reminds me of The Simpsons where Bart insults Comic Book Guy for complaining about Itchy + Scratchy + Poochie.

      In 30 minute episodes, the Simpsons provide entertainment FOR FREE. Why complain about a free product? Or where you trying to be funny?

  9. If we’re talking cosmic then give me Silver Surfer, dammit! Someone get Jim Starlin!

    • Someone did, Starlin is taking over writing duties for Stormwatch for DC.

    • I’m going to try Guardians I have never read these characters but it might fill a niche on my pull list. I think both the big 2 companies haven’t done a good job with the cosmic portion lately. Open to it, but quality will dictate success.

    • My thoughts as well I haven’t been interested in Marvel’s halfassed attempts at cosmic characters since the annihilation and then they killed off two of Marvels cosmic Icon’s to only bring one of them back(Adam Warlock if you didn’t know who I was talking about). Right now they are only interested in turning out another x-book, avengers, or spiderman series. While I hope that GoG finds success most likely I won’t be reading it. Though if Hickman commits to Marvel’s cosmic rerun (if one ever comes) I will be on board.

  10. You know how every year Pantone announces the Color of the Year, and then every company that makes stuff, makes stuff in that color? Isn’t that weird?

    Anyway Jim that stuff you were saying about “This is what you will like this year!” reminded me of that. It’s weird.

  11. I can see Marvel trying to steer the ship with the stories their putting out, but even so, I’m looking forward to GoG. I never had the opportunity to read this book before so now is a good a time as any.

  12. I think this is probably the most bizarre choice possible for a big time studio comic book movie. I don’t really know what else to say. Maybe they’re expecting it to be a Pixar-style all ages blockbuster? Curious.

  13. DnA’s run was my favorite stuff in all of Marvel for they’re entire tenure on the cosmic corner. It’s definitely obvious why the cosmic is getting marketed with Thanos in the Avengers and Nova on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, they even got into the Kree/Skrull war with Kree uniform Capt Marvel in the Avengers animated series. I think this stuff has a much deeper rooted plan than some other stories/movies out there and besides Ironman being on Guardians, I have high hopes and faith in Marvel putting this material in the front. Bendis has done some great work over the years, all of these guys on the Guardians and Nova have….and I love McNiven’s Rocket Raccoon Wolverine (Frank Miller #1) homage, I hope people caught that. McNivens enough reason for me to check this out anyway and James Gunn using DnA’s recent Guardians concept designs to go off is great too!!! And who knows about Ironman too, like you said Jim, he wasn’t on everyone’s radar until the movie so he might work over here and help ppl who got into comix via Ironman to gain interest in the cosmic pirates.

  14. Always a cosmic fan.