The iFanboy Letter Column – 10/16/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means no pants time is ON! For others, Friday is the day to begin an endless and fruitless expedition for true love in the wilds of singledom.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming — contact@ifanboy.com


Ten years ago Spider-Man got me into comics, like he did many other people. Since then my pull list has grown from just Paul Jenkins’ Peter Parker: Spider-Man to include a host of other books from Marvel, DC, and the independent companies. I still love Spider-Man. However I’ve starting to get the feeling that while Amazing is great at the moment, it’s not really going anywhere, while a lot of series I enjoy are building or have built to their epic conclusion (Vertigo titles like Scalped, Preacher, and Y: The Last Man).

If I drop The Amazing Spider-Man I can afford to get three other books a month, could you suggest three books that you think are worthy of knocking my favourite character from my pull list. Is it worth getting three completely separate books, or maybe trying out another universe that releases books three times a month like The Avengers, Batman, or Superman books?

Adam (Zeppo) from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, UK

Adam, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your premise is flawed! Perhaps it’s a result of the British educational system, but in the end, we can never quite be sure why, can we? I jest, yet show my affection by leaving favourite spelled your way.

Here’s the simple truth, which has been alluded to in other articles recently. Mainstream superhero comics never go anywhere. If you think The Amazing Spider-Man is good right now, then you should be pretty pleased, because this is the best you’re gonna get, buddy! The point of mainstream superhero work is to maintain a unique sort of status quo in hopes of keeping the story going indefinitely which means, of course, that they can feign consequence, but never really achieve them, since the next story can find away to wipe away almost anything.  Therefore, to enjoy such comics, you have to enjoy them in the now.

What’s interesting is that it sounds like you’re starting to enjoy the style of storytelling in Vertigo stories, which of course have a beginning, middle and end. Ultimately, if you enjoy the arc of a good story, such as with a novel, and you like a set-up, build, crescendo, and payoff, most of the titles from Marvel and DC aren’t going to deliver on a long-term scale. Those books have a different goal in mind, and that is to keep the story going at all costs.

Therefore, if that’s what you’re looking for, The Avengers, Batman, or Superman are going to leave you with that same vague feeling of being stuck in the mud. If you’re thinking of trying something else, I’d recommend jumping on some of those Vertigo titles going on now, and seeing how you like them. If you do, you can get some trades to catch up, and then read monthly issues after. You could try Fables, or The Unwritten, or even Scalped, as you mentioned. I get the same feeling you do, but I like a little of both in my life. I know the stories that Ed Brubaker is telling in Captain America will eventually be eroded away, like the walls of a canyon, but right now, I’m okay with that. The Amazing Spider-Man is as entertaining as it’s been in years, and there’s something to that. But you might have moved on as a reader, and that’s okay too. I say, venture out a little ways, try something new, and see how it grabs you.

Josh Flanagan

 


I got back into comics about 3 years ago after about a decade off, so a lot of my time has been going back and reading what I missed. In the past year I’ve read Planetary, Sleeper, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Astro City. It seems like Wildstorm was the shit in the early part of the century, what happened?

I love Ex Machina, but it seems like that’s all they have going for them right now.

Bob (cutty)

Well Bob, you’ve touched upon one of the biggest mysteries behind the scenes at the publishers, “What the hell happened to WildStorm?”

As you noted, in the late 1990s, WildStorm was blossoming, built on Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. universe, they were mixing books related to that universe along with Alan Moore’s line of books and interesting creator owned books. They had definitely carved their corner of the comics world. Even after Jim Lee sold the imprint to DC Comics, they continued to flourish with books like The Authority.

And then, sometime in this decade, something happened.

I have no insider information so this is just speculation, but perhaps Jim Lee taking less of a role in overseeing the imprint or maybe DC Comics in NYC got more involved in what WildStorm was doing in La Jolla, CA. Who knows? All that we know is that they have slowly turned into a red-headed step child at DC Comics, and a bit of a joke with their failed attempts at rebooting the WildStorm universe and the debacle with The Boys.

But that said, they have published some good books recently that have somewhat gone unnoticed. As you mentioned Ex Machina is a great accomplishment by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris. Gail Simone’s Welcome to Tranquility was a great take on super heroes and aging. And most recently Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler’s Mysterius the Unfathomable (the trade is out in 2010) was a wonderfully unique book that everyone should check out, as well as the super recent ongoing that we’ve all been enjoying, Red Herring, with art by the great Philip Bond. That’s the tough thing about WildStorm, every few months you see a glimmer of the type of imprint they could be, but for whatever reason, they can’t seem to be able to get it together. I do feel badly because I was a fan of their books since the beginning and it’s been a rough go of late for them. But hey, they finally published that last issue of Planetary, so maybe things could be turning around? I’m sure whatever changes occur at DC Comics post Paul Levitz, WildStorm will be affected, so it’s worth keeping your eye on.

Ron Richards

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for answering my question Ron.  Is the Wildcats stuff worth going back and reading? 

  2. @Cutty  If you like team books then Wild C.A.T.S. is worth a trade or 3. I can’t name my favs off the top of my head but it’s pretty good stuff

  3. @Adam/Zeppo – Two points:

    1) Don’t give up your loves. Ron won’t give up X-Men when he knows it kinda sucks (neither will I), and Conor won’t give up Bat-books. If you love Spidey, continue to read Spidey.

    2) I think that Josh has a good point about narrative storytelling in the Vertigo books – it’s really nice to have a beginning, middle, and end. However, I would suggest that those books are precisely the ones best suited to read as trades, since the stories feel great as chapters in a finite story. I consider myself a big Fables fan, but I have never bought an individual Fables issue.

  4. I can’t wait for that Mysterius trade to hit.

  5. @coltrane68 – I have been reading Fables in issues for quite some time, but started in trades.  I find that they work equally well in issues.  Mr. Willingham seems to know how to structure the issues such that they feel complete, but still work coherently as a trade.  I don’t necessarily prefer issues, but I am an impatient person, so I buy issues.

  6. I still imagine an editor at DC doing a spit take over any number of the pages at the end of The Boys first arc.  At least they were pretty cool about what their decision in the end.

  7. I imagine editor Scott Dunbier leaving Wildstorm had something to do with the aimlessness.  He’s at IDW now.

    They’ve sold a lot of Gears of War comics though.

     

  8. While I really enjoyed Paul & Jim’s articles on the subject, I don’t think it’s totally fair to say that because major changes probably aren’t going to stick over the entire life of a character, then it’s futile to ever expect any kind of growth or change in mainstream superhero stories.  I think it depends a lot on how large a piece of the puzzle you’re looking at.  For the sake of argument, we can say that Peter Parker isn’t much different now than he was in 1962, but, say, Rich Rider has developed over the time that Abnett & Lanning have been writing him, Bucky Barnes isnt’ the same character that Brubaker re-introduced a few years back, Renee Montoya has certainly changed in the time Greg Rucka’s been writing her.  So I think it’s fair to say, ‘Peter Parker/Hal Jordan/Cyclops isn’t very interesting to me now, so I’m going to look for a character who is, realizing that what’s new and interesting now might be static in 6 months, and then I’ll look somewhere else.’

  9. Similiar history to Zeppo, and I was kind of bouncing around as to whether or not pick Amazing Spiderman back up, my hesitency based on the going-nowhere-drift I was getting just by reading the gists the storylines. That’s an excellent point though, Josh. Ultimately with superhero yarns from the big two, all you can really expect to be is entertained by the middle since the beginning is behind us and there’s won’t ever be an end.  With that mindset, I’m curious to give ASM another shot.

    Also, I’ve read very little Wildstorm in the past, but I’m pretty jazzed for a couple of 2010 Wildstorm titles. Sparta U.S.A by David Lapham looks good and I’m expecting great things from Kurt Busiek’s American Gothic (Connor Willumsen is on that title’s first arc for art duties and that guy is just…wow).

  10. Is World of Warcraft doing well for Wildstorm? It seems at though WS has become the licensed property imprint for DC. While they still have some original book, if it’s a LP then it’s published by Wildstorm: New Line Horror, Chuck, Fringe, X-Files, Push, Gears of War, WOW, etc.

    Still love that Spidey cover.

  11. i was surprised to learn that Tom Fowler, the artist on Mysterius, lives in my hometown (Ottawa, Canada). Now i HAVE to buy the trade to support a local artist! (plus it sounded really interesting on 11 o’clock comics)

  12. Zeppo–don’t worry about the differences in storytelling between the Vertigo books and the mainstream superhero books from the Big Two.  Coltrane68 is right…if you’re enjoying the stories in Amazing Spider-Man, it’s most likely that it’s still worth buying.  The storytelling styles for the superhero books are similar to soap operas; they’re meant to keep continuing and developing new storylines, with definite endings or closure to overall storylines a rarity.  Most of the Vertigo books seem to be developed with a definite beginning, middle, and end in mind, and each chapter builds on the events of the previous chapters, much like the Wire from HBO.  That show was developed with a definite structure for the story they wanted to tell, and most of the Vertigo series these days seem to follow a similar structure.  Fables, for example, seems to have been expanded from its original plan of running a certain number of issues.  The only superhero book that I can think of in recent memory that was conceived with a definite ending in mind was James Robinson’s Starman, but I’m sure there are other examples.

    In terms of Wildstorm, I think the beginning of the downward spiral were the events around and after 9/11, when DC editorial continued to censor the work of Millar’s Authority, and the plans to release Garth Ennis’ Authority series were scrapped.  Although books like Wildcats 3.0, Automatic Kafka, and Stormwatch: Team Achilles had lots of critical acclaim, the sales never seemed to recover from the early days of the DC merger.  Many of the big name talent that had previously worked for Wildstorm left for other publishers (Ellis and Hitch, for example).  Alan Moore wrapped up his work on the ABC titles.  The final nail in the coffin was the premature collapse of the "Worldstorm" relaunch, where Grant Morrison never followed through with his planned work on Wildcats and the Authority.  Sales and confidence in the line in general have slid ever since.  Sure, there have been lots of quality works from the line in the meantime, but too little sales and too little exposure have diluted the line.

  13. Aren’t iFanboy darlings, Abbnet & Lanning, on The Authority right now?

  14. For me, I was done with the Authority after Millar/Quitely.  I feel like I only really liked it when Warren Ellis did it.  I’ve tried it here and there, but he really shined on those issues.

  15. "Mainstream superhero comics never go anywhere.  If you think Amazing Spider-Man is good right now, then you should be pretty pleased, because this is the best you’re gonna get, buddy!"

    But…Spider-Man used to grow up. He graduated high-school. He went to college. He became a teacher. He got married. I heard he even had a kid.

    There’s other examples. Dick Grayson sure as hell grew up. So did Kitty Pryde.

    I agree that mainstream superhero comics USUALLY don’t go anywhere. Or they only go places very slowly. But Peter Parker was definitely a character that grew up. Part of the reason many fans didn’t like Brand New Day when it started was not so much because it "threw out continuity" but because it basically de-aged or at least de-mature-ized Peter Parker. I think Amazing Spider-Man has been pretty good overall, but I think what Adam/Zeppo is noticing is that the Spider-office has a mandate to produce light-heared "fun" no matter what, and that kind of has to come at the expense of character maturation.

  16. But all those things can be recalled.  They moved Peter Parker backwards.  That’s not going to happen in Y: The Last Man, for example.

  17. "For me, I was done with the Authority after Millar/Quitely."

    That’s kind of my take on it in terms of endings in ongoing comics. Sometimes a run is itself a begining and end to some readers. To me, once Johns and Eaglesham finished on Justice Society or Brubaker/Lark on Daredevil, it was done (to be fair, I did read the succeeding creative teams on those books for a few issues, so really while those titles might not be done, I sure am). Obviously, my way of thinking is erroneous under the cruel dictatorship of technical truth, but my reasoning works much like Conor’s continuity logic; I, the reader shape how to interpret the story and where it ends for myself.

    So, to me, in a way, Matt Murdock becomes leader of the Hand and lives happily ever after THE END. Daredevil will pop into other books, but that’s like a cameo. And if Daredevil starts up and grabs hold of my interest again whether with a new creative team or just some awesome new event in DD ongoing, it’s the unexpected sequel (as opposed to the almost expected sequel that movies have these days, which is not unlike the expected continuing of a comic title even with no merit, like Astonishing X-Men post Whedon/Cassaday). 

    Amazing Spider-Man is a little more difficult to think of in that way, but eventually the near-weekly ASM fixture will end, and so will that epoch of Spider-Man to some.  Endings of finite series often leaving dangling bits, that’s part of a good story is the feeling of "What happens next?" because good stories recognize that life has no "happily ever after"s. It continues after the great, epic tale that took place as one part of a person/people’s life/lives. Think of the past stories of the X-Men, for example, in relation to Astonishing. If Astonishng is all you read of the X-Men, all those past stories are like the childhood of the main character of a finite series. It’s important to the development of the character(s), but not necessarily 100% necessary for you to enjoy AXM. Whatever is important from that time is likely told via exposition or flashback. Anything that comes after AXM w/ Whedon/Cassaday is the elder years of those characters, in this analogy. 

    All in all, your ending is where you make it mentally, but in truth, Josh is right in that there are no true endings in mainstream superhero comics until (hopefully never) Marvel and DC go out of business. 

    I wish I could ramble this much when it comes to school papers. 

  18. I don’t know why, but when I see the words WildStorm, I always think of Authority(And my deep hatred of the kind of book that is, despite it’s… wonerful isn’t quite the word, but let’s go with that, wonder story.) and Wildcats(And the ignorant Stigma I placed upon it, yet refuse to even attempt to change) and just think of what a horrible line of comics it is, even though Ex Machina and Sleeper are two of my favorite books.

    I need to give Wildcats a Chance, but I just can’t seem to say to get past all of its hype, and its overall feel of it being like a book right outta Todd MacFarlanes neck of the woods, even though, from what I hear it is far from. Especially if Allan Moore is writing it. But somehow that adds to that feeling.

  19. The Wildstorm ongoing series are pretty entertaining still, Authority by Abnett and Lanning and Wildcats by Christos Gage.  I think (as somebody wrote earlier) the biggest problem was Grant Morrison/Jim Lee’s Worldstorm relaunch that never continued.  The sales numbers for both of those issues were great, but nothing ever came of it.  A lot of fans were reluctant to come back and read the next "relaunch" even though the series have been going for years now without any delays or relaunches.  World’s End actually became the first line of comics where the good guys didn’t save the world, and because of its contained continuitity, it actually works.

     

    For anybody that gave up on Authority with Warren Ellis, try the first issue of Abnett and Lanning’s run and see if you aren’t hooked.

  20. @ Josh

    Thank you for answering my letter, and for not messing with the grammar. I don’t know why colour has a u in it, I just know it does.

    I have since writing the letter bought Sweet Tooth #1 and Haunt #1, and enjoyed them both. I’ev also picked up League of Extrodinary gentlemen in trade. I’m gonna stick with Spider-man for a little longer, but was my pull list gets longer, Amazing continues to be in danger. At least until it goes back to once a month. If ever.

  21. Here are some recent interviews with some folks at WS that give the run down of what’s going on with Wildstorm

     Ben Abernathy: Looking Beyond the Worlds End Horizon

    http://theauthority.ws/interviews/abernathy4.htm 

     Kanalz Drives WildStorm Towards 2010

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=23319 

  22. @Zeppo – I’m probably stealing this from Ron many moons ago but if you ever want to stop a comic and then get back into it without the, presumably initial, cost involved, you can always check out your public library and then test the waters for picking it back up.

  23. that’s some great information you posted there ChrisStriker — thanks!!