The More Comics Change….

She-HulksWhether it’s Halloween, the changing of the leaves, or just the oldies station’s startlingly early transformation into “Your Christmas Station,” this time of year always gets me thinking about what cyclical creatures we are.

Actually, I know it isn’t any of those things. It’s Daylight Savings Time, that weekend when people in my part of the world halfheartedly try to save some kilowatts by abruptly disrupting the entire nation’s sleep cycle. To many people, this weekend was a time to “fall back” and get an extra hour on the pillow. To me, it was an annual reminder that my children cannot tell time. As I slid out of bed at 5:00 a.m., I thought about a day years and years away when this would stop happening to me, a day when these people could reach the cereal, be trusted to lift the milk alone, and read well enough to operate the television. (Until you have kids, you don’t stop to think about all the things you have to know just to work the DVR. Illiteracy will not cut it in a world where Super Hero Squad is three submenus down. I was part of the last generation that could blunder into the living room alone on a Saturday morning and start just turning the knob until I saw Snorks.)

Then I started thinking about where we were at this point last year, and before I knew it I was browsing through the archives. It turned out that a lot of the exact same things were on our minds at this point in 2010.

A week or two ago, I finished interviewing several people in the comics scanning community. The only other time I ever interviewed anyone for iFanboy was almost exactly a year ago, when I grilled Harrison Wilcox and Ryan Stegman about their upcoming series, She-Hulks. I was really excited about what I was hearing. Between the time I wrote the interview and the time I posted it, She-Hulks was already canceled. Or turned into a miniseries, anyway. I can’t remember if an issue had gotten the chance to come out yet; I only remember that I decided not to interview anyone else for a while, just to be on the safe side of whatever voodoo hex powers I might have been channeling. A year later, the chattering masses are having the same conversations about Nick Spencer’s Iron Man 2.0 as well as his Doctor Doom miniseries, which just got canceled before it ever saw the inside of a shop. I would like to state for the record that I have not interviewed Nick Spencer.

Actually, at this point last year, it seemed like we had seen a lot of good series get the ax without getting a chance to prove themselves, and that was going a long way towards killing my buzz at the time. This year, right on schedule, I feel the same sort of malaise starting to creep back in. The books are piling up on the coffee table a little bit, and all the news I read seems to be about layoffs and books that are ending. DC treated its relaunch like a line-wide “Event,” and now that we’re hitting Month Three I must confess that I find myself feeling a bit of event fatigue without the event. That level of excitement is just unsustainable. The most noticeable effect of their strategy is that now I’m Jim Stickler, Schedule Cop: “Hey, didn’t Batgirl come out on Animal Man week? Where’s my Batgirl? What happened to Supergirl #2?”

Miles MoralesOn the other hand, once I have a chance to shake off the seasonal blues and catch up on some sleep (somehow; painting eyes on my closed eyelids? Faking a coma? All suggestions welcome) there’s a lot more to be excited about right now than there seemed to be last year. While the wall-to-wall coverage of the New 52 wiped out my initial enthusiasm pretty quickly, the great books are no less great for it. Batwoman and Swamp Thing remain pleasant surprises you didn’t have in your life a year ago. Better still, if you’re like me and made a couple of lousy picks for which #1s to buy, all the ones you left on the shelf have now enjoyed their monthly digital price drop. Meanwhile, as we have discussed, the other publishers are doing some of their best work in ages.

A year ago, I almost sustained an eye-rolling injury when Marvel released a cryptic teaser about “The Death of Spider-Man.” Oh, great, I thought and probably said, another one of these. What an obnoxious stunt to waste everyone’s time with. Do they straight-facedly expect anyone to believe that they’re killing off Spider-Man?

Well. A year later, Miles Morales and his book are on the fast track to becoming one of my favorite characters and comics, respectively. If nothing else, I should keep that one in my back pocket as a valuable lesson: resist the inclination to get so cynical. Maybe I’ll check in again next year and let you know how that’s going.

Jim Mroczkowski is amazed that, a year after writing about it, the Magic Kirkman Spoiler Bubble remains eerily intact, even on Twitter.



  1. I don’t mind changes in comics. It’s one of the exciting parts in comics, characters, artist , writers, ever part of the comic. Sure some are good and some are really bad but exciting none the less. I’m just so glad that Miles Morales is working work. I really wanted to like this character. Sara’s art is great as well. Thanks for the post

    • I agree. I love things like Morales (or Miguel for that matter). Change it up as much as you can, keep it fresh, don’t be afraid to experiment (any game company CEOs reading this can take the same advice), but don’t keep down the same path if things aren’t working. Good article.

  2. Well Marvel just announced another book cancelled before seeing the light of day with Van Lente’s and Hotz’s ‘Destroyers’ mini.

    With DC absolutely crushing them in sales for the first time, and the reports of Marvel hitting some financial troubles lately, this can’t be a good sign for the future of the company. Marvel almost disappeared because of bankruptcy at one point in the past. Will we be seeing the start of another scare here?

    • I don’t think Marvel’s current issues are truly the result of DC’s current success. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marvel Comics become more of a support arm or R & D lab for Marvel Studios (since that’s where the money’s at).

    • Marvel Entertainment makes a TON of money. Just not from the comics.

    • @conor We’ve seen companies let a portion of profits disappear.

      Who’s to say in the distant future Marvel has to abandon comics from lack of sales and just focus on TV/Film? The comic industry isn’t doing well as you always point out so this could be a possibility. (Not saying it’s a 100% possibility but never say never)

    • @TheNextChampion: I didn’t say they wouldn’t abandon comics (they won’t) but I was refuting the idea that the company was in trouble.

    • @conor: Well with them have serious, financial issues and canceling titles left and right to save money; hard not to see that the company is having SOME troubles.

    • @TheNextChampion: There’s a difference between the company and a division of the company.

    • TNC, I think you’re assuming that the recent cancellations have more significance or are more indicative of financial problems than previous cancellations. Was Marvel in trouble when Captain Britain was cancelled?

      While there seems to be some kind of change happening in the corporate environment, I don’t think it’s anything that has a direct effect on fans.

      There are a lot of steps between canceling some D-list books and the collapse of Marvel Comics.

      And even if the sky was falling, unless we can EACH get 100 people to magically want to buy comics, there’s not much we could do about it.

    • @Ken I just think that with Marvel not having problems cancelling books that even aren’t solicited yet, that has to be a sign of worse things to come. It’s become a joke to make fun of Marvel quickly cancelling books; but now it feels like it got real with these two latest cancellations.

    • @TNC: That’s a good point.

      My counter-argument would be that canceling books before release might speak more to Marvel’s faith in their market forecasts. At this point, they know what they can sell. I’m sure there have been many times when “art for art’s sake” or a gut feeling from editorial can get a book pushed through despite poor sales forecasts, but my guess would be that (for whatever reason) Marvel is giving more weight to the commerce-minded side of things.

      And while I can certainly get behind a “bean-counters wreck everything good” point of view, a more streamlined publishing line (a la the New 52) might be good for Marvel right now.

    • As a comic book retailer, I can tell you that DC has cancelled numerous collected editions after receiving initial orders from retailers leading me to believe that lackluster orders did not justify the expense of printing those collections. I think the same can probably be said about Nick Spencer’s Victor Von Doom series.

      The last three issues of Iron Man 2.0 have sold three copies each at my small, Midwestern comic book store. (We sold over 100 copies of the new Justice League #1.) If the numbers aren’t there, then books are going to get cancelled.

      Many comic commentators have pointed out that we’re seeing titles today continue to get published selling numbers that would have meant cancellation 5 years ago. If a publisher cancels some titles, it doesn’t mean that they’re “in trouble.” It means that the bean counters have finally done the math and are tightening the reigns.

      Personally, as a fan and as a retailer, I would have no problem whatsoever if Marvel & DC cut their monthly output by 25% or more. They need to focus on quality, not quantity. Publishers across the board need to understand that (usually) for a customer to pick up a new title, they have to drop another title. The same goes for comic book retailers. We can’t just keep adding more and more titles for space and budgetary reasons.

      IMHO, Marvel is the biggest offender when it comes to flooding the market with “blah” books. Their overproduction distracts readers from the good stuff that not enough people are buying (like Moon Knight, Punisher, Daredevil, Thunderbolts & X-Factor, to name a few). Marvel cancelling books is a step in the right direction from my perspective.

    • @marc. I agree that Marvel puts out quite a few “blah” books. My main problem isn’t that the books are so much crap, as that they’re crap for the price you pay. I would be happy to be a monthly Moon Knight reader but I’m not paying $3.99 a book for that week story. The only two series that I pay $3.99 for in Marvel are/were Deadpool Max (1-12, not pulling Deadpool Max 2), and the new Spider-Man. I read Deadpool (main) and Dakken which are both hit or miss books but I don’t mind a miss for $2.99. Mr. Bendis may say that the readers don’t vote with their wallets, but I think the recent events are proving him wrong.

    • @TheSquirrel: Bendis, Quesada and others have been preaching the “vote with your dollars” line for a few years now, so I think we’re just finally seeing readers actually behave that way.

      Which I think is a good thing. If people stop supporting the weaker $3.99 books, either the price will drop or the creators will be replaced in an attempt to increase quality.

      I’m sure there are lots of $3.99 books I’d like a lot (X-Force, Wolverine) but at that price point for 20 pages, I’m not even going to SAMPLE a book – let alone pull it every month – unless I’m SERIOUSLY interested in the characters/story/creators (like I do for Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine and The X-Men, and Ultimate Spiderman).

    • @ next Champion – I’m sorry but the logic of what you are saying escapes me. The only measure you can say as to whether the Marvel comics division is ‘in trouble’ is whether or not they are making a profit and how they profit compares with previous years.
      The fact they are canceling books before they are being released simply means that they have changed the benchmarks that books have to meet and some books that were announced no longer meet those standards. it is clear they are going through a wave of cost-cutting which is probably a reflection of how they are forecasting the economy going next year.

    • Oh and the idea that Marvel will stop publishing comics is also ridiculous. Firstly, the business is profitable. i remember Wood writing a piece for ifanboy a while ago where he looked at their financial statements and said they are one of the most profitable magazine publishing companies on a unit by unit basis. Secondly, look at how much of the current wave of marvel movies are inspired by the comics? Thor has a clear debt to JMS, Captain America has a clear debt to Brubaker and they all owe something to the Ultimates. Ceasing to publish comics would basically freeze these franchises in time and kill them. I think Marvel Entertainment knows that.

    • @TNC–I don’t see canceling titles as a sign of weakness…actually a sign of strength. Cutting the dead weight immediately, even if it means looking at pre-orders and figuring something isn’t worth printing. You should go do some homework and look up the guy who runs Marvel. He’s Mr. bottom line. A company that makes their own creators buy the books they work on, is going to be very strict with the spreadsheets.

    • Marc@AlterEgoComics nailed it.

      Sorry, TNC. Don’t subscribe to your line of thinking.

  3. Snorks.
    Smurfs who returned to the deep to worship the Old Ones.

  4. I don’t get the Supergirl #2 reference…

  5. As I see it, there is nothing “cyclic” about companies announcing new books, cancellations, big news, etc. That stuff comes out all the time, including the “hey, we’re going to put this book ou- ohhhh, no we’re not” news. You can’t really look at it from a calendar-year perspective either, since companies can’t afford to wait until January or, say summer, to make announcements. You never see “Coming in 2012!” or “Just in time for the new year!” I don’t know if you would call the copying – or imitation of – story driven ideas as a cycle. Examples include Green Lantern Reborn followed by Captain America Reborn (I know it’s rebirth, whatever), and not exactly related, but Flash Reborn and now Bucky ‘Reborn.’ Lately, Marvel is the guilty party for following DC’s moves. Hey, there’s a cycle!

    One cycle I miss from the old days, and these aren’t so much business-related as they are story related, were the “Christmas/winter” stories where our heroes are swinging through the snow, and Batman’s knocking on a door wearing a Santa hat.

    Last thought about cancellations: I wish there was one main place that carried all the cancellation updates. The evil side of my personality would love to keep up so I could say “ha ha your book failed,” but I also like keeping up with it because ccancellations are good indications of the industry’s health.

  6. One other comment about the state of Marvel because it is mentioned here. Just putting this out there, and not as a doomsday prophet. When The Walt Disney Company wants to shut down a media product, it does it instantly and completely. I worked for the company for 20 years and can speak from experience. This shut down typically happens due to profits, but not always. Disney Magazine, SoapNet and now their soaps (as television shows), Disney Stores (although they got them back, they completely revamped the product), theme park merchandise, Club Disney, DisneyQuest, resorts, Web initiatives, employee benefits, many tv shows and cartoons AND COMICS. Remember when Disney bought Gladstone with the intention of selling its own books. It failed miserably – for a few reasons – and so it dropped the division like a hot potato.

    This is a GIANT entertainment company, its origins and thought-processes immersed in the big-money business of movie-making. If Disney beilieves the comic division isn’t making money, or it wants to ________ Marvel or turn it into _________, it will do the research, make a decision and it execute that plan without hesitation. Most likely, Disney doesn’t care what other companies are doing in this industry. It wouldn’t matter to them if DC and other companies continued printing comics if Disney believes it can shut down Marvel’s printing side and still find profit by producing product another way. Will they shut down part or all of Marvel any time soon? I doubt it. So many factors are in play. But if something like that was announced tomorrow – totally out of the blue – I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.