Normally this is where I post a review of whatever my Pick of the Week at Richmond Comix, but this week I’m going to do something different. I’m going to give you my thoughts on the state of the comic genre as it pertains to the top three companies; Marvel, DC, and Image Comics. Think you know what I’m going to say about it? You might want to read ahead a bit just to make sure.
I think for years, decades really, Marvel and DC have been battling for the throne of comics. For all of my life, you could go into any comic shop and ask who put out better comics, Marvel or DC, and it starts an instant battle among whoever was in earshot. For a long time both sides could make legitimate claims to said throne, but that was then and this is now.
I’m here to tell you, if I had to proclaim a top dog in this yard, it is hands down Marvel. I could gush about how many titles are great, the cohesion of their overall universe and events, or fanatically rant about the Marvel Cinematic Universe for hours. Instead, I’m going to go out on a limb. I’m going to say something I haven’t heard anyone else say yet… DC isn’t even #2 anymore.
“I’m going to say something I haven’t heard anyone else say yet… DC isn’t even #2 anymore.”
DC has lost a ton of momentum and fan support in my eyes since failing to take advantage of their New 52 reboot, and now with their over-correction of an event Convergence. ( I recently wrote about my disappointment here) Granted it’s just an opinion, but I find myself reading no DC currently. None of Convergence interests me at all. Instead what it has done is cut me off from the two titles I was still picking up. (Batman and Batman & Robin) It makes me feel like they’ve given me a jumping off point more than a jumping on point.
“They’ve given me a jumping off point more than a jumping on point.”
It wasn’t always that way though, I was excited about the New 52, and I picked up a lot of books. That number got smaller and smaller as time passed. DC’s mature print, Vertigo, did manage to keep me excited though! With books like Joe the Barbarian, The Wake, Unwritten, Sweet Tooth, American Vampire, and Punk Rock Jesus, Vertigo was giving readers exciting stories outside the DC Universe! There were great creative teams, and each title was given a prominent place in my weekly stack. I’m not currently picking up any Vertigo titles though. Would you like to know why?
Easy answer is Image Comics. Sean Gordon Murphy, Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, and Jeff Lemire were all putting out those books. What are their current projects you ask? Chrononauts, Wytches, Nameless, and Descender are all current projects by those same talents. You won’t find them at Vertigo though. They are all Image titles. Image has, in my opinion soundly passed DC Comics as the main contender to Marvel’s throne.
“Image has, in my opinion soundly passed DC Comics as the main contender to Marvel’s throne.”
How do you like that statement for ‘Brave and Bold’ DC? I pick up five times as many Image comics than DC comics currently. (10 Titles) Working in a comic shop, I see more excitement from books like Saga, Walking Dead, and East of West than anything DC is putting out. Image comics has really upped its game in the last few years. They have some of the best talent from both Marvel and DC coming to them to publish their creator owned work, and the comic genre is richer because of it.
They’ve come along way since launching their first titles in the 90’s. They’ve been through some rough spots, and I’m first to admit, they didn’t have my attention for a long time. I didn’t like their titles, and I didn’t like the fact it wasn’t all one universe. How naive I was in retrospect thinking I needed one big universe.
I started to change my tune pretty quickly after picking up a title called Invincible. Robert Kirkman (Who also created the book that made way for the critically acclaimed tv series ‘The Walking Dead’) gave me a story and a character I wanted to follow outside any realm I knew. It was his own world with goofy support characters, at times classically simple story lines, and really great character development. From there I found myself checking out more and more titles. Invincible was my gateway drug into Image.
The best thing about the titles I read at Image comics is I don’t have to worry about drastic change, and by that I mean the creators maintain their vision. They don’t have editors telling them a book needs to be more or less of what it is. We, as readers, don’t have to worry about a new creative team jumping in and completely changing everything we loved. With most of these books being finite, as in a limited series, we don’t have to worry about plot holes that never get explained or a character outliving interest.
“Why is DC falling behind Marvel and Image?”
Why is DC falling behind Marvel and Image? I’ll hazard you an uneducated guess. There’s an old saying that a fish stinks from the head down. That means the problem generally starts with the man at the top. In this case I believe it lies in the editorial process. I’m not a DC writer, and I don’t know how they go about it, but from what I understand of it, the editors dictate the story. Not the creators, the editors.
Now in contrast to that, Image is all creator owner, so the creators are their own editors and thus dictate their own story.
Marvel has their annual “Retreat” where all the writers gather to discuss their plots moving forward for the next year and/or beyond. MTV gave us a sneak peek into that world when Marvel Now was launching. (Check out the video here!) We saw how organized they were, and how all the creators shared their input with each other. Most importantly though, we saw the creators were dictating what story they were going to tell.
Marvel has mastered the art of telling stories in a complete and coherent universe. The stories being told in Avengers, New Avengers, and even Avengers World all play off each other without a disjointed feeling or missing information. The current Black Vortex story jumps between several titles, but the story remains fluid. And I get the feeling when Secret Wars comes out this summer, people who have been reading since Marvel Now will be rewarded with the culmination of one really big story that we didn’t even know was being told!
Marvel knows they want to tell large stories in addition to small singular stories all within one universe, and they do it. Image knows they want creators to be able to tell their own stories large or small, and they do it. It feels like DC doesn’t know what it wants to do lately. With the New 52 they focused on a large-scale universe they could tell big stories in. They tried and it wasn’t working. Now with Convergence, it seems they want to tell small stories that try to ride off of the “Heyday” of different characters from different time periods and varying universes. It’s like they have no direction, and are experiencing their own ‘Identity Crisis’.
“I think DC should rename ‘Convergence’ to ‘Mid-Life Crisis’.”
DC is known for naming their biggest events as a ‘Crisis’. Crisis of Multiple Earths, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis to name a few. I think DC should rename ‘Convergence’ to ‘Mid-Life Crisis’. That’s what it feels like. I think they’re not sure where they’re going, they’re trying to relive the successes of their past, and they’re seemingly more reactive to what their “neighbors” are doing than planning for what they want to do.
There seems to be major dysfunction from within if you follow DC talent in social media. Here a blogger, John Gholson, documents some of the more public issues. I think because of their inner confusion, DC has firmly given Image Comics the number 2 spot in Comics. Maybe that’s why the minds behind their Vertigo successes have migrated across the way? Just my opinion. Don’t like it? I fully endorse adding your own opinion here or on social media. (Call me out! @XNickFlairX on Twitter!)
With that, I’m done for now.
Here are some of the great titles being put out by Image right now that if you aren’t reading, you should be!
I’ll go back to reviewing my Pick of the Week in 7 days, but in the meantime remember; The World is Ours to Make!