Rank This: Marvel, DC, & Image Comics

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!

-Nick Flair!

DC Comics’ Convergence #0 Review and My Thoughts and Opinions on DC Right Now

If you didn’t already know, on Wednesdays (Aka New Comicbook Day) I work at Richmond Comix on Richmond’s South Side, where they are nice enough to give me a Pick of the Week! I post that pick on Instagram and Twitter, and then review that book/series here on Thursdays! Nick’s Pick this week is Convergence #0 by DC Comics.

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Alright. Bare with me on this one, because in order to properly review this book, I have to open the flood gates holding back my thoughts on DC Comics as a whole. This is going to be a long one…

I’ll start with the actual review of Convergence #0, and if you choose to continue to read my thoughts after that I applaud you. If you decide the review is enough for you, I will completely understand.

If you don’t know, Convergence #0 is the lead in to DC Comics’ big event that is supposed to forever change their brand (Again). The story itself revolves around Superman and Braniac. Two characters most of the world are familiar with. The story opens on Superman following the events Of Superman: Doomed storyline. He finds himself a prisoner outside of time and space by a cosmic powered version of Brainiac.

Brainiac talks of how “no matter the universe or timeline” Superman “demands attention”. Superman continues to try to figure out exactly what is happening (as does the reader) as this cosmic Brainiac talks of experiments and testing Superman. In perhaps the most potent pages of the book, the New 52 Superman is shown the death of multiple alternate versions of himself. This includes Infinite Crisis and The Death of Superman in the foreground as the two most powerful iterations.

The book goes on to bounce Brainiac, through perhaps every version of the character from DC history, as Superman continues to try to figure out where he is and how he can escape. He talks with the ever-changing Brainiac, who seems to be the underling of the Cosmic Brainiac, and discovers that they are on a planet remade by Brainiac. It hosts several cities taken from their timeline just before its end. This is why the Cosmic Brainiac has gone after the New 52 Superman’s Metropolis.

This is meant to lead into the 2 month take over of the entire DC line. For all of April and May every book DC puts out will be a short series with stories from all over their canon. Pre-Flashpoint, post-New 52, and from in or near every Crisis. You’ll see Wally West as the Flash speeding through time with his twin children, Bruce Wayne and Thomas Wayne both in costume as Batmen fighting side by side, and the return countless others that didn’t make it to the New 52 Universe.

The book sets up the principles for what is to come in the Convergence event, but for me personally doesn’t build any actual excitement. If you’re a Brainiac fan, the highlight of this issue is probably seeing all the various iterations of the character throughout the book. For me, the only part that was interesting was the two page spread of the ‘Deaths of Supermen’, which was the image most used to hype the book. If someone asked me, I’d say you could not read this book and miss nothing going forward.

Now. The following are my thoughts on DC, and purely opinion and speculation based on my experiences reading DC comics, and talk with friends and patrons in the comic shop I work in. You’ve been disclaimer’d, here we go.

“I think DC Comics has a Problem.”

I think DC Comics has a problem. I think they don’t know what they’re doing anymore. It’s the equivalent of a baseball pitcher in a drought because someone washed his lucky socks, or a guy with a case of the “yips” who’s now gun-shy and lacking confidence when talking to girls because of a bad breakup or rejection.

I’m going to start with the New 52. In 2011, when they launched this grand reboot into the world, no one could say DC wasn’t brave and bold. It wasn’t quite unheard of, but never on such a scale and as blatant as they were doing it. The Entire DC Universe changed. Wildstorm characters were integrated into the main world, classic untouchable characters like Superman were completely revamped, and recently rejuvenated and popular characters like Batman and Green Lantern were hardly changed.

This was going to be blending everything awesome from all aspects of DC together and set up new storytelling for years to come! At least, it was supposed to be. We got some good stories initially. Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Aquaman were surprise titles that captured everyone who read them! Batman: Court of Owls was one of the best Batman stories ever! Fans were excited!

Unfortunately, the good books were few and far between though. Books that had excitement for what they could have been did not live up to the hype. Firestorm, who had gained interest in the pages of Brightest Day took a drastic turn from what had garnered the character attention. Fan favorite characters like Deathstroke and Grifter failed to live up to what the fans wanted. Books like Voodoo and Mister Terrific left fans wondering why they had been written at all. DC had squandered an opportunity to re-ignite their brand.

They tried something ambitious, and it didn’t work. You can’t really fault them for that can you? Everything I read prior to this made it seem like a well thought out, years in the making change. I was optimistic, but at the same time didn’t like the thought of a total reboot. I wrote as much in an article for FreestyleRonin.com called the “Reboot and Progression Freestyle.” I sighted the great job DC had always done in passing on the heritage from hero to hero as they passed.

Barry Allen had a golden lore behind him as I grew up reading Wally West, who had taken the mantle of The Flash, and had continued a great run of heroics. Kyle Rayner and John Stewart continually tried to redeem all the wrongs done by Hal Jordan before he died re-igniting the sun, and return the mantle of Green Lantern to heroic status. These where more than heroic names, they were families of heroes, that as readers, we felt apart of. There was a connection.

“I think I was mostly confused by the reboot.” 

When the New 52 started, I think I was mostly confused about the reboot. I’d been reading Batman and Green Lantern before Flashpoint, and now those titles seemed mostly the same. Damien Wayne was still Robin, and there were still Blue Lanterns, Red Lanterns, and so on, but everything I’d invested so much time in reading with the Brightest Day story arc was gone. The new Aqua lad they had introduced, all the changes to Deadman, all the revived characters that were supposed to have critical roles were wiped away.

Was the reboot planned far in advance?

To me, it seems like DC has become more reactionary than revolutionary. Dan Didio was interviewed recently by  Newsarama and made some of the following remarks when asked about Convergence;

“When we launched the New 52, it was a rather harsh ending to the current universe. We did the Flashpoint story, which led us into the New 52, but you never got that sense of closure, like you did with other events.”

(But I thought you planned it out so far in advance?)

“What’s going on in the New 52 and the stories right now feed very nicely into the main Convergence storyline.”

(So maybe it should be called Convenience instead?) 

“And ultimately, you know, we’re leaving every door open everywhere. We want to see what the reaction is, where the excitement is…”

(So you’re throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall and seeing what fits?)

“What we’re going to do right now is really make a commitment to our stories and characters, to make sure we present our characters in ways that are consistent to people’s beliefs of them, and telling stories that we feel will entertain, excite and surprise them. If that’s something we can do, then we win, because we build a foundation from which we can continue to build stories for years to come.”

 (Years to come? So more than one year, but less than the four that the New 52 made it to. Got it.)

“I LOVE Flash on the CW, and that scares me”

I don’t mean to be smarmy or a jackass when I make these snide little comments (well mostly), but it just pains me as a reader to like less DC titles every year. I love the animated movies. I loved the Young Justice and Green Lantern cartoon series that were prematurely cancelled. I LOVE Flash on the CW, and that scares me because it seems everything I love from DC gets rebooted or cancelled.

I want for DC to be awesome. I want to enjoy characters I used to love again. Is Convergence the step in that direction? I’m not convinced it is. What I got out of reading the interview with Dan Didio, is that (Once again) DC is throwing everything to the wind, and now instead of a coherent universe, they’re going to tell a bunch of stories from all over. If it sells, they’ll keep doing it. If not, they’ll scrap it.

Dan says he goes to the Cons and listens to the fans and what they have to say, but I don’t know what he’s really hearing. I work in a comic shop. I read a lot of books. I hear a lot of conversation, I participate in a lot of conversation. I think I head different things from the kids who can’t make it to a Con, and the guys that don’t have the money to travel to an event like that. I hear the guys that like to talk about it in the private confines of their local comic cave. I think I’m more in tune than the heads of DC, and no one is confident in DC.

Am I wrong? Possibly.

I invite anyone who’s taken the time to get to the bottom of this article to add their thoughts either here in the comments section, or on social medial with the hash tag #AreYouListeningDC.

I’ll end my rant here in familiar fashion with my personal tag line.

The World is Ours to Make.

-Nick Flair.