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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Here we go again....

Convuluted, confusing continuity is killing our chances at getting new readers! How in the world will we ever jump on if Marvel and DC will not sit still for one damn moment!?

Excuse me while I breath a sigh of slight annoyance. I absolutely love Heidi's blog, along with a lot of the people that share the same opinions that she has, however I beg to differ on at least one point: Continuity-driven comics are not the problem.

The problem is getting kids to pick up comics. Once we figure out which magic bullet that is, continuity will not be a road block. If anything, it will sell more comics, just like it does now for the established fan base. If kids want it enough, they will wade through an ocean of back issues to get the stories they want to read. And they will enjoy doing so. If the mainstream super hero comics ever manage to find themselves on the kids' radar, floppies and graphic novels will fly off of the shelf, with continuity driving a significant portion of those sales.

Have you looked a child's room lately? Most, if not all, are littered with toys that all most likely share a common brand and/or theme. My nephew went crazy over Thomas The Tank Engine and did everything in his power to let everyone in our family know that when it comes time to buy him something, buy him Thomas The Tank Engine. Kids are completists. My best friend's daughter needs to have anything and everything with Disney's Princesses on it. If she was old enough to read and there was a comic book for the Disney Princess characters, she would have it already along with every back issue and trade that she could convince her parents to buy for her. Instead of the Disney Princesses comic, she has books. Kids want to have each and every thing of whatever it is they are obsessed with. If that obsession turned to Civil War, you can bet your sweet ass they would get every tie-in they could. What they could not get, they would read right off of the rack. I know I did.

Another similiar argument I hear alot on the internet is how the movie version and comic book version do not completely match up. Its an interesting argument, but one I disagree with completely. The first comic book I read was a GI Joe comic. I was eight years old and completely in love with the cartoon and the toys. The thought of reading the GI Joe comic book never crossed my mind until my 6 year old friend and neighbor asked for me to help him read it. After reading that issue, I started collecting the comic on the regular basis. At no point did the fact that the comic book and the cartoon did not completely match up hinder my ability to enjoy it. I might have asked myself "where's Cobra La from the cartoon? How come the Cobra Commander/Fred storyline in the comic isn't discussed on TV? And what about those space monsters and the black pyramid?" at least once, but that was a one time thing only. Maybe I was some kind of freak occurence in the realm of kids that read comics back in the 80s, but I doubt it. Any disconnect between the comics themselves and their TV and/or movie versions will probably do little to dissuaded a determined child. If kids want it, they will get it. In the long run, they will probably enjoy the comic book much more because it does not have to undergo the same creation-by-commitee problems that plague other forms of media.

Using the complaint "the continuity is too complicated" and "this media version does not match up with this media version" when describing the problems with getting kids to read comic books are completely off base and do nothing but show how completely out of touch you are. Passing off your bias towards super hero comics that exist in a shared universe as the reason why kids are not buying comic books is not an accurate assessment of the situation.

In my opinion, the main problem that the Big Two face in regards to continuity is not that they are a slave to it, but the fact that they are doing such a piss poor job at making it work. Continuity should never trump a good story. However, if you feel the need to play with Stan's toys, please understand that its a borrowed toy that you have to share with not only other creators but with the readers, too. The reason why Fabian Nicenza's Cable & Deadpool and The New Thunderbolts CW tie-in issues were so well received from both new and old readers was because Nicenza understands the nature of his job as work-for-hire at Marvel Comics, allowing for him to manuever his way around editorially interference and still tell the story he wants to tell. Continuity, if used currently, can only enrich the reading experience. I imagine that all that continuity that comes with Dragonball Z (this generation's Akira) does nothing but sell more volumes of Dragonball Z as the kids struggle to learn about their beloved Goku and his great, big extended family.

If Marvel was smart, they would have put those Ultimates and Iron Man cartoons on the Cartoon Network. Watching Ultimate Captain America beat the hell out of some bad guys was exactly what I and every other kid I knew growing up would have loved to do on a friday night. As a few bloggers can atest to, the Marvel and DC cartoons of the 90s helped get them into comics. GI Joe is what did it for me. I am almost positive that a good number of manga bloggers can point to the japanese animation cartoons from the late 90's and early 00's as to what helped them make the leap.

At some point, the kids will come back. Give them time. It may not be this huge exodus that people are clamoring for, but they will come. Once they are hooked, they will swim circles around things like continuity. There is a CGI movie with Ninja Turtles right around the corner. Whoever has the comic book license for that property would be very smart to give away free copies of a newly launched TMNT to every child that comes through those doors because if there is one thing that little kids love its god damn ninjas and CGI characters.

6 comments:

Jason said...

You're darn right with all of this. I made several comments on Heidi's blog, an bless her heart, she got a lot of stuff wrong. Insane continuity is what got me hooked on comics. If it weren't for the thousands of editors' notes (ie. see Avengers 154 to see why Thor hates the Swedes) I would not have started obsessing over comics when I was 10, and I would not be obsessed today. If a character I liked showed up in a book, I read it and everything related to it. As to differences between different versions of a character, my son is 4. He knows that the Batman on Saturday morning TV is different from the Batman on my Animated Series DVD's. It doesn't confuse him, he just knows they're different (and that my DVD's are better - he's a smart kid). When I was a kid, the differences between the comic and the TV show for GI Joe only told me one thing. The TV show sucked. Man I loved that comic when it was good.

The main barriers to getting kids into comics are:
1. Cost - when I was a kid I could buy Marvel's entire monthly output for $20.
2. The books are a little rough. Not to say everything was roses when I was a kid. I remember the killer 12-year old from GI Joe (Billy right?), but when you get into rape and Norman Osborne's O face, well, that's when the stop sign comes up. DC and Marvel do have all-ages titles (and they are good), but they're purposely distanced from continuity, so that's a barrier to hooking the kids.

So there you go, I'm off to eBay to see if I can find some GI Joe trades.

Comixace said...

Guys, good points, and I am not too proud to reexamine my own beliefs. In fact I ADMIT that insane continuity DOES appeal to many readers. But it is not the ONLY way to bring in new readers, and if the companies keep pursuing it as their only strategy, they are missing out on many new readers.

Carla said...

Perhaps by "insane continuity" they mean "Gwen shagged the Green Goblin is now canon" instead of "boy there's a lot of comics to read". Those damned little yellow boxes that Qusada hates so much are a huge reason I own long boxes as I tried to get all the issues they referred to for a bigger story. It's a lack of coherent motivation (Reed = Jerk in Civil War as opposed to Reed = Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils for a Better Outcome through Math in Fantastic Four), use of violence to prove how serious they are (which school bus will we blow up today?) and a definite need for focus that are really hampering getting books to kids. By bringing a younger audience into the market with good storytelling and fantastic art, it's not talking down to regular readers, it's just giving us something we all can enjoy.

Keep in mind, I'm just talking about Marvel here. I hear there are these books by something called Dee-See that might be another bag of worms.

Spencer Carnage said...

Jason,

I agree with both of your points. Its so bad that Invincible # 42 being sold for $1.99 is news. With all the ads, you think things would level off, but I imagine the ever increasing price points are there to help pay for the exclusive contracts. And the content of what passes for superhero comics can be down right disgusting. Norman had the S-E-X with Gwen? Is that really a good story? Who cares about messing with Gwen, I sure don't, but retconning things like sex just so you can have the shock of spidey running into a hyper aged Norman/Gwen offspring that looks like Gwen.....egads. That's just wrong.

Heidi,

True. Which is good that they are pursuing Stephen King readers and the younger adult females with Minx. Strangely enough, when the few that comes over from these two avenues ask for more of the same, they'll probably be shown books from other companies.

Carla,

Violence is always going to be forefront in super hero comics. The problem I have is the huge emphasis that is placed on it from the Powers That Be. Buildings fall and crash all over the Marvel U all the time. Applying 911/Patriot Act thinking at the beginning of Civil War were super-powered bin Ladens destroy things all the time just feels awkward and dumb. Killing the New Warriors in the course of all that? Dirty, dirty pool.

The Fortress Keeper said...

The main thing that is preventing my 8-year-old son from reading "mainstream" comics is content - a lot of super-hero stuff is either too event driven or too faux-ralistic for him to understand.

(When told that Captain America was killed , he just replied "What? That's stupid!")

He just wants a story where the good guys beat up the bad guys and there's some cool stuff along the way.

Which is why he loves the Modok issue of the Marvel Adventures Avengers and Jeff Smith's Shazam!

(And Archie. Everybody loves Archie ...)

The funny thing is that many of us are old enough to remember that all Marvel & DC comics were all-ages when we first started reading them.

Cap's fight against the Secret Empire was cool stuff, and the whole Watergate subtext blew my mind as well when I was old enough to appreciate it.

I think the Big Two's constant effort to make Super-Heroes something they aren't is the main reason why kids don't read them.

(Oh, and the Ultimates & Iron Man cartoons did run on Cartoon Network. My son liked the Ultimates fine, but thought Iron Man was pretty boring and basically likes the LSH & Batman cartoons better than either of those ... )

Jason said...

Yeah, I got into comics at the same time the original secret Wars came out and that was awesome. I'll always remember my first superhero comic (I'd only collected GI Joe until then), it was Secret Wars #4 with that awesome cover with the Hulk holding up a mountain. That issue was so good, it blew my twelve-year-old mind.

Incidentally, the LSH series is pretty fun, the Legion of Sustitute Heroes episode is hilarious (complete with Star-Finger reimagined as a disco-villain).