… or, to put it another way: Civil War creators download American Born Chinese while watching Heroes, New York Times reports
To wrap up anniversary week, I enlisted Chris Mautner to help me recap some of the bigger news topics we’ve covered here at Blog@Newsarama over the past year. So let’s take a look back at some of the stuff we covered in the past 52 weeks …
Red-headed stepchild no more
Comics finally come into their own
You know you’re past the “Pow! Zap! Comics aren’t for kids anymore stage” when no less a journalistic stalwart than The New York Times starts covering comics in-depth, not only in their Arts section but in their venerable Book Review section, and then starts running actual comics by folks like Jamie Hernandez and Megan Kelso in their Sunday magazine.
Of course, there are plenty of folks out there who will derisively scoff at the medium every chance they get, but obviously some sort of tipping point has been reached, as the past year saw comics continue to gain acceptance and even praise from not only the general public, but the mass media as well. Certainly the recent onslaught of movie adaptations (see below) helped, at least in the book sales department, as people snatched up volumes of 300 and V for Vendetta like they were popcorn. But it was more than mere movie tie-ins that got people sitting up and taking notice.
No other book did more to help draw attention to the medium last year than Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. Her memoir of her relationship with her late father garnered fantastic reviews, attaching itself on a number of “best of” lists and even winning a “best of year” place from Time Magazine.
The other big book of note was Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese. Garnering a National Book Award nomination was quite a feather in Yang and First Second’s cap and marks a real ackowledgement from the intelligensia that comics are a form of literature in their own right.
There’s more of course. The debut of First Second and other publishers starting their own graphic novel lines. The 9/11 book. The debut of Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics series. All of these helped underscore the notion that comics are beginning to garner some serious cachet.
Superhero comics had their day in the sun too, of course. Spider-Man’s unmasking in Civil War #2 hit the newspaper wires before the issue even hit stores, prompting angry responses from fans who like their New York Post stories with spoiler warnings. And let’s not forget that little-known Marvel superhero that bought the farm. What was his name again? Captain something?
And then there’s manga. While the rest of us feel good about recent developments, it pays to be reminded that series like Naruto and Fruits Basket gave every graphic novel out there a good, solid thumping in the sales department. It’s in the offices of Viz and Tokyopop where the true mainstream comics are being made.
It’s better to burn out than to fade away
DC, Marvel make headlines with big event comics
Looking at the traditional “big two” comics companies, DC and Marvel, their output and what their fans talked about were heavily defined by their big event comics this past year. When we launched this blog, Infinite Crisis had just ended, while 52 and Civil War had just started.
Both companies had their ups and downs. On the one hand, many people were excited about Civil War, at least when it started. And 52 seemed to be enjoyed by many fans, and the fact that they hit all 52 weeks on time gave them some bonus points.
On the other hand, no one was happy about delays in Civil War’s schedule, delays that meant other titles that tied into the book were also delayed. And DC’s other “event” that was going on in their regular titles, One Year Later, didn’t seem to fair as well as its weekly counterpart. Heck, I personally saw it as an opportunity to drop a bunch of titles I wasn’t enjoying.
As Chris noted above, we watched as the big events saw big headlines outside of the traditional comic circles. It was almost like watching a well-played poker game, where each company showed their cards and watched fans react. I’ll see your dead Superboy and raise you a blown up Stamford. I’ll see your destruction and raise you a lesbian Batwoman. I’ll see your overhyped and underused lesbian and raise you an unmasked Spider-Man. Oh yeah? World War 3, baby … we’ll kill a whole country. Kill your foreign country … we’ll double down, and kill Captain America.
You’re all a bunch of perverts
Sex, gender and comics
If there was one issue that lit up Blog@ and the rest of the Internet during the past year, it was the gender wars. Sex, sexuality and sexual orientation provided a torrent of irate postings, blog entries and general grumpiness on both sides.
The arrival of the all-new, all-lesbian Batwoman in 52, for example, ignited a wildfire amongst the mass media and the comic book cognoscenti alike. That, in turn, led to questions about how the Big Two treated the few gay and lesbian characters that existed in books like Young Avengers. Were they treated equally as supporting characters or did they serve as little more than tokens? The announcement of DC’s Minx line, on the other hand, while met with some hopeful applause, left a lot of people wondering why there weren’t more women creators providing titles for the label’s launch.
But it was superhero comics and their boy’s club mentality that drew the most ire from fans, particularly female fans. Whether it was Michael Turner and his shaky grasp of Power Girl’s anatomy, the anime statues, DC trying to make Supergirl seem sleazier than Britney Spears on a bad day, the in no-way tacky Mary Jane statue or the Heroes for Hentai cover, there seemed to be no end to the parade of pandering.
Of course, while all this was going on, fantastic work by folks like Miriam Katin, Marjane Satrapi, Megan Kelso, Alison Bechdel, Renee French, Linda Medley, Lauren Weinstein, Colleen Coover, Becky Cloonan and many, many more was making its way out there. In fact, the past year has seen a ton of fantastic work by female creators, suggesting that perhaps we’re focusing too much on what’s going on in one corner of the room, and not enough on what’s going on in the other.
Video killed the Radio Star
Comics and computers do mix
If there’s any issue that gets people talking … um, I mean, besides the one Chris just wrote about above … it’s downloading comics. For some, it’s a complicated issue about sharing rights, access to out-of-print material and reading in a preferable format that most of the comic companies aren’t providing. For others, it’s simply stealing.
When we posted about Dan Slott asking people to stop downloading She-Hulk on bittorrent sites, it set off a firestorm of comments about right and wrong, DC and Marvel’s stances, and what the heck comic companies are doing about it.
DC and Marvel, meanwhile, each have different views on the subject.
“I think it might end up helping us more than hurting us,” said Dan Didio, executive editor at DC Comics. “I don’t really see it affecting sales, and I think it may be a way for people who are not already fans, who are curious about a book or a character, to get exposed to that material.”
“I’m not sure how dangerous it is to the industry, but [downloading] just sort of ticks me off personally,” Quesada said. “As an artist I know my work is out there, and we’re trying to make a living, we’re trying to take care of our families, by being paid for our work. I think if there’s something you like, you should pay for it.”
What doesn’t seem complicated is the solution – some sort of iTunes for comics that allows comic fans to access to buy electronically formatted comics and lets the companies get paid. While Marvel, Top Cow and even MTV are still working on their own electronic comics strategies, some companies are ahead of the curve, like SLG with their EyeMelt.com site. Dan Vado gets it.
And don’t forget the countless web comics creators and collectives – PvP, Perry Bible Fellowship, Chemistry Set, ACT-I-VATE, Lunchbox, just to name a few — all offering comics directly on your screen and making a success of it. Even CBS and NBC have gotten in on the game. Paper? We don’t need no stinkin’ paper …
Hollywood ya be my merry go round
Anyone seen any good movies lately?
The success of 300 proved to Hollywood that a movie adapted from a non-superhero graphic novel could, indeed, attract an audience and make gobs of money, which will no doubt be good news to fans of Toupydoops.
But if rampaging Spartans weren’t your thing, there were plenty of other comic-related films to check out. From X3 to Spider-Man 3, from Superman Returns to Ghost Rider to, um, Pathfinder to Persepolis, comic book films continue to mean big money, or at least decent money, for movie studios.
There was also quite a bit of cross-pollination between Hollywood and comics over the past 12 months, as beloved writers like Brian Vaughan and Jeph Loeb heard the siren song of TV and film and started working on shows like Lost and Heroes. Comics, meanwhile, said turnabout is fair play and netted folks like Richard Donner, Jodi Picoult and the mangod known as Joss Whedon.
Perhaps the biggest change in terms of “comic adapted for other media” is on the television screen. Sure, everyone checked out that Justice League episode of Smallville, but it was Heroes that made the big splash. Despite the lack of skin-tight costumes, the show proved that an episodic, fantasy-based drama that relied heavily on comic book idioms could find and keep a large television audience. Just further evidence that funnybooks aren’t being sneered at anymore.
From our perspective, we’ve had a great first year. We’ve learned a lot, shared our perspectives, sharpened our skills, widened our coverage and hopefully made things around these parts at least a little bit more interesting and fun. We’ve watched our visitors grow by leaps and bounds, pissed people off, made them laugh and hopefully added something to the chaotic whirlwind that is the comic book internet.
And we plan to do it for another 52 weeks … and hopefully many more after that.