An explanation for those hoping to witness The Brian Hibbs Interview part II…

Following some consideration, the piece is indefinitely postponed. The most recent string of questions posed to the vocal retailer prompted an e-mail response [from Hibbs] that labeled my approach Quesada-esque in nature. I highly doubt that I’m on Marvel’s payroll, as their e-mail server seems to be dissolving my communiqués like a strong spermicide, but Hibbs expressed a concern that my line of questioning sounded like it was emanating from Joe Quesada and not from me. He requested a phone call to discuss the issue in man-to-man fashion.

I obliged and we had a short conversation about the course the interview was taking. Hibbs believed that questions inquiring about the unwillingness of any of the industry’s larger retailers to stand with him at this point, and the percentage of his business encompassed by Marvel Comics, to further cloud the issue at hand. If the questioning continued along this path that was gradually becoming more “adversarial” (my term not his), then he may not be interested in continuing on. Which I assured him was fine and that if the two pieces didn’t comment on slightly differing aspects of the issue, complimenting and strengthening the other, then there was no reason to proceed.

Apparently, he did answer a set of “heated” questions, but by universal coincidence, two attempts to send along the answers have proved unsuccessful. We finally managed to sort things out and get me a copy of these answers, accessible via a link in the column to the left. In the meantime, enjoy a piece commenting on the recent Black Panther revamp…


So…I read issue fifty of the Black Panther yesterday.

As the book stares cancellation in the face once again, leaving one hard-pressed to remember a period of this project’s existence where the dreaded C-word wasn’t a consideration, it’s become time to shake things up. Since receiving a sneak peek at the cover during the convention season, I have to admit that my skepticism surrounding the proposed “revamp” nearly eclipsed the belief that Priest could re-invent the concept while maintaining the tone and scope that made BP the best book no one read.

The issue does its job nicely, offering a story that a casual observer could understand with one simple read, leaving enough unanswered questions to bring them back next month. Priest calls this a “crime novel” and from the locales to the characters, to the speech patterns, it’s evident that BP is searching for its new calling as a stylish urban thriller. Dan Fraga keeps pace with Priest, turning in some of the best work of his career with a heavy cinematic influence obvious from page one. The cover reads ’50’ but this approach has little to do with the four dozen issues that came before, leaving one to wonder why Marvel didn’t go all the way and reinvent the thing with a different title. Perhaps armed with a fresh set of downs, we could’ve avoided one very important problem, because…despite initial appearances…

…this book isn’t the Black Panther.

Not by a long shot.

Don’t misunderstand, it contains some of the trappings of BP, the costume is here, the attitude is creeping at the corners, but thus far I fail to see why Marvel is calling this Black Panther.

Black Panther was a title that saw diverse genres like action/adventure, espionage, humor, and political thriller fuse into a concrete form that proceeded to kick the average “superhero” title in the ass. The characters were well-developed and the plots were skillfully constructed so that point A never lead to point B in quite the way you’d expect. Among things of “average” performance, BP is best described as “clever”. When discussing the seminal runs on monthly titles of our modern age, one can usually point to things like Grant Morrison on JLA, or Warren Ellis on Stormwatch/The Authority. Priest’s run on Panther was that good. Over a period of four years…

…if you weren’t reading Black Panther…you weren’t reading comics.

BP was the thinking man’s title, never force-feeding you a difficult concept yet ensuring you understood it by story’s end. It was the book that was always saved until last in the reading pile, because it was something that couldn’t be blown through in the whirlwind reading pattern that can have most books consumed in ten or fifteen minutes. You had to stop and consider what Priest was giving you on a monthly basis, to an audience that was likely a fourth of what it should’ve been. Priest played to the camera even when there was none, and his unwillingness to deliver bullshit is evident throughout.

And some of you out there didn’t even know all this was going on…poor things.

The theories behind Panther’s inability to maintain a large audience are numerous and well-documented. The complexity of the plots that required just a little extra from the reader, while rewarding those already on the train, was one consideration. For the casual consumer, T’Challa’s adventures were just too difficult to follow without investing yourself in the series from the initial arc. I can understand that one.

The racial connotations that the name implies, and the sad economic fact that black characters tend to struggle sales-wise against their white counterparts may have proven the nail that was repeatedly approaching the coffin. Black Panther brings to mind memories of a civil rights organization who’s “militancy” was well-documented by history. That in itself places some retailers and fans into a mind-state that discounts Panther as a title they can’t or won’t be able to relate to. This ignores the fact that BP has as much to do with being “black” as it does with being a panther. But it’s all in how things look, and when everything is put together…things look inaccessible, especially to an audience composed of a larger proportion of white consumers. No amount of preaching from critics and online pundits can kill this idea, but the record skips once again, continuing in its broken phase because some things deserve to be repeated.

Despite the changing of editorial hands on several occasions and a few highly publicized “jumping-on” points, sales never shattered a threshold that would keep the illusory ax at bay for more than six months at a time. The columnist within, unencumbered by pesky concerns such as budgets or marketability would’ve liked Marvel to support the title with more trade collections, as I’m sure single issues remain in short supply, and to have done something daring like moving the property to Marvel MAX, because nothing says “mature” comic like Black Panther did. But alas, everyone without a budgetary concern has an idea about an ad campaign or sales initiative that could save this book. The beauty of back seat driving I suppose.

Which coincidentally permits me to inquire on the status of the grand stunt to save this book? Captain Marvel, an entirely deserving candidate of course, received dunk tanks, dancing girls, and Ron Zimmerman to afford it a spotlight, BP has thus far gotten a new direction that while capable, hasn’t distinguished itself as “clever”, street jive and smoking guns, and Andy Kubert on covers. The hesitance in throwing a #1 on the cover has the conspiracy theorist wondering if even Marvel believes they can save this book. A Dotcomic of this latest issue may prove a solid idea too. We’ll see if Marvel bites…

Ignoring what’s come before, or even just most of it, this first glimpse into the world of the “Black Panther” was definitely interesting enough to maintain my focus until Priest reveals his hand…it’s not King T’Challa and Agent Ross fighting Mephisto, but it deserves your attention.

Those last forty-nine issues were the hotness though, so excuse me while I locate them and hope that it’ll be at least two months before some idiot says, “I like how Marvel made Black Panther more ‘black’ by giving him guns and stuff…”

Now…say hello to an old friend…


The New Hotness:

Powers #24 (Brian Michael Bendis/Mike Avon Oeming)

Bendis does it again. Taking the road less traveled, he returns Walker to the fold and explores an adversary that was introduced in the first issue. People are going to point to Walker and Deena’s heart-to-heart as their favorite scene of this tale, but my award goes to Harvey’s impassioned plea against the presence of “superheroes” on the modern landscape. It’s not often that comics, with their reliance on the familiar archetype, logically present the negative consequences that a flying man in a cape could elicit upon a subservient humanity. Powers has excelled at smashing the concept of the superhero in the kneecaps from the very beginning, and with a simple conversation, the scribe swings his hammer once again, dropping knowledge in its wake. Typical Bendis. It makes little sense for someone to be this good…

The Legion #12 (Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Olivier Coipel)

Olivier Coipel is the next big thing. He’s heading over to Marvel and Geoff Johns to carve into the Avengers, but for now we’ll just have to make do with his version of the battle you’d thought we’d never see…the Legion vs. the JLA. There is a clever trick involving the logistics of heroes ten centuries removed having a violent disagreement, but it nicely falls away into the context of things, and…were you listening? Next. Big. Thing. Big hero fight. Science fiction gone awry and transplanted onto a futuristic society protected by teenagers with flight rings. Abnett and Lanning have re-invented this concept for the new millennium by raising the stakes and Coipel makes sure everything stays sexy. Get it before it’s all gone…


In seven, either another interview or something I’m contemplating called Barrier Method…

Peace

 

About The Author