Finding something even remotely diplomatic to say about these Wildstorm cancellations might be beyond my abilities, so please consider that an adequate warning.
The odds grow worse, though. Diamond’s closely scrutinized Top 300 also hit Friday, and that’s always more than enough to depress any industry watcher, especially when coupled with the official announcement of the next rip-roaring 25 part Batman crossover. Saw that in Wizard last month, and put money on the fact it was another in a series of April Fool’s jokes, thinking to myself that the self-proclaimed “Guide to Comics” is getting lazy, they’re even trying with these gags anymore. I suppose the joke truly is on all of us. We lose two superhero comics with fully functioning brains, receive criminally low sales on undeserving books, score the next in a series of Bat-overs, and watch the most popular franchises Xeroxing themselves into eventual oblivion.
This industry is just depressing me to pieces lately, and if you aren’t in a similar state of abject disappointment, then why the fuck not?
Because Jim Lee and Michael Turner are swapping covers for a month? Because Rogue is receiving her own ongoing? Maybe it’s the inventively titled Bat-over “War Games” that’s got you all moist? If this is truly the case, if I just hurt your feelings, then SBC sincerely apologizes, because this week, I can’t do it. I’m tired of this running dialogue the online community keeps having amongst itself, bemoaning the cancellation, and lack of industry wide support for any title attempting to be unique in some form. On the one hand it’s encouraging to see fans rally behind one another, swearing that Wildcats and Stormwatch: Team Achilles won’t just fade away into the halls of canceled titles, but how do we keep ending up here? Why is it always necessary to force feed the market the intelligent approaches it needs to remain viable? Ed Brubaker has to arm wrestle fans into picking up Sleeper, The Walking Dead and Rex Mundi should be selling at least twice what they are now, but it’s cool because we get “War Games” in its place. I can’t force myself to care about an 87 chapter Bat-over when we’re losing smart books, and you shouldn’t have to either.
But it’ll work out exactly how DC intends it, sales will spike across that line, and from a commercial standpoint, they’ll be encouraged to publish another one in the not so distant future, and right in there you’ll discover the inertia of this industry we can’t stop railing against. The titles that need it the least receive the most backing, while everything else gets support that refuses to extend past our online vacuum. This allows the companies to ignore what’s going on in here, and continually offer the readership nonsense with reckless abandon, driven by nothing but immediate profitability. While yes, this is the land of commercial art, and yes, we have more books breaking the 100K mark, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen, and if a Top 10 writer or artist isn’t onboard, a title will be forced to kick and scratch its way through the chart.
That’s not the most relevant issue though. Consider that if I know this, if Millarworld knows this, if the usually intolerant message board posters at Newsarama knows this, do you believe for a minute that DC Comics doesn’t know this? They PAY people to know this, and if still knowing this, the most progressive titles are allowed to just languish in their chart positions, while attention is devoted elsewhere, than who can shoulder the majority of the blame? Who should shoulder the majority?
When companies want you to look at their books, they create ways of drawing attention to them, like for instance, I don’t know, putting Jim Lee on Superman. Or the aforementioned Bat-over. Or on the other side of the ball, getting Joss Whedon on X-Men. There is a certain formula that helps to put titles where the company wants them to be, and if that formula or attention is denied, what does that imply?
I’m not naïve enough to believe that time and resources are a considerable factor here, but the explanation that there is only so much focus to be applied across a company’s line presents its own questions. The comics industry has an unusual preoccupation with launching new titles, and while it’s apparent this is extremely important to any kind of recognizable growth, common sense would indicate that perhaps people are taking on more than is necessary. Instead of solidifying the material a company already offers, the market is offered series after series after series that just might’ve survived longer than a year, if the next month wasn’t already supplying its replacement. Launching a title is a critical stage in a book’s entrance into the marketplace, but we shouldn’t just forget about it because it contains the number five on the cover, and there’s a new X-title to hype now.
Only certain franchises and creators can guarantee a title’s survival with little or no assistance, and it is irresponsible to believe or act otherwise. Even worse, to sit and watch these titles drown in surefire franchises, when anyone that sits down and reads the stuff realizes that it deserves better. The industry is saturated in superheroes and their spandexed maneuvers, and with that about to become much worse in the next couple months, you’d think we could at least maintain a couple books that were saying something different. What other title cast a corporation as the superhero of its epic, or positioned “superheroes” as the ultimate security risk? You add mutants, Bat-people, Bendis, or Millar, and this without question is a bestseller, and even if it isn’t, the sales are nowhere near a cancellation threshold. If there are too many books to support, stop putting out so many, or admit the fact an entity backed by the media juggernaut Time-Warner has more control over pushing its wares than we’re led to believe.
Companies push what they want to push, and if a critical decision maker at DC was reading the Eye of the Storm books, and decided that the publisher was going to get behind these titles until the numbers improved…the numbers would have improved.
The Superman numbers are about to, because someone looked at them and said, “You know what, these books could be selling a hell of a lot better. Let’s fix this.” That’s not to say that DC wasn’t reading these books, or even that they liked them when they did, but if DC made their prosperity and health a priority, than this column would be about something else. They knew these were mature superhero titles, they knew that the creative teams were devoid of industry superstars, even though most of them deserve to be, and they knew these books weren’t just going to come out and sustain themselves on willpower and quality alone. Ultimately, it may’ve proven wiser and more profitable to give the ads and the spotlight to other initiatives, but do not let anyone tell you it HAD to be that way. That they did us some sort of favor for keeping them around as long as they did.
Comics suffers from the same restrictive tunnel vision that several segments of pop culture display, settling on one or two ways of making money, and replicating them until people will claw their eyes out never to see it again. It’s just disappointing to watch someone find, through accident or design, a third and fourth way of making money, only to let it go to waste, and lay the blame on numbers. Even they have limits, and while it’s convenient and even understandable to say, “well, Stormwatch needed some artistic consistency, and Wildcats, while having the best covers in comics, weren’t recognizable from month to month,” there is Jim Lee to consider. You remember him, right? Artistic superstar that single-handedly (no offense Jeph) put a stranglehold on the charts for a year, an accomplishment thought highly unlikely after Marvel got its act together. Because of this, DC should’ve been doing anything in their power to preserve anything Lee had his hand in, and I’m not talking about that average ass crossover we just finished, that failed to highlight the coolest aspects of every title it snaked its way through.
DC is pubbing a collection of old Wildcats and Cyberforce issues that honestly, I don’t think anyone has any interest in reading again, but it contains art by Lee and co-Image founder Marc Silvestri, and both of those names are hot right now. We get Killer Instinct, and the best Eye of the Storm rates is a Hail Mary pass that was never going to hit its mark, because the defense knew that’s exactly what it was? Come on now, don’t insult us. Jim Lee’s propping of the DC Universe is worth massive retailer support, but the books his imprint brings to the table nobody seems to “get,” or whatever the explanation is. I just can’t buy it, can’t rationalize spending two hundred books a month on stuff whose publishers don’t even protect and defend themselves against hostile conditions, that’s heralding the obvious and the safe as the route to take.
Joe Casey will be writing an upcoming Avengers maxiseries that’s going to sell probably three times what Wildcats did, but you know and I know, no matter what he accomplishes with that series, the material that defined his career was his lengthy stay on Wildcats. And soon it’ll be over, long before it should’ve been.
Doesn’t seem right, does it?