MIKE GOLD: You say you want an evolution…
I like Martha Thomases’ idea of 365, as reported on ComicMix yesterday. A full-length comic book story each and every day for a year. Now that would be an event.
Sadly, most such comic book events aren’t worth the effort, let alone the price. The stories are overblown, their effects on their “universe” temporary – either in the sense that they will be countermanded or, at best, castrated in the next such event.
(Hmmm. There’s a phrase I’ve never written before. “At best, castrated.”)
By the time they’re over, most events turn out to be nothing more than marketing gimmicks, and an endless sea of marketing gimmicks doth not a universe make. As of this writing Captain America is dead but Bucky is alive – something he’d managed to avoid for over 40 years. As Denny O’Neil pointed out in his recent ComicMix column, death has no permanence in comics. As a plot point, it is hackneyed: it may have collectibility, but it has no credibility.
Wonder Woman has been redefined, resurrected, rebooted, and retold differently so many times since 1965 (arguably her first real reboot) that I’m surprised she doesn’t bump into Tony Soprano at her shrink’s office.
Of the two major universes, Marvel’s is the most consistent – but only by comparison to DC, whose universe had to be cobbled together retroactively by combining the efforts of five publishing houses over 70 years: DC, All-American, Quality, Fawcett and Charlton – and maybe Fox, depending how you, ahhh, look at Phantom Lady. But by and large, in the past couple decades Marvel’s change has been evolutionary and not stop-and-start-over. Spider-Man went step by step from being a four-eyed high school wallflower with a secret identity to becoming a publicly known married-to-an-actress superhero and, oh yeah, menace to his nation. Marvel never stopped and said “Oh, now everything you know is wrong; this is the way it is and the way it will be until we need to burrow into your pockets again.”
On the other hand, Wonder Woman… Oh, hell. Let the poor woman figure out how she’s going to keep her psyche together in Countdown. I’m sure it won’t be easy at all. Or pretty.
If you take a vacation from either universe and then sample a trade paperback reprint at your neighborhood Borders, you’ll probably figure out what’s going on with a Marvel title. Except maybe the X-Men books, which are a bit complicated (although my daughter did it last year). But at DC, you will have missed so many metamorphoses – pun not initially intended – that you’re likely to give up before you try to figure out which other trades you have to purchase.
Yeah, these are the ravings of an ancient DC Comics fan. I know folks over there on Broadway, across from the Ed Sullivan Theater, who share this point of view. They are ancient DC Comics fans as well. And maybe as we drift off into retirement we’ll all have time to figure it out.
But I long for the days when on-going storylines were evolutionary. It’s better storytelling, and it makes me think that the publishers are trying to sell me good stories and not simply multi-covered temporarily collectible “events.”
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.com
Artwork by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito copyright 1965 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.