Marc Alan Fishman: Another Three Bite The Dust
I’m tempted to be cheeky. I was considering writing this whole article in a faux-eulogy for our newly departed (departing …) series from the New 52. But, let’s be honest, I’ve done it before. So, how about we cut through the pretense and figure out why – beyond the obvious – these series are headed back to the scrap pile.
For those not in-the-know, Blue Beetle, Grifter, and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E have been given the axe. Ask Bob Wayne, Sales Guru of DCNew, and he’ll proudly produce the following PRSpeak:
“There’s always going to be some pressure on whether or not the new idea being pitched is maybe more exciting than another series we have that may have already told its story,” he said. “That might mean it’s maybe time to put that title on the shelf for a while or have the characters migrate into some other title. So there’s not really a hard and fast rule where there’s a line in the sand where if it falls below this point on the Diamond chart or doesn’t make this percentage of X, it’s gone. It’s really very story driven.”
So, there you have it kiddos. Blue Beetle, Grifter, and Frankenstein simply told their story. And they needed to sit out for a while so some new books can grace the shelf. Well, that’s sort of true. As ComicBookResources properly reported, all three of the titular characters here will all show up in new books. Consider then, if you will, the following conundrum: If a title is canceled in the forest, and no one cares, can you just move the important pieces into another book and call it a day?
I’ll be honest. Out of those three books, I’ve only read one. I purchased the first 10 issues of Blue Beetle. I gave up after one too many crossovers and false starts. This is after I reviewed the book, positively, over at MichaelDavisWorld. Simply put? The series has yet to find solid ground to stand on. Akin largely to the now defunct Static Shock series, I felt the editorially mandated ‘must-see-teevee’ issue drive has tanked the series. Over the course of just a year in publication, Blue Beetle has received his super powers, fought his best friend (who became a villain Beetle), moved to New York, got in the way of the DEO and Director Bones, fought his best friend again, fought Kyle Rayner’s rainbow brigade, and will end his series fighting the Reach, creators of his bug-suit. I’m pretty sure before the end of this volume, he may fight his best friend again. Is it any wonder the story is ending? It never started!
Over at Frankie and the Slim Shadies? Different song, same dance. On paper, it’s actually a bit baffling. The series has enjoyed a nearly consistent creative team – and a cursory look over several review sites even show that the book was consistently entertaining. But as I glazed over the 13 available covers, I saw a schizophrenic book. One week, the mean green machine is slaying the rot. Another week? An underwater monster. Then some insects. Then OMAC. Obviously, Jeff Lemire knows how to write well. And it appears he tried to breath as much life into the book as the lightening bolts would let him. But what I didn’t see there in all the reviews … consistency of story. I guess when you have to change gears like Frank swaps limbs, it’s not an easy task to stay alive. Heh.
And how about Grifter. Much has been written about the Rob Liefeld production. Suffering from the same repeated editorial mandates, and shoehorning of the Wildstorm Universe into the DCU … is it any wonder that all of the WU books are tanking on the sales sheets? Ooops. Sorry. I mean “story sheets.” Because all of this is really story driven, folks. Keep the simple facts in mind. They had a team in place at launch. Nathan Edmondson and CAFU. It didn’t take even six issues for the carousel of artists to fill in and out of the book. Then at issue nine, enter Liefeld’s typewriter. And three issues later? Another new penciler. Is it any shock to you that when a book changes artists this much, it’s circling the drain? Go look on your shelves right now, and count for me the number of creative team shifts that occurred in the best runs of your favorite books. Yeah. I thought so.
Ultimately, these three series each have had high points and low. By their very nature of being DC titles, they see sales indy guys like me and my kin would kill for. They are distributed far and wide. They are reviewed on countless sites. They are picked apart and debated for their merits. At the end of the day though … the powers that be want to see success. And put any spin on it you want … if the book isn’t banking beaucoup bucks (or I surmise … banking enough to be above water, or carrying the possibility of future licensing deals), the grave is dug in the ditch next to the road. Let’s not be unrealistic; we knew that the New52 was not going to deliver 52 critically-acclaimed sales-powerhouses. The zeitgeist would never have been able to sustain that much hype, love, and attention. What this is … is what it’s always been; the nature of the comic industry is to die and be reborn at the right place and the right time.
Mourn not for Grifter, Blue Beetle, or Frankenstein, kiddos. They’ll all be back, and be canceled just as quickly, when we cover the New52 NOW next year.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander