Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The End Run

What If... DC Comics decided to end Batman once Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and Bob Kane had left?

Would we have gotten Batman: The Dark Knight Returns?

What If... Vertigo decided to not end Sandman with Neil Gaiman?

Would we have gotten something akin to Nancy Collins' Swamp Thing following Alan Moore's heralded run?

What If... DC Comics had continued Starman after James Robinson's departure?

Would his have have remained the "definitive" Starman run?

With writers John Rogers and Greg Rucka leaving the titles Blue Beetle and Checkmate, respectively, I'm left with this question:
"Is there really anything left for anyone else to say?"

Let me elaborate, new comic launches are a risky proposition nowadays. With the market being what it is, in order for a book to survive a new superhero launch has to be...

A. An extension of an already popular title or character i.e. Supergirl or a Robin.

B.
"From the pages of..." a popular event such as what DC did to launch Blue Beetle after Infinite Crisis.

or...

C. A very specific vision on the creator's part.

Books such as Sandman, Starman and John Ostrander's Spectre were considered to have fallen into the category of "C" and allowed the rare liberty to end as the writer saw fit. These runs have gone on to be heralded as classics of our storytelling medium. Whereas, comics such as Swamp Thing were allowed to go on, eventually petering out under the weight of the respective legacies their "definitive" writers left behind.

The above mentioned were uniquely creator-driven comics.

Comics such as Blue Beetle, Checkmate & Matt Fraction's Immortal Iron Fist, to me, fall into the C category, as well.

Blue Beetle and The Immortal Iron Fist are two of the quirkiest comics to have hit the stands in years and in much the way I just cannot imagine anyone other than Keith Giffen writing Ambush Bug, I just can't see anyone bringing as unique an energy to these two characters. It was because of this particular energy that we came and maybe stayed in the first place. Without that particular vision to guide it gone, will these titles be able to sustain themselves independent of their roots?

That said, the next few months will find me at the crossroads.

On one front, I'll most likely stick around for Matt Sturges' Blue Beetle run. I adore the character and Sturges seems to love it as much as anyone. Sturges is great on Jack of Fables and I really enjoyed his first issue of House of Mystery. Here's the "but."

He's not Grant Morrison. Who is? Only someone with the stature of a Geoff Johns or a Morrison can sustain a low-selling title such as Blue Beetle. He shows up, readers show up. Sturges, while an excellent writer, can't sustain a title, not just yet any ways.

Checkmate had Rucka's handprints all over it: a love for all things procedural, an adoration of the interconnectivity of the DC Universe and pacing that unfolded as the story saw fit. Checkmate was heaven for a Rucka/DC fan. Next month finds this title written by Bruce Jones, a man known, in my circles, as "an excellent jumping-off point." Nothing against the man but everything I've read by him lately has left me cold. After reading Nightwing for nearly a decade, his run was what made me finally drop the book. I hate to say it like this but I believe they should have canceled Checkmate outright rather than let it come to the end I see for it, imminent cancellation.

The Immortal Iron Fist? I just don't love the character that much. Matt Fraction on the hand...

Characters like Superman and Batman can sustain themselves due to their iconography and the fact that once popular they, by necessity, had to become a collaborative effort. Nowadays, with every comic rapidly being swept up in "events" it's truly refreshing to see comics such as a Blue Beetle or an Immortal Iron Fist, comics that aren't necessarily directly tied into an editorially, bottom-line driven agenda. Essentially, these comics were allowed the space to grow and tell their stories, essentially becoming comics with a vision.

These are the comics that I love to read.

So, my question is two-fold:

"Will you still read a comic once a certain creator leaves?" and...

"Should more titles become "retired" once a creator's told the story they set out to tell?"

11 comments:

Rob S. said...

I'll be reading Blue Beetle. I like Sturges' Jack of Fables, and I think he'll do the character justice.

I'll be picking up the new iron Fist books, too, pending reviews. I've heard good things about the new writer from Ed Brubaker -- not just on his potential for Iron Fist, but about his crime novels before Brubaker left IF. So I don't think he's blowing smoke there. I'm reading IF in trades, though, so it may take a while.

As for Checkmate, I switched over to trades after deciding to skip the Outsiders crossover. So I'll be getting Fall of the Wall soon. If DC is smart, they'll package a short Jones story with the last three issues of Rucka's run -- I'd be likely to buy that as a trade, so I could sample. I'm less likely to pick up the book as individual issues.

I like that DC is trying out new creators on titles instead of canceling them. It shows a bit of faith in the properties. But at best its a gamble.

The Blot said...

I can't even begin to tell you how upset I was when I found out Jones was taking over Checkmate. I have really enjoyed the book from day one and I'm not even the biggest Rucka fan, but I hate Jones.

I can never forgive him for destroying Nightwing (I also dropped the title after struggling to get through his horrible story telling after reading it since issue 1). I definitely think its ok to continue a book after a definitive writer leaves though. It's just the way that comic books for the most part work. Most of the time I actually enjoy seeing how other writers interpret the characters we've come to love and the types of supporting characters they surround the heroes with. The first example of this that comes to mind are the different yet equally great runs by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns on Flash

With that being said, Jones is a deal breaker for me. I'd rather see almost anyone else take over Checkmate than him. I'm expecting the worse, so maybe, just maybe, it will end up being a much better run than I think it will be. But my guess is he’ll destroy the book and ultimately lead to its cancellation.

Nick said...

Will you still read a comic once a certain creator leaves?"

Yes but, only if their replacement is as good or better. In general if the writer can't fill the past writer's void by two or three issues they aren't gonna.

There are exceptions of course certain writers you just can't replace, Brian K. Vaughan being the most prominent example that comes to mind. Runaways...well I am sorry nobody else can write that as well as him, same goes for Y: The Last Man. Vaughan just has a certain voice in his writing, that once established within a reader's frame of mine, it cannot be replaced by another voice. (Sorry Joss, it's true dude)


"Should more titles become "retired" once a creator's told all the stories they set out to tell?"

Yes, see Runaways., lol. Certain series only work well with a particular writer.

Warren Ellis - Transmetropolitan /Nextwave

Brian K. Vaughan - Runaways / Y: The Last Man

Robert Kirkman - The Walking Dead / Invincible

Bill Willingham - Fables

Ben Templesmith - Wormwood Gentleman Corpse

and SO SO many other series just can only be written by their original writers. I am not saying Geoff Johns couldn't take a crack at Fables but, as good as Johns is, I doubt he'd be able to write an issue as well as Willingham..and I doubt even further that people would wanna keep reading the series without Willingham's unique voice and overall style of storytelling.

Ok....sorry I am rambling now.

Devon Sanders said...

Rob S.

Good to see you over here.

As soon as I finished writing the post, I resolved to continue reading Blue Beetle. The character is everything that I like about comics and just won't give it up. Besides, Sturges has made me LOL quite a few times on Jack of Fables so, he gets the benefit of the doubt.

Blue Beetle is worth fighting for.

Blot:
You just don't know how much I want to keep reading Checkmate but that man's name on anything just means "waste of money" to me. I just can't even bring myself to pick his first issue.

Nick:

Runaways, under Whedon, is the perfect example of creator-driven comics gone wrong. I hated the fact that after Vaughan had Karolina and Nico came to an understanding about their relationship, Whedon just threw it back in. Did he not read BKV's run? Between the lack of understanding the characters, the uninspired writing & the lateness of the book, I had to drop it.

ChrisM said...

Devon!
Great to see you posting regularly!

Some of the most memorable "runs" of characters came AFTER "c" with a specific vision of a character. Examples:

*Swamp Thing. Issues 1-19 by Marty Pasko and Tom Yates..but then picked up by Alan Moore. Was doomed to be cancelled and became fodder for a massive success.

*Doom Patrol. We forget the run that preceded Grant Morrison-was a very distinct vision storyline (option c) by Paul Kuppelberg and Erik Larsen/Stephen Lightle.

*Batman is a constant example of "how much awful or mediocre storytelling can we withstand until someone picks up with a creative storyline for 5 or 6 issues"

*Daredevil was down in the dumps (even with Gene Colan) before Frank Miller took it off and applied his magic touch to it.

its true, not everything can survive that period when a book has lots its initial momentum-but maybe
EVERY new issue with a new creative team is a possible "re-launch"...

Who knows what creative team could have taken over Starman and made it into an even MORE definitive run? But now we will never know-because it was cancelled. (altho certainly the opposite could be true)

Its new. it frightens us. But somebody had to try chocolate ice cream before it became popular..

Jon said...

I'm sticking with Blue Beetle, since I think Rogers has built a strong enough foundation for the character to grow on, regardless of who is writing him. Plus I love too many of the characters to let them go willingly.

Iron Fist might get one issue to impress, but I have no feelings, good or bad, really for the character, so I expect to drop it. The series has been really cool, but I don't "care" about Danny Rand.

I guess the above kindof illustrates how I feel about your first question- it depends on why I was reading the book. I read IF for the writing (and art), with both those gone, so am I. BB I took on because it seemed an interesting idea, and it worked out as a bonus that the writing was excellent. Sometimes it's the character that strikes a chord, sometimes it's the creative team.

As to retiring titles, I don't see it as necessary. We're free to come and go as we please. Birds Of Prey for instance will forever start and end with Gail Simone for me, but there's plenty of life in those characters to keep going.

Gyuss Baaltar said...

I've got 20 years of Amazing Spider-Man that shows what happens when sticking with a character through good and bad.

There is a whole lot of bad in there.

Heck, the current way the book is being written, I'm only getting 1/3 of stories that I consider good. Dan Slott is really the only one in the current creative team who writes decently.

There are very few characters I'll stick with like that, but I think Blue Beetle could be one of them.

geekent said...

Grant Morrison on Animal Man paved the way for Tom Veitch's run, which was okay, but then Jamie Delano came on and it was fan-frickin-tastic. Birds of Prey was Chuck Dixon's baby but after a few rough patches Gail Simone took it to greater heights. Wasn't Catwoman Brubaker's miracle baby, but Will Pfeifer's done a beautiful job with her.

That said, Starman could not live beyond James Robinson (he barely lived through Robinson's run... it got pretty blah after they half-way mark (signalling Tony Harris' departure and David Goyer's arrival... which reminds me JSA was also a Robinson/Goyer baby which then became a Goyer/Johns infant and finally Johns' supermodel teenager).

Altogether it really depends on the book, the character and the creator.

Some books/characters are the creators' from start to finish, nobody else should touch them. Other books are a specific character concept driven by the creator (eg. Dan Slott's She-Hulk) which subsequent creators just won't be able to emulate. Does that mean there aren't other takes on the character to be explored? No, but it also means it's going to be harder for a fanbase/audience to accept the shift to a new creative team (I like Peter David, but it's not the same She-Hulk).

What really needs to be considered is the match... is the person right for the job? Can they a) bring a consistent vision/tone to the character or b) bring their own unique vision to the character that will only grow the property?

Matt Sturges is an unknown to me but I can see based on what I know about Jack of Fables that he'd be a fit for Blue Beetle (as Will Pfeifer was also not a disappointing supplement).

Bruce Jones on Checkmate, though? Why not John Ostrander? The logic there confounds me (not that Ostrander is really a similar writer to Rucka, but he's proven himself on the style of story the book tells). I don't think Checkmate should be cancelled because Rucka left, but I only hope it can survive Bruce Jones (and there's always the element of surprise, slim as it may seem).

That said... I've jumped ship on every title bearing Tony Bedard's name.

Jordan said...

I think it will be extremely hard for me to stick with Green Lantern after Johns leaves. But then again, I really love Hal and the gang, so I could see myself hang around. But only if the art really hung around. Thats the deal breaker.

I think the signs are clear that JMS will leave Thor and Fraction will pick it up. That is a decision I support. We saw how well he did in the Ages Of Thunder one shot and the art was great too. I found that that model works really well. Release a one shot with the guys you are planning on having take over the book, gage the response and THEN make your decision.

CalvinPitt said...

Unless the oncoming writer/artist is someone whose work I've concluded isn't to my tastes, I'll stick around to at least give them a try. That's what I'm planning with The Punisher once Ennis leaves in a few months, and with Immortal Iron Fist (though I'm more concerned with the artist than the writer on that one).

As for whether the title should stop after certain creators leave, I don't really think so, since you can potentially miss something great. If something that follows is terrible, well then, you can always ignore, pretend it never happened.

Now, if nobody wanted to try and work on a title after a specific creator, then I could easily see ending it when they leave. Say, if no one wanted to follow Moore's Swamp Thing, then sure, end the title. But if there's someone who thinks they can do something good, might as well give them a chance.

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