The Decline of the Comic Monthly

The whole Batman/Superman: Earth One experiment–basically an Ultimate-style reboot, but skipping straight to graphic novel collections without a monthly series first–is going to be interesting to watch. If all goes well, it could be a breath of fresh air for the bloated and suffocating mainstream superhero comics industry.

I mean, the way I see it, monthly comics are sort of an anachronism anyway when it comes to serialized story-telling. It might work well for self-contained stories, but looking at the state of modern comics today has pretty much convinced me that there’s not a lot of room for quality story-telling in the current DC/Marvel status quo. It’s a too-many-cooks problem; each successive writer wants to make his mark on an established property in a new way, but the editors understandably want to avoid permanent change as much as possible, and use each series as a launching pad to get people interested in other comics produced by the same company.

So rather than strong storytelling, you get an endless series of ludicrous twists, even more ludicrous retcons, gratuitous crossovers and major events that you need to purchase 20 different issues of 20 different series to understand will supposedly CHANGE EVERYTHING until that gets retconned too six months later. If comic publishers just focused on giving writers and artists free reign in relatively self-contained graphic novels or graphic novel series, then they might be able to get back down to the meat-and-potatoes of crafting a compelling narrative.

On the other hand, Spencer Ackerman–to whom I defer on most matters related to the Marvel Universe–evidently believes that there are still some good monthlies out there. Which might very well be true! But without having read the series in question, I’m going to cautiously suggest that it doesn’t sound like it does anything that couldn’t be done in a less serialized graphic novel form. And from my experience, Brian Michael Bendis tends to read better in trade paperback form anyway, for the same reason that highly serialized TV shows like Mad Men tend to be more enjoyable on DVD.

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One Response

  1. The last great monthly I read was Ostrander and Mandrake’s “The Spectre” which was the only non-Vertigo monthly (besides some X-Men stuff in the mid 90s) that was consistently good (and the early to mid 90s was filled with a *lot* of crap): http://www.comicsbulletin.com/features/113764296542110.htm

    I believe it’s possible but I think you’re right that a graphic novel is really the space to create something that doesn’t get bogged down in cross-promotional nonsense.

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