August 27th, 2012 / 9:00 am
I Like __ A Lot & Power Quote

I Love Superhero Wikipedia Pages

Why? Because they’re awesome. Because they are crash courses in thrilling storytelling. Because they are almost incomprehensible enough to be published by a hip indie lit journal. Because they save me the time and money required to read actual superhero comics, which are mostly garbage anyway (with all due love and respect to their creators: I know you guys are mostly doing your best with a ludicrously difficult format and schedule). Because I have a lot of fondness for characters I enjoyed as a child. Because they are so bad and so beautiful. (I’m also in it for the pouches.)

Superhero Wikipedia pages are insane because hero comics are insane. Understanding the conditions and constraints under which any story is produced will of course help you better appreciate said story, but in the case of hero comics it’s really the only way to understand most of what happens. Here are the key facts: 1) Hero comics are published on a monthly schedule. 2) Hero comics serve two consumer bases: teenage boys, who remember nothing, and nostalgic adults, who remember everything. 3) Hero comics almost always take place on what seems to be a present-day Earth. 4) Though comic book movies have never been bigger business, actual comic book sales seem always to be on the verge of collapse.

These facts add up to some deeply weird storytelling conventions. Hero comics are supposed to be extreme and implausible, but even Hollywood blockbusters generally spend a little quiet time establishing characters, exploring their dynamics, and showing how they live their lives between shoot-outs. Michael Bay gives you a romantic subplot in addition to pissing Autobots and racism. Hero comics want to do these things, but they mostly can’t: twenty-six pages of comic is not enough spacetime to make very much happen, and it’s certainly not enough spacetime to allow for laser action, grand speeches, and slower character bits. That is, unless you try to do all three at once. This leads to a lot of fights wherein people also make lengthy speeches mid-punch and have deeply involved discussions about their relationships. Worse yet, because of the fickle teenage boy constituency, everything has to change all of the time (it’s the only way you get them to pay attention) and also nothing can ever change (they don’t remember anything, because they are not reading regularly, so every issue has to be pretty much the same as the last; this is also demanded by the nostalgic adult readership, except for those segments of said readership who are tired of everything staying the same and demand that everything be changed, but differently from how everything is currently being changed, which is the wrong way).

And here’s the cherry on top: hero comics are continually set in the present day, and yet, again, there’s only so much spacetime available in each issue. (Usually somewhere between a week and fifteen minutes.) This paragraph from the Wikipedia page on the Marvel Comics universe explains things nicely (emphasis mine):

Comparatively little time passes in the Marvel Universe compared to the real world, owing to the serial nature of storytelling, with the stories of certain issues picking up mere seconds after the conclusion of the previous one, while a whole month has passed by in “real time”. Marvel’s major heroes were created in the 1960s, but the amount of time that has passed between then and now within the universe itself has (after a prolonged period of being identified as about ten years in the mid-to-late 1990s) most recently been identified as thirteen years.[2] Consequently, the settings of some events which were contemporary when written have to be updated every few years in order to “make sense” in this floating timeline. Thus, the events of previous stories are considered to have happened within a certain number of years prior to the publishing date of the current issue. For example, Spider-Man‘s high school graduation was published in Amazing Spider-Man #28 (September 1965), his college graduation in Amazing Spider-Man #185 (October 1978), and his high school reunion in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #7 (December 2004).

All of this adds up to stupidly elaborate, involved stories that should take years but officially take place over the course of weeks or months. In one year of X-Men time, about ten years worth of story happen: Professor X loses and regains the ability to walk three or four times, most of the cast is killed and resurrected, several alien races invade and conquer the planet, and a handful of time travel/alternate universe plots completely rearrange (“fuck”) the whole thing sideways anyway. And, again, all of this has to happen by way of character-driven fight scenes with lots of stirring speeches, and also everything has to change every month (or, in X-Men time, every thirty seconds) but also everything has to be periodically returned to the original state of play so that every possible reader will know what’s going on in any given comic (which, incidentally, no one ever does know, especially me) and long-time fans never get upset or alienated by revisions to the characters (which, incidentally, is all that fans ever do).

Now take all of the resulting story chaos, filter it through the obsessive attention to detail/functional illiteracy of certain Internet nerds, compress it just enough to be acceptable under the norms of Wikipedia, and you get the Professor X Wikipedia page, quite possibly the pinnacle of the genre. You know Professor X, right? He’s in all the movies, because he’s the guy who started the X-Men in the first place. He’s got a couple of basic characteristics: he’s a Martin Luther King Jr. analogue who believes in the equality of all mankind, he’s a “professor” (i.e., smart guy who teaches in not-a-college), he’s the leader of the X-Men, and his voice is really soothing. Also he needs a wheelchair. Well, that’s where the character started out, anyway. Then fifty years of storytelling happened, all of which officially took place in about thirteen years, and all of which is described in 55 bewildering, contradictory, hyperlinked-out-the-ass paragraphs, the (many) highlights of which I will now share:

Charles Francis Xavier was born in New York City to the wealthy Brian Xavier, a well-respected nuclear scientist, and Sharon Xavier. After Brian dies in an accident, his science partner Kurt Marko comforts and marries the grieving Sharon. When Xavier’s telepathic mutant powers emerge, he discovers Kurt cares only about his mother’s money. … Due to his powers, by the time he graduates from high school, Charles loses all of his hair. … soon, Xavier is drafted into the Korean War. He carves himself a niche as a soldier in search and rescue missions … Deeply depressed when Moira broke off their engagement without explanation, Xavier began traveling around the world as an adventurer after leaving the army. … Realizing that his and Xavier’s views on mutant-human relations are incompatible, Magneto leaves with the gold. … In a strange town near the Himalayas, Xavier encounters an alien calling himself Lucifer, the advance scout for an invasion by his race, and foils his plans. In retaliation, Lucifer drops a huge stone block on Xavier, crippling his legs. … In a hospital in India he is brought to an American nurse, Amelia Voght, who looks after him and, as she sees to his recovery, they fall in love. … Xavier founded Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which provides a safe haven for mutants and teaches them to master their abilities. In addition, he seeks to foster mutant-human relations by providing his superhero team, the X-Men … At one point, Xavier seemingly dies during the X-Men’s battle with the sub-human Grotesk, but it is later revealed that Xavier arranged for a reformed former villain named Changeling to impersonate him while he went into hiding … Xavier forms a psychic bond across galaxies with Princess Lilandra from the Shi’ar Empire. When they finally meet, it is love at first sight. … When the X-Men fight members of the extraterrestrial race known as the Brood, Xavier is captured by them, and implanted with a Brood egg, which places Xavier under the Brood’s control. During this time, Xavier assembles a team of younger mutants called the New Mutants, secretly intended to be prime hosts for reproduction of the aliens. The X-Men discover this and return to free Xavier, but they are too late to prevent his body from being destroyed with a Brood Queen in its place; however, his soul remains intact. … the only way to restore him is to clone a new body using tissue samples he donated to the Starjammers and transfer his consciousness into the clone body. This new body possesses functional legs … After taking a teaching position at Columbia University in Uncanny X-Men #192, Xavier is severely injured and left for dead as the victim of a hate crime. … Charles meets with former lover Gabrielle Haller on Muir Isle and discovers that they had a child. … Xavier leaves Magneto in charge of the school, but some of the X-Men are unwilling to forgive their former enemy. … He becomes consort to the Princess-Majestrix Lilandra while in exile, and when she later resumes her throne he takes up residence with her in the Imperial palace on the Shi’ar homeworld. Xavier joins Lilandra in her cause to overthrow her sisterDeathbird, taking on the powers of Phoenix temporarily wherein he is named Bald Phoenix, but sees that he must return to help the X-Men. … In a battle with his old foe, the Shadow King, in the “Muir Island Saga“, Xavier’s spine is shattered, returning him to his former paraplegic state … As a temporary side-effect he gains full use of his legs … Professor X is for a time the unknowing host of the evil psionic entity Onslaught … Xavier is left without his telepathy and, overcome with guilt, leaves the X-Men and is incarcerated for his actions. … Xavier’s evil twinCassandra Nova, whom Xavier attempted to kill while they were both in their mother’s womb, orders a group of rogue Sentinels to destroy the independent mutant nation of Genosha. … Nova then takes over Xavier’s body. … Xorn uses his healing power to restore Xavier’s use of his legs. … Afterwards, Xorn reveals himself to be Magneto, having apparently not died in the Sentinel raid on Genosha. Magneto undoes the restoration of Xavier’s ability to walk, kidnaps him, and destroys the X-Mansion … Xavier, now depowered but able to walk in the wake of “House of M”, reveals that he had gathered and trained another team of X-Men … Darwin follows Xavier into the crystal and pulls Xavier out. This somehow restores Xavier’s lost telepathy. … In the final fight, Xavier is accidentally shot in the head by Bishop. Immediately afterward Xavier’s body disappears and Cyclops declares that there are no more X-Men. … Charles eventually discovers Mister Sinister had set up Charles, Sebastian Shaw, Juggernaut, and Ryking as potential new hosts for Sinister’s mind.[88] Bleeding slowly to death, he apparently gives in to Sinister becoming the new Mister Sinister. But in reality, Xavier is still battling Sinister for control of his body. … Xavier appears (back in his wheelchair) in the company of Norman Osborn and publicly denounces Cyclops’ actions and urges him to turn himself in. However, this Xavier was revealed to be Mystique who Osborn recruited to impersonate Xavier in public.[100] The real Xavier is shown in prison on Alcatraz and slowly being stripped of his telepathic powers … Professor X resented how the other four members were subconsciously blaming him for the current mess. … Later, Professor X states that he cannot fight his own students and erases his presence in the battle from everyone’s minds.

How awesome is that mess?

One way that writers can genuinely learn from the vacillations of ostensibly iconic characters like Professor X is by thinking about how the scores of people who have written these characters over the years have searched for new angles and story beats to keep them engaging: they throw a lot at the wall, but only a few variations on the basic theme ever stick. The prof. is a sensitive, passionate intellectual whose body has been crippled even as his mind grows immeasurably powerful. He’s also a father figure to the X-Men. Most of his stories are reversals or intensifications of these basic traits. His body is further compromised or simply destroyed (thus granting his mind ultimate primacy; it doesn’t even need that filthy husk). His body is occupied by an alien force, which causes him to betray those who trust him most. Sometimes he forgets to be sufficiently sensitive, presumably because he’s so intelligent, and he lets his powers carry him away. Sometimes his body is restored, and he is made whole. Sometimes he loses his powers, and only his body remains. There were presumably a thousand other changes to the character in the series, but these are the ones Wikipedia remembers. These are the ones that stuck, that became canonical.

If you’re not sure what should happen to one of your characters next, you could do worse than to ask yourself what would happen to the superhero version. Would he lose his powers? Would he get stronger? Would he fall in love with a mysterious stranger? Would he discover a dark secret in his past? Would his body betray him? Try that, and see if it sticks.

I love superhero comic Wikipedia pages so much, I’m currently writing a novel that aims to wed them to certain structural and stylistic tics of Infinite Jest. After an education in character and psychological realism, plausibility and “craft,” I wanted to learn about story. I wanted to write something that was story and story and story. And this is, I think, the best way to think of mainstream hero comics, if you want to look on them kindly: they are pure, untamed story, guided by love (the love of the writers for the characters), by desire (the desire for an audience), by commerce (by the urgent need to sell, sell, sell — which is, I think, an excellent pressure under which to write). Hero comics are rarely graceful, satisfying, or thoughtful. But they do more narrative per page than anything else. There’s a lot of pleasure in that, a lot of humor, and a lot to be learned.

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  1. Roshan Aaaaaaa

      The most absurd constraint to me about superhero comics is that they all take place in a shared corporate universe. ie. When a writer sits down to write an issue of Spiderman, he (or she, but usually a he) is writing a story that has to not only be consistent with every issue of spiderman that has ever been written but every issue of Fantastic Four, XMen, etc.

  2. Roshan Aaaaaaa

      Incidentally,not a superhero comic, but try reading the wikipedia page for “Skeletor”, it reads like an experimental novella.

  3. A D Jameson

      It’s Superhero Week here at HG.

  4. A D Jameson

      But where’s your Little Mermaid review, dammit!

  5. A D Jameson

      The push for such consistency in comics has long baffled me. I think it obvious that it’s largely destroyed superhero comics. 1960s Marvel didn’t operate under such a constraint, and was much better for it. Sure, Spider-Man occasionally showed up in X-Men, or whatever, but it was just a fun cameo, usually, and not some Ulysses– or La Jalousie-like hyper-realism.

      I wonder, why don’t Marvel and DC take a page from cable television, and hire writers and artists with visions for the books, and then let them do whatever they want with them? And make them all miniseries. And give the creators enough time to make something interesting. Kinda like what DC once did with Frank Miller, with Dark Knight Returns.

      Or do both. Keep a few of the stronger titles, like Superman and X-Men, monthly, but make the other ones recurring miniseries where continuity doesn’t matter between the books.

      I mentioned this to some friends, and they pooh-poohed the idea, saying, “No, the comics fanboys like the monthly books, and the continuity.” But it seems to me DC doesn’t care a whit what the fanboys think—hence the Nü52, or whatever it’s called. And if sales are the lowest they’ve ever been, does it really matter what anyone who’s buying them think? Obviously no one really wants them, as they are now.

  6. Roshan Aaaaaaa

      I have often thought the same thing. I’m not the biggest Joss Whedon fan, but I thought his X-men comics were fun and well-written. His complaint when he left the book was that the shared universe of superhero comics put too many restraints on plot and character and he found it frustrating to write. I thought–why not just give the man his own comic, not have it tied into any continuity? Seems a no-brainer, but evidentially it’s just not what fans want.

      I feel like Marvel –loosely–tried this idea in the early 2000’s, when Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada took over the company. Many of the books were put in the hands of more “respected” writers (Punisher went to Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison on X-men, Mike Allred did a weird pop satire X-Force) For the most part the books did not reference one another or the larger Marvel continuity, and I think the books were better for it. It didn’t last long.

  7. Mike Meginnis

      I haven’t seen that movie since I think 1998. So, it may take me a little while.

  8. Mike Meginnis

      This is one reason I’m a fan of Invincible, a hero comic with real weaknesses (the dialogue being the big one — the characters sound a bit wooden and samey, apart from their jokes, which are less wooden but more samey, sort of like a less effective Whedon) but also a number of strengths. Invincible has become sort of the mascot for Image, and writer Robert Kirkman (better known for the highly overrated The Walking Dead) has become a boss at the company, which has led to more (and stupider) cross-promotion with the other books. But thankfully, it’s really only cross-promotion: there mostly aren’t meaningful overlaps in the stories, and the rest of the shared universe works mostly as a prop for Kirkman’s stories, to the extent that it’s acknowledged at all. By and large, Kirkman seems to have a free hand. (It also helps that Invincible and his primary villains are canonically about fifty times stronger than the rest of the shared universe’s characters, which sort of limits their impact on the stories.)

  9. Mike Meginnis

      I do think, though, that the shared continuity is less of a problem than the tendency toward hugely overwrought stories, especially in Marvel’s case (that’s their idea of product differentiation, after all). If these comics didn’t take themselves so seriously, they could get away with playing the continuity much more loosely (or even admitting how loosely they already play it).

      I think that the monthly model remains largely because of inertia. A more thoughtful mix of monthly titles (Superman can be monthly, Spider-Man can be monthly, X-Men can be monthly, etc.) and miniseries would be the obvious direction to go if the two major companies were not also, insofar as they are still really comic book companies at all, better understood as overlapping creative communities attempting to maintain their current structures for as long as possible; no, what they’re doing now doesn’t work, but it does mean more steady work for incumbent creators and their friends. (I don’t mean this to sound like a harsh criticism of that attitude, which I find sympathetic and maybe even correct on some merits.) if there weren’t a monthly schedule demanding a truly unnatural volume of production, much of it on characters where demand would be weak or nonexistent in a miniseries format, there would probably be a lot less professional comics work to go around in the short term. There might also be more in the long term, of course, because this would provide opportunities and incentives for exploring other types of storytelling in a commercial context.

  10. Bradley Sands

      Are you familiar with current Marvel and DC comics? It seems like you’re describing most of the garbage that came out in the nineties instead of what is being published today. Or perhaps I rarely end up reading the bad stuff that gets published since I follow the writers who I like. For instance, besides Ultimate Spider-Man, I don’t think I’ve read a Spider-Man comic since the nineties.

  11. Mike Meginnis

      A decent amount of what DC is up to at the moment seems pretty okay (I’ve been reading the Action Comics reboot today and enjoying it a lot) but every time I look at what Marvel is up to these days I find it kind of inexplicable and awful. Planet Hulk seemed okay? I’ll admit I haven’t managed to find the will to read most of these books outside a page here and there, but the broad strokes are so alienating I don’t particularly feel like giving them the chance. The Avengers vs. X-Men stuff, for instance, sounds completely retarded (as well as, really, basically everything that’s happened in the X books for the past ten years or so). I’m glad people like the Ultimate books but they’ve never really worked for me; the tone and storytelling don’t match what I’m looking for in a hero book.

  12. Bradley Sands

      I never read Planet Hulk or World War Hulk. I’ve been enjoying Jason Aaron’s Hulk comic lately. I’m a huge fan of Peter David’s long run on Hulk long ago. Currently, Marvel has some good stuff here and there. I read everything by Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron, and Matt Fraction (his Defenders is my favorite comic right now). The Avengers vs. X-Men miniseries isn’t bad but also isn’t that great, although big events almost always result in poor tie-in comics. Bendis’ Avengers and New Avengers are still pretty okay, but the comics aren’t as good as they used to be, so I’m looking forward to when the event ends. Wolverine & the X-Men used to be fantastic, but the tie-in issues have been disappointing. The Ultimate comics are usually really solid. Even though I don’t “follow” all of its writers, it appeals to me because of the limited amount of Ultimate comics that come out each month versus the many “primary universe” titles.

      I wrote about why I like superhero comics here:

  13. A D Jameson

      I can’t even bear to look at most Marvel/DC comics these days. Whenever I look at them, all I see is closeups of characters’ faces as they discuss issues at great length in front of abstract backgrounds. Gone is the narrative storytelling of yesteryear!

      90s comics sucked too, though. Give me 60s–80s.

      *Granted there are exceptions. I like Frank Quitely’s work very much.

  14. A D Jameson

      Also, I really, really hate most computer coloring.

  15. Mike Meginnis

      Yeah, this is a big problem. A lot of books right now I hate the coloring so much my eyes just slide right off the page.

  16. A D Jameson

      I don’t know anything about the actual business of comics. But I do know that sales are way down—or, at least, that’s what everyone says. (And how can there be jobs for anyone, let alone numerous people, if that’s the case?) I also know this: I used to love them, and now I find myself totally uninterested in them. Maybe that’s me, but I don’t think so. The comics I loved in my childhood simply don’t exist anymore, and nothing interesting has replaced them. (I’m talking only superhero comics here, and of course there are occasional exceptions.)

      If I were in charge of comics, I’d try so many different things. I’d do ongoing series. I’d do miniseries. I’d do one-shots. I’d do continuity, and I’d do alternate continuities. I’d eliminate as much paper as I could, and create digital subscriptions that allow readers to access entire back catalogs. I’d create a range of price points: cheap comics that cost a dollar, and higher quality, prestige titles that cost more. I’d do kids comics and mature adult comics. I’d do anything I could to appeal to as many different readers—current non-readers—as I could.

      Above all, I’d try making comics fun. Why do they have to be so dour? Why do they have to consist of garish close-ups of Cyclops’s face as he complains about why Emma Frost or Psylocke won’t sleep with him? Why do they have to be computer-colored versions of the Vampire Diaries?

      To switch tracks a little: Magic: The Gathering has been experiencing record sales for the past four years. More people are buying cards and playing than ever before. No one knows exactly why that is, but some of it has to be due to a corresponding change in philosophy at Wizards of the Coast (the company that makes the game). They decided that the game was too complex to attract new players, and so they decided to set about removing barriers to entry. And they managed to do this without making the game worse. They created the videogame Duels of the Planeswalkers, they eliminated some unnecessary rules, they decided to support more casual ways to play the game (and not just high-level tournament play), they worked to make game situations less needlessly complex, and they worked to make the cards more intuitive in their interactions. All of this has proven successful not only with new players, but long-term players (and onlookers like myself).

      Comics could really learn a lot from this. Excessive continuity is a barrier to entry. So, too, is the fact that most superhero comics are pitched to the exact same 10–14 male demographic. So, too, is the fact that the books cost $3.95 and yet contain only 20 pages of new content AND ads. So, too, is the fact that they all look the same. So, too, is the fact that there’s no guarantee that any creative team will stay with any title for any length of time, or even have real creative control (see the recent conflicts at DC, over whether there’s really any plan behind the reboot, and who’s in charge).

      I love comics, I really so, and I’d love to have a reason to follow them again. But until Marvel and DC give me reasons to care about new titles again, I’m perfectly happy just reading the numerous great issues from the 60s–80s, in CBR format, on my computer.

  17. A D Jameson

      Don’t re-watch it. Write a review of the film you remember.

  18. A D Jameson

      I, too, love Peter David’s tenure on Hulk. I was just rereading it, in fact.

      If I could make a superhero movie, it would be a Joe Fixit movie. Actually, no, it would be a Shade the Changing Man movie. But if I could make two superhero movies, the second one would be about Joe Fixit.

  19. A D Jameson

      My third superhero movie would be about Patch, and set in Madripoor.

  20. Mike Meginnis

      I like what you’re saying here, and it makes a lot of sense, and I would do much the same if I were god-king of comics. But I do wonder: if you and I think this is so obvious, and if our opinions on this matter are not uncommon among nerds generally, and if we can reasonably assume that these ideas have also occurred to the people running these companies, which I think it’s clear they have, then that does make me wonder if they don’t know some things we don’t. It’s probably mostly (perfectly legitimate) fear of change, but there might be other things too. Hard to say.

      Just out of curiosity, what are these great 60s-80s comics you’re enjoying on your computer, and where can I find them? I’ve tried to read older material but usually the stuff I find is either too aesthetically alien or kind of wordy and inert.

  21. Bradley Sands

      Speaking of Shade, Chris Bachelder draws Wolverine & the X-Men. I really love Peter Milligan’s Vertigo comics and X-Force/X-Statix, but his mainstream superhero comics aren’t very good. I was looking forward to his writing on Justice League Dark since it’s pretty much a superhero team with Vertigo characters, but I was disappointed by it. It’s better now that Jeff Lemire took over.

  22. A D Jameson

      I used to really love Bachalo’s art—Shade, Death—but ever since Generation X (I title I mostly enjoyed, back in the day), he’s lost me somewhat. Still, I should look into what he’s been up to. I like to believe he’s a force for good in comics.

  23. A D Jameson

      Oh, and Milligan’s X-Force/X-Statix work is brilliant. That’s my fourth comic book movie.

      Well, after my eXcalibur film.

  24. A D Jameson

      You may be right. Or it could be that the people currently running comics simply don’t know what they’re doing. I can judge based only on the product they put out, which seems to me uniform and low quality, and unfun and which I can honestly say doesn’t appeal to me (again, with occasional but rare exceptions, which are also named Frank Quitely).

      As for the great comics of yesteryear, I’ve been reading many of the titles Marvel and DC put out—Fantastic Four, the X-books, Hulk, Batman, etc. As well as lesser-known-but-beloved titles from my childhood: Nth Man, Dakota North, G.I. Joe Special Missions (god, I love anything Larry Hama ever did!).

      As for how one finds them: some individuals scan entire issues as JPEGs, then archive them in CBR form (comic book reader). You need a reader to access them (I use Comical).

      As for how one finds such archives…Best If The Reader Obtains Really Recent Entertainment Nerd Techniques, and then peruses Purely Irrational Retail Above The Everyday Banalities Around You.

  25. Bradley Sands

      If you were into Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, Wolverine & the X-Men is similar. It’s more lighthearted and focuses on Wolverine being the headmaster of a school. Quentin Quire is also a major character. None of the other X-Men comics interest me these days.

      I really want to read all the old issues of Excalibur. It was just too weird for me to get into when I was younger.

  26. Bradley Sands

      As far as the seventies, I really like what Steve Gerber wrote: Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, The Defenders. I suppose the Defenders was the only traditional superhero comic out of the bunch.

  27. mimi

      U 2 R abt 2 gv me uh panik attak

  28. mimi

      PS no need 2 rply, it’s just me

  29. A D Jameson

      Thanks! I’ll check it out!

      Excalibur is well worth your attention. Or, at least the first 28 issues are. Up through the Cross-Time Caper.

      Also well worth a look: the one-shot “Mojo Mayhem,” featuring the X-Babies, and beautifully illustrated by the great Art Adams.

  30. A D Jameson

      Hi, me-me!

  31. Bradley Sands

      I wish Marvel would come out with those big, cheap Essential books for Excalibur. I downloaded a bunch of scans a while ago, but their quality was poor. There looks like there are a few collections. Maybe I can track them down.

  32. A D Jameson

      Were the Essential collections in color, or b&w?

      Someday DC/Vertigo will collect all of Shade in graphic novel form. Or at least I can dream.

  33. Bradley Sands

      Black and white and the paper is similar to pages from a phone book.

  34. A D Jameson

      Right, right. I’ve seen them at Chicago Comics.

      What I’d prefer is digital access to the entire back archives of a title, or all of a publisher’s titles. I really think digital can be the salvation of the comics industry. I’d be willing to pay something, at least, each month for ads-free access to high-quality copies I could read on my laptop or tablet.

      I find the situation analogous to Nintendo. For a long time, 8-bit and 16-bit titles were considered anachronisms, and were abandoned to the emulator crowd. Then Nintendo realized there was a continuing audience for legacy titles, and allowed folks to pay to download them to their current platforms (like the Wii).

      Retro-gaming is profitable. Retro-comics should be, too.

      DISCLAIMER: For all I know, Marvel and/or DC are already selling just such access. When it comes to comics, I’m totally out of touch.

  35. deadgod

      meme meme

  36. A D Jameson

      To provide a bit more context: e-publishing and other digital forms really do seem to offer have great potential for the comics industry. Because the internet solves two major problems facing comics:

      1.) For a long time, comics were ephemeral, and lacked history. This made it hard to do actual scholarship on them. They weren’t housed in libraries, and only graphic novels, or frequently expensive back issues, provided access to what had gone before.

      2.) Current comics are too expensive. They worked when they were cheap. But today, they aren’t worth the retail price (glossy paper notwithstanding).

      Tablets and laptops may suck for reading novels, but they are perfect for comics. Digital distribution should cut costs (right?) and ensure that past issues stick around forever, making it easier for new readers to get up to speed, as well as for deranged folks like us to do actual scholarship / blog posting about back issues.

      Again, I don’t work in comics, and know nothing about comics publishing, but it seems to me that right now should be a new golden age of comics. The mainstream public is perfectly OK with superheroes and fantasy, and publishing technology is at last solving long-extant problems that have held comics back from acquiring new readers and accumulating serious scholarship. So………..why are sales so poor???

  37. Bradley Sands

      They already do something like that, but I don’t know much about it. I figure the archive doesn’t go that far back and they’re more focused on current comics than back issues.

  38. Trey

      is jeff lemire god? the answer is maybe

  39. A D Jameson

      60s or bust.

      Scratch that. 40s or bust.

  40. A D Jameson

      You figure, right now, how is a great title like Shade the Changing Man benefiting DC?

      I mean either the Peter Milligan reboot, or the Steve Ditko original. DC collected the first N issues of the Milligan series as a graphic novel, and presumably it’s still in print, but beyond that…?

      They’re not, I imagine, making any money off it whatsoever. (Caveat: unless they are, in which everything I’m writing is mot; I should do some research.) Which is a shame. Both volumes of the title are extraordinary, and deserve readers.

      DC should provide some way for said readers to access those issues. And make it easier for me to write blog posts about how Shade is one of the greatest comics ever.

  41. A D Jameson

      I just checked, and it looks as though DC has collected issues 1–19 of Milligan’s series in graphic novel form. Between 2009–10. All three volumes are still in print. I wonder if they’re planning to do the rest?

      And that’s cool, but it would be awesome to have access to all 73 issues online. Plus the Steve Ditko issues.

      Of course, I already have all of them on my computer :)

  42. deadgod

      A lot of what you say about comix sounds like what could be said of mid-day soap operas — especially the emotionally discontinuous, nearly incomprehensibly dissonant packing of action. (The braiding of characters from parallel alternate worlds doesn’t happen on soaps, is a big difference, but.)

      When you talk of comix sales declining drastically, that sounds like the evacuation of soaps from mid-day broadcast schedules (not counting Spanish-language versions of the genre, which I don’t know much about).

      One wonders where people are getting whatever was gotten previously from these forms that seem to be evolving out of recognition (perhaps out of existence).

  43. deadgod

      By the way, is Reid Fleming, world’s toughest milkman, a comic-book super-hero?

      Is Calvin a super-hero? –because it’s hard to overrate that strip.

  44. Trey

      the complete calvin and hobbes is at the top of my birthday wishlist, although I’ve heard things about the sketchy quality of the edition’s binding

  45. rawbbie

      mike, you NEED to write more posts.