Okay so officially this is my 609th post but it took me a while to collate all the information in a coherent way. So another hundred posts have come and gone without a passing thought because this site has become so routine to me. We are well into the fourth year and I am still enjoying what I do and reading more and more comics than ever. My writing has evolved and delves more into the art of collecting and the fandom itself. Given the new rebirth news, there was obviously a downfall in the sales of DC and I wondered how this had affected the quality of the DC books I was promoting. I was staggered to find that I had been producing my weekly list of best books for over three years. There is so much information to play with, and I thought it would be interesting to reflect on comic standards over time, even more so how the comic companies have been faring. It is important to remember that this is not a sales chart but a personal reflection on the books I enjoy enough to recommend to the readers of my blog.
There are obviously some caveats to this post:
- I will be discussing comic quality using my own taste as a surrogate for the market. This obviously has my own personal bias but I do read most comics and like to think I am fair. I take it very seriously when I recommend books to other people so the ones that make the list are of a high standard.
- I cannot account for my change in style and tastes over time. Only a diligent reader may spot that level of detail in the objectives of my writings over the years. I appreciate my style of writing has changed but not my tastes.
- I am not one for cheap gimmicks. So every crossover discussed does not necessarily mean that I have bought more books, but have faith I have read most of the ones that are highly regarded. For example, I am reading DKIII even though I dislike it.
Here we go:
I thought it would be really interesting to see how the impact of crossovers and reboots would affect the quality of the comics themselves. Often I thought that there were far too many titles released and it was a case of quantity over quality. Certainly with the insistence that DC originally had to release 52 books a month no matter what. You notice that now as the Star Wars titles have proved so successful that they are releasing more and more of them as weeks go by. It is only a matter of time before R2D2 is featured on a solo book. However this does not mean that they are actually worth reading and, as I’ve said time and time again, nostalgia only carries you so far. The big DC and Marvel events have been highlighted on the graph. So let us break it down.
This is an interesting line because it generally follows a combination of Marvel and Creator Owned trends. It is obvious DC plays a small part of it, but given their consistency across the years, they have little impact on the overall scope of comic quality. The industry was at a high from 2014 to mid way 2015 and was dependent upon the quality of the regular image stellar books and the Marvel Now reboot. Last year with the Secret Wars venture, there was a definite decrease in books recommended because there was such inconsistency between SW tie ins and the reboot. This was also a time where Image started to allow more delays in their best selling books and few no.1s really made any impact. Even with the new Marvel reboot, there has not been a return to the level of form that was so high post Infinity. In fact the lows we are currently seeing are the worst that this blog as ever had. There are all sorts of reasons for this: the few DC books released, the failure to produce regular interest in new Image titles and the general weaker reboot of Marvel. But these are worth focusing upon in more detail.
I remember the first year of the new52 which was very good on the whole. Every title has some interest and I remember how much love I had for Action Comics, Batman, Batman and Robin, Justice League, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Dial H, Swamp Thing and Animal Man. With the culmination of first arcs and changes in creative teams, this changed quite quickly. When the dust settled after year one, there has been a consistently low number of good books at DC. Even the crossover events made very little impact as you can see with Future’s End and Convergence. The latter made a small impact in the first month which did not translate to a second month peak. This was because most of the first parts of Convergence tie ins were solid but their sequels did not live up to expectations. That was certainly the case of the actually title which was quite weak on the whole. Over the past eighteen months that has slowly reduced to a mere single comic a week being of a decent quality. It is an inditement of the drop in standards and perhaps the preparation for Rebirth that may explain this. However to only release four decent books a month is very poor form from DC, irrespective of future plans.
Marvel is a little harder to analyse because they have had so many events and crossovers to keep up with. It is important to note that they have had many highs and lows which often feature around these said events. Before we come to that, I wanted to highlight the period between Feb to Sep ’14 because there was a huge number of good books, five to six a week during the whole time period. This was post Infinity where the Marvel Now hit its All New phase and there were some great books with such individuality and flair such as Loki, Silver Surfer, Ms Marvel, She Hulk, Punisher, Black Widow, Magneto, Moon Knight, Mighty Avengers. This was built on a solid Marvel Now foundation (e.g.. Thor, Avengers, New Avengers, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Superior Spider-Man) which is essentially where the graph begins. Note the dip between these periods where Infinity kicks in. Even though the two main books were fantastic including the lead title, the crossovers were not, hence the dip at the end of 2013. I am surprised at the lack of impact of Original Sin, but that did not affect every title too significantly but Axis did. There was a dip at the end of 2014 which down to the terrible spin offs of that atrocious title. As books started to find their feet again they were hit with Secret Wars, and then had to either finish or be part of the grand story. This was a difficult time because the regular titles we loved disappeared and were replaced by nostalgic stories nobody wanted to read. There were some great ones mind you which is probably why there are fluctuations during the middle of last year. Overall that high plateau of 2014 was never reached again. As Secret Wars finally finished, All New All Different Marvel began which certainly is still undergoing teething. Once again we end with a Marvel haul that is similar to the start of the graph which reflects the overall drop in quality books.
This aspect of the comic market is probably the most interesting and the hardest to discuss. The rise of these companies, led by Image, is quite apparent but it is worth noting that so many books that Image depend upon such as Saga, East of West, Black Science, Deadly Class, Morning Glories, Manhattan Projects, Zero and Fatale have seen their best days or have finished. It was the end of 2013 that saw these books make a name for themselves and spark an interest in Image. The drive that then occurred was impressive and although there was a drop, the resurgence was impressive. These included titles such as Southern Bastards, Rasputin, Outcast, Invisible Republic, The Wicked + The Divine, Alex + Ada, Velvet, Shutter, and Manifest Destiny. The past year has seen great improvements in other companies such as IDW (Transformers & October Faction), Archaia (Feathers & Hacktivist), Dark Horse (Mind MGMT & Baltimore), Boom (The Spire & Klaus) and the whole Valiant line, which prop up this line for the last year and a half. So much so that during this time period I have consistently recommended more independent comics than of DC and Marvel. This means that the best comics are those that have less superheroes and more creator creative control. I do not think that this is any secret, it is not uncommon to see many artists and writers that have left DC and Marvel to do their own comics. Looks at the names of the Image books that will be released this year and you will see astounding quality. I just hope that this leads a way for the lesser known creators to make their names but also for other companies to be brave and have faith in the writers and artists themselves. That does not just apply to creator owned focused companies, but the big two too.
I hope you enjoyed this look into comics over the last few years, as I said above it is more my own reading habits and how they are changed. This certainly does not reflect the sales of comics as it is abundantly clear that Batman and DKIII lead the way for DC and Star Wars drives Marvel to the top. Both sets of book which I do not enjoy very much but that is just my opinion, as has been this post, as has been the entire House of Flying Scalpels. Let us see what happens in the next one hundred posts.