The Tough Advice We Need to Make Comics Better

by funwithjedi on February 06, 2013

In light of the new "WTF Certified" publishing initiative for April announced by DC Comics, I kind of realized that there's a lot of things that three specific groups of people can do to help preserve comics (specifically those published by the Big Two). With that in mind, I decided to publicize my pleas to creators, fans and critics on how to make the industry one of quality.


Don't Antagonize Fans: You'd think that this would be a no-brainer. And while both superhero publishers are guilty of shouting down upset fans, it seems that Marvel has been guiltier. Jason Aaron said he relished the fan anger when he killed off a character in Wolverine and the X-Men. Dennis Hopeless, whether he sells it this way or not, has created a series in Avengers Arena that's main tagline is "your favorite niche heroes will probably die." It creates a sense of conflict between creators and fans, and that's completely backwards compared to what Marvel became known for originally. Axel Alonso, Marvel's editor-in-chief, uses his Axel-in-Charge online column to shout down fans who criticize the publisher. And in case you accuse me of fanboyism, DC has probably the most prominent example in how they shut down Stephanie Brown fans at Comic-Con. It's a perverted abuse of fan loyalty to characters (which I'll touch upon a little more later in the post). Ultimately, the way these two publishers belittle their fans should be taken as the insult as it is.

Keep Thematically Consistent:  If I buy a Superman comic book, I expect a different tone and an overall different story, namely a focus on pulp-style science fiction, a hopeful outlook on the world, and an absolute form of justice. However, Superman seems to constantly be a testing ground for new gimmicks, from the "Americana Superman" that Straczynski was obsessed with to the "Street Justice" feel that Grant Morrison's been pushing, writers seem to be more fixated on making their mark on a character than just continuing what the character actually stands for. To keep with Superman, one of the best runs for this was Paul Cornell's "Reign of the Doomsdays" arc. It was Superman, not "Cornell's Superman."

​Don’t Cash-In on Crossovers: The way comic books crossovers work right now is, frankly, ridiculous. DC’s New 52 has swarmed their line with various crossover stories. The only ones I feel are good for the industry are the three that Scott Snyder helped engineer: Night of the Owls, Rotworld, and Death of the Family. What used to be a no-brainer is now something that sounds revolutionary: A reader should not be expected to read any other series but the one they’re holding in their hands. The expectation of anything else is not only arrogant, but an extreme way of exploiting the consumer. If I see the latest issue of Superboy (currently one of the worst offenders) spills into Teen Titans, Legion Lost, The Ravagers, Supergirl, or Superman, it makes me angry. It’s one thing if he shows up. It’s another if I have to read one of those issues to understand what happens in the next issue of Superboy. Maybe you should generate interest in whatever stupid series you’re trying to promote by making it – I don’t know – a good series.


Don’t Complain So Much: We all get it. Comic book fans don’t like change. And to be fair, the annual new status quos in just about every comic book series leaves a sour taste in people’s mouths. But it’s becoming evident that it keeps creators from moving the story forward when every new direction, every supporting cast change, and every minute detail in a character’s routine is changed. You complained when Batman died. You thought it was stupid he came back to life so soon. “One More Day” was the worst thing to happen to Spider-Man comics. But Dan Slott better as hell not put Peter Parker and Mary Jane back together. Hal Jordan shouldn’t have been replaced. Hal Jordan’s back, what is this, the Silver Age? Your input is important; but grieving any slight departure from what’s been happening for years belittles your voice and makes your input seem less important.

Stop Buying Bad Comics: We’ve all heard the threats that “if X happens, I’m done for good.” If that were true, we might not be in many of the crazy predicaments we are as a culture and an industry. Continuing to read a comic you hate because it features your favorite character doesn’t do anything to make the series better. If sales don’t change, neither will anything about the direction the series will go in. The overwhelming voice on the internet was that annual events are awful and that Avengers Vs. X-Men was a bad series. Yet the numbers don’t lie; Avengers Vs. X-Men was the greatest success of the summer of 2012. If you’re buying these comics and expecting a departure from the current Marvel economy, shame on you.

Don’t Pirate Comics: The prevailing existence of piracy in all mediums is terrible. For an industry that’s struggling as much as comics, it’s even worse. Let’s settle this right away: comic books, like any other entertainment that’s pirated, is NOT a human right. You don’t deserve comic books, you buy them. Additionally, you really have no business having any input in how creators make comics if you’re only going to steal them. So, if you want better comics, actually buy them.


Don’t Be So Elitist: If there’s one thing I noticed is a problem at any website, is that it’s our tendency to unfairly punish the most popular series, and bemoan that more people don’t buy (insert underground title you reviewed earlier here). We make fun of people who only buy X-Men comics, and demand that if the world was just, Hawkeye would have been the only superhero comic to make money this year. We throw Brian Michael Bendis and Geoff Johns under the bus after average people start buying their comics. I’m as guilty as anyone else. I read so many comics I enjoy that don’t get sales; I can’t help but roll my eyes when people rave about how awesome All-New X-Men is. I’m not ignoring the fact that I regularly read All-New X-Men, but ‘m avoiding the fact that I read a lot more comics than anyone else. Critics on average are too jaded to allow someone to just enjoy a good entry-level series.

Realize How Hard it is to Create Comics: It takes the average person about 20 minutes to read a comic book. It takes the writer, penciller, inker, letterer, and colorist months to make one. These are people who have dedicated themselves to creating worlds for lower-than-you’d-think pay because they love to do it. They then proceed to be harassed by idiots like me sitting behind a computer asking them how hard it could possibly be to write a decent story, or to draw good looking feet. We shouldn’t tell people a comic book is good when it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we have to be jerks about it (which we admittedly tend to be).



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