Comics Creators

Marvel Comics: The CB Cebulski Generation Begins!


I think to be honest Tony you are looking for theories to explain why people don’t like things you like. The real answer is different tastes.

We had an infamous endless thread here where half the board liked the movie Prometheus and half hated it. I was on the ‘like’ side but I don’t think there was any baggage on either side over preference for 20th Century Fox or whatever, it was different expectations and appreciation of the plot or visuals/mood. We debated for 3000 posts and nobody changed their minds. :smile:

Generally the DC movies, outside of Nolan and Wonder Woman, have not been widely loved but there are some here like Ronnie who really admire them. In the end what we’re all discussing, from comics to art to music is all subjective by nature. I liked most of Man of Steel a lot but there is no objective argument that could be made to make me like Batman V Superman, I think it’s a mess and always will. I hope absolutely the next DC film is awesome, I don’t want to watch bad films, I like great ones.


I think people acknowledge that Marvel does produce many good books. The issues people have with them are the non-stop parade of events and constant relaunches/renumberings.

Many events seem to be more about hitting a sales target rather than telling a good story. Many happen close to each other and disrupt titles. Status quos are changed and characters die but due to their frequency, readers know it will only be a matter of time until they are undone. They have lost their ability to have an impact on readers other than get them to stop reading the company’s books. At my LCS, many readers used the Secret Wars event from a few years back as a jumping off point.

Relaunches and renumberings add no value to the book and sales boosts are not there anymore. It gets confusing for readers.

Like Gar said, Marvel has been enveloped in a cycle of short-term thinking that has damaged the company.


You’re right, even if it doesn’t actually make sense, just forming the argument becomes its own exercise. I get, as far as the comics go, why some of this stuff is deeply loathed, but as far as I can conceivably, even remotely try to view it objectively, the quality of the material isn’t really the issue, but the popularity of it. Tom King’s Batman is selling crazy numbers, but there are a lot of loud voices all along that say he’s writing gibberish. If he were selling far fewer comics, the gibberish interpretation would be the popular consensus. You can see with his Omega Men. When people do talk about it, they say it’s a work of genius, and obviously DC itself thinks so, and that’s how he got to do things like Batman and Mister Miracle. Fans assume it was Vision, because that’s when sizable numbers talked positively about him, but it was Omega Men. And yet it sold barely anything at all. DC had to literally bring it back from cancellation despite how poorly it sold, and continued to sell. Because most of the people who had a look at it thought it was gibberish, and didn’t even bother to say so. Why would they? No one was reading it.


Again though, sales and popular consensus and artistic merit are all different things and shouldn’t be conflated, especially when there’s such a subjective element involved.

Does a book selling lots of copies make you enjoy it more, or less? Do ‘loud’ complaining voices really have anything to do with how good a book is, or how well it sells?

It’s easy to be too swayed by conversations with very few participants into believing that they somehow reflect general consensus or prevailing opinion. As Gar said earlier, what really matters is the personal reaction, away from all that other noise.


I don’t think that’s a contentious argument. The Dark Knight was great, but Iron Man was just as action-packed, was funnier, had a more charismatic lead (I’m comparing RDJ with Bale, not RDJ with Ledger, who was arguably the DK lead) and an equally or more compelling story arc for the protagonist (again, I’m counting Batman not Joker as the protagonist), and bigger and fresher spectacle overall.

I’m not saying Iron Man was definitively better, but I wouldn’t go :face_with_raised_eyebrow: if someone said it was.


Iron Man was also one of the first Superhero movies to have a good third act.


But I’m not just drawing from MW for these impressions. Omega Men happened before I ever came here (or at least, concluded with some overlap, I think). But I wasn’t nearly as active back then as I am now, regardless. But even with something recent like Last Jedi, where clearly a lot of angry people commented on it here, the movie still made a crap load of money. Anything with high circulation is going to garner two kinds of reactions. It’s rare for something like the near-universal praise of Black Panther. The difference, I think, really does lie in the size of the success, or failure. If a lot more people were reading, and dropping Marvel with Secret Wars, the ones who remained knew that a lot of people were upset at Marvel, and started to believe Marvel deserved it. And this is weird, because as I say, I’m a DC guy, but I understood what Secret Wars was trying to do. In a lot of ways, it was the perfect Marvel expression of DC’s then recent Convergence event, whether or not it was conceived as such. And I really dug Civil War II.


Here’s a theory: Marvel movies have never been more popular, and the comics are at one of their lowest popularity points.

DC movies aren’t really popular at all and DC comics have seen a resurgence in the comics.

I think what pains Marvel might simply be that we’re saturated with their characters already, and the comics don’t feel like they’re offering anything beyond what we can get on TV. In the same way movie universe comics have never really sold very well, maybe the same has now happened to Marvel. In the same way that Superman comics never really got back to strength after his movies came out. Even the mighty Batman had to become something different from the movies, The Dark Knight Returns reinventing the character in light of the 80’s Batman, and the Bat Family comics reinventing Batman from the Nolan movies.

Marvel have been struggling for the last 5 years. I think the Avengers movie was a turning point for their fortunes. Even Guardians comics faltered after their movie came out (and that’s not just on Bendis, lots of creators have tried to take a swing).

Could it be that comics are simply a hobby for seeing things we can’t see elsewhere? And maybe that explains why there’s more interest in DC, and why Image have a handful of strongly performing titles.


Well, the way I always viewed it was that they were definitely going for different audiences. Dark Knight was Nolan going more his own way after experimenting with a fairly straight interpretation in Batman Begins. It was a true cinematic statement, and not merely a superhero one. Iron Man, and really none of the Avengers flicks that followed, was interested in that kind of filmmaking. So I thought as cinematic achievements go, if you viewed Dark Knight as an unqualified success at what it sought to accomplish, and I and a lot of other people did, there was really no competition. Iron Man wins that debate against anything prior to Dark Knight, but it’s otherwise not really in the conversation. I think what happened was that it set the bar below Dark Knight so high, it was impossible to tell the difference. And obviously its legacy has had longer legs.


It could be a lot simpler than your theory. Omega Men has always sold like shit, that book lasting 12 issues is better than it has done for the previous 30 years and Batman has always sold well. Batman is more famous and people like him.

The loud voices saying it’s all gibberish are just loud voices. Other voices nominated them for awards. I like both, lots of people do. I seriously don’t believe in this herd mentality that 100,000 people are spending $4 every two weeks on something they don’t like or understand. They have different tastes again.


I think I’d agree with your arguement there Jim. If I actually had a buck/quid for everytime I’ve been asked “You must be selling a lot more comics with these movies” then I actually would earn more money when these movies come out…

Talking with a fellow retailer (who’s much bigger than me) we agreed that sales of related books actually take a small dip when a big movie is out there. It even affected the Star Wars comics briefly. It isn’t huge, maybe 5%, but it is there.


But the bandwagon effect is real. That’s how a lot of popular movements happen. They end up corralling a lot of people who have no idea what it’s actually about, but have some tangential reason to decide joining it. That was the infamous '90s speculators market, where people who otherwise had no interest in comics started buying them merely as investments. And those people are shed and everyone forgets why they helped inflate the numbers. TV shows used to have massive viewership numbers, compared to today. That didn’t happen because all of a sudden today we don’t know how to make the same quality programming. That happened because previously there were far fewer options. Now everything gets splintered, and even the massive successes of today would probably be on the bubble of cancellation yesterday.


To a degree but you seem to be selectively applying it to anything that’s puzzling you with its appeal.

The truth about bandwagons is they don’t last. As happened with the 90s comics market.

It’s quite hard if like me, you genuinely think Tom King is the best writer in mainstream comics at the moment, to be told it’s just herd mentality to like his book. Especially when you are firmly in middle age and wouldn’t know what was trendy if it came up and bit you. :smile:

I think I just have a different opinion and appreciation to the voices that say it’s gibberish.


Well, I’m not saying herd mentality is the only reason to read and/or enjoy something. And clearly a lot of people are going to be reading Batman anyway, but it’s not always a given. That dude’s had his own readership crises! I’m also not saying that everything that got massive viewership in yon olden days deserved it. I do scratch my head over something like Gone with the Wind. In hindsight a deeply troubling justification of the “Lost Cause.” But a lot of people still swear by it, whether or not they agree with its politics.

But having trouble with massively popular movies, for instance, is a distinctly modern phenomenon. Movies that made massive amounts of money used to be almost surefire treasured cultural memories. Very seldom was there a movie in a year’s top ten highest-gross list that can’t in hindsight be identified as such, or identified at all. Yet now, and I’m not sure without researching worldwide totals but as far as US box office, last year Justice League cracked the top ten and it was an instant laughing stock. And there are movies dating back to the turn of the millennium that were the top grossing movie that year that achieved that status. It’s astonishing. Phantom Menace is just the most famous example. So my scratching my head over the success, much less failure, of a movie isn’t really that unique.


DC comics are cheaper.

Marvel Unlimited exists.

I can only speak for myself, but those two reasons are enough to keep this former 30 dollar a week Marvel guy from the Marvel stuff. 30 a week minimum for like a decade and a half… down to maybe 12 bucks a month, maximum.


Yeah I have to confess I haven’t paid for a Marvel comic since Unlimited was given an Android app (it was iOS only for a while). I probably read more Marvel than DC because it’s that flat price. Right now I am following Spider-Man, Defenders, Iron Man, Ms Marvel, All New Wolverine, Thanos, Black Bolt, Rocket, Thor, Astonishing X-Men plus the odd oldie (I’m reading FF from the start with the kids). That would be at least $40 a month.


When Kingsman 2 was coming out I talked with Millar about having more Kingsman books to tie into the movie. He;d already planned the Red Diamond but I don’t think it’s sold very well. Movies should be hundred million dollar adverts for comics, except they’re not anymore. It doesn’t work. For me personally reading the Red Diamond had the same feeling as watching a TV show based off a movie series that you know is innately not as good as just watching the movie. You’d rather watch the movie again rather than read some new stuff that just feels like a knock off (even though it’s not a knock off).

I always was surprised that the Star Wars comics weren’t huge. But they were barely profitable in the Dark Horse days. They did well with Marvel, but that’s only a small moment in time over 30 years of opportunity. Things like Game of Thrones comics or other tie ins just don’t seem to sell.

I’ve had a working theory that Superman comics died when his movies became a success. That comics readers just didn’t have the same emotional investment in the comic portrayal anymore when you had these great movies. I don’t think Superman comics will ever recover. So the question is how did Batman survive, and he did so by reinvention. Comics Batman was a different take from the movie guy.

Maybe that’s what Marvel need to do. Accept their characters are cultural icons now, and make their books about the mythology of the character rather than trying to tell their ongoing adventures. Would that explain why we enjoyed books like Godbomb Thor, Fractions Hawkeye, King’s Vision rather than any mainstream comics. Would that also explain why Marvels arguably biggest hits are the new characters that haven’t been adapted - Ms Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Gwenpool. Does something change in comics when a character becomes mainstream?

Our hobby is littered with properties that made it onto the big screen and then died a death in print soon after: Tank Girl, the Mask, Barb Wire, the Crow, Blade, Men in Black, Spawn, LXG, Constantine. X Men failed after Morrison left and the movies became hot, the FF failed after their 2 movies, Green Lantern isn’t anywhere near where it was in Blackest Night days, Ghost Rider is a nothing comic character now, when one time he was Punisher/Wolverine popular. Maybe the price for big screen success is the end of print. Maybe the way to be successful in comics is to offer something you don’t get anywhere else.


Clive Barker had a quote to the effect that with comic books, you can create an entire universe on Page 1, take characters through time and space and then on the last page destroy the universe. You literally have an unlimited budget to do things that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to do on film. Special effects have grown by leaps and bounds in the years since said that but comics still have the ability to tell stories and do things that are cost prohibitive for movies and TV. Maybe comics should look to giving readers something they can’t get from movies and TV. I don’t know what that is though…

I will say that Infinity War is the closest movies have come to capturing what comics do on a regular basis.


It doesn’t help the comics that the movies have a nine-figure marketing budget and the comics marketing budget involves iPhone videos of two stammering editors wearing clothes they picked up off the floor that morning and house ads in other books nobody is reading.


Did you manage to sneak in a good night’s sleep? That actually made sense. We’ve talked here about the disconnect in mediums for decades now. Movies are not television. Comics are not movies. All have to operate in a business/corporate environment that is anathema to most creative people. At this point there are far, far too many lawyers involved. As the money grows, it’s like bitcoin: more value for the smallest crumbs means greater competition to grab those crumbs. This is actually a very inhuman and inhumane process of applying capitalism to psychology (a foul mix) and then expecting either perpetual motion (gain) or constant growth (metastasis). Neither is reasonable, as motion is simply not perpetual and always ends up in entropy, and metastasis of cells or greed ends up really badly in all cases. The victim never seems to seek treatment.