Have a drink. It might help that mortis attitude of yours.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I Call Foul

O.k., so you guys know me, and you know that I love comics. I especially love DC Comics. There is something about the characters and world and the Multiverse that just lends itself to good storytelling. I’m not saying that everything DC does is gold but ultimately I really respect their goals for the comics and their company. I defend the five-year, three act plan. I honestly believe, for the most part, that what we are seeing on the page is part of some larger scheme. Hell, I even defend Countdown. For all its flaws and weaknesses I have enjoyed the series week in and week out.

However, it’s crap like this that makes me start to wonder. That makes me worried that DC is just winging it. That makes me worry that there is not inter-company communication going on, that this big plan is going to fall apart.

What is the crap am I talking about?

If you click here and head over to DC Arena site you’ll notice the ballot for the Wonder Woman choices. You have Wonder Woman of Earth-21, Wonder Woman of Earth-18 (that’s the one I voted for) and then you have the Wonder Woman of Earth-34.

Um…Earth-34 isn’t that the Forerunner Earth? Let’s go over to Monitor Muttonchops to make sure.

Yep, I’m right. Sure it is a very little thing. However, the sort of crossover and world readjustment that DC is attempting requires an A-game. These sorts of mess-ups are not indicative of a group of people who are on the ball.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Good Writing vs. Good Business: Shared Universes

Now comics are tricky things to write. Actually, writing anything, prose, poetry or otherwise, is tricky. Good writing is a mix of excellent characterization and rising conflict, both in personal drama and plot. This is tough and becomes even tougher once the writers enter into shared universes like DC and Marvel. Then it is not just one writer trying to raise the conflict/drama/plot of their titles but twenty who are trying to raise the conflict/drama/plot of the shared world.

Why do it? Why risk bad storytelling? Because the payoff is totally worth it, because there is nothing like when a crossover works and you can go week by week from this comic to that comic and see the overarching story unfold. It is the best that the industry has to offer. Actually, it is some of the best storytelling you can get, in or outside of comics. Also, as collectors will be buying more titles, it is good business.

Of course, this process is almost doomed from the start. You know what they say about too many bakers? Once you have dozens of writers, even more editors, not to mention all the people who do the visuals, someone along the way is going to get sick, have an off month creatively, wrap their story quickly, or simply screw up. It’s human nature – we cannot keep our A-game forever. There seems to be two answers to this problem when it arises.

The DC Answer – Just keep putting out comics. So Countdown comes after the events of the “Sinestro War,” we know this because Dan Didio said so. However, in the pages of Countdown it is revealed the Kyle Rayner is basically back to his old self, that Hal Jordan is flying around o.k, and so on. In fact, the threat of Sinestro and his army has been squished so much that it isn’t even a mention in the overall story of the DCU. DC robbed the Green Lantern story of its suspense. Sure, everyone will keep reading because the writing and the art are both fantastic but there is no heavy drama anymore.

Here is another example. In the Justice League of America Wedding Special, Dwayne McDuffie set up this very tense storyline. Half the JLA were taken prisoner by the ILU and the other half were getting suiting up to do some rescuing. Then came out last week’s Black Canary/Green Arrow Wedding Special, which showed…um…the wedding. If McDuffie’s storyline kicked off during the bachelor and bacherlorette parties, his first storyline will take place during the days directly following these parties. When the second wedding special showed all the JLA present we know that everything works out A-OK. Not only that, when the bad guys attack the wedding Sivana and Deathstroke have to gather bad guys. This means that the ILU falls apart right at the end of the first arc. Well, it should if the editors are worth their salt.

Problem: DC is giving away story beats for the sake of production schedule.

The Marvel Answer – hold things back until the story can match up.

I take us to last summer and Civil War. The main storyline was falling behind and so Marvel made the choice to delay all the titles that directly tied in. They wanted to preserve the mystery and suspense within the arc as a whole. While this made sure the story beats and outcome was not ruined it did leave Marvel with a shortage of titles to put out. With the core story six, seven, eight weeks delayed, the company needed something. So they created a bunch of hastily thrown together one-shots and specials to keep the readers attention. Now some of these stories were actually interesting but for the most part they were filler. The fans knew this and got angry, some losing interest entirely.

Problem: Marvel was ruining story flow for the sake of productions schedule.

So here are the questions of the post. What is worse for business: Revealed Stories or Delayed Stories? What is worse for the writing?