A recent strip from Let’s Be Friends Again by Chris Haley and Curt Franklin perfectly sums up how I feel about Marvel and DC Comics. Basically, I think that the two major purveyors of sequential art are in a creative malaise largely of their own making.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about an exercise - the Superhero Originality Game – that highlights that stagnation. The rules are explained at length in my previous post but, in short, the idea is to try and think of completely original characters that were created in the past thirty years that could (or have) carried their own monthly titles for Marvel or DC Comics.
I had gotten the ball rolling with a list of 10 characters who met the criteria:
6.Venom (Eddie Brock or Angelo Fortunato but not Mac Gargan)
I had invited my readers to try and add to the list, and they came up with an additional 14 characters:
12. Night Thrasher (Dwayne Taylor, not his brother Donyell Taylor, aka Bandit)
13. Amadeus Cho
14. War Machine
18. Beta Ray Bill
20. Cloak and Dagger *
24. Silver Sable
The point of the game was to try and highlight the fact that, to a large extent, the Big Two comic book publishers have produced less than one new marketable character per year. It’s not just that they’re no longer creating new series, there aren’t many original characters being created, period.
Instead, comic book fans are being treated to Spider-Man fighting the Vulture. Again. Or another Teen Titan dying. Rehashing and re-telling seems to be the name of the game.
It’s a disappointing trend.
Imagine if two major television networks like ABC and NBC only introduced a total of 24 new television shows over the course of three decades? Advertising revenue would quickly dry up and they’d be out of business. The stagnation would have killed them.
One thing I’ll say about these 24 characters is that they are an impressively diverse group. Six and a half (Cloak being one half of an entry)are visible minorities. Five and a half are women. One is a space horse.
They also have diverse origins and motivations, with at least 12 of them being spanning from “morally ambiguous” to “ethically reprehensible”. Whether they are mercenaries, assassins, exceptionally greedy or intelligence operatives for the government, they’re a surprisingly complex group of protagonists.
Unfortunately, only five are currently starring in a book, either in a solo title (Booster Gold, War Machine, Amadeus Cho, Deadpool) or a team book (the Sentry). Even in that group, War Machine’s book is being cancelled and there are rumours that the Sentry is going to be killed as part of the Siege.
This lack of creativity is particularly stunning when you think of all the characters that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created for both companies between 1960 and 1975. Together and separately they produced dozens of enduring characters. Why can’t their success be replicated even a little?
I think the big problem is that Marvel and DC Comics are incredibly risk averse and reluctant to try anything new. Instead, they’d rather play it safe and go back to the well time and time again, appeasing a hardcore group of fans rather than reach out and try out new characters that could appeal to a broader base of readers.
It’s a crying shame that in the long run will hurt the comics business.
*I looked into Cloak and Dagger and it’s kind of up in the air as to whether or not they’re mutants. They’ve been described as having powers that were activated by the experiments they were subjected to. To keep it simple, we’ll just assume that they’re not mutants.
In the wake of the very successful Vancouver Olympics there’s a nice afterglow surrounding Canada’s amateur sports. Events like downhill skiing and curling are given more prominent airtime on television and commentators like ESPN’s Bill Simmons are still talking about the 2010 Games.
It’s little wonder. After all, Canada finally got the monkey off its back when Alex Bilodeau won a gold medal, the first time a Canadian has won the top prize on home soil. Canadians then went on to win 13 more gold medals, an Olympic record for the host nation of a winter games, culminating in a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory over Team USA in men’s hockey.
The closing ceremonies struck the right note as well. It was funny, charming and distinctly Canadian, provided you turned the TV off as soon as Nickleback took to the stage.
But all that goodwill is going to be wasted by tonight’s Paralympic Opening Ceremony which you will be able to watch.... nowhere. See, neither CTV or NBC are showing the ceremony live. Instead, they’re going to air the “hit” TV show, Medium, and run the tape of the ceremonies on Saturday.
I understand that the Paralympics don’t have all the glitz and glamour of National Hockey League players or the sex appeal of Lindsay Vonn or the Curlougar Cheryl Bernard, but surely they deserve to have their opening ceremonies live to air.
Can the demand for the latest and greatest episode of Medium really be that high?
To me, the Paralympics do way more to capture the spirit of the Olympics Movement. Their precursor was the Stoke Mandeville Games, organized by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann in 1948 during the London Olympic Games. Orginally, they were an exercise for British World War II veterans with spinal conditions. The hope was that the competition would motivate them to stay active despite their handicap.
The first official Paralympics were held after the 1960 Olympics in Rome with a broadened scope that included anyone with a physical disability or vision impairment. They focused on the participants’ athletic achievements and fitness for the physically disabled around the world.
That is what the Olympics should be all about – the triumph of the human spirit, creating new heroes that people around the world can admire for their determination and will power. It’s a real shame that CTV and NBC have forgotten that lesson just two weekends after the Olympics ended.