I need to start things off by saying I’m a relative newcomer to comics, so I was not originally aware of the 1990’s obsession with multiple variants, covers that connected to others in a grand panorama, etc. This obsession led to people buying copies and holding onto them with hopes of increased value, which almost led to the death of the comic book industry. After that, variants were either for major events or certain books. At the time, I was a little kid and more interested in what Batman was doing in the cartoon than in comic books I either couldn’t read or find.
Fastforward to 2011! I am now quite the reader of comics (a love rekindled by boredom, which led to writing a screenplay based on a superhero, and so on), and I hear about the imminent reboot of the DC Universe. When it occurred, I ignored many of the complaints, with the exception of one: the multiple variants being made by DC for certain issues. I was used to them by now, seeing the variants on my digital copies, but it only seemed to be one variant or two. In my opinion, that isn’t obsessive.
That was until I read about the upcoming Justice League of America #1. In particular, the 52 variant covers (50 states, DC, and USA) they had planned for the release. Two thoughts entered my mind. The first: “Wow, DC really loves that number.” The second: “WAIT ONE SECOND? 52 COVERS!?” This is excessive anyway you look at it. I had one moment where I was glad to see that my home state of New York was one, but that passed as I quickly read rage-filled posts. Now, I stated in those posts that it’s not like DC is forcing people to get all 52 variants (though they do have a package if you want to), and was promptly ignored. Now, thinking back, I do have maybe one reason to gripe. It seems to me that DC is ignoring the history of the industry with this promotional stunt (this, and the timeline issues as an aspiring writer, are my only real gripes with the New 52), and forgetting the gigantic crunch as this promotional stunt gets underway. It also seems unnecessary. They were doing fine with just one or two variants. 52 is overkill, even for a #1 issue.
Speaking of “#1”, one of the events that kicked off the 1990s comic boom and crunch was the release of X-Men #1. That ushered in several interconnecting covers that ended up looking like so:
Both DC and Marvel (mostly Marvel) went along with this idea for other titles, not to mention foil-embossed covers, variants upon variants, and promotional stunt after promotional stunt in a comic book arms race for public money. This also led to the almost M.A.D (mutually assured destruction) of the industry. After that, they pulled back. For the most part.
Then I saw this recently:
More interconnecting covers. Now, from what I’ve read about the Marvel NOW! (because explanation marks are cool) relaunch of the company, it’s been hit and miss. One of the main gripes centers on the publication of numerous variants for almost every issue. There comes a point where someone wants to scream “STOP IT!”
Which brings me to an article that made me laugh and think. The article lampoons Marvel’s recently announced Age of Ultron event commencing in March. And while it’s a satire, it raises many points. Marvel, even more than DC it seems, is retreading the sins of the past. Multiple covers per issue, churning out story after story to serve event after event (granted, Snyder’s run on Batman has been event after event—and I’m saying that as a fan—but at least it’s kept to one title for the most part), all these little extra goodies and interconnecting titles….
And, to paraphrase DC Publisher (and apparent nerd menace) Dan Didi, I “see static”. It makes no sense, it contributes nothing to the comics in the long run. It’s all hype.
Please, DC, Marvel – keep it simple. Give us stories with great art, give us maybe one or two variants for some issues, keep events to maybe once a year (Marvel, stop doing events that lead into other events). And please, stop over-hyping. We don’t need 52 variants, we don’t need interconnecting stories. What we need is a fun read.
And maybe a job… but mostly a fun read.