Comic Fodder

2008: A Year That Was (Part 1)

So around Turkey Day, Travis mentioned we should be thinking about writing a year-end post of some kind. You know, put a capper on the year, say "this was the good, the bad, the ugly of 2008".

Unfortunately for Travis, I am such a strong subscriber to the theory of relativity, I no longer bother to keep separate what happened before, what is happening now and what will happen in the future. Time and space is all an illusion, man.

The End of the Year Lists

I like end of the year lists. I think it was hip to not like them in 2007, but I actually find them useful. This post won't contain my lists (if I do a list at all). The compiler of the list has had time in which to reflect, and is no longer convincing you, the reader, to buy something they liked. They're now putting a flag in the dirt that says "this was the best of the year. I have thought about the year that was, and if we're going to remember the best (or worst) of the year, let us see these books as worthy of our attention."

I think its a more honest opinion, and its not caught up in sales and marketing hype.

I'll often use the lists to run out and buy a few things if I see them pop up across the list-o-sphere. I actually remembered to buy "Alan's War" thanks to NPR's countdown, and lists of years past led me to the superlative "Fun Home", "Persepolis" and others.

Anyhow, probably the least intended side-effect of End of the Year Lists by "those of accepted literary credentials" is that it reminds me:

a) either getting the "comics press" to cover a graphic novel/ comic is very hard, most publishers have no idea how to inform the public of new works or get them in the hands of a critical mass of reviewers, or I am totally looking in the wrong place for reviews of comix
b) When these lists come out, it's abundantly clear there's nowhere near the snobbery factor aimed at Manga that there is at anything with a whiff of DC or Marvel to them.
c) It is often difficult, even with these lists, to separate what is actually going to be worth the money from what appeals to the reviewers' point of view of themselves as a comix loving iconoclast. Look for patterns across multiple lists.

Superheroic End of Year lists tend to be a little less useful as the superhero industry takes 6 months or more to tell a story that reads in about an hour or less. It's usually too soon for any real reflection to occur for something like Secret Invasion, and definitely too soon to determine the power of the story in the greater scope of things Marvel.

And, those superheroic lists sure as hell aren't getting coverage in New York Magazine, and won't anytime soon. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Guy Who Thinks Comics are on the Verge of Being Taken Seriously by The Mainstream.

The Year at DC

Let us begin at the beginning of 2008. Countdown was in full-swing, we were being pelted with mini-series from DC, Didio was insisting he had fixed Countdown, Final Crisis was still nothing but a darkly colored one-page ad with JG Jones art, and they were still cleaning up the mess that was the OYL launch with off-schedule Batman and Superman books.

We kind of thought maybe there was hope for the relaunch of the Flash. The good news was that Amazons Attack! was largely already forgotten.

I've already spent much of the past 6 months since my return to Comic Fodder discussing how and where DC went wrong. I don't really wish to retread that territory in too much depth, but...

DC has certainly had its fair share of misfires, with the Final Crisis continuity trainwreck, the fan disappointment with Countdown, etc... On the other hand, they also continued great streaks with some of their core properties. Superman is phenomenal right now, as are JSA, the main Batman books, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and probably some I'm forgetting. And, this reader is enjoying Final Crisis.

Not under Didio's stewardship, the DC collected editions crew has been knocking my socks off with the DC Library selections (which haven't arrived yet, but...). I'm not a huge fan of the paperstock, but the hardcover 80's Justice League collections, Morrison JLA, and Kirby Library stuff... just a huge treat. Plus, they've become a bit more whimsical with collections such as DC Comics Goes Ape and timely releases of collections such as Superman vs. Brainiac (just a great read). And, of course, the genius of the Marvel Essentials inspired Showcase Presents volumes. It's fantastic to get not just superhero stories in this format, but DC's team puts out some really great volumes for guys like me who'd like to read some older DC stuff from semi-abandoned genres, but won't buy an Archives edition or back issues.

One of my gravest disappointments is that Blue Beetle got the ax this year. I don't think it indicates a single positive thing that a bright, enjoyable book which characters well developed enough to survive three major changes in creative teams and remain intact couldn't find an audience.

Honestly, I don't think it speaks poorly of just the marketing, what-have-you of DC. I think it's a specter of what it means for DC and Marvel's ability to create new properties rather than going over the same old territory for an adult audience that seems tragically reluctant to move outside the comfort zone they built when they came to comics.

For me, personally....

2008 was the year I tried to give up the weekly habit and DC broke me of being a willing participant in the cycle that drives their ancillary efforts.

In the spring, as a cost saving measure, I began mail ordering my monthly titles. The game plan was to move 90% of my comic purchases online and visit the comic shop on only a semi-regular basis. I maintained that posture for a while, but I found that a few things happened.
a) I really couldn't keep up with reviews here at Comic Fodder.
b) I sincerely missed a regular trip to Ye Olde Comick Shoppe, even if it was reduced to once every two weeks (I'm back to once a week-ish)
c) Certain DC events actually led me to not want to wait. The marketing ploy worked. Between Batman RIP and the New Krypton storyline in Superman, I really like to keep up with each installment. Since I'm doing that, I'm also picking up Trinity weekly again, and picking up whatever Final Crisis tie-in has been released. And I want to read JSA when it comes out, so yeah. I end up at Austin Books on a regular basis.

For the past 10 years, I've also been a sucker for almost every DC mini series to come out, but as I watched "Reign in Hell" issues pile up unread, walked away from "Extreme Havok Lord" and "The War that Time Forgot", I quit putting the series in my monthly, online order. I think I'm getting a little more clarity as to my needs to complete mini's, etc... once I've lost interest.

I can't say I'm saving much money as I've found other comics to try, etc... But I do feel like I've freed myself from the grind of the fanboy paranoia that if they miss an issue of something that seems important, they're going to miss something really crucial to the DCU.

Thank you, Countdown, Death of New Gods, Salvation Run, et al., for breaking me of this horrendous, horrendous habit.

Wrapping It Up For Now

I'll be back for, possibly, some lists, talk about breakthroughs (in my opinion) of 2008, and to discuss more of the year in review.


Questions? Comments? Hate mail?

Come on, I can take it.

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Ryan is an Op/Ed columnist for Comic Fodder. He keeps his comics and himself in Austin, Texas where he manages the long running blog League of Melbotis.

He likes Superman.

You can reach Ryan (aka: The League) at theleague.cf@gmail.com