Marc Miyake left comment on “DC’s First Editorial Standards, Marvel Profanity“:
Will Wonder Woman be in your upcoming post on the essential natures of classic characters? If she isn’t, that’s okay, because you’ve spent over a week on her.<br/ >I haven’t commented lately because I felt completely lost in Aisle WW. An Azzupermarket isn’t my kind of place to shop. Items arranged in a cryptic — or chaotic? — manner. Signs long on wordplay and short on help. A handful of customers in the store who sneer on simpletons like me who spend an hour looking for juice and leaving empty-handed. Yeah, I really want to go back there again.
Seriously, the last two posts lost me. I thought #1-3 would elucidate #4, but I ended up even more bewildered at Azzmart. I don’t feel too bad since your non-comics friends were in the same boat. I’ve only read one WW comic since John Byrne’s run in the 90s. And that issue didn’t make much sense either.<br/ >What I don’t understand is … DC is part of a mass market entertainment company. Why can’t its comics be as accessible as its movies? What if editors treated the New 52 like 52 movies on paper? Why keep producing niche products for the cognoscenti?
I keep hearing the argument that comics can’t compete with movies, video games, whatever. So how was Shueisha able to sell over 230 million volumes of One Piece manga so far [as of 2010]; volume 61 set a new record for the highest initial print run of any book in Japan in history with 3.8 million copies (the previous record belonging to volume 60 with 3.4 million copies). Volume 60 is the first book to sell over two million copies in its opening week on Japan’s Oricon book rankings. One Piece is currently ranked as the best-selling series of all time in manga history.
It’s not as if the Japanese are lacking in entertainment options. Millions are choosing to read black and white manga without all the full-color bells and whistles that are standard in the US. Why? What are they doing right? Or even wrong, in your opinion?
What impresses me about the Japanese is how they manage to keep on coming up with new properties in new genres that are hard to pigeonhole. Calling One Piece a pirate comic makes one think of Pirates of the Caribbean or EC’s New Trend Piracy. That label doesn’t do One Piece justice. It’s set in its own universe. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Piece#Setting>
I saw DEFIANT and Broadway as being in the Japanese genre-bending tradition. Those lines would have become even more diverse over time. If I had to pick one unreleased property to read, it’d be Spire. I’m listening to Ukrainian music at the moment. Fitting.
Why does diversity in comics work over there but not here? Yes, I know there are lots of nonsuperhero comics. I don’t think comics will ever die because there will always be Alison Bechdels and the like who will express themselves through the medium. But the core of the industry remains a set of decades-old properties. Very different from the Japanese scene where series come and go and end. One Piece was planned to last five years — it’s lasted almost fifteen so far — and “the author states, as of July 2007, that the ending will still be the one he had decided on from the beginning and he is committed to seeing it through to the end, no matter how many years it takes.”
I’ve never read One Piece. But I respect creators who think things through. Who have structure in mind. Who know where they’re going. That makes me want to invest in an epic. I don’t want to deal with improv, with whatever stimuli the creators toss around to distract me while they figure out their next move.
Language and violence are stimuli. They really stir up some part of the audience. Anyone here remember a certain word in the Transformers movie from 1986? Shocking then, nothing now.
As we become accustomed to one level of stimuli, the creators feel they have to amp ’em up. More extreme! Push that button harder! Faster! Brute force is easy. Inspiring thoughts is hard.
But surely somebody among 300 million Americans can do that in comics.
As I read about Wonder Woman #1-4, I kept thinking, is this the best DC can do? Don’t Diana and her audience deserve better?
Posted by Marc Miyake to Jim Shooter <http://www.jimshooter.com/> at January 27, 2012 1:45 PM
I won’t be including Wonder Woman in my post about the essential natures of classic characters because I don’t feel I have any special qualifications regarding her. The Marvel characters, yes, Superman, Superboy and the Legion, yes. Magnus, Solar, Turok and Samson, yes.
I have limited experience reading manga, but every manga story I have ever read was readable and had solid entertainment value. Even if the story wasn’t about something of particular interest to me, I could see how it would be to the target audience. When the management of the big two and the creators realize what business they’re actually in (the entertainment business, in case some of the aforementioned are reading this and wondering) then, maybe the American comics industry will have a chance to survive and thrive.
When Marv and Len used to say “female heros don’t sell,” or “westerns don’t sell,” or SF doesn’t sell,” or whatever, I’d always say “show me a good one.”
Briefly, in shorthand….
The American comic book industry started out as a way to reprint syndicated strips and milk extra cash out of existing material. That worked, but comic book publishers quickly used up all the strips available. To keep the ball rolling, publishers commissioned new material, but they didn’t want to pay more than they did for reprint rights, so new material was made for low pay under confiscatory rights conditions. No artist or writer wanted to be a comic book creator — everyone wanted a syndicated strip, where the big money was. Therefore, comic books wound up with second-rate creators who couldn’t make it in the big leagues, hacks, the rare significant talent who passed through on his or her way to greater things (Jules Feiffer comes to mind) and the occasional solid craftsman or even genius who arrived in the comic book biz for whatever reason and stuck with it.
Back in the early, big circulation days, publishers got lucky a few times with great properties created despite the lousy compensation and working conditions, creations that struck a chord — Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel and others. Mostly super heroes. Comic books had a great advantage with super heroes back when film special effects were limited, and low-res, limited budget TV was best suited to talking heads.
Later, a few more successes came along, also created under adverse conditions for the talent. Spider-Man, the Hulk, Wolverine…you know.
The comic book industry, by and large, from its beginnings has had a schlock mentality, a quick buck mentality. Most publishers thought comic books were a fad that would run its course (Martin Goodman comes to mind). Many were surprised to find themselves still in business years later.
The quickest, easiest way to make a buck in this business since the early days has pretty much always been to stick with the heaviest hitters of the past. But decades of schlock thinking at the top, decades of unguided, misguided or just plain bad creative work has desecrated and distorted some of those characters almost to the point that they are unrecognizable (the current Wonder Woman comes to mind. And did someone say the new Superboy is a robot? What?). Their equity has eroded.
At Marvel, I used to joke about making a comic book with the same budget as a low-budget movie. The $10 million Comic Book, I called it. With the budget to do it right, with the best talent actually doing the job rather than being self-indulgent, actually creating something brilliantly entertaining for millions rather than pandering to the few hard-cores left, I know we could create the next thing to strike a chord. Of course, it wouldn’t really take $10 million. It wouldn’t even take a million. The point was that with the budget of a small film we’d have a shot (in truth, many shots) to come up with something that would blow people’s minds and sweep the country. The world. 230 million copies sold is not out of reach.
Black and white or not, manga is relatively high budget compared to American comics. Top creators make money like rock stars. The money American top creators make, or ever made in comics does not begin to compare. Even the Image guys at their peak. Monkey Punch once came to visit Marvel. When I told him what we paid artists he was appalled.
So, to me, the answer is intelligent management and serious commitment by a major publisher. The $10 million comic book(s) need not be super hero. They need to be good ones.
Don’t hold your breath.
Sounds like the author of One Piece has integrity, something in short supply in the comic book industry here.