So the All Star line has been with us for almost a year now, well nearly past a year, meaning that All Star Batman And Robin The Boy wonder is possibly the slowest comic I’ve ever read, 4 comics over a year. Yet they both sell well, regardless of release, but does commercial success mean critical success?
The whole premise was never aimed to be the ‘ultimate’ DC line, I’m not even sure if DC would ever need it. I mean we have a crisis of some kind every 10 or so years, retconing elements of the past and starting again, while not at the beginning, at an easy place to jump on. I think an ‘Ultimate’ line could be done, and well too, but this was never meant to be it
So what is the All Star line?
Essentially it’s where DC can pair up some of it’s ‘A list’ creators with the icons of DC, without them having to abide by the laws on continuity.
We’ve got Jim Lee and Frank Millar on All Star Batman And Robin The Boy Wonder. Hit or miss?
Well in terms of actual story, we’ve really got no where. Batman has kidnapped Robin after his parents we’re murdered, and then left him to eat rats in the Batcave like a good little sidekick.
But is it entertaining? No question, we have been given some of the funniest dialogue from a Batman comic in an age, with characterisations that really play on the reader’s perceptions of the Batman history along with fantastic art. I’m still undecided if my love of this book comes from me wanting to witness the train wreck if Millar ever meant this to be a serious comic, or if Frank is writing it as a critique on the Batman people thought he was writing in The Dark Knight Strikes Back, as in a this is the Batman you were reading, he was not the Batman I was writing.
Either way it’s a fun comic in my book.
And we’ve got Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely on All Star Superman. Hit or miss?
Hit all the way and there is no doubting it, again a comic plagued by delays, but in far less time it has hit the 4 issue mark. As we looked at a few blog posts ago, Morrison is paying tribute to the Silver age, it’s not a parody like Batman, but rather a homage to all the ‘wacky’ stuff that came out of the 60’s and 70’s. The story itself is shaping up nicely, written in a way that every issue can be appreciated singularly, but even more when read together. Were being told the story of the Death of Superman, but through the issues we are touching on seemingly ever aspect of Superman’s History, so far, his relationship with Lex, the man he is, his love of Lois and his friendship with Jimmy. I think when this is over we’re going to be left with a comic that touched on everything important to a Superman comic, but in a very fun and enjoyable light hearted way.
The arts pretty fantastic to, with careful attention paying off when you see all of the Easter eggs that have been laid out for the observant.
This book is no doubt a success, with it allowing any reader to come in and enjoy Superman effortlessly.
Line wide have the All Star books been a success?
To me, certainly. They’ve offered things that couldn’t be found in the DC line before them. And while ASBARTBW may have its faults, I believe that it’s a highly enjoyable read that may perhaps read better in trade. Whilst ASS, has proven that a mainstream Superhero book can offer a complete story each issue in the current comic medium. But they’ve both offered reads that don’t require the reader to know the past of these two Icons, something that whilst not completely the ‘Ultimate’ line, embodies the reasoning behind it.
Personally I can’t wait for the next All Star book to launch
When DC first announced the All-star line, it was in answer to Marvels Ultimate line. They stated it categorically, and even though since then they have said that its meant to be different than the Ultimate line, only an idiot wouldn't want to recreate the success of the Ultimate line.
If there are four marketable icons in the history of comics, they are Spider-man, Batman, Superman and (loath as I am to admit it) Wolverine. Followed very closely by Wonder Woman and The Hulk, if only for their TV shows.
The question has always been: "How do we make these characters appeal to the masses, not just 60,000 core fans?" The answer from Marvel was easy: make them more assessable by starting again, make them easy to find, easy to read and with a branding that people can trust. After all, there really isn't much difference between any brand of Corn Flakes, yet Kellogg's far outsell there closest competitor due to one thing: branding. Like it or not, advertising and marketing are the defining parts of our culture today.
Within a year of the Ultimate line up starting, there was an Ultimate Spider-man graphic novel in every comic store, every Borders, every Ottakers, on Amazon, in Wallmart, just about everywhere you would expect to find reading material. With a second volume just around the corner and an imminent Ultimate X-Men Tpb due.
Comics shops had thirteen issues of Ultimate Spider-man, all written and drawn by the same creative team, whom are still on the book even, 98 issues in. Ultimate Spider-man was a vastly different character with today's ideologies but the same core values that always made him a hero. We saw firsthand why Uncle Ben was a great guy, Osborn was his first super-villain Spidey faced - not the Chameleon and Peter even sat down and revealed his identity to Mary Jane, his high-school sweetheart.
These new tales of Spider-man were perfectly crafted to fit in with the forthcoming "Spider-man" live action film, giving casual fans a place to continue the story without having to learn 40 years of convoluted back story.
Within a year, we were six issues into a tight X-Men run by legend in the making Mark Millar, where he had established a core team with a bad-ass attitude, perfect for fans of the previous years X-Men movie, which was becoming a bankable franchise in the making.
By the time Spider-man and X-Men 2 hit the cinemas, there was quite a selection of Ultimate novels on the market for the discernible comic reader.
I guess one of my main points is that any fuck in a suit can throw a load of money at Frank Miller and make a "best-selling" comic appear. But it takes someone who really gives a shit about the industry to recognise talent in Mark Millar - who at the time was working on Superman Adventures and Avengers-bashing on the Authority- and Brian Michael Bendis - who was infamous for his work on Torso and Goldfish. Marvel used unbankable creators, taking a risk and making stars with their own voices for a new generation rather than using pre-established creators. Imagine if Marvel had gone with the All-star creators of John Bryne and Chris Claremont?
What has the All-star line done in a year. 8 issues between two series? That's pathetic.
What was there in book stores for newcomers when Batman Begins hit? What can we, the retailers, recommend to fans of Superman Returns? Man of Steel? Birthright? And then what? What do they lead into?
And what is All-star anyway?
What's All-star if its not Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert on Batman? Or Geoff Johns and Richard Donner on Superman? And these examples are both core universe DC titles. How can All-star Wonder Woman compare against the current creative team?
And All-star to whom exactly? Non-comic readers? Of course not. The entire line is built of the premise that pre-existing fans will want to read these comics because we are selling them on the names of creators they already know. Kids and new readers will not check the creators names on a Tpb in Borders, because the name will have no real relevance to them. At best, the All-star line could be great for bringing back some older comic fans who haven't read anything in a while.
So the question is, will newcomers come to trust the brand All-star? Probably not, and here's why.
When they finally get into Tpb, neither book will feel like you are getting in on the ground floor of something amazing and revolutionary the way the Ultimate line did. Okay, its a tough call on whether or not to start at the beginning, and everyone on the planet has a vague idea of both Supes and Bats respective origins, so do you need to start with the origins? Probably not. Yet the All-star line feels pre-established, like you are coming into a story halfway through, always missing that all important first chapter, which isn't so much of a problem if you are an established comic reader, but if you're a newcomer - kind of important.
The other thing that will affect quality is the changing of creative teams. Frank Miller and Jim Lee are only confirmed for a measly six issues, and by the time that's happened what will have progressed in the story? At best, they have driven from a circus to the Batcave, talked a bit, and Robin will get a costume. Mark Millar stayed on X-Men for 32 issues (with the exception of 2 fill-in issues), and really helped establish the universe before he left to do another Ultimate title, and its very like Bendis and Bagley will break Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's record for consecutive issues on a mainstream superhero title.
So the next question is "Why do I hate the All-star line so much?" The answer is: I really don't. I love the line even if it has been marred by variant covers and retailer incentives to inflate numbers (something that the Ultimate line has really downplayed) and despite not knowing if they are in a shared universe or not.
Sure it's flawed, but the stories keep me interested, and as mentioned earlier on my site: AS Superman is a fantastic read. But are they GAINING new readers on comics the way Marvel acheived it on the back their movies?
I think not.
All-star Comics. Not a hit, but certainly not shit.
These are all my opinions based on the facts as I know them. The proof of the pudding will be - of course - in the long term Tpb sales.