Saturday, July 01, 2006

ALL-STAR COMICS; HIT OR MISS: OPPOSING VIEWS.

Ryan Says:

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

Sid Says:

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.

10 comments:

Matt Boyce! said...

hmmm... interesting points i personally think the all star line is a big failure, even though i really dig frank quitleys mobieus like art on the superman book nothing really grabs me as a casual superhero reader, i gave up on most superhero comics a long time ago every couple of years i will check them out and quickly remember why i dont give a shit about them.

the all star line could of been an oppurtunity for dc to try and get my attention again make me fall in love with charecters i used to be obsessed wit but instead its another nail in the coffin for me (along with infinite crisis sweet jesus that was a fucking mess, but i wont go into that today)

anyhow a new collected version of bone is out later this year - a far more worthwhile and coherant story that anyone could read!

Jamdav86 said...

I'll save my critique for when I actually read All-Star. Certainly, I don't think it's ever going to be as good as Ultimate, but they sound like fun comics.

I will come to your shop when Civil War #3 comes out. Do you think that you can get Rurouni Kenshin v3 and possibly Scott Pilgrim #1 by that date?

Thanks in advance.

Sid said...

SCOTT PILGRIM #1 IS ALWAYS IN STOCK, the other title should be too.

Ryan said...

Sorry, I might be totally wrong about this, but when you say

Sid -
“DC first announced the All-star line, it was in answer to Marvels Ultimate line. They stated it categorically”

Was that ever said? And if so where?
I might be totally wrong here but I never read it or heard it, first or second hand apart from here. Sure it was said by some fans in its early introduction, but did DC ever state it ‘categorically’?

I mean I can see the positives for an ‘Ultimate’ DC line, wizard even ran a semi ‘decent’ web article on it a couple of months back.

http://www.wizarduniverse.com/magazine/wizard/000058500.cfm

But to my knowledge this was never what the All star line was going to be, it was just to be able to give ‘top creators’ the freedom to write the comics they wanted out of continuity. They really should have just brought it under an elseworlds banner in that respect.
Sure you can compare them, but they are two very different things. Down to the creators that were chosen to work on them, and the way the stories are going to be told.

And yeah it is pretty much pathetic that we have only had 8 issues, no disagreement with that.

I personally agree that this probably won’t be the vehicle that DC needs to attract new readers, but then does it really need a new line to do it? Sure it could be used to draw them to a collection of trades, to keep them buying each volume.
But here in the UK, just for an example, we have Batman Year One available in many the places you point to, even the Wallmart equivalent of Asda when the Batman Begins film surfaced, sure not continuously in some instances but they are often a permanent fixture in books shops and your main stream attempting to pass as indie music shops like Fopp.

I don’t think DC will ever GAIN new readers with the line, but it comes across more as a fan nod concept, the look and stories they went for, silver age concepts! Or Jim Lee and Frank Miller on Batman, again!
I love the whole All Star line, but it will never be an Ultimate line, the main reason behind that, was it ever meant to be? Sure they followed the concept of not wanting to be tied by existing continuity, but they were never heading in the same direction. If DC thinks it will attract a lot of new readers, I think they are possibly missing the attraction of the Ultimate line.

Though I’m entirely willing to admit I’m wrong, I just never read or heard DC say it
“categorically”.

Jamdav86 said...

Sid, I've only ever seen vol. 2...

Sid said...

Yeah DC did say that the purpose of the line was to be an Ultimate equivalent, it was very early in the day of AllStar before they had announced anthing about the creative teams.
But since that time they have also said that it ISN't intended to be an answer to the ultimate line. So go figure.
But to go back to a previous point I made, you would have to be an idiot not to want to achieve what marvel achieved with the Ultimate line.
Incidently, its very likely the second artist on ASBARTBW will be Neal Adams, so if you are a hardcore DC fan over thirty you will think thats brilliant.
And I've still never heard an answer to whetehr or not the Allstar line share a continuity or if its all seperate.
So to summarise, even ignoring the ultimate parralels I drew in the article, the line is flawed...but as I said all along, if its making DC money, they are happy. It's just they could be making a lot more.

And to answer jamdav86, as far as Scott Pilgrim vol. 1 goes, if its not in stock when you cometo buy it, I will give it away free the next time you're in store.

Ryan said...

Yeah, nice summery.
And Scott Pilgrim should be on everyone’s shelf, it’s like Bone in that respect.
Brain O’Malley has loaded a couple of sets of annotations on the first volume onto his live journal recently along with some sketch book pages
http://destroyerzooey.livejournal.com/
Just browsed the past couple of months of articles, I thought you had written something, but I can’t find it now, maybe I’m just remembering conversations with you. Are you yet to write an article pimping Scott Pilgrim?

Pete said...

Being the big DC fanboy that I am I went into the All Star line knowing the characters and was just looking forward to reading fun stories without worrying about continuity (not that that's ever an issue for me).

So the line started with Batman and Robin and as you have both said, it has gone nowhere in the 4 issues that have been released since its launch 87 years ago and to be honest I'm considering stopping the book. I'm not a huge Batman fan, its not that I have a major problem with the character, I have just never wanted to read his books on the monthly basis, I'm happy reading him in JLA. Even though I don't love the character I wasn't going to ignore his All Star book and I must say I quite liked the first issue, its just annoying that we have to wait months to get the next part only to find that by the end it hasn't progressed. I will admit that's I've not read a vast amount of Miller's work but the few things I have read have never really blown me away, I certainly expected better from him with this. Lee as always makes the book look pretty but much like his run on Superman, even that can't cover the bad story, after all, we are now in an era of writers, nice art does not sell a book alone these days. So with regard to ASB&R I will finish the Miller/Lee run and then give the new creative team a fair shot, if I still don't care after that I will drop it.

Now on the other hand, All Star Superman. Oh baby is this book great! It's no secret I have a love for things with that big red S on and this book is no exception. While I'm not a huge fan of the silver age stories about Supes I love the way Morrision has taken aspects from that era and spliced it with today to write these fun and exciting tales. Each issue is stand alone but at the same time is part of a bigger picture, its so good to have this format back in comics. Each issue has been quite different and I've loved each one whether it be Superman showing his textile skills by making a present for Lois or being infected by black kryptonite and battling a Doomsday looking Jimmy, the important link is each story has been fun and magical. I also love the way Morrison takes things from continuity and changes them a little, the Doomsday thing from the latest issue is a prime example of this. Even if this book was pants I would still buy it, Superman titles are my kryptonite but thankfully its great and is always near the top of my to read pile just behind the core Superman titles.

So while the All Star line may not be everyone's cup of tea, whether that be due to it not being what they expected, a pale imitation of Marvels Ultimate line or just that they don't really like DC, I consider it a success for the simple reason there is a truly fantastic Superman book on the shelves again, its been a while. With that and the core Supes books being so amazing at the minute, its certainly a good time to be me.

Matt Boyce! said...

hello me again sorry my negative ranty post, just cos i dont like the all star line doesnt mean you lot shouldnt i was an angry mood when i wrote the above.

You know what would flip my lid Ultimate Night Thrasher!!! oohh that would be sweet or better still ultimate ILLUMINATOR! or ALL STAR CYBERFROG

Ace said...

I only started on the All Stars because I was led to believe (by press releases etc) that they would be Ultimate Superman and Ultimate Batman.