Once again marvel have chosen to cancel another ongoing series before the 6 month mark.
This truly saddens me. I love S.W.O.R.D. I love it because it brought Death's Head back into comics, obviously, but also because it actually made me like Agent Abigail Brand. I hated her on Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men. Couldn't get a handle on her.
Kieron Gillen managed to change my mind. This series has really helped find a hook for the character, and has been incredibly good fun to read. From a depressed Lockheed drinking his life away though the loss of Kitty Pryde to the unexplained danger of Unit, an entity helping S.W.O.R.D. but only through the containment of a prison cell.
ifanboy made #3 their Pick of the Week, this week: Click
I honestly do not understand this decision. I really don't.
Gregg Hyatt runs a Blog by the name of NerderyBlog.com, and he is certainly just as disappointed by this as I am. But he is mounting a mailing campaign to Marvel, asking them to reconsider. He's even doing that hard work for us fans of the book by knocking up two alternate pre-addressed .pdf files for you to pick, print out and stick in the mail.
(Boy do I wish I'D thought of that when they cancelled Captain Britain & MI13)
I would urge any of you who have loved this series, or even liked it,to go to his site HERE, follow the instructions, print off and sign a copy, and put them in the mail.
Gillen and Sanders have been doing such fantastic work on this title. I cannot believe this cancellation has come down so soon.
This whole situation with Marvel and cancellations right now deeply concerns me. I think it should probably go without saying that I LOVE marvel Comics. I genuinely do. If it wasn't FOR them I probably wouldn't be reading comics at all, and I have always had an incredible affinity for their characters and stories. My head is filled with so much continuity and concepts which they put there. And I love it!
But that said, this past year I cannot say that the direction things appear to be flowing in at Marvel is something I am entirely happy with, and I'd like to make it clear as to why.
During the first two thirds of the post-2000s (Yes I refuse to call them the 'Noughties') Marvel Comics was a buzz place to be and a great place to read comics. Joe Quesada's new reign as E-I-C brought a much needed revolution to Marvel, and you couldn't help but feel excited about things. They seemed to have a real gameplan, and had a real mission to enrich and build up their 'Universe'.
At this point 'Marvel Universe' titles were practically a brand in their own right, showcasing a number of diverse teams and individual character books, and the creative talent to write these books had been head-hunted from all corners of media to form a whole new generation of writers and artists.
They brought us Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Allan Heinberg, Brian Hitch, Brian K Vaughan and JMS. Big names, and GREAT output.
It brought us new takes on old older properties, such as Bendis' Daredevil and Grant Morrison's New X-Men, and brilliant new properties like BKV's Runaways and Heinberg's Young Avengers, and a there was a commitment, clear for all to see, for trying new things. Like Marvel Next and the Ultimate Marvel line of comics, which weren't just reboots of existing properties for new readers, but new creative outlets to play with them in ways you just couldn't DO with the mainstream Marvel Universe.
Properties like Ghost Rider, Blade and Daredevil all had movies made of them (With varying success). Marvel even got to build up enough creative clout to form their own Movie Studios, giving them far greater creative control over movies using theier characters.
Now though, that this generation is beginning to go its separate ways a little (as is inevitable in comics) Marvel have brought us a whole new generation of writers and artist they are trying to mould into the next big wave of talent.
Johnathan Hickman. Paul Cornell. Rick Remender. Kieron Gillen. Jeff Parker. Leonard Kirk. Steven Sanders. Kathryn Immonen.
I cannot stress enough how happy I am to see those names working for Marvel.
However, whereas in the first third of the 2000s it was practically a given that a new creator would be given a chance to write or draw a monthly ongoing book in the Marvel Universe stable, to help hone their craft and prepare them to take over something bigger some day, in the years 2008 through to 2010 it kind of saddens me to see that this is no longer really the case.
It saddens me that this diverse Marvel Universe, previously a brand within its own right, is no longer... really there. Because aside from Daredevil and Fantastic Four it's almost now entirely gone. The number of books cancelled from this area of Marvel's output in the last 3 years is frankly pretty frightening reading.
Runaways. eXiles. Agents of Atlas. Blade. Doctor Voodoo. Ghost Rider. New Invaders. Captain Britain and Mi13. She-Hulk. Ms Marvel. Arana. New Warriors. Heroes for Hire. Alpha/Omega Flight (Omega Flight got downgraded to a mini, despite the creative team having plans for a first year). Nextwave. Eternals. The Order. Immortal Iron Fist.
And now S.W.O.R.D.
That's just off the top of my head, of course. I'm sure there ARE others I have forgotten, but those are the ones which spring to mind. The meat and potatoes of Marvel's entire brand.
It's seems that now pretty much any book which does not fit directly into the X-Men, Spider-man, Hulk or Avengers brands seems to only get any real press attention, advertising or hype from Marvel once the book has already become a dead cert for cancellation. We saw it with Captain Britain & MI13, we've seen it with others since, also.
Sure, books like Agents of Atlas DID get some full-page advertising showing some truly beautifully painted covers, made into and advert for the book.
But I do have to ask... how much does a beautifully painted advert which shows a set of characters who (certainly for the vast majority of) readers of other titles have never even SEEN before really achieve?
Seriously. I would have thought that to actually be a bit of a wasted piece of advertising. Because it doesn't tell a prospective reader anything about the book. Or, indeed, why they should be reading it. There is no hook for the reader, just a pretty visual. And often that is not quite enough.
I would have thought that it was a very similar situation when the John Cassaday cover for SWORD #1 was used as an advert too. It looked fine enough. But it didn't really tell anybody anything about this ongoing series at all. And for a book quietly launched in the background of Marvel's Dark Reign event that was something which the book absolutely needed in order to grab people's attention.
Gone, in the last couple of years in particular, are the editorial pieces placed in each monthly book from Marvel, telling you WHY you should pick up other books. Remember those? We very rarely even see a Cup Of Joe piece, these days.
Editorial pieces, Bullpen Bulletins, and the marvel Checklist page were indispensable parts of any Marvel Comic. Because it was these which told prospective readers what was going on with these new titles, highlighting them, and spelling out why they CAN'T AFFORD TO MISS what's going on? Back in the 90s pretty much ALL of my new purchases were informed by the Checklist page. It's how I heard about what else was going on in the Marvel Universe. Without that I would have only stuck to the properties I knew, the Spider-man and X-Men books of this world - much as it seems most readers out there are doing today.
It might just be my own personal opinion, but I very much believe that Marvel should be forgetting about using covers as full page ads. Modern Marvel Comics rarely have covers which relate to the actual interior of the book as it is, so why anybody should think they'd make a good advertisement anyway is questionable. Instead, I believe they should be exchanging these for a full page feature, words and art clippings, telling prospective readers about the book they are pimping. Because you cannot sell a S.W.O.R.D., or an Agents of Atlas, or a Captain Britain & MI13 on a cover alone. They don't recognise these guys!
Instead they need a HOOK.
They need the premise of the book, it's setting and characters, explained concisely and in a visually appealing form. Nobody should ever expect a prospective reader to go out of their way to find out about a book online. Marvel may put an article up on their website, but I would genuinely wonder what percentage of monthly Marvel readers regularly check Marvel.com? 'Regularly' as in the every new story posted on a daily basis?
I wouldn't have thought it to be terribly high, to be honest. Because, and lets face it, us comic fans tend to be a bit lazy with things like that. ;D It's no crime, but it is the way things ARE. But when we're reading a book we're a captive audience. A one page feature, presented well, will grab our attention. It's really all we need.
And perhaps the the daftest thing is that this something which Marvel used to do very well.
Mavel has switched it's focus in the past few years towards a concentration on event books. I don't really have a problem with that, as I do actually quite enjoy events.
Event books, of curse, pretty much sell themselves. You put a banner on the cover and it will sell because the casual reader tends to feel that the banner means that book is 'important'. They feel they NEED to buy that book, or thy might be missing out. And while they still feel that need they probably will miss out on picking up a new series, with characters they are not so familiar with, in favour of whatever book currently shows the Big Guns fighting in it.
That's not a crime. It's common logic, really. But it is a shame. Because without people picking up these 'unknown quantity' titles they do not survive. In order to change that Marvel really DOES need to give them that reason. To make it plain that they consider them just as important to a reader AS the big books. That's the way it used to be done, but these days it almost seems as if some part of Marvel is happy enough to allow these titles to be seen as something less important. The façade has to be maintained, otherwise the sales CAN only drop.
But what really worries me the most about the current situation is that while the previous generation of new talent at Marvel were given time and space to hone their craft, to learn through doing on monthly ongoing books, for this current new generation it seems to be turning out to be a very different story.
Look back at that list of creators above. Apart from the brilliant Jonathan Hickman (If you're not buying his Secret Warriors book, you should be) how many are still on monthly ongoing books at Marvel? How many have had their books cancelled? How many in recent times before even reaching the six month mark? I mean seriously Jeff Parker has now had THREE ongoings cancelled. His eXiles run was also cancelled at the #3 mark.
Smaller titles like SWORD, Agents of Atlas, or Captain Britain & MI13 may review very well, may get critical acclaim, but they are NOT an easy sell to the average comics buyer. The characters are not so well-known, the writers and artists are not as well-known, and they take quite some time to establish a readership. You can't rush that, because you are starting from scratch. Even if you've had a mini series before it - because there's a world of difference between a reader committing to a mini series and a reader committing to buy a book EVERY month for the foreseeable future. A great amount of difference.
A new title needs TIME. It needs two to three arcs of story to establish itself. At least six months of reviews to pick up comments for adverts from. At least Six months of people talking about it online and in comic book stores. At least one trade paperback on the shelves, so that when that prospective new reader asks 'What's
I love SWORD. And I think that a lot of guys would also love it if they picked it up and took a look. Cancelling the book on #3 is ridiculous. There were people I know who only picked the book up for the first time this week, and added it to their pull list. Guys who don't normally read Marvel. Some guys who were still feeling burnt over Captain Britain & Mi13 (the first book which got them to try Marvel Comics again in over a decade) getting cancelled just when they'd started picking it up in its third arc.
Cancelling books just at the point where people start 'getting' it creates a really bad atmosphere. When a new reader finds a book they like only to find it gets axed they are far less likely to try another. If it happens again, and again, there really is a very genuine chance that it will cause them to swear off buying that publisher's books period. If I were working at Marvel right now it's certainly something I think that I would be quite concerned about. Because this isn't the odd title we're talking about her. The list of cancelled ongoing titles is getting rather large now, ad almost all of them are reviewing VERY well.
And I personally would also have to question quite how long this can continue before the very new writers and artists Marvel wants to attract are going to start being put off by what Marvel is doing. At the end of the day an ongoing book should BE ongoing. As a creator if that's what you signed up for, if that's what you were promised, how would you feel if that deal was reneged on after only 3 months? If it happens more than once would you really want to stay?
I had hoped that Marvel's takeover by Disney would have allowed the company to start giving creators more space to work. Maybe it yet will. But right now It seems not.
And that is very sad to see.
You know, I feel sure that a fair few people at Marvel feel just the same way as I do. I don't want to trash a company who have made me so very happy over the years, and I certainly won't stop buying Marvel in protest. But that, folks, is how I feel about it all.
Am I alone, here?