Ah, that Nate Bulmer. He's like a young Garth Ennis, this guy.
This column, along with the rest of this website, will be off celebrating the birth of our fictional Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is believed to have been born in a manger to a virgin named Mary many, many years ago in another country far from here, but we will return in 2013 with a list of comics that we think were the best of the year. It won't be that surprising of a list, because 2012 wasn't that surprising of a year, unless you're trying to make a name for yourself by pretending that the people who are good are actually bad, or the people who are bad are actually good, in which case: you will probably have a lot of fun, because a whole bunch of supremely uninteresting people with generic, bullshit ideas churned out a whole bunch of generic, bullshit comic books. Now, there were some surprises to be had, of course--some of them Big Two books, as well as a few out-of-nowhere freaks by the 100-print-run shut-ins--but for the most part, every good comic book there was to read came from a person you'd already heard of, and in most cases, you'd already heard of them 10 years ago. Whether that's a bad thing or not depends on what type of argument you're trying to have (or what you're trying to prove), and it also depends on what you're coming to the table for in the first place--do you want a good time, or do you want a good meal? (And if you're the type of asshole that says you want both, that's no problem: you're an asshole, and you're in good company.)
So let's leave it like this, because we're shit for planning. Your randomly chosen review, Abhay's conclusive take on the last bits of news likely to squirt out before everybody departs to celebrate not having to go to work, and then we'll be gone, that much closer to the moment when we can all ready Amazing Spider-Man 700. Oh yeah: let's talk about that:
Okay, so here's the thing: I've never met a shitty Spider-Man fan. I know without a shadow of a doubt that a whole, massive list of horrible Spider-Man fans exist--one of the first things that the internet will teach you is that horrible Spider-Man fans are one of the foundational legs of English language comic-book fandom, that their abhorrent, horrifying monomania is very nearly the fiber and spine of so many websites that the recent spectacle of so many of those websites decrying the death threats that the writer of this comic book (Dan Slott) was beginning to receive carried with it the same level of absurdity as McDonald's executives berating their more obese customers for making bad nutritional choices. Robot 6, Newsarama, MTV Geek, that website where English majors claim that Jonathan Hickman is "changing the game entirely"--their audiences aren't just composed of the rational, good-natured Spider-Man readers that you can easily meet pretty much anywhere that Spider-Man comics happen to be sitting, their audiences include a special breed of lunatic, because no sane human being with a passing interest in Amazing Spider-Man comics reads the repetitive idiocy of us comic-book bloggers and reacts to it in a public fashion: they just read the fucking comic book. And, regardless of whatever this website or Boing Boing or whatever other hipster anti-super-hero-comic website tells you, Amazing Spider-Man comics, like the core Batman title over at DC, is and pretty much always has been designed to be readable completely outside of the context of whatever submental clusterfuck epic crossover storyline Marvel happens to be publishing, and when it does happen to bump into that horseshit, the people at the helm work to get it out as quickly as possible. Spider-Man is a firewall book: despite its torrid, ungainly history of shitty, shitty stories, it's made for Spider-Man fans first, and Marvel Comics fans second: and while there's a ton of assholes online, in the flesh, Peter's people seem to be as close to meat and potatoes as you can get, short of actual meat and potatoes people, who in reality have zero interest in reading and spend most of their time watching some show where a decrepit Mark Harmon acts like a joke from Reader's Digest.
Or, at least: that's the way I've always thought it worked. Personally, I can't tolerate Spider-Man as a character, and while I spent the requisite time that all comic book readers do parroting the idea that "it's the creators that matter," this is inherently a posture only taken by super-hero comic fans who are trying to separate themselves from what they perceive as an embarrassing way to read comic books, i.e., the one where you acknowledge that the primary pleasure of a long-running super-hero narrative is tied into the fact that it is long-running. (It might someday be worth looking at the blissful incongruence of statements about "creators mattering" coming out of an audience whose primary bodies of interest all stem from monolithic corporations, but that day will have to come after the creators themselves make more than one or two token moves towards looking after themselves; if the last year has taught us anything, it's that comics pros haven't quite hit their personal Sister Christian moment quite yet.)
Which should lead us to this comic, right? This oh-so-controversial comic, wherein a massive (and yet easily reversible) twist occurs, shaking the long-running series to its very core in a way that has rocked the world of comics fandom by storm, by which I mean: some people said horrible things about the guy who wrote the comic, and a few hyperbolic articles were written about these lunatic reactions, including one I started to read that you can easily find if you're a glutton for sheer dumbfuckery where some asshole brings up that horrible business in Newton, Connecticut and pretends that there's some kind of connection to the way an obese misanthropic shut-in uses Twitter when said obese misanthrope gets his forty-year-old feelings hurt by what he heard might have happened in an eight-dollar comic book written by mean old Dan Slott, who, if you've never met him, so closely resembles an actual hobbit that it's almost impossible not to tear off his shoes to see how much hair is growing on the tops of his feet.
I liked this comic. I don't like Spider-Man, I have no affection for the art, and I couldn't care less about the supporting cast or the future of this comic; I have no intention of re-reading it or even looking at the previous parts. And yet I still thought this was one of the more inventive turns of plot I had read in one of these oh-god-everything-has-to-change-as-a-way-to-make-people-buy-this-piece-of-shit comics in a long time. It's a decent piece of mercenary fiction, and I can imagine it working for the people its supposed to work for quite well. The fact that it's going to upset so many lunatics?
Hey. Maybe this God thing isn't bullshit after all.
This would normally be a time for reflection. I thought that this merry holiday time of year meant things would quiet down, and I could retire from saying irrationally mean things about comics and start saying irrationally mean things about Christmas. But comics aren't done with 2012 yet, and remain tumescent with a Shittiness Boner still somehow not spent. So: business as usual until the bitter end.
How has the Year in Comics ended?
Welll, Marvel Comics almost owned Starstruck, a creator-owned comic published briefly by Marvel's long-gone Epic imprint in about 1984. Marvel sent letters that Starstruck creators Michael Kaluta and Elaine Lee claimed "[challenged] our rights" and "sent us rummaging through 30-year-old documents, looking for proof that we own what we own," Luckily, Kaluta & Lee managed to find paper that had survived the 9-11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Los Angeles riots, the fall of Communism, all of Whitney Houston's albums, Whitney Houston's reality show, Whitney Houston's death, basically the entire Whitney Houston experience, the Dukakis campaign, two wars over who would host The Tonight Show, fires, floods, earthquakes, countless shooting rampages, and out-of-control house parties (including pajama jammie jams) -- paper that had survived decades of human history and human misery.
So, they get to keep what they own.
But for creators who didn't successfully maintain the integrity of paper over thirty years, this news may have caused some anxiety. The good news is rumor has it that they will get to keep owning their property, provided that on the day of their marriage, Spider-Man employee Dan Slott is allowed to have carnal knowledge of their blushing new brides. Known under various terms like "jus primae noctis," "droit du seigneur," "right of the first night," etc., this rarely enforced legal loophole is expected to be tenderly embraced by comic's serf class hoping to avoid otherwise crippling legal fees, provided that Slott survive the death threats allegedly being directed to him at the moment by primates for some numbing reason or another..
(Marvel fans with long memories will proudly remember this as the second reported incident of Marvel seeking ownership-via-cease-&-desist this year.)
Meanwhile, DC ended its year with Girl Purge 2012 in full swing. Gail Simone got fired from writing DC Comics's Batgirl. Merry Christmas. In addition to building perhaps the strongest online relationship with DC fans extant on her "off hours," Simone had written the previous 16 issues of the Batgirl title, before being forced off the title due to "creative disputes."
Simone was told she was fired by e-mail.
Had she only worked for the company for 6 year, it is expected that Simone would have received an after-midnight text message stating, "U FIRED. L8R. ROTFL." Luckily, Simone has worked for the company for about 9-10 years, so she got a lush, full e-mail. Had she worked there for only 3 or 4 years, DC would have been within their rights to fire Gail Simone from a cannon.
It's nice to see all her hard work pay off.
Popular creators being flung off books with which they're strongly associated by the editors whose ephemeral whims they ultimately service– that’s always been a routine, if not humdrum feature of mainstream comics. "You Are All Anonymous, Replacable Cogs" is on the banner that industrial comics has up at office birthday parties. While only obnoxious internet trolls with emotional issues (like me) tell them they deserve to be anonymous cogs (they all do! I'm sad all the time!), this is still not news; this was on the brochure. Nevertheless, comics employees still somehow reacted with shock upon being reminded that they are entirely expendable: "I’ve been silently, professionally irritated at DC for some time now but this with @GailSimone sealed the deal. Now I’m disgusted," tweeted Marjorie Liu."It's not as if @GailSimone wasn't getting the numbers. She was in the middle of a critical and sales hit," tweeted Paul Cornell. "This is so fucked up I have no proper words," tweeted JH Williams III.
It is hoping that lacking words, JH Williams III expresses how "fucked up" things are through an overly complicated layout with lots of circles and wavy lines and panel-to-panel style-changes. There could be a frowny-smiley-face inside of a red circle. Very moving.
"That's why creator-owned comics are so important– because they're on the side of readers and creators," yelled someone reading this who doesn't think there are going to be more paragraphs after this one.
The year in creator-owned comics ended with the bizarre spectacle of Image Comics announcing, retracting, clarifying, tearing, folding, and mutilating a nebulous “not-a-policy” that they’re going to quit reprinting its hit comics, sometimes, maybe, perhaps.
What is reprinting? When a comic book sells out, and there are people who still want to read it and retailers who want to sell it to them, comic companies can print more copies (or “reprint the issue”) rather than tell all those people to go fuck themselves. This is to the benefit of retailers, readers– why, even creators. For example, reprinting came in handy this year, when Image failed to guess that Fatale would be a bigger hit than the Fatale creative team's previous comics, Criminal or Incognito. Fatale's first issue was reprinted at least four times, and its second issue was reprinted at least three times.
As far as I can tell, the only thing that reprinting does not benefit is the fast-pace thrilling monocle-wearing world of comic speculation. So.
Image initially announced that they were ending reprinting for titles which are "known over-performers” in a letter to retailers slash accusatory banshee-wail castigation of comic retailers who had committed the horrific sin of trying to sell Image Comics: "Should we have told you specifically 'Order a lot of this one'? Well, did we really need to?... And its FOC came just two weeks after I quite single-mindedly harangued you about order numbers decreasing with each issue of even our most popular titles, using math. (Math, people!)... Knowing you can count on reprintings has encouraged caution when none is called for, and that hurts you as much as it does us."
Yes, Image Comics put the cherry on top of this shit sundae of the year by attacking the concept of CAUTION. Comics: where CAUTION is a dirty word. CAUTION! They're using the word CAUTION as a derogatory term.
But wait, devil's advocate: after all, why would retailers ever want to be cautious about Image Comics? Why not just buy buy buy? To find that out, you would have to lower your eyeballs a half-inch while reading the exact same press release attacking retailers for ordering Image Comics cautiously: "Non-Humans #2 — I know. It’s late, and lateness is a death knell for sales numbers. But! This is the return to Image by Whilce Portacio, and a 33% drop in orders seems a mite steep, considering that Non-Humans #1 sold out."
Why would retailers be cautious about product that is constantly late? I don't know-- I'm too busy re-reading that first issue of Nonplayer to even try to guess. (You are my favorite joke of them all, Nonplayer). Caution and Whilce Portacio comics-- does not compute; does not compute; circuits ... overloading; what is this strange thing you humans call "french kissing?" Show. the. robot.
Image’s initial letter was somehow not greeted with “Huzzahs” and rousing renditions of "Auld Lang Syne" by the retail community. Image then awkwardly issued a retraction of the policy, then issued a clarification of the retraction. Then, ironically, Image reprinted the issuing of the retraction, confusing the shit out of everyone. At least, this was all met by with far more positive reception by comic retailers, who triumphantly returned to heckling the Magic: The Gathering games in their shops with a fresh spring in their step.
So. What have we learned this week?
I think the answer is clear. People who work in comics should stop checking their mail! None of these stories are about good things coming in the mail. E-mail, snail mail-- nothing good comes in the mail, with comics. No more mail! It's just time to go off the grid. From what I understand, an adorable, furry pile of man named Jesus Christ went off the grid for a few years too, and when he came back, people were much more into what he had to say, not counting the assholes who nailed him to a tree or whatever all that was about. So, isn't that what the holiday season is REALLY all about? Not buying. Not consumption. But going off the grid, making your own rules, ripping off your shirt and dancing around a bonfire, triple-kissing robots and Spider-Man's Dan Slott, jumping out of moving cars, snatching purses from old ladies, running from cops, getting fired from cannons into house parties, pajama jammie jamming all the way. In a word: Christmas.
Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays and/or Bah-Humbug to you and yours.