Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fight of the Century

Laaaaaaaadies and gentlemen!

In this cornah, weighing in at an astonishing 925 pounds (ego included), the Fighting Fossil, John Byrne!

And in this cornah, weighing in at 101 pounds, the Suffolk Succotash, Tom Brevoort!

Just so we know where we all stand, John Byrne puts out a list of changes he'd like to see at Marvel - some of which are common sense, and some of which betray Byrne's hilariously outdated storytelling style; like his old partner Chris Claremont, Byrne is very much a man of his time who's failed to keep up. And unlike Claremont, whose kitschy histrionics are good for a laugh, Byrne takes himself so seriously - honestly, just look at his last projects for DC - that it's no wonder he's been pushed to the margins of the industry.

And then you have Tom Brevoort, who - bless his inefficient little soul - at least tries to tell stories with modern sensibilities. He fails, of course, and spectacularly so, much as Paul O'Brien and Al Kennedy pointed out: more often than not a Brevoort-edited comic will bear no sign of actually having been proof-read, to the extent that writers will go to Newsarama and talk about fairly interesting concepts and plotlines that never actually materialize in the published comic. Some of Marvel's most embarrassing fuster-clucks occured on Brevoort's watch, and while he may not have displayed the utter incompetence of Mike Marts during Chuck Austen's Reign of Error on the X-books, this is someone who I hold at least partially responsible for the utter mediocrity of Marvel's output at the moment.

In other words, I wouldn't trust either of these clowns to see us through a transition to products of a better quality, not from a writer who can't get with the times and an editor who can't seem to put his foot down and say "Uh, Brian, you're basically saying the invasion we've been building up all year ends with one fight?"

If you really want to "fix" Marvel, the first thing you need to do is ditch the fanboys. By which I mean Quesada, Bendis, Millar, the writers who are acting out their adolescent rewrites of '70s and '80s Marvel and who can't seem to let go of that period - whether it's Quesada not being able to "identify" with a married Peter Parker or Bendis bringing back that bloody Mockingbird as if anyone born after 1983 knows who the hell she is... that whole block of non-creativity has got to go. We need fresh ideas, fresh writers with the balls to rip out the damned rewind button on the remote and just press Play already. Enough retcons, enough revisions, enough rewrites. Leave the past alone and look ahead for once.

And we need editors with backbone. Editors who do their job and actually give the comic a once-over before hitting it with the rubber stamp. Editors who aren't afraid to take the star quarterback aside and give him the old UR DOIN IT RONG speech.

And maybe, just maybe, if we get that change, and the overall story quality rises, and superstar artists are penalized for not sticking to the damned monthly schedule after having months, if not years, of lead time... maybe then we'll get new readers. Because from where I'm sitting, I really can't think of a reason people would set aside perfectly legitimate avenues of entertainment - more importantly, story vehicles that can actually deliver more often than not - to hunt down these deeply flawed and overpriced 22-page comic books. I love comics, but I've got a foot out the door as it is because it's been... what, five years now? Six? Since Marvel stopped being even slightly experimental and just slid into a quagmire of continuity revisions, each more convoluted than the last? That's a long, long time to go without ever once feeling that things were looking up. And if I could get tired of things as they are, I reckon others will get tired too. Maybe even the hardcore zombies - who surely account for at least 80% of Marvel's overall profit off comics, because those idiots will buy anything - will get to move on with their lives.

Then again, maybe not. Who knows? All I'm sure of is that, if we ever do get there, it won't be because John Byrne Saved Comics. Or because Tom Brevoort Did It Right. It'll happen despite their presence.