The comics industry has always recognized that they need new readers to keep the business going. After all, those of us who have been reading comics for decades aren’t always going to be here to make our weekly jaunts to the local comics shop, as sad as it is to point that out.
Most recently, DC launched the New 52 and Marvel began Marvel NOW in order to create places where fans who haven’t been reading their books for a long time could find a “jumping on” point and give comics a shot.
The bad news is that every “jumping on” point can also be a “jumping off” point as well. As one person unhappy with the New 52 wrote online, “I’ve invested in DC comics for 30 years, and now they’re completely scrapping all that continuity. I’m so mad that I’m not going to buy DC’s New 52 at all!”
It used to be a staple that the majority of comics fans left and a new group came on every 6 years or so. I don’t think that applies any longer since many of us have been reading for decades and younger people are more into video games.
While both the New 52 and Marvel NOW have been successful in attracting many new readers, what about us “old” readers who have been faithful to comics for so many years? What happens to us?
HERE A CRISIS, THERE A CRISIS, EVERYWHERE A CRISIS CRISIS
There are two things to remember if you’re a long-term comics fan. First, every so often, DC has shaken up their continuity with a “Crisis.” This harkens back to the early days of the Justice League of America, who used to crossover with the Justice Society of America on Earth-2 once a year, and it would be called “Crisis on Earth One,” “Crisis on Earth Two” and so on. Crisis on Infinite Earths was an attempt to compress the multiple universes in DC to make it streamlined enough for new readers. It was somewhat successful, but every so often, DC has made changes to its product. I’m used to it by now. (After Infinite Crisis, I don’t think we’ll see this again – at least, not for a while.)
Also, all comics fans should realize that many times new creative teams go in a very different direction from their predecessors, often disregarding or even contradicting continuity that existed before.
A lot of fans have told me that with Marvel, if you don’t know the X-Men continuity for the last 30 or 40 years, you won’t “get” what’s going on now. Sometimes real life gets in the way of comics, so if you have to take a break for a while, it can be really confusing when you try to pick up X-Men again.
For me, what matters is a good story. I often think continuity impedes rather than helps a comic, but I do understand the desire to build on what’s gone before. Marvel faced this problem with their Ultimate line, and had to reboot it not too long ago. Rumor has it that it may be going away at the end of the Infinity event, but we’ll see.
SO WHAT ABOUT US “SEASONED” READERS?
There are several things those of us who have enjoyed comics for long periods of our lives can do.
1. Reminisce about the stories we loved so much! This can involve pulling out old issues and re-reading them. After time, we tend to forget some of the details, so refreshing our memories can be fun. For example, I often pull out the hardcover of Grant Morrison’s first JLA storyline to read how Batman outsmarted the White Martians.
Here at Major Spoilers, there’s the Retro Review column written by Matthew Peterson, who goes back over various comics from the past. In his latest edition, he talks about Batman Special #1, which introduced the Wrath, who’s now back and in Detective Comics. I found it helpful to review that comic in light of the character’s re-appearance.
2. Buy recently released collected editions that have issues we’ve lost over time. It never fails – families love to clean out the closets, and often the first things to go are comics! I’ve also thrown out books by mistake, then grieved when I realized it later on. Hardcovers or even trades can help restore those memories.
3. Purchase comics that still are true to that continuity. I know it’s hard to believe, but some books weren’t affected by recent reboots. For instance, an online friend of mine has been talking about how glad he was that Astro City by Kurt Busiek is back with new content.
Also, DC produces digital-first comics that appear on store shelves a short period of time after they arrive at DCComics.com. There are Adventures of Superman, in which the Man of Steel wears his long-time super-suit with the red shorts even! New releases come out every Monday. Then there’s Legends of the Dark Knight, which features stories that take place in many different timeframes from Batman’s past and present. They are released every Thursday. I also think Batman Beyond Universe 2.0, which features new Batman Beyond and Justice League Beyond updates, looks back on the animated show from Kids WB so, even though it’s about the future, it’s still building on continuity from about a decade ago. I love them all, by the way. They arrive on Saturdays.
But the granddaddy of them all has to be Batman ’66, which tells new stories from the Bright Knight Adam West’s days. I recommend the digital first version that comes out on Wednesdays because there are lots of interesting effects that happen when you slide your finger across the screen that you won’t see in the paper copy being released later.
Apparently, there are enough of us long-time fans (as well as newer readers) buying these books that they’re making money for DC. Also, the revival of “pulp heroes” in Dark Horse and Dynamite Entertainment deserve your attention.
WHAT ABOUT GIVING THE NEW BOOKS A TRY?
As much as I love to look back to previous incarnations, I am enjoying the new versions as well. Batman and Green Lantern haven’t seen as much tinkering as other DC heroes and villains have, but I think the New 52 is worth my time and money, so I’m keeping up with them as well. I still think The Flash is the hidden gem in that company’s offerings.
If you haven’t tried them and don’t mind a darker story, I have to highly recommend Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Shocks, surprises and interesting changes in direction from the past keep me on my toes each month. Then I would recommend the other titles in the Bat-family. As a long-term Batman fan, I haven’t seen the Dark Knight soar this high in years, pun intended.
Then too, if you’re not interested in reworkings, look into other comics coming out today. Personally, I love Mouse Guard, Rust, the aforementioned Astro City, the Oz books from Marvel, Day Men, Hoax Hunters, The Owl, Captain Midnight, Ghosted, and several others. I also think you should visit MonkeyBrainComics.com, where you only spend 99 cents per issue to check something out. Many of them later appear in collected print editions as well. It’s hard for me to pick out favorites there because I enjoy so many of them, but I’d suggest Anti-Hero, Captain Ultimate, Masks vs. Mobsters, Edison Rex, and Mask of the Red Panda for the longjohns fans among us. If you like other kinds of stories as well, go to their site to discover the other books out.
I honestly think this is a wonderful time to be into comics! There’s so much variety in storytelling that I often love to try out something new. Not every book’s a winner, but the ratio is higher than it used to be, I think. Don’t give up on comics! Instead, take a look at something new and see what tickles your fancy in today’s releases!