Monday, March 21, 2011

Another aspect of the constant DC vs. Marvel holy wars

Ok, I'm going to warn you right now, this one is for hardcore geeks only. Hardcore comic geeks in particular. I'm going to be using terms, and speaking in a context and frame of reference that is going to pass right on by anyone other than a comic book geek.

That said, I'll try to keep it understandable for anyone not a deep geek on this topic (believe me, when you get into the details of this, you are only barely speaking english).

Okay, forging onward.

So, yesterday, in another forum I frequent, someone asked about the measurements of the character Power Girl... a notably pneumatic character, even more physically unrealistic than most comic book characters, and as the years go by her art gets less and less connected to anything resembling a human woman; and even though she is a core DC universe character, she's really rather boring, and generally poorly written.

There aren't a lot of Power Girl fans, excepting those who just like the big boobed art basically.

The thing is though... that situation isn't unusual for DC... and it is for Marvel. I'm not a mainstream DC universe fan. Their core continuity mostly bores me, and there's a very significant reason why (which we'll talk about in a minute). I am a mainstream Marvel fan, and their core continuity doesn't bore me.

On the other hand, DC has published many of my favorite books... as alternative comics, mini series, specials, short runs, and graphic novels.

Contrasting, Marvel really hasn't done much out of the core continuity that made much of an impression at all.

The whole thread got me thinking about DC and Marvel, and how they handle their mainline continuity and core books, vs. their side imprints, alts shortruns, minis, and GNs.

To my mind, DC has been an absolute master at the non-core books; but they've really done nothing particularly interesting with their core. In fact, whenever they wanted to do anything interesting, in order for it to be GOOD, it had to be handled as an alt, a mini or a GN. Dark Knight being the canonical example.

But with Vertigo and other alt and non core work, DC really did some amazing things.

Basically the entire catalogs of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, James Robinson, Garth Ennis, Frank Miller, Tony Harris under DC were great. Almost all the Vertigo books were great...

Transmet, Preacher, Watchmen, Dark Knight, Hellblazer, Hitman, Sandman, Starman... these are all among my favorite comics ever... In fact among my favorite storytelling of any format.

On the other side of things, Marvel has done much worse with non-core; but has done a lot better with their core books.

Marvel just has more interesting, and better written characters and storylines in their core books, but can't seem to do the same with their non-core.

Aside from the multiple continuity issue, and canon timeline/continuity holes problem (which both majors have but are much worse at Marvel); they just seem to write their core books better than DC. More importantly, they seem to care about, understand, manage, and write about their core characters better than DC.

Look at what Vertigo put out, vs. what Icon put out... Icon basically has Marc Millar, and that's it (of course Vertigo is pretty much dead now, but it had a great run). CrossGen and Epic never really worked (though neither did DC's Helix). Edge was a 1 year farce. Razorline same thing...

Now, looking at the cool stuff DC did with Vertigo, alts, minis etc... did they do anything comparable in the core except the several reboots, gimics, and stunts in Batman and Superman? And they manage their core characters really badly.

Even superman and Batman have been really really bad for extended periods of time; never mind Flash, Green Lantern, or god help us, Aquaman. Bad in a way that Marvel would never allow for their core characters (except Spiderman, who hasn't been properly managed since the mid 80s, because they can't let themselves accept the Whedon paradox e.g. "when Buffy is unhappy, the show is good. When Buffy is happy, the show isn't good").

Marvel on the other hand did some really great things in the core: god loves man kills, the entire weapon x arc, most of the phoenix saga, demon in a bottle, Silver centurion, Armor Wars, Frank Millers time on Dare Devil, etc... etc....

Most critically, Marvel continues to manage their core characters (other than the aforementioned multiple continuity/timeline issues) very well... other than Spiderman anyway (really, make up your damn minds. Is he a pussy or not. Does he get pussy or not).

Some have said it's because DC let their great writers and artists run free with characters of their own creation; and to an extent that's true, especially with the graphic novels (Watchmen being the canonical example). However, when those exact same artists and writers worked for Marvel, they worked within the comparatively rigid structure of the core continuity and core characters, and still produced really excellent work.

So, any ideas as to why that is? Or does anyone want to prove my core assertion wrong?