"Ellis sees them as in need of change if they’re going to work going forward." Going of of what you said in regards to Blue Rose, what/how do you think Superheroes could/should change?
Well, this took longer than
expected. My computer froze and had to be reset when I was initially writing
out my response to this one, so I lost all my original writing, and then…well,
then there were a couple weeks where I didn’t answer anything because I had
finals, and then I was too tired during spring break. Back now though, and I’ll
start working through the question backlog, starting here.
So up front: there is a very big
difference between how I think things should change, and how they actually
will. Given how many decisions on the part of the Big Two seem to be purely
spur-of-the-moment reflex actions, forecasting their moves may well be a
sucker’s game. And I could absolutely see the current upper-brass riding out
the current state of affairs and eking every last drop of profit from the
current fanboy set, knowing that by the time the whole thing crashes and burns
they’ll all have different jobs.
For how they should change? One of the biggest necessities is already happening:
the demographic shift. Not fast enough, but superheroes are looking a bit more
at a time like the world that reads them, and if you really want to position
them as defenders against injustice and oppression, straight cis able-bodied
white guys are not exactly the ones taking the brunt of it. We’re not the ones
in need of representation either: whether through legacy characters or changing
the originals (or wholly new ones, though the rules of which franchises are
important at DC and Marvel have been set down solidly enough that that’s only
so practical), if one straight white guy was changed to be otherwise every year
for the rest of my natural life, on my deathbed I could open up a comic and
still see plenty of characters who look just like me. We can make room.
Closely related to that is my
thought that soon, the concept of legacy heroes is going to be taken to an entirely
different level. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are both contracted for
several movies past when Chris Evans’ contract runs out, so it’s not hard to
gather what the long-term plan is for Captain America in the MCU – probably the
reason behind Steve Rogers’ current treatment in Secret Empire, since branding
him a Nazi is at this point a more permanent way of getting him off the board
to clear the way for Sam Wilson than just killing him again. Nightwing getting
a movie, rather than the more well-known Robin or Batgirl, seems telling of DC’s
own long-term plans since Dick’s the one who’s spent time as Batman in the
comics. Miles Morales is getting his own animated feature next year, and the
inclusion of Donald Glover in Homecoming suggests to me that they’re setting up
Miles’ inclusion in the MCU proper. The world is about to get very used to the
idea of a superhero identity being something that can be passed down and
shared, and that’s going to have a direct impact on the status quo of the comics.
Expect two Spider-Men, two Iron Men, two Captain Americas, a handful of Thors
and multiple Flashes to be the wave of the future, not a weird trend that’s
going to die down once things settle.
On a similar note, while I don’t
think this is anywhere near as imminent, I think the broad concept of continuity
– as in a linear month-to-month sense of who does what where, with timelines
for different periods of characters’ history – is going to be severely
weakened. Marvel’s overstuffed with continuity and DC is restoring its own in
full force, and both have demonstrated an unwillingness to dump anything after
DC’s attempt at doing so didn’t pan out. DC in particular is even indulging in
previously verboten character developments that they were concerned would too
heavily age their biggest names: Superman and Batman both have thoroughly-established
biological children with their own superheroic identities at this point. After
a certain point, all the 5-year and 15-year timelines in the world are going to
stop functioning, and while I don’t see them ditching continuity between the
books altogether anytime soon, I think we can expect things to go increasingly
slack in that area.
Aesthetically, we seem to be moving
increasingly towards a more freewheeling, punk sensibility again. Daredevil and Hawkeye left us with a general mood of ‘back to the fundamentals’
in style and storytelling that endured through the first half of the decade,
but DC’s failed attempt at doing so with the New 52, Marvel burning through the
goodwill it built up with NOW! in recent years, and DC’s current attempt at a
more traditional approach doing fine but not exactly setting the world on fire
(especially with the looming “oh Jesus, they’re really gonna do it” endgame of
the Watchmen crossover) has me thinking that, at least for now, that approach
has hit a creative dead-end. Books like Midnighter,
Prez, and Gillen/McKelvie’s Young Avengers seem to me much more
indicative of what’s going to grab people’s attention in the immediate future –
weird high-concept pop books bending the iconography and legacy aspects of
larger superhero universes towards offbeat new takes.
Finally publishing-wise, like I
said, I doubt either of the Big Two feel any need to change things up here.
Were I to run the world though, I’d start getting books out in magazine format
to grocery stores and movie theaters: rather than 20-page serial publications,*
massive 150-200 page books grouped by theme. So rather than getting Superman and Action Comics, they all come out in chapters with Supergirl, Superboy and any other features as part of the monthly $20 SUPERMAN
magazine with individual stories later to be collected on their own in trades,
Shonen Jump style. It’d be a better dollar value, get the books out into a
larger venue in a recognizable format, and expose readers to a broader extent
of stories with each purchase that they might want to purchase individually in
trade format later.
* Not that they wouldn’t have their
place – there’s no reason not to continue selling them like that on Comixology,
and indie titles intended to be serialized could still be presented as such.