Is diversity killing Marvel sales?

Short answer: no. Long answer:

Good gods do I hate most of what Marvel has been doing in the 21st century, from the debased widescreen storytelling to the shitting on everything its characters stand for, but what it has done right is providing space for more diverse superhero comics, both character and creator-wise. I stopped being a regular comics buyer, let alone a superhero floppies buyer since, well, the start of this century and getting a view of what the industry is like a decade and a half later I’m glad I did. Everything this dude listed as being more of a problem than Marvel pushing diversity is shit I’ve already seen in the nineties, then secondhand in the naughties, just more chaotically and more intensive. Pushing more titles, an obsession with events, an overwhelmingly short term focus at the cost of a long term vision: we’ve seen that all before. It’s just the speed that’s different.

The end result is a constant churn that just zaps all of my will to invest time and effort into the Marvel Universe — and I’ve been a Marvel fan for thirty years now. Best I can do currently is reading the “fringe” books: the Hawkeyes and Ms. Marvels that do new things at the edges of the Marvel universe, but even these get weighted down by events and extraneous shite. What I wouldn’t give for having a gimmick of just having twelve issues of a series coming out in a year with the same creative team, without crossover events or other crap cluttering it up.

None of which has much to do with diversity and its supposed flaws. Diversity is actually, as any fule should know, Marvel’s greatest selling point. Every time a white, male hero is replaced by a hero of colour, a woman, or both, it’s an immediate attention grabber in the way “the death of…” stories were in the nineties. Each new diverse hero creates immense goodwill among non comics readers, if done right because there’s such a hunger for heroes that look like America in the 21st century, Trumpian backlashes nonewithstanding. And if only Marvel could have a coherent, respectful way of marketing this diversity and not let it be buried under an avalanche of shite only diehard floppy readers care about, things like the Miles/Gwen romance would set the world alight, rather than being a one-week wonder…

Worrying about Valerian

Is it just me, or does this trailer sound too Hollywood?

To be fair, Luc Besson has already created a perfect save for the absence of the heroes themselves Valerian et Laureline movie in the form of The Fifth Element, but I’m still worried about how well the actual Valerian et Laureline movie will do. There are so many danger signs here. Most worrying is that the actors playing Valerian and Laureline look and sound dreadful here, but equally worrying is the plot as shown in the trailer, which looks dreadfully generic.

Which might be a fakeout, as the movie seems to be loosely based on Ambassador of the Shadows, from which it borrows its setting. The original had an ambassador kidnapped there and Valerian but especially Laureline coming to the rescue, chasing the kidnappers across all sorts of exotic, alien settings. In fact, Laureline did most of the heavy lifting there, with Valerian absent for long stretches. I have a feeling that won’t be the case in the movie.

In all, I’m somewhat skeptical that one of my abso;ute favourite nerd things will be translated correctly into film, but hopefully it will at least be a decent summer blockbuster to go see with the cow-orkers.

Naoki Urasawa’s Manga Exertions

Urasawa Naoki no Manben is a NHK documentary series in which mangaka Urasawa Naoki (20th Century Boys, Yawara, Master Keaton) goes around talking to and filming other cartoonists at work. There has been one special and two seasons of each four episodes so far:

  • Pilot: featuring Urasawa himself as well as Kawaguchi Kaiji (Zipang) and Yamashita Kazumi (The Life of Genius Professor Yanagizawa)
  • S01E01: Higashimura Akiko (Princess Jellyfish)
  • S01E02: Fujita Kazuhiro (Ushio and Tora)
  • S01E03: Asano Inio (Dead Dead Demon’s De De De De Destruction)
  • S01E04: Saitō Takao (Golgo 13)
  • S02E01: Hagio Moto (They Were Eleven)
  • S02E02: Hanazawa Kengo (Boys on the Run)
  • S02E03: Igarashi Daisuke (Children of the Sea)
  • S02E04: Furuya Usamaru (Lychee Light Club) NO English subtitles

Urasawa was inspired by an 1985 documentary the NHK broadcasted about Tezuka Osamu, the God of Manga. A third season of Manben was scheduled to run in September 2016.

Originally published at Metafilter.

Friday Funnies: Keijo!!!!!!!!

Keijo!!!!!!!! gets a lot more absurd than this

As you may be able to tell from the panels above, Keijo!!!!!!!! can be described in one word: stupid. It takes the standard conventions of the sports manga and applies it to a “sport” that consists of girls in swimsuits trying to push each other off wobbly platforms floating in swimming pools, using only their butts or breasts. Purely an excuse to draw pretty women’s asses? Not quite. What saves this from just being wank fodder is that the mangaka, Sorayomi Daichi, takes the sport absolutely seriously while still being aware of how silly it is; Daichi is also very good at thinking up inventive new techniques or combos, in the best tradition of bullshit sports manga powers. Everybody has their own breast or butt focused superpower, which the onlookers breathlessly explain and the heroine has to counter.

Keijo!!!!!!!! unlimited ass works

To give but one example, the girl above here has the very special power of being able to copy any of the other player’s abilities just by fondling their asses, activating them by remembering how they felt: unlimited ass works. It’s gloriously dumb and the author pulls out one example after the other in each new chapter and that for at least ninety chapters, that being as far as the scanlations have gotten. I won’t pretend that this is anything other than dumb entertainment, following a storyline that you can find in dozens of other, better (pretend) sports manga, but what I like about it is that it’s innovative, honest and open in its fanservice and not demeaning to its characters — what also helps is that these are actual adults, rather than the usual high school girls. Not perhaps a series to be proud of that you read it, but certainly a cut above the usual harem fanservice nonsense. And yes, of course it will get an anime.

That time Englehart was Byrned

Byrned -- from WCA 51

Andrew Weiss is asked is there “A hated story or story line you like?” and answers with John Byrne’s run on West Coast Avengers

Without trying to defend that nonsense (because, honestly, I can’t), I will say it regrettably overshadows an fairly entertaining and mildly innovative run of comics. For starters, it was John Byrne’s return to Marvel after a three year stint at the Distinguished Competition. The significance of that might be lost on kids born after 1980 or so, but for my demographic peers it was a Big Deal. Our memories of his X-Men and Fantastic Four and Captain America work was recent enough to give Ol’ Crankypants another chance.

Byrne’s run happened just as I was branching out from reading Dutch translations of Marvel series to the originals, as the local comic shop had finally started to carry them. First priority lay of course with all the series that had not been translated and WCA was one of them. For a noob like me, Byrne’s dynamism and willingness to shake up the status quo was great, even if I didn’t like what he was doing to the Scarlet Witch, who already was a favourite of mine. It was only later, when I’d more context to place his stories in that it became clear all his change was for the negative.

Byrned -- from WCA 56

And it was only when I read an angry open letter Steve Englehart had send to Amazing Heroes that I realised that was probably deliberate. Byrne has always had a reputation for trashing everything he didn’t like in series he took over, prefering to strip continuity back to his own view of what Lee and Kirby did, rather than build on the work of other, lesser writers. As far back as 1982, when Byrne had only just started his Fantastic Four run, you had Len Wein and Marv Wolfman complaining about the changes Byrne made. In an interview for The Fantastic Four Chronicles special put out by Fantaco, Len Wein wrote: “I muchly resent what John is doing, I resent his implication that everything in the past 20 years hasn’t happened, that it’s still 1964.” Now on The Fantastic Four, Byrne created as much as he broke down, but on West Coast Avengers it was different. True, he brought back the original Human Torch and remade Hank Pym, Failed Superhero into Jump Suit Battle Scientist Hanky Pym, which was rather cool, but apart from that:

Byrned -- from WCA 44

  1. Tigra reverted to a cat like state
  2. Master Pandemonium, from independent villain to lackey of Mephisto
  3. The Vision went from a crying android into an emotionless, “logical” Data clone
  4. Vison got a new, fugly piss yellow costume
  5. Scarlet Witch went insane and joined Magneto for a bit
  6. Scarlet Witch went insane and molested Wonderman
  7. Wonderman meanwhile hat the hots for the Witch
  8. The Vision and Scarlet Witch’s babies? Never existed, just shards of the soul of Mephisto

Byrne started his run with issue 42 and left with 57 and from begin to end he set out to systematically demolish everything that Englehart had done with the Vision & Scarlet Witch. Personalities destroyed, marriage demolished, their kids retconned out of existence, etc. It’s hard not to see that as a deliberate vendetta against Englehart, especially in the light of the troubles he’d later ran into on his other two titles under DeFalco as editor-in-chief. Rereading it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, seeing the creations of a writer who surely deserved better be torn down so brutally.