DC’s big event is finally upon us, and while the first installment of #0 gave me some cautious optimism I am definitely very nervous about what this series actually means to DC’s publishing plan as a whole. A big reason that this is happening is because of DC’s move to California, which goes a long way to explain why a lot of the talents involved are not part of the usual DC roster. This could all simply be just a colorful nostalgic distraction while they get their new house in order, not to mention a frantic (and possibly frustrated) reaction to the constant negative feedback and online disasters that DC has been cultivating for the past three years.
Looming directly behind the event of Convergence we also have Marvel’s Secret Wars possibly promising to make good on the company’s constant threats that, “Things will never be the same again.” Of the two events I have to say that Marvel’s makes me more nervous, because in my opinion DC can’t possibly get any worse than where they are now whereas Marvel has been taking a lot of progressive steps towards diversifying their brands. Marvel has never really required a full-blown universal reboot (we’re just going to ignore Heroes Reborn because Marvel kind of did as well, even while they were publishing it), so seeing them take this step in reorganizing their universe is both interesting and troubling.
So never mind the imagery of planets colliding that we are being inundated with by Marvel.
From Deadpool #45
Never mind what that immediately makes us think of.
Never mind that while we always have to have a Deep Impact for Armageddon or a Dante’s Peak for Volcano, you really shouldn’t worry that both events feature a big guy(s) kidnapping different realities or timelines and putting them on a planet to fight it out for survival.
So Brainiac who’s not Brainiac (don’t ask) has..Convergence World……
And never you mind that these are literally the exact same event, each holding a brutal mirror to each other to reveal just how friggin’ derivative and lazy the big two can stoop. I’m sorry, but holy crap if these two don’t meet in the middle somewhere and bring back the Amalgam Universe then it is ridiculous how it is the exact same event. Honestly there has never been a more perfect time for Marvel and DC to crossover again and suck all of our money out of our wallets than now, and yet it’s all but guaranteed that it won’t happen. So what’s the big deal? Why the hell are they so similar if not to lead into an inter-company crossover? For me it feels like business-as-usual but taken to the extreme, and by that I mean that there are these larger editorial decisions that favor a more insular, repetitive, and safer storytelling model. It’s like a game of event-chicken that both companies are playing, but the safest business model that they are following basically guarantees that they can never crash into each other (which c’mon, would be fun to watch) and creativity and originality suffer due to that model.
I need to recommend a book to help illustrate the head space I am in. Rob Salkowitz’s Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture was published back in 2012 and it is a fascinating overview of the state of the industry and the medium through the lens of one of the largest and most popular conventions in the country (and the world), San Diego Comicon. The part that I want to chat about is an engaging segment where Salkowitz constructs numerous scenarios that act as forecasts to the potential developments of the industry. These scenarios range across a spectrum that measures the cultural relevance of comics against the popular conception of comics, and he postulates the following categories: The Ghost World, the Infinite Crisis,the Endless Summer, and the Expanding Multiverse.
In the Ghost World scenario comics are artistic and irrelevant, occupying the same cultural space as jazz. Mainstream media has finally gotten bored with making superhero movies and business is stagnant, but we actually have a boom for creativity. The next scenario is the Infinite Crisis, where the big publishers and retailers have retreated into their safe zones and keep putting out the same old crap (sound familiar?). Then we have the Endless Summer scenario, where everything is very commercial and very publicly relevant. Geek culture is in and there’s money to be had, boosting creators to rockstar status. Finally we have the Expanding Multiverse scenario (my favorite), where we have the best of both artistic and public relevancy. The economy booms, digital and print support one another, and we see a significant expansion in diverse demographics and creators. I can’t recommend reading Salkowitz’s book enough to get the full range of everything I just skirted over.
Now all of these scenarios were extremes that were lifted from trends at the time that Salkowitz wrote the book. It’s not a surprise that all of them are relevant to the current atmosphere today, but what surprises me is just how all of them are occupying the same space by almost equal relevance. It’s so difficult to see any single scenario that Salkowitz wrote of gaining much headway over the others, so much so that it’s like we are experiencing our own industry wide multiversal incursion (uh, go read the Avengers) where everything overlaps in the same space. We’re on the verge of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron coming out, Netflix is about to slap us over the head with superheroes, and DC is taking its baby steps into creating a unified cinematic universe. We are definitely commercially relevant right now. On the flip side we have publishers like Image, IDW, Boom, and so on pushing the creative boundaries and opening doors to new creators and new demographics. So there’s a check mark on the artistic expansion. At the same time, DC has been woefully stagnant in their creative output, recycling 1990’s Image comics and grasping for straws trying to figure out how not to insult its fans on an almost daily basis. Marvel has been making strides with material like Ms. Marvel and focusing on appealing to a younger female demographic, but this Secret Wars event feels like it has the potential to be a step backwards and it’s an obvious money grab. And then we have Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, which is like an entire novels worth of hidden meta-textual goodness that straddles the line between being an innovative commentary on the nature of the medium and the superhero genre to esoteric self-congratulatory nerd masturbation. I mean I love it, but holy crap is it tricky to explain to casual fans.
There are a lot of concerns about these events for a number of reasons. From a fan’s point of view there’s a lot happening to the characters and the worlds they occupy, so of course we care. From a professional point of view what comes out of these events will help map out the sales trends of comic stores for years to come (assuming brick and mortar stores survive that long). Hell, they are making a big impact right now, but that’s a giant retailer blog article I don’t have the patience to write at the moment. I’ve kind of gone a bit serious here on what was supposed to just kickstart a series of reviews for both Convergence and Secret Wars, but I wanted to give you a feeling for what’s been running around inside my head going into those future readings. I’ll be writing regular reviews of every chapter of both events at my Trustyhenchmen site, and those will feed onto the Comics Dungeon website as per usual. And here’s the thing, I’m actually looking forward to a lot of what is coming out. Despite all my complaints and worries I voiced above, I’m a big fan of this type of stuff and I want to see it do well and evolve and mature. So stay tuned as I read every single part of each of these crossovers (I already regret this decision), give you a play by play, and help you navigate your way through what is financially one of the largest burdens this medium will ever decide to throw at you.
-Chris Casos, Manager