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mygif

There’s also copyright and trademark issues. There’s a reason Marvel keeps publishing books called New Mutants and DC hauls out the most obscure bits of Hawkman continuity every so often.

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mygif

Reason the fifth – new readers. I, for example, find the current status of the DC/Marvel universes compelling and would love to read more, but there’s a giant pile of story between the stuff I know and what’s happening now. I have no clue about “Emperor Joker” stuff except what you mentioned in your previous post; I have no clue about “No Man’s Land” except that Gotham was not a nice place to be for a while. Hunting down all the books for all the continuity I missed is prohibitively expensive. But if I can pick up an issue or two of Batman/Superman that retells a large story briefly, that helps bring me up to date so I can jump into their other titles.

In other words, they’re not doing it to sell issues of Batman/Superman, they’re doing it to help bring in new readers and sell all their /other/ lines. Telling big stories that were important a few years ago, that’s attractive to the people who missed them in the first place, and gets them into the whole “following continuity” game most fans have been playing for years if not decades. And the amount of money they can get out of a new serious fan probably more than makes up for the hardcores not buying that one particular issue. After all, they’ll still shill out for the next major event, and now this new guy will too!

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mygif

Is the S/B book really such a dismal seller? I don’t read it, and I don’t really follow sales figures, but I seem to recall in its first year or so, it was one of the hottest titles around. Even with the inevitable cool-off, you’d have to figure that any Bat-book (especially one that regularly pairs him off with the company’s other icon) would remain a mid-level seller. Just how horrible does this book have to be to lose such a huge audience?

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mygif

I kind of liked Sentinel of Liberty. And that Spider-Man book about side characters, like the guy who bit a spider (or was that one of the other books?). What was it, Tangled Web of, something like that?

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mygif

I don’ think it’s a lack of sales, shiai – It sold something in the range of 37500 in August, which is just below Action comics, and good enough for 59th on the list of books for the month, and top 25 for DC (top 20 if you exclude Blackest Night and it’s bazillion tie ins). It’s more Batman is dead and oh yeah Superman isn’t on Earth – hard to tell a Superman/Batman story without either lead. And further, there’s already an upcoming ongoing that seems to be about other Bat/Super family team ups in the form of World’s Finest, so.

That said, the reason these books keep getting green lighted is that for the most part, they’re good. Batman and the Monster Men, Batman and the Mad Monk, any version of the First Class series – these all read as great stories, which also fit in well with he DCAU books that were so well written (Batman and Superman both had various titles, also Justice League and Teen Titans Go) and the current crop of Marvel adventures. Outside of what Wagner did, they tend to be one and dones, or at most two parters, arne’t heavily conitnuity laden despite their filling in gaps, and are generaly appealing to kids.

That last one might be the biggie though.

(forgive the shit typing/spelling, I’m on a laptop and my stupid fingers/the stupid keys don’t work well togehter)

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mygif

As I understand it, “Hidden Years” did sell well, but when Joe Quesada came on board as the editor in chief, one of his first decisions was to cut back on the number of spin-offs, believing that they diluted the brand identity and that readers were sick of trying to keep up with dozens of titles just to follow a single character/team. So they canceled Bishop, Gambit, Generation X, Mutant X, X-Man, and Hidden Years, despite the fact that all six books were profitable.

Of course, that policy has slowly gone by the wayside as they’ve realized that they have a limited audience and need to shake those fuckers down until their teeth rattle. :)

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mygif

I desperately want to read a book where the antagonist is called Dr. Villain.

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Matthew Johnson said on September 22nd, 2009 at 9:55 am

Just FTR, Untold Tales of Spider-Man was created by editorial mandate; several different writers submitted pitches, and Busiek’s was chosen.

Also, to Tenken347, go read Priest’s run on “Steel,” which features a character by that very name (but it’s pronounced “Will-hayne.”)

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David Wright said on September 22nd, 2009 at 10:18 am

I wonder how much of it is driven by “the blank page.” There are few things more intimidating than that clean, white page or flashing cursor, where you have to write… something.

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mygif

I always wondered about that. One of the primary turnoffs I have with old comics is that they’re so… dated. The art looks old (and bad), the writing is cheesy and obvious… sometimes I like reading old stories that’s been modernized (done well, like early Ultimate Spider-Man). If they could remake old classic stories, but retool them for the modern comics reader, I think it would probably do a lot better.

–Rawr

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mygif

“If they could remake old classic stories, but retool them for the modern comics reader, I think it would probably do a lot better”

They tried that with “Marvel Age” before they retooled it into “Marvel Adventures.” Everybody hated it.

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mygif

[…] Comics | Why do publishers keep churning out "untold tales" comics when they hardly ever do well? [Mightygodking] […]

mygif
MooseAlmighty said on September 22nd, 2009 at 12:32 pm

But Marvel Adventures rock! My kids love them and I find them fun to read too. Light-hearted super hero action. (no one has been raped, tortured or had his/her head blown to jello yet anyway…) Pretty cool reading spider-man with my six year old son while his nine year old sister reads the avengers :)

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mygif

Byrne’s X-men case is different from the other ones listed in that the X-men series was just a bunch of reprints from issue 60 – through issue 93. So he wasn’t squeezing continuity in between panels of a previous story, he was filling in years of untold gaps unlike the other two X-amples (sorry couldn’t resist) you gave, Claremont’s Classic X-men backup features and X-men first class.

Rawrasaur, the whole Ultimates line was supposed to be an updating of the old, “cheesy, bad” stories. Last I heard they pretty much killed the whole line and are relaunching it to try and generate interest. Take from that what you will.

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mygif

I’ve been following the ultimate stuff for a while… I found it a lot more interesting (the first several years at least) than the mainline stuff. Generally, some of the ultimate stuff’s been better than others… Ultimate Spider-Man, for example, is pretty much classic Spider-Man stuff that’s been updated and modern. It’s been a pretty decent run, and consistent in quality, since Bendis has been on it since #1.

As I said, some of the Ultimates stuff has struggled… X-men specifically (a lot of people disliked the Kirkman run), but UFF had some problems (a lot of their reimaginings were totally out there, I’m pretty sure MGK had a bit to say about that a while ago), and Jeph Loeb pretty much threw everything out and started pulling random stuff out of his ass when he wrote Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum.

Really, the problem with the Ultimate line comes down to this:

– Talented writers wrote for Ultimate line
– Ultimate line sold real well, threatening to upstage the more established lines
– Talented writers moved off to 616 writing duty, replaced (mostly) with less talented writers.
– Less talented writers write less compelling stories, causing readership to drop.

Now they’re bringing back the talented writers again, because the readership is flagging too much. And so continues the great cycle of life.

–Rawr

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mygif

Untold Tales of Spider-Man was created, as Matthew Johnson mentioned, by editorial mandate because they wanted to created an outlet for fans of the original Spider-Man during the Clone Saga period.

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Mary Warner said on September 22nd, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I don’t mind ‘untold tales’ if they’re done occasionally, but I don’t understand why they want to keep doing them so much. I really messes up the history of the characters when a bunch of new history is suddenly dumped on them. Especially when the writiers don’t do their research and introduce a lot of contradictions. And I hate it when important details are added that would have been referred to already if they had really been there in the first place. If anyone is old enough to remember all the old stories that talked about Captain America’s experiences during the war, but never mentioned the Invaders. And then the Invaders series started in the ’70s, and from then on they were always mentioned as an important part of his past. Or what about all of Wolverine’s history which has been retroactively crammed into Marvel’s past. Why didn’t Captain America know him when they first met in modern times if they’d worked together so much in the past?
This sort of stuff really bothers me.
The only characters who should have untold tales on a regular basis are the ones who didn’t appear in any books regularly in the past and so have plenty of blank spaces to fill in.

I was going to mention Jessica Jones, who supposedly interacted with many characters in the past, but was never mentioned until recently, but Spider-Man #601 shows that she actually did appear in one of those Ditko issues. She just wasn’t very noticable.

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mygif

X-Men: First Class is one of the best superhero books I’ve picked up in years – I picked up Hidden Years back in the day, but Byrne’s storytelling fell apart after a few issues. Never picked up Untold Tales, but I’ve heard nothing but good about it.

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mygif

Untold Tales of Spider-Man I’m sure sounded like good bet-hedging to editorial at the time, but apparently just didn’t sell well (the 99-cent price point didn’t help, I understand). What I’m saying is “Let’s do a Spider-Man series set in high school” could have gone a lot of different ways, but Kurt Busiek’s specific take reads as a labor of love to the Lee/Ditko era, and not just connecting continuity dots.

Mary Warner: The same thing bothers me with the Star Wars prequels. It like, I guess terms like “padawan” and “midichlorian” must not be too important, because neither Obi-Wan nor Yoda feels the need to be dropping them to Luke.

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mygif

VoodooBen: UToSM is a hoot and a half, and best of all, you can find them cheap.

And I was a faithful First Class reader as well (although I always found the way Roger Cruz drew Jean Grey a little creepy for some reason). Untold tales series can be quite good (possibly because the creators *are* so passionate and invested in them), but they’re not big sellers because they’re seen as inessential.

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mygif

While Untold Tales of Spiderman etc did not set the publishing world on fire they do a lot better than DC/Marvel’s attempts to launch new or newish characters. Those are lucky to last a year.

So from sales it’s a choice between a spin off a top-seller which will do 20k-30k or a new property that will do 10k-20k.

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HammerHeart said on September 23rd, 2009 at 2:26 pm

“I don’t mind ‘untold tales’ if they’re done occasionally, but I don’t understand why they want to keep doing them so much. I really messes up the history of the characters when a bunch of new history is suddenly dumped on them. Especially when the writiers don’t do their research and introduce a lot of contradictions.”

You know what fits that description? The introduction of other Kryptonians besides Superman, that started happening way back in the ’50s, and completely contradicted the concept that Superman was “the last son of Krypton”.

Here’s another bit that fits the above description: the idea that Ben Grimm fought in WW2, which tied the character to a specific event and created several lasting issues regarding Ben’s age. Also: Magneto being a holocaust survivor, which introduced a whole set of priorities and goals that didn’t fit very well with Magneto’s previous Eeeevil characterizations. We could also mention Byrne’s Superman reboot, another case of retroactively “dumping” a different backstory on an existing character (among other novelties, Byrne’s Superman cheated at sports – by playing college football after having learned of his superpowers – which actually contradicts Superman’s whole ethical system, if you stop to think about it).

Really, it’s almost as if this sort of thing has always been done in comics.

Continuity is overrated, and if taken too seriously it becomes an anchor wrapped around the writers’ necks. Telling interesting stories is more important than respecting continuity.

I mean, we already know for a fact that these characters AND their key supporting cast members CAN NOT DIE – so that’s one source of tension that the writers can’t exploit. It would be one thing if only Superman were unkillable, but when we know that Lois, Jimmy and Perry are also unkillable, it becomes hard for the writer to build tension and tell compelling stories. So the characters’ future is pretty much closed for the writers; they can’t explore which job Peter Parker will have next, because we all know he’ll return to taking pictures eventually. They can’t explore the characters’ deaths because nobody believes in superhero deaths anymore (DC are actually publishing a whole EVENT about how easily-reversible superhero deaths are). So the future can’t be explored, the main supporting cast needs to remain frozen in amber, the main villains also have to be preserved for the next creative team… if the writers can’t even explore the characters’ pasts, as new concepts might contradict the longtime readers’ childhood memories, the job would become impossible.

If comics writers were forbidden from “messing with the characters’ histories” by retroactively introducing new story elements, then Supergirl would not exist, Magneto would still be a two-dimensional Bad Guy with no compelling backstory, Captain America would’ve been active during the 50s fighting communists, Tony Stark would have become Iron Man in a war that happened half a century ago, Hal Jordan would still be an irredeemable psychotic mass murderer, Elektra and Donna Troy wouldn’t exist at all, and the Thing would be almost 90 years old by now.

Now, I’m not saying that any retroactive change is good; Spider-Man’s “Sins Past” is a perfect example of a poorly-conceived retcon. But many instances where the characters’ backstories were “messed with” led to GOOD stories and GOOD new characters being introduced.

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