- Posted by Johanna on January 14, 2006 at 10:47 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Fiona Avery; art by Roger Cruz and Victor Olazaba
- PUBLISHER: Marvel; $2.99 US
In today’s direct market, every comic is special. Each issue is ordered by retailers (and customers) based on a combination of cover, characters, creators, and content. In theory, anyway. In practice, there’s also a level of comfort involved. For ongoing series featuring known characters, retailers plug in their usual numbers, perhaps with a bump up for a stunt or a slight decrease to account for the usual reader attrition.
Why am I talking about this? Because I read Araña #1. In another year (or more accurately, decade), this would have been an okay comic with a decent lifespan. Girl has powers, girl has loving father who doesn’t know, girl has team of people who fight crime with her. Fiona Avery’s text is overwritten, with pretentious captions and dialogue that tries too hard, but that’s nothing unusual for superhero comics (especially those of the earlier era under comparison). The art gets the job done without anything that particularly stands out, good or bad.
But now, the only way to get attention, to stand out from the pack, is to relaunch as a number one with a variant cover. This book doesn’t deserve that attention. Sure, increasing the diversity of Marvel’s mostly white male heroes is an admirable goal, but Araña isn’t even Marvel’s first Latina superhero. (Just the first one under Joe Quesada’s watch, in an example of typical corporate thinking: “if we didn’t initiate it, it doesn’t count”.)
So, expectations are raised, this mediocre book won’t satisfy them, and without corporate charity extending its lifespan, it’ll be soon dead as the numbers fall off. As a result, retailers become even more wary of relaunches, and as readers are taught to ignore stunts, those stunts have to become more and more excessive in a downward spiral.
Without a time machine to take this book back a few decades, I’m not sure what the answer is. Unless it’s better writing and art, so books can be sold on the basis of quality. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with such well-done poor sellers as She-Hulk and Madrox, that’s not the answer, either. Superhero comics only sell when hot (note difference from good) creators work on the same few aging characters, because their primary market is geared to reach aging white male fans of those characters, and they’re resistant to trying new things.
So what’s a big publisher to do? Risky efforts that require long-term commitment, such as building a way to reach new audiences, are fear-inducing among those who have positions to maintain. Only smaller publishers have the flexibility to try such things without disappointing shareholders or having to pay a top-heavy executive staff. The only trump card big publishers have are superheroes … and their audience won’t be around forever.