That Sums It Up: Why Is Brave & Bold Dying?

Over at the Newsrama Blog (link no longer available), Graeme asks why The Brave and the Bold (scroll down) is doing so poorly.

That’s a good question. The comic lets two of the best superhero creators of the modern age, writer Mark Waid and artist George Pérez, use the biggest name and most fan favorite characters in a universe-spanning, anything-can-happen sprawl. Why is the book dying?

The commenters answer. I’ve had problems in the past with some of the idiotic things some people there say, but this time, I thought several of the responses were right on and insightful. I particularly want to call attention to this, #11:

B&B appeals to intelligent readers who appreciate the history of DC’s universe and the caring attention Waid and Perez give to the characters they use in their stories. Such readers have by and large stopped reading DC comics, since the bulk of the DCU is now run by overgrown fanboys with dismemberment fetishes.

That sums up my opinion. Being of a certain age, I was also stunned by the idea that Pérez’s art makes people’s eyes glaze over, but you know, I think that’s probably right. It’s baroquely ornate, and that can be off-putting to those more used to the simplicity of manga or the animated style or other pared down design approaches. I also agree with those who say that more plot resolution and stronger story through-line would have been appreciated.


17 Responses to “That Sums It Up: Why Is Brave & Bold Dying?”

  1. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I’d be curious to see if the book’s doing better in trades. I’ve given up following the DCU on a weekly basis; at some point, I just grab a trade or a bunch of issues and catch up when I have time. It’s much easier to follow, and is more rewarding to me as a reader, especially given the complexity of the stories that are being told over there.

    All I know is that the first B&B book was really a lot of fun, and I placed my pre-order for the second one yesterday. Waid and Perez are creating absolutely perfect superhero comics. I’m fine with Perez’s style (in fact, I’m a big fan!), and Waid’s spinning great stories from the recesses of DC’s continuity. He’s doing it the right way; instead of resenting the author for forcing me to know all sorts of DC trivia, he’s making me interesting in Space Taxi and the like.

    I think that the extra material in the trades also helps a lot. The trade for B&B had “director’s commentary” at the end, which made it a lot more rewarding.

  2. Michael T Says:

    Johanna – This is not exactly on point but I am curious if you know why DC has suddenly started to publish so many trades in hardcover format. I only buy trades and B&B, JLA, JSA, GL are all books I would buy – but only in softcover. It’s not even a price thing. I just don’t want to break up the even flow of my comics shelf. Any insights?

  3. Dave Carter Says:

    “That can be off-putting to those more used to the simplicity of manga or the animated style or other pared down design approaches.”

    With a new Brave & The Bold cartoon coming to the Cartoon Network, I imagine that DC will publish an accompanying animated-style comic. Sadly, it will probably sell as poorly as all of DC’s other animated-style tie-in comics.

  4. Dave Carter Says:

    Michael T: Paul Levitz kind of addressed the topic of hardcovers in his recent Blog@Newsarama post.

  5. thekamisama Says:

    I suspect it also might have to do with too much ‘competition’ within DC itself. Crossover books might just be passé in the day and age of MEGA EVENT massive universal meet and greets. Right now DC is managing Countdown, it’s sattilite books, the Tangent x-over, the New God’s thing, a DC/Wildstorm clash and is already hyping a new Crisis and weekly title. They claim each one of these books is crucial to the fans understanding of the future continuity of the DCU. So a beautifully drawn crossover book with only 2-3 characters who are not struggling for the fate of the universe in every issue is just not a priority for the entrenched continuity porn addict’s fan’s dollars.

  6. Charles RB Says:

    I agree with the third commentator who says “it’s a book that has a very, very, very specific audience and everything about it (content, story-telling style) is pretty off-putting to people outside of that audience” – because when I see Brave & Bold in Previews, I get a feeling I’m not the audience for this. So I don’t buy it. I also don’t have that big an attraction to the DCU continuity as an entity, so “random ever-changing characters meet up” isn’t that appealing to me.

    I agree with thekamisama that Brave & Bold is at an inherent disadvantage when there’s so many “event” comics going on around it at the same time.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Dave, thanks for providing that link. I read between the lines and conclude that DC books have to be successful as periodicals before they are seriously considered for collections — unless they’re award-winning or otherwise notable.

    Ray, I haven’t seen the trade yet, but those kinds of extras sound great… and may drive waiting for the book. And I agree with your methods — I do the same thing these days, preferring to read larger chunks.

    Michael, I don’t know what determines those format decisions these days. Although my default answer, “money”, may apply. :) Plus, hardcovers survive shipping better and can be priced higher.

  8. James Schee Says:

    For me, I’d be more interested in a team up book that had characters I was interested in.

    Last I looked it was Batman (Waid’s Batman is usually odd), a Green Lantern I dont care for, a LSH I lost interest in and a Supergirl I find just a bit icky.

  9. odessa steps magazine Says:

    As one of those “old fogeys” who love classic DC stuff, I love the book. I mean, where else are you going to see the Challengers, the Shining Knight and Space Cabbie meaning up with Supes and Bats?

  10. Alan Coil Says:

    Michael T—

    I think they put the books out first as hardcovers because Marvel does. Marvel, for the past several years, has put out hardcover collections on much of their stuff before they put out the softcover. Marvel proved the market would support hardcovers, and DC followed. That only makes business sense, even though not all customers would be happy with the decision.

  11. Alex P Says:

    The sales figures mentioned in the article indicate that B&B is now selling at the same level as Booster Gold; it’s just that Booster Gold hasn’t experienced as great of a drop. But no one seems to be concerned about the under-performance of Booster Gold even though it has two big names attached to it (Johns & Jurgens – Jurgens still counts, right?). It could be that B&B has reached its sales level.

    Given the solicits, future issues appear to be done-in-one’s. This would address one of the concerns. Waid has said in interviews that he specifically chose Batman & Green Lantern & Supergirl as the main characters of his first few issues based on how well their respective comics were selling at the time he was writing the stories. As the series has progressed he’s chosen less popular characters and the sales have reflected this. B&B 7 had Wonder Woman & Power Girl on the cover and sold about the same as the issue of Wonder Woman that came out that month.

    This makes me come to the somewhat obvious conclusion that much of the sales are determined by who is on the cover. If Waid wanted to correct this, he could write more stories w/ Batman. But why should he? He already has another job that surely pays better and he’d rather tell the stories that he wants to tell.

    What I find really fascinating from the sales figures is how well Superman/Batman is performing. I’ve never read a single word of praise for this comic and all the scans I’ve seen look atrocious. You can see why DC execs would be dismissive towards blogosphere cognescenti when a title like that is one of their better performing comics.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for doing those comparisons — very interesting. When it comes to sales figures, it’s not just the numbers but also the expectations. Two books can both sell (let’s say) 30K, but if the company expected one to be doing over 50, then it’ll be seen as a failure… and if the expectations were higher, the costs might be higher, too, so it may be more expensive to maintain.

    And you’re right, that characters still matter a lot more than creators or content when it comes to superhero books.

  13. Kenny Says:

    Johanna,

    I can be kinda snobby at times regarding comics, but that being said, I don’t know that I agree with any comment that implies people are stupid for not reading a given title. I don’t necessarily think B&B is appealing *only* to intelligent readers, or that people reading, say “Booster Gold” or “Blue Beetle” in lieu of B&B aren’t intelligent.

    I honestly think Waid just isn’t as popular as he once was and therefore isn’t driving sales like he once did. The bait and switch DC did with him on “The Flash” didn’t really set the sales charts on fire, so why would there be an expectation for B&B to do the same?

    DCU books aren’t really selling at spectacular levels – I think the highest seller has been JLA with 70K copies a month – and I think that’s the reason for B&B’s low sales.

    I don’t think there are many people on this island with me, but I’ve long felt the superhero reading audience is shrinking and manga is the new mainstream. As a result, I don’t think a book with an old school feel is going to sell well.

  14. Johanna Says:

    I didn’t pick up on that assumption, Kenny, but I can see what you mean. I took it more as addressing how some of the biggest DC stories lately have been unintelligent, by which I mean rely on willful blindness or readers turning off their brains. They fall apart if you look at them or expect consistency. I didn’t intend any insult to readers with different opinions.

    And yeah, the Flash situation was very disappointing, especially with an artist so ill-suited to sequential storytelling.

  15. Jim Perreault Says:

    I’m surprised no one has said this, but maybe the book is just too retro. The book started out strong, but the last couple of issues have been very old school. The Atom/Hawkman one in particular felt very odd to me, and quite different from their respective books.

    I still think it is a good book, but am not surprised to hear that it is not doing well.

    Jim

  16. The Ettatorial for the Week of 5-21-08 | Project Silence Says:

    [...] the last of my picks for the week is Brave and the Bold #13.  While online talk of the book recently have been about it’s sales, I’m not going to go into that [...]

  17. Morgan Says:

    The first six issues were a stunning story arc and comic tour-de-force. Obviously Waid and Perez had the kicked around the concept thoroughly from beginning to end. It was A-1 comics.

    Afterwards, not so much. The title started to coast. Mini-stories that were pretty to look at and not horrible to read, but nothing of substance. The “threat” of a created-out-of-thin-air cosmic villain never gelled.

    Then Perez left and the coasting slammed to a jerky halt. I read the grand finale to the Megistus Crisis (YAWN). I barely made it thru the inane drivel of issue. B&B is off my list.

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