A few weeks ago, my daughter and I sat down together to read the latest issue of “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” I have watched a fair amount of Scooby Doo, both as a child and as an adult, and let me tell you, there is a pretty straightforward formula laid out for you here: someone disguises themself as some kind of creep, ghoul or spectre, the gang finds clues and unmasks the perpetrator. There is no expectation that you be as clever as BBC’s Sherlock, or even as clever as the commercials for it.
On occasion, the Scooby Doo comic transcends its formula, but at least as often, it fails to execute even that hoary old cliche with any degree of competence. I have bravely soldiered through quite a few mediocre to just plain bad issues of this series. But finally it sank so low that even my five-year-old daughter could not help but notice how little sense the story was making. Finally, after we flipped back pages to see if we missed any clue to help us make sense of the story to no avail, my daughter asked me who wrote the issue, and I flipped back to the front to find the name. My daughter immediately responded: “Well there’s the problem, it’s not Sholly Fisch.”
My love affair for Sholly Fisch is a topic much discussed on this blog, so it’s not all that surprising that some of that has rubbed off onto her. But what we have here is a five-year-old girl who has her own favorite comic writers and artists and can name them, has her own pull list and her own short box in her bedroom to collect her comics in. She looks forward to Wednesday nights every single week.
So let me tell you why I’m so dismayed with the April solicits.
Let’s start with the DC solicits (and I should note that it’s kind of weird that there’s a half-dozen comic book news sites that do a better job with the solicits than DC’s own website does). Young Justice, the tie-in book to the Cartoon Network series, had its last issue in March. Superman Family Adventures is given an abrupt ending, only a year after Tiny Titans (the most beloved all-ages comic book series in the history of ever) was cancelled to make room for it (and having the same creators and art style, it was a pretty good substitute for Tiny Titans in its own right). Green Lantern The Animated Series was missing from the solicits altogether, apparently switched to a bimonthly series now without warning.
So if we look at the math, what’s happening is that my daughter is going from getting six issues featuring DC superheros every two months to getting one, or from 8 DC books total in that timespan down to three.
This was incredibly frustrating news. As someone who mostly purchases DC comics these days, I started giving serious thought to having both of us moving to a more Marvel bent.
Marvel Universe ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #13
Adapted by Chris Eliopolous
Cover by TY Templeton
• It’s all-out action and excitement as the webbed wonder does battle with the Frightful Four – and takes his first step to becoming the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN!
• Meanwhile, what dark secrets lurk within the Osborn family?!
• The hit DisneyXD show leaps off your TV and into your hands!
32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99
Marvel Universe AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES #13
Adapted by Chris Eliopolous
Cover by KHOI PHAM
THE AVENGERS ASSEMBLE TO FACE DOWN DOOM!
• On a case with special guest stars the Fantastic Four, Avengers mansion becomes a target for the diabolical Doctor Doom and his minions!
• The hit DisneyXD TV Show bursts off the screen and into your hands as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes take their most drastic stand!
32 PGS./All Ages …$2.99
Note how these comics are no longer “written” or “drawn,” they are “adapted.” Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man #13 (in addition to having one of the most confusing titles in the history of man) goes all the way back to the first episode of the first season, just in time for the second season to start. Not to mention that episode already got a screen capture adaptation a year ago, and was free to boot. (And yes, yes Chris Eliopoulis was responsible for that adaptation too, in case you were wondering.) Now, sure, Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man has bothered me in the past. But if the future direction of the Marvel Universe comic line-up is “stuff they were handing out as free promotional times a year ago,” I don’t see how that’s an improvement.
So, yes, in the space of about a week, the Big Two have apparently conspired to make my daughter’s pull list a depressing thing to consider. And I can’t help but wonder, why?
So I’m frustrated for a lot of reasons. I’m frustrated that DC Comics has cut loose my daughter’s favorite creative team, Art Baltazar and Franco. I’m frustrated that I can read four of five comic book news websites and get only the barest scraps of rumors about the handful of all-ages books the Big Two are bothering to publish. I’m frustrated that Marvel decided to cancel their excellent Marvel Adventures all-ages line for some mediocre cartoon series tie-in books and that now they’ve given up on any pretense of doing those well.
And I’m frustrated because I remember how I got interested in comic books. It was because when I was a kid, I’d go over the spinner racks and look for whatever had Wolverine on the cover. I’d hang out at the comic book shop located in the same shopping center as the local grocery store while my mother did her shopping and I’d spend my allowance money on X-Men books. I read and buy comics now because I picked up the habit as a kid.
And now I’ve got a kid who is already in the habit, already loves comics and is passionate about them, and DC and Marvel apparently cannot be bothered to cater to her. And I know that all-ages books don’t sell great in the direct market, but there are whole publishers out there who subsist on selling books in roughly the same sales range, who don’t have the newsstand distribution or the Diamond discounts that the Big Two enjoy.
I’m not insisting that all comics should be for kids. I buy, read and enjoy a lot of books I wouldn’t let my daughter near with a ten-foot pole. But I feel like some of them should be, I really do. And I’m getting really disappointed about how it doesn’t feel like anyone agrees with me.