I was sitting down to review The Defenders from Marvel and I couldn’t get this notion out of my head from when I had purchased the comic. At this particular comic shop, let’s call it Earth 2, the shop worker told me that she has a soft spot for Matt Fraction’s Iron Fist due to his and Brubaker’s run on The Immortal Iron Fist. As Kevin and I walked out of the store we joked about what she said, saying that “Free passes are what’s wrong with comics” which is a statement we’ve uttered for years as comic readers. What is a free pass? Well I have a perfect example for you of a creator that receives at least one free pass a month. When Brian Michael Bendis first hit Marvel he had an amazing run on Daredevil that not only tied into what his predecessors had done with the character, but he made this B-list character great. To this day it is one of his best runs on a series or character. Flash forward to his current run on… well anything really. You cannot seriously tell me that his Avengers is anywhere near the quality of Daredevil.There’s not even a quarter of the heart or thought that can be found in Avengers and yet it sells because of his name; because people keep reading it based on the fact that he did some great stuff during his early days at Marvel. That is a free pass and it is killing comics more than paper is.
Perhaps I can supply you with a more prolific example. Alan Moore has been dubbed one of the greatest, if not the greatest comic book writer of our time. Even though I find him to be highly overrated and most of his stories fall into the good, not great territory. I know blasphemy. Yet how many of you picked up Lost Girls or this year’s Neonomicon?I’ll be the first to say that I did not pick up Lost Girls since Alice, Dorthy and Wendy having sex romps isn’t at the top of my reading list, but I did try to read Neonomicon.“Try” being the key word there. It seemed as if the book should have been amazing, it was from Avatar written by Alan Moore with an artist that was tolerable. Instead it was just this terrible work of fiction that did Lovecraft’s name injustice. Yet I’m sure this will turn up on someone’s end of the year list or at the very least the sales were decent enough due to the free pass it received from rabid Moore fans.
The point I’m making here is that comics as a print medium could potentially fade away and comic book stores will be like the American arcade… extinct. Creators and parent companies really need to step up their game if they’re going to keep the medium strong and really only have themselves to blame for the industry being as weak as it is. Let’s be honest, Marvel and DC rely on that free pass you give top creators to sell books. Half of the time it’s the creator’s name that is selling the book these days and that’s why the pool of top-tier talent is so small. DC and Marvel may be the most notorious and dare I say even plan their strategy around it, but like all things there is a trickle down effect that has affected the rest of the medium.
Look at any licensed property from any of the major players and tell me that it’s not apparent that they’re using a similar formula. They, more than the big two, rely on those licenses to sell “X” amount of issues and bring in “Y” amount of revenue. Why? So that they can bring you some truly great creator owned books or just be able to publish things that would otherwise never making in the market without their support. The problem is that people waste their time and money on these books rather than supporting true comic books. I love me some Godzilla, Star Wars and Robocop, but I’m tired of watered down stories that fail in comparison to the original works their based off of. All they do is take the spot of a true comic book in a retailers store.
I’m guilty of the free pass, too; so settle down. I’m not singling you out, but I tend to give smaller companies and indie books more free passes than anything else. The biggest difference is when an indie book is just okay, it’s usually the creation of one to three people who have poured their sweat and tears into the work. It's not the product of a corporation that has dozens of people working on any particular title. I tend to be more sympathetic towards indie books, but only when I can see the potential for something great just below the surface.
Now I’m not saying, “Don’t buy this crap! Only buy indie!”which I know some ass is probably saying right now. What I am saying is say something. Something constructive that pushes these companies to tell good stories that showcase how amazing the comic medium is. That it’s a place where a boy with the name of a comic character grows up to become the universes most powerful villain and carves a fucking “S” on his chest. A medium where zombies,superheroes, magic, love and robots all co-exist because there is a market for it and not because it’s the flavor of the month.
Say something constructive; don’t just say you hated it because it was different, but rather because it was generic and unimaginative.Ask them to stop playing it safe like the rest of the entertainment industry does so that you can stop giving mid-grade comics a free pass. Or not, that seems to be helping the industry nail those coffins shut at record pace. I don’t know who said it originally, but vote with your wallet today and every Wednesday and know that when you pick up The Defenders #2,you’re saying that it’s okay to keep delivering the same team book you’ve read for the last ten years.