The Grumpy Color | Tom and Carla dissect 2014, Part 1

(Time once again for ROBOT 6 contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman to email each other about the year in DC and Marvel superhero comics. This year’s exchange took place between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30.)

Tom Bondurant: First let’s address the elephant in the room -- or, more accurately, the infinite number of parallel rooms, each containing a slightly different elephant. In 2015, both Marvel and DC are building Big Events around their respective multiverses. Conventional wisdom predicts that DC is doing this to address fan criticisms of the New 52, perhaps resulting in some continuity tweaks.

Carla Hoffman: Oh, man, I hope that’s true! Honestly, I have a hard time judging the inner workings of our respective companies sometimes because I always hear more from the fan side than the production team. Enough customers come in, day in and day out, with a piece of their mind on how things should be run or changed, but rarely do the people in charge -- not creators and editors, mind you, the people who sign the checks at the end of the day with real power -- come forward to say, “We feel this is the right direction.” Tom Brevoort on Tumblr comes close with his tireless open forum, but even then there’s always going to be company policy. If DC is brave enough to go “Maybe we shouldn’t have thrown the entire baby out with the bathwater” and massage their continuity into a more pleasing shape for fans, that’s going to be a heck of thing that will have an effect on readership, for sure.

Tom: On the Marvel side, rumors and speculation are once again centering around a line-wide reboot. Now, these sorts of rumors have been flying at least since the New 52 started three years ago, so it’s likely that nothing will come of them this time either.

Carla: Yeah. It didn’t work at all when they called it Heroes Reborn. Marvel did want to use Ultimatum as a reboot to freshen up their Ultimate line, but that turned into possibly the worst mess Marvel has sent to the printers. The idea of a reboot is almost better than an actual reboot sometimes because it will keep readers anticipating the big moment where nothing will be the same and, at the same time, makes the current timeline more precious than ever, because it might all go away. Especially looking at the New 52, it’s surprising how much I still recommend older graphic novels over the newer series, mostly because of how unpredictable the New 52 was. I know what a George Pérez Wonder Woman story is going to be like, so I can tailor it to the reader, whereas the Finches could bring anything to the table for the Amazon Princess. We want change, but we really like the comfort of the familiar.

Tom: So is Secret Wars ‘15 just goofing on the whole “multiversal housecleaning” idea? Is it Spider-Verse for the whole MU?

Carla: If you had asked me this at the beginning of the summer, I would have said no. But the more things happen, seemingly recklessly, to characters and the more events we see that deal with time travel and the multiverse, the more I’m thinking Secret Wars is going to be really big. Setting aside any backstage politics about mutants becoming Inhumans because of the movie studios at war over rights and anything else we could dream up, there’s been a lot of changes to characters and continuity that don’t seem to have a clear purpose or return trip back to the status quo. It’s funny you mention Spider-Verse, because my current theory is that Secret Wars is going to have the multiverse battle each other, and whoever survives becomes the new 616, so to speak. A little reshuffling rather than a Crisis might work out a little better.

Tom: It’s the culmination of Jonathan Hickman’s mega-story, but does that still mean what it did a couple of years ago? (In other words, has Marvel moved its focus away from the Avengers?)

Carla: There’s just nowhere for them to move their focus to instead of the Avengers. It’s a good idea to make them your central story hub, as they have the largest and most diverse cast (and you own more of their rights than Spider-Man or the X-Men in terms of cross-media promotion) so they should, by all rights, be fighting the most dangerous enemies. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes should be fighting Earth’s Biggest Threats. As far as Hickman’s mega-story, I don’t think it means what it did two years ago because his story is so long and so complicated, most of us have lost sight of what the original intention was to begin with. Wasn’t there supposed to be an Avengers World? Are we that world? Aren’t there other Avengers Worlds? Are we fighting a Thanos World or something? I am so lost.

Tom: Has DC screwed up its superhero line to where the only solution, once more, is some degree of reboot?

Carla: Keep in mind I pretty much read one DC title right now -- Justice League 3000; no new 52-ness -- but I still think the New 52 can be saved. There are some fantastic stories out there, but they don’t seem unified enough. I don’t feel like I’m reading the same Superman in Action Comics, say, that I am in Superman/Wonder Woman. When the whole line kicked off, some of the books were written in a different time setting than others, and the Justice League didn’t make any sense. Which, of course, is the problem when you lose decades of continuity: No one knows where to start. I am all for a comfortable massage to continuity to save things that worked in previous eras and to erase the more disappointing aspects that simply didn’t work in the new era. Maybe Convergence can marry both the old and the new and create the comics we were all hoping for at the first reboot.

Man, all this Christmas cheer has me really optimistic. Check back in a couple months, and I’m sure I’ll be on the street corner with a "THE END IS NIGH" sign held high ...

And speaking of ends (segue!), we’re going to can the Fantastic Four. AGAIN. Tom, you’re a smart man: Why do we hate the Fantastic Four so much? Are they too dated and corny for modern readers? Is Dan Didio right when he says that superheroes just shouldn’t have families?

[We interrupt this analysis for an important digression.]

Tom: Sorry I am late getting back to you [from Friday evening to Sunday morning], but I have a superstition about University of Kentucky basketball [Tom’s alma mater] and the Fantastic Four going back exactly 20 years. I bought a big stack of FF back issues right before the UK/UCLA game [of Dec. 3, 1994], and UK lost in the last minute [81-82]; and then I did the same thing the day before the UK/Louisville game [Jan. 1, 1995], which UK also lost [88-86]. Yesterday [Dec. 27] was the Louisville game, which UK won, but I didn’t want to jinx it by talking FF ...

Carla: Dude. DUDE. That Fantastic Four anecdote is PRICELESS! Tell me we’re keeping it in!

[Yep. Moving on.]

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