(from Hero Illustrated #9, March 1994)
Well I had to laugh, didn't I?
Having read Marvel's solicitation for Spider-Man Whatchamacallit number mumbiety mumble in which "Spider-Man Reveals His True Identity To The World For Real Would We Lie To You?" and having just found out that it was a guy in a Spider-Man costume and that retailers are (once more) up in arms over another mainstream dirty trick... the mental image of Wayne and Garth with opened palms on either side of their mouth leaps to mind. I mean, come on. What if Mort Weisinger were alive in the 1990s? Can you picture the solicitations?
"Gee, Bubba -- says here Superman gets turned into a giant turtle an' it's fer real."
"Get outta Dodge."
"Naw -- sez right here. We better order another case an a half. When he's still a giant turtle twenny years from now, they'll be worth a fortune."
Every month I read the solicitations in Advance Comics and Previews. Every month I think to myself, "Self," I think, "this month, the retailers and the fans are finally going to get the joke." I read about another epic storyline that is going to change the shape of whomever for years to come. I read about another death, another marriage, another epic confrontation with Destructo, or Megadevoid, or Hellsstayne, or Evilkill and I think, "No one is this gullible. No one could possibly think that any amount of metal effort went into coming up with this rhetorical tripe." Every month I'm proven wrong.
It's a joke. You know, like, Marvel Comics paid Rob Liefeld $10,000 for a list of fifty nouns that they could turn into characters. Right now, someone (many someones) are reading this and thinking to themselves, "Wow. Ten grand. I wonder what those nouns were?"
It's a joke.
I talked to a retailer somewhere in my travels in the last year. Nice guy. Like most retailers, he confronts a handful of questions day after day. You could do a David Letterman Top Ten list: "Top Ten Stupid Questions Retailers Have To Answer On A Daily Basis": If Batman and Wolverine had a fight, who would win?" (Fill in any two characters for this last one -- or even creators, from what I understand of the state of Bubbadom: The Hulk and Rob Liefeld. Stimpy and Matt Groening); "Can you tell me how much this comic is going to be worth?" Store owners and people who work in stores take over where Mom and Dad left off; they are absolute and irrefutable authorities in the life of the young Comic Book Bubba. I used to tell store owners to tell them "$1,000 in 45 years." Since Comic Book Bubba has the attention span of a fruit fly, this guarantees a sure sale at a very low risk.
Oops. For all you Comic Book Bubbas reading this, that was a joke as well. I don't tell store owners that.
Anyway, this retailer noticed that the third most popular question was "Can you tell me what's going on in X-Men?" This question recurred so frequently that this retailer (being a cagey sort of fellow) thought there might be a genuine market for a publication called What's Going On In X-Men. An up-to-the-minute synopsis, guide to the characters, plot line flow chart, the whole nine yards (A lot of Comic Book Bubbas are eagerly scanning the ensuing paragraphs to see if there's an address and ordering information. Please, just wait for the punchline). He got out all of the X-Men back issues, right back to #94. He got a pad of paper and he sat down after hours and started making notes.
Now the punchline. He couldn't do it.
Get it? It didn't make any sense. None. Oh, the Claremont issues did (after a fashion), but once Chris was booted off the book, ANY pretense of coherence went out of the window. No one can tell you what's going on in X-Men. Not Chris Claremont. Not Bob Harras. Not Tom DeFalco.
It's a JOKE.
The X-Men consists of different groups of different characters who clench their teeth, wear various kinds of amour and shoot various kinds of energy out of various appendages. They fight each other. Why? No one knows. Who wins? No one knows. Where do they come from? No one knows. Not the writer, not the editor, not the publisher.
It's not just The X-Men; it's not just Marvel Comics; it's not just superheroes. Did you read Children's Crusade? I tried to. I read the first one by Neil. Wonderful. My back teeth ached to read the next one. I wondered what happened next. Then I got the next two parts. I read the first few pages of the second one 3 or 4 times and then I started smiling. They got me. Ha Ha! It's a joke. I get it. I'll just wait for Neil's end bit now. But they did it. They really got me with the "Continued in the next 3 Annuals" gag.
Or the new universe's last year. That was a side-splitter. "Our universe is going to be coherent, everything will be there for a reason. Twenty years from now, we'll still be publishing the same six titles, they'll still be written, pencilled and inked by the same creative teams, everything will be coordinated and woven into a seamless and exhilerating comic book experience." Guys would be telling me this at trade shows and conventions. I'd start smiling and snickering to myself. Okay, what's the punchline?
Then they'd all look offended. "No, no. It's true, 20 years from now, all these titles will be at issue #120 and..." I'd crack up. I really would. And they'd walk away. I'd think, "Hey, you haven't finished the joke."
Sure enough, a catalogue would come in six months later. Guess what? The writer quit after issue one! That's beautiful! What timing! What a build-up! I get it, I get it!
Hey, you wanna join in the fun? Tell you what; the next time you get your hands on one of the catalogues, read it out loud. Seriously. Use your best Jerry Seinfeld delivery. Just go through the Spider-Man listings. In between each listing look up and say "and then do you know what happened to the poor slob? Do you? Well the very next morning..." and then read the next listing. After that one say, "Now, a morning like this is going to take a lot out of a guy, as I'm sure you'll agree. So he heads down to the deli for a nice roast beef sandwich (no mayo, I mean, c'mon, the guy has to haul his own body weight around on gummy stuff that shoots out of his wrists), and what do you suppose happens to him? Go on, guess. No? Well..."
Some day, I hope some of you get the joke. Some day, you'll be reading the catalogues and you'll, you know, start to smile a little bit. Trust me. Then you'll be on the floor, you won't be able to stop. Tears will be streaming from your eyes.
Company controlled comics. Get it?