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Waiting For Tommy XXXV
By Richard Johnston
 
An interview breather this week. Bryan Hitch, Axel Alonso, Chris Claremont and more are waiting in the wings for the usual troll treatment, but sometimes it's good to pause and take a quick look around.

Every now and then someone names the comics year as something momentous. The Year Of Bust (which seems to have gone on for about eight years now), The Year Of The Sh**hammer (which never really looked that bad to be honest) or even the Year Of Image (it was late).

This year, 2003, is shaping up to be something that actually makes a difference.

Marvel and DC have been known to swap places occasionally, each offering creators, retailers and readers a certain experience, which they then swap for a year or two. But this year, rather than finding the usual common ground, they seem to have opened up blue water between them. And rather than diluting their differences, gravitating towards the centre, before passing each other on the way, they're entrenching their positions - making it harder to shift.


THE ULTIMATES VOL. 1 TPB

DC is a monolith. Imagine a man with his head up someone's arse, with his head up someone's arse, etc. The man at the bottom is in a very vulnerable position. With so many people to answer to, DC's answer is silence. Do nothing. Wait it out. Do not expose yourself to the public eye. Keep steady. Keep schtum.

Take their policy to writing submissions. They don't accept unsolicited submissions, for fear it could subject them to a legal case, the kind that could bring them down. Also, you know, they'd have to read them. Maybe. Everything has been formalised, working through a fixed structure. Attempts to break the delays this caused have only caused different, more complex procedures.

Marvel seem headstrong. Not only does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing, but it doesn't want to know. There is no internal consistency of opinion or policy and decisions can get made by who happened to be holding the PR stick at the time. People inside that company hate each other, yet in that battle for supremacy, much wonder may be wrought. Expect contradictions, a beast fighting against itself and a glorious mess all over the place.

Take their submissions policy. Marvel have gone for the 'send everything in' approach. It doesn't matter who you are, send in 22 page scripts. There may be a low chance of getting your break, but Marvel have promised that all will be read, quality will rise to the top, and currently you have a better chance than with DC. And because Marvel have targeted online journalists to write for them, without muzzling their output, they've totally contradicted their previous statements about creators all "playing for the team". Books are applauded for their increase in sales, then cancelled. Books are cancelled, then continued, then cancelled again. Creators are told one thing by their editor, another by their publisher. Policy is fluid.

 
So what else? Well New Marvel have proved quite popular at getting big names onto the books - or rather getting good people onto the books and then making them big names. Brian Bendis is now a name thanks to Ultimate Spider-Man, so is Peter Milligan and Mike Allred on X-Statix. Even the likes of Mark Millar and Grant Morrison on the X-Men titles who were well known to some are now well known to all. Exploiting their talent to the full, and making a big noise about it. Yet of late, they've been micro-managing a number of books beyond what some would consider acceptable. And if the creators don't like it, well, there's this new influx of blood coming in through the Epic line.

DC on the other hand have been consolidating what they've got and trying to headhunt from Marvel. They may have lost Kevin Smith on Green Arrow (but have Marvel really got him?) and the degree to which they have Frank Miller is debatable, but the Batman line is full of great talent, the likes of John Byrne and Mark Waid are being put to good use and there's a fair amount of talent being developed, especially in the Batman books, though without the fuss usually associated with Marvel's projects. There have been a number of attempts to headhunt from Marvel, but they haven't succeeded to the degree hoped. Their submissions have also become tighter, certain editors reporting they won't even look at submissions till the end of the year. Yet despite all this, despite Marvel having the energy, the verve and the attitude, DC continue to publish certain works that are further out than even Marvel would currently dare. Their structures and systems generate protection for a project that, once approved, might elsewhere suffer the death of a thousand cuts. Meanwhile, DC's bread-and-butter work becomes consistently stale. DC's internal politics are as bad as Marvel's but they are given less room to thrash about wildly. Revenge is a dish best served cold, while at Marvel it's served steaming hot in someone's face.

Pages: 1 | 2 Continued Here...

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