Thursday, April 15, 2010

Soapboxes, Superman, and Sabretooth

So before we get to picking the next random book to review, please allow me and my soapbox a moment of your time.

DC has recently made the announcement that the new writer of Action Comics, Marc Guggenheim, is to be replaced by Paul Cornell before his first issue ever sees print. Now I have no dog in this fight, as I have had very limited exposure to each creator as they both found themselves writing Marvel projects that I had very little interest in.

Guggenheim got handed the unenviable task of ending the horribly misguided Flash: The Fastest Man Alive series, and did it well. Likewise, I've heard nothing but good things about Paul Cornell's stints on Captain Britain and MI-13 and Wisdom. So yeah, both of these creators I welcomed on board Action Comics and look (or looked) forward to reading their stories.

But all of this hubbub leads me to an observation about a huge problem with Action Comics over the past six years.


I've said it before (and I'll probably say it again, so I apologize in advance) that I'm a big Superman fan. I started reading during the death of Superman era, and one of the hooks that brought me in was the fact that I got a Superman book every week. The stories didn't always intertwine, but there was a certain level of consistency with the creators on those books that made me a lifelong fan. Writers and artists stayed on these books for years at a time, which allowed plots to mature and grow in an organic fashion.

So fast forward fifteen years, and my oh my, how things have changed. Here's a graph that I put together that helps demonstrate my point.

As you can see, I listed the regular writers on Action Comics from a point in time right after Action Comics Weekly ended in 1989, to the present. By my figuring, there have been eight regular writers in that time.

Take a look at the first four, who wrote the title from 1989 to 2004. The average run for those writers was forty issues! That's three solid years of month-in and month-out storytelling. To further press my point, in those 170 issues there was only 18 fill-in issues!

Now to contrast, let's look at the last six years. Once again, we have four regular writers. So what was the average number of issues in their runs?

Fourteen. Fourteen measly issues. Barely a years worth of issues.

To make matters worse, there have been more fill-in issues during this time than all of the other writers but one were able to produce. Hats off to Geoff Johns for doing two years worth of stories, it's just a shame that it took him over three years to do it.

All of this is symptomatic to what the main problem with the Superman titles, and Action Comics in particular, have had in the recent past. They've just been all over the place in consistency and tone.

With the announcement that J. Michael Straczynski was taking over Superman, I allowed myself to get optimistic about the direction of the Super-titles. Not that I'm the world's biggest JMS fan, but he comes to each of his projects with a long-term strategy in mind, so that was encouraging.

But now, right out of the gate...scratch that...before the horses are even led up to the gate, we get another writer shuffle.


So as excited as I am about getting to experience some of Paul Cornell's writing, I'm going to be holding my breath for the first six months or so waiting to see if he's able to stick it out. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the last six years, his prospects look less than sunny.

I do wish him the best of luck, however.

Now, let's get on to picking the next random book to review. Take it away Randomizer...

...and that book is Sabretooth #4 from December 1993, published by Marvel Comics!

Yea, it's of my least favorite X-villains. This series was from the 90's, and while I can't quite remember it that clearly, I think it was against the law to leave the comic book store without at least one copy of every X-book.

Yeah, that must've been it.

This is also the second pick in as many weeks that features a book written by Larry Hama. The last one was a pleasant surprise, so maybe Larry Hama will surprise me on this one too. I honestly remember nothing about this book, so anything is possible.

See you in a day or two for the review.


  1. Amen, TomO. The post-Infinite Crisis Superman has not exactly been a strong period for comics, mainly due to the inconsistency. I think a big part of that has been allowing one title to forge a direction, leaving the others to work their stories around it, such as Kurt Busiek having to write his Superman stories around the delays to Donner/Johns/Kubert's Last Son storyline.

    JMS is definately a long-term writer, but so is Paul Cornell, even though he hasn't had the chance to show it over an extended run in comics. Any Doctor Who fans who remember the internal consistency of the Virgin New Adventures from the early 1990s, of which Cornell was a key author, will know and appreciate his skills at working with a long-term strategy.

  2. I really liked Busiek and Pacheco paired up on Superman, so I agree that it's a shame that they kinda got the raw end of the deal waiting for Kubert to remember where he put his pencil.

    And yet another reader with nothing but good things to say about Paul Cornell. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to seeing what he brings to the Superman books.