August 31, 2009
The End of the Modern Age of Comics
A few reactions to Disney’s purchase of Marvel:
- Can we call this the close of the Modern Age of comics? Sometime during the early 00s—maybe even earlier—it seems like big corporate comics (DC and Marvel) shifted decisively from creating new characters and storylines to mining the creative capital they’d accrued over decades. (There’s a fossil fuel analogy lurking here.)
- I’m not talking about relaunches and re-interpretations, a la The Dark Knight Returns and John Byrne’s Superman reboot back in the 80s. I’m talking about all you do is look backward—whether it’s retold tales like Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man or recursive loops like DC’s Infinite Crisis.
- Okay, I’m sure there are lots of little exceptions, but I really really want to pronounce Marvel and DC dead. C’mon, can’t we just pronounce them dead?
- And what I mean by that is: They are no longer engines of creation. They now exist to license, merchandise, expand and exploit the IP they’ve been nurturing over the years. Which is totally okay! But…
- Who’s gonna create the new characters?
(Hmm. That ended up being more suited to paragraphs than bullets. Oh well, not changing it.)
Another detail from the story: Marvel has just 300 employees. Think of that company’s cultural “throw-weight”—not insignificant—and divide that by its headcount. Pretty impressive.
What have you noticed about comics in the last 3-5 years? Anything noteworthy? Anything that this deal crystallizes? Where is the medium going?