Sunday, March 14, 2010

See you next Wednesday

Wednesday Comics cost me about $112 all up. And it was totally worth it.

Now that the series is done and long gone, with just the collected edition and vague promises of further volumes to come, it’s still difficult to evaluate how successful it was. It appeared to do reasonably well sales wise – nothing outstanding, but certainly solid and attracting readers who seem to treat out-of-continuity tales like they’re the plague was always going to be a tough shot.

On a creative level, it was a mixed bag. Some of the weekly series was just rubbish, some of it was more entertaining than it had any right to be and some of it could be occasionally brilliant, which is enough for my money right there.

The creators were certainly a drawcard. The predictably brilliant efforts of artists such as Paul Pope and Kyle Baker were complimented by fine work from Jimmy Palomitti and Amanda Conner, who somehow managed to do the cutest and sweetest Supergirl story in years without becoming too cloying, or Karl Keschel and Brenden Fletcher’s Flash, which used its own temporal confusion to take full advantage of the massive page.

(It certainly helped that Keschel drew the best Flash-leaping-through-the-air poses I’ve ever seen.)

When it came to the characters that showed up, there was also a good mix of the usual big names and some oddball choices, with those oddballs generally providing better results than their more well-known contemporaries.

But for my money – and it was a shitload of money that you better not tell the wife about – the main drawcard behind the comic, the one thing that brought me in every couple of weeks, was the fact that it was something different. Not just the fact that it didn’t look like anything else out there, but that it was something self-contained that didn’t choke on its own self-importance.

There are plenty of perfectly average comic books out there, especially from the big two publishers, comics that can easily be ignored. Wednesday Comics’ format was the most obvious bit of experimentation, but there was also a fair bit in the stories themselves.

Some were still falling within that perfectly average range, but others tried so hard to do something different. They didn’t always succeed, but I’ll take a noble failure over a bland success any day.

Outside of Grant Morrison’s stuff, I don’t buy any other DC universe title currently being published. They all look and sound the same after a while. Generic covers, generic storylines, generic everything.

So Wednesday Comics had that going for it, right from the start. Now that the entire Marvel Universe now revolves around the Green goddamn Goblin, I’ve essentially given up reading Marvel superhero comics altogether, but I still WANT to read Marvel superhero comics. I want to enjoy them.

I just don’t want small slices of an impenetrable supersaga. Comics like the various Avengers books become almost unreadable for a significant portion of each year when they need to tie into the latest mega event, as they leave too much of the narrative to unfold in other comics entirely. And seeing all that bollocks recently seep into something like Daredevil, which was doing a nice job of carving its own little corner of the world under Ed Brubaker’s had, was just depressing.

Back at DC, a complete disinterest in the ongoing monotonies filling the pages of Superman and Green Lantern comics doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy any stories featuring those characters.

And these were some lovely stories in Wednesday Comics, something for everyone. Ignoring continuity altogether worked out well for most of the stories and to actually read a superhero story that has a proper ending, instead of spinning on to the next month, was remarkably refreshing.

Reading the entire 12-part stories in one go can be a mammoth logistical task due to the sheer size of the thing, but it is also pretty rewarding. The Wonder Woman strip got lost up its own mythology and tiny scribblings on a weekly basis, but was perfectly acceptable when read in a row, and even somewhat rewarding.

It did, unfortunately, also show that strips like the lead Batman tale were not as complicated, original or interesting as they first appeared, while several others had less pure, original plot than the Sergeant Rock beating that lasted for two months.

But there was enough for me to spend $9 a week for 12 weeks, and I’ll do it all over again if DC decide to push the experiment out for a second showing.

Because even though it doesn’t take much to do something different in modern mainstream comics, any sort of innovation – no matter how small – is a lot rarer than it should be.

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