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May 25 2008

Creative teams that revolutionized comic books in the last few years. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. Need we say more?

What did they revolutionise? How to have huge delays and still have the fans lap it up? I though that was the Ultimates.
Ooh...burn! I sense a little bitterness?

I think that there is some merit to those lists. I'm a relative newcomer to comics: I hadn't even considered buying one, let alone reading one, before I took a Superheroes in American Culture class. Some of the stuff featured, besides the greats like Miller and Moore, was Joss and John's Gifted, Millar's Civil War and Jeph Loeb's Hush.

When I went to the comic store to pick up a comic for class, the owner pointed me toward Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Batman stories, toward the second two arcs of AXM, and towards Fables. I was hooked, and now my family teases me about being a true comics geek. And it wouldn't have happened if not for these new guys being so accessible and great with their storytelling.

The more I've read, the more I've come to appreciate that some creators really can't go wrong. Joss is one of them (Obviously! Just put the guy near a toilet!), BKV is another; the team of Loeb/Sale are also quite good, with some misses. Everything I've read of Millar's, I've liked. And yet, there's other stuff I've been quite underwhelmed by, stuff like 100 Bullets or Down.

I've read some of the greats, and I rank these guys up there with them. That seems to fit in with the theory that they revolutionized comics.
Umm, it strikes me that the whole point of Whedon/Cassaday's run on AXM was to strip an X comic back to simpler times before huge cross-over epics, larger, less clearly defined teams and sprawling stories. It's also a fairly straightforward tale, told over a fairly short amount of time, that (we're led to believe) has relatively little effect on the mainline Marvel 616 universe and also has very few (if any) of the po-mo meta-comments that a lot of people (looking at you, Morrison ;) are including in their work.

So how did it in any way "cause a radical and pervasive change" in comics ? Short answer: it didn't.

In fact, pretty much all of these teams can only be said to have revolutionised particular titles (Peter David made Hulk interesting for instance). Millar and Hitch are the only two you might make a case for genuinely revolutionising the whole medium (and even then not really - the Ultimate universes are just about super-heroes, not the entirety of comics).

I appreciate that they're trying to avoid the same old "usual suspects" and that because it's only teams from "Wizard's history" it can't go back before 1991 but in doing so they've crippled themselves (it's ridiculous, for instance, to talk about how Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have "all but perfected ... Year One-style stories" when you're not "allowed" to mention Miller/Mazzucchelli for "Batman: Year One" - which 20 years on still, IMO, kicks the shit out of anything i've seen from Loeb).
I agree with Gouki. What is so revolutionary about telling a good X-Men story and taking forever to do so?
So how did it in any way "cause a radical and pervasive change" in comics ?


The title brought in much needed new readers during a time when the industry seemed to be focussing on endless crossovers that were completely inaccessible to those who didn't know 10 years worth of backstory. So in that sense, yes it was revolutionary.
Simon, I agree -- after long absence I got back into comics with Fray, and AXM was the first superhero title I could read, follow and care about since Frank Millar's Batman.
Err, so bringing in new readers is revolutionary ? I think that waters down 'revolutionary' until it's basically meaningless but each to their own ;).

(the Ultimate line did exactly the same thing. In fact, the 1989 'Batman' movie - and roughly coincident inception of 'Legends of the Dark Knight' - did too. And so, probably did 'Batman Begins' and so, no doubt, will 'Iron Man' - coincident with the release of 'Invincible Iron Man #1' and then there's 'Stephen King's The Dark Tower', 'Orson Scott Card's Red Prophet' - all revolutionary presumably. Comics eh, it's like one big, continuous revolution ;)

And 'continuity free' or 'continuity low' books aren't new either. Being good and generating interest (and starting a new title from issue 1) isn't a revolutionary concept IMO.
Wizard magazine is the equivalent to the Blockbuster Video Rental Magazine. They sell movies but pretend to be impartial. Wizard does most of their lists based on popularity (and if the creative talent is nice to Shamus and their staff).

It's safe to say these folks have done great work, I've read them all. But I gotta agree with Saje, there's nothing revolutionary in their work. (Hush is an example of revolution? They had a long story involving all his villains and after tons red herrings, it turns out to be someone completely new? Weak as hell. Might as well have said, "it was all a dream") Maybe they should have given Alex Ross and his paint brush a listing as most revolutionary team...he actually changed comics. That photo-realistic style had a big impact on many artists and definitely changed the landscape.

To ignore pre-1991 work is silly. Its like talking about the pioneers of television and starting with Buffy. No denying the greatness of the Buffster but lets be honest, not a pioneer. However, interestingly, Buffy was revolutionary for being the first to arc seasons. I dont think anyone else did that first. Am I right?
Do you mean arcing across seasons or arcing within seasons alexreager ? 'Doctor Who' did the arc within a season as far back as 1978 with 'The Key to Time' (one overarching story in a single series - "season" in American ;) - taking place across 6 stories of 4 episodes each). And of course 'Babylon 5' (starting in 1993) famously did the arc across seasons with its 5 year story.

Not taking anything away from Buffy, there's nothing new under the sun which means it's all about how you put the pieces together and Joss and the writers, actors etc. did an amazing job with that.
"The title brought in much needed new readers during a time when the industry seemed to be focussing on endless crossovers that were completely inaccessible to those who didn't know 10 years worth of backstory. So in that sense, yes it was revolutionary."

Huh? Crossovers were dead more or less before then. Had been for a few years. The Ultimate line was doing 100k for the most part, as was New Avengers. I'm sure a DC title may have been cracking it. Astonishing X-Men just did for an X-Men title--and on the strength of the creators name rather than the quality for a title.

Comics may not have been doing as good as they were in the 90's (lol at Transformers Generation 2 selling as much as Astonishing X-Men), but Joss hardly rode in on a silver horse and saved the comics industry from no sales and crossovers.
Did Joss' run on AXM revolutionize X-books or comics in general? I don't think so. It should have, and it did bring in new readers, however that doesn't seem to have translated into any impact overall on other X-books or comics. In fact, X-books are going in the opposite direction now and the thing that has "revolutionized" X-books (or completely messed things up, whichever way you want to look at it) is the mega-crossover Messiah Complex.
Saje, alexreager and all, you guys are way smarter and more knowledgeable about comics than I am, and maybe "revolutionary" is the wrong word, but what the article said about AXM "taking comicdom's most popular team and painstakingly returning it to its superheroic roots" worked for me, and since then I've been backtracking over 20 years of what I missed since "Watchmen." It's an avalanche of great stuff.
Well it's funny you say that doghouse because i'm actually in exactly the same boat - I hadn't read a single for about 10 years (though i'd been getting some stuff in trade paperback) until I bought 'Gifted' and that re-ignited my interest, so i've also been doing a lot of back-tracking.

I agree BTW that Astonishing has been an excellent story so far (i've high hopes for Ellis' run too) but that's all it is IMO, it hasn't been new enough or different enough to be called revolutionary (not in the way for instance that 'Watchmen' most definitely was). And I have to admit to a teeny bit of contrariness whenever anything Joss does is hailed as absolutely the best thing ever or as breaking new ground (especially when, as with AXM, it's being hailed as revolutionary because it returned to its roots - contradiction in terms much ? ;). Joss is a truly great film and TV writer IMO but he's only a good comics writer (so far).
I'm not sure if his comic book work is "revolutionary" or not, but I do know that Joss Whedon's work is enjoyed by so many people who are not interested in comic books. His work is also favoured by people who do like comics. But there's something different about Joss's work - and it's probably the humour and character development - that makes readers come back for more. At least new readers. I think people who have been reading these books for longer realize that there have been similar works or similar writers who have, in fact, changed certain aspects of comic book culture and distribution.

Joss Whedon is the reason I am seriously looking at comic books. I have made so many discoveries this year that I would not have made otherwise. Every single person that I have suggested his books to end up liking them. While I wouldn't call it "revolutionary", as that is highly debatable, I would say that he brings a fan base with him that has the ability to change sales and popularize certain books.
I'm in no position to talk about "revolutionary" comics since I've read so few of them, but Joss certainly brought me to the comic shop for the first time, and some of what I've found there I like even more than Season 8 (Y, for example--though that's an unfair comparison since one is finished & one isn't even halfway through).
But Watchmen --that was a revolutionary reading experience for me.
But there's something different about Joss's work - and it's probably the humour and character development - that makes readers come back for more. At least new readers.

Yeah I think that's the key point myself (and source of my slight contrariness/annoyance ;).

Just like Joss fans who weren't really into sci-fi watched 'Firefly' and said "See, sci-fi can have humour and characters we care about" I get the same vibe from people that previously haven't read comics, kind of a "See, comics can have funny dialogue and character development". Well yeah, we know, both sci-fi and comics had been doing it for decades before Joss came along (as i'm sure he'd be the very first to admit).

(don't get me wrong, i'm really glad Whedon fans have discovered what comics are capable of but I do slightly resent the way some fans seem to be taking how their own eyes were opened about the medium and applying it to the medium itself as if the entire comics world can be split into BW - Before Whedon - and AW - After Whedon, as if all the other great writers out there were just wallowing in non-witty, non-character-based mediocrity before Joss came along and revolutionised comics)

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