Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogathon 21: 100 Issues in a Row (Augie de Blieck, Jr. Guest Post)


The only thing rarer than a comic book reader sticking around to read 100 straight issues of a comic series anymore is a singular creative team sticking around for 100 consecutive issues. When I sat down to make a list of the comic series I had read for 100 issues straight, though, I was surprised to realize that (A) they were nearly entirely creator-owned and (B) all kept the same creative team for a long stretch.

The obvious conclusions to make from this are two-fold:

* Creative consistency is key to my enjoyment of a comic. Give me a singular voice and there won't be as many opportunities to jump off the train.

* Creator-owned comics are freer to make changes, take chances, and adapt to the times. They don't need to stop every six months for the latest crossover. They don't have stories dictated to them by an editorial committee. That keeps the books fresher, inviting readers to stick around longer without being bored by repetition.

The list of books I didn't make it to 100 issues with didn't follow those two rules. I read "The Amazing Spider-Man" for a long time when I first started reading comics, but the changes of direction and creative teams eventually drove me away. I stayed for darn near 100 issues of Peter David's "Hulk" run, but after David left, so did I. I read "Uncanny X-Men" for a long time, too, but you know how things go in the Mutant world. . . The last two decades of that title have been a churn of creative teams, directions, reboots, and rampant crossovers. Just when you get comfortable or find a particular creative team to enjoy, they're gone again.

I have read more than 100 consecutive issues of "Uncanny X-Men," mind you. I just didn't read those from month to month. That came from reading Chris Claremont's entire run, 90% of it in reprinted editions. That doesn't count for this column, because I'm explicitly thinking of the books I read from month to month as they show up on the stands. It's a different thing, but it is interesting that the run is based on the specific work of one creator. I don't think I'd ever go back to read 100 consecutive issues of X-Men from a time after that run. It would be too jumpy.

Which comics have I stuck around for 100 issues of? Not many:

* "The Savage Dragon"

One creator, Erik Larsen, has handled words and art for nearly 200 issues now. And I've been around since the first issue of the first mini-series. The biggest changes in the title, creatively, have been in the coloring department, but they've still mostly maintained the same look and feel of the series. The lettering has been passed off a couple of times, but you can't complain when the list of letterers is Chris Eliopoulos, John Workman, and Tom Orzechowski, can you?

* "The Walking Dead"

Charlie Adlard just hit his 100th consecutive issue, after taking over from Tony Moore early in the series' life. Given the speed of Moore's output in the years since, it's obvious that "The Walking Dead" would be nowhere near #100 if he had stuck around. Adlard is a producing machine, and he's good. I've enjoyed his work going back to "Astronauts in Trouble." His style is much better suited to comics without super-heroes, so "TWD" is a good fit for him.

* "Invincible"

The series is coming up to 100 issues soon, and Ryan Ottley has drawn the vast majority of them. Only Cory Walker has drawn the series otherwise. Walker is the series' co-creator, and still comes back from time to time for a fill-in story or some pages of issues with separate stories. This entry is a bit of a cheat, in that we're still a couple weeks away from the 100th issue, but I'm going to give msyself that buffer.

* "Ultimate Spider-Man"

This is the only series that fails the creator-owned test. It's a title I stuck with for the entirety of its original run. I said often that it was the single best monthly superhero comics being published during those years. I only hopped off when the series ended, the character "died", artistic teams began to change frequently, and the series rebooted a couple of times. I would like to get back to it someday, buy up all the collections since then and sit down to have a good read. I just can't force myself to read "Ultimatum" again to get the whole story. Ugh.

Still, those 120 or so issues with Brian Bendis, Mark Bagley, and Stuart Immonen were pure gold. I wouldn't trade them for anything. I never considered dropping the title, either. I do honestly believe the quality level was high throughout the whole run. Some stories might have grabbed me harder than others, but I was never bored. I never bided my time until a better creative team or a better story came along. That goes for all the books on this list. And that couldn't be said about any series that had multiple creative teams, reboots, "jumping-on points," etc.

The comics market today doesn't reward consistency, creators are too busy diversifying their IP portfolio to stick to the long slow decline in sales that most monthly books fall prey to, and the Big Two don't want to publish a comic for three years (let alone 8.5) without rebooting it and pushing me away. The Direct Market does not reward extended runs. And monthly comics don't get produced for the non-Direct Market. Those markets -- specifically, the bookstore market -- are geared towards collections, and those rarely last long as a series. So how many titles might you read 100 issues of in the next few years? I doubt there are too many. Jump aboard "Usagi Yojimbo" and you stand half a chance, though.

Or do what I do and buy lots of translated French albums. But that's a topic for another Blogathon someday...

Thanks to Chad for lending me a few inches of blog space for this particular walk down memory lane, and for putting together this Blogathon for a good cause. Let's go to the tote board now!

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]