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James

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This is the twilight zone, it has to be. I'm dreaming this because you're being nicer than you usually are while talking about Vertigo's longest comic flushed down the toilet.

 

I've been fighting against Ade's dystopian vision of a Hellblazer OGN future* since probably the Carey days, but I can see the merit in it now. Re-reading Carey's early issues I'm struck by how much invention is still going on in a comic that's approaching its 15th year. Yeah, there are a bunch of familiar faces - most of the Ellis cast, plus a smattering of Ennis and Jenkins characters - but the mystery is new, the tortured relationship between John and his family is new, Gemma's status as Constantine Jr is new, the rest of the cast is new... Carey's always been a plot-centric writer, but it feels like he's exploring fertile new ground for John's character while writing a Constantine that's close to iconic. Switching to OGNs at that point would've felt like cutting off a comic that still has the capability to go somewhere interesting.

 

But then you get the Mina issues, which mostly spend their time revolving around the fallout of Carey's story. Then the Diggle ones that add nothing but faff about in ages-old continuity (The Golden Boy returning after 150+ issues! Who demanded that?). And now we have Milligan. And while Milligan's run is enjoyable for me, it also doesn't feel like it's exploring Constantine's personality or world in enough depth to warrant an ongoing series. Hellblazer has blazed out, and all we're doing is warming ourselves on the embers.

 

I'm not ruling out the possibility of someone coming in and blowing us all away with something as definitive and original as Ennis's run, but it feels a little bit like the comic has calcified over the course of the past seven or eight years and I can't see anyone in mainstream comics who's thoughtful, smart and fresh enough to change things up. There're loads of indie writers, of course, but I'm not sure whether Vertigo really go for that kind of thing much. They seem to get whopping great erections for novelists, but I'm a bit wary of pushing any of them onto an ongoing - except, of course, for China Mieville. But I've gone on about him enough.

 

Sorry, tl;dr. Basically: Nobody's given me a reason to believe that there's enough life left in Hellblazer's world or Constantine's story to warrant an ongoing series. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, of course.

 

 

 

 

* Irrespective of the fact that that's probably where all comics are going if digital sales don't take off, because the floppies are dead in the long term.

 

** Love Mina's novels, but editorial let her down; never been a fan of Diggle, those first six issues of The Losers aside; and while 90s Milligan would've knocked this out of the park, modern-day Milligan is no longer the sure shot he used to be.

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I can think of a few more prose horror (and other genre) writers who could take a decent shot at Constantine besides Meiville, James, but then few of those are prominent enough that Vertigo would fall over themselves to get one of them to write something about him.

(That said: just think what Ramsey Campbell could do with Constantine...)

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But how prominent was Denise Mina when she wrote this title. I'd only ever heard of her because of this board, and i'm a reader. I'd say she's not that well known (at least on this side of the Atlantic), no matter how good her novels are. It's not like Brad Meltzer was a household name when DC published what should have been a fantastic Elseworld JL book that ushered in the current turmoil that the DCU finds itself in. But i digress, If someone has the goods, why should that preclude them from having a go at the title. That's what Vertigo's been best at really, finding new talent and letting them tell interesting experimental stories.

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That's what Vertigo's been best at really, finding new talent and letting them tell interesting experimental stories.

Not failing to support or plug interesting new titles and letting them die a premature death from said neglect, then?

 

Mina is (over here at least) quite a big deal. One of the Michael Dibdin/Ian Rankin best selling thriller writers who gets grudging respect from the Sunday paper arts supplements and can occasionally be seen on the telly.

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And Even Ian Rankin isn't that well known over here. I've been in two used book stores looking for cheap Rankin paperbacks and neither owner had heard of him before. I'm not sure about the prominence part either but my thought was that if DC really wanted to make a splash by having a "Book Author" on their titles they would try and pick someone more like they've done with Stephen King on that Vampire book. If all they are after is the best talent, then any of those guys listed above should be fair game. And yes Meltzer was/is a best selling author, but it's not like he is a household name, even now with a show on TV and a dozen or so novels under his belt.

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Well no doubt they're limited by the number of recognised and celebrated authors who'd actually want to turn their hands to comics* - and, in the case of Hellblazer, comics whose characters and contents are owned entirely by DC and from which they would receive no royalties or guaranteed adaptation fees. That's going to thin the herd a bit.

 

To be honest I suspect that crime/fantasy novelists are to Vertigo's editors what Hollywood hacks are to DC's boys: a handy way to get some headlines and coverage outside of the comic press, with the added bonus of some third-rate media starfucking thrown in.

 

Is that too cynical? It's probably too cynical. At least they're not printing godawful comics by Lydia Lunch any more.**

 

 

 

 

* Because of the stigma attached to the medium, perhaps, or just not wanting to dedicate a massive chunk of their time to churning out scripts on a monthly basis. It's probably worth noting that Mina's the only one in recent times who's done an extended run (okay, and probably Mieville on Swamp Thing though I don't know how long he planned to do that for - was it more than a year?). King co-wrote American Vampire, and Jodi Picoult and Ian Rankin both worked on limited series or graphic novels.

 

** All right, I took the glib route because it reads better. The fact is that I'm actually all for bringing in folks from other media to write comics - infusions of new blood are what'll keep the medium alive, after all. And I definitely prefer Vertigo's method to getting a bloke that did some episodes of Lost to churn out some third-rate superhero cack. I still reckon they get a bit of a thrill from having a 'proper' author's number on their iPhones though.

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I think we're limiting the realm of "recognized authors" when we start eliminating New York Times' best sellers.

I mean, who is a "household name"?

I'm positive that a huge number of households have never heard of Thomas Pynchon, but should we strike his name from "recognized authors"?

That leaves us with Stephen King, Dan Brown, and Charles Dickens, basically. And, Dickens probably isn't interested in writing comics (at least at this point in his career). he he

 

Now, wasn't Picoult the writer of the monthly Wonder Woman comic?

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Yes she was, although it was only a limited 6-issue run, so I assume it was always done with at least half an eye on the tpb market.

 

But yeah, if Brad "NYT Bestseller" Meltzer doesn't count as a "household name" writer, then I can't think of many writers this side of Stephen King who do. I'm reminded of various Doctor Who fans who seemed almost affronted by the amount of hype this Neil Gaiman guy got when he wrote an episode. After all, who's he, and why did some people seem more excited by the fact that he was writing it than that it was Doctor fucking Who he was writing? Denise Mina isn't quite on that level (although Rankin is), but she was definitely very much a Name when she came onto Hellblazer, and I can understand why Vertigo would have been pleased to get her.

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I, for one, would absolutely buy a HB OGN written by Stephen King.

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To be fair, King is pretty much the best known living writer in the world. Nobody else (at least, nobody else who writes in English) even gets close, as Mark has pointed out.

"Best" and "best known" aren't even close to being the same thing, btw. Or would you have said that Ruth Rendell is a better writer than Rankin or Mina? Is Kingsley Amis' irritating brat a better novelist than Angela Carter or JG Ballard? Did William Gibson spend the '80s writing better SF than Bruce Sterling or was he just luckier? How do King's reheated cribs from the '50s horror films and novels he enjoyed compare to Ramsey Campbell or James Herbert? There are, admittedly, much worse horror writers than King (Shaun Hutson springs to mind for a start), but there's plenty of vastly better ones as well.

I don't see the fact that Vertigo might be chasing slightly less successful, but probably better writers than a listers in their field who've been coasting for years is that bad a thing. (The whole "Mina can't write Constantine thing aside, of course...)

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To be fair, King is pretty much the best known living writer in the world. Nobody else (at least, nobody else who writes in English) even gets close, as Mark has pointed out.

 

 

JK Rowling. Stephenie Meyer.

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Rowling is pretty bloody close, but Meyer simply hasn't been around long enough, or sold to a broad enough demographic, to have the sort of universal, cross-generation recognizability that King's achieved. Give it a few years, and we'll see.

 

It's not a game of absolutes, though, and I don't think anyone was trying to come up with some sort of all-encompassing list of famous authors ranked by name recognition.

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I do think that the Twilight books are such a ubiquitous part of the culture now that even if you don't know who Meyer is, you would know something about the sparkly vampires.

 

She may not (and probably will not) be able to sustain the recognition she has now, but for the time being i would say she would fit. Fit what? I don't know. I've forgotten what we were talking about.

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I heard she's working on a OGN for Vertigo called Jonathan Constantine : Glitterblazer - The Darkest Equinox.

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I don't see the fact that Vertigo might be chasing slightly less successful, but probably better writers than a listers in their field who've been coasting for years is that bad a thing. (The whole "Mina can't write Constantine thing aside, of course...)

 

Remember the days of Nancy Collins and Kaitlin Kiernan (just to give two prominent examples)?

Maybe Stephanie Myer isn't so far-fetched, in another couple of years, after the movies have been forgotten.

Apologies to Collins or Kiernan. They don't deserve to be compared to Myers, whatever their real faults.

 

Right now, Mark is right. Twilight is known, but the author isn't well recognized. It might have to do with the movies making a bigger dent in the public consciousness than the books.

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I'm slowly coming to terms with this, but I still think it sucks. It just seems like they could bring in a well known team with a history of hitmaking. Morrison- Quitely, for example. Watch sales go through the roof on that one.

 

 

...sighs smell of farewell...

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Well that would require Morrison to actually want to do a Constantine story, which I'm not sure he'd want to - he seems to have put all the dark, fucked up shit behind him and moved on to whiz-bang, bright iconic adventures.

 

And Quitely? On a monthly? Seriously? He'd be great for an OGN, though you'd want someone who's going to really push him to come up with something extraordinary.

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i was just using them as an example-i meant someone of their "star quality/fan fave" status.

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So, seriously, what name do you see being put on by Vertigo that would cause sales to really elevate?

Brian Michael Bendis?

I mean, outside of names that aren't going to work on Hellblazer on a monthly basis (Gaiman, Moore, Morrison), the only writers who are picking up sales for comics in the present are people we'd rather not see writing Hellblazer.

Going outside comics would be Vertigo's best bet, but unless it was someone like King, that wouldn't even elevate sales. Mieville is a lot our dream writer at this point, but his name won't increase sales.

It's just a matter of the current comic book market. Big events sell, pretty much anything else just isn't going to pick up a new fan-base. The comic market is just so stagnant now, and in the dwindling economy we live in, it's not going to pick up anytime soon.

That's why people in this thread talk about the monthly individual comics as a dead artform, and that the comic companies will have to find a new way to keep going (digital comics, for example).

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It's just a matter of the current comic book market. Big events sell, pretty much anything else just isn't going to pick up a new fan-base. The comic market is just so stagnant now, and in the dwindling economy we live in, it's not going to pick up anytime soon.

 

Yeah. Comic sales - floppies, at least - have been dropping for years, and the response from both Marvel and DC has been to focus more and more on big mega-events that bleed into each other and cross over into multiple titles,* which - anecdotally, I admit - seems to have further driven away casual/non-neckbeard readers, ie: the kind of people who might pick up Hellblazer because Morrison's writing it.

 

If there's a future for comics it's in OGNs and digital sales, but both DC and Marvel are scared to make a wholesale jump because it'll probably cause comic shops everywhere to crash. And that means making all kinds of shitty concessions (like charging as much for digital copies and physical ones on the day of sale) that will further hinder them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Green Lantern: Rebirth -> Sinestro Corps War -> Blackest Night -> Brightest Day -> Brightest Day Aftermath... that's six years of 'and then...' plotting. Likewise Marvel's Avengers Disassembled -> House of M -> Civil War -> World War Hulk -> Secret Invasion -> Dark Reign -> Siege -> The Heroic Age, which ran for seven years and was even worse as it was more closely tied in to multiple ongoing comics. It wasn't impossible to jump on and off, but it's indicative of the thought processes in the companies at the time.

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To be fair, King is pretty much the best known living writer in the world. Nobody else (at least, nobody else who writes in English) even gets close, as Mark has pointed out.

 

 

JK Rowling. Stephenie Meyer.

 

I have to differ with Mark on this one. Rowling doesn't have anything like the same market recognition King has (as the most succesful living writer in the English language), and Meyer isn't even close to Rowling, never mind King.

Something like three out of every ten Americans have read at least one book by King and all the stuff he published thirty five years ago is still in print. Rowling is nowhere near being able to compete with that, even if she does go on to publish something else besides the Potter stuff, which at this point is looking increasingly unlikely.

 

Even on the levels of sales for the Harry Potter books, Rowling isn't competing with King. Both got books dumped on supermarkets at a loss to keep their names prominent, but King seems to have shifted more copies of Cell than Rowling has of the last three books in the Harry Potter series put together, and that's without even getting into how many copies of Carrie or The Stand have been sold since those two first appeared...

 

Much as it pains me (KIng is no Ramsey Campbell, or even a James Herbert), he's way out of Rowling's and everybody else's league. Not even the mind numbing shit he spent most of the '80's churning out has done his career any harm.

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