Thursday, February 19, 2009

Marvel's New Noise

First of all, I would like to say that I am a bigger Marvel fan than a DC fan, both in the comics I prefer to read and in the quantity that I consume them. The whys and wherefores of this are a matter of discussion for another day, but I wanted to point out before I go about today's blog. It feels to me than Marvel is better at attracting and helping new writers develop a fan base than DC. I am obviously not saying that Marvel has better talent (not to mention that such a claim comes to down to a reader's preference), as DC has some great writers such as Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Kurt Busiek, etc. These writers are all great professionals that have been in the industry for a long time, and that's where the "problem" comes about. It is important for a company to foster new or rarely heard voices in the industry in order to create new ideas and stay relevant. I believe that Marvel does a better job in this aspect of their company, "grabbing" and fostering new writers and giving them high profile jobs.

One of my favorite writers currently working at Marvel is the wonderful Jason Aaron. According to Wikipedia, Aaron's first work was for DC's Vertigo imprint with the The Other Side mini-series and the still ongoing Scalped series (which I highly recommend). Even though he is still working on Scalped, Aaron has moved on to writing for Marvel, getting exponentially bigger assignments over time: first a back-up Wolverine story, then a critically acclaimed four issue story on the same title (Get Mystique), the main writing duties of Ghost Rider and a fill-in for Black Panther's Secret Invasion tie-in which I have already mentioned. Finally, Marvel has given him a new title, featuring our favorite short Canadian superhero with metal claws, called Wolverine: Weapon X. In just a couple of years, Jason Aaron has gone from his Vertigo critical-darling creator owned work to writing one of Marvel's most profitable characters, earning plenty of praise from fans and critics along the way.

Five years ago, Matt Fraction was writing comics and graphic novels in indie presses. Much like Aaron, Fraction was given increasingly important writing jobs, first working alongside Ed Brubaker in the popular revival of the Immortal Iron Fist. A couple of years later, and he has under his belt a two year run on Punisher, a ten issue almost-creator-owned series in the form of The Order, and a group of very critically acclaimed Thor one-shots collectively known as the Ages of Thunder series. Fraction is currently writing two of Marvel's flagship titles, Invincible Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men. Even if Fraction is somewhat hit or miss for me, to the point where I either hate or love his work (and I will abstain from going into a full list of which titles fall under each category), I have to admire the man for getting so many promotions in such a short period of time so he must be doing something right.

I could go on for a very long time, but it's usually the same story over and over. Marvel has writers like Greg Pak (who in a few years single-handledly reinvigorated the Hulk franchise among other works), Fred Van Lente (writing one of the best ongoing series, Incredible Hercules, and other fun mini series), Jonathan Hickman (co-writer of Secret Warriors and who is set to take over Fantastic Four), Christos Gage (having written more awesome fill-ins and mini-series that I can count) and Duane Swierczynski (currently writing Cable, Immortal Iron Fist and Punisher: Frank Castle) to compliment their older veterans like DnA, Warren Ellis, Mike Carey and Peter David. Of course, DC also has some new or young writers, like John Rogers (Blue Beetle), Marc Andreyko (Manhunter), G. Willow Wilson (Vixen), Sterling Gates (Supergirl) and Peter Tomasi (who has been working in the industry for long time as an editor but only recently started writing comics), but it seems to me that other than Tomasi the new writers get stuck in the back alleys of the DC universe and it is a lot harder to get a spot in the flagship titles. DC has a lot of up and coming writers, but they are mostly under the Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints and only some of of them also write super hero comics for the main universe.

In conclusion, it seems that either by design or by practice, Marvel has a younger set of writers than DC. I personally believe it is good that the company foments new talent, even if it is not always a commercial hit or critically acclaimed. I personally have been enjoying the current direction in the Marvel universe, and so have a lot more readers if the sale numbers are to be believed. Should DC start tapping into younger writers to help shape their universe? Or is it fine as it is, being handled by professionals that know what to do with the characters?