Random Blogness: RIP, Thor the Mighty Avenger
Today I discovered a lovely new comic called Thor the Mighty Avenger. I admit that I had seen it previously in my comic shop, but glossed over it because I figured it was only being published because the Thor movie is out and Marvel wants to try to cash in on that. It turns out that it’s actually totally its own thing and completely awesome. It’s an out-of-continuity tale that presents Thor as a newcomer to Midgard, learning the ways of humanity and trying to figure out how he got exiled from Asgard. His guide in Midgard is Jane Foster, and thanks to some terrific art and adorable scenes, it’s the only time I’ve seen Thor presented in a really romantic light.
And…it turns out it’s canceled.
The typical thing I see among fans online when a good book gets canceled due to low sales is blame for fellow fans. Indeed, Thor the Mighty Avenger would still be around if people would just buy it. But at the same time, people need to be aware of it in order to want to buy it, and word of mouth just doesn’t cut it. I hadn’t heard thing one about Thor the Mighty Avenger, so I assumed it was just another book that I really wouldn’t care for since I’m not that into Thor. I had no idea that the book contained the exact things I’ve been missing in mainstream comics: a sense of whimsy and fun, good character development, and stories that made me smile instead of frown. Instead, I and many other comics fans have been inundated with boring-ass previews of boring-ass crossovers like Fear Itself and Brightest Day.
I don’t mind serious comics; one of my favorite comic storylines is Planet Hulk, which is about as depressing as you can get at the end. But even in its serious moments, Planet Hulk is fun. And I want comics that can be fun. For some reason, the big titles that Marvel and DC hype lately have been lacking in that fun quality. Civil War made every superhero involved look like an asshole. Identity Crisis continued DC’s apparent war against women by having poor Sue Dibny get raped and then killed. Possibly the only big crossover recently that I would define as fun would be Blackest Night, which is one of the few that haven’t sucked. (Well, there’s also World War Hulk, but that was only fun in its main book and a couple tie-ins – many of the other related books were just dull.) Looking at Brightest Day, I see a huge focus on big fights and pretty colors but not a lot on character moments that make comics worth reading. Looking at Fear Itself, I see Thor dragged around in chains and Marvel hyping up someone’s death in issue #3 (and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be my beloved Hulk). I don’t want to see superheroes die. I want to see them be awesome. I want to see them smile once in a while. I want to see those moments when they’re with their loved ones at the end and happy for a moment. I’m sick of big events that require heroes to be jerks and then have no real ending except a “To be continued…” teaser that builds up the next boring-ass event. Let’s have the heroes get a clear-cut victory once in a while. Let’s have a Tony Stark who is a conceited but lovable playboy and not an arrogant, dangerous fascist asshole. Comics can tell a variety of stories, but it often seems like Marvel and DC are only interested in the depressing ones where likable characters are at a premium.
Admittedly, a lot of this is based on sales – the big two have noticed that issues where heroes die sell well, and that many readers seem allergic to books that are fun because we as nerds for some reason insist that our hobby has to be serious business all the time. But sales trends aren’t just indicative of how the readership is reacting to things – they’re also indicative of the marketing and buildup coming from the companies producing the work. Advertising, art teams, tie-ins, and so on are all decided upon by the companies putting the product out, and they all boost sales when sued correctly. All too often,high-quality fun books get canceled before they even have a legitimate chance to attract a readership. Dan Slott and Peter David each had excellent runs on She-Hulk, but during its long run it barely got any advertising or tie-ins with other books. The Incredible Hercules saw ever-decreasing sales despite being one of the best books out there. By the time it actually did get something to build some interest in the character – the Chaos War event – the book had been canceled. It even affects higher-profile superheroes like Wonder Woman, who got a huge reboot to boost sales despite the fact that Gail Simone’s run on the book was excellent yet received very little hype.
Now Thor the Mighty Avenger is one of my new favorite comics, and I’m only finding out about it after it’s been canceled. I’ll track down the back issues and enjoy the heck out of them, but I’ll always wonder how the story might have gone if Marvel had been pushing the book a little bit instead of wasting time with Fear Itself.