Sunday, November 04, 2007

X - FORCE.....X - STATIX.....X - CELLENT ?

Today I´m taking a look at the old X - Force / X - Statix series by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred. This Friday I got an e - mail from my comicshop telling me that he is going out of business. He´s closing the shop down. This came as a big surprise since I didn´t even know that he had troubles. I knew something was up when he only got a few new comics for the last six weeks. I just didn´t know that he would close his shop. You think you know somebody, you talk with him every few weeks and then you find out that he had problems and you didn´t know.

What is it with the german comic guys ? It seems they can´t tell their customers when they are in trouble. It´s the same with german comic publishers. Like there is this big secret about the sales number and if anybody ever found out how high they are everybody working at the publisher and all readers have to die. At least that´s what it seems like. It´s easier to find out the biggest publishing secrets or stuff about new projects than to find out anything about sales numbers. When PANINI was publishing THUNDERBOLTS in Germany they cancelled after issue 12 ( I think ) and the reason they gave was that the last two issues already lost money because they didn´t sell very good. And since the numbers did not increase in the last issue they decided to cancel the series. Well, I can understand that - nobody likes to loose money. What I can´t understand is that they didn´t even try to get help from their readers.

Now readers are not the remedy to all illnesses that can befall a comic book. But SPIDER - GIRL and MANHUNTER showed that IF a publisher is willing to inform the readers that their favorite book is in trouble and IF the readers are willing to fight for it it can be saved. Maybe if german readers were informed that THUNDERBOLTS was in danger of cancellation the title could have been saved. Instead of buying just 1 issue they could have bought 2 issues to give to other comic fans and to bring new readers to the title.

And if the customers of my comicshop would have known that there is trouble something could have been done. Maybe if everyone could have put five more titles on the pull list or.....I just don´t know. What´s the problem with accepting help ? It´s always the same. You give them good advice about how to sell more comics and they ignore it. You notice that the new comics come more and more infrequently but if you ask why they just give you excuses. And one day you are informed that the shop is going out of business - through an e - mail.

Ah, forget it. That´s not the first time I changed the comic shop and it probably won´t be the last. All customers have been transferred to the shop that has been my emergency comic shop until now, the SAMMLERECKE in Esslingen, so on Monday I have to call my old comic shop if that´s still possible to find out how this is supposed to work in the future. And if the shop´s already out of business then I have to go to Esslingen and make all the necessary arrangements for the future.

But enough about my problems. The topic of today´s post is the X - Force / X - Statix series that I have reread the last week because I had nothing else to read because of the problems I mentioned. Over the next few weeks you can probably see some posts about older comics......or I can finally catch up with all the stuff I didn´t get to review of the last two years. The backlog is really incredible.

Now the time was May 2001 and the X - Force book published by Marvel was relaunched. There was a new direction with writing by Peter Milligan and art by worldfamous MADMAN writer / artist / allaround - popart - genius Mike Allred. I´ve been a big admirer of Mike allred´s work ever since I read an article in WIZARD ( yep, the comic magazine americans and germans love to hate but the one which made me aware of comic jewels like STRANGERS IN PARADISE, USAGI YOJIMBO or SKAGGY THE LOST ) about the new series coming out from THUNDRA. But somehow the prospect of x - periencing Mr. Allred´s snazzy work in a mainstream title didn´t seem that x - citing. At the time Marvel was making a big announcement about relaunching all the x - titles.....again......with totally new creative teams.....again....and I guess I was just tired of all the relaunches. Having been a comic reader in the 80s I still could remember the time when a creative team stayed a few years on a title so the news of just another change in the art departement...I was just sick of it.

And the idea of a new kind of superhero team - better yet a mutant team - that was not feared and hated but stars and celebrities just sounded like something I would rather not read. I never was a big fan of all the gossip that seems to have taken the place of real news nowadays. I mean yes, I like to see footage of movie premieres of the Oscars but mainly because I´m interested in the work of certain actors and directors. I´m interested at which gala somebody like Janet Jackson, Halle Berry or Sophie Howard appeared and what they were wearing.

But it´s because I find them hot and I couldn´t care less about who did what with whom at what place and who talked with who.....I just don´t care. I don´t want to hear about Paris Hilton every three days and I certainly don´t need to hear about which new catastrophe Britney Spears unleashed on a daily basis. Who cares if Brad Pitt is with Jennifer Anniston or Angelina Jolie or the King of Queens ?

So a comicbook about the Marvelequivalent of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Liam Gallager ( no I didn´t look it up if that is correct - I´m wasting enough time of my precious life mentioning him ) just with superpowers didn´t really persuade me to put it on my pull list. Like I said in an earlier post there are some artists who are instant comic entertainment guarantees. If they are attached to a comic project than that´s what I´m buying. And there are others who get on my list but only if they are on the RIGHT project. So Mike Allred + Madman = pull list. While Mike Allred + all new X - Force = ?????

And ????? doesn´t get you on my pull list.

The new series started but I was busy with other things. So the next thing heard about the new X - Force series was that it was sold out and that back issues were almost impossible to find. According to yet another article in WIZARD almost the whole new superhero team was killed off in the first issue. Which generated a lot of hype but that was nothing new. Marvel is, has been and will always be big on hype. That´s how it´s been and that´s how it will remain. So what else was new ? Another comic book just trying to sell more issues with the death of some characters and the announcement that anybody of the new new team could croak at any moment just seemed to go in the same direction.

Superheroes as celebrities was nothing new and the idea of heroes with a high mortality rate had already been used in STRIKEFORCE MORITURI ( which I remember was planned to be adapted as a tv series ) which made the creative team of X - Force look like copycats. And how should it be possible to have a team like X - Force who´s members are media darlings operating in the same universe with the rest of Marvel´s mutant teams who are still feared, hated and hunted ? No that was just not possible. So how did they get me to read the series when they had everything going against them ? That´s very easy : with the cheapest and oldest marketing plot ever.

Yep, the old " guest starring Wolverine " schtick. Gets me every time. The truth is I was at the comicshop ( the one that is now going to become my new comicshop because the one that is closing down never had much issues outsides the pull list ) and suddenly there was this comic that I had read about and on the cover was Wolverine saying " Ya know, I´m only doin´this to boost sales. " Up until that moment I thought that X - Force was taking place in a kind of parallel universe that x - isted besides the regular Marvel universe because the universe of the X - Men and the universe of X - Force were so different they couldn´t probably co - x - ist. But that was Wolverine right there on the cover. So how could he be on the cover ? I just had to find out and so I thumbed throught the issue and since it had Wolverine in it and they had a big fight I bought it. I took it home and I kinda liked it....but not so much that I had to get the following issues.

Now there are some series I read that I have on my pull list. And there are some series that pass beneath my comic reading radar and when I start reading them on a regular basis I buy the single issues but without putting it on my pull list. After a while they end.....or I stop reading them...or I decide to put them on my pull list. But till that decision is made I keep buying the single issues and only the ones I like. This means of course that I have to go to another comicshop. I don´t remember which series it was ( it may have been John Byrne´s DOOM PATROL or John Byrne´s BLOOD OF THE DEMON or both - or another one I don´t remember ) but I went more frequently to the other comicshop and started to pick up more issues of X - Force. And one of those issues was X - Force 125.

The cover looked like one of the old EC comics. Like it could have been just another issue of TALES FROM THE CRYPT. The finger of death was pointing at one of our heroes and we all know what that means.....he´s gonna die. But which one ? In the issue three members of X - Force went to an old graveyard ( of all the places ) to recruit a new member for the team which was called DEAD GIRL. While they were looking for her death appeared and pointed his finger at our heroes but every one of them was certain that he was the one who was going to die very soon. Now I could never resist a good mystery and the whole setting with the cemetery and Dead Girl just spoke to me. The whole storyline with three superheroes going " I´m going to die. I´m going to die. I´m already dead. " and going absolutely bonkers was just too cool. And of course I just had to find out who was going to die. Anyone of the three could buy the farm at any moment and I wanted to be there. The combination of Mike Allred´s art, horror elements and a big mystery with the promise of death ( probably in a grisly manner ) was just too good to resist. So I became a reader of the book.

When you think about it it was just another cheap marketing ploy.
" One of your beloved heroes is going to die ! " but it worked for me. And the series was all about cheap marketing ploys - inside the story and outside in the comic market. But that´s something for part two.

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    Lanelle said...

    Thanks for writing this.

    SUBZERO said...

    My pleasure,

    this book was one of the rare incidents of comics achieving what they are capable of and reaching reader outside the comic ghetto. Despite the polemic and the in - your - face satirical aspects the writing was excellent and made you care for this band of spoiled fame addicts - even if you don't wanted too. And of course Mike Allred did his usual magic.

    We need more books like this.