The Pull List: Seasonal Model

The Pull List started as a weekly spotlight on interesting new releases, but it has since redirected that spotlight to random thoughts about characters, storylines, and other comic book elements.

I have had an idea for a Pull List that threw the spotlight on Moon Knight, which I might still do. It was about how he became one of Marvel’s coolest characters by becoming a wild card knight errant type figure. He could be forced into any kind of story. Something surreal and supernatural. Something gritty and noirish. Simple then complicated and then back to simple. His fractured psyche allowed for constant flux that never meant to “retcon” any of the previous series, no matter how different from each other they were. This was good entertainment. But if Moon Knight proved anything important, it was how the future of comics should look: seasonal miniseries.

Right now, the common lifestory of a non-Superman superhero comic at one of the big two is a miniseries tester that will greenlight an on-going, if it sells well. That on-going will be under scrutiny and get cancelled if it drops below a certain threshold. Who am I kidding? That book will get cancelled. And then we start all over. Why?

#1 issues get huge sales bumps.

Or if they don’t, the publishers certainly act like they do. Re-numbering happens a lot because the 1st issue look is very tantalizing to new readers. It represents a jumping on point, which since Superman dates back to before World War II and Spider-Man dates back to the Civil Rights Movement, they both come with a very dense backlog of content. If they went with a seasonal approach with TV, they could get the #1 issue bumps at the beginning of each season without looking like they panic-cancelled a book and rushed a new direction out to market.

I don’t blame them for forcing #1 issue resets. They need new readers, and its kind of weird that the books could be inspiring some of the most successful movies in history and not attract more new readers. The on-goings, as they are now, are overwhelming. It is a daunting task picking so many up week to week. Ironically, the publishers sort of make their books compete with each other in this way. I often have to cull my own pull list because I can’t afford to buy all the books that I want. I know a lot of people are in my same position because the fans have coined a term for it: Tradewaiting.

Tradewaiting is waiting for the trade paperback version, a bound book consisting of a series of single issues that were previously released monthly. It is often mistaken for a graphic novel. The problem there is a book might be cancelled before the trade could even be collected. So a book isn’t failing due to disinterest, but due to lack of resources in the consumers. A seasonal model benefits this in two ways. 1. It forces titles to rotate more often so that consumers aren’t constantly being bombarded by EVERY ongoing EVERY month. And 2. It creates a hype system not unlike the movies. Marvel Studios doesn’t deliver a movie a week or even a month. They give us 2 movies usually (3 movies max) a year. The waiting is part of the demand process. There is discussion and speculation. Sometimes, it takes a while, but eventually all the audience are on the same page by the time the next one will be available. It is more front and center in the collective unconscious.

Creatively, I think it has a lot of benefits too, but as I do not work in the creative field, I may just be talking out of my ass.

By giving the creators a specific number of issues to work with, the stories themselves might carry with them more closure. As I get older, I realize how important closure is. Yes, there was a time when I heard The X-Files was ending, and I thought “What the hell? This should go on forever.” But we are living in a new era of prestige TV, and a show like Breaking Bad would only be hurting itself trying to go on for double digit seasons. Brevity has its place. You never want to outstay your welcome.

Plus, if they know a particular story is only going to be X amount of issues, this might save it from cancellation. When an on-going is set up to go on for infinity, it is hard to look at one that is failing and wonder how many more books you’d let it go for. The impulse is to nip it in the bud. Compare that to a series that isn’t selling well that only has 1 or 2 issues left to go. You might just let it play itself out. You question whether to give it a season 2 instead of questioning whether or not to give it an ending. That way, even the few readers who are digging the book still get closure. That same minimization of investment on a few issues vs a potential infinite issues might give the big 2 some more confidence when it comes to taking bigger risks. If it doesn’t work, a course correction would be simple because, again, an ending is baked in.

It could lighten the burden of continuity as well. In any given month, Wolverine could be in space with the X-Men, in the Savage Land with the Avengers, and in Japan on a solo mission. How? Regular comic readers have just accepted that this doesn’t make sense and have decided to go with the flow. But with a seasonal model, you can stack them so that they aren’t necessarily happening at the same time. The biggest benefit would come to event series like Civil War or Secret Invasion. The worst thing about those stories is how disruptive they are to the on-goings. On-goings seemingly in the middle of a story need to stop what they are doing and pretend to care about what their characters might be doing during the event to no benefit of the actual main event storyline. It is all supplemental bullshit for the sake of corporate synergy. This can also be stacked in such a way to not interrupt each other. 

New problem though. Comics haven’t needed to do this because TV has limitations. There are only so many hours in the day, even less when you consider that all TV has agreed on a “prime time” block where most of their original fiction content goes. Readers of comics read them on their own time, whenever they can. With the advent of Netflix and other streaming services, TV is actually turning more into what comics are. “Here are a random amount of episodes to watch when you can or care to.” And like comics, there is now an abundance of content. Too much for any one person to consume all of it. I don’t know about you, but if a show doesn’t grab me right away, I drop it pretty quick. If it even remotely sounds like it could be just ok, I don’t even bother. There is too much content to waste time on something that is just ok. 

Basically what I am saying is I think a bigger level of structure that we currently have in release schedules can have a surprisingly positive effect on creativity.

But, honestly, who am I to really say? I just read the stuff.