“Why you feelin’ sorry for him? He asked for it…”

November 17th, 2008 by | Tags: , , ,

Listen y’all, here go the moral of the story.

Bonny Blue Beetle is dead and gone. He’s joined the ranks of Firestorm (35 issues), Spider-Girl (130ish issues), Checkmate (31 issues), Manhunter (30-odd issues), Catwoman (82 issues), The Order (10 issues), Blade (12 issues), and dozens of other critically acclaimed victims of the direct market. All of these, excepting I think Catwoman, fell prey to the doom of all comics: low sales. Sales spike every once and a while, but comics generally sell less each month.

Now, the question isn’t whether or not these comics are dead. That’s obvious– they are, and they aren’t coming back. And if they do come back, they’ll just pull a Manhunter and bite it again six issues later.

No, the question is who killed Blue Beetle, and when?

Most people would say DC Comics killed it. They didn’t market it right, they didn’t give it enough of a chance, maybe they should have eaten their losses, maybe so-and-so (Blue Beetle) can join one of the worst written books in the line (Teen Titans), and so on. If only DC Comics had done their job, things would be okay!

I think the answer is a bit more obvious than that. Who killed Blue Beetle? Comic fans did.

Looking at the top 300 books for September 08 tells me one thing. There are exactly two books in the top 20 that fall into the critically acclaimed column– All-Star Batman and All-Star Superman. Those don’t count, though, since they have big names attached and are tentpole titles. I had to drop down to #41 to find another one of those books (Incredible Hercules), #61 for the next (Nova), #69 for another (Captain Britain), and it stays dire after that. Blue Beetle came in at #161, with around twelve thousand sales.

The “Blame DC” model tends to work in the “If you build it, they will come” model. However, DC built Blue Beetle. They made it easy to get into and it tied into a few of their big events (Infinite Crisis, Sinestro Corps, and Countdown). It was fun and funny. They did their job. Why didn’t it work out and go on for 800 issues? (My question is ‘why should it?’ but that’s another post entirely.)

It didn’t work because of comics fans.

Comics publishers push a certain subset of their books as being very Important and Essential and Vital to Understanding the Future of the ______ Universe. “This is the story you need to read,” they tell you. “This is the story I need to read!” you respond.

And that’s how Ultimates 3, a book that I have yet to see one person say was worth the 2.99 online or in real life, sells ten times as many comics as Blue Beetle, a book that everyone supposedly loves.

Every time a new event is announced, comic fans grumble. “Ugh, I have to read all these books to know about the Marvel Universe?” I was in the room at New York Comic-con ’07 when World War Hulk was announced… two days after Civil War #7 shipped. The room didn’t cheer. There were no excited “WHOO!”s going on. There were some polite claps. Everyone was tired of events. “Event fatigue.”

World War Hulk came and went and was a big success. Big surprise there. Event fatigue must be a myth, because people grumble every time one is announced and then it goes on to become a sales juggernaut.

Comics companies have learned that if you say that something will change everything forever, or feature a character death, or kickstart a new and important story, comics fans will eat it up.

Blue Beetle, despite its original positioning, was not Important. It was about a kid from El Paso who was wrestling with a hero’s life. Catwoman was about a morally gray woman who wanted to look out for herself and her child while pulling off some cool heists. Spider-Girl was the last vestige of ’90s Marvel.

They are separate from the main continuity. New Krypton has no ties to Jaime Reyes down in Texas. Selina Kyle doesn’t even know Black Lanterns exist. Spider-Girl can’t factor into Secret Invasion. So, these books are unimportant. You can get the whole story by reading the Important books, why should you bother with these stories that don’t have nothing to do with nothing?

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

Companies realized that comic fans will eat up that continuity porn garbage rather than read an irrelevant story, no matter how good. People would rather see a halfway decent Batman story than a great one featuring anyone else.

New Krypton has so far resurrected a couple of Golden Age heroes (one of them over Grant Morrison’s wonderful Manhattan Guardian), killed Pa Kent, shipped two specials, re-introduced Nightwing and Flamebird (don’t ask who they are, you mean you don’t know already?) and gotten down to tying all of the Superman books together into one tightly packed ball of continuity.

Geoff Johns’s JSA has been talking about Kingdom Come for what feels like eight years already, but that’s impossible because the series hasn’t even been around for two years yet. Final Crisis is setting up some big new status quo that we don’t even know the details of yet, and Secret Invasion is getting us ready for Dark Reign, where Norman Osborn runs SHIELD and Iron Man is on the run.

Green Lantern is busy turning space cats into murderous vomit fetishists and naming villains things like Atrocitus and Kryb and Spacehitlersiegheil so as to set up Blackest Night, where a bunch of dead characters will come back and have their own space laser rings so they can shoot the people with other space laser rings of other colors until Hal Jordan gets one of each ring and becomes the White Lantern, the greatest of them all, and we will all learn a very valuable lesson about controlling our emotions, but not being afraid to feel, at the end of the day.

And all of these stories will sell 100k copies a month while other series die on the vine.

Basically, us comics fans got the comics industry we deserve. Why? Because we care about important books.

This is the industry we’ve built.

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24 comments to ““Why you feelin’ sorry for him? He asked for it…””

  1. Now why do you want to hurt me, David? Why? You leave me no choice but to start some fan-alchemy.

    1. Take the negative and contradict it. Blue Beetle might come back! Kids toys! Animated series! He’s also is in kids comics of that animated series! You’ll see. YOU’LL ALL SEE.

    2. Use the stuff you agree with to feed your ego. I hate event books and avoid them. I love smaller, out-of-continuity stuff and bought every issue of The Blue Beetle. I’m everything that’s good and right in this industry. Oh yeah. Self-righteousness tastes like chocolate.

  2. Except Johns’s Green Lantern arcs are good and interesting and generally well-received stories.

  3. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: Delicious, delicious chocolate. I could eat this all day.

    I just wish DC took better care of their mid-tier. Marvel had Moon Knight or Ghost Rider outselling Superman a year or so ago. They know how to push a book, though even they are far from perfect. Both companies need to get away from events and push small books like they mean something.

    @Jbird: Generally, yeah, but the faux silver age and hollow import have started grating on me. I think I’ll catch Blackest Night when it’s over. It’s not my thing.

  4. Wow, man. Just checkin’ in to say “…yeah.” Looking back, I bought a frightening amount of event books for no real reason but to catch up. Infinite Crisis came about when I was barely a year into comics so I bought all the main tie-ins and such. I did it because they were said to be all building up to something major in IC. Well, some of them did, and others got a panel of explanation and thank you for your money. I liken much of this “MUST SEE CONTINUITY” stuff to cable news. A lot of Americans rail about the news and how it doesn’t talk about anything important or it’s just depressing, but we watch it anyway for fear of being left out of the know.

    It’s been getting lighter and lighter with me though. I bought Civil War and World War Hulk, but none of the tie-ins. I haven’t bought anything in Final Crisis, and I’ve stopped caring about Secret Invasion halfway through. For me at least, event fatigue has finally happened. The comics I care about now are Blue Beetle, Punisher MAX, Detective Comics, Captain America, Secret Six, and a handful of others that just seem like entertaining stories. It’s taken me awhile, but I don’t feel the need to be in the know with all the universe continuity if I only buy a few books anyway. And hey, if I’m that hard up for context, there’s always wikipedia.

  5. This is pretty much why Infinity, Inc. being cancelled was when I cut the comics out of my budget. Final Crisis is good, but enough friends are reading it that I can mooch an issue here and there and pay them back with a lunch or something.

    I want to love comics, and I know I have a good time yearly at Comic-Con, but god damn I hate the people who read them alongside me when Hulk is outselling everything fantastic, and the only thing I truly enjoyed in the top 20 was Cap (which couldn’t even break 10? CAPTAIN FUCKING AMERICA isn’t a top-ten book, with the writing it has now?) It’s a fucking killjoy when I realize that more people think something like Frontline is a necessary purchase than Booster Gold, Captain Britain/MI13, Iron Fist… these are the people I share a hobby with. The lowest-selling tie-in is beating out the books I still buy trades for.

    And people wonder why I’m a self-loathing comics fan.

  6. Blade was a critically acclaimed series? I only once read review of it, and that claimed it was utter dross. Anyone got some links to more positive reviews?

  7. From my experience, Blade was a fun, if unremarkable, series that did a good job of telling solid vampire stories. It was fast paced and had generally interesting plots.

  8. Does Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest count as Event books? Because otherwise I want a Good Comics Fan badge so I can look down smugly on the people who don’t buy the books I want them to…

    Actually I’ll do the smug thing even without a badge. Stupid, stupid comics fans. STOP BUYING CRAP GODS DAMMIT!

    But as has been mentioned elsewhere I’m wondering if the Big Two will ever take a real look at maybe pushing poor selling mid-tier books online. Cut out most of the cost for a monthly book and make the money off the sales of trades…

  9. I don’t think all the blame lies with fans. Certainly some of it, but the fact is, when people talk about Blue Beetle, and how great it is, what aspects do they play up? The great last few issues of the Reach plot, the strong supporting cast, and the fact that the title character is like “DC’s Spider-Man!” Which Ted Kord used to be, for all the good it did him.

    They don’t mention that the first year was just a bunch of bullshit with a retarded green hunchback that no one will ever bother to use again. They don’t talk about all the stuff that was introduced only to go nowhere, like La Dama’s camp for metahuman teenagers, or her magic-using right hand man. Nobody bothers to point out that, thirty issues in, he has no archnemesis, only a crime lord that he’s on amiable terms with, and a group of unnamed aliens that he spanked and sent home over the course of a few issues. Let’s not even talk about the several mediocre fill-in issues that disrupted the flow of the Reach plot, or the three filler issues between Rogers’ run and Sturges’.

    The fact is, aside from a few entertaining diversions from the main plot, like the encounter with Dani Garrett, or Brenda’s stay on the prison planet, the first issue was almost wholly forgettable. The second year, as I mentioned, was plagued with fill-ins, or issues that didn’t go anywhere, like the one where Guy and Beetle go to the arctic, fight penguins and the Ultra-Humanite, and basically go, “Oh hey, so the Reach are up here doing shit in the snow. Good to know.”

    I feel like the whole book could have been condensed into much fewer issues.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed parts of the book, even as a hardcore Ted Kord fan, but Rogers and Giffen failed to build a credible mythology for the character in the early issues. What if the first thirty issues of Spider-Man were nothing but him tangling with the Kingpin and some random street gang, whom he’d eventually befriend? Where was Beetle’s Green Goblin, his Scorpion, or even his Shocker?

    Rogers steadfastly refused to tie into any events to keep sales up, which is admirable in a way. But look at PAD’s X-Factor. The dude realizes that, to do the stories you want to do, you occasionally have to sell out a little. So he ties into the latest X-Event here or there, grabs some readers, then gets back to his main story. Rogers however, was adamantly against this.

    He also completely failed to capitalize on Ted Kord’s death, and how hot the character was coming off of Countdown to Infinite Crisis. As soon as 52 ended, Rogers should have had Booster Gold in the book, playing up one of the most iconic things about Blue Beetle, the Blue and Gold friendship. Hell, maybe have him fight a zombie Ted Kord ala Dan Garrett’s resurrection in the Len Wein Beetle title.

    I think the book’s biggest failing, for me, is that while Rogers tried to do a very character-driven story, after thirty some odd issues, I still don’t feel like I know who Jaime Reyes is. How many times did we see him in school? Why doesn’t he have a part time job? What are his hobbies? Where’s his favorite restaurant? I feel like the only thing I know about him is that he’s a Hispanic everykid who’s basically a good person, and has a supporting cast that is much more dynamic and interesting than he is. Where are his quirks and foibles? Going back to Spider-Man, remove Peter Parker’s photography gig, his nerdiness, his passion for science, his visits to the Coffee Bean, and what do you have to make people interested in Peter Parker in those early Spider-Days? Not a whole Hell of a lot.

    Compare Beetle to similar character-driven superhero books like Hourman, Starman, Chronos, or Chase. Does he have similar nuance? Does his book have the same sense of location as Hourman’s Happy Harbor, Chronos’ Chronopolis, or Starman’s Opal City?

    In the end, I feel like Blue Beetle had a few things going for it; a well-written, very fleshed out supporting cast, some pithy dialogue, great art, good character design, and not a whole Hell of a lot else.

  10. I don’t know that Robinson using the old Guardian in Superman necessarily negates the Manhattan Guardian, they can both be hanging around.

  11. Munch: I don’t think we were reading the same book. I’d have to disagree with you on almost every point you make there.

    But yeah- sales are the only measure of a comic’s worth the companies will listen to, and if people will keep buying Loeb’s Hulk, what’re they going to do?

  12. Wild Hogs made just short of 200 million dollars.

    Rehashes and licensed dreck are still the best selling videogames.

    It’s not just comic books.

  13. See, I went through a total budget crisis and had to slash my single-issue buying nearly in half, paring it down to only the ones I couldn’t do without (its something like Captain America, Daredevil, Batman, Captain Britain and MI13, Astonishing X-Men, and Criminal). One book I just couldn’t justify buying weekly anymore is Incredible Hercules, which I’m switching to trades for, and I really hope it doesn’t get cancelled.

  14. uhh; 22 is Invincible Iron Man; but that may count as a “name” what with the movie

  15. Just remember that Giffen left the book earlier than expected because he was hired to work on 52. So it wasn’t his fault that the first year seemed incomplete.

  16. Munch took the words out of my mouth. I was about to write a lengthy comment about how I never read an issue of Blue Beetle that was very enjoyable. It wasn’t awful, either; it was just there, taking up space. It lasted longer than I expected.

    In all honesty, the comics blog scene that’s concerned with capes n’ tights seems to like fixating on books that are “shaped right”, like Incredible Herc or Slott’s She-Hulk, and then swear up and down that the book is amazing just based on its intentions and how it’s trying to be “fun”. When it comes to hardcore nuts n’ bolts like plot quality, how likable the characters are, and etc., those books get a free pass.

    This is why I’ve stopped taking recommendations from blog consensus, and instead look for cases of one dude championing his favorite book really hard, even though he knows maybe nobody agrees, or maybe a lot of people disagree. That guy’s book is almost always, at the very least, worth the time it takes to read it.

  17. @Lynxara: I think that you’re assuming a lot of things that aren’t true, Lynxara.

    I found Blue Beetle to be a great comic because it was a great comic. Jaime was realistic and funny enough for me to like him as a protagonist, his family and friends were supportive, interesting, and had a few clever twists on the whole “Family of superhero” thing, his villains weren’t just “Lex Luthor/Kingpin… but MEXICAN!” like you’d find in other “ethnic” books, and the plots were solid enough to keep me reading. The subplots provided a nice connecting line for each of the A plots, too.

    Books like Incredible Herc, Slott’s She-Hulk (which I liked for about eight issues, and then got tired of), or Blue Beetle are critical darlings that have “fun” stories, for whatever value of fun that may be. However, suggesting that people are ignoring the flaws of properly “shaped” books because they hit certain buttons is nuts, because you have to willfully ignore other “shaped” books, like Loners, Waid’s Brave & the Bold/Flash, Amazing Fantasy, Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Comics Presents, or New Warriors, all of which were poised to capture the fun/funny market, in addition to nostalgia freaks, but still managed to get little to no positive attention and got trashed in reviews, if it got mentioned at all.

    So, seriously, this?
    When it comes to hardcore nuts n’ bolts like plot quality, how likable the characters are, and etc., those books get a free pass.

    It’s garbage and I think you know it. I can guarantee that I’ve never given any book a pass just because it was “shaped right,” and I think that’s a pretty ridiculous assertion to make in general. People are overlooking flaws because they want to like a book that they think is for them, and everyone ever does it? That’s insulting. If anything, I’m more critical of books I love than books I hate or find average. I think that 100 Bullets is the best comic on the shelves, but Azzarello gets too cute with his dialogue regularly. The Invisibles is one of my favorites, but it’s ugly to look at and the plot’s a mess. And on, and on, and on.

    What you’re talking about here is the comics equivalent of “I liked that before everyone else did,” where the majority must be wrong, for what reason I do not know. I do not see how one guy recommending some book no one else likes is somehow more valid than a bunch of people recommending a book they do like. If anything, the opposite is true.

    In the end, I feel like Blue Beetle had a few things going for it; a well-written, very fleshed out supporting cast, some pithy dialogue, great art, good character design, and not a whole Hell of a lot else.

    So, good writing, a fleshed out supporting cast, pithy dialogue, great art, and good design aren’t enough to make a good comic for you?

    What comics do you read?

  18. I’m curious what your standard for “critically acclaimed” is, and why “Captain America” and “Buffy Season 8” don’t meet it?

  19. I wonder if fans like me, who only pick up trades at sales and used book stores can be blamed too? If so… screw it.

    Sure I love comics but I’m not responsible for the financial success of any company or book. I have a life to live, and people who want to sell me this idea that I have to buy stuff I’m either not interested in or just don’t want to buy are dorky brand loyalists. I hated Earl Grey tea so I don’t drink it. Imagine if I bought boxes of it out of fear that otherwise the company would stop producing green tea and rooibos red tea, how insane would that be?

    I don’t think you’re doing that at all, though. I agree with most of your points, but a solid half of the blame lies with the marketing departments. If they were more focused on trying to make sure that every book is a winner instead of leaving non-event books twisting in the wind, this problem wouldn’t be so pronounced.

  20. @Caroline: My standard for critically acclaimed is probably the same as anyone else’s– books that many people enjoy and have received special notice elsewhere. I’m not a fan of Buffy, but I love Captain America, and have since Brubaker came on. However, Bru is a Big Name Writer and Buffy is a tie-in to a popular TV show. They’re Big Name Books, they both have a lot of acclaim, and I enjoy and love many Big Name Books (New Avengers, Amazing Spidey), but I’m speaking specifically about underdogs here. Captain America isn’t going anywhere. Buffy isn’t going anywhere. I’m talking specifically about those books that people claim to love, but do poorly at retail for whatever reason. I loved The Order, a lot of people loved The Order, but it flopped. I’m trying to figure out a workable theory as to why that happened.

    Though after writing this, and having a few conversations with other bloggers, I need to do a post on what makes a series a failure vs a success, and why ongoing series may not be the best way to do a series. Sometimes the Hellboy model can work for more than Hellboy.

    @Eos: I wonder if fans like me, who only pick up trades at sales and used book stores can be blamed too? If so… screw it.

    You are correct– I buy 90% of my trades off Amazon or from Green Apple Books. That’s why I own things like Round Robin’s Revenge, one of the most amazingly mediocre Spider-Man arcs from the ’90s. Punisher, Darkhawk, Nova, Moon Knight, oh my.

    Anyone who thinks you should buy a book you don’t like because you SHOULD do it is a fool. I’m a firm believer in buying what you enjoy, and enjoying what you buy. I cut my comics pull list back hard and now I buy a few books a week that I really, really like. I think on a day when I get 100 Bullets, a Bachalo Amazing Spidey, and Joe Casey/Derec Donovan’s Youngblood, I might die on the spot.

    I’ll admit that part of this is in reaction to everyone else going “ARGH DC KEEPS SCREWING US AND CANCELLING GOOD BOOKS!” I agree that the blame isn’t entirely on the fans or on the company. I hope I got that across in the bit where I talk about how companies have built up this culture of importance around certain books.

  21. I’m sympathetic to the overall argument. I didn’t care for ‘Blue Beetle’ but I love-love-loved ‘The Order’, and ‘Gotham Central,’ and I like ‘Manhunter’ pretty well — so I know that rooting for slightly-out-of-mainstream books at the Big Two can be a thankless task.

    But it does seem like you’re cherrypicking a bit: “Looking at the top 300 books for September 08 tells me one thing. There are exactly two books in the top 20 that fall into the critically acclaimed column–”

    I’d say Buffy and Cap both fall in that column, and there are some other damn good books among the top sellers. Granted, Buffy is a special case. But Brubaker’s a marquee name *because* of Cap — and vice versa, really. I don’t think there even was a Captain America solo book for a number of years, before Bru took it over. If you’re argument is that “critically acclaimed” = “underdog,” then saying that critically acclaimed books don’t sell well is circular.

    I don’t mean to discount the larger point, because it’s true that nobody (marketing/retailers/readers as a group) seem to know what to do with books that aren’t hitched to the event train — even as we all complain about events. But I’m not sure BB is a great example of that, anyway. It spun out of Infinite Crisis. It seemed to have an obscure cameo in every issue. It’s hard for me to think of a book with a Metron guest shot as being low-continuity. It seems like DC is in a real bind of needing new readers but having no idea how to talk to them. So even a book like BB has continuity porn written into it, when I’d much rather have just seen more about the kids and their friendships and their community.

  22. Actually, what is your definition of “criically acclaimed?”

    Overall, I agree with most of your points, and it’s unfortunate. It’s why there’s a growing discrepency between what people say they want and what they show they want, and why ultimately, no matter how loud the complaints are about books’ successes being so dependent on variant covers, event books, continuity porn etc. the businesses of comics must always go with what the market shows they want with their spending dollars.

    And unfortunately, this isn’t the video game industry as someone alluded to, where not being in the top 25% of sellers doesn’t contitute a failure. More often than not, if you’re a major-league company with major-league overheads and fixed costs, you’re going to find that the revenue break-even point is pretty friggin’ high, and if less than 15,000 people don’t think a book is worth paying 2.99 for, it’s going to be cancelled simply because it’s costing more money to print and distribute than it earns, no matter how much the people who DO buy it love it.

  23. @mike choi: I think I misspoke when I used critically acclaimed to refer to a specific kind of book, and accidentally gave the impression that other books were not acclaimed. I should have clarified that I meant the typical series with high praise but low (or lower) sales, not that other books in the top 20 aren’t well-reviewed or acclaimed or worth reading. I’m digging Secret Invasion (it’s got all my favorites) and Final Crisis (to an extent), but not so much the Green Lantern stuff. I messed up on that point, and didn’t manage to stick the landing.

    I was speaking with David Uzumeri from FBB earlier (who i am trying to bully into writing a response piece to this post), and he raised a few interesting points. I think we’re at the point where the companies and the fans have trained each other to expect certain things, resulting in a snake eating its own tail.

    Confirmation bias is something that’s pretty common, especially in bloggers, myself included. I like variant covers, though not from a sales POV. I think being able to have a choice of covers is just something that’s pretty cool. I liked being able to see the puppies & rainbows X-Force variant, or JRjr’s covers to New Ways to Die. Them being 1 in 10/20/50/100 makes me uncomfortable, but that’s how companies earn money. If someone is willing to purchase it, and it isn’t hurting anyone, is it the wrong thing to do?

    I think that as we move toward trades or OGNs being an equal, or nearly equal, format (I can dream!), we might move away from that kind of thing, but the major comics companies are still banging the 32-pager drum as hard as they can.

    I don’t know, it’s a complicated situation and probably a bit out of my weight class. I don’t know that I can figure out an answer to the situation. Marvel had a good take on things during the Quesada/Jemas era, around 2002, when each book was in its own “universe.” Morrison’s New X-Men, Jenkins/JMS Spider-Man, Reiber/Cassaday Captain America, and etc. There weren’t big-name crossovers between the books. Of course, x-overs come back and sales go up… so it isn’t as black and white as I’d like it to be.

    Not that crossovers are evil, of course. 🙂

  24. @david brothers:

    David, you erroneously stated that I said Blue Beetle had good writing; I did not. I only said that I thought the supporting cast was dynamic and well-written. And that’s really only as far as supporting casts go. Many of the characters are entirely generic; the ultra-capable, badass Hispanic mother, the wisened, sagely father, the muy macho, machismo-spouting best friend, and the ca-rrrazy OCD white girl that hangs out with them. Not to say they’re without depth, but Rogers and Giffen were building off of some pretty old and generic character templates with the supporting cast.

    I felt the book lacked pacing, direction, a good “hook,” and completely failed to get me invested in Jaime Reyes as a civilian, while also failing to, as I previously said, establish a good mythology for him (a good setting, interesting rogues gallery, a firm motivation, an unfilled niche for the character) that could sustain a series.

    Worse, I always felt that the book wasn’t really about anything. I believe I read an article right here on 4th Letter discussing Grant Morrison’s tendency to connect superhuman mythology to high concept themes that are easily related to; the Flash is about the rapid-fire, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it world we live in, Batman’s about class warfare and the idea of justice v.s. revenge, and Superman’s about striving to reach that higher level, and being the best you that you can be. I don’t think a book even needs to be that high concept. Even an interesting hook will suffice; Green Arrow’s all about dealing in hot topic social issues at the ground level, Green Lantern’s an epic space opera as well as a treatise on both controlling and expressing your emotions, and Checkmate’s a look at global politics within the DCU. At best, Blue Beetle is a coming of age tale about a guy thrown into a world he never expected to be a part of. Which, unfortunately, is what pretty much every teen superhero book has been about since Steve Ditko and Stan Lee unveiled Spider-Man.

    Why not work in some themes dealing with the scarab in mythology? Themes of death, rebirth, renewal, and legacy? More than the minuscule amount represented by Dani Garrett and the WWTKD notebooks. Throw in some Sisyphean imagery or plots to connect Beetle to the iconic idea of the dung beetle. Hell, give him some solar-based powers to play on the Egyptians’ beliefs about the scarab’s connection to the sun God, Ra. Which I actually hoped would be touched on when he faced Eclipso. Really, just some metaphor or symbolism, that’s all I’m asking for. Anything to make it more than Spider-Man, as told by Keith Giffen and John Rogers. Except Blue Beetle lacks the drama of a fallible, easily defeated hero, as he has an alien backpack that has no power ceiling, and pretty much allows him to skate out of any situation unharmed.

    Those criticisms, even when combined with all the positives I listed, are why I think Blue Beetle failed. Keep in mind, I really wanted to like the book. I was a fan of Ted Kord and really wanted to see something awesome come out of his death. I thought the first few issues with Cully Hamner, who has a real knack for scenery and establishing placement and mood, looked to be setting up a world I could really dive into. Hell, I own a page of original art from issues eight. But after buying every issue to date, I’m left feeling like the whole book could have been condensed into a twelve issue maxi-series and been a much stronger read.

    As for books I read currently, I should note that I buy a lot of comics I don’t entirely love, because there are still things about them I enjoy. Such was the case with Blue Beetle. But currently I’m reading Criminal, JSA, GLC, most of what Bendis writes, all of Kirkman’s Invincible-verse books, anything by Jay Faerber, Benito Cereno, Sean Galloway, Skottie Young, Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, or Brandon Thomas, El Diablo, Booster Gold, the DnA Marvel cosmic stuff, Firebreather, Secret Six, and a huge pile of other shit I’m too lazy to list.

    But my favorite books, the stuff I still go back and read every so often, are the ones that meshed a great cast of heroes, villains and supporting characters, good writing and art, interesting, original setting, and a good high concept. Books that spring to mind immediately are Starman, Hourman, Chronos, Young Heroes in Love, Power Company, Young Justice, Stuart Moore’s Firestorm, Beatty’s Son of Vulcan, Zeb Wells’s New Warriors, the classic Blue Devil series, Arcudi’s Doom Patrol, Major Bummer, and many more.