The Civil War Machine- Derailed

I should have known they’d f@^% it up.

PWJ 1When I got to the comic shop today, I was met with a surprising bit of news regarding Civil War. Apparently, someone at Marvel wants to get fired. Apparently, Steve McNiven can’t draw nearly as quickly as a comic artist should be able to. And apparently, Marvel thought it’d be a better idea to put their entire line of comics on hold while little Stevie gets a chance to catch up.


You can read all about the situation at Newsarama (here and here), but the gist of it is this: Steve McNiven draws too slowly. He isn’t capable of completing 7 issues in a span of 7 months. And instead of having a “cheap fill-in artist” (quote Mark Millar), they’re pushing back Civil War and the closely related titles a few months. You can see the complete list here.

Here’s the thing, though: no one is buying Civil War because of Steve McNiven’s art.

As good a job as he’s been doing on the series, McNiven is not so great that they should delay the book, and several other books, to accommodate his schedule. Civil War (the event, not the series) has been a joint venture between so many creators at Marvel; it seems ridiculous to delay the whole thing because one guy can’t meet a deadline.

FF 541Civil War is not about Steve McNiven. For that matter, it is not about Mark Millar, J. Michael Stracynski, Mike McKone, Ron Garney, Paul Jenkins, Brian Michael Bendis or even Joe Quesada. It’s about the Marvel Universe. If all the hype is justified (which admittedly, it almost certainly isn’t), this is the most important story that has been told in the Marvel Universe in a decade or more. The characters are the stars of the story, not the creators. Civil War is a story that needs to be told in a timely fashion to have the proper affect. If things are happening that will change the Marvel Universe forever, you can’t put them on hold for two months.

DC knew that the same thing applied to Infinite Crisis, so they took the steps they need needed to ensure it would come out reasonably on time. Can you imagine how much of a disaster (or more of a disaster, if you prefer) Infinite Crisis would have been if it took almost a year to tell the story?

In the second Newsarama article, Bryan Hitch comes to McNiven’s defense, bringing up the point that Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns both shipped late, and both series are stronger for having accepted the delays to retain the creative teams. No one can argue that point. But Watchmen and DKR were stand alone stories. They didn’t affect anything else happening in the DC Universe, so it didn’t matter if they were late. They were both mini-series, so skipping a month wouldn’t affect sales at all, assuming fans didn’t lose interest.

Such is not the case with Civil War. Because the main series is shipping late (cumulatively two months, assuming 6 and 7 come out when Marvel says they will), Marvel also has to delay a few of its titles that are closely tied to the plot of Civil War. Frontline isn’t a problem for the same reason the delays in Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns weren’t a problem: it’s a mini-series. However, Punisher War Journal, Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man are ongoing titles. As a result of the delay, those three titles will ship 2 issues less than they should have.

Amazing 536Amazing Spider-Man was the tenth highest selling comic book in June. That’s in the same month that Wonder Woman and Flash debuted new titles, DC put out another $1 80-page comic, Astonishing X-Men put out an issue, two issues of New Avengers shipped, and both Civil War #2 and Civil War: Frontline #1 appeared. Amazing Spider-Man was the third best-selling established monthly series in June. Because of this delay, it will not ship in August and October. That’s just bad business.

Going by the June figures, Marvel will sell 113,000 less copies of Amazing Spider-Man and 78,200 less copies of Fantastic Four in August and October. Even assuming Punisher War Journal under-performs on its debut, and only lands at about #50 on the charts (that’s about the same level as Captain America and Squadron Supreme), that’s still about 45,000 copies Marvel could, but will not, be selling. Even with the conservative estimate of Punisher’s sales, that’s over a quarter of a million comics Marvel will not be selling. At the $2.99 cover price, that comes to about $700,000 worth of Marvel comic books that will not be sold because of this delay. For one month. And this is going to be two months. At least. Steve McNiven just cost the comic industry $1.5 million in revenue.

And don’t forget the advertising profits Marvel will not be making from those three titles.

Let me reiterate a previous point: No one is buying Civil War because of Steve McNiven. He is not worth the damage this delay will have on Marvel. Few artists are.

Frontline 6Bryan Hitch and John Cassaday can get away with their titles shipping late all the time for two reasons. One, their titles don’t affect any others because they’re both off in their own little universes, and are essentially limited series masquerading as monthlies. Second, they’re both really damn good at what they do. Steve McNiven is not in their league.

As for Mark Millar’s comment that he’s glad they didn’t get a “cheap fill-in artist”, I recommend the following cheap fill-in artists currently employed by Marvel:

Mark Bagley
Mark Brooks
Olivier Copiel
Leinil Yu
Salvador LaRocca
Tyler Kirkham
Scott Kolins
Roger Cruz
Mike Deodato Jr.
Brandon Peterson
Andrea Di Vito
Jim Cheung
Kieron Dwyer
Paul Pelletier
Jim Calafiore

Thank god Marvel didn’t get one of those hacks to fill in.

You can be damn sure someone is getting fired over this. This delay will have a quantifiable impact on sales. Based solely on the fiscal impact of the decision, someone needs to be held accountable.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more appalled by anything Marvel’s ever done, and I’m sure many other comic fans feel the same way. For the first time in a long, long time, Marvel looked like they were actually going to pull it off. They had managed to bring a lifelong Marvel fan back into the flock after DC had managed to drag me away because they actually were able to do what Marvel always claims they will but never does. How could any comic fan not be disillusioned by that?

Someone’s got to go.

May I make a recommendation?