A Difference of Opinion, Part 1

When DC announced last week that they would be adding Carlos Pacheco to the creative team of Final Crisis in order to keep the book on schedule, Jim Doom brought up a very good point. This decision is eerily reminiscent of the choice Marvel made a couple years ago regarding Civil War, even though in this case the opposite decision was made. Jim and I rarely see eye to eye on comic-related manners, but I don’t think we’ve ever been as vehemently opposed to one another as we were during Civil War.

So we’ve decided to be a little more civil (ha!) this time around. Jim and I have realized that we just have a fundamental difference of opinion on this matter, and nothing either of us could say to one another is going to change that. Each of us is going to explain his viewpoint in a stand-alone post, so it doesn’t end up devolving into a huge argument. Or worse yet, a really boring AIM conversation.

My view: It’s better to keep the story on schedule than it is to keep the creative team in tact.

One of the arguments frequently brought up in this classic debate is a simple one: “Y’know, Watchmen shipped late.”

It’s a good point. After all, Watchmen is pretty universally considered the best comic story ever told. If Chris Claremont had suddenly started scripting Alan Moore’s plots or George Perez had filled in for Dave Gibbons on issue #9 in order to keep the book shipping each month, Watchmen would have been a much different (and undoubtedly much, much worse) story.

Yes, Watchmen was the greatest comic story ever told. And yes, it shipped late. But do you know why that doesn’t matter?

Because Watchmen was a great stand-alone comic story.

The events in Action Comics weren’t affected by the events in Watchmen. Amazing Spider-Man didn’t have to stop publishing for two months so as not to spoil the big reveal in issue #12. Batman’s latest adventure wasn’t going to suddenly contradict itself because the writer was unaware that one of the characters had just been killed off in another book.

But that’s not the case with big multi-part über-crossovers like Final Crisis and Civil War.

Not only do these stories have huge ramifications on the other titles in their respective universes, but that’s how they’re promoted. When Marvel or DC hype their latest crossover they say things like “the repercussions will be felt for years to come” or “nothing will ever be the same!”

These crossovers aren’t conceived as grand storylines, they’re conceived as grand marketing schemes. Sometimes the publisher will luck out and get a story like Infinite Crisis or the Sinestro Corps War that is a critical as well as a commercial success. But they never go into these things thinking “this is going to be the next Watchmen.”

Or if they do, they’re deluding themselves.

Comics are a monthly business, and the stories they tell rely on being released on a regular basis. And it’s even more important when title A crosses over with title B and they both interact with title C.

Now I’m not saying that DC should hire Jeff Matsuda or Chris Bachalo to help J.G. Jones on the art just so the thing gets out on time. Look at what Marvel’s done on Captain America the last few years as a shining example of how to add additional artists to an established creative team without rocking the boat. With the sheer number of artists working in comics these days, it’d be damn near impossible to find an artist with a style so unique nobody else even comes close. Carlos Pacheco is a great artist with a style that’s not all that different from what Jones offers…it just doesn’t really seem like that big of a deal to me.

When (if?) we go back 10 years from now and read Final Crisis again, the impact of the story will probably be lessened by the inclusion of a second artist. But right now, the impact of the story would be greatly lessened by being late.

Let’s face it: Civil War wasn’t, and Final Crisis won’t be the next Watchmen. They’re a way to shake things up in their respective universes to temporarily boost sales on a few titles. In order to keep interest in the story (and give those sales a temporary boost), you’ve got to keep getting the story out there.

And, y’know, make it sure it’s not complete dogshit. Oops.