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Cronin Theory of Comics – Don’t Make Guarantees You Can’t Guarantee

This really isn’t that big of a deal, but you see it happen over and over again – an Editor-in-Chief or an editor or a creator or whoever make some guarantee and odds are the guarantee is not going to hold – so why make the guarantee?

Why not just “we don’t plan on doing that”?

Joe Quesada, after House of M/Decimation (courtesy of Newsarama)-

Editorially, Quesada added, there is now a mandate that no new mutants can be created wholesale – only five or six new mutant-based characters that were already in the pipeline will be seen. And that the ones going away won’t be coming back…

“As long as I’m here as Editor in Chief, they’re not coming back,”

Since that statement, Polaris, Professor X, Magneto and Quicksilver have all regained their powers, through various and sundry methods.

So, “as long as I’m here, only the not so popular mutants will not be coming back”?

Like I said above, it’s not a big deal, and I understand that it is totally driven by fan expectations – if you DON’T say something definitive, then they take that as definitive the OTHER way – “If you won’t say that the mutants will not regain their powers, then that means that they definitely WILL regain their powers!” So I am not really blaming editorial for this state of affairs, but it is still pretty silly, and I’d prefer it be avoided if possible.

38 Comments

The problem with your theory, Brian, is that you’re expecting the entertainment business to behave like it’s a public trust or something. It’s not. It’s not Joe Quesada’s job to tell the truth or even ‘guarantee’ anything. His job is to keep an (aging) audience still surprised and reading Marvel Comics. And he’ll misdirect, fabricate and conflate in order to make that happen. That’s why he’s Editor In Chief. And remarks like that need to be looked at that in mind.

I’m not blaming Quesada for doing it – like I said, he’s put into the situation due to fan expectations. Just saying that the fact that a guy “has” to say untrue things is silly.

Yeah, exactly. You never have to bullshit. It’s a strategy to be employed at your discretion.

And is he really keeping people surprised by doing exactly what is expected of him and the characters? I think not. It would be more surprising if there were any permanent changes.

Still waiting for Ennis to “out-Preacher Preacher”, or is that more marketing side hype compared to the mutant and “dead means dead” comments?

I think Ennis apologized for that or owned up that it was a marketing gimick. I honestly don’t know if Quesada has done the same for this comment or threatening to split the internet in half? Did they do it in the “old days”?

>>I honestly don’t know if Quesada has done the same for this comment or threatening to split the internet in half? Did they do it in the “old days”?

Back in the day, just about every other Marvel issue featured blurbs in which Stan was promising that comics, or the reader’s life, or the world, or reality or whatever would never ever be the same again. I guess we learned not to pay attention to it after awhile. Also, most of us were, what, 10 years old or something. Maybe Quesada thinks we still are.

Also, it probably helped that Stan was a likable guy, & the overselling hype bit was part of his schtick. Quesada’s schtick seems to be providing aid & comfort to plagiarists, among other equally less-than-charming behaviors.

I think the difference is that everyone knew Stan was just kidding around. It was like a joke we were all in on. He knew comics and knew WE knew comics, so he didn’t make silly statements like “Dead Means Dead!” or “There will be no new mutants!” Stuff that we know cannot possibly be true from the very nature of US comics. It’s like saying “There will be no reset button in any of our titles!” (Which no-one to my knowledge HAS said, BTW) – right from the off, we know that’s not going to stay true.

There’s a huge difference between something like: “Spidey’s world will never be the same again!” and “We will not go back on the unmasking!” The first is non-specific standard hype; the second turned out to be a complete lie, with the reset button already well into the planning stages.

Was “This will crack the internet in half!!!” complete over-hype for the return of [i]Hawkeye[/i] of all people? Sure. But it was recognisable as mere exaggeration. There’s a difference between over-hype (tiresome as it can be, whoever does it) and outright untruth, I don’t think crossing that line is ever good, whoever does it.

I’ll still give him the benefit of the doubt until the day when everyone starts smoking again. He has followed through on that pretty well, hasn’t he?

Hawkeye – took me a while to figure this out.

Annoyed Grunt

May 16, 2008 at 3:28 pm

“Still waiting for Ennis to “out-Preacher Preacher”, or is that more marketing side hype compared to the mutant and “dead means dead” comments?”

I heard one interview that went like:

Interviewer: What do you mean when you say The Boys is going to “out Preacher” Preacher?

Ennis: It means “Please, please buy this book”.

Ben Grimm tosses the Sentry a cigar in the preview for Mighty Avengers #14.

In all fairness, and a bit of playing devil’s advocate here, have you ever made a promise or claim that you had to back down from later on? It may not always be an outright lie or misdirect on Joe Q’s part. Opinions change, landscapes change, and maybe things that he believed were best at one point turned out to not be so great at a later point in time. I know that I’ve made statements in the past (“I’ll never do that!”), only to have to eat my words down the line. As a VP at the company I work at, I have a very open and honest relationship with my staff and co-workers, but there have been promises I’ve made that in the long run either proved impossible to keep, or that as circumstances changed, it was no longer practical to stand by that original statement. It could very well be at the time Joe Q. stated that “Dead is Dead” and that there will be “no new mutants” that he actually believed that to be the case.
-r-

Richard: the point is that, rather than declaring ‘ no new mutants’ and then realising several years down the line that this was not the best idea and changing his mind, Joe Q has made these “concrete” statements while knowing full well at the time that there was never any intention of them being permanent.

The above poster is absolutely correct in his comment that Stan Lee and various other editors (though seemingly only on the Marvel side of things) were just having fun with their various “this is the big one” “if you buy only one comic this month”etc comments, because they were there for virtually every issue and we all knew to take it with a pinch of salt.
Joe Quesada has tried very hard to come away from that style of marketing (with the banning of footnotes and captions on covers, and such) and to be more serious, which means we can’t give him the same leeway as in previous decades – he just comes across as either a) a liar or b) having no control over his staff.

It always hurts my feelings when an executive whom I’ve never met tells me less than the 100% literal truth when advertising his product. Is a world in which we can’t trust corporate executives and their advertising really a world that we want to live in?

>>Joe Quesada has tried very hard to come away from that style of marketing (with the banning of footnotes and captions on covers, and such) and to be more serious, which means we can’t give him the same leeway as in previous decades – he just comes across as either a) a liar or b) having no control over his staff.

You’re right on the money, no doubt. I brought up Stan’s soapbox-isms from my childhood simply because it was all I could think of as a point of comparison. I spent ’79-04 or thereabouts ignoring comics, & since returning I’ve done my damnedest to ignore all the Big Event propaganda (as well as the Big Event comics themselves) from Marvel & DC alike.

Consequently, my only real impression of Quesada — & DiDio, for that matter — is that … well, you said it: that he’s either a) a liar or b) having no control over his staff.

(And in Quesada’s case, c} not really anything special as an artist, despite what he & his fans apparently believe. DiDio’s background at DC I have no idea about. What did he start out as? A bagman or shakedown artist or something?)

Richard…

There are ways of putting things that don’t leave you looking bad, though. I’d bet you say to your staff things like “I will try to make X happen.” That and you apologise to them when something doesn’t work out the way you planned, right? “I’m sorry guys, that was never intended to happen.” Because that’s how a good manager does things and from the sound of things you are a good manager.

That and I’d bet you don’t EVER make promises to your customers you know you can’t keep, let alone outright lie to them.

When you are – through no fault of your own – in error, you apologise, don’t you? You say, “OK everyone, I’m sorry. I got that wrong. I made a mistake.” Because that’s what people DO when they make a genuine mistake.

Don’t see a lot of that from the people we’re talking about, here…

Since when does Magneto have his powers back?

There is also the case of editors not exactly promising something, but hinting at it hard enough that the fans believe it- and then having it turn out to be a lie. For example, nobody at DC promised that things would get lighter after Infinite Crisis (except Mark Waid, and I hear he got in trouble for that) but they certainly gave that impression, both because fans kept asking about it, and because the very plot of IC seemed to hint the original Crisis characters were back to fix things- but it was a bait-and-switch, as they had actually caused all the bad things in the first place (Superboy Punch!) and then the DC Universe got darker than ever afterwards. That was no coincidence; they planned it that way and lied to the fans about it- probably because they wanted to squeeze the last $$$ they could out of the non-grim fans before they abandoned them openly. :(

Since when does Magneto have his powers back?

The Collective.

And at the end of the last arc in Uncanny before Messiah Complex, Skids says that Magneto is a mutant again.

Magneto denies this, of course, and has not used his powers since the Collective.

Didn’t he also promise “Dead Means Dead”, and enforced it once Morrison wanted to use Colossus during ‘New X-men’? Then 3 or 4 years later, Whedon was allowed to bring him back? Yeah, thought so.

Honestly, JQ needs to tone down the hype, or at least wait more than 3 or 4 years before he undoes or allow people to undo things. “No More Mutants!”, and yet, New X-men introduced 2 new, never before seen mutants. And I seriously doubt the characters were ‘in-the-pipeline’ once Decimation was planned.

Then again, most of what he says these days anyway is crap that is far too easy to take pot shots at anyway (Didio as well).

Yeah, I call BS. That’s fan speculation. I’ll believe it when it’s actually in the books.

As an aside, its interesting when reading interviews with Didio (who’s also prone to this sort of hyperbolic nonsense) and others at DC that often they really mean it when they make these statements but as time goes on they rethink and rewrite these things to the point where they bear little or no resemblance to their originally intended form.

Countdown to Final Crisis seems like an ideal example. It was to be ‘the spine’ of the DCU, we were told over and over again how much it mattered and in the end, what actually happened in it? Seems the only plot point that actually carries over into Final Crisis is the dead New Gods and, lets be honest, we didn’t even need Starlin’s nonsensical 8 issue mini to tell us that sorry tale let alone another 51 issues and countless specials.

Reading things like Didio’s explanation of the Countdown teasers makes you realise the writers and editors barely have an idea of what’s going to happen in their titles in the months to come, and their promotional patter reflects this only too well.

if countdown was supposed to be the dc line’s spine, clearly at some point bane broke dc’s back

wwk5d,

It was Morrison’s decision not to revive Colossus; he says as much in his “New X-Men manifesto.” As far as I know, it wasn’t an editorial mandate.

Yeah, Rawinder, but I remember buying the “E is for Extinction” trade when it first came out (not sure if it’s the same thing you’re mentioning, my copy was lost when the storage room it was in was flooded) , and in there, there were notes where he wanted to use both Colossus and Moira, but was told he couldn’t because they were dead. Ironically, he was planning to kill her off anyway lol

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 18, 2008 at 6:56 pm

I stopped believing on the hype after I learnt that Age OF Apocalypse wasn’t going to be forever like I’d truly believed it would be.
I think a better example to be used for saying things and then unsaying them, and specifically to Joe Q, would be his Rawhide Kid being Gay comments, where he said Gay heroes had to be in Max books, and then tried to un-say it almost a year later… but instead of admitting he was taking back what he said, just denied that he’d ever said it.

It was Morrison’s decision not to revive Colossus; he says as much in his “New X-Men manifesto.” As far as I know, it wasn’t an editorial mandate.

In the manifesto he says he wants Colossus and Moira, but also says he doesn’t want to bring people back, and it’s a note from Mark Powers saying he can’t use them if he wants to stick to that.
And man is that manifesto sad to read when you look at what they did the second he left.

Joe Gualtieri

May 19, 2008 at 1:08 am

Graeme, you’re right that Marvel’s not a public trust, but what Quesada (far moreso than Didio), Breevort, and some of the other crew at Marvel engages in at best skirts being false advertising at worst actually is. Lack of a direct answer is better because than at least no one’s buying a comic because of an outright lie.

Re: cracking the internet in half
-It astounds me how people forgot the origin of that. It was a joke obviously based on the day Mark Waid was fired from FF by Jemas and every comics news site went down due to a traffic overload. The gag was that what Bendis had planned for House of M was going to make it happen again

Yeah, I think the whole “No More Mutants” was what was supposed to crack the internet, not Hawkeye’s resurrection.

It still bugs me that, more than a decade ago, Reed richards and Dr. Doom disapreared in a big fight next to a TIME MACHINE, levaing various fill-ins (Namor, Ant-man) to take the fourth palce in FF. That was fine, but the letters column kept on saying, month after month, that Reed and Doom were BOTH dead dead dead. If they had said “Will we ever see them again? Only the Watcher knows…” then fine. if they said “Keep reading? Maybe they aren’t dead…?” okay. If they said anything other than a notarized promise of actual death, I’d have been okay. It led to good stories, after all.

I bet “dead means dead” was an editorial rule so writers didn’t continually pledge to bring back Captain Marvel and Bucky and Aunt May. Once DC started to bring back Jason Todd, to great acclaim (still don’t see how that happened), Marvel adding an asterisk to “dead means dead.”

It does seem to me that if I had been in Quesada’s shoes, when being asked about post-Decimation plans for introductions of new mutants or restoration of powers to de-powered former mutants, I probably would have just said: “Get real, guys. If I told you categorically that some things would happen in a big way in the near future, and others would never happen at all as long as I’m at the helm, and if you believed me on each point, then you might decide not to keep buying the X-Men-related titles because there wouldn’t be so much suspense nagging at you! I prefer to keep you guessing!”

Or to put it another way: the recently deceased “Robert Jordan,” writer of the epic fantasy series “The wheel of Time,” liked to say in online question-and-answer sessions: “Read and Find Out!” when someone tried to ask him questions about future developments that would resolve mysteries he had set up in previous books and presumably meant to resolve in later ones. If you asked him “Will this character lose his magic powers?” or “will that other character regain her allegedly-permanently-lost powers?” or “Who really murdered Asmodean?” or “Will so-and-so come back from the dead in time to help save the day?” then he would just say: “Read and Find Out!”

He would answer some questions in detail — say, if there was trouble in understanding the motivations behind why a certain character had already done this-and-that in Book Five, or whatever — but the underlying message was that he didn’t propose to solve mysteries for us and “end the suspense” on the most nagging questions before his major characters learned those answers themselves, within the plot of a future installment!

So I don’t think Quesada “had to” react to fan expectations by making sweeping statements that appeared to arbitrarily rule some things out, even though he should have known those things would happen to certain characters in the not-so-distant future. He could have just clammed up and taken the risk that many fans would assume this meant all the recent “shocking changes” were going to be “undone” in a big way.

What I want to mention next goes well with Elliot Kane’s point about how Stan Lee’s extravagant claims were just part of his humorous style. I think Peter David, in one of his “But I Digress” columns, talked about Stan’s hyperbole in the old days. I don’t remember it verbatim, but PAD’s comments went something like this (paraphrased from my imperfect memory):

Sometimes Stan would end an issue with a caption saying: ‘And come back next month, true believers, for the most powerfully penned tale of pulse-pounding drama since Shakespeare wrote a little thing about Hamlet!’

Did Stan really think his next script would be the greatest work of literature to appear in the centuries since Shakespeare died? Of course not.

Did he really expect any of his readers to believe that claim? I strongly doubt it.

But it was amusing to see him say it anyway, thus inviting us to laugh along with him at the utterly shameless self-promotion inherent in the situation! Today other creators make claims almost as silly about the sweeping originality and other merits of their latest projects . . . except no one is laughing! They really expect us to believe their rhetoric!

I completely agree with you, Lorendiac. And with PAD. Very well put, both.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 19, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Once DC started to bring back Jason Todd, to great acclaim (still don’t see how that happened), Marvel adding an asterisk to “dead means dead.”

Great acclaim? Really?

The other problem with constantly bringing people back from the dead is that it takes anyway any sort of drama from current storylines. As much as I would like to get into Final Crisis….I’m just meh about the whole thing. Considering that since the original Crisis, DC has killed off and brought back Superman, Hal Jordan, Jason Todd, Oliver Queen, Super-Girl in God only knows how many versions, and God knows who else, not to mention you-know-who in DC Universe #0, not to mention the entire freaking Multi-verse itself, it makes the upcoming event that less interesting in a “Oh-my-God-what-will-happen-to-such-and-such-character?” So they killed off the New Gods. So Morrison has a story entitled Batman RIP or Bruce Wayne RIP or whatever. So there are rumors that the Martian Manhunter might be killed off. Basically, whenever I hear any of that talk, or any talk about Final Crisis, and what changes it will cause, who may or may not be killed off, etc, the main reaction it provokes in me is to cause me to roll my eyes and go ‘Oh please’. Because in 5 to 10 years, any of these changes might be reversed (less than that if you follow DC and Marvel’s hype machines).

I will still keep track of some titles, and I am curious to see what the post-FC status quo of the DCU will be. But as far as getting hyped up or interested in titles anymore, I can’t remember the last time I’ve been excited or interested in any of the major company crossovers. Marvel isn’t much better, look how long Spider-man remained unmasked. So at this point, I just try to ignore the hype as much as possible, and hope for a good story every once in a while. And especially try to ignore anyone comics creator who mouths off about “This will changes things forever! I promise! We’re never gonna change it! Ever!” because…oh please.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 19, 2008 at 10:33 pm

When I started reading comics, Spiderman was married, Kyle Rayner was Green Lantern, Magneto was dead etc etc

Kinda sad that now if I want to whinge about the status quo changing, it’s not because they made further changes forward, it’s that they decided to move backwards with everything.
Without even realising it, the companies are bringing back in the age of the creator being the star, because following the characters/universes has become a waste of time.

Ehh, I accepted the fact that most superhero comics involve a Status Quo a long time ago. I don’t mind if things get back to basics eventually- as long as we are given a new spin (or at least, a spin not seen in a while) to the characters. The post-Civil War situation at Marvel, with some heroes as outlaws and others as government patsies, is interesting, even if we know it’ll eventually go back to the old setting. And when Superman had his powers changed to electricity (!) based ones, the fun was seeing him adapt to them over the course of a year, even though it was damn obvious he would get his old powers (and costume) back eventually.

It’s all in the writing.

As for Marvel deaths, I remember back when they killed off Dracula (and EVERY other vampire on Earth, a fact some writers forget) in Doctor Strange in the 80s. Marvel actually put out a “death certificate” to prove that Dracula WAS dead! And surprisingly, the once-popular Marvel character stayed dead- until I think, the late 90′s. That was longer than I expected.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 20, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Status Quo is one thing, but avoiding/reverting any change, or even illusion of change, is just ridiculous.

two thoughts

1. the worst was Iceman after House of M, when they showed him losing his powers and two weeks later were like just kidding there guys

2. I think Stan’s huckster routine wasn’t as beign as everyone is letting it pass as in these comments. Yeah, most people would have seen it for what it was, BUT comics back then were aimed at kids, who don’t understand things like that. If the comic cover says it is the most important comic ever, they’re going to believe it, and buy it and possibly be pretty disappointed.

I guess there are worse things you can do.

“Also, most of us were, what, 10 years old or something. Maybe Quesada thinks we still are.”

I think his approach to the infamous ‘Spider-Marriage’ shows that he does.

Mychael Darklighter

August 2, 2012 at 7:43 pm

kids =/= idiots, tim.

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