JMS leaves THOR

thor10 JMS leaves THORWell-reviewed, chart-topping, but irregularly shipping, the J. Michael Straczynski/Olivier Coipel run on THOR was one of the better selling recent character relaunches. However, it had been rumored widely that JMS was leaving the book, and an interview at CBR confirms. The reason given isn’t any big blow-out, but rather that JMS didn’t want to get involved in a big company-wide Thor event:

The one concern at the back of my head was that of being pulled into a Big Event that could affect the forward momentum of the book and alter its direction. I’ve said elsewhere that in many cases — and this isn’t just Marvel, the trend is pandemic — such an event can sometimes result in the individual books serving the event, rather than the other way around, and you have to spend months and issues afterward stitching everything back together. I’m the kind of writer who likes to write in a straight line and know for certain the terrain he’s standing upon. Some writers can handle all that and never break a sweat. For me, it’s just not something I can do competently. That’s a shortcoming on my part and I recognize it as such.

Prior to the reboot, when “Thor” was selling in the mid-50s, a Big Event wouldn’t have been much of a concern, but now it was selling in the top ten month after month, and that increased visibility meant it could precipitate an event. And, again without saying much because this has to come from Marvel, such an event appeared on the horizon.


This is worth noting as perhaps yet another nail in the coffin of the Pamphlet That Sells Well Just Because It’s Good Phenomena. That idea is gone with the wind. In fairness to Marvel, a big THOR movie is coming out next year, so they probably wanted to strike while while the Mjolnir was hot. OTOH, it’s been pretty much proven that movies don’t sell that many random similarly-titled comics, and getting potential new readers hooked with a giant, complicated event seems counter-intuitive. But…so it goes. In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, the future of the Big Two is events, events, events, and Odin help us if it ever stops working.

Speaking of something else, JMS (thank God his name has an acronym so we don’t have to type Straczynski with a mutilated thumb over and over and over) also teases his next DC project:

All four Red Circle scripts are in and drawn, and I’m working on a secret project for DC that I hope we can discuss at San Diego Comic-Con. Suffice to say: anyone who knows me knows that there’s something I’ve wanted to do for my entire creative life, something that I’d give my right arm to write…something I’ve been actively chasing for over ten years. There’s one character, one property, that if George Lucas said “Here’s a million dollars, go write whatever you want and I’ll shoot it, but you’ll have to drop that book,” I would say no and never, ever look back.


Can it be…Streaky!?!

Comments

  1. This is a pretty odd thing to come up, since it was just a week and a half ago at Heroes Con that several Marvel writers said they and Marvel’s editors were feeling the same “event fatigue” as some fans and wanted to move away from it. Whatever the cause, it’s a shame, as Thor had once again become a must-read book under JMS.

  2. maxwell's hammer says:

    This just in: JMS leaves THOR in order to dedicate more time to not finishing ‘The Twelve’!!

  3. majorjoe23 says:

    I remember an interview with JMS a few years back where he said he would crawl over broken glass to write Superman.

    But now Heidi has me thinking Streaky. Damn my doubt!

  4. It’s Superman!

    …is a really good bildungskrypton.

    //Oo/\

  5. Michael says:

    “This is worth noting as perhaps yet another nail in the coffin of the Pamphlet That Sells Well Just Because Its Good Phenomena.”

    Only if you’re the sort of person who wants to see such nails everywhere.

    Also, “phenomenon.”

  6. Wait – he stopped writing Thor because he didn’t want to be part of a big event crossover, but he’s looking forward to working at DC? Aren’t they even more at the mercy of such event dictating nonsense?

  7. Steven R. Stahl says:

    The reason JMS gave for leaving THOR is certainly dispiriting. I’m nostalgic for the days when writers talked about how a story based on Spider-Man, the FF, or others would practically write itself, and editors praised character-driven storytelling. Now, the emphasis is on plot-driven events, with writers straining to think of ways to have their series tie into the events. And if a plot idea seems good to the people in charge, but is wrong for the characters, the characters will be changed to fit the plot (see the just-concluded NEW AVENGERS arc).

    SRS

  8. JMS did — and probably still does, I don’t know — peruse the dealers at SDCC (sorry, CCI: SD) every year looking for Superman stuff. He has quite a large collection of it, from what he’s talked about at his various con talks in the past.

    So, yeah, there’s a Superman project coming from JMS. And DC will offer it to an artist who’ll be late after two issues despite a multi-month lead it, pair the story with a back-up story that doesn’t fit in well so they can justify a higher price point, and then throw a bunch of fill-in artists at it to kill it.

    Not on purpose, mind you. It’s just What Will Happen.

  9. I always wondered why Marvel was putting out a main series plus a mini-series that supported their event. You know, like “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Dark Reign: Spider-Man”. For one thing, more books on the shelf. For another, to keep storylines in the main books going. Now with a tighter economy, maybe those minis will start to dwindle with the tie-ins going back into the main books?

  10. “Wait – he stopped writing Thor because he didn’t want to be part of a big event crossover, but he’s looking forward to working at DC? Aren’t they even more at the mercy of such event dictating nonsense?”

    Game. Set. Match. Great point.

    Does a (supposedly) bright guy like JMS honestly and seriously believe he won’t be subject to the same Big Event dictates as he was at Marvel?

    As a Superman fan, I’m certainly not looking forward to JMS getting his slow-as-molasses writing style and work ethic on DC’s flagship character. Even if it’s a “one-off” mini series from the main books, it’ll be promoted as an Important Story (as Marvel’s “The Twelve” was), get some initial flash and critical acclaim…then utterly disappear from the radar….per the JMS work ethic.

    At what point do we finally catch on to these prancing ponies who can never quite deliver the whole package?

  11. I’m still waiting for Squadron Supreme #8-9 (volume 2)… which I JUST found out, doesn’t even exist. Issue #7, to be continued… forever. (AND the book, Twelve. The fact that SS was never finished has me REALLY leery about Twelve ever wrapping up, unfortunately.)

  12. Alan Coil says:

    Am I the only one who came here to thank JMS for his work on Thor?

    Perhaps I should forego that thought and meekly join in the hivemind’s kick to the ‘nads.

  13. Micah says:

    Look at what is on JMS’ agenda at DC: Red Circle for 4 issues and Brave and the Bold. Both are going to be told continuity-free (or establishing continuity for Red Circle). This is consistent with his reasons for leaving Thor.

    Thor is the only $3.99 book that I continue to purchase because it is a dense story and of high quality. It is Marvel’s shame that they can’t retain JMS to continue doing his Thor story. They let Brubaker do it with Captain America and they won’t bend for JMS? This is foolish on Marvel’s part, and the next team to take over has a monumental task of maintaining the sales level. For a Thor book, good luck. I’ll hold my opinion until it’s announced, but chances are good that this results in yet another recent drop from my pull.

    Augie – don’t you have an obscure French comic book to read or something?

  14. The Beat says:

    Augie, yeah and so what if it’s a good book?

    My point is that a fun to read book is a joy forever and worth waiting for. The JMS Thor was a success from every angle, including sales, but there was no place for it to continue to be a success in Today’s System.

    To quote Achewood, “Welcome to the only game in town.”

  15. “Am I the only one who came here to thank JMS for his work on Thor?”

    You mean actually bringing the storyline to a finishing point? We’re thanking people now for telling an entire story arc…and not just half or three-quarters?

    Must be the “Oliver Twist” school of comics fandom talking. Meakly asking “Please sir, can I have some more?” and hoping the benevolent creator will bestow yet one more communion wafer of story upon the grateful masses?

    When did this “I don’t care how long it takes to create” mentality really start to kick in? Do you apply that same mentality to other commodities in your life? And, yes…creative works ARE a commodity.

  16. I think he meant he liked the book.

  17. Dennis V. says:

    “Perhaps I should forego that thought and meekly join in the hivemind’s kick to the ‘nads.”

    Can’t we thank him for Thor AND then kick him in the “‘nads” for not finishing up SS and The Twelve?

  18. Maybe he’ll be doing his own All-Star Superman run…?

    Has JMS ever commented on The Twelve and what’s the deal?

  19. Micah says:

    Re: The Twelve, I think I read that the scripts were done and Weston was drawing them. In the interview JMS says that the series will be finished.

  20. Micah – Those are the French comics that outsell every American comic currently on the stands? Define “obscure,” please. Not that it matters — just check out the Pipelines from the last three months and I’m sure you’ll see something completely different from what you expected.

    Beat – I hope it’s a fun book. I hope it completes its run. I hope it gets a good artist. I hope JMS gets to finish it. I’m just not holding my breath. Because, yeah, that’s the state of comics these days.

    I didn’t read Thor, but I know lots of people liked it. I feel badly for them.

  21. Micah says:

    Augie – Do those super-selling French comics outsell American comics in the U.S. direct market? I listened to your pipeline commentary, but not anymore. I dropped it from my web-pull. You whine too much about mainstream American comics, poo-poo’ing titles based on character names and such, and not really on content. This is what I’ve come to expect from you: American readers are silly ones. We should all be reading clever Disney comics about Uncle Scrooge and some translated French comic called Asterix. I got it. Do you have anything constructive or new to add?

  22. Micah – I’m reviewing an “obscure” French comic that doesn’t sell well in comic shops in the United States tomorrow. You might want to skip the column this week. Good news is, I don’t think I whine too much about it. I might plead for an American reader or two who likes action movies to consider reading a comic book that reads like an action movie or a thriller instead of a Marvel/DC superhero comic, but I’ll try not to whine.

    On the other hand, recent columns have focused on digital comics distribution, Wizard Magazine, Quantum and Woody, Darwyn Cooke’s next project (an “osbcure” comic in the Direct Market based on a best-selling novel series), Superboy, Gatecrasher, Shockrockets, She-Hulk, and Ka-Zar.

    As for the podcast — Yeah, there’s some surface-level opinion in there. I admit to it. I like adding in a light-hearted touch here and there. But I’m experimenting with a few ideas that might enliven the podcast for you. Stay tuned.

    And, hey, how about that Thor? I’m signing up to read JMS’ “Superman” project right now…

  23. Micah says:

    Obviously I’d rather read The Beat.

  24. maxwell's hammer says:

    Alan Coil: I love his writing and would love nothing more than to read a great new book from him. The problem is I’ve now been burned pretty badly twice, first with his phenomenal “Squadron Supreme” series which literally just died, mid-story line, then with the only slightly less steller “The Twelve” which has also gone off the radar for quite some time now. Granted, it sounds like “The Twelve” may be slowly getting back on track, but geez, its like always going back to an abusive spouse. “When he’s not smacking me around, he really loves me!!”

  25. Micah – Then you’ve come to the right place!

    As for JMS: I liked “Midnight Nation” an awful lot…

  26. Alan Coil says:

    I guess I won’t be thanking Mark Engblom for his work. He quoted half my previous post, then went on to fantasize that I said a dozen other things. Take a pill, Mark.

    maxwell’s hammer — I, too, am frustrated by unfinished stories, and massive delays between issues, but I have decided that, in most cases, it’s just not important enough for me to get an ulcer from worrying about it. Planetary being one example.

  27. I’m not quite sure why everyone’s assuming Superman. My immediate reaction to JMS’s comment was “Oh, so he’s going to be writing the Legion now?” I remember him going on record about how much he loved the Levitz Legion back when B5 was on the air.

    Mind you, I’m not sure how I’d feel about him writing the Legion, but isn’t that at least as probable as Superman, especially if he has enough clout to divorce the 31st century DCU from 21st century crossover madness?

  28. Kid Kyoto says:

    this last month I’ve been watching Babylon 5 from the beginning, just finished Season 4. Fantastic show, up there with the new BSG.

    Any recommendations for JMS’ comic work to check out?

    Did Rising Stars ever finish?

  29. Torsten Adair says:

    Rising Stars was collected by Image years ago and recently resollicited. Recommended.

    As for creators leaving superhero titles, how often is it nicely tied-up? Remember inventory stories? Back in the day, it was fairly common for writers and artists to change on books or quit.

    So enjoy great stories when they appear. And remember… the author is not your bitch.

  30. Martin says:

    In a weird way…I kind of have to applaud this decision, and acknowledge that it can be a benefit to fans of the book, because clearly such a Thor event is still on the horizon, and JMS has apt time to end the book properly before the interference comes in.

    As such, we get a great, short-lived, but hopefully when all’s said and done, memorable enough run on Thor that will feel complete, not diminished by editorial mandate.

    I know this certainly is not always true, but sometimes some of the great superhero runs are short ones that just come in and tell the story they mean to tell.

    Now, if only JMS learns that this means he has to start writing tighter and kicking up the pace on his books, because you never know when editorial **** might come in to mess you up.

  31. Steven R. Stahl says:

    It’s easier to appreciate classic storylines featuring favorite characters when those characters are dead or not being written about any more, for whatever reason. As much as I like(d) the Vision & Scarlet Witch duo, I prefer both characters being inactive to having them continuously misinterpreted.

    I bought JMS’s THOR for about ten issues, after dealing with doubts about how the reboot was structured, but the focus on Loki’s machinations killed my interest. When the local comics shop stopped pulling THOR for me months ago, I stopped getting it and haven’t missed it. Is Loki really a character, or just an animated plot device?

    LEGION OF SUPERHEROES was one of the few DC series I bought several issues of back in the ‘70s, but I lost interest in that at the same time I lost interest in SUPERMAN, around ‘71 or ‘72. What I’ve noticed most about the series since then has been the repeated reboots. Five? Six? If JMS were to write the series, would he use an existing version or create his own? The repeated attempts by both Marvel and DC to market failed characters in their own series is one of the oddest aspects of the superhero comics market. What TV producer would try to revamp a pilot for a TV series several times?

    SRS

  32. All this Superman talk really takes the wind out of my JMS Presents: ‘Mazing Man proposal.

  33. “I guess I won’t be thanking Mark Engblom for his work. He quoted half my previous post, then went on to fantasize that I said a dozen other things. Take a pill, Mark.”

    Sorry, Alan. My second and third paragraphs were directed at Heidi’s comment in the post preceding that comment, which were:

    HM: “My point is that a fun to read book is a joy forever and worth waiting for. The JMS Thor was a success from every angle, including sales, but there was no place for it to continue to be a success in Today’s System.”

    To which I replied:

    “Must be the “Oliver Twist” school of comics fandom talking. Meakly asking “Please sir, can I have some more?” and hoping the benevolent creator will bestow yet one more communion wafer of story upon the grateful masses?

    When did this “I don’t care how long it takes to create” mentality really start to kick in? Do you apply that same mentality to other commodities in your life? And, yes…creative works ARE a commodity.”

    Again, sorry for the confusion.

  34. MBunge says:

    There’s been one issue of THOR published in the last 3 months. It sold just under 80 thousand copies. I’m not sure what the profit margin is, but a book selling 55 thousand copies a month for three months can’t be that far behind a book that sells about 80 copies every thing months. So, Marvel’s not that much better off with the JMS reboot, even with higher sales. It’s also the case that Thor was pretty popular for a long, long, loooong time before Quesada allowed the character to be driven into the dirt. So any relaunched Thor book would have started out selling quite well, JMS or not.

    Mike

  35. Alan Coil says:

    Cool, Mark. Different day, different mindset for me. It’s like I’m on drugs or something, but I’m not.

  36. Sean Murphy says:

    JMS has complained about being drawn into these events in the past when he wrote ASM. I’m guessing he thought Thor was a safe place to be, but with the Asgardians living with Doom there is going to be some tie in to Dark Reign.

    Anyways, I wish him luck with Superman. I’ll probably pick up the first couple of issues but I’m hit or miss with his work. It will at least be interesting to see how his characterization of Superman differs from Hyperion.

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