Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett looks at two Marvel lines, one of which worked, one of which didn’t, and takes a few passing glances at the week’s New 52 events.

Finally a column that's not entirely about DC, because the inevitable next question isn't what DC will do next, it's what Marvel will do in response.  So far that's been exactly nothing, which is entirely sensible since it's still the early days for the New 52.  But not only have all of the DC new #1's officially sold out, eleven of them have sold over 100,00 copies (see "DC Completes Sweep").  That includes Aquaman; and when Aquaman sells 100,000 copies, it's a development that shouldn't be ignored.  The same way it's hard to ignore when Forbes magazine starts weighing in on the matter in a piece by David DiSalvo dated 9/21/2011 titled "Why You Should Bet On DC in the Comic Book Horse Race."

It's not that Marvel doesn't know how to gamble.  In 2008 they tried publishing two very different lines of comics--one which was a fairly minor but unexpected success, the other unfortunately did about as well as expected.

As previously established back in a 2008 column (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--To The Good") I've long been a fan of bande dessinee, literally 'drawn strip' a.k.a. European comics and have wanted to see more translated into English.  A lot of publishers have tried and failed to market them in America, just off the top of my head there's DC, Dark Horse and Devil's Due.  So I was admittedly more cautious than optimistic when Marvel announced their deal with the French publisher Soleil (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Does Anyone Know This Robot?").

Marvel/Soleil published some solid material in titles like Universal War One, Ythaq and (my personal favorite) Sky Doll but it's been a while since they've announced or released a new title.  And though it didn't get much coverage online last week Alex Alonso of Marvel told Comic Book Resources that "At this time, there are no plans to publish additional Soleil titles.  We love Soleil, their comics and their creators, and will continue to work with them when we can, but we won't be localizing any of their content right now."  

I just checked and the Soleil Comics Hub is no longer up on the Marvel Comics website so it's definitely over, which is a shame.  But I'm willing to accept the very real possibility that there isn't a sufficiently large enough market for European comics in America.  Not yet anyway.  I just hope this doesn't mean that somebody else won't try.  Since there doesn't appear to be room for them on comic shop shelves, maybe bande dessinee should be online.

On the other hand in 2008 Marvel tried something else, the first of a series of miniseries by Eric Shanower and Scottie Young that adapted L. Frank Baum's Oz books.  They started with the first, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which was not only very good it was at least successful enough for them to do another.  So it was followed by The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz and this week ships the first issue in the latest adaptation, Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz.  I'll understand if they're not big sellers at your shop; I have to confess that they're not exactly big sellers at Super-Fly Comics & Games either.  But they're definitely worth having on hand when the right customer comes through your door.  And even if you have absolutely no interest in Oz they're 'kids comics' that could and should be read by everyone, even retailers.

Like I said it's still early days for the New 52 and it's not really a matter of this week's sales or this month's sales but what sales are going to be three months from now.  Not to mention how quickly DC reacts and adapts when a title doesn't sell but just how responsive they are to criticism.  No, no company should run its business via a show of hands of its customers, but I'm hoping that when faced with controversies (see "New 52 Controversies") they fall back into their old habit of (sometimes quite literally) saying "you're wrong, we know what we’re doing, shut up."

Plenty of people have been commenting on the really misguided sexual content in Red Hood and the Outlaws which only makes "sense" if it was intended to (a) alienate everyone who ever saw the Teen Titans cartoon show and (b) appeal to the average Maxim reader.*  But when it comes to DC's depictions of mental illness maybe it is time they retired Arkham Asylum; not for reasons of well intentioned 'political correctness' as much as because it's hopelessly outdated.

The mentally ill are no longer warehoused in asylums for our safety, if they ever were, and doesn't reflect the world outside your window.  "Madhouses" and "escaped lunatics" are the stuff of old movies and pulp magazines and if DC genuinely wants their comics to be "modern" it's definitely something that should be discarded.

* Last week was a really bad one for Starfire; in the very long awaited New Teen Titans: Games hardcover graphic novel agent King Farraday very casually refers to Koriand'r as "a piece" (writer Marv Wolfman leaves the last two words in the phrase to our imaginations).  What's almost worse; boyfriend Dick Grayson/Nightwing does absolutely nothing.  Some superhero he is.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely  those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of