James Meeley, recently of Ron's Coin & Collectibles in Yakima, Washington, saw Ilan Strasser's comments on the output of the Big Two comic publishers (see 'Ilan Strasser from Fat Moose Comics on Big Two Content'), and sees innovation coming from other places:
I recently read Ilan Strasser's piece about Marvel and DC's comics being merely rehashes of the same old thing. I have to say, it certainly gave me pause to stop and think on things. I've noticed that DC has been dominating both the 'buzz' and sales for the past few months, but this piece put it into a perspective I'd not looked at it in before.
While DC might be on top right now, they are king of a sinking ship, in that regard. And there is a lack of 'new' at both Marvel and DC. Heck, my last two favorite comics I'd read were of new characters and concepts from publishers other than the Big Two, and not of the 'tried and true' classic creations. So, there is some merit in what he's saying.
Of course, I also think Strasser is missing something in his evaluation. Marvel and DC haven't been the companies for 'new and innovative' for quite some time. They are the lumbering giants. They follow change, not create it. It was Dark Horse's success with Conan and Dynamite's with Red Sonja, which had DC spark the idea of bringing back some of their 'sword and sorcery' creations (like the upcoming Red Sonja/Claw mini-series). It was the popularity of manga-styled art, that got Marvel to do their short-lived 'Marvel Mangaverse' line (which they are trying to bring back again).
Add to this the times they have tried to bring innovation, which have never really worked out for them. Remember Marvel's 'New Universe'? How about DC's 'Focus' line, to give a more recent example. Heck, even the changes to something old, like the new Firestorm or Shanna the She-Devil, have a hard time getting acceptance and sales. How much harder is it going to be for a totally new concept?
Creating something new and fresh just isn't in the mindset of the Big Two. So, while I agree with Strasser that there needs to be a change, I think he's foolish to expect it from Marvel and DC. The change that needs to come, I think, is for retailers (and readers) to look in the back of Previews and try out something 'new and fresh' themselves. There's a ton of books there that are looking for someone to give them a chance, so why don't retailers do just that? Heck, Claypool's recent problems wouldn't be such an issue for them, if more retailers took up such a stance.
There is a lot of 'new and fresh' stuff out there. Retailers just have to look in places other then 'the same old place' to find it. Look at the recent success of stuff like Blankets, Scott Pilgrim and Bone, just to name a few. It wasn't the Big Two who brought them to the retailers and masses, yet they managed to reach the people, because of retailers who took the chance to try something 'new and fresh' for their own business and not rely on the big guys to change into something they never really were. Retailers have brains and gut instincts. They need to start using them more often, instead of looking for others to solve their issues. And this one is easily solvable by retailers (and readers) themselves. If you want 'new and fresh,' go out and try something you haven't before. Like with any product, if one type doesn't work for you, you go try another. Don't try and change the giants of the publishing end of this industry.