Some of the greatest pieces of comic history have come from experimentation, a creator pushing the medium one step further than ever before. Scott McCloud did this when he attempted the non-fiction genre in his book Understanding comics (which I will be covering very soon) and as recent as this week Mark Millar experimented by gathering together a group of amateurs for a brand new type of book. You can see it everywhere in our medium. Today I’m looking at one of those moments of great experimentation. Today I am looking at Batman Eternal and the rise of the weekly comic book system.
A Simpler Time
If you jump back around twenty years in the comic industry you would find at the industry standard was monthly title release. Spider-Man would hit on the first Wednesday of the month then X-Men on the second, Avengers on the third and so on. Rinse and repeat. This allowed writers and artists to work with a fairly methodical pace and it spaced releases out so that readers could purchase pretty much every issue as long as they had a steady income. Then, as interest in comics waned toward the end of the nineties, the industry shifted. Both Marvel and DC decided to start releasing titles every two weeks. They changed how the writing and art teams were scheduled and they began to pump out slightly slimmer issues with speed. This swamped the market and resulted in readers losing interest in many monthly titles as there was just too much waiting for them to come out. Series such as Spider-Man and Batman, which ran bi-weekly, began to produce far more sales and profit. This led to 2014 when DC Comics announced they were going to step the game up a notch with Batman Eternal, a weekly Batman series. This was pure insanity.
There was only one man on the scene when it came to Batman in 2014, Scott Snyder, so it was only natural that DC put him in charge of making a weekly Batman series a reality. Snyder assembled a supporting team of writers and decided that each writer would work with one arc as a part of his main Batman story. The entire Batman family were drafted into the plot and Snyder began to pen a story revolving around the false imprisonment of Commissioner Gordon. This was a stroke of genius as it gave the book an epic feel and it let many of the creative team take breaks, easing pressure off each other, while also creating a spirt of one-upmanship. The final project was a yearlong, weekly, Batman story that will go down as one of the most ambitious successes in comic book history.
The series began to pick up a wide variety of positive reviews from many review platforms outside of the media, including IGN and USA Today. Fans split in two camps, some decrying the speed the comic was put out and the lack of pages in each issue while others enjoying the lack of wait time and the scope of the story. After a quick look through reviews the general consensus seems to be that the series is good not great but I think this overlooks the sheer achievement of Snyder and company. This achievement lead to a wider influence as DC commissioned another weekly series, Batman and Robin Eternal, while the wider industry began to look at following the organisation strategies laid down by Snyder. It’s my belief that Batman Eternal signalled a possible future of the industry with a push towards small bites of content at a higher rate and for that it deserves a place in comic history. Next week we will be looking at Gotham Central and how a normal person can still make a difference in a world of super heroes.
…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new covert coot article!!!