Bringing Down The Monarchy?
I have wanted to write this article since before September 11th. Unfortunately, our collective boats were rocked pretty hard and most of my reading and writing has focused elsewhere. As a result, the timeliness of this topic is largely gone, but I do feel that the topic is worth revisiting. I am referring to the Monarchy. If nothing else, it is always good for an inflamed discussion of what makes good comics. Hyperbolic commentary aside, I would like to put forth my thoughts regarding a title that I have always thought highly of.
The Monarchy was never without flaws, but I believe it to be a frequently underestimated title, and I regret the news of its cancellation. Monarchy was accused of having "dangling plot ideas". I never saw this to be the case, I can list many, many examples of plot points that come around in later issues and indicate, rather than a lack of thought, a very high level of consideration. It might have suffered from being a bit too involved and left readers more confused than interested, but the point I want to discuss is the Wildstorm editorial staff and management's culpability for this problem.
The main issue I have with the editing of this title is that there was never any clear vision for what this book should be. The most immediate retorts to the preceding comment would blame some combination of the writer, the penciller or the colorist. (I doubt that anyone had any real problems with the lettering though even then, word balloons sometimes pointed to the wrong character or origin point). Before considering the editing of this title, I feel I should address the obvious retorts regarding the artists themselves.
The most obvious person to point a finger at would be the writer, Doselle Young. Any blame placed on the writer, I would instead place on the editorial staff. Did the editors not receive a pitch and submission from Doselle Young about what direction he wanted to take the comic in? This is highly unlikely but even if it is the case, the editors and the writer should have had a very clear understanding of what was expected of them. The clearest example of this disunity would be the much reviled tag line "From the Pages of the Authority". Presumably this book would be in a vein similar to that of the Authority. It was quite obviously an effort to cash in on the Authority's popularity. I have no qualms with that, but what Young was writing was a title very different from the Authority. Since I have always found the Authority to be a disastrous title (excluding some beautiful artwork) I was enthusiastic to read a title as innovative as the Monarchy. My gain was clearly many Authority fans' loss. They rightfully expressed frustration regarding a title that lacked the widescreen format and action film pacing that has become an earmark of the Authority. Unfortunately, they have blamed the writer for not delivering what they have wanted. That is understandable, but not appropriate. The payoffs of the Monarchy were very subtle. Few, if any, building were destroyed. Monarchy dedicated more time to characterization and intrateam dialogues. My point is that the Monarchy was very different from the Authority even at a cursory glance. Why was there this implicit discrepency between DC/Wildstorm's advertising campaign and the book itself? This discrepency should not be laid at the doorstep of the writer, but rather, at the foot of management and editorial. Whatever direction Doselle Young chose should have been approved or rejected by Wildstorm and the responsibility for the title is theirs not his.
The next choice in the list of alternative targets would be the penciller. It is difficult to compare the artistic styles of Bryan Hitch to John McCrea largely because one far surpasses the other. This is another discrepency point between the Authority and the Monarchy. I am unsure of the issue, but there are times in the Authority that called for beautiful artistic vistas, a shot of long tendrils composed of human faces weaving its way through the sky comes to mind. In the Authority, these scenes have an artistic commitment that the reader can appreciate. The story itself is strengthened considerably by this commitment. The scene I mention is intended to instill wonder and awe in the character witnessing it. Given the beauty of some of Authority shots, the reader can relate to the storyline and continues on the ride. There are numerous moments in The Monarchy, specifically related to Jon Farmer, that should inspire the audience. Examples would include his explosion in issue one or his size growing in issue six. The artistry is so weak that, conversely the story suffers. The point is not that McCrea is a good or bad artist. John McCrea's art continues to look like John McCrea's art. What his Hitman looked like, so too did his Monarchy follow suit. For a comedic, satirical and at times, obnoxious romp such as the Hitman, McCrea's art is fine and works well for the title. The title does not have need for more than what McCrea provides. Wildstorm previously worked with McCrea on the Jenny Sparks mini series which was not well received. Since Millar wrote successful Authority issues and unsuccessful Jenny Sparks mini series, editorial should have already had some idea that McCrea's style did not suit Wildstorm's key audience. Similar to the Young situation, Wildstorm knew what they were getting into when they hired John McCrea. Consequently, I am left seeing gross discrepencies or minimally strong ambiguities, regarding what this book was supposed to be. The Authority fans anticipate a widescreen action comic with detailed and nuanced artwork. What The Monarchy delivers is more timely, but much less effective artwork.
As far as I can tell, many people got too little of what they expected and too many different expectations were placed upon this title. The title was put out with a weak first issue, fan response was patient but unenthusiastic and no evident response or commitment was expressed on behalf of Wildstorm/DC.
Should the artwork have been improved? Provide extra time for the artist, or hire new artists or clarify what should be done in specific panels or pages. I never noticed any real shift in artistic storytelling or artistry. Should the stories have had a faster pace to them? Should points be clarified? Should the resolutions have been more pronounced? Again, I did not see any real shift in the stories themselves.
Wildstorm should have displayed a greater commitment to the fans and to the title by trying to clear things up. The book rarely had a back letters page to provide a forum between the creators and the fans. Monarchy did not even have a "next issue" box which could have been used to imply the direction and focus of the title. The title was set adrift with some competent professionals who all thought they were working on very differently styled books. As a result, the fans were confused about the book and very directly, I blame Wildstorm management and if and when appropriate, DC management. Did anyone at these companies read this book? Did anyone care about the fans' concerns? Why was such a weak first issue put out in the first place? It became much harder to regain respectability after that initial fiasco, but an effort to do so was appropriate but never forthcoming.
What angers me most about all of this, is that I feel that I have had my time wasted. For the record, I loved the Monarchy. I thought it warranted some cleanup in several areas, but it had some good issues and it consistently demonstrated potential that warranted support by the fans, but especially by its publishers. I ask DC and Wildstorm to rethink their decisions.
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