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I Am Not a Marvel Comics Writer

Hello Wizards of the Coast. I hope you are having a good day today!

I love Magic. I love you folks. I love the direction that the game is going.

Despite all of that, I have a bit of a problem that I have been running into as a writer and player of this game, and I wanted to bring it to your attention.

I’m just not a Marvel Comics writer. I can’t keep this frenetic pace of new releases constantly going.

Around 2005, Marvel Comics began their giant cross-comic epic stories with “House of M.” The goal of these mega-tales was to tell these giant stories that would impact future stories and the world itself. The “House of M” storyline features an alternate earth after a powerful mutant and Avenger named Scarlet Witch alters the world to put mutants in charge under her father, Magneto. Eventually a group of heroes forms, reveals what is going on, and forces the world to shift back, but not before the Scarlet Witch intones three infamous words that are going to change Marvel, “No more mutants.”

Only around 200 mutants survive this Decimation, and subsequent plotlines have dealt with the heavy depowering of mutants for years. It’s a big deal.

In terms of comic-dom, the “House of M” was a mini-series you purchased, with the entire self-contained plotline there. But every comic also had “House of M” crossovers as well. You had a Spider Man “House of M” comic, as well as countless others.

This would begin an annual event mega-series that Marvel embraced. For example, in their “Civil War” story-arc, they not only had one mini-series for the story, but other mini-series written just for the event debuted that tied into it, as well as “Civil War” comics for pretty much every Earth based comic series. You had “Civil War” tie ins for New Avengers, X-Factor, Daredevil, Captain America, and loads more. This storyline took about six months of comics to finish. And it wasn’t the only one. You had events like “Secret Invasion,” “The Siege” and “World War Hulk.”

This was a new form of story-telling for Marvel.

Marvel had printed large crossover events before, but not something that took up that much time, or that much information. Previously, the crossovers tended to be in a section of the Marvel universe, such as just the mutant comics or just the street-level folks in New York City (such as Daredevil and Spider-Man). If they were done on a larger scale, they were either done in a mini-series that didn’t interfere with an ongoing comic series, or they were done with some other method to keep from interfering with the writers and their stories.

One mini-series that was popular was Secret Wars, which debuted in the 80s with many good and bad guys taken to another planet, and then they had to fight for an alien force that brought them there, after they banded together. And this strong 12 issue crossover was just told in mini-series form, or with some light entrances in various comics that didn’t interfere with the overall plot.

Another example is the “Atlantis Attacks” storyline from 1989. It was the story of the attacks by Atlanteans across the globe as they are controlled by deeper and darker elements to attack the surface world. It was a giant wave of attacks as war breaks out. There were fourteen parts across various comics – such as Iron Man, New Mutants and Daredevil. But instead of taking up individual comics and taking months to read, they were a crossover that was in the Summer in the Annual comic. (An Annual is a yearly special larger comic done as a one-of story to celebrate a year of that comic) By just taking the Annual instead of the ongoing plotlines, again, Marvel didn’t play games with their writers and books. Or their readers. As a kid growing up in the era, I could read the whole storyline then and there and purchase those fourteen Annuals.

However, that creator-friendly context for these giant plotlines has shifted with “House of M.” Now writers are required to invest a lot of time into these stories that are dictated to them by Marvel.

When up to half of a year is spent writing another crossover story, then it’s hard to write your own. When do you have a chance to write interesting characters and stories? When do you do your own stuff?

For example, take the comic, Ms. Marvel (Volume 2).

This comic began by reintroducing the character from the 70s (shown above), and giving her the solo title back again. This shows the Avenger Carol Danvers at her best, and it runs from 2006-2010. During that time, the comic had to tell many crossovers that happen, and the main character is even replaced by a villain during the Dark Reign storyline for about a year. If you are a big fan of the character (like I am) when do you have time to read about Carol? She is either replaced by a story-forced villain or playing second-fiddle in various plotlines throughout the four-year run.

She is not the only example of that. I could take you on a tour of my comics collection and show you how a majority of a team’s books that I have are on centralized plotlines rather than the own comic.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoyed the “Civil War” and “Secret Alliances” plotlines pretty heavily, although “House of M” was weak and “World War Hulk” felt like it would have been a better limited universe storyline than a big one. They were clearly working overtime to try to give pertinent crossover stories to non-Hulk titles like Heroes for Hire. How do Colleen Wing and Misty Knight have roles in “World War Hulk?” That makes no sense.

And then you still have limited universe crossovers. For example, in 2010, The Daredevil and street level stuff has “Shadowland” set in NYC as Daredevil sets himself up as the new Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen. Right after “House of M,” the mutant titles have the “Decimation,” title and event. It’s already rough if half of your year is spent in companywide crossovers and the other half in limited universe ones!

I prefer the limited series or limited universe approach for anything but something where the story demands it be told over the entire slate of comics. The problem of being a writer during this era of Marvel is that you really aren’t telling your stories. You are just telling Marvel’s.

I feel like that with Wizards of the Coast sometimes.

Let me give you the recent example,

This has been Wizard’s recent release schedule:

  • August 25, 2017 — Commander 2017
  • September 29, 2017 — Ixalan
  • November 17, 2017 — Iconic Masters
  • December 7, 2017 — Unstable
  • January 18, 2018 — Rivals of Ixalan
  • March 16, 2018 — Masters 25
  • April 27, 2018 — Dominaria
  • June 8, 2018 — Battlebond
  • June 22, 2018 — Global Series, First Release
  • July 13, 2018 — Core Set 2019
  • August 10, 2018 — Commander 2018
  • October 5, 2018 — Guilds of Ravnica

Note that this release schedule doesn’t include reprint-only stuff in a non-booster pack form, like Jace’s Spellbook or Commander Anthology II. This is just the release schedule for big stuff, with brand new cards.

With the exception of the two Masters sets in here, all of these releases have new cards in them that won’t get printed elsewhere. From August 2017 to August 2018 there are eleven releases that have new stuff, or are draft-able Masters.

Mu Yanling
Jiang Yanggu

Even a set like the Global Series has two new planeswalkers and about 25 new cards in addition to the two ‘walkers. There are at least four or five cards in here worth talking about for casual folks, and one in particular that I think is really strong.

And don’t forget that these releases are surrounded by weeks of spoilers. From August 2017 to August 2018, we’ve basically been in one giant spoiler season!

When am I supposed to write about things that aren’t these 11 releases? Shoot, I have two columns and I can’t keep pace. I can’t imagine the difficulty of writers with just a single column keeping abreast. My reviews, new decks, and set release and such are running into each other. I didn’t finish my Battlebond articles before spoiler season for Core Set 2019 hits.

I don’t want to be a Marvel Comics Writer. I want to pen my stories too. I want to write on casual formats and the best cards of all time on any number of topics and types. I want to create decks that aren’t always inspired by “the new hotness.” As a writer, I want to write on things that aren’t always, “What’s on this month’s release schedule?”

I can’t imagine what it’d be like to just play this game right now. I’m lucky. I am privileged to have this part-time gig that helps defray my gaming costs. I decided long ago to just use the money I make from my writing stuff to support my gaming habit. It’s perfect to write for coolstuffinc.com! They have other games in addition to Magic that I pick up. I’ve probably spent more than $2000 on HeroClix alone, plus any number of board games, maps, miniatures, role-playing books and more. I love that I can support my habit by (mostly) working rather than actually having to pay for my cards and supplies and such like most other folks.

I can’t imagine being a player who would have to buy all of these things from August, 2017 to August, 2018. How many dollars would you spend on singles or decks from the Commander series? How about the awesome stuff from Dominaria? The Ixalan Block? Some cards for drafting Unstable, Battlebond or Iconic Masters? You get the idea. It’s just too much. Forget the Reserve List price spikes; just playing Magic in 2018 is going to be way too pricey.

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Leave them wanting more.

Right now, it’s just too much. We need breaks. When we are always in spoiler season, spoilers stop feeling special. We need to not be in spoiler season for months at a time. I haven’t even had a chance to play with all of the sagas yet from Dominaria , and we are now two sets later. I can’t play with all of these cards! I certainly can’t write about them either.

Dear Wizards,

I am not Marvel Comics Writer. Please slow down the sheer volume of new stuff. Thanks for your time, and have a great day!

Sincerely,

Abe Sargent


Magic Core Set 2019 is available for Preorder!