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2013 and forward has been, and apparently is going to be, a supposedly very big year for the big two. Then again, what isn’t meant or claimed to be big when it comes to the multitude of events and gimmicks that the two come up with one after the other, time after time, day after day. It’s beginning to seem like an endless stream of needless and perhaps worthless incentives and seductive techniques. From Age of Ultron to Trinity War, and from "Gatefold Cover Month" to Deadpool Variants, it’s a long and tiring train of things that the Big Two are doing in order to shell out their material.
In one such gregarious case, this time from Marvel, they brought back a non-favorite gimmick back from the 90’s pit of such tricks in order to add some pizazz to the debut of Age of Ultron – foil covers. For the great amount that they might have expected that to sell just by doing that one cheap addition they might as well have also done the age-old classic of putting a “First Issue Collector’s Edition” sticker on the front. It is just that tacky. And it gets even tackier once calls of “big, exciting change” was said to be coming from that now slow and plodding miniseries. Big talk like this comes with every “event”, every year, but with announcements such as the huge hush-hush final pages drawn by “The” Joe Quesada and the furor that their hype men seem to want to make of the little things like that – it becomes fun to witness and to revel in what appears to be desperation to comb for more sales. So much is it that when rumors came of the (second) Ultimate/616 Crossover it became hard to not believe it.
DC's Trinity War is hardly on it's way to distinguishing itself from being of a similar calibre. Nigh on two years of so-called buildup and there has yet to appear something recognizable as a plan forming. All that there is are tangentially tied and strained relationships between "plot threads" and a sense rgat the writing is largely in flux. Though it's not as if either company has to put in too much work, after all, events always sell (comparatively) huge numbers. That's why they do them every year if one didn't know. It's a large part of the lifeblood for the big two. So large, in fact, that both have already announced/disclosed plans for follow up events - Infinity for Marvel and the tentative "Two Earths" crossover for DC. It sells and so they shell.
You know what else sells? Variants. Be it the useless Deadpool variants or the staggering 52 JLA variant covers - comic shops and readers alike just gobble them up. Either due to hoping for the latter or clinging to the idea that they'll be able to make some quick cash online. And, unsurpsinlgy enough, in the short run they do. Yet the exact same tactics, a tactic that lives on today in the form of "incentive variants" - aka the more issues a shop buys the more variants it gets, very nearly completely gutted the industry only a decade or two prior. Why continue to do it? Again, its a proven way to make money in the short term. For example - the Jim Lee Covers for the various Before Watchmen minis went for around 10-20 times more than their shelf price online, with JLA and it's covers netting around 300k in sales to shops. Sure there might be some buyer's remorse along with more long term consequences to come - yet they sell and so it continues.
It's the power of the cheap gimmick, and the big two have revolved around that for a long time. It's what made Marvel relaunch Avengers and other titles twice in the same decade with brand-spanking new #1's. It's what made what wad originally supposed to be a relatively small miniseries with some tie-ins (Flashpoint) into a Crisis On Infinite Earths-esque affair. These gimmicks that drive their fanbases and makes their world keep turning. Gimmicks that lead into the "New 52" for DC and Heroes Reborn decades prior for Marvel. The amount of mudslinging dirwcted toward something as tame and mundane as the currently ongoing DC Comics "WTF" is sort if petty given the larger techniques they use. Ones that are going to wear thin one day, and the best buttress they will have will be the quality of stories out at that point - a ratio that is currently not that promising. So how about they start focusing on that aspect instead of the endless "jump starts" then? Some may think that the fall of the Big Two will pave the way for indies/third parties, but that is pretty far from the truth and I would hate to see Valiant go down once again.