There has been a growing problem in the American superhero comic book industry ever since the New 52 started. This problem accelerated with the All New All Different MarvelNOW initiatives. That problem was a new wave of writers who had zero experience with the superhero genre or with comic books blaming the customer for these writers’ sales failures. Writers and editors attacking comics fans have continued with each year. Now, it looks like Tim Sheridan is the latest to engage in comics fan blaming. On July 27, 2022, Tim Sheridan tweeted the following:
Comics Fans: “Don’t add stuff to established characters! Just create new characters!”— Tim Sheridan 🏳️🌈 (@iamtimsheridan) July 28, 2022
Creator: creates new characters
Comics Fans: “I don’t know them, I don’t want to, this is trash.”
Now, Sheridan then clarified the above tweet to say that he is only talking about new LBGTQ characters and not new characters in general. Sheridan’s statement blamed comic readers for the failure rate of new LGBTQ characters. The conflict stems from comic fans continually pleading for Marvel Comics and DC Comics to stop delivering bizarre and forced changes to characters with thirty-plus years of established histories by suddenly making them LGBTQ. Instead, comic book readers have been asking creators to come up with new LGBTQ characters. However, Sheridan is saying that these same comic books readers are refusing to support new LGBTQ characters. Sheridan then blames comic book readers for all the sales failures of LGBTQ characters and for titles like Sheridan’s Teen Titans Academy.
Most of this is stemming from the fact that Tim Sheridan was the writer for the truly terrible Future State: Teen Titans and Teen Titans Academy. Kevin reviewed Future State: Teen Titans #1 and Future State: Teen Titans #2. Now, keep in mind that Kevin was open-minded to Future State and more than happy to give it a try. In fact, unlike me, Kevin did enjoy some aspects of Future State. However, Kevin found Sheridan’s Future State: Teen Titans #1 and #2 to be major disappointments. Kevin gave the first issue a 2 out of 10 for Sheridan’s writing. Kevin gave the second issue a 2 out of 10 for Sheridan’s writing.
Kevin reviewed Teen Titans Academy #1, Teen Titans Academy #2, and Teen Titans Academy #3. There is no doubt that Kevin is incredibly open-minded to any and all new characters. You don’t have to believe me. Just read Kevin’s reviews and it will become obvious that Kevin always takes a hopeful and positive approach to any and all new characters.
However, Kevin gave the first issue a 6 out of 10 for Sheridan’s writing. Kevin then gave the second issue a 2 out of 10 for Sheridan’s writing. Kevin then gave the third issue a 1 out of 10 for Sheridan’s writing. At that point, even Kevin had enough and tapped out of reviewing Teen Titans Academy.
There are many reasons why Tim Sheridan totally failed with Teen Titans Academy. Tim Sheridan was a writer for animated series and movies before he tried his hand at comic books. However, just because a writer is able to successfully write in one medium like TV or novels does not automatically make that writer qualified to write in another medium like comic books.
One big reason that Sheridan may have failed is that he lacks a proper understanding of the superhero genre. Just because a writer has the ability to write in one genre does not mean that the same writer is well equipped to write in other genres. It is possible that Sheridan is better suited to write slice-of-life stories for indie comics publishers. This may allow Sheridan to find a smaller niche audience that is more receptive to the characters and stories that he wants to deliver.
Going back to Kevin’s reviews, a big problem with Teen Titans Academy was that the character work was lousy. Kevin even went out of his way that it is not the fault of the characters themselves. It was just the product of bad writing. Kevin rightfully pointed out that the new characters were basically empty shells.
It was basically my impression of Teen Titans Academy, too. All of these new characters were terribly developed. The result is that Sheridan completely failed to get the reader invested in any of these characters in any meaningful way. It is not enough to simply tell me the sexuality of the character and then leave it at that. Those characters end up dull and one-dimensional. They usually veer into the zone of being corny and cringe-inducing. Often, the characters are unlikeable and act more like caricatures than actual fully fleshed-out people.
Perhaps Sheridan needs to focus on creating compelling and interesting characters independent of their sexuality. Sheridan needs to make his characters like real people. Give them flaws and failures. Decorate them with unique personalities. Give them hopes and dreams that are fundamental to the human experience. Then layer in their sexuality as a subtext that helps adds another delightful dimension to the character. But, it should be icing and not the cake itself. Otherwise, your character will remain a one-dimensional caricature that will never generate interest from a broad and diverse collection of comic fans. Remember, if you want big sales success then your characters have to be well developed, likable, and compelling to a large wide range of comic book readers. I know it is tough, but it has been done before. Numerous times.
Another problem would be Sheridan’s general quality of writing is poor and simply not appealing to a wide range of comic fans. When writing superhero comic books, it is incumbent that the writer delivers dynamic and exciting stories with plenty of action. The writer has to understand the proper plotting and pacing for a monthly comic book. In general, the main focus should be on entertainment. Lastly, superhero comic books require the writer to deliver stories that are creative and imaginative. It is possible that, at this point, Sheridan simply does not have the writing chops to provide all of the above.
The end result was that Teen Titans Academy crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. Teen Titans Academy lasted fifteen issues before it got canceled. By Teen Titans Academy #8 the title was down at the number 142 spot. By Teen Titans Academy #11, the title had sunk to the number 182 spot. By Teen Titans Academy #15, the final issue, the title was at the number 168 spot. The Teen Titans Academy was an objective sales failure.
So, what did Sheridan do at this point? Did Sheridan act like a professional and take this moment of failure as an opportunity to learn and grow? Did Sheridan take this lesson and use it to focus on improving and honing his craft? Did Sheridan go back and study successful comic book runs in the past to see what character work and story elements were employed in order to make those comic book runs such a hit? Did Sheridan take a moment to look into himself and how he approaches characters and superhero stories and try and define his own weaknesses and shortcomings and then attempt to fix them?
No. Instead, Sheridan did what this current crop of writers do when their titles fail in spectacular fashion. Blame the customer. It can never be the writer who is capable of failing. Their fanfic-style stories are perfection. It all must be the comics fans’ fault.
Sheridan did precisely what we have seen time and time again. First, gaslight the consumer. Sheridan believes he is beyond reproach and that his writing was excellent and his characters were flawless. Second, blame the comics fans for all of the writer’s failures. Sheridan believes that if only comics fans were not a bunch of idiots with no taste then they would appreciate his incredible writing and amazing characters. That if comic fans were not a bunch of boorish buffoons then they would embrace his writing and champion his characters.
Sheridan feels that nothing could have been done better. That all the blame for Teen Titans Academy and new LGBTQ characters not being sales successes must be laid at the consumers’ feet. At your feet. The comics fans are to be blamed and chastised for Sheridan’s failure. Sheridan himself is absolved of any and all responsibility.
Sheridan makes it impossible for me to view him as a professional. There is no way I can respect him. Sheridan makes himself look like an infantile fanfic writer who is mad that his fellow classmates in his creative writing class did not fawn all over the story that he read in class.
Do you know what readers do not support? Poorly written characters, dull stories, and lousy writing. Of course, nobody currently working at Marvel Comics and DC Comics wants to point the finger at themselves for the decline of the American superhero comic book industry. Nope. It is far easier to do what Sheridan did in his tweet. Proceed to gaslight and then blame the customer.
The fact is that all of the blame for Teen Titans Academy’s objective sales failure should be completely shouldered by just three people: Tim Sheridan and editors Chris Rosa and Mike Cotton. That is it. Period. Full stop.
Nobody is owed success. Sheridan simply may not be a good enough writer at this stage of his career. The only solution to that problem is for Sheridan to be introspective and take a critical eye to his own work. Then Sheridan needs to pour his heart and soul into trying to improve his craft from top to bottom. I do know one thing. Sheridan will never grow and improve as a writer if his only solution is to blame comics fans for all of his failures.
This article can be equally applied to the long list of writers Marvel Comics and DC Comics have brought in over the past five years and have seen their titles fail repeatedly in the sales chart. If these writers are truly serious about becoming successful superhero comic book writers, then there needs to be far more introspection and owning of mistakes and far less blaming and shaming of the customer. Until that happens, Marvel Comics and DC Comics will continue to cede market share to manga.