Too many mainstream creator-owned type comics have mononymic titles, and that drives me nuts. Everyone cries, “Comics are a medium with so much potential! There’s no budget to limit your creativity!” yet there’s a huge volume of titles that just ape the naming conventions of television, like everyone decided to take cues from Lost forgetting that it resulted in a billion shows with names like Surface and Heist and Kidnapped and Heroes and Runaway and Justice and Conviction that nobody is ever going to remember anyway.
Remember that Patton Oswalt bit about modern “non-committal” movie titles that aren’t even remotely evocative? “When you hear the title Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a little movie plays in your head!” Comics seem to have it even worse where every comic coming out is just a seemingly random word from the dictionary. I would trade a thousand Sagas for one Rural Juror.
It’s a really specific thing to care about, I know, but it’s a trend I’ve noticed, and one that seems to forget that titles have a pretty clear function for the reader: so you can know something about the work you’re going to partake in. For a creator, a good title is just another way to grab the attention of this reader. What if Birdman was just called Stage? Imagine if The Silence of the Lambs was called Case. I know titles are hard to come up with, but we gotta do better than stuff like Scared or Match or Floor.
So, I looked through some recent solicitations and wrote down some mononymic titles that I wanted to talk about. It’s not really about the quality of the book, even though sometimes I bring it up. And what’s worse is that some of these would be okay titles if it weren’t for the sheer volume of similarly titled comics.
You can’t use the title Rumble without any qualifiers. “Rumble,” since we’re talking comics here, doesn’t MEAN anything except “fight.” Rumbles can be Royal, they can be in the Bronx or in the Jungle or even in Chi-Town, they can be Rumble Fish or you can be in a School Rumble or you can be Ready to Rumble. Literally every mainstream comic is about fighting. You can’t call your comic Fighting, either. That’s taken. You also can’t call your comic Taken. That would require a very particular set of skills, skills that you have acquired over a very long career.
That said, I read the CBR preview of Rumble #1 and it actually looks boss. James Harren drawing weird monsters and sword violence in the style of Shaolin Cowboy (great title) as he and a few other Hellboy alums (including noted colorist Dave Stewart) carrying on what they did best in that comic, but on their own. I’m sold on this thing from reading the preview, but here’s the thing — I would not have looked at this preview if I weren’t writing this piece. Obviously you could argue “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but here’s the thing — there’s also a reason books have covers.
Rumble could also be a Jason Statham movie.
If you’re going to name a Hannibal type thriller after a term from the dictionary, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Nailbiter, especially when, in the case of this comic, the story actually involves a serial killer named “Nailbiter.” The first issue of this thing has one of the most evocative, gross and covers of recent memory, too — and it’s a hilariously literal interpretation of the cover. I don’t like this comic [neither did I –NH], but it’s doing everything right as far as coming up with attention-grabbing hooks.
Nailbiter could NOT be a Jason Statham movie.
I have no idea what something called Butterfly could be except for a Mariah Carey album. But it turns out that Butterfly is a spy comic created by a guy who freely admits he just wants to make a TV show. No joke: I respect that honesty, especially because he drops that bomb in the first interview response. That’s way better than some guy faking it, paying lip service to the idea of producing stories specifically for comics that still read like wack TV scripts.
But, that’s still a really bad title. Why not Codename: Butterfly? That’s literally all you had to do to make it clear that it might could be a spy show.
Butterfly could be a Jason Statham movie, but one of the deeper, more profound ones.
This is the one that really set me on this path. This is the book that boldly proclaimed itself to be “Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a new generation” despite Buffy still existing in this generation and having a title that accurately, hilariously describes what the thing is about.
Instead — from the man who brought you Skullkickers (good title), it’s… Wayward. Because it’s about a teen, I guess? And those things are rebellious? Maybe somebody’s a fan of Kansas? The cover’s got a girl and some cats on it, I think? Why not call it, like, Catgirl vs. Yokai? Rori Lane and the Million Cats? Tokyo Fabulous? Queen of Cats? Rori Lane My Wayward (Rising) Sun?
Wayward could not be a Jason Statham movie.
If Wayward caused me to raise an eyebrow, Sinergy is the one that sent me off the goddamn deep end, even though the title is more ridiculous than generic. It’s a silly pun, but at least it refers to something that’s in the comic — there are monsters that collect “Sinergy” from unwitting humans, apparently through sex? This sounds like if Sex Criminals was made by people with crippling fears of their daughters’ burgeoning sexuality. So, the opposite of Sex Criminals.
Sinergy could be a Jason Statham movie, but probably a Guy Ritchie movie, maybe one of the ones nobody likes, the ones about Kabbalah.
Technically this comic is titled Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta (presumably for trademark purposes), but nobody is ever going to call it that. It’s about demons and stuff, I guess? Exorcism type stories tend to have way better titles than vague punny stuff like this. I imagine the main guy is a loner, hence the double entendre of the title. What it should be is a hip-hop duo that first was pimps and then was aliens, but I guess nobody wants to fuck with them any more.
Outcast couldn’t be a Jason Statham movie, but Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta… could be?
You seriously didn’t call this Killer Meme? Death Meme: The Meme That Kills? On the real, this name is memorable (haha) and therefore okay.
Memetic could be a Jason Statham movie if it were a Philip K. Dick adaptation.
This is not the comic about what Superman did between high school and living in Metropolis. Birthright, according to solicitations, is a story about a missing son who returns to his family years later after being taken to a fantasy world. That’s a really great idea, one that could be done in a variety of ways. Is it The Fisher King or Joe the Barbarian where the fantasy world exists to get the character through something? Or is it like the Masters of the Universe movie where the fantasy world invades our own? Those things I mentioned have solid titles, by the way. With Birthright I just imagined a generic version of Game of Thrones with heirs and heirs apparent and heirs ascending and women talkin’ ‘bout, she met a king.
Birthright could be a Jason Statham movie if he were mercenary who’s hired to get back the kids who were kidnapped on their Israel heritage trip.
So close. So very close. I wrote at the top of this thing that not all these titles are bad, but there are so many mononymic comics that it’s hard not to look at each new one as another installment in a questionable trend, no matter how sound it might be. Drifter is, by all indications, a space western — and a cool looking one, something that treats space like an actual frontier instead of a shiny utopic scape where you can have sex with any alien you want no matter how fat you get. Really High Plains Drifter. This is the kind of title that might could need a qualifier, because Drifter could be anything — a regular western, a hitman comic, a Pacific Rim fan fiction. Literally anything.
Especially a Jason Statham movie.
Here’s a really good example of why titles need to be better. So this is a comic about a family line that’s been fighting the supernatural since Pilgrim times, and how the latest set of siblings are in over their heads as they’re thrust into the family tradition after their parents are killed. Not a bad idea, but look at that cover and tell me you didn’t assume that something called Goners was a bleak thing about living in the zombie apocalypse like it’s 2008 all over again.
Goners could not be a Jason Statham movie.
I figured this was a sci-fi comic but it turns out it’s a weird horror comic by the guy who did One Soul and The People Inside (good title)? I’m not sure what this is.
Intersect could not be a Jason Statham movie.
Phenomenal Bowie record. “Always Crashing in the Same Car”? “Be My Wife”? The entire second side? Fuggedaboutit. I don’t like the title of this comic, though — it’s like, they live underwater, but also the main character is hitting a LOW point in her life? Seems thin. I think if they called it Surfacing or something I’d probably say the same thing. Speaking of, “Building a Mystery” is a great song, too.
Low could be a Jason Statham movie.
I love this title because I know Joe Casey chose Sex to fuck with people.
Sex could not be a Jason Statham movie, but it could be one of those Andy Warhol movies.
Horror comic with a violently suggestive title, particularly suggesting that a person is going to cut something? Perfectly fine. Good job.
Cutter could be a Jason Statham movie but only if Cutter was his character’s name.
To its credit, Revival is what happens in the comic. So I cannot fault it.
Revival could not be a Jason Statham movie.
If I recall correctly, Cloaks is the name of the secret organization in this comic. Like, magic spies maybe? Why not C.L.O.A.K.S.?
Cloaks could be a Jason Statham movie.
The goddamn worst. Loser City’s very own Nick Hanover told me this comic is “The Thing meets Lone Wolf & Cub,” which itself would have been a way better title than something I originally assumed was a zombie comic based exclusively on the fact it was called Spread and looked gory. Cuz, y’know, viruses spread.
Spread could not be a Jason Statham movie unless it was based on an Irvine Welsh novel.
I think I made this one up, I honestly don’t remember.
Wildfire could be a Jason Statham movie.
I really like this comic, but Starlight is pretty generic as a title except that it suggest space type stuff. I don’t think that’s enough.
Starlight could not be a Jason Statham movie.
I wonder what this is about
Clone could be a Jason Statham movie. Don’t forget, he was in The One.
This is the latest “here’s MY take on superheroes” type comic, and while that’s all well and good, this kind of naming convention isn’t going to work much longer. There’s a whole subgenre of these things with names like Maximum, Regal, Ultimate, Despot, Paramount, Absolute, Tryrant, Optimum, Premium. Soon we’re gonna run out and someone’s gonna accidentally call their comic Super Man.
Imperial could not be a Jason Statham movie.
All I think of when I read Ghosted is a slang term the radio DJ narrator says in a My Chemical Romance song. I assumed it was a supernatural adventure comic because very comic book is a supernatural adventure, but the heist element isn’t entirely clear, but maybe should be.This is a good example of what happens when you resort to titles like this — it’s a pun, but it did not increase my interest in this comic where I could be reading Spider-Man, which is a comic book about a man who is not unlike a spider in ways that will quickly be clear to the reader.
Ghosted could not be a Jason Statham movie.
This rules. You usually can’t go wrong with a snake’s name as a title. Just look at Cobra, one of the greatest movies of all time. But if you title your story Boa, I’m going to assume it’s about Jesse The Body Ventura.
Copperhead could definitely be a Jason Statham movie.
This one’s fine. Everyone knows what a Witch is, so a horror comic called Wytches plays.
Wytches could not be a Jason Statham movie.
Saga is a massively entertaining comic, one that I often point to as pop comics done right — one where the creative team comes up with at least one great memorable thing every issue and justifies the monthly reading grind because the story always feels like it’s advancing. If you’re trying to make a broadly appealing mainstream comic, you should probably imitate Saga in abstract ways. Except the title. Saga works because it evokes a sense of “space operaticness” and tells you it’s going to be a really long narrative. But we can’t all be Brian K. Vaughan.
Saga could not be a Jason Statham movie.
Spawn could not be a Jason Statham unless he settled for playing Overtkill.
If Warren Ellis is doing it, it’s okay. He’s the one guy that should be allowed to do it. He was naming things stuff like Down and Fell and Planetary before it was the hot thing to do.
And that’s the thing about mononyms — it’s not necessarily a BAD thing, it’s just that giving something a one-word title used to be really striking and cool. Now that everybody’s doing it, it creates a confusing jumble of random words on the shelves.
Trees could not be a Jason Statham movie.
Hexed could not be a Jason Statham movie.
That’s pretty good
Squidder … Jesus, I don’t even know.