Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The DC Universe is "rebooting" or "revamping" or whatever the hell it is doing to itself (Let's go with "renumerating", it absolutely makes no sense, but I like the ring of that) and of course the world is going to end. Probably not, but it's definitely the worst thing since the Holocaust. Geeks are going to protest outside of the Mecca known as Comic Con - where all the world pretends it cares about the industry I/we love for a couple days - so this has to be serious business, right? Or it could just be more overreacting on the behalf of a fanbase that, despite continuing to have to pony up time after time for a product that is showing no sign doing anything but continuing to put rising costs on the back of their dwindling consumer base, wants to keep their little club at all costs? At this point, something has to give, and, corporate driven as it obviously is, this restart is something giving. 

Sure, it could just be a gimmick that fails and gets buried with the punch of Superboy's fist. God knows this industry isn't short on them as my little jab just alluded to. But let's be honest with ourselves, if comics are to survive their current state, and maybe even flourish again, a move like this may be necessary. I know the idea of an industry being in trouble seems absurd when you consider licenses stemming from it literally make their corporate owners billions but look at the numbers. The industry, for some mind-boggling reason, lives or dies off the decisions of two companies that have thrown the idea of artistic merit to the wind for the most part. And that's fine, they do what they do and we (hopefully) understand this and know why we purchase their product. But the concept that comic books will only survive because of two companies parading out decades old properties in any multi-million dollar form is absurd. That those being "leaned on" - which is probably too soft a term to describe the current business model for comic books - are up in arms over this is also somewhat obscene. There might be better alternatives, obviously, but to essentially throw a hissy because a market already too sheltered for its own good is taking a step that has been done before in order to maybe boost sales is about as masochistic as, well, as I've come to expect from comic book readers.

Now, I have my reservations about this thing too, most of them based in rational apprehension. I don't want to go on about it because we covered this move pretty substantially over at the AICN site, but I think the outlay of it has been too obscure while presenting it to the public and I believe that the number of titles is WAY too ambitious given DC's current stable of writing talent. But I get it. Let's be real here, comics have become a top-heavy beast in many ways. Primarily there's the fact I mentioned before, that too much market share has been put into the hands of two companies for their efforts in continuing to play gimmicks like this in regularity. Another aspect is how you can set your calendar to some yearly going on that more or less exists to keep the current establishment coming back for fear of "missing out", whatever that even means when you do these types of storylines so often they don't even mean anything within twelve months of occurring.  Look, I get the idea of the event and understand why one every so often can be a good thing. You shift your status quo a bit, you give your writers and characters a new framework to work within to add some new hindrances and ideas to what these characters already go through. But what you are really doing is making a medium that is already somewhat daunting from the outside look even more inaccessible and, really, let's not pretend people are stupid here. We know a money grab when we see one and, yes, still buy these things out of that curiosity factor because WE are invested. The problem is, you're losing everyone else, and even some of the faithful.

I'm not saying that comic books need to "dumb themselves down" here. I'm really not. I'm not even saying events need to go away. But the fact remains that too much emphasis inside the medium is put on just one genre within in, and a flexible and applicable that genre can and should be, the way its being... exploited and overloading itself is not going to do us any good. Remember comics in the late 90's/early 00's, right after the last time mainstream comics decided to eat itself by assuming they could convince buyers they should buy all their titles because they were all OH SO important and related to each other? Y'know what? I miss those times. Because what happened there is that comics had to play it "safe" and they did so by going back to what all mediums should do to thrive: Tell stories. Grant Morrison unleashed his JLA on the world. An up-and-comer named Geoff Johns got to bring back the JSA and run with the heritage of that book while also getting a FLASH run that showed why Wally is such a great character. BLACK PANTHER was a freaking critically acclaimed book for Christ's sakes!!! Warren Ellis and PLANETARY/THE AUTHORITY, the Brubaker/Rucka era of BATMAN, DAREDEVIL was being brought back from the brink of hokiness, and y'know what? The Ultimate line was coming into existence and it actually was a breath of fresh air... before just ten years degenerated into the perfect microcosm of why comics today look so daunting from the outside and are starting to overwhelm and/or disenfranchise those already in the building.

And, lastly (for now), there's the idea that we put so much emphasis on just one aspect of a medium that can literally do any kind of storytelling out there and do it as well as any other member of the entertainment industry. I save this for last (and somewhat briefly) because I did not want this to feel like I was playing a "Indie versus Supes" argument. That stuff is behind me - as I've pointed out before in this fledgling blog - and trying to justify one genre over another is somewhat inane. I love superhero comics. They have so much range and the best of them usually play out the gamut from emotion to power to action to humanity. Just like a dedicated story without them can be just as excellent when it hits all the right points; your 100 BULLETS, SCALPED, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, WALKING DEAD, etc. But 95% of them are the same old same old, and when that is what you're presenting to a wider audience you are trying to lure in, your doing yourself and those potential readers an injustice. Not only are you doing yourself a disservice by not putting your best foot forward - that being a medium that can bring you anything - but the product you are showing is needlessly convoluted and aimed at sucking money out of people for completist reasons, not trying to win over dollars through originality, uniqueness, and (hopefully) quality.

There's a lot of goodwill aimed at comic book related stuff right now and I don't want to see it squandered. Thing is, it may be too late already; we've all seen the numbers from this summer's comic movie fanfare and they've been okay so far. Fact of the matter is, if comics are to survive so that, y'know, these properties can be put into other mediums such as these multi-million dollar features, they need to show off all their stuff. We need to get to a point where someone who sees "Captain America" the movie in a couple weeks can hop into CAPTAIN AMERICA the comic and be treated to a book rich in heritage, but that is not going to leave them out in the cold for being new or throttled with confusion because they don't pony up for seven other books a month all dealing with the same crossover Cap is involved in (and yes, I understand the irony in this example being that Cap has actually been 95% its own book the past half decade or so). We also need to get to a point that when people come to, say, a Comic Con (other than to put on a silly show because you don't like what DC is doing with "your" characters instead of, y'know, voting with your wallet) to supposedly appreciate "all things comics" that instead of the only real comics there just being more "This Will Change Everything!!" bullshit that something like Jonathan Hickman announcing a new creator owned title is met with just as much media "push" and fan excitement as Marvel announcing another AVENGERS title. And eventually media crossover projects like THE WALKING DEAD need to start becoming the rule, not the exception with the opposite traction from TV and Movie screen adaptations like that leading back to the comics.

At some point comics need to grow up and out to just be comics, and the first ones to stop pigeon-holing the medium need to be those currently propping it up on its two legs of mediocrity. I firmly believe comics will survive no matter what - the creative drive of those out there wanting to truly make some fucking comics will always be great - but until we are realistic with ourselves they may never thrive like they used to or even enjoy something as taken for granted as having market stability. The tragedy being all the great ideas that will never even get to be just because single-minded guys making decisions from the top and close-minded guys buying at the bottom aren't willing to adapt or concede that things are not working as they are. 


  1. honestly if they want comics to continue then they need to come up with either new concepts or new characters. people forget what made the silver age popular was that there were old concepts, revisted without ANY need for previous history. Barry Allen had no ties to Jay Garrick, Hal Jordan none to Allen allowed new readers to come in.

  2. New Characters are an idea, but I think the last wave of them that was made would be substantial enough. It's more of a case that they need to be allowed to die off. I grew up on them too, but if Hal and Barry never came back and we still had us Wally and Kyle, I doubt we'd be missing a beat. It's the shenanigans that enable them to be reused and revamped and repackaged that need to go. A second Crisis should not even be a thought, let alone a sixth. Coming out with a "Summer Blockbuster" every year just to kill characters you'll bring back in two more summers is laughable. You wanna know why Harry Potter is such a huge fucking success? Because it was allowed to live, grow and end and people love it and will remember it fondly. Yeah, it sucks that the teet is gone now (mostly) but is a decade and a half on top such a bad thing? And with comics, you can justify even a couple more decades. But when all you do is recycle that same stuff that should have ran its course, and then blatantly push aside everything else until it gets a TV deal on its own merit, you get, well, you get your top selling comic still only reaching, uhm... math... .06% of the population if FEAR ITSELF sells 200K. Pathetic.

  3. what i mean is like, similar concepts but new ideas behind them. And yes let the older characters die off or evolve.