Tuesday, 31 May 2011

DC and the big risk

Hey hey. Been a while and all that.

So I just read this story and I'm posting this journal as a knee-jerk reaction to the news, as it tends to be when my passion bubbles to the surface. Bear in mind I know nothing other than the story in this link: USA Today - and the various comic book pros chatting about it on Twitter.


Starting this summer, the publisher will re-number its entire DC Universe of titles, revamping famous characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others from its 76-year history for a more modern and diverse 21st century'

'In September, more than 50 more first issues will debut, introducing readers to stories that are grounded in each character's specific legend but also reflect today's real-world themes and events. Lee spearheaded the redesign of more than 50 costumes to make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old."We looked at what was going on in the marketplace and felt we really want to inject new life in our characters and line," says Dan DiDio, who co-publishes DC with Lee. "This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."

This is MASSIVE. I know that nothing ever really changes for long in comics and it's already been said more than once that this initiative will last a year at best, but I don't know about that (and I'm as jaded as they come).

I am not a DC fan, not by any stretch of the imagination. Vertigo is cool enough, I liked Wildstorm back in the days of Casey/Phillips' Wildcats vol.2, but the main DCU has always felt so damned archaic to me. The artists, fine as they are, all seem to be of a certain ilk that harkens back to the glory days of comics (maybe not, but this is the impression I get). Jiminez, Van Sciver, Rags Morales et al are what I'd call VERY traditional comic book artists. Occasionally, an artist such as Jock or Eduardo Risso or Phil Noto draws something that I would consider buying, but then there's the baggage of the characters to put me right off again.

As a total outsider, every single issue of a DCU book I've ever read has left me bewildered except for Grant Morrison's first few Batman issues (once Andy Kubert left, I lost interest, incidentally). What I'm saying is that it takes an amazing writer/artist combo to get me to even consider a DCU book. Even then, I might hate the colours. Seriously, DC don't 'do' exciting in my head.

Anyway, I would have to assume that this major relaunch/re-branding/re-introduction of the DCU is intended to gain readers like me, ie: Marvel guys who see DC books as what their parents' generation might have been reading. Am I interested? Well... yes, actually.

It depends on how they do it. I'm kinda seeing this as a Heroes Reborn rather than Ultimate (sorry for the Marvel analogies...) deal, mostly because they have no backup plan to speak of. If the books tank, there won't be 'regular' Batman and 'regular' Aquaman to read instead. That is a ballsy move, my friends. But if it is a Heroes Reborn for the Distinguished Competition, then that would suggest that the books, nay, the whole line was considered as stale and redundant as the Marvel Heroes books wiped out in Onslaught: Marvel Universe.

Is that right? Am I then in the majority? To my eyes, DC had been experiencing an upswing in popularity recently amongst the core faithful, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the need for change was so glaring that every book needed to be re-introduced. That (not-so) silent acknowledgement goes a long way towards getting my pounds (I'm British, but even I admit that 'dollars' sounds better in that context).

Things will need to happen for me to stay, however. I'm sorry, but you can't have names like Scott Free, Edward Nygma, Killer Croc and Harley Quinn and not expect me to immediately sigh at the cheesiness of it all. Even Green Lantern. Yeah, there's a movie coming out and as a spectacle, it looks okay, so nothing's changing there, but he's called GREEN LANTERN. It's like calling yourself HOT SOFA or something. What might go some way to redeeming those bizarre (but in many cases, the product of creative minds from the 'daddy-o' era or earlier, so hardly surprising) choices would be a willingness to put unlikely talent on the books and have a different approach. It's what excited me about Marvel around the millennium, when Quesada started bringing heretofore unseen talent to their biggest books and finally we saw characters' potential. X-Men was amazing again, Daredevil became the best it had ever been, even JMS's Spidey was a great step forward (he screwed up later, though...).

If DC manage to bring that kind of revolution to bear, it might just let me forget there's a green character called Martian Manhunter who wears PVC bondage gear.

None of this explains why I think it'll last as a concept. Here's the part that made me spit my coffee:

In an even more important move in the competitive comics industry, DC is making issues of all the renumbered titles available digitally via apps and a DC website the same day they arrive in comic shops. It marks the first time a major comics publisher has done so with its popular superhero titles.

The general consensus seems to be that this should have happened a long time ago. Not just some titles, not just previews, but actually giving people with an appetite for comics, a phone/tablet and a dearth of comic shops in their area the chance to read the books that everyone spoils the same day.

This is an industry where the death of a major character and most often the payoff of a massive storyline shrouded in secrecy doesn't even stay secret until the day of the book's release. It's hard enough to avoid spoilers if you pick up your books at the store at lunchtime, unless you stay offline for 24 hours beforehand. The monthly release schedule isn't going to change, but the fans and comic sites have taken most of the surprise out of reading these ongoing stories. That's why I think it's very important to allow people access to these stories as soon as they're published and I applaud DC for taking this measure. It might finally answer the question of how much of a market there really is for digital comics. Good on Graphicly, too. I forsee their stock rising.

50 books, though... Jeez, that's a big risk and a big part of what's wrong with comics these days (in my opinion), but that's a topic for another day...

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