The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on June 11, 2011

Remember that time where I said Marvel and DC weren’t really that important? I stand by that, but I’m going to talk about one of them right now. A little armchair publisher can be fun every once in a while.

Well, we now know all 52 new comics DC is launching in September. There’s a bit to talk about, most of which has already been addressed by more capable bloggers. Even so, I’ve formulated a lot of my own thoughts on the matter since the whole process began a week ago. Chances are many of them are extended from sheer ignorance of DC’s publishing situation, but when has that stopped anyone before?

Now, let’s get some things out of the way: publishing 52 new debut issues in one month is a dumb idea. At that level, DC is competing against itself for shelf space just as much as it’s competing with other publishers. Plus, unless they have a real diversity of titles that will be able to build their own individual audiences without much bleeding into each other, then we all know what will happen: the devoted fans will pick up the titles with the biggest name creators or that seem the most ‘important’, and leave everything else to rot. You don’t need to be any sort of market genius to figure out most of these titles won’t make it past a dozen issues (by about 3 or 4, we’ll probably know how many “were really mini-series this whole time, guys”). Marginal books will become even more marginal with a lot of sexier friends sitting beside them, you know?

So, to do it right, they’d have to cut down a lot of titles. First things first, it would be wise to amputate the consistent low-performers: Flash, Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, stuff like that. I know many of them are supposed to be important characters, but as long as they’re on the Justice League, there’s no point in providing them extra adventures that no one is interested in, right? Besides, going a few years without comics devoted to those characters might actually mean there could be a demand for them sometime in the future. But that’s long-term thinking, and what’s the point of thinking in the long term?

Secondly, there needs to be fewer spin-off titles. How many people really want to read about Nightwing and Supergirl without Batman and Superman? Completists, and no one else. It might work better to instead use those long-running series like Action and Detective Comics to serve as an outlet for spin-off stories about the supporting casts of those major characters, either an anthology book or a series of mini-series under one banner like the Classified books (and another one of the 52 launches, DC Universe Presents). That way, not only do you save shelf space, but you could also gauge the actual interest of people in these characters or creative teams. I’d say that this could apply to the Green Lantern titles as well, but those are inexplicably popular at the moment, so nothing I say would likely persuade the money men not to milk that motherfucker bone dry. The same format could definitely apply to the marginal characters as well…so why they decided to publish books about Animal Man and Swamp Thing and Firestorm, even with talent like Jeff Lemire and Gail Simone behind them, instead of testing them out in a DC Universe Presents-type book is beyond me.

Then of course there’s the random Wildstorm relaunches, which are just baffling. Especially Stormwatch. Why would you put intentional Superman/Batman analogues/parodies in the same universe as Superman and Batman? That’s just silly.

The one observation about the relaunch I keep going back to, though, is what a missed opportunity it is for DC to try to diversify their line. They say they want to attract new readers? All well and good, but eventually they’re going to have to realize that not everyone wants to read about their superheroes, and there could be a fertile audience in this new arena of overpriced digital comics for new genres and creators. It’s not like DC has never had any success outside the tights genre, either; many books manage to find ways to reference DC’s genre-spanning history, and even cartoons like Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold have gotten in on the action.

What have they got now? One western (because the minority readership of Jonah Hex would have been pissed if it got cancelled, and minorities are the only thing DC has at the moment), one book about vampires, one high-tech super spy book, and a few hybrids like Sgt. Rock and Demon Knights. The Grifter and Voodoo books are high-concept enough that they could go either way. That’s it. Why not throw in some straight-up fantasy books, like an Amethyst or a Warlord (or, *gasp*, an original idea!)? A mystery or cop series like Gotham Central? Something more science-fiction-y? Hell, how about a comedy book or two? (the fact that Dan Didio went out of his way to say they won’t be using Ambush Bug anytime soon may say a lot about that) Even Marvel publishes a few mainstream books that try to do something a little different. If DC is really serious about wanting to look attractive to new readers, why not try to attract people who would never think to pick up a superhero comic? You wouldn’t even need to go outside the DC universe to do it, plus it certainly would help your potential licensing options (the only reason the mainstream comics publishers do anything anymore). But alas, it is not to be.

It just seems a little odd that they’d be willing to go so far, yet get cold feet when it comes to one of the most obvious ways to make your books more attractive to a wider audience (not that it was their actual goal to do that, obviously, but one can dream). So instead, they’re just going to tweak costumes and origins in unnecessary ways (and finally give Wonder Woman pants, which is the best thing to come out of this, yes even better than another Grant Morrison Superman comic) and hope that everyone with an iPad will download them because it will be the trendy thing to do. Whatever. Your loss, dudes.


One Response to “”

  1. George said

    I agree that there is a huge opportunity being missed, here. I lived through the post-Crisis reboot, and although some good things came out of it, I don’t think they got it right then, either. I find myself reflecting on the way the latest Star Trek movie rebooted the ST franchise; acknowledging that, yes, they were throwing continuity out the window, while offering a logical (even traditional) reason for it. We’ll see what happens.

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