Calm, Reasonable Thoughts on the New DC
I wanted to wait a little while to comment on the Big News From DC Comics, because information has been coming out at a trickle and it seems silly to make an informed judgment until all the cards have been laid down.
But DC’s plans could have a huge impact on the state of the comics industry, and the moves we DO know are enough to consider on their own, even as we wait for the September solicitations to fill in some more of the blanks (and hopefully ease the hardcore DC fans’ collective freakout).
So, here’s what we do know:
1. DC COMICS WILL BE GOING SAME DAY DIGITAL
Meaning: DC will now be releasing every one of its new releases both to retail comic stores AND on its digital download platform for download onto your tablet or nook or whatever it is you have (unless it’s a Kindle HAHAHAHAH awww).
Who This Matters To: The readers who have made a habit of going to the store every Wednesday to pick up new books – and especially those who make a special trip 25+ miles away just to pick up a 22-page monthly magazine, for whom that tablet option just got a lot more attractive.
It also matters to retailers, who suddenly have the future of their business staring them dead in the face and laughing as they try to figure out whether they can survive the new model. To its credit, DC does appear to be making every possible concession to retailers at least in the short term (such as keeping digital and print cover price the same for the first month). But they’ve got A Lot of Thinking To Do.
Who This Doesn’t Matter To: People who already bought tablets. They’ve been ready for this day for months now. Also, people who don’t buy on a weekly basis, and people who wait for the collections anyway (or people like me, who stopped buying DC – again, reasons to be discussed later – but like to grab new stuff from the library whenever they get a copy of whatever).
What’s Good About This: For one thing it’s a genuine sign that DC sees the future of comics is in downloads. For another, finding every possible way to get comics into people’s hands is just good business.
What’s Bad* About This: It does kind of make the monthly comic format that much more irrelevant. If the digital releases are still repackaged as collected print editions down the road – that can be bought at your local comics shop – then what are the monthlies for, exactly? A “taste test” format is the only thing I can think of. (*Bad, in this case, is a relative notion.)
Meaning: In an effort to court the ever-elusive New Reader, DC’s trying to make their books as easily accessible as possible, by giving them fresh starting points to jump on.
Who This Matters To: The Die-Hards again, who were quite fond of reading books that had lasted up to as many as 900 issues. There’s history there, a sense of continuity – not just narratively, but historically.
It’s one of a few things comic fans have with sports fans – the ability to look back on their own lives and see where their favorite hobby was at the same time. Saying Detective Comics, vol. 1 will cease to be, and in its place will be a new book called Detective Comics is not unlike trying to sell a Phillies fan on the idea that The Phillies are disbanding, and in their place will be a new team called The Phillies, which will feature a lot of the same players and management. It’s not that it’s a hard switch to make, just hard to explain what they get out of the switch in the first place.
Who This Doesn’t Matter To: People who can get past the numbering and accept that this has happened before (see: ALL MARVEL COMICS) and it generally gets fixed with the next anniversary date.
3. There Will be 52 New Titles for the Hypothetical New Reader to Try
Who This Matters To: People who’ve always been daunted by long-running series and the potential amount of information they’d have to know to get into it; people who had been perfectly happy reading the books they were already reading; the occasional lapsed DC reader like me who might take notice of a new creative team and direction.
Why This Is Good: Remember when I said I stopped reading DC a while back? It’s because outside of rarities like Morrison’s Batman, they’re mired in a neverending run of crossovers and new directions that are more grim and continuity-mired than the last. If ANY of these new books feels more fresh, and enthusiastic about telling stories people might be HAPPY to have read, it’s worth a shot.
Why This Is Bad: Those new readers you were hoping to get to try some of your new comics? They probably weren’t prepared to try out 52 new ones just to see which titles they might want to follow into its second issue.
Put more plainly: THIS IS UTTERLY ABSURD. Here’s the best-case scenario: DC releases 52 new comics, and people spend the $250 (after sales tax), love ALL of them, and want to read more. It’s a line-wide success! More Realistically: About half of the books are popular enough to keep running, and that’s 26 books cancelled in the first year (in which case, doesn’t it feel a bit like DC KNOWS some of these are potential bombs?). And here is the worst-case: The Die-Hards abandon their books at the logical jumping-off point just before the reboot, the Hypothetical New Readers continue to not care, and DC is forced to rethink this whole crazy scheme.
The Real Sticking Point: As many have pointed out, are there even 52 great creative teams POSSIBLE IN ALL OF COMICS, let alone restarting your whole line? Of the new creative teams have been announced, there’s already a lot of guys who can’t meet a deadline (as well as, curiously, a few deadline-averse artists getting their first co-writer credits), so this “same day and date” thing may be a moot point (and it’s perfectly ironic that the guy co-writing The Flash is the guy who was so slow drawing it that the book was perpetually late. That’s THE FLASH. Thanks, DC).
4. Jim Lee has redesigned all the major characters.
What This Means: Before the announcement produced any artwork, I was joking that there’d be more shoulder-pads, chin-guards and other unnecessary design elements.
I didn’t think I’d be THAT RIGHT:
Who This Matters To: Anyone who likes simply designed, aesthetically pleasing superhero costume designs; the artists who now have to figure out how to draw needlessly complicated costume designs.
Fortunately, I can afford to be sanguine: I’ve always been more of a Marvel guy, anyway.
(For more on this story, I’d recommend sticking with Comics Alliance’s excellent, well-reasoned – and occasionally hilarious - analysis, and also ignore pretty much every comments board.)