Thursday, January 27, 2011

DC Draws the Line!

And you can tell they're serious about it because all their heroes showed up to watch Green Lantern actually draw that line in the sand! The last time anybody was this fired up about lines in the sand, we got a whole bunch of commemorative bubblegum cards, belt buckles and the inciting event in The Big Lebowski, man!

What is this line? Why is it in the sand? Could Green Lantern pull a similar trick with his name in the snow? What's this all about? DC has vowed to hold their titles at 2.99 rather than 3.99.

"This announcement reaffirms DC Comics' commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers," said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. "For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form."

According to Dan Didio, some people said 3.99 for a 32-page comic book is too expensive-- and when the accountants finished crunching the numbers, he agreed. I think 2.99 is too expensive for most comics, but I'm also willing to shell out about 10 bucks for a copy of Yazawa Ai's Nana, or 14.99 for Love and Rockets New Stories. It's a matter of perceived value.

I regularly buy Dark Horse's Conan the Cimmerian, and while it has 22 pages of story, same as any DC monthly, it feels more substantial. Some of this comes from the heavier paper stock Dark Horse seems to use for the covers-- but I also derive the feeling of a "cheaper" 2.99 book from the overall quality. Timothy Truman's writing is pulpy and substantial, the interior art is gorgeous to behold, there's a letters page in the back and even fan art and pin-ups. Plus, that "The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob" comic strip feature.

I applaud DC for drawing this price line, but I also want to see them one-up my beloved Dark Horse and pack in the perception that I'm getting a bargain for my 2.99 via better storytelling. Cover price aside, I've rarely bought DC books over the past few years because I haven't enjoyed the darker storyline direction or the way they've abruptly discarded characters I've forged emotional connections to. I've long thought Identity Crisis was a rotten piece of crap (other than the artwork, that is) and all these Crises and Identities and Countdowns and whatnot have just seemed to entrench that kind of off-putting storytelling. I wouldn't pay .29 for those books, much less 3 bones.

They should also take another cue from Dark Horse and also from Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead series over at Image, which retails for the same 2.99 minus the color but is still more than worth it not only for the compelling story but also for the heavy-duty letters page and the creator-fan give and take. It's participatory. Even though I haven't written a letter, I feel my involvement in the characters is being validated by Kirkman's recognition of his readers' concerns. He might occasionally give a smart ass answer to said concerns, but it's all in good fun.

Anyway, thanks for the (kinda) price break, DC. Now let's see you build on this by making the contents of those books more fun and involving. That's how you keep fans like me from "abandoning titles and characters" we've read for years. I might also remind you that I didn't abandon my favorite title-- Batgirl. You took that away from me.

Oh, and try to avoid killing anyone off for a while. That's been done to death.


Nathaniel said...

What I think is sort of funny is that yesterday they announced their next big event--and its 15 tie-in miniseries, in addition to 'important one-shots.' It's like one week they go "We want our comics to be affordable so people don't abandon the medium," and then the next it's "Want to keep up with our next big storyline? Well, take out a loan now."

I think I've reached a point where I think just everything about superhero comics is broken. You've got guys like Morrison out there going "Look! Superhero comics can still be good and the medium is important!", but I just don't think it's enough. I'm tired of a medium where you favorite characters can just disappear at the whims of the editors rather than any desire for good storytelling. And I'm tired of epic 50-part events that have less content and interesting ideas than your average movie, which you can see for $10.

I feel like if they could start offering stuff online at a reasonable price I might buy some comics, but they won't, so as it stands, it's just too much trouble to go find a comic shop and shell out way too much money for way too little reward.

Joel Bryan said...

Wow! 15? That's exactly the kind of thing I seriously dislike and why I rarely indulge in superhero monthlies-- even ones I like, like New Mutants seem to be tiny components of huge narrative machines that make a lot of noise, stir up a great deal of dust... then conk out and never function again.

As for your other points-- I couldn't agree with you more. That's exactly how I feel. I did go to my local comic book shop yesterday and pick up some stuff-- including some DC, believe it or not-- but that's a rarity for me these days. I want to support the store because I genuinely like the people running it and they've been pretty good to me as a customer down through the years, but if I don't want the books on the shelves at ANY price point, then I can't see going there to spend money. I'd be better off just donating to the owners' retirement fund somehow.

I was specifically thinking of Cassandra Cain when I wrote part of this, but I can also sympathize with fans of the new Blue Beetle, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda fans, the plight of Stephanie Brown supporters back before she became Batgirl-- it's not that bad things should never happen to our favorite characters. It's that it does seem arbitrary and by editorial fiat rather than the need to tell a certain story.

Unless we define "need" strictly in economic terms.

Joel Bryan said...

On the other hand, I do like Wonder Woman's look here minus the stupid 90s leather jacket. Just shedding that improved the new costume!