Friday, June 3, 2011

DC to burn itself to death in hopes of rising as a majestic semi-digital phoenix

This should be a larger story than killing off Superman, sending Batman back in time, wrecking Cassandra Cain or redesigning Wonder Woman's costume (badly). I've long wanted DC to dump the monthly magazine in favor of new formats-- graphic novels with no interlocking continuity, big manga-style books in black and white with enough interlocking continuity to choke Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, digital monthlies with collected trade paperback editions, anything that would make collecting comics rewarding in terms of economics and aesthetics again-- but I also realized those plans kind of screwed comic shop owners and fans heavily invested emotionally and financially in the contemporary storytelling modes that alienate me so.

Well, my ideas are probably stupid, but obviously, something had to happen. Marketplace pressures and declining readership and all that. So here's DC's answer and it's made a huge impact already. The industry watchers-- the real background/corporate wonk types-- can speculate on how the digital distribution and price points will affect retailers. Things will change. But as for the reader, I'm not convinced everything DC's doing here is all that impressive.

It will be interesting to see what Dan Didio means when he says, "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." Jim Lee tells us, "You're trying to have your cake and eat it, too. You're trying to keep the iconic elements there, but at the same time freshen up the look so that people are intrigued by what they're seeing and hopefully come and sample the wares." Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne offers this: "Some of the characters will have new origins, while others will undergo minor changes. Our characters are always being updated; however, this is the first time all of our characters will be presented in a new way all at once."

Actually, that sounds kind of like a step back in terms of expectations, especially given the breathless reportage on news outlets like USA Today or the ridiculously overstated Parallel Universe on MSN story that actually begins with "Holy deja vu, Batman!" If you ignore the headlines above them and the lame copy wrapping them, the quotes make it all sound pretty tame. Less than revolutionary.

What I'm reading into this is, "We want you to be excited about our huge new DC, but rest assured, it's really it's the old DC with a few visual and story tweaks, new numbering and a digital delivery system that initially costs the same as our regular printed publications, some of which will actually briefly be more expensive."

What remains to be seen is if any of this really will make people come and "sample the wares." None of the other revamps, relaunches or massive events have managed to do this and this one doesn't come close to matching some we've already slogged through just to end up back where we started. Who knows if the public at large-- the non-comic readers, the ones who go to the movie theaters to see Christian Bale as Batman but then don't go directly to their local comic book shops to read about Dick Grayson as the same-- will be as interested or as excited about this as the comics blogosphere is right now? If you have a lot of energy invested in the idea of same-day digital delivery or the industry in general, then you've probably got your eyeballs all over this story and-- like me-- you're letting people know your opinion. But if you don't care anything about superhero funnybooks, this is one of those "Must be a slow news day" stories.

Is this another one of our highly concentrated comic fan hurricanes that will spin itself 'round, then blow itself out far out over the Sea of Irrelevancy? I think it is. Sure, I'm anticipating the changes, but I doubt any of my friends even care. They don't read comics. They don't want to read comics. They're not waiting around for you to give them a reason to read comics on their iPads or Kindles. I hope I'm wrong, because it's nice to see DC's creators and executives so fired up about their company and its products, which I've thought of as moribund for quite a while now, but I don't really see a major influx of new readers as a result of any of this. And if the narrative changes aren't well received, they'll be lucky enough just to hold onto the old ones. So they're hedging their bets a little with the revamp. Playing it safe. They probably could've just launched the digital distribution and left off the rest, but I suppose everybody wants to feel involved, to generate some DC-love out there in a world where DC is all but ignored.

And I'm left saying, "Big deal. Good luck, but big deal."


Nathaniel said...

The problem with this big reboot is that it's the same ol' creators that have steered DC into the rut it's been in for the last few years, just shuffled around. The bold, new direction is the same as the lame, old direction in that it's being spearheaded by the same people.

The weirdest thing is that DC had some new talent lined up (Brian Clevinger of Atomic Robo fame was going to write Firestorm), but kicked them off seemingly with no explanation. Meanwhile, we get two books written by comics superstar JT Krul.

I just don't see how DC is going to capture the hearts and minds of the new generation with the same stable of mediocre creators. They should have made a big push for new talent, but they didn't, and that's why this isn't going to be a big deal at all.

Joel Bryan said...

Yep, that sums it up pretty well! When I first heard about this, I thought, "Wow, just after I started buying some DC monthlies again. Now I need to stop until August to see if the storylines continue to be relevant." Now I'm thinking, "Eh. They probably will be, but why do I care?"