Thursday, July 14, 2011

Here's an interesting essay-- or "open letter"-- to DC

Why am I telling you? You've probably already read it. I'm always a week or two behind on these things. Which makes me the Jackie Harvey of comics bloggers. Hey! At last I've found a niche!

Anyway, enough of my insecurities. Corinna Lawson has written an open letter to DC informing them that they don't particularly know what they're doing when it comes to fan interaction and social media. The Source, DC's website blog doesn't allow comments, for example. That's one way to control the message, I suppose, but it's not very fan-friendly. One might get the idea that certain people aren't interested in reader feedback to their seemingly arbitrary changes. It's kind of a modification of Fox News's old slogan: "We report it, you buy it or get the hell out." One of my favorite points comes when Lawson relates the story of how DC spammed one of her own Twitter followers who told them they're "doing Twitter wrong."

But this jumped out at me:

Don’t, say, announce that all the Robins will be getting showcase titles when what you mean is that all the male Robins will be getting showcase titles and that the current Batgirl (former Robin) Stephanie Brown is going into limbo, along with former Batgirl current Black Bat Cassandra Cain. Because, apparently, there can only be one Batgirl as multiple ones would be too confusing but four Robins is just fine.

I have to agree. Especially since I'm one of those bike-stealing Cassandra Cain fans. This is something I can easily see as a source of fan irritation. Is this what's happening? I don't know; I haven't been following the DC news all that closely lately because I've got my own thing going and it's taking up a lot of my free time. But it certainly seems like the kind of thing that does go on all too frequently.

Down in the comments section, please note the dissident response of one "Tiedye Guy," whose very name suggests the kind of retrograde attitude he espouses with his "screw newbies" philosophy. I can kind of sympathize, because like a lot of fans, I've seen my favorite books as a closed club where I am the Chosen One and all the rest of you are bandwagoning poseurs. Then I grew up.

Kind of. On the sober side of things, Tiedye's response makes me realize the difficulties mainstream comic publishers face. An aging fanbase easily alienated by almost any change, a certain sense of entitlement from the entrenched readers, resistance to growth and a desperate need to target a narrow demographic that's largely marginalized comics as an entertainment provider in a market crowded with more attractive choices.

It's so strange to me to have aged passed my own expiration date as a DC fan. Of course, they do target us old people with their omnibus books and Showcase reprints. So I've at least got that going for me as DC shuffles me off to an assisted living center and digs my grave. Excuse me if I don't move in just yet, Time-Warner. Maybe I'll wait to make my obituary official until Black Bat gets her own ongoing series. Until then, I'll see you on the Outside!


Nathaniel said...

In all fairness to DC, they used to allow comments on their blog. Then it got to the point where every single post would devolve into a screaming match full of racism and death threats.

I figured they'd eventually open the posts up again after a cooling off period, but I guess they figure that moderating is just too much trouble.

Joel Bryan said...

That's a good point, but like the open letter writer, I'm surprised they don't have interns or a dedicated webmaster-type person to moderate. If you're serious about using social media, get serious about using social media.

Which also makes me wonder-- what is it about DC that irks people so? I'm sure Marvel pisses off any number of people on any given day, but it doesn't seem to reach the tenor of DC-related anger.

Or am I just seeing things selectively?

Nathaniel said...

I don't know, Marvel's debacle with Spider-Man's marriage probably eclipsed most of the stuff DC has done in recent memory (except for maybe this reboot).

I think DC gives off an air of not really knowing what they're doing most of the time, and that frustrates people. They're always trying to find a new direction for Superman and Wonder Woman, and more often than not it stinks. They're always fiddling with continuity, as if that's what's finally going to attract readers to their side.

Meanwhile, Marvel just plugs along, easily outselling DC every single month. They do their fair share of dumb things, but don't seem to be as desperate to claim a bold new direction as DC.

Joel Bryan said...

I agree.

With DC, it's like a Bold New Direction every six months or so. Don't get too comfortable with that character whose adventures you're enjoying, because he or she is probably going to be written out of the Bold New storyline before the book is a year old.

On the other hand, with Marvel you're lucky if the title you're buying actually features any of the characters you're buying it for.