by KC Carlson
HOT! HOT! HOT!
Lots of HOT NEWS in the world of comics the past week or so: DC’s giant 52 pickup game dominated the news, so some interesting Marvel news was almost lost in the shuffle (Uncanny X-Men is ending. Yeah, I know…), lots of good debate about digital comics, and even the announcement of the return of Valiant. (No, really!)
It’s also been hotter than hockey sticks in much of the country this past week. I’m typing in an office that’s over 90° with two fans (the mechanical kind, not fanboys) pointed at my head. I feel like a crash test dummy in a wind tunnel, and I can’t concentrate because my brain is melting all over my keyboard. Since I’m having trouble coming up with anything this side of coherent, I’m turning to the internet for help in explaining the basics of everything DC that’s been going on, and I’ll chime in afterwards with my 299 cents.
DC RELAUNCHES 52 “NEW” TITLES (AND 52 NEW #1 ISSUES) ALL IN SEPTEMBER
Comic Book Resources has all available details of all 52 new DC titles, in what looks like the solicitations for the DCU (or DCnU, as some are now calling it).
CBR is also surveying comics readers about their potential purchasing preferences for the new titles, a survey that I think will prove very interesting. Results will be available this Wednesday (June 15), so take a few minutes and go vote.
Robot 6 has an excellent wrap-up of who and what (both creators and characters) are missing when compared to the “old” DCU.
And my old retailer buddy Brian Hibbs explains how if everybody isn’t careful, this DC relaunch (52 different #1 issues all in the same month) may crack the Direct Market in half (my words, not his).
Where to begin?
Well, I have to give DC credit for controlling comic book news for the week with their slow roll-out of announcements of their new titles. Fan reaction is, of course, all over the place — from out-and-out raves to folks declaring that this is the final straw for them. While this is intended as a jumping-on point, it will also be a great jumping-off point, if the reader is so inclined. I suspect some of these opinions will change by September.
I also think that it’s great that some of the news came from sources outside of the normal comics reporting sites, leading to some national coverage. I suspect, though, a lot of the general public seeing this from major news outlets probably won’t read the whole story or get all the details. There may be a few very confused non-comics people wandering into shops over the next few days looking for copies of Action Comics #1 and Batman #1, not realizing that they aren’t actually available until September. I’m concerned that they will either be PO’ed for wasting a trip (and won’t remember to come back in September), or get an earfull of how terrible this whole plan is from grumpy retailers trying to figure out to finance buying/ordering 52 #1 comic books all in the same month.
Of course, the smart retailers will point them toward something else in the shop (so they won’t have wasted that trip). Unfortunately, they can’t point them at any Flashpoint books, since they all deal with alternate versions of the DC characters (thus creating consumer confusion before the big event). And imagine what will happen if they buy the current DCU books and fall in love with them — only to have them completely be changed within three issues! I guess they will have to roll with the changes, just like the rest of us who have been putting up with endless revamps and relaunches for what seems like decades.
Here’s hoping that DC has another big media campaign in the works for September, or the hoopla from the last two weeks will all be for naught. (It’s a unique aspect of comics that publicity really needs to happen twice, once for the two-months-ahead ordering cycle and then again when the comics are actually available for sale.) I’ve seen rumors on message boards that such a campaign is in the works, but nothing official from DC. Why would they tell us, anyway? Much of what’s going on right now isn’t for us long-time comics fans or readers. It’s a giant Hail Mary play to open up DC Comics for all-new fans and customers (using the upcoming Green Lantern film and tie-ins as an initial springboard), as well as trying new areas and ideas for getting comics into the hands of more new people — by releasing digitally, and possibly other areas or distribution methods that we aren’t even aware of yet.
So, new people: Welcome to big-time superhero comic books! Your guidebooks will be issued (eventually). Until then, Good Luck!
But please feel free to ask questions! We’re very friendly here!
FOR YOU! OR NOT FOR YOU?
One of the more controversial aspects of the DC relaunch (don’t call it a reboot!) is how some major portions of DC continuity are likely going to be changed. And from DC’s probable point of view, simplified. I recently discussed how the timelines at both DC and Marvel are in disarray, especially in terms of how old some of their long-running characters need to be to make existing continuity work. DC has already said that some of their characters will now be younger or otherwise substantially changed. For instance, Barbara Gordon will be Batgirl again, not Oracle, which is one of the more controversial changes we know about. The non-appearance of a JSA book in the new line-up lends credence to the thought that there may not be a JSA in the DCnU. If there is one, the group may no longer be tied to WWII, as this makes the characters too old (and by extension or relation, makes other characters too old as well).
I’m not going to go all fanboy on what I think may or may not be horrible about the possible changes coming to DC Comics — with a couple of notable exceptions. Oddly, the lack of a JSA book isn’t one of them. I’m a little bit annoyed that there isn’t a new Justice Society title carrying over, but then again, I’ve been very underwhelmed at the quality of JSA books over the last couple of years. The JSA only seems to work when there are really motivated people (Geoff Johns or Paul Levitz, for example) working on it. I’m perfectly happy to put the title aside for re-tooling by somebody with really good ideas, rather than having it constantly reworked on the fly. (But if the JSA is excised completely from the new DCU, then we’ll have words.)
I am also not pleased to see the substitution of Batgirl for Oracle, especially for all the mixed messages it sends about handicapped people. Oracle was a textured, complex, and capable character. Batgirl was a fanboy-favorite hottie in a skin-tight costume. Her biggest claim to fame was that her tights would occasionally rip. Bottom line: Braindead fanboys win again.
There were also at least two other interesting, diverse characters using the Batgirl name, and losing Cassandra and Stepanie is a major disappointment. I know why they did it — they can merchandise Batgirl. They make statues of her. They don’t make statues of women in wheelchairs, no matter how cool they are. Redhead Batgirl is also the one known in cartoons and old movies, which seems to be more and more of a factor in driving DC comic content these days, what with the new managers and all. It will help that Gail Simone is still writing the character. But not much. It’s a major step backwards for the character.
EVERYTHING OLD IS STILL OLD
In some ways, I don’t think DC is going far enough, especially in selecting creative teams. They aren’t taking many risks by sticking with a lot of the same people working for them now. They may not have been able to step outside their existing talent pool for security and secrecy reasons, but it appears that, once again, DC is letting some major young talent slip away (Nick Spencer is already gone), and rewarding folks that haven’t worked in comics for a while (Scott Lobdell. Really?) with big assignments. These days, the new DC is looking a lot like the old Marvel (and it’s the Marvel of the 1990s — not a good era to emulate), with Bob Harris in the Editor-in-Chief slot (and a VP to boot) and several old Marvel line editors already in place, more and more hiring their old Marvel creative cronies. Well, that’s one way to get new blood, although not much of it is very new. Or very exciting.
I’m not gonna go blow-by blow through the new titles, as most of the internet is doing that right now (and some are ranting based on very little information). I’m planning on trying to sample all of the new number ones when they come out, as I’m starting to hear of a few retailers planning “volume discounts” for pre-ordering all 52 of the new DC #1 issues. I also think it would be really smart of DC to put up free digital looks of a few selected “loss leaders” of the bunch, to help stimulate both digital and hardcopy sales. The sheer volume of the enterprise will be daunting enough for most readers, and they would appreciate a little help in figuring out their personal “picks to click”.
DC’s new line is very diverse — that’s one of their goals — and it seems unlikely that every title will appeal to every reader. (Except for DC completists — but are there any any more? I finally fell off the wagon this past year, dropping more than a dozen titles that I’ve read for decades.) Under normal circumstances, I’d like to think that most readers will try a new series for an issue or three, but that’s an old-fashioned luxury that’s impossible to indulge here simply because of the sheer volume of material (and its cost). Many of these comics will probably be given minimal, if any, attention because of budgetary considerations. Indeed, I think many potential customers might be eliminating titles in their heads already — before publication — simply because there’s just too much to consider in this short amount of time. Hopefully, DC knows and understands this — and we should expect a deluge of promotion and hype from DC over the next few months. Which will help those readers who just buy off the racks. Woe to us who have to decide what to pre-order in just a matter of weeks!
Long-time readers know that I have a love for comics history. For me, it’s fascinating to be right here, right now watching what’s going to unfold over the next few months. Because — success or failure — we’re right smack dab in the middle of comics history. These are exciting (albeit confusing) times! Bring it on!
KC CARLSON: Reading comics since 1960. You’d think that I’d be sleepy by now…
As always, WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.
Detective #371 image from Grand Comics Database.